§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [3rd February],"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,—
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Laurence Hardy.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN
said the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in the course of his speech, when defending himself, said it was always his idea to consult Irish opinion in those matters of conduct affecting Ireland which had been before the House for its consideration. The constitutional manner in which the opinion of all peoples could be expressed was through their representatives in this House, but the Irish Members had not been consulted, either directly or indirectly, on any question affecting the well-being of their country. Let them take the question of the University and equality for the Catholics of Ireland. How had Irish opinion been consulted in that matter? Ninety per cent. of the Irish Members of that House were in favour of a measure of education and justice for the Catholics of Ireland. The constitutional will of the Irish nation had been expressed to-day in a manner in which an opinion had not been expressed in any part of the world before. Lord Dunraven, the leading Unionist landlord and the spokesman of the Irish Unionist Party, had actually come forward and submitted a proposal for a University, which had been accepted by everyone who was just and tolerant in the country. Protestant Bishops had come forward and supported that proposal as one worthy of acceptance by the people of Ireland. The Leader of the 271 Nationalist Party had spoken the will of the great majority of the people of Ireland; great public meetings of all schools of thought in Ireland had been held in every county, at which not only were strong claims made for equity and justice, but passionate appeals made for this great educational reform, and if that was not an expression of the will of the people he could not say what was. The right hon. Gentleman had been talking with his tongue in his cheek. He did not mean what he said. It was his function to present proposals to the House and to govern Ireland, and if he abrogated those functions of government he should let them take the responsibility on their own shoulders. They were the representatives of the great majority, but a little rabid faction in the north of Ireland was to be the deciding factor in matters which so largely affected Ireland. This University question had been dangled before the Irish people for petty and contemptible political purposes. In Gateshead, during the time of the election, Lord Morpeth, the candidate of the Government, held out the promise of a Catholic University for Irelandin order to attract the votes of the English Catholics, and in this way lure the Irish people from the cause for which Irish representatives were pleading to-day. On the other hand, in Ireland, Lord Londonderry appealed to the lowest and basest passions of a small and bigoted minority in order to secure the landlord vote. In relation to the University, the Government had pursued a double-faced and hypocritical policy. The matter had been fully considered by the Government, and yet it was dangled before the Catholic electors of England and Ireland in order that they might be lured away from Home Rule, which was the only thing which could settle the question. He objected, as an Irish Catholic, to being denied those educational advantages, which encouraged intellectual progress and inspired intellectual effort, in the interest of a pampered few in Ireland, who had lived and thrived upon the illiterate and uneducated people of Ireland. The only possible policy for Ireland had been declared from the 272 Irish Benches to-day. He believed if the Government introduced a University Bill to-morrow, it would, like the Land Bill, be unsatisfactory. Home Rule was the only possible means by which this and other great changes for the better. in the interests of the Irish race, could be brought about. Therefore he supported the speakers who had gone before him on those Benches. The Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General of a tottering Government had been unmasked to-day, and the Party of which he was a member — by the strength of its unity, its discipline and belief in its ultimate aims —would compel the Government to give to Ireland that which alone could give satisfaction and ultimate prosperity to their race—namely, Home Rule. This question of the University was not merely one question; it had been introduced into the debate as the last logical reason why the justice which Irish Members as the representatives of their constituents demanded in the name of the Irish people should be given.
At no time before had the people been so united. They had seen that during the hundred years that this Parliament had operated, their country had gone down in population, their lands had gone out of cultivation, and their towns were crumbling to the dust. They had been denied educational advantages, and the only difference now was that everything was being done by the Government with better consideration, although an equally mean policy was being pursued, as in the days when they tried to destroy the Irish nation by more cruel methods. The Government must remember that their policy throughout had failed to give satisfaction to the people. They now said the Irish people were disloyal, and that they did not consider the Empire in the manner in which they ought; therefore the Government had failed not only from an Irish point of view but from an Imperial point of view, and the only policy for this Parliament was to give Ireland a great institution of government of its own, where at least the will of the people would be respected, and. where Irish genius and capacity would be allowed fairplay in the government of the country whose destiny and fortunes 273 were committed to their care. Notwithstanding the attempts to make Ireland illiterate, to rob them of those educational advantages which had been given to the minority of Ireland, let them look at what the Irish had done in the path of progress and democracy in every English-speaking nation of the world. In Amercia they could see the Irish capacity for government and Irish brawn and Irish brain building up the fabric of that mighty Republic 3,000 miles away. In Canada the Members of the House of Commonsalmost unanimously affirmed the desirability and justice of Ireland being given the right to govern itself. In order to retain Australia it was being found necessary practically to tax the food of the people, yet when Canada spoke out in favour of Home Rule for Ireland the late Colonial Secretary did not think it worth while to place the message sent by the Canadian Prime Minister to the King upon the Tables of the Houses until forced to do so by the Irish Party. Therefore in his opinion, on every ground, Ireland was entitled to a Parliament of its own. The University question, raised in the House to-day, was the last great proof of the necessity for Ireland having returned to her her own Parliament, and for his part he was certain with regard to the base charge which had been made against the people, that the tolerant spirit always displayed by them, except in one corner of Ulster, would continue, and the? charge against the Catholics that they persecuted those with whose religious creed they disagreed would be found to be false. Leader after Leader of the Irish Party had been Protestants, and it was a slander on the Irish race to say that Irish Catholics had ever treated Irish Protestants with other than the warmest consideration. That attitude would be more accentuated when Ireland received Home Rule. He associated himself with his colleagues on this subject, and declared that whatever might happen to English Parties the Irish question would last until the problem had been solved in the only way in which it could be solved, and when it was solved it would be better for Ireland, for England, and humanity.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said that it was necessary to bring this 274 question forward in order to bring to the blunted intelligence of the people of this country the fact that Ireland was in earnest with regard to this matter. He had been eighteen years in this House, and during that time had never except on one occasion made a speech directly on Home Rule. On the other hand he had never spoken a word in the House on any other subject, whether it concerned Egypt or Peru or anywhere else, without seeing how far he could make his speech affect the Irish question and force it on the attention of the House in such a manner that the House would be glad to get rid of the Irish Members and restore them to their own country. He repudiated the high and optimistic tone of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman was Under-Secretary of State for War when Lord Wolseley was Commander-in-Chief, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman had read all the evidence in the War Report. Lord Wolseley had said in his evidence that there was a matter which they could not speak of in public or discuss in the House of Commons, and that was the fact that they had to remove Irish Militia regiments to England in time of war and replace them by English Militia regiments, because they could not trust Irishmen in Ireland with arms in their hands, and these were the base methods by which the Union was being kept up.
