MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA
(Minutes of Evidence)
Dé Céadaoin, 7° Márta, 1934.
Wednesday, 7th March, 1934.
The Committee sat at 11 a.m.
THE CATHAOIRL EACH in the Chair.
Mr. F. Aiken (Minister for Defence) called and examined.
44. Cathaoirleach.—Mr. Aiken, I have read very carefully the statement which you made in the Seanad yesterday week on the question of the admission of visitors and I notice that you rely very largely on the contention that, in regard to certain matters, and in particular in regard to the setting up by your Government in April, 1932, of a Committee on the Protection of Government Buildings and Leinster House, your treatment of the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil as the person to be dealt with so far as Leinster House is concerned merely followed the precedent set up by the previous Government, which habitually ignored the Cathaoirleach in such matters?—I did not use the word “ignore.” I meant overlooked, if you like.
45. The precedent set up by the previous Government, though not a breach of privilege, was entirely incorrect, and had I known of it I should certainly have intervened; but I knew nothing whatever about it until you mentioned it in the House. This precedent having been set up by them, I should like to say quite definitely that, in my opinion, no reasonable man could blame your Government for following it. I, for one, do not. I hope that is quite clear?—The only thing is that I would like to emphasise it in this way. Neither of us seemed to have been aware of the existence of the other in this matter. Although the Minister for Defence has been responsible for this particular work, the protection of Leinster House, you were not aware of that fact, which has been ten years in existence, and it shows you that there is a case to be settled, something to be inquired into. I think myself that if the Ceann Comhairle and yourself and myself got together we could go into the matter and fix it up so that this would not occur in the future.
46. Quite. We will probably arrive at something of that nature by the time we have these matters settled?—I came along here. I do not think very much can be done in this Committee. I think that the matter will have to be settled by a Conference between yourself, the Ceann Comhairle and myself.
47. But you must try and remember, Mr. Aiken, that this Committee has been set up specifically to arrive at the facts as to whether your exclusion of these particular persons on that day was a breach of privilege of our House or not; and for that purpose I think we must arrive at what the facts actually are—how they were excluded and by what authority, whether yours or the authority of the Committee I have mentioned, or otherwise and we must arrive at these facts. Otherwise we would not be discharging our responsibility as a Committee. I think this Committee will accept that?—I understand.
48. Senator Douglas.—My view is that whatever might be agreed to as to the future, it does not affect the question now at issue. It should not be considered for a moment that we are taking up an unreasonable position. Our duty is to report on the position as we see it at the present moment. A conference between the Ceann Comhairle and you and the Minister afterwards as to what should be agreed on for the future is a different matter. I do not want to take up an unreasonable position and I do not think anyone does.
Mr. Aiken.—The facts of the matter are pretty evident. I have not denied the fact that two persons, dressed in blue uniform, have been excluded by my orders—I have not denied that at all. But there is a very much wider question. The whole protection of Government Buildings and Leinster House has been placed upon the Minister for Defence.
49. Cathaoirleach.—There, now, Mr. Aiken, I would like you to remember that you told the Seanad a certain Committee had been set up for the protection of Government Buildings by your Government and the previous Government. After all, if there is a Committee concerned with the protection of Government Buildings, I think it would be necessary for us to see how the Committee acted in the matter of excluding certain persons on a particular date.
Leas-Chathaoirleach.—Did they advise?
50. Cathaoirleach.—Did they advise as to the position? We must have evidence.
Mr. Aiken.—That Committee is a Consultative Committee for the Minister for Defence. I grant you it would be quite wrong for the Minister for Defence to take any action, unless in a case of emergency, without consulting that Committee. You have on it a representative of the Board of Works and a representative of the staff of Leinster House. The present representative is Colonel Brennan, who was appointed by the Ceann Comhairle. We took it he was representing the whole of the staff of the Oireachtas here. Then you have the Department of Defence. These are the three representatives, so far as I remember.
51. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—The Board of Works?
Mr. Aiken.—I mentioned them. There is a representative of the Board of Works and of the staff at Leinster House, and the Secretary of my Department. They constitute this Committee and they go into all the details as to the placing of the guards, if there are any alterations to be made, what doors are to be opened and what hours are to apply and all that sort of thing. The Committee was set up so that the defensive arrangements could be complete, while, at the same time, facilitating the people to the utmost who use the buildings.
52. Senator Douglas.—The joint staff is responsible to the two Chairmen. The Seanad, by resolution, agreed to the appointment of a joint staff. We specifically provided that that would not interfere, in any way, with the control of the Chairman over anything pertaining to the Seanad. I think you will find that is the case if you look back on the Report. If Colonel Brennan was appointed without consultation of the Cathaoirleach it is a little bit irrelevant, but certainly unfortunate, because it was incorrect. No doubt the Cathaoirleach would have agreed. Is not that Committee dealing with the defence of the premises, Mr. Aiken?—Yes.
53. And we have in the matter of the premises all along recognised that it must be by joint action and that anything else would be absurd; and I think that is the general view of the Committee. Up to the present the care and the protection of the premises have not interfered with the rights of the Seanad to ensure its own publicity, or control its own arrangements for its own members. If the Seanad wanted to meet late, or to have a meeting at an unusual hour, the Cathaoirleach fixes it and the Committee acquiesce immediately. Up to the present the defence of the House has never arisen in any way to interfere with the rights of the House to control its own publicity, or the people who might or might not, be admitted. I was under the impression that the Committee could not deal with the question of admission, but rather were concerned with the question of the defence of the premises?—I want to emphasise this point. Two persons were denied entrance. If they had come dressed in a normal way they would not have been refused admission. The reason they were denied entrance was that they were dressed in the blue uniform shirt and we may face this fact, that the Government hold that the wearing of that shirt was illegal and cases are before the courts at the moment about it.
54. Cathaoirleach.—I may say that I have spent almost sleepless nights on this matter. I have prepared a questionnaire and if the Committee will allow me to put certain questions to the Minister, then other questions and conversations could arise subsequent to that. The question that I will put having been answered by the Minister for Defence or not answered if he sees fit, then any questions arising on that could be discussed. If we have a general discussion preparatory to any questions being asked, we will get nowhere.
Mr. Aiken.—If you are going to put formal questions that have been prepared after some care, the proper thing to do would be to give me a copy of the questionnaire and adjourn this meeting so that I can answer the different questions with meticulous care.
Senator Douglas.—The questionnaire has not been prepared by the Committee. We would like to ask other questions which may, or may not, be included in the questionnaire referred to.
55. Cathaoirleach.—These questions are founded on the Minister’s statement in the Seanad. There is no reason why he should answer them. He can say, “I cannot answer that at the moment,” and there it is. Then members of the Committee can question the Minister on that, as the case may be. If we cannot get answers to specific questions dealing with your statement in the House, Mr. Aiken, and what unwittingly occurred between us, we will get nowhere.
Mr. Aiken.—I would be able to answer them, but I am not a lawyer and I do not claim to have any knowledge in that direction at all. I realise there are deep constitutional questions crossing here.
Cathaoirleach.—I will not put any questions of a constitutional nature. If you think that there is a constitutional question raised you can say, “I do not care to answer it.”
Senator Douglas.—We are all quite anxious that this should be carried out in a friendly way. If there is any question the answer to which the Minister may desire to postpone, we need not deal with it.
56. Cathaoirleach.—That is the best way. I knew nothing of the Committee appointed and you, Mr. Aiken, knew nothing about the fact that these blue shirts were to arrive. It was an unfortunate circumstance and you have already told me about that?—Yes.
57. Well, now, having learned of the existence of this Committee, I have inquired into its activities and I have satisfied myself that neither the Committee set up by your Government nor the similar Committee set up by the previous Government ever committed a breach of privilege. I hope you will take it from me that that is a correct view?—Yes.
58. I want, if I can, to relate the exclusion order said to have been made by you last July to this Committee, because I gather from the prominence given to this Committee by you in your statement to the Seanad that there is some connection between this Committee and the making of your order. I understand from your minute to the Ceann Comhairle, dated the 20th July, 1933, and read by me in the Seanad on 21st February last, that you made that order, because you believed it to be necessary for the protection of Government Buildings and Leinster House. Is that so?—Yes. Before you go further, you mentioned the Committee. You said I laid great stress upon it. I did, in this way. I first of all stressed the fact that your people were not represented on that Committee and that the Committee in its conferences and dealings, over a number of years, had not consulted with you about its decisions. I stressed that in order to show that there was no discourtesy intended by me in not communicating with you when I communicated with the Ceann Comhairle.
Cathaoirleach.—On the face of it, that is accepted by everyone—that there was no discourtesy meant and you thought none could have arisen. You say you made the order.
Senator Douglas.—Was the order made in consultation with the Committee?
