Thursday, 30 November 1922
Dáil Éireann Debate
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I have received two notices on matters to be raised on the adjournment. One by Deputy Sir James Craig on the Question of Public Health, and one subsequently by Deputy Johnson that he would raise the question of further executions this morning. I would suggest that in view of our having concluded at this hour that Deputy Craig should be allowed to raise his point now, and that we could take the other point afterwards by general consent. I think that procedure will be agreeable to the whole Dáil.
Sir JAMES CRAIG: This matter seems to me to be too important to raise either during the discussion on the Financial Statement, or merely by question and answer in the Dáil. I make a very mild statement now that the Public Health conditions in the country are not all that they ought to be. Prevention is a great deal better than cure, and no money that is spent in the prevention of disease will be badly spent. In my opinion, it is the most important way in  which any money of the State can be spent. Improved sanitation has already done wonders for us. Within my experience of the last 30 years it is simply amazing what has been done. We have practically no cases of typhus fever any longer; occasionally we have little outbreaks of it in the West of Ireland, but, as far as the city here is concerned it is a most unusual thing to have a case of typhus fever. Owing to the very marked improvement in sanitation and sewerage typhoid fever is getting extremely rare. In my early days I had a ward filled with enteric patients always during the autumn. At the present time I have not a single case of a patient in hospital suffering from enteric fever. Diphtheria in my early days, too, used to carry off perhaps six or seven members of a family at a time, and although diphtheria is still with us it is rid of its worst terrors by the introduction of anti-toxin, which, if given early, is attended with the most splendid results. For the moment we are perhaps going to have an invasion of smallpox. I want to congratulate the Local Government Board—their Medical Department —on the efforts they have already made to secure in the sea-boards that vaccination shall be done. I am not going here to raise the question as to the usefulness or otherwise of vaccination. I know that there are many men, and many women, too, who think that vaccination is absurd, and that if proper sanitation and cleanliness are carried on vaccination should never be required. I am going to put the proposition in a way that I think should satisfy the Deputies present here to-night. If I were called upon to treat a case of smallpox I should consider myself to be a criminal if I either attempted to treat that patient without myself being re-vaccinated, or if I allowed nurses to go in to care such a case without their being re-vaccinated. There have been already in London, from the last statistics I saw, some 66 or 67 cases, and of these 22 cases died. That is to say, one-third of the cases that have occurred in London have been fatal, and in all those cases re-vaccination had not been done. In other words, in no case in which death occurred had the patients been re-vaccinated since their infancy. For many years I was connected with colleges and institutions that took an interest in the advance of public health, and for a time I might say that my sole  leather was worn out on deputations to the Local Government Board and to the Chief Secretary of Ireland. I have nothing to say against the Medical Commissioners who received us in the Local Government Board, because they always treated us kindly and sent us away with high hopes and promises actually made on paper that within a short time a Bill would be brought in embodying the conditions that we were anxious to obtain. When that matter came before the Chief Secretary, that was the end of it. As a matter of fact, Sir, I had great faith in humanity; I had great faith in the truthfulness of people; and I think the first sad jar I got in life was when I came up against Chief Secretaries of Ireland and people who were under them in the Local Government Board. When I found that one could not accept any statement they made as being likely to be carried out, it was a sad jar to my young innocence. Well, sir, nothing was done for very many years. In 1919 the Ministry of Health Act was passed in England, and under that Ministry of Health Act an Irish Board, or Irish Council, was formed here, with power to take as much evidence as they liked from people who were interested in public health, and to attempt to unify and draw together the different systems that were working the public health in Ireland. They were not asked to formulate a Bill, but they were asked to bring forward evidence that might be formulated in a Bill. This Committee or Public Health Council was an exceptionally representative one. It represented practically all sections of the public who were interested in public health, from the ratepayers and medical men, including representatives even from the Six Counties. This Committee were met at once with some difficulties. They found that, as far as the Central Administration was concerned, that there were five or six bodies dealing with matters that related to public health, and their first recommendation, therefore, was that there should be some attempt made to coordinate and prevent the overlapping that was taking place. The medical part of the Local Government Board dealt with one section, the Insurance Commissioners dealt with another section, the Registrar-General's Office dealt with another section, the inspectors of Lunacy dealt with another section, and there were several  small sections that were dealt with in the Chief Secretary's Office. I think if the central administration was poor, the local administration was worse. It was quite obvious, first of all, that Boards of Guardians controlled the Medical Officer who had charge of the Dispensary District. They controlled the Fever Hospital and the Medical Department of the Workhouse. This same Dispensary Doctor was Medical Officer of Health, working under the Sanitary Authorities, who were the District Councils, and was paid by them a small salary. It is obvious that in most cases these District Councillors were patients, probably, of the Medical Officer of Health, and that it would be a very hard thing for him to carry out in a severe form, at all events, any reforms. There were then, as I say, Boards of Guardians in charge of one Department; District Councils in charge of another Department of Public Health; and the County Councils in charge to a large extent, at all events, of the County Infirmaries, and they were lately entrusted with a very important enactment—one of the few enactments that were made mandatory—for the inspection of school children. The District Councils were to look after child welfare, and the inspection of school children was placed upon the County Council and was made mandatory. That has never been adopted at all by these Co. Councils. That brings me then to say what the Irish Health Council recommended. They recommended, first of all, that there should be centralization, and that this centralization should take place in the form of a Ministry of Health. Now, I am not going to press that point at the moment, because from the financial position of the country, I think it is not advisable that we should multiply Ministries. I am quite content at all events, for the present, that this centralization of the public health work should come under one Minister, and I have no objection at all to the Local Government Minister taking this in charge, and for him to be the head of the whole of this service, so that they should be all included under him. I understand there would be a difficulty for some time in bringing the Insurance portion under his jurisdiction. The case that they recommended is the unification of the existing local systems. They  suggested that the county should be made, that is the County Council, the local unit, and should be made responsible for all the sanitary work in connection with the Council. Now, one of the things that