§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Question [2nd 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. Hardy.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ * MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I make no apology, Mr. Speaker, for intervening at the earliest possible moment to call the attention of Parliament to the Irish question, and to the well-nigh universal demand of the Irish people for a radical change in the system of government under which their country has been pauperised and depopulated in the past. I know that there are a great many people in this country, of all Parties, who quite naturally are anxious, if they can, to get rid of the Irish question even for a day, and I noticed with interest that in all the speeches made on the Address to the Throne yesterday not one solitary reference whatever was made by any speaker to Ireland. Now, I think that feeling is perfectly natural, but what does, 200 I am bound to say, surprise me is that there seem to be serious statesmen on both sides of this House who seem to think it is possible to get rid of the Irish question. Greater delusion than this was never entertained. You cannot get rid of the Irish question. Nothing that you can do, either by the way of force on the one side or concession on the other, can relieve you from the necessary consequences of maintaining in Ireland a system of government opposed to the will of the governed. These consequences are chronic unrest and discontent in Ireland, and chronic disturbance here in the Imperial Parliament. The truth is, this problem is too vast, too far-reaching, and too urgent for it to be possible to cease even for a few short months to trouble the public mind in England, to intrude itself into the consideration of great English questions, and to haunt and disturb the serenity of the Imperial Parliament. At this moment all England is stirred by the fiscal question, and the British people are appealed to with passionate earnestness to save the Empire by conciliating the colonies. But every honest man must know that the conciliation of the colonies fades into insignificance compared with the importance of the conciliation of Ireland. We are told that there is no concession too great to be made for the purpose of buying the continued friendship of Canada and Australia. Why, Sir, for this purpose you are asked actually to uproot those great principles of fiscal policy which for fifty years you have all regarded as the very foundation of your greatness and prosperity, and you are told, at the same time and from the same quarter, to disregard altogether the hostility of Ireland, to make no sacrifice to win her friendship, though every man well knows that so long as Ireland's hostility to the Empire continues, so long all the talk about the unity of the Empire is mere clap-trap, and that Ireland contented, Ireland peaceful, Ireland friendly, would be of more value to the Empire than the possession of all the colonies put together. This question of discontent and disloyalty to the Empire in Ireland is one which I say you cannot get rid of for a single day. I noticed, with great interest, that quite recently the Duke of Devonshire solemnly declared 201 that there was no room for two great questions like the fiscal question and the Irish question at the same time, and yet, within one week after that declaration, the Gateshead election took place, where, in spite of the votes of both English Parties, the issue in the end turned not upon protection or free trade, but upon Home Rule for Ireland, and was decided by the votes of Irish Home Rulers in the constituency.
Some men seem to think that because last year we obtained a valuable Act of Parliament remedying some of the evils of your past misgovernment, that therefore the Irish question would be heard of no more, that it was shelved. Such an idea argues an absolute ignorance of the very essence of this Irish question. No concession can weaken the force of our demand for self-government. On the contrary, every concession strengthens that demand and strengthens our arms, and every concession we have obtained, and every concession we may obtain will be used by us for the furtherance of the remainder of the contest for self-government. I read the other day a letter written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Leeds, who is the chief Whip of the Liberal Party, to one of his constituents, in which he said—So far as I am concerned I am a Home Ruler, but I have frequently said to my constituents that the Nationalist Party have accepted, at anyrate for the present, the alternative policy of the Conservative Party.I read that statement with amazement. It disclosed to me a strange and, in the right hon. Gentleman, an utterly unaccountable inability to understand the real meaning of this Irish question. It was, as a matter of fact, an entire misrepresentation of our attitude. We accepted no alternative policy. We accepted the Land Act of last year just as we accepted the Land Act of 1881, just as we accepted the Local Government Act of 1898, just as we accepted every Act which has removed or mitigated any Irish grievance, and we would indeed be fools did we not do so. But to say we accepted any, or all, of these things as an alternative policy to Home Rule is absurd, and it is untrue, and this statement from a high official source like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Leeds, the Chief Whip of 202 the Liberal Party, makes it necessary, in my opinion, for us to define our position once more, if not for the benefit of those who are the Government to-day, then for the benefit of those who hope to be the Government to-morrow—and who, for all I know, may be hugging the comfortable delusion at this moment that they can obtain Irish support on an alternative policy. Now I repeat that for us there is no such thing as an alternative policy to Home Rule. If your Government in Ireland were as good as it is notoriously and admittedly bad, we would be still Home Rulers. Our position is that we assert we have the right to rule ourselves. We certainly have the capacity and the knowledge, and the intimate sympathy which you have not, but above all that we say we have the right. That right we will never surrender, and we say without the slightest hesitation that Ireland would prefer to be governed even badly by her own Parliament than to be governed well by the Parliament of any other nation in the world. But we are not governed well. Your Government in Ireland not only springs from usurpation and wrong, from violence and corruption—which is denounced and admitted to-day by all your greatest writers and historians—it is not only a Government which depends every hour of its existence upon a small minority in Ireland, and is every hour of its existence in direct opposition to the will of the majority of the governed, but your Government, on its merits, is a bad Government, a wasteful, extravagant, corrupt, and inefficient Government.
We have heard a great deal in recent years from some distinguished quarters about inefficiency. Well, the English Government of Ireland is the most inefficient Government in the whole world. It is wasteful in every Department, it is corrupt in every Department. Perhaps I ought to stop for one moment to explain the meaning of "corrupt." I do not at all mean corrupt in the vulgar sense of bribing by money to do disgraceful things, although such things have happened. What I mean is—I put it in this way—the only class in Ireland that supports the Government is the class of the placemen. For the minority in Ireland, for every happy child who is born as a member of the loyal minority in Ireland, there is a 203 place of some sort or kind. I am a member of the Irish Bar, and it is not likely I would make any disgraceful accusation against the Irish Bar, but I venture to assert there is not a member of the Irish Bar who is a supporter of the English Government, and an opponent of Ireland, who is not pretty certain, if he has any brains at all, before long to get a place. I say that is corruption, and I say it is true to say to-day in that sense, as was said by Mr. Lecky of the English Government, that the whole unbribed intellect of Ireland was against you. And I say, in addition to being wasteful and corrupt, the Government is inefficient. Let me give an example of what I mean. To-day, admittedly, Ireland lags behind every nation in Western Europe in trade, commerce, agriculture, in technical skill, in science, and in art. Why? Is it because the Irish race are less talented than the people of any other race in the world? Anyone who knows anything of the history of the world, and especially anyone who knows anything of the history of the British Empire, will make no such assertion. No; Ireland lags behind in the race of nations because there is no nation in which education has been so denied, neglected, and starved. There is not any test of a Government better than this test of education, and I say the Government, which for a century has denied, neglected, and starved education, is a Government which cannot justify its existence before the public opinion of the world. That is what you have done in Ireland. First of all you denied education altogether,and made it a penal offence. Then you established a system of education which to-day has no parallel in the whole history of the world, and that system you maintain down to this moment.
Let me first take the case of primary education. I leave on one side what may be regarded as matters of ancient history. I deal to-day with the system in force at this very moment. The system of primary education in Ireland to-day came into existence so far back as the year 1831. Lord Stanley, then the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant, who, I think, was Lord Grey, formed a Board of unpaid gentlemen called a National Education Board, 204 and the whole primary education of the country was put into the hands of these gentlemen, and that Board exists down to this very day unchanged except in one small particular from the year 1831. That Board is absolutely unrepresentative. It is absolutely irresponsible. From an educational point of view, as I will show you it is admittedly incompetent, and through its whole history it is anti-national in its feelings. The Board consists, I think, of sixteen members unpaid, and a paid Resident Commissioner. There is no qualification for membership on this Board at all. The only one essential condition is that it shall be half Catholic and half Protestant. At first I think only one-third of the Board was Catholic and two-thirds Protestant. This Board is made up of most worthy and estimable country gentlemen, country squires, country landlords. Five of the members of the Board are learned Judges, whose presence on the Board I cannot for the life of me understand, and others of them are officials who have retired from other departments of service, and, so far as anyone has ever been able to find out, not a single one of these men is selected for any educational qualification whatever. I do not want to weary the House, and therefore I would refrain from reading the names, but if anybody calls in question the accuracy of my description, I will read the names. There is Mr. Edmund Dease, a respectable landlord, Mr. James Morell, Sir Henry Ballingham, another most estimable landlord, Chief Baron Pallas, Judge Shaw, and so on right through the list. No one will controvert my assertion that there is no qualification required, and therefore this Board is totally unrepresentative. I say in addition it is irresponsible. No one represents this Board in this House. No one has authority to speak for that Board in this House. No one has authority over that Board in Ireland. Neither the Chief Secretary, nor any department of Dublin Castle, has any authority over this Board. We have repeatedly had experience in this House of the Chief Secretary rising to answer questions about primary education, and he has always complained of the fact that, although he was the channel to convey information to this House, he had no authority over this 205 Board, that the Board held its meetings in secret, and that when he applied for information they were perfectly entitled to deny the information if they chose. Was such an absurd system ever heard of as a Board of this character, responsible to no one in this House, nor to the Government in Ireland, or anyone else? The Board is anti-national and has been through its whole history. There is not amongst these Commissioners at this moment one single man who is in sympathy with the wishes and aspirations of the national feeling of the Irish people. Is it not ludicrous that a Board of this kind, charged with the duty of education of the little children of the Irish race, should not have one solitary representative of national feeling on its body. The natural result of that has been that the tendency of this Board all through has been to denationalise the little children of the Irish race. Irish history, Irish poetry, the Irish language, everything Irish has been banished from its schools. It was only the other day, after a bitter and vehement contest, that we were able to force this Board to allow the little Irish-speaking children coming out of Irish-speaking homes to be taught through the medium of the Irish language. I would like to quote a few words written by Mr. Starkie, the present Resident Commissioner, the paid servant of this Board, as to the merits of his employers. He says—I fancy few practical educationists will deny that the National Board were guilty of a disastrous blunder in thrusting upon a Gaelic-speaking race a system of education produced after a foreign model, and utterly alien to their sympathies and antecedents. Such an attempt was unsound, both philosophically and practically. Neglecting the principles of continuity which pervades all human things, it disregarded the home training and associations of the children, and thus rending in twain the nascent intelligence, rendered all real development impossible. True education is a refining and developing of the whole intellectual life and character, and I think there can be little doubt that the Board were guilty of narrow pedantry in neglecting as worthless the whole previous life of the pupil, and the multitude of associations, imaginations, and sentiments that formed the content of his consciousness. The consequences of such a system are inevitable. To this unhappy blunder may be attributed the want of initiative, and independence and distaste of knowledge, which so hampers the industrial development of Ireland—qualities so alien to the quick sympathies and alert intelligence, which are the most salient characteristics of our race.206 Thus, Sir, the administration of this Board has been, from an educational point of view, narrow and incompetent even on the authority of their own Resident Commissioner, and from an Irish point of view has been grossly anti-national. I do not care to go into the question further than to point out that whatever may be the case to-day, when this Board was established it was run from a religious point of view on bigoted and most dishonest lines. That can be proved by referring to the declaration of Archbishop Whateley, when he declared in so many words that the object of the Board was to proselytise the Catholic children of Ireland. He said—The education supplied by the National Board is gradually undermining the vast fabric of the Irish Roman Catholic Church. I believe, as I said the other day, in mixed education (as carried out in the system of the National Education Board) we give up the only hope of weaning the Irish from the abuses of Popery. But I cannot venture openly to profess this opinion.This quotation is taken from a diary of the Archbishop, which of course did not see the light for many days after it was written. Under the blessings of English rule you have primary education in the hands of a Board established in 1831, entirely unrepresentative, absolutely irresponsible, anti-Catholic in its inception, anti - national down to this moment, so incompetent that it is denounced and condemned by its own Resident Commissioner, and so incapable of reform that Archbishop Walsh resigned his position on that Board in absolute despair. No wonder that this system of education is to-day unanimously denounced by the people of Ireland, and no wonder that Ireland lags behind the nations of the world in all the essentials of prosperity and advancement. What is the remedy? The only possible remedy is Home Rule. This antiquated, irresponsible, unrepresentative, narrow-minded, bigoted, and incompetent Board must be swept into the dust bin. It would not be tolerated in England for twenty-four hours. What we want is a Department of Education responsible to the public opinion of Ireland. That is the only possible remedy, but it is not possible so long as Ireland is deprived of the right of self-government. To abolish the Board, ashe had heard some people suggest, and to put their absolute power into the hands of a new ring of irresponsible officials 207 in Dublin Castle, would be to alienate still more the confidence of the Irish people. We want a Department of Education responsible to the public opinion of Ireland, and this we cannot have until we have self-government. And so the disgraceful and ruinous tragedy of the neglect of Irish primary education goes on.
The same story is true of intermediate education. Many members of the Intermediate Education Board are eminent men, but none of them can be picked out as educational authorities or as qualified for the work upon which they are engaged. For twenty years the Intermediate Board had full control of intermediate education, and they carried on a system of cramming and payment by results to such an extent that they did irreparable injury to the education of the youth of the country. But at last the people cried shame upon them, and they had to admit their failure. With a touch of true Gilbertian humour, they resolved themselves into a Commission to inquire into the defects of their own work. Since then there has been some improvement, but so recently as the 1st of April last year the Chief Secretary declared that under the present system the money devoted to intermediate education was money thrown away.
Money," said he, "has been lavished in Intermediate Education in Ireland. But how can such expenditure be turned to good account when Elementary Education is not levelled up to the necessary standard, when only 55 per cent. of the children attend the schools, and when continuation schools do not exist? Money devoted to Intermediate Education under such circumstances is money thrown away.If that be the state of inefficiency of the Government of Ireland in primary and intermediate education, if that be the disgraceful story of the neglect and starvation of the education of Irish children in primary and intermediate schools, what is to be said about the question of Irish University education? The inefficiency of the Government in this vital matter, its dishonest evasion of an admitted duty, its unwillingness or incapacity, or both, to remove an admitted grievance which poisons the whole life of Ireland, and which condemns Ireland to hopeless failure in the struggle with the nations of 208 the world for existence—I say the treatment of this question by the Government, taken alone, is sufficient to utterly and completely damn and condemn their whole system of the government of the country. For fifty years this grievance has been admitted, and every attempt made to deal with it has failed for the same reason that has destroyed every effort of this House to deal with Irish grievances, namely, because it was an effort made by men who did not understand the requirements of Ireland, and who would not listen to the advice of the Irish people. You establish first a Queen's University, Queen's Colleges, in Ireland. They were denounced by O'Connell in the name of the Catholic laity, and by the Irish Bishops on behalf of the clergy. Their failure is admitted, and the Queen's University is dead and gone. In disregard of Irish advice, you then establish an Examining Board, which you dignify by the name of a Royal University. After twenty years your Royal Commission has declared that this Royal University also is a failure, and must go. You of the Conservative Party, representing a Conservative Government, pledged yourselves publicly and privately to deal with this question year after year, and session after session, until your pledges on this subject have become a by-word in Ireland. In 1885, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then Leader of the House, explicitly and solemnly pledged the Government that if they were in office next session they would introduce a practical measure to remedy this grievance. They were in office "next session," and with the exception of three years they have been in office ever since, and that pledge has never been redeemed. In 1889, in answer to Mr. Parnell in this House, the present Prime Minister pledged himself on behalf of the Government to produce a Bill dealing with this question next session.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYSDHAM,) Dover
§ * MR. JOHN REDMOND
In August, 1889, Mr. Parnell questioned Mr. Balfour on this subject, and asked whether any immediate steps were in contemplation, and whether the Government proposed to make this important subject one of 209 the earliest Government measures next session, and in reply Mr. Balfour said—With regard to the question put to me by the hon. Member for Cork, I have to say that there is, of course, no possibility of dealing with this question except under a Bill, and I cannot give any pledge at this moment as to the exact order in which the various questions will be dealt with by the Government next session.The right hon. Gentleman then speaking on behalf of the Government as Leader of this House—[An HON. MEMBER: As Chief Secretary]—well, that gives more point to what I was going to say. He spoke then as Chief Secretary, and it might be said that he spoke for himself, and not in the name of the Government, that really he was outstepping the limits of his authority, and that he had no right to make such a declaration. But the right hon. Gentleman is now Prime Minister, and I want to know by what rule of morality he can now refuse when he has authority, when he is Leader of this House and Prime Minister of this country—how he can justify the refusal to carry out those pledges which he gave. From 1885 to this moment those pledges have remained unfulfilled. The truth is, that the Conservative Party are playing with this question and fooling with it, and they have found it, I am afraid, somewhat useful to them in dealing with Irish Parties. They are doing the same to-day. Lord Dunraven the other day published a letter in the Irish newspapers, in which he formulated a scheme for the settlement of this question. Now that scheme was represented to us in Ireland as the Government scheme. That was put forward as representing the Government scheme. We were told, in addition, that that scheme would receive the support of the Ulster Presbyterians, because they are very closely interested in this matter. Part of the scheme was to make Queen's College, Belfast, one of the component colleges of the University of Dublin, and, of course, to givelarge endowments to Queen's College, Belfast, so as to bring it into a proper position to meet the needs of that great city. We were told that the Ulster Presbyterians were favourable to this scheme. Well, what about the Catholics? I took it upon myself, speaking to my constituents a few weeks ago to say that in my judgment the scheme would have been accepted by both the 210 hierarchy and laity of the Catholic Church any time for the last twenty years. They have the whole Irish Government unanimously in favour of it. The Chief Secretary, the Lord Lieutenant, and Sir Antony M'Donnell. I do not know which is the more eager and enthusiastic on this question. They have the Prime Minister of England in favour of it. According to statements that have been made, they have a very large section of the Cabinet in favour of it. Some of the statements represent that an overwhelming majority of the Cabinet were in favour of it, and yet because Lord Londonderry goes down to Belfast and addresses a meeting of rabid Orangemen, and says that he will oppose this scheme, it is to put on one side. The whole question once more is to be shelved.
Now I may be told that there are great difficulties in the way of that scheme. Not only Lord Londonderry and his friends, but certain Senior Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, are opposed to it. Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman that we are not wedded to this particular scheme. If the right hon. Gentleman finds it easier to fall back on the scheme of the Royal Commission, well let him do so, and that will be candidly, fairly, and impartially considered by us. What he has no right to do is to attempt to shelve this question and to hang it up indefinitely. Now I will be perfectly plain and straightforward on this matter. I think I quite see through the Government's game. My honest belief—I do not say it personally to the right hon. Gentleman, and let him not take it to himself individually; I am speaking of the Government—I am firmly convinced that they intend to humbug and befool the Irish Members on this question. Lord Londonderry, I believe, was right when he said in Belfast that no I responsible Minister had ever proposed a Catholic University. Nobody has said that it was to establish a Catholic University. That is not the scheme. There is no proposal to establish a Catholic University. A correspondent writes to Lord Londonderry and says that the phrase was equivocal, and that while his Lordship might be against a Catholic university he might be in favour of Lord Dunraven's scheme. He asked for a specific reply on Lord Dunraven's scheme. 211 What was the answer? A letter in yesterday's London Times, in which Lord Londonderry said that no responsible Minister—we were told that this thing was to be submitted to the Cabinet; apparently it has not—that no responsible Minister had ever made such a proposal as Lord Dunraven's scheme. I think Lord Londonderry was right when he said in a speech in Belfast that the Government, as a whole, has no intention, and never had any intention, of introducing a scheme for the settlement of this question, and that all their pledges, assurances, and promises, were false as dicers' oaths. But they want to remain in office for the rest of this session, and, no doubt, these mysterious negotiations about which we have all heard a great deal in months past in Ireland—all these private assurances about the Cabinet, about the Government, and about this scheme, and that scheme, and all the public pledges—I suppose we will have a repetition of these again to-night— were simply intended for the purpose of inducing the Irish Members to refrain from attack. More than that, I fancy that when the Government go to the electors when the general election does come, they would like very much to have these pledges about a Catholic university in the air, so that they might successfully attempt to wheedle and humbug the Irish voters in Great Britain to vote for their candidates in every case, in the supposition that they were in favour of a Catholic University. Let me tell the Government perfectly plainly that their game is too transparent in this matter. It has been played too often, and it will fail this time. The Irish people are saying to the Government to-day—And be these juggling fiends no more believ'd,That palter with us in a double sense;That keep the word of promise to our ear,And break it to our hope.To-night I call on the right hon. Gentleman for an explicit statement on this matter. Let us get out of this region of fog. Let us get out of this region we have been living in in Ireland of private negotiations and private indications that this person was favourable and that person favourable, and that everything would go right before the end of the session. Let us come down to the plain 212 facts. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do? I think I ought to make an explicit statement to him, and I say that, on this question of the settlement of the University question, nothing short of the immediate introduction of legislation this session will satisfy us. We thus have three branches of education—primary, intermediate, and University—marked by the same inefficiency under English rule in Ireland. Now I ask any impartial man whether the case for Home Rule is not complete if I stopped here, and did not say one other word. The Government which, for a whole century, has thus bungled, neglected, and starved education—primary, secondary, and university—cannot justify its existence.
But after all, education, vital as it is, is only one department or element in the national life of our country. In every other department the inefficiency is the same. The same ignorance, the same dishonesty, the same failure. Take for instance the case of the financial relations between the two countries. You are niggardly of education in Ireland, but you are prodigal of taxation. Ireland some years ago accused Great Britain of robbing her of several millions a year, and that accusation became so insistent that you were forced to investigate it. A tribunal was appointed for the purpose. Now let the House mark, Great Britain was the defendant, Great Britain appointed the tribunal herself, Great Britain packed the tribunal herself with all her own greatest financial authorities. Yet that tribunal so appointed and constituted brought in a verdict in favour of Ireland, a verdict to the effect that Ireland was overtaxed to the extent of about £3,000,000 a year, and that that had gone on for half a century. That was in 1893–4. Since then, so far from relief having been given, £3,000,000 additional has been put upon Ireland, and in the most cruel way, because it has been added almost entirely to the taxation of the poor. You in this country have been engaged, and you boasted of it, in the task of endeavouring to bring down indirect taxation at any rate to the level of direct taxation. But you did not do so in Ireland. The indirect taxation of Great Britain is nearly 50 per cent. of the whole. In Ireland it is 75 per cent. of the whole, and every 213 addition you have made to the burden of Ireland for the last ten years has been a burden that has fallen upon the poorer classes of the community. When the result of the Financial Relations Inquiry was first made known, your answer was that the inquiry had not been sufficiently full, that there were other portions of the case to be considered, and you said a new Commission was to be appointed. You have not since appointed that Commission and you never suggested it since, and you have gone on, during all those ten years that have passed, piling up the taxation of the country; and the last defence made to this House by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer a couple of years ago, was of the most audacious character. He said the general taxation of the whole of the three countries has been enormously increased in consequence of the war. Ireland being the poorest part of the United Kingdom has contributed the smallest proportion of this general taxation, "Therefore," he said, "your grievance has disappeared." Of course, according to that doctrine, all you have to do is to go on increasing the taxation of Ireland, and when you have added three or four or five millions more to her taxation, your Chancellor will say, "Why, I have wiped out all your grievance." I am bound to say the Chief Secretary does not take that view at all. I heard with deep gratification some of his declarations last year. I remember when he used these words—He really believed Ireland had been a sufferer, and he was quite sure that the question whether or not the two countries had received as partners in the common Exchequer, founded in 1813, their fair share of the mutual advantages was a question which should not be left in obscurity as now.Yes, it is left in obscurity now, and I say-it is a monstrous injustice that while this question is being hung up in this way, and after the verdict of the late Commission, you should go on piling up the general burden on Ireland. Not only has the general burden been increased, but in every conceivable way Ireland is being cheated every year by the British Treasury. Let me take one example of what I mean. When the equivalent grants were first established, the principle was laid down by Mr. Goschen that Scotland and Ireland were entitled to get from the 214 General Exchequer a proportionate sum for their purposes. And the proportion was fixed by Mr. Goschen at eighty for England, eleven for Scotland, and nine for Ireland. We always, on these Benches, protested against that proportion; we have always said that it was grossly unfair, but we were powerless in the matter. Last year the Chief Secretary came to our aid when in this House he declared that we were right all through, that the proportion was quite unfair, and he proposed quite a different basis, which he put into the Irish Development Fund Bill. Speaking on this question, he said—On other similar occasions, in 1889 and 1890, I think the equivalent grant to Ireland and to Scotland (England, eighty; Scotland, eleven; and Ireland, nine) was calculated upon the pre-portion of taxation coming from Ireland or Scotland to the common Exchequer. That leads to results which all must hold to be illogical, and results which everybody in Ireland holds to be unjust, because the greater the increase of the taxation the less is the proportion that comes from Ireland, the poorest partner in the business, and so the less is her equivalent grant. As the evil increases the remedy diminishes, and you have only to force up taxation to a sufficiently high point to extinguish the remedy altogether, or to give it in what may be called homeopathic doses. Therefore we make this new departure. We say that the set-off to Ireland shall be calculated, not upon the quota coming from Ireland, as compared with the quota coming from England, towards common purposes, but shall be calculated on the population of the two countries as revealed by the last census.I do beg the House, which is often carried away with the idea that we on these Benches are given to exaggeration, to listen to how this system of equivalent grants has worked out. Take, for example, the question of technical instruction—What are the results? In the nine years, in the case of England, between 1892 and 1900, sums amounting to £6,276,404 were devoted to technical instruction in England and Wales. Ireland lost two years altogether in that period, but in the remaining seven years she was only able to spend £71,900 on technical instruction, and out of that comparatively insignificant sum no less than £55,000 was expended in the last year.That is to say, Ireland has been robbed by that transaction of a vast sum of money in connection with grants for technical education.
Ireland had to dash down the money on some ill-considered project or lose it altogether.215 It was to remedy this that a policy of setting up the Devolution Fund Grant was initiated so that Ireland should not be defrauded of its fair share of the grant from the common Exchequer of the United Kingdom, and it was to protect Ireland that the Chief Secretary felt it his duty to adopt the new fiscal method. Now if the basis for the equivalent grants in 1889 and 1890, namely, 80–11–9, was unjust, as it is now admitted to be, we have been robbed every year that has passed of large sums of money, which by now amount to a vast figure; and mark the injustice is a continuing one, for the admitted unjust basis remains in force with reference to all equivalent grants before the one of last year. In my opinion that is a good instance of the way in which not only is the general burden of the taxpayers heaped up in Ireland, but where in every individual case that is possible, the British Exchequer robs Ireland of her fair share of grants from common taxation. We are robbed therefore not only in education but in money. And what of the legislative work? Every year in the last century this Parliament has proved its incapacity or unwillingness, or both, of passing legislation satisfactory to Ireland. Let me take as an example the Land Act of last year. On that question this Parliament passed some forty or fifty Land Acts, but so ignorant was this Parliament of the task and of the real meaning of the problems which it had to grapple with; so incompetent was it for the task of governing Ireland; so deaf was it to the voice of the Irish Members, that all these forty or fifty Acts of Parliament were absolutely valueless, and last year you found yourselves confronted with the Irish land question once more in an acute phase. And believe me, you are not yet done with the question. Last year I most freely admit Parliament was anxious and willing to settle this great question, and I say that the failure of the Act of last year in so many respects proves in a startling manner that even when this Parliament has the will and provides the necessary time, it has not the capacity to legislate satisfactorily for Ireland, What happened last year? The Irish Members put forward certain Amend- 216 ments which they considered, in their judgment, were essential in order to make it a workable and a satisfactory measure. Some of these Amendments were opposed on their merits as mischievous by the Government, and they were defeated. Other of these Amendments, which we declared to be absolutely necessary for the proper and effective working of the Bill, were declared by the Government to be unnecessary, and we were induced to withdraw them by pledges from the Ministers and from the law officers of this House that the phraseology of the Bill, as it stood, carried out our intention. And what has been the ludicrous result? Why, an Irish Judge has already given a decision—and those who followed the Bill with any interest last year will see the force of what I am saying —to the effect that the bonus cannot be handed over to the tenant for life. That blocks out, in my judgment, something like three-fourths of the land ords of Ireland; and the Irish law officer who sat on that Bench opposite during the discussions on that Bill, who heard the Chief Secretary making all his speeches and giving all his promises, and making those statements which induced us to withdraw our Amendments, have now on other portions of the Bill, given opinions totally at variance with the opinions of the Chief Secretary and which, if enforced, will, in the judgment of most men who know anything of Ireland, render the Act an absolute nullity so far as Connaught and the congested estates are concerned. That is to say that they will make the Act of last year worthless as an engine of peace in those very places where the land agitation has been most acute. What an argument for Home Rule! What answer is to be given to it? I admit that last year you did your best; you were anxious to settle the land question, but you would not listen to our advice; you would not take our Amendments, and you have floundered once again into hopeless failure on many phases of this question. The whole question of the working of the Land Act will come up for discussion at a later period, and therefore what I have to say on that subject I will reserve till then. So far as I am concerned for the moment, I only allude to the Land Act as an illustration of my argument, which is that 217 nothing can be satisfactory in the government of Ireland except the restoration of the rights of self-government to the Irish people. I take it for granted that the Chief Secretary will introduce an amending Bill this session, although no mention is made of it in the King's Speech. All I can say is that so far as we are concerned no so-called amending Bill will be accepted by us unless it deals with all the defects which have been disclosed in the Act from the point of view of the tenants, as well as from the point of view of the tenant for life and the landlords.
Now I might go through every other department of Irish government. I might deal with the Irish Local Government Board—the most absurd system of government in the world—where you have freely elected governing bodies of the people thwarted and interfered with at every stage by a body which is quite irresponsible, and over which the people of Ireland have no control at all, and in the membership of which is Mr. Richard Bagwell, who was appointed after the Act of 1898 was passed, a gentleman who signalised his appointment by instantly denouncing as an outrage the right of the people of Ireland to local government, which he was appointed to administer. I might deal with the Board of Works, where the right hon. Gentleman has placed his late private secretary, Mr. Hanson, as one of the three administrators of this important Irish Department. I have nothing to say against Mr. Hanson. He has served the right hon. Gentleman well. I always found him most courteous, obliging and competent, and I am sure that he is a very able young man. But, after all, is this a system of government which will stand examination: that those young English gentlemen who have served for two years as private secretaries are to be brought over from England and put in charge of a great working department of Irish government to the absolute exclusion of Irishmen. I might go through all these departments one after the other, and show the failure of English government. This system which I have endeavoured to sketch cannot be mended; it is too rotten to be mended; the only remedy is to end it. "I say the time has come to reform altogether the absurd and irritating anachronism which is known as Dublin Castle; to sweep away altogether these 218 alien boards of foreign officials, and to substitute for them a genuine Irish Administration for purely Irish affairs." These are the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. What has changed since 1885 to make these alien boards of foreign officials more competent for the government of Ireland than they were then? No, if there has been any change it has been in the other direction. It has been in this, that our demand for Home Rule is stronger to-day than it was then. Why in 1898 you gave a great system of free local government to the people, such as you have in England. You gave it with fear and trembling. Lord Salisbury had warned you that it was more dangerous to do that than to give Home Rule. Yet you granted it. What has been the result? Why, that the Irish people in the working of that Act have shown, untrained though they are in the arts of government, the steadiness, the sobriety, the moderation, and the good sense which are necessary for the successful work of governing themselves. I ask the Government, where do they stand upon this question? Has their experience taught them nothing? Have they learned nothing from their experience of the last few years in the softening of class animosities, in the hope which they have often expressed, and which I am sure they share, of the early settlement of the land question, in the hope of the spread of better feelings in Ireland, and of the possibility of a really united Ireland? Do they really see no possibility of meeting this natural demand of an intelligent people to be allowed to govern themselves —to govern themselves where you have shown your incapacity to govern them? Can we take Lord Dudley as representing the Government? Lord Dudley is an able man. He has made some most remarkable pronouncements in Ireland. Speaking on the 20th November, 1902, he said—There were those who seemed to believe that the only way in which a great Empire could be successfully maintained was by suppressing the various distinguishing elements of its component parts—in fact, by running it as a huge regiment in which each nation was to lose its own individuality, and to be brought under a common system of discipline, That was not his view. In his opinion, they were much more likely to break up an Empire by any such attempt. Lasting strength and loyalty were not to be secured by any attempt to force into one system or to mould into one type those special characteristics which 219 were the outcome of a nation's history, but rather by a full recognition of the fact that those very characteristics formed an essential part of the nation's life, and that under wise guidance and sympathetic treatment they would enable her to play her own special part in the life of the Empire to which she belonged. It was upon that principle that he would proceed during his term of office, believing that any national development to be lasting or healthy must be spontaneous.Again, he said—The opinion of the Government was, and it was his own opinion, that the only way to govern Ireland properly was to govern it according to Irish ideas instead of according to British ideas.What is the meaning of these words? In the ordinary acceptation of the meaning of language those words mean Home Rule, and they were so interpreted in Ireland. Were they that, or simply one more attempt by playing on words to deceive the people Let me say for myself that I utterly decline to believe that, so far as Lord Dudley is personally concerned. But I am dealing, not with Lord Dudley, but with the Government policy in this matter. I ask, where do the Government stand upon this question? Our position is perfectly plain. We are a Party of independent opposition. We are in opposition to every Government that does not accede to our demand for legislative freedom. For myself, I have sat in opposition in this House for twenty-three years. I have taken part in the overthrow by Irish votes of Conservative Governments and of Liberal Governments. I know not, of course, what the future may have in store for us, but I have a pretty clear conception of what our duty is. In my judgment, it is our duty to offer a vigorous and active opposition to the Government unless they show that they have made some appreciable advance on the road to Home Rule. My colleagues and I have been for many weary years travelling on a long and painful road. Many of us have grown old and grey through years of disappointment and disillusion. If we have to go on to our graves without success we will do so ungrudgingly, and bequeath this contest to our children. Let me say, however, for myself that I am fairly sanguine of the near future. I think I see in this country a widening of knowledge of Ireland a growing appreciation of the 220 real character of the Irish people and of the moderate nature of their demands, and therefore I decline to say one word or to give one vote which, in my opinion, is calculated to make it more difficult for any English Party or any English Government to end this contest by some great measure of appeasement and justice, which, when it comes, believe me, will be as great a blessing to Great Britain as it will be to the long-suffering and faithful people of Ireland. Never forget that you can, by the mere concession of justice, convert Ireland in twenty-four hours into a friendly nation only too eager for what Gladstone called "the blessed oblivion of the past." But by the continuation of injustice you perpetuate a history of hatred and ill-will between two democracies who ought in God's providence to live side by side in amity and peace. It is for you to choose.
§ ME. WYNDHAM
The hon. and learned Member for Waterford has spoken with that eloquence which is always at his command on the subject which I believe is nearest to his heart. We know, not only from what he has said to-night, but from what he has said again and again in previous debates, that, in his opinion, no efforts which we make in this House to further the advancement of the people of Ireland are of avail, and that nothing but the concession of a Parliament with the fullest power to that country can remedy any of the evils under which Ireland may suffer. He has been very frank. In his courtesy he sent me formal notice that he intended to raise the whole question of Irish government, and he has been as good as his word. Not one Department has escaped his scathing criticism.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
As far as I am personally concerned as the head of nearly all these Departments, I do not propose to blow my own trumpet for an hour and a half; but, speaking for those with whom I work, for my colleagues on the Local Government Board and every other Department with which I am 221 officially connected, I repudiate the epithets which the hon. and learned Member has thought fit to apply to those hardworking public servants. They are not English. They are not foreigners. They are all Irishmen.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I am excluding myself. I am speaking for my colleagues in those Departments. Sir Henry Robinson, Vice-President of the Local Government Board, is an Irishman, Sir Horace Plunkett, the Vice-President of the new Department, is an Irishman, and taking the Department of the Board of Works, Mr. Holmes, the Chairman, is an Irishman, and so I might go on. Irishmen bear the far greater proportion. It is a small point, but so much has been said about foreign rule that we had better clear the matter up. The hon. and learned Member mentioned Mr. Hanson. Why was he appointed? Mr. Hanson was appointed because he was the most competent person to go there, and I was very sorry to lose his services. He was not appointed at my instance. What is the Board of Works? The Board of Works is under the Treasury in Ireland, and it is the channel through which Ireland receives the greatest benefits she receives under the Union. During the last ten years the Board of Works has advanced, by way of gift or loan to Ireland for Irish purposes, over £7,000,000. Is it an intolerable outrage on the national feeling of Ireland that one man selected by the Treasury as peculiarly competent to deal with financial transactions should be an Englishman, though he was the man, in their opinion, who was best fitted to discharge the functions? The whole of the contention falls to the ground, and the fact that Mr. Hanson was my private secretary in Ireland for three years, and had in that position obtained a wonderful grasp of Irish problems, was an additional recommendation. The hon. and learned Member began by saying it was a delusion to suppose that we are to get rid of the Irish question. I have never shared in that delusion. I have spent five years of my life as 222 private secretary to the Prime Minister in Ireland, and I have been three years Chief Secretary, and I know how important are many matters in Ireland which require, deserve, and, in my opinion, receive attention in this House. But the hon. and learned Member in his concluding period said the legislative efforts of this House were not satisfactory to Ireland. I am not surprised,; if he puts the Irish demand as he put it to-night. All the desires which he has cherished in the past, including Home Rule, are apparently to be granted, and satisfactorily and exhaustively granted, in the course, one might almost say, of a single session. Does he suppose England at the end of every year says, "Now, Heaven's blessing fall upon these God-inspired Ministers; we cannot have a single thing in addition to what we already possess?" There is no country in the world so satisfied with its Government as he thinks his countrymen ought to be satisfied with ours, if we did our duty.
The purport of the hon. and learned Member's speech was perfectly clear; in the latter part he wished to bring home to the Government, and in the earlier part to the Opposition, the fact that he is the head of a real third Party in this House, of an independent Party. I surmised that that was his intention almost as soon as he began to speak, and my surmise was confirmed by his very pointed allusion to a recent speech made by the hon. Member for Leeds. He stands here to ask that which we stand here to refuse, a separate Parliament for Ireland, and he says until that is granted to Ireland no legislation passed by this House can meet Irish needs. Some might hastily be tempted to ask in reply, "In that ease, what is the use of attempting to legislate for Ireland?" That is not my position; far from that. The hon. and learned Member spoke of our legislative attempt as a concession; I take grave exception to that. I have never since I have been in the House of Commons supported, or initiated in recent years, any measure for Ireland with any idea in my mind that I was asking any Irish Member not to offer his views on the Constitutional problem. I have not brought in these measures, or supported them in earlier 223 years, with a view of "killing Home Rule with kindness," or of reconciling the irreconcilable. I asked my friends last year to support me in passing the Irish Land Act, because I thought it was our duty to pass that measure for Ireland. I have supported Unionist legislation upon what I conceive to be the platform of the Unionist creed, and that is, that we are political equals with equal claims on the time of Parliament and the resources of the common Exchequer.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
My hon. friend who differed from me as to the policy of the Government last year, will hardly expect me to repeat all the arguments I used in our numerous debates. I think I made my position perfectly clear. I believed that that Act would confer great benefits on Ireland, and at a later moment I will return to that point. But I never asked the House, nor did the Prime Minister, to pass that Act in order that the hon. and learned Member should not get up, if he sees fit to do so, and declare that he is still a Home Ruler; and, what is more, I should never consider such a transaction as at all honourable, in the primary sense of the word honourable. The Irish Party are here this afternoon, as they have been on many previous occasions, as an independent Party. I have no understanding with the Nationalist Party, led so ably by the hon. and learned Member, over any prospective legislation. My aim is more modest, my aim is to avoid misunderstandings with the Irish Nationalist Party, and with every other section of political belief in Ireland, and amongst my friends on this side of the House. And to avoid misunderstandings, two courses must be pursued; I must refrain, as I always seek to do, from using any word that might give umbrage to the legitimate pride of Irishmen in their nationality, a pride which they share with Englishmen and Scotchmen, but I must also refrain from indulging in rosy and ambiguous periods which might lead them to believe that I was prepared to concede Home Rule, 224 or contribute £3,000,000 a year for Irish purposes. What has happened in recent years? Last year or the year before, on the Address, the hon. and learned Member moved an Amendment dealing with the land question, which was a pressing matter in Ireland. When we did not deal with it in 1901, and when we did not succeed in carrying a measure in 1902, the hon. and learned Member denounced us; last year he co-operated with the Government in passing a measure. But before those years he made an annual appearance in this House, moving an Amendment in the sense in which he has spoken this afternoon.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
Perhaps I did twice, but that would scarcely justify the phrase "annual appearance."
§ MR. WYNDHAM
In 1895, 1898, and 1899 the hon. and learned Member came to this House and moved as an Amendment to the Address that there should be an independent Parliament given to Ireland. He stated then that the measure brought in by Mr. Gladstone in 1886 was a compromise, but, I hasten to add, a compromise accepted in good faith by the Irish Party. Our position on that Motion is now precisely what it was in the years 1895, 1898, and 1899, and it was in 1898 very ably defined, as one would have anticipated, by the present Prime Minister, whose absence we all deplore, and no one more than myself, when endeavouring to deal with Irish matters with which he is so conversant. He said then, as I said this afternoon, of the Land Act of last year. that we desired to give local government to Ireland—the question then at issue—for reasons altogether outside the controversy on Home Rule. That is what I have been saying. I desire this House, when occasion offers, when time admits, when resources are available, to deal with Irish questions on their merits, 225 and altogether outside the long and bitter controversy on Home Rule. I do not quarrel with the hon. and learned Member for holding one view as to the proper constitutional relations between the countries, and he is not entitled to quarrel with me for holding another. I hold that view, and shall continue, as far as I am able, to persist in asking this House at proper times and seasons to give its attention to Irish problems, and to see that Ireland receives her fair share of the financial resources of the Empire. But then, on the constitutional problem, the Prime Minister in 1898 went on to say—and this is pertinent to the question raised by the hon. and learned Member—that in his opinion Irish sentiment, in so far as it does desire Home Rule, would not be satisfied with a subordinate Parliament. The hon. and learned Member was moving an Amendment on the Address asking for an independent Parliament. That is my view. I do not believe that finality would attach to the concession of a subordinate Parliament to Ireland. I believe that Ireland demands, and is entitled to, political equality with Great Britain. I know that political equality can only take one of two shapes; either it must be embodied in the relations which now exist between Ireland and Great Britain—that is to say that every citizen has an equal right to vote for a Member in this House, or to sit as a Member in this House—or else it must be embodied in some such relation as that which subsists between Norway and Sweden. Those are the only two forms of political equality I know. I believe Ireland would not be finally satisfied with political inequality, even if that could be accompanied with a greater deference than is now paid to our view. I deny that we are guilty of not deferring to Ireland; I declare that we use our very best efforts to collect Irish opinion, and that when there is a general consensus of opinion in Ireland we come down to this House and ask the House to take note of the fact and to pass legislation on that basis. But when Irishmen talk of the Irish views they mean the views which they and those immediately associated with them entertain, and they frequently mean views which are not only unpalatable to other sections of 226 Irishmen, but which are bitterly resented by other sections of Irishmen. It is not in the power of any British Parliament to legislate in order to satisfy every section of Irish opinion. I dissent from many of the propositions which the hon. and learned Member put forward. He will not mind my saying, since I include myself in that category, that politicians are not often good historians. There are a few exceptions; the late Mr. Lecky, whose death we deplore, was one, and the right hon. Member for Montrose Burghs, a politician, is a good historian. But with a few exceptions good politicians are bad historians, and also, as a rule, worse prophets. On this side of the House we sometimes say that Mr. Disraeli was a good prophet; on the other side hon. Members sometimes claim that Mr. Cobden was a good prophet. As a rule politicians are more usefully engaged in attacking the problems which are under their nose with the resources which are to their hands—and it is in that sense that I have attempted to discharge the duties which have fallen upon me in Ireland—and in attacking those immediate problems, with such resources as may be for the time available, they find again and again that the time at their disposal is limited by the. claims of many other subjects, and that the attention of their audience is frequently distracted to other issues, and cannot be lured back to the theme in which a particular politician is engrossed. Political experiments cannot be carried on as if they were chemical experiments. You cannot deal with Ireland and the Irish question or problem all the time, and with nothing else. Take the two greatest experiments ever tried in Ireland—first, the experiment of Home Rule when she really had it, in Grattan's Parliament; that was a failure, an admitted failure.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
At any rate it could not be carried out as an isolated experiment. You had the American War and the French Revolution. Then comes the next great political experiment in Ireland, the Union. That was 227 followed by the great contest with Napoleon, and the earlier years of the Union could not carry out all the promises of the Union or bring to Ireland all the benefits which the authors of the Union hoped she would reap. So it is now. The hon. and learned Member invites me to debate the question of Home Rule as against the Union. I am going to waive, if I may, the academic constitutional argument. We shall never agree about that. We hold that the relations of Ireland to England must be governed by the relations of these two metropolitan islands to the Empire as a whole, and that we cannot even discuss Ireland alone or Great Britain alone.
It will be more germane, I think, to the argument and the attack which the hon. and learned Member has delivered if I put forward two other arguments for the Union. One is that Ireland benefits by the Union, so far as credit is concerned at any rate. I am not going into a financial relations debate. I do not accept the application of the words which the hon. and learned Member quoted from me if he gives to them so wide an extension as I think he did. The words he quoted were—The question whether Ireland gets her fair share should not be left in obscurity.I was not talking then about the broad financial relations question. I was talking of the Equivalent Grant, and I was using that as an argument for the Development Grant as it was given last year. I adhere to that view. I think it most important that when some equivalent grant is given to Ireland it should be an open statement of fact, that it should not depend upon whether Ireland spent it that year or not, and that, even if Ireland is fairly dealt with, you will never persuade Irishmen that they are fairly dealt with, or anybody else, unless your statement of account is one which is intelligible to the persons concerned.
The other and further argument for the Union is that the difficulties of Ireland are largely due to racial and religious dissensions. If that were not the case, I think the Chief Secretary of the day and those who work with him would not be exposed to quite as much 228 criticism as they are to-day. The hon. and learned Member's prophecy is this —that if Home Rule were granted, then all these difficulties of a financial character—all these difficulties due to deep-rooted dissension would disappear.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That is his prophecy. My prophecy is that it would have been very difficult, I think impossible, for Ireland to have carried out the financial provisions of the Land Act of last year. I do not believe that Ireland, or any other country of that size, could possibly borrow £100,000,000. More than that, I know, to my cost, that it is very difficult for the combined Exchequers of the two countries to do it. It is an immense operation. The money market is in a very poor state, and it requires the earnest efforts of all those who care for the Land Act to see that the finances of the measure go through, and go through to a successful issue. I have all along felt that the financial foundation of the Land Act was the most important part of it, and that any minor defect in the edifice reared upon that foundation could be corrected in due time. During this autumn I have given my constant attention to this problem, which is a problem, I think, that can be solved. I believe that the Act can be financed, but it can only be financed at a certain pace. The hon. and learned Member said that we had neglected, I will not say flouted, all Irish advice during the passing of the measure.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That if we had taken their advice some of the defects in the Act would have been removed. I do not remember the hon. and learned Member or his friends moving any Amendment to what I may call the bonus clause.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
We did move an Amendment to the bonus clause, but not, perhaps, to the particular part to 229 which the right hon. Gentleman is referring—that is, as to the tenant for life getting the bonus—because we received assurances which we thought were satisfactory.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. and learned Member, when he was dealing with this part of the subject, stated that unless the bonus were given to the tenant for life - purchase would not take place over a great part of Ireland. I think he is right, and therefore it cannot be urged that to amend that defect in the Act is a benefit conferred on the landlords. It is not so. You cannot divide the Act into benefits to the landlord and benefits to the tenants so far as purchase is concerned. Everything which facilitates purchase is a benefit alike to both classes and to the community at large. It will be ray duty to amend the Act in that respect. I pass no comment whatever upon any interpretations which have been passed, or which may be passed, upon the drafting of the Act. It is for the Judges of the land to interpret Acts of Parliament as they leave this House; but the author of the Bill, the Minister responsible for the Bill, alone stands condemned if any of the language has been so ambiguous as to admit of an interpretation other than the declared intention of Parliament.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
In this case the intention of Parliament was not only declared in debate; it was confirmed by division; and I am honourably bound to see that the intention of Parliament is carried out. I cannot anticipate that there will be much difficulty in doing that, because my personal honour is bound up with the matter. But I only know of one legal decision which does cast doubt on the phraseology of the Act. The hon. and learned Member—and here I come into vehement collision with him—said that the law officers had made this or that decision. The communications made by the law officers to a Minister are as privileged as any communication made by a lawyer to his client in private life. I therefore decline absolutely to say what my legal advisers have said or 230 have not said. I am responsible for the drafting of the Act, and if in any particular it is discovered that it does not carry out the declared intentions of Parliament, why, then, in those particulars it must be amended.
But when I say I will bring in an amending Act I do not mean to say I will re-open the land question. I mean I will bring in a formal and explanatory Act making all clear which is in doubt and carrying out all the intentions that were expressed in this House and acquiesced in by all Parties. I take a more sanguine view of the Land Act than the hon. and learned Member seemed to take this afternoon. I am where he was when he spoke at Newcastle, County Down, on 26th September. I need not quote his words, but they were to the effect that in the Land Act as passed there were grounds for confidently anticipating the ultimate solution of the land question.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
And I know of nothing which has occurred to cast doubt upon that belief. I regret very much that one of the signatories to the Land Conference Report has retired from this House. From the moment that he put his name to that document no man supported more loyally, both in spirit and in letter, the compromise which was arrived at between the representatives of the landlords and the representatives of the tenants, and therefore I am sorry that he is no longer in this House in order to take part in any further debate which may, in this year or in future years, arise upon the land question.
The policy which I suggest on the land question is by administrative effort to make the best of the Act which has been passed, and not, at the first symptom of any difficulty, to throw up our hands in despair and say that we must go in for another land session. There is no ground for that of any kind or sort, either as to the quantity of sales that is going on under the Act or as to the adequacy of the Act to deal with certain special problems. The Act, after all, only came into operation on 1st November. 231 We had to get a house to put the Estate Commissioners in, we had to bring in a number of draft regulations——
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member interrupts me, but I can assure him that to initiate the administration of a measure of that size is no joke, and the amount of transactions in which agreements have been arrived at is, to my mind, satisfactory from an Irish point of view. Agreements have been lodged in respect of 135 estates, embracing 3,070 holdings, and involving—that is to say, they will involve—the advance of £1,500,000. To arrive at an agreement involving £1,500,000 in three months warrants me in saying, I think, that the Land Act has fulfilled the expectations formed of it. The real difficulty is the financial difficulty, and the difficulties upon certain aspects of the land question will all settle themselves at the pace at which we can advance the financial progress of the Act. I said last year that it would not be possible to advance more than £5,000,000 a year in any one of the first three years, in the first place because the administrative labour is very great, and in the second place because it would be madness on the part of the Commissioners to attempt to raise money at a very rapid pace. Let me bring that home to hon. Members who sit for Irish constituencies. The losses due to the flotation of this loan will fall upon the Development Grant.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. and learned Member shakes his head. We have pledged the whole credit of the country, if need be, for the advance of £100,000,000, and accompanied that with a free gift of £12,000,000 towards the solution of the land question. It would have been competent for the Government to say, "We advise that, because Irishmen attach most importance to some solution of the land question, but you cannot have that and also an equivalent grant for the 232 money given to English primary education." Indeed, some hon. Members reproached me last year for accompanying the Land Act with the Development Grant of £185,000 a year. Naturally, speaking as the Minister for one Department, I should be glad if I had the purse of Fortunatus. But we must deal with the resources available in our hands; and I still hold that this House behaved in a liberal, as well as in a most wise, manner when it permitted me to pass that measure involving so large a loan on the credit of this country and so large a free gift in cash. And therefore the losses due to the flotation were imposed upon the Development Grant. That is a very serious matter. If the stock which is issued is issued at a considerable number of points below par, the loss upon the Development Grant to Ireland will be very heavy. I am not going to suggest any figure, but if the stock was floated at very much below par the loss would amount to many thousands of pounds, and it would be continuous. There would be a loss in the first year, and the next year there would be an additional loss, and so forth. So, if you try to borrow money in larger sums than those which I have indicated you will imperil the Irish Development Grant. I have myself felt during the autumn that instead of anticipating difficulties which have not arisen under the Land Act, as has been done in some cases, it would have been a good thing if all classes of Irishmen interested in the working of the Act had put their heads together to assist in bringing about the successful flotation of this loan. Hon. Members opposite have criticised the great Irish banks for holding so much money on deposit and paying small interest upon it, and, perhaps, investing it out of Ireland. Now there is an opportunity for the Irish banks and other persons endowed with wealth in Ireland to show that they realise how important it is to Ireland as a whole that this loan should be brought out at a satisfactory figure. I would not have mentioned that subject in this House had I not observed an undue lack of attention to that aspect of the land problem. Finance is fundamental to the successful solution of the land 233 question in Ireland; and I believe that the Development Grant, supplying as it does a buffer State upon which this loss, if there be a loss, will fall, does enable us to go on even at a period when it is very difficult to borrow money in the City of London except at injurious rates. It behoves all who care for Ireland, and are in a position to do so, to assist in the flotation of the stock for this great national object; and it also behoves Irishmen to consider that you cannot go ahead at an extreme pace without casting an enormous burden upon the whole community in Ireland, because the Development Grant exists, not for the agricultural community alone, but for the urban community as well. It would not be fair, in my judgment, for those who belong to the agricultural community to insist on going ahead when the loss falls upon the whole nation. I do not mean to say there should be undue delay; but to wait a year, or two years, is not much to ask of those who in respect of legislation have been a favoured class. I have been addressing the House at some length, but the hon. and learned Member for Waterford opened up a wide field of controversy. The hon. and learned Gentleman explicitly asked me to state what my position was in regard to the question of University education in Ireland.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Well, Sir, my position is precisely the position occupied by the present Prime Minister in 1890.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said of course he should be interested in knowing what the personal position of the right hon. Gentleman was, but the question he asked was—What was the position of the Government?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The Government do not propose to bring in any measure dealing with the University question now, and I think the Government are right. This question, though in my opinion it is an education question, is not so regarded by a great number of people in Ireland and in England and 234 Scotland. To them it partakes also of a religious question. And the Government hold, and I hold most strongly, that you have no right to put the pressure of Party discipline and Party comradeship upon any single man in respect of a question of that character. [OPPOSITION cries of "The Education Act."] I have yet to learn that any supporter of the Government was wounded in his conscience by the Education Act. This is an educational question in my judgment. The opportunities for higher education in Ireland are very small by comparison with Great Britain, and relatively they are becoming smaller, because in this country we have long since come to the conclusion that what we mean by higher education is a teaching body, and not an examining body, and there has been a multiplication of teaching bodies in Great Britain. London University was an examining body and has become a teaching body. Victoria University is a teaching body, and Birmingham University has been founded and is also a teaching body. I speak for myself, because I want to have no misunderstanding on this matter with any of my hon. friends. I wish them to know what my opinions are. I do not think it would be right for me to disguise them, and I speak for myself, and myself alone. In the first place, the Government will not bring in a measure dealing with this question. In the second place, I hold that this is a question which ought to be settled, and I hold that opinion in common with many very distinguished statesmen who have sat on the Conservative side of the House during many years. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: A pious opinion.] Now, if that be my position, is it one which I ought not to occupy? I do not think that my position is open to any criticism from hon. Members opposite. I have never given an undertaking on behalf of the Government in connection with this question. I have never given an undertaking in public or in private. I have to all and sundry, when they have approached me on the subject, given my views in the past, and I am ready to do so in the future. My views are that Ireland needs greater opportunities for higher education, but that they cannot be obtained until there is a substantial agreement 235 between all parties interested in Ireland. The approach towards substantial agreement in the past year has, I think, been very great and marked, and it will end, in my judgment, in all sections of feeling and belief in Ireland coming to a solution that will be satisfactory to all. I know that many do not share that view. Almost every person who speaks of the University question in England, and some who speak of it in Ireland, believe that there is a desire on the part of many people in Ireland to found a Roman Catholic University. That is not so. Then they say "That is a quibble; a college is the same thing." They believe, unless I misjudge them, that this college would be of a denominational character, with denominational tests. That is not so. Nobody proposes that there should be tests. I will not go at greater length into the matter this evening. I wish my hon. friends to understand that I am personally in favour of extending the opportunities for higher education in Ireland; but I do not think the Government ought to take the question up as a Government, and I do not believe the question can be solved, except on the basis of a general agreement in Ireland. I do believe that Irish opinion is approaching towards general agreement; and, for my part, I will never support any proposal to impose tests at this time of day.
I cannot proceed at greater length in the reply which I could give to many of the detailed criticisms which the hon. and learned Member has seen fit to pass. My duty, as I understood it, was to remove any misunderstandings. That I have done. Whether the position of the Government is acceptable to hon. Members or not I do not know. At any rate it is intelligible. In our opinion, we ought to give to Ireland fully that which they are entitled to as our political equals in the United Kingdom, and that Ireland should have an equal claim upon the time of Parliament and an equal claim upon the resources of the common Exchequer. It should be our duty to seek to make harmony possible and easy. The motto Divide et impera has no application to the relations between Great Britain and Ireland. We do not seek to divide Ireland in order to impose a yoke upon her. 236 Our duty as Unionists is to remove stumbling-blocks from the path of peacemakers in Ireland, and to increase by every means in our power the growth of a spirit of reconciliation in that country. We believe that when Ireland is harmonious and strong Ireland will be contented. We believe that when Ireland is contented she will take her place at our council board and play her part throughout the Empire. I am entitled to state my view as clearly and fully as the hon. and learned Member has stated his view. That is the belief that we may still work with; that is the belief in which I have asked my hon. friends in the past to work with me, and I believe they will consider impartially any proposals which may be made from time to time for achieving these objects in Ireland. There is much more to be done in Ireland. The Irish question is not yet settled. It will not be settled in a year, in a decade, or in fifty years. You are dealing with a poor, impoverished agricultural country, which has suffered much in the past and which demands your patient labour if it is to be put in the possession of the full opportunities of national life. Much can be done in Ireland by small means—means which, I fear, the hon. and learned Member would deride. Let me give an example. I should not be justified, after the liberal manner in which this House last year acted towards Ireland, in coming again to ask this session, or next session, that a further sum from the common fund should be voted for purely Irish purposes. But even if that be not done, it is possible to effect very many objects in Ireland. I do not agree with the criticism the hon. and learned Member passed on the Irish Government, but I know it is a costly Government, and I believe that savings can be effected in that Government; and I believe that because it has been done. Last year, when this House undertook to give a free gift of £12,000,000 for purely Irish purposes, I stated that it would be possible to institute savings which in five years would amount to £250,000. All the steps have been taken to produce that result, and it will be produced. It will go on accumulating, and in ten or twelve years that saving will amount to £270,000 a year; and more can be effected. It is right and 237 proper that such additional savings, and other savings of a similar character on the cost of Irish Governments should be used to meet the peculiar needs of an impoverished agricultural country, and that they should be looked upon, as the Irish Church surplus fund was looked upon, as Irish money which, within bounds, should be applied to purely Irish purposes. There is nothing novel in that allocation of Irish money to Irish purposes.
§ MR.WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.,)
Then where does the free gift come in if it is made up by savings?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to repudiate the bargain come to between the two sides of the House last year. Last year we agreed to give £12,000,000, and I promised the House that there would be a saving of £250,000. That, I hold, should be devoted to Irish purposes.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I understand the hon. Member does not wish to repudiate the agreement arrived at last year.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
My point is that the right hon. Gentleman says there is a free gift of £12,000,000, whereas this gift is to be made up by savings effected in the administration. I therefore say that it cannot be called a free gift.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Gentleman does not repudiate what I stated. It is a distinction as to phraseology. I am not pretending that in this matter we have been thriftless or generous in any lax sense of the term. On the contrary, I say that we have used our best efforts to deal fairly and justly with Ireland in the matter of financial relations and arrangements, and I hold we shall continue to do so, but I would point out that that cannot be done when it would be improper for me to come to this House and ask for further sums of money. I cannot suppose that the reply which I have made will be satisfactory to the hon. and learned Member. He is the 238 head of an independent Party, and is free to act without any concern for the political welfare of the present Government, and the present Government is quite free to act in what it considers the best manner for the benefit of Ireland, of the United Kingdom, and the Empire as a whole. For my part, I shall ask my hon. friends to continue to tread the path which has been followed by our leader, the present Prime Minister, who, while at all times maintaining his and our views of the proper constitution of the two countries, has been ready, according to our lights, and within the limits which we think necessary for the safety of the Empire, as I think we always shall be, to assist the development of a full national life in Ireland along every path of industrial, intellectual, and artistic progress.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said one did not know which to admire most—the literary charm of the right hon. Gentleman's speech or the skilful manner in which he evaded the real point of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by discussing the question of an independent Parliament and other topics which did come into the speech of the hon. and learned Member, whose views they all knew on the point. The hon. and learned Member's point was that certain pledges had been given by the Prime Minister and others which had not been carried out. It was all very well to talk of an independent Parliament, but, while he did not agree with that proposition, that did not prevent him saying that the remarks made about education and other things in connection with the administration of Ireland was a most damaging attack on the position of the right hon. Gentleman. What was the right hon. Gentleman's position? He went on the Unionist principle that the government of Ireland should be in accordance with Irish ideas. He had a good deal of sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman himself. The University question was not the only one in which the right hon. Gentleman's position was differentiated from that of some of his colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman was adding another to the long list of conspicuous witnesses to the failure of 239 that policy. The hon. and learned Member, in regard to University education, referred to promises made long ago, which promises remained unfulfilled. The right hon. Gentleman, when pressed on this point, stated his own opinion; but they could not forget that that was the stock answer they received from Ministers. He could not forget that the Prime Minister, at Manchester in 1899, declared practically that, unless this question of University education was settled, Unionism was a failure. Years had passed, and now they had the stock answer—that the Government could not carry out what some of its members thought was an act of justice to Ireland. He could not forget, further, that in 1899 there was a proposal from the Opposition side of the House that the question should be made a non-Party one, but the Government neglected to take any steps. He did not believe, if the Government declared what their policy was, and showed that it was not a policy in the interests of any particular religion, they would find that opposition which they anticipated. But they had never put forward any scheme. They had never taken their life in their hand and invited the opinion of the House on any scheme. How could they suppose that any progress was likely to be made until they took up the whole question in a way in which it could be dealt with.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of an advance in this matter. He did not agree with him. In 1898 exactly this point of advance had been reached. There was a scheme at that time which amounted very much to what Lord Dunraven was now proposing, only, he thought, it was in the even better form of a scheme for two Universities. That scheme had been greatly canvassed in Ireland, and he had the best reason for knowing that there was substantial agreement on it. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman how that scheme had been facilitated. In the summer of 1897 the Irish Bishops met at Maynooth and passed four resolutions. The first of these was that they would accept an open University. In these resolutions the Irish Bishops accepted the principle of an open University, of a majority of laymen being on the governing body of the institution, and a provision that no 240 state funds should go to the promotion if religious education, or anything leading up to it. The matter went further, of he mistook not. They were willing to trust the Government to deal fairly with the governing body, and put proper representatives of education on it. They offered no objection to a scheme of two open Universities—one in Dublin, and the other in Belfast—one in which there should be, in point of fact, something of a Catholic atmosphere, and the other in which the atmosphere should be Presbyterian. That scheme was much discussed in Ireland; it was before the people there; it was known here, and there was every disposition to treat it as a a non-Party question. Notwithstanding that, however, no progress had been made with the question from that time to this. He was not blaming the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman was again only another witness in that long train of people who had succeeded to a post of the highest responsibility, and who, moving in the direction of trying to devise some means of governing the people of Ireland according to their own notions, found themselves hampered in their efforts to do so. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was strongly in favour of reform of the higher education in Ireland. That might be. Every Chief Secretary and every responsible Minister in Ireland had felt it was the greatest scandal that that country had not that development of higher education in a fashion suited to the genius of her people.
To-day they had a condition of things in which there were two Universities—one a University admirable in its type, and with splendid historical traditions associated with it. But the University of Dublin, which catered for a class, could not do what was necessary for the whole Irish people. It could not do it in the fashion which the popular Scottish Universities did for the population of Scotland, or in the way some of the new Universities in England were doing for the middle and the lower middle classes of England. Then there was the Royal Irish University; but that was an examining body and nothing more; it had no connection with any college. Ireland 241 was far behind both Scotland and England, and yet he ventured to say that it needed University education possibly more than either of these two countries. He remembered talking with a distinguished Irishman, a Unionist, holding a high position, who said that, for conscience sake, clever young men in Ireland, sons of middle-class parents, who would in the ordinary course go to a University, refrained from going where their creed forbade them. The result was that their sphere of ambition was narrowed, they were shut out from the higher professions, and had to go into journalism or some such career. He knew nothing more deplorable than the way in which the easy passage from class to class, and the association of people of different opinions in a common basis of culture, which the University gave, was denied the youth of Ireland, and that healing influence taken away from them. He knew it was said on both sides of the House that they did not want any University teaching which was dominated by denominationalism, or by a particular Church. Supposing that to be so, they were leaving three-fourths of the people of Ireland uneducated. Why not concede religious liberty to the people of Ireland? Why make them feel that they must make this sacrifice, or be disloyal to their creed? If the Government chose to be in earnest on this matter, they could deal with this question without violating a single canon laid down by the strongest of their supporters. The hierarchy would not oppose an open University; at any rate they were prepared to acquiesce in it; the Presbyterians of Belfast were ready to acquiesce in it likewise, and it seemed to him a grave responsibility that the Government should come once again with the oft-repeated tale, to which they had listened so frequently in the past, that they could not, as a Government, bring in a measure to deal with this question. Surely it was open to them, holding the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, to let the House of Commons decide on this question by a majority. Let the time be given for the House to express its views freely and fully, and let no Party considerations stand in the way of that expression of opinion. Surely the time 242 had come for the Government to take the course shadowed forth in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. If they did not, this question was doomed to sterility. He did not wonder at the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, or at his attitude of disgust with the Government. He did not wonder at the hon. and learned Member insisting on the introduction of a Bill. He believed if the Government would find the time, make this question an open one, accept loyally the decision of the House of Commons and bring in legislation to give effect to it, the hon. and learned Member for Waterford would probably be prepared to abate somewhat his hard conditions and assist in carrying it through.
All those things made it extremely difficult to take a progressive course in regard to Ireland. In the last few years there had been a change in the situation of that country. They had witnessed an uprising of a new element in the political situation. What with the deliberations which had taken place in regard to the Irish land question, and now on the education question, the situation in Ireland seemed to him to have very materially altered on all hands. The prejudices of people about Irish self-government, and about the devolution of large powers to the people of Ireland for managing their own affairs were vanishing away. He should like to see that continued and advanced by dealing on some non-Party basis with this question of education. He believed it could be done. What was required was to establish a relation of confidence between the responsible leaders in Ireland, and the responsible leaders over here, and that might be done by consultation. He rejoiced to think that there were other signs of that better state of things, but he was disappointed when an opportunity came in which these hopes might be to some extent realised, that the Government should fall back into the old hopeless position. He sympathised with the right hon. Gentleman, who was wider-minded than some of his colleagues; but he could not think it was worthy of him to allow this opportunity to slip through his fingers. Better to risk the life of the Government than to 243 leave this question in its present position. It was not by trying to save their life in this case that they could save it. It was by taking risks that they could do more for those whom they represented and for the cause of Irish education. He knew of no course which would be more calculated to rouse that enthusiasm which he feared was waning in the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, than that he should frankly come forward with a great scheme like that which Lord Dunraven had foreshadowed of two colleges in one University, or two open Universities for Ireland, —which he believed would be the best— and commend it to the judgment of the House of Commons, leaving it to the House to deal with it. If that were done he was convinced that the House would assert its true instincts, would recognise the justice of the case of Ireland, and would, by a large majority, pronounce for the settlement of this question, which would redeem them from what he called more than a scandal.
§ MR. BLAKE (Longford, N.)
said that the right hon. Gentleman limited his observations almost entirely to one very striking and most cogent and important illustration, but still only one of the many illustrations given by the hon. Member for Waterford as a justification to the continuous demand of the Irish people for self-government. After the declaration of the Chief Secretary, he differed a little from the views of the right hon. Gentleman as to the good effects which had been produced by the system of Parliamentary manipulation such as he had proposed, in reference to the University question. There was a time when there was a very encouraging debate on non-Party lines on that question, as far as men of light and leading in this House were concerned, but it did not appear to him that, even on that auspicious occasion, those in whose hands the right hon. Gentleman had formally placed the settlement of this question, were in the slightest degree influenced by the arguments, assertions, and views put forward by the leading minds in this House. The right hon. Gentleman said that no advance had been made, but if no advance had been made, it was acknowledged that reasonable and satis- 244 factory views had been assented to on the part of the hierarchy. The Chief Secretary had not denied the statement that no proposal had been made by any responsible Minister, even to the Cabinet of the open mind, to consider the settlement of the Irish University question. That was a statement of a colleague of the right hon. Gentlemen and was quoted and not denied. It was inaction on the part of the right hon. Gentleman not to have made such a proposal, because no one was better qualified to judge the strength of opinion in the quarter to which he had referred the ultimate arbitrament and decision of the question. The Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman were throughout responsible. The great majority of the Irish people were acquiescent. That, therefore, was not the quarter to which the question was referred. It was the Londonderry quarter, whose gracious views on liberty, on the extinguishment of religious prejudice, and on the effacement of old notions of religious ascendancy were to prevail.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the high principles which ought to obtain in the settlement of a question of a religious nature, because he said this question partly partakes of a religious nature; all Party discipline, all ties of comradeship were to be set on one side. The Irish Members, however, now understood the situation; they understood that the hopes, which had not been for the first time excited by negotiations, went a considerable length towards ideas of good feeling and benevolence, and it was hoped would produce corresponding feelings on the part of those to whom they were addressed; the result was that the Irish people were again fooled; the had learned once again the lesson which he thought had been adequately taught by the action of the Prime Minister himself, that after all it was a very doubtful advantage, in the present system of political Parliamentary and Party government, to suggest the existence of open questions and non-Party views on matters of that kind. The Prime Minister, he had no doubt, used all the influence he could. He spoke in this House openly and fully his individual opinion. There was hardly anything he could not do with his followers, but he could not 245 settle the Irish University question. He felt he could not, he found he could not, and he acknowledged he could not. Were they therefore any further forward because the most powerful political personage in the country had expressed his view in favour of the settlement of this question? Were they any better off because the Chief Secretary, speaking for himself alone, had expressed his sympathy while acknowledging his impotence? Could anyone doubt that within one year this question would be settled if the Irish people had the power of settling it? The right hon. Gentleman had made ample confession of the wrong which was being done to the country, but if he refused the Irish people the power of settling their own affairs, he was responsible for the wrong done by this question remaining unsettled because of a prejudice on the part of the people of this country, or the still keener prejudice of the allies of the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of equal political rights and of equal claims on the time of Parliament. He himself was Irish and had equal claims to justice. Had the situation which now existed in Ireland ever happened in England, at any rate in modern times? General election after general election, notwithstanding alternations of hope and fear, and notwithstanding the difficulties which accumulate around a Party which went on under disappointment and trouble and failure, notwithstanding the allurements of honourable office and emoluments which after all did much towards the devotion of a political Party in this country, the Irish people returned by four to one representatives of one set of political views and aims. Was it conceivable that a question which the Prime Minister acknowledged was a matter of justice, which the Minister mainly responsible for the Government of Ireland regarded as one of justice and capable of settlement, should remain unsettled, although four to one of the population and four to one of the representatives of the country had been calling and calling and calling in vain for a settlement? Is it not a matter for wonder that Ireland, which, centuries and centuries ago, spread the light of learning throughout Europe, and which was now, 246 under very difficult circumstances, still devoted to learning, should be deprived of the benefits of University education? He pointed with pride and satisfaction, as a testimony to the natural capacity of the Irish nation, to the fact that notwithstanding the obstructions which were placed in their way the Irish Members were not afraid or ashamed to enter into conflict in the high field of Parliament and to hold their own in debate against the minority representations from their own country, which was possessed of fortune, had enjoyed University education and was fostered and nurtured in Parliamentary and political ambitions by gifts of honour and place which had been given to an extent not given to any other twenty-one Members of any section of Parliament. The national representation could not only hold their own against that section but also against the rest of the House. He could not understand how any political assembly anxious for the advancement and welfare of all parts of the Kingdom could hesitate about this matter. He could not understand, if the House of Commons believed in the advantages of highly trained intellects, why it should not settle this question. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to a University on the Scottish form; all they wanted in Ireland was a University with the means of doing the work of a University, with a satisfactory endowment and one not to be used as the funds of Trinity College and some of the older Universities were now being used. They wanted money and that was the reason why it was no use in talking about open questions and proposals not made directly by the Government of the day.
The University question was the most cogent evidence of the failure of the Government to do what was best for Ireland. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had opened the question from the most fundamental point of view. He had opened it as a question of right and justice for the sentiment of the country, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary acknowledged that he knew that the hon. and learned Gentlemen had brought forward the question nearest his heart. Yes, but not nearest his heart alone; nearest 247 the hearts of all his colleagues who surrounded him, and the hearts of all those who lived in the country from which the Irish Members came—some of them twenty or thirty years ago — to call for a solution of this problem, nearest to the hearts of those far more numerous and wealthy scions of the Irish race who had been driven, mainly in consequence of the action of the Government, from Irish soil; nearest to the hearts of those millions of Irish who lived in this island, and who told the Government recently what their opinion was; nearest to the hearts of the many abroad in countries which owed allegiance to this Empire, where they had equal political rights, and where they were able to participate in and take their fair share of the control of the destinies of the country which they called their own; yet nearest to their hearts they felt as the sons of Ireland did; nearest to their hearts remained the Irish question, a sentiment not unreasonable and not to be condemned by right feeling men as hostile. In those who had been forced to leave the land of their birth and their homes and who had by a natural process, obtained their political freedom, sentiments of hostility had been largely mitigated, but there remained always a feeling for Irish freedom. That feeling existed in the mighty English-speaking Republic in respect to which it was the greatest desire of this country to obtain permanent political relations of good will and friendship, based on community of tongue and association and community of aspirations in respect to the affairs of the world. The Irish of that country were, and would continue to be, a barrier in the way of this country obtaining its wish until justice was done to Ireland. He had known nothing more remarkable than the effect for good, among the Irish of the United States, of the proposals of Mr. Gladstone for Home Rule.
The right hon. Gentleman had said this question could not be treated as an isolated question, that they could not deal with questions relating to Ireland, Scotland and England separately. The right hon. gentleman called them two metropolitan islands! Two! Let not the right hon. Gentleman mock the Irish Members by calling Ireland a metro- 248 politan island. There was only one metropolis, and that ruled Ireland as well as itself. He accepted the suggestion that in this great question of policy they were entitled to look at the whole situation, and were fully entitled to consider in a question of policy relating to the Empire its relations to the rest of the world. If they wanted to strengthen the Empire as a whole in the face of the world, it was by contentment to Ireland given by the means which had been proved by the Government to give contentment to different places under more difficult conditions that the Empire should be strengthened. The great weakness of this country was its treatment of Ireland, and yet they were told that the weakness must continue for ever. The difficulties spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to an Irish University were not limited to sentiment about the University. He had spoken of racial and religious questions. As to the racial question, enough had been said. What was the English race? How many strains of blood went to make this composite nation? As to the religious question, in which, however, little Christianity and less charity was to be found, that difficulty had been tersely expressed by the phrase that Home Rule meant Rome Rule. How did it come about first of all that the priest should occupy such a high place with reference to the views of the people of Ireland? That question had already been answered. The educated part of the community, the landlords, had disassociated themselves from the people long ago. The mass of the people, from whom might have been drawn picked men who, with a University education, would have been able to cope with the educated class, had been left uneducated and kept down, they had naturally and reasonably turned towards the Irish priests, and it was only natural that the priests should assume a position of greater prominence in the affairs of their flock than otherwise might have been the case. But what was it that brought forward the Irish priest in political conflicts and made him feel that it was his duty to take that position? It was that this country had all the religious and natural instincts of the people against it. This country had 249 established a union of politics and religion, and had rendered it not only natural and possible but probable that the priest should take an active part in leading those who had been left with no other leaders in the sense of educated men.
The granting of Home Rule would dissolve the relation between the religious faith of one section of the community, and the political condition of the community altogether. Once the dominant pressure of this great national question was ended, there would arise in Ireland the natural and healthful play of difference amongst parties. They would not be parties, Protestant and Catholic; the local questions which came up would be questions into which the religious element would not enter. The parish priest would remain a citizen, influential by reason of his character and the confidence reposed in him, but he would no longer lead the people as one man. His flock would necessarily be divided, and it would be his duty to act according to a wholly altered state of things; the difference of opinion would render it prudent and proper that he should no longer take the prominent part in Irish politics of which complaint was often made. So far for Home Rule, meaning Rome Rule, in the sense of entailing the undue and unhealthy predominance of the priest, it was the one thing which, by a necessary process, would effect the change desired. How could the English people expect the Irish nation to rest contented with the condition in which Irish questions at present stood? How could they expect anything but discontent when Irish representatives in Parliament, in the proportion of four to one, were powerless to obtain relief, and when Irish questions were settled according to the views of the minority of Irish Members, many of whom were always placemen, and almost all expectant placemen? Let Englishmen put themselves in the place of Irishmen. How would they feel if England were as much smaller as she is larger than Ireland, and if her representatives, in the proportion of four to one, were powerless in the common Parliament, and her destinies systematically arranged by the minority? Irishmen would be less than 250 men if they did not insist upon their right to Home Rule. Of course there were questions of difficulty. There was no question at all that any constitutional reform not accomplished by force was a reform granted by Parliament, that any Parliament obtained by Ireland must be a statutory Parliament, and that what Parliament had done Parliament had power to undo. Those propositions naturally and inevitably followed, and they were frankly acknowledged by all Irishmen. What they said was that they would have no mere formal freedom in the Parliament of Ireland, but substantial freedom to govern Ireland according to her own will. He knew how a subordinate Parliament granted by the British Parliament worked; he was aware of the degree of freedom and self-government which existed, although its acts might be disallowed and its charter annulled. Those were great reserve powers with which Irishmen did not propose to quarrel, which were to be used only for the purpose for which they were reserved, and which would leave to the Irish people that reality of self-government which, being a sensible people, was all they cared for.
They had not abated their demands; but would always choose their own time and method for bringing them forward. The Chief Secretary would be wise to wait a little before attempting to teach the Irish Party politics. They had their views as to when a Home Rule Motion should be put forward. There was no sort of wisdom in proposing every session such a Motion as a mere matter of course; it was for them to decide when and how they would challenge the opinion of the House, and probably they understood the game quite as well as the right hon. Gentleman. It was a very abnormal state of things which put the Irish Party and the Irish people at large, in such a relation to the Government of the day that they were about the last to learn what was going on in the concerns of the country. There were whispers in corridors, an occasional letter in the paper—a balon d'essai —signed by a noble Lord, suggestions here and suggestions there, but there was none of the sympathy between governors and governed which ought to exist—except so 251 Jar as concerned the minority who supported the Administration, who knew everything, and who dictated to the masses of the people, while the representatives of those masses were left to such methods as he had described for understanding the condition of affairs. The Irish people did not conceive the Grattan Parliament to be the failure which had been alleged. If the House considered the then condition of politics, the situation in which the rights of Roman Catholics and popular rights then were, what Grattan's Parliament did, and the progress it made, it would be admitted that Grattan's Parliament needed no defence against the attacks of the right hon. Gentleman. He agreed, however, that Grattan's Parliament was a very different thing from what would now be regarded as an ideal Parliament. As to the contention that Ireland received benefits from the Union, he believed that if she, being a poor country, were governed on a scale having regard to her poverty, if she were not drawn at the heels of the British Parliament, and governed on a scale having reference to so-called Imperial objects—of which many were disastrous failures and others doubtful experiments—her difficulties would not be as great as they at present were. Sweetness of feeling and tone would be compensation for any loss of money by England which was largely drawn out of Ireland, and even when sent over to Ireland very largely expended, not according to the need of the Irish people, but expended extravagantly and for purposes that had not received the assent of the people.
