In Committee on Finance. - Vote No. 3—Department of the President of the Executive Council.

Wednesday, 6 June 1934

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 52 No. 18

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Minister for Finance (Mr. MacEntee): Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I move:—

Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £7,668 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1935, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Roinn Uachtarán na hArd-Chomhairle.

That a sum not exceeding £7,668 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1935, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of the President of the Executive Council.

The Estimate of the amount required, in the year ending 31st March, 1935, to pay the salaries and expenses of this Department is £11,568, representing an increase of £948 on the Estimate for 1933-34, due to an increase of £918 in the provision for salaries, wages and allowances and £30 in the provision for telephones. The increase in the sub-head “Salaries, Wages and Allowances” is due to the establishment of the Government Information Bureau, for the staff of which a provision of £1,273 [2461] is made. A provision of £148 was made for this service in 1933-34 by Supplementary Estimate, so that the estimated cost of the staff of the Bureau in 1934-35 represents an increase of £1,125 on Sub-head A.

Apart from the provision for the Bureau, the sub-head shows a reduction of £207 due to a rearrangement of the staff, for instance, the replacement of the post of a higher officer by one of junior administrative grading and the replacement of a junior executive officer, who acted as private secretary to the Parliamentary Secretary to the President, by an officer of a lower grade, an employment officer. The net increase on the sub-head is, accordingly, £118.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  I wonder whether the House would desire to discuss Votes Nos. 3 and 67—the Department of the President and the Department of External Affairs— together? Separate decisions could be taken, if desired. There is a motion to refer back Vote No. 3, but there is no such motion in the case of Vote No. 67.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  There is no objection to taking the two discussions together.

The President: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I should prefer to have them separate.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  Very well.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I move: “That the Vote be referred back for reconsideration.” This Estimate presents to the Dáil a much greater opportunity than merely discussing the items embodied in the Estimates. It brings under review by the Dáil the main items of Government policy which affect the country and the first of those in magnitude and importance is the Government's mishandling of the dispute with Great Britain. For a long time we have been hearing about their prospects of winning the war. We were told in the early stages of this conflict that it was already won. Later the victory was postponed for a little while and now, after very nearly two years of the operation of this conflict, we are presented with some tangible results which appear, on the face [2462] of them and taken at their money value, to suggest a far greater possibility of victory to those who are in conflict with us than a victory to ourselves.

Practically the whole of the Government propaganda in connection with this dispute from the beginning was prefaced by the statement that they were going to hold sums payable, and having been paid for a number of years, to Great Britain of £5,250,000. I presume that the Government will not deny having paid £250,000 each year since they came into office. In so far as the £250,000 of the £5,250,000 is concerned, it is still being paid and the sum, then, that falls for consideration is £5,000,000 annually. That £5,000,000 was not a perpetual annual charge. It had a life, a limited life. In so far as the land annuities are concerned, amounting to something round about £3,000,000, the annual life of the loan ran from 40 up to 60 years. It is unlikely that any of it would be paid in 60 years' time. In so far as the Local Loans, which amount to £600,000 a year, are concerned, the last payment would fall to be made in about 12 years' time. Pensions, amounting to something over £1,000,000, would gradually drop out and as far as those two items are concerned, the Minister for Finance has capitalised them at a value something like £16,000,000.

The land annuities, which represent the larger item, have been variously estimated. They represent, I think, something like £76,000,000 of land stock and taking a price which, I think, is a fair stock exchange price of £86 per cent., that particular sum amounts to about £65,000,000 in cash. We can assess then the value of the sums in dispute in this particular instance as about £80,000,000. Last year the British Government, although they placed a limitation upon certain exports from this country, was able to secure, according to their own published returns, £4,552,000 and our £80,000,000 debt is then paying an interest charge of something like 5½ per cent. In these days of cheap money it is a very high rate of interest. While the charge, which was there before the Government interfered [2463] with it, had a limited life, this particular method of liquidating the liability has a life in perpetuity. This is a conflict between two countries, or, to speak more correctly, a conflict between the Governments of two countries. If one were in the position of being an outsider looking on at the conflict between the two of them, one would find it hard to congratulate either of them on the statesmanship they have shown in connection with the handling of this particular dispute. This very instrument which is issued by the British Government has, on one of its pages, a record of its own capital liabilities. There are also inserted the liabilities which are due to the British Government by other countries. They are very considerable sums, including, on page six, war loans to Dominions and Colonies totalling £113,815,000. In the third last item on the page, item No. 2, the first list of debts that are not funded, there is: “Capital sums owing on the 31st March, 1934—Allied war debts: Russia, £1,181,394,000.” There is not one penny interest paid on that money. There is, I believe, what amounts to repudiation. I know nothing about the circumstances, except what one reads in the newspapers. At any rate, there is a sum of money owed by one country to Great Britain, in respect of which there is no accommodation, and perhaps no immediate likelihood of accommodation. From the newspapers we learn that there is no tariff war between those two countries. Whatever their dispute, they are leaving it to time, and perhaps to different men, and perhaps to saner methods, to solve it. On the top of the page we see: “Australia, £79,794,000.” For two years past, although the annual arrangement for funding that particular liability amounts to about £5,000,000, not one penny has been paid, but there is no tariff war between those two countries. Australia is in the same position as we are in this country—a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

