HC Deb 20 February 1905 vol 141 cc687-720

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [20th February] to 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.)

Which Amendment was— 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 again proposed, "That those words be there added"


continuing his speech, said he had listened attentively to the 'explanation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary as to how he and Sir Antony manufactured Irish policy, It consisted of five or six heads. They were to settle the land question by a system of voluntary purchase. They were to deal with higher education in Ireland, and they were to deal with local government or Home Rule by coordinating detached or semi-detached boards, whatever that might mean. He thought it might mean a great deal. He did not see how they were to coordinate forty-one boards without abolishing most of them and setting up another body in their place. What he would like to ask the Chief Secretary was, with a policy such as that what did all this secrecy mean? Why did he not come out into the open? Had he made a speech in Ireland explaining the policy, it, at all events, would have received fair play. It might not have been carried, but he most certainly would not have been in the very difficult and dubious position he was in that day. What was the position? The Chief Secretary answered a Question in the House on Thursday last, and used remarkable words. It was a remarkable answer—he rather thought it had been sanctioned by the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman said that the first time he saw these proposals was in September in The Times. What would the man in the street think of a statement like that? The man in the street on the English side of the water might be a more intelligent person than the man in Ireland, but he could tell the Chief Secretary what he would understand by a reply of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman said he saw those proposals for the first time in September and most people would have imagined that he had never heard of them before. Supposing there had been no debate in the House of Lords and that answer had stood as it was given, the inevitable conclusion of the public would have been that the Chief Secretary was ignorant of those proposals until he saw them in the newspaper. Why did he not stand up and say he had discussed those questions, as Lord Lansdowne told them, over and over again with Lord Dunraven? Technically he was right and technically it was the truth. He remembered an hon. Member raising a storm of hostility because he said in a Court of Justice that he once made a statement to deceive that House. What did the Chief Secretary mean by telling the House that he did not see these proposals till September 2nd. Why did he not stand up like a man by his friend and subordinate and say that he had discussed those matters over and over again with Sir Antony MacDonnell and Lord Dunraven. Might he ask, when he saw them, what was his action? He (Mr. Russell) remembered the famous phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman at Dover, when he said he blew out that candle, but he was not concerned with the blowing out of the candle. He wanted to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was present at the lighting of it. Let them see how he blew it out. In a letter he said the report embraced, I but tended to confuse, three subjects which were by their nature categorically distinct. First, economy in the application to Irish purposes of public money now actually expended in that country; second, amendment in the procedure of Private Bill, legislation in Ireland consequent on the success of the measure in Scotland, and then the institution of a statutory Legislative Assembly for Ireland. What did the Chief Secretary think about those proposals? He said

nothing about the first, he approved the second, and he condemned the third. The real reason why he did not condemn the first was because he was convinced that the proposal was sound in principle. The letter might be taken as a condemnation of the establishment of a statutory body for Irish legislation. It was not a condemnation of the setting up of a financial council, or of Private Bill legislation being dealt with in Ireland. There was a correspondence in existence between Sir Antony MacDonnell and the Chief Secretary on this question. Would it be produced? That was a plain question. He desired a plain answer. The contrast between Lord Dudley and the Chief Secretary in this matter was very great, Lord Dudley had not thrown over his subordinate officer to the Ulster wolves, Did the right hon. Gentleman coafer over and over again with Lord Dudley on this question? He (Mr. Russell) wanted to know why the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, did not take his stand with Lord Dudley instead of taking refuge in the paltry statement he had made in the House. Lord Dudley had come out of this in a much more creditable manner than the right hon. Gentleman.

There was danger in this debate that other questions would be lost sight of by the predominance of the question of Sir Antony MacDonnell. He wanted to lay bare to the House how the Government was being carried on in Ireland regarding great public issues. Taking the question of higher education, Mr. Gladstone attempted to deal with that thirty-two years ago. About twenty years ago the present Prime Minister declared in Glasgow to a gathering of Unionists that there was in connection with that question an intolerable grievance. He had restated his views over and over again. The Prime Minister now commanded a great majority. He forced through an Education Bill which had deeply touched and wounded the conscientious feeling of hundreds and thousands of English people But the Irish grievance still remained where it had stood for ages. He would ask them to see what followed from this method of treatment. The Catholic youths were placed at a great disadvantage in the battle of life. That question was kept alive in Ireland so as to inflame the passions of large sections of the people, and a case was made out for Catholic education, which, even according to the Prime Minister, was all but unanswerable. The Government appointed a Royal Commission three years ago. Lord Cadogan, then the Lord-Lieutenant, declared that he meant business. Yet nothing had come of it, and Lord Cadogan was Lord-Lieutenant no longer. That Commission took the line of least resistance. They said in effect, "Let the Royal University stand, no new University is needed now; affiliate the Queen's Colleges and the University College of Dublin." Why could they not have acted upon the Report? The Catholic Bishops were ready to accept that plan. By a telegram read from the Nationalist Benches from Archbishop Walsh last session that was announced. But the Government invented a new plan of their own; they threw over the Commission and sent Sir Antony MacDonnell down to Belfast to interview people who represented nobody. There were two dinner-parties given in Belfast. Very respectable gentlemen were present. But there was no one at them who could command a single vote in Ulster. It would have been better to have gone and seen the hon. Member for South Belfast. What was foolishly called the Dunraven scheme was put before them. Lord Dunraven seemed to be the handy man of the Irish Government. But it was no more Lord Dun-raven's scheme than his own. The author of the scheme was sitting on the Treasury Bench. They were not content to act upon the Report of their own Commission. The suggestion was made in a letter of two columns in the Irish Times, signed by Lord Dunraven, that there should be a Catholic College within the University from Dublin. They got the information from these Belfast gentleman, and as they did not like the idea, so for the sake of the Union—which always came into every Irish question—they resolved to sacrifice their conscientious convictions on Catholic education. What was the next step? The Catholic Bishops were consulted. He did not object to that, for they represented somebody. It was a highly proper proceeding, and of course, they, like wise men, were not so much concerned about the scheme. They had had interviews with the Commission on Education before. What they wanted to know was if the right hon. Gentleman meant business, and they were assured that nothing was nearer to the heart of the Irish Government than the settlement of this question. The Bishops then consented to accept either Lord Dunraven's scheme, or the scheme of the Commission. But it then occurred to the Government that they had better consult Trinity College—a thing that should have occurred to them at first. But the moment the scheme was put before the College, of course, they would have nothing to do with it. Just imagine all this as an example of effective government. Why did they not go to Trinity College first and see whether they would consent to such a scheme? Why did they deliberately keep alive this question to divide people? This was what they called ineffective, and he submitted that that word in the Amendment was too mild.

