I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time." When I introduced this question this afternoon I indicated, I think quite clearly, the reason for the urgency. I pointed out that there would be an anomalous situation existing here legally or rather that it might give rise to anomalous interpretations if when Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and South Africa, when these members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, had ratified the abdication of King Edward VIII and provided for a successor we, while still belonging to that group of nations, that community of nations, continue to have a different King, particularly in view of the fact that there was a convention or an understanding that questions of succession were matters which required consultation and consent in regard to all the members. I think that the continuance of that situation would be in every way harmful and I felt that it was my duty to advise the Executive Council and to summon Parliament to deal with it with all possible speed.
Undoubtedly a very abnormal situation has arisen. No special provision has been made for it in advance. It had to be dealt with. We naturally had to consider how we should deal with it, being careful to maintain the status which we at present have, and in the general interests of our own nation. Some people, I take Deputy Norton as one, undoubtedly think that we should remedy this situation by declaring a Republic for the Twenty-Six Counties. I wonder whether that is precisely what he wanted to say or that we should just leave the position as it is and do nothing. Whatever might be said for the solution of declaring a Republic for the Twenty-Six Counties, I certainly see no argument whatever in favour of leaving the situation in the form in which it would be if we did nothing. The effect would not be in our favour I feel certain, but altogether against it. We would have theorists and publicists trying to explain the situation in which we would be placed by some sort of pretence that the King who was appointed in Great Britain, or whose succession is provided for in Great Britain and in the other States, could somehow be regarded as King here. Australia, Canada and New Zealand had to face a situation somewhat similar to ours. They recognised, too, that legislation would be necessary in order to maintain their status. They did what they wanted to have done to regularise the situation by requesting and assenting to legislation to that effect in the British Parliament.
As I said at the start, that is the one thing that we certainly could not consent to and which I do not think any Government here would be willing to consent to. We had, therefore, to regularise the situation. I did not propose to use this situation to declare a republic for the Twenty-Six Counties. Our people at any time will have their opportunity for doing that. We are putting no barrier of any sort in the way. They can do it, if they want to do it, at any time. I have indicated already that that is not our policy, that what we want ultimately is to see a republic for the whole 32 counties of Ireland. I want to say also that, if I were proposing that we should declare either a Twenty-Six County republic or a 32 county republic an occasion like the present would not be the occasion to do it. Neither is the present occasion one on which we should introduce a permanent Constitution here. That is not proposed either. We had intended at one time to continue constitutional amendments, just like those we have put through in the old Constitution, to bring the law in the Constitution into accord with the practice and the real position. But when we had reached a certain position after some time I satisfied myself that this instrument, or whatever you like to call it, this fundamental law, which is scored through in several places, was no longer a fit instrument or a fit document to be regarded as the fundamental law, and I said the time has come when we ought now, with full freedom of action in regard to it, to consider what should be, in our own circumstances, our own Constitution.
This Constitution came into being under very abnormal circumstances. Nobody denies that the Treaty was accepted here only under threat of force and, consequently, if there is any truth in the statements that are made so often from the opposite benches, if there is any truth in the liberty of action and freedom which nations enjoy whilst retaining membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations, we should be at liberty at least to make a Constitution that would accord with our own aspirations and our own desires and use the symbols which our people desire to see of their power, of their authority, in their own Constitution.
I had to consider what advice I would give to my colleagues when dealing with this situation. It was clearly necessary to bring in some Bill by which it would be regularised, or rather by which—I do not like to use the word regularise, because it would be regular, on our theory at any rate —but by which any ambiguity that it might be possible to import into the situation would be completely and thoroughly cleared up. I asked myself: "How can I do this?" I would not ask the members of our Party, nor would I myself take the responsibility for the introduction of a measure such as the second one here unless it was made clear, side by side with it, what the true situation was. I think that, instead of being regarded as some trick, or something of that sort, by some side-wind to secure some advantages, everybody who is sincerely and genuinely anxious about the constitutional situation here should welcome our bringing in the first measure and putting it side by side with the other so as to show clearly what the true position is.
