Location: 3 Mountjoy Square. Private meeting.
He did not knew to what extent the members had been told about the Peace Negotiations. The Minister for Finance handed him the dossier about these negotiations, and that Minister would be able to give them a general summary of them. Early in December Lloyd George asked Dr. Clune to act as intermediary between the British Government and Republican Irishmen here. It came to a point in the negotiations when a formula was drawn up for a truce, the actual terms of which were as follows:—
"The British Government undertakes that during the Truce no raids, arrests, pursuits, burnings, shootings, lootings, demolitions, courts martial, or other acts of violence will be carried out by its forces, and that there will be no enforcement of the terms of the Martial Law proclamations. We, on our side, undertake to use all possible means to ensure that no acts whatever of violence will occur on our side during the period of the Truce. The British Government on their part, and we on ours, will use our best efforts to bring about the conditions above mentioned with the object of creating an atmosphere favourable to the meeting together of the representatives of the Irish people with a view to bringing about a permanent peace."
The negotiations broke down owing to the fact that the British Cabinet, led by the "Die-Hard" members, such as Bonar Law and others, felt they could hold out and wanted an absolute surrender of all arms. Up to that things seemed to be moving fairly well. It was clear from this that members of the Government saw there was nothing on the Republican side which would in any way prevent such a truce coming about. The whole thing was declared off because Lloyd George, urged on by the "DieHard" members of the Cabinet, thought they were on the run and broken up. Everything pointed, therefore, to this: that no matter what the results were, the proper thing to do was to hold tight. They should not seek an immediate decision seeing that time was on their side. To have no public change, to continue as they had been, to try to keep their people together, and to try to ease off as far as possible consistent with showing the country that they were in the same position as before. That was what he had to say with regard to the main question of policy, and he thought it better to settle this question before discussing his Report about America or anything else.
The MINISTER FOR DEFENCE said he was the one person responsible for the non-holding of the meeting last Friday. He was unaware of the intention to hold.
Dáil meeting till he received a message about it a few days in advance. He went to the President and asked him did he realise the consequences of a raid on the meeting, and when he (the Minister for Defence) explained what the possible consequences would be, the President agreed they would not be justified in holding it. He thought if the meeting were raided that day and they were all captured it would be the finish of the Irish Republic for their generation. The responsibility for this disaster would be on him and on the Minister of Finance if the meeting was held and raided.
He then made a verbal report as to the policy pursued throughout the country. He stated that at a previous meeting he had asked the Teachtaí for suggestions, but only two had given him any aid.
The ACTING SPEAKER then announced that he had decided to allow a general discussion on the President's statement, and asked every member to keep to the essential points as far as possible in order to save time.
LIAM DE ROISTE (Cork City) extended a hearty welcome to the President on his return from America. He wished to assure him that the members had the greatest regard and esteem for the President, and lest the President should misunderstand what had occurred at Friday's meeting, he pointed out that the members in the country, who were outside the Dublin circle, knew nothing of what was going on, heard nothing to guide them, and had to rely altogether on their own judgment. With regard to the Peace negotiations, he had known nothing about them, nor about the terms, nor who was carrying them on. It was unfair to censure Mr. Sweetman for writing to the papers, which was the only way he had to express his opinions. If the members were acquainted with the general policy as it was controlled here, there would be no necessity of having any apparent disagreement. He agreed with the President that there was a necessity for slowing down activities. He wanted to know how far activities taking place were authorised from Headquarters or from the local authority. He had no fear of the spirit of the people breaking, but he did fear that the result of certain activities would be such that the people would have to cry peace to save their lives. He asked if certain actions taken in Cork which resulted in increased terrorism and suffering on all the people of Cork were authorised from Dublin or not. If they were authorised there was a necessity for easing off, as the people could not ultimately stand it. If not authorised there was a necessity for strict discipline. The action taken last Saturday week in Cork was to his mind very foolish. All their work on the constructive side was stopped as a result. They could not hold Courts, Corporation meetings or anything of that nature. It was physically impossible to do anything with Curfew at 5 p.m. Members in the country had no control over these matters, and were in the position of cock-shots from both sides—one side asking why they did not make peace, and another why they did not give expression to their opinion.
