Estimates for Public Services, 1934-35. - Constitution (Amendment No. 24) Bill, 1934—Fifth Stage.

Thursday, 24 May 1934

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 52 No. 13

First Page Previous Page Page of 15 Next Page Last Page

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I move that the Bill do now pass.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Those who have been listening to the case made, or rather to the case that has not been made by the President on this particular Bill, are possibly looking forward, even at this late hour, to his realising the necessity of bringing forward, some argument in favour of the abolition of one of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Without going into the particular philosophy involved, but regarding it merely as a statement, the Constitution declares that the power comes from the people and that for legislative purposes it is vested in the Oireachtas. Whether it is keeping a bargain with the people, without definitely putting before them, so that they can decide in the matter, the question of abolition of one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, and whether that is either a moral or legal procedure, I do not propose to discuss at present. From a legal point of view, it is not a matter we can decide here.

The real gist of the case that the President has made up to the present is that the Government has been elected by the majority of the people and you must trust that Government; everything depends on that. If you cannot trust either the good will or the wisdom of that Government there is nothing more to be said; but you must trust the Government. That really is the whole gist of the case he has made; trust them to act well; trust them to act properly; trust them to act wisely. I suggest—and this is not a question of mere words; it goes very far beyond that—that exactly the same argument can be used for getting rid of the Dáil; that all the people need do in a case of that kind would be to elect the Executive Council and to trust them; that there is no necessity until the next period of election comes round for having anybody [1747] who would keep them in check because, in the last resort, according to the President's argument, everything must depend on the Executive Council being trusted. As I say, an argument of that kind could quite as easily lead to the abolition of the Dáil as to that of the Seanad. Not merely that, but I suggest that, in practice, that is very easily what may occur. As I said on a previous occasion, there is a danger, and by no means a remote danger, that this House, being then the sole House of the Legislature, may be turned, as other similar one-Chamber systems have been turned, into a mere machine for registering the edicts of the Government.

The President: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Tell us something about them.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  The President is terrifically keen on that; but if he had the slightest knowledge of the first attempt made in modern time to set up a unicameral system, he would know that that is precisely what happened. I had hoped that in the time which has intervened since the last stage of this Bill the President might at least have looked up that particular point for himself. The President knows that I have a certain objection to bringing purely professional matters into a House of this kind. As the President might know, the outstanding example in the history of Europe of an attempt at a unicameral system was the three Assemblies in the case of the French Revolution. A great deal of the failure of that particular movement was due to the dispatch that the President seems to be so keen on having in this particular case. Even the most powerful of these Assemblies, namely the Convention, became a mere registering machine to carry out the wishes of the Committee of Public Safety, which was practically the Government of France at that particular moment. So severe was the lesson that France was taught at that time that, though democracy had won out in France at that time and in subsequent periods in her history, she never repeated the experiment of a single Chamber. There was one short period of a few months in 1848 in which there was a Constituent [1748] Assembly in France but, even thought democracy had been established there, never again did she go back to the disastrous experiment of a single Chamber. I had hoped that in the meanwhile the President might have looked up these very elementary facts. As the President knows, I have an objection, as I said, to dealing with these purely professional matters— matters that could be quite as well known to the President as to anybody else.

I should have imagined that the President would ask himself whether there is any country in Europe at present in which such power is proposed to be given or has been given into the hands of a single Chamber as he proposes to give into the hands of the Dáil. There is not a single example. Where you have unicameral systems at present there are checks on those systems. You have one in Finland, for example, but there the President, who is elected, not by the Legislature, but by a different system altogether, performs exactly the same functions as the Second Chamber does with us in the Free State. Why have he and his Government, who on other occasions have been so keen on finding examples as justification for the various schemes of legislation, not brought forward examples here? I shall leave out of account altogether countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, China and Persia and places like these. I do not know that the country wishes to follow the President in following their example. Let us confine ourselves to Europe. How many unicameral systems are there in Europe? If there are not unicameral systems in Europe as a general procedure, has the President ever thought of asking himself why that is so? He cannot bring forward the ludicrous excuse that it is because the people had not come into their rights, because it is when the people had come into their rights that they insisted, in most cases in Europe, either on the retention or setting up of a Second Chamber.

Many constitutions at present in force in Europe are of quite recent creation—practically the creation of this century. Yet, in most of these you [1749] have Second Chambers. The one place in which the President might find some support for saying that the people “have not come into their own” in this respect would be Great Britain. As usual, with the members of that Party, Great Britain is identified with civilisation. For them, British institutions are democratic institutions. They are the only political institutions to which they pay much heed. But take the other countries. Why have they Second Chambers? Why have they found them necessary? They are democracies; they are not aristocracies; they are not bound down by tradition. There are a few countries in Europe which have only a single Chamber in the Legislature. What has been their fate? Two of them have become dictatorships in the last couple of days —Latvia and Bulgaria. Turkey and Esthonia—you will notice the countries —have practically a dictatorship. In Finland it is quite true that they have not a Second Chamber. I have, however, indicated already that the power of the President, who is not elected by the one Chamber, is practically identical with the functions performed by the Seanad in our State. I cannot speak exactly about the form of government at present in Lithuania, but I know that a few years ago there was a dictatorship there. It certainly is one of the most unsettled Governments in Europe. Albania? I am not quite clear whether it has a Second Chamber or not. Spain? Does the President want us to follow that example? They have a unicameral system, but there are checks even there on the single Chamber so far as constitutional amendments are concerned.

These are the examples in Europe that the President would have us follow. Let him ask himself, or let those who support this measure ask themselves, if there are not unicameral systems in most of the other countries in Europe, why is it? Why did these people think it wise to have a Second Chamber? Even a very radical French statesman had to point out—and he was quite as radical as the President would wish, quite as radical as his friend, the Abbé Siéyés ever was —speaking at a later period, with [1750] a long experience behind him, that the Republican Constitution in France had to be saved by the existence of a Second Chamber. “Give us a perfect Second Chamber and I shall adopt it,” says the President. That was meant as a serious contribution to a constitutional debate. The President must know perfectly well that such a demand is absurd, that, as I have said already, outside a glass case you cannot get anything of the kind. Only his friend the Abbé Siéyés could produce a constitution of that kind. He was the only person able to do it and, as I have said already, his constitution did not work. You cannot have any legislative Chamber against which objections cannot be made—either a First or a Second Chamber. Objections can be made against all of them. None of them can have the mark of perfection that the President demands.

This Bill is slightly different from the Bill introduced. Two amendments, the value of which the Opposition at the time discounted, have been introduced. I should like the House to consider why these amendments alone have been introduced. Are the other rights of the people that are now to be at the mercy of the Dáil and therefore of the Executive Council, because that is what it comes to in practice, any less fundamental? The independence of the judiciary is important. The independence of the Auditor-General is even of some importance. But there are other rights of the people that should be looked upon as equally fundamental—that is, if the Government of this country is to continue as a constitutional democratic Government—certain rights for which there is no guarantee if the Executive Council want to trample on them in the morning; certain rights in respect to which there is every sign that, once they have the power, they are determined to trample upon them; certain rights that the President, whilst he gave a nominal acceptance to them, took good care he was not going to observe in practice and took good care that he would not preserve.

Although he acknowledged that there were certain fundamental rights [1751] in that way, he took no steps to safeguard them. All apparently was to depend on the goodwill of the Government, as if the very purpose of the Constitution is not to put a check on Houses of Parliament and on Governments. That is one of the main purposes of a written Constitution. The President ignores that as one of the purposes. Again, everything must depend on the goodwill of the Government as to whether the fundamental rights of the people of the country are to be preserved or not. It must depend on whether the Government and their machined majority decide so or not. Does anybody who has been in attendance at this House expect that the Government will receive any opposition from the majority which it has at the present time, if it determines to wipe away all these fundamental rights of the ordinary people in the Constitution? The President spoke of reaching bedrock. Well, there should be plenty of what is bedrock in this Constitution. It is rather difficult to imagine a democratic Constitution that will not safeguard these rights. Why is he not doing it? Why is he obstinately refusing to do it? From various remarks that he let drop about the judges we had reason to apprehend his conduct, so far as they were concerned. They hampered the Government just, I presume, as the Bishops were “misled,” and are still apparently misled, about Communism and other things, “but he learn'd them.” But it is not a mere matter of inference so far as these fundamental rights are concerned. The whole action of the Government, since last August, is ample proof that one of the reasons why the President does not guarantee these rights and refuses to guarantee them, is that he, his Government, and his machined majority are determined to trample upon them.

It is quite obvious, I should say, from this debate, from the attitude taken up by the President, from the arguments that he put forward, from the fact that on the whole he has put forward very few arguments, that he has no conception [1752] whatever of the constitutional rights of the ordinary people of this country. As long as he is in power he does not think that any guarantee is required for the continued existence of these rights. That is the very negation of democratic constitutional government, that ignoring of the idea that Governments must have checks put upon them, whereas that is the purpose, and one of the fundamental purposes of the Constitution. If does these things at a time when he professes to believe that this is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, what is he likely to do in times of excitement? The introduction of the very Bill itself is proof of what the Government can do in a fit of bad temper. If the position becomes what the President may consider more serious, there are no limits to which we should not expect the Government to go in pursuit of its policy.

The whole rights of the people are, undoubtedly, put in jeopardy. The very refusal of the President to guarantee these rights, except at some distant date, justifies the gravest apprehension as to the purpose behind this Bill. There is no respect for constitutional rights. He treats the Constitution as if it were Dutch cheese, that he can split up any way he likes, as the Minister for Agriculture treats the calves, and as the Minister for Local Government treats the counties. These things amount to nothing. The rights of the people are just as sacred in the eyes of the President as the calves are in the eyes of the Minister for Agriculture—not a bit less, and not a bit more. What does he really want? Does he want a working Constitution? It is quite obvious from his speeches that he does not. First of all he wants no Constitution. He wants complete and unfettered control of the country by the Government, and by the Party that supports the Government. If he has an idea of a Constitution, it is not of an organically working instrument; it is simply a formula of some kind, a thing that can be put down on paper. If he could find a formula he would be satisfied, whether the formula would give a working institution, or give a [1753] machine that would refuse to go. That would be a secondary matter in his eyes, and in the eyes of the Government. The whole line that he and his Government have followed all through has been to abolish and to destroy. He alleges as a reason that he wants to have a clear foundation, that he is going to build up. But, it should be quite obvious to anybody, as revealed during the various stages of this Bill, that, in fact, there is nothing to build up. There are no rights that the people can rely upon. There are no stones by which the new edifice is to be built up. The work of destruction. I have no doubt, he may complete. We have yet to see some sign of the ability to build either constitutionally or economically, so far as this country is concerned. The matter is something more than whether the present Seanad should go or not. What is really at stake—and I think no one could make this clearer than the President—are the rights of the ordinary citizens.

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  When the British Parliament Act was brought in, reducing the powers of the House of Lords, it contained a preamble announcing that it was intended to proceed to a reconstitution of that body at some early date. By a curious coincidence, when the President invited us some months ago to reduce the powers of the Seanad, he simultaneously informed us that the Government was going to devote itself to a period of hard thinking about what a Seanad ought to be. I pointed out, on the Second Reading of the present Bill, that, like the authors of the Parliament Act, the Government had departed from their intentions in that particular, and I quoted a statement made by the President himself as to his reason for bringing in this Bill. I will quote it again from column 3212 of the Official Debates:—

“I brought in this Bill to show the country the extent to which opposition to the elected Government of the country can be carried on when playing this game.”

That rather vaguely worded declaration is, at any rate, illuminating as to this, that the Government brought in this Bill because it was in a temper. That is why it brought in this particular [1754] Bill, and that is why it chose the particular moment it did choose to bring it in. It is worth while considering again whether there was justification for the Government for departing from the method of calm reflection which we had been given to understand was to be adopted, and following instead the strong-arm method represented by this Bill. The ground given is that the Seanad was acting so outrageously that something spectacular had to be done. I want to ask Deputies on the opposite benches to consider fairly and candidly whether there is justification for this anger with the Seanad.

The Seanad is accused of three crimes since the present Government came into office. I think it is not denied that since the present Government came into office the Seanad has passed many measures that were antipathetic to it, many measures that it cannot have at all enjoyed passing. But it has rejected three Government measures—the Extension of the Local Franchise Bill, the Oath Bill, and what is known as the Blueshirt Bill. I maintain that these are measures the Seanad could scarcely have passed if it had any regard for its duty to the country.

As regards the Local Franchise Bill. it has been quite freely admitted that no place was found for it, even in the very swollen programme that Fianna Fáil put before the country in the election of 1932. Room was found for a great many matters that have since been dropped. A great deal of Fianna Fáil policy has been thrown overboard. and, in some cases, perhaps so much the better. In other cases one regrets it. At any rate, no room was found for this particular bit of policy. After all it was a novel principle that the local elections franchise should be given to people who do not pay rates. I can see nothing at all for the Government to complain about in the Seanad's action in throwing out that Bill. especially when it is recollected that, even as things stand at present, the throwing out of the Bill by the Seanad means only a comparatively short delay before it passes into law if the Government remains in office and persists with the measure in question.

