Day 5 Debate – December 19th, 1921

The Dáil met on Monday, 19th December, 1921, in public session.

THE SPEAKER (Dr. EOIN MAC NEILL) took the Chair at 11.25 a.m. The Secretary, Mr. Diarmuid O hEig-ceartuigh, called the roll. The following Members answered their names:

Mícheál O Coileáin (Co. Ard Mhacha).

Art O Gríobhtha (Co. an Chabháin).

Seán Mac Giolla Ríogh (Co. an Chabháin).

Pól O Geallagáin (Co. an Chabháin).

Seumas O Lionnáin (Co. Cheatharloch agus Co. Chill Choinnigh).

Liam T. Mac Cosgair (Co. Cheatharloch agus Co. Chill Choinnigh).

Gearóid O Súileabháin (Co. Cheatharloch agus Co. Chill Chomnigh).

Eamon Aidhleart (Co. Cheatharloch agus Co. Chill Choinnigh).

Eamon de Valéra (Co. an Chláir).

Brian O hUiginn (Co. an Chláir).

Pádraig O Braonáin (Co. an Chláir).

Seán O Lidia (Co. an Chláir).

Seán O hAodha (Co. Chorcaighe Thiar, Theas, agus Meadh).

Pádraig O Caoimh (Co. Chorcaighe Thiar, Theas, agus Meadh).

Seán Mac Suibhne (Co. Chorcaighe Thiar, Theas, agus Meadh).

Seán Mac Héil (Co. Chorcaighe Thiar, Theas, agus Meadh).

Seán O Maoileoin (Co. Chorcaighe Thiar, Theas, agus Meadh).

Domhnall O Corcora (Co. Chorcaighe Thiar, Theas, agus Meadh).

Seán O Nualláin (Co. Chorcaighe Thiar, Theas, agus Meadh).

Tomás O Fiachra (Co. Chorcaighe Thoir).

Seumas Mac Gearailt (Co. Chorcaighe Thoir).

Dáithí Ceannt (Co. Chorcaighe Thoir).

Eoin Mac Néill (Co. Dhoire).

Seosamh O Dochartaigh (Co. Thir Chonaill).

Seosamh Mac Suibhne (Co. Thír Chonaill)

Peadar S. Mac an Bháird (Co. Thír Chonaill).

Dr. S. Mac Fhionnlaoigh (Co. Thír Chonaill).P.S. Mac Ualghairg (Co. Thír Chonaill).

S. O Flaithbheartaigh Co. Thír Chonaill).

Proinnsias Laighleis (Co. Atha Cliath).

S. Ghabháin Uí Dhubhthaigh (Co. Atha Cliath).

Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt (Co. Atha Cliath).

Seumas Mac Doirim (Co. Atha Cliath).

Bean an Phiarsaigh (Co. Atha Cliath).

Seumas O Duibhir (Co. Atha Cliath).

Seán O Mathghambna (Co. Fhear-manach).

Liam O Maoilíosa (Co. na Gaillimhe).

Dr. Brian Cíosóg (Co. na Gaillimhe).

Proinsias O Fathaigh (Co. na Gaillimhe).

Pádraig O Máille (Co. na Gaillimhe).

Seoirse Mac Niocaill (Co. na Gaillimhe).

P.S. O hOgáin (Co. na Gaillimhe).

An t-Oll S. O Faoilleacháin (Co. na Gaillimhe).

Aibhistin de Stac (Co. Chiarraidhe agus Co. Luimnighe Thiar).

Piaras Béaslaí (Co. Chiarraidhe agus Co. Luimnighe Thiar).

Fionán O Loingsigh (Co. Chiarraidhe agus Co. Luimnighe Thiar)

S. O Cruadhlaoich (Co. Chiarraidhe agus Co. Luimnighe Thiar).

Conchubhar O Coileáin (Co. Chiarraidhe agus Co. Luimnighe Thiar).

Eamon de Róiste (Co. Chiarraidhe agus Co. Luimnighe Thiar).

P.S. O Cathail (Co. Chiarraidhe agus Co. Luimnighe Thiar).

Tomás O Donnchadha (Co. Chiarraidhe agus Co. Luimnighe Thiar).

Art O Conchubhair (Co. Chill Dara agus Co. Chill Mhantáin).

Domhnall O Buachalla (Co. Chill Dara agus Co. Chill Mhantáin).

E. Childers (Co. Chill Dara agus Co. Chill Mhantáin).

Riobard Bartún (Co. Chill Dara agus Co. Chill Mhantáin).

Criostoir O Broin (Co. Chill Dara agus Co. Chill Mhantáin).

Seoirse Pluingceud (Co. Liathdroma agus Co. Roscomáin Thuaidh).

Seumas O Doláin (Co. Liathdroma agus Co. Roscomáin Thuaidh).

Andrias O Láimhín (Co. Liathdroma agus Co. Roscomáin Thuaidh).

Tomás Carter (Co. Liathdroma agus Co. Roscomáin Thuaidh).

Dr. Pádraig Mac Artáin (Co. Laoighise agus Co. O bhFáilghe).

Caoimhghin O hUiginn (Co. Laoighise agus Co. O bhFáilghe).

Seosamh O Loingsigh (Co. Laoighise agus Co. O bhFáilghe).

Proinsias Bulfin (Co. Laoighise agus Co. O bhFáilghe).

Bean Mhíchíl Uí Cheallacháin (Cathair Luimnighe agus Co. Luimnighe Thoir).

Dr. Riseárd O hAodha (Cathair Luimnighe agus Co. Luimnighe Thoir).

M.P. Colivet (Cathair Luimnighe agus Co. Luimnighe Thoir).

Liam O hAodha (Cathair Luimnighe agus Co. Luimnighe Thoir).

Seosamh Mac Aonghusa (Co. Longphuirt agus Co. na hIar-Mhidhe).

Séan Mac Eoin (Co. Longphuirt agus Co. na hIar-Mhidhe).

Loreán O Roibín (Co. Longphuirt agus Co. na hIar-Mhidhe).

Seán O Ceallaigh (Co. Lughmhaighe agus Co. na Midhe).

Eamon O Dúgáin (Co. Lughmhaighe agus Co. na Midhe).

Peadar O hAodha (Co. Lughmhaighe agus Co. na Midhe).

Seumas O Murchadha (Co. Lughmhaighe agus Co. na Midhe).

Saerbhreathach Mac Cionaith (Co. Lughmhaighe agus Co. na Midhe).

Dr. O Cruadhlaoich (Co. Mhuigheo Thuaidh agus Thiar).

Seosamh Mac Giolla Bhrighde (Co. Mhuigheo Thuaidh agus Thiar).

Tomás O Deirg (Co. Mhuigheo Thuaidh agus Thiar).

P.S. O Ruithléis (Co. Mhuigheo Thuaidh agus Thiar).

Liam Mac Sioghuird (Co. Mhuigheo Theas agus Co. Roscomáin Theas).

Tomás Maguidhir (Co. Mhuigheo Theas agus Co. Roscomáin Theas).D. O Ruaire (Co. Mhuigheo Theas agus Co. Roscomáin Theas).

Earnán de Blaghd (Co. Mhuineacháin).

Seán Mac an tSaoi (Co. Mhuineacháin).

Eoin O Dubhthaigh (Co. Mhuineacháin)

Dr. P. O Fearáin (Co. Shligigh agus Co. Mhuigheo Thoir).

Alasdair Mac Cába (Co. Shligigh agus Co. Mhuigheo Thoir).

Tomás O Domhnaill (Co. Shligigh agus Co. Mhuigheo Thoir).

Seumas O Daimhín (Co. Shligigh agus Co. Mhuigheo Thoir)

Proinsias Mac Cárthaigh (Co. Shligigh agus Co. Mhuigheo Thoir).

Seosamh Mac Donnchadha (Co. Thiobrad Arann Theas, Thuaidh agus Meadh).

Seumas de Búrca (Co. Thiobrad Arann Theas, Thuaidh agus Meadh).

P.S. O Maoldomhnaigh (Co. Thiobrad Arann Theas, Thuaidh agus Meadh).

P.S. O Broin (Co. Thiobrad Arann Theas, Thuaidh agus Meadh).

Cathal Brugha (Co. Phortláirge agus Co. Thiobrad Arann Thoir).

Dr. V. de Faoite (Co. Phortláirge agus Co. Thiobrad Arann Thoir).

Proinsias O Druacháin (Co. Phortláirge agus Co. Thiobrad Arann Thoir).


Eamon O Deaghaidh (Co. Phortláirge agus Co. Thiobrad Arann Thoir).


Seumas Mac Roibin (Co. Phortláirge agus Co. Thiobrad Arann Thoir).

Dr. Seumas O Riain (Co. Loch Garman).

Seán Etchingham (Co. Loch Garman).

Risteárd Mac Fheorais (Co. Loch Garman).

Seumas O Dubhghaill (Co. Loch Garman).

Seán T. O Ceallaigh (Baile Atha Cliath Meadh).

Philib O Seanacháin (Baile Atha Cliath Meadh).

Bean an Chléirigh (Baile Atha Cliath Meadh).

Seán Mac Garraidh (Baile Atha Cliath Meadh).

Mícheál Mac Stáin (Baile Atha Cliath Thiar Thuaidh).

Risteárd O Maolchatha (Baile Atha Cliath Thiar Thuaidh).

Seosamh Mag Craith (Baile Atha Cliath Thiar Thuaidh).

Philib Mac Cosgair (Baile Atha Cliath Thiar Thuaidh).

Constans de Markievies (Baile Atha Cliath Theas).

Cathal O Murchadha (Baile Atha Cliath Theas).

Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh (Baile Atha Cliath Theas).

Liam de Róiste (Corcaigh).

Seumas Breathnach (Corcaigh).

Máire nic Shuibhne (Corcaigh).

Domhnall O Ceallacháin (Corcaigh).

Mícheál O hAodha (Ollsgoil Náisiúnta na hEireann).

Dr. Eithne Inglis (Ollsgoil Náisiúnta na hEireann).

An t-Oll W.F.P. Stockley (Ollsgoil Náisiúnta na hEireann).

THE SPEAKER: The President informs the House that the document presented to the Dáil for a certain purpose at the Private Session is now withdrawn and must be regarded as confidential until he brings his own proposal forward formally.

MR. GRIFFITH (MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS): Am I to understand, Sir, that that document we discussed at the Private Session is to be withheld from the Irish people?

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: No. But I don’t want to have the debate interfered with, the direct debate on the Treaty, by a discussion on a secondary document put forward for a certain purpose in Private Session. That document will be put forward in its proper place.

MR. GRIFFITH (MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS): I want to know is the document we discussed as an alternative to be withheld from the Irish people, or is it to be published in the Press for the people to see?

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I put forward the document for a distinct purpose to see whether we could get a unanimous proposition by this House. That has not been achieved. I am going to put forward the proposal myself definitely to this House as my own proposition which I stand for. That was for a different purpose.

MR. SEAN MILROY (CAVAN): Before that document can be regarded as private, I think the President will have to get the assent of this House. We weren’t informed it was merely for private discussion. This is a matter that goes to the root of the whole issue before this House, and I think it a rather curious point to raise now when the Public Session has begun, that we should be informed that it is to be regarded as a confidential document. I, for my part, refuse until this House assents to that proposition.

THE SPEAKER: We cannot have a discussion on this at this point. The only matter that arises is that the President’s request as read out by me has been expressed to the House. We must now proceed with the orders of the day.

MR. GRIFFITH (MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS): A Chinn Chomhairle, I submit I am here to move this. Are my hands to be tied by this document being withheld after we were discussing it for two days?

MADAME MARKIEVICZ (SOUTH DUBLIN): I wish to say that when the document was given to me it was distinctly stated it was confidential, and I have treated it as such.

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I have no objection to the document going anywhere, except this, that I wanted this House, if possible, to have a united policy. I was prepared to stand on a certain document. It would cease to be of value unless it was a document that would command practically the unanimous approval of the assembly. It was given to the assembly distinctly on that understanding to get objections to it. I intend proposing what I want to stand on as my own proposition before the Irish people. That was not my proposal definitely; it was a paper put in in order to elicit views. I am ready to put [20] my proposition in its proper place, both before this assembly and before the Irish nation. I have asked it to be treated as confidential because there are other documents necessary to explain its genesis. Unless you want all the confidential documents of the whole conference proceedings published, then I hold you cannot publish that.

MR. MICHAEL COLLINS (MINISTER FOR FINANCE): I as a public representative cannot consent, if I am in a minority of one, in withholding from the Irish people my knowledge of what the alternative is. We have to deal with this matter in the full light of our own responsibility to our people, and I cannot in my public statement refrain from telling the Irish people what certain alternatives are.

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: It is not proposed to withhold either that document or any documents from the Irish people, if this House wishes it, in its proper place, but I hold it is running across the course of the debate to introduce now for the public a document which has been discussed in Private Session. It means that the Private Session might as well not have been held.

THE SPEAKER: I wish the members to understand that this is not a matter of the Chair’s ruling that this document is confidential. It is simply a matter of a request made by the President and communicated by me to the Dáil, through the ordinary courtesy of procedure, as the President’s desire. I do not make any ruling on it, but any discussion on it is out of order. We must proceed now with the orders of the day.

MR. GRIFFITH (MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS): It is not a question of courtesy; it is not a question of the rules of procedure; it is a question of the lives and fortunes of the people of Ireland. While I shall so far as I can respect President de Valera’s wish, I am not going to hide from the Irish people what the alternative is that is proposed. I move the motion standing in my name—

Nearly three months ago Dáil Eireann appointed plenipotentiaries to go to London to treat with the British Government and to make a bargain with them. We have made a bargain. We have brought it back. We were to go there to reconcile our aspirations with the association of the community of nations known as the British Empire. That task which was given to us was as hard as was ever placed on the shoulders of men. We faced that task; we knew that whatever happened we would have our critics, and we made up our minds to do whatever was right and disregard whatever criticism might occur. We could have shirked the responsibility. We did not seek to act as the plenipotentiaries; other men were asked and other men refused. We went. The responsibility is on our shoulders; we took the responsibility in London and we take the responsibility in Dublin. I signed that Treaty not as the ideal thing, but fully believing, as I believe now, it is a treaty honourable to Ireland, and safeguards the vital interests of Ireland.

