Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 21 Oct 1976

Vol. 293 No. 2

Call for Resignation of Minister: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann calls on the Taoiseach to request the Minister for Defence to resign.

It is with regret that I move this motion. I regret that the occasion has arisen at all. I regret that the Minister himself has not seen the gravity of the offence in such a way that he would tender his resignation. I also regret the Taoiseach has similarly not seen the gravity of it in such a way as to demand the resignation of his Minister.

There is no question here of a witch hunt. There is no question of pursuing vindictive action against the Minister for Defence. There is no question of the pursuit of any individual for party political gain. I want to say specifically that there is no question of this party looking for its pound of flesh as was alleged in the leading article in one of our daily newspapers today, a newspaper apparently that does not see what has happened with the same sense of gravity and concern as its contemporaries do.

I have a certain amount of sympathy for the Minister. There is, as we all know, in the Irish character a propensity for sympathy for people who find themselves in difficulties or in trouble for one reason or another, and I share that characteristic in many respects. However, sympathy or sentiment can and should play no part in the exercise of one's duty where one's duty is seen to be clear, especially in a case like this. I would have hoped the Taoiseach would see the whole issue in this way and act accordingly.

Let us look at what is involved as detachedly and objectively as we can now at this remove, some three days away from the event. The Minister for Defence, in an unscripted statement to members of the Defence Forces, at Columb Barracks, Mullingar, was reported to have said—and these reports were not denied—that the President of this country was a thundering disgrace. The reason he gave for coming to this extraordinary and deeply damaging conclusion in his statement, damaging not only to the President but to the institutions of the State, was that President Ó Dálaigh had referred a Bill passed by the two Houses of the Oireachtas to the Supreme Court under a provision of our Constitution.

It was a statement of the greatest importance from a member of the Government, a Minister of State, reflecting on the integrity, the capacity and the constitutional status of the Head of the State from whom he, like every one of his ministerial colleagues, received his seal of office. It was a suggestion that in some way the President appointed under the Constitution and acting strictly within the terms of the Constitution was behaving in a disgraceful manner. If some political outcast or some remote person were to make such a statement, one would perhaps understand if not forgive, but coming from a member of the Government, it is neither understandable nor forgiveable.

A member of the Government deliberately insulted and assailed the President because he disagreed with the way in which the President conscientiously and properly exercised his functions in relation to a measure passed by this Parliament. Incidentally, when that legislation was being debated here in the House, the Minister himself most arrogantly and undemocratically said that not one iota of that legislation would be changed no matter what this House or the other House thought. Of course it was changed and changed to some advantage and in a democratic manner.

Under Article 15.1 of our Constitution the President is one element of the Oireachtas, the other elements being the two Houses of the Oireachtas. Under Article 12 of the Constitution the President is charged specifically with upholding the Constitution. He is the prime guardian of the freedom and other guarantees to the citizens enshrined in that Constitution. He is the prime guardian of the institutions of the State which that Constitution provides, but next to him must come the Government who hold office under that Constitution as the guardian of the institutions of the state. No other person or no other body has a higher duty in this respect than the Government collectively and in its individual membership. Yet here we find a member of that Government attacking and insulting the President in language that would ill become any citizen much less a member of the Government, attacking the President because of the way he legitimately and constitutionally performed his functions.

The Minister's remarks have been referred to by some persons, who would wish us to forget completely that they were ever made, as a gaffe, or faux-pas or a clanger. I am prepared to accept that it was any one of these or something else but whichever it was, it was a gross insult and, according to information available to me, it was premeditated, calculated and deliberate. I believe also, as was said in the statement issued on behalf of this party immediately it became known, that it was compounded because of the location and of the people in whose presence it was delivered.

Under Article 13.4 of the Constitution the President is the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces. Deputy Donegan was assigned by the Taoiseach, approved by this House and appointed by the President to the office he now holds, that is chief political administrator and executive of the Defence Forces. Therefore, the fact that the Minister chose this location—the military barracks in Mullingar—and his audience—members of the Defence Forces—makes his allegation, his insult, his damaging attack all the worse. When I put it to the Taoiseach yesterday that the remark was, as I indicated in the question, a gross insult offered to the President and a grave reflection on his integrity, capacity and constitutional status as Head of the State, the Taoiseach denied that the remark could be given the particular construction that I had given it and concluded by saying that the Minister had offered "a full and unreserved apology to the President"—these were his exact words.

We read in yesterday's newspapers that, the evening before, the Government spokesman—presumably the head of the Government Information Services or some official of that office —told correspondents that an apology had been sent to the President and, quoting his words again, "that was the end of the matter so far as the Government were concerned". If that were the end of the matter it would have shown on the part of the Government and certainly on the part of the Opposition a complete and utter rejection of responsibility, a dismissal of our function as public representatives and as upholders of the institutions of the State. Of course it could not be the end of the matter and the Taoiseach and the Government must have known that before they authorised their spokesman to say that it would be the end of the matter.

I am not aware—I did not inquire nor was I told—of the circumstances in which this apology was delivered. What I have heard and read in the news media is the only information I have, but one is entitled to question whether in fact it was, as the Taoiseach said, a full and unreserved apology. When it was learned in Government Buildings on Monday and became known generally through the radio and television service that the Minister had made such a remark, a statement was issued by the Government Information Services on behalf of the Minister that the Minister would apologise "as soon as possible"—again, as far as I can recollect, these are the exact words. This message was issued by the Government Information Services but one is entitled to question in the circumstances whether it was issued with the Minister's knowledge and authority at the time, and if it was, why did the Minister not there and then make his apology? Is it not obvious what happened? I do not have to test the mentality of any individual to come to his own conclusions on this particular issue. Whatever the manner of the apology or its delivery or its receipt, we have here one institution of State insulting and denigrating another, one element of the Oireachtas undermining another, and then we are told it is all over and that it should be forgotten because an apology has been offered. One might ask: can one institution of State apologise to another institution of State?

I do not know what attitude the President has taken; I have not inquired and we have not been told. He is a brilliant, scholarly, internationally-respected man and, as I said yesterday, a man of such calibre that we can feel proud to have him as our President. He is in fact a man who was elected President with the approval of all the political parties represented in the Oireachtas. No matter how scholarly or how fitted by way of his dedication and integrity the President is for office he is intrinsically a humble man and I do not want to bring him in his personal capacity in any way into this debate except in his capacity as one of our principal institutions of State and one of the two elements in the Oireachtas, the other element being the Houses of the Oireachtas. Whatever personal hurt the President may have felt, I believe he was aggrieved mainly if at all—and he must have been aggrieved —by the attack on the presidency, on the institution, on the office which he holds with distinction.

In his official capacity the President is very much inhibited by the Constitution in any action he might wish to take in connection with this incident. Under Article 13.7 of the Constitution the President may communicate with or address the Houses of the Oireachtas and he also may, after consultation with the Council of State. address a message to the nation at any time on any such matter—and the matter on which he is entitled to communicate with the Oireachtas, address the Oireachtas or address a message to the nation must be a matter under Article 13.7.1º of national or public importance. This is a matter of national and public importance and one on which the President might well feel motivated to address such a message.

Under Article 13 every such message or address must have received the approval of the Government. Therefore, if the President wished to address such a message to the Oireachtas or to the nation he would have to get the prior approval of the Government. If the Government took the same view as the Taoiseach apparently has of the gravity of this matter, what chance would a statement of the President have of ever seeing the light of day? What chance would it have of getting the approval of the Government who, apparently having expressed approval of the Minister's remarks, now condone his remarks to the extent that he had apologised. How could he expect to get the approval of a statement from a Government who have treated the remarks of the Minister for Defence so lightly?

There is another important reason that we on this side of the House take a most serious view of the insult offered to the President. We, as every other citizen does, value our democracy. We seek to protect the institutions of our democratic system. We ask the people we represent to respect and defend these institutions. If we ourselves attack these institutions or permit attacks from among ourselves to be treated lightly, then we are undermining the very institutions of State that we exhort the people we represent to uphold and defend. Are we not then undermining our democratic institutions? Therefore, any attempt to do so by a Member of this House, especially a Member of the Government, can serve as a means of undermining our democracy. Therefore, in defence of our institutions and democracy we must demand that the most serious from of censure should follow the attempt to so undermine our institutions. The remarks of the Minister for Defence must be construed as such. Failing to do this, we ourselves could be marking the beginning of the erosion of our democracy, the erosion of respect for the institutions of State leading to the undesirable consequences and the type of regimes that we see and abhor in other parts of the world.

I have stated our case simply and, I hope, unemotionally. I have given clear reasons for submitting this motion. It is now clear that if the Taoiseach, who I know personally to be an upholder of our democratic institutions, wants to ensure that they be upheld by the Government which he heads, it is his duty to dismiss any member who, like the Minister for Defence, has assailed these institutions, if he himself has not submitted his resignation.

This matter arose from a statement made by the Minister for defence On Monday evening he issued a statement to the effect that he proposed to apologise as soon as possible. The Minister offered to make an apology in person for his remarks. The President was not available. In view of that the Minister had an apology delivered in writing which was full and unreserved. Yesterday, in the course of my reply to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition I said I regretted the slight on the President and that a full apology had been made.