we are pressing for a very long time is the necessity for the appointment of a Superintendent Medical Officer of Health for a county or group of counties. We have our Superintendent Medical Officer of Health in the City Borough of Dublin, and in one or two other places, but what we have been advancing for years was the necessity for a Superintendent Medical Officer of Health for every county, or perhaps for several counties; that this Superintendent Medical Officer of Health should be absolutely independent of private practice, and that under him there should be certain assistants who would do minor work in the way of inspection of tuberculosis work, and look after the inspection of school children, and after prospective mothers, and taking charge generally of a good many of the things that have come into force of late years. This scheme then would include the formation in each county, or in a group of counties, of a Superintendent Medical Officer of Health who would look after the work of the entire county or group of counties. Another of the recommendations that this council makes is of very great importance. It is to link up one scheme, the present Dispensary Doctors who are working under the Boards of Guardians, and their work should be entirely taken away, as I think it was by the last Dáil, entirely removed from the Workhouse system; that it should be a medical service, and the dream we had in those days when we were trying to induce the Local Government Board and the Chief Secretary to do something was that there should be a District Hospital or Home in each district worked by a man like the present Dispensary Doctor, and that there should be a District Nurse associated in that work. The nurse would be of tremendous assistance, both in tuberculosis work and also in Child Welfare, and also perhaps to some little extent in school inspection work which must come to the fore. Then it was thought that there should be a County Hospital and that that Hospital should be manned by a first-class surgeon, who should be able to do the greater amount of modern surgical work. But this would necessitate coming to the next point made in this  recommendation, and it is one of very great importance, that there should be established an Irish Medical Service, the entrance to which would be gained by open competition. We have too long suffered from the effect of local boards being allowed to elect men who were not perhaps the very best men that could be obtained and what would happen—this I consider to be a very important thing, because competitive examinations would be for the best men at all events at the examinations, that the best men would obtain the post. Our young men at the present time are taught bacteriology and subjects of that class which would be of the most tremendous importance in the interests of the community, because they would be able to do the examination and diagnosis of diphtheria and examination of tuberculosis, and these things which at the present time are sent up to institutions, perhaps in the city, for examination. The point I am endeavouring to make then is that this Medical Service which is suggested by the Council should be entered by competitive examination. It would be necessary, having this service, in order to encourage the best type of man to go to it, that they should not only be paid a decent salary, but that there should be a chance of promotion from a poorer district to a better district, and perhaps on up from a District Hospital or Home to the County Hospital or Home. Under this scheme this Medical Officer of Health would be appointed as well as the ordinary medical attendants, and not only should the doctor attend the poor people, but there should be efforts made to secure proper attendance for the insured people. The insured people up to the present have not got the attention as far as medical care is concerned which they deserve, and therefore there should be a link with the Medical Officers' duties, not only the attention to the poor, but there should be a possibility of these people getting into the District Hospitals, and be attended there, and there should be a possibility of the insured people either getting attention at their own homes or medical attention at the hospitals. I am afraid I am tiring the Dáil with details, but I want to say a word with regard to nursing. This is a point we always put forward very strongly in connection with this nursing and I should like to say that I hope in any future  legislation, or even without legislation, the Local Government Department will continue to encourage the appointment of local Ladies' Committees who will employ and take an interest in the nurse in the district, and will get a subsidy from the funds of the Government to keep the work going. I maintain the work of the nurse will be done much more efficiently, and that she will take greater interest in doing that work under a committee of local ladies who interest themselves in her and in the work she is doing. In many cases in fairly prosperous districts, there is no doubt a committee of ladies could raise enough money to pay for the nurse's salary and maintenance, and, in the poorer districts in the West in particular, the subsidy obtained from the Government would be required for the entire expense occurred for the nurse's upkeep. What I want, then, and what I hope the Local Government Minister will tell me is that wherever a local nursing society exists that the Local Government would subsidise it, or make it as useful as possible. I hope, too, that they will make use in the future of the institutions that at present exist for the special training of nurses for districts. There are two of these to my knowledge in existence at the moment, and they give a very special training and a very special course of lectures in all these subjects pertaining to child welfare and tuberculosis, in addition to a course of special district training to enable them to appreciate the difference between district nursing and the nursing they have learned within the walls of the hospital. They get three years' training in the hospital and then they go out and this additional training makes them fit for this work. I have said practically all I wanted to say in regard to this particular matter, and I come now to the question that I would like to put to the Minister or to the Local Government Department. I want to know, in the first place, whether this Council is going to be continued or not. Because one of the recommendations of the Irish Public Health Council was that under the Ministry of Health there should be an advisory or consultative Council to give them advice from time to time, and to keep them, as it were, in touch with the requirements as they advance in public health science. I should like to know, therefore, whether the Minister has in view either the  keeping in being of the existing Council, or whether he intends that the Council should be formed on the same lines as the Council that drew up this report. Is it functioning, as a matter of fact, at the present time, or has it been dissolved? Secondly, I ask will an Advisory Health Council be provided for in any future legislation? I have heard that a Bill is at present being prepared, and I should like to ask whether that is the case or not—whether the Bill is being outlined or formed on the lines of the recommendation of the Council? And I should like to ask the Minister whether it would not have been better to take a line out of what has been done in most of the other Departments— namely, to form a Committee or Commission to bring this report up-to-date before he begins to legislate? I think, perhaps, it would have been a good thing if he had appointed a Commission to give him advice as to the proper legislation that was required. I should like to know then, finally, if this Bill is in process of preparation; and when it is being prepared I should like to know whether the Minister will give the people who are interested in public health an opportunity of discussing this Bill before it comes before the Dáil for discussion. These are the points I wanted to make, and I apologise for occupying the time of the Dáil at such length.
