Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 27 May 1941

Vol. 25 No. 14

Public Business. - Second Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1940—Report and Final Stages.

Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

This is very definitely the final stage in the passing of this Constitution, and I think it is only right, as there have been certain criticisms and opposition to certain sections of the Constitution, to state that every section and group in this House and probably in the other House is of opinion that, as the law, it should be obeyed and worked to the best possible advantage as long as it remains the law. No political differences in regard to its passing should make any difference as far as loyalty to the State is concerned. There was one matter referred to by Senator McEllin on the Second Stage to which I did not reply because, to be candid, I thought he was making what was a Party point and I do not think the public are now interested in Party points. I certainly am not and I did not want to deal with it but on reading his speech, and hearing some of the comments that have been made on it, it occurred to me, that if unreferred to on the other side his speech might cause a certain amount of misunderstanding. The reference was to neutrality.

There are certain matters on which there have never been any differences as far as I know on any side, and the most obvious of these is partition. On that I may say everybody is agreed. One other thing on which there was never any disagreement, as far as I am aware from any quarter, is that the only body that could declare war was the Oireachtas or Parliament. The impression that might be obtained from Senator McEllin's remarks—that, in fact, was obtained by some people who heard him—would be that in the early stages there was a difference of opinion on that point. It seems to me that if there was a difference then and if there was still a difference it would be a very serious matter. I am certain that there is no difference of opinion and also that there was no difference of opinion then.

It is, of course, reasonably obvious that no Constitution can guarantee neutrality. It was not possible to guarantee it to Norway or Holland, although their Constitutions were as independent as it was possible to make them. What a Constitution can provide is that no one other than the properly constituted Parliament can involve the country in a state of war except when a country is wantonly invaded. Whatever faults there were in the earlier Constitution, there was in it a definite provision stating that the State should not be involved in war, except in the case of actual invasion, without the assent of the Oireachtas. That provision was of vital importance, for this reason, that that particular Constitution—we need not go into whether it was desirable or not—was, in fact, passed by the British Parliament and, consequently, anything stated in it had the effect of an act of renunciation. Although we did not accept the position, the nations of the world at that time considered that the British Parliament had the right to involve this country in war, and it was, therefore, of extreme importance that the first Constitution should contain that clause and that that renunciation should be agreed to by the British Parliament. I am sure if all Parties had been represented they would have been absolutely united on that point. It would be a bad thing if the impression were to go abroad, in debating the matter from a Party point of view, that there was ever any disagreement on that point. I am quite satisfied that there was not.

Nílim chun bac a chur ar an mBille seo mar táim go láidir ina fhabhar. Níl aon rud a chuir bród agus áthas orm níos mó ná go mbeidh againn dlithe neaspleadhacha ach sé an fáth d'eirigh mé anois a rá nach bhfuil an bóthar réidh sna cúirteanna do na Gaedhilgeóirí. Tháinig sé chun m'eolus cupla lá o shoin go raibh bean annso i mBaile Atha Cliath a mheas go raibh fiacha— £5 nó £6—aice ar fhear. Chuir sí an dlí ar an bhfear agus tháinig sí os cóir na gcúirteanna—Cúirteanna na Conndae, sílim. Cuireadh an cás siar go dáta eile agus nuair tháinig sé os cóir na cúirte arís cuireadh siar arís é agus sé an fáth a thug an breitheamh ná nach raibh Gaedhilg aige agus dubhairt sé gur ceart di fear teangacha a thabhairt léi chun an cás a mhíniú don Chúirt. Cuireadh an cás siar agus b'éigin don mhnaoi dul os cóir na Cúirte arís agus cuireadh mórán costais uirthi mar bhí uirthi dligheadóirí a thabhairt léi. Tá sin ag cur an-bhac ar Ghaedhilgeóirí an Ghaedhilg úsáid sna cúirteanna. Tá súil agam go bhfeachfa an Riaghaltas fá sin.

This, as Senator Douglas has said, is in a very special sense the Final Stage of the Bill, because in future, if it is to be amended, except in case of a general election, it must be amended by way of referendum. I should like to go on record as thinking that it is not sound that, so soon after it has been introduced, it should be in the position of being unamendable except by referendum. However, that is something which we cannot help now. There were some statements made in the course of debate which would imply that certain people are against this Constitution and it was compared with its predecessor. I am not against this Constitution and I hope—I should like to express the hope publicly now on the Final Stage of the Bill—that in its amended form, or any other form it may take, it will have the support of the people. But I am against claims made foolishly and flamboyantly for it. I do not intend for the moment to go into these but I want to refer to two points. One is the language point. I did not compare this Constitution with the first Constitution. I was misunderstood in that. I merely said what I think is nothing but the simple truth —that this Constitution proceeds from the other and that but for the first Constitution this Constitution could never have been introduced, would not now have the force of law and would not now be at this stage of discussion in the Second House of an Irish Parliament. I think that when this Constitution is praised it must not be forgotten that but for the courage and the intelligence of the people who signed the Treaty with the British in 1921, and but for the resoluteness of other people who put that Treaty into operation, in spite of opposition of various kinds, there could not now be an Irish Parliament. I think that Senator Magennis, who in spite of threats of violence, with his eyes open and in the light of a person well able to weigh the evidence, voted for the original Constitution, deserves to be numbered amongst the people to whom a meed of praise in that particular respect is due.

