I am going to ask the House to vote against this Estimate, and I am going to ask the House to vote against it because this Estimate contains the salary of the Attorney-General. I am asking the House to vote against the Estimate because the Attorney-General, by his conduct in his office since he was appointed to that office, has shown himself unfitted to discharge the duties of that office.
The Attorney-General is the head of the Irish Bar. By reason of the position which the Attorney-General holds, he is head of the Irish Bar, and it gives me no pleasure, as a member of that profession, that I have got to stand here and make charges such as I am going to make to-night, such charges as it is my duty to make, against the man who is the head of the profession of which I am a member. I am perfectly aware that when he acts in an unworthy and improper manner, he drags not only himself down but he drags down the whole profession to which he belongs. It is no pleasure to me to show to the House and to show to the country how unworthily the Attorney-General has acted in the position which he holds.
The post of Attorney-General is a very important post in the administration of justice in this country. There is a tendency to consider that the Attorney-General is Law Adviser to the Executive Council and that he is nothing more. I want to point out to the House that the Attorney-General has other duties than that. I want to point out that it is by no means his sole duty and that it is not by any means his most important duty. The Attorney-General is responsible for the administration of criminal justice in this country. He stands in the position that is occupied in England by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and it is expected of him, and it is his duty, in carrying out public prosecutions, that he be swayed by no ulterior motive of any kind and that no political considerations of any kind shall enter into his mind when he is deciding what charges ought to be brought and against whom they are to be brought. For that reason the Attorney-General is made completely independent of the Executive Council. He is responsible by himself for the prosecutions which he brings and for the form of those prosecutions—for the persons he prosecutes or the persons he does not prosecute. He is perfectly independent. He is not under the control of the President nor is he under the control of the Executive Council.
The Attorney-General is absolutely independent of the President and of the Executive Council. The responsibility is his, and his alone, if wrong is done. He cannot be dismissed by the President nor by the Executive Council, and he has been put in that position deliberately by the laws of this State in order that he may be able to act uninfluenced by any political pressure of any kind. The Attorney-General cannot be dismissed. He stands there under nobody's control. He remains Attorney-General as long as the President who appointed him remains President. He cannot be removed from his office, and, as I say, the object and reason of that is that in the carrying out of the administration of the criminal law in this country he can be swayed by no individual, and he is under the control of no individual.
We must come to consider how the Attorney-General is carrying out, and has carried out, the duties of his post. I am going to give the House some concrete examples by which they can judge how the Attorney-General is acting. I am going to give the House some examples which are known to the whole public of how openly and bare-facedly the Attorney-General has acted in certain cases. The first case I am going to allude to is a case in which a charge was brought against a young man named MacWalter, for an attack upon the house of Mr. Patrick Gavan, who lives in the neighbourhood of Belcarra, in the County of Mayo. The facts and circumstances of the case are these: Mr. Gavan's house was attacked by a body of men on the night of Monday, 1st August last. This body of men came to his house and demanded that Mr. Gavan should come out to them, to be treated by them as their tender mercies should direct. Very properly, Mr. Gavan told them that he was not coming out, and that if they attempted to enter his house he would defend his house— that he had firearms, and that he intended to use the firearms for the defence of his house.
These men proceeded to break in the door of his house, and one man was coming in holding an electric torch extended in one hand. Mr. Gavan fired at that torch and the attackers decamped. Some little time afterwards he heard groaning outside his house, something that seemed like a human being in pain and suffering. He went out, and he discovered a young man named MacWalter lying some 30 or 40 yards outside his house, it being obvious that when he had fired at the hand holding the electric torch the scatter of the shot had penetrated his lung. That subsequently transpired. MacWalter was lying there in a very seriously wounded condition, completely deserted by his own comrades. Mr. Gavan then acted in a way which, I think, must have the approbation of every single Deputy in this House, no matter upon what bench he sits, because I do think that every Deputy in this House will admire the action of an extremely brave and Christian-hearted man. This body of persons who had attacked Mr. Gavan's house had decamped, as I have said, leaving their wounded comrade behind. Gavan's house is something like three-quarters of a mile away from the main public road, down a long, narrow road. Seeing a man there, who had come to injure him, in danger of death possibly, Gavan got on a bicycle and rode down to get a priest for the wounded man— the man who had come to attack him —not knowing where MacWalter's comrades were ambushed or what risk he was running. I think that a man, who, at his own risk, and knowing that those people had come to his house to attack him, knowing that those people had come to his house to injure him, a man who, at great personal risk to himself, goes out to help a wounded individual who had shown himself extremely ill-disposed to him, is certainly deserving of commendation by every person in this House.
