Wednesday, 31 January 1923
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. JOHNSON: I gave notice earlier to-day that I desired to draw attention to a matter of urgent importance, to wit, the proclamation which appears in this morning's papers purporting to come from D. Hogan, Major-General, G.O.C. Dublin Command. I take it the terms of the proclamation are familiar to all Deputies. We are told in it that a conspiracy exists to kidnap certain persons, and that in pursuance of such conspiracy Senator John Bagwell was, by force of arms, seized and removed to an unknown destination. Then a warning is uttered that in the event of the said Senator John Bagwell not being set, unharmed, at liberty, and permitted to return to his own home within 48 hours of the date and hour of this proclamation, punitive action will be taken against several associates in this conspiracy now in custody and otherwise.” But for previous experiences one would say that such a Proclamation was astonishing and surprising. I want to ask the Dáil if it approves of such a document being issued in the name of any person acting under the Dáil's authority. In the event of Senator Bagwell not being set at liberty, “punitive action will be taken against several associates in this conspiracy now in custody and otherwise.” Punitive action! You are going to punish, not the culprit, but other people, who are presumed to have known something about this conspiracy; people, bear in mind, who, so far as we know, may, or may not, have been tried and convicted of any offence.  We are kept in the dark about these people who are in custody; but “punitive action” is going to be taken against persons who are not guilty of the offence of kidnapping Senator Bagwell. I do not know whether it is intended to defend this proclamation on the grounds that it is a deterrent, or on the grounds that it is punitive, as this proclamation itself says, or on the grounds of military necessity. I want to say that no civilised people, and no Legislature of a civilised State can defend this doctrine of reprisals, and that is what is meant here. Somebody commits an offence, and somebody else must suffer for it, because, forsooth, the Executive arm is not capable of bringing to justice, or what purports to be justice, the offenders. Therefore, somebody else must be made to suffer. Certain action was taken some months ago, which was the subject of discussion in the Dáil of an accomplished fact. Certain executions took place as a deterrent. I do not know whether Ministers will argue that it was a deterrent; I do not know whether many people in the country would believe them if they did so argue. The evidences of the last few weeks rather suggest that they were at fault in their judgment, but, on that occasion, we were told by the Minister for Defence that the action was not taken as a punishment. Now it is going to be taken as a punishment; “punitive action” is to be taken against people in custody and against people not in custody, for an offence committed by somebody in Howth last night. The Minister for Education told us, on the same occasion, that it was not an act of retaliation. What are the punitive measures to be under this proclamation? Will they be an act of retaliation?
Mr. JOHNSON: Now, the implication behind the Minister's disavowal, and, I think, behind this proclamation, is that all persons who are in military custody to-day are parties to this offence committed last night, of the arrest and deportation,  or the removal to an unknown destination of Senator Bagwell. Presumably that is the theory: that you have an organised corporate being which may be punished as a corporate being because of the action of one section of that corporate being. Is that the argument? If it is not then I say that there is no possible defence of such an act on the part of any Ministry. If it is a corporate being, and if it is supposed to be a case of conspiracy of which these people, on the one hand, were parties to, and these people in custody were also parties to, then I say you are simply, by this act, raising that whole body into something which you had insisted, time and again, does not exist. You are raising it into the position of a corporate body and army, with which you have to deal as a military organisation. But the people against whom punitive action is threatened are of classes and of sections who are thought, by somebody within the National Army, to be either in sympathy with, or who might be in sympathy with, the action of such people as committed this offence. But we are driven back to the whole question of why these people are detained for so long without any attempt to prove their guilt. Punitive action is to be taken against several associates. We are left to guess whom those associates may be, and we are left to assume that the offenders in this case will be terrorised because some unknown person may be punished, may be made to suffer, unless some conditions are complied with within 48 hours. I submit that this policy is bad for the State, is bad for the individuals who are participators in it, and it will not bring about any earlier cessation, but will rather extend the policy of strife and warfare. It will be suggested, I have no doubt, judging by precedent, that in raising this question we are trying to be lenient towards offenders, or, on the other hand, that we are trying to save our skins. Motives will be suggested, if precedent is to be followed. But I want to say that the motive in thus drawing attention to this proclamation is to try to save the Dáil, to try to save the Army, to try to save Saorstat Eireann from doing a thing that is indefensible in civilised life. Military necessity, judging by the arguments that were used on previous occasions, will be urged in this matter. It can only be defended by military  necessity. “The safety of the people is the supreme law,” and nothing must be conformed to that has hitherto been considered necessary because the military arm says that a certain other thing is necessary. “The safety of the people is the supreme law,” and I am prepared to subscribe to that.