With regard to what had been said by the hon. and learned Chairman of the Party as to the Members of the Party, the Party was not only a united one but an inapproachable one. Since they had had the franchise they had never touched English money, or accepted place under the Government. They had devoted their energies to going their own way, to obtain their own Parliament on College Green. where Irish laws should be made. So far as the Ulster Unionist Members were concerned, no body of men since 1885 had been so well paid for their loyalty. Since 1885, there had been some twenty-eight Ulster Unionist Members in the House, of that number two, and two only, left the House of Commons without getting office or place under the Crown. Three went out of the House before they got their reward, because 275 they died, one left because he was expelled, two left because their pecuniary circumstances necessitated it, five became judges at £3,000 a year, one became a Peer, and the remainder took small minor offices, such as the Mastership of the Mint, and things of that kind. The Chief Secretary, in his finest literary style, said Grattan's Parliament was a failure. It was nothing of the kind, and when Grattan, five years after the Parliament was destroyed, came to this House, he said at the close of his speech, with evident emotion, when referring to that Parliament—The Parliament of Ireland, whose cradle he had rocked, he mourned to its grave."'The old Irish Parliament was composed exclusively of Protestants, and what did that Protestant Parliament do? Why in 1793 they enfranchised Irish Catholics. They admitted Catholics to both grand and common juries and allowed them to form part of the Army, and he believed that had that Parliament not been put an end to by the carrying of the Union it would have given full emancipation to the Irish Catholics. Mr. Lecky had shown in his history that having regard to the tendency of the age the Irish Protestant Parliament was the most liberal Parliament in the world. He believed that Irish Protestants today would be liberal if the English Government would let them alone, and not endeavour to set Protestant against Catholic and Catholic against Protestant. It was ridiculous for English statesmen to say, in Piccadilly language, that the Irish Parliament was a failure. Would the hon. and gallant Member opposite get up and despise the Irish Parliament.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said he was glad the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said "no," although it had weakened the force of the argument he was going to use. To his knowledge the grandfather of the right hon. Gentleman was offered a peerage and a bribe of £30,000 if he would vote for the Union, and he felt sure that his right hon. and gallant friend was now a happier man than if he had been a Peer with a history of that kind behind him. For every word 276 he was about to utter upon this question he had documentary evidence. The Irish Parliament was destroyed for this reason. In the first place there was a revolutionary wave all over the country during the various negotiations between the Irish Secretary and the English Secretary, who was then responsible for Irish government. Negotiations were then going on for the carrying of the Union. At that time the Irish Parliament was on the eve of reforming itself, but it was nevertheless destroyed, and Irish reforms were kept back for another thirty-five years. It was well known in this country at the time that when Irishmen were denied reform they adopted unconstitutional methods, and that Was what the people of this country wished Ireland to do in order to give them an excuse for putting an end to the Irish Parliament. The Irish rebellion was fomented by the English Government in order to carry the Union, and it was allowed to go on to a certain stage. One year before the Irish rebellion Lord Castlereagh, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the Duke of Portland had every step of that revolutionary movement in their hands, and yet they took no steps to suppress it. He wished to tell them what this Irish Parliament which was said to be a failure, had done. It passed all those popular measures to which he had alluded. At that period a meeting of the Irish Bar was held to protest against the Union, and a majority of them voted against it. Three years afterwards, of the thirty-three members of the Irish Bar, only three were not then "placed," and the whole Bench was stuffed with them. Lord Clare, the greatest opponent of Irish rights and liberties, who spoke of Ireland as "this damnable country," said at that time that Ireland was increasing in prosperity at a rate astounding to herself. That was before the Union, but how did her prosperity increase after the Union? Reports of speeches in the House of Commons were not pathetic reading as a rule, and they did not shed tears over the Budgets of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but for the sixteen years after the Union, the Budgets of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were pathetic reading, for they were trying to save their country from the wrong done them 277 by the English Parliament, by which the Irish Parliament was destroyed and robbed.
