Dáil Éireann - Volume 6 - 14 February, 1924


Major COOPER: I beg to move:— “That the evidence and the documents laid before the Committee on Wireless Broadcasting be printed and circulated.” In moving this motion, I shall not intrude very long on the patience of the Dáil, and I shall try to make the two arguments I put before them as free from controversy as possible. I have put down this motion for two reasons, first, as a general principle that when a matter is referred to a Committee of the Dáil every member of the Dáil retains a certain right to know what is being done on that Committee, and that is especially the case when a Committee takes evidence. We have, every one of us here, our responsibility—responsibility to our constituencies; responsibility to our own selves—and by placing a matter on the shoulders of a Committee we cannot completely divest ourselves of that responsibility. Before we are asked to confirm finally the result of any Committee it is our duty, so far as we can, to weigh the eviddence that that Committee has received and to come to our own conclusions on it. As for the general question I should prefer to know—I am very ignorant of this subject of broadcasting—what the Committee had before it before it framed what I think is an admirable and most satisfactory report, satisfactory in that it exonerates the Postmaster-General from all blame, and satisfactory in its conclusions. Still I would like to see what they have had before them, and I should like to see [1055] things for myself. So much for the general principle.

The second is, as everybody knows, and as we know ourselves, from the Interim Report and the discussion on it in connection with this particular matter of wireless broadcasting, that there have been abundant rumours spread about, affecting the credit of Deputies in this Dáil. This is the first case of the kind that has come up before the Dáil. It is a case in which we are charged with a very heavy responsibility, because the action we are taking now sets a precedent for future cases. It may be, I hope it will not be, the case that charges of this kind—charges of graft, corruption, jobbery—whatever you like to call it—will become commonplace in our politics, as fifteen or twenty years ago they were commonplace in Canadian politics. I have been reading the life of Sir Wilfred Laurier, and was disgusted to see that politics in Canada at the beginning of the century was a question of which party would bring home the largest number of scandals to its opponents. I hope in this we shall not follow the Canadian precedent, and that is why I wish for the publication of this evidence, to clear the good name of this Dáil. If it is believed that we are hushing matters up, and are parties to suppression, then our reputation will suffer in the face of the public.

I am very jealous for the honour of this assembly. I have been received here with kindness and consideration, for which I can never be sufficiently grateful, and so far as it is in me to try and vindicate the honour of this assembly, I shall do it. I do not act from any partisan motive. I have absolutely no political axe to grind in this matter, but I believe it would be bad for the Dáil, and for public life in Ireland, if there remained the slightest suspicion in the mind of the general public at large that we were trying to hush up anything.

Major SPROULE MYLES: I beg to second the motion moved by Major Bryan Cooper.

Mr. JOHNSON: I agree most heartily with the sentiments which Deputy Bryan Cooper expressed as to the necessity [1056] for preventing, if possible, the occasion, the excuse and the practice that he referred to as having prevailed in Canada, in the early part of the present century. I agree with the principle that evidence and documents that have been laid before a Committee of the Dáil, making enquiry into any public matter, should be made known to the Dáil and to the public. There is no harm in saying that when the matter was raised in the Committee regarding the public reporting of the proceedings at a date very late in these proceedings, I was one of the minority that agreed that the Press should be admitted. I did that because I feared the possibility that, under the present Standing Orders, if we refused to allow the Press in, when they made application, to the proceedings of the Committee, it might be taken as a precedent. But I recognise quite well that the majority had much reason upon their side.

The fact remains that the Standing Orders on which we have been working did not contemplate an enquiry of the kind which the Committee on Broadcasting has been dealing with. That Committee's work began quite as a departmental inquiry. It was not opened with the idea of taking evidence so much as to examine documents and consult experts, and it was only by virtue of circumstances which arose unexpectedly that the demand for publicity arose. And it arose at a time much too late for the purpose such as Deputy Cooper would like to have been assured on.

The motion, as it stands, asks that the evidence and the documents laid before the Committee on Wireless Broadcasting be printed and circulated. I am just doubtful, notwithstanding my desire for the fullest publicity, whether the acceptance of this motion, in this form, at present, would do justice to people concerned, whether the Committee or the Dáil or the members and non-members referred to in the evidence. The documents quoted here were very extensive. They were not selected documents. There were files of papers put in dealing with matters quite apart from Broadcasting, and by no means selected for the purpose of [1057] evidence appertaining to the enquiry. They were put in by the Postmaster-General himself and others, a complete file of all their correspondence, some dealing with matter quite extraneous to broadcasting, and those were put before the Committee.

