§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I do not intend to comment upon the speech which has just been made by my right hon. Friend, except to congratulate him and the country upon the position which he now occupies. I intend to deal with the affairs of Ireland. The Chief Secretary for Ireland seems to me to be facing conditions similar to those which confronted Lord Fitzwilliam and Lord Cornwallis. After the rebellion of 1798 Lord Fitzwilliam came over to Ireland with the best intentions, but he came from a divided Cabinet, and he was disowned after he had made his proposals. Lord Cornwallis suppressed the rebellion, but he was confronted with a number of people who found severe fault with his main criticisms and with the manner in which the rebels had been put down. The conditions in Ireland are not favourable for my right hon. Friend (Mr. Duke) I am going to tell him of two or three things which have assisted to bring about the situation which he has to face. My hon. and gallant Friend the-other night interrupted me in the course of some observations I made with regard to recruiting in Ireland. I hope he will permit me to give him, very briefly, the history of recruiting in Ireland up to-date. I must preface my remarks by saying that his panacea of Conscription would be the best means of destroying what chance there is of a peaceful Ireland. As a matter of fact, the Sinn Fein-rebellion was largely an anti-Conscription rebellion, and any attempt to establish Conscription in Ireland, I am afraid, would have the most disastrous consequences both to the cause that he has at heart and to peace and good order in Ireland.
Let me refer to the condition of Ireland in 1914. Everybody will remember that momentous night when Sir Edward Greyr, now Viscount Grey, made what was practically a declaration of war. In the course of his speech the Foreign Secretary made the observation that the one bright spot in the situation was the condition of Ireland. That speech of the Foreign Secretary was immediately followed by what I may now call the historic speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond). I do not think anyone who is not acquainted, as I am, with the Irish race in the various parts of the world, including some of our own Dominions, 2559 can appreciate the momentous importance of that pronouncement of my hon. and learned Friend. It had immediate consequences all over the Irish world. In the United States there are many millions of our people, most of them, either through themselves or their ancestors, the victims of cruel wrong and enforced emigration. I venture to say that 80 or 90 per cent. of our race in the United States accepted the policy of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and became the friends of the just cause of the Allies in this War. In Ireland there was a very remarkable and to me an astonishing state of things. I think even those who were formerly my political opponents will not question that I have devoted the greater part of my political career to an endeavour to bring about a reconciliation of the mass of the English and Irish races. I hoped to see them reconciled, but I must confess that I never anticipated that I should see more than a beginning of the reconciliation in my time. I thought it would require a generation or two after my generation had passed away to bring full and complete good will between the two countries. But I saw in Ireland a change of heart so deep, so wide, and so prompt as to make it a matter of surprise to me.
Let me illustrate it by a few instances. I spoke of the Irish in America. In 1867 two Fenian prisoners were rescued by a body of Irishmen from a prison van. A police constable was killed in the course of the disturbance. I think he was killed accidentally. Five men were put on their trial for their lives. They were all convicted and sentenced to death. One of them was immediately released, three of of them were executed, and one spent nine years in penal servitude. This gave the impetus to the national movement in Ireland, and the memory of these men is still celebrated. The fourth man, who was reprieved because he was an American citizen, and who served ten years' penal servitude, was named Edward O'Megher Condon. If any man would have had bitter feelings against this country, one would have thought it would have been that man, but, marvellous to say, Edward O'Megher Condon, sentenced to death and a convict for ten years, brought up in a school of hatred of this country and its institutions, the child of evicted tenants driven out of Ireland, declared himself on the side of the 2560 Allies. I could go through any number of cases of the same kind. I met here the other day a young fellow, a wounded soldier of the name of Egan. That does not convey much to those who are not Irishmen, but he was the grandson of Patrick Egan, and I remember the time when he was one of the most hated men in this country. He had to fly to France. His grandson has been fighting in the trenches. He was present on the night—this is the tragedy of the situation—with the Munsters when the Germans put up a placard—it was during the recent rebellion—to say "The English are shooting your wives and children in the streets of Dublin." The Munsters went out across that No Man's Land, where every man's life was in danger, and they were not satisfied until they had captured and brought back that placard which was the denunciation of your Government.
Throughout Ireland there were scenes which I do not think anybody ever thought possible in our lifetime or in the lifetime of many generations to come. Recruiting was going on with energy. Members of Parliament, clergymen, and local leaders of the National party were all making speeches in favour of recruiting. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) by his own efforts raised thousands of men. The recruits as they went to the station marched with bands and a cheering crowd, and there were cries of "God bless you!"—God bless the work which they were going to do in putting down those principles of savage and cruel oppression against which Ireland has always ranged herself and against which she must range herself to-day if she is to be true to her own traditions. Between the police and the Irish people, as everybody knows, there have been, especially in times of turbulence, a good deal of friction. Many of the constabulary joined the Army. Again, they went to the station amid the cheers and good will of their countrymen. There never was in the history of any country after six centuries of another point of view a change of heart so wide, so deep, and so remarkable as that which took place in Ireland after the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford. I am sure when the history of this War comes to be written the historian will acknowledge that speech was one of the most eventful and one of the most helpful incidents at the commencement of the War
2561 What happened? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford accompanied by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and the Member for West Belfast went to the War Office. They had a series of suggestions to make. I think it was the very day after the declaration of War, so anxious were they to help in every way the cause which they had taken up. They made several suggestions, and they made one in particular. They suggested that their Volunteers, who at that time were still a united body, should be equipped and drilled by the War Office and have officers sent from the War Office. The remarkable thing is that when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford made that proposal to the Volunteers of Dublin one of the men who supported it was John McNeill. If that offer had been accepted by the War Office, you would have had many of those 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 or 100,000 men fighting on your side, because khaki is a catchy kind of thing, and when a man once gets it on his back, even if he is only a volunteer, he rarely resists the temptation to go into the fighting line. Thousands of these men would have gone into the fighting line and into the trenches. There would have been no Sinn Fein movement, because there would have been no men to draw upon. Many of the men who are in penal servitude to-day would have been in the trenches fighting, and would have given up their lives for the cause of the Allies. During the recent rebellion there was a young fellow tried for his life. His life was spared, and he was sentenced to penal servitude for life. Will it be believed that that young man for two or three months was begging my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast to get him a commission in the Regular Army, and all the appeals of my hon. Friend proved in vain. He drifted into the Volunteers. One thing led to another, and the result of it is that this man who was ready to fight in the cause of the Allies is to-day in penal servitude.
Every single suggestion made to the War Office in the interests of the Allies was, without exception, rejected by the War Office. An hon. Member asks me why. I do not know, but I have my suspicion. I believe that there was what was called the Unseen Hand there. I hope I am not going to revive any controversy by using the phrase, and, if I do so, I express my regret, but I believe 2562 there was a "Curragh Camp set" there which regarded any proposal made by Nationalists as a proposal that was rebellion pretending to be loyal. Everything was done—it seemed to be almost calculated in a Machiavellian spirit—not to encourage, but to discourage recruiting. Every little insult possible was given to national sentiment. For instance, a number of ladies were asked by the General of the 16th Division to make some banners; they made the banners, and the banners were refused, not, I am sure, by the General, but by the General under orders from the War Office. The War Office interfered. In the National University in Dublin they proposed to raise a corps of officers; there was a similar corps in Trinity College, but permission was refused. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond) went to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister gave his assent to the corps being raised; but the War Office refused even to listen to the suggestion of the Prime Minister, and the corps was not brought into existence. It was in an atmosphere of that kind that men were confronted with a propaganda which ultimately let in the Sinn Fein rebellion. Some six or seven months after the beginning of the War a very remarkable Englishman was sent over to Ireland, Sir Hedley le Bas. What did he find there? He found that there was no recruiting, no placards, no posters appealing to the national sentiment, and, above all, no form of proper recruiting appeal. I make no apology for the fact that when you try and induce Irishmen to enter the Army you must use a somewhat different kind of appeal from those you would apply to Englishmen, just as you have dealt with Wales differently. There were two places in Dublin where they positively refused to put up placards, one was Trinity College and the other was Liberty Hall, the centre of Larkin and the leaders of the Citizen Army.
Sir Hedley le Bas found that all over the country they employed the very last type of men to make a successful appeal to the people. In Waterford—I say nothing against the gentleman personally; I did not know even his name—they employed a gentleman who was a Unionist, who was not of the same religion as the majority of the people, and who was a landlord's agent! Although we have to a large extent settled the land 2563 question in Ireland, there are traditions which remain, and I say that a landlord's agent is not quite the man to appeal to the patriotic fervor of an Irish Catholic population. In Limerick the gentleman who was sent down was a Catholic, but he had stood on Orange platforms as a Unionist candidate, and he had been Unionist candidate in that very city a short time before. All my fellow countrymen know that an Irish Nationalist hates an Irish Catholic Unionist much worse than he hates the most virulent Orangeman. That was not the kind of gentleman whose personality would appeal to men to go and die for the cause of the Allies in the trenches. In Dublin a number of ex-Unionist candidates were selected for the purposes of recruiting, and I am not sure whether they did not import some dug-outs or found-outs from this country. These gentlemen could not make the best appeal to Irishmen, who, after all, are a courageous race, and some of whom are sensible. They actually called the people cowards and slackers, and used other terms of abuse. I need not tell you that men like that, instead of encouraging, discourage recruits.