Mr. JOHNSON: But this does not insure it; it does not assist in the safety of the people; it tends towards the destruction of the people; it tends to the destruction of the whole view of civic morality and the supremacy of law which we hear so often about. Deputy Fitzgibbon, in an earlier discussion to-day, spoke of certain things as being ferocious and barbarous. I say this is the sort of thing that would suggest ferocity and barbarism. It is not going to bring peace; it is not going to assist in bringing peace; it is not going to bring the criminals to a sense of what they owe to the Commonwealth, to civic life, law and order. It is not going to save John Bagwell or any other person; rather it is a challenge to them to do their worst to John Bagwell. But that is a small matter compared with the evil result of this kind of thing upon the mentality of the people, and I submit that it is not worthy to go out in the name of the army, it is degrading to the army; it is degrading to the people behind the army, and it is, more than all, degrading to the Ministry.
Professor MacNEILL: The Deputy who has just spoken has challenged me on several points that arose out of a previous debate. In that previous debate I can remember pointing out that those who criticised the policy and the action of the Government and of the authorised servants of the people, completely failed to produce any alternative, or to suggest any glimmer of an alternative. I am perfectly sure that every one of my colleagues would agree with me that if the Deputy who has just spoken could induce the people of Ireland to invest him, and any colleagues that he might select, with the government of this country, and if they could produce a plan or a policy which would establish the right of this people, in the form to which they are  committed to its establishment, my colleagues and myself would be very glad indeed to make way for the Deputy who has just spoken and for his colleagues.
There are two points in the Proclamation to which he has drawn attention, but the significance of which has apparently escaped his observation. First of all, the Proclamation states that a conspiracy exists. It certainly understates that conspiracy. A conspiracy does exist, and I am quite certain that not one single member of this Dáil will deny its existence, and its object is avowed. Its object is to overthrow this State. That conspiracy is based on the doctrine that every one of us here, the Deputy who has just spoken included, is acting here, not by the authority of the Irish people, but by some other authority which is not a lawful authority, that we are here as usurpers, that every act committed, aye, every word and syllable of ours uttered in this place is an illegality and an offence, and that we are punishable for it. That conspiracy exists to defeat the right of the Irish people, as expressed in this Assembly, to overthrow this Assembly, and to overthrow the authority of the majority of the Irish people, and that particular manifestation of it that is alluded to in the Proclamation is but one item in the conspiracy. Will anyone here deny that such a conspiracy exists? The leaders of the conspiracy themselves avow it, and they glory in it. Deputy Johnson, just as much as I am, is an ursurper, a criminal, a traitor, and this conspiracy is just as much directed against his right to do what he has just done, to stand up here in order in the proceedings of this Assembly, as it is against my right to act here as a servant of the people. Now surely we ought to recognise that fact. I am very glad indeed that this discussion has been raised; I am glad that the challenge has come on this particular issue, because I hold that those who take up the position taken up by Deputy Johnson now put themselves in the wrong. I will say nothing at all about methods, and I will say it is a complete error of judgment that they themselves, by that error of judgment, and by the position which they take up generally, are undoubtedly assisting in that conspiracy.