There was another argument being used to which he objected, and it was that if the enemy took a certain action they should also take action to show him they were not frightened. With regard to physical activities, he thought that was the choice ground of the English. The enemy were stronger now than during the war, and if they in Ireland reduced the thing to a physical conflict they were bound to lose, because they would be fighting on the enemy's chosen ground. They should choose the ground on which the enemy was weakest, the economic ground, and they should shift their activities to this ground and ease off on the other side.
P. BEASLEY (Kerry, East) said that there was a kind of haziness created in his mind about the talk of easing off, it was such a vague and indefinite phrase. The member for Cork said just now that the economic question was the one to beat the enemy on, but he thought the military question was very much wrapped up in the economic one. Just as the men in jail were keeping warders in the country to mind them, so the people who were suffering hardships from Martial Law, by compelling the enemy to keep up the pressure, were putting a big economic strain on him. Everyone would sympathise with the desire to relieve the people of a good deal of their suffering, but nothing should be done without careful consideration. He thought it could not be said that great consideration was not always shown by the Department for which the Minister of Defence was responsible. It had come to this, that everyone in Ireland must suffer: they did it in the past and stuck it. If easing off was to be interpreted as a cessation of their activities, he thought it would be disastrous. But if it meant a transference of their activities from those parts of the country that were suffering most to other parts he would be satisfied.
R. SWEETMAN (Wexford, North) said he had hoped to have had the honour of meeting the President yesterday, and had drawn up a statement of his views on the question of general policy, which he read to the House.
He was in total disagreement with the policy pursued for some time back. He had never been told what the strength of the Volunteers was. Every member of the Dáil should know what was behind him in the nature of the Volunteers. He considered public Boards could not last beyond March next, and that the Volunteers were in a process of disruption. He thought there was a number of people outside the Dáil who did not see eye to eye with them on the present policy. They were absolutely presenting the enemy with the situation he wanted, and they were letting him bring matters to a head. The letter he wrote to the Press was written after the very severe Sunday they had in the middle of November. He was quite certain at the time, and was still certain, that a number of things like that Sunday would bring destruction to the Irish cause. Such actions had a reactionary and unfortunate effect in America. He refused to be put down as an utter pacifist, but he wanted to see nothing done which they as moderate men could not stand over in the main. He could understand the general argument of not showing weakness, but he considered the highest form of weakness was the weakness of being afraid to show weakness. He was ready to risk even being praised by Lloyd George. He thought it was absolutely necessary to call off that form of activity which culminated in the events of that Sunday. He explained that in his letter he proposed a conference of certain public bodies, the greater number of which were favourable to the Cause, not for the purpose of negotiating, but for suggesting a preliminary truce to peace. He considered such a conference would have been much better than to allow the pourparlers that did take place.
The MINISTER FOR FINANCE interjected that they were no more able to stop these negotiations than Mr. Sweetman's letters.
Mr. SWEETMAN, continuing, said he did not believe his letter had any effect in changing the attitude of the British Cabinet towards the peace negotiations. His letter was dated 30th November. 1920, and Messrs Griffith and MacNeill were arrested on the 26th of that month. He contended the change took place when these arrests were made. If he, as a Member of the Dáil, had committed an indiscretion, it was due to the fact that, as a Member of the Dáil, he had not been put in possession of essential facts which must have weight with him as a responsible man in sizing up their strength and weakness.
The DIRECTOR OF FISHERIES said that the future actions of Mr. Sweetman was a matter on which they should get some assurance. He had heard that in conversations with certain people Mr. Sweetman had said that he never had a statement from the Minister of Defence, that huge sums had been voted for Defence by the Dáil and that no detailed account of expenditure had ever been shown.
