Seanad Éireann - Volume 19 - 06 September, 1934

Cork Shootings—Motion.

Cathaoirleach: Senator Wilson.

Minister for Lands (Mr. Connolly): Might I intervene, Sir, before you proceed with this motion. I appreciate, of course, the fact that the Seanad is quite at liberty to go on with the discussion on this motion, but I want to protest against its being taken at the present time. I feel, and I am advised by the Department of Justice, that this matter is really sub judice at the present time; that there are certain defendants awaiting trial; and that, on that account, it is not proposed that any representative of the Government will take part in the debate. There are, I believe, at least twelve defendants coming up for trial, and I cannot conceive [736] how the motion can be discussed as it stands here on the Order Paper without very relevant details being brought forward in this House. I do not think it is desirable, in the interests of justice and of the ordinary procedure of the courts, that such a motion as this should be discussed, and I want to make it clear to you, Sir, that no representative of the Government proposes to take any part in this discussion.

Cathaoirleach: May I be allowed to say at this stage that I regret, of course, and I am sure the House regrets, the decision of the Government Party to withdraw from the House during the discussion of this important matter. To a certain extent the question of the order of this motion arises from the remarks of Senator Connolly, and I should like to make a short statement on the position. The Clerk was handed a typed note from Senator Connolly, which he in turn had received from the Minister for Justice, containing certain statements. This communication was not addressed to me. If it had been addressed to me I would have endeavoured to ask the Minister for Justice what his grounds were and whether there was any reason to think that this particular matter was not in order. I have considered, and considered rather closely, whether the motion is in order or not. The letter which was received by the Clerk from Senator Connolly was as follows:—

“It is not desirable that any discussion should take place in the Seanad on the above subject at the present moment, and if such a discussion is initiated no representative of the Government will take part in it.....”

We have now been warned by Senator Connolly that that course is to be taken, which I very much regret, and which, I am sure, the House regrets. The letter continues:—

“Some dozen men have been charged by the State with criminal offences in connection with the riot at the Copley Street Repository on [737] 13th August, and these cases are at present sub judice.

Remark the word “riot.”

“It would not be possible to have a satisfactory and complete discussion on the subject matter of the motion on this occasion without including in the discussion references to the conduct of the accused men and such reference should not be made so long as the matter is sub judice.

As to the statement that a discussion in the Seanad is not desirable, that is a question which is quite outside my province. The motion having been handed in, all I have to decide is whether it is or is not in order. I hope that the fact that the unhappy affair is described as a “riot” will not prejudice the trial of the men who have been charged. The word “riot” has a definite legal connotation, and one of the facts which will presumably have to be established to the satisfaction of the court will be whether there was in fact a riot on the occasion in question.

I find that there is ample precedent for ruling in order a discussion of this kind in similar circumstances. In July, 1914, some of the citizens of Dublin were shot down in Bachelor's Walk by soldiers of the British Army. The matter was discussed at great length in the House of Commons even though the Chief Secretary announced that a Commission of Inquiry had been set up. During the Colliery Riots of September, 1893, a miner at Castleford was shot dead by the soldiers, and the matter was discussed in the House of Commons. It seems worth noting that these riots provide the background for what Professor Dicey has written in his Law of the Constitution on the duty of soldiers called upon to disperse an unlawful assembly. It is here that the common law on this subject is authoritatively laid down.

Other House of Commons precedents which could be given are the attack by the Royal Irish Constabulary on the people of Ennis, which was discussed in [738] 1888 on the motion of Mr. Parnell, and similar attacks at Cashel and Tipperary in 1890, the discussion of which was initiated by Mr. John Dillon. But the outstanding example is the famous Mitchelstown case. On the 9th September, 1887, the Constabulary fired on civilians at Mitchelstown with fatal results. In spite of the fact that a coroner's inquest was pending, and possibly, as Sir William Harcourt said, a higher and more serious tribunal, the discussion on the action of the police occupied the whole day, and it was long after midnight when Mr. Parnell rose to speak.

It is clear on all the authorities that the motion is in order. It purports to condemn the action of the police, and not the action of the men who are about to be tried. So far as I am concerned, I shall do my best to ensure that nothing is said during the debate which might conceivably prejudice the fair trial of these men. A public tumult or affray is a matter of the gravest public importance, and the Oireachtas is the proper forum in which to discuss it. Senator Wilson.

Mr. Connolly: May I make a remark before Senator Wilson speaks?

Cathaoirleach: What do you wish to say, Senator?

Mr. Connolly: It arises in connection with the letter that you read.

Cathaoirleach: I will hear you, certainly, Senator.

Mr. Connolly: I would like to explain first of all that that was not a letter, official or otherwise, to the Clerk of the Seanad. It was an opinion which the Minister for Justice gave me on the subject at my request to guide me in the line of action that I ought to take here. As a matter of courtesy, and so that the Clerk of the Seanad would know exactly what course we would be taking here to-day, I passed him a copy of that. That is all. It was not a letter, as I have said, either official or [739] unofficial to the Clerk of the Seanad. It was an opinion expressed to me. With regard to your ruling, I have no fault to find. You are the custodian of this House. You can rule and decide within your own jurisdiction what you wish to do. That does not, at the same time, prevent us from taking any line of action that we choose to take. I do not wish to reiterate what I have already stated, but, with your leave, I will decline to discuss the matter and will withdraw from the House while it is being discussed.