Professor MacNEILL: Now I will pass to another word which occurs towards the end of the Proclamation. The Proclamation is directed against the associates in that conspiracy. That is not retaliation. Every single person who is engaged in a conspiracy of that kind against the right, the plain right of the people of Ireland, every single person so engaged is a public enemy. It is altogether in vain to endeavour to thrust aside by speaking slightingly of it, the maxim which the Deputy quoted:—
“The safety of the people is the supreme law.” It may be that, in the Deputy's judgment, the steps that are taken from time to time are not efficient. Other people judge differently. The Deputy is entitled to express his difference of judgment on these matters. He is entitled to come to different conclusions and to suppose that a certain policy, prosecuted in a certain way, will not ultimately succeed, but to endeavour to persuade us that a civilised community is limited in the right of preserving its own safety—for that is really the doctrine—against a conspiracy of this kind, that endeavour I do not think will succeed. The conspiracy is not denied, it will not be denied, the fact that a large number of persons are associated in that conspiracy will not be denied. It is against associates in that conspiracy that the punitive action announced in that Proclamation is announced, and not against any others. It may happen in times of this kind, in a crisis of this kind, that a mistake might be made as to whether a certain person was or was not an associate in such a conspiracy. But in all the criticisms that we have heard up to now we have not been told that any such mistake was made, or that punitive measures were directed or put in force against persons that have not been associated in this manifest and avowed conspiracy. I say once more that I am glad that the challenge has been taken, because I am confident that the result of that challenge will be that this Assembly will once more assure the military servants of the people of Ireland that they expect them to do what they can in defence of the rights of the people of Ireland. I remember reading of a General of old  who was entrusted in some similar crisis with the defence of the rights and safety of the State.
It was said of him in his own time that he did not value more highly the rumblings of dissatisfaction than the safety of the people, and that, therefore, now and henceforth the glory of that man stands forth clear, and if the military servants of the people of Ireland, or any one of them, act in the same spirit, and do not place the rumblings of dissatisfaction before the safety of the State and the safety of the people, the people of this country in the future will look for no defence for what those men are doing now.
CATHAL O'SHANNON: The Minister who has just spoken said a good deal on first principles. Some of the general principles he enunciates, I think, we can all find ourselves in agreement with. He very carefully avoided the whole point of Deputy Johnson's speech against the issue of this proclamation, and against the punitive action announced in this proclamation. The Minister says if I interpret him correctly—and I hope he will correct me if I am mistaken—that no drastic action was taken against anyone who was not acting in this conspiracy to overthrow the State, but very little information as to the activities of many of the people who have suffered in one way or another through the action of the Government has been given to the Dáil, or of those particular activities of the men who are associated in this conspiracy. Right from the beginning of the assembly of this Dáil we on those benches have begged, pleaded, and implored for all information that ought to be given, and time after time we have been refused that information. We even find that when certain men are executed, that the actual proclamation announcing the execution does not even tell you when the offence was committed. We cannot understand why the Ministry should be so persistent in holding back all this information. Now the Minister has stated that through what he calls or considers certains errors of judgment of Deputy Johnson and those of us who are his colleagues, we are assisting the conspiracy against the State.
