§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
rose to move—"That 1356 in view of recent events in Ireland and the revelations which caused the resignation of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dover, it is in the highest degree desirable, in the public interest, that the correspondence and other information necessary to enable the House of Commons and the country to form a judgment on the policy and proceedings of the Irish Government, connected with and subsequent to the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell, be communicated to Parliament." He said: I know, Sir, that I shall be interpreting the feeling of every Member in the House when I say that we welcome the right hon. Gentleman back among us. I trust that if he has not fully recovered he will soon recover the complete enjoyment of good health, and I shall carry every hon. Member with me when I say that we have the most perfect appreciation and sympathy with him in the troublous times through which he has come. He will find, possibly, his own conduct and the conduct of some of his friends keenly and sharply criticised, but that criticism does not interfere with our admiration of his public qualities and of his devotion to public duty, and with our belief in his perfectly sincere desire to do what he thought was most for the interests of the country whose affairs he was administering.
I have put on the Paper a Motion which the right hon. Gentleman immediately called a Motion of want of confidence. In its form it is not a Motion of want of confidence. It is an inquiry for further information to enable us to judge whether confidence is deserved or not. But I am bound to say that, as I intend to arraign in several particulars the conduct of the Government, and especially of the right hon. Gentleman himself, I do not disclaim the title which he has himself affixed to my Motion. The Motion asks for light on a strange chapter of Irish history which extends over the last three years. It is not from mere curiosity—although curiosity would be both natural and legitimate; and even I conceive it to be the right and the duty of the House to satisfy its curiosity in any case in which the methods adopted by the Executive Government appear to deserve minute inquiry. But there is more than this. 1357 We wish to know all about these transactions, because of the disclosures we may thereby obtain as to the real springs of Unionist action, as to the really dominant and governing influences in the Unionist Party, and as to the degree of consistency and continuity which may be found in the Irish policy of the Government.
In order to recall and get the tissue of events well before us, let us go back to the beginning. I believe that very many Members will be for the moment surprised when I recall to them the fact that in 1902 the Irish policy of the present Government was not by any means a passive, neutral, quiescent, benevolent policy. It was a policy of active repression. Coercion had been in operation since the previous spring. At the time of Sir Antony MacDonnell's appointment—I rather think the very day before that appointment was announced—the House of Commons was engaged in a debate initiated by the hon. Member who took his seat to-day, during the autumn session of that year, on the proclamation by the Government under the Crimes Act of the city of Dublin itself and of nine counties in Ireland. This had taken place after the rising of the House in August. From that day to this we have not had any adequate explanation of these proclamations. Ireland was admitted to be, even by the Chief Secretary himself, free from crime. That, at all events, was the case, and so fixed Was the idea that coercion was the main policy of the Government that the chief advocates in the London Press of the forcible and anti-Irish government of Ireland actually welcomed the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell on that very ground. These were the words of The Times. After pointing out that the train was laid for an explosion of mad ness that might easily and rapidly pass into crime—how familiar is the language!—The Times continued—The police should be inspired with a sense of the paramount necessity of vigilance and activity. Sir Antony MacDonnell, who in his career in India has shown that he is not a man to be trifled with, is well fitted to infuse his spirit into the force upon which the authority of the law and the defence of liberty so largely rests in Ireland.The House will see that this is the view of the Irish Government, which was 1358 expressed, I think, by the late Chief Secretary when he indicated his satisfaction that the active influence of administration would cease to be a mere police force. But this article in The Times treats it as mainly a police force. Such was the state of things, and such was the expectation on all hands of the extreme Party in Ireland, represented by, I believe, seven or eight hon. Gentlemen on the bench below the gangway opposite. I find great difficulty in finding any epithet of description that would bring them upon the screen. I always try to call hon. Gentlemen by the names they themselves prefer. On that account, I speak sometimes of the Unionist Party opposite. With these hon. Gentlemen I have tried the name of Ulstermen, and I have tried "extremists," the "Ascendency Party," and so on; and really when there are eight of these hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite, I hope they will excuse me if sometimes I am rather circuitous in my reference to them. But they represent a formidable force in Ireland, and I have really great compassion with their perplexities. Very naturally they said to themselves that the Chief Secretary, who had been employing coercion since April of that year and had been taken into the Cabinet, and whose admission to the Cabinet in the same summer bore witness to the agreement between him and the Prime Minister, never dreamt of taking a new departure in the opposite direction, in which the new Under-Secretary, Sir Antony MacDonnell, was to be the central figure, at a time when the Irish Members were being thrown into gaol and the principal city and a great number of counties in Ireland were under proscription for crime. I mention this to show what a sudden, vast, and evidently intentional change there was in the policy of the Government. I am not sure of the exact date when the proclamations were withdrawn, but it was not long before the new leaven of new doctrine began to work.
The first sign came from the Viceroy less than a month after Sir Antony MacDonnell's appointment. This was Lord Dudley, who had taken the place of Lord Cadogan in Ireland, but not his place in the Cabinet. So that we had a Chief Secretary who was in the Cabinet and a Viceroy who 1359 was not. Therefore, especially as the Viceroy was in his novitiate as a public administrator, he would not speak without consulting with the Chief Secretary. And what did Lord Dudley say? He said—There were those who seemed to believe that the only way in which a great Empire could be successfully maintained was by sup pressing the various distinguishing elements or components; in fact, in running it as a huge regiment in which each nation was to lose its own individuality and to be brought under a common system of discipline. That was not his view. In his opinion, they were very much more likely to break up an Empire by such a method.That was Lord Dudley's way of infusing the Royal Irish Constabulary with "the spirit necessitated by the occasion." But he said another thing even more significant. "The opinion of the Government was"—mark the words—"and it was his own opinion, that the only way to govern Ireland properly was to govern it according to Irish ideas, instead of according to British ideas." Surely in the last sentence is to be found the clue to the whole of this extraordinary entanglement. This is putting new wine into old bottles with a vengeance. Ireland was to be governed henceforth according to the wishes of the Irish people—Ireland being at that moment under the active operation of the Crimes Act; and in the opinion of the Government, so Lord Dudley said, this was the only way to govern Ireland properly. There was to be self-government in substance, though not in form. You had a Viceroy, a Chief Secretary, and an Under-Secretary in Dublin who were going to open a new era. How was this to be done? Anyone who has followed closely subsequent events knows what the plan was. We on this side of the House followed this experiment, when it became discernible, with the keenest sympathy and interest, and we were not without hopes that permanent good would come of it, and that the methods to be adopted would lead up rom one stage to another in gradual logical succession to a form of government which the Irish people would accept.
The first definite sign of this new policy was when the Land Conference was convened under the chairmanship of Lord Dunraven. It was composed of leaders of the Nationalist Party and of 1360 one or two leading and representative members of the landlord Party; and let the House particularly note this—that this conference was the direct response to an announcement made by the late Chief Secretary that no scheme for effecting a settlement of the land question could be arrived at otherwise than by agreement, with the people themselves. I do not wish to strain the exact words, but this was, at any rate, a direct act of delegation, and a candid avowal that no British statesman was competent to grapple with and settle this question of the Irish land. The invitation was accepted; the conference drew up a scheme; a National Convention pronounced upon it; and the Land Act, which included the main decisions of the conference, was the result. I have two remarks to make at this point. These things were not done in a corner, but under the full light of day. I never heard that the Ulster Members made it matter of complaint that the joint authors of this Act included the leaders of the Nationalist Party, or that Sir Antony MacDonnell, to whose skilful hand and resourceful diplomacy the scheme was in large measure due, had in any way exceeded his powers by putting himself at Lord Dunraven's disposal. There was nothing heard then of "Papists and rebels." My second remark is that neither the Cabinet nor the Prime Minister censured Sir Antony MacDonnell for making himself accessible to all sorts and conditions of men, or for identifying him self with the proposals known as Lord Dunraven's proposals. Happily, that conciliatory and co-operative method was attended with complete success and the Bill became law.
Now we come to the next stage. The unofficial President of this informal Irish Cabinet and the official convener of it at Dublin Castle next addressed themselves to the second question on the right hon. Member for Dover's list—namely "the realisation of Mr. Balfour's ideas on University education." Again the Chief Secretary had nothing whatever to do. In his new capacity he had only to stand at the window of the Lodge in Phoenix Park and wait for news of the wishes of the Irish people while the Under Secretary busied himself in interviewing the leaders of Nationalist thought. In due time another 1361 Dunraven scheme made its appearance—a scheme which seemed to meet with the general acceptance of all Parties and creeds in Ireland. It is understood that the Chief Secretary, the Viceroy, and the Prime Minister were ready to adopt it, and it only remained for Parliament to ratify that scheme, when a change came upon the scene. One of the representatives of Ulster in the Cabinet went down to Belfast and denounced the scheme. The Fellows of Trinity College broke loose; and then these charges of Sir Antony MacDonnell's collusion with the Nationalists and Catholics, and, still more terrible, his attempts to seduce the Presbyterians of the citadel, began to be noised abroad. But still not even then was there any censure of Sit Antony MacDonnell. The Cabinet, as a whole, found themselves unable to accept the proposals which he had been instrumental in formulating, but they did not tell him that he had transgressed the bounds of official decorum, or that he had failed to apprehend the views of the Cabinet on the subject. This was a serious set-back to the new policy of conciliation and co-operation, and to the theory that Ireland could only be properly governed according to the ideas of the Irish people. I would ask the House of Commons, in the light of recent disclosures, to note what it implies. The Prime Minister has this session stated that no measure for Irish University education can be introduced by a British Minister in the circumstances of the case.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The words the right hon. Gentleman used were—The question, is not and, as far as I can see, never again can be a Government question.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
By a Government measure I do not mean the familiar domestic arrangement of putting on or taking off the Government Whips. I mean a question which a 1362 British Government could not undertake to deal with. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman consented to Sir Antony MacDonnell's accepting office on condition that he and the Chief Secretary should ascertain the wishes of the Irish people on a matter which he described as vital to their welfare, and then he turns round and says, "I am sorry, I cannot help you."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No; do not use the words "turns round." I have been perfectly consistent in my innumerable speeches on this subject, and they have all been of one tone.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman was turning round on the expectations and designs that were placed before Sir Antony MacDonnell when he was appointed Under-Secretary.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That is, as far as I am aware, quite incorrect. Sir Antony MacDonnell refers to my opinions. My opinions were contained authoritatively in a pamphlet which had a large circulation, and in that pamphlet the right hon. Gentleman can see the very statement of which he complains.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Then what was Sir Antony MacDonnell to do in the matter? What was the use of his wasting his time and his railway fares in ascertaining what people desired and thought, if all this time there was this cloud hanging over the question, so that, whatever result he might achieve, it could be of no use, because the Government could not help him, or help themselves. I cannot help thinking that this is a weak and cynical position for the Prime Minister to take up. He debars Ireland from settling its own affairs in its own way, and he now declares that he cannot settle this important matter either in his own way or in their way. I should have thought it bad from a Unionist point of view—because I wish to take a friendly view—to let it be understood that there were Irish grievances of the gravest description which no British Government could attempt to heal. For that is what it comes to. I should have thought that to take up a 1363 position of such blank and naked Nihilism as this would be going far to undermine the Unionist cause.
But now we may pass from that. We come to the third stage in this co-operative scheme. The first, as we remember, was wholly successful. The second broke down in the Cabinet. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR dissented.] Well, a Cabinet Minister going to Ireland and making a speech condemning it shows a mischief lurking about somewhere. But now we come to the third stage—to the question of bringing the administration in Ireland into efficient working so as to win the confidence of the Irish people. The landlords' section of Lord Dunraven's Conference Committee constituted itself into an Irish Reform Association and Sir Antonv MacDonnell, with the Chief Secretary's con sent, again placed himself at its disposal. There was an idea, I believe, of forming a Moderate Party with national aims and with a desire to promote the national well-being—a most proper object if it could be accomplished. There were many conversations and colloguings into which we need not go, although they are full of mystery. The scheme was promulgated, constituting a statutory body for legislative purposes, and a financial board partly elected, and at once the cry of Home Rule was raised. Sir Antony MacDonnell was charged with being a leading accomplice in a design not merely for handing the key of Dublin Castle over to the Irish people—they have some right to it, after all—but for basely betraying the cause of Unionism. Now with the merits or de merits of that scheme I do not concern myself to-day. It may have been crude and unworkable, or the reverse, but the point of cardinal importance is that these proposals are repudiated by the Government because they involve the principle of delegation and the elective principle. Ireland is to be governed according to Irish ideas—that the Viceroy has told us at the beginning of this chapter—but Irish ideas are well enough, if you like, but the moment you begin to put them in proper and regular form by invoking a direct expression of opinion then they are an unworkable heresy.
Who was it that started the mutiny against this scheme? It was the small 1364 Party of ascendency, who have so long; been accustomed to secure supremacy in Ireland for their own ideas and not for the ideas of Ireland. It was they who denounced the Under-Secretary, drove the Chief Secretary from office, and forced the Prime Minister and the Party opposite into a white sheet. Sir, Governments may propose, but it is these Gentlemen who dispose. The Prime Minister may make appointments, but it is these Gentlemen who dismiss. I do not blame them. They have acted honestly and straightly according to their instincts and their interests. I do not put it in an unpleasant way. When they see a powerful Government and a great political Party flying like sheep when they give them chase how natural it is for them to make the most of their power.