I take another section of the Irish race, my countrymen in Great Britain, with whom I am more closely associated than with any other section of my people, and with whom I have, lived now for about half a century. No part of the Empire has given a more generous contribution, proportionately, to the fighting forces than the Irishmen in Great Britain. How are they treated? At the very beginning of the War I called a meeting and explained my views of the issue of the War—and from that explanation I have never wavered, and I do not waver now—and we determined to recruit in this country for the War as far as we could, and I asked them to accept our views of the issues and policy which I ventured to lay before them. I made what would appear perhaps at that time a rather rash proposal, that we should sing "God Save the King." It had never been sung at an Irish Nationalist meeting in Great Britain before, and that great meeting of 5,500 Irishmen in Glasgow sang it full-heartedly, and accepted the same position as their fellow-citizens of English and Scottish descent. What happened? The Irish in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which is a great 2564 Irish centre, proposed to raise an Irish battalion. The Irish at Newcastle, as hon. Members on the Labour Benches know, are very closely associated both in the social and labour life of their English fellow-citizens. The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) has told me that in his early struggles for trade unionism he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Irishmen who were his comrades. They proposed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to raise an Irish battalion. Mr. Joseph Cowen, the son of one who was well known to this Assembly, put up £10,000 to be devoted to the raising of an Irish regiment and a Scottish regiment and a Newcastle battalion. The Irish immediately raised a battalion; they raised two; they raised three; they raised four; altogether they raised 5,500 Irishmen in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I took some small, obscure, but zealous part in raising those Irishmen in Newcastle. I said to myself, "Here is a chance to raise recruits, in Ireland; I will get these men to consent to go to Ireland to be drilled; I will go over myself; I will march at their head through the City of Dublin, and I dare say that forty or fifty thousand of their fellow-countrymen will welcome them to the land of their fathers." Does it require much imagination to see what effect such a procession would have upon recruiting in Dublin? I was refused. I got these men to go to Ireland, which was a sacrifice to them, because at Newcastle they were billeted with their mothers and wives.
In West Belfast my hon. Friend for that constituency (Mr. Devlin) has done very much in persuading his fellow-countrymen to join the Army, but for months they did not have a recruiting station in West Belfast, and the people had to go to other parts of Belfast to join the Army. That was a great mistake, and militated against the sentiment of the Nationalists in the city, and against their joining the Army in as large numbers as they would otherwise have done. In Kingstown there was no recruiting station, and men who wished to join the Army had to go eight or nine miles to Dublin for the purpose. Sir Hedley le Bas found two or three remarkable things when he went to Dublin. He found that the Recruiting Committee there had only one Nationalist on it, and that in this great Nationalist city. When Sir Hedley made a certain suggestion for the purposes of encouraging recruiting, a member of the Committee, after the meeting was over, called him aside and said, "Why, Sir 2565 Hedley, you seem to be anxious to get Nationalists to recruit; we don't want them to recruit. The more Nationalists that join the Army the surer they are to get Home Rule." That is the kind of Committee that was set up to do recruiting. Sir Hedley also went to some of the military authorities, and the first thing they told him was, "Have nothing to do with the Nationalists; do not kow-tow with them; give them a wide berth." If you want to appeal to the people of Ireland, send to them gentlemen of the same political convictions and the same, religion as the people to whom they appeal. The same story was found everywhere. The Irish Guards band made a most successful tour in Ireland and gained many recruits. When Sir Hedley suggested that the Lord Mayor of Dublin should be got to receive the band, he was told, "You must not touch the Lord Mayor; he is opposed to recruiting; it would be a dreadful mistake." But he went to the Lord Mayor and he found him one of the best friends of the cause of the Allies. The Lord Mayor did not refuse to receive the band. He gave them an entertainment, and they went through Ireland receiving addresses of welcome from the people and raised a number of recruits. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to imagine I am attacking him in this connection. He is not responsible for that state of affairs, nor was his great predecessor. It was the unseen hand of the War Office that was responsible. All through Ireland every step was taken not to encourage but to discourage recruiting.
Let me take another point. I went down to visit the 16th Division here in England. I found an admirable set of officers—I need not say anything about the men, because they have proved their valour. What did I find? The men were 90 or 95 per cent. Nationalists and Catholics, while the officers were 75 or 85 per cent. Protestants. Nobody will accuse me of anything like sectarian feeling. I have not a particle of it; I hate it. But you must have regard for these religious and political affinities between men and even between soldiers and officers. I am glad to be able to say that bad as that method of officering the 16th Division was, it turned out admirably. The officers won the hearts of the men, the men won the hearts of the officers, and there is the deepest and almost uninterrupted harmony between them. It was very unfair to my hon. Friend the 2566 Member for West Belfast and others who had done so much to recruit your forces that they should have knocked in vain, month after month, to get a commission for a man who is a Nationalist, while a gentleman who was a paid servant in the Unionist organisation was put over a regiment comprising 90 per cent. of Irish Nationalists.
That is not the end of this somewhat discreditable story. Our regiments went into action. No man will criticise the valour of the Irish soldiers. They were in the retreat from Mons, they were in the massacres in the Dardanelles, they were at Festubert, and they have been in some of the other recent engagements. The story of the Dardanelles is known to many Members of this House. It is as well known to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College as well as to any man on these benches. It is a story, dreadful in many respects, but a story of incomparable valour in the face of unprecedented difficulties. Several Irish regiments took a leading part in these engagements. Two of them, I believe, took the leading part. Will it be believed that the names of those regiments were absolutely omitted from any word of mention in the dispatches describing the engagements? All over the battle fronts it is the same story even to-day. Irish regiments have taken a large part in the engagements within the last few weeks, but their names have not been mentioned. It looks as if an Irish soldier is good enough to be killed but is not good enough to be mentioned in the dispatches describing those engagements. How could I*or any Irishman feel anything but resentment at such a series of incidents and facts as I have mentioned? Some of the causes of the Sinn Fein rebellion were that our men were not equipped and organised under the War Office, and that Ireland began to feel that while this country was willing to take her soldiers, she was not willing to recognise them on the Nationalist principles for which they stood. There were other causes, but I will not go into them now, because I do not want to revive any controversy if I can help it. The creation of a Coalition Government was one of them. I do not blame the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College for that transaction. I believe that his own judgment was against his entering into the Ministry, and, to do him justice, he left it as soon as he could. Was it not quite clear that, when the 2567 leader of one political party in Ireland declines to enter the Cabinet, the leader of the other political party ought to have been asked to do so, some months after the War had begun in this auspicious state of Irish feeling?
I come to recent events. My reference to them will be as brief and as considered as I can make it. There were two events in Ireland, a rebellion and the repression of that rebellion. The repression of the rebellion was a much more important and a much more far-reaching event than the rebellion itself. I do not want to go into that painful and tragic event more than I can help. I still think that if the same humane, generous, and wise spirit that induced General Botha to spare the rebels of his own race and of his own land had been extended to the rebellion in Ireland my right hon. Friend would have a much more favourable set of conditions to deal with and his task would be comparatively easy. When that rebellion started, 90 per cent. of the people of Ireland condemned and repudiated it; but when repression was in progress the sympathies of the 90 per cent. were on the other side. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to accept my view or to disavow things that have been done. He had no responsibility. I do impress upon him, however, that the sooner he is able to remove from Ireland all signs and tokens of that very bitter incident in Irish life he will have a different Ireland to deal with. I see the Home Secretary here. I was astonished to hear an answer of his at Question Time to-day. There are a great many Irishmen still in prison or under internment. I hope he will expedite their release. I am going to make another suggestion. I do not want to use strong language, but I was shocked by his answer to-day in regard to Irish political prisoners who have been sentenced. There is not a civilised country in the world except this that does not make a distinction between the political and the ordinary prisoner. It is made in France. [An HON. MEIIBEE: "Not in Germany or Russia."] Hon. Members who say "Not in Russia" have not read as much about Siberia as I have. I have read an account of a reception by the Czar—I think when he was Czarevitch—which has made the foundation of a thousand perorations, dramas, and novels, of a man with whom he entered into friendly conversation, who was the man who tried to take his father's life. The Home Secre- 2568 tary will not get any encouragement there for his doctrine. It is a false doctrine. He will get no confirmation of it in the treatment of political prisoners, even those in Russia after they have been sentenced and exiled. As to France, Frenchmen would regard it as an abnegation of all the doctrines of the French Revolution and its new gospel of humanity and liberty to treat a political prisoner as an ordinary prisoner. I hope my right hon. Friend will revise his views upon that matter, and try to extend generous treatment to men of this kind, who in no civilised country are classed in the same category as ordinary prisoners.
I end as I began, by saying that the position of the Chief Secretary is not one altogether to be envied. He will get fair play from us. So long as he follows what we regard as a wise policy he will not get injustice from us. I want to give him a few words of friendly warning. The path of coercion is a dangerous one. Once a Chief Secretary enters upon it he very soon finds himself in conflict with the Irish people. I ask him to be a little on his guard, for, after all, he is an Englishman, against the official classes. I remember reading many years ago a striking story of French life where a Deputy filled with the spirit of reform and good intentions tried to clear out some office. There was a Radical at the head of the office, there was a Radical majority in Parliament, there was a Radical President of the Assembly, but there was a fine fat old gentleman who sat in an armchair as the permanent official of the office, who put himself in the way. The Deputy said to himself, "That fellow or somebody like him was there in the days of the first Napoleon. Perhaps he saw Marie Antoinette going to the scaffold. He saw Louis XVI. and Louis XV., and all the other generations. He was there all the time." That old gentleman has been most of the time at Dublin Castle. It is bureaucracy without responsibility either to an English or an Irish Parliament. I warn the right hon. Gentleman not to respect its traditions, and not always, at least to take its counsel.