Cathaoirleach: You have indicated the possibility of that course being taken.

The members of the Government Party retired from the House.

Cathaoirleach: Senator Wilson.

Mr. Wilson: I move:

(1) That the Seanad condemns the action of the members of the special branch of the Gárda Síochána who, on Monday, the 13th August, 1934, fired on unarmed citizens in the City of Cork, causing the death of one and seriously wounding others; and demands that the Guards who took part in the deadly fusillade be put on trial, and that in future no Guard who has not undergone the full ordinary training of members of the force be permitted to carry firearms:

(2) That the Seanad further recommends that the Government, with a view to preventing developments likely to provoke disorder, should appoint an impartial tribunal to consider and report whether, in fairness to the farmers of the Saorstát, the collection of land annuities should not be suspended.

This motion deals with the unfortunate occurrence which took place in Cork at a sheriff's sale of cattle seized for the non-payment of land annuities. This public sale was held in a yard, access [740] to which was by a gate. The gate was shut against the public and against the farmer whose cattle were going to be sold. Only a privileged few were permitted into this public sale. Anyone who knows the mentality of farmers generally as regards rights-of-way or anyone who has had in the past to deal with questions of rights-of-way is aware that the ordinary course taken by people is to pull down gates which block such rights-of-way. I am not saying that in this case the action of the men in breaking down that gate was a creditable one, but underlying their action was something of that mentality to which I have referred in connection with rights-of-way. There were 20 men in the lorry which they ran against the gate. As soon as they entered the yard they were fired on by special Guards who were on the opposite side of the yard. One man in the lorry lost his life and several others were wounded. It appears also that the action of the men who fired was not instituted by an order of their superior authorities. These men fired on their own initiative. I know no part of the common law which permits one man to fire on another except in defence of his life. The action of these special constables, without orders from their superior officers and without notice to these men in the lorry in firing on them was a reprehensible action. I am asking the Seanad to condemn their action and to see if it is possible to have them brought to justice.

The motion deals with another question. It proposes that there should be some kind of restriction placed on the carrying of firearms by the police. As Senators know, last year there was a new levy of police. Guards were hastily levied, and were inadequately trained. Four months, I believe, was the usual period of training. These men are now carrying weapons through the country. I believe it is because of the want of training which these men received that this deplorable occurrence took place. I am asking the Seanad to agree in demanding that in future the Government should see that no Guard who has not been adequately trained in the Depot should be permitted to carry [741] firearms. That is not an unreasonable demand, I think. Necessity forces us to make that demand.

As everybody knows there is a state of unrest among the farmers at the present time. The fact that the sheriff's work is increasing daily is a very ominous sign of the times. We, as farmers, do not take the view expressed by the Government, that it is merely a political conspiracy which is at the bottom of this unrest. We take the view that it is really economic necessity that is at the bottom of it, and that a cure for the situation is not to be found in repression, or in the use of firearms by the police, but rather in an investigation of the position of the farmers— the setting up of a tribunal to examine into the economic situation existing at present, and by that means to do justice to the claims which the farmers make against the Government. In County Dublin alone, at the present time, there are 566 sheriffs' decrees issued, and of the land annuities in respect of last year, only 80 per cent. have been collected up to 24th August, and of the land annuities due on 30th June, only 50 per cent. have been collected.

Sir John Keane: Would the Senator give his authority for that statement?

Mr. Wilson: The statement, which I read in one of the Belfast papers, is a statement issued by the Minister for Lands. I did not see it in the Library, but it is correct, because I spoke to Senator Connolly on the point. The figures are very specific and they have a great bearing on the position of those who are paying their way because, by reason of what is known as the Guarantee Fund, the ratepayers of this country will have to foot all the deficiencies which come about through the non-payment of the land annuities.

I have in the second part of this motion directed attention to a method by which these disorders might be prevented and in order that the Seanad may support that part of the motion, I must make a sort of prima facie case for the farmers—a rough case which will be readily understood—from which [742] information will be at the disposal of Senators which will enable them to decide whether, in fact, there is a case for investigation of the economic situation as it exists. It was admitted by the Minister for Agriculture last week that the price of stock in this country was reduced by the difference between the bounties and the special duties imposed by the British. Mark the effect of that. In respect of a live stock population of 4,000,000, there is an artificially depreciated price of about £3 a head, so that the farmers' capital to the extent of £12,000,000 has been lost. That does not take into account at all the 40 per cent. tariff imposed on bacon, butter, eggs, poultry and horses, so that a capital depreciation of a tremendous number of millions can be seen at a glance. When you remember also that, on top of that depreciation, a second depreciation took place because of the quotas put on at the beginning of this year by the British and which were admitted by the introduction of the Cattle Bill in order to raise prices, you will find that there is again a further £10,000,000 to £20,000,000 added to that already depreciated capital.

