We are dealing with the present Minister for Industry and Commerce. This is a motion to approve of the voting of money for economic co-operation between certain agencies within the British Commonwealth. Surely if that object is laudable it is desirable that such co-operation should have as intelligent and effective a directing head as possible. The precise way in which that would be arrived at I am not even pretending to hint at. What I am commenting upon is the fact that the representative of the Saorstát, whose name appears here, apparently objected to having any effective directing centre to influence the functions of those co-operative agencies which we are proposing to strengthen and support. The only reason that I can see why that reservation was put in was that Mr. Lemass should show that he at least is in accord still with the views of the proposer of this motion expressed in 1931—that we give away our position by having anything to do with the Imperial forces that combine to make up the British Empire. It surely was not in accord with the statement made by the Minister for Finance the other day in the Dublin Chamber of Commerce:—
"It is the earnest desire of the Government of the Saorstát that the relations between the people of Ireland and Great Britain should be amicable and cordial. We recognise that in many important matters the two peoples have a community of interests and of common concern. We believe it is not beyond the capacity of the two peoples to arrive at an understanding which will be honourable and lasting."
Certainly there is a wide diversity between the statement of the Minister for Lands and Fisheries in 1931, that of the Minister for Industry and Commerce at Ottawa, and that of the Minister for Finance at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. I should like to know, further, to what extent and in what way we propose to avail of the institutions outlined and dealt with in this report.
I should like to emphasise one other point—that this report outlines and portrays a form of Commonwealth organism which has been in a state of growth, which has been, in some directions, proved and, in other directions, strengthened. But it differs from those services to which the President referred in his few remarks in that this is specifically and emphatically a Commonwealth organism of which this State is, by this motion, going to become an integral part. As it grows and develops, it is going to bring together those various States and entities which make up the Commonwealth, to bind them together with links stronger than steel, links which will be much more difficult to break or shatter than political affiliations. That is what we are asked to give assent to and I hope we shall give cordial and emphatic assent to it. But I ask you to recollect that this assent is asked for by the gentlemen who informed us in 1931 that we gave away our position by "having anything to do with the Imperial forces that combine to make up the British Empire." It is well to know whither we are tending. We cannot walk out of the Commonwealth on one leg and walk into it on the other, unless some new form of human ingenuity is to be devised. I know that the present Government are very ingenious. They have devised some extraordinary situations. They devised certain formulæ, empty and full, which would have seemed to be beyond the wit of man to devise a few years ago. But they have not yet devised a political arrangement by which we can go in two opposite directions at the same time. We are honoured to-night with the unusual presence of our President. If he can inform us how we are simultaneously to go out of and into the Commonwealth of Nations, he will be doing something of which I did not consider him capable up to the present. This is his opportunity to reveal the big secret of how to stand simultaneously in two different positions.
The composite bodies dealt with in this Report have not been, so far as I can see, a bad sideline for Saorstát Eireann. I gathered from the statement of the President that our total contribution is £960. He stated in the Dáil that the Saorstát representative on one of these bodies would get a fee of £500, which would be credited to the Saorstát Exchequer. When the President is replying, perhaps he would explain the grants from the Empire Marketing Board accorded to University College, Dublin—£3,250 capital, £1,100 per annum for five years and £1,550 capital, £425 per annum for five years. That is not a bad return to get for the payment of £960. On that side, I think we have a fairly substantial margin of profit. On page 85 of the report there is this suggestion by the Conference:—
"It has been suggested, therefore, that a Conference, representative of the various parts of the Commonwealth and consisting partly of the responsible administrative and scientific heads of research organisations and departments in those countries and partly of such other persons as the several Governments may select, should be summoned at an early date for the purpose of formulating a programme of such forms of research as it may be considered should be conducted on an inter-imperial basis."
The only reason I refer to that is to express the hope that if this suggestion is given effect to and such a conference is called, the unwisdom of sending the Minister for Lands and Forestry to it will be obvious to the Government. He would, probably, if he arrived there, insist upon presenting each member of the conference with a "historical background" which would be ruled out of order.
We are asked to approve of certain recommendations in this report which are set out very clearly. As I said, I thoroughly approve of these representations, but I take it that there is general approval of the report of this Imperial Committee on Economic Consultation and Co-operation by the Executive Council. The President, in his statement in the Dáil, did not dissent from any part of the report. It may be that he overlooked certain parts of it.
There is one part of the report to which I desire to refer in case the President has overlooked it. I think it is important to draw his attention to it before he is committed to an irrevocable step. I think he should look up the draft charter suggested for the Imperial Economic Committee. It begins on page 125 and continues into succeeding pages. It is suggested there that in the event of a vacancy in the office of President, from whatever cause arising, such a vacancy shall be filled by the nomination of a successor under the Sign Manual of the Sovereign for the time being. Is this what we are asked to approve, and by whom are we asked to approve it? Or are we contemplating setting up a rival dynasty and that it will be the Sovereign for the time being of the Royal Irish Republic who would nominate this person? These are matters that need to be cleared up. We cannot sit between two stools without coming to the ground. We cannot to-day be approving of a motion which is going to bring together, weld together and strengthen those contacts between the different elements of the Commonwealth and, logically and consistently, to-morrow ask the people of this State to take a step that is going to smash up that Commonwealth, nor can we with dignity write to Mr. Thomas and ask for his permission to establish a Republic outside the ambit of the Commonwealth of Nations.
We are entitled to know where we stand; the people of this State should know where they stand. There was a time in the history of this State when, if it were a choice between an Irish Republic and the state of government that existed, I would not hesitate for one second as to which I would vote for. But we are not in that position to-day. We are in a position where the people of this State have full control of every power and authority and resource within their own territory. If that is not national freedom, if that is not a true conception of human freedom, I do not know what is. There are other problems, such as the problem of the division between the North and the South, that have to be dealt with; but it is not by creating a spirit of embroilment with our neighbours across the water and a spirit of disturbance in our own area, it is not by confusing standards and projecting conflicting views, that we are going to bring the North in.
We have a great opportunity to make a great State of this land in which the Oireachtas rules. I believe sincerely that the making of that great State depends very largely, if not entirely, upon the spirit, the ideal, that is embodied in this report, the approval of which is asked by the Minister for Lands and Fisheries. I have the greatest possible pleasure, for the first time, in strongly supporting what the Minister now proposes in this House.