The Leader of the Opposition mentioned a few matters in the course of his remarks and it would be as well to put them into perspective. The Minister for Defence did not attack our institutions. He made what he and I regard as a serious comment on what the President did in a disrespectful way. He immediately announced his intention of apologising for this comment and offered to do so personally. As the President was not available, the Minister made a full and unreserved written apology. I regret that the Minister for Defence made any remark which slighted the President. The constitutional functions which the Leader of the Opposition referred to have not been brought into question. We know what these constitutional responsibilities and functions are. It is in no sense a reflection on the discharge of these functions. Indeed, it was mentioned that the Minister expressed his regret. I have made it clear that I regret that any slight was intended. Whilst I appreciate that the Leader of the Opposition said that he did not intend to indulge in a witchhunt, that he did not seek party gain, that he did not seek a pound of flesh, he had to do his duty.

There is a need to realise the efficient way in which the Minister has built the strength of the Army to the highest possible level in personnel and equipment in peacetime. That fact indicates not merely his dedication to strengthening one of the institutions of State to which, as I have often said, we are all trustees. So far as this regrettable incident is concerned, the Minister immediately announced his intention of apologising. It is not open to any interpretation other than the one that has been given. He offered to do it. The President was not available and he then made a full written apology of an unreserved character. The extent of his apology demonstrates his regret. His work as Minister indicates his dedication to maintaining the institutions of State. I regret the slight and in the Minister's apology he expressed regret. I repeated that yesterday and I do so again now. So far as that is concerned the apology has been full and unreserved and I do not accept any of the suggestions, implications or fears which the Leader of the Opposition has about undermining the institutions of State. The Minister has been energetic in maintaining them, defending them and building up the Defence Forces. While I appreciate that it is natural to expect that the Leader of the Opposition felt he had to do this, I believe the apology is both adequate, full and sincere.

The Leader of our party has indicated the general concern in relation to this situation from the point of view of our party and I should like to add my voice to what has already been stated in relation to the widespread concern that has been shown in relation to the statement made by Mr. Donegan in Mullingar on Monday.

The Minister for Defence.

If an Army officer, NCO or any member of the Defence Forces made the same statement in the hearing of the Press in the cookhouse at Mullingar barracks on Monday, I have no doubt that he would find himself speedily courtmartialled, punished by a long term of detention and expulsion from the Defence Forces. However, the Minister on this occasion got a pardon from the Taoiseach. One can rightly ask if, under the Present Emergency legislation, an ordinary individual made a similar statement to what extent would there be a reaction to him.

To indicate the widespread concern about the Minister's remark I should like to quote from a leading article in the Cork Examiner of Wednesday, 20th October, 1976. The article puts the position in clear terms. It states:

At its mildest, the comment made by a Cabinet Minister about a personage who is not alone President of Ireland, but Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, was not alone a bad gaffe, but an offensive remark. In other countries he would have paid for it more dearly.

The nation was proud when President O'Dalaigh proved that his office was not just a rubber stamp by referring the "State of Emergency" legislation for the imprimatur or otherwise of the Supreme Court. The court's decision helped to allay their fears. That the President should be insulted by no less a person than the Minister for Defence is shocking and we hope that there will never be a repetition from anyone.

That is a clear indication of the concern from that section of the community, the Press. As we know, the President represents all the people of the nation before the world. The widespread publicity in the national and foreign Press in relation to his position must compromise him in his external relations and in dealing with foreign personnel.

The outburst of the Minister was cold, calculated and premeditated. It was not just a throw-out but cold-blooded in every sense. Reporters at the barracks were told that the Minister had something else to say other than what was contained in his script. It was not just an off-the-cuff remark; it was a cold and calculated attack on the office of President. We must uphold the dignity of that office and the Leader of our party has clearly indicated the constitutional position and the problems that will emerge as a result of the undermining of that authority. Was Mr. Donegan just echoing the comments he heard at Cabinet level and is now being covered up by the Taoiseach?

The Minister for Defence.

This is not just an isolated incident of indiscretion; it is one of a long litany of indiscretions each of which could have been deemed to be grounds for instant dismissal. However, the latest outburst transcends all former indiscretions. The Taoiseach is now under test as to whether he puts the nation and the Constitution before patronage. I should now like to quote from The Irish Times of October 19th, 1976. In the course of an article the political correspondent of that newspaper, Dick Walsh, referred to a statement made by Mr. Donegan and said:

"In the months ahead I will have to ask the Army to perform things which they will not like, but because of their tremendous loyalty the Army will go ahead and perform them."

That, too, was an unscripted remark and, like yesterday's statement, was disowned by the Government. A GIS statement said that no special significance was to be attached to it. There was no change in the Government's policy on the use of the Army in support of the gardaí, nor was any change contemplated.

That was in relation to a remark made just 12 months ago. The correspondent went on:

The Minister had already become known for his colourful, occasionally tactless remarks, ranging from the suggestion that "a boot up the transom" was sufficient punishment for the gun running ship, Claudia, to his view, much resented by the trade unionists, that the unemployed should join the Army.

These may have been colourful, they are relatively harmless. Now, the Minister has challenged the constitutional authority of the President and revealed what is generally accepted as the Government's resentment over the delay in the enactment of its emergency legislation.

Again, I would call into question the suitability of the Minister in his handling of Army promotions and his statement in relation to the 50 mile fishing limit where he was compromising the situation of the nation. At Mullingar also he made slighting remarks about the capabilities of the Garda Síochána and made reference to robots. The placing of cash value on police is another indication of his complete irresponsibility. Each of the Minister's indiscretions must be taken seriously now in the light of what he said at Mullingar.

I speak for the ordinary citizen who may not be too familiar with protocol, constitutional procedures or understand the Constitution to any great degree. However, they all understand and respect their family, their parents and "law and order", a phrase much used nowadays. It is beyond the comprehension of these citizens how a Minister would remain in office so long after such an attack. I should like to quote from an article by Maurice Hickey and Colm Boland in the Irish Independent of Tuesday, 19th October:

Mr. Donegan already has issued a statement regretting what he said, but the Taoiseach and the Cabinet have to take account of public opinion and the general conduct of Ministers.

That the President should be criticised in the way Mr. Donegan did yesterday is something that Mr. Cosgrave cannot possibly stand over.

A leading article in The Irish Press of 19th October, gives a clearer indication of the widespread concern by responsible journalists and others in the community. That article states:

He was talking to Army personnel when he described their Commander-in-Chief as a "thundering disgrace" and no amount of apologising after the event is going to remove that statement from the record. As a political gaffe and a piece of gross discourtesy, Mr. Donegan's remark yesterday must occupy an unparalleled place, and let us hope unchallenged, in the annals of Irish political discussion.

Since by definition Mr. Donegan's post is probably the one most charged with upholding and maintaining respect for our institutions of state, his attitude is deplorable, prompting speculation as to how many more of his Cabinet colleagues share his views over the President's decision to refer the matter of the Emergency Powers Bill to the Supreme Court. But when one considers that he came out with such disruptive statements at a time of national crisis, then the dismay and confusion he caused become so much worse.

I want to put on record part of the leading article of The Irish Times which sums up the situation:

But his latest lapse is far out of the "kick up the transom" category. This time his words and their implications must be considered seriously.

Whatever their private feelings may be, it is simply not open to Ministers to criticise publicly the action of the President or the Court in a constitutional manner and remain in office.... This raises a question of the utmost national importance: are his views shared by other members of the Government —above all, are they shared by the Taoiseach?

The article concluded:

The best way to make amends is by placing his resignation as Minister for Defence in the hands of the Taoiseach for submission to the President.

That indicates a fairly wide volume of opinion as to the acceptability of Deputy Donegan for this post. His indiscretions over a period have been many and varied and colourful language has been used. But on this occasion he would appear to have the protection of the Taoiseach and the Government.

As I asked earlier, if a private soldier, NCO or officer made the same statement in Mullingar barracks in the hearing of the Minister, where would he be today? He would not get a fool's pardon. He would be charged and dealt with in accordance with military law. A statement by a man of the Minister's standing insulting the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in front of commissioned officers who got their seals of office from the President, must be seen as an attempt to undermine the confidence of serving personnel in their Commander-in-Chief. This is an unforgivable offence. It is not enough to say that it was an off-the-cuff or a throw-out remark. It was cold and calculated, as I said earlier because the Press had been warned that the Minister had something else to say that was not in the circulated statement.

This is not a witch hunt. If the Government are displeased with the way the President is carrying out his duties there is an Article in the Constitution to deal with that. Our leader stated that the President is a man of great ability. Having listened to the comments made during the last few days I realised that there is a widespread concern for the President and his office.

I hope the Minister, even at this late stage, will be man enough to spare the Taoiseach demanding his resignation. He should be prepared to offer his resignation voluntarily because of this final serious blunder in a line of blunders he made in the past. I listened with interest to the Taoiseach's statement but I do not understand what he was trying to convey. He said nothing about the serious matter under discussion here today, except to cover up for the Minister and grant him another fool's pardon.

If I had not been in this House since 10.30 this morning and seen and heard the Taoiseach's contribution to this debate in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, I do not think I would have believed it. To put it mildly, it was no reply. It was the most pathetic, half-hearted attempt to half disapprove of what the Minister for Defence said. While I may deprecate the failure of the Taoiseach and his 14 colleagues to stand up and say that they totally disapprove of what was said and that they take no part in it, at the same time I appreciate the Taoiseach's difficulty in endeavouring to defend a situation which he now knows is indefensible and which his contribution this morning proved patently to be indefensible.

