§ Mr. J. REDMOND
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
I would not venture to interpose between the House and the important business before us were it not that the subject I desire to bring before the House is one which affects not only the interests of Ireland, but also—as we have high ministerial authority for the statement—the highest Imperial interests. I have not risen for the purpose of attacking anyone. I desire simply to make a dispassionate statement of the facts, and to allow those facts to speak for themselves. When, on the 25th of May last, two long months ago, the Prime Minister returned from Ireland and announced in this House that the present system of government in that country had hopelessly broken down, and that the Cabinet had unanimously requested the present Secretary for War, who was then 1428 the Minister of Munitions, to bring about, if possible, a provisional settlement of the Irish question by consent, everyone I think of all parties in this country was thrilled by the hope that in the interests not only of Ireland, but of the Empire, the Irish question might be put out of the way, at any rate until the War had concluded. The Minister of War, with characteristic energy, addressed himself immediately to this task. He put himself into communication with all sections of thought in Ireland, and finally he put before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson) and his friends on the one side, and before me and my hon. Friends on the other, a series of proposals for a temporary and provisional settlement of the Irish question as a war emergency measure to cover the period of the War.
These proposals were in no sense our proposals. After considerable negotiations and after many changes had been made, it was agreed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College on the one side, and by me upon the other, to recommend these proposals to our friends. We did not go further than that, and we could not, and we were not asked to go further than that. We were requested by the Minister of War to proceed at once to Ireland and to endeavour to obtain the consent of our supporters in that country. We were urged to use the utmost dispatch, and it was pressed upon us again and again that every day and every hour counted, and that in the highest Imperial interests it was essential, if the agreement was endorsed in Ireland that it should be put into operation immediately. That is two long months ago. Accordingly we proceeded to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University obtained the consent of his friends to these proposals, and we obtained the consent of our friends and supporters in Ulster and elsewhere. We obtained the consent of our friends with very great difficulty indeed. We never concealed from ourselves that these proposals entailed very great sacrifices on the part of our supporters. We never concealed from ourselves that these proposals were unpopular everywhere in Ireland. We felt, however, as these proposals had been put before us that it was our duty, not only to Ireland, but, as I have said, to the Empire, to obtain the assent of our supporters if that were possible. [An HON. MEMBER: "What were 1429 the proposals?"] If the hon. Gentleman will wait. The agreement was, in the words of the Prime Minister himself, for what he called a provisional settlement which would last until the War was over, or until a final and permanent settlement was arrived at within a limited period after the War. This was the chief feature of this plan, and I say that without it not one of my colleagues or myself would for a moment, have considered it, much less have submitted it to our followers. The exact words of the agreement on this point are plain and unmistakable, and were arrived at after considerable consultation and consideration. The first words proposed were:The Bill (that is, of course, the whole Bill) to remain in force during the continuance of the War and for a period of twelve months afterwards.But we were informed, or I was informed, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University took the objection that if Parliament took no action whatever during the twelve months after the War then the six Ulster counties to be excluded from the operations of the Home Rule Act of 1914 should automatically come into that Act, even though no permanent provision for the government of Ireland had been made at all, whereas it was the intention of us all that this new provisional arrangement should remain in existence until this permanent settlement of all the problems of the Irish question had been considered, and had been finally determined immediately, or as soon as possible after the end of the War. In order, therefore, to meet the objection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, the following words were added to this provision:But if Parliament has not by that time made further and permanent provision for the government of Ireland, the period for which this Bill is to remain in force is to be extended by Order in Council for such time as may be necessary to enable Parliament to make such provision.I was informed that those words had been submitted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University and had been accepted by him. They were accepted by us, and they were then incorporated in this agreement. Let me say that none of us desired, and none of us desire now, that any county in Ulster which objects to Home Rule should be coerced into accepting it. Our hope was—it was a generous hope, and I believe it had some foundation of probability behind it—that the interval would, by its experience of sane and moderate and tolerant government in the rest of Ireland, show 1430 these fellow countrymen of ours that their fears were to a large extent groundless, and that, having fought and bled side by side in this War with our countrymen of the South and West, they would be willing when the permanent settling came to be made to join in a common government of their country. But we never for one moment contemplated the idea that this great question was to be foreclosed and settled now. Another fundamental proposal in the agreement was that during this transitory period pending the permanent settlement of the government of Ireland the number of Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament was to remain as at present. This we regarded as an indispensable safeguard of the temporary character of the whole arrangement.
Having obtained the consent of our followers to this agreement, we returned to London. The very day that I arrived back in London I was faced with an entirely new proposal which had been put forward by Lord Lansdowne—a proposal, mark you, that formed no part whatever of the agreement. It had never been discussed between us and the Secretary of State for War, and, as far as I know, though of course I have no actual means of knowing, it was never discussed by him with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. This proposal was that there should be inserted in the Bill a Clause providing for the full maintenance of Imperial authority over the Army, Navy, and all matters pertaining to the Defence of the Realm. When this proposal was put before me I at once pointed out that none of us disputed the fact for a moment that this authority ought to rest in the hands of the Imperial Government, but I pointed out—and in this, from one statement made in this House by the Prime Minister, I think he entirely agreed with me—that this reservation of power was fully provided by a Section of the Home Rule Act of 1914, and that a further Clause of this character was absolutely unnecessary. But rather than break down the agreement which had been come to, I consented to a declaratory Clause of the kind desired being inserted in the Bill, and I was then informed that that concession on our part would enable Lord Lansdowne and his Friends in the Cabinet to consent to our agreement being carried out. Accordingly, immediately afterwards, the Prime Minister came down to 1431 this House and made a statement to the effect that an agreement had been arrived at, and that——These are his words:Notwithstanding the reluctance of some of his colleagues in the Cabinet they had surrendered their convictions in the matter and were willing, for the sake of high Imperial interests, to become parties to and sponsors for the new experiment, and that a Bill to carry out the agreement would be forthwith presented to Parliament on behalf of the Government as a whole.I confess after that statement I felt convinced in my own mind that the chief obstacles in the way of this temporary settlement had been removed, that the objections of Lord Lansdowne and his friends had been overcome, and that a Bill would be immediately introduced giving effect to the agreement. But like a bolt from the blue two days afterwards Lord Lansdowne made a speech in the House of Lords in which he declared that the Bill which was to be introduced would make certain structural alterations in the Acts of 1914—these are his words—Which would be permanent and enduring.I felt it my duty the very day I read those words to enter my protest, and in the statement which I published on 13th July I used the following words, which the House must forgive me for repeating:The agreement arrived at was that the Home Rule Act of 1914 was to be put into operation as soon as possible, subject to certain modifications which were to be all on the same footing. One of these modifications was that the Act should not extend to the six counties of Ulster, and there was a further modification that the number of Irish Members in this House during the transitory period was to remain as at present. And the other modifications——Then I proceeded to quote the ipsissima verba of the Clause that had been put into the agreement—were to remain in force during the continuance of the War and for a period of twelve months thereafter or for such other period to be settled by Order in Council as would enable Parliament to make further and permanent provision for the government of Ireland.I stated that a Bill to carry that agreement out must—such was my trust—and, of course, will, in all its provisions and details, be strictly temporary and provisional. Lord Lansdowne replied to that the next day, and substantially stood by his statement made in the House of Lords. I had only one recourse left open to me then, and I called for the immediate production of the Bill. At that time the Bill had been drafted. I had seen the draft, and I had reason to believe—I do not know whether I am correct or not—that the draft had been circulated to the Cabinet, and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University had also seen it.
§ Mr. J. REDMOND
Well, of course, I accept anything the right hon. Gentleman says, but I had some reason to believe when it was circulated to the Cabinet that it would be sent to him.
§ Mr. J. REDMOND
I will not enter into these points. I do not know what "subsequently" means. At any rate, the draft Bill to which I have referred was submitted to the Cabinet, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman at some stage also saw it. What I want to say is that this draft Bill on these questions of the provisional character of the measure and on the representation of Ireland was strictly in accordance with the agreement we had come to. Having seen that Bill, I continued to press all the more for its production, because its production would have set all doubts at rest, but I was told that the Bill could not be produced until it had been formally approved by the whole Cabinet. I then urged that a Cabinet should be instantly held for this purpose, but the Cabinet was postponed for a week, for what purpose I do not know. It was finally held on Wednesday, the 19th of July, and I do ask the House to mark what I am now going to say. The Cabinet meeting was held on the 19th of July, and on the 20th of July, the next day, I received a most extraordinary message from the Cabinet to the effect that the consideration of this draft Bill had been postponed, and that a number of new proposals had been brought forward. When I asked what the nature of these proposals was I was informed that the Cabinet did not desire to consult me about them at all, and that they would not communicate with me on the matter until they had again met and had agreed upon what new proposals they would approve of. That is to say, on Wednesday last the Prime Minister was asked a question in the House as to whether the draft Bill to be introduced would be submitted to the Member for Dublin University and myself before it was introduced, and in his reply he said, "Communications are still going on between the Government and these two hon. Gentlemen," and on the next day I was informed, on behalf of the Cabinet, that negotiations and communications and consultations with me had been struck off, and that I would receive no communication from the Cabinet until they had come to a decision, 1433 behind my back, upon proposals which I had never seen and which they refused to submit to me. I asked them what the nature of these new proposals was, and I was told that the Cabinet did not desire to consult me about them, and until they had come to a decision I would be told nothing. I asked, was my new proposal submitted on the question of the provisional character of the Bill? I was told it was quite impossible to answer my question. That is to say, I repeat, that communications and consultations with me and my Friends were absolutely cut off.