The ACTING SPEAKER intervening, asked if this had a bearing on the general policy.
SEAN MACENTEE (Monaghan, South) objected on a point of order, and Mr. SWEETMAN said they should have a detailed statement of the charge.
The DIRECTOR OF FISHERIES said it had a bearing on the General Policy. Mr. Sweetman had referred to the activities of the Volunteers at Solo-head and other places as murders. He thought Mr. Sweetman did not understand the position of the Republican Government that it was ade facto Government. Mr. Sweetman seemed to agree with the British Government that it was simply war when they did any killing, but when it was on the other side it was absolute murder.
SEAN MACENTEE (Monaghan, South) again objected on a point of order. He thought the discussion was developing into a personal attack on Mr. Sweetman.
The DIRECTOR OF FISHERIES protested that he had no ill-feeling against Mr. Sweetman, but he wished to show him how detrimental his action was to the cause. There was very great ill-feeling in Wexford against Mr. Sweetman on account of his action. He hoped they would not have any more damaging letters in the papers from him, and he would like to have a statement from him as to his future attitude.
J. MACDONAGH (Tipperary, North) completely disagreed with Mr. Sweetman's views, but he objected strongly to the tone of the attack in the last speaker's remarks. With regard to the General Policy he would be sorry to see any slackening off. He thought the proper thing to do was to keep up the pressure. He had yet to be convinced that any slackening off of Volunteer activities would cause a slackening off of the British activities. It was always the way in Ireland that as soon as the opposition lessened the forces of the enemy increased their activities. In December, he said, there were some signs of cracking up in parts of Tipperary; the people began to be very pessimistic, but he knew now that all the terrorism was hardening them, and instead of slackening off activities at the present time they should increase them. The Member for Cork had stated that reprisals showed how futile the efforts of the Volunteers were. If all actions were to be judged by the immediate result no one in Ireland would do anything. Even though houses were burned and people shot it would be well worth while if they achieved the result they hoped to achieve. It would be well worth while if the whole country were burned provided they won through. They all realised when they entered this war that they were going to carry it through and that the enemy were all out to beat them. He thought the activities of the Volunteers should be increased if possible, as they were only getting into their stride now. The people in Martial Law areas were getting hell, but they were not squealing about it. Lloyd George at Carnarvon said they were all on the run and that he had murder by the throat, but the state of affairs in Ireland was infinitely worse now from a British Government point of view than it was two months ago. They had the power to stand the strain and the British Government could not.
He thought if more notice was given to Propaganda in England and Scotland it would help them considerably. People there were saying they did not know how matters were in Ireland, and if £1,000 were spent on Propaganda in England the result would justify the expenditure. He instanced that at the beginning of the recent Coal Strike in England the great majority of the people in London were savagely opposed to the miners for coming out, but on the miners proving by means of propaganda posters all over London that a ton of coal at the pit mouth cost £2 8s., and that the British Government were getting £10 a ton for it from France and other countries, the whole people of London swung round in favour of the strikers. He thought if a certain amount of money were spent every week in getting up fifty or sixty thousand posters in the cities in England showing one atrocity per week, it would be far better than sending speakers to the Self-Determination League meetings. There was another point he wished to make, the Irish Volunteers were fighting the British Government, and this same Government was being kept where it was by Irish Trade. They were the biggest customers of British goods in the world at the present time. He thought the time had come when the Volunteer activities should be supported by economic activities such as the Non-co-operative movement in India. He suggested that the Minister of Trade and Commerce should be got to work on a scheme for a rigid boycott of all English goods. If the Dáil was anxious to succeed, it should get on with a constructive policy as well as a military one. That had been lost sight of altogether. The proper policy was to be as aggressive as possible. There was no good in slackening down. Mr. Sweetman's policy was the defeatist one.
The ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT agreed with the Member for North Tipperary. Both the members for Cork and North Wexford showed a great deal of moral courage in stating their views so clearly, and they deserved the thanks of the Dáil for expressing them, but he thought they were both greatly mistaken in the views they expressed, as they merely considered the results of the moment. If a lorry load of Black and Tans were ambushed and a large area burned as a reprisal, they merely set one fact against the other and said the odds were with the enemy. They did not take into account that while England got £50,000,000 out of Ireland last year, the Administration of this country was costing her £100,000,000. They did not at all weigh the effect of the Reprisal Campaign on Labour and Liberals. They merely look at Ireland and seem to forget the fight going on in India, Egypt, and South Africa. They also overlooked the Unemployment menace. Their statements, to his mind, were pessimistic and defeatist and did not reflect the views of their constituents or the country as a whole. He considered any slackening in military activities would be a mistake and would help Greenwood to convince the English that the Republicans were on the run. He thought they should endeavour there and then to have something in the nature of an economic boycott. It was a serious thing that they were keeping men in employment in England by buying English goods when some hundreds more out of employment might make all the difference. They should start on the principle, "Any goods so long as they are not from England." All English goods should be marked "tainted." Mr. Sweetman's opinion that local Public Bodies could not last beyond March next was wrong. Any fears he had were for the period between now and March. There might be a no-rate campaign started, but they felt confident they could deal successfully with any situation like that, and prove to individuals that they could not shirk their responsibility to pay rates. No man could shirk his responsibility without contemplating what a general failure to collect rates would mean. After March Local Administration will depend on rates raised locally. The English Local Government Board will have no control. The Rate Collectors' bonds will be gone, and the Bodies will be collecting on their own stamp. There was a financial crisis at present because local bodies had budgeted this year on the assumption of the payment of the usual Grants, but there was no sign of a complete breakdown on which the Custom House based their hopes. There would be no allowance for Grants next year in the Budget, and consequently their financial position would be infinitely better at the end of that year.
SEAN MACENTEE (Monaghan, South) wished to point out that as they were discussing general policy, he had from the very beginning urged upon them the necessity of frequent Dáil meetings. The Ministry did not seem to pay any attention to his arguments, and he said they were of opinion they could continue to govern the country while the Dáil was in a state of hibernation. He thought if that policy was continued the result would be disastrous to the country. He admitted there were grave risks in holding meetings, but they should not shirk their responsibility. He believed the Truce negotiations would not have fallen through if the Dáil had met. There were many members like the Member for North Wexford, completely divorced from the Dáil at the present time and had no means of keeping in touch. That was where the danger lay, and he hoped in future it would be the set policy of the Ministry to bring the Dáil together more frequently. With regard to the military policy, he thought it would be a very great mistake if there were any easing-off in activities. He thought they should be as tenacious as possible. He thought there should be an extension in the districts that give allegiance to England. He suggested this months ago in connection with the boycott of Belfast. The North of Ireland was the main garrison of England, and it should be attacked, and instead of slackening off they should concentrate on that position. He considered there should be a considerable increase of activity in the Propaganda Department. There had not been such a fight for freedon in Ireland for over 120 years. People did not understand what it meant when they compared results of an active campaign with its immediate disadvantages. He saw a statement the other day which estimated the total claim for damages done as a result of military action at £9,000,000 for one year, and it was costing the country £50,000,000 a year for slavery. He also saw that during the Great War 50,000 Irishmen were killed, while during the past five years the Volunteer losses did not exceed 1,000. If these figures were put before the people they would have a much better perspective and have some idea as to what was involved. He thought there should be a considerable wakening up of the Propaganda Department. He was glad to see the Minister for Local Government was optimistic about local administration. He had suggested to the Commission on Local Government six months ago to consider whether it was worth while trying to carry on the Local Government Act for the benefit of the English, and, if it was found impossible now for them to administer it for Ireland's benefit without imposing great strain on their resources and their own people, he thought the alternative policy should be adopted of asking the Councils to refuse to carry on. The British Chief Secretary might try to carry on by appointing one man to undertake the work, but he was sure before six months the Custom House would be begging the local Bodies to help them out of the mess they would be in. He paid a tribute to the high moral courage of the Member for North Wexford who in a very difficult position made a mistake in taking the responsibility he took of writing to the Press, but he for one would not attack him.