On top of all that, the value of land in this country has been depreciated, in my opinion, more than the amount in dispute with Britain, and I think that is a moderate estimate. The value of land generally is computed by its earning power and the earning power of land at the present time has very seriously decreased. The Minister met a position of that sort by a reduction by half of the annuities, which were hitherto paid directly to the State. What does that mean? That particular concession was useless because the same amount of produce was required to pay the half amount of the annuities as it required before the reduction in the price. Prices have depreciated to such an extent that when the Government reduced the annuities by half, it was actually no help at all to the farmers. In addition, the Government thought fit to reduce the agricultural grant in aid of rates by the enormous sum of £448,000 in last year's estimates. That had a very injurious [743] effect on the rates and as an example of what happened, I will give some actual cases of increased rating as between 1932-33 and 1933-34 in consequence of the reduction of the agricultural grant, and increases in home help to able-bodied people who were in want.

In respect of a farm situated seven miles from Dublin, with a valuation of £51 10/-, the rate in 1932-33 was £18 16s. 3d., and the rate in 1933-34 £30 13s. 4d., an increase of 63 per cent. In respect of a farm in the neighbourhood of Malahide, with a valuation of £201, the rate in 1932-33 was £74 19s. 9d., and in 1933-34 £130 16s. 11d., an increase of 75 per cent., and in respect of a farm at Finglas, with a valuation of £135 10s., the rate in 1932-33 was £36 2s. 8d., and in 1933-34 £62 9s. 2d., an increase of 73 per cent. These increases have to be provided out of produce depreciated in value and with a limited market. In fact, Government figures show that the sellng price of agricultural produce to-day is 20 per cent. below the pre-war level, and that is based on returns only up to last March, when the full effect of this blockade or quota system was not felt. I put it to the Seanad that where you have a reduction in the income of these people, and where there is such an increase in rating and such a decrease in the purchasing power of the farmer, it is no wonder that such distress exists.

It is not political bias or political conspiracy that is at the bottom of this unrest. The farmers would pay their way if they were able, and as they have always done, and it is not to make any political capital out of this situation that I am speaking here to-day. I am urging the Seanad to ask the Government to set up a tribunal to examine the situation. I have stated the case in a rough and ready way, and I will just finish my remarks by a reference to the payments which are being extracted at the present time on the basis of the low prices. Last year the British collected from the farmers of this country £4,500,000. The Free State Government collected in land annuities [744] £2,000,000. That is £6,500,000 collected, and out of that they gave in bounties £1,750,000 leaving a sum of £4,750,000 net loss to the farmers. That, in fact, is more than all the annuities and the other moneys that are in dispute. The farmers have to pay that money out of produce which they are selling 20 per cent. below pre-war prices. If civil servants who get a bonus were suddenly to find themselves deprived of that bonus, and, in addition, if they were to find their wages cut 20 per cent. below pre-war level, what would they say about it? If the Guards or the servants of the local authorities, the school teachers or the artisans—if all these people had their remuneration reduced to the same extent as that to which the farmer's remuneration is reduced, surely we must all agree that the farmers are really mild in their protests in comparison with the protests that would be made by those people?

The position shows the necessity for the setting up of some authority to examine and investigate the farmers' position in order that we may allay this unrest and in order that the peace of this country may be preserved. I have spoken sufficiently in connection with the second part of my motion and I hope the Seanad will pass it. We are not here to make political capital against the Government. We are here to allay a situation which is now in the offing and which is very dangerous. If the position is boldly and honestly met I have no doubt a reasonable settlement will be effected and we will continue to enjoy what we desire—the peace and prosperity of the people.

Mr. Crosbie: I second the motion. I regret very much that the Government Party have left the House here because I was going to devote myself entirely to the second portion of this motion. Unfortunately the tragic circumstances of the inquest are merely a symptom of what is the cause. The cause I put it to you is the hopeless position in which the farmers find themselves to-day. I wonder is there one of us who does not look to the future with foreboding? [745] I am considered to be an optimist, but I confess the prospects rather stagger me. We were assured that if this Administration were put into office it would be necessary to bring back men from outside to fill all the positions that would become vacant owing to the rush of work. True, men have been brought back to fill, I suppose, the highly-specialised work of detectives, but there are at the moment 100,000 people out of employment. There are 100,000 people on the Unemployment Register in the Free State.

The farmers too, we were assured, would be put upon the back of the animal which the English comic papers always described as “the gentleman that pays the rint.” How far the Government have failed in their promises I leave it to the House to judge. Do not misunderstand me in what I have to say. I am not suggesting that the Minister acted with what is known in criminal law as malice prépense. It has to be borne in mind that more injury in this world is done by want of thought than by want of heart, and I only want to recall these to the Minister's notice to remind him that fanaticism rarely accomplishes much. I speak from the patriotic point of view, not as a politician. If the Government accede to what I suggest I have no doubt it will strengthen their position very materially in the country. For my part, I hold that instead of giving any help to the farmers up to now they have added 50 per cent to the annuities. For England has collected them very nearly in full and by a process as expensive to the debtor as if they were extracted through the machinery of the law. I think the Minister would be hard put to it to prove that at any time during the last 50 years farming was less remunerative than at the moment. History we know has an act of repeating itself and the situation of the tiller of the soil to-day is analogous to what it was in the 'eighties. In those days the landlords combined to collect what we described as “impossible rents.” The tenants combined to resist their payments. Just as the Government supporters of to-day proclaim, the landlords [746] said the tenants were thriving and could pay if they wanted to.

