§ 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."
§ SIR JAMES HASLETT (Belfast, N.)
said that on the previous night, when his speech was interrupted by the rules of the House, he was drawing attention
§ to the fact that though the Amendment stated that the government of Ireland had interfered with the material prosperity of the country, yet throughout the entire debate they had not heard a single word as to where or how that interference had taken place. In many districts of Ireland the Nationalists had had the practical management of local government; the administration of county affairs had fallen entirely into their hands and they had been omnipotent, yet it was not possible to point to a single industry they had improved and promoted the prosperity of. Their attention had been almost exclusively confined to farming and to the agitation connected with the land question Indissolubly connected with that was the question of emigration. But was the Government the cause of that emigration? Was it not due to the lack of employment and to the absence of industries in which the mass of the people could exercise their skill and brain power. It was the opportunity of earning a fairly reasonable wage that attracted the people to other countries. It should be borne in mind that at the time of the Union the population of Ireland stood at practically the same figure, as it was to-day. After the Union it increased enormously, until by 1845–46 it had risen to nearly 9,000,000, and it was that increase which was responsible for the state of affairs that caused the emigration. A man who farmed twenty 787 or thirty acres married and had sons for whose energy there was no outlet except in farming. Consequently the man divided his holding among them, thus lessening the chances of prosperity. Then came the famine which drove thousands of the people to seek a livelihood in other lands. In those lands they retained their Irish characteristics and their love for home, and he well remembered how, in his early business days, when he travelled the country, a very large portion of the money he collected consisted of American money orders. Surely, then, it could not be said that the Government were responsible for the people emigrating.
§ With regard to education he was bound to admit that in no department of the State was there a greater leakage, but, at the same time, there had been a strong and vigorous effort, largely moulded by the present Government, to promote technical instruction, to improve the handicrafts in the cities and towns, and to help the farming classes by awakening them to the commercial aspect of their undertaking. Now, the Amendment meant nothing more and nothing less than Home Rule for Ireland, and Home Rule entailed the complete separation for fiscal, domestic, and administrative purposes of Ireland from Great Britain. Geographically, Ireland would remain beside this country, but in all matters affecting her she would be absolutely separate from the sister kingdom. Were hon. Members prepared to vote for the Amendment, with the distinct knowledge that that would be its effect? Representing, as he was proud to do, the great city of Belfast, which had carved out its own course in life and built up its own industries, he offered the strongest possible opposition to the Amendment.
§ He must make a brief reference to one painful subject connected with the administration of the Chief Secretary and the action of the Under-Secretary. He was not prepared to join in the hounding down of that man, but he was bound to say in analysing the position that great mistakes had been made. In Sir Antony MacDonnell, the Chief Secretary had acquired the services of a very eminent man, but he seemed to have 788 overlooked the fact that that eminence had been attained under totally different conditions to those which prevailed in, Ireland. It was a mistake to give Sir Antony MacDonnell carte blanche. They could not have divided responsibility in connection with the Chief Secretaryship. But the mistakes which had been made dwindled into nothing compared with the importance of maintaining the Union. He accordingly opposed the Amendment and intended to give his support to the Government.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich on the preceding night told them with child-like innocence that all the facts in relation to the latest crisis in Irish affairs were before the House, and they had only now to make up their minds to arrive at a decision. But he thought he would be able to show that the House was not yet in possession of all the facts necessary to enable it to form a judgment. The whole matter was still to a large extent mysterious. He thought the House ought to be told on what terms Sir Antony MacDonnell accepted the office of Under-Secretary, and they ought to see the letters in which those terms were registered. Again, it appeared strange, and indeed incredible, that, in two years of constant consultation on the matters specified by the Chief Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman should have failed to make it clear to Sir Antony MacDonnell that he was opposed to a partly-elected financial board. The essence of the programme of the Reform Association was a financial board partly elected. They were told that throughout the two years after Sir Antony MacDonnell came to Ireland there were frequent consultations between him and the Chief Secretary on the question of financial control, and that Sir Antony MacDonnell referred to Indian precedents. Was it conceivable that the Chief Secretary never thought of inquiring what was the constitution of the Indian bodies referred to? The thing was almost past human credulity. Could any one in the House believe it? And if any one did, what was to be said of a Minister, responsible for so difficult and delicate a task as the government of Ireland who enlisted the 789 services of a man of Sir Antony MacDonnell's high eminence in the work of reorganising the government, and who did not take the trouble to ask on what precedents he was basing his action. He for one could not accept that explanation. The Chief Secretary professed to be so guilelessly innocent that he never knew the councils in India were semi-elective, and he never asked about it. Sancta Simplicitas! What a guileless Chief Secretary they had. Why, was not the only object of setting up a financial board in Ireland to emancipate the Irish Government from Treasury control? That was the object of the Chief Secretary's own scheme, and he therefore could not accept the explanation now offered by the right hon. Gentleman.
The Chief Secretary urged that he was away on a well-earned holiday when the first document of the Reform Association was published on August 31st, 1904. He did not grudge the right hon. Gentleman his holiday, but it was a curious coincidence that this scheme should be launched during his first holiday for a period of five years. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman, before going on his holiday, tell Sir Antony MacDonnell not to have anything to do with the matter until he returned, seeing that he knew that Sir Antony MacDonnell had been in close consultation with Lord Dunraven for months before, and had, in fact, received a letter from him on the subject—a letter the disappearance of which was most remarkable? One would certainly have supposed that the right hon. Gentleman would give orders that things should be maintained in statu quo until he returned. And, again, when he read the announcement in The Times, as he said, in an otiose manner, why did he not telegraph to Sir Antony MacDonnell and tell him to stay his hand until he returned? Why did the right hon. Gentleman feel called upon to take the very unusual course of writing a letter to The Times to dissociate himself from proposals put forward by private gentlemen?
Let him turn for a moment to the explanation given by Lord Dunraven of these transactions with the Chief Secretary. Lord Dunraven said—The publication of the first report on August 31st led to a great clamour, in Ireland 790 at any rate, for fuller particulars. He wrote to Sir Antony MacDonnell and asked him to draft out the heads of a more elaborate scheme on the lines of that first report. Sir Antony MacDonnell very kindly did so, and sent them down to him in Kerry. Shortly afterwards Sir Antony MacDonnell paid him a visit, on his way to stay with the Marquess of Lansdowne, and spent two days with him. They had plenty of time for going very thoroughly into the matter, and they drafted out a report.Lord Dunraven went on—He was curious to know whether any communication passed between the Chief Secretary and Sir Antony MacDonnell on the subject of the first report. He could only say hat he received a letter from Sir Antony MacDonnell on September 25th. He must have written to Sir Antony MacDonnell about the dead set that was being made against him in Ireland, because Sir Antony MacDonnell wrote o the effect that a friend had told him that the strongest and most persistent effort was being made to force the Government to get him to resign his place.Now, it should be remembered that that letter was written by Sir Antony MacDonnell between the first and second reports.And," he added, "I am bound to say that my relations with Mr. Wyndham are such that I attach very little importance or credence to these rumours.Really they were left to the very painful alternative either to conclude that Sir Antony MacDonnell was not only disloyal and dishonourable, and was deceiving Lord Dunraven as well as his chief, or were forced to maintain that in all those matters the Chief Secretary, as well as Lord Dudley, was thoroughly informed of all that was going on, and that the Chief Secretary's action was for the purpose of allowing a balloon to be floated and of seeing where it would turn.
Now, this was rather a painful story; but there was another matter on which he was bound to press for an explanation. He had asked the question before, and repeated it now—Why was Sir Antony MacDonnell censured by the Government? Never the slightest reason had been given why Sir Antony MacDonnell's action should have been censured. He could not imagine a more cruel, insulting, and painful blow to a man who had given forty years of illustrious service to the Crown than that he should be made the subject of the answer given out from that box on the second day of the session. And until the debate 791 which took place in another place completely turned the tide, he thought the feeling of Sir Antony MacDonnell must have been one of very great bitterness indeed. Why did the Government not take steps in time to prevent the publication of these proposals, or if they did not why should they censure him? The Chief Secretary was for ever speaking of the loyalty of Sir Antony MacDonnell in the whole of these transactions. "I did defend him," the right hon. Gentleman exclaimed, and "I do defend him." Well, all he could say was that Sir Antony MacDonnell might surely say, "Defend me from my friends!" In the whole course of his life he had never heard such a defence made of a public servant.
What had been the history of the last few months? For nearly a year a campaign of unparalleled bitterness had been organized against Sir Antony MacDonnell in Ireland. The whole of that campaign was in full swing in the Unionist Press, inspired and conducted by the Unionist Members of Parliament, and not one word of defence of Sir Antony MacDonnell had been uttered by the Chief Secretary against the attacks of the Ulster men. Not only so, the Government kept absolutely secret from the people of Ireland the conditions under which Sir Antony MacDonnell had occupied his office, and allowed him to remain the target for every form of abuse without saying one word in his defence. He acknowledged, and he thought it was to the credit of the House of Commons, the handsome way in which the hon. and learned Member for North Antrim, when he found out the truth of the case, had come forward and as a gentleman had apologized. That was no humiliation but an honour to the hon. and learned Member, as every gentleman ought to know. But what were they to say of the Government and Sir Antony MacDonnell's political chief, who could by one single word have rescued him and protected him from abuse, but never uttered that word? That was not all. When one of his colleagues in the Government whose mouth was open when the right hon. Gentleman was silent—when the Solicitor-General went down to the country, and with 792 unparalleled audacity and cruelty attacked a colleague in the Civil Service, who from his peculiar position was unable to reply, he must have attacked Sir Antony MacDonnell in the knowledge of the real facts, as it was almost inconceivable that the Solicitor-General did not know the terms of Sir Antony's appointment. But until Parliament met and the Government were compelled to speak, not one member on the Bench opposite said a word in defence of Sir Antony MacDonnell. They, on the Irish Benches, had been assailed and condemned over and over again because they had attacked permanent Civil servants in Ireland who had acted cruelly and unjustly to the people of Ireland. Ministers had sprung up at that box and denounced them for it. Very different was it in the case of Sir Antony MacDonnell. When a colleague of their own, and their own supporters in Ireland, acting, as they must have known, under a totally false conception of the facts, attacked Sir Antony MacDonnell, whose mouth was closed, they were silent.
