The Minister for Defence was speaking when the debate on this Estimate was adjourned last evening. I wanted to ask him one brief question and it might suit his convenience if I put this question to him before he resumes, so that he need not rise a second time. When the Minister adumbrated his scheme for the creation of a new Army he represented to the House that the prime purpose of that scheme was to provide a common platform in which men who had been operating in the civil war might be able to come together again. The developments which have taken place since that speech was made have resulted in some of us taking our own view about the validity of that justification for starting the new Army. However, we can leave that on one side. Assuming that the Minister is bona fide in giving that reason, I want to put it to him that the men who are so unhappily divided because of the civil war were at least 20 years of age in 1922, because all of them had served throughout the Black and Tan period and we may assume that they were at least 17 or 18 years of age when they engaged in active service in 1919.
If the Minister really feels that the only way to bring these men together again is by putting arms in their hands and inviting them to carry arms together again, I submit to him that he should confine his activities to men who are now between 32 and 40 years of age, because no one who is younger than 32 now can have experienced the division to which the Minister referred. If he does confine his attention to recruiting into the Volunteers men over 32 years of age, he will fulfil his purpose of bringing these men together on a common platform under arms for the purpose of obliterating unhappy memories. I venture to suggest to him that if he wishes to enrol young members of the community in this Volunteer force, for the present, at least, they should be enrolled in an unarmed body, the principal purpose of which would be the promotion of physical culture and sports and such other useful activities as may occur to him, but not for the purpose of carrying arms or training in the use of arms.
The Minister said here last night that the greatest safeguard against war is to be ready for war. There is not a single State in Europe, in which the armament manufacturers have got control, in which that argument is not being used. It is the very selfsame argument that brought down the World War upon the world. Everyone got ready for war and somebody got ready before his neighbour and made up his mind, seeing that it was his neighbour's intention to be ready sooner or later, that it would be better to strike him before he had completed his preparations. In the abstract, therefore, I challenge all the validity of that argument. In practice, I draw the Minister's attention to what is perfectly manifest, and that is that our country has a population and an area of such a kind as would make it absolutely unthinkable that we could defend this country in arms against invasion by any great Power. In so far as our territorial integrity is concerned, our only hope is the development of the League of Nations' spirit and our cordial co-operation in the activities of the League of Nations, not excluding their disarmament activities. I believe it would be a very valuable contribution towards that end if the Minister deliberately set up his Volunteer force on an unarmed basis. It would greatly relieve the anxiety of many people in this country who deplore the prospective training of our young people in the use of arms. It would set an example to the world of the sincerity of our belief in disarmament, and it would deliver the Minister for Defence of Saorstát Eireann from the hopeless fallacy that the best way to avoid war is to be ready for it.
I am concerned principally, however, to hear the Minister on the point I raised in connection with his allegation that the purpose of this force is to provide a common platform for men, who were parted in the civil war, to meet again, and I would be interested to hear from him how he would justify by that argument putting arms in the hands of young persons between the ages of 18 and 25 who were almost in the cradle, and certainly in the lower classes of the schools where they were educated, when the civil war took place. I think it is worthy of careful consideration and I do not despair that the Minister will yet do material good to the whole situation by announcing his intention of not making training in the use of arms part of the training of these young men, whatever he may consider necessary for their seniors.