And now by that Treaty I am going to stand, and every man with a scrap of honour who signed it is going to stand. It is for the Irish people—who are our masters (hear, hear), not our servants as some think—it is for the Irish people to say whether it is good enough. I hold that it is, and I hold that the Irish people—that 95 per cent. of them believe it to be good enough. We are here, not as the dictators of the Irish people, but as the representatives of the Irish people, and if we misrepresent the Irish people, then the moral authority of Dáil Eireann, the strength behind it, and the fact that Dáil Eireann spoke the voice of the Irish people, is gone, and gone for ever. Now, the President— and I am in a difficult position—does not wish a certain document referred to read. But I must refer to the substance of it. An effort has been made outside to represent that a certain number of men stood uncompromisingly on the rock of the Republic—the Republic, and no thing but the Republic.

It has been stated also here that the man who made this position, the man who won the war—Michael Collins— compromised Ireland’s rights. In the letters that preceded the negotiations not once was a demand made for recognition of the Irish Republic. If it had been made we knew it would have been [21] refused. We went there to see how to reconcile the two positions, and I hold we have done it. The President does not wish this document to be read. What am I to do? What am I to say? Am I to keep my mouth shut and let the Irish people think about this uncompromising rock?

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I will make my position in my speech quite clear.

MR. GRIFFITH (MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS): What we have to say is this, that the difference in this Cabinet and in this House is between half-recognising the British King and the British Empire, and between marching in, as one of the speakers said, with our heads up. The gentlemen on the other side are prepared to recognise the King of England as head of the British Commonwealth. They are prepared to go half in the Empire and half out. They are prepared to go into the Empire for war and peace and treaties, and to keep out for other matters, and that is what the Irish people have got to know is the difference. Does all this quibble of words —because it is merely a quibble of words—mean that Ireland is asked to throw away this Treaty and go back to war? So far as my power or voice extends, not one young Irishman’s life shall be lost on that quibble. We owe responsibility to the Irish people. I feel my responsibility to the Irish people, and the Irish people must know, and know in every detail, the difference that exists between us, and the Irish people must be our judges. When the plenipotentiaries came back they were sought to be put in the dock. Well, if I am going to be tried, I am going to be tried by the people of Ireland (hear, hear). Now this Treaty has been attacked. It has been examined with a microscope to find its defects, and this little thing and that little thing has been pointed out, and the people are told—one of the gentlemen said it here—that it was less even than the proposals of July. It is the first Treaty between the representatives of the Irish Government and the representatives of the English Government since 1172 signed on equal footing. It is the first Treaty that admits the equality of Ireland. It is a Treaty of equality, and because of that I am standing by it. We have come back from London with that Treaty—Saorstat na hEireann recognised—the Free State of Ireland. We have brought back the flag; we have brought back the evacuation of Ireland after 700 years by British troops and the formation of an Irish army (applause). We have brought back to Ireland her full rights and powers of fiscal control. We have brought back to Ireland equality with England, equality with all nations which form that Commonwealth, and an equal voice in the direction of foreign affairs in peace and war. Well, we are told that that Treaty is a derogation from our status; that it is a Treaty not to be accepted, that it is a poor thing, and that the Irish people ought to go back and fight for something more, and that something more is what I describe as a quibble of words. Now, I shall have an opportunity later on of replying to the very formidably arranged criticism that is going to be levelled at the Treaty to show its defects. At all events, the Irish people are a people of great common sense. They know that a Treaty that gives them their flag and their Free State and their Army (cheers) is not a sham Treaty, and the sophists and the men of words will not mislead them, I tell you. In connection with the Treaty men said this and said that, and I was requested to get from Mr. Lloyd George a definite statement covering points in the Treaty which some gentlemen misunderstood. This is Mr. Lloyd George’s letter:—


“13th December, 1921.

“SIR,—As doubts may be expressed regarding certain points not specifically mentioned in the Treaty terms, I think it is important that their meaning should be clearly understood.

“The first question relates to the method of appointment of the Representatives of the Crown in Ireland. Article III. of the Agreement lays down that he is to be appointed ‘in like manner as the Governor-General of Canada and in accordance with the practice observed in the making of such appointment.’ This means that the Government of the Irish Free State will be consulted so as to ensure a selection acceptable to the Irish Government before any recommendation is made to his Majesty.

“The second question is as to the [22] scope of the Arbitration contemplated in Article V. regarding Ireland’s liability for a share of War Pensions and the Public Debt. The procedure contemplated by the Conference was that the British Government should submit its claim, and that the Government of the Irish Free State should submit any counter-claim to which it thought Ireland entitled.

“Upon the case so submitted the Arbitrators would decide after making such further inquiries as they might think necessary; their decision would then be final and binding on both parties. It is, of course, understood that the arbitrator or arbitrators to whom the case is referred shall be men as to whose impartiality both the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State are satisfied.

“The third question relates to the status of the Irish Free State. The special arrangements agreed between us in Articles VI., VII., VIII. and IX., which are not in the Canadian constitution, in no way affect status. They are necessitated by the proximity and interdependence of the two islands—by conditions, that is, which do not exist in the case of Canada.

“They in no way affect the position of the Irish Free State in the Commonwealth or its title to representation, like Canada, in the Assembly of the League of Nations. They were agreed between us for our mutual benefit, and have no bearing of any kind upon the question of status. It is our desire that Ireland shall rank as co-equal with the other nations of the Commonwealth, and we are ready to support her claim to a similar place in the League of Nations as soon as her new Constitution comes into effect.

“The framing of that Constitution will be in the hands of the Irish Government, subject, of course, to the terms of Agreement, and to the pledges given in respect of the minority by the head of the Irish Delegation. The establishment and composition of the Second Chamber is, therefore, in the discretion of the Irish people. There is nothing in the Articles of Agreement to suggest that Ireland is in this respect bound to the Canadian model.

“I may add that we propose to begin withdrawing the Military and Auxiliary Forces of the Crown in Southern Ireland when the Articles of Agreement are ratified.

“I am, Sir,

“Your obedient Servant,


Various different methods of attack on this Treaty have been made. One of them was they did not mean to keep it. Well, they have ratified it, and it can come into operation inside a fortnight. We think they do mean to keep it if we keep it. They are pledged now before the world, pledged by their signature, and if they depart from it they will be disgraced and we will be stronger in the world’s eyes than we are to-day. During the last few years a war was waged on the Irish people, and the Irish people defended themselves, and for a portion of that time, when President de Valera was in America, I had at least the responsibility on my shoulders of standing for all that was done in that defence, and I stood for it (applause). I would stand for it again under similar conditions. Ireland was fighting then against an enemy that was striking at her life, and was denying her liberty, but in any contest that would follow the rejection of this offer Ireland would be fighting with the sympathy of the world against her, and with all the Dominions—all the nations that comprise the British Commonwealth—against her.

The position would be such that I believe no conscientious Irishman could take the responsibility for a single Irishman’s life in that futile war. Now, many criticisms, I know, will be levelled against this Treaty; one in particular, one that is in many instances quite honest, it is the question of the oath. I ask the members to see what the oath is, to read it, not to misunderstand or misrepresent it. It is an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the Free State of Ireland and of faithfulness to King George V. in his capacity as head and in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and the other nations comprising the British Commonwealth. That is an oath, I say, that any Irishman could take with honour. He pledges his allegiance to his country and to be faithful to this Treaty, and faithfulness after to the head of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If his country were unjustly used by any of the nations of that Commonwealth, or  its head, then his allegiance is to his own country and his allegiance bids him to resist (hear, hear).

We took an oath to the Irish Republic, but, as President de Valera himself said, he understood that oath to bind him to do the best he could for Ireland. So do we. We have done the best we could for Ireland. If the Irish people say “We have got everything else but the name Republic, and we will fight for it,” I would say to them that they are fools, but I will follow in the ranks. I will take no responsibility. But the Irish people will not do that. Now it has become rather a custom for men to speak of what they did, and did not do, in the past. I am not going to speak of that aspect, except one thing. It is this. The prophet I followed throughout my life, the man whose words and teachings I tried to translate into practice in politics, the man whom I revered above all Irish patriots was Thomas Davis. In the hard way of fitting practical affairs into idealism I have made Thomas Davis my guide. I have never departed in my life one inch from the principles of Thomas Davis, and in signing this Treaty and bringing it here and asking Ireland to ratify it I am following Thomas Davis still.

Later on, when coming to reply to criticism, I will deal with the other matters. Thomas Davis said:—

“Peace with England, alliance with England to some extent, and, under certain circumstances, confederation with England; but an Irish ambition, Irish hopes, strength, virtue, and rewards for the Irish.”

That is what we have brought back, peace with England, alliance with England, confederation with England, an Ireland developing her own life, carving out her own way of existence, and rebuilding the Gaelic civilisation broken down at the battle of Kinsale. I say we have brought you that. I say we have translated Thomas Davis into the practical politics of the day. I ask then this Dáil to pass this resolution, and I ask the people of Ireland, and the Irish people everywhere, to ratify this Treaty, to end this bitter conflict of centuries, to end it for ever, to take away that poison that has been rankling in the two countries and ruining the relationship of good neighbours. Let us stand as free partners, equal with England, and make after 700 years the greatest revolution that has ever been made in the history of the world—a revolution of seeing the two countries standing not apart as enemies, but standing together as equals and as friends. I ask you, therefore, to pass this resolution (applause).

COMMANDANT SEAN MACKEON (LONGFORD AND WESTMEATH): A Chinn Chomhairle I rise to second the motion, as proposed by the Deputy for West Cavan (Arthur Griffith) and Chairman of the Irish Delegation in London. In doing so, I take this course because I know I am doing it in the interests of my country, which I love. To me symbols, recognitions, shadows, have very little meaning. What I want, what the people of Ireland want, is not shadows but substances, and I hold that this Treaty between the two nations gives us not shadows but real substances, and for that reason I am ready to support it. Furthermore, this Treaty gives Ireland the chance for the first time in 700 years to develop her own life in her own way, to develop Ireland for all, every man and woman, without distinction of creed or class or politics. To me this Treaty gives me what I and my comrades fought for; it gives us for the first time in 700 years the evacuation of Britain’s armed forces out of Ireland. It also gives me my hope and dream, our own Army, not half-equipped, but fully equipped, to defend our interests. If the Treaty were much worse in words than it is alleged to be, once it gave me these two things, I would take it and say as long as the armed forces of Britain are gone and the armed forces of Ireland remain, we can develop our own nation in our own way. Furthermore, when it gives us this army it simply means that it is a guarantee that England or England’s King will be faithful to us. If he is not, if the King is not faithful to us, well, we will have somebody left who will defend our interests and see that they are safeguarded. It may seem rather peculiar that one like me who is regarded as an extremist should take this step. Yes, to the world and to Ireland I say I am an extremist, but it means that I have an extreme love of my country. It was love of my country that made me and every other Irishman take up arms to defend her. It was [24] love of my country that made me ready, and every other Irishman ready, to die for her if necessary. This Treaty brings the freedom that is necessary, it brings the freedom that we all were ready to die for, that is, that Ireland be allowed to develop her own life in her own way, without any interference from any other Government whether English or otherwise (applause).

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I think it would scarcely be in accordance with Standing Orders of the Dáil if I were to move directly the rejection of this Treaty. I daresay, however, it will be sufficient that I should appeal to this House not to approve of the Treaty. We were elected by the Irish people, and did the Irish people think we were liars when we said that we meant to uphold the Republic, which was ratified by the vote of the people three years ago, and was further ratified—expressly ratified—by the vote of the people at the elections last May? When the proposal for negotiation came from the British Government asking that we should try by negotiation to reconcile Irish national aspirations with the association of nations forming the British Empire, there was no one here as strong as I was to make sure that every human attempt should be made to find whether such reconciliation was possible. I am against this Treaty because it does not reconcile Irish national aspirations with association with the British Government. I am against this Treaty, not because I am a man of war, but a man of peace. I am against this Treaty because it will not end the centuries of conflict between the two nations of Great Britain and Ireland.

We went out to effect such a reconciliation and we have brought back a thing which will not even reconcile our own people much less reconcile Britain and Ireland.

If there was to be reconciliation, it is obvious that the party in Ireland which typifies national aspirations for centuries should be satisfied, and the test of every agreement would be the test of whether the people were satisfied or not. A war-weary people will take things which are not in accordance with their aspirations. You may have a snatch election now, and you may get a vote of the people, but I will tell you that Treaty will renew the contest that is going to begin the same history that the Union began, and Lloyd George is going to have the same fruit for his labours as Pitt had. When in Downing Street the proposals to which we could unanimously assent in the Cabinet were practically turned down at the point of the pistol and immediate war was threatened upon our people. It was only then that this document was signed, and that document has been signed by plenipotentiaries, not perhaps individually under duress, but it has been signed, and would only affect this nation as a document signed under duress, and this nation would not respect it.

I wanted, and the Cabinet wanted, to get a document we could stand by, a document that could enable Irishmen to meet Englishmen and shake hands with them as fellow-citizens of the world. That document makes British authority our masters in Ireland. It was said that they had only an oath to the British King in virtue of common citizenship, but you have an oath to the Irish Constitution, and that Constitution will be a Constitution which will have the King of Great Britain as head of Ireland. You will swear allegiance to that Constitution and to that King; and if the representatives of the Republic should ask the people of Ireland to do that which is inconsistent with the Republic, I say they are subverting the Republic. It would be a surrender which was never heard of in Ireland since the days of Henry II.; and are we in this generation, which has made Irishmen famous throughout the world, to sign our names to the most ignoble document that could be signed.