I question whether it is just and reasonable that all these documents should be printed, even on the ground of expense, and also on the ground that much of the matter is not germane to the subject under review. So far for that point.

Now as to the evidence. Matters have developed which, I think, require that the evidence relating to broadcasting and relating to extraneous subjects, if such evidence is to be submitted to the public, ought to be submitted in such a manner as would be fair to the persons concerned. As one of those probably chiefly at fault, I admit that the form of the questions put to the witnesses was, in many cases, probably unfair to the witnesses who may have been led to say things which they would not have been allowed to say if the evidence had been taken in public court before one versed in legal procedure. It is possible that the members of the Committee, including myself, may have formed judgments, and having formed judgments, put questions in a manner which really were innuendoes and charges, and in such a case I doubt whether it is fair of the Dáil to publish all the evidence in the form in which it has been taken. Witnesses came to the enquiry and said many things that they probably would not have said had they been examined in public, and possibly they would have been less truthful; but, at any rate, witnesses have a right to know the conditions under which they are giving their evidence, and they did give their evidence on the assumption that it was not a public inquiry. So far I think there is something to be said in favour of not publishing the evidence, but I desire that all the facts germane to the discussion on wireless and on the discussion of other matters quite extraneous to wireless should be made known to the public.

In the Report which was issued by the Committee, and which will be the [1058] subject of further discussion, there is a reference to a memorandum furnished to the Committee by the Postmaster-General. This memorandum had nothing whatever to do with broadcasting. It was placed in the file supplied by the Postmaster-General, at the request of the Committee that all the documents should be handed in to the Committee. The memorandum in question had reference to the relations between the chief promoter—one might say the sole person concerned in an effective way with one of the companies referred to in the Postmaster-General's White Paper. The memorandum put in by the Postmaster-General purported to be a record of the relations between Mr. Andrew Belton, of Irish Developments, Ltd., and Deputy Darrell Figgis, long before the latter was a Deputy, presumably with the object of showing the relative virtues of the two persons concerned. The reading of that memorandum disclosed the motive underlying Mr. Belton when he entered into certain associations of a business character with Deputy Figgis, who was then Mr. Darrell Figgis; and it was solely because of the fact that the memorandum disclosed the motive of this gentleman that Mr. Belton was called to give evidence to the Committee, and on that evidence, written by his own hand and supplied by his own words, I had no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the company with which he was associated as the leading spokesman ought not to receive a concession from any Department of State. Arising out of that, Mr. Belton handed in his file of correspondence which affected matters long anterior to the project of an Irish Broadcasting Station or an Irish Broadcasting Company. Deputy Figgis also handed in his file dealing with contemporaneous matters. The point of these statements of mine is this: That wireless broadcasting and matters connected therewith form the subject of a distinct inquiry from matters relating to the association of Mr. Belton and Deputy Figgis and other persons in projects of an industrial and financial kind. These documents, for instance, deal with matters long anterior to broadcasting: to projects which it was sought to obtain the support [1059] or assistance in one form or other of the Government of the time; projects, for instance, regarding the flotation of public loans; and projects, for instance, with regard to the establishment of a Casino to replace some of the Continental resorts of the aristocracy of England, and to which the Government were invited to become participants. These are matters that are extraneous entirely to broadcasting, and ought not to be mixed up with an inquiry into broadcasting such as has devolved upon the Committee which the Dáil set up. These matters, therefore, while throwing light upon the qualifications, shall I say, of the promoter of the Irish Broadcasting Company, which was to receive a concession and which only came indirectly within the purview of our Committee, have opened new doors leading into different quarters, and which, I think, require a different kind of enquiry.

My suggestion is that the evidence relating to broadcasting should be followed up by the Committee on Broadcasting after this, if the interim report is adopted, and should be published in due course. All the matters connected with these extraneous subjects should be made the occasion of an entirely new inquiry. There should, in fact, be set up by the Dáil a smaller Committee composed of people who have not prejudged any question, and the evidence that is to come before that Committee should be given in a strictly legal form, and all those persons who have been named by the various witnesses, and in the documents, should have liberty to appear either personally or be represented by solicitors or counsel. The fullest inquiry should be made, and all the parties concerned should have access to all the documents; then the matters which are of public importance will certainly and necessarily be brought out in a proper form, and every question that could possibly be raised will be raised in a public inquiry, conducted in strict conformity with the rules of evidence. I believe that would be the fairest course to adopt, fair to those who may be implicated, and it will do more credit to the Dáil and be more satisfactory to the public.