59. Cathaoirleach.—Before you made that order, Mr. Aiken, did you have the question referred to the Committee set up by your Government for the protection of Government Buildings and Leinster House?—No.
60. It was not referred to the Committee set up?—Before I wrote that letter to the Ceann Comhairle——
61. Which letter?—That letter of July, 1933. Before I wrote it I was in consultation with him and the Superintendent of the Oireachtas. My answer to your question “Was I in consultation with the Committee” was “No.” Before I wrote that letter to the Ceann Comhairle I was in consultation with the Ceann Comhairle and the Superintendent of the Oireachtas. We had a couple of meetings here in the House about the matter and I want to stress that the Superintendent is the principal man on that Committee, with the Secretary of the Department of Defence. The Board of Works representative merely comes in to attend to whatever alterations may require to be made—whatever structural alterations require to be made—and while the Committee did not formally meet, the principal members of the Protection Committee were consulted.
62. Senator Douglas.—But the responsibility was yours and not the Committee’s for making the order?—The responsibility rests on me. I cannot blame the Committee if anything goes wrong.
63. Cathaoirleach.—You did not think it at all a strange thing that the Committee should not be consulted—you think it is quite normal that they should not be consulted?—Yes. The Committee are only consulted when I think it is necessary.
64. You think it is quite normal they should not be consulted?—The way I would put that would be——
65. You do not mind me putting it in my own way?—I do not mind that so long as I am allowed to put it my way.
Senator Johnson.—That is only fair.
66. Cathaoirleach.—I asked you a question Mr. Aiken. You said you did not think it was quite normal that they should be consulted?—I would prefer to summarise my answer to the question in this way. I think that under the circumstances it was neither necessary nor desirable that the Protection Committee should be formally called together to consider what I was about to do.
67. We will take it at that. Passing from that subject, I see that in your explanation to the Seanad you state as follows:—
“On 20th July, 1933, it came to my knowledge that certain persons intended to seek admission to Leinster House wearing the uniform of an organisation known at that time as the Army Comrades’ Association. I consulted with the Ceann Comhairle about the matter, and afterwards, with his consent, gave instructions to the military that persons dressed in the uniform of the organisation to which I have referred (other than members of the Oireachtas) were to be refused admittance to Leinster House.”
Is that so?—I consulted with the Ceann Comhairle
68. Cathaoirleach.—Is that statement true? That is the statement in the Official Report.
Senator Johnson.—Surely the Minister may be free to answer the question in his own way?
69. Cathaoirleach.—I am only asking him if it is what he said in the Seanad. He said:—
“I consulted with the Ceann Comhairle about the matter and afterwards, with his consent, gave instructions to the military that persons dressed in the uniform … were to be refused admittance to Leinster House.”
That, of course, is true about refusing admission to Leinster House?—There is one point I want to explain in that connection and it is this. The instruction I gave at that particular time was to the Superintendent of the Oireachtas, not to the military. I did not advert at that time to the fact that it was to the Superintendent I gave it and not to the military staff. He has the military staff here in regard to Leinster House, but I did not give instructions to the staff of Leinster House. Other arrangements are made for the other buildings here. In regard to this portion, I gave the instructions, with the Ceann Comhairle’s consent, to the Superintendent of the Oireachtas, who had control of the military staff within the precincts of the House here for ordinary police purposes. In the case of emergency the military would act on their own. In the ordinary normal way, such as the exclusion of visitors and that, they act under his control and only act when called upon by him in an ordinary way. Visitors are excluded or admitted by the ordinary Oireachtas staff and the military are called to their assistance, if necessary.
70. Senator Johnson.—When the Minister speaks of “within the precincts of the House,” does he include the entrance gate—the military at the entrance gate?—The front entrance gate, yes.
70a. Cathaoirleach.—Could you tell me, Mr. Aiken, on what date did you issue your instructions to the Superintendent?—On the date of that letter, 20th July, 1933. It might have been the 19th.
71. A day or two will not make any possible difference. There can be no doubt you issued those instructions to the Superintendent of the Oireachtas?—The instructions were issued, but I would say this much. I do not know whether I have a legal right to issue those instructions to the Superintendent.
72. But as a matter of fact you issued them to him?—Yes.
73. Senator Johnson.—Verbally?—Verbally, in the presence of the Ceann Comhairle, as far as I can remember; and I confirmed it by giving the letter to the Ceann Comhairle.
74. Senator Douglas.—You assumed that giving instructions then would equally apply to the Seanad, although the Chairman here was not consulted?—I did.
75. It was not meant solely for the Dáil?—No, it was not really. I took it at that time that the Ceann Comhairle was really responsible for the precincts of Leinster House.
76. Cathaoirleach.—I suppose that letter to the Ceann Comhairle is available, if we need it?—Yes, I have a copy of it here. I expect you will get one on the Ceann Comhairle’s files, too. There is just one thing. I have not seen the Ceann Comhairle about this, this morning, but when speaking to some members of the police, they informed me that you will probably find, on the Ceann Comhairle’s files, a letter which came from the Commissioner of Police saying that on the occasion of the 11th August Blue Shirts should not be allowed through the buildings here on that day, on the occasion of the demonstration which was to have been held on the 11th or 12th August last year.
77. Senator Douglas.—That was subsequent to your previous order?—Yes, but you will find there the police view of the matter was the same as mine for a particular occasion
78. Cathaoirleach.—Really, there were no military orders—no instructions to the military authorities?—There were no instructions to the military staff at Leinster House.
Cathaoirleach.—That deals with the question of responsibility, so far as you were concerned, of admission. I think that is pretty clear to the Committee.
79. Senator Douglas.—It seems clear that the Minister took responsibility, believing he was doing right in doing so, in good faith?—I want to add that there were no instructions issued direct to the military on that occasion and until the date of this particular incident. Until the day this particular incident occurred, there were none issued direct to the military. I do not want to leave you under a misapprehension about that. On the date this incident occurred the Chief of Staff informed me, about a quarter to one o’clock, I think it was, over the telephone, that he was informed two Senators were about to enter Leinster House.
80. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—Two Senators?—Two visitors to the Seanad were about to enter and he stated that he understood from the Superintendent of the Oireachtas that I had issued an instruction about the matter and the Superintendent wanted to know did that order hold, and the Chief of Staff pointed out to me that he had not got the order about this particular matter. This was on the 21st February.
81. Senator Wilson.—About 1 o’clock in the day?—Yes. I said to him then that I had overlooked giving him that instruction with regard to Leinster House; that I had given it to the Superintendent of the Oireachtas and that I now gave him the order.
82. Senator Douglas.—Does that mean that he had doubts as to the correctness of the military obeying the Superintendent of the Oireachtas in the matter? It seems to me a nice point which might very easily affect the future.
Cathaoirleach.—He made no order at all, apparently.
83. Senator Douglas.—My point is that if the military are under Colonel Brennan, so far as affecting anything here is concerned, why would the Chief of Staff worry about what instructions were given by Colonel Brennan? Does it not look as if there was a dual authority or that he had doubts as to whether he should obey Colonel Brennan?—It appears to me the doubts were raised by Colonel Brennan. What he wanted to know from the Chief of Staff was if my order held after all these months.
84. If the Colonel gave one instruction and the Chief of Staff gave another, there might be a conflict in the mind of the unfortunate man to whom the orders were given?—They are always in consultation.
85. If that did happen, the soldier would obey the Chief of Staff?—He would, of course. The soldier, in stopping two persons dressed in blue uniform shirts, was acting under my instructions on that particular occasion. The instructions went through the chain of authority. He was acting under proper instructions on that particular occasion.
86. And nothing that Colonel Brennan might, or might not, have done would have altered it?—No.
87. Cathaoirleach.—You were not aware, according to your statement in the Seanad, on that particular date, until you heard it from me, that people had been admitted by me, given leave by me, to come into the House, and yet it seems the Chief of Staff was aware of a matter of which you were not aware. Does it not appear to be rather singular? It appeared to be public property that these two people were to come and yet you, who maintain you are the responsible authority for the admission of people to the House, were unaware of it altogether?—You would want to be careful in your language.
88. I am careful, and extra-careful. Is not that the fact?—That is not the fact. I told you in the Seanad that I was aware that two persons were coming as visitors to the Seanad, dressed in blue uniform shirts; that I did not know, however, that they were coming with your authority and consent, or with your approval and consent.
89. Senator Wilson.—That is what you said?—I have never, at any time, denied that. You put it to me, did I deny the knowledge of their coming I did not, and I am telling you now, in detail, the particular time when I got the information, which I got through the Chief of Staff, that these people were about to come. The Superintendent wanted to know did my instructions hold.