May I quote a little stanza, written at the height of the Land War, by T.D. Sullivan. It went:

“I heard it, I saw it, said T.W. Russell,

How tenants can rob and campaigners can cheat,

Since Cassidy's daughter is wearing a bustle,

A fringe on her forehead and boots on her feet.”

I may explain that in those days that a bustle and fringe were indispensable to a well-dressed woman. I think indeed this little song ought to be set to music for the benefit of the present Ministry and sung at popular concerts for their supporters, because the burden of all their speeches is that the tenants to-day are dishonestly withholding their payments. Even in the 'eighties farmers did not go around in rags, and I give it as a present to the Ministers the concession that to-day our country folk are highly respectably dressed. This is a fact which apparently annoys some leading members of the Administration. There is no doubt that there were many tenants able to pay in the 'eighties who did not do so. The campaigners did not take the trouble to dispute it. I suppose to-day there are some who could meet their annuities who are not cashing in. It is, however, now conceded that 90 per cent. of the farmers who adopted the Plan of Campaign could not pay up and, looking broadly at the situation, the conditions now are almost identical with those existing then. I have yet to hear of a farm—large or small— in the Free State where the principal source of revenue is other than cattle. We were told over and over before they got into power, by the present Ministers, that the farmers were bankrupt. Has their régime given them a chance to retrieve their position? I think that all will have to admit that it has not. What, then, is the prospect before the country?

May I digress a little and tell you the tragedy of Glenbeigh Estate? Either through conspiracy or inability to meet the landlord's demands in the [747] late 'eighties, no rent was paid by the occupiers. The alien Government of the day proceeded to carry out the law with the same determination that we now experience. The English Navy sailed proudly into Dingle Bay. Horse artillery, field artillery and a strong force of infantry supplemented by a great number of the Royal Irish Constabulary advanced by land on the doomed district. Not alone did they dispossess the tenants at a cost far exceeding the value of the fee simple of the property, but they burned down every farmstead and every cowshed in the vicinity. One of the tenants told me his story:—

“For 15 years I lived as best as I could on the roadside. My father and mother died in one of the hovels called Land League huts, that were erected there. I was 15 times in jail, because my allowance from the war-chest was doubled if I were under arrest. If money then was wanted very urgently by the family I had only to trespass on our farm, and they got an increase of pay.”

The alien Government went further. It set up divisional commissioners with practically unlimited powers over Munster. We disrespectfully christened them “Pashas.” I wonder will the present Government too copy this example.

The landlord party established a Defence Union with the object of getting a remunerative price for the seized cattle. They recruited troops of landless men—they called them “Emergency Men”—to plant on the evicted farms. These farms were let to them at a uniform rent of 10/- per acre, many of these holdings having previously had to pay £3 an acre. All this was done by an alien Government and an unsympathetic body of land owners. I speak with a full sense of the gravity of the outlook, and I do not want to say one word to embitter the situation, but I ask the Government whether they realise where they are heading. Following Arthur Balfour's example, they have not hesitated to shoot. Has that fatal shot brought a single pound into the [748] annuity fund? They have put up for auction seized cattle. What have these cattle realised? It is notorious they have been sold for little or nothing. The Minister for Agriculture told us not long ago that it is a patriotic action for anyone who wants to buy a beast to buy it at these auctions. They carry, too, with them, it is understood, a licence to export which is far more valuable than the beast itself. And yet in the whole length and breadth of the Free State they can only get one man ready to pick up easy money. Why is this? Have the Fianna Fáil farmers no money or are they afraid? I do not believe it, but the fellow feeling between neighbours, the tradition that still hangs round our hillsides against goods procured at a sheriff's sale is too strong for the sturdiest of them, and “Mr. O'Neill” is left in proud possession of the field.

I put it to the Minister, when he has swept all the cattle off the land of the defaulters, is he still going to emulate Mr. Balfour's record and evict the occupiers forthwith? Remember, he and his colleagues have promised to hand over such places to the landless men. Incidentally, he has in his possession or on offer more than would satisfy all the legitimate claims. He knows in his heart he has as much chance of getting anyone to accept the job of grabber as he has of getting a decent Fianna Fáil farmer to bid for seized cattle. If he carries out the law with the rigour he threatens, he will have the country studded with deserted villages and rotting farmsteads like Glenbeigh, grisly memorials, not to an alien Government, but to one so completely Irish in its outlook that such weak-kneed individuals as myself they can only describe as Imperialistic, West-British traitors. The Glenbeigh farmer I spoke of to-day pays an annuity of £2 a year. In the bad old days his rent was £7. He has now an excellent house to replace his old cabin. He erected it himself with £30 worth of material supplied by the Board of Works, but what has his victory cost him and what did our country suffer throughout that long fight? I lived through it all, and I was with the tenants in the fight and well remember [749] the scars on our country —black patches that took many years to efface. A little forbearance, a spirit of compromise, would have saved untold suffering, but pride and passion were in men's hearts then. Are we now going to repeat what even an alien Government admitted later on was a ghastly, aye, a bloody failure? I press the Minister, therefore, to accede to the suggestion contained in the second part of this motion, and to set up a Commission to inquire into the present very awful situation.