Now let us try and understand in the light of all this what is the Unionist policy, what is meant by it. It is not an Irish national policy. It is not the policy which has so often been advocated in this country of governing: Ireland impartially by a British Government and giving the Irish all we should' give to ourselves, of giving them the same laws. How familiar we are with that programme! No, this is a policy under which a small fraction of the people use the British Government in order that the privileges of their own class may be upheld against the rights and liberties of Irishmen, and this was never more vividly shown than by the events we have before us to-day. But was there not something more when a few weeks ago this great bouleversement took place? For the Tory Party to be terrorised by the Ascendency Party is nothing new. They have often fled before them. But is their flight not accelerated by something in the circumstances of this movement, which lends speed to their heels? We have it, Sir, on the highest authority, yes, and concerted authority, that in their despair for their future the Government think of flying to a desperate remedy, the bogey of Home Rule. Yes, the bogey of Home Rule in order to hide the fact that their wars, their extravagancies, their class of legislation and; favouritism, have brought them nothing but sickness, and irritation, and indignation. Even their latest trick of promising 1365 to delete and cancel and annul that fiscal provision which has been the keynote of our commercial prosperity, even that has only served to sow dissension among their own followers. They have misused their welcome by the country, and they have outstayed it. They are borne down by the burden of their own unpopularity, and they are bankrupt of future policy. The right hon. Gentleman amuses himself occasionally, and I assure him it amuses me to see him do so, by pointing to us and saying, "What is your policy?" I can hurl at the head of the right hon. Gentleman half-a-dozen good sound policies for the future which we accept and intend to follow.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman has a single policy except to resist all that we should propose. But what, then, were they to do? Happy thought! Fall back upon the old scarecrow; call the Irish people rebels, and say the Empire is in danger—Ah! it is too late! But, Sir, it is too old. That will not do twice. In the meantime your own Land Act and your own Local Government Act forbid you the use of this scarecrow. But at least you could save yourselves from being caught—your Under-Secretary and Chief Secretary, and the rest—caught in the very act of conspiring and constructing a new Constitution in co-operation with the very men whom, in order to construct your bogey, you must denounce as knaves and traitors. Therefore, at all hazards, pacify the Ulstermen; put away this new policy of Irish ideas, so wise, as we think, so necessary, so promising a policy; rebuke one of your agents, and dismiss, discard the other—that is the Unionist Irish policy.
Now I wish to say a word or two on the circumstances of the resignation of the right hon. Member for Dover, and of Sir Antony MacDonnell's retention. We have been walking among mysteries, and we do not gather much from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that he said anything which would alter our opinion on the main question. His own personal action may have been 1366 misunderstood by those with whom he acted; with that we have little to do; but the broad lines remain untouched by anything he said. What is the main question we have to consider? It is not why the late Chief Secretary resigned; it is why the Prime Minister accepted his resignation. It is difficult to reconcile the Prime Minister's account with that given in this House by the right hon. Member for Dover and that given in another place by Lord Lansdowne. There are two contradictory views on which the whole thing turns of Sir Antony MacDonnell's status and therefore of his delinquency. The first is that his position was quite exceptional and that therefore he was not to blame for associating himself with Lord Duniaven's reform movement, but that he was guilty of an error of judgment in failing to perceive the point at which the proceedings of Lord Dunraven and his friends fell, so to speak, under the ban; the point at which they passed beyond the pale of what is called Unionist policy. That is the view of Lord Lansdowne and of the right hon. Member for Dover. It is surprising, I think, that they should have joined in stigmatising as indefensible a mistake of such a character, all the more when he who committed the mistake was known to them to be a Liberal and an Irishman with Irish sympathies. But the other view is that Sir Antony MacDonnell enjoyed no privileges beyond those enjoyed by every Civil servant at the head of a department, and that his status was precisely that of a similar official in the Local Government Board or the Home Office. This is the Prime Minister's view. He says—Sir Antony MacDonnell was censured because in connection with the Dunraven scheme he had exceeded the bounds laid down by the particular rules, and, what is even more important, the ordinary practice of the Civil Service.And this it was which was called indefensible and received a sweeping rebuke. The House is familiar with the terms of the appointment, the conditions on which it was made. If the Prime Minister ever read the cipher letter of the Chief Secretary before telegraphing and writing his concurrence, it left no definite impression upon his mind. Nothing unusual, he said, had occurred; it might happen in any office. We have it from his own 1367 mouth that as respects the policy and the conditions of the appointment there has been much ado about nothing. All we ask him now is to explain why, if that is so, he accepted the resignation of the Chief Secretary. On his own theory, how does he justify accepting that resignation? If nothing in this appointment differentiated it from others and the one solitary cause of trouble was a slip on Sir Antony MacDonnell's part for which he had been admonished, was it not a natural thing to let bygones be bygones? The Prime Minister said on February 22nd—The episode, which we all regret, was due to a misapprehension. Cannot we bury it in oblivion—this episode which, while it reflects discredit on nobody, gives pain to some.That was on February 22nd, yet on March 6th he announces the Chief Secretary's resignation because this insignificant and forgettable episode destroys his usefulness. Why did he not tell the Member for Dover when he came to him with his inept and quixotic offer to resign—which on this theory it was—that he wholly misunderstood the situation, that the incident was closed, the offence was condoned, that his resignation had no shadow of justification, and that it would constitute a grotesque miscarriage of justice and give rise to great embarrassments and misconceptions? The right hon. Gentleman said he was unable to resist the appeal of the Chief Secretary. He told us that on March 6th, but in the "Political Notes" in The Times on March 3rd I read this—Mr. George Wyndham, M. P., replying yesterday from Clouds, near Salisbury, to a telegram from one of his Dover constituents, says the report is not correct that he will resign the Irish Secretaryship or succeed Lord Selborne at the Admiralty.There is no great sign of insistence on the resignation in this disclaimer two or three days before the announcement of his retirement was made. On March 6th it had become so serious that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister could no longer resist his appeal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover gave a forecast of his resignation during the debate on the Address, when he spoke with the frankness which distinguishes him. He said his view was that the Government ought to try to make 1368 the best of the situation, always subject to the Union.Because," he continued, "I have followed that view I have exposed myself in some quarters to a great deal of hostile criticism. If because I have held that view I am to be condemned, I shall accept the condemnation and leave the Ministry.Why, however, has he resigned? Because the Under-Secretary had over stepped the bounds of his office. But then let us assume for a moment that the Prime Minister admitted to the then Chief Secretary what he has not admitted to the House, that political considerations did enter into the question. Suppose he was influenced by the Chief Secretary's plea that a great experiment had been reduced to ruins. Was it not then for the Prime Minister either to tell him that the new policy was not dead, but was to be persisted in in spite of the narrow Ulster opposition, or else to insist that if the Chief Secretary resigned he himself, as jointly responsible for the venture, must accept his share of the liability for the catastrophe, and himself resign also?
I turn for a moment to Sir Antony MacDonnell—to consider his position. He has been condemned for an indefensible political error. At what date—and it is necessary if we are to understand the matter that these facts should be known—did the Cabinet come to this decision, what were the terms of the censure, and what representations did Sir Antony MacDonnell make either before or after his condemnation? The public censure of a great Civil servant is not an everyday occurrence. I think we ought to know something of the trial and the defence as well as of the judgment. Let me say I have never seen Sir Antony MacDonnell in my life, and am not entitled, qualified, or desirous to speak in any way for him; but surely considering his past career and the circumstances in which he undertook these duties it is neither fair to him nor becoming in the Government themselves to administer and publish this resounding rebuke and at the same time withhold his own statement of defence from the light of day.
The treatment of Sir Antony MacDonnell seems equivocal, but what are we to say of the Viceroy? Lord 1369 Dudley has served Ireland well; he has not spared himself in any respect in her service; and now that he has been detected in the crime of high treason against Unionist policy, he is rewarded by being told by the Prime Minister, "Oh, the Viceroys! The Viceroys are nothing. Viceroys may think and say what they please in the obscurity of their existence outside of the Cabinet.' The House of Commons well knows, and even regards with some little admiration, the dexterity with which the Prime Minister extricates himself from a predicament. But, after all, we have to deal with the facts, and the Viceroy remains in Dublin. He is to occupy a certain position, to maintain relations with the Chief Secretary and the Under-Secretary, even if the Cabinet and the Prime Minister are not aware of his existence. But what a situation is this? The Viceroy, who has made no secret of aiding and abetting the Under-Secretary in his crimes against the Union, the Viceroy, who has leanings towards a statutory body—fancy, what a dreadful thing!—and a financial board, partly elective; the Chief Secretary who regards these opinions as altogether impossibleand disbelieves most fervently in anything of the sort; and the Under-Secretary, who has been caught in the Act and censured with severity—there is a happy family for you! From one's heart one pities the new Chief Secretary, who lives in Dublin Castle with a political suspect on the left hand and on the right, and a chief in London who regards the whole question as antiquarian and belated. As one considers this remarkable trinity of Irish administration I confess I cannot believe we know the whole story. That feeling is deepened when we look across the House and see sitting in an unaccustomed place the man who by his own showing is as untainted with any of these heresies as the Prime Minister himself.
§ The House will be pleased to know I come to my last point.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
What is the policy of which Sir 1370 Antony MacDonnell—this is a most important matter—was to be the permanent administrator under the new Chief Secretary? We have had distant and ominous mutterings of coercion. I hope there is no foundation for them, but if this new and hopeful policy which has been attempted is to be snapped short off and Ireland is to be given to understand that the present system of government or no government is all she will get, what is the good of telling others, as the Chief Secretary is doing from day to day, that law and order were the first condition of civilised life. You have admitted yourselves that Ireland is badly governed. You have sent a Viceroy to proclaim a better way; you have ran sacked the Empire for an administrator of a sympathetic turn, whom the Irish people might recognise as in a new and peculiar degree responsible to them; you have inaugurated by your legislation with regard to land and local government the view that the Irish people are worthy of confidence and capable of discharging large administrative responsibilities; by every means short of the elective principle and delegation you have sought for a brief time to give Ireland a taste of self-government; and now you are going to slide back into your old function as a mere police force. Do you suppose you can conceal from the British people the real lesson of this experience by representing Ireland in the old colour of a lawless and disloyal country? What a childish expectation! The people are beginning to understand the truth about Ireland, have begun and advanced pretty well in learning the truth about Ireland. When they see standing in the dock together the Chief Secretary, whose dreams have been shattered, the Viceroy, who has been treated with such disdain, and the Under-Secretary, who has been rebuked as no Civil servant ever was rebuked before in our time, they will suspend judgment against the people of Ireland, and they will ask which are the separatists—the Party which in the name of Unionism has promised, and flattered, and cajoled, and abandoned Ireland, faithless to their own traditional principles—if you dignify them by such a word—and faithless also to the expectations they have themselves reasonably created; or the Party which seeks, and 1371 believes it will bind the countries together by finding a means for the satisfaction of Ireland's aspirations, for the removal of those manifold evils under whose influence Ireland is wasting away.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in view of recent events in Ireland, and the revelations which caused the resignation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, it is in the highest degree desirable, in the public interest, that the correspondence and other information necessary to enable the House of Commons and the country to form a judgment on the policy and proceedings of the Irish Government, connected with and subsequent to the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell, be communicated to Parliament."—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.)
MR. WILLIAM O'BKIEN (Cork)
said he had listened with deep and sincere sympathy to the loyal and touching effort made by the Member for Dover to bring himself—he would not say to force himself—into harmony with the speech of the Prime Minister before the Primrose League. He joined heartily with the Leader of the Opposition in saying that it was impossible to listen to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman without feeling regretful that a brilliant career had been somewhat roughly, and he thought unfortunately, interrupted, but they were all at one in the hope and the belief that it was only interrupted, and that it would not be interrupted for a very lengthened period. There were portions of the speeches already delivered which left upon his mind an uneasy impression that the debate was likely to degenerate into an English Party fight at the expense of Ireland. Most Members would feel that Sir Antony MacDonnell was badly treated by his colleague the Member for Dover; the Member for Dover also was badly treated by the Prime Minister and very markedly by his successor; and there were others nearer home who perhaps had not been altogether too chivalrously treated by their colleagues. If they had been treated otherwise, and if things had been going on in Ireland as well to-day as at the time of the Land Conference, it 1372 was possible that the present debate would not have come on, because Sir Antony MacDonnell would never have been thrown over. But these personal questions were very minor matters. The substance of the debate was that a policy which might have yielded, and to a large extent had yielded, great blessings to Ireland, and perhaps in no lesser a degree to England, was tried, and defeated not by the action of any one man or section, but by a most unfortunate and unhappy concatenation of forces, follies, and misapprehensions, from the responsibility for which no Party could claim to be altogether exempt.