90. You were not aware until the Chief of Staff told you?—No.
Senator Johnson.—There seems to be a conflict. The Cathaoirleach is suggesting that the Minister knew he had given directions. The Minister stated he did not know that the Cathaoirleach had given directions. He knew they were given, but he did not know that they were given at your instructions.
91. Cathaoirleach.—I want to be quite clear about it now. You knew, Mr. Aiken, that they were given, but you did not know that I had given the directions?—That is quite right.
That is different. That is very clear?—I did not know.
92. Senator Douglas.—It was due to the forgetfulness of the Minister for Justice?—The Minister for Justice did not inform me.
93. Cathaoirleach.—You told me already the Minister for Justice did not inform you. That is quite clear to you and to me. I would like to have this quite clear. You stated:—
“Without consulting or advising me, he (that is, myself) directed tickets to be issued, knowing that they were to be used by persons wearing uniforms and whom the military guard would certainly stop unless I cancelled their previous instructions.”
You now know, I think, that about 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the 20th February, I spoke over the telephone to the Minister for Justice, whom I then supposed to be the Minister responsible in the matter, and that I informed him that in pursuance of my undoubted right under the Constitution and Standing Orders, I had issued tickets of admission to Senator Miss Browne for the persons in question. He stated that the Minister for Defence was the appropriate Minister and that he would convey the information to him. We now know that and that he forgot to tell you to do it over the telephone.
94. Did the Minister for Justice, directly or indirectly, so inform you?—No.
95. You had no knowledge of my action up to the 21st February?—No; as far as I remember I had no knowledge that they were coming in until about 12.45 p.m., and I had no knowledge that they were coming in with your consent and approval until I heard it from you in the Seanad.
96. May I take it you admit it was not my fault, under the circumstances, that you did not know?—I will put it in this way. I believe that when you learned that I was responsible for the military police you should have got in direct touch with me. It is just a practical matter. If there is an urgent and important case under consideration there should be direct contact between the principals in the matter and there are always liable to be mistakes occurring, unless that contact is established, and it would be very easy for you to do it over the ’phone.
97. You would like to feel it was my fault, in the circumstances?—I would like to say this much, that from a practical point of view it would have been much better if you had got into direct communication with me, because the Minister for Justice has troubles enough of his own to look after.
Leas-Chathaoirleach.—More than the Minister for Defence?
98. Cathaoirleach.—Supposing I believed the police were the people who were taking charge of these premises, and not the military, would you then agree it was the Minister for Justice, and not the Minister for Defence, with whom I should communicate—that is, supposing I incorrectly assumed it was the Minister for Justice?—You did the correct thing then, but once you learned it was the Minister for Defence it would be better if you had got in touch with me.
99. He told me Defence was dealing with the matter and that he would tell the Minister. That is that. Now, with regard to your statement that the military guard would certainly stop these persons unless you cancelled their previous instructions, I infer from this that persons wearing blue shirts have hitherto been stopped ever since last July, and that the stopping has been done by the military guard. Is that so?—I have no knowledge that anybody attempted to approach, to enter, other than members of the Dáil and Seanad. I have no knowledge that they ever came along, but I will say this much. You said in the Seanad you knew of this order having been issued. I want to emphasise this point, that the military will obey the instructions of their officers unless they get a countermanding order from their officers and the only way they take that order is through the Minister for Defence. They will not take orders from anybody else and if they get a military order they will stick to it, no matter who tries to change it, unless they receive countermanding instructions through the proper channels. There was no use in going to the Minister for Justice, or anybody else, to complain about the military policemen. The only way to do it is through the Minister for Defence.
100. Your contention is that the military guard are the people who were responsible for this matter, that they had your instructions, and if I had done the right thing I would have consulted you and not the Minister for Justice?—Yes.
101. The military guard had instructions from you since last July to stop people with blue shirts?—I have explained how the instruction was given to the Superintendent and that it was given direct to the military staff on the 21st February.
102. The Superintendent was placed in the position of the military authority in the matter so far as the protection of this House was concerned—he had instructions?—He can call upon the military guard to assist his staff. Supposing anybody comes to the gate in the ordinary way, the military policeman does not interfere; it is the Oireachtas staff here. They are only there as a reserve and as the Superintendent got the instruction from the Ceann Comhairle to exclude these, I was satisfied that the military were there to support the Superintendent in excluding people coming dressed in that way.
103. This point may be of importance. The Superintendent of the Guard, having received authority, apparently, from you, in July, 1933, the power devolved upon him, at all times, to instruct the military to stop, or not stop, certain persons?—Yes. He has always the power to ask for the assistance of the military policemen. That is one of their duties. Of course, they can act on their own initiative. The military policeman could act on his own initiative in case of emergency.
104. Without authority from anybody?—Yes.
105. So a military guard could practically do what he likes to anybody coming in this gate?—No, he could not; he might get himself into trouble afterwards if he did. A military policeman, if he saw anybody coming in carrying arms, or if he suspected anybody of carrying arms, could act on his own initiative.
106. That is bringing a new feature into it?—Anybody behaving in a rowdy manner, or acting in a manner that was going to endanger the safety of the buildings or the people here, the military policeman would be bound to interfere. If he interfered in an unwarranted way with people going about their business, he would not be very long at the gate.
107. He would be guilty of a breach of duty and it would be conveyed to you that he was not suitable for the position he was in?—Yes, quite.
108. The Superintendent had power to convey to the military authorities at the gate the exclusion, or the non-exclusion, of people, acting on authority given him by you on the 20th July?—Given to him by me and the Ceann Comhairle.
109. The Ceann Comhairle is responsible for the management of the military, as well?—I say this much, that if the Ceann Comhairle did not agree with my action, I would have to consider the matter very carefully before I would issue an instruction; but I got the Ceann Comhairle to consent and persuaded him that it was the right thing to do. I am not going to—I cannot—tell you now what I would have done.
110. Nor do I expect you to; quite the contrary. Could you tell me, as a question of fact, whether previous to the 21st February persons wearing blue shirts were stopped by the military under direct orders from you, or whether they were stopped by persons other than the military under orders from someone else?—I do not know.
111. You are not aware?—No.
112. I suppose I may take it that the orders which you gave to the Superintendent in July were the same orders that, they acted upon thenceforward, up to and including Wednesday, 21st February, except that on that particular day the Chief of Staff had telephoned to you and you issued new orders?—Yes.
113. Is that the position?—Yes.
114. You gave an order expressly to the Chief of Staff on the 21st February to exclude?—Yes.
115. You have made it perfectly clear that Mr. Ruttledge did not inform you. There is one other matter. You stated in the Seanad:—
“It is only common sense to assume that, while the Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach have constitutional right to admit visitors, there must be a reasonable limit to the exercise of that right. I submit that one reasonable limitation is the admission of persons carrying arms or persons other than members of the Oireachtas wearing the uniform of an organisation which, in the interests of public peace, the Government found it necessary to ban.”
That is a statement of your opinion?—Yes. I understand that during the last ten or twelve years Bills defining the powers and privileges of the Oireachtas have been drafted. I have one of them here which I got a look at.
116. Senator Douglas.—A Bill?—It is a Bill to define and declare the powers and privileges of the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, in relation to good order and all the rest of it, around the buildings, and within the precincts of the House. The only thing we have to go upon is the Constitution, at the moment. I forget what the exact words are—conferring certain powers on the Cathaoirleach and the Ceann Comhairle by virtue of the Constitution. But the Constitution has to be defined in detail and interpreted by the Oireachtas. Your Constitutional powers in regard to this matter have not been defined by the Oireachtas before and that is one of our difficulties.
117. Cathaoirleach.—You said that one reasonable limitation was the admission of persons carrying arms, or persons, other than members of the Oireachtas, wearing the uniform of an organisation which the Government found it necessary to ban. That was the position on the 20th July, when you issued this order?—They were not banned at that time.
118. You issued an order on the 20th July, 1933, and you state:—
“It is only common sense to assume that … there must be a reasonable limit … I submit that one reasonable limitation is the admission of persons carrying arms or persons, other than members of the Oireachtas, wearing the uniform of an organisation which, in the interests of public peace, the Government found it necessary to ban.”
That was on the 20th July, 1933?—They were not banned at that particular time.
119. On the 20th July, 1933, you issued an instruction to the Superintendent of the Oireachtas that persons wearing a certain uniform, a blue shirt, were not to be admitted to the House?—Yes.
120. Then you say in your statement in the Seanad that it is only reasonable to assume that one of the matters which would cause a person not to be admitted to the Oireachtas was wearing the uniform of an organisation which, in the interests of public peace, the Government banned. You told us yourself the A.C.A. was not banned at the time you issued that order?—Only banned in so far as they would not be allowed to enter Leinster House in blue uniform shirts.