The Minister for Defence should have resigned before now but having failed to do so he should be requested to do so by the Taoiseach. Neither of those things has happened. There is still plenty of time for the Taoiseach to request that resignation before this debate concludes this afternoon. It is patently obvious from what we have heard that resignation is now called for. In the circumstances of what happened the duty in honour and integrity of the Minister for Defence was to resign voluntarily. If that resignation did not take place voluntarily within a reasonable period, say 24 or 48 hours, it was equally the duty of the Taoiseach in honour and in integrity to ask for that resignation.

The Taoiseach cannot justify what was done. Equally I say he cannot justify his refusal to follow the logical conclusion of the position in which he finds himself. He cannot justify his refusal not to request the Minister's resignation.

Under Article 13 of the Constitution the supreme command of the Defence Forces is vested in the President. That is not just window-dressing for constitutional purposes. It is in the Constitution for a very good reason. It is there because the Army are at all times to be seen to be the instrument of all the people, and to defend all the people of this nation. It is not in any sense a political tool or the plaything of any particular political group who at any given time happen to form the Government. That is a constitutional and legal fact which is borne out by the terms of section 17 of the Defence Act, 1954, which sets out the chain of command on both the political and military levels in the Army. That section commences with the words "Under the direction of the President the following shall be the position", clearly recognising the supremacy of the President so far as the supreme command of the Defence Forces is concerned.

We have, therefore, the position that somebody who has a very important function in relation to our Defence Forces, the Minister for Defence, makes in public, deliberately and not simply by way of a slip of the tongue, an extremely serious reflection on the supreme commander of those Forces. Deputy Dowling has already instanced the case of an NCO or a private making derogatory or insulting remarks about a superior officer and, in the light of that example, I believe a perfectly valid question can be posed: if, for example, a colonel commanding a brigade were publicly, in front of his own men and their officers, to insult the Chief of Staff would that colonel be considered fit to remain in office commanding that brigade? Would he not be immediately dealt with by the general staff? Would he not be either courtmartialled or dismissed at once? Does the same situation not apply down along the line to other officers who would publicly insult an officer higher than themselves? That is the position we have here.

Apart from the fact that the President is the first citizen of the land and pre-eminent among all the citizens he is also, in the context of this particular episode, the supreme commander of the Army and the Minister for Defence comes in lower down in the hierarchy. The Taoiseach this morning referred five times, on my count, to the fact that a full and unreserved apology had been made by the Minister for Defence and that should be an end of the matter. The apology was made apparently in writing and sent by messenger to the President. We have not seen the terms of the apology and the public are not aware of what the terms are, but we assume it was a full and unreserved apology. We are asked by the Taoiseach to accept that should be the end of the affair. I can recall a full and unreserved apology in a very much less serious matter being made from these benches by two Deputies arising out of what was essentially a political charge, a charge they unreservedly withdrew and for which they unreservedly apologised. But that did not satisfy the Taoiseach. Notwithstanding that apology he pursued these two Deputies. They had the guts to come in here and stand up and make that apology——


Hear, hear.

——but, notwithstanding that, the Taoiseach pursued them into the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. A form of trial took place there and, then because of procedural difficulties, that trial could not be proceeded with by the Government so they transferred from the committee, where they have a majority, to a tribunal they set up consisting of three judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court in order to continue with the rubbing in the mud of the noses of two Members of this House who had unreservedly apologised at the earliest possible moment. Even though they had apologised and entirely withdrawn their allegations these two Members made no attempt to justify or to prove the allegations they had made when this tribunal was set up and the judges, after sitting for half an hour, or some short period, brought in a finding that there was no evidence to justify it and the finding of that tribunal, notwithstanding the full and unreserved apology, was brought back to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, laid on the table of this House and debated here. There was a motion of censure, or whatever it was, from the Taoiseach. All that concerned a matter totally trivial compared with the matter we are now discussing, a matter which occured in the military barracks in Mullingar last Monday. It was a political argument, with accusations and counter-accusations thrown across the floor of this House, something which has happened in every year in which this House has existed. I myself, as were many members of this party, was subjected to far more serious accusations and defamatory statements, but we never bothered setting up tribunals or going before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and we got no unreserved apologies.

The reliance of the Taoiseach now on an unreserved apology, that none of us has seen, is in marked contrast to his refusal to accept the manful apology of Deputy Molloy and Deputy Crinion in a matter infinitesimal compared with that which we are now discussing. On the five occasions on which this apology was referred to by the Taoiseach this morning he said that the Minister for Defence regretted the remarks and he, the Taoiseach, regretted that the Minister made them. I should like to inquire now if the Taoiseach has carried his regret to the extent ordinary decency would expect him. As Taoiseach, has he expressed to the President his personal regret and non-support of these remarks and the personal regret and non-support of the 13 other members of the Cabinet? This has by no means been made clear and there are suggestions that what the Minister for Defence said in Mullingar last Monday was a public expression of what some of his colleagues in Government had been saying privately up to that and suspicion will remain until they get up and talk and condemn what happened in Mullingar for what it is. Until they do that, by virtue of the doctrine of collective responsibility in this or any other Cabinet, they are to some extent tainting themselves with the utterances so unhappily and so idiotically made by the Minister for Defence in Mullingar last Monday.

I want now to go back to the point Deputy Donegan very properly made.

Deputy Dowling.

Deputy Dowling. It has been alleged that this remark was in some way a slip of the tongue. It was a clanger dropped and then apologised for. Deputy Dowling has made it clear that the Press were alerted in advance to the fact that something very important was going to be said and the official text or script given out by the Government Information Services that morning was not important. God knows, reading it, it is not important. There were three things said on that occasion in the unscripted speech of the Minister for Defence, each of which gives rise to serious concern. One was a repetition by the Minister of a statement he had made the previous week to the effect that there was no point in this country getting a 50 mile exclusive fishery limit because we could not police it. He was criticised for that because, in saying that, he totally undermined his colleagues the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, in their negotiating position. He did that in public. Instead of trying to get out of that in some way he blatantly and openly repeated it in Columb Barracks in Mullingar.

This is extremely relevant to the question of whether or not Deputy Donegan is fit to hold the office he does. He then went on to deal at great length with what the President did not do. He did not refer various sections of the Criminal Law Bill, 1976, to the Supreme Court and he followed that with the unfortunate and idiotic statement he made. He finished up a couple of sentences later on a totally different topic. It is again indicative of the man's frame of mind and of his unsuitability to hold office in Government. He finished up by saying, and it is the very last sentence of his unscripted speech, that if, if fact, judgment was possible, in retrospect it may have been better in Portarlington to use a robot costing £6,000 than one garda. That is a very strange statement, to say the least of it. It is open, I think, to two interpretations, and it has been interpreted in two different ways, but whichever of the two interpretations one takes, I think both of them are deplorable.

One of them is that the gardaí in some way do not do their job properly and that it would be better to use Army personnel and a robot to do certain types of jobs. That is a deplorable reflection on the gardaí, and they have certainly seen it as such. If one examines the sentence very carefully and looks at the precise words that were used, it is capable of another interpretation too.

The Minister said that in Portarlington if judgment was possible, in retrospect it may—and I emphasise "may"—have been better to use a robot costing £6,000 than one garda. One assumes that the one garda to which the Minister referred is the unfortunate garda who lost his life in Portarlington on that occasion in the course of his duties, and the question that the Minister for Defence seems to have been posing on that occasion was whether—though he used the word "may", it is something which should be decided even in retrospect— it may have been better to use a robot costing £6,000 than one garda. The decision as he sees it is whether it would have been better to have had a robot blown up rather than one garda blown into eternity.

That is an absolutely shameful construction to put on his words.

I think it is a shameful thing to have said and I am afraid it is indicative of the general unfitness of the Minister for Defence on this as well as on various other occasions. There are numerous other occasions that I could refer to and that we could all refer to but I do not propose to do that because some of them would be personal reflections, possibly, on the Minister which I have not indulged in and which none of us has indulged in. We have simply dealt with public statements made by him in the course of his duties as Minister for Defence.

The Deputy will appreciate that the debate is confined to the specific matter which gave rise to it.

The motion, as I understand it, is that Dáil Éireann calls on the Taoiseach to request the Minister for Defence to resign. I think that brings up the question of the fitness of the Minister for Defence to hold the office which he holds. I think that is what I have been dealing with. I have been dealing with it only on the basis of the public statements of the Minister for Defence as Minister for Defence. Nobody who has spoken on this side has dealt with any of the myriads of matters that, perhaps, we could usefully deal with but which do not constitute the public statements of the Minister for Defence in his official capacity.

In the course of his speech here today the Taoiseach made several statements including one to the effect that there was no reflection on the discharge by the President of his constitutional functions. Does the Taoiseach seriously believe that statement? Surely the whole point of this criticism is that in the view of the Minister for Defence the President had wrongfully discharged his constitutional function in this respect. Perhaps the least happy part of the Taoiseach's speech this morning was when he described the efficient way in which the Minister for Defence had built up the strength of the Army and that was his contribution to the support of the institutions of this State.

