Dáil Éireann - Volume 1 - 10 April, 1919

GEIMHLIGH COGAIDH AGUS FUADACH LEANBH.

AN CEANN COMHAIRLE :- Glaodhaim anois ar an Aire Dúthaighe gairisgint do dhéanamh fé Cheist na nGeimihleach agus Fuadach na Leanbh.

AN tAIRE DÚTHAIGHE (ART Ó GRÍOBHTHA): - A Chinn Chomhairle, tá cathú orm gur mé an chéad duine beagnach a labhair I mBéarla indiu leis an Dáil acht níl léigheas air sin anois.

Some weeks ago two children, one of them but 11 years old, disappeared from the custody of their parents in the County Tipperary. One of these children was seized on its way back from school by the armed forces of the English Government. Earlier on that day members of the same forces proceeded to the house of a woman named McGrath, where they seized her child, aged 8 years, and carried him to an outhouse where they kept him from 12 o'clock to 4.45 p.m. There members of the R.I.C. placed their rifles against that child's breast and threatened to shoot him unless he told them where his father had driven to on a certain evening. One of them also threatened to run his pencil down the child's throat. The child was later returned to his mother in a state of collapse. The other two children seized by the English militarist forces were brought to Dublin and imprisoned there. Their parents were refused all knowledge of their whereabouts. I have here a sworn statement made by T. Connors, the father of the child of 11 years, showing the fruitless efforts made by the father to ascertain the whereabouts of his child and the curt and evasive replies returned by the English authorities.

Dáil Eireann has considered this matter of kidnapping of children, this new war phase of the usurping power in this country, and suggested certain measures, but we need not discuss them further for the moment. On the day before yesterday the boy Hogan was released, and yesterday the little boy Connors was also surreptitiously released and sent back to his home in Tipperary.

[60] Turning to the question of the prisoners of war and their treatment, I desire to mention the engagement entered into between the Prison Authorities and the prisoners in Belfast Prison.

The state of affairs in Belfast is as follows:—On January the 21st, the Republican Prisoners in Belfast Jail then numbering about 60, were informed that the amelioration and political status which had been won by the death of Thomas Ashe and various hunger strikes were withdrawn and that they were to be treated as criminals. This aggressive action on the part of the prison authorities was unprovoked and was taken by the government of occupation with a view to avenging its defeat at Christmas, when the Most Rev. Dr. McRory and the Lord Mayor of Dublin were given guarantees that there should be no punishment of the prisoners for what had occurred. For over twelve weeks the English Government have been endeavouring to break the Belfast Prisoners in health and spirit. They are now confined to their cells during the complete round of 24 hours daily and are not allowed out except to the lavatory. They are without stools, tables, or bed-boards. They are not allowed letters, visits, or newspapers. All of them had spent considerable periods handcuffed night and day and had to sleep in their clothes. For 11 weeks no prisoner was allowed to hear Mass. Last week men who spoke to neighbouring prisoners were dragged along the corridor by the hair. If this kind of thing continues it is almost certain the lives of some of the men will be sacrificed. In Belfast Prison the position is that the attempt is still being made to treat Irish Political Prisoners there as criminals. In Galway and other jails similar attempts are being made. Already eight men have had to be released on medical grounds and the health of all has suffered seriously.

In Reading Jail there are two men of Irish blood who are both being harshly treated. One is a resident of Argentina and the other a citizen of the United States of America.

Turning to what has been described in other quarters as the criminal state of Ireland, there have been undoubtedly very grave crimes committed in Ireland during the last few years, but the organs of the foreign military occupation do not refer to these crimes or ask why the authors of them have not been denounced and justice done. One of these organs referred recently to the fact that there had been three murders in Ireland and that no person had been brought to justice for them. There have, however, been a great many more murders in the past few years and so far nobody has been brought to justice for them.