[1755] Then, as to the Blueshirt Bill, you have got to remember that that Bill was the last stage in a whole series of measures of a coercive character, directed against a wing of the official Opposition. You have got to remember that that series of measures was in violent contrast with the Government's own statements of principle before they came into office; that whereas the Government had recommended methods of patience and brotherly love in dealing with turbulent elements of the community who had actually committed crimes, they were now asking the Seanad to acquiesce in methods of a very different character, applied not to people who had committed crimes but to people who were merely suspected of being about to commit crimes. A measure similar to the Blueshirt Bill was introduced only a few days ago in the British House of Commons and, though there is probably no country in Europe where there is so little sympathy with Fascism, or so little sympathy with anything in the nature of militarisation of politics as there is in Great Britain, nevertheless only a handful of people were found to support that Bill, because it was argued, with the good sense which is, after all, characteristic of British democracy, that the forces of the law were quite adequate to deal with any crime when it came to be committed and that the effect of passing a sensational measure of that kind would be more to encourage and to stimulate the Fascist agitation than to injure it. We on this side of the House entirely deny that the organisation called the League of Youth is a Fascist organisation. We maintain, on the contrary, that that organisation have saved Parliamentary government in this country by saving the essentials of Parliamentary government. But even assuming that the Government took the view they said they did of the aims of that organisation, they have utterly failed to show that any dangers had arisen which were not capable of being dealt with by the ordinary law. That is all I propose to say about the Blueshirt Bill. Obviously, we cannot discuss in detail the various measures with [1756] which the Seanad dealt. The point I am trying to make is that it was a very natural Bill for the Seanad to hold up, that it represented a new departure in public policy and a violent departure from the principles which members of the Government had themselves enunciated before they came into office.

The third measure in respect of which complaint is made of the action of the Seanad is the Oath Bill. When the Fianna Fáil Government came into office in 1932, they had, as I said, an enormous programme—a very long list of items. It was extremely doubtful which of these items should be regarded as having been mainly responsible for their victory at the general election. The propaganda of the Fianna Fáil Party for the removal of the Oath had insisted, I think, on two things. One was that the Oath could be removed without a breach of the Treaty and without creating serious trouble with Great Britain. The other was that the effect of the removal of the Oath would be to reconcile to our Constitution elements in the country not hitherto reconciled to it. Before the Seanad was called upon to deal with the Oath Bill, these two propositions had been demonstrated to be untrue. The Oath Bill was creating great annoyance in the minds of the British Ministers. It was obvious it was going to lead to trouble. On the other hand, the elements whom it had been hoped to reconcile to the Constitution were declaring at the tops of their voices that the removal of the Oath was going to make no difference to them, that they would still deny the legality and authority of this Legislature. In view of these facts, in view of the very serious consequences that seemed likely to ensue to the country and to the prosperity of the people by the passing of the Oath Bill, the Seanad were fully justified in holding it up. The President says that the second general election resulted in a still more decisive verdict for the Government and that after that, at least, the Seanad should have given way and passed the Bill. I cannot accept that proposition either because, after all, on the second occasion on which the Seanad had to deal with the [1757] Oath Bill there was no question of delaying it. As a consequence of the general election, the Seanad had now become powerless to delay it. In casting their votes on the subject of the Oath Bill, there was no reason why Senators should think of anything beyond what they believed, each one of them, to be right. There was no reason why they should vote against their consciences and against their convictions, seeing that the verdict of the country —if it was the verdict of the country— was going to be carried out in spite of them. It would merely look as if they were renegades to their principles if they had voted for the Oath Bill, without any real motive for doing so, after voting against it on the previous occasion.

These are the principal crimes alleged against the Seanad, and these are the excuses by which the Government seeks to justify its petulant conduct in bringing in this particular Bill at this particular time. I submit that nobody who considers the matter fairly can attach any value to these excuses. The Seanad acted reasonably and rightly in the performance of its functions as a Second Chamber of the Oireachtas. That disposes, I think, of the suggestion that there was any need for haste or any call for sensational methods in dealing with this question.

There remain, of course, the general question of the suitability of the Seanad, as at present constituted, and the general question of the desirability of a Second Chamber. To my mind, the strongest argument against our present Seanad is that it was too subservient to the Cosgrave Government. I think that that is true. I think that it was too subservient to the Cosgrave Government. But that is a fault for which very strong excuses can be found. Consider that the Fianna Fáil Party—the bulk of them at any rate— had been in arms against the State not very long ago. Consider, further, that among the institutions of the Irish Free State which had been most violently denounced by the Fianna Fáil Party and those associated with them was the Seanad. It is easy to understand that the Seanad was more violently prejudiced against one of the great Parties in the State than, [1758] frankly, one would have wished them to be. I think Deputies opposite might, perhaps, consider whether there is not a good deal in that point, and whether, if things went on without constitutional change of the sort proposed here, it is not quite possible, with the existing membership of the Seanad, that it would function more as a check upon whatever Government might be in office than in the past.

But, of course, the Seanad is not going on with its present personnel, because a system of election has been adopted, with the connivance, or at the instigation, of the President himself, which cannot fail, in my opinion, to have a bad effect upon the personnel of the Seanad. Speaking merely for myself I say, quite frankly, I would not be content to leave matters indefinitely as they are with regard to the Seanad. I think as things stand, and with the method of election now adopted, the Seanad must degenerate. It must consist more and more of politicians, of people actively associated with political Parties, and elected to the Seanad by the nomination of those political Parties. Whatever else is done, or left undone, I, personally, would wish to see that changed.

We heard a good deal in the course of this debate of the various constitutions in various countries. It is quite true, as Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out, that there is a very decided majority in favour of the bicameral system as opposed to the unicameral system. Personally, I do not feel quite as much impressed as I might otherwise be by the example of foreign countries, owing to the fact that during the past ten or 15 years, ever since the European War, it can hardly be said that constitutions in general have been working well. I would be much more affected by an examination of our own internal condition than by an examination of other countries. I imagine the place where, on the whole, democracy continues to work best, is Great Britain. In Great Britain there is, perhaps, the most illogical Second Chamber of all—a Second Chamber founded upon the hereditary principle. Perhaps it is worth noticing that it should be in a country where the Second Chamber is founded upon so [1759] very undemocratic a principle that, in point of fact, democracy seems to work best. It is a very odd thing, at first sight, but I take it the reason of it is this: That democracy has certain inherent faults, and that these faults are mitigated by the insertion in the constitution of checks of an undemocratic kind, or of a not wholly democratic kind. But when we consider sometimes how much damage the House of Lords has done to the British Empire in years past, say, by its opposition to Catholic Emancipation, by its opposition to parliamentary reform, by its opposition to the disestablishment of the Irish Church and, above all, by its opposition to Home Rule, one cannot be very enthusiastic about the House of Lords either.

I think, however, that it is worth while, when considering the general question of a Second Chamber, not to devote all our attention to the defects of the existing Second Chamber or any other Second Chamber which might be devised, but to think about our own defects as well.

I know it is the fashion to talk of the Dáil, as if it was an ideal Assembly, a microcosm of the nation, reflecting everything in the nation that deserves to be reflected. But that is not really facing the facts. Nobody who has experience of electioneering and does not merely pass a sponge over this experience can really be so enthusiastic about the merits of this Chamber, or any other democratically-elected Chamber. We know, and cannot deny it if we are candid, what an enormous part clap-trap plays in securing election in many cases. We know how many empty assurances are given; we know what promises are made, and are not carried out; we know how candidates for the Dáil play down to the prejudices and passions of the people. It would be rather painful to compile an anthology or collection of sayings by members of all Parties. We have had specimens of such an anthology, from time to time, when Deputy McGilligan digs up the past of members on the opposite benches; and quotes the things they said at Grangegorman and elsewhere, things that make everybody laugh, they are in such violent contradiction [1760] with the actual facts, and the subsequent actions of the Deputies who made these statements. But I do not claim, though I hope we have less on our conscience upon this side of the House than Deputies on the other side, that any Party has a monopoly of speeches of that kind. I am sure we have all heard, from time to time, on our own platforms, things we would much rather not have heard. If we were really what we purport to be— a true reflection of the wisdom of the nation—and could regard ourselves as a body that was in every way satisfactory and that realised the most optimistic estimate of what democracy ought to be, then we might begin to think that a Second Chamber was unnecessary and cumbersome. But such is not the case. We have our defects; and another body assembled on a different principle—whatever that principle may be, but anyhow on a different principle—from us, even though it has defects, and many defects, may be very valuable as a check upon our defects.

I personally would like to see a law that only a small proportion of members of the Seanad could be persons who had been candidates for this House or had been members of this House. I would like to see members of the Seanad unpaid, because I would like to see a Second Chamber consisting of a body that was less professionally political than ourselves. I would wish, of course, that their expenses should be paid so that poor men could belong to it just as well as wealthier men. But I see nothing undemocratic in principle in non-payment of members of the Seanad any more than of members of county councils. After all the Seanad meets, on an average, only 35 times a year, and, I suppose, the average member does not attend more than 26 times a year, in other words, once a fortnight, and then for only the afternoon, from 3 o'clock to 7 o'clock. I cannot believe there would be anything undemocratic in having duties of that sort performed without payment, other than reasonable expenses because of taking a man away from his other occupation. If that were done, and the [1761] system of election changed, and such restrictions introduced as would prevent a Second Chamber from becoming a body composed of party politicians, many of whom would otherwise be discarded, I think that would be a very great improvement not only upon the situation as it is now, but on the situation as the President proposes to make it by this Bill.

The President talks of clearing the foundations before proceeding to build something better. That is a misleading metaphor for him to use, if I may say so, because there is nothing whatever in the continued existence of the Seanad to prevent him and his colleagues from thinking out something better—nothing at all. They can do their thinking or they can get other people to do some of it for them by having a parliamentary committee or a commission composed of people from outside the Oireachtas. Whatever procedure they choose to adopt they can do their thinking about what a Second Chamber ought to be just as well during the continuance of the present Seanad and without the introduction of this Bill as they can do it after the introduction of this Bill.

I come, finally, to an aspect of this Bill which has for me a special importance. I referred to it on the Second Reading and the President made some remarks about it in his speech concluding the debate on the Second Reading. I refer to the question of Partition. The President said that that was a matter only accidentally associated with this measure. That, in a sense, is true, but I regard this measure, nevertheless, as having a very considerable bearing upon the question of Partition. I am proud to recollect that it was the Centre Party which introduced in this House a motion to the effect that the reunion of the Irish nation, by the consent of all concerned, should be the fundamental aim of Irish statesmanship, and that every constitutional issue ought to be subordinated to that. The motion in question had a chilly reception in this House, but nobody could be found actually to oppose it, although the President said that he refrained from [1762] opposing it on the strict understanding that it meant nothing at all. Now, it seems, that even Deputies opposite have come to believe that that motion did mean something and that it is worth while thinking about Partition in connection with constitutional measures here that may affect the minds of people in the North. I am glad that the President took that aspect of this Bill seriously, although from my point of view he aggravated his original offence in bringing in this Bill by associating it with some further constitutional action that he proposes to take some day in connection with the King.

The President must know just as well as I do that language of that kind has a bad effect upon Northern Unionists. He knows that, but he argues that we cannot make any progress on the Partition question until we get down, as he says, to bed-rock, and allow Northern Unionists to see in practice what the sort of State is which we shall invite them to join. Now, I confess that I have a certain amount of sympathy with that argument. I have indeed urged myself on several occasions that a Republic in prospect is at least as great an obstacle to reunion with the North of Ireland as a Republic in actual being can be. As long as one of the big political Parties in this country is committed to Republicanism, so long must Partition endure, and so long is it impossible for the Opposition even with their policy to make any headway against Partition. In fact, if speakers in our Party took the line on public platforms that it would be time enough to think of a Republic after we had got rid of Partition, I consider that we would be doing harm instead of good. At any rate we can make no headway at all along these lines. We shall only make headway in the matter of Partition when we get together—both the big political Parties—on the basis of discarding Republicanism, and that is why I, for one, hope against hope that many years will not have passed before we have a coalition Government in this country on that basis. The discarding of Republicanism is something that probably could not be done without a [1763] national Government in this country; just as national Governments have performed tasks elsewhere which could not have been performed without a national Government.

The President's phrase about getting down to bed-rock has, therefore, a certain amount of appeal for me. It should be realised that what the President says is a declaration for a Twenty-Six County Republic. That is what it comes to, because that is the only sort that can be achieved by our action, and if there is no way of getting Republicanism out of our system except by having a Twenty-Six County Republic, let us have it. If members opposite are right as to its glories, well then the North will have an opportunity of seeing it in operation and will be attracted into it. If we are right, and if the Irish people find that we are right, in thinking that there is absolutely nothing in a Republic— that it has nothing at all to give us— the sooner we have it, then perhaps the sooner we will learn sense, and will be prepared to discard it, to unite with the North as one nation on another basis.