121. They were not banned?—They were not.
122. They were not legally banned until your Government banned them?—I would say that there must reside in some body in the country the power to maintain order in an emergency. The Oireachtas have power over the Executive Council, but I think the Executive Council have the right to prevent persons entering Government Buildings and the precincts of the Oireachtas in certain dress, in a certain way which they think is going to cause disturbance, or if they are carrying arms.
123. There we come into conflict more or less. We are coming very near home to the matter of the 21st February. So far as I can understand you gave instructions to the Superintendent of the Oireachtas, in July, not to admit persons wearing blue shirts to this House?—Yes.
124. The order issued to him then was an order to exclude persons belonging to an organisation which was not an unlawful association at all—to exclude them from this House. Apparently the instructions issued to him have no lawful, or legal, basis at all, because they were given in a supposititious case; they were given in relation to blue shirts, which were not illegal, and the whole instructions given to him arising out of that have never been reiterated to him or put to him again, in the position where they were at any time illegal. Apparently no new instructions were issued to him. They were issued in preparation for something which might come; but no new instructions were issued to him, as a matter of fact, since 21st July?—An organisation can be illegal without being formally declared to be so by the Government. This organisation, which has changed its name many times, was, in my opinion, and is, in my opinion, an illegal organisation and would be so even if it had never been declared a banned organisation under the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 17) Act.
125. That is purely a matter of opinion. I might consider a thing illegal, but would it be constitutionally illegal?—Here is the difference. The Government have the responsibility of maintaining discipline in the country and of endeavouring to avoid disturbance in every possible way and it is their opinion, as the custodian of order, that counts in this particular matter. It is their opinion that counts and your opinion on that particular matter, I do not think, would weigh as against the opinion of the Government, that have all the forces of the State to gather information from in that particular matter.
126. I quite agree with that point of view, but at any rate, you will take it from me that the date when the A.C.A. was declared to be an unlawful association was the 22nd August, 1933?—I think it was the 11th August. I would say it was the 10th, as far as I remember. The only thing I remember was that the demonstration was to occur the Sunday before the 15th August, and the proclamation was issued a couple of days before that.
127. I am trying to lead up to the position that after all you were, more or less, ignoring everything but the opinion of the Executive Council; you were ignoring the legal position altogether?—I want to stress to you that it is the opinion of the Executive Council in a matter like that that counts, and that really should count, because somebody’s opinion must go.
128. That is a legal and constitutional matter and you ought not to enter into that?—I am only giving you the practical view of it.
129. I may inform you the 22nd August was the date, as I told you. In giving instructions on, or shortly after, the 20th July, 1933, that members of the Army Comrades’ Association were to be refused admittance to Leinster House, you were dealing with members of what was then not an unlawful association, nor an association which had been banned by the Government?—We were dealing with an organisation which, in my opinion, was unlawful, but which had not been formally declared to be unlawful under the terms of the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 17) Act.
130. It had not been banned by the Government on that date?—It had not been formally banned under the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 17) Act.
131. We have been establishing those facts as regards ancient history. Now we must come to the particular date in February which is the relevant date as regards our inquiry?—Yes.
Cathaoirleach.—On February 21st, persons were refused admission by your orders. They were members of the League of Youth, which is an integral part of United Ireland, the recognised constitutional Opposition Party in the Oireachtas?
Senator Johnson.—We have no knowledge of that.
132. Cathaoirleach.—The persons refused admission by your orders were members of the League of Youth, which is an integral part of United Ireland, and they were wearing blue shirts. That is common knowledge?—The uniform of whatever the League of Youth was called before that—the National Guard and the Army Comrades.
133. They are an integral part of United Ireland, the recognised constitutional Opposition Party in the Oireachtas. I think you will admit that?—I do not admit that for a moment. I believe that organisation is altogether on its own and, if you ask me my private view, I do not believe the United Ireland Party, that is, the members here in the Dáil and the Oireachtas, could control it in the slightest and I believe it is the same organisation, one and the same organisation, which the Government found it necessary to ban under the names of Army Comrades’ Association, National Guard, Blue Shirt Organisation, or whatever the next name was.
134. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—Young Ireland?—Yes, quite so.
135. Cathaoirleach.—I suppose you admit they claimed to be part of United Ireland?—I think that is their strategy.
136. That is quite immaterial. Anyway, the persons admitted on the particular day were wearing a blue shirt?—They were. If they had come dressed in any other fashion, an ordinary normal fashion, they would not have been excluded unless somebody thought they were an immediate danger.
137. They were excluded for wearing the blue shirt. They would not have been excluded if they wore anything else?—Yes. I want to point out this, that the Government looks upon the blue uniform shirt as a badge of membership, not of the United Island Party, but as the badge of membership of a proclaimed organisation, proclaimed under the names Army Comrades’ Association, National Guard and Young Ireland Association. This thing does not come forward in the ordinary way. There are cases before the courts in which one of the proofs adduced by the Government that a person charged was a member of an illegal organisation was the fact that he was wearing a blue uniform shirt and I do not think that it is a proper proceeding, when the Government are holding that, that you, if you are aware of it, should insist that people must come in dressed in blue uniform shirts. They can come in in any other way. It boils down to this, that you are insisting, not that visitors should be allowed in, but that visitors should be allowed in dressed in a particular way which the Government think is an illegal way.
138. In fantastic costumes I should not allow them in, I suppose?—It all depends——
139. Neither United Island, nor the League of Youth has been banned by the Government?—The League of Youth is, I believe, the same organisation that has been banned under other names.
140. Has the League of Youth been banned by the Government?—Not under that name. I believe, though, that it is an unlawful organisation and that it can be proved to be such in court.
141. As a matter of fact, do you know that on the very day before the day with which we are dealing, in an action in the High Court by the League of Youth, an interlocutory application made on behalf of the Government was refused by Mr. Justice Johnston with costs against the Attorney-General and that the judgment contained a solemn warning of the importance of preserving the liberty of the subject? Are you aware of that fact?—The Government is anxious to preserve the liberty of the subject as much as Mr. Justice Johnston.
142. These are only expressions of Government opinion and, after all, Government opinions are Government opinions and they are liable to be traversed by oppositions. Do you know that on the day before this particular day, Tuesday, 20th February, to be exact, in an action in the High Court by the League of Youth, an interlocutory application was made on behalf of the Government and was refused by Mr. Justice Johnston and that the judgment contained a solemn warning of the importance of preserving the liberty of the subject?—What case was that?
143. Cathaoirleach.—The application of the Government to declare the League of Youth——
Senator Douglas.—That is not quite correct.
Mr. Aiken.—Anyway, Mr. Justice Johnston is a Judge of the High Court but is not a Judge of the Supreme Court.
Senator Johnson.—May I intervene? There is quite a misunderstanding on the part of the Cathaoirleach and on the part of the Minister as to the position in that respect and, unless there is a clear understanding as to what we are speaking about, it is better not to pursue that.
144. Cathaoirleach.—We will get it clear afterwards; we will get it quite clear. Anyway, we will pass that over; we will not take notice of it for the present. At any rate, I issued specific instructions, having been advised that people wearing blue shirts were to enter the House. I issued instructions, as I told you, because I saw no reason to believe these people were dangerous, and I think you will admit that no question arises of my having issued tickets of admission to members of an organisation which the Government had found it necessary to ban. Will you agree with me that far?—I will put it to you this way——
145. Will you admit that the question does not arise of my having issued tickets to members of an organisation which the Government have not found it necessary to ban?—I have already informed you that this organisation is one and the same organisation that the Government banned under several other names and certain actions are proceeding in the courts on that whole matter. We are proceeding on it and I do not think—— I agree you have the right to admit visitors. You were not denied that right. You can bring in all the visitors you like, if they are dressed in an ordinary normal way, but I do not think while all this hulla-baloo and trouble was going on in the courts that you should come along to insist that visitors should enter the Seanad dressed in a particular way.
146. Possibly that is a matter of opinion. I admit that it would be well that we should have conversations on these matters, but at the same time you will admit, I think, that people dressed in blue shirts at the moment are not members of an organisation which the Government have found it necessary to ban?—I will not. I assert that they are.
147. Very well. Suppose they are an illegal organisation, could they not be legally arrested in Kildare Street, or anywhere else in the Irish Free State, and would the fact that they had tickets of admission from me to the Seanad afford them any protection?—No. They could be legally, in my opinion, arrested.
148. Anywhere?—Anywhere, but that is the Government’s opinion. At the moment there are actions pending in the courts and the Government are awaiting the decision of the courts. I think when the Government hold that view and the case is pending in the courts, you should not prejudice the issue by insisting that people should be allowed into the Seanad dressed in that particular uniform. You can allow them in any other way. There is no necessity to insist that they come in in that particular uniform which is the subject of a long and tedious action before the courts and which the Government, which is responsible for order and discipline, maintains is the badge or emblem of an illegal association.
