Committee on Finance. - National Security—Ministerial Statement.

Tuesday, 28 May 1940

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 80 No. 9

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The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera Zoom on Eamon de Valera I am sure the Deputies will have seen the statements I recently made on the dangers that threaten our country. These dangers are now obvious, and I refer to them only in order that the Dáil and the country may see the urgent necessity for the defence measures which the Government is taking. The reservists of the regular Army and the first line Volunteers are all being called to the colours. A campaign to secure thousands more recruits for the Army will at once be undertaken, those who are willing to give their services to the nation being registered at once, so as to be called up for training the moment we can take them. A campaign to secure the registration of men for the local security corps is also being undertaken. These men will remain in their own areas, and will be asked only to give a certain portion of their free time for patrol and observation work, and the securing of information.

In view of the dangers that confront us, I am sure all our people will be united as one man behind the Government, ready to meet aggression from whatsoever quarter it may come.

Over 20 years ago another peril brought the country to one magnificent unity. The leaders of all Parties, the Church and the people combined for a great and noble purpose—to save our young men from being forced into a war against the nation's will. Can I not ask for the same unity to-day to resist being brought into a war in which our State has declared its desire and its intention not to be involved? There is but one line of safety for us, to be ready to resist to the utmost whosoever may attack us.

I have asked the leaders of the Opposition Parties to join in a conference of three members of the Government, three of the principal Opposition, and two of the Labour Party, to [1170] meet each week and at such other times as may be necessary, to consult and advise on matters of national defence. They have agreed.

Thus Dáil Eireann gives a lead which I hope all our people will follow. We must all be brothers in one holy cause, and no voice of dissension should be heard amongst us. The liberties of which we in this Parliament are the trustees have been dearly bought. Let there not be found in this land anywhere one treacherous hand to give them away. We are a small people, but if we are true to ourselves, and courageously defend our rights, with God's help we shall survive the present dangers as we and our fathers survived no less grievous ones in the past.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on William T. Cosgrave Zoom on William T. Cosgrave Fine Gael is alive to the dangers of our present situation. We are, and have always been, prepared to consult with a view to achieving general agreement on all matters affecting the security and defence of the State; we are willing to accept our full share of the responsibility for policies on which there has been consultation and agreement. On certain matters united national action is now essential.

It is obviously the duty of a Government with a majority support in Parliament to decide the way in which that united national action can best be brought about.

We have already suggested to the Government a national security committee which, while not assuming executive powers, would share responsibility for policy affecting certain vital national matters. We accept the scheme of conference just now outlined.

We regard the national security as the supreme interest worth considering at the moment; and will withhold no assistance which we can give or can influence others to give.

The Taoiseach has expressed his intention of raising additional defence forces, and of seeking local organised assistance for the police. We are convinced that a ready response would be made by the whole people to support [1171] sound schemes organised for definite defence purposes. When such assistance is required, only the best can be of use, and the best must be evoked by the conference suggested.

It is our opinion that during the crisis all national effort and all legislation should be directed to preparation and plans for the following purposes:

1.—To maintain the institutions of State against all dangers.

2.—To safeguard the essentials of economic life in the country—production, supplies, employment.

3.—To meet and defeat treasonable activities with all the powers of the State.

There are certain measures which, we believe, are essential for these purposes. There should, in our judgment, be no delay in putting these measures into operation. We have already advised the Government of our views, and we are anxious at once to put these proposals before a conference such as has been suggested.

A situation of national danger is upon us. Our country has faced such situations in the past, but none so serious. Among the people whom this Dáil represents, there is a genuine and general desire that our utmost and united efforts should be made to meet the danger. Fine Gael responds to that desire and is prepared to do its part.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton Zoom on William Norton With the Taoiseach's diagnosis of the dangers that threaten this country I am in wholehearted agreement, and with him I realise that never before in our short life of freedom or our long night of national travail did the country stand in greater potential danger than it does to-day. The reverberations of the titanic military struggle in Europe have been heard and felt far from the scene of the holocaust, and those small nations which at one time felt—and with every assurance—that their independence and territorial integrity would be respected, have suffered the heart-breaking experience and national humiliation of seeing their fair lands destroyed by the ravages of war and the work of [1172] centuries of intense national endeavour wrecked overnight. These happenings have a significance and many lessons for us. Outstanding among the morals they point is the urgent need for national unity, for national preparedness, for calm and resolve in the face of danger and, above all, a determination to serve to the uttermost limits of our individual capacity the Motherland which, in her hour of trial, now— as often before—calls upon us to save the heritage, the culture and that Irish conception of life, of which, as Irish men and women, we are rightly proud.

As a small nation we have no territorial ambitions; we seek no domination over other lands or peoples; the military power and mammoth commercial greatness of other lands excite no envy or emulation in us. We seek only the opportunity to live in peace; fortified against want by honest toil and not by spoliation, and to be permitted to contribute our quota to the common pool of human liberty and human happiness throughout the world.

Let us to-day in the crisis which faces us determine to safeguard that life for our people, and let none of our people be so foolish, so misguided, so lacking in a proper conception of what Ireland expects of each of us, as to give countenance and encouragement to any belligerent to invade this country and to open up for our people that terrifying vista of political thraldom from which, after centuries of oppression, we have happily emerged. Those who love freedom, who cherish the right to order their lives on Irish and democratic lines, who respect the rule of law and who want to preserve for our people all they hold dear, must set their faces resolutely against any attempt by external enemies or misguided internal friends to so weaken the national unity as to leave this country a prey for any power which would use it for its own purpose against the wishes of the Irish people. The bondage our people have endured makes our present-day liberty priceless—something for which no sacrifice is too great—something we must defend even at the cost of our lives— for life means nothing if it does not mean liberty. While preserving complete liberty of action in other matters, I gladly, therefore, offer the fullest [1173] co-operation of the Labour Party to preserve our strict neutrality and to defend that neutrality with all the resources at our disposal. This country belongs not to the Government or to any political party: it is the common heritage of Irish men and women of all classes. May they help to keep it so.

Mr. O'Reilly: Information on Matthew O'Reilly Zoom on Matthew O'Reilly I beg leave to withdraw the Motion to report progress.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy Zoom on Frank Fahy Motion, by leave of the Committee, withdrawn.

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