On March 2nd, John Ryan died at Ennis, where he was shot by the police. J.M. Russell was bayonetted by English soldiers in the same county and no man was made amenable to law. John Brown was killed by the police in Kerry. On the 7th. June P. Davis was shot dead at Castleblayney. On the 25th. Abraham Allen was bayonetted to death in Cork. D. Scanlon was shot dead in Ballybunion during a celebration of the return of Mr. de Valera for East Clare. The jury in this case brought in a verdict of wilful murder against Constable Lyons, but the English authorities refused to give the assassin up to justice, and have since promoted him to the rank of seageant in its military police force. Not a single person has ever been brought to justice in connection with the murders. On the contrary, in two of the cases just mentioned the so-called police have been promoted for their service to those they have served so well. These are the cases that reveal the facts in regard to the crimes that have been committed on the people of Ireland.

I have here extracts from the observations made by some of the Judges appointed by the English military power in Ireland, and with regard to the attempt now being made to depict this country to the outside world as one in which crime in the ordinary sense is rampant these extracts show clearly that nothing is further from the truth.

Judge Gibson at Wicklow Assize Court:—

“As far as the general state of the country was concerned, I am informed the general state of the country [61] was the usual pleasing experience of Judges of Assize, that it is in its ordinary peaceful and satisfactory condition.”

Lord Chief Justice at Trim:—

“It was gratifying to him on his first occasion as one of his Majesty's Judges going on Assize to congratulate them on the peaceful state of the county.”

Judge Ross at Waterford:—

“There was actually no return of any crime in connection with the city. It was a very gratifying circumstance, because one would expect in a city such as that, that crimes more or less aggravated would take place. It was a great credit to the people.”

Judge Madden at Fermanagh:—

“From the returns and information laid before me, I find nothing to suggest that the country is in anything but a satisfactory state.”

These Judges, appointed by the foreign government in occupation to-day in Ireland, can find no crime to occupy their attention and they had in county after county to acknowledge the crimeless state of the country. There are, however, the crimes that have been committed against the Irish people. I have here a table showing the offences committed against the people by the occupying foreign power and the nature of the charges. I have arranged this for comparison for the years 1917 and 1918:—

1917

1918

Arrests

347

1107

English Raids

11

260

Meetings Suppressed

2

32

Deportations

24

91

Courts Martial

36

62

Bayonet or Baton Charges

18

81

Sentences

269

973

Died from Prison Treatment

5

1

Newspapers Suppressed

12

These crimes and offences committed against the people of Ireland by the alien power in Ireland were practically confined to three charges:—

1. —Making speeches in public.

2. —Appearing in public in military formation.

3. —Having or issuing papers or documents which if published might cause “disaffection” to the usurping military power.

These were the charges on which England found 973 criminals in Ireland during the course of the year 1918.

On October 1st, 1918, a boy was sentenced to one month's imprisonment for carrying a Sinn Fein flag. A week later a young man was sentenced to five months' imprisonment for “being in the company of boys carrying a Sinn Fein flag.” On October 17th, a youth was sent to jail for one month for “whistling derisively at the police.”

Most of us here are acquainted with the case of Mr. Jack O'Sheehan, who was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for singing a song written more than 50 years ago. Among those sentenced are women and young girls, and among the men in prison are men over 70 years of age. This record is incomplete inasmuch as it was compiled for the Press under the English Press Censorship.

We read during the course of the late war that it was waged for the freedom and in the interests of small nations. The example of the treatment of the political prisoners in Belfast forces the conviction that the objects secured by the winning of that war do not obtain in Ireland.

I found recently in some of the continental papers particulars of the outrages committed on the Belgium people by Germany during the years 1917-1918. It was stated that a total of 860 Belgians had been tried by German-appointed courts and sentenced by military courts martial. During the same period in Ireland the number of persons sentenced for political offences, including deportations, amounts to 1,357.

