§ Resolution reported,
§ 5. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,898,239 be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the 2089 Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913, for Expenditure in respect of the Services included in Class II. of the Estimates for Civil Services."
§ [For Services included in this Class, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1912, cols. 1778-1780.]
§ Sir J. LONSDALE
Will the Prime Minister give us some information as to the order in which the Votes are put down on the Paper to-day?
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I presume the point the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise is why the Vote for the Chief Secretary is put down.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There was no alteration. There was no agreement. I understand it was the wish of hon. Gentlemen opposite that the first Irish Votes to be taken should be those for the Constabulary and Education. There is no question of an agreement but of the general convenience of the House, and particularly of the Irish Members. The practice has been for several years past that those who belong to what is called the Nationalist party, the majority of the Irish Members, have been entitled to the first choice of the Votes in Supply. As a matter of fact this year on the Vote on Account the Members of the Unionist party had first call and the Labour party had first call on the Report stage. On the next occasion when Irish Votes were taken in Supply, at the request of hon. Gentlemen who represent the Unionist party, the salary of the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture was put down. Therefore, up till now hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have not had an opportunity of selecting a Vote in Irish Supply. In these circumstances we came to the conclusion, as there was a strong desire, that it would be only right and fair that the Vote for the Chief Secretary's salary should be put down first to-night. In addition to the facts I have already stated I may add that special circumstances have arisen in the course of the last few days with regard to the lamentable disturbances in Belfast which I should have thought would make it in the opinion of Irish representatives in all quarters of the House desirable that some discussion should take place before we went on to other chapters of Irish Supply. These are the grounds on which the Chief Secretary's Vote is put down.
§ Sir J. LONSDALE
Will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to arrange with his Nationalist Friends to have the Vote taken upon the Chief Secretary's salary as early as may be, as a great number of people from Ireland are deeply interested in Education and have come over specially to discuss it.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I consider it is a request which ought to be granted at once. We are anxious that Education Questions should be discussed, and I understand so are hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, and it would be right that the discussion on the Chief Secretary's salary should be brought to a close at a reasonable hour and then we should take up the discussion of the Irish Education Vote, in which we are all interested. The Votes had better be taken in the order in which they stand. Every question connected with the constabulary can be raised on the Vote for the Chief Secretary, and if you are going to put another Vote in between the Chief Secretary and education considering that we have to close the discussion by ten o'clock, it would be quite impossible to have anything like an adequate discussion on the education question.
§ Sir J. LONSDALE
In view of the fact that there has been a distinct understanding existing between the two parties that Education and the Constabulary Vote should be taken in that order, I think we might reasonably request that the two Votes should be taken to-day. It is very hard that we who represent the minority in Ireland should have our interests entirely at the dictation of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond).
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has used that expression. I was going to say we would take the Constabulary Vote immediately after the Chief Secretary. It will not take long. I am quite sure it is the wish of a large number to have the education question discussed.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I do not think I need apologise to the House for raising the matter to which I intend to address myself as one of the gravest and most urgent importance. The shocking and unparalleled atrocities which have been committed at Belfast during the last four weeks makes it absolutely essential that 2091 the representatives of the outraged workers should bring this matter at the earliest possible moment before the consideration of the House of Commons, For practically a whole month there has been a reign of barbarism for which there is no parallel, I think, in any civilised or uncivilised land, and when, within the last two days, we have brought this matter before the House of Commons the Chief Secretary has stated repeatedly that he had hopes that peace would soon prevail. Yesterday he repeated that hope, in which we all universally join, and yet this morning the following statement appeared in the London "Star":—The reign of terror continues in Belfast, and matters have arrival at such a stage that either a Catholic or a man possessed of progressive ideas is not safe walking in the streets. Night after night the streets are paraded by Orange mobs looking for victims, and it matters little whether they are male or female, the same brutality is meted out. Last night as a Protestant, who refused to associate himself with the Unionist Club movement, was walking along Queen's Road he was attacked by a vicious crowd armed with the usual weapons, and the rough treatment to which he was subjected could not have been exceeded in any savage land. He was surrounded and knocked down by rowdies, some of whom kicked him, while others beat him with sticks, and when rescued by harbour police he presented a pitiful appearance. His face was covered with wounds from kicks, and his clothes were in ribbons. He was removed to the hospital for treatment. The man Conway, who was brutally kicked in the shipyard last week, lies in hospital in a critical condition, and the doctors have little hope of his recovery.What is the crime this man has committed? What is the crime that all these tortured citizens have committed? They have demanded the fundamental and elementary right to work and to live in their own country, and yet, because they have claimed to exercise that right, they are hounded down, beaten by armed bands of organised hooligans, fired at with nuts and other weapons until 2,500 of them are walking the streets of Belfast, with the exception of those who are lying beaten and bruised and some of them dying in the city hospitals. On June 15th the Opposition moved an Amendment which affirmed:—That it is the duty of the Government to afford all possible protection to men who desire to work in a lawful occupation.The Leader of the Opposition offered this contribution to the right-to-work proposal placed before the House. He said:—We, at least, will not he responsible for the conduit of a Government which does not give to every citizen what is his elementary right—the right to work, if he desires to work, at a legal occupation. I say for myself, for my colleagues who sit on this bench, and I believe for every one of my hon. Friends behind me, that whether we ever obtain office or not, we wish it to 2092 be clearly understood in this country that, in office or out of it, we stand for freedom to work on the part of every man who desires to work.It is estimated that there are over 2,000 Catholics and some 500 Protestants, representing at least 12,000 people in the city of Belfast, who are compulsorily disemployed owing to the reign of terror which exists there. They claim to work. They are ready to work. There is work for them to do and they are not permitted to work. Not only that, but within the area of their employment they are beaten and maltreated and some of them almost kicked to death, and when hundreds of them fly from their assailants at the close of the evening, those who have engaged in a hard and laborious day's occupation, they are hounded down and followed and hunted over the public roads, followed in some cases into tramcars and the tramcars have been wrecked. What is the crime they have committed? They have asked, under the Union Jack, under the flag of your Empire, to work that they may live, and that is denied to them. Their families and themselves are in a state of poverty, and some of them are almost destitute. For the first time in the history of the city of Belfast and the people whom I represent an appeal has had to be made for the necessary funds to keep women and children from dying of starvation. The House is entitled to ask what is the cause of all this. I will state the cause in the simple language of the men themselves. At a meeting of these workers held in the city the following resolutions were passed:—That this meeting of workmen formerly employed in the yards of Messrs. Harland and Wolff, and Workman, Clark and Co., assembled this day to consider the situation in which they are placed, having been coerced by force of employés at the above works to abandon their jobs, unanimously resolve—'That the cause of their expulsion is the religious and political passions aroused against them amongst certain workers, chiefly through the action of Unionist Clubs recently established in those yards, that the object of the hostility referred to is the expulsion and boycott of workers holding religious and political opinions opposed by the Unionist Clubs; that they appeal to the good sense of the right-minded public for justice, and we respectfully ask employers to recognise our right to fair treatment, and to assist in giving such protection as will enable us to follow our occupations, and earn the necessary support for ourselves and families.'For three weeks no protection was given to them. They were practically left to the mercy of this mob, who were incited and whose angry passions were aroused by speeches from Members of this House. I do not intend to paint a lurid picture, or even to give the House my description, or the description of a Nationalist or Liberal partisan, of the events that have taken place in that city. Let me quote 2093 the "Daily Telegraph," one of the leading journals in London. That journal to-day states:—As there seems to be some confusion in the public mind, it may be well to state the exact situation in Belfast. Before the holiday vacation, which began on July 10th and ended on the 23rd instant, very strong political feeling was engendered in the shipyards owned by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, and Messrs. Workman, Clark and Company. This feeling resulted in the Home Rule workers in both establishments, numbering in nil about 2,500, leaving their employment, a number being assaulted, others intimidated, and others again threatened. It was thought that during the vacation the feeling would die down, and that when the date for the resumption of work came the position would be normal. Unfortunately this anticipation was not realised, the hostility becoming even more acute than before. The result was that the several hundred workers of Home Rule tendencies employed by Messrs. Workman, Clark and Company made no attempt to resume work and are still idle. According to arrangement, the 2,000 odd workers employed by Messrs. Harland and Wolff who had been out returned to the shipyard on the morning of the 23rd. At the breakfast hour on that day there were scenes of disorder outside the yard, and an hour afterwards 400 of the Cheshire Regiment, which is stationed at Belfast, and 200 officers and men of the Royal Irish Constabulary … were brought on the scene. … On the same day and the following days up till Friday there were disorderly scenes inside and outside the yard, and gradually the workers whose political opinions did not meet with the approval of the other 11,000 men were forced again to leave their employment, the last of them doing so on Friday night last. Thus all the arrangements made by Messrs. Harland and Wolff for the protection of their workers were futile.I apologise to the House for reading that lengthy excerpt from the "Daily Telegraph," but I think that, so far as possible, it is really an impartial description of the state of things that existed, and of the causes which brought these things about. Now I come to the method by which these men have been driven out of employment, and the tactics which have been pursued. In his reply here yesterday the Chief Secretary gave this description:—Since 2nd July there have been eighty assaults on workmen inside or in the immediate proximity of the two shipyards—twenty-five inside assaults and fifty-live outside. Of these fire were of the most dangerous character, threatening the lives of the sufferers. The worst case was that of Mr. J. McIlroy, of Harland and Wolff's, on 23rd July. Two men have been arrested for this assault, and one or two others will probably be connected with it. In nineteen other cases of these assaults the assailants are believed to have been identified, and proceedings are pending; but, owing to the blackened faces of the workmen, identification is more than usually difficult."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1912, col. 1867.]Let me now come to the "Morning Post." Writing on 4th July, the correspondent of that journal said:—Inquiries made this afternoon show that the great majority of Nationalist workmen employed in the shipyard of Messrs. Workman, Clark and Co., Limited, who left their employment on Tuesday as the result of threats, did not resume work to-day. It is not expected that these men will now return to the shipyard until after the holiday vacation, which ends on the 17th inst. … In Messrs. Harland and Wolff's shipyard the 2094 feeling is also very acute. A number of joiners belonging to the South of Ireland who have been employed in the yard for some time past received so many threats of violence yesterday and to-day that they demanded the wages due to them this evening and left for Dublin. A couple of Nationalists engaged in the engineering shed of Messrs. Harland and Wolff were also assaulted while leaving their work this evening.On 5th July the "Daily Telegraph," describing the character of the scenes in these shipyards, said:—In both shipyards there were a number of disorderly scenes during the breakfast hour. Several of the Nationalist workers in Messrs. Harland and Wolff's yard were assaulted. One of them escaped by jumping into the dock and swimming about fifty yards to a jetty on the opposite side. A second ran into one of the workshops and appealed for help to the foreman, who attempted to assist him and was knocked down and kicked for his pains. So serious did the situation become that the Nationalist workers in Harland and Wolff's engineering and boiler shop were advised to go home, which they did at noon. It was fortunate that they did so, for at the dinner hour a body of Protestant workmen, numbering about 500, forced the iron gates at the entrance to the engineering shops. A few minutes later the cry was raised that there were several Nationalist workers on board the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company's vessel "Darro." which was launched ten days ago, and several hundred young men rushed up the gangway. They found three Nationalists, who, after a scuffle, escaped by slipping down a rope at the end of the vessel and into a small boat, which they rowed away.Messrs. Harland and Wolff then threatened to close the works. There are one or two other cases where particulars are given by the men themselves:—M. Conway, of 19, Sherwood Street, who was beaten by a mob at the Queen's Island yesterday, lies in the Royal Victoria Hospital, suffering from internal injuries. At one o'clock this morning he had not regained consciousness. F. J. M'Cullough, Toxton Street, is under treatment in the Mater Infirmorum Hospital for scalp wound, caused by a rivet. William Barr, Peel Street, is in the Mater Infirmorum Hospital, suffering from injuries to the eye and jaw, caused by kicks. E. Delahunt, beaten on Thursday, is still in a very serious condition—shock, broken ribs, and contusions. The ambulance which conveyed Delahunt to the hospital was attacked with stones. A glass panel bearing the civic arms of Belfast was smashed in and had to be hastily replaced with a pane of frosted glass. Many men have been attacked and badly abused in holes and corners of the shipyards and vicinity. Their cases cannot be traced.The experiences on Queen's Island of one man is described in these words:—One unfortunate was stripped naked and borne to the open raging furnace, held over it whilst his hair singed in the awful heat, and was only saved from instant incineration by the action of four manly fellows, armed with sledge-hammers, who vowed with grim determination to smash like egg-shells the skulls of the miscreants. The next hour a Catholic was taken prisoner by four other ruffians, his arms pinioned to his sides, and his head battered by the blows given by the four. A fifth now came up and felled the victim unconscious by the blow of an iron bar. Madly his distressed co-religionists flocked to the gates, and in the rush escaped with their lives only.I do not want to extend the area of these cases, but it is also recorded in the "Morning Post" that in a felt works an unfortunate workman was thrown into a barrel of tar, from which he was rescued 2095 in a desperate plight. Then Messrs. Harland and Wolff decided to close their works. This is the document which was printed in the yard:—Matters have now arrived at a crisis in Belfast shipyards. Owing to disturbances, the impossibility of carrying on work properly has been growing daily more obvious. In view of the brutal assaults on individual workmen and the intimidation of others, several departments in Harland and Wolff's have already been closed down, and in their utter ignorance that their own interests are affected by their folly, extremists have gone so far as to molest and intimidate specially skilled men responsible for the working of power plant. These men, assaulted and intimidated, are gradually leaving off work, and, as they cannot be replaced, we are reluctantly obliged to shut down a considerable portion of plant, which will affect a still larger portion of the works, and thus gradually the whole establishment will automatically come to a standstill.What was the cause of all this? How did it commence? In the first place, Messrs. Workman and Clark encouraged within their works the formation of what are known as Unionist clubs. It is, to my mind, a rather extraordinary situation of affairs in the industrial life of any community that the head of a great firm should allow his industrial concern to be turned into a drilling institution, and that the heads of each department went round among the workers asking them to join these Unionist clubs and to take part in the pantomimic performances which those who live in Belfast know to their cost. When these men refused to join the Unionist clubs they were immediately marked men. Having carried out their work in Messrs. Workman and Clark's, bands of Unionists proceeded to the premises of Messrs Harland and Wolff, with which they have no connection whatever, broke into that firm's establishment, and demanded that the men there should join the Unionist clubs. The Catholics who refused were marked men, and 500 Protestants who refused were also marked men. That is how this state of things commenced. I want to call the attention of the House of Commons to one very important feature of this matter. Now that the Unionist party have seen that the whole of England has been outraged and shocked by these barbarous performances, they are endeavouring to clear themselves of the responsibility, blame, and indelible shame, that will remain upon them for ever. In an interview to which I called the attention of the House of Commons at the time, published in a London Tory newspaper, the "Evening News," a leading shipbuilder in Belfast is reported to have said:—There is no use disguising the fact that the yards must be cleared of every supporter of Home Rule.2096These men would only hamper us when the real work begins. He had reason to know that similar action would shortly be taken in every large industrial concern in Ulster.I myself had a circular in my possession in which Protestant employers were invited to dismiss their Catholic employés, and which stated that this would be a most striking, though not the most picturesque, part of this propaganda of so-called civil war which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen were carrying on in England. It is the splendid policy blessed by the Duke of Norfolk. He came all the way to Blenheim to give his benediction to the policy which drives out 500 innocent and inoffensive but brave and courageous Protestant progressives, and 2,000 Catholics devoted to their country, hard working citizens, law abiding men, who have never given offence to anybody. This was the policy which the Duke of Norfolk, the great Catholic Duke, came to bless at Blenheim. But however much this House may be shocked at these atrocities, and however much it may be outraged at the inhumanity of these proceedings, it is but right to saddle the right men with the responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson) declared somewhere or other, I think at a Primrose meeting, that he was going over to Ireland to break every law. He is an academic anarchist. We never witness his violence in Ireland. The only law that is broken is not the law broken by the ex-Solicitor-General for England, but by his wretched dupes in the city of Belfast. Why, if the law was to be broken, did the right hon. Gentleman not go over and throw the rivets? Why, if the law was to be broken, did the right hon. Gentleman not hold the wretched victim over the furnace? Why, if the law is to be broken, does the right hon. Gentleman not go and do it, and assume full responsibility for his action? No, he preferred to remain in England. On the day on which he was supposed to break the law he was making a speech in favour of Tariff Reform. But I pass from the right hon. Gentleman to his leader. What does he say?