The Minister for Defence should have resigned voluntarily, and the duty of the Taoiseach to ask him to resign was made terribly obvious by the contribution of the Taoiseach here today, who quite patently was unable to defend the situation. I do not blame him for that but I repeat, in conclusion, that he should now do the logical thing. Arising out of his accepted inability to defend the situation, he should now ask the Minister for Defence to resign. It should not be necessary for this motion to be put down in this House and debated in this House because if the Minister for Defence had resigned, or failing a voluntary resignation on his part if the Taoiseach had requested him to resign, then the institutions of State— and the Minister for Defence has seriously attacked the principal one— would not be put in the position in which they are necessarily put today by a discussion of this kind. We would not have to reflect on the fact that the very man who above all lectured the nation on the necessity for respect for law and order and the institutions of State has himself done greater damage to those causes which he espouses than, perhaps, any other individual in the country.

First of all, I should like to say personally that the situation which has developed and the need for this debate is a matter of regret to me as a Deputy in this House. As I see it, what is at stake here is the dignity of the high office of the Presidency, one of the three arms of the democratic Legislature of this country. What has occurred is that the Minister for Defence at a public official ceremony denigrated the person of the President and, by doing so, the office of the Presidency, and in the words he used indicated quite clearly that the reason he was doing so was that the President, functioning as a President, in accordance with his duty had referred a Bill which was seen to be controversial to the Supreme Court and the Minister disagreed with this.

This would be pathetic in a sense if it were not so serious. Why should any member of the Government consider that he had any right whatsoever to question the Head of State for carrying out a function which he was bound to carry out? The whole essence of democracy as I understand it is that we follow the rule of law and that we do not simply agree with what is done in the ordinary course of law because we happen to agree with the law at a particular time but when it does not suit us we do not agree. That is what the Minister for Defence was doing and, so far as one can see, up to the point where the blunder became public, he was doing it in an atmosphere in which one felt that at least many of his colleagues thought and felt the same way.

The Minister denigrated the office of the President simply by implying that the man in that position, whoever he might be, acted in a partisan manner just because the Minister did not like the manner in which he acted. That is an offence against one of the arms of our democratic legislation. He chose an official public ceremony involving the Defence Forces. The Minister for Defence hands out commissions to officers of the Defence Forces, on behalf of the President, who is Commander-in-Chief. If one of the officers who received his commission a couple of months ago from the Minister for Defence, on behalf of the President, at an official function referred to his Commander-in-Chief in the manner in which the Minister for Defence did last week he would lose his commission on that day.

You cannot have misbehaviour by a Minister glossed over by the head of the Government and then expect the ordinary people to respect the law and institutions of the State. So far as I am concerned, the Leader of the Opposition, acting in the only way he could act on behalf of the Opposition party in a situation like this, made every move step by step. He did not seek a debate on this issue yesterday. He asked a question and when he got no reply the next step was to point out the seriousness of what the Minister had done. When the Taoiseach said, what has been repeated today, that the Minister apologised and that is the end of it the Leader of the Opposition had then no alternative but to seek a debate.

As the Leader of the Opposition said, contributions on this matter should not be partisan in terms of party politics and there must be no witch hunt. I do not want to see the very important role of the Presidency become a matter of contention between the Government and the Opposition. I am worried that the Taoiseach followed the line he followed. I do not want to go into too many examples of similar occasions in the past. In the ordinary course of events if a man, who is so much before the public as the Minister for Defence is, makes a gaffe, or blunders, intentionally or otherwise, automatically what should follow within ten minutes is that his resignation is offered to the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach took responsibility before this House for all members of the Government. He went to the President with the members of the Government he had nominated. It is not enough to say, as the Government Information Services said, that the Minister had made an apology and the thing is over.

The first thing that should have happened is that the Taoiseach should have received the Minister's resignation, whether or not he accepted it. Deputy O'Malley touched on an occasion of much less seriousness than this, which happened some months ago in the House, when a member of our front bench made a gaffe. Within a few hours of doing so he tendered his resignation as a member of our front bench to our party leader. That is what all members owe to a leader of a party or the head of a Government, if they blunder.

I regret that a question like this should come to a debate. It would be a matter of even greater regret if it became a serious party, political, contentious issue. I do not see how we can avoid this. There is nothing personal so far as Members of this side of the House are concerned about which Minister it is. The case is very clear. There was improper behaviour in public. The highest office in the land was attacked by a member of the Government and so far the matter has not been dealt with satisfactorily. Therefore, the Opposition had to put down a motion for debate because we believe that in the circumstances the correct thing which should happen is that the Minister for Defence should submit his resignation and if he will not do so the Taoiseach should ask for it.

It is typical of all the unexpected, and the unpredictable, so frequently happening in political life that we should find ourselves turning our attention once more to constitutional issues. This is a very basic and important constitutional issue. In putting down this motion, we in the Opposition are seeking to resolve a serious constitutional matter which has arisen suddenly in a most extraordinary way. This House should concern itself in discussing this motion with the issue and not the personalities. It is on that point that there is a real difference between us and the Government. We see this unfortunate regrettable occurrence as a constitutional issue which cannot be dealt with as a matter of personal relations, which can simply be solved on a personal basis by way of an apology or some other form of atonement of that sort.

As we see it, two institutions of the Constitution have been unfortunately and regrettably catapulted into public confrontation. We see this as a serious fundamental constitutional situation. It is clear by now that we are not really concerned with the personality or the competence of the Minister for Defence. We could debate that any time we wished. Personally, I would find the Minister a good statesman and I know that many of us would too. It is an inbuilt element in all our proceedings in this House that we in the Opposition constantly by our questioning and criticism imply that some particular incumbent in ministerial office is incompetent or unsuitable for the office that he holds. That is part of our normal procedures and it is implicit in the way we conduct our parliamentary debates.

This is not simply a clash of personalities; it is a constitutional conflict and it is important that we on this side of the House should endeavour to persuade the Government as earnestly as we can that that is what is involved because quite clearly, the Government and the Taoiseach do not see it in that light. I find the attitude and the reaction of the Taoiseach in this matter genuinely puzzling and disconcerting. This morning in replying to the Leader of the Opposition the Taoiseach relied entirely on the fact that something unseemly had happened, a full and unreserved apology had been tendered and that ended that. It will be accepted by everybody that that was what the Taoiseach's speech this morning amounted to. The Taoiseach, in effect, said that the Minister for Defence had made a full and unreserved apology and that was enough. That demonstrates on the part of the Taoiseach and his advisers and on the part of the Government as a whole a remarkable lack of understanding and appreciation of our constitutional processes and their basic importance to us as a community and as a democratic State.

Does the Taoiseach not see that the very office of the President, the very institution of the President has been damaged by this happening and that, indeed, a vital and important fundamental constitutional procedure has been damaged and denigrated by this event? Can the Taoiseach not see that it is not simply a matter of one political person slighting another political person and apologising for it? If a Minister of the Government under provocation or otherwise indulges in an intemperate outburst and insults some other person, the mayor of a town or city in which he is attending a function, or a bishop or some other person in public life, then the procedure adopted is that the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary or whoever is involved, will tender an apology and the other person in the normal course of events would accept the apology and that is the end of the matter. That sort of thing happens and it is understandable. This is on a different level. We are not dealing with one political person in an outburst, intemperate or otherwise. attacking another political person. We are dealing with two arms of the Oireachtas, the Government and the Presidency being unfortunately brought into conflict.

It is particularly surprising to me and to many of my colleagues that Deputy Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach should adopt this stance in regard to this incident. In every democracy every Prime Minister, in ours every Taoiseach, has his own approach to the high office which he holds. He puts his own stamp on the office while he holds it. Deputy Cosgrave is no exception to that. In his own way, by his personality, his approach, his political philosophy the Taoiseach has put his own impression on the office of Taoiseach and has made his own particular contribution to the development of that office. We all know that in Government and in Opposition if Deputy Liam Cosgrave has had one single political belief to which he has given expression more than any other, it is his desire to uphold and protect the institutions of State. I think that there would be unanimous agreement on that statement. More than anything else the desire to uphold and defend the institutions of the State has been the personal credo of Deputy Liam Cosgrave in Opposition and as Taoiseach.

I asked the Taoiseach about this matter on a couple of occasions. Speaking here once I asked the Taoiseach were these simply empty, meaningless political phrases carried forward from one speech to another because they sounded well or were they deeply held political convictions on his part. I think we would all agree among ourselves as politicians—indeed. I think there would be general public acceptance of the fact—that Deputy Cosgrave as Taoiseach whether he sought to do it himself or it has been assiduously done on his behalf by those whose job it is to support his cause and protect his image—that there has been an overall inflexible rectitude of integrity built up by Deputy Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach. He has constantly given the impression of a passionate adherence to the supremacy of the institutions of this State of ours. Some of us perhaps from time to time have resented his inclination of gathering to himself total responsibility for the protection of the institutions of the State.

Be that as it may. I want to suggest to him that those who accepted that aura and image, who believed in it, are going to be very seriously perturbed, disturbed and concerned by the stand he has taken in regard to this matter. I believe it would have been expected by many—perhaps by a majority of our people—that the Taoiseach would have moved immediately and without hesitation when this matter was brought to his notice to vindicate the office of President, the rights and duties of the President no matter who was the particular occupant of the office. I would have expected, and I think many people in this country rightly would have expected, that, perhaps, the first man to move positively and decisively to remove any suggestion of an attack on the institution of President would have been Deputy Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach. It is incomprehensible to many of us on this side of the House that he simply has not done so.

