TUARASGABHAIL IDTAOBH RITEACHA DO CHUR AMACH. - TREASONABLE AND SEDITIOUS OFFENCES BILL, 1925—SECOND STAGE (RESUMED).

Thursday, 19 February 1925

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 10 No. 5

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Question again proposed:—“That this Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  In moving the Second Reading of this Bill the Minister emphasised the statement that every State takes powers substantially similar to those sought for under this Bill. Every Government, he said, must [339] take note of and deal with tendencies— not alone overt acts, but tendencies. I took particular note of that because, in respect particularly to the antiseditious sections, it is in respect to the tendencies that I am in the strongest possible opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill. Progress in society arises from a conflict between tendencies—rival tendencies— and I suppose the stability which the Minister seeks comes from the supremacy of the advocates of one tendency over an opposing tendency, and that act of supremacy practically lays the foundation for further instabilities. I suggest to the Dáil that they ought to consider the effect in future—in this discussion I want to emphasise the future—by re-enacting in 1925 these anti-sedition Acts, of giving power to what may become privileged elements in the community to repress and contain within narrow areas the rising spirit of progress, or what is deemed to be so by the persons advocating certain progressive ideas. It is by the suppression which Ministries effect— the suppression or repression of popular movements—that revolution takes place.

I want the Dáil to bear in mind what the tendency of the moment appears to be. We have had a period, extending over a few years, of mental flux and unsettlement. It was hoped and believed that that period was passing and that there was a subsiding and, if one might say so, a consolidation, or tendency towards consolidation. If we, by a definite Act, help, in the reformation of public thought and ideas, to make it appear that this Legislature is assisting in reaction and the stabilisation of old, crusted Tory forms, then we are laying up for ourselves evils which, I think, it will cost the country a very great deal to overcome.

I think it is true to say that the history of society, in civilised countries at any rate, has been the history of struggles between popular movements and Ministries, as the authority representing privileged classes. What we are now asked to do is to give authority to Ministries for the present, and in the future, to use what power is contained [340] in this Bill to repress popular tendencies. It always has been called sedition. Every movement of a popular character has been called seditious, and it only depends upon the character of the Ministry for the time and, one may say, possibly the lead that the legislature gives to the judiciary of the time, to decide whether the policy of repression is to be carried through and whether all popular movements are going to be driven underground. I said yesterday, that, in the main, the powers that are sought under this Bill do already exist; they have existed for more than a century, and, in some cases, for several centuries.

It may be said by the Minister that that is an answer to my present argument; but there is such a thing as the law becoming obsolete by disuse, there is such a thing as judges deciding in the courts that they will not urge juries to convict, and there is such a thing as juries refusing to convict in cases of obsolescent laws. We are now asked in this session to re-enact those old laws relating to sedition. The effect of the re-enactment by this legislature of those laws would be to raise the sign to the forces of the State, to the judiciary, and to all executive bodies, that we are determined that the law created one hundred years ago is what we desire to be the law for the present period. I have a small book of a popular character, written by an eminent lawyer, entitled “Elements of English Law.” Amongst other things the book defines seditious libel in language which is very like—in fact, it is almost identical in some of its phraseology— the language of some of the sections in this Bill. In that book it is set out that a seditious libel is one “calculated to bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against the King, the Government and the Constitution, either House of Parliament, or the administration of justice; to incite the King's subjects to attempt, otherwise than by lawful means, the alteration of any matter in church or state by law established, to raise discontent or disaffection, or permit feelings of ill-will or hostility between different classes.” With necessary alterations, that is pretty well the description of seditious libel contained in this Bill.

[341] The apology of the author is significant. The definition, he says, “is a wide one, but the decision as to whether anything published is or is not a seditious libel rests with the jury. The fact that such a decision rests with the jury prevents the Government from using the law for punishing expressions of opinion which meet with any considerable degree of approval among the classes from which juries are mainly drawn.” That is the apology of the author of this book for a wide definition of seditious libel. Speaking as one who has had reason to read some of the proceedings of the law courts in respect to combination laws of the past, and as one who is interested particularly in the growth and development of working-class opinion, whether in trade unions or in political or social life, I say that if the only protection against repressive action under these sedition laws that are proposed to be re-enacted is that a jury, which will be drawn from the class from which juries are usually drawn, will think in terms of protecting the rights of the individual workman, then the chances of justice being done are not particularly good.

The power for the repression of popular movements that exists within this Bill is absolute, and it makes the authority of the Ministry so great that, in my opinion, it would be necessary, if this Bill becomes law, to challenge, at the very beginning, the authority of the Minister. The sections of the Bill dealing with sedition, seditious libel, seditious intention, and the like, are the very much more serious parts. They are most insidious and they are likely to have the most detrimental effect upon the growth of society and public opinion in the country. The evil effects of them will not be immediately obvious. The Bill, particularly in respect to those sections, is bad and ought to be opposed. It ought to be resisted and I hope the Dáil will look, not to the present nor the immediate future only but to the undesirability of handing over to any Ministry, by deliberate act of this Legislature, the powers contained in the Bill.

As regards the other sections of the [342] Bill, which I have not yet touched upon, those sections which might be called the anti-Republican party sections, strike the public imagination more easily. They appear to be quite a blatant and raucous challenge to the opponents of the Ministry. We have seen steadily deteriorating, or declining, the activity of the militant opposition to the Ministry. A year, or two years ago we know it was constantly asserted, very frequently in this House and more frequently outside, that the opposition to the Government ought to confine itself to constitutional agitation and political party activity. By various means the Ministry succeeded in persuading the Republican party to cease its militancy.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis  Zoom on Darrell Figgis  Persuading?

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Persuading, by various means. Having brought about that very much to be desired object, the Ministry now, by some curious turn or twist, come along and try to stir up those dying embers of passion and hate. It seems to me sometimes like the work of some imp of mischief, or, perhaps, of the banshee that appears to find its habitation round about certain families. It is now found necessary, apparently, to do this stirring up, to rouse this enmity which was dying, to challenge any spirited people in the opposition party, to urge the opposition section in the community to do their worst, and to refuse to allow those passions to die down.

I cannot understand what satisfaction can be found in such activity on the part of a Ministry which is looking to the time when they will ask for public money and for loans. People have asked me what are the reasons adduced by the Government for putting forward a Bill of this kind. I have asked many, members of the Government party and others, if they can explain why this Bill should be brought forward now. I have not been able to get an answer. I can only guess that the reasoning of Shylock has been adapted by the Minister, or, shall I say, the Ministry, because I assume all Ministers are equally responsible for this Bill.

Deputies will remember the passage [343] between Bassanio and Shylock, when Shylock answered Bassanio's question, saying he could give no reason: “I can give no reason, nor I will not, more than the hate, and a certain loathing, I bear Antonio, that I follow thus a losing suit against him.” But then— the logic of Shylock seems to continue in the Minister's mind—Bassanio asks: “Do all men kill the things they do not love?” Shylock answers: “Hates any man the thing he would not kill?” Bassanio says: “Every offence is not a hate at first.” And then the Minister's query comes: “What wouldst thou, have a serpent sting thee twice?” The Minister says: “We cannot allow this sort of thing that has happened in the past by any possibility to happen again.” So he intends to kill it and, presumably, intends to kill the people who did, or would attempt to do, acts which this Bill will re-enact as unlawful.

Another proposition has been put to me. It is that it is not at all intended to be taken in that serious way, but, in view of the activities of Chambers of Commerce, Farmers' Associations, and the public generally, in the direction that there should be a reduction in taxation, this proposition really finds its purpose and origin in an attempt to raise money for the State. It is expected that there will be ten thousand persons prosecuted under those sedition laws, and the prosecution will, no doubt, press for the maximum fine. Ten thousand persons fined £500 apiece will mean five million pounds. Then the Minister for Finance will feel himself in very good form. I wonder is that the real reason?

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Yes; that is it.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  The Minister may say that it is not intended to enforce this law if it is passed, that it is always something to have in abeyance, not to use, that people may go on calling President de Valera President, and calling certain persons the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Home Affairs, and that they may go on electing members for the Dáil, who will not take their seats there but who will take them in another place, and call themselves a Government. He may say [344] that we are not going to prosecute, but we are getting this Bill to show our authority, that we may use it some day, if things get difficult. That may be the mind and intention of Ministers, but is it worth while passing the Bill if that is their meaning and intention? Would it not be better to postpone it, say, for ten years to consider what the state of mind of the people of the country at that time would be? If the Minister wants to have the powers but does not like to use certain phrases, it would be a very simple matter indeed to bring in a Bill and get it passed through easily, altering the forms and changing the names.

Perhaps the Minister is not so gentle in his views as to what would happen if this Bill becomes law. Perhaps he really means what he is asking for. Perhaps he really means to enforce the law which he seeks to have enacted. If so, what is going to be the effect upon the country, socially and financially? As I say, it is a challenge to the people who have been very gradually, perhaps slowly, falling into constitutional methods and procedure, to revert to their old attitude, and I think that men of spirit would, and should, be expected to do that very thing. We passed through Second Reading yesterday a Bill which was brought before us on the plea that it was necessary to preserve the continuity of the First and Second Dáil with the Third and Fourth Dáil and to show that there was deliberate and direct continuity between the Government of the Republic and the Government of Saorstát Eireann under the Constitution. That, I think, is a very necessary and desirable thing to do, but I, for one, realise that the continuity and the methods whereby that continuity have been secured are not quite so clear as to satisfy every person, and the mind of many people cannot adjust itself to the rather sudden change in form which, while the continuity is preserved, seems to be a rather rapid and sudden deflection.

I think that a little patience would have brought the great majority of the people who had hitherto been opponents of the Saorstát into a state of mind in which they would say, “Well, we bow to the inevitable—we will do, [345] as better men have done in many countries,—accept the situation not from choice, but from necessity.” Here we have the Ministry coming along and saying to these men, “We are not going to allow you to think in the terms in which you have been thinking in the past, we are not going to allow you to express yourselves in the manner in which you have been expressing yourselves, we are not going to allow you to do the sort of thing which we all did three or four years ago, and we are not alone going to make it unlawful, but we are going to enforce the law from the very beginning.” That is a challenge which no spirited people would refuse to take up, and we shall have a state of things in the country whereby hundreds and thousands of men and women will find themselves lodged in jails and internment camps, brought before Justices, perhaps resorting to arms, and thus requiring a more extensive Army. Generally we shall have a state of things which will make all the hopes and expectations of the Ministry entirely devoid of foundation.

I cannot understand, in any way, how men of sense could have brought into the Dáil at this time such a Bill as this. I know that the majority of the Dáil is against it. I know that the Minister has spoken to the Dáil in language which would suggest that he desires every member to vote according to his own reasoning in this matter, and I presume that he intends that no member will vote according to the instructions or desires of any Party Whip or Party meeting, and that every member will consider the Bill and its consequence on its merits for himself. In that case, if that is done, I have no doubt that the Bill will not be granted a Second Reading, because it is quite clear that the great majority of Deputies are decidedly against the passing of this Bill at this time. If it is passed. despite the opposition, for my part I will leave it to other Deputies to seek to amend it in Committee. I shall not attempt to alter it in the slightest degree, except to oppose it, every section of it, on every possible occasion. I think that some of us will find it to be our duty to challenge the clauses in the Bill which deal with sedition, from [346] the beginning, to find out whether public opinion in the country will really allow to be continued this repressive legislation. It cannot be spoken of now as a measure of emergency. You cannot speak of the State as being in danger.

You cannot use the arguments used two years ago. We are now in a time of peace and of hope and faith, and to come forward and ask the Dáil and the Oireachtas to pass this measure is asking us to say that the legislation which was deemed satisfactory to the British Parliament 120 or 130 years ago is quite satisfactory to the Irish Parliament in 1925. I hope that Deputies will vote in the way in which the Minister himself invited them to vote—vote according to their opinions and judgment on this Bill. If they do that, if they are, shall I say, honest and courageous enough to do that, I have no doubt whatever that this Bill will not receive a Second Reading.

Major BRYAN COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  The Minister in his very exhaustive and moderate speech with which he moved the Second Reading of this Bill, besought us to exorcise party spirit and not to approach the Bill from any party point of view. I do not think that the Dáil suffers from an excess of party spirit. I think if the Minister will consult the President as to how much party spirit there is in the Dáil as compared with the party spirit which used to exist in the Dublin Corporation, he will find the answer reassuring. If ever there was a Bill which we should approach in a detached manner, no matter in what quarter of the House we sit, it is this Bill which proposes very drastic penalties and which settles the whole relations of the citizens to the State, a Bill which is not a temporary measure but which is to be a permanent part of our Statute Book. I do not dispute the necessity for some Bill of this kind. I think, having formed the new State and living in new conditions, we are wise to adapt ourselves to these conditions, and to deal with offences, hypothetical as they may be, but which are more likely to arise here than those contemplated in the British Acts. [347] While we are not repealing these Acts we are not supplanting them. In some respects I approve of this Bill. As the Minister for Justice went through this Bill section by section, I presume that I may be allowed to point out those sections which I approve and those which cause me great misgiving. I approve of those which deal with mutiny and incitement to mutiny in the army. I always thought that it was a great injustice to a soldier, that a soldier who mutinied was shot while the cunning intriguer who incited him to mutiny escaped with a comparatively small penalty. I am glad that that penalty is going to be increased. We should be careful in dealing with this matter of the law of treason, as we are dealing with a very old law which goes back to the Middle Ages and whose roots are embedded in the soil of the feudal system. I believe that the primary authority for that law is a statute of 1352, and that we are right to take that statute, modify it, and adapt it to present conditions, but we should be very cautious, both as regards making new treason and removing any safeguards which the wisdom of the past may have given to the citizens in relation to the law of treason. There is one safeguard which has existed in the law of treason in England for nearly 400 years. It is provided in a statute of the year 1552. That statute provided that in a case of treason two witnesses were necessary. In this Bill, I can find nothing about two witnesses. The reason for that safeguard should, I think, be obvious to the Dáil. It is to prevent one perjured informer incriminating a multitude of innocent men. That safeguard, as far as I can see—I am not a lawyer; I am open to correction and very ready to be corrected— is actually being removed by this Bill, so that the citizen accused of treason a year hence will be in a worse position than he would have been in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. I hardly think that that is desirable.

As regards the other Sections of the Bill—except Sections 1, 5 and 8—I take no very strong line, one way or other. I do not object to them. Section 4, [348] which deals with persons representing themselves to be Presidents and Ministers, may be rendered necessary by present conditions, but it seems to me like taking a howitzer to kill a butterfly. I am not much in touch with the Irregulars but there is a friend of mine who is. A year ago, I learned from conversation with him, that the Irregulars were describing a certain Deputy, who has not taken his seat in this Chamber, as “President.” Since then, and up to last week, they were calling him “Dev.” Now, they are beginning to call him “President” again. I am not sure that the disease was not curing itself and that the Minister's intervention, like an inoculation at the wrong time, has revived it.

I desire to draw the attention of the Dáil to Section 1 of this Bill, which makes explicit some of the fears that I have in connection with the measure. Under Section 1, the minimum penalty is death. If there is a conviction, under that Section, the judge must impose the death sentence.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis  Zoom on Darrell Figgis  What is the maximum penalty?