But when it comes to a series of measures tinkering with the Constitution—measures such as this Bill and further Bills that are threatened to eliminate the Crown—that does not evoke a shred of sympathy in my composition, because it is merely playing politics. The President says that he dislikes it himself. If he dislikes it why does he do it? I have never heard any intelligent explanation as to why we should have a series of pin-pricking measures that are to lead up some day to a declaration of a Republic. The President keeps on hoping for the day when he can do the real thing. Why this attitude of patient yearning? Why did he not ask for a mandate?

The President: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Is this a general discussion on Government policy or not? If I were to reply to all these points I do not know if it would be in order to do so at all.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  It would be awkward.

The President: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  No. Deputies will have an opportunity of debating [1764] Government policy on the Vote for my office.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  D e p u t y MacDermot raised, on the Second Stage of this Bill, the question of a Republic, and the President replied to the arguments advanced. Deputy MacDermot has reopened that discussion, and is not in order in so doing. On the Fifth Stage Deputies are confined to advancing reasons why this Bill should or should not now pass. The advisability or otherwise of establishing a Republic of thirty-two or twenty-six counties is not relevant.

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  I will admit candidly that I was wondering just how far I could get with it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Really Deputies should not so attempt to evade the rules of order.

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  I do not wish to be misunderstood.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  I am sure that the Deputy did not intend any disrespect to the Chair.

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  Certainly not. I regard what I said as entirely relevant to this measure, but I was doubtful as to how far on the Fifth Stage it would be regarded as permissible by the Chair. I will therefore close what I have been saying about this matter by just one remark—that the President reminds me of nothing so much as a reluctant bather on a cold day who keeps dipping his toe in the water for the purpose of convincing his admirers that he really is going to take the plunge. That is the impression that is made upon my mind by this series of constitutional measures that do nothing except exasperate, that achieve no useful purpose.

I oppose this Bill. I wish the Government would think better of it and drop it. I oppose it because I consider that the complaints which have been made against the Seanad are not justified for the reasons I have given. I oppose it because I consider that democracy is not such a perfectly working institution that we can dispense with certain [1765] checks upon even such a meritorious Assembly as this House. I oppose it because this Bill and similar Bills and the language used in support of these Bills do a great deal to postpone the day when Ireland will be reunited in one nation.

Mr. Costello: Information on John Aloysius Costello  Zoom on John Aloysius Costello  Following your ruling that the debate on this stage of the Bill is to be confined, as far as possible, to giving reasons why it should not pass——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Or pass.

Mr. Costello: Information on John Aloysius Costello  Zoom on John Aloysius Costello  Yes, should not pass or should pass. From my point of view should not pass. I propose to adopt a phrase the late Kevin O'Higgins used on another occasion when he said of a measure that was introduced: “This Bill should not pass because it is a bad Bill, a useless Bill and an unnecessary Bill.” Deputy Professor O'Sullivan, deference to the oft-repeated wish of the President and the Attorney-General, allowed himself to lapse from one of the principles of his professional life, and he gave us a slight glimpse into history. If he had allowed himself to lapse a little more, Deputy Professor O'Sullivan, who is a Professor of History, would have told the President and the Attorney-General that he could find an example of the unicameral system, and the things that evolved from that system, much nearer home than the French Republic. He could have referred the President and the Attorney-General to Cromwell because my recollection—and I am speaking now as an ordinary individual and not as an historian—is that Cromwell was the first to try out the unicameral system. He tried it a long time before the Abbé Siéyés tried his system on the French people, and it led to certain consequences with which to use a much quoted phrase even every schoolboy is familiar. It led to Cromwell becoming a dictator.

Pretty similar reasons to those which led Cromwell to discard the principles of unicameral Government have led in recent days to the Latvians and the Bulgarians discarding their bicameral system of Government. If the President and the Attorney-General [1766] wish to go back to the roots of history they can find a good example of the evils or, if they like to call it so, the good of the unicameral system. You will find the evils of this unicameral system, if you are against dictatorships, in the fate that overtook the Long Parliament and its successors. and if you are in favour of dictatorship you will find that the setting up of the unicameral system is the easiest road to the creation of a dictatorship.

There is no topic on which I have less rigid theories or a less rigid conception of ideas than on the benefits of a written Constitution or the benefits, advantages or disadvantages of a rigid Constitution. As I have said on the numerous occasions on which I have spoken on this Bill from time to time here on its various Stages through the House, if we were to consider what form of Constitution we are to have for this country I would be prepared to listen to any theories put forward on their merits as to whether there should or should not be a Seanad or whether a unicameral system would be better than a bicameral system.

I would consider that this particular Assembly is the worst possible Assembly that you can conceive in a nightmare for a discussion of these topics. But we are not considering what is the proper system of government for this country. We have reached the Final Stage of a Bill which is going to do away with one of the institutions of this State which has existed for 12 years. We are going to do away with that particular institution not because there is any cause advanced for its continued existence as against either the wishes of the Irish people or the principles of democracy or the particular needs of the Irish people.

We are getting rid of the Seanad because the Seanad threw out the Blueshirt Bill. This Bill was introduced for no other reason, for no other theory of government, or for the upholding of any other principle of democracy than that the Seanad stood in the way of the Government in respect of one measure on which they had set their heart. I would say in parenthesis that the events which [1767] have happened since that Bill was thrown out by the Seanad have justified the Seanad not merely in throwing out that Bill, but have justified the existence of the Seanad. The only really effective powers that the Seanad have under our Constitution are powers of delay, powers to say to the Executive Council “you will take your time to consider whether your decision is in the best interests of the people; we think it is not; in order that the Government may have time for consideration we will exercise our powers of delay.”

The Blueshirt Bill was introduced and passed through this House on the representations of the Government that if it were not passed it would be impossible for them to maintain order in this country; that there would be almost a state of civil war. The few short months that have elapsed since the Seanad threw out the Blueshirt Bill have demonstrated to every impartial observer that the action of the Seanad was justified and that so far from the non-passage of this Bill impeding the Government in their efforts to maintain law and order it saved them from having to deal with a very serious situation in this country.

I have, from time to time, found it a little difficult to get people, even professionally-trained people, even lawyers of standing and experience, to understand that the powers of the Oireachtas are not derived from the Constitution; that the Dáil and Seanad in accordance with their powers under the Treaty are sovereign except in so far as their sovereign powers are cut down by the Constitution. In other words, that the Con stitution which we have in this country at the moment is something which cuts down the powers of the Dáil and Seanad and is not something from which the Dáil and Seanad derive their powers. If, therefore, you put the Dáil, as it is proposed to be put by this Bill, into the position that it is the only Assembly in the country with power to make laws you put it into a position under the Constitution [1768] that it can itself take away the only check—the only limiting authority upon its powers. It can sweep away the Constitution and it becomes, therefore, in effect and in fact, truly sovereign.

There is only one road, and there is only one end to that road, and that is dictatorship. We have been accused here, from time to time, and in the country, of being the Party that stands for dictatorship. The Attorney-General, during the course of the last stage of this Bill, mentioned the danger of dictatorship arising from such a fundamental change in the Constitution and in the institutions of this State as is proposed by this Bill, and indicated that if there is any danger of a dictatorship it came from the members of this Party. We offered, and we offer now, definite suggestions. We asked the Government why they did not provide, in this Bill, some safeguard for the fundamental rights that are enshrined in the Constitution and that are supposed to be guaranteed to the people by the institutions of the State set up 12 years ago. We, the would-be dictators, are still pressing the Government to find some method of safeguarding such rights as the right of adult suffrage, the right of free expression of opinion, the right of the liberty of the subject, the right of freedom of conscience and the liberty of the Press. We ask them to safeguard the theory on which our whole State is based—that all powers are derived through God from the people. When this Bill is passed you put into the hands of one Chamber in this country the power to take away every single one of those fundamental rights, to change the very theory on which our State is based.

The Bill, as Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out, contains two changes from the time it was introduced. It contains two additions purporting to provide for the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The very fact that only these two provisions are inserted in the Bill brings into bold relief, emphasises and underlines the fact that far more fundamental rights are not being guaranteed or preserved [1769] but are being left to the mercy of any chance Executive. The President bases his whole theory of government, apparently, on a general election. We have some experience of the way general elections are fought and won in this country. I dislike to think that that is going to be the foundation of democratic rights in this country for the future. It will just mean that power will be obtained by an Executive that happens to filch the votes of the people from time to time by fair means or foul.

Article 30 of the Constitution provides that Seanad Eireann shall be composed of citizens who, by reason of useful public service, have done honour to the nation, or who, because of special qualifications or attainments, represent important aspects of the nation's life. That is the theory on which the Seanad was constituted. That is the ideal to which, in the composition of the Seanad, efforts should be directed. Is there any better ideal that can be devised than to have a Chamber supervising, advising, but not controlling, the actions of the popular Assembly—a Chamber composed of men who, by reason of useful public service, not by reason of political services and because they were the hacks of political Parties, but because of public service, have done honour to the nation, or because they possess special qualifications or attainments and represent important aspects of the nation's life? I fully admit that, as a matter of practice, it would be very difficult to find a satisfactory or fully efficient method of selecting people who will come within the descriptions of these persons who are directed by Article 30 to be proposed for membership of Seanad Eireann. But that is no reason why the effort should not be made. That is no reason why this nation should be deprived of the services of men who have, by reason of useful public service, done honour to it. That is no reason why the nation should be deprived of the specialised knowledge and experience that can be put at its disposal by men who have special qualifications, or attainments, and who represent important aspects of the nation's life.

[1770] The people envisaged by Article 30 of the Constitution are, normally, not the type of people who are either willing or capable of going down to the hustings and seeking votes in the way that votes have to be sought for in present circumstances. They are unwilling to give up the time that is involved in political activities, as they are known at the present moment, but they would be willing to offer their specialised and useful services in such an institution as the Seanad, if it was properly constituted. They are not willing to submit themselves, as most of us who are Deputies have to submit ourselves, to the incessant demands of our constituents, to the wearying task of looking after our constituents, and they are not prepared to do what the Minister for Industry and Commerce referred to on the occasion of the Bill abolishing University representation, to go and persuade 7,000 people to vote for them. But because they are not prepared to do that sort of thing, because they perhaps dislike that sort of thing, is no reason why the State should be deprived of their services and, unless there is some sort of a Chamber attached to the Legislature of this country into which these people may be put, where their experience and knowledge, their specialised knowledge above all things, may be put at the service of the Government, then this nation is going to suffer a very severe loss.

We will have our demagogues in the Dáil, our cross-road orators in the Dáil; we will have the people with the glib tongues and elastic consciences in the Dáil. But it is not the possessor of the glib tongue or of the elastic conscience who makes the best head of a Department. If a person wishes to become a doctor he has to go through a course of specialised training for a long period of years. If a person wishes to become a lawyer he has to go through a course of specialised training for, perhaps, not quite so long a period of years but, nevertheless, he has to undertake a very long and wearisome task making his way in that profession. A business man has to start on the lowest rung of the ladder and he has to learn every department [1771] of the business. A tradesman has to become an apprentice. But because God endows you with a glib tongue and a cross-roads manner, that is to be the qualification for the head of a Department; that is to be the qualification for a person who is to become one of the rulers of this country, one of the effective rulers of this country, because the Executive Council, under our Constitution, are the effective rulers of this country. They are to be the people from whom our political theories are to be derived, from whom our economic policies are to be evolved, and on whom we are to depend for our living and for our liberties. That is what is going to be the result of the theory of Government on which this Bill is based and which, apparently, the President has hugged to his bosom as the most democratic of all theories of Government. It is going to lead, in my view—and I have expressed the view on more than one occasion in this House—to the end of democracy in this country. It is going to lead to a reaction, and a fierce reaction, against democracy, if that sort of thing is allowed to go on, and go on it will, in this country where we are, politically, not even half-educated, unless there is some safeguard, unless the unfettered power and the unfettered will of a chance Executive is not checked, even though they have that God-given authority—or what the President, at all events, regards as God-given—the fact that they won a general election.

This Bill, as I say, for the reasons I have given and for other reasons that I could give, is a bad Bill. It is a Bill that is going to deprive this country of the services of good men. We have in the Seanad at the present moment men who, in every respect, conform to the descriptions and, I was going to say, the specifications set forth in Article 30 of the Constitution. Not for one moment do I suggest that every member of the Seanad conforms to those specifications but we have in the Seanad men who have unselfishly placed their experience and their knowledge at the services of successive Governments in this country. They have placed them, and are willing [1772] to place them, at the service of the present Government just as they placed them at the service of the previous Government. It is not because the Seanad was in danger of developing into a home of rest for decayed politicians that we should depart from the principle of a bicameral legislature in this country, or, at least, that we should depart from it as hurriedly as we have departed from it in this case, without seriously considering the reactions that are going to take place. Since this Bill was introduced the reactions that were going to take place as a result of this Bill if it were passed into law have become more and more apparent. I think that even the President would admit, if he were seized with a fit of unusual candour, that he did not consider when he introduced this Bill what the real effects of it would or might be.