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Yes; he only meant that academically. Like his right hon. Friend he is very good at talking about lynching in the House of Commons and breaking the law, but they do not do it. They prefer to protect their own hides and to leave 2097 their victims to the mercy of the public authorities.We shall use every means,he said,whatever means seem to us likely to be most effective. I say now with a full sense of the responsibility which attaches to my position—there never was a position which is more degraded—that if the attempt be made under present conditions. I can imagine no length of resistance to which Ulster will go which I shall not be ready to support.These series of incidents had gone on for nearly a fortnight when he made that speech. When he attended the saturnalia at Blenheim it was a great opportunity for him to dissociate himself, if this was not a part of his policy, from these hideous transactions; but he stood up while the passions of Belfast were let loose, while men were being beaten and assaulted, and kicked almost to death; he stood up in the presence of the mighty Catholic Duke of England, and announced that there was no length to which they might go that he was not prepared to defend; and thus he bears a full share of the responsibility for what has happened. The right hon. Gentleman has missed his mark. I have a limited acquaintance with England, but I know sufficient of it to believe that the courage of the English people and their sense of justice will prevent them from allowing a continuance of that policy described as potential civil war. There was one other incident, the most disgraceful, I think, that the oldest member of this House of Commons has ever experienced. When some time ago an hon. Member raised the question of what was going on in Belfast, I ventured in following him to describe the brutal assault on the Catholic and Protestant working men, and my announcement was received with loud cheers and laughter from the benches above the Gangway. The actors were on the Queer's Island in Belfast. Here were the audience. When hon. Members sat in the theatre and cheered them in the policy which they pursued, and jeered at the infamies that were inflicted on our people, is it any wonder that the followers of hon. Members in Belfast have pursued the course which they have done?
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I did not cheer the Boers. I was not here at the time of the Boer war; but if I had cheered the Boers I would have cheered brave and 2098 courageous men. They were not posturing warriors like hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway; they were men who displayed superb courage, whether one agrees with them or disagrees with them, in fighting for what they believed to be right. There is not a Boer in South Africa who would not hang his head for shame at such transactions as have taken place in Belfast. But I do not rise here for the purpose of exposing these atrocities alone in the interests of the people whom I defend. I rise in the interests of the great city which I have the honour to represent. There is not one of these civil warriors who belongs to Belfast. One is an ex-Canadian Scotchman; the other comes from somewhere in the West of Ireland; the rest are Englishmen. What have they got to do with Belfast? They could not point out to me a single citizen of Belfast, be his position high or humble, who has spoken throughout all these controversies, who has declared for civil war. There have been far more speakers holding big stakes in the city of Belfast in favour of Home Rule than there have been speakers against it. That is an undeniable fact. They do not want to ruin Ireland; they cannot ruin Ireland; but they want to ruin Belfast; for I can conceive no other possible result that can come in consequence of the activities of these gentlemen than the ruin of that great city, whose commercial and industrial greatness was built up as much by the blood and struggles of labour of the humble toilers as by the money of the wealthiest capitalists. They may go on with their policy, but there never will be civil war. Nobody believes it. They do not believe it themselves. The people would not engage in it. You cannot carry on a battle led by lawyers without an army; you cannot even get a battle led by a captain without an army. The only thing you would have would be a rather shabby commissariat and a few played out statesmen here in England. But you cannot, and I am convinced of it, get the people to engage in civil war. This is all a well-organised, carefully planned, scheme of conspiracy. There is nothing very picturesque about it. The only result, if it goes on in Harland and Wolff's firm, will be that Harland and Wolff will close up their works and 14,000 men will be thrown out of employment. That means 70,000 citizens left at the mercy of these Gentlemen's valorous caprices. And such a result will eat its way into every 2099 branch of commerce and industry in the city, and the ruin which has been caused will fall on the city's shopkeepers and manufacturers, and all who depend on the people who are, after all, the cause of all their greatness and prosperity. It will bring ruin to Belfast, and to Belfast alone, and therefore, I say, that apart altogether from the cruelties that have been perpetrated, and the outrages that have been committed against these people, there never was a more dastardly act committed against a great community than that which has inspired these scenes of disorder, and these outrageous attacks upon inoffensive people, and I trust that the House of Commons will record its judgment upon what has taken place.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
Owing to the fact that until yesterday I and all my colleagues were under the impression that we were going to be engaged to-day on the unpretentious business of Irish education, I personally have not come into the House prepared to speak at any length upon this subject, because I did not know until this morning at eleven o'clock, when I saw the "Times" newspaper, that the arrangements of the House with regard to the business of the day had been altered. Before I proceed to criticise the remarks of the hon. Member who has just sat down, I desire to enter my very strong protest against the course that has been taken by the Government in this matter. It is only one more instance of surrender on the part of the Chief Secretary and the Prime Minister to their lords and masters below the Gangway. It was absolutely understood, and in the Whips sent out to both sides of the House it was stated that Irish education and policy would be the business before the House to-day. Why has this been changed at the last moment? Simply because hon. Members below the Gangway thought that they had a good opportunity of maligning Unionists. There was no other reason in the world. They saw their opportunity. The hon. Member who has just sat down, who preaches at times his great love for Ireland and his fellow-countrymen, could not resist the opportunity which he thought he had, in the unfortunate episode in Belfast, of throwing dirt on Irish Protestants and Irish Unionists, and on the city of which he pretends to bi so fond. I am going to endeavour to hold myself in hand. I am certain that I am speaking for all my colleagues who 2100 come from Ireland, and from other parts of the country, when I say that I regret these disturbances in Belfast. I hear ironical cheers from hon. Members below the Gangway.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
But while I regret these occurrences I must confess that as far as I am concerned I long ago foresaw that during the two years when Home Rule was before this House and was being discussed in the country, unfortunate incidents would be certain to arise in some parts of Ireland, and therefore, though I regret them very much, I am not surprised to the extent to which the hon. Member below the Gangway pretends to be at what has happened in Belfast. The hon. Member very pertinently asked the House to consider what were the causes of these unfortunate riots in Belfast. He gave one explanation of the outbreak of these disturbances, and I will trouble the House with a few others. I would ask the House to remember the insults and provocations that were given. Hon. Members opposite do not know and cannot know the extraordinary provocation with which Unionists are treated at the present time in the North of Ireland. The Nationalists in Belfast and elsewhere are resorting to every means in their power against my Protestant fellow Unionists in the North of Ireland. They tell us that our time is short; that Home Rule is going to come in the course of a couple of years, and that we will be wiped out. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Yes; they told us a few weeks ago in regard to the 12th of July that we had better make the most of that day, as we would only be allowed to celebrate one more. I can assure hon. Members who laugh that that is not the sort of conciliatory language that I would advise, in the present explosive condition of affairs, to be used to my Orange brethren in the North of Ireland. Let me remind the House that until the 12th of July there were no disturbances or outrages of any sort for which the Protestants could be in any way held responsible. On the contrary, the 12th of July in Belfast passed over, in spite of very considerable provocation which had been received two days previously, without any arrests having been made, or without any of those disturbances to distinguish that 12th of July from similar celebrations in 2101 previous years. There have been no complaints of any sort or description with reference to the conduct of Orangemen or Protestants in Belfast on that day, and it was not until some time after that these disturbances began. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am wrong there. What happened is this—I cannot for the moment remember the exact date—there was the well-known outrage on school children at Castledawson. One of the boys in that disgraceful attack on school children, and who was injured, was a boy in the employment of Messrs. Workman and Clark, and his father was also employed by that firm.
§ Mr. CRAIG
I shall endeavour to ascertain it. The boy was in the employment of Messrs. Workman and Clark, and his return to work naturally caused great ill-feeling amongst the Protestants in that yard; and there were, I believe, at that time, some slight outbursts of passion among the Protestants in that yard. I am perfectly right in saying that the bulk of these so-called outrages—[HON. MEMBERS: "So-called?"]—As a matter of fact, what has caused this rioting in Belfast? The cause of this rioting in Belfast is due to a conglomeration of circumstances—Hon. Members below the Gangway laugh. Probably they have never heard of the word "conglomeration"—which I will endeavour to explain to the House. The first most important and most direct cause of the disturbances which have taken place—and others will perhaps take place during the next two years—is the fact that the party opposite is endeavouring to force upon Ulster a Home Rule Bill, which she will not accept. That is at the bottom of all the trouble, and, as everybody knows, that is a self-evident proposition. At the bottom of all this trouble is the fact that the Government are going to try to force on the North of Ireland a Home Rule Bill which Unionists have declared a hundred times they will not have. When that disgraceful attack on that Sunday-school excursion which took place on 29th June at Castledawson, I am sorry to say it became a moral certainty that there would be reprisals within a very short time.
2102 Not only did the Hibernians attack a party of Sunday-school children at Castledawson, but there have been two similar cases of wanton attack in connection with school treats within the last month. One happened at Innisrush. A party of inoffensive women, coming back from a day's outing at ten o'clock at night, passed through Whitehouse, after a long and tiring day, and anxious to get back to their homes, and they were stoned by a crowd of men standing in the streets. I do not want it to be thought that I am in any way glad that these things have happened, but I do want to say that it is past all endurance to expect people to stand that kind of conduct when they are in a condition of excitement, as they are at the present time, and have been for the last year, over the Homo Rule controversy. Let me add to what I have already said about Castledawson, that nothing could be more calculated to exacerbate the feeling of Protestants in the North of Ireland than the way in which the Chief Secretary has treated that affair. He did not call it a dastardly and cowardly outrage, but talked about it as a mere riot. That shows the difference between the way in which the right hon. Gentleman treats his Friends below the Gangway and the way he treats his Protestant fellow countrymen. At any rate, the House must remember that the right hon. Gentleman is Chief Secretary for Ireland, in which capacity he is supposed to hold the balance of justice absolutely equally between man and man. I say that he has never done that from the day he first entered Ireland. I say that his whole conduct in connection with the Castledawson disturbance proves it.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The hon. Member must know that the Castledawson affair is at present the subject-matter of inquiry. Has he read the evidence of this transaction?