When I was in prison in solitary confinement our warders told us that we could go from our cells into the hall, which was about fifty feet by forty. We did go out from the cells to the hall, but we did not give our word to the British jailer that he had the right to detain us in prison because we got that privilege. Again on another occasion we were told that we could get out to a garden party, where we could see the flowers and the hills, but we did not for the privilege of going out to garden parties sign a document handing over our souls and bodies to the jailers. Rather than sign a document which would give Britain authority in Ireland they should be ready to go into slavery until the Almighty had blotted out their [25] tyrants (applause). If the British Government passed a Home Rule Act or something of that kind I would not have said to the Irish people, “Do not take it.” I would have said, “Very well; this is a case of the jailer leading you from the cell to the hall,” but by getting that we did not sign away our right to whatever form of government we pleased. It was said that an uncompromising stand for a Republic was not made. The stand made by some of them was to try and reconcile a Republic with an association. There was a document presented to this House to try to get unanimity, to see whether the views which I hold could be reconciled to that party which typified the national aspirations of Ireland for centuries. The document was put there for that purpose, and I defy anybody in this House to say otherwise than that I was trying to bring forward before this assembly a document which would bring real peace between Great Britain and Ireland—a sort of document we would have tried to get and would not have agreed if we did not get. It would be a document that would give real peace to the people of Great Britain and Ireland and not the officials. I know it would not be a politicians’ peace. I know the politician in England who would take it would risk his political future, but it would be a peace between peoples, and would be consistent with the Irish people being full masters of everything within their own shores. Criticism of this Treaty is scarcely necessary from this point of view, that it could not be ratified because it would not be legal for this assembly to ratify it, because it would be inconsistent with our position. We were elected here to be the guardians of an independent Irish State—a State that had declared its independence—and this House could no more than the ignominious House that voted away the Colonial Parliament that was in Ireland in 1800 unless we wished to follow the example of that House and vote away the independence of our people. We could not ratify that instrument if it were brought before us for ratification. It is, therefore, to be brought before us not for ratification, because it would be inconsistent, and the very fact that it is inconsistent shows that it could not be reconciled with Irish aspirations, because the aspirations of the Irish people have been crystallised into the form of Government they have at the present time. As far as I was concerned, I am probably the freest man here to express my opinion. Before I was elected President at the Private Session, I said, “Remember I do not take, as far as I am concerned, oaths as regards forms of Government. I regard myself here to maintain the independence of Ireland and to do the best for the Irish people,” and it is to do the best for the Irish people that I ask you not to approve but to reject this Treaty.

You will be asked in the best interests of Ireland, if you pretend to the world that this will lay the foundation of a lasting peace, and you know perfectly well that even if Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins set up a Provisional Government in Dublin Castle, until the Irish people would have voted upon it the Government would be looked upon as a usurpation equally with Dublin Castle in the past. We know perfectly well there is nobody here who has expressed more strongly dissent from any attacks of any kind upon the delegates that went to London than I did.

There is no one who knew better than I did how difficult is the task they had to perform. I appealed to the Dáil, telling them the delegates had to do something a mighty army or a mighty navy would not be able to do. I hold that, and I hold that it was in their excessive love for Ireland they have done what they have. I am as anxious as anyone for the material prosperity of Ireland and the Irish people, but I cannot do anything that would make the Irish people hang their heads. I would rather see the same thing over again than that Irishmen should have to hang their heads in shame for having signed and put their hands to a document handing over their authority to a foreign country. The Irish people would not want me to save them materially at the expense of their national honour. I say it is quite within the competence of the Irish people if they wished to enter into an association with other peoples, to enter into the British Empire; it is within their competence if they want to choose the British monarch as their King, but does this assembly think the Irish people have changed so much within the past year or two that they now want to get into the British Empire after seven centuries of fighting? Have they so changed that they now want to [26] choose the person of the British monarch, whose forces they have been fighting against, and who have been associated with all the barbarities of the past couple of years; have they changed so much that they want to choose the King as their monarch? It is not King George as a monarch they choose: it is Lloyd George, because it is not the personal monarch they are choosing, it is British power and authority as sovereign authority in this country. The sad part of it, as I was saying, is that a grand peace could at this moment be made, and to see the difference. I say, for instance, if approved by the Irish people, and if Mr. Griffith, or whoever might be in his place, thought it wise to ask King George over to open Parliament he would see black flags in the streets of Dublin. Do you think that that would make for harmony between the two peoples? What would the people of Great Britain say when they saw the King accepted by the Irish people greeted in Dublin with black flags? If a Treaty was entered into, if it was a right Treaty, he could have been brought here (“No, no.”) Yes, he could (cries of “No, no.”) Why not? I say if a proper peace had been made you could bring, for instance, the President of France, the King of Spain, or the President of America here, or the head of any other friendly nation here in the name of the Irish State, and the Irish people would extend to them in a very different way a welcome as the head of a friendly nation coming on a friendly visit to their country, and not as a monarch who came to call Ireland his legitimate possession. In one case the Irish people would regard him as a usurper, in the other case it would be the same as a distinguished visitor to their country. Therefore, I am against the Treaty, because it does not do the fundamental thing and bring us peace. The Treaty leaves us a country going through a period of internal strife just as the Act of Union did.

One of the great misfortunes in Ireland for past centuries has been the fact that our internal problems and our internal domestic questions could not be gone into because of the relationship between Ireland and Great Britain. Just as in America during the last Presidential election, it was not the internal affairs of the country were uppermost; it was other matters. It was the big international question. That was the misfortune for America at the time, and it was the great misfortune for Ireland for 120 years, and if the present Pact is agreed on that will continue. I am against it because it is inconsistent with our position, because if we are to say the Irish people don’t mean it, then they should have told us that they didn’t mean it.

Had the Chairman of the delegation said he did not stand for the things they had said they stood for, he would not have been elected. The Irish people can change their minds if they wish to. The Irish people are our masters, and they can do as they like, but only the Irish people can do that, and we should give the people the credit that they meant what they said just as we mean what we say.


I do not think I should continue any further on this matter. I have spoken generally, and if you wish we can take these documents up, article by article, but they have been discussed in Private Session, and I do not think there is any necessity for doing so.


Therefore, I am once more asking you to reject the Treaty for two main reasons, that, as every Teachta knows, it is absolutely inconsistent with our position; it gives away Irish independence; it brings us into the British Empire; it acknowledges the head of the British Empire, not merely as the head of an association, but as the direct monarch of Ireland, as the source of executive authority in Ireland.

The Ministers of Ireland will be His Majesty’s Ministers, the Army that Commandant MacKeon spoke of will be His Majesty’s Army. (Voices: “No.”) You may sneer at words, but I say words mean, and I say in a Treaty words do mean something, else why should they be put down? They have meanings and they have facts, great realities that you cannot close your eyes to. This Treaty means that the Ministers of the Irish Free State will be His Majesty’s Ministers (cries of “No, no,”) and the Irish Forces will be His Majesty’s Forces (“No, no.”) Well, time will tell, and I hope it won’t have a chance, because you will throw this out. If you accept it, time will tell; it cannot be one way in this assembly and another way in the British House of Commons. The Treaty is an agreed document, and there ought [27] to be pretty fairly common interpretation of it. If there are differences of interpretation we know who will get the best of them.

I hold, and I don’t mind my words being on record, that the chief executive authority in Ireland is the British Monarch—the British authority. It is in virtue of that authority the Irish Ministers will function. It is to the Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Army, who will be the English Monarch, they will swear allegiance, these soldiers of Ireland. It is on these grounds as being inconsistent with our position, and with the whole national tradition for 750 years, that it cannot bring peace. Do you think that because you sign documents like this you can change the current of tradition? You cannot. Some of you are relying on that ‘cannot’ to sign this Treaty. But don’t put a barrier in the way of future generations.

Parnell was asked to do something like this—to say it was a final settlement. But he said, “No man has a right to set.” No man “can” is a different thing. “No man has a right” —take the context and you know the meaning. Parnell said practically, “You have no right to ask me, because I have no right to say that any man can set boundaries to the march of a nation.” As far as you can, if you take this you are (cries of “No” and “Yes”) presuming to set bounds to the onward march of a nation (applause).

MR. AUSTIN STACK (MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS): It happens to be my privilege to rise immediately after the President to support his motion that this House do not approve of the document which has been presented to them. I shall be very brief; I shall confine myself to what I regard as the chief defects in the document, namely, those which conflict with my idea of Irish Independence. I regard clauses in this agreement as being the governing clauses. These are Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4. In No. I England purports to bestow on Ireland, an ancient nation, the same constitutional status as any of the British Dominions, and also to bestow her with a Parliament having certain powers. To look at the second clause, it starts off—“Subject to provisions hereinafter set out”—and then she tries to limit you to the powers of the Dominion of Canada. What they may mean I cannot say, beyond this, that the Canadian Dominion is set up under a very old Act which considerably limits its powers. No doubt the words “law, practice, and constitutional usage” are here. I cannot define what these may mean. Other speakers who will come before the assembly may be able to explain them. I certainly cannot. To let us assume that this clause gives to this country full Canadian powers, I for one cannot accept from England full Canadian powers, three-quarter Canadian powers, or half Canadian powers. I stand for what is Ireland’s right, full independence and nothing short of it. It is easy to understand that countries like Australia, New Zealand and the others can put up with the powers which are bestowed on them, can put up with acknowledgments to the monarch and rule of Great Britain as head of their State, for have they not all sprung from England? Are they not children of England? Have they not been built up by Great Britain? Have they not been protected by England and lived under England’s flag for all time? What other feeling can they have but affection for England, which they always regarded as their motherland? This country, on the other hand, has not been a child of England’s, nor never was. England came here as an invader, and for 750 years we have been resisting that conquest. Are we now after those 750 years to bend the knee and acknowledge that we received from England as a concession full, or half, or three-quarter Dominion powers? I say no. Clause 3 of this Treaty gives us a representative of the Crown in Ireland appointed in the same manner as a Governor-General. That Governor-General will act in all respects in the name of the King of England. He will represent the King in the Capital of Ireland and he will open the Parliament which some members of this House seem to be willing to attend. I am sure none of them, indeed, is very anxious to attend it under the circumstances, but, if they accept this Treaty they will have to attend Parliament summoned in the name of the King of Great Britain and Ireland. There is no doubt about that whatever. The fourth paragraph sets out the form of oath, and this form of oath may be divided into two parts. In the first part you swear “true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established.” As [28] the President has stated, according to the Constitution which will be sanctioned under that Parliament, it will be summoned by the representative of the King of England and Ireland and will acknowledge that King. I say even that part of the oath is nothing short of swearing allegiance to the head of that Constitution which will be the King. You express it again when you swear, “and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George V., his heirs and successors by law.” That is clear enough, and I have no hesitation whatever in reading the qualifying words. I say these qualifying words in no way alter the text, or form, or effect of this oath, because what you do in that is to explain the reason why you give faith, why you pledge fealty to King George. You say it is in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and the meaning of that is that you are British subjects. You are British subjects without a doubt, and I challenge anyone here to stand and prove otherwise than that according to this document. If ever you want to travel abroad, to a country where a passport is necessary, your passport must be issued from the British Foreign Office and you must be described as a British subject on it (“No, no.”) All right. If you are mean enough to accept this Treaty, time will tell. You wind up by saying that you further acknowledge that King in virtue of Ireland’s adherence to and membership of the group of nations known as the British Commonwealth of Nations, and all that, of course, is really consistent with the whole thing. You will become a member of the British Empire. Now this question of the oath has an extraordinary significance for me, for, so far as I can trace, no member of my family has ever taken an oath of allegiance to England’s King. When I say that I do not pretend for a moment that men who happened to be descended from, or to be sons of men who took oaths of allegiance to England’s Kings, or men who themselves took oaths of allegiance to England’s Kings are any worse for it. There are men in this assembly who have been comrades of mine in various places, who have been fighting the same fight as I have been fighting, the same fight which we have all been fighting, and which I sincerely hope we will be fighting together again ere long. There are men with whom I was associated in this fight whose fathers had worn England’s uniform and taken oaths of allegiance, and these men were as good men and took their places as well in the fight for Irish independence as any man I ever met. But what I wish to say is this: I was nurtured in the traditions of Fenianism. My father wore England’s uniform as a comrade of Charles Kickham and O’Donovan Rossa when as a ’67 man he was sentenced to ten years for being a rebel, but he wore it minus the oath of allegiance. If I, as I hope I will, try to continue to fight for Ireland’s liberty, even if this rotten document be accepted, I will fight minus the oath of allegiance and to wipe out the oath of allegiance if I can do it. Now I ask you has any man here the idea in his head, has any man here the hardihood to stand up and say that it was for this our fathers have suffered, that it was for this our comrades have died on the field and in the barrack yard. If you really believe in your hearts that it was vote for it. If you don’t believe it in your hearts vote against it. It is for you now to make up your minds. To-day or to-morrow will be, I think, the most fateful days in Irish history. I will conclude by quoting two of Russell Lowell’s lines:—

“Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide,

In the strife ‘twixt truth and falsehood for the good or evil side.”


COUNT PLUNKETT (LEITRIM AND NORTH ROSCOMMON): A Chinn Chomhairle, I rise to support the President in his motion to reject the resolution put forward by Mr. Arthur Griffith. I have the greatest personal respect and a recognition of the personal honour of those who went to London in the hope, in the expectation, I presume, that they would bring back a settlement that could be agreed to by the Irish people and ratified by them, and that would be satisfactory to the conscience of Irishmen. But I am sorry to say that Mr. Arthur Griffith, while he has kept the word of promise to the ear, has broken it to the cup. I am in favour of the rejection of this Treaty on the ground that it is not reconcilable with the conscience of the Irish people. I am in favour of its rejection because I myself in conscience [29] could not stand by it. It proposes that all the schemes that have been brought up across our track during our fight for liberty should be substituted for the plain intention of the Irish people in inaugurating and carrying to a great point of success the struggle for Irish liberty.

The scheme put forward by Sir Horace Plunkett and Captain Henry Harrison was scornfully laughed at, because it was common knowledge that these gentlemen could not deliver the goods. Accordingly Captain Harrison dissolved the Dominion League. The schemes put forward at the Convention called by the English Government were rejected with scorn, for no broad-minded Irishman would enter that assembly. It was a manufactured assembly and did not express the views of the Irish people; but to-day by a side-wind you are told that the only thing for you to do is to accept these rejected things.