The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in one of his triumphant periods, said they gave equal rights to Ireland, and that everyone had equal privileges as citizens of this great Empire. He would remind them that Pitt said the same thing when introducing the Union. What equality of laws had they given to Ireland? He did not know anything more mean or dastardly than the conduct of the English Government in endeavouring to withhold from the mass of the Irish people the blessings of University education. Lord Selborne once said that he was the son of a poor clergyman, and he owed his success in life to the fact that his father and mother provided him with a University education, which had enabled him to face the greatest difficulties in life, and yet they denied these advantages to Irishmen, not because they were Catholics, but because they did not wish them to have an equal chance with the privileged minority who have been riding roughshod over the people of Ireland. When they were pleading for the advantages and benefits of an enlightened education for the people of Ireland, did any hon. Member know what Ireland was before the English Government robbed her, for their own base purposes, of the benefits of education? Why, there was scarcely a monastery in northern Europe which did not contain the writings of Irish scholars. Ireland was the land of scholars until the English Government made it the land of Cromwellian settlers. Although he was himself a Protestant, he represented the most Catholic constituency in Ireland. He had been their representative for eighteen years, and he had their confidence and affection. His constituents were devoted to their Catholic principles, but when they returned him to Parliament they had not allowed differences of religion to overreach the question whether he was a true-hearted Irishman or not. When would the most robust of Unionists, who cried themselves hoarse about Imperialism, return a Nationalist from the aristocratic district where they resided. There was no real persecution in Ireland. Persons who said they were persecuted were those 278 who had no true Christian principles, and who had a great deal of sectarian animosity among them. He believed they could appeal to the great heart of the British public to restore to Ireland her own rights and liberties. He asked whether it would not be better to restore to Ireland her liberties instead of letting her continue to hold the English Parties in the position resembling the couple in the old-fashioned barometer, where the little old man came in and the little old woman went out. The English claimed to be apostles of liberty and spoke of giving equal rights to all white men in the Transvaal. Let them give equal rights at home.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said the hon. Member for South Donegal had made a very interesting historical speech, manifesting deep insight and immense muscular power. The hon. Member appeared to be now absolutely certain why the Roman Catholics of South Donegal had chosen him as their representative. He himself thought he knew: it was the spirit of revenge on the British House of Commons, which, he was sorry to say, still rankled in the breasts of some of the Irish people. The hon. Member had given them his opinion of Home Rule. He was glad to hear from his lips—indeed he thought he had heard it from the lips of other hon.' Members in times gone by—that Grattan's Parliament was the beau ideal of an Irish Parliament.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said the hon. Member for South Donegal had said so several times in public, but probably he had already forgotten it.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said he was very glad to hear that the beau ideal of an Irish Parliament was one entirely composed of Protestants. But he had never gone so far as that himself. As to the question of Home Rule, of course it was the duty of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford to bring the 279 subject forward, and he was very glad he did. The debate to-night had the advantage that it obviated debates in the course of the next ten days on Irish affairs. [Cries of "No."]
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said that, however that might be, he quite understood the reason of the hon. Member for Waterford in bringing forward the question of Home Rule. The great difficulty in the way of the Irish Home Rule Party in the future would be to get over their own actions during the last ten years. When Mr. Gladstone brought in his Home Rule Bill, Irish Unionists were supposed to be hopelessly bigoted on the subject. One Member opposite—he was not quite sure that it was not the hon. Member for South Donegal—told him that he was entirely mistaken in his views about Home Rule. He said: "If we carry Home Rule you will be placed in a position of great height." He replied that that was very likely, but it would be by means of a rope. He asked any candid Radical opposite whether his views on Home Rule at the present day were exactly the same as they were in 1886, and whether he really believed that if they had a Home Rule Parliament the Protestant minority would be treated with perfect fair play? He remembered hon. Members opposite in some of their speeches saying: "Give us Home Rule and we will be a loyal people." Well, they had an opportunity since then of seeing whether they would be loyal and show fairplay under any circumstances. During the Boer War they had had an opportunity of showing they were not absolutely hostile to the British Empire, instead of which they showed their capacity for Home Rule by using every opportunity of showing their delight and exultation at British reverses. He was not blaming them for that. They had over and over again declared themselves to be the enemies of Great Britain, and he had no doubt they were still. Again, when the Local Government Bill was passed, the hon. Member for Waterford said they would see that the Irish people would exercise fairplay in dealing with the minority, and give them a fair 280 position in managing the affairs of the counties. Outside a few counties in Ulster, where the Loyalist minority predominated, they kicked out, almost to a man, every Loyalist in Ireland. He did not say there were no exceptions, but he defied contradiction, backed by proof of that statement. In his own county, for example, where the minority of Protestants was not so small, they turned out, in almost every case, every Loyalist who stood for a position under the Local Government Act. Everywhere the Nationalists predominated they kicked the Loyalists out of the local bodies. [NATIONALIST cries of "No."] He admitted there were exceptional cases in which Protestants had been returned. The hon. Member who had last spoken was a Protestant sitting for a Nationalist constituency, but the hon. Member was an exception to any rule.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said that if that were so, the town had followed a bad example. But the lesson taught by the county council elections was that under Home Rule the Loyalist Protestant minority would be crushed under foot. If hon. Members had any doubt as to what the result of Home Rule in Ireland would be they should make inquiries. The Nonconformist Members of Parliament, and ministers in this country were in a great majority Radicals. They were very strong Protestants, and they bitterly opposed the Education Bill of last year on Protestant grounds, and yet with all their boasted Protestantism they were perfectly ready to hand over the Irish minority to be trampled upon by the Nationalist politicians. In introducing a Home Rule Bill, and trying to cause the British people to accept a Home Rule Bill, the main stumbling blocks and difficulties which hon. Gentlemen opposite would have to overcome would be those which they themselves had raised and which could not be denied. On the question of University education he 281 listened to the speech of the Chief Secretary with great interest. He knew his opinions before. He had always been perfectly candid about them in the House of Commons. He had told them that the Government would not bring in a Catholic University Bill at present as a Government, which he supposed meant that someone would that session bring in a Bill which would embody his views and probably those of the Prime Minister. He was perfectly certain that if a Bill had been introduced it would have blown the Government into fragments. [Cries of "No, no."] With regard to University education of course anybody who opposed a Roman Catholic University in Ireland was called a bigot. That was the euphemistic way in which the Nationalists described people who were opposed to them on any point. Why were they bigots? He called a bigot a man who tried to force his own religious belief clown the throats of other people. He would be the first to oppose a condition of higher education in Ireland which would interfere with anyone's religion. It was well known, and hon. Gentlemen opposite could not deny it, however they might dislike Trinity College, Dublin, it in no way interfered with religion of any kind. Roman Catholics were as free to enter it as Protestants; a Roman Catholic could become Provost, or hold a Fellowship; he could rise in Trinity in the same way as his Protestant fellow countryman. A great change had taken place in Ireland in later years.