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Death with ignominy.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  To be beheaded in public.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  This is a very serious matter, and I will ask Deputies to consider it seriously. The minimum penalty for an offence under this Section is death. I agree that some of the offences are of such gravity and such seriousness that death is the right penalty. Persons who levy war against the State and who, perhaps, put people to death in the process of waging that war, may well be deserving of death. But death is the penalty not only for persons who levy war against the State but for persons who harbour or comfort any person who is engaged in levying war against the State. I remember when I was a schoolboy reading of the ignominy and odium attaching to the name of Judge Jeffreys because, in the year 1685, I think, he sentenced to death an old lady named Alice Lisle for the offence of harbouring and comforting two fugitives after the battle of [349] Sedgemoor. She had only taken them into the house, thinking they were in some trouble. I looked up Macaulay and I found there the following:—

The law of principal and accessory as respects high treason was and is to this day a disgrace to English jurisprudence. He who conceals from justice one whom he knows to be a murderer is liable to punishment, but not to the punishment of murder. He who shelters one whom he knows to be a traitor is, according to all our jurists, guilty of high treason and liable to the punishment of death.

That law that Macaulay, eighty years ago, proclaimed a disgrace to English jurisprudence, we are asked to re-enact in Saorstát Eireann to-day! Is there any justification for it? Can it be said that the offence of harbouring and comforting is an offence so henious and so serious that it must be punishable by death? Are we, in the 20th century, in a Christian country—in a country which has passed through a successful revolution, when Ministers and Generals were hunted on the hillsides, and did not know where they would lay their heads, except somebody harboured and comforted them— are we, in the twentieth century, going to proclaim that the crime of harbouring and comforting a refugee from justice must be punishable by death?

I was reading on Sunday a book by a Deputy from Tipperary who has not taken his seat in the Dáil. He described how he (Deputy Breen) escaped from an attempt to arrest him, severely wounded, how he fought his way into a strange district and knocked at the door of a strange house covered, as he was, with blood, and worn out and exhausted. The people who lived in the house had no sympathy with Deputy Breen's politics. They were, I believe, Unionists. They took him in and sheltered him, dressed his wounds, and saved him. The Minister for Justice may say that they were weak sentimentalists and that they deserved some punishment. Possibly they did, but I venture to think that the motive which served as the basis of their action was Christian charity, and Christian charity, even if [350] it is exercised in a mistaken manner, should not be definitely condemned to death. The Minister may say, in reply, that the Executive Council has the prerogative of mercy, and that that prerogative would be exercised in a case of this kind. I am sure it would. The Ministers are not hard-hearted men. In all cases, I am sure, they would do their best to be merciful, but I would sooner see the prerogative of mercy exercised by a judge than by a Minister. The judge who has seen the prisoner, heard the evidence, and who has been in a position to examine the witnesses, is better equipped for this task than a Minister who is dealing rather with printed papers. Then, Ministers —I do not say the present Ministers, but future Ministers—may possibly be influenced by political considerations.

Have the Government thought out all the implications of this section— that every person who harbours or comforts a rebel against the State is to be punished by death—even a mother who protects her son? I would suggest to the Minister that when he comes to wind up the debate he should tell us that he is prepared to bring in a new sub-section giving a lesser punishment to the offence of harbouring and comforting than the punishment of death. If he would do that, it would make my mind much easier. I do not want to vote against the Bill if I can help it, but there are one or two provisions that outrage my humanity, and I could not make myself responsible for them. I know that these provisions will never become operative, because in a case where a mother sheltered her son no jury, knowing the penalty, would convict. They would either disagree or acquit the prisoner. But that is getting back to what we do not want to get back to. We want courage on the part of our juries, we want our juries to carry out the law, and we should not place them in the impossible position in which they would be placed by an eloquent advocate for the defence when he would say “There is only one penalty for this offence—death. Are you going to send this poor old woman to death because she sheltered her only son”? We do not want that situation to arise. We want to feel that the judge has full [351] power to consider all the circumstances and if need be to pass a sentence more merciful than the sentence which is put down in this section. We have created a new Judiciary. The Executive Council have, in my opinion, earned the gratitude of every class in the community by the manner in which they chose that Judiciary. What is the tradition that we are to impose on these judges? Is it to be the tradition of Jeffreys and Norbury or of Whiteside and Pallas? I earnestly appeal to the Minister to listen to these words of mine and to consider the possibility of bringing in an amendment providing for some smaller punishment for this offence.

I pass now to a smaller matter. Section 8 prohibits all military drilling. I think the majority of Deputies will agree that any form of military drilling with arms should be prohibited and punishable with very severe penalties. Military drilling with arms, without the sanction of the State, is really levying an army against the State. But “military drilling” is a very, very wide term. To march in step is a form of military drilling. To form fours is a form of military drilling and this section, construed literally, would prohibit almost any form of organised activity of any kind whatsoever. A brass band could not march down the street without the permission of the Minister. The Artane boys could not give a display without the permission of the Minister. Every Boys' Brigade and troop of Boy Scouts would have to go to the Minister and ask permission to carry on their activities. Really, I am sometimes afraid that the Government is becoming too paternal altogether, and that we shall soon have to get permission to think. On this section, which is not a very important section, the Minister should, I think, confine the prohibition to drilling with arms, or agree to the insertion of another sub-section stating that permission shall not be unreasonably withheld unless there is cause to believe that some activity against the State is contemplated. That would improve the Bill and make it more practicable.

[352] I now come to my last point. That is with regard to Section 5, which deals with seditious libel. Under this section a penalty of £500 or, at the discretion of the court, a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or both is imposed. Amongst the offences is one for any attempt to bring into contempt either House of the Oireachtas. There are people in this country, as there are people in most countries, who believe in single-chamber Government. Under this section they would not be entitled to say that the Seanad was a useless and superfluous body and ought to be abolished. I do not agree with that, but I would much sooner see that question agitated openly than a conspiracy against the Seanad secretly. Then, as regards the Dáil, there are people who admire this House less than we deserve to be admired. I found in a book the other day the following words:—

The average level of ability and intelligence in the present Dáil is appallingly low—much lower than it was in the Irish Parliamentary Party.

I am not sure that these words do not bring into contempt “the Oireachtas or either House thereof,” so that if the Bill passes it will be the first duty of the Minister to prosecute the Secretary of the Post Office. If we are to be protected against any attacks, we should be protected, surely, against attacks by our own servants. Personally, I would much prefer that everybody should be allowed to make their case and that we should make any case we thought fit in reply. I think that provision limits legitimate political discussion to a very serious extent, I will not go into sub-section (3) (c) at any length. I had intended to do so, but the Minister's statement that under an English judgment this can only be interpreted to mean inciting to violence has removed some of my objections to what I did think was the most remarkable section I had ever seen in a Bill, When I first read it— reading it as a layman and not as a lawyer—my one feeling was a feeling of profound thankfulness that the Bill was not retrospective, because if it applied to utterances in the past as [353] well as in the future I do not know which of us would have been safe, from Unity Hall to the Viceregal Lodge. We should all be put in some danger of these penalties. But this is only to be interpreted as inciting to violence on account of this judgment of Mr. Justice Cave in 1886. I suggest to the Minister that the judgment of a Divisional Court in England is rather precarious ground on which to base the fabric of permanent law. Assume an English judge to-morrow gives a ruling in accord with the judgment of Mr. Justice Cave, it will be open to the person whom he rules against to take the case to the Court of Appeal, and it is possible—it is not probable— that the English Court of Appeal or the House of Lords might overrule that decision. That seems to me a rather quaking basis on which to put our permanent Statute. If another form of words could be found dealing with this question of seditious libel we should be on wiser and sounder ground. I do not want the Dáil to think that I object to dealing with people who foment ill-will. I hope I am a believer in good-will. The Minister for Lands was once good enough to say that I would always be on the side of the angels. I hope he was right, both as regards this world and the next, but though I do believe in good-will and, though as far as has lain in me, I have tried to promote good-will in this Dáil and outside it, I do not believe in compulsory good-will. I do not believe in saying: “Be well disposed to everybody or you will go to jail for two years with hard labour.” That, to my mind, is not a practical proposition. The Minister in this section is running a very grave danger; he is running the danger of proscribing opinion. We have heard so much of English judgments, and this law is based so much on English judgments that I do not apologise to the Dáil for quoting an English opinion. Charles James Fox, 130 years ago, when the Bill on which this Bill is based was being discussed in the British House of Commons, said: “In proportion as opinions are open they are necessary and harmless. Opinions become dangerous to the State only when persecution [354] makes it necessary for people to communicate their ideas under the bond of secrecy.” I believe that is right. In trying to define seditious libel we should not run the risk of driving opinion underground into the paths of conspiracy. I would allow even a wide latitude of discussion and debate on these matters. What I would suggest to the Minister is that he should remove most of this Section 5 and substitute a single section which will render punishable any incitement to crime of any kind whatever and allow every other shade of opinion to go free. You ought to allow the widest latitude to political discussion of any kind whatever. I do not ask the Minister to accept amendments he has not seen, for instance: that would not be reasonable; but I hope he will tell me, when replying, what his mind is on this, if he has an open mind, and if he is prepared to reconsider this section. As a matter of fact, Ministers do not need these provisions. Ministers are much too modest, and when they are not too modest they are too lazy. Ministers have only got to go on a public platform and answer people who are making wild and erroneous statements and sweep them away. The Minister for Justice does not need Section 5 as long as he has got the Dun Laoghaire Town Hall. There is grave danger in a wide and far-reaching provision of this kind. The Minister said in his remarks that the gravity of the offence will depend on circumstances and on the discretion of the Executive. That affects the whole attitude of the public mind towards law.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  I think the Deputy misquoted me. I did not say the gravity of the offence depended upon the discretion of the Executive. I said the Executive would, no doubt, exercise a discretion and that the gravity of the offence would depend largely on attendant circumstances.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  That was more or less what I understood, but in the long run the Executive would have to decide whether a man would be prosecuted or not. Is that a sound position to take? Ought not the law to be enforced impartially against everybody; ought not [355] the law to be universal? Once you begin to say: “This man shall go, this man shall be prosecuted,” instantly men begin to impute motives not necessarily rightly. Ministers may have perject justification for their action, but they will never persuade the world that it is so. People will never agree that Deputy Hewat has a right to go free while Deputy Everett is being put in jail.

One of the great sanctions of the law is that it should be believed to be impartial. The law has suffered in this country in the past because it was not believed to be impartial. We are now starting anew with new judges and new law. The sanctions of the law are not the wishes of the Ministers, nor even the votes of the Dáil and the Seanad. The sanctions of the law are, in the first place, impartiality between man and man, and, in the second place, justice and mercy. It is because in the section I have specified I feel that this Bill falls short of these great sanctions that I am in grave doubt whether I can possibly vote for it.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis  Zoom on Darrell Figgis  I agree with the Minister for Justice, at least in the opening statement of his speech, in which he said it was time that some definite law should be laid down governing the attitude of the State towards those who might be guilty of some types of definite action, such as are outlined in this Bill. I go further than the Minister. Disagreeing with this Bill fundamentally, as I do, I think it was necessary from the very beginning to have laid down exactly what we regard as offences against the State, and to mete out for each offence its requisite punishment. I remember saying in this Dáil some time ago that I believed that the best way of treating abnormal circumstances was by laying down what was normal and proceeding as though they were normal. If that had not been done then it could be done now. Some Bill is evidently required in which a certain category of offences would be set down as offences against the State.

I do not agree with Deputy Johnson that the Minister has, at his disposal, [356] all that is required, but I do not agree that he cannot possibly use the laws that have come into his possession by the operation of Article 73 of the Constitution. I think it is necessary for this State to lay down for itself what it regards as offences against the State, to take care to show that they are definite offences, to show that they are definite acts or definite incitement to acts, not the expression of opinion. I would like to say if that were being done that the words that have been adopted throughout all this Bill might have been dispensed with. I am referring to the words “treason” and “sedition.” They are words of no happy history in this country. Moreover, they are words that carry no meaning. I challenge anybody to find a definite answer for the words if he is asked what is the definition of the word, “treason,” and what is the definition of the word “sedition.” If he seeks for a definition, at once memories are called up, very old-time memories. It is perfectly correct that there should be that huge doubt as to the meaning of the word “sedition.” The offence of treason was first created back in the fourteenth century. If Deputies will turn to that particular statute, in its queer old-word phrasing, and read up the attendant circumstances, they will find that the offence of treason was first created so as to make a fiction of crime, so as to bring certain persons within the power of the monarch, persons who had not committed any offence against the statute law. It was to enlarge definitely the powers of the Executive, and create a criminal fiction against certain persons. I am not going to say that all acts that are defined in this particular Bill as acts of treason, are of that character, but I do say that when a word comes down to us with that particular historical association in its own country of origin, to say nothing of the historical associations it has gathered for itself in our own country, which is not its country of origin, then I say the word “treason” and the word “sedition” may very easily have been got rid of, and some other phrase have been used that would have carried a definite meaning for us in our own conditions [357] and in our own circumstances. I suggest, on the question of the use of words, without claiming any resolute or final value for them, that it would have been much better if the words or the phrase “criminal anarchy” had been used, if some definite act of criminal anarchy had been set out in each category. I do not mind what the phrase be, but I do think it desirable to get away from the words “treason” and “sedition.” That is my first criticism against this Bill.

My second criticism is that if such a Bill of such a permanent character were to be brought about only those things should be called offences that were definite acts, which, when committed, brought the individual cognisance of the act in saying that he believes himself, or believes somebody else to be something else. Let them be set out in their categories, let each category have its appropriate punishment, let there be no doubt about the appropriate punishment. When a person has committed a particular offence let that appropriate punishment follow without any question, not necessarily within the discretion of the Executive Council, but as a mere normal consequence.

Let it not be possible for people to be taken by the Government and held for a long number of years against whom serious charges might possibly be proved and some of them tried and some of them not tried. Let there be an absolute consequence. I would go further. Let it be said that if any persons, under such a measure as I am dealing with now, were found guilty of any one definite act against the State— warfare against the State or incitement to warfare against the State—let it be said with regard to all such persons when found guilty that they should henceforward be judged incapable of holding property in the State. There would be a very quick end to any possibility of hostile action against the State in most parts of this country if the persons engaging in such action learn that if found guilty of any such action they would not be any longer able to hold any land in Ireland. I say these things in advance for this reason, that I want to inform the Dáil that I [358] am not objecting to any drastic action in regard to this matter. I think some kind of drastic action is required, but not this Bill.

Deputy Cooper has dealt with Section 1. It was a matter that I had intended to touch upon. I do no more now, seeing that he has dealt with this in detail, than just touch upon it. This provision means that any persons giving hospitality, either through weakness or through misplaced generosity, or through any other motive, to a person who is on the run, shall be liable on conviction to suffer death. The Minister knows himself that it was not very long ago that a good many Deputies went seeking hospitality to persons who differed from them bitterly as to national convictions, and got it in most cases. Got it, why? Because of an instinct in the heart of man and woman that a person who is in danger ought to be befriended. It may be weak, it may be over-generous, but weakness and over-generosity are not crimes that should merit death. That is exactly the penalty that is awarded to them under the provisions of this Bill.

Deputy Johnson, however, has referred, and rightly referred, to this Bill as being most conspicuous for the sections that are anti-Republican Party sections. I remember a Deputy some years ago putting to me, as one person who had read history and studied history to another, a very interesting question. He asked me: “Have you ever considered what would happen if, some time in the future, someone were to maintain that Sir Edward Carson (as he then was) was all along a secret ally of Sinn Fein?” It is a striking proposition, because every act that he had ever done had been done, not with the intention of helping Sinn Fein, but with the effect of giving strength to Sinn Fein. It is notorious that that is so. I know, as one person who then took my place, as I am now proud to think, in Sinn Fein, that we did receive a great deal of what the law might call nurture and sustenance from the attitude that he took.

I want to put another point, somewhat on these lines to this Dáil. If in another 20 or 30 years a writer of history [359] were to maintain the thesis that the Minister for Justice had been the secret ally of the Republican Party there would be a very great deal of colour to be made for that hypothesis. What is happening to-day. Is it not notorious to everybody that that party has been losing ground persistently for some time? Its meetings have dwindled; its enthusiasm has dwindled; its old force and cogency have been ebbing out.