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I have read every word about it. It is not at the present time the subject of judicial investigation in any shape or form. It is true that certain members who took part in the Castledawson affair are on their trial for rioting; but that is a very different thing from saying that a judicial investigation has been held into what caused the attack. The right hon. Gentleman himself must have known when he made the statement that there was the possibility of a few arrests of people who would be tried in this matter, 2103 and he said himself that he would grant the fullest inquiry into all the circumstances connected with the case.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I say that the hon. Member did not do so before he knew the true facts of the case. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman absolutely and spontaneously, and without being asked by us, said he would grant the fullest inquiry. A few days later, when he ascertained that the entire blame for the occurrence rested on the Order of Hibernians, he withdrew from that offer to allow investigation, and he has since refused anything of the kind. These are the facts. I say his treatment of that case has done a great deal to excite the worst passions of the Protestants in the North of Ireland. They see, at the time they are threatened with Home Rule, that they are not considered entitled to the commonest justice from the Chief Secretary. Even after having promised a full inquiry into the matter, when told by his hon. Friends below the Gangway that it would be inconvenient to have an inquiry, or from some other equally high motive, the right hon. Gentleman withdrew his promise, and he refuses to allow us an investigation into that affair. At any rate, that is not the kind of conduct which is likely to make the Protestants in the North of Ireland more moderate in their action and temper There has not been one action on the part of Protestants or Unionists in Ireland that has not been preceded by some action of the Nationalists themselves, so that, if this unfortunate state of affairs does exist—I do not think it is nearly as bad as the hon. Member stated—it is due entirely to the causes I have named, and not to the causes which the hon. Member for West Belfast has thought fit to state to the House. Did anybody ever hear anything so ridiculous as the description given by the hon. Member of these disturbances? He talked about these attacks on Roman Catholics, which I quite admit are a very serious feature of the case, and which I would much rather had not happened: I disassociate myself from them, but the hon. Member tried to make out that we are 2104 responsible for them, and I desire to make it clear to the House that we are not. The hon. Member spoke of the "most shocking and unparalleled atrocities ever heard of," and "a reign of barbarism without parallel in the history of the world." That language is grossly exaggerated, though I admit we have had riots in Belfast infinitely worse, unfortunately, than anything to which the hon. Member has referred.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I am not going into an examination of the various circumstances. Hon. Friends of mine who know the facts better than I do will deal with them later on. I am told on good authority that the attempt to roast a man in front of a furnace fire is an absolute fabrication, and I have no doubt that other alleged facts of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke are equally exaggerated.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
That does not make them true. The hon. Member might as well say that he believes everything he sees in the "Freeman's Journal." The hon. Member made some remarks with reference to Unionist clubs that have been started in Messrs. Workman and Clark's yard. He informed us that it was a strange thing that a great industrial concern should lend itself to setting up political clubs amongst its own employés. I do not suppose the hon. Member really thinks there is anything extraordinary in that. I have no doubt that on his own side it is quite a common thing. In any case I should like to tell the House that that is what is being done all over the North of Ireland. These Unionist clubs have been and are being formed for the express purpose of resisting Home Rule, and they exist everywhere in industrial concerns just as outside. Harland and Wolff, the firm which has been so frequently referred to, also have their Unionist clubs, and in fact Unionist clubs exist all over Ireland, or all over the North of Ireland; and, indeed, I may say to the hon. Member behind that I was perfectly right in saying that they exist all over Ireland—North, South, East and West. My point is that there is nothing extraordinary in having a Unionist club in Workman and Clark's because the 2105 masters and men are absolutely at one on this subject of Home Rule, and they are naturally doing everything in their power, either in their works or out of their works, to form and to band themselves into associations for the purpose of resisting Home Rule, so that there is nothing extraordinary in that. The hon. Member talked about proceedings of these clubs as if they were a pantomimic performance.
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
The hon. Member calls murder a pantomimic performance. That is characteristic of the hon. Member and the party he is associated with. The hon. Member referred again to that statement, and I am surprised that he had the temerity to bring it forward in the House, namely, the statement made by the London "Evening News" about an interview with what was called "a leading Belfast shipbuilder." The House will remember he brought that forward once before here, and had to retract some of his statements about that alleged interview of the "Evening News." What weight is the House of Commons to put on an interview in a London paper? [An HON. MEMBER: "A Tory paper."] A Tory paper it may be, but an interview with a person whose identity we do not know, and whom the editor or the giver covers with the name of a leading Belfast shipbuilder! It is absurd. He might be a draughtsman in Harland and Wolff's, or a manager, or anything else. We can put no reliance on statements of this sort, and, therefore, I think the House should entirely disregard the statement which was read out by the hon. Member. Belfast will get over this. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is very slow."] These disturbances in Belfast will, I am sure, cease. We all regret they have taken place. We all regret most sincerely they have taken place. I will say this, and I will speak perfectly frankly and I hope this will not be taken by anybody here or in the North of Ireland as a threat, as a piece of advice to the Nationalists in the North of Ireland, and in Belfast in particular, if they wish to live on terms of peace and harmony with their Protestant fellow countrymen at the present time, then they must cease from goading them on to action as they have been doing. It can be shown, and I submit I have shown it myself and I am sure my hon. Friend will only press home what I have said, that on every occasion that there has been an outbreak on the part of Protestants that has been the direct result of some inde- 2106 fensible outrage or attack on the part of the Nationalists.
The introduction of the military into the city of Belfast is a strange comment on the action of the Government on this side of the water. Hon. Members on the Labour Benches have been objecting to the use of the police, and strenuously objecting to the use of the military in these matters; but in Belfast, where there are Unionists, works and a few friends of the hon. Members below the Gangway to be guarded, you have regiments of soldiers poured into the city when there is not the slightest need for them. The fact remains that day after day, after waiting wearily doing nothing those troops which have been sent to Harland and Wolff's have had to be withdrawn. It is true that there has been a certain amount of throwing of stones and so on. Contrast the position with what has been done in London. Why were regiments not sent down to the docks in London? Why is it that you have not only troops in Belfast, but one or two or three battalions?
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
If the hon. Member's head is going to be smashed open does it matter much to him whether it is done with a big stick or a rivet? I have no doubt that the strikers would have used rivets if they had them, but they had not got them. I think there is no point in the hon. Member's remark. In spite of the fact that we have an ample garrison the right hon. Gentleman must introduce new troops from Mullingar and elsewhere. He has now got three or four or five thousand there and why they have been sent to Belfast I do not know. They have never used, I believe, more than about three or four hundred at a time. On each occasion those men have been solemnly marched down to Harland and Wolff's, and they have equally solemnly been brought back, having done nothing but stand there with their arms all the time. I ask the House to contrast the different treatment which is meted out to us in Belfast to what is meted out to the friends of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite in the case of a strike in this country. I do not suppose there will be any Division on this subject, because so far as the hon. Member's speech was concerned I failed to gather from him what he was driving at, further than to throw contempt and contumely on my friends in Belfast. So far 2107 as the action of the Chief Secretary is concerned it was not criticised in the slightest degree from the beginning of his speech to the end, and therefore I should like to emphasise the fact that the hon. Member, who poses in this House as the friend of everybody in Ireland, whether they be unfortunate Unionists, Protestants, or Roman Catholics, has done nothing this afternoon but disregarded the facts, and tried to hold us up to bad feeling and contumely and contempt before this House and the country. This is the Gentleman who on other occasions pretends that he is the only representative who comes from the North of Ireland, who really loves his own city and tries to place it before the House of Commons in its proper light. I trust that the House will not be led away by the specious statements of the hon. Member, but will regard these actions as coming from a population who are wound up to a state of tension and excitement by the acts of the Government, aided and abetted by the acts of hon. Members below the Gangway.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I do not intend to go at any great length into the matters that have been raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin); indeed, I am glad to see him on he side of what we would call law and order, considering the number of years he has been engaged in championing the party of intimidation, boycotting, and, to use his own phrase, barbarism in other parts of Ireland which are represented by hon. Members below the Gangway. It is, at all events, some advantage to find that when his people are in a minority they require just as much as the minority in the South and West of Ireland the protection of the law, which I assume is the object of his bringing forward this Motion at all. I think he is to be congratulated if he sees now the necessity of maintaining at times the military who have been so often abused in the coarsest language by him and his colleagues below the Gangway. I should like to know how often we have had matters of far more urgent importance before the House as regards long years of a series of acts of outrages and intimidation upon poor and innocent people through various parts of Ireland, and all the thanks we got for it was that we were called "carrion crows." I agree with what my hon. Friend behind me said that we have considerable cause of complaint that whenever we bring any of those 2108 matters before the House we are treated in a very different fashion by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. I am not going to follow the hon. Member for West Belfast in his attacks upon myself. I care nothing about them. They will not influence me one hair's-breadth in anything I either say or do.
I should like to say at the very outset that I have never countenanced, and never will countenance, any such action as has taken place in Belfast in the shipyards. I think it is lamentable, and I am not saying that because we are arraigned in this House. I took the trouble to publish before the 12th July, when these matters were commenced, a letter in the papers in the North of Ireland, saying that nothing was to be more deprecated, and I say it now, than these spasmodic and sporadic rows from time to time, in which one party on one side assailed their opponents, and which could lead to no result of any kind except disaster to the various parties who are concerned. I have said that over and over again in Belfast. I said it the last time I was over there. As I said a moment ago, I said it in a public letter on 11th July in the hopes that any influence I possessed might be used towards preventing breaches of the peace upon the Twelfth. When the hon. Member quotes speeches of mine he knows perfectly well what I directed my attention to in those speeches is of an entirely different nature, and is always limited to the perfecting of such organisation as those people may think proper, and such as may be effective in the resistance to Home Rule, which I hope at the proper time they will be able to carry out with full effect. I hope the House will not be led to take an exaggerated view of what has taken place. Nothing, I think, could be worse than an exaggeration of what has taken place with a view to future peace, and you might well cause greater disturbances by over-stating the case as to what has actually taken place. Above all I warn the House against accepting any statement of the hon. Member for West Belfast. He has such a vivid imagination and such eloquence, I am free to admit, that with his imagination and his eloquence he is apt to give the House as statements of facts what are pure statements of fiction.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not a fact that the only facts stated by me were statements contained in Unionist newspapers.
§ Sir E. CARSON
No, that is not so as I will show the hon. Gentleman in a moment. The hon. Gentleman has stated that the origin of these disturbances in the shipyards was by reason of the organisation of the clubs in Workman and Clark's. He stated on a previous occasion that Mr. George Clark, who had been a Member of this House and was a member of the firm in question, had himself got up some of these rows, and that he had encouraged his men to walk over from their yard and interfere with the men at Harland and Wolff's. Both those statements were absolutely false. I have here in my hand a telegram, which I understand has been sent to the Chief Secretary also, in which Mr. George Clark says:—Noticing that a statement has been made by Mr. Devlin that the trouble in Harland and Wolff's yard has been caused by attacks organised in our yard by our men on the men in Harland and Wolff's yard, I have made the fullest inquiry and can give this statement the most complete denial.Yesterday a member on the Labour Benches made a statement, which has been repeated this afternoon by the hon. Member for West Belfast, to the effect that a foreman took books to the benches of the men and asked them if they were prepared to join Orange clubs, and that every man who did not sign was marked down for ill-treatment. I have in the same wire from Mr. George Clark the statement that that also is absolutely untrue. Therefore I ask the House not to take statements reflecting upon the character of these men merely upon the ipse dixit of the hon. Member for West Belfast. As regards individual cases in which attacks have been made upon men, I have already said that as far as I am concerned I have always disapproved and always will disapprove, of them, whether they are by one man or by a crowd. I perfectly agree with what has been said, but which has not been so readily accepted in other circumstances, either by Members on the other side or by Members below the Gangway, that every man, whatever his position, whether he is a member of a union or a member of a club, an Orangeman or a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, has a perfect right to have the whole force of the country at his back to enable him to work. I have never said anything else. The speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast would lead one to imagine that I and those who are associated with me were in some way or another cognisant of or implicated in the transactions which have occurred in Belfast. Nothing could 2110 be more absolutely untrue. Nothing could be more absolutely inconsistent with all my own conduct in relation to this agitation in the North of Ireland since I have been chairman of the Irish Unionist party.
But while deprecating these occurrences let us look at the true causes. For many years, almost since 1886, when there were serious riots, as far as political matters are concerned, I doubt if there has been any serious collision whatsoever in Belfast or in other parts of the North of Ireland. But one cannot leave out of account the passionate feeling that has been raised by the introduction of the Home Rule Bill. It may be right or it may be wrong, but it cannot be denied that the introduction of the Home Rule Bill, and especially the statements as regards Ulster which have been made on the benches opposite, and the contumely constantly poured upon these men because they are asserting what they have a perfect right to assert, namely, their objection and resistance to the policy of Home Rule, have aroused feelings of deep passion which bring back historic memories which, unfortunately, are never forgotten in these places, and which render men very liable on provocation to deal in a manner very much to be regretted with those who are opposed to them. You have to start with that, and it is not fair to these men not to start with it. But when you have, as happened upon 29th June, a number of Protestant school children grossly and savagely attacked by a body of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, over whom the hon. Member for West Belfast presides, you cannot but expect that there will be reprisals.
§ Sir E. CARSON
The Member for West Belfast talks very much about our lack of courage. Was he proud of the Ancient Order of Hibernians' attack upon these school children?
