Thursday, 5 January 1922
Dáil Éireann Debate
“We have found that it will not be possible for us to obtain a Union Jack of sufficient size in the event of its being necessary for us to display one at the end of the session of Dáil Eireann when the Treaty will, in all probability have been ratified. We are anxious to comply with all the necessary courtesies, and propose to hoist the Union Jack beside the Green Flag on the University Building as soon as the result of the discussion is known. We would be grateful if you would give the bearer your largest flag. We will, of course, return it to you as soon as the one which we have ordered arrives.
MR. SEAN T. O'KELLY: I would propose a motion that this Session does not formally open till three o'clock. There are a few private members, back benchers, who, in view of the seriousness of the present situation, are discussing matters among themselves. They have not had an opportunity of finishing their discussion and they think they would finish between now and lunch time, and they would suggest that the Session do not open until three o'clock. The members on both sides are concerned in this.
ALDERMAN COSGRAVE: I have not consulted my friends about the leading article that appeared in the Freeman's Journal. But I wish to express my own regret that an Irish journal would publish such a leading article as that which appeared in a Dublin morning paper to-day. I think that the Dáil has the highest respect for and confidence in the President (applause), and I believe the people of this country have the highest respect for the President also (hear, hear), and it is not in the interests of the ratification of the Treaty that such an article as this should appear in an Irish journal.
MR. SEAN ETCHINGHAM: I think some steps should be taken with regard to this article this venemous toad the Freeman's Journal has emitted from to-day's issue. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Griffith, often told us what the Freeman's Journal was. On February 8th, 1902, twenty years ago, he summed up the Freeman's Journal as follows:—
“The Freeman's Journal is a paper with an evil history; Lucas's honest bigotry and Higgins' villainy mark its early years, the blood money of Lord Edward FitzGerald filled its coffers, the Castle nourished it for a generation, it gibed at the young Ire-landers and spat venom on the Fenians; it strove to kill Parnell in his early days by a forgery as infamous as the Pigott ones, and afterwards crawled on its belly before him and begged for pardon; it supported him when his followers mutinied because it thought the country would support him, and it turned on him when it found it was mistaken. In a word, the Freeman's Journal has opposed every National movement until the movement became too strong for it, and it has assailed every Irish patriot from Henry Grattan to Parnell—from Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Theobald Wolfe Tone, to Thomas Clarke Luby and James Stephens.”
That was written twenty years ago of the Freeman's Journal. It was then true and it is true to-day. Now we want to take some action in the matter. There are also some notes in the bottom of this thing about “How Long?” And I think that concerns every member of Dáil Eireann; no matter what difference of opinion exists between us we can, at least, be unanimous in this: that we will not be insulted by the Freeman's Journal. I pass over what has been written about the President of our Republic. The Republic still lives, and President de Valera is more than a symbol; he is the head of that Republic. And President de Valera has been truly described in recent years as the “man of destiny,” as the “Irish Eagle,” and we are all proud of him as such; and the future will be proud of him. We have not forgotten the hero of Boland's Mills; and he has, since that fight, proved his worth. But here is a thing, a Chinn Chomhairle, that none of us can take—“How long?” That is an attack on the Dáil. “How long?” they ask, and then it continues: “When will An Dáil cease talking? People are sick of speech-making.” (“They are, hear hear.”) But are you going to have the Freeman's Journal even though it sun-ports you now, write the same about you. You heard what Arthur Griffith said about it. It will write the same of you in a month or two if it suits these parties. “We can't continue,” it says, “to weary our readers with such futile iteration. If anything new is said we shall be careful to report it, but otherwise we must exercise journalistic discretion in our treatment of the speeches.” I know something of what the representative of a paper feels; I pity them; I have great sympathy with them. Just like the lawyers have to speak to order in Court, the poor journalist, the representative of the Press, must write to order; it is a matter of bread and butter for them. But if you want to get at the men who control the paper—and I say that attack on Dáil Eireann, if that happened in any other country in any time, that matter would be brought before the bar here. The Freeman's Journal wants—before taking action it would be right to have a decision in the matter before you. I should think we must see that this paper, that the representatives of the paper as a protest be expelled from this assembly, from this House —it has been suggested to me— pending an apology. And in what form is that apology to be? I leave it to you, my colleagues here. I say there is an insult to the Dáil in this. That was a criminal action on the President of the Republic. I say it is a criminal action. I have no enmity against the paper. I think I know the proprietor of the Freeman's Journal. He is an all-round sportsman—Martin Fitzgerald. I think I know him. That article is not his style. I have some experience of his literary style (laughter). But that paper has insulted the Republic of Ireland through its President. It has brought charges against him. Oh! it is the old venom, the old poison. Mark you here, you cannot trust that paper any more now than you ever could trust it, or than Ireland could trust it in the past. It may join you now, but it follows the English Press. And you know what the English Press are doing with those standing up for principle. I know their denunciation of some of us. I need not go down before some of my countrymen after what appeared in the Northcliffe journal. And we have some of the same as the Northcliffe journal here. I say to you that the representatives, though some may be friends of mine, be turned out of this House until, as it is suggested, we get an ample apology.