Now, I come to the sequel, which I think will surprise the House very much. MacWalter of course was arrested. He was brought into Castlebar under arrest, but the House will be astonished to hear that no proceedings were taken against him for the attack upon Gavan's house. He was not proceeded against for conspiring with other persons to injure Gavan. The only charge brought against him was the very minor charge of having a revolver and having ammunition for that revolver in his possession. He was charged with precisely the same offence—nothing more—as if that revolver and ammunition had been found in his pocket as he was going along the road, or had been found in his house under his care and custody. The major crime of which he was guilty, the crime of attacking Mr. Gavan's house and of conspiracy with other persons to injure Gavan, he was not charged with at all.
I want to know from the Attorney-General why that attack upon that house and that conspiracy to injure Gavan were completely ignored by him. Is it, as it seems to be, that as a member of the I.R.A. he is to have the law against him administered differently from the manner in which it would be administered against any other person, or is it that the Attorney-General approves of the attacks by night of armed men upon the houses of innocent and properly conducted citizens of this State?
As I have said, MacWalter was not alone. There were a considerable number of men in company with him. They came in a motor vehicle from the town of Balla. That is known by every single person in the neighbourhood. The names of the men are known by practically everybody in the neighbourhood. It is common knowledge. I want to know if the names of those men are not known to the Guards. I want to know why no proceedings against those men were ever taken, or why no attempt to make those men amenable to justice was ever made.
I come now to deal with a very curious and a very sinister aspect of this particular case. As I have told the House, this outrage against Mr. Gavan's house was carried out on Monday, 1st August of this year, and this conspiracy was hatched in the town of Balla and in its neighbourhood. It was carried out on a Monday evening, and President de Valera had spent the previous night and the morning of that particular Monday in the neighbourhood, and had only left it that afternoon. Now I want to make this perfectly clear—I do not want anybody to put any implication upon my words; I do not want anyone to come to the conclusion that I am in any way suggesting that President de Valera was aware of this outrage, or approved of this outrage, or did anything else except disapprove of it. I want to make that perfectly clear, but it is a fact—and a fact of very considerable significance—that it is the night of the day upon which President de Valera leaves this particular neighbourhood that these men choose to carry out their outrage. Why did they choose that particular day? I think there are two reasons which can explain it. The first reason is that evidently the I.R.A. accompanying President de Valera during his tour through Mayo possibly thought that this was a way in which they could earn his esteem. As I have said, I believe they were wrong in that, but I think they had another idea in their minds as well. I think they thought that they could bring influence to bear upon the Executive Council and upon the Attorney General, which would prevent any prosecution of them if they carried out their raid successfully. Subsequent events have shown that they were right.
McWalter, of course, who was arrested on the spot, had to be charged with something. He was charged, not with being on the dwelling-house, not conspiring against Mr. Gavan; he was charged with the mere offence of having firearms in his possession. He had to be charged with something. But if he had not been caught there on the very spot, is it not perfectly plain that no proceedings would have been brought against him, or against any single member of that party? I want to know from the Attorney-General, has influence been brought to bear upon him; have persons spoken to him about this case? I have said that he, and he alone, is responsible. Nobody should be able to influence him— neither the Executive Council nor anybody else should be able to influence him. I want to know if people have approached him.