Mr. T. O'CONNELL: I just rise to draw special attention to a matter which has been referred to very briefly by Sir James Craig, and that is the question of the medical inspection of school children. I think it is generally recognised, or rather I should say that it is not sufficiently recognised, by the people of this country that this is a matter which this country is alone in neglecting; and I think medical men will agree with me when I say that the foundations of many diseases which have to be dealt with in later life are laid during the school age. These are especially diseases of the throat and lungs, and the terrible dread disease of tuberculosis. I would like to ask the Minister for Local Government, when he is replying, to say what became of the Act which was passed, and to which Sir James Craig referred—that is, the Act passed in 1920, I think it was—and what especially became of the elaborate rules that were drawn up at the time making  regulations for medical inspection of school children? I know these rules were drawn up, because I saw them. They were submitted to those who could speak on behalf of the schools. I would like to know what has become of them, and what are the intentions of the Local Government Department with regard to them.
Mr. CORISH: Deputy Sir James Craig has referred to the question of sanitation, and told us all that has been done in the past. Whilst I agree with him to a great extent, I think everybody will agree that more requires to be done in connection with sanitation. He also mentioned that we might have a visitation from smallpox during the next three or four months. We all hope that we will not have any such visitation. At the same time I think it is right to say that there are barracks at present in some of the towns of Ireland into which a sanitary officer would not be permitted to go. Barracks are places where smallpox disease would arise very quickly, and I would like to know if he is aware that the sanitary officers are not allowed into the barracks in the small towns. I know that the Sanitary Officer of the Wexford Corporation was refused admission to the military barracks there. I think that is a matter of importance, and where the local sanitary officer is not allowed in I think the Government should send down somebody to view these places and a report should be sent to the local body for that area.
Mr. HUGHES: I have listened with interest to Sir James Craig's remarks, and one or two things I took from his discourse was that he was making a great case for extending medical service all over the country. That was one of the great points he made. To that I have nothing to say as far as it goes. I think at the same time that before anything like that is done we should hasten very slowly because the tendency in a great many cases at the present time is that professional men may be foisted into every position in the land, irrespective of whether they are wanted or not. I suppose that is trade unionism, and I suppose Sir James Craig will adopt trade unionism as well as anybody else when it suits him. Now, he seemed to think that the public bodies in the  country, from the Co. Councils down, pay no attention whatever to the merits of the candidates who come before them. I chance, of my own knowledge, to know from the bodies with whom I am connected, that every attention has been paid to the qualifications of the candidates. I know, of course, that some people say, and with truth in some cases, that the son or nephew of some member of a Council gets a job under the Council whether capable or not. Now, that is not so in a great many cases of which I know. It may happen, of course, in some cases, but I would not like it to go from this Dáil that public bodies do not take into consideration the merits of the candidates. As regards the rules that Deputy O'Connell spoke about, and which were made some years ago for the County Councils to carry out, I think there were rules—and I know I heard them discussed—and the people were then absolutely against the harshness and the fact that they were taking away from the parents the control of the child, apart from a great many of the services they were supposed to give them. I do not remember the rules at the moment, but I do know, as far as I can remember about them, these were some of the things that we thought about them at the time. These were the reasons, and the true reasons, why a great many Councils did not adopt them. And if they were put up again in the same way a great many Councils would not adopt them now either.
Sir JAMES CRAIG: I should not like it to be thought I was casting any reflections on the way Councils conduct elections. Lay men are not the best judges of the qualifications, say of a medical candidate, and I hesitate even to suggest that there should be examinations for them. At all events I do not want Deputy Hughes to carry away the impression that I was suggesting there was any wide-spread or broad-spread desire to put incompetent men into these posts.
Mr. GOREY: I think Deputy Hughes struck the nail on the head when he talked about trade unionism. We know enough about medical trade unionism, and it is the oldest of the lot. All representatives of public boards will know how difficult it was to get over the terms of the medical trade union, and you  will find the doctors opposed us in every way. If there is any inefficiency in the medical profession, or if the people in any part of the country are badly served, it is not the fault of the people who made the appointments. It is the fault of the Medical Board who sent the men out. Why not raise the standard if anything is wrong? Why do they send men out with diplomas through the country when they are not fit to go out? Let the Medical Board do its own work right and I say the people of the country who are going to be served by a medical man must and will have something to say to his appointment. This Dáil or any other legislative body will be trying a bit of an experiment in which they will find themselves very much up against it if they try anything like that. The people who are going to be served will insist on having something to say to the appointment, and if anything is wrong it is the Medical Board in sending out men not fit to go out.
