Wednesday, 11 October 1933
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. MacDermot: I asked the Minister for Justice to-day whether any prosecutions were pending in connection with the disturbances which took place at Tralee on October 6th, and if so whether such prosecutions would be before the Military Tribunal. The Minister for Justice replied that sufficient evidence had not yet been accumulated to make possible the formulation of any charges, and that the Government would do their best to bring the offenders to justice. He made no allusion to the Military Tribunal. Now I have felt obliged to revert to the matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House this evening because the problem of intimidation which has long been a serious one throughout the country has become especially serious during the last few weeks since the formation of the United Ireland Party.
The occurrences at Tralee would be serious in any event. They involved personal injury, quite severe personal injury, to General O'Duffy and to Deputy Lynch, an ex-Minister. They involved personal injuries to other  individuals and danger of much more severe injuries and, perhaps, death to a large number of delegates who assembled at Tralee on that occasion. But what happened at Tralee is not an isolated occurrence and must be considered in conjunction with what has been taking place elsewhere during the last few weeks. The first outbreak of importance was in the City of Limerick some weeks ago. On that occasion the police did their duty and, as a result of their doing their duty, I understand that there were protests afterwards against the Civic Guards in which, to their shame, certain Fianna Fáil Deputies took part. These occurrences at Limerick were followed up by paragraphs in the official organ of the I.R.A. headed: “No free speech for traitors” and congratulating the persons concerned in the Limerick disturbances on their public-spirited conduct and inciting persons in Cork to do likewise. At the meeting held by the United Ireland Party in Cork, attempts were made along similar lines, but they proved unsuccessful, and then we had these occurrences in Tralee. Now the situation in the County Kerry seems to be especially bad because, as far as one can judge from the reports, the Civic Guards in County Kerry have been reduced to a condition almost of helplessness. On that occasion at Tralee there was a force, I understand, of somewhere about 75 Guards in the town. It appears to me very remarkable, in view of the threatening attitude of the crowd that had collected, that General O'Duffy and his companions were permitted to walk along a narrow street—Bridge Street— with lanes leading into it, without an escort of Guards on either side of them. They had no such escort and the result was that a number of hooligans were able to run up——
Mr. MacDermot: ——and kick Deputy Lynch and deliver a number of blows on the person of General O'Duffy. Finally, one of them hit him on the head with some sort of instrument—I understand a hammer. Subsequent to that, when the delegates reached the hall there was stone-throwing at the hall. A mills bomb was thrown at the sky-light and was only prevented from falling in by some wire and prevented from exploding presumably by the fact that the contents had got damaged in some way. When the convention had concluded the delegates were unable to leave. The Guards would not let them leave until troops arrived. The mob who were demonstrating all the time outside, insisted that one of the delegates present at the convention was armed. To such an extent were the Civic Guards apparently acting at the behest of the mob that, while they had failed to arrest any of the people who made these assaults, they went into the hall and brought out at the behest of the mob the delegate who was accused of carrying arms and searched him outside. It was found that he had no arms. I think it appropriate to say at this juncture that it appears to me that the fact that, going into that hostile area (as they knew it to be), none of the people attending that convention carried arms—it is not suggested now that any of them was armed—is a tribute to the spirit in which the Young Ireland organisation is conducting its activities. It appears to me that if ever there was an occasion on which they were likely to be tempted to break the law by carrying arms, that would be the occasion, but there is no sug gestion that they did anything of the kind.
There had been another considerably less important incident a week previously at Caherciveen where a young fellow on coming out from the Sunday evening devotions was attacked by a group of hooligans because he was an active supporter of our Party. He escaped by getting on to a 'bus. A friend of his ran to his assistance. Each of them got hold of a spanner out of the 'bus tool box and defended the doors of the 'bus with the spanners.  Once again some Guards appeared on the scene. They made no arrests among the people who were attacking these men.
