§ Mr. DILLON
I beg to move,
"That the policy pursued towards Ireland by His Majesty's Government is inconsistent with the great principles for the vindication of which the Allied Powers are carrying on the War; that this policy has greatly alienated and exasperated the Irish people and, if persevered in, will still further alienate and exasperate them, and will steadily increase the difficulty of reaching a settlement of the Irish question on a basis of friendship between the British and the Irish nations; that this House heartily endorses the principles laid down by President Wilson, in his speech at the grave of George Washington, when, speaking of the objects for which America and her Allies are fighting, he said: these great objects can be put into a single sentence, what we seek is the reign of law based upon the consent of the governed and sustained by the organised opinion of mankind; these great ends cannot be achieved by debating and seeking to reconcile and accommodate what statesmen may wish with their projects for balances of power and of national opportunity, they can be realised only by the determination of what the thinking peoples of the world desire, with their longing hope for justice and for social freedom and opportunity, and that this House is of opinion that the true solution of the Irish question is to put into opera- 86 tion without delay in regard to Ireland the principles laid down by President Wilson in this historic utterance."
I observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Sir G. Reid), has placed an Amendment on the Paper to the Resolution I am submitting to the House. I understand that that Amendment is one which the Government proposes to adopt and support. I desire to call attention to the fact that that Amendment does not raise a clear issue. As an old Parliamentary hand, I would respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that when proposing his Amendment he should amend it by inserting, after the word "armies," the wordsand in consideration of those heroic services that the great principle for which the Irish have been called upon to fight shall not be applied in the cage of Ireland.That would raise a straight issue against my Resolution. I am perfectly prepared to find that many hon. Members who in the past have been the friends of Ireland, and have supported her claims, should think that in raising at this stage of the great world War for freedom the question of Ireland, I am engaged in an unwarrantable attempt and that Ireland should be left in the background until the issue of that War is decided. I am quite prepared to find that. They will say and they are saying, "Ireland is a small and comparatively insignificant country, and it is absurd to drag her grievances and her troubles across the path of the mighty struggle that is now in progress and upon which the whole liberties of mankind hang." Yes, Sir, Ireland is a small country. But so is Belgium, so is Serbia, and so are many of the other countries for which we are told this War is being waged. Although Ireland is small, she has many millions of her children scattered throughout the world, and the troubles of Ireland, whether you like it or not, and whether we like it or not, will not be confined within the shores of Ireland but will be spread throughout the world. While, as you know, the affairs of many small countries, such as those to which I have alluded—Belgium, Serbia, the Czecho-Slovaks, the Jugo-Slavs, and the Italian Irredenta—are now the most urgent of war questions, so I am justified in raising the case of Ireland as a war question and as a war issue on which great events may hang. Further, I am justified in saying that when it comes—as I hope and pray it soon may come, in 87 view of the news from the Western Front—to the making of peace, a discontented and oppressed Ireland, held down by military force, will be an appalling source of weakness and embarrassment to this nation, and to every one of the free nations of the Allies, when you go to a conference to settle the future of Europe and the conditions under which all civilised nations must exist in the future. How can you dismiss from your minds the reproaches which will be hurled against you across the table of any Peace Conference which assembles to settle these great issues, if these men can point, as they are pointing to-day in the German Press and through the mouths of German ministers, to the case of Ireland, and when Count Burian in the Austrian Reichrath uses the wordsSweep before your own door first.If I wanted a further justification for raising the Irish question at a time of world-wide crisis such as this, I have only to quote the Prime Minister himself and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, speaking at Derby on the 23rd March, used this language—If I were asked what I considered the one thing that is most necessary and most urgent in the interests, not only of Great Britain and of Ireland and of the British Empire, but of the Allied cause and the future of the world, I would say without hesitation, reconciliation with Ireland.The Prime Minister himself, when setting up the Irish Convention a year ago, at a time when the War was even in a more critical stage than it is to-day—far more critical, and I thank God for it—said on the 21st March, 1917:I entreat the House of Commons to believe that nothing but pressing war conditions would have induced us to take up the settlement of so formidable a topic in the middle of the prosecution of this great War. Evidence accumulates from many quarters as to the importance, from the war point of view, of getting this controversy settled in order to win the good will and co-operation of the Irish races throughout the world.I put it to the Prime Minister himself, has anything occurred since May of last year to alter that conviction? Is the co-operation of the Irish race, not only in Ireland but throughout the world, any less important now than it was a year ago? Does he not know very well, as he understands the subject, that the co-operation of the Irish race and the friendship of the Irish race in the future in our 88 relations with America, in our relations with the United States and in the settling of peace, will become infinitely more important instead of growing less important? A great ideal has been held up before the warring races of mankind, an ideal which, in my opinion, has always been so beset with difficulties that I have never been able—I honestly confess it, however desirable and pleasant it may be, and we all admit it—to see how it would work out. That is the ideal of a League of Nations. It is the only plan which has been proposed from any quarter to prevent wars in the future. No other solution and no alternative scheme has been suggested. That ideal has been set up before the world by President Wilson with unparalleled authority. I doubt very much whether, in the history of modern times, there ever has been a man who, by circumstances and force of character, has been placed in so commanding a position to influence the future of civilised mankind as has been President Wilson. If there is to be any hope of a real League of Nations, we must largely look to him. That idea has been accepted and adopted by our Government. It has been magnificently explained and laid down with his usual lucidity by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife in his speech not long ago. It is now accepted by the French Government as one of the main purposes of the War. But have hon. Members who give their allegiance to this ideal ever put to themselves the question as to the basic principles on which any conceivable League of Nations must be founded, if it is to give any hope to the prevention of wars? We once had a League of Nations. That was a League of Nations to which this country attached itself under the inspiration of a man who, although a great autocrat, was I believe an idealist and sincere. That was the Holy Alliance. But England did not feel very comfortable in the Holy Alliance. Its purpose was exactly the same as the purpose for which we are asked now to found a League of Nations—to preserve the peace of the world and to put down, control and repress any single nation who dared to break that peace. It had one fundamental evil at its base, which destroyed the whole structure and brought about the fatal result that, instead of giving peace to the world, as we know, it gave birth to all the wars and revolutions of the nineteenth century in Europe.
89 4.0 P.M.