If, after the whole matter is disposed [1060] of, having been dealt with in such a manner as I have suggested, it is still thought desirable that all the past evidence, in the form in which it has been taken, should be made public, then I, for one, would have no objection whatever. I think, in fairness to all parties, in fairness to the public, and with the utmost desire to have every fact dealing with public affairs placed before the public, all those who may consider themselves interested or involved, or upon whom any reflection of any kind has been placed, should have a right to appear before a quasi-official inquiry, which will conduct the case in a much more formal, and probably much more effective, manner than an amateur Committee dealing informally with matters which were really extraneous to the immediate purposes of the Wireless Broadcasting Committee. I would, therefore, suggest to Deputy Cooper that a course such as I have suggested would promote his purpose much more effectively than the mere printing of the evidence and the documents laid before the Committee. Such a Committee as I have suggested would have fuller powers and be able to do the work more efficiently, while the present Committee can, if it is considered necessary by the Dáil, proceed with its work of inquiring into wireless broadcasting.

Professor MAGENNIS: Deputy Johnson's statement fills us with admiration for his generosity. As a member of this Committee to inquire into the White Paper Report on wireless broadcasting, I have found myself continuously, more especially at every important point of the inquiry, in the completest harmony with Deputy Johnson. I regret to find that on this particular motion I am obliged, very much against my will, to part company from him. I support Deputy Cooper's motion with one slight reservation. I quite appreciate what Deputy Johnson has urged. The inquiry was initiated by the members of the Committee as a Departmental inquiry. It was not thought in the beginning that it would be necessary to call witnesses, and so the question as to the advisability or otherwise of publicity throughout all the stages of the investigation did not strike the mind of every member. It [1061] was only at the stage of the twelvth day of the inquiry, when certain rumours had gone abroad and had been intensified by reference to them in the daily newspapers, that the claim of the Press to be present at our investigations was made.

It is, no doubt, true that those who came there and gave evidence, gave it very freely under the obvious impression that what they said was more or less in camera. They knew, of course, that the Official Reporters of the Dáil were making a record of what they said, and of the documents that they handed in. But I think we might, without exaggeration, declare that they felt these notes were taken rather for the subsequent information and convenience of the members of the Committee, than for ultimate publication. It may, therefore, not be altogether fair to a witness who gave his testimony freely and without reserve— without reticence, in fact, as was the case with regard to some of the witnesses—and it might not be altogether equitable without the witness's permission or consent, to order the publication of the evidence precisely as it now stands in the records of the Official Reporters.

On the other hand, I would urge that this is one of the accidents of life. The Committee was set up, the Committee proceeded on its inquiry, and documents came under its notice which forced it to extend the scope of the inquiry. Now, what with all respect to Deputy Johnson, I would bring before his notice just at the present moment is, that we were not inquiring into wireless broadcasting absolutely, but into wireless broadcasting relatively as affected by the White Paper of the Postmaster-General. A portion of the report which it was our mission to bring in should be therefore a report giving our considered judgment with regard to the policy set out or proposed for the Dáil in the White Paper.

Now a very essential part of that policy was the handing over, by way of a State concession, of the working of wireless to a company set up ostensibly on the model of the British Broadcasting Company, and when, by virtue [1062] of the revelations made in a document found in the Departmental file, we found that the chief agent in the promotion of this Irish Broadcasting Company was a man of a certain type as revealed in his own documents, we could not form a proper estimate of the policy of handing over a State concession to an Irish Broadcasting Company, in which he was the chief and central figure, unless we pursued this oblique investigation into the document, and the other matters which arose out of that document, which no doubt came accidentally under our notice. It would not be fair, therefore, I suggest to this Committee that furnished the present Interim Report which you are to debate shortly, to postpone, or perhaps altogether to suppress the evidence upon which the present Interim Report was based. I am as anxious as Deputy Johnson to do justice to preserving the equities in regard to everybody concerned. It is a most regrettable fact that charges were made and bandied about with regard to the Postmaster-General and to a Deputy of the Dáil. The fact that they were made is known to all the world. We have reported as regards the charges made against the Postmaster-General, and declared that they were wholly unfounded.