When this Bill becomes law we are going to have no guarantee for freedom of conscience. We are going to have no guarantee for the right of free speech. We are going to have no guarantee for the right of free assembly. We are going to have no guarantee for trial by jury. We are going to have no guarantee that we will have any Constitution in this State. That is not a thing that is going to fulfil any useful purpose in this country in existing circumstances. From time to time I have pointed out that this hurried constitutional and other legislation that is being introduced has a violent reaction on the economic situation in this country. We are not going to have industries started here, no matter how good your economic policy may be—it is not going to be a success, it is not even going to have a chance of success, as long as there is uncertainty or as long as there is the feeling that nobody knows where they are going to be to-morrow or that an Act of Parliament has no more sanctity and that a constitutional right, supposed to be guaranteed in the Constitution, is of no more effect than the writing on a piece of ordinary scribbling pad.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Deputy Costello, in starting his statement with regard to this Bill, said that he opposed the Bill [1773] because it was a useless Bill and because it was a bad Bill. I can give other grounds for opposition to the Bill, because no argument has been advanced in support of it. The absence of argument or of any one to make a defence of the Bill probably is accounted for by the absence of Deputy Corry from the Dáil. The silence of the Front Bench has become one of their main characteristics, particularly when they are doing a thing which they know in their hearts is unfair to the people and should not be done, and which is untrue to the mandate they got from the people. This Bill, in its previous stages, as far as any justification at all was advanced for it, was justified by the argument: “We are the majority and therefore we have the right to do this.” I should like to see some thought and consideration given over there to the difference between having the right to do a thing and being right in exercising that right. In particular, I should like the President to devote some attention to the vast difference which exists between the two. The various coercion measures and all the other things that were practised on the Opposition and on those who differ from them politically were all justified one after another by the glib defence: “We have the right, and because we have the right, therefore it is right to exercise that right.”

We had an attempt being made to justify the annihilation of the Seanad and the destruction of the Oireachtas as it did exist. We had an attempt to justify that act by talk about a mandate from the people. A little consideration of what you did submit to the people, and of the mandate, if such exists, which you actually got from the people, is worth while considering at this stage. Amongst a multiplicity of other things you did hold out before the people a promise to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted, and thereby directly implied that the abolition of the Seanad, or a Bill to abolish the Seanad, carried with it some constructive proposal for something to replace that Seanad. That particular promise was submerged by hundreds of other promises, and if you [1774] got a mandate to abolish the Seanad as it then existed, you got a much clearer mandate to rule this country without coercion Acts and without resort to the Public Safety Act; you got a mandate to open the prison gates and to have no political opponents inside prison bars. We have this Bill to abolish the Seanad because the Seanad acted more gamely to that mandate than the Government did, and because the Seanad, in fact, held up a Bill to raise blisters on the backs of your political opponents. Because the Seanad held up one of your petty Coercion Acts the Seanad has got to go. If we are to judge as to whether the Government or the Seanad stands most strongly by the mass of promises which the Government submitted to the electorate, any impartially-minded person will agree that it is the Seanad.

This talk about mandates is a bit overdone. When you threw out a multiplicity of promises and got returned because one section likes this and another section likes that, to claim then a sacred mandate for the carrying out of any particular promise and the divine right to ignore other promises made is playing ducks and drakes with any idea of real democracy in the country. The President's political line of thought and his political activity remind me of the deep sea fishermen who throw long lines with a great number of bait on the end, and, when they haul in the catch, they are cynically indifferent as to what particular bait hooked the cod. That is a fair illustration of the Presidential procedure in politics in this country and it is a very fair picture of the Presidential respect for democracy in this country. As long as the cod is landed, the bait does not matter; we have landed the catch.

We have this Bill introduced to abolish the Seanad with pious expressions of opinion as to what would best replace the Seanad, but with no proposal before this House as to anything, good, bad or indifferent, to replace that Seanad, except a political junta with a temporary majority of the country behind them. Long after that so-called mandate to abolish the Seanad was [1775] secured from the people, how was that mandate interpreted, before the Blueshirt Bill? It was incorporated in a Bill introduced by the President himself to restrict and reduce the Seanad's power of delay. Was that an abuse of the mandate or was it an honest interpretation of the mandate which the Government got, and if it was an honest interpretation of the mandate which the Government secured from the people, why is it being trampled on by this Bill? What exactly occurred since? Was there any new mandate secured? The only thing that occurred since, the only thing that transpired since, is that the Seanad held up a harsh, coercive measure aimed at the political Opposition, and, in fact, the only thing that happened since was that the Seanad forced the Government back on their mandate to rule in this country without injustice to their political opponents and without recourse to coercive measures.

We might follow Deputy MacDermot into by-paths and discuss what type of Seanad would be better than the other and, if we did that, we would be interpreting the mandate which the President sought and obtained. We would be sitting down here to do practical business, to discuss what type of institution would best replace the present Seanad, but we are here, true to our records—destruction; no construction; every effort to destroy and no thought or effort to build up; destroy the Seanad and replace it by one man. That is supposed to be democracy; and when the Seanad is gone in this country and when we have nothing but the Government opposite, knowing that that Government can be boiled down to one man, will we have any departure from the old dogma that the majority in this country has no right to do wrong and that the sole judge in this country as to whether the majority is right or wrong is one man? Let us have a recantation of that before we appoint that one individual as the sole power in this country.

We have this Bill introduced in a spirit of pique and malice, forced through this House by a mixture of [1776] discipline and ignorance, with equal parts of each, and nobody up, but the one absentee, to make any case for it, and the chief justification for removing powers of delay to the legislation of any political junta is the one of democracy. Whatever other honest case may be made, giving unfettered power to individuals is certainly not democracy. It is not what the people of this country understand as democracy; it is not what they understood in the past and it is not what they would stand for at present. One-man rule was always hateful in this country, and when the Seanad goes we have Government rule, and Government rule with a Party machine, in nine cases out of ten, is one-man rule. We hear about the Seanad's veto. The Seanad has merely powers of delay, and you got over that before. Your previous Bill, I consider, was a more honest Bill, because it was not introduced out of pique and it was not introduced because of a reverse but after giving serious consideration to the programme which you had recently placed before the people. That Bill was merely to curtail, to reduce the time or period for which the Seanad could hold up a Bill.

We heard, in the course of the discussion on this Bill, no explanation as to why that policy was departed from and no justification as to why it was embarked upon, if it was a violation of the mandate received from the people. Are there always to be two heads on the penny the President tosses with? Are we to lose, whichever side turns up? Is he to be an honest interpreter of public opinion when he goes one way and an equally honest interpreter of public opinion when he goes the other way? That is what he has consistently claimed in public life in this country, and that is one of the reasons why every sane man in this country sees a left-handed bid at a dictatorship in this Bill. If a dictatorship is wanted, go boldly for it, but this circuitous line of approach is one of the most disgusting things about it. We will have it, in fact, if the Seanad goes; we will have it without any powers of delay; and we will have it without any check or brake. [1777] You have the machined majority here and you have a rank and file obedient, as Deputy Donnelly told us before, and who will follow in any direction——

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  Hear, hear! Undoubtedly.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  In any direction, I say, and on to a dictatorship. We have it now, but if that is the road we are to travel let us be open about it. Let us be honest by the people. Let us say that we are going out for a dictatorship and that we are going to be in the position to defy the majority when we are satisfied that the majority has gone against us. Let us not defend it in the name of democracy. Let us defend it as it was defended in the past—on the plea that the majority of the people in this country has no right to do wrong—and make it clear that if, at any time, there is any necessity to judge whether the majority of the people are right or wrong, the sole judge of whether the majority is right or wrong will be the father of this Bill, President de Valera.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  As on other occasions, I have a particular delight in following in debate Deputy Dr. O'Higgins. I must compliment him on the fact that in his speech this afternoon there were far less adjectives than in previous speeches which I listened to. I should like to call attention to one particular phrase in his latest diatribe. He talked at considerable length about the mandate we received at the last general election. Undoubtedly that is a sore point. It must always remain a sore point, not only with Deputy Dr. O'Higgins, but with every Deputy of the Opposition in this House. It must always remain that, taking into consideration the great attempts which they themselves made to secure a mandate as against us, even down to the very eve of the last general election. Of all the blandishments that were held out, of all the offers and counter-offers that were made, not one succeeded. The ordinary people of the country believed and accepted our policy. They sent us and sent President de Valera back here with a mandate to abolish the Seanad, and we are going [1778] to abolish it. That Seanad walks the plank.

Deputy Dr. O'Higgins seemed to stress the sentence “We propose to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted.” Then he stopped. There is a copy of the manifesto that was issued before the last general election, and it is upon this document that the people voted. The next time the Deputy refers to this particular paragraph dealing with the Seanad I would ask him to read the entire paragraph for this House. Just let us have it now:—

“We propose to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted, and if it be decided to retain a Second Legislative Chamber it is our intention to reduce considerably the number of its members.”

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  Read on.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  Certainly.

“We propose also to reduce substantially the number of Deputies in the Dáil.”

and we are doing so.

Mr. Finlay: Information on John Finlay  Zoom on John Finlay  You will be included in them yourself.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  Deputy Finlay's constituency and mine is not being interfered with, and perhaps it is a good job.

Mr. Finlay: Information on John Finlay  Zoom on John Finlay  It is a good job for you, anyway. You will know that the next time you go to Laoighis-Offaly.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  “And if it be decided to retain a Second Legislative Chamber it is our intention to reduce considerably the number of its members.”

Who is to make the decision? Where is it to be decided that a Second Chamber is necessary? Who is to make the decision? Is not this Assembly and this House the sovereign authority in the country? Is it not this House that legislates for the country? Deputy Dr. O'Higgins, when he was making a point of the necessity for having a Second Chamber at all, seemed to think it was necessary merely as a check upon what was done by way of legislation in this Assembly. I deny that entirely. Let us look at it from the ordinary plain [1779] man's standpoint—the standpoint of the man in the street. There is the offer that is made to the voters; there is the policy that is put before the electorate. The electorate accept that policy, and they give the man who is responsible for the carrying into effect of that policy a majority in this House. In my opinion he has a right to act upon the mandate which he received. Deputy Dr. O'Higgins went a little bit further. I do not like to harp on this thing too much, but he was just as little complimentary to the voters this evening as he has sometimes been to Deputies in the Dáil, and more particularly to members of the Executive Council. Fianna Fáil threw out a bait; they were fishermen; they collected a number of fish; the bait was thrown out to the fish, and they were caught! That is a pretty inference. That is what the voters were—the 750,000 people who came to the polls and voted for Fianna Fáil. At least 300,000 of this particular type of fish voted for Cumann na nGaedheal when it was the Government. We got our majority from the very same people— we could not get it from anybody else— that the Opposition got their majority from when they were the Government.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  How many of them died in the meantime?

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  Deputy Dr. O'Higgins has been driven into a tight corner when he suggests that 300,000 people must have died in the space of 12 months.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  And all Cumann na nGaedheal voters!

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  All the Cumann na nGaedheal voters died. Coming from a medical man, and particularly from a medical officer of health, that has much more importance than if it came from an ordinary layman.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  It was not for want of trying to kill them——

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  It is really most amusing. All the other barricades have gone, and the last barricade put up by Deputy Dr. O'Higgins in defence of the [1780] Seanad is that their supporters in the country have died inside 12 months. This subject has been talked practically ad nauseam. We have heard everything that can be said against the abolition of the Seanad. All the arguments in support of this Bill were given in the country. The people believed them, and that is why this majority is here. I now come to what is evidently always going to be the peroration to Deputy Dr. O'Higgins' speeches in this House—the machine majority, the rank and file, who vote as they are directed, and blindly follow one man. Of course we follow him. Of course we will follow him. As I said before, we followed him during the years he was in the wilderness. We followed him when he was behind prison bars. We followed him from the time of the Treaty, because we believed he was right. We follow him now because we believe he is right, and we know that he will finish the job.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  That peroration to Deputy Donnelly's speech is rather ridiculous, coming from a Deputy who, quite exceptional in his own Party, is fairly well endowed with intelligence. He might just as well have said: “We followed him when he said there was a constitutional way out of our difficulties. We followed him when he plunged the country into civil war——

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  You did that.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  “We followed him when he swore he would never enter the Dáil with the Oath there. We followed him when he came in and swallowed the Oath.”

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  Where is the Oath now?

Donnchadh O Briain: Information on Donnchadh Ó Briain  Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Briain  It is gone in spite of them.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  Of course, I admire the beautiful virtue of loyalty, and I can admire it in Deputy Donnelly. There is a hierarchy in loyalty, and Deputy Donnelly's loyalty, beautiful as it is, is a loyalty which sins against high loyalty. Let us take this talk about mandates. Everybody knows what I think about mandates. Talk [1781] about mandates is mere humbug. The people of this country have no power to give a mandate to a Government to do a wrong thing.

