Dáil Éireann - Volume 2 - 06 December, 1922
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT.
The PRESIDENT The PRESIDENT
The PRESIDENT: On this notable day when our country has definitely emerged from the bondage under which she has lived through a week of centuries, I cannot deny that I feel intensely proud to be the first man called to preside over the first Government which takes over the control of the destiny of our people, to hold and administer that charge, answerable only to our own people and to none other; to conduct their affairs as they shall declare right without interference, not to say domination, by any other authority whatsoever on this earth.
I appreciate the honour of the position to which I am called amongst my own people.
Yet if it is a note of appreciation rather than of gratitude, that will surprise no one who has watched for the past twelve months since the Treaty between this country and our old enemy was signed; the futile struggle; the unnecessary sufferings and bloodshed which have been inflicted upon our people at the behest of a small minority, inspired whether with vanity or I know not what.
Twelve months which might have been spent conserving the fruits of our struggle have been wasted in resisting the mad efforts of those who first called upon the people to throw aside these fruits and go again into the battle and then took up arms in order that they might, by violence and tyranny, wrench from the people what they had won, what the age-long struggle had given them and which the people in truth, as they have shown by many a demonstration, prized most dearly.
We have had to dissipate our energies in trying to hold what we have won— not from those lately our enemies, but from those, many of whom fought with us of old, who set their own narrowness or what they would call intellectualism against the broad good sense of the people—and here let me say that from  the hour when the British people were committed to the Treaty by signature of their delegates and the approval of their Parliament, they have never tried to whittle down by one iota the fullness of what they had yielded back to us. They have stood by the letter and the spirit of that bargain with unscrupulous and undeviating good faith.
I have just received from the Prime Minister of England, Mr. Bonar Law, a telegram, and it is as follows:—
“On the inauguration of the Irish Free State I desire on behalf of my colleagues and myself to convey to you a message of greetings and goodwill. You may be assured that we on our part will do all that lies in our power to further the common ends we have both in view—the peace and prosperity of Ireland and the lasting concord between the two countries.”
Would that we could hope that the same could be said of ourselves and our own people; but the stipulated year of preparation has passed and in fulfilment of their bond the proclamation has gone forth to-day acknowledging on behalf of the British people the existence of the Irish Free State which we call Saorstát Eireann, acknowledging that another nation has been admitted to take her place in that group of nations, formerly an Empire, but now a free partnership, in which all are equal, and we may pause for a moment to think of what it means.
The present position of the free nations which constitute the British Commonwealth is something that every Irishman should examine, know and dwell upon.
I will not give you my own statement of what that position now means.
I will tell you what the most British of British statesmen have admitted that it means.
I am not even asking you to take what a great Dominion statesman like General Smuts says about it.
The words that I am about to quote are the words of Lord Milner, who, in July, 1919, said:—
“The only possibility of a continuance of the British Empire is on a basis of absolute out and out equal partnership between the United Kingdom and the Dominions.”
In March, 1920, he said:—
 “The United Kingdom and the Dominions are partner nations not yet indeed of equal power, but for good and all of equal status.”
Mr. Balfour wrote in the London Times so far back as February, 1911— and I would remind you that there has been great development since that time in Dominion status. He wrote this:—
“Legally, the British Parliament has supremacy over the Parliament of Canada and Australia, of the Cape and of South Africa, but in reality, these Parliaments are absolutely independent.”
So that General Smuts did not merely make a claim, but he asserted a real position when he said in September, 1919:—
“We have received the position of absolute equality and freedom, not only among other States of the Empire, but among other nations of the world.”
I take these passages to-day as summing up for you in vivid fashion the great accomplishment which this day signalises.
It was because of their vision and their understanding of what it all meant and stood for, that the two great leaders whom we have so lately lost, boldly asked the Irish people to accept that position, and that almost unlimited measure of freedom and independence which the Treaty offered.
We whom they have left behind to carry on their great work come to appeal again to the people who stand out in arms against this Agreement—not merely agreement, but against this free Constitution, the work of their own countrymen —to open their eyes and to realise, for they must be dreaming, to realise the fact that freedom is in their hands, though they know it not.
Let me say a word as to North East Ulster. Our position is very simple and very clear. We stand by the Treaty signed by our plenipotentiaries and by which we are bound in honour; hence our Northern policy, as our policy in every other sphere, must be construed with respect to the signed Articles. I have been informed that the North Eastern Parliament is to meet immediately to decide whether it will join us on the terms of the Treaty (which I  will refer to presently). It is not for me to anticipate what that decision will be, but I do in all sincerity and goodwill and for all our people say that we are looking Northwards with hope and confidence that, whether now or very soon the people of that corner of our land will come in with the rest of the Irish Nation, and share with us its Government as well as the great prosperity and happiness which must certainly follow concord and union. Let them, we beg them, weigh well the substantial guarantees assured to them in the event of their deciding to recognise the Treaty position, as it regards them.