The hon. Member for South Donegal had given the House a bit of history. He would also give a small addition to that history which was well worthy of the attention of the House of Commons. In 1795 it was proposed to establish a Roman Catholic College at Maynooth, and a petition was presented to the Irish Parliament by Grattan from the Roman Catholics of Ireland against the proposed establishment of the college. Perhaps the House would allow him to read what these Roman Catholics said in that petition, because curiously enough he absolutely agreed with every word of it. The petition ran as follows—"That the exclusion of persons professing the Protestant religion, or whose fathers profess the Protestant religion, appears 282 to petitioners to be highly inexpedient, inasmuch as it tends to perpetuate that line of separation between His Majesty's subjects of different religions which the petitioners do humbly concede it is the interest of the country to obliterate; and the petitioners do humbly submit that if the youth of both religions were intimates in those branches of classical education which are the same for all, their peculiar tenets would in all probability be no hindrance hereafter to a friendly and liberal intercourse through life; that the petitioners having in common with the rest of their brethren, the Catholics of Ireland, received as one of the most important and acceptable benefits bestowed on them by His Majesty and the Legislature, the permission of having their youth educated along with the Protestant youth of the Kingdom in the University of Dublin, and experience having taught and fully demonstrated the wisdom and ability of that permission, petitioners see with deep concern the principle of separation and exclusion they hoped removed for ever now likely to be revived and re-enacted." That was the view of the Roman Catholics of Ireland at that period.
An HON. MEMBER on the IRISH BENCHES: Who signed it?
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said that the hon. Member would find it in the Irish Parliamentary Register, Vol. 15, p. 203. Now it was proposed to revive all that, as they learned from a speech made the other day by Archbishop Walsh, at St. Stephen's Green College, Dublin, before those distinguished gentlemen the Jesuit professors. History recorded this lesson, that it was the hands of the priests which had been most opposed to Christianity—[Cries of "Oh, oh !"]—(to his idea of Christianity, progress, and the higher education.) That was a difficulty which the hon. Gentlemen would have to get over whenever another Government sat on the Ministerial Benches; he thought that was a long way off.—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"] The hon. Member for South Tyrone appeared to think that it would be soon. He did not agree with him because he thought the Government had some very 283 remarkably good qualities. He thought so far as their qualities went they were a very respectable lot of men, but he had no doubt in his own mind that the swing of the pendulum would have ceased long ago if affairs had depended altogether on their superhuman merits. But it was the safety which Charles II. took when his brother James warned him of assassination. Charles II. replied, "They would never assassinate me to make you king." He did not in the least tremble for the fate of the Unionist Government. He ventured to say that if the Government brought in a Bill embodying the views of the Chief Secretary and also of the Prime Minister it would blow the Government into fragments. Whatever Government brought in a University Bill, the British people would have to remember that it would and must be a priests' Bill, over which the Roman Catholic clergy would have absolute and supreme control. He wanted to know how the Nonconformists, who so much disliked the Education Acts, would consent to hand over the educational progress of Ireland into the hands of the men who had always tried to stamp it out.
The hon. Member for South Tyrone had given a most gruesome account of the Ulster landlords in his speech about the Irish Land Act. Ulster landlords were accustomed to that from the hon. Gentleman and from Members opposite; but their ideas of Ulster landlords were entirely different from theirs. The hon. Members said that the Ulster landlords refused to sell their estates. That was not his experience. He had offered to sell his estate. The hon. Member for South Tyrone said that the Ulster landlords were trading on the loyalty and peaceable condition of the tenantry. It happened that he had a considerable number of tenants in Cavan. His ancestors had held their property since the reign of James I., and the great majority of his tenants were Roman Catholics, and he did not know in the whole record any instance of the landlord and tenant being on bad terms. Although his tenants were Roman Catholics and, politically, Nationalists, they were as peaceable and friendly a tenantry as those of any man in Ireland, 284 so that he had just as much inducement to withhold selling as the landlord spoken of by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Yet he had expressed his perfect willingness to sell to his tenants on what he considered fair terms; that was to say, for something which, although it would not provide him with as much as he had at present, would produce something near it. He wanted still to live in Ireland, and he considered that the Land Bill was carried on that very idea, and the bonus given as an inducement to the landlord to enable him to sell to his tenants on those terms. The hon. Member for South Tyrone said the tenants were tired out and would adopt other means, which had been successful in the South and West of Ireland. He was glad the hon. Member was not a tenant of his, for if he thought that the hon. Member was lurking in a ditch or behind a tree——
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he did not say that. What he had said was that if these loyal tenants found out they were to be deprived of the rights Parliament intended for them, whilst these rights were to be given to men who had disturbed the peace in the South and West of Ireland, this would make Ulster disloyal, and change the Ulster representation on that side of the House.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said the way the tenants in the South and West emptied out the landlords was by shooting them. That was the great lesson to be learned from the tenants in the South and West who occasionally indulged in the sport. But he did not believe that the Ulster landlords had any intention of taking up this non possumus stand. The periodic revaluation by the Land Commissioner was a strong inducement to any landlord to sell, and Irish landlords would be absolute fools if they rejected what he believed to be the most generous and wonderful offer ever made to any tenantry in the world.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, like many opponents of the demand in Ireland for University education, altogether misrepresented that demand. The right hon. Gentleman 285 would not, he was sure, wilfully misrepresent in the House of Commons the views of those who advocated Irish University education; but he must know that when he declared that the demand was made for a university controlled by the priesthood, he was making a statement notoriously contrary to fact, and which had been repudiated in set terms over and over again by the representatives, not only of the laity, but of the hierarchy and the clergy of Ireland. The right hon. Member for North Armagh was evidently under the impression that it was necessary, in order to neutralise the growing feeling in Ireland for University education, to misrepresent altogether the demand made by the Irish people and priesthood on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman had read a statement contained in a petition presented to the Irish Government at the time of Grattan's Parliament, but there was not a single word in that statement inconsistent with the position now taken up by the Catholic people in Ireland in the demand they were making for a University. There was no desire in the wide world that the youth of Ireland should be permanently separated by religion or other