Now, let them take the Land Act. There was a proverb that "Man proposes, but God disposes." It might be said that Parliament proposed and Irish officialdom disposed. under the present system it was impossible to get an honest adminstration of any Act. In the session of 1903, the House spent two or three days in discussing the case of non-judicial tenants, tenants who had not got their rents fixed. They were provided for with the other tenants under Section I and were under the zones. He remembered the Attorney-General saying that these tenants had no relation to Section I and that they ought not to be there. They succeeded, and these 50,000 tenants were put under what was now Section 5. Irish officialdom in its worst days never did a more monstrous thing than was done with regard to those tenants. They had fought to get them outside the zones because they would be submitted to impossible and unfair prices. And what had happened? He knew cases in the North of Ireland where they came under Section 5. The Act said that the Commissioners should take all the circumstances into consideration, yet would it be believed that the interpretation put on Section 5 by the Estates Commissioners —and he presumed by Mr. Justice Meredith—was such that these people who were free from the zones, merely got out of the frying-pan into the fire. The question in such cases was whether the farm as it stood was security for the advance or not. There was no question about the tenants' property in it. But now that was valued as part of the security, and the price went up to thirty and thirty-five years purchase because of the property of the tenant. In other words the tenant might have to purchase his own property over again. He would take another case which came before the Estates Commissioners the other day. It was an estate in the West of Ireland. In 1897 this estate was in Mr. Justice Ross's court and a request was issued by him to the Land Commission to have it valued for sale. Two years afterwards the estate came before the Land Commission on the report of the Commissioners, Mr. Frederick Wrench and Mr. Lynch. They were both land lord's friends to the chin, and were not consumed with anxiety about the tenants, but they reported deliberately that, in their opinion, there was no security for the advance of a single shilling upon that property. They reported that the estate was laden with arrears and that there were only two holders with a valuation above £5. They said that if default occurred recovery would be impossible. The demand of the new tenant for an advance of £7,000was refused. The 1903 Act was passed, and here came the comedy of the whole thing. Mr. Blake Foster, the owner of the estate, disappeared, and the Scottish Union Insurance Company came upon the scene. The Irish Members would recollect that one afternoon the Member for West Edinburgh and the Member for Peebles and Selkirk were active on the Ministerial side of the House protecting the interests of that insurance company. The Scottish Union Insurance Company employed an agent who got the tenants to sign agreements for 10 per cent, less than the rents they had ever paid. That being successfully accomplished they brought them up to the Land Commission and handed them over the counter to a clerk of the Commission, and without inquiry they were registered as judicial rents. That being settled the agent proceeded again to the West and got the tenants to sign purchase agreements, showing another 10 per cent. reduction. These purchase agreements were lodged with the Estates Commissioners, and £9,800 was demanded for the estate on which, according to the Land Commissioners, not a single shilling could be advanced under the old Act. What was stated in support of the demand was that the prices were within the zone and that the Estates Commissioners had no discretion. What he wanted to know was whether the Chief Secretary was going to do anything in that matter. Were these gentlemen to be allowed to sell these bankrupt estates at fancy prices where there was absolutely no security for the advance? Was the right hon. Gentlemen going to amend the Act so as to protect the public against these men. They had heard nothing about that to-day. There was nothing in the King's Speech about it, and yet these cases would be crowding before the Land Commissioners in a few days. It was a serious matter for the taxpayers of Ireland, and, indeed, for the taxpayers of England too, That was what was called efficiency in Ireland.

The mover of the Amendment had said that this system of government was extravagant and costly. He thought he would be able to prove that up to the hilt. What were the facts? This country extracted from Ireland £10,000,000 per annum in the shape of taxation. The cost of the government of Ireland, all told, was something like £7,000,000. That was to say, £3,000,000per annum came to this country from Ireland as an Imperial contribution. The cities of Ireland were crowded with masses of the very poor. In the city of Dublin there were 25,000 families living in one room apiece. A great tract of country in the West was in a state of chronic famine and the people were given over to something like absolute despair in the face of facts like these. This Imperial contribution of £3,000,000 a year helped to pay for the Army which was useless and from which Ireland got no benefit. More than that, Ireland was taxed to the extent of 30 per cent, over Scotland for government, although the population was about the same. He would give a few figures by way of contrast. In Ireland the cost of the Lord-Lieutenancy was £36,557; in Scotland it cost nothing, there being no such office. The Chief Secretary's Department cost £41,650, while the cost of the Secretary for Scotland's Department was £41,678. The Local Government Board in Ireland cost £79,875, and in Scotland £15,825. The Registrar-General's Department in Ireland cost £22,913, and in Scotland £12,227. The Valuation Department in Ireland cost £32,425, and in Scotland there was no Valuation Department. The work of that Department in Scotland seemed to be done by the Local Government Board. The Supreme Court of Judicature, the County Courts and law charges in Ireland cost £421,687, and that was exclusive of £16,333 for the Land Commission which came out of the Consolidated Fund. The Scottish legal expenses amounted to £259,373. The Royal Irish Constabulary and the Metropolitan Police cost £1,569,214, while the whole of Scotland was policed for £539,196. Why should the government of Ireland cost more than the government of Scotland? Scotland was a well-governed country. He saw his hon. friend the Member for Clackmannan rather shrink from the imputation of a previous speaker that there was more crime in Scotland than in Ireland. What was the reason? Scotland was a great manufacturing country, and it had large towns, and wherever these two things were found they would get crime of a certain kind. Ireland was to a large extent an agricultural country. That was the reason.

MR. EUGENE WASON (Clackmannan and Kinross)

I beg your pardon. We have a great many Englishmen in Scotland.


said he wanted to ask this question seriously. Why was it that Ireland, a poor country, should be taxed to the tune of 30 per cent, more for government than Scotland, a rich country? He thought it was high time that English Members did pay some attention to that matter. Was the Amendment of his hon. friend wrong in describing the Government of Ireland as extravagantly costly? It was the absolute and literal truth.