Mr. E. BLYTHE: I am sorry it was on account of the misbehaviour of the old Local Government Board that Sir James Craig lost his faith in human nature. I do not know whether we will be able to restore it or not. In any case a beginning has been made to do some of the things he wants done. For instance, from the point of view of centralization at headquarters, something has been done. Of the four main offices which were concerned directly or indirectly with Public Health, three are now included in the Ministry of Local Government. Those are the Inspectors of Lunatics, the Registrar-General's Office and the Medical Section of the Local Government Board. The matter of the Insurance Commissioners and their health functions being brought under Local Government, must wait for some little time. In the matter of local administration some centralization has also taken place. The Boards of Guardians which were amongst the authorities dealing with Public Health have disappeared. Whether or not the District Councils will follow them is a matter to be decided. There are difficulties in the abolition of the Rural District Councils, and there is a good deal to be said for them. If they were to be abolished the entire administration of Public Health would then fall to the County Councils and to Committees  appointed by the County Councils. In any case, that is under consideration, and the whole matter will be before the Dáil some time next year. The abolition of the Workhouses has already separated the Dispensary system from the Workhouses. Whether anything in the nature of a State Medical Service should be introduced is a matter that will also have to be further considered. We are in this matter up against a difficulty somewhat like that of the Post Office. Systems that suit a thickly populated country do not necessarily suit the country which is mainly rural. Certainly the extension of the medical benefits to Ireland is not a matter that could be very lightly decided upon. The Public Health Council is in a state of suspended animation. It is intended to have an advisory body of that nature. Whether the Public Health Council itself will be continued with some re-organisation, or whether a somewhat similar body will be set up, is not quite decided yet, but it will be within a very short time. The Bill which is at present being prepared is a Bill to legalise formally the work of amalgamation and Poor Law Reform which was carried during the past couple of years. The bodies which were set up as a result of the various County schemes are at the moment extra legal bodies, and what is necessary immediately is temporary legislation to legalise the position of those bodies and legalise the changes and transfers of functions which have been carried out under the various schemes. When that legislation, which it will be necessary to bring before the Dáil at the very earliest possible date, is passed, we will then go on to consider the permanent legislation necessary for the reform and the improvement of local administration generally, including other services as well as Public Health. In the preparation of that permanent legislation every opportunity will be taken advantage of to consult people concerned, and to consult those who have views and to give them an opportunity of expressing their views. I suppose the failure to do anything in relation to the medical inspection of school children was due to the failure of the local authorities to take it up, and that in turn was due to the abnormal times. I hope that immediately it will be possible to get it going, because we are getting many things put back to normal. If it is necessary to  revise the rules they will be revised. The matter is at present under consideration. With regard to the inspection of barracks, of course that is a matter for the Minister for Defence. I must say if I were in his position I would not allow the local Sanitary Officer to go near them. It is not a matter for me, but I take it the Army has its own doctors and I take it they are just as conscientious and capable, and have as much regard for the health of the community and the Army as any doctor of a local authority would have. Referring not specially to the barracks, but to the prisons, there is a tendency to forget that there is a National Government here responsible to the people, and that the sort of demands which were perfectly logical and proper when there was a Government controlled from outside the country in being here are pointless and in a degree absurd when advanced at a time when the responsibility for these institutions rests with a native Government responsible to the Dáil and through the Dáil to the Irish people.
Mr. THOMAS JOHNSON: I feel it very difficult to deal with this question of executions again, but it is a duty that we must raise a question like this, because we believe it is the need of this community that this method of carrying out punishment ought not to be persisted in. We read in the evening papers that three persons—presumably men—have been executed this morning. The particulars are slightly fuller than in the case of the four men executed last week, but only slightly. I say men—I do not know whether they were men, as the age is not given. I am not going to deal with the crime for which they have been executed, but I am going to deal with the method of trial, the method of the sentences, and the method of the announcement to the public of the trial and sentences. We have been told pretty frequently during the last few weeks that it is the intention of the Ministry to re-establish the reign of law, and we were told yesterday, as we have been told frequently, that unless this kind of thing is done anarchy will prevail. I want to make the charge that this kind of trial, this kind of sentence, is, in fact, anarchy. It is not law. It is anarchy—lynch law once removed. Men  are found with bombs and revolvers in the streets. They are arrested by the military authority, they are taken prisoners by the military authority, they remain in possession of the military authority, they are tried by the military authority, and they are executed by the military authority, and the announcement of their executions is made by the military authority in a form and manner designed by the military authority, and no public person outside that military authority knows anything about it. The people against whom the offence is primarily committed, the people who make the arrests, the people who make the trial, and the people who carry out the sentences are the same people. That is but lynch law without the violence—at least, without the mob violence—but with the judgment, without trial so far as we know, by the people against whom this offence is committed. There have been now eight men executed in Dublin. We are assured that it is not out of vengeance that these men have been executed, but as a deterrent and as an example to the remainder. It is due to us to know on what principle the selection is being made. We were assured last night no difference was made between officers and men. Is there any difference being made as between officer and officer? Is there