President de Valera, when he stopped in this particular neighbourhood, was the guest of a particular family. I should like to know from the President why, as the whole County Mayo knows, the Chief Superintendent of the Guards, and a member of that particular family, had a very, very long consultation on the following Tuesday, early in the morning. I should like to know what was the reason of that, and as to whether influence has been brought to bear on the Chief Superintendent by a member of that particular family to have these proceedings cloaked up, and to prevent proceedings being brought against persons who were implicated with McWalter in this outrage. I believe that this outrage was carried out on this particular day because the individuals who carried it out believed that they could get the family who were President de Valera's hosts to bring such influence to bear that prosecutions would not be brought against them and the law would not run in their case. A member of that family was, last autumn, a member of the I.R.A. and a member of Saor Éire. Last autumn he informed the Guards he resigned from both those organisations and he did not intend to rejoin them. I do not suggest, for one moment, that he has broken his undertaking, but I do think that the persons who carried out this outrage might consider he was very frendlily-disposed towards the persons who had joined with him in these organisations, and that his family could bring, if he could not himself, influence to bear on the Attorney-General and Executive Council. I should like to know if the Attorney-General was approached, either directly or indirectly, either by any member of that family, or through any member of the Executive Council by that family, to lessen the charge which was brought against McWalter, and let the other people go scot free.
I hope the Attorney-General will be able to stand up in this House and say that he was not approached by anybody, that he did not consult with anybody, but that he decided himself as to what should be done, and that he was not influenced by anybody. I sincerely hope the Attorney-General will be able to stand up in this House and tell us that, and tell us the reason why he directed that only a minor offence should be charged against McWalter showing that influence had been brought to bear. We know, of course, the Executive Council does what the I.R.A. tell it to do. We had a good example of that some time ago. We had the case of Dempsey, a man who was sentenced to a term of imprisonment by a Judge in Dublin because he refused to recognise a Court properly and lawfully sentencing him to a term of imprisonment. We then had meetings held outside demanding his release; we had a trial of strength between the I.R.A. and the Executive Council, and we know it was the I.R.A. won, and that after they held their protest meetings this man, properly sentenced to a term of imprisonment for refusing to recognise the court, was released. But the Executive Council may be under the thumb of the I.R.A.; the Executive Council may do what the I.R.A. tells them, but that is no excuse—no sane excuse—for the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General has his own responsibilities and he cannot shield or hide himself behind the Executive Council, and no matter what the Executive Council have done, no matter what the President said to him, it is the moral duty of the Attorney-General to carry out the duties of his post without fear of the I.R.A. or affection for the I.R.A. or favour to the I.R.A.
That is one case. I am coming on to another, a still more shocking case. I am coming on to the scandal which is connected with the Kilrush affair. I think the House is pretty familiar with the Kilrush affair. Two gentlemen, Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Ryan, whose names are well known to this House, were in Kilrush and an encounter took place between them and the body of men who were with them, and two members of the Civic Guard. Two different accounts have been given of that encounter, one the account given by Mr. Ryan and his friends, saying that they had been wantonly fired at, wounding them both, the other the account given by the Guards that shots were fired at them; that a body of men was there about to attack them, or actually attacking them, and that they used their revolvers in self-defence—in necessary self-defence—having, as an eminent judge puts it, "a reasonable apprehension of serious bodily violence." They said they were attacked, and fired at, and they said, also, that they were being otherwise attacked and that they had a "reasonable apprehension of serious bodily violence" when they fired.
Now, that is a matter for inquiry, and they arrested and brought a charge of attempted murder, and two other charges, against Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Ryan and another man. Then we come to a very interesting sequel. We have, of course, courts in this country; we have courts set up to administer the criminal law, and we have courts of criminal jurisdiction, and if a charge was brought by Guards against Mr. Ryan and Mr. Gilmore, or against anybody else, or if there was a counter-charge to be brought against two or three members of the Guards by Mr. Ryan or by Mr. Gilmore, there was one place, and one place only, in which that charge and counter-charge should be investigated, and that place was the courts having criminal jurisdiction in this State.