You were told that your national liberties will be secured by handing them over to the authority of the British Government. You are told that the vile thing that was rejected, not only by our generation but by past generations of fighting men, that this scheme by which we will be put under the authority of the Imperial Government, swearing an oath of allegiance to the English King, that this is the means by which you will achieve your liberty. If you were to achieve it by this means it would mean by treachery among our own, it would mean that we are to be false either to one oath or the other, and if I take an oath and devote myself to the fight for national liberty I am not going, whatever the threat of war or any other device, to abandon the cause to which I have devoted my life. I am faithful to my oath. I am faithful to the dead. I am faithful to my own boys, one of whom died for Ireland with his back to the wall and the other two who were sentenced to death. And I saw them afterwards wearing what has been described as the livery of England during the beginning of a sentence of ten years’ penal servitude. Am I to go back now on the ingenious suggestion that by some unexpected contrivance Ireland is to secure her liberty by giving it away. No, I am no more an enemy of peace than Arthur Griffith. I am no more an enemy of an understanding, an honest, straight understanding, between England and Ireland than any man here, but I will never sacrifice the independence of Ireland simply for the purpose of securing a cessation of warfare. Now look at what has been already accomplished. The men of 1916 went out and fought the whole power of the British Empire. Did they lose? They went down, but they went down as victors. Instead of an irresolute body of people who had handed over their judgment to a little group of politicians, they were a resolute nation backing the little forces of Ireland, so that the power of Ireland was not in the hands of a few hundred men, but in the hands of four-and-a-half millions of people. That is the position which the men of 1916 secured, and that fight has been carried on ever since not merely with the countenance of the Irish people, but with the assistance and backings of the Irish people. To tell me that the men who allowed their houses to be burned over their heads and still did not relinquish their nationality, the men whose children were shot before their eyes and who for the national good had given up all hope of success in this world, were going to sign a document handing over these liberties to the English Government in the hope that England in a fit of generosity will not take the bond as binding. No. As men of honour we must respect our oaths, as men of principle we must stand by the principle of liberty, and as men whose word is as good as their bond we must see that no man takes an oath here with the secret intention of breaking it. We have taken an oath of fidelity to the Republic, and are we going to take a false oath now to King George? Under no conditions will I sacrifice my personal honour in such a manner. I don’t believe that the men who foolishly imagine such a thing can be done can resist the corruption that inevitably comes of dishonour.

MR. JOSEPH MCBRIDE (NORTH AND WEST MAYO): I am standing in support of the ratification of the Treaty brought home from London by the plenipotentiaries of Ireland. I support it because I consider it will be for the best interests of this country. I support the ratification because I know the people demand its ratification. I support the ratification of it because I know that the ideals for which I have worked, and for which others who are listening [30] to me worked through many long and weary years, will be quicker attained by ratification of this Treaty than otherwise. I have the honour to know a number of men who suffered and laboured not only in this generation but in other generations, and I know it would be the last thing that they should wish that their labours and their sufferings should be used in order to press an argument in a controversy such as this. Their labours and their sufferings piled high on their country’s altar will be as a beacon to the generations that are to come. Unity seems to be a fetish with some people in this assembly. They fear a split. I don’t. Probably they have in their minds the foul implications and the degradation of the Parnell split. But cannot we agree to differ? I know nothing about the President except what the public know, but I would be grievously surprised if he carried on any controversy that should arise out of our differences here in any other than in a dignified and courteous manner. Arthur Griffith I know for a good number of years. I know how hard he worked and of his unselfishness. I am aware of his erudition and of his consistent line in the political movement in Ireland, and I know that he would not stoop to anything undignified. Who did you send to London?—a bevy of foolish children without sense of responsibility? Who did you send to London? Men of honesty and of ability, men of affairs, honourable men. You entrusted your honour to them and they did not betray it. They went to London with thorough and complete powers to make a Treaty. They arrived at a Treaty, an honourable Treaty, and that Treaty I am prepared to vote for, because I know in voting for its ratification I am serving the best interests of this country and of my own people.

The House adjourned at 1 o’clock until 3.30 to enable President de Valera to attend the ceremony of his induction as Chancellor of the National University.

On resuming after Luncheon, THE SPEAKER took the Chair at 3.45 p.m.

MR. MICHAEL COLLINS (MINISTER FOR FINANCE): A Chinn Chomhairle, much has been said in Private Session about the action of the plenipotentiaries in signing at all or in signing without first putting their document before the Cabinet. I want to state as clearly as I can, and as briefly as I can—I cannot promise you to be very brief—what the exact position was. It has been fully explained how the Delegation returned from London on that momentous Saturday to meet the Cabinet at home. We came back with a document from the British Delegation which we presented to the Cabinet. Certain things happened at that Cabinet Meeting, and the Delegation, on returning, put before the British Delegation as well as they could their impressions of the decisions —I will not say conclusions—arrived at at that Cabinet Meeting. I do not want unduly to press the word decisions. I want to be fair to everybody. I can only say they were decisions in this way, that we went away with certain impressions in our minds and that we did our best faithfully to transmit these impressions to paper in the memorandum we handed in to the British Delegation. It was well understood at that Cabinet Meeting that Sir James Craig was receiving a reply from the British Premier on Tuesday morning. Some conclusion as between the British Delegation and ourselves had, therefore, to be come to and handed in to the British Delegation on the Monday night. Now, we went away with a document which none of us would sign. It must have been obvious, that being so, that in the meantime a document arose which we thought we could sign. There was no opportunity of referring it to our people at home. Actually on the Monday night we did arrive at conclusions which we thought we could agree to and we had to say “Yes” across the table, and I may say that we said “Yes.” It was later on that same day that the document was signed. But I do not now, and I did not then, regard my word as being anything more important, or a bit less important, than my signature on a document. Now, I also want to make this clear. The answer which I gave and that signature which I put on that document would be the same in Dublin or in Berlin, or in New York or in Paris. If we had been in Dublin the difference in distance would have made this difference, that we would have been able to consult not only the members of the Cabinet but many members of the Dáil and many good friends. There has been talk about “the atmosphere of London” and there has been talk about “slippery slopes.” Such talk is beside the point. I knew the atmosphere of London of old and I knew many other things about it of old. If the members knew so much about “slippery slopes” before we went there why did they not speak then? The slopes were surely slippery, but it is easy to be wise afterwards. I submit that such observations are entirely beside the point. And if my signature has been given in error, I stand by it whether it has or not, and I am not going to take refuge behind any kind of subterfuge. I stand up over that signature and I give the same decision at this moment in this assembly (applause). It has also been suggested that the Delegation broke down before the first bit of English bluff. I would remind the Deputy who used that expression that England put up quite a good bluff for the last five years here and I did not break down before that bluff (applause, and a voice, “That is the stuff”). And does anybody think that the respect I compelled from them in a few years was in any way lowered during two months of negotiations? That also is beside the point. The results of our labour are before the Dáil. Reject or accept. The President has suggested that a greater result could have been obtained by more skilful handling. Perhaps so. But there again the fault is not the delegation’s; it rests with the Dáil. It is not afterwards the Dáil should have found out our limitations. Surely the Dáil knew it when they selected us, and our abilities could not have been expected to increase because we were chosen as plenipotentiaries by the Dáil. The delegates have been blamed for various things. It is scarcely too much to say that they have been blamed for not returning with recognition of the Irish Republic. They are blamed, at any rate, for not having done much better. A Deputy when speaking the other day with reference to Canada suggested that what may apply with safety to Canada would not at all apply to Ireland because of the difference in distance from Great Britain. It seemed to me that he did not regard the delegation as being wholly without responsibility for the geographical propinquity of Ireland to Great Britain. It is further suggested that by the result of their labours the delegation made a resumption of hostilities certain. That again rests with the Dáil; they should have chosen a better delegation, and it was before we went to London that should have been done, not when we returned.

Now, Sir, before I come to the Treaty itself, I must say a word on another vexed question—the question as to whether the terms of reference meant any departure from the absolutely rigid line of the isolated Irish Republic. Let me read to you in full (at the risk of wearying you) the two final communications which passed between Mr. Lloyd George and President de Valera.

“From Lloyd George to de Valera.” (It is a telegram. In that way the word ‘President’ was not an omission on my part.)


“Sept. 29th, 1921.

“His Majesty’s Government have given close and earnest consideration to the correspondence which has passed between us since their invitation to you to send delegates to a conference at Inverness. In spite of their sincere desire for peace, and in spite of the more conciliatory tone of your last communication, they cannot enter a conference upon the basis of this correspondence. Notwithstanding your personal assurance to the contrary, which they much appreciate, it might be argued in future that the acceptance of a conference on this basis had involved them in a recognition which no British Government can accord. On this point they must guard themselves against any possible doubt. There is no purpose to be served by any further interchange of explanatory and argumentative communications upon this subject. The position taken up by His Majesty’s Government is fundamental to the existence of the British Empire and they cannot alter it. My colleagues and I remain, however, keenly anxious to make in co-operation with your delegates another determined effort to explore every possibility of settlement by personal discussion. The proposals which we have already made have been taken by the whole world as proof that our endeavours for reconciliation and settlement are no empty form, and we feel that conference, not correspondence, is the most practicable and hopeful way to an understanding such as we ardently desire to achieve. We, therefore, send you herewith a fresh invitation to a conference in London on October 11th where we can meet your delegates as spokesmen of the people whom you represent with a view to ascertaining how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish National aspirations.”

“From de Valera to Lloyd George.

“30th Sept., 1921.

“We have received your letter of invitation to a Conference in London on October 11th ‘with a view to ascertaining how the association of Ireland with the community of Nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish National aspirations.’

“Our respective positions have been stated and are understood, and we agree that conference, not correspondence, is the most practicable and hopeful way to an understanding. We accept the invitation, and our delegates will meet you in London on the date mentioned ‘to explore every possibility of settlement by personal discussion’.”

This question of association was bandied around as far back as August 10th and went on until the final communication. The communication of September 29th from Lloyd George made it clear that they were going into a conference not on the recognition of the Irish Republic, and I say if we all stood on the recognition of the Irish Republic as a prelude to any conference we could very easily have said so, and there would be no conference. What I want to make clear is that it was the acceptance of the invitation that formed the compromise. I was sent there to form that adaptation, to bear the brunt of it. Now as one of the signatories of the document I naturally recommend its acceptance. I do not recommend it for more than it is. Equally I do not recommend it for less than it is. In my opinion it gives us freedom, not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire and develop to, but the freedom to achieve it (applause).

A Deputy has stated that the delegation should introduce this Treaty not, he describes, as bagmen for England, but with an apology for its introduction. I cannot imagine anything more mean, anything more despicable, anything more unmanly than this dishonouring of one’s signature. Rightly or wrongly when you make a bargain you cannot alter it, you cannot go back and get sorry for it and say “I ought to have made a better bargain.” Business cannot be done on those bases. I must make reference to the signing of the Treaty. This Treaty was not signed under personal intimidation. If personal intimidation had been attempted no member of the delegation would have signed it.

At a fateful moment I was called upon to make a decision, and if I were called upon at the present moment for a decision on the same question my decision would be the same. Let there be no mistake and no misunderstanding about that.

I have used the word “intimidation.” The whole attitude of Britain towards Ireland in the past was an attitude of intimidation, and we, as negotiators, were not in the position of conquerors dictating terms of peace to a vanquished foe. We had not beaten the enemy out of our country by force of arms.

To return to the Treaty, hardly anyone, even those who support it, really understands it, and it is necessary to explain it, and the immense powers and liberties it secures. This is my justification for having signed it, and for recommending it to the nation. Should the Dáil reject it, I am, as I said, no longer responsible. But I am responsible for making the nation fully understand what it gains by accepting it, and what is involved in its rejection. So long as I have made that clear I am perfectly happy and satisfied. Now we must look facts in the face. For our continued national and spiritual existence two things are necessary—security and freedom. If the Treaty gives us these or helps us to get at these, then I maintain that it satisfies our national aspirations. The history of this nation has not been, as is so often said, the history of a military struggle of 750 years; it has been much more a history of peaceful penetration of 750 years. It has not been a struggle for the ideal of freedom for 750 years symbolised in the name Republic. It has been a story of slow, steady, economic encroach by England. It has been a struggle on our part to prevent that, a struggle against exploitation, a struggle against the cancer that was eating up our lives, and it was only after discovering that, that it was economic penetration, that we discovered that [33] political freedom was necessary in order that that should be stopped. Our aspirations, by whatever term they may be symbolised, had one thing in front all the time, that was to rid the country of the enemy strength. Now it was not by any form of communication except through their military strength that the English held this country. That is simply a plain fact which, I think, nobody will deny. It wasn’t by any forms of government, it wasn’t by their judiciary or anything of that kind. These people could not operate except for the military strength that was always there. Now, starting from that, I maintain that the disappearance of that military strength gives us the chief proof that our national liberties are established. And as to what has been said about guarantees of the withdrawal of that military strength, no guarantees, I say, can alter the fact of their withdrawal, because we are a weaker nation, and we shall be a weaker nation for a long time to come. But certain things do give us a certain guarantee. We are defined as having the constitutional status of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. If the English do not withdraw the military strength, our association with those places do give us, to some extent, a guarantee that they must withdraw them. I know that it would be finer to stand alone, but if it is necessary to our security, if it is necessary to the development of our own life, and if we find we cannot stand alone, what can we do but enter into some association? Now I have prepared part of this which I am going to read very carefully. I have said that I am not a constitutional lawyer. I am going to give a constitutional opinion in what I am going to read, and I will back that constitutional opinion against the opinion of any Deputy, lawyer or otherwise, in this Dáil.

(Reading): The status as defined is the same constitutional status in the “community of nations known as the British Empire,” as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. And here let me say that in my judgment it is not a definition of any status that would secure us that status, it is the power to hold and to make secure and to increase what we have gained.

The fact of Canadian and South African independence is something real and solid, and will grow in reality and force as time goes on. Judged by that touchstone, the relations between Ireland and Britain will have a certainty of freedom and equality which cannot be interfered with. England dare not in-interfere with Canada. Any attempt to interfere with us would be even more difficult in consequence of the reference to the “constitutional status” of Canada and South Africa.

They are, in effect, introduced as guarantors of our freedom, which makes us stronger than if we stood alone.

In obtaining the “constitutional status” of Canada, our association with England is based not on the present technical legal position of Canada. It is an old Act, the Canadian Act, and the advances in freedom from it have been considerable. That is the reply to one Deputy who spoke to-day of the real position, the complete freedom equality with Canada has given us. I refer now not to the legal technical status, but to the status they have come to, the status which enables Canada to send an Ambassador to Washington, the status which enables Canada to sign the Treaty of Versailles equally with Great Britain, the status which prevents Great Britain from entering into any foreign alliance without the consent of Canada, the status that gives Canada the right to be consulted before she may go into any war. It is not the definition of that status that will give it to us; it is our power to take it and to keep it, and that is where I differ from the others. I believe in our power to take it and to keep it. I believe in our future civilisation. As I have said already, as a plain Irishman, I believe in my own interpretation against the interpretation of any Englishman. Lloyd George and Churchill have been quoted here against us. I say the quotation of those people is what marks the slave mind. There are people in this assembly who will take their words before they will take my words. That is the slave mind.