I am approaching the end of this somewhat sorry story. The next communication I received was on Saturday last, when the Minister for War and the Home Secretary requested me to call and see them at the War Office. They then informed me that another Cabinet Council had been held, and that it had been decided, mark you, decided, to insert in the Bill two entirely new provisions, one providing for the permanent exclusion of Ulster, of the six Ulster counties, and another cutting out of the draft Bill and out of the agreement the provision for the representation of the Irish Members in full force at Westminster during the transitory period, and I was given to understand in so many words that this decision was not put before me for the purpose of discussion or consultation, that the decision was absolute and final, and the right hon. Gentlemen described themselves to me simply as messengers, without any power or authority to discuss these questions in any way whatever with me, and they informed me that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill containing these provisions practically whether we liked it or not. I need not say that I protested on the spot against any such procedure. I said, and I repeat it here now, that the assent of my supporters in Ireland had been obtained solely on the basis of the agreement come to, and that I had publicly pledged myself, and the Members of the Government knew that, those who are interested knew, those who are interested in this matter and read the Irish papers and the English papers knew, that I had publicly pledged myself that if any attempt were made to alter the agreement in any real vital particular, I had pledged myself I would oppose the Bill. I have said that I did not intend to attack anybody, and I do not. I will not bandy words about breaches of faith or viola- 1434 tion of solemn agreement, but I want this House and I want the Government clearly to understand that they have entered upon a course which is bound to increase Irish suspicion of the good faith of British statesmen, a course which is bound to inflame feeling in Ireland, and is bound to do serious mischief to those high Imperial interests which we are told necessitated the provisional settlement of this question. Let me say, and I speak in this for all my colleagues, I stand by the agreement we came to, every word of It. If anybody repudiates that agreement it will not be my colleagues or myself, and I cannot and I will not agree to new proposals which would mean an absolute and disgraceful breach of faith on my part towards my supporters in Ireland, and I warn the Government that if they introduce a Bill on the lines communicated to me my Friends and I will oppose it at every stage. Some tragic fatality seems to dog the footsteps of this Government in all their dealings with Ireland. Every step taken by them since the Coalition was formed, and especially since the unfortunate outbreak in Dublin, has been lamentable. They have disregarded every advice we tendered to them, and now in the end, having got us to induce our people to make a tremendous sacrifice and to agree to the temporary exclusion of six Ulster counties, they throw this agreement to the winds and they have taken the surest means to accentuate every possible danger and difficulty in the Irish situation. It is not necessary for me to say that my attitude and the attitude of my Friends on the question of the War is well known. That attitude remains unaltered and unalterable, but I must beg leave to say that from this time on we will feel it our duty to exercise an independent judgment in criticising the ever-increasing vaccilation and procrastination which seem to form the entire policy of the Government not only with reference to Ireland, but with reference to the whole conduct of this War. I hope I have kept my word to attack no one. I simply desire to put the facts before the House and the country, and I let those facts speak for themselves.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The hon. and learned Gentleman has stated a very difficult case with characteristic lucidity and moderation. With one or two exceptions I 1435 would not wish to vary his statement of facts, but I shall in a few minutes point out in what respect I cannot quite accept the accuracy of his narrative. Let me, first of all, state that I entered into these negotiations with very great reluctance——
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Apart altogether from the natural reluctance to enter into any negotiations which might end in a compromise, I was engaged in a very big task—a very absorbing one—and I did not wish in the least to be taken away from it I knew there was a great battle coming on, which would tax the whole energy of any man engaged in supplying material for that battle. For days, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knows, I refused to have anything whatever to do with it, mainly because I felt that I really could not give as much time as I knew it would absorb once it began, and for a second reason which has been completely justified by the event. There is no more invidious task—I have had a good deal of experience of it—than to get two conflicting parties to agree. I have had a great deal of experience of it in labour disputes, and very often as mediator I have been the recipient of the unpleasant attentions of both parties. There is always this difficulty: No record is kept of the interviews. They are prolonged, they are varied, they are constant. There is a good deal of argument, a good deal of talk, and if you introduce shorthand writers there they never answer their purpose, and in the end there is always failure on one side or the other to agree upon everything that has been said upon one side or the other. One party attaches very great importance to one statement that is made, another party attaches very great importance to another statement, and perhaps they do not always remember everything that has been said. However, in spite of that, I say I substantially accept the accuracy of the narrative of the hon. and learned Gentleman, except in one or two particulars.
The agreement has broken down, I hope only temporarily. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I hope it will not be regarded as an offence if I say that I shall regret it deeply, not because I had anything to do with it, but because I think it would be disastrous, in the middle of a great war, that we should be diverted from giving the whole of our thoughts 1436 and energies to the prosecution of it to a matter of domestic strife, and I certainly regret it as one who has all my life fought for the principle of self-government for Ireland, that we should be driven to contemplate the Government of Ireland by other methods. It has broken down upon two points. I will deal with both. The first is the phraseology dealing with the exclusion of the six counties. I agree with the hon. and learned Member that it was contemplated that this arrangement should be a provisional one, and that at the end of the War there should be a review of the whole situation. It was suggested that the particular method by which that review should be entered upon—it was suggested in the terms of the agreement—it was contemplated that there should be a Conference representing the whole of the self-governing Colonies of the Empire to reconsider the relations of the self-governing Colonies to the Imperial Government, and that, in the course of this Conference, the whole problem of Ireland should be passed under review. Not that that Conference should decide. It is only the Imperial Parliament that can decide. If we could get the assistance of such advice, counsel, and experience as the self-governing Colonies could give us in attempting to arrive at some sort of a conclusion with regard to the permanent government of Ireland, that would meet the views of, all parties and would strengthen the British Empire in Ireland as well as elsewhere. That was the idea. Therefore, it, was contemplated that this should be a purely temporary and provisional arrangement. But with regard to the exclusion of the six counties, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in the statement which he made announcing to the House the appointment of a conciliator, or mediator, or whatever you like to call him, stated distinctly that he never contemplated the coercive application of Home Rule to any part of Ireland. It was also made perfectly clear, and the hon. and learned Gentleman accepts it, that the excluded areas should never be automatically included.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have taken the very words of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, namely, that there should be no automatic inclusion of the excluded areas at the end of the twelve months period. My right hon. Friend 1437 the Prime Minister announced that in the House. When he announced the terms he stated distinctly:They can only be included by an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will read the extract:Sir E. Carson: I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions. He talked of the arrangement as a provisional arrangement, I understand. I also understand, from what he said, that the six counties would be definitely struck out of the Act of 1914. Of course, at any time afterwards they can be included by a Bill?The Prime Minister: They could not be included without a Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 11) 16. cols. 61–62.]
§ Mr. DILLON
Was that before or after we had obtained, on the faith of the written statement, the consent of our supporters in Ireland?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think it would be a great advantage if we could discuss the matter quite dispassionately. I am just giving the announcement made by the Prime Minister without challenge.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not think that is worthy of my hon. Friend. That was on the 10th July. At any rate, it was published in every newspaper.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend allowed the hon. and learned Member for Waterford to make his statement, which I only repeat, that the six counties were not to be automatically included. That statement was made by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and I accept that.
§ Mr. REDMOND
That was not what I said. What I said was this: The intention of all of us was that the new provisional arrangement should remain in existence until this permanent settlement of all the Irish problems had been considered, on terms finally determined as soon as possible after the War.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I accept that. Ulster could only be included on two conditions, first of all, with its consent. 1438 The Prime Minister stated that. That was not part of the arrangement. It was stated in the House of Commons before I was appointed. The second thing which was made perfectly clear was that Ulster could only be included as part of a permanent settlement, which means, of course, that if it is part of a permanent settlement it must be an Act of this Parliament. There is really no difference here. If there is a difference at all, it is purely a difference in the phraseology by which you carry out an agreed purpose. The purpose was that this should be a provisional arrangement to be reviewed, first of all, at an Imperial Conference, and as the result of that conference confirmed by a measure introduced by the Government of the day and submitted to the Imperial Parliament. The second is that under no conditions did the present Government, or any member of it, ever contemplate bringing in a measure to force the six counties into a Home Rule Government for Ireland against their will. If anything was made clear those two things were made absolutely clear. It would be a great misfortune if this agreement were to fall through, not because there is any difference in substance, because I accept as absolutely accurate the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Redmond) of what happened, but purely and simply because we cannot arrive at a form of words which will enable that to be carried out.