MISS M. MACSWINEY: I rise to second the motion—that the Freeman's Journal's representative be turned out from this assembly and not re-admitted until the proprietors and editors of the journal give an undertaking that they will report what happens here. It is for us and the country to decide, and I consider that everybody here knows— everybody here from Mr. Griffith down to the humblest member knows what faith is to be put in any protestations of the Freeman's Journal. I consider their statement that they will print just what they like is of a piece with the rest of their journalistic attitude. I hope we will come to a unanimous decision in this matter, and that they will be expelled from this House.
MR. GAVAN DUFFY: I hope we will be unanimous in the protest. But let us make a protest on proper grounds. The largest latitude must be allowed to fair comment by newspapers. The Freeman's Journal is entitled to say whether we are talking too long, and we are not entitled to turn out their representatives—they are entitled to ask: “How long?” The principal ground of complaint is that in this morning's leading article in the Freeman's Journal the most infamous attack that I have ever seen in an Irish newspaper was made on two members of this House. That was not a matter of fair comment. But when you get one of the principal newspapers in Dublin in its leading article starting out by declaring that the President of our Government “has not the instincts of an Irishman in his blood” and continuing through a series of venomous personal attacks upon the President and Deputy Childers, ending up with this phrase: “when the fight was on Mr. de Valera and Mr. Erskine Childers fell accidentally into the hands of the military and were immediately released at the moment when there was £10,000 for the corpse of Michael Collins”—an article like that is infamous. That is the ground, and the only ground, upon which we could legitimately protest against a newspaper which is allowed by courtesy to come here and report the meetings of this Dáil, abusing this privilege, and returning thanks for this privilege by insulting, not merely the Dáil in this manner, but the Irish people. I need not say anything about the President. But about Deputy Childers I must say this—as one who was present in London. Much as I disagree with what Deputy Childers has said about the Treaty, I think it should be known that there was nobody connected with the Delegation in London who worked so hard and so assiduously and so untiringly as did Deputy Childers during the whole time. And whenever anybody had any difficulty or any question requiring solution they went to him as the natural authority on the subject. And to think that a man like that could be attacked in the most infamous manner by the Freeman's Journal which has now the audacity to put itself forward as the champion of Roger Casement; I think that is beyond the bounds to which any newspaper should be allowed to go.
MR. SEAN MILROY: I wish to associate myself with the protest against personalities. But I certainly also wish  to dissociate myself most emphatically from the subsequent suggestion that any Press representatives should be turned out from this assembly. Now I don't care if it was the representative of Dublin Castle was here. I think we are not afraid to hear the worst or the best that they can say. And if we want to comment against any particular journal, I have in my hand this moment one paper which I think contains a reference equally reprehensible and equally damning, unworthily suggesting baseness on the part of another section of this House. We have been putting up standards for journalism. If one journal is on its trial here to-day I am not going to take a brief for that particular journal. But another journal that makes insinuations against the honour and integrity of members should be equally open to impeachment.
MR. MILROY: I am not going to move that the representatives of this journal be expelled from An Dáil. I think it is only fair to point out to those responsible for it that they should see the unwisdom of it.
