Seanad Éireann - Volume 5 - 12 November, 1925
THE BOUNDARY QUESTION.
Mr. McLOUGHLIN Mr. McLOUGHLIN
Mr. McLOUGHLIN: In moving the adjournment of the House I desire to draw attention to certain aspects of the Boundary question which are exciting a good deal of public interest at present. At the outset, I may say that I do not attach any importance whatever to the forecasts that have appeared within the past week in certain English newspapers, although these reports have caused considerable uneasiness and alarm throughout the Free State, especially in those areas which it is claimed are going to be annexed to what is called Northern Ireland. These forecasts are such an outrage on justice that one must dismiss them at once as preposterous unless a complete violation of the Treaty is contemplated, and this I refuse to believe. While I have not succumbed to the panic which seems to have seized several people in many parts of the country, still I confess I am somewhat disquieted by the fact that has emerged from an answer given by our respected President to a question put to him yesterday by the leader of the Labour Party in another place. According to that answer, although the  report of the Boundary Commission is shortly to be published, no attempt whatever has been made beforehand to carry out the terms of Clause 12 of the Treaty, which provides for the ascertainment of the wishes of the inhabitants before any area can be transferred. This clause is the corner stone of the Treaty, and was inserted specifically to ensure the application of the principles of self-determination and non-coercion to that section of the majority of the Irish people residing in the Six Counties.
May I take this opportunity to contradict the statement that I saw lately in the Press, that the Treaty was the cause of partition. The Treaty is not responsible for partition. Partition was an accomplished fact six months before the Treaty was signed and the Belfast Parliament was opened by King George six months before the Treaty was signed. The Treaty was an alleviation of partition and not the creation of it, and in Clause 12 was provided the machinery for alleviation. This has been made clear by the speeches of the Irish signatories to the Treaty. In a speech delivered on the 3rd February, 1922, by the late Michael Collins, he said in reference to Clause 12:
“Now there is nothing ambiguous about that clause. The decision of the boundary line is a question for the inhabitants of the areas concerned to decide.
“At no time was there any question of being misled by Mr. Lloyd George. I never went on any opinion of his on the subject. It was a matter for the inhabitants of the areas involved and for them only. The maps presented by the Irish Delegation to the British Delegation are clear and unquestionable.
“The maps are marked on five different bases:—
(c) County Council areas.
(d) Poor Law areas.
(e) Parishes according to religion.
“Our aim was clear. Majorities must rule, and in any map marked on that principle under  the above headings we secure immense anti-partition areas. If we go by counties, anti-partition has a clear majority in two of the six. Under the other headings the anti-partitionists gain very large areas in Down, Derry, Armagh, and, remember, that in the remaining area, Antrim and Belfast, there are large minorities of our people.
“These are facts, and we can only come to agreements on recognition of facts. It is useless to think or say otherwise.”
Two days previously Mr. Arthur Griffith had expressed himself in similar terms in reply to a deputation from Newry, South and East Down, and South Armagh. He said:
“He and Mr. Collins and their fellow delegates had urged the claims of these districts for weeks during the negotiations in London, and the result was that the Free State should extend over Ireland, that ‘Ulster’ should have the option of voting herself out within a month, but that if she did so a Boundary Commission should be set up to decide if such districts would come into the Free State. That was the position to-day also.”
You can see, therefore, the importance attached to this clause by Collins and Griffith, and also that the paramount object of it was to give effect to the wishes of the inhabitants by placing them under the Government they desire. How is this being done? Rumour assigns to the procedure of Mr. Justice Feetham enlightenment on the subject——
AN CATHAOIRLEACH AN CATHAOIRLEACH
AN CATHAOIRLEACH: I would suggest to the Senator not to refer to the personnel of the Commission as the matter is still sub judice and they are the persons responsible for it. While you may put your own construction and your own interpretation upon the terms of the Treaty or otherwise, I think it would be more judicious and perhaps more consistent with practice and procedure if you abstained from referring to the personnel of the Commission.
Mr. McLOUGHLIN Mr. McLOUGHLIN
Mr. McLOUGHLIN: Can I refer to them as the representatives of the  British Government and the representatives of the Free State? I do not want, unduly, to labour or to make any attack on the personnel of the Commission, but it is very hard to deal with the Commission and leave out the personnel—to talk of Hamlet and leave out the main character. However, I will pass on. What has been the procedure that the Commission has adopted to find out the wishes of the inhabitants? It has been through the medium of the census of 1911. This census gives the figures of the Protestants and Catholics in the various areas. This, however, is not a theological question but a political one. The Secretary of the Commission has been recommended to the public as having taken part in the carrying out of the plebiscites under the Treaty of Versailles whether in Poland or in Schleswig, I forget which. But would he be able to affirm that the Arbitration Commissioners under that Treaty ascertained the wishes of the inhabitants by the religious census of 1911? Although it is well over a year since the Boundary Commission began its work, not a single step has been taken to ascertain the wishes of the inhabitants in the only satisfactory way in which it can be done, and that is by a plebiscite.