That basic evil on which it was founded was an injustice for which purpose the Holy Alliance was to be maintained. I tell you here to-day you can have no League of Nations in Europe unless you are prepared to submit yourselves to the civilised judgment of mankind. There can be no League of Nations which will save civilisation from war, and maintain the rule of justice and law, unless the great nations of the world are prepared to give up some of their sovereignties and to accept the judgment of their fellow nations. Therefore, I say that there are issues far greater than appear to the eye at first involved in this Irish question. How can you put it before the world that one of the main objects of your War, as you have done—and you have committed yourself to it wisely or unwisely—is to set free the subject nationalities of Austria, and to pull that Empire to pieces, while Ireland lies at your own back-door under the unfettered terror of military Government—this ancient nationality which through 700 years of unparalleled persecution and tyranny has never forsaken her claim to be a nation? Count Burian the other day, in the Austrian Reichstag, repudiated your right to do so. He was replying to a statement by the Prime Minister here with regard to the treatment of the Czecho-Slovaks. He repudiated your right to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria. He said:When we have had occasion frequently to recall that it is not all happiness and harmony with our enemies in their domestic affairs and that they have their own claims in Ireland, India, etc., we did so only by way of an exhortation to reciprocity, giving the advice, 'Sweep before your own door.'In view of all these facts, one would have supposed that the British Government, since the opening of the War, would have done all in their power to shape their policy with a view to conciliating Ireland and winning the confidence of her people, and would have supported that party in Ireland which, at great sacrifice and risk, were doing all in their power to get you the enthusiastic support of the Irish people, in spite of the injuries we have had to complain of in the past. What have you done? Surely that should have been the policy, dictated not only by a sense of justice and honour, but by a sense of self-interest. But what has been your course? I need not recall the way in which Mr. 90 John Redmond was treated. If ever there was a man who staked his whole career and all his political fortune on a great cause it was the late Member for Waterford. He knew—he was warned—that he faced great risks and might ruin his party, and lose his hold upon the people. But he said always, "If the Government will only support me and stand loyally by me I can carry out this great policy." And he could have carried it out. In the first six months of the War he got you the enthusiastic support of Ireland, and it was entirely due not to German propaganda, but to your own blunders and iniquities that you lost that support. You destroyed his chance, and it was because of your action that he failed to carry out what he conceived to be the right policy. Had he got a chance he would have secured more of these troops, with regard to whom the statement was wrung from Colonel Repington that they were the best missile troops in the British Army, troops which from Ypres to the Persian Gulf were always in the forefront of the battle. They would now be fighting by your side in ever-increasing numbers if you had acted loyally by John Redmond, instead of betraying and ruining, him. I ask again, what has been the policy pursued by the Government? I have here a cutting sent me from a Canadian newspaper which summarises it so admirably that I cannot put it in better words. [An HON. MEMBER: "What paper?"] That does not matter. It is, I believe, a St. John's, New Brunswick, paper. It says:Of the three parties in Ireland—the Nationalists, the Unionists, and the Sinn Feiners—the first is the only one that has not had recourse to arms, but has kept its head under the must extreme provocation. One naturally supposes that that would be the party which the Government would support and that it would be to this party it would entrust the conduct of Irish affairs. But no, the Government backs Ulster Orangemen. They can do whatever they please, and treason is not treason for them. To-day thousands of German guns are in Ulster homesteads. Thousands of Ulster Orangemen are ready to rise at the word of Carson. The Government toadies to this party and turns its back on the constitutional Nationalists and arrests the Sinn Feiners for doing what it permitted and almost encouraged the Orangemen to do. Is it any wonder that matter-of-fact Irishmen, who have never and never would have anything to do with a seditious movement, have a deep distrust of the British Government![A laugh.] It is all very well to laugh at that, but that is the way in which it presents itself to the impartial outsider. And it is true. Our party is in difficulties to- 91 day, and very constantly we are gibed at in this House because of our difficulties. Why are we in those difficulties? Because we have tried to struggle to save the Constitutional movement and to bring Ireland into this War. You have done everything in your power to drive her out. I do not propose on this occasion to go into that long story, that really exasperating and almost incredible story, of the way in which we have been treated and in which Ireland has been treated since the War broke out. There is one incident to which I must refer, because, in my opinion, it is the root and source of all the Irish trouble. It was the beginning of the turn of the tide, because up to the spring of 1915 Ireland was in this War—more enthusiastically in it even than Great Britain, and in our country districts the people were recruiting far more freely than in Devonshire or Cornwall.
§ Mr. DILLON
I say that they were. The Prime Minister will recollect that on St. Patrick's Day, 1915, Mr. Redmond reviewed 25,000 Volunteers, of whom about 10,000 were armed, in the streets of Dublin. You were not afraid to allow Irishmen then to carry arms. On the contrary,' you were quite pleased to see armed bodies of men in Ireland, because Ireland was perfectly safe. It was the event to which I am going to allude which really turned the tide. On the 29th September, 1914, a great meeting was held in Belfast. The Leader of the House will remember it was at a time of terrible crisis. The battle of the Marne was hanging in the balance; the fate of Europe was in doubt. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) and the Leader of the House went to Belfast and addressed a great meeting there. It is stated in the report of the meeting that military men in uniform were conspicuous on the platform, and they included Major-General Powell, C.B., Commander-in-Chief of the Ulster Division of the New Army. Colonel Hickman (Chief Recruiting Officer for Ireland) was also there. This is the gentleman who boasted that he had purchased large quantities of rifles far the Ulster rebels—he would not say where he got them, but on his personal credit he vouched for the fact that they were up-to-date. I was told the other day that they were manufactured specially by 92 Krupp. I know that at that time you could not get up-to-date weapons in Europe unless through some Government. I know you could not do it, because we tried to do it. We tried to do it, but unfortunately failed. [An HON. MEMRES: "What about the Germans? "]
§ Mr. DILLON
According to my information—and I do not say that it is right—Krupp supplied these rifles at half-price, and Colonel Hickman declared that they were new up-to-date weapons. Here is something of what was said at that meeting by the Leader of the House, at a time when the battle of the Marne was on, and the War was in a much more critical stage than it is to-day:You remember that the pledge I gave at Blenheim had a condition attached to it. The message I bring to you to-night comes not from any party leader, but from the whole of my party.Remember what was that pledge. It was a pledge of rebellion. Why are you complaining so much of the Sinn Feiners? The right hon. Gentleman proceeded:We shall support you to the last in any steps which Sir Edward Carson and your leaders think it necessary to take to defend your rights. The pledge which I gave at Blenheim you know, but after what has happened, after the way in which you have been treated, I withdraw it.He said at Blenheim he would not encourage any civil war if as a result of a General Election Great Britain had decided against Sir E. Carson. But at Belfast, on the 24th September, 1914, he withdrew that pledge, and, while this country was in its agony, he gave a pledge to the Ulster rebels that if they decided to rise in rebellion he and the whole Tory party would be at their back. Then, said the right hon. Member for Dublin University:I undertake that when we have beaten the Germans, and we undoubtedly are going to do that, we shall turn again and defend Ulster; we will beat Ulster's enemies, I promise.Who are Ulster's enemies? That is the way in which the right hon. Gentleman interprets his duty to maintain loyalty to the Crown. That was the time when he refused to stand on the same platform with the late Member for Waterford. He went on:I promise you that the so-called scrap of paper (the Home Rule Act) will be taken into consideration with all due respect as is due to a document of fraud and treachery and that the first Act of your provisional council—93 a council, let the House remember, which is still in existence:The first act of your provisional Government will be to repeal the Home Rule Act so far as Ulster is concerned. I have heard someone say that we have allowed guns to go out of Ulster. It is a lie. Not a single gun has gone out of Ulster, nor a single round of ammunition. So long as I am leader I will consent to bringing in any amount of guns, but I will never consent to a gun leaving Ulster.At that very moment when the speech was made, as the Prime Minister himself well knows, there were tens of thousands of soldiers drilling in this country and in Ireland with sticks for want of rifles, and the British Army was threatened with destruction for want of rifles. But this loyal patriot, who comes down here and poses as the one loyal man left in Ireland, says people had spread a report that guns had gone out of Ulster, and so long as he was the leader not a gun would be allowed to go out of Ulster. They were reserved for Ulster's enemies and they were reserved for a rebellion, and they would repeal the Home Rule Act in ten minutes. In that fatal month of May, 1915, with the language which I have read almost hot on his lips, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) and the Leader of the House were brought into the Coalition Cabinet. How can anyone in this House blame the Irish people? Home Rule was going to be treated as a scrap of paper and repealed when the War was over, and from that hour our men left us by tens of thousands. The late Prime Minister will remember the letters which Mr. Redmond and I wrote to him warning him of the effect of bringing the right hon. Gentleman into the Cabinet. In spite of all that we could do, we were met by the statement that "England always broke her word to us, and how can you tell us for a single moment that she is going to keep this treaty with Ireland when she brings into her Cabinet a man who has given public notice that he will rebel again the moment the War is over, and hold his rifles for the purpose of tearing the Home Rule Act to pieces and treating it as a scrap of paper?" What is the difference between the scrap of paper torn up by Germany in Belgium—an infamous act—and the doctrine preached by the Leader of the House and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) in Belfast in the middle of a great war? When you are hard upon the Irish people and say they are holding back from this War, I reply that they are, so far as that unhappy 94 state of things exists, holding back because they say and believe in their hearts that that act of the Government amounted to a declaration that they were determined to break faith with Ireland and to deny her the right which she had won after a long and patient struggle.
What is the course of policy adopted by the Government at present? They have instituted a system of universal coercion which is wantonly provocative to Ireland, and in many of its details utterly unnecessary. I give one point only, a small matter but of vital importance to us, because it touches this whole question of the breach of faith. They have in Ireland martial law in full force, a military dictator and the Defence of the Realm Act in a more severe form than in this country. I cannot conceive any Government, no matter how great the danger may be, which could hold that it was not sufficiently covered by these powers. But not content with these powers they have revived the odious and detestable perpetual coercion Act of 1887, quite unnecessarily, and simply therefore for the purpose of wanton insult and provocation, and they have done that in spite of the fact that all the Liberal Ministers of the late Government of 1906 are pledged solemnly never to use that Act again, and that this House, as well as my memory carries me, repealed that Act by a large majority, and the final repeal was only prevented by the House of Lords, and without a shadow of an excuse or reason they have revived it in spite of all the great powers they had. That, in my opinion, proves that one of the purposes of the Government is to flout and outrage the Irish people.