§ Sir E. CARSON
I was present in this House when that matter was brought forward, long before the present disturbances had arisen, and so far from there being any denunciation of this attack, there was an attempt at justification, and the whole story as regards these children—I suppose because they were children, and because it was put forward from these benches—was received by hon. Members below the Gangway, and, I am sorry to say, by hon. Members opposite, with jeers 2111 and laughter. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "It is a falsehood."] It -was received with jeers and laughter, and I could not help thinking at the time how little those who laughed knew what might be the outcome of such a state of things, having regard to the deep feeling existing in the North of Ireland. I am not going to deal further with this matter. My main object in speaking at all was to show that gross misstatements had been made as regards the origin of these disturbances, and to state, what I have already stated in Belfast and in the newspapers, that these attacks, whether upon one side or upon the other, are to be deeply deprecated, and, even to put it on the very lowest grounds, do not and cannot further anything in the nature of a political cause. As far as I am concerned, I earnestly hope that peace may be restored in the shipyards, and that there may be no further ground of complaint on the one side or the other.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I was very glad indeed to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which I am sure reflects the opinion of everybody in the House. Outrages or assaults in the shipyards, having the result of driving from their work many thousands of Roman Catholics and a good many hundreds of Protestants associated with them in political opinion or thought, are to be deprecated by all. I do not doubt that the hon. and learned Member (Mr. C. Craig), who preceded the right hon. Gentleman, although his language perhaps was not as happy as it might have been, himself deeply deplores and regrets occurrences of this sort. Owing to the office that I occupy, I have a great sense of responsibility in matters of this kind. I am responsible, and I recognise the responsibility to the full, for maintaining the peace and order of the great city of Belfast, and that can only be done by preserving between Catholics and Protestants, Home Rulers and Unionists, a recognition of the fact that, whilst they are carrying out their lawful employments, scenes and outrages of this kind, with the lamentable consequences that ensue, must be put down by every force both of law, and, what is of far more importance, of the public opinion of that great community itself. As to the facts, there is no dispute, as I gather from the character of the Debate, in which my responsibility has really hardly been called 2112 in question; and I have nothing particularly to say more than I have already said in reply to questions. No hon. or right hon. Gentlemen has said a word to dispute the case which has been made, namely, that from 2nd July down to the present day outrages of a terrible character have been committed in these shipyards and in the streets. I do not want, particularly as the facts have not been challenged, to read the police reports as to the nature of the outrages. I derive all my information from the police. Some people are not satisfied with that source of information. They think that the police do not always put as much unction and rhetoric into their reports as horrors of this kind demand. I can only say, on behalf of the Belfast police, that they have reported to me every one of these occurrences, so far as they have come to their knowledge, and I have before me documents showing eight or nine outrages committed upon harmless and innocent workmen wholly unable to defend themselves, without provocation, not persons engaged in heated political argument, but men calmly and quietly working in retired and solitary places in these great shipyards, who were set upon and horribly assaulted. In some cases, I am sorry to say, even when the victims were taken out of the yard into Queen's Road, they have there been pursued, and whilst in a state of exhaustion, some indeed in serious danger of their lives, the attacks upon them have been renewed. The result has been that a very large number of Roman Catholic workmen in Harland and Wolff's yard, and a considerable number, I cannot say how many, of Protestant workmen—strong Trades Unionists it may be, or Progressives, I do not know by what other fine names they are called, but honest men, employed in the work for the value of the work which they gave—have been compelled to cease work, not from cowardice, but through advice given by friendly workmen on the other side, that their lives would not be safe if they continued to present themselves for the purpose of pursuing their daily work and earning their living. Can you wonder that 1,500 of them, possibly more, are at this moment idle, deprived of their weekly wages, dependent it may be upon their trade union or other friendly society, only waiting for the time when they can resume their work and honestly earn a living for themselves and their families?
Such a number of men, with all their dependents and sympathisers, in a great 2113 city like Belfast, are in a situation of the utmost danger. It is one which may well give many a sleepless hour to those who are responsible for the maintenance of law and order. That is the condition of things which exists in Belfast at present. It is no good asking who began it. I do not want to go into the question of who began it—of all questions the most foolish—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—and to attribute these occurrences to the Castledawson incident is, I think, to attribute them to a cause which even hon. Members themselves cannot seriously believe; because one of them—or it was said in this Debate—said that these occurrences in Harland and Wolff's, and Workman and Clark's did not come to them with any surprise. It was what they expected; even what they looked for. Put the strong, the deep, feeling, if you like, down to Home Rule; that is a far more likely interpretation than to put the matter down to the incident of Castledawson.
As to that incident, my lips are tied. Hon. Members on both sides have advantages of which they avail themselves, and great freedom, which I have not. This matter has been receiving and is receiving the most careful judicial investigation. When I spoke of the necessity of its being inquired into I had in my mind that the best form of inquiry was an inquiry in a Court of Law. I so stated to the House. I received, I thought, the assent of the hon. and learned Members who represent Dublin University. I thought, these Gentlemen being lawyers, as I also in my humble way was once a lawyer, that we both attached more importance to what comes out in a Court of Law than from what are called sworn inquiries. Therefore I had nothing more in my mind than the best kind of inquiry—that made in a Court of Law. That inquiry has been held to this extent, that a number of persons on both sides, the Hibernians—if you like so to call them—and the Unionists if you like so to call them—have been returned for trial, and will take their trial in a Court of Law. All I can say is—and I can say no more—to the hon. and learned Gentleman who told us in his speech that he had read very carefully a full account of what had taken place before the magistrate who returned these persons for trial, that I have also read the account. I can say that I did not read one single word in which it was stated that any injury was done to a woman or a child. I read Mr. Barron's evidence; I have had correspon- 2114 dence with him. He has never supplied any evidence whatever or named any woman or child who received any injury on that most lamentable and scandalous occasion. When you talk about the blood of honest men in Harland and Wolff's boiling with indignation so that they rush upon a man, break his jaw, kick him nearly to death, all the while because they were thinking of the terrible attack by a number of angry Hibernians upon poor defenceless persons, that, I say, I believe is a complete delusion.
I shall watch with great curiosity and interest to see whether, when the trial proceeds, any evidence is brought forward in addition to the evidence so far as to whether women and children were ill-treated. I shall be very curious to see whether anything of that sort is made good at the trial. I think it is really childish to attribute to any incident of that sort this ebullition of feeling. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman gave a far more likely and plausible reason when he said that political feeling does run very high in Belfast at the present time. These things have happened before. Looking through the archives of my office, I find minutes, memoranda, and directions given to the police at Belfast by my predecessors in office who were even more jaded, more harassed, and more alarmed than I am myself at the present time. These things occurred in '57, '64, '86, and '93, and everybody who is responsible for Belfast at such times feel the occasion a very grave one, and he would be guilty of very grave negligence indeed if he did not provide himself with a proper force, both of police and of military, to prevent the flame extending, and consequent heavy loss of life. So far there has been no loss of life. The lives of three men have been hanging in the balance for a considerable time, but I am glad to believe that this affair may pass over without the loss of a single life. It has occasioned an enormous amount of pain, suffering, and discomfort to a large number of persons, and it has completely disorganised the greatest industry in Belfast. It has threatened Harland and Wolff's shipyard with a complete stoppage by necessitating the closing of power to a considerable extent in several of the departments. Harland and Wolff cannot get on without these men.
Belfast generally cannot get on without its Roman Catholic population and its Protestants who sympathise and agree with them. The best 2115 interests will be destroyed if peace cannot be maintained. It may be very true that political feelings and political differences run high. Responsibility rests upon everybody in this House. I am glad that this House to-day to some extent recognised it, and have set their faces—like I have—against cruel and abominable tyranny of this sort. It is perfectly plain, and I shall make it perfectly plain that every thing that the forces of law and the forces of the Crown can do will be done to protect these men. It is a difficult task. I do not know that on this particular occasion I have been arraigned for the badness of the arrangements. I do not wish particularly to go into that. You have 15,000 or 16,000 men working in one great shipyard and 5,000 or 6,000 more working in two other shipyards. One of these shipyards is on the other side of the river, but the great body of these men work side by side. They all turn out after their work into one road. This road is solitary except when it is crammed with a seething mass of humanity going into their work, or coming out for their dinner, or coming home again at the close of their day's work. These yards are private property, and the police have no right in them except when they believe a felony is about to be committed. They are entrusted to a body of the harbour police, a highly-respectable body of men, against whom I have no wish to say a single word; men armed with staffs, and receiving such obedience as the men engaged in the building of ships are ready to pay to persons of the kind. It is hopeless to trust the protection of life or property to the harbour police alone.
Then there is the Royal Irish Constabulary. That is the police force in Belfast. Belfast is, in the opinion of many people, inadequately policed even in normal times, and I am not prepared to say that is not the case. There have been, I think, forty or fifty miles of streets added to Belfast within recent years, and the ordinary task of keeping law and order over this very large and increasing area taxes the police pretty well to the last point of endurance even in normal times. When we come to times like this, and the people demand protection, the authorities are in a most difficult situation. What is to be done? I will not, so far as I have anything to do with it, send unprotected bodies of police amongst a crowd of angry men who are capable, when their passions are excited— 2116 I really am not disposed, in the face of difficulties of this sort, to send a force to which I have great personal attachment and which has served me many a good turn, during my administration, into such a situation without adequate protection. It would be sheer inhumanity and also folly to attempt, when there is a great riot or disturbance of this sort amongst men of this kind, to send this particular kind of policeman alone and improperly equipped for the purpose. I therefore do not quarrel with myself in the very least for having secured the reinforcement of battalions of soldiers in Belfast to assist in what is absolutely necessary to protect the few Roman Catholics who have the courage to go to these works every morning—and I trust the number will be increased day by day. That can only be done if they see that protection is being given to them. This can only be done by pickets of police and soldiers being put along Queen's Road at not very great intervals one from the other.
Owing to the increased force both of police and soldiers which are now to be found in Belfast this can be done, and I am happy to be able to-day to say that the telegrams which I have received say that there have been seen in Queen's Road in the early morning hours Roman Catholic workmen going to their work; they leave at middle day; they go home at night, and that road presents a very satisfactory appearance of protection and force. I am glad to believe that on these assurances—though I cannot give any numbers—that it is believed Roman Catholic workmen are going back to their work. They will not go back all at once. Perhaps it is not desirable for them that they should go back, except in twos and small companies. I trust that the discussions which we have had will let light into these matters. We have been told stories in the newspapers about excitement. I speak indifferently of both Unionist papers and Radical papers, and I quite share the contempt of the hon. Member for papers of all kinds and sorts so far as they are concerned as distributers of news. I would therefore urge hon. Members to check every utterance and every announcement of the sort in the papers by a better authority. This matter has caused disgust in every breast, even in the breast of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who preceded me in Debate. I hope that what we have done will be sufficient to restore to this great industrial community that peace and concord, during business 2117 hours at all events, which is necessary for the maintenance of the people's lives, the welfare of their families, and the prosperity of the city of Belfast. I really do not know that my conduct has been particularly arraigned, and I hope that the arrangements that have been made for the reinforcement of the Commissioner of Police and for increasing the numbers of the police and the numbers of the soldiers will be satisfactory. In view of these better arrangements that are being made for the protection of the workmen, I trust they will have the courage to insist upon going back to their work, and that this will have good results. If so, I think that the discussions in this House, even the Debates in this House may have—which is not always the case—the very best possible results in putting an end to this industrial dispute. I could easily give further particulars, but as I have not had my conduct in any particular matter arraigned, I will confine myself to that general statement.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Captain CRAIG
The Chief Secretary, who has just made his statement on behalf of the Government and the action which the Government have taken in order to maintain law and order, will, I am quite sure, be supported by every one who has the welfare of the great city of Belfast at heart. I was over there a short time ago and had the opportunity of consulting with a great many employers of labour, and also with a large number of the working classes. I may, with personal knowledge, say that a great deal of the disturbance which has taken place has taken place through, in the first instance, excitable youths, and not by the real sensible working men of Belfast. In a great many instances the excitement was started by these youths, who feel strongly on great political questions of the day. At the same time I should like to say that I happen to know, as a matter of fact, a great many of the cases reported in the London Press and the Press elsewhere are greatly exaggerated. I do not intend to say more than a few words with regard to what has fallen from the Chief Secretary. Those who have authority will help him all they can in order that these distressful outbreaks may pass away, and leave no lasting ill-feeling among any classes in Belfast. But I cannot allow the speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) to go by without saying a word upon it. We, the Ulster Unionists, 2118 have often raised questions about intolerance and outrages in other parts of Ireland; but we have done so without any assistance from the Nationalist party. For years past the only way in which isolated Unionists in the outer parts of Ireland are able to air their grievances in this House is through a few Ulster Members. In all the cases that have arisen—firing into houses, outrages, boycotting, terrorism of all kinds practised on these isolated Unionists in different parts of Ireland—which were brought forward by us we received scant courtesy from the Chief Secretary, and we got no consolation at any time from Nationalist Members from Ireland below the Gangway. Now, although we deprecate what has occurred, and although what has occurred is easily explained, yet all the forces of His Majesty's Government are to be used in Belfast. Troops and Royal Irish Constabulary are to be brought into the city, not, be it remembered, in accordance with the Government's usual programme in such cases; not in accordance with the programme they are carrying out in the London dock strike; but for the special purpose of making it appear in the country that Belfast is the black spot at present on the map.
