§ Mr. DILLON
I beg to move, "That, in view of the announcement by the Government that they do not intend to introduce their long promised Bill to settle the Government of Ireland, it is vitally necessary and urgent that the Government should immediately disclose to the House their plans for the future government of Ireland during the continuance of the War."
More than two months ago we were told by the representative of the Government 2117 that in the very highest interests of this Empire, and in order to promote the successful conduct of the War, it was vitally important, and even urgent, that there should be a speedy settlement of the question of the government of Ireland. We were led to believe—we were informed—that the Cabinet were united in that view, and that the representative of the Government was speaking the opinions, so far as this matter was concerned, of a united Cabinet. An agreement, we were told, was desired to be obtained amongst all those parties in Ireland who accepted the British connection loyally, and who were with the Allies heart and soul in the present War: and that definition of parties—I say it without challenge or fear of contradiction from anybody who really understands Ireland—up to the date of the suppression of the recent insurrection, included nineteen-twentieths of the population of Ireland. We had every reason to believe that the Cabinet were united in this desire to obtain a temporary settlement, and this fact alone, if no other, would have certainly confirmed that belief that they had unanimously selected, as we were informed by the Prime Minister himself, the Minister of Munitions to conduct these Irish negotiations. The record of the Minister of Munitions on the Irish question is well known. All his life he has been identified with the aims and objects of the Irish Nationalist party. When a united Cabinet placed this task in his hands we thought naturally that we were entitled to assume that they really desired, and sought, a settlement on some basis—that we were entitled to draw conclusions that that basis would be such as was subsequently embodied in the heads of the agreement, because the Minister of Munitions had been selected to represent a united Cabinet. If it had been another basis, surely some man whose record was at least in doubt upon the question would have been selected by the Cabinet.
There was another fact which was calculated to reinforce our view, and it was this: that we were called upon to enter into these negotiations in a spirit of readiness to make temporary sacrifices, and to run great political risks, not only with the object of rescuing Ireland from martial law and military rule—the results of the recent insurrection—but also as a most substantial, and necessary, contribu- 2118 tion to the successful conduct of the War—that great War in the result of which the fate of the democratic nations throughout the world so very largely depends. To reinforce the view that this was not at all merely an Irish question, I must quote the words of the Prime Minister himself when, on the 25th May, more than two months ago, he first introduced this subject in the House. This is what he said:At the unanimous request of his colleagues my right hon. Friend who sits beside me, the Minister of Munitions (Mr. Lloyd George), has undertaken to devote his time and his energies and his power to the promotion of that result—That is the Agreement to which he referred:And if there be, as I believe there is—I do not underrate the difficulties in the least degree—if there be, as I believe there is, among Irishmen, no less than among the people of Great Britain, an honest and resolute desire to take advantage of this opportunity for the obtainment of that which, to us as a nation and an Empire, I do not hesitate to say——These are the words upon which I rely:is the greatest boon that could possibly be achieved."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th May, 1916, col. 2311, Vol. LXXXII.]That was the language of the Prime Minister. It was a solemn apppeal to us to go into these negotiations not only for the sake of our own country, to rescue it from the horrible position into which it was cast by the recent insurrection, but, in the interest of the Empire and for the sake of the War, we were called upon to negotiate in a spirit of readiness to make sacrifices, and of willingness to risk our own political position in order to serve these great ends. If anything were wanting to confirm this view, which induced us to undertake and face this task, it was that at that particular moment, well known to all the Members of the House, the War was at one of the most critical stages in the whole of its history, and that the Government—not the Prime Minister alone, but the whole united Cabinet—should call upon that Minister, on whom above all others the fate and fortunes of the War depended, to turn aside from his work at the Ministry of Munitions, and to divert his attention and activity from that great task, on which the fate of the British Army depended, and to devote his time to the most distracting and laborious task of these Irish negotiations—surely all Members will admit that that was calculated to confirm the impression in our minds that this was a matter vital and urgent 2119 to the interests of the Army, the Empire, and the War, as well as to the country to which we belong.
I have stated before that I entered into these negotiations most unwillingly. I remember very well at our first interview with the Minister of Munitions, as the right hon. Gentleman then was, I said to him, "I cannot conceive what has induced you to undertake this job." That was the first moment of our interview, and, much as I condemn his attitude in connection with the more recent phase of the negotiations, I desire to say honestly and frankly now that I cannot conceive any motive which can have operated in inducing him to undertake this task except a high sense of patriotic duty and a strong conviction that some agreed settlement of the Irish difficulty was essential to the most efficient conduct of the War. Be that as it may, the fact of a united Cabinet selecting the Minister of Munitions at tha tmoment gave us the impression which I have described. I went into these negotiations very reluctantly for two reasons—first of all, because I knew, better than most men, I think, without boasting, the enormous difficulties which beset our path in Ireland in endeavouring to get our own supporters in that country to agree to any compromise terms, and the enormous advantage that such a proposal coming from us at that particular moment would give to all the factions in Ireland which for years had been vainly assailing our party. I said to the Minister of War, when we were parting and going on our mission to Ireland, quite frankly that, in my opinion, we would be defeated, and the terms would not be accepted even if we recommended them, and of course one result, and, in my judgment at the time, very probable result, of the whole of these negotiations would be to break up our party and drive us permanently from political life in Ireland. That was the spirit and the view with which I went to Ireland, because I knew perfectly well the state of feeling in that country, and the difficulties we had to face. Well, Sir, we went, and I san say it now that, at the very outset of these negotiations, the very first day we warned the Minister for War, both my colleagues and I, that, so far as we were concerned, our task in any case Would be an immensely difficult one, but that unless two 2120 fundamental principles were accepted it was no use going on with negotiations at all.
What were those two principles? First of all that, until this Irish question was definitely and finally settled, the Irish party should remain in this House in undiminished numbers, and when hon. Members say that is unreasonable, surely a complete answer to that is that the moment you want to get rid of us, as I have no doubt a great many of you earnestly do, there is a very simple method—settle the Irish question, and, if you can, you then get rid of us at once. But really, to ask an old Parliamentary hand like myself, who has more experience than most Members in this House, to vacate our position of vantage in this House until this Irish question is definitely and finally settled, is to treat us as if we were a pack of children. That was stated at our first interview with the Minister of War as a fundamental principle on which the whole negotiations would take place. The second principle was that all the provisions of this Bill should be strictly temporary, war emergency measures, and that when this arrangement came to an end, if it ever did come to an end—and none of us contemplated that contingency without some further legislation and settlement—but, at any rate, after the War was over we should resume the status quo ante and, as far as possible, in fact absolutely, all bitterly contentious questions should be adjourned by this settlement, at all events, until after the War. We Irish Nationalists set out with the great confidence and hope that after the War—and a great deal has been truthfully said about the Irish troops fighting side by side in France and Gallipoli—the spirit would be changed, and that it would be possible to come to a friendly arrangement, and therefore we did not want to raise—and we pointed it out strongly that it was not judicious to raise—these contentious questions, but let them sleep until after the War was over. Therefore, our second fundamental condition was that all the arrangements should be temporary, and these two conditions were frankly accepted by the Secretary of State for War and were incorporated in the heads of agreement. Nay, as the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) pointed out the other day, and it is of vital importance, inasmuch as the 2121 heads of agreement dealing with the question of the exclusion of the six Ulster counties could not satisfy the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson), an alteration was made by the Minister of War to meet the views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and after examining them carefully, we agreed. The whole thing then was put into the terms of the agreement, which has since been published.
I dwell upon these matters a little again for this reason: they closely touch the whole question of this problem of governing Ireland, because, let me tell you this, at best you are face to face with a terribly difficult problem; but if you do not secure the confidence of the Irish people in honest and straightforward dealing of British Ministers and this House, then I say your problem of governing Ireland becomes hopelessly impossible. I have here the words used by the Prime Minister on the 10th July, and I would ask the close attention of the House to these words. He said:It is only fair to some of my colleagues in the Cabinet to say that owing to reasons for which I think we all of us here agree, none of us was to blame; there was some misunderstanding as to the point in the negotiations when they should have come under Cabinet review——I think it was very unfortunate there was such misunderstanding—But, in view of the agreements which had been publicly come to in Ireland, and of the supreme importance of preserving the unity of the Government in this great crisis of our history, we are all willing to share the responsibility of now submitting them to this House and recommending their acceptance by Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1916, col. 58.What were "them"? What was meant by the word "them"? "We are all" (said the Prime Minister, speaking for the whole Cabinet) "willing to share the responsibility of now submitting them to the acceptance of Parliament." "Them" can refer to nothing else but the written terms which have since been issued as a White Paper, and, therefore, on the 10th July, after all these negotiations, the Prime Minister, speaking for a united Cabinet, accepted these terms, and announced that the Cabinet had decided, somewhat reluctantly on the part of some, to submit these terms as a whole to the acceptance of Parliament, the only change that had been made, as he explained, being a declaratory Clause as to the powers of the Imperial Parliament for the defence of the realm, which we had very reluctantly accepted.
2122 That was the position on 10th July. A week after this public announcement of the Prime Minister, according to information at our disposal, the Unionist Members of the Cabinet came to the Prime Minister and announced that they absolutely and finally declined to accept the condition that the Irish party should remain in undiminished numbers in this House until the final settlement of the Irish question, and that they were prepared to break the settlement on that issue. In other words, those men who, on the 10th July, had unanimously agreed to accept the terms, who had initiated these negotiations, who had appealed to us, for the sake of the War, and for the sake of the Empire and the highest interests, to go into these negotiations and carry our political lives in our hands, and risk everything on the throw—and we very nearly lost—we risked all that at the invitation of the united Cabinet and these statesmen, who, on the 10th July, authorised the Prime Minister to accept the whole of these terms which were in writing, and have since been published as a White Paper, and who within a week came to the Prime Minister and announced that they were prepared to break the Irish settlement on this issue.. Why? Because they thought for a brief space, at most two or three years, and more likely, if these gentlemen were willing to settle the Irish question, six months or a year after the War was over, the existence of the Irish Members in this House might decide which party should rule the State, and, therefore, for the prospective and speculative interests of their party after the War, they are prepared to break un this settlement. After they had accepted it, after they were well informed that it was part of the basis of the whole settlement, I really cannot understand how any statesmen can face their countrymen or Europe after they have been guilty of being involved in a transaction of that kind.
I now come to what is a very important matter in the whole of this transaction—that is the intervention of Lord Lansdowne. Let there be no mistake about it, Lord Lansdowne has been mainly instrumental in breaking up this effort at a settlement. Let me trace as briefly as I can his connection with the settlement in order to convince hon. Members that I am justified in making that statement. When we were coming to an agreement with, the 2123 Minister for War, he informed us one day, as the Prime Minister himself stated, that Lord Lansdowne and Mr. Long were extremely doubtful, but he informed us before we went to Ireland that the terms—that is to say the White Paper—had been given to Lord Lansdowne, and that, while uncomfortable about them, he took no final exception to them. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that when we went to Ireland to submit these terms to the Irish people on behalf of the Minister for War and the Prime Minister, Lord Lansdowne was a party to the whole of this transaction. At every stage we were aware of the fact that Lord Lansdowne had seen the terms and had not left the Cabinet or the Government on the terms, and that he allowed us to go and stake our political life on the basis of these terms without sending us any word of protest at all. I think that, according to our idea of honour and of the obligations of Cabinet Ministers, Lord Lansdowne was bound by the terms, and he was bound not to break up the settlement if it was agreed to in Ireland.
But what did Lord Lansdowne do? I would say at least, if he dissented from the terms so very radically that he could not see his way to be a party to introducing them and passing them into law, he was bound to make a public declaration in some shape or form before we committed ourselves in Ireland to them, but he never said a word and remained absolutely silent. [An HON. MEMBER: "Lord Selborne did!"] Yes, Lord Selborne honestly retired, and we Irish have no fault to find with him because he retired the moment we were going to Ireland with those terms. He publicly retired and stated his reasons, but Lord Lansdowne did nothing of the sort. The very fact of Lord Selborne's retirement and Lord Lansdowne remaining in the Government I do most earnestly say, and I appeal to hon. Members to agree with me, justified us in the conclusion that Lord Lansdowne was bound to the terms. Here is a most sinister fact. Lord Lansdowne retained most absolute silence until we had succeeded in carrying the Belfast Convention, and, mind you, most of the people outside and many people inside our party thought we would be beaten at Belfast, and it was a very hard tussle. But two days after the Belfast Convention result was announced Lord Lans- 2124 downe came out in the House of Lords, having kept a deadly silence up to that time, and this is what he said on Thursday, the 29th of June:I will not add to what the Noble Marquees who leads the House said just now as to the origin of these various schemes. They emerge, I think not unnaturally, from the consultations which have been taking place—consultations certainly authorised by His Majesty's Government, but consultations which in no way bind His Majesty's Government——We were sent over to Ireland on a fool's mission, and do you imagine you are going to govern the Irish people successfully by such conduct?and for the details of which they cannot accept responsibility.The Prime Minister himself having authorised these details and gone over them carefully and ordered them to be handed over to us by the Minister for War, Lord Lansdowne—being aware of them and agreeing that we should go to Ireland with them—actually now says that for the details he can accept no responsibility. Lord Lansdowne, continuing, said:I sum up by saying that as we have not accepted these proposals we cannot be regarded as having in any way authorised them.What must be the opinion of the Irish people of a Cabinet that does this kind of thing? Of course that alone, in my judgment, would clearly prove that Lord Lansdowne had remained in the Cabinet for the purpose of destroying this settlement. Further, we have the speech which he delivered in the House of Lords at a later date which, in my opinion, was absolutely fatal to all further chance of the likelihood of a settlement. That was the famous speech in which Lord Lansdowne announced that the terms were to cut out permanently and irrevocably out of the Home Rule Bill of 1914 the six Ulster counties. He went on to sketch out a system of government for Ireland during the interval between now and the setting up of the so-called Home Rule Government, which, in my opinion, amounted, as the hon. and learned Member for Waterford characterised it at the time, to a declaration of war on the Irish people. It amounted to an announcement that the Irish people were a race of rebels who could not be trusted, coming to them bearing in one hand a mock and sham system of self-government, and in the other a sword and a complete system of coercion. I want to tell you frankly that no more fatal fault can be perpetrated by any Ministers than to come to a high- 2125 spirited people like the Irish people are and seek to delude them and throw sand in their eyes by offering a mock, sham system of government, and telling them that they are a pack of rebels, that you do not trust them, and that you must keep them under a severe system of coercion or they will rebel. That is absolute folly, and if there is one principle more than another that Ministers ought always to remember, and which has been taught us by long historical experience, it is that there are only two ways of governing Ireland or any country, and that is trust the people, and if you do not trust the people, govern them with a strong hand, and have none of this humbug that Lord Lansdowne proposes.
There is one point in connection with all this dispute concerning Ulster about which I wish to say a final word. The Prime Minister is one of the greatest masters of formulae I have ever met, and a man may become so fond of formulae and so skilful in devising it that he may become a slave of it and lose touch with realities altogether. One of the Prime Minister's formulae about Ulster is that there most be no coercion of Ulster, and he said the other day that the scheme the Government had in view and in mind was a scheme under which no section of the Irish people could coerce the other section. That is a very Utopian idea. But let us suppose that if you accept that formula, where does it carry us? What about the Nationalist majority of Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Derry City? Are they to be coerced? What about the Nationalists of West Belfast—are they to be coerced? If we consent, as we might be willing to consent, to make great sacrifices and to wait a long time to Bring in and win Ulster as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) invited us to do the other day; if we were to consent to leave the predominant counties of Ulster free to shape their own fate, are we not to claim the same right for the Nationalists of Ulster? If Belfast and Antrim are to be free to come into a united Ireland or to remain out, are the same terms not to be enjoyed by Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Derry City? How can you apply this Bill in such a one-sided way? What about the overwhelmng majority of the Irish people whom you have coerced for 116 years to have to submit to a system of government which they detest, and 2126 which the Prime Minister the other day, and even the Hardinge Commission, spoke of as having hopelessly broken down. Coercion is particularly hateful to Irish Nationalists, but if the exercise of coercion is to be repudiated and denounced, that repudiation must be impartial and fair, and we could not be called upon to bear the spectacle of British Members and Ministers holding up their hands in horror at the idea of coercing Orangemen or Ulster Unionists while cheerfully approving of the coercion of Ulster Nationalists. I say when the hour comes for a final settlement of this matter, the principle embodied in that formulae of the Prime Minister, if we are to have a peaceful settlement, must be honestly enforced all round.
I must refer for a very brief moment to the Report of the Royal Commission. I do not refer to it with any intention of debating it, although I think it ought to be debated. It is in my opinion a scandalous Report; it is one-sided, full of misrepresentations, but our main objection is as regards the personal character of its evidence and the method of its procedure, which are all open to strong condemnation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, I say strong condemnation. For instance, what sense of justice or fair play is there in a body of men who hold up myself and the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) as responsible for the government of Ireland and never give us an opportunity of appearing before the Commission. I want to deal only with one part, namely, that portion of the Report which deals with the growth of the Irish National Volunteers and the outbreak and the cause of the insurrection. That, of course, everybody must admit is the most vital question of the whole matter we are discussing at the present time dealing with the future of Irish government. Therefore, it is of vital interest that we should have some understanding as to the real causes of the insurrection, as that is one of the directions in which we can most hopefully look for the guidance of the government of Ireland in the future. At the very commencement of their Report, the Commission themselves condemned the machinery of Irish government. It does comment on the system of Irish government. It says:If the Irish system of government be regarded as a whole, it is anomalous in quiet times and almost unworkable in times of crisis.2127 If that is not a comprehensive condemnation of the system of Irish government I do not know what it is. Then the Report goes on to set out the causes which led up to the outbreak, and it would be difficult in any published Report to find a more misleading statement than is to be found in this Report of the Hardinge Commission. I do not intend to debate it at any length, but there is one particular point to which I must direct attention. I do so in order to bring home to the minds of hon. Members of this House the enormous complications and difficulties of the Irish situation. The Report of the Commission sets forth the foundation of the Irish Volunteers, and it carries the matter on up to the date of the insurrection. I must ask the House to listen to a very short extract:The Irish National Volunteers owed their origin to a meeting at Dublin in November, 1013, of twelve men who came together to discuss the formation of an Irish Volunteer army. The founders of the force included John McNeill, Bulmer Hobson, F. H. Pearse and The O'Rahilly——All these four men were rebel leaders, and they have all paid the last penalty of the law. No, not all. Bulmer Hobson has disappeared and John McNeill has been sentenced to penal servitude for life. A public meeting was held.It was started quite independently of any Irish political party by men strongly opposed to any political connection of Ireland with England.Mark those words. Therefore, it was perfectly well known, absolutely well known, in Ireland that originally the Irish National Volunteers were started by the leaders of the Republican Revolutionary party in Dublin. It was known to all of us. It was started for the purpose of breaking the connection between this country and Ireland and also for the purpose of injuring our party, who were denounced as being slaves, openly and frankly in favour of the British connection. The Report goes on to say:On the eve of the Prime Minister's meeting in Dublin on the 25th September, 1914—where Mr. Redmond spoke strongly in favour of recruiting—a manifesto' was issued attacking Mr. Redmond's attitude. This was signed by McNeill and six others (afterwards involved in the rebellion) and concluded by regretting that Sir Roger Casement's absence prevented his being a signatory. On 30th September this party dissociated themselves from the Irish National Volunteers and formed a new force under the name of the Irish Volunteers. By the end of October the force enrolled numbered over 13,000.I disagree with that figure. It numbered about 10,000. Those who remained faith- 2128 ful to the Irish party number 120,000 of the original body. They go on to say:By the end of March, 1915, the Irish Volunteers do not appear to have increased much in numbers although they had acquired more arms.After May, 1915, that is, after the formation of the Coalition Government, they go on to state that the Irish National Volunteers and Revolutionary party rapidly gained recruits and strength. That is the statement of the Commission. The Commission passed over one most mysterious and striking fact which I think hon. Members will recognise, deserves attention. When, at the beginning of June, 1914, two short months before the war broke out, the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), seeing the condition of things that existed in Ireland, determined that it was necessary to get complete control of the National Volunteers, the Unionist Press in Ireland, led by the "Irish Times," which is the chief organ of that party to which Lord Lansdowne belongs, and of which he is the chief spokesman in this country, used the following language. The "Irish Times" of 6th June, 1914, said:A crisis is at hand in the brief and notable history of the Irish National Volunteers. The organisation, which though only six months old, includes today at least 50,000 Irishmen, is a direct outcome of the Unionist movement in Ulster.Mark that!That movement elevated Irish affairs out of the squalid atmosphere of wrangling and intrigue. The best elements of young Nationalism in Ireland were fired at the example of Ulster's self sacrifice and discipline.This is Lord Lansdowne's newspaper, and, according to it, the best elements of Irish Nationalist young men of those days were fired by emulation of Ulster, and they endeavoured to rescue Irish politics from the sordid and squalid atmosphere of wrangling and intrigue.To-day the National Volunteers are drilling and marching in every county in Ireland, and money is being subscribed for the purpose of arms and equipment. The young Nationalists of the South are doing nothing that the young Unionists of Ulster have not done.Those are significant words.Discipline and order are good things in themselves. If there is to be civil disturbance in Ireland, it is better that we should be a nation of drilled and trained men than that the whole of the country should be at the mercy of the mob law.They then go on to say:The time has now come when the National Volunteers must either justify themselves or disappear into the crowded and tragic limbo of lost national causes. They have incurred the jealousy and suspicion of the Nationalist Parliamentary party. At the beginning of the movement the party did its best to 2129 discourage the Volunteers, Nationalist Members of Parliament pointed out that British power could crush the resistance of Ulster, and that the young manhood of Nationalist Ireland had only to stand by and watch the dirty work. Thoughtful Irish Unionists will await the issue with anxiety. If the Volunteers can defeat the attempts to capture and destroy them, a new force will have established itself in Ireland which may help to mould the national destiny to great ends.When those words were written by the "Irish Times," they knew that the men glorified in that article were led by the leaders of the Revolutionary party in Dublin avowed rebels. Their principle was to tear up the bonds between Ireland and this country, and we were denounced by this great Unionist organ for daring to interfere with these revolutionary activities, and because we had loyally adhered all through our political lives to the connection between the two countries on a fair basis of liberty for our country:The existence of the National Volunteers is now at stake. The Nationalist party is out, not to control the movement, but to kill it. Mr. Redmond and Mr. Dillon propose to split the Volunteers and to capture the majority.Finally, they return to the charge on 10th June, 1914, and they say, in other words, that the Volunteers are to be swamped, and that the men who created them and made them a success—The O'Rahilly and the other leaders of the revolution—were to be crowded out and the governing body was to become a committee of the Nationalist party. I want to ask the Government frankly: Are they prepared to investigate that matter? Are they prepared to investigate honestly and impartially why it was that so late as June, 1914, the "Irish Times"—and it speaks for the whole of Lord Lansdowne's party in the south of Ireland—were hand and glove with the revolutionary leaders and doing everything in their power to prevent us, the Parliamentary party, getting control of the Nationalist Volunteers? How would matters be now if we had not taken control? They then numbered 130,000. When this revolution took place the other day one of the most remarkable things of all was the fewness of the numbers—I do not believe that there were 4,000 men in arms in the whole of Ireland. There were certainly not more than 2,000 in Dublin. How would it have been if the "Irish Times" had succeeded and the revolutionary leaders had had control of 130,000? As the members of the Advisory Committee have found out, the Irish are a military nation, and once you enrol them and put them in a regiment they are very apt to take their orders, and they certainly will never turn their backs on a fight. It is perfectly 2130 notorious that of the thousands of men arrested in Ireland, hundreds, and I should say far more than half, went out that Easter morning with no more idea of going into a rising than any hon. Member of this House. They simply went out for a parade and a march, and before they knew where they were they found themselves involved in a rising, and, being Irish, they would not turn back. No Government, in my opinion, is fit to deal properly with the question of the government of Ireland until they have fully investigated the attitude of the "Irish Times" towards the revolutionary leaders in the spring of 1914. We are told by the Prime Minister that the whole system of Irish government had broken down. There are few people who know what the Irish Government really means—hardly anybody in this House knows—and I must say that the description of it given in this Report is an extraordinarily bald, disappointing, and uninforming one. There is one point in the description, however, which is worthy of attention, because it illustrates what you find running through the whole of the Irish system of government. When you have got it on paper, it is generally something which is the very reverse of what it is in reality. Here is the description from the Report of the Hardinge Commission of the functions of the Irish Lord Lieutenant:The Lord Lieutenant (who is also Governor-General) is resident in Ireland. By the terms of his patent he is responsible for the civil government of the country, and the naval and military forces of the Crown in Ireland are under his orders. But when the Chief Secretary is in the Cabinet and the Lord Lieutenant is not, all powers and responsibilities are in practice vested in the Chief Secretary…The military and naval forces in Ireland take their orders from the War Office and Admiralty, respectively,although, according to his patent, they are both under the orders of the Lord Lieutenant. As a matter of fact, roughly speaking, this is what has happened: Since the Union there have been five great officials in Ireland—the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary, the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney-General, and the Under-Secretary—and whichever of these is the stronger man rules Ireland. There is no definition and there is infinite complexity and confusion, and whichever is the stronger man comes out on top and rules Ireland. If you read the history of Ireland, you will find that it has been frequently ruled by the Lord Chancellor, frequently by the Lord Lieutenant, not infrequently by the Attorney-General, more frequently by the Chief Secretary, 2131 but also by the Under-Secretary when there is a strong man in the position. Therefore it is a system of absolute confusion, most indefensible, and really the most absurd the world has ever seen. The wonder is that it has lasted so long. There are certain fundamental principles which the Irish Government has always sanctioned, and one of them is this: In sending over anyone to govern Ireland it is always thought best to avoid anyone having anything to do with Ireland. You should always select an Englishman or a Scotchman who knows nothing whatever about the country and has probably never been there before. So deep-seated has this principle become that when the Government want to make an investigation into the conditions of Ireland, as in the case of the Hardinge Commission, they select three gentlemen with absolutely virgin minds and no knowledge of Irish affairs at all. These three gentlemen go over to Dublin, and, having spent about ten days listening mostly to police evidence and spies, they come back, and with the utmost and sublime confidence, based on a profound ignorance, they give this noble Report to the world. This Report has added one ray of light and given one valuable principle to the Government in the great task before it. In future it must be judged to be a crime and the most dangerous crime for any Irish Chief Secretary or Lord Lieutenant to have any conversation whatever with a Nationalist Member of Parliament. I have no doubt, if that principle is embodied in the future system, the Government of Ireland will become absolutely perfect and free from all reproach. So much for the system that has broken down.