Mr. O'Neill: I listened with interest, as I always do, to Senator Wilson's narrative of the economic war. I would have no fault whatever to find with Senator Wilson's statement if it were delivered on another occasion, but I think it unfair that many of the side issues connected with the economic war should have been introduced under the terms of this motion. I followed Senator Crosbie when he was reading his well-prepared essay and the question just occurred to me: what in the name of God have the fashions of the Cork maidens in the year 1880, when they were wearing fringes and bustles, to do with the unfortunate death of a young man in Cork recently?

I was very much struck, about half an hour ago, when Senator Séumas Robinson, after the Pensions Bill had been passed, congratulated all sides of the House on the manner in which they had treated that Bill. The Seanad has held many meetings recently at which many Bills were discussed in a very fair and impartial manner although at times it is naturally critical. During their discussion, everyone here was apparently in the best of humour and there were no personal reflections arising out of incidents in the past. They were discussed in a rather mellowing atmosphere, an atmosphere which, as a Minister said to me, was very different from that in which Bills are discussed in another place. That goes to prove, undoubtedly, the usefulness of the Seanad to the country, that is, if the Seanad refuses to be turned into a political platform for Party purposes, [750] which I have no hesitation in saying is the main object of the motion before us. I think it a pity, even if we are on our last legs, that our usefulness should be destroyed. I think it is unfair to many members of the Seanad, many old members who have given great service to the country in many pathways of life, but I am glad to say that they have shown by their absence here this evening what they think of the motion before us. I am not going to delve into the purposes of the motion. In my opinion, it would have been better if it had been left alone. If it were a motion asking the Seanad to show its sympathy in some way in respect of the death of the unfortunate young fellow in Cork, there might be something to be said for it. If it were a motion to improve the farmers' position in some way, there might be something to be said for it. I acquit Senator Wilson but I cannot acquit the two other Senators whose names are attached to the motion of putting it down for the set purpose of political propaganda. I say, unhesitatingly, after the statement by the Minister, that it was put down for the set purpose of defeating justice. I feel that certain of my colleagues adopted the right course in leaving. Not meaning any disrespect to you, A Leas-Chathaoirligh, for whom I have a wonderful regard and respect, I feel I cannot conscientiously take any further part in these proceedings. The motion is put down solely for political propaganda and for Party purposes. In my long life as a public representative, I have never come across such an indecent motion, particularly as we have been already told that the matter is yet to be dealt with by the Minister for Justice. I am leaving now—I know I shall not be missed—but I do not mean any disrespect to you, Sir.

Mr. Blythe: The decision of the Fianna Fáil Senators to retire from the House prevents this motion from being discussed as fully as it might be if they were present and took part in the debate. At the same time, I am not altogether sorry that they went. I think it is better, in view of all the circumstances, that they should go [751] than that they should stay and brazen this matter out. It would be, perhaps, helpful if we had Senator Connolly here but I think it was more seemly for him to leave the House than it would be for him to remain and emulate Sir Hamar Greenwood. This is a matter which it is the duty of the Seanad to discuss. It is a matter which might not have been discussed if we had had any indication that the Government realised the seriousness and the awfulness of the occurrence. I am glad that consideration of the motion was adjourned until the inquest had concluded. I do not know whether all the members of the Seanad had an opportunity of reading the evidence given at the inquest. It is difficult, as I know, to get the Cork Examiner here. I did not see the report of the proceedings every day but I saw it almost every day. It was clear from that report that the men who fired could offer no justification that would hold water for a moment. This lorry, carrying a dozen men, was driven against the gate. It was stopped partly by the gate, which still hung on, and partly by an obstacle inside the pound. It blocked the gateway. There were very few citizens in the pound. There were a large number of police there. The men in the lorry numbered about a dozen and they were not armed. I do not know how many of them, or whether any of them, had sticks or batons. Most of them, I think, had neither. The lorry blocked the gateway so that people could only get in by coming under it or squeezing past the edges. Nothing would have been more easy than for a number of Guards in the pound to have held the gateway and to have dealt, by way of arrest if they chose to do so, with the men who came in on the lorry. It was a very small disturbance—something that could easily have been dealt with by the uniformed police with their batons. Instead of that, we had not one shot or two shots but a regular fusillade, which ended in the death of Lynch, and which it was a miracle did not result in the deaths of many others. There was a sort of pretence put up by the “Broy [752] Harriers” at the inquest that they feared O'Neill would be killed. Anybody who read the inquest proceedings will say that that was only a pretence put up afterwards. Some of them were a considerable distance from O'Neill. Some of them did not know where O'Neill was. What they were out for, as shown by the circumstances, was blood. They got no orders. I do not want to say for a moment that every one of the “Broy Harriers” is a man who ought not to be in the police force. I believe that a number of quiet, decent and suitable men joined the “Broy Harriers” simply for the purpose of getting a job at the time that force was being formed. Undoubtedly — everybody knows this—other men were brought into that force who would never have been brought into a police force by a Government with a sense of responsibility—men whose only recommendation was previous bloodshed and a career of violence of one sort or another.