Did this system enjoy the confidence of anybody? They had ocular demonstration in the House of Commons. Here there were eighty-two or eighty-three Members, permanently encamped in their midst, hostile to the Government in every shape and form. Did hon. Members from Ulster feel confidence in His Majesty's Government? There were the Unionists from Ulster who arrogated to themselves the title of the only Unionists. There were a few others, and there would be more by-and-bye. For a hundred years and more the Ulster Unionists had been a favoured class. They now had nine-tenths of the positions of trust and emolument in the country. There were sixteen Irish Judges, and thirteen of them were Protestants. Two-thirds of the County Court Judges were also Protestant. There was not a department of the State where friends of those gentlemen were not quartered. Chief Secretary after Chief Secretary quartered his private secretary on the country—and there were at least half a dozen of such gentlemen occupying positions of emolument in Ireland to-day. And Ireland was expected to be content. Those gentlemen would be content so long as they were fed with manna from the Treasury. But it did not follow everybody else would be content. And yet because a Protestant doctor at Bal-linassloe was passed over for promotion and a Roman Catholic chosen instead these gentlemen had actually conjured up a state of affairs which had no existence save in their own heated imaginations; and here 105 years after the Union the English garrison was in revolt. Let not the Chief Secretary be discouraged. After the First Lord had spoken they would come to heel. He was not a betting man, but if he were he would bet heavily upon every one of them trotting into the lobby against the Amendment when the division came. At all events they were in open revolt. One would imagine to hear them that they were in the fight which defeated Home Rule. But not one of them was there. Did they save the Union? Some of them were in swaddling clothes at the time and the rest of them took precious good care to keep a safe distance from English platforms, and it was a very good thing for the Union that they did. Here they were in open revolt, their heart-strings torn because their beloved Government had disappointed them and determined to make a last stand—what for?—not for the Union but for their immemorial privileges.

The Irish Government had the confidence of nobody save officials and lawyers "on the make." But for the Home Rule scare which the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich had raised the Government would not have a single supporter save for Trinity College—and that support would not be entirely disinterested either. No man could fail to be alarmed at the condition of Ireland, and if they had statesmen at Dublin Castle instead of men who intrigued, the question would be faced and a remedy would be devised. The working of the Land Act was absolutely arrested for lack of money, there was maladministration in favour of landlords, and the West, which was the great reason of the Act being passed, was practically exempt from its action. If this went on for fifteen or sixteen years more they would have a nation of old men and old women, of policemen, and officials. What a lurid light this Dunravenism threw upon it all! He was no admirer of some of the methods of what was called "MacDonnel-lism" in Ireland, and he rather suspected Sir Antony MacDonncll had discovered, what he might have discovered earlier, that Ireland was not India, and that the methods applicable to India were entirely out of place in a country of representative institutions. He now realised that, although the Ulster Unionists had probably found that they had "bitten off more than the could chew," in this case, it was after all a rather dangerous thing to defy the representatives of any section of the people. The cardinal mistake in all this business was the secrecy. This policy was a reasonable policy—settlement of the land question, of education, extension of local government—there was no reason for secrecy in all that. But the people had been deceived, and he told the Chief Secretary that the period of his usefulness and the usefulness of the Irish administration had gone for ever.

And upon this subject he had a question for the Attorney-General for Ireland, who wont to North Derry and assailed Lord Duuraven's scheme. He hinted darkly at the author of that scheme, and assailed Sir Antony MacDonnell, though not by name. He demanded investigation. He had got it, and it was to be hoped that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was satisfied. Now when did he propose to go back to Coleraine and inform his friends he was totally mistaken, and that, instead of Sir Antony MacDonnell being the author of the scheme, he only assisted with information; that the real culprits were the Irish Government, with Lord Dudley, and the Chief Secretary, who talked things over and kept them in such a state that he could retire at any moment when it became necessary? The Attorney-General for Ireland had told his constituents that this was Home Rule on the sly—did he mean to continue to serve those gentleman who had deceived him and his constituents? This business had been got up because the Ulster representatives were played out in Ulster upon every other question, and by raising a Home Rule scare they hoped to befool the farmers once more, but they would not do it. He heard Lord Lansdowne the other night and enjoyed his definition of co-ordination of detached and semi-detached boards—a blessed word, "co-ordination." He was going to vote for this Amendment—not because he was a Homo Ruler, but because he was in favour of co-ordination. They might call this a Home Rule Amendment, but the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich would not frighten him by calling it so. He voted for it not on that ground. He voted for it because it was a sterling indictment of the whole system of Irish government, and he believed that system to be intolerable. He would vote for the Amendment because he believed it was true in every line and every word.

MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)

congratulated the Member for South Tyrone on his first speech from the Nationalist Benches, where they thought he ought to have sat long ago. The Amendment directly attacked the system under which Ireland was governed. Hon. Members opposite wanted to demolish that system in order to put in its place a form of government which would make Ireland absolutely independent of the rest of the United Kingdom. They who represented Irish Unionism were of course as determined as ever to resist to the utmost all revolutionary proposals of that kind. They were equally determined to offer the most uncompromising opposition to the insidious schemes of devolution which had been put forward by men who had called themselves Unionists. The fact could not be disguised that there existed a strong feeling of discontent at the present Irish administration. It was due not to the system but to the partisan way in which the system had been conducted. In the last session of Parliament the Unionists had endeavoured to make the Government understand how deeply the people of Ulster were stirred by the numerous acts of partisanship that had been committed. Under Sir Antony Mac-Donnell the Unionist administration was swayed by influences opposed to the interests of Loyalists, and the alarm they felt was increased by the publication of devolution proposals with which the name of Lord Dunraven was associated. The disclosures made in that House and in the House of Lords, while they justified the mistrust by the Irish Unionists of Sir Antony MacDonnell's administration, did nothing to lessen the resentment which was felt at the action of the Unionist Government. Sir Antony MacDonnell had been permitted a freedom of action which was altogether unusual in one holding the position of Under-Secretiry. They were given to understand now that Sir Antony MacDonnell was far too distinguished a man to be bound by the ordinary rules of the Civil Service, and that in accordance with the under standing arrived at when he accepted the position he had been left practically a free hand at Dublin Castle. He did not hesitate to say that the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell upon such terms was entirely inconsistent with the principle of Ministerial responsibility, and had the conditions been made known at the time he went to Ireland, the Unionist Party would never have ratified the arrangement. It was understood that he had been asked to assume the Under-Secretaryship only for a time, because his special experience in India would be of service in the preparation of the Land Bill. It was never contemplated by any Unionist Member that Sir Antony MacDonnell, whose Nationalist sympathies were well known, would be placed in such a position of freedom that he could initiate and carry out a policy of his own which was not a Unionist policy, but one that was, in fact, destructive of the first principles of Unionism.