149. You are trying to argue from the legal aspect. Your contention is that these people are members of an illegal organisation. I am very sorry to get into this point of view. If they are an illegal organisation could they not be legally arrested in Kildare Street?—Yes, they could. I believe they could be legally arrested, but we did not want to rush matters unless it is urgent. We could do it, but out of courtesy to the courts, we have delayed our hand in the matter and I would say that the Government should delay its hand in this matter unless the matter becomes an urgent one. If it became an urgent matter to deal with we would very soon deal with it.
150. Out of courtesy to this House could you not have arrested these people in Kildare Street rather than have them come in here, trying to enter the precincts, and then deliberately ignore our rights to admit visitors?—There you are back to the old point. I did not know they were coming with your knowledge and consent. If I had known that I would have considered how you would approach the matter if you were going to insist on it. If I had known that they were coming in with your knowledge and consent, and if I could not get you to see what I consider reason in the matter, I would have to have a look around and see if there was some other way that the matter could be dealt with rather than by the military guard here going directly against your orders.
151. I am afraid I am not quite as clear as I would like to be. So that when you did learn, through the Chief of Staff, that people were coming to the House dressed in blue shirts, you were not apprised of the fact that it was on my instructions?—I was not.
152. That is important?—That is a point I see it is very difficult to get you to——
153. That is important. You maintain that the Government hold this is illegal, while the country outside, at least the Judiciary, so far, do not hold it to be illegal?—That is a matter which has not been settled by the courts and I think that you should act as a judge in the matter.
154. That is what I try to do?—I would like to point out this, that there should be a reasonable limitation to this. We have got to live together, whether we like it or not—I mean the Government and the Oireachtas—and if one person is given a right by the Constitution which he has to exercise through another person, he has got to argue the matter with that other person. I say you have the constitutional right. You exercise that right through the people appointed by the Government; that is, through the Government of the day. I say unless there is some vital principle involved that you should be agreeable to come to a reasonable compromise with the Executive of the day on any issue that might arise.
155. I think you will find I would do it as far as I was concerned?—You have the constitutional right to admit visitors. That is not denied. I have never denied it and I would not deny it. Democracy is a good thing and it entails full publicity for representative institutions and that full publicity means that the Press should be admitted and that a certain number of visitors, as convenient, be admitted. We cannot admit the whole three millions, or the four or five hundred millions in the world, so that there must be a reasonable limitation. As regards your right to admit visitors, I have done nothing which would infringe upon your right to admit visitors. What I did was to issue instructions at certain times, and to certain people, that Blue Shirts were not to be admitted, so it boils down to this. Is it worth having a row between us in order that you may have the blue uniform shirts in the Seanad? You can have the visitors, but I do not think it is worth the trouble.
156. Probably not. I think I have asked you practically all the questions, but there is one final supposititious question. Suppose in the immediate future, in my cussedness, if you like, I were to issue, de novo, to persons wearing blue shirts, tickets to enter Leinster House, what action would you think it necessary to take?—I hope that supposition is really very far from anything that will happen.
157. But supposing I did, what would you propose to do?—I would do my utmost to admit your constitutional right and make certain, as far as I could, that you could not exercise it wrongly, because I think under the present circumstances that you could not exercise it in that particular way. Under the circumstances, I think the Government have a right to expect that all citizens, yourself included, will co-operate with them in putting down this Blue Shirt madness that is sweeping the world. It is causing trouble everywhere, and it will cause trouble here. I think it is the end of our civilisation if it comes along here and I, for one, am going to stand against it as long as I can.
158. I may assume that if I were to take action to admit persons wearing blue shirts that you would not allow them to come in as far as you could prevent them?—It might not be me, in those circumstances, you will understand. I might not have the legal power to do it. I brought over a few of the files in connection with this matter, and if anyone wants to have a glance through them, they may do so. They will see it is a vexed question and it is not a matter that can be properly settled by this body, or properly settled in the Seanad. The only way to settle it is by a conference between yourself, the Ceann Comhairle and myself.
159. Senator Mrs. Wyse Power.—I want information on previous defences of the House. It is not the first time the House was defended. The streets were held top and bottom. Were you in consultation, a Chathaoirligh, with the powers that be at the time?
Cathaoirleach.—Are you questioning me, Senator?
Senator Mrs. Wyse Power.—I am talking of the time the streets were held at either end by the police. It was done by the Defence Committee, I presume.
Cathaoirleach.—We are examining the Minister for Defence. You will excuse me if I do not answer that question. I cannot cast my mind back on every incident. I will ask you to ask the Minister questions and not to catechise me. I cannot submit to catechisation.
Senator Mrs. Wyse Power.—But were you not consulted?
Cathaoirleach.—I cannot tell you, Senator.
Senator Douglas.—I am aware the Vice-Chairman was consulted on one occasion.
Senator Mrs. Wyse Power.—I am very anxious to know if the Cathaoirleach was consulted in any way, or was he on the Committee that arranged for that defence?
Cathaoirleach.—I would like not to be asked questions which it would be very difficult for me to answer. I cannot answer you, Senator.
Senator Mrs. Wyse Power.—The Minister’s evidence corroborates all that is printed.
160. Senator Douglas.—Do I take it, Mr. Aiken, that this was an Executive Council decision or a Minister’s decision? —Of course, the Executive Council.
161. On the specific question, I took it it was the Minister—the decision to exclude them from this premises?—There was combined responsibility.
162. In case this Committee should feel there was a breach of privilege, I am particularly anxious to define between three persons, the Executive Council, yourself and the Ceann Comhairle. I think you will admit there is a certain amount of conflict in some of the statements you made?—No vital conflict. What I did was to expand my statement. There is no vital conflict, so far as I can see.
163. I gathered from you that you gave the order, but the reason you did so was because you knew the view of the Executive Council as to the desirability, or otherwise. But the specific question about these premises was not an Executive Council decision?—That is a question I think I should not answer. The Executive Council have joint responsibility. The Executive Council is responsible, as a body, for the acts of any particular Minister, so long as he remains a Minister. I do say this much. If you are aggrieved at the action of a particular Minister, if it is not a legal matter, if it is an illegal matter, there is an appeal to the court. If it is a matter of procedure, an appeal lies to the Executive Council.
164. It seems to me that a certain person, or persons, acted without full knowledge of the facts. I am not questioning good faith. If the Executive Council acted, even in good faith, in such a way as to interfere with the privileges of this House, it would be a somewhat different matter to the Minister, even though a member of the Executive Council, acting in what seemed to be his ordinary duties and cutting across the authority here?—I take it the Minister is always acting with the authority of the Executive Council. I think that is the accepted position, that there is joint responsibility; that when a Minister acts, he acts with the authority of the Government. Whether he does so or not in a particular matter is a question for the Executive Council.
165. I think you will find, in law, the Minister acts on his own responsibility. As far as responsibility to the Dáil is concerned, it is joint. On one occasion you say you gave the orders. In the second case, you gave them in the presence of the Ceann Comhairle and you left me with the impression that you considered that really the responsibility for the instructions to Colonel Brennan was the Ceann Comhairle’s. They were done on your suggestion, but Colonel Brennan was taking, not orders from you, but from the Ceann Comhairle, and that really, though done on your advice and suggestion, Colonel Brennan’s responsibility was to the Ceann Comhairle, in your opinion. Is not that the correct position?—I was satisfied, after my conversation with the Ceann Comhairle and Colonel Brennan, that the object I had in mind, namely, the exclusion of Blue Shirts from the precincts of the Oireachtas—that that object would be attained by the action of the Superintendent of the Oireachtas.
166. No one questions the right of a Minister to suggest to the Cathaoirleach, or to the Ceann Comhairle. I would very much question his right to interfere with either of them in the control of this House. That is why I ask this question. Your making the suggestion to the Ceann Comhairle, and the Ceann Comhairle giving instructions to Colonel Brennan, is one matter. Your giving instructions to Colonel Brennan would be a different matter?—Yes.
167. You further stated that the position of the military is that they are really supplementary to the Guards?—It is.
168. That is, admission and all matters relating to it are in the hands of the Guards, acting on the instructions of Colonel Brennan?—Yes.
169. And when the military would supplement the Guards they would not interfere with their duties, except where they saw actions of violence towards the premises and where you would expect the military to act. Therefore, they are supplementary?—They are supplementary.
170. Therefore, we come to the question as to whether a possible breach of privilege is a breach of privilege in the Ceann Comhairle going further in giving instructions without consulting the Cathaoirleach, or whether the Minister went over the heads of them both?—I take it the real facts of the case are that the Ceann Comhairle gave instructions to the Superintendent to exclude visitors who were going to come to the Dáil. The Ceann Comhairle, any more than the Cathaoirleach, cannot take personal responsibility for every visitor who is going to come here. They have to come here, and when they come within the premises their actions are controlled by the Superintendent of the Oireachtas, with the assistance of the military guard.
