Friday, 9 July 1943
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Roddy: I can assure the Taoiseach that I am not going to hold up the business of the House very long. I want to point out to the Minister that his Order has caused quite a lot of unemployment. It has hit the private lorry business, and in addition it has created unemployment in local garages in Sligo. There is a danger that, if the Minister insists on the Order remaining in force, some of the fuel merchants in Sligo will also be driven out of business, with consequent addition to unemployment in the town. I do appeal to the Minister to exclude the very small portion of Sligo covered by the scheme. If the Minister cannot see his way to do that, he should at least agree to allow private lorries in Sligo—lorries which draw for fuel merchants, and other private lorries if necessary—to transfer turf from Dromore West to Sligo town, so as to prevent the possibility of a fuel famine in the coming winter and spring.
There were a few other matters that I wanted to raise, but, in view of the Taoiseach's statement, I will not hold  up the business of the House. With regard to the regulations made by the Minister under the Emergency Powers Act, I would appeal to him to impress on his officials the importance of administering those regulations a little more sympathetically than they have been doing it up to the present. I know of cases where shopkeepers and traders have been hauled before the courts on the trivial charge of failing to fill in the correct form.
Mr. Roddy: I have known intimately for a number of years one particular merchant who was hauled before the courts for failure to fill up the correct form, and I know that that merchant did and was doing his utmost to carry out, in the letter and in the spirit, the regulations made by the Minister. I know that he had no intention whatsoever of causing any trouble to one of the Minister's officials. Nevertheless, because he failed to fill in the correct form, he was brought before the courts. Fortunately, the district justice took a charitable view of the case, and let him off, I think, under the First Offenders Act; I forget at the moment what the actual sentence was. There have been a few cases of that type. I know one case where an inspector visited a shop in a certain area in my constituency seven times in one day. I realise perfectly well that, during the war, it is essential that an Emergency Powers Act of this description should be enforced. I realise also that it is essential that the Government and the Minister should have extraordinary powers. I realise too that it is the duty of citizens to co-operate to the best of their ability with the Government and the Minister in carrying out the provisions of the Act. But I would appeal to the Minister to impress on his officials the importance of administering those regulations as sympathetically as possible. From my knowledge of traders and merchants, I believe that they are anxious to co-operate to the best of their ability with  the Minister and his officials. It must be remembered, however, that the difficulties which traders and merchants have to face at the present time are very great. Their problems are not by any means easy ones, but I do think that at least 95 or perhaps 99 per cent. of the merchants and traders in this country are quite honest in the manner in which they are carrying on their business, and I do not think it is necessary for officials rigidly to apply the system of inspection which they are carrying out in so many cases.
Mr. Cogan: Speaking for myself, and not for this Party, I feel that there is no member of this House who can seriously object to the Government seeking the powers which are embodied in this Emergency Powers Act. We all have had very vivid experience of the manner in which those powers have been abused in various ways during the past couple of years. Nevertheless, the preservation of the democratic institutions of this country, the preservation of the very existence of the nation, depends upon whatever Government is in office being vested with powers sufficient to enable them to deal with any attempt that may be made upon the authority of the State. The very fact that the present Government is in a minority position in this House places a heavier responsibility upon every individual Deputy here than would, perhaps, otherwise be the case. If the Government had a clear majority over all Parties, it might be possible for minority Parties here, or for individual Deputies, as a gesture of protest against some of the things that have been done under the Emergency Powers Act, to vote against the continuation of that Act, but, in the present circumstances, I think no Deputy in this House who seriously realises his responsibility to the nation would take the risk of depriving the Government of the powers which are so necessary for the preservation of the authority of the State.
A fairly reasoned case was put up by Deputy Connolly in regard to certain matters under this Emergency Powers Act, but I do not think that he did really attempt to establish a case  against the continuation of the Act. He certainly indicated that many of the powers which are embodied in the Act, particularly in regard to the internment of persons suspected of endeavouring to upset the authority of the State, would be utilised by him if he were exercising governmental authority. At any rate, he made it clear that there are certain types of suspects, particularly suspects with Fascist leanings, against whom he would be prepared rigidly to enforce the law, because he would not allow them to upset the authority of democratic institutions in this country. Therefore, we may take it that the general principle of internment is accepted by him, and it is only a question of considering whether the number of persons interned by the State could be reduced by a revaluation or a reinvestigation of the circumstances of each individual internee. I think that is a fairly reasonable request, and I think it is one which the Government would be prepared to meet. It is really only a matter of finding out the most desirable method of investigating the future intentions of those who have had to be interned. On general principles, therefore, I think the necessity for internment of certain citizens of this State for the protection of governmental authority is accepted.
In other matters, very strong protests have been made by citizens of this country against the manner in which some of the Orders under the Emergency Powers Act have been enforced, and particularly the Order which enforces the cancellation of the licences of traders.
Here we have the position in which people who have been tried by a court and sentenced to the most severe penalty which the court considers necessary to meet the case are, in addition, subjected to a much more severe penalty, imposed not by any tribunal, but by an official of the Department of Supplies. I think there should be some assurance from the Government that in future some adequate protection will be afforded to citizens who are brought before the  courts for offences against the various emergency regulations. At any rate, no citizen of this State should be deprived completely of his means of livelihood—for that is what is implied in the cancellation of his licence. Not only is the trader deprived of his means of livelihood, but he is also deprived of means of collecting debts which are due to him by his customers. We all know what a delicate and difficult thing it is for a trader to build up a connection with his customers and secure a definite patronage. If he loses that support for even a matter of a few months he may lose his trade permanently. I think that that aspect of the matter should command the earnest attention of the Government, and that in future some provision should be made for some form of tribunal to which a person can appeal if it is proposed to cancel his licence to carry on business.
Another matter which intimately concerns my constituency, and I suppose every other constituency, is the power of the State to take over turbary rights from citizens in this country. We have very serious complaints from many counties as to the basis on which compensation has been awarded to bog owners. We have also serious complaints as to the manner in which these turbary rights have been distributed amongst prospective turf cutters. This is a very serious matter as our turf supply is one of the most important considerations at the moment and it is absolutely necessary that the turbary rights of private citizens should be respected. Turbary owners are, and have always been, the poorer sections of the community. If, in this time of emergency, it is proposed to take over their property in the national interest and thereby deprive them of property which might be very valuable to them and their children in after years, it is absolutely essential that full and adequate compensation should be paid and that all consequential loss or damage inflicted on those small property owners should be taken into consideration. I think the House would be prepared, while protesting against some of the extreme and unwise measures taken  under this Emergency Powers Act, to support this Bill.
Mr. Flanagan: I should like to co-operate with the Government or with any Party that I believed was going to introduce legislation in the best interests of the Irish nation. I should like very much to be in a position to support any measure brought forward in this House with that object, but I am very sorry that I cannot associate myself with this Bill or with anything relating to the public safety measures introduced by the Cumann na nGaedheal Government or by the present Fianna Fáil Government because I have seen that most of these Emergency Acts were always directed against Republicanism. How is it that we do not see any of these Acts directed against the Jews, who crucified Our Saviour nineteen hundred years ago, and who are crucifying us every day in the week? How is it that we do not see them directed against the Masonic Order? How is it that the I.R.A. is considered an illegal organisation while the Masonic Order is not considered an illegal organisation? You do not hear one word in these Acts against the banks who are robbing the people, right, left and centre. I told the electors in Leix-Offaly that the banks were robbers. The police were listening to me. Does the Minister for Justice think that, if the banks were not robbers, the police would have allowed me to make that statement in public without attempting to make me prove it? This Government is introducing an Emergency Powers Bill now to prevent the suffering masses of the Irish people from ridding themselves or the poverty, emigration, debt, seizures and a thousand and one other national ills which I could continue to enumerate in this House until this day-week, but I do not propose to waste your precious time doing so.
