Friday, 17 July 1931
Dáil Éireann Debate
That Dáil Eireann approves of the Report of the Commonwealth Conference, 1930, and recommends the Executive Council to take such steps as they think fit to give effect there-to.”—(Aire Gnóthaí Coigríche.)
Mr. Lemass: When speaking last night I pointed out to the Dáil that acceptance of the motion on the Order Paper would involve the acceptance of the contention of the Minister for External Affairs that the national aspirations of our people can be realised in full as a member of the British Commonwealth group of nations. I asked the Dáil to reject the motion on that account, and to maintain, as successive leaders of the Irish people throughout the years have always maintained, that the aspirations of this nation can only be fully realised when the complete political independence of the country has been secured and the last vestige of control by Britain has been removed. I proceeded, however, to deal with the motion as it affected the point of view of those who agreed with the Minister, and I urged its rejection on the grounds that even for those who hold that point of view, its passage would mean an impediment to, and not a facilitating of, their professed desires. The motion asks us to approve of the Report of the Imperial Conference of 1930. The principal matter, of course, in that Report is the draft of an Act which it is intended to submit to the British Parliament this year, after it has been approved by resolution in the Parliaments of the various British Dominions. I pointed out that the principal flaw in that Act was that it did not destroy, as the Minister has alleged, the theoretical legislative supremacy of the Imperial Parliament.
The Minister for External Affairs told us when speaking that this Act was in the nature of an act of renunciation. I say it is nothing of the kind. He said that it destroyed British legislative supremacy in the Commonwealth, and I invite him or any other member of the Dáil to show in that Act what section, recital or phrase can be interpreted to have that significance. I say that, on the contrary, the Act has been very carefully drafted to preserve the theoretical right of the British Parliament to legislate for the whole of the British Empire. It provides mainly that no British Act passed by the British Parliament after the enactment of the new statute, shall  operate as part of the law of any Dominion, except at the request, and with the consent of that Dominion. It is undoubtedly true that the enactment of that statute will in practice mean that the Parliaments of the various Dominions will be able to legislate without British interference, but the theoretical supremacy of the British Parliament is maintained. Its legal right to legislate for the British Empire is not destroyed. On the contrary, the power to legislate, is by inference, confirmed. The Minister told us that he was concerned in these negotiations only with the end to be achieved and not with the method by which that end was achieved.
I think that was his fundamental mistake. I think that had he concerned himself a little more with the method he would have realised that in the proposal before us the very principle for which he maintains he fought has been surrendered. I want to point out to the Dáil that if the legislative independence of the Oireachtas of the Free State or the Parliament of any Dominion is to depend in law upon a British statute then it is dependent upon the consent of the majority of the British Parliament. What one British Parliament has enacted another British Parliament can repeal and the position will be that, at any time, by simply repealing that Act the British Parliament can reassert its right to legislate for this State or any other Dominion without the consent of the Parliament of this State or of that Dominion. The Minister made a number of statements the accuracy of which I beg leave to doubt. He told us that when the proposed statute is enacted in England that the position will be that this Parliament will be able to abolish any of the Royal prerogatives in so far as they relate to the Free State. I say that is not so. I say there is nothing in the Act which justifies that contention.
I ask the Minister to state definitely, for example, whether it is possible for us to abolish the King as a factor in legislation here. Is it possible? That is the kernel of the question. Can we abolish the King as a factor in legislation here? Can we amend our Constitution  in accordance with our own wishes? Can we abolish the Act which prescribes that anything in our Constitution which is not in conformity with the Treaty of 1921 is null and void? If we cannot do these things all this talk about our legislative independence is so much humbug. All that talk is only an attempt to deceive the people as to what our real status is. If it is the desire of the Executive Council or the Minister for External Affairs to get to the position in which the last vestige of British domination here will be destroyed, then we are with him, but we do not think he has helped us to get to that position by pretending that we are already there. No cause was ever brought to victory by its champion pretending that it was already won.
If the British Parliament is prepared to do what the Minister says it is prepared to do, to recognise us as an independent State equal with them in all respects then there are two ways and two ways only in which it can achieve that end: either they can pass an Act declaring our independence, such an Act as that which declared the termination of the British sovereignty over the United States of America——
Mr. Lemass: If the British Parliament wants to concede independence to us there are two ways in which they can do it. That is one of the ways. I put it to the Minister that the British Parliament conceded independence to the American people after the American people had got it.
Mr. Lemass: They would never have passed it if they were able to continue their sovereignty. The Minister has revealed the position exactly as it is. The British Parliament maintains its sovereignty in any State in which it has the power to maintain it. It has not destroyed its sovereignty here by this Act because it has the power to maintain it here. If the British Parliament was, as the Minister said it was, willing to concede a status to us equal in every respect to the status enjoyed by Britain itself, then it would not succeed in that end by the passage of such an Act as is contained in this report. It could do it by passing an Act similar to that which terminated the sovereignty of the British Parliament over the people of the United States. It could do so perhaps by destroying the legal principle of the unity of the Crown, by dividing the King into six Kings and making each of the Dominions a separate kingdom which it has not done. It has done neither of these things. In this new Act they are, while appearing to concede something, merely strengthening their position. While pretending to remove legislative anachronisms they are affirming afresh their theoretical legal superiority.
I put that to the Dáil. I maintain that on the very face of this Act it is obvious that the description which the Minister applied to it is not an accurate one. I maintain that what he said “that they will have brought to an end the whole chapter of the legislative sovereignty of the central Government of the old Empire” is not true, that although the British Government is binding itself to limit itself in the exercise of that sovereignty not to pass Acts having the force of law in the Dominions except at the request of those Dominions, nevertheless it is retaining for itself the legal right to do so. The legal right is not being destroyed. The British Monarch, as King, the Minister said, was finished entirely as far as the Free State was concerned, and everything was done at the will of the Irish people. I say that is not true. I say it cannot be true unless we are absolutely free to abolish the King as a factor in legislation, and to amend our  Constitution in the way we desire ourselves without reference to anything else except the interests and the desires of the Irish people in national matters. Even if the Act was as the Minister declared it should not be accepted by us, because it means that we are accepting the theory that our national aspirations have been realised in full within the British Empire. Even if we were prepared to accept that theory, nevertheless we should reject this Act because it does not achieve what the Minister pretends in that direction.
There is one other matter that I would like the Minister to deal with when replying, and that is the position concerning the Privy Council. Declarations have been made here from time to time by members of the Executive Council that they wanted to abolish the right of appeal to the British Privy Council. I expressed the fear here last year that they were weakening in their attitude in that respect. The Minister went to the Imperial Conference and presumably the matter was discussed there. We do not know what attitude he took. We know that no change was made as a result of that Conference. It is true that the Press here came out with glaring headlines announcing a great victory for Irish diplomacy, the victory being that the position in respect to the Privy Council was left unchanged. The Minister came home and announced the decision of the Executive Council to introduce in the Dáil proposals for legislation to amend the Constitution in respect to those appeals. He was pressed time and again to state when those proposals for legislation would be brought before the Dáil. He contented himself with the vague reply—“in due course.” They have not appeared yet. I suggest that they will never appear and that the Executive Council in this matter, as in others, are merely humbugging the people.
I want the Minister to tell us, if the Executive Council are maintaining their original stand in the matter, why there is this delay in introducing proposals for legislation? What does the Minister mean by the phrase “in  due course?” What is the position concerning this? Is the Minister standing upon our rights in the matter and proceeding upon the basis of those rights or is he attempting to effect a compromise by negotiation with the British Government? I think the Dáil is entitled to have that information. These are some of the principal matters that I wish to refer to. I hope the Dáil will be very slow to do what the Minister asked it to do, that is to approve of this report. It is not necessary for us to approve of it. Remember the Minister has assured us that what this Act purports to abolish as a matter of law has already been abolished as a matter of practice. I maintain it is much better for us to leave the position indefinite than that we should consent to the enactment of a law which, in defining, will limit our legislative independence.
Mr. Law: I always notice in debates on External Affairs two curious characteristics of the Opposition. In the first place, they never are willing to allow any possibility of progress or development. What someone said in 1923 or 1916 or 1885 or 1798 or 1641 for them constitutes a kind of secret canon of Scripture which it is heresy and impiety to question. It must be regarded as verbally inspired and not subject in any way to the ordinary human considerations of time and circumstance. We had a rather curious example of that last night from Deputy Seán T. O'Kelly. Deputy O'Kelly quoted some well-known, not to say somewhat hackneyed, words of Mr. Charles Stewart Parnell—“We have never set bounds to the march of a nation and we never shall.” He quoted that as though it was a plenary justification of his impossibilist attitude. If you look at the context of these words, the meaning is perfectly plain. What was Parnell doing? He was arguing in favour of a Home Rule settlement—a settlement which would give him very much less power, obviously, than our present Constitution. Whom was he arguing against? He was arguing against the Seán T. O'Kellys of his day—the people who said we must not accept this because it is a derogation of what  Deputy Lemass has called “the position as defined by successive leaders of the Irish race.” Parnell was saying to them: “Let us take now as much as is possible. It does not block our march. We have never set bounds to the march of the nation and we never shall.” Parnell was right. But he did not say “Do not let us take this now. Let us wait until the great ideal is achieved. Let us have nothing else.” He said instead: “Let us take this and let us go on.”
We have gone on. We went on from Parnell's time to the Constitution of the Free State and the acceptance of Dominion status. That that represents an advance on every Home Rule scheme conceived since the time of Butt nobody will dispute. To that status we have come on, and the proof of it is to be found in the reports of successive Imperial Conferences. None of us would care to speak as an authority on constitutional law, but I challenge anybody who has been a student, even in a small way, as I have been, of international affairs, to say that there has not been development and progress in Dominion relations since Dominion status was accepted here in 1922. We have another curious factor about the attitude of Fianna Fáil, besides the extreme melancholy which always marks these discussions, and it is a very curious note of the Fianna Fáil mind. They always seem to think that they can get rid of what, to them, is an unpleasant fact by ignoring it. We had a curious example of that in the brief interlude which took place last night between Deputy O'Kelly and Deputy Collins-O'Driscoll. Because the Oath or Declaration signed by members of this House does not please certain gentlemen opposite it does not exist and they never signed it. The converse of that attitude is that to recognise a fact it is necessary to approve of it. So we have a long jeremiad from Deputy O'Kelly on various things connected with this Act and contained in this report, particularly in respect of the fact that the Minister for External Affairs joined, according to the practique of diplomatic life, with which Deputy O'Kelly is not unacquainted, in an address to their  Majesties. In that, Deputy O'Kelly was, rather to my surprise, seconded by Deputy Lemass. They both fastened upon the declaration of the proposed clause in the statute to be passed at Westminster:
No Act of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend or be deemed to extend to a Dominion as part of the law in force in that Dominion unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.
That, according to Deputy Lemass, is useless and inoperative because a statute passed by a Parliament in Great Britain can be repealed by a subsequent Parliament. Curiously enough, he went on to suggest a method by which our independence could be properly recognised and established—by the action of the Parliament of Great Britain. That is very curious, because it involves, in the first place, the very principle he has objected to—that the Parliament of Great Britain should have anything to say to our status here. Secondly, under the British Constitution there is no such thing as fundamental law, and there is no statute which cannot at some time or other be repealed. The Act recognising the United States could, of course, be repealed. But we are concerning ourselves with practical affairs and not with nightmares. There are certain things which, theoretically, can be done but which every human being knows will never be done. That is one of them. It would be possible for the British Parliament, if it passed this supposed statute, to repeal it in a subsequent Parliament. That is perfectly true. But let us look at the facts and realities. Why is it proposed to do this at all? Because of the whole trend of constitutional development in the Commonwealth during the last fifty years. Because, as everybody knows, the strict, technical, legal position had lagged far behind the real position. If the position were the other way I could understand the objection, but when the whole development is in the opposite direction what fear can there be of such action as is suggested?
 Deputy O'Kelly is not content with that. He thinks this Act will actually make things worse—far worse. Not alone are we being brought into the Commonwealth against our will, but we are really being nailed and copper-fastened, further chains are being forged and we are being manacled by further links. Because the British Parliament does what only that Parliament can do—renounce the powers which, undoubtedly, it theoretically had formerly to pass laws affecting the Dominions, powers which they had long ceased to exercise—and because we recognise the fact known to every constitutional lawyer, that there was such a power, though it had long since fallen into disuse, and though there was, undoubtedly, no intention whatever of using it—because the British Parliament says we formally and definitely renounce our right in that respect, the fact that we take cognisance of that renunciation constitutes a chain which, according to Deputy O'Kelly, is to bind us. If people are determined to look at the black side of things, if there is a black side, and if they are determined to invent a black side if there is not one, there is really no hope for them.
I listened last night to the speech of Deputy O'Kelly. His whole trouble seemed to be that we are now recognising the existence of the British Parliament. He does not like that and, because he does not like it, all the world is full of woe. We are recognising the existence of certain rights in the British Parliament in this matter in the same way as you might say that you recognise the existence of a man when you cut his head off; in the same way as the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland realised that if the Cheshire Cat was not there you could not cut his head off. The prophet Jeremiah was really a gay dog compared with Deputy Sean T. O'Kelly. “Woe, woe,”—he will ingeminate woe to the end of the chapter. I fear he will be found weeping in the glory of the courts of heaven.
Mr. de Valera: I wondered, as I listened to Deputy Law, who was the real Jeremiah in the case. The jeremiad which he has delivered just now  would only be possible in the case of a man who had got away from the realities of the situation, made no attempt to get down to bedrock and recognise that there is a fundamentally different outlook politically at the moment between the two sides of the House. Now let us get down to bedrock and see where we are. Otherwise a debate like this is bound to be unreal. We are forced here in these circumstances to deal with questions of this kind simply by putting ourselves in the position of the people opposite, as far as we can and trying to view the matter with their eyes in order to judge whether the policy that they are adopting, even from their point of view, a good one or not. Let us get down to bedrock to see where we are in this. I have here a quotation from a speech made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council which gives us the position in a nutshell. He says:—
With regard to the point as to whether we are aiming at the establishment of an Irish Republic, we are not. We believe that this country as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations can enjoy greater freedom and greater security than she could outside the British Commonwealth of Nations and our policy within it is really to remove the anomalies that exist in the relationship between the members of it (Vol. 22, cols. 1645-6, Official Report).