The Executive proposes, with the sanction of the Dáil, to issue an authoritative statement of these cases and hand a copy of that statement to the representatives of all the civilised nations in Europe and the heads of the various churches, and also to take such steps as they may in connection with the treatment of our fellow countrymen in English prisons. While we are doing all possible for our countrymen in prison everything is subordinate to the supreme [62] and paramount task of pressing forward the claim of our nation to freedom. We must never lose sight of the fact that our first duty is the furtherance of the cause for which these men have gone to prison.

An DR. Ó hAODHA (Teachta Oirthir Luimnigh): - A Chinn Chomhairle, tá brón orm ná @A fuilim ábalta ar labhairt as Gaedhilg ar fad, níl acht beagánh Gaediilge agam fós, agus tá brón orm ná fuilim ábalta ar an rudaí ba mhaith liom a rádh do rádh as Gaedhilg.

I desire to move that the approval of the Dáil be given to the Ministerial Statement just read, and in rising to do so I should like to point out the urgent importance of some of the matters dealt with therein. As regards the Republican prisoners, we must always remember that this country is at war with England and so we must in a sense regard them as necessary casualties in the great fight. But that consideration should not prevent us doing everything in our power to focus the attention of the people of Ireland and the people of all civilised countries on the shameful crime against the elemental principles of liberty and freedom that is being committed in this country by the continued imprisonment of these men under infamous conditions. There are some difficulties, such as the English Censorship, that is still maintained here, which prevent us placing before the people of other countries, as we would wish, the dark deeds done in this country against human and national freedom, but the Minister for Home Affairs in the statement just read has indicated some very practicable means of doing so.

England's prison system, even under normal conditions, is very brutal and dehumanising—is admitted to be so even by her own social workers and reformers —and has no parallel in modern countries. Its workings here for the past few years show it to be especially brutal and dehumanising in its application to our Republican prisoners. Having failed to break the undaunted spirit or shake the high courage of these men, it seems now to be England's fixed and deliberate policy to kill them or permanently shatter their health. One would imagine she should be satisfied with the blood of Ashe and Coleman and McCann, but it looks as if her thirst were not yet satiated.

It is difficult to realise the conditions under which our prisoners of war have been living for some time past—indeed to do so one must carry one's imagination back to the Middle Ages. This is no exaggerated language. I have been speaking to some of these prisoners and the accounts of their prison treatment I have heard from them reveal a state of things that is a disgrace to any civilised country—and it is only a sense of decency and a regard for the feelings of the members of the Dáil that prevent me from publicly retelling in detail here to-day the treatment being meted out to our imprisoned comrades by the country which poses before the world as the champion of the principles of liberty and freedom.

The President of the Ministry told us at the morning session that we Irishmen owe no loyalty or fidelity to the usurpation masquerading as Government in this country. Seven and a half centuries ago England established her authority here by brute force, and all through the seven hundred and fifty years has maintained it by brute force alone. Her rule here has no moral or legal sanction— and if the young men of Ireland refuse to acknowledge it, or set out to overthrow the tyranny she has by such means established, it is against all the laws of right and justice to punish them by imprisonment or otherwise for engaging in such a splendid work. Men who set out to overthrow such tyrannies are no criminals —on the contrary, the real criminals are the representatives in this country of that foreign government which has no fundamental right or title here. And not only are they the real criminals— they are mean, unprincipled criminals as well. A few months ago, as the members of the Dáil are aware, on this very question of our prisoners they broke a solemn compact entered into with a Bishop of the Catholic Church and the Lord Mayor of Dublin. I leave the matter there and beg to move the approval of the Dáil to the Ministerial statement just submitted.

[63] PROINNSIAS Ó FATHAIGH (Teachta Dheiscirt na Gaillimhe) - A Chinn Chomhairle , ba mhaith liom-sa cúpla focal do rádh ar an gceist seo. Ní ceart agus ní cóir na geimhligh seo bheith fé ghlas ar aon chor, agus ní cóir an úsáid atá aca dá fhághail.