These amendments include one which provides that a Bill passed in both languages shall be signed in both languages, and that in the event of a difference in the interpretation of the text, the Irish text shall prevail. Senator Fitzgerald took some exception to that, and as I suppose is the habit of all of us, including the best of us, went too far in discussing the capacity of the Irish language in the matter of law-making. Unfortunately we have not got the text of his speech, but it is not a debating point I want to make. The Irish language had not been used in law-making and was never used as such until the year 1922.

It therefore naturally has a great deal of leeway to make up. It is not true to say that when you pass a law in the English language, you are dealing with terms of certain and clear meaning, and that if you use the Irish language you may be lending yourself to more loose expression and more difficult interpretation. I think Senator Fitzgerald and all of us know distinguished lawyers in the other House who make a very comfortable living by inducing the courts to take from the law an interpretation which sometimes was not intended by those who drafted the law. That, I suggest, indicates that the English language or any other language when applied to the law, allows a very great wideness of interpretation. The Irish versions of these Acts which have been made with great skill, great patience and with considerable research over a period of years, are not only a very valuable piece of work, as the Taoiseach said, from the point of view of the development of the language, but are not infrequently clearer than the English.

It often happens, Sir, as you will have had some experience, that you know, when a member of the House gets up to speak he will occupy a considerable time, not be out of order, and not raise any great disturbance in the peaceful calm of the legislative chamber. On such occasions, in the other House, I often, for more than half an hour, examined the Irish text of a Bill without the English text for the purpose of seeing whether the Irish text did convey to me a very clear meaning. In a great many cases I found that it did. While I am entirely in agreement with those who say that we cannot revive or improve the Irish language by speech-making—efforts of which we have some examples in this House and many examples elsewhere—I do think it is an excellent thing to use the Irish language in this particular way. Whether a mere translation should be allowed priority over the original form is another question. The translation work that has been done is very valuable, and I am glad there has been no neglect of it. For the person who says that we are making Irish laws which, therefore, must be interpreted in Irish, I have no sympathy at all. I have simply pity. I do not think he understands the position. On the other hand, it is not right to say that when you make a law in the English language you are making something which is certain and to which only one interpretation can be given, while, when you make a translation of that law into Irish, it is open to a great many interpretations.

With regard to the Constitution itself, it is of interest to note that this amended form of the Constitution is, in fact, a form which gives more power to the Executive than the original form of the Constitution passed in 1922. Perhaps, sir, there are fashions in everything; that besides fashions in ladies' hats there are fashions in Constitutions. The Constitution in 1922, framed when the conditions and the circumstances were different, had a certain number of frills which were then very much in fashion. Conditions have changed and since then there has been a hardening in the way of giving more and more power to Governments. This Constitution, in spite of the protestations and pious expressions of opinion in certain parts of it, does, in fact, give more power to the Executive as against the individual than its predecessor. Perhaps that is necessary in modern times, but apart from the merits it is no harm that we should know what the precise position is.

The Constitution contains a number of pious theoretical clauses, a certain number of statements, and it is made clear that these are not to have the force of law. The others which deal with the liberty of the subject may be altered by ordinary legislation. That seems to be the effect of recent judicial decisions. Any legislation giving more power to the Executive against the individual will be deemed to be within the terms of the Constitution. Of course, as Senator Douglas said, the Constitution cannot guarantee the individual and the nation as against a majority, as against a certain type of citizen. Our truest guarantee is the outlook our own people preserve in the State. Our greatest guarantee is the way in which our own people act in certain contingencies. Men and women are much more important than the provisions in the Constitution, and there was never a moment in history when that was clearer than the present. It is an old Irish saying that it is not beautiful bodies but stout hearts that win battles and, as far as we are concerned, all the talk about Constitutions bringing us freedom and solving our problems and all the rest is, perhaps, beautiful but not in accordance with hard facts. We should, I think, make it clear that our people must obey the law when the law is made and that nobody should do or say anything which would tend to bring the law in this country into disrepute and disrespect. We should rely more on attitudes of this kind than what is set out in any document.

