HC Deb 14 April 1887 vol 313 cc889-92
MR. J.E. REDMOND (Wexford, N.)

Sir, I wish to ask for the indulgence of the House in order to make a very brief personal explanation. During the course of the discussion upon the Criminal Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill, numerous references have been made to a speech attributed to me, and which was delivered by me in America in the autumn of last year. And, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), speaking at Ayr, yesterday, repeated some of the quotations which have been made from that speech in the course of the discussions in this House, and also made some others. I therefore ask, with the permission of the House, to make a personal explanation upon the matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, as reported in The Times of to-day, has both misquoted and misrepresented what I said on that occasion. There are three quotations which he made from my speech to which, with the permission of the House, I propose to allude. The first quotation is in those words. The right hon. Gentleman said— Mr. Redmond went on to say:—'We'—that is, the Irish Party in this country—'We are not working for the removal of grievances. We are not simply labouring for the amelioration of the material condition of our people.' Now, there are two points, in connection with that quotation to which I wish to direct attention. The first is that her e has been an unfortunate omission of a word. The first sentence ought to read, not that— We are not working for the removal of grievances, but it should read— We are not working solely for the removal of grievances. The second point, which is more important, is this—that the right hon. Gentleman made this quotation as his justification for an accusation against the Irish Party that they did not desire to remove grievances, but rather desired to maintain grievances. Now, what I intended to say, and what I really did say, was simply what we have said here repeatedly, and what is a matter of common knowledge—that is, that the object of the National movement in Ireland is not merely to remove the material grievances of one class—namely, the tenants—but to obtain political reforms for our country also. The second point to which I wish to direct attention is a quotation in which the right hon. Gentleman attributes to me these words— Mr. Redmond is kind enough to tell us, through the medium of his speech to the Convention of Chicago—'I assert here to-day that the government of Ireland by England is an impossibility, and I believe it to be our duty to make it so.' That passage has been repeatedly quoted in this House before, and what I have to say in reference to it is this. My words are accurately reported, and I am not inclined to recede, in the slightest degree, from them. All I wish to say is that it is not fair to quote that sentence apart from the context, and for this reason—that the context shows that the government of Ireland by England referred to was that centralized and bureaucratic government of Dublin Castle which we have heard from a high authority is as bad as the Russian government of Poland. The third passage which I propose to read from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is the one to which I attach most importance. I do not propose to detain the House much longer, and I am grateful for the fair play which has been shown to me. The right hon. Gentleman said "He"—that is myself—said— Now what is the one great principle underlying this movement? It is the unqualified recognition of the distinct nationality of Ireland. And the right hon. Gentleman then says — We are told sometimes that Mr. Gladstone's Bill would have been accepted, and was accepted, by the Irish Party as a financial settlement of the Irish Question. That was not Mr. Redmond's opinion. That was not Mr. Redmond's statement to the Convention of Chicago…. 'The principle,' says Mr. Redmond, 'at the back of this movement to-day is the same principle which formed the soul of other Irish movements in the last rebellion against the rule of the strangers. It is the principle which Rob O'Neil vindicated on the banks of the Blackwater, which inspired Wolfe Tone, and for which Fitzgerald and Emmett sacrificed their lives.' The right hon. Gentleman goes on— That principle may be good or bad; I am not arguing that part of the question at this moment. But what I want to call your attention to is that the object of the Irish Party is to maintain the principle for which Wolfe Tone and Emmett sacrificed their lives—that is, the principle of the independence of Ireland, the entire separation between the two countries. Now my complaint, Mr. Speaker, is that the right hon. Gentleman—I do not know whether I shall be justified in saying suppressed—but, at any rate, he not only did. not give the next sentence, but he omitted the concluding portion of the sentence which he read. I will ask the permission of the House to conclude the quotation, which is as follows: — But, consistently with that principle, we believe that it is possible to bring about a settlement honourable to Ireland and England alike, whereby the wrongs and miseries of the past may be forgotten, whereby the chapter of English wrong and Irish resistance may be closed, and whereby a future of freedom and of unity between the two nations may be inaugurated. Such a settlement we believe was offered to us by Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Speaker, I have nothing more to say. These quotations have been repeatedly made both in this House and outside of it; but I have never had what I was able to regard as a fitting opportunity of explaining and correcting them. Having done so now, I hope that in future hon. and right hon. Members will at least take the trouble to read the speeches which they quote. Sir, I thank the House for the indulgence which it has accorded to me.