I want to direct the attention of the Taoiseach and the Government to another danger that I see. I believe it is a very real danger. Can they not see that it is inevitable that, in the public mind, the Taoiseach's attitude in this matter will be confused, whether or not he likes it, with support and approval for what the Minister for Defence said? The Minister for Defence said quite clearly and specifically what he had in mind. I want to underline to the Taoiseach the fact that it is inevitable, throughout a large section of our public, that his attitude in this regard, in not looking for the resignation of his Minister for Defence, as soon as these things had been said, will be taken as approval and support of and agreement with what the Minister for Defence said about the President and his action. I think that is a very real danger.

I know that members of the Government as well as people on this side of the House are fully aware of what is common gossip in regard to this incident. It is said freely, openly and widely that what the Minister for Defence said reflected accurately the views of many of his colleagues, that this was the sort of conversation that took place at the Government table, these were the sort of things that were being said and the Minister for Defence, in his usual outright, outspoken fashion, did no more than echo what his colleagues were saying and thought. I do not go along with that view. There may be some individual Members of the Government who think along those lines. I have often spoken here about the occupational myopia from which Ministers suffer eventually, that is, that they begin to see enemies in every corner and behind every bush. I think there are sufficient members of the Government who have a broader view of our political life than to succumb to that sort of temptation. But I want to direct the attention of the Government to the fact that this is being said. I am afraid the attitude of the Taoiseach to the statement of his Minister does nothing to negative that gossip, to put it at rest.

There are many different views genuinely held about our Constitution by different people and different sections of our people. The effluxion of time has indicated areas in which, perhaps, the Constitution is deficient, where it could be amended to bring it more into line with modern times and circumstances. But I think there would be unanimous and universal agreement that, above anything else, one of the great successes of the 1937 Constitution has been the office and the institution of the President. We have been very fortunate in the way in which the situation developed, in the persons who occupied that office, that it has developed into a very important, successful, national constitutional institution. I believe that there is amongst ordinary men and women a sense of pride in the Presidency, a feeling of security emanating from the fact that we have the office of President with its constitutional attributes. I believe that as an office, the Presidency has established for itself a first-class reputation among those countries with whom we have friendly relations. Our Head of State is respected and looked up to, not because of any particular personal qualities, I believe, though they are important also, but over the decades the institution of the Head of State of Ireland has become something respected abroad amongst our friends.

Of course, it is important that we all try to contribute in our own way to the building up of our institutions and traditions. I am not speaking for a moment now about the political belief of the Taoiseach, to which I have referred, about the need to protect our institutions of State. As our parliamentary life develops, we should all, as parliamentarians and politicians, make our contribution in our own way, to the best of our ability, to the development, growth and status of our political institutions and traditions. Those are the sort of issues I believe should have been present in the mind of the Taoiseach when he came to deal with this matter. Surely the office of President, the institution of the Presidency, is of fundamental basic importance to us as a political State, as a nation, as a people? As politicians, would we not be in grave dereliction of our duty if we here, as a parliament, permitted anything to happen, inadvertently or otherwise, to denigrate or take from the value of the office of President? Should we not do everything within our power to protect and develop that institution? We are faced with that sort of question and problem here, not with the competence or fitness of the Minister for Defence. Unfortunately for him, he has precipitated this situation. He has brought about a situation where the office and the functions of the President have been brought into immediate and direct conflict with the Executive, the Government, and their Ministers. That is what we are trying to resolve in this motion.

Many of us feel, regrettably, that there is no way out of the problem that has arisen except that the Minister for Defence tenders his resignation. It seems to me to be manifest that that should be done and the Taoiseach is guilty of a grave misconception, a deep error of judgment, if he does not see this unfortunate incident in that light.

We have enough problems to contend with at the moment, economic and political difficulties, widespread violence and all these things. Surely we cannot afford to add to them at this stage. We cannot afford to add this totally unnecessary constitutional confrontation because, no matter how we try to disguise it or to set it aside, confrontation it is.

Let us recall the sequence of events. We were brought back from our holidays to consider very important legislation put before us by the Government. We had a very real parliamentary battle about the legislation. It was a first-class debate. The arguments on both sides were put forward very forcefully and intensely and the legislation was discussed, debated, teased out, analysed and examined in the greatest detail. I think it was a memorable parliamentary battle and, when the process of democracy was gone through, when the legislation was passed by the Oireachtas, it was sent to the President for signature.

In my view, and many people would agree with me, there was a sense of relief throughout the community when the President decided to act in regard to those two pieces of legislation. After the debate here with all the political passions that were aroused, probably there was a great deal of doubt created in the public mind about the legislation, about its effects, implications and constitutionality. Many people on both sides of the political arena were pleased to learn that at least this aspect was going to be decided for them, that the President was there, that he called together the Council of State and that he decided to refer the Bill or to the Supreme Court to see if it was constitutional. It was regarded by many as a final, necessary and desirable step in the legislative process, that when the politicians had their say and fought their battles, that there was this final, mature process to be gone through before the legislation became law.

I remember reading editorials in a number of newspapers welcoming the decision of the President. It was not a political act. It was simply an exercise of a constitutional function clearly envisaged in our Constitution and which has been often invoked before. I do not think anyone can have any doubt but that what the President did was absolutely right, was constitutionally impeccable and had a sort of tacit general public approval—something that does not happen very often in matters of this kind.

In all those circumstances, the statement by the Minister for Defence about that action was unfortunate and perhaps tragic but I do not think it need have been the end of the matter. Serious and unacceptable as it was, the action moved immediately into the area of the Taoiseach. The whole matter could have been put right and the institutions of the State could have been strengthened if the Taoiseach, by immediate, positive and decisive action had indicated that he was Taoiseach, responsible to the Irish people, and he always likes to think of himself as the defender of our institutions. If he had moved positively and decisively to rectify the matter by calling for the resignation of the Minister, the whole matter could have redounded to the credit of our political life and our institutions.

Deputy Lynch spoke for us all when he said that this is not the sort of parliamentary occasion in which any of us takes any pleasure. It is something we would prefer not to have to do, something we would prefer not to have to engage in in this House. Personally I greatly wish that this had never happened but, unfortunately, it has happened. We consider we must discharge our duty as an Opposition by pointing out to the Taoiseach in particular and to his Government precisely what is involved. It is not a personal incident; it is not a clash of personalities; it is not one political person slighting another and dealing with the matter by way of personal apology. There is more involved in it than that It is a question of an important constitutional office, of important constitutional functions being damaged. The only way they can be saved, the only way the damage can be negatived is by the action we propose to the Taoiseach in our motion.

If I may, I want to begin by saying something about the President who has become unfortunately the centre of the debate this morning. For me the good faith of the President in the action he took under Article 26 is beyond question. Anyone who followed the President's distinguished career as a judge could not possibly consider the matter as being anything but beyond question. The President, a distinguished lawyer, presided over the Supreme Court during a brilliant period. He presided over it in a series of judgments which revolutionised Irish constitutional jurisprudence. Apart altogether from his unfailing courtesy and human qualities, his impartiality, his standing as a judge and his absolute integrity and independence are utterly beyond question for me and for those I support.

I understand that the President remains a human being, capable of feeling wounded by words spoken about him. I understand that very well and in what I am going to say now about the words spoken and the setting in which we must consider them I want everything I am going to say to be looked at against the background of what I have just said, that the President's good faith, impartiality and integrity are absolutely beyond question. It would not be fair to say other than that I deplore any incident which would suggest that they were other than beyond question. At the same time, I wish to draw an important distinction between the President as the incumbent of the office at any particular time and the Presidency itself. The reason that distinction is important is that we have been invited—first by the Leader of the Opposition and to a lesser degree by the speakers who followed him but particularly by a remarkable speech, which makes me think I have heard everything, in which Deputy Haughey spoke on the subject of the institutions of the State—to look at this incident as an attack, not on Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh for the time being incumbent of the Presidency, but on the presidency itself. That distinction is very important. I reject and deny absolutely that the words concerned, however wrong-headed they were, can be construed in such an inflated sense. Regardless of how I deplore them, to construe them as an attack on one of the institutions of the State is, if intended honestly, a bottomless absurdity.

By reason of our Constitution the President has very few independent functions. Even the function of Commander-in-Chief of the Army is, like most all his other functions, one which he must exercise on the advice of the Government. He has not as much as the power to order a soldier to pour a plateful of soup other than on the advice of the Government. Although anchored in the Constitution, his status as Commander-in-Chief of the Army is merely a ceremonial or a decorative one. I do not intend any offence in saying that. That function has no executive power. It could not have any such power, since the President is not elected to the post on grounds of his military capacity or potential. Although his status in that regard is one which must command respect and reverence it is purely decorative or ceremonial and comes to light only in such an act as the signing of an officer's commission.

Most of the President's functions are not independent. A totally subordinate President who is nothing more than a decorative figurehead—I am speaking of the incumbent of the office at any time—deserves, if only because of the code whereby one does not hit a man while his hands are tied behind his back, the courtesy of immunity from public criticism. But a President who has independent functions and an independent range of action and judgment is not and cannot be immune from criticism in this State or in any other State. I reject and repudiate the false solemnity which has invested this subject since the controversy began three days ago, because our President, in so far as he has independent functions, few though they may be, must be prepared for the wind of criticism to which everybody else in public life who makes a decision is also subject. That includes wrong-headed criticism, criticism which you or I, Sir, might deplore; but in no sense is such criticism an attack on the institutions of the State. It is a criticism—in this case a deplorable one—of the mode in which the functions of that office have been exercised. That is something very different from saying that the criticism is an attack on the institutions of the State. Otherwise, one might as well say that anyone who criticises the Government of the day is attacking the institution of the Dáil or that every speech made by the Opposition attacking the Government is an attack on the Dáil. Nobody who has given the matter any thought and who by nature is not a solemn ass would say otherwise.