But he came to the most extraordinary point in the whole treatment of Sir Antony MacDonnell, and it was one which he hoped the House of Commons would insist on being completely cleared up. A Cabinet Council was held, at which the insulting and offensive answer given last week with reference to Sir Antony MacDonnell was agreed upon.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
That is quite inaccurate. It never was dealt with in the Cabinet at all.
§ MR. DILLON
There is some confusion, and my desire is that the confusion should be cleared up, and that we should know what happened. There cannot be the slightest doubt, no hon. Member in any part of the House will controvert, that the impression conveyed to the House was that this censure was settled in the Cabinet.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I must be mistaken as to what the hon. Member said. I thought he said that the answer which the Chief Secretary gave on the second day of the session was discussed in the Cabinet. So far as my recollection goes that is not the fact. It is a fact that the censure upon the Under-Secrctary which was referred to in that answer was discussed last autumn.
§ MR. DILLON
Here is the only part of the answer I am concerned with—The matter was considered by the Cabinet and the Government expressed, through me, their view that the action of Sir Antony MacDonnell was indefensible.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It may have been that I misheard the hon. Gentleman, but what I thought he said was that the answer given on the second day of the session was the answer which had been considered in the Cabinet. That is not so. What was considered, as is stated in the answer, was the censure passed by the Cabinet.
§ MR. DILLON
said that that was rather a fine-drawn distinction, because if the answer were examined it would be found that the only part of it of any real interest was the expression of censure on Sir Antony MacDonnell, and that it was considered in the Cabinet. To return to his point. A Cabinet Council must have been held some time. When was it held? The Chief Secretary stated, when cross-examined on the point, that when the Cabinet passed that censure they were not aware that Lord Dudley was a party to this transaction. Was not that an amazing statement? Was the Chief Secretary aware that Lord Dudley was a party to it? If not, had he taken any means of ascertaining whether he was or not? Surely, if the Chief Secretary had any sense of loyalty 794 to Sir Antony MacDonnell, or to any sub-ordinate, the first question he would have asked before taking any steps, before he wrote to The Times or took any other step, much less bringing it before the Cabinet, would have been to inquire whether Sir Antony MacDonnell had had the assent and co-operation of Lord Dudley in all these transactions. Was Sir Antony MacDonnell asked for an explanation before the Cabinet censure? That was a pertinent question, and one which must be answered before the debate concluded. Was it conceivable that a Cabinet in this country would censure a great public officer without listening to his explanation; and was it conceivable that Sir Antony MacDonnell, when calle I upon for an explanation, would keep back the fact that he was acting under the authority and with the full knowledge and approval of the Chief Secretary and the Viceroy? How were the Government going to get out of that dilemma? Because—they were told that the Cabinet did not know—he could not for a moment admit the notion that the Cabinet proceeded to censure a great public servant and insult him. It was not easy for any man who was a Member of that House to appreciate the agony suffered by a great public servant when he was censured by the Government of the country. The Irish Members cared little for censure, they could hit back when they were struck; but a great public officer who for forty years had served the Government loyally and whose whole life was bound up in the approval of his political superiors—to be censured in silence, to be brought face to face with the agony of having the whole record of his life wiped out by the Government, was a blow so cruel that it was hard for them to understand it. And it was inconceivable that any body of English gentlemen would inflict that blow without first hearing the man and asking for an explanation. He hoped that he had shown that the noble Lord opposite was a little previous when he said that the whole facts of the case were before the House, The facts were not before the House or the country, and this debate would not conclude the matter. When it was over it would not be Sir Antony MacDonnell who would be in the dock. There was something, after all, higher than the 795 censure of the Cabinet, and that was the censure of public opinion, which those who were responsible would yet have to face.
There was another matter on which he desired information. It also had been treated evasively and mysteriously by the Chief Secretary. There was a mysterious dinner-party arranged in 1903 which never came off. What were the facts? According to the Chief Secretary, not in the year 1904, but in 1903, after the Land Act had been passed amidst general applause, at a time when Lord Dunraven received compliments which he had so well earned from all sections of public opinion, and at the time when the hon. Member for Cork City had converted an organ hostile to the Government into an organ for conciliation, it was then that Lord Dunraven came to him and discussed the chances and prospects of a Moderate Unionist Party in Ireland. Mark the introduction of the word "Unionist." There was a Unionist Party already. What was the idea of this new Party in Ireland. Was it to be composed of Unionists—that was the essence of the question—or was it to be composed of a section of Unionists and a section of Nationalists? They had one of the most innocent Chief Secretaries God ever created! Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the subjects proposed to be discussed at that dinner-party were subjects on which all men in Ireland were agreed. That appeared to be a very lame explanation of that intended dinner-party. It was a matter which ought to be probed to the bottom. What was Lord Dunraven's description? He said that he had many long informal conversations with Mr. Wyndham and Sir Antony MacDonnell on all kinds of subjects and topics connected with Ireland. That was another peculiarity of Irish government. They had not only the Chief Secretary and the Under-Secretary, but also Mr. Wyndham and Sir Antony MacDonnell, who carried on operations which did not in the least commit the Chief Secretary. Lord Dunraven proceeds that, among other subjects, they had discussed the condition of what he might call moderate opinion in Ireland the possibility of, in any way, making that opinion articulate, 796 and the possibility, in fact, of creating something like a Moderate Central Party. He thought it perfectly useless to start or to help to create a Moderate Party on a purely academic basis. He thought it absolutely essential to have a positive, constructive democratic policy—the policy which had been wrought out in their proposals for devolution. That was Lord Dunraven's description. It was a dinner to form a Moderate Party on a basis already discussed, and yet the Chief Secretary, in his extreme baptismal innocence, never heard anything of a new Unionist Party to discuss a subject on which everyone was agreed. Sir Antony MacDonnell's view was that the Chief Secretary saw no particular objection to a general scheme of administrative reform, proposed by perfectly independent and private individuals, being put forward for public criticism. That had reference to 1903, and yet they were told that the Chief Secretary knew nothing of devolution. Then in October, 1903, Sir Antony MacDonnell said—I have been thinking over our conversation the other day.He abandoned the idea of asking the gentlemen to meet him because, as he said—The business would speedily become known, and it would be said that Lord Dun-raven was forming a new Irish Party.To that Sir Antony MacDonnell could not see any particular objection, but he went on to say—If the first meeting were held in my house, or at my invitation, every one would say that Mr. Wyndham was a prime mover in the business.He should like to know who were the gentlemen who were going to be invited to that dinner-party. Were they Nationalists or Nationalists and Unionists? In Lord Dunraven's statement there was not one single word about its being a Unionist Party. It was, on the contrary, a Moderate Central Party having for its basis the devolution proposals. Therefore, that dinner-party was indissolubly connected with all that took place afterwards. These questions were all exceedingly pertinent, and they ought all to be frankly answered if they were to form a really well-informed judgment of the present crisis in Ireland. Was the Chief Secretary aware of the advances 797 and proposals that were being made to some of the Nationalists in the autumn of 1903? It would be a very interesting thing to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware of them. He was speaking only for himself, he was approached not at all on behalf of Sir Antony MacDonnell, but on behalf of the friends of Lord Dunraven with regard to this new policy, and he would say that for any man who had lived in Ireland to imagine that he was going to get out of this business by simply hiding his head in the sand was most absurd. There was no secrecy, it was known everywhere; it was the common talk in every room and in the streets. He said, therefore, that the evidence was overwhelming, that Sir Antony MacDonnell in all the negotiations he carried on, and the assistance he gave to Lord Dunraven, was acting with the full assent and under He supervision of Lord Dudley, and the evidence was overwhelming that he had the full approval of the Chief Secretary himself. He wished to read to the House a brief extract from the London Globe, which had made itself the semi-official organ in London of the anti-MacDonnell crusade. The correspondent of the Globe in Dublin, a very well informed gentleman, he had no doubt, said on Saturday last—At an early date I propose to lay before the readers of the Globe some interesting details as to the manner in which the Chief Secretary set himself to bring about a settlement of the Irish question. For the moment I may say that it is useless for any Minister, short of buying a newspaper outright, to hope to influence its policy by the acquisition, through a third party, of such of its shares as may for the time being be on the market.That was a very cryptic saving to people here, but they in Dublin understood it perfectly, and they looked forward with considerable interest to the details which might be published in the Globe in the next few days. This affair had assumed such proportions that it had obscured and overshadowed the Amendment. But if it had overshadowed it, it afforded such an argument for the Amendment that it was unnecessary for them to support it. After twenty years of resolute Unionist government in Ireland what had these gentlemen got to say? They stated that government in Ireland to-day was carried on in a 798 maze of clerical intrigue. Very well, then what had they got to say for Unionist government? Where were they going to look for a Government? He would tell them what was the modest request of the Ulster Unionist Members. In order to maintain the Union and to look after the interests of loyalty in Ireland, they must clear out this Government and put those gentlemen from Ulster in control of the Empire. That was the only solution; there was no other way.