A Deputy:  It has no right to do wrong.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  Of course, it has not. Deputy Donnelly refers to an item in the manifesto. What was the appeal in that manifesto? The Government opposite went out and said that it was scandalous that anybody should have more than £1,000 a year. They published lists of the high salaries given in this State. They appealed to the meanness, the cupidity and the envy in the popular mind. Having said that no man had a right to have more than £1,000 a year, they got a mandate, and President de Valera got his £1,500, with a free motor car and all the rest of it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Will the Deputy relate his present line of argument to the matter before the House?

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  I am only replying with regard to the mandate. One of the arguments in favour of the Bill is that the Government got a mandate. I invite any intelligent person to read this paragraph. It is the second or third paragraph in the Fianna Fáil manifesto at the last election. At the time of that election the Government had been in power about a year. I think it was the Minister for Local Government who remarked a short time ago here, in arguing about the Constituencies Bill, that there had been a Bill ready drafted to reduce the number of Deputies in this House to 120. The paragraph to which I referred was, as I said, designed to appeal to the cupidity of the people. Their propaganda appealed to the meanness of the people: “We are going to economise.” They said to the people that they were going to economise by reducing the size of the Dáil. They knew at the time that there was a Bill ready before we went out of office to reduce the Dáil to 120 members. When they came in, in fulfilment of that mandate to economise by reducing the Dáil, they brought in a Bill which set out about in a most elaborate way to keep [1782] within the terms of the Constitution and have the Dáil as large as it possibly could be. The proposed abolition of the Seanad in its present form was put to the people merely as a means of economy. They said that, if it was decided to retain it, it would be much smaller, thereby making economies.

Their talk about a mandate, first of all, is a humbug, because the whole idea of mandates is a humbug. Secondly, the suggestion that the Government had a mandate for what they are doing now is complete humbug. They went to the people and said: “Vote for us and we will reduce taxation; one of the ways of doing it is to reduce the size of the Dáil and to change the present form of the Seanad and make it something cheaper.” Now they come along and say that they have a mandate for abolishing it. What do they take out of the mandate? The President gets up and, so far as he uses the mandate argument, says: “I got a mandate to set myself up as a dictator.” If he did get that mandate, which is the way he is using the mandate, why last year was he getting up and denouncing General O'Duffy and the Blueshirt movement as standing for a dictatorship when he knew well, presumably, as he wanted to get a mandate, and as he says he has got it, that his intention was to set himself up as a dictator?

We have discussed this Bill on Second Reading, on the Committee Stage and also on the Fourth Stage. The President talked on all of these stages. His line was that it was our business as an Opposition to make a case against the Bill. The Minister for Industry and Commerce got up and made his usual appeal to ignorant passion, as he has done all over the country, and which was largely instrumental in getting this wonderful mandate and the majority that Deputy Donnelly talks about. He talked about the Jamesons and the Granards in the Seanad, suggesting that such people were automatically enemies of the country and, therefore, it was a good thing to abolish them from any position of any power, no matter how limited. It was put up to us to make a case against the Bill. What could we do? [1783] Deputy O'Sullivan talked about other countries and two Houses and so on, but the truth is that all human experience has itself been the argument against the Bill. All we could do in the way of putting an argument against it was to choose one or two specific things as showing the weakness of the situation.

The President in a fit of temper said he was going to abolish the Seanad and brought in a Bill to do it simpliciter. We pointed out that what he was actually doing was taking power to himself to abolish any judge who did not give a finding in the court that suited him. We pointed out that he was taking power to himself to get rid of the Comptroller and Auditor-General if he should make things awkward financially. All his argument for the Bill was to get up and try to sell the cow again as to the number required to get rid of a judge or the Comptroller and Auditor-General. On the Fourth Reading, when we had put up the argument that the Constitution protects certain fundamental rights of the people against the Government and that he was, as a Government, taking complete mastery over all these rights, it looked to me as though he was going to bring in one of his usual sort of proposals to meet that. He has not done it, however. I suppose, whatever it is, he will bring it forward at the end of this discussion in the hope, as there is no one to speak after him, that there will not be an opportunity to point out the humbug in it.

Why are we against it? I am against the abolition of the Seanad particularly in relation to the exact position in this country. In most countries, as has been pointed out, there is a Constitution and there are two Chambers. There is also usually another member of the Legislature, either a King or a President, who is distinct from Parliament. The Constitution in these countries is not changeable by ordinary law because of the fact that the human person, in view of the end for which he was created, is superior to the State and that, in many ways, it is necessary to give him complete protection against the Government. That is the reason why Constitutions exist and why they [1784] are not easily changed in most countries, because, although a Government is necessary to provide for the general well-being, at the same time the human person, being what a human person is, must be protected against arbitrary power of the Government. The President brought in this Bill and put the human person in this country completely at his mercy. That is the effect of the Bill. The President has brought in a Bill to make himself absolute master of every thought and every act of the people of this country. He will get up and say that he is going to do something later, but in this Bill he is demanding of the Dáil that it shall put the people of the country completely at his mercy, and if, God between us and all harm, he should go out of his mind to-morrow and become a lunatic, and is able to conceal it from the members of his Party, he is going to have the people completely at his mercy.

So far as the Seanad was concerned it had power to delay. The Government brought in certain Bills and the Seanad exercised its power in delaying them. Deputy MacDermot referred to what they were—the Blueshirt Bill and so on. The Government was elected in 1932 in the month of February, I think. In 1927, in the month of September, we had a majority. Sometime between September, 1927, and February, 1932, there was a movement of the people from support of us to support of Fianna Fáil. That did not happen the week after we were elected. It did not happen all at once. I do not know, but I should imagine that it was slow at the beginning, but getting rather quicker towards the end. That means that if, as a mere accident, the election had not been held in September, 1927, as it need not have been until one and a half years later, it is probable that Fianna Fáil would not have been the Government; that somebody else would have been; or, if we had postponed the election until September, 1932, which we easily might have done, Fianna Fáil would not have come into power.

The power the Seanad had was to delay for one and a half years. What [1785] great harm would that do? I am not going to say that the Seanad should be maintained merely because it is not doing any harm. But, what was the reason for the President rushing in with this Bill merely because certain things were being delayed for one and a half years? One of them was the Blueshirt Bill. One argument about that was that the Seanad, when we were in power, passed the drastic Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution and that when they brought in the Blueshirt Bill the Seanad refused it; and that that presumably indicated that the Seanad was merely part of our Party machine. When we brought in the Seventeenth Amendment there was a situation in this country, as the Government knows, of murders. Quite a number of murders were committed within the previous months. It is a well-known fact that a jury which found according to evidence, if it was a case against a member of a criminal organisation, took every chance of being murdered. People who came to give evidence against criminals of that organisation stood every chance of being shot. For a large part of the ten years we were in office that organisation in its career of crime was supported by the members of the present Government. It was only after ten years of trying various expedients that we brought in that drastic Bill and the Seanad passed it. When Fianna Fáil came in the Blueshirt organisation gradually came into existence and Fianna Fáil revived the Bill, a Bill which had only been justified, and only received the sanction of the Seanad because murder made it necessary; because the whole basis of law was collapsing; because jurymen had to choose between committing perjury and being murdered; because witnesses had to choose between committing perjury and being murdered. In these circumstances, the Seanad passed the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution.

This Government again wanted power in that amendment of the Constitution not to put down murder, not to put down terrorisation of jurymen and witnesses, but merely to put down a political opposition. When it had [1786] that power and had it operating it still was not satisfied. It wanted the Blueshirt Bill, the anti-Uniforms Bill, in addition to the Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution. The Government says that because the Seanad agreed to pass an amendment of the Constitution in order to put down murder and organised crime, it must have been acting as a Party organisation, because that same Seanad would not give powers over and above those contained in the Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution to put down the political opponents of the Fianna Fáil Party.

As I said in the beginning, the argument against this Bill is human experience. In practically every civilised country, first of all, a very specific limitation is put upon the Government, that limitation taking the form of the Constitution which protects the rights, the inherited and inalienable rights, of the person against arbitrary action by the Government. Secondly, in nearly every country which has not moved on to a dictatorship there is a Second House with some powers, very often with powers of delay, as was the case here, and over and above that there is a monarch or a president who has a veto over legislation. Here we are going to have a State in which the Government is going to have the whole of the people at its mercy. There will be no Second Chamber, no monarch or president who can in any way veto action of the Government, whether it be good or bad. That is the position for which we are now asked to vote, a position for which the Government has not made any case. They whined or complained that the Seanad was an anti-Fianna Fáil Seanad, that they, as a popularly elected Government, should not be hindered in any way in their policy. Of course they should be hindered, and every person in this country ought on all occasions to hinder a Government to prevent their doing anything which he thinks is against the well-being of this country.

In this country, as in every country, the Government operates enormously in the economic sphere. This Government, [1787] for political purposes, created an economic situation in this country which is bringing to ruin the largest section of the community, the agricultural community. The members of the Government which is doing that are constantly, at the same time, getting up and saying that nobody must obstruct them, that there must be no curb or restraint upon their power, that no bar should be imposed upon anything that in their whim or in their wisdom they desire to get done. We are asked to come here now and give them that power. The President, on the Fourth Reading, seemed to be moving on to indicate what he was going to do. What it was I do not know, because when he got so far he said that what he had to say would be more appropriate to the Fifth Stage. It did seem to me, however, that what he was going to say was this: “I admit that with this Bill I am going to have a power greater than any dictator in any country that was ever known in the world's history. I admit that I am getting a power which it is absolutely indefensible that any one person should possess, but I, Eamon de Valera, President of the Executive Council, ask you to give me that power, which no man should have or exercise, and then, before the Bill becomes law, I will go into the matter of the Constitution and see if some step cannot be taken to give more suitable expression to these beautiful democratic principles which are enshrined in it.” Fancy any leader coming to a Parliament which exists to protect the people and depriving that Parliament of the power. What would any of these people think of giving such arbitrary power to one man as we are asked to give here?

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  That is the end of the dream.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  That is the fact, and if the Deputy wants to get up and refute it I am quite ready to make way for him, but he knows perfectly well that he cannot do it. Neither can his President do it because it is a fact.

Mr. Briscoe: Information on Robert Briscoe  Zoom on Robert Briscoe  Nobody can refute your view.

[1788]Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  This is a Bill, as I have said time and again, to create a dictatorship. No member of the Government has attempted to refute that. President de Valera's argument is: “It is all right to give me dictatorial powers because you know I am a benign person and I have no intention to assert them.” To ask us to do that on that argument is infrahuman. I admit that, to the Fianna Fáil Party, it may seem a fairly sound proposition. This is the Fifth Reading and Deputy Briscoe is butting in here. If he thinks that any case has been made for this Bill by the President, any member of the Executive Council, or anybody on his side I should like him to get up and give us a résume of it. The facts of the Bill cannot be refuted. The President had to admit that. He brought in two amendments, one requiring a little more than the ordinary majority for the removal of a judge, and another with regard to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Before he put down these amendments, he was apparently convinced by Deputy Donnelly that no matter when an election is held, he is bound to get a majority. But he had brought in a Bill which would mean that, if the Fianna Fáil deductions from the last election are correct, the present Government, in the event of an election, would not only have the majority necessary to put the judges and the Comptroller and Auditor-General at their mercy but that they would have that and plenty of votes to spare thereafter.

I should like to urge that the President should now give us an undertaking that, instead of forcing this Bill through on its last stage here, he should hold it up until some substitute has been created for the Seanad. It was popular for the Fianna Fáil Party, which usually does not exhaust itself by thinking, when it was talking against the Seanad, to assume that it was merely a declaratory body and that it had no useful function whatever. After the President had the Bill drafted and brought in here he had to face up to the fact that the abolition of the Seanad created a very peculiar situation here with regard to the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The [1789] Seanad has been a protection to the people of this country, and the people need it more than the people in any other country need a Second Chamber, because there is no other country that I know of where a Party in a single House has full power to abolish or to alter in any way it may think fit any part of the Constitution. I know of no other country where that can occur. Mind you, I am not sure that the Bill we are asked to pass is not actually ultra vires. In that case it would be a very futile thing for the Dáil solemnly to pass this Bill and have it proved afterwards that the Government had in fact no power to pass the Bill, and that, though they thought they were changing the law, the law remained exactly as it was before. I want the Government in this country to be so limited in its scope that there will be certain aspects of the people's lives with which the Government cannot interfere. Secondly, I do not mind what the machinery is if the Government can legitimately act in that way and change the law. There will be some power which will not be identical with the Government, which will have been elected at some other time, and will draw authority from some other section, that will be able to restrain the Government, either by way of veto or delay. The President refuses any limit whatsoever. No one recognises the authority of the Government more than I do. But I also recognise that there are distinct limitations, and that there are laws that this Government can bring in which I, personally, have no intention whatever of submitting to. It is quite conceivable that that may happen, because the Government has complete power to bring in any law it likes, regardless of justice, equity, right or wrong or anything else. There must be in this country, if there is to be any stability, limitation to the scope of the Government's power. Within its proper scope there must be some power of delay, or some possibility of restraint on Government action, so that there will no be precipitate action to plunge the people into a very disastrous condition. That is what we must have.