As regards the implications of another Deputy of the Dáil in these rumours and in these aspersions, we are not in a position to give a finding yet. At the same time, the documents which bring him in by way of implication are really necessary, or might prove to be necessary, to aid in the formation of a judgment as to the rightness or the wrongness of the Interim Report so far as it extends. There is this, however, to be remembered. As a Committee of the whole Dáil we considered that the Postmaster-General was an External Minister within the meaning of the Constitution, and that the administration of his office, his proposed policy, and everything of that sort, was subject directly to the criticism and control of the Dáil, and that as a Committee of the Dáil we were entitled to have the files of his Department submitted. The Postmaster-General met us fully upon that point, [1063] and submitted the entire files of his Department, showing every document from the first moment of the Broadcasting project to the first sitting of our Committee.

Now, to publish all these, with Departmental notes upon them, would be simply to provide a bulky volume that would serve no useful purpose. Memos. to the effect that “A Memorandum has been received and duly noted,” and things trivial, will go to swell the bulk of the volume, and the purpose of Deputy Bryan Cooper would be defeated, if the volume is such that people will not read it, deterred by the fact that there is so much to go through. I quite appreciate the retort that may be made that if any documents are withheld at all, the suspicious mind of the public will at once raise the cry: “Suppression of documents.” But these are things with which we must deal in the ordinary course of life. We shall not, no matter what we publish or what evidence we reveal, prevent tongues from wagging. We must, therefore, merely, as experienced men who know what the world is, put up with the possibility of these allegations being repeated.

Meanwhile, for the purpose of the public service, and more particularly to aid the Dáil in the formation of a right judgment, there are certain documents that ought, in my humble opinion, be published, to wit, all upon which the examination of witnesses bore, and to which explicit reference was made in the examination. I may assure you that, even if all the evidence as taken by us, and all the documents to which I allude, were published it would constitute a pretty large octavo volume, and it would take a considerable time to read and digest. I take the liberty, therefore, of proposing to Deputy Bryan Cooper, while I support his motion in the main, that he should limit the requirements to the evidence taken by the Committee, and the documents put in and examined upon in the taking of the evidence.

Mr. MILROY: I rise to support Deputy Johnson's suggestion. I am rather apprehensive that the tone of the speech of Deputy Magennis will rather heighten than allay public apprehension. I have been a member of that [1064] Committee, and I am really astounded to hear there has been such a crop of wild rumours. So far as the broadcasting business proper is concerned, I think there is nothing to which the finger of reproach can be pointed, unless that to which Deputy Johnson alludes. If Deputy Magennis's suggestion were adopted it would certainly require a Committee to select and sift the papers which were to receive publication. I cannot see that that is going to cope with the situation created by those wild rumours.

I take it that the purpose of the publication of the evidence is to dissipate the idea that there has been any crooked work in connection with broadcasting. If a Committee is appointed to select evidence, those who are hankering after intrigue and sensation-mongering will still say that something has been left out of the publication, whereas the suggestion of Deputy Johnson will give ample opportunity for every scintilla of evidence relative to the matter to be brought in, and to be brought under the public observation. I do not think that there is anything else to be said. I think Deputy Johnson's statement was lucid; it was one that stated calmly the facts, and showed a very commonsense way of disposing of this matter. These things that have given rise to apprehension have nothing whatever to do with broadcasting, and should be dealt with by some other body, and the Committee that is already dealing with this question of broadcasting should be allowed to proceed with their work unimpeded by these irrelevant matters. I strongly support Deputy Johnson's proposal.

Mr. WILSON: I rise also to support what has been so admirably expressed by Deputy Milroy. The suggestion made by Deputy Magennis of the appointment of a Committee of the Dáil to sift evidence would not allay the feeling in the minds of the public that there is something that needs the light, and, therefore, in order to be fair to those who are concerned, and whose honour will affect the honour of the Dáil, I say that we should adopt the suggestion made by Deputy Johnson and appoint this Committee, who will investigate in public, hear the evidence [1065] in a legal manner, and give their decision.

Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: A fortnight ago to-day, in speaking on the reception of the Interim Report of the Committee on Wireless Broadcasting, I stated that it was my intention at some future date to call for the production of documents, and I also added that I would urge the Dáil that these documents might be released from privilege in order that the matter might be taken by me into the courts of this country. I made that statement publicly, and that statement was printed the following day in the papers. I did not lose many days before I consulted my solicitors as to the action requisite in the matter. It was my intention that no delay should follow what I said. But what I feared has happened. Within a few days of my statement Mr. Belton sold his effects in this country and has left it. I am, therefore, put in a rather awkward position, because of the document handed in, as Deputy Johnson has said, a long time prior to its production before the Committee, handed in to the Postmaster-General, which, although it had no reference whatever to wireless or anything connected with wireless, was put into the file of correspondence and documents put before the Committee. I want very carefully, very deliberately, to avoid using any words that might give offence. I have my own very strong feeling. I have very strong reasons for that feeling, as to the reasons for the production of that document.

I think it would be a very unfortunate thing for the future of this country, if a Deputy, pressing an enquiry into a matter, would always have hanging over his head the possibility that some person concerned would file a document that would be put into evidence, making charges against him, charges which must either be true or false. If true, the document ought to be known, and if false, it is a scandal, and there will always be some person to say that there is never smoke without fire. I was prepared to support Deputy Bryan Cooper's motion fully and heartily, and I had intended to have said so quite briefly, and to have left the matter at that. Deputy Johnson's [1066] suggestion, however, has brought a new conception into the field. It is only necessary now for me to say in regard to it that I welcome, very heartily welcome, any such proposal as he has outlined. The honour of this Dáil is affected. The honour of this Dáil is affected in two ways. The honour of the Dáil is affected in as far as it refers to one of its members, because its entire honour is reposed in each one of its members, and it is also affected in so far as one of its members has been the subject of an attack so framed as this has been. Therefore, I think the correct procedure would be, if Deputy Johnson's proposal is to be acted upon, that a Committee should be appointed, and I would urge, and I think those who are familiar with the practice in such matters in other places will follow the reasoning I have in my mind, that a proposal to that effect, that a Committee having power to investigate these matters extraneous to the Wireless Inquiry, and raised in course of it, to investigate judicially, and strictly according to the laws of evidence, should be moved by the leader of this Dáil, the President of the Executive Council. If the proposal is to be accepted, I would prefer that it should be he, who is the leader of this Dáil, who should move such a motion, and I presume in that case the Committee would be put up in the ordinary way by the Committee of Selection. However, I have only risen now to say, and I leave it at this sentence: I welcome the appointment of any such Committee.

Professor MAGENNIS: On a point of explanation, would you permit me to say a word. In view of Deputy Milroy's criticism, I desire to say that I have not asked to suppress anything which has any bearing whatsoever, either as a document or in evidence, upon the Interim Report, and its formation. Deputy Milroy is under the impression that I want to select documents. I want to leave out all bulk-making things that are of no value whatsoever—merely routine correspondence—and I am supporting Deputy Bryan Cooper's proposal to have the whole of what came before the Committee, with this slight reservation, [1067] published for the reading of the members of the Dáil. When they have read these things they can form their own opinion as to the desirability, or otherwise, of pursuing the matter further.

Mr. BAXTER: I do not know if we have heard any Deputy, with the exception of Deputy Bryan Cooper and Deputy Figgis, who has spoken on this matter but those who are members of this Committee.

Mr. WILSON: And myself.

Mr. BAXTER: The point of view that I look at this from ought to be the point of view of the ordinary member of the Dáil who is outside of this Committee and who has not had an opportunity of knowing the evidence put before it, and that to a certain extent must be under the influence of all the rumours that have been circulated through the Press and outside it. I would imagine that Deputy Bryan Cooper would be in a somewhat similar position, and I take it that he put down his motion because he felt that it was in the best interests of every Deputy, in the best interests of the members of this Dáil whose names were mentioned before this Committee, that all the documents that went before it, the documents on which that Committee based its Report, should be published and should go to the public. Deputy Johnson has put forward what I am sure is an admirable suggestion, and Deputy Magennis' suggestion is admirable in its way, too, but take all their suggestions from the point of view of those outside this Committee, and what construction must be put on them? Deputy Johnson suggests that another Committee ought to be set up to consider the evidence again. I take it that that is really what his suggestion amounts to.