Apart from the function of recalling the Dáil or Seanad the President has two substantial independent functions. One of these, which has never been exercised, is the power to refuse a dissolution to a Taoiseach who has ceased to retain the support of a majority in the Dáil. Supposing the President found himself in a situation in which either the present Taoiseach or any Taoiseach who may succeed him were to be without a Dáil majority, and if the President should refuse to dissolve the Dáil, must he be immune from criticism? Would it be the case that the Opposition, who would be ravening at the jaws and anxious to go to the country, ought to remain tongue-tied and not be in a position to criticise the President's decision? Any point of view of that kind is out of place in a democracy. When anyone from the top to the bottom of this State exercises an independent function and judgment he must be open to criticism as fully as would be the President of the US.

In saying that, I am not ignoring the fact that there are enormous differences in the constitutional position as between the President of this country and of the US. But to the extent that our President has an independent function, he must expect to be criticised.

Occasionally that criticism will include unwarranted abuse. I regret and deplore the fact that the incident we are talking of should come into the latter category; but when we hear such incredible contributions as that which we had from Deputy Haughey we must ask ourselves to what extent there is a democratic spirit involved here. We might recall that it was Deputy Haughey who was responsible for exploring thoroughly this institution of the State, when he made it necessary for Deputy Lynch to go to the then President to have the Deputy fired from his post.

I am all for providing immunity for somebody who cannot defend himself or who has no option but to act in a particular way. For instance, it would be improper to criticise a President for signing a Bill which clearly it would be a breach of duty for him not to sign. But the idea that the Presidency is under attack is simply false. I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to contradict me on that when he is replying. I have here a transcript of Deputy Lynch's speech, which I hope is accurate, and in which he said that the constitutional status of the President was under attack in this instance. Deplorable though it was, what the Minister did was to use language of the kind reported about the behaviour of the present incumbent of the office, but nothing that was said could possibly be construed as an attack on the Presidency.

Deputy Lynch referred twice to an attack on the constitutional status of the President and went on to say that whatever the manner of the apology or its delivery or its receipt, we had the position of one institution of the State denigrating another, one element of the Oireachtas undermining another. He went on to ask how one institution of State could apologise to another. That construction of the situation is one of which a first-year law student would not be guilty. With an ordinary respect for and an ordinary use of language, it is not possible to describe the Presidency as being under attack in this instance. I am not overlooking the special position of the Minister for Defence. I recognise that factor is part of the Opposition indictment, and rightly so; but bearing that in mind it remains to be said, repeatedly, until such time as the false representation should cease, that in no sense was what happened an attack on the Presidency.

Deputy Haughey referred to whispers and rumours and I think it was Deputy O'Malley who said that according to information at his disposal the words used were premeditated, that this was a deliberate planned assault on the Presidency. My information is quite to the contrary. They were the product of strong feelings, wrong feelings certainly, and those strong feelings, I believe, are the product of the Minister's deep and passionate commitment to his job, a passionate commitment to a job which formerly was a Cinderella among Government jobs. Who can recall the names of two former Ministers for Defence in the outgoing Fianna Fáil Government? Many men would be hard put to it to remember the name of even one. The name of Paddy Donegan will be remembered, and not for this absurd incident.

It will. It will never be forgotten.

Not for this absurd incident, but because he takes a passionate pride in his job and has a passionate love of it. Against that background, an outburst like the one which occurred at the weekend to me is venial. I hope I do not condemn myself in the eyes of others by saying so, but to me it is venial measured against what the man is and the job he has to do, and the passionate dedication which he has brought to it, on which friend and foe alike have commented.

His fault is the product of a hot and generous temper. If I were to measure in the balance a hot and generous temper, such as Deputy Donegan has, against the whey-faced, cold-nosed puritanism which the Opposition and many outside commentators are displaying in regard to a "constitutional" problem which they have not even bothered to think about, I would choose Paddy Donegan, and so would many Irish people. In doing so and in saying that, I do not want to minimise the unseemliness or the wrongness of what he said. I will not minimise it. It was unseemly and wrong. He apologised for it, in sharp contra-distinction to Ministers and ex-Ministers we have seen in this House in the past decade. He apologised for it at once. He did not have to have his arm twisted. He did not have to wait until the papers were screaming at him and until his fault was documented and lay under everybody's nose. He straightaway regretted what he had done. He straightaway offered to appologise. If there was any delay in the transmission of that apology, it cannot be laid at his door.

There is a big difference between the behaviour of the Minister for Defence and the behaviour of a former Minister for Local Government here last year. That was a sober attempt on the part of Deputy Molloy and Deputy Crinion, persisted in, deliberately repeated, to bring down Deputy Tully, the Minister for Local Government, without a shred of real, serious evidence. These were allegations against him which Deputy O'Malley seemed to think trifling, as though it should be an infinitesimal matter that a man who spent all his life in public service should be hounded from office because of a lie. Was that a small thing? Is that trivial? Is that infinitesimal? Is that something which vanishes into invisibility compared with an affront to the President? I do not think so. The people guilty of that apologised only when their noses were rubbed in it. It was a cold-blooded repeated attempt to blacken and bring down a decent and hard-working Minister. To this day that Minister has to put up with whispers in his own constituency that there is never smoke without fire. I do not see Deputy Crinion or hear about him making much of an effort to go around and try to damp down the fire which he lit.

I do not want to drag up incidents which are better forgotten, but I have not forgotten what went on under the last Government. I have not forgotten the behaviour of Ministers in the last Government, Ministers like Deputy Ó Moráin, Deputy Blaney and Deputy Boland, who behaved like a bunch of gauchos at a rodeo, and whose behaviour time after time was stood over, defended and justified by the present Leader of the Opposition who is now so solemn and who is now so hypocritical in expecting us to ditch a man whose only fault is that he spoke wrongly, at a wrong time, and in the wrong place, and wrong-headedly, but who instantly apologised for what he had done.

I remember Deputy Lynch standing over Deputy Ó Moráin when he wrote as Minister for Justice to a constituent of his own telling him to go into a vacant house which did not belong to him and said that he, Deputy Ó Moráin, would cover up for him provided the constituent burned the letter. There were no apologies for that. Deputy Lynch did not take the first opportunity in the Dáil to disassociate himself from that. I do not recall much happening at the time Deputy Blaney put a pistol—these are old days now certainly—metaphorically speaking to Deputy Haughey's head with a pre-emptive strike on the budget which Deputy Haughey was due to produce in ten or 15 days' time. He wanted so much for the farmers—an attempt to blackmail his Government colleagues into conceding a claim which had to be weighed up in conjunction with every other budgetary claim made on the Government. There was not a word about that misbehaviour. That was deliberate. That was sober. There was no apology for that.

I remember Deputy Boland when he was Minister for Local Government treating with brutal contempt, week in week out, everybody who stood in his way. A priest who criticised his housing policy was "a so-called cleric". The conservationists who objected to his destruction of Hume Street were "belted earls"—because the Guinnesses had not subscribed to TACA, they were abused in this fashion. I remember Deputy Boland saying in 1968 that the 1959 Electoral Act, which gerrymandered the constituencies, had been struck down by the High Court at the behest of Fine Gael. He said Judge Budd, than whom there was no more respected member of the Irish Bench, had declared that Act unconstitutional "at the behest of the Fine Gael Party". Was there an apology for that? Did Mr. Boland come running to offer it even before he was asked? I remember these things. Others remember them too. They allow me to place in perspective the effort being made by the Opposition and by some of the media to soup up this very unfortunate but essentially, in the perspective of even quite a short amount of time, trivial incident into something important.

I have often noticed about the Opposition that, even during important debates when one might expect to hear something of their own from them— I instance Deputy Lynch's performance in the last budget debate—they come in with a shower of newspaper clippings and cuttings and, instead of a speech, we get a series of reflections from newspaper editors. We cannot all be as wise as newspaper editors. We cannot all have the instant wisdom and sense of exquisite balance of a leader writer. Nonetheless these are the gentlemen on whose thoughts the Opposition so frequently rely. Deputy Dowling did not have clippings. The Fianna Fáil research office had actually typed out on a piece of paper the quotations on which he was relying.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary indicate how many references to editors' quotations I made in my budget speech?

Four or five at least.

I certainly did not.

I will apologise to the Deputy if I am wrong. I will go and count them this afternoon.

They are a very apologetic Government.

The Irish Times said it simply was not open to a Minister to criticise the President. This pompous empty solemnity is something which I deprecate. It would be no harm if the Opposition would look around and see the company they are in, in calling for Deputy Donegan's dismissal. Hibernia in its issue out today calls for his dismissal—Hibernia, that noted champion of the Constitution, that noted protector of the institutions of the State, that noted enemy of all that tends to pull down what so much blood and effort were expended in trying to put up. Good company!

The only honest contribution I heard this morning from the other side came from Deputy Brugha who, in an aside, described what Deputy Donegan had done as "a gaffe intentional or not". Deputy Brugha knows that the reason he put in that disjunction "intentional or not" is that it was an unintended, unreflected gaffe. It was that. If I had made it, I would regret it very bitterly. I hope I would have been man enough to do what Deputy Donegan did.

It occurred. It was made publicly.

I do not minimise it or mitigate it.