All that I have to say is that my heart goes out to the men who are on hunger strike to-day. I made a request to the Minister the other night to release these prisoners. I am sorry I made such a request. I had a right to demand it on behalf of the people who sent me here as a republican. I  am demanding it now. Seán Mac Cumhaill sent me a telegram last night asking me to deny a certain statement made by the Minister. Perhaps you, Sir, would tell me if it would be in order to read this telegram to the Minister since he did not think it worth while——
Mr. Flanagan: Thank you very much. I should like to say that I cannot support any of these Bills because Our Holy Father the Pope stated that all nations, strong and weak, had a right to life and independence, and if I am a Christian, I must obey the teachings of the Church. Is the Minister a Christian? He says he is, but nothing Christian has come from Fianna Fáil or from Fine Gael. That old Christian saying: “Do unto men as you would like men to do unto you”, is forgotten and their policy is: “Do a man before he does you.” That is the position as I see it. I want to make my position clear. I am associated with no Party in this House. I am expressing the views of the republican organisation and the people of Leix-Offaly who sent me here because I got no support from Fianna Fáil, from Fine Gael, Labour or Farmers. I got support only from the republicans of Leix-Offaly who sent me here, and it is on behalf of these people that I am demanding the release of Seán Mac Cumhaill and these other men in the interests of Christianity and in accordance with the teachings of the Pope that all nations strong and weak have the right to life and independence. Does the Minister remember the words of the late Dr. O'Dwyer, that great Bishop of Limerick, who said in 1916 that “While grass grows and water flows there will be men found in Ireland to dare and die for it”? You will not be here in years to come, not one of us will be here in years to come, but I hope a better lot than we are will replace us. When you are gone out of this House there will be men daring and dying for Ireland. They will  have to wait for the republic and perhaps die for the republic if they are waiting for us to get it. I cannot see anything in these Acts about the republic. It is completely forgotten.
Mr. Flanagan: I want to know if under all these Emergency Acts people are prevented from visiting prisoners or can I, as a representative of Leix-Offaly, get permission from the Minister to see two friends of mine in the Curragh—one from Creenhill, Birr, and the other from Clara, Offaly. I wonder if I went to the Minister's office would he give me permission to see those constituents of mine who are internees in the Curragh.
Mr. Flanagan: I cannot for the life of me see why those men should be interned because of their views. Their views are the views of Wolfe Tone, or Pearse and of Connolly. Deputy  Dillon, a member of this House, says that this nation should be at war with England—that it should join in with her. Senator MacDermot, a member of the Oireachtas, in a broadcast from the United States some time ago said: “Shame on Ireland because she is not in the war with England, her best friend and ally.” That man was one of the Taoiseach's nominees in the Seanad. I wonder will he appear on his list for the Seanad this time? There was no Act to intern Deputy Dillon, and no order to arrest Senator MacDermot the moment he arrived here. I am surprised to see Deputy Dillon free, because if I said the things that he has said I would have been in jail long ago. The Guards in Mountrath tried to put me in jail. They had no case against me or I would be there.
I want to ask that the Emergency Powers Order which prevents the division of land from taking place, be immediately lifted. The Minister for Lands wrote me some time ago to say that there was not sufficient staff in the Land Commission to deal with the division of land. How is it that there are thousands of well educated young men being forced to take the emigrant ship, not from Galway Bay or Cobh this time to take them to the greater Ireland beyond the Atlantic, but to take them from Dun Laoghaire and Rosslare to the land beyond the Irish Sea, the land of our traditional enemy, to help England in her war effort against Germany? There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair's breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is the money. I do not propose to detain the House further. I propose to vote against such Orders and actions, and I am doing so on Christian principles. The Minister for Justice could not give me a straight answer a few moments ago. I am sorry that I interrupted him in the heat of the discussion. Of course, one needs great patience to listen to what is going on. I know very well that even the clergy in the Minister's constituency are up against him.
 Father Keane, the parish priest of Athleague, is up against him, and when the clergy are up against him surely it will be hard for any of us to support him. I thank the Chair for allowing me to make my statement.
Mr. Flanagan: I think I have said all that I want to say. I cannot associate myself with any of those emergency Acts because I do not agree with them. I think that in a Christian State we should have liberty and freedom for all. I know very well that there is a war on and that the Government must take precautions, but I cannot see why they are letting the banks go scot free and the Jews and the Masons. Surely, the Republicans are not worse than they are. They fought for freedom.
Acting-Chairman: I have already told the Deputy that he will have to cease referring to sections of the community who are not being dealt with under this Bill. He is entirely out of order. If he has nothing more to say, he had better sit down.
Mr. Flanagan: Will the Minister say whether the I.R.A. is an illegal organisation and whether the Masonic Order is an illegal organisation? I intend to vote solidly against all such measures as this which come up here.
Minister for Supplies (Mr. Lemass): I would like to say a few words concerning the revocation of traders' licences to which reference was made by Deputy Cosgrave and by Deputy Cogan. There appears to be in the mind of Deputy Cosgrave, and also in the mind of Deputy Cogan, a misunderstanding in connection therewith. Apparently, they have the impression that the revocation of traders'  licences is intended to be an additional penalty imposed administratively over and above that inflicted by the justices by whom a trader has been convicted for some offence under a rationing or price control Order. It is nothing of the kind. The requirement that a trader should have a licence before dealing in particular commodities is an essential to the administration of any rationing scheme. Licences are necessary for trading in a very large number of commodities which are in short supply, and the issue of those licences carried with it, and must carry with it, the power to withdraw them again. The aim of rationing is to ensure that every person in the community will get an equal right to a fair share of the available supplies. In administering our rationing scheme we have to work through our existing trade organisations, and have to ensure that these trade organisations work satisfactorily to achieve the primary aim of the rationing scheme. It is obvious that if the rationing scheme is jeopardised by reason of the inability or unwillingness of traders to conform to the regulations, then there rests upon the State either the obligation to devise some new method of distribution or to remedy the defects in the existing method.
The withdrawal of a trader's licence is a direct consequence of the evidence produced in court, following on his conviction, that he cannot be trusted to distribute fairly, or at a fair price, supplies of goods that are scarce, and that have been given to him for distribution. It is designed to protect his customers. It is not intended to be a penalty. There is no desire on the part of the Department of Supplies to add to the penalties which the court considered it appropriate to inflict, but there is on the Department of Supplies an obligation to see that no section of the people, and no number of customers are left dependent for their supplies of essential goods upon a trader who has shown himself to be incapable of being trusted to sell those goods at a fair price, or to distribute them evenly amongst his customers. This power to withdraw licences has been used only in cases where there  was no doubt about the intention of the trader to break the law, to fleece his customers and to take from the poorer sections of the people supplies to which they were entitled for the purpose of selling them at excessive prices to richer customers. The impression has been created by statements made on this matter that a very large number of traders have been put out of business by the withdrawal of licences.