I want to make one or two observations on what Senator Hayes has said, and I hope it will not take long. I do not know whether he quite realised my point of view with regard to the language position but I still maintain my own view when he says that the Irish text is clearer than the English text. He can only say that because, having read the English text, he knew what it meant and then looked at the Irish text to see what it meant.

I did not say that. I very frankly agreed with the Taoiseach in that matter. When the Minister for Defence in the Dáil introduced a Bill or Estimate I sometimes read the Irish version without looking at the English text and I understood what it meant.

I can only assume that you understood it correctly by looking at the English Act from which it was translated to see if it contained the same idea. When Senator Hayes makes the case for an Irish translation I am at one with him. I want to see that practice go on just as in Latin and in French until you evolve a precise language from which no judge can disagree. From constant use in this way these languages have evolved an exact legal phraseology which is not the case in Irish. Therefore, I would agree in having Irish translations the same as at present so that we would reach a time when people could look back and say the form of words in Irish to convey an idea was such-and-such. My particular objection is taking the Irish text as the legal text because the Irish language has not been used for law-making in the same way as say the Latin or French language. As time goes on we will have terms in Irish more exactly defined and a phraseology evolved that might be regarded as legal language. To accept that as the position now would be ridiculous. When we consider the Irish text we must consider the English text at the same time. I am prepared to take certain things in Irish but here is a case where a thing in one language may mean one thing and in another language may have a different meaning. Where there is a difference of opinion and the matter comes before the courts the court will have to interpret the meaning. In this case the courts are making the law by precedent or interpretation which is the way in which the laws were made under the old Irish system. When such a case comes before the court as often happens they may say the meaning is something that the Legislature had not intended. That would be a case of law made by interpretation and something which was not intended. It might be something which did not make for the well being of the people in the country.

Then the Government comes along and arranges to make another enactment, in the sense of making the law what it was originally intended to be, and not as interpreted by the courts. If the less precise text which is, in fact, an interpretation of the text in English, was by legal interpretation made to mean what it was not meant to be, we could not summon the Dáil and Seanad together in that case, and it is suggested that there would have to be a plebiscite if the law was to be changed. With regard to that plebiscite, the Taoiseach said, and I hope he will prove to be right, that the changing of the Constitution in this way is not going to be a great hardship, because he says the plebiscite could be held at the same time as a general election. I hope that is so, because Senator Douglas and Senator Hayes spoke of this as if it were very much of a Final Reading. I do not like to think of it in that way. It is a question of terminus ad quem or terminus a quo. I would prefer to regard it as terminus a quo. If I thought the effect of this law would be that it was going to be imposed on the Irish people as a sort of permanent thing, no matter what mutations time would bring, and if restrictions were imposed on its amendment, that would be disastrous. All Constitutions are based on the moral law. It is the one basic law. Constitutions provide for the continuity of government and provide certain adaptations of law regulated in accordance with the universal law, and the peculiar circumstances of a particular country. In this Constitution we have what is known as the pious parts which are not law. They are purely theoretical. They are merely pious expressions and aspirations based on the moral law. I do not think this is the Final Reading or that this is passing in a form which cannot be amended.

The position before this was—it is a position to which, I hope, we shall get back—that you had a Constitution which was so arranged that it could develop by growth. When experience over a certain number of years showed that a certain change in that basic law, as then enacted, was required for the common good, it was a perfectly simple matter to make that change. If I were to undertake to sit down and write you a new Constitution, it would have the same handicap that this Constitution has. The proper method would be, after a period, spent by the Irish people, living in this Irish society, and experiencing the various circumstances which change of time brings about, to be able to change the Constitution from time to time, not making it a thing of rags and tatters but enabling it to grow harmoniously so that, at the end of an unstated number of years, you would have a general form of basic law which would be such as a long period of experience had shown was suited to and apt to the circumstances of the people of the country.