One further word of advice I will give him. The example comes to one's mind of the resemblance between his position and that of Lord Cornwallis after the rebellion. Lord Cornwallis protested in the strongest way against some of the savage cruelties with which that rebellion was put down. In his memoirs he over and 2569 over again lamented that all his kind intentions and inclinations as to clemency were scouted and denounced in the spirit of caste, class and bigotry by some Irishmen themselves. I am afraid there may be a little of that spirit in Dublin to-day. I implore the Chief Secretary to rise superior to it and to all its follies and bad suggestions.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Captain S. GWYNN
I have to deal with a matter that is an extraordinarily painful one to handle. My hon. Friend (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) has been dealing with the attempt made in Ireland to find in the New Army a great instrument of reconciliation. He has told the House of the difficulties that met us and of the stupidity that seemed to haunt all the dealings with the War Office with Ireland in the matter. The wisdom of the Leader of the Irish party was justified to a great extent, and the Army did, to an extraordinary degree, become an instrument of reconciliation between the peoples. I am here to say that at the present time the sympathy that flows from that source is greatly checked in a considerable degree, because those who control the Army have not found the strength to condemn what has been done wrongly by certain soldiers in the Army. Not so much from things which have been done by the troops—because such things are almost inevitable at such a time—but because of the failure of the Government to assert discipline and to make clear that the Army was Ireland's Army as well as England's, and that Irishmen were in just the same relation to it as any other class of citizen, harm has come. If I have to find fault with the troops, heaven knows it is not because. I want to attack the New-Army. I am part of that Army myself, and am proud to be part of it. It is because I think your Army is the finest thing this country has ever done—I think finer than any of us who were not English expected ever to see come out of England—it is because that Army has given us a respect for typically English ideals that we never had before that I say in the interests of that Army you are bound to repress sharply whatever dishonours that Army, and whatever puts upon it the least trace of the taint which the Germans have left indelibly on their Armies in this War. I do not think anyone will suspect me of wishing to make bad blood between the countries. That has not been the object of our party. Our party's mission has been to try and bring things to friendlier 2570 relations. It is for that that the people who made this rebellion attacked us, for this rebellion had really only one purpose. It could not hope for success in a military sense, but it could hope to destroy the constitutional movement, which from their point of view was a betrayal of the Irish position, and our attitude has clearly been to seek, as it was theirs to hinder, a reconciliation and a better understanding between England and Ireland. There never was a time when it was more needed than to-day. It is not the Army that I blame so much as the Government, which has I think in the first instance abdicated its own functions to the Army. The rebellion happened. You called in the Army to put it down and to restore order. Then the Army's function ended, as I conceive. Then the statesmen's work began. The Government abdicated their functions and left to the military, who were not concerned with that work, the function of deciding what measures should be taken to prevent a rebellion happening again.
That was not how they did it in South Africa. In South Africa when they had dealt in a military sense with their rebellion, the question of penalties arose, and they could not, of course, leave the case to a judge and jury. They set up a tribunal of their own, but so cautious were they in the matter that by Act of their Legislature, I am told, they limited the power of the tribunal. The statesmen kept the matter in their own hands. They dealt with it as statesmen, and they have their reward. In Ireland the statesmen handed over the matter to the military and we suffer for it. We and the Empire and the cause of the Allies suffer for that mistake. The Government still speaks of the leniency with which this rebellion was repressed. I knew many men who were sentenced to death. They were friends of mine, and I cannot myself conceive that it was expedient in any sense to put those men to death, because unquestionably by doing so you have increased their power. I do not grudge them what they desired more than anything in the world, the prestige of the death that you gave them, but I deplore the error which was made and I deplore the manner of those executions. That, of course, is half the trouble in Ireland. I am trying now to bring home, if it is only to the Chief Secretary, what appear to be the facts that the rulers of Ireland must recognise, what I hope the English people will try to recognise, when they are attempting to understand the 2571 temper of the country which is bound up with theirs. The mere fact that such clemency has been used in South Africa made the severity which was used in Ireland appear to the Irish people unjust. That is one of the elements of the situation that ought to be borne in mind. Another great element of the situation was that no conceivable standard could be invented to explain the principle applied. If the signatories to the constitution, as it was called, had been dealt with together, that would have been at least understood, but you went beyond that, and, so far as I can understand, you might just as well have shot 150 men as fifteen, because there was no greater guilt in some of the men who were shot than in others who escaped with, relatively speaking, light sentences. They were men whose names were made known to the Irish people for the first time when they saw the sentence of their death. I do not think most people in this country realise that among the first persons to be executed was a boy leader of Boy Scouts. If that is leniency, I have yet to understand what that term means.
For the rest, in strictness, what I have to say is in criticism of the military authorities. But the Prime Minister went to Ireland, and it is to be presumed that he investigated these matters. He has taken on himself again and again responsibility for refusing the demand which has been made for a public inquiry into these matters, and it is he and the Government who have assumed the responsibility. I want to make it plain of what it is that I complain and what it is that seems to me to have been so radically and entirely wrong. I think it is certain that there were a large number of cases in which the troops entirely misconceived their functions in repressing the rebellion. There were fourteen cases known to me in which unarmed prisoners were executed by the troops without trial, and, so far as I could judge, without any military necessity whatever. In six of these eases the soldiers took the bodies of the men they had shot and buried them out of sight. It is said that there was looting at the same time. If troops are acting in that manner there will be looting. If troops are acting in that manner they are acting in the grossest breach of discipline, and if you cannot bring home military crime to the men responsible for it you can, and I think you should deal with the officers for allowing 2572 such a state of indiscipline to grow up as these events point to. I have here a list of fourteen persons altogether who were killed in this manner. One of them was a boy of eleven. The boy and his father were marched by soldiers out of the house in which they had been, through a house in which certain women were, into an empty house next door. They were shot there and left, and for that no punishment has been inflicted, so far as I know. Thirteen of these fourteen cases occurred in the same street on the same day, and therefore it is presumably possible to identify the regiment concerned. I have been told again and again by people with whom I have been in conversation over this matter, by those who were most vehement in condemnation of it, that taking it by and large the conduct of the troops during the rebellion was beyond praise. They behaved as I should have expected men of the New Army to behave, English or Irish. Many of them, of course, were Irish regiments, but there is no dividing line drawn between Irish and English in this matter. But in certain cases a conception appears to have prevailed that troops were entitled to shoot on their own responsibility, not in the execution of their duty of forcing their way through, but to shoot unarmed prisoners. In the interests of the Army, I ask, Is that a standard of discipline that is to be allowed to grow up in your New Army? From the point of view of Ireland, consider what it means. I am deliberately refraining from reading depositions because the detail of these matters is harassing, and I know the detail is before the Irish authorities. I will ask the House to take it from me that I have convinced myself that there have been fourteen of these cases in which unarmed prisoners were shot by troops without military necessity.
But I do not believe that there prevailed anywhere among the military authorities of Dublin the proper spirit towards this matter, and I base myself in that view on a case where the facts are admitted—they were too open to be hidden away—and where there has been inquiry. That is the Sheehy-Skeffington case. An officer who was insane, a man of whom everyone speaks well and speaks with sympathy, took these men out and shot them. He made the soldiers under his authority the instruments of a very horrible murder. When he had done this, the man, being perfectly mad, went to 2573 his commanding officer and told him what he had done. The commanding officer, on his own statement at the inquiry, asked Captain Bowen Colthurst if he had mentioned the matter to the adjutant, and he left it at that. Captain Colthurst was left in command for a considerable period after that, and, so far as I know, the commanding officer is still the commanding officer. It is perfectly clear to any soldier that as a commanding officer he failed in his plain duty in the grossest way, and the effect of that on the people of Ireland was bad beyond words. Nobody wanted to see a vindictive sentence passed on the officer who had been directly responsible for the shooting, because they recognised his misfortune, but when they found that the culpable inaction of the commanding officer was passed over it was difficult to persuade the Irish people that the action of Captain Colthurst had been so seriously regarded as was professed by the sentence. It was admittedly technical murder, but they would say to you in Dublin that it was only the murder of Irishmen.
That is not all. The second in command of the regiment became aware of the facts, inquired into the position, and did not like it. He insisted upon going to the Irish headquarters with a statement of the facts. But he got no satisfaction from them, and as soon as he could get clear of his difficulties during the rebellion he came over, and reported the matter to Lord Kitchener at the War Office. It was on his information to Lord Kitchener, that the telegram was written ordering Captain Colthurst's arrest. Until then no action was taken, That was, I think, sufficient justification for the view that the second in command had acted as the commanding officer ought to have acted. I know also, as a matter of personal knowledge, that this gentleman seeing what had happened did what, I think, was the wisest and most humane thing to do. He went to the widow of one of the men who had been shot by mistake, Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington, and said, "What has happened is a ghastly misfortune. It is like a lightning stroke, and we regret it. You must not blame the Army for it." He made friends with her and took her little son out, I think, to the Zoological Gardens. That was a good, humane thing to do. It was the right thing for a soldier to do. What has happened? That man has been told that the Army has no further use for him, while on the other hand the commanding officer is still in his position. I know Sir Francis Vane, the second in 2574 command, slightly. He was in the 16th Division when I was. I never served with him, but many of my friends served under him as subalterns and they all speak with affection and regard of him, and speak highly of his ability. I know nothing of his record as an officer except that he was praised for his work during the rebellion. I do submit that if you wish to convince the people of Ireland that you are serious in your condemnation of these murders it is hardly the way to carry conviction when you keep this commanding officer still in command, and dismiss Sir Francis Vane from the Service. It may be only a coincidence and probably it is only a coincidence, but if the Army knew its business it would not allow such coincidences as that to occur.
General Sir John Maxwell during these occurrences gave an interview to the "Daily Mail," in which he said:Possibly unfortunate incidents, which we all regret now, may have occurred. It did not perhaps always follow that where shots were fired in a particular house the inmates were necessarily aware of it or were guilty. But how were the soldiers to discriminate? They saw their comrades killed beside them by hidden and treacherous assailants, and it is even possible that in the horrors of these attacks some of them saw red.That is a military apology for what happened, or for what may have happened. I do not think that it is desirable that such an apology should be made for the troops. I do not think that troops ought to be left to consider that they are entitled to see red on such an occasion. I think every officer who took his men into an action of that kind ought to have impressed—and I am sure every properly trained officer would impress—upon his men the peculiar difficulties of the situation, and would have warned them against such a tendency. Do not let it be thought that I underrate the extraordinary provocation which these men received. It was not merely the fact that they had to fight their way and that it was hard fighting, but they had a sense that they as Englishmen had been attacked by Irishmen in the back at a time when they were in the middle of a desperate War. Excuses should be made for Englishmen, but there is a line that must be drawn and it should be made perfectly clear to troops that the shooting of unarmed prisoners is a thing that disgraces them as soldiers, and it is not a thing which any commanding officer should apologise for or gloss over. I do not believe that the Army as a whole 2575 would desire you to shield men who looted or who killed in cold blood.