They were entitled to ask from the Chief Secretary some explanation of his position in relation to this matter. They had it placed beyond doubt that Sir Antony took a very active part in shaping the scheme of devolution which had been repudiated by the Government. The Chief Secretary stated that he saw these proposals for the first time when they appeared in The Times in September and that he at once repudiated them. Of course ha accepted that statement, but he considered the Chief Secretary should inform the House as to how far he was cognisant of the negotiations and discussions which had been proceeding between his Under-Secretary and Lord Dunraven, and also to what extent he sympathised with the objects they had in view. It had been avowed that the Lord-Lieutenant had full knowledge of the discussions that were going forward, and it was impossible to resist the conclusion that the Chief Secretary, as a member of the Cabinet, should have interfered earlier than he did, not merely to check the zeal of his Nationalist Under-Secretary in his schemes to promote Home Rule, but to prevent the many acts of partiality and injustice, which had made the system known as "MacDonnellism" a by-word among Irish Unionists. What more glaring example of partisanship could they have than the way in which the Executive dealt with the extra police charges, to which he called attention last session. Nine Nationalist counties in the South and West of Ireland, which flatly refused to pay the demands levied upon them, were excused payment by the Lord-Lieutenant. Very different treatment was meted out to the Ulster counties of Armagh, Tyrone, Down, and Londonderry. Their claims for equal treatment were ignored; payment in full of these charges was insisted upon; and they had been given to understand that if they did not pay, the amounts would be summarily deducted from grants due to them by the Government. It was impossible to justify this arbitrary and one-sided exercise of the administrative powers of the Irish Executive. It stood as an illustration of the flagrant abuse of authority in favour of Nation lists, end to the prejudice of that section of the Irish people who had aclear right to expect lair and just treatment from a Unionist Administration. He asked the Government to reflect upon the absolute failure of the so-called policy of conciliation. It had conciliated nobody. Hon. Members opposite refused to be conciliated. They would not be moved even by the sacrifice of the interests of Loyalists and Unionists. The friends and supporters of the Government had been alienated, and, so far from allaying differences among the Irish people, this policy had stirred into fresh activity the sectarian feeling which was, unfortunately, too rife in Ireland. It had encouraged aggression and intolerance on the one side, and created a sense of injustice on the other, and this sense of wrong would not be removed so long as the author and chief organiser of this policy remained at Dublin Castle. As representatives of the Irish Unionists in that House, he and his colleagues demanded fair treatment and nothing more. He could not believe that in these circumstances the Government would persist in turning a deaf ear to their representations. He hoped that they would receive from the head of the Government, not merely a repudiation of Home Rule and devolution, but such assurances as would convince them that the malign influence at Dublin Castle would be withdrawn, and that in future the administration of affairs in Ireland would be carried on in accordance with the principles of strict justice towards all sections of His Majesty's subjects.


said that the hon. Gentleman who had just-sat down had stated the point of view of the Ulster Members with rather more moderation than others who had spoken from his quarter of the House. But he noticed, or he thought he noticed, in the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich a disposition to ignore altogether the fact that any change of any sort had come over the Irish question in the passage of years, and even a disposition to suggest or assert that whatever might have happened as regards others, no change could come over that question. Now, it seemed to him—he spoke with great diffidence in presence of hon. Members who had taken part in these debates for many years—that there was a very great difference between the Irish question as it presented itself in 1905, and as it presented itself in 1886. For twenty-five years the House of Commons had been debating Irish matters in their more modern aspects, and the attention of Parliament was very rarely concentrated for a very long time on a question without some result being produced. On this particular question it had undoubtedly produced great results both in Ireland and England. He must say that time had largely vindicated the opinions which were expressed by Mr. Gladstone in 1880. A great scheme of local government, which Lord Salisbury in 1887 declared was worse and more dangerous than Home Rule itself, had been established in Ireland by the Tory Party, and was now at work. Upon the whole it was said to be working well, and gave still brighter promise for the future. The land policy in 1886 was the principal object of the attack of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and other Unionists. That land policy which was almost contemptuously refused by the House of Commons, condemned without debate, killed without division, and which, as much as any other single circumstance, had helped to injure the prospects of its companion measure, had since been passed by the House of Commons by overwhelming majorities at the instance of the very Party which had most vehemently opposed it. Well, these were great events, and their consequences ought not, he thought, to discourage those who took an interest in Ireland. It was quite true that the credit of those measures belonged to the Party opposite, and he did not think any one would wish to deprive them of any credit properly their due. But it was also true to say that nothing else than the espousal of the Irish cause by a great English Party would have been sufficient to give the necessary impulse which had awakened the conscience of the English nation. These events had produced, great changes of feeling in Ireland. No doubt the Amendment before the House made a clamorous assertion of irritation and discontent. He was not minimising these, but it was true, lie thought, to say that, in spite of that discontent and irritation, the Irish question did not present itself to the House of Commons with anything like the terrible and tragic aspect which it wore in the years between 1881 and 1887. Events had also changed aspects in England. There had been elections since. After all, the electors in this country followed the course of politics with some attention, and they had observed that a large number of important measures, from which they were led to believe all sorts of dire consequences would follow, had been passed in Parliament by the very men who had made these most gloomy predictions. So far from any serious and unfortunate consequences arising, both countries seemed to have benefited very much by their operation. So he ventured to say it was a new situation in Irish affairs which had arisen.

They were confronted now with a problem in almost every respect less difficult and dangerous than had been confronted in 1886. They found in former times a much more restricted demand put forward on a much less representative authority. Surely it was a striking fact when the hon. Member for South Tyrone could sit on the same side of the House as the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. [An HON. MEMBER from the MINISTERIAL side: "Let him stay there."] Yes, but the hon. Member for South Tyrone was not an unattached unit. He carried with him a considerable body of opinion, and when Lord Dunravcn promulgated a scheme which was treated with consideration by the hon. Member for Mid. Cork these were facts which ought not to be excluded from a judgment of the Irish question. They ought to all be encouraged by them and by successful experiments in the past in Irish legislation. As the hon. and learned Member for Waterford had said that day, he hoped that the Irish question would be honestly approached. He maintained that there had not been a time for many years when there was a greater mass of opinion arrayed against any extreme departure in Irish policy. There never was a time when the declaration of leading politicians of every political complexion in Great Britain, when the pledges given by candidates in various parts of the country, and when the composition of the Parties at Westminster, was more intolerant at the starting of any revolutionary scheme. There never was a time when a Government would be less able to take office fettered in its entire discretion. But it was also true that there never was a time when there was a greater number of moderate sensible people who were prepared to give consideration to the Irish question without passion, to see what a rotten system of Government prevailed in that country, and to approach one of the most difficult, as it was one of the most attractive, questions which could occupy the minds of English politicians.