MR. MILROY: I think it would be most unfair to select any particular journal which happens to make a suggestion that we resent. I resent it as much as any member of the assembly. If the same suggestion were made about me—my honour is as dear to me as the honour of the President is to him—I certainly would not feel called upon to ask that the representatives of such a journal be withdrawn. We want freedom of the Press, and we expect that the Press should be kept within restraint. I think the protest against personalities is quite adequate.
MR. MULCAHY: I agree entirely with Deputy Gavan Duffy as to the grounds upon which we have to complain of the Freeman's Journal, and I would propose as an amendment to the motion “that we delay action with regard to any representative of the Freeman's Journal attending this assembly until to-morrow morning to see whether, in the morning's issue of the Freeman's Journal we may not have an adequate apology for the outrageous references and imputations contained in the leading article against President de Valera and Mr. Childers.” I may mention as one of the three names that have been dragged into the leading article, that I have already written to the editor a very emphatic protest against the nature of its leading article.
PROFESSOR STOCKLEY: I also wish to say what I hesitate to say. And I would like to support it. But I think it is very unwise to base anything on what a journal said as to its desire to publish a certain amount or not.
MR. J.J. WALSH: I beg to second Deputy Mulcahy's amendment. I may say that prior to the Christmas adjournment I made it clear that I strongly resented those personal attacks on President de Valera. I conveyed that information to both the Dublin newspapers, and I represent the feelings of those in favour of the Treaty as I do my own. It has been said here—perhaps not meant—that those people in favour of the Treaty are largely influenced by the Press of the country. Now we are not in any way influenced by this Press or that Press or any other Press.
MR. J.J. WALSH: On every question on which I rise to speak here, except on the speech I made the other day, you, for some reason or another, found it necessary to interrupt me. Now, I don't think that is fair. I don't think I have departed from the strict spirit of the amendment that was moved. It has been suggested here, and it is right that it should be cleared up, that we men  have been influenced in our attitude towards this Treaty by the Press of the country. Everybody knows that the Republican movement was created despite that Press, and that we have not been influenced by it. We have no sympathy whatever with personal attacks against anybody. And it would be unfair to attribute any semblance of sympathy for that kind of matter on our behalf.
MR. M. COLLINS: I understand that the matter under discussion is in regard to the leading article in to-day's Freeman's Journal. My name was mentioned in it. It is not necessary for me to say that it was mentioned without my authority. I object as strongly to the form of to-day's leading article in the Freeman as I have objected here in the Dáil to any personalities of any kind, and that is my position about it, and I need not say another word about that. I don't approve of the use of names in that way. I never have used them in that way and I hope sincerely that I never shall.
THE SPEAKER: An amendment is moved by Deputy Mulcahy and seconded by Deputy Walsh: “That action against any representatives of the Freeman's Journal attending this assembly be withheld pending an adequate apology in to-morrow's issue of that paper for the infamous nature of the references and imputations contained in the leading article against President de Valera and Mr. Childers in this day's issue.”
MR. D. FITZGERALD: Already action has been taken against a certain Pressman in a most dastardly way, and I suggest that the words “action in the way of exclusion” should be substituted for the word “action” in the resolution.
MR. ETCHINGHAM: As the proposer of the motion I don't want to press the thing to a division. I only wanted to draw attention to it, and to get Dáil Eireann to register its protest. But I will say the editor is guilty of treason and ought to be impeached. That is the position. Personally, I would like to give him a dose of Backwoodsman's laws.
MR. M. COLLINS: I regard any motion of this kind as being an interference with the liberty of the Press, and I stand as much for the liberty of the Press as I stood and do stand against personalities.
MR. PIARAS BEASLAI: I would like to point out that the amendment, as it stands, involves a principle that some of us don't accept. We could all agree if the words “representatives of the Press” were deleted from it. The best way is to put it in the form in which we could all agree to it. And when it comes up to-morrow——
MR. D. FITZGERALD: The Deputy for Wexford made a speech and he said he would like to give the editor of the Freeman's Journal a dose of Backwoodsman's law. Well actually a number of criminals in this country have already taken such action with regard to another Pressman, and I want to make it clear that this House does stand for the liberty of the Press. We may disapprove of that article. We are talking of letting the Press in by courtesy. We do let them in because we want them in. It is not through courtesy they are here. And the whole Press of the world represented here is considering the taking of action in boycotting this Dáil until the journalist who has been taken away is released; to show what they think of the action of people in this country—criminals who have taken certain action yesterday. If you want the Press here perhaps you won't have them after this afternoon.