matters. The right hon. Gentleman must know perfectly well that it was the refusal of the claim of equal treatment in the matter of University education that was really bringing about that estrangement and that feeling of separation between the young men of Ireland which was so much deprecated by Grattan, and at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman truly stated that the Prime Minister, whose absence from the debate everyone deplored, was in favour of the claims made by the Catholics of Ireland for a University; and he asked the right hon. Gentleman and the House of Commons if it was conceivable for a single moment that if the claims of University education were such as those described by the right hon. Gentleman, they would receive the sanction or the support of the Prime Minister, or those of his colleagues who had not hesitated to declare in the strongest possible way that they wished this question to be settled. It was not merely the Catholics of Ireland who were making this claim. Nobody knew better than the right 286 hon. Gentleman that this was one of those claims in which the Catholic majority were joined to an extraordinary extent by the Protestant minority in Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman ought, in common candour, to have informed those who listened to him that this was not a claim of the Jesuit Fathers, the Catholic Bishops, or the laity, but that it was maintained by the vast majority of the Protestant people of Ireland. [Colonel SAUNBERSON: No.] The right hon. Gentleman denied that. He occupied, no doubt, amongst the Protestants of Ireland a position of a considerably representative character, but he must forgive them for saying that, in a matter of this kind and importance, gentlemen like him, who were wedded to the Orange Institution in Ireland, did not represent the majority or the weight of Protestant opinion in Ireland. They preferred in matters of this kind to look for the un biassed and fair opinion of the people of Ireland in the utterances of men like Lord Dunraven and other eminent Protestant gentlemen, who had quite recently signed a declaration in favour of the settlement of the university question. Not only Lord Dunraven, and Protestant noblemen who carried weight in Ireland among their class, but others in this country had also sanctioned the position of the people of Ireland, which was likewise supported by the Prime Minister and by some Protestant bishops and ecclesiastics in Ireland. At any rate, no man in the House could speak more exactly than he did of what was the feeling in the district he represented, and he said without hesitation that all classes, sections, and creeds in the county of Clare were in favour of the settlement of this question.
A very few weeks ago a meeting was held in that county, attended by the representatives of the masses of the people and by nine-tenths of the representatives of the Protestant landlords and tenantry, and that meeting expressed its strong approval of a settlement of the Irish University question on lines satisfactory to the majority of the people. The right hon. Member for North Armagh seemed to imagine that there was some dark plot on foot to establish in Ireland a University or college which would be absolutely under 287 the control of the Catholic bishops; but the right hon. Gentleman should have stated in fairness that the Catholic bishops had over and over again declared that they made no such demand, and that a college such as was outlined by Lord Dunraven would meet with the approval of the Catholic hierarchy and laity as well. At any rate, the right hon. Member for North Armagh was alone in the House amongst the representatives of Ireland in practically making a protest against what was undoubtedly the expressed desire of the vast majority of the Irish people and of a great majority of the Members of the House who had had an opportunity of expressing their opinion. It had already been pointed out in the debate that the refusal of the Government to deal with this matter was one of the strongest arguments that could be put forward in favour of the establishment of an Irish Government for the management of Irish affairs. What were the facts? This question had been inquired into by a Royal Commission, which had issued a Report in favour of the demand made by the majority of the Irish people, and yet in spite of that the Government, through the lips of the Chief Secretary, declared its inability or unwillingness to deal with the question. He could not say that he was in any way surprised at the decision of the Government. He never expected that the Irish University question, any more than any other Irish question, would be settled unless a period elapsed of agitation and strong protest in Ireland. He ventured to say that it was one of the curses connected with Ireland that no Irish grievance could possibly be remedied until there took place first practically a stage of revolution tempered by want of balance until it became overpowering. He did not know what action would be taken in Ireland when the intention of the Government was known, but he was perfectly certain that in the long run a day would come when it would be admitted that this demand was just and proper, and that in the interests of the Irish people and good government it ought to be conceded. He thought it was altogether unnecessary at that time of day to argue the claims of Ireland to a Catholic University. If he were asked 288 to make out a case for it, he could not do better than refer to the speeches made on the question by the Prime Minister himself, who had proved in the most convincing manner that the Catholics of Ireland suffered from an inequality, that the grievance ought to be remedied, and that until it was remedied it would cause a condition of unrest and dissatisfaction. The debate was initiated not merely for the purpose of raising the University question, but for the purpose of stating broadly and plainly once more the position of the Irish people in reference to their claim for national self-government, and, whatever else the debate might effect, it could not fail to prove that the demand of the Irish people for the restoration of their legislative independence had not changed.
It was now considerably more than thirty years since the question of Home Rule was presented to the House of Commons by Mr. Issac Butt, then the Protestant Leader of the Irish National party. That claim was met by the Irish official of that day just as the present Chief Secretary had met it. The right hon. Gentleman said that while he did not profess to be a prophet, he believed that legislation of a necessary and beneficial character in all directions in Ireland would cause the demand of Ireland for Home Rule to gradually weaken and disappear in the long run. If a Land Act were passed, or any other concession were given, they were told, as Mr. Butt was told thirty years ago, that the Irish nation would settle down, and that the demand for Home Rule would disappear. Thirty years have passed. Land Bill after Land Bill has been passed; there have been new concessions in every direction and well-intentioned efforts to meet the grievances of Ireland, —some of them more or less successful —and what had been the result on the Home Rule demand? It had been to intensify, if possible, the desire of the Irish people to rule themselves; and after thirty years of attempts to satisfy Ireland, that country sent the overwhelming majority of her representatives in this House to demand as emphatically, as clearly, and as unhesitatingly as ever the right to govern herself in her own way. The hon. Member had said that he had spent a 289 third of his life in Parliament, but he had spent just half his life in the House of Commons, and he had often wondered that it had never occurred to the ordinary English Member that the Home Rule question, so far from being merely a great Irish question, was also a great English question. No doubt could be entertained that if Ireland suffered from the lack of Home Rule, England and the House of Commons undoubtedly lacked self-government and Home Rule in English affairs which might have been enjoyed were it not that the Irish question was being eternally presented.
