On Tuesday evening last, the Minister for Industry and Commerce introduced a resolution into this House—which was carried— that a Committee of Inquiry be set up to enquire into certain allegations which had been made by Deputy McGilligan as against the Minister himself. By virtue of that decision in the House the Selection Committee was called together last evening to select that Committee of Inquiry. We met, and, according to Deputy Mulcahy and Deputy Dillon, we trespassed on the right of the Opposition; we proceeded to nominate the people who should represent them on the Committee of Inquiry. That certainly is not so. We met in Committee Room 91, and the Opposition submitted four names. Three were accepted, unanimously, I think, and the representatives of the Government Party—I as one of them —did object to the name of Deputy McGilligan. On the motion of Deputy Smith—seconded, I think, by Deputy Kelly—the ex-Minister for Justice, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, was put on the Committee of Inquiry instead of Deputy McGilligan. We have in no way interfered with the rights of the Opposition in sending their proper number of Deputies to act on this Committee of Inquiry. I want to give my particular reason for voting against the selection of Deputy McGilligan as a member of this Committee. I looked at the terms of reference by which this Committee of Inquiry will be bound, and they are such as, in my opinion, to make it a practical impossibility for Deputy McGilligan to act on that Committee. The Committee was to be set up to investigate certain allegations made by Deputy McGilligan, as against the Minister for Industry and Commerce or his Department.
Deputy Cosgrave tried to make a point here this afternoon. I always have great respect for any point made by the leader of the Opposition, and I certainly agree, too, with Deputy O'Higgins as regards the gravity of the circumstances which surround this inquiry. Deputy Cosgrave said this is the first time that a Committee of Inquiry was set up by the majority vote of the Selection Committee. That may be, but it is also the first time that a Deputy of this Assembly accused a responsible Minister of State of corruption, because that is what it amounts to. Does Deputy Costello, for instance, suggest for one moment, or does any responsible Deputy on the opposite benches suggest for one moment that the man who made that charge against the Minister for Industry and Commerce should act as one of the Committee of Inquiry? Is it not obviously a case where he should act as a witness? The terms of reference give that Committee power, as all the Deputies have admitted, to bring before it all the necessary persons and documents. I certainly agree with Deputy O'Higgins that there is a certain amount of gravity attached to this case, but that is all the more reason why Deputy McGilligan should appear as a witness instead of being there as one of the members trying the case.
Deputy Mulcahy referred to our packed majority on the Committee of Selection. Deputy O'Higgins, I think, said the same, and, of course, Deputy Dillon said, "by virtue of your packed majority." When the Committees of this House were being selected every Party in this House got its proper quota in every Committee. There is not a packed majority. We have not one Deputy on the Selection Committee more or less than we are entitled to, and neither has the Opposition. I think there is not one Deputy in this House who will not admit that that is so. We have been accused of treating the Opposition unjustly. We put on the ex-Minister for Defence, Deputy Fitzgerald; we put on the ex-Minister for Justice, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney; we put on the ex-Attorney-General, Deputy Costello. Surely to goodness that is a good enough representation for the Opposition, not to mention Deputy Coburn, and if there is anybody in this House who thinks for one moment that Deputy Coburn cannot keep his end up at a committee meeting, or at any other kind of meeting, I would tell that Deputy that he is living in a kind of fool's paradise. My reason, as one member of the Selection Committee, for voting against Deputy McGilligan as a member of the Committee of Inquiry is because he is the gentleman who made the allegations in this House, and the onus of proving whether they are true or untrue rests on the shoulders of Deputy McGilligan and on nobody else. He will have his friends there as members of this Committee of Inquiry. Surely his interests will be properly guarded. Surely there is not such difference between Deputy McGilligan's status in the Opposition, and the status of Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, who was once Minister for Justice, that all this hub-bub should be made? If we were to allow it to go out from this House that a Deputy of this House could make, against a Minister of State, charges sufficiently grave to warrant the setting up of an Inquiry, and that one of the members of that Court of Inquiry was the man who made the charges, in my opinion we would figure as a laughing stock before the public. For that reason, I certainly did vote against the selection of Deputy McGilligan as a member of the Committee.
There is one other matter to which I want to refer. Deputy Cosgrave adverted here to the presence of Deputy Briscoe at the meeting of the Selection Committee. Deputy McGilligan is also a member of the Selection Committee. He was not there; that is quite true. Deputy Briscoe was there; that is also quite true. Deputy Briscoe said that he would leave the meeting on account of being one of the principals in this case. "Not at all," said Deputy Dillon—Deputy Mulcahy can support me in this—"we have not the slightest objection to your presence." Notwithstanding that, Deputy Cosgrave comes along here this evening and attempts to make a point out of that, whether or not it is in support of the packed majority argument, I do not know, but, certainly, I do not think that the presence of Deputy Briscoe at that meeting should be made a point of, more particularly in view of what Deputy Briscoe did last evening at the meeting of the Selection Committee.
I do not think there is anything else I have got to say in connection with this matter. Speaking for my colleagues as well as for myself, I may say we went in there to select the best Committee we could select. We had our own nominees there and we put them forward. We objected to Deputy McGilligan for the reasons we have given, and we substituted for him on the Committee the ex-Minister for Justice, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney. We did not take one person away from that Committee to which the Opposition would be entitled from the point of view of numbers. Notwithstanding that, we have been accused by one speaker after another on the Opposition Benches of trying to load the dice, trying to take our majority from the House to the Selection Committee, and then to the Committee of Inquiry. Surely the Opposition do not put it up here as a reasonable argument that the Government which runs the country and which is in a majority here should not, in ordinary fair play, have that majority reflected in the sub-committees set up by the House? Was it not the same in the days of our predecessors, and will it not be always the same in Parliamentary life? Why make such bones about this majority of ours?
I say advisedly that in order that this matter may be fully and freely investigated, in order that the last ounce may be got out of every witness, in order that we may have every document, in order that the case may be brought out fully in public, in order that everybody connected with it may be fully examined and in the very interests of Deputy McGilligan himself, it would be much better to have him as a witness rather than to have him sitting on the Committee as one of the judges. That is my main reason for voting against him—I have no other. It was with the sole object of getting the very best out of this Committee that I voted against his being made a member. I sincerely hope when the Committee has concluded its labours that we will be further on both as regards procedure and as regards other matters to which I will not advert at the moment.
I do think the arguments put forward by members of the Opposition are very unworthy, particularly in relation to a case of this kind, which is unprecedented, when a responsible Minister has been deliberately charged by a member of the Opposition with corruption. I consider it very bad tactics, very ill-advised, that they should, under cover of other arguments, try to make a farce out of a Committee that it is intended should probe this thing to the uttermost.