§ Mr. REDMOND
The form of words was considered very carefully. It was drafted by a highly skilled draftsman, and it was approved by us. I understand it was approved by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson). It was put into your draft Bill, and why not stand by it?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
My hon. Friend knows that there is a great difference between drafting on a sheet or two sheets of foolscap the heads of a settlement and drafting an Act of Parliament. We were not attempting to draft an Act of Parliament. It would have been utterly impossible to put that agreement bodily in the form of an Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Is it a fact or is it not a fact that that part of the agreement was taken bodily from the agreement and incorporated by the draftsman in the Bill?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
In the preliminary draft that is so. The actual words were embodied in the preliminary draft.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
But after all, I still adhere to the statement which I made that words of that kind which are only put in three or four sentences cannot be incorporated bodily in an Act of Parliament—[HON. MEMBERS: "You did it!"]—if they leave any ambiguity at all. In the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) there was one point which was left out. The point was that if at the end of the term there had been no permanent settlement the Privy Council was to extend the time. Supposing the Privy Council did not extend the time, what would be the result? You cannot say "the Privy Council shall," for the simple reason that you cannot issue a mandatory order to the Privy Council to perform a certain act, and for that reason my right hon. Friend insisted upon a condition of the agreement that Ulster should not be automatically included.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
We listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Redmond) without interruption, and I am sure my hon. Friend will allow me to proceed. I had not even concluded my sentence. It was to be made absolutely clear on the face of the Bill that the Ulster counties should not be automatically included. That is all the Government asked for, and that is the only thing they say at present, that any form of words which will make it clear that the Ulster counties cannot be included until there is a definite decision of the Imperial Parliament shall be made clear on the face of the Bill. The second point is the alteration in the form of the agreement with regard to the number of the Irish Members. Here I say at once the heads of the settlement have been departed from. The heads of the settlement were perfectly clear. The Irish Members were to remain in undiminished numbers in this House until the permanent settlement had been carried through and embodied in an Act of Parliament. There is no ambiguity as far as that is concerned. My hon. Friend asks why 1440 have we departed from that. It is perfectly true that the suggested alteration was placed before my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Redmond) after the statement of the Prime Minister absolutely accurately. The position was this. Some of my hon. Friends, in fact, the whole of my hon. Friends who represent the Unionist party, found it quite impossible for them to support a proposal—I hope my hon. Friends will allow me to state the facts, because I have been quite candid in stating what the position was—which would maintain the Irish Members in undiminished numbers in the Imperial Parliament after a General Election and after a Home Rule Government had been set up in Ireland. They informed us that if they supported the proposal there would not be a single supporter of it in their own party, and that even those who were prepared to agree to bringing Home Rule into operation immediately would object to that particular proposal. What, therefore, was the alternative proposal? It has not been completely stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I think if the agreement is to be broken off it is very important that it should be distinctly understood what it is broken off upon.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think it is most lamentable. The proposal was this: That until a Dissolution the Irish Members should remain in the Imperial Parliament in undiminished numbers; that after the Dissolution the provisions of the Home Rule Act should come into operation, but that the Irish Members should be summoned to the Imperial Parliament in undiminished numbers whenever the Imperial Parliament came to consider the permanent settlement. [Laughter.] I am only giving the proposal, and I think it is right that the House should know it.
§ Mr. REDMOND
Can the right hon. Gentleman say why we are hearing of these exact proposals for the first time now?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I cannot accept that statement of my hon. and learned Friend. I have got my right hon. Friend (Mr. H. Samuel) here, and I am perfectly certain that that proposal was put before my hon. Friend on Saturday.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will come in a moment or two to the point why it was put on Saturday. At any rate, I think on reflection my hon. and learned Friend will agree that that proposal was put in that form to him. The proposal was—and I want it to be thoroughly understood—that until the Dissolution the Irish Members should remain here in absolutely unimpaired numbers, and that after the Dissolution the Home Rule Act should come into operation with those provisions, and that the Irish Members were to be summoned to the Imperial Parliament in unimpaired numbers whenever the permanent settlement of Ireland came to be considered.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
There is provision in the Home Rule Act, Clause 26, which enables that to be done. It was proposed to extend that provision to the consideration of the whole question, so that when the question of the inclusion or exclusion of Ulster, or any part of it, or any other proposal with regard to the Government of Ireland, financial or otherwise, came to be considered, the Irish Members were to be here in undiminished numbers. They would not be here for other purposes. That was the proposal. The objection raised by the Unionist Members to that proposal was this: They said, "Home Rule for three-fourths of Ireland will have come into operation. After the Dissolution, if the Irish Members are here in undiminished numbers, it may make the difference between, say, a Liberal and a Unionist Government.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I hope hon. Members will be patient. I am giving them a perfectly frank statement. Between one Imperial policy on the one side, and one set of ideas for the government of the Empire on another, they considered that proposal to be perfectly unfair, from the point of view of the ideas which they represented. They stated quite distinctly that it would be impossible for them—and in this respect they were absolutely unanimous—to consent to it, and, therefore, we were face to face with the fact that the agreement could not be put through without that modification. That 1442 is the position. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford said that he was not informed of that particular alteration until, I think, about a week ago. What was the reason for that? The reason was that, having proposed modifications to him after he had returned from Ireland, we felt that before we put this before him that we ought to know that that represented the whole of the demand.
§ Mr. REDMOND
That is what I was told about the first demand of Lord Lansdowne on the question of the defence of the realm, and so forth. I was clearly told that if I made that concession Lord Lansdowne and his friends would come in.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not quarrel in the least with that statement of my hon. and learned Friend. I do not mind saying that that was my impression, and that is the very reason why before either my right hon. Friend (Mr. Samuel) or myself put this proposal before my hon. and learned Friend we felt that it ought to be distinctly understood that this really represented the proposal which the Government had come to. That is the position. Let the House realise what the position is at the present moment. The Government are in a position to introduce a measure to bring the Home Rule Act into immediate operation for all the counties of Ireland except six. The powers of the Home Rule Act in respect of that part of Ireland will be absolutely unimpaired, except in one part, which has already been agreed to, and that is the appointment of the Court of Appeal. The Bill affects the whole of Ireland except the six excluded counties. With regard to Ulster, it is only proposed that it should be made clear on the face of the Bill in a way which will leave no obscurity or doubt, that the Ulster six counties cannot be brought in automatically by the mere lapse of Orders in Council, that it must be a definite part of the settlement of Ireland. With regard to the Irish Members, the proposal is that they are to remain here in undiminished numbers until the dissolution, but after the dissolution the Home Rule Act should come into operation, except in respect of a Parliament, a Session, or a Sitting which considers the settlement of Ireland, and in that respect the Irish Members would come here in unimpaired numbers. That is the proposal of the Government.
My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Redmond) says that if there is any attempt to force a Bill with these modifications upon the Irish Members they will resist it. 1443 What, I understand is this, That he will not merely resist these provisions but he will resist the whole Bill. If that is the view of Irish Members, of course it would be idle for the Government to introduce a Bill for bringing Home Rule into immediate operation under any conditions. If that is the view of hon. Members for Ireland I deeply regret it. I think it is a disaster. I wish it had been possible to bring Home Rule into operation even with these conditions. But hon. Members from Ireland know their own country, and those who believe in self-government for Ireland would be the last to challenge the right, or even the wisdom, of their decision. They know their difficulties. The difficulties of Ireland are very great. The difficulties, even if Home Rule came into operation under the most favourable conditions, are very great. For reasons over which they have no control, for reasons which they have done their very best to avert, and for reasons for which I naturally, as a man who believes in self-government, must hold the present method of government responsible, difficulties were created for them which I will not say would be insuperable, but which I can well imagine would make them shrink even from Home Rule, from undertaking the task of governing Ireland, under the most favourable conditions. But at the same time I wish that they could have seen their way. Let them believe that it would be impossible for us to attempt to bring the Home Rule Act into operation during the War except under those conditions. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did you not tell us that?"] I told my hon. Friend everything which was in my knowledge. I did not withhold from him the fact that there had been considerable opposition inside the Cabinet to bring it into operation at all. I have repeatedly told him that, and what I said was that I felt certain that we should do our best to put it through.