But what is the present position? That is the question which nobody seems to be able to answer. I alluded to the speech of Lord Lansdowne of the 11th of July, in which he gave a description of the Irish Government as at present constituted, and I could not select from all literature a more comprehensive description of an unlimited military tyranny. He declared, in reply to Lord Midleton, that Sir John Maxwell had never been interfered with, that he had a free hand in the management of Irish affairs, that he had 40,000 men under his control, that he had the constabulary under his control, and that nothing had ever been said or done to tie his hands or diminish his authority or interfere with his actions. Then he went on to say that Sir John Maxwell enjoyed 2132 the absolute confidence of the Government. I put a question to the Prime Minister the following Monday, asking whether this was a correct definition of the present system of Government in Ireland. The Prime Minister gave a totally different reply. He told us that the Government was now carried on by the Lords Justices and that the Home Secretary represented the Irish Government in this House. That Lord Lansdowne had specifically denied. The Prime Minister's statement cannot be accurate. It is impossible, because we know the Lords Justices have no authority whatever in Ireland. They represent the Lord-Lieutenant. They have exactly the same authority as Lord Wimborne had, which was precisely none whatever—less than any Member of this House. Therefore the Prime Minister's reply falls absolutely to the ground, and we are left entirely in the dark as to who at present has authority or is responsible ultimately for the government of Ireland.
We were told in a very remarkable speech by Lord Midleton on the 29th June, and by the Marquess of Salisbury, that at that moment (the 29th June), if there were an election in Ireland there would be a great majority returned of pro-Germans. If that be true what folly it is to talk of giving self-government to a country capable of such a thing! Of course, it is not true. It is a grotesque—I hesitate to use a strong word—a grotesque misrepresentation of the facts. What did Lord Midleton himself say in a Debate in the House of Lords immediately following upon the suppression of the insurrection? He said of his own knowledge that nine out of ten people in Ireland were bitterly opposed to the insurrection. I think he understated the facts; I think nineteen out of twenty were opposed to it. What can have happened between the 25th of May and the 29th of June to justify or explain this extraordinary change in the estimate made by Lord Midleton and Lord Salisbury of the condition of Irish opinion? Nothing happened except martial law, and I say that, although the statement of Lord Midleton and Lord Salisbury on the 29th of June is a grotesque exaggeration and falsification of the whole situation, it is true that the operation of the present Government of Ireland under Sir John Maxwell, who may be, for all I know, an excellent soldier—I know nothing about him—has done more to spread disaffection in that country than all the Sinn Fein organisers put together. It is an 2133 absolute fact that Sir John Maxwell, under the present system of military law which is going on in Ireland, has acted as an organiser of disaffection and trouble in that country, and has done more in that direction than all the fifteen organisers whom we are told the Sinn Feiners had twelve to fifteen months before the insurrection broke out.
The Government have plenty of advice in regard to the problem they have to face. The "Spectator" this week advises the Government to adopt Crown Colony Government for Ireland. The "Irish Times" clamours for the continuation of military law, and Lord Lansdowne is for military law and a garrison of 40,000 men, for the Defence of the Realm Act being strengthened, and used as an instrument of civil government—an intolerable proposition—and a reversion to the Coercion Act of 1887, which has been condemned by so many majorities in this House. I warn the Government that they cannot enter upon that road without incurring grave risks. I wonder very much whether the gentlemen and the journalists who so light-heartedly press this advice upon the Government have ever for a moment considered the grave inconveniences and the scandals which would arise if the Irish question were to become an international one. For my part, I should deeply regret it, because I believe that the great majority of Great Britain do sincerely desire to act justly to Ireland if their Government would only show them the way. When it is declared that Ireland should be under coercion rule by military force against the will of her people, it is hard to see how England and her Allies can proceed with the settlement of Europe on the principle of full justice to all oppressed and small nationalities. How in such an event can the dealing with Ireland be overlooked? Why should favoured Poland be a matter of European concern and the fate of Ireland excite no sympathy? Ireland has played at least as great a part as Poland has ever played in the history of European civilisation, and, indeed, has suffered more, and has been even more faithful to the ideal of her nationality.
I would ask hon. Members, in considering this matter, to look at what was done in Russia last week, and ask themselves why Monsieur Sazonoff was driven from the Foreign Ministry of Russia. He was acceptable, as I understand, to all the Allies, and was deeply trusted by them. 2134 He has been driven from the Foreign Ministry—because, of course, we all know that the pretence of illness was an excuse; it was a polite explanation. He was really, as everyone knows, driven out because there is a strong section in Russia who are determined to use all their influence to induce the Czar of the Russian people to break the pledge to Poland, as there is a section in this House who are determined to exercise their influence on this House in order to treat Ireland in the same way. I challenge the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil) and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds—are they going to travel on the same road as the Russian reactionaries who have driven Sazonoff from power? I have that faith in the British people that I think they are not going to break faith with Ireland, but unhappily the source and fruit of all our trouble is that there are tens of thousands of Irishmen who do not share my faith in the hon. Members of this House. To them I make a final appeal. In all there is before us—and there is trouble before us—remember the future, and do treat us differently from the manner in which you have treated us in the past when we were struggling with these revolutionary forces of which you knew nothing and which your supporters in Ireland were recklessly, and I think criminally, supporting against us for the purpose of breaking our hearts. Remember that an hour may come when once again in the history of Europe the voice of Ireland will be heard.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
My hon. Friend who has just sat down has, as an old Parliamentary hand, devoted a very small part of his speech to the Motion which has been put from the Chair. He has gone back into the past, and, in some detail, into the negotiations which, I think, with universal regret, have for the moment broken down, and he has said very little in regard to future government in Ireland. I can only say, in regard to his review of the past, two things. First of all, I was as much a party as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to the negotiations which led to the heads of agreement, and, as my hon. Friend well knows, he was informed, and also the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), at every stage of the negotiation that we were not 2135 acting as plenipotentiaries, that we had no power to bind our colleagues, that in some respects our colleagues had shown already an indisposition to accept certain propositions, and that the matter must ultimately be the subject of Cabinet decision for settlement. I am not going into the rights and wrongs of the matter, but that is an historical fact. The only other point in regard to the past to which I will give a sentence of reference is what my hon. Friend said about coercion. I said, and I believe I am expressing the unanimous view of all sections of this House, that you could not bring Ulster, or any substantial part of Ulster, into a Home Rule Government without its consent. I believe that to be true. But when you come to particular localities and particular districts and areas, of course in all these matters there must be a certain amount of give-and-take. It seems to me that the exclusion of the six counties—which counties I and my right hon. Friend had fought hard at the Buckingham Palace Conference to get included—that the exclusion of the six counties was a fair operation of the principle of giveandtake. I know my hon. Friend does not think so. As he knows well, the Buckingham Palace Conference broke down upon that point. If you are to have a redistribution of, areas you must have some general kind of regard to the distribution of the population, and you cannot allow any particular minority to exercise a veto. My hon. Friend referred to the treatment of Poland as an analogy to what this Parliament has meted out to Ireland. It was so in days gone by. It was Mr. Chamberlain who said so. Mr. Chamberlain, in one of his classical passages, compared the treatment of Ireland by the Imperial Parliament to the treatment of Poland But those are past days. I remind my hon. Friend that the Home Rule Bill is on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. DILLON
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that I asked whether there were not men in this House who wished to take it off the Statute Book.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I dare say; but they will never be able to take it off the Statute Book. So let us pass from this past analogy of Poland. I should like, if I may, in the few minutes that I am going to claim the attention of the House, to go into the actual situation of the moment. That, after all, is the important 2136 thing; that is the thing which is raised for discussion by my hon. Friend's Motion. I am most anxious that the House should not pass away from the atmosphere which was slowly, gradually, but effectually engendered in the Debate last Monday. It is quite true that, much to the disappointment of many of us, the negotiations for a settlement begun at that time had broken down. They revealed, as we are all agreed, I think, in every quarter of the House, even though they have failed, an approximation of attitude which was unexpected and even unhoped for. The Unionists, for whom there could be no more authentic or representative spokesman than my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir Edward Carson)——
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Well, you would have said so a year ago. You would have said so six months ago. You would have said so three months ago. Though I have fought, no one has fought harder or had more reason to dread the counterattack of my right hon. and learned Friend, I can say, having been through the whole of this controversy, that some of those people who are now most vocal in support of what are called Unionist principles were very silent when he was in the forefront of the battle. He was your standard bearer! He was the man whom everyone upon this side as upon that side would have regarded as the true representative of Unionist sentiment. I am not using the language of flattery, but I am using the language of commonsense and of truth when I say that Unionist opinion, as represented by its most authentic and representative exponent, had agreed to the immediate setting up, even during the continuance of the "War, of a Parliament in Dublin. On the other hand, we Home Rulers—to whom the unity of Ireland had seemed through all this contest to be of importance, we Home Rulers who had resisted exclusion, even very partial and limited exclusion as being, I will not say fatal but injurious to the prospects and future of a Home Rule Government that had been our principle, although we had always qualified it—I have always done so—I have always said I would not be a party to the forcible inclusion of any part of Ireland against its own will—we Home Rulers who had resisted exclusion consented, as part of the arrangement, to the exclusion until Parliament should other- 2137 wise determine of the six Ulster counties. That was the basis upon which we proceeded. It seemed to offer—it did offer—a chance of a settlement in which all the leading potent and important influences and interests concerned could have come together. That agreement had almost been arrived at when—for reasons I do not want to go into, which I think at this moment it most inexpedient to go into, because it may involve the apportionment of praise or blame or, at any rate, of responsibility—at the moment that settlement broke down. But a new situation had been created—a situation, mark you! which is a milestone upon this road—from which you can never get back to the old position of suspicion, recrimination, irreconcilable hostility. The fact that that new situation had been created and that it now exists makes it, in my opinion, a patriotic duty on the part of all of us, in whatever quarter of the House we sit or whatever opinions we hold, neither by word nor by act to do anything to recreate the old bitterness or to run the risk of losing the ground which has already been gained. It is because I hold very strongly to that view that I do not want to go—my hon. Friend (Mr. Dillon) knows it does not involve any disrespect to him—into some of the controversial or, at any rate, quasi-controversial, topics he has raised with regard to the past. I want to ask the House, as the Motion invites us to do, to consider the present situation in Ireland and what is the practical way of dealing with it.
Since this unhappy rising we have had no Lord Lieutenant and no Chief Secretary. We have had in Ireland as the heads or temporary heads of the Civil Executive the Attorney-General and the Under-Secretary, and here in this House my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has added to his very arduous and exacting duties in a most public-spirited way, for which I cannot express to him too much personal gratitude, the duty of supervising, as far as he could, the civil side of the Irish Executive and has undertaken the duty of answering questions in this House. On the other hand, you have in Ireland Sir John Maxwell, the Commander-in-Chief, who has been in complete control over the military, and as to whose status I will say a word in a moment. That was admittedly a makeshift, temporary, and provisional arrangement. That it has succeeded as well as it has—for I think it has succeeded in maintaining peace and order in Ireland ever since the rising was 2138 put down—is largely due to the admirable loyalty, the capacity and the spirit of cooperation which all these various officers have shown to one another. I do not want to go back, I do not think it is in the interests of the country or of the Empire to go back either to the causes of the rising and its actual circumstances or to what took place afterward. There are two Motions on the Paper to-day, one in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Major Walter Guinness) and another in the name of the hon. Member for West Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy), asking for Returns giving details of cases in which innocent and unarmed persons have suffered, lost their lives, or lost their property through the action on the one side of the military and upon the other side of the rebels. I have seen myself, I have gone most carefully into it, the information which has been collected on those points, and I should very much deprecate the publication of these matters, which could only now revive bitter controversies, and which I honestly believe, having spent a great deal of time and a good deal of labour which I could ill spare to the personal investigation of the facts, would not really lead to any further elucidation of the truth. There is one case in regard to which I have always made an exception. I did so on the very morrow of these unhappy occurrences, when it was first brought to the notice of the House, namely, the shooting of Mr. Sheehy Skeffington and two other men in Portobello Barracks. I promised a public inquiry into that. There has been a court-martial, and a good deal of evidence was taken before the court-martial, which has thrown light upon the case; but I think there is still a good deal more which requires to be investigated, and I am carrying out the promise I made on behalf of the Government to institute a public inquiry into the circumstances of that case. I am glad to say that my right hon. and learned Friend the late Home Secretary and Attorney-General, the Member for Walthamstow (Sir John Simon), has undertaken to preside over that inquiry.
§ Major WALTER GUINNESS
Is the right hon Gentleman aware that he promised the Return which I have on the Paper?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is quite true. I did promise the Return, but I have since had an opportunity of looking into the matter and I do not think it is in 2139 the public interest—I hope the hon. and gallant Member will agree with me—that either the Return for which he asks or the counter Return, if I may so call it, asked for by the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) should be granted. I am sure it would do no good. It would only embitter feeling. My right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Bonar Law) reminds me that I have passed over something which is quite right and just I should mention, namely, that in regard to the breakdown in the negotiations, particularly upon the point of the retention of the Irish Members in their full numbers in this House after the creation of a Home Rule Parliament, it is not fair and it is not right to say that upon that point it was Lord Lansdowne who was responsible for the attitude that was taken cp by a number of my colleagues. I think the whole of my Unionist colleagues took up that attitude, and it is not fair to Lord Lansdowne to say that any special personal responsibility lies with him in that matter. Before I pass from the rising, there are two other points I should like to mention. The first is in regard to the prisoners, persons who were arrested, who are what we call Sinn Feiners, the great bulk of whom were sent to this country and have since been kept in confinement here.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Just wait a moment. I am dealing with the whole point. The case of these prisoners has been individually gone into by an Advisory Committee, presided over by a very distinguished judge of the High Court here, Mr. Justice Sankey. He tells me—I saw him on Saturday—that 1,841 cases have been dealt with by him and by his Committee. Of these 1,841 cases, 1,272 have been released and 569 are interned, in other words 70 per cent, have been released and 30 per cent, have been interned. Of course, it must not be supposed from those figures that there was no prima-facie evidence in regard to the great bulk of these prisoners, but there was the most careful investigation conducted by Mr. Justice Sankey, in conjunction with Mr. Justice Pim of the High Court in Ireland, and some Members of this House, into each case individually, and the result of their examination has been that they have been able to come to the conclusion that, con- 2140 sistently with the objects of the maintenance of order in Ireland and the prevention of the possibility of future disturbances, not more than 30 per cent, of these persons need be retained for the present in custody.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That does not follow at all. There was very good ground for arresting them. There was no ground for detaining them after the time.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not think they asked to be tried. Investigation has never been conducted with more fairness and more impartiality than in the case of these prisoners. The only other point I want to mention in connection with the rising is with regard to the destruction done in Dublin. I intimated at once on behalf of the Government our desire to make liberal and even generous provision for the reinstatement of the destroyed parts of Dublin. I think we have carried out that intention—I do not think anyone will dispute it—not only in the letter but in the spirit, and I am hoping now to make arrangements with the Treasury by which the Corporation of Dublin will obtain a substantial loan, which will facilitate in their case the very difficult and very arduous undertaking they now have to carry out—namely, to reinstate that part of Dublin not only as it was before, but, as I hope, in a condition much more worthy of the great city to which it belongs.
I pass from that, which deals almost entirely with the past, to what is really the question raised by the Motion—namely, how you ought to deal with the government of Ireland during the continuance of the War. The state of Ireland at this moment, taking the country at large, is from one point of view very satisfactory, and from another point of view very disquieting. It is satisfactory in this respect, that there is great general prosperity. I doubt whether the farmers in Ireland have ever been so well situated as they are to-day. They are getting high prices, they have had good seasons, and both as regards the crops which they grow, and still more the horses they rear, they are doing extremely well. They are on the way, some of them are a long way on the 2141 journey, to becoming complete owners of the land. Of course, from an industrial point of view the condition of Ireland is not unsatisfactory either. Further, there is an absence, I am glad to say, a remarkable absence, I am not sure it is an unprecedented absence, both of ordinary and of agrarian crime. There have been one or two cases of cattle driving, but they are confined to a very limited area, and in regard to an observation made by the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon), we have sanctioned in those cases recourse to the third Section of the Act of 1887, which enables the persons charged to be tried before two resident magistrates, and the Home Secretary and I—my Unionist colleagues have nothing whatever to do with it, and it is only fair to them to say so—carefully considered the whole matter in view of the recommendations brought to our notice by the Irish Executive.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Mr. Price had absolutely nothing to do with it. The point is very small. The alternative was that these people should be tried by court-martial. Trial by jury is suspended in Ireland by Proclamation under the Defence of the Realm Act. The alternative was that they should be tried by court-martial, and, on the whole, it seemed to my right hon. Friend and myself this case might be dealt with under the Defence of the Realm Act.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Is it the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that all civil law in Ireland has been abrogated?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, certainly not. The Courts are sitting in Ireland. Every Civil Court in Ireland is open at this moment. It is simply that this was a case which could have been brought under the Regulations of the Defence of the Realm Act, in which case it would have been tried by court-martial. That is the only case in which there has been any resort to the machinery of the Crimes Act 2142 of 1887. I think, on the whole, we have chosen the more rational and the more lenient course. On the other hand, there are some very unsatisfactory features in Ireland. There has been undoubtedly, and there is at this moment, in many parts of the country a considerable recrudescence of the Sinn Fein movement in its most aggressive form. I will not go into the causes of that. I am simply stating the fact. There have been, not, I am glad to say, in many places, but in some places, deplorable manifestations in public of sympathy with Germany and the enemies of the country. There is no fear, of course, of anything in the nature of open rebellion. The force of police and soldiers which is now in Ireland is quite sufficient to prevent the possibility of anything of the kind—anything more, I mean, than a mere sporadic or isolated outbreak. The vast bulk of the people in all the provinces of Ireland are, I believe, loyal to the core to the Crown—I believe that from my heart—and in full sympathy in this great War with the cause of the Allies. There are undoubtedly restless and anarchic forces at work which require vigilant attention on the part of the Executive. We cannot tolerate a repetition of the incidents of two or three months ago. Although, as I say, I have not the faintest reason to doubt the general and widespread loyalty of the Irish people, those who are responsible for the Executive Government would be failing in their duty and would be traitors to their trust if they did not take every precaution possible to prevent the recurrence of such deplorable incidents as that in Dublin, where hundreds of innocent people have been sacrificed to a most mischievous, misguided, wicked adventure. I have tried to draw the picture impartially both on the one side and on the other. It has its bright and it has also its dark features. These are the conditions which have to be taken into account when you are setting up a machinery of government with which we must deal with what is a purely temporary and provisional period. Let me say one word with regard to the position of General Sir John Maxwell. What is his legal position? He is Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland, and in that capacity he is what is described as a competent military authority under the Defence of the Realm Act. It is quite true that martial law has been proclaimed in Ireland and the original Proclamation is being continued. I believe I am not travelling an inch beyond the truth when 2143 I say that there is no proceeding which has been taken by Sir John Maxwell or the military authorities in Ireland which is not taken under and which could not be justified by the Defence of the Realm Act. Martial law has never been put in force for any practical or effective purpose in Ireland.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It was proclaimed as a precautionary measure. I believe I am stating the exact truth when I say it has never been resorted to and, as I have said twice or three times, speaking from this bench, the Government desire that its continuance should be as short as possible. I hope and believe when we get, as we shall, from the Chief Secretary his Report as to the state of the country, I hope it may be found possible—I can give no pledge—to discard even the form of martial law. Up to this moment, I am stating the literal truth when I say that, so far as my information goes, martial law has never been resorted to once. I have followed this matter very closely, and I think General Sir John Maxwell, in a very trying, delicate, and difficult situation, a situation most repugnant to a soldier, for a soldier is much happier when he is face to face with the enemy than when he is apparently overriding in the normal conditions of life the civil population—I have been in constant communication with him, and have had the fullest opportunity of reviewing his proceedings—has shown judgment, tact, and discretion, and always has leant to the side of mercy. I should not have been doing my duty if I did not on behalf of the Government, and I hope of Parliament and the country, tender to him an expression of gratitude for undertaking a most thankless task at a most critical moment, and discharging it with moderation, discretion and ability. Under existing conditions I do not think it would be right to reduce, or to substantially reduce, the military force which is now in Ireland. It was put there for the protection of the population of Ireland. It was not put there to override them or to tyrannise over them. It was put there for their protection against the possible recurrence of this misguided, mischievous, and irresponsible movement, which had no sanction or authority from any recognised body of Irish opinion, and which was directed against the best interests of Ireland, just 2144 as much as it was against the interests of the Empire. I do not think it desirable at the moment to contemplate a substantial reduction of that force, though a change in its composition may be necessary in regard to the exigencies of the War elsewhere. The powers of Sir J. Maxwell, or whoever might succeed him if he were to retire from his present position of Commander-in-Chief under existing conditions are strictly limited to the attributions I have already described. He has no authority over the police, nor any share in the responsiblity for the civil administration. In the opinion of the Government, it is quite essential that we should have a civil executive responsible to Parliament and in control of the civil administration.