MR. GRIFFITH: If you say you condemn the reference to President de Valera in that article I am heartily with you. I think this is in the worst of bad taste. If you had to put up with what was written about us by one of the Deputies here—what was written about me in a recent paper—we could have raised these things. But we ignore these things. The Press has a right to say what it likes about us. I say the Press must be free to say what it pleases.
MR. DAVID CEANNT: Is there any other assembly in the world where the King or President would be attacked in this way? Would the editor not be tried immediately for high treason? Now, it is not a question alone of President de Valera, but because he is President of Ireland, and I think we are standing a little too much of this abuse during the last four or five days. If the Press thinks they can intimidate the members of the Dáil they are making, I tell them, the mistake of their lives. If an apology is not published I think action should be taken.
PRESIDENT DE VALERA: The fact that I have been attacked prevents my speaking on this. I want to say that I am for the fullest freedom of the Press. I agree with the Minister of Foreign Affairs absolutely in this matter. The people of Ireland will deal with their Press when they find that the Press has misled them. I am only anxious that the people should not be misled. I think any action of ours which would limit the freedom of the Press is a mistake.
THE SPEAKER: I wish to say myself that, had it not been raised by the Deputies here, it had been my intention to raise it. We are unanimous in declaring that a most scandalous abuse of the rights of the Press has been committed in this case; that that abuse consists in a gross insult to those whom this assembly, and to those whom the people of Ireland have placed in the highest positions of trust that it was in their power to place them. The insult to the President is against the President, against the Dáil itself, and against the nation; and I am quite certain that the reprobation and condemnation of that insult which was pronounced unanimously here to-day will be pronounced unanimously by the whole people of Ireland.
MR. SEAN O'MAHONY: I claim the indulgence of the House to reply to a statement I see to-day attributed by the Press to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the shape of an interjection by the Foreign Minister (laughter). You may laugh. He stated last night, according to the Press report, and I did not hear him making that statement or otherwise I would have dealt with it the remark attributed to Mr. Griffith was: “You came to me two or three times before I went over to London last August and urged me to accept peace at any terms. It won't do John.” I never made such a statement and all I say is that that statement is untrue. I stake my honour that such a statement I never made. And he is reported as saying this: “You are the man who when I was going to London, told me to bring back peace anyhow.” I said “Art, bring back peace and the country will be behind you!” The country would be behind him if he brought back peace with honour to the nation.
MR. COLIVET: I wish to make a personal explanation. The words which I used here on Tuesday have been misinterpreted and have caused pain to some people. In referring to spies I was taken by some to be referring to one particular incident. I now wish to say as emphatically as I can that I had in my mind no one case or incident what soever. There was nothing further from my mind. I intended a general reference and nothing more. I had no intention of docketting or defining any particular incident, and I regret if any words of mine were taken as meaning such.
PRESIDENT DE VALERA: There is another matter of privilege. In the Private Session I presented a certain document, and I presented it for the same reason that I am presenting or intended to present, this other document. I put that draft before the House for the purpose of finding whether  we could not, on that, get common ground. It was obvious to me then that the Treaty as it came was not at all likely to get that degree of unanimity which would at all show that it was acceptable to the Irish people as a whole. That draft should have no more interest for the public in general than, for instance, the rough draft of a reply which I was preparing to send to Lloyd George. It was of purely historic value and nothing else. I kept it away from the public in order that it might not be brought as a red herring across the track of the discussion here. I was prepared to put my motion in definite form as an amendment at the proper time and let it be discussed. There was an objection to that from the other side. The other side would not have the amendment, and therefore, as I could not bring it forward that way, I wished to have it withdrawn altogether. Now this document is published in the Press and there was a definite undertaking here at this Secret Session. I asked that this document would be kept confidential. There is nothing in the document that is not in the other except, as the public could see, a slight change of form; and I want to say now that it is a great pity, when we are discussing such tremendous matters, that questions of that sort should be made to assume an importance which they really have not. My rough draft here was put before the Dáil to try and get unanimity on it and not to be represented as if I was trying to do something different from what I gave as my full considered motion; and I think it is an absolute abuse of confidence to publish that document, not that I am ashamed of it. That document was but is a rough draft of my reply to Lloyd George. It was given to members of this House in confidence and it was revealed. I think when one is trying to conduct the affairs of our nation and when the workings of one's mind in these matters is definitely brought and shown to those with whom we are dealing, I think it is very hard, indeed, to carry on the national work. Now, I protest therefore against the publication of this confidential document. The next thing I want to say is this: last night at the close of the debate the question of this amendment came up and I said I would choose my own procedure. You will remember, a Chinn Chomhairle, and the members of the House will remember, that that came in reply to a statement from the other side that there would have to be an agreement. Now, I have been trying to work in agreement with the other side, but it is obvious that if I am to be hampered in what I wanted to do by agreement with the other side, I would simply be doing what the other side wanted me to do. That was said with reference to the other side and not with reference to the House as a whole. And that has been definitely misrepresented or misunderstood, and the suggestion of autocracy has been made. I have been working with the members of the House and I don't think any of them in the Cabinet could say I am an autocrat.