I certainly could not guarantee that the Cabinet would as a whole accept the proposals. I pointed out to him all the difficulties. I simply said, "I shall do my best." I consulted my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in respect of every turn and every move of the negotiations. I kept him informed every day of every interview, and everything that took place in reference to the proposals was put before him, and all that I said was that we should try to do our best to get these proposals through. I can say on my conscience that we have done our best. We 1444 have failed. I regret it in my heart. I have been for twenty-six years a Member of this House and I was elected on Home Rule. The contest was fought entirely on Home Rule in a Constituency which cared perhaps far more for Disestablishment than anything else. I have had differences of opinion with my hon. Friends from Ireland on many points, but on one point I have never had any difference—I have voted consistently for every proposal to give self-government to Ireland. I still believe at this moment that you cannot govern a high-spirited and courageous race—and not even the bitterest opponents of Home Rule will deny those qualities to the Irish people—against their will. You cannot govern them except with their consent, and I regret from the bottom of my heart that misunderstandings, failures to get consent—and, after all, we are a composite Government: there are men, who have agreed to this settlement who cordially detest the idea of self-government in the form in which it has been framed; but while I still believe that in the Bill, with these variations, there would be the beginning of self-government and liberty for Ireland, from the bottom of my heart I regret that my Friends from Ireland cannot see their way to accept it. But they know their country, they know its difficulties, they know the conditions-It is for them to decide. The Government ought not, and will not, force this proposal upon them.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I shall certainly imitate the hon. and learned Member for Waterford in one respect, and that is I shall not, I hope, in the course of the observations that I have to make say anything which could be construed in any way as an attack upon anybody. I desire to present to the House a simple narrative of the facts as I know them and a statement of my own position in relation to those facts. I think, if you are to understand the negotiations at all, that the first thing that you have to remember is that the Home Rule Act is upon the Statute Book. It was put upon the Statute Book shortly after the War began, but there was accompanying it a statement by ray right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that before it was put into operation there would be a further Bill dealing with the Ulster question, and that they never contemplated the coercion of Ulster. I think that it is very important, when I come to the negotiations and my part in them, to 1445 remember that that is the actual situation. I am bound to say that, after that statement had been made, so far as I am concerned, in the terrible operations of this gigantic War, Ireland to a very large extent, except that it was an asset to the Armies in the field, had passed out of my political consideration altogether. I thought only of the War from that day forward, because, after all, what does Home Rule or anything else matter? The War swallows up everything, and so I told those who trust me in Ulster—and many of my Ulster friends have only within the past few days made the supreme sacrifice for the Empire. I remained for a time in that state of mind. I do not think that I had been in Ulster for nearly a year and a half before the rebellion in Ireland. For my own part I resolved as regards that matter, which in other times might very easily have been made a capital matter in party politics, that I would be no party to drag it into party politics and thereby raising a party question. I did not want to play the German game, which really wants to divide us in Ireland and to distract attention from the War.
Then came the statement of the Prime Minister upon the 25th of May. I am bound to say that that statement came to me as a surprise. I am not now challenging the wisdom of it, but I did not know that they were going to make the then circumstances of Ireland a reason for holding the immediate settlement of the outstanding questions in relation to the Home Rule question. I certainly was not, nor indeed had I any right to be, consulted about it, and I knew no more about that settlement going to be made than any other Member of the House who had not been either in the Government, or prominently identified with Home Rule questions, as I have been in the past. But that statement is of vast importance in relation to this whole question. It was a statement made on the part of a unanimous Cabinet, that there ought to be, in their opinion, having regard to the exigencies of the War, a settlement of outstanding questions, with a view to the future government of Ireland. I do not for a moment suppose that any member of the Cabinet came to that conclusion lightly. I, at all events, took it to mean this, that my ex-colleagues in the Cabinet, and those who had been with me in the fight over Home Rule for so many years, though that, in the middle of the War, the exigencies of the 1446 Empire demanded that we should all make some sacrifice in trying to come to a settlement, thereby avoiding further unpleasantness in Ireland. That, at all events, was my reading of that statement. Let anybody read it as judicially as he can, and I think he can make no other meaning in it.
What more did I find in that statement? I found again in that statement the policy laid down by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the idea of coercing Ulster could not be dreamed of. How could it be done? How could any man, having the incidents of this War in mind, when the Dublins died in the ditches beside the Ulsters, and the Ulsters helped the Dublins, and each and all were for the common cause—how could anybody say that the forces of this country would ever be used, or be dreamed of being used for coercing the men and the people who had made these sacrifices? No; I think the Prime Minister was laying down there what I had always hoped and expressed in the House in the old fight, would be the better way, that we should rather try to win Ulster than to coerce her. The Prime Minister said something more. He said that if we could arrive at this settlement it would be the greatest boom to the nation and to the Empire at large. That was the unanimous view of the Cabinet. Do you think I could resist it, and that I should not enter into those negotiations? It was impossible. I would have been a faithless citizen and a faithless son of the Empire if I had done so. Therefore I entered upon those negotiations. It was not that I liked Home Rule; I see no reason whatsoever for altering the opinions I had already expressed, that a Parliament of the United Kingdom was the best—and I still believe it to be the best—form of government for the United Kingdom—for England, for Scotland, for Ireland, and for Wales. I believe this firmly, but, on the appeal made to me, I went, without any ulterior motive whatsoever, except for the sake of the War, into these negotiations. May I say, to make my position perfectly clear, that I entered into negotiations for Ulster, and not for the rest of Ireland, which was represented, and many representatives were seen, I know, by my right hon. Friend, who showed us a courtesy during the whole of these negotiations and a patience which were beyond all praise. Letters that I received from the South and West of Ireland asking that certain 1447 views should be represented were all sent by me to the right hon. Gentleman, and he at once saw anybody, I think almost anybody, who wished to see him upon the subject.
When I went into these negotiations my right hon. Friend said—this is of importance in relation to certain attacks that have been made upon me—that he never would have touched this matter were it not as a war measure; and I never would have touched the matter except as a war measure. And I told him this at the outset: that I could not negotiate with any success, with any chance of success, unless I was made an offer of what they call a "clean cut"—that is, of striking Ulster out of the Home Rule Act of 1914. I told him that, because there was no use in he and I wasting our time. I told him I could not go to Ulster without an offer of that kind—and, indeed; I was saying nothing new. I have said that, I suppose, twenty times in this House. I made it perfectly clear from the beginning that Ulster must be struck out. I put forward the claim of Ulster, but when I was told that I could not obtain the whole of Ulster and was offered six counties, I agreed to put it before my friends in Ulster. I made it clear from the very beginning, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford, that I had no power to bind the Ulster people. I have here a document, which I put in writing, that while I had no power to bind the Ulster people, still I would go to them with the offer, and that, as I think any man who professes to lead anybody ought to do, I should put my own view strongly before them as to whether they ought to accept or whether they ought not. From that time down to the very end I have never deviated for one moment from this cardinal point in the negotiations, that so far as the six counties were concerned—which was the offer made to me—they must be definitely struck out of the Home Rule Act or I would not submit it, or would not have the chance of submitting it, to the people of Ulster. I put that in the document, which it is not necessary for me to read, because I do not think there will be any controversy between the right hon. Gentleman and myself. I put into that document what I conceived were the propositions made to me. Now are we not playing somewhat with words? You talk of "permanent." Some people say, "You are asking us for the per- 1448 manent exclusion of Ulster." Mr. Speaker, nothing is permanent to this Parliament. All I could ask of permanence, all I could get, all I have ever demanded to get, was that these six counties should be struck out of the Act. If any subsequent Parliament desired to put them in, whether by the good will of Ulster or a change of policy of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, and I think of the policy of hon. Members for Ireland, if they wished to go in, while they were protesting against the policy of coercion here for three-fourths of Ireland, if they wished to go in to coerce Ulster, well, then, of course it would have been open for this Parliament to do it, and they could go forward to the electors and proclaim openly the policy "we are out to coerce Ulster and we ask you to give us authority to do so." They could do that in this country. Therefore, so far as words are concerned, "permanent," "provisional," and all these, let us look at reality, at what was asked for and what was agreed to and not trouble ourselves about those words at all. I asked to have these six counties struck out of the Home Rule Act of 1914, which would comply with what was laid down at the time the Act itself as passed by the Prime Minister, and which would come exactly within what was laid down on the 25th of May, and his suggestion that we ought to try and commence to come to a settlement where we broke off at the Buckingham Palace Conference which the King summoned. That was the position in which I stood and have stood and now stand in relation to the question of the exclusion of the six counties.
There was one thing more. I made it perfectly clear that Departments would have to be set up in Ulster for the government of Ulster under the Home Office here or some Secretary of State here, Departments in every branch of government. Not going into memorandum now, I drew attention I think to every branch of government, from the judiciary and down through to the Post Office and the various different Departments which govern Ireland, and I made it quite clear, and it is quite clear upon the face of the document which is relied upon by the hon. and learned Member, that all these separate Departments were to be set up, and that no officer or no Department which had anything to do with the new Irish Parliament was to have any jurisdiction whatsoever of an executive 1449 character or an administrative character in the six counties. Does anybody suppose that that was set out on the face of the Memorandum as a matter that was merely to continue for a few months, and that then that these six counties were automatically to come in? The thing would be ludicrous. You actually set up a whole system of new government, at enormous expense in relation to the six counties, to say that those six counties at the end of the War, or at any time automatically, were to come in. Why, I do not think you could do it. What would become of your Departments and your officers? You would have to deal with them by some Act of Parliament, and you would have to abolish the system of government which you had set up there. Therefore, to talk of this as provisional, if you mean by provisional that it was to stop, and that the six counties were automatically to go back into the rest of Ireland, seems to me, on the face of the document, to be absolutely absurd.