From the point of view of the Government and the military authorities, who wanted to get the most they could out of Ireland for the Army, it was the proper attitude for them to remember that they had to live down certain things which happened before the War. They should have remembered that what happened in Dublin only ten days before the War broke out had still left bitter memories. I refer to the shooting in Bachelor's Walk. When battalions go first into the trenches they are attached to some more experienced troops, and the battalion to which my company was attached was a battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers. I confess that I looked forward with some little apprehension, because the feeling had been very high, but what I found when I got there was that the battalion to which we were attached was full of Catholic Irishmen. The first sergeant I spoke to was a Sergeant Dooley, and I asked him what kind of Scottish Borderer he was. Between our men and those men there grew up instantly the friendliest possible relations, and people in that battalion told me that in Dublin, ten days after the shooting in Bachelor's Walk, and after the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford, the very battalion which had been concerned with the affair at Bachelor's Walk were cheered as they went through the streets of Dublin on the way to the front.
We in Ireland have done what we could to try to wash out those memories, but when things happen like those I have described and are dealt with, or not dealt with, in the way I have described, those bitter memories revive. If I am to be asked, "What can you do? I want to put this to the Chief Secretary. There is one thing you can do. You can give us the facts. If he has read Irish history at all—Irish Chief Secretaries sometimes do—he may remember, that in the history of all the great risings in Ireland, and more particularly in connection with the rebellion in 1798, that there is a mass of stories believed on one side of atrocities committed by the rebels, and stories believed on the other side of atrocities committed by the troops. One cannot get at any reliable testimony at all. At the present time the same atmosphere 2576 exists in Ireland. If it is true that the soldiers executed in cold blood ten persons, he may be perfectly certain that it is believed to-day that they executed 100. If the Sinn Feiners shot down ten unarmed men in uniform, it is believed and circulated that they shot down 100. Let us have the facts on both sides; let us be done with what exists at the present time in Ireland and get rid of the cloud of outrage mongering that goes on on both sides in Dublin and all through Ireland. I hold no brief for what the Sinn Feiners have done, and I think it extremely desirable in the present temper of Ireland that Ireland should be made to realise what the Sinn Feiners have done. I have spoken about what has been done by the troops. Let us remember what the other side have done.
A kinsman of my own was passing along Stephen's Green on the morning of that Easter Monday. He saw what he took to be a lunatic with a revolver, holding up some ladies in a motor car. Being a plucky man he grappled with the man and tried to take the revolver from him. While so doing he was shot at by a man who fired slugs into him at short range, and as he reeled away with his shoulder blown to bits the second barrel was fired at him. I should not like to have seen the man who fired those shots shot, but I should like to have seen him hung. It was murder, and there was murder committed by those people. That was not what Pearse or McDonagh, or these men wanted them to do. They wanted them to fight. But murder was committed in the name of Sinn Fein, and I am perfectly certain that every honest Sinn Feiner would agree with me that for such acts as that there can be no apology. But let us know where we stand, let us know in all how many civilians were killed, and how many soldiers. Let us have the facts, and we may possibly begin in the light of facts to understand one another. That is one of the things I want to impress upon the Chief Secretary, that we should get at the truth. Above all, let him try to make plain to the Irish people that before the law and before the troops a Nationalist Irishman shall stand in just the same position as the Englishman, or the Scotsman, or anybody else, and that troops shall have no more licence in Ireland than elsewhere. Let us not forget that in this Irish rebellion the troops who did the most to put it down were Irish troops—three battalions of Dublin Fusiliers. Quite recently I was attached for some weeks to a battalion of 2577 Dublin Fusiliers who had been in that business, and I was asking them technical questions—what they did for scouting. They laughed at me and said, "We did not want scouts in Dublin, the old women told us everything. The town was for the troops." The Sinn Feiners, the people who had suddenly taken possession of the city, were the minority. The troops were the friends of the people at first. That changed afterwards, and if you are to counteract that change it should be made plain beyond yea or nay to every man in Ireland, Sinn Feiner or Ulsterman or Redmondite, or whoever else he is, that there is to be equal regard for persons in Ireland, and, believe me, it will be necessary to make that plain, I do not say to the Army, but to some elements in the Army.
§ Mr. O'MALLEY
My hon. and gallant Friend has made a very interesting speech and thrown a great deal of light upon the recent rebellion in Dublin. I am sorry that that speech has not had more listeners, and I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) did not deliver to a fuller House his very powerful and very illuminating speech on the Irish situation. The subject which I wish to raise has nothing to do with the War or the recent rebellion in Dublin. It is a subject which concerns my own Constituency alone. This is the only opportunity on which it is open to me to raise this question. A few days ago I put a question to the Chief Secretary about the fever outbreak in a district called Lettermore, in South Connemara. Connemara has been visited ever since I can remember with periodic outbreaks of fever of a very malignant character. Unfortunately, it is also the land where famines generally arose. Through the action of the Congested Districts Board, mainly, the famines now, I hope, are a thing of the past, but the fever we still have with us. Almost every year, as long as I can remember, this district has been subject to outbreaks of fever. Three or four years ago a very violent outbreak occurred, and several lives were lost. Considerable publicity was given to the condition of that district by the enterprise of one of the Irish papers. Deaths have occurred from time to time from fever in Connemara for many years, but until this paper described the condition of the houses and the conditions of life, and the horrors and the ravages created by the fever outbreak, very little attention had been paid to the matter. I regret to 2578 say that the Irish Government have done very little, if anything at all, to prevent those recurrent outbreaks.
The late Chief Secretary visited the scene at the time I am speaking about, in company with the Vice-President of the Local Government Board (Sir Henry Robinson), and I happened to meet him there. I shall never forget the sympathetic language used by the then Chief Secretary in regard to what he had seen. He was simply shocked at the terrible condition of the houses. He had never seen anything like them in his life, and hoped that he would never see anything like them again. I appealed strongly to him there and then to try to do something to induce the Congested Districts Board to take some action, not only to remove the poverty which was to some extent responsible for the fever, but to buy out those little estates there and build houses or cottages fit for human beings to live in. He spoke to me in terms most pathetic, and promised to do all he could. The only thing I know he did was to contribute out of his own pocket a sum of money towards the erection of a temporary hospital to receive these poor people. Up to this time the fever patients had to be carried in a cart for a distance of twenty-five miles to Oughterard, and many of these poor people died on the way. The Chief Secretary contributed something to erect a little hospital, and I believe that has been done. The present Chief Secretary has informed me that the medical officer of the Local Government Board is now making inquiries in regard to the present outbreak, and he has been good enough to say that a further inquiry will be made if necessary. I hope that the Chief Secretary will find time to visit this district and see for himself the condition of the people, and I trust that he will be able to do something more than has ever been done before by any of his predecessors.
It appears to me that the immediate cause of these outbreaks of fever in this district is the water supply, which is very defective. It is surface water, the place being very rocky, and there was no well service. It was advised, I believe, by a medical officer of the Local Government Board that a certain number of wells should be sunk. The Oughterard Union took the matter up, and the board of guardians had an estimate formed as to the cost of making or sinking seven wells, or putting in pumps, and the cost, according to the estimate, came to £513 for seven 2579 wells; but, on account of the character of the soil this estimate was considerably increased—in fact, it was doubled. It was found that the total cost of sinking these wells, or putting in new pumps, was £1,025. Out of a fund raised by a newspaper in Dublin £350 was given towards this work, so that a balance of something like £513 still remains due. The debt will naturally fall upon the Oughterard Union. This union is so poor that it is already overburdened with rates, and, when I tell you that 1d. in the £ upon the rateable value only produces £70, to expect this poor union to charge 6d. or 7d. in the £ additional rates would, I am afraid, prove a very serious matter indeed to this very poor community. The Congested Districts Board, who are really responsible for the condition of affairs in the West of Ireland, could only be got to give £171 towards these expenses. The Oughterard Union has appealed repeatedly to the Board to give something additional, and they have appealed in vain. My immediate object in raising this question to-day is to make an appeal to the new Chief Secretary to use his influence with the President of the Congested Districts Board to give something in addition to the £171. As a matter of fact, seven wells were not enough in view of the fever which occurs in that district, and the authorities declared that some thirty or forty wells are necessary. If thirty or forty wells are necessary to prevent the recurrence of typhoid fever in this locality, I submit to the Chief Secretary that forty wells ought to be sunk. This is not a new subject. I remember, twenty-seven years ago, when I first went to this district of Carraroe, that I met the parish priest, who is still living, the Rev. Walter Conway, who was then living in Carraroe. While I was there, he was summoned to the Island of Gorumna, near Lettermore, where there was an outbreak of typhoid fever. The Rev. Walter Conway went to a dwelling, where I waited outside for him, while he was paying his visit, for thirty-five or forty minutes. By that time he came to the door and beckoned me, and pointed to the corner of a room of the house. An old man was lying dead on a little wisp of straw on the floor, and in the nearer corner was his wife, also dead; and in another part of the house the young man of the family, the young son, lay dead. The fourth member of the family—a young 2580 girl about sixteen years of age—was in a delirious condition, and the priest, instead of administering the rites, was engaged in cutting off the girl's hair with a pair of shears that he had found in the house. It was a sight that I have never forgotten, and never can forget, but it is a sight which is not unfamiliar in that part of Connemara.