The MINISTER FOR FINANCE said he had a number of suggestions to make which could best be taken up on the Reports of the Departments concerned. He was in entire agreement with the Member for South Monaghan in his remarks as to Dáil meetings. In talking about Peace he noted tributes had been paid to certain members for having the courage of expressing their views. Everyone was perfectly entitled to express his views but they had asked, and were entitled to ask, that people who put responsibility on the Ministry should consult them before they swept them into a fix. He was making no attack on anyone, but he would say that no deputy should step into the net of the enemy at a critical time. As he said already they had no power to stop a few irresponsible meddlers. There was one official intermediary who came to them by request of the English Prime Minister with the suggestions read to them earlier by the President. The formula for a truce was agreed upon and the intermediary was surprised at the sweet reasonableness of the people whom he was led to believe were frightful ruffians. He returned to the Prime Minister of England and the latter had three things in his hand, a letter from the Deputy for North Wexford taken from the Press, a telegram from Father O'Flanagan, and a resolution which was bogus from the Galway County Council. "Now, Dr. Clune," he said, "this is the white feather, and we are going to make these fellows surrender." The first time he (Lloyd George) saw Dr. Clune he did not know of the letter to the Press. Dr. Clune (the intermediary) came here and saw Messrs. Griffith and MacNeill and spent some days in Dublin, and when he returned to England Lloyd George had the three things together. The letter which appeared in the Press was about the very end of November. The first interview they (the Ministry) had with Dr. Clune was on the 4th December, and he had then been in Dublin about four days, and it was when he went back he was confronted with these things. He did not want to suggest for one moment that Lloyd George was sincere. Indeed, when Dr. Clune came back Lloyd George made the excuse to him that he could not control his Cabinet. He did not think Lloyd George was sincere, but it was wrong to give him the chance to bolster up his action by the ill-timed actions of people who ought to have hesitated before they leaped. It was remarked here at a previous meeting of the Dáil that members had little difficulty in getting into touch with the Ministers when they came on a land case, and they would have as little difficulty getting into touch on any occasion as they would have on such occasions if they put themselves to the very small trouble of sending a letter or paying a visit to Dublin. It was not necessary for him to answer any of the questions which concerned other Departments, but he could talk authoritatively about the Peace Negotiations, as he happened to be acting for the Acting-President in those days after his arrest. There never was a time when the Members could not have obtained information as to the strength of the Volunteers by a question or by getting into communication with the Minister responsible. Every Member of the Dáil who made it his business to keep in touch with the Ministry had no complaint to make about his communications not being attended to. Ignorance on the part of the Deputies of anything the Ministry was doing was very much the fault of the Deputies themselves. In parts of the Memo. from the member for North Wexford very hard things were said about the policy of the Ministry. This policy had been in existence for two years and no one opposed it. But any one who read Irish History must know its results. The enemy were repeating the very same things they had practised in Ireland in other days. It was not in the strong places the greatest terrorism was, but in the weak places. Where the fight was carried on hardest, except in Cork City, these were the safest areas. It had been suggested to extend the fight to districts of inaction, but while the men were prepared to bear any physical sacrifice they could not stand up against the defeatism that was being preached by people who put themselves in the position of local leaders. It would be better work on the part of these people to give the Volunteers the necessary moral support than to be finding fault with the men carrying on a fight against odds never before known. The question of Propaganda could best be raised on the Report of that Department, but there was one point arose on the question of policy. Every nerve was being strained by England to break down the whole front. Everywhere in the papers she had free columns to express her views, to point out about the Volunteers all she wanted, to point out about the foolish acts of local bodies, their foolish policy and their grants lost. To break that down would need a very considerable organisation, and he said he had not very much sympathy with the Deputy for South Monaghan when he said it was not his business to break down that campaign of lies. It was every Member's business to help to make this Organisation.
The MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS rose to make a more or less personal explanation with regard to his statement at the last Meeting about Peace Negotiations. He had said there was no such thing as Peace Negotiations. There were no Peace Negotiations, the only negotiations were preliminary to truce, and practically everyone had known they had broken down. With regard to the general policy, he was in favour of going strongly ahead. He thought Ireland could well afford to lose some of the 180,000 young men saved in the last few years and could suffer to lose fifty or a hundred million pounds' property, which would mean only one year of the revenue they were paying to England.
R. MULCAHY (Clontarf, Dublin), said there was one point he was concerned about on the policy of Defence. He hoped every Member of the Dáil fully understood that any directions in this matter would come through the proper Army Authorities. It was not the business of any Member of the Dáil to discuss the subject with Volunteer officers on their return. He then discussed several matters regarding reprisals.
M.P. COLIVET (Limerick City) strongly urged a policy of continual activities of the Volunteers. As soon as the Volunteers went, they went down. He would like if measures could be taken to meet the reprisal parties. There were a few cases where they did not get off scot free, and the effect was most wholesome. He would also suggest that reprisals be carried into the enemy country, but did not want to press his idea as he was not sure of the effect of such action on the English people, and would like to hear the opinion of the Minister of Defence.
P. O'KEEFFE (Cork, North) said he represented a constituency which if told to stop activities would throw him out. Some of the Members thought the criticism passed on the Member for North Wexford was too severe. He did not intend to criticise him, but he would ask him one question through the Chair. Did he submit that letter to two men before he gave it to the Press? If the Acting President was in jail, could not the Member for North Wexford find the Secretary of the Sinn Fein Organisation? He knew his office. Why did he not submit that letter to the Chairman of his Comhairle Ceanntair? If they did not keep in touch with their Comhairlì Ceanntair what could they expect. He hoped every Member would go away to-day with the resolution not to do anything without consulting the President or responsible Ministers. He agreed with the proposed policy up to a certain point. He hoped they would relieve East Limerick, parts of Kerry, and the whole of Cork. He hoped they would bring the fight to Leinster and on to the sea. He hoped they would carry it up into Cavan and on to the borders of Ulster. North Cork had done a fair amount of work and ought to get relief.
LIAM MELLOWES (Galway, East) said it might appear presumptious for him to speak on the matter of policy after such a long absence, but he was in the position of being able to see what was going on from the outside. It was true they could not count the cost of freedom. The achievements in Ireland since 1916 far outweighed the losses. If they could look at Ireland from England's point of view, she was forced to admit to the world, not by words but by deeds, that she holds Ireland through the Black and Tans, through pillage and murder. Were it not for the Volunteer movement they could not talk of Ireland abroad, and if it were not for the Volunteers they could give up any idea of a Republic. The Member for North Wexford asked what effect their actions would have in America. There was one thing they had to take into consideration about America, and it was that as soon as the American people get it into their heads that the Irish were fighting for freedom, they will justify every action. It was a question of education, and could be trusted to those running affairs in America. England was in a hurry to end up this affair but Ireland was not, because to be in a hurry would defeat their own policy. Every day that went by, Ireland was in a stronger position whether at home or from an International point of view. There was a generation in Ireland going to see this thing through even if they failed, and for that reason they could not afford to slacken off. Young lads of 14 years of age when he was leaving the country he found were Captains in the Volunteers and had a spirit nothing would crush. The English Government saw that the Volunteers were the stop-gap keeping Ireland alive, and it was, therefore, concentrating its forces on them.