The Government decided, against our advice and against the advice of every single man who has any acquaintance with Ireland, to introduce, on that fatal 10th April, the power to apply Conscription to Ireland. What was the situation at that date? The Convention Report was handed by Sir Horace Plunkett to the Prime Minister on the morning of 10th April, and on the afternoon of that day the Government introduced that Clause, although they were warned by Sir Horace Plunkett, by us, and by everyone who had any responsible position in Ireland, that it would create a situation which would make a settlement for the time quite impossible. At that stage the Government was bound to Ireland by the most solemn 95 pledges ever given by a Government, coming on top of several other pledges. It is important to remind the House what was the nature of the pledges which the Government had given in reference to a Home Rule settlement of the Irish question, and I cannot do it better than by quoting the words of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, uttered in this House in the most solemn way on 12th April last, speaking on the Military Service Bill. Here is what he said:On 21st January, when the proceedings of the Convention were at a critical stage, the Prime Minister wrote to the Chairman with regard to the then state of the Convention, and he then said, 'The Government are agreed and determined that a solution must be found.' When the proceedings of the Convention were resumed the Prime Minister wrote again, and he said, 'The Convention has been brought together to endeavour to and a settlement by consent. If the Convention fails to secure this, the settlement of the question will be much more difficult, but it will be a task incumbent upon the Government.' From that declaration the Government has never receded. It was followed up on Tuesday evening, when the Prime Minister made his speech to the House explaining what was the intention of the Government with regard to the Bill, and the Prime Minister then gave pledges to the House which I desire to amplify and refer to at length.That was the nature of the pledge which the Irish people held on 10th April last, and in spite of the fact that everyone warned the Prime Minister that by introducing the Conscription Clause he would immensely aggravate the difficulties of the situation in Ireland, and probably raise such a state of affairs as would make it very difficult for him to go on with the settlement, he introduced that Clause. That is not all. To my own knowledge, the Government consulted all the officials in Ireland, including, I believe, the heads of the constabulary and the police, the Lord Lieutenant, the Commander-in-Chief, the Chief Secretary, the Under-Secretary, every single official they had in Ireland, and everyone of those officials warned them against this course. The Government took a sweeping brush and cleared the whole gang out, and sent over a fresh set of officials charged with the duty of applying Conscription to Ireland. The result was exactly what we had prophesied. Of course none of us were consulted, and again here in this case the Government plunges madly along in its course without giving even a hearing to the opinion of those who, under terrible difficulties, have been struggling all along to keep these 96 two countries together in the War, and not even were we consulted or allowed to lay our views before the Government. The net result has been great military loss, and within one week Lord French and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shortt) come back to the Government and say, "It is better to drop the thing for the present." Having done all the mischief and enormously exasperated the situation in Ireland, they drop it. There is no military advantage, as I warned them, and the net result is great military disadvantage, because you have a lot of troops tied up in Ireland, and God knows when you are going to get them out, having regard to the desperate exasperation which prevails, and a situation which puzzles Parliament and all the statesmen! It appears that the method by which the Government has approached this problem on this, as on all previous occasions, is really unthinkable. It is like a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. What was the situation in Ireland on the eve of 10th April? Sinn Fein and the revolutionary party were on the down grade, and a very rapid down grade. We had won three elections successively by large majorities, and there cannot be the slightest doubt to anyone who knows Ireland that if the Government had suspended this proposal for Conscription we should have won the East Cavan election by a sweeping majority, and Sinn Fein would have so decayed and lost power in the country that by autumn, if there had been a fair prospect of a settlement, you might have had a recruiting campaign with some prospect of success. But the Government, without consulting us or giving us an opportunity of expressing even an opinion, launched this mad proposal, which cannot possibly do any good, against the warning of the late Prime Minister, and they produced a grievous condition of affairs, having done everything in their power, and done it successfully, to throw the Irish people into the hands of the revolutionary party, with the result that we saw in East Cavan.
The worst of all is that nothing will persuade the Irish people—I am not stating what I believe myself; I am stating what is the universal belief in Ireland—but that this was done not from any military necessity, but with the deliberate purpose of torpedoing the policy of Home Rule and giving the Government an opportunity to escape from their pledges and to poison American opinion against us. That is the belief in Ireland 97 and it is doing poisonous work. When the Government found that the anti-Conscription movement in Ireland had not sufficiently affected American opinion, then came the German plot. I am in the same position as regards the German plot with Sir Horace Plunkett. I remember the day when Sir Horace Plunkett was treated like a Delphic oracle in this country. Everything he said was quoted as Gospel, and quoted against us. Now he is boycotted. He is not printed in the English Press. I advise hon. Members to get these letters, because they are very interesting. He says, "I know nothing of the German plot; I am not in the counsels of the Government." No more am I. I am not in the counsels of the Government in the slightest degree.
§ Mr. DILLON
I suppose he was not in the counsels of the Government either; nor am I in the counsels of Sinn Fein, though some hon. Members say that I have turned Sinn Feiner. I would they had read some of the Sinn Fein newspapers, because the torrents of abuse poured out on me in the Sinn Fein newspapers are far greater than any abuse poured out upon members of the Government. I am not in the counsels of Sinn Fein. I know nothing about the German plot—the new German plot. But what I do know, and what everybody knows, is that there has been an active German plot in operation ever since the beginning of the War. I may go farther and say there was a formidable German plot in Ireland before the War broke out. What I would ask the Government is, What is their information from their secret agents as to the mission of Kuhlmann to Ulster in June, 1914? What brought him there?
§ Mr. DILLON
He was there. The German plot before the outbreak of the War was a plot organised and nursed into existence to cause civil war in Ireland and in this country with the aid of the Leader of the House, and to spread it in this country, so that Great Britain might be out of action and unable to give assistance to France. It was within an ace of success. I assert here, and I believe it, and it is believed widely in America, that the German plot was largely responsible for the outbreak of the War. Now I come to the other German plot. Since the outbreak of the War there has been un- 98 doubtedly a German plot continuously in Ireland, and a most formidable German plot. The Germans are a scientific people.
They had three great objectives in that plot—first, to deprive Great Britain of Irish troops, whom they had learned to respect in the field; secondly, to hold in Ireland, by disturbances in that country, as large a number of British troops as possible; thirdly, and in my opinion the most important of all their objectives was to weaken the moral position of Great Britain in dealing with the cause of the small nationalities. In all these they have succeeded, and they have succeeded solely and only through the assistance of the British Government and the right hon. Member for Dublin University. I say deliberately that if it had not been for the operations of the British Government, the War Office, and the right hon. Member for University of Dublin, all these formidable German plots would have ended in ignominious failure. If Mr. Redmond had been supported you need not have feared German plots. He and we could have dealt with them quite easily. They have succeeded.
The German plot is not a thing of yesterday. With regard to this new German plot, all I have to say is this, that up to this hour the Government have not published a scrap or iota of evidence calculated to make any impartial man believe that there is a new German plot at all. We were told in Dublin all kinds of sensational tales. Amongst others, we were told that the man Dowling, tried in the Tower, had turned King's evidence and delivered a long statement to the Government incriminating many Sinn Fein leaders. On the 10th June a question was put to the Under-Secretary for War by the hon. Member for Wiltshire, who asked whether the whole of the court-martial would be public and whether the proceedings would be reported fairly fully. He replied, "I can quite imagine that a good deal of the proceedings will not be public"—giving the impression that there was a mystery and revelations of a character that could not be published. What has happened? Dowling has been tried from beginning to end in public. He has made no incriminating statement that we have heard of. We were told in Dublin that on his person were discovered documents of a most dangerous and incriminating character, but I am told that the only things discovered on his person were rosary beads and £35 in money. Therefore, I say that 99 up to the present not a single iota of evidence has been produced to show that there has been any fresh German plot.