What has the Government done? [1790] The President has consistently tried to keep this country in an unstable condition. He talked about having clear foundations. This State came into existence in 1922. The President knows perfectly well that the State that came into existence then was capable of development in any direction and in any form that the well-being of its people might require. He knows perfectly well that in any situation that might arise anybody who came forward and pointed out that by taking certain action the condition of the people would be improved the Government had full power. Any such action could have been taken. The Constitution could have been changed from time to time, certainly within the first eight years, and possibly within the first 16 years. What were we told? We were told somehow or other that we were not quite free, that we are moving in the right direction now, but that the great goal has not been attained yet. What is the great goal? It is supposed to be the Republic. Absolute humbug! The President has said that until this great goal, this Republic—a word shouted by people unable to say what they mean by it—is reached we cannot have stability. I do not know what form the Republic is going to take. It may take a form to which I will not be able to give allegiance, and I shall have an equal right—and I think more right than those howling against the Free State—to shout against the proposed Republic. Who is there to say that those who shout are the turbulent element until the Republic is reached? Why have not other people the right to say as well that they intend to be the turbulent element until this Bill is got rid of? That is the President's argument. He has got this country into a state of instability and he wants to keep it that way. We are told that we are moving towards the goal; that we are moving towards freedom. People thought that in the past. What greater freedom can we have than we have now? Can anyone explain how we are restrained? It is true that although we are free the British can put tariffs on our exports, but we have power to put tariffs on British goods. [1791] Are we going to seek freedom which will enable us to dispose——

The Attorney-General:  How is this relevant to the Bill?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy knows perfectly well that he should, at this stage, keep to what is in the Bill.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  Yes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  There is nothing in it, as far as I know, about the establishment or disestablishment of other things.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  This Bill proposes to give to the Executive Council power to abolish the Constitution in toto. Consequently we are giving to the Government, which has carefully kept this country in a state of instability, complete power to do what they like. I maintain that the power this Bill proposes to give to the Government is a power which should not be given to any human person or to any institution. I suggest that this Government, by its tyrannical action with regard to the Blueshirt organisation, its instructions to the Civic Guards as to breaches of the law with regard to the Blueshirts, the unjust action it has arbitrarily taken for political purposes, in order to save its face, and that has plunged the biggest section of the community into ruin; that for the Dáil to be invited to give that Government power that no Government possesses, and that should not be given to any person or institution, is absolute madness. I suggest it is reasonable that I should make the proposal that the President should say whether or not he is going to go ahead with this Bill, that he will not insist upon its passing this stage until he has come to the Dáil with proposals for legislation which will adequately provide safeguards with regard to the rights of the people, with regard to the judges, and the rest. It will be difficult, possibly, to provide all that protection, but until he has provided that adequate alternative to the [1792] present Seanad he should say that he does not propose to go ahead with this Bill.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  It is not necessary to say it.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  I can admire, and I say it sincerely, Deputy Donnelly's loyalty, even when loyalty seems to me to be closely akin to mental and moral blindness. Deputy Donnelly gives blind, unthinking, unreasonable, and, if I may say so, almost infrahuman loyalty to his President, but he is not going to suggest that I am bound to feel the same loyalty.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  You might not fear the consequences.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  It is all very well to say that. Possibly I know the President longer.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  No.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  It is a mere matter of dates. If I have not known him longer I have known him better.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  You are slightly more hysterical.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Desmond FitzGerald  Zoom on Desmond FitzGerald  According to Deputy Donnelly, what we are asked to do is to say that President de Valera possesses infused wisdom and that everyone is justified in putting their spiritual, moral and material well-being completely into his hands, and that he will manage better than they could; to give him responsibility and power and that there shall not be a right to oppose President de Valera. I think that burning and passionate loyalty that Deputy Donnelly asserts for President de Valera should lead him, not to put the President into the unfortunate position of having to take over responsibility that people should have for themselves.

Mr. T. Kelly: Information on Thomas Kelly  Zoom on Thomas Kelly  The rather pathetic appeal that Deputy MacDermot addressed to the Fianna Fáil Benches enkindled the small spark of the missionary spirit that remains in my breast. I had an idea, some time ago, that I would be the means of converting [1793] the Centre Party, but as that Party committed suicide that hope is gone. While I have great respect for Deputy MacDermot, I am afraid of his position. I remember that a member of the Dublin Corporation made a speech on one occasion in which he said: “We are standing on the edge of a precipice, and if we do not mind ourselves it will be round our necks in no time.” That is the position of Deputy MacDermot. He is on the edge of a precipice, and it will be around his neck. It will be like a Lord Mayor's chain—not the Lord Mayor's chain. I cannot say how long I listened to the speeches of the Opposition. I have heard all the speeches on this Bill. I have heard the wail over the awful position that the Comptroller and Auditor-General would be in, and the dreadful position the judges would be in. I regard the judges as men learned in the law, and men ground in logic. I also conclude that they are sensible, commonsense men. That is a great attribute, both for Deputies and judges, and it would be a great attribute for those on the opposite benches. Would not the judges take this view of the position regarding the abolition of the Seanad—that the late Government, at one time, for the purpose of preserving public peace and order, introduced a Bill in a great hurry, that they said the Bill was necessary for the preservation of peace and order and that the Seanad worked overtime to pass the Bill. They passed the Bill in three hours for the reasons given by the Government which, I suppose, were perfectly reasonable in the position at that time. What did they do when this Government asked powers for the same reason? We asked power because we believed that it was necessary for the preservation of public order and public peace. What did the Seanad do? They said: “We will not give the powers to you.”

Mr. McGovern: Information on Patrick Gregory McGovern  Zoom on Patrick Gregory McGovern  What did the judges do?

Mr. Kelly:  I am finished with the judges. I have nothing more to say about them. The position has not yet been argued from the opposite side. [1794] Most of the speeches of the Deputies opposite consisted of abuse of the President. Abuse is no argument, as we have often heard. The President is, in their mind, the incarnation of evil. There is not a clean spot on him. I suggest that the Opposition— especially the front bench men—would have been better advised to vary their argument, if we can call criticism of the President an argument. There is nothing like variation anywhere. Once upon a time, I was a member of a flute and drum band. I was a flute player and the teacher of the band regarded himself as a bit of a musician. He said the band should have slow marches as well as quick marches, especially for State occasions. The slow march he fixed on was the “Last Rose of Summer,” with variations. I was one of the players of the variations. The patron of the band came into the band room one night and our bandmaster got us to play one of the quick marches and the slow march which he had arranged for State occasions. The patron of the band made a speech afterwards. He said: “I never heard the ‘Last Rose of Summer’ played with such effect.” He believed, because of that, that the last rose of summer would survive during the winter and spring and be in full bloom when summer came again. I submit that the Seanad is the last rose of the Cumann na nGaedheal winter or summer. They might have made an effort to preserve it. If I had been over there I should have acted differently. I cannot get over there now, unless I send over my astral body. Suppose my astral body takes possession over there and I look at the opposite bench. I make up my mind in this way: “There is President de Valera and there are his merry men beside him. I should rather they were not there. I wish we had a general election and they were kicked out. But they might not be kicked out. There might be no general election. And we want the Seanad to remain.” Instead of pouring out abuse on the President's head, I should make suggestions for a new Seanad. I should say: “Mr. President, it is necessary for the proper conduct of public business here, for the safety of the people [1795] and because of this talk about keeping the Constitution intact, to have a Second Chamber. You are going to do away with this one. I suggest that we have a Seanad election right away. Let the people elect a new Seanad. Or let the county councils nominate a new Seanad. Let a new Seanad be selected from the various classes that comprise the people of this State, according to their numbers. That would mean a Seanad ruled principally by members of the Labour Party and members of a small Farmers' Party and it might be a very wholesome Seanad. Or let us have a Seanad composed of representatives of the various professions and trades, elected according to their numbers, if you like. That would be a good Seanad. Or let us have a Seanad elected by the women of the country. They would vote for the home makers and the home protectors and that would be a very wholesome Seanad.” There are five propositions put up by my astral body. Would it not have been better to say that than to point to the President as the incarnation of evil, with the two lesser incarnations of evil beside him in the persons of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance. Would not that have been better work for the country than has been done by Deputies opposite? I think it would, but I had better withdraw my astral body because I heard a man who attended a seance telling a friend how his astral body got into a lady's boudoir. There were roses on the mantelpiece and a mirror and the friend said to that man: “Your astral body will get you into trouble if you don't control it.” If I placed my astral body over there, nobody could tell what position I might be in to-morrow. I do not want to take up any more time. I give myself credit for having done, in this speech, more for the Opposition than they have done for themselves on this Bill. If they do not take my advice, if they are not guided by my astral body, all I say is that they may go where a certain soda water maker was told he might go.

Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Information on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  Zoom on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  It is a rather curious commentary on the debating [1796] power of Fianna Fáil in this House and on the belief of the Fianna Fáil Party in the correctness and wisdom of this measure that the only defence of this proposal is contained in the extraordinarily grotesque speech we have just heard. It is rather sad that in a matter of very grave importance—we are discussing now, possibly, the most important Bill that has come before the House since Fianna Fáil took office —we should be treated to the grotesque interlude of which we have just had experience. It is very strange, indeed, that Fianna Fáil cannot put up, in defence of this measure, a Deputy capable of making anything like a reasoned case. In the many unanswered speeches from this side of the House, one characteristic has been apparent. That is, their extreme understatement. It was pointed out, in many speeches from this side of the House, that this Bill was paving the road to a dictatorship. In my judgment, and I have no hesitation in making this statement, it is not merely paving the road to a dictatorship but it is actually introducing a dictatorship. Nothing more is wanted to establish a dictatorship in this State than the passage of this Bill. What is dictatorship? A dictatorship is, as I understand it, the setting up of an individual, or a small number of individuals, with uncontrolled executive and uncontrolled legislative powers, in the State.

If this Bill becomes law I would like to know what control there will be upon the Executive as far as the execution of the laws of the State is concerned—that is, so far as the exercise of the executive powers are concerned. There will be no control. As far as legislative power is concerned what control will there be of the Executive Council? Absolutely none! Up to the present we know there was a Party system in this country, and Deputy Donnelly, who is one of the best authorities, says that the Party opposite is well drilled and will carry out, without hesitation, the decrees of the Executive Council. The moment this Bill become law the Executive Council will be in the position of a dictatorship in this State. They can [1797] pass any legislation they like, and do any executive act they like, be it as illegal or immoral or undesirable as it may; there is no power in the State to check them. I am speaking upon one assumption, namely, that if this Bill passes the Oireachtas it will be valid in point of law. I am not going into the argument as to whether that will be the case or not; as to whether this will be a binding piece of legislation or waste paper. That is not a question I am going to argue now upon the Fifth Stage. I stated my position on the Second Stage and I am not going to repeat that.

Recently, upon as high legal authority as could be quoted in the State, the statement was made elsewhere that if this Bill was passed it would be inoperative. I am arguing to-night upon the assumption that if the Bill passes the Oireachtas, it will be an operative measure, and that the Seanad, in fact, will be abolished and that this House will be the absolute holder of uncontrolled power. Visualise what that means and what power is being handed to the Executive Council. We had an example very recently when the Executive rushed a Bill through this House in two days. If this Bill passes, the Executive can rush any single measure it likes through the House in less than two days. An Executive with a majority in this House, ready to carry out their wishes, can rush a Bill through the House in one day. It can bring in a measure and pass it into law before the people of the State even know that it is the intention of the Executive Council to pass such a measure. If there was a Second Chamber that could not be done. It would take some time to reach the Second Chamber, and people would know that was being done. But here, if the Executive Council think it is right, they can bring in any piece of legislation in personam. If they dislike a single newspaper they can bring in a law crushing that newspaper. They can completely control the Press and pass any legislation abolishing the liberty of the subject. But worse than that—and this is a point to which I want to draw the attention of the House and every single person who has [1798] any belief of any kind in the principle of democracy, of government by the people—they are taking away a great check which the Seanad put upon the Executive Council and upon legislation passed in this House. They are, also, taking away the other, and greater check, which the people of this State themselves can be, and which the electors of this State can put upon the Executive, and upon the Dáil itself. You are now putting it in the power of the Executive Council to absolutely sweep away the control of the people. The people elect the Dáil, and the Dáil chooses its Executive Council; for how long? For as long as the Executive likes if this Bill is passed. At the present moment the law is that there must be an election every five years. What is to prevent the Executive Council, with the Dáil behind it, and no Second Chamber, from saying “we will have an election not in five years but in 50 years?” There will be no power, and no control at all, to prevent that.