Mr. Lemass: That view is arguable. I think the figures that I am going to give to the House will support the view. There are 41,727 traders who have been licensed to sell tea and sugar. Of these 41,727 traders, 1,290 have been convicted of offences under price control and rationing orders. I think it is a matter of comment that of the total number of traders engaged in the sale of tea and sugar, more than 40,000 out of 41,727 have not been convicted of any such offence. Of the 1,290 traders who have been convicted, licences were withdrawn in 31 cases. It is true that notice of intention to withdraw licences had been issued in a number of other cases. I decided that it was desirable to wipe the slate clean and start again, because the only argument which had validity advanced in the past against the action taken by the Department in withdrawing these licences was that proper warning had not been given to traders that their conviction for offences under price control or rationing orders would involve this consequence. I felt there was some truth in that, that at any rate traders did not appear to appreciate properly what the consequences to themselves might be. I feel now that that situation cannot be said to exist in the future and that consequently we can decide that in the future any trader who is convicted of serious offences under these orders should and will lose his licence.
I want to say this also: failure to keep records or the keeping of inaccurate records is not and should not be regarded as a trivial offence. The traders who want to chisel a few  ounces of tea or sugar from their poorer customers in order to sell in the black market will fail to keep records or fake their records. The natural cover-up for anybody engaged in black marketing activities is failure to keep records or the faking of records. These records are an essential part of the machinery for controlling the distribution of these goods. Traders cannot get away with the excuse that they regard it as a purely technical matter, nor is failure to keep records or the keeping of inaccurate records to be regarded as a trivial offence. There are a very large number of trades for the carrying on of which licences are required.
The suggestion has been made that the power to withdraw licences should not be exercisable unless it has been recommended by the court. We could not rely on the court to determine the circumstances of such cases. There are many traders who were convicted of offences under these Orders who would have lost their licences, but who were allowed to remain in business because they happened to be the only traders in isolated country districts, or because there were other circumstances relating to their trade which made it impossible for us to transfer their customers to other traders and the appropriate supplies along with them. It would be impossible for a district justice to decide the administrative problems which would arise in connection with cases of that kind, and consequently it is, I think, undesirable that the power to decide whether a particular trader should or should not lose his licence, following his conviction for some such offence, should be exercisable by a district justice. A district justice is neither in the position, nor is he the most suitable type of person to decide these questions.
Furthermore, if the amendment were adopted, it would apply to licences or permits which are required not merely for the carrying on of trade in tea and sugar, but a number of other commodities. I will give as an illustration the most obvious permit, with which all Deputies are familiar—that required for the operation of a motor car. Permits for the operation of a motor car  were withdrawn for no other reason than that supplies of petrol could not be made available, and it was necessary to limit the number of cars on the road. Clearly, that is not a matter for a district justice to decide. Whoever has the responsibility of administering the available supplies of these goods must have the power to determine the purposes for which the supplies will be utilised. If we get this year only half the quantity of petrol we got last year, there can be only half the number of cars operated, and somebody knowing all the facts must decide for what purpose permits to use cars will be given, and any permits in existence for cars utilisable for other purposes must be withdrawn. There is no question of an offence in these cases, but it would, I think, be foolish to suggest in all such cases that appeal should be made to the district court for an order to withdraw somebody's permit.
The impression has been created also that the action taken by the Government here is exceptionally harsh. It is not. Deputies will have read in the newspapers that in other countries far more drastic treatment is meted out to those who commit these offences. In Italy, according to newspaper reports, it is the common practice, when a trader is convicted of overcharging or of some offence under rationing orders, to close his establishment in addition to putting the proprietor in prison. In Germany, the penalty is death. In Great Britain, the practice is somewhat the same as here and perhaps it will help to round off my remarks if I read a statement issued by the British Minister of Food and published in the Sunday Times last Sunday. He said:—
“There will be always a few people who respond to temptation in time of scarcity, and, when we find them out, we are ruthless. Every trader in food must be licensed, and, if he offends, we can withdraw his licence and put him out of business. That is a great deterrent and substantially we have driven the black marketeer out of business.”
It was found in Great Britain that the power to withdraw licences was a necessary deterrent to the development  of black-marketing and a means of ensuring compliance with the regulations necessary to produce effective rationing. We have found the same here. It would be impossible for any Minister for Supplies to carry on the rationing schemes in operation and exercise proper supervision over the sale of goods, unless he had that power to require traders in particular lines to have licences and the power to withdraw them, if his regulations were not complied with. We could not, therefore, at all agree to a withdrawal of that power, and it would, I think, be impracticable to make that power exercisable only subject to the approval of a district justice.
Mr. Norton: In the course of his remarks to-day, the Minister for Justice—I do not know whether consciously or unconsciously—accused the Labour Party of being responsible for the continuance of the hunger strike at the Curragh Camp.
Mr. Norton: The Minister quite consciously accuses the Labour Party of being responsible for the continuance of the hunger strike at the Curragh Camp. This hunger strike has been in operation for the past 46 days. A question about the hunger strike was submitted only on Wednesday last. No question was submitted last week or in previous weeks about it. Yet it did not bring about a termination of the hunger strike, and I can only characterise the statement of the Minister to-day as a deliberate perversion and a deliberate misrepresentation of the attitude of the Labour Party towards the hunger strikers. When I raised this matter by question on Wednesday last, and on the adjournment on Wednesday night, I made it perfectly clear that my purpose in raising the question was based on humanitarian and national grounds.  I sought to take no Party advantage out of the fact that three unfortunate men were undergoing the torture of a hunger strike at the Curragh Camp. I appealed to the Minister then on humanitarian and national grounds to release these three men from the torture which they were undergoing, and I urged in favour of their release that these men had not been charged with any offence, had not been tried and were as guiltless as any other citizen in the absence of a trial and a charge against them.
“Would be grateful for public contradiction to-day of G. Boland's statement that ‘he was going to persist in trying to involve this country in war’. British and American occupation of our Six Northern Counties; England's enforced partition of Irish territory and her denial of our full sovereignty constitute the only and real menace of Irish peace and neutrality in present world struggle.”
There is a declaration by a man on hunger strike that he has no intention of trying to involve this country in war, a declaration that he does not desire to involve this country in war, a declaration on all fours with previous declarations which have been made by the Taoiseach when he protested against the occupation of any portion of our country by the armed forces of another country.
I think it is most unfair for the Minister to try to twist a plea for the release of these men, on humanitarian and national grounds, into an assertion that the Labour Party is responsible for the perpetuation of the hunger strike. We deplore the fact that these men have, apparently, found it necessary to resort to hunger strike as a protest against their detention. It is a challenge to statesmanship in this country if, in the face of the fact that three men have undertaken a hunger strike for 45 days, it is not possible to  find some ways and means of creating a situation in which that protest against food will not end in tragedy in a country where, unfortunately, tragedies arising out of political convulsions follow tragedies in another sence.