But I am bound to say this: When the provisions of the document were shown to me with the words that have been quoted by the hon. and learned Member, although I did not think myself that they related to the exclusion of the six counties, because there was plenty else for them to operate on—for instance, there was no election to be held in Ireland pending the settlement of the matter, and other matters of that kind—I drew the attention of my right hon. Friend to them and I said, "Let us take care there is no confusion over this." I said it must be distinctly understood that these words do not in anywise limit what I have all along demanded, namely, that the Ulster counties cannot be put back save by an Act of the Imperial Parliament, and I said I am going to Belfast, I am asked to go to Belfast, and I must make that matter perfectly plain to them. My right hon. Friend told me that I could state over there, and I did state over there, upon his authority, that those Ulster counties would not be put back, and could not be put back, under Home Rule save by an Act of this Imperial Parliament. But my right hon. Friend said something more. He said if you desire to make that matter clear, you can, when it comes up in the House of Commons, put a question to the Prime Minister; and the matter did come up in the House of Commons on the 10th of July. And I think the Prime Minister either gathered from the terms themselves or 1450 from my right hon. Friend exactly how the situation was, because, having said that the Bill was to be provisional, he went on to say this:In other words, in a sense and in a very true sense, the Bill is a provisional measure, but I see all sorts of possibilities of misapprehension in the use of the term. To relieve any possible doubt on that point let me say, speaking for those who like myself look forward to and are anxious for a United Ireland, we recognise and agree in the fullest and sincerest sense that such union can only be brought about with, and can never be brought about without, the free will and as end of the excluded area.Then to make the matter still more clear, if I could, I asked—Sir Edward Carson: I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions. He talked of the arrangement as a provisional arrangement, I understand. I also understand, from what he said, that the six counties will be definitely struck out of the Act of 1914. Of course, at any time afterwards they could be included by a Bill?The Prime Minister: They could not be included without a Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1916, cols. 61–62.]I stand to that as the agreement as announced by the Prime Minister in this House on the 10th of July. I go back on nothing, and I say that, so far as I am concerned in every respect, what has been stated to me by the Secretary of State for War all through these negotiations, namely, that I might state the position in Ulster as I have stated it, and that I might put a question to the Prime Minister in this House to make it perfectly clear, have been carried out to the very letter. I go back now for a moment to when I went to Ulster. I put the whole of these provisions before them. I am bound to say they did not like them. I am bound to say they hated the idea of any Home Rule being adopted in any part of Ireland. I am bound to say they received me as coldly as any audience has every received any man who had a proposition to put before them. But in the end, when I explained to them the exigencies of the War, and the difficulties of the Empire and the great advantage in the face of our Allies, aye, and in the face of the enemy, of showing that the rebellion in Ireland had failed, and that we were still a united people in face of the Empire, then I got from them the applause that I knew would lead to their passing of the resolution, and they passed the resolution, and upon the face of it they stated that they understood that the six counties were to be definitely struck out of the Act of 1914, and those resolutions were published on the 13th of June in every paper. I came back to London and I saw the right hon. Gentleman from time to time, but I never heard one demur or one idea that I had gone one iota beyond what 1451 I ought to have gone in the negotiations in getting the resolutions passed in the form in which they were passed. That is the way the matter stands as regards this question. I go back on nothing. I can assure you I have not had altogether a pleasant time. But I know perfectly well what I was doing when I went over to Belfast. I know perfectly well that some have been trying to undermine what has been done there. They have not succeeded. I adhere to what we did there, and the people there adhere to it.
Let me say this to my opponents from Ireland, some of whom have had a very anxious and difficult time in relation to this matter, more especially and above all one whom I do not know and to whom I have never spoken—the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin). I know well what he has had to do there to get his part of this matter through. Yes, Sir, he played a whole man's part in the matter, and I gladly recognise it. Let us not lose it all now. I have fought this battle for a very long time—practically the whole of my political life. What I have promised to do I am prepared at all hazards certainly to myself see through. Do not think lightly of these mattters in relation to Ireland. Now that the policy has been unanimously declared by the Cabinet and the thing must be settled, it would not be a bad day for this country or for Ireland—nor a bad day's work in the War—if the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and myself were to shake hands on the floor of this House. Yes, Sir; but if that is to be done, and if anything is to come of it, let there be no idea of the coercion of Ulster. Let it be completely struck out of the Bill, and then go on to win her if you can. I will tell you how she can be won. She can be won when good government is shown and administered in the rest of Ireland, and when the people in the rest of Ireland find—as they soon will—that it is their interest, one and all of them, to be loyal as the rest of the Empire, and to put aside from them for ever any idea that separation from this country is either a possibility or a benefit to any one of them. When they are loyal—and many of them are; most of them are—then there will be no difficulty. Meanwhile, you would have in Ireland, in the six counties—not such a bad thing, after all, for even those Nationalists who are left there—the protection of this Imperial Parliament. You 1452 would have running side by side the British Government and the new Irish Government—may I say, I hope running in good fellowship one with the other in the attempt each to emulate the other in the interests of Ireland, in the interests of the United Kingdom, and in the interests of the Empire.
I do not deal with the other objection made by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford with regard to the continuance here of the Irish Members. I am bound to say that my mind was not very much directed to that question when the negotiations were going on. I only say that, with all my long life against Home Rule, with all the strong views that I hold against Home Rule, having regard to the declarations made upon the 25th May, to the negotiations which have proceeded so far, and to the hopes raised both in Ulster and in the rest of Ireland of a settlement of the question, I cannot but think it will be a calamity if we break up the settlement at the present moment. And if we do, what are we to look forward to? What have I to look forward to? What have other Unionists to look forward to? I know they hate this Bill just as much as I do. But what have you to look forward to when the War is over? The Act will be the Act there upon the Statute Book, and we will resume our old quarrels over how Ulster is to be excluded when we have just come to terms as to how she should be dealt with. I look forward to it with horror. Perhaps I shall not be here even to see it. It may be that others will have to take the matter up who will not know the history of the difficulties in the same way as we do. There is one thing: At the end of the War we will have had enough of fighting. We will have other great questions—reconstruction for the whole Empire, the reconstruction of the whole basis of society, financial difficulties so great that one does not like to ponder upon them, questions of trade so far reaching that one can hardly contemplate them. In the middle of all that we are to resume, forsooth, our old quarrels. I know that many things I say do not please some of my own party, but I would rather say them, because I know they are true.
§ Mr. W. O'BRIEN
I have no desire to refer at any length—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] I have no doubt that the Minister for War has had in this matter somewhat the same experience as he has had in the rest of his unhappy relations of 1453 the last six years. I have, however, a shrewd suspicion that if the Minister for War has, to some extent, run away from the verbiage of his Memorandum that the hon. and learned Gentleman behind me and his friends have, under pressure in Ireland, run away from the substance. The performance is painfully reminiscent of the historic change of front on a former occasion. There is the same readiness to adopt one set of views, or the contrary, at twenty-four hours' notice. I do not altogether blame the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. I make every allowance for him, but it has, I might say, taken a second rising in Ireland to convince him how dangerously the tide of opinion and indignation in Ireland is running against this proposal. He has apparently found no resource except to pick a quarrel, upon any pretext, in order to extricate himself and his friends from their mess by a pitiful hairsplitting about the mere verbiage of this Memorandum and the original draft. It is, in my humble judgment, too late for the hon. and learned Gentleman either to recede or to advance. One fact connected with this Memorandum, to which the Irish people attach the smallest importance, is that a majority of their representatives agreed to a separation from Ireland of six of her richest and most historical counties and of one-third of the whole population of Ireland under conditions which nobody except a quibbler or a fool could represent as really temporary or provisional.