If the debate was to serve any useful purpose, its real object should be not to toss recriminations and taunts across the floor of the House, but to recognise that they had to go back to the position in which they stood eighteen months ago, before either Party or country could hope to recover the ground they had lost in the matter of clearing away the miseries that attended the Irish nation. Personally he was not able to approve entirely of the action of any Party in the House, nor could he condemn entirely the action of any Party. There was, however, one exception, as with his whole heart he could condemn the action of the Gentlemen from the Ulster corner. In the regrettable absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, the leadership of that section devolved—if he might use that dangerous word—upon the hon. Member for North Antrim, who at one time did not disdain to be the private secretary of the Member for Dover. He thought the Leader of the Opposition paid far too much attention to the Gentlemen from Ulster, because it would have mattered very little what they did if both English Parties and perhaps some Members who were not Englishmen had been a little wiser in this matter. The debate, however, ought to proceed upon other principles than these personal considerations.
He did not think that any fresh evidence was needed as to the understanding on which Sir Antony MacDonnell went to Ireland. They had evidence enough in the speeches of Lord Landsowne and the Member for Dover, in 1373 Sir Antony MacDonnell's letters, and in the undeniable fact that the Prime Minister was at the time apprised of what was going on and approved of every step that was taken. He knew the kind of man Sir Antony MacDonnell was, and he was glad to get him for the task before him. A great deal of trash had been spoken about the crime of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover in describing the Under-Secretary as a colleague. Everybody who knew Ireland was aware that the Under-Secretary was, in substance and in fact, a colleague of the Chief Secretary; in most cases he was the more important of the two, and he strongly suspected that he was the predominant partner even under the haughty and iron rule of the new Chief Secretary. If Sir Antony MacDonnell had only gone to Parnassus by going to Mount Stewart instead of to county Galway, if he had placed the Irish police indiscriminately at the service of the Irish landlords, or had used his patronage at Dublin Castle to suit the book—of course in a constitutional way—of the hon. and learned Member for North Antrim and his friends, precious little would have been heard of the humbug about the crime of the Chief Secretary in describing him as a colleague.
If he might say so without disrespect, he did not attach very much importance to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had most loyally stated to-day. They were on the eve of a general election, and the Irish policy was down in the dust. This was not a reproach addressed to the Member for Dover or to the Prime Minister exclusively, for these things were the mere by-play of Parliamentary debate. The Member for Dover and the Prime Minister, when Sir Antony MacDonnell went over to Ireland, unquestionably had an open mind and kept an open door; and he was perfectly certain that Sir Antony MacDonnell was sent over to Ireland to abolish Irish landlordism, to settle the University question, and to recast the government of Ireland. Whether they called it reorganisation or devolution did not matter; he preferred to call it evolution. As to the first of these three objects, it was now admitted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover and Sir Antony MacDonnell were brilliantly 1374 successful. They did not call it the abolition of landlordism, but that it most certainly was, and they carried it out with the consent of both Parties in this House and in the other House, with an astonishing spectacle of unanimity between the two countries. That was not the victory of any one Party, and in Ireland they did not strive to make it a Party victory. He had been taunted with proposing a vote of confidence in Dublin Castle, but the resolution which was unanimously adopted by the directorate of the United Irish League with the Leader of the Irish Party in the chair was as in the following terms—That while the Act as placed on the Statute-book falls short in various important particulars of the recommendations of the Land Conference and the requirements of the National Convention, and cannot without amendment effect the entire extinction of landlordism within a reasonable time, we cordially recognise that the Amendments demanded by the National Convention have been conceded in Committee to an extent to which no great Government measure in relation to Ireland has ever before been modified in deference to the demands of Irish public opinion, and we think it a duty to make free acknowledgment that next to the exertions of a united Irish Parliamentary Party under the leadership of Mr. Redmond, and of Mr. T. W. Russell, Ulster tenant righters, that happy result is to be traced to the wisdom and active goodwill displayed by that section of the landlord leaders who made the Land Conference possible, and the loyalty with which Mr. Wyndham and his associates in the Government of Ireland endeavoured to make good his pledges to give legislative effect to the recommendations of that conference as well as to the high public spirit with which the Liberal Party resisted the temptation to extract any Party advantage from the situation.That was called a vote of confidence in Dublin Castle, and it had been quoted as justification for launching a combination for the destruction of the policy then adopted. Instead of being a vote of confidence in Dublin Castle that resolution was a vote of thanks to a united Ire land and a united England! In fact, a vote of thanks to the United Kingdom, if ever there was one, for passing what he considered the first stage in a policy which would put an end for ever to the methods of Dublin Castle. He did not wait for that resolution to express his own sense of admiration and thankfulness for the part which had been played in this matter by the Liberal Party and 1375 their Leader, who had never wavered. He expressed humbly what he felt as to the attitude of the Liberal Party and the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose Burghs, of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Berwick, and the hon. Member for Battersea. If the suggestion which the hon. Member for Montrose made on that occasion had only been accepted in its fulness, that settlement would have gone through like clock-work. Nobody found fault with the Member for Dover or with Sir Antony MacDonnell for the passing of the Purchase Act. Everybody lauded him and glorified him because the land question which was then put on the road to a settlement was by far the heaviest and the thorniest of the three questions on the programme of Sir Antony MacDonnell.
The University question was an in finitely easier one, and the moment his hon. friends opposite, who seemed to be troubled with bad dreams about the Pope and the Bishop approached this question in a broad spirit, that moment they would be convinced that they were as much astray upon the University question as they were upon the land question. The constitution of a national University that would satisfy all reasonable people in Ireland was a very light proposal compared with the question which the Land Conference had to face, of getting at a price which would satisfy both landlords and tenants. It was enough for them that those negotiations took place, and his only regret was that they had failed. The Leader of the Opposition had quoted the Prime Minister's statement, that no Government could hope to pass a University Bill under the present circumstances. That was what was said by the Member for Dover in regard to the land question. All that he needed to say was that whereever the fault lay most unquestionably it did not lie with the masses of the Irish people. The situation had been wholly changed from the unanimity and cordiality which had enabled the Land Purchase Act to be passed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover no longer had Ireland at his back, and the policy of conciliation was being trampled out. The hon. Gentlemen from 1376 the Ulster corner had got their opportunity of bringing in ignorance, stupidity, and bigotry, and they had done so. If they had been a little wiser they could have settled the University question without the aid of those Gentlemen, just as they had managed to settle the land question without the assistance of the landlords.
With regard to the third of the items in this programme, about which all this empty and factious storm had been raised, he thought all hon. Members in the House, if they would only confess it, would agree that they ought never to have had that indefensible vote of censure passed by the Cabinet on Sir Antony MacDonnell To that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had made no answer and could make no answer. He certainly ought to have written his letter to The Times after Lord Dunraven's association had published their first manifesto, because it was perfectly, certain that that manifesto indicated the main lines of the devolution scheme every bit as emphatically as the subsequent scheme. The late Chief Secretary knew then that Sir Antony MacDonnell was in communication with Lord Dunraven, and he ought to have known that The Times newspaper was every other day publishing leading articles crying out that this devolution scheme was Home Rule in disguise, and asking the late Chief Secretary to repudiate it. He did not repudiate it, however, until it was found that the devolution scheme was denounced, not merely in the north-east corner of Ulster, but by every Party in Ireland and by the Nationalist news papers. After two years' absence he was. only claiming the light of expressing his views upon an important question and he hoped he was not giving offence to anybody. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover did not make the repudiation until the Nationalist news papers and some of the most important representatives in the country denounced devolution at least as violently as the orators on the other side of the House. The late Chief Secretary made an observation that evening which threw a very great deal of light on what really happened. The right hon. Gentleman 1377 stated that he objected to devolution even more than to Home Rule, because he found that it commanded the approval of no section. It was natural that he should come to that conclusion. He saw that devolution had no friends in Ireland and very naturally he came to the conclusion that he himself would soon have no friends in the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman then committed what the hon. Member thought was the one mistake in his Irish career. He struck his flag to Lord Londonderry, to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General for England, and to the minor Irish lawyers. He separated him self from Sir Antony MacDonnell instead of gladly associating himself with him to the end in a policy which had been gloriously successful, and which, he believed, would be yet gloriously successful. It would be easy to find strong language to describe that mistake, and perhaps to describe the apologetic tone of the right hon. Gentleman's statement that evening, but he confessed, looking back on his experience of politicians on both sides of the House for the last quarter of a century, and remembering how, on the Irish question especially, nothing succeeded like success, and nothing failed like failure, he did not know half-a-dozen men on either side of the House who were entitled to cast the first stone at the Member for Dover if, finding he had no friends in Ireland, he hesitated to part with his friends in England. He went further than that and said that, to his mind, it would be one of the most unscrupulous things a statesman ever did if the Member for Dover, or if the Prime Minister, were to endeavour to make out of the situation in Ireland the material for an anti-Irish or anti-Home Rule cry at a general election. On the other hand, he said that he thought any endeavour of the Nationalist Members to keep the Member for Dover or the Prime Minister to Home Rule, in their sense of the word, on the strength of Sir Antony MacDonnell's appointment, would be equally undesirable. He said that most emphatically.
As to what were their first notions of the remedy for the admitted breakdown of government in Ireland—because that was the basis on which all this thing proceeded, 1378 when the present system of government by the admission of the other side and. his side had hopelessly become antiquated and indefensible—what were their first notions of what the remedy for that government might be, the only fault he found with his friends on his side was that they did not give more time and more fair play for these first notions to develop favourably, as unfortunately they had since developed adversely. Although they were as far from Home Rule in the full Nationalist sense of the term as he was from being a devolutionist in the sense of Lord Dunraven's present scheme, merely because he was perfectly willing to chat matters over in a friendly way he had never concealed from anybody what to him was as clear as daylight, that it was all nonsense to speak of any final settlement of the question of Irish government until this House devolved upon an Irish Parliament the management of purely Irish affairs under a Ministry responsible to the Irish people. On that point there was not a shadow of difference on the Nationalist Benches, but when prominent Unionists and fellow-countrymen invited them to an inquiry as to the best method of recasting the government of Ireland on the basis of delegating to an Irish statutory body legislative functions in connection with Irish affairs, then he for one had not the least notion of repelling them, and had not the smallest hesitation in entering into friendly discussion with them through any exaggerated apprehension that the reductions of Irish Lords or English Cabinet Ministers might tempt him from the straight path—and, of course, he presumed that the Lords and Cabinet Ministers had a still poorer opinion of any humble seductions of his friends and himself. Devolution, like Home Rule, might mean anything until they got particulars. For instance, in the Nationalists' own camp, one distinguished Irishman on these benches had defined devolution as the Latin for Home Rule, and another distinguished Irishman had defined devolution as lunacy from the Nationalist point of view. He would rather not quarrel about words before he knew what they meant.
1379 He could not vote for this Motion; neither did he intend to vote against it, because in the first place he thought Sir Antony MacDonnell stood in no need of defence. Sir Antony MacDonnell was in as proud a position as any man in the empire to-day. In the second place he knew that it was not the fault of the Government alone that the Wyndham-MacDonnell policy broke down in Ireland, and he could not conscientiously be a party to a policy which had driven the hon. Member for Dover from office, and in the third place he believed that Ireland was of higher interest than the cornering of the Tory or the Liberal Party. Ireland would want both Parties. It had been his fate to be denounced as a Whig for helping the Liberals to give them Home Rule, and he had been denounced as a Tory for helping the Tories to abolish landlordism. He dared say that he would be denounced as a Liberal, when, as he hoped, the Liberals began to do good work for Ireland. If they did good work for Ireland it was good enough for him. He was not in the least ashamed to avow that he for one had been true to any obligation of honour he had ever contracted with English Parties. Perhaps he might be allowed to say that, like some of the principal personages in this drama, if lie had changed his opinion, if he had seen reason to change his opinion in this world of change and in this; House of change, he should not think it in the slightest degree discreditable to avow it. But the fact happened to be that, so far as the situation had changed in this House since he first entered it, twenty-two or twenty-three years ago, it was Parties on both sides of this House who had happily changed, and it was not he nor those who thought with him. In the days when it was necessary to rouse English statesmen to the reality and intensity of Irish dissatisfaction, and to do it by pretty rough methods, he was glad to say that he made his humble contribution towards teaching that lesson. He was not a very old man, but he had seen the hair of five or six generations of Irish secretaries grow grey. It was no consolation that his own hair had grown pretty grey in the operation, but these rough methods were necessary, and with out them he and his friends should never 1380 have roused the House to the truth. He was as little a peace-at-any-price man now as ever, and if events such as those of Dursey Island the other day, or speeches like some of the threatening speeches of the new Chief Secretary for Ireland should make it necessary, which God forbid, to remind English statesmen again of the facts of Irish life and of the unquenchable spirit of Irish nationality with which they were struggling—well, it was just possible that the Government would not have any reason to complain of any criminal excess of moderation on his part.
