HC Deb 19 March 1880 vol 251 cc1223-7

COLONEL THE O'GORMAN MAHON, in rising to move— That this House highly disapproves of the attempt of the Prime Minister to stir up feelings of hatred between England and Ireland for the purpose of furnishing an election cry" to his followers, and regards with indignation his flagrant misrepresentation of the loyal efforts of the Home Rule Party to extend the blessings of constitutional government to Ireland, said, he had counted on having his Resolution seconded by his noble Colleague (Lord Francis Conyngham);but he was sure both sides of the House would hear with regret that the close attention which the noble Lord had given to his Parliamentary duties in the early part of the Session had so impaired his health that he had been obliged to demand leave of absence, and to repair to the Continent, where, he regretted, he was now unable to leave his room. Deprived of such a Seconder, he had not sought for another. In the condemnation which he desired to pass on the Representatives of the Government he wished hon. Gentlemen who usually sat on his side of the House to participate, for it was far from him to give exclusively to the Tory Party the blame which, he was sorry to say, should be shared to a certain extent by others as well as the Prime Minister and the Leader of the opposite side of the House on the Treasury Bench. A native bard, who wanted to convey his ideas of what the respective Parties in the House happened to be with regard to his unfortunate country, expressed himself in these words— Oh, who can look on history's damning leaf, Where Whig and Tory—thief opposed to thief, On either side in conscious shame are seen, While Ireland's form hangs crucified between. Who, Justice, who, such rival rogues can see, But flies from both to honesty and thee. Where was that "honesty and thee" to be found? Not among the Whigs or Tories in that House. He believed that honesty and justice were to be found in the people of England and Scotland, divested of that taint and slime which these wretched political Parties attempted to cast on them. He believed the people of Ireland had only one chance—that of appealing to them. He believed that they ought no longer to come to that House to be treated with the contumely and contempt with which he had seen their Petitions treated since he came into that House. When he went back to his countrymen he would tell them no longer to burden Parliament with their Petitions, but to rely upon themselves, to concentrate their energies, and to look for honesty and fair treatment from the people of England and Scotland, and to pay no heed to the wretched squabbles of English Parties, who were playing shuttlecock and battledore with Ireland until she at last dropped to the ground and remained hopeless until they had another quarrel, and again raised her to be again tossed about. That, he believed, was the proper advice. The Premier of England had issued a denunciation of what was a mild construction of a principle which, more than half a century ago, when he (Colonel The O'Gorman Mahon) took his place in the House of Commons, he had advocated, and that was Repeal of the Union. What was the answer the Minister of the day, who was an honest man, gave to his demand? He said—"Prove to me that the majority of your countrymen are in favour of the repeal of the Union, and I then shall, as Minister of the Crown, deem it my duty to counsel the King and his Ministers to take into serious consideration the demands of the majority." Then there came a change. The Whigs were turned out, and they forgot their promises, and the Tories came in, and they had given no promise; and now, how did the Minister of the Crown look on a mild construction of that original demand, which would have been recognized half-a-century ago if approved of by a majority of the Irish people? They saw how he treated it in his recent Manifesto. This country of England had been favoured by Providence in the most extraordinary manner, and no one who looked on the pages of history could deny it. Her escapes from ruin had been marked and frequent. He had no need to tell the House of the fate of the Spanish Armada, destroyed by a hurricane; but, coming home to our own time, they had in 1796 the Minister of Prance sending an Expedition from Brest under General Hoche, which was composed of 17 sail of the line, 13 frigates, 15 transports, and 15,000 troops, with an abundant supply of arms and ammunition for the patriots of Ireland. That Expedition met the same fate as the Spanish Armada, through the intervention of Providence. Six thousand troops certainly got into Bantry Bay; but they departed without the necessity of a shot being fired by the British troops. Then there was the Dutch Expedition, which was detained for five weeks in the Texel by contrary winds; and the other French Expedition which landed in Killala, and when a mere handful of Frenchmen defeated all the Royal troops that happened to be in the country, and were very nearly coining to Dublin. England, nevertheless, thought her hold upon Ireland insecure, and hence the legislative Union—the miscalled Union; and what were its results? That Ireland was at present in a much more dissatisfied state than even after that disgraceful Act was carried. Who were the first men to protest against it? The Orange Corporation of Dublin, then not only exclusively Protestants, but Orangemen of the worst type. It was necessary, perhaps, to explain to the House that the Orangeman who, in England, was an emblem of liberality, was, in Ireland, an emblem of bigotry and intolerance, as if it were an ordinance of Providence that there should be no assimilation whatever between England and Ireland. The two nations were of a different race. In religion and in natural feeling there was nothing in common between the two countries; and when Parliament took upon themselves to tell the world at large that they were, indeed, competent to make laws for Ireland, and that they knew infinitely better than Irishmen what Ireland wanted, they displayed an arrogance which was really intolerable—utterly intolerable. He was standing on the brink of the grave; but if they were to be his last words, he would say to his countrymen, never submit to the insults of the Saxons, never permit them to domineer over you, but, in public bodies or private bodies, by all lawful means, resist them to the last. He would not detain the House longer. [Cries of "Go on!"] Well, he would occupy two minutes more by telling them what was the meaning of Home Rule. The Press of England, for what reason he knew not, had hitherto concealed what it was. This demand was represented as a demand for separation. Such, however, was not the case. Its real meaning might be gathered from a Manifesto of the Home Rule League. That Manifesto stated that the League was formed for the purpose of obtaining for Ireland the right of self-government by means of a National Parliament assembled in Ireland composed of Her Majesty's Lords and Commons, with the right to legislate and regulate all matters relating to the internal affairs of Ireland, and to have control over Irish resources and revenue, subject to the obligation of contributing a just proportion to the Imperial Exchequer. It proposed to leave the Imperial Parliament power to deal with all questions affecting the Crown and the Government legislation affecting the Colonies and other Dependencies, and all matters pertaining to the defence and the stability of the Empire at large. That did not look like severing the fortunes of Ireland from those of England, or an attempt to disunite and destroy the Empire. He had been astonished to read in the papers yesterday that the Attorney General had stated at Pre3ton that all Irish complaints were fictitious and imaginary, and that they were dreaming about their wrongs. The hon. and learned Gentlemen was, no doubt, a Volunteer—a member of the "Devil's Own"—but if the hon. and learned Gentleman said to a comrade that he had got a prod of a small sword in the ribs or a bullet under the breast some years ago, when he was young, and all the tinkering and plaistering of the doctors had been insufficient to close up the wound, and, therefore, he was unable to attend a muster, what would be the nature of his feelings if his comrade exclaimed—"What is the use of complaining of a wound received so long ago? You must march." Then, how could it be said that because the British Government had been treating his country for centuries, instead of days or years, in the most scandalous manner, that everyone in Ireland was dreaming? When he went back he would tell his countrymen to bide their time. As long as he lived, at all events, there would be no recourse, recommended by him, to the ridiculous insurrections which had been forced on his country once or twice; but if they were not given justice now, when the tomb was closed over him, some of the hon. Members listening to him would be quoting his words, that when the first cannon shot was fired by a gun-boat hostile to the British Flag, from either France or America, that shot would be the signal for the arrival of a Royal Prince in Ireland, sent by Her Majesty to open an Irish Parliament in College Green, and then it would be for the people of Ireland to choose their allies—he hoped they might be English, but it might be otherwise. He begged to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

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