The Dáil, if this Bill becomes law, can lengthen its own life to any time it wishes. There is nothing to stop it, for it will have uncontrolled power of legislation. The Government says the Seanad is no good. Do they think that if this House passed a Bill to make it law that the life of the Dáil should be for ten or twenty years, or extending it beyond the five years period, that that Bill would get beyond the Seanad. But now there is nothing to stop it. The control of the Seanad and of the people is gone. The moment the Dáil elects an Executive Council, after this Bill is passed, they put that Council in a position in which it is quite completely out of control, except such control as it may exercise over itself. That will be the position if this Bill becomes law. We hear something said about an alternative Seanad, but there is no alternative proposal put forward by the Government here. In this Bill we are discussing one question only, and that is the question whether there is to be a Seanad—or no Seanad. The question before the House is—Seanad or no Seanad—one-chamber Government and nothing else. Anybody who votes for [1799] this measure votes for uncontrolled one-chamber Government. If this Bill becomes law, not only can every single right of the citizens be swept away by any hasty legislation that this House likes, but also the power of the people and the rights of the people. But the right of the people is an inalienable right. The right of the people to choose its own Government and rulers is a God-given right. That right, I believe, can be destroyed by no Executive Council. I am not now going to discuss, because it was fully debated on the Committee Stage, the fact that the judges can be dismissed at the whim of the Executive Council.

It is said, of course, that there is a paper guarantee, but what is the use of a paper guarantee? It can be swept away in five or six hours. A special Bill can be run through this Dáil abolishing that guarantee so that the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the judges will be as much at the mercy of the Executive Council—this has been pointed out again and again by Deputies on this side—as if there was no such guarantee. I would much rather see this Bill without that guarantee so that the people and this House itself even would thoroughly understand what is in it. I would prefer that the people and this House should see it in all its nakedness than have it with this wretched illusory guarantee trying to blindfold the people and trying to hide from this House what is the true nature of this measure.

Why is all this brought about? Because it has been said that the Executive Council have been checked in their legislative programme by what the Seanad has done. Will any speaker from the opposite benches say what Government measure the Seanad has held up? What single economic measure introduced by the Government did the Seanad hold up? Not one. It refused to agree to the Government's proposal to reduce the pay of the Guards, involving a comparatively small amount financially. But in what other respect did the Seanad prevent the carrying out of the Government's economic policy? [1800] The Seanad delayed the political policy of the Government, but surely that was right. Political changes should be carefully thought out and considered, and surely it is right that, when vast political changes altering the whole nature of the Constitution are brought in and passed in this House, the Seanad should hold up those measures and give the Executive Council itself and the people of this country time to consider their advisability. That is what a Second Chamber is for. So far as the Government's economic programme is concerned, there has been no hindrance to the carrying out of it, unsound as that programme is and unsound as I believe the majority of the Seanad consider it to be. There has been no hindrance whatsoever placed on the Government in the way of carrying out this economic programme.

What is the reason behind this measure which offends against natural justice. As I pointed out before, a Bill was brought in by the Executive Council to prevent a perfectly lawful association of their political opponents who were keeping strictly within the law, and because the Government, in defiance of the principles of natural justice wished to ban that association, the Seanad refused to give them the power. Then, in a sudden gust of passion, this Bill was introduced. It was introduced, not as the result of long consideration, but hard upon the decision of the Seanad to hold up the Blueshirt Bill. An Executive Council which is capable, in a sudden gust of passion, of introducing a Bill such as this is certainly one which should not be given the uncontrolled power that it is asking for under this Bill. Under this Bill the Executive Council is making this request to the House: make us complete and absolute rulers of this State, with no control over us, no written Constitution that we cannot abolish, and with no control from the Seanad, because the Seanad will have gone, and with no control on the part of the people because we can lengthen out our life as long as we like. That is the power the Executive Council is asking from the House under this Bill. We are supposed to [1801] be a democratic country. I suppose Deputies opposite will call themselves democrats even after they have voted for the passing of this measure which I say is the very negation of democracy. This is a Bill giving a certain nominated set of individuals, possibly it may be one individual, absolutely supreme legislative and executive power in this State.

Some of the Deputies opposite call themselves Republicans, some of them are pseudo-Republicans and some are semi-Republicans. I do not care what they are, but I say this: that if a republic were established to-morrow, giving to any individual or set of individuals the power which the Executive Council is asking this House to confer upon it by this measure that republic would be a republic only in name. It would be a dictatorship: an autocracy, at any rate. That is a measure which the Fianna Fáil Party, and no doubt the Labour Party, will support on the Final Stage, as they have supported it up to this. A Government which comes here and asks for these uncontrolled powers shows, in my judgment, and shows conclusively, that it is not a Government that ought to be in power in this State. It is a Government that by the very introduction of this measure has shown its incapacity to govern. The Executive Council comes along and, through the President as its mouthpiece, asks for uncontrolled dictatorial terms. This is not a State, I sincerely hope it never will be a State, which will permit any individual or group of individuals to exercise dictatorial powers, and if there is one single spark of democratic feeling left in the people of this State, if there is one single beat left in their hearts for liberty, they will not stand for this measure. It is a negation of liberty. It is a seizure by the Executive Council of the liberties of the people. It is a tearing up of every right which the Constitution has given to the people. While I do not believe that the Deputies opposite will be moved by any argument, any consideration, or by any sense of what is right and just, of what is and what is not an infringement of the rights and liberties [1802] of the people, there is, I would remind them, a great public outside this House, the great Irish people, who see their liberties being filched away from them and I do believe that they will show their appreciation of the way in which this Executive Council is acting towards them and will show it before very long.

Mr. Keely: Information on Séamus P. Keely  Zoom on Séamus P. Keely  The arguments put forward by the occupants of the Opposition Benches go to show that this Bill is going to take away from the people their democratic rights. The last speaker said it is the very negation of democracy to get a Bill of this kind through the Dáil for the abolition of the Seanad. I wonder what is the Deputy's idea of democracy? I feel undoubtedly that it differs fundamentally from mine. The Seanad is not representative of the people of this country. It has not been elected by the people of the country. It has no interests in common with the people of the country. If we understand the principle on which the Seanad is elected we can then see whether it is a democratic institution or not.

In the first place, members of this House have the right to vote in the election of the Seanad. In doing so they exercise authority and power derived from the people. But in so doing they are exercising a second-hand authority. That in itself is not democracy. It is a denial of the democratic rights of the people. But bad as that denial is, we find when the vacancies in the Seanad are being filled that the members of the Seanad have a right, and always exercised their right, to vote for the new members of that Seanad. In doing so the members of the Seanad surely do not derive their authority from the people. They derive that authority partly from this House which is a second-hand authority. The members of the Seanad, in exercising that authority, are only exercising a third-hand authority in the election to that Assembly. That is not democracy, and that is not safeguarding democratic rights. But bad as those two are the situation is even worse when we find that the third [1803] group who have power and authority in the election to the Seanad are the retiring members thereof.

Periodically at settled intervals we have an election of 15 or 20 members to the Seanad. Say that 20 members are retiring and that 20 vacancies have to be filled. The members of this House and the members of the Seanad, even the outgoing members of the Seanad, have power to elect the new members. Therefore, the Seanad is not democratic, and it is not a safeguard for the democratic rights of the people. It acts in an autocratic way, and it denies the democratic rights of the people of which the members of the Opposition have spoken.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I have heard three powerful speeches in support of this measure. Each gave a reason for voting for it. The first was that a mandate had been secured at a general election. No other reason than that. Portion of an election address was read out. Large portions of that address have since been abandoned by the Government. That is the mandate that we have been told the Government has got. We had a speech from another occupant of those benches in which we were advised to put up a proposal for an alternative Seanad. We had the last and I suppose the most brilliant contribution now towards the reasons why this Bill should pass into law.

There are many reasons why this Bill should not pass into law. The reason is that the people's rights and the liberties and privileges which they enjoy should not be at the mercy of any single majority vote in this House. Not without reason did the Seanad reject the measure which sought to restrict the liberties of the Irish people some short time ago. One of the things which is enshrined in the Constitution is political liberty. One of the things which animated this Government when it was in Opposition in going out to the general election was a criticism of the Administration then in office for having passed into law the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. That Act was denounced as one of the most coercive [1804] measures that had ever been introduced into this country. It was attacked here in this House and odium was poured upon it. Every description that could possibly be thought of was applied to it in the most contemptuous tones. We were told that it was an invasion of the people's rights and liberties and that there was no security for the people's rights and liberties once that Bill was passed into law. But the very people who made those statements prostituted that Act in order to prove that what they said was true—that there were no rights on the part of the people—so long as they wished to take them from them. Yet, in spite of that statement and other statements that were made by them that measure was vindicated and the courts snatched from this Administration a person they tried to keep in custody.

That measure was vindicated by the action of the courts in restoring to a citizen of this country his liberty. The Government found that that measure which they so strongly denounced was not strong enough for them to crush political opposition in this country and they introduced the Wearing of Uniform (Restriction) Bill which strikes at the very roots of one of the fundamental provisions of the Constitution. The Seanad would not stand for that Bill and now we are told by the Government, or their very lame apologists—and they have very few of them and their contributions are very miserable—that the Seanad which did what was asked for by the last Administration, refused this Administration the power which they extended to the other.

What are the facts? Before the Seventeenth Amendment was introduced and passed into law, life and liberty were not safe in this country. The Government spoke of the Wearing of Uniform (Restriction) Bill as necessary for the preservation of law. Is liberty less safe, is freedom less safe since the Seanad refused to pass that measure? The main argument we have against this measure to-night is the fact that we do not repose any confidence in this Administration. In my own personal [1805] experience I have had three notable examples of this Administration. I recited them before in this House. At the last general election one of the Ministers sent down word that I was to be ambushed and it was thought proper that I was to have a procession from Cork to Dublin. Now I cannot go to sleep at night until the Government take away their noisy cars from outside my gate.

The President: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Is this germane to the Bill?

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  Perfectly.

The President: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  How?

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  It is perfectly germane. The power that this Government is going to have directly this Bill passes into law is a power which I say this House should not give them. When I exposed a certain matter here a short time ago the Government sent a high police officer to me. He knew nothing whatever about the case and admitted to me he did not know anything about it. These three personal experiences are quite sufficient to satisfy me that this Administration has not the confidence, would not have the confidence and should not have the confidence of the Irish people.

Here, during the course of this measure which was hastily introduced on the 22nd March—the previous Bill, the Uniform Bill, which gave rise to this measure, having been passed in this House on the 14th March—we did not hear one clear-cut argument in its favour advanced from the Government Benches. What is it in reality? Only a simple litany of alterations and mutilations of the Constitution. It was pointed out in the course of this measure through the House that there were several defects. Two of them have been partially remedied, but that is not enough. The Bill should not pass, so defective is it in its construction. I drew attention to the fact that any evening at 3 o'clock, once this Bill passes, a measure can be introduced which will alter the currency, which could reduce the value of Savings Certificates that the people have purchased at a good price and [1806] with good money from this Government. A measure could be passed which would leave the Government responsible, if they so desired, for only half of the Post Office Savings Bank deposits. When I say that I am told I am damaging the credit of this country.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  And so you are; you are doing your utmost.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  That comes well from people who have done their damnedst during the five years they were in this House. It comes well from them to make this charge. I invited you to remedy that state of affairs, to make it impossible for any Parliament to do the like of that. Show us whether or not you are really concerned with the credit of this State. Why should it be left to a simple majority of the House to do the like of that? If it is considered of sufficient importance to make even a day's delay over the dismissal of a judge why could you not do it for the currency, the credit of the State? It comes well from people over there to say that I am damaging the credit of the State when, for five years, they did their worst in that connection, talking about bankruptcy and so on. In the same way, when it is indicated that within six hours they may enact legislation that may mean the tearing up of every Article of the Constitution which gives people liberty, they say, “We are going to consider that; that is not of such importance as the judges. We must make sure, at any rate, that this Bill, in so far as any imperfections in that respect are concerned, will not be subject to condemnation in the courts of law.”

We have had experience of how this Administration regards the liberty of the people. It is some satisfaction to us that we have a Constitution and that we have laws and that we have some authority in this State which could judge the actions of an Executive which sought to put a limit upon the people's liberty. We have listened to members of the front bench taunting us about going into a room to make up what we are going to say. We know the type of mind there is [1807] behind the present Administration. There is no regimented representation here. There is full liberty of speech, full liberty to anybody to make up his mind. The regimentation is over there. We got an admission of it from Deputy Donnelly to-night. Loyalty, blind loyalty, a blind following of whatever headline is set up for them. May I submit this for the consideration of the House before it decides on this Bill? Parliaments have been corrupt before this. There might be two corrupt Parties which would conspire to give a lengthened life to Dáil representation and to keep a Government in power against the will of the people. Where is the people's security in a case of that sort? The people's security is the most important item in the whole of the Constitution. The Government's interpretation of the Constitution is the power that Parliament gets, the power they can exercise. It would be, perhaps, much more correct to say the might that they can employ rather than the power or right that they can exercise.