The point they brought to the attention of the House was that the present system of government in Ireland had broken down. No man, not even the hon. Member for Greenwich, had stood up to defend the miserable old system of Irish government. Nobody had or could defend it, and the hon. Gentlemen from Ulster who, for over twenty years, with the perfect loyalty that fed a great deal on hope, had battled for this Government, had now come forward to declare that it was impossible to conceive that any government of Ireland could be worse. Hon. Members opposite complained of broken pledges, and could not understand why the bluster of Ulster Members had had no effect. He could tell them why. It was simply because the Chief Secretary never believed in its reality. The hon. Member for North Antrim and his friends had been blustering as to what they would do for five years, but nothing had come of it. Let the hon. Member, and those who thought with him, take the advice of an old Parliamentary hand. Let them vote for the Amendment that day and then they would get something for themselves. What the Amendment said was that the present system of government in Ireland had broken down; no one would gainsay that. That it was ineffective and extravagantly costly; could anyone deny that? That it was productive of universal discontent and unrest; was there any single Irish Member who had a word to say in favour of it? And that it had proved incapable of satisfactorily promoting the material and intellectual progress of the people. On all those grounds they asked for the verdict of the House, and he felt confident that if every Member voted according to his conscience they would carry the entire House with them.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said that with regard to the incident now called the MacDonnell incident he was not competent to form an opinion, as he did not know enough of its inner history to offer judgment upon it either in one interest or the other, but he was sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken cast reflections, on three different occasions, on the honour and good faith of the Chief Secretary, He thought the speech of the hon. Gentleman would have been a better one if he had left those innuendoes out. He would take the liberty of reminding him that he was one of the last in the House who should make these insinuations, because he had himself made mistakes. He (Colonel Kenyon-Slaney) remembered the hon. Member recollecting an incident before it occurred.
§ MR. DILLON
I wish to say that on that occasion, when I was betrayed into an error, I came down to the House next day and apologised; will the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary do the same?
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
said he only meant to say that the hon. Member ought to have been careful how he spoke. The hon. Gentleman thought the Amendment was very moderate indeed and there was nothing in it that could not be supported by hon. Gentlemen on the Unionist side of the House, but should they not read into that Amendment the speech which had been made by the hon. Member for Water-ford, and if they did, then they found the Irish Party demanding Home Rule which, in their view, consisted of an Irish Parliament supreme in international affairs and finance. That, he thought, was a fair definition of what the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford meant, and it was consistent with the aims and aspirations of the Nationalist Party. That was a matter that did not concern the Unionist Party, but what did interest and concern them was the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition towards this question. The Leader of the Opposition had lately come out as the apostle of criticism and monosyllabic answers. Was the right hon. Gentleman now in favour of Home Rule 800 as defined by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford? Was he or was he not entitled to speak for Lord Spencer? If he was, would he give a monosyllabic answer as to whether the noble Lord supported Home Rule in the way put forward that night. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife was not in his place, but would the right hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick give a monosyllabic answer to those questions.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
said he was aware that he would never get a monosyllabic answer from any of the right hon. Gentlemen, and assumed, therefore, that this was a doctrine to be applied by the Opposition to the Government but never to themselves. If it were so applied, it would have the effect of detaching from their Party many Members whom they could ill afford to spare. There was one matter which perhaps would throw a little sidelight oil this matter. He had noticed in the papers a telegram to the effect that the Irish American Party sent their best wishes to the Nationalist Party in Parliament and expressed the hope that they would smash the Tory Party in this country as the Irish in America had smashed the Arbitration Treaty with England in the Senate. It was a matter of universal knowledge that the Irish Nationalist Party drew a certain amount of supplies from the Irish American Party, and what he desired to ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite was how far their alliance with the Nationalist Party went? Was it to go only as far as smashing the Tory Party or further? Were they to bind themselves to the Party who were responsible for arbitration arrangements between this country and America being rejected by the Senate. The people of this country were deeply interested in the question of arbitration, and looked forward to a great development of the principle. Consequently if the Liberal Party, when they came into power, were to be largely dependent for support upon the Irish Nationalist Party, who in turn drew their supplies from the "Smash-Arbitration Party" in America, how could they help 801 being smirched with the pitch of that alliance? His object in speaking was to make it perfectly clear to the country that the Leader of the Opposition could not give a candid and definite answer to the questions he had put, that the Liberal Party would be largely dependent on the support of the Irish Nationalists, and that they were not in a position to define their attitude towards Home Rule. Unless some leader, competent to speak for a fairly united section of the Liberal Party, distinctly and concisely repudiated Home Rule, the country would have to recognise that the granting of Home Rule on the lines laid down by the hon. Member for Waterford would dominate the policy of any future Liberal Administration of which right hon. Gentlemen opposite were prominent members.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said he was glad to have an opportunity of explaining and justifying the position which he and his colleagues had taken up with regard to Sir Antony Mac-Donnell. It was totally untrue to say that Unionists objected to Sir Antony MacDonnell's appointment on the ground that he was a Roman Catholic. At the time of his appointment Sir Antony Mac-Donnell was practically unknown in Ireland, having spent forty years in India, where he had won a great reputation as an able and devoted public servant. It soon became known that he had a brother in the ranks of the Nationalist Party, that he came of a Nationalist family, and that his views must be in sympathy with the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite; but it was absolutely untrue that at the time of his appointment Unionists distrusted him on that account. Had they had any suspicions as to his uprightness they would have been removed by the remembrance of the fact that the Under-Secretaryship was a Civil Service appointment, the holder of which had to act under the instructions of his superior and was not allowed any initiative, and that Sir Antony Mac-Donnell was appointed by a Government the basis of whose existence was the maintenance of the Union. About six months after the appointment, affairs in Ireland had come to such a pitch that everybody had made up their minds that the land question must be settled, 802 and all other Irish questions were practically put on one side, so that few controversial matters came before the House. It was understood that Sir Antony Mac-Donnell had been appointed to his position partly for the purpose of lending his valuable assistance towards the passing of the Land Act, and a certain portion of the credit attaching to the passage of that Act belonged to him.
At the end of the session of 1903, it began to be rumoured that Sir Antony MacDonnell was usurping many of the functions of the Chief Secretary, interfering in matters which had hitherto been regarded as outside the province of the Under-Secretary, and disregarding the fundamental rule of the Civil Service which prohibited Civil servants from taking an active part in politics. The first cause of uneasiness was a speech at a large dinner-party in Dublin, in which the Under-Secretary made some highly controversial references to a Roman Catholic University, and Irish Unionists wondered how an Undersecretary, responsible to the Chief Secretary, could make such statements. They were suspicious, however, of the attitude of the Chief Secretary himself on that question, and were inclined to believe that Sir Antony MacDonnell had some approval from the right hon. Gentleman in making that speech. The second occasion on which the Under-Secretary transgressed was at Belfast, when the question of University education was discussed. By this time the Unionists of the North of Ireland were suspicious of Sir Antony MacDonnell, and realised that he was a Nationalist, and rumour stated that when appointed he frankly avowed his agreement with the aspirations of the Nationalist Party. That being so, was it any surprise that Irish Unionists began to wonder what sort of person they had got in the position of Under-Secretary? Up to three days ago there was absolute silence on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. They were given no information. Had the Chief Secretary come forward and laid the whole case before them and told them he was trying a new experiment, he did not say that they would have acquiesced, but, at any rate, they would have known how things stood. Had 803 that course been adopted the Chief Secretary would not have found himself in the position in which he found himself to-day, nor would the Unionists from Ireland have had to find fault with his conduct. As it was the feeling existed amongst Irish Unionist Members that the Chief Secretary had not played his part fairly with his fellow Unionists in Ireland. At the end of last session they had fully come to the conclusion that this matter must be pursued to the bitter end and that Sir Antony must be removed from his post in Ireland. He was glad to say that they had demonstrated that to several of their colleagues, and he was also glad that they had by that time by the justice of their cause enlisted the sympathies of a considerable portion of the London Press. He had no hesitation in saying that they owed a debt of gratitude to The Times [NATIONALIST cries of: "So did Pigott"], the St. James's Gazette, and the Globe, to each of which papers he returned their hearty thanks, because they had enabled them to bring the justice of their cause before the English people. He had said he thought Sir Antony MacDonnell was their worst enemy in Ireland. He was opposed to their ideas in every direction in Irish politics, and furthermore, he was placed in a position where he could be an injury to the cause of the Union, and that being so, they were justified in attacking him on that point. They had been charged with attacking him when he could not reply. His answer had always been that in considering him as everybody did, as an ordinary Under-Secretary, he was behaving in a way in which no Under-Secretary had ever done before. But it was absurd to say that he was attacking him without giving him the opportunity of replying, because the Chief Secretary was always in the House, and it was clearly his duty to stand by his subordinate officer. Indeed, it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to face these matters.
Now he came to the most important part of his speech, viz., the devolution scheme of Lord Dunraven. He had no intention of discussing either Lord Dunraven or the scheme with which he was connected farther than to 804 say that Lord Dunraven was not in any way representative of Irish Unionist opinion. The whole coterie who agreed with him was not more than twenty or thirty souls out of 1,500,000 Unionists in Ireland. He thought hon. Gentlemen opposite would admit that that was a small proportion. Lord Dunraven had a perfect right to ramble into the region of Home Rule. In that respect they did not find fault with him. But they maintained that he had brought forward a proposal which, even looked at from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, was impracticable. From the Nationalist point of view it was a rotten scheme, and from the Unionist point of view it was nothing but a step towards Home Rule. If the Unionist Members had not taken that attitude and had kept silent, the Liberal Press would have said that they saw in the scheme an indication of a change of feeling on the part of the Unionists of Ireland, and so they felt it was their duty to make it clear that their opinions upon Home Rule had not changed one iota. Lord Dunraven's scheme was brought forward on September 26th last, and soon after that date they began to discover in it the handiwork of Sir Antony MacDonnell and the work of an Indian official. The Unionist papers criticised the scheme as adversely and harshly as the most advanced Orangemen could desire, but, the Nationalist papers were careful to hide their light in regard to a scheme which meant such a long step in the direction of Home Rule. The Liberal papers in this country were delighted to see this scheme brought forward, because in it they saw a way out of their difficulty in regard to Home Rule.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
But the question they had now to consider was the action of Sir Antony MacDonnell and the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and everybody soon became convinced that the former was not only connected with Lord Dunraven's scheme but was really the prime mover in it; and he was not quite sure, in spite of what had been said to the contrary, that that was not still the correct view of it. They asked for information, but a dead silence was maintained.