Four years ago the district was visited by several pressmen who wanted to see for themselves the state of affairs. After twenty-five years of the Congested Districts Board, which was set up to deal with the poverty and misery of Connemara, surely it is not too much to ask the Chief Secretary to see that this deplorable state of affairs will no longer be allowed to continue to exist. These miserable houses that these people are supposed to live in are of stone, built probably by themselves fifty or sixty years ago, at the time of the famine. In many cases they have no windows and no chimneys. One of the houses which the late Chief Secretary entered, and which I entered also on the same day, had no chimney to permit the smoke to escape, and there was no window. There was a man and his wife there who had lost their son a few weeks before. When those houses were built, and when I was a small boy in Connemara, the feeling of the poor tenants along the Western coast was that they believed in the divine right of landlords, land agents, bailiffs, and policemen. They believed when famine approached and drove them to America, or to the workhouse or to the grave, that Providence was responsible for all that sad condition. That was in the days before the Land League movement roused the people of Ireland to a sense of the wrongs and injustices under which they were suffering. The people in the West of Ireland to-day think differently, and know differently. They believe that they have an equal right with any other citizen in this Empire to live in comfortable, decent, habitable houses, and that they are entitled to drink wholesome water and to be able to obtain wholesome food. The Congested Districts Board is spending thousands of pounds on comparatively rich land, buying out rich landlords, while these poor, miserable people along that Western coast are neglected, forgotten, ignored. Your Local Government Board medical officer knows all about it. His inspection down there now would reveal nothing new. The late Chief Secretary knew all about it. What are we to do? 2581 I have made a final appeal to the Chief Secretary to go down there and see for himself how these poor people are situated. My hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) anticipated me because I was going to advise the right hon. Gentleman that he should go alone, and not with any of the permanent officials of Dublin Castle, because they are so accustomed to Irish misery and wretchedness that they look upon it in the sense of the words used in Scripture: "The poor we shall have always with us." They believe it is the fate of those poor Irish people, and they do not want to remove it, and they do not wish to have any trouble about it. I appeal again to the right hon. Gentleman to go down and see for himself, and if he will be good enough to let me know when he is going I shall be very glad to be present.
I am not going to follow the two hon. Members who have just spoken into the matters they have discussed. I would like to say a very few words with regard to the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), who gave to the House many facts that must have been new and surprising with regard to the history of the recruiting muddle made during the last two years by the War Office in Ireland. My hon. Friend really only touched the fringe of that question, because there is not a single hon. Member on these benches who could not bring forward case after case within his own experience to prove up to the hilt the charge which has been made to-night by my hon. Friend of the hopeless, incompetent mismanagement and muddle of the War Office in that direction. My hon. Friend gave one instance. He told us of how the request to allow the Tyneside Irish Division to go to Ireland was refused. I will also give one general instance which is, I think, even a more glaring case than that. As the House knows, we have four Provinces in Ireland. Like my hon. Friend who last spoke, I represent one of the Connaught constituencies. There are many Irish regiments in this War that have gained great renown, but I venture to say that the Connaught Rangers has held its own with the best. Will the House believe that in the whole Province of Connaught there is not one single soldier either before or since the War in training? There are many Service and Reserve battalions of the Connaught Rangers, and yet so blind and stupid has 2582 been the policy of the War Office that they have not trained a single soldier in Connaught.
What my hon. Friend (Mr. O'Connor) said is perfectly true. The War Office fell under the unfortunate influence of anti-Nationalist opinion in Ireland, opinion which always regarded loyalty as the monopoly of the Unionist in that country. "God save the King!" as my hon. Friend said, was sung for the first time after the outbreak of War at a great meeting of Irishmen in this country. It used to be regarded as a party tune in Ireland. I would like to give the House one instance to illustrate the extraordinary change which the attitude taken up by the Leader of the Irish party helped to bring about in public opinion in Ireland. The Nationalists in the city of Belfast have a football team of which they are very proud. But like so many other things in Ireland politics sometimes enter even into football. The splendid ground of the Celtic Club is divided into two sections in one of which you would find the supporters of the home club and in the other supporters of other clubs, generally Unionist in polities. After the War broke out and after the Home Rule Bill was placed on the Statute Book there was a football match at Celtic Football Ground. For the first time in the history of the club the Union Jack was flying from the masthead and the band for the first time played God Save the King. The Nationalists also for the first time on record when that tune was played took off their hats, and so indignant were the opposition crowd in the other section of the ground that as a protest against this attempt of the Nationalists to seize the cry of loyalty that they refused to take off their hats when that tune was played. I will not go further into these matters or other similar matters except to say to the Chief Secretary that if, at the outset of his career as Chief Secretary, he wishes his path to be smoothed and his task to be lightened, the very first necessity is to get rid of three figures who have had an unfortunate history in connection with recent events in Ireland.
I pass over these matters, because I have risen chiefly to make an appeal to the Home Secretary on a subject of great importance to the future improvement of Irish public opinion. My appeal is that the right hon. Gentleman should ask the Advisory Committee to have a second revision of the list of Irish prisoners at 2583 present detained at Frongoch in connection with the late rebellion. I am not going again into the circumstances of the rebellion. It has been made perfectly clear to the House that there is no party in the House of Commons that more deplored that rebellion than we did. From time to time some Members of the House who do not understand Ireland have expressed surprise at the fact that several Members on these benches have defended the rebels against certain charges. I do not think that English Members ought really to complain of that. These unhappy, misguided people, as we believe them to be, have been charged with many things which they did do, and they have no defenders in that respect, whereas the Army and the Government officials in Ireland have many powerful friends and interests to speak for them. But when these rebels are unfairly and wrongly charged, I think the House will agree that it is the duty of Members from Ireland to stand up for their own countrymen and that they would hardly be human if they did not do so.
Our case in this connection is that the handling of the rebellion and the situation that arose out of it was deplorable. Next to the executions, the worst blunder made by the Government was, in my opinion, the sending of troops into every peaceful quarter of Ireland to search houses, to make wholesale arrests, and to deport several thousand people to this country. We claim that that proceeding on the part of General Maxwell, or whoever authorised or ordered it, was unnecessary and provocative. It caused a great deal of ill-feeling, it did no good whatever, and it has had the most unhappy and unfortunate results. It is idle for the Government to suggest that there was no alternative, because, as the House is well aware by this time, over great areas of the eountry—in fact except in one or two spots outside the city of Dublin, there was no disturbance of any kind whatsoever. Take what happened in Limerick. In the city and county of Limerick large numbers of people were arrested. But there was a sensible governor, Sir Antony Weldon. He investigated the cases. He saw that there was really no necessity why hundreds of people should be deported from Limerick to England, with all the expense, irritation, and anger which that proceeding 2584 would involve, and, after investigation, all but a mere handful were released. That was a wise example, and it would have been far better if it had been followed by the military or civil authorities throughout most of the other parts of Ireland. The result of these proceedings was that over 2,000 persons were brought over to this country and held in detention here.
I thought the figure was higher. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman includes those who were sent back without inquiry by the Advisory Committee.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will bear with me before he makes that assertion definitely. Large numbers of these men, before their cases went to the Advisory Committee at all, were found to have had absolutely no connection with the rebellion. They filled up forms; those forms were sent to Dublin, and on the verification of their statements the men were at once sent back. Their cases never came before the Advisory Committee. I think the Chief Secretary will find that the total to which he refers is the total of cases that were dealt with by the Advisory Committee alone. However, that is really not important. The main fact is that many hundreds of persons were deported and detained. At this stage the Government showed the only gleam of common sense which it has had in the whole transaction. It referred the cases of these men to the Advisory Committee. It is not for me to say that no better tribunal for dealing with these special cases could have been found or devised, because I am one of those who think that it could. Anyhow, the Advisory Committee did show some sympathy and some understanding of_ the position, for, as the results of its labours, many hundreds of these people have been released. The figure was given by the Home Secretary the other day. I think it was 1,200 or 1,400.
It would be unfair not to recognise that, in my opinion at any rate, the Advisory Committee did approach its task with considerable sympathy. I would like to say in passing that the whole of us on these benches repudiate most strongly and vehemently the attack made the other night by the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. T. M. Healy) upon my hon. Friend the Member for Newry (Mr. Mooney), because we believe that it was largely his sense of fairness, his common sense and judgment, which had such a profound influence on this Committee, and that had he not consented, much against his own will, to act upon the Committee and to give it the value of his Irish experience, the figures might very well have been reversed. I would say one or two words on the subject of the Committee's work. We have had no clear or definite statement of the principles which have guided that Committee in coming to its decisions. We know they have released more men than were actually concerned in the rising of Dublin. I would just like to suggest to the Home Secretary to consult the chairman of that Committee, and its members, as to whether they could not see their way to present a Report of this section of their work to the House of Commons at a convenient date. So far there has only been one review of this list of prisoners. The task of the Committee was a very difficult and lengthy one in considering over 1,800 cases, but it resulted, as I have said, in the release of between 1,200 and 1,400 men. I would like to ask the Home Secretary what has been the result and effect of the release of these men upon the position in Ireland? I venture to say that it has enormously eased public opinion, and that it has been a wise proceeding on the part of the Advisory Committee to restore these people to their homes at the earliest possible moment.
My object, however, is to appeal for a further early revision of these lists. I believe that a very few, comparatively speaking, sittings of the Committee would suffice to deal with this question. There are only detained now between 500 and 600 men. There are two judges sitting on this Committee, one is chairman, and the other a judge specially added from Ireland. The Courts are not sitting at present, and although there are 2586 three or four Members of this House also on the Committee, I am sure they would not object to a few days from their holidays in order to deal with this problem. In the light of their previous experience, and in the light of the good results that has so far attended their work, I believe that they could greatly reduce the number of these men who are at present detained without any danger whatsoever to the Empire. My appeal is based upon the ground of justice, upon the ground of policy, and of sentiment. In his speech in the House the other day the Colonial Secretary said that sentiment was one of the most powerful factors in human affairs. It certainly is so in Ireland. We have been, as all hon. Members will be ready to acknowledge, passing through very trying times in recent months in Ireland. The War, first of all, has brought sorrow and suffering to many thousands of Irish homes. The rebellion struck a great blow at our domestic peace, and caused much suffering and unrest. On the top of that came the unfortunate failure of the Cabinet to carry out the Irish agreement. All these things, one added to another, have been a source of bitterness and disappointment to Ireland.
I say to the Chief Secretary, and I say to the Home Secretary, in all earnestness—if you cannot now send Ireland a message of the larger hope and peace, at least you might do something to prepare the way for it by sending us back over the Recess with an assurance that this question will be approached again in a sympathetic spirit.
