Section 1, in line 19, that the figures and words "31st day of March, 1935," be deleted and that the figures and words "31st day of July, 1934," be substituted therefor.
I am very glad, Sir, that you have stated that you do not regard your ruling on this matter as a precedent, because I think the points at issue will have to come before the Seanad again. They certainly will have to come before the Seanad again if the amendment which I now propose is agreed to. I wish to limit the duration of this Act to the 31st July next for the purpose of having the matters in these amendments which have been ruled out of order brought before the House and a method devised by which they can be tested. It would be better still if the Government reconsidered the matter and, when introducing the next continuing Bill, embodied in it some clauses such as I have set out in the amendments on the Order Paper. In the early days the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Act was considerably amended. Afterwards the Bill became a mere continuing Bill, but it was always intended, both by the past Government and by the present Government, that permanent legislation should be introduced. That, I think, was very necessary because in fact the legislation that now governs the Army was never considered in detail by the Oireachtas. It was hurriedly passed in 1923 in the Dáil, and if I am not mistaken I think it was disposed of in one day in the Seanad. Since that time only small portions of it have been reconsidered, and only very minor amendments have been made.
It might have been possible to continue the Act again without amendment but for the action that has recently been taken by the Government. We have a volunteer force started, I suppose as a branch of the Reserve, which is to be spread all over the country for the organisation of that force. We have had 20 men commissioned who have not had training as military officers. As I said on the Second Reading of the Bill, I think it is a terrible and a most unfortunate thing that the Government should commission these men and should put them in charge in the various counties as administrative officers.
I fear gravely that the organisation of this force, unless the Government can somehow mend its hand, holds the gravest possible menace to the future peace of this country, and for the preservation and respect of the democratic rights of its citizens. I certainly cannot get out of my mind the belief that the intention of the Government is to make this force a Party political force, owing special allegiance to them, beyond the normal allegiance that any army should owe to the duly-constituted Government of the country. I think it is almost sure to develop along lines that will be extremely unfortunate for the country, that young fellows who are going into it and who could quite perhaps naturally develop the right ideas, will not have an opportunity of doing so, because there will be an atmosphere of partisanship and partiality around them. It is rumoured that not only has the Government appointed these men, who have no qualifications for the positions—but who have, shall we say, a lurid political past—as administrative officers, but it is said that there has been private canvassing through Party channels for the first recruits, so as to get men who are political partisans of the Government into the various units first to get them trained as non-commissioned officers, and ultimately to make them officers of the Reserve. I believe, when one sees what has been done in the case of administrative officers, it is only natural to believe that.
As far as I am concerned, I regard this movement of the Government as of the gravest menace to the country. I do not know whether there is a positive intention on the part of the Government to deny the people their right to change the Government or not. At any rate they seem to prepare, by getting the instrument into their hands, to take that line, if later they decide on it. Take these 20 men who have been commissioned, whose past, as I have said, has been a political and a partisan past. I would deplore their being commissioned at any time. I think if a force such as this is to be organised, it ought to be organised by officers whose outlook is as professional as possible—by capable officers with a professional outlook, and with as little interest as possible in politics. But, if these 20 men were to be commissioned, then, if they had to be sent for two years to the military college, and if they had spent their time learning something of military forces, certainly they would get a new and much more satisfactory outlook, and while some of them might remain political partisans, I think they would have a better conception of their duties as officers of the State, and the danger of their introduction to the force would be very much reduced indeed. The same thing applies to any other officer that it might be intended to recruit. Personally, I think it would scarcely matter, if there were some political discrimination in the selection, because if they began to take their work seriously there would be a less dangerous element in whatever partisanship that might attach to them. Apart from the dangers of creating a partisan army, by the line the Government has pursued, I think it is undesirable that we should begin with a low standard of qualification and of professional capacity. It is undoubtedly a difficult thing in any sort of part-time force to keep the standard up. The danger is that it will become entirely slovenly, and so undisciplined as to be of no value at all from the point of view of the defence of the country.
Senators have all heard the old story about the Duke of Wellington when he saw the levies that were sent out to him at one period of the Peninsular War. They were untrained and ill-equipped. When he was asked what he thought of the new troops he said: "I do not know what effect they will have on the enemy, but, by gad, they frighten me." The sort of force that the Government has created, if it begins with this low standard, will probably not annoy any potential enemy, but would certainly be enough to frighten ordinary law-abiding citizens. If we are to have a force along volunteer lines, we ought to make up our minds that we are going to have a good force, which is going to have a high professional standard, and that we are going to require the officers to be keen about their work. I do not think we can ever get that if we begin with these 20 administrative officers as the standard and as exemplars for future officers of the force.