The conclusion that must inevitably be drawn, if such a Committee as that be set up, will be that there was something in the evidence that went before the previous Committee that ought not go to the public, and because it is not suitable to go before the public another Committee must be set up to inquire into the whole matter. You may set up that Committee, and may [1068] give to the public a Report that in one sense may be more satisfactory than you can give them on the evidence that has already been given, but will it be entirely satisfactory to the public who are to-day very suspicious? I say it will not, and I say it will be a dangerous step for the Dáil to decide, and that it will be in the best interests of every Deputy, and more particularly of the Deputies whose names have been mentioned before that Committee, that every document that was put in there and used as evidence, and on which the Report that came before the Dáil was based, should be made public. Even though it will make a bulky volume it ought to be published. Let the public know everything that is to be known; let them know the worst that is to be known. We have good reason to believe that things are not half so bad as the sensation mongers, as Deputy Milroy has said, have tried to make out. If you do not do that they will say things twice as bad as they would if they knew the whole truth. From my point of view the Motion should be accepted, and let everybody have an opportunity of knowing the evidence that was advanced before that Committee. That evidence ought to be sufficient to clear the names of members of the Dáil from the rumours and suggestions that have been made against their character and integrity. I think that it is in the best interests of their good name, and in the best interests of the Dáil that selected that Committee, that the information that was before the Committee should be published fully and frankly.

Professor THRIFT: I think I feel as strongly as anybody the importance of the purpose that Deputy Bryan Cooper has in view, and of the necessity for doing everything to prevent the slightest suspicion that the Committee, or anybody else, wants to keep anything secret in this matter. But while I hope I shall say nothing which will be in the slightest way contrary to that, for that is what I feel very strongly, I do not feel that the suggestion Deputy Johnson made is open to the interpretation Deputy Baxter put on it. In fact, I think Deputy Johnson was careful to say himself, in the first place. [1069] that if any such Committee were appointed they would have immediate access to the documents and evidence before the previous Committee. That would get over any suggestion of hushing up anything. But I rise particularly to express the hope that the Dáil will recognise the real importance of drawing a sharp line between two things. This Broadcasting Committee has one definite piece of work to do, which it has begun, and I think, as one of the Committee, I may express the hope that the Dáil will be sufficiently satisfied with what it has so far done as to allow it to proceed. There is no reason for mixing that work up with something else; there is every reason for keeping it apart, and it is not the business of that Committee to go into these extraneous matters. I support Deputy Johnson strongly in this; I think it is for the Dáil to decide what line they will take with regard to these suggestions, and I think, if I might say so in passing, that the Deputy concerned has a strong right to have his wishes appreciated and met as far as possible. Let the Dáil decide what they want to do about that. It is a totally different thing from going on with the work of the Broadcasting Committee. I do not think what Deputy Professor Magennis said really differed from what was in Deputy Johnson's suggestion. I think both were equally anxious to secure publicity. Deputy Professor Magennis suggested two points, and I think they are important, with reference to the publication of these particular documents that merely are concerned with the broadcasting proposal, and which I have separated now entirely from the documents concerned with these other suggestions. So far as these business documents are concerned, two points of view were mentioned by Deputy Magennis to which I want to draw attention. A large number of them are absolutely unimportant, and would merely tend to prevent people getting to know the real meaning of the various suggestions about this proposal. Otherwise departmental papers, which, I think, if published exactly as put before that Committee, would lead to difficulties in departmental work. There are papers that are semi-confidential, comments [1070] from officials, members of the Postmaster-General's staff, of various kinds, giving their personal opinions as to whether such-and-such projects are likely to be successful, and such things, unimportant in themselves, no doubt, but I think they would lead, if published, to a doubt in the minds of officials in such departments in future as to how far they were likely to have anything they said more or less confidentially to their chief made public at any particular moment when something might happen. I do hope the Dáil will draw that line I suggest between these two things, and try to keep them completely distinct, and to decide quite separately what they will do on the one hand, and meanwhile allow the Broadcasting Committee to go on with its work as it wants to do.

Mr. HEWAT: I had some difficulty in making up my mind as this discussion went on, but I am quite clear now that at the present stage the Dáil would be wiser to follow the arguments put forward by Deputy Magennis and Deputy Thrift that a certain number of the documents that are pertinent to the matter should be made public. As for the fear that the public would consider there was a suppression in this matter, if the names of the members of the Committee are appended to the Report, I do not think any member of the public would imagine for one moment, for instance, that Deputy Thrift would put his name to a document where there was material evidence suppressed. As regards the suggestion that this should be published in the first instance, and if it was thought necessary afterwards by the Dáil, or the public, that a greater amount of publicity should be secured, then I think that Deputy Johnson's proposal for an inquiry in public might be arranged, but at the moment I feel confident that if the material documents of the case were made public, either members of the Dáil or the public in general will ask for further evidence in the nature of Deputy Johnson's proposal.