171. The two Chairmen can make rules and it is the duty of the staff to see their rules are carried out under normal circumstances?—The only thing I have to say on that is this. The Department of Defence, over a number of years, have acted on the assumption that the Ceann Comhairle was the authority to be consulted in matters relating to Leinster House, and all these files here, dating back to 1926, when the first Protection Committee was established, will indicate that. I cannot come across any reference whatsoever to the Cathaoirleach.
Senator Colonel Moore.—You will find if you look back on the agreement that that was the agreement. I understand the Committee which has been referred to had control.
172. Senator Douglas.—I accept it that you are of the opinion, Mr. Aiken, that was the case. You stated that the Oireachtas decided the constitutional position of both Houses. Are you aware of the fact that the Constitution specifically provided that each House seperately, and inside its own Standing Orders, is the ruler with regard to admission generally. You will find it is definitely in the Constitution. This is a particular matter in which it provided for separate action by each House, and the Chairman is only acting on the Standing Orders of the House and the matter of privilege is in their own rights. However, I do not want to press that. I merely say it because of your statement. I say that the Oireachtas does not decide in this matter. If the Dáil wanted to make provision with regard to its own Chamber it would not have to bring in a Bill and submit it to us. Likewise, in the case of the Seanad. You say that there should be reasonable restrictions and every reasonable man agrees. The question is who should decide in the ultimate those restrictions. Do you consider that if we had another Minister for Defence, or another Executive Council, and that they reasonably, or unreasonably—we will assume unreasonably—said members of a particular body must not be admitted on the grounds that they are undesirable, dangerous or illegal, that the Chairman should accept that? Supposing there was a different Executive and it was said that the members of the Fianna Fáil Party were dangerous, do you think the Minister should be the person to say they should not be admitted, or do you not think the Seanad itself would be the authority to say that? I am only taking a thing that I regard as absurd, just for the purpose of the question. Do you think that in the event of a difference of opinion as to whether a particular body was, or was not, desirable, dangerous or illegal, that it is the Minister who should decide? If that is your view, then we know where we differ?—I would say if the question were before the courts as to whether Fianna Fáil were, or were not, an illegal organisation, that neither the Ceann Comhairle nor the Cathaoirleach should forestall the decision of the courts by admitting a member of Fianna Fáil.
173. I was referring to the original position when it was not before the courts. Let us go back to the position of July and we will assume that you came to the absurd position, for you, at any rate, that Fianna Fáil was a dangerous organisation, and it was not before the courts. Do you consider that you or the Executive would be the persons to decide that in relation to the Dáil or Seanad, or do you think it should be the Chairmen—that is the real issue?—Here is a vital point. There is no attempt to exclude members of an organisation in this case. What there was an attempt to do was to exclude persons coming in the uniform of a military or semi-military organisation. From a purely military point of view, if a certain number of persons came in here, dressed as ordinary civilians, it would be much easier to deal with them if they were dressed in the normal way. Twenty men mixing in a crowd here, or around, dressed in an ordinary way, could not take the same effective military action that persons dressed in a uniform could.
174. I said we accept the position that there should be a reasonable restriction. Who, in the case of either House, should decide what is or is not a reasonable restriction? I have presented you with a certain position, as an example. I hold that in that case the Chairman of each House really would be the person to decide that?—And I would say that from a practical point of view the proper procedure would be for the Ceann Comhairle, the Cathaoirleach and the Minister for Defence to meet and agree between themselves.
175. I agree it is highly desirable they should meet, but on the question of privilege there may be possible disagreement?—We should try it anyway, in the absence of legislation defining strictly where the powers of the three cross. You have here, in this building, the Seanad, the Dáil and also the Executive of the day. I think the only thing to do is that matters like this should be agreed upon. I think they could be and that there could be a solution by means of a conference.
176. You said that you hold the view that wearing these shirts was illegal. I think in the Seanad you said your principal reason was because you regarded them as dangerous. There are two distinct points. You claim the right of the Executive to have an opinion as to what was dangerous and that the Chairman should, after consultation, accept that. If your claim was solely based on your opinion that it was illegal, that is a much simpler issue than if your claim is that it is dangerous?—I did not use the particular word “dangerous” so far as I remember.
177. I am sorry if I misunderstood you?—The Executive Council must guard against the possibility of danger of grave disturbance and disorder in the House? On a certain occasion I believe it would have been dangerous to admit them. If sufficient numbers were coming in I believe the disorder would amount to grave danger.
178. Do you consider they would be more dangerous wearing uniform than without it?—Very much.
179. Have you heard the view expressed that people wearing it would be much safer because they are more easily recognised and persons with subversive objects, wearing ordinary clothes, would be more dangerous?—I believe if a body of men were coming in here and wanted to attack and take possession of these premises, that it would be much safter for them to do so if they were dressed in a uniform in which they could recognise each other very quickly and at a distance.
180. Rather than ordinary clothes?—Rather than ordinary clothes.
181. You stated the Chief-of-Staff rang you up about a quarter to one. Did he give you any indication that there was going to be trouble, or how did it reach him?—Somebody seems to have got an idea into their heads—it was spread that there was going to be friction. Most of us here knew nothing about it. The information he gave me was that there were two visitors about to enter. As far as I remember the information he gave me was that he had got the information from his brother, Colonel Brennan, that two visitors were coming along and Colonel Brennan wanted to know did the order I issued hold.
182. Was there any doubt as to why, in this particular case, it should not run?—From the knowledge I have now I would suppose that the Superintendent of the Oireachtas was aware, at that time, that the Cathaoirleach had the knowledge that they were coming in in blue shirts—and he wanted to find out if my original order held.
183. Senator Johnson.—Have you got a copy of the minutes of 1926?—I have. What I have here is a memorandum by the Secretary of the Department:—
“That the Committee for the Safeguarding of Government Buildings was appointed in 1926 on the instructions of the Minister for Finance. The Department of Finance wrote to the Clerk of the Dáil asking him to nominate a representative on the Committee. In the absence, on leave, of the Clerk the Ceann Comhairle replied nominating his representative. The Cathaoirleach was not at any time represented on the Committee.”
184. That Committee was a Committee for the Control of Government Buildings?—The Protection of Government Buildings and the Oireachtas.
185. And Leinster House?—Here it is on the file:—
“Committee for the Safeguarding of Government Buildings and the Oireachtas.”
I take it that is the name of the Committee right down from this statement in 1926.
186. Do you know whether, when that Committee was set up, the Cathaoirleach was consulted by the Ceann Comhairle or by the Minister?—I do not know whether he was consulted by the Ceann Comhairle but he was not communicated with by the Minister, who set up the Committee.
187. Cathaoirleach.—You have only the memorandum by the secretary?—I have all the documents here that passed between our Department and other Departments relating to the matter and I have gone through them fairly well myself, but the secretary assures me that he did not come across, anywhere, a reference to the Cathaoirleach in regard to this.
188. Senator Johnson.—The Committee’s function was to safeguard the buildings?—There was an Advisory Committee, a Consultative Committee, for the Minister for Defence.
189. The point I am making is the difference between the buildings and the assembly?—Yes.
190. It was stated here that the previous Committee from the one set up last year had never committed a breach of privilege. Have you any knowledge, from your reading of the files, whether there was ever any instruction given to any authority to prevent people coming within the neighbourhood of the buildings; that is to say, whether they were held up at the corner of Molesworth Street, Stephen’s Green, Kildare Street or Nassau Street?—I think, on certain occasions, they have been held up by the police.
191. Do you know whether, at any time, the question was raised whether the people had any right to come to the Oireachtas and were held up?—I do not know that.
192. I want to make it quite clear that the military at the gate are supplemental to the staff of the Oireachtas?—Yes.
193. Has the military man, on his own initiative, any authority to debar, or admit, any person—do they always act in association with the staff of the Oireachtas?—They are really a reserve. The people who deal with all the visitors coming in, and all that sort of thing, are the staff of the Oireachtas, the attendants here of the Oireachtas. The military do not approach any people coming in, in the first instance.
194. As a matter of military protection, you treat the buildings where the Oireachtas meets and the Government Buildings, as a unit?—Yes. They are all in the one military area.
195. And I take it all the buildings in this group have to be protected as a unit?—Yes, as a unit.
196. Senator Colonel Moore.—Are the Museum and the National Library protected?—No, the Museum and the National Library are not protected. The keys are under the control of the Superintendent of the Oireachtas. On one occasion the Protection Committee dealt with the question about the locks of the gates and who had control of the keys.