He did hope that that stage of conflict was past. He did believe that they had reached a point at which the progress of their cause for the future would depend not so much upon revolutionary strife, not upon any corner intrigues, not even on their strength in the division lobby, important as that undoubtedly was, but would depend, he hoped, upon combining both English Parties upon this question. It would depend upon their patiently conciliating their opponents. It would depend upon American and colonial opinion in their favour. It would depend upon the living example of successful self-government which was being actually given at that moment by their county councils and district councils, and, above all, the irresistible force of events by which Sir West Ridgeway, a Protestant and Tory, had been brought to the same opinion as Sir Antony MacDonnell. He had said before to those who were amazed at their moderation in the Land Conference that, so foolis hwas the prevalent notion in England about Irish affairs, there never had been a moment, even ill the fiercest struggles against coercion government for the last twenty-five years, when they had not been just as ready as at the Land Conference to close with any genuine manifestation of peace. They were ready for it at the time of the Treaty of Kilmainham with the Liberals, and with what was called the Muncaster Alliance with the Tories. They were ready in 1883, and in 1903, when the most magnificent opportunity was not lost, but only adjourned by one of the inscrutable strokes of destiny which had often crushed the hopes of Ireland. He could not claim to speak 1381 for anybody but himself. He had not the slightest desire to do so. But he hoped that he might claim, like an eminent personage, that he occupied the position of ploughing a lone furrow, though, unlike him, he had the hearty confidence that he was not ploughing the sands. He had expressed his views, and he claimed to speak for millions of the Irish people when he told the English House of Commons that, if they were wise at this hour, the opportunity for a settlement of Irish grievances was not now lost but only adjourned. It would yet be recognised that this question had got "to be settled, not by Party debates and divisions, but by the best men of Ireland and the best men of England and in the Colonies coming together into a peace conference which would bring England what would be worth to her more than all the dreams of Empire—and that was the peace, the honest peace, at home in Ireland.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE (Antrim, N.)
said he thought the hon. Members for Ireland who sat below the gangway opposite must feel that they were under a debt of gratitude to the much-despised Gentlemen from the North-East of Ireland who had been the means of inducing the hon. Member for Cork to come over from Ireland to deliver himself of the speech to which they had just listened. It was, however, very unfortunate that when the hon. Member had come so far he had not told the House all that was within his knowledge. He was perfectly satisfied, from reading the correspondence of the hon. Member, that it would go down to posterity, like the letters of Junius, or Swift's letters, that it would be publicly appreciated as "the O'Brien correspondence," which could be had for the sum of twopence. He was satisfied from a perusal of that correspondence that the hon. Member knew a great deal more than any other person of the transactions which had given rise to the whole action of the Unionist Party in Ireland and in England during the last two or three years.
§ MR.WILLIAM O'BRIEN
said he was in the position of the needy knife-grinder who bad no story to tell. He knew nothing of the negotiations. If the hon. Member 1382 for Waterford knew something of them; at least he knew nothing to the discredit of any one.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said he should be sorry to think that the hon. Member for Cork knew anything to the discredit of any one. He, however, would like to know what was the reason that there should come such a remarkable change in the public sentiments which from time to time the hon. Gentleman delivered to the people of Ireland and abroad.
He had listened with some interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution. He noticed the old familiar tone; the effort to elicit cheers from those whom he regarded as his allies. He noticed, too, that the right hon. Gentleman spoke of Irish wishes, Irish sentiment, and the Irish people all through his speech, just in the same way as he spoke of the inhabitants of Cape Colony and Natal, always meaning the exclusion of the loyal British residents in any of those countries. That was the only view the right hon. Gentleman seemed able to take. His sympathies in any part of the kingdom could only be enlisted by those who were in opposition to the general feeling and instincts of the Imperial sentiment in their country. When the right hon. Gentleman referred to the Irish people he always meant the Nationalists. Ulster Members were under no illusions what ever as to the right hon. Gentleman. They knew that in England he and such of those who sat behind him as were his followers posed as the champions of religious liberty. They were always protesting against the domination of the National Church. The right hon. Gentleman himself liked to be regarded as a sort of Protestant Defender of the Faith. Yet there was no one in the House more ready to hand over the Unionist Protestants of Ireland, whom he never lost the chance of sneering at, to the most intolerable ecclesiastical tyranny represented by hon. Members opposite. They knew what the policy of the hon. Gentleman would be if he came back to power. He did not know if that policy had been settled in detail, but its outlines had been divulged by one of the most active Members of the Party the junior Member 1383 for Oldham, whose statement at Bradford a few weeks ago had not been disavowed, that it would be the duty and the province of the Liberal Party, when they came into power, to take up the reins so rudely snatched from the hands of Mr. Wyndham and Sir Antony MacDonnell. He took it that that had the assent of the right hon. Gentleman. If that were so they knew his position perfectly well. They had no intention of following him, and if they found them selves in the same lobby as he, it would only be because poverty made strange bed-fellows.
He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a Question. The right hon. Gentleman put down early in the session—he did not pretend to give the exact date—a Question which dealt with the subject they had been discussing in almost the same terms as the notice now on the Paper. The right hon. Gentleman then wished to know what further correspondence there was, and he might say it was singular how completely the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing his Motion, had abandoned what he might call the operative part of the Resolution. They heard now nothing of further correspondence, or of insistence on the production of further documents. For some reason or other the right hon. Gentleman completely abandoned that part of his Motion. Earlier in the session the right hon. Gentleman put on the Paper an inquiry as to further correspondence. The right hon. Gentleman, unfortunately, had a temporary indisposition, and during his absence the Question stood over, and finally disappeared from the Paper. Nothing more was heard of the matter, keen as the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety must have been, until April 12th. Now on April 11th the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, in reply to the Member for South Belfast, stated, in a reply which gave great dissatisfaction to hon. Members opposite, that he would see that the Under-Secretary for Ireland was subject to those powers of supervision and control which were reserved to the Chief Secretary, and which, as far as he was concerned, would be used. It was a very satisfactory Answer, it was right to say, to Irish Unionists. The extraordinary thing was that on the following day the 1384 right hon. Gentleman, who presumably was dissatisfied, or was in communication with some one who was much dissatisfied with the reply, put down the notice of Motion calling the attention of the House to the matter of further correspondence. He asked whether there was any relation between the reply of the Chief Secretary on the previous day, and the putting of the Motion on the Paper? Were there communications passing?
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said that in that case it was a remarkable coincidence, but he accepted the right hon. Gentle man's statement. It was well he could make that statement, because the surmise that there had been communications was very general, considering the dates. He might say frankly, and he had the privilege of speaking for some of his colleagues from the North of Ireland, that they were not going to support the right hon. Gentle man, and that they were unfortunately on this occasion, not able to support the: Prime Minister. He was not accustomed to beat about the bush, and he would like at once to state the reason. They objected to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, but unfortunately in Ireland Unionists had a very strong feeling of suspicion that their own Unionist Government had been emulating or trying to emulate the right hon. Gentleman. When it became necessary to make a change in the personnel of the Irish Executive they felt that both the Chief Secretary, who called the Under-Secretary his colleague, and the Under-Secretary, who called the Chief Secretary his colleague, should be removed from working in opposition to Unionism in Ireland, and until this was done they could not support the Government. If the Under-Secretary was to maintain under a Unionist Government his position as a permanent official in Ireland and the head of the permanent officials in Ireland it made very little difference to Irish Unionists whether the administration was carried on by a Unionist Government or under the aegis of the Leader of the Opposition. It was true that they had been sneered at by the Leader of the Opposition and they were 1385 a small Party in the House. He was glad to be able to think, however, that they were at least a united Party. They had the knowledge that not only were they resolute to press these feelings to the logical end, but that they had behind them the whole of those whom they represented in this matter. They had voted Unionist and they must have beyond all doubt a Unionist Government set above suspicion. The Union meant a great deal more to them than to hon. Gentlemen opposite and if the maintenance of it was to be subject-matter for the dissecting table it did not matter whether the knife was a Home-Rule knife or otherwise. The Union meant much more to them than it did to hon. Gentlemen in England, who were apt to consider it as a Party election cry.
Before he dealt with the matter which he wished to bring before the House he should like to clear away some statements that had been circulated. He did not mind anything the Leader of the Opposition said about them, but in the Unionist Press it had been ascribed to them that they had persecuted and attacked Sir Antony Macdonnell because he was a Roman Catholic. He had heard the hon. Member for Cork repeat that calumny just now. "What were the facts? Sir Antony Macdonnell came to Ireland in October, 1902. He served through the whole of 1903, and it was not until January 23rd, 1904, at Lord Londonderry's meeting in Belfast, that a single Irish Unionist ever said a word against him. Even then his name was not mentioned. His name was first mentioned on the Easter Monday at Orange meetings in the North of Ireland in 1904, because the scandal—in which he was personally and directly implicated—of Constable Anderson was public property. But such was the alleged intolerance and bigotry of Irish Unionists that though Sir Antony MacDonnell was a Roman Catholic he was eighteen months in the country before his name was mentioned on a platform. For the first eighteen months no attack in any shape or form was made by Irish Unionists against him. Another matter was,—and this would dispose of another myth put in circulation—and he had heard it stated even by some of his friends, that Sir Antony Macdonnell had not been six months in Ireland before he 1386 found that the place did not suit him, that he was put to too much trouble, that his Indian experience did not stand him in good stead, and that he would have there and then resigned if it had not been for the attack by the Member for North Armagh. He (Mr. Moore) had disposed of that when he reminded the House that Sir Antony was eighteen months in the country before any criticism was directed against him. For his own part he had put himself to great inconvenience from time to time by voting for Roman Catholics who stood at elections. He had voted for Mr. Justice Kerry over and over again and would do the same to-morrow. He must dissent from the proposition that because a man was a Roman Catholic any Protestant in Ireland was to get up and attack him. He had never done it nor would any of his colleagues do it.