There were not, he was sorry to say, any Members who directly represented the working-classes in Great Britain. He wished heartily and sincerely that there were more. The working-classes were relieved of most pressing and necessary reforms, but the affairs of the British people had been blocked, because it had been proved that there was no proper time to consider the affairs of three great countries like England, Ireland, and Scotland. The Chief Secretary said that his idea was that Ireland and Great Britain should be equal partners in the legislative establishment, but. at the very bottom of their claim for Home Rule was the argument that, however willing the House of Commons might be to do justice to Ireland, it had not the necessary time. Why should the Irish people, the English people, or the Scottish people have to wait in order to have pressing matters affecting their country attended to? The Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General, who knew Ireland perfectly well—few people better —know that there were matters connected with every Department in Ireland which called for legislation, and that if they were attended to they alone would occupy the time of Parliament for a whole session, yet the Irish people were obliged to wait until English affairs, Scottish affairs, and Imperial affairs had been attended to. If he were an English representative he would feel not only impatient but indignant to the last degree if he found that his opportunity of benefiting his constituents was impaired and interfered with year after year by the discussion of Irish affairs. He did not know whether it had been observed by 290 the majority of Members of the House of Commons or not, but he himself was absolutely convinced that there was a movement among the masses of the English people in the direction of Home Rule. He did not say it was a movement prompted altogether by sympathy with the demands of the Irish people. but there was a demand in the direction of Home Rule in the interests of Scotland and Wales as well as of Ireland. and he was convinced that a century would not have advanced very far before an attempt would be made to settle the question. He had often asked himself on what really was the opposition to Home Rule based. The Chief Secretary said he could conceive no change from the present system short of an independent Government in Ireland, such as the system in existence in Norway and Sweden. It was no part of the business of the Irish people in the present time, and in the absence of any desire on the part of the Government to deal with the matter, to go into the details of the system of self-government which would be acceptable to them, but did the right hon. Gentleman consider the system of government which prevailed at present in over a score of different parts of the British Empire which had absolute and complete legislative independence? Only the other day Sir Wilfrid Laurier said that the first thing which tended to maintain and consolidate the British Empire was the system of absolute self-government, which prevailed in every part of it except Ireland. He could not understand how those who gladly conceded to different parts of the Empire the fullest system of self-government refused a similar system to Ireland, where the existing Government had been proved to be a lamentable failure. He had never been able to get from any British citizen a satisfactory explanation of the opposition to Home Rule. It was not that the Irish people were incapable of managing their own affairs. The Attorney-General, Chief Secretary, Lord-Lieutenant, and all connected with the Irish Government had conceded that the Irish people would be able to govern themselves in as capable and intelligent a manner as the people of any other part of] the English-speaking world. Was the demand refused because 291 of fear of what a self-governing Ireland might do to England? The right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech, as he invariably did, to the attitude of Ireland in connection with the late war. He supposed the argument at the bottom of that was that because the Irish people were on the side of freedom it would be unsafe to give them any legislative powers that might be used against England. No one who had inquired into the powers of the Parliament proposed by Mr. Gladstone would have the slightest fear that it would be able to do any injury to England. He would go further and say that an Irish Government sufficient for the wants of the Irish people would have no intention and no desire whatever beyond governing Ireland wisely and well.
Not only were the Irish Members opposed to the Boer War, but a large number of the British Members and a large section of British people were also opposed to it, and it was now beginning to be proved that the men who were opposed to it were the best friends of this country. The result of the war had absolutely justified the warnings and forecasts of the Irish and Radical Members who opposed it. They were told that it was to protect the interest of British subjects in South Africa that the war was undertaken, yet the very first result had been to oust English, Scottish, and Welsh labour from South Africa in favour of Asiatic labour, which was a curse in every country where it was found, and which would make South Africa not only not worth fighting for but not worth living in. In opposing the war the Irish people were actuated by the same feeling as they were at the time of the American War of Independence. At that time, too, gentlemen like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Armagh said that the war was being opposed by wretched Irish rebels who were the enemies of England. It was quite true that the Irish people were in full and complete sympathy with the Americans in the War of Independence, but it is now proved that the men who protested against that war were right, and if the advice of the Irish people had been then taken America might to-day be a portion of the British Empire. He ventured to assert, and he thought he might appeal even to 292 members of the Dublin Castle Government to bear out his opinion, that so far from there being the slightest desire, inclination, or intention on the part of the majority of the Irish people to interfere with any section of the inhabitants on account of their religious belief, exactly the opposite was the case, for it could never be said of the Irish people that they persecuted anyone on that account. He deplored, as all Irishmen must deplore, that in certain parts of the country, where semi-political and semi-religious associations existed, feeling at times ran very high, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Armagh as well as the hon. Member for South Belfast, need not imagine that because they represented Ulster Protestant and Orange constituencies they had a monopoly of all knowledge of the condition of affairs in the North of Ireland. There were many sitting beside him who also represented Ulster constituencies, and he for seven years represented one in which the people were nearly equally divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants. He knew the danger that arose from the bitter feeling there created, and he was therefore the more convinced that it only needed the establishment of an Irish Parliament, with full, fair, and just powers, in order to put an end at once and for all to that hateful system of religious rivalry which undoubtedly made life at times in certain parts of Ireland almost unbearable. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh posed as if he and his friends were afraid of the majority of the people of Ireland should they get the power in their hands——