He did not propose that night to fall foul of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He was quite ready to admit, and sincerely believed, that during his tenure of office the right hon. Gentleman had tried to do his best to hold the balance even between Catholic and Protestant in Ireland. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman's policy and efforts in Ireland had been, he would not say a bright exception, but a less dark exception, to the records of this somewhat melancholy Parliament. He quite agreed with the noble Lord the- Member for Greenwich that the very fact that the Chief Secretary was attacked from all parts of the House proved in a certain Sense the impartiality of his administration. But since the attack had been made, after four years of administration by the right hon. Gentleman with his great powers, high motives, and distinguished talents, and since it had drawn down on him discontent and adverse Irish opinion, it proved something more. The right hon. Gentleman's impartiality might be unaffected, but it likewise proved the impossibility of the system over which he had been called to preside.

Now, being himself a somewhat lonely politician [MINISTERIAL cries of "Not now"] he was naturally very sympathetic with any Member who was in a minority, and consequently he wan not at all prejudiced against the strong expressions of opinion uttered by the hon. and learned Member for North Antrim; but he confessed he was a little sceptical about the grievances of the Irish Unionists. They had heard a piteous tale of their patient suffering under intolerable treachery and wrong. It was a world of sin and woe that we lived in But he saw that other good people suffered misfortune besides the hon. and learned Member for North Antrim, and the hon. Member for Mid. Armagh. And he was not convinced that these latter deserved more pity than other persons of equal virtue and intelligence. Never before in the recent political history of this House, he supposed, was there a minority so well-equipped for political warfare, and so influentialiy protected as the Ulster and Orange Party in that House. It added to their debates fifteen Members altogether, and out of them—he was counting the right lion. Gentleman the Solicitor-General, who was one with them in thought and sympathy—there were no fewer than five in the Government and two in the Cabinet. The Cabinet was well disposed towards them, for they were its thick and thin supporters—they supported it when it was light and when it was wrong. That was the kind of supporters a Government, and particularly this kind of Government, was always well disposed to. They had many strong supporters in the Conservative Party who were devoted to their interests and the interests of the class in Ireland whom they represented. They had immense influence in the House of Lords. They enjoyed the support of The Times newspaper, which must be a great consolation to them. When they came to the influence which they exerted in the Government, they had the support of the Solicitor-General, that great master of political deportment, who had added to their knowledge OH that question several valuable precedents as regarded the conduct of colleagues towards one another, as regarded the conduct of the Law Officers of the Crown towards the Prime Minister, and as regarded the conduct of the Prime Minister towards public servants. They enjoyed the support of Lord Londonderry, who, notwithstanding that he had views of his own on free trade, was not inclined to abandon them, and naturally exerted great authority in this country, particularly on a Tory Cabinet. In addition to that they had the support of the right hon. Gentleman the, Secretary of State for War in those comparatively lucid moments which interrupted the continuity of his labours at the War Office. Well, when they observed, with all this influence in high places, with all this talent of newspaper organisation, that this minority had failed to persuade their own Government for which they had worked so long of the reasonableness of their demands and the essential justice of the position they occupied, he did not believe that they had suffered any great course of flagrant wrong which it would not be in the power of any Government easily and readily to remove. He quite believed that they were seeking for justice, but it seemed to him that what they considered justice was privilege. When they asked for justice and fair treatment for their own affairs, what they wanted was considerable, power over the affairs of other people who lived in the same country with them. He was not convinced that the indignation they had expressed was altogether sincere, for, after all, people usually brought their opinions to the test of a vote. There was an Amendment before the House the other night praying for the dissolution of Parliament and the dismissal of His Majesty's Ministry which, according to the hon. and learned Member for North Antrim, had betrayed him, and yet the hon. and learned Member had voted against that Amendment, and for the continuance in office of the Government against whose conduct he now so strongly protested. What did that mean? Either that the grievances which the hon. and learned Member brought forward were not sufficiently well founded to be carried to a vote, or that the hon. and leagued Member's case and his demands were so extravagant that there was no Party and no Government likely to be called into existence which would be able under any circumstances to entertain them.

He now came to a much more interesting and momentous question which had obtruded itself into the general discussion of Irish affairs; he meant the relations between the Chief Secretary and the Under-Secretary at the Irish Office. He believed that his right hon. friend, the Chief Secretary—if he would allow him to refer to him in that form—although they sat on opposite sides of the House he thought it desirable that public relations between Gentlemen on opposite sides should be cordial—he had known the right hon. Gentleman long enough to believe that he would not be guilty of any wilful misleading of the House of Commons or of subordinates who, on his own admission, had been perfectly loyal to him. He did not think it was difficult to understand how the present situation had arisen, judging from the general political attitude of the right hon. Gentleman, and from the revelations they had lately heard. The views of the right hon. Gentleman were rather peculiar for a Unionist Minister to hold. The right hon. Gentleman was a sincere and convinced opponent of Home Rule; but yet he thought that the Irish ought to be free to manage their own affairs. That was a position not so paradoxical as it might sound; but it was rather difficult for a gentleman occupying such a dual capacity to carry on an Administration. The right hon. Gentleman desired earnestly the welfare of the country he was appointed to control; but the principal plank in the platform of his Party was absolute opposition to the repeal of the Union. How did the right hon. Gentleman reconcile his conscientious opinion and his duty to the Party ticket? Sir Antony MacDonnell was appointed under conditions which were highly irregular, though not indeed, improper. For his own part he regarded the irregularity as the best part of the story. If the Chief Secretary said he did not consider himself technically responsible, either for Sir Antony MacDonnell's action, or for the scheme which Lord Dunraven had put forward, he accepted his words as final. But he did not think the right hon. Gentleman could escape from some degree of moral responsibility in regard to that scheme, and the proof of that was, he thought, that Sir Antony MacDonnell still remained Undersecretary for Ireland. He did not know whether in the course of the next few days there would be an announcement; but he was under the impression that unless the right hon. Gentleman felt some confusion in his own mind, he would not have allowed an officer whose conduct was indefensible to continue to serve under him.