MR. GRIFFITH: As the President has spoken about Document No. 2 appearing in the Press, I wish to say that I am responsible for it. I handed it to the Freeman's Journal and the Independent representatives last night. If it was an abuse of confidence, I may say that I sat here for days and heard myself described as dishonourable. I heard ladies and gentlemen here talking about me. I have not stood up. I have not complained about what the members said about me. I do not mind; I am content to let my countrymen judge me. The President said it was a confidential document. You will recollect that, at the first public sitting, when I intended to speak on the document the President made a request to me. He admitted that it was not a confidential document. I honoured that request and I withheld what I had to say. I spoke as with one hand tied. Last night this document here now was handed out as Document No. 2. I looked at it and I observed that it ended with clause seventeen whereas the other document ended with clause twenty-three. I called attention to the fact that it was not Document No. 2 and the President stood up and accused me of quibbling. I therefore handed it to the Press to let the Irish people judge whether I was quibbling or not. I made no abuse of confidence. That document was not a confidential document, and I could have used it but for President de Valera's request not to do so. I honoured his request. I was accused of quibbling last night when I  pointed out that this document had six additional clauses. I put that to the Irish people to show whether I was quibbling or not.
PRESIDENT DE VALERA: The Minister of Foreign Affairs has the right if he wishes to put it in that way to publish the document. I would have published the document myself but I thought it would be putting a red herring across the discussion here. The Minister for Foreign Affairs would not have been tied if I were allowed to move my amendment. There is nothing in the second form in which it appears further than that it was a considered form. The other document was put here in a hasty way without consideration. I amended it as I would have done with any other document. There are certain other verbal changes which are necessary in the document to make it consistent with our position.
MR. GRIFFITH: The President suggests that I objected to his moving an amendment. I told the President that there could be no amendment to the Treaty and the President agreed with me, and the form of words that were there I submitted to him at the Mansion House and he approved of them. Any amendment to the Treaty destroys it.
PRESIDENT DE VALERA: This is an amendment to the motion that is before the House. It is not an amendment to the Treaty but to the motion before the House. The motion before the House was that we approve of a certain thing. It need not have come before the House at all because, as a matter of fact, in the body of the Treaty this Dáil was not mentioned. I take it that the plenipotentiaries are simply reporting back here the result of their work in London, and that we are expressing our opinion on that report. And therefore, that when we have here “approval” on something which a large number of members don't approve, that we, as members of this House, have a right to say definitely on their report—to express our opinion, and if there is an amendment to put the amendment. What is at stake is this: that we as Dáil Eireann set out to make peace between Ireland and Great Britain. I hold that was the primary object of the negotiations, to have a definite peace, a lasting peace, so far as any human things we do to-day can be regarded as lasting something that would be built on a secure foundation. If such a peace has not been made, then we have not done the thing we set out to do. And it is with the hope that we might do exactly what we set out to do, that is, to secure the basis of a lasting peace, that I wished to bring forward my proposal as an amendment. This body is representative of the nation. The divisions that occured here undoubtedly represent the divisions of thought in the nation. The principles that have been expounded here, and the sentiments that have been expressed, are an echo of the sentiments and principles to be found through the people of Ireland. If we allow a chance like this to pass without making a definite peace we are not doing our duty either to the Irish nation, or to humanity as a whole. And I simply wish, as one human being and not merely as an Irish man doing the work of a nation, but as a human being trying to get peace, and to bring people who have been warring for centuries to a basis of common understanding—I wished to bring forward my proposal. It was ruled out on a technical point, but I feel I have done my duty.