any difference being made as between man and man? Is there any difference being made as between locality and locality? How does it happen, if these executions are as deterrents, that all those which have taken place so far have taken place in Dublin only? Is the method of selection choice or chance? Is it by lot? Is it by the enormity of the crime? Is it by the circumstances surrounding the crime? Is it by the past record of the prisoners, or is it the chance composition of the Court? Are we to assume that every person who has been arrested charged with the same crime since the date the first prisoners were taken, is to be meted out the same sentence? Has the locality, has the composition of the Court, anything to do with the selection of the men that are doomed to execution? We read the reports supplied by the Army Headquarters of these sentences on three men, and the offence— the crime—is stated in the fact that they had been charged and found guilty and sentenced to death. Except that this is done under the authority of a better organised  and larger authority, having, as I maintain—I give you the admission—not the admission, but the claim—of having the authority of the people behind it, what is the difference essentially between that kind of announcement and the announcement pinned to the body of a man found in the gutter—“Executed as a spy, by the order of the I.R.A.”? We know as much in the one case of the course of justice as we know in the other. I am pleading in the interests of justice, in the interests of good Government, in the interests of the future of this country, that trials for this offence, for the capital offence, for any capital offence, for any offence whatever, but particularly trials for the capital offence, must not be in secret, and the facts of the case, the circumstances surrounding the case, must be made public. We are asked to hand over absolute trust in a Military Court. In no country anywhere at any time dare the public of that country hand over to any military authority absolute trust to do justice. I expressed the fear, when these Courts were being authorised, that sentences might be carried out by the people against whom the crime was being committed and that the trials might take place when men were in hot blood. I am happy to say that there is no evidence before us of anything of that kind having happened. There is not evidence before us, but the secrecy which is exemplified in this kind of thing may suggest that there is secrecy elsewhere. And the demand for publicity is a demand that every civilian in the country who has any regard for the rule of law ought to insist upon. Everyone of these cases may have been proved right to the hilt; we have only to take the word of the officers of the Court that they were proved. Some weeks ago a certain Trades Union official was arrested for being in possession of a revolver; he had been searched in the street and a revolver was found upon him. He was arrested and the fact of his arrest was made known to his friends, to those who knew his case, knew the circumstances, and representations were made to the authorities in regard to his case and he was released. He had had responsibility for an unexpectedly large sum of money to pay in strike pay and he had guarded himself against robbery by carrying a revolver. These were the  circumstances, and it was made clear to the authorities that these were the conditions under which he carried the revolver. But supposing he had had no friends, supposing he had not had anybody to be able to plead, and supposing the circumstances had been such that he was in the neighbourhood of an ambush, the opportunity for that man to prove his case would have been very much minimised, and in these circumstances he would have run grave risk of his life, and nobody would have known anything about it if he had been as obstinate as other men have been in regard to undertaking his defence. He might have been a man who would refuse to recognise the Court, as so many bright examples have been given before, and he might have refused to undertake his defence. Publicity would save such a man's life, but when we have no publicity there is the danger that such a case would lead to the injustice of that man's execution. I am confining my complaint and my appeal to the need for publicity. It is not my desire to wallow in morbid details, it is the desire to have some public check upon Courts which have not even the experience of Courts of Law, but even though they had that, public check is necessary. The plea of military necessity does not avail; civil necessity is just as great, and it is on civil necessity that men are being tried for their lives. Their fellow-citizens should know the grounds of their trial, their fellow-citizens should know the evidence on which they are being convicted; their fellow citizens should know the defence that is being made on their behalf. Presumably they are innocent until they are found guilty—and it is our duty to defend the liberty of these subjects or the liberty of these citizens, as I prefer to call them. The rule of law which is desired in this country must depend upon the backing of the public mind, the public conscience, and that must be an intelligent public conscience. You cannot have an intelligent public conscience unless you have an informed public conscience, and you cannot have an informed public conscience while you have this secrecy. I appeal with all the energy and effort that I am capable of to ask the Ministry to change their decision in regard to this secrecy. Here are men guilty of preparing to take the lives of citizens—to take the lives of soldiers,  and incidentally to take the lives of citizens. Surely that is a case that ought to be tried in public. Surely if you have any confidence that the public is with you that is a case that ought to be tried in public. Secrecy suggests fear, and fear leads to brutality and barbarity.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: I have been desirous for some time to mention the matter that the question brought before us now brings to the front. Yesterday in this Dáil the Minister for Home Affairs, referring to the earlier executions, said, and said more than once, because he repeated it several times by way of emphasis, that it was the intention of the Ministry to shock the public mind. The day before the President in this Dáil made a speech in which he used these words, he was referring to the speech made by Deputy Gavan Duffy. He said: “In my view it would be simple to tear away and expose to the public everything that transpires at these Military Courts. It is not for the purpose of giving pain to these people that these Courts are secret; it is for the purpose of preventing pain. It is to relieve the public mind of the shock which results from having these things public.” Now it is not my intention to refer to these matters in which two Ministers appear to be in conflict that I raise this matter now. The matter is much too serious for any verbal points in debate. I do clearly recognise that they are two different things that the two Ministers have referred to, and I think