From the point of view of ordinary statesmanship what particular reason was there for the two Governments [2464] in question to place the two countries in a tariff competition one with the other? Was there a particular desire on the part of the two Governments to precipitate a conflict which can do credit to neither one nor the other of them, which has been injuring the trade and industry of both, and which in the long run will be settled, if not with the aid of either of the two Governments, in spite of them? In the meantime, just as in all conflicts which take place between the strong and those that are less strong, the hard knocks have got to be borne by those perhaps least able to bear them. The fault that we find, and that we find apart altogether from any question of politics whatever, is that the Government of Saorstát Eireann appears not to be satisfied with the imposts that there are upon the agricultural industry of this country, which are recorded there in that White Paper as amounting to £4,500,000. It looks as if that were not enough to place on the back of the agricultural industry of this country, but they must add to it. They are adding to it in the way I described here yesterday, when discussing the Vote for the Department of Agriculture. In the first place they have saddled them with £3,000,000 Land Commission annuities; £1,000,000 last November or December—half the normal charge— and the full charge for May and June. They may tell us it is funded. So it is; it is funded in any case in which the annuitant wished, at 4½ per cent. and ½ per cent. sinking fund, while the Government is borrowing money at 3½ per cent. This is the time that the British Government is collecting more in the shape of rent, if we like to call it that. That was the time selected by the Government to deduct from the Agricultural Grant £448,000, making a total charge on the agricultural industry of £8,000,000 in a single year.

That is the statesmanlike proposition that the country is presented with by this Government, which has failed in its diplomatic representations to a country alongside it, and got terms less favourable than Russia and less favourable than Australia. During the last two years, although Australia has [2465] not paid one penny interest on that war debt of £79,000,000, which bears a very close approximation to our £80,000,000 odd, Australia has increased her trade with Great Britain, her exports to Great Britain have increased, and her prices have improved. All this time those who are standing for the Irish Government go from one end of the country to the other telling the people that this is a conflict. It is a conflict of which the farmers of the country have to bear the brunt, while the Government does the talking. It is neither statesmanship nor even good politics. As a political proposition, it is bound, in the long run, to defeat itself. I am not concerned here with the politics of it. It does not matter twopence to the ordinary man on the street what the Government is. What does matter is the administration of the Government; how it makes it possible for him to carry on his business; how it develops the trade of the country; how it improves its economic position; how many persons it puts into gainful employment in the State, and generally what it does towards improving the people's conditions. This is a situation which calls for statesmanship and courage. There is a dispute with Great Britain. Is the Government nervous of approaching the British Government and talking business to them, because it is business and not politics that ought to be the concern of the Government in this case? What is it that keeps back a sound and sensible consideration of this particular dispute? Do not tell us that it is because one side insists upon one particular arbitrator or another. The ordinary man on the street does not care a straw what means are devised to solve this particular problem. What he is concerned with is the speed with which it is solved, and the advantages which would accrue to the country from its solution.

If we can discuss this question free from politics, much more important than the settlement of the dispute as regards the £80,000,000 is the trade agreement that should be effected between the two countries. We were in a position, or would be in a position [2466] within a few short years, to perhaps double our exports of agricultural products out of this country. If we are in a position to double our exports and get in £34,000,000 worth instead of £17,000,000 worth, taking it from the pure accountancy point of view, the settlement of whatever the impost would be is less important than getting an advantageous trade agreement. It is no compliment that one should look for to the British Government in connection with this matter. There is no country in the world which appreciates the advantage of expanding trade more than Britain. There is no country that has learned, and must have learned during the last two years, how much damage is done to her industry, commerce, trade and prestige by this quarrel or this dispute or this conflict that is going on within 60 miles of her shores. She has vast world possessions. She has great responsibility for the peace of the world. She certainly must stand before other countries at a discount while this conflict is going on here. From the point of view of economics and finance the position of the British Government in connection with this dispute is one in which it is even more incumbent upon them to have a settlement effected than it is upon us. With us, whether we like it or not, it is a dire necessity.

