Adjournment Debate. - Dublin Flag Day Incidents.

Thursday, 15 November 1934

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 54 No. 2

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General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  I raised with the [356] Minister for Justice to-day a question with regard to incitements to violence publicly distributed in the Dublin streets on the 20th and 21st October; violent attacks made on persons in the Dublin streets particularly on the 4th November; the neglect of the police authorities to intervene satisfactorily on these occasions to prevent the breaking of the law, and to protect persons carrying out their legal rights on the streets of the City of Dublin. The answer given to the question to-day by the Minister for Justice raises a very important question. I raise this matter now to give the Minister an opportunity of further clarifying to the House and to the people generally what he is going to do to prevent a continuance of this type of disorder and to prevent its development; the failure of the State to prevent the distribution of leaflets inciting to disorder; the failure to stop these incitements to disorder; the failure of the police to prevent the subsequent attacks on citizens and their failure to deal with the persons carrying on this disorder so much so that it indicates the abdication by the Minister for Justice of that primary duty which falls on him as Minister for Justice and the failure of the police to carry out their primary function. The facts are that on the 24th September the police authorities gave a permit, which had been applied for, to hold a flag day collection for the Fine Gael Party. Copies of the following leaflet were then distributed:—

Dublin Workers! Fellow Republicans ! Remember the 77.

The murder gang of 1922— Cosgrave, Mulcahy, Blythe and their rancher allies—are holding a flag day in Dublin this week-end. The men who obeyed British orders and attacked the Republic in '22, the men who murdered the 77, now dare to ask you to subscribe to their funds. They want funds to organise the Fascist dictatorship, to renew their campaign of murder. Off the streets with the Blueshirt-Fascists! Not a penny must be given to traitors. support the united front of Republican [357] and working class forces. Forward to the Republic. Join the Republican Congress. Issued by the Dublin Council, Republican Congress.

Now I want to ask the Minister for Justice is he going to allow public incitements of that kind to violence against persons to continue on the streets of Dublin? He must be aware that following his non-intervention in the distribution of leaflets inciting to violence on the 20th and 21st October similar incitements to violence against other persons have since been distributed on the streets of Dublin. An explicit answer is due to this House and to the people generally. Is the Government going to allow incitements to violence in the streets of Dublin and elsewhere to continue? If the Minister is determined that acts of that kind will not be allowed, these acts can be stopped.

Again, on Sunday, 4th November, persons selling flags and wearing flags in O'Connell Street were attacked. The attacks began in a small way at 12 o'clock when two men were attacked by a small body. There was no interference on the part of the police with the attackers. The result was that the disturbance grew and continued, and by two o'clock, the centre of the city was an area of disturbance. There were small attacks around Phibsboro' and attacks and disturbance took place at Fairview. But the centre of the city was made a scene of pandemonium. A mob of 200 attacked a number of people and beat them badly. Quite a number of those attacked had to be attended to in the hospitals and, as I told the Minister to-day, and he must know it himself, nine men and ten women were injured very severely in these attacks.

Subsequently the headquarters of the Fine Gael organisation at 5 Parnell Square had for the fourth time its windows broken by a stone-throwing mob. At no time in O'Connell Street was there any serious attempt made to give protection [358] either to the people wearing the flags or selling the flags. There was no arrest made in O'Connell Street. One of the victims of the attackers, a girl, who while not selling flags was wearing a flag, went to the assistance of other flag sellers. This girl got a blow on the side of her face and had her teeth broken. she held on to her attacker until she put him safely into the arms of a policeman only to have him released.

I want a clear statement from the Minister as to whether he is going to see that persons who are carrying out work which they are legally entitled to carry out on the streets of Dublin, are going to get the protection of the police? In my opinion it is not necessary to mobilise a large force of police or to throw any special burden upon the Gárdaí in order to prevent attacks of this particular kind. What is wanted is a clear understanding that the Government is not going to tolerate these attacks, and that they are going to punish persons guilty of them. We want to know from the Minister, too, whether the Government is going to allow a group of persons, known to the police under the name of the “Dublin Council Republican Congress,” to issue inflammatory statements of this kind, to organise persons to distribute them through the City of Dublin, and to organise mobs to carry out violence on Dublin citizens? The Minister is responsible for giving the people, carrying out their lawful work on the streets of the city, the protection that they claim. If the Minister is not going to see that that violence is stopped, then the Minister is neglecting his responsibility. He is neglecting his responsibility knowing full well to what his neglect in this matter is going to lead. The Minister has already had his attention drawn to statements made on this matter by the President, following a long series of destructive raids carried out by the I.R.A. The President's Press, the Irish Press, of the 18th September, 1933, had this statement in its leading article:—

[359]“One of the fundamental rights of every citizen is the protection of himself and his property against violence. If those chosen by the people to govern fail in giving that protection they fail in everything; they cease to perform the first duty given them by the community...”

“...And if any Government were to say to any section of the people: `We regret we must deny you the protection to which you have a right,' it would at that moment cease to govern, and the community whom the Administration had thus failed would have no alternative but to set up private defence forces of its own.”

The President himself goes even further, and, in connection with violent disorder organised against members of the United Ireland Party in Tralee some time ago, he is reported in his own Press as declaring:

“The Government could not permit such conduct to go on. Any failure on its part to maintain order and to punish persons guilty of disorderly acts would inevitably result in anarchy and civil war.”