I have heard speeches this afternoon from the opposite benches and, as I listened to them, I said to myself: "Surely these men, when talking about the freedom that was possessed, never believed that we had that freedom, or they could not talk like that." If any excuse was required for putting through this measure quickly it could be found from listening to some of the speeches that were made from the opposite benches. If it were possible to stir up irritation and to cause trouble it would be caused by these speeches. It is not by the action of the Government that irritation between the people of this country and the people across the water would be caused, but by the false interpretation and misinterpretation of our attitude expressed in the speeches I listened to to-day. In these two Bills we are giving expression to the position as it is to-day, in reality and in practice, and, if we are to take responsibility for Bill No. 2, we are not prepared to do so unless we have Bill No. 1, which makes quite clear what the functions of the King are for whom succession is provided. We think this is the proper time. In the time of King Edward VIII I had indicated quite clearly that we proposed in the new Constitution to make the position of the King roughly as it was in the old Constitution, with these deletions. I said that informally, because I had hoped that these were matters of our own domestic concern, and that we are not obliged to get the consent of any of the other States in the British Commonwealth in order to do what we proposed to do. Informally, and as a matter of courtesy, the British Government was informed, and as it was purely informal, naturally I did not keep records in the way Deputy O'Higgins tried to make it appear. I was asked a question if that was done, and I gave my recollection of what was done. I was then asked where were the documents, and so on. The fact that informal notice or information was given was quite sufficient. I hold that it was not necessary to give formal or informal notice of what we proposed to do.
What we are doing is nothing but what the people of Ireland anticipated we would do, and what we said we would do ultimately with regard to this matter. We are making clear what is the fundamental position in practice. It should be well known now, at any rate, that those who take responsibility for any action and decide the policy in regard to it, even where the King is the final instrument by which effect is given to it, are the Executive Council. They have in fact the authority, and as they have authority, it is right that it should be fully and formally expressed here on the face of the document, so that there may be no possible misrepresentation or misunderstanding. We propose to continue the King for the functions which he in fact directly exercise and for these only. The functions provided for here are the only functions which in fact the King exercises. We are providing for the continuance of these functions on the advice and authority—as in the past and in the future—of the Executive Council. We are clearing up the political constitutional situation. We are making clear to everyone what the situation is, and we are removing fiction. Whatever justification there might be in British history or British constitutional theory for such fiction, there is no justification in our case. It is very much better that our people should see clearly, with no fog and no mist of constitutional theory about it, what the situation is. That is what is being proposed in this Bill.
What is happening, then is that from the King are being taken away any functions internal, either direct or indirect, in the Administration of the Government and in the internal Executive of the country, and we are retaining the King for those purposes for which he was used hitherto. He is being retained for these purposes because he is recognised as the symbol of this particular co-operation in the States of the Commonwealth. If the Irish people do not wish to continue him for these purposes they can end that by legislation. They can end the whole situation by law or limit the exercise of these powers by law. What is given in the Bill is permission to continue to use the same instrument. Somebody objected to the word "organ." I think it is as good a word as organisation, for instance. In the Constitution it is stated already that Executive authority will be given effect to by certain organisations, one being the King. If the King can be called an organisation I think he can be called much more properly a constitutional organ. With regard to any impropriety in the expression, I think it is only people who are looking for difficulties will find them. All this talk is in keeping with the attitude of people who talked about "slaps in the face" and that sort of thing. We are administering no slap in the face to anybody, but we are asserting our right, and so we are doing this positive act of our own, and doing it under certain conditions, clearly setting down what those conditions are, so that there can be no misrepresentation. That is the purpose of the two Bills. That is why they are linked together. I certainly —and this Government—would not take responsibility for one without the other. There has been too much misrepresentation of the situation, and too much of an attempt by foreign jurists and theorists to try to give the situation here an interpretation for which we do not stand, and which we think in law is not warranted.
I do not think it is necessary to go through the Bill in detail. The effect simply is to eliminate the King from all those Articles of the Constitution which seem to give him functions here in our internal affairs. We are taking these out. The whole purpose is to do that. In the case of the Governor-General, the appointment and executive powers provisions are being deleted. Whether the Governor-General is immediately ended by that is another question. The amendment does not expressly state what functions in connection with legislation disappear. There are certain statutory functions which would require a consequential Act to clear up. We do not propose to do that now. We can let the situation rest at the moment. If it should be necessary to bring in a consequential Act to deal with it, we are prepared to do so. We have not the list made out of the places where the Governor-General has some functions. There does not appear to be any urgent need. I feel confident, notwithstanding speeches that were made, whether by Deputy Norton, Deputy Thrift or Deputy O'Sullivan, that these speeches were clearly made by people who understand the situation, even though they tried to over-emphasise a particular aspect of it. I shall leave it at that. They thoroughly understand the situation. Those who say we are doing something desperate at the moment, that we are taking a mean advantage of the Irish people, know that, in fact, we are making clear the position as it is. I am quite confident also that if Deputy Norton reflects a little, on his suggestion with regard to leaving matters alone, he will be satisfied that they could not remain in that condition for any length of time. Finally you would have to clear them up, and you would clear them up under much worse conditions than you can clear them up now. You would have considerable irritation created by the misrepresentations that are bound to be made on matters of this sort by people who do not thoroughly understand them, who do not understand the need we have for them or the purpose behind them. I am satisfied that to leave the situation to continue for a considerable time would be to do harm rather than to do good. I move the Second Reading of the Bill.