It is nonsense to say that there is a conspiracy against or political disaffection towards the Government in connection with the difficulty which farmers find in paying either annuities or rates. I wonder if the President has ever consulted the Land Commission in connection with the collection of annuities in the coming year, and if he asks the officers of the Land Commission associated with the collection of annuities for the last ten years, if it is likely that they are going to collect during the next 12 months the 50 per cent. of the annuities placed upon the people, if he will not get from them an explanation and a presentation of the facts of the case, in so far as they affect the farmers? These questions which deal with economics and finance should be, and ought to be, and will eventually, whether we like it or not, be discussed and considered and decided [2467] by the people of the country free from politics. Political considerations ought not to be allowed to obtrude themselves into matters of this sort. Anyone with whom I am acquainted, any of the contacts I have throughout the country tell me that the position of the farmers, from one end of the country to the other, with rare exceptions, is worse than it was in living memory. Why should it not be? I gave the House yesterday and to-day the figure that agriculture is asked to bear in the shape of rent. Not since 1881 has there been such a high charge placed upon it in respect of rent as there has been during the last 12 months. If it required the mobilisation of all the national forces in the country 52 or 53 years ago to get a reduction of the rent charged on the agricultural community, why should we not have action taken now when we have admissions from members of the Ministry, and from everybody else to whom one speaks throughout the country, that prices for agricultural produce were never lower than they have been during the last 12 months or two years?

These are sufficient and compelling reasons why we should object to this Vote. Nobody on this side of the House cares a straw what Government is in power if that matter were settled. It is more important than any other consideration at present before the country, because unless that main industry is put in a prosperous condition you can put what label you like upon this country, but there is no hope for it until it is done. I am not one who considers for a moment that there is any ultimate danger in connection with this matter. It is simply putting back the clock with regard to a settlement, because a settlement must come. It is a necessity for both countries. It is not to the credit of either of the two Governments that this matter has not been solved before this. The question upon which we are in dispute with the British Government mainly is that they take a stand purely and simply on the legal case they have got. The last two years ought to have shown them the undesirability of resting exclusively upon legal advice. [2468] We will say no more than that about it. There are other cases. There is the equity case; there are the changed conditions; there are arguments which have been used all over the world. Two years ago at Lausanne the various nations there assembled were unanimous in subscribing to one particular formula that the scale of international obligations should be on the basis of ability to pay. That is looking for no compliment; that is appealing for no consideration. It is placing it upon a basis separate and distinct from anything that up to that time had been under consideration. For 12 years these nations had been under the mistaken impression that they could get from Germany, a defeated nation, huge sums of money. Time has shown that they had made a mistake. Time will show that there is a mistake in not having this question resolved at an earlier date. There is no statesman living who will not regret in five or ten years' time that these international complications which are at present arresting the resumption of some sort of economic equilibrium in the world, were not removed at an earlier date.

We say, as we have said all through, that fighting this matter to a finish may be all right in politics, but we must remember that, even if there was a prospect of victory, the damage that might ensue as a result of a continuation of this conflict for a single day longer than it might or should be allowed to continue cannot be repaired. The lives that are interrupted, the suffering that is inflicted upon those unable to help themselves, the bankruptcies that are inevitable and which must occur, and the lack of hope that people are bound to experience as a result of seeing their property dwindling day after day and week after week—all these things will not be repaired by a money settlement. So much for that.

There is one statement that I will invite the Government to make. A case has recently been tried in court, and evidence was given by a police officer that the standard of conduct on the part of a policeman was different from the standard of a grocer. In other words, his conception of his duty [2469] as a police officer was that he was to get information how, or in what way, or by what deceit he possibly could. I hope for the sake of the Gárda Síochána that we shall have a pronouncement from the Ministry that they do not agree with that conduct on the part of a police officer; that that is not their interpretation of a police officer's duty. I formally move that the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration.

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  Speaking on this Estimate, I had not intended to refer specifically to the question of the economic war, but after hearing Deputy Cosgrave I am tempted to supplement what he has said upon that head by a few observations. I remember that when we discussed the President's Estimate last year the criticism, at any rate, of the Centre Party concentrated upon two aspects of the President's activity. One was his special connection with the economic war, and the other was his connection with the manner in which justice was being administered in this country and peace and order were being maintained, or alleged to be maintained. We stated that the President had made the economic war in a peculiar manner his own war, very much as the Empress Eugenie is supposed to have made the Franco-Prussian war her own war. “C'est ma guerre á moi” is the phrase attributed to her. We have a recent illustration that what we stated in that connection still holds good. It was only a week or two ago that a speech was made by the Minister for Finance which produced hopeful reactions across the water, and whatever good effect might have followed was cancelled out by two speeches of the President delivered a few days later. Deputy Cosgrave has said that the continuance of this economic war reflects upon the statesmanship of the Governments of both countries. I think that is true, but the only Government on which we are able to exercise any influence here is the Government of our own country.