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said he did not mean to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was physically afraid of anybody. The point was that he seemed to be under an apprehension that the majority of the people in Ireland would do injustice to the minority, and that where the Catholics were in an overwhelming majority they would be guilty of persecution and unwarrantable interference with those who were of a different 293 religion. He ventured to assert that no instance could be cited in the South of Ireland where that had proved to be the case.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said he was glad that the case of Limerick had been mentioned, because it enabled him to call the attention of the House to the fact that that case had been discussed over and over again, and that the complaint had been proved to have no foundation in fact. He would repeat that in those portions of Ireland where the Catholics were in an overwhelming majority the Protestant minority lived in the most absolute security, in peace, and on friendly terms with their neighbours. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh was an old opponent of his in that House. They had faced one another for years and advocated their respective opinions, but he did not believe the right hon. Gentleman would get up in his place and express his opinion that if the Nationalists obtained the controlling voice in the Government of Ireland they would tolerate interference with or persecution of any men or any set of men on account of their religious beliefs. It was therefore unworthy on the part of the Government to decline to satisfy the aspirations of the people of Ireland because of an unfounded fear of religious intolerance which had never been proved to exist. It could not be denied that at the present time the Government of Ireland was carried out practically in compliance with the wishes and desires of the minority of the people, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had that day had the satisfaction of hearing the Minister responsible for Irish affairs state that the passionate demand of the vast majority of the Irish people in connection with education was to be ignored in consequence of the representations made by himself and his friends in the North of Ireland. Such a state of things could not possibly conduce to good government in Ireland, or to the satisfaction and contentment of the Irish people. It could not possibly strengthen the Empire or facilitate the transaction of business of pressing importance in 294 connection with England, Scotland, and Wales, and surely it was not too much for them to ask at the commencement of a new century that a new system should be tried for governing Ireland. No one could deny that the present system had been a dismal failure, and that ever since the Irish people had been deprived of their Parliament dissatisfaction and discontent had prevailed there. If he were a British Member he would look forward to the commencement of a new century under the old system with great misgiving. The position was intolerable. It was. of course, within the power of a majority of the people through their representatives to maintain the present system, but as long as it was maintained the Irish people would continue to send representatives to renew again and again the demand for the restoration of the right to rule themselves, and they made that demand once more that night in the confident belief that sooner or later it would be granted, and that the British people would find that their best policy would be to trust the Irish people and to treat them no longer as outcasts and rebels, but to recognise that they were as much entitled to manage their own affairs and to rule their own destinies as any one of the great self-governing colonies which England possessed in other parts of the world.
There were those who at the present time were prepared to make any sacrifices for what they called the permanence and consolidation of the British Empire, and sacrifices of an extremely grave character were likely to be demanded of the people. Indeed they were to be asked to tax their food in order to earn the goodwill of our colonial possessions. But it was an insult to our colonies to insinuate at the present time that any sacrifice was required on the part of the masses of the British people to secure them contentment and satisfaction in their possessions. He believed that the colonies were satisfied and contented and that they would remain so because they possessed the fullest right of controlling their own affairs, and to interfere in the faintest manner with any of those rights would be a very serious matter. The possession of independent legislative powers had made the British Empire a success in every portion of the 295 globe, and it was noteworthy that Ireland was the one spot in the whole English-speaking portion of the globe which was discontented and disloyal under the British flag. The time had arrived when the question of giving Ireland national self-government might be dealt with with great advantage and good result to the majority of the British people. If the demand was to be opposed let it be opposed not on grounds which were insulting to the Irish people and untrue in their character, but upon reasonable and fair argument. Let them not suggest that it was opposed in order to protect the Protestants of Ireland against persecution by the Catholic majority. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had long been the advocate of the present system of government in Ireland. Those with whom he had been associated had received posts as the rewards of their advocacy of British rule, and the right hon. Gentleman presented an almost pathetic picture in his loneliness on those Benches. He was practically left absolutely alone to tight this battle. They were told by the Unionists of Ulster they were in dread of Home Rule, and that they regarded the question as even more important than the fiscal dispute which was now raging. The were told further that they were prepared to fight to the last breath, but the arguments advanced against Home Rule were exactly of the same description as those which had been put forward for the last twenty-five years, and they heard the old story of the Jesuitical desire to curtail the knowledge of the people and the customary complaint of the Irish Members' opposition to such unnecessary enterprises as the Boer War. The hon. Member for Donegal in an interesting historical speech had made reference to Grattan's Parliament, and had referred to the fact that one of the ancestors of the right hon. Gentleman was a staunch opponent of the Union and of the destruction of the Irish Parliament. Surely there was no reason why, under fair and equal laws, a descendant of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman might not, like his ancestor, take his place side by side with the majority of the people of Ireland, and help in governing the country wisely and beneficially in the interests of the whole people. He 296 could only say, in conclusion, that nothing would satisfy the people of Ireland except the concession of those rights of self-government which he believed every common sense man was in favour of granting at the present time.
§ * MR. MOON (St. Pancras, N.)