I want to deal pretty frankly with this matter. Those of us who understand and know what is going on can rightly say that the hon. Member for West Belfast is deliberately trying to provoke not alone in this House, but in the city of Belfast, ill-feeling which up to a very short time ago was gradually passing away in all parts of the country. What is the hon. Member going to do on Sunday next? I have just received a telegram which I am afraid will not contribute towards peace in the city of Belfast such as the hon. Gentleman suggested he wanted, but will irritate once more the opposing classes, and keep open the wounds which he says he is anxious at the present moment to see healed. The hon. Member is actually at this time organising sports in connection with the Gaelic League championships, which are to be held on Sunday at the White Rock Road, and he himself is announced to give away the prizes. Of course, I can quite understand that sports held on a Sunday afternoon in a purely Roman Catholic part of the country would not cause any trouble at all; but in the heart of Protestant Belfast, at this particular time, I put it to the sense of this House, is it fair that the hon. 2119 Gentleman should choose a time when feeling is running extremely high to organise these sports in a district where there are so many Presbyterians, who, in spite of what the Chief Secretary for Ireland thinks, have their traditional feelings? And this is the time of the year that the hon. Gentleman selects to hold an exceptional display of sports at the very doors of the Presbyterians of the country. Nobody can deny that it is what perhaps some people call pin-pricks, but which I call actually provocative action on the part of the Nationalists, and which is regarded in this loyal province as provocative, that leads to trouble; and anxious as these Protestants have always proved themselves to be, and tolerant and peaceful in ordinary times as they are, it may be found that the hon. Member and his Ancient Order of Hibernians may go so far as to set alight a fire compared to which these riots and recent trouble are but a mere nothing.
Does anyone deny for a moment that prior to the introduction of the Home Rule Bill we who were anxious to obtain a new state of feeling in Ireland predicted exactly what would happen? My object in rising is to ask the House to draw this lesson. I say deliberately no Member of our party led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College—and my right hon. Friend has asked me to explain to the Chief Secretary that he had to leave the House owing to an engagement which he was unable to put off—has had hand, act, or part in those disturbances, and that their only object was to try and smooth them over at the earliest possible moment. People talk about rebellion which will take place undoubtedly, but a row in the streets of Belfast has nothing whatever to do with the greater cause. When the Government brought forward their Home Rule Bill they were warned by those responsible, by those who know Ulster, and who know Ireland, that they could not bring forward such a Bill as this, which lowers the status of citizens in our part of the country, without immediately stirring up all the depths of passion; and yet we are asked by the Government, for two long years, to quietly behave ourselves, and then at the end what is to happen? The whole point is that the Government are asking us to do more than we can perform. You ask us to perform a task which no men in this country could perform, and our followers, who sincerely believe what 2120 their Members and the Liberal party tell them, are to be asked to remain quiet and peaceful while the Government and its allies are thinking out how at the end of two years, practically to cut their throats. That is an utterly impossible task.
The hon. Member who tried to throw the blame on the Unionists in Belfast, is not on the side of conciliation as he promised he would be. He is now turning round for the purpose or resisting his leader, and he hopes by and by to oust his leader from his present position, and he is now using the Ancient Order of Hibernians to bring himself into prominence. Mention has been made of attacks upon loyalists. Do not let anyone imagine for a moment that there was only this isolated case at Castledawson to which reference has been made. I have in my hand a report of a case which, I think, never got into the newspapers, and never was brought before this House. It is a case which the Chief Secretary ought to inquire into if he desires to find how general and widespread throughout the whole of Ulster is this dread of the Home Rule Bill which leads to trouble and to turmoil. I have the document, and I will pass it over to the Chief Secretary, which shows that a body of Nationalists some 400 strong, turned out and attacked a body of the Loyal Orange Order, who were celebrating the 12th of July near Baronscourt. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the report, or whether the police made any report upon the subject. Here we have a case of a deliberately planned attack upon a meeting, in order to provoke the Orange body. Ever since 1906 I have asked questions in this House after the 12th of July celebrations, and in every instance the answer was that not a single outrage had taken place which could be ascribed to that annual celebration of our deliverance from the past. How is it that these attacks occurred at Ballybofey, Castledawson, and also at Kilrea? How is is it that all these things have occurred now. They can be ascribed, and rightly by those who know the case, as a foretaste of what is bound to come where you have highly excited people on both sides. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, as we know, under the banner of the hon. Member for West Belfast, is now an approved society under the Insurance Act. Followers of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have been in the past the disloyal party in Ireland, while our friends have tried and have proved on all occasions to be real, true 2121 British citizens. You have thrown off the old love and taken on with the new, God bless you! The difficulty of the situation for the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is really this: I hope he will allow no pressure from any party to make him turn in any degree from the straight path of fair and square justice in the city of Belfast. I hope he will listen to no pressure from the hon. Member, or any other Nationalist as to how law and order can be maintained there. He knows where to get the best advice. Any such change, any such provocative action or challenge by him might lead to consequences that everyone in this House would regret. It is perfectly true. Over and above all that, the great danger is that a large number of Nationalists in Ireland are unable to contain themselves until the provisions of the Home Rule Bill really pass into an Act. No matter how the leaders of the Ancient Order of Hibernians or the United Irish League, or any of these other cattle-driving societies, may try to keep their members calm and quiet during the two years before the Home Rule Bill is supposed to become law, there are a large number of the rank find file who refuse to contain themselves, or wait until the Bill becomes law, and they are beginning to discount the power they will have when the Bill becomes an Act, and are taking steps now throughout the greater part of Ireland to show how they intend to use that power if ever they get Home Rule. That is where the real danger lies. These men are aware of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford's "strong-arm" speech. They remember the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo, in which he said:—In the day of their power they would remember those who had helped them.We know all those speeches in which they have used these threats, and their followers are now taking advantage of the threats made by their leaders in the past to gain an advantage before Home Rule actually becomes law. I warn the Chief Secretary in this particular. The right hon. Gentleman may be able to keep law and peace in Ireland, but if these provocative actions go very far—and the hon. Member has thrown out many challenges, and talked about those who are always here when there is anything going on—I myself personally will, if necessity arises, leave this House altogether, and take my stand among the people in Ireland, who are prepared, at all costs, to fight those 2122 hon. Members below the Gangway, and will say that never, with God's help, shall Ireland be governed by such a crew.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
If this were simply a matter between Belfast Protestants and Catholics I certainly should not have the temerity to interfere, but that is not the case at all. Those bodies responsible for trade unions in this country know what is going on in Ireland, and they know what has gone on during the last few weeks, because it has been a very great drain upon their resources in this country. The reason is not that the Protestants and Catholics have fallen out, as they have done before, but that a new political fight is taking place, and Castledawson has nothing whatever to do with it. It is not only the Hibernians who are being persecuted, and being made the targets for Unionist rivets in Belfast at the present time, but every man, whether he is Protestant or Catholic, who has not subscribed to the rolls of the Unionist clubs is liable at the present moment to be assaulted by those who have. That is the situation. We had a deputation over here yesterday of Belfast workmen. As a matter of fact, they were both Protestants and Catholics, and there was a third section who declined to be classified either as Protestants or Catholics. They gave us evidence. I am not going to say that that evidence was final, but I give it as it was given to us by men who spoke from experience as responsible men. What I have said just now is the gist of the evidence we got from them yesterday. We have had it from them in letters before in detail as full as we could get it, giving the days and names and circumstances and conditions, and altogether it would be quite impossible for us to resist coming to the conclusion which we have come to.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
That Castledawson and the Hibernians, and Catholicism and Protestantism, have got nothing whatever to do with this struggle, but that it has been aroused by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of this House who have made very admirable and very pacific speeches here this afternoon. I hold in my hand one extract, and I am sure I could quote many such instances. This is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) said, speaking to the Women's 2123 Amalgamated Unionist and Tariff Reform Association in London on the 24th June last:—When he went to Ulster he intended over there to break every law that was possible.What does that mean? The hon. and gallant Member who preceded me took a line which I for one do not propose to contest. He said, "We are out for rebellion, and until that rebellion comes we have got to remain here and make pacific speeches in this House, although we are doing the organising outside." I think that is a programme which every reasonable man can take his hat off to, and say, "Very well, if hon. Members have made up their minds to fulfil that programme, let them try it and take the consequences." I think that is a very reasonable position. Surely the hon. and gallant Member knows perfectly well that the members of the Unionist clubs who are being enrolled now are not going to stand quietly by in Messrs. Harland and Wolff's workshops or Messrs. Workman and Clark's workshops, and work side by side with the men they are going to be called upon to shoot down on some new 12th July when the hon. and gallant Member comes to give the word for that sort of thing. As a matter of fact, they cannot possibly go into the country and make Tower Hill speeches, say in Blenheim, and then come here, and in the mildest and most mealy-mouthed way urge my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland to send soldiers and policemen to shoot down their own victims, and those whom they have egged on. I quite sympathise with the hon. Member in the heroic part of his programme, but sympathising with him as I do, after all I cannot understand why he has taken up the attitude he has taken up to-day. He cannot choose his day. He is taking up the cause of the persons who have been influenced by such speeches as those which I have quoted. That is the kind of Unionist toleration we are witnessing in Belfast to-day, but we are not unprepared at all. The hon. and gallant Member said he predicted what would happen. Yes, and he has taken care that it would happen.
§ Captain CRAIG
I hope the hon. Member does not doubt what I stated, that personally I and those associated with me, have had nothing whatever to do with the disturbances in Belfast. The hon. Member is using a very strong expression when he says that I have taken care that it would happen.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I have tried to make it quite clear to the House what I meant. I think the hon. and gallant Member will see my point. It is perfectly true that he has told us to-day that he dissociates himself from what is going on in Belfast just now. When he makes that statement certainly there is no hon. Member in this House who would refuse to accept his assurance. But that is not my point. My point is not that you should not accept his assurance, but if the hon. and gallant Member uses certain expressions, and if the right hon. and learned Member who preceded him speaks as he has done in the quotation I have already given, then they have to make up their minds that the things which are now happening in Belfast are the direct consequences of what they have said. I am not at all surprised that these things should happen, because we know the sort of things that happen in this country. I do not want to drag that in now, because it would be quite out of order, and I only wish to say by way of illustration, that I have been going through certain reports in certain newspapers, and I find that men associated with the Labour party in certain political contests who have served certain firms well for a long time, have suddenly been discovered to be inferior workmen. That is the sort of thing which is perfectly common, and it is not confined to Belfast. That same spirit of political persecution is being shown by people who are in a state of great excitement, and who consequently back it up by force and supplement it by rivets stolen from their employers. The only point I want to make is that in asking the Home Secretary to protect our Members, we are not asking him to protect Catholics against Protestants, but we are simply asking him to protect a certain body of trade unionists against a body belonging to a political union.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland made a verbal slip towards the end of his speech when he said that this was an industrial quarrel. It is not an industrial quarrel at all, because it is a political quarrel. I have not the least doubt about it, and I can almost hear the speeches coming on this subject. We have never said during all this dock strike or in any of the other strikes that the authorities responsible for law and order should allow law and order to go by the board. As a matter of fact, I said here not so many weeks ago 2125 precisely the opposite. Our contention has always been that if a display of soldiers is used, say at a dock strike, or if there is an over-display of police force, instead of establishing and maintaining law and order those very displays are things that are calculated to upset law and order. Our contention may be right or wrong, but we have never said that when trouble took place and conflicts between two bodies of workmen took place that the authorities should simply stand by with their hands in their pockets and allow things to work themselves out. The difference is a fundamental one. We have not yet discovered how to settle industrial disputes without resorting to a strike under certain circumstances, and that war is carried on by both sides on certain well-defined lines, and it must be either a lock-out or a general strike—the lock-out by the employers and the strike by the men. If bad feeling is created by the introduction of a Home Rule Bill, if bad feeling is stirred up between two men by one saying Ulster is going to be deteriorated in its status by this Bill and the other saying Ulster is going to be elevated in its status by this Bill, what sort of bad feeling is going to be created between two men, one saying he wants to raise the status of his class and the other saying, "I do not care for the industrial status of my class. You combined workmen raise wages to 10d. an hour. I am willing to work for 8d. per hour"? Surely in future disputes, however much we may regret them, and however much we may protest that law and order must be maintained, hon. Members opposite will sympathise with us far more than they have done hitherto, because, if passion is created under the conditions they have to face, can they not imagine how much more passion is created under the conditions which we unfortunaely have to face! As a matter of fact, neither for them nor for us is this excuse of provocation fit to justify the sort of thing that is going on in Belfast. I hope we will never justify it if it happens in the course of a trade dispute, and I am surprised they are trying to justify it at the present time in connection with a mere political dispute. When men quarrel about fighting for their industrial status then hon. Members always clamour for police and soldiers, but, if men quarrel because one man says, "My politics are green," and the other says, "my politics are yellow," then they say that is a perfect justification for everything that 2126 happens. I have taken up a perfectly consistent view. This is not an industrial dispute: it is a political dispute; and I hope the Chief Secretary will see to it that he protects the workmen who desire to work, and not allow political differences to keep 2,500 Catholics, Labour men, Socialists, Protestants, and Home Rulers out, because 14,000 or some other number of workmen believe in Unionism, follow hon. Members opposite, and think that Home Rule is going to be a calamity, when, as a matter of fact, it is going to be a great blessing to the country in which they live.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The remarkable utterances we have just heard from the hon. Member for Leicester leads me to offer one or two words of comment. I begin with noting the fact that he, like the Chief Secretary, was of the opinion that the occurrence at Castledawson had nothing whatever to do with the present unfortunate disturbance. That is a matter of opinion, and of course the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are perfectly entitled to hold that opinion if they will. I can only say that in point of time the two affairs are remarkably intimately connected. The right hon. Gentleman said these disturbances began in Belfast on the 2nd July. The Castledawson outrage took place on the 29th June. The 29th June was a Saturday, and the news of the affair did not appear in the papers until the morning of Monday, 1st July. I think there is strong primâ facie evidence, from the point of time if nothing else, that those series of unhappy occurrences that have taken place all arose and came to a focus in the disgraceful outrage which took place at Castledawson. The right hon. Gentleman pooh-poohs the idea of outrages. I understand his theory and the theory which some hon. Gentlemen appear to have is that, if two or four or a number of grown men have a political dispute and one of them is somewhat seriously injured, that is a deplorable outrage; but, if a little boy has his hand spiked by a satellite of some hon. Gentleman below the Gangway that is a party riot.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The hon. Gentleman states that a little boy's hand was pierced by one of my satellites. I want to know, first, whether he is justified in making that 2127 statement; and, secondly, on a point of Order, whether the hon. Gentleman is entitled to say one of my satellites did a thing which never happened.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I repeat what I said a moment ago. It is sworn on evidence that a small boy had his hand pierced, and it is sworn on evidence that the attack was made by a band of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. I do not suppose the hon. Gentleman, even anxious as he is to run away whenever he gets an opportunity, will disown his connection with that body. I say under these circumstances my statement was perfectly justified. I want to call attention further to the extraordinary way in which the case has been brought forward this afternoon. My right hon. Friend said, and I entirely agree with him, there is nobody on these benches who would attempt to minimise the seriousness of any occurrence of this kind or attempt to palliate it. I sincerely hope they will be at an end; but I do think we are entitled to call attention to the extraordinary fact that this is brought to the notice of the House of Commons—who by?—by a hon. Gentleman sitting below the Gangway. They talk of horrible and scandalous outrages taking place. Is this the first time horrible and scandalous outrages have taken place in Ireland? Is this the first time within the last half century or within the last twenty-five years, or ten years, or even the last year, that outrages have taken place in Ireland? Yet hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have never lifted one word in denunciation. Their own priests and bishops have denounced the outrages, but they have remained silent. The Bishop of Killaloe, the other day, delivered a most weighty and serious pronouncement upon the state of crime in certain parts of Ireland. Do you find the hon. Member for West Belfast coming down to the House of Commons and drawing the attention of the Chief Secretary to this state of things? Not one word comes from him, and my hon. Friend says not one word comes from the Labour party.