Now comes forward the Minister for Justice and gives them exactly the resuscitation that they were looking for. He comes forward with this Bill that will give them meetings within six or twelve months such as, apart from this Bill, they never could have expected to have held. He will make them, moreover, not only successful meetings, but tinged with some of that old excitement that some of us remember about eight years ago. It was, perhaps, a little before the Minister's time in the movement. His recollection might not have stretched so far back. But there are others of the Ministerial Party who will recollect exactly to what I am referring. They will remember what an incitement it gave to a public meeting, from the point of view of the audience, when a speaker rose up with a note-taker on the platform and was pitting his wit against that note-taker to say all that he had intended to say, and yet put it past that note-taker to have it recorded against him. That is exactly what is going to happen.

I read the statement to which the Minister referred of a Republican speaker last Sunday who said that she proposed to break every separate section in this Bill that she could. In other words, if she is typifying the kind of action that is going to be taken in the future, the Minister is simply going to open internment camps and jails and create a new flock of martyrs in the land. I think there will be another kind of action adopted, action that will go back to that of eight years ago that many Deputies remember, though possibly the Minister for Justice might not. I can hear a chairman at a meeting come forward and saying: “The next speaker who will address the meeting [360] will be, not the President of the Republic, see No. 5 of 25, but the person who we believe to be such.” At once that introduction would capture the audience, simply because they will feel that the law has been outwitted, that there has been a spice of adventure, a spice of excitement. That is exactly what happened before. In 1917 and 1918, as many Deputies know and I know, we would not have got the meetings through the country we did get except for the fact that speakers were going down prepared to pit their wit against the note-takers, and generally pulling it off, until we came to the terrible retort of the mental note-taker.

That is what will happen. Consider, too, the false importance which it gives those persons. Supposing the Minister for Justice himself, with all those qualities that were so pleasingly attributed to him by that quotation from Shakespeare that Deputy Johnson read out, were walking down O'Connell Street and heard somebody from a public platform make claim to be the Great Mogul of the universe. The somewhat aloof and sparse sense of humour of the Minister for Justice would have been reached by such a statement as that. But, if an ordinary citizen heard somebody in O'Connell Street claiming himself to be the Great Mogul of the universe he would say, “The poor fellow is mad,” and he would pass on. But, if he read in the paper the following day that this person had been arrested and thrown into jail and was going to get a State trial for calling himself the Great Mogul, he would come to the conclusion that he was not mad, but that he had something to say for himself, simply because the act of arrest and the fact of his trial would give him an importance that he never otherwise could have claimed.

That is exactly what this Bill is going to do. The Minister may not be an exceptional humorist, but I do believe that he is an amateur theologian of some skill. If he is, I would ask him to read the works of a well-known theologian of many hundreds of years ago known as the Apostle Paul, who said that by the law came a knowledge of sin. Here is the law and we are going to create the sins. People will rise up [361] on every hand, either to riddle this Bill with laughter, or else to defy its provisions and make the Minister reach out his hands to arrest them, when otherwise nobody would have given them any attention, and any attention they had received in times past was quickly passing from them. I am moved to think that the Minister is himself guilty of the offences that he has outlined in this Bill, because there is nothing that will bring the law into contempt more than this Bill if it becomes law.

I have not lately been moving about much and had not much desire for company. But the other day I did happen to be at a public dinner at which, as is usual in these circumstances, a number of ribald and humorous speeches were made after the repast. The Minister might not attend such functions—perhaps he does. They are semi-State functions on occasions, because always a great attempt is made to get Ministers to them—not always successfully. Out of six speeches that were made on that occasion, two of them poked fun at this Bill. One of the speakers said that he hoped nothing that we would say that night would bring him within the provisions of the forthcoming Treason Act. Another turned to a picture—a very gaudy and confused picture that hung in the room—and said he did not know what the picture was intended to describe, but he assumed it to be the first execution under the new Treason Act.

These are citizens who are strong supporters of the Free State. Even their attitude towards this Bill was one of ribaldry and humour. I think the Minister ought to issue instructions that if this Bill is ever enacted, the Minister for Justice should be arrested, because the Minister for Justice has brought the law into contempt, contrary to the provisions of this Bill. I do not think it is upon these lines a final measure is to be laid down. I do not think that this is a wise Bill. I do not think it is a sound Bill. I do not think it is one that will achieve the very purpose that it purports to achieve. I have had it suggested to me —it is a terrible thought, but I think there may be something in it—that this [362] Bill was put forward for another reason. Deputy Johnson suggested three possible reasons; but he did not touch upon another reason for the Bill that is being freely suggested, a reason which, I think, is not altogether wide of the mark. It is that this Bill is intended to stop any moderate Republicans from coming into the Dáil, if they had a mind to do so. There have recently, so I am informed by those who are in a position to know, been many of them of such a mind. If this Bill passes, the Ministry will, at least, have its majority safe.

Mr. P. HOGAN (Clare): Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  There is a statement attributed to the Governor-General, in one of those brilliant and caustic moments of his when he was a member of the Senior Bar, that there was in this country very much law, but very little justice. Whether or not he was responsible for that statement I do not know; but I do know that there was a great deal of truth in it. The Minister responsible for the introduction of this Bill is endeavouring to perpetuate that tradition. If I might make the suggestion, we should change his title from Minister for Justice to that of Minister for Law. In this country we seem to have a knack of forgetting many things that we might remember. This State under which, and in which, we live, is to a good many people not in a permanently fixed form. It is only in a transitory state, in a state of evolution, and to try and impose on this State, which is only in a state of evolution, laws which will endeavour to make it and keep it what it is to-day, is very bad statesmanship, to say the least of it. A very great Irishman said that this was not freedom, but it was freedom to achieve freedom. What the Minister proposes to do in this Bill is to ask from the Dáil freedom to strangle freedom.

If the Treaty was freedom to achieve freedom, and if the Constitution, which is the super-structure of that Treaty, gives us the right of freedom to achieve freedom, what is the meaning of putting those steel shackles upon the thoughts and actions and the freedom of the people who desire more freedom than this present State gives us? The conservatism of this State has, hidden [363] behind it, the sinister hand of England, endeavouring to hold this State as a semi-vassal State. I say that no Irishman has, and no set of Irishmen have, a right to fix the ne plus ultra of Irish nationality or prohibit the advancement of Irish nationality. We may be told you can achieve freedom under the Constitution, but if we look at this Bill we will find there are many things you cannot say about the Constitution. You cannot declare, by published speech or writing, that the Constitution is not the lawful Constitution of Saorstát Eireann. This Bill is not yet law, and I take the liberty of saying that it is not the lawful Constitution of Saorstát Eireann.

We are invited so often in this assembly to face facts that it is just as well we would face facts occasionally. And now, what are the facts? There are over 40 Deputies elected to represent the people and they do not sit in this assembly. They were elected because they did not intend to sit in this assembly. Are the majority of the people whom those Deputies represent not to have any say in the modification or the alteration of the Constitution? Can we deny those people the right to submit a Constitution to the Irish people and say: “This is the Constitution you should have?” Let me put a hypothetical case to the Minister. Suppose you do divide the Irish people so closely as to elect to this assembly a certain number who are willing to sit and elect also a number who are not prepared to sit in this assembly, and that a majority which will give you the right to form a Government depends on one or two people who are outside the two principal political parties, will you form a Government on the strength of those one or two people and then proceed to execute the other Deputies who may be holding a Dáil somewhere else? Will you do that simply because you pass this Bill and simply because you hold the machinery of Government in your hands, having the Army at your control? Do you propose to have a Roman holiday, executing the Deputies, who remain outside, in some barracks in the city? It appears to me that is exactly what you are proposing to do [364] under this Bill. If that is not so, what is it you propose? The Bill gives you power to do that.

You are functioning here because of a majority. If your majority is reduced to a minimum, what do you propose to do then? Will it be executions, or will you hand over the reins of Government? I do not know what the Minister would do if this Bill were passed, and if Deputy Cooper ventured to call Dan Breen, Deputy Breen. I wonder would that be illegal? According to this Bill, I assume it would. I wonder also what the Minister would do if he happened to find, say, in the “Gaelic American” or the “Daily Mail,” or some other such paper, a description of himself as Deputy Kevin O'Higgins, Vice-President of Saorstát Eireann. I may not be a good lawyer, but I have searched the Constitution, and I have not found any such title as Vice-President of Saorstát Eireann.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis  Zoom on Darrell Figgis  Hear, hear.

Mr. HOGAN (Clare): Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Would he proceed to prosecute those people? We find here in sub-section (b) of Section 4: “acts or purports to act or styles himself or allows himself to be styled.” I wonder if the Minister for Justice did allow himself to be styled Vice-President, or has he made provision to suppress that title? If he has not, then he is bringing this Bill into contempt straight away. I do not suppose he would prosecute himself. These things have a method of disappearing at the psychological moment. Under the Bill, too, I note that you may not do certain things outside Saorstát Eireann. In other words, the Minister for Justice would follow, prosecute, and execute the Pilgrim Fathers. He would have no use for them, and could not tolerate their creating a Republic thousands of miles away from the heart of the British Commonwealth. I would remind the Minister of a few other things. In this country we cannot consider ourselves in the normal state of fixing the form or the shape that our nationality will take at any time in the near future. We cannot say that thus far we must go and no farther. We cannot say that because certain influences are at work there can be no preparation and no [365] evolution, or revolution of the mind that we hear so much about. We cannot say that when the hand that is at present behind all the conservatism of this country becomes palsied, the people will not be prepared to do what, in their hearts, they think is the proper thing to do in the direction of a state of government that they believe should be in power in this country.

I suppose the Minister will tell me that is more or less visionary; but he should remember the dreams of to-day are the realities of to-morrow. The visions of to-day are the practical politics of to-morrow, and all that is necessary to make a revolution respectable is success. Possibly, if the revolution of 1920-21 was not successful, we might to-day be erecting, or considering the erection of, a monument to the Minister for Justice as a patriot and not as a lawyer. This Bill should be taken very seriously and considered very seriously. It has implications so far-reaching and so terrible in their results that we might very well pause now to consider whether it is desirable to put it forward. There has been in this country too much consideration of war and military methods and things connected therewith. We ought to revert as early as possible to ordinary law and ordinary consideration.

Such a course as this Bill proposes would, in my opinion, rekindle in the hearts of the Irish nation, or at least in the hearts of some of its people, what was very nearly dying out. It will mean poking up the embers of hatred and aggression, which were very nearly quenched. If that is what the Minister desires, let him go on with the Bill. If he wishes a peaceable state in the country, and if he wishes to have the country brought back to normal conditions, he will drop this Bill immediately.

General MULCAHY: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  Apart from the hypothetical difficulties which Deputy Hogan would ask us to solve in connection with this Bill, I think that even in the passive days of ten years' hence, which Deputy Johnson foretells, Deputies would face with difficulty the consideration of a Bill of this kind, especially at such short notice. We are faced with the discussion of a Bill [366] which we only heard of a week ago, and which we have only had in our hands for six days. The Minister has put it to us that the Bill contains matter that may be regarded as axioms of law, bearing very definite relation to our Constitution so far as the safety of the State and the liberty of the individual are concerned. I think that even in passive days we would require a great deal of notice to deal adequately with a Bill of this particular importance. The Bill has been called a Treason Bill, and a very considerable amount of play has been made in the Press and elsewhere of the fact that we find it necessary at this time to introduce a Treason Bill.

The Minister feels that it is a rather serious matter that letters would be written to outside people from persons signing themselves Ministers of an alleged Government and pretending to have power of government, and that it is a serious matter for the credit of the State to have these letters sent outside. Bearing in mind the necessity for maintaining the credit of the State, I think it would be fair to the Dáil and the country that we would have had a statement of the facts so far as they are in the possession of the Executive Council as to what exactly is the amount of usurpation of government in this country at present. What, in fact, is being done by any person in the country in the way of usurpation of government, and what, in fact, is being done in the country in the matter of usurpation of government from the point of view of police or military action? In view of the publicity given to the fact that we find it necessary to pass this Bill it is only to the credit of the country that we should have a formal statement of facts for the information of the Dáil and the country. So far as I have gathered from the Minister's statement, he has not made any announcement of that kind. The only facts that he has brought out are that some alleged Minister for Agriculture wrote a letter and that there is a certain amount of drilling going on. I would ask that we get more specific information with regard to the actual facts of the case. I feel that it bears very much [367] on the credit of the country that we should have a clear statement of these facts.

In the matter of the Bill, in the short time which I have had for its consideration, I am convinced that there are certain sections that we could and should pass. We have had to deal with the attempted usurpation of government and with the attempt by force to overthrow the State. We have dealt with them, and I think it is very necessary to have it made perfectly clear, in case it is not clear, that those who are responsible for the State and those who represent the people are going to be as steadfast in the future in protecting the State as they were in the past. On going into the Bill, I find that there are only four sections which I am at present prepared to accept as a basis for enacting a law to deal with these particular matters. The first of these is Section 1, with the reservation attached by Deputy Major Cooper. I feel that in any amendment to that section not only should there be an allowance for a smaller punishment in connection with the minor types of what is called treason, but that there ought to be a possibility of inflicting a smaller punishment than that in the case of the actual levying of war.

If war is levied in the country against the State we do not require to have an Act, and I think it would be objectionable to have an Act, making it obligatory that persons found guilty of these offences would be put to death. I am prepared to accept Sections 9, 10 and 11, those dealing with secret societies in the army and police forces and, with certain amendments, those that deal with seditious documents. I think it would be shorter if I referred to these matters section by section. In regard to Section 2, the Minister yesterday stated that it might strike people as being a very real and sharp departure from that code and outlook which had become traditional. I am against the passing of a measure of the type indicated in that Section because I am not prepared in the circumstances to introduce a new principle involving ten years' penal servitude or two years' imprisonment. Section 3 contains certain [368] matters which are, no doubt, rather plausible, but, when the Minister told us yesterday that this Section was taken from the Felony Act of 1848, I began my more crystallised objection to it in a sentimental frame of mind. We heard from Deputy Johnson the circumstances under which the Felony Act of 1848 was passed. I am against that whole clause, except the Minister can show the offences which he wants to stop, and can show that the English people were not able to govern their own country properly and keep it in a proper state of order without something like it. So far as we know, they did govern their country properly down to 1848 without an enactment of this kind and, so far as we know, they would have continued to do it longer if they had not to deal with John Mitchel and had not to deal with him in Ireland.

The Minister admits in regard to Section 4 that exception may be taken to the wording. Here we come to this fact, namely, that we have not any evidence that there is in Ireland at present anybody attempting actually to usurp any function or any power of the Government. Unless the Minister can point to such usurpation and to a more definite usurpation of powers, such as the writing of letters and the printing of certain stationery, I do not think that we ought to meddle with anything like the provision such as that proposed in this section. The matter is bound up with Section 5, and the Minister stated that he would like to hear a case for the liberty which he wishes to suppress in that section. If the Minister has in mind the speeches of Irregular leaders and the printed matter of the Irregular Press, I think he will find, if he keeps his eyes wide open, that the visible effects of these speeches and of that Press provide a very solid argument for their being left alone. In the summer of 1921 some of us passed late one night through Cookstown and fell in with a patrol of Royal Ulster Constabulary. After getting the one member of our party who had a northern accent to reply to the questions put to us, he was asked where we were going, and, thinking that he had better mention a place where the R.U.C. man [369] would probably be going, he said: “We are going to Kilrea.” As we were allowed go our way the policeman remarked in a very northern accent, “Have you no better place to go to than that?” I think to-day, when people are being asked by certain people to follow them back to 1917, there is a shout all round the country from those who know, and even from those who do not know, “Have they no better time to go back to than that?”