§ Mr. DILLON
Did I not draw the Prime Minister's attention to the fact that Lord Lansdowne stated that General Maxwell had control over the constabulary: that the police were absolutely under his authority?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think there must have been a misapprehension about that, because it is not the case, and never has been the case. If, as I think, the House will generally agree that we have reached a state of things in which it is desirable to establish a civil Executive, the question arises, What form should that Executive take? There were very attractive proposals put forward for creating a Minister, with an Advisory Council consisting of representatives of the different Irish parties, who should in some way, not clearly defined, either control or, at any rate, participate in, the government of the country. That was one of the many schemes with which I came back from Ireland after I had been to Dublin. It was recommended by considerable authority, and had an attractive appearance, at any rate as a provisional measure. But it is wholly impracticable. I am perfectly sure if I put the question to my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir E. Carson) or the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond) they would agree in the answer, and that answer would be in the negative. You could not do it; the thing would not work. First of all, you have got to create your council which in itself is a very difficult thing to do, and the council would have to be nominated by somebody, and nominated from whom? Heaven knows; I do not. When you have 2145 brought them into existence, what would be their powers? Either they would have power to veto the action of the Executive or they would not. If they had power to veto it, the Executive would cease to be responsible to this House, and if they had not power to veto it, they would become a debating society or something of that kind not worthy of the occasion. Therefore, attractive on the surface as these proposals seem, no one acquainted with the actual facts of Irish life or Irish government would recommend them to this House. Let me again remind the House that, from the point of view of the Government, and certainly from my own point of view, we are dealing with what we hope to be a transitional period, short in duration because I have not abandoned the hope that before very long, and in a shorter time than most people think, we shall be able to arrive by way of settlement at something of a much more satisfactory character. We are dealing, therefore, with this provisional situation.
We do not think it is desirable, for the purpose of dealing with the problems that that period presents, to make new experiments. It is quite true that I myself stated, and the Hardinge Commission, I observe, has confirmed my judgment on that point, that the existing machinery of government in Ireland had broken down. I think it had, and I think it always will break down if you carry it out on the lines which have hitherto prevailed. Of that I am perfectly certain. Dealing, as I have said, with a temporary and provisional state of things, I do not think we ought to go in for ambitious experiments; for experiments which would only be adopted to the circumstances of, it may be a few months, at any rate, of a few years, and which might be very injurious in their character and in their results. I take the two pre-existing organs of civil administration in Ireland before the rising: the Lord-Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary. The Lord-Lieutenancy is one of the most anomalous, and from an argumentative point of view, one of the most vulnerable institutions in the whole world. I will not go into the merits or demerits of the case now, though I have very strong opinions about it, but, at any rate, for temporary purposes, it has advantages. On the whole it is popular in Ireland or, at least, I will say it is not unpopular. Perhaps that is the safer way to say it.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It brings a little money, and provides a certain amount of apparatus of the ritual and ceremonial of State, and enables gracious and well-mannered persons to discharge social and charitable functions to advantage and without, so far as I know, any drawback, beyond the undoubted expense to which they patriotically put themselves. If you could have a clear line of demarcation, which there has never hitherto been, between the functions of the Lord Lieutenant and those of the Chief Secretary and the other members of the Executive, there are other functions which, I think, might very well be entrusted to the Lord Lieutenant and in which he might be very useful. At any rate, under the Home Rule Act there is to be a Lord Lieutenant, and he is vested there with very distinct and definite powers. True, he has to shed the character with which the holder of that office has hitherto been vested. He has to be transformed into the character of a Colonial governor, or something very much corresponding to a Colonial governor; but still he is to remain. He is a very important factor in the working of the Home Rule arrangement when it comes into effect. Therefore, it seems to the Government a very doubtful policy that we should choose a moment like this to abolish the Lord Lieutenancy and throw the whole thing into chaos. At the same time, I do not think it is urgently necessary at the moment to nominate any particular person to that post. [Laughter.] It is not the most desirable post in the world. It is one thing to nominate, but it is another thing to get a person who will take it up, particularly a person who is qualified for it. [Laughter.] It is not really a laughing matter, but for the moment I leave that on one side.
The important thing is to get a really effective head of the Civil Executive, and we propose to appoint a Chief Secretary—dealing with what I have stated is a provisional period—with a seat in the Cabinet, who will, we hope, be able to spend the bulk of his time in Ireland, and who will be responsible in this House for Irish government, in conjunction, of course, with his colleagues in the Cabinet. In looking for such a man at this particular time for this position which, again, is not a very attractive position in the existing state of affairs, we have felt that we ought to discard old labels and find, if possible, someone—it matters very little for the purpose what his past party 2147 affiliations may have been—who will bring to the task a broad and judicial mind, a firm hand, administrative capacity, sympathy with the Irish people, and a strong desire to promote an Irish settlement. Those seem to us to be the qualifications which ought to be possessed at a time like this by the head of the Irish Civil Executive, and, after much consideration, we have, we believe, found these qualifications in my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke).
§ Mr. DILLON
He (Mr. Duke) is a Unionist and you are going to introduce the Coalition that made the Irish rebellion.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
He is a strong supporter of an Irish settlement. He has never taken an active part or partisan part in the Home Rule controversy, and he has shown during the last few years in connection with the Commission which goes under his name, an administrative capacity and tact which everybody brought into contact with him recognises. At any rate, I hope he will start on his new duties with the good wishes of the House. His first business will be to take a careful survey of the whole administrative situation with all its possibilities, both for evil and for good, and he will, I hope and believe, keep well in hand the forces which make for disorder. He will also, I know, always have in view the supreme importance—for supreme it is at this critical moment—of opening or keeping open the road to a settlement on which, perhaps, men of all parties and sections in Ireland may find themselves to be at one. I have now dealt with the actual question which is raised by the Motion of my hon. Friend. I have been asked whether Sir Robert Chalmers is going to continue to hold the office of Under-Secretary. Yes, for the time being. He has gained a considerable amount of experience there which will be valuable, and we consider him one of the ablest servants in the Civil Service. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why do not you keep him there?"]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is the answer I make to the demand which is formulated in the Motion of my hon. Friend that the Government should immediately 2148 disclose to the House their plan for the government of Ireland during the continuance of the War. I have been careful to say that every arrangement which is made or proposed is of a strictly limited and provisional character, confined to the continuance of the War, and, I should hope, if agreement can be arrived at, to a still more limited period. Meanwhile we cannot leave the civil administration of Ireland without a civil head of the Executive, and we trust and believe that the arrangement we have made will conduce to that permanent settlement which everybody in this House now hopes and desires.
§ Mr. J. REDMOND
I think that it is only respectful to the Prime Minister and to the House that I should rise at the earliest possible moment to express my views as to the speech which he has just made. Before doing so I desire very briefly to refer for a moment to the more general topics that have been discussed this afternoon. I am in complete sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman in his references to the new and improved atmosphere which has surrounded this Irish question quite recently. One great good, at any rate, has come out of what has been happening during the last few weeks. That is that the relations between the Irish Nationalist party and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) and his friends have considerably improved. There is less bitterness than ever there was between us, and I, for my part, will be careful, both in this House and out of it, to do nothing and to say nothing in the direction of importing that bitterness in the future. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University recognises now frankly—he has done it in this House: he has done it in the public Press—that the Home Rule Act is on the Statute Book. In addition to that, I think that I am not doing the smallest injustice when I say that his desire, just as much as my desire, is to see in the future a united Ireland. The difference, however, in arriving at that goal which exists between us is largely one of method. But that difference is one which, in my opinion, is not only capable, but is certain one of these days of a peaceful settlement. I certainly, therefore, will lose no opportunity of strengthening the better feeling which has arisen.
2149 The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his extremely eloquent speech the other night, said in a dramatic passage that it would not be a bad thing for the Empire or for Ireland if he and I shook hands upon the floor of the House of Commons. But if the right hon. Gentleman stands by the agreement which we came to, which was submitted to him, which was passed and scanned by him and accepted by him, and was brought by him to Ulster, and which was accepted by us and brought by us to Lister, if he stands by that agreement as we stand by it, why, in effect, we have shaken hands on the floor of the House of Commons already. But one must be perfectly candid and honest in these matters. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman does stand by that agreement as it was passed and submitted by us to our people in Ulster. It seems to me that he desires to vary the terms of the written contract. I deeply regret this. I honestly do not think that it is worth his while having gone so far and having risked so much, as I know perfectly well he has, just as we incurred risks with our friends—I do not think that it is worth his while to seek now to vary the terms of this contract. I will, however, allow no word of reproach to pass my lips in this matter. I feel that what has happened makes a peaceful settlement in the end absolutely certain. Allow me in one sentence to emphasise what our position in this matter is, though, indeed, after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo, it is scarcely necessary for me to do so.
Our position all through these transactions has been this, that it was impossible in the middle of a War of this kind seriously to consider the permanent settlement of such controversial and thorny questions as the position of the Unionist counties in Ulster, as, for example, in addition, the question of the future permanent finance of Ireland, which, of course, must be modified profoundly when the final settlement comes by reason of the War finance. We took the position of saying that in the middle of the War you could not expect Parliament or the country seriously to take up the final and permanent settlement of these problems, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War put his proposition before us it was presented to us merely as a temporary war emergency measure. I do not believe that for one moment the Secretary of State for War ever thought that his proposal was to contain a perma- 2150 nent settlement of any of these great problems. It was put before us as a temporary emergency war measure intended not to settle any of these grave problems, which could not be settled in existing circumstances, but merely to bridge over the period between now and the permanent settlement. As such it was accepted by us, and as such it was submitted to our followers; and I repeat to-day what I said the last time I spoke in this House, last week, that we adhere to-day to every single syllable in the written contract which was arrived at. But we cannot consent, and no fair-minded man can expect us to consent, now to vary that agreement by making the whole future of these Ulster counties the subject of a permanent and enduring settlement, such as Lord Lansdowne demanded in his speech. That is the whole difficulty between us. I recognise today and deeply deplore it, that it is a difference in substance and not, as was said the other day, in phraseology. That is absurd; it is a difference in substance. And I say that it is such a difference, and I regret to say it, as will make the settlement, which we hoped to have carried out impossible at this moment.
Having said so much on the general situation let me come to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He rather complained that my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo had dealt only with the past and had said very little about his Motion. But what was the Motion of the hon. Member? It was simply in the nature of a question. It was a question to the Government: "What are you going to do now? Your proposed settlement has broken down." What did the right hon. Gentleman expect my hon. Friend to do? Did he expect my hon. Friend to suggest this arrangement for the immediate future or that arrangement? That is none of his business. It is the business of the Government and the responsibility is theirs. As the right hon. Gentleman has been reminded, on the 25th May last he solemnly declared that the system of Government in Ireland had broken down. I would rather put that statement in another way. The system of government established in Ireland by the Union has been breaking down all the time. What has happened now is that this particular breakdown has been of so dramatic a character, and has happened in such dramatic circumstances, that everybody sees that breakdown and admits it. The right hon. Gentleman in that 2151 speech went on to say that if some settlement of the nature which the Secretary for War afterwards developed was not carried out by this country, then it would be a confession of the bankruptcy, not alone of statesmanship, but of patriotism. That is the position in which the English Government of Ireland and the House of Commons stand at this moment in the words of the Prime Minister.
Now what is the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman? He has pointed out that for three months we have had practically no Government in Ireland at all, except an absolutely military Government acting under the combined authority of martial law and of the Defence of the Realm Act, and after the three months of chaos in the Government of Ireland the right hon. Gentleman comes down this afternoon and proposes as his remedy merely the setting up again of Dublin Castle, merely the setting up again of this machinery which he himself had stated had hopelessly broken down. This is a very serious step in the present state of unrest in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman shows that he takes a grave view of the state of unrest in Ireland. In view of the fact that this attempted settlement has broken down, that hopes were raised all over Ireland which, have been disappointed, and that everybody in Ireland admits and knows that that settlement has been broken down by the action of Lord Lansdowne and the Unionist Members of the Cabinet, I say in view of all these facts, that the proposal simply to revive Dublin Castle at all is a very serious thing. But to revive it by setting up for all practical purposes a Unionist Executive in Ireland will most undoubtedly outrage still more the feelings of the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman has himself told us that the executive governors of Ireland under the Dublin Castle system are the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General. He has gone out of his way to point out that the position of Lord Lieutenant is a purely honorary one, a purely ornamental one, and that he has no power. The real governors of Ireland are the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General, and they are both to be Unionist. Therefore the naked proposal is this: he is going to set up again Dublin Castle, which he told us was dead, he refuses to put into Dublin Castle an executive of Home Rulers, and he refuses to put in even a Coalition executive. He is going to set up an 2152 executive of Unionists. I must in the name of my colleagues and in my own name, protest against any such proposal.
This is clear. Under this proposal the Government are taking on their own shoulders full and open responsibility. No one can say that we have any responsibility in this matter. It leaves our hands free. It is done in spite of our earnest protests, and it makes it own plain duty, once this executive is set up, to watch and criticise and oppose the new administration, how and when and where we please. There is nothing personal in my objection to this arrangement. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) is one of my oldest Friends in this House. We became friends when we sat side by side as fellow law students in Gray's Inn. From that day to this our relations have been most pleasant, and in addition to that I have for him personally the highest respect. I regard him as a very able man and not at all as a bigoted Unionist. I regard him as a broad-minded man. Therefore, my objection to this arrangement is not upon the basis of the individual at all. They probably could not have got an individual in the Unionist party who would have been more acceptable to me than the right hon. Gentleman. But it is the principle I object to. I say, first of all, that I objected when the Coalition Government was formed. As everyone knows, I objected to the formation of the Coalition. I then objected to that Coalition being brought into the government of Ireland under the circumstances at all, but now even the principle of Coalition is thrown to the winds, and instead of a Coalition Government we are getting in Ireland a purely Unionist Government. I do not care how able, or how representative, or how broad-minded the Unionist is, on principle I object to that arrangement, and I say that the creation of this new Unionist Executive in Ireland will cause the profoundest dissatisfaction in that country, and instead of tending to allay unrest, which undoubtedly exists, will tend in the other direction. I said a moment ago that of course this arrangement will leave us free of any responsibility. Why do I say that? It has been freely stated in the Press, and by inference, at any rate, has been stated in the Report of the Hardinge Commission, that I have been consulted by the Dublin Castle Government on its policy toward the Sinn Fein, and that I was equally responsible 2153 with the late Chief Secretary. I wish to take the earliest opportunity of absolutely contradicting that statement. Dublin Castle never consulted me as to their policy. It is true that I saw, about five or six times during the whole of this period, in Dublin, Sir Matthew Nathan, a Minister for whom, let me say, I have the highest respect. I believe he did the very best he could, and I believe he incurred blame most undeservedly in connection with this matter. I saw Sir Matthew Nathan, in conference, five or six times, but these conferences had nothing whatever to do with the question of the state of the country or Sinn Fein.
There is no secret about it. Conferences were called of my hon. Friend below me (Mr. Dillon) and myself, and the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy), the Government draftsmen, and one or two others, and during these five or six sittings we were doing—what? We we considering the machinery to be created for bringing the Home Rule Act into operation whenever the time came. We went elaborately into it, and at the present moment there is in existence the whole scheme for the creation of new Departments, the making of Orders in Council, and so forth, and at this moment you can put the Act into operation at once and you will find that a great deal of spadework has already been done at these conferences. But there was no conference about the state of the country or the Sinn Fein at all. When once or twice in casual consultation the matter came up—I hope the House will listen to this—I did not hesitate to say what, in my opinion, ought to be done in certain cases by the Government. For example, I expressed a strong view to them as to how they should deal with seditious newspapers and with prosecutions. What I did suggest, they never did; what I said they ought not to do, they always did. And I want to say something further. They never gave me any information, good, bad, or indifferent, about the state of the country. From first to last, I never saw one single confidential Government report from the police or from any other source. I knew nothing whatever about their secret, confidential information. Therefore, not having been given any information, not having been consulted, in the ordinary sense of the word, by them, my casual suggestion having been rejected, I feel very bitterly indeed that it should be alleged of me that I was in constant consultation with the Govern- 2154 ment on these points; that I was in their confidence; and that I shared any particle of responsibility for what they did or for what they did not do.
One word about martial law. Technically, I believe the Prime Minister is correct when he says that all that has been done in Ireland has been done not by virtue of the proclamation of martial law, but under the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act. That is true, I believe, to a large extent. The Defence of the Realm Statute is of such a character that, if it is administered purely by the military authorities, out of sympathy, perhaps, or not want of sympathy so much as want of knowledge of the country, it is bound to be a most oppressive and tyrannical Act. This Act extends to the whole of the United Kingdom during the War. I supported the Bill when it was introduced, and I said, "It is perfectly right; it is your duty to have such a law on the Statute Book, but it all depends upon how it is administered; if it is administered in Ireland in the same spirit as it is administered in England, with proper regard for civil rights, no Irishman, at any rate of my way of thinking, would object. The right hon. Gentleman ought instantly, in my judgment, to withdraw the proclamation of martial law. He said it was only done as a demonstration, but surely he might make a demonstration also by taking it off. Let him trust to the administration of the Defence of the Realm Act, and let him see that the military authority under that Act is a man in whom the people of Ireland have complete confidence. Just one other thing I want to say. I can assure the House that in the whole of these unhappy circumstances, and in the whole of this controversy, I have not been able for one moment to forget the War. Let me say that, notwithstanding all that has happened, nothing has had, and nothing can have, the effect of altering my view about the War, and my view of Ireland's duty towards that War. From the moment that War was started I declared publicly everywhere in Ireland that this was not only England's war, or the Empire's war, or the war of small nationalities throughout Europe, or a war for the general salvation of civilisation in the world. I have stated to the Irish people everywhere that in my judgment this was in a very special sense Ireland's war, and I declared, and I declare again, and will always declare, 2155 that the very highest interests of Ireland consist in doing her duty in winning the War.
Ireland has done her duty so far, and is doing it. Do not let Englishmen allow their natural indignation at this mad, wicked outbreak in Dublin of a couple of thousand men lead them into the horrible injustice of forgetting that there are at this moment, when we are assembled here, 150,000 Irishmen fighting, bleeding, many of them dying, on the battlefields of France. These are the men from Ireland direct, but in addition there are tens of thousands of Irishmen performing the same gallant task from all your Dominions throughout the world. Every day you read of their devotion. No man could have felt, greater sympathy than I had, and no man could have felt greater pride than I did, when I read of the magnificent and heroic exploits of the Ulster Division quite recently in France. That pride was enhanced by the fact, to which the Member for Dublin University himself alluded the other day, that two battalions, by the chance of war, of the Dublin Fusiliers, in one of which my own son is serving, all through this terrible fighting of the last month, have been side by side with the Ulster Division. Do you think that is a thing that can ever be forgotten in the Ireland of the future? Do you think that the survivors of these men—and God only knows how many there will be!—when they return to Ireland, will turn their weapons against one another? No, Sir. Whatever of evil and misery has come out of this War, one good has resulted for Ireland already—there never will be an Irish civil war, and when the time is ripe all our differences, I believe, will be peacefully settled, and the goal to which, in his heart, I believe the Member for Dublin University turns, as I do myself, namely, a united Ireland, will be reached, please God! through the methods of peace and amity.
§ Major GUINNESS
I think the Prime Minister gave good advice when he urged that we should not deal at any length today with the settlement that has just broken down. Personally, I cannot shed crocodile tears about what I believe to have been an ill-timed and ill-advised attempt to find a solution of the Irish problem. I must say that the Prime Minister's speech showed a greater realisation than any previous utterance of the real danger of the present position in 2156 Ireland. I think it was a great step in advance that for the first time since the rebellion in Ireland he has consented to give us, in this House, a Minister responsible for Irish government. The most astonishing feature of the history of Ireland in the last three months has been the refusal of the Cabinet to learn from their past mistakes. The late Chief Secretary said that there never was a time when Ireland was more prosperous during 600 years; but nine years of encouragement of disorder caused him to leave Ireland when the best part of Dublin was in ruins, like Liege or Ypres. The Irish Commission reported.Ireland for several years past has been administered on the principle that it was safer and more expedient to leave law in abeyance of collision if collision with any portion of the Irish people could thereby be avoided. Such a policy is the negation of the cardinal rule of government which demands that the enforcement of law and the preservation of order should always be independent of political expediencySo far, neither experience nor Reports of the Commission could do anything to cure the laxity of the Government. During three most critical months in recent Irish history we have had no Minister responsible to this House for Irish affairs, and the work of the Irish Department has been thrown on the already overburdened Home Secretary. There is not the least excuse for this failure to appoint any responsible Minister, because even if a settlement had come to fruition, it would have been at least a year before the new system of government could, under any circumstances, have been brought into operation. The Irish Local Government Act took over a year after its passing before the necessary machinery had been set up and got to work. I think it has been very unforunate, in the last three months, that Sir John Maxwell, in his difficult task, has not had another Minister responsible to this House, in close touch with him in order to discuss the situation. I therefore welcome the decision, the late decision, to send a Chief Secretary to Ireland. The most urgent need in Ireland to-day is to re-establish security and to let Ireland know that its future government, its future hopes of controlling its own affairs, must depend on its present conduct. I remember a very striking passage in a speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford in which he said that one of the most fatal characteristics of English concessions in Ireland in the past was that they had nearly always been given, he would not say in consequence of, but following on periods of unrest and 2157 violence. There never has been greater need to take that lesson to heart than there is to-day. Irishmen cannot understand that slobbering sentimentality which induces some Englishmen when they get a severe kick to turn round and fall on the neck of the aggressor and try and embrace him. If reasonable men are to have any say in the government of Ireland in the future you must absolutely insulate the current of rebellion from the current of settlement, and Ireland must learn that she cannot hope to get self-government until she has shown clearly that she no longer seeks to use it to rebel against the British partnership.
I think this House has grave cause of complaint against the Government for its policy of concealment. After the calamitous failure of the last few years of Irish administration it is unreasonable to expect the country to leave complete judgment to those who have been responsible for the breakdown, and I think that the country has every right to be given full information as to the facts. I do not complain of the rigid Press censorship which to-day exists in Ireland. No doubt such censorship or military precaution is absolutely necessary, but I do think it is very unfortunate that in some cases the public are not allowed to know the views expressed by Irish public bodies. The Prime Minister to-day refused to grant a Return which he promised me on the 20th of July of the unarmed men and women and children shot in Dublin by the rebels. There is a good deal in his argument that these matters can only increase bitterness and that they ought to be forgotten. I would readily yield to that argument if he would enforce it on those who sit behind me, and who day after day bombard the Treasury Bench with questions as to the alleged murder of this or that innocent person in Dublin.
§ Major GUINNESS
Yes, North King Street is a good example of what I mean. The fact that the Prime Minister has allowed full reports of the Bowen-Colthurst trial and the Flood trial shows, I think, that they have gone very far in the direction of giving full publicity to any mistakes made by the troops. An hon. Member behind me says that we must have an inquiry into the King Street murders. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has promised it!"] He has not. What he has 2158 promised is an inquiry into the Sheehy-Skeffington tragedy. If these kind of inquiries are granted on the one side they ought to be granted on the other, and I think that the Prime Minister's present action is deliberately encouraging the view that the troops behaved with brutality. I think that there should be an absolute truce on both sides to these kind of questions. I would suggest to hon. Members behind me, if they are really so keen on avoiding bitterness in Ireland, if I drop asking questions—and, after all, I only asked for this Return and have not asked questions about individual cases—that in common fairness and to avoid bitterness they ought to do the same. I think that by secrecy the Prime Minister has also caused an absolutely wrong impression of military administration under the Defence of the Realm Act, miscalled martial law. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of the population are absolutely unconscious of the existence of this military administration. There certainly has never been a more moderate form of martial law than that now enforced. I am told that in a village in the West of Ireland the other day an old lady asked, "Who is this Martial Law whose name I see upon the walls?" and a friend whom she asked replied, "Is it martial law you mean. I am told he is a brother of Bonar Law." The truth of the matter is that they do not know in the greater part of Ireland that martial law is in force at all because the Civil Courts are sitting, and except in a case against the Defence of the Realm Act juries are empanelled to try charges.
The state of Ireland, the Prime Minister stated, is at the present time very disquieting. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said recently, or he wrote recently, that Sinn Feiners were being manufactured by the tens of thousands. He attributed this manufacture of Sinn Feiners to military administration, but I should attribute it much more to a memorable speech which the hon. Member for East Mayo made in this House, and also to the belief which has been encouraged by the action of the Government by their intended surrender to disorder in Ireland, that Sinn Fein pays. Now, we are all agreed that Sinn Fein is on the increase. In Dublin, I am informed, the police estimate that since the rebellion it has doubled. If the number of Sinn Feiners which now exist is double 2159 the number which was able to do all the damage they did in Dublin in the rebellion, I think that the House will agree that it is a very disquieting feature. In the rest of Ireland the Sinn Fein has undoubtedly gone ahead by leaps and bounds. Of course it is impossible for anyone to say the number of armed and disciplined men which could be turned out by extremists on the rebels' side in the case of further trouble in Ireland. It largely depends on the officers. I am informed, and I heard it from many directions, that at the present time a large number of those Volunteer forces which formerly were under the moderate control of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, have now gone over to the extremist side.