The hon. Member for West Belfast, in a most remarkable passage, said that, if there was one thing for which the Nationalist party stood more than another, it was the vindication of the principle of the right to work; the right to 2128 work under the protection of the law. I confess I was a little anxious to hear how the hon. Member for Leicester dealt with, that point. He contrived, if I may say so quite respectfully, to evade it. The hon. Member for West Belfast says he is in favour of the principle of the right of every man to work free and unmolested. Why did he vote against our Amendment? The first thing that naturally occurs to anyone who has had any Parliamentary experience at all when the hon. Member refers to an Amendment proposed by the Tory party, and holds it up to scorn, is to go and get the Division List and see what happened. The first name I find in the Division List against the Amendment is that of the hon. Member for West Belfast. That shows how far his loyalty to the principle of the right to work goes. It is a very great pity the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester affirming these excellent principles and sentiments was not made six weeks ago. If it had been made six weeks ago, a great deal of the unhappy circumstances which have taken place in dock-land might, I hope, have been avoided. I am just going to make a little comparison. The Chief Secretary spoke about the horrible fact that eight or nine men, who were calmly working, were assaulted. I agree it is very unfortunate and deplorable that they were, but how many men, calmly working at the London docks, were assaulted?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
Eight or nine men were assaulted so as to be in danger of their lives. There were eighty assaulted altogether.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
How many men were assaulted in the London docks? There are fifty men in one hospital alone. The right hon. Gentleman says that 1,500 men have been prevented from going down to their work. In London there were places for 16,000 or 17,000 men if they could have got there. The right hon. Gentleman talks about disorganising industry in Harland and Wolff's. Industry has been far more seriously disorganised in the Port of London. I am not quarrelling with the measures the right hon. Gentleman thinks fit to take for the preservation of peace in Belfast. His is the responsibility, and the last thing I or any of my colleagues want to do is to try and embarrass him in discharging that responsibility. It is a grave responsibility, and nobody knows it better than I do, but I only wish the right hon. Gentleman would communicate the know- 2129 ledge of the measures he is taking in Belfast to his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. If he did that, then I think we should have less of what I cannot but call the very strong flavour of political hypocrisy which has pervaded a good many of the speeches of those who have brought forward this Motion to-night.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
At Question Time there was a conversation across the floor of the House with reference to the length of time this Debate should continue. There was a general desire that another Irish Vote should be considered, and, bearing in mind the fact that the discussion on the Estimates comes to a close at ten o'clock, I think it would be reasonable if this Debate were now shortly ended. I therefore will not enter at any length at all into the matter under discussion now. I will confine my remarks to a very few sentences. I think the hon. Member for West Belfast has fulfilled a public duty by bringing this matter before the House. I am not at all sure, notwithstanding the publicity given in certain papers in this country of what is going on in Belfast, that the public in this country generally realise at all the state of things that it is now proved exists in that city. The facts, as stated by my hon. Friend, have not been disputed. It is not merely a case of men who have been assaulted, and goodness knows that is bad enough, but the broad fact remains, as stated by the Chief Secretary, that about 2,500 workmen are at present unable to return to their work, and that his only hope is that by providing certain pickets of policemen and of soldiers at certain stated intervals along Queen's Road gradually, two at a time I think he said, these men might go back to their employment, and the crisis might, in that way, be over. You have, therefore, this extraordinary and significant fact, that apart from any question of brutal assault, you have this large body of workmen, not of one religion only, but Protestants as well as Catholics, kept forcibly from their work because of their political opinions and because they are supposed to be in favour of Home Rule. When you come to the explanation of the causes of this attitude on the part of Orangemen in Belfast, one thing stands out quite clear, in my opinion, from the Debate. The excuse as to Castledawson cannot deceive anybody. It is suggested that there a number of men had brutally assaulted the women and children; but the Chief Secre- 2130 tary has stated to this House that there has not been one single syllable of evidence to prove that any woman or child was hurt on the occasion. If it be true that this story of Castledawson had any influence in exciting public opinion in Ulster, then it is due to the false, lying story promulgated about it in this House. But I do not for a moment believe that the Castledawson incident is the cause of this excitement and of this illegal conduct in Belfast. An hon. and gallant Member who spoke just now reminded the House, with amusing candour, that from the very first the Government were warned that this kind of thing would take place if they introduced the Home Rule Bill. He therefore blames the Government for having introduced that Bill and caused the trouble. Yet that Bill has at its back the support of an overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland, of almost, if not entirely, one-half of the population of Ulster, and of a large majority of the people of Great Britain. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] A large majority of the elected representatives of the people of Great Britain. [HON. MKMBERS: "No, no."]. You cannot dispute the Division Lists. The Bill has also at its back undoubtedly the goodwill of an overwhelming majority of people belonging to all political parties in the self-governing portions of the Empire. The claim put forward is that the Government, because they introduced a Bill with that support behind it, is responsible for the riots in Belfast, because a minority of the people in that corner of Ulster do not like Home Rule.
Unfortunately, the causes of these disturbances are perfectly plain. I remember when people, more important than the hon. Member who last spoke, and more responsible as well, accused us of not doing anything to denounce illegalities in Ireland when they were going on. These illegalities in Ulster have been going on for some time—this rioting, these assaults and the driving of the people from their work. Yet, when the pillars of the great constitutional party of law and order went down to Blenheim, they, having read in their newspapers about these outrages in Ulster, committed avowedly by their political supporters, what did they say? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) has been making a series of speeches with the object, I suppose, of maintaining law and order and peace and tranquility in Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman 2131 was very smooth and peaceable to-day. But what has he been saying on platforms throughout the country? He said, the other day that the time has now come to take a step forward in this Ulster opposition to Home Rule, and then he announced that he was going to Ireland; that he was going to Ulster; and that it was his intention to break every law that he could. At Blenheim he said, "steps will now be taken," and then he corrected himself by saying, that "steps are now being taken" to make Home Rule impossible. Therefore, so far from any word of disapproval or condemnation of this practice coming from these pillars of the constitutional party, words have been deliberately used by men having this responsibility, which must have been read by their supporters in Belfast as approval of what was going on. They must have been so read by the ordinary rioter in Belfast, who was engaged in this conduct.
§ Sir JOHN LONSDALE
The hon. Gentleman is referring to the senior Member for Trinity College who is not at the moment in the House, but I would remind him that my right hon. Friend, prior to the 11th July, wrote a public letter to the Press denouncing these practices.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
The right hon. and learned Gentleman no doubt wrote a letter to the Press expressing a hope that, on the 12th July, there would be no trouble. Since then rioting and outrages have taken place, and he has spoken more than once; and instead of disapproving of this conduct in any way; instead of complaining of his letters having been disobeyed; instead of deprecating these disorders, he has again used words which must have been read in Belfast as approval of what was going on. He made this declaration in the presence of the Leader of the Opposition, who, I am glad to see, has just come back into the House. I hope that right hon. Gentleman will take part in this Debate and will explain how the right hon. Member for Dublin University, having, in his presence, said he would break every law in Ireland, having, when rioting and outrage was at that moment going on in Belfast, said that steps are now being taken with his authority and approval for making Home Rule impossible, explain how it was that he then got up and said that there were no lengths to which Ulster might not go, and there were no means that Ulster might not adopt, in 2132 order to defeat Home Rule, that he and his colleagues would not support. All I have to say, in conclusion, is that I hope the Chief Secretary will take vigorous action in Belfast, and that he will see that the police there are properly handled. A great deal, I am afraid, of what has happened in recent days, since this trouble commenced, has been due to the fact that they have not been as well or as vigorously handled as they ought to have been. I hope that now public attention has been called to this matter, the right hon. Gentleman will take every step necessary to protect these 2,500 Catholic and Protestant workmen, and I sincerely hope also that the general public will be informed by this Debate, and will realise the situation that has been created by the reckless and inflammatory speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. I heartily congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast on having done this service to the cause of order.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not suppose, if any hon. Member has thought it worth while to read the remarks I made last Saturday, that he will be surprised if I take advantage of the opportunity now afforded me to repeat and justify and emphasise them. The hon. Member for West Belfast, in introducing this Debate, spoke at great length of the outrages which have been going on in Belfast, and he quoted words of mine in which I said that in office or out of office, I would never be responsible for preventing any man carrying on any legal occupation. I said that with regard to disputes at home, and I say the same thing in regard to what is going on in Belfast to-day. I would be the very last to find the smallest fault with the Chief Secretary for doing everything within his power to see that men who desire to work are permitted to work in Belfast. But, having said that, I feel bound to add that, in my opinion, it would be a good thing for the government of this country not to be carried on in compartments, and for the rules which are applied to men who are their political supporters to be equally applied to other men. I would say, futher, that while I do not complain of any action the right hon. Gentleman has taken, I would remind him that Belfast is not the only place where outrage has taken place; yet during the long term of his office he has never shown the same determination to uphold law as he is showing now. In regard to what I said at Blenheim, I am very glad to have an 2133 opportunity of repeating it here. The words which have been criticised were that if the Government attempted under existing conditions—and I made it quite plain what those existing conditions were—if the Government attempted under existing conditions to drive the people of Ulster by force out of the protection of this House and of British law, I could imagine no means too strong for them to take to prevent it.
In saying that I said nothing new as far as I am personally concerned. I said the same thing in August a year ago, when I was perfectly convinced what would be the inevitable result of the Government policy. I recognise, however, the difference, and the great difference, between saying it when I was practically a private Member and saying it as Leader of the Unionist party in this House. I have felt for months that sooner or later it would be necessary for me to say the same thing in the clearest and most explicit way. I refrained from saying it so long as it seemed to me that there was any possibility of the Government acting up to the suggestions made by their own party—made, for instance, by the Foreign Secretary, who said that if Ulster made the Bill impossible they must find some other solution. I refrained from saying it so long as there was a possibility that the Government might find another solution. They have now made it perfectly plain that, if they have any policy at all for the future, that policy is to force this million of people in the Northern corner of Ulster to accept an allegiance which they look upon with horror and which, indeed, they refuse to accept. I say further, that under any circumstances, for people of this country to force such action upon so large and concentrated a minority is conduct which I do not think can possibly be justified. But when an attempt is made, in the most barefaced way, to inflict this horrible injustice, without any indication that the people of this country are in favour of it—to inflict it, as I say, avowedly in the interests of the party which is led by the hon. Gentleman on that bench below me—when they are trying to do that, when, as every man in this House knows, at the last election they deliberately kept Home Rule in the background, when everyone of them refused to put it in their election addrosses—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is not true"]—every one of the important 2134 Gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench opposite, including the Chief Secretary, who, strange to say, forgot all about it—refused to put it in their election addresses—when they hid it from the country, to attempt to do it now is an outrage which ought to be resisted by every means in the power of the people on whom this injustice is to be inflicted.