The only departure from the Canadian status is the retaining by England of the defences of four harbours, and the holding of some other facilities to be used possibly in time of war. But if England wished to re-invade us she could do so with or without these facilities. And with the “constitutional status” of Canada we are assured that these facilities could never be used by England for our re-invasion.

If there was no association, if we stood alone, the occupation of the ports might probably be a danger to us. Associated in a free partnership with these other nations it is not a danger, for their association is a guarantee that it won’t be used as a jumping-off ground against us. And that same person tells me that we haven’t Dominion status because of the occupation of these ports, but that South Africa had even when Simonstown was occupied. I cannot accept that argument. I am not an apologist for this Treaty. We have got rid of the word “Empire.” For the first time in an official document the former Empire is styled “The Community of Nations known as the British Empire.” Common citizenship has been mentioned. Common citizenship is the substitution for the subjection of Ireland. It is an admission by them that they no longer can dominate Ireland. As I have said, the English penetration has not merely been a military penetration. At the present moment the economic penetration goes on. I need only give you a few instances. Every day our Banks become incorporated or allied to British interests, every day our Steamship Companies go into English hands, every day some other business concern in this city is taken over by an English concern and becomes a little oasis of English customs and manners. Nobody notices, but that is the thing that has destroyed our Gaelic civilisation. That is a thing that we are able to stop, not perhaps if we lose the opportunity of stopping it now. That is one of the things that I consider is important, and to the nation’s life perhaps more important than the military penetration. And this gives us the opportunity of stopping it. Indeed when we think of the thing from that economic point of view it would be easy to go on with the physical struggle in comparison with it.

Do we think at all of what it means to look forward to the directing of the organisation of the nation? Is it one of the things we are prepared to undertake? If we came back with the recognition of the Irish Republic we would need to start somewhere. Are we simply going to go on keeping ourselves in slavery and subjection, for ever keeping on an impossible fight? Are we never going to stand on our own feet? Now I had an argument based on a comparison of the Treaty with the second document, and part of the argument was to read the clauses of the second document. In deference to what the President has said I shall not at this stage make use of that argument. I don’t want to take anything that would look like an unfair advantage. I am not standing for this thing to get advantage over anybody, and whatever else the President will say about me, I think he will admit that.

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I never said anything but the highest.

MR. MICHAEL COLLINS (MINISTER FOR FINANCE): Now I have explained something as to what the Treaty is. I also want to explain to you as one of the signatories what I consider rejection of it means. It has been said that the alternative document does not mean war. Perhaps it does, perhaps it does not. That is not the first part of the argument. I say that rejection of the Treaty is a declaration of war until you have beaten the British Empire, apart from any alternative document. Rejection of the Treaty means your national policy is war. If you do this, if you go on that as a national policy, I for one am satisfied. But I want you to go on it as a national policy and understand what it means. I, as an individual, do not now, no more than ever, shirk war. The Treaty was signed by me, not because they held up the alternative of immediate war. I signed it because I would not be one of those to commit the Irish people to war without the Irish people committing themselves to war. If my constituents send me to represent them in war, I will do my best to represent them in war. Now I was not going to refer to anything that had been said by the speakers of the Coalition side to-day. I do want to say this in regard to the President’s remark about Pitt, a remark, it will be admitted, which was not very flattering to us. Well, now, what happened at the time of the Union? Grattan’s Parliament was thrown away without reference to the people and against their wishes. Is the Parliament which this Treaty offers us to be similarly treated? Is it to be thrown away without reference to the people and against their wishes?


(A VOICE: The Free State).


MR. MICHAEL COLLINS (MINISTER FOR FINANCE): I would like you to keep on interrupting, because I was looking at a point here. I am disappointed that I was not interrupted more. In our Private Sessions we have been treated to harangues about principle. Not one Deputy has stated a clear, steadfast, abiding principle on which we can stand. Deputies have talked of principle. At different times I have known different Deputies to hold different principles. How can I say, how can anyone say, that these Deputies may not change their principles again? How can anyone say that anybody—a Deputy or a supporter—who has fought against the Irish Nation on principle may not fight against it again on principle? I am not impeaching anybody, but I do want to talk straight. I am the representative of an Irish stock; I am the representative equally with any other member of the same stock of people who have suffered through the terror in the past. Our grandfathers have suffered from war, and our fathers or some of our ancestors have died of famine. I don’t want a lecture from anybody as to what my principles are to be now. I am just a representative of plain Irish stock whose principles have been burned into them, and we don’t want any assurance to the people of this country that we are going to betray them. We are one of themselves. I can state for you a principle which everybody will understand, the principle of “government by the consent of the governed.” These words have been used by nearly every Deputy at some time or another. Are the Deputies going to be afraid of these words now, supposing the formula happens to go against them? (PRESIDENT DE VALERA: “No, no.”) I have heard Deputies remark that their constituents are in favour of this Treaty. The Deputies have got their powers from their constituents and they are responsible to their constituents. I have stated the principle which is the only firm principle in the whole thing. Now I have gone into more or less a general survey of the Treaty, apart from one section of it, the section dealing with North-East Ulster. Again I am as anxious to face facts in that case as I am in any other case. We have stated we would not coerce the North-East. We have stated it officially in our correspondence. I stated it publicly in Armagh and nobody has found fault with it. What did we mean? Did we mean we were going to coerce them or we were not going to coerce them? What was the use of talking big phrases about not agreeing to the partition of our country. Surely we recognise that the North-East corner does exist, and surely our intention was that we should take such steps as would sooner or later lead to mutual understanding. The Treaty has made an effort to deal with it, and has made an effort, in my opinion, to deal with it on lines that will lead very rapidly to goodwill, and the entry of the North-East under the Irish Parliament (applause). I don’t say it is an ideal arrangement, but if our policy is, as has been stated, a policy of non-coercion, then let somebody else get a better way out of it. Now, summing up —and nobody can say that I haven’t talked plainly—I say that this Treaty gives us, not recognition of the Irish Republic, but it gives us more recognition on the part of Great Britain and the associated States than we have got from any other nation. Again I want to speak plainly. America did not recognise the Irish Republic. As things in London were coming to a close I received cablegrams from America. I understand that my name is pretty well known in America, and what I am going to say now will make me unpopular there for the rest of my life, but I am not going to say anything or hide anything for the sake of American popularity. I received a cablegram from San Francisco, saying, “Stand fast, we will send you a million dollars a month.” Well, my reply to that is, “Send us half-a-million and send us a thousand men fully equipped.” I received another cablegram from a branch of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic and they said to me, “Don’t weaken now, stand with de Valera.” Well, let that branch come over and stand with us both (applause). The question before me was were we going to go on with this fight, without referring it to the Irish people, for the sake of propaganda in America? I was not going to take that responsibility. And as this may be the last opportunity  I shall ever have of speaking publicly to the Dáil, I want to say that there was never an Irishman placed in such a position as I was by reason of these negotiations. I had got a certain name, whether I deserved it or not. (Voices: “You did, well”), and I knew when I was going over there that I was being placed in a position that I could not reconcile, and that I could not in the public mind be reconciled with what they thought I stood for, no matter what we brought back,—and if we brought back the recognition of the Republic—but I knew that the English would make a greater effort if I were there than they would if I were not there, and I didn’t care if my popularity was sacrificed or not. I should have been unfair to my own country if I did not go there. Members of the Dáil well remember that I protested against being selected. I want to say another thing. It will be remembered that a certain incident occurred in the South of Ireland, an incident which led to the excommunication of the whole population of that district. At the time I took responsibility for that in our private councils. I take responsibility for it now publicly. I only want to say that I stand for every action as an individual member of the Cabinet, which I suppose I shall be no longer; I stand for every action, no matter how it looked publicly, and I shall always like the men to remember me like that. In coming to the decision I did I tried to weigh what my own responsibility was. Deputies have spoken about whether dead men would approve of it, and they have spoken of whether children yet unborn will approve of it, but few of them have spoken as to whether the living approve of it. In my own small way I tried to have before my mind what the whole lot of them would think of it. And the proper way for us to look at it is in that way. There is no man here who has more regard for the dead men than I have (hear, hear). I don’t think it is fair to be quoting them against us. I think the decision ought to be a clear decision on the documents as they are before us —on the Treaty as it is before us. On that we shall be judged, as to whether we have done the right thing in our own conscience or not. Don’t let us put the responsibility, the individual responsibility, upon anybody else. Let us take that responsibility ourselves and let us in God’s name abide by the decision (applause).

MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS (KILDARE AND WICKLOW): I think everybody will agree that we have listened to a most able and eloquent speech. I most heartily agree to it, though I am in profound disagreement with the conclusions of the speaker. He has said many things which I admire and respect, he has said others that I profoundly regret. All of us agree, I think, that we have listened to a manly, eloquent, and worthy speech from the Minister for Finance (hear, hear).

I wish to recall this assembly to the immediate subject before us, one side of which was hardly touched upon, indeed if it was touched upon at all, by the Minister for Finance, the question whether Dáil Eireann, the national assembly of the people of Ireland, having declared its independence, shall approve of and ratify a Treaty relinquishing deliberately and abandoning that independence. I must say for my own part that I missed in the speeches both of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Finance some note, however distant, of regret for the effect in significance of the step they were taking, and had taken, in London, that is, they were asking this assembly, Dáil Eireann, to vote its own extinction in history, which they more perhaps than anybody else had done so much to make honourable and noble. There is one thing more I would like to say, because I think the two speeches delivered by the leading members of the delegation have left it still obscure. I hardly know, indeed, what impression is left upon the minds of the delegates as a result of their speeches. It is the question of what the delegation was entitled to do and set out to do when it went to London as compared with what it has done. The Minister for Finance spoke of an isolated Republic and said quite rightly that there was no question when the delegation went to London of an isolated Republic standing alone without tie association with any other association in the world. No such question was before Dáil Eireann or the nation. The sole question before the nation, Dáil Eireann, and the delegation was how is it possible to effect an association with the British Commonwealth which would be honourable to the Irish nation? And it ought [37] to be known and understood, for certainly the speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs was misleading, in my opinion, on the point. It ought to be understood that that object was held before the delegation to the last, except that last terrible hour, and that the counter proposals put up to the British Government did, on the face of them, and in their text, preserve the independence of Ireland while arranging to associate it with the British Commonwealth. Until the last moment that proposal was before the British Government. That should be understood by Dáil Eireann, and I hope other members of the delegation will confirm what I have said.

There was no question in the action of the delegation in London of acting on some sub-conscious or unadmitted resolve to betray the Republic and to commit Ireland to an association which would forfeit her independence, none to my knowledge, at any rate, and I was scretary to the delegation. The proposals on our side were honourable proposals. They stated in explicit terms that they demanded the preservation of the independence of our country, to exclude the King of England and British authority wholly from our country, and only when that was done, and Ireland was absolutely free in Irish affairs, to enter an association on free and honourable terms with Britain.

That, alas! was lost in the last hour of the time the delegation spent in London and the result was the Treaty. The Minister for Finance has spoken generally of that Treaty as placing Ireland in the position of Canada, giving her Canadian status—“equality of status with Great Britain” was the phrase used by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I think, too, by the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Foreign Affairs used the phrase, “a final settlement.” “A settlement that is not final,” was the phrase used by the Minister for Finance. There was that broad and fundamental distinction between them. At any rate the settlement is commended to you as placing Ireland in a position virtually as free as Canada, although technically making her subject to the control of the British Crown and of the British Parliament. Apart altogether from the question as to whether this assembly shall, or even can, surrender its own independence and declare itself subject to the British Crown and Parliament, does the Treaty before you carry out what the Minister for Finance represented that it does carry out? It does not. It should be understood clearly by Dáil Eireann—by all here—that this Treaty does not give you what is called Dominion status. The Minister for Finance passed lightly over this clause concerning the occupation of our ports. He did less than justice to the subject. You have read, all of you, no doubt carefully, Clauses 6 and 7 of the Treaty. What is the actual effect of those clauses, and how do they affect the status of Ireland if this Treaty were to be passed? It is not merely a question of occupying ports. Clause No. 6 in effect declares that the people of Ireland inhabiting the island called Ireland have no responsibility for defending that island from foreign attack. Foreign attack can come only over the sea. This clause declares that Ireland is unfit, or rather—for we all know the real reason—too dangerous a neighbour to be entrusted with her own coastal defence. And, therefore, in that clause is the most humiliating condition that can be inflicted on any nation claiming to be free, namely, that it is not to be allowed to provide defence against attack by a foreign enemy. There is, it is true, a little proviso saying that the matter will be reconsidered in five years, but there is no guarantee whatever that anything will result from that reconsideration, and the most the reconsideration will amount to is that she is to be allowed to take over a share in her own coastal defence. Clause No. 7 declares that permanently and for ever some of our most important ports are to be occupied by British Forces. Here there is no question of Dominion status, no question of constitutional usage— these qualifying words that are used in the second clause of the Treaty. For ever that occupation is to continue, and in time of war, says sub-section B., or strained relations with a foreign Power, such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the purpose of such defence as aforesaid. In other words, when she pleases to announce that there are strained relations with a foreign Power, or when England is actually in war with a foreign Power, any use whatever can be made of this island whether for naval or military purposes. I need not say that no such conditions or limitations attach to any [38] dominion, least of all Canada. Canada is absolutely free to defend her own coast, to raise her own naval forces and military forces, and, as the Minister for Finance truly pointed out, Canada has a real and genuine share in the decision of those great questions of foreign policy, and on peace and war upon which the destiny of a nation depends. Ireland under this Treaty will have none. What is the use of talking of equality, what is the use of talking of a share in foreign policy, what is the use of talking of responsibility for making treaties and alliances with foreign nations which may involve a country in war? Nothing is to be gained from a share in taking part on decisions of that immense magnitude unless the country which has that share has the power, if it pleases, to say “I will not be a party to that Treaty, I will not be a party to that war.” If she has not that power she has no power. She may discuss and discuss and no one will listen to her. And let me point out to this assembly the very vital significance of that in the case of Ireland. You speak of Canada, the conferring on Ireland of Canada’s status. Imagine that Ireland is on a par with Canada in regard to these powers. What is Canada? Half a continent. The closest part is nearly 3,000 miles from Britain, and the furthest part 7,000 miles, a great, immense nation, absolutely unconquerable by England, and, what is even more important, attached to England by ties of blood which produces such relations between them that there is no desire on England’s part to conquer—two great factors, the distance which renders Canada unconquerable and the blood tie. Canada has a real share in these great questions unquestionably. What is the position of Ireland? After 750 years of war, lying close up against the shores of her great neighbour, what guarantee has she, what equal voice can she have in the decisions of these questions, with England actually occupying her shores, committing her inevitably, legally, constitutionally and in every other way to all her foreign policies and to all her wars? That governing condition England has, that Ireland under this Treaty would have no real power to free action, independent action. Where English interests are concerned they will govern and limit every condition and clause in that Treaty now before you. It is useless to point to the words in Clause 2—“constitutional usage.” Supposing that these words either in these military or naval matters, or in any other matter, are going to be construed as conferring on Ireland the same power as is held by Canada, how can they be so construed if a question arises as to the construction of a clause? Under the Canadian Constitution Canada has always the power to say, “Very well, we differ about its construction. I shall put my own interpretation upon it and I shall give up my relation with you altogether.” That is the strength of Canada’s position. The blood tie with Canada which naturally produces loyalty and sentimental affection to England cannot reasonably, cannot possibly, cannot humanly be expected from the Irish nation after its 750 years. Now read your Treaty in the light of those conditions. I suppose few people have any doubt as to what legally the Treaty means. The Minister for Finance talked lightly, it seemed to me, of the construction they would put on this Treaty, how they would read it in their own way. The Treaty is a Treaty; it will bind Ireland, and the Minister for Finance is bound to show that the Treaty which he and his colleagues have brought back from London places Ireland in a position which she can honourably accept as it stands at this moment, and can honourably carry out with England, without afterthoughts, without any insincere reservations as to what is possible, what is not possible, as to the meaning of oaths and matters like that; he is bound to show that the Treaty as it lies before you establishes a settlement of this ancient question. Now under what title will Ireland hold her position under this Treaty? You are all told that this is a Treaty. It was not signed as a Treaty. It has since been called a Treaty. I don’t lay stress on that distinction of words, but what I do lay stress on is this, that the constitution of Ireland and the relation of Ireland to England are going to depend, so far as Ireland is concerned, on the Act of a British Parliament. Nobody knew yet what form that Act is going to take, and it is one of the surprising features of these negotiations that no undertaking or guarantee has been obtained before the Treaty was signed as to exactly how it was going to be carried out by the British Government; but that it must [39] depend upon the Act of the British Parliament is certain. Canada’s Constitution depends upon the Act of 1867, and unquestionably Ireland’s position will depend upon it too. What does this assembly think of that? Do you, or do you not, think that the freedom and liberties of Ireland are inherent in the people of Ireland, derived from the people, and can only be surrendered by the people, or do you think your liberties, your right to freedom, are derived from the act and will of the British Government.