That is one point about this whole Debate to-night to which the Irish people will attach the smallest importance. I really thought we had heard the last of this miserable plea that the amputation of Ulster from the body of Ireland was to be a mere temporary or provisional operation. No man in all Ireland will be gulled by a statement of that kind. The whole question is this: that the Irish people have been asked to agree to split our ancient nation into two antagonistic States which were specially delimited with the view to amassing or collecting under each of them the maximum of old religious and racial instincts. That is to say, the Irish people have been asked—and this is what the great majority of the representatives of Ireland have bound themselves to do—to agree to the terms of the original Memorandum. The Minister for War to-night has repeated the history of what happened in reference to 1454 the partition of Ireland. Lord Lansdowne has only brought to a head, to a test, a system of deceit that has been going on in Ireland for the past two years. The Irish people have been shamelessly assured that the moment the War was over the Home Rule Act would come into operation automatically for all Ireland. That assurance was given by gentlemen who heard the Prime Minister solemnly pedge himself that it could never be brought into operation without an amending Bill, and that the notion that Ulster could ever be brought into obedience to it by coercion was absolutely unthinkable. As the Minister for War has recalled to-night before Lord Lansdowne's speech at all we had the Prime Minister in this House announcing that six counties, with three Irish boroughs, would be definitely struck out of the Home Rule Act, and that they could never be replaced except by a new Act of this Parliament. What does that mean? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, whose eloquent speech is still ringing in our ears, is a winner, and can afford to be in good humour. He made an offer which I am sure is a very genuine one. The right hon. and learned Gentleman can afford to be in good humour because he is not-depending upon what have been called scraps of paper for his guarantees. We are told the original Memorandum did not guarantee Ulster permanent exclusion. No, Sir, but did it guarantee the contrary to Ireland? That is the whole marrow of the question, because that agreement would have left Ulster absolute mistress of her own future. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College has a far more solid guarantee than that of both parties in this House. Perhaps the most solid guarantee of all. He has the guarantee that the representatives of Ireland, who are prepared, temporarily and provisionally, of course, to exclude Ulster as a separate State, with separate rights and interests and a separate history, would never join in coercing Ulster to give up that privileged position. He has the guarantee, practically speaking, of this whole House that nothing of the kind—the coercion of Ulster—can ever be attempted without a new Act of this House. Need I say to any man in this House that such an Act is about as likely as that this Parliament should pass an Act for the people of London to annex themselves to Germany? I noticed that the hon. Member 1455 for Waterford to-night made no reference to the unspecified miracle, of which we have heard a great deal in Ireland, that is to be performed in some shadowy future by the Imperial Conference, but I noticed also that the War Minister took very good care to refer to it. I believe I was one of the first to suggest the Overseas. Ministers as mediators, but how can they be mediators if, before they meet at all, you decide beforehand the question which is the main kernel of the whole dispute? Do you really suppose that an Imperial Conference, when they are confronted with the fact, as they would have been if this Bill had passed, that by an enactment of this Parliament, with the assent of five-sixths of the representatives of Ireland, that Ireland had been split into two different States of different racial origin and creed—do you really want us to believe that those gentlemen from the Overseas, knowing that that Act had been passed on the express ground of a divorce between those two States in Ireland as the only condition of avoiding civil war, would immediately proceed to order this Parliament to pass an Act to annul that divorce and order out an army to reconquer Ulster? The thing is farcical. This whole talk about provisional or temporary is the most abominable part of the whole deceit that is going on.
It is our belief—and it is my answer to the right hon. Member for Trinity College—that if once Ireland were, by the votes of its own representatives, to accept dismemberment, that Act could never be undone except by a bloody revolution. I will not make any attack upon the conduct of the Irish Members in this House. It is not the proper venue. The proper and the constitutional way would have been to send them back to their constituents. They have already exceeded by more than twelve months their mandate. Send them back to their constituents, and give the Irish people at least some voice in the most tremendous change that was ever proposed in our behalf on an issue which is practically whether the Irish nation is to take her life with her own hands. On the contrary, in the original proposal you sought to relieve those Gentlemen for years from any responsibility to their constituents, and I have a very strong belief indeed that the overwhelming reason for the breakdown of this arrangement is that the Government have dropped that plan. You proposed, instead of the democratic and 1456 constitutional way of taking the opinion of the country—you may be ashamed of it now—what really would have staggered Pitt or Castlereagh. They only transferred men from one part of the country to another, while you propose to give the same Gentleman a Parliament in Ireland and at the same time to leave them masters in this House. Was there ever such a proposal? Your simple method of constituting an Irish Parliament, you democratic and Radical Gentlemen, was to transfer sixty Members of the party who sit behind me from their party room upstairs to some unburnt building in Dublin. Instead of taking the constitutional opinion of the country, you proposed to set those Gentlemen up as a sovereign oligarchy over Ireland with a reign of at least two and a half years—men elected by nobody, and to the indignity and the abhorrence of their fellow countrymen. And this caricature of a Parliament nominated by this House, paid £400 a year apiece by the British Treasury—even if they are self-denying enough to refuse this additional remuneration for themselves in Dublin—this is the beautiful constitutional experiment begotten of martial law, and which would have to be supported by martial law! This is what you call making Ireland a nation once again! This is what you call fighting the battle of the small nationalities, by making Ireland a nationality, small enough already, smaller still. This plot has broken down, I am glad to say, but it will never be forgiven nor forgotten.
Propositions have been made which would have appealed to the imagination of Ireland and the United States. Those proposals, I believe, would have gone nearer to the heart of the right hon. Member for Trinity College and they would have left Ireland an indestructible entity in a federal arrangement. It is too late to go back upon that. The work, I am afraid, will have to be left to other men and other times. The real cause of the recent rebellion in Ireland was not pro-Germanism or German gold. The real cause was that you have driven all that is best and most unselffish among the young men of Ireland to despair of the constitutional movement by all your own bungling, your ignorance, your double-dealing in reference to Home Rule in this House, but, above all, by the methods by which you have governed Ireland during the last six months. You have thereby filled the hearts of multitudes of the best men of our race with loathing of Parliamentaryism, 1457 British or Irish, and by an inevitable reaction you have raised up another more formidable secret society whose ideals are, at all events, pure, and who have proved their courage to fight and die like men for those ideals. If this Parliament could have succeeded in anything it could only have succeeded in re-establishing the evil power of that secret organisation which has been your undoing as well as ours. You could never have succeeded. The thing is too monstrous. You would have against you all those in Ireland who are teaching the young generation, and all those who are ready for any sacrifice of liberty or life for the old ideas of Irish nationality. Luckily, however, yourselves you have broken down this plot for partition. If you could have succeeded with it you could not have saved a war there, but you would have lost perhaps for ever the key to the heart of national Ireland. You would have handed over the future politics of Ireland to the Irish republicans, and you would have once more made the quarrel between Ireland and England incurable and everlasting. Happily, and fortunately for England and Ireland, this particlar partition plot at all events is dead and damned to-night, and millions of the Irish race will rejoice with all their hearts to-morrow at its failure.
§ Mr. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, in a speech of extraordinary eloquence, moved me and many of my colleagues by the spirit displayed in it, and the hopes of a better future for Ireland. He said in the course of that speech that he was appealed to by the Minister for War, acting on behalf of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister, to go into these negotiations, not only for the peace of Ireland, which after all is a very considerable matter, but for the sake of the War and the interests of this Empire. Those considerations were pressed upon us with equal force. We did not originate those negotiations. We did not come to the Government asking for this settlement. We were content to have it distinctly understood, in face of some of the statements of the Prime Minister, to allow this settlement to come after the War, and be amicably arranged. It was the Government who appealed to us in the interest of the Empire, as well as in the interests of the future government and the peace of Ireland, to go into these negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman 1458 the Member for Trinity College stated, I have no doubt with absolute truth, that he went into these negotiations unwillingly. The Minister for War knows that I was dragged into them very unwillingly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College said he had a very unpleasant time in Ireland, and I have no doubt of it. We had a very unpleasant time in Ireland, an extremely unpleasant time, and I told the Minister for War before I went across to Ireland to put these terms before our people and to recommend them—and he will remembr our last interview—I said I thought we would be defeated in Ireland after we had used our utmost exertions to get our people to accept them. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), in a great burst of eloquence, spoke of the unpopularity of these terms in Ireland. Of course they were unpopular. Nobody liked them; nobody pretended to like them, but we were asked by the Government to accept them in the interests of the peace of our people and to save them from the system of government which they may now fall back upon, and in the interests of this Empire. The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his powerful speech, said, "I asked my people to think of the War and not to look at this solely from the point of view of Ireland." So did we. I have looked at this War from the beginning not solely from the point of view of England and her interests. I say frankly, that if it were solely a question of the interests of England I would not have fought so hard as I have done both in regard to America and my own people at home to interest them in this War. I regard this War as a great struggle for liberty throughout the world, and it is for that reason I have always been so heartily with you. We tried honestly, whatever some Members may think, to ask our people to look at this question not only from the point of view of the peace of Ireland as one means, the only means that was offered to our hands, of bringing peace to our people and rescuing them from the horrid system which now prevails of military dictatorship and government as was demonstrated by Lord Lansdowne in his speech the other day, but also because we desired to continue as honestly as we could to work with, to support, and to strengthen this country in this just War in which she is engaged.