That was not done in the Kilrush case. That would have been fair and just. That would have been to put before the magistrate, whose sense of justice or fairness could not be impugned, both sides of the case, and if he considered that the case was worthy of being sent for trial the men would have been sent for trial before a jury. That course was not adopted here. Another procedure was adopted. We are told that the Minister for Justice set up a Commission. He set up a Commission to inquire into the conduct of the Guards. I am aware that I cannot go very deeply into that, because the salary for the Minister for Justice is not on this Vote, but I can go into it to a certain extent because the Minister for Justice could not have set up this Commission, the Minister for Justice could not have denied fair play and a fair hearing to those two members of the Guards, unless the Attorney-General had conspired with him to prevent the Guards having justice and fair play. The Minister for Justice set up this Commission—a very curious Commission, a Commission which had as one of its members a solicitor who was standing counsel to the I.R.A. in Kerry. They were determined that the Guards would not have a tribunal which would be fair and impartial, that there would not be a tribunal that could do anything else except find against the Guards. They set up a tribunal the findings of which cannot carry conviction to the mind of any fair-minded man. They set it up in circumstances which must shock and horrify any individual in this State who has any sense of justice.
As I say, they set up a very carefully chosen Tribunal. I am not going further into that, but in order that that Tribunal should function at all, that that Commission should go into evidence at all, it was necessary that the Attorney-General should be consulted and that the Attorney-General should come in. As I have told you, there were charges brought against Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Ryan, the charge of attempted murder with other charges. Those are not investigated. They are not even charged until this precious Commission has been set up. If the Attorney-General had any sense of justice, any idea of how the criminal law should be administered, then the Attorney-General would have insisted that these matters should be investigated by the ordinary court, having competent criminal jurisdiction in this country. If the Minister for Justice wished to satisfy himself as to the conduct of the Guards, after the criminal prosecution had been closed and finished and all criminal proceedings terminated, then and then only should the Minister for Justice, in any fairness, have set up a Commission and set it up only for his own knowledge and his own information. That has not been done.
The Attorney-General not only takes away this case from the seisin of the ordinary District Court, not only tells the world at large that in a case where two important leaders of the I.R.A. are concerned, the courts are not to function, he not only attacks that particular District Court, but attacks the whole system and administration of our District Courts. He attacks the whole administration of criminal law in this country when, by his conduct, he says these courts are not fit to try and cannot be trusted to try cases of this nature. Mark you, he does not ask that these cases should be adjourned, that these cases wait over until the precious Commission's report is received, and that then criminal proceedings shall be taken. Not at all. He withdraws the charges and offers no evidence. In other words, in order to make assurance doubly sure, in order to make perfectly certain that the Guards will not get a fair show before the Commission, he, as plainly as he can, says to the Commission: "The charges which the Guards are bringing against Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Ryan are faked charges." That is the only meaning which can be put upon his action.
There was another matter, small possibly, but a little significant. The Attorney-General was represented by counsel before the District Justice. Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Ryan were also represented by counsel. Counsel on behalf of Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Ryan stated that it had been his intention to apply for cross-summonses against the Guards, but in the circumstances he would reserve the right of bringing any charges of a criminal nature his clients might like to bring against these Guards. He would reserve those and then he proceeds to read out a long series of affidavits, apropos of nothing, in order that the public mind may be prejudiced against the Guards. While he is reading out these affidavits he is not making any application. He reads out these affidavits perfectly irrelevantly to anything that is before the court. The Guards are not represented, and counsel representing the Attorney-General has got such a sense of fair play that he makes no protest against this very unusual procedure. The Attorney-General is anxious that every single thing should be done which would prevent that Commission from going into the trial of these Guards with a fair and impartial mind. He did every single thing he could do to prejudice that Commission, and, as a matter of fact, that Commission was a Commission as much—indeed more— trying the Attorney-General as it was trying the Guards, for if that Commission—and of course it would not, that was pretty well known—found, as it should have found, on the evidence reported in the newspapers, in favour of the Guards then, by the consent of everybody in this State, the Attorney-General would have proved himself absolutely unsuited to his office because he would have withdrawn charges against men who the Commission believed had been guilty of a criminal offence.