These men were given practically no training except training in the use of rifles, machine guns and revolvers. There has been some talk about four and a half months' police training. It was not really police training, but training in the use of different forms of firearms. Recruiting men in that way, training them in that way and sending them out, as they have been sent out through the country, was almost bound to lead to something such as happened in Cork. The “Broy Harriers” who have been posted in many places have behaved well enough and there is no ground of complaint in respect of their conduct. In other places, groups of them have behaved extremely badly and have been ready to pull guns without any cause or justification. Others of them have threatened life and attempted to take life on other occasions. Here we had them finding their opportunity. So far as I can learn, this lorry incident was not planned to any great extent before its occurrence on the 13th August. But there had been talk about some such thing amongst the crowd at the previous sale. What occurred, in my opinion and the opinion of other people, [753] is that the “Broy Harriers” knew that something like this was going to occur, and that they determined to have blood. They had blood. It seems to me that there can be no denial that the death of young Lynch was a case of murder, and that the Government should have dealt with the members of the special section of the Guards who fired on that occasion. No good can be served by glossing over that matter. I am prepared to admit that there may be difficulty for the Government. The Government may have some sense of their own responsibility in the matter because of their recruiting this force in the way it was recruited, their training it in the way it was trained, and their sending it out raw, and with this particular background for the duty it was called upon to do. In spite of that I think that it is necessary in the public interest, and it is the duty of the Government, to put these men on trial and to make it clear that that sort of fusillading is not going to be tolerated in future.

I think, as the resolution suggests, that firearms should be taken from men in the Civic Guard who have not had a regular police training. The regular police training includes a certain amount of law; it includes instruction in the respective rights of the police and the citizens and it gives a man some reasonable idea of how he might behave even in an emergency. I would say that men who have got a regular police training and who have done some ordinary police duty would not, when armed, be liable to seize the opportunity of using their firearms with deadly effect as these men did in Cork. It seems to me that there never was any incident—I cannot recall any incident—in the Black and Tan struggle here that was more disgraceful than this prolonged fusillading on this handful of unarmed men. The fusillade was conducted not merely with revolvers but also with rifles. It is a miraculous thing that the number of deaths was not greater.

The second part of the motion seems to be complementary to the first. This occurrence in Cork arose undoubtedly out of the feeling which exists through [754] the country in regard to the collection of land annuities. Senator Wilson has dealt with the economic position of the farmer and, no matter what Ministers may say, the position through the country undoubtedly is that a great body of farmers are unable to pay the annuities. They are unable to pay them, at any rate, under circumstances in which a man ought to pay them. They are unable to pay them without so denuding their farms of stock that they will be prevented from carrying on their work, unless they deny the primary necessities to themselves and their families. There are other farmers who, while not yet in that position, fear they are going to be in that position within a few months, and accordingly they are reluctant to make sales or part with their cash in order to meet the demands of the Land Commission.

They are more reluctant than they would otherwise be because of the history of this matter. Undoubtedly, whatever President de Valera may have done by way of safeguarding his own position, and whatever other members of the Fianna Fáil Party may have done by way of indicating that the annuities would be collected, the great mass of Fianna Fáil propaganda through the country made it clear, prior to the 1932 election and the last election, that the collection of land annuities was going to disappear. That was without taking into account the losses that were going to arise out of the economic war. There is no doubt that the farmers not only feel themselves unable to pay, but they feel that they have been deceived and put into a false position through the acceptance of promises which they now find denied by those in authority.

There was no agitation, there was no propaganda by responsible people in favour of the withholding of land annuities. There was no propaganda in favour of demonstrations such as have taken place. Those demonstrations have arisen naturally out of the strong feelings of the farming community about the present position. A brutal occurrence like that which took place in Cork is not going to have any other effect than to make people more anxious to demonstrate against these collections. It seems to me to be perfectly [755] obvious that the Government is ultimately going to have to abandon the attempt to collect the land annuities. The arrear is increasing; the ability of the people to pay is decreasing. If 80 per cent. of the November-December gale was collected, there is going to be much less obviously than 80 per cent. of the June-July gale collected and, if the Government continues its policy, there will be still less of the gale due next November-December to be collected.

What the Government is going to do by persistence in attempting to collect is simply to raise bad feeling and if it does not restrain the “Broy Harriers” it will mean other incidents of a serious character. At any rate, by continuing the attempt to collect annuities it is in danger of causing a series of minor incidents, all of which will be extremely bad from every point of view, which will tend to bring the law into contempt, and which will tend to create enmities between different classes of citizens. It will result, in the long run, in the abandonment of the attempt to collect the land annuities. What the Government ought to do now is to accept the substance of this motion. It ought, in the first place, to take action to make it clear that it will not tolerate wanton killing by armed agents of the State. It ought to make the citizens realise that whatever the relations of particular police and members of the Government have been in the past, those members of the police forces must behave themselves properly and must not use their arms on the citizens except in circumstances which will justify doing so, except when there is a dire necessity for the protection of life. Even then, they should see that they are going to use their arms to the minimum extent and that we will not have a sort of miniature Amritsar business, which, but for something in the nature of a miracle, might have occurred in Cork last week. They ought to make it clear that the police must behave themselves, and they ought to take the precaution that only trained men are in possession of firearms.