Mr. ALTON: I had no intention of speaking on this matter as it is a painful [1071] one, but I must say that I agree completely with Deputy Johnson. I think it is the only way to meet the case, that a Special Committee should be appointed to go into this matter of the wireless broadcasting evidence so far as the conduct of any member of the Dáil is affected by allegations. I think it is only a Special Committee of that sort could select from the evidence that is before the existing committee what should be published. Deputy Johnson's proposal is the only practical proposal, and I think the only proposal that will be accepted by the public with confidence.

The PRESIDENT: I would like to know if Deputy Cooper agrees with that suggestion. It appeared to me when listening to the discussion that the majority of the Deputies who spoke leaned towards the suggestion that was made by Deputy Johnson. It was subscribed to by some others. I see a danger in the point that was mentioned by Deputy Magennis as regards certain extracts. Departmental files, as Deputy Thrift very sensibly pointed out, cannot be made the subject of publication. That is fairly obvious. We could not be sure of the confidence of heads of Departments, or others, if there was the idea that within three, six or twelve months their comments on proposals were to be made public.

In these matters, there ought to be admitted a certain privilege or confidence, which is absolutely essential if you are to discharge business. That is all I have got to say as regards that. I do think that Deputy Baxter, if he knew the quality of the material that is contained in these reports, the various hands through which they must go, and how much men's reputations, records, promotion, and all the rest, depend upon the amount of ability that is shown in the various files, would admit that it was not a reasonable thing to ask for them. A person outside, being utterly irresponsible, might easily attract some popular attention to a matter of that sort and say: “Here is an attempt to cloak.” All we can say about that, is that we have to wait until these irresponsible people have some responsibility, when they will themselves [1072] see that there is no attempt to cloak in a matter of that sort. But there is certainly an attempt to preserve the independence of a service which is of great importance to the State. If Deputy Cooper is inclined to agree to this proposal, I would undertake to consult him with regard to a motion that I would consider about introducing some day next week to deal with the matter.

Major COOPER: I am afraid I did not catch the President's proposal.

The PRESIDENT: I said that I thought there was a general feeling of agreement with Deputy Johnson's suggestion about the Committee, and I would undertake to consult Deputy Cooper during the week regarding a motion that I would introduce next week, about the appointment of the Committee, and also with regard to the personnel of it, if he so desired, and ask the Dáil to accept that personnel.


AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: That is for the Selection Committee.

Major COOPER: I am prepared to leave the matter in the hands of the President and Deputy Johnson. There is one great advantage about Deputy Johnson's suggestion which came to me when he was speaking, and that is that it enables action to be taken in this matter at once. To print the evidence would necessarily take some time. Presumably, the usual course would be followed, and a proof would be sent to the witnesses. Some of these witnesses, we are told, have left the country, and there might be considerable delay before the proceedings came into the hands of the public. I do think, however, that sooner or later that material evidence will have to be published. But I am perfectly prepared for the present to withdraw my motion, because it is obvious that if the President acts on Deputy Johnson's suggestion, the matter will then become sub judice, and it would be entirely wrong to have a mass of fresh material issued whilst this Committee was sitting, or possibly when it was just considering its report. That would not make for justice. It would simply create a false scent. I [1073] am prepared to withdraw my motion for the time being, but I reserve to myself the right to re-introduce it, probably in an amended form that may meet some of the objections of Deputy Magennis and the President. If the President will agree to my doing that, I should be very glad to withdraw, subject to the leave of the Dáil.

The PRESIDENT: Very good.

POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. J.J. Walsh): I would wish to know whether Deputy Johnson has in mind the exclusion of evidence bearing on broadcasting proper from members of this Dáil. If that is so, I think the decision will be an unfortunate one. That is the only point with which I am personally concerned. I am not in the least involved in extraneous matters, but I am, as Minister responsible for the White Paper, deeply concerned to see that the edifice built up by my Department—an edifice which I still stand by—will be displayed in its entirety to Deputies before they are called upon to destroy that building and set up something else in its stead. I just want to know at this stage whether this particular motion excludes the production of that broadcasting evidence proper.