That is the difference and the issue. Members of this House who do not aim at the ultimate establishment of a Republic, such as the Ministers on the opposite side, may have some reason for satisfaction in what they call the progress that has been achieved.
Deputy Law says that we are blind to progress; that we do not want to give credit for any progress that has been achieved. It is all a question of whether the progress is forwards or backwards. With respect to what our ultimate aim is, if we are being put into a position which makes it more difficult ultimately to establish a Republic in this country, I say we are opposed to it as, not progress, but  retrogression. If, on the other hand, it is simply a question of facing the facts as you find them, taking whatever you get without committing yourselves or in any way putting up barriers for the future, then we will not be found opposing them. The quotation from Parnell was referred to just now by Deputy Law. He said it was used by Parnell against the Seán T. O'Kellys of his day. What was it used for? It was used by Parnell to tell the people, who were doubtful whether he was progressing or not, not to be afraid. He told them: “Do not be afraid. I am not putting any barrier in the path of the advance of the Irish nation. I am not going to commit you to remain eternally in the state in which we find ourselves. This is going to be a unilateral matter as far as England is concerned.” But we have gone away from that unilateral position.
The position is whether we should or should not take cognisance of facts. As far as I could, I have been preaching all the time the necessity of taking cognisance of facts. The world in which we live is a world of facts, but there are gentlemen, of course, on the other side who have been trying very assiduously to represent to the country that we are always in the clouds. It is we who have been trying to take cognisance of facts. When the Treaty was brought here we said: “If you do accept that you are not going to make any Constitution you please.” That we were right was proved true when the draft Constitution, which was supposed to give an Irish interpretation of the Treaty, was handed to Lloyd George he blue-pencilled it and sent it back here to a Dáil which was supposed to be a constitutional assembly. It was a Constitution in regard to which we were told that there were thirteen Articles in which we could not change a comma. Who faced the facts in that case? Did we, or did the gentlemen who said: “You can sign the Treaty and the day you sign it you can ignore it”?
We said: “Be careful before you sign this document. It implies consequences which you will find it very difficult to get rid of. It implies these consequences: that you are disestablishing  the Republic which you declared here; you are incorporating the British Crown as part of your Parliament here; you are going to give power to a section of our people, if they want to exercise it, to partition this country; you are going to get into commitments, the extent of which you have no idea of from the monetary side.” We are the people who read the document, who had no interest in it but the interest of seeing what it might lead to. Gentlemen who had never construed a line of a document came along when our people were weary, and they felt they were anxious to get a certain interpretation out of it, and they put that interpretation over upon them. We did not do that. We faced the facts. We realised what the consequences would be. You have an army to-day in this country supplied with British ammunition. They depend upon an outsider to supply them with ammunition for the only thing for which ammunition is likely to be needed, for the coercion of the people of this country who are still true to the aim of ultimately establishing a Republic, if they can.
These are the consequences: Civil war in our own country; a position that obtains in this country which does not probably obtain in any other country—a position in which the elected representatives of the people are being obliged to maintain an army for the express purpose of denying power to that section of our people who have as their aim the ultimate establishment of the freedom of this country as a whole. That is the position the Treaty has landed you into. That is why we objected to the Treaty, and that is why we tried to face the facts of the situation, and tried to get a settlement which would be consistent with the position that had been taken up by this country, and yet would be such that the other facts could also be taken into account.
Last night Deputy O'Connor said that away back in 1921 we sought for external association. He tells us that here we have external association. I say we have not. The proposal of the Republican Cabinet in 1921, if it had been accepted, would have left you with the  Republic, as it was then declared. It would have left you with a united Ireland. It would have left you the power of remaining neutral in any British war unless you deliberately chose to enter it. That was known by the British. The excuse given by those who went to negotiate the Treaty was that they were prevented from pressing for this settlement by a threat of immediate and terrible war. If there was no difference, as was pretended at that time, between the settlement involved in the Treaty, and the settlement involved in the alternative of external association, why were the British so anxious to prevent the one settlement, and were prepared to make immediate and terrible war rather than accept it? You cannot have it both ways. The English knew what the difference was.
The London “Times,” expressing the point of view of the British, said that the status that was contemplated in that settlement was not that of a Dominion. It was that of an independent power, loosely associated by Treaty with Great Britain and other States. If I saw in this present proposal a step towards the establishment of the complete freedom of this country I would welcome it. Even as it is, I would not object to it provided we were not asked to give any assent to it, to give express assent by asking the British Parliament to pass the measure. I would imagine that the Minister for External Affairs, from his point of view, if he were willing to apply the “ruthless logic” which he has been talking about to the situation he would have allowed the other British Dominions to carry on and pass their law, holding to the position which he took up, namely that we did not require a British Act of Parliament to confirm our rights. He would have said “All right, if you want this, have it; we do not object to it.” He would not have taken up the position that we are asked to take up, to agree that we are voluntarily a member of the British Commonwealth.
