In ordinary circumstances, if this country were in a normal condition, and if the Guards were the force which the old Guards were at one time, there is nobody in this House who would vote money more willingly than I for the necessary expenses of the Gárda Síochána, be they in uniform or plain clothes. But I, for one, will not vote for one single half-penny which goes to the new detective branch. I will not vote for one single halfpenny for money which is to be expended on ammunition for that new detective branch, considering the way in which we know that detective branch has used ammunition in the past. We have here, Sir, in this Vote, allowances for men engaged as plain clothes detectives. We have a sum of £373 to supply those plain clothes detectives with ammunition and miscellaneous equipment. Are these new members of the S Branch behaving themselves? Are they adding to the reputation of the Guards or are they lowering it? Would I not be correct in stating that before they joined the Gárda Síochána that police force stood as high in the estimation of every person in this country whose opinions count, as high in their reputation and in the estimation of persons outside this country who took an interest in the affairs of this country, as any police force in the world? They could challenge comparison with any police force in the world. I am sorry to say that they cannot challenge comparison with any police force in the world at the present moment. As far as one branch of them is concerned, they have become definitely an incompetent and untrustworthy body of men, a body so incompetent that they have got the contempt of the people, not their admiration, and, I would almost add, the affection which the Guards enjoyed some time ago.
There are many things which have happened in recent times which showed the inefficiency of that particular branch of the Guards. I am not going to deal with very many of these. I will deal with just two at the outset. We had recently a very shocking murder at Lissard, near Edgeworthstown, in the County Longford. There a young man rushing to the assistance of his father was cruelly murdered. We have it that incendiary speeches had been made before that murder took place. We have it that the assistance of the I.R.A. had been called in at a public meeting, or that at a public meeting a certain commandant of the I.R.A. promised this assistance. Was there anything done to protect Mr. More O'Ferrall? We were told the other night that patrols were sent, but the President said, of course, that the patrols were worthless patrols. They were worthless patrols, completely worthless patrols. There were no good men sent on these patrols. Patrols to be effective in circumstances like that must be patrols of armed men. They must be patrols of thoroughly well trained, reliable, skilful men. You have not got them. I am not talking even of the present Government, because things were different under the last Minister for Justice. But when the present Minister for Justice took over office he had in the S Branch of the Guards, or C.I.D., as they were called, a thoroughly efficient, a thoroughly loyal, and a thoroughly trustworthy body of men. The Minister has proceeded to change that completely. He has proceeded to take trained and experienced detectives out of the S Branch and put them into the plain clothes section. These were men who again and again had been praised by the district justices, by the circuit judges, and even by the judges of the High Court for their skilful work in the detection of crime. These men have been taken out of the S Branch and put into the uniformed force. In their place have been put untrained, inexperienced men. Of course, at the present moment the S Branch has become a most hopeless, incompetent and untrustworthy body of men.
The principle of recruiting into the old S. Branch was this, that the very best men were selected out of the uniformed Guards, men who were, in the opinion of their officers, specially suited and who possessed all the characteristics which good detectives should have. The members of the old S. Branch were a very competent body of men.
The conditions are utterly different now. Raw men from the Depôt, after two or three months' training, knowing nothing about discipline and nothing about police duties, are suddenly put in to fill the most important posts which sergeants or ordinary members of the Guards could fill. I would like to know, if there was a proper detective division in Edgeworthstown, why it was not known, why there was not even a suspicion, that an attack would be made upon Lissard House and on Mr. More O'Ferrall? It is not very long ago, hardly a year ago, since the Minister for Justice warned young men in the I.R.A. to clear out because he knew every single thing that was being done in the I.R.A. I think he said that he knew everything which the I.R.A. were plotting and planning within 24 hours of the time they plotted and planned. I think it is admirable that the Minister should have that information. I think it very admirable that the £30,000 spent on Secret Service in this State should bring that information to the Minister. But I want to know has the Minister lost that touch with the I.R.A.? How does it come that the Minister, who a year ago knew every single thing, every decision of importance that was come to even within the innermost circles of the I.R.A.—that was his boast—was in ignorance that this attack was going to be made on Lissard House, especially when he was made aware, through a Commandant of the I.R.A., who publicly promised assistance, that the I.R.A. were going to come to the assistance of the people in Edgeworthstown?