I do not know whether the Minister wants to make them more ridiculous by raising the shout “Back to 1848.” I feel that public opinion and the public questioning that are growing up around these people, against whom this clause is directed, are more potent weapons to take the harm out of them than any legislation we may pass. With regard to sub-section (3), I feel that we want to invite the fullest possible discussion with regard to the Constitution and with regard to the Oireachtas and the other House thereof. Our people are only awakening to their national and international position and to the supreme powers of Government which are centred in the Oireachtas. I feel that we want to give the fullest possible consideration to our Constitution and Oireachtas, and I feel that in that discussion, which we want and which is growing about these matters, if there are any matters of disaffection or discontent we can afford to let them creep in to so valuable a discussion.

The Minister did not touch upon Section No. 6, but I am prepared to be impressed with anything he has to say. Section 7, I feel, should be a police regulation. A police regulation would fully cover the matter and I think that it is only looking for offences to make treasonable and to make seditious to put into the present Bill a clause dealing with the holding of meetings within a certain distance of the Oireachtas premises. That could be quite easily controlled by a police regulation.

On the question of military training, I feel that what would really require control at the present time is provided for in your Arms Act, and that that section should be radically changed if [370] any vestige of it remains at all. I would ask the Ministers of the Executive Council to remember what it was to meet and drill and train and go out and have military manocuvres, to try and go back to the days when they had to do those things, and see whether there were not many more potent things for putting a stop to that, or making it difficult, than legislation, and whether legislation was not rather an incentive to young men to go out and drill and train. These are the principal remarks that I have to make on the Bill at this particular stage.

I am prepared to support the Second Reading of the Bill, because of the four sections I mentioned. We are dealing with the Bill, I must say, at a very great disadvantage, because of the short notice that we received of it and because, at the present moment, we are at a falling curve from the point of view of those tendencies that the Minister wants to get after. Our task is, therefore, made more difficult. I fully appreciate what Deputy Johnson says with regard to tendencies. The tendencies that we feel serious objection to here to-day are tendencies that are at a point on a falling curve and that show every sign of not being there in the near future. There is one other point that I desire to refer to. We do not want legislation at the present moment that will make us turn our police forces and our administrative powers after every second person who cares to put his thumb at his nose at us. It is very noticeable throughout the country that responsible people feel that our present machinery of administration, whether of police or of District Justices, are not tuned up to the point of dealing with the ordinary crime and the ordinary work that is usual for them to deal with in the effective manner that would be desired. In different parts of the country it is pointed out that certain types of cases have been let out on bail that were not bailable cases, certain types of offenders have got two months' imprisonment when they should have got two years, and certain types of cases have not been followed up at all. These people feel that that is the case simply because our administrative machinery [371] is not strong enough to deal with things that are there to be dealt with. When we strengthen that machinery we will develop effectively public approval and the civic spirit that is required. I would suggest to the Executive Council that they should carefully examine the matter and see whether, if they had those statutory powers that they seek, they would have the administrative machinery to get after those things that they cannot get after now, and whether it is wise to turn aside from the present very important work, which is only by degrees being got effectively after, in order to get after things that, if left alone, may not require legislation here.

There are, as I say, axioms of law such as the Minister has suggested here. There are axioms that require to be dealt with by legislation here, but I am sorry we have to deal with them at the present time. I am sorry that we have to deal with them with such little time for preparation or consideration. I consider that the Bill should be supported, though on the numerically flimsy ground of four sections out of eleven.

MINISTER for EXTERNAL AFFAIRS (Mr. Fitzgerald): Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  It seems to me that the objections to this Bill in principle, as distinct from the suggestions as to alterations in detail, have been irrelevant. For instance, the last speaker, Deputy Mulcahy, seems to think it is a very vital matter, in considering this Bill, to know the amount of usurpation of Government that is going on at the present time.

General MULCAHY: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  If any.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  If any. I think it is irrelevant as to whether any usurpation is going on, or as to what extent it is going on. The arguments put up against the principle of this Bill, as distinct from the details, could all have been used when Moses brought the Tables of the Law down from the mountains. The people of Israel could have said: “There has not been a murder committed here for the past twelve months; no man has taken God's name in vain for the past five years.” Would the principle of the Ten Commandments [372] have been unnecessary, would the Ten Commandments have been less a reality, or would they have been less vital on that account? The major part of the objection to this Bill is that it is a Bill that is open to ridicule. That is pre-eminently so in the case of the Ten Commandments. When Deputy Figgis said that with law came the knowledge of sin, he might also have said that with law came the knowledge of humour. Most of our jokes deal with the breaking of the Ten Commandments. We have the joke about the drunken man, the joke about marriage, and so on.

The need of this Bill was brought out clearly, to my mind, by the remarks of Deputy Hogan. The people of this country for many years were under an alien domination, and they resented and resisted that alien domination. As far as the treason laws were objectionable in this country, they were objectionable because they aimed at maintaining the domination of an alien power in this country. The present Bill is based upon the fundamental fact that the people of Ireland are the people who have the right to govern here. After this body, created by the declared will of the majority of the people of the Free State, has made a constitution, Deputy Hogan gets up and says it is an unlawful constitution. That is the very doctrine of anarchy. As long as men in the position of Deputies get up here with their minds so clouded and with such an absolute lack of clarity of thought as regards the position in this country and preach such anarchic doctrine as that, I say that it is perfectly clear, whether the functions of Government are being usurped or are not being usurped, that the Government must have a machine to its hand ready to deal with the interpretation of that point of view in action. As long as that mistiness of mind prevails, we must be prepared to have it interpreted in action. A Deputy gets up here and says: “You may say this is the Dáil, but a minority—a minority little short of the majority— meets somewhere else and calls itself a Dáil.” He talks about “two Dáils.” There can be only one Dáil in the Saorstát, and if the minority, which is [373] almost equal to the majority, is so criminal as to try to set up a separate Government, when they have only to get a few more people, if they claim to represent the people who elected them, to be actually the Government of this country and to take over the army and all the machinery of government of this country in a perfectly constitutional way—if this minority, instead of taking that course, prefers to preach the doctrine of revolution, I certainly say that the Dáil, representing a majority, even if the majority be brought into operation by only two Deputies, has a duty to take action against the hostile body.

The present Bill is just based on common law and ordinary ethics. The people of this country elected a Government, and when the people of this country declare their will the Government must have the means of enforcing the will of the people. Anybody who goes against the law in this country is going against the people of this country, and instead of the people bringing in this Bill being in the position of the British Government, the people who break the law under this Bill are actually in the position of the British Government. We quite rightly fought against the British Government, and this Bill gives this Government power, quite rightly and in an analogous way, to take action against those other enemies of the people of this country—the minority which attempts to impose its will on the majority of the people.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Would the Minister take an example of the period when the minority in Ireland fought against the majority in Ireland?

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  I cannot quite think of the period that the Deputy is speaking of.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  1916.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  The position I have always held with regard to that was that there had been no election for a long time. An entirely new situation had arisen. A certain number of us— very few—came to that decision. We felt morally certain that the Irish people had a certain attitude of mind, and, believing we were right, we took [374] action on it. I argued the matter with a certain Deputy I heard referred to by Deputy Figgis as Mr. de Valera, and my own attitude to that always was that we took action on the assumption that we represented the people of Ireland. We had not the machinery to find out whether we did or did not. But we took that action subject to the fact that we must recognise that we had taken wrong action if the Irish people failed to raitfy that action afterwards. The justification of 1916 came in 1918, when the Irish people said: “Yes, you did interpret our point of view rightly.” If the Irish people had said the contrary, we would admit that at that stage we acted in good faith. but that we actually acted wrongly.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Suppose they say the same thing in 1925?

General MULCAHY: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  It is very important to bear in mind that the Volunteers in 1916 did not make war on the Irish people.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  Or even a minority of the Irish people.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  They acted against the expressed idea of the people.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I think the expressed view of the people was the other way. I think the Deputy will find, if he looks up the returns of the only contested election that took place about that time—I think it took place in Offaly—that the majority party was beaten in that constituency.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  That was only one constituency. Take South Dublin at the last election.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  That was the only constituency in which a vacancy occurred at the time. I might say that in South Dublin the result was not against the Government. It was a personated election. That is admitted by those who won it.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Perhaps the Minister for External Affairs will deal with 1848 or 1867?

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  Perhaps I might digress, as I have been asked to do. [375] The 1916 Insurrection was justified, because it was against an alien domination in the country and because it was entered upon in the moral certainty that those making the decision interpreted the wishes of the Irish people.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  That is a fine argument to put into Mr. de Valera's mouth.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  We have had an election in 1922, and presumably we will have another election in 1926. The opportunity is given the people to declare their will and to elect whatever Government they like in a way that they were not given before and in such a way as to make it criminal for any people in this country, whether they have the views of Deputy Hogan or not, to attempt by any but constitutional means to establish a Government for this country. The other doctrine I consider the doctrine of anarchy. I admit that we would have acted as anarchists in 1916 if the Irish people had failed to ratify the action that we then took in 1918.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  The anarchist always claims that he is voicing the opinions of the people or interpreting what he believes to be the mind of the majority of the people.

Mr. O'CONNELL:  Those whom this Bill is directed against may claim that they will be justified later on.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  It depends on your being justified later on.

Mr. O'CONNELL:  But you will be prosecuted in the meantime.

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  We were justified later on and there is a distinction there. What does the doctrine that the Deputies are preaching now mean? Do we stand behind democracy as a whole or admit that the Constitution in this country is a humbug? Are we to say, after all, that everybody who does what he likes or whatever he wills in this country is justified. I say that is the doctrine of anarchy that is being preached here. As long as there are people, particularly responsible people, in this country who can get up and put [376] forward a doctrine like that it is perfectly evident that we need to combat it and we need to educate them a Bill like the Treason Bill.

Mr. WILSON: Information on Richard Wilson  Zoom on Richard Wilson  Consideration of a Bill of this kind at this particular time gives the people whom I represent a feeling of great annoyance. It is a Bill that is ill-timed; it is not required and it really is the act of men who are looking for trouble. I have always respected the Executive but I never looked upon them in the same way as the Minister has portrayed them now. He has represented them in the position of Moses who was sent by God——

Mr. FITZGERALD: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  On a point of personal explanation, I did not suggest that the Ministers were like Moses who was sent by God. I merely suggested that the doctrine of loyalty to the State is as fundamental ethics as the ten Commandments given to Moses.

Mr. WILSON: Information on Richard Wilson  Zoom on Richard Wilson  I will not wander into that question further, nor will I go on to the question of justification by faith. This is not a religious debate; it is a matter which is of vital necessity to the country and it is upsetting the credit of the country. It is a foolish thing to have brought this Bill forward when things were turning. When this law was passed in 1848, by Britain, Europe was in a state of anarchy; there were revolutions in Austria and other places. There was revolution in this country. The British Government, in fear, passed that statute in 1848. I maintain that we have a state of peace at the moment and that such law is unnecessary in this country. It is time enough when the trouble comes to meet it. Do not meet trouble half way. A good many of the people whom I represent look upon this Bill as a necessary evil, but there was machinery sufficient to carry on the country, and everyone who reads and talks about it looks on Section 2 as a reversion to what we were trying to pass away from—training people as informers. You know what is thought of informers in this country. It is not right to ask Deputies who are supposed to be free and to be representing a free people to pass a Bill of this nature.

This Bill is much more drastic than [377] the Bill of 1848. A certain time was given in that Bill within which the words spoken had to be sworn to. Five days or six days after the words were spoken they had to be sworn to before a proper authority. Ten days after that a writ had to be issued. You have no machinery of that nature in this Bill. Now, a God-sent Ministry, a Ministry born of revolution, who have gone through a revolution and who fear that they are going to be swept out of the way by a counter revolution, want to save themselves. I maintain that is a wrong attitude of mind. The people of this country are satisfied with their Government; they are satisfied that the Constitution is right and that they must have a Government, and it is a very foolish thing to be asking, as I said, for trouble. I as representing the farmers, am compelled to oppose this measure, and in doing so I am not injuring the credit of the State. I am maintaining that the people who probably have the greatest stake in the country believe that the credit of the State will be saved by not passing it.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I was wondering, listening to Deputy Wilson, whether if some day or night a person were to go to his residence and on his way to his residence destroy some of his cattle, and go further and get as far as his residence and take out some important pillar of his house, if a neighbour of his was passing by at the time and saw the man and identified him, what Deputy Wilson's opinion would be of that neighbour who, seeing the evil-doer at his work, refused to disclose his identity because he would be thought to be an informer? I notice that the Deputy smiles.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Does the President not make any difference between a political offence and an ordinary criminal offence?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  If the Deputy will allow me I will deal with that in a moment. Deputy Wilson, I observe, smiles at that and Deputy Baxter is very eager to prompt him.

Mr. BAXTER: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  The passing of this Bill will not make him give information.

[378]The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  The point is not whether it would make him give information or not. The point is what Deputy Wilson's opinion would be of the evil-doer and what his opinion would be of the neighbour who refused to disclose his identity. That was an evil act committed against an individual. Deputy Johnson says it is not a political act. I agree, but what is a political act? A political act of that character against the State is an attempt to bring down the State, to subvert it and to overthrow its authority, to wrest from the people the rights that have been won for them during the last few years. And those are the rights that are sought to be safeguarded by this Bill. It may be ill-considered. There may be sections in it which in debate may require to be altered, but the real principle of the Bill is to place the State upon a secure and stable foundation, and to see that no evil-doer, no matter how highly idealistic his notions may be, by force or through other than lawful means which are prescribed within the Constitution, will overthrow the State or attempt to subvert its authority; and that persons knowing that these acts are not lawful and against the State, treacherous and treasonable, will afford to the State that protection that he is afforded himself. Of course most of the laws that are passed here or that are about to be passed here, are open to certain irregular analogies. There is no comparison between a person who undertakes his duty as a citizen to the State, in disclosing information of vital importance to the State, and a person who would disclose information about the patriots of this country when they were endeavouring to wrest this country from the foreigner's control, none whatever. If a citizen is entitled to get from his neighbour information to apprehend evil-doers that attack an individual, the State has exactly the same claim if an evil-doer endeavours to subvert it. If there be a defect in our Constitution, if the laws in connection with our electoral system are defective, if there are infirmities in them there is a method of dealing with them, and only one method, and that is through the institution that [379] has been set up and sanctioned by a majority of the people's votes. I think that Deputy Johnson would be surprised if he knew the numbers of young men who were in the Volunteers pre-1916.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  I do not think I would.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  The numbers went into six figures. That is not generally known, but it is a fact. But Deputy Johnson, too, excludes from his consideration some vital matters, one that this country had been told that there was an Act on the Statute Book giving a Parliament to the whole of this country.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  The President seems to be under the impression that I am objecting to the action of the people of that time. I am not, but I am justifying the possibilities of political action to overthrow an oppressive government. Even if appointed and agreed to by a majority, if it is oppressive, the right of rebellion still remains.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  No right of rebellion remains in a case like that, none whatever. I dispute that right, and the very persons who are engaged in it at the present moment, a couple of years ago were just as strong as I am now against anybody objecting to such a right of those who were in a minority to rebel. One would think that the word “treason” is only known in this country in respect of acts against the British Government. I heard it from the years 1919 up to the year 1921; I heard it in our Council where certain acts were regarded as treasonable to Ireland at that time. Is that fact denied?

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis  Zoom on Darrell Figgis  Am I not correct in saying that the President heard the word used by a gentleman who does not know the analysis of any word he ever used?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  That may be, but that is the gentleman who is reported to have said that there was a constitutional method of settling our differences. He never gave an explanation of what is meant by constitutional methods. I think this Bill endeavours [380] to show what we regard, anyhow, as unconstitutional methods. I think Deputy Johnson would admit, if he were in our position, the position of being trustee for the people of this country, that he would be bound to consider, and introduce a Bill which would set out certain things which would be regarded as treasonable.

