August 4th, 1927


FROM THE ARCHIVES: The assassination of Kevin O’Higgins, the Free State’s vice-president and minister for justice, in early July 1927 led to the introduction of tough new laws on public safety and electoral rules. This piece was written at 2.45 am, an hour before the Dáil debate concluded.

DÁIL ÉIREANN is sitting still, and at the present rate of progress looks like remaining in progress to greet the dawn. It has been a dreary night, division after division has been challenged by the Labour Party. “Fifty for; twenty-six against” – so it went on monotonously, while the heavy-handed clock ticked out the midnight moments. It was a test of endurance between Labour and the Government; and the Government won.

At about 2.30 the Public Safety Bill emerged from the last division in the Committee stage, and with a yawn of relief deputies had hopes of home and bed. But President Cosgrave was as wakeful as a cricket. “I propose that we take the Report stage of the bill at 11 o’clock this morning,” he said. Drowsy eyes were turned towards the clock, and one could see deputies making a hurried calculation of the number of hours’ sleep that they were likely to snatch, and even Government supporters brightened up when Mr. [Tom] Johnson [Labour leader] moved as an amendment that the report stage be taken on next Tuesday in order to give deputies a chance of going to the Horse Show.

But there was nothing doing. The President insisted, and another division was taken, with the inevitable result. So the House will re-assemble this morning at 11 o’clock.

Immediately afterwards the House took up the Committee stage of the Electoral Amendment Bill, which is in sleepy progress as I write. There is a full attendance of members. All the Ministers are in the House, Professor O’Sullivan looking as if he could do with forty winks, and Mr. Duggan reposing affectionately on the knee of Mr. Seumas (sic) Burke. Some of the members evidently have been snatched by the call of duty from the diversions of Horse Show Week. Mr. Vincent Rice is in dress clothes. Captain Redmond looks debonair with a gay buttonhole, and Mr. Alfred Byrne is as fresh as if he had just stepped out of his barber’s shop.

In the Stranger’s Gallery a number of curious and ineffably foolish souls are sitting it out – why only themselves could explain. There are even women among them – and they are all awake. Surely there is no limit to the inquisitive instincts of the modern woman.

Most of the deputies probably would have fallen asleep long ago but for the fact that they have been kept awake by being forced to march through the division lobbies every few minutes. Up to the time of writing there have been thirteen divisions since eleven o’clock, and they are still going on. The gallery folk have no such excuse for remaining awake. Yet there they are. And people tell us that the Irish citizen has no interest in politics.