If anyone told me that the dogs in the street knew that Gerry Adams was in the IRA I’d concede he’d an advantage on me. I’ve led a sheltered life and never had intercourse with canine quadrupeds, Urban gorillas nor All-Ireland primates of any persuasion. Nor have I ever seen an authenticated record of a cross-examination of a dog. To accept unexamined assertions I’d need to be barking.
Long ago when I was young there sat, in Seanad Eireann, an extremely able man on the Fine Gael benches. After some years he chose to stand for election to Dail Eireann. He realised it might be an idea to become a member of Fine Gael. So he approached an elder statesman who had long sat on the Fine Gael, and before that Cumann na nGaedheal, benches, in the Lower House.
“Been in politics forty years, twice Taoiseach, never joined the Party” said the elder statesman.
The young Senator was the future Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, and the elder statesman was John A Costello.
I have beside me a collection of fifty one speeches by fifty persons made between 1782 and 2007. All of them are interesting, some inspirational, others frankly embarrassing. The collection is entitled “Great Irish Speeches” and includes speeches by FitzGerald and Costello.
Costello’s speech was made in Dail Eireann on 28 February 1934 in opposition to the “Wearing of Uniform (Restriction) Bill” Introduced by the Fianna Fail Minister for Justice.
The Civil War had ended in May 1923, and in !932 Fianna Fail, from the vanquished side, had come to power with the support of Labour deputies. In 1933 the Dail had been dissolved and Fianna Fail had secured an over-all majority, either despite or because of an Irish Times editorial in February 1933 forecasting doom should it do so. In March 1933 the Irish Times welcomed the accession to power of the Nazis in Germany in an Editorial _”Herr Hitler’s Way”.
Though Cumann na nGaedheal and Fine Gael have never won a majority of Dail Seats, they boasted of their adherence to democracy, constitutionality and the rule of law until the voters unseated them from the Government benches.Then they took to marching in uniforms giving fascist salutes and embracing anti-democratic doctrines and practices.Fianna Fail’s Justice Minister invoked legislation passed in democratic states in Europe to create or maintain public order.His speech did not impress John A Costello who responded in part –
“The minister gave extracts from various laws on the continent but he carefully refrained from drawing attention to the fact that the Blackshirts were victorious in Italy and that the Hitler Shirts were victorious in Germany, as, assuredly, in spite of this bill and in spite of the Public Safety Act, the Blueshirts will be victorious in the Irish Free State.”
The bill was approved by the Dail but the Free State Senate with its Blueshirt and Unionist majority ensured it did not become law. Shortly afterwards the Free State Senate was abolished and four years later the people abolished the Free State and enacted a Consitution for a sovereign, Independent democratic Ireland with a Republican form of government.
Fianna Fail triumphed in Elections until 1948. In 1948 Fine Gael won its lowest ever number of seats but supported by two squabbling Labour Parties, Clann na Poblachta and a ragbag of clowns formed a Government with John A Costello as Taoiseach.
The state was at peace with itself – and has been with the rest of the world, largely due to Eamon de Valera’s leadership and that of his colleagues.