After the lapse of a certain number of weeks, we know that any minor change in this large document will require submission to a referendum. That will, ultimately, have to take place. Whatever Government is in power then, I hope the form it will take will be practically a re-drafting of the whole Constitution for submission to the people. I hope that the Constitution will contain a clause stating that, over an undetermined number of years, any Article in it can be changed by ordinary law. There is something which is completely unnatural, something which completely refuses to face up to the circumstances of human life, which are constantly changing, in saying that, after one period or two periods, at a given moment, this is going to be the form of the State. I want to say that, perhaps unwittingly, Senator Hayes summed up the view of a much more distinguished and authoritative person than himself when he said that all this talk about the enormous significance of constitutions is misleading. A distinguished French writer, at a time when the Taoiseach's friend, the Abbé Sieyés, and others were amusing themselves producing unlimited numbers of constitutions, commented on "A Constitution for man." He said:"‘Man,' where is he; I never met him." He knew the Frenchman of that period and the Russian, but this man for whom the Constitution was made he did not know at all. I wish the Taoiseach had read that very profound thinker on constitutions before he prepared this Constitution. I am not going to worry myself about that because, like Senator Hayes, I agree with the view of Leo XIII on this matter. You may remember that, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the French Catholic Party had largely taken the line that the Third Republic had no binding power on their conscience because it was only a usurping government. If anybody takes the trouble to read the letters—for instance, the letter "au milieu des Sollicitudes"— addressed by the Pope to the French Catholics at that time he will find that he dealt with those who say that this exact form of constitution is right and that that is wrong. In France, during that period, they had monarchies, republics, the Napoleonic empire, the Bourbons and others and the Pope pointed out that much more important than a Constitution are the specific enactments made by governments from time to time and that one way of securing that these enactments would be good for the people, and properly directed to the common good, was to see that the right people were put in power.

That brings me to the question that this Constitution gives more power to the Executive than did the previous Constitution. Experience shows that, if a body of men are to be burdened with responsibility, they must be given appropriate power to carry out the responsibility imposed upon them. Therefore, I do not, personally, see any great harm in the fact that this Constitution gives greater power to the Executive than did the previous Constitution. There is always the idea that, somehow or other, you should give a Government responsibility and then reserve all sorts of powers, so that you can blame them, on the one hand, while withholding power from them, on the other hand. As we have a democratic form of government, no Constitution will save us from unwisdom or venality in the whole people. The people themselves must decide who are the best rulers for them, give them power and make them responsible. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, I propose to let this Constitution pass as it stands. I could have proposed many amendments which, I think, would, at the moment, be an improvement, but I do not accept this as a Final Reading. I do hope that, when the Constitution is radically amended, as I hope it will be, it will be left in a fluid state, so that the Legislature, as it experiences the changes which time brings, will be able to modify it, from time to time, and that, only after a long period, when you might say it sets forth the traditional way of life of the people, will it be accepted as in any way a permanent document.

I have endeavoured to avoid dealing with anything contentious on this Bill. I do not propose to go into the question whether the previous Constitution had any relation to neutrality or not. As regards neutrality, there are certain wrong ideas and I do not know whether they are innate in this Constitution or not. It is assumed, somehow, that in this country, because there is, what is technically called, neutrality in relation to a certain matter, therefore, everybody's mind has to become a perfect blank on that matter—that one's mind is to cease to function or to weigh degrees of good and degrees of evil. That is somehow related to this theory that a Constitution is a supremely important document upon which the whole future of the country depends— that everything depends on certain words being set forth in a certain enactment. The truth is that we tend to exaggerate the State. The State is a specific entity in itself. If every person in this State were most deeply convinced, in relation to the present war or any other matter, that right was on one side and wrong on the other, that would not interfere with the neutrality of the State. Here and now, I again say that I recognise as binding, not as a code of action but as binding upon my conscience, any law enacted by the Parliament of the State, according to this Constitution.

I recognise that that is binding upon me, but I do resent certain suggestions that when the State is, for instance, neutral, my mind must become a blank. The State can become neutral and every one of us can form his own judgment on certain matters. That does not in any way imply any kicking against the goad or any refusal to accept the law of the State. I have been formally in Opposition for quite a number of years, and during that time I have tried to the best of my ability—in Parliament and out of Parliament—to impress on the people of this country that, once a law has been enacted—and it cannot be a law if it is against justice—no matter who enacts it and no matter how much we may like or dislike it, that law must be obeyed—not solely because otherwise the police will come after us, but because it is only by obeying it that we can remain at peace with ourselves.

I believe in a strong executive, and have always done so. Furthermore, I am as conscious as Senator Fitzgerald or Senator Hayes that there are fairly narrow limits to what a Constitution can do for the liberty and welfare of the citizens. Nevertheless, it can do something and there is a difference between having a good Constitution and a bad one. I think well enough of our own Constitution to disapprove still of the step that we are asked to take in this Amending Bill, which consists in putting it in the power of either House of the Oireachtas, acting perhaps on the instructions of a Whip of a single Party, to suspend indefinitely the constitional guarantees after this war or any other war is over.

It is true that the possession of sound ideas of freedom by the mass of the people is a better guarantee of the preservation of freedom than any Constitution can be; but it is precisely during a period when enormous power is given to the executive, and when very great restrictions are put upon the liberty of the individual, that the ideas held by the masses as to what is proper and what is not are apt to become atrophied. That is especially the case when there is a very rigid censorship in force. In the course of last week's debate, one Senator alluded to the fact that no objections had been raised by any responsible body of opinion in this country against the possession and use by the Government of tremendous executive powers. However, if such objections had been felt, the probability is that they could not have been expressed; as, if they involved any matter that the Government considered of great importance, the censorship would not have allowed the objections to appear in print. I am not saying that there should have been objections in the past. I am saying that, perhaps, there might be a very proper objection in the future and, particularly, there might be proper objection after this war or any war is over.