To enable us to have security against another outbreak in Ireland, I think it is absolutely imperative that we should take steps to see that the Civil Service in Ireland are loyal. Because I raised by question in this House three cases, and three cases only, of Civil servants in Ireland who were reinstated after deportation without any inquiry whatever, I have been most violently attacked. If those three Civil servants were innocent, it surely was no hardship on them to have an inquiry. That inquiry was promised, and the Government have now said that, in the ordinary course, they will be able to go before that tribunal. I have been attacked in a most vitriolic manner, not only in this House, but, on account of what hon. Members behind me have said, from outside. The hon. Member for East Limerick (Mr. Lundon) saw fit to say that I was staying at home on leave because I did not wish to risk my skin in the trenches in France. Had the hon. Member for East Limerick served with me in Anzac, or if I felt that there was the slightest chance of meeting in the near future that hon. Member who, after all, is three years younger than myself, in the trenches in France, I should attach very much more importance to his criticism. But, of course, all these personal issues are absolutely insignificant, and they will not turn me from my object in trying to prevent the British Army, by mismanagement in Ireland, having to face opposition on a new front.
When I was attacked last week I was not at liberty to quote a case which I think will bring home to the House the danger which may be done by a disloyal 2160 Civil servant in Ireland. Mr. Arnold White, who gave me the case as the result of inquiries in Ireland, and gave me, in confidence, the evidence on which he relied, has put that case before the First Lord, and he says that I am entitled to use it. On the 25th April the clerk in the Dublin Telephone Exchange telephoned to the operator at Cork: "Dublin has risen; let Cork rise." By good fortune the confederate in Cork was out at lunch, and therefore that message was given to a man who was not a Sinn Feiner, and saw that it did not reach the rebel headquarters, but, on the contrary, was conveyed to the military authorities. Cork did not rise, but I think that hon. Members, when they consider a case like that, will see that we are justified in pressing the Government to carry out the pledge which they have given to see that these avowed rebels are not employed in those public positions where they could do damage to the defences of this country. Communications, after all, are of such vital importance in modern warfare that it is of very grave importance to see that telegraphs, telephones and railways and all means of transport and internal communication shall be in the hands of men who are not disloyal. The Prime Minister told us very little to-day as to what steps were proposed to carry out Lord Lansdowne's undertaking the other day that the Government would govern Ireland and try to wipe out—or words to that effect—the damage and mischief which has been brought about.
§ Major GUINNESS
The Prime Minister did not say in what way they proposed to repair the damage and mischief, which I think is very unfortunate. At the present time I think we must admit disarmament is absolutely impossible, but with the organised power for mischief which exists in the form of armed and drilled men, it is absolutely necessary rigidly to enforce the regulation, which I believe is being considered, as to preventing drilling and carrying of arms in the country. It is not merely a danger, all this drilling, in the case of rebellion itself—it is a demonstration defiant to the existing Administration in Ireland and so overawes the waverers that they drop into the hands of the extremists, whom I believe hon. Members behind me, as well as myself, consider 2161 to be a dangerous influence in Ireland. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) said I held a different view during the Ulster crisis. I never had anything to do with the Volunteers, but at the time of the Ulster crisis the right hon. and learned Member for Waterford had not taken up the loyal attitude which—as I fully admit—he has since taken up with regard to recruiting in Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "There was not a war!"] Exactly; but that is the answer to the hon. Member for West Belfast. There was no war, but the point is that at the present time, with these organised powers of mischief in Ireland, the Nationalist party cannot control them, and therefore the Administration must take steps to prevent moderate men being overawed and driven into the ranks of the rebels. I know that hon. Members behind me very strongly object to the revival of certain Clauses from the Crimes Act of 1887, but I think we must recognise that the Prime Minister has done the right thing in freeing himself from the slavery of words. There is no more coercion in bringing certain cases before the resident magistrates in Ireland than it is coercion for me to be liable to be brought up before a Police Court magistrate at Bow Street rather than before a bench of amateurs. All forms of law and order are coercion to the law breaker. Very often, Mr. Speaker, I feel that you are a very troublesome form of coercion, but I realise that without law and order our proceedings here or elsewhere would be absolutely impossible. Well, as soon as Ireland shows that it is safe to remove the exceptional provisions under the Crimes Act, and to allow people to go before the ordinary magistrates again, I hope and believe that those provisions will be withdrawn; but until then, in the interests of Ireland, it is absolutely necessary that these exceptional powers should exist.
I think that the first step, if I may say so, towards re-establishing security in Ireland has already been achieved by the miscarriage of that reward which the Government proposed to give a rebellion. That unfortunate failure was not due to any action of the Government, but merely to their ignorance and miscalculation of the conditions and feelings which existed in Ireland. No doubt a great deal of the trouble has been due to the fact that for long years past the Chief Secretary for Ireland has been an absentee, and therefore largely unapproachable. I have heard Nationalist Members behind me say 2162 that they could never get their views even considered, and certainly that complaint is made far more by the scattered Unionists who live in the South and West. I welcome the statement of the Prime Minister that the new Chief Secretary will spend much of his time in Ireland, and I hope he will make it his business to put himself in touch with all sections of opinion.
§ Major GUINNESS
He should make himself absolutely approachable, so that people can go to him and explain what is going on without having to go first to a lot of private secretaries, and having to wait many days before they can get to the Chief Secretary. To govern Ireland to-day needs courage, decision and perseverance, for none of which qualities the Government are particularly distinguished, and I do hope that all who really care for the welfare of Ireland and the safety of the British Isles will bring pressure to bear on the Government to face the difficulty, and not to shrink from their task.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
If there is any section of people in this House which has reason to be pleased with the Prime Minister's speech, it is the section to which the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken belongs. The speech of the Prime Minister was one to give heart, courage, and hope to the Die-Hards, but it was not a message of peace and encouragement; it was not a message that would give satisfaction to the Nationalists of Ireland—whose hearts have been set on the settlement of this question by the setting up of representative institutions in the country. It is not a matter which can possibly even give satisfacton to the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Sir Edward Carson), whom we well believe tried to secure a settlement, even of a temporary nature, on the basis of the agreement which was come to at the request of the Government, and agreed to by the Nationalists on the one side, and those for whom the right hon. Gentleman speaks on the other. What a humiliation it is to have from the Prime Minister of this country at the present time the realisation of what he said when he returned to this House after his visit to Ireland, of the falure of the Government to settle the Irish question on the lines of recognising that Home Rule is on the Statute Book, and that the machinery 2163 for governing Ireland which has hitherto prevailed, had absolutely broken down! He said then that the failure to settle on these lines would be a confession that British statesmanship was bankrupt. Truly, in the light of his speech to-day, and the announcement which he made to the House, British statesmanship, as represented by the Prime Minister and the present Coalition, is bankrupt, and is no credit either to the Government, to this House, or the country which sent them here. The principal characteristics of this Government—of the Prime Minister's Governments, both of the Coalition Government and of the Government which he presided over before the Coalition was formed—in regard to Ireland, are anything but creditable.
What opportunities the Prime Minister has lost. A couple of years ago, in 1914, when the Home Rule Bill was passed and made a Statute of the Realm, the Prime Minister lost a glorious opportunity because, if he had been a courageous man, he could then have put Home Rule into operation and set up an executive Government in Ireland. Even lately, what an opportunity he has missed. A formal agreement had been entered into, and the heads of the agreement had been reduced to writing, for a settlement of this question on lines which had been accepted, perhaps after a considerable amount of hesitation, by the Irish Nationalists on the one hand and by the Ulster Unionists on the other. That settlement has broken down. Why? Because there was pressure wit in the Cabinet from the Unionist Members within the Cabinet, and the Prime Minister did then, as he has done over and over again, he yielded. It is due to the Unionists within the Cabinet that that settlement has broken down, and that new conditions were imposed, and that it was sought to force the Nationalists of Ireland to go back on the pledges that have been made. I think it was very courageous or the part of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War last Monday when this question was under debate in the House. Then the Prime Minister and the Secretary for War said, "Oh, we quite sympathise with the right hon. and learned Member for Waterford. He knows how far he can go with his own people; he knows his own limitations." Unfortunately, this was not the cause of the failure to carry out that bargain and agreement. The cause of the failure was that the Nationalists of 2164 Ireland could not trust the Cabinet to carry out the engagement and understanding which they had honourably entered into. Unionists within the Cabinet have succeeded, on account of the weakness of the Prime Minister, and of those Liberals who still remain within the Cabinet.
That settlement has fallen to the ground, and to-day there is a further triumph of the Unionists within the Coalition and the Cabinet. They have not only rendered a settlement on the lines which have been agreed on possible, but they have the effrontery to demand, and the Prime Minister has the weakness to concede, the setting up of a Unionist executive for the government of Ireland in the present condition of affairs. If statesmanship could suffer a greater fall, if it could have a greater crash than this, it would be very difficult to imagine it. What is the position? A new executive is being set up which, of course, cannot evoke any enthusiasm from the Nationalists in Ireland, and which cannot be respected by the great majority of the people of Ireland. With Home Rule on the Statute Book, you give over the whole control of the executive of Ireland to men who are known to be opposed to it, to the junior Member for Trinity College, the Attorney-General, and to the right hon. and learned Member for Exeter, who is a great and distinguished lawyer, and a man for whom on personal grounds every one in the House has the highest respect. To do that is simply to set up in control of the government of Ireland at the present time, when the Home Rule Act is on the Statute Book, men returned to Parliament pledged to resist Home Rule. And of these two the principal man is the junior Member for Trinity College, who was actively engaged in stirring up sedition and strife in Ireland in order to render it impossible to carry out what Parliament had decreed when they passed the Home Rule Act in 1914. Not only is the announcement which the Prime Minister has made with regard to the setting up of the executive an unfortunate and unsatisfactory announcement, but it was most disquieting to hear from the Prime Minister, in the course of his speech this afternoon, that he and the Home Secretary have had recourse to the adoption of the Coercion Act for dealing with certain offences in Ireland. How lamentable this is may be judged from the fact that the Prime Minister has admitted that crime is practically nonexistent in Ireland. The 2165 Prime Minister says the only instances of crime of a serious character are a few cases of cattle driving, and yet the Government have not sufficient belief in the capacity of the Courts of Law to administer the law in Ireland, so that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have decided to invoke the aid of the Coercion Act. Surely it is insulting to Ireland to be told that. And on what does the Prime rest his assertion? That it is necessary to have these two or three cases tried under the Coercion Acts! He says that martial law has been set into operation in Ireland by a Proclamation. If his only reason for saying that the Coercion Act must be brought into operation is in order to try these cases, why cannot he, by another Proclamation, withdraw martial law? I say it is the duty of the Government, unless they want to court trouble and deliberately to foster disaffection in Ireland, to withdraw 'the operation of the Coercion Act in Ireland.
They would be also exceedingly well advised if they at once withdraw Sir John Maxwell from Ireland. His continued presence in Ireland can have no other effect than to aggravate all the ill-feeling which has been created by his conduct of the government of Ireland since it was put into his hands. A Government starting on this new course might also be very wise in liberating a great number—in fact almost all—of the 500 odd men who are at present interned. I think it is idle to say that these men have had a fair trial before the Committee over which Mr. Justice Sankey presides. It is a misuse of words to say that there was any such thing as a trial before this Committee. In the first place, when these men have been brought before this Committee for trial, no charge has been preferred against them; they were not furnished with any particulars on which they could frame a defence for themselves. It was impossible for them to be defended; they could not have the assistance of any legal representative prepared for them. It. was impossible for them to have any witness called who could give evidence on their behalf; and to say that such a system is satisfactory in any sense of the word is utterly to misuse words and to commit a great mistake. We say that in this the Government are merely deluding themselves. Until those prisoners against whom absolutely no shadow of a crime can be charged are released, and are reinstated in their homes, there is bound 2166 to be a great amount of unrest and dissatisfaction in Ireland. Even the system which the Prime Minister is setting up, bad as it is, is bound to be a grotesque failure unless at once the Government are prepared to restore jury trial, and to withdraw this monstrous attempt to bring the Coercion Act into operation; to recall General Maxwell; and put an end to martial law in Ireland.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
In intervening in' this Debate—not, I hope, at very great length—it is certainly not with the object of polluting that atmosphere of friendliness in which the Prime Minister takes a natural interest and pride. It is certainly to be desired that discussions about Ireland, even in times of peace, much more in a time of war, should be free from that intensity of feeling which before the War characterised them. I have never dreamt even of regretting the friendliness of tone which has marked the speeches, for example, of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Trinity College, though I have sometimes felt some misgiving as to whether that friendliness of tone was to be accounted for by a patriotic desire to avoid disagreement during the War or whether it was, in some measure at least, to be attributed to some qualification of opinion. I have no doubt that all the Unionists who have taken part, whether in the Cabinet or out of it—and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University was in the inner circle—were prompted by an honest and patriotic desire to serve their country. But I have some doubt as to whether they have not permitted the natural and unavoidable concern they have felt about the War, and their sense of its predominant and overwhelming importance, to prevent them from even giving the whole of their mind and attention to the Irish question, and I am persuaded that no one has any prospect of arriving near a solution of that somewhat difficult and intricate matter if he approaches it with only half his attention.
What, however, I have risen to do is to take a very humble part in the interchange of views which I conceived the Government to be asking for when they gave the hon. Member for East Mayo to-day for the discussion of his Motion. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford very truly said, the hon. Member put down his Motion as a question; it in form asks a question, and to 2167 that question the Government have replied. I hope I shall not be thought intrusive, if from the point of view of the Prime Minister's utterances I say some words as to the prospects before Ireland, and what chance there is of approaching a solution of the Irish question. If I venture on a general criticism of the negotiations, apart from details which have already been much discussed, it would be to say this: that they approached the Irish question as though the Ulster question was the only element in it. They treated it as a matter, and I think they still treat it as a matter, to be solved by diplomacy. The Prime Minister appealed for a friendly atmosphere in a speech constantly referring to attempts to bring people together, and in which phrase after phrase fell from him as to "give-and-take," and the like. He said, indeed, that we had passed a milestone in Irish discussion because of the friendly tone that had of late prevailed. The hon. Member for East Mayo in his speech said that the right hon. Gentleman was a great master of formulae. With great diffidence I differ from the hon. Member for East Mayo; by virtue of his long Parliamentary experience he is a very good critic. But I would suggest that if the Prime Minister has an infirmity it is in metaphor rather than in formulae. We all knew when he prefaced the statement about the appointment of Chief Secretary by reference to labels that an Unionist was about to be appointed. When he says that there has been a milestone passed he means that those concerned are precluded from using the arguments they did use. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman if that is the meaning of his formula. Whatever Act may be on the Statute Book the Unionist case remains the true case, and the Unionist opinions the sound opinions. The Unionist case is, in my opinion, a case which is unanswered and unanswerable. In all points where Unionists differ from Home Rulers, I believe them to be in the right and the Home Rulers to be in the wrong. That has a bearing upon what I began to say: That is, that the Government have dealt with the Irish question as though it were only an Ulster question. If you deal with the Irish question merely in relation to the Ulster question it is very largely, no doubt, a question of diplomacy. Give-and-take, seizing the golden moments, shaking hands, and all the rest of the metaphorical arguments, then become appropriate. But 2168 if it is not that, if it is only and also something much more than that, then I think that all these ways of solving the Irish question are inadequate.
There are two other great problems beside the problem of Ulster which must be solved before you can solve the Irish question. There is the problem of satisfying, consistently with the interests of the British Empire at large, and the keeping of a good feeling between Ireland and Great Britain—of satisfying one way or another, of meeting and dealing with in one way or another, what may be called the Nationalist aspirations expressed now in their most vehement form by those whom we call the Sinn Feiners. This Nationalist aspect claims a certain number of Irishmen who say that Ireland is a distinct nationality, like Hungary or Norway. There are two main ways of meeting that. There is the Home Rule way, which would give to Ireland certain institutions which seem to satisfy the claim of nationality, while at the same time denying to Ireland a distinct nationality in the final, separate sense. You may treat Ireland as you treat the Dominion of Canada, or as the United States treats South Carolina, or your policy might be the half-way house between separation and union, but you would not thereby satisfy the demands of the Irish Nationalists, who believe that Ireland is a nation in the full and distinct sense. You will never satisfy that demand except by separation.
You must, therefore, as we maintain, either separate Ireland altogether, or separate so much as lies outside the excluded Ulster districts, or else you must convert the Southern counties, the twenty-six counties or whatever it is, to abandon that extreme form of nationalism and come into the common patriotism of the rest of the United Kingdom. I do not think that the proposed settlement was the smallest contribution to a solution of that part of the question. It certainly did not please the separatists—that is, the Sinn Feiners. Hon. Members have repeatedly said that it did not even please their own party, and their own immediate supporters, though they were willing, but reluctant, to agree; and it did not please Unionists either in the North or South. It did nothing whatever to satisfy the tension and difficulty called up by the Irish Nationalist sentiment. There is another branch of the subject, the law and order problem—that is the maintenance of law 2169 and order in face of the particular condition of Irish public opinion. Irish public opinion is, to an extent which makes government very, very difficult, sympathetic with lawlessness. It has a dislike to the punishment of criminals. There is the difficulty both in respect of the Irish Nationalists, and arising from the Irish Nationalist sentiment—the difficulty of enforcing law and order against a large and influential section of Irish public opinion. The Irish question is actually in a worse position than it was when the Home Rule Bill was under discussion. It is not easier to deal with. We have gone back to the previous milestone rather than further forward to a new and somewhat encouraging one. When the Home Rule Bill was under discussion there were a great many, even Unionists, who felt that, so far as the law and order part of the case went, it largely dealt with the past. Ireland was so peaceful and quiet! There seemed every reason to hope that whatever the institutions that were to be given there might be a continuance of the quiet and tranquillity. No one can say that with any confidence now. It is obvious that the disturbance of the Rebellion is liable—I hope it will not be so—to be followed by similar disturbances as in the past—by intimidations and other evils of the sort.
The law and order problem is in a harder and a worse position than when the War broke out. It is to me, then, most surprising that with these different circumstances Unionist members of the Cabinet, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Trinity College, went so far as they did to approve the settlement. I understand why the Home Rulers did. They thought—and they were entitled to think—that the Home Rule Act was the best solution that this House could offer; so far as the districts outside Ulster went, they were entitled to think it was the best solution that could be offered to these two parts of the problem. It has satisfied the Irish Nationalist sentiment, and they hoped it would lead to the enforcement of law and order. The whole Unionist case in these two great branches of the Irish question was this position: We had always maintained, and I suppose my right hon. Friends in the Cabinet and out of the Cabinet still maintain, the belief that the Irish Nationalist Government would not satisfy the Separatist sentiment, and would only prove to be a transitory half-way house, which would either have to go forward to separation or with great difficulty go back to Federa- 2170 tion and Union. On the other hand, they have always maintained that the Irish Nationalist Government would lack either the will or the power, or both, to enforce law and maintain order. What was there in the circumstances of the War to induce so many Unionists to abandon—to forget, at any rate—these two important branches of the Unionist case? To assume all at once that the Irish Nationalist Government in Parliament could enforce or would enforce the law, or to assume again that the existence of an Irish Nationalist Parliament and Government would damp down the Separatist feeling and make the great mass of Irish opinion more friendly and more loyal, as we say, to the unity of the United Kingdom? I therefore do not understand, and never shall understand, why any of the Unionists viewed the proposed settlement with approbation. I do not say that merely with the view of finding fault with my own Friends. I say it because I am most anxious that in any future effort to solve the problem we should get away from the atmosphere of diplomacy, and make an effort to get conflicting opinions to agree, and to solve the problem as it is in itself. You cannot solve the Irish question by any number of round tables. We are against, as it were, a closed door. It is no use our kissing one another. What we have to do is to find the key. The problem cannot be solved by good will, or by seeking golden moments, or by give and take, or by any of those specifics well known to the public. What we want is someone who will study the Irish question, study the true source and strength of Irish Nationalist sentiment, and make up his mind whether Separatist or Unionist treatment, or something between the two, is the right way to deal with it, and then, again, study how and why Irish opinion is hostile to the law, and see how to bring it round to a saner feeling on the subject.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill reminds me that there have been twenty years of resolute government. You have had ten, and remarkably successful they were. I am sure in the whole record of Irish history there has been no such successful Administration as the Administration which held office in 1895 to 1906, because in all its parts, so far as Ireland 2171 goes, apparently successful Unionist policy was in a fair way to solve the Irish question when the change of Government took place. Since then other counsels have prevailed. You have had eight, nine, or ten years of the administration of the right hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Birrell), and there is a rebellion in Ireland and you have to bombard Dublin. I do not know whether anyone has lately lead—but it well deserves reading, because it is an admirable piece of rhetoric, and is very instructive—the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford when the Home Rule Bill was passed in the final Debate. We had not the privilege of listening to the speech because we were following the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary and the right hon. and learned Member for Trinity College out of the House in protest against the outrageous way in which the Bill was passed; but I have since read it, and it anticipated a complete tranquillity in Ireland. There was to be no ill-feeling. Ireland was to be on the side of Great Britain in the War as she has never been before, and finally the Prime Minister was invited to go over to Dublin, which he did, and I have always understood it was a very triumphant occasion. I do not know whether the building in which he spoke is one of the buildings knocked down, but I believe we may congratulate him on having that building still standing unbombarded by the British Government. I confess that for the Prime Minister to recommend to us a new specific, after the old specific failed so disastrously, shows a degree of optimism which only peculiar temperaments can attain and others hardly can be expected to imitate. Let the future Government of Ireland rather seek to prepare the way after the War for a settlement which will not necessary please one person after another, or anyone in particular. Let it be a means adjusted to the end which will really deal with the difficulties of the Irish problem. Anyone who likes to see the question of nationality very lucidly and ably treated might read the pamphlet of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, published at the end of 1913. If they will read that pamphlet they will see, at any rate, a very clear and an effective statement of the difficulty of that side of the problem. Let them further consider what all Government will really bring round Irish public opinion to see, that by break- 2172 ing the law you reduce a country to anarchy. I do not attempt to foresee what would be the result of an investigation so conducted. The hon. Member for Mayo invited me to say whether I was in favour of repealing the Home Rule Act. I think he had an object in that—a perfectly legitimate Parliamentary object.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I am sure of that, and I think the object was that he thought I should give an injudicious answer. That is a perfectly legitimate object. But, as a matter of fact, I am protected from that disposition, which might otherwise assail me, by a very strong conviction that none of us ought to make up our minds at all decisively or conclusively as to how to treat Ireland after the War while the War is still in progress. The important thing is to avoid, as far as my contribution can, a premature decision upon the Irish question. I suppose a great many people have had the unpleasant experience of lying awake early in the morning, just at that time of day when everyone takes a depressed view of all circumstances. Everyone knows that, whatever may be pressing on the mind at that hour seems overwhelmed, and though you do not see as facts what are not facts, and you do not see anything so wrongly as to be called insane, yet you take a view absolutely out of proportion to the real truth of the situation. I believe most people take views about domestic politics in war time which are absolutely out of proportion. I am almost sure my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Trinity College is so concerned about the War that he is no longer able to direct the same clear judgment as before the War to solve the problems of Ireland. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee has often shown you are not always wise when you are quarrelsome. I therefore deprecate Very much any attempt to decide this question. We are told there is to be a great Imperial Conference after the War. I should be indulging in optimism if I said I thought it was at all certain that would find a solution of the Irish question. The problem is so difficult, its roots are traceable so far in history, that I suspect nothing but a great lapse of time will ever bring Irishmen to a perfect state of peace, satisfaction and tranquillity. But, at any rate, that is a suggestion which, making as it does for an adjournment of the Irish problem, I rejoice in it, and I rejoice also 2173 in the appointment of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter as Chief Secretary for Ireland. I am aware that hon. Members behind me say he is a Unionist. Of course he is a Unionist. I am not quite clear that if tried by Inquisition on a charge of heresy to Unionism he would be quite certain of escaping the stake. But, at any rate, he is a man eminently qualified by his position in the House, and the respect he enjoys among all parties, to fill a very difficult office at a very difficult moment. I hope he, too, will not seek to come to a hasty decision upon the Irish question. By maintaining that attitude of an open mind, by maintaining the attitude that the question is to be solved, not by prematerely embracing it, but by a thorough investigation and reflection upon the real essence of the question, we shall, I think, do all we can do, all that the new Chief Secretary can do, all that any of His Majesty's Ministers can do, to bring a solution of the Irish question nearer than it is at present.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Bonar Law)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has often reminded the House that this is a Coalition Government, and it so happens that, up to now, no representative of the Mosaic to which I belong has spoken. I think it would be right, therefore, that I should address a few words, and they will be very few. I do not intend, I need not say, to answer the speech of my Noble Friend who has just sat down, but I think that speech is useful as showing to other sections of the House how difficult the position is from the point of view of every party which has taken part in this controversy. My Noble Friend very carefully avoided answering the question whether or not he would repeal the Home Rule Act. I feel his whole speech is an indication of the proper attitude of those who, like him, and like myself, believe that Unionism is the right policy, and have supported it in the past. It is quite clear his view is that if we got a majority we ought to repeal the Home Rule Act. There is one little difficulty about that. My Noble Friend spoke very truly about the good effect of ten years' resolute government, and then, by a lapse into history which was very striking, he reminded us that the ten years came to an end, and we had not resolute government. That is a difficulty we have got to face always in dealing with this question. You can never count, whatever else you may count in this 2174 country, with its institutions, upon the continuance of one party in office, and therefore no solution which is based on the permanent rule of one party or the other is a solution which in itself can altogether succeed. My Noble Friend spoke about these proposals as of a kind that ought not to be debated, because his view is that the way to settle the Irish question is not to regard the opinion of people in general or classes in general, or any one in particular, but to do what is right. I understood the complaint about this settlement was that it did not please anyone in general or particular, and from that point of view it ought to commend itself. My Noble Friend, in speaking of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Trinity College, formed the idea that he has lost that cool judgment which characterised him when, as the Prime Minister said, he was pre-eminently the representative of Unionism in the fight against Home Rule. I think that was only another way of stating that my right hon. and learned Friend had lost his cool judgment when he happened to disagree with my Noble Friend who sits below the Gangway.