He was more on his trial before that Commission—of course the Commission knew it—than the Guards were on their trial. He held evidently some Star Chamber inquiry or, perhaps, held no inquiry at all and made up his mind entirely against the Guards and that he would not allow their case to go into court, would not allow them to state their case. He deliberately stops the proceedings against men who, they were ready and willing to swear, had attacked them. He does that before even this Commission has sat in order that he might prejudice the minds of the members of the Commission. It could have been for no other purpose. Deliberately to prejudice the minds of the Commission—that was the only object that could have been in his mind. I say he was as much on his trial as they were on their trial because, if the court decided that the Guards were attacked then the Attorney-General would be guilty of this offence: He would have been guilty of stopping proceedings against guilty men. He would be guilty of interfering with the administration of justice because he is seemingly afraid that certain gentlemen who refused to recognise our courts would be brought before those courts. After all, I think that the majority of the people in this House, and outside, really, in their heart of hearts, believe in fair play, and like to see fair play and to see even-handed justice administered by any persons administering justice. They do not see it here. They see the very opposite here. They see men who, if charged with any offence, should be brought before the ordinary lawfully-constituted courts set up by the laws of this country. They certainly should not be denied that right. Instead of that they are brought before a Commission, and they are to be condemned on the finding of a Commission, which, at most, is an inquiry into a disciplinary offence. The men who attacked them are to go entirely scot free and that very Commission is itself to the prejudice of the Attorney-General, and to the prejudice of all his actions.
These men are being treated with gross injustice. Of course, there has been a finding against them. Everyone who saw the personnel of the Commission knew that there would be a finding against them. Everyone knew that the Commission was set up for the purpose of finding against them. Does anyone think the Attorney-General would have taken the risk he did take if he did not know, before-hand, what the Commission would find. He took a great risk when he set up these proceedings. As I say, if the findings of the tribunal were against him, he would have to resign his office and if he did not, if he had declined to resign his office, I believe the voice of public opinion would make him resign. He took the risk because he knew, as well as everybody else knew, that the Commission was a Commission set up to find against the Guards and in favour of Ryan and the Gilmores. I have mentioned things done in the open and brought to light, things done in defiance of public opinion. These are things that were done in the greenwood. What is being done in the dry? How many cases come up against the Guards about which the public know nothing, and in which there ought to be prosecutions, but in which the Attorney-General is advising against such prosecutions, knowing it would be bad for the Fianna Fáil Party if he did his duty as Attorney-General? I wonder how many such cases are there? We cannot know that. We do not know the files that come before the Attorney-General. But from the manner in which he acts in public we may form a very fair conclusion as to how he acts in those cases which never meet the light of day. If he braved public opinion, in the cases I have mentioned, how is he going to act when there is no need to brave public opinion, when all his acts are completely secret and unknown? Of course, it may be and, I suppose, will be, that the Attorney-General will have the support of his Party in his conduct here. And, of course, if he has the support of his own Party he will have the support of the Labour Party as well. We know that perfectly. But outside this House there is a body of public opinion that hates to see injustice done. There is a body of public opinion that believes the Guards have a right to fair and just treatment, and it is to that public opinion and not to the Fianna Fáil Party or the Labour Party that I speak now. I speak not to the Parties who do not care whether justice is done or injustice is done if it happens to suit their political purpose. It is to the great body of public opinion outside, that hates to see the law administered as the Attorney-General is administering it, that I speak. There is a body of public opinion outside this House to which I am confident I can appeal and which I hope will be strong enough to make the Attorney-General, if he survives this debate, act in his position as an honourable man ought to act.