Some day, not necessarily in connection with this war and this Parliament, but perhaps some future war and some future Parliament, there may be an improper attempt by a dominant political Party to preserve its own rule beyond the period when the people want it, and to keep the Executive endowed with overwhelming and despotic powers over the life and property, and even the minds, of the individual citizens. Consequently, I proposed a change in amendment No. 22, which the Government is introducing, but I failed to make my proposal acceptable to the Seanad. Now I feel obliged to maintain my objection to the amendment as it stands, and to go on record, therefore, as being in opposition to this Bill, seeing that that is by far the most important provision in it.

I think it was Senator MacDermot who, on an earlier stage of this Bill, pointed out as an interesting commentary on the development of the situation that, of the storms of controversy which howled so dismally around the cradle of the Constitution, there is left hardly an echo. I recall especially all the fears entertained regarding Article 41 and its supposed threat to women, who would henceforth be confined in their kitchens. I was told of one woman who could not vote for the Constitution because she could not feel she could deprive herself of the evening walk which was her sole recreation. Fortunately, all these fears have been set at rest, and if there is any grouse at all about Article 41, it will come from me.

I object—and I am glad the Taoiseach is here to listen to the objection—that no attempt ever was made to implement a pledge made by Article 41, in which it was stated:

"The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."

If those words mean anything, it is that there should be something in the nature of family allowances, and that a woman should not, through the unemployment of her husband, the normal breadwinner, find it necessary to go out to work, or that her family should be unable to exist without the fruits of her labour. That is implied in that Article and, as far as I know, no attempt has been made to implement it, other than a vague promise to consider family allowances. I take this opportunity to remind the Taoiseach that the State is pledged to that, and I hope that formal consideration will be given to it. I welcome the tone of the discussion on this Bill. We are all united in the belief that the Constitution deserves our loyalty. We need loyalty to the Constitution—especially at a time like the present, when the liberty, the democracy, and the sovereignty, of which it is the charter, may be threatened. We want all Parties to unite, under the Constitution, in being loyal to the country of which it is the fundamental law.

I heard Senator Hayes waxing indignant over the time lost in another place in listening to long speeches. Hence, I do not intend to tax the patience of Senators to-day. I believe, though I may be rather optimistic, that there will be no division on this Bill and, therefore, I presume that there has been just the usual bit of window dressing. I do not see why I should not follow suit, though whether my mannequins will be as successful as theirs, I do not know. I will not deal with this or that Article of the Constitution. I do not think there is anything wrong with this Constitution—whatever may be wrong with the constitutions of those in the opposite Party. Probably, this debate will act as a tonic for them.

As an ordinary individual, I resent the deprecatory note which runs through Senator Hayes's speech. He "damns with faint praise," unquestionably. Comparing this Constitution with the previous one, I do not know why every tub should not stand on its own bottom and, if it has no bottom, let it roll, as they say in Enniscorthy. We are considering the present Constitution, and the amendments thereto. It is not proposed to challenge them, and I do not see why we should indulge in comparisons at all. We are reminded that but for the first Constitution we would not have had the Second Constitution. May I add that but for 1916 we would not have had the first Constitution, but for '98, '48 and '67, we would not have had '16, and so on, ad infinitum. I do not believe that that argument is really worth threshing out to any great extent. I am afraid that a lot of this criticism may be traced in its origin to an old Irish saying which Senator Hayes, I have no doubt, will be able to translate—“Briseann an duthchas tre shúilibh an chait.” In other words, can anything good come out of Israel, especially when Israel happens to exist not collectively, perhaps, but singly, in this House? I do not think anyone ever intended or ever claimed that the Constitution in this or any other form was to be a cure-all for all the evils that have afflicted Ireland. I do not think anyone suggested it in that sense at all. I do not think anyone ever held for one moment that the woes which afflicted us, economic and otherwise, would vanish as by a magician's wand. Even its most ardent advocates never claimed that for it, in my hearing or elsewhere. It is merely pushing an open door, so to speak, to claim that.

When it was pointed out that a Constitution could not of itself do everything, that everything depended really on the mental and physical make-up of those who meant to push it through, when that was claimed by Senators on the Benches opposite to me at present, I felt inclined to say, in the memorable words of Dickens: "Who's denigin' of it, Betsy?" No one ever claimed it. My hearing is not as good as it used to be, fortunately, especially when people come to me on various matters, but if I understood Senator Fitzgerald aright, I think he alluded to Aristides. Is that correct?

