HC Deb 19 March 1880 vol 251 cc1223-32

, in seconding the Motion, said, he rejoiced to find that on the first occasion since his re-entry within the walls of Parliament his hon. and gallant Friend had given utterance to sentiments identical with those which he held more than half a century ago. His hon. and gallant Friend had proved himself in other days no craven in the cause of Ireland, and came there now with the snows of nearly 90 winters on his head, to make what might be the last effort of his long life in an appeal to the justice and generosity of English people. At what moment was this appeal made? The Prime Minister of England, having marked attentively the growing feeling amongst the people of this country, and amongst the educated classes, in regard to Irish discontent, determined to take this opportunity of inflaming passions of the kind that were aroused in the days of the Lord George Gordon riots. His hon. and gallant Friend had protested against such an attempt. He had pleaded, not for war or enmity between the English and Irish races, but for sentiments of conciliation and friendship. Ireland, he (Mr. Sullivan) declared, was more loyal from 1782 to 1795 than she had ever been from that day to this. Having taken his share in some of the stormiest scenes in Ireland since 1846, he could only say he never saw a moment more fruitful of hope or more conciliatory to every good citizen than at the time of the birth of the Home Rule movement. It was absurd to say that the demand of the Irish people for the control of their domestic affairs implied disloyalty to the Empire. Was Australia or Canada disloyal, or was any other Dependency of the British Crown, to which England, with that generosity which she never failed to display outside Ireland, had granted representative Institutions, disloyal? The Irish people had formulated a demand for a Native Parliament; but they had expressly left in it power to an Imperial Parliament to deal with Imperial affairs, and allow Ireland to settle her own domestic affairs. Well, that was accepted in Ireland by Conservatives as well as Liberals; but when a Conservative majority was returned the blood seemed to freeze in the veins of the Tory Home Rulers. He would be glad to see his countrymen pursue their views by steady rather than by violent means, and it had been the purpose of his life to bring the gentry and the peasantry of Ire-land together, and uniting them in sending Representatives to an Irish Parliament. The movement for Home Rule quelled the insurrectionary idea in Ireland; it was a blessed message for the people, who saw that order and liberty might be gained without resorting to strife or bloodshed. He would tell the Prime Minister that there was a feeling grow- ing throughout England that what the Irish people asked was only just; but how had their demand been met by the Government? By a declaration that England would not reason with them—she would only strike. Lord Beaconsfield said he would not even inquire. He could not rise to the Christian height of saying—"Let justice be done, though the heavens should fall." He would have his own way, and there was no chance for the Irish people, even though in the attempt to check these chances he imperilled the Empire. The American Colonies had been lost by the same doctrines as those which appeared in the Beaconsfield Manifesto, and Canada had only been retained because she got Home Rule. The Prime Minister himself was the real dismemberer of the Empire, for he imperilled it by trying to hold Ireland as the American Colonies were sought to be held. The English people were told that Home Rulers were traitors to their Queen and country. If that was so, the Government which, like the present Government, refused to remove such traitors from the Privy Council, from the lord lieutenancy of counties, and from the commission of the peace, were the blackest traitors of all. What was the meaning of the Premier's Manifesto? It was to teach Englishmen, if he could, that the country was struck at by the Home Rule Party; and if he could succeed in convincing them that their trade and prosperity would be injured, it would rouse the English working classes to hunt the unhappy Irishmen out of their towns. Lord Beaconsfield, however, had spoken too late. He could not teach that lesson to the working men of England; for, thank God, the days had gone by when passions could be roused between race and race and creed and creed. Undeterred by the threats of Lord Beaconsfield, who wanted to come back to power on an anti-Irish cry, the Irish Members intended to hold fast by the Home Rule policy, to press the demands of Ireland, and to appeal to the impartial judgment of the English people. There was an honourable name to be won by any Irish Member who at home would do all in his power to discountenance violence, while in the House of Commons he asserted with courage and fortitude the claims of his countrymen to self legislation.