said he desired to draw the attention of the House to a subject mentioned in two paragraphs of His Majesty's Speech. It was evident that His Majesty's Ministers as well as the House recognised the urgency of the question connected with the Balkan Peninsula, and the gravity and seriousness of the situation even a year ago was indicated in the despatch of February 17th, 1903, by the Secretary of State to our Ambassador at Vienna—a despatch which recapitulated the observations that Lord Lansdowne had made to the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador on the same day. The despatch stated that the—Government had, for a long time, been deeply convinced of the necessity for the introduction of measures of practical reform in Macedonia.He would have liked to sketch the course by which the inequalities and the economic pressure in European Turkey had become more and more serious and especially in proportion as large slices and tracts of European Turkey had been lopped off, but the hour did not permit. The House was aware that in spite of the repeated declarations of the Porte that all the subjects of the Sultan were equal, there had been no approach to equality. From time to time the Sottas or theological students of Constantinople were allowed to spread over European Turkey and preach what might be called anti-Christian crusades, in a manner which had excited the Moslem population against their Christian fellow-subjects. The result had been that at different times during the last half-century there had been a dismal cycle of oppression, revolt, suppression, or repression. The rebels had not observed the rights of property; they had in many cases behaved atrociously, but they had not been guilty of the appalling outrages against women and children that had stained the action of the Turkish troops, whether regular or irregular. 297 According to the despatch of Lord Lansdowne, dated September 21st, 1903—Acts had been perpetrated which, after making every allowance, must be condemned as quite inexcusable on the part of the authorities and forces of an established Government.Under these circumstances it was imperative that no time should be lost in introducing effective and adequate reforms. In January last Austria-Hungary and Russia propounded a scheme of reform which the Turkish Government accepted in less than a week, and offered to apply it to the other vilayets of European Turkey. Then there was intolerable delay; in August the insurgents commenced rising, and it was not until September that fresh steps were taken, when the Secretary of State, realising that things had got still worse, telegraphed to Sir Francis Plunkett, requesting him to place before the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Governments two alternatives, the first of which was the—Appointment of a Christian Governor un-connected with the Balkan Peninsula or with the Powers signatory of the Treaty of Berlin.His noble friend would doubtless say that during the last month a start had been made in putting matters on a satisfactory basis, but he would remind the House that a gendarmerie under European officers had been established in Turkey before, and the delay certainly gave colour to the doubts entertained in many parts of Europe as to the disinterested character of the action of Austria-Hungary and Russia. He had an Amendment to the Address on the Paper with regard to Macedonia, but he did not propose to move it. He did not wish to be impatient, nor did he say that fairly vigorous steps were not now being taken, now that M. Demerik and Herr von Muller were in Macedonia and that General de Giorgis had arrived at Constantinople, but he did desire to express the hope that the Government would watch closely, carefully, and thoroughly the course of the reforms, that they would bear in mind that their Secretary of State had proposed the alternative of a Christian Governor, and that the little States—Denmark, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium —concerned in that alternative had from 298 time to time produced great and efficient men. He hoped if before the end of the winter these reforms did not produce effect the Government would revert to the first alternative.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devonshire, Honiton)
said it was an unfortunate hour to go into this very important question, but he did not think it was necessary to go back to the unhappy state of things which they found in Macedonia. There was no doubt that England was the chief mover in obtaining the cancelling of the San Stefano Treaty when Russia was near Constantinople, but their responsibility was shared by the other Powers which were signatories to the Treaty of Berlin. They made themselves responsible with England for the reforms to be carried out, not only in Macedonia, but in Armenia. The hopes and promises had been entirely disappointed, and practically nothing had been done. In the words of Lord Salisbury, they had put their money on the wrong horse. It was unnecessary to attempt to apportion blame between different parties. The revolutionary bands, no doubt, had much to answer for, but it must be admitted they were subjected to great provocation, that a large number of helpless and guiltless people had suffered in consequence of the existing state of disorder (which had been becoming acute ever since the Greek War), and that the scheme of reorganisation had had no practical result. It could not be wondered at that when the disturbances entered upon an acute stage the English Foreign Secretary should have endeavoured to place the reforms on a wider and a more practicable basis, and should have suggested the appointment of a Christian Governor which was practically the only solution. Unfortunately, however, he suggested an alternative, and that alternative of a Mussulman Governor with Christian advisers had been adopted, and yet there had been no reforms instituted. Meantime, the winter was passing, and the outlook did not appear to justify the sanguine hope expressed in the Speech from the Throne. Russia, by practically excluding the vilayet of Adrianople from the proposed 299 scheme, had shown that she was not eager for reform, and it was difficult to believe that she had any desire to see an autonomous State or an enlarged Bulgaria interposed between her and the sea. He could not but think that her desire was to maintain the status quo, leaving things to continue in their present rotten condition. Meantime Turkey was growing weaker and weaker; she had lost the nations which once formed her strength, but she was hoping that Russia would be so fully occupied in the East as to have no time to press reforms upon her. The outlook was serious. The Bulgarians were in a far stronger position than a year ago, their army had been reorganised, and there could be but little doubt that if Russia's hands were fully occupied by affairs in the East, Bulgaria would be inclined to try conclusions with Turkey. He hoped that some of those practical measures which were foreshadowed in Lord Lansdowne's dispatch of September would shortly occupy the attention of His Majesty's Government. He assured them of his warm appreciation of the interest they were taking in this matter, and his belief in their earnest desire, in difficult circumstances, to assert England's humanity and wish to see good government re-established in these regions, and by the establishment of independent States to form the surest barrier against Russian advance to the South that could be secured. While assuring the Government of the desire of himself and his friends to support them, he felt bound to express their firm belief that unless strong measures were taken in the next few months hostilities would commence, and there would be a scene of misery, misrule, and general agitation involving extreme danger to the whole of the South-East of Europe.
§ MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)
expressed satisfaction with the references to Macedonia in the King's Speech, which satisfaction would certainly not be diminished by the tone and terms of the speech of the Secretary of State yesterday in another place. No one would be disposed to quarrel with the principles as laid down by the Secre- 300 tary of State as being those which should govern the action of the British Government in the matter. But while there was every reason to thank the Government for the attitude they had taken up, there were only too serious grounds for believing that the reform scheme to which they had given their adhesion would not meet the necessities of the case. It was marked by grave omissions and defects. The House would be interested to hear the reasons for the entire omission from the scheme of reform of the vilayet of Adrianople, to which there were very grave reasons why the same control should be extended. He had recently visited that vilayet, and everywhere he came across villages in ruins, some actually burned to the ground, and others practically deserted by the inhabitants. In fact, the portion of the vilayet of Adrianople nearest to the Black Sea was really a desert. The population had indeed escaped some of the more atrocious sufferings of the winter, to which the people of the vilayet of Monastir had been subjected; but there was only too grave reason for saying that the state of Adrianople was no less bad than that of any other part of the provinces which had been the subjects of the recent troubles.
§ And, it being Midnight, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.
§ On the Motion for the adjournment of the House,
§ MR. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)
asked whether the Government had any information confirming the report that Russia had declared war.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. AKERS-DOUGLAS, Kent, St. Augustine's)
No, sir; none whatever.
§ Adjourned at one minute after Twelve o'clock.