No, not that I know of.

That only proves that my hearing is just as bad as I thought it was. However, he alluded to the fact that there were certain notions inherent in the Constitution which were not strictly in accordance with the fact. I do not know what these notions are. Personally, I read the Constitution fairly thoroughly and if people seek to read into the Constitution what is not in it, of course, we cannot guarantee a sufficient supply of grey matter to everybody. Senator Fitzgerald suggested that he could, and he would, if he could, suggest several amendments, and all that sort of thing. If he really intended to suggest amendments, I do not know why he should not screw up his courage to the sticking point and test the verdict of this House. He said he did not put them forward because he hoped this would not be a final Constitution. There is no finality about anything. Finality is a word that cannot be applied to any phase of human affairs and no one ever claimed that this Constitution was a cure-all or that it was final. In politics, we all know, there is no finality and I think in not putting forward the amendments which he might have, Senator Fitzgerald was merely playing for safety.

I have risen for the sole purpose of protesting mildly, as befits the wearer of the toga, against the opprobrious implication which runs through the speeches of the Opposition, the implication being that this Constitution is something which is not as good as the previous one, something they could have done very much better and something which needs revision. Having expounded these views at great length, they sit down casually and do not test the verdict of the Seanad. Perhaps they are wise in their generation. I think Senator Fitzgerald said something, incidentally, about the verdict of the people. It appears to me that on a certain occasion—of course, I may be far out—this Constitution was submitted to the verdict of the people. Of course, I may be labouring under a delusion, but, if so, I share it in common with a great many of my fellow-countrymen.

I wish to endorse the protest that has been made by Senator MacDermot. I think it is a most dangerous provision in the Constitution that these emergency powers can be extended indefinitely. In fact, it is practically in the hands of the Government of the day as to how long these powers may be continued. I am sorry the Government has not seen fit to introduce an amendment to put some form of constitutional restraint on the undue prolongation of these powers. It cuts at the basis of the whole Constitution in an attempt to defer the return to normal methods of democratic government.

Adversity makes strange bed-fellows. Unfortunately, we here find ourselves in agreement with Senator MacDermot and Senator Sir John Keane, and I sincerely hope that when the motion which is on the agenda will be considered this evening those people who are so loud in their praise of their Constitution will remember that the emergency powers nullify the whole thing. No matter how we amend it or patch it up, any Government in power can just shelve it by imposing the Emergency Powers Act. I hope the House will bear that in mind at a later stage.

I hope the House will also bear in mind that the Labour Party gave no support to my amendment last week when they had the chance to do so.

Ba mhaith liom, ar an gcéad dul síos, a rá gur maith liom gur thug Cú Uladh an cheist sin mar gheall ar Ghaedhilg ins na Cúirteanna ar aghaidh annseo indiu. Tá súil agam nach bhfuil le déanamh againn acht an cheist a mheabhrú do'n Riaghaltas agus go ndéanfaidh siad rud eicínt feasta 'na taoibh. Ní mise ná Cú Uladh atá á iarraidh seo acht na mílte daoine ar fud na hEireann ar mian leo an Ghaedhilg úsáid, agus teanga náisiúnta a dhéanamh di, daoine atá sásta glacadh leis an gcomhairle a tugtar go minic dóibh, gur ceart dóibh an teanga a labhairt agus a úsáid i gcómhnaidhe. Is dona an rud é nach féidir le daoine dul isteach sa gcúirt annseo i mBaile Atha Cliath agus in áiteacha eile agus a gcúiseanna a phléidhe sa teangaidh náisiúnta gan moill mhór bheith á chur ortha agus costas mór a bheith á chur ortha le cois. Mhínigh Cú Uladh annseo go ndeachaidh duine áithrid isteach sa gcúirt le gairid agus trí h-uaire cuireadh a cúis siar agus chomh maith le sin táthar ag iarraidh uirthi socrú a dhéanamh le fear teangan a thabhairt isteach.

Cuireann rud mar seo cúl go mór le dul ar aghaidh na teangadh. Sí an Ghaedhilg an teanga oifigeamhail agus an teanga náisiúnta. Ma's í, ba cheart réidhteach ceart a dhéanamh ina cóir sna cúirteanna agus áiteacha eile. Tá súil agam nach mbéidh le déanamh againn ach an cheist a chur os comhair an Riaghaltais agus go ndéanfar an rud atámaid a iarraidh.