MR. HOGAN (GALWAY): On a point of order, is a Deputy entitled to deliberately misquote one of the documents in front of us? Here is the letter read by Mr. Griffith:—“The framing of that Constitution will be in the hands of the Irish Government.”

MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS (KILDARE AND WICKLOW): The Deputy who has just spoken has made a very interesting interruption. He quotes from a letter of Mr. Lloyd George, and with all respect to the Minister for Finance, who objected very strongly to our quoting from Mr. Lloyd George, the Deputy behind him is in agreement with him.

MR. HOGAN (GALWAY): If there is to be quoting it should be actual quoting.

MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS (KILDARE AND WICKLOW): “The framing of that Constitution will be in the hands of the Irish Government, subject (of course) to the terms of this agreement” (applause). Now I do seriously wish to warn the members of the Dáil if they are going to take this tremendous and momentous step of ratifying this Treaty, not to do it under any foolish and idle illusions as to the meaning of what they are doing. Does the Deputy really suggest that Ireland is going to have freedom to form any Constitution she pleases—“subject to the terms of this agreement” and every limitation, and there are a hundred of them, that are in this Constitution of Canada under the British Act of 1867, all the fundamental limitations as to the authority of the Crown, and the authority of the British Government will inevitably appear in the Irish Constitution if it is framed under the terms of this Treaty. What will appear? The first thing that will appear will be that the legislature of Ireland will be no longer Dáil Eireann, the body I am addressing; it will consist of King and Commons and Senate of Ireland. The King will be part of the legislature of this island, and the King will have powers there. If not the King himself, there would be the King’s representative in Ireland, the Governor-General, or whatever he may be. The King, representing the British Government, or the Governor-General, will have power to give or refuse assent to Irish legislation. Now I know very well—no one better than I do—I may just say in passing, I, like all lovers of freedom, have watched and followed the development of freedom in British Dominions, and Canada with intense interest. No one knows better than I do that power is virtually obsolete in Canada. Do you suppose that power is going to be obsolete in Ireland? How can it be?

A DEPUTY: 40,000 bayonets.

MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS (KILDARE AND WICKLOW): If Ireland’s destiny is to be irrevocably linked with England in this Treaty, if the association with her is that of a bond slave, as it is, under these Clauses 6 and 7, do you suppose that that supremacy of England is going to be an idle phrase in the case of Ireland? Do you? Don’t you see every act and deed of the Irish Parliament is going to be jealously watched from over the water, and that every act of legislation done by Ireland will be read in the light of that inflexible condition that Ireland is virtually a protectorate of England, for under this Treaty she is nothing more. “Under the Constitution of Canada, the Executive Government and authority of, and over, Canada, is hereby declared to continue, and be vested in the Queen”; that is to say now, the King. That clause, or something corresponding to it, will appear in the Constitution of Ireland without question. And here again what does the King mean? The functions of the King as an individual are very small indeed. What the King means is the British Government, and let there be no mistake, under the terms of this Treaty the British Government is going to be supreme in Ireland (cries of “No!”). It is useless again to refer to Canada. Canada is 3,000 miles away.

A DEPUTY: We cannot help that.

MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS (KILDARE AND WICKLOW): I know we cannot help it, but there was one way of helping it. That was to have stood by the proposals that were made in London by the Irish Delegation to the British Government, until the last moment. That was the way to avoid it, and to declare, as they declared, that authority in Ireland—legislative, executive, and judicial—shall be derived solely from the people of Ireland (applause). That was a way out of it, and I hope and believe it remains a way out of it still (hear, hear). Establish that principle that authority in Ireland belongs solely to the Irish people, then make your association, and the rights of Ireland are safe. Pass that Treaty admitting the King to Ireland, or rather retaining him him as he is in Ireland now, retain him while recognising him, recognise the British Government in Ireland, and your rights and independence are lost for ever. It should be remembered, too, that the King’s representative in Ireland, the Governor-General, will be there definitely as the centre of British Government in Ireland. I do not know if it is realised what the full significance the proximity of Ireland to England means. But you cannot have it both ways. It is useless for the Minister for Finance to say certain things are necessary because Ireland is nearer England, and at the same time to say that Ireland would get all the powers of Canada which is 3,000 miles away. These two proposals are contradictory. The Governor-General in Ireland will be close to Downing Street. He can communicate by telephone to Downing Street. He will be in close and intimate touch with British Ministers. Irish Ministers will be the King’s Ministers; the Irish Provisional Government that under this Treaty is going to be set up, within a month would be the King’s Provisional Government. Every executive Act in Ireland, every administrative function in Ireland, would be performed—you cannot get away from it—in the name of the King. And the King and the Government behind the King would be barely 200 miles away, and capable of exercising immediate control over what is done in Ireland. And if anyone were to raise in any particular matter the status of Canada in connection with the Government of Ireland, what would he be told? Canadian status? Why, the King’s Government is not only here in the person of the Governor-General, exercising it on his behalf, but the King and the King’s Forces are in actual occupation of Ireland. It is useless for you to pretend that the King’s authority and British authority are not operative in Ireland, when it is actually occupied by British Forces and you are forbidden to have Irish defensive naval forces of your own. Follow on that point a little. The Treaty promises Ireland to have an army, and a letter of Mr. Lloyd George’s says the British Army is to evacuate Ireland if this Treaty is passed, within a short time. But do you suppose under this Treaty, your Irish Army is going to be an independent army? Do you really suppose if British troops are evacuated from the country in a short period, there is anything to prevent them returning under full legal power? Constitutional usage would have nothing to do with the matter. It has in Canada. The British Government would never dare to land a British regiment in Canada without the consent of the Canadian Government. Do you suppose that would be so in Ireland? (A Voice: “Why not?”) I will tell you why not. Under Clauses 6 and 7 you abandon altogether and hand over to the British Government responsibility for the defence of Ireland. There is something about a local military defence force. If you place under a foreign Power responsibility for the defence of the coasts of Ireland, inevitably and naturally you place responsibility for the defence of the whole island on that foreign Government. How can you separate the coastal defences of an island from its internal defences? Are you to have two authorities? One saying what garrisons are to be here, and the other saying what garrisons are to be there along the coast, and how they are to be co-ordinated with some central armed military body. Those matters can only be settled by one authority—Army and Navy matters both—and that one authority will be obviously, and on the very terms of the Treaty, the British authority. Then you will find the letter of the law, the legal conditions, stepping in. What will be the Irish Army? It [41] will be His Majesty’s Army, and, whether or not, or whatever character the Irish flag takes, His Majesty’s flag will fly in Ireland. Every commission held by every officer in the Army of the Irish Free State will be signed either by His Majesty, or by his deputy in Ireland. How are you going to prevent more troops coming in? I do not know if it is really supposed that under this Treaty the evacuation of troops now means that there is no power to re-occupy Ireland in the future? How could you prevent it? Your ports and coasts belong to the British Government. Of course they can land what troops they like to reinforce their ports and coasts and of course it should be evident that the whole defence of the island would necessarily and inevitably be under one authority. There should be no illusions about this. That dependence upon England taints and weakens every clause of the Treaty before you so far as it is possible to read it. In its most hopeful aspect, and I do not wish to read it otherwise, it is an instrument placing Ireland in the position of a Dominion of the British Crown. I do not wish to be unfair about the Treaty. Clearly and on the face of it, it gives Ireland powers never offered her before, and, in certain respects, important powers. But about the fundamental nature of the Treaty, there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind who has to vote on it. It places Ireland definitely and irrevocably under British authority and under the British Crown. Now, I know there are various ways adopted by various members regarding an instrument like that, and I am quite sure in the mind of the Minister for Finance there is a genuine open feeling, which he has expressed, of making the most of a Treaty which, in his view, though I was not quite clear as to his exact view on the subject, represents the very utmost that Ireland could dream of obtaining at this moment of history. But I beg him, and I beg all others who are inclined to agree with him, to reflect upon the significance of the step they are taking, and the question whether the view that this Treaty would be a step to something better, could be reasonably entertained. Apart altogether from the right or wrong of the subject, is the question of principle; the question of principle, I hold, rises above all others. This is a backward step. Parnell once said that no man has the right to set a boundary to the onward march of a nation. Parnell was right. Parnell spoke in a moment when Ireland was still in a subordinate position in the British Empire. Since that time Ireland has taken a step from which she can never withdraw by declaring her independence. This Treaty is a step backward, and I, for my part, would be inclined to say he would be a bold man who would dare set a boundary to the backward march of a nation which, of its own free will, has deliberately relinquished its own independence (applause). I do not believe there is any need. I profoundly regret this Treaty was signed. I profoundly regret it was signed and that the alternative proposals of the Irish Delegation were not adhered to. There should be no question now of any hopeless dilemma in which the nation is placed. There should be no question now that it is possible to associate Ireland with the British Commonwealth on terms honourable to Ireland. I am glad to know that the specific proposals prepared by the President will at a future time have your consideration. It will be disastrous, I think, if now this assembly were to declare that there is no chance of making peace with England. There is a chance. There was a chance; there is a chance. And it rests with England to understand that Ireland is genuinely anxious to hold out the hand of friendship if only that hand can be grasped on terms that will leave Ireland standing as a free nation and England honourably recognising that freedom, not treating Ireland with suspicion and distrust, occupying her ports, refusing her powers of defence, and so on. England has but to say frankly, “You desire to be free, we recognise you must be,” in order to enter into a friendship that shall be truly lasting with us. That, I hope, can still be done. But in any case, in the last resort, every one of us here, when we have done with considering the Treaty before you, and when we have considered the other question of an accommodation with England on honourable terms, beyond and above all these questions there lies the paramount and overmastering consideration of all: Are we, by our own act, to abandon our independence? I hold that is impossible. [42] I hold this assembly neither will nor can do that. No such act was ever performed before, so far as I know, in the history of the world or since the world became a body of democratic nations. Certainly no such act was ever taken before in the history of Ireland, and I, for my part, believe you here will inflexibly refuse to take that step (applause).