The President expressed himself in theory as being prepared to deal with [2470] this matter by way of arbitration, and I think if we are getting down to brass tacks on this subject of the economic war it is, perhaps, just as well to say a little about the possibilities of arbitration. It appears to me that we have not yet faced the fact that the greatest difficulty of all with regard to arbitration is not so much the selection of a tribunal as the selection of the precise issue which would be tried by a tribunal. I can see that, if a tribunal were agreed upon to-morrow, the President would wish the members to address their minds just to this question, whether the annuities and other sums would have been legally payable to England had it not been for what are usually called the Cosgrave agreements. I think that, on the other hand, the British Government would be almost certain to wish to propose as the first question for the tribunal to decide the issue as to whether the Cosgrave agreements themselves were valid or not. So that even if you had your tribunal selected, and if you got over the difficulty of whether it is to be a Commonwealth or a non-Commonwealth tribunal, you might be up against it in the matter of settling exactly what issues they were to decide. And then if the tribunal were to decide, for instance, that legally the moneys would not have been payable except for the Cosgrave agreements, that legally a situation had arisen under the 1920 Home Rule Act which had been overlooked by the people making the financial arrangements consequent on the Treaty, you would still have, I presume, a claim put forward by the British that that did not represent the equities of the situation and that we should not have been released from certain obligations from which we were released, had it not been understood that they were to receive the land annuities as previously. In view of those difficulties, I cannot help feeling that, much as one might like in theory a settlement by arbitration which would leave both Governments in the position of having saved their faces and not having given way upon the main issue, in practice the arbitration solution is not likely to get us anywhere. [2471] I wish I could think otherwise.

There remains, then, the question of settlement by agreement and we are constantly taunted with the alleged fact that we have nothing to suggest in the way of agreement and all we can do is to counsel surrender. I am not aware that anyone has advised anything that could be called surrender or, indeed, that the word surrender has any appropriateness at all to the situation from the point of view of members of the Opposition. After all, truth and justice are truth and justice and one wants to see that consequences flow from a situation that in truth and justice ought to flow from it. But if one is called upon to make some sort of concrete, constructive suggestion, I would suggest now what I have suggested before, that, supposing the Ministers want to make any real approach to a settlement of this question, they should decide to stop arguing about the theory of the thing and take the point of view that has been put forward by Deputy Cosgrave—that, whatever the rights and wrongs, here is a dispute which is doing great injury to us and, presumably, some injury to the people on the other side of the water, for even if, as it is alleged by Ministers, the economic dispute actually fits in with English economic policy and that economically they rather like it than otherwise—even if you accept that point of view—it still would remain true that the dispute, as Deputy Cosgrave says, has a bad effect on their prestige and creates a situation here at the heart of the British Commonwealth that cannot be to their liking in its political aspects. It is, therefore, reasonable to expect that if we put forward a genuine offer of a cash payment—you might start with an offer of something that was really no more than a token payment —and if some sort of genuine advance was made on the position that we have hitherto taken up, probably a businesslike arrangement could be arrived at which would do nothing to wound the national feelings of either Party concerned and which, from a [2472] purely monetary point of view, would be enormously more to the benefit of this country than is the present situation. That, I think, is all that I will say on the subject of the economic war to-night.

Deputy McGilligan, when speaking just now on the Finance Bill, pointed out what a host of contradictions there have been between the various Ministers themselves in their views as to the future relations of this country to the British market—as to whether the British market is still available in a valuable form, as to whether we want it if it is available, as to whether we expect ever to regain it, as to whether it is worth while to establish a mercantile marine in order to carry on trade with Great Britain. The state of mind of the Government appears to be one of complete confusion. They are not able to clear their own minds and still less, naturally, are they able to clear the minds of the people of the country and the minds of the sufferers as a result of the economic dispute. It is highly desirable that they should exert themselves to clear the situation up and, if they do so exert themselves, they will have the goodwill of every Party in the State.