I still hope some effort will be made to release these three men. I think there is a moral obligation on the Government to ensure that they do not die. I think it is a most unequal struggle for the Government, with all its powers and resources, on the one hand, to engage in a battle of death with these three helpless, emaciated and mentally tortured men on the other hand. Government strength will reside in the release of these men. Government strength will not be weakened by the release of these men. There will be very little satisfaction to the Government, very little satisfaction to the nation, if these three unfortunate men, untried and uncharged, are allowed to pay with their lives for the protest they are making to-day. I still urge the Government to find a way out of this impasse, to find a way of reconciling the State's authority with humanity, to find a way of avoiding these potential tragedies.
I refuse to believe that it is beyond the wit of Irish statesmanship to find a means of bringing to an end that unequal struggle, a struggle which promises nothing but bitterness and disunity for the whole nation at a time when unity is much to be desired and bitterness and evil to be avoided.
I want, Sir, on this Bill to call attention to the type of lopsided censorship which we have in this country, lopsided censorship which is used for the benefit of the Fianna Fáil Party. Some time ago the Labour Party tendered an advertisement to the daily papers. One statement in the advertisement was that, so far as the Labour Party was concerned, neutrality was the keystone of its policy. Is there anything wrong in that? Could anybody see anything wrong in that? The Labour Party was entitled to have any policy as the keystone of its policy, but even that  simple statement of reaffirmation of our faith in neutrality was something which annoyed the censorship here and the Press were prohibited from publishing the statement. An advertisement of that kind and a declaration of that kind could only have one effect, to make it perfectly clear, that so far as the Labour Party was concerned, it was anchored to the policy of neutrality. Fianna Fáil wants to pretend to everybody that it alone is responsible for the maintenance of neutrality here—a hypocritical attitude which, of course, nobody believed. But, even a statement of that simple character as was tendered by the Labour Party was something to annoy the Press Censor. It could not be published and the Minister stood over the non-publication of an advertisement of that kind. Can anyone see any danger to neutrality in reaffirming our faith in neutrality? Can anybody see any menace to established institutions here in a declaration of that kind? Of course not. The only person who could see it was the Minister, and the Minister was jealous that anybody should attempt to affirm greater faith in neutrality than Fianna Fáil pretended to have.
Bear in mind the simple statement which was censored by the Press Censorship, which censorship was endorsed by the Minister, and compare that simple statement with what Fianna Fáil was allowed to get away with in the last election. I would like to hear from the Taoiseach whether or not he stands for this. I have here a copy of an advertisement, which appeared in the Evening Mail of Tuesday, 15th June: “Slaughter, Famine and Anarchy! From their recorded statements that is the only policy the Labour and Fine Gael Parties can give you.” Slaughter, famine and anarchy, say the four Fianna Fáil candidates for County Dublin, is the only policy the Labour and Fine Gael Parties can give you. Is not that a scandalous declaration for any political party to make?
Mr. Norton: And yet, the very Minister who would not allow the Labour  Party to publish an advertisement saying that neutrality was the keystone of the Labour Party's policy permits an insulting—a grossly insulting—advertisement of that kind to appear in a paper and permits it to appear because it is used—I charge him—in trying to enhance the political reputation of four Fianna Fáil candidates in the County Dublin election.
When did the Labour Party stand for slaughter in this country? When did the Labour Party advocate or stand for a policy of slaughter in this country? I would like to hear the Fianna Fáil Deputies for any constituency trying to justify the statement that the Labour Party stands for slaughter.
Mr. Norton: I pass from it on the Taoiseach's repudiation of it and I do not propose to pursue the matter further. I hope in any case when this debate is over the Taoiseach will have a word with the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures, who censored our simple advertisement and who permitted a dastardly advertisement of that kind to appear in a newspaper. I hope there will be no repetition of that kind of running amok.
Apart from the question to which I have referred, there is another aspect of this Bill which we are asked to continue to-day, that is, its bearing on the wage standards of the workers. I want on behalf of this Party to record our protest against this Bill and against the parent Act because of the manner in which it has been used  to depress the standard of living of the workers of this country. When the Bill was passed originally in 1939, it was never contemplated that the Emergency Powers Bill would be used for the purpose of keeping wages low. From the discussion on the Bill at that stage it will be clearly seen that the general purport of it was to give the Government powers to deal with threatened invasion, threatened aggression, and with any attempt which might be made to undermine the liberties of the people of this country. But we have lived to see the powers contained in that Act abused in a most scandalous manner and used to depress the standard of living of the workers of this country.
Under the Emergency Powers Act certain wage Orders were made. It was stated that the purpose of these Orders was to peg down wages to a certain level. Of course, we had the assurance of the Minister for Finance that if wages were going to be controlled on the one hand, prices were going to be controlled on the other hand. We can see, in a few moments, the extent to which prices have been controlled. The case made at all events for the issue of these wage Orders—“Low Wage Orders” is a more applicable title—was that they were to keep the wages of workers low. The whole philosophy enshrined in these Orders appears to be based on a belief that low wages would bring prosperity and would avoid economic chaos here. If you concede that low wages, 1939 levels of wages, no matter how prices move upwards, will make a country prosperous, then lower wages still, or no wages at all, will make a country still more prosperous. The Government appear to have convinced themselves that the less wages you give the workers the more prosperity you will bring to the country. That, of course, has been found to be an economic fallacy in every country in the world.
If low wages could ever make Ireland prosperous, Ireland prior to 1914 would have been the most prosperous country in the world, because the wage  standards of Irish workers then were appallingly low. Then the trade union movement found its strength in 1913 and gathered strength from year to year. After that, those appallingly low wage standards were raised, until such time as Irish workers could say that they had, in a large measure, shaken off the poverty-stricken outlook which was characteristic of the Irish-employing classes before 1914. It is now recognised in every enlightened country in the world that low wages are not a passport to prosperity. Low wages can only mean making less money available for spending, which means that less goods are in demand. When less goods are in demand, there is less employment available and the emigrant ship proceeds to take from our shores tens of thousands of men and women who ought to be working here creating goods, if our wage earners had the financial coupons necessary to purchase goods which could be produced here. I should like to know on what grounds these Orders can be justified. Were there any unreasonable demands made for wage increases? If there were, we have not been told what these demands were and the sources from which these demands originated. We can only conclude, therefore, in the absence of information that there were demands and as to the source of these demands, that in fact no unreasonable demands were made and that they are not able to disclose the source of the unreasonable demands because they know that no such demands were submitted.
What is the present position? In 1939, we gave the Government the Emergency Powers Act for the purpose of giving them powers to deal with any threatened invasion or threatened aggression from within or without against the liberties and established institutions of our people. We have seen that Act utilised for the purpose of invading the homes of our workers when ostensibly it was passed to defend the homes of our workers. It is being used for the purpose of depressing the standard of living of all classes of workers. Since 1939, when that Act was passed, the prices of commodities have risen by no less than 60 per cent.,  even according to the restricted yardstick used by the Department of Industry and Commerce to measure the increase in prices, while over the same period the wages of workers have increased on an average by not more than 10 per cent. Is it not obvious to everybody that if, on the one hand, prices rise by 60 per cent. and, on the other hand, wages rise only by 10 per cent., that that is equivalent to slashing the wages of the workers, because it debases their standard of living? They can buy less food, less clothes, the little luxuries of life are now but a fond memory, and, generally speaking, the standard of living has been driven down substantially below that of pre-war years. The Government must know that that is the only consequence of their low-wage policy and low-wage Orders, and yet they proceed to argue the matter as if they were bringing security and prosperity to the workers by giving them less food, less clothes, and less of the amenities of life.