Mr. MacDermot: What they actually did, again at the behest of the attackers, was to search one of the attacked young men to see if he had any arms, and he had no arms. And so it goes on. An Phoblacht is allowed to continue to publish paragraphs on the lines I have stated: “No free speech for traitors.” Yesterday at Limerick I had a minor experience of the same kind myself where after a private convention where no sort of provocation was given——
An Ceann Comhairle: I do not like to interrupt the Deputy, but the question on the Order Paper is a very definite one dealing with certain events in Tralee. The Deputy has already dealt with three other events that are in no way connected with the scenes at Tralee.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must control himself. It would be impossible for the Minister to answer without notice questions relating to other events which have no connection with the matter raised in the question on the Order Paper. The debate should be confined to the specific matter raised.
Mr. MacDermot: I submit, with great respect, that I am not going in any detail into what occurred in Limerick, and I was not going to mention any other places. I submit with great respect that the object of putting the question, and raising this matter on the adjournment, was to draw the attention of the Government to the administration of justice throughout the country, and that what occurred at Tralee is not to be taken as an isolated case. I am not trying to draw an explanation and a defence from the Government about each of the  places where disturbances occurred. I merely want to show that there is a danger of a general breakdown of order throughout the country. Something very significant happened at Limerick yesterday, and it throws a strong light on what happened in Kerry, and on what may happen elsewhere. My motor car was stoned by a crowd of people who were demonstrating, generally with good-humour, shouting “Up Dev.” and harmless things like that. But there were perhaps half-a-dozen youths whose faces were distorted with hatred and passion, who were obviously out for real mischief, who behaved in such a way that I consider they should have been arrested, because their conduct was calculated to provoke a breach of the peace. However, they were not arrested. They stoned my car and broke a window in it. Fortunately they did no personal injury to anyone, but it was not for the want of the will to do it. According to the newspapers to-day two of the stone-throwers were afterwards arrested and were brought to the barracks by the Guards. A mob assembled and demonstrated outside the barracks, and a town councillor, named Angley, intervened and the men were released.
Mr. MacDermot: I put it to the Government that intimidation is going to be absolutely rampant throughout the whole country if that sort of thing goes on, that the Civic Guards cannot be expected to perform their duty, unless Superintendents everywhere are given definite instructions by the Government, that will prevent that kind of thing. I have not brought this matter forward in order to make Party capital. I told the Minister for Justice and the Attorney-General a week ago, after our debate on the Public Safety Act, that if they could indicate to me illegalities, provocative conduct, or militarist conduct going on on our side, in any part of the country, I offered my full co-operation to stop anything of the kind. This is a matter upon which we ought to co-operate on both sides of the House. Something  was said earlier in the evening, on another matter, about national unity. National unity, of course, is only possible where we can agree on a national policy. Surely in this matter of intimidation we can all agree, if we have any decency or any sincerity in us at all. I suggest that it is up to the Government to take this thing seriously, and to take serious steps to see that it is stopped. Of course it is no good shutting one's eyes to the fact that it is not merely a matter of administration, that besides sound and strong administration there has to be a certain political attitude, that does not give rise to the sort of intimidation we are dealing with here. These things spring up from irrational hatred. I could do far more to bring that home to the House if it were possible to have a cinematograph show here to reproduce the faces and the voices of the people who took the leading part in these demonstrations. They looked as if they were on the border-line of insanity—if not over the border-line. These unfortunate people were worked up to a condition of absolute madness. I do not want to be vindictive for one minute towards these poor people, but the country cannot afford to have that sort of thing going on. It cannot afford to have people indulging in orgies of hatred. As long as hatred is the atmosphere in which we live, move and have our being politically, no doubt intimidation will occur, even with the best administration in the world, but I really appeal to the Minister, and to the Party opposite, in general, to discourage the sort of propaganda that makes hatred inevitable.
Mr. MacDermot: Partly by members of my Party, and no one in the House regretted that, I venture to say, as  deeply as I did. After all, one swallow does not make a summer, and it is not often the President is shouted down. I venture to say that I have been interrupted far more offensively on many occasions than the President was on that occasion in this House. We are not dealing with Parliamentary manners at the moment. We are dealing with something much more serious. We are dealing with an organised attempt throughout the country to prevent people from exercising their ordinary rights of citizenship.
