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dreadful murders in the North of Ireland recently committed (notably the murder of Protestant farmers in Co. Armagh last month) are a disgrace to any Christian community,* and that unless and until the Provisional Government of Ireland dissociate themselves unreservedly from the armed assassins who are guilty, peaceable citizens in Ireland, both North and South, will regard as suspect Mr Collins and his ministers who have undertaken responsibility for the administration of Irish affairs. The senseless war' on the Northern border, as Cardinal Logue has described it, must be stopped, and the worthless scamps' who are organising outrage must be punished, if either Great Britain or Ireland is to continue to put its trust in the Provisional Government.
So serious has been the position of Protestants in the South of the country during the last three months, that many hundreds have abandoned their homes through fear of death. At the instance of the members of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland who come from the Southern province, the Archbishop of Dublin sought an interview with Mr Collins in May, and asked for assurances that the lives of his people would be protected by the Government, as if that were not possible, a general exodus would be inevitable. Mr Collins is reported to have deprecated any such action, as Irish Churchmen play an important part in the life of the country; but it does not appear that in districts controlled by the Republican malcontents he has been able to provide any protection.
In the midst of these troubles, Mr Collins and Mr de Valera made a remarkable agreement on May 20. They jointly signed a pact, which was to the effect that instead of contesting the elections which were to be held in June, a Coalition panel' for each constituency, including supporters of the Treaty and Republicans alike, should be laid before the electors. By this means it was expected that bloodshed would be avoided at the elections, which without some such agreement would have been accompanied by bitter fighting between the rival factions, It is satisfactory that this expectation was
* This was written before the dastardly assassination of Sir Henry Wilson in London on June 22.
Vol. 238.-No. 472,
fulfilled, and the elections on June 16 were held quietly, except for trifling outbreaks of violence at a few centres. But the 'pact' did not satisfy large sections of the Irish people, and independent candidates were put in nomination, in addition to those who had the Coalition 'coupon,' and it speaks well for the electors that many of these candidates were successful at the polls. That there was some intimidation is true ; but it did not provoke murder, persons who were warned not to vote staying at home.
Meantime, for some months past, the members of the Irish Government and their advisers had in preparation a Draft Constitution, which was submitted to British ministers before it was published, in order that its agreement with the Treaty might be ensured. It is generally believed that the first draft had to be amended, as it was not considered by the representatives of Great Britain to be in accordance with the Articles of Agreement signed in December, which made it plain that Ireland must remain within the Empire, and recognise the King as the head of the legislature. But however that may be, a Constitution was published on the morning of the elections, June 16, which was declared by Mr Churchill, who had presided over the negotiations, to satisfy the terms of the Treaty. It affected little, if at all, the votes of the electors who had not had time to consider it; but it has been generally recognised that in accepting it as admissible, British ministers had gone to the extreme limits of concession. Whether it will be adopted by the Irish Parliament, or subsequently accepted by the Imperial Parliament, is not certain; but it is desirable that on the one side and the other it should be examined with care, for by the wisdom or unwisdom of its clauses the future prosperity of Ireland will be determined in large measure; while its imperial implications are essential for the security of the British Empire.
In terms, the Constitution recognises the King; the executive authority of the Irish Free State is hereby declared to be vested in the King'; his assent is required before any Bill passed by Parliament can be placed on the Statute Book. This assent is given, as in Canada, by the Governor-General, who has power to refuse or
reserve it, if he thinks fit. Again, every member of Parliament, whether in the Lower or the Upper House, must take the oath laid down in the Treaty of faithfulness to the King as well as of allegiance to the Irish Free State. And, finally, as in Canada, 'nothing in this Constitution shall impair the right of any person to petition His Majesty for special leave to appeal from the Supreme Court to His Majesty in Council or the right of His Majesty to grant such leave.' This is all in order, and is quite inconsistent with Republican ideals, as the extremists of the Republican party have already declared. But there remain certain clauses in the Constitution the force of which is not easy to understand, and which demand closer scrutiny.