Passing for a moment from the personal to the political aspect of the situation, he could not help remarking how very keen the Government were on having everything their own way. They did not mind what they did, as long as they themselves did it. Here in this Irish business there was what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife would call "pure Balfourism." The right hon. Gentleman and the Party to which he belonged accused their opponents of endeavouring to subvert the Legislative Union between this country and Ireland; and on that ground they received the support of hon. Gentlemen from the North of Ireland. Many people thought that private arrangements should not be made which I weakened and violated the whole conditions on which that support had been extended, and when the matter became public, to explain that it was only the unauthorised act of an agent led away by enthusiasm. The right hon. Gentleman had some moral responsibility for Lord Dunraven's scheme. It had now been dropped like a hot coal. He should like to know if, when the right hon. Gentleman returned from his hard-earned and richly-deserved holiday, ho had found that the Dunraven scheme had been received with universal applause, if he had found the hon. Member for North Antrim anxious to embrace Lord Dunraven, and the Solicitor-General asking them both to meet him at dinner at his house, he would have then developed this extreme orthodoxy?


My hon. friend forgets that I wrote a letter directly I saw the scheme in the newspapers.


said that the right hon. Gentleman might say he never saw the publication of the scheme a month earlier, which scheme had been very considerably attacked by the organs of the Unionist Party in the intervening period. In fact he thought that before the right hon. Gentleman repudiated Lord Dunraven's second scheme there had The Times newspaper which, he dared say, the right hon. Gentleman occasionally read, all of which were calling upon him for an immediate repudiation of the scheme of Lord Dunraven even before it appeared in its final form. The whole of this incident showed quite clearly that the governing instrument, which had discharged much useful work in past years, was worn out, and that a new instrument was required to deal with real and pressing questions, not merely of Irish government, but of British politics generally. Last Wednesday, when the House was discussing the dissolution Amendment, a Cabinet Council was being held to discuss what was to be done with regard to the revelations which had become public, and the Prime Minister and those who sat with him at the table were engaged, as they had been engaged before, in trying to frame a form of words which would reconcile persons who profoundly differed from each other and enable them to continue a little longer in office as a Government. This form of words involved the direct censure of Sir Antony MacDonnell, and it was decided at that Council to apply to his action the word "indefensible," and to his opinions the word "erroneous." He would ask the right lion. Gentleman what was the position of the Viceroy in this matter? Lord Dudley had been four years in Ireland. The, Viceroyalty was, ho supposed, the most thankless and disagreeable office in the gift of the Crow. Lord and Lady Dudley had exerted themselves and spent money with princely generosity with no other object than to leave Ireland a little better than they found it; and it was only in accordance with the character of the noble Lord that he should have made a frank avowal of sympathy and approval of Sir Antony MacDonnell action and policy. What he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman was, did the censure of Sir Antony MacDonnell cover the Lord-Lieutenant also? When he asked him earlier in the afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Cabinet did not know that the Viceroy was involved in this matter. He also understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that ho did not know, until December 27th that the Viceroy was involved in Sir Antony MacDonnell's action.




said he was astonished at that. It seemed to him a very strange thing that the right hon. Gentleman should have failed to make that very important fact known to his colleagues in the Cabinet.


At the meeting of the Cabinet the other day the question of Ireland was not discussed.


said there must have been a Cabinet; some time or other at which the answer which the right hon. Gentleman read in that House was drawn up His point was that at that Cabinet the Ministers were in ignorance of the fact that Sir Antony MacDonnell had the support and approval of the Viceroy, and the right hon. Gentleman, although he knew it, did not inform them of it. If that were true, he could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman had failed in the correct appreciation of his public duty.

He would pass away from the special incident to the general issue raised in the Amendment. The Amendment contained a statement of fact that might be extravagant in some parts of it. Although it was negative in its character no one could admit the evil it asserted without being involved in real responsibility to make an effort to redress it. He did not think that the question of Irish devolution stood alone. There was also the question of Wales. An extension of self-government was demanded, not only in the interests of nationalities which were cramped within our larger political organisation, but also in the interests of Parliament, which had become choked with an ever-expanding volume of business. They demanded greater freedom to manage or mismanage their own political affairs. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich seemed to imagine that nationality was not a valuable principle and indeed that there was no such thing at all—that Burns was just as much an Englishman as Shakespeare and Shakespeare just as much an Irishman as Moore. This question of devolution, however, was not brought before them in the interests of nationality alone, but in the interests of Parliament, which was becoming increasingly choked with an ever-expanding volume of business, due not only to the complexities of modern life but to the manifold possibilities of the King's Dominions. It was now admitted that the House of Commons had no effective scrutiny over necessary details of expenditure. They knew that Private Bill legislation was almost a farce, and the position had arrived at such a topsy-turvy condition that time could be found to pass an Education Bill for Wales which the Welsh Members detested, but no time to pass an Education Bill for Scotland which the Scottish Members desired. He was convinced that no Party in the future would refuse to consider the delegation of administrative and legislative functions to provincial or national boards. He believed in the extension of local government on a scale hitherto quite unknown, in the creation of national boards in the four parts of the kingdom, and the handing over to them of large slices and blocks of business which could not properly be dealt with at Westminster. Lord Dunraven's plan had been called amateurish, but it was now known that it was framed by an expert in administration. It was allowed to be workable, it originated in Dublin Castle, had the approval of the Lord-Lieutenant, and merited respectful attention from all interested in Irish affairs. They were told it was contrary to Unionist principles; but what were Unionist principles The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had, surely, a right to set the standard of Unionist orthodoxy, and he in 1885 expressed an opinion, which he had not since repudiated, in favour of local government for Ireland more thoroughly popular than had hitherto been attempted, with powers to deal with a variety of questions, including education, land tenure, railway and other communications, and with financial authority.

The most obvious objection to the present Irish system was that the people had no sense of ownership in government similar to that existing in this country. We might have a poor thing of a Government, but at least it was our own, and slowly the electoral machinery could change it; but, in Ireland there was no change possible, it was an arbitrary authority under the specious guise of representation. A Catholic University desired by four-fifths of the population and admitted as desirable by every Government for the last twenty years had never been attempted by any Government with prospect of success. He, himself, was not favourable to a Catholic University in Ireland, and if such a measure were introduced he would he compelled to vote against it. There was no inconsistency in that. He believed that the day had passed when the House of Commons could defend religious tests in connection with education. But what business was that of their? So long as they were unable to deal with a question of that kind, there stood revealed a cardinal defect in their system of government in Ireland.