With malice aforethought.

It was not done with malice aforethought.

If the Parliamentary Secretary wants proof he will get it.

I regard this as being well summed up in Deputy Brugha's own words, with the deletion of the word "intentional". It was an unintentional gaffe, instantly regretted, instantly apologised for. Weighed in the balance of the record of those who are now so eagerly attacking him on the one hand, and weighed in the balance of his own merits on the other hand, I regard this motion as unworthy and I ask the House to reject it.

I did not expect I would have to speak here this morning or that we would have to wait so long for an answer to our request to the Taoiseach that he should call on the Minister for Defence to resign. To the ordinary person in the street it is unthinkable that a matter such as this should be dragged on from Monday to Thursday. I feel that our leader this morning made the case, backed up by our front bench calmly, quietly and effectively, showing the seriousness of the utterance made publicly in the Minister's address to the Army in the presence of his officers, NCOs and men in Mullingar. This was a calculated remark made by the Minister to belittle the President who is the supreme commander of the Defence Forces. As Deputy Dowling said, if any officer, NCO or man in the Defence Forces made a similar remark such a man would be stripped of his uniform and drummed out.

It is laughable that a very short time ago in this House the Minister referred to me as a subversive because of my remarks. It would be well to consider who is the subversive now and who can be guilty of mutinous talk.

The Taoiseach has decided that he will not take any action. Possibly it is too late for him now to relent even if he sees the error of his ways. Would he explain to members of the Army who have contacted me in this matter how he has the gall to expect good conduct and allegiance from these people when he does not demand the same standards from the Minister in charge of the Army? This is an obvious example of the double thinking and double standards which exist in this riven Cabinet.

The Taoiseach's reply this morning, in which he repeated the same thing over and over again, was very puny and pathetic. He kept repeating that the Minister had made an apology. We are assured here that it was complete and unreserved, unreserved and complete. That was all the Taoiseach had to say and he said it in different ways. We in the House are still unaware of the content of that apology. It is essential that we should hear the wording of it. We do not know the contents of the letter that the Minister has sent to the President. If the Minister had any guts he would be here this morning to restate his apology and let us and the people at large judge whether it is complete and unequivocal as the Taoiseach would have us believe.

Deputy O'Malley asked, very pertinently, whether the Taoiseach had conveyed his own personal apology to the President. The Taoiseach is the captain of the team, of the 15 members of the Cabinet, and as such it is essential that he should apologise. Common courtesy in an ordinary person would demand that. How much more is it necessary that the man who leads or purports to lead the Government of the day, should make this apology.

I do not agree with the previous speaker who tried to imply that this was some sort of throw-away remark. One does not give advance warning to the Press that one is going to depart from a script, and one would not, naturally, throw away a remark which we are told was regretted instantly, and then to the Press and ask them did they get that, saying that that remark would surely make headlines. This proves beyond doubt that the remark was made in a cold, calculated fashion. Just as his checking-out with the Press indicates that he wished that to go on record, the apology did not come immediately. It came when somebody, probably the Taoiseach, made this irresponsible Minister aware of the gravity of the offence.

There is an Irish expression, Aithrí Toirní, which is possibly very applicable in the present case. It is called the contrition of thunder, the contrition that we feel when we hear the thunder and fear the possible effect of the lightning on ourselves. It is a type of selfish sorrow. This "thundering disgrace" brought about an Aithrí Toirní in the case of the Minister. The Taoiseach this morning gave an excuse that Deputy Donegan's behaviour did arise from the great zeal he has shown for the Army and the fact that he had built up the Army to the strength that it now enjoys. His Parliamentary Secretary echoed the same words here in a futile attempt to make excuses for this over-zealous, warm-blooded man whom the country would take to their heart in the morning if they had the opportunity.

However, I am sure the Minister and the Taoiseach must realise how that remark has undermined the morale of the Defence Forces. It is possibly the final phase in the erosion of confidence in the Minister's ability. First of all, we had the Claudia affair when the Minister showed his eagerness to use the Army as a plaything, and when his presence was an embarrassment to the members of the Defence Forces and his throw-away, kick-up-the-transom remark was the cause of great amusement to those who would like to belittle the Army now. That was possibly the first indication that he gave publicly that he is no fit man for the position he occupies. We had later a situation with regard to military promotions when he showed that, no matter what rules had to be bent or what toes trodden on, he wanted his own way with regard to the Army and he would not brook any interference in that respect. This was another frightful blow to Army morale. Quite recently the Army would not wait for him in the Glen of Imaal because he was late for a shoot that he had promised to attend, and they had to put up with his insulting remarks. How the Minister could make the remark that he made about our inability to control the 50-mile limit if granted, and remain in the office he now occupies, I do not understand.

I have complaints from constituents every day that never was political patronage as rife in the Army as it is to-day during the term of office of the Minister, Patrick Donegan. His recent shabby treatment of the Chief of Staff is enough to indicate that those who are manly enough to stand up to the Minister and endeavour to put him on the right track and point out his mistakes will be pushed aside. The Army should not be the plaything of any Minister. No Minister before has ever endeavoured to play toy soldiers with it as much as the present Minister has. The Parliamentary Secretary's remark that Deputy Donegan will be remembered as Minister for Defence is very true, but he will be remembered in the Curragh of Kildare and the Glen of Imaal and places like that not for the reasons that the Parliamentary Secretary would like that he should be remembered for.

The attitude of the Taoiseach this morning is quite in keeping with his remarks in the Dáil—not his prepared script, but when he departed from that recently and bared his soul a little which is most unusual for him. He explained the attitude of Fine Gael and how they survived the long years in the wilderness. He spoke of nasty elements within our party and how we might weed or breed them out though it might take some time. Then he appealed to the decent people in Fianna Fáil, and he stopped for a moment as if he wondered whether such a person could exist within the ranks of our party and he said: "God knows, there are very few who think as little of Fianna Fáil as I do". Those were the remarks of a man who is supposed to lead this nation. Whether he likes it or not, when he refers to Fianna Fáil he refers to 50 per cent of the people, and possibly if he were manly enough to put it to the test in the morning he might find the percentage more than 50. This is an indication of the smallness and pettiness of the man and of the attitude that exists in reference to the Army and within his own Cabinet. If he wants any proof with regard to political patronage he could ask his Minister to let him have the list of those waiting for jobs in the Corps of Engineers, in Gormanston and the Curragh Camp in Kildare, when the Minister has finished with it himself and has culled out those who do not belong to his political persuasion.

The President, whom we are fortunate enough to have to-day, was advanced by our party and was an agreed candidate. The Government at that time had no one of the calibre and suitability to oppose him. In the petty minds of the Cabinet to-day that still rankles, and therein lies the reason for the remarks the Minister has made.

In a speech the Taoiseach made some time ago on the emergency legislation, he said that during the early days of Fine Gael we in Fianna Fáil had intimidated that party, rented a crowd and brought them in. He used the phrase "tanked them up". That was the height of hypocrisy to me when sitting beside him was the super tanker of all time; yet the Minister chose to tar us with the brush that could readily be used in his own front bench. I am satisfied that what is in sober comes out later, and that when the Minister spoke in Mullingar, he only gave public utterances to the remarks of the Taoiseach and his Cabinet. That is what the people all over the country are saying. The silence of the Ministers here today, the absence of the Minister who made the remark and the futile apologies of the Taoiseach give full credence to that.

The Taoiseach and the Cabinet, if they are to remove this frightful slight on the Presidency and on the institutions of our State, must stand up here and publicly apologise and dissociate themselves from this offence, and if the remarks are seen to have any substance at all the Minister must be removed from the position he occupies. Every day he remains in the Cabinet is a continuation of this cold, calculated Cabinet insult to the highest office in the land. We are often reminded of collective Cabinet responsibility. Surely there is also collective Cabinet guilt. The Ministers' collective silence is very cloquent here today.

The Parliamentary Secretary remarked here some time ago that he would choose Deputy Donegan for his hot-blooded, zealous outburst in preference to the coldness of the remarks that emanate from this side of the House. The people who have approached me about this frightful outburst certainly would not pick Deputy Donegan; all the views lead to the one conclusion, that he should be got rid of straight away. I know from the people who have spoken to me, ordinary people, members of the Defence Forces, that if they had an opportunity to vote for this motion that we have proposed to the House they would be in favour of it, and it could well be changed so that, instead of Dáil Éireann calling on the Taoiseach to remove the Minister, all Ireland calls on the Taoiseach to remove the Minister too. The only pity is that the people of Ireland who feel so strongly about this cold, calculated insult would not get an opportunity to translate their feelings into action. I, for one, and the people I represent would place as much credence on the apologies that were given here this morning and the apology we do not know about which was sent to the President as they place on the promises the Government made some years ago in their 14-point plan.

This debate has been fairly well balanced. As our Leader indicated at the beginning, it is not a question of our trying to be vindictive, but that we deplore the fact that it is necessary to have it. However, it is necessary, and we would be lacking in our duty in Opposition if we did not take the steps we are taking in relation to what is, no matter how anybody else may try to describe it, a serious matter in regard to the institutions of the State.