Now, as regards the second matter of criticism in last year's Estimate for the President's Department, the maintenance of law and order, a good deal of water has flowed under the bridges since we discussed those matters on that occasion, but I am afraid that I cannot say that the charges that were then made against the President and against the Government as a whole, of partiality in their attitude towards various organisations in the maintenance of law and order, have been proved to be unfounded by anything that has taken place since. On the contrary, it is since then that a whole series of efforts have been made to repress an organisation which has legal aims, which follows those aims by legal methods, which accepts the authority of the State, which accepts the Constitution as it now stands, which has done a great deal to preserve the rights of the individual citizen, to [2473] preserve the rights of free speech and free assembly for the Opposition—a whole series of efforts have been made to crush that organisation while, on the other hand, organisations of a very different character and with aims and methods that are quite explicitly illegal have not been subjected to a similar series of persecutions.

I am tempted to develop that subject. A great deal could be said upon it. I have here newspaper cuttings and reports of cases which show that the condition of things in the country is extremely undesirable as regards procuring the execution of justice in the case of persons who commit acts, no matter how blackguardly, so long as they proclaim those acts are being committed with the political motive of forwarding the cause of the republic; and even without the proclamation or pretence of any such motives so long as they are able to assert that they are members of an organisation for promoting the cause of the republic. So long as they assert that, they can rely pretty well on escaping scot free on any criminal charge where it is left to a jury to decide the issue, owing to the fact that the individual jurymen are afraid to carry out their duties. But I abstain from taking up the time of the House with cases that might be cited and with a chain of facts which cannot be denied by anybody who seriously examines the situation.

I come now to another matter which I did not discuss last year but which really is very intimately bound up with this question of the economic war and with the question of the maintenance of law and order. It is, perhaps, at the root of all our difficulties in connection with both. This is a matter which is very particularly the President's own concern. It is the President's own concern more than anything else in Government policy. I am referring to what, in the accepted political jargon of the day in this country, is described as “the national issue” and the President's attitude towards the national issue.

In the debate the other day about the abolition of the Seanad I tried to examine this national policy of the [2474] Government with which the Seanad Bill had been alleged by the President himself to be connected. Although the President spoke at a later stage of the discussion on the Bill at considerable length on such matters, he successfully intervened to prevent my pursuing the theme as not being sufficiently relevant to the Bill for the abolition of the Seanad. He said that an opportunity would arise for discussing these matters when we came to consider the Estimate for the President's Department. We are now considering the Estimate for the President's Department and I, accordingly, avail myself of the President's implied invitation to resume our controversy on this particular topic.

The policy of the Government on the national issue may be briefly described as maintaining the ideal of a republic and postponing indefinitely its realisation. At the last election “the extreme Republican Party” opposite, as they call themselves, abstained from seeking a mandate from the people to establish a republic. They have been so far carefully abstaining from any declaration that they will seek such a mandate at the next general election. This is the way the President sums up the Government's policy. I quote from column 1870 of the Official Debates of the 25th May, 1934. He says:—

“Our policy is that we are heirs to a certain position. Certain possibilities have been indicated within that position and we are going to explore those possibilities to the utmost; to get out of that position the utmost freedom that we can get. When we have come to the end of our limit, then we will ask ourselves a question: How long more must the limit be borne? That is our policy. We are quite frank about it.”

I submit that that so-called policy makes absolutely no sense, that the phrases which I have just read are mere abstractions, without anything concrete behind them, and that the President is merely attempting to deceive the country or, possibly, deceiving himself when he uses language like that. The possibilities of freedom [2475] within the bounds of the Treaty do not require any exploration. The presence of a British force in Cobh may be offensive to the President but it is no more a limitation of our freedom than is the presence of the British in Gibraltar a limitation of the freedom of Spain, and in any case it is not a thing about which, under the Treaty, we have the power of legislating. There is, consequently, nothing to explore in that connection. For the rest, we are free to make trade treaties just as we like; we are free to order our economic system just as we like; we are free to administer justice according to our own ideas; we are free to have any form of Constitution here that we want among the whole range of constitutions, from Fascist to Communist. What, then, is the extension of freedom we have to explore under the Treaty? Is it the elimination of those features of our Constitution which are symbolic of our connection with the British Commonwealth of Nations? Is that the matter we have to explore? What is there to explore in connection with that? I have no doubt that the Government's legal advisers could tell them exactly in half an hour what can be removed from our Constitution in the way of symbols of that kind without a breach of the Treaty. There is nothing to stop the consequent legislation being introduced without any delay at all. There is no question of exploration there. All this talk about exploration is sheer moonshine. The President is a bogus explorer and the expedition into the adventurous wilds on which he invites us amounts to nothing more than a stroll around Stephen's Green. The whole thing is humbug and it is typical of the attitude of the Government about these matters that just lately, when they arranged for the letters of credence of the late lamented American Minister to be presented to the President himself, instead of to the Governor-General, they concealed as long as they could from the public that permission for the change in the procedure had been sought and obtained from the King. In other words, the Government are striking off fetters of cottonwool, [2476] knocking down castles of pasteboard and making a prodigious noise about it. Demonstrations of that sort may impress the more foolish of our citizens, but they give us a reputation abroad for childishness and self-deception.