805 The rumours became more specific and the Attorney-General for Ireland made two very remarkable speeches in his constituency in which he challenged the authors of this scheme to come forward and reveal themselves. These rumours became so strong that when Parliament opened they determined to get as much information by Question and Answer as they could, and he put a Question on the first day upon which the House met, the Answer to which created a very great sensation. [A NATIONALIST: Was it inspired?] Yes, it was, and it was concocted by his hon. friend the Member for North Antrim and himself. He did not think he was exaggerating when he asserted that the Answer given to that Question fell like a thunderbolt. The Answer was a frank avowal of the position the Under-Secretary held in the Irish Office. It also gave the specific information they had been asking for during the past six months, to the effect that Sir Antony MacDonnell did assist in formulating Lord Dunraven's proposals. The Chief Secretary had stated that he saw those proposals for the first time in The Times on September 26th. When the matter was placed before the Cabinet the right hon. Gentleman was instructed to inform Sir Antony MacDonnell that his action was indefensible, but that the Government were satisfied that his conduct was not open to the imputation of disloyalty. Those were very remarkable revelations. Up to that point, therefore, the campaign they had been conducting against the Under-Secretary was absolutely justified. A discussion took place in the House of Lords, and further facts were added to those they already possessed, which made the whole affair more remarkable still. They found that powers were given to this Under-Secretary such as were never given to an Under-Secretary before. What these powers were was a matter they had not got to the bottom of yet, but he fully believed that those powers justified him in giving what assistance he did to Lord Dunraven in formulating these proposals. He asked the House to consider whether it was constitutional for such powers to be given to an Under-Secretary, and whether those powers were given him by order of the Cabinet of the country or solely by the Chief Secretary. To his 806 mind it was inconceivable that a Chief Secretary for Ireland should take upon himself to engage an Under-Secretary and to give to him such powers as would enable him to take part in these devolution proposals and to take a leading action in numerous other cases. That was utterly unconstitutional, and, what was more, there was practicallyn o reason why the Chief Secretary should give him these powers without consulting the Cabinet.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said there were numerous other points in reference to this question. Most of them had been thoroughly thrashed out, but there were one or two on which he desired to get some information from the Chief Secretary. In the matter of apologies to Sir Antony MacDonnell, he was sorry if he had said anything which, in the mistakenknowledge of the facts under which they had laboured, might have in any way hurt his feelings. But he still maintained that Sir Antony's position in Dublin was absolutely impossible. The fact that Sir Antony MacDonnell acted with the knowledge of a superior officer did not alter the fact that he was an avowed Nationalist. Sir Antony had been permitted to give vent to Nationalist feelings, and that was a position which no self-respecting Irish Unionist could tolerate for one moment. They had heard him described not as a sub-ordinate, but as a colleague of the Chief Secretary. Such a state of affairs had never been known before, and could not be tolerated for a moment. He was quite sure that all Unionist Members in the House, if they had been in the position of Irish Unionists, would have experienced precisely the same feelings and taken exactly the same action as he and his colleagues had done. The Chief Secretary had said that he knew nothing about the specific proposals which appeared in the newspapers on September 26th, and that they came to him as a surprise, but it was admitted that the Lord-Lieutenant knew of these proposals. How was it that neither the Lord-Lieutenant nor Sir Antony MacDonnell enlightened the Chief Secretary on the subject. He would not say that these 807 two Gentlemen were working behind the Chief Secretary's back, but it was remarkable that these two officers of the Government might discuss these important matters without thinking it necessary to take their chief into their confidence. It was absurd to say that this was a trifling matter. He was afraid there were signs of disloyalty there. The Chief Secretary said he knew nothing of the proposals, and he accepted the right hon. Gentleman's word, but they had the startling fact that the two other gentlemen knew about them. He wished more information on that subject.
There was another matter, and it was the most serious aspect of this most unfortunate affair. That was, that Lord Lansdowne in the House of Lords on Friday made a speech which, from beginning to end, seemed to justify Sir Antony MacDonnell in what he did—and at the same time to justify all that the Chief Secretary had done. It was a very serious state of affairs that one of the most distinguished Ministers in the Government, the whole basis of whose existence, and the whole inception of whose being was the maintenance of the Union, should have openly given his approbation to a scheme such as that published on September 26th—a scheme which, the Cabinet had said was indefensible and which the whole Unionist Press in the country had scouted as absolutely impossible. He hoped he had approached this subject, which was the most important Irish Unionists could discuss in that House, with as impartial a mind as it was possible for Irish Unionists to have on that subject. He had not imported any undue heat into his remarks. [ANATIONALIST MEMBER—Because you have got such a bad case.] Hon. Gentlemen on the Nationalist Benches had invited them to go into the lobby with them in order to show their indignation against the Government at what had happened. Irish Unionists could not do that. They were Unionists, but they were so profoundly dissatisfied with the conduct of Irish affairs that it had been their intention to abstain from voting on this Amendment.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said he sincerely hoped the hon. Gentleman would win his cigars, and if they could vote he would give the hon. Member a few more. He hoped that the First Lord of the Treasury, in the speech he was expected to make, would indicate to them a way out of their difficulty. He needed not to tell the House that Irish Unionists would feel the greatest pain in abstaining from voting if that course was unfortunately forced upon them. They claimed to be as loyal to the Government as any Unionist. If the Government would rectify the present state of affairs they would go into the lobby with them, but if not they must unfortunately abstain from voting. He appealed to the First Lord of the Treasury to make it possible to save them from the situation in which they found themselves.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had appealed to the First Lord of the Treasury to save the Ulster Unionists from the present situation, but he had not indicated what kind of salvation he desired. Would the hon. Gentleman kindly state which official of the Irish Government was to be jettisoned for his satisfaction? Would Sir Antony MacDonnell do? Would he rather the Lord-Lieutenant, or would he prefer the Chief Secretary? Was Lord Lansdowne to go, or were the whole four, the entire quartette, and not one Jonah, to be thrown to the waves for the satisfaction of Protestant Ulster? He could bring an impartial mind to bear on this subject. He had never read the devolution proposals before. He had never read Lord Dun-raven's letters. He only read what he was obliged to read. He never read anything except it was practical. He confessed he was very much struck with the able speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo that afternoon, which had put an entirely new perspective on the present situation. He did not understand what was going on; he did not quite follow the Dunraven Treaty because he was not in a position of confidence in the Party, having been expelled from the Party at he instance of the hon. Member for Cork, whose absence he greatly regretted. When he heard in the debate an allusion to the case of Mr. Thomas Drummond 809 and the fact that the Irish Secretary of to-day had not done what Lord John Russell and Lord Morpeth then did, he was curious enough to turn to the history of that period to see if he could find any explanation for the circumstance. He found in Leslie Stephen's Biographical Dictionary, at page 42 of the 16th Volume a passage which perhap might shed some light on the reason why the Irish Secretary of to-day was not in quite as strong a position to defend his subordinate as Lord Melbourne, in the face of the fiat of the House of Lords, was able to defend Mr. Thomas Drummond. He read—After the general election of 1835 O'Connell held the balance between the two great English Parties, and finally threw his weight into the scale in favour of the Whigs. With his aid the Whigs, under Lord Melbourne, came into office, and a compact was practically made between the Government and the Irish leader. The basis of this compact—known as the Lichfield House compact—was that O'Connell should suspend the demand for repeal, and that the Government should pass remedial measures for Ireland and administer the affairs of the country on principles of justice and equality. The Irish administration was nominally entrusted to Lord Mulgrave the Lord-Lieutenant, and Lord Morpeth the Chief Secretary, but Drummond was really in command … Drummond had to grapple with political agitation as well as social disorders and religious feuds. O'Connell had long been the enemy of every Irish Administration. But Drummond conciliated the great agitator, and while he ruled the cry of repeal was silent. O'Connell felt that no ruler responsible to an Irish Parliament for the administration of the country could govern with more ability and justice than Drummond. Accordingly he lent the weight of his authority to the support of the Executive, and the extraordinary spectacle was for the first time seen of Irish agitators and English administrators working hand in hand to maintain order and uphold the law.Well, that passage convinced him that the right hon. Gentleman the Irish Secretary could not, in the face of the attack made upon him from the Irish-Unionist side of the House, achieve any thing satisfactory to the majority of the Irish people, unless he had from that side of the House support at least equal in vehemence and indignation to that given against him on the other side. Now, he did not approve of the attitude taken throughout by the hon. Member for Cork in reference to the Dunraven Treaty. He did not understand it, but he confessed he was beginning to understand it now; 810 and he understood also the remarkable letter written by Mr. Davitt, whose name was entitled to be received with every respect, in which he declared that Sir Antony MacDonnell was the decoy-duck of the Tory Government, and that he hated him far more because his position, and appointment were calculated and intended to reconcile Nationalists and to appease the minds of those who were in antagonism to the Government and the Tory Party. He certainly had been most anxious for many years to see whether they could not bring some measure of detachment to bear on their relations to English Parties. If they went back twenty years or so they would find that the circumstances of to-day remarkably resembled those connected with the Kilmainham Treaty. They all remembered the great scene in 1882. The Irish Members were then in greater antagonism to Mr. Gladstone's Government than to any Government since, and when Mr. Parnell's letter, in which he promised cordially to co-operate with the Liberal Party in advancing Liberal principles, was read to the House, it would be remembered what a shudder and gasp, almost of consternation, it created in Irish Nationalist circles. From that moment till 1885, when they put out Mr. Gladstone's Government, they had the same relations with the distinguished noble Lord, whose son he was glad to see was likely to achieve the same distinction as his great father. When they had these same relations with the noble Lord the same endeavour was made to bring about the appeasement and advancement of the country. They were taunted by the Liberals with the Mamatrasna Alliance. There had been some terrible murders in Ireland, and they demanded some inquiry in regard to certain convictions that had been obtained, and Sir William Harcourt said he would leave the Tory Party to stew in its Parnellite juice.