Cé déarfadh gurab é toil na ndaoine é an cruadhchás 'na bhfuilid. Ní gádh tagairt do cheist na bpríosúnach so chun sgéal an fheillebhirt agus an fhóirnirt agus an fhóiréigin a fuaireathas riamh anso ó láimh an tSasanaigh a chur I n-iúil do'n Dáil.

Fuaireas féin sgéal ó Chorcaigh le goirid, sgéal brónach náireach é. Chuir na príosúnaigh ansan stailc ar bun I gcoinnibh na drochúsáide a bhítheas dá fhágháil ann. Cuireadh dian-smacht ortha de bhar na stailce sin, agus sáthadh isteach I gcróitíní salacha, cumhanga, ar leithligh iad -- agus cuid des na príosúnigh seo go lag, breoidhte -- agus coimeádadh itsigh ins na cróitíní lbohtha san iad ar feadh abhfad. Ní raibh pioc troscáin ionnta aca, agus ní raibh cead aca fiú amháin an tAifreann d'éisteacht. Do ghoill san go mór ortha dar ndóigh, chuaidh duine aca le gealtaibh agus cuireadh isteach I dTigh na nGealt é; tá ceathrar eile aca I mbaoghal báis san ósbidéal.

Lest any deputy should not have understood my remarks in Irish, I would like to draw particular attention to the case of the Cork prisoners. Of course the first point for us to realise is that England had no right to imprison these men at all for voicing a nation's demand.

Some of their comrades, arrested on similar charges, were denied the status of political prisoners. These men proceeded to break up prison property as a protest. They were then confined to their cells. Some of them suffered severely from this treatment. They hoped to obtain some relief under the terms of the agreement come to by the Most Rev. Dr. McRory and the Lord Mayor of Dublin with the English authorities in Ireland.

After a lapse of twelve weeks they are still in solitary confinement—all tables, bed-boards, stools, and even boots, having been removed. Hence when they weary of pacing the narrow cells they have to lie on the cold floor.

It was only last week that, as a result of this inhuman usage, one of their number—Moylan—had to be taken to the lunatic asylum. Further continuance of this treatment must tell severely on the men's health.

Facts such as these should, I suggest, be revealed to the world, especially to the scattered Irish race, so that the “Prussianism” practised here by a nation that pretends to stand for world liberty may be fully known to the nations.

PÁDRAIG Ó MAOLDHOMHNAIGH (Teachta Thiobraid Árann Theas) - Ba mhór an t-áthas dom dá bhfaighinn an méid atá le rádh agam do rádh as Gaedhilg.

I beg to second the motion that the Ministerial Statement be accepted. This statement is an indictment of the enemy power that has usurped the lawful authority in our country. This enemy has never changed his methods during all the centuries he has held us in his grip, and therefore we must not now be astonished that prisoners are being treated in the manner told to us, and told in very moderate language. Language would fail me were I to dwell on all the atrocities committed by this enemy of ours. I will only speak now of those agents who do this evil work. And what shall I say of them? They are Irishmen, with Irish blood in their veins. They have foresworn the allegiance they owe to their own land, they have sworn allegiance to the enemy of their country, they have degraded their manhood, and, like lost souls who have sold themselves to the devil, they are eager to do the devil's work in Ireland. Those black-coated rascals who seek to terrorise the weak, the womankind and the widow, who break into peaceful country homes, and scatter the furniture and effects about, who behave in a most irritating and insulting manner, who hold up people on their own streets, and on the country roads with threats, shouting “Hands up”; who arrest men, and without the semblance of a charge keep them for days and sometimes [64] weeks in the unhealthy atmosphere of these police barrack cells, sometimes to be brought to a so-called trial by law, more frequently to be released because no charge could be formulated. They have sunk to the depths—the lowest and the meanest—in their treatment of those little children in Tipperary. That little child, eight years old, whose case has been mentioned, was so terrified by their cruel conduct, that his mother had to call in a doctor to treat him, and this doctor gave a certificate and also issued a warning to the D.I. that if any such conduct was again tried on this child he would probably lose his reason. Again, the boy Connors, a child of 11 years, a delicate and nervous child—Why did they take him away? They took him, as I believe, to frighten the father and mother, in the hope that they might tell them something that they had not the power of telling because they had no knowledge of the affair. The police authorities hoped also that even though the boys had no evidence to give them, they might, by suggesting things, induce them in their terrified and excited condition to repeat words put into their mouths, so to speak. What, then, can we do? I think we can make it uncomfortable for this body of Irishmen who are so well looked after by our English enemy and who are so well paid for their “loyalty.” I think it should go out to the Irish people from An Dáil that those tools who allow themselves to be made use of for such deeds deserve to be ostracised completely and made to feel that there can be no place for them in the free Ireland of to-morrow. And the Power that is responsible for such terrorism and encourages such offences against humanity, we can hold up to the world as a hypocrite and despot, whose claim to be the champion of the rights and liberties of weak nations is but a mockery and an insult to liberty. We can wait and pray for the day of retribution, and when it comes may you and I be there to see it.