LIAM DE ROISTE (Cork City) said he agreed with all that had been said with regard to the Volunteers. He thought, however, that the opinion of the general mass of people was forgotten, and it was that opinion he wanted to put before the Dáil. He knew the young people were prepared to go on through anything, but they could not physically stick it. That was the point of view he wanted to impress. The Volunteers were all right and the Organisation was all right and they were well able to take care of themselves, but they must take public opinion into consideration. Armies in the long run had to shape their policy on the mind of the people, not on the purely military mind. He complained there were many indisciplined forces committing acts which had bad effects. With regard to easing off, he held that if the enemy got more good out of what was done than they did, then the action was wrong and should not have been taken. They should consider the mass of the people and the general results on them. He thought it was physically impossible to continue as they were doing. Certain actions of theirs had been followed by enemy actions, and these enemy actions had resulted in more good to the enemy than to them. In such cases it was necessary for them to consider very carefully what was the best course to take. What he was considering was the effect on the mind of the people. If the unarmed people are reduced to struggling for their very existence, reduced to thinking how to save their lives, it was no use then to talk about ideals.
The SUBSTITUTE DIRECTOR OF PROPAGANDA considered any slackening of activities on the part of the Volunteers would mean a hardening of action on the part of the enemy. A few months ago his Department found it necessary to minimise the casualties of the enemy. At the present time they found it redounded to their credit to give them in full. He was having a conference to-morrow with certain Volunteer officers to discuss matters of Propaganda. The Press would not take any of their Propaganda. He would be glad to get suggestions from the Members as to the distribution of Propaganda.
The ACTING SPEAKER asked the President if he wished to make some reply, as all the Members who desired to discuss the matter of general policy had done so.
The PRESIDENT said he did not go very far in the start, as he was anxious to hear their views. He thought the general attitude shown there was indicative of the general attitude of the country as a whole. He was purposely indefinite in his statement about easing off. They were in a very curious position. The question was whether it was feasible for them to accept formally a state of war that was being thrust on them, or not. The balance was pretty even. If they declared war just now it might give the impression of a small boy asking a six-footer to come out and fight, and his position would be regarded as ridiculous. But if, on the other hand, the small boy was being kicked about and defending himself to the best of his ability, then he would have public opinion supporting him. Taking the situation as a whole, he did not think it advisable to take that step at present. The sense of that meeting was that the policy he suggested was too weak, an endorsement of the policy of the past rather than a criticism to modify in any way the actions of the past. Members who did not agree with the policy should ask themselves what was the alternative. If they were to cease Volunteer activities could they carry on peacefully? They could not. Could they carry on constructive work? They could not. The enemy would force them out of pacifism by brutality. The only thing was they should not over-tax their strength. So far from being a vote of censure upon the Ministry, the sense of the meeting was a complete endorsement of their action.
M.P. COLIVET (Limerick City) asked if it was the intention to carry the war into the enemy's country.
The MINISTER FOR DEFENCE replied that the matter was engaging the attention of the Ministry. He thought the Member for North Wexford did not express the opinion of his constituency, but his own private views. On the other hand, the Member for Cork had taken it upon himself to express the view of the unarmed people. He did not even give them his own opinion. From the information he got from travellers he was convinced that the Member for Cork had not expressed the views of these people.
LIAM DE ROISTE (Cork City) denied he was speaking for the unarmed people of Cork.
The MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, continuing, said that the Member for Cork had also unwittingly misrepresented a statement he had made with regard to Lloyd George's speech in Wales. He (the Minister for Defence) said that the statements made by this man which reached the world must be met and proved false, that we were not on the run. Statements made by such men were believed by large numbers of people unless contradicted. They had one instance of it there to-day when the Member for North Wexford told them the Volunteers were breaking up. There were no grounds for that belief except General Strickland's published interview last week. With regard to Propaganda they need have no fear that it would be neglected in England. He would be glad to accept any suggestions from anybody at any time, and use them if they met the situation.
The ACTING SPEAKER then called upon the President to proceed with the remainder of his statement.