§ Mr. DUKE
Before I approach the grave and wide-reaching questions which have been dealt with by most of the speakers in this Debate, I will for one moment refer to the matter which is brought to my notice, not for the first time, the recurrence in the Lettermore district of lamentable outbreaks of typhus. I shall not part from it until everything that is possible for the prevention of the recurrence of these outbreaks has been done. The hon. Member must accept that assurance, and must not suppose that I underrate the importance of the subject because I do not dwell upon it further. To a great extent, I suppose, the very grave matters which have been the 2587 staple topics of this Debate are accountable for my presence at this box, and for the entrusting to me of a task which my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool confessed might not be regarded in all its aspects as an enviable task. The view one takes upon that subject will depend upon two things—first, upon the spirit in which the matter is approached; and secondly, though not morally or ultimately, upon what may be the degree of success obtained. Besides these matters of extreme gravity other cognate topics have been dwelt upon. These divide themselves into two classes, the class of topics of which the hon. Member for Galway spoke—topics arising out of the repression of the rebellion—and questions of detail in regard to Irish administration day by day. I would say, in general terms, a very few words in regard to the spirit in which, so far as I am concerned, I propose to deal with these matters. The hon. Member has pressed for inquiry into the facts with regard to North King Street, Dublin. Hon. Members from Ireland know well that on a recent occasion the Prime Minister informed one of their number, who had questioned him upon the subject, that he himself had read the whole of the papers relating to that subject, and he was satisfied that further inquiry would not elicit the facts which the hon. Member for Galway desired to have elicited. I do not suggest that as necessarily the last word on the subject. It will, however, be obvious to hon. Members that with that examination, and with many of the pressing questions arising out of the present condition of Ireland, some new light upon the facts on the part of those who desire to reopen the inquiry must necessarily be a condition precedent to an inquiry of a more formal character.
I do not promise an inquiry. I know that the examination which the Prime Minister spoke of has been a searching examination, but it is impossible to say in any of these matters that inquiry is excluded whatever the circumstances may be which arise. I leave the matter in that condition. I agree with the hon. Member for Galway that it is very desirable that all myths founded upon unhappy occurrences should not be allowed to expand, but give place to facts. So far as we can know the facts we ought to face them, 2588 whether they are disagreeable for one party or another. In everything—in these unhappy events—we ought to learn the lessons with a view not only to the present government of Ireland, but to the possible future of Ireland. The hon. Member said that one of your canons must be that there is to be no discrimination between the King's subjects. The law-abiding Nationalist Irishman is to be regarded in the same light as the law-abiding Unionist Irishman. I am not quite sure that the distinction between Nationalist Irishmen and Unionist Irishmen is as much as some people think it ought to be, or as it has been in past times. During my short period of responsibility with regard to Ireland I have noticed the tendency to blur that distinction, and to look over the fence on the one side or the other, and even to make reconnaissance into what had been the enemy's country as between Nationalists and Unionists, and I confess that does not fill me with any of the apprehension which some people feel.
§ Mr. DUKE
There is, of course, a distinction, but the subject in England is, in precisely the same sense as the Irishman, the subject of the King. The six or seven centuries in which the Crown has descended in the line in which it has descended in both countries makes the same connection between the subject of the Crown in the one country and the other, and to my mind it is impossible for any servant of the State who wanted to do his duty in Ireland, either in these critical times or in any times, to discriminate in Irish affairs against Irishmen in favour of Englishmen. The principle of equality of treatment as between Irishmen and this principle, as to which I am challenged, of, at any rate, equality of treatment as between Irishmen and Englishmen in the administration of Ireland, are principles I hope hon. Members will find are recognised by me as much as by anyone. I do not want to dwell unduly upon particular incidents. If hon. Members bring to me a particular incident which I am satisfied needs to be further investigated, I am quite sure that, whatever the Prime Minister's view may have been at any previous time, he will desire, as I shall desire, that it shall be investigated, and 2589 it shall be investigated with an honest desire to arrive at the facts, not so much because anyone wants individuals punished, but because the system ought to be put right if it is wrong, and the lessons of the future which are to be learned from the errors of the past may be invaluable.
I may, perhaps, be permitted to pass from those unhappy incidents with the general observations I have made. There has not been a word in the speeches to which I have been listening since the Debate turned to questions of Ireland to which even the most sensitive mind could take exception. The speeches have been helpful speeches, and I am grateful for them. I hope they will give me some of that help which an Englishman come newly to this Office desires to have, and by the total effect of which he must be guided. But with regard to these larger questions of Ireland, it is only just four months from the greatest calamity in its modern history, the unhappy event which, when we look back upon the gleam of brightness which had come upon the scene in the hearty co-operation of the Irishmen of the Nationalist party with the citizens of the Empire in the great task in which we are engaged—when we look back upon that, it adds poignancy and sadness to the reflection that the bright expectations which many of us entertained were blasted by the events of Easter week.
§ Mr. DUKE
The man would be a mere tyro in public affairs who did not desire to find out why mischief happened and how-it could be prevented in the future. I am dealing with a state of things, and I do not think I have overstated the appalling sense of catastrophe there was to every man who loves Ireland when that event of Easter week occurred. It is a disappointment to the labours of something like a century in the successive marches of Irish statesmen on the road to constitutional reform in Ireland. Hopes had arisen which seemed possible of early fruition, and men were brought suddenly to something like despair. Hon. Members have said to me, with regard to martial law, with regard to Sir John Maxwell's position in the country, with regard to items of administration such as the Press Censorship, and with regard to deported persons who are now prisoners in 2590 this country, and they have said with regard to various items in the category of events which arise out of the recent rebellion in Ireland, "Now, what an admirable beginning you would make in your tenure of office as Chief Secretary if you were" (in the words of the hon. Member for Gal way City) "to wipe out every vestige of these wretched things." If a man could realise a wish of that kind and did not seek to realise it when it was within his power, what a fool he would be! But a man standing in the position in which I stand with regard to Ireland at this moment has to consider, not what he would like to do but what he ought to do. Let me consider for a moment what the primary duty of the Government is with regard to Ireland. I deem it to be the primary duty of the Government with regard to Ireland to secure for law-abiding citizens in Ireland a period of peace, during which they may not only deal with the difficulties upon which the hon. Member who spoke last dwelt—the difficulties which have arisen out of the events of Easter Week—but also deal with the part which devolves specially upon Irishmen now of seeing what is to be the course of Ireland in regard to the future. It cannot be done in a state of social discord and turmoil. Hon Members who have challenged me to make a quick end of these various precautions which have grown out of a state of public danger must remember the recency of the rebellion. They must realise the emotions which have been aroused, the ferment and the movement of public life which have followed, and they must also remember the natural tendency there is where there has been an unsuccessful insurrection, to attract personal sympathy, because there is sure to be a strong reversion of personal sympathy towards any man who was betrayed into participation in the rebellion, or who from political motives embarked upon it, and therefore was a participant in the responsibility for it. Hon. Members must bear that state of things in mind, and that is what I had in mind when I stated to the House this afternoon, in reply to a question, that I had not at the present time the materials upon which I could take the responsibility of saying, "Now is the period at which martial law should cease, or the day has come when Sir John Maxwell may be given leave to proceed to military duties in another sphere of operations," which I know would be far more congenial to him. I know 2591 hon. Members have not any personal ill-will against Sir John Maxwell, in spite of some things that have been said. But these matters are part of one large question, and as far as all these steps are concerned, on the day when it appears that with fairness to Ireland and with a proper security for the peace of Ireland any repressive measures can be withdrawn, it will be a very proud and glad thing on my part to be able to announce their withdrawal.
The hon. Member for North Galway (Mr. Hazleton) dealt with the case of persons under detention, and he asked that there should now be an appeal to the Advisory Committee to hold a further series of meetings to reconsider those cases. The hon. Member must bear in mind that the judges and the Members of Parliament to whom he referred have just completed that task, which was one of great magnitude, and to ask them almost upon the day upon which they have completed their task to begin it again is a course which would be unusual, and which would suggest to that Committee that there were grounds for suspicion as to the thoroughness of their inquiry. I think the Home Secretary will agree with me when I say that the occasion has not arisen when, in the view of His Majesty's Government, that course should be taken. I want to say to the hon. Member for North Galway that this question of the detained persons is not a business in regard to which there is a closed book. Here again the question is, what is the proper course to take having regard to the security of Ireland? I know from inquiries which I made within three days of becoming Chief Secretary what kind of cases there are for investigation, and no labour which is necessary, if there is ground for entering upon an inquiry, will be spared or will stand in the way of free inquiry as the occasion may require. The hon. Member for North Galway takes the view that the release of the 1,200 prisoners has had in all cases a happy effect. I wish it were so, but it is not.
§ Mr. KEATING
I should be the last person to give the right hon. Gentleman 2592 a flat contradiction, but I submit that my knowledge on this point is infinitely more accurate than his, and I say that those who have been released have produced the happiest effects.
§ Mr. DUKE
The hon. Member must not suppose that I am contradicting him upon cases within his own knowledge. I do not say that the release of these 1,200 men has been a mistake. Nothing of the kind, and I quite accept what the hon. Member says as to the great bulk of them. I believe the vast majority of the men who have been released have started life anew, and have returned to take a proper part in the life of Ireland. But that does not absolve me from responsibility upon the general question. I say there have been brought to my notice, upon unmistakeable evidence and unquestionable facts, instances in which the conduct of the interned persons who have been released has not justified the hope with which they were released. That, obviously, gives pause to a Minister who is asked to consider a proposal for the wholesale release of other persons who are still interned. I throw out this suggestion: that if the men who have been released desire that those who are detained should speedily return to ordinary civil life, their behaviour will tend very greatly to accelerate the release of those other persons. It was a bold course to release 1,200 or 1,300 of these men as to whom the military authorities had said there is danger in their being at large; but if it becomes practical to release the remainder it will be a pleasant task for me to have to discharge. In regard to interned persons, the question may arise in reference to any of them whether those who have confidence with regard to the conduct of a prisoner are ready to give reasonable security as to what their conduct shall be. There is no vindictive desire to keep these men in detention. Our object is to secure the peace and contentment of Ireland, and if the release of these men can be authorised on terms which will promote the peace of Ireland, and be consistent with security and order, their release will not be delayed.