My object in rising at all is for a very different purpose, and I am afraid that what little I have to say will hardly commend itself to any section of the House at the moment. I heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister use words which gave me a shock when he said that nobody will ever be able to take the Home Rule Bill off the Statute Book. Well, that may be true, and as all the Unionist Members in the Cabinet, including myself, were willing to adopt a settlement which did include giving effect to that policy, I cannot take exception to it. I should like to say something on the other side, and it is this. So far as I am able to prevent it, Home Rule never will come into operation until there is an amending Bill which carries out fairly an agreement which represents what is fair and reasonable in the view of every section of the House. My reason for taking part in the Debate at all is the very strong language which was used by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) about Lord Lansdowne. I think I shall be able to convince the House and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that the attack made upon Lord Lansdowne as an individual is altogether unjustified from any point of view. I say this the more clearly because it is the fact that, although Lord Lansdowne and myself 2175 came to the same conclusion as to what was the right thing to do in the emergency which has arisen, we came to it by different routes. It is well known to my hon. Friends opposite, who were present at the meeting of the Unionist Members at the Carlton Club, that once the negotiations had gone the length they had at that time, I believe that it would be in the interests, not of Ireland or of Ulster alone, but of the United Kingdom, that having gone to that length the negotiations should go through and a settlement should come. Holding that belief, I was ready to incur, and I did incur, the suspicion of those with whom I had worked all my political life and whose opinions I value. I was prepared to face the certainty of a certain amount of division in our party because it was evident, taking into account the position in which this country stood, that there was something more important involved even than the interests of any political party, however strong.
Lord Lansdowne and I travelled to this conclusion upon different ground. From the beginning his attitude was—and he made it perfectly plain to everyone of his colleagues—that he considered this settlement was a bad thing at the time, and he has not concealed from any of us that he was prepared to see it carried out on something like these lines after the War had come to an end. He had before him the alternative of deciding whether he would allow a settlement in which he did not believe to go through, or whether he would face the responsibility of breaking up the Government at a time like this when we are engaged in the greatest crisis of the War, and he decided that the latter was the greater evil. I can assure every hon. Member of this House that, having taken that decision, he meant as much as any other member of the Cabinet to see the Bill through, and he accepted the principle of it. There is no doubt about that. To take any other attitude, to stay in the Cabinet for the sake of wrecking the Government after you had refused to resign would be contemptible on the part of anyone, and would be impossible to anyone who knows the character of Lord Lansdowne. Now, I think it necessary and right to make it perfectly plain, although I am rather afraid that it may revive the discussion which was left in a very good atmosphere the other night, 2176 what our attitude was with regard to the two points on which the negotiations have broken down. There was no difference of opinion on those two points with any member of the Unionist party in the Cabinet. As regards the question of the position of Ulster, I need not go again into the misunderstanding which has taken place, but I think it is right to point out that from the beginning there was no doubt on the part of any Unionist member of the Cabinet, or indeed, on the part of any member of the Cabinet to whatever party he previously belonged. It is not really difficult to prove that. When it was announced that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War was going on with these negotiations, the Prime Minister used what the hon. Member for East Mayo called a formula. I think it is more than a formula; I think it expressed a very clear view of a very clear position. In giving the announcement that he was going on with the negotiations, he distinctly stated that in his view there could be no question of coercing any part of Ireland into a settlement. What happened later? This I am giving as showing clearly what the view of the Government was. When the Prime Minister stated the proposed settlement, he stated in the clearest and most emphatic way that the excluded area could not be brought in against the will and without the consent of those excluded.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member has mistaken my argument. I do not say there was not a misunderstanding on the part of hon. Members below the Gangway. That is not my difficulty, but I say there never was any doubt in the mind of the Cabinet as to what was the meaning. The Prime Minister not only stated that, but he was asked by my right hon. Friend to make it clear, and in answer to his question he stated clearly and emphatically that it could not be altered except by an Act of Parliament. I hope that shows, and I think everyone in the House will agree, that so far as the Cabinet was concerned, we had no doubt as to what the understanding meant.
§ Mr. DILLON
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman but this is very important. What we stand by is the wording of the Agreement, and not the statement of the Prime Minister. On the 2177 night when he made that statement there was no opportunity for a debate, and we were not allowed a debate, or I would personally have protested.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member is still overlooking the argument I am making. I am bound to say that if it were worth while to go into the merits I have the heads of the Agreement here, and in my opinion they do not bear out the construction which is put upon them by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
May I put the question again—whether the words of the Agreement by which we stand were incorporated in the first draft of the Bill?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I really do not know what that has to do with it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Answer!"] I will answer at once; I do not know. I will say that I shall never be bound in the smallest degree by what a draftsman puts into a Bill until the Cabinet has approved it. I am sorry in a way to raise this question, but I have been forced to do it by the interruptions of the hon. Gentleman opposite. The first two Clauses of that Agreement are as follows:
Clause 14 says that these provisions as to 1 and 2 are exactly on the same footing. No. I says that the Home Rule Act has to be put into operation, and No. 2 says it is not to apply to the six counties, so that they are precisely on the same footing. If one is provisional so is the other, and there must be an Act of Parliament for that purpose before it can be altered. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford this afternoon in a speech—the temper of which was as admirable as the speech he made the other night—told us that this was more than a question of words; but is it? I do not think so. The hon. and learned Gentleman himself, and even the hon. Member for East Mayo in his speech the other night, told us that they had no intention of coercing Ulster. Now, it is one of two things. If Ulster is to be brought in, she can only be brought in by coercing her, or by convincing her; there is no other way. If hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway tell 2178 us that they do not intend to coerce her, but mean to convince her, then it is quite evident that we all mean the same thing in every respect.
- "1. The Government of Ireland Act, 1914, to be brought into operation as soon as possible after the passing of the Bill, subject to the modifications necessitated by those instructions.
- 2. The said Act not to apply to the excluded area, which is to consist of the six counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, including the Parliamentary boroughs of Belfast, Londonderry and Newry."
§ Mr. DILLON
That raises the all-important point, what is Ulster? I said we would not desire to coerce any community of Ulstermen where there is a majority, but the same principle would have to be applied to Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Derry City, where there is a majority of Nationalists.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I say at once that if that had been told to us in the Cabinet, we would never have looked at the negotiations for a moment for this obvious reason. What is the use of calling a thing a "settlement" if, at the end of a certain length of time, you are to fight about the very same issue which made a settlement impossible at the Buckingham Palace Conference. If that had been the proposal, not one of us would have looked at it for a moment. Therefore, so far as the Unionist Members of the Cabinet are concerned—and the whole Cabinet—we never had any doubt that in every sense of the word the excluded area was to be left out until that area itself was willing to come in. That was our meaning. As regards the second point, I say at once that hon. Gentlemen below the .Gangway are on much stronger ground. That is a departure in the terms of the Agreement made by my right hon. Friend, and they have a right to take exception to it. I am sure they all recognise that there is no right whatever to accuse anybody of a breach of faith in connection with that. It is quite evident that if my right hon. Friend had been expected at every stage of the negotiations to communicate with the Cabinet, he never would have carried those negotiations a single yard in the way of a settlement. It was in the nature of the case quite evident—and it was made clear to hon. Members below the Gangway—that these proposals were put forward with the clear knowledge that the Cabinet might not accept them. In the nature of the case that must be so, and they could not have been bound by the negotiations. In regard to that I think hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway had a right to find fault with us for not raising the question earlier. All I can say is that I believe I was the first of my colleagues to notice it, and I wish it clearly to be understood, at all events 2179 since I am accused on one side of betraying my principles, I must not be accused on the other side of not trying to get a settlement. The moment I understood what this meant I said to the Prime Minister, "It is utterly impossible that such an arrangement can be agreed to."
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not know. I said the moment I noticed it that it was utterly impossible that that arrangement could be agreed to. I am convinced, having satisfied every fair-minded English or Scottish Member, I believe I can satisfy hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that such an arrangement was utterly impossible. Let me put the case. When the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo spoke of our rejecting this because for a few months the Unionist party would not be in power on account of their votes, there was a loud cheer. Is not that rather making a pretence? So long as the party system exists we are supposed to belong to a party because we believe in the principle for which that party stands, and I say at once, for myself, that not only no leader of a party but no member of a party could possibly agree to an arrangement which, whereby, after twenty-six counties of Ireland had received Home Rule for themselves and it was in actual operation and we were not allowed to interfere with what they did in their Parliament, they should be in a position, these eighty Members, of very likely being the determining factor whether a Government of one particular party or another should carry on the affairs of this country. I do not think that is tolerable, but it goes very much further. The hon. Gentleman said that it might be only for a few months. Yes, but what critical months! If not before, when the War ends there is going to be an election. Can anyone foresee the issue, or, for that matter, can anyone force the distribution of parties when all this comes about? Suppose it were this issue. Suppose it were a question in which one section of the community believed that all the blood and treasure which have been spent in this War were going to be spent in vain because we did not get the kind of peace to which we were entitled. Does anyone suggest that the result of such an election could be allowed to be decided under an arrangement of that kind? I say this with perfect good will towards hon. Gentlemen 2180 below the Gangway, and in their presence. If they would judge these questions on their merits, I would not be afraid of their votes, but they have always told us, and they tell us now, that the reason they insist on remaining is that they may throw their weight into the' party which Will back them in the Irish question. I put it to them: Is it reasonable to suppose that any English Unionist could agree to an arrangement of that kind?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Let me point out this further. Suppose that this question of any interference with this Bill, or the Home Rule Bill, came up, the Irish Members would come in their full force. I wish the House and the country to realise that we really have tried to be fair in this matter. We were prepared to say this: If the election came before the Home Rule Parliament was in full operation, then the Irish Members would come in their full numbers. I do not believe that any fairminded man, taking into account all the facts of the situation, will consider that any other determination than that to which we came was possible. That at least is my opinion. Let me point out this to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. After all this is not a permanent bar to a settlement of this question. It cannot be, for hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and the Liberal party accepted the principle in the Home Rule Act that the Irish Members were to be reduced in numbers. I ask hon. Gentlemen on those benches to remember this. Even with the reduction, though I have not made the calculation, I think I am right in saying that they will have three-fourths of the numbers to which they are entitled under existing Parliamentary conditions. If a settlement on these lines can be got, the arrangement on which we insisted is an arrangement accepted by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway.
I am sorry to have been so argumentative, but, after all, our case must be put to the House, and up to now it has not been put. The one thing that I am anxious about to-day is not the apportioning of blame to one section of the House or to the other. It is not even justifying my own party in the attitude we have taken. It is this: These negotiations were started with no other feeling on the part of anyone who had any part or share in them than that an effort should be made to bring closer together men of good will— 2181 and by good will I mean men who are standing by us in this life-and-death struggle in which we are engaged. There could be no greater calamity than that negotiations started for that purpose should end in causing the division to be wider than it was before. That would be deplorable, and it ought not to be the result. I would remind hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that, at all events, the Unionist Members of the Cabinet—the whole of them—were prepared to allow Home Rule to come into operation now, in order to avoid a continuance of that ill-feeling of which I have spoken. That is a great sacrifice. That is a great deal to expect from any party.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It is a great deal to expect from any party. It shows, I think, that there is good will, and the duty of everybody is to try not to destroy it, but to foster it. I say something more. If anything influenced me in trying to get that settlement it was this: As I have pointed out in this House before, for the first time in the long connection between Great Britain and Ireland, a large part—to put it at its least—of Nationalist Ireland has been on our side in this struggle; and, more than that, the whole of official Nationalist Ireland has been on our side in this War. Does anyone suppose that does not make a difference to every one of us, whatever our views have been in the past? I am not going to speak about the fact of which the hon. and learned Member for Waterford reminded us—that he has a son who is running the same risk as those who are dear to us, and that he has a brother doing the same thing. I am not going to dwell upon that. It is what my Noble Friend (Lord H. Cecil), I am afraid, would call "sentimental." In my view, sentiment rules the world more than any other quality, not, perhaps, during war, though I think our German enemies—whose latest murder we are all thinking about to-day—will find that in the long run it affects even war. Sentiment is everything, and I say this: I do hope from the bottom of my heart that every party in this House, and most of all the Gentlemen below the Gangway, will remember the struggle in which we are engaged, and will live up to the words used, not only by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, but by the Member for Mayo—that they are heart and soul with us in this struggle, and that 2182 whatever happens, they will not allow the disappointment which has come now make them do anything to interfere with us in the conduct of this War.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I do not think I owe this House any apology for intervening in this Debate, and I think I owe it less an apology in view of the fact that for the last eighteen months I have taken no part in any of the controversies which have occupied the time of the House. I have realised, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) and all my colleagues, that this country and this Empire is engaged in the most terrific battle which ever a free people had to face; and although my services are merely guided by my intellectual opportunities—and I know my limitations—I have endeavoured during these eighteen months to extend to this Empire such support as I was able to give. I think hon. Gentlemen from Ulster will admit, although I have made no glorified boasts of my services, that I have done my duty in pointing out to those whom I represent, and whom I could influence, that, apart altogether from the past conflicts in which we have been engaged in this country, this great War was a battle for human liberty and for the preservation of democratic institutions. It is because I am an Irish believer in Irish liberty, and one who has fought for the cause of democracy in Ireland and here, that I. heartily enter into the spirit of the fight in which we are engaged. Therefore, when the unfortunate incidents which we all deplore took place in Ireland, you were here face to face with a position of unparalleled difficulty, as we were.
I have heard it stated that we have been the governors of Ireland during the last two years. I have never had half an hour's conversation during the last two years with anyone who has had anything to do with the government of Ireland. I have been in this House with the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary (Mr. Birrell), but we never discussed for two minutes the government of Ireland. I have had one or two or three casual conversations with Sir Matthew Nathan, but I think it was about difficulties in Ulster, and whether there was any possibility of party rows and frictions during the War. He made appeals to me, and I responded to them. I believe he made appeals to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) to exercise his influence, or for some of his friends, and 2183 that they also responded to his appeal. Therefore, I think it was a most disgraceful thing for a Royal Commission, made up largely of gentlemen who have been failures in every sphere of public capacity in which they have moved—everyone of them with the exception of the distinguished judge, of whom I know nothing—to go over to Ireland, and, without inviting myself or any of my colleagues to give our opinions, or to give evidence, or to throw any light on the situation, to proceed to tell us that we had some share in the responsibility for what occurred.
I have only to say this: If during the last ten years we could have had the government of Ireland in our hands, we could have presented a better Bill than you have presented. If, during those ten years of Liberal vacillation, of weakness, and of an incapacity to force a great measure of public progress forward, when they had written it on their banner, you had placed upon our shoulders with all our limited powers, never having had responsibility placed upon us before, we would have won for you a strong, a powerful, a loyal, and an enthusiastic Irish race. If, when the appeal was made by my hon. and learned Friend at the commencement of the War, you got the enthusiasm of the vast mass of the race, you would have got the whole of them if you had placed us in the position, of power, guidance, and responsibility in which this Royal Commission says that we were sharers during the last two years.
I pass from that. Just let me say this. There has been rebellion in Ireland. The rebellion in Ireland has been your fault, and not ours. When my hon. and learned Friend took a responsibility, which in the same circumstances no British leader would have taken, of going over to Ireland, and asking for the support of the people in this great cause, the prosecution of this great War, he pointed out to you the best course to be adopted. He gave you suggestions as to the best methods by which you could gather recruits. He placed plans and programmes before the War Office; and I can tell this House that to my own knowledge some of the Sinn Fein leaders who are now dead were ready to fall in with his suggestions. I was at a conference myself in Dublin at which these Sinn Fein leaders were present, and if the policy my hon. and learned Friend suggested to Lord Kitchener had been carried out, there would have been no dead Sinn 2184 Feiners, and some of the men who fought with such superb courage in the recent rebellion, and who displayed—and we must admit this, whatever we may think of them—such splendid chivalry, would have been your best Irish asset, and would have been with you if it had not been for the stupidity of the Government. Then, like now, the one function, as your conception of it is, which you think it is the business of the representatives of Ireland to carry out is to come here and march through the Division Lobbies. All I have to say is this: That I hope if ever I march through the Division Lobbies again it will be for the purpose of clearing the present Coalition Government out of power. This thing was rotten in its infancy. As it has developed it has passed through all the stages of weakness, vacillation, want of strength and moral courage which should constitute a Government engaged in a war. I would have said that not once but fifty times in this House, but I thought there was no use in coming here to contribute to your troubles, and to your responsibilities; and we remained silent. But when you stand up as British Pharisees, when you lecture Irishmen and tell them about their duty and responsibility, and what they owe in these moments of Imperial concern, I beg you to go and examine your own consciences. I listened to the positivist utterance of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford (Lord H. Cecil). It was very subtle. It denounced everybody. He said the only way in which you can deal with an immediate problem is to fling it into the immensity of time. Put every question where there is any difficulty as far away from you as possible, and that is the way to solve them. He should be a member of the Coalition Government. Then he proceeded to tell us that this was not an Irish question or an Ulster question. I do not know what geographical surroundings were to be arranged, but all I have to say is this, that it constitutes a very dangerous question in these times. It, no doubt, is not purely an Irish question or an Ulster question. It is an Irish question, I say, in Ireland, and if we may utter democratic doctrines in these times one would imagine that the way to solve a democratic problem is by the declared judgment and will of the people. Ireland has declared as unquestionably as any nation that ever gave its judgment in the past thirty years. When we get these cheap compliments from our opponents in this House and we 2185 are told that we are the moderate men, I remember hearing the charge made against us, not once but twenty times, in this House that we were merely paid agitators, that the people of Ireland did not want Home Rule, that we were merely engaged in stirring up strife among a peaceful population who would be all right if we let them alone. We, during the last ten years, have built up a constitutional movement in Ireland. You have gone a long way to destroy it to-day. We will try to nave it if we can. Destroy this constitutional movement and we will see if you can settle this question by relegating it to the immensity of time. It is an English question, too; but how are we to decide what England thinks about it unless there is some democratic adjustment? At three General Elections, in this House for three years, we have carried this measure of constitutional reform, and it was even carried through after having awaited the operation of the Parliament Act, and was placed on the Statute Book after a stormy series of stages such as no great reform ever had to encounter before. That was the judgment of England. What was the judgment of your Colonies—if Imperialism is to count for anything but mere cant, to be used when the conditions suit you for your own purposes? I myself have been all over the Colonies, Australia, and every part of New Zealand, through Canada, and I know what the people feel there. But, the distinguished Gentlemen who have charge of Colonial affairs may contradict me if they can, there is not a single missioner of Empire outside the narrow bounds of your party hacks in this country, there is not a single apostle of Imperial ideals, who will not tell you that in his heart of hearts he is convinced that the best service to Imperialism and Empire is to give Home Rule to Ireland. I would like to ask the Noble Lord what is the Irish question? It is an Irish question, an English question, an Imperial question. You will have it and it will remain until you solve it, and you cannot solve it unless by those principles of magnanimity, and generosity, and freedom, which have been the inspiration of all your great flourishing Colonies throughout the world.
I now come to the immediate purpose for which I have risen, and I do so again without apologies to the House. I am not a lawyer. [Mr. KILBRIDE: "Thank God!"] I am not a lawyer. I am not even a subtle rhetorician. I nave no experience whatever 2186 even of Parliamentary controversy; but one thing I do understand—I understand with my blunt mind the meaning of a contract. That is clear to all of us. A contract was entered into between the parties in a great question of controversy, and of national importance. We were one set of men who were parties to the arrangement, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College and his friends were the others. We took this document to our friends, and we got them to agree to it as a temporary solution of the Irish difficulty. They did the same. I am not going to lay the blame upon any shoulders now, but this I do say is, that if there was any lack of lucidity or clearness in what was proposed to us or to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that should have been cleared up before we left, and not after. This House will recognise that my part in all this business has been perhaps the most difficult part of all. I had to go to Belfast, to my own native city, where I was regarded as the defender and custodian of the unity of Ireland, and as the determination of the people to retain Ulster within the ambit of a self-governing nation. We were asked—for we did not seek it, and let that be remembered by the House. The Prime Minister came down here without any suggestion from us whatever, and made this proposal and appeal. Let me say this in passing. I deeply regret that the Prime Minister did not keep this matter in his own hands; not because he would have handled it more skilfully, or with a more inspired spirit of patriotism than the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lloyd George), but because I think it was a cowardly thing that he should hand over that responsibility to another. I will tell the House why. When the right hon. Gentleman came along with this proposal, he was not in a position to speak for the Cabinet because he was not the head of the Cabinet, and therefore we were put in an awkward position in that regard. When we were asked to go over and submit these proposals, our mission should have been entrusted to us by a man who could have said, "You have carried out your bargain. You have come back to hand your documents signed. You have kept your contract, and I, speaking for the Government, now that I have got you to do this, will either stand or fall by these proposals." That is why I regret, and it' is for that reason only, that the Prime Minister shifted the responsibility, as he always 2187 does, from his own shoulders on to the shoulders of another. It is another example of the vacillation, of the lack of courage and spirit to handle a situation which he in this particular instance created himself. If he had left these matters alone, allowed feeling to develop and grow, gathered men around him to conceive some other plan possible, then that would not have been any way out of the difficulty, but it would have been more satisfactory than this grotesque failure in which we have all been engaged.