§ Mr. DILLON
I do not believe that it is at the expense of Ireland. We have always endeavoured to be on the side of justice. Sometimes we have been against this country when we believed that, she was engaged in an unjust war, but we believe this to be a just War, and therefore we are heartily with Great Britain. There has been a good deal of argument about details to which I must, as briefly as possible, refer, but to my mind this is a question of public faith. We knew, and we told the Ministers honestly and straightly, that we were going on a very hard and serious task, and we asked them, "Is this the last word?" It is no use the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University talking about understandings. I listened to his speech very carefully, and it seems to me that there must have been some understandings behind our back. 'That is not the way——
§ Mr. DILLON
Then assurances were given behind our backs, which were never given to us. I rest on the written document, and I say that before we went to Ireland, knowing we were undertaking a thoroughly unpopular task, and that we should be attacked by the hon. Member for Cork and a dozen other bodies in Ireland, and that we should find a great deal of discontent among our own loyal supporters, we asked "Is this the last word?" If we succeed in obtaining by our influence the consent of our people to this sacrifice—because, what ever you may say, it is from their point of view a great sacrifice—shall we be in a position to say that we shall deliver the goods? This is a great question of good faith. How c an negotiations of this kind be carried on with British Ministers if men are to be treated as we have been treated? It is no use for the War Minister—and I want to imitate closely the example of my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond), I do not want to attack the Minister for War—he is an old colleague and comrade of mine, and has fought with me in many hard struggles, and I recognise that he has been a faithful friend of Home Rule all the years he has been in Parliament—it is no use for him to give his views of the modifications that have been made in this scheme. It is not for him to judge. We are to judge. We have the written document and the pledge 1460 of Ministers. We stand by that pledge. We hold it in our hand, and we hold them to our meaning, on which we obtained the consent of our people in Ireland. We obtained that consent by straining our influence to the very uttermost. We were very near being defeated. I am not ashamed to admit that. I see no reason to be ashamed. Our people were against us. We went to our own supporters, and only by straining our political influence to the breaking-point did we succeed in getting these terms accepted, and then we came back to London and we were told that Ministers were prepared to break their word—that, forsooth, the Marquess of Lansdowne will leave the Cabinet if they adhere to their pledge. I had hoped that the words of British Ministers were more valuable than the retention of the Marquess of Lansdowne, and after all what is the history of the Marquess of Lansdowne in this transaction? I will tell it, and I challenge Ministers to deny it. The Marquess of Lansdowne was one of the men—it is quite true the terms were not submitted to the Cabinet before we went to Ireland, but that was not our business. The Prime Minister had seen them and that had to be authority enough for us; he knew all the terms and pledged himself to them. But the Marquess of Lansdowne also saw them, and he took no exception to them publicly.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Bonar Law)
That is not so.
§ Mr. DILLON
He did not take public exception to them because he believed, as I think, that the Belfast Conference would repudiate us if he did not. He was told by our enemies in Ireland to remain silent, not to trouble about it; the Ulster Nationalists would turn round upon Redmond, Dillon, and Co. and then he would be all right. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not true."] Why did the Marquess of Lansdowne wait until the Belfast Conference had endorsed the terms before he said one public word against these terms and then he comes forward and makes a speech in which every circumstance of insult is held out to the Irish people? [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Yes; and he raised such a storm against us in Ireland by that speech that he made it almost impossible to go on with these negotiations. That is the history of these terms, and I say you should look at this from a broad point of view. We are the judges of the relative 1461 importance of the different conditions on this Paper, and from Ministers who sent us to Ireland on the faith of that Paper we are entitled to demand that they will stand by their pledge to us. I am bound to say that the consequences of this breach of faith with us puts an end to all prospect of a settlement on those lines during the War. This thing cannot be attempted again. The only chance it had was as a matter of war urgency and to put it through hot foot after the Irish party had other parties in Ireland had accepted it. You have struck a deadly blow at the whole future government of Ireland. How will you ever get the Irish people to have confidence in the terms and the words of British Ministers? Let me turn for one moment to one or two points in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). I am bound to reply to some of them and explain them. If I do so, I do not intend to depart from the tone, the friendly tone—if he will allow me to call it so—which he manifested throughout his speech. He said that when he commenced these negotiations he demanded, first of all, a clean cut of all Ulster, and that when he found it was impossible to get that, he said he must have the six counties. Then he talked of the unthinkable proposition that any Government in the future, after all that has occurred, would coerce Ulster. He knew perfectly well, for he v as at the Buckingham Palace Conference, the controversy that settled round that very proposition. What is Ulster? He has abandoned three counties of Ulster. What right has he to call the six counties Ulster? We did not wish to coerce and we do not desire to coerce Ulster. I do Dot think myself it will ever come to a question of coercing Antrim or Down. What right has he to coerce Tyrone and Fermanagh, where we have a majority and which are Nationalist counties of Ireland? That is the old controversy which at the King's Palace, under the presidency of Mr. Speaker, was debated for two Hays and upon which we could not agree. What we said when this proposition was brought before us was: "We cannot be expected to solve that during the War, but what we are willing to do, and it is a great sacrifice which we shall find it very hard to get our people to accept, is that we are willing provisionally to let you have the six counties excluded, always provided that at the end of the War both parties revert to the status quo ante, and that neither party is 1462 damaged in its position. Was not that reasonable and fair? Do you not see now what has happened? You have lost your settlement. Observe what has happened, in the words of the leader of the Ulster party. The settlement is dead, and after the War you will not have the status quo ante, because you have the Home Rule Act on the Statute Book. You cannot take it off. You are not going to repeal it during the War; therefore you are face to face with the whole Ulster problem after the War, with the Home Rule Act the law of the land. You cannot get away from that. It is no use denying it. Therefore all we asked was that this great question should not be prejudged and that we should leave it in that way for the period of the War. Whatever may be the secret assurances given behind our backs to the right hon. and learned Member for Trinity College, the words of the document remain, and in all its provisions this proposal was to be, according to the undertaking of the Minister, on the faith of which we went to Ireland, a strictly provisional war emergency measure in all its details.
§ Mr. DILLON
How, then, can anybody say that part of the measure was to be a Clause for which the right hon. and learned Member for Trinity College says he got an assurance cutting definitely and permanently out of the Act of 1914 the six counties in Ulster? Let me carry this point a bit further. If that was part of the assurance given by the Secretary of State for War to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College before he went to Belfast, how did it come about that when the Cabinet drafted the Bill last week there was no reference to that proposal at all and the Bill in all its Clauses and details was strictly temporary and provisional and quite acceptable to us? That, in my opinion, disposes absolutely of that statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not challenge the accuracy of his statement, unless it be true, which I shrink from believing, that the Minister for War was telling the right hon. Gentleman one story behind our backs and quite a different story to us. I therefore say that there never was presented to us in any part of these negotiations, and there is not contained in the written document on the faith of which we 1463 went to Ireland, any proposal to strike the six counties out of the Act of 1914 or any proposal permanently to exclude them from Ireland. The proposal is exactly that which has been stated by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Redmond), and was a strictly war emergency, temporary arrangement which, when it terminated, would leave the whole question in the status quo—in the same position in which it will now be left when the whole of this arrangement is dead—and the whole question will remain to be settled after the War is over. Then, said the right hon. Gentleman, the resolution of the Belfast Convention, in which he spoke not of permanent exclusion, but of what I think he called definite exclusion—whatever that means—was published in all the newspapers for six weeks and was not challenged. But he forgot to mention that the resolution of the Nationalist Convention of Belfast, which took place a week after the Convention, and which based its consent on the provisional and temporary character of this exclusion, was published equally in all the newspapers and was never challenged by Ministers or anyone else; and my hon. and learned Friend announced publicly in Ireland that these were the terms which had been offered to him by Ministers, and this statement was never challenged.
There is one other detail I must deal with. I suppose the Government will now publish the original document. The right hon. Gentleman said they also claimed that there should be set up for the six counties a regular system of government. Of course, in a sense that is absolutely true. I remember the Clause of the document perfectly well. It was to be a government entirely under the control of an English Secretary of State sitting in this House—that is to say, the six Ulster counties were to be governed from this House by an English Secretary of State—and furthermore the document provided that the Order in Council setting up any Department—of course there had to be a Department and a Secretary of State—someone to carry on the work in Ulster—should be drafted by a committee composed of Nationalists and Ulster men, a joint committee, so that they could agree on that part of the agreement. Therefore it was an arrangement which would put the government of the six counties under the control of this 1464 Parliament, under a machinery agreed to by the Nationalists and the Ulstermen of that district.
It must not be said—it cannot be truthfully said—that we have killed this agreement. We stand by our agreement. We are willing now, as we have been willing for the last four weeks, to settle on the terms which the Minister asked us to settle upon. We have gone back on nothing, but we are not going to consent to a breach of faith, and we are not going to attempt to do what we could not do even if we were willing, and we are not willing, to attempt to force upon our people new conditions after we had given them solemn pledges that we would do nothing of the kind. We revert to the old state of affairs. Responsibility for the government of Ireland is cast upon this Coalition Ministry. They will find it a very difficult task. I think they will live to regret the day when they were too cowardly or too divided to face a great problem which, although it may appear small in the debates on this terrific World-War, is really far greater than hon. Members realise. Its consequences are very far-reaching. If you destroy the faith of Ireland once more in the reliability of the pledges of British Ministers, and in the justice of this House, you are doing one of the greatest injuries; to this Empire that human imagination can conceive. I believe during the past year, in spite of repeated warnings from those of us who really knew what we were speaking about, you have created this rebellion in Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I speak of what I really understand. When the rebellion was over, Lord Midleton himself declared that nine out of ten of the population of Ireland were absolutely opposed to the rebellion and the Sinn Fein movement. He was absolutely correct; indeed, I think he understated the case. I think the proportion was greater. Now you have a much worse state of things to face than before the rebellion. Make no mistake about that. That is the problem that is before you.