§ Captain GWYNN
To put it frankly, would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to consider applications in cases where Members of Parliament, for instance, were prepared to write to him in respect to a certain man with a suggestion that bail should be offered?
§ Mr. DUKE
Consideration will not fail in any case if hon. Members desiring, as I know they do, to promote the peace and prosperity of Ireland, are able to help the Government to a solution of this question. It is a question which the Government desire to have solved. We cannot, however, rush headlong into a course like that which has been suggested within four months of one of the gravest events in modern times.
§ Captain GWYNN
In such a case as I have mentioned, would it facilitate matters if Members of Parliament wrote to say that bail would be forthcoming?
§ Mr. DUKE
If, with regard to any of these men, there are firm grounds for belief that, consistently with public security, they can be discharged, then their discharge will be favourably considered. I hope that I may now pass from that matter. I ought not to pass from it without a word with regard to an observation which was thrown out yesterday in respect of Sir John Maxwell. I do not think that it was seriously meant. I do not believe that the people in Ireland regard Sir John Maxwell in the odious light in which that observation would place him.
§ Mr. LUNDON
I did not get a chance of explaining my position, and I have been denied that opportunity to-night. I fully intended in the Debate to-night justifying what I said yesterday, but I have now been cut out.
§ Mr. DUKE
If the hon. Member intends to justify it, he will attempt to justify it against the sense of a great number of his own countrymen who have had practical experience of Sir John Maxwell's qualities as a man. I am not going back on these unhappy events. I am not going either to vindicate or to censure one side or the other. That is no part of my task, but it would not be right, when a great public servant, like Sir John Maxwell has been during his distinguished career, is assailed in the House with the most opprobrious epithet which could be applied to any man if the Minister of the Crown did not bear testimony to the high qualities which in a long career Sir John Maxwell has displayed.
§ Mr. DUKE
I want to say a few words as to the task of the Government at the present time in Ireland. We are in the midst of a great War, but the behaviour of 2594 representative Ireland at the critical stages of that great War has created a bond between thoughtful Englishmen and thoughtful Irishmen which it would be hard to break. For my part, I believed in 1914 that a settlement of the old causes of discord between England and Ireland was possible. In spite of the disappointments of the past two months, I believe to-day, unless this country and Ireland are to be involved together in ruin, that a settlement is inevitable. It is because that settlement is delayed and may be frustrated by the misguided act of reckless people or the evil conduct of wicked people that I regard it at the present time as the prime duty of the administration in Ireland to see, so far as Government can secure it, that there shall be that peace and order in Ireland which, at this period, is so vital to the future of the country. Hon. Members referred to the bleakness of the outlook. Well, it is bleak. There has been that unhappy change as the sequel of the rebellion and of its suppression. There has been that revulsion of feeling to which reference has been made. We are some way yet from the end of the chapter.
I want to say two or three words to Englishmen with regard to this situation. In this House there is no man who takes a sober and serious view of public affairs who does not, as a patriotic citizen, look back with admiration and gratitude to the course which was taken by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford—a course in which he was gallantly supported by those who have followed him during so many years. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) referred to it as an event which would stand out in history. He was right; but it is something more than that. It was not a mere picturesque fact. Every man who has watched Irish affairs and studied Irish history, and has known Irish-men, knows that there is a fund of generosity and of courage from which you can draw in Ireland. That generosity and courage reached a level which, as I think, will be to the eternal honour of Irishmen who have been Members in this House when the hon. and learned Member for Waterford announced at the outbreak of War, or, rather, on the eve of the War, when he reiterated at the time of rebellion, and when, in a day of disappointment which must indeed have been bitter to him, he once more reaffirmed the determination of Irishmen who love justice and 2595 liberty to stand by the men of this country in seeing this War through successfully. That is a great event. Again, I think that the speeches which have been made here to-night bear a most welcome contrast, even after all the sad events of the last few months, to Irish speeches in the past, because I remember speeches of thirty-five-years ago owing to the facilities of access which I had, and in those days we had very different and very bitter speeches. There is much hope in the tone of these speeches to-night.
There is something more. It is said that there is a block upon recruiting. There are gallant Irishmen fighting on every front where there are Britons and where the citizens of the Empire are fighting. They pour out their blood and they face every risk of this War. I do not myself believe that their countrymen intend those Irish battalions to be recruited from London and from Glasgow by Englishmen and by Scotsmen. I have to be convinced on that topic yet, and I shall not be easily convinced. There are those men, a pledge of possibilities between this country and Ireland which I say must not be frustrated. It is the business of every man who loves the Empire and who loves his own country to see that they are not frustrated. I venture to say that to Englishmen. I ask them to take account in a generous spirit of one of the noblest acts that have been done in modern times. I hope the day is not far distant when we can refer to the hon. Member as the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I hope the day is not very far distant when he may receive that title. The difficulties, of course, have been political. They have not been difficulties arising from any want of appreciation among Englishmen in this House during the great events of the past two years.
I want to say just one word, if I may be permitted to do so, to Irishmen. Some of them take up a somewhat inconsistent attitude. They say, "Here was this proposal for a settlement, the maddest proposal that ever was," and then in the next breath they say, "Here was this British Government, and here were Nationalist Members of Parliament who had not the capacity or the willingness to carry that settlement through." They cannot have it both ways. The members of the Government may be condemned for the one portion of their conduct or the other, but they cannot consistently be condemned for both. After all, for a good part of 100 2596 years since O'Connell's time, the statesmen of Ireland have upborne the standard of constitutional reform. It may have wavered, and the march of constitutional reform may have appeared to flag, but from generation to generation there has been among sober Irishmen the demand for constitutional reform. It has at length reached the less active minds of my fellow-countrymen. An unhappy event frustrated the policy of constitutional reform, when its success seemed certain. I believe it is within the capacity of Irishmen to take up this frustrated cause, and devote themselves anew with new resolution and steadfast hope to a task in which generations of Irishmen have spent their labours—and some of them have spent more than labour—to achieve success at this time—though it be a time when, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division said—the omens are dark and the prospect is bleak. With these words to my own fellow-countrymen, and to the men of Ireland, each of whom has the profoundest interest in the settlement of the old questions which are still open between our two countries, I leave these observations, and I hope for the charitable consideration of my Friends on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. J. O'CONNOR
I have only a very few general observations to contribute to this Debate, but what I have to say will, I am afraid, be tinged with that sadness to which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has referred. I speak tonight with a very profound sorrow. I am one of those who, thirty years ago or more, on the invitation of that great historic character, Mr. Gladstone, addressed themselves to the good will of the English people. I, with my colleagues on these Benches—some of whom passed away whilst they were still wandering in the desert, and others of whom went on their long journey when they were in sight of the promised land—in the course of our career in this country, we sat side by side with Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Welshmen on their platforms, and we spoke of the cause of Ireland. We did more, we went into the homes of the people of this land. We had as our ambition to reconcile if possible the two peoples. We had to rid out of the minds of our people much of the historic hatred with which they were obsessed. We had to rid the minds of the people of Great Britain of much prejudice which existed in this island. We had largely succeeded. We saw rival parties in this country and in this House 2597 vying with each other to do justice to our country. We had largely succeeded in eradicating the historic hatred out of the minds of our own people, and in convincing the intelligence of the people of this country with regard to Ireland. Now, what do I see. What do the people of Ireland see? That these hopes were—Hopes that but allure to fly,Joys that vanish while they sip,Like Dead Sea fruits that tempt the eye,But turn to ashes on the lip.The feeling of the people of Ireland at the present moment is that of exasperation and irritation with regard to this measure. Now, I am not going to say that the good will which we have created has been entirely dissipated. No; I read with great satisfaction the admission of the Earl of Selborne, in another place, when he said that Home Rule was an accomplished fact. I read the eloquent words of the Earl of Derby the other day to my hon. and learned Friend, my distinguished leader (Mr. J. Redmond), who has been referred to more than once this evening in this Debate; and I heard with great satisfaction and delight the sympathetic words of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I expected those words from him. Perhaps I, beyond many others in this House—perhaps beyond any others—have had opportunities of knowing the feeling of the right hon. and learned Gentleman towards my country. For many years I have had the privilege of his acquaintance, both in the Inns of Court and on circuit, and I know his kindly feelings towards Ireland, and I rejoice that he accepted the position which he now adorns. I told him so on the very earliest opportunity that I got, when he resumed his place on his happy recovery from his late illness. I wished him well, and I wish him well now, and I am sure that he can find no fault, as he has not found any fault, with the speeches that have been addressed to him and the advice that has been offered to him from these benches this evening. They were meant well, and they have been well and honourably received.
There are two great causes for the difficulties that he undoubtedly must have found up to the present, and that he will continue to find for some time to come. The first is not, in my humble opinion, the tone that has been made most of here this evening, that is the late rebellion. The first great cause of his difficulty is the irritation proceeding from the dis- 2598 appointment of the people at the failure to settle the Irish question when it was so near being settled. The hopes of the Irish people were raised, and the cup has been dashed from their lips. They regard the failure on the part of those concerned to come to agreement as a breach of faith on the part of the British Government. They are exasperated because they see in it one other consistent item that goes to make up the history of the English in Ireland. They see that their hopes, have been frustrated because they have been deceived. Now, an event occurred in this House a short time ago which was of the most dramatic interest. A right hon. Gentleman, a great and distinguished Irishman, an ornament to his profession as well as an ornament to this House—I allude to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson)—said that he and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford should shake hands here in this House. That, no doubt, was very dramatic. Yes, he wanted peace, as other people want peace, on the war map which they have created themselves. He would make peace, no doubt, when he had got all that he wanted! He would make peace, of course, when he had made a treaty with the Government or a member of the Government that represented the other side—make peace upon terms that were not disclosed to the other parties! The feeling in Ireland is that they have been sold. That will be the greatest difficulty with which the right hon. Gentleman will have to wrestle. He will have to do much to restore the confidence of the Irish people in the British Government again. They will not believe in these heroics at all. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University was too clever for the persons with whom he was speaking. The Irish people, I repeat, say they were sold. When they come to consider the whole question and when they come to think of England it is, "Perfide Albion" over again.