I am not going to deal with anything that might hamper or impede the investigation of that shocking crime by the Guards. I am, however, going to make this comment, and it can having nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of any particular individual who may be charged. I would like to know how did it come that the car was not caught that night? Why was it not traced that night? It would be impossible, if a crime is committed out of a car in the City of Dublin, to trace that car; it would be impossible in Cork and probably even in Limerick or Waterford, where cars are very numerous. But to say that on country roads in the County Longford a car like that could not be traced down, if the police work had been properly done, seems to me to be absurd. The car should have been traced down that very night. Within a very short time of the occurrence the Guards in Edgeworthstown knew of it. It would have been their duty to telephone all over the country to warn every police barracks in the State if necessary, to look out for that car and every car should have been stopped on the road that night. I do not know whether such instructions were given. I will assume they were, but this particular car was not stopped. Why not? It requires courage to stop a car containing armed men. Your present detective force, your S Branch, have not got the courage of the old S Branch and I venture to think the reason why that car was not stopped that night was because your men had not the courage to stop any car which was likely to contain the assassins.
I remember a few years ago, when we had the old S Branch, there was an armed robbery in Limerick. The men went 80 to 100 miles in their car into the middle of Tipperary. They were armed men. They were tracked down to a house which they entered. The Guards then had the courage to advance on that house and capture the persons who were in it. In that case competent detectives were perfectly capable of tracing the car through country roads and were perfectly willing to take the risk of arresting armed men. No such thing happened in this case. I hope, and I believe every member in the House hopes that the police will be active and that they will get some competent men to do the detective work. The country is full of competent detectives. I could mention one detective at present in the Gárda Síochána who, I believe, is as competent a detective as is to be found anywhere on earth, a man with a tremendous record for the detection of very difficult crimes. His brains may be brought to work upon this problem. I hope they are. I sincerely hope that the Guards will make every effort to solve this crime and I hope, and I believe every decent man in the State hopes, that the perpetrators of the crime will be brought to justice. I am entitled to say that those men should not have been free for 24 hours. I believe if the S Branch of the Guards were to-day the same as they were two years ago, those criminals would not have been free at the end of 24 hours. But of course the whole Guards have been demoralised, the whole S Branch has been demoralised. The personnel of it has been so changed that it is not the body that it was and the Minister is, to a very large extent, responsible for the behaviour of the S Branch on other occasions.
I will turn now to consider another crime, a crime in my opinion more shocking than the murder in Lissard. I consider the murder in Marsh's yard in Cork, done by members of the Guards, a more shocking crime, as it was committed by servants of the State, than the murder in Lissard.
I raised a question in this House and I received a very strange answer from the Minister for Justice in reply to it. My question was whether he intended to hold any inquiry as to the persons who fired at Commandant Cronin. Though the facts demonstrated that it could only have been two of these new members of the S Branch and it was done within a few yards of the Guards, there being no other armed person in the neighbourhood, yet the Minister made the extraordinary reply that Commandant Cronin had been firing at himself. What is the result of that reply? No inquiry of any kind. The S Branch are told: "You can fire as much as you like; you will have the Minister behind you," and if they shoot somebody, I suppose the Minister will say he committed suicide. What is the result? The men are emboldened by the Minister's attitude, they are encouraged by the Minister's attitude to use their firearms and we had the affair in Marsh's yard.
I dealt with that from one aspect the other night—the aspect which concerned the Attorney-General—and I am going to deal with it from another aspect now. By way of parentheses, I might say that I was astonished at the Attorney-General's reply on that night, because if you take the Attorney-General's speech and read it all together you will find this meaning coming right out of it—that never under any circumstances will there be a prosecution against the armed forces of this State for shooting down civilians. "Where is there a precedent?" he asked, and I gave him one. I hope he will follow it. I hope that if encouraged by the Minister for Justice these men indulge in any orgy of shooting the Attorney-General will follow that precedent.
What has been enunciated here is the doctrine that the S Branch of the Guards are to be the sole and final body determining when they are entitled to shoot down citizens of this State in cold blood or in hot blood. I hope that monstrous doctrine will be put an end to. That is the doctrine which we have had preached here by the Attorney-General and, to a considerable extent, if not openly preached, at least by his covert action assented to by the Minister for Justice. I pointed out, in connection with the shooting in Marsh's yard, that a small body of unarmed men, twenty or thereabouts, were in a trap, completely surrounded on every side, perfectly helpless, when they were fired upon in this cruel and merciless fashion. When I raised this question on the Motion for the Adjournment, the Minister for Justice asked: "Were they to wait until there was firing done?" The men at whom they fired had no arms. These S Branch men were there with their revolvers and rifles. If they thought there was any danger they could have covered the men. The men had no revolvers but, if they had, the police should have waited until they saw a revolver pulled. They could have shot the men they had covered. But they did nothing of the kind. As one of themselves said, they shot, not because there was any danger, but because it was a precautionary measure.