The next charge against them was that they were attempting to limit the Government in their choice of a permanent official. He thought that was a little bit too thin. It was not a question of Sir Antony MacDonnell's appointment. It was a question whether, now that it had become necessary to make a change in the personnel of the Government of Ireland, Sir Antony MacDonnell should be there retained. If he were an ordinary Civil servant he quite agreed that no political Party in the House would have any right to attack him, but they did not consider, and the House did not consider, that he was an ordinary Civil servant. They were going upon his open political record during the last two years, and they said whatever his ability or merits might he his loyalty to his own supporters had not been questioned. They said his political open record in Ireland for the last two years unfitted him for the post of the head of the permanent staff in Ireland. It was not a case of interfering with the choice of a permanent official. The question simply was, had he or had he not, by his action, deprived himself of the protection a Civil servant had always received on the Unionist side of the House? He (Mr. Moore) assented to the proposition of Lord Lansdowne in another place on 17th February that as a matter of principle, and he was 1387 accepting the dictum of the English Solicitor-General, it was wrong for Civil servants to concern themselves in political movements. When Sir Antony MacDonnell went to Ireland the one thing he insisted upon was that he was to have a finger in the political pie, and the Leader of the Opposition said none on the Unionist side made any objection to his conference with Lord Dunraven on the Land Bill, or any objection to the various matters in the last two years. But the Leader of the Opposition must know that their grievance was that no Irish Unionist knew the terms or powers under which Sir Antony MacDonnell was appointed until they were read to the House. They did not know he had special political powers. It was hardly right that they should be accused or censured by the Leader of the Opposition for not taking note of these things before.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said then he might take it asapproval on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. But he supposed it would be wrong in three different ways that an ordinary Civil servant should so take part in political movements. First, it would be wrong as between himself and his chief, but in this case he was to have these powers. It was also wrong for a Minister to have these powers unknown to the House in a position in which he could not be answerable to the House. Thirdly, it was distinctly wrong to his subordinates. Dealing with the history of the case, the fact remained that from the moment Sir Antony MacDonnell arrived a perfect maze of intrigue seemed to have set itself on foot. Not so long before the Member for Cork had been preaching in the country his views that if they only had arms he would rather commend the opportunity of making the Shannon run red as the Tugela. This melodramatic action of the hon. Gentleman suddenly vanished and the Government became perfect. Sir Antony MacDonnell was perfection, and he supposed no one on the Unionist Benches had bestowed on the Under-Secretary so much un- 1388 necessary laudation as the hon. Member for Cork had. The hon. Gentleman liked being a little extreme. They all had their weaknesses. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman wrote to Sir Antony MacDonnell offering to black his boots. The fact remained that after being an open opponent of Sir Antony Mac Donnell the hon. Gentleman became his warmest champion. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford delivered a remarkable speech at Liverpool on the 19th March in which he said that two years ago the Land Bill was introduced and that he well remembered the intense anxiety and fervent hopes entertained by the community which he then addressed. They were told at that time that the land, question was about to be settled at one stroke, and upon the lines laid down by Parnell and the Land League. The promise held out went further than that because they were told, and rightly told, that the land question was almost the only remaining great obstacle in the way of Home Rule, and they were told that the Land Act would be followed by a measure of self-government, not perhaps the full measure of Home Rule that was demanded, but such a measure of national self-government as to go a long distance towards the settlement of the Irish national question, and that such a measure would be passed by the universal consent of all political Parties in England. He should like, in the interests of the Unionist Party, to know by whom that promise was made to the Member for Waterford.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
If the hon. and learned Member implies that a promise of that kind was made to me by the late Chief Secretary or any responsible member of the Government that is not so.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said they were told it by the public opinion of this country. It was the current opinion. They were told it in the newspapers, and the trend of all the speeches in different parts of the country went in the same direction.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
accepted the statement in a common impersonal sense. But, impersonal or not, that was the principle advocated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork through the country, and Irish Unionists never regarded the hon. Gentleman as dangerous in this matter until he became moderate. It only showed that the hon. Member for Cork had really all the winning cards in his hands, but because it was not a cry that would appeal to popular clamour, his colleagues, who thought more of political and financial support, threw him over, and he had been saving up his wisdom ever since in a sort of comparative exile. But the hon. Gentleman really came out with the winning cards in his hands, and he (Mr. Moore) marvelled at the crass fatuity of his colleagues who sat beside him in not seeing it. If the Member for Waterford in referring to these public speeches and policies throughout the country was referring to the counter programme that was held out by the Member for Cork it was fairly satisfactory evidence of the new policy which was set up in Ireland of conciliating everyone at the expense of Unionists. The hon. Member for Cork and others were not the only people who were conciliated by promises in this way. He had read the very bitter complaints on the part of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick that he had been tricked by promises made with regard to Roman Catholic education at this time. The fact was that promises were on top at this time. Everybody got a promise who wanted it, and it was therefore quite possible when everyone was in a state of contented blessedness to arrange a Land Conference and get the Land Bill through. The Ulster farmers were just as much interested in the Land Conference as anybody else, and no exception was taken to it. The instrument selected was Captain Shaw Taylor, who had distinguished himself in Galway by bringing about a conference for granting additional licences in Galway. The Bishop there was a great friend of Sir Antony MacDonnell, and it was through him that Captain Shaw Taylor was introduced to Sir Antony, so that the Under-Secretary might have the credit of bringing about the Land Conference. The point was that the very men who met to settle 1390 the land question were the very men who put their names to the scheme of devolution which was initiated eighteen months later. Looking back at the matter now, he was convinced that the Attorney-General was perfectly right when he said at Derry that this was part of one transaction; that the persons who were brought together for the Land Conference were brought together by the Under-Secretary for the purpose of this scheme of devolution.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
said the hon. Gentleman was in error in saying that any one connected with the Land Conference signed the declaration of devolution.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin Harbour)
said the hon. and learned Gentle man was using the term "Land Conference" in two senses. The Land Conference was a conference between the representatives of the landlords and the tenants, the "Land Conference Committee" was a committee of the landlords.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said they all knew who the signatories of the declaration were, but his point was that these people were brought together ostensibly in the first instance for the purposes of the Land Conference, and he could only repeat in the words of the Attorney-General that it was all part of the same transaction. It was "a deal" all round. He did not know who was responsible for this, but whoever was responsible there were other matters in which the Under-Secretary was directly and personally implicated; instances of political interference and transactions which showed a bias in his mind which rendered him unfit to discharge his duty impartially as a Civil servant and as Under-Secretary. In the first place, there was his attitude on the question of the Roman Catholic University, and, in the next place, there was the Anderson case, in which the Under-Secretary, at the instance of the Rev. Mr. O'Hara, a Roman Catholic priest, drove from the Royal Irish Constabulary a young constable whose only crime was that being a Protestant 1391 he wanted to marry a Roman Catholic lady.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
When I I dealt with that question in this House I not only contradicted that view but conclusively proved that it could no longer be entertained.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said he adhered to that view, in spite of what the Member for Dover said. The question was determined by Question and Answer in the House, and the Member for Dover then stated that on the identical evidence on which he had reinstated this man the Under-Secretary had dismissed him.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I hope the House will allow me to assert, with the facts clear in my mind, that there is no basis for that charge. This constable was removed by the proper authorities in the force to which he belonged, in pursuance of the views and policy of the Inspector-General. If the matter had come before me as a matter of routine I should have initialed it. I was responsible, because I was responsible to the Inspector-General. Sir Antony MacDonnell was not responsible either technically or in any other way.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said he would be sorry to contradict any statement made in that House, but he knew that after the constable was dismissed, and he knew it because the right hon. Member for Dover said it, he sent to the officer in Dublin a certificate relating to the young lady, and that certificate was laid before the Inspector-General, and that after it had lain on his table for three weeks the Inspector-General wrote a letter confirming the constable's dismissal and saying he saw no reason to interfere. He called that dismissing a man on the same evidence, because there was not another particle of evidence on which the right hon. Gentleman reinstated him.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. and learned Member must accept my statement. That letter was a letter of the Inspector-General embodying his views of what the discipline of the force required. It was not for Sir Antony Mac- 1392 Donnell to take another line; he did not take another line; and I only took another line when that document was submitted to legal interpretation, and I was led to see that I had an argument which would prevail on the Inspector-General to modify the view he had previously held.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said he did not think there was any issue on the facts, whatever inference might be drawn. ["Yes, there is."] Very well, then; he would stick to his own.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
I say it is a matter of recollection. Is not my memory as good as that of the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover says he did not say what the hon. Gentleman says he did; therefore he must withdraw.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said he should be sorry to put any words into the right hon. Gentleman's mouth which he had not used. The identical evidence on which, for any reason at all—he was not imputing reasons—the right hon. Gentleman reinstated the constable was before the Under-Secretary when he was shown the draft letter of the Inspector-General dismissing the man and approved of it.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
said he had never said anything else. The House was well able to judge the share of the Under-Secretary in that transaction from the debate of August last. Then there was the Ballinasloe case, the appointment of a constable at Roundstone, and lastly this devolution business, which was only the culmination of a long series of events showing the political bias and favouritism of the Under-Secretary. When the Under-Secretary went to Castlebar one would really have thought he was the Governor of a province in 1393 India. He received an address thanking him for his political services and applauding him for having checked "the bigots," by which term was meant all who disagreed with him, the noble Lord in the Cabinet, and the Ulster representatives. All this was tolerated as part of the duties of an impartial and judicial Civil servant. Ha understood the Chief Secretary had promised to reconsider the matter of handing over to the Roman Catholic Bishop the sole control of the lunatics in an asylum at Youghal. [" There is not a word of truth in it."] In view of these facts was it any wonder that Irish Unionists were not satisfied to support the Government while the Under-Secretary remained in his position? Sir Antony MacDonnell obviously intended to stay where he was, and to submit to anything in order to retain office. He had submitted to having his conduct styled as indefensible, and to being told that the Chief Secretary intended to exercise his powers of supervision and control. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover loyally and properly retired when he found he could be of no further use, but such considerations did not influence the Under-Secretary. Of what use could a permanent Under-Secretary be in Ireland when one-third of the people distrusted him? Why did the Government keep him there? Sir Antony MacDonnell had been compared to Thomas Drummond, Thomas Drummond was persecuted by an oligarchy; but in the North of Ireland it was the middle class, the democracy, who were more anxious than anybody else that Sir Antony MacDonnell should be removed. He would say nothing about the victims of the boycotting, disorder, and intimidation which under the rule of the Under-Secretary had sprung up in the South and West of Ireland. The appointment was said to be merely temporary. He did not suggest that the Prime Minister was seeking to evade the point, but he did say that if, after all the assurances that had been given, Sir Antony MacDonnell was keptin Ireland as a permanent official, those assurances were little short of evasions.
It was said that one reason for Sir Antony MacDonnell's retention was the fear of the Government that he might make further disclosures. He did not 1394 know whether that were true, bat the feeling in Ireland was that the bottom of the mystery had not yet been reached. There was more to come out, and to whose credit it would be when it was out, he did not know; but if there were more disclosures, it would be better to get the whole thing out and done with it. The disclosures might be bad, but the inferences which would be drawn from the retention of a Home-Rule colleague would be still worse for the Unionist Party. Ninety-nine men out a hundred on the Government side of the House ware of opinion that Sir Antony MacDonnell ought never to have been appointed; what justification then was there for retaining him? He was a source of suspicion in Ireland and of weakness in England. Some explanation ought to be forthcoming. The position could not be better summarised than it was in a leading article in The Times to the following effect—Still more serious, perhaps, must be the effect of the presence of a doubtful, if not a hostile, element on the spirit and temper of the Civil Service, especially the resident magistrates and police officers, who have been accustomed to look up to the Under-Secretary, in the frequent and unavoidable absences of his chief, and often at other times, 'as the de facto ruler of Ireland.'So long as the Under-Secretary, with his political past, remained in office so long would those officials feel that there was an enemy at the gate, and it would be difficult for them to act with the same freedom as they otherwise would Irish Unionists had no complaint to make of the present Chief Secretary, who had had to face a very troublesome matter. Their complaint was against the Government. They had never asked for the dismissal of Sir Antony MacDonnell, but for his transfer, and for some reason that had become, not a Departmental, but a Cabinet matter. Irish Unionists would exercise all the pressure they could to compass their end. It was said the other day that their grievances were either antiquarian or prophetic. This grievance was neither. It was a pressing, insistent grievance, and he hoped that when the Prime Minister came to consider the unfortunate circumstances which had compelled him to make his choice between this official, with his political past, and his Irish Unionist friends and 1395 colleagues, with their record, he would take the only logical and proper course, thereby enabling Ulster Members to vote, as they would gladly do, confidence in His Majesty's Government.
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields)
wished the Prime Minister had been present during the speech of the hon. and learned Member, in order that he might have contrasted the statesman he had lost with the Party leader to whom he had succumbed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had had a very distinguished tenure of office, and had written his name for good in the history of both England and Ireland, but the great ability he had shown during his tenure of office had been almost surpassed by the chivalrous generosity with which he had spoken of the reasons which led to his retirement. If one were disposed to find fault: with the right hon. Gentleman it would be that he had taken almost too great a measure of blame upon himself, and had increased the doubt and obscurity surrounding this debate. The hon. Member for North Antrim had stated that the question was whether or not Sir Antony MacDonnell should be retained. That was not the question on the Paper.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
I did not say that was the question before the House, but I said that was the question which affected my colleagues and myself.
§ MR. ROBSON
said obviously that was the question upon which the hon. Member had addressed the House. The hon. Member had made charges against the Government of evasiveness and want of straightforwardness, and those were far more important than the charges levelled against Sir Antony MacDonnell. The real question was not whether or not the Under-Secretary should be maintained, but whether the censure passed upon him by the Government should not now be removed. One listened in wonder and astonishment throughout this debate at the complete absence of anything like an attempt on the part of the hon. and learned Member opposite to prove indefensible conduct on the part of Sir Antony MacDonnell, having regard to the terms of his appointment 1396 and the confidence reposed in him by his chief.
How did the position stand with regard to Sir Antony MacDonnell? It had been admitted and affirmed by the Government that Sir Antony MacDonnell acted in perfect loyalty and in, the belief that he was acting within the terms of his appointment. Was he justified in that belief? That was the real question they had to decide. They knew that in acting as he did with regard to the devolution question he was, in fact, only repeating the procedure adopted in regard to the land question. There was no substantial difference so far as the procedure was concerned between his attitude in both, cases. In the case of the land question he was authorised to communicate with the different Parties in Ireland and to formulate a scheme to be laid before the public for consideration; that was what he did with regard to the land question, and that was what he had done with regard to devolution. That was not a question, to be decided by construing the terms of his appointment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover told them, without attempting to attack Sir Antony MacDonnell, that the question of the government of Ireland was considered between himself and Sir Antony in many conversations. It appeared that Sir Antony referred to various Indian precedents which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover did not appear to fully appreciate and understand. The right hon. Gentleman said it was due, perhaps, to his colossal ignorance of Indian affairs that he failed to appreciate the all-important fact that when Indian precedents were cited, Sir Antony MacDonnell was citing precedents which involved some measure and degree of the elective principle. He was not astonished that the right hon. Gentleman had failed to appreciate that fact, but was there any fault to be found with Sir Antony MacDonnell on that account? The late Chief Secretary might have asked him about those Indian precedents, and he might have inquired how the members of those boards in India came to be members. He might have asked whether they were nominated or elected by public bodies. He might have asked those questions if he thought that he did not understand 1397 and appreciate the full significance of Sir Antony MacDonnell's proposals, and therefore there was no blame attaching to Sir Antony up to that stage.
What was the next important point? The next all-important point was that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover took a well-earned holiday which nobody grudged him, and he said that in doing so he neglected the House of Commons, and took his mind off politics. That was a very meritorious thing to do, but, unfortunately, Ireland took no holiday and never took its mind off politics, and in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Irish Reform Association came into being. One could not help suspecting that the right hon. Gentleman was not wholly unacquainted with the gestation of that body. He had told them that Sir Antony MacDonnell was in personal communication with those who were bringing that association into being. He had told them that he could not and did not object to the Under-Secretary for Ireland being in communication with Lord Dunraven upon the question of Irish government which was involved. What was there wrong in Sir Antony MacDonnell's action? He was left alone with the Lord-Lieutenant. Who took the place of the Chief Secretary whilst he was away from Ireland? Perhaps the Prime Minister could tell them that. In the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, who was governing Ireland If it was not the Lord-Lieutenant, who was it Of course it was the Lord-Lieutenant. It would be A somewhat novel practice if the Lord-Lieutenant was not looked upon a; the active and practical head of Government in Ireland. If the Lord-Lieutenant had no authority over Sir Antony MacDonnell, he should like to know if Sir Antony was told that. Was he told that during the Chief Secretary's absence the Government of Ireland was in a state of suspense and that nobody must do anything? Certainly not. Sir Antony MacDonnell was left alone with the Lord-Lieutenant, and from that moment everything he did was amply covered by the Lord-Lieutenant. He was pursuing the same line of conduct as he pursued in regard to the land question. He entered into communication with Lord Dunraven with the Chief 1398 Secretary's knowledge and consent, and he was formulating those reports with the Lord-Lieutenant's knowledge and consent; and it was little less than an outrage to subject him to that censure which was passed upon him by the Cabinet. He hoped hon. Gentlemen would consider it their duty, apart from any Party allegiance, to defend Civil servants from unmerited censure like this. The Government did not believe that Sir Antony MacDonnell had done any thing indefensible, for if they had believed it he would have gone before this, and he would have gone before the Chief Secretary. The speech they had heard from the hon. Member for North Antrim betrayed the real spirit which had brought about the resignation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, and the same spirit would certainly have been powerful enough to secure the dismissal of the Under-Secretary for Ireland if there had been any cause for it. He thought they ought to hear what the Lord-Lieutenant had to say about this matter, and he should like the correspondence with the Lord-Lieutenant included in the demand which had been put forward. Had the Lord-Lieutenant apologised or protested? He thought it would be found that, so far from apologising, he had protested, and certainly he had affirmed his opinion upon this matter like a man.
