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.