Of course, we all know that the Germans have been active in Ireland for the last three years. Take the case of 1916. Then there was a very active German plot. The operations of the Germans in Ireland in 1916 were no secret. The revolutionary leaders issued a proclamation while I was in Dublin, in which they boasted of the assistance which they expected from their powerful European allies. Since then we have had all the revelations, which have been published in America and elsewhere, of the part which the Germans took in starting a rebellion in Ireland. I am bound to say that they got very great value from that. This alleged new German plot is referred to by the Government as justification for dropping all attempts to settle the Irish question. What was their action in 1916? Then there had been, if you like, not only a German plot, far more active and far more efficient than anything I know of now, but a German plot in which there were terrible consequences in the insurrection; and yet, on the very morrow of that insurrection, the Government came to us and asked us to enter into negotiations for a settlement. That was in July, 1916. As the Prime Minister well knows, I was very loth to have these negotiations, and I told him so. I said that, in my opinion, the time was not suitable for a settlement in Ireland. We had had an insurrection; the country was in a state of turbulence and excitement. I did not think it was a good time. What was the reply from the Prime Minister? He appealed to us to go on with the negotiations in the interests of the War and of the Allies, as it was essential to settle the Irish question. What about the German plot then? It was no cause then for leaving the Irish question unsettled. It was open and avowed, and there was no question of secrecy about it. The Government pressed us, and most unwillingly I went into those negotiations, because I knew they would result in great injury to our party in Ireland, as they did.
After we had made great sacrifices, after Mr. Redmond had made great concessions, and by the power of his influence, which was at that time very great, and induced our people to swallow what was a most distasteful draught, the terms put forward by the Ulster party, the Government broke faith with us, and thereby inflicted 100 deadly injury upon the constitutional movement in Ireland. I agree with Sir Horace Plunkett. To say that the plot has affected in the slightest degree the arguments for having an immediate Irish settlement is an insult to Irish intelligence. Remember what took place in 1916. It is an insult to Irish intelligence, and what has happened has had the effect of convincing the people in Ireland that the German plot is simply an English Government plot to get rid of the Irish question. That is all I have to say in regard to this so-called German plot. The lesson that ought to be learned from it by Ministers and Members of this House is that the true way to meet a German plot is not by breaking faith with the Irish people, not by doing their level best to act as German agents in Ireland, not by inflaming the situation, bad enough already, but to do all in their power to defeat German plots by winning the confidence of the Irish people. The Germans are a people of immense knowledge and shrewd-trained intelligence. They do not look upon Ireland as a negligible country, unworthy of their attention. They know better. They would not devote so much attention as they do in their Press and in the Irish Society at Berlin, and by the constant coming and going of their agents to Ireland, if they did not know that in Ireland they have a spot where they think they can strike a very deadly blow against the interests of the Allies.
I have dealt with the German plot, and I wish to say a word in reference to the speech which was delivered two or three weeks ago in this House by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Colonel Sir Mark Sykes). It was a most remarkable speech. I do not know whether the hon. Member has visited Ireland so much as to have such a penetrating power of getting at the root of the whole Irish trouble. He said:I venture to say that at the present moment in Ireland there is no moral sanction for law whatever. The law has been partly applied to one side, but it has not been applied to the other side at all. The result is the present situation in Ireland. It is not the law that has been enforced there. What occurs is that the military do what they can and the people resist as much as they can. We have resistance and the result is military action. The reason why there is no law in Ireland is this, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) will admit it, that he himself challenged the law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th June, 1918, cols, 953–954, Vol. 107.]101 The hon. and gallant Member goes on to say:The second reason is that absolutely no one in Ireland believes any pledge given by the British Government, or, I think I may add, believes that they will stick to any policy—That is absolutely true—of repression or otherwise, no matter how solemnly they commit themselves to it in the face of this House.That is an appalling state of things, and it is an absolutely true description of the present state of things in Ireland. That brings me to say a word about the recruiting campaign, and I would quote again from the admirable speech of the hon. Member—So long as the Government accept that situation in Ireland there is no law.… In my opinion that question lies at the root of the whole matter. In Ireland people think that unconstitutionalism has been successfully tried. "Constitutionalism has also been tried, but it does not work.It is the Leader of this House and the right hon. Member for Trinity College who have successfully tried unconstitutionalism and threatened rebellion. In face of this position of things you launched the recruiting campaign in Ireland, and you are disappointed and angry because the Irish people do not rush to the Colours enthusiastically, although you have convinced them that they alone of all nations on earth are to be denied the benefits of the principles for which they are asked to fight. Let me tell the Prime Minister another fundamental mistake you have made in launching this recruiting campaign. You have launched it between a threat and a bribe. Everyone knows that the bribe is a swindle. You say you will give land to every man who responds to Lord French's appeal, but every single man in Ireland knows that that is a swindle. Where is the land? Are you going to say to the recruits who come in to-day, "You are to have first claim to any land which is going," while the men who have been fighting since the retreat from Mons—I know some soldiers myself who were in the battle of Mons and are still alive—are to be shut out? And when you come to put this proposal into practice and to give land to the soldiers you have in front of you tens of thousands of men who have borne the heat and burden of the day. Are they going to be set aside? We all remember the words of the Gospel. I notice that the Member for Dublin University has asked, 102 in reference to this proposal, what about the Ulstermen? There is no land in Ulster. Are you going to make a fresh plantation of Ireland? Is that your remedy? After the age-long curse that has been inflicted on Ireland by these plantations are you going to bring the Ulstermen down to the South and plant them on the land? The thing is ludicrous. You will be doing a futile thing, because you are making promises to men which these men know that you are going to break.
And then, when you have this bribe on one side, on the other side of the picture you have a threat that if the Irish do not recruit in the numbers mentioned they will be all conscripted and three times as many of them will be taken. The Irish are so accustomed to being threatened and bullied that threats have no effect on them, and if the right hon. Gentleman thinks that they are going to be affected by this threat, he thoroughly misunderstands them. It is ridiculous to think for a single moment that in that way you are going to get the best out of the Irish people. You cannot get the best out of Irishmen by threatening them. They make the best soldiers in the world if they are properly handled, but if they are improperly handled they are devilishly ugly customers to deal with. You cannot force an Irishman, and to have made such a threat is a blunder of the worst kind. I do not know whether the House will believe me or not, but I am speaking the truth when I say that I have been as anxious, and I have worked in my own way as hard as the late Mr. Redmond to help in the situation which has confronted us. I am still, as regards the merits of the War, precisely where I stood in the month of August, 1914. I regard it as a war on which the liberties of mankind depend, and I resent bitterly the action of the Government which has driven my country out of the War, and I desire honestly to do everything in my power to restore to Ireland that position which she occupied in the winter of 1914 when she was in the forefront of the fight. I desire it for many reasons, for one reason in addition to many others, that while the other nations throughout the world, even amidst the turmoil of the War, are thinking out their future and organising their reconstruction and arranging to meet the problems which they will have to face in days to come, Ireland cannot in existing circumstances do any- 103 thing of the kind. The problems which you have forced on Ireland are destructive problems. You have taken away all hope of reconstruction and you are plunging her back into the dreary morass of the past from which we had dragged her after forty years of patient struggle.
I would ask hon Members to consider this: Suppose for the sake of argument that our party were defeated in Ireland at the next election and were swept out of existence, do you think that personally I would care? I have had too long an experience of this House to be mortified personally at withdrawal from it. Hon. Members when they have sat here for thirty-eight years doing the kind of work which I have been obliged to do will not be sorry to go, But what about Ireland? What are you going to do about Ireland when you have turned her over altogether to Sinn Fein as you are now doing your best to do? You are up against a problem which will try British statesmen more than they have ever been tried before. And look at the language that is being used by you with regard to other nationalities and think of the effect which it has on Ireland. Some men in discussing the Irish problem talk about it as if nothing had happened during the last four years, as if there had never been a war, as if there had never been a Russian Revolution, as if none of the mighty changes that we have witnessed had taken place. Just consider the language which has been used to the other subject nations in Europe. On the 3rd June the Prime Ministers of all the Allied countries, except America, published a declaration to the world thatthe creation of a united and independent Polish State"—Remember what that involved: taking Polish Posen from Russia and taking Galicia from Austria—with free access to the sea, constitutes one of the conditions of a solid and lasting peace and the rule of right in Europe.That is a big undertaking. Then comes the statement that they are heartily in sympathy with the declaration of President Wilson that the Czecho-Slovaks must be rescued from Austrian oppression and rendered a free sovereign State, and the "Times" commenting next day on the language used by the Allied Prime Ministers said that it was not sufficiently clear on the question of the Czechoslovaks as the Allied Prime Ministers did not pledge themselves sufficiently. Do 104 you think that this is not all followed closely in Ireland? Do you suppose that the Irish people do not say to themselves, what about the Czecho-Slovaks, about whom many of us have never heard before. They are to be made a sovereign State. Poland is to be made a free State though it has been divided among three great Empires, and given access to the sea. And you are to give freedom to the Jugo-Slavs. What about Ireland, who is more ancient than any of them, and whose struggle for nationality has been unquestionably more persistent than that either of the Czecho-Slovaks or even of the Poles?