§ Mr. DILLON
I think that is a very unfair and untruthful statement. I do not want to have any temper now. I say that the responsibility that you have undertaken is a terrible responsibility. That responsibility cannot be shifted from the shoulders of the Government. Our attitude on the War will remain unchanged, but we can 1465 no longer place upon ourselves the self-restraint that we have exercised during the past two years. I unhesitatingly ask even those who are most hostile to the Nationalist party to compare our record in this War with the record of any other party in this House. Have we ever uttered a word, or have we ever done anything to embarrass the Government, even when we thoroughly disapproved of the Coalition? We have exercised more restraint than any other section of this House, and have more consistently and persistently abstained from criticism and embarrassment of the Government. We have done that because we did not want to hamper them in the conduct of the War, but after what has happened we cannot continue to maintain exactly that attitude.
I would say to the right hon. Member (Sir E. Carson) when he spoke of the coercion of Ulster, that I have long made up my mind that the way to get Ulster in is not to coerce her. I have been led to that belief largely by speeches of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) because, although we differ very bitterly and have pitched into each other very strongly from time to time, there is a change in the tone of his speeches, and I recognise that he has enormous influence in Ulster. We do not want to coerce Ulster, we do not want to coerce those counties of Ulster which are more Unionist than Nationalist; but when the final settlement comes I do say to the right hon. Gentleman that he ought to exercise the same qualities which he desires others to exercise to him, and if we agree to wait for a considerable time in the hope that the Unionist counties of Ulster will of their own free will—and I hope and believe they will—come into a united Ireland, he ought to abandon the idea of coercing the Nationalist counties of Ulster to remain out. Be that as it may, I shared the hope, and I share it still, that after this War we will lay aside all idea of civil war in Ireland, and that we may be able to arrive at some understanding. I am sorry that this arrangement has broken down. Make no mistake about it, it has broken down, finally and for ever, and we must make up our minds to face the problem of governing Ireland during the War by some other means—a very, very difficult problem. After the War, Home Rule will be the law for all Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Yes. It is the law to-day for all Ireland. That is what the right 1466 hon. and learned Member for Trinity College said. That is the argument which he used——
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There are some things in the speech of my hon. Friend to which I have just listened which I regret, but I am sure that the whole House will agree with me in acknowledging the fairness and the justice of the criticism which he made that the Nationalist party, of which he has long been one of the most distinguished leaders, has responded loyally and patriotically to every demand made by the War, and in this House in its criticism of affairs has shown forbearance, moderation, and even consideration for the Government of the day. It is to me, or it would be if I thought it necessary, a most unwelcome thing to come into any kind of collision with my old Home Rule friends; like my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd George) who sits beside me, though for a rather longer term of years—I have now been thirty years in this House—I was elected as a Home Ruler. I have supported Home Rule consistently from that day to this, and I may fairly claim, I think, without undue complacency, that I have done as much as any man to translate Home Rule from a formula and a phrase into a statutory reality. The Home Rule Act would not be upon the Statute Book now if it were not for the steps which we took, in which we were assisted by the hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway. Sir, you have an opportunity now, let me remind my hon. Friend, with the consent of all the members of a Coalition Government, some of them lifelong opponents of Home Rule, as others have been lifelong supporters, you have an opportunity now of bringing Home Rule into immediate operation. Are you going to throw away that opportunity? That is the question. Those who are still strong supporters of Home Rule, as I am, have got to consider to-night are you going to take that step?
How has the present situation arisen, with the possibility of bringing Home Rule into operation for the first time in history? It has arisen, as my right hon. and learned Friend has said in his speech, out of two facts. In the first place, there is the War, which has united all of us, Englishmen, Scotsmen, Welshmen, and 1467 Irishmen, in one common desire to concentrate our energies on the success of our arms in what they believe to be a righteous cause, and which has made Irishmen of every shade and. complexion of opinion look forward, not only with repugnance and distaste, but with nausea and disgust, to the possibility, when the War is over, of a recurrence in their own country of internecine domestic struggle. And next we have this unhappy rising in Ireland, which has made the immediate problem of Irish government—from which we would gladly have diverted our attention, so that we might have concentrated our attention upon the War—a problem that we cannot ignore and cannot put aside. Those are the two items which have transformed the situation and which enabled me, on my return from Ireland, having seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, and reported to my colleagues, to say here, on the 25th of May, in the name of a united Cabinet, that I believed that an opportunity had come which might never recur, and of which it would be not only foolish but criminal not to take advantage, to bring about the foundations of a settlement of this long-standing controversy.
All my colleagues agreed; the House agreed. There was not a dissentient voice in any quarter of the House when I announced that my right hon. Friend, who sits beside me, of whom some hard things have been said, some very unjust things by the hon. Member who has just sat down—that my right hon. Friend in a spirit of unselfish patriotism, absorbed as he was in other duties, had taken upon himself the most anxious task that any man could have undertaken, and to devote to that task assiduity, tact, yes, and a straightforwardness and sincerity which I hoped, and still hope, will yield abundant fruit. My right hon. Friend intimated most plainly that any agreement come to between the parties as the result of his mediation must be subject to ratification by the Cabinet and by the House of Commons. That my right hon. Friend intimated most plainly, and I am perfectly certain there is nothing that he said to my right hon. Friend that he did not say to the representatives of the Nationalist party. He intimated most plainly that any agreement that was come to between the 1468 parties as the result of his intervention must, as was obvious, be subject to ratification by the Cabinet and the House of Commons. My right hon. Friend intimated equally plainly, I believe at a very early stage, that there were points, serious points, upon which Members of the Cabinet differed. Therefore any agreement come to must be an agreement, necessarily ad referendum, in regard to which the Cabinet must be consulted before it was submitted to the House. There can be no shadow of doubt about that at every stage of the transaction. I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend who has just sat down say something about Lord Lansdowne Lord Lansdowne has never concealed his opinion. It was known to all his colleagues and to my right hon. Friend that a settlement on these lines was, to say the least, problematical, and probably might be found to be more injurious than beneficial. That view was conveyed by my right hon. Friend to those who were interested in the negotiations. There was on his part no concealment of any sort or kind, and no partiality shown to either one party to the negotiations or the other. What happened? This agreement was come to subject to these conditions and with that knowledge. What were its fundamental parts? They are two! On the one handmdash; contrary to the wishes and to all the prepossessions of my Unionist colleagues—that the Home Rule Act should be brought into immediate operation. On the other hand—contrary, I believe, to the wishes and prepossessions of many of us, my right hon. Friend himself and I myself—as part and parcel of that arrangement, that the six Ulster counties should be excluded from the operation of the Act. That is the essence of the whole thing. I do not think there could be anything fairer in the history of political negotiations. All the rest is subsidiary and unimportant and secondary. For instance, as to the number of Members who are to sit here after Home Rule has been granted to Ireland, I quite agree that under the heads of agreement negotiated by my right hon. Friend it was distinctly provided that they should continue. When we came to consider the agreement in the Cabinet, our Unionist colleagues pointed out that to an arrangement of this sort they would never consent, and, what is more, they would never get their party to consent, and to proceed with 1469 the arrangement would wreck the whole agreement and postpone the operation of Home Rule.
Realising that, we felt we were not only entitled but bound to defer to their wishes as a matter of political expediency and necessity, and to substitute for the proposal in the original agreement the proposal that the Irish Members, after Home Rule has been established, and after there has been a Dissolution, should come here, as provided by the Home Rule Bill, in proportionately reduced numbers, but, as was provided by that Bill, in their old undiminished numbers in the case of financial revision, and whenever any question arose either of the Amendment of the Home Rule Bill or the Amending Bill. I ask the House of Commons, men in all quarters, and I shall ask the country if necessary, is not that a fair and reasonable arrangement? I have no doubt whatever what answer would be given to that appeal. There are only two minutes left to me—not that I want to go on, but the House will understand that I am not able to cover the whole ground. I want to say one final word with regard to Ulster. I laid down, speaking on behalf of the Government here on the floor of this House and at this Box, and in the clearest possible terms, our view, first of all there must be no coercion of Ulster, and that I think is now generally agreed upon; and next that those six counties, which it was part of the arrangement should be excluded, should not be brought back by any automatic process, but only by express Act of Parliament. No demur, no protest of any kind was made on the floor of this House when I asserted those two propositions. I held myself entitled to assume, as did all my colleagues, that as far as that was concerned there was general agreement. And it cannot be said because we are now seeking the best form of words by which that common intention can be carried into effect that we are making a departure from the agreement.
I have only one word more to say. My hon. Friend who sat down just now said the arrangement had broken down. I should like, as an old Home Ruler, as an ardent Friend of Ireland, as one who all through his political life has been in close sympathy and co-operation, as they know, with the Nationalist party, to ask them to reconsider their decision. I should like once more, it is the last thing I have got 1470 to say, to ask them to listen to the appeal which none of us listened to unmoved, which was made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson), even now to listen to that appeal which I, on behalf of the Government, renew and repeat, that they should not after all this time and labour, allow an opportunity, which once missed may never recur, to pass by, but should heart and soul on all sides endeavour to bring about an arrangement which would redound, as we believe, in the long run to the good of Ireland and certainly to the strength and safety of the Empire.
It being Eleven of the clock, the Motions for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.