Location: 3 Mountjoy Square. Private meeting.
The debate on the Report of the Department of Home Affairs was then taken.
P. BEASLAI (Kerry, East) said he considered the statement that the Ministry had decided to contest the Elections for the Ulster Parliament very important. He was surprised that it was not put down on the agenda for discussion, and he thought it was a matter that should be discussed on the Report. Most of them had no opportunity of discussing or considering it. He had heard a number of arguments for and against contesting the election from representatives of Republican opinion, and he thought the subject should not be passed without full consideration. He himself was in favour of a contest. It was, however, suggested to him that the effect of a contest would be to consolidate a solid Orange Block, whereas by standing out altogether the effect would be to disintegrate the enemy by allowing their differences to develop. He would like to hear the opinions of some of the Ulster Members.
The PRESIDENT said in the first place this was to a large extent a question for the Sinn Fein Executive. The aspect which came before the Dáil was the acceptance of a Foreign law arranged by a Foreign Government. The whole matter had been gone into by Sinn Fein and by the Ministry, and they had decided in favour of a contest.
Every argument against contesting the elections could be met by arguments of equal importance. If the elections were contested on an abstention basis, it meant that the Orange Block would be smaller in the Ulster Parliament by the 11 to 15 seats which the Nationalists would win. The disintegration of that Block would then really take place in the Parliament. They wanted to consolidate Nationalist opinion in Ulster and draw it into Republicanism. The time was opportune for this.
The PRESIDENT then detailed the negotiations which had taken place between the Republican Party and Mr. Devlin, and said that there was a probability of an agreement being reached. The basis of the agreement would be abstention. The allocation of the seats would be automatic under Proportional Representation. There could be no compromise on the subject of abstention. If they did not have abstention it would mean consolidation of the Orange group.
J. MACENTEE (Monaghan, South) said that this question concerned not only Ulster but the whole of Ireland. It was the general opinion in Belfast that their chances of securing a representative Vote against Partition would be greatly enhanced if the Dáil issued a statement defining what their policy would be towards the Ulster Six Counties if they accepted Partition. He suggested that it should be made clear that if Partition were accepted (a) the Economic Boycott of Belfast would be extended to the whole of the Six-County area; (b) that this boycott be reinforced by a social boycott providing that no partitionist be allowed to enter Southern Ireland without a passport from the Republican Government, and that all representatives of partitionist interests be compelled to evacuate Southern Ireland; and (c) that citizens of the Republic be ordered to pay no taxes to the Partitionist Parliament. He said that there was great uneasiness amongst the business element in North-East Ulster over the question of prohibition. An agreement with the Devlinites would be a great asset. It would mean polling a large number of Protestant labour votes.
J.N. DOLAN (Leitrim) asked if the Ministry had considered putting a policy of devolution before the Ulster Secessionists.
The PRESIDENT said that this was not the time to do so. All he could say, at present, was that he was not against such a policy.
The MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS said that the question of ignoring the elections had been fully considered by the Ministry and by Sinn Fein, and that they had decided to contest them. At the same time he hoped that their hands would be free, if they thought at a later stage that it would be desirable to ignore the elections, at the same time upsetting their machinery. With regard to the exchange of preferences, they could not ask any citizen of the Republic to cast a vote for a candidate not pledged to abstention.
The ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE was in favour of going on with the contest, but this need not prevent the other suggestion from being put into operation if feasible.
The PRESIDENT agreed that the Ministry should have a free hand.
The MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS referred to the possibility that candidates would be required to deposit a Sheriff's Fee of £150. This had not yet been settled. He accordingly asked for a vote of £4,000 to meet this contingency.
P. O'KEEFFE (Cork, North) said that while the rest of Ireland was fighting Ulster was sitting down. He thought they should intimate to Ulster that if they were not prepared to finance the elections they would wash their hands of them. He favoured contesting every seat in Ulster except Belfast, and they should leave Belfast alone. There were 80,000 Catholic families in the North, and they should be easily able to raise £20,000 for the election.
J. MACENTEE (Monaghan, South) said no money could be got in Belfast because Republicans there were in a state of destitution since July last. He seconded the proposal for a contingency vote of £4,000, but he did not think the money would be needed for Sheriff's deposits. The question of contesting the elections was not one for Sinn Fein, but for the Dáil, since it was the authority of the Dáil which was challenged.
The motion for the adoption of the Report, including the vote of £4,000, was then put and carried.