Thairis sin, ba mhaith liom a rá gur thaithnigh sé go mór liom an méid adubhairt an Seanadóir O hAodha i dtaobh na leagan Gaedhilge. Léighim cuid mhaith de na hAchtanna, do réir mar thagas siad isteach cóiriúil le mo chuid oibre. Aontuím leis go bhfuil an leagan Gaedhilge cruinn agus is minic an leagan Gaedhilge níos cruinne ná an leagan Béarla. Corr uair, tar éis an leagan Gaedhilge a léigheamh dom, bíonn orm, mar gheall ar chorr-fhocal neamh-choitcheannta, féachaint ar an mBéarla. Ach, dá mbeadh foclóir agam, ní bheadh orm sin a dhéanamh. Níl an Béarla riachtanach chor ar bith leis an nGaedhilge a thuisgint. Aontuím nach bhfuil ceist ar bith dá mbíonn orainn a phlé nach féidir a phlé i nGaedhilge, má thuigimid an teanga agus má thuigimid an t-abhar a bhímuid ag iarraidh a phlé.

Ta áthas orm gur dhiúltuigh an Seanad glacadh leis an leasú a thairg an Seanadóir Mac Diarmuda. Tá Uachtarán againn agus tá meas againn air mar Ghaedheal agus mar Uachtarán ach, mar sin féin, is as an bpobal atá muinghin agam ins na cúrsaí seo agus, cé go bhfuil an-mheas agam ar an Uachtarán, ní thiubhrainn an chumhacht dó a bhí i gceist ag an Seanadóir Mac Diarmuda. Is as toil na ndaoine a thagas an chumhacht agus bíodh sé aca. Is iad na daoine a thoghas an Riaghaltas agus sílim gurb é an Riaghaltas a bhíos aca a bhíos tuillte aca agus bídís sásta leis an íde a fhaghas siad maran Riaghaltas maith fhéin é. Deirtear gur baolach go gcoinneoidh an Riaghaltas an chumhacht speisialta seo, atá anois aca, nuair a bheas deireadh leis a gcogadh. Ach táim cinnte gurb é sin an t-am a mbeidh an phráinn i gceart ann agus gurb í an uair is mó a mbeidh gá leis an gcumhacht speisialta sin. Nuair a bheas deireadh leis an gcogadh, sin é an t-am a mbeidh an chumhacht speisialta seo ag teastáil ón Riaghaltas. 'Sé an Riaghaltas atá freagarthach don phobal, is siad is fearr a thuigfeas ar deachracht agus is aca is cóir an chumhacht a bheith.

Tá rud eile agam le moladh: sílim gur ceart go mbeadh an Bunreacht mar théacs i ngach scoil idir árd is iseal. Bíomuid a rá nach dtuigeann na daoine an Bunreacht! Ní thuigeann na daoine ach an rud a múintear dóibh. Mar gheall ar fheabhas na Gaedhilge ann agus uaisleacht an abhair féin agus na smaointe atá ar léiriú ann ba deacair an Bunreacht a shárú mar leabhar sgoile. Molaim go mór don Aire Oideachais an Bunreacht a bheith mar abhar léightheoireachta sna sgolta agus mar abhar scrúdú an fhaid atámuid le córus na scrúdú a choimeád.

I think I should explain to the Seanad that I did consider very carefully the suggestion made by Senator MacDermot in regard to making the Uachtarán a guardian of the Constitution in case there should be any disposition on the part of the Executive of the day to prolong the period of emergency or to prolong the special powers they had during the emergency, beyond the time when the emergency had really passed. I would like to say this that had that proposition come from the main Opposition in the Dáil and had I thought that there would thereby be a greater amount of general agreement on a very important matter I would certainly have done my utmost to get my colleagues in the Government to accept it and to get general acceptance of it. But, it appeared on the last day that in the Seanad, and generally so far as I could see from any views I had been able to find elsewhere, that that proposition would be more strongly opposed perhaps even than by members of our own Party and I felt it was better to leave it as it is. I should, perhaps, say that in the whole course of the discussion of the Constitution from the theoretical standpoint there has been no person who has been dealing with it with whose views I was able to find myself more closely in agreement than those of Senator MacDermot. The difference was that he approached it very much more from a theoretical standpoint than I. Any theoretical views I might have had I put to the test of practicality, how they were going in fact to work out.