I wonder if Deputies have considered since this Bill has been circulated what the possible position of a Parliament in this country would be in the event of an armed outbreak at any time in the future. Deputies may say that there is no likelihood of that. If there be no likelihood, this Bill is not going to do any harm—none whatever. If it is never going to come, there will be no necessity for the Bill being put into operation. If it does come, there is vital need for this measure. For what reason? For the reason that under the laws of this State, passed by the representatives of the people, there will be power to bring those people to justice— to the people's justice; not under an Act passed by some other Parliament, over which we had no control and in the making of which we had no voice. Having by unconstitutional methods endeavoured to get their way—that is exactly a position these people would not like—they would like to be prosecuted under Acts that were passed in another country by another Government—like it very much. The crown of martyrdom cannot rest on their heads as long as we have a measure passed by our own representatives, in our own Parliament, which will make them responsible for such acts.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Now, we are coming to it.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I think the Deputy was well aware of it long before this.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  I have not heard the admission so candidly put before.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  The Deputy knew it well. I do not think it is necessary for me to develop that particular point. I think the Dáil is sufficiently impressed by it. Have we a right to have a Treason Act? Is it denied that the State should have a Treason Act of its own?

[381]Mr. BAXTER: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  Is it a necessity?

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  “All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient.”

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  Quite true, but if we are going to govern a country only according to expediency it will be very badly governed. I think I heard it remarked from the other side of the Dáil an hour or two ago that there should be one law for all the people.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  That is expediency.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  That you will have one law for all the people in the country if you take the line of expediency? I do not think so. Another argument was used against the measure by Deputy Cooper, whose criticism I have very great respect for. He spoke of the case of a mother who would harbour her own son when he was on the run. In my experience I never heard of a prosecution of a mother for harbouring her own son. I have, however, come across cases of super-patriots who never took up a gun, who were never out on the hills for a single night, who never took any part in trying to establish a native Government in this country, but whose houses, immediately the civil war started, were a harbour for people engaged in trying to subvert the authority of this Parliament. Some of those houses so used were shut against those who were making a struggle in this country against an alien Government. Is it right that an individual should open his door to evildoers and harbour them?

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Is it sufficiently serious to deserve the penalty of death?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  Sometimes, yes.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Not invariably.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I do not think that one would be able to say invariably.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  In the Bill it is.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  Even for acts of treason, even for persons engaged in them, that invariably the penalty would be death, but it would be there.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis  Zoom on Darrell Figgis  It is in the [382] Bill. I put it to the President that the judgment must be one of death.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  That is in the Bill. If there be an infirmity with regard to that it can be settled If the Deputy is inclined to put down an amendment to remedy an infirmity of that sort it will get fair consideration.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis  Zoom on Darrell Figgis  If the President is not able to plumb the depths of the Vice-President's mind, whom he sees every day, how can I be expected?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I suggest that the Deputy should try. He is not beyond plumbing the depths of the Minister's mind.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  The Government proposition is to punish by death.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  Precisely; from experience; from knowledge of what has gone on in the past.

Mr. T.J. O'CONNELL: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  I thought we were forgetting the past.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  From the experience of the past we usually take measures for the security of the future.

Mr. MORRISSEY: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  Are we to understand from the President that the Government is afraid we are going to have another rebellion within the next twelve months or two years?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  The Government is afraid of nothing; certainly not afraid of that—not the least bit.

Mr. MORRISSEY: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  Does the Government expect it?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  No, it does not; nor does the Government expect that it has only got to legislate for six months, or a year, or two years. The Government is convinced that they must draw up a list of acts which are treasonable in the light of the experience they have gained. We have been able to put down quite a considerable number. If there are others necessary for the safety of the State that are not in this measure we will be open to receive suggestions.

Mr. MORRISSEY: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  What is the urgency?

[383]The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I remember during the late civil strife receiving a letter one morning apparently from an elderly woman. She complained that one of her sons who was in the National Army had been wounded and that another son was on the run. She asked me a very straight question. It was: “If you catch my son who is on the run will you execute him, and if you do, what are you going to do to the people who ordered him out?”

Mr. CONLAN: Information on John Conlan  Zoom on John Conlan  She was a Roman matron.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  That poor woman had my very sincere sympathy. Who ordered that boy out? That is rather an important question. When it is said that there is a provision in this Bill dealing with a pretended government, and other things like that, I recall not only that letter, but many others, inquiring what was going to be done with the people who were really responsible for promoting civil strife. Quite a number lost their lives, were either executed or shot. But the principals in a large number of cases got off scot free.

Mr. P. HOGAN (Clare): Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Is this to get at them?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  This is to ensure that in future it will be possible for the State to get after the people who should bear the blame. It is unfair that there should be dupes. That was the burden of a number of communications I got during the civil strife. Certain people from easy chairs, perhaps from the houses of wealthy people, would send their instructions as to what should be done and the poor dupes suffered for it, if they were caught. The gentleman sending out the instructions, the pretended Governor, or General or President, or whatever he called himself, escaped. It is very easy for them to say that they have to consider certain things through a wall of glass, that they have been unable to do anything during such a terrible time as that. That is not justice. It is the business of Parliament to see that in its Acts it does justice to all the people. It is a responsibility that we cannot shelve. If the State were faced, even in fifty years' time with civil strife, it ought [384] to have, under some of its enactments at any rate, power to bring to justice the real conspirators. We are not looking for anybody's blood under this Bill, but we have a responsibility to the State to safeguard the Constitution. If there be defects in it, they can be remedied; but not by unlawful means, not by force, and not by endeavouring to impress upon the multitude that they must vote according as a minority has power to terrorise them to vote.

Mr. BAXTER: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  Listening to the President, one would think that he had the feeling that really there were not sufficient executions and that this Bill was a roundabout means of getting at those who were left.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I would like to disabuse the Deputy's mind of that idea.

Mr. BAXTER: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  The President has rehashed the occurrences of the last couple of years. I would have thought that he, as well as the people of the country, in part, at least, would be glad to forget the past, and be pleased that there was a change, no matter who might claim credit for the change. It would be better if we all accepted the point of view that there is a changed condition of things in the country, and that there is no necessity for a measure like this. The President speaks of the necessity for drawing up a list of offences that might be scheduled as treason. I have just come back from the country, and have heard what the people are talking about. There is no desire in the country for such a measure as this. The Dáil would be spending its time better if it tried to legislate for problems that should have been dealt with long ago. There are many such problems that we ought to face. This particular problem is not confronting the State at present. As Deputy Wilson has said, it is time enough to face trouble when you meet it; there is no use in meeting it half way.

In this Bill there is reference to bringing the Dáil into contempt. The Dáil will bring itself into contempt if it passes the Bill. It will deserve the contempt of the people. I can assure Ministers that many of their own supporters [385] are being driven into the other camp because of this measure being brought in. The one argument that the Minister has given the people who are opposing the Dáil is the argument contained in this Bill. That is the argument that is being advanced in the constituencies why this Ministry should be turned out. I come here to tell the Dáil what my opinion is. The Minister may not have any respect for it. It is not my opinion alone. It is the opinion of the ordinary people that this Bill is ill-timed, and that the situation confronting us does not demand such a measure. We can await developments in the future.

Is there not the possibility, if the issue is put to the test to-day, that the Government of the day might be turned out constitutionally and another body would take their place? Is not that issue being put to the test to-day in the constituencies?

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  No.

Mr. BAXTER: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  The President says it is not. I say that it is.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  It is not.

Mr. BAXTER: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  I say it is being put to the test and I have had experience of it. Everybody is getting a fair chance to take a decision on this matter, and a decision is being taken on it down the country. I say that to a certain extent this action now is trying to forestal the decision of the people. The President and the Ministry will not put that as an issue in the country to-day and make it an issue for the return of their own candidates in any of the pending bye-elections. I want to urge upon the Dáil that it is in the interests of the State to reject this measure. Beyond all doubt the passing of this Bill by the Dáil will be a message, not only to the people of this country, but to outsiders, that this State is in danger to-day from unseen forces that, I say, do not exist but only seem to exist in the minds of the Ministry. The Ministry want to make out that danger exists where danger does not exist. That is their pretence. I am not professing to believe, nor am I saying, in the words of the Minister for Justice, that all is lovely in the garden. I am [386] not going to say that things are worse than they really are. It is not right for the Ministry to say that either.

If the Ministry are as keen in regard to the stability and credit of the State as they profess to be, I would advise them not to take any action that could only be interpreted by everybody, their supporters and others, as indicating that the State is in danger and that they have to protect it by a measure such as this. This measure is termed in the country the New Coercion Bill. The Minister may feel that there is a necessity for it, and there may be Deputies who feel there is a necessity also to have some measure like this in the cupboard. But I say that it was in the cupboard it should have been placed, and it should have been kept there for at least another little bit. No doubt there may be some necessity for compiling a list of offences that might be termed treason; but we should have waited for another year or two, or perhaps for another ten, as Deputy Mulcahy said, before taking any action in that respect.

General MULCAHY: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  You mean Deputy Johnson.

Mr. BAXTER: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  I think Deputy Mulcahy repeated Deputy Johnson's words.

General MULCAHY: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  No.

Mr. BAXTER: Information on Patrick Francis Baxter  Zoom on Patrick Francis Baxter  We got on very well up to the present without a Treason Bill, and I believe we could do without it for another little bit. I would urge on the Dáil to decide now that it does not want this Bill, because the country does not want it.

Mr. McKENNA: Information on Patrick McKenna  Zoom on Patrick McKenna  I rise to support the suggestion for the rejection of this measure. After what amounts to a de profundis has been uttered by so many Deputies, I think I will not take up the time of the Dáil to any great extent. My words will largely amount to saying “Amen,” because I think the Bill is dead. The objection I have to this measure, like the objection that many other Deputies have towards it, is that I do not believe there is an exceptional state of crime or outrage to warrant its introduction. We have had [387] from the mouths of Ministers, from different platforms in the country, statements to the effect that the Government has succeeded in restoring law and order. For that we are grateful. Those of us who mix with the people in the country observe the marked change that has been brought about. At the present time the country is practically free from crime. Even the Minister for Justice, in the very able statement that he made when introducing the Bill, could only point to two things wrong in the country. He said there was a certain amount of illegal drilling going on.

Mr. EVERETT: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  Boy scouts.

Mr. McKENNA: Information on Patrick McKenna  Zoom on Patrick McKenna  I think the Government has detached itself from all Parliamentary usage by adopting the course they have taken in introducing this measure. If there is trouble in the country the Government has its remedy. The Minister could form a Committee of the Dáil and leave before that Committee a statement of the existing facts. A report would come from that Committee and the Government could place the existing condition of affairs before the House, and indicate that they would need some alterations in the law. The Government being fortified with the opinion of the Committee, I am sure the Dáil would listen to whatever remedy was proposed. I do not believe that a Bill so insulting, so wounding, so exasperating, and so utterly in contrast with the lessons we have learned from Irish history, should ever have been introduced. I never believed a Bill of that type would be introduced in a National Parliament. It makes my blood run cold, and I may say that I have as red and as fresh blood in my veins as courses through the veins of and other Deputy.

After 121 years under British Rule, and after four years of an Irish Parliament, it is hard to say that the only way we are able to rule this country is by continuing the old practice of cobbling at Coercion Acts. That is the position of affairs and I say that it is a very sad admission, not only for our people at home, but for those of the race that are scattered over various [388] parts of the world. What will be said to-morrow in America and what will be said at home? It will be that the Dáil is legislating, not for the nation, but against a man and a party. Instead of a Treason Bill or a Coercion Bill we should have a Conciliation Bill introduced, and some effort should be made to reconcile all sections of our countrymen. I said here before, and I repeat it now, that we are the laughing stock of the world. Are we to go on eternally with this hatred, this enmity, this ill-will, this revenge and this return to Shylock's policy? No attempt is made to reconcile our countrymen. During the past few years we have had sad chapters in the history of the country. Are we going to provoke those men to make another attempt at a rising? I do not believe they are so foolish; I do not believe that they will ever attempt it. They have stated so, and I was one of the first Deputies to accept their word of honour when they said that so far as they were concerned they were not going to resort to arms any more. Events proved that I was right. The jails and the camps were at one period full of them.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that they do resort to arms, they know very well that legislation similar to what was introduced before can be introduced again to deal with them. I honestly believe that if any attempt were made to extend the hand of friendship to them, in a short time there would be unity restored. They have not forgotten some of the lessons they learned when they took arms up against the State. The crack of the rifle is in their ears, the rifle that sent some of their poor unfortunate dupes to face their Creator. They have not forgotten the wails of the women and children, whose shrieks are still in their ears. The remembrance of the prison camps and the cells is still with them. Spectres of their victims stalk through the land.

Do you think men with memories like those are going to plunge themselves and their families into conditions of warfare such as were created eighteen months or two years ago? I do not think so and I, for one, am prepared [389] to extend the hand of friendship to those men. I hold that if people in this country are to-day lying on a bed of down, they should not be driven to lie on a bed of frozen earth. Liberty was meant by God Almighty to fan their faces as well as the faces of other subjects of the State. Pitt and Castlereagh, when they were planning the infamous Act of Union, goaded the people into an insurrectionary movement. A good many people are of opinion that this Bill is simply a challenge to certain men, and it is meant to provoke them into another conflict with the armed forces of the State.

I do not like to speak too strongly or to raise my voice too loudly on this matter; but it is hard to speak in measured tones when one observes a National Parliament following in the footsteps of our alien rulers. God knows we have had enough sad memories of the many Coercion Acts passed by the British. I thought that the first thing that would happen under a native Parliament would be the bringing of the Statutes of Edward III, and other English monarchs into the Museum. Instead of that we see them dressed up in another form, and I suppose Edward III. will now be Kevin I. It is time for us to turn from that type of legislation. Deputy Baxter has told the gentlemen on the Ministerial benches what the feeling of the people is throughout the country. Those of us who have been mixing amongst the people know their feelings well. They do not want the time of the Dáil to be taken up, as it has been, with measures such as this. I believe that as a result of this evening's work, measures of this type will be dropped, at least until they are necessary, and that we will be settling down to legislation of a beneficial nature to the country.

I believe there are sufficient Deputies here broad-minded enough, generous and manly enough, no matter whether or not they are on the Government benches, who will vote against this Bill. Let it go down to posterity that this Bill was not approved by the Irish people. Let it be established that without Treason Bills or anything else, so long as the people conduct themselves [390] properly as citizens of the State, they can be entitled to preach Republicanism from the hill tops if they wish, just as we all preach Cumann na nGaedhaelism or Farmerism. Those people have done nothing lately that is unconstitutional. Take the case of South Africa, where Hertzog is now in power. He was once a Republican, but he acted constitutionally, and he did not smash up the State. He formed his Government the other day, and there was no row in South Africa. De Valera has just as good a right to-morrow to form a Government if he can win the people of the country over to his side. If he can do so, he has every right to declare an Irish Republic again. He has as good a right to do that as we have to support the Free State, provided he does it constitutionally.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Hear, hear.

Mr. McKENNA: Information on Patrick McKenna  Zoom on Patrick McKenna  He has, provided he acts constitutionally.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  You will hang him under this Bill.

Mr. McKENNA: Information on Patrick McKenna  Zoom on Patrick McKenna  When he has done an unconstitutional act there would then be necessity for action, but I submit that there is no necessity now for a Bill like this. I think I have said sufficient to indicate to the Dáil what my idea on this subject is. What I have said indicates not alone what is in my own mind, but what is in the minds of the vast majority of the people in the State.