[756] The Government should also face up to the economic problem which has arisen. I hope instead of talking, as the Minister for Finance did here the other day, about some farming family making, as was alleged, greater profits than ever before, that they will accept the facts as they are known to the great bulk of farmers and realise that the payment of land annuities is a matter of extreme difficulty for farmers and is an absolute impossibility for perhaps most farmers. It is to be hoped that they will abandon the collection of annuities or, if not, that they will set up a tribunal as requested here, an impartial tribunal which will, perhaps, recommend some middle course, if there is any middle course possible, between the complete abandonment of the collection and the attempt to continue the collection under the conditions that exist at the present time.

In any case if the Government is determined to continue the collection in the public interest, they must take steps to see that there is not the same procedure in connection with auctions and the sale of cattle, that we have been accustomed to for some time. An auction almost by definition is a public sale. An auction to which only a privileged few is admitted is certainly something which gives the owner of cattle ground for complaint, and gives ground for warm feelings to the owner's neighbours. I am informed that people who were prepared to bid have been kept out of several auctions. In future the Government must see to it that all who are prepared to bid are not kept out. A person ought not to be required to guarantee to bid before being admitted to a public sale. All who are not obviously going to create disturbance should be admitted to these sales. Something must also be done about the question of granting licences to these mysterious Government buyers, while licences are refused to other persons who may have cattle for sale. It seems to me that there is something almost unsavoury about this whole business of the conduct of these auctions. We have mysterious buyers, perhaps giving false names. No one really knows [757] whether they give their real names or false names. These men come along to sales with the police, sometimes transported apparently by the police, and sometimes even representing themselves as detectives, to which the ordinary public are refused admission, getting cattle at “knock-down” prices and then being able out of the ordinary course, to get licences for the export of the cattle.

I have here a report of a sale at Clonmel on August 20th at which a cow was sold for 5/- and others at 15/-. It is not to the credit of the Government that they should be carrying on in that way. If they will insist on collecting the annuities they should, at least, make some arrangement for sales that will not have a hole-and-corner appearance, an appearance of mystery and intrigue associated with sales, as they are conducted at present, and that will not arouse public anger as they are arousing it. Taking everything into account, I think the Government instead of brazening it out, instead of disappearing and refusing to listen or to answer what is said, should face up to the facts as they have arisen, and do their best to see that the confidence which the people had in the police force as a whole, taking all branches of it together, is restored, by imposing discipline upon the part of it which is naturally indisciplined at the present time. In addition to doing that they should, one way or the other, recognise the farmers' case in relation to the annuities.

If they are satisfied that the farmers can pay, as some Ministers have stated, then they can have no objection of any sort to having the matter considered by an impartial tribunal. An impartial tribunal will say whether the farmers are able to pay or not. After that, the impartial tribunal having been demanded by so many farmers, it is to be presumed, if there is any deliberate refusal to pay by people able to pay, that will cease, and the Government will have gained. If the Government prosecutes unjustifiably people who were wounded by that murderous [758] fusillade, and allows the police to go too far, if it disregards all the facts and arguments in regard to the farmers' position, continues to collect these sums, and if these private and privileged buyers are to get cattle for practically nothing, as well as licences to export them, they are going to create a position which I do not say will be disastrous but which will have many ill effects on the country, and on public opinion, as well as on respect for the law and the maintenance of peace and order.

Sir John Keane: I am chiefly concerned with the predisposing causes of this trouble, and that is the economic position. I do not say that I am not concerned also with the protective side, and the police side. With regard to the police side, as I said on a motion a year ago, it is very dangerous to take men, if they have had any political affiliations with any party, and to arm them and let them loose at times when public feeling is running very high. Past experience has shown that something in the nature of a proclamation or an order is necessary in cases of riot, before troops use firearms. I should first of all say that uniformed Guards should deal with the situation, being supported by military, which, if possible, could be kept in the dark. It is most dangerous to have plain clothes police on such duty. With regard to the economic position, I appreciate the difficulties of the Government. It is very difficult for the Government to call the sheriffs off, but, on the other hand, they must have regard to the position of the farmers. I am afraid the Government is acting in the spirit of believing that these people are doing this for political purposes and that they are not going to have that or to be ridden by Opposition political organisations.