I have, perhaps, been as passionate and insistent in all these Irish controversies as anyone in this House when I have spoken, and outside always. I have done it because I never believed that Ulster, either permanently or temporarily, ought to be divorced from the rest of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman says Ulster must not be coerced; but he will agree that when a law has passed—and he is a great constitutional lawyer—and has gone through all its stages, as I have ventured to indicate, no section of the people because they do not like the Act of Parliament have a right to rebel. You cannot lay down one set of legal or constitutional principles for one section of the community and bring the whole force of the law in all its brutality to press them down, and at the same time expect a humble acquiescence in the principle of coercion. No; I would never agree to the permanent exclusion of Ulster. I agreed to these proposals because I thought it was a temporary war measure. We were prepared to recommend to these people to allow these six counties to remain under the authority of the Imperial Parliament during the War, that they were not to be automatically forced in at any time until the whole matter should come up for reconsideration, and that we would be gathered together in the face of that new spirit that has been created by the War, and what is more important still, in face of the good will that might arise between hon. Gentlemen and ourselves during the period of the War, and that at the end of the War, or until such time as the matter was definitely settled, these six Ulster counties should remain out. That was my view of it. It may not have been the view of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, but I can only say what my own view was. If we thought that this was a permanent settlement, what is the meaning of all this con- 2188 troversy over the representation at Westminster? Why we did ask and press for the maintenance of the entire representation from Ireland in this House! Was it not because the question was not permanently settled and that we claimed the right to retain our power in this Parliament, not to mix in your controversies or to make more difficult your entanglements after the War, because you could have got rid of us at any moment after the War was over. You could have driven us out of this House by permanently settling this question. Again, I say that incorporated in that agreement was the fact that an Imperial Conference would be held at which Ireland would be discussed and, as we believed, with her own good will finally settled by the influence of those who constituted that Imperial Conference. That is my position in a nutshell. Englishmen understand what a contract means. We stand by the contract. I had to apologise once or twice for interrupting both the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for the Colonies in order to vindicate what we believed was meant and what they believed was meant, because this part of the agreement was incorporated in the first draft of the Bill. Did the draftsman put this in out of his own imagination? He put it in the first draft of the Bill because it was the agreement at which we had arrived. What the draftsman believed, what we know and what the House well understands, we fairly considered to be the real situation in which this matter stands.
I have listened to the speech of the Prime Minister to-day with the feeling of most profound disappointment. What are people to think of a Minister holding the highest Imperial position in Europe, who came down to this House two months ago and who told us that Dublin Castle rule had broken down and that it was impossible in future? He tries to get all of us to come to a settlement, and seemingly we cannot. What is the statesmanlike alternative he offers to sane and sensible men not only in this House but elsewhere? To re-establish Dublin Castle government in a worse position than it was before. He has no respect for the feelings of our countrymen. I beg him to remember that they can have no respect for him. To send over a Unionist to be Chief Secretary for Ireland—a very distinguished and very moderate man, I admit—but to send him over there to prop up Dublin Castle, is to make this thing more hideous than it 2189 was before and to create a worse feeling of bitterness and harshness towards this country. A more mad thing I have never heard of in British statesmanship, and, being a very untutored politician, I cannot understand statesmanship of that character.
Let me say in conclusion that I have declared—I stated so at the Belfast Conference—that I would never be a consenting party to coercing my Protestant fellow countrymen in Ulster. I went to that Convention with my colleagues, and declared, "If you do not accept this settlement, which means the commencement of peace and a new era and the quickest way in which Ulster can be brought in, then there is no place for men like myself in the politics of this country." To some of us it was a big sacrifice. It was not the sacrifice of a seat in Parliament, even though we were sordid, as some people have charged us with being, and were here for £400 a year. Membership of this House and association with Irish politics in their present form do not count at all, because they have no attractions for us. I do not like to go out of Parliament leaving behind the belief in the hearts of so many of those who loyally believed in me and stood by me in the past that I have given them away and am false to them. I told them that there was physical courage overflowing in Ireland, but that what we wanted was moral courage, and that I was there to speak the truth, whatever the consequences might be. It was in that spirit that they accepted these proposals, it was in that spirit that they would have been prepared to carry them out, and it is in that spirit that I am here to say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University—who rightly stated the other night that he had never spoken to me in his life—as he appealed to us the other night, what your British statesmanship has failed to achieve, can we Irishmen not achieve ourselves? The right hon. Gentleman is an Irishman, and he has most of the virtues and some of the limitations of the Irish character. I believe that he loves Ireland and profoundly desires to serve her, but let him not ask us to make all the sacrifice. We will meet him on the way. In that spirit I venture to say that not by relegating the Irish question to the dim and distant future as suggested by the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil), but by that generous spirit of Irish magnanimity and 2190 courage amongst men who know what it was to fight in the past, we will bring our island to that happiness to which some of us have consecrated our lives, and then we shall do the best day's work that was ever done for humanity.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I am one of those who are profoundly sorry that we find ourselves in the position in which we are to-day. Like the hon. Member who has just spoken, I regret the unhappy experience of which this whole question has been the victim. I will not follow the hon. Member in his catalogue of the results which must follow from the forecast of the future which has been given by the Prime Minister to-day; but after listening to the hon. Member and to his eloquent description of the evils he foresees, I find it difficult to understand why he and his Friends have thought it right to make it impossible to carry out this agreement, because whatever subtleties there may be in the situation, whatever mistakes this or that person or this or that party may have made, the ultimate fact with which we are faced is that the party sitting below the Gangway, for reasons I am not going to challenge, think it necessary to bring this proposal to naught. There are only two points of view put forward in this Debate upon which I desire to say a word. I cannot even now quite understand what is the position of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) with regard to the one point which appears to lie at the heart of the whole dispute. In one part of his speech I understood him to say that in no circumstances would he ever consent to the permanent exclusion of Ulster from the Home Rule Act, and in another part of his speech I understood him to say in so many words—I think I remember him saying it at Belfast—that he would never consent to the coercion of his Protestant fellow countrymen. I find it a little difficult to bring those two statements into agreement. If that is the position of the hon. Gentleman, he is open to the reproach which in a mild way has been levelled at my right hon. Friend opposite, that it was only a matter of words. If the hon. Member will never be prepared to coerce the people of Ulster, what possible objection can he have to putting their exclusion upon such a footing that the moment their consent is given to a change they have to obtain it by Act of Parliament? Has there not been a certain amount of misunderstanding? The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) spoke of my right 2191 hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University as if he appeared to have gone back upon the acceptance of the heads of the agreement. Let me tell the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and the House that there could be no greater error than that. The Secretary of State for the Colonies has already said that, in the opinion of the Cabinet—not merely the Unionist Members, but of the Cabinet as a whole—the heads of the agreement which have been published distinctly made the exclusion of the six counties of Ulster as permanent as you can do anything by Act of Parliament. Of course, it is provisional, because no Parliament can bind its successor. The Act of Settlement and Magna Charta are provisional, and you can repeal them tomorrow. That was the sense in which the agreement was accepted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Trinity College there is no manner of doubt.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I was only trying to bring home to the House the fact that if you once accept, as the hon. Member for West Belfast does, the principle that there is to be no coercion of Ulster, it seems to follow from that, although there may be difficulties in procuring an Act of Parliament—I do not think it will be so if it once receives Ulster's consent—that it is a trifling matter. In the speech of my right hon. Friend, the hon. Member for West Belfast, and of .the hon. Member for East Mayo, we have been brought up against the proposition that there is to be no coercion of Ulster. The hon. Member for East Mayo interrupted the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and said, "That is all very well, but what is Ulster?" If we are willing that Antrim, Down, Armagh and county Derry should stand out of the Home Rule Government, because we do not want to coerce them, why should you insist upon coercing counties like Fermanagh and Tyrone, where the parties are more nearly balanced, or where, perhaps, there may be a Nationalist majority V That sounds a plausible argument, I admit. That argument rests entirely upon the perfectly arbitrary acceptance of the county as a unit for this purpose. Why do you accept the county? Why do hon. Members, especially those below the Gangway, tie themselves to this arbitrary unit of the 2192 county? The hon. Member (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and many others are devotees of Irish tradition, Irish history, and everything else. The county division in Ireland is an English division. It has nothing Irish about it. It was imposed artificially from outside by the weight of the English Government at the very time of the conquest of Ireland. The real Irish unit of area is the province. We all know Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught go back into the twilight of Irish history. That is the point on which we dwell. We say we have fought against Home Rule for the whole of Ireland. We are brought up to a point when we admit we can, perhaps, fight no longer as regards some part of Ireland. We admit you have a large Nationalist majority in three of the four provinces of Ireland. We have a considerable Unionist minority in those three provinces of Ireland. Then, if it comes to a compromise, if we are to arrange a settlement, why is there anything unfair in our saying we have a large Unionist majority in the fourth province of Ulster, and although you have a large Nationalist minority there it is quite fair to set that off against the Unionist minority in the three Southern provinces, therefore our unit on which we base our plan is not so many counties—six, four, five, three, or nine—it is the province of Ulster, the old historic Irish division; and we are making a great concession when we say that in that province we acknowledge there are three counties which have so large a local majority of Nationalists that we are willing to forego our claim for the province of Ulster and to say we will take only six counties out of it. We are driven back for the sake of convenience there, I admit, on the county division, but it is a perfectly arbitrary division, and if we are to pursue this discussion, as I hope we may, to some sort of basis of arrangement later on, let us at all events understand each other's position. I do not say I expect hon. Members below the Gangway immediately to accept mine, but let them, at all events, admit that when we base ourselves upon the province we have at least as much to say for ourselves, and a great deal more from the point of view of history, than they' have when they base themselves on the Anglo-Irish division of the county.
§ Mr. FLAVIN
Does the hon. Member claim that the majority of the electors of the province of Ulster are against Home Rule?
§ Mr. McNEILL
I say the majority of the people. Of course, representation depends upon local distribution, but by the statistics, which are admitted on all hands, the actual majority of persons in the province of Ulster are opposed to the policy of hon. Members below the Gangway.
§ Mr. McNEILL
This is not the time when I desire to press my own particular view, still less do I wish to take a strongly hostile attitude towards hon. Members below the Gangway. I am very anxious that the new atmosphere, which we all acknowledge, should continue even if we fail, because even if we fail, I cannot help thinking that for the future of the country, whatever its destiny may be, it cannot do harm that hon. Members below and above the Gangway should hate each other a little less cordially than they used to. I greatly regret, after all that has happened, that the arrangement which we proposed has not been found practicable, and I earnestly hope, having regard to the fact that I began by saying it appears to have broken down on a very small point on the initiative of hon. Members below the Gangway, that something may occur to enable them to meet us.
§ Mr. FITZGIBBON
I rise on this occasion prompted perhaps by the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) in his offer or his suggestion a few nights ago that it would be a good day for Ireland if he and my distinguished Leader shook hands. In that same spirit I rise to express my willingness to go a long way on the road to meet the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, in order that we may understand each other better than we have done in the past. It is thirty-five years ago since I came to this House as a visitor, on a day such as this, when the great Nationalist leader of the time, Mr. Parnell, was endeavouring to force his views on this House as to the manner and method in which the land question of the time ought to be settled. His advice was disregarded, and as a consequence, when he went to Ireland to advise his people as to the manner in which they should endeavour to have that Act worked, he was placed under lock and key, and the policy of coercion, the same as today, was once more revived in Ireland and the leaders of the people were locked up and as a consequence the Gov- 2194 ernment of the day tried what coercion would do with Ireland. History knows what were the consequences that the coercion system then provoked. Coercion in Ireland has invariably preceded remedial measures. The remedial measures are followed and then the remedial measures passed in this House have lost their flavour in their administration in Ireland. Let us at this moment take a lesson from the past. An opportunity has now arisen. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) has asked us to win Ulster. I do not know for the life of me what methods he would suggest. I can speak from experience. I think that the best way to come to an understanding with your opponents is to get into the closest contact with them. I happen to be a member of the Congested Districts Board. For five years I have sat beside very strong Unionists on that board. We have been engaged during that time and up to the present time in endeavouring to solve a great problem. During all that time none of us, Nationalists or Unionists, has had a controversy as to the respective merits of orange or green. We apply our intellects as best we can to the solving of the problem involved, and I maintain, as can be seen by anyone visiting Ireland, who is not acquainted with the Congested Districts Board, that we have gone a very long way in solving that problem. I say now, what I have said to my Unionist friends on the Board, that I believe our Board is a miniature of what an Irish Parliament would be if we only had an opportunity of sitting beside each other, engaged in solving problems common to Ulster as well as to Munster, Leinster and Connaught. Therefore I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), though he is not here, to give us an opportunity of meeting our friends from Ulster in council, in our own Parliament, and I have not the slightest doubt that in that way, and in a very short time, these problems that are common to all the provinces would soon have a cooling effect on each particular party.
I know Ulster very well. I know England well, too. My business has brought me to this country constantly during the last fifty years. I have met Englishmen well disposed towards my country, but my invariable experience has been that they know absolutely nothing about our wants and requirements, and that even if they did they have not got the time to apply themselves to solving those problems which 2195 are best known to Irishmen. I know the North of Ireland; my business has brought me there, and I say that if the gentlemen who have been particularly industrious in keeping us separate only used the same energies in endeavouring to bring us together as they have used in keeping us asunder, I have not the slightest doubt but that there would be a very different feeling between the people of the North, South and West of Ireland. Our interests practically hang together. Let this House not mistake in the least the fact that Ulster cannot afford to erect a wall and divide itself from the rest of Ireland. Ulster has the name of being prosperous, and no doubt it is entitled to that name. They are a very industrious, thrifty people in Ulster, and they are very astute business people as well. Admitting that very many of them, say the majority if you like, are opposed to Home Rule—we will say for argument's sake that the majority are opposed to Home Rule—I can assure the House that if these people are opposed to Home Rule they are very much more opposed to having Ulster cut off from the rest of Ireland. I am now speaking of the business and commercial community of Ulster. Why? Because they recognise that in that way difficulties might arise, and that other parts of Ireland might not act towards them as they have done in the past, and they are not at all afraid, so far as I can see, to associate themselves with their fellow countrymen in the other parts of Ireland.
The objection to this settlement or to Home Rule by many is that they want to make out that these particular counties in Ulster are populated by a much more intelligent people than the other twenty-six counties in Ireland. Some of them go so far as to question the loyalty of the other twenty-six counties. They take unto themselves the idea that they are the loyal portion of Ireland. Take them at their own valuation. For themselves, and for us, if they are actuated by these high motives of loyalty to this Empire, and assuming that the giving to Ireland of Home Rule from their point of view would be a danger to the Empire, does the House not think that in the interests of the Empire it would be the duty of these men to come in and watch our movements in the Irish Parliament? That is the view I think that any loyal subjects of this Empire should take. I believe that once 2196 Irishmen are permitted to come together—once we have the opportunity of exchanging views with one another, common sense will rule our actions, and self-interest will prompt every Irishman to do his best for his country and to raise it from the position into which union with this country has brought it. We have today a population of four millions of people, when under proper conditions we should have at least four times that number. We should be your strong right arm. We should be a country prosperous and happy, and to bring that about should be the duty of Englishmen, if they only recognised what is good for this country and for the Empire at large. I have made my little contribution to this Debate. I speak not only my own feelings, but I speak the mind of thousands of my countrymen with whom I am intimately acquainted. We are thirsting for the opportunity of getting the management of our own domestic affairs into our own hands. God has endowed the Irish people with brains and faculties sufficient to raise our country from its present prostrate position to one of happiness, contentment, and prosperity. When this House recognises that it will have done more to strengthen this great Empire than by the raising of great armies or the building of battleships. The Government of Ireland ought to rest on and be strengthened in the affection, happiness, and contentment of the Irish people.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
It seems to me that if any good at all is going to come out of this somewhat sorry tangle into which Irish affairs have got at the moment it will be by the drawing together now towards each other of those groups inside Ireland itself which have been bitterly opposed to each other in the past. When I see how things are moving in that direction I cannot help thinking of a very brilliant story entitled "The Red Hand of Ulster," which describes how the two sections in Ireland were fighting up to the point when Britain sent a gunboat over towards Ireland, and then immediately the two sections joined together and turned their joint attention to the gunboat. It does seem to me as if out of all that has now happened the rival elements are beginning to say to each other, "If British statesmen cannot settle this matter, let us take it into our own hands and see if we cannot settle it among ourselves." And I do believe that it would be a good thing for this country, and for the whole 2197 Empire, if Irishmen themselves do get more closely together and adjust these long-standing differences.
I have listened to the unfolding of this story with regard to Ireland with a great deal of regret and a feeling of shame. I think it is a most sorry and a most unfortunate story. I think that those Irish Members who, at great risk to themselves and to their cause in many ways, agreed to go back and recommend certain things in Ireland, ought to have had the most definite assurance before they did go that any agreement that was reached would have been adhered to when they came back. In place of that it seems as if when they did come back from Ireland they found an entirely new situation facing them. I think that those who come best out of this business are the Irish themselves—both north and south—and it does give you a new starting point in new negotiations, if you accept this fact. I have listened to the most moving speeches on this matter from the Irish Benches, and I think also that one of the most powerful, able, and big speeches which have been made was made the other evening by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. I think that all this does make matters very much better.
I am not sure that we recognise in this country that coercion will not do so far as Ireland is concerned. Coercion has been tried in the past and has always failed, and failed miserably. I am quite sure that to set up Dublin Castle on its legs again is going to do nothing to solve this problem, and I believe that I am speaking for large numbers of the working people of this country when I say that the organised workers of the towns have no desire at all to perpetuate this regulation of Irish affairs, and do desire to see a measure of settlement and agreement reached, and do desire to see the establishment of good government there. In Ireland itself many new movements are now shaping themselves, big economic, industrial, and labour movements, and I believe that these movements will have all the more responsibility put upon them if this question can be settled and Ireland is allowed to take a larger part in its life and its destiny into its own hands. Therefore, I do suggest that if negotiations appear to have broken down so far as the Government is concerned, the Irish representatives of all parties in Ireland will feel that they have a duty to get nearer to each other, and to understand each other's point of view, and 2198 if the North and South of Ireland do manage to agree as to what should be done, I am quite sure that there is no force in this country that can prevent it from being carried into effect. The matter, therefore, does rest this way to a very large extent, and I am sure that it will strengthen our own country, and will strengthen Ireland if these long-standing differences and miseries are ended, and that we may begin to look forward to better and happier times so far as Ireland is concerned.
§ Major NEWMAN
I, like the hon. Member opposite, have listened to some very eloquent speeches from hon. Members below the Gangway. I notice that they are heart and soul with us in this War and that five-sixths of their followers are also heart and soul with us in the conduct of this War, but I should remind my fellow-countrymen below the Gangway that the English are a very practical nation. They believe that an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory, and if hon. Members will go across to Ireland and persuade Nationalists of all shades to take on themselves the same burden as Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Welshmen have taken on themselves, that is National Service compulsory for all, if they do that now I can assure them that when the time for settlement came for Ireland the settlement would be a very much better one from their point of view.
§ Major NEWMAN
I am going to speak quite frankly for the 300,000 people in the three Southern Provinces who still adhere to the Union and who believe that it is the best thing for Ireland in present conditions. I do not suppose that the majority, or any of those people, are very greatly depressed by the turn which events have taken during the past few critical weeks. What has been our position? Since 1906 we have had what I may call no Government. The Member for West Belfast has said that we have had a Government of Liberal vacillation. From our point of view it has been a mighty poor Government, and, according to the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, that Government was chiefly conducted by his being over here when he ought to have been over there and by his occasionally asking two or three Nationalist Members their opinion as to what should be done in the government of Ireland. That was 2199 the position up to last Easter week, when the scattered community of Unionists in the three Southern Provinces, the majority of whose males of fighting age have gone to the front, stood in the shadow of a terrible danger—the rebellion that broke out on Easter Monday. But since then we have had what we have not had since 1906—we have had peace. I do not suppose many hon. Members in this House realise what that means to Southern Unionists' peace and security, and in my native county there was not a single case to go before the judges at the Assizes. We have read the draft of the heads of settlement of the Irish question with quiet cynicism. As far as we are concerned this settlement was the draft of the measure which is to be put into operation for all time—in fact, the Act of 1914 naked and unashamed. It meant something more, or would have meant as far as we are concerned, the setting up of the hateful system of government by hostages. That is to say, in Ulster a certain number of Nationalists and Catholics were to be the hostages, and in the other counties there were to be held as hostages some 300,000 Protestants and Loyalists, and the two were to be balanced one against the other. That is a hateful and abominable system, but that is what the system was, no more and no less.
All through the discussion the Southern County Unionists had not a single invitation addressed to them to take part, and I remember that when the County Council Bill was under discussion we did not know what happened then. We did not want these invitations to be issued, so far as we are concerned, because we felt that they would be laughing up their sleeves. The settlement proposed was to put Ireland in two divisions—one governed by a junta in Belfast, and the other by a junta in Dublin. So far as the Southern Unionists are concerned, according to the draft of the Bill, it would have taken away from them even the half-dozen seats which they might have had under the 1914 Bill, by reason of the partial application of minority representation. Four years ago the Unionists of Ulster determined that it was necessary to use their votes and eloquence in this House, and their power outside of this House, to procure for Ulster that she should not come within the Act without her own consent. Therefore she shook hands with Unionists in the South and we bade her God speed, recognising 2200 that we ourselves would have to fight against the repeal of the Union. The only point on which I am with hon. Members below the Gangway is that I disagree altogether with the policy of partition. To my mind Ireland is too small a unit to carry on herself in these great nationalities and great empires; and, if she is to be cut in two, the will have still less chance. Unless you can get Ulster to agree with the rest of Ireland, the only thing to do is to maintain the Union. I may be told that the Home Rule Act is on the Statute Book, and asked what is the good of saying that we have got to maintain the Union. They may say, "You have got to do something you have got to show that you are statesmen enough to make some suggestion as a contribution to the common fund of ideas for the government of Ireland." That to my mind is a somewhat difficult thing to do. It would be easy under one condition—that is if you could attach ropes to the cliffs of Donegal and Clare and tow Ireland out to midAtlantic. You could then set up the Kilkenny cat solution of a system of government in the island by insisting on the Ulstermen coming in, and letting them set to work to fight it out among them. As it is, in view of the safety of this country, it is perfectly impossible in the middle of a terrible war to submit any proposition of that sort. It is impossible to my mind to ask the people of England to set up a solution of that kind for the whole of Ireland, especially when the people of England remember that only a few months ago there was a rebellion in which our enemy the Germans were concerned. England could not really be asked to take this great risk a few months after an event so terrible.
We Unionists have been told that why this settlement must be brought into being was that there was no statesman who could be produced by either party, by either the Liberal party or the Conservative party, of sufficient skill or calibre who could set the Government machine again going in Ireland. The motor car has broken down, and you have no mechanic good enough to set the machine going. At any rate, today, the Government have suggested that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) shall be appointed to drive the motor car and get it going as best he can. Personally I do not know him very well, but he is, I believe, a man 2201 of courage, determination, and eloquence. If he is given by the Government enough petrol to make the car run he would make a good show. He must be helped by the Government, while if he is going to be curbed at the start he will have a very sorry and not successful time. I confess quite openly I was disappointed that the Government did not try something more original in their plan for temporarily governing Ireland until the Imperial Conference. They have gone back simply to the old system of what is known as Castle government. I know from what I have heard today and from what I shall read tomorrow in the Irish papers that what they propose will not be very acceptable to the great) majority of Nationalists. I wish they had done something rather better. I wish they had appointed an Irishman as Chief Secretary. I should have liked somebody like Sir Horace Plunkett in the very trying job of Chief Secretary for Ireland, and to have seen another Irishman in the position of Lord-Lieutenant, somebody says like Lord Beresford. I should have liked to have seen those two with the assent of all parties try to do their best for the temporary government of Ireland. But that is not to be. The Government have propounded their plan and it is now for us in all parts of Ireland to try to make their temporary measure a success, remembering that if it is made a success that when the time for final adjustment comes the people of England will view with much greater favour their aims and aspirations than they will if it is not. The Unionists of the three Southern provinces must have peace and the continuation of peace, and not alone they but the Empire and these countries must have peace until the War is over. Therefore I do appeal to all parties in Ireland to give this plan of the Government a fair trial and let us see what happens after this terrible War is over.