Therefore, I ask you not to be intolerant. Is it any wonder that the enthusiastic youth of Ireland should go even beyond our lead and say, "Why should not we share in the great emancipation which has been declared for all the oppressed nationalities of the world? And when you call upon the Irish to shed their blood as they have done on the battlefields of Europe, what reasonable ground have we for believing that we shall share in this emancipation and that we shall not be cheated when this War is over, and shall not be condemned to a continuance of the age-long tyranny from which we have suffered?" Here is the language used by no less a person than the Assistant Secretary for Foreign Affairs on this very matter. He says, what is our duty in these circumstances.Above all, let us not forget the principles we are fighting for.That is exactly what we want to register.Italy has shown herself ready to extend to the Poles, to those gallant Czecho-Slovaks, to the Roumanians, and last, but not least, to the Jugo-slavs, the principle on which her resurgimento was founded. We welcome it not only because it is just and true, not only because it increases the cordial co-operation of our Allies, but also because it emphasises that principle and brings once more into clear relief the principles for which we are fighting this War.In this resurgimento is Ireland to be denied her share? These words are read and commented upon in every village, because our people, from long training, are very studious of these matters. He says:People talk sometimes about the dismemberment of Austria. I have no weakness for Austria. But I venture to think that that is a wong point of view. The true point of view is not the dismemberment of Austria but the liberation of the populations subject to her rule. We are anxious to see all these people in the enjoyment of full liberty and independence.105 How can any man have the face to use that language and not to think of the position of Ireland? I have another quotation here, which fits the case of Ireland accurately, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Balfour), who knows something about Ireland, must, I think, have had the case of Ireland in his mind when he uttered these words, and sent this message to the President of the French Republic on this very question of the Jugo Slavs:His Majesty's Government desire fully to associate themselves with the sentiments so admirably expressed in the speech of the President of the Republic. The presentation of Colours at to-day's ceremony is much more than an interesting military event. It has a political significance of a far wider scope, for it represents a stage in the great struggle for the freedom and security of small nations, and not less of those who in all parts of the Austrian Empire live under the tyranny of an alien minority.Those words coming from the Foreign Secretary, who has been so long acquainted with the tyranny of an alien minority, are highly significant.
We hear about the obstacles to an Irish settlement which are raised by the Ulster question. Do you think of that when you are dealing with the Czechoslovaks? Do you not know that there is an Ulster question in Bohemia just as difficult, and as serious a question as the Ulster question in Ireland? The question of the German in Bohemia is precisely on all-fours, and the Prime Minister in the Reichsrath the other day took the point, when referring to the division of Bohemia into districts, and said:While we are willing to do justice to all subject races in Austria, we can never consent to have the cultured Germans put under the control of the Czecho-Slovaks.5.0 P.M.
Therefore the difficulty there is just like the difficulty of the Ulster question, and these difficulties are, in my opinion, only an excuse for doing nothing. The question is what is to be done? Of course, personally I have always been of opinion, and it has been my own personal, earnest desire, that it was best for the question between Ireland and Great Britain to be settled peacefully between them as a domestic question. I am criticised very bitterly in Ireland for holding that view. But I am deeply convinced that it would be for the benefit of the two countries, who have, after all, to live together in the future, that we should shake hands and forget the past and settle the question between ourselves. That is rapidly becom- 106 ing impossible, and if it turns out, as I am afraid it is rapidly turning out, owing to the policy of the Government, that British Ministers abandon the task as an impossibility, and there is no statesman with insight and courage enough to take hold of this Irish question and settle it on his own responsibility, then we must make a suggestion. Of course, the suggestion I am going to make now I make on my own responsibility alone. I am aware that many of my own followers and even my own friends in Ireland object to it; but a desperate situation requires desperate remedies, and the situation in Ireland at present is desperate and is steadily getting worse. Make no mistake about that. If you follow the paths you are now following you will make a domestic and friendly settlement impossible. Therefore I make this suggestion entirely on my own responsibility, and, if the Government accept it, all I can say is I shall use such small leadership or influence as I still retain in Ireland to vindicate that strong position with a view to its success. British Ministers appear to me to be abandoning hope of a settlement, but why should not the question be referred to President Wilson? After all, you are talking of a League of Nations, but how can a League of Nations be founded if the case of Ireland is excluded from its jurisdiction? Ireland would stand at the door of the conference of nations as an incalculable barrier. You cannot for a moment settle a League of Nations on that basis. You have now an opportunity of setting an example to the world which might have a mighty and widespread effect. If a great and proud Empire like that of England, at the moment when the tide of war happily at present is in her favour, says to the world, "We are preaching the doctrine of the reign of law, the reign of justice, and the League of Nations, and to show that we are willing to submit to this reign of law and this reign of justice we ask our great Allies to propose a plan for the settlement of this question of Ireland." The methods of procedure might be left to President Wilson and a jury of American citizens might be appointed by the President of the United States.
That is a very favourable proposal for England. America is now your friend and your Ally, and but for her you would have been starved and beaten. There have been sneers about the people of the United States caring only for dollars, but since 107 they have entered this War they have acted with unparalleled generosity. Last year the food situation in this country was desperate, and what did the Americans do, these Americans who are said to be so fond of dollars? They proved their character by the way in which they took up the cause of the Allies. They reduced their own food in order that more might be Bent to this country; they have proved their loyalty in every way, and have shown themselves to be your friends. Which alternative do you prefer of the alternatives now before yon—to submit the case of Ireland now to President Wilson, while it is yet possible to conciliate and bring Ireland back to the side of the Allies, making of them your friends, or to pursue the policy which you are now following? I cannot understand why you do not accept this suggestion. At all events, I make the proposal, always provided that the Prime Minister does not take it into his own hands to settle it himself, which would be the better course. But if the course I suggest should be adopted, it should be accompanied by the abandonment of the universal and outrageous coercion which is now in force in Ireland. The operations of the Irish Government must be strictly confined to the maintenance of law and order, and protection against treasonable conspiracies, if such there be. The present system is intolerable and ought to be abolished. As I have already stated, the situation is desperate, and I take the view that, by adopting such a course as I suggest, it would be open to this country to ask America to add to the great and incalculable services she has already rendered to civilisation and to humanity by making one more effort to reconcile Great Britain and Ireland, thus setting an example to the world, which, in my judgment, would go down through the ages and be a mighty influence for peace in the future.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Shortt)
I confess I thought that we deserved something more from Members who sit below the Gangway apposite on what I take to be an attack upon the Irish Government. As I read the Motion which has been just moved by my hon. Friend, I take it that the first portion of it, which says that the policy 108 pursued towards Ireland by His Majesty's Government is inconsistent with the great principles for the vindication of which the Allied Powers are carrying on the War, is an attack on the Government in Ireland to-day. Why the name of President Wilson is dragged into the Motion I do not quite appreciate, but as I understand it, apparently it is dragged in in order that the proposal just made by the hon. Member might be put forward by him. I suppose I may take it that the hon. Member is at present attacking the present Irish Government, but it is not clear on what he bases his attack. I do not think I am putting it unfairly if I say that the hon. Member states that, as far as the Government are concerned, they have deceived Ireland by not introducing a measure of Home Rule, and that the present Government of Ireland have re-introduced certain coercive measures which are calculated, apparently, to make matters worse instead of better. Is either of these charges true? I hope to satisfy the House this afternoon that there is not a word of truth in either of them. I shall go further and say to the House that the real people who are to blame in Ireland are the hon. Members themselves. Let us take, first, the dealings of the Irish Government in Ireland. The suggestion is, as I understand, that we have introduced once more universal coercion, and not only that, but that we have wantonly insulted them by inventing the whole story of the German plot, and introduced a recruiting scheme which we are apparently enforcing, with the offer of a bribe which we knew we could not possibly fulfil. Those charges are unfounded.
§ Mr. DILLON
I did not say "invented a German plot." I said the Government pointed to the German plot for the purpose of getting rid of Home Rule. But, as I said, the German plot has been in full blast for the last three years.