They did not succeed in returning the Tory Party insufficient numbers in 1885, and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division issued a manifesto couched in magnoliquent language, to which their names were signed without asking for their authority, in which they were made to 811 attack the Tory Government with a bitterness and ferocity which could not be exceeded. Then came in Mr. Gladstone with his Home Rule scheme, and they supported him loyally and cordially. But in this, as in the long struggle and endeavour generation after generation, a small Party, self-concentrated, disinterested, and zealous, they were beaten and baffled by an Orange Party, backed by a few powerful newspapers and a few powerful families in Ulster. Mr. Gladstone's effort in 1886 was defeated, and then Lord Salisbury came into office with the promise of twenty years of resolute government. How absurd it all seemed now. Twenty years of resolute government! What was the first thing this resolute Government did? A whole number of gentlemen, including the hon. Members for Mayo and Cork, had been imprisoned and cruelly treated because they demanded that the leaseholders should be admitted to the benefits of Mr. Gladstone's Land Act. That was denounced by Lord Salisbury as a breach of contract and a revolution; but in the course of six months the leaders of this Party of resolute government came down to the House of Lords with a Bill breaking all those sacred contracts and throwing the Irish landlords to what he was pleased to call the sub-confiscators under Mr. Gladstone's measure. Then they had the Prime Minister, who was then Irish Secretary. They learned to respect him, if they did not love him, and he bore himself like a man in the debates. He wondered if the right hon. Gentleman now thought that he was always right and that the Irish Members were always wrong, for the first note of doubt that came into his character was after he had made his famous tour in the West of Ireland and saw for himself the misery of the inhabitants for whom the Irish Members had been combating so long. What then happened? They defeated the resolute Government and brought in Mr. Gladstone again in 1892, and he passed in the House with great difficulty his great Home Rule Bill, which, however, was rejected elsewhere.
Then the Tory Party, apparently for the first time, began to turn different eyes upon the affairs of Ireland, because 812 they brought in in 1896, without pressure he was bound to say, a measure which he regarded as extremely valuable—the Irish Land Bill of 1896; and what was of still greater value, the Local Government Bill of 1898. Now, the chief charge against him was that he cheered Mr. Gerald Balfour when that right hon. Gentleman brought in the Local Government Bill. He did cheer Mr. Gerald Balfour, and the position he had taken up was that he would cheer either side of the House which brought in any Bill favourable to his native country. What happened to Mr. Gerald Balfour, who was then Irish Secretary? This was important, because they had here the genesis of the attack upon Sir Antony MacDonnell. Mr. Gerald Balfour had passed the Local Government Bill, the Irish Land Bill, and the Agricultural Board Bill, and had put Mr. Horace Plunkett and Mr. J. P. Gill into office to administer these two latter measures. No sooner had the general election of 1900 taken place than a dead set was made upon the brother of the present Prime Minister and the nephew of the late Prime Minister by the very gang who were attacking Sir Antony MacDonnell to-day. What was his crime? Who was then the scape-goat of the Orange Party? Sir Horace Plunkett. It was said that that right hon. Baronet had been put forward by the present Prime Minister as a decoy-duck, just as it was said to-day that Sir Antony MacDonnell had been. He was to woo the Irish Members from the paths of Nationality. What did the Orange gang do? Sir Horace Plunkett sat for South Dublin; he was a Unionist; his one crime, so far as he could see, was that the right hon. Baronet took an interest in milk and butter, and was striving, by improving the methods of the farmers of Ireland, to put more rent into the landlords' pockets. What happened? The Orange clique put up against Sir Horace Plunkett a gentleman of the name of Ball, and they preferred that a Nationalist should be returned for South Dublin rather than that the President of the Board of Trade should have the satisfaction, as the result of three or four years of honest and disinterested efforts, of having a single supporter throughout 813 the length and breadth of the land. The faction who were now giving away the secrets of the Cabinet went to Hatfield and told Lord Salisbury that he must withdraw the Chief Secretary, Mr. Gerald Balfour, and the Lord-Lieutenant. Earl Cadogan, because they were hand in glove with the Nationalists! The then Chief Secretary had probably never had any relations whatever with the Nationalists, but such was the power of this faction that the great Prime Minister, the man of "twenty years of firm and resolute government"—as Abraham preferred to sacrifice Isaac—preferred to throw over his own nephew, and to put him into a subordinate position. Ought not that to have some lesson for both Englishmen and Irishmen? What did these men want? They were Loyalists, and they were continually advertising their loyalty. If the Monarch was a Catholic would they be loyal to him? They compelled the King to take an oath which declared the dearest beliefs of the Irish people to be blasphemy. The only man to whom they denied liberty of conscience was the King himself. They complained that Irish Loyalists and Protestants were oppressed. By whom? Let hon. Members refer to "Thom's Directory" and see how these Loyalists, like worms under the harrow, were writhing in poverty and powerlessness, whilst the Nationalists dominated every sitation in Ireland, and the priests pulled the strings of Government in Dublin Castle!
The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich professed not to know what nationality was. He would tell him. Nationality was something one was willing to die for. Even the noble Lord would not die for the meridian of Greenwich. Let the House see what these Loyalists had to complain of, and then ask themselves what chance there was of anything like contentment in Ireland so long as this faction were allowed to ride on the necks of the people. The Loyalists failed to get the rate-collectorship of Cavan! The Protestant candidate offered to collect the rates at 2d. in the £, while the Catholic's price was 3d., and the Catholic received the appointment, the reason being that the 814 appointing authority had been reading the speeches of the Member for Birmingham in which that right hon. Gentleman declared that cheapness was not everything. But what had they got instead of that rate-collectorship of Cavan? There were sixty Privy Councillors, four of whom were Catholics; thirteen Judges, three Catholics; sixty sub-Commissioners, eleven Catholics; twenty-one CountyCourt Judges, seven Papists; in the police, of which the head was a Protestant—there were thirty-six county inspectors, one Catholic; 170 district inspectors, ten Catholics; sixty-five resident magistrates, fifteen Catholics; and in every other public department the proportion of Protestants to Catholics was as four to one, although the Protestants were not one-fourth of the total population. In addition, the Irish Loyalists had sent a Solicitor-General to England, and two Judges to India. What more did they want the Chief Secretary to do? Was it a part of English policy that this miserable system should go on? The hon. Member for Newport had thrown in the teeth of the Nationalists the fact that their faithful countrymen in America had such influence that the Senate of the United States refused to ratify the Arbitration Treaty with England. God bless the Irishmen in America! Faithful to their country, and regardful of her interests, they were determined that an abiding treaty of peace should be made with Ireland. The Chief Secretary could have no answer to the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo, but, at any rate, he had the consolation that if he had failed he had only gone the way of scores of others.
But the House should note the weapons the Tory Party were prepared to use. Long before the Dunraven devolution scheme was heard of, this House rang with the case of a constable who had been dismissed for a charge of immorality. Any stick was good enough to beat a dog with. Constable Anderson was good enough last year, and this year it would have been Bann Drainage if devolution had not come up. The whole object and aim of the policy of hon. Members opposite was to keep Ireland discontented in order that they might pose as the Government Loyalist faction who, in face 815 of every temptation, and in spite of all the attraction that Nationalists could hold out to them, remained faithful to the Union and to the Goverment. The one charge against the right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, was that ho had brought over one Irish Nationalist, a man of distinction, from India, which was a good thing to do, and the only thing in which the right hon. Gentleman had been wrong was that, in the face of the attacks upon him in the St. James' Gazette and from the Orange Party, he had not been able to stand up for his subject as he should have. That was the whole head and front of the right hon. Gentleman's offending. He, (Mr. Healy) would rather that the right hon. Gentleman had stood up for Sir Antony MacDonnell; he would rather the Chief Secretary had acted as Lord Dudley had done. What would have happened then? He might have resigned, but whom would they have got in his place? Perhaps Mr. William Moore! There was an old proverb, "Never throw out the dirty water till you get in the clean." The hon. Member for North Antrim, in order to hold something in terrorem over the Government, in order that something should happen, said that on March 3rd he would call out his reserves. His reserves! They were all there in the House laagered behind the Mace. He (Mr. Healy) really did not know there were five Ulster men in the Government in this House, he did not count Lord Londonderry, who was in the other House. There was the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, the English Solicitor-General, the Secretary of State for War, and the noble Lord who sat for Derry, the name of whose job he (Mr. Healy) was sorry to say he could not remember; and the hon. Member for North Antrim had only to blow the horn on March 3rd and they would all trip and dance to the tune of "Whistle and I'll come to ye, my lad." He had known all these gentlemen for a very long time, and the hon. Member for North Antrim might take it from him that they all preferred the atmosphere of Westminster to that of Sandy Row. The hon. Member might call spirits from the vasty deep, but they would not come. The Secretary of State for War would be thinking out the details of his short rifle, and so far as the other Gentlemen were concerned, he did not 816 know what they would be doing, but he did not think any darksome awe would come over them on that great day.