197. Senator Johnson.—You are not in a position to say anything about the form, or the contents, of the card of admission. The admittance card does not come within the observation of the military and therefore it comes within the observation of the Oireachtas staff?—I think those cards are under the personal control of the Superintendent of the Oireachtas. I think he issues them.
198. But after they have been presented?—They are presented to the attendants, not to the military.
199. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—Why did you not consult with the Committee which was charged with the responsibility for the protection of Government Buildings and Leinster House in the month of July, before you issued an order?—The Committee is not charged with the responsibility. The Minister for Defence is charged with the responsibility. It is a consultative Committee. I do, however, consult the Ceann Comhairle and the Superintendant of the Oireachtas. It is the Superintendant, with the Secretary of the Defence Department and a representative of the Board of Works, who formed that consultative Committee and the Board of Works have a very minor function in the matter.
200. You issued the orders because you presumed there was a state of emergency—I think those were your words?—No. I issued the instructions because I considered that if persons wearing the uniform of the A.C.A. were admitted, if a few of them were admitted, that it would be a cause of disturbance and that if a number of them came in it would be dangerous.
201. Do you seriously contend that if men entered here in uniform it would be more difficult to deal with them, inasmuch as they knew each other? Does it not also hold good that it would be incomparably easier for the Guards to deal with men in uniform than if they were not in uniform?—If I were a member of the A.C.A. and wished to carry this building by assault——
202. Assault from within or without?—If I had been admitted in the ordinary way, at a pre-arranged signal it would be much easier for me to do the job with a number of men in uniform than it would be with men not wearing uniform.
203. If you were in charge of these men and had placed your men in certain positions, and at a preconceived time they were to undertake certain duties at that particular time, surely it would not be one bit easier to deal with these men if they were in uniform—it would not be one bit easier for you to secure your object if the men were in uniform any more than if they were out of uniform?—Very much.
204. Might I ask how would that be?—I am supposing that if I were in charge of thirty or fifty men of the A.C.A. and wanted to overpower and take possession of these buildings of the Government, it would be much easier for me to place my men, and if there was any firing going on I could avoid my own men and could identify them at a distance.
205. Would it not be easier for the Guards to deal with uniformed men? I take it that in the highly improbable event of an attack being made from within to take possession of these premises, and there are guards holding the premises, if you wanted to seize them by an attack from within you would bring in your men in uniform. Your contention is that men coming in are more dangerous in uniform than out of it. I could not accept that point of view in that respect at all?—I think we will have to agree to differ.
206. You partly reprimanded the Cathaoirleach for one thing, and that was that at the time when there was this hullabaloo, as you said, before the courts, in an endeavour on the one side to secure a definite declaration from the court as to whether or not the League of Youth was an illegal organisation, that was not the time for the Cathaoirleach to issue cards to Blue Shirts. Might it not also be accepted that at a time like that, when a couple of visitors happen to come to the Seanad, the Minister should stay his hand until the decision of the court was arrived at and not refuse admission to visitors in blue shirts—might that not also hold?—I had no knowledge of the persons who were coming.
207. But you did know they were wearing blue shirts?—I knew they were coming wearing blue shirts.
208. And you stated the matter was before the courts for determination as to whether or not this was an illegal movement?—Yes.
209. And prior to the decision of the court you took it upon yourself, as Minister, in your official capacity, to refuse admission to visitors coming to this House who happened to be dressed in a uniform which was associated with an organisation which had not been declared illegal by the courts?—The point is this, that it had not been declared legal by the courts.
210. That is the point—not illegal?—It had not been declared legal and lawful by the courts.
211. It had not been declared illegal by the courts?—It had not been declared by the body competent to judge in that matter.
212. The Young Ireland Movement—the League of Youth?—Not alone that, but the wearing of this blue uniform is held by one court in the land, the Military Tribunal, to be evidence of an unlawful association.
213. The membership of an organisation which happened to be banned?—Of an unlawful association.
214. I wonder if that is so?—That is true. Look up the Cronin case.
215. They took the Minister’s certificate, didn’t they?—They also convicted Cronin of being a member of an unlawful association. The evidence against him was that he was wearing the uniform of a banned organisation.
216. But is not that slightly different?—His plea was, as far as I remember, that the organisation had gone out of existence.
217. Exactly?—They, I take it, held that even though it had changed its name that it was still in existence under another name.
218. But that was a banned organisation?—The claim was that it had gone out of existence.
219. If there is an organisation in existence which formally dissolves itself do you contend that that organisation still remains the same organisation?—We are not so damned green as to believe that the organisation goes out of existence simply because it changes its name.
220. So if any garment is associated with an organisation in the past and if you happen to wear it, and it is ten years out of existence, you are still banned?—Ten years out of existence?—This organisation changed its name about four times within a couple of months.
Leas-Chathaoirleach.—More than a couple of months, but that does not matter.
Senator Douglas.—Aided and abetted by the Executive.
221. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—I have got what I wanted from you, Minister. Here are two men who wear blue shirts. You are presuming they are members of a banned organisation. You have said, on the other hand, that the matter is before the courts to determine whether they are an illegal organisation. Notwithstanding what you say to the Cathaoirleach, on the one hand, it is to be inferred from your remarks, that while that matter is sub judice, you take it upon yourself to refuse admission to these visitors because they happen to wear blue shirts?—The responsibility and the authority are on the Executive. The Executive had taken a decision in the matter and were acting on the decision. Certain legal actions were taken in the courts in order to stay the hand of the Executive. The Executive are prepared to bide their time, provided that such a condition of affairs is not reached when they will have to take action. Then they will have to fall back on other powers that they have. Meantime, if they have power to exclude persons from the Oireachtas who would be liable to cause grave disorder here at the seat of the Government, they are perfectly entitled to take steps, and would be neglectful of their duty, if they did not take steps.
222. That is, if they were likely to cause grave disorder?—Yes.
223. We can differ on that too?—Anyone who had read the papers and knows the conditions in the country knows they have caused grave disturbances wherever they have gone.
224. We can also differ upon that. Will you set out chronologically, the events of the 21st February when you became aware these visitors were to be admitted. When did you first hear that?—So far as I remember, and I have checked it up with the Chief of Staff, it was about 12.45 p.m. on that date he informed me and I gave him the instructions that the military were to be instructed that they were not to be admitted.
225. You consulted with the Ceann Comhairle and you were aware that the Ceann Comhairle had issued an order to the Superintendent that the visitors in blue shirts were not to be admitted?—Yes.
226. You said, and perhaps you did not quite stress exactly your point, you implied that visitors, inasmuch as the Ceann Comhairle had so acted, were not to be admitted to the Dáil. You referred to that in reply to Senator Douglas. Did you also assume visitors were not to be admitted to the Seanad?—The Seanad did not cross my mind.
227. There were visitors coming to Leinster House?—Yes. and I understood they were coming to the Dáil.
228. If the Chief of Staff got in touch with you at that hour on the 21st February—you say that probably the reason the matter was raised was to know if your original order held good—why, if you were able to tell them your original order did hold good—if you were able to tell them that—why did you also alter the procedure which had applied in the House heretofore? The procedure was that the ushers, under the instructions of the Superintendent, had instructions to refuse admission to any visitors into Leinster House. But on this particular occasion the Superintendent of the Oireachtas who got in touch with the Chief of Staff. The Chief of Staff got in touch with you. You have already stated you presumed the reason was to see if your original order held. Why did you order a different procedure to be adopted on that particular day?—I did not order it.
229. You did. Did you not order the military guard to refuse admission that day?—You must bear in mind this. I sent a letter to the Ceann Comhairle on that day in July, stating I was about to issue instructions to the military guard to stop visitors, persons entering Leinster House other than members of the Dáil and Oireachtas, dressed in the uniform of the banned organisation.
230. Cathaoirleach.—Did you, as a matter of fact, issue these instructions to the military authorities?—I pointed out I did not issue them direct to the military in regard to Leinster House on taat occasion. I pointed out I was satisfied that, after hearing the Ceann Comhairle instruct the Superintendent, my purpose has been served.
231. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—Must there not have been some exceptional circumstances? Must there not have been some information of a special character that brought about a condition of things where you altered the practice which had been successful heretofore? The ushers and the police guards had dealt with the situation perfectly heretofore, but that day you ordered that the military guard, and the military guard did, prevent two visitors in blue shirts from coming to the House. What were the special circumstances?—It is quite clear Colonel Brennan, having received conflicting instructions from the Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach, sought to advise me that two Blue Shirts were going to come in notwithstanding the fact that I had told him definitely that I was against their being admitted.