The PRESIDENT: I am very puzzled to know what the Postmaster-General means. The matter, as it stands at present, is that Deputy Cooper has consented to withdraw his motion, and I am undertaking to bring up something which I hope will meet with the approval of the Dáil. It is open to the Postmaster-General when that motion is introduced—I have not the faintest notion at the moment of what the terms will be but I know the general lines upon which it will run—if there is any objection to the motion to enter his objection. It certainly is not intended at any time to shut out the Postmaster-General from displaying whatever edifice he would like to display.

Professor MAGENNIS: What we would like to know is, is the inquiry to be into what I will call, for convenience, the Belton-Figgis affair, or an enquiry into broadcasting? I think, with all respect to Deputy Johnson, [1074] there is now a possibility of a great deal of confusion. As I understood Deputy Johnson, he wanted to have an inquiry into the Belton allegations. That course I suggest would follow upon the public being made aware of what these things are, to see whether they are of sufficient importance or otherwise to warrant the enquiry.

Mr. JOHNSON: I am at one with the Postmaster-General in desiring that everything connected with Broadcasting and with the plans and proposals of the Postmaster-General should be published. I would like that all the matter could be made public, if it were going to be comprehensible to the reader. The fact remains—and I challenge anybody who sees the evidence to deny it—that to publish it as presented and reported it would be incomprehensible. I would assure the Postmaster-General, so far as I am concerned, that all the coherent evidence of himself and his Department might even be detached and published for his satisfaction and justification. Of course, that will be a matter for the Committee. The suggestion made by Deputy Magennis—or at least the query put, apparently to me—was as to whether there were to be two enquiries. Undoubtedly, if the Broadcasting Committee is to go on with its work, by the will of the Dáil, then, by all means, let it proceed with this work. I am quite confident, and I am glad the Dáil has agreed, that the other inquiry which the Deputy has referred to as the Belton-v.-Figgis enquiry, should be separate, but it will not be merely a Belton-v.Figgis enquiry. That is the reason I proposed such a course of action. If it were the mere printing of the evidence in its present form, or as it has been given, the Broadcasting Committee, would have to follow new lines altogether, and there would be inevitably, even then, a necessity for a further inquiry. Suggestions have been made, and I have no doubt that the President, on behalf of the Government, will be required to explain its position, or the position of the Government that preceded it, in relation to some of the proposals that have been made. That is why I want this other [1075] inquiry so that all these matters of refutations of suggestions should be made public, and the course of public life made clean. That is the whole purpose of my suggestion, and I think this is much the more effective way of securing that end.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: Apparently the suggestion is that Deputy Cooper's motion for the immediate publication of the evidence and the documents should be withdrawn. The President, then acting on what he deems to be the feeling of the Dáil, is to bring in a motion next week for the setting up of a Special Committee of the Dáil to investigate particular matters that I find it difficult to classify, but which we might, perhaps, call personal matters—distinct altogether from the question of Broadcasting. Is not that the position?

The PRESIDENT: That is it.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: I have an interest in this matter, as there is one particular point which, perhaps, should be made clear. The Committee which was appointed to go into the matter of broadcasting was obliged, owing to the nature of some of the documents submitted, to go into other matters. It is only fair to say, as far as it was represented to me, that the Committee could not help that. Nobody could have avoided it. In paragraph 9 of the Committee's Report they go into a personal question, in which the name of a Deputy of the Dáil is mentioned. They came to a conclusion—as they were perfectly entitled to come to a conclusion —about a gentleman who was concerned in getting some form of concession from the State. But they refrained, as they were obliged to refrain, from going into any question relating to charges or counter-charges concerning a Deputy. They say:—

“The Committee refrained from enquiring into these charges and counter-charges any further than was requisite to form a clear judgment as to the suitability of Mr. Belton to be a State concessionaire.”

I am interested in this matter from this point of view, that it leaves the Deputy [1076] in the position that a particular thing has been started and has not been carried to a conclusion. That is a matter that seems to me to concern not only the Deputy, but the whole Dáil. That is why I speak of it. There appears to be some confusion in the minds of some Deputies; the idea, as far as I can gather it now, appears to be to investigate that matter in order to make a definite report to the Dáil on the question raised about a Deputy, and to investigate any other matter concerning public men which may have arisen. If that is not the proper interpretation we might as well get it made clear now, because it is a very important matter from the point of view of the whole Dáil. I take it that is what Deputy Johnson meant.

Mr. JOHNSON: That is certainly my interpretation.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: And the President's motion will be to implement that idea?


AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: The appointment of a small Committee. On that understanding do I take it that Deputy Cooper is given leave to withdraw his motion?

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.