MR. KEVIN O’HIGGINS (ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT): I rise in support of the motion that the Treaty of Peace with Britain, signed by our plenipotentiaries in London and now before us, be approved by An Dáil. I would like, before entering upon argumentative or controversial matter, to say to those with whom I find myself at variance on this matter at issue, and to the greathearted man who leads them, how bitterly I feel this separation. It has been the purest pleasure of my life to work in comradeship with them. It has been my proudest privilege. I do not anticipate that I shall ever experience a keener pang than I felt when I realised their judgment and conscience dictated a course which mine could not endorse. If in Private Session I have been over-vehement in pleading a case, I think the President will be the first to understand and make allowances. I pay willing tribute to the sincerity and to the lofty idealism of those who hold different views from ours on this issue. Now I wish at the outset to make it clear that, in my opinion, this discussion should not centre round the question whether or not our plenipotentiaries should have signed these proposals. They are within their rights in signing; no one, I think, questions that. We could have given terms of reference to the plenipotentiaries; we gave none. We selected five men from An Dáil—men of sound judgment, conspicuous ability; men whose worth had been tested in four strenuous years. They were men capable of sizing up the situation. They were men who knew our strength and men who knew where and how we were not strong. They were men who knew the present situation and knew the future prospects, and we sent these men to London, trusting them, and they have brought back a document which they believe represents the utmost that can be got for the country, short of the resumption of war against fearful odds—a war which could be only one more test of endurance on the part of a people who have endured so gallantly—a war in which there could be no question of military victory. They have brought back a document which they believe embodies all that could be got for the country short of such a war. They signed, and they would have been false to their trust did they fall short of their responsibility for signing, and they are here to answer you and the country for signing. I have said they were entitled to sign. They did so on their individual responsibility. They were nominated, it is true, by the Cabinet, but they were appointed by An Dáil, and their responsibility was through An Dáil to the Irish people. Their mission was to negotiate a treaty of peace with Great Britain which on their individual responsibility they could recommend. Now this cannot be too much emphasised. They could not produce this final document here for discussion and consideration otherwise than over their signatures, and backed by their recommendation. At the last moment there were terms put up, not for bargain, but as the price of the signatures. There were big improvements on the final document — improvements affecting Trade, Defence, and North-East Ulster —and they were not put up to be brought back for consideration. The plenipotentiaries turned the matter over in their minds and they decided they ought to sign. They decided they would be cowards if they did not sign (applause). They signed, and this document is theirs and not yours. It is perfectly open to you to reject it. It was perfectly free to the Cabinet to refuse to endorse it as Government policy. They did so. The President and two Ministers recommend its rejection. You are as free to reject this document; the English Government, if it so decided, was also free. Anything the English Government has done since, such as releasing prisoners, was done with full knowledge of the fact that the Parliament of each Nation had yet to declare its will, and without the endorsement of both Parliaments this instrument was null and void. It is not true, as has been stated by some newspapers, that there would be any [43] element of dishonour in a refusal on your part to ratify these terms. The fateful decision lies with you, and with due appreciation of the gravity of the issue we should endeavour to keep this discussion on lines that are severely relevant. It is not, as I have intimated, a question as to whether the proposals should or should not have been signed. It is not a question as to whether you and I, similarly situated, would have signed them. It is not a question of our keen desire for better terms. It is a question of whether you will accept or reject the proposals which the five men whom you selected to negotiate have brought back for ratification. For God’s sake, let us not waste time in irrelevancies respecting our keen desire for better terms. We would all desire better terms, and what we have to decide is whether we are going to take our chance of securing them if we reject these. Deputy Childers, to my mind, took a lot of unnecessary time and trouble in explaining how much nicer it would be to get better terms than these. He did not tell us, as an authority on military and naval matters, how we are going to break the British Army and Navy, and get these better terms (applause). A sovereign, independent Republic was our claim and our fighting ground, and I think we will all admit that men who decided to fight would be fools to fight for less than the fullness of their rights. But the fact that we were willing to negotiate implied that we had something to give away. If we had not, we should have stood sheer on unconditional evacuation, adding, perhaps, that when this had taken place, we would be willing to consider proposals for treaties on trade, or on defence. We did not do so. We selected five men to negotiate a treaty and there was a clear implication, I contend, that whatever, in view of all the circumstances, these men would recommend, would receive most careful consideration here. As I have said, we could have given terms of reference; we gave none. The men we selected were well qualified to judge our position and prospects. We would do well to scrutinise carefully the document they have produced, not so much in relation to the inscriptions on our battle standards, but rather in relation to our prospects of achieving more. As the negotiations developed and the rocks began to appear, our team was advised by the Cabinet to work towards an objective which would give to Ireland the status of an external associate of the Commonwealth of Nations known as the British Empire. This phrase external associate has caused some trouble. In explanation of this phrase someone used the simile of the limpet and the rock. Ireland would be outside and attached, not inside and absorbed. We were prepared to enter as a free and equal partner into treaties on such matters of common concern as trade and defence. On the question of the Crown, the Cabinet, as its last card, was prepared to recommend to the Dáil a recognition of the King of England as the head of the group of States to which the Irish Free State would be attached, and as the outward and visible sign of that recognition, to vote a yearly sum to his civil list. These recommendations were made to the plenipotentiaries many weeks before negotiations reached a crisis. On the Saturday prior to the signing of the proposals the plenipotentiaries were home with the draft Treaty from the British representatives, which, besides other objectionable features, rejected the external associate idea, brought Ireland definitely within the British Empire, pledging the members of her Parliament—

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: Are Cabinet matters to be discussed here in Public Session?

MR. KEVIN O’HIGGINS (ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT): I think so; I think the Irish people are entitled to hear the genesus of the present situation (applause).

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I hold Cabinet matters are matters for Private Sessions of the Dáil. I do not care what the Irish people are at liberty to get of communications and documents; but as responsible head of the Government, I protest against Cabinet matters being made public.

MR. KEVIN O’HIGGINS (ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT): I think the President, and the dissenting minority, if I might put it that way—the two Ministers who stand [44] with him for rejection of the Treaty— should be prepared to let it go to the Irish nation that they must take their stand not between those terms and a sovereign Irish Republic, but on the very much narrower ground as between what they were to recommend to the Dáil and these terms (applause).

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I am quite ready that should be done. I protest still on principle against a member of a responsible Government speaking in public in reference to the negotiations.

MR. J.N. DOLAN (LEITRIM AND NORTH ROSCOMMON): We are deciding the fate of the nation and everything should be told.

MR. D. CEANNT (EAST CORK): From what Mr. O’Higgins is after suggesting—that he will go through all the private documents from the Cabinet—is every member in the assembly entitled to produce every letter he received from London about this business?


PRESIDENT DE VALERA: As regards Document No. 2, I requested the House that it would be considered confidential, seeing the circumstances under which it was given to the House, until I brought forward a proposal that I was to put before the House. No responsible member of any Government would stand for one moment in my position after matters of this kind had been made public.

MR. LORCAN ROBBINS (LONGFORD AND WESTMEATH): How are we to debate if we have not the articles brought out?

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: If all the articles are to be produced, let them; but any references on parts are not fair.

MR. GRIFFITH (MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS): Is there any objection to producing a document that has been discussed in Secret Session for three days: are the Irish people not to be allowed to see that document?

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: It was a proposal on my own initiative for the distinct purpose of trying at the last moment to remedy what I considered a serious mistake for the nation.

MR. FINIAN LYNCH (KERRY AND WEST LIMERICK): How does the President stand by that, seeing it was discussed for three days?

THE SPEAKER: That is not in order.

MR. SEAN T. O’KELLY (MID-DUBLIN): Were not certain documents submitted with the request that they be considered as confidential? Is not our President to be allowed at least equal courtesy?

MR. GRIFFITH (MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS): We submitted no documents. The members wished to see some documents; that is not the same thing. This is a document submitted by the President as the alternative to us. That is the document submitted from one side to the other, and the Irish people ought to see it (hear, hear).

MISS MACSWINEY (CORK CITY): I say the question about the reading of documents which are relevant to the Treaty was decided in Private Session, because the Delegates said you could not possibly offer an amendment—that it was the Treaty or nothing. I think all the plain honest members realised it could not be offered in connection with the Treaty. The Treaty ought to be decided on its merits and its merits alone.

MR. MICHAEL COLLINS (MINISTER FOR FINANCE): With regard to the documents affecting the Delegation which were handed in by the Irish and English Delegations, the Irish Delegation must be understood to be perfectly clear on this thing. We entered into an arrangement with the other side that neither side would publish anything without agreement with the other side. If we make that agreement we have no objection to publish; we are only refraining from publishing because we have given our word.

THE SPEAKER: The question is whether the proceedings of the Cabinet could be discussed here. The proceedings of the Cabinet could be only discussed with the consent of the Cabinet; that’s plain. With regard to the other document. That question was brought before me earlier, and I ruled I cannot declare a discussion on that document out of order. It depends on the members’ sense of propriety. They were requested by the President to regard the document as confidential. It is not a question of order; it is purely and simply the President’s request.

MR. LORCAN ROBBINS (LONGFORD AND WESTMEATH): I understand the Dáil is the master of the House and it is master of the Cabinet. Am I not in order in producing a motion that the document be brought in? It is a funny debating society, this.

MR. CATHAL BRUGHA (MINISTER FOR DEFENCE): It is not a debating society.

MR. KEVIN O’HIGGINS (ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT): I would have wished to examine the difference between the Treaty and the proposals a united Cabinet would have proposed. I would have asked to what extent it affected the lives and fortunes of the plain people of Ireland, whose fate is in our hands. I would have asked you to consider the prospects the rejection of this Treaty opens up and come to a decision with a view to your tremendous responsibility. I do not wish to be forced into a stronger advocacy of the Treaty than I feel. I will not call it, as Mr. Devlin called the Home Rule Act of 1914, a Magna Charta of liberty. I do not hail it, as the late Mr. Redmond hailed it, as a full, complete, and final settlement of Ireland’s claim. I will not say, as Mr. Dillon said, that it would be treacherous and dishonourable to look for more. I do say it represents such a broad measure of liberty for the Irish people and it acknowledges such a large proportion of its rights, you are not entitled to reject it without being able to show them you have a reasonable prospect of achieving more (hear, hear). “The man who is against peace,” said the English Premier in presenting his ultimatum, “must bear now and for ever the responsibility for terrible and immediate war.” And the men there knew our resources and the resources of the enemy, and they held in their own hearts and consciences that we were not entitled to plunge the plain people of Ireland into a terrible and immediate war for the difference between the terms of the Treaty and what they knew a united Cabinet would recommend to the Dáil. Ireland, England, and the world must know the circumstances under which this Treaty is presented for your ratification. Neither honour nor principle can demand rejection of such a measure in face of the alternative so unequivocally stated by the English Prime Minister. Neither honour nor principle can make you plunge your people into war again. What remains between this Treaty and the fullness of your rights? It gives to Ireland complete control over her internal affairs. It removes all English control or interference within the shores of Ireland. Ireland is liable to no taxation from England, and has the fullest fiscal freedom. She has the right to maintain an army and defend her coasts. When England is at war, Ireland need not send one man nor contribute a penny. I wish to emphasise that. This morning the President said the army of the Irish Free State would be the army of His Majesty. Can His Majesty send one battalion or company of the Army of the Irish Free State from Cork into the adjoining county? If he acts in Ireland, he acts on the advice of his Irish Ministers (applause). Yes, if we go into the Empire we go in, not sliding in, attempting to throw dust in our people’s eyes, but we go in with our heads up. It is true that by the provisions of the Treaty, Ireland is included in the system known as the British Empire, and the most objectionable aspect of the Treaty is that the threat of force has been used to influence Ireland to a decision to enter this miniature league of nations. It has been called a league of free nations. I admit in practice it is so; but it is unwise and unstatesmanlike to attempt to bind any such league by any ties [46] other than pure voluntary ties. I believe the evolution of this group must be towards a condition, not merely of individual freedom but also of equality of status. I quite admit in the case of Ireland the tie is not voluntary, and in the case of Ireland the status is not equal. Herein lie the defects of the Treaty. But face the facts that they are defects which the English representatives insisted upon with threats of war, terrible and immediate. Let us face also the facts that they are not defects which press so grievously on our citizens that we are entitled to invite war because of them. I trust that when we come to cast our votes for or against the ratification of this Treaty, each member will do so with full advertence to the consequences for the nation. I trust each member will vote as if with him or her lay the sole responsibility for this grave choice. I would impress on members that they sit and act here to-day as the representatives of all our people and not merely as the representatives of a particular political party within the nation (hear, hear). I acknowledge as great a responsibility to the 6,000 people who voted against me in 1918 as to the 13,000 who voted for me (hear, hear). The lives and properties of the former are as much at stake on the vote I give as the lives and properties of the latter. I cannot simply regard myself as the nominee of a particular political party when an issue so grave as this is at stake. To ratify this Treaty, it has been said, would constitute an abandonment of principle, and it has been said that to ratify the Treaty would be a betrayal to those who died for Irish independence in the past. I said in Private Session, and I say here again now, principle is immortal. If the principle of Ireland’s nationhood could be vitally affected by the action of a representative body of Irishmen at any time, it has died many deaths. The chieftains of the Irish clans swore allegiance to Henry VIII. The members of Grattan’s Parliament were pledged in allegiance to the King of England. From 1800 to 1918 we have been sending Irishmen to Westminster, pledged in like allegiance. And yet when men, realising there was always a mandate for revolution because the people’s will could not be interpreted as it should be—when men went out fighting for a Republic—no one ever suggested that they acted dishonourably because of the allegiance given to Henry VIII. by the chieftains, or of the allegiance given to his successors by those Irishmen who sat in Irish and English Parliaments. There has been too much talk of what the dead men would do if they were here and had our responsibility. There are men here, many of them, who carried their lives in their hands for Ireland during the last four or five years, men who but for a fortunate accident might well be dead; they are here to speak for themselves. When I hear it quoted “What would so and so do if he were here?” I think of the men who risked daily for the last three or four years and who will vote for the Treaty. The men who died for Irish independence never intended that the country should be sentenced to destruction in a hopeless war, if all its rights were not conceded. The men who died, died for the welfare of the Irish people, and when I see men like the Minister for Finance the Chief of Staff, the Adjutant-General—

MR. R. MULCAHY (CHIEF OF STAFF): Let them talk for themselves.