We are not voluntarily a member of the British Commonwealth. No statements that the Minister can  make can make it voluntary. Entrance into the British Commonwealth, after the declaration of the Republic, was effected by the threat of war, by force. It was assented to in the sense that it was not opposed reluctantly. There was not a member of the House who spoke at the passing of the Treaty with two exceptions who regarded it as anything except as a Treaty that they were compelled by superior force to accept. That was the position and nothing that the Minister can say now can change it. We are not voluntarily members of the British Commonwealth and we object to being associated with any preamble of any British law which embodies any such implication of assent on our part. We do not assent.
Our position in the matter is, therefore, very clear. We are not a British colony. We are not a British Dominion. We are a separate people, a separate nation. Our rights are inherent. We do not admit that they derive from any British donation. The British invaded this country, coerced our people, interfered with and prevented them from exercising their natural rights in the past. The British have ceased, in a measure, to interfere now. And to the extent that they have ceased to interfere our people have been set at liberty again to exercise their natural inherent rights. That is all. The British have partitioned this country, and they have done it against the will of the majority of the people of this country. As long as that situation obtains, as long as the country is forcibly divided and the choice of our people in their governmental institutions is not a free one but determined by a threat of war from Britain, a nation physically stronger than we are, so long we cannot admit, and it is a falsehood to assert it, that we are associated with the British in a free association. The British Crown is not a symbol of free association of our nation with the British. It is a symbol of a forced association, and although superior force may compel us to submit we can, and we should, avoid the misrepresentation of our position contained in this proposed preamble and make it clear that though we may be forced to  bear these chains we do not regard them as ornaments.
Mr. T.J. O'Connell: The resolution here before us asks us to say “That Dáil Eireann approves of the report of the Commonwealth Conference, 1930, and recommends the Executive Council to take such steps as they think fit to give effect thereto.”
The report of the Commonwealth Conference is a bulky document, containing 22 sections, and all the discussion which has taken place up to the present has had relation merely to one of these 22 sections—Inter-Imperial relations. I want to know from the Minister, or from anybody, why it has come before us in this particular form and why we should be asked to approve not only of Imperial relations about which we have heard so much, but of the principles involved in the other 21 sections. We are asked, for instance, to approve of the recommendations regarding the quota of wheat and the quota of commodities other than wheat, an Imperial Shipping Committee, the Antartic and a whole range of recommendations and statements of one kind or another, including the statement by the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the policy for industrial development in the Free State.
I am not prepared to take that document and to say that I approve of everything that is in it as I am asked by this Resolution. That is the position in which I find myself placed. We are asked to bind ourselves beforehand to recommend the Executive Council to take such steps as they think fit to give effect thereto, not alone to this Act, that has been discussed so much, but to everything in the report. I think it is quite unfair to the House to ask us to commit ourselves beforehand to an approval of everything that is in that document. That is what the resolution means, and because it asks us to do that is one reason why I am not prepared to vote for this resolution. If the Executive Council thought fit to take steps with regard to any one of these recommendations they could take these steps and seek approval for  the step or steps taken in regard to any of these recommendations. Their action would always be open to question in this House, but to put before us a document of this kind, and ask us in bulk beforehand, and without any explanation with regard to twenty-one of these recommendations and paragraphs, to accept them and approve of them and commit ourselves to them is asking too much altogether.
With regard to the matter about which there has been so much discussion, there is one point which I made before when it was under discussion here, and which I make again, and that is, I think it is not right that this Parliament should put itself into the position of asking the British Parliament to pass legislation to put us into a position which we already claimed and have always claimed we are in. I think it is something almost tantamount to admitting that up to the present, at any rate, we were not in that position, if we formally, by an Act of this Parliament, ask Great Britain to pass legislation which will put us into the position which we claim to have been in already.
I do not agree, however, with the line taken by Deputy O'Kelly that this action which has been taken is in effect more closely associating us with Great Britain than was the position, say, eight or nine years ago. I think anybody who has followed the course of events from 1921 up to the present must acknowledge that there has been progress towards a position of greater independence for this State than was the position in 1921. I think there can be no doubt on that point whatever. I think there can be no doubt that, so far as the right of the British Government to interfere in the affairs of this State is in question, any such right has very definitely disappeared. I would suggest that statements such as Deputy O'Kelly made here yesterday are not helpful and are not in the long run the wisest kind of statements to make. They may be taken down in writing and used as evidence against him. It may be that, at some time or another, Deputy O'Kelly will find himself in the position of asserting the independence of this State, and it may be awkward for him if he  finds the statements which he made yesterday evening rooted up and quoted against him. For that reason, I rather think that the line we should take would be to assert what we believe to be the truth, that the British Government have no right whatever to interfere in the affairs of this State, any more than this Government or Parliament have the right to interfere in the affairs of Great Britain. That is the position as I understand it and believe it to be.