Mr. HEWAT: Information on William Hewat  Zoom on William Hewat  I rise with a good deal of hesitation to take part in this debate. At the same time, I think that the matter is of such vital importance that, as a representative here of a certain section of the people, I would not be doing my duty in casting a silent vote. I do not want in any way to oppose the Government. I do not want to deprecate the great service rendered to the country by the Government and the important work they have to do. At the same time, however, if this Bill were put to a division in the form in which it now is, it could not have my vote, because, in my judgment, it is throwing a bombshell into a situation which we were all [391] hoping was working on the lines of a great improvement in the position of the country as a whole. It would impede by the very implications which it bears the progress towards a state of stability which we are all hoping and praying for. I think that no Deputy in the House will dispute that provision should be made to safeguard the liberty of the individual and of the State as a whole. That is quite a different matter to passing a Bill which must be labelled as a Bill which, in the present frame of mind of the country, will be taken as provocative, and, if I may say so, with all respect, I imagine the Government would do well, even at this stage, to withdraw the Bill for further consideration, and to bring in a Bill which the Dáil would not require so seriously to cut up by amendment as it would need to with this Bill before it would pass.

In my judgment, what is wanted to-day on the part of the Government is, rather, a gesture of confidence in the people, a gesture that they recognise that the people themselves are willing to put their hands to the plough to settle, if possible, amicably the differences that have convulsed the country in the past. Any body of men to-day who got up on a platform to speak of revolution by force would, I think, be recognised by the main body of the people as being very criminal towards the people as a whole. People who would say that they were going to turn out the Government at present in power by armed force, or that in the new found state of things they were going to restrict the ordinary liberties of the people, will not and would not in the future have the sympathy or support of any people with a stake in the country. I think the real need of the country to-day would be better expressed in trying to work together so as to raise the country out of the morass into which civil strife has brought us. That is more the frame of mind in which we should approach this subject rather than by trying to legislate for a state of things which I think nobody in the country will stand for to-day. The Government, I think, are to be excused. in so far as we recognise [392] that they have gone through a very serious trial, individually and collectively, and that they imagine that the days they have gone through may come again, and they want to provide powers which will prevent such a thing happening in future.

I think the House ought to take the view of rather reassuring the Government and the Minister that if such a state of affairs were suddenly to rise up, or if there was any real danger, that the people of the country and the members of the Dáil will, with very little hesitation, give them all the powers necessary to suppress any such demonstration aimed at compelling them by force or otherwise to abrogate the powers which the electorate have conferred upon them. There is no need to labour this subject. I merely got up to express my own individual opinion that if this Bill were put to a vote I could not vote for it. I got up to suggest to the Government that, in my humble judgment, the proper course would be, having felt the pulse of the House on the matter, that they should recognise that opinion generally is not ripe for such legislation. I would like personally to give an assurance on behalf of some Deputies that if the Government have in their minds any serious feeling that the country is in danger of being dominated by armed force, we will not stand for such a thing, and that any power which the Government requires will be readily obtainable from, I think, every section the moment such powers are shown to be necessary.

Mr. T.J. O'CONNELL: Information on Tomas O'Connell  Zoom on Tomas O'Connell  We have witnessed a very remarkable fact during the debate on this Bill, inasmuch as while we have had nine or ten speeches dealing with it, no one outside the Executive Council has stood up to support the measure as put before the House. We have had Deputies from the Labour benches, from the Farmers benches, from the Independent Party, and now we have just had Deputy Hewat speaking on behalf of the business interests, all of them being practically unanimous in saying that this measure should not be adopted. I do not wish, and do not propose at this stage, to go into an academic discussion on the Bill. [393] I prefer to look at it from the point of view of common sense, and I will only emphasise what has already been said, and that is, that looking at it from that point of view, it is entirely unnecessary to propose such a measure at this particular time. Nothing that has been said by any Minister who spoke in its favour has tended to show that there is any necessity for it, except, perhaps, what may be called a logical ideal that every State should have some such measure of protection as that now proposed.

We are not at the moment a normal State. We are gradually approaching normal conditions, but it cannot be held that a State in which a very considerable number of the elected representatives of the people refuse, and continue to refuse, to take their part in the legislative functions of the State is a normal State or that it is reaching normal conditions. Anything that would be done to delay the day when all the elected representatives of the people will come into the Parliament of the nation and exercise their functions, as they should do, is an unwise act. This is a measure, as Deputy Cooper said, which proposes to settle the whole relations of citizens to the State. I think that a settlement of that kind is a very serious proposition and one that should not be undertaken until all the people are prepared to take their share in that settlement. It has already been pointed out by many Deputies that this measure is looked upon as being. in many of its clauses, at any rate, aimed at a particular political party.

That impression is very widespread, and measures will be taken to see that it will be even more widespread. Even the President himself, in the course of his address, would seem to give that impression, inasmuch as he stated that while they were anxious to take certain measures to prosecute certain people, they were not anxious to prosecute them under particular measures which they have at present. It seemed to one listening to him that he displayed anxiety to have a measure by which these people could be prosecuted. If I were a member of the particular political party that was mentioned I would welcome this measure. I would be delighted [394] that such a measure was proposed. I would feel that it had given new life to my party. I would grasp at it as a drowning man grasps at a straw. I would feel that the Government had done my party and my cause a very good service indeed and had helped to rally to my banner people who were in very grave danger of going away from it.

I think the Government must not have fully realised the effect of a measure of this kind on the mentality of many people in our country. They might picture what is bound to happen and ask themselves whether that state of affairs will lead to the stability which Deputy Hewat, and every other Deputy in the Dáil is anxious to bring about at the earliest possible date. There are some foolish people in this country who think that it is a grand thing to get into jail. I am not one of those. I was never in jail, and I say “Thank God for that,” But there are many who think that it is a great thing to be called a hero as a result of being put into jail. Deputies on the other side of the House know how many there are who are anxious for cheap heroism of that kind and who lay themselves out to get it.

The Minister says that it is in the discretion of the Executive whether a prosecution will or will not take place. I hold that this is an exceedingly bad principle to enunciate—that once a law is made by Parliament it should rest with the Executive Council to decide whether a prosecution should be brought. A policy of that kind has brought more than one Government into trouble. We know that the refusal to prosecute a gentleman in 1914 that was mentioned by Deputy Figgis led to very great trouble. The British Executive of the time was too weak to prosecute Sir Edward Carson, though he broke the law. A few months ago similar action by the British Labour Government was a cause of very great trouble to that Government. But apart from that, it is clear that once a law is passed, if discretion is left to the Executive Government of the time as to whom it should be enforced against, very grave abuses may arise, and there may be very grave doubts as to the impartial administration of justice.

[395] Surely the Government does not look forward to the time when political meetings will be organised, as they will be organised, specially, in order to break some of the clauses of this Act. If I were leading a party of the kind that some of the clauses of this Bill are aimed at, I would make it my business specially to organise political meetings in order to bring these clauses into contempt. As one of the previous Deputies asked, are the Government going to use the Gárda Síochána, who are engaged in the work of putting down ordinary crime, to go round to those political meetings and take notes of the speeches made by some local political agitators for the express purpose of breaking the law and bringing it utterly into contempt? That is what must be done under this Bill. Surely, it is not a desirable state of affairs.

The Minister is anxious. and all of us are anxious, for the safety of the State, but the safety of the State does not depend on Treason or Coercion Bills. It must be founded on the confidence of the people, and confidence is a plant of slow growth. By saying “You must have confidence,” you do not immediately inspire confidence. I think we would be acting much more wisely if we were to continue our legislation on economic affairs—the things which really matter—and if we were to keep clear of what I may call political matters, for the moment. When confidence, which is gradually growing, had grown to greater strength, then we could consider what I may describe as the “political” measures. A time will come when the people will have got such confidence in the State and in established Government that the essential provisions of a measure of this kind will not create the same difficulties that they do at the present time.

I agree with what Deputy Hewat says, that there are some things, such as armed rebellion against the State, that nobody in this House will stand for. Nobody wishes to stand for two Governments endeavouring to function simultaneously in the country. These are accepted axioms. The Government have got a full expression [396] of opinion with regard to this measure from all parts of the House, and I would suggest to the Government that they ought to have regard to that expression of opinion. I want to emphasise that outside the ranks of the Executive Council nobody has said a word in favour of the Bill during the course of a long and protracted debate. I think what the Minister said in introducing the Bill should be emphasised at this stage, that it should be discussed on its merits and without regard to party. The Government, in regard to the Second Reading of this measure, should not regard its acceptance or rejection as a matter of confidence, but should put it to the House as a whole members to vote purely on the merits of the question. If that be done. I have no doubt whatever as to what the result will be.

Mr. VAUGHAN: Information on Daniel Vaughan  Zoom on Daniel Vaughan  I do not support the Bill in its present form. There is little necessity for the greater number of the clauses. What necessity exists could be met by patient statesmanship rather than by a panicky Coercion Act. The levying of war against Saorstát Eireann cannot be tolerated, but the penalty for persons harbouring or comforting those who engage in such action is far too drastic. The provisions of the Bill dealing with felony are also unsatisfactory. To my mind, this legislation has come before its time, and it is a class of legislation that will defeat its own end. There has been no higher counsel in the past than “Never squeal, my boy.” and no treachery lower than the whisper of the traitor. You cannot stamp out an ideal by rushed legislation. Seeing that the party most likely to be affected by this legislation have abandoned military methods, this legislation can only cause suffering and pain and be without any material advantage to the State. I do not believe that the Dáil will pass this measure, and I would ask the Minister for Justice to avoid defeat on the Bill by withdrawing it.

Mr. HALL: Information on David Hall  Zoom on David Hall  I rise to register my protest against the introduction of this measure. It carries with it the [397] bloodthirsty policy of the Government—the policy with which part of the present Executive started its functions in this country, when executions were the chief feature of its legislative programme. We found, day by day, execution after execution, during that period. That has ceased for some considerable time. To-day we are called upon to pass the second stage of a Bill to give power to the Government to make a free course for the flow of Irish blood from the scaffold or, perhaps, from the back wall of some military barracks. We cannot look upon this Bill as one framed by any body of Irishmen and introduced to an Irish legislative Assembly. We can only look upon it as a Bill that carries the fullest and supremest stamp of Prussianism. It is the policy of the present Government, in my opinion, to exterminate its opponents. It embarks on a measure of execution. It cannot get rid of its opponents unless it executes them, and it brings in a measure to carry out its will in that direction. It will arrest the head of a political party for any utterance that may be considered treasonable, bring him before a trumped-up tribunal, find him guilty, and immediately after execute him. Finally, they may turn upon his dupes, as the Minister referred to them in his early statement. His dupes shall come next and they also shall suffer the same fate. That is undoubtedly the feeling of the people throughout the country. I am not talking now as Deputy Baxter might have been talking, of a locality or a county where an electioneering atmosphere prevails. I am talking of a constituency where no election campaign is in operation, and I can say that since the text of this Bill was published in the Press there has been nothing but the greatest criticism of the measure, and condemnation of the Government for attempting to embark on Cromwellism in this country. I wish to make myself perfectly clear that I do not stand for rival governments. I want to make it perfectly clear that I believe in the Government established by the will of the people as the only Government that has the right to call itself a government or to function as [398] such in this country. I do not believe that De Valera or anybody else has a right to call himself the president of a government unless elected by the will of the people.

Looking through this Bill, I feel there is a great danger that if the people of Ireland elected the Republican Party a hundred per cent. at a general election, under this measure they would be debarred, although they got a mandate from the people of Ireland, from declaring themselves the Government of the Irish Republic. That would be contrary to all democratic principles, contrary to the will of the people, and would be the greatest enactment of tyranny against the will of the majority of the Irish citizens. I feel that that is so, because, having taken part in an election in accordance with the Constitution of Saorstát Eireann, they can only act and accept government in accordance with that Constitution as laid down in this Bill. If the majority of the people of Ireland decide that the Republic is the best thing for this country, and if they are prepared to accept the responsibility for a Republican Government it is only fair to allow them to have a trial, and it is not good enough that this Parliament, which only holds a very small majority over Republicans, should pass an Act that would debar them from taking the line of action that they themselves desired. We, in this assembly, do not wish that our opponents should suffer death by execution. It may be the will of the Government. which may believe that it has got the right to execute every individual who is opposed to it. Probably in the end a Bill may be introduced to execute the Labour Party which has been the chief opposition in this House. It is plain that the Government has no desire to unite our people. It is painted in dark figures on green paper that we are not to have unity in this country. A Bill of this kind is introduced simply and solely for the purpose of driving the wedge of disunity into the heart of the Irish nation. and in the end to throw the nation back to where it was 750 years ago. I am glad the Minister for Justice has said “hear, hear,” because I believe it is his desire, by introducing this measure——

[399]Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  I did not say “hear, hear.”

Mr. HALL: Information on David Hall  Zoom on David Hall  It may be a grand thing to coerce certain people outside this House who hold different political views to the people inside, and it may be a good thing in the eyes of the Ministry or the Government of this small nation who think that they can bring the people to their senses and make them realise that they were fooled by legislation of this kind.

In passing I would like to say that it might be better if the Government would introduce a coercion Act to keep their pledge-bound Party together than to try and enforce execution on the parties outside this Dáil. It might be a good deal better if the Government would endeavour to bring unity amongst all classes. I certainly think if the Government are not prepared to go one step to bring unity amongst their own people, that it is impossible for them to bring unity amongst others, except under a coercion Act of this particular kind. A coercion Act will bring unity probably amongst many of their own, and of those who have served Ireland well in the past, but that unity shall be established only in death. It would be well if the Minister for Justice, with all his cuteness and sincerity, would withdraw the measure, as many Deputies have appealed to him to do. I do not profess to be a great interpreter of Acts introduced into this Dáil, but I know what is the feeling of people since this measure has been introduced. I know that people have condemned it, and condemned it very bitterly. Even supporters of the Government have condemned it. One great supporter of the Government, a man who has worked here since 1916, and has fought for the establishment of this Government and stood by it up to the present day, condemned it as being the most tyrannical measure that was ever introduced in any Parliament. I can only say that he is right. If this Bill is made law, are we going to ask members of the Civic Guard to go to Republican meetings and take notes in presence of men armed with revolvers? Are we going to send unarmed men as notetakers to such places? They may not be shot on [400] that particular day, but they may be shot on that particular night, by some individual. The Minister may laugh. It would be a pleasure to him, I would say, to see many people shot down, not even the Civic Guard, but others. It is not the first time, I would say, that he signed a document that sent many a man to eternity. I would ask him. in the interests of the State, to withdraw the Bill. It is not fair that the Civic Guard should be asked to enforce a measure of this kind by having to act as notetakers at meetings at street corners, where they might be met by revolvers, stones, or bottles. It is not fair that they should be made the tool of the Ministry of Justice in this particular matter. Does the Dáil realise, or does the Ministry realise, that if they vote in support of this measure, they vote that the blood of their fellow countrymen shall flow more freely than it did in the past? I do not know. I do realise that the Cumann na nGaedheal Party in conjunction with the Ministry, introduced this measure to save themselves from losing their grasp on the Government of this country.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Now we know.

Mr. HALL: Information on David Hall  Zoom on David Hall  The Minister for Justice knew it before now. He had not to wait until a Deputy on the Labour benches. like myself, came here to tell him. But that is the idea that is behind the Bill. The Bill is introduced to save one particular Party in this House from becoming non-existent in Ireland.