CATHAL O'SHANNON: Including ourselves. That is a matter of opinion, but if it is the considered opinion of the Ministers, then the duty of the Ministry is plain, and it is to prevent us from assisting, even in that way, the conspiracy against the State. Of course, we deny we are assisting the conspiracy. Now, if there is one act more than any other act, whether done by the opponents or supporters of the Government, that has aroused distrust in the Government of the Free State, that act is the act of reprisal. I have found only a very small percentage of those who were firm and constant supporters of the Free State but have deplored that act, and pointed out that the consequences of such an act would not be such as the Ministry in-intended. That act has shaken the confidence of a great number of people who are supporters of the Free State, and has shaken their confidence in the Free State Government. It is easy enough, quite easy, for the Ministry to turn round and say that if we on these benches could do better, and could get the confidence of the people to do better, then that they would be very glad to get out. But that does not get over the consequences of such acts as are foreshadowed in this proclamation just issued. Does anyone seriously believe that the duty of any Government is to punish somebody who has had no active part in this kidnapping, instead of taking such measures as would prevent kidnapping. Now, I know quite as well as the Minister for Defence knows, the difficulties that the protective and offensive arms of the State are met with—difficulties of building up an army, and the difficulty of doing police as well as army duty. But even in this very evening's paper there is a reflection upon the Minister and upon the Ministry. Senator Sir Horace Plunkett's house was mined the night before last, and within 24 or 48 hours those or their associates who had not completed the job were able to come back and finish the job and set the place on fire. The paper says something about the Civic Guard doing their work well enough. Now it is that state of mind in those people who have the protection of the people of the State in their hands that allows such things as the kidnapping of Senator Bagwell to take place. I do not believe for a moment that whatever punitive action is taken will deter  those opponents of the State from kidnapping other people. I think that kidnapping is a criminal act of the worst kind; I think it is not only criminal, but, like many other acts of those associated with those who did it, I think it is a stupid act, but to punish somebody else instead of the culprits and criminals who committed the offence is not going to put an end to that kind of thing. There has been on previous occasions some argument running like this: that if the friends and relatives of those in arms against the State would only exert themselves, especially where those in arms against the State are very young men, a good many might be detached from the opponents of the State. But what does the Ministry think is the state of mind of the friends and relatives—some of them supporters of the Free State—of the prisoners in the jails and camps on reading this proclamation this morning, except to come to the broad and general conclusion to which the Ministry have come, that everybody associated with these prisons are all in the conspiracy, and are fair game for this punitive action. The ordinary people do not argue as nicely or so closely as Ministers or Deputies do, and do not see the implication so well as Ministers and Deputies do. The Minister will reply that if they come to punish anyone in the prison they will take care that they will not pick out at random, but will punish those people who are well known rebels; but that is not what strikes ordinary people up and down the country at all; they look at it in a different way, and consider that any prisoner is fair game for this kind of thing. The Ministry does not take into consideration that point of view at all. I associate myself most heartily with Deputy Johnson's denunciation of the spirit behind those reprisals, because it is nothing short of a reprisal, and is unworthy of a civilised people. It may be said there are a great many in Ireland who are not civilised. It is quite true there are many things done in Ireland that ordinarily would not be done by a civilised people. There have been many illusions, and unless I am very much mistaken, some of the Ministers are suffering from those illusions, but the Dáil, the National Assembly of Ireland, is the last place in which official sanction should be given to anything that is unworthy  of a civilised people. The duty of the Dáil, even at the cost of the life of every man in the Dáil, is to preserve the good name and the civilised outlook of a civilised people. This State—the Free State—and all the things that have been won are very well worth defending, however some of us may view some of the things in connection with it. But it would be a better day for the Irish people and the Irish nation, and for the very idea of statehood in Ireland, that this State should go down, that this Dáil should go down, and that every Senator and Deputy should go down, rather than that the Dáil and the Government, responsible heads of the State, should lower the whole State down to the level of those who are doing uncivilised things, savage things, and barbarous things. By approving of the measures proclaimed in this document the Dáil and the Ministry will be lowering the whole thing back again to barbarism, because the doctrine of reprisals on people who are not the actual people guilty of specific offences is nothing but the doctrine of barbarism.