I will go further and say, what I have said before and what I think cannot be denied, that if this Parliament of the elected representatives of the Irish Free State were to say in the morning that they would have no further associations of any kind with Great Britain as a member of the British Commonwealth, there is nothing to prevent them doing that. I have never heard any section of our people in this State making any such declaration, and I do not think it is likely they will do it. When the wider question is opened up, there is a different problem altogether that we have to face. I agree and accept the statement that has been made, and that I have made on another occasion, that no one has a right to put a limit to the march of a nation. As I say, in what has been done during the last nine years, I can see nothing that I would admit, in any case, to be putting a limit to the march of the nation towards its ultimate goal.
I am objecting to this resolution on the grounds which I have mentioned, first, because we are asked, not alone to signify our consent to this particular inter-Imperial Relations paragraph, but the other twenty-one paragraphs which are included, and about which we have not heard a word from Ministers. I do not know why that procedure should be necessary. No explanation has been given as to why we should be asked to approve in this formal manner of this report and everything in the report. And for the second reason, that I do not believe we should put ourselves in the position of asking the British Parliament to pass legislation to put us in the  position that we have always declared we are already in.
Mr. McGilligan: We have heard some five or six declarations on the report, or at least on that part of the report which has been discussed, because that is really the only part which is relevant to the motion. There were many declarations on the other side as to their aims and objects. But I want to point out that in all the speeches which have been made, so full of fervour, and, having at any rate the pretence of enthusiasm, there has been a rather careful picking of phrases. Deputy O'Kelly would like us to restore Ireland's proper national status and undo the work of the last ten years. He spoke about the degradation and the partitioning of the country, and said that it had been forced into the British Empire. The latter I deny. Deputy Lemass made a speech which, I suppose, was intended to satisfy those who have had their fears his principles were weakening in the last year or so so. If that speech is searched through I do not think the stalwart Republicans of the country are going to find a great deal to chuckle over in the statement of the Deputy. Deputy de Valera advanced cautiously to the use of the word “republic” in the phrase that certain people would “ultimately establish a republic if they can.” And that is all in relation to the document that is before us and the approval that is requested for a particular thing! Such approval has been questioned. Deputy O'Connell had a special point, that there are many more items in the report than Part VI. The approval I seek is, in the main, in reference to Part VI, and if it refers to any other part at all, it is only where those parts contain recommendations, and only so far as these recommendations have application to this country.
To Part VI the objection is made that we are asking the British Government by statute to give us a position which we assert we already have. That has to be read in conjunction with what I said in introducing the motion. We do make that assertion as to our present position. I went into great  detail to show that we were joined in a particular association with other nations, some which wanted this provision, wanted to have their position made absolutely and entirely clear. Hence, we joined with them, having made our position clear with regard to the statute, and having specially got the declaratory side of it agreed to at least in one particular.
There is, I am told, a fundamental objection to a British statute. What one British Parliament can do by statute another British Parliament can undo, and, therefore, the whole situation is jeopardised. How is the Republic going to be established, if certain people can ever ultimately establish it? Is it going to be jeopardised if a British statute takes cognisance of it, in so far as the setting up of a republic means the separation of a particular piece of territory which the British at present, as evidenced by their Parliamentary associations with it, believe belongs to them? How are the British going to deal, say, with the Six Counties, if and when a republic is declared and established for all Ireland? Are Deputies going to state, if the British do pass an Act of renunciation with regard to the Six Counties, that that is not going to be accepted because the moment after they pass that they can repeal it? Deputy Law dealt with that. General Hertzog dealt with that. We dealt with that in the discussions in the Imperial Conference, and in those discussions the act of renunciation with regard to America was on occasions referred to. General Hertzog on one occasion said that if he was asked to face up to the theory that the legislative supremacy of the British Parliament was always there and that by a legislative Act it could to-morrow take over again the American colonies, he could afford to laugh at such a theory and could afford not to pay attention to it. Further, the statement was made by several Delegates to the Conference, and joined in by General Hertzog, that if there was ever any question of a British Parliament later repealing this statute of Westminster which the Dominions now wanted, the answer was that the moment that repeal was attempted the  whole Commonwealth of Nations would be broken up.