See what it means. By the very Treaty itself they would be guaranteed in perpetuity, securely entrenched, for ever, you might say, in every inch of territory that for the moment is under their control. This is guaranteed by Article 14 of the Treaty, which provides that after the expiration of the month, and in the event of the North Eastern Parliament not opting out, “the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland shall continue to exercise, as respects Northern Ireland, the power conferred on them by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920,” and the Parliament and Government of the Free State shall assume the position with regard to the Northern Parliament which the British Parliament holds at present. In other words, the Provincial Parliament of Northern Ireland is guaranteed for ever, or so long as it wishes, in its present territory in the event of the North East deciding to remain with the Free State.
By the Treaty we are precluded, even if we wished, from removing their Government or interfering in any way with their domestic legislation, and their development along their particular traditional lines.
Should they decide to remain with us, not only will they have all the powers over Local Government, Education, Public Works, Agriculture, Old Age Pensions, etc., and the limited powers of taxing which they at present enjoy, but they will have the following further very substantial privileges:—
(1) According to Article 26 of the Free State Constitution the people of the Six Counties would have a representation of about 51 members in the  Dáil. At present they have only 13 members altogether in Westminster in a Parliament of 600 odd members.
(2) The Queen's University of Belfast would have three members in the Dáil, like Trinity College and the National University, as against the solitary member Queen's sends to the British House.
(3) The majority in the Six Counties could combine with the minority in the Twenty-six Counties to elect under Proportional Representation at least a fourth of the elected representation of the Senate.
(4) The administrative expenses of a land Customs boundary (for which the North Eastern Government will be liable to a share as apportioned by the Joint Exchequer Board) and the inevitable and unavoidable depressing effects on commerce resulting from such a fiscal separation would be avoided.
These are only some of the material advantages resulting from such a Union as the Treaty provides for. There are many others too numerous to single out now.
On the other hand, should they decide to cut themselves off from all contact with us, we will regret very much such a decision. We will consider it both inopportune and unwise, believing, as we do, that it is bound to have disastrous reactions on Northern enterprise. Nevertheless, as they are perfectly entitled to take this course under the Treaty, we are bound to respect such a decision in the event of its coming to pass.
I have noticed from time to time that prominent members of the North Eastern Government in their public utterances credit us and our supporters with a desire to force under our Government those portions of Ulster in which there is a majority of the inhabitants against remaining within the jurisdiction of the Free State.
Believe me, nothing is further from our intention. So far as I know or can discover, nobody in the Free State cherishes this crude wish, save that small minority who support the calamitous policy of Mr. De Valera and, his Irregulars, with whom, of course, those who have the faintest idea of conditions in Ireland would never think of confusing us.
 On the other hand, whilst we will observe our bond with those people in the North East who may not want us, we must not, cannot, forget our solemn pledges to those great sections of the population in the Six Counties who do want us, and who are crying out daily to be included in the Irish Free State. They have not been forgotten either in the Treaty. Article 12, that part of it at any rate, which deals with the Boundary Commission, has been specially put in to rectify these cases of obvious injustice. As Mr. Lloyd George, the chief British signatory to the Treaty, very justly remarked on the 15th December, 1921, when explaining this portion of the Treaty:—
“If Ulster is to remain a separate community you can only by means of coercion keep them there (meaning by that, in this particular instance, the majority of the inhabitants of the two counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh), and although I am against the coercion of Ulster, I do not believe in Ulster coercing other units.”
This is very fair and proper, and I am sure every reasonable man agrees with this statement of the British ex-Premier. Why there has ever been the slightest confusion about this part of the Treaty I could never understand. It is perfectly clear and perfectly definite, and we stand by it.
The British Government and our Government are pledged to see that the wishes of the inhabitants in the various parts of the Six Counties are respected in this connection. It is part and parcel of the Treaty. There is certainly no intention of acting otherwise. To do so would be to acquiesce in a great injustice, more so now than ever, after the result of the recent Election in the great constituency of Tyrone-Fermanagh. That constituency was contested on the sole issue as to whether the people wanted to remain with the Free State, or go out with Antrim, North Down, and other parts under the North Eastern Parliament. The result was a vast and unmistakable majority of over 6,000 for remaining within the Free State—a verdict which it is impossible to ignore.
In so far as my Government and myself are concerned we shall say nothing, nor do anything, that may in any way hold apart from us that part of the  Province of Ulster now separated or retard the advent of that union which alone can bring real harmony, and lasting and genuine security to our Common Motherland.
Dáil Éireann 2 STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT.