§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Main Question [14th 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. Mount.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name, as follows—But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the present system of Government in Ireland is in opposition to the will of the Irish 623 people, and given them no voice in the management of their own affairs; that the system is consequently ineffective and extravagantly costly, does not enjoy the confidence of any section of the population, and is productive of universal discontent and unrest, and has proved to be incapable of satisfactorily promoting the material and intellectual progress of the people.My object in bringing forward this Amendment is to raise a discussion on the question of the government of Ireland, and to express the perfectly frank and unmistakable feeling of detestation of the present system which is well-nigh universal among all classes of the population of Ireland. My object is also once more to define the position and policy of the Irish Party upon this matter, and to make it plain to everyone—not only to the Government, but to the Opposition—that we stand where we have always stood, irrevocably committed to Home Rule and necessarily independent of any Government that does not make Home Rule a cardinal point in its programme. I think everybody will admit that we are entitled to press this point, and to make our position in this matter clear. We are being driven—some people think we are being rapidly driven—towards a general election, and many people also think that a general election will result in the return to power of those who have been identified in the past with the policy of self-government in Ireland, and who have for that reason received the support of the Irish Party. No one can deny that there is an unmistakable attempt to limit the decision at the next general election to one particular issue to the exclusion of all others, and I, therefore, consider it a duty we owe to Ireland and to ourselves, and, indeed, to our English friends also, to dispel any doubt that may exist anywhere as to the views, the policy, and the duty of the Irish Party upon this question. For us there is only one issue. We have been sent to this House to demand the freedom of our country. We are elected here an independent Party, and our mandate from our constituents is that we shall not enter into an alliance with any British Party which does not approve of and adopt the policy of the restoration to the people of Ireland of the management of their own affairs. From that attitude nothing can change us, and so it is not a matter of convenience or expedience, but it is a matter 624 of principle and of necessity. It is not, of course, my business to attempt to pry into the future, or to foretell what the future procedure or policy of British Parties may be, but I deem it common honesty—and I believe that British Parties will find that on this matter honesty is their best policy as well as ours—to tell them plainly that this is our unchangeable attitude, and it is that attitude they will have to reckon with.
We base our condemnation of the present system of rule in Ireland upon four grounds. We condemn the present system because it is not government in accordance with the will of the governed. On the contrary, it is government in direct opposition to the declared will of the overwhelming majority of the people. We condemn it because it is ruinously extravagant, and weighs down the nation with a burden of unjust taxation, and because, in addition to that, it is an inefficient government which neglects every industry and interest of the nation, and nacessarily leads to depopulation, ignorance, poverty, and discontent. Further, we object to this Government because it is distrusted and condemned by those who call themselves Unionists as well as by those who call themselves Home Rulers.
As to the first of these points, it is unnecessary for me to labour it. Amidst all the uncertainties and doubts surrounding all Irish questions, amidst all our contradictions and controversies, one fact has stood out perfectly plainly and beyond dispute for the past thirty years or more, and that is that the majority of the representatives of the Irish people returned to this House have been pledged to overturn the present system of government. Since the extension of the franchise in 1885 that majority of the Irish Members has never fallen below eighty-one out of 103. In the present Government of Ireland public opinion in Ireland is a negligible quantity. The overwhelming majority of her representatives have absolutely no control whatever over her domestic affairs, and no Irishman and no man, whatever his nationality, but especially no Irishman, is allowed to serve in any 625 really responsible position in the Government of our country unless he is a known opponent of the wishes and aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the people. Of course there are exceptions to this. Seventy years ago a very able Scotchman was sent to Ireland in the person of Sir Thomas Drummond to act as Undersecretary. He was not an Irishman, but as soon as ever it became known that he had popular leanings a campaign was set on foot against him by the ruling powers in Ireland, and when he ventured to rebuke Irish landlordism, and especially when he committed himself to that phrase which in these days seems to be flat blasphemy, i.e., that property has its duties as well as its rights, from that moment he was thwarted, maligned, and pursued with a malice which no doubt helped in the end to drive him into an early grave. For four or five years he served in Ireland, but he was only able to do so because, in his ease, he was loyally defended by those who availed themselves of his services, and because he was not at the first breath of opposition from the Orange set in the North of Ireland repudiated and thrown overboard by those who had availed themselves of his great ability and unrivalled experience in the Government of Ireland. To-day—seventy years later—we have a somewhat similar case, and the mere fact that Sir Antony MacDonnell has popular leanings is sufficient, apparently, to cause his appointment to be denounced as a betrayal by the English Government of that handful of men who endeavour to impose their will on the majority of the people of Ireland. This exception only proves the rule which I have attempted to lay down, namely, that no man in any degree in sympathy with the majority of the Irish people is allowed to have any part in the Government of the country.
Ireland to-day is governed by a minority, and for a minority of the people she is governed by a democracy more divorced from sympathy with the people and from responsibility to the people than obtains in the system which you in this country are so fond of denouncing in the case of Russia. Ireland, no doubt, is articulate in the House of Commons, and I am glad to think that she is able to make herself troublesome, or otherwise I fear that Irish 626 discontent would find no voice at all. But here we are in a permanent minority of 80 out of 670; and we are voted down by representatives elected by another people. We are governed by a network of public boards—the Education Board, the Board of Public Works, the Local Government Board, the Congested Districts Board, the Board of Trade, the Prisons Board, and I know not how many other boards, all of which are nominated by Dublin Castle. These boards are not responsible in any shape or form to the people whom they govern. Public opinion in Ireland has for them no existence, and the names of the men who rule the boards are scarcely known to-day to the people of Ireland. They can never be called to account. They are represented in this House by the Chief Secretary of the day, who is President, I think, of each one, though, of course, he is not cognisant of their proceedings, and can only be in the most nominal way responsible for their action. Chief Secretaries come and go. There have been fifty-three changes in the office of Chief Secretary since the Union. There have been twenty-seven changes in the office of Chief Secretary within the last fifty years. That gives an average since the Union of about two years for each Chief Secretary, and further, these Chief Secretaries have been strangers to Ireland, they have had no interest whatever in the country, and they have had no stake in the country. Only seven or eight of the whole number have been Irish by birth, or even by the most remote connection, and since 1871 no Irishman at all has been Chief Secretary for Ireland. What earthly possibility had such men, I would ask the House, of making themselves acquainted with the affairs of these boards? The thing is impossible. The permanent, centralised, nominated, semi-independent boards, stuffed full of the members of the ascendancy Party, have been omnipotent in the Government of Ireland, and the Chief Secretary of the day, if he is challenged on the ground of his nominal responsibility, is accountable only to this House, where the representatives of Ireland are always in a permanent minority. Is it any wonder that, under these circumstances, the very soul of Ireland is in revolt at this system, and 627 the sentiment of the people is that an armed rebellion itself would be a duty did a reasonable chance of success exist?
Such a system of government as this must of necessity be extravagant, because every system of government run in the interests of a minority against the interests of the majority of the people must be extravagant. The Irish government to-day is admittedly the most costly government of the kind in the world. It costs double the amount of the government of Belgium, which has a larger population and four times the trade. It costs more than double as much as the government of Switzerland, and by comparison with any small country of similar resources in the world it is shocking in its extravagance. Compared with the cost of the government of Great Britain it is not so much shocking as ludicrous. The cost of civil government per head of the population in Ireland is just twice the cost of the government per head of the population in England. The policing and the prison system in Ireland cost three times as much as the policing and prison system of Scotland, though the population is about the same and the criminal statistics show that there is far less crime in Ireland than there is in Scotland. The ludicrous part of all this is that England does not gain anything by it. In the last ten years the population of Ireland has gone down by about 200,000, and the taxation of Ireland has increased by £3,000,000 a year. The cost of Irish government has gone up from something like £5,500,000 in 1894 to £7,214,000 in 1902, so that England cannot be said, therefore, to have been benefited by this misgovernment of Ireland to any great extent. Ireland"s Imperial contribution has unjustly increased, but it has not increased materially in proportion to the total increase of the cost of running the country. The great increase in Irish taxation has gone almost entirely in the increased cost of running the rotten and inefficient system of government in Ireland itself.
This brings me to another part of the question. I base my indictment of the government of Ireland on its 628 merits. I maintain that it is the worst and most inefficient government in the whole world. The right hon. Gentleman who will speak on behalf of the Government will have to defend a system which has no parallel in the whole history of the world. In speaking of this question I feel that I must confine myself within comparatively narrow limits. I will take as an example of what I mean by bad and inefficient government the question of the land. If the Land Act of last year is a failure, and undoubtedly in some respects it is, that is due entirely to the fact that where Irish Members pressed their views those views were rejected. I had intended to give some quotations as to what recently occurred with reference to the position of Sir Antony MacDonnell. What occurred? Sir Antony MacDonnell went to Ireland, with the full approval of the Chief Secretary and the Lord-Lieutenant, to carry out a policy of concession and reform. He has been thwarted in that, and things did not succeed with him. What has been happening? He has found his official chief rounding on him, and, for my part, I would not be astonished if in the end it is not found that the English people themselves have lost all respect for a Minister who is guilty of what I may call the tergiversation, the disloyalty of the Chief Secretary to a man whom he put in that position, and whom he ought to have backed. Under all the circumstances, the Irish Party are entitled to come to the House of Commons and make their claim that the government of Ireland should be once more placed the hands of the Irish people. Nothing else will remedy the present condition of affairs. Every class of the community in Ireland is opposed to the present rule. It is unnecessary for me to speak of the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people. Generation after generation they have sent to the House of Commons an overwhelming majority of their Members pledged to a radical change in the Government, but the feeling entertained by them has spread, and to-day it is to be found in practically every class of the community.
Recently a development of the most important kind has taken place in Ireland under the name of the Reform Association, identified with the name of Lord Dunraven. It is not my business 629 to defend that association, which is, I understand, not making a demand for Home Rule. The men who are at the bottom of it avow themselves as Unionists, yet the fact remains that they have come forward to make a confession that their former position is untenable, that the government of Ireland has broken down under the present system, and they propose a change. It is not only Lord Dunraven and his friends. I may go further and take the case of Sir West Ridgeway. He was not an Irishman like Sir Antony MacDonnell. He was an English Conservative gentleman who was Under Secretary for Ireland during the Chief Secretaryship of the present Prime Minister. Sir West Ridgeway tells us that in the very middle of the coercion regime of the present Prime Minister, he, as Under Secretary, prepared for the Government a memorandum outlining a scheme of self-government for the country consisting of provincial councils, along with a partly elective body which was to have power over all Irish finance. What an extraordinary light that throws on the system of government in Ireland! Here is Sir West Ridgeway carrying out a policy of coercion in Ireland at the behests of a Government which declares that Ireland has no grievances and that twenty years of resolute government is all that is necessary in order to settle the Irish question, while at that very time there are searchings of heart among the very men who are carrying out that programme of suppressing popular agitation. We find Sir West Ridgeway preparing a programme which so far as I can see is quite as extreme, if not more extreme, than the programme of Lord Dunraven, in the preparation of which Sir Antony MacDonnell seems to have had a hand. The same applies right through all the administrators who have been sent to Ireland from every Parliament. Lord Spencer went to Ireland to administer coercion, and his experience taught him the rottenness of the present system. Lord Aberdeen went to Ireland to carry out a system of coercion and his experience taught him the same lesson. Lord Dudley went to Ireland to carry out a Unionist policy, and he has not been long in the country without discovering the rottenness of the 630 present system. Speaking of Under Secretaries, there is not only Sir West Ridgeway who can be quoted. What about Sir Robert Hamilton? Whata bout Sir Redvers Buller? Every man who has been sent from this country to govern Ireland under the present system has admitted, no matter what Party he came from, that the system has broken down absolutely. The only differences to-day are the differences as to the methods for remedying the system. Various remedies have been proposed. Sir West Ridgeway says he proposed a system of provincial councils with certain legislative powers, with a financial council partly elective. Lord Dunraven proposes a system of devolution, and I suppose that if the hon. Gentlemen who represent Ulster constituencies were asked for a remedy they would say that the proper remedy is to instal them and their Orange friends in absolute power in Dublin Castle.
It is well for us to remember in this connection that every single class and creed in Ireland to-day is denouncing the system of Dublin Castle. I am sorry I have not the notes of the utterances of hon. Gentlemen opposite which I had intended to read. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have denounced government by Dublin Castle far more vigorously than ever we did. The hon. Member for North Down said just before Parliament met that either the Government must go or Sir Antony MacDonnell must go. I have heard from North Down since then to the effect that when the general election comes the probability is that the person to go will be the hon. Member himself. An hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Antrim made a declaration in Ireland the other day that he for one would not regret the general election, because he did not think that Ireland could be any worse governed under a Liberal Government. And then, not content with that, the Ulster Members issue a manifesto signed by the full strength of their party—was it seven or eight?—and in that manifesto they do not base their attack on Dublin Castle because of Sir Antony MacDonnell at all—there is not a word about him—no, it is an indictment based on the general government of Dublin Castle, as evidenced by the refusal of the Castle to do what they call justice to certain isolated 631 parts of Ulster with which they are identified. And since the House met a most interesting document, which I am sorry I have not with me, has been issued, a manifesto in which they declared in solemn conclave—though it must have relieved the mind of the Prime Minister enormously when he saw that there were only four gentlemen at the meeting—a manifesto in which they declared that they had made up their minds to give a general support to the Government on the Address on every question except questions arising out of Ireland, and went on to say that they entirely distrusted the action of the Government on all Irish affairs. Therefore you have every class of the community expressing distrust of the government of Ireland. I might quote a more important critic of the Government, namely, the Government itself—because the House will remember the speech made the other day in which it was declared by Lord Lansdowne, who is himself the Leader of the Government in the Upper House—that the present system of government in Ireland was antiquated and complicated, and that it required serious improvement, and in which he described what he called Sir Antony MacDonnells policy as the policy of co-ordination. Now whether you call this co-ordination, or devolution, or provincial councils—as Sir West Ridgeway called it—all those policies amount to this, that every class of the population and the Unionist Government itself condemns the present system of rule. In my opinion it has come to this, that as practical men we, in the House of Commons, ought not to consider the theoretical question at all as to whether the government is good or bad—because, I submit, it is by universal consensus of opinion condemned—but we ought to confine ourselves as practical men to the remedy.
Now the remedies which are proposed are various. The remedy which we propose at any rate is well known. We propose Home Rule for Ireland. We believe that the present system, in a phrase once used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, is too rotten to be mended. The policy must be a policy of ending and not mending. The system should be abolished 632 altogether, and I think I am correct in saying that what has occurred within the last few days will make it impossible for any English Government in the near future to sit upon the Treasury Bench without proposing some radical remedy in the present system of government. Nothing in my judgment can be a possible or even a tolerable substitute for self-government in any country. Without self-government I am convinced that Ireland will go on in the future as she has gone on in the past, badly governed, poverty-stricken, and discontented. But with self-government I am perfectly convinced in my heart and conscience she has before her a future of freedom, prosperity, and peace.
(Dublin, St. Stephen's Green), in seconding the Amendment, said it was almost impossible to bring anything new before the House in regard to the system of government in Ireland as the subject had been debated again and again during the last twenty or thirty years. The events of the last few days had shown how difficult it was to justify the present system. In his own recollection in Ireland there had been twenty Chief Secretaries since Mr. Chichester Fortescue held the post, and they had had an average duration of office of less than two years. What hon. Member in this House would entrust the management of his business or his property to a manager who held his appointment on such a tenure? Had the physical condition of the country improved under this system, or had the consent of the governed been obtained? Had the population increased, or had general contentment been diffused? He would be a courageous or a mendacious man who would answer either of these questions in the affirmative. How long was such a system to be forced on the country in defiance of the wishes of the great majority of the inhabitants? The events of the last few days gave the best possible answer as to the impossibility of the present system. When the present Lord-Lieutenant arrived in Ireland he said that the first necessity of the government of Ireland was that it should be in accordance with Irish ideas. What attempt had there been to govern the country in accordance with Irish ideas? The Union 633 had never been allowed to work on account of the course pursued by persons who called themselves Unionists. What they wanted was, not to make Ireland contented with the Union, but to run a system in which they were allowed to be monopolists. It was a matter of common knowledge that they turned with great ferocity on the candidate for a Unionist seat in Leinster with the result that the seat was lost to their Party. It had been said that the Liberal Party were not committed to Home Rule, but he could not believe that. The first principle of Liberalism all over the world was that government against the consent of the people was wrong. The system by which Ireland had been governed had diminished the population, increased poverty, and prevented the development of the resources of the country.
At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'But humbly represent to Your Majesty that the present system of Government in Ireland is in opposition to the will of the Irish people, and gives them no voice in the management of their own affairs; that the system is consequently ineffective and extravagantly costly, does not enjoy the confidence of any section of the population, and is productive of universal discontent and unrest, and has proved to be incapable of satisfactorily promoting the material and intellectual progress of the people.' "—(Mr. John Redmond.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
(Antrim, N.) asked that he might be allowed, before proceeding to lay before the House very shortly the views of those whom he represented, to express the regret felt on his own side, which he had no doubt would meet with general sympathy from Members opposite, at the absence of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, who was a popular figure in the House. And, compared with this occasion—an occasion important for the very existence of Irish Unionism—there never was an occasion on which his services were so much needed. The House would, he thought, be pleased to know that he was fairly on the way to convalescence. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had taken the straightforward course of reminding the 634 House where, after twenty years, his Party now stood. He said they were still, as ever, united in an unalterable demand for Home Rule, and although the hon. Member rather unworthily sneered at their small numbers—they were seventeen Members in that House—still they represented those who were the loyal supporters of Unionist government in Ireland, and who numbered 1,250,000 of their fellow-countrymen. It was not only on behalf of his own constituents, but of all those who whilst they chiefly lived in the province of Ulster were scattered throughout the rest of the land, that he would like to say that after twenty years they, too, stood where they did. They had fought inch by inch during those twenty years with all the weight of the Nationalist Members against them, with the people in the country behind those hon. Gentlemen against them. Yes, they were 1,250,000 of people who had stood out against all the odds, and had fought Home Rule at home inch by inch. They had succeeded in keeping it off so far, and they would succeed for another twenty years if they were fairly and honestly treated by the Leaders of the Unionist Party. That day, after twenty years of loyalty, they were just as determined to face Nationalist opposition, and the intrigues and plottings of those responsible for Irish administration under a Unionist Government. The hon. Member for Waterford was perfectly correct in the statement which he made when he said that in every section of the population of Ireland there was discontent. After twenty years of Unionist Government he never remembered, as at this minute, such universal contempt and mistrust; such disaffection on the part of this million and a quarter of people who, certain members of His Majesty's Government thought, might be lightly thrown overboard without a regret. One quality—and the sooner that this was borne in on the minds of statesmen on that side of the House or the other, whether they were members of a Government which was a friend or a foe—the one quality which, was required for a Government in Ireland was the quality of straightforwardness; and that was the one quality which within the last two years had been conspicuously lacking 635 in every department of Irish administration. Of course it was very easy, when they came over to this country, to have their grievances misrepresented. It was very easy to minimise the numbers of those who put them forward. It was quite a simple matter to get hold of friends in influential quarters of the Press and say, "This is a little Unionist clamour, it does not matter; it is Orangemen"—as if that answered everything. The opinions that he expressed that day were held, it was true, by the Orange body, but they were equally held by every Irish Liberal Unionist; they were held by Irish Conservatives, and the attempt to minimise them in that way was unfair to their importance and dishonest in practice. If they wanted to go by the newspapers, let him ask the hon. Members of the House to take a look at the Irish Press. They had in Ireland four leading Unionist papers. They had the Orange paper, if he might call it so, the Belfast News Letter, the Liberal Unionist Northern Whig; they had the general Unionist paper, the Irish Times, and they had the Conservative organ in Dublin, the Daily Express. Of course, English Members did not often see those papers, but they represented and covered the entire ground of Unionist opinion in Ireland, and day after day in each one of them—it was a fact which could not be disputed or denied—they found column after column of direct criticism, complaint, and suspicion charged against the heads of the Irish Administration. Things were not right when that was so.
They did not get many opportunities of bringing these things forward in the House except on an occasion like this, and they would dwell a little in detail upon them. He knew the subject they were discussing, although important, was very general, and they must avoid, as far as possible, details. [NATIONALIST cries of "No."]. He meant details likely to weary the House. But one matter they felt very much the loss of in the North, and also in other parts of Ireland. They had brought their plea before their people and before the House. It was the systematic boycotting of counties, because they were Unionist, from participation in public funds. It was not 636 merely a money matter. It was the persistent unfairness of the policy of the Irish Government which had, within the last two years, done more than anything else to goad Irish Unionists into revolt. It was only within the last six months that the dishonesty—for there was no other term for it—of the whole method had been brought home to them. It was a policy of glow and glamour. They went to the Chief Secretary or elsewhere. They received the most bountiful of promises; but when it came to fulfilment of those promises, there were other parts of the country to be considered. It was said, "Oh, you are Unionists; you can be trusted not to make yourselves unpleasant in the House of Commons. We have no money; it is all going to the West and you had just better wait till next year." Now, they had been put off long enough. He would give an instance of this policy. There was a very important matter in the North of Ireland involving the expenditure of public money. He would not discuss the matter on its merits in detail—hon. Members opposite would know them. A deputation representing the five Unionist counties waited on the Chief Secretary in Dublin Castle in 1901. They were then told that everything that could be done would be done, and that immediately. In 1902 the Chief Secretary, in pursuance of his policy of promises without performance, was anxious to get through a Marine Works Bill which affected the West of Ireland. They were relying on his promises, and one of his colleagues, the Deputy-Master of the Mint—he was sure that the hon. Gentleman would be pleased to hear how hon. Members cheered him that day—pressed the matter of this grievance on the Chief Secretary, and the Chief Secretary, anxious to get his Marine Works Bill through, on August 5th, said he might take it from him that, in regard to all those schemes in which he was interested, all that could be would be done. The Chief Secretary in 1902 got his Marine Works Bill. In the following year this matter was pressed again and again on the Chief Secretary, and again and again disregarded, because it came from the Unionist part of the country. In the following year the Chief Secretary wanted a Development Grant Bill, and 637 on April 1st, 1903, the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh again pressed this demand upon the Chief Secretary, who had admitted it was legitimate. When the Chief Secretary got the Bill through, he got up and said, "Oh, yes, what you say is quite right. £100,000 was allotted, but as some jealousy was raised in some other part of the country, it would only be fair to consider the claims of the north-east corner of Ireland, though I cannot say that any one scheme will be dealt with." In 1904 matters were still pressed upon the Chief Secretary, when £90,000 was being expended in Mayo, and in the present year Sir Antony MacDonnell was able to assure the hon. Member for Mayo that up to the present time in the Union of Swinford £376,000 of public money had been advanced for land purchase. No doubt they would get plenty of promises, but while the present Administration continued in Ireland, no Unionist would get a copper from the public funds. [Ironical NATIONALIST cheers] Hon. Members might laugh. It might be a light thing when mud and water were two feet high in the houses and fever was rampant. Of course it did not matter to the Chief Secretary—they were only Unionists—who all the time was devoting money to a part of the country where it was of absolutely no use, except to keep hon. Members opposite quiet. Harbours and piers for Nationalists were always forthcoming, but Unionists could get nothing. Yet this was called impartial administration! All over the country Unionists and Protestants were being excluded from getting their share by the local boards. [NATIONALIST cries of "Where?"] He could give particulars. When the Local Government Act was passed the House of Commons, knowing that the power given to local boards would be abused, inserted clauses protecting the minority, all appointments having to be sanctioned by the Local Government Board or the Lord-Lieutenant. But when they got a Nationalist local board excluding Protestants on account of their religion, or because they were Unionists, and the Local Government Board was asked to intervene to protect this wretched minority, the Government said:—"We cannot really afford to vex the priests, 638 or run against the Nationalists," and so the Protestants were sacrificed. This was nothing but moral cowardice on the part of the Chief Secretary. What happened at Ballinasloe? On November 26th last the Cavan County Council met to appoint a rate collector. These collectors were paid by poundage on the amount of the rates they collected. A candidate named George Armstrong, a resident in the neighbourhood, sent in a tender that he would collect rates for 2d. in the £. But the Cavan County Council, who had never allowed a Protestant to sit at its board, appointed instead of Mr. Armstrong another gentleman, simply because he was a brother or cousin of the priest and was a Roman Catholic. His terms were 3d. in the £ and the ratepayers of county Cavan were paying the additional 1d. in the £ of poundage because Mr. Armstrong was a Protestant and a Unionist. That case was sent up to the Local Government Board, which was asked, in the interest of the ratepayers, not to sanction the appointment of a man who was to receive 3d. per £1 instead of an efficient and solvent applicant who was willing to take 2d. per £1. The answer was "we cannot interfere." That policy of noninterference, not only in Ballinasloe, not only in Cavan, but all over the country, had been carried so far that if one went into any Protestant or Unionist house in any part of Ireland one found there no reliance upon any shape of protection against combination to injure them, to exclude them from public service, and deprive them of their rights. That was a matter of administration. He could only assure his friends on that side of the House that if they cared to investigate the matter they would find a hundred cases of this sort. It was going on all over the country, and it was because this state of things was so general that there was this general distrust and dislike of the Irish Government on his side, just as much as on the other.
To turn to higher politics the position was a very curious one. In the old days the theory of government in Ireland was that there should be one Minister, whether he was the Lord-Lieutenant with a seat in the Cabinet, in which case the Chief Secretary had no seat, or whether, as 639 now, it was the Chief Secretary in the Cabinet with the Lord-Lieutenant Governor of Ireland, he being assisted by people who had local knowledge, the Lord Chancellor and the two Law Officers. [HON. MEMBERS cheered.] He did not know why hon. Members cheered. It had been pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that the Lord-Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary had generally been either Englishmen or Scotchmen. What were they expected to know of Ireland? It had been customary to provide the Ministry with men who were born and brought up in the country, and had risen to eminence in their profession. Such men had always been allowed to have a voice in the internal government of the country. He was dining with a Judge not long ago. [Ironical NATIONALIST cheers.] He did not know that that would be an object of merriment to hon. Members opposite. This gentleman was old enough to remember, or to have gathered from his legal forefathers, how government in Ireland was carried on in the early days of last century, and he told him as a fact that, for twenty-one years in Ireland, Saurim, the distinguished Irishman and Attorney-General, practically administered Ireland. Now although the Attorney-General was a trusted and influential colleague in the last Administration, with a voice in the government of the country, what had happened in the last two years? They had changed the permanent non-political Civil Service staff, and had brought over and put in this subordinate position a gentleman of avowed politics, a gentleman of pronounced opinions, both political and religious, a gentleman too distinguished to be put under the ordinary rules of the Civil Service, a gentleman who was provided with greater freedom of action, greater opportunities of initiative than if he was promoted in the ordinary course. And what was the first act of this gentleman? Whatever his powers might have been he was an ordinary Civil servant and member of a permanent staff. He went to Ireland, and to secure that he should have the greater freedom, the greater power of initiative, he directed that the Law Officers were not to be consulted as to the business of the country. Thus two members of the King's Government, 640 with seats in this House, were shut up in their law rooms in the Castle in a position very little better than that of law clerks. The same gentleman caused it to be publicly known, shortly after his arrival, that, being cut off, of course, from the views of those familiar with the country, he would be dependent on other sources. He said that the opinion of the Roman Catholic Bishops and priests of the country and other influences were the most useful means of supplying the Government with information that would keep them in touch with affairs. That also had been put to them in a delicate paraphrase, called "accessibility." They had it stated that it was with the Chief Secretary's approval that Sir Antony MacDonnell made himself accessible to persons of all kinds and descriptions with whom he discussed important subjects. But did anyone suppose that when this official was appointed with those extra powers—poweis of initiative and of greater freedom—that he was to be the authority to rule 4,750,000–1,250,000 of whom were Protestants and Unionists—through the information and influence of the priests. That was the cause of the whole disaster. Ulster could not be ruled on the information and influence of the priests.
He had said many hard words against the Irish Administration, but he had never done an injustice to Sir Antony MacDonnell. He had never spoken to him in his life. It pleased the Chief Secretary to suggest bias in the Anderson case, but he had no prejudice against Sir Antony MacDonnell. He had an Indian record of which any irishman might be proud, and if he had done an injustice to Sir Antony MacDonnell he would apologise to him. Now they were beginning to see that the Chief Secretary and the Irish Administration, for all their fair words and sympathy, had been at the back of the whole thing. Only the other day a letter appeared in the papers from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick, in which he denounced the Chief Secretary and the Irish Administration for having tricked and played with him and his clerical colleagues in the matter of University education. He was sorry to say he thought that that was exceedingly 641 probable and that Sir Antony Mac-Donnell would be obliged to disclose what he promised the Roman Catholic bishops in carrying out his policy of "accessibility." From Friday night, however, instead of the straightforward action they were entitled to expect from a Unionist Minister, they knew he was at the back of the whole thing. That was enough to make every Unionist, whether he were an Irishman or an Englishman, sick of the whole business. It was quite reasonable then that they should describe the mischievous effect of such a policy, and he did not deplore a single word he had said in regard to the Administration, but he would withdraw if the state of affairs were shown to be otherwise. It was, however, inadvisable that a Civil servant should be sent down to Belfast on a quasi-political mission to interview the Lord Mayor and the Town Clerk. Sir Antony MacDonnell got his answer from the Town Clerk. He stated that the Government were about to introduce a Roman Catholic University Bill, and that he wished to overcome their objections. Of course, hon. Gentlemen opposite would say that that was perfectly legitimate, but he maintained it was not legitimate in a country where they wanted to establish confidence in the Government that the head of the permanent staff should be sent on such missions. Further, Sir Antony MacDonnell attended dinners and other functions in Dublin, and made speeches which, reading between the lines, could have been delivered by any hon. Member in the House. That was neither fair to him or to them.
That was the position. It was utterly unsatisfactory and would have to be ended as soon as possible. Up to August last the position of the Irish Unionists towards the Government was one of dislike and distrust, but since the introduction of this devolution scheme those feelings had become five times as intense, and the real question was, "Who was responsible for this scheme?" Irish Unionists were now asked to vote confidence in the Government. It was not a question of approval or objection to Home Rule—Home Rule was a question they would vote against at any time—but a question of confidence in the Irish 642 Government. In regard to Imperia affairs the Irish Unionists were as proud of the Empire as anybody, and they would support this Government because they thought it was the only Government, but was it not rather hard to put a man in such a position that he should be asked to vote confidence in the Irish Administration when it was now established that the head of that Administration, responsible to the Unionists and to the House, had been sitting in Dublin Castle intriguing to ruin the whole of Unionism in Ireland. In August there came this devolution proposal, the root principle of which was the transfer of money in bulk to the Irish Administration. The action of the Civil servant who had taken part in it had been said to be indefensible. They had been told by one member of the Government that these proposals had been moderately condemned by the Government and by another that the Government repudiated them. He did not know what the varying grades of censure might be, but in some shape or form every man of the Government had thrown these proposals overboard. Irish Unionist members of the Government had done their duty to their constituents. The Attorney-General had done more than anyone else to show how destructive to Unionist principles this would be, and the English Attorney - General boldly challenged this measure and threw it overboard. He, therefore, would not discuss its merits, but here was a wholesale and insidious betrayal of Unionist policy upon a question vital to the Irish Unionists, and they were asked to give a vote of confidence to this Government.
Let them see who was at the bottom of this, and who was responsible for the paternity of these proposals There was no doubt that it was born at the Castle. There were four people present at the birth. One was Lord Dunraven—he had told them what he thought about it. Another was Sir Antony MacDoimell, who, he thought, had been infamously treated. There was also Lord Dudley, who had frankly admitted that he was party to, privy to, and cognisant of the action of Sir Antony MacDonnell in what he did in connection with the scheme. He could not understand how, if the full facts were before the Cabinet, Sir Antony MacDonuell could be 643 censured by any honest Government, if the Cabinet were aware that the Lord-Lieutenant had given his sanction to his action. They might be told that the Government was not aware that there were three people, the Lord-Lieutenant, Sir Antony MacDonnell, and Dunraven—he would come to the fourth in a minute—who knew about it. The question was about the Chief Secretary, because the curious thing was that Sir Antony MacDonnell, the Lord-Lieutenant, and Lord Dunraven all believed that Sir Antony MacDonnell was not exceeding the in tructions of the fourth Party. Lord Dunraven said it was not true to say that Sir Antony MacDonnell pursued a policy that had been disapproved of by his chief. The Lord - Lieutenant wrote saying he was aware Sir Antony MacDonnell was helping Lord Dunraven and that he had discussed the suggested reforms with the Under-Secretary, but he did not think Sir Antony MacDonnell was exceeding his instructions, because he knew that under the terms of his appointment he differed from the ordinary Under-Secretary, and that on two previous occasions, in connection with the land question and the University question, Sir Antony MacDonnell had been in close communication with Lord Dunraven. The curious thing was that of the four supporters, three of them took an absolutely different view from the fourth, and that was that Sir Antony MacDonnell was not running counter to the wishes of the Chief Secretary. The root-principle of these proposals was the transfer of money in bulk to the Irish Administration. That was the very thing that was attempted in the House, but was stopped by the hon. Member for King's Lynn and the hon. Member for Islington. That was the very idea for which the Chief Secretary strove. His idea was to take the Development Grant and make it a charge on the Consolidated Fund. That was the idea at the bottom of devolution.
Then there was another matter. Lord Dunraven was chosen—he was a harmless nobleman with a passion for notoriety—they thought as much of him in Ireland as they did in New York—as a harmless instrument, on two occasions, for bringing schemes before the public. Here they had from 644 start to finish Lord Dunraven in close confabulation with the Chief Secretary, or, as he was careful to put it, Mr.Wyndham. What were those topics dealing with administrative reform which it was inexpedient for Lord Dunraven to discuss with the Chief Secretary except in his private capacity. Those discussions were going on all through the year and Lord Dunraven said very fairly that the Chief Secretary's disavowal should have come earlier. The element of secrecy on the part of the Chief Secretary cast suspicion over the whole transaction. When these proposals appeared in print the Chief Secretary wrote a disavowal. But such a disavowal! It meant that he never saw the identical words in the proposals. It was to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman did not disavow these proposals on principle. From that day to the present, although members of his Government had been calling for the paternity of this precious scheme. never one word could be extracted until the House met, and Ministers could no longer escape from the inquisition of question and answer. If everything was fair, honest, and above-board, why this desire for concealment? On Thursday last he asked the Chief Secretary whether there was any official sanction for this proposal, and it actually took two days to get a "Yes" or "No to that question! Was there any wonder, under these circumstances, that Irish Unionists were distrustful? Was there any wonder that Unionists, when they saw that they had been wounded in the house of their friends, should jib at a vote of confidence in a Government which—and from the evidence it was the almost irresistible inference—had hatched this plot in Dublin Castle? When this matter came to be dealt with, it would not be a matter of apology or excuse. They would want, nozt graceful sophistries or platitudes, but categorical denials if they were going to satisfy Irish Unionists.
This was a serious matter. It was not; a matter merely affecting Irish Unionists. Their English Unionist colleagues had been elected for the maintenance of the Union. If this were a fraud on Irish Unionists it was also a fraud on English Unionists. They believed that they had been betrayed by their own leaders, and they were going to fight the matter out. 645 They did not care if they had to fight an open foe—they did care a great deal, because after years of loyalty it was a hard position to be placed in—but they would fight a secret enemy just as hard as an open foe. These were times of danger and stress; they had been given away behind their backs; and it was their duty to themselves and to those whom they represented to see the thing out, and, fortunately, a means was at hand which would enable them to do so. It was a striking commentary on the Chief Secretary's administration of Ireland that, within the last twelve months, two different associations for the protection of Unionist interests had had to be formed. They had organised and embodied in a union all the constitutional associations in Ulster, and they now had the Ulster Union. The Liberal Unionists and the Orangemen were separately represented. That council, with some 200 delegates, would be meeting in Belfast on March 3rd, and they would take counsel there whether the time had not come for Ulster to draw on her reserves. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed, but they did not know what he meant. He would tell them what the Ulster reserves were. They were Ulster's contribution to the Government. There were five Members representing Irish constituencies members of the Government; there were two Members for the University of Dublin, and three Members sitting for Ulster constituencies. If they were pressed in this way, if they were convinced that they were being tricked and betrayed, as their people believed, it would be time for them to consider whether they should not ask the five Unionist Members of the Government to step out of the ranks, and come to their help. He knew perfectly well what their feelings were; he knew their loyalty, and the services they had always rendered to their Unionist constituents. It would be a great sacrifice to ask them to make, but if the Irish Unionists were betrayed in the fashion now prevalent there would be no alternative. He was sorry that on that occasion he in company with his colleagues were absolutely prevented from voting confidence in an Irish Administration carried on as at present. It was the first time, he thought, 646 for twenty years that Irish Unionists had been forced to say that. They appealed to the Chief Secretary last year to get rid of this wretched, rotten, sickening policy of conciliation, which meant bribing one's enemies at the expense of one's friends. That appeal unfortunately fell on deaf ears. Matters had changed now: they left it to the leaders of their Party, they appealed to them to put their foot down on this trickery and treachery towards Unionists in Ireland, and to give them a straightforward, resolute Government, which would be impartial to all sections of the community. The men who were responsible for the present state of affairs were guilty of much disservice to the Unionist Party. It was lamentable that the Viceroy should have been concerned in a movement which struck at the whole principles of Unionism, and gave colour to the statement that the Unionist Government were being converted to Home Rule. He and his colleagues had not abated their opposition to Home Rule, but it had been made impossible for them to oppose Home Rule on the present occasion by voting confidence in the Irish Government as now administered.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (MR. WYNDHAM, Dover)
I rise at once because one passage in the speech of the hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment before the House, and almost the whole of the violent speech to which we have just listened, were directed to a matter which is personal to myself, and I therefore do not propose until I have dealt with that matter to go into the merits of the Amendment or to answer the subsidiary points which have been raised. But in case I should otherwise forget to do so before I sit down, I wish most emphatically to repudiate the charge that during my administration and in pursuance of my policy, favouritism has been shown to certain parts of Ireland at the expanse of other parts. It is not so. I have the figures here, and if it would not seem as if I were interposing them between the House and the matter on which I must speak I would read them now. [Cries of "Read."] No; whether the House is impatient to hear me on the Dunraven scheme or not 647 I am impatient to speak upon it. I ask the House to allow me to go into this matter somewhat fully. The last speaker in the attack which he delivered against, me says he is sick of the policy of conciliation, and I have no doubt he disapproves cordially of any Chief Secretary meeting any persons except those who agree with him. I have no doubt he thinks I am betraying the Union and no longer deserving of his confidence if I attempt to make higher education acceptable to the Irish people and to bring it within the reach of their pockets, and if I think it proper to speak, as I have spoken, to a Roman Catholic Archbishop, a Presbyterian Moderator, Fellows of a University, to all and sundry who could give me any opinions or facts which might help me to solve a problem which I bitterly regret I have not been able to solve. Therefore, I am not going to make a speech which will convince my hon. friend, who has attacked me so vehemently, that he should approve of all I do and have tried to do in Ireland. That is beyond my power. What I do wish is to make it quite clear that in the letter I wrote to The Times on September 27th last I was expressing a view which I have always held—I was expressing my objection to the introduction of a semi-elective financial board, and my fundamental and unalterable objection to the delegation to any board of any legislative powers other than those of Private Bill legislation. These are the views I hold and which, I thought, everybody knew I held. They are clear to me, but it does not always follow that views which are clear to one's self are clear to everybody else. When we discussed Home Rule in the 80's and 90's there were many somewhat ambiguous solutions proffered as alternatives to a direct negative—provincial councils, and I know not what—and at the end of that controversy there were some, among whom I include myself, who arrived at the definite view that there was no middle path, that Home Rule must mean really a Parliament, and, I think, a Parliament with powers to tax, and that if we are not prepared to adopt that form of government we must be content with the Union as it stands and try to work it as best we may. That is my opinion; and that being so, 648 knowing as I do that a great many people in Ireland are not satisfied with the present political position, knowing as I do that Ireland stands in need of all the help this House can give her, and is bound to give her, as I think, under any intelligent appreciation of the Union, I have not been anxious to guard myself against suspicions and risks by refusing to meet any man who came to speak to me on his views as to how some amendment might be brought in.
And now I come to the point of my relations to Sir Antony MacDonnell. The charge against me is either that I appointed a distinguished public servant whom I had no business to appoint, and that I gave him powers I had no business to confer on him; or that I was right in doing that, but that the moment he put one foot wrong I threw him over. I deny both charges. What were the conditions of Sir Antony MacDonnell's appointment? If I may develop this at some length I shall be glad to do so, because, unless the House goes back with me over the last few years, I do not think they will realise the impression that was made upon my , own mind. In the year 1902 I had no idea there was going to be a vacancy in the office of Under-Secretary. Sir Antony MacDonnell came back from India with about as high a record as any man who ever went there. He was an Irishman, and I was introduced to him by Lord Lansdowne. I was delighted to make his acquaintance, and I was much impressed by his personality and his ability. He asked me to give him letters to the heads of various departments in Ireland in order that he might make use of them on a visit to that country. He I talked at great length on land problems. In India he had tackled successfully a great many land problems. I know it is the fashion to deride the appointment I made on the ground that Indian experience was not an advantage but rather a disadvantage to the man going to Ireland; but anybody who reads Sir Henry Maine's works will know that in India every form of land tenure is to be found, and would understand that the man who did the work Sir Antony MacDonnell did in India was not a man unfitted to assist me in dealing with the 649 Irish land question, and certainly not a person likely to be hostile to the landowning class. However that may be, I was much impressed by Sir Antony MacDonnell; and a vacancy which I did not expect suddenly occurred. Sir D. Harrel resigned at a moment when I did not expect his resignation; and my thoughts naturally and inevitably turned to the distinguished Irishman I had met with such a high record, and I asked him to assist me in my task, not a very easy one, by becoming Under-Secretary for Ireland. At that moment I found myself under the necessity of proclaiming a number of districts in Ireland under the Criminal Law Amendment Act; at that moment I was hoping to pass the Land Bill of 1902, or to bring in a better measure the next year; and at that moment, before I had any conversation with Sir Antony MacDonnell, 1 was gravely exercised in my mind, and had had many conversations with his predecessor on the subject, by the immense amount of new work which had been cast on the various Irish Departments by Unionist legislation. The Government of Ireland has ceased to be merely the police force of Ireland. Under the Congested Districts Board, the Government of Ireland has to administer large sums of money, and under the Local Government Act and other Acts many new duties have been created, and, in my judgment, in my deliberate judgment, I had arrived, before I saw Sir Antony MacDonnell, at the conviction that it was proper and right and almost necessary for the Chief Secretary to take a better collective view of all these Departments, that he should try to draw them together, and that he should have a strong chief on the staff to assist him in the difficult task thrown upon his shoulders.
The case I have to make is that there are certain things which I have always held and hold now. Other things have been attributed to me by the last speaker; for instance, that I am in favour of delegating legislative powers to a body in Ireland. I have never held that view, and I do not hold it now. It is natural that I could not invite such a man as Sir Antony MacDonnell, with such a record, to come and help me as a mere clerical assistant; and, apart altogether 650 from anything that specifically passed between us, if it was proper to make such an appointment, and I hold that it was proper, it was impossible to make it without accepting Sir Antony MacDonnell as he was, as a man sworn of the Privy Council on the same day as I was myself. Do you suppose a Minister could invite a man who had rendered greater services to the Empire than he could ever hope to render, to sit on an office stool and merely to register the papers that came into the office? Let me be condemned for making the appointment, but if I made the appointment I had to accept Sir Antony MacDonnell, and I was glad to accept him, on the valuation he had won in India by his long and distinguished services. Sir Antony MacDonnell did not take up this task with a light heart. I was perfectly well aware that by appointing him I exposed myself to risk of attack. I had talked over Ireland with him before I suggested he should become Under-Secretary, and it was because we were both deeply interested in the possibility of doing something for the good of Ireland that, after a fortnight's consideration, he decided he could undertake the task, and we embodied in our letters the conversations in which we had been engaged; and these letters make it perfectly plain and clear that Sir Antony MacDonnell was invited by me rather as a colleague than as a mere Under-Secretary to register my will. I was glad to have his advice, to welcome any suggestions from him, and it was made clear, subject, of course, to my control, that he was to enjoy a certain freedom of administrative action. Let me be blamed for that if my hon. friends think I made a mistake in the appointment. I do not think I did. But I made clear to Sir Antony MacDonnell all the projects which I thought within the conceivable bounds of legislative action.
It has been suggested, not here, this afternoon, but elsewhere, that when I invited Sir Antony MacDonnell to help me in Ireland I had in my mind, and that I imparted to him, some desire to carry out what is called devolution. That is certainly not the case. Nothing of the kind was ever mentioned by either of us. The letters are extant—they are 651 in Sir Antony MacDonnell's possession—and they show that no such problem was contemplated by me at the time of his appointment. We had proposed to deal, in the first place, with the maintenance of order. At that time that was a pressing problem. Here are the problems we hoped to deal with then, and the order in which they were placed:—(1) the maintenance of order; (2) a Land Bill on the lines of voluntary purchase, or, where that was impossible, an automatic and cheap system of fixing rents instead of the existing litigious system; (3) education in the spirit of the Prime Minister's views; (4) the co-ordination, direction, and control of detached boards. The co-ordination, or correlation, as I used to call it, of the various boards in Ireland does not suggest to me, and never will suggest to me, the introducing of another board which is to be of an elective character. It is bad enough to have forty-two boards, and the last thing I want, at any rate, is to have a forty-third board, half of the members of which I am to nominate, and be accused of betraying the Union, and the other half to be elected to quarrel with those I have nominated; while the Treasury views on finance will not be accepted by the board, and the views of the board will never be accepted by this House. That has nothing to do with co-ordination. The other matters mentioned were material improvement and that object of derision, administrative conciliation; and by administrative conciliation no man has ever meant winking the eye at disorder, and if proof of that were needed it comes at the end of a programme which begins with the maintenance of order. Administrative conciliation in my mind means an attempt, however vain, however futile, however malign—however libelled—to show that the duty of government does not end with maintaining order as the first condition of economic progress. The province of government is larger, and some positive direction and energetic help can be given to economic progress. That was all that was contained in Sir Antony MacDonnell's letter to me as the projects which he contemplated. In my reply I indicated one or two more, and here they are. One was, that if we lived long enough, I hoped something 652 would be done to carry out the Report of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Commission—something to consolidate the grants to Ireland and to relieve the rates. And I hoped something would be done to develop transit in that country. That is all that was proposed—nothing else was proposed. And therefore I hope that from this day forth it will not be suggested in this House or in another place that I entered into a clandestine conspiracy with Sir Antony MacDonnell to foist upon the public, unbeknown to them, principles which were opposed to the principles of the Unionist Party. The hon. Member who attacked me in his speech, quoted some words to the effect that it was better that the members of the Reform Association, I think he said, should not meet me at Sir Antony MacDonnell's dinner table. Was that the charge?
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
The Chief Secretary considered that the meeting should not be held at Sir Antony MacDonnell's house, as he wished to keep it private.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
This is a letter written by Sir Antony MacDonnell—If the first meeting," that is of Lord Dunraven and his Committee, "was held at my house, or at my invitation, everyone would say that Mr. Wyndham was a prime mover in the business. Any help I can give I should be happy to give by supplying facts and information, but I think—and in this Mr. Wyndham, to whom I have spoken, agrees with me—that it is better I should not appear prominently or even to the extent of inviting men to meet you.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not know what impression that conveys to the minds of other people in the House, but the impression which it conveys to my mind is that I was to meet those persons who published the Dunraven scheme. [Cries of "No."] The impression conveyed to my mind is that it has some-connection with the Reform Association. Well, but it has not any.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
; No, I think not. That is not what Lord Dunraven could have intended, because what is the fact? Not this year, but in the year 1903, just after the Land Act had been passed amidst general plaudits—at a time when Lord Dunraven received the compliments that he had earned from all sections of opinion—at a time when the hon. Member for Cork City, who is not in the House, had converted a paper which was very hostile to the Government into an organ of the derided policy of conciliation—it was at that time that Lord Dunraven came to me and discussed the chances and prospects of a Moderate Party in Ireland, and showed to me the proof sheets of an article which he subsequently published in the Irish People. And still I am in favour, if it was possibb—the chances are not so good as they were—I am not going to disguise anything from the House—I am in favour of Lord Dunraven or anyone else forming a Moderate Party in the Centre and South of Ireland. I should be very glad if it could be done. I know that on many questions hon. Gentlemen from the south of Ireland do not see eye to eye with my friends who sit for northern constituencies, but surely they would not deny to Unionists in the Centre and South of Ireland the right to express their views. Luckily, I can refer anybody in this country to the article which Lord Dunraven contributed to the Irish People on November 7th, 1903, which was the outcome of our meetings at the time. Lord Dunraven and I were discussing these projects. And again, just as in the letter exchanged between myself and Sir Antony MacDonnell, there is no mention of any desire to delegate legislative power other than for Private Bills to anybody, so in the contribution which Lord Dunraven made at the time, and after our conversation in 1903, there is no mention of anything of the kind. He speaks of land purchase, of education, of the conditions of the people, of the labourers, of the Irish Land Bill, of transit, of fiscal reform, and after that he asks, in heavily leaded type, how is further co-operation practicable? Upon that point did anybody expect devolution? Not at all. The article goes on—The questions enumerated sufficiently prove the existence of a vast field on which the efforts 654 and energies of all men of all creeds, classes and politics can be profitably employed.I agree with every word of that. I think with Lord Dunraven, although I do not approve of his two proposals—to have a semi-elective financial board and to delegate legislative powers other than for private legislation—although I do not approve of those two proposals I will not turn round when it puts me in a difficulty and unsay all that I have said about Lord Dunraven, who took the foremost part in producing the Land Conference. When he took up the Land Conference he was exposed to derision, but he carried it through and was praised by all. This is not an occasion when I shall turn round and say I am embarrassed, or the Party is embarrassed, because you have advocated objects to which I object.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Why not? In the year 1903, when we were discussing these matters, before there was any Reform Association or anybody had any idea of it—what has it got to do with the Reform Association and the manifesto published on December 26th, 1904—what has it got to do with founding a Moderate Party in the South of Ireland? What has the desirability of Lord Dunraven asking men to meet me—what, I ask, have those things and the article contributed to the new organ of peace—what have they got to do with a publication which I saw for the first time a year afterwards, which contained two things to which I objected, and to which I expressed objection?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I do not disagree with the right hon. Gentleman, but I wish to know what first of all the meeting was to be about, and why it should be secret.
§ MR WYNDHAM
I do not see the force of that. Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that we were going to discuss devolution at that meeting?
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
Lord Dunraven is asked, according to this letter, to 655 bring together the identical people who within twelve months formulated this scheme. It was suggested that the meeting should take place at Sir Antony MacDonnell's house. Sir Antony Mac-Donnell said: "It will never do to have Mr. Wyndham appearing as the prime mover in that matter." What is the meaning of that secrecy?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
If the hon. Member suggests that a letter of that kind having been written, it reflects upon me let him think so. It has nothing to do with the matter that he has been discussing, and I can quite understand that for Lord Dunraven to hold a sort of political dinner party at the Under-Secretary's house would have been a mistake, and would have excited comments which would have been prejudicial to the objects which he had in his mind, and those objects are the objects which I have read out. I do not know whether that seems as clear to the House as it does to me. [OPPOSITION and NATIONALIST laughter.] What I cannot understand is why discussions at the beginning of the autumn of 1903 should have been woven by the hon. Member who has attacked me into a charge that I was in favour of these two things. The prospects of such a Moderate Party working for objects upon which all men were agreed are, I regret, overcast when the same men—if they are the same men—take up the idea of delegating legislative power other than for Private Bills to anybody. The prospects of a Moderate Party are overcast to-day by taking up that project, because it is a project on which I do not suppose any two men in Ireland would agree. But the meetings and discussions in 1903 which have been referred to were meetings and discussions on subjects upon which it was hoped that all men would agree, and at that time I never gave any countenance to the idea either of creating a semi-elective financial board or to the idea of delegating powers, other than for Private Bill legislation to anybody or board of any sort or description. That is really all that I have to say. Neither then, nor on any subsequent occasion, have I ever said a word, or written a word, to Sir Antony MacDonnell in favour of 656 either of those two proposals, those proposals have not been before me, and those are the proposals to which I attach importance, and to which I strongly and vehemently object.
But then it is said, how do you testify to the loyalty of Sir Antony MacDonnell? I testify to it with all my heart. He is a man of the greatest candour and integrity—a man with whom I have been proud and glad to work. And if the House cares to follow the lines which led to the misunderstanding, I will trace them faithfully from start to finish. I had discussed finance with Sir Antony MacDonnell, not on many occasions, but on several occasions. I had, as the hon. Member for North Antrim pointed out, been for a long time in favour of devoting moneys which are exclusively Irish to the needs which are peculiar to that country. I am not going to defend that position now. It is a position which men of honour understand. I have defended it in this House, and I have carried a Bill—the Development Grant Bill—through this House. I brought in a Bill last year for devoting the savings on Irish administration to that grant, which I was not successful in carrying, but my mind has been working upon that fact for a long time since. I do not claim any great merit for that. It is not very novel. As a matter of fact Ireland has always enjoyed something of that kind. When the Exchequers were amalgamated in 1817 funds were expended without consultation with this House and without any control on the part of the Treasury. When the Irish Church was disestablished and disendowed the Church Surplus Fund came into being, and it has for many years been devoted to needs which are peculiar to Ireland. The Congested Districts Board started with an income, the new Technical Department started with an endowment and income; and with all those precedents before me I desired, in view of the political and financial circumstances of the situation, to give some extension to the principles which are to be found in those measures, and which have governed the dispensation of all those funds. I have spoken on these lines to Sir Antony MacDonnell, and he, with his 657 Indian experience, found analogies between my ideas and the views which he had formed in India. But here comes the first source of serious misunderstanding. When Sir Antony MacDonnell has spoken to me of the Indian Budget and of provincial contracts I, who am colossally ignorant about Indian affairs, did not know that in India there is a semi-elective council with a voice in these matters; and therefore it never occurred to me during the conversations I had with Sir Antony MacDonnell that in pointing out the analogy between Indian finances and some of the ideas I had in my mind, he had in his mind, unexpressed, or at any rate not clear to me, the idea that another board would come into existence, partially elective, a board to which I should have to submit my Estimates, in addition to the Treasury and this House. If I had obtained an inkling of the idea that I was to submit the allocation of Irish resources not only to the Treasury, but then to another body of this description, which would resent everything that the Treasury had done, and in the third place to this House, where the Irish Members would dissent sharply from the views of the board—if 1 had ever entertained in my mind that this was part of the financial ideas intended I should at once and forthwith have told Sir Antony MacDonnell that, in my judgment, the proposal was impracticable and unworkable. But it did not. When I was talking of the Development Grant policy and he was citing the Indian analogies it is now clear to me that, though we were travelling on parallel lines, he was travelling on a line that went further, in accordance with the practice of India. In any case it has never been suggested to me that there should be any control over my allocation of Irish money for certain purposes other than the control of the Treasury and this House.
Now I come to the second and the graver cause of misunderstanding which confirmed the first cause. At the end of last session I defended Sir Antony MacDonnell, and I am prepared to defend him again. I went upon a holiday, and I tried to make that holiday as complete as I could make it. I paid 658 no heed to the newspapers, I neglected my correspondence, and my mind was not intent upon politics at all. I do not dwell upon this, though, owing to the exacting demands that Ireland makes upon the time and attention of a Minister, I had not enjoyed a holiday for six years, and I meant this to be a holiday. There was no indication to make me suppose that anything important was going to happen in Ireland. The Irish Reform Association came into being without startling me. In the second manifesto, published on September 26th, everybody read into the formation of the Irish Reform, Association all kinds of designs which I had not discovered in it on a very cursory and otiose perusal of the report on the first reading. I was on a holiday, and I did not know that the association was going to be formed or to issue a manifesto or report. The first report issued by the association made no impression on my mind, and it made very little impression upon the mind, of other people. I did not read it at the time; I was not following politics at all closely; but the Irish Times, a Unionist organ, seems to have read this report, I suppose, more carefully than I did. It was not at all startled or alarmed. This newspaper pointed out—and I think it is a fair criticism of the first notice of the Irish Reform Association—that its proposals were very vague, and added—For the present we are content to bid the Irish Reform Association a cordial welcome and to wish success to its patriotic labours.If I had been in Dublin and had read the article I should not have thought it my duty to dash into print and to say that these gentlemen were all wrong. The association only becomes real and concrete to me when I see the two proposals to which I have referred and to which I object. I was travelling about from this place to that place, and I was on the eve of going abroad. Sir Antony Mac-Donnell, who, as I now know, was taking a great interest in the Irish Reform Association and was intent upon this matter, which was not present to my mind, wrote me a letter saying that he was helping Lord Dunraven in respect of Irish finance. I wish I had that letter. If I had that letter I must say that the 659 list cloud of suspicion would be dispersed; but I do not remember getting that letter. Sir Antony MacDcnnell, however, recalls that letter to my mind, and he says that he was helping Lord Dunraven. I am not sure that he mentioned the Irish Reform Association, and he is sure that he did not mention the two matters to which I object—the creation of a financial council and the delegation of any legislative power other than Private Bill legislation to that body or to any other body. I may have erred in this matter; but all I can say is that if the letter did not contain any reference to these two points then I am not concerned as to what its contents were, except that I am deeply concerned that there should be a serious and melancholy misunderstanding between Sir Antony MacDonnell and myself, the only misunderstanding in the whole of our official connection. But, if these two points were not suggested in that letter, it contained no suggestion that a manifesto was to be issued; and it was the last thing I anticipated. I was abroad in Germany, and I never for a moment imagined that anybody was going to issue another political manifesto. Those are the points to which I attach importance, and I attached so much importance to them that I objected strongly to them both. When I saw for the first time in The Times on September 26th, without an idea that Sir Antony MacDonnell had assisted in drafting these proposals, and without consulting a single soul, I said that, in my judgment, the two points were inadmissible. That is the effect of my letter to The Times. I attached then, and I attach now, greater importance to the second point—the delegation of legislative powers other than Private Bill legislation. In the forefront of my letter I repudiated that. For the first time in The Times I did not, perhaps, state strongly, as I now state, my objection to the semi-elective financial board. That was not because I did not object to it. I never heard that there was to be a semi-elective financial board. I was concerned in the second part of the letter, to making it clear that the Treasury had some part to play in the giving of greater grants to Ireland. It was my duty, even on a cursory perusal 660 of the document, to let the Chancellor of the Exchequer know that I was no party to seeking to get at that time further funds for Irish purposes. It was obvious to me that if these two proposals were objectionable I was bound to repudiate the second one forthwith.
I think that I have now exhausted the personal drama; at any rate, I have searched every nook and cranny of my mind and I have told the House all that I know of the matter. I am ready to take any blame which it is ready to cast upon me. I will take great blame for securing Sir Antony MacDonnell's services on the only terms commensurate with his performance of the duties. I did that, and I would do it again. I will take blame for permitting and for encouraging him to see Lord Dunraven and others and to collect information which might be useful to me in respect of Roman Catholic education. I did that, and I would do itagain. I have as great a right to my views on the higher education of Roman Catholics as any other hon. Members. In India there are elective boards. I may be blamed because such little heed as I did pay to the coming to birth of the Reform Association during my holidays did not seem to me to afford any reason for my rushing back to Ireland. But from all this there followed, as I have said, a serious misunderstanding, but what is perfectly plain is that Sir Antony MacDonnell was justified and well warranted in the belief that I should not, and could not, object to his seeing Lord Dunraven or discussing with him the possibilities of reform, and the chances of Unionists in the South taking a more active part in politics and local affairs. He knew from conversations and from my speeches in this House that I was in favour of allowing the Irish Government to devote money exclusively Irish to the needs peculiar to that country, and he knew that I did not object, and I do not object, to the principle of some such measure for private Bill legislation as that which has been given to Scotland, with the necessary alterations to make it applicable to Ireland. From this he inferred that I did not object, and I do object, to the creation of an elective financial board, and that I did not object, 661 and I do object, to the delegation of any legislative power to anybody in Ireland other than for the purpose of Private Bills. His inference was a perfectly honest one, upon which he acted without any attempt to conceal anything.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I am coming to that. He was wrong in drafting that document without being sure that I approved of the proposal, but it throws no kind of reflection upon his honour, candour, or integrity. His career in India stands unblemished by this matter. Now I am asked why I do not defend his action. I ought to add, as I said before, that as soon as Sir Antony MacDonnell saw my objection to these two proposals in The Times he at once informed Lord Dun-raven that he could have no connection with the programme. Having made that clear I am asked why I did not defend Sir Antony MacDonnell. I have defended Sir Antony MacDonnell.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
He was censured by the Cabinet because he assisted the publication owing to this misunderstanding, as I have explained, of proposals to which I and to which the Cabinet object; proposals which I was not at liberty to make without consultation with my colleagues, and which, therefore, he was not at liberty to make without knowing clearly that I was in favour of them.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
A statement made by the Cabinet that they could not defend a publication of these proposals is a statement of fact. How can we as a Party, as a Government, defend the publication of proposals to which we object? But to that statement was added that the Government were thoroughly satisfied with the loyalty of Sir Antony MacDonnell. Now, it may be urged that you ought not to say you cannot defend the publication of those two 662 proposals, and, at the same time, say that you are satisfied of his loyalty.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not know whether hon. Members wish to add acerbity, but I do not remember the word "conduct" being used. The point was that in assisting the formulation of these proposals his action was indefensible. But that casts no reflection upon Sir Antony MacDonnell. You cannot defend the publication of views from which you dissent yourself. Let me put it to my hon. friend. If we had said that we could not defend the publication of these proposals and we disapproved of them, without saying that we were satisfied that Sir Antony MacDonnell was acting honestly, we should have been casting an unmerited aspersion upon a public man upon whom no such aspersion should be cast. It would have been thought that the Government approved, or tacitly assented, to proposals to which the Government as a matter of fact took the strongest objection, and to which I have taken the strongest objection. I have dealt with this matter fully and without any artifices of speaking, and having dealt with it I feel it would be dull indeed—
MR. WINSTON CHUECHILL
Before the right hon. Gentleman passes from the subject altogether, will he answer the question whether the censure of the Cabinet on Sir Antony MacDonnell also covers the action of the Viceroy?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
This is a somewhat new question, because, when the Cabinet censured, if that is the proper term, Sir Antony MacDonell they did not know that the Viceroy had assented. Having dealt with this personal drama, at any rate very frankly, I feel it would be useless for me to deal seriously with the Amendment before the House, for this personal drama for the moment engages all our attention. The Amendment before the House raises very great questions of the highest moment. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford who opened this debate was quite explicit, as he always is. He wants Home Rule. We are entitled to know whether those 663 who vote for this Amendment are ready to go to that length or not. I saw in the newspaper the other day that everybody should vote for this Amendment, because it meant a change in Party Government. Well, I should like to know the views of the Opposition upon this Amendment. My own views are perfectly clear. I stated last year in the debate on the Address that there is no middle term between Home Rule and the Union as it at present exists. I do not believe you will improve the situation of Ireland by means of a National Assembly and calling it something else. I do not believe you will improve the situation in Ireland by giving limited powers which you say you can revoke. I do not think you will improve the situation by supporting a national body and giving it no financial control, giving it a stipend like a boy upon an allowance. If any of those plans were followed the situation of Ireland would not be better, but worse than it is now. Because I am unable to say now, and because I have never been able to say, that the Unionist policy is unacceptable to the majority of the Irish people, it is assumed that we ought to try some experiment. Sir, I deny that. It is true now, as it was when the words were written, 110 years ago, that "This a state of things which no man in his senses can call perfectly happy." But it is the state of Ireland and the words go on. "To-day, the question is this—Are we to make the best of this situation which we cannot alter?" My view as a Unionist Minister has been that we ought to try and make the best of the situation. Because I have followed that view, I have exposed myself in some quarters to a great deal of hostile criticism, and if it is because I hold that view I have been condemned, I shall accept the condemnation with equanimity.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said that after listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman he accepted fully the assurance he had given. He was a man of honour, and he accepted every word he had uttered as regarded his personal share in this most unhappy transaction. He could not help feeling, however, that Sir Antony MacDonnell had been very badly used in this matter. What were the circumstances under which 664 Sir Antony MacDonnell, in the year 1902' was appointed to the great office which he held at the present time? They had heard them stated by the right hon. Gentleman, but they had also heard them stated in another place by Lord Lansdowne, and they knew pretty accurately what was the footing upon which Sir Antony MacDonnell came to Dublin Castle. The conditions were quite different from the usual conditions. Lord Lansdowne had stated that one of the conditions was that Sir Antony MacDonnell was not to be bound by the narrow rules of routine, and that he was to have greater opportunities of initiative. That was one of the phrases which appeared in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. One of Sir Antony MacDonnell's tasks was to be the coordination of the many detached or semi-detached boards under which the Government of Ireland was at present sub-divided. That was a most remarkable phrase. Upon that footing, and coming to Ireland from a great position in India as Sir Antony MacDonnell did, what took place? There was a discussion between the right hon. Gentleman and Sir Antony MacDonnell as to what was to be the policy of the administration in which he was to take a share, and the Chief Secretary had told them that there were many topics on which there was large discussion, and that there was an exchange of views not merely in writing but also in conversation. There was, for instance, an exchange of views upon education, and they knew, of course, that that meant the large question connected with University education in Ireland. Then there was the question of co-ordination of the many deta hed boards, which were the same words as he had just quoted from Lord Lansdowne's speech. Then there was administrative conciliation, another very remarkable phrase, and there was also consolidation, opening up a wide field. It was perfectly obvious from what the right hon. Gentleman had told the House that the discussions between himself and Sir Antony MacDonnell went very far. He accepted the right hon. Gentleman's statement that there was a mistake, but his point was that the person to be sympathised with in this matter was Sir 665 Antony MacDonnell and not the right hon. Gentleman. The Unionist Party had made a step forward towards a larger and more liberal measure of government in Ireland, and they had been reproached for being under the influence of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland who sat on the Nationalist side, but those gentlemen had even a better ground for reproaching the administration for being under the heel of the Ascendency Party in Ireland. He welcomed certain signs of a systematic effort on the part of the administration to try and free itself from that control. First, there was the Local Government Bill of the President of the Board of Trade, then at the Irish Office and, later, the conference in Ireland which led up to the Land Act of 1903. That conference was composed of the same people who had issued this manifesto which gave rise to such misunderstanding. The House had learned to-night that the views of the Chief Secretary were not opposed to every statutory board. He had made an exception in favor of Private Bill legislation, and held the view that a statutory board could be formed in Ireland to deal with that. The proposed financial council, however, was a matter on which he would like some light, for such a council was certainly a new feature in the situation. The right hon. Gentleman, he understood, had not concealed from them that he was in favour of a financial council of some kind, but what he did object to was a financial council which should control the allocation, which he himself chose to make, of the grants.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
No, I personally, speaking for what my experience of Dublin Castle is worth, object to having anybody interposed between the Treasury and this House.
§ MR. HALDANE
Well, I should have thought that that was a topic which 666 emerged in the conversations between Sir Antony MacDonnell and the right hon. Gentleman. Was it not discussed?
§ MR. WYNDHAM
That is so; but I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to take it from me that I supposed, in my ignorance of Indian affairs, when the words "provincial control" were mentioned, that they did not convey financial control. I did not know there was a council in India. My object had been to get more money from the Consolidated Grant for Ireland, to be devoted to Irish purposes on the lines of the Development Grant. My object has never been—and as soon as I heard it stated 1 objected to it—that anybody should intervene between the Treasury and this House, a third body to whom I should have to repeat the endless arguments I have to urge in order to get money for any purpose.
§ MR. HALDANE
Then I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman very much when I heard his speech. I certainly thought that some consultative body was discussed.
said that of course he accepted the right hon. Gentleman's statement; but it was very remarkable that Sir Antony MacDonnell should have slipped so easily into the idea that a financial council, which occupied a prominent position in the Reform Association scheme, came within the scope of what he was authorised to discuss. It only confirmed in his mind the fact that the discussions between the right hon. Gentleman and Sir Antony MacDonnell must have gone very far and been very loose. The step taken by the right hon. Gentleman in summoning Sir Antony Mac-Donnell to the councils of the Irish Office on the footing which had been described was a most extraordinary one. It seemed to him that Sir Antony MacDonnell must have very much misunderstood the letter of this, as he had misapprehended the spirit. It seemed to him that the case was 667 one either for dismissal or defence, and not for the policy of censure which the right hon. Gentleman and those around him had adopted. It also seemed that there had been a good deal of division of opinion in the councils in which the right hon. Gentleman had taken part. For example, the attitude of mind of the right hon. Gentleman and Lord Lans-downe was quite different from that of the more extreme representatives of the Ascendency Party, not only out of the Government, but in the Government. One of the most extraordinary features of the situation was the fact that the attack on the right hon. Gentleman should come from the English Solicitor-General, who was a member of the Government. Then, again, they found The Times demanding the head not only of Sir Antony MacDonnell, but of the Lord-Lieutenant, in such an article in that paper as appeared that morning from its Dublin correspondent. After quoting the article in question, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was conveyed to his mind that there were two elements with which the right hon. Gentleman had to deal—those who, like Lord Lansdowne, wished to govern Ireland sympathetically, and those who, like the writer of The Times article and the hon. and learned Member opposite, took the old stiff ascendency view.
There had been a great deal of talk upon the question of a Catholic University. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had always taken a very large view of this matter, and had stated that he wished to put education upon a footing free from the taint of Protestantism on the one hand, and Catholicism on the other, and existing only for educational purposes. The Chief Secretary committed himself to that policy in 1899, but since then some other element in the Cabinet had diverted him from carrying out those views, and what they had before them on this occasion was very much like what occurred in 1899, namely, the Government coming to a certain conclusion, and expressing certain convictions, and then being terrorised out of them. A Government of that kind could not command the confidence of the country and could not command the confidence of Ireland. They had just had an example 668 of the kind of confidence which this policy inspired in hon. Members representing Ulster. The House knew perfectly well the opinions of the Opposition upon these questions. He could not help contrasting the want of firmness and definiteness now shown in this matter by the Government in regard to Sir Antony MacDonnell with the very different attitude adopted by Lord Morpeth and Lord John Russell in regard to Mr. Drummond on the memorable occasion which presented the nearest parallel. In the spring of 1839 Mr. Drummond found himself in a situation very much like that in which Sir Antony MacDonnell found himself at the present time. What he did was to come to the conclusion that the magistrates in Ulster could not be trusted to deal with the maintenance of order in cases where b there was a conflict between Protestants and Catholics, and so he appointed stipendiary magistrates. Knowing the spirit in which Mr. Drummond was appointed, knowing the work they had sent him to do, the men then responsible for the conduct of government in Ireland did not waste time upon small matters of detail, but took into account the fact that they had given the largest freedom to Mr. Drummond, just as it was given to Sir Antony MacDonnell, to do his best. And what happened? The House of Lords passed a vote of censure upon Mr. Drummond, but Lord John Russell in the House of Commons defended Mr. Drummond's action and reversed the decision given in the House of Lords. One could not help thinking that it would be much better if there was a little more of that firmer spirit shown on the part of those now administering Irish affairs.
He was talking of what they might have done, if they had used all the splendid opportunities which had come to them, with the magnificent majority they had in the House, and the resources at their disposal. Whether they took education, administration, or the reforms which formed the non-controversial part of the conversations between Sir Antony MacDonnell and the Chief Secretary, a vast field was open to them from which they seemed to have been frightened by the paralysing influence of that small Party in Ireland which appeared now 669 to be exerting such a great influence, Surely the business of the Government of this country was to know their own mind about what they were going to do in Ireland, and he could not believe that they knew their own mind when they appointed Sir Antony MacDonnell, with the views he held, and then had to pull him up with a censure upon the matter they now had before them. Taking that broad view of the case, which one was bound to take in matters of this sort, the dilemma was one which necessitated either dismissal or a defence from the Chief Secretary. Dismissal they could not adopt in the face of what had now been admitted. That there were differences of opinion was quite evident, but it was not as though, Sir Antony MacDonnell had neglected to perform some executive act, for he had simply taken part in the preparation of a certain scheme which had been given to the public. That might have been unwise, but it only represented Sir Antony MacDonnell's individual view and it was not put forward on any other footing. This matter had been going on for some months, and the whole head and cause of Sir Antony MacDoanell's offending was that be had taken a line of his own in trying to administer the government in the interests of Ireland and not in the interests of any section. Surely this was a possible policy for hon. Members opposite, and they ought to try to find some lines on which to run the government of Ireland, which lines should have in them the element of continuity and should be in the interests of Ireland as a whole and not of any one section; lines which those who came after them might take up with some assurance of continuity, still carrying on the good work which had already been begun. That did not seem to him to be the mind or the mood of the present Ministry, who stood up to nobody; they could not stand up to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and they could not stand up to the Ulster element. One wondered whether there was anything left upon which the present Government would show sufficient nerve to initiate a policy and follow it out to its conclusion. The proposal before the House was a most opportune one, for it gave them an opportunity of discussing 670 and bringing to the test a situation which he thought was more extraordinary than any situation which he had seen in the House of Commons for some time past.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
said he was unable to agree with his hon. friends sitting near him upon this question, although he was generally very warmly in sympathy with their actions in Irish affairs. Upon Home Rule he heartily agreed with them. He should have thought that at the present time Home Rule was as dead as any question in the world, and his hon. friends representing Ireland need not be so anxious about it as they apparently were. He was very much surprised that anyone should be alarmed at the idea of this question coming to the front again, because in his opinion the English people had come to regard Home Rule as a closed issue. ["No, no!"] Nevertheless it was quite fitting that the Chief Secretary should repudiate with all the earnestness in his power any notion of coquetting with such a policy. He did not think that anything which Sir Antony MacDonnell had done could be reasonably construed as meaning an encouragement to Home Rule. Sir Antony was pursuing a conciliatory policy, and the right hon. Gentleman naturally contemplated that he should collect information from all sorts of people, and all sections of society, upon all sorts of matters, but he did not contemplate that he would either identify himself with any scheme of delegation or the Imperial control of finance. By doing this he was extending his duties beyond the limits which his right hon. friend had marked out for him. It was absurd, however, to say that Sir Antony MacDonnell was not to discuss these matters. Paraphrasing the apostle, "It is not a shame to speak of Home Rule." Home Rule, though pernicious, was not indecent. What was improper was that a scheme should actually be formulated with the assistance of the Under-Secretary and published to the world. That scheme was of a very moderate character, and did not go the whole distance of Home Rule; but it was an extremely foolish proposal and would probably have given an advantage to Home Rulers in the 671 discussion of the question both in this country and in Ireland. It was improper, therefore, that Sir Antony MacDonnell should have identified himself with the publication of the scheme. Then arose the question of what his position and what the position of the Government towards him ought to be. The hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire strongly affirmed that the Government had no alternative except to dismiss or to defend Sir Antony MacDonnell. It was impossible to lay down a more astounding doctrine or one more injurious to the public service. Was it to be said that the Government must either approve what they knew to be wrong or dismiss a public servant whom they knew to be useful? Was there to be no alternative to insincerity or injury to the public service?
§ MR. HALDANE
asked whether the noble Lord held that public servants should be attacked when they had no opportunity of defending themselves,
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
said that when an attack was made the truth should be told. So far as a public official was in the right the Government should say he was in the right, and so far as he was in the wrong they should say he was in the wrong. How could he be aggrieved because they had spoken the truth when asked about the matter? The hon. and learned Member, who doubtless as a lawyer could defend anybody, had already taken up the cudgels in Sir Antony MacDonnell's behalf.
§ MR. HALDANE
asked whether the noble Lord suggested that Sir Antony MacDonnell should be sent to him with authority to state all the facts of what passed between him and the Chief Secretary?
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
understood that all the facts had been laid before the House. ["No."] The hon. and learned Member had already made a defence of Sir Antony MacDonnell, and had laid down the doctrine that the Government must get rid of a public servant whom they believed to be useful to the public service, because they were not able to say they thought him right when, as a matter of 672 fact, they knew him to be wrong. Common sense demanded that they should pass a moderately and temperately worded censure when he was wrong, praise the much wider portion of his official work which deserved praise, and leave him in the position he adorned, and in which he would continue to be able to serve the public. It was often said of soldiers in the field and other public servants that the Government must either defend or dismiss them. That led to a series of insincere public defences, which everybody knew to be insincere, which were positively unfair to those who legitimately criticised the action of public officials, and which advanced no cause whatever except the lowering of the tone of debates in Parliament by creating the impression that Members were playing an unreal game and could not tell the truth. He strongly defended and applauded the Government for the course they had taken in regard to Sir Antony MacDonnell. He could not help feeling that his hon. friends were a little unreasonable in their attitude in regard to the policy of conciliation toward all classes in Ireland.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said he had no objection to conciliation at all. He thought it a capital theory, but in practice it proved to be conciliating their enemies at the expense of their friends, and as such was disastrous to Unionism.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
said that wherever a Government had to deal with two bodies of partisan opinion, each strongly inflamed against the other, if they were impartial, it was certain that they would be strongly censured by both parties. In view of the strong opinions held by the hon. Member for Antrim, if he did not criticise the Government it would be almost positive proof that the Government were partial in his favour. Everybody who had sat through Irish debates knew that the Irish question was not a question between Ireland and England; it was a quarrel between two parties of Irishmen—landlords and tenants, Nationalists and Unionists, Protestants and Roman Catholics—and this quarrel was perpetually being brought before the House, and landed the Government of the United Kingdom in a series of 673 awkward positions. Any effort to do what was fair and just to both parties was denounced by the opposing camps. The Chief Secretary's administration had received that mark of success, and it was exactly what he should have expected from that right hon. Gentleman's moderate and impartial way of looking at things.
He was glad the Chief Secretary had repudiated so emphatically all schemes of devolution which partook of the nature of the proposals. There was no doubt great force in the argument in favour of relieving the House of some of its burden of business, but he distrusted all schemes designed for that object unless they possessed two qualifications—first, that they left a real control to the House, and secondly—which was more important—that they proposed no delegation from the other House of Parliament. Whatever might be said about the House of Commons being overburdened with work, the other House could not be said to be, and any proposal to delegate power from that Assembly could be put forward, not as a matter of business, but only with an eye to the principle of nationality. That was where he dissented so vehemently from hon. Gentlemen opposite. They conceived the Irish question to be a national question, in fact, they called themselves "Nationalists." If he said there was not, never had been, and never would be such a thing as an Irish nationality, he would very deeply offend hon. Members; therefore he preferred to say that in none of the four countries of the United Kingdom could it be maintained that there was historically a nationality in the full sense of the word. When was England a nationality? In what year of grace? He did not know that England, as such, ever had what was called the idea of nationality. He did not admit that a country was a nationality when one half of the population was engaged in cutting the throats of the other half, hence he did not admit that England was a nationality during the period of the Wars of the Roses. Nor as long as they were under French influence could they be called an English nationality. That brought them down as late as Henry VII., and by that time wales had 674 become amalgamated. Then, in the time of Elizabeth, Scotch influence came in-Scotch influence spread over England so that England was almost a protected State. Under James I. the two peoples were united. There was not a single moment in Irish history when it could be said that Ireland had a nationality of which she had since been deprived. How absurdly unreal it was to speak of the United Kingdom as being made up of nationalities! He doubted whether there was a single Member of Parliament in whose veins was not flowing blood belonging to all four. Clearly they were of one nationality, amalgamated of different racial component parts—one nationality with one national history, just as they had one body of national interests and one national language. There was no greater sham than the idea of nationality as applied to any one of the four countries. The only difference between Irish nationality and English nationality was that the one was an active and the other a dormant sham. This very debate served to remind the House of the essential duality of Irish character. If they were to treat any nationality at all they must divide Ireland into halves, separating the North East from the rest of the body, unequal in population, wealth, and intelligence. Home Rule was in many respects a pernicious proposal; and it was certainly altogether misdirected. It did not "touch the spot" in Irish affairs, or reach the real Irish difficulty. Disapproving strongly of Home Rule, he submitted to his hon. friend that there was something more important than their immediate quarrel with the Government. Home Rule was for the time being extinct in English opinion. English and Scotch opinion would decide the Home Rule question. There was no prospect of converting the whole of Irish opinion to the one side or the other. Ulster would not be converted to Home Rule, nor the South of Ireland to Unionism. It followed, therefore, that it was all important to have regard to English and Scotch opinion, and to inflict, or nearly inflict a defeat on the Government which would beyond all doubt revive the Home Rule feeling in England and Scotland. It was thought the thing was dead; people did not care two straws about it. 675 They had not followed Sir Antony MacDonnell—hardly knew his name. But the moment they saw that the Imperial Government had been either defeated or jeopardised they would say, "This is a very serious matter, the Irish Government is not being well conducted; we must really listen again to those views, which we thought almost every one had abandoned, as to a fundamental administrative change." He was convinced hon. Members would sincerely regret it if they took such a course. Not only were loyalty, zeal, and earnestness necessary to achieve great objects, but patience also, and it would be an ill day for their common country if, in a moment of irritation, his hon. friends jeopardised the fruits of a victory which was almost won, and to which their courage and patriotism had largely contributed.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN (Kilkenny, N.)
said it was a very fitting thing that the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich should lecture the Irish landlords on the disadvantages of ill-tempered debate in this House. He was not aware that any of the Irish Members of the House on one side or the other had addressed the epithet "coward" to any Member of the House, though that was the epithet the noble Lord flung at the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The speech just delivered by the noble Lord displayed an amount of British audacity which was characteristic of all superior Englishmen when they came to deal with the affairs of Ireland. The noble Lord had made it plain what the Irish Nationalist Members, and what Ireland, might expect from him and the Party to which he belonged. He had taken upon himself to pcse as the apostle of unambiguous speech in the House, but he had come forward to-night to defend the Government on a question with respect to which, to borrow a phrase, "metaphysical sophistication" had been the prominent feature. There had been questions put from both sides of the House to the Chief Secretary, and he had not answered one of them. The right hon. Gentleman had been asked from both sides what was the part Lord Dudley had played in this transaction. He wanted to know from 676 the Government—did Lord Dudley represent anything or anybody in Ireland? Lord Dudley was the representative of the King, and surely the Government could not charge Sir Antony MacDonnell with reprehensible conduct if Lord Dudley sent a communication to be read in the House of Lords that he had been associated with the whole transaction from beginning to end.
The Chief Secretary had that afternoon pointed out that he at least was free from association with the proposals of Lord Dunraven, and yet the right hon. Gentleman's speech from beginning to end was a defence of Lord Dunraven and his proposals. The right hon. Gentleman had written on behalf of the Cabinet that the conduct of Sir Antony MacDonnell was reprehensible. An hon. Member on his side of the House had stated that Sir Antony, if his conduct was reprehensible, was unworthy of being entrusted further with the administration of Irish affairs, or else the Government was a sham and a fraud. No one knew the views of the Prime Minister on the fiscal question, but if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham were to succeed in inducing the country to accept his policy, the fruits of his labours were to be plucked by the Prime Minister. The Chief Secretary had in the same way freed himself from the proposals of Lord Dunraven and Sir Antony MacDonnell, but if these gentlemen had succeeded they would have been put on one side and the Chief Secretary would have come forward and claimed the credit.
The hon. and learned Member for North Antrim approached every question affecting Ireland from the point of view of place and jobs. His own opinion was that the hon. Member was a rather unreasonable Unionist, for he had admitted that out of the ten Irish Unionists five had got places of emolument which might, all things considered, be regarded as a reasonable share of responsibility and gain. He had noticed that the hon. Member's eloquent appeal to his friends on the Treasury Bench to give up their places had been met with a painful silence. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich had said there were two Irelands. That was not so; but in any 677 event he denied that the hon. and learned Member for North Antrim represented the Protestants of Ireland while there were in the House the Member for South Tyrone—who had rendered more service to the Union than the whole galaxy of hon. Gentlemen opposite—the Member for Fermanagh and the Member for East Down. None of these Gentlemen were Catholics, nor, so far as he knew, Nationalists. The only Protestantism in Ireland the hon. and learned Gentlemen recognised was the Protestantism which had for its music the big drum and which marched under Orange colours.
These three hon. Gentlemen were the representatives and exponents of a new idea in Ireland; a wider appreciation of the events in Parliament; they would come back after the general election strengthened in numbers and influence, and the House would have the Irish Question presented with an irresistible power that it never had before. Everybody knew that Sir Antony MacDoanell's appointment was not a Castle appointment. According to Lord Lansdowne he was a different kind of man from those usually appointed by the Castle. Lord Lansdowne said—Sir Antony MacDonnell has held successively a series of the highest and most responsible posts in the Indian service. He was at different times at the head of the Government of Burma, at the head of the Government of the Central Provinces, with a population of 12,000,000 committed to his charge, and he was Chief Commissioner of the North-West Provinces, with a population of no fewer than 47,000,000 under his government. Subsequently he became a member of the Viceroy's Council, and on his return home, as the noble Marquess reminded us, lie had the high honour of a place in the Privy Council conferred upon him. Now, my Lords, during that long and arduous service in India Sir Antony MacDonnell has had to deal with the most difficult of the many difficult problems with which Indian statesmen are confronted. He dealt with great famines, and thanks to his administration, waves of distress, the violence of which we can scarcely conceive in this country, passed over the districts committed to his charge and left the population scathless behind them. He dealt with religious difficulties in a country where religious differences produce feelings as bitter even as those which can be found on the other side of tin Irish Channel. He dealt with the great and intricate problems of Indian laud tenure—problems as complicated as any with which weare familar in these islands.678 That was what Sir Antony Mac-Donnell had done, and that was not the class of appointment that hon. Gentleman opposite wanted. If a mere Castle hack was needed that could be got without any difficulty and without going very farafield. There were five placemen on the benches opposite and ten or twenty eager to be made placemen. There was never any difficulty in getting a fine lot of candidates for a Government job. There were hon. Gentlemen on the other side who would preserve the best traditions of Castle government if they could only get a place. There had been some appointed to unpaid positions who were found too dear at the price. What was wanted was a man of strong mind and great powers of initiative to popularise Dublin Castle—an entirely hopeless task. It was not the Under-Secretary's fault that he had not succeeded, it was the fault of the Dublin Castle system which was rotten to the core, and could never be anything but a name that stank in the nostrils of all decent men. Sir Antony MacDonnell was given large powers of initiative, free action, and consultation as they had now learned. But the foundation and basis of all the charges against him was, that he was an Irishman come to govern Ireland; and secondly, he was a Catholic Irishman. Was that a crime? Let the gentlemen answer who had traduced him in Ulster. It was not his function to defend Sir Antony MacDonnell. All Castle officials were alike to him. He believed that they could never govern Ireland satisfactorily by Dublin Castle, but still the position of Sir Antony MacDonnell should be regarded with some consideration for Irish chivalry. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had not only pursued Sir Antony MacDonnell in regard to this particular incident raised in this debate, but had throughout pursued him with a truculence unparalleled in the case of any other public man. And that night the hon. and learned Member stood up in the House and practically apologised for all he had said about Sir Antony MacDonnell, rightly interpreting the new condition of affairs, and that the responsibility rested with the Government—a responsibility which the Government had shirked. Sir Antony MacDonnell merely pleaded that honourable past 679 which had characterised him in all his public actions since he was entrusted with responsibility in public office.
The hon. Member opposite, in order to prove that there were two Irelands to intelligent, but ignorant Englishmen, made an attack upon County Cavan. He told about the horrible action that was done to a poor Protestant rate-collector or a potential rate collector. His argument was that a rate collector had been appointed, who was preferred to a Protestant candidate who was prepared to collect the rates at Id. in the£poundage less. Was that a basis of attack on Sir Antony MacDonnell? What were the real facts? They did not know in the House anything of the local conditions of this much-maligned County Cavan. And yet, having a Catholic population of 95 per cent. of the whole, it returned a Protestant Member of Parliament. The hon. Member did not tell that to the House. Might he ask the noble Lord, with his airy epigrammatic references to two Irelands, was that a proof of Catholic bigotry, or of the bitter passions that existed between Protestants and Catholics? Here was County Cavan returning to this Parliament to represent them, and promote their interests, a gentleman of a different religious persuasion to 95 per cent, of the inhabitants. How many Catholic representatives had they in the noble Lords of Ireland? And yet he came there flaunting the flag of religious liberty, while it would be a positive miracle for any Catholic, even if he betrayed his own class, to be returned for a constituency in that part of the country. The hon. and learned Member opposite also came there, representing that poor persecuted minority, and at a time when there was a keener realisation of the future in store for Ireland, and a better spirit was prevailing among the people, when the writing was on the wall, so far as this Government was concerned, he appealed to the old Party cries, bad manners, Party strife, and religious differences among the people of Ireland. The hon. and learned Member talked about the 1,250,000 Protestants whom he represented in the House, but the Orange lodges in his own constituency would revolt against him. He talked about 680 something a minute ago that was an abortion in Dublin Castle, but there was another abortion, brought forth he did not know where—the Ulster Landlords Union; and he talked about the various associations which it represented. Why, the hon. Member for South Belfast would not be allowed into it. This association, which surely represented something in this House, would not be recognised amongst the brilliant Constitutionalists which dominated the Government and that new born body. If he came there to speak for the whole of Ulster and his hon. friend sitting opposite him, he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would tell the House what his view was of the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the Irish Landlords Union. What was his speech from beginning to end but the most powerful impeachment of British rule in Ireland ever heard? The United Irish League would print it at their own expense, because it showed that eighty-two Nationalist Members on that side of the House, ten Members on the other side of the House, and five or six on both sides of the House were all united in saying that the Government was a bad Government, the system was an evil system, and that the conduct of Irish affairs was pernicious in principle. What could be more irresistible? Hon. Gentlemen opposite were not satisfied; they on that side were not satisfied, and if all were united in dissatisfaction of British rule in Ireland, surely the country ought to have a Parliament of its own.
The hon. Gentleman opposite was very fond of aristocratic company; he told the House that he was dining recently with a Judge. All he himself would say was that he was sorry that two Judges were not dining together. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that he need never have any fear of opposition to his promotion from that side of the House. He observed, however, that the hon. Gentleman did not use as a peroration the eloquent passage delivered by Lord Westmeath in the House of Lords, who he believed bore the same relation to Unionists in that House which the hon. Gentleman bore to Unionists in this House. Lord Westmeath said that he would urge on his friends to leave Ireland 681 alone in future, as they wanted to manage their own affairs. The House was now agreed on two fundamental propositions. One was that the government of Ireland was an extravagant and partial government, and that its conduct of Irish affairs from every point of view had been a failure and a disaster. It was also agreed that it was inefficient. He had always understood that logic was one of the great characteristics of the English people; and if that were so, how could they refuse to give Ireland a Parliament of her own. Ireland had not been mentioned in the King's Speech; but it had been heard in the House and elsewhere all the same. The fiscal question and other great English controversial topics had been completely obscured by Ireland springing to the front again. Their policy had been denounced in one breath and practically vindicated in another. The attempt to blind the public on this issue was almost as patent as that in connection with the fiscal policy. The fact was that the Government could not be straight on any question. He expected that that was why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast was appointed War Minister.
The hon. Member for North Antrim stated it was his duty to show the Chief Secretary in his true light to Unionists in England. If that was the view held by lion. Gentlemen opposite, and if they demanded a dissolution, surely if the Government had any respect for public opinion, they would allow the judgment of the country to be taken. The Chief Secretary had broken his promises in connection with the labourers' question and other questions. He got £12,000,000 sterling for Irish landlords, because the House relied on his promises that something would be done for the labourers. Last year he introduced a Bill which was an insult to the labourers; this year they were not mentioned at all. The Prime Minister himself had for Years been telling the world how eager he was for a Catholic University. If the Government had as much tenacity for principle as they had for office, they would have resigned long ago. He did not expect prosy platitudes from the right hon. Gentleman, but an honest and chivalrous speech apologising for the 682 attack he had made on Sir Antony Mac-Donnell when he charged him with being guilty of conduct which was indefensible. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hampshire had a seat in this House, and was able to defend himself, but the Prime Minister, anxious to stand by a subordinate member of the Government, sprang to his feet, and, not satisfied with his own eloquence, had to go to that of John Bright to find words eloquent enough to defend that hon. Member. Sir Antony MacDonnell had no seat in this House, and could not defend himself from the most unfair and cruel charges that had been made against him. Here was a distinguished servant who had been charged with being guilty of indefensible conduct, although they had it on the faith of both Lord Lansdowne and Lord Dudley that they knew all about it. Had he been the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary he would have scorned to have retained office by trampling upon his subordinate.
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
said he embraced this opportunity of withdrawing everything he had ever said with regard to Sir Antony MacDonnell, in view of the statement made by the Chief Secretary. It was quite possible that had Sir Antony MacDonnell not been accused they would not have extracted such important information from the Government as that which they had received that day. He was surprised that the Chief Secretary on going for a holiday, not having had one for six years, did not settle this matter before he went. The Unionist supporters of the Government found themselves that evening is a very awkward position. Lord Lansdowne had given an entirely new definition of Home Rule, which, he said, was "co-ordination of detached and semi-detached boards." They could always fight an open foe, but when they found a Jesuitical friend they must watch him. While the debate was in progress he thought of the speech made by the Viceroy at Belfast, wherein he said that it did not matter whether a man wore an orange or a green shirt, what they wanted was toleration. They also found that the Government was ever ready to give an answer across the floor of the House 683 in regard to a permanent official who was muzzled, who had been unjustly condemned, who had, in his opinion, been most unfairly treated—that this permanent official had been wrong in his action, and his conduct indefensible—but the conduct of the Viceroy, who wrote to Lord Lansdowne that he knew all about it, had not been questioned why? Being interested in this devolution scheme, he invited one of its promoters to Belfast to explain it, and he was asked whether Sir Antony MacDonnell had anything to do with it, because they all thought it was the creation of Sir Antony's brain, and that the Chief Secretary had nothing to do with it, but Lord Dunraven in another place on Friday last said the scheme was type-written in Dublin Castle for secrecy. More than that, some of the Unionists of Belfast honoured Sir Antony with a visit and discussed the question of a Roman Catholic University, or what was called the "educational spirit of the Prime Minister's view." All these things had been going on, and the Chief Secretary was supposed to know nothing about these interviews of Sir Antony's.
It was an absolute impossibility to expect an Irish Unionist to give a vote of confidence on the Amendment which had been moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford. The representatives of a Unionist Government ought to be able to get up and say to the Nationalists, "You are here to demand Home Rule, we are here to refuse it." As to the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, that since there was no possibility of satisfying either Party in Ireland, the best thing was to treat both with contempt, that was a course the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised not to pursue. Lord Lansdowne had said that Sir Antony MacDonnell was an honourable and able official who had come over "to do something for his country before he died." Did this mean granting Home Rule to Ireland under a new name? If, in order to do that, it had been announced that he was to occupy the Chief Secretary's chair and that the right hon. Gentleman was to sit at his feet, it would have been easy to understand Sir Antony MacDonnell taking the lead in 684 many things that he ought not to have. It would be interesting to hear the Prime Minister's views on the question. Another question to be asked was what connection the Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Police had with this correspondence? That official also had helped in the matter of higher education and knew something about the correspondence. The whole mystery was not yet unravelled; it would not be surprising if other mysteries were revealed. He would that Sir Antony MacDonnell were unmuzzled, for he believed he would make a clean breast of the whole matter. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich was perfectly correct in saying that the question of Home Rule would be decided by England and Scotland. The Irish Unionists were a small minority, and it would be useless for them to attempt to fight the battle of the Union unless England and Scotland sent a majority of Members to defend the same principles. The true opponents of Home Rule were not the Ulster Members, but this country as a whole. The Chief Secretary was entitled to regard the course of the debate with some dissatisfaction, but what Unionists had to complain of was not so much that the scheme was allowed to be put before the country as that Sir Antony MacDonnell had been connected with the proposals with the knowledge of the Lord - Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary. He did not think that Ireland would be any more peaceful under the kind of Government described by the hon. Member for Waterford. Many hon. Gentlemen opposite disapproved of the treatment meted out to Protestants in various parts of Ireland. The truth was that the great trouble in Irish politics and the great hindrance to the welfare of the people was the unnecessary interference of the priests. Peace was impossible while the priests controlled Ireland, and until that control was stopped it would be difficult for any Irish Administration to draw an impartial line between the two Parties.
He and his friends were willing to sup-port the Government upon Unionist principles, because they believed that such 685 principles were best for Ireland, but he regretted that their desires had been prevented by the Jesuitical treatment which had been meted out to them from a so-called Unionist Government. He was thoroughly convinced that this treatment was not conciliation but something under a false name, full of hypocrisy, and the sooner the Government washed its hands of it the better. They ought not to expect support from Irish Unionists until they adopted that course. He wished to assure hon. Members opposite that he was as much interested in the welfare and prosperity of Ireland as they were, and the question upon which they differed was as to what methods and tactics ought to be adopted. He was anxious that the Government should take an honest stand, and when they gave a permanent Undersecretary or any Civil servant a free hand they should not hide themselves behind that official. If they failed in their policy let them say so, and take the responsibility. It was a disastrous thing, and not even honourable, to allow any person who had occupied the position of permanent Under-Secretary in Dublin Castle to act in this way. He was not satisfied at all that the Chief Secretary ought not to release Sir Antony MacDonnell from his false position, What were they to have for the future What guarantee had they that the principles he had initiated would not be carried out this year or next year? What guarantee had they that Lord Dunraven would not go on with a scheme of co-ordination of detached or semi-detached boards with the consent of the Cabinet. Were they to understand that this was a sort of halfway house without an open door into which people of all creeds and politics might enter. Irish representatives on the whole were not unaware of the disastrous effects of Dublin Castle administration. While he could not agree with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that the only solution of this problem was Home Rule, because under Home Rule meant Rome Rule, he believed that there was a possibility of giving greater consideration to the needs of the Irish people than was being given by the present Administration. It was time that the Government set their house in order. He thought that the Opposition would find it very 686 difficult indeed in some quarters of England to advocate Home Rule with success, for it would be a harder nut to crack than it was before. They were all agreed that because the Government had refused to take a resolute stand they had been most unsuccessful in conciliating their enemies, and this time they ought to consider not so much conciliation but even-handed justice to all classes.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said that this had been an interesting and extraordinary debate, but he could not agree with the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich that they had had the whole of the facts brought out. He assured the noble Lord that there were a good many ugly facts still to come out. The hon. Member for Haddingtonshire was entirely right when he said that this attack upon Sir Antony MacDonnell began long before the devolution proposals were heard of, and in this aspect this controversy was one of the most squalid character. He had handed to the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford a circular issued by the Irish Unionist Party which was signed by the hon. Member for Mid. Armagh. This was the origin of the whole business under their own hand and seal. [An HON. MEMBER: What is the date?] It was dated 15th February, 1905. It states—The Chief Secretary appears to have abdicated his position of responsibility is favour of a subordinate official with a policy of his own, which is directed to destroying the basis of Irish Unionism and to stimulating against Irish loyalists a political and religious propaganda.That was the point he wished to direct the attention of the House to. The circular went on to state—Unionist constituencies are deprived of their share of public funds; Unionist individuals of their right to emoluments or promotion.These gentleman were very candid. The circular proceeded—Government is carried on in a mass of clerical intrigue directed against Protestants, all in pursuance of this policy.Those gentlemen for whom the hon. Member for Mid. Armagh spoke, and the Party which they represented, at present held nine-tenths of the positions of emolument and trust in Ireland; and yet they desired more, and were getting them every day. He had only to refer 687 to a fact, known to every Irish Member of the House, that within the last twelve months four County Court Judges had been appointed in Ireland, and although the counties over which they had to administrate had an overwhelming Roman Catholic population, three out of four of those appointments had not gone to Catholic barristers, although there were plenty of Catholics fit for them, but three of them had been given to Orangemen and only one to a Nationalist. It was the same in every branch of Irish Government, and yet the gentlemen holding nine-tenths of these positions came and made an appeal to the House of Commons for more. He had been a Member of the House of Commons for twenty years, and remembered a good many gentlemen, barristers from Ireland, who had sat in the House. Where were they now, or, at any rate, most of them? On the Bench opposite. The people who now came clamouring for appointments had received almost all the appointments which had been given since the Union took place, and the vast majority of the population had been practically ostracised by successive Governments. What was the state of things when the Grand Juries had control? Where did the Catholics have a chance then? Was it likely that they could change all that and give the people the chance they had never had before whilst those gentlemen's friends held all the positions of authority. In some respects this was the most squalid debate, so far as the hon. Gentlemen opposite were concerned, that had ever taken place in the House of Commons.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening Sitting.