There would be precedents for secession all over the Commonwealth if and when that happened. No British Government of this day would dare to declare that its Parliament had the right of itself to legislate for any of the members of the Commonwealth. Deputies opposite have, however, to get themselves out of the dilemma of their own making. The freedom of the country has to be got some way. It is to be got by force apparently, because, we understand from Deputy de Valera, America got her freedom in that way, and it is the only way, apparently, that freedom can be got. When we are in possession of superior force and able to impose our will upon the English people, then a republic and separatism and everything else is to be achieved. How is it to be recognised? The British Government must recognise that fact for themselves. Is the whole of the new situation to be jeopardised simply because there must be an Act of the British Parliament recognising it, and if it is not to be so jeopardised, then how is what is happening here jeopardised by the fact that there is to be a statute passed at Westminster, particularly when that statute is limited to certain items, and particularly when this statute has been demanded by the nations of the Commonwealth, most of whom are not supposed to be, nationally, so far advanced as we are, and yet demand that statute now as of right. The situation facing the British is that if that were not passed as requested, in the face of the request of the Dominions, or if it were repealed afterwards, then the Commonwealth of Nations is definitely at an end.
The position we find ourselves in at the moment is this: The only difference which I can see in the constitutional position of the Free State now and what it might be under a declared republic amounts to this—that at the moment there is a constitutional monarch who is supposed to represent the will of the people of this country. In the other situation there will be somebody called the President, also supposed to represent the will of the people of this country. And nobody  has dared to say that at present the constitutional relationship between this country and the King is such that the King can deviate in the slightest way from the advice tendered to him on any and every point by the Government of this country——
Mr. McGilligan: That is the point at which to make it clear you are not having that interference. The situation as accepted is that of a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch definitely obeys the will of the people, and if he ceases to obey, he ceases to be constitutionally monarch. As to what is likely to happen in the future let us look at what has happened in the past five or ten years. There has been no deviation from the advice tendered to the King. Let us look over ten years after all the bogies that were raised. We were told that legislation passed would not be signed; the King would intervene at almost every point; he would delay legislation. Yet never was there an example given by anybody where the King deviated from the advice tendered to him.
Mr. McGilligan: The situation is such that for ten years the will of the Irish people has been made effective; that there never was any reason even for the King to attempt to deviate from that binding advice. Ten years! and the possibly worst ten years constitutionally in the history of this country, when it was fitting itself into the new situation and yet no example of deviation can be quoted! So far from it that Deputy de Valera now says there was no reason for any deviation. The President or the King, both subject to the will of the people, as expressed through their Parliamentary institutions, yet we are going to have more trouble, something approaching chaos if necessary, in order to get the difference established as between a President obeying the will of the people and a King obeying the will of the people!
Mr. McGilligan: Let us get to the Republic. Deputy O'Kelly kept to the phrase about the national status of the country and the degradation and partitioning of it. Deputy Lemass was on much the same lines. I do not think Deputy Lemass breathed the horrid word “Republic” throughout his long speech. If Deputy O'Kelly did so it was in a very halting way, and Deputy de Valera only used the phrase “the Republic that is to be established ultimately if people can.” There are certain signs said to evidence the non-existence of the Republic which I suppose the Deputy will recognise as such. If the Deputy is empowered to do what he can are we to understand that the Republic is going to be declared? Will Deputy O'Kelly declare the Republic if Deputy de Valera is not strong enough to do it, and if neither will, will Deputy Lemass step into the breach and say that he at any rate will declare the Republic if and when that Party are empowered by the people to carry on the Government of this country. What are the marks of the non-existence of the Republic? We have heard them frequently. They are numerous, but there are at least five items which have been prominently put  before us: the Oath, the King, the Governor-General, the Six Counties situation, the presence of certain troops in this country, and I take it from to-day's debate, even if all these were cleared up the final position is prejudiced as long as it was recognised by an Act of the British Parliament. Is Deputy Valera, if empowered to do what he can for this country at an election, going to declare a Republic, which involves getting rid of the King, removing the Governor - General, abolishing the Oath, taking over of the Six Counties and forcing the evacuation of places at present occupied by certain troops? And all this is to be achieved while the British Parliament is to be forbidden to regularise the new position by a statute. Will Deputy O'Kelly say these are his aims, if Deputy de Valera defaults, or will Deputy Lemass make up for the weakness of his two strong brethren and say that is what his aim and object is, and that aim and object will be achieved as soon as he gets power?
Mr. McGilligan: The Republic when they can. Deputy Corry interrupts me. Possibly Deputy Corry will. The country, at any rate, is not lost. There is one man that is going to tackle the Oath, the Governor-General, the King, the Six Counties situation, and the troops in certain parts of the country.
Mr. McGilligan: With all the enthusiasm that has been put into the speeches to-day, Deputies opposite have not given us a declaration of what they are likely to do if and when they are empowered by the Irish people to do something.
Deputy O'Kelly made the assertion last night that he took no oath entering this Dáil. He did. Not merely did he take it, but he signed an unreserved  declaration prior to taking it that he would do so, and he sits here as much an oath-bound member of the Assembly as any other member of it. But he and other members of that Party have, by their conduct, put themselves in such a position that they are the last people in the world who in honesty should try to deal with the British Government on the question of the oath.