In regard to this particular matter as to whether on the one hand you would have an Executive which was abusing these powers or on the other hand you would have a President who would be more detached but who would not have the immediate responsibility and might be moved by representations made to him and views put before him to take an action which would, at a critical moment, hold the hands of the Government and prevent them taking action which they felt it their duty to take, and put them in a time of crisis to the very difficult task of having a plebiscite, between these two considerations, though theoretically I will admit it might be better to give some such power to the President, I think that in the long run from the point of view of the safety of the community in general and the principle that responsibility should go with power it was better to leave it as it is and so I finally came down on the side of the fence of leaving it as it is. So that I did not bring in that amendment and we are leaving it as it is. With regard to the general matter of the Constitutional points that have been raised, I would like to take upon myself the role of a plain blunt man and leave all the delicate refinements that have been made here. I think that the Constitution in the long run is a very practical matter. From the practical point of view it is the set of rules under which the various Parties in a democratic country agree to work. It is the set of rules under which we work, the rules under which the game is accepted by everybody to be played. Once the rules are accepted there is no difficulty, but if you have changes to the set of rules then in the long run you have difficulties. It is desirable that there should be as little tricking with these rules as possible and that they should be as little run along Party lines as possible.

I do not know would it seem farfetched if, in dealing with this difference between a Constitution which is easily changed and a Constitution which is not, I were to refer, by way of comparison, to divorce. There is a difference of approach, but leaving aside the very human side, I think that the fact that a relation can be changed easily is bad, that it is a temptation to try to change, and that if the relations are fixed and determined to the extent to which they are fixed and determined I think it is a good thing. Apart altogether from fundamental considerations I do think it is desirable that the Constitution should not be very easily changed. You can have revolutions and a very nasty situation can arise if a Party can be accused of changing the State organisation for its own benefit or to enable itself to get a particular advantage. I think it is desirable that within reasonable limits it should be fairly fixed. Of course, it would be absurd to have it cast-iron or absolutely stereotyped because as it has been said by many speakers we are living in a changing world and new conditions are arising every day, and what is suitable at one time may be found quite unsuitable at another. But I think if there are changes, although there may be no continuous growth, it will be—I cannot get exactly the words that express it——

I think it is transformism.

I should not like to commit myself. What I want to point out is that instead of the Constitution being subject to continuous change, there should be a certain period after which a change could not take place too easily. It was first subjected to a period of trial and after that period a change can be made only by Referendum, requiring full discussion and a movement of public opinion. I think that on the whole that was the better way to deal with it. It was a conservative tendency and it tended to hold back these changes so that we could be certain that they did not occur prematurely. I do not mind in the slightest what may be said hereafter. The past is past and history will be written about it, if it is considered of sufficient importance when viewed dispassionately in the future. What, however, is important is that we should have a document which we are prepared to accept as the fundamental rules under which we are prepared to live and work. If we get the people as a whole to accept these rules, change will be made when change is necessary. This gives us a basis of peaceful government for ourselves, a basis on which we can adjust our differences of opinion. We shall have, of course, differences of opinion.

We should not be human if we had not these differences of opinion. What is important is that the clash of opinion, when it is strong, should not become so violent as to disrupt the whole community. We have in this State, therefore, rules of organisation and rules of democratic representation which enable our community to adjust all differences of opinion from time to time, and adjust them in a peaceable way, a set of rules which everybody should know. If you want to do any piece of important work you must first know the rules. My hope is that the people as a whole will come to understand these rules and to see what is good in them; if there are any things in them which are not good gradually a public opinion will develop which will enable these rules to be changed for the better.

With regard to the past, we are all children of the past in one way or another. He would be a very foolish person indeed who would try to claim that there was something peculiarly original in what he did. Some of the greatest discoveries, things that have contributed most to human advancement, have been things that were discovered at a particular time because other things that occurred at the same time made them possible. The idea of flying, for instance, is a very, very old idea, judged in one light. It was tried in various forms at various times, but finally it became practicable only when the internal combustion engine was invented. The fact that it is possible for us to frame a Constitution for ourselves is due to the efforts of people who have gone before us. I should certainly be sorry for anybody to think that we in passing this Constitution did not pay full and meet tribute to the work of the people who went before us, work which enabled us to enact for the Irish people a Constitution of their own making. As far as I am concerned, I am glad to have lived at this time and to be one of those who have been able to do something to assist in passing into actual effect a Constitution which nobody can gainsay is an Irish Constitution made by Irish representatives for the Irish people, without any element of dictation or interference from outside. It is our own Constitution in that sense.

When I say that, I am not passing any criticism on anybody who went before us, because it is quite true that we would not have been able to legislate in this way if other people had not done something else before us. I can only say that looking back I still believe that perhaps I was right in the attitude I took. I do not know. That is a thing nobody can ever tell with certainty. I can only say that if I had done otherwise it perhaps might have had a different result. I can only say that I, and those who were with me, believed we were right in what we did at the time. It is very foolish to think that there will ever be agreement on that matter, on this side of the grave anyhow. I am glad to have this Act passed through the House. I have asked that controversies about it, controversies which might be harmful, should be brought to an end, and that we should always endeavour to get for it that acceptance by the people which will mean peace in our own land.

Question put and agreed to.