Was it not time that this humbug was done away with, and that these Gentlemen from Ulster came down with their programme. What was their programme? They could not repeal Catholic Emancipation, the Church Act, the franchise, the Ballot Act, or the Land Act of 1881, and they did not want to repeal the Purchase Act of 1903. Let these Gentlemen tell the Government what they were to do. He put it to the Government, did they think it was part of the scheme of Toryism that there should be no measure of appeasement for Ireland? He granted to the full the great difficulty in which the Conservative Ministry found itself, but was that their scheme, and was Ireland to continue to wait? The present Government had been in office for practically nineteen years. Was Ireland to wait always for the Liberal Party to come into office in order to see every measure passed by the Liberal Party rejected by the House of Lords? The Liberal Party could not legislate for Ireland, and the Conservative Party would not legislate for Ireland, and therefore the country which needed legislation and attention more than any other portion of the three Kingdoms was by reason of the attitude of the same faction to be deprived of its due share of the government of the country.
He put it to the Ulster Members of that House, men who had gone through scenes like this before, and had seen each Administration attacked in turn because of some little thing which produced some little understanding with Irish feeling, whether they thought that in a century of time from now the position was to be the same? What became of Empire and statesmanship? British statesmanship had broken down in Ireland, the great business qualities which had shown themselves in every other department of life had been bent and broken in the sister island. Let them give Ireland liberty in this matter, the liberty granted to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, and which was shortly to be given to the Boers, who were taken with arms in their hands, and who were 817 now to be trusted with self-government in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Ireland was the one spot in the British Empire which had to battle with the Empire for its life, which had no hope in the centuries to come. The descendants of the men who now represented her were to be engaged in this eternal wrangle with English Ministers for what, from a comprative point of view, was of absolute unimportance to England; and would it not be something to the Empire in international affairs to insure that the British policy should not be lassoed, so to speak, by Ireland? Was it not rather a reproach to English statesmanship that the Irishmen in America were able to defeat the Arbitration Treaty in the Senate. Was the Tory Party, the Party of Empire and jingoism, the Party which boasted its alliance with Japan, prepared to sacrifice power and place rather than give a Catholic University to Ireland. Was the Government which had the control of the Army, of the Navy, of the international policy of the Empire, prepared to sacrifice the whole of that in order to force him to send his children to a Protestant college. If the whole thing was summed up, it came to this, that the Government, in the midst of most important international negotiations, might go out that night because they had appointed Sir Antony Macdonell, and the hon. Member for North Antrim would not have him. That was the great Imperialist Party! Let hon. Members go into the lobby with them if they liked. The Nationalists, until a peaceful compact was made with them, would offer an opposition equivalent to the miseries which had been inflicted upon Ireland.
§ MR. GORDON (Londonderry, S.)
said he was not surprised at the amount of abuse which had been heaped on the Irish Unionists by the hon. Member who had just sit down. The hon. Gentleman had great experience in giving and receiving abuse, but he could assure him that the Irish Unionists cared as little for his abuse as did the Members of the Party to which the hon. Gentleman formerly belonged. The Irish Unionists had always honestly and fearlessly made clear their position in that House both through their predecessors and 818 those who, at present, sat in the House to defend their principles, and also through the Unionist Press of Ireland which voiced their views. The hon. Member came there, flung epithets across the floor of the House, and used arguments with all the power he had at his command, which he must have known to be unjust. As to any Roman Catholic because of his religion, or any Nationalist because of his political opinion, being excluded from appointments in the Royal Irish Constabulary, the hon. Member must have known that the entrance to those appointments was by examination. They knew and the hon. Gentleman knew that it was not because of any oppression that Roman Catholics were subjected to by the Unionist Government in Ireland that larger numbers of them did not hold the position of inspectors in the Royal Irish Constabulary. He must know that the entrance to these positions was by examination. The hon. Member pointed to that fact that eleven out of sixty were Roman Catholics. That showed and clearly demonstrated what they knew, that it was not a fair way to look on this question to count heads. They must count amongst other things education. If they found in any pursuit of life, the test of which was a competitive examination, that only one-sixth of the appointments were secured by Roman Catholics, apply it all round and it explained amply and clearly everything connected with the appointments in Ireland. It might be that the Protestant body in Ireland was smaller in numbers, but in proportion to its numbers it produced a far greater number of suitable candidates than the Nationalists or Roman Catholics. Nobody coming into power, whether it be the Opposition or even the Nationalists themselves, could alter that if they appointed men suitable for the posts.
He quite agreed that the real issue had been overshadowed by the question of Sir Antony MacDonnell. But let them see how it was dealt with by hon. Members opposite. One hon. Member put it forward as a reason why the Government were to be censured and abused, and because they were so blameworthy they were to be turned out of office. Another 819 hon. Member put it forward as the greatest merit of the Government that they should send a man like Sir Antony MacDonnell to try to conciliate the people of Ireland, whom it was impossible to conciliate. Those were two opposite views. Which was right? Those divergent views ought to be taken into consideration by the Members of-the House. What was the real thing they were discussing. The position the Unionists of Ireland took was this. They did not say that the existing system of government was perfect, but they were satisfied with the system of government if it was fairly carried out, the system of government to which the Unionists of England, Scotland, and Ireland bad given their approval. What they asked for was—carry it out fairly. What they complained of in this matter was that it had not been carried out fairly. That was not the position laid down by the hon. Member for Waterford, who moved the Amendment, and his friends the Nationalists. What they meant was this—and let there be no mistake about it—especially he hoped the Opposition would remember what they were voting for in voting for the Amendment—that the present system of government must be got rid of. It was not an Amendment saying, "It is a very good system of government, but you are not carrying it out well." No, they not only insisted that the present system should be got rid of but they went a step further and said they must substitute something in its place. What was that to be? Was it not clearly and unmistakably set forth in the Amendment, although the Amendment was carefully worded for the purpose of catching the votes of the Radical Members, who if they saw Home Rule mentioned in it would shy at it because their constituents would not tolerate their voting for Home Rule, it was carefully worded—not to catch Unionist votes—although it had succeeded in getting one Unionist Member who was returned by his constituency as a Unionist, the hon. Member for South Tyrone, to say without consulting his constituents that he would vote for the Amendment. The Home Rule question was the issue at every northern election, and without reference to those who returned him the hon. Member had announced his intention of voting for the 820 Amendment. Let there be no mistake about it. It was Home Rule, and if the Opposition voted for that Amendment they would be reminded of what they had done if they came into power. Every hon. Member who voted for this Amendment pledged himself to substitute for the present system of government in Ireland that Home Rule which the hon. Member for Waterford had described in the House, and which Nationalists stated they would never rest satisfied until they got. Let the Opposition, official or unofficial, bear in mind what they were doing when they voted for this Amendment. One of the hon. Members who spoke yesterday pointed out as an instance of the inefficiency of the Government that they did not give a Roman Catholic University or College to Ireland. That was the interpretation Irish Home Rule Members placed on part of this Amendment—to get rid of an inefficient Government because it would not give them a Roman Catholic University or College, and get its place supplied by a Government that would give them.
§ Mr. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
My charge was that the Government desired to give them, but that hon. Members on that side would not let them.
§ Mr. GORDON
said his answer to that was that the Unionist Party as a whole would not have it. The Unionist Party had refused to set up a Roman Catholic University or any denominational University in Ireland which they knew would be a retrograde step. The hon. Member was perfectly willing to do that, but one of the pledges he had to give to his constituents was that he would take no steps in the matter. Were the Radical Members willing to pledge themselves to give a Roman Catholic University or College and maintain it by State aid? Were they prepared to vote for this simply for the purpose of dishing the Unionist Party. This was not an Orange question. Several of them were not Orangemen, and represented the views and opinions of a vast number of people who were not Orangemen. They represented a vast body of opinion that was not composed of members of the Orange Society, and those who were not members of that society were just as strong in 821 their antagonism to Home Rule now as they were at any period since the question arose. They were opposed to that Amendment because they were opposed to anything approaching Home Rule, and the strongest proof of the position they took up was that they attacked the Government itself for having does anything that would lend colour to the idea that even the Lord-Lieutenant was going to a half-way house in the direction of Home Rule.
What was the position regarding the question of Sir Antony MacDonnell? Sir Antony MacDonnell was a great public servant who had worked well in India, but the methods he adopted there of necessity utterly unfitted him for dealing with matters in Ireland. They might govern 46,000,000 of people by finding out what was the opinion of 10,000 of them in India, but they could not do this in a country with free institutions like Ireland. He heard the Under-Secretary for Ireland make a statement at a public dinner last November twelve months which he was sure the Chief Secretary or the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland would never have made, for he said that there was only one thing that legislation could he expected then to do for Ireland, and that was to settle the University question, and he added, ''that would be settled within the next twelve months." He thought the Chief Secretary would not have gone so far, but would probably have said, "The Government will endeavour, and hope to be able to settle it within the next twelve months." That showed the disposition and character of Sir Antony MacDonnell, and why should the Chief Secretary leave matters so much in his hands? Why should he treat the Under-Secretary as a colleague, and give him powers co-ordinate with his own, which he allowed to some extent to override his own? Why did not the Chief Secretary, when he knew of these matters, and at the earliest possible moment, make a clean breast of it, and not wait until they had been compelled to fish out this information by Questions in the House of Commons? Why did he not at once put forward the exact situation as he had put it forward now? He had heard a good deal about the 822 loyalty of Sir Antony MacDonnell. The Chief Secretary said he did not hear of these matters until the 26th of September, and that he was not aware that Sir Antony MacDonnell's action had the approval of the Lord-Lieutenant. Why did the Under-Secretary not tell his immediate chief? Upon one occasion, at a public meeting, Lord Dunraven was asked who was the author of this scheme, and he replied, "Oh! that is a conundrum." Then his Lordship's youthful secretary made a speech in which he said it was only because of Lord Dunraven's modesty that he had not told them that he was the author of the scheme. He did not think it was a creditable position for a gentleman in the position of Lord Dunraven to be placed in. He first signed a document in reference to the education question, which was prepared, settled, and arranged Dublin Castle with the knowledge of the Chief Secretary. He afterwards put his name to a document which had to be sent two or three times to Sir Antony MacDonnell, put in a more complete form, and type-written in the Castle. And he allowed that to appear as if it were his own unaided work. He disliked the idea of a Unionist Government, or of anyone connected with a Unionist Government, making themselves a party to such a discreditable transaction as that.