He wished to refer to another aspect of the question which had been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech. His right hon. friend had asked the House to consider the state of things in 1902, when Sir Antony MacDonnell was appointed. That was a most significant branch of this inquiry, because in 1902 affairs between England and Ireland were in a critical and interesting state, and in that year the policy of killing Home Rule by kind ness had come to an end. Nevertheless Home Rule was still alive and its would be murderer had passed from the scene. The Unionist Party were then breathing fire and fury against Home Rule, and they were placated with promises of coercion for Ireland, which was the only thing that ever satisfied them.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
On a point of order I submit that that 1399 is a most improper imputation to make against hon. Members of this House. To say that the only thing that ever pleases them is to see their own fellow-countrymen coerced is, in my opinion, a most improper observation to make.
I think the hon. Member made it as a general remark, and did not apply it personally against any hon. Member of this House.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG,
(who was greeted with NATIONALIST cries of "Name,") said the hon. Member made a statement in regard to himself and his colleagues on the Unionist Benches, and lie considered that was making a personal attack.
§ MR. ROBSON,
proceeding, said that seemed to him to be quite a novel point of order. The hon. Member opposite might deny his accusation with regard to coercion, but he could not alter the history of his own country and the history of his Party. Who had coercion satisfied if it had not satisfied hon. Members opposite? Who had demanded coercion except the Party opposite, and what other remedy had they ever demanded except coercion? In the year 1902 coercion was being applied to please them. In that year the Prime Minister did not believe in the efficiency of the policy of coercion. The Prime Minister knew coercion well, for he had tried it for a long time and under more favourable circumstances than were ever likely to be given to any Chief Secretary in the future, and the right hon. Gentleman had seen it end in a disastrous failure, and it brought about no better result than the Plan of Campaign. The Prime Minister knew in 1902 that coercion was not a permanent and effective policy in Ireland. It was not only not a remedy but it was not even a policy. The right hon. Gentleman did not give the people of England in 1902 the benefit of his experience and knowledge; he chose another plan. He chose the plan of flaunting coercion before the country in order to placate those Gentlemen who were in favour of it; but, while doing so, he in secret abandoned the policy of coercion. He sat down in secret to hand over the administrative 1400 powers to a permanent official, who de tested and denounced coercion root and branch, and who told him so; he sat down to arrange for the wholesale expropriation of the English landlord garrison in Ireland, and he arranged with Sir Antony MacDonnell that there should be a new policy of administrative conciliation. No wonder the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Antrim accused his Party leaders of not being straightforward.
But it was not merely that the right hon. Gentleman was laying down a new policy both in respect of land and administrative conciliation. He knew perfectly well that it was idle to talk of administrative conciliation in Ireland so long as there was in that country a fixed, fundamental, and irreconcilable hostility between the local and the central bodies concerned in the Government. That want of accord between the local and the central bodies in Ireland was the crux of the whole Irish political administration. It had become intensified since 1897, when the Local Government Act was passed, and now no statesman could refuse to face it. They might talk about coercion or conciliation, but, whether Tory or Liberal, Governments in this country had got to face and to solve the problem how to bring the local governing bodies in Ireland into some kind of accord with the central body in Ireland, and the Prime Minister knew that. When the terms of Sir Antony MacDonnell's appointment were laid before him, and when he saw the list of articles on which Sir Antony insisted, when he saw the reference to co-ordination or correlation., involving the direction and control of the whole administrative machinery of Irish government, what did the right hon. Gentleman suppose that to mean? When he assented to the policy he knew perfectly well that he was making a surrender on the question of Irish administration just as marked as the surrender which he had already made in regard to Irish land. Did the right hon. Gentleman ever inquire what co-ordination meant? He told them the other night that it meant the bringing of these bodies somewhat more under the direct control of the Chief Secretary. Well, they had 1401 just heard from Mr. Deputy-Speaker that they must always accept what any Member said in that House, and the rules of order compelled them to accept the statement of the Prime Minister. But what was the position of the Prime Minister? He knew that he had given up the English garrison so far as it consisted of landlords; he knew that he had abandoned coercion, and he knew, therefore, that he must look for the maintenance of law and order to non-coercive means. Were they to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman was going to give up all those instruments of English ascendancy and yet do nothing to bring about that accord between the essential governing bodies of Ireland? He must have known that if lie did nothing he was deliberately weakening his own force, and deliberately strengthening the force of his opponents at its most vital point.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think at that time that if the country only had a statement about coercion that would be sufficient to satisfy those to whom he looked for political support, but let the House consider what followed. After the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell there was an interval of two years before the events which were now the subject-matter of discussion arose. Did the Prime Minister during the whole of the period between 1902 and 1904 never trouble to inquire of his Chief Secretary how co ordination was getting on? The right hon. Gentleman said he did not know what co-ordination was when it was first mentioned. Did he allow two years to elapse without ever asking the question, or did he think that co-ordination was one of those words he would define in due time, according to his own interpretation, as he had done in the case of "retaliation?" He was prepared to believe it, if told, but it appeared to be incredible that neither he nor the Chief Secretary should have devoted five minutes conversation to this most important subject. Let it be remembered that in 1903 the Land Act was passed, and from August, 1903, to August, 1904, Irish devolution—the administrative problem—took the place in public interest of the land question, and, therefore, it was impossible to sup pose that the Prime Minister and his 1402 Chief Secretary should never have discussed what the policy of the Unionist Party was to be in relation to this vital subject. If they never discussed this matter during that period it showed what interest these distinguished persons took in the unity of the Empire, of which they claimed to be the only possible guardians. The fact was that the Prime Minister did not ask the meaning of co-ordination from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover because he knew what it meant. He might not trouble about details, but he knew substantially that co-ordination in Ireland involved the control of the whole administrative machinery of government, and that it meant in one way or other a distinct and an irrevocable step towards placing the control of Irish local government in local hands. That was what it did mean, and that was what it would continue to mean. From the position which the Prime Minister had thus taken up no English Party in the future could recede. Whether the Liberals were able to carry out their promises in regard to Ireland or not, it was certain that there was no possible Government for Ireland in the future unless it adopted what was known as the MacDonnell policy, and adopted it in its widest sense.
Why did the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Antrim complain of the want of straightforwardness on the part of the Government? What right had he, or the Party to which he belonged, to expect greater straightforwardness from this Ministry than the free-trade Unionists? It was a most unreasonable demand. But it might be asked why the hon. and learned Gentleman complained of this subterranean policy on the part of the Government. It made, undoubtedly, for the doctrines which Liberals preached. Liberals did not complain of those arrangements and agreements which they had seen with regard to Sir Antony MacDonnell. So far from complaining, they said they were good, statesmanlike, and sensible; but they wanted to know why they were done by stealth. Why should this policy of sensible, statesmanlike, and practical government be carried on in secret while the Prime Minister openly and avowedly professed that his policy 1403 was one of coercion, because, at the time the Government were doing these things through Sir Antony MacDonnell, they were throwing dust in the eyes of the English people? By far the most useful moral they could draw from this debate was that the Prime Minister knew perfectly well that there was a strong Unionist and anti-Irish feeling in England, and, while he deplored its existence, he felt that he could not afford to part with it in the management of the Unionist Party. Let that be remembered by the English people. It might discount some of the platform rhetoric which would be heard from Members on the other side of the House as to Liberals being the allies of Irishmen. The hon. and learned Member for North Antrim had complained that his Party had been betrayed. Let him look out, for they were going to be betrayed again. If the Unionists were returned to power they would have to take up again the policy of administrative con ciliation; and it could only be taken up by giving Ireland a greater measure of self-government. If the time had come when the reform of Irish government must be considered in principle and detail, do not let it be done by secret arrangements. Let the House of Commons and the country know it, and let the nation take its part in the discussion of the subject. He thought they might trust something to the wisdom and generosity of the people.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG
said that a most unfortunate expression had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down. It was a mistake that Members who came from the North of Ireland were desirous to see coercive methods necessary for Ireland. But with the law disregarded in districts as it was at the present day, a Government which claimed for itself the name of Government should see that the law of the country was carried out. That was a very different matter from saying that the Members from the North-East of Ireland were pleased to see coercion in force. If the hon. Member knew any thing of the state of things which existed in the West of Ireland at the time the right hon. Member for Dover went over to Galway and the rest of the West of 1404 Ireland, and examined the present state of things, he would come back with very different ideas of coercion. Hon. Gentlemen talked indiscriminately about Ireland, and not one. in ten of them knew what they were talking about. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: What about bad whiskey?] He thought that this debate had been remarkable for the fact that very few speakers had dealt with the subject which was before the House, viz., the position of Sir Antony MacDonnell. It was on that point he desired to speak in defence of the position they had taken up in Ulster.
In the month of February, when the revelations of the attitude of the various Unionists towards Sir Antony MacDonnell became public, the whole aspect of the case was altered. Sir Antony MacDonnell was Under-Secretary for Ireland on the same terms and conditions as any other Under-Secretary—as they understood. It had been attempted to be shown that day that an Under-Secretary for Ireland was not an ordinary Under-Secretary; that no Under-Secretary who had ever preceded him had had anything like the powers given to Sir Antony MacDonnell. He maintained that the powers given to Sir Antony MacDonnell were absolutely unconstitutional, and more than were given to any previous Under-Secretary—even to Thomas Drummond. What he complained of was that these powers should have been given to any man, and that the fact that they had been given to him should have been kept secret not only from them in the North of Ireland, but from every Unionist Member in the House. He agreed with the hon. Member opposite that that was the gravamen of the whole business. Where the Government had erred was in that first of all they gave these powers. He submitted that they erred quite as much in that they allowed them for nearly three years to believe that this official was an ordinary official, whereas in reality he was an official with equal powers to the Chief Secretary.
He could understand the hon. Member attacking the Members for Ulster for the position they had taken up; but the hon. Gentleman must remember that he and his friends were 1405 Home Rulers and that they were Unionists, and the most determined Unionists in the House. The whole question of the Union was centred in the constituencies which they represented; and it was useless for hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that they were Unionists to-day. They were Unionists who would remain so, and while they were Unionists they would object most strongly to be called "bigots." There was nothing bigoted about their attitude. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made use of the old term "the Ascendancy Party." Would anybody explain to him what particular ascendancy they had ever had. In this House they were a small Party, and were made the constant butt for attacks for the amusement of the House by hon. Members on the Nationalist Benches, and of a fair share of amusement on the part of hon. Members sitting on the Liberal Benches opposite. He submitted that in this Sir Antony MacDonnell affair the course taken by the Ulster Members had been the only straightforward and consistent procedure of any section of the House. The proof that their action had been right was that hon. Members on the Nationalist Benches had in the last year ranged themselves on the side of the Government solidly; and if further proof were needed that Sir Antony MacDonnell was a partisan it was that from the first day the name of Sir Antony MacDonnell was mentioned in the House Gentlemen of Home-Rule proclivities defended him. All that was self-evident from the original letter which, after considerable difficulty, had been extracted from the right hon. Member for Dover, which had been written to him by Sir Antony MacDonnell. It was a very frank and straightforward letter. If that letter had been communicated to the Ulster Members three years ago it would have prevented much being said in the House that had been said. In that letter Sir Antony MacDonnell wrote as follows—I have been anxiously thinking over the difficulty. I am an Irishman, a Roman Catholic, and a Liberal in politics. I have strong Irish sympathies. I do not see eye to eye with you in all matters, but from the exposition you were good enough to give me of your views, and from the estimate I formed 1406 of your aims and objects, I find that there is a substantial measure of agreement between us.[NATIONALIST cries of "Go on."] No more quotation was necessary for his purpose. He wanted to prove that Sir Antony MacDonnell was of the same opinion as hon. Members opposite. The whole point of this whole business was, "Had the Government any right to appoint any such official when they knew his political opinions?" The proof of that being the fundamental point was that when the Government appointed Sir Antony MacDonnell they knew his political opinions, and were careful to hide from the Ulster Unionists, from the House, and the country the fact of the special powers that they had given him. Sir Antony MacDonnell had been perfectly frank and straightforward, and from a personal point of view they had no objection to him; but they objected to him because of the fact that he had a different way of thinking from them. [NATIONALIST cries of "He is a Catholic."] Well, of course, that added considerably to their objection to him. Sir Antony MacDonnell's opinions were diametrically opposite to their own, and he had been allowed to use them, and they had a right to fight against him. If it was originally indefensible on the part of the Government to appoint Sir Antony MacDonnell, it was surely equally in defensible to keep him in his position when one-third of the people of Ireland looked upon him with extreme distrust. Furthermore, it must be perfectly clear to the Government that a country could not be ruled properly when a third of the population, and that not the least important third, were thoroughly disrustful in this matter. Therefore, if he could put more pressure on the Government to transfer Sir Antony MacDonnell to some other position, where his abilities could be used for the good of the country, he would willingly do so.