The establishment of a republic might be a real adventure but it is an adventure from which the Government and the President shrink owing to the fear of alleged threats of British hostile action against this country. The President has declined to disclose what threats have been made. He has failed to quote any threats whatever; he has failed to disclose just what kind of action he fears. He has referred to hostile economic action being taken against us at present, but that hostile economic action is the consequence of the financial dispute and, presumably, will continue so long as the financial dispute continues. It is not affected one way or the other by whether we actually declare ourselves a republic or merely announce, as the President constantly announces, that some day we are going to declare ourselves to be a republic. Many Fianna Fáil speakers are constantly stating that hostile economic action in the way of tariffs by Great Britain was inevitable anyway; that as the result of developing our own industries we had to look for such action whatever we did in the way of quarrelling or not quarrelling with England about other matters. I do not go so far as to agree with Fianna Fáil statements under that head. I do not consider that these economic hardships would have been inflicted upon us by Great Britain if we conducted our relations with them with normal statesmanship and businesslike good sense; but at any rate, it is legitimate to point out what a contradiction there is between statements of that sort, made by Fianna Fáil speakers, and the statement that we cannot venture to set up a republic because of the economic consequences that might result from it. So far as I know there is not a particle of evidence that any economic [2477] consequences would result from our setting up a republic here except the economic consequences that are naturally involved in a change of status from being a member of the Commonwealth to being a foreign nation. The President cannot be so unreasonable as to suppose that we can become a foreign country without accepting the economic status as well as the political status of a foreign country. Apart from that change of status, I do not know of any evidence —I do not believe there is any evidence—that any hostile economic action has been threatened, or is likely to be taken, if we take the step which the President has described as getting down to bedrock.

The position is really a most extraordinary one. In 1916, the Sinn Féin leaders—the Sinn Féin movement as a whole—were prepared to flout the authority of the Irish national leaders at the time. They were prepared to engage upon a rebellion which, admittedly, did not then have the sympathy of the majority of the Irish people. They were prepared to do something which rendered absolutely vain the tremendous sacrifices that had been made by thousands and thousands of Irishmen in the Great War: to undo whatever had been accomplished in the way of reconciliation and of improving the prospects of Irish self-government by the undertaking to which John Redmond committed this nation in 1914. Now, I am not arguing as to whether the Sinn Féiners were justified or not in taking that line. I am merely pointing out the contrast between what they were prepared to do then and what they are prepared to do now. From 1918 to 1923 they were willing to shoot down not merely Englishmen, but many fellow Irishmen in the name of a Republic, and to-day when they are protesting still that we have not got freedom—it is not as if they were admitting that we had freedom; they are maintaining that we have not got freedom—they are not prepared to face the normal, natural economic consequences of complete separation from Great Britain, which they alone admit to be freedom: [2478] the separation by which they seem to define the very word “freedom.”

If the Fianna Fáil leaders now admitted frankly that freedom had been achieved without the setting up of a Republic, and that the reunion of the severed part of the Irish nation can only be obtained by abandoning Republicanism, then I should praise them for their courage and their candour. Sarsfield, Grattan, O'Connell, Butt, the majority of the Young Irelanders, Parnell, Redmond, Dillon, none of these men were Republicans.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  What about Wolfe Tone?

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  Many of those whom history has clasified as Republicans were not Republicans all the time, and Wolfe Tone is one of them. Most of those who have been Republicans in our history have fluctuated in the course of their careers between the ideal of Republicanism and the ideal of freedom within the British Empire, and if that were so in the days when self-government had not developed as a fundamental principle of the British Commonwealth, how much more may men take the view that it is worthy of our national dignity and honour to be free within the Commonwealth when things have changed as they have changed: when the British Empire, as I think the late Kevin O'Higgins once said, as it was in the minds of Disraeli and Queen Victoria, is as dead as Queen Victoria and as dead as Disraeli is to-day! If Deputies will only read the memoirs of Wolfe Tone—so many people talk about Wolfe Tone but do not read his memoirs and his works—and read his defence of the Catholics over the name of “A Northern Whig” and the petition prepared by him for the Catholics to the British King—if they will read his letters, letters written by him and letters written to him, his correspondence with his friends—they will find how little they can rely on Wolfe Tone as a consistent witness to the alleged fact that only in Republicanism can freedom be conceived. I happen to be an admirer of Wolfe Tone.