The Minister was dealing yesterday with a case in which a number of farmers violently asserted their rights to be present at a public auction, and he had no hesitation in declaring that the police were perfectly within their rights in shooting down these men. Here we have a body of men in Dublin, known to the police, organising violent attacks on persons lawfully carrying on certain activities in the city, and no action is taken by him to prevent these acts being organised or to prevent them being carried out when organised. His reply to-day on the question of incitement to violence was that he did not think any useful purpose would be served by instituting prosecutions against persons who publicly incited to violence on the streets or who organised violence from their offices. And turmoil in the centre of the City of Dublin—which [360] lasted for over two hours, from 12 noon to 2 o'clock on a Sunday —is described as “isolated attacks here and there” and that “nobody was seriously injured!” As I say, arising out of none of the disorders on that Sunday was any arrest made nor were any charges brought against anybody.

The Minister must realise where this is leading to. I speak not only on behalf of the Party that was organising this collection, but on behalf of any other organisation in the city or in this country that wants to carry out lawful business publicly. It is interesting to recall, however, with regard to the Party that was organising this collection in the North and the South City, that at the last elections they gained in the South City 28,700 votes as against 31,900 votes for the Minister's Party, and that in the North City the Fianna Fáil Party and its Labour allies had 39,326 votes and the anti-Fianna Fáil vote was 36,689. So that here we have a political organisation, representing nearly 50 per cent, of the population of the city, being attacked violently and in an organised way in the city, and the Minister has nothing to say to-day but that it was an isolated thing; that the police did their best to stop it; and that no useful purpose would be served by taking any steps to prevent persons organising violence of this type.

The Minister knows what this is leading to. If he does not, he ought to consult the people who write these articles in the Irish Press, and he ought to consult the President, who says that

“any failure on the part of the Government to maintain order and to punish persons guilty of disorderly acts would inevitably result in anarchy and civil war.”

The Minister must understand that those of us who consider that it is our duty to carry on political work in the City of Dublin in connection with our Party are not going to be beaten off the streets by any mob of this kind. We want to know where we stand with regard to the police if we are driven to take steps to protect ourselves [361] against violence of this kind, and we want to know whether the Minister is going to shoulder his responsibility in the matter and relieve us of the responsibility of organising our own protection against violence of this kind.

Minister for Justice (Mr. Ruttledge): Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  I do not think I can add very much to the answer I gave to the Deputy to-day, except to repeat that my information from the police is that there was nothing that they could see in the way of an organised attack on that particular day; that they were isolated attacks, and that nobody was seriously injured. From the information I have received, it is not correct for the Deputy to state that there was no protection afforded in O'Connell Street. As a matter of fact, an incident had occurred at the corner of Cathedral Street and O'Connell Street at which the police were present and gave the necessary protection. As I pointed out, in answer to the Deputy to-day, in anticipation of any violence that might be used against the people who were, as is admitted, legally entitled to carry on this flag day and who were acting in accordance with what they were entitled to do—in anticipation of that and in view of our experience of the difficulty of securing peace at their meetings, the police took every possible precaution that they could take to prevent any attacks on those people who were carrying out the flag day collection and to protect them in every way possible.

I refer the Deputy to what was done. There were all those police engaged in it. There were also patrols through the city, and a motor car petrol. I have no hesitation in stating to the Deputy that, so far as lies in our power, we are going to see that anybody who is about what they are legally entitled to do will get all the protection the State can give. I have no hesitation whatever in making that statement.

The only other matter that I can see that the Deputy has anything to complain [362] about is this question where I stated that the Government did not think that any useful purpose would be served by those prosecutions—at this stage. It does not follow from that, that if, as a result of inciting statements made by anybody, an organised attempt is being made, these things cannot be dealt with after they happen; but the Deputy will realise the difficulties of dealing with some statement, that might be considered inciting, by some people who may have an exaggerated idea of their own strength and importance—reckless statements and so on—and all these things have to be considered. For months back we have been hearing and seeing inciting statements made here on the Deputy's own side.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  Let the Minister deal with this and let him deal with the others in the way he thinks they ought to be dealt with.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  One of the difficulties in dealing with inciting statements is that one has to judge what importance can be attached to them and what results from them. The Deputy's present leader in the League of Youth, last July, at a place called Ballinure, in County Tipperary, at a meeting held to celebrate the release of a man called James J. Dwyer from Arbour Hill Barracks, made use of the following language:—

“James Dwyer was convicted on the information of some spy in Tipperary. We have members of the Police Force ear-marked and when we get into power we will know how to deal with them, to relegate them to their proper place. I warn the police now that any of them that are doing the dirty work for a tyannical Government would find themselves where they are now trying to put others... If we are persecuted and driven to it we may have to resort to arms, and what we did in three months in 1922, we can do again and teach them a lesson they will never forget. De Valera had spoken about a dictatorship, [363] but I say here to-night that if a dictatorship is necessary for the Irish people, we are going to have one.”

No action was taken on that. There are a number of other statements every other day through the country, and while that statement at that time might not have assumed much importance, to-day perhaps, or at a later period, it may have assumed very great importance in the light of the events that have happened since that [364] statement was made. In the same way, I do not place much reliance on certain statements, such as the Deputy has referred to, when they have not resulted in any organised attack, and I do not think they have much influence.

General Mulcahy: Information on Richard James Mulcahy  Zoom on Richard James Mulcahy  But surely the incidents on Sunday constituted a very organised attack?

The Dail adjourned at 10.55 p.m. until Wednesday, Nov. 28th, 1934, at 3 p.m.

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