We are against following the example of people from the time of Cromwell down. We are against all those examples on the Continent, where the road to the suppression of democratic liberty is through the Single Chamber. It is not part of the business of the Opposition to give reasons why a Bill of this sort should not pass. The onus is on the Government to prove that there is a case for it. Let us understand this once and for all. There are two considerations in connection with this measure and let them not be mixed. There is one, the weak minded, miserable minded, pushing of the majority over there who single out the personnel of the Seanad as the reason for its abolition, and there is the bigger question, whether or not this country should have a single Parliament. In my view, taken for what it is worth, the people of this country had the right to expect that the institutions of the State under our Constitution were their safeguards and their security. The so-called mandate that the [1808] Government has got has just as much chance of real success as their undertaking to put 84,000 people into employment or to reduce the taxation of this country by £2,000,000 per annum.

No reason has emerged to-night for the passage of this measure. Indeed, there is every reason why it should not pass. If this measure passes it will be at any time within the power of a Government with a majority of one to take away the liberty of the people within a period of six hours. The Government will have power to upset and interfere with the currency or the finances of the State. It will be within the power of the Government to extend the life of a Parliament. Each and every one of these reasons is enough in itself, if there were no other, for the rejection of this measure, which was introduced without any consideration for the gap that was being left in the Constitution of this State and which was amended miserably. Now I suppose we are going to get an apology of a Commission to examine the whole situation and devise some means for putting a face upon this mutilation of the people's rights.

The President: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I do not know why people use fantastic exaggeration if they hope to carry any conviction with them. I am sure that the people of the country who will bother about reading the speeches that we have heard from the Opposition will smile and think it a huge joke——

Mr. O'Leary: Information on Daniel O'Leary  Zoom on Daniel O'Leary  They are not in the humour to smile, a great many of them.

The President: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  They will smile when they hear the Seanad is the protector of their liberty. Think of it! Everything is gone if the Seanad goes. All their rights are going to be swept away. Deputy Cosgrave tells us what Deputy Hogan said before in other words, that no man with a sixpence in his pocket will henceforth be safe. Is not that the position? Now the people of the country have a fair realisation of the extent to which their [1809] liberties are going to be, or would be, protected by the Seanad. If Deputies on the opposite benches hoped to carry any conviction they would deal with this subject in quite a different way from the way in which they have dealt with it.

When I introduced the Bill I said— and I repeat it—that the onus was on the Opposition to show why there should be a Second Chamber. Why should we complicate legislative machinery unnecessarily? There is nothing in reason in the nature of representative Government that would at all have suggested to anybody a check in a Second Chamber, such as the Seanad is. There is nothing in the nature of representative Government that would have suggested that, and I said that it is for those who want to maintain such a check to show their reasons for it. I think that was fair. To me, it was just as if I were to have to defend the removing of hobble skirts. It is for those who say that hobble shirts, which restrict natural movement, should be worn to show why they should be worn—in other words, to show why these restrictions and this unnecessary complication in the legislative machinery should be there. Any piece of machinery that is unnecessarily complicated, to that extent offends one's sense of what is right and is, to the extent that it is unnecessary, usually inefficient as well.

Now, I issued a challenge. How has that challenge been met? One argument has been relied upon, and that is that the common experience of mankind, if you please, points to the advisability of a Second Chamber. Our professors of history, when challenged to give us more than a mere statement of that, relied on the single case of the revolution in France. I hope that the professor does not teach history as partially as he tried to teach the Dáil this evening and that he does not draw such partial conclusions from his history or ask the students to draw the conclusions that he asked the Dáil to draw. I challenged him because I had not been able to find anywhere any justification for the conclusion, and I believe that it was a lazy expression of opinion taking something as an [1810] accepted fact from some conservative writer without any attempt whatever to examine it for himself. I asked him to let us have these proofs which history was supposed to afford as to the value of Second Chambers and the dangers and difficulties that followed from the Single Chamber system.

We were told that we had a Single Chamber legislative system at the beginning of the French Revolution. Everybody knows the conditions that obtained at that time and everybody knows that it would be very dangerous to draw any conclusions from that particular period. If, however, we were going to draw conclusions from that period, did he not know that immediately the Consulate was established they had three Chambers, and did that protect the liberties of the French people? He told us that the present French Republic had a Second Chamber and that it was instituted there as the result of French political thought. Everybody knows that at that particular time it was opposed to the sentiment of Republican France and that the Republican leader at that time simply chose it because at the time he sensed a Royalist majority and it was used at that particular time simply as a means of getting the Republic through. It has persisted, but what has been its history? Its history has been that it has opposed every single progressive measure that has been brought forth. That is the history of it. I say, then, if we are going to use history as the background and as our teacher and educator in this particular matter, let us try honestly to draw conclusions from it and let us examine it so that we can draw conclusions from it.

Take, for example, everything we have heard about dictatorship to-night. Take every single dictatorship— although perhaps it is an exaggeration to speak of a single dictatorship. Take the case of Napoleon. There was a Senate to stop him. Did it stop him? Not a bit. Victor Hugo, I think, in one of his writings said of them:

“The poltroons! They were bigger slaves than we wanted them to be.”

The same author, speaking of the [1811] experiences of a Roman Emperor, said:

“The wretches! They were bigger slaves than we wanted them to be.”

Take the case of Louis Napoleon. Did the Senate stop him from his coup d'êtat? Not a bit of it. In all history we have proof that Second Chambers are no protection whatever for the liberties of the people. It was Victor Hugo again, I think, who in the same chapter, pointed out the contempt which Charles X had for Senates when he said:

“Send my boots to Stockholm to preside over the Senate.”

It is ridiculous for people to come along here and pretend that they can fool people, because that is what it is, by saying that the experience of history points to the value of Second Chambers as a protection against tyranny and as a protection against dictatorship. History teaches no such lesson. The lesson of history is this: that when dictators come along, backed by force, they tear up any constitution whether it be a Single Chamber or Double Chamber Legislative Assembly. That is the truth.

As to this particular measure, the suggestion is that we brought it in here in a fit of pique. We did nothing of the sort. We went to the electorate a year ago and we said to the people that we proposed to abolish the Seanad as at present constituted, and we indicated quite clearly that the question of a Second Chamber was one for further consideration. Showing that the question was open for decision, we indicated that if we were going to have a Second Chamber we would reduce the number of its members and consequently would reduce this expense to the country. It was quite clear in our manifesto that the Senate, as at present constituted, was to go, and that the question of replacing it by a Second Chamber was one for consideration by the Government elected and by the new Parliament. We brought in a Bill to limit its powers. It is suggested that that showed a different attitude from our attitude in bringing in this Bill. To this extent only was it different, that when we [1812] brought in that Bill we said: “We will still give further time for consideration as to whether we will get a Second Chamber or not, but in this thing we are doing by the Bill, of restricting its powers, we are going to make whatever decisions may be ultimately arrived at capable of being quickly put into law and not be held up by the period which the Constitution, as it stood before, and as it stands until that measure becomes law, would require,” but there is no inconsistency. I even pointed out at the time, while we were giving the matter consideration, that the Seanad, as at present constituted, was to go and this Bill as it was introduced provided simply that this Second Chamber was to disappear. That was the first step and the main provision of the Bill as introduced was to effect that. The other provisions were merely consequential.

It is suggested that we did this without any thought as to the situation that would result when that Bill became law. We did not do anything of the kind. Although we shall be going to the Seanad in a very short time—Wednesday, perhaps—with this Bill, I do not expect that the Seanad are going to pass it. They did not pass the Bill limiting their powers and I do not expect that they are going to pass this Bill abolishing themselves. We will, therefore, have a period of close on a year before this measure becomes law. During that period of time, it is possible to do certain things and it was intended that certain things should be done. I have myself despaired of being able to devise any type of Seanad that would be worth setting up. We had Deputy MacDermot to-night going back to the old ideal—the sort of thing which has a certain glamour for us all in every country, but for the securing of which nobody yet has been able to succeed in getting a system. As I said, I think in my Second Reading speech, we all have a picture of a venerable Seanad, composed of wise men, men who are not going to be affected by the ordinary political passions of the day, men who have rendered distinguished service to their country and all the rest of it. That has always been the [1813] dream of a Seanad, but it has never once been even approximated to, except, perhaps, in ancient Rome.

It has certainly never been approximated to in modern democratic times and you can easily satisfy yourselves that it cannot even be approximated to, because you can easily frame a list of the possible ways in which a Seanad could be constituted and you can go through them one by one and you will find that there is not a single way in which you can get the Seanad that you require. If you allow a nominated Seanad perhaps you can, or if you get even a group of people who would come into existence for a time, nominating the best people on whom you could depend, but where are you going to get that group and are people in general going to accept the nomination of such a group? There have been nominated Senates before and there is in Canada, as you know, a nominated Senate. What has been the effect of it? The Senate there was nominated by the political leader of the day and it became a political body. All this outcry which we have heard from the benches opposite has been raised because they regard the Second House here as their ally and it is because it is their political ally that its fate is being bemoaned. In Canada the result of this nominated Senate has been to bring it into disrepute.

In its origin, the Seanad here was largely a nominated Seanad. Do you think the people were going to respect such a Seanad? Did they not know full well that, the nominations being made by a political leader, these nominations would naturally be coloured by the political leader's outlook and that he would choose people, particularly if he was going to have any further administrative responsibility, who were going to support him and not hinder him? You can have a nominated Seanad, as I say, but where does it lead to? Nobody is going to accept it, though I believe it is the only way in which you can have any hope whatever of getting that ideal Seanad, composed of old people, people who had rendered service to [1814] their country, people who were not going to be affected by political passions but does anybody think that, if there was a nominated Chamber here and if the elected representatives of the people believed that a certain measure was necessary, they would tolerate being held up for any long time by such a Seanad?

I say again that you can go through the ways in which a Seanad could be selected—it has to be elected directly or indirectly—and going through them all, you will find that there are faults in every one of them which would completely prevent the Seanad from being the Seanad to which we have an attachment because the Seanad we conjure up as an ideal is impossible of attainment or even approximate attainment. We have got from the other side no justification whatever for this Second Chamber. What is the general idea about it? The idea is a check but what you want is a check which will operate when it ought to operate and will not operate when it should not operate. That is what you want. You surely do not want to have the sort of check that Benjamin Franklin spoke of when he was mocking this idea of checks and when he said:

“What do you want? Do you want to have a cart with one horse tied at one end and pulling one way and another horse tied at the other end pulling the other way?”

Do you want to have a Parliament that is able to give effect and to put into law the measures that the people feel are necessary for their well-being or do you want to have continual frustration?

When you put up these Senates as checks, what happens is that the Seanad is naturally a political body. They are not outside the body of the citizens; they have the same political feelings and, very often, the same type of political affiliations that other citizens of the country have and they are affected, if you like, by the same political passions and what happens is that if the majority of the Seanad are of the same political mind as the majority of the elected House, there is no check whereas if they are of the opposite mind, they behave exactly as an Opposition in a two-Party Parliament [1815] would behave. We have seen an example of that behaviour here. We have seen a Professor of History who refused to give us his special knowledge. If he were in the Seanad, do you think he would give that special knowledge to the benefit of the people? He refused to give it here. We have a lawyer, and ex-Attorney-General, who wants to pull down his colleague because that colleague is not playing the political game well enough. He reproves his colleague for pointing out a possible defect in legislation that is being proposed here. Is that man doing his duty as a representative in withholding any special knowledge and playing the game? He is not, in my opinion; and he is not a good representative of the people and he is not behaving as a representative of the people should.

It is our duty as representatives not to play the political game, in the sense of keeping back information and knowledge, which ought to be used here in the Legislative Assembly for the general benefit, in the hope that some mistake will be made here by the Government of the day which might be exploited to the benefit of the [1816] Party in the Courts. Is that professional expert, if he is put into the Seanad, going to act differently? Not a bit of it. The Professor of History or the lawyer, when he is operating in another Chamber, will operate with just the same political bias with which he operated when he was here. You cannot get rid of it. Therefore, let us get rid of this farce that there is any check like that. Let us forget about it and let the people forget that it is a check and let the people and us here concentrate on making the direct representative Assembly the type of Assembly it should be. The sooner the people realise that there is no effective check, the greater will be their care in the election of their representatives. That is my opinion. I do not think you can have it both ways. I think there must be authority somewhere and there must be the power of taking action somewhere. Let us get the best we can and let us not be fooling ourselves with the idea that, if we have a Second Chamber, we are going to be better off. I move the adjournment.

The House adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m., Friday, 25th May, 1934.


Last Updated: 17/05/2011 13:50:10 First Page Previous Page Page of 15 Next Page Last Page