the Minister for Home Affairs agrees with me. There is a kind of shock that the public mind could get that would be a very healthful and necessary shock. There is another kind of shock the public mind could get that would be a very undesirable and an unhealthy shock. And I think the procedure that the Ministry have adopted in the Courts of Justice that have led to these executions will have created and have already created a very unhealthy shock that will do very grievous harm, not merely to the justice of these Courts, but—and that is a matter to which I desire to refer very particularly—to the whole stability of the State. I venture to say that at this present moment the majority of the citizens of this city are reading their papers and are saying to one another, “I see they have shot three  more men.” I remember, when Mr. Erskine Childers was shot, walking down one of the streets of this city, and I heard people say to one another, “They have shot Erskine Childers.” Now that is a deplorable thing to be said in a country, because the right thing for the citizens of the country to say would be, “We have found it necessary to do these things.” And until people can be brought to that pitch that they feel it is not something, someone, exterior to them that has undertaken these executions, but that they themselves by virtue of their duties have carried them out, that the right shock will come about that will bring the public to the sense of their responsibilities, and that the entire people will be brought to the full knowledge and full responsibility of what these things mean. To-day the County Councils in Ireland are protesting, and as one reads these things one realises that perhaps they have been to some extent engineered. That may be true, or it may not be true, one does not know, but one does know that the public mind is not agreeing with the executions simply because they do not fully recognise from the things they have read what I described yesterday, and what I describe to-day as a bitter, bitter necessity. Either the executions are, or they are not the people's act. If they are not the people's act there is no right for undertaking them. The Minister for Home Affairs yesterday spoke contemptuously, and that contempt I shared with him to the very full, when he referred to the words of a late leader of the people to the effect that the people have not a right to do wrong. The people have a right to do wrong, and if it be wrong not to undertake these executions the people have that right, too. I believe, however, it would be possible to secure the full consent of the people to all the acts that the Government has done, but it cannot be done and will never be done while there is furtiveness in these acts, and a certain amount of secrecy which a number of people will attribute to furtiveness. The President the other day, in what I am quite sure he did not intend to be quite so humorous an interview as it appeared, said to an English interviewer that the Ministerial Bench did not exhaust the possibilities of all the intelligence of the Dáil.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: I would like to say that the Ministry have not, on the other hand, exhausted the possibility of all the courage in the country. They are not the only people in this country who are willing to go to the bitter necessity of taking life if it be required for the purpose of saving the country's life. I believe the people are willing to take that measure, but their co-operation should be sought, and their co-operation can only be sought in the full measure of enabling them to see exactly the causes that are leading to the necessity for these executions. There is one other reason why I believe that the fullest possible measure of publicity should be given, and it is partly cognate to the reason I have already mentioned. Deputy Johnson referred to it, and I agree with him when he said that the position necessitates that there should be in this country a reign of law, and law is nothing if it does not carry the consent of the people. And what I cannot but think a most unfortunate quotation was made recently by the Master of the Rolls. In giving judgment, he said that there was no remedy in law for certain questions coming before him, but that the appeal was to force against force, and he quoted, or rather misquoted, the ancient Latin legend, “Silent leges inter arma.” I would like to think it were rather “Vocant leges inter arma.” I feel in this matter what a number of people are feeling. I feel these matters to be a bitter necessity, but a large number of people are groping in the dark about it simply because they are not given the information necessary to equip them for the participation in what must be their act and the people's act, and that you should have some change made, some explanation, so that when the people read of any future executions, if future executions become necessary, they may read it in the daily Press, and, having done so, they will realise their full share of the responsibility in all that has been done, and they will then be able to say, not “They have shot them,” but “Unfortunately we have found it necessary to shoot them.”
Mr. T.J. O'CONNELL: I think it is the bounden duty of every Deputy in this  Dáil to take every possible opportunity, such as is afforded on occasions like this, to tell the Government who are carrying out this execution policy that they are not acting in accordance with the will of the people, and that they are living in a fool's paradise if they think they are. There never has been a phrase so prostituted so much as this phrase of the will of the people in the last six months. The Government say they are acting on the will of the people. How did they prepare to carry out the will of the people before the last elections? They began by entering into a pact with another party not now represented by the attendance of their members in this Dáil. The whole object of this was to prevent the expression of the will of the people. (Deputies —“No, no.”) If the panel candidates were elected as a result of that pact that was made, there would have been no real election in Ireland, and there would have been no real election were it not that the Labour Party and some Independent men came into the field. Then, when this election was over, and before the Deputies elected to represent the will of the people could utter a word as to what the will of the people was, or were given an opportunity of declaring the will of the people, a step was taken which has led to all this, and if the people or the representatives of the people had been consulted, as they had a right to be consulted before this step was taken, we would not be in the position we are in to-day. To me there is nothing so abhorrent as the throwing of bombs in the public street, whether they are thrown at a lorry, or whether they are thrown at soldiers. But, who are those on the Government benches to sit in judgment and condemnation of these things? Who introduced the rule of the gun and the bomb into this country, and what has it gained for us? I doubt very much if it has gained anything.