It is introduced for that purpose. The Minister believes that he is doing a good turn for the country, that he is doing the very best thing possible for the country. Does he believe that men who went into prison before, prepared to face the rifles of the National Army soldiers, are not prepared to do the same again? Does he imagine for a moment that they are afraid to face a hangman who may come from England, that they will shudder at the thought of Baxter the hangman, coming from Great Britain to hang them? If he does believe these things, I certainly say that he is not the cute man that was described a few nights ago in an evening [401] paper. But probably he and the Executive Council believe that they can all the time talk dumb to the Irish people. As far as I can gather, the Government never realise that they are simply the servants of the people, legislating on their behalf, legislating in accordance with the will of the people, and not against it. That is what they have been elected for. How far have the Government legislated in accordance with the will of the people during their term of office? They have not done so in one degree. Various measures have been introduced, but harsh and cruel as they were, none of them could equal, none of them were within 100 per cent. as venomous as this Bill, and the Minister and the Executive Council know that. The Minister has laughed and sneered at many of the arguments put up here, and I believe he would also in the morning if the Bill were law laugh and laugh heartily if he saw 100,000 Irishmen dying under its terms. I ask the Minister, in the first instance, to withdraw this measure, and if he does not do so, I ask the House to reject it. I ask the Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies to vote in the interests of the Irish nation, in the interests of Saorstát Eireann, against this measure without any hesitation.

Mr. McCULLOUGH: Information on Denis McCullough  Zoom on Denis McCullough  The Executive Council are charged with the necessity and the duty of providing safeguards for the well-being of this State, and when a Minister tells us he finds it necessary to bring in a Bill of this kind he must have some serious reason for doing so.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Produce the evidence.

Mr. McCULLOUGH: Information on Denis McCullough  Zoom on Denis McCullough  I have no doubt that he will in the course of the debate. At all events, when I read the Bill at first I was of the opinion that it was somewhat untimely, viewing it from the mere point of view of pure politics. But probably the Government are not exactly playing politics when they bring in this measure, but are taking a broader and wider point of view, and are guarding themselves, or taking steps to guard the State, as every well-ordered State is guarded. I [402] have heard a good deal of talk, privately and publicly on this matter, and it seems to me that an entirely wrong point of view is taken toward this measure. Certain people seem to think in their unseemly vanity that everything that this House does is directed against themselves. Certain people have the point of view that they obscure the sun, that the Ministry, the Dáil and the country are doing nothing without taking them into consideration. I am looking at this from the point of view that the Executive Council has a duty to the State to take steps to protect itself from all enemies, external and internal, and I take it that the point of view of the Executive Council and of the Minister in introducing this measure is to safeguard the State from these enemies. From that point of view I intend to vote for the Second Reading. I do so bearing in mind the promise of the Minister that he is prepared to consider favourably amendments that will be proposed to certain clauses, because I find, looking at it, as I say. from the broader point of view that I take towards it, that there are a number of clauses with which I could not find myself in agreement. But as we have the promise of the Minister that he will consider amendments to these clauses I think that no harm whatever can be done by giving the Bill a Second Reading.

We cannot leave the State unprotected, and I would point out to people like the last Deputy who spoke. that no matter who is in power, who controls the Government of this country—even if Mr. de Valera came into control of it to-morrow, he would have to put a measure of this kind into operation without a great deal of delay. Probably Mr. de Valera would be in greater haste than the present Government. because he might have stronger enemies. My reason for rising to speak at all is to combat the point of view that is inspired, apparently, by the unseemly vanity of people who think that they can obscure the sun. and who think that in anything the Dáil does they cannot be left out of account. I take it that certainly the opening clauses in this measure are necessary for every well-ordered State, and every well-ordered [403] State has legislation of this kind on its Statute Book to protect it against all enemies. Consequently, I think that the House can very well, in view of the promise of the Minister to consider amendments to clauses that may or may not be objectionable, as some of us may consider, give this Bill a Second Reading, that no harm will be done, that such legislation must be enacted sooner or later, and that we have to do it promptly from the point of view that we must take into consideration certain disorderly persons. I would say that, in spite of the very alarming speech of the last Deputy, the House should rather take into consideration the more reasonable speech of Deputy O'Connell, and deal with those clauses which they may find somewhat too strong, but that the Bill should get a Second Reading and that we should view it from the broad, statesmanlike point of view that the country, by legislation of this kind, should protect itself against all its enemies, external and internal.

Mr. MORRISSEY: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  I think the Government have made a colossal blunder in introducing this measure, because it will have the effect of creating a very large amount of trouble, and it will provide opportunities for certain sections of the community to create trouble, opportunities which they have not at the moment. The last Deputy who spoke said that to give this Bill a Second Reading would not do any harm. I think if the Bill is passed it will do a great deal of harm. Some people hold the view that it would be nothing short of a calamity if the Government were defeated on this matter. I believe it will be a greater calamity and have far worse consequences if the Bill gets a Second Reading. The President said that the whole aim of the Bill was to stabilise the country. I wonder does the President or the Government or any member of this House think that panicky legislation of this sort is going to make for stability? Personally. I do not think it will, but I think it will go a long way to undermine the stability of the country. Deputies who go down [404] from Dublin to their constituencies, who are in touch with the people and who have been speaking to them about this measure, who have been in touch even with people who are very strong supporters of the Government, know very well the amount of opposition that this Bill has met with and will meet. I think that if it was the desire of the Ministry to foment trouble in the country they could not choose a better way of doing it than by introducing this Bill.

One can visualise what might happen if the Bill is passed and the Minister for Justice is addressing an election meeting in College Green. A number of young girls and old women, and perhaps some men, shout at him that he has no right to call himself Minister for Justice and no right to call himself Vice-President, and that the present Constitution is not the lawful Constitution of the country. You can imagine hundreds of these people being arrested under the terms of the Bill and then thousands more coming to take their place. I think that the effect of this Bill, if it is passed, will be to fill up the gaols if it is enforced; either that or it will be passed and left there. If there is no necessity for it—and as far as I am personally concerned, I cannot see that there is any necessity for it—why bring it in? There are many more important and more useful Bills which the Government might bring in. There is no doubt about that. One of the sections of the Bill speaks of fomenting ill-will, creating hatred and bitterness. I am afraid the Minister himself will be the first victim of the law because I think the Minister, by this Bill, will have done more to create bitterness. hatred and ill-will than can be done by any other means. I say, speaking sincerely in this matter, for the sake of the country, and for the sake of the stability of the country, if we are going to look with any hope to the future for the unfortunate people we are here representing—the unemployed, some of whom are on the verge of starvation— if we are to look for any future, other than a future of unemployment, I hope this Bill will be defeated. If this Bill is passed it will create more trouble in this country and prevent the country [405] from becoming stabilised. It will shake the confidence of the people in the country and create all sorts of fears in the minds of people in the country and outside it.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  In 1923, and again in 1924, the Dáil passed two pieces of legislation which Deputy Morrissey and others would, perhaps, call “panicky legislation.” One was called the Public Safety (Punishment of Offences) Temporary Act, which was passed on the 21st April, 1924, and the other the Public Safety (Powers of Arrest and Detention) Temporary Act, which was passed on the 31st January, 1924. The Public Safety (Powers of Arrest and Detention) Act expired on the 31st of last month, and the other Act, the Public Safety (Punishment of Offences) Act, expires on the 21st April next. One of these Acts, enabling the Executive to intern persons without trial, set out in its Schedule certain offences, and persons reasonably suspected of these offences could be arrested and interned without trial on reasonable suspicion, on something falling short of legal proof. Some of the offences are perhaps worth noting in connection with the Bill at present under consideration. “Inciting persons to engage in an attempt to overthrow by violence the established form of Government of Saorstát Eireann or organising or otherwise assisting or encouraging any such attempt.”“Unlawfully inducing or attempting to induce any officer of the Government of Saorstát Eireann to refuse, neglect, or omit to discharge his duties as such officer,” and again “Assuming the name, designation or description of any rank or of any member of the military or police forces of Saorstát Eireann for the purpose of doing or procuring to be done any act which the person assuming such name, designation or description would not by law be entitled to do or procure to be done of his own authority,” and further “Obstructing or attempting to obstruct the administration of justice,” and “Knowingly aiding, abetting, assisting in or encouraging the commission of, or conspiring to commit any of the offences mentioned in this schedule or helping in the concealment or [406] escape of any person guilty of any such offence.”

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  took the Chair.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  That was the Act dealing with the powers of arrest and detention. There was another Act, the Public Safety (Punishment of Offences) Act, laying down other considerable penalties for specific offences set out in the Schedule. There were two schedules, and included in the First Schedule under penalty of penal servitude for life you have the offence of “inciting persons to engage in an attempt to overthrow by violence the established form of Government of Saorstát Eireann or organising or otherwise assisting or encouraging any such attempt.” The Second Schedule states “Unlawfully inducing or attempting to induce any officer of the Government of Saorstát Eireann to refuse, neglect or omit to discharge his duty as such officer.” There are several offences of that nature. Twice, as I say, in 1923, and again in 1924, the Dáil passed legislation of that kind. That legislation was of a temporary nature. Some of it has expired and some of it is due to expire shortly. As Deputy McCullough pointed out, the Government, charged with the security of the State, and of the State fabric is bound to come to the Dáil with the provisions which it considers necessary for the maintenance of the peace, the order and the dignity of the State.

When this second Act expires the State will stand substantially stripped of legal powers to deal with the offences which I have read out in the Schedules to these Acts, short of following Deputy Johnson's advice and resorting to and relying on legislation passed by another Parliament, legislation that was not passed for the protection of this State. Deputy Johnson took the line that it is quite unnecessary for the Executive to come to the Dáil seeking any powers to deal with offences which might be termed treasonable or seditious. He suggests that all the necessary powers may be found in Acts that were taken over with the change of Government here. That, of [407] course, is entirely a matter of opinion. It is a question of the viewpoint of the individual.

Personally, I believe that if we instituted a prosecution in the country under these Acts, our first and most eloquent accuser and denouncer would be Deputy Johnson. But the Deputy, because we come to the Dáil seeking powers, seeking the consideration of specific provisions for the protection of the State, chooses to take the line that that step was not necessary, that we had all the powers we needed. We have never instituted a prosecution under these Acts of the past, that were passed by another Parliament with a view to preserving and maintaining here an administration that had not the sanction of the people, and we have asked the Dáil now to take the view that, with the expiring of the temporary legislation, it is better to consider a set of provisions, permanent in their nature, for the protection of the State and of the State fabric, other than at this stage again to seek the renewal of the Public Safety Acts.

As I say, the relinquishing of one of these Acts, the Powers of Arrest and Detention Act, is something of a sacrifice from the point of view of those who have the responsibility for order and decency in the country. There was, of course, a temptation to come and again seek powers which were undoubtedly salutary and which undoubtedly were valuable in operation—powers of detaining persons who were very reasonably suspected of being implicated in particular outrages. I said before in this debate, and want to mention again, that one immediate effect, and, perhaps, not a wholly surprising effect of the releases when this Act expired, was a renewal of the outrages in connection with which certain persons were interned. That, of course, had to be faced and we considered it proper to make the experiment of endeavouring to do without exceptional powers of that kind. We came to the Dáil with something which we considered was a proper and reasonable treason and sedition code for the country, and, judging from the tenor of certain speeches on the debate, one would [408] almost gather that the view is that this is the one State in the universe which requires no code of treason, no code of sedition, for its defence, for its protection; that it is the one State where offences of a treasonable or seditious nature are unlikely to arise; that to contemplate their arising is to contemplate something which outrages probability, something so wildly beyond anything that might be reasonably expected that the Dáil and the Seanad ought not be asked to waste their time in legislating for any such cases.

That is a rather surprising view. It is the more surprising, perhaps, because of our quite recent past. I leave myself open to have the cliche hurled at me that we have nothing to do with the past, that the past is dead and damned and buried and all the rest of it. I hope so; but I hope, too, that we have not passed through that period in an unthinking, unlearning way drawing no moral from it, drawing no lesson from it, and prepared to walk blindly into a future that may be as unpleasant as that past, without any powers, at any rate, to provide that the future be not as unpleasant as the past.

I was reminded here by an eloquent Deputy that people must be allowed to have their dreams, that the dreams of to-day may well become the realities of to-morrow. I have no objection to allowing people to have their dreams. I am endeavouring in this Bill to provide that the nightmares of yesterday do not become the realities of to-morrow. In other words, that the State will be equipped with the ordinary proper powers to guard against any repetition of such a situation as that through which we have passed. Is that a wrong thing? Is that a wildly improper thing? Is that a tyrannical thing? Or is it a proper and just and sensible discharge of our responsibilities to the people through this Dáil? Are we to be told, because we introduce for the consideration of the Dáil a set of provisions along these lines, that we are doing something deserving of general reprobation and odium?

Deputies ought to try to think clearly along the lines of their responsibilities, however new-found, and must [409] try and get out of that atmosphere of just make-believe, of rubbing along and trusting to luck, and that we are not to take any of the steps or consider any of the provisions which the universal experience of other States has found to be necessary. Is there so little tendency to, or tradition of, offences such as these here that this new State need have no statutory provisions to cope with them?

I must say that I was surprised at the tenor of the debate. I would not be surprised at criticism, however pungent, of individual sections or sub-sections; but I was surprised at the criticism that the introduction of this Bill is ill-timed, that no such Bill is necessary, that we should get on with Bills of another nature, and make no provision for the safety of the State and for the maintenance of peace, order and dignity in the State. Will Deputies tell me, one of these Acts having expired and the other being due to expire, by what means the Executive Council or the Minister primarily responsible, is to deal with offences such as those set out in the schedule of this Act in the event, however unlikely, of their occurring? Are we to follow Deputy Johnson's advice and resort to, and rely on, Acts of the past that were passed by another Parliament for the maintenance of an administration other than this administration? These are fair and reasonable questions which I would ask Deputies to consider.

Deputies criticised the name of the Bill and we were told it should not be called a Treasonable and Seditious Offences Bill, because the words “treason” and “sedition” have unhappy memories here. The Bill might quite properly and quite legitimately have been termed a Public Safety Bill. It is essentially and fundamentally a Public Safety Bill. It is intended for the preservation of the right of the people to have in existence here a State fabric of their own choice. This State is based on the broadest possible franchise, and included in its electoral system is provision for the representation of minorities. There is no excuse whatever here for physical onslaught or unconstitutional onslaught on the State fabric. Yet, because we endeavour to provide [410] penalties for such an offence, we are told that we are doing something which is tyrannical, which is unjust, which is odious. I cannot follow that reasoning. I have tried very hard, from the time that kind of criticism began, to follow it. I cannot. One minute we are told that this Bill ought not to be passed because there is no necessity for it, because there is not, and presumably never could be, any challenge to this State. The next minute we are told it should not be passed because it would be too dangerous for the Gárda Síochána to enforce it. Deputy Figgis gave us interesting reminiscences from the not far distant past.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Information on Darrell Figgis  Zoom on Darrell Figgis  Quite distant enough for you.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  He revelled in his recollections of 1917 and 1918. He was entertaining, but not very relevant. When the Deputy did indulge in reminiscences, he should have entertained the Dáil—and he might have pleaded that there was some relevancy to a Treason Act—with his experience when he was almost being hanged for treason or treason felony. When that occurred I heard the remark made by a person in a neighbouring cell that Deputy Figgis' neck was not his heel of Achilles, and that it was not his vulnerable point. Now, Deputies objected to a particular section? The time for the criticism of particular sections and sub-sections will be on the Committee Stage. I admit reference to them is appropriate on Second Reading, but we can have detailed criticism in Committee. What I ask for now is approval of the general principle of the Bill. The general principle of this Bill is that the State must be equipped with power to deal with offences against the State. You can say, like Deputy Johnson, that it is already equipped. You can say: “Let it use the old Acts.”