Mr. McGilligan: So that the rate of speeding up is all that is in question. Ten years' progress there has been, but the Deputy was going to do all these things at the moment he became empowered. It is now a question as to how and when they can be done. That attitude of progress is the attitude most of us have on these things. The pace alone is the difference between us.
Mr. McGilligan: Yes, the Vice-President's attitude, in the circumstances in which he conceives the British Commonwealth of Nations to stand, agrees, as between that status and the sort of Republic the Deputy is going to declare either one or ten years after he may get power, that there is no difference between them. Fianna Fáil, by taking the oath, did not consider that they were setting bounds to the march of that part of the nation which they represent. Neither did any of us. Yet that is one of the causes of the dispute between us.
We are told by Deputy de Valera that there is an army in this country supplied with British ammunition to shoot down certain people. There is an army in this country. That is a fact. They would be of very little use  if they had no ammunition. That is another fact. They will get ammunition wherever they can get it cheapest, and nobody would object more than Deputies opposite, when the economy fit was on them, if they bought it dearer. That ammunition would certainly have to be used against people who do not obey the will of the majority of the people, if they go out and try to subvert the will of the majority of the people by force. Dragging in British ammunition only reveals a weakness in argument. There is the ordinary situation that any ordinary State will find itself in—that it has an army, that that army is going to be at the will of the majority of the people of the country, and is going to prevent any attempt to subvert State institutions by force.
Deputy de Valera wound up by saying that he regards this country as a separate nation and a separate people in no way dependent upon British statutes. I have said that at three Imperial Conferences, asserted the separateness of the nationhood of this country, the separateness of the people in a lot of their ideals and in the generality of their make-up and asserted that we were never in the past and were not going to be dependent on a British statute for that separateness. So in that I agree with the Deputy, but is that in conflict with the documents before the people to-day? Deputy Lemass thinks that we might have come to the point of separating up the King and so have achieved six kingdoms. I wonder how far we are off that? I think the division as between that situation and that in which we now find ourselves is very slight indeed. There is the single person of the King. We might say there is a single physical crown upon his head, but outside these two items there is no question of unity as between members of the Commonwealth. The King moves and acts in relation to Irish affairs as Irish Ministers tell him to move and act, and nobody else can tell him what to do in relation to Irish affairs, while Irish Ministers cannot tell him anything of what he is to do, except in relation to Irish affairs. The difference between that and the six kingdoms specially  and clearly announced is very slight indeed. That is where we have progressed from the 1921 point.
Mr. McGilligan: Possibly. It would not be a bad answer to the Deputy who has to-day revealed his weakness in face of the general situation. But we do know what we can do in this. It is, however, difficult legislation. It is very easy to do one small and simple thing in regard to it, but it is not easy to deal with that big question in a comprehensive way. It may take a considerable time to draw up the Bill required. As far as the Imperial Conference Report is concerned, as the Deputy said, it left the situation as it was. I agree, but his view of the situation as it was is not likely to be the same as my view of it. What was the situation? The 1926 Conference Report states it. We brought this matter up at the 1929 Conference. It was not quite appropriate to that discussion. It was brought up again in 1930 and there is nothing in that Report for or against the 1926 position and the 1926 position, as far as the principle was concerned, was quite satisfactory to us. The matter was definitely discussed in 1930, and remembering that discussion, I would like to say that there is no British Government in existence or likely to be in existence for many years, which would dare to say to the Commonwealth as a whole that if it wants to get rid of the Privy Council that wish cannot be accepted. Into that situation we will fit our particular case and fit the particular legislation we have to deal with it when we consider it suitable. That will be as early as we can get the question thoroughly considered and get legislation properly brought forward. The Dáil divided: Tá, 63; Níl, 46.
|Aird, William P.
Alton, Ernest Henry.
Beckett, James Walter.
Bennett, George Cecil.
Byrne, John Joseph.
Cole, John James.
Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
Connolly, Michael P.
Cosgrave, William T.
Craig, Sir James.
Dolan, James N.
Doyle, Peadar Seán.
Duggan, Edmund John.
Egan, Barry M.
Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
Gorey, Denis J.
Hassett, John J.
Heffernan, Michael R.
Law, Hugh Alexander.
Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
McFadden, Michael Og.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Myles, James Sproule.
Nally, Martin Michael.
Nolan, John Thomas.
O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
Shaw, Patrick W.
Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork)
Thrift, William Edward.
White, Vincent Joseph.
Wolfe, Jasper Travers.
Corry, Martin John.
De Valera, Eamon.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick John.
O'Connell, Thomas J.
O'Dowd, Patrick Joseph.
O'Kelly, Seán T.
Sheehy, Timothy (Tipp.).
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