THOMAS KELLY (St. Stephen's Green)—The new Government has assumed a very good spirit of nationality throughout our land. If everything goes well with us we hope the present movement will lead to our redemption. This Dáil has now given us an Irish Government, and though I am at the back of the Government benches it must not be assumed that I am at the back of the Government, but I do think and believe that the whole heart of the nation goes out to the President and his Executive, and the heartfelt wish of all is that the spirit of wisdom and the spirit of patriotism may guide them in their councils and in their actions and guide our country to freedom.

It has been said that when a lie is constantly repeated people come to believe it—that it is the truth. The lie has been repeated for centuries that England is a Christian and civilised country, and the English people believe it. Yesterday our press said that a speaker at one of the election meetings stated that there were a good many reasons against the establishment of an Irish Republic. He said there were four million reasons against such an establishment. At this very moment in British jails there are about 40 of our countrymen all of indomitable spirit and led by a man who is equal to the whole four million British. They have for over twelve weeks been in solitary confinement, and they are not allowed the necessaries for human cleanliness. These men have had to lie on their cell floors and their food has to be taken off the floor of the cell. This is the class of treatment meted out by the power that boasts of her Christianity and civilisation, and still, with the resources that that power can command, she is unable to conquer these Irishmen. What a magnificent spectacle it is to see Austin Stack standing out against them, and with God's providence he will win. Lecky says that there is not a more moving epoch in the history of all nations than when the whole people speak with the one voice. So spoke the Irish people on last December. Some of us have our faults, but it is our right to put our individual point of view and to use our determination in so far as our power lies to do our duty and live up to the promises of the people who gave us [65] their votes. It is in that spirit I am now speaking.

We must regard these men as brothers in suffering, and since I do not like that suffering should be inflicted on myself, I do not like to see it inflicted on my fellow-countrymen. We stated on the opening day that we wished this country ruled by the principles of justice and equality for all, and we mean to do this by the Irish people, and in doing so I must mention that I am one who believes that Christ's Sermon on the Mount was the greatest deliverance ever made. “Liberty, equality, and justice to all”; that is the motto that was declared here at the first opening day of the Dáil. It is, I believe, the spirit that eventually will crown the President's deliberations and his Executive with complete success.

JOSEPH MACDONAGH (Tipperary N.) —Mr. Chairman, it is with great regret that I must confess that I am not competent to address you in the Irish language. The history of the Irish prisoners of war started in the year 1916. In that year the relations between Ireland and England started on a new footing, when England shot the men who had surrendered, and it would be well for us to keep in mind that as prisoners of war Pearse and his comrades lie in quicklime graves in Arbour Hill. They lie there together, and over their dead bodies the English soldiers drill. England cannot stand by that act. She cannot stand by her act in having sent their colleagues to English jails. Shortly after the release of the other men from Lewes Jail an order was sent forth and men were arrested for making speeches, for singing songs, all over the country, so that in Mountjoy Jail there were about forty Irish prisoners of war, and they demanded the rights of prisoners of war, because they realised there was a state of war existing between England and Ireland.