If the majority of Deputies think we should bring prosecutions under those old Acts, they will, no doubt, indicate that by voting against the principle of the Bill. If the majority of Deputies do not think prosecutions could, or should, be properly brought under Acts [411] of the distant past, then let them say what the position of the State ought to be with regard to offences that are unquestionably treasonable and seditious. Either there are to be prosecutions for such offences, or there are not. If Deputies think there ought to be no prosecutions for such offences, they should say so. If they think there ought to be prosecutions, they should equip the Executive with power for such prosecutions. Prosecutions must be brought under some Act, under some section, under some sub-section. Parts of this debate reminded me of debates on the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, when Deputies got up and protested wholehearted devotion to temperance, but banged the table against the slightest restriction on drinking facilities. In the same way we had unlimited condemnation of those who would so far forget themselves as to attempt to set up a rival Government in this country or usurp the functions of government. There was unlimited and unrestricted condemnation. We were told that that was a type of offence which it was hard to find language strong enough to condemn; but there must be no provision against it. The Executive should not attempt to bring in a Bill calculated to deal with any offence of the kind. Such a course would be anathema. The good sense of Deputies rejects it.

Similarly, we were told that there can be only one army. We were told there must be no usurpation of the functions of the army or the police, and no persons in this country must attempt to exercise Executive functions whose authority is not clearly derived from the people, who are the source of authority. But if we bring in a Bill endeavouring to say that, and endeavouring to provide penalties for such offences, it is wrong. Deputies could not vote for that; it would be against their consciences. We are told to put this Bill away and get on with sound, constructive measures that will heal the economic evils oppressing the people. I cannot understand that point of view. The Executive is responsible for peace and order and [412] security in the country. The Executive would be, and should be, criticised if offences such as those scheduled to the two temporary Acts were to continue with impunity through the country. But when the Executive comes to the Dáil and asks it to consider, and even to go into Committee to consider, provisions calculated to deal with offences of that kind, several Deputies advise other Deputies that they should say “no,” and that it will not even go into Committee to consider what the provisions ought to be to deal with treasonable and seditious offences.

Do not let us shy at words. Because you have a State you will have treasonable offences, and if they are treasonable, let us not be afraid to call them so. Similarly, you will have sedition, and I would like to dwell for a moment on the necessity for some provisions to deal with sedition. You will always have sedition before treason. Sedition leads up to treason. It is the preparation for treason. If I were to go into mathematics, I would say it would need six months' sedition to ensure a year's treason. Treason is the physical challenge, but you have to work up to the point when the physical challenge is thrown down.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Sedition is opposition to the Government.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  The Deputy had his say, and it was a long say. I will try to be not so long. As I say, you will have a working up to the point of challenge and that working up is the sedition. Deputies may take the view that it would be wiser to make no provision against sedition but simply stand on the point that when the physical challenge comes you will deal with it. All the work of preparing for the challenge, and creating the atmosphere for it, must be allowed to go on with complete immunity. That point of view is arguable. It may be said that by endeavouring to deal with sedition you will, in fact, ensure and expedite the point of treason.

It may be said, as against that, that a wise State, or a State with wise custodians, would endeavour to check and deal with the factors that were leading [413] towards the challenge point. These are things that could be argued if the House would deign to go into Committee on this Bill, and we could argue then whether Section 5 is or is not necessary. Section 5 is the section that deals with declaring or publishing certain things. The point of prohibiting such declarations and publications was the view-point which I indicated, that such declarations and publications inevitably lead to certain action. I do not like to think what the position of the Executive would be in this State with its responsibility, if the Dáil solemnly and deliberately decides to refuse to give it power to protect the State because of any consideration, because of sentiment, because, like Deputy Figgis, of shyness, because Deputies refuse to adjust their minds to a situation that is radically altered, and because they are thinking and talking in terms of long ago and in terms of an entirely different set of circumstances.

How can an Executive discharge its functions and responsibilities to the people if the Dáil will not equip it with legislative sanction to check offences directed against the State? It is all very well to say, as has been said: “Oh, there should be no Section 2 in this Bill, because, after all, the informer had always a bad time.” When, however, Deputy Wilson was asked whether he would like a man to tell him if somebody was stealing up his avenue to burn his hayrick, he rather admitted that he would. Let him extend to the community generally what he feels is necessary in the case of the individual. Remember that the State is the people's State. The people own it, and they can destroy it at any election. They can, as Mr. De Valera asked them to, vote its extinction. Until they do so, however, it is to be presumed that they wish it to continue to exist, and that if it is to exist the Executive and the Government must have the necessary power to defend and protect it.

I ask, at this stage, simply for agreement on the principle, that with the expiring of these temporary Acts a situation has arisen which calls for either (a) the renewal of these temporary Acts, or (b) the consideration [414] of what permanent code the State ought to possess to deal with offences directed against it. If I had come to the Dáil seeking a renewal of these Acts I would be told “No, the case you quoted for these Acts was that they were temporary and that they were called for by a special set of circumstances wholly abnormal. Surely you do not make the case that these conditions still exist to the same degree, and that you must get a renewal of these exceptional powers given to you in 1923 and 1924.” I came to the Dáil stating that a comparatively normal and peaceful situation now exists, that in the existing conditions the Dáil in my opinion ought not to be asked to renew these temporary, emergency, and occasional measures, but that the Dáil ought to bring its mind to the consideration of the question of what permanent powers the Executive ought to possess to deal with offences directed against the State and the welfare of the State. I have been urged to withdraw this measure. To do so would be a most irresponsible act on the part of the Executive Council. Deputies should answer the question, if this measure is withdrawn, what will the position be when these two Acts expire?

The State, it will be admitted, has enemies. Surely we do not need to be told that at this stage. These enemies will watch carefully the position from day to day. They have their legal advisers, not so competent as ours, but they have them, and they will know what can be done, what cannot be done, and what the consequences of particular actions are likely to be, and so on. What will the position be when these two Acts are gone, if we were to accede to the request of certain short-sighted Deputies to withdraw this Bill? I know what the position would be if I were in their counsels. I know that the State could be reduced to a condition of impotence and futility without some such set of provisions as this, and could be so reduced quite legally and constitutionally in the absence of any powers on the part of the Government to deal with offences that could, and would be committed.

It seems to be always my role to put before Deputies unpleasant facts, but [415] I discharge the duty with a certain zeal. I ask Deputies not to resent it but to remember that we cannot live in a world of make-believe, that we do not exist in vacuo, so to speak, that things that are unpleasant may, nevertheless, be true. There are certain unpleasant things, which, for the credit of the country, one would prefer not to mention. But I have been challenged from several quarters to say whether, at the moment, there is, in fact, any usurpation, or any tendency towards usurpation, of governmental functions or of executive functions. There is. Before I proceed to deal with the matter, let me say that even if there were not, that would not be a reason why the Dáil, and subsequently the Seanad, ought not to consider a permanent treason code. The absence of such conditions at the moment—suppose there was an absence of such conditions—would not be a reason why the State should be left defenceless except on the purely physical plane; why the position should be allowed to develop, that if an enemy tried to hit the State, the State would try to hit him harder physically, but that beyond that there was no legal or statutory provision for dealing with such an offence. I do want just to pause on that—that it is not quite in order to say: “We ought not to consider a Bill of this kind because, hic et nunc, no very serious situation exists and several of the offences set out in this Bill are not at the moment being committed.” In other words, that would mean that legislation should always be ad hoc and the Government should not at any time sit down to think out a set of permanent provisions that would be proper provisions for the safety and welfare of the State. I disagree with that view. I do not consider it a sound challenge to this Bill to say that many of the offences mentioned in it are not at the moment being committed. Having made that point—and, I hope, made it with clearness and with emphasis—let me pass on to mention unpleasant facts.

I was asked whether governmental functions were, in fact, being usurped; [416] whether there was any tendency on the part of certain people to assume to themselves executive authority which they do not possess with any proper Parliamentary sanction from the people. In certain Counties—in Leitrim, in Galway and in Westmeath —so-called courts have been held and the persons convicted by those courts have been subsequently kidnapped for the purpose of serving the period of punishment inflicted by those courts. In one or two instances, the persons so kidnapped were kept in custody in cow-sheds and other places and hustled around the country for close on six months. It may be said: de minimis non curat lex. But I do not regard instances of that kind as coming amongst the minimis. It is true that they are not very numerous, but they are sufficiently grave, and any extension of them, however slight, would surely be something that ought to be guarded against. Surely, it would be a proper thing to provide penalties for people who would usurp judicial and executive functions in that way and keep unfortunate fellow-citizens in custody in cowsheds and other unhygienic places of that kind.

Deputies have urged us not to take drilling very seriously. One might not, perhaps, take drilling very seriously if one had any kind of quiet confidence that it was simply for the development of the muscles and a greater chest-expansion that the drilling was being indulged in. But I think we cannot be absolutely sure of that—I am putting it at the lowest. When people proceed to organise in a military or quasimilitary way and drill furtively, it does at least suggest, if only from past association, the possibility that some time there is going to be something more than drill. Other things, not perhaps of a kind that ought to be simply trotted out as arguments in a Dáil debate, have convinced us that it was a wise thing and a proper thing to come to the Dáil and seek for some permanent legislation to take the place of the temporary legislation which is expiring. It would not be urged, I take it, by Deputies that it would be a proper course for a Minister to come here to the Dáil and disclose fully all the [417] factors and circumstances which led up to a particular decision, whatever the nature of those factors and circumstances. That is one of the difficulties. One cannot just come here and start painting a picture and say: “The report from such a county is as follows and from such another county the report is as follows.” That would be unwise and improper. But normally— short of a successful vote of “no confidence”—there ought to be that confidence by the Dáil in the Executive that would mean that we must have had some reason, at any rate, for the decision that it would be wise not to leave the Executive without any power to deal with a certain class of offence.

I put it then at its lowest. We are bound to take notice of the tenor of this debate. The Deputies here represent the general public, represent the people, and we are bound to take notice of the very definite reluctance in the minds of the Deputies to endorse certain sections of this Bill. I would certainly be the first to see that between this and the Committee Stage the Bill will be overhauled and examined from the angle of the criticism that has been directed against it here on the Second Reading. But I do ask Deputies to face the seriousness of the prospects of simply saying that we are not going to have any treason code in this country at all because we do not like the word “treason.” It rings harshly to the ear. It reminds Deputy Figgis of the time when he was nearly hanged. We cannot do business in that way. We cannot treat our responsibilities as lightly as that.

I bring it down now to the minimum, and I ask Deputies to say that the State needs some power, some legal provisions. I am attempting now to define what would be the principle of this Bill—that legal provisions are needed by the State to deal with offences, actual or potential, against the State. But with the expiring of these temporary Acts there will be no such provisions unless we follow Deputy Johnson's advice and rely on ancient Acts. If we get agreement on that general principle, then we can have it hammer and tongs on the Committee Stage as to what the provisions ought to be.

[418]Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  A new Bill.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  But that there ought be some provision should surely be agreed. We will take a note of the more considered, the more sober and the more mature criticism that was directed at this Bill to-day. There was certain criticism directed at this Bill which I would like to forget before morning if possible.

Certain other criticism will be noted and acted on. The Bill can be examined from that standpoint, and we can have on the Order Paper, on the Committee Stage, official amendments attempting, at any rate, to meet the points of view that were expressed here in the course of the debate. I ask the Deputies not to say that this Bill which, at any rate, represents our conception of the kind of powers that the Executive ought to have to deal with the State's enemies now actually existing or potentially in the future, ought not to get a Second Reading, that we must not proceed now at all to consider anything in the nature of a permanent treason code. Why must we not? Are we the one State in the world that does not need one? I ask the Deputies not to take that point of view—that ten years hence will be time enough to consider what we ought to do with people who square out to the State. It is the people's State, and we owe it to the people to defend it and to protect it for them. And even though many of the people themselves may not understand very clearly the necessity for that or may not like the particular legal language in which it is sought to be done, nevertheless it is the duty and the responsibility of the Dáil and I ask the Deputies to accept it.

Major COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Before this vote is taken, may I ask one question? The undertaking the Minister has given us is a very specific one and we are grateful for it. Will the Minister be prepared to leave any of the sections or sub-sections in Committee to the free vote of the Dáil, and if so, could he indicate what these sections will be?

[419]Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  I cannot say that off-hand. It is not just a matter for me.

Major BRYAN COOPER: Information on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  Zoom on Major Bryan Ricco Cooper  I realise that.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  That is something I will have to consider and consult about. There is one point I would be prepared to meet the Deputy on. It was some point dealing with the propriety of having the capital penalty for certain of those offences set out under the sub-heads. That ought certainly to be considered, and will be considered. I did not attempt to go in detail into some of the criticisms of particular sections and sub-sections, but there were other points raised on various sections that I noted at the time there would be very little trouble in meeting, but I think that Deputies ought not to disagree with the principle that the Executive needs powers to defend the State, and to deal with treasonable and seditious offences, and that we ought to go into it and consider what these powers ought to be.

General MULCAHY: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  What period would the Minister be prepared to allow between now and the Committee Stage?

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  I think we should have something more than a week, at any rate, probably ten days, because we ourselves would need to consider [420] the Bill in the light of certain of the criticisms that took place at this stage.

General MULCAHY: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  I would like to suggest not less than a fortnight.

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Then we will give a fortnight.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Are we to take it from the Minister, notwithstanding the criticism of this Bill, that this Bill as it at present stands represents the opinion and desire of the Government and of the Ministers?

Mr. O'HIGGINS: Information on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  Zoom on Kevin Christopher O'Higgins  This Bill represents the considered opinion of the Executive as to the kind of powers that the Executive would need to deal with certain offences, either now existing or possibly arising in the future. At the same time, criticism has been directed towards the Bill here to-day that we are bound to take note of.

Mr. HEWAT: Information on William Hewat  Zoom on William Hewat  Would the Minister consider the suggestion of not taking a division to-night? Some of us, I think, find ourselves in a rather difficult position. Of course, we must admit the force of the argument the Minister puts forward that some powers are required.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  There is no precedent for not having the division now, and I cannot give way on that.

Question put.

Earnán Altún.
Earnán de Blaghd.
Seúmas Breathnach.
Seoirse de Bhulbh.
Séumas de Búrca.
Bryan R. Cooper.
Máighréad Ni Choileáin
Bean Ui Dhrisceóil.
Michael Egan.
Patrick J. Egan.
Desmond Fitzgerald.
John Good.
William Hewat.
Seosamh Mac a'Bhrighde.
Donncadh Mac Con Uladh.
Líam T. Mac Cosgair.
Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
Patrick McGilligan.
Liam Mac Sioghaird.
Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
James Sproule Myles.
Peadar O hAodha.
Micheal O hAonghusa.
Seán O Bruadair.
Partholán O Conchubhair.
Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
Séamus O Doláin.
Peadar O Dubhghaill.
Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
Eamon O Dúgain.
Aindriú O Laimhín.
Séumas O Leadáin.
Fionán O Loingsigh.
Risteard O Maolcatha.
Séumas O Murchadha.
Pádraig O hOgáin (Gaillimh).
Seán O Suilleabhain.
Caoimhghín O hUigín.
Liam Thrift.

Proinsias Bulfin.
John Conlan.
Séumas Eabhróid.
Darrell Figgis.
David Hall.
Séumas Mac Cosgair.
Tomás Mac Eoin.
Pádraig Mac Fhlannchadha.
Patrick McKenna.
Risteard Mac Liam.
Patrick J. Mulvany.
Ailfrid O Broin.
Tomás O Conaill.
Aodh O Cúlacháin.
Eamon O Dubhghaill.
Pádraic O Máille.
Domhnall O Mócháin.
Domhnall O Muirgheasa.
Tadhg O Murchadha.
Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
Nicholas Wall.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 10th March.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I move the adjournment until 12 o'clock tomorrow.


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