He hoped at that moment it would be seen that the only members of the Government on the Front Bench—the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General for England—had done more to bring this matter to a head than any Member for Ulster; and the right hon. Gentleman lately appointed 1407 Chief Secretary whose recent action in Ireland they had applauded in everyway. They saw in him a Chief Secretary of the type they wanted in Ireland. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench would convey to the Prime Minister the strong feeling that existed among Ulster Unionists in the House and also in the North of Ireland, for in this matter—although they had been taunted with being a small body—they had behind them one and a quarter million people in the North of Ireland. They felt as strongly as they did a year ago that the retention of Sir Antony MacDonnell in Ireland would only be productive of mischief, and if the Government wished to restore true Unionist opinion in the North of Ireland, confidence in the Prime Minister and in the Government, they could help to bring about that result by sending Sir Antony MacDonnell to some other post.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN (Kilkenny, N)
said the last speaker had advanced the opinion that Sir Antony MacDonnell should be expelled from his present position because the majority of Irish Members had supported him and the minority were against him. In his speech the Member for South Shields failed to grasp one important point. He said that hon. Gentlemen opposite were guided entirely in their conduct in that House and in their discussion of Irish questions outside by one desire, and that was to secure coercion for their countrymen in Ireland. That was only half the truth. There was another reason which inspired hon. Gentlemen opposite. He thought it was stated fairly well by the hon. Member for North Antrim when he said this was a Government pre-eminently of promises. It should have been a Government of places as well as of promises, because everyone knew that in the whole record of the conduct of Irish administration for twenty-five years there never was a Member of the loyal minority in this House who could not be bought by a place, with the exception of the hon. Member for South Belfast, and that he had no doubt would be considered in due course when he was brought into the loyal conventicle in the North of Ireland from which he had been expelled. 1408 The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down invited the Member for South Shields to go to Gal way and witness the lawlessness there. Had the hon. Gentleman never heard of lawlessness in Belfast? Only the other day at Portadown there was a magnificent example of law and order, undefended Catholics having been attacked and one assassinated by one of the constituents of the supporters of the glorious cause of law and order. Then they came to this House and for the edification of British journals they held up Ireland as a law less country, when as a matter of fact there was not in all the world now a more crimeless land than Ireland. Was it a fact that one of the colleagues of the hon. Gentleman opposite had been expelled from one of the legitimate Orange organisations and had had to found a new one?
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
Of course I did not understand that the hon. Gentle man made the statement himself, but that he was basing his remark upon something he had heard.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
I do not reprobate it. I am not a member of the Belfast Conservative Association. I have nothing to connect me with Belfast. If I lived there I should have but the hon. Gentleman has no right to say I either approbate or reprobate it.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN
said he did not suppose that the Conservative Association was anything like the House of 1409 Commons. Its approbation or reprobation did not count for very much, but his point was that the Conservative Association—and surely it was a central organisation which the hon. Gentleman opposite ought to be a member of if he was to guide the fortunes of a little minority in this House—was at the present time engaged in opposition to the Member for South Belfast. Why did not the Government now settle the Irish question? Nothing was left in the way now but two candidates for knighthoods and three candidates for County Court Judgeships. Give them the knighthoods and County Court Judgeships and they would get rid of the Irish ques tion. In view of what had been paid for power and peace in other parts of the world, it was extraordinary that the Government should not create that unity in the Ulster Tory Party of which so much had been heard. The hon. Member for North Antrim did not attack Sir Antony MacDonnell nor the Chief Secretary for two years. Why was that? The thing was simple enough; he did not attack the Chief Secretary because the right hon. Gentleman gave him a job, that of unpaid secretary for two years, and he did not attack Sir Antony MacDonnell because Sir Antony MacDonnell was responsible for the zones in the Land Act which enabled him to ask thirty-one years purchase for his land.
§ MR. WILLIAM MOORE
May I say that the hon. Gentleman has made so many absolute misstatements that I would suggest he should leave me alone.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN
said the statement put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite was that they represented Ulster. He desired to contradict that statement point-blank. He denied the statement that they represented Protestant Ulster. What about the Members for South Tyrone, Fermanagh, and North Down? He took it that the Member for South Tyrone was as legitimate a Protestant, and represented as legitimate Protestant opinion as the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, and what right had hon. Gentlemen opposite to come to that House in order to 1410 arouse the religious animosity of those opposed to Irish Catholics, and to claim that they represented 1,250,000 of Protestants which they did not? It had been said that the Nationalist Party were unreasonable in their demands-Here was a sample of the type of men who were governing Ireland, at the present time. They had driven the Chief Secretary from office, the man who steered the Land Act through the House of Commons, which gave thirty-one years purchase to one of his followers. One of the most brilliant men in the Ulster Tory Party had been driven out of it because the loyal minority were determined to rule and retain in their own hands the power which they had for so long used against the public weal of Ireland. There would be no conciliation in Ireland while these Gentle men were masters of the situation. When they could drive out the Member for Dover, and pursue with all the ruthlessness of bloodhounds an eminent Civil servant of the high qualities and great Imperial services of Sir Antony MacDonnell, who could rule 40,000,000 of Indian natives, but who they alleged was not competent to discharge the functions of the Under-Secretary at Dublin Castle, the whole matter resolved itself into one thing. The hon. Members opposite had had the power for years; they had used their power badly, and at the present moment the people of Ulster were sick to death of them.
With regard to the Anderson case, they had challenged hon. Gentlemen from Ulster repeatedly to join them in an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman for a full and impartial inquiry into this matter, and now repeated that challenge. Why did not the hon. Gentlemen join them in such an appeal? This man was dismissed by a tribunal of policemen and rein stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover. That, was the first mistake of the right hon. Gentleman, who thought that by capitulating to the Ulster Unionist Party the case of Anderson would be ended. But the Ulster Members were not thinking of the policeman at all. They knew that the shibboleths of the Party, the old cries of the Party, had disappeared, and that a better feeling was rising in Ireland. They 1411 found Anderson in their time of difficulty, and having compelled the right hon. Gentleman to capitulate, they went hack to Ireland and made the case of Anderson their war cry. He hoped the Chief Secretary would speak in this debate, and that they would hear from him whether it was proposed to discuss the case of Anderson again. There seemed to be nothing that would satiate hon. Members opposite in their desire to wreak vengeance on everyone who would not submit to their sweet will in the Government of Ireland. He asked the Chief Secretary would he stand up and vindicate the action of Sir Antony MacDonnell and Father O'Hara of the Congested Districts Board in this Anderson case, or would the right hon. Gentleman, if he did not do that, give the country an opportunity of finding out the true genesis of this case for themselves and, enable them to form a judgment of whether there was any justice in the charge of the hon. Member.
The right hon. Gentleman was now starting on a short period of office in Ireland, and he had now a chance of doing something for that Union of which he was such a stout champion. The right hon Gentleman had been told that there were but two policies for Ireland, the policy of the Government of the majority for the minority, and the policy of the Lord-Lieutenant, which was government by the people for the people. Which would the right hon. Gentleman choose? Nothing would satiate the greed of hon. Members for Ulster for office. The right hon. Member for Dover had given in to them on every conceivable occasion; he gave the landlords £12,000,000, and they were not satisfied yet; he had trusted to the mercy of the Ascendancy Party. What did the Ascendancy Party mean for Ireland? It meant the government of Ireland by Irish men who had no Irish sympathies; who did not feel the beating pulse of Ireland; who did not understand the wrongs of their own country, and who remained there not as the English garrison, but as an Irish garrison to use the British power behind them for their own selfish interests. By the fortune of the ballot, hon. Members 1412 opposite representing Ulster recently secured a private Members night. What did they do? Did they discuss the Bann drainage, the financial condition under which the Queen's Colleges suffered, or the conditions under which the Irish labourer had to exist in Ireland? No, they took the question of institutions and convents. These were the statesmen in whose hands was the custody of Irish affairs. They had never a thought for the welfare or advancement of the country of which in this House they claimed to be so proud. Why did they not use their power for the good of Ireland? The Unionist cause would have been stronger if they had done so, but because of their conbination of stupidity and venality their case had gone, while Nationalists had established their case for national self-government.
§ MR. SLOAN (Belfast, S.)
said he would not attempt to follow the hon. Member who had just sat down, but he could not help thinking while he was addressing the House of a remark in the very eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Cork, who said he regretted the possibility of the Motion on the Paper degenerating into a Party controversy and the real subject-matter of the Motion not receiving the careful consideration of the House. With the Motion he entirely agreed. It was very simple. It desired that further correspondence in connection with the wonderful arrangement made for the Government with regard to the position of the Permanent Under-Secretary by the Member for Dover should be placed on the Table, in order that the House and the country might be the better able to judge of the situation. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields had given the House a very earnest aid faithful speech—a speech which he had no doubt would please the majority of his constituents; and for that reason he did not take any particular exception to it. But inasmuch as it contained an incrimination of Members on the Ministerial side of the House, who as honestly and sincerely as he himself endeavoured to represent those that sent them to Parliament he thought it was certainly not creditable coming from a Member of the House. 1413 To say that any hon. Member—no matter what his politics might be—would associate himself with the coercion of his I fellow-countrymen was unworthy of an English gentleman, and more especially of a Member of the British House of Commons. The Leader of the Opposition had given a few descriptions of Ulster representatives in that House. He could not call the names bitter—they were rather amusing, and especially when, as he under stood, the Leader of the Opposition had never put himself to the trouble of finding out what the real situation in Ulster was and what Ulster politics were. Unless the right hon. Gentleman wanted them to come to the House and do exactly what their constituents did not want them to do there could be no application in the names which had been applied to them.
Passing from that it was a regrettable thing that the shadow of the whole business had had to pass across the political platform while the substance of all that debate, contention, and misunderstanding, and all the difficulties that the present Government were in still remained. When the correspondence that passed between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover and Sir Antony MacDonnell was read, he was he believed the first to say that he unreservedly with drew any suggestion or statement he had made against Sir Antony MacDonnell in view of that correspondence. In his opinion the only man in the whole transaction who had had clean hands had been Sir Antony MacDonnell. But with a Unionist Administration that certainly was not and could not—if they were to continue to represent the people who sent them to Parliament—be accept able to the Ulster Members. Of course, if they were to ignore their constituents and to tell them that their opinions in the House of Commons were not to be considered, then he could assure them that another body of Gentlemen would be sent there in their places, and rightly so, just as certainly as the Nationalist Members if they went down into the South and West and preached Protestantism would be removed and another body of Gentlemen substituted for them. It was not a question of bowing down to the minority in Ireland at all. It was a question of public opinion in England. 1414 The Ulster Members as a minority would be altogether unsuccessful in their efforts to retard the wishes and claims of Nationalists if it were not for the fact that England and Scotland sent a majority to that House with equally strong views on this question of the legislative Union. And therefore hon. Members opposite, in stead of saying that the Ulster Members were desirous of keeping a majority in Ireland under the heel of, or governed by "ascendancy," would be better occupied in educating the peope of England and Scotland, and assuring them that the only remedy was to send a majority of Members to the House of Commons in favour of giving Ireland self-government. But if they tried their hands at that the Ulster Members would give the other side of the question, and doubtless with as good results as in the past. But he considered that the Ulster Members could not dissociate themselves from the pro tests which the Opposition had made. He quite agreed that it did seem a little inconsistent to agree with a Motion, but not to vote for it. He did not object to hon. Members opposite holding the views they did on Home Rule. What he did object to was that they did not preach them in their constituencies. The Member recently returned for Brighton did not preach Home Rule. He would not have been returned if he had. And the Member for Dorset recently got up and admitted that he was sent there to Parliament to oppose Home Rule.
§ MR. SLOAN
said he would adhere strictly to the Motion, but it would be understood by hon. Gentlemen opposite that if there was no reply made it was not because one could not be given. He thought it was a regrettable thing that a Civil servant should be attacked who was not in a position to defend himself because of the office he held. He said during the last debate on the subject that it would be a blessing for the House and the country if the Permanent Under-Secretary was unmuzzled 1415 and he believed honestly that if the Permanent Under-Secretary was unmuzzled, and allowed to defend himself, the revelations would be given which this Motion demanded. He was not satisfied that there were not other matters which that House and the country ought to know. No man who had followed the course of proceedings since the two letters were read could have any other conviction. He could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover had had to retire because of Sir Antony MacDonnell's indefensible conduct while Sir Antony MacDonnell remained where he was. Why was Lord Dudley still at Dublin Castle?