The concessions won by the death of Thomas Ashe were afterwards taken away from the prisoners, and the prisoners were taken to Dundalk Jail. Under the Cat and Mouse Act the prisoners were again treated as criminals, and in Dundalk and Mountjoy the fight had to be started afresh, and after ten or eleven days' hunger strike they won the concessions for which Thomas Ashe died. The police and the warders, from one hundred to two hundred strong, were brought in to enforce the criminal status on the Republican prisoners in Belfast Jail. Some of the men were thrown down 24 iron steps of stairs. I saw the Chairman of the Kerry Co. Council get his tongue half cut through from a blow by a policeman. His arm was almost wrenched off. These men, in spite of what Mr. Bowe, the chief warder of Belfast, said, went to Holy Communion, 84 or 86 of them, with their hands handcuffed, and it was impossible for 48 of them to make the sign of the Cross. I say that the evidence sworn in the Belfast inquiry was an infernal lie. It is history now in Ireland that Austin Stack by his inflexible character won a great victory in December, 1918. The prisoners got a promise that within three weeks they would be sent to an internment camp, but they are still being ill-treated by the warders and police.

It is hard to realise that men are confined for a space of 12 months under such conditions and are subjected to such inhuman treatment, and it is one of the most urgent matters for the Dáil to consider carefully.

I heard from one of the Visiting Justices that five men who escaped from their cells took refuge in a ledge under the roof in Mountjoy and for 55 minutes they were drenched with a hose until they fell down in an unconscious condition.

With regard to the boy Connors he has been let out, but it is a disgraceful thing that he should be detained in order that he would swear something which might swear away the life of an Irishman. England killed Coleman, and by it showed to the world that when England talks about the sanctity of covenants she talks with her tongue in her cheek. Against her in that regard we can put up the case of the sixteen men shot in Easter Week and Coleman and McCann. The fight should be carried [66] on outside as the men in Belfast Jail are determined to carry it on inside.

EOIN MACNEILL (National University)—It is impossible for us to escape having our blood stirred at the recital of the details laid before us here to-day. While all that we have heard stirs the indignation, there is not a single one of us who is surprised. There is nothing in it that surprises us. We know that only for fear of the consequences such infamous things as have been detailed here to-day would be thrown into the shade. We cannot allow our feelings of indignation to be uppermost in dealing with these matters when we come together in common council. In our homes we give full voice to what we think. The responsibility for these things rests on the heads of the rulers of England (and not on such vague abstracts as the English Government or the English State) from Lloyd George down to Maopherson and those others who are employed by them who are personally engaged in committing atrocities. They are the men we have to defeat. I hope that any potentate who has been guilty of atrocities will be punished. It will be a wholesome precedent.

If they fix the precedent of bringing the ex-Kaiser to trial, we may yet have an opportunity of having other persons brought to the bar of international justice. I have been watching the development of the English Government's policy. That policy aims at making the police our masters in Ireland, and we often do not realise that with the single exception of Russia under the Government of the Czar there never was a country so police-governed as this country is.

Now, it is the determination of the English Government at present, and it is not only their determination but their last resource, to make the police supreme in Ireland, and it is not to relieve our feelings that we have this discussion, but to defeat this infamous policy. We can, and will, and must, defeat it, and to this end we must pledge ourselves, pledge our children, pledge our friends, and pledge our country on no account to submit in any shape or form or at any future time to be police-governed by the English Government. The police in Ireland are a force of spies. The police in Ireland are a force of traitors, and the police in Ireland are a force of perjurers. I say these things, not that your feelings might be roused, but to convince you of the necessity that exists why you should take such measures as will make police government in this country by the enemy impossible.