But there are other people who are treated very differently. One has only to look at the balance sheets of public companies to realise the very substantial profits that are being made. Take up the balance sheet of any great drapery firm and have a look at the profits made, profits made, in many cases, by selling pre-war goods at wartime prices. If you take up die balance sheet of any public company and analyse it, you will find that, so far as those who invest money are concerned, they are allowed to get away with a good deal of swag. When the banks came to the Minister for Finance and said: “We want to increase our charges for keeping customers' accounts,” there was not the slightest difficulty in the banks getting all the authority they wanted. When the Electricity Supply Board came along and said: “We must get more money for electricity,” the Government said: “Of course, by all means get more money for electricity.” When the Gas Company came along and said: “We must get more money for our gas,” the Government said: “By all means, get more money for your gas.” The bacon curers, as has been pointed out, are rolling in wealth since the war commenced. Anybody reading the  newspapers last year could see that even if you engage in the very prosaic task of making boot laces in Ennis, apparently you can get away with a good deal of swag. All these have been allowed to get away with well-filled bags of loot. But when it comes to regulating the wages of workers, they are kept down; their standard of living is forced down as low as it is possible for the Government to do it, as low as they dare. On the other hand, we find the well-to-do classes in this country permitted to get away with any swag they can under the eyes of the Government, and, judging by their inactivity, with the approbation of the Government.
Let us take some examples of the effect of this treatment, of the effect of this low-wage policy, in respect of certain classes of workers. Take for example—because they are typical of the position in every country—the county council road workers in Kildare. They had a wage of 32/- per week in 1943. A wage of 30/- per week on the Shannon Scheme was roundly condemned by the Fianna Fáil Party in 1925, 1923 and 1927, when the cost of living was very much lower than it is to-day. As I say, these workers in the County Kildare had 32/- per week. The county council sought to increase the wages to 37/6. That was done for the purpose of getting a unanimous decision from all Parties in the House. That proposal came before the Minister for Local Government. Of course, the Minister for Local Government crystallises in his outlook the whole wages policy of the Government, because he apparently considered that 37/6 per week was too high a wage for a road worker to enjoy. That 37/6 would give him an inordinately high standard of living which he was not entitled to, and the Minister therefore would only sanction a wage of 35/- a week. I wonder would any Deputy like to have to live on 35/- a week and keep a wife and four, five, or six children. Yet the Department of Local Government, acting in accordance with the low wage policy of the Government, thinks 35/- is the maximum wage which a county council road worker ought to have. That 35/- per  week was only wrung out of the Government by frequent protests from the county council and numerous questions in this House.
Take the example of the agricultural workers. Everybody knows how vital it is to produce food to-day. Everybody knows that the agricultural worker is the most vital worker in the country, because it is on his ability and skill that we rely for food for the maintenance of our human and cattle population. What is the position? The Government have appointed an Agricultural Wages Board, over which presides a chairman who is paid £750 a year by the Minister for Agriculture, and apparently the function of that chairman and that board is to keep agricultural wages as low as possible. I think everybody must realise the vital work which agricultural workers perform. Acting under the directions of the chairman, who is just an appointee of the Minister, the maximum that the board will allow agricultural workers is 36/- a week, over the bulk of the country. Will anybody try to justify a wage of 36/- a week? Will any Minister who believes that wage is good enough, work out the quantity of food, clothes and rent an agricultural worker can pay out of it? If any Minister does work it out, I suggest that he will get a result which will be condemned by every medical officer in the country.
Anyone can visualise the standard of living possible for a family on such a low wage as 36/-, a sum which, I submit, is incapable of sustaining health and physical vigour in existing circumstances. The best proof of the adverse reactions of the Government's low wage policy is to be found in the fact that, although certain commodities are rationed, the rich can use their coupons in purchasing these rationed commodities but, if you go into the homes of the workers, you will find an abundance of these coupons for drapery and other goods because wages are so low and money, in consequence, is so scarce, the workers are unable to purchase anything of that nature.
 Is it any wonder that large numbers of our people, as evidenced by the reports of the county medical officers of health, are suffering from malnutrition and actual poverty? Tuberculosis, a disease which has an economic inspiration, and which is due in a large measure to bad housing and bad economic conditions, is growing apace. It is growing apace because of the fact that people cannot buy food or get decent shelter, because they are not permitted, through lack of money, to enjoy the amenities of life, which are the best bulwark against tuberculosis and which are much better than all the lectures in the world on the treatment of tuberculosis. Malnutrition, poverty and tuberculosis abound to-day because of the fact that we have forced down the standard of living of the masses of the people to a level which makes it almost impossible to maintain bodily health.
All this chaos stands so nakedly before us that we cannot, dispute its existence: While we must realise that economic chaos abounds, we stand idly by and appear to be quite content with a situation in which tens of thousands of the finest of our men and women seek the emigrant ship as a relief from the workhouse conditions at home. In the past two years more than 100,000 of the flower of our manhood and the cream of our womanhood have been driven to Britain, there to seek the employment which they were once promised here. Fianna Fáil believed they could cure unemployment at home. I put it to those who may have a flair for examining economic conditions, would it not be much better to keep these people in some form of employment at home, earning a reasonable wage, instead of driving them into exile, to create wealth for another country, sending back here the financial coupons which give them a lien on Irish wealth, which they are unable to create at home?
Mr. Norton: I do not intend to pursue that matter further. I suggest that it is very much better to keep our people in Ireland earning good wages rather than permit them to be attracted to Britain to earn higher wages. I suggest it is better to keep men and women earning good wages here, creating wealth which can be shared among the Irish people, rather than drive them into exile, through a system of low wages, to create wealth for another country, to earn in another country money which gives them a lien on Irish wealth, which they are not permitted to produce here. No one can blame these people for leaving their homes, their wives and their children. They are driven to do it by economic necessity. We ought to alter a policy which compels a relatively undeveloped country to send to another country the best of its manhood and womanhood, creating wealth there, while the vital need at home is to create wealth which will determine the standard of living which the people in Ireland can enjoy.
I think after four years' experience of this low wage policy, as exemplified through the Emergency Powers Act, the Government ought to recognise that the time is long overdue for lifting the present control of wages and providing for a reasonable increase in the standard of living of the workers. If we do not do that, then we had better continue to follow the road which leads to depression of the standard of living of the workers, which means that they must tighten their belts, have less food and clothes, and that the amenities of life usual in a civilised country are something beyond their reach. It is because of the pursuance of the present low wage policy, the authority for which is the Emergency Powers Act, that we are opposed to that Act. We are opposed to it on the ground that it is being used for the purpose of depressing the standard of living.
We would be false to every principle  we hold dear if we were to give the Government authority to continue that Act, necessary though it may be in certain respects, if the Government continue to declare that it is their intention to use the Act to debase the standard of living of the masses of the people on whom we must rely if ever our liberties are threatened from any external sources.
Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures (Mr. Aiken): Unfortunately, when Deputy Connolly opened his speech, I was not in the House, but I understand he raised the question of an election address which was stopped by the censorship, an address issued by a candidate.