The Minister cannot prosecute, I admit—that is the Attorney-General's Department—but the Minister can dismiss from the force or he can take another course, the second best course. If the Attorney-General was unwilling to prosecute—I sincerely hope the Minister asked him, but I am afraid it is too much to hope for—there was another course open to the Minister. He could have set up a commission of inquiry—not a packed commission as in the Kilrush affair. It is very noticeable that it was two I.R.A. men who were injured in Kilrush. They were, however, 20 men to two; they were armed and they had fired first. A commission could be set up to inquire into the Kilrush affair and the men dismissed from the Guards, but when the Guards are 48 to 20 and the men are unarmed, there is no talk of a commission then. I do not mean a commission such as the Kilrush Commission—I mean a real commission; a commission constituted entirely of judges or district justices; a purely legal commission.
That was not done. Why not? Can the Minister give any explanation? I can, and the House can; everybody in the State can, because everybody knows that the Minister knew that these men had no justification for firing. The Minister knew that these men were, in law, guilty of murder, and he did not wish an impartial tribunal to bring out that fact. The Minister knew— and I am quoting now the words of a report signed by three judges—that on that occasion "there was no such great and inevitable danger of serious bodily harm as to justify the use of firearms." Not only was there no great and no inevitable danger at the time they fired, but there was no danger at all—any danger that there was had long since ceased. The men broke the law; we all know they broke the law; but if men break the law that does not justify their being punished outside the law. If they broke the law, they could be made amenable to the law. But it is a new doctrine, it is a vile doctrine, it is a monstrous doctrine which is now being preached, that the duties of judge and jury and hangman altogether are to be vested in one individual or half a dozen individual members of the S Branch of the Civic Guards. That is what you have brought your country to at the present time, and you stand over that!
If there was any respect for the law in this country it was due to the fact that for years we had courts that decided fairly and we had Guards who did their work fairly and justly. We still have, thank God, the courts. The Executive Council cannot interfere with them. They are immune from the interference of the Executive Council. But we have got Guards now, not the old uniformed rank, not the old plain-clothes men who still command the admiration of the people of this State. You have done your best to demoralise them but you have not demoralised all of them yet. There are still men amongst them with courage to face armed, as well as unarmed, men who would shoot them down. There was a splendid example recently in North Dublin where a Guard tackled an armed man and deprived him of a loaded revolver, an armed man who, with others, had taken a prisoner away and confined him. The prisoner escaped and came to the Gárda barracks. The Guards—they were the old uniformed Guards, not your new men—went out and, unarmed as they were, they tackled some armed men whom they met and took the arms from them. That is the old spirit. That is the spirit you are killing in the Guards for what is your new method of promotion.
I asked the Minister for Justice some time ago if these men who did the shooting in Marsh's yard were still members of the Guards and if they still held the rank they held before. The Minister replied that they were all still members of the Guards and that two of them had been promoted sergeants. That is a nice state of affairs. It was not for efficiency that these men were promoted sergeants. They had been a year and a few months in the Guards. They had three months' training in the Depôt; they had done no ordinary police duty. They had done nothing to warrant promotion. The one thing they had done was this shooting and they were promoted for it. That is a nice new principle, a quick way for a Guard in the S Branch to become a sergeant. All he has got to do is to go to the Minister and say: "Look here, my hands are dripping with blood; I have shot one of your opponents, make me a sergeant," and the Minister will say: "Excellent, that is what I like; you will be a sergeant with your three stripes on your arm to-morrow." That is the administration of the Guards!
There was a time when no words were more familiar to people in this country than the late Arthur Balfour's famous message to the police at Mitchelstown: "Do not hesitate to shoot." The Minister has gone one better than that. He tells these S Branch men: "Not merely do not hesitate to shoot but be alert to shoot. If you ever can get an excuse for shooting, shoot and you will get promotion." That is the Minister's attitude. At all athletic sports there is a race called the team race. One individual races a certain distance and hands the baton to another, who runs a further distance, and so on until the team has completed the course. We have something like that in Irish history. We have had men steeping their hands in Irish blood from time to time. We have had our Cromwells handing on their batons to the Mountjoys, and the Mountjoys handing their baton on to Mr. Balfour. We have got a very pleasant state of affairs now. We discover that that ill-omened race is not yet finished. We discover that the man always known in Irish history as "Bloody Balfour" has handed on the baton to the still more blood-stained Administration that is occupying the Government Benches at the present moment. This Vote, with its sub-head for ammunition, with its subhead for allowances for men engaged in plain clothes and detective work, is a Vote which cannot have the support of any single person in this House, I do not care to what Party he belongs. I do not care whether he belongs to our Party, the Fianna Fáil Party or the Labour Party. If there is any single member in this House who has a love of human liberty, who believes that the Irish people have a right to live in their own country without being shot down without just cause or excuse, that member will not support this Vote no matter how strong his Party ties may be. He will not vote for supplying extra ammunition to be put into the hands of the S Branch to be used as the S Branch used it, when they fired at Commandant Cronin and when they murdered young Lynch in Cork.