§ Mr. DILLON
Did I not say that the German plot had been in full blast ever since the War broke out, and that the insurrection in 1916 was the result of the German plot?
§ Mr. SHORTT
I may take it that, in spite of all this, and of all that has been 109 written and said about the absurdity of this German plot, we have it now admitted by the hon. Member?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for East Mayo—I do not think at all unreasonably—occupied a considerable space of time of the House, and now the Chief Secretary proposes to reply to him. I hope hon. Members will listen to the right hon. Gentleman in the same way as the House listened to the hon. Member for East Mayo.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman in a very provocative manner has made a challenging statement in regard to a German plot. We will not have an opportunity of hearing from him later on, and I now want to know from him what definite German plot has he produced?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to put these questions at this stage. If there was any reason for putting questions of that kind they might have been put by the hon. Member for East Mayo himself at an earlier stage. At all events, they can be put later if not answered by anticipation.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I did not rise to speak until I had given full opportunity to the hon. Gentlemen. I was very anxious indeed to hear as many Members as possible from those Benches, so that I could deal with as many details as they could give, and if I can deal only with the hon. Member for Mayo, the fault is not mine.
What is the real truth with regard to the condition of Ireland at the time when Conscription was suggested? It is perfectly true there had been German influences. It was known in the rising of 1916, and it is equally true that at that time the German plot which existed was not considered a sufficient ground for refusing to go on with Home Rule. On the contrary, the whole methods adopted at that time were methods of conciliation. Men who had actually engaged in the rising—men who had been responsible for the slaughter of numbers of innocent English troops who had never done Ireland any sort of harm—were pardoned and allowed to go back to Ireland, and conciliation was tried in every possible manner in which conciliation could be tried. What was the result? It was that in the spring of this year matters in Ire- 110 land were worse than they had been in 1916. The hon. Member for East Mayo himself, when he was writing a letter in answer to some correspondent about the Sinn Fein movement, and which is published in the "Freeman's Journal" of the 20th February of this year, warned the people, talking of the Sinn Fein movement, in these words:It would be a bitter disappointment if Ireland were to embark on a wild movement which, however attractive to romantic and political young men, would inevitably lead the people to disaster and chaos, such as that which reigns in Russia at present—a condition of things which was described at the Irish Bolshevik meeting in the Mansion House—That is the Mansion House of Dublin, where, as he himself describes it, a "Bolshevik meeting" was held. What he described as the most complete form of liberty the Irish people were determined to have and prepared to fight for. Those are his own words:In the present state of Russia we have a full illustration of the form of liberty which these leaders—They are Mr. De Valera and those gentlemen associated with him.
§ Mr. DILLON
If I recollect aright, Mr. De Valera was not there at all. It was a Bolshevik meeting addressed by certain leaders, including, I think, the Countess Marckievicz, but I do not believe that Mr. De Valera was present at all.
§ Mr. SHORTT
But we know the hon. Member is writing about the organisation of which Mr. De Valera is the head. He goes on:The form of liberty these leaders desire to introduce into Ireland and which is characterised by wholesale murder, unpunished robbery, universal civil war, and the dispersal by machine guns and bayonets of the lawfully elected representatives of the people—That is a description he himself gives of the sort of thing which the Irish people, led by the Sinn Feiners—
§ Mr. SHORTT
Created by us! Ireland has been infinitely quieter since the leaders who were willing to do all that have been put away, and put out of Ireland. On the 18th March the same hon. Member is reported in the "Freeman's Journal" as having said:Everybody in contact with the realities of the situation knows that you cannot get a Republic in Ireland without wading through a sea of blood.Now we have got it from the hon. Member himself that the strong party in Ireland 111 to-day, the party which if left alone would sweep the country, is the party which is determined to have an Irish Republic.
§ Mr. SHORTT
Supposing you had Home Rule to-day in Ireland and the hon. Member for Mayo was the head of an Irish Government, would he have given way to any party which demanded that Ireland should be constituted an independent Irish Republic?
§ Mr. SHORTT
Then what steps would he have taken to meet the men who are determined to get it from him by force. What steps would he have taken if he were Governor of Ireland—
§ Mr. SHORTT
How would he have dealt with the men who were prepared to fight for it, organising to fight for it, ready to fight for it? What would he have done? Exactly what we have done. Would he have refused an independent Irish Republic? What would he have done with the men who wanted to fight for it?
§ Mr. SHORTT
What was the position between February and May when they were arrested? The position had come to this: Ireland was a mass of sedition long before these gentlemen were arrested; seditious speeches were being delivered, illegal drilling was increasing nightly; day by day there were cases of hundreds of men going to drill, and at night practically holding up towns in order that they might understand how to do the thing when civil war began. In the place of every man who was arrested, when it was searched, there were found documents which showed that there was a complete military system existing in the South and West of Ireland—a military system which soldiers tell me was worked out with very considerable skill and knowledge, going from headquarters down to divisions and brigades and from regiments down to platoons; there was a very complete set of instructions, typewritten, and sent round teaching people how to cut railways, how to destroy communications, how to destroy bridges, and how to prevent the movement of troops. The raids for arms had increased 112 until there were numbers per night, and the collieries, any place where explosives were to be found, were being raided for explosives, while, in addition, explosives were being secretly imported from Glasgow and other places.
In face of all that, what would the hon. Member himself have done but take strong measures? We had to take strong measures, and it is idle to say that coercion was merely introduced as an insult to Ireland. We had to introduce these measures because the position made it absolutely the duty, and the essential duty, of anybody responsible for the government of Ireland. We have made very slight use of the Crimes Act, and we hope that it will not be necessary to make much further use of it. What we have done is to declare as dangerous a certain number of societies. That does not mean that anything will be done to those societies. It is a mere warning, as the hon. Member must know very well. They can go on with their legitimate business just as before, but it puts us in the position that if they persist in using these societies for seditious and treasonable purposes, we can immediately step in and stop them. Up to the present, I am glad to say, there has been no necessity to go any further; and with regard to trials, all we have done is to change the venue. It is not done unfairly, but for the purpose of securing a fair trial in places where a crime may have a political significance, and because it would not be possible to have such a trial where political feeling is high. That is the position with regard to the present government of Ireland.
What about the question of the deceiving of Ireland? I would ask the hon. Member and those who sit with him below the Gangway what have they done to formulate a scheme of Home Rule? It is all very well to cry out in general terms, "We are entitled to our own self-government; we are entitled to look after ourselves."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Hon. Members must not keep up a series of questions. The 113 Chief Secretary is competent to deal with the whole question, and should be allowed to do so. If he fails to meet all the arguments of the hon. Member, there is plenty of time to reply to him.
§ Mr. SHORTT
As I said before, you can only get Home Rule through this House. You cannot get it by force. You had to get the Home Rule Act which is on the Statute Book in that way. In addition to that, everybody seems to be agreed that something must be done to alter in some way or amend that Home Rule measure. If it were not so, what are the hon. Members complaining about? They cannot be really complaining that the Home Rule measure has not been put into force, because when the Suspensory Act was passed the hon. Member for East Mayo himself, as is reported in the "Freeman's Journal," in a speech he made or in an interview he gave, said:No rational man who really desires to see Home Rule succeed would ask the Government to undertake the task of setting up an Irish Parliament and an Irish Executive while the War continues to rage. And tinder all the circumstances of the present time I do not consider that Ireland has any ground for complaint against the Government for passing the Suspensory Act.Therefore, that cannot be the ground of their objection. He repeated this statement in Limerick on 27th March, 1915, when, as reported in the "Freeman's Journal," he said:There was a controversy in Dublin the other day. I have no hesitation in saying that we cannot as reasonable men call upon the Government to start a new government in Ireland at this stage of the War. The thing would be unreasonable and preposterous, and instead of having the effect that some honest Nationalists think it might have, it would only have the effect of enormously injuring the national cause. The public opinion of the world would be against us, and the commentary would be that these men have lost their sense, and are no longer responsible leaders. A turn in the war might come—no man can tell when it will come—and then the whole position will be changed, and we may be in a position to say, 'Now is our time.' What we have got to do is to be ready for that hour.In the face of that, it cannot be the fact that the Home Rule Act which is on the Statute Book is not being enforced. The objection can only be that some form of Amendment to it has not been brought in. The Irish have had the chance of settling that themselves; they had their Convention, and they did not agree. Now the Prime Minister is asked, "Will you undertake to settle this; will you take it up like a statesman?" I ask the hon. Member 114 and his colleagues this question: If the Prime Minister takes it up as a statesman, will they undertake to accept whatever he brings forward?