Mr. O'CONNELL: There are a growing number of people who say that the difference between what has been gained by that and what could be gained by other and constitutional methods is not worth the demoralisation caused in the country by the introduction of the bomb and the gun. And precious little was heard of the will of the people before that  policy was adopted. Now, I ask members of the Government to realise what they are driving to. They had not the opportunity of discovering what the real will of the people was in the matter. I ask Deputies here to go to their constituencies and ask there whether or not they are in favour of the executions. The representatives of the people were not given a chance to see whether or not they were voting for civil war in this country—and that is what we have. And I am asking the Government to realise the position they are in, and ask themselves how long are the people going to stand it? One result will be to lose the position we have gained, and to lose the Treaty. Now, I would appeal to the Government to say whether everything has been done that could be done to avoid the necessity of taking the steps they have taken. I believe whatever you may think now, that future generations will say that your policy was an unwise one, and an unnecessary one, and that future generations in future history will condemn you.
The MINISTER for DEFENCE (General Mulcahy): If we are going to be charged with using weapons that have been disastrous weapons; to place us where we are to-day in possession here in an Irish Parliament, discussing the control and utilisation of our own finances, with the English Army here cleared out of the country, and that thing which was the Royal Irish Constabulary taken from the doorsteps of our people, we are perfectly ready to answer all these charges and discuss the means that we have taken to achieve that. We are told now that we do not trust the courage of the people, and that we are keeping from our people knowledge that would be of service to the people in realising what the situation was, and that the people should know what was the cause of the executions that are taking place here. Do the people down in the Counties of Tipperary, Cork and Kerry want further information with regard to why it has been necessary to execute people than the knowledge that they have along their own roads and their own idle railways; and do people in Mayo that are only now being relieved of the host of looters and robbers that have been saddled on them there for months, do they want to know more than they learn inside their own homes of the necessity that brings about a policy like this? All during the last three or four years the  Army that was called upon to do this, that or the other thing always held it up to those whom they could hold it up to that it was wrong for the Army to interfere with matters that should be left to some other arm of the Government. What we realised then we realise ten times as well now. And if, in putting it up to the Government from the Army authorities that it is necessary to adopt this, that or the other policy, that it is necessary for us to set up courts, which ought to be Army courts, we are doing it simply because of the absolute necessity of the situation, and because we want to do work that we can do and that we believe no other arm of the Government can do. If we have recommended to the Government that the conduct of military courts should be the manner in which they are being conducted, it is because we realise the weakness of the situation in which the country and the Government and the people find themselves; and it is because of the weaknesses of the people and the dangers that are around the people and the subtle voices that are trying to betray the people, that we have told the Government that, in our opinion, it is necessary to conduct military courts at the present time in the way in which they are being conducted. When the Government realise a change in the situation, or when we realise that we are getting rid by degrees of our own weakness and the weaknesses of the people, then you can adopt other methods, then you can perhaps have more publicity with regard to the proceedings of these courts, or you can take these courts out of the hands of the military and hand them over to the civil authorities. Take this particular case—the Oriel House case. It gives you some idea of what you are up against. Here is the official report of the doings of a half dozen Irregulars at Oriel House on the night they attempted to blow up that house and kill every person that was in it, without any regard for the people in the street or in the neighbouring houses, except those that they were pleased to term friendly people, to whom they had previously sent warning. The officer in charge of the work—and he has since himself died as a result of an explosion in Inchicore—writes:—
“After seeing that my men were in proper position, I proceeded to O.C. infantry and received two men as  covering party for my men while working; returning to my men and giving a pre-arranged signal, the whole party, including carrier with staff, advanced to job from Denzille Street direction, halting on right side about thirty yards from objective.
“The first material unloaded was the first mine to be used including two sacks of clay to back up same. With two men carrying clay and myself carrying mine the party advanced to entrance door placing mine and clay in favourable position. I ignited fuse and retreated to second mines. During above unloading a motor car approached from Denzille Street, was full of men presumed to be C.I.D. men, slowed down while passing my party and continued on around to Westland Row. Five seconds elapsed between the ignition of fuse and first explosion. During this time second party had unloaded second mines, etc., and allowed carters to get clear away.
“Immediately following the explosion I had to call on the second party twice to seize the mines but all except one man appeared to be stunned by the concussion as all including infantry covering party disobeyed orders and hung back; the one man referred to seized one end of the mines while I seized the other. We advanced to the objective with same; we fell twice as a result of mines slipping to one end of box; the weight was enormous; it was four men's work. Getting to entrance we found a large hole blown through floor of hall. Into this we dropped mines. During this time there was roaring and shouting and apparent panic inside building. Retreating with cable running between finger and thumb, I connected same with battery. No explosion resulted. I retreated with battery, and left same under D. S. E. Railway when I heard people shouting that Free Staters were coming.
“The two infantry men who should have advanced with us with second mines, according to their orders, did not do so, as when myself and the men referred to emerged from building we found that they, including the rest of my own party, had already retreated. The highest praise is due to the man who seized mines, as he stuck with me to the last; neither of us had arms.
“I had to operate with four men on job. Six men, including carter and myself, performed job. I do not blame the men for being dazed by the explosion, as it was more powerful than I myself anticipated. Had all three gone off I fear two of us would not have escaped.”
“A report in writing of the attack on Oriel House on Monday night last has not been furnished by the officer in charge of the operation, but from a conversation with him I am enabled to give the following information:—
“As a prelude thereto it should be mentioned that no variation from the original plan of operations was necessary, though the operations themselves did not yield by any means the looked for results, due to the fact that so much destruction was worked by the first mine explosion that it was impossible to get the other three mines into the intended position.