There was a time when the type of speech to which we have just listened was not infrequently heard in this House. The late Chief Secretary called the gentlemen who made that type of speech "carrion crows," because their one object seemed to be to root amongst the garbage to find how much mud they could throw at their own fellow countrymen. I am sure we all recognise with gratitude that the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Major W. Guinness) are the two sole survivors of 2202 that bad old policy of the past in this House. Although both of them who engaged in this dirty game of throwing mud at their own countrymen claim to be Irishmen, neither could get elected for an Irish constituency. I am not going to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman into the highways and by-ways he has pursued in his speech. He said, why does not the Government come forward and appoint as Chief Secretary somebody like Sir Horace Plunkett, in whom all Ireland would have confidence. Since the Unionists above the Gangway have raised the name of Sir Horace Plunkett, that rather sinister figure going in and out of Dublin Castle consultation rooms during the last few months since the rebellion, I would like to ask a few questions about Sir Horace Plunkett. Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman inform me when, either by word of mouth, by letters to the paper, by speech upon a platform, or any shape or kind in public, since war began Sir Horace Plunkett has said a single word in favour of recruiting in Ireland. I will not pursue that line because I do not want to follow the hon. Gentleman into his recriminations further than to say this. When he said, speaking, as he alleged, for the Unionists of the South, that during the rebellion 300,000 Protestant Unionists of the South and West were in very grave danger, he knew that to be absolutely without one shadow of foundation whatsoever. He knows that if they could not trust England they could trust the good faith and toleration and broad-mindedness of their Catholic fellow-countrymen in the South and West of Ireland.
I have not risen to deal with the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but to join with my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin) and the Leader of the Irish party in saying with what profound disappointment we have listened to the speech of the Prime Minister and that of the Secretary of State for the Colonies to-day, and with what profound indignation we believe those speeches will be received in Ireland. The Prime Minister appealed very strongly to-day to us to drop the discussion about the immediate past. He seemed to me to be somewhat afraid of the past. I would like to tell him and the Government that we on these benches are far more afraid of the future in view of the extraordinary policy that he has announced on behalf of the Coalition Government to-day. As I listened to 2203 the speech of the Prime Minister refusing to deal with one single item of importance 'in the recent transactions except where it suited him, I was wondering why the settlement proposed by the Minister for War had ever broken down, but when it came to the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies I began to wonder why the settlement had ever been proposed. The Prime Minister's speech was halting and contradictory. He told us in one part of it that there was no civil Executive in Ireland for the past three months. Though a little later, when he came to announce the putting into force of the Coercion Act, he said that it was done upon the advice of the civil authorities in Ireland. We challenged him to say who those civil advisers were, and he refused to reply. I think the House must recognise with regard to the question of martial law that the Government has taken up a most extraordinary and inexplicable attitude. Not for the first time, we have been told to-day by the Prime Minister that although martial law has been in force since the rebellion it has never been used. If you can go through a rebellion in Ireland and about three months of unrest and disturbance without once using this weapon of martial law, what in the name of common sense is the good of leaving it there as an irritant and aggravation to the Irish people?
What is the real policy that has been announced by this Coalition Government? What is the real upshot of your attempt at settlement and negotiation?—the continuance of martial law, the revival of the Coercion Act, the putting to purposes for which it was never meant of the Defence of the Realm Act, the continuance of 40,000 troops under General Maxwell to carry on government in Ireland, the appointment of a Unionist Coercion Executive in Dublin Castle, with the old Castle system revived as in the worst days of the past. That is a sorry result of all the sacrifices that we have made during the last two years, and of all the efforts which we have made recently—and we have made great efforts and great sacrifices—to bring about a settlement. I say not lightly that Ireland is faced with a very grave position indeed, not merely as a result of the rebellion, not merely as a result of the want of faith of the Cabinet over the proposed settlement, but as a result of the speeches made and the policy announced from the Treasury 2204 Bench to-day. I am one of those who have never disguised the fact that the rebellion in Ireland was a great disaster. Some few of our countrymen, in view of the events which followed it, thought that the hands of the Irish party and the Nationalist movement in Ireland would be strengthened in some degree by what had taken place. But I never believed that. I have always said—I said it in the first speech that I made in Ireland after the rebellion—that there was the gravest danger that it had brought our country to the very brink of a precipice. But, in addition to the rebellion, the failure of the Cabinet to keep faith with Ireland over the proposed settlement has created an extraordinary state of bad feeling in our country.
The chairman of the Irish party, in his speech on the Motion for the Adjournment over this question, said that he would not indulge in recrimination or bandy charges of bad faith across the floor of the House. I think it may fairly be said, and will be recognised by the House of Commons, that in the speeches delivered from these benches on that occasion, and in the course of the Debate to-day, we have not indulged in recriminations or personal charges against the Government. But one must face the facts, and the facts are that a unanimous Cabinet asked the Secretary of State for War to make an agreement; that he made it; and that as soon as it was made, a unanimous Cabinet tore it up. The Secretary of State for the Colonies dealt, not in an altogether satisfactory manner, with one or two questions that arose out of the settlement. Those questions must be faced, and faced frankly. One of the first questions to which we are entitled to an answer I asked the right hon. Gentleman by way of interruption today, but he did not see fit to reply. That question is: At what stage did the Unionist Ministers in the Cabinet make up their minds that they could not agree to this proposed settlement? Why did they not make their objections before we went to Ireland with the settlement? Why were we allowed to take our political lives in our hands by going to the Ulster conference and persuading our people to agree to these unpopular terms, when all the while the Unionist members of the Ministry had made up their minds that they were going to do this thing, and the Liberal members of the Ministry had made up their minds that they were going to throw us over? As the Member for West Belfast said, it 2205 is perfectly clear that a bargain was struck The bargain was honoured in Ireland, but it was dishonoured here.
In the light of these events, to say that there was no breach of faith is, in my opinion, to rely upon the merest technicality. When the Prime Minister and the other members of the Cabinet put forward that defence, it is just like a man who pleaded a caveat to get out of a debt of honour. This Cabinet has taught Ireland a new version of the old saying that all is fair in love and war. That new version is that all is fair in England and in Wales. I say with deliberation that more is involved in this transaction than the mere interests of Ireland. Do you suppose that the world has not followed with deep interest recent events in the House of Commons and formed its own conclusion on the matter? I leave America out of account altogether, although American opinion must have considerable importance not only in regard to the future of the War, but in regard to the future relations of Ireland and this country. I am not referring to America at all now. If I had followed these negotiations as closely as I have, and if I were a Frenchman, a Belgian, a Serbian, or a Portuguese, my heart would grow cold with fear for the future. Before passing from this sorry chapter of England's dealings with Ireland, it is worth while to note, as they were pointed out in the course of the Debate today, the main grounds on which this settlement failed. We were all told that the main recommendation for this settlement was that it was to be a war emergency settlement. Why was it torn up? The Secretary of State for War told us the other day, and the Colonial Secretary admitted it this afternoon, that the real reason it was torn up was because until a permanent settlement was made the 103 Irish representatives were to remain in this House, and he said that there was always the danger that those Irish representatives might have the deciding voice whether a Liberal or a Tory Government was to rule in this country. There you have a naked question of party politics after the War allowed to wreck what we were told was to be a war settlement. In the light of all that has taken place, how hollow to some of us must appear your professions that in these days nothing matters but winning the War!
The day the failure to reach agreement was announced in this House we had two speeches from the Treasury Bench. The 2206 Secretary of State for War was then very much on the defensive. He never had a worse case to deal with, and, with all his great gifts, he could not put a good face upon it. As I listened to him there came into my mind the story of the officer who was with the Prince Imperial at the time he was killed in South Africa fighting for this country. When the officer came back and told his superiors that the Prince Imperial was dead, he was asked, "And why, Sir, are you alive?" As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman that day, I felt inclined to ask him the question, "And why, Sir, are you still a member of the Cabinet?" That day and today the Prime Minister adopted a very different tone indeed. He has treated the facts throughout as he has treated the Agreement. He was very proud of that action. I dare say he is very proud now of this new handiwork of his unanimous Cabinet! He told us that the altered proposals to which the Cabinet had agreed were just and reasonable. He told us quite in a grand manner that if necessary he would ask the country to say so. What country? Ireland? Not at all! He knows the answer of Ireland. Once again Ireland is not to count. She is to be treated as if she is of no account. Once again the right hon. Gentleman has started to build up his Irish Government on the old rotten foundation of the system of Dublin Castle. My only hope is that his general policy on the War, and his general policy on affairs of importance for the future of this country and the Empire are not built on the same foundation of quicksand as is his Irish policy. If they are the day is near when their whole fabric must come tottering about his ears in ruin, utter and everlasting.
I would like to ask what is the real explanation of England's continued and constant extraordinary failure in Ireland? You look across the Irish Sea at us and as in a mirage everything that you see is upside down. Where Ireland is concerned you have no imagination. To you the mirage is real because you see it. When you go over to set things right, all you succeed in doing is to turn things upside down in reality. One would have thought that with all the experience of the 116 years since the Union, that with all the experience of the last ten years, and particularly of the last two years, when Ireland has been so loyal and true and is and has been doing her best to win you this great War, that there would have been 2207 some better spirit shown, some more enlightenment, some more common sense policy in regard to the Irish question. It is not to be! History will stand amazed at the record of your failures and your mistakes, not merely during the past. To go no further back than since the War began there is hardly a single mistake that you could make that you have not made. When war began you refused, for some fatal weeks, to place the Home Rule Bill upon the Statute Books. Ultimately, when that was done unwillingly, you refused to put it into operation. Then again when the recruiting policy was started the Leader of the Irish party, as we were told this afternoon, made recommendations to the Government and Lord Kitchener. They were treated with scorn. Our offer of volunteers was spurned. You went your fatal course, disregarding Irish opinion in everything. We come to the formation of the Coalition Government. The Coalition Government upset the status quo in Ireland and shook to its very foundation the faith of our people in the good intentions and honesty of the British Government in dealing with our country. The rebellion broke out, and you put it down, as we believe, with unnecessary severity because you not only shot all the leaders who fell into your hands, but, disregarding the example of General Botha in South Africa you sent your troops into every peaceful village throughout Ireland, arresting thousands of our people, and in every parish up and down the country making seizures and arrests.
Amid all these errors that for the moment would appear like sanity and common sense sentiment you decided to change and to settle the Irish question by agreement. When that agreement is reached you tear it into pieces. I ask the House, how can it be expected that we should continue further to have confidence or trust in this Coalition Ministry? I read in one of your English papers only the other day that an angel had been seen over Dublin. We were told that there were thousands of people looking out for the spectacle. I am sure there must have been many honest English hearts who read that report in the paper and who laughed at the simple credulity of the Irish people. They were mistaken. There was an angel over Dublin. I was there and I saw it. All my hon. Friends were there, and they saw it. It was the Angel of Peace. It was the Angel of Peace which you have 2208 driven off. From the statement which we have heard from the Prime Minister to-day it looks as if you were going to leave us in its place nothing but the sword of Maxwell.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I think no one can have heard the speeches to-day, or have come to this House for the purpose of listening to them, without feeling how grave is the situation and how keen is the disappointment which must be felt by men of all kinds of political associations from the fact that what appeared to be a settlement by consent of the Irish question for the period of the War has become ineffectual. We have heard to-day from the leaders of the parties speeches of great power and of great importance. It is, of course, not often that it becomes suitable for those of us who sit on the Back Benches and who "are, especially in time of war, quite content to follow if only we are clearly and resolutely led, that it really becomes the duty of such of us to venture or try to intervene in a Debate of this kind. I only rise for a very few minutes because possibly it may not be a waste of time for those of us who are not specially responsible for leadership in these times to voice our disappointment. to state how it affects us, and what we conceive to be our duty towards the Empire in this War, and the only less important duty which we have towards this age-long problem of the contentment and prosperity of Ireland.
Having heard to-day the Prime Minister, the hon. Member for Mayo, the hon. Member for Waterford, and the hon. Member for West Belfast, and last, but not least important, the speech of the Colonial Secretary, I think that many of us are not only disappointed but surprised that this settlement has failed upon the point upon which, apparently, it has failed. No one could listen to the Colonial Secretary without appreciating the great clarity of exposition with which he put the case—going back to party nomenclature—of what has been called the Unionist party with regard to the undesirability of maintaining the full quota of Irish Members for a moment after Home Rule, as defined in this Agreement, came into practice. Of course, one admits that when one is arguing on the plane of party contention his argument was clear and strong, but one hoped, in a time of war like this, one had got away from the plane of party politics, and when one 2209 knows that the effect of securing this settlement, if it left a full quota of Irish Members here, would only have been to have brought on in its natural place as one of the most important problems which the peace would bring back—the final settlement of Ireland—all I can say is I heard his speech with personal admiration for its skill, but with intense sorrow for its tendency. It is not a time to cry, "A plague on both your Houses!" but merely to express of the sorrow one feels toward both sides; at the same time, one cannot but regret that it appears to have been impossible for our hon. Friends from Ireland to have accepted this settlement even with that alteration to what they seriously felt to be their grave disadvantage, because whatever is done in this matter, whatever is achieved, whatever is felt will, I am sure, be judged, not only by this country and by Ireland, but by the civilised world according to the tests which in the time of this colossal war rise to the minds of all thoughtful people.
I wish the Irish party could have accepted this settlement, even curtailed—as it appears to me, unwisely and wrongly curtailed—by the view which the Colonial Secretary has expressed, for there are many of us who believe, as, indeed, some of us have believed through all the best years of our lives in every kind of political weather, that the experiment of Home Rule for Ireland, loyally tried, would be the very best preventative of all the evils which are foreshadowed. We feel also that, while that experiment might have been difficult to try after the effects of this rebellion, yet even we Englishmen can conceive how difficulties were increased in effect upon Irish sentiment by what has come since the rebellion, by the delay, however necessary or unnecessary, and various other details. Yet there are many of us who believe that if only this experiment had been allowed to be tried, those difficulties would not have been so great in practice as they appear to be in forecast. Therefore, what are we to do who believe that this Coalition Government, although many of us disliked its inception as much as it was disliked by Members who have spoken from those benches—what are we to do who believe that this Coalition Government, much as we disliked its birth, is on the whole necessary and inevitable if we are to present a front untainted with party in this great international conflict? What is 2210 there put upon us to do when we find our hopes to-day in one great area of public life so bitterly disappointed? It seems to me that all we can do is this: we can loyally express both our grief at the failure and our grave doubt as to the wisdom in what has been insisted on and in what they have been unable to accept, and we can, in the next place, express our hope that Ireland may find the intensely provisional arrangements which have been foreshadowed to-day less intolerable and less detested than they appear to be described in debate.
Many of us know, as I know, the right hon. and learned Member for Exeter, and I cannot but hope that Ireland will find his high personal qualities are of far more importance than his partisan past. After all, we all have partisan pasts, and in whatever part of this House we now sit, and whatever attitude we now take to these great questions, I cannot believe that the gravity of the situation, the magnitude of the issues at stake, the imperative duty laid upon every man, Englishman and Irishman alike, to think first of the Empire and the future of the freedom of Western Europe, and only secondly of those parts of the Empire which are dearest to us—I believe that sense of political perspective will be recognised by the new Chief Secretary, and, while I well understand the protest that has come from those benches, and one quite realises the debating points made by the hon. Member for Waterford about a Unionist Executive coming out of a Coalition Government, in spite of all those debating points I hope the influence of the hon. Members from Ireland will be used to make the best of the failure, because in high politics, as in the petty personal issues of individual life, failures are sometimes wrested to more permanent successes.
Another thing that is laid upon us—at any rate, upon those of us who have been Home Rulers all the days of our manhood—is to watch with great care and with a criticism which is not hostile, and I trust not blind, the operation of these new arrangements in Ireland during all the days of the War. We are just as interested in securing for Home Rule an early, a full and well-starred trial as we ever were in our lives. We regret that that test and trial could not have come now, as it so nearly did. We may have our own opinions as to who is to blame, 2211 and how many people are to blame, and whether blame is the monopoly of one side or not, but I hope we shall take warning by this failure to make everyone of us in this House, in so far as his power and responsibility extend, more watchful of what the Government are doing, more resolute to bear in mind that there is no power so harmonising and so strengthening as the power of self-government. Some of us, at any rate, while we, like the leader of our hon. Friends on those benches, put the War and its successful conclusion before anything else, are as eager to-day, and, if possible, more eager, to secure for Ireland the experiment of working out its own salvation, as we have been through the long dark days of party conflict, out of which we have come into a national struggle. It is these combined lessons which are strengthened in their effect upon our mind by this melancholy passing failure, and at the same time brightened by the signs seen tonight and the other night of a growing together on the part of Irish representatives, and of a feeling which I, at any rate, interpret behind the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary, that this problem cannot be neglected because it is not now solved, but will remain to be solved, and the sooner it is solved, not only will it be better for Ireland, but for the Empire.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I want to say a few words from the point of view of one of those who frankly regret that it is not possible on this occasion to settle the Irish question by consent. I say, without hesitation, that whenever the Union has been at stake I have always been in the Unionist party. As a student fresh from Oxford I threw myself into the 1886 Election, and though there have been times when I fought with the other side of the House, it was on occasions that the Session was not of the essence of politics. I claim that from the beginning, after the great split in the Liberal party, in 1885–1886, I have all my life long been consistently a Unionist. To my mind Unionism consists of certain principles which we are called upon to hold, but which arc applicable in different ways according to the circumstances of the time. What, in essence, are the principles of Unionism? Are they not two? Firstly, we will not see tyranny in Ireland by one religion or another, and, an the second place, we seek to make sure 2212 that Ireland shall in no case be other than true to the Empire. Those are the two principles. Before the War those of us who saw what was coming, or, at any rate, thought we saw what was coming, and events have proved us to be right, felt that it was no time to make experiments. It is no time to reorganise your army just as you are going into battle, However sure you may feel it needs change, it is better to go forward with your organisation complete, finished and ready, and it is impossible to attempt on the verge of a struggle to alter this. However we may have regretted the differences, at any rate we were called upon to adhere, not merely to the spirit, but to the very letter, and rigidly, to our Unionism.
This great War has been fought now for two years. We believe that we see the tide, not only turning, but turned. Our position now is somewhat different to what it was before the War, and I believe will be quite different at the end of the War. In that I do not swerve one iota from the two principles which I have laid down and the securing of them, but the time when you dare make experiments is not as you go into the battle, but when you emerge from it victoriously. If this country is victorious in the way we hope she will be, then we can afford to make some experiments. I admit that there will be dangers surrounding those experiments after the War. So far as I am concerned, I feel that that historic shake of the hands, which has not yet taken place, typifies not what the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University indicated, undisciplined sentiment, but typifies a change of the atmosphere in which the parties to the Irish question are moving and have their being. There is something really different in the situation all over the world which is coming about and which will make it possible for us to take up a different attitude. I hope hon. Members below the Gangway will not regard this as mere sentiment. There is some political reason lying at the bottom of the generous speeches that have been made. We in this country have fought side by side, and our young men have fought in many fields together. That is a basis for sentiment, but not merely that, for the fighting has achieved changes, and is achieving them completely in the conditions of the world.
If ever in this world we are to make experiments, they should be made on the morrow of victory and not on the eve of battle. That is why I say it is possible 2213 for Unionists holding firmly to their Unionist principles to say that there shall be no tyranny upon any religion in Ireland and that there shall not be any failure in Ireland in regard to her duty to the Empire. Holding firmly those principles, it is possible to apply them with greater generosity and freedom than it was before the War. I trust that hon. Members below the Gangway will not allow their natural anger in regard to these negotiations to blind them to the facts when we are speaking of reconciliation and when we speak of settlement by consent, for we are not simply speaking of sentiment that is good only for the Time of the War, but something of deeper import, namely, the change in the conditions of the world, rendering things more possible for us than they were before. The reason why I put that forward is this: The party to which I belonged for years past held as its highest aspiration the unity and effectiveness of the British Empire. I believe that for many years to come freedom and democracy in this world will depend finally on the effectiveness of the British Empire. There will be enormous questions concerned with that defence when we come to the settlement of the War. This small Irish question, for it is a small question fundamentally, must not be allowed to spoil all the political force and effect of this nation in the face of the whole world.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I am not disputing that, but old men grow small. Ireland is a small nation, and this is a small question in this sense, that out of 45,000,000 or 46,000,000 people in the Kingdom you have only some 3,000,000 in Nationalist Ireland. You will have in this country after the War enormous military strength. You will have returning to Ireland the Munsters and the Leinsters, and you will have a condition of things in this country after the War under which it will be possible to attempt experiments in regard to this small question which it was not possible to attempt before. There are even further matters. I represent a Constituency—I have heard Glasgow often spoken of as the capital of Ireland—in which I have several hundred Nationalists and several hundred Orangemen and a statue of William III. on horseback as you go into it, and those two 2214 bodies of people, witnesses of the fact that their two leaders, the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the. Member for Trinity College, are willing to shake hands, will certainly ask why we are to resume party hostilities after this War when their leaders are capable of that greatness.
I am going to talk quite frankly. The Protestants amongst us fear the pretensions of the Roman Church. I am speaking of that which every Member knows perfectly well, and I want to show how changed the world is already and will be in a year's time. The Roman Church is feared by them—not naturally by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and not by many others—because of its political pretensions. Where will they be when Austria is broken and when Germany, who supports Austria, is broken? You will see vast changes in the whole spirit of that great world religion, and those changes will be all of a nature which will render it possible for Protestants and even extreme Protestants to treat this matter in a way in which they have not ventured to treat it in the past. Those are some and only some of the changes that I see are being brought about by this War. We Unionists, many of us at any rate, tell hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that whilst we regret nothing in our past in relation to this question, and whilst we adhere to the essential principles at the root of our Unionism, yet we are perfectly honest and we are not merely talking sentiment when we say that at the end of this War, if not at this moment, we feel that it will be possible to treat this question with generosity—and not merely in the spirit of logic—and in a manner that it was not possible to do before the War. Those are the reasons for which I rose. I feel, representing such a Constituency as I do, that it was impossible that one should allow it to be thought that the sentiment of some Unionists at any rate had not been affected by what has taken place, and sentiment, after all, as has been said two or three times today, is the greatest of all factors in politics.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I am sure that the House will have listened with the greatest sympathy to the statement which we have just heard from my hon. Friend, for, although we may not all be able to agree with him, yet we must recognise that he has voiced that more sympathetic spirit with regard to the Home Rule controversy which we welcome from 2215 everyone who sits on these benches. I noticed earlier in the evening that my hon. Friend the Member for the St. Augustine's Division (Mr. E. McNeill) stated that he could not reconcile two statements which fell from the lips of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin). Those two statements were that he was against the permanent exclusion of Ulster, and, on the other hand, that he did not believe in the coercion of Ulster. Those two principles to me seem extremely simple. I must confess that I viewed with considerable regret the attempt that was made to exclude Ulster permanently or even temporarily from the Home Rule Bill. The problem which was presented to Ulster was not at all a new one, and hon. Members of the House who did me the honour to listen to the argument I presented when the Bill was under discussion will remember that I said that something ought to be done to meet that sentiment in Ulster that was hostile to Home Rule. At the same time, I always opposed exclusion in any form. I have not changed my opinion and I therefore welcome the spirit of agreement which these Debates have shown both on the last occasion and on the present occasion. I would like to say, as a Home Ruler, that we specially welcome what the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Bonar Law) said to us tonight. His voice, like that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson), is all on the side of unity.