They had to thank their Unionist fellow-Members and the Unionist people of Great Britain for the support which they had always given them, and for the protection which they had always afforded them against what Unionists regarded as the greatest injustice which could be inflicted upon them or upon their country. They felt the greatest possible regret at being unable on an occasion of this kind to give their support to the Government. Under no circumstances would they associate themselves with an Amendment which embodied the principle of Home Rule. They would prefer to support a Government of which they were loyal supporters, but they were entitled to have an authoritative pronouncement that this sort of thing would not be repeated, that Home Rule would not be brought in by any back door, that they would not have an official at the Castle, directly 823 or indirectly, meddling in a matter of this kind; and that if Sir Antony Mac-Donnell did not think right to remove himself from Dublin Castle, or was not relieved of his duties, that at all events from henceforth it should be clearly defined that he occupied a position which every other gentleman previously occupied when he held office as Assistant-Secretary. They had a right to those assurances. They asked for them, and he believed that their Unionist friends would see that they were not doing more than they were justified in doing when they asked that either the Prime Minister or some responsible member of the Government should give them, those assurances before the division took place.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said that anyone who summarised, with an unbiased mind the conclusions with respect to Irish government which had been expressed in the debate upon this Motion would be entitled to say what he once heard the late Sir William Harcourt say, that Irish government was the very worst in the whole world. He recollected that Sir Donald M'Farlane once made a speech on the Irish Estimates, and Sir Charles Russell said to him at the end of his speech, "Well, M'Farlane, you have given us the best description of Castle government I ever heard." Sir Donald M'Farlane's illustration was that Lord-Lieutenantsand Chief Secretaries were like making changes in the dial of a watch instead of the works—as long as the works remained the watch would remain as it was before; and as long as the present system of government remained in Ireland there would be maladministration and bad government. The introduction of Sir Antony MacDonnell was an alteration in the works, with the result that they now had those gentlemen, in whose interests Irish administration had been exploited ever since the time of the Union, in revolt or intended revolt against the Government. Throughout the debate there had been a great deal of animadversion and criticism of Castle boards. They now knew that these Castle boards were to be what was called "coordinated." He recollected that twenty years ago a Minister of the Crown delivered a speech which made a great impression at the time. That Minister 824 stated that the system of government in Ireland was corrupt and despotic—that it was more despotic than the system pursued by Russia in Poland, and that pursued by Austria against Venice; that, however much they might disguise the fact, it was supported by 130,000 British bayonets, and that it was a scandal and a sham. This debate showed that the system still continued, but he supposed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who made the speech to which he had referred, would vote against the Amendment that night.
He would give a few statistics in reference to the position of the "loyal minority" from Ireland in the House of Commons. At the time of the Union those who voted for it were remunerated and rewarded, and the Union was maintained by giving remuneration and rewards. The support of the loyal minority was not obtained nowadays by means of bribes, but they were rewarded by honours and posts. Every third man in the Irish Parliament was a placeman, and what was true at the time of the Union was true now in regard to the Unionist Members from Ireland. Out of fifteen there were no fewer than five who held Government places. Everyone knew that there was in Ireland no loyalty unless it was measured by the cheque which the individual hoped to get from the Castle. Loyalty was an improper word to use in this connection. Burke had said that when loyalty did not mean patriotism it was only another word for corruption. Since 1885, irrespective of the present representatives from Ulster, and the Members for Trinity College, there had been twenty-two Members of the House representing Ulster constituencies, and only four of these had left the House without office or title. Of the four, one was expelled, two left on account of pecuniary circumstances, and one left on the death of his father, a Peer, who got his elevation as a reward of his adherence to the Union. It was said "Union is strength." It was strength to some of the Unionist Members, but it was not strength to their constituents. There had been some references of late to the necessity for the drainage of the Bann, but the Government had left that river 825 undrained while some of the representatives of Ulster had been draining the pockets of the Government to their own advantage. When the Chief Secretary addressed the House yesterday and employed his rhetorical graces of style, his words fell on friends sitting in stony and desperate silence—a silence which was only accentuated by the mechanical "Hear, hear!" of the Prime Minister, which reminded him of the "Amen" of the clerk in a very small congregation.
Everything went to show that Sir Antony MacDonnell had acted a straightforward, honourable part, but an attempt had been made to make him a decoy-duck, as had been done in times of old in the case of Lord Fitzwilliam. They knew what the game was; it was an attempt to capture weak-kneed Home Rulers and to crush out every enthusiasm and honest effort for the benefit of Ireland. Who was going to resign? Would the Chief Secretary stick to his post when there was not a single Member of the House who would get up to defend him? There was now no one so mean as to do him reverence, not even the Ulster Unionists. He believed the Lord-Lieutenant would stick to his post, and Sir Antony MacDonnell to his; but the gentleman who ought to go was the Chief Secretary. Whether the right hon. Gentleman went or remained was another matter. Of course public recollection was short, but this he knew, that an exposure of this kind could not be forgotten, and the right hon. Gentleman's name would be for ever associated with the Dunraven proposals, which, having been tried to see whether they would succeed, were denounced, and Sir Antony Mac Donnell was left in the lurch; he was almost going to say betrayed.
He wished to give his humble adherence to the protest contained in the Amendment against the Union. Every word in that Amendment of his hon. friend was absolutely and perfectly correct. It was stated that the administration of Ireland was shockingly expensive, that the destitution of the people was great, that the administration of the country was hateful, and was there any doubt of any of those statements? He looked with horror at the terrible combination of perjury and wrong by which Irish affairs were conducted; he was 826 horrified but not surprised at it. He knew everything about the Wyndham-Dudley-MacDonnell arrangement, and it was only a counterpart of three or four similar arrangements, beginning from 110 years ago, when Lord Fitzwilliam had been sent over to Ireland as a decoy-duck to promise Catholic Emancipation. The Chief Secretary was not a highly literary man, although he had a good taste in literature, but his speech the previous night was not one of his most artistic efforts, and was badly received even by his own friends. No speech of the right hon. Gentleman would be complete without a quotation, and towards the end of his somewhat it elaborate prelection he made use of an observation employed by a statesman 110 years ago—"We must make the best of it." Where did the right hon. Gentleman get that quotation? It had been used 110 years ago by Mr. Edward Cook, Under-Secretiry for Ireland, and chief agent for corrupting and polluting the Irish Members of that time. Among the reasons for carrying the Union, it was said that it was in order to protect the prosperity of Ireland which had been becoming too dangerous to England. That could not be said now, because the prosperity of Ireland had been destroyed, and everything had been done to rouse the religious prejudices of Ulster, while lavish emoluments had been heaped on the Ascendency Party in order to keep up the present rotten system. He thoroughly agreed with the right hon. Member for Montrose when he said that a free Government might be a strong Government, that a despotism might be a strong Government, but that a Government which assumed the form of a free Government with the methods of despotism was the worst of all Governments. He denounced the present Government in all its ways, and that had been a bad day for it. It would be found out before they were much older that the Chief Secretary had not done much for the advancement of the principles which he professed.
§ MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said he was obliged to join issue with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, and to express his regret that throughout the debate there had been more personalities than argument. The personal arguments 827 which had been used seemed to him to obscure, and not to illumine, the issue, and, in his opinion, the House, was not discussing the propriety of the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell, though on that issue he might be of a different opinion to that of his right hon. friend the Chief Secretary. Sir Antony MacDonnell did not require from him any tribute as to his capacity; but he was bound to state that he thought the appointment was ill-judged, because there was an amount of control exercised over our Indian fellow-subjects by Civil officers which would not be possible or desirable in Ireland. He did not think that Ireland would stand that, and it would be indiscreet to attempt it. Therefore, to his mind, all the experience which Sir Antony MacDonnell had obtained in India was no qualification for the position to which he was appointed by his right hon. friend. The issue raised by the Amendment was not, however, the fitness of Sir Antony MacDonnell; it was a question of Home Rule or no Home Rule. It had been sought to introduce the side issue of devolution. Personally, he did not know what it meant. He had heard it described as a modified form of Home Rule, and that was another reason why, in his judgment, the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell was not a wise one. He himself was strongly opposed to Home Rule; and had, therefore, no sympathy with devolution. It would not be in the best interests of Ireland. Only two years ago the Irish Members had the advantage of British credit in connection with the Land Act, or which they were insufficiently grateful. He had always hold that the Irish Land Bill would involve absolutely no charge on the British Exchequer, and if hon. Members on the Nationalist Benches were only acquainted with the resources which were placed at their disposal, though they would not be less ardent advocates of Home Rule, they would find they had an advantage they did not appreciate, and which, in his opinion, would meet their case. They had asked hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they wore prepared to give to Ireland that Home Rule upon which the hon. Member for Waterford insisted, but they had evaded answering that question. Those who sat on the Unionist side had decided 828 that there should be no ambiguity so fir as they were concerned; they would not have Home Rule or vote for anything which might be likely to bring it about. And because he thought the Amendment of the hon. Member might strengthen the agitation in favour of Home Rule, he should give an emphatic negative when the Question was put from the Chair.