Then there was the question of finance. It would he easy to show that the Irish people had no interest whatever in making economies of any kind, how a Royal Commission had declared that they were paying an undue proportion of taxation, and how they were charged no less than 75 per cent, of indirect taxation. But he would pass to a more general point. What was there in the air of these Irish offices that so powerfully influenced distinguished public officials, Chief Secretaries, and Tory Viceroys, who were, sent to watch the working of the Irish governmental machine on the spot? Sir Anthony MacDonnell did not stand alone. Before him there had been Sir West Ridgeway, Sir Robert Hamilton, Mr. Thomas Drummond, and others. What was it that disquieted these public officials? What was it that drew Lord Carnarvon to the empty house in Grosvenor Square? What was it that induced Lord Dudley to cast away all his prospects of future, promotion in the Conservative Party? Was it some dim understanding of a great truth which came to those who watched the working of the machine at close quarters, or was it the clear apprehension of a great fraud?

The Irish polity had its equal nowhere in the world. It might be that in South Africa one of these days the system would be much the same, because the same seed planted in soils, however different, produced the same peculiar plant, but for the present the Irish polity stood alone. Ireland was governed by neither King nor people. The system of government was not democratic, autocratic, or even oligarchal. The land was hag-ridden by forty-one separate semi-independent administrative boards, which overlapped in all directions, some of them fed with money from the Consolidated Fund, others with money voted by this House, and others from Irish funds; some under the control of the Viceroy, some under the control of the Chief Secretary, some under the control of the Treasury, and some under no control at all except their own sweet will. The resultant administration was costly, inefficient, and unhandy beyond compare. A mighty staff of police and officials, nine-tenths of the latter drawn from the minority of the population, were employed in imposing the system upon a people desperately poor; taxation rose automatically with the expanding establishment of this wealthy and extravagant country; population at the same time dwindled steadily. To all this had to be added a Loyalist caste. What an Old Man of the Sea a loyalist faction was to get on the backs of any British Government! He had no quarrel with hon. Members opposite. They were perfectly loyal—to their own interests—and honestly believed that those interests were the interests of their country. But they paraded their loyalty, using it to extort concessions of privilege and ascendency from the British Government; when any man attempted to do even-handed justice in the King's name between man and man in Ireland, they complained that they were being betrayed; and in the exact language, of their own South African prototypes, they declared that loyalty did not pay a dividend on the capital invested. Let all this be thrown info the arena where British Parties were fiercely struggling for the mastery, and the panorama of Irish government was complete. Against such a system, brought to the knowledge of the House and the country by distinguished Irish Unionists who had hitherto never been challenged as exponents of Unionist opinion, by witnesses so trustworthy impartial, and reluctant, it seemed to him that every liberal-minded man ought cheerfully to vote.

MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)

said that, listening to the hon. Member for Oldham, he had been reminded of the phrase once used in this House about "an old man in a hurry," and he could not help wondering whether there were not also some young men in a hurry, who would one day realise the truth of the old proverb, "More haste, less speed." It seemed to be the congenial occupation of some Members to abuse their Party and condemn their leaders, but it was in no such spirit that the Ulster Members had approached their difficult and disagreeable task of criticising the Government. Hitherto they had been amongst the most loyal and devoted supporters of the Unionist Party and Government; the raison d"étre of their presence in the House of Commons was the defence of the Union, which, after all, was the very corner-stone of the whole fabric of the Unionist Party. Consequently the revolt of the Ulster Members had been undertaken with no light heart. The Prime Minister in a memorable phrase recently declared that the Unionist Party was not for sale. For some months past, however, the Unionist Members for Ulster had had the feeling that they were being sold, and that when they were not being sold they were being given away. Too long they had submitted to the scarcely concealed contempt with which the Chief Secretary had treated their opinions and received their representations; the Government had taken advantage of their Unionism, evidently believing their loyalty to Party and leaders to be so deeply ingrained that they would not cause any trouble. What was to be said about the plain facts which had been dragged to light in the other House of Parliament? The Government selected for the post of Under-Sccretary for Ireland a distinguished official of great ability, a man of well-known Home Rule sympathies, and a devoted son of the Roman Catholic Church, who would accept the office only on special terms. The House had a right to know what those special terms were. Negotiations had been carried on with the knowledge of the Lord-Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary. Why were not those negotiations stopped at an earlier period? Was Sir Antony MacDonnell allowed to feel his way and only thrown over because of the storm which had arisen? Knowing Sir Antony MacDonnell's religious and political opinions, he did not blame him so much as he blamed those who put him in a position to do what he had done. What had the Government gained by their policy? They had not gained a single Nationalist vote, but they had certainly lost the confidence and loyalty of their most devoted, sincere, and true-hearted followers in the North of Ireland.

MR. HUGH LAW (Donegal, W.)

thought it would be a pity if in this debate attention were diverted altogether from some of the larger aspects of the question raised by the Amendment. The objections to Home Rule might be divided into three classes:—first, the old story that Home Rule meant Rome Rule; secondly, that of which the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich was the exponent, that the whole thing was absurd child's play, a ridiculous mirage, that there was no such thing as an Irish nation at all; and, thirdly, that there was an Irish nation, but that it was a horribly criminal and disloyal faction which could not safely be given self-government, lest it should bring wreck and ruin on the Empire of which it, de facto, formed a part. As to the first class, it had already been pointed out that overwhelmingly Roman Catholic constituencies had returned Protestant Members to the House of Commons. When would a constituency of the North-East show a similar spirit of tolerance by returning a Catholic? This was not a mere accident; he doubted whether there had been a year since the Union in which Catholic voters in all parts of Ireland had not sent men of other faiths to represent them in Parliament. The one case of Catholic intolerance put forward by the hon. Member for North Antrim was debated in the House nearly a year ago, and, although a special association had been formed to hunt up such matters, not a single case of oppression had been discovered in the intervening months. As to the contention that no such thing as an Irish nation existed, what constituted a nation? It was I certainly not race. The essence of nationality was like the essence of Christianity. A man was a Christian who believed as such, and a man was of that nation in which he believed, and to which he felt himself to belong. Finally, to what was it that the Irish people were expected to be loyal? The history of Canada should ever be borne in mind in this matter. What was the foundation of loyalty? The answer was given many years ago by Grattan, when he said, "Loyalty is a noble, a magnificent, a capacious thing, but loyalty without liberty is corruption."