§ MR. SLOAN
As he said in the North of Ireland, the Prime Minister had as much reason to resign as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might think they had made a point, but it was his honest belief that the Prime Minister who acquiesced in the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell and who understood the whole arrangement—and Lord Dudley, who was quite competent to judge whether Sir Antony MacDonnell had violated one of the principles under which he took the appointment—that the three men should go or the three should remain. There was no other conclusion that could honestly be come to, and he was not going to allow his conscience to be stifled in the matter. He thought an injustice had been done to the Member for Dover, and if in the interests of his Party he had sacrificed his position and endangered his political reputation he was more to be pitied than laughed at, and that House was perfectly right in receiving him with sympathetic cheers. But the late Chief Secretary was not in his place. He would like to reply to him with regard to the criticisms made about Constable Anderson, but all that had been ruled out of order, and the Deputy-Speaker had told him that he must adhere strictly to the Motion.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
That case has been gone into at considerable length and there was no call to order.
§ MR. DILLON
I got the information by sitting here and listening to the whole debate. It is part of the information which the Motion demands.
MR. DEPUTY- SPEAKER
The Motion relates to the policy and proceedings of the Irish Government, and that is one of the proceedings.
§ MR. SLOAN,
continuing, said the hon. Member for East Mayo demanded in the Home an inquiry into the whole of the Anderson case. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh was in the House at the time, and both he and the hon. and gallant Member said they did not object to an inquiry. He, personally, was as anxious for an inquiry into that case as in the other matter. The first information that there was a charge against Anderson was given to Sir Antony MacDonnell by Father Denis O'Hara at the Congested Districts Board's meeting. That was admitted in debate, and to say that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh he'd a pistol at his head was inaccurate.
§ MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN
As a matter of fact, the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh made that statement in the House.
§ MR. SLOAN
said in that case he would apologise. With regard to the letter which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover wrote, in which he said he would see Lord George Hamilton and see that the Press took special notice of the great administrative powers of Sir Antony MacDonnell, he wished to know what control any Government had over the Press. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is an. 1417 absurd question."] What this practically amounted to was that there was a secret conspiracy going on in the Government in regard to the appointment of the Under-Secretary, and in order that the country should not be made aware of the attitude of the Government, the Press, and particularly the Unionist Press, was to take up the cause of the Permanent Under-Secretary. His constituents had great distrust of the Government in regard to the appointment of the present Permanent Under-Secretary and the scheme of devolution. He assured the House that it was his strong desire to see this Motion carried, for nothing would give him greater pleasure than to see the blame put upon the right shoulders. If Sir Antony MacDonnell had been made the victim in this matter, then it was the duty of this or any other Government to take the responsibility and not to stand upon an indefensible platform. They ought to place before the House and the country the whole transaction in order that they might honestly be able to judge and inform their constituents in regard to the misstatements which had been made, and made on account of the insufficiency of the information placed at their disposal. He was not so sure that the Chief Secretary would comply with the demand which had been made, but he trusted that they would have a distinct statement from the Prime Minister that if there was any further correspondence upon this question it should be laid on the Table; and if there was not any other correspondence then the right hon. Gentleman ought to point out where the action of Sir Antony MacDonnell had been indefensible, because he really could not see how a man fulfilling his own terms could have his policy described as indefensible. That being so, he associated himself entirely with the Motion before the House, which he trusted would have the desired effect.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
thought the attack which had been made upon a most distinguished Civil servant was a most serious matter. He had listened to the long speeches which had been made upon this subject, and he could not discover that the slightest case had been made out against Sir Antony MacDonnell. Why should Sir Antony's name be dragged 1418 into their quarrels in the House of Commons? The rule in such matters was to attack the Government through the Chief Secretary or the Attorney-General for Ireland, but in this case a mean attempt had been made to stab in the back a man whose great services to the Empire ought to have been sufficient to protect him from the attack which had been made upon him. When he studied this vote of censure he found that it contained no expression of regret. It was simply a request for information as to the proceedings of the Irish Government and the circumstances antecedent and subsequent to the appointment of Sir Antony MacDonnell. Information was badly wanted on those points. It was wanted because of the misrepresentation which the Prime Minister and some of his supporters had been carrying on in the country in regard to the attitude of Parties on this question. According to those misrepresentations the Conservative Party had got a most anxious feeling as to the policy the Liberals would introduce in regard to Ireland if they came into office. According to their story, the Liberals would introduce a policy of violence and disruption which would re-act injuriously on the Empire, and, on the other hand, it was suggested that the Conservative Party were the safe Party who had done nothing, who had allowed Ireland to stew in its own juice, and who, if they continued in office, would protect the great interest: entrusted to their charge. That was one of the most extraordinary misrepresentations ever thrust on the country.
There was misrepresentation in regard to Sir Antony MacDonnell himself. One would think that Sir Antony MacDonnell had been discovered three months ago, that he came into Ireland last February, and that the Attorney-General for Ireland and the Solicitor-General for England at once began to attack him. It was not until to-day that the country had been sufficiently reminded that Sir Antony had been three years in Ireland. There was nothing new in the policy he had introduced. He did not think it was fair or true to charge Sir Antony MacDonnell with being the father of the policy which had been attributed to him; he did not introduce any policy in Ireland. The 1419 policy to which hon. Gentlemen opposite objected carried them further back than three years ago. Perhaps the House would like to know the actual source of this policy in Ireland. He had an extra ordinary document there which would enable him to recall it to the attention of the House. It was a Whip issued about eight years ago in the following terms—House of Commons. Irish Agricultural Rating. Very Important! It has been arranged that Ways and Means shall be the first order on Monday, May 6th, 1897, and that Mr. Knox shall move his Resolution demanding for Irish agricultural ratepayers the same measure of relief given to English ratepayers. We believe that in this matter Irishmen of all sections are unanimous, whatever may be their views on wider questions connected with financial relations.Amongst those who signed that Whip was the present Attorney-General for England, and he regarded it as one of the most creditable things the hon. and learned Gentleman had ever done. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day refused to have anything to do with the request made by hon. Members from Ireland, and the hon. and learned Gentleman got up and fired into the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Almost every speaker on the opposite side of the House supported the hon. and learned Gentleman, and there was not a single speaker to say a word on behalf of the position the Government had taken up. At half - past ten the Government saw they must surrender and they sent out Mr. Goschen with a flag of peace. A promise was given that something would be done in the direction the hon. and learned Gentleman desired.
The hon. Gentleman is referring to a debate which has no reference to this Motion.
§ MR. LOUGH
said he had finished with that. He mentioned it only for the purpose of showing the origin of the policy which had been carried on by the Government ever since in Ireland. The concession then wrung from the Government had led to a series of reforms of greater magnitude than any that House had ever passed on behalf of the country. These reforms were carried on for four or five years until it became necessary to 1420 get some one to help the Government to carry them through. The Government looked about for the best administrator, and it was owing to the necessity of getting a strong man that Sir Antony MacDonnell was introduced. The Government policy included first of all the question of Irish land. There were Irish Land Bills in 1901 and 1902, but they both failed. It was not till Sir Antony MacDonnell came along with his practical suggestions that the Government were enabled to carry through the Bill of 1903. That measure was working successfully Sir Antony Macdonnell was supposed to be responsible for the introduction of financial reforms in Ireland. It was not so. The House and the Government were responsible, and principles had been admitted by the Government with regard to finance, no doubt with Sir Antony's full approval, which carried them a long way in the reform of Irish government. Three Chancellors of the Exchequer during the past few years had sanctioned the principle that all economies that could be effected in Irish finance would accrue to the benefit of the Irish people. The principle had also been accepted for ten years by both sides of the House that if any money was conceded to Great Britain a grant should be made to Ireland in the same proportion, although not used for the same purpose there. These were great reforms, but it was necessary when large sums were taken from the control of the House to have some other control in Ireland, and progress had been made in that direction. An Agricultural Board had been set up in Ireland and it largely controlled finance of which that House had no control whatever. The Development Grant had been carried, and the object was to take, away from the Treasury at Whitehall control of this Irish finance. These were principles on which they were proceeding at the present time in Ireland, and Sir Antony MacDonnell was not responsible for them at all. He thought it was most ungrateful that a most capable public servant who was introduced to help the Government in their policy, should be subjected to unworthy attacks in that House.
Another proceeding in Ireland was the reduction of the police force. That was by far the most striking and dramatic 1421 thing which had been done in Ireland, perhaps, for fifty years. If the present system of reducing the police force continued for a few years, the Royal Irish Constabulary would have disappeared altogether. Sir Antony MacDonnell was not responsible for this. It was the Irish Government that was doing it, and in this whole field of reform it was the Government who were responsible and not the Under-Secretary, on whom the Prime Minister had meanly tried to place the responsibility for the policy which he himself ought properly to regard as his own.
He did not believe anybody knew what a tremendous sheaf of legislation for Ire land this Government had put through. Sixty-two Acts had been passed since 1896, among the most important carried since the Act of Union, touching every sphere of Irish government, and if any one asked him to say what was the principle underlying those Acts, he should say, although the form was different the principle was the same as that which animated the late Mr. Gladstone with regard to his policy towards Ireland—first to buy out the landlords and then to extend self-government. The present Government had done much towards that. Summed up in a single sentence, this Government had been trying to do in fifteen years what Mr. Gladstone tried to effect in fifteen months. They had been ten years carrying out these gigantic reforms in Ireland. The Government had carried out their policy both of administration and legislation in Ireland very skilfully, but the Opposition had also done their part. Never until the last few years had the Irish question not been treated as a Party question. The Liberals had supported the Government all through in these great measures. He had supported the present Prime Minister as loyally, with regard to Ire land, for the last ten years as he supported Mr. Gladstone in trying to carry out his reforms in the previous Parliament, and although he was known as an opponent of the present Government, he had assisted them in their Irish policy in every way. That was why Liberals felt the extraordinary situation raised by the Government now of trying to repudiate their past and trying to appeal again to that bad feeling of hatred to the Irish, 1422 which no doubt was strongly rooted in this country.
The attack upon Liberals in connection with this matter had been most undeserved. For ten years, at any rate, their conduct had been everything that anyone could desire it should be. They had not put any obstacle in the way of the Government. Many of the great measures could have been completely wrecked if the Leader of the Opposition or any important body on the Opposition side had desired to do so, but there was no such desire. It was therefore very ungrateful of the right hon. Gentleman that he should attack Liberals on what he supposed to be their unconstitutional attitude with regard to Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were also acting in an ungrateful spirit in saying that immediately the Liberals came into office it would be necessary to make the Irish question a Party question once more.
An appeal was lately made from a quarter which they all expected for the Liberal leaders to say what they would not do if they came into power with regard to Ireland. He would strongly advise any right hon. friend of his not to do so. They could never be sure what they would do with regard to Ireland. The whole path of Trish legislation was strewn with the broken promises of great men. He would remind the House of pledges given even by Mr. Gladstone in 1881 and 1882. Mr. Gladstone spoke of "wading through rapine to the dismemberment of the Empire," and shortly afterwards he proposed Home Rule. The late Lord Salisbury said county government was a. worse thing than Home Rule. Nevertheless in the present Parliament the late Lord Salisbury was responsible for giving county government in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said land purchase was more dangerous than Home Rule, and that the rents would have to be collected at the points of English bayonets. Yet the right hon. Gentleman had supported the Irish Land Purchase Act, and the rents had never been collected at the bayonet point. Every pledge given with regard to Ireland had been broken, and the safe thing for any 1423 Government to do was to go on quietly as the present Prime Minister had gone on. The Prime Minister had suggested reforms, and when they had secured the approval of the Irish Party he had put them through as quietly as he could.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover said one reason why he abandoned the policy of devolution was that it had not been supported by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway on this side and because it did not command the support of any large section in Ireland. That was hardly a fair thing to say. The thing was not brought forward seriously; it was never embodied in a Bill. He thought the repudiation of devolution or forward progress with regard to Irish policy was not due to any defects in the policy itself but to the exigencies in which the Government was placed with regard to British matters, and if the Prime Minister could see his way to five years more office he would see his way to other reforms in Ireland which would go far to satisfy the aspirations of the Irish people. He desired to thank the Government for the great work which had been done on behalf of Ireland during the last ten years. It was the greatest pity that this turn should be given to the question at this time, but, after all, the progress of matters in Ireland rested not with the Conservatives or Liberals but with Members below the gangway, and so long as they continued to protest against, the injustice with which Ireland had been treated and to express the determination to win complete control over their own affairs, there would be no course open to either Party in this House except progress along the road that would satisfy those demands.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
said the debate would give very little satisfaction to any one except those who were the enemies of the Union. The Member for Dover fell into the grip of a strong man, and it would always be a mystery to many of them how he was allowed to come under the influence of Sir Antony MacDonnell, and how Sir Antony, able and honest though he undoubtedly was, but opposed to every principle which lay at the foundation of the 1424 Unionist Party, was ever allowed to occupy the office he did.
And, it being half past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's sitting.