§ Mr. SHORTT
Then what is the good of asking a man to come forward as a statesman, and propound some solution of the question if you are not going to make up your minds to accept it? If they say, "We will not accept what is brought in," what is the good of pressing us? That, again, is not really the substance of their case. With regard to Conscription, we are accused—the Lord Lieutenant and myself—of having gone over to Ireland in order to enforce Conscription. We went over to Ireland, and the very first thing we did was to take steps to avoid Conscription if possible. We at once set up a system of voluntary recruiting for the purpose of avoiding that which the hon. Member has described in such graphic terms as so serious for the welfare of the country. We wanted to avoid Conscription if possible, but what help have we had from any hon. Member on those Benches to avoid Conscription, even in that or any other way? It was not always so. It was not always the case that recruiting was treated in the way it is treated now by the Irish Members. I would like to remind the hon. Member for East Mayo of what he has said on the question of recruiting. Speaking in Dublin on 18th November, 1914, as reported in the "Freeman's Journal" of 19th November, he said:I have never asked any man to recruit, and never will, but on the other hand, I must say-that I am strongly opposed to any coercion or persuasion against recruiting; and when I hear men saying, as I have read constantly in the papers lately, that any Irishman who goes into the British Army and volunteers for service is betraying Ireland, I say it is a lie and a falsehood, and the men who, acting of their own free will, without persuasion or coercion of any sort or kind, direct or indirect, elect to go into the Army and take their stand beside the his Guards, and the Dublin Fusiliers, and the ether gallant regiments who have nobly maintained the ancient tradition of our race as fighting men, I say those men are doing, in my opinion, a patriotic act and standing for the rights of Ireland in the future, just as many men who have suffered for the rights of Ireland in the past. And, therefore, I say that any man who seeks to persuade, or coerce, or above all intimidate, men from recruiting is, in my mind, doing a wrongful act and acting falsely to Ireland.In addition to that, the hon. Member said, speaking on the 27th March, 1915, at Claremorris: 115Some people are foolish enough to say that Ireland has no interest in this War and ought to remain neutral. It is impossible to imagine greater ignorance or folly than that which causes people to express such views. As a matter of fact, there is no country in the world to-day more vitally interested in the result of this War than Ireland. Neutrality to us is impossible. We must be for Great Britain or against her. I can understand the position of those in Ireland and in America who can never forget the past, and whose whole politics consist in the passion of revenge and the consuming desire to pay England back for all the injury she has inflicted upon Ireland. That is a logical position, although to my mind a stupid, narrowminded, and unchristian philosophy, bound to end in ruin and disaster to this country.That is the very policy, that "stupid, narrowminded, un-Christian policy, and one which is bound to bring disaster" upon Ireland, which the hon. Member and his colleagues are adopting to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] If not, why do not they help us? Here is a chance when they might help us to avoid Conscription.
§ Mr. SHORTT
That is no answer to your duty and that of the men in the South and West of Ireland to come forward and—
§ Mr. SHORTT
If they chose to give us assistance and to do that which they have admitted themselves is for the good of Ireland, then they might help us to avoid Conscription, but they have not done that.
§ Mr. SHORTT
They have, instead of taking Sinn Fein by the throat, tried to go one better than Sinn Fein. To-day there is still time, if they would act upon those words of which the hon. Member for East Mayo may well be proud, for something to be done in Ireland. Having listened to only one speech, I do not know what other charges of detail may be made against the Irish Government. I have answered those in so far as they have been brought against our action by the hon. Member for East Mayo, and I contend that what we have done was absolutely right, that it was our bounden duty to do it, and, as I have tried to point out, had the hon. Member himself been responsible for government in 116 Ireland, he would have been the very first to take the self-same steps. I do not know what other charges may be made against us. I know there have been suggestions made in the public Press, and they may be made here to-night, with regard to the extent of the Proclamations which we have issued We have never attempted to put down the Irish language. That is the sort of wilful misrepresentation which is always made to stir up feeling in a country where it is desired to stir up ill-feeling. We do not intend for a moment to interfere with ordinary indoor arrangements for meetings, or with games or sports. I believe there were one, or perhaps two, cases, unfortunate cases, where the police misunderstood their instructions; but I have been at pains to have a proper circular sent out, explaining to the police all over Ireland that the only meetings which are intended to require permits are those that have a political character. If you will mix up political speeches with your sports, then that particular sports meeting will require a permit; but, unless that is so, the sports require no permit at all.
§ Mr. SHORTT
I explained that because it has been referred to in the Press. I should rather have spoken later in the evening, when I could have answered in detail any charges which might be made against the Government for which I and Lord French are responsible, I can only say that if circumstances should unfortunately arise again such as those which we found in the beginning of May of this year, we should be bound to take the same action. I do not believe they will. I believe the position in Ireland to-day has vastly improved. All the reports which we get from every source in Ireland go to show that the general position in the country and the general feeling are vastly improved. Illegal drilling has almost disappeared, has practically disappeared, and I say at once that we can, to a large extent, thank the clergy of Ireland for advising their congregations not to continue illegal drilling. Illegal drilling has stopped. Seditious speaking has very largely disappeared. There are still hidden somewhere, and very difficult to find, printing presses which produce very highly seditious pamphlets and literature. These we are stamping out as fast and as thoroughly as we possibly can.
117 I must say I do hope that something will be done, as Ireland becomes more peaceful—and she is to-day in an exceedingly prosperous condition—as she becomes more peaceful and as she is prosperous, I do hope that something may be done by which she may become content. I have said before, and I repeat here to-day, that I am satisfied that contentment will come, and only come, when Ireland is ruling her own affairs. But if Irishmen will do things which make a step in that direction impossible they have no one but themselves to blame. I, for one, am willing and anxious to do anything I can in Ireland, when we have obtained peace and prosperity, to bring about, hand in hand with Irishmen themselves, that measure of Home Rule which twelve months ago the whole of this country desired, and which to-day you could not pass in England at any General Election. We want to restore, and I hope we shall restore, that state of feeling which made Home Rule not only possible but desired by substantially everyone in England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as in Ireland. We can bring that about if hon. Members who follow the hon. Member for East Mayo will help us, and I ask them to-night in all sincerity to do what they can to help us, by making recruiting a success, so as to avoid Conscription. If they would only attend to the words spoken by their present leader in 1914–15 they would help us. I can but make the offer, and that offer I make in all sincerity.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
We have listened, those of us who sit on these benches, with considerable pain, and I must also say with a great deal of distrust, to the speech which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. During my term in this House I can say honestly that I have never heard a weaker speech made by anyone who was put up to reply on behalf of the Government to charges so serious and to a position so grave as have been unfolded in the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo. I think it is clearly evident from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that in passing from being a supporter of the late Prime Minister, and joining the Coalition, he has managed in the transition to swallow his principles, and he is now taking up towards Ireland an attitude more of the Conservative and more of the Orange character than his predecessor 118 ever adopted to us, who are advocating a settlement of Ireland by giving the people the right to manage their own affairs. I wonder if the Chief Secretary read the Motion to which he was supposed to be addressing himself. This Motion seeks to emphasise the broad principles of nationality and liberty advocated by President Wilson, and calls upon His Majesty's Government to give effect to those principles in their treatment of Ireland. What has the Chief Secretary to say in regard to this? He has the assurance and the audacity, as a former Liberal, to lecture the Irish Nationalists and the great majority of the nation that he has been sent over, I will not say to rule, but for whose mis-government he is put up by the present Coalition, largely, if not entirely, composed of Tories, with one or two Liberals thrown in to give it an appearance of some respectability. He is not sent with power and authority to Ireland. Power and authority in Ireland belong, I do not believe even to Lord French. Power and authority in the government of Ireland are exercised at the present time by the President of the Local Government Board, and by his friends the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson), and the Orange party. But in face of all the facts of the Irish situation, the right hon. Gentleman has the effrontery to say in this House and I am amazed at the attitude which he, a former friend of Ireland, now takes up—that the blame for not having Home Rule set up in Ireland rests not with His Majesty's Government but with the party led by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo. Did any Minister representing this or any other Government ever talk such arrant nonsense in the House of Commons? I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman thinks he is speaking to a party of children or a tea-party in his own constituency at Newcastle-on-Tyne?