It is true geographic and economic conditions have also to be considered, but these could not arise until the wishes of the inhabitants had been ascertained. To entitle the Commissioners to act on this point they must first find a conflict between the wishes of the inhabitants and economic and geographic conditions. No attempt whatever has been made to take a vote of the population in any area. No area has been defined as an area of opinion and the wishes of the inhabitants everywhere have been treated as naught. I maintain that the failure to take by plebiscite the opinion of every man and woman in the disputed areas is a failure to carry out the Treaty. I, therefore, say, as a keenly interested Ulster man, that the time has come when our Government should demand that Article 12 should not be broken by ignoring the wishes of the inhabitants. Irish districts and Irish  counties are not to be shuttled about as islands and kingdoms were in ancient times in royal dowries. Imaginary economics and imaginary geography cannot be allowed to be brought in to smother the wishes of the inhabitants. I have every confidence that our representative, Dr. MacNeill, will never be a party to the fixing of a Boundary that will not give reasonable effect to the wishes of the inhabitants. His responsibility is a grave one, and it is not lessened by the fact that our Government have bound themselves to accept the findings of the Commission, although no similar declaration has been made by the Belfast authorities. I assume that our Government made that generous declaration subject to the reservation that Free State territory was not to be encroached upon, and subject to the wishes of the inhabitants being consulted in such areas as were to be transferred.
But if, as is outlined in the forecasts in the Die-hard Press, advantage is to be taken of our agreement in advance, and if Mr. Justice Feetham thinks that because of that arrangement he has carte blanche to transfer Free State territory, overwhelmingly Catholic, without any consultation or any voice in its fate, to the tender mercies of the Orange Lodges, then I say it is time that our Government, through Dr. MacNeill, made a protest and lodged in writing a demand for a plebiscite.
It is no answer to say that the Commission has no powers to take a plebiscite. They can get the powers as far as the Six Counties are concerned from the British Parliament, as the powers were got to appoint an additional Commissioner, and here in the Free State there should be no difficulty whatever, and no excuse for not taking a plebiscite. If that demand for a plebiscite is turned down, and if that protest is unavailing, I hold that Dr. MacNeill should break away altogether from the Boundary Commission, because the refusal to take a plebiscite will leave it only a palpable fraud. If that is not done, and the Government do not resist to the death the imposition of such an outrage, then they will have forfeited  the confidence of the people, and deserve to be driven from office with ignominy. I do not want to criticise Mr. Justice Feetham or accuse him in his high responsible office of an attempt to shatter the foundations of the Treaty, but it is evident from the conclusions attributed to the Commission by responsible newspapers—newspapers in close touch with Downing Street—that there are forces at work urging that the old game of treachery and betrayal should begin again, and if they are successful we shall again witness the breach of another Treaty as large and as significant and as tragic as the breach in the Treaty of Limerick.
Lord Salisbury said about the Parliament of 1782:
“We had to concede the Irish Parliament in a moment of difficulty. The moment the difficulties were removed, of course we suppressed it.”
I sincerely trust that this policy will not prevail again. Nobody is more anxious than I am that the friendship and good feeling which should exist between the two islands should be restored. Discontent in Ireland reacts on discontent in England with explosive results. Whether the Treaty of 1921 is to leave behind it a harvest of beneficence or a harvest of evil depends on the letter of that Treaty being fulfilled in its widest sense. I must say that the English Government as a Government has, up to the present, carried out that Treaty honourably, and I pray that now they will not allow it to be said or history to record that they imported an African judge to burst up its main clause.
AN CATHAOIRLEACH AN CATHAOIRLEACH
AN CATHAOIRLEACH: As no other Senator, apparently, desires to take part in the discussion, I now declare it closed. Before we separate I desire to intimate to Senators present that they can now obtain their locker allotments, with the keys belonging to them, if they apply at the Clerk's Office. The House now stands adjourned, but as far as I know it is not likely, I think, that we will have business for a meeting next week.
The Seanad adjourned at 3.45 p.m.
Seanad Éireann 5 THE BOUNDARY QUESTION.