Mr. MacDermot: It takes very little investigation to find out the truth. I charge that people are being intimidated and kept away from the meetings of our Party. I charge that definitely, and I charge that the Civic Guards have not been given such instructions —whether that is the fault of the Minister for Justice or of the Chief Commissioner, I do not know—that the protection that should be available from the Civic Guards is in fact available in an ineffective form. I think that when the Minister for Justice stood up to-day and said that no arrests had yet been made for the appalling occurrences at Tralee and when he left us so very doubtful whether any would be made, he was confessing something absolutely disgraceful, not only to this Government but to this country.
To ask the Minister for Justice whether it is the intention of the  Government to bring any charges of assault, wounding, possession of arms, intimidation, unlawful assembly, conspiracy or riot in connection with the scenes at Tralee on October 6th, and to have such charges, or any of them, tried before the Military Tribunal under the Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Act.
I informed the Deputy that inquiries into the matter were proceeding. What fuller reply, while inquiries are still proceeding, I can give to the Deputy in the circumstances, I do not know. When those inquiries have got to the stage that I would be in a position to submit the entire matter to the Attorney-General all this question of a Military Tribunal or otherwise would then arise. It is a matter for the Attorney-General to decide on those circumstances whether the charges, which we may be in a position to prove, are charges that fall within the Constitution Amendment Act or not. I see Deputy O'Sullivan smile. Well, if the Deputy would care to look up the Act which he, as a member of the Government, helped to pass here he would see that there was such a thing as an appendix to that Act in which certain offences are set out and that there are a great many offences which might be committed even in Kerry which would not fall within the appendix to that particular Act.
I do not dispute what Deputy MacDermot said, that extraordinary scenes did take place and extraordinary happenings occurred in Tralee on this particular day, but what I do resent is the suggestion that appears to be bandied about the House—it was a suggestion very thinly veiled, I would suggest, to-night and particularly thinly veiled in Deputy Anthony's interjections—that some sort of secret instructions have been sent out to the Guards which more or less tied their hands in the execution of their duty.
Mr. Ruttledge: I give the Deputy an absolutely flat denial of that. When we are dealing with a situation like this and when Deputy MacDermot gets up here and points to the responsibility  of the Government, one would expect at least that Deputies, if they think they are responsible either to themselves or to anybody else, should not be interjecting about certain matters about which they have no specific information.
Mr. Ruttledge: Those statements— and I say incorrect and deliberately incorrect statements—should not be made unless they can be substantiated. Deputy Anthony may appear to the people of this House, who know him, as being irresponsible, but to people outside, who do not know him, he may be regarded as responsible.
Mr. Ruttledge: With regard to those incidents in Tralee, I have interviewed the Chief Superintendent in that area, and I challenge any of the Deputies of Kerry on the once Cumann na nGaedheal Benches to ascertain if the Superintendent had not and has not at all  times received definite instructions to preserve the public peace in that area. He had no instructions, good, bad or indifferent, that would in any way curtail his activities in preserving peace and order at that meeting on 6th October, and he acted as best he could in accordance with his own best judgment in procuring the forces he considered necessary to preserve peace and order. Any instructions he has got have been to that effect, and any instructions that any officer or member of the Civic Guards has got from my Department since I came into office or any instructions they got while my predecessor, Mr. Geoghegan, was in office were at all times to preserve the right of public speech for all political Parties in this country. No member or officer of the Civic Guards has been interfered with in any way so far as the carrying out of instructions is concerned, or called to task afterwards for carrying out those instructions. We have made it perfectly clear to the officers of the Guards and to the Guards as a whole that this Government is behind them and prepared to back them up fully in the carrying out of their duties to ensure the right of free speech for political Parties in this country.
I cannot make to this House any more definite statement on this particular matter. I am not in a position to deal with the Tralee business to the extent that I should deal with it if I were to give an adequate reply to Deputy MacDermot's question, for the reason, as I have already said, that inquiries are still proceeding. The Government has the responsibility of preserving peace and order at public meetings for all political Parties. It has also the right and the duty to prevent, so far as it can, provocative displays, and in the prevention of provocative displays and in the preservation of peace and order the Guards will continue to do their duty and will have the Government behind them.
|Last Updated: 17/05/2011 15:40:49||Page of 34|