The next great difficulty that has been referred to more than once is the rebellion itself, its suppression, and especially the subsequent events. I do not dwell upon the incidents of the rebellion. What I wish to dwell upon for a few moments is what happened subsequently to the rebellion. The rebellion was suppressed. Executions took place in Dublin day after day. Had those executions been carried 2599 out on the first or the second day in the heat of the suppression, I believe the Irish people would not have felt so strongly about them. It was the continued courts-martial, the object of these trials being brought out day after day, for weeks some of them, brought out invalided in chairs, put in a chair to be shot and under these circumstances executed, which aroused the feelings of compassion in the Irish people. The inhabitants of Dublin and of other towns who greeted with welcoming cheers the arrival of the troops to suppress the rebellion afterwards became the intense haters of the military who carried out those executions. I am afraid that that feeling still exists. It was aggravated by the arrests that followed. Let me give ray own experience. I represent a county in which there was no rebellion, a county in which, except for one small corner of it, no men appeared in arms at all, yet every town and village in my Constituency was ransacked, houses were searched, people were insulted, and men were torn from their homes, thrown into prison, and brought over to this country. It exasperated those people who did not rise, and who were, for all we know, as loyal as the most loyal. Before these events happened, I could go down to that constituency and stand upon platforms side by side with high sheriffs, with landlords, with people of the class who had regarded me as their enemy for the past forty or fifty years—I could go on the platform with them and call upon the people to respond to the appeal of my hon. and learned Friend for recruits, and my appeal was never made to my Constituents in vain. In that respect I have merited the praise of journals that represent the opinions of those whom I regard as my opponents in this House. Since those events have taken place I dare not address my Constituents and ask them for a recruit for the Army. This is the state of things that has been brought about by the irritating policy of those who carry on the Government in Ireland. It is not the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary who is in power at the present moment; it is General Maxwell, it is the military. It is their methods that make it impossible for me to resume the conduct which I carried out consistently before this unhappy state of things occurred. Appeals have 2600 been made to the right hon. Gentleman this evening to alter all that if He possibly can. He is a member of the Government. The Government have every opportunity, through him, of making themselves acquainted with the state of feeling in Ireland and with the state of things that exists. Those appeals he ought to treasure and lay up, those appeals he ought to act upon, because I believe myself that if efforts are made to undo what was done unhappily after the suppression of the rebellion, there will be a response on the part of the people whom we represent. Martial law prevails in Ireland. When we speak about it either in Debate or ask a question about it at Question Time, we are told that there is no martial law for law-abiding citizens. I am sick and tired of that answer. It has been made to us scores of times when we have been striving against coercion laws in this House and in the country. We were told that there was no coercion for the loyal citizen, and that for the mauvais sujets alone were the coercion laws passed, and we are told that for those alone martial law prevails. A predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman said that the prisons only contained the dissolute ruffians and mauvais sujets of the country, whereupon another hon. Gentleman said:I have met the mauvais sujets in evening dress at banquets in Dublin and the dissolute ruffians I have travelled with all over the country. They are the gentlemen of Ireland, and they were from time to time returned as Members of Parliament for this House.There is inconsistency. I wonder it does not strike the right hon. Gentleman. It was proposed a short time ago, and strenuous efforts were made to settle this Irish question and confer upon Irish people the privilege of self-government. Yet at the same time martial law is said to be necessary for the government of the people upon whom you are going to confer the privilege of a Parliament. There is inconsistency in that. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman sees it. One of his logical mind must see it I offer these few general observations as my contribution to this discussion. I am sorry for the state of things that prevails. I have done my humble best for the past thirty years to bring about a better state of feeling between the two peoples. I am sorry that a persistent course of conduct, more like the past history of Ireland, a course of conduct that I hoped would have been abandoned long 2601 ago, has destroyed hopes that we once had of again bringing about that feeling which we all intensely desire.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
I desire to make reference to one or two topics of very peculiar interest to Ireland at present. I desire to associate myself with what my hon. and learned Friend has said in reference to the distinguished statesman who now occupies the position of Chief Secretary for Ireland. I recognise in him also an Englishman with a great heart and a great mind. I expressed this wish to him privately, I take the opportunity now of doing it publicly, that he may be the last Chief Secretary for Ireland, and if he succeeds in ending a regimé which is necessarily hateful to Ireland and which is looked upon as hopeless by the Prime Minister of this country as a means of governing Ireland, he will have made for himself a very considerable reputation as a British statesman. With all the good will of the right hon. Gentleman I feel that he is going the wrong way to bring about a settlement between Ireland and Great Britain. The main thing which we complain of just now is the existence of martial law in Ireland. The Prime Minister says when we raise this question in the House of Commons that no one is distressed by martial law. Martial law does not affect law-abiding citizens in Ireland. Is it likely that Ireland can be brought into a contented frame of mind so long as martial law continues? I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will admit, as every student of constitutional law must, that there is nothing more hateful in any civilised society than the intrusion of martial law. I want to give him a definition of martial law from a very distinguished colleague of his, with which, I think, he will agree:Martial law means no law. It means that a state of things has been brought into existence, a state of rebellion, a state of war, in which the maxim Salus populi suprema lex applies, and the executive authority for the time being believes itself to be justified in suspending the ordinary course of the tribunals of the land. They have not that power except to the extent to which the emergency lasts. They cannot confer it upon themselves by Proclamation or by any other machinery known to the law.Those are the words of the Prime Minister of England. That is what he said on 11th May in regard to Ireland, and in truth we are governed just now by martial law. If, as the Prime Minister said at Question Time to-day, martial law is not enforced to any considerable extent in Ireland, why not wipe it out altogether? Why not abolish it? Why not say, "The country is 2602 free and the citizens of Ireland enjoy the same civil liberty as the citizens of Scotland, England and Wales." Look at your consistency. Within a fortnight of making that declaration in reference to the meaning of martial law the Prime Minister says that unless the people of Ireland are given liberty to manage their own affairs in an Irish Parliament and with an Irish executive responsible to it, British statesmanship must confess itself bankrupt. It cannot be said of a country fitted to be trusted with the management of its own affairs that it must be under a system of law which the Prime Minister has confessed to be in reality no law at all. In view of what has happened in Ireland it is disgraceful that at present we should continue under martial law. The Chief Secretary, in looking to the state of Ireland, the conduct of the people of Ireland, and the necessity for any special method of dealing with the suppression of crime in Ireland will no doubt have regard to what is said by the judges of the land who have gone on circuit through the country and have held their Assizes since the outbreak: of this unfortunate rebellion. They have found Ireland peaceful. They have reported repeatedly since the outbreak of this unfortunate rebellion that there is no crime in Ireland. Can the right hon. Gentleman, or can the Prime Minister, point to anything in the existing state of things in Ireland which justifies either martial law or the continuance of Sir John Maxwell in Ireland?
I know nothing of the personal character of Sir John Maxwell, and I have never made any attack on him, but anyone who is associated with such an odious tyranny as the continuance of martial law at a time when it is confessed by the Prime Minister that the continuance of martial law is wholly unnecessary, is bound to become an odious character in the mind of the people of Ireland. If my right hon. Friend attempts to bolster up the condition of affairs under which martial law continues, or to say that he justifies it without being able to produce reasons which carry conviction to the minds of Englishmen or of Irishmen, he himself will become odious to the people of Ireland. If he, as the head of the Government of Ireland, makes himself responsible for the continuance of martial law he will become as unpopular in Ireland as Sir John Maxwell is to-day, and has been since the moment he came into the country. We are told that if we take the right view of 2603 things we are not likely to feel that there is such a thing in existence as martial law. My hon. Friend (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) drew the attention of the Government to a new Order issued to the editors of newspapers in Ireland telling them that they are not to criticise the Government. That cannot be justified by anything in the Defence of the Realm Acts, or in the Regulations made under them. It is inconsistent with the position which the Government have taken up repeatedly, and it is wholly indefensible. If any defence can be put up for it, the only defence available is that martial law is in existence in Ireland. In this House a considerable time ago, the former Home Secretary said, in reference to criticism of the Government by the Press:Nobody can or does say that this Government, in so far as the Press has been concerned, has shown undue severity. The criticism is constantly made, whether ill-founded or well-founded, that the Government might in the public interest very properly show more severity. If that criticism proceeds from people who think that newspaper criticism and even newspaper speculation should be suppressed while we are at war, I do not agree with that criticism one bit.With reference to the criticism of the Government, the same right hon. Gentleman said:I do not complain of anybody who holds a point of view opposed to the Government putting with strength, conviction and fairness what he wants to say.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
I understood that the right hon. Gentleman admitted to-day, at Question Time, that an Order had been issued to the newspaper editors in Ireland forbidding them to criticise the administration of the Government in Ireland.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
My understanding is that the Order has been issued. The Order, presumably, is in writing, and if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to disprove what I say, he can do it by communicating to the House the Order, which in fact has been issued. If the right hon. Gentleman or his military superiors in Ireland—I think that, in view of the letter of Sir John Maxwell's appointment that was communicated to the House by the Prime Minister, we must look upon Sir John 2604 Maxwell as the supporter of the right hon. Gentleman—are going to say that the Government must not be criticised, then I ask, What do you expect of newspaper editors in Ireland? Do you expect them to indulge in their leading columns in praise, in adulation of the Chief Secretary, or of Sir John Maxwell, or of the Under-Secretary, Sir Robert Chalmers? Do you want them to put up statues to them in various parts of the country? To ask the Press of Ireland to deal otherwise than in a spirit of candid criticism and adverse criticism with a Government which is responsible for the maintenance of martial law at a time when the Government confess that it is unnecessary for the purpose of maintaining order in Ireland to enforce martial law, is to expect what is impossible of the newspaper editors or of the people of Ireland. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his career to remove one crying grievance which calls for redress by abolishing martial law. If he abolishes martial law at once in Ireland he will gain the good will of the people of Ireland, and that will materially assist him in what I believe is the great object he has in view in the new position which he has taken, and that is to bring about such a state of affairs as will enable Irishmen to make their own laws in Ireland for the whole of Ireland.