I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite—if they are willing to consider this matter apart from party prejudice—to look at the facts. Is there one of them who is certain that if this issue were submitted to the people of this country to-day a majority would be found in favour of this Home Rule Bill? I daresay some of them think it; but is there one of them who is sure of it? We have something to guide us. All over the country by-elections are taking place. At the time of the General Election, in many of these constituencies to my certain knowledge—North-West Manchester is one of them—the candidate who supported the Government declared that Home Rule was not an issue at that election, and now they are pretending that they have the right, in such circumstances, with the clear knowledge that they have not any expression of the will of the people behind them, to inflict this injustice upon the people of Ulster. Whatever else may be said of the remarks I made on Saturday, this at least cannot be said, that they were made thoughtlessly. I have been carefully considering them for a long time, and I did what I rarely do—I actually wrote down the words I used. I thoroughly realised the seriousness of what I was doing, and I realised it for this reason: I thought it quite possible that many of my own supporters in this House might think that I was going too far. In my own opinion this is the most serious situation which has arisen in this country since 1642. I felt that, holding the views which I do hold, I was bound to express them. But something more follows. If I had found that there was any considerable number of my supporters in this House, or of the party outside, who disapproved of what I had said, I should have considered that in such a crisis I was not a suitable Leader for the party, and I should have resigned the position I hold. I have as good means as most people of finding out what the opinion of the Unionist party in this House is. I have seen no sign that there is not a Member of the party who does not endorse every word I say.
2135 I ask the Prime Ministef—it is he whom it chiefly concerns—to realise two things. They think, or pretend to think, that all this talk is exaggeration and bluff. They pretend to think it; but I believe that in their hearts they know better. I ask them to realise these two things: first, that the people in the North-East of Ulster are not bluffing, that they mean what they say, and will carry out what they say; and, in the second place, that under existing conditions, so long as there is no evidence that the Government is supported by the people of this country, it is not I, it is the Unionist party, which represents more than one-half of the people of Great Britain, who are determined that this shall not be allowed to take place. It may be asked, "Even if you hold these views, why is it necessary to express them now? There are two years before this calamity, as you consider it, can happen." I will tell the House why. I think it necessary to express them now. Nothing seems to me more certain than that the state of tension which now exists cannot continue for two years from this time. I am certain of this, and if the Government make the smallest inquiry they will find I am right, that if this Home Rule Bill is carried through this House this autumn, and if apparently all that is necessary to make it law is that eighteen months should elapse, there will be such a state of feeling in Ireland that the Government will find it impossible to cope with it, and it is their duty not to face it. It all comes down to this question: have they or have they not the moral right under existing conditions to carry through a revolution like this? That is the whole question. Under their Parliament Act they have legally the power to do away with the Monarchy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! oh."] Yes, they have, and to set up a Republic. In the same way they have the power to drive these loyal citizens out of the British communion. They have no more moral right to do one than the other, and they will be resisted to the last in either.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentlemen should have thought it expedient and, indeed, necessary, to explain, so far as he can, and to justify the language he used in the country the other day, which, so far as I know, can find no parallel in the language of any responsible statesman in this country.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The House has heard his justification. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that if this Parliament should see fit, in the exercise of what he admits to be well within its legal competence, to pass a Home Rule Bill into law in the course of the next two years, in his opinion, his deliberate opinion, it would be the right of the minority of the people in Ireland to resist the application of that measure by force.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Has the right hon. Gentleman ever considered what might happen if in the whirligig of political fortunes he and his Friends should become responsible for the Government of the country, and has he considered what might be the attitude of the people of Ireland in view of the advice he has given—the attitude, not of the minority, but of a very large and overwhelming majority—that if a subsequent Parliament should refuse to grant them their constitutional demands they would be able to appeal, and appeal with irresistible force—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
If the position which the right hon. Gentleman contemplates arises, we shall have gained power by clearly stating what our intentions were, which he has not done.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That interruption is quite irrelevant. It deals with a point which I shall not omit to make before I sit down. I come back to my question. I say to the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends who are associating themselves with him, that if the contingency which I have described should arise, and, mind you, it would arise if you succeed in defeating this Bill, what answer are you going to make—[HON. MEMBERS: "Wait and see"]—to the vast majority of the Irish people when they resist the considered determination of Parliament and appeal to the language of the right hon. Gentleman himself to justify their action? I am not saying that would justify it; not at all. I believe that this country must continue to be governed, as it has been governed, in accordance with the laws enacted by the King, Lords and Commons in Parliament, whatever those laws may be, and however distasteful they may be 2137 to sections of our fellow-countrymen. The moment you lay down, as the leaders of the constitutional party lay down, the doctrine that a minority—I do not care what minority, if you like a majority—are entitled, because a particular Act of legislation is distasteful to their views, and, as they think, oppressive to their interests, to resist it by force, there is an absolute end to Parliamentary Government. That, Sir, is the real significance of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. It is a declaration of war against constitutional Government. I come to his question. He says that although we have a legal right, we have not the moral competence, to pass legislation of this character. Why? [An HON. MEMBER: "Fraud."] I hear the word "fraud." Because it is suggested, not for the first time, nor is it the first time I have heard it suggested, that there was a conspiracy to conceal from the electors at the last General Election the intention of the Government, as soon as the Parliament Act was passed, to deal with this question of Irish Home Rule. The refutation of that suggestion is to be found in the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and of the Leader of the Opposition himself. I am not going through the whole string of quotations again. I am content to take the statement of certainly one of the most respected and responsible leaders of the party opposite upon the very eve of the election in December, 1910—I mean Lord Lansdowne. Lord Lansdowne said of me, the person who was supposed to have "tricked" the electors, and by some strange hypnotic process to have induced them to vote blindfold for something they did not understand—he said of me:—He, the Prime Minister, has made it perfectly clear that if yon return the Liberal Government to power, and they puss the Parliament Act, the first thing they will do will be to give Home Rule to Ireland.I see all those Gentlemen sitting there. Does anyone deny that Lord Lansdowne said that? Did he mean it or did he not mean it? Was it true or was it not true? If he meant it, and if it was true, this charge that we tricked the doctors and that they voted in ignorance of the issue, is one of the most flimsy and ridiculous charges ever made. I assert that nothing was more clearly brought home, both by the supporters and opponents of the Government, to the mind of the electors at the last General Election than that the first use which would be made of the Parliament Act would be to pass this very legislation which is now before the House of Commons. I have been led, much 2138 against my will, into what is really a digression from the point which is actually before the House at this moment, whether or not these disgraceful proceedings in Belfast ought or ought not to receive the condemnation of every one inside or outside the House. The whole force of the law is, I am glad to say, being exerted to put an end to it, but I cannot acquit of responsibility for the state of feeling of which they are the outcome and by which they have been fomented these open incitements to violence by a responsible statesman.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
We have listened to one more apology from the Prime Minister for the part he has taken in the recent political history of this country, and I must say that a more unfortunate example even this House has not witnessed. Let me sweep aside for the moment the last sentence of the right hon. Gentleman. No one speaking from these benches has justified for an instant the attacks which have taken place on workmen in Belfast. I have listened very carefully to what has been said by hon. Members on this side. We do not for a moment justify interference with free labour, whether it takes place in Belfast or in the docks in London. We are not reluctant to see the forces of the police backed up by the military if the forces of the police are not sufficient to carry out their duties. It is not on us that rests the responsibility of allowing disturbances to grow into riots because the Government have not the courage or the resolution to send a sufficient force to put down those riots. I put aside that sentence of the right hon. Gentleman as altogether irrelevant. What is the charge? The charge is that speeches by Members of the Opposition have led to these riots. A more ridiculous charge was never made. What are the words quoted from my right hon. Friend? They are that if Home Rule is passed, by means that we regard as a gross fraud, and as one of the most discreditable political tricks which have ever been perpetrated, and is attempted to be imposed by force on the people of Ulster, they will be justified in taking any means to resist it. What possible connection has that got with riots or oppression of Catholic workmen by Protestants in the works of Harland and Wolff? These Gentlemen are the defenders of law and order, many of whom have been found by the judges of this country, not indeed guilty of crime and outrage, but of adopting a line of conduct 2139 which led to crime and outrage, and persisted in it with full knowledge of its effects. These are the Gentlemen who pretend to be shocked at my right hon. Friend's language. Why do we say that this Bill has been promoted by a trick? We say it because the Government undoubtedly did everything they could to keep from the electors the knowledge of what they proposed to do. Of course we do not deny that we did our best to tear the veil from the eyes of the electors. It is quite plain that the electors at the last election preferred the statements made by hon. Gentlemen opposite to those that we made. Otherwise they would not be there.
What is the use of quoting statements made by Lord Lansdowne or anyone else? Those were the statements which the electors did not accept. Hon. Members seem to think that is a very startling statement. It is perfectly plain. You have two political opponents. I fought an election myself at Wisbech. I said at every meeting, "This will end in Home Rule," and my opponent said, as far as he could at every meeting, that it would not. They declined to believe that Home Rule was a serious or pressing danger. That was the difficulty we were in. They regarded it as a red-herring. It was not a serious thing. It was a bogey. Now hon. Members opposite have the effrontery to come down to the House and say, "Because you made statements which the electors did not accept, we were not guilty of any attempt to deceive the electors." Of course they attempted to deceive the electors, and unfortunately they succeeded; and now they are using the power which they thus obtained to carry out their deception into law. Surely hon. and right hon. Gentlemen must see that the Constitution which they have endeavoured to establish and have established in this country is absolutely unworkable. Everyone knows that the authority of Parliament is not what it was because you have taken away any possibility of appealing from this House to the electors. Until you restore that appeal you cannot expect that the authority of this House will be respected in the country. I regret as much as anyone—I profoundly regret—the breaches of law and order which are taking place not only in Ulster, but elsewhere. They are growing and respect for the authority of the law is diminishing. I am not here to judge whether Ulster is right or wrong, but I say it is 2140 perfect folly to disregard the fact that Ulster undoubtedly will fight. The thing is perfectly absurd. Of course it is the cue of hon. Members from Ireland to make histrionic displays, but no one who has been there doubts their determination, and least of all the Chief Secretary. He knows quite well that the danger is a real one and to try by your tyrannical Constitution, by what we regard as a distinct fraud on the population, to force this measure through without any appeal to the country—and remember that is the whole object of your Parliament Act—to avoid an appeal to the country—and to try and bribe Ulster into submission by these means, is insanity and worse than insanity. It is a gross and criminal fraud upon the people of this country.
Mr. NEIL PRIMROSE
I intervene only because the Noble Lord did me the honour to refer to me personally. I will not follow him into all the reasoning that he indulged in and which his very exuberant imagination and somewhat excitable temper has led him to indulge in. As far as I can see, it has nothing whatever to do with the subject under discussion. But I understood him to say he told the electors of Wisbeeh that if I was elected Home Rule would follow and that I told them that Home Rule would not follow.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
What I said was that the hon. Gentleman did his best to keep Home Rule in the background.
Mr. NEIL PRIMROSE
I think I am in the recollection of the House that that is not what the Noble Lord said, and if it is what he meant to say I do not think his legal training has brought his language to that pitch of perfection which it should have done. If he will look into the REPORTS to-morrow he will see that, though no doubt he meant to make the remark he has just made, in the excitement of the moment he did not do so. As it has been frequently referred to, I suppose I may say a word about that election. I did refer to Home Rule, though I admit not in every speech, but I was asked about it, and I gave my views that I was in favour of some measure of self-government for Ireland. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but how can a private individual with absolutely no connection with the Government except as a general supporter of its policy come forward and formulate a Home Rule Bill? There is one extract from a speech of the Noble Lord, the sense of which I happen to carry in my head, in 2141 which he said, "What are Mr. Primrose's views about Home Rule? As far as I can make out, he is in favour of some measure of Home Rule with adequate safeguards." I think that shows that I did not conceal from my Constituents that I was in favour of some measure of Home Rule. I think if the Noble Lord wants an explanation of that election he need not look into the future: he must look into his own past. On that past the electors of Wisbech have judged him, and if he goes there again they will judge him once more.
§ Mr. CHAMBERS
I am exceedingly glad to find that amongst the Liberal party there is at least one righteous man who in the course of last election brought the question of Home Rule before the electors, and gave them an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. I think the charge so frequently made from this side of the House has never yet been properly answered. Nor do I think it is capable of being answered, namely, that during the election, or, at all events, until the Prime Minister made some reference to it, the question of Home Rule was kept in the background, and that no substantial number of Liberal candidates mentioned it in their election addresses, or made it a crucial question in the speeches they delivered. I think that if ever a criticism was justified from a party it is the criticism made at the present time that the policy of Home Rule for Ireland is being forced upon the country without the country having expressed their opinion in reference to it. The Prime Minister has to-night dealt with the language used by the Leader of the Opposition. I venture to remark that the circumstances existing to-day in reference to this particular question have no parallel in the history of this country. Here you have a policy the result of which will be in effect to drive out from the British connection a large section of people who have always been loyal and true to that connection, and to compel them to submit to the control, while in a perpetual minority, of a body of men who have always held opinions hostile to their own, and whose methods they have at all times condemned. While it may be an extreme measure for Ulster to revolt and rebel against such a policy, I as one who knows Ulster from top to bottom, and who has spent the greater portion of my life in that province, can say, with the utmost confidence, that the people there will never consent to such a policy being forced upon 2142 them, but will use every means in their power to resent it, to resist it, and to be free from it.