MR. KEVIN O’HIGGINS (ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT): Some of them have talked for themselves, and in support of the Treaty. I realise if these men had lost their lives in the war there would be people getting up and saying, “If they were here they would not support the Treaty.” Now I come to King Charles’ head—the Oath of Allegiance. Some call it an oath of allegiance. I do not know what it is. I can only speak of it in a negative way. It is not an oath of allegiance. There is a difference between faith and allegiance. Your first allegiance is to the Constitution of the Irish Free State and you swear faith to the King of England. Now faith is a thing that can exist between equals; there is, if I might coin a word, mutuality, reciprocity. It is contingent and conditional, and I hold if you had sworn allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State anything that follows on that is not absolute but conditional on your Constitution being respected, and conditional on the terms of the Treaty being [47] adhered to. In the second clause of the Treaty you have two words of which Deputy Childers took very little stock—he waved it aside: “The position of the Irish Free State in relation to the Imperial Parliament and Government and otherwise shall be that of the Dominion of Canada and the law, practice and constitutional usage governing the relationship of the Crown or the representatives of the Crown, and of the Imperial Parliament to the Dominion of Canada shall govern their relationship to the Irish Free State.” Now, those two words “practice” and “usage” mean much more than Mr. Childers was prepared to attribute to them. They neutralise and nullify “law.” They were put in with that purpose. The English representatives offered to embody in the Treaty anything to ensure that the power of the Crown in Ireland would be exercised no more than in Canada—in other words, that there would be no power of the Crown in Ireland. Mr. Childers says who is to be the judge, who is to decide, where is your court? Everyone knows we will be represented in the League of Nations. That’s the Court. For another thing, I take it we ourselves will decide. If we consider our rights are infringed, then we stand solely on our allegiance to the Constitution of the Free State, and nothing else (hear, hear). I have said we have responsibilities. We have responsibilities to all the nation and not merely to a particular political party within the nation. If I felt that by resuming war we had even an outside chance of securing the fullness of our rights, that consideration would scarcely deter me, but I am not prepared to sacrifice them for the sake of handing on a tradition to posterity. I take it that we are the posterity of the generation that preceded us, but they do not seem to have worried much about handing on a separatist tradition intact to us—we had to go back to ’67 to dig it up. We may rest assured that if this political experiment fails, and if the shoe pinches, posterity will take its own measures of alleviation and will do so in circumstances infinitely more favourable than those which prevailed when this generation grappled with the task. It is possible to be over solicitous about posterity. If we were to tell the man in the street that we proposed to sacrifice him in order to hand on a tradition to posterity he would probably complain that he was being forced to carry an undue burden because he had the misfortune to be alive to-day instead of to-morrow, and ask plaintively what had posterity ever done for him. I do not wish to be flippant about what has been a sacred ideal to us, a thing for which we have fought and worked and prayed for years, to which we have given liberally the best service of body and mind and soul, an ideal sanctified by the best blood of our countrymen and ennobled by the sacrifices of a gallant people; but I do ask for a frank admission that in face of tremendous odds we have gone as near the attainment of that ideal as is possible in the existing circumstances. I do ask for a frank and fearless recognition of political realities. I do ask for an endorsement of the view of our plenipotentiaries that embodied in this Treaty you have a measure of liberty that may honourably be accepted in the name of our people, not indeed a complete recognition of what we have held, and still hold, to be their right, but at least a political experiment to the working of which we are prepared to bring goodwill and good faith. I think it unwise and unstatesmanlike that England’s representatives have thought fit to insist under threat of war on certain clauses of that Treaty. I do the English people the justice of believing that they would gladly have endorsed a more generous measure. I hardly hope that within the terms of this Treaty there lies the fulfilment of Ireland’s destiny, but I do hope and believe that with the disappearance of old passions and distrusts, fostered by centuries of persecution and desperate resistance, what remains may be won by agreement and by peaceful political evolution. In that spirit I stand for the ratification of this Treaty —in that spirit I ask you to endorse it. I ask you to say that these five men whom you sent to London, and pitted against the keenest diplomats of Europe, have acquitted themselves as well and as worthily as our army did against the shock troops of the British Empire—both they and our army have fallen somewhat short of the ideal for which they strove against fearful odds. But I ask you to say that in this Treaty they have attained [48] something that can be honourably accepted. The welfare and happiness of the men and women and the little children of this nation must, after all, take precedence of political creeds and theories. I submit that we have attained a measure which secures that happiness and welfare, and on that basis and because of the alternative and all it means for these our people, I ask your acceptance of and your allegiance to the Constitution of Saorstát na hEireann (applause).

MR. SEAN MACSWINEY (WEST, SOUTH, AND MID-CORK): I cannot say that any of the arguments advanced by any of the delegates or their supporters would change me. I think, on the whole, that their arguments are the arguments of despair. Mr. Arthur Griffith said that, in his opinion, this was a final settlement and a satisfactory settlement, the Minister for Finance says it is not a final settlement, and Deputy Kevin O’Higgins says he hopes for better terms. Mr. Arthur Griffith said the Treaty would be accepted by 95 per cent. of the people. I do not know exactly what percentage of the population of Ireland I represent, but I have my instructions in my pocket to vote against the Treaty. I do not refer to the military men in my constituency; I refer to the civil population. I hold against the Chairman of the Delegation that any one man won the war. The war is not won yet. This is only a period of truce. That is what we had always impressed on us in the South so as not to let ourselves get soft, and I hope we have not done so. He also said if we are going to go into the Empire, let us go in with our heads up. We cannot, and we never intended to go into it at all. I think the contention that has been made by speaker after speaker in favour of the Treaty that we are endeavouring to put the delegates in the dock, is wrong. I hold when the delegates came back we were entitled to know what led up to the signing, and not have it hurled at our heads like a bomb—and, I hope, like a dud. The Chairman of the Delegation says the Treaty was signed on an equal footing, equal speaking to equal. The Minister for Finance says there was no threat used to make them sign it. Deputy Kevin O’Higgins says they were threatened with immediate and terrible war and that the man who would refuse to sign the Treaty would go down to posterity as being the man who brought immediate and terrible war on the country. Other members of the delegation have not spoken yet. If they were threatened in private they will let us know. Deputy O’Higgins seems to have some inside information on the matter. I note all the Deputies speaking are vastly concerned with the civil population. I wonder if they have all their mandates from the civil population to accept? I doubt it. All I know is that the men who sent me up here instructed me to vote against it. They expressed the opinion that such advice or instruction was not necessary, but in case I might go wrong, they issued the instructions. The peculiar thing about this Treaty, and the move that’s being made to ratify it, is, I don’t quite know how to term it. But I will say one peculiar point about it is that seconding of the motion of acceptance by Commandant MacKeon. Commandant MacKeon is a brave soldier, whose bravery was acknowledged by the enemy as well as by his own (hear, hear). None braver. And I hold when he was asked to second the motion, it was taking an unfair advantage of the rest of us (cries of “No”). The Press of the country, as we know, is against us; it always has been. The Minister for Finance accepted responsibility for some of us being excommunicated. The last ban has not been lifted yet, but it does not worry us. Are the members serious about unanimity? We know people would stand solidly behind us again. I can always speak for my own in the South. Probably the men saying “No, no” could never speak for their constituents. I am sorry Commandant MacKeon seconded. I can answer for the Army of Munster. I am not a Divisional Commandant, but I can answer for the Army of Munster, and I have been empowered to answer for them (cries of “You cannot”).

MR. P. BRENNAN (CLARE): You cannot.

MR. SEAN MACSWINEY (WEST, SOUTH, AND MID-CORK): If I cannot, [49] I will probably be directed in the morning by officers in a position to direct me. I am sorry to see Commandant MacKeon putting himself in the position in which I have got the assurance that we of the South do not stand with him. I do know if we go back to hostilities that he will be there as he was before. I am just using that point because I believe unfair tactics were brought to force the ratification through. It was unfair to him and everyone else in the Army to put him in that position. I do not know that I have got much more to say in the matter. I have sworn an oath to the Republic, and for that reason I could not vote for the Treaty. In my opinion any man who has sworn an oath cannot accept the Treaty. The people who want the Treaty can vote for the ratification, but that will never defeat the Republican idea (applause).

MR. R.C. BARTON (KILDARE AND WICKLOW): I am going to make plain to you the circumstances under which I find myself in honour bound to recommend the acceptance of the Treaty. In making that statement I have one object only in view, and that is to enable you to become intimately acquainted with the circumstances leading up to the signing of the Treaty and the responsibility forced on me had I refused to sign. I do not seek to shield myself from the charge of having broken my oath of allegiance to the Republic—my signature is proof of that fact (hear, hear). That oath was, and still is to me, the most sacred bond on earth. I broke my oath because I judged that violation to be the lesser of alternative outrages forced upon me, and between which I was compelled to choose. On Sunday, December 4th, the Conference had precipitately and definitely broken down. An intermediary effected contact next day, and on Monday at 3 p.m., Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, and myself met the English representatives. In the struggle that ensued Arthur Griffith sought, repeatedly to have the decision between war and peace on the terms of the Treaty referred back to this assembly. This proposal Mr. Lloyd George directly negatived. He claimed that we were plenipotentiaries and that we must either accept or reject. Speaking for himself and his colleagues, the English Prime Minister with all the solemnity and the power of conviction that he alone, of all men I met, can impart by word and gesture—the vehicles by which the mind of one man oppresses and impresses the mind of another— declared that the signature and recommendation of every member of our delegation was necessary or war would follow immediately. He gave us until 10 o’clock to make up our minds, and it was then about 8.30. We returned to our house to decide upon our answer. The issue before us was whether we should stand behind our proposals for external association, face war and maintain the Republic, or whether we should accept inclusion in the British Empire and take peace.

Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, and Eamonn Duggan were for acceptance and peace; Gavan Duffy and myself were for refusal—war or no war. An answer that was not unanimous committed you to immediate war, and the responsibility for that was to rest directly upon those two delegates who refused to sign. For myself, I preferred war. I told my colleagues so, but for the nation, without consultation, I dared not accept that responsibility. The alternative which I sought to avoid seemed to me a lesser outrage than the violation of what is my faith. So that I myself, and of my own choice, must commit my nation to immediate war, without you, Mr. President, or the Members of the Dáil, or the nation having an opportunity to examine the terms upon which war could be avoided. I signed, and now I have fulfilled my undertaking I recommend to you the Treaty I signed in London (applause).

MR. MICHAEL COLLINS (MINISTER FOR FINANCE): I move the adjournment until to-morrow morning at 11 o’clock if the President is agreeable.

MISS MACSWINEY (CORK CITY): Before the adjournment is put to the House, may I ask the Minister for Publicity whether the Press understand they are here by the courtesy of both sides to act impartially, and whether it is clearly understood that this is a very serious matter which has to go forth impartially to the nation, and whether it is part of the compact of the Press that they should report the speeches on [50] one side in full and take all the arguments out of the President’s speech, leaving nothing but plain conclusions, and whether he will interview the Press on this matter and see that they will report impartially, or whether, in the event of such a promise not being given by the Press, we shall ask this House to request the Press to withdraw. This is a very serious matter for our people. We would like to hold this meeting where the whole people of Ireland could hear it, but since that is not possible, we are at the mercy of the Press. I do think the Press ought to act honourably in this. I think it is well to bring this matter before the Minister for Publicity, in order that the Press give a guarantee, or we shall ask them to withdraw.

MR. DESMOND FITZGERALD (MINISTER FOR PUBLICITY): I do not think the last speaker understands the circumstances of bringing out early editions. The last speech to appear was the President’s, of which a résumé was given. I have seen the chief reporters of the chief Dublin Press and they, to my knowledge, issued instructions to the reporters to report both sides fully. I am quite satisfied that when you come to see the later editions of the evening press you will see the President’s speech absolutely verbatim. We have an arrangement which guarantees that as far as the Press which reaches most of the Irish people is concerned, the reports will be quite fair.

COUNTESS MARKIEVICZ (SOUTH DUBLIN): With regard to the Press, could we not arrange to hold a Session to-morrow in the Mansion House where our friends would get a chance of hearing the arguments on both sides?

MR. SEAN MCENTEE (MONAGHAN): With regard to the Director of Publicity’s statement, I would like to refer him to the Evening Herald 5.30 Edition. The account there is absolutely disconnected, and it conveys an altogether wrong impression of the effect of the speech on the House. Further on I look at the speech of the Minister for Home Affairs, who seconded the rejection. Again the speech is very badly reported. Look, then, at the speech of Count Plunkett: it is altogether omitted. I quite understand that the gentlemen of the Press labour under great difficulties in the House, but in a paper issued at 5.30 there is no reason why the report of a speech delivered before 1 o’clock has not appeared.

THE SPEAKER: We cannot have a general discussion on these things.

MR. J.J. WALSH (CORK CITY): It may be taken by the Press and public that we are in favour of a partial presentation of reports. I would certainly appeal to the Press, and I would inform them that as far as I am concerned—and, I suppose, everybody else who intends voting for the Treaty —that we desire every point essential to the information of the Irish people should be included in the reports.

PROFESSOR STOCKLEY (NATIONAL UNIVERSITY): I beg to second the motion for adjournment.

MR. SEAN MCGARRY (MID-DUBLIN): There has been a suggestion made by one of the Deputies from Cork that there was a compact between one side and the Press (cries of “No—sit down”). I will not sit down. There was a suggestion of a compact (cries of “No, no”).

MR. MICHAEL COLLINS (MINISTER FOR FINANCE): I think the Deputy from Clontarf misunderstands what the Deputy from Cork said. The Deputy from Cork was quite clear, but was going on an earlier edition. The late edition of the Telegraph has the speeches up to a certain point. They are given in full. Mine is not and I have no grievance (laughter).

MR. CATHAL BRUGHA (MINISTER FOR DEFENCE): The Government is still in office, and as one member of it I will certainly use my influence to prevent the Press from being present to-morrow if the speeches are not fairly in to-morrow’s papers (hear, hear). With regard to the suggestion of the Dáil meeting in the Mansion House, the original decision of the Cabinet was that a public meeting would be held at the Mansion House, but owing to the Aonach being held there—a fact which we overlooked—we had to [51] change that decision and come here. The Aonach is over now and I understand the exhibits are removed. Consequently, with the kind permission of the Lord Mayor, there is no reason why we should not have a meeting at the Mansion House to-morrow (hear, hear).

ALDERMAN W.T. COSGRAVE (MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT): If a decision on the matter were already given at the Secret Session, are we to be like a Board of Guardians, passing a resolution one day, and reseinding it the next day? (laughter).

THE SPEAKER: There is a motion for adjournment.

MR. CATHAL BRUGHA (MINISTER FOR DEFENCE): I move that the Dáil meet at the Mansion House to-morrow at 11 o’clock.



MR. GRIFFITH (MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS): Before that is put, I may mention that President de Valera said to me that at a Public Session you will have partisans on both sides. The task of keeping order will be impossible and the selection of people to be allowed to the meeting will be impossible. Only a thousand can get in, and as the secretaries know, you will have all kinds of blame that this person was there, and that person was not. Every person who is not allowed in will say it is on account of the political issue.

You will be speaking to a public meeting, not to a Session of Dáil Eireann.

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I agree absolutely with Mr. Griffith in the matter (applause).

MR. CATHAL BRUGHA (MINISTER FOR DEFENCE): In deference to the President, I would be willing to have a meeting here, but seeing what has been already said with regard to the obvious partiality of the Press, it is quite clear that we should go to a place that will hold the biggest number of the Irish people, so that they will hear the whole case. They won’t hear our case if the statement in regard to the speeches published to-day is correct. The Irish people should know the whole case. Unfortunately up to now there are two sides; please God in the finish there will be only one. I presume the other side do not fear publicity (“No, no”). Then why not have the meeting there? Of course if the President insists—

PRESIDENT DE VALERA: I do not want to insist, but the reasons given are cogent. It would be unwise on short notice like that to have a meeting in the Round Room. Such a course as is suggested would be a corrective to the partiality of the Press. It is simply as a corrective. If we cannot get fair play from the Press we must have to think of it. I would certainly not be glad to be forced to that sort of thing at this stage.

THE SPEAKER: I declare the motion for the adjournment of the House until to-morrow morning carried.

The House rose.