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

[2479]Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  There is hardly anybody in Irish history who is such a sympathetic and attractive character as Wolfe Tone, but you will find it very hard to stand over him as the stern, unbending champion of Irish Republicanism. An unkind critic could point out that there were many occasions in Wolfe Tone's career, including an occasion as late as 1795, when he was quite willing—he sought, in fact—to take up employment in the service of the British Government.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  They executed him, did they not?

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  Yes, they executed him. No, I beg your pardon, they did not execute him. They wanted to execute him which, I presume, is what the Deputy has in mind.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  There was a writ of habeas corpus.

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  They wanted to execute him. From the time that he was exiled to America he had become an out and out republican. He joined the French army and adopted French ideas. It would give a great shock to many of his admirers if I were to quote many of the sentiments that he gave utterance to at that time. There was, in fact, no period of Tone's life when his opinions would have given entire satisfaction to Deputy Donnelly. However, that is by the way.

The point I am making is that there is no infidelity to the tradition of Irish nationalism in accepting the realities of freedom without the name of a republic. None at all. When it comes to doing what the Government is now doing, I think infidelity can be alleged. What sort of figure shall we cut before the eyes of the world, or before the bar of history, if we proclaim that we still feel ourselves to be slaves and yet are not prepared to face the economic consequences of our own emancipation? Is not that what Government policy at the moment amounts to? Is it Ulster that stands in the way? If it is I agree with the remark made the other day by the President in one of his more reasonable moments, that if we are going on with republicanism at all, we should make more progress [2480] towards reunion by getting down to bedrock, and giving both ourselves and the Northerners the spectacle of a republic in being. On that basis we should arrive, sooner or later, either at their conversion or at our own disillusionment. We might find that the much-favoured quotation of the Party opposite, about not setting bounds to the march of a nation, is a two-edged sword and a principle capable of a very different application from that which they are in the habit of giving it. We might find that a republic was a strait-jacket which cramped our national development; we might find that it shut us out from influence in the world; that it debarred us from national unity. If such a discovery is to come, let it come sooner rather than later, or if, on the other hand, the Northerners are to appreciate the advantages of a republic, let them be given that chance sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the policy of the Government can only be described as a feeble and tinkering policy, a policy of pinpricks, as the President himself once described it, notwithstanding his reference to the desirability of getting down to bedrock. He may praise one policy but he follows the other. It poisons our relations with the British Government, increasingly estranges the North, and is a demoralising influence on our own people. The constant preaching by members of the Government and by their followers of republicanism—preaching by people in authority who at the same time retain a non-republican Constitution—is rotting the minds of our young men, and no wonder. It excuses the existence of organisations which use sinister methods to achieve aims of violence. It weakens the authority and lowers the prestige of the Government. It produces hatreds, dissensions and confusion of mind and purpose. I appeal to the President and to the Government to discard that policy.

Either let us take our Republic and face the music or else let us have the courage—and I agree that it may require some courage—to accept free and equal partnership in that worldwide [2481] organisation which our own flesh and blood have done so much to build up, which provides a home in various parts of the world for so many hundreds of thousands of our own kith and kin and which, even now, is giving every year opportunities for employment and distinction to so many Irish-born men and women. The President says—I am sure truly—that he loves this country, which is his partly by birth and partly by adoption. If he does love it, I cannot imagine there is any task to which he can set his hand which would give him a greater claim to its gratitude than that of appeasing ancient animosities, and welding North and South together, on the only basis on which they can possibly be welded together, as a free nation within the Commonwealth.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Flinn): Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I have looked forward on various occasions to listening to members on the opposite benches, especially when they claim to be dealing with the particular questions that Deputy Cosgrave said he was going to deal with to-night, the question of the economic dispute, what it means, and how it shall be settled. Listening with the expectation of getting any information on the subject has, undoubtedly, proved the triumph of hope over experience. Someone once said that searching for the underlying principle of equity was like hunting at midnight in a churchyard for a black cat that was not there. Listening to responsible members on the Opposition Benches, in the hope—I cannot, for the moment, use the word expectation—that they will tell us something practical about how they are going to solve this difficulty is certainly searching in a churchyard at night for a black cat that is not there. After a long time Deputy MacDermot came down to what you might call brass tacks. This is the note I have taken: “A genuine offer,”“a cash payment,”“a token payment,”“a businesslike arrangement.” We have heard all that before. What does the Deputy mean by “a genuine offer”? What does he mean by “a cash payment,” in relation to a debt which is [2482] supposed to run into £100,000,000? What hope has he of imperial unity to-day upon the basis of a token payment? A few months ago we had a new imperial standard of honesty, to which we might possibly have aligned ourselves, a recognised standard of imperial honesty in a 10 per cent. token payment. But that no longer remains as the basis of imperial unity. Yet, that is Deputy MacDermot's solution. As far as I can see, the only possible solution of imperial unity in relation to debts would be frank repudiation. If we are to have common ground between the two Governments which, according to Deputy MacDermot, are equally culpable in this matter——