The discussion to-day has, I think, somewhat wandered. It began with a speech by the hon. Gentleman who represents West Belfast (Mr. Devlin), and since then it has taken, so far as I am concerned, a bewildering course. The hon. Member, in introducing the discussion, referred to the state of affairs in Belfast as being mainly religious. He was followed some time afterwards by the Chief Secretary, who described the situation existing there as an industrial dispute. Then the right hon. Gentleman was followed by the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), who told us that it was neither religious nor industrial, but really a political dispute. He ventured on a statement which I am anxious to take this opportunity of contradicting vigorously. The hon. Member stated that he had recently had emissaries from Belfast who assured him that the fact that workmen would not join what he described as Unionist clubs was the reason why they were banned and boycotted, and made the object of contumely and abuse. I say deliberately—and I yield to no man in my knowledge of the people of Belfast, high and low—that no statement was ever made falser than that. The membership of Unionist clubs in Belfast demonstrates that a statement of that kind is baseless. I believe that no workman and no individual of any class in Belfast has ever been subjected to any discomfort by reason of the fact that he declined to join a Unionist club. I think, after all, the hon. Member is to be more or less sympathised with, for I have frequently heard him make references to Belfast, and I have always been sorry for him, because they betrayed such a woeful lack of knowledge of the conditions among the people of that city. It is possible that the emissaries to whom he referred were over here in quest of money, and that they were doing what is colloquially called pulling his leg.
As regards the recent incidents in Belfast, I join most heartily with those who have described them as intensely regrettable. The situation existing there is one which every man who has the welfare of the community at heart most sincerely deplores. I am perfectly certain that no man with influence or position, be he foreman or workman, in that community has done anything else than to exert his utmost power to restore peace and good 2143 order. It has been said that conduct such as has been pursued in the last few days in Belfast injures the cause of those who take part in the disorder. I was delighted to hear the Chief Secretary state to-day that there has not been any repetition of the incidents during the past few days. I feel perfectly confident that nobody in the community who has any sense of responsibility has in any way contributed to them. I would like to say that such conduct cannot advance the political cause of any party. We are anxious for the success of the policy in opposition to Home Rule. Those who are opposed to Home Rule would readily say that such disorderly conduct could in no way advance their cause, but must be an absolute drawback and injury to it. They must see that when these incidents occur advantage will be taken of them for the purpose of exaggerating and magnifying what takes place. These incidents are pointed to by our opponents as evidence of the bigotry and intolerance of my fellow countrymen in the North of Ireland. There is one thing the House should recollect in connection with this matter. The whole affair is deplorable, but it has been woefully exaggerated. I would appeal to hon. Members who are applying their minds to this question to-day to go back over the history of Belfast. So long as I remember, now a considerable number of years, there have been from time to time outbreaks in that city. One year you would have a violent not extending over weeks, and another year you will have skirmishes. But they are incidents which take place in that city; they have always been deplored, but they have never led to such a scene as this in the House of Commons. They did not seem to matter, and they were not regarded as incidents out of which political capital could be made.
We have often mentioned from these benches that there are in Ireland two classes of people who never were, are not, and never can be reconciled. There have been outbursts of feeling on the part of these two classes all along. In the last fifty years they demonstrate the truth of what we have been saying as to the irreconcilable character of the people. They demonstrate that nothing but the strong arm of Britain over both will ever secure justice and fairness amongst them. They demonstrate that the policy you are pursuing to-day, which will place one of these sections under the perpetual control 2144 of the other which is in the minority, is a policy which must result in disaster, and the justify that minority in the policy which they avow they will pursue if it is persisted in. I can only express the hope that by some means, before the Home Rule Bill becomes law, something will occur to stay the hands of the Government, for I believe that far more serious troubles than those which are of yearly occurrence in Belfast will take place if the measure passes into law, I do trust something will occur, and I believe something will occur, to prevent this policy being carried into law—something which will prevent the possibility of the awful calamity which will result if the measure should ever find its way on to the Statute Book. This matter is exaggerated in another way. It is necessary for hon. Gentlemen to remember that the ebullitions of feeling which take place at certain times of the year are opposed by the great body of the workmen of Belfast, and that it is the younger men who are pursuing these methods. It is an outrage and a slander on the vast majority of the tradesmen and workmen in the employment of Messrs. Workman and Clark, and Messrs. Harland and Wolff to say that they are in sympathy with the handful of men who have been guilty of the outrages which have been described here to-day, and which only bring discredit on themselves and the city in which they live. They are a mere handful, and the ordinary police, if called upon in time, would have been perfectly able to cope with them, coupled with the natural resentment which responsible workmen in the workshops feel as regards this conduct. Believe me the tradesmen and workmen of Belfast know as well as the tradesmen and workmen of any English community that if they allow such folly as this to go on their own industry and means of earning a livelihood will be imperilled. All that was required was a firm hand and strong supervision on the part of the police. If that had been given the trouble, which had been growing from day to day, would have been absolutely quelled, and peace and order would have prevailed.
While dealing with this subject I would utter one word of warning based upon my own personal experience. I remember some of the most grave riots that ever took place in that city. I believe they were maintained for a far greater length of time than they otherwise would have been on account of the introduction of the 2145 military. The slightest word leads to stonethrowing and disaster, and I do respectfully urge the Chief Secretary to consider whether, as a question of policy, it is wise to introduce military for the purpose of quelling disturbances such as exist in one or two particular places in Belfast. I, for one, am firmly convinced that the introduction of the military on the streets of Belfast will continue the excitement and disorder which have prevailed there.
There is, after all, some excuse to be made for the men who have broken out at this particular time. Anybody who knows Belfast and its past as well as its recent history will bear me out when I say that in recent years these ebullitions of hostility at particular seasons of the year were becoming fewer and fewer. I believe that during the last seven or eight years the city of Belfast was not disgraced or degraded by anything in the nature of a riot. What has happened this year? There has been a measure which meets with bitter resentment on the part of the people of the North-East of Ireland. There is no foundation for the statement that the leaders of industry are to any extent in sympathy with that measure. Over 99 per cent. of them I believe are opposed to it, though many of them were strong supporters of Mr. Gladstone and are Liberals in every fibre of their being. These are the men, with one or two exceptions, who could be easily accounted for if there were time to enter on the subject, who are so bitterly opposed to this policy; but not only capitalists, but also the vast mass of the labouring classes, no matter what their views on other questions, are also opposed to it. I speak as man to man in this House. What would you expect if, in spite of their protests and the belief that you have not consulted the British public and you have not the majority of the British public at your back on this question, a measure of this kind were persisted in? They feel that it is being forced upon them against their will. They know that recently there was an effort made to exclude Ulster from the scope of the Home Rule measure. That proposal was rejected, and they were practically told, "You must submit."
They know as well as we who have listened to them with pain, over and over again, that very frequently references are made to Ulster in this House in terms of contempt and insult. There was one to-day by the hon. Member for West Belfast, 2146 who, when telling of an unfortunate man who was being taken to hospital in the ambulance van belonging to the corporation, said that the civic arms of the great city of Belfast were actually broken, and spoke about them with an air of disrespect. These things are galling. If they are galling to men who take credit for some common-sense and some power of self-control, what must they be to the workman who feels that he is not being fairly treated, and that the constitution is being broken with one object in view, as the Prime Minister said to-night, to pass this measure. Will this not tend to create disorder in a community where disorder is easily created in matters of this kind? And is it to be pointed to as an illustration, either of bigotry or intolerance on the part of the people of Belfast, that under circumstances of provocation such as exist in that city this year, what has occurred has occurred, and are England and Scotland to be made ring with the tale of the outrage and brutality of Belfast, and of the unfitness of its people in consequence for even reasonable consideration of the claims put forward on their behalf?
I have heard various defences made for the Castledawson incident. Whatever may be the number of the injured, one thing absolutely certain is that the affray was commenced by a number of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The best defence that was ever made for them was made by the Chief Secretary to-night, when he described them as an angry and drunken band of Hibernians. He used that description without one word of protest from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Be it true or be it false, I have no criticism to make, that is entirely a matter for themselves. But why were they angry? It shows that what has been referred to to-day exists; that the dead walls are alive with such remarks as "Home Rule is coming," and that as you pass along the road you hear such expressions as "Our day is coming." Why were these men angry? They were passing from their own demonstration, and they met a harmless innocent body of young people, who had been out on a Sunday school demonstration. The only thing to cause even a protest was a Union Jack at the head of the procession. There were banners and bannerets with scripture texts. Those were the only emblems that were carried. Those were the object of the attack. If those were the things which angered this drunken band, it illustrates 2147 the temper of the people at the present moment. They could not let that harmless procession pass by without dragging the banners and bannerettes from them and practically saying, as somebody has said already in reference to the 12th of July demonstration, "This is the last but one you will ever be able to have." Those are things which cause annoyance, and I am perfectly certain from my knowledge of the community that that incident at Castledawson had much to say to the temper of the people in Belfast; and made it much more difficult to restrain the exhuberation among them; and much more difficult for those whose duty it was to maintain the peace to do so successfully.
Jeers have been made at the leaders, and they have been accused of making use of riotous language, and language calculated to provoke breaches of the peace, and bring about results such as have occurred; but I am convinced that, if it had not been for the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Dublin University, and the other leaders of the Unionist party in Ireland accepted the leadership and got the men under control and inspired them with confidence in their leadership, the disorder which has existed in Belfast during the past week was but trifling compared with what would have occurred if the leaders had not taken the responsibility into their own hands of guiding and advising them as to what was best in their own interests, and best for the good of their cause. I am convinced that that leadership, instead of bringing about disorder has prevented it, and that it will continue to preserve that feeling in the main right through the times which lie ahead while efforts are being made to pass this Bill through the House of Commons, and that that leadership will be the one guarantee that peace on the whole will prevail in Ulster, while the withdrawal of that leadership will remove that which maintains order to-day and will maintain order. Let whatever may be the result of the policy which the party have decided upon, not as a party, but as a body of citizens who feel that they have been outraged in everything that they hold dear and in reference to their own business interests and prosperity, whatever that policy may be in the future I am convinced that the leadership which has been taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University will keep the peace and will continue to keep the peace, and 2148 nothing but the strongest provocation that not any man can stand will lead to a breach of the peace meanwhile, until the time arrives and is ripe for the introduction of that policy which has been foreshadowed and which will assuredly follow upon any attempt to put this Bill upon the Statute.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BARNES
I wish to say a few words in consequence of what the hon. Member who has just sat down has said. When I came in he was throwing some discredit upon the deputation from Ireland that waited upon the Labour party yesterday, and he also threw some doubt upon the wisdom of the Labour party in associating itself with the hon. Member for West Belfast. I desire to tell him that the deputation from Ireland was thoroughly representative, not only of the Catholics of Belfast, but also of the Protestants of that great city. The hon. Gentleman told us that there are two sections in Belfast that are not reconcilable and never have been and never will be reconcilable. The deputation told us yesterday that up to within a month or two ago those sections in Belfast and the adjacent areas were being reconciled by them and their friends, and it was only because of the inflammatory speeches that have been made since by the right hon. Gentleman to whom the hon. Member has referred that those regrettable incidents had taken place. I am not going into those speeches. [An HON MEMBER: "Better not!"] Well, one could go into them. They have been before the House and they have been said, and rightly said, to have been speeches of such a character as to inflame the public mind of Belfast. I merely say that this deputation, which was representative of the Labour opinion in Belfast, Catholic and Protestant alike, assured us that they were taking steps, and taking steps successfully, to weld those two sections into one, and make them more amenable to reason until those regrettable speeches were made by the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench. Further let me say, as the wisdom of it has been impugned, that I associate myself with the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) in regard to the matter now before the House. We regret the conditions of things in Belfast, a condition almost unprecedented in any civilised city. It not only concerns the two sections of Irishmen living in Belfast, but it also concerns organised labour on this side of 2149 St. George's Channel. For many years back—I happen to know this of my intimate knowledge—trade unionists have been using money to send men to Belfast in consequence of the rapid development of industry there. I know that many of my friends have been sent there at the expense of trade unions. What has happened when they have got there? The right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin said that there has been no occurrences of this character since 1896. That set my mind travelling back to the year 1893, when I myself was an officer of a trade union which sent men over to Belfast, and whose named I could now give. When those men got there they were actually chased out of the shop, exactly as men lave been chased out of the shops on this occasion. Recently, as a matter of fact, a trade union sent men to Belfast, and one of the men, from the Midlands of England, was brutally assaulted, as we are informed, in the presence of Mr. George Clark; junior, who exclaimed, "Serve him right." This is the sort of thing that we of the Labour party are thoroughly in accord with hon. Members opposite when they make their protest against such occurrences, and I wish Godspeed to the Chief Secretary in taking what action he may find necessary to prevent their repetition. I sent a telegram to the executive of a trade union of which I am a member. I asked for some information in consequence of this Debate coming on, and I am informed that, approximately, seventy-eight members are receiving unemployed benefit, in consequence of the disturbances at Belfast; that members have left Belfast, and that it is difficult to trace actually how many are affected by these occurrences. It is unfair, not only to peaceful citizens in Belfast but to those who have gone from this country and have got rooted more or less in that city with their wives and families that they should not be allowed to earn their bread in peace.
§ Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.