“The plan of operation included protection of the operating engineer units by infantry, and this was adequately attended to though the infantry personally protecting the former were momentarily incapacitated by the explosion of the mine, and failed to accompany the engineers during the second part of the operations.
“Four mines were used; three containing about fifteen pounds of high explosives each, the cases being of iron; the fourth being of wood and containing almost forty pounds of the same. The wooden mine was intended for blowing the entrance door, and was used to avoid `shrapnel' effect. The three `iron' mines were placed side by side in a wooden case for convenience sake, and were detonated electrically. The wooden mine was fired with a time fuse.
“The mines were carted direct to the scene of operations, and unloaded by the engineers, who numbered five or six. The wooden mine was carried up and laid on the step of Oriel House, and two sacks of clay placed against it: then it was fired. The firing of the mine was the signal for concentrated fire by the infantry on all portions of the building above the ground floor against which the engineers were operating and  under cover of this the engineers carried forward the case containing the three mines intended to blow up the building. It was found on reaching the spot where the door was last seen that not only was it blown away, but also the floor, so that the mines had to be lowered into the basement. This operation resulted in such injury to the electrical connections that the mines could not be fired. The result is that the destruction of Oriel House was not effected. Considerable damage, however, has been done.”
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Will the Minister permit me to ask him just one question at this point? Would not the importance of that document be increased one hundred-fold if it had got to the public mind before the actual execution rather than after?
Mr. D. McCARTHY: On a point of order I happened to be on the back benches and I have been called to order when I rose. How could a Deputy, who did not raise a point of order, get up and address the Minister for Defence. At least it should have been a fair do all round.
General MULCAHY: There is nothing unfair in asking a question like that. These documents would be very important at any time, but you usually have to wait until you get them. Six men and myself, and we come along, and but for the fact that we were careless about realising that the explosion we are going to make is probably bigger than we intended, that the little explosion which was to prepare the way was bigger than it was intended to be, we can destroy the whole fabric of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Government! You can kill all the people that are inside, perhaps you can destroy the whole street, because you do not know what the effect would have been if the three iron-bound mines had gone off. That is the situation you are in —whether six men, and six men without any political convictions of any kind, because that is the type of men who were on the job, young men of nineteen or twenty years of age, high-spirited, out for adventure of one kind or another, led by leaders out for nothing but pure destruction, led by leaders adopting a war policy that if the British adopted it against them, although they are prepared to fight the British, would leave this country a mass  of broken houses and a mass of dying and dead people. It is because gradually we have realised that that is the situation in which this country is, and in which the people find themselves, although the people do not really realise it because there is a lack in putting the fact before the people, and getting the people to realise it; and there is a bigger lack still in putting the policy before the people to deal with the fact and getting the people to accept it. We have as the responsible Army Authorities represented to the Government that we have a certain Army strength; we are able to do certain things, but it is necessary for us to have these Courts, and that having regard to our own particular circumstances and the circumstances in which we consider the Government to be, it is necessary for the Courts to be conducted in the way in which they are at present conducted. Now, as I say, these men who were executed this morning were perhaps uneducated illiterate men, never meaning perhaps to get into a situation like this, men of no political conviction perhaps, as far as political conviction in the present situation is; and that is the type of the rank and file of twentyone, twenty-two and twenty-three years of age that you are dealing with all round the country. We provided for these men all the spiritual assistance that we could to help them in their passage to eternity; and as an instance of what people are up against, we have these people who are out to destroy the Government, those people who month after month, through negotiation and pact and antagonism were out simply to destroy the Treaty and to bring the British back, and to fight the British if necessary in their own way, and are out to-day still at the people, still trying to betray the people, still trying to fool the people; and we read the poster which was pasted up around Boyle:—
People of Ireland! Have you given your authority to those murderers to  execute mere boys by Secret Trial, without allowing them to say goodbye to their Fathers and Mothers, and without seeing a priest? Even the English did not deny Kevin Barry this consolation. How long will you allow this to happen in your name?
There are priests whom we would not allow in to see a prisoner going to his death, because we have prisoners in prison who may go to their deaths that have been brought there by priests. We have men prisoners to-day who could say that they were misled on the moral point, that they did not know what led them to do the things they did, but that they were misadvised morally. We have those in one part of the country. We have them in another part of the country. We have prisoners in prison to-day who were told when the Four Courts was attacked that if they threw down their guns it would be a sin on their souls; and for very good reasons there are certain clergymen that we would not allow in to see prisoners, that we would not allow inside our own barracks, for their own good, for our good, and for the good of the prisoners. But we are not what are called military sitting upon our prisoners, condemning them to death because we are military and because they are prisoners. We are people who realise that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and we treat men as such; and if it is our fate to have to condemn a man to death in order to save our country, we do not consider him as a man in that position less made in the image and likeness of his Creator than we consider ourselves  to be; and when a man is going to his death he does get a priest. And do you know that we are a country whose people are able to be led because they are wrongly morally advised by a clergyman to do the things they are doing now. What effect is it likely to have in parts of the country to be told that the Government here in a Catholic country sends their prisoners to their death without seeing a priest? These are some of the difficulties confronting our people, and these are some of the difficulties confronting us. When you get a changed situation you can act differently. Feeling the very serious responsibilities that are on us and wishing to save this country— and wishing for nothing else—we have advised the Government that their business to-day has to be conducted in the way in which we are conducting it.
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