§ MR. HARWOOD (Polton)
said that many who had been watching the debate from the position of outsiders must often during the last few days have thought of one fact—how curious it was that every thoughtful Englishman who went to Ireland began to move more or less in the direction of Home Rule. They might call it "devolution," but it was only a Latin word for Home Rule. Here was Lord Dudley. A more unlikely man to be taken with enthusiasm for an idea of this kind he could not imagine. But Lord Dudley went and had to take a part in the practical government of Ireland, and what was the result upon this English aristocrat's mind? They found him taking part in a conference, participating in proposals which were a move towards Home Rule. And there was the Chief Secretary himself. Many of them suspected that if they knew the truth—they probably never would—the Chief Secretary was really in his heart very much in sympathy with this devolution scheme. He who had most to do with the government of Ireland practically acknowledged by the attitude he had taken that the only way of dealing with the Irish problem was by moving in the direction of Home Rule. This debate must make Liberals think very seriously of a practical problem which was facing them in the near future. He spoke as an English Liberal, because he thought they ought to be very frank about this matter and look it in the face, for there had been a good deal of shilly-shally, and much said about their timidity towards Home Rule. Were they of the mind of Lord Dudley, of Lord Dunraven, and the Chief Secretary? Did they also believe in their hearts that the only solution must be some form of Home Rule? No one could deny the difficulty of the problem of Irish government. Every year during his Membership of the House 829 there had been burnt deeper and deeper into his heart the fact of the mis-government of Ireland—he did not say corrupt government, because he did not think it was corrupt, but it was clumsy, inefficient, and incapable. The failure to find a system of adequate government for Ireland was a great reproach to the English name and reputation.
It was not true to say that they were Home Rulers simply because they were blindly following a great leader. Long before Mr. Gladstone brought forward his Bill many Liberals had made up their mind that Home Rule was the only policy by which Ireland could be governed. Another alleged motive for their being Home Rulers was that they wanted the Irish vote. The time had gone by for this great question to be dealt with on any such platform as that. It was a question of principle, either one way or the other. It was a principle with them to support Home Rule quite regardless of Irish Members and Irish constituents. They supported it because they believed it was the only policy that could be followed for the good of England and of the Empire, Hon. Members opposite often spoke as though they had a monopoly of patriotism. Patriotism did not consist in singing "Rule Britannia" and waving the Union Jack. The truest patriot was the man who tried his utmost to have his country well governed, and was not afraid of facing any obloquy that might come upon him because he favoured some things which others might think a dangerous change. They were Home Rulers first of all because they were Englishmen and because they knew that the greatest reproach of Englishmen was the bad and incapable government of Ireland. It was not a question of nations. The time had come for this question to be looked at not as an abstract question but as a practical one. It was the question of the practical government of a certain island for which England was responsible, and would always remain responsible by the geographical position. All forms of government for Ireland had been tried and had failed; the only one which had given any ray of hope whatever, in Ireland, was that under Grattan's Parliament. Bad as it 830 was, sectarian as it was, it threw on the Island a gleam of the sunshine of hope such as had never shone on it since. Lord Dunraven, Lord Dudley, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland all practically acknowledged that some movement must be made in the direction of devolution, and had practically acknowledged that the only hope for the good government of Ireland was to be found in some movement in the direction of Home Rule. How far that movement should go they were not committed to.
If he might give his leaders some advice, he would say that it was time they gave out no uncertain note on this matter. He had risen chiefly in order to urge upon those on his own side a little more frankness and a little more courage, even though it might seem at the moment to jeopardise Party success, because there was something even more important than Party success, and that was the success of the country and the Empire. The position of Ireland was a subject of reproach to this country in all part; of the world. While Englishmen boasted of their freedom and capacity, close to their own door was a country they could not govern, with a greatly diminished population, and which at this moment was seething, and he thought rightly seething, with disaffection, and which would never be placed on its proper footing except by a movement in the, direction of Home Rule. Surely Liberals spoke somewhat timidly on this matter. The time had come for them to be quite frank and to say that they were convinced that the only hope of good government in Ireland lay in the direction of Home Rule. From the time of his first visit to the House of Commons, when he heard a remarkable speech by John Martin, he had studied as closely as he could Irish history and the problems connected with Irish government, and the conclusion he had come to was that a move would have to be made in the direction of national sentiment. They had always been proud of recognising national sentiment everywhere else, and why upon this matter should they go upon the order, "No Irish need apply." They must meet this national sentiment in the direction of Home Rule, never mind the word or the degree, but that was the direction, and the Liberal 831 Party would be unworthy of itself, its traditions, and its future if it did not take a bold and determined stand on this matter.
§ MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
said he was glad that the hon. Member for Bolton had addressed the House in that strain, because he had brought the House back to the main line of argument, for they had been discussing, for the most part, a personal matter for the last two days. The result of this debate showed that a large proportion of what he might describe as the central Unionist opinion in Ireland was turning in the direction of Home Rule. The Nationalists were dissatisfied with the government of Ireland, and the Ulster Members were in revolt ["No, no!"], or at least in pretence they were. The moderate Unionists were also discontented. They had in Ireland nominally a constitutional government, but it was only the shadow not the substance, and it was evident that the first duty of the Unionist Government was to change the system. They were told that the Union meant an equality of government in the three kingdoms, but what were the facts? The people of Ireland were living under a perpetual Coercion Act, and were not allowed the right to bear arms. They were overtaxed by £3,000,000 per annum, and when they asked for equal treatment in regard to taxation the idea was scoffed at. The method of levying taxation in Ireland was entirely different from the English system. The whole machinery of taxation in Ireland was centred in one official, and there were no local assessment committees, as in England, for valuation. This one irresponsible individual had at the present moment almost absolute power in regard to valuations, and taxpayers hid practically little chance of appeal from his decision. They had in the debate so far heard very little about the over-taxation of Ireland, whose population had been reduced by one-half within the last fifty years. It was most remarkable that just in proportion as the population decreased taxation had increased, and it was perfectly evident that if this financial oppression went on the result must inevitably be that the people would be taxed out of the country. They were sup- 832 posed to have in Ireland constitution government, but they all knew that the non-elected irresponsible Privy Council together with the three gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench, the Chief Secretary, the Attorney-General, and the Solicitor-General, with the help of non-elected irresponsible boards ruled Ireland.
An American friend of his who had recently travelled all over Ireland observed the poverty, apathy, and want of employment generally in the cities, towns, and villages, and the lack of improvement in many urban districts owing to absence of security to town tenants. In his travel right through the agricultural parts he was astonished at the vast number of ruined homesteads, roofless cabins, and grass-grown farmyards, together with lack of population and employment, whilst the slums were over-crowded and the land divorced from labour.
He asked him (Mr. Field) if there had been an invasion in Ireland. He replied—No, except by the crowbar brigade during the eviction campaign.His American friend went through the West of Ireland and was astonished to find hundreds of thousands of acres there water-logged, and by way of a contrast he said that whilst in Holland he found the people engaged pumping the water out of lakes in order to bring more land under cultivation, in Ireland they turned good land into lakes.
He said—I don't wonder at your people emigrating to a free country like America, where there is some encouragement and a chance of employment.He reverted to the fact that under the Tzar the Russian birth-rate was the highest in Europe, whilst that in Ireland was the lowest, also that Poland and Finland had increased in population, whilst in Ireland the population had decreased by one-half under what was called constitutional government, and that the ratio of pauper-lunatics, very old and very young, exceeded that of any other country, perhaps, in the world. He went on to describe to hon. Members the extraordinary condition of affairs in the West and in other parts of the 833 country, where there were no trees or forests. In America, and also in European countries forests were looked after, but in Ireland there was no such thing. The physical resources of the country were almost entirely neglected, and this was the result of the Unionist system of government in Ireland. The country was run for the benefit of the English Exchequer. Since the Union England had exacted from Ireland hundreds of thousands of pounds beyond her fair and equitable share of taxation. In the opinion of the financial experts who were appointed by the House to inquire into this question, Ireland was overtaxed to the extent of £2,750,000 per annum. Notwithstanding that verdict, no action had been taken by the House to restore the ill-gotten plunder or to give a readjustment or restitution with respect to the over-taxation of the country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite talked of the Irish value to Ireland of British credit, and of the good it had done to Ireland. Let the Irish people manage their own affairs and they would manage the country at much less expense than the English Unionists could do. Everybody admitted that the country was run on the most expensive lines of any nation in Europe. The so-called constitutional government in Ireland was an infamous fraud. He challenged any of the Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench to deny that statement. Ireland had the shadow of constitutional government but not the substance. The people of Ireland had no power over the executive. Everything almost was managed by nominataed and non-elective boards. It was time for the House to realize that they were not going to submit to this much longer. The common sense of the communities of the world would not allow the misgovernment of the country to so on in this way. A great deal was heard at present about Russian bureaucrats, but he would remind the House that Ireland was governed in a great measure by a bureaucracy. He quite agreed that troops were not sent, as in '98, to shoot down the people, but the Government had other methods not less effective. The people were despairing throughout the land, they were poverty-stricken, and their industries were being destroyed. He 834 trusted that the result of this debate would be to make those responsible for the government of Ireland seriously consider the condition of affairs. It would take something more than a Land Bill to remedy matters. The affairs of Ireland were managed by an alien Government which did not possess the affections of the people. Whether the struggle was to be long or short the people of Ireland were determined that this system should not last, and certainly it would not continue with their consent. This debate had shown that they were all agreed in condemning the present system. Surely it was time for those who were responsible for the government of Ireland to take into account the consensus of public opinion which condemned the union, and to take steps for reforming the Government so as to bring it into accordance with the aspirations of the Irish people.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.