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  That was not my phrase.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I withdraw it then, but William Cosgrave, ex-President——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  Deputy Cosgrave.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Deputy William Cosgrave, ex-President—“equally culpable.” But perhaps there is not even agreement in the United Ireland Party in relation to the matter, let alone imperial agreement. For the moment I am trying to ignore the important people like the triumvirate of different opinions, each of which can be dragged in, as and when it is politically, or in a debating sense, convenient. I am trying to ignore them and I am trying to come down to relatively unimportant people like the British Government and their idea of what would be a settlement. A 10 per cent. token payment will not work any more. Is not that agreed? Are we then to form an imperial agreement on the basis of repudiation? There must be some lowest common multiple. Are we going to join the great imperial standard of honesty by repudiating debts? Mind, if you do not do that, if we do not repudiate debts which we admit we owe, we cannot get on to the same moral plane as those with whom we are supposed to negotiate.

[2483] There must be some common moral plane. Is Deputy MacDermot's suggestion that, in order to get upon the same moral plane as the British, and therefore be able to negotiate on equal terms, the first thing we have got to do is to acknowledge that a debt we do not owe, we do owe? I mean that we have got to get to the same level as themselves. Here is a debt which we say we do not owe, which we say we are prepared to pay, if and when we shall be found to owe it in an impartial court. That is our moral standard—deplorable, abominably low! But what is the moral standard to which we have to approximate? We have first to find a debt which we acknowledge we do owe and then we have got to say we will not pay that debt. So if we are going to have a common standard, if we are going to go into a court with common ideas, common sanction, common criteria of judgment and evidence, in relation to that matter, we have first to become what Deputies opposite failed to convince this country that we were at two general elections—we have first to become, like the British, declared defaulters and embezzlers.

Of course they do not say that they are defaulters. They only say “we owe this money, we will not pay it, we will not pay even 10 per cent. of it. We will not even consider paying it unless and until, at some indefinite period—at Tibb's Eve—there will be an agreement that the proper payment of a debt is the non-payment thereof.” Of course they would not call themselves embezzlers! What I am putting to the Deputies who are constructive-minded people, who come here to tell us how to do this thing, is: do they agree that we must get on the same moral level as the British in relation to debts? Do they agree that that is the moral level to which we have to get if we are to get on the British level? Do they suggest that we shall, in order to align ourselves with the British, perjure ourselves by declaring we do owe what we do not owe, and then follow their example by refusing to [2484] submit it to any court whatever? Now let me allude again to Deputy MacDermot's solution of it—a genuine offer! A genuine offer by embezzlers as they are, a genuine offer by repudiators of admitted legal debts! Is that the genuine offer? A cash payment such as the cash payment they made to the Americans, the Americans refusing to accept it, declaring that the continuance of that system under the arrangement which the British sought to impose, means repudiation, means embezzlement—is that the cash payment?

Mr. Minch: Information on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Zoom on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  What about the other nations?

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I propose to deal with them in the next three weeks.

Mr. Minch: Information on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Zoom on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Deal with both sides.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Then we will take the sergeant-major's idea.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  As against the lieutenant's.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Yes, we will put the lieutenant against the sergeant-major, and we shall just see. Deputy Minch suggests that not merely must we sink to the level of the British in repudiating a debt which they legally owe, but we have to sink to the level of the lowest of the eight European nations which have given their example——

Mr. Minch: Information on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Zoom on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  All the European nations, not the lowest.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  The Deputy agrees to that?

Mr. Minch: Information on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Zoom on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Sure.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  Does any member of the triumvirate agree with that?

Mr. Minch: Information on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Zoom on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Not at all.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  Come over.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  For which leader of the Party is the Deputy talking?

Mr. Minch: Information on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  Zoom on Capt. Sydney B. Minch  For the Allies.

Mr. Donnelly: Information on Eamonn Donnelly  Zoom on Eamonn Donnelly  Then come over.

A Deputy:  The Allies in distress.

[2485]Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I am afraid I shall not be able to go into the whole history of the eight nations of Europe to-night but I promise that on another occasion I shall.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The farmers of the country will be delighted to hear that.

Mr. Flinn: Information on Hugh Victor Flinn  Zoom on Hugh Victor Flinn  I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again to-morrow.


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