232. Sought to advise you through your inferior officers, or directly?—He got in touch with his brother, who is Chief of Staff, and the Chief of Staff advised me he had been informed two Blue Shirts were coming to Leinster House and his brother, the Superintendent, wanted to know if my original instruction held.
233. Why were not your original instructions carried out? Why did you give special orders that the military guard were to interfere?—I have no power over the civilian attendants at the Dáil.
234. Cathaoirleach.—In reality, when I communicated with the Minister for Justice, who has the control of the Guards. I was really in the proper position and you were in the wrong, because the Guards were the people who were in authority here all the time, the military being a reserve?—Not the Guards.
235. You said the military were in reserve?—As a reserve.
236. To aid the Guards in case of necessity?—To aid the staff of the Oireachtas.
Cathaoirleach.—And the staff were actting through the Guards.
237. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—There is one point. On this particular occasion something unusual was about to occur and the Superintendent, knowing that something unusual was about to occur, that a new situation had been created where admission tickets, with the full authority of the Cathaoirleach, had been supplied to a Senator who was giving them to visitors, referred the matter to the Chief of Staff?—Yes.
238. The Chief of Staff referred the matter, very properly, to his Minister for Defence?—Yes.
239. Why on earth did they not make some reference to the very peculiar circumstances which obtained that day, which were created that day, when asking you to give orders, and you altered the procedure which had worked out perfectly satisfactorily up to that? You must have had something unusual in your mind, some new information which made you alter the practice. You ordered that the military for the first time were to refuse admission to Leinster House to two men wearing blue shirts?—The position was this, that the Superintendent, having received conflicting instructions, sought to get them resolved in some way. The Chief of Staff telephoned me and told me the Superintendent of the Oireachtas has informed me that two Blue Shirts, visitors in blue shirts, were going to seek admission to Leinster House, and he wanted to know if my original instructions would hold. The Chief of Staff wanted to know what he was going to do in the matter. I told him they were not to be admitted.
240. May I presume, in circumstances like that, if no new situation was presented to you, you would apply the ordinary practice that obtained? I cannot understand why the ordinary practice which had obtained from July could not obtain. The Ceann Comhairle ordered the Superintendent to preclude from admission visitors dressed in blue shirts—visitors, other than members of the Oireachtas, had been excluded. You altered the practice which had obtained and you still say you did not know that the Cathaoirleach had issued two tickets knowing that these two visitors, for whom the tickets were issued, were wearing blue shirts?—I did not alter the practice. The fact of the matter was that the original thing had occurred six months ago and I took it that no visitors, or persons other than members of the Oireachtas, had presented themselves for admission. The Superintendent, knowing my view on the matter, quite naturally wanted to find out was I of the same opinion still, that Blue Shirts should not be allowed in.
241. That is not meeting my point, I say with great respect, why did that practice which was brought into being in the previous July—why did you not apply that same practice to deal with a situation which you regarded as perfectly similar?—The practice was the practice of the Oireachtas staff, as I pointed out. The Superintendent was, on the instructions of the Ceann Comhairle, excluding people.
242. I consider you to have been the prime mover in the matter?—Oh, yes.
243. You were doing your duty quite properly, but I am not still quite clear upon that matter. It is not clear, in my mind, as to why the practice should be altered, where originally ushers, supplemented by police guards, were responsible, acting on the instructions of the Ceann Comhairle through the Superintendent and moved, originally, by the Minister. Why that did not obtain on this occasion I do not know and I would like to know how it was the Minister did not know there was some unusual, or special, circumstances when he altered the practice which had worked out so successfully?—I have not altered it.
244. You made an order on the 21st February?—That was an additional precaution.
Cathaoirleach.—Did we not cover this already?
Leas-Chathaoirleach.—All that was conveyed to the Minister, was that two Blue Shirts were coming.
245. Cathaoirleach.—Didn’t he make a specific order through his Chief of Staff to stop them?
Leas-Chathaoirleach.—I asked him what were the special circumstances to stop them.
Cathaoirleach.—There were none.
Senator Johnson.—The Superintendent, through the Chief of Staff, approached the Minister to know whether any change in the original order was to be made in these circumstances.
Mr. Aiken.—I want to ask you this, a Chathaorligh: Are you hinting that I have not answered your questions in a direct way, any direct questions you put?
246. Cathaoirleach.—Some of them were answered in a roundabout way— questions which involved constitutional and legal aspects, which I do not want to get mixed up in. I am a plain man and I want “Yes” or “No.” I may be wrong.
Mr. Aiken.—“Yes” or “No” often is not an answer to a question.
Cathaoirleach.—That is the position.
Leas-Chathaoirleach.—I am not complaining about the Minister’s replies or his failure to reply to me, but I am complaining if anyone else on the Committee chooses to make any excuses in this respect.
Cathaoirleach.—Ask your question then.
247. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—Did the Superintendent of the Oireachtas, that day, put the simple question to the Minister: Was there any variation of his order of the previous July?—That is the question he put to me through the Chief of Staff.
Leas-Chathaoirleach.—That is all; that is sufficient.
248. Senator Wilson.—Would you have stopped the Blueshirt visitors if you knew they had the authority of the Cathaoirleach—that he had personally invited them in?—If I had been advised, if I had known that they were coming with his knowledge and consent I would have taken steps to get in touch with the Cathaoirleach and endeavour to persuade him to alter his instructions.
249. Would you have stopped them?—That is a question which does not arise.
Cathaoirleach.—It is problematical. I asked him a question in regard to a future action and he could not very well answer.
250. Senator Douglas.—He had no reason to believe that the ordinary Guards, on that day, would not carry out their instructions. When you rang up and said they were not to be admitted, there was no suggestion that the ordinary Guards would not carry out their previous instructions?—No.
251. Leas-Chathaoirleach.—Then, why was the practice altered if the Minister had no reason to assume other than that the ordinary Guards would be quite able to carry out their duties and exclude Blueshirts? Why was the practice altered?—I do not know what you mean by practice.
252. The method which had been adopted and which had been quite sufficient to meet the situation, so that visitors wearing blue shirts would be excluded from admission to the House by the ushers or the police guards. The Minister said he had no reason to assume that the ushers on that day would not have been quite sufficient to carry out the object of precluding from admission to the House any visitors in blue shirts. I am asking why, therefore, were the military guards employed on that day instead. Why not try first to preclude visitors from admission in the ordinary way through the medium of the ushers? If the ushers failed, then bring in the police guards, and if the police guards failed then let the military guard carry out their functions, which were their real functions according to the Minister, and that was to come to their assistance. Why was that practice altered and the visitors were met by the military guard?—I take it that the exclusion of visitors, in the ordinary way, is done by the ushers under the control of the Superintendent. If the military guards have instructions to exclude certain people, and if the ushers do not do it, they will act on their instructions and do it.
253. That is, if the ushers do not do it? —If the ushers do not.
254. Did the ushers refuse to do it or were they not able?—If the sentry or any military policeman saw persons coming in carrying arms and if they have not been stopped by the ushers the military will stop them, and if the military have instructions to stop persons wearing blue shirts from entering the precincts of Leinster House, and if they are not stopped by the ushers, the military will step in and stop them.
255. Was it contended on that day that they were not stopped by the ushers and that the military had to step in, or did you issue instructions in advance?—I do not know whether they were stopped by the ushers or by the military. I take it that they were stopped by the military. I am telling you they were stopped by the military on my instructions.
256. And I am asking you why did you depart from the ordinary practice, where the ushers would stop the Blueshirts and where there was no unusual circumstance that day at all, unless it was reported to you that there was likely to be a clash of authority in this House, where the Cathaoirleach had been responsible for issuing tickets of admission to visitors, knowing they wore blue shirts, and you that day gave instructions to the military that they were to prevent Blueshirts from admission?—I have recounted the circumstances, that when I was engaged in business I received the telephone message from the Chief of Staff that persons wearing uniform shirts were about to enter Leinster House and, right off, without any more ado, I told him that they were not to be admitted.
257. You were not satisfied with the ushers on that day?—I am telling you the thing is this. You have been asking questions for the last half hour, or the last three hours——
258. Very important questions?—Very important, but the thing is my instructions were done inside half a second, and all the ramifications that we have been going into here could not have been adverted to inside half a second. My whole frame of mind was this, that it was not the right or proper thing for Blueshirts to be admitted into this House. I had responsibility for stopping them. I had taken steps on the 20th July, certain steps which satisfied me that they were going to be excluded. A question arose as to whether I was still of the same frame of mind in regard to them and I said I was, and I gave instructions to the Chief of Staff that whatever steps were necessary by consultation with the Superintendent, or instructions to the military guard, that these steps were to be taken and they were to be excluded.
Leas-Chathaoirleach.—I will not repeat my question.
Cathaoirleach.—Thank you, Mr. Aiken.
The witness withdrew.