He did not propose at all to enter upon the subject of the Land Act. The proper time for that would be when the amending Bill was introduced. The Chief Secretary had told them that his Bill was going to be limited to the correction of somebody's blunders in draftsmanship, and that he would see that what Parliament intended should be carried out in the Act. He did not propose to open the door for further discussion. They would of course take their own course. Giving the right hon. Gentleman credit for good intentions in connection with the Act of ast year, with all his political sagacity llumined by the intimate knowledge if the circumstances and conditions of Irish life by the Irish Members, notwith- 252 standing the happy feeling that prevailed last session, and notwithstanding the utmost desire upon the Irish Benches to minimise causes of difference, yet they were compelled to bring forward many topics; the right hon. Gentleman laboured long and hard to meet their views, but notwithstanding the utmost desire to avoid subjects of contention, and a desire on their part to meet the right hon. Gentleman as faras they could, they were yet compelled last year to speak strongly against, and as far as they could prevent, the passage of certain parts of the Land Bill; this left them now not merely perfectly free but absolutely bound, after experience had demonstrated that these defects which they predicted had already arisen, to take the opportunity of stating them to this House, not merely vindicating their judgment—which was a poor matter— but endeavouring to obtain redress of those things which obstructed the Act. The Irish Members were bound to endeavour to cure the defects in the Act which, if they were allowed to remain, would make the operations of the Act slower, and would prevent its beneficial operation for the people of Ireland, and its safe operation for the people of this country. He rejoiced that they had raised at the opening of the session this inexorable attitude—an attitude which they were sent there to take, and as to which they would be false to their constituencies if they shrunk from maintaining—on the great national question which to their mind embodied and overwhelmed all other questions. All other questions were susceptible of being solved, if Home Rule be granted, by those whose interest it should be to solve them. This solution of the Home Rule question was the one that would relieve them of these questions. There was no alternative to the freedom of Home Rule which they demanded for Ireland.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR (Liverpool, E. Toxteth)
said that all the enthusiasm on the Unionist side of the House was so much concentrated in another quarter, namely, in the corner occupied by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, that there was scarcely any enthusiasm for the Government itself. It never occurred to him that the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire would 253 prescribe as a tonic for the Government an Irish Roman Catholic University Bill. That might improve the position of the Government in Ireland, but in various parts of England it would be received with the greatest disfavour, and so far from improving their position and avoiding a catastrophe, he could not conceive anything more likely to precipitate divisions in a Party, a ready divided, than what had been suggested across the floor of the House by the right hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire. The question of Home Rule which at the moment occupied their minds was one which possibly to-day needed no definition, nor was it necessary for hon. Members on the Government side of the House to define their position, which remained as it was when the quest on was first raised. Perhaps in the present state of Parties and the present divided state of public opinion it might be desirable to re-affirm from all sides of the Unionist Party their determination to adhere to the Union as one of the main factors o Unionist policy. He readily understood the reasons which led the Chief Secretary to define, as he had done with admirable lucidity, his own position on the question. Even the hon. and learned Member for Waterford admitted that if every Irish grievance was removed the demand for Home Rule would still remain in all its pristine vigour. This was not a very encouraging prospect for English politicians who believed that by gradually removing Irish grievances they were removing arguments for Home Rule. As he understood the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, if every Irish grievance and injustice were swept away to-morrow the demand of the Irish people for Home Rule would remain and they would still be confronted with this claim for independence. He thought on the Government side of the House they ought to re-affirm their determination, not from motives of bigotry or racial prejudice, but from the point of view of practical politics, that they would not go back one single inch upon the Union or the position they had taken up in regard to it.
On this question of a Roman Catholic University for Ireland he would like to say a word or two. He had listened carefully to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he must confess that he could not quite make out what was his position on this question. 254 He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government did not propose to bring in any measure dealing with University education in Ireland this session. But there was something in the words and also in the manner of the right hon. Gentleman which gave him the impression that if action were taken by a private Member on this subject that action would receive the benevolent neutrality, and possibly the benevolent interest, of His Majesty's Government. That seemed to him something of the same attitude that the Government had adopted on another question. The Government thought that on the fiscal question the country was not yet ripe for food taxation, and, therefore, while public opinion was gradually maturing, the Cabinet assumed the attitude of not initiating a policy. They left it to a private individual—certainly not an ordinary private individual, but one who stood high in the estimation of his countrymen—to educate the country to the point of legislation. In the same way it appeared to him that the Government were going to wait until the House was educated up to the point of sanctioning a scheme for a Roman Catholic University in Ireland. They were not going boldly to take the responsibility of initiating such legislation, but they were going to wait and affect a benevolent interest to the missionary efforts of private individuals.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR
was bound to say that suggestion never occurred to him. It might commend itself to the hon. Member.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR
said he was very much surprised to hear from the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that the Conservative Party was pledged to this policy. He did not think that the Conservative Party was pledged to the policy of a Roman Catholic University for Ireland. He turned up a speech of the present Prime Minister delivered 255 in 1900 when this question was last debated in the House. The right hon. Gentleman used some remarkable words on that occasion to the effect that this was an agreed upon open question between both Front Benches, and therefore he could not assume responsibility in the matter except for himself. If the Prime Minister three years ago could only treat this matter as an agreed upon open question between the two Front Benches certainly it was clear that he could not pledge his Party, and he could not see that those who had entered this House since the date when the right hon. Gentleman spoke, were in any way pledged to such a policy. For his part he should like to say definitely and distinctly that if the Prime Minister had pledged, as was assumed, the Conservative Party to any policy of establishing a Roman Catholic University for Ireland he emphatically repudiated any such pledge so far as he was concerned.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR
said he was free from responsibility in the matter, and he was perfectly entitled to make his position clear to the House. The previous speaker spoke of the proposed University for Ireland in a way which placed the proposal in a new light to him. If he understood the hon. Member rightly he spoke of it as a means of emancipating the people of Ireland from the leadership and guidance of the priests. He must confess that shed quite a flood of light on the proposal. It had been to him one of the standing mysteries of the Irish people that, while they were so determined to assert their freedom and their civil rights, they were so emphatic in maintaining and sheltering clerical authority in religious matters. It did seem to him a curious proposal that they should endeavour to relieve the masses of the people in Ireland from undue dependence on priestly influence by suggesting the setting up and endowment of what, so far as he knew at present, could be nothing else but a close religious corporation for the guidance of the great masses of the people. He said that, of course, subject to the details of any 256 scheme that might be put before them, but, pending its production by a private individual or the Government, he desired not to discuss this matter further. He felt bound to say that whether the Motion came before the House from a private individual or from the Government, those who in this House had fought for the principle of liberty in this country and in opposition to religious monopoly in all its forms were justified in scrutinising most closely any proposal to set up similar institutions even in a country where, he admitted, they were much more consonant with the spirit of the people. It was in that spirit that any such proposal would be jealously and carefully scrutinised by a very large body of Members on that side of the House, not merely by that small minority from Ireland to which allusion had been made, but by those who represented many English constituencies whose feelings on this matter were strongly and deeply moved.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said there were two matters in the speech of the Chief Secretary to which he wished to refer. The right hon. Gentleman opened by defending the Board of Works, and he had defended, as he had a perfect right to do, the appointment of his private secretary to the office of Commissioner of Works. Mr. Hanson was a very able man. No one who knew his work during the passing of the Land Bill would deny it, but he wished to point out that this Board had for a long time been the dumping ground of private secretaries. He said advisedly that the monuments of incapacity of that Board were strewn all over the country. There was no Board that had done worse work in Ireland, and that was saying a great deal. He did not care whether a man was English, Scotch, or Irish, if the work was properly done, but anyone who cared to compare the Local Government administration in England with that of Ireland would find a very great difference, and that not in favour of Ireland.
The next question he wished to refer to was that of the Land Act. He should have been glad to leave this to the occasion when the Amendment on the subject was proposed, but the Chief Secretary went at great length into the subject and that 257 led him to infer the probability that the Amendment would never be reached. He took it that the Chief Secretary had put his case on the Land Act before the House, and for all practical purposes the debate was at an end. [Cries of "No!"] That was his opinion, and he proposed to say what he had to say upon it now that he had the chance. Nobody had declared the Land Act to be a failure. Nobody could say anything of the kind. Before the Chief Secretary spoke tonight it was well known that more than £l';000,000 worth of Irish land had been sold, and agreements and arrangements were being made for at least £2.000,000 worth more. While he did not know any responsible person who had declared the Land Act to be a failure there were things that required to be said about it. He would not deal with Mr. Justice Ross's judgment here. It was a Imdlords' question in one sense. But if the landlord did not get the bonus there would be more to pay for the land. He did not complain of the decision. Lawyers in Ireland were agreed that the decision was justified by the wording of the Act, but they all agreed that a decision the other way would have been equally justified. Mr. Justice Ross had knocked the Land Act over for the present, and it did not surprise anybody who had followed the history of Land Acts in the past. There was a much more serious matter, and he trusted the Chief Secretary, if he was going to deal with the question, would see to it. What was one of the great objects of the Land Act? One of the great objects was to affect what was called the Western problem. He very much doubted if the Chief Secretary, with all his powers and all his eloquence, could have got the Bill through the House if it had not been that the House felt something was at last going to be done in earnest for the Western people. What did it come to? The Land Act was in a precarious position. If the landlords in the West of Ireland were able to sell their patches of land—those uneconomic holdings of four and five acres in extent—at a high price and retain the grazing lands because the bonus could not be paid on untenanted land—and that was the opinion prevailing—the position was one of the gravest danger. The main purpose of the Act would be 258 frustrated if these men were a lowed to sell their patches of land, which were no security for the British taxpayer, and to retain their grazing lands. The problem of the land in the West of Ireland was unsettled now.
There was another matter to which he wished to refer—the condition of the Act as regarded Ulster. Now, he had been of one opinion all through this controversy in regard to the Ulster landlords. When he seconded the Motion of the hon. Member for Waterford in February, 1900, he stated that the basis of the Ulster position for compulsion was the belief universally felt in Ulster that the landlords there would not sell. They got their rents regularly; they were paid as regularly as the interest on Consols; they brought more than Consols or any other gilt-edged security, and why should they sell? At the Land Conference they had the assurance that if the demand for compulsion was given up the landlords would be willing to sell, provided they secured then-second term net income. Compulsion was therefore waived. And what happened in Ulster? He spoke from actual knowledge, because careful records had been kept, and reports were received from every estate, where the landlords had offered to sell or where the tenants were willing to purchase. Twenty-two of the largest landlords had refused to sell on any terms, headed by the Marquess of Downshire—a landlord with some 4.000 or 5,000 tenants. And mark, Lord Downshire was not a landlord with an evil character, but a landlord the history of whose estate stretched back into last century as owned by the best landlord Ulster ever had. Let the House consider the position of these tenants. They were not men who refused to pay their rents. They were not men who had caused disorder and the necessity for the police. ["Hear, hear" from the IRISH Benches.] Precisely, he had been told that if they had they would have been better off. That was what his friends opposite told him. He maintained that these men had been admirable citizens of this country, and loyal in every sense of the word. And now they were forced to look on whilst men in the South and West of Ireland, who had avowedly given trouble, were getting their land by State aid. and would be occupying 259 owners with enormous State advantages, while they were grinding out judicial rents to the landlords who would not comply with the wish of Parliament that the partnership should end. There was a second class of landlords who came forward with the plea:—"I do not want to sell my land; my family has been here for generations, for centuries. The relations between the tenants and myself have been of the best character. I do not want to sell, but in order to comply with the evident wish of Parliament I will do so upon terms." And then, curiously alive to the wish of Parliament, they put their land up roughly at twenty-seven and a quarter years purchase of the rent with the bonus added! Now, under the Ashbourne Acts and the Act of 1891 the average price of land in Ulster was eighteen years purchase, and these gentlemen would sell to their tenants at thirty years purchase, including the bonus. That was the second class of landlords they had to face in Ulster. What had been done? Two considerable estates had been sold. One was the estate of Mr. Archdale in North Fermanagh, who was for the tenants all through. His agent proposed terms which were unacceptable to the tenants, but when Mr. Archdale heard of it he stepped in and sold at reasonable terms. The other estate which had been sold was that of Mr. Close in County Armagh. There were a handful of small properties with fifteen or twenty tenants which had also been sold. There could be no doubt that only a very few sales had taken place, and what was worse than that, the negotiations had, to a large extent, been broken off. Take his own constituency. What had been the usual reception the tenants had got? The largest owner in South Tyrone sent a letter to his tenants. He stated that he bought his land at a high price. If they were willing to pay a certain sum for it they could have it, if not he had nothing more to say to them. There were 600 tenants on that estate, and they were very likely to vote strongly Unionist at the next election. What was likely to happen if this went on in Ulster was that the Ulster Members would be found sitting on the Opposition side, and not on the Ministerial Benches.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Oh no, I wont be there (on the Opposition Benches); You are going over. I am going to stay where I am; I am going to stay where I am whatever happens. I have got a firm grip of my holding and I mean to keep it. What he wanted to point out was this: One of these landlords replied the other day to a perfectly respectful request from the tenantry on the estate, saying—So and so in one part of the country has got so much, so and so in another part has got so much. This part is more peaceable than either, and I ought to get more.Did that require any comment? A circular was put into his hand to-day issued by one of the largest land agents in Ireland and printed just as an Act of Parliament was printed—on the same kind of paper. Now what did that circular which was issued on four estates in Ulster say? It gave some elaborate calculations, which of course the farmer would not pay attention to because they had got their own. idea about the arithmetic of the question, but the land agent went on, and in italics pointed out that Mr. Chamberlain's scheme was coming on—[NATIONALIST cries of "Oh"]—that it would raise the price of agricultural produce, that they would be better off and would be able to pay him more. The whole thing was an elaborate conspiracy to boom the price of land, to get too much out of the tenants, and put a great burden upon their shoulders first and ultimately on the shoulders of the British taxpayers. He confessed he did not see what the right, hon. Gentleman was to do with the present situation in Ulster. All he could say was that it was a very grave and dangerous situation. These men, let him tell the Chief Secretary, were not easily roused, but when they were roused they knew what to do—and in Irish history they had done it before. The Ulster tenants who had fought for the Union, who had paid their rent, who had performed all the duties of citizenship, would not allow an Act of Parliament to be so perverted by men who cared nothing for the peace of the country but only for their own pockets. They 261 would not allow an Act of Parliament to be so perverted that it would bring advantages and blessings to the men of the South and West which would be denied to their comrades in the North of Ireland. That was the position in Ulster and a General Election would prove it. He did not see that the Chief Secretary could intervene in a matter like that at present. It would have to be done by Parliament—he supposed very much as he education question was settled—by independent Members bringing in Resolutions on Bills. That was the way the Government was acting. All sense of responsibility was done away with. But there was one remedy which was clear and these Ulster tenants had made up their minds. What was the principle underlying the Land Act of 1881? The principle was so far as rent was concerned that where the landlord and the tenant failed to agree as to the rent that rent was fixed by a Parliamentary tribunal. The Land Court decided what the rent was to be. To apply that principle was not an outrage against any law. If the landlord selling and the tenant buying could not agree, then let the Estate Commissioners fix the price subject to the condition the landlords accepted at the Land Conference, that they should be secured their second - term net income. That would be a perfectly straight proposal. Your Ulster landlord cared nothing for the peace of the country. The whole battle of the Union with the Ulster landlord had been a battle for rent. He told the House frankly that so long as these gentlemen took up that position, and had no respect for the wishes of Parliament, and went back upon the terms they agreed to at the Land Conference, the position would be serious. He had never yet advised any tenant to give his landlord less than would secure his second term net income. He told the House that if that state of things went on the Ulster tenants would force a settlement upon the lines adopted by Parliament as regarded rent, and they would be justified in doing so as honest citizens.
MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said they had heard a speech from the Irish Chief Secretary, and in that speech he said it was a principle of the Unionist 262 Government to endeavour to ascertain what Irish opinion was and then to endeavour to legislate on those opinions. Upon that principle he could not see why, when Irish public opinion was almost unanimous upon this great question, that legislation should not be introduced. In all other countries if a majority of a nation favoured a particular policy, that policy as a rule was adopted; but the fact that the Irish representatives by a large majority favoured any particular measure was enough to make the Unionist Government go against that measure. If Irishmen regarded a Bill in a certain light it was absolutely certain that the majority of the Unionist Party would go against it. It had been held that, whenever they were able to prove any grievance they only had to bring it before Parliament and it would be removed. Irish Nationalists, however, had always maintained that even if the British Parliament had the time it had not the will to deal with Irish legislation. Even if the British Parliament had the will to legislate for Ireland it had not the time. With regard to education, millions of pounds had been spent upon primary and secondary education in Ireland, and most of the money had been spent in bolstering up a system of education which the vast majority of the Irish people disapproved of, and which they would probably never give their adhesion to. He was bound to say, with regard to the question of Irish education, that he was forced to the conclusion that largely at the bottom of this University and education question, lay the question of bigotry. Those who studied the history of Ireland could arrive at no other conclusion. It would have been far easier in the past for the people of Ireland to have bowed the knee to the oppressor, but they had never been mere time-servers. The history of Ireland showed the rare devotion of her people to their old political and religious faith. If they had been time-servers, they would have bent the knee before the oppressor and accepted the position which was forced upon them by conquest. But the Irish people believed in a higher ideal; they were proud of the sufferings of their forefathers, who had proved their devotion to their country through centuries of persecution. He 263 thought this debate had furnished them with an additional reason for demanding the restoration of their Parliament in Ireland, without which they could never have peace and contentment in that country. The speech of the Chief Secretary was a very remarkable one, and it had furnished them with, another proof of the incompetence of this country in dealing with any Irish matter, no matter how thoroughly Irish opinion was made up on the subject. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol give distinct pledges with regard to the University question, and he had also heard the Prime Minister make explicit promises upon the same subject, but not a single one of those promises had been complied with. Did anyone imagine that that state of things could prevail in the Home Rule Parliament? When the Irish Parliament was throttled it had a great future before it, one of its principal Bills would have been directed towards the emancipation of the Irish people. If that Parliament had been allowed to exist they would not now have been discussing the University question, for religious education would have been settled upon a basis honourable to all classes, and useful to the Irish nation. The Irish Parliament, although Protestant, had it continued to exist, would have done more good for Ireland in ten years than this country has attempted to do since the Union was brought about between the two countries.
Whatever test they applied to Home Rule, it could not be denied that British rule in Ireland had been a dismal failure, for the people were now in a chronic state of poverty, and after a wet summer they were in absolute want. During the famine in the West of Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman was compelled to institute Government relief work, and that proved the awful poverty which existed in those districts, although the authorities endeavoured to deny it. In times of distress the men's wages in those districts were as low as 3s. per week, and the highest pay which any able-bodied man got on those relief works was 6s. a week without any food, and even for these miserable wages men in the West of Ireland were prepared to tramp long distances. In most civilised countries which were 264 properly governed the population increased, but in Ireland the population had largely decreased. Since the time of Queen Elizabeth there had not been a reign more disastrous to Ireland than the reign of the late Queen. In the decade 1842 to 1852 more than 4,000,000 people were evicted from homes built by themselves on farms reclaimed by themselves, and within the same period no less than 1,250,000 persons perished from starvation. Even now in his constituency people pointed to the places where the dead carts went round collecting the bodies of those who had died of starvation, and pointed to the vast graves into which, without coffins, they were shot. The remedy for the present state of things was to throw upon the people of Ireland the sense of responsibility and make them accountable for the government of the country. In the dominions of the Empire there were many self-governing colonics, and those colonies had made great progress. In the one case where Home Rule was refused, for some time no progress had been made. Prosperity had always followed the granting of Home Rule. As Mr. Gladstone had said, there were some who believed the Irish had been born with a double dose of original sin, and with such persons there was no arguing, but the Irish people believed they could rule their own country, and that success would attend their efforts. They had been told that it would disintegrate the Empire if Home Rule were granted to Ireland; that if our Parliament was added to those that existed in the Empire, the Empire would crumble to the ground. Such a suggestion was tampering with the intelligence of man. In 1885 he was invited to address a constituency in the Tory interest, and although he did not care for the task he went, and the reason that influenced him was that he was told that if the Unionist Party could be returned with a working majority the Unionist Party would not only grant Home Rule to Ireland, but give the Irish Parliament the right to protect its industries, not only against foreign, but also English imports. It was curious how this policy of Protection should have worked in the minds of the Irish people as it had done ever since 1885. He would ask the English people to get out 265 of their minds the idea that the Irish people could ever give up their attachment to their native Parliament, without which they could have no prosperity or success. If the Government would throw on the people of Ireland the responsibility for controlling their own affairs and preserving law and order in that country they would establish a condition of peace and contentment which none of the Coercion Acts had ever been able to do.
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
said he desired to say a few words, because he was unwilling that no Member on his side of the House should express an opinion on a subject which had so much engrossed the attention of the Liberal Party. He spoke, of course, for himself alone, but he wished to say that he held the same opinion that he held when Mr. Gladstone's proposal was made to the country. It was quite unnecessary to enter on an argument in favour of this policy of Home Rule or upon any question of machinery, or how such a policy was to be carried out. It was a question of principle. The policy was brought forward, not as a matter of plain expediency, but as a matter of sacred duty, and in that light it was regarded by the many hon. Gentlemen who supported Mr. Gladstone's views. He could quite understand that hon. Gentlemen might say they had changed their minds upon this subject. That was a perfectly honourable position to take up, though he did not think it was a wise one. It was also quite competent for hon. Gentlemen to say they thought it necessary to postpone the consideration of this policy; but such a position should be supported by an explicit statement of the reasons why it was taken up, and by an equally explicit statement of the alternative policy. He believed the present time was particularly propitious for entertaining this important question seeing that the House of Commons had been reduced to such a condition of congestion that its business could not be carried on effectively. The Estimates could not now be considered in the way all desired they should be considered, as there were only a limited number of days allowed, great questions of foreign and domestic policy were left 266 unconsidered or not fully considered, and the expenditure of the country did not receive the investigation it should. They all knew the conditions of government in Ireland, and it seemed to him that an opportunity of linking together the interests of Great Britain and Ireland had not been seized. He repeated that he had risen because he thought it desirable that some hon. Members on his side of the House, for themselves only, should express the strong feeling they now entertained, as strong as ever, of the urgent necessity of dealing with this important question.
§ * MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
. said he thought it was only proper that some statement should be made by the representatives of the orth of Ireland with regard to their attitude towards Home Rule. Home Rule, in their opinion, was not local self-government in the terms demonstrated there by several Members; but it was a question of Rome Rule, and it was on that ground that they offered a strenuous opposition. It struck him very forcibly that if they had in Ireland some better manifestation of the spirit of equality towards those who were in a minority, there might be a posibility of giving some considertion to the demands that had been made both by the Irish Members and by the Liberal Party. He remembered so recently as the 22nd or 24th of January that one man in the town of Drogheda was the victim of threatenings and abuse led by three or four Roman Catholic priests, and that in order to obtain the bare necessities of life he had to make application in Dublin. He might refer to persecutions in Limerick or to the persecution of Dr. Long, or to the aims and methods of the recently organised Catholic association which had for its object the boycotting of the Protestants out of their habitations. If Parliament gave such a Party self-government the people to whom he referred would be compelled to look for other places where they could have honest employment, live peaceable lives. and have some equality. He had spoken to many Members who were strongly convinced that Home Rule would be the salvation of Ireland. but if the efforts made for Home Rule in this House by the hon. 267 Members on the Nationalist Benches were turned in the direction of bringing peace and blessing to the people whom they represented, and to the clerical element of the south and west of Ireland it would have a great deal to do with the enlightenment of Members on the Government side of the House, as to their ability to control their own affairs. The Government had often made concessions to Ireland which in the opinion of some of them had been very one-sided. The proposal to establish a Roman Catholic University was one (no matter what Government brought it in) which would have the strenuous and uncompromising opposition of the Protestants of the north of Ireland. He felt there was a great deal to be said on both sides of the question, but if persons with rotestant convictions were to be literally forced to become members of the United Irish League in order to get the bare necessities of life, what would be the state of affairs if that organisation got the whole control of the affairs of the country? If there was to be no peace until Home Rule were granted they would have to put up with the turmoil and obstruction to which the House was accustomed, and they would appeal to the country to send to this House a majority of Members who were so opposed to Home Rule that business might be carried on notwithstanding the obstruction of Members representing the west and south of Ireland. He denied that this was a question of bigotry and intolerance. Hon. Members opposite had their opinion and they on the Government side of the House had their opinion, which was that they were better under the rule which they had at the present time than they would be if they had a Parliament at College Green, for the simple reason that the hon. Members opposite would always be in the majority, it would be a question of Roman Catholicism versus Protestantism, and anything in the interests of the Roman Catholic Church would have the acceptance of the hon. Members, while the minority would be subject to their verdict whether it were right or wrong. He absolutely repudiated the assertion that the Presbyterians of Belfast were in favour of a Roman Catholic University. Whatever might be the opinion of 268 individual members of the Government, he was glad to know that it was not their intention to bring in a Bill this session dealing with this controversial question, on which there was such difference of opinion in Ireland. He hoped that in future Irish Members would not consider him any worse in his bigotry then they were in theirs.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN (Kilkenny, N.)
said there appeared to be ignorance as to why the Government had not introduced an University Bill for Ireland. The real reason was to be found in the hon. Member for South Belfast; he being the representative of the policy which had rendered it impossible for the Government to grant educational justice to Ireland. The hon. Member was the chief orator of an institution known as the "Customs House steps" in Belfast, the arena of the lovely and beneficent charity he had so beautifully preached this afternoon, but so beneficent was his mission in Belfast that he had been expelled from the Orange Lodge for the intolerance he had displayed. He (the speaker) emphatically denied that there had ever been any intolerance to Protestants as alleged by the hon. Member,but would the House believe that for years the hon. Member himself had been engaged in endeavouring to make the lives of decent and respectable Catholics impossible in Belfast, and in preaching a policy not only of bigotry but of boycotting towards Catholics?
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN
The police records of the prosecution of his chief associate, a man on whose labour he now bases his reputation, show that his chief associate has been imprisoned for eighteen months for preaching the policy of boycotting and assassination of Catholics.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN
The hon. Member has preached at the Customs House steps that his hearers should not go into the houses of Catholic traders —particularly those of Catholic publicans, to whom they are the chief customers.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN
said the hon. Member knew his hearers would go into public-houses of some description, but he urged them not to go into those conducted by Catholics. He did not object to the hon. Member preaching on the Customs House steps in favour of his auditors not going to public-houses, but when he came to the House of Commons with words of peace on his lips while pursuing a policy of hatred against the Catholic minority in Belfast, the House had a right to understand what his position really was. He, however, had risen for the purpose, not of discussing the methods by which the hon. Member carried on his religious propaganda, but of pointing out that the hon. Member was the chief obstacle to the granting of a Catholic University to Ireland. The Chief Secretary had stated that he would leave the matter an open question. It was becoming the customary policy of the Government to leave every matter of transcendent importance an open question. The right hon. Gentleman was, he believed, in favour of educational justice being done; the Prime Minister had made clear pronouncements on the subject. Earl Cadogan had declared for a Catholic University, and other Members in and out of the Cabinet had spoken on the same side—but all these representative men conferred nothing. The position was controlled by Lord Londonderry, who was the agent of the intolerant section in Ireland as he was the agent of all the retrogressive forces in England.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.