It is noticeable that Ministers have been silent, and we can only assume that they acquiesce by their silence Those who have spoken, and I refer particularly to the Parliamentary Secretary, have confirmed any suspicion we might have had in that respect. He has simply stated—and it is on the record—that the President, in so far as he has a statutory function, is open to be criticised. In other words, he defended the action of Deputy Donegan, the Minister for Defence, in the slanderous statement he has made. That gives this debate a new dimension. The Parliamentary Secretary went on to say that the function of the President is merely ceremonial and decorative, except in one or two matters, and on these matters he should be criticised like anybody else. He is trying to vindicate what the Minister for Defence had said, while at the same time pretending to regret the words he uttered.

If the Parliamentary Secretary is the person who is used by the Government on occasions of this kind to make statements which they themselves are not prepared to make, I think it is quite transparent what this is all about; the members of the Government are condoning what Deputy Donegan, the Minister for Defence, has said. No other interpretation can be put on it, and the outburst from the Parliamentary Secretary tends to confirm that.

The Parliamentary Secretary described the powers of the President as being ceremonial and decorative. The President signifies the complete authority and power of the Oireachtas. We have never in the history of this country—and when I say "we" I mean the Members on both sides of this House—made any attack on a President or his functions. In the last analysis, that authority derives from the attitude towards a particular institution. The prestige that it gathers and enjoys is given to it by the loyalty and respect shown to it by the people. In that way the Presidency epitomises the absolute authority and respect which is due to the Oireachtas. That is eroded and seriously put to the test on this occasion. The Minister's statement is condoned by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach when, speaking for the Government, he says that the President is open to criticism like anybody else. Do we then go on to criticise the President of the Supreme Court? Do we attack the Judiciary who are not in a position to defend themselves in this House? The respect that is due to them and the authority they wield derives entirely from the respect which the citizens, and particularly the Members of the Oireachtas, have shown them. The same applies to the President.

The people who occupy these positions may have had an active connection with politics in the past, and I think that applies to practically every member of the Judiciary. In spite of that, immediately they take up the important offices they hold, they get absolute respect and are completely free from political comment in this House or elsewhere by Members of this House and if there were such utterances, they would be looked on as a grave matter indeed.

This situation is much more serious. This statement was made in the presence of the members of the Defence Forces of which the Minister is an important part and relates to the man who is the acknowledged Supreme Commander. When a Member of this House states here that the President's functions are only ceremonial and decorative, he is adding insult to injury, and it is regrettable that Deputy John Kelly, the Parliamentary Secretary, should have made such a statement. It throws new light on this whole debate and makes it more necessary than ever for the Taoiseach to ask for the resignation of the Minister. If the Minister has any respect for the Government of which he is a member, he will not wait until the Taoiseach asks for that resignation but will be prepared to offer it, and I am sure it will be accepted without hesitation.

Normally in replying to a debate of this nature, the proposer of the motion is expected to deal with the case made against the motion. Were it not for the intervention of Deputy John Kelly, the Parliamentary Secretary, I would have to say to you, Sir, that no case had been made against my motion and therefore that I had nothing further to say. The only reason I am standing on my feet is not so much that the Parliamentary Secretary has made a case against the motion, but rather the manner in which he attempted to defend in some way the action of the Minister for Defence.

His defence of the Minister for Defence was like the Taoiseach's a rather pathetic one, not relevant to the matter we had been discussing. Instead, he sought to give us a lecture on constitutional law which might have been appropriate in the lecture hall of a university college but was certainly not appropriate to the situation we are discussing here now. Having done that, he turned a tirade of personal abuse on my colleagues on the Front Bench and on me personally and brought in matters that had nothing to do with the remarks made by the Minister for Defence last Monday. He sought to create a distinction between the incumbent of the Presidency and the duties that the present incumbent performed and the institution itself. I failed to get the point; the only thing I could get was that the incumbent in exercising his constitutional powers was open to criticism in his individual judgment in the exercise of these powers. Let us take the corollary of that. Assume that the President, having been criticised himself by a member of the Government, thought it proper to criticise the Government for the manner in which they exercised their functions and powers. Is not that a reasonable corollary? What then would be the position of the President?

The Parliamentary Secretary sought in some way to put the President in the same category as any Member of the House, any Government whose actions must be open to criticism but, more, who was able to defend himself or itself against such criticism. The President is not in any way able to do that. The Parliamentary Secretary said that there was no question of the President's institutional status being involved and he tried to establish this by means of some academic thinking. This Constitution is permeated with the independence of and the placing above politics of the President in his constitutional position so that it does not matter who the incumbent of that office is, an attack upon or an insult offered to that incumbent must assuredly and inevitably be an attack upon and an insult to the Presidency, the institution itself.

It is not so much the attack—and attack it was—that concerns us. The burden of the case made by my colleagues today was the damage done by the Minister's remarks to the institution, to our Presidency, to our tenets of democracy. The Parliamentary Secretary sought to suggest that this was an indiscretion, a throwaway remark. Deputy Power has just given an indication of the facts as they are understood by me. I do not need to reiterate what he has said but a single indiscretion under stress, a mistaken expression of what the Minister may believe to be the attitude of his colleagues in the Government in regard to what the President had done in connection with the Emergency Powers Bill or a statement made in haste under pressure of questioning or criticism might have been understandable; but for the Minister to have announced in advance his intention of making a headline-winning criticism of the Head of the State who, under the Constitution is Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, whom he was addressing on that occasion, is hardly an unintentional indiscretion. Having made it, as I think everybody is satisfied, deliberately and intentionally, he made it known that he was in fact damaging the institution of the Presidency, our concept of democracy and thereby put himself into a position that merited the action we propose in this resolution.

If I may further refer to the Parliamentary Secretary's suggestion that no institution of State had been damaged, when statements are made of a nature like that on this side of the House the Parliamentary Secretary is normally very meticulous and precise in examining what these statements mean. But if he believes that the Presidency was not damaged in any way, what of the Supreme Court? Was that not damaged by the remarks of the Minister for Defence who must be presumed to have been contemptuous of the Supreme Court which went out of its way to say that the President was quite right in submitting the Bill as to its constitutionality to the court? That may be a small point but it is important, especially in relation to the assertion that no institution of the State was damaged by the Minister's remark.

The Minister for Defence was not only insulting to the President but he was making a political speech about a person who under the Constitution is above and apart from politics to a group of people who similarly are, or should be, above and apart from politics. He showed that he felt that the allegiance or duty of the Army should be ranged on his side against a perfectly legal and constitutional action taken by the President. For a Minister for Defence, with all the power and influence of his office, to make clear to the Army that he assumed that they were ranged on one side of the political divide, ignoring completely the wishes of the 50 per cent—or more if we take Deputy Power's claim as correct, and I think it is—is, in itself, behaviour that would entitle him to condemnation and severe censure.

That is only part of the story. The real nub of the matter is that the Minister for Defence has deliberately and with malice aforethought insulted and criticised the President, the present incumbent of that office. Whether the present incumbent can be separated from the office itself I do not know—that is a matter for the Parliamentary Secretary to work out in his own office—I am satisfied that he did in fact damage severely the institution of State which we know as the Presidency and which with the Oireachtas is part of the Legislature.

I do not think anything was said by the Taoiseach that calls for any comment. Because the apology was comprehensive and delivered in one way or another is not sufficient. It does not mean that his indiscretion or whatever you like to call it should not be held against him because of his great performance as Minister for Defence. Surely that is his function. It was not the Minister for Defence who built up the Army; it was built by the people themselves, the Oireachtas, the Opposition who, when in Government, had been building the Army and brought it to the strength at which the Minister found it when he came to office.

No case whatever has been made by the Government in defence of the Minister for Defence. Not one of his ministerial colleagues, other than the Taoiseach, who spoke ineptly in his defence, has spoken in the debate. No member of the Labour Party has spoken. Indeed, with a few exceptions earlier in the morning, not one of them has been present in the House since the debate opened. I do not know what significance that has, Sir, but if they are permitted to vote as I feel their consciences would direct them to vote, then we would have an end to the indiscretions. Because of the disgraceful behaviour of the Minister for Defence the House should vote in favour of his removal from office by the Taoiseach.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 58; Níl, 63.

  • Andrews, David.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Brady, Philip A.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Gerard.
  • Crinion, Brendan.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Farrell, Joseph.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzgerald, Gene.
  • Flanagan, Seán.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Gibbons, Hugh.
  • Gibbons, James.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Brosnan, Seán.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Brugha, Ruairí.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callanan, John.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Herbert, Michael.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Keaveney, Paddy.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Leonard, James.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, Jack.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Meaney, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Murphy, Ciarán.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Power, Patrick.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Timmons, Eugene.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Wyse, Pearse.


  • Barry, Richard.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Bermingham, Joseph.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Burke, Joan T.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Clinton, Mark A.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Collins, Edward.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Cooney, Patrick M.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, Declan.
  • Coughlan, Stephen.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Desmond, Eileen.
  • Dockrell, Henry P.
  • Dockrell, Maurice.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Esmonde, John G.
  • Finn, Martin.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Gilhawley, Eugene.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Patrick.
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Lynch, Gerard.
  • McDonald, Charles B.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • Malone, Patrick.
  • Murphy, Michael P.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Sullivan, John L.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Reynolds, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, John J.
  • Spring, Dan.
  • Staunton, Myles.
  • Taylor, Frank.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Toal, Brendan.
  • White, James.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Lalor and Browne; Níl, Deputies Kelly and B. Desmond.
Question declared lost.

It should be put on record that from an Opposition point of view we had to pair seven Government Ministers, who were absent on official business, for that vote.

Most of those Ministers—all of them bar one—were absent at the time this incident occurred.