Some of the atrocities have been related to you. I could relate many that have been covered over and concealed. At the outset of the conscription fight in Ireland we were led to think that some of the police were actually supporting the popular cause. Many of them were going to the novena every evening to pray against conscription. We now know what the reason of that strange spiritual activity was, and we also know that Lord Curzon read out a long string of testimony supplied to him—notes that these men had written down in the House of God and sent on to Dublin Castle as information against their own clergy who were opposing conscription.

It was boasted some time ago by an English Minister that the whole of Ireland was under the police microscope. The police have entered a number of houses in the County of Dublin, arrested young men, and sent them to penal servitude by false testimony. No one is safe from them. The same fate may befall any of your sons who stands by the cause of liberty. It might be anyone's son who was taken away at the same place and time as the boys, the story of whose kidnapping has just been read out.

Now, the English Government cannot defeat Ireland by a constitutional policy or by a military policy. The military are there only for the purpose of making the present police force supreme in Ireland. If you make up your mind the police policy will be beaten. The supremacy of the police since the coming of the Irish Volunteers has disappeared, and so long as you have the Irish Volunteers in Ireland [67] it will be impossible for the enemy to make their police forces supreme.

LAURENCE GINNELL (County West-meath)—The treatment of the police, and the kidnapping of little children has been linked up with the action of 1916, and I wish to bring to your notice an attempt which will further fill up the cup of England's iniquity.

In 1907 the English Nation signed a convention to the effect that any men arrested with arms in their hands fighting for a public purpose who surrendered and laid down their arms should not be executed. That is an important fact which should be brought under the notice of the Press in Paris, that England was a signatory to that pact. Everyone knows that the men who went out in Easter Week and surrendered and were prisoners of war in England's hands were murdered according to English law.

AN PRÍOMH-AIRE - A Chinn Chomhairle, bhí nótaí anso agam I dtaoibh na ceiste seo ar fad, acht anois tá an chuid is mó de na rudaí a bhí le rádh agam ráidhte. Is maith liom gur labhair Eóin Mac Néill I dtaoibh Mac Pherson. Is ar chúl na saighdiúirí, agus ar chúl na bpíléirí atá an Riaghaltas Gallda ag seasamh anois, agus ós rud é gur ceist í gur cóir dúinn sgaipeadh ar fuid an domhain, b'fhearra dhom Béarla do labhairt b'fhéidir. agus n cóir an úsáid atá aca dá

I rise to propose that members of the police forces acting in this country as part of the forces of the British occupation and as agents of the British Government be ostracised socially by the people of Ireland.

It is scarcely necessary to explain what is meant by this motion. The people of Ireland ought not to fraternise, as they often do, with the forces which are the main instruments in keeping them in subjection. It is not consistent with personal or with national dignity. It is certainly not consistent with safety. They are spies in our midst. They are England's janissaries. The knowledge of our sentiments and feelings and purposes, which they derive either from their own hearts, because they are of our race, or from intercourse amongst us, they put liberally at the disposal of the foreign usurper in order to undo us in our struggle against him. They are the eyes and ears of the enemy.

They are no ordinary civil force, as police are in other countries. The R.I.C., unlike any other police force in the world, is a military body armed with rifle and bayonet and revolver as well as baton. They are given full licence by their superiors to work their will upon an unarmed populace. The more brutal the commands given them by their superiors the more they seem to revel in carrying them out—against their own flesh and blood, be it remembered!

Their history is a continuity of brutal treason against their own people. From their very foundation they have been the mainstay of the privileged ascendancy and the great obstacle to every movement for social as well as national liberty. I need not remind you of their record during the tithe and land wars or of their recent outrages at Ballybunion, for which not a man of them was punished. Punishment by their British masters—not likely! They are patted on the back, praised and encouraged. The British minister, Macpherson, to whom they are most directly responsible, speaks of their wonderful fidelity—there have been no Curragh Mutinies in the R.I.C.—and promises that he and his Government will back them up with all their resources in everything they do and in every action they take. Very well, they have undoubtedly merited the praise of their paymasters, but the Irish people have a duty to themselves.