Mr. Aiken: The Deputy also referred to the deletion of certain words issued by somebody else on behalf of a candidate. Deputy Norton spoke about the activities of the Censorship Department during the election. I want to say right at the beginning that on the day the President authorised the election—indeed, before it—I gave instructions to the Controller of Censorship that nothing that any candidate said on an election platform, and no advertisement issued by a candidate, was to be interfered with in any way by the Censorship Department. The Censor did not interfere with, or stop, anything said by a candidate.
The Censorship Department was instructed not to interfere with advertisements issued by candidates. The particular advertisement to which Deputy Connolly alluded was issued by a person not known to the Controller of Censorship. I was not, unfortunately, consulted on the matter, or I would have recognised that it was a person who was acting as agent for a particular candidate, namely, Mr. McCool. When this question of censorship was raised in the Seanad I indicated, in reply to Senator Sir John Keane, that while we were not going to interfere with election propaganda of any description, we could not put the censorship out of commission  altogether, because we wanted to make sure, if we could, that there would be a State here for whatever Government was to come in to control, and that it would not be blown up altogether by subversive activities during the course of the election. We did try to prevent activities of a treasonable nature being reported—propaganda of a treasonable nature being published in the Press.
In regard to this particular advertisement, the Controller of Censorship thought that somebody whom he did not know was trying to couple with an appeal for funds for a candidate subversive propaganda against the State. The Government did not make any effort to hide the fact that eight men went on hunger strike in the Curragh of Kildare a few weeks before the election, for the purpose, as it seemed to us, of creating antagonism to the Government. That information was issued officially by the Government, so that it was up to anybody who wanted to see these men released to go ahead and vote for some of the Parties opposed to the Government Party. During some years, we have had to take certain steps not only to protect this country's neutrality, but to defend ourselves against people who were making war against this Dáil and the Government. I do not think that the three hunger strikers at the Curragh would thank Deputy Norton or Deputy Connolly for their interpretation of their attitude in the House to-day. I am sorry the men are on hunger strike. I do not approve of their policy, good, bad or indifferent, external or internal, but I think it is true to say that they would not deny that they deem themselves to be at war with England to-day, and that they insist on their right to make war on England or any other country in respect of which they so decide, without reference to Deputy Norton or the rest of us here, and without reference to the Irish people. Unfortunately during the election campaign, a number of people thought they could use both the international and the internal situation to make propaganda for their own purposes against the Government.  Deputy Norton knows as well as any man here, that during my control of censorship my attitude has been to prevent neutrality being made an issue or a cause of division between our people. Whenever some Fianna Fáil supporter down the country, in a fit of enthusiasm, declared that Fianna Fáil was the sole bulwark of neutrality, the Press were not allowed to publish the statement. That was done until, in the fulfilment of the promise I gave in the Seanad, I could not deny a right to one candidate that we were giving to other candidates. I regret that any Fianna Fáil candidate should claim that Fianna Fáil was the sole bulwark of neutrality, but I had to allow the statement, when made, to be published. I do not believe that Fianna Fáil is the sole bulwark of neutrality. Notwithstanding what we did to make neutrality possible, I do not believe that we could have sustained that policy but for the cooperation of the other Parties in its defence.
Mr. Aiken: It had not been banned. This Labour advertisement was issued some time before the election—at the time I was speaking of, when Fianna Fáil people down the country were saying we were the sole bulwark of neutrality. The Labour Party came along with this advertisement in connection, I think, with the million-shilling fund. In it, they referred to their policy and asked for subscriptions. The advertisement was not as Deputy Norton quoted it to-day. I am merely speaking from recollection but I will bet him 10 to 1 that I am right in my recollection.
Mr. Aiken: The Deputy said that we stopped an advertisement saying  that neutrality was the keystone of the Labour policy. In my recollection, that is not correct. What we did stop was an advertisement stating—the Deputy will remember this—that Labour was the keystone in the arch of neutrality. I pointed out to the Deputy that there was no keystone in this arch, that we were all in it together and that we should all be equal in it. The advertisement was changed. It finally ran this way: “Neutrality is item No. 1 in the Labour programme.” That was passed.
Mr. Aiken: There was not. It was in this friendly spirit I discussed the matter with Deputy Norton—that we were all keystones in the arch and that we all had to combine to defend it, that it was wrong, and bad policy for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or anybody else to say that neutrality was dependent on them alone. I always believed that. I believe it now, and I said that during the election campaign, as Deputy Connolly will vouch, I hated to see the advertisement issued by some fool of a publicity agent in County Dublin about slaughter, famine and anarchy being the policy of the other Parties. I was down the country at the time. Owing to our general policy during the election, the Controller of Censorship had to pass it, as he had to pass some other advertisements by the Labour Party that I hated to see, and that Fine Gael would hate to see going through. The director of elections of the Fianna Fáil Party got some whimper that this advertisement was being issued in County Dublin. He got on to the County Dublin people and told them to withdraw the advertisement. The Deputy can check this up with the Evening Mail. The County Dublin authorities got on to the other newspapers and stopped the advertisement. They got on to the Evening Mail and the Evening Mail said they were not going to stop it: that it had been passed by the Censor. So far as anybody  with authority in Fianna Fáil could do, the utmost was done to stop that advertisement.
It had, unfortunately, to he passed by Censor because owing to my general instructions to them that they were to stop nothing, it had to be passed. Now, if we had been stopping advertisements or speeches by political candidates in this election, there is one advertisement that should have been stopped. That was an advertisement issued by the Labour Party on the day of the election. I do not know that Deputy Norton is responsible for this, or that any authoritative persons in the Labour circle are responsible for this advertisement, but when we are talking about advertisements, let me say one thing:
We are, here in this country, in a very dangerous position. We are trying our utmost to get what supplies we can through the troubled waters of the Atlantic to sustain our people during the war. One of the things that has enabled us to get through these troubled waters is, as is well known to members of the Labour Party, that both belligerents recognise that we are honourably neutral, that we are not trying to help either one side or the other when our ships are on their lawful occasions in the Atlantic Ocean. Anybody who gives the impression to one belligerent or the other that we are not playing the game—that while we are pretending to bring in supplies from abroad, we are actually scouting for one or other of the belligerents—is doing a bad day's work for the country, and I think Deputy Norton himself will admit it. In that spirit. I hope he, too, will take the opportunity of condemning on some occasion the hand that wrote the advertisement that appeared on the 22nd of June, the day of the election, which condemned the “criminal conduct of the Fianna Fáil Government in sending brave men to their doom on the ‘Irish Oak’.” Deputy Norton and the other members of the Labour Party will admit that the “Irish Oak”, no matter by whom she was manned, behaved in a strictly neutral way before she was sunk, and was behaving in a strictly neutral way when she was  attacked by a belligerent submarine, and that that belligerent submarine had no right in international or moral law to sink her——
Mr. Aiken: I am dealing with the present advertisement and I am raising it only in a friendly spirit. I am not putting any responsibility on Deputy Norton, because I do not believe that if he sat down in cold blood, he would have written it or passed it. I think the sooner we forget some things said by both sides in the election the better. We are here now, during this disastrous war, to try to get the country safely through and the Government cannot do it alone. It has to have the co-operation of all Parties, and one of the things we have to make clear is that no one in this country stands for Irish ships or Irishmen interfering in this particular war.