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: The speech made by the Minister for Education places one in a position of some difficulty. I imagine that there is not one single Deputy in this Dáil who is not convinced that there is a conspiracy to destroy the State, and who is convinced, moreover, that that conspiracy is a felonious conspiracy. It is a conspiracy of maddened criminals, and an end must be brought to it. That, I imagine, is a doctrine of which the Minister himself would not pretend to hold a monopoly. It is one with which we would all very heartily concur. But he goes further and says: unless each Deputy in this Dáil is in agreement with the method brought forward by himself and his colleagues for ending that conspiracy, if there are any of us who believe that unwise, foolish, nay perhaps wrong, things are being done, that the expression of these beliefs constitutes those who express them, aiders and abettors of the conspiracy.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: I gathered that from the tenour of his remarks, and  I am very glad that he should disavow that construction, because it relieves one of a great deal of the difficulty one feels. There is a conspiracy, and there are a number of methods by which it may be met. The Minister stands to-night over one of the methods enunciated in the papers this morning, and he states here that the safety of the people is the supreme law. I imagine that the actual expression that was intended to be quoted is that the salvation of the people is the supreme law. Here is a statement made this morning that, because a certain Senator has been captured and removed to an unknown place, certain other persons shall have punitive measures taken against them, not the persons who removed the Senator, not the persons who might be proved as having participated in this conspiracy. It is proposed that this will save the Senator who has been captured, because, surely, as has already been suggested, it must be fairly clear that the measure taken this morning will do more to jeopardise Senator Bagwell's life than any other action that could have been taken.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: I hope the Minister will be right. Will it save the law? Will it save the whole fabric of this State which is constituted out of the reign of law? I venture to think that the Deputy who spoke before me in this matter will prove right, and that health and sustenance will be given to those who constitute this conspiracy and who are conducting it to-day by taking action which will be just as destructive of law as any action that they could take. They are taking action for which there is no sanction in law. And, as I said previously, if we have to oppose them, the only way is by seeing that the action we take shall, at least, have the sanction of law, so that we shall oppose lawlessness with lawfulness, and not lawlessness with counter-lawlessness.
Mr. DAVIN: The President, when speaking here yesterday evening, is reported in to-day's papers—and I think correctly reported—as saying: “The more criticism there is now of the manner in which the administration of authority is carried out, the more Irregularism will spread. The sense of suspicion there is in the Dáil amongst certain persons is  spreading throughout the country.” That, in effect, is repeated throughout the statement made this evening from the Ministerial Benches by the Minister for Education. To me that appears to be a denial of the right—the constitutional right—to criticise fairly and constructively the policy of the Government carrying on the affairs of this country. I am not, certainly, going to deny—in fact, I am going to admit—and I think there will be nobody so foolish as to deny, that there is a conspiracy in this country to do all the things stated by the Minister for Education. But in examining into the state of affairs created by that admission, I think nobody knows better than the Government and the Minister for Defence, that that conspiracy is not a conspiracy headed or carried on by one individual from a centralised authority. I believe whatever conspiracy there is in this country to destroy the power of the Government elected by the majority of the people, is comprised of a number of classes, and of a large number of people, with different objects in view. I believe that the state of affairs that exists is largely due to the deplorable speech that was made at the beginning of last year by Mr. de Valera in Thurles, when he told young Irishmen, and I emphasise young Irishmen, that they could only march right through successfully to the achievement of this royal Republic over the dead bodies of their fellow-countrymen. It may not be correct to say that when he went that far he realised that the state of affairs you find in Ireland to-day would exist. I am sure he never anticipated that, in leading a conspiracy of that kind, he would gather behind him, in achieving his object, all the elements that are behind the conspiracy that certainly exists to destroy the power of the Government. I believe the fight now going on is not one for Republicanism, or, if it is, that a very small percentage of the people opposed to the Government are fighting with any political conviction so far as that aspect of the question is concerned. We have a small number drawn from that class. Another element is what some will call Bolshevists or Communists, and a further section are fighting against the Government simply to attain their own selfish ends.  