Ulster will not Answer
We have received the following letter from the Secretary of the National Council For Civil Liberties in which it is explained that the Council is not a republican or revolutionary body. The reason why it cannot undertake a similar investigation for the Free State is also made clear.
To the Editor of the "Catholic Herald' SIR.—In the stream of comments which has emanated from Unionist speakers and newspapers in Ulster, with reference to the Report of our Commission of Inquiry on the Special Powers Acts, it is significant that the Northern Ireland Government, in obvious difficulties has contented itself with making personal attacks on the members of the Commission and on myself and has carefully evaded the legal and constitutional points at issue.
The Government's apologists have indulged in a campaign of personal abuse which has not gone unnoticed in the British National newspapers, even those of a Conservative and Unionist complexion. Charges of bad faith and intentional misrepresentation have been freely levelled against us, but the reputations of the members of the Commission, who were emi.zent in the law and penal reform, are such that these abusive attacks merely recoil on those who make them.
A British daily newspaper has commented on this evasion of the serious legal charges contained in the Report and has called attention to the cynical legal maxim " No case, abuse the Plaintiff's attorney."
Your readers may not be aware that not a single Unionist or Conservative paper in England has utttered one word in defence of the Northern Ireland Unionists for the situation disclosed in our Report, while Unionist and Conservative papers in England and Ireland have criticised the Northern Ireland Government in terms no less strong than our own.
There has been a persistent attempt in Unionist circles in Northern Ireland to convey the impression that our Council is working in the interests of Republican and subversive movements. There is no truth whatsoever in this suggestion; we are a non-party body including among our members Conservatives, Liberals and Socialists, and we are not in the least interested in
Irish political controversy as such. In this matter, we are solely concerned with the civil rights of British subjects.
The Free State
The suggestion, moreover, that we are purposely refraining from investigating conditions obtaining in the Irish Free State is not made in ignorance, for we have repeatedly made it clear in the newspapers that we are precluded from intervening in the affairs of the selfgoverning dominions; as a National Council we can only concern ourselves with those parts of the British Empire which are under the Imperial Parliament.
The Special Powers Acts have been described by the Professor intcluational Law at Oxford as abrogating the Rule of Law. The contention — frequently reinterated by Unionists—that the ordinary criminal law in Great Britain is not adequate to deal with the situation in Northern Ireland, and that the Special Powers Acts must be maintained as a permanent part of the constitution, is exactly similar to the Nazi contention that the Rule of Law and the safeguards of constitutional practice are outworn conventions.
In all dictatorship systems the reason advanced for the abrogation of the Rule of Law is that the Government of the day would be endangered by the absence of " Special Powers " and that therefore the constitutional safeguards of the liberty of the subject must be abolished and dictatorial powers must be vested in the Executive . . .
No Justification Now
After two years careful investigation in various parts of Ulster, and after hearing the views of 'Unionists as well as Nationalists, we are satisfied that all justification for the retention of these unconstitutional powers has long since passed away. The Premier's recent statement that the Acts will be maintained so long as he is in office indicates the state of mind of the dominant governing section. The fact that our carefully weighed criticisms of the Northern Ireland Government and some of its legislation are persistently represented as " an attack on Ulster " indicates that any criticism of the party Government and its legislation is considered to be an attack on the State. It would be as reasonable to stigmatise Lord Hewart's criticisms of English law as being " an attack on England."
Royal Ulster Constabulary
There is one other grave and far-reaching misrepresentation which has been freely indulged in by Unionist papers and speakers in Northern Ireland—namely, that our Council has made an attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary. We have, it is true, criticised very strongly mvch of the administration of the Ulster police force, which is tinder direct political control by the Home Minister—himself a prominent
Orangeman. It is entirely untrue, however, that our strictures on police administration are an attack on the police themselves. They have a difficult duty to perform and they are themselves the victims of partisan control. I shall shortly have more to say on the subject of police administration in Northern Ireland . . .