The Minister for Defence stated that these men had previous experience of fighting. I will say nothing about that, except this, that the experience they had could be of no value to them as officers of such a force as is being created, because any warfare in which it was engaged would be carried on under radically different conditions. The guerilla fighting here was done when the British Government professed to be maintaining law and order here; when it professed to regard all the people as its people, except those actually engaged in operations against it; when its commanders, by reason of that theory, were tremendously handicapped, and when it was consequently possible for men on our side to pursue a certain line of tactics. These things would be utterly impossible if we had a foreign army, from whatever country, invading this State. In present circumstances the whole population would be enemies of that invading army, and it would not be subject at all to the handicaps to which the British forces were subjected, so that any experience these men gained in the past would be experience which would be of no value at all. They would require to begin right at the beginning, to study and to learn the elements of military science and art.
There is just one other thing I would like to say in connection with this matter. After all, the main purpose of a defence force of any sort is not to wage war successfully, but to prevent war taking place. If a defence force is to prevent war taking place, it must have a reputation for efficiency and good organisation. It seems to me that a body started as this volunteer force is being started, can never have a reputation for efficiency, and consequently can never do that thing which, above all, any defence force should do, to protect the country to which it belongs from being attacked. It is only the second best thing to be successful in resisting attack. I regard this whole matter of the organisation of the volunteer force as one that can only be satisfactorily arranged after due consideration, and on a basis that will meet with general acceptance from the people. I believe it can only be built up slowly, that the attempt should only be made to do so slowly, and that the Government should begin by training the personnel to take charge of it, and to conduct the actual training of the men who will be recruited. The Government have nothing at all to lose, unless it is doing what I said I feared it is doing, building up an armed political wing of its own. Unless it is doing that, it has nothing to lose by taking time over this and proceeding in a business-like way. I am moving an amendment to the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Bill, so that the Bill will come before us, either as a continuing Bill or in permanent legislation, say in the course of a month or six weeks, and that before introducing new legislation the Government will decide to act as a Government should, decide to build up any force on the basis of efficiency, and on a basis acceptable generally to the people, and that it should altogether get away from the idea of getting partisans together and swearing them into a force so that they will not lose their feeling of partisanship and putting arms into their hands.
I do not know if the Government proposes to distribute arms to these men, or to distribute arms widely through the country. Certainly, if they do, nothing but calamity can follow from such a course, because men untrained in this way will certainly, in many cases, use the arms against neighbours, and if the arms are distributed in such a way, some neighbours will go after them and nothing but calamity can come. I see no prospect of any good to the country on the basis of taking one section of the population, and putting arms into their hands, and organising them with their own partisan officers. There may be differences of opinion in the Seanad as to the desirability of having such a force at all. I am satisfied that if a force were to be organised along proper lines there would be overwhelming support for it. Individuals and certain groups would, perhaps, disbelieve in the necessity for it but, so far as the great majority of the people are concerned, they would regard the formation of such a nonpartisan force as an asset to the country. I would like to say one other thing about this procedure of the Government. I think the most precious thing a State can have is an army that is loyal and disciplined, with a thoroughly constitutional outlook. Such an army is a protection to the general mass of the people from both internal and external force.
It is widely believed, and widely feared, that the intention of the Government in organising this force is, not to supplement the existing Army, which is loyal and efficient, and rooted in the Constitution, but to replace that Army by this partisan army. I certainly think the Seanad should not take any steps that would assent to any such course—if that is the intention of the Government. It is because it is widely believed and feared that such is the intention that I put down one of the amendments which the Cathaoirleach has ruled out of order; that a man should not be promoted beyond the rank of captain until he has had five years' service as an officer. I do not know whether it is the intention of the Minister for Defence to make some of these men who are without knowledge—and who when commissioned were regarded as the awkward squad—colonels or major-generals. If that is the intention, or if he takes any such course, certainly the people of the country can look out for a definite attempt on the part of this Government to deprive them of their democratic rights. If that is not his intention he will have no objection to having these men serving a reasonable period before being promoted to high rank, and having them absorb a spirit of discipline, which requires time, and to get a professional outlook. I think this whole matter is one which the Seanad cannot, in justice to itself, leave over for consideration for a year, and let the Government do what it likes in the meantime. The Seanad ought to pass this amendment, and force the Government to make a clear declaration in the matter, and also, by acceptance of legislation, restore confidence to the people. I do not know whether the Minister is aware or not, but I may tell him that there is grave alarm in the country about this proceeding. There naturally cannot be, among certain sections of the people, an attitude which would accept this Government's word in regard to democratic rights, because the members of it have, in the past, gone out in arms against majority rule. Therefore, their words will not be trusted as the words of men who, in the past, had taken up a different attitude. Because their words will not be trusted, they should, by their acts, inspire confidence, and their acts may not merely mean some modification of the policy which they have been recently pursuing in regard to the Army, but the acceptance of proper legislative safeguards.