Motion made, and Question proposed, 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."—(Colonel The O'Gorman Mahon.)


Sir, I think it will seem strange to many that, on the occasion of the last Sitting of a Session of Parliament which has been specially devoted to the consideration of Irish distress and the measures to be take you for its relief, language should be employed and harangues delivered such as those we have just listened to. As far as regards the observations of the hon. and gallant Member for Clare (Colonel the O'Gorman Mahon), everyone must have listened to them with the feeling which is due to one of his advanced years, who comes back, after many years experience and political life, to tell us that he now finds, under a new name, that agitation renewed of which he remembers the early days under the name of the Repeal of the Union. We could not but listen with feelings of interest to many of the reminiscences of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, knowing that we were listening to one who has had the experience of years upon his head. But when the hon. and gallant Gentleman, passing from the region of history, went on to the region of prophecy, one could not but feel that there was something singularly inappropriate in the reference he made to the possible sound of that gun-boat which, as he tells us, is to be the introductory signal of the advent of a Royal Prince to Ireland for the purpose of declaring the institution of a National Parliament. Sir, if gun-boats are indeed employed upon the coasts of Ireland, it is for the relief of distress, and not for the purpose of giving the signal of insurrection; and if a Royal Prince is likely to visit the coasts of Ireland it would be rather, I think, on a mission of charity and friendliness than on the one to which the hon. and gallant Member refers. I will say but little of the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I appreciate entirely the spirit in which the hon. and gallant Member speaks; but my right hon. Friends and myself think that it is altogether inappropriate, both on account of the time and the circumstances in which we stand, that any question of the kind now under consideration should be introduced into this House. I confess that, listening to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I was very much puzzled as to what the meaning of this demonstration was; but when I heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), then, indeed, I began to perceive what the animus and the intention were. This, Sir, is an electioneering appeal; and the hon. and learned Member, and possibly some of his Friends, are endeavouring from the platform of the House of Commons to address the constituencies of the United Kingdom and to do a stroke of business for a certain political Party. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Clare spoke on this subject of Home Rule with impartiality as far as the two great Parties in this House are concerned. But everybody must have observed the very different attitude of the hon. and learned Member for Louth. According to him, it was a Conservative Government that was to blame in this matter. It was that Government that was dashing the cup of hope from the lips of the Irish people, and it was that Government that was denying an inquiry into a matter of such immense importance as that of Home Rule. As we could not but remark that every other Party was pointedly excluded from the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman, we are led to believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman and his Friends base their hopes of success on giving their political support to some other Party. Sir, I admit that such tactics are clever; and I admit that the hon. and learned Gentleman makes good use of his presence in this House, which he and his Colleagues are continually telling us they wish to separate themselves from.


No, no! Not separate! What then?


said, that the only demand which he and his Friends made was for the right to legislate for their own domestic affairs.


I believe the principle is, "What is yours is mine, and what is mine is my own."This, I believe, could be taken as the short and simple motto of the Home Rule Party; at any rate, it is not the motto we are inclined to accept. We do conscientiously think that this demand ought to be resisted on the ground that it is likely to be injurious to the interests of the nation, and particularly injurious to the interests of Ireland. We may be wrong in our views, and others may have sounder views on this matter than ourselves; and, if so, they are perfectly at liberty to put them forward. But whether we are right or wrong, I say, unhesitatingly, looking to the effect of such a measure as is proposed, that it is not a measure to be played and trifled with, or one with regard to which anyone has the right to come forward and say that he distrusts and dislikes it, but will, nevertheless, make it a subject of inquiry. This is a very clever electioneering move, and the hon. and learned Gentleman has put excellent arguments into the mouths of those whom he wishes to use them; but we are not to be taken in, and I believe the nation is not to be taken in, by such sophistry. Although we quite acknowledge the ingenuity with which the hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken, we do not think his tactics upon this present occasion will meet with any success in the electioneering contest upon which we are about to enter.


rose to address the House, when——

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at a quarter after Five o'clock till Wednesday next.