MR. GRIFFITH: This motion that stands in my name was brought by me to the Mansion House at the request of President de Valera. There I asked him did he accept that motion and he said: “Yes, we will have to vote on that motion.” That is the whole matter.
PRESIDENT DE VALERA: There is no question about that, but you definitely refused to agree to the amendment being brought before the House as an amendment to the motion. That is as far as you are personally concerned.
ALDERMAN COSGRAVE: I think it is not open to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to answer that question. An amendment to the resolution can only be made by omitting certain words or adding certain words.
“Is oth liom go geaithfe mé an Dáil d'fhágaint mar Theachta. Do réir an méid rún a fuaireas ó Mhuintir Thiobruid Arann Theas chím ná fuil na daoine sásta liom, mar gheall orm a bheith i gcoinne an tsocruithe a dineadh le muintir Shasana. Ní leigfeadh mo chroidhe ná m'aigne dhom mo ghuth do thabhairt ar thaobh an tsocruithe sin; agus ós rud é gur cheap Comhairle Ceanntair Sinn Féin iarraidh orm seasamh leis an socrú san, níl le déanamh agam ach eirghe as ar fad, mar siad na daoine a thoibh mé.
COMMANDANT EOIN O'DUFFY: A number of us for some days past have been very anxious to find some common ground for both sides out of the present grave position that we find ourselves in. Last night a number of us got together; we were self-appointed; there were nine in all to see if anything could be done. The names were: On the side of ratification—Messrs. MacGuinness, Hogan, Professor Hayes and I. Against—Messrs. Seán T. O Ceallaigh, Mellowes, O'Connor, Moylan and Rutledge. A substantial agreement was reached on a number of very vital questions whereby we thought if might be possible to retain the services of the President for the nation and perhaps, avoid a split in the country. It was necessary for us to report this morning to the leaders on either side and in order that we might do that, this House was adjourned. We did that and, unfortunately, after some time we found it was not possible for us to find an agreement and the position is as we left it except that we are still here; and I don't know whether we will think it worth while to again meet or not. I merely wish to let the assembly know shortly what had passed. As regards the document that we discussed, I am not in a position to disclose that now, by agreement with the other members.
MR. LIAM DE ROISTE: I think in the interests of the nation that Committee should come together again. A most important thing for the country is that some substantial agreement should be come to. That Committee ought to come together again if it is possible to come to any agreement.
THE SPEAKER: We adjourned for the purpose of enabling that Committee to formulate something upon which we might possibly agree. So that I now ask the members of the Committee whether they succeeded in formulating anything to lay before us?
MR. MULCAHY: If that is so, I would move that the Dáil meets in Private Session to-morrow at eleven o'clock and have the report from that Committee before us. Obviously, if full agreement that can be of use to this House as a whole is not reached, it might be inadvisable to report in Public Session the actual grounds upon which fairly substantial agreement has been reached. But it is most important that the House as a whole would know how far along the road to agreement the Committee had been able to go.
MR. E. DE BLAGHD: In view of what has been said I think that no good purpose could be served by continuing the orders of the day at the present moment and I move now that we adjourn till eleven o'clock to-morrow in Private Session.
MR. SEAN T. O'KELLY: This Committee was a self-appointed one. Some people from both sides came to me— some from the other side came to me last evening, and some from my own side came to me and I said, of course, that I was at the disposal of anybody; that I would be glad to join with anybody in discussing any possible or probable basis of agreement that could be accepted with honour and dignity on both sides. This Committee has no authority from the Dáil up to the present moment. If you want to give it authority that is another matter.
MR. SEAN T. O'KELLY: It is a very responsible work to put on the Committee. We might not have chosen ourselves for such a responsible position if we thought that the Committee's work was likely to be the basis of a report for the Dáil. However, if the Dáil is agreed that we should undertake the work, I am prepared to accept the responsibility.
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