These are nothing more nor less than armed robbers. In that way, I will admit, there is a distinction, and that must be always made between what are termed by people outside the Dáil political prisoners. I do not admit, and never will admit, that a man who goes out to fight against this Government, and to rob and plunder and destroy the country is a political prisoner in that sense. In that way I think the Government must be very careful as to how they proceed to deal with what they call, and what I admit is, certainly, conspiracy. Now, I believe for some time past that the time has arrived—if it has not passed—when if this country is going to be saved from anarchy, destruction and chaos, that the people who believe in ordered civilised Government, must, through some form of similar organisation, range themselves rightly and definitely on the side of the people standing for that system of Government. I believe, arising out of that, that the policy initiated by the Government, if they stand over the Proclamation issued this morning, is not going to bring people in that direction behind them. The Minister for Education was careful to avoid trying to justify what we are protesting against, that is, to put it plainly, the policy of reprisals. Nothing less is put forward in this Proclamation. I believe no Government, and no body of men, elected by the people as a constitutional authority, can ever stand behind the word reprisal. I have known Mr. Bagwell a number of years. No one regrets more than I do, although I differ with him in outlook, and I believe we all do, what has happened to him, and no one would be more glad than I would be that the people who took such action should be punished in a proper way. I believe, and I was informed this afternoon not very far from here by a close personal friend who works in daily association with Mr. Bagwell, that the last paragraph of that Proclamation more endangers Mr. Bagwell's life than it would have the effect of trying to save it. The Minister for Education has invited us on these benches if we have an alternative form of Government to put it up, and that he will be glad to walk out, and let us walk in. Personally I am not anxious to share the invitation that was issued to us. I would  say, arising out of that, personally, that if I thought Ireland would be saved to-morrow from the destruction that is creeping over it, myself and every other member of the Dáil would walk out, and let Mr. de Valera walk in, if he could control the people behind him. But I believe the very element Mr. de Valera has helped to create would be the very first to destroy the Government that he would set up if he took your place to-morrow. Therefore I can sympathise with him, even in what he calls the system of Republican Government, because every patriotic Irishman, and every man in other countries, too, who attempts to form a Government must start with punishing the criminals who oppose the will of the majority of the people. The last paragraph of the Proclamation states: “Warning is hereby given that in the event of the said Senator John Bagwell not being set unharmed at liberty and permitted to return to his home, within 48 hours of this Proclamation, punitive action will be taken against several associates in this conspiracy now in custody.”
If the Government have known those people to be associates of a conspiracy of this kind, what did they do before Senator John Bagwell was kidnapped to deal with them? I put it definitely to the Minister for Defence to say, when he is replying, what do they intend to do with those people if Senator John Bagwell is released unharmed? I appeal to the Government to reconsider the terms, especially the last paragraph of that proclamation that has been issued. I believe on reconsideration of the matter they may possibly, if they are not blind, come to the conclusion that they themselves are embarking on a policy similar to the one that we here protest against—namely, that of the people who are opposing them by armed force. I believe, if they would reconsider the matter and withdraw the last paragraph at any rate of that proclamation, they would do more to save the life of the man who has been kidnapped than any other action they may take. I hope that eventually they will discover the people who are responsible for the kidnapping of Senator Bagwell, and punish them in the only way they should be punished.
Mr. SEAN LYONS: As nobody else  on the Government benches seems inclined to speak before the Minister for Defence puts forward his plea, it may be necessary for me to throw in my lot with my colleagues on these benches. I wonder what do the Irish people look to in the future as regards government, if men can be kidnapped by an armed minority in the country, and if the majority are going to carry out reprisals in order to prove that they are a majority. In that event I think it is time that the Government should withdraw. Ninetyfive per cent. of the people of Ireland are looking to this, their duly selected Government, to safeguard themselves and their property. I have said elsewhere, where I had no protection whatever, that I intend, for my part, to support majority rule in this country. The people who are out against this Government functioning, or the majority of them, are not out for a political purpose, but, as Deputy Davin said, for personal gain. Certainly I do not agree with proclamations of this kind being issued. I was more than rejoiced when I heard the Minister for Education, Deputy Professor MacNeill, say that the army are the servants of the people. The people in the country imagine that the army are the masters of the people, and, as far as I can see, every order that is issued, every motion that is brought forward, every execution that takes place