The Government, however, must have regard to the facts. There is undoubtedly distress, and unless the Government have satisfied themselves of the measure of that distress, while they have a legal right, of course, they have a moral responsibility to apply the law of discretion. Creditors like banks [759] cannot call in the sheriffs on every occasion. They have to have regard to individual cases and to hold their hand in many cases. A similar duty rests upon the Government. To justify this action the Government must have first an inquiry to realise what the economic position is, to see if the farmers can or cannot pay. They have their rights and they ought to have their duties. If the Government's case is to steam-roll law I feel they are courting disaster. One does not want to condone illegal action, but men will not sit still and see their cattle or their furniture sold. It is beyond human nature to expect people to sit down when there is no attempt made to go into their case. I make these remarks with reluctance, because I feel that in some matters we have unfortunately a heritage of disorder in this country. I do not want to encourage it.

The situation is such that I feel the Government must inquire before they act. If they are going to act they should do so on the circumstances of the case. If a man has matured stock and cannot get licences they should take the cattle and sell them to the best advantage. They should not sell them, as Senator Blythe said, to the highest bidder, and let whatever profit is made go to mysterious buyers. The farmers should get full credit for any matured stock seized and marketed, and there should not be, except in a case of proved imposture, where a man can pay and will not pay, any seizure whatever of stock which constitutes a man's earning power.

Miss Browne: I only wish to say a few words, as the matter has been very ably dealt with from the different points of view by Senators Wilson and Blythe. I endorse what they have said. I could add figures to Senator Wilson's to prove that the farmer in remote parts of the country is in a worse position than the farmer in the instance he has given—that is, living in County Dublin where the Dublin markets may give him certain advantages. I deny absolutely that we who put our names to this motion have [760] any inclination or desire to make political capital out of it, as we have been accused by the Government. We merely want to see bare justice done; we are not asking for anything else. I believe this motion is a very reasonable one, and that the Government might have treated it with more courtesy.

I wish to refer to a matter which has not been dealt with by any of the other speakers. It seems to me extraordinarily inconsistent on the part of the Government supporters, and especially Senator Connolly who represents the Government here, to leave this House on the plea that the matter referred to in the motion is sub judice. Strictly speaking, it is not. It does not deal with the case of the men arrested for riot. Anyone reading it can see that it does not. Their inconsistency seems to be most extraordinary in view of the fact that the Minister for Finance, even before the inquest on this unfortunate boy was held, rushed up to a meeting in Cavan and in the usual violent and reckless language which we are accustomed to hear from him condemned and placed the blame for the whole matter. We have not had the slightest apology from the Senator representing the Government or from any of the followers of the Government for that. Their action to-day seems to me thoroughly inconsistent in view of that. There is nothing more that I can add to the very forceful arguments that the other Senators have made. I think the least the Government ought to do is to have an impartial inquiry into this matter. The shooting of this young boy Lynch —an exemplary young man as we know —has sent a thrill of horror through the country. We ought to allay that feeling, at any rate, and I think they might accept this motion and act upon it.

Mr. Dillon: Before the debate closes, I should like to add my voice to that of the other speakers in asking for an inquiry into this matter. As far as I can see, the offence committed by these young boys was a comparatively small one and the punishment meted out to [761] them was very serious. Their action was admittedly violent, and, I suppose, illegal, but I, at all events, have seen many more violent assaults than these boys made in Cork which were suppressed with the greatest case by the unarmed authorities of the State. I witnessed, for instance, the Larkinite riots in Dublin many years ago and there was no difficulty in suppressing them. They seemed to me, at all events, far more dangerous to life and property than anything which occurred in Cork. All that these boys appear to have done was to break down a gate which was illegally closed against them. The sale was a public one and the gate was closed. These young boys in the lorry simply broke down the gate. As far as could be learned from reading the evidence at the inquest or from anything that one could hear otherwise, there did not seem to be any lives endangered by their action, so that the public conscience has been shocked by the shooting down of these young fellows and the life which has been lost.

I think it is a reasonable thing that a responsible public representative body such as this should at least ask that an inquiry should be held into it. I do not suggest that it was for the purpose of evading responsibility that the Government representatives withdrew from the House. But I certainly think the Government cannot evade responsibility in this matter. They are certainly responsible for the basic conditions which brought it about and brought about these sales. I think there are many extenuating circumstances that could be mentioned with regard to what these boys did. At all events, there is a traditional objection to the use of bailiffs and emergency men and the making of seizures. There is a traditional objection bred in all Irishmen to such things as that. When all is said and done, therefore, I think that their offence was very small compared with the terrible punishment meted out to them by the use of firearms.

When I suggest that the Government cannot evade responsibility, I am referring to the conditions which they have [762] brought about in the economic life of the farmers. The farmers have become a sort of pawn between the British and our native Government. There is very little thought for the economic welfare or prosperity of the farmers when considering the international position brought about by the withholding of the annuities. So that, as I say, the farmers are merely pawns between the two, and it certainly is a suitable proposal to make that a tribunal should be set up to inquire into the whole matter; to inquire into the responsibility of the men who used the firearms and also of the Government which has brought about these conditions in the country. The public mind is certainly disturbed as to what is likely to happen in the future, because if things go on as they are going, there is certainly no doubt but that we shall have more seizures and more demonstrations because of the impossibility of the farmers earning the money to pay the annuities and rates. That is self-evident. I think the responsibility remains with the Government to set up some tribunal to try to bring about some amelioration or remedy. I certainly have great satisfaction in supporting the demand.

Motion put and declared carried.