Clauses 50-55 provide that the Executive Council shall consist of twelve ministers, of whom only four need be members of Parliament, although all must take the Oath.* Those who are not members of Parliament will be nominated by a Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, and are to be as far as possible generally representative of the Irish Free State as a whole rather than of groups or of parties.' These ministers, although not members of Parliament, shall be allowed to speak in the Chamber, and shall have all the other privileges of members except the right to vote. This is an extraordinary provision from the democratic point of view. It actually decrees that a majority of ministers may be persons who have not been elected to Parliament by constituencies, and who do not seem to be responsible to any one for their actions or speeches, except in so far as it is provided that they may be removed from office by a vote of the Chamber. A Minister of Education or a Minister of Agriculture, in such a position, might do a great deal of mischief. The arrangement is unusual (although there are precedents), and needs explanation.
Again, there is a provision in Clause 47 by which any fifty thousand voters on the Register may initiate proposals for legislation, including proposals to amend the Constitution. Should Parliament not accept such proposals, they must be submitted to the people for decision by referendum, the Royal Assent being, of course, always essential. This is a clause which seems to have been borrowed from the Swiss Constitution, but which in the present condition of Irish political parties, is sure to breed mischief. It would be quite a simple matter to get fifty thousand electors to sign a petition for the abolition of the Oath of Allegiance, or for the necessity of the royal assent to Bills. The Republican extremists ardently desire the abolition of both these provisions of the Constitution. An opportunity for making serious trouble is here offered to them in advance, and (as it seems) quite wantonly, for if fifty thousand electors are desirous that a particular measure should be introduced into Parliament, it is not doubtful that members of the Chamber could be found who would take charge of it. To give the power of initiative to the electors, without the consent of Parliament, is to impair the dignity of Parliament, and is not consistent with the principles of representative government, as they have been generally understood.
* The oath was not provided for in the 'Pact' of May 20.
The adoption, in the Constitution, of adult suffrage, by which every man or woman over twenty-one years of age has a vote for candidates for the Chamber, is an innovation which may have disastrous consequences. Cardinal Logue, in a recent pronouncement, spoke gravely and sternly of the school boys and school girls' who were intimidating peaceable citizens with revolvers. And all impartial observers are agreed that among the most dangerous people in Ireland are the wild, hysterical girls who encourage violence as the road to 'freedom.' The framers of the Irish Constitution have taken a great risk in recommending adult suffrage; but that is not a matter in which this country has any longer a right to intervene.
The franchise for the Senate is better, as only those over thirty years of age can vote; we wish that some property qualification had been introduced as well, but probably that would not be accepted in Ireland to-day. There are to be sixty senators in all, of whom four are to be elected by the University of Dublin and the National University, two for each. This is the only trace of special or functional representation in the new Irish Parliament, and the Universities will form their electoral registers as before. The remaining fifty-six senators are
to be elected from a panel consisting, on each occasion, of three times as many names as there are vacancies, all persons nominated having special qualifications as eminent public servants or 'as representing important aspects of the nation's life.' The whole of the Irish Free State forms the electoral area for senatorial elections, and the voting will be by the method of proportional representation (the method adopted in the Constitution for all Parliamentary elections), which may give the minority the power of electing a few members of the Upper House.
The panel for senatorial elections will be submitted by Parliament to the electors, the Chamber nominating twice as many as the Senate on the occasion of elections, which will be held every four years. This seems to reduce the independence of the Senate, and to make it too greatly a creature of the Chamber; but, in a provision of this kind, everything depends on the spirit in which the letter of the law is interpreted. If the Chamber desire, and the electors desire, to have a strong Senate, representative of all interests in the countrythe landed gentry, the learned professions, bankers, and merchants—there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent it. But, on the other hand, there is no security that a Senate popularly elected will fully represent the stable elements in Irish life, or that the old prejudices as to landlords and Protestants may not prevail so as to exclude from Parliament some of the wisest men in Ireland.
In the Parliament of Northern Ireland, as constituted by the Act of 1920, the senators are actually elected by the Lower House, an arrangement which has had the effect of excluding the Roman Catholic minority from any influence in regard to legislation. One of the main objects of an Upper House is to protect the interests of the minority, and this object is not attained where membership of the Upper House is dependent, in whole or in part, upon the goodwill of the Lower House, which represents the majority of the electorate. There is a useful provision appended to the Constitution of the Irish Free State ($ 78), by which the first Senate (upon whose example so much will depend) shall be nominated, as to half its members, by the Prime Minister, 'who shall in making such nominations have special regard to the