is by the authority of the army. No notice of sentences are left on the table of this Dáil, and there is no evidence of trial. Everything that I can see shows that this nation of ours at the present time and the Government are governed by military force. If the army are the servants of the people, surely they should look to the people before they carry out such proclamations as this. They should ask the leave of this Dáil before they issue them. I certainly agree with Deputy Davin when he said that the Minister for Education issued almost a challenge to the Labour Deputies that if they could put forward a better alternative they could step in as the Government. Like my colleague I have no desire whatever that they should do that. It is not that it is too dangerous a job. I do not disagree with him when he said that Labour had no desire to step in as the Government. They may come in in the near future, and when they do come in the Irish question, I think, will be settled. I disagree  with him when he said that de Valera could come forward here and take charge of the Government. De Valera can come here when he has with him the majority of the people. Until then, I hope the majority will rule. I do not like Deputies, such as the learned Deputy MacNeill, to stand up and put forward a plea in order to change the opinion of the country or of this Dáil against the Deputies who stand up here and speak against this and other proclamations and motions put forward by the military authorities. I sincerely hope that it is the opinion of this Dáil that neither Deputy Johnson nor the other members on these benches stand up for the sole purpose of saving their skins. As we have said heretofore, so we shall say henceforward—we are acting with the majority, and with the majority we intend to remain. But we do object to executions. I wonder what will the Irish people say in forty-eight hours when they see in the Press that four or five men, prisoners held for the past four or five months in a certain prison, have been executed as a reprisal because Mr. Bagwell was not released. I wonder what credit the Government will have for that. I sincerely hope the Government will not take such a drastic step as this. Certainly punish the culprit if you can find him, but, above all things, don't punish the prisoners—the unfortunate men you have in your charge—the men you are in duty bound under the law of the land and the law of heaven to protect while they are your prisoners.
General MULCAHY: A Chinn Chomhairle, we are quite anxious to preserve what some of the Deputies who have spoken called the good name and the civilised outlook of this country, and, being to some extent charged with the preservation of the country and its particular outlook, I certainly would feel that I had not helped to preserve its good name and to preserve any kind of up-to-date outlook in it if I had allowed action to take place which would result in, one by one, our Senators, and, one by one, our Deputies here in the Dáil, being taken away to some unknown place; or ten of them or twenty of them, or half of them, and then the body responsible for this present conspiracy to turn round and say “Now, if you do this, or if you do that, or if you  do the other thing, it will be bad for those people we have got together.” It has been said here that previous action of ours, to which this proposed action of ours now is supposed to be analogous, has shaken the confidence of a number of people in the country, in the Ministry, and in this Government generally. Now, the action that is complained of was taken on the first occasion on which a member of this Assembly was assassinated as the initial step in the carrying out of an order which stated that those members who voted for the upkeeping of the Government policy here should be assassinated. It may be a pure coincidence, but I am—and I take it the Ministry and their supporters in the Dáil are—perfectly satisfied that what put an end to that particular line of policy on the part of the Irregulars was the action we took then. Now, we are going to oppose by whatever lights the Lord has given us an attempt on the part of anybody to destroy this Government, to take away any section of the population, and to say we hold these as hostages until such time as you bow to our will, to our pistols, to our bombs, and to our tin cans of petrol. It is because we are going to do that that we issued the warning that appears in to-day's papers. We are asked what have we been doing with those people whom we intend to punish in the case of the kidnapping of Senator Bagwell, and what are we going to do with them if he be returned. As regards what we have been doing with them, we have been dealing with them and holding our hands in a spirit of clemency, and as regards what we are prepared to do with them, if Senator Bagwell is returned, we are prepared to deal with them as we are prepared to deal with their other associates in this conspiracy, with all the clemency that all the circumstances of the day and of the week and of the times generally allow. A few days ago I did see a gleam of hope, and during those few days—and a number of men were to have been executed on Saturday morning—I held the military hand that appears to be so heavy on the country, and I have been holding it for a few days, and I was prepared to hold it until I would see whether this gleam on the horizon was going to broaden into something like daylight of reason in the country. While waiting for that gleam of light to develop and to grow  big I am not prepared to stand by and see a number of our Deputies and a number of our Senators here kidnapped, and if some Deputies