Now, apart altogether from this question of our internal situation, I think the Labour Party know perfectly well that the men who are interned have a policy of making war upon one of the belligerents. They do not deny that, and I am perfectly certain that as soon as they see what Deputy Connolly said, they will deny the Deputies' denial. They are proud of the fact that they are at war.
Mr. Aiken: They say they are at war with England, that they are engaged in war, and they justify their engagement in war with England by the fact that British troops are in occupation of certain of our counties.
I disagree as much as they do with the British occupation of six of our North-Eastern counties. I do not believe that our people in these counties should be involved in this war, but I do not believe in the I.R.A. attitude of making war on their forces at the moment. As you know, we have declared our policy of trying to get a peaceful settlement of these difficulties between ourselves and the British. We do not believe that the re-union of this country is going to be helped by getting involved in this war, or by attacking the British forces in the Six Counties or elsewhere during the course of this war. We hoped that the development of the policy which was so successfully pursued over a number of years, and resulted in the freedom of 26 counties, would ultimately result in the freedom of the whole 32, bringing the six counties into union with this part of the country. There is one other matter.
These people would repudiate Deputy Connolly when he asked them to indicate in some way that they were prepared to accept the ordinary peaceful political method of settling their differences.  They are not only involved in war against the British, and proud of it, but involved in war against this State, and proud of it. Deputy Connolly and other people should think of what happened in this country during the last number of years. I propose to give a few reminders. At the outbreak of the war, we interned some of these people in order to prevent them from getting us involved in the European catastrophe. What happened? A judge of the High Court released them and said we had no right, constitutionally, to hold them. We released them and what happened? Three weeks afterwards, the Magazine Fort was raided, and over a million rounds of ammunition were taken. That was no sport. It was not peaceful political activity. It was an act of war against this State.
That was not the last of it. We had great difficulty in rounding up that ammunition. Some of it we did not get. Fortunately, we got even more back over a period of years than was taken from the Magazine. We got Magazine ammunition—the numbers, plus a little more. But, over this last period of three years they have been carrying on active war against the State by shooting the servants of the State, the people paid to protect this country, and to create a situation in which we can meet here and discuss our differences. There were seven members of the Gárda shot dead— murdered—in 1940, 1941, and 1942, and there were 18 attempted murders. It is only the other day that one of these people who escaped—he was not released but escaped himself—was again on the wargath, and attempted to murder two or three other Gárdai not a hundred yards from our door outside. There is an active war by these people going on against this State, and I think the Labour Party are doing a very bad day's work in trying to ally themselves, or to depend in any way on the support of these particular people.
I have no enmity against the men in the Curragh. All I am sorry for is that these young men, men who are prepared to do 48 days without food, men prepared to spend three or four  years in an internment camp, are not fighting for a better cause, for the cause we all have at heart, or not fighting for it along proper lines.
We know perfectly well that, if these people pursue a policy of making war on this State and of making war on Britain, what they are going to do is to create disruption internally and to get us involved in the major European catastrophe. We do not want that. I hope the young men on hunger strike will get off the hunger strike, that, generally speaking, all of them on the Curragh, will pull themselves together, that they will realise that no good can come to the country, and that no good can come to any good cause, social, economic or national, through their activities, in making war on this State or in doing anything that would get us into the European war. If they pull themselves together, and give some sign that, if released, they will not take up arms again, nobody will be better pleased than members of the Government. We regret, much more than any member of the Labour Party, the necessity for interning these people, because nearly every man on these benches fought for the cause that they say they have at heart. We have the cause of the freedom and the independence of this country as much at heart—its social development, and its cultural development—as any man on the Curragh or on the Labour Benches. All I say, both to the men on the Curragh and to any men on the Labour Benches who speak of their activities, is that, at the moment, they are doing a very bad day's work for the independence of this country.
The Taoiseach: The moment the Deputy made the statement I got in touch with the Censorship Department and with others. The Minister for Justice did likewise and gave the House the information as he got it. Later, when the matter was further pursued, the Minister found, in fact, that the Deputy was right and that the words were omitted. Of course the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures could explain that to the House. That is why there was a difference between what the Minister for Justice and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures said. The Minister for Justice got earlier information and it was not accurate.
Mr. M.E. Dockrell: I find myself in somewhat of a difficulty in intervening at this stage of the debate. I had intended to talk on the subject of censorship. I still intend to say a few words on that subject, but there has been so much explanation by the Minister that I apologise for having to raise it again. An explanation was given of the attitude of the Government on censorship.
The Taoiseach: May I interrupt the Deputy to say that there was an agreement whereby I would get a certain time to reply. It is true that my colleague, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures, came in on account of the censorship business, and cut off a considerable portion of my time, but I am asking to be given time now, because this matter of the hunger strike is very important. I have a few words to say that will take some time, unfortunately.
Mr. M.E. Dockrell: What I wanted to refer to was the question of censorship. In the election the censorship was only an incident. It was only a momentary matter. I want to say in respect to censorship that neither I nor my Party stand for any interference with the rights of this country  as a neutral. We do not want anything to appear in any paper which would hinder or in any way hurt any action which this country was taking in pursuance of its own powers. In connection with the domestic aspect of the censorship, I should very seriously appeal to the Government to take a wider view. We are a comparatively young State as countries go. I am afraid that the censorship which we have established here is a dangerous precedent in a State as young as ours, and whilst I do not really accuse the Government of wishing to sabotage or to throttle discussion, it might be done by others who may follow them. It is a very dangerous precedent, and I ask Ministers to consider seriously whether the censorship could not be alleviated in the broadest interests of the country, especially in relation to domestic policy. I have not time now to go into the way in which the newspapers are at present suffering. If the newspapers are suffering from the domestic censorship, the ordinary citizen is suffering, too.
There is one other matter in connection with Emergency Powers Order 152 that I want to mention. The railway stock holders feel that they are labouring under a very legitimate grievance under that Order, as they have not been able to get publicity or to put their point of view before the public. They appealed to the Minister and got very little justice and, in fact, their claim has not been met. When I say “claim”, I mean their claim to be heard. These were the two matters that I wished to raise. I ask the Minister in all seriousness to keep before him the fact that censorship here has a very dangerous aspect.
The Taoiseach: We have been appealed to by the Labour Party to release the men who are on hunger strike. A similar appeal was made on the 9th November, 1939, by the Parliamentary Labour Party. The appeal was made to me and, on that occasion, I came to the House and made a statement. I think if I re-read it it will be as good as making a similar statement now. I got special leave from the House then and I said:—
“I am grateful to the House for  giving me this opportunity of stating what the Government's attitude in regard to the prisoners at present on hunger strike is. Last night I got a letter containing a copy of a resolution which was passed by the Parliamentary Labour Party. As that Party is represented in this House, I felt it would be proper that I should give the Government's answer in the House rather than by letter. I have perhaps a further reason, and that is that the prisoners in question are in imminent danger of death, and I thought, therefore, that I should give that reply at once, or at the earliest possible opportunity.
“The Government's attitude in this matter is this. There are no means by which the Government can secure the safety of the people here except the powers of arrest and detention of those who are in a position to bring this country to disaster. The policy of the hunger strike is aimed at taking away these means from the Government, and once these means are taken away what is to happen is obvious. You are going to have organisation to such an extent that the only way in which ultimately the supremacy of the people can be established is by arms. We know perfectly well that if arms have to be used many lives are going to be lost, and that the only way that is left to prevent that from happening is to restrain—because that is what is being aimed at—those who are bent on courses which will undoubtedly lead to disaster.