If Mr. Macpherson may incite the police, the Irish people, as an organised society, have a right to defend themselves. The social ostracism which I propose, and which I ask you to sanction, is a first step in exercising that right. These men must not be tolerated socially as if they were clean healthy members of our organised life. They must be shown and made feel how base are the functions they perform and how vile is the position they [68] occupy. To shun them, to refuse to talk or have any social intercourse with them, or to treat them as equals, will give them vividly to understand how utterly the people of Ireland loathe both themselves and their calling, and may prevent young Irishmen from dishonouring both themselves and their country by entering that calling.

We know how our comrades are being treated in the jails—in Belfast and Mountjoy and elsewhere. We know their crime is simply that of loving their country, and of working to achieve her rightful freedom. We know that it was the direct activities of the R.I.C. that put them in jail. We know that it was the police who tore them from their homes, leaving their families dependent; that it was the police evidence—open, unabashed perjury as it often was—that has condemned our comrades to the loss of personal liberty and to the physical and mental tortures they are being compelled to endure; that it was such evidence and such information that led to the deaths of Ashe, of Coleman, and of McCann, and knowing this, in our eyes the pay these men receive from their paymasters is little if at all better than blood money. To freely associate with them is to prove false to those who are sacrificing themselves in the fight for National liberty.

These are hard things I have said. The truth is very bitter sometimes. Hitherto, hoping for some change of heart, I have refrained from speaking about the police in the terms their conduct deserved. I am even now, as you see, speaking without passion, but I feel that as regards our prisoners I have a personal obligation, for I know that I am responsible for stopping hunger strikes—I feared that there might be conscientious scruples at the end—and so I know that I am responsible that the men who are now manacled and tortured are not dead or else free long ago.

England would have it that our question is for her a domestic one. Even if it were, the barbarities of her rule here would in themselves be ample grounds for the intervention of outside States. What has happened since we came out of Lewes Jail has been no surprise to us. The day after our arrival in Dublin we sent Dr. Mac Cartan as an envoy to the President of the United States asking that he would note the methods of repression that would be used by England against us in our attempt to have the American principles of Self-Determination and “government of the people by the people” applied to Ireland. When he spoke of certain subject peoples saying, “Those who suffer see. Those people have called out to the world generation after generation for justice, liberation, and succour, and no cabinet in the world has heard them; no nation has said to the nations responsible,: ‘You must stop this thing; it is intolerable and we will not permit it.’ ” Perhaps he had not in mind that these words, like many other of his utterances, applied to Ireland with as much exactness as if they were purposely and deliberately designed with her case alone in view. If he has not seen this already, now at any rate he can scarcely be unmindful of it. But whether Ireland's cry for justice be attended to or not, there is one feature of our slavery we ourselves must endeavour to put an end to—this degrading police rule and the weak toleration that is but an inducement under the economic pressure to which our youth are subject to enter that detestable force and be trained in it to forget their nationality and their honour, and to become the ready tools of an unscrupulous foreign domination.

Before I formally move the motion, as I have mentioned the name of Pierce McCann, I would ask the Members of the Dáil to stand up as a mark of our respect to the first man of our body to die for Ireland, and of our sympathy with his relatives. We are sure that their sorrow is lightened by the fact that his death was for the cause for which he would have lived, and that his memory will ever be cherished in the hearts of the comrades who knew him, and will be honoured by [69] succeeding generations of his countrymen with that of the other martyrs of our holy cause.

I now beg to move my motion, and I trust that if passed, the Irish people, no matter how hard it may prove sometimes, will, as they should, regard themselves bound to act strictly in accordance with its letter and spirit.

EOIN MACNEILL (Derry City and National University)—I beg formally to second the motion.

Question put and agreed to.

The House adjourned.