said that it was quite possible he might be mistaken in his estimate of what this Amendment meant, but the speeches which had been delivered, pointing to the difficulties under the present administration of Ireland, contemplated as the only solution of this problem the complete separation of Ireland from England and a complete Ireland within herself. Anything less than that was not the principle of Home Rule advocated by hon. Members opposite If it was to be merely, a partial or fiscal separation, or a withdrawal from the British Parliament of merely minor affairs, then he understood that that was not what was meant by the demand for Home Rule for Ireland. Lord Randolph Churchhill once stated that, so far as he could gather from the Irish Members, Home Rule meant dissolving the last link that bound Ireland to England. If that were a wrong definition of what Irishmen meant by Home Rule, then of course they started upon fresh ground. He remembered a speech made by the hon. Member who had addressed them in such clear terms that evening from the opposite side, in which he stated that a liberal measure of county government would meet the demand of Ireland, and would give to the people the opportunity to show their capacity and their right to have government upon similar lines to England. The measure of 1898 had now borne fruit for some years, although there were still many faults and blots upon the system of county government in Ireland. No one would contend that that Act or its administration was anything like perfection, for it was full of blots and shortcomings which showed a narrowness of mind, but, notwithstanding all that, the present system of local government in Ireland had done good, for it had developed the interest of the people in local affairs, and in the main he welcomed that measure. Personally, he never joined in those invectives of one section against the other, for they could do no good for Ireland. He supposed that the Chief Secretary was the greatest scoundrel in the world, if they listened to one side, whilst the other side considered him quite a respectable gentleman. He had conversed with Sir Antony MacDonnell, and had always found him willing to listen to reason, and he was equally ready to advance his own views for the general welfare, not of Belfast alone, but of Ireland as a whole. He had suffered from Chief Secretaries in the past, and he had not got from them all he wanted, but that was not always the fault of the Chief Secretary, but on account of the eternal tugging at him for money from all directions. They had heard that Belfast was the place that was getting all the money, but he could assure hon. Members opposite that Belfast never got a copper of the Government doles. Belfast had, however, asked that the Government doles should not be given out to other districts in opposition to Belfast, and they insisted that the free trade which had made Belfast should not be stifled by doles made to other cities.

With regard to the general administration of the affairs of Ireland, his chief objection was that the money voted and placed in the hands of the Government in Ireland was not given on a broad and general principle, but on just a hand-to-mouth principle dependent upon the parties tugging at the Treasury, and that cases were decided without any reference to the general administration of Irish affairs. Many of the relief works undertaken by the Government, such as the making of roads, had turned out practically useless, and he could point out one road made in this way which was scarcely ever used except for the purpose of grouse shooting. The mover of the Amendment before the House had stated that he had no other idea than to prove to the House of Commons that, in consequence of the general breakdown of the administration in Ireland, there was no solution of the question except the granting of complete separation. [NATIONALIST cries of "No, no!"] If he was wrong in his definition of Home Rule he would ask the Home Rulers themselves to supply a definition. Until they adopted this course, he had a perfect right to take the previous definition of their demand. The hon. Member for Oldham had told them that things had changed since 1886, and that in Ireland they were now in more favourable circumstances. All he had to say was that he had not heard one word in mitigation of the demand put forward by the Home Rulers, or any alteration in the definition of Home Rule, which still remained what he had ventured to put before the House. What was demanded was the absolute right to govern Ireland through an Irish Parliament, absolutely separated from the Parliament of the British Empire. That was not devolution but absolute separation. Mr. Gladstone had honestly tried to grapple with the question; at first he said that it passed the wit of man to devise a satisfactory scheme to deal with the subject, but afterwards made proposals which were pregnant with contradictions. Under one scheme the Irish Members were to be retained at Westminster taking part in the management of English affairs, but the English people were not to have any voice in the management of Irish affairs. Home Rule meant that for general purposes, for the general welfare of the nation, for the making of laws to protect life and property, for taxation, and for the protection of Ireland by an Army and Navy, Ireland was to have a separate Parliament, and that the Parliament at Westminster was not to have any voice or control over Irish affairs. Under such a system the idea prevailed in the minds of the Loyalist minority that it was quite possible that they would receive only scant justice from the majority. The Protestants had in many instances elected Roman Catholics to fill public positions on governing bodies in Ireland, but he would like hon. Members opposite to give the House any case where Protestants had been elected as members of a local governing body where the power existed to elect a Nationalist. Those were some of the dangers which were present in the minds of the minority.

He wished to remind the House that the taxes paid by the minority in Ireland amounted to five times as much as those paid by the majority. They had been promised an Ulster Parliament. The Ulster people might have many faults, but they refused to desert their brethren throughout the length and breadth of Ireland by accepting a Parliament of their own. Many of his warmest and dearest friends were Catholics, and he did not consider them any the less worthy of his friendship, because they differed from him upon politics and religion. Nevertheless, they refused to have a Parliament of their own for Ulster, and he believed that nine-tenths of the Protestants of Ireland would tell them that, in their opinion, it was for the best interests of Ireland, best for the protection of life and property in that country, and for the securing of laws upon a broad basis, that Ireland should be governed under laws made by the Parliament at Westminster. He had in the past taken part in the devising of laws, and he confessed that he had not always been in the right. He would give them an instance of the danger of making laws from a narrow local point of view. At one time they were very anxious to put down betting in the streets of Belfast, and they embodied in a Bill a clause to the effect that if three men were seen talking together in the public street, the police should have power to call upon them to move on and disperse, or else they should be taken to the police station and their names should be taken. When that measure was brought before the British Parliament, a Member of the Upper Chamber asked,"Do you really mean that? Look what a great power you are placing in the hands of a young constable. You might have all the merchants in your city taken to the police station." Before that explanation, he had looked at the matter simply with a desire to put an end to one of the most degrading things in the city of Belfast, but he afterwards fully realised what a weapon that would be against the merchants in the city, and so they withdrew the proposal. If they had a narrow-minded Parliament, they might have that narrow view put into their laws. Just in proportion as they broadened the basis, in that some proportion were they likely to get broad and generous laws. It had been said that the best laws ever devised by Parliament could be set aside, and rendered futile in their administration. Some charges had been made against the Judges who administered the law in Ireland by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, but he did not think anyone could say that Dublin Castle influenced the Judges upon the Bench in their interpretation of the law.


What I say is that it is the duty of the Castle officials to advise upon the law, and they have a very curious way of deciding in favour of the landlord in every case.


said that no Castle official could override the interpretation placed upon the law by the Judges.

And, it being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed to-morrow.