seem to think—and it is a matter of opinion—that the action we have taken this morning is going more to jeopardise the life of Mr. Bagwell than otherwise, well, it is unfortunate that lives have to be jeopardised in the prosecution of a policy to put down a conspiracy that is near to crushing this country; it is unfortunate that lives have to be sacrificed, but we are determined to show that a policy to put the Government by any means into such a position that it has to bow to a few pistoliers in the country, that policy is not going to be allowed to be embarked upon with freedom or with impunity. We have it suggested here that Mr. de Valera has stirred up forces which he cannot control. Now that is a very specious plea for Mr. de Valera. A certain confidence has to some extent been broken, and that puts me free, at any rate, to mention a certain fact. Subsequent to the events of the Four Courts, because certain representations were made to me by outsiders, I met Mr. de Valera personally, took it on my own responsibility, without the knowledge of any of my colleagues, to see and take a last word from him definitely before settling my own definite attitude as to the policy I would recommend to the Government. His position was this very spacious plea that is now made for him. He said he did not agree with what was being done, that he had no responsibility for what was being done, that certain people thought it right to adopt this particular line of action, and as long as there were people in the country to adopt that line of action he was an humble soldier behind them. Two or three or four months after that we find him arranging to be the President of their Executive Council, arranging to support their so-called army in their work, arranging to sign with Liam Lynch all matters concerning defence. And we know what matters concerning defence subsequently were: orders to destroy our railways, to shoot our public representatives, and to burn their houses. I do not accept that plea that the people who stirred up this in the country cannot to a very large extent make it subside. And I will not  accept it until they have made some attempt to undo what they have done. I believe they can do much. We, then, are in the position that we are up against people who take the type of acts against the life of the country, that are being taken daily, and of which there has been a crescendo within the last few days. Our proclamation, the proclamation of the officer in charge of the Dublin District, is to make it perfectly clear in the only way which we have left, to make it perfectly clear beforehand at any rate, that we are not going to leave unused any powers that we may have to put down the people who are responsible for carrying out this work. We are told that misgivings may be caused in the minds of the people, because they do not know what exactly we mean when we issue a proclamation saying that punitive measures will be taken against some of these people's associates.
What we mean is that the clemency that we have been exercising will not be exercised in cases in which otherwise it would, and that, if necessary, we will not let go free from the charge of responsibility for stirring up the destruction in which it is attempted to smother this country anyone who is either an instigator of individual acts or an instigator of the whole campaign, or an abettor or a helper in any way. In doing that, and in taking the action that we will be taking, nothing will be done in a spirit of ferocity or in a spirit of brutality, but that does not mean that it will not be done with all the power that we have, and with all the strength that we can find in this country. We are faced, no doubt, with doubts in the minds of the people, and faced, no doubt, with awkward questions and awkward statements made here in the Dáil. We have very definite information that statements in the Dáil here have drawn the attention of the Irregulars to the fact that a particular type of destruction is a type of destruction which hits very hard at the country. We cannot be wise in all our words, but we can be wise when we have our mouths shut at least. We do expect of all the people and all the Deputies in this Dáil, however they may stray from the path of wisdom when they open their mouths, that they will be wise when their mouths are shut. There is a large number of prisoners in our camps, of  whom, perhaps, we cannot say definitely that they are associates in this destruction that is going on, and, therefore, that they may not be liable to receive any portion of the punishment, whether it is punitive or deterrent. There is not very much difference in actual practice between the two. Those people are given ample opportunity of saying whether they are supporters, silent or otherwise, of the present campaign. If there are members of Mr. de Valera's Executive or Government, or whatever it is called, and if there are members on his Army Executive—and we must here regard as the mainspring and as the prime movers in the present campaign the members of those two bodies—if there are to-day any  members of those bodies, or any general supporters of a Republican movement in this country, who do not stand up for a campaign, of which such a terrible example has been given within the last few days, now is the time for them to speak out. If they do not speak out within, say, the next few days, then they give the wheel another turn and the country, and the Government which is responsible for the safety of the country and for its salvation, must be prepared to take and to face whatever the next turn of the wheel brings.
|Last Updated: 16/05/2011 19:09:29||Page of 16|