I want to tell the House something about what happened in one of the Southern counties I know most about, and which is included in the arrangement. It is a Nationalist county. I am one of the few Protestants whose family has lived there for seventy or eighty years. We have never suffered any persecution. I go further and say that this religious question which is supposed to exist in Ireland is entirely a bogey of the English imagination. The Protestants never persecute the Catholics and the Catholics never persecute the Protestants. All the persecution has come from this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not in 1898!"] My hon. Friend says, "Not in 1898!" The events in 1898 had nothing to do with religion at all, and those most familiar with what occurred would say that they afforded thousands of examples of the care and attention given to Protestants by Catholics 2216 and given to Catholics by Protestants. I am sure that the House will agree with me that this persecution is entirely a bogey of the English imagination. Whenever it has existed in Ireland, it has proceeded from this House. Did not the penal laws proceed from this House? It was not done or conceived in Ireland, but over here. I cannot help alluding to another reason given for the exclusion of Ulster. The hon. Member said that he wished to see the Irish loyal to the Empire and to the people of England. So do I, with all my heart, and that is the reason I appeal to Members of this House to try that sovereign remedy of Home Rule, which has never failed to provoke that spirit of unity and strength which has been of so much value to the Empire in this crisis. I welcome the spirit of agreement which has been disclosed. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast, and my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), all made most moderate speeches, and they all made appeals to this House. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford, the hon. Member for West Belfast, and the hon. Member for East Mayo all made most moderate speeches. They all made appeals to this House to go a little further on the road which we have travelled. I would make an appeal to my right hon. Friend. The Member for St. Augustine's said I ought to make an appeal to them, but it is my conscience which prevents me. Some Gentlemen from Ireland have gone a little further than I could possibly go by agreeing to the suggestion of exclusion. If you have both gone a certain distance on the wrong road, I take that as a proof that the spirit of good will which is animating you will take you the whole distance on the right way. The hon. Member for St. Augustine's says I want him to go the whole road. No, I do not want him to go the whole road. I would be prepared to go a very long way on the road to smooth over the fears of the people in Ulster. I will venture to say—and I think the House will forgive me for referring to this—that I brought forward an Amendment on the Home Rule Bill proposing that a much larger representation than the minority was entitled to should be given to the minority, on the condition that they would come in and help to strengthen and build up the Parliament in Ireland. That was my suggestion to them, so that there should be a 2217 strong minority which could not be trampled on. Then I will remind the House there was another idea which was suggested during the long Debate, that was that there might be some sort of combination of the county councils dealing with local matters which might, if any case of oppression arose, have the right of veto as far as Ulster was concerned. I will agree with any proposal of that kind—extra representation, right of veto—but I dislike and doubt this proposal of exclusion. I hope the House will not think I am obstinate about this. The sort of appeal made to us was this, and there were no arguments given in favour of this appeal for exclusion to the House of Commons. It was supposed that our great Leader, my right hon. Friend the War Minister, the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, had agreed, and we were asked to accept the arrangements they made.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I am just making a little supposition. I think people were asked, and hon. Friends of mine on the opposite side of the House were asked, to accept the arrangement because both these eminent persons had subscribed to it. I submit with great respect that the House of Commons has not had much argument in favour of this arrangement. Why should we have a Parliament of gentlemen composed all of one side? This is the most interesting Debate we have had for the last two or three hours because we do not entirely agree. I am trying to meet the opposite side, but I entirely differ from the proposal of exclusion. I am prepared to go almost any distance on such terms as I have mentioned.
I would like also to say that there is one spirit that has been alluded to throughout the Debate which ought not to be forgotten. The hon. Member who preceded me said that in the midst of a great war we should never reorganise our Army, and that it was better to go on through the fight with the Army with which you have started—even if it were a bad Army. I could not help smiling when I heard that. I remember the other day that somebody said that we must not swop horses when crossing a stream, and he immediately added that much depends on the sort of horse you are on, and that if you have the wrong horse you will go 2218 down the stream. This great emergency into which the country has been plunged has made us all think, and I rejoice to say more seriously to think, about this Irish question I appeal to you all to go a certain distance on the way towards conciliation, and not to abandon the good work. I appeal to right hon. Members not to think that this suggestion they have made is the only suggestion which can be made. It is impossible to listen to both sides of this Debate without feeling that there has been a genuine misunderstanding. I believe that there is a misunderstanding at bottom, and it is a good thing that it should be debated.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I think it ought to be. I like, as far as I can, to believe in the honesty of those from whom we differ. It is all very well to believe in the honesty of your friends, but it requires a higher type of intelligence to believe in the honesty of those from whom you differ. I do believe the Gentlemen from Ulster thought that exclusion was going to be permanent. [An HON. MEMBER: "So it was!"] But I am quite sure that no Nationalist thought it was going to be permanent, so I was not wrong in suggesting there is a misunderstanding. The contract was not so clear as people thought it was, and I do think that the basis of an important arrangement of that kind ought to be clearly understood by both sides. So I think we have made a good deal of progress. The only thing is that we have not got anything definite.
§ Mr. LOUGH
We did not agree over the proposals in county Cavan. I did not find in any part of Ireland reasons why we should have a Protestant Parliament in one part and a Catholic Parliament in another. This House, so far as England was concerned, would have had two Irelands to deal with instead of one. It was all very well for my hon. Friends from Ireland to point to the headings. The headings are subject to instructions, and the instructions go all down the page. When you had carried these instructions into the Bill it would have been a very different Bill from that which you passed three years ago. The arrangement was a very difficult one, and was not at all pleasantly received in Ireland. I think we ought all 2219 to rejoice here to-night that while we cannot complete the arrangement, we have the great fact of a spirit of agreement, and we have not had in any speech, save one, all through this long Debate anything but the spirit of agreement and a desire to meet this Irish difficulty. I would say to hon. Members, like my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that the difficulties are not so great as Gentlemen in this country suppose. I believe that the sovereign remedy of giving the Irish people complete control over their own affairs will not be a failure. On the contrary, it will be as great a success in Ireland as it has been in every part of this great Empire. I believe that who ever had control in the Irish Parliament would be a very great force in assisting the Empire in the present crisis. On the occasions when I have visited Ireland since the War began I have been engaged in recruiting, and I have found the same excellent spirit which has been displayed by the Members from the Nationalist constituencies who have spoken, existing throughout the county Cavan with regard to the War. Of course, there were some there who took a wrong view about it. That was not confined to Nationalists. There were some Protestants who mixed up William II. with William III., and who said they would be just as well off under the Germans as under the English. That applies to a large part of the Protestants in the two parishes in which my place in Ireland is situated. Protestants as well as Catholics like to judge of these questions for themselves. If the spirit of agreement can be fostered and it can be arranged that one Parliament should be set up in Dublin without any exclusion, I believe this House will have done the best day's work for the Empire and the War since the contest broke out in 1914.
§ Sir NORVAL HELME
There are those of us who remember the dark days when Fenianism began and conspiracy was developed in Ireland, and who can also remember the brighter days that succeeded and a few years ago developed. We remember the terrible threats of rebellion that were made and that the Irish party stood for a constitutional agitation to secure the redress of grievances in regard to the management of Irish affairs. To their advocacy we owe more than we can easily say for the spirit which has been developed and the situation as we find it to-day. When Mr. 2220 Gladstone brought in his remedial measures the country was not prepared for them. Lord Salisbury brought in his scheme of government, recommending twenty years of resolute government and putting before us the alternative of a policy of coercion against that of conciliation. The members of the Liberal party made their choice. We stood then for conciliation and we stand for it to-day. It was stated at that time that the religious question was the great difficulty, but we, true to the principles of our party, held that a man's religion should not be a bar to his civil rights, and we preferred to trust the Irish people rather than to threaten them with pains and penalties because of their religious convictions. Sentiment has been spoken of to-night. Sentiment plays a great part in influencing conduct. We stand tonight by the policy—we are not ashamed of it—we adopted when we supported the policy of Home Rule, namely, the union of hearts. It is in order to win the Irish people that we have endeavoured during these years to advocate, in cloud and in sunshine, the policy of Home Rule. We are delighted to know that in the Home Rule Bill which was placed on the Statute Book the policy of conciliation triumphed. Under the leadership of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) and his colleagues, and of that of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson), we have evidence that the Irish people, if left to themselves, would settle their own difficulties, and that Great Britain might look on with satisfaction at the development of the spirit of unity which we have before us in that country.
At the present time we must greatly regret the breakdown of these negotiations. We see signs of hope even under the cloud of to-day. We stand in the presence of a great disappointment, but we know that in the future that policy must triumph. Only a week or two ago, under your presidency, Mr. Speaker, we welcomed the representatives of the Parliaments across the seas and from the representative of Canada we had testimony as to the development of free institutions in that great Dominion. The interest of that gathering reached its culmination when the representative of South Africa, who described himself as a plain Dutch farmer, told us that although he himself had fought against us some fifteen years ago, he was here to assure us, as representing the House of Commons, that the 2221 gift of self-government by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, had won the hearts of the Dutch population, and that we might regard South Africa for the future as an integral part of the great British Empire. He pointed out that that was due, not only to the gift of the principle of self-government by the British people, but to the opportuneness of the early gift of such a great concession immediately the War ended. To-night we meet in unique circumstances. When the gift of self-government was offered by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, he asked the members of the Unionist party to join the Liberal Government of that day in the gift, so that it might be the gift of the nation to the people of South Africa, but the Unionist party then hesitated in joining the Liberals in that gift. The gift, however, was made, with the results we see to-day. I believe that the position of the Empire rests largely on that splendid feeling of loyalty which exists among the people of South Africa and the other portions of the Empire. I welcome the splendid appeals that have been made to the higher interests of the people. Let the representatives of Ireland take this matter up. There is among the Unionist party, to my knowledge, a very strong feeling that the Government should go forward. I hope that the result of the Debate to-night will be that the two hon. Gentlemen who represent the North and South of Ireland will determine to rally round them the help of the Members of the British House of Commons. As a private member of the Liberal party, I would say to Irishmen that we Liberals will stand true to the policy of Home Rule and will do all we can to second the efforts that may be made to bring about a settlement.
I have listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down. There have been numerous speeches couched in the same strain, namely, an appeal to Members on the Nationalist Benches to come to some agreement and to accept the suggested solution framed by the Unionist members of the Cabinet, to be carried out by a Unionist Chief Secretary in Ireland. We have in Ireland a phrase which possibly may not be understood in this House, namely, "Soft words butter no parsnips." In other words, it is all very pleasant for hon. Gentlemen to promise a Bill and to say that the interests of the Empire and every other interest is to be safeguarded 2222 at the expense of the Irish people, because there is no denying the fact that this scheme has broken down, not because there was a desire to safeguard the Empire, but because the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) wanted to get a special advantage which he could not otherwise obtain. In other words, he wanted to tear from the Home Rule Act, already on the Statute Book, six counties. It was not good enough for him that the whole thing was to be temporary. It was not good enough for this right hon. Gentleman who delivers speeches and says, "What matters anything except the success of the War?" But the success of the War did not appeal to him sufficiently to accept a temporary measure. When the War was over and the hour of victory arrived, the right hon. Gentleman and his party would be no worse off than they are now. The whole thing was only temporary and would have to be reconsidered. The Unionist Members in the Cabinet, who were ready to sacrifice everything in the interests of the War, are not prepared to risk the danger that the Irish vote might be utilised in favour of a Liberal rather than a Unionist Government; so that in the middle of a War and in the middle of the perils of the Empire it is a case of party politics and not the interests of the Empire. We have the declaration that Dublin Castle rule has broken down and Dublin Castle rule is to be started again. What is the reason of the breakdown of Dublin Castle rule? It is that British rule in Ireland is the ascendancy of one religion over another, the very thing that hon. Members on this side of the House protest against. It is that Castle rule from top to bottom is honeycombed with spies whose principal business is to try to undermine the influence of Irish Nationalists in their efforts to effect peace and concord in Ireland. We were told that fine things would take place after the War. The greatest difficulty we have had to face in Ireland was the cry of the Irish people, "Once bitten, twice shy." Once a treaty was broken on a previous occasion. How could we trust the word of British statesmen again? Here there was no misunderstanding as to words. There was a written contract. The Secretary of State for War was asked to negotiate on behalf of the Cabinet and the leader of the Ulster, or the North-East Ulster party, and the leader of the Nationalist party came to an agreement. It is not a case of misunderstanding, because the agreement 2223 is there and it has been published. Surely if there was any ambiguity it was the right hon. Gentleman's place, as a distinguished lawyer——
§ Sir E. CARSON
I have already stated in this House that I called attention to a paragraph which has been relied upon in the agreement and I was told to ask a question of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister would state exactly what the agreement was. I did that, and the Prime Minister stated it, and I have said, and say now again, to what the Prime Minister said I make no objection, and I stand by the agreement as he stated it in this House.
Surely these negotiations took place, and it was the least that one would have expected that the Secretary of State for War would have communicated the interpretation placed upon this agreement by the right hon. Gentleman.
I hope hon. Members on this side of the House will permit me to deliver my own speech. They are, perhaps, far more capable. This is only the second occasion that I have attempted to address the House; therefore, if I am unable to communicate my views in the way that hon. Members desire, I will communicate myself in the way I desire myself, which is far more important to me. This question was asked by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but not previous to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. Redmond) going to Belfast.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. It was previous to the hon. and learned Member going to Belfast.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed. The question was not asked in this House before then, and we had no intimation whatever as to the interpretation which the Prime Minister placed upon the agreement. When it was asked here it will be within the memory of the House that hon. Members on these benches could not dis- 2224 tinctly hear what was said, and called to the right hon. and learned Member to speak up so that we might understand what was taking place between them. The Secretary of State for War, according to the statement we have heard, undoubtedly gave one interpretation to the right hon. and learned Member (Sir E.Carson) and another to the Leader of the Irish party. How, then, can we respond to the appeal to wait until after the War? How are the words of the Government to be kept? We have now an indication of what is in the minds of the Ministry whenever they come forward with the next proposal, and it is this: That this Home Rule Prime Minister sends a Unionist over to Ireland to cooperate with the legal adviser of the Ulster Covenant, who was prepared to rise and resist the law, and to cooperate with him in settling the government of Ireland. The position before him is this. He goes to the City of Dublin, which is suffering with destitution because of the ill-treatment of the people by representatives of this Government. He goes to Dublin, and he finds widows and orphans left in want and starvation because the Government have not the courage to have inquiry and investigation to see who was responsible for the sacrifice of life that has taken place in the city. He goes to Dublin to find that its people are preparing to convey to every country in the world that your representatives, the military authorities, permitted the white flag to be fired upon in Moore Street. Dublin, and men and women to be shot down who were trying to escape from a burning house. This was the result of your administration, and you ask us, as citizens of an Empire that has not been able to protect its citizens, to remain quiet and cooperate with your representatives in preserving peace during this War.
Let me give you an instance. The Prime Minister came to Dublin to make an appeal to the people of Dublin to join the Army. I was a member of the executive of the Irish National Volunteers. Every effort was made to have that meeting broken up. The night previous to the meeting I travelled from one end of the city to the other appealing to various companies of the National Volunteers. I succeeded in bringing hundreds of them to participate at that meeting, with what result? Three officers, a captain and two lieutenants in one company which I have in my mind immediately joined the Army. They joined as privates. 2225 One of them hag just received the D.C.M., and he has received two commissions upon the field of battle. Within a few days he is to be raised to the position of captain for almost reckless daring, and his second lieutenant of the Volunteers, whom he appealed to to remain at home because he had a wife and family dependant upon him, who was out every day canvassing with me, was murdered in his own house in North King Street. Is that a condition of affairs that will tend to secure peace and good will among the Irish people?
Gentlemen of the opposite side ask, What are the Back Benches of the Liberals to do? These men are anxious to assist us. I might answer their questions by asking another. What are we to do? We have sacrificed everything in our efforts to secure assistance for you in this War. I have travelled every district in Great Britain where an Irish population exists to support the appeal for recruits raised by our leader. In the district of Newcastle-on-Tyne, I find that almost 25 per cent. of the men have joined the ranks and are fighting to-day on behalf of the Allies. Why? "Because," we said, "we are now going to receive justice and fair play. Because we are now going to be treated as citizens of the Empire, with the right of self-government for our country." What reply is now made when we make an appeal on behalf of the starving wives and children of those who have been shot down? There is a refusal to allow an inquiry in order that responsibility may be placed upon the proper shoulders. I have listened to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, who said that if we asked no questions he would ask no questions. He wants to know how many have been shot by the Sinn Fein revolutionists in Dublin. We want that inquiry to take place. We are anxious that that inquiry should take place, and we want that these people should be compensated and that those responsible for promoting this rebellion, such, for instance, as the "Irish Times," shall have to take their fair share of the blame.
But we expect nothing of the sort, because our experience is that the whole of Dublin Castle rule is not used to promote peace and concord but quite the reverse. I might remind hon. Members that the man who provoked the shooting at Batchelor's Walk three years ago was dismissed, as we understood, or at least he was relieved of his position, but he was relieved 2226 because he outstepped his duty. What followed? He was appointed to a far more lucrative and important position in another department. We have General Maxwell's rule in Dublin, but no one for a moment imagines that General Maxwell was acting upon his own information. There was a gentleman by his side, a representative of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who was credited with appealing to prisoners in their cells and intimating that they would secure their liberty if they could incriminate in the rebellion any of the members of the Irish Parliamentary party. That is the sort of material we have in Ireland, and that is the sort of thing which will come before the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to manage Dublin Castle and again place it on its feet. It is well, indeed, that you should send a Unionist over. It is not the worst thing that could possibly, happen, because anything is better than the sort of rule we have had from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, who have not the courage to take one side or the other, and who are not prepared to administer the law or give justice and fair play to the Irish people. I trust that Members of this House will understand that whatever takes place in Ireland during the next three or six months, the responsibility is upon the heads, not of the Irish Members, who have risked their political existence to carry out this agreement, but upon those who have carried on this intrigue, who have introduced party politics, and who are prepared to sacrifice everything, not for the country, but to satisfy their enmity and bitterness against the Irish people.
§ Mr. COOTE
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for some observations that fell from the right hon Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) and an hon. Member on the other side, and but for the fact, also, that I come from a city which is representative of the democracy of Ulster. I want to explain, if I can, how this matter operates on our minds from the democratic point of view. The right hon. Member for Dublin University brought this proposal before us, and he is perfectly correct in his statement that we received him in a very solemn and very questionable manner. The final question we put to him was whether his proposal was going to be permanent. He said, yes he had been clear upon that point, but he would go back to the House and see those interested in the negotiations. If matters were 2227 not so, then he would wash his own hands of the whole business. We very reluctantly agreed, but we believed that if our friends on the other side joined us, we should endeavour to do what we could to improve the government of Ireland. But we have our fear. I want my hon. Friends below the Gangway to try to respect our fear, because I am trying here to show that they are well grounded. The right hon. Member for Islington said that he was a county Cavan man, and that he never knew of the existence of boycotting or religious persecution there.
§ Mr. COOTE
I also happen to be a county Cavan man, and I happened to live in the small town of Bally James Duff, where the right hon. Gentleman's brother was medical officer. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman remembers who preceded his brother. It was Doctor Lovelock, who was persecuted by the Roman Catholic members of the medical board, until he was obliged to go to Dublin, where he died of a broken heart. Yet the right hon. Gentleman stated in this House that he never heard of religious persecution. I lived in that town, and I could tell him some yarns. They might be considered myths, but I can give chapter and verse for what has come within my own experience, to show that we have good grounds for believing that our civil and religious liberties would not be protected under Home Rule. We were willing, when our Friends made this proposal of settlement, that the twenty-six counties might be taken over by our Nationalist Friends, and that we should retain six, and when this was going to be the "clean cut," as used by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, we fell in with the proposal. I ask my Friends on the other side what right have they to interfere with our six counties if we do not interfere with theirs? [HON. MEMBERS. "Four!"]
§ Mr. COOTE
They say they want to manage their own business, and surely they will allow us to say to whom we hold ourselves responsible and what form of Government will control our area, and if we are allowed to retain six counties with 2228 their acquiescence will we not be allowed to retain them until we wish to give them up?
§ Mr. COOTE
I am trying to put this view as calmly and dispassionately as I can. We have a fear, which I expressed to my Friend here, the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) in this House on the day of the Secret Session when we had a conversation of which it is no harm to speak in his presence. I made use of these words to him, "If you can go over to Ireland and put your priests in their proper place in politics and lift up education, primary education, to where it ought to be in the country and see that law and order is maintained in the twenty-six counties, I question if you will not have us with you before ten years." We have a long way to go to realise all those things, and our Friends have come here and we have had a tremendous amount of oratory to-day, and the Cabinet is blamed because it is said those proposals have been infringed upon. You would imagine that there was a tremendous difference in what was believed to be the proposal on one side and what were actually the proposals believed on the other side. The forces that are going to break up that settlement are not forces in this House; they are over in Ireland. Hon. Members below the Gangway know that the ground was taken from under their feet, and that four bishops in Ulster and Dr. O'Dwyer, the Bishop of Limerick, and heaps of secret societies in all Ireland are against them. As a proof of that let me read an extract from Dr. O'Dwyer's letter to the Antipartition Committee in Belfast addressed to Mr. B. Campbell, in which he says:—I can well understand your anxiety and indignation at the proposal of your own political leaders to cut you off from your country and hand you over to the Orangemen of the North, but I have very little pity for you. For years you have acquiesced in a kind of political servitude in which your most important function was to shout the shibboleth of what they called ' the Party '; you gave up willingly the right to think and became puppets——That was the Irish party—You saw the interests of your religion sacrificed to the bigotry of English Nonconformists——Think of that, over there, my Friends—and you never said a word. You thought it a grand thing for one of your leaders to occupy on a Sunday a pulpit in a Protestant Conventicle in London. You ceased to be men, and your leaders' naturally thought that they could sell you like chattels. And if they can they will.Those are not my words.
§ Mr. DILLON
Are we to understand that the hon. Member is a friend and supporter of Dr. O'Dwyer, of Limerick? Apparently, Dr. O'Dwyer is no supporter of ours and no friend of ours.
§ Mr. COOTE
No; but I am trying to show the hollowness of the protests and the row going on here to-day. It is not anything that happened in the settlement, it is the fear of the consequences of their own act in Ireland that makes them try to put the blame on other people. We have not been thinking of these things in Ulster since the War. There are homes in Ulster which have sent seven sons to the front. They are not all at the front to-night: one is killed, and another has his arm shot off. There are homes bereaved; they are not thinking of settlements. We are doing all we can to help the output of munitions and to assist the War. We are not thinking of these trifling things—shibboleths and words which are mere quibbles. We want to get on with our own business. We are very much like Alexander the Great who, on one of his tours of conquest in the East, is supposed to have gone into the tent of Diogenes. The old man, without lifting his eyes, asked him what he wanted. Alexander is supposed to have said to him, "Can I do anything for you?" The old man said, "Get out of my sunlight!" So we Ulster people say to all these men who come here simply to talk, "We have our businesses to mind in Ulster. Our hearts are not loaded just now with whether there shall be Home Rule or no Home Rule. We have our terrible fears of the War. We want to prosecute the War to a successful issue. We have followed our leader. He knows very well that he has our unanimous support in all that he has undertaken up to the present. We trust him implicitly, and we say that so far as he has gone we are willing to give unanimous and ungrudging support to all that he has done." We could wish that our Friends on the other side would meet us in the same spirit, and that there might be peace in Ireland.
§ Mr. FIELD
I should not have intervened but for the "yarns" of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. Coote), who has told us of Alexander and Diogenes and made us all his friends. I only wish the House could come to a friendly arrangement and carry out the agreement which was practically come to between 2230 the two parties. There is no question whatever that we Dublin Members have had to face an extraordinary state of things. Owing to the conduct of the authorities since the outbreak undoubtedly a very bitter feeling exists. Like the hon. Member, we desired to cooperate with the Government in every possible way in regard to the conduct of the War, but they have made our position most difficult. It was understood throughout the length and breadth of the land that this was an honest endeavour to settle the matter in the spirit which exists at the present time with regard to Home Rule. The conduct of the Government has disproved, I might say, their honesty, because undoubtedly the agreement has not been carried out in the spirit in which we believed it was conceived. This House should have taken the opportunity given for us all to become friends. As my hon. colleagues from Dublin have pointed out, so many things have happened, there have been so many occurrences of no extraordinary nature, that they have, to a certain extent, unhappily produced the feeling, if not of unrest, at all events of disappointment, in regard to the settlement of this matter. We are in a worse position practically than ever we were before. I will only say one word about Dublin Castle. This is supposed to be a Coalition Government, but, as has been pointed out by our leader, it really is not a Coalition Government. It is really a Tory Coalition Government. If it were possible the position of Dublin Castle to-day is worse almost than ever it was before. Anyone who lives in Ireland and has had any experience of Dublin Castle government knows that it does not command the approval of the people. Hon. Members in this House talk about democracy. They give us lessons about trust in the people. They have never trusted the Irish people. We have always been oppressed. Our advice has never been taken. The result is that the government of Ireland ever since the Union has been always against the aspirations, hopes, and interests not alone of the Irish people, but of Great Britain. The time has come when some earnest, honest endeavour should be made to bring Ireland in practice into union with the British people. We see the result of Home Rule in South Africa. We see the result of it in Canada. Wherever Home Rule has been tried the people have responded with loyalty to the Empire. The result in Ireland of the unfortunate 2231 mistake which has been made by the Government will certainly not be productive of utility either for Ireland or the rest of the Empire.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "That, in view of the announcement by the Government that they do not' intend to introduce their long promised Bill to settle the government of Ireland, it is vitally necessary and urgent that the Government should immediately disclose to the House their plans for the future government of Ireland during the continuance of the War."