“We know that in the last year its activities have taken a new turn, that the body has definitely proclaimed itself as entitled to exercise the powers of government here, to act in the name of our people, even to commit our people to war. Now we are in a time of peril, we have a war being waged around us, the outcome of which no man can tell. We have seen already in this war  nations, comparatively large nations, losing their freedom. Is the Government of this country to be deprived of the only power that it has to prevent things taking place here which are going, I firmly believe, if not prevented, to rob us of the independence which has been got, so far as this part of the country is concerned, and in so doing to rob us of the fruits of all the efforts that have been made for the last 25 years? That is what is at stake.
“We do not want to see any Irishman die. We do not want to be opposed to any group of Irishmen. We would wish, in this particular time of danger and anxiety, that every section of the people was with us, and heaven only knows before the end of this situation we may want every section to stand with us to try to maintain the rights of our people.
“It is not then in any spirit of vindictiveness that we have approached the consideration of this question. We have sat down and considered every alternative that was possible for us, and we see no alternative, because we have been placed in a position in which there is no alternative. The alternatives we are forced to face are the alternatives of two evils, one to see men die that we do not want to see die if we can save them, the other, to permit them to bring the State and the community as a whole to disaster. But they have put us in that position— it is not we who have done it—they have put us deliberately in that position. And I wish that one half of the efforts that are being made to try to get the Government to abdicate—because that is what it means —were used to induce these people to see reason and to see that, in this part of Ireland, every political body that wants to do so can go out and advocate any programme, with the single sole reservation that they must not resort to force in order to achieve their ends.
“I do not want to argue in this case. As I have said, the Government have been faced with the alter native of two evils. We have had to  choose the lesser, and the lesser evil is to see men die rather than that the safety of the whole community should be endangered. We do not wish them to die. We would wish— Heaven knows I have prayed for it— that these men might change their minds, and that the people who are with them might change their minds, and realise what our obligations and our duties are. If we let these men out, we are going immediately afterwards to have every single man we have tried to detain and restrain going on hunger strike. Some of them have been detained in their own interest, because they have been subject to orders, and some of these orders might mean their death. It is in their interest, as well as in the interest of the community, that this restraint has been used; but we cannot use it if these men are let out and then immediately afterwards others go on hunger strike. We have had that experience. We are anxious to avoid what I would regard as a calamity, the calamity of death, if it can be avoided. We let one man out after 30 days' hunger strike. What happened? Next day, I think, half-a-dozen more went on hunger strike. If we let these men out now we are going to have to face a hunger strike by the remaining prisoners, perhaps. Unless it is at some stage decided by the Government that they will face the second evil, we cannot rule here, and not merely would we be abdicating as a Government, but we would be making it impossible for any other Government to govern. These are the considerations which have determined the Government not to release the prisoners. Therefore, the answer I have to give to the Labour Party is that we regret we cannot release them.”
Now, I made that statement in the House, and it explains fully the considered policy behind it. Within five or six days, I was informed that one of the men was actually dying, and that there was no chance of his recovery in any case. It was a question of his dying, not alone  as a result of the hunger strike, but in physical agony unless an operation were performed, and, foolishly, as I see now, I urged upon my colleagues—I take full blame for it, because in the event it was very blameworthy—to have the man concerned transferred to a civil hospital. He was transferred there, and got out of prison, and within a year he was engaged with others in an attack upon the Gárdaí, in which two of the Gárdaí were killed, and he and another of the party engaged in that shooting had to be executed. That meant four deaths. Later on, we had two more: Two men who died on hunger strike because we had, at some stage, to stand absolutely firm.
Now, it has been one of the great regrets of my whole life, and will be until my death, that I allowed any consideration of any kind to get me to retract from the position I had taken up. It was one of the biggest mistakes that I have made in my life and, as I have said, I will regret it until my death, because, had it not been for my action, there would have been only one death, whereas, in the event, there were four deaths and two—six deaths in all. That is the position. We cannot carry on here unless we have powers of internment, powers of restraint and detention. It is absolutely necessary to have these powers. If we had not these powers, then we could not govern, and we are going to have a situation which will involve us again in another civil war.
That being the position, I can only state to everybody who comes to me that the last word on this has been said. We have to maintain our right to restrain people. If anybody goes on hunger strike, then we cannot let him go out as a result of that hunger strike. That is final. I have got—and I hope that by my example other people may learn—a lesson which is enough to teach me for the rest of my life. There are times when it is fatal, absolutely fatal, to give way to representations such as are being made at present. Now, with the example before me, the example which I have  given, I have to say definitely, to prevent any other representations coming in, that we cannot release anybody who is on hunger strike. That is definite and final. Those who wish to save the lives of those men, if they have any influence with them, will tell them to get off that hunger strike.
I should like very much to have time to meet Deputy Connolly's speech. Generally, I think most of us can agree with the attitude behind it, except perhaps one thing. He speaks of the philosophy of force. I know as well as he does that there are occasions on which people will feel justified in resorting to force. Every one of us, as he has pointed out, has at one time or another resorted to force to right wrongs which we felt could be righted through no other method. That is not now compatible here with the duties which a Government has to carry out. No Government in charge here can admit that right for any group of citizens. It must be quite clear that that is so. If any group of citizens goes out on that basis, some time or other to use force against the State, then the Government must try to stop it. It must be stopped at the start, because otherwise it is going to mean a larger clash. That is a situation which I anticipated goodness knows how many years ago. It was because of that that I made certain statements which, at the time, were misunderstood and misrepresented. Once there is an organised Government here, the nature of its office and its duties to the community, compels it to prevent any organisation arising which is going to use force for political ends within its territory. I cannot see any way out of this.
What was the right thing for us to do? We have tried to do it on these benches. The inspiring motive of a lot of the work we have done has been to try to get a basis of unity here, to get an authoritative headship for our nation. Here is the only place where there can be such  a headship for the nation, and it can tolerate no rival. By our Constitution, which was passed by the people—it is the people's Constitution—every section of the people is permitted to go out and advocate any policy it chooses. There is nobody being imprisoned or restrained at the present time because of his opinions. Anybody can go out and say that he wants a Republic for Twenty-Six Counties, or for 32 Counties, or anything of that sort. Nobody is against that. What we have to resist is any group organising to say: “We are going to achieve that object, by force, ourselves, irrespective of what the Parliament does.” If this Parliament were to decide to use force for the national ends, it would be within its right in doing so, but as long as it exists and claims to have rightful authority, as it does, based upon the will of the people, it cannot tolerate any other body setting out on its own with such an objective. There must be some one headship.
Under the Constitution the whole position has been cleared in such a way that any body of citizens who want so to advocate can go out and say: “Elect us. Give us a majority, and the day we have a majority in the Dáil we are going to use force to try to bring back the Six Counties.” They can do that. We do not think that that is the way it should be done, but there is nothing to prevent them from doing it. If they have got a majority, and the people are prepared to adopt that method, they can do it. But what we cannot permit them to do is to say: “We do not recognise at all that Assembly or the representatives who have been duly elected by the people”. I do not need to pursue the matter. I think our position is clear. On the other question I repeat we cannot give way, on any consideration whatever, to the release of those men on hunger-strike.
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