§ Mr. SCANLAN
How can the right hon. Gentleman conceive that this party, led by the hon. Member for East Mayo, can pass Home Rule and set up Home Rule? Does he mean to convey to the House that we who sit on these benches are opposed to the setting up at once of Home Rule for Ireland, in face of the terms of this Resolution, in face of our agitation, to which he was a party for many years before being bribed by his present 119 position in the Coalition Government? No, the right hon. Gentleman has entirely failed to answer the points which are in controversy here. He seems to speak as if nothing had happened recently in this House. Let me quote, in case he has not read them, or in case he has forgotten them, the statements that were made in this House by some of his colleagues in the Ministry, and I shall refer particularly, in a moment or two, to the speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes). I shall then ask the right hon. Gentleman to say to the House whether a case has not been made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo for branding the Government with treachery to Ireland, and with failure to carry out pledges made by various members of its Government with regard to the method of dealing with Ireland, and giving recognition as regards Ireland to the principle of self-determination, to which so much lip service is given by every member of the Government in addressing meetings when the country to be dealt with is some hundreds and thousands of miles distant from this country? The only small nationality in the world which this country can liberate, and to which it can extend self-determination to-day is Ireland, and for what we blame the right hon. Gentleman, and the deceitful Government with which he is associated, is denying to Ireland the right of self-determination.
Some reference was made by the Chief Secretary to what happened in this House when a Suspensory Bill with regard to the Home Rule Bill was put through at the beginning of the War. Does he realise that much has happened since then? Does he recall that, after the insurrection, the late Prime Minister, who at one time, at all events, was his chief, and whom he obediently followed, but who did not promote him to a position in the Government, went over to Ireland, and then came back to the House and declared in the most solemn manner, speaking not only for himself but for every Member of the Coalition Government, including the present Leader of the House, and including Lord Lansdowne in another place, that it was the essential and most urgent war measure to settle the question of Ireland, and that the days of Dublin Castle must 120 come to an end. Now it appears that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the time has come, not to settle the question of Ireland, not to do away with Dublin Castle, but to bolster up Dublin Castle, and to make it impossible for the people of Ireland to realise their hopes of having this question settled in an amicable way, but settled in a way which will unmistakably give them the right to manage their own affairs. I wish to come to something much more recent. In this House, on the 12th April this year, the Leader of the House, speaking for the Government in reference to Ireland, said:We intend at the earliest moment we can to introduce a Bill which we hope will give Home Rule for Ireland, or a measure of local government for Ireland. We will introduce a Bill—it is now being prepared—as soon as we can. It will be a Government Bill.… It represents the policy of the Government, and the policy which we mean to carry through."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1918, cols. 1997 and 1998. Vol. 104.]Was that statement made to mislead the House? Was it made to mislead Ireland? Does the right hon. Gentleman sitting there on the Treasury Bench justify a Government which makes a pledge of that kind, or does he think that his sole duty as Chief Secretary for Ireland is to come to the House and swallow all his former principles, and offer excuses, because he is given the position of Chief Secretary for Ireland? About a week later—on 22nd April—the Leader of the House, replying for the Prime Minister to a question asking if the promised Bill to give Home Rule to Ireland would be brought in immediately, said:The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. I regret that I am not yet in a position to name a date."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April, 1918, col. 677, Vol. 105.]Then we had the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, who, I think, had a much more creditable record in regard to Ireland than the right hon. Gentleman is ever likely to have. His present record is one which, I think, does him no credit amongst Nationalists or amongst Liberals who were his former colleagues, and I cannot but think that his attitude to-day in regard to Ireland is a negation in regard to the whole course of conduct which he pursued before his evidently coveted position on the Treasury Bench. Mr. Duke said in this House:I hope hon. Members from Ireland may see that His Majesty's Government is resolved to 121 deal with this pledge with regard to Irish self-government in such a way as to give satisfaction to Irish aspirations in that respect.Could there be anything plainer than that? Although it was a pledge and a promise, was it not infinitely more satisfactory than the attitude the Chief Secretary has adopted in speaking from the Treasury Bench to-day? But what we blame his colleagues for, and what we blame him for, is that, whatever pledge is made to Ireland is a pledge which the Irish people are taught by bitter experience to know will be broken, and the present Government deserves to go down to history as the greatest Government of pledge-breakers, Pharisees, and hypocrites that ever held power or sway in this or any other country. In the same month of April we had the Prime Minister making a very strong speech in regard to Ireland, and he stated that his purpose was to apply in Ireland the right of self-determination. But I may remark, in passing, that the Prime Minister's view of the meaning of self-determination is as lopsided and illogical as the view the Chief Secretary gives of the right of the Irish people to have Home Rule put into operation. The Prime Minister said, "Of course we recognise the right of every nation to self-determination, and we recognise that right in Ireland." And then, what did he propose to do? He said, "We will make the Irish people an offer. We will make them a proposal. We will give them a measure." Just as the right hon. Gentleman said to us at the conclusion of his speech, "Will you say, before you see the measure, that you will accept it, and that you will recommend it to your people?" Is not this like, "Close your eyes, and open your mouth, and see what you will get"?
§ Mr. SCANLAN
Of course you will get nothing. I want to ask one man in the Government, in whose honesty I still believe, and that is my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackfriars, who occupies a great position in the War Cabinet, has he also changed, or does he still remain the honest man we knew him to be, and which we certainly believed him to be when in this House he made a speech telling us what were the Government intentions with regard to Home Rule? I quote from a speech which he delivered in the House on 16th April. In that speech he made reference to the findings of the Irish Convention, and he gave clear and full ex- 122 pression to the policy of His Majesty's Government and their proposals for the treatment of Ireland. And may I remind him of the circumstances in which he made that statement? As he got up to speak he was flanked on either side of that bench by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. They let him speak, but they treated him as policemen treat a prisoner, and took good care that in the speech which he made he was not allowed to say anything on his own which went further than the Government policy towards Ireland. He said, speaking with regard to the Irish Convention:It has given us recommendations, and one recommendation upon which there is substantial agreement. That recommendation has reference to the main factor, and that is the setting up of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland. Can we build upon that recommendation? I hope we can. I hope there is sufficient statesmanship in this country, even in this grim period of war, to snatch a victory on the Irish Front, if we cannot from any other."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th April, 1918, cols. 309 and 310, Vol. 105.]Then he addedWe are going to bring in a Home Rule Bill, and pass it through this House, if it is possible to do it.He said againWe are going to bring in a Bill for Horns Rule, and pass it.And then some innocent person, sitting on the benches opposite, asked "What about the House of Lords?" And the right hon. Gentleman, the representative of Labour in the War Cabinet, the man who more than anybody else in the War Cabinet is trusted by the workers of this country, said this of the House of Lords:If the House of Lords will not pass it after this House has passed it, then the blood of the House of Lords be on the House of Lords head.6.0 P.M.
He was also asked this question—and I still retain some faith in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars, and I am going to quote him, on the assumption that he was honest in those statements, that he meant them sincerely, and was resolved to carry them out for the fulfilment of those pledges—he was asked, "What will the consequences be if the Government fail to carry out its pledges to introduce and pass Home Rule, and pass it immediately?" What did he say? "The Government would resign if it did not carry this Bill." And now we are in this position. Those pledges were made in Parliament. The Bill has not been introduced. The Government has broken faith with Ireland. The Government has not kept its word. It has not had the 123 honour or the courage to do justice to Ireland, and it has not had the decency to resign from the position which it occupies in this country. It seems to me that there is in the fate of Ireland a "hidden hand" or some unseen influence which is always at work destroying Irish hopes. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Black-friars, as a man of honour, as a man of his word, seeing that it has now been stated by the Chief Secretary, as the spokesman of the Government, that the Government have no intention of introducing Home Rule immediately, and passing it through this House, or of forcing it through the House of Lords—that as an honourable man he should leave the Coalition, come out, and take his freedom and stand by the side of those of us who formerly supported him, and will be prepared to support him again; to come out from any contact with the Government for its meanness, and for its recreancy in failing to keep pledges deliberately made by him on behalf of the Government in the circumstances I have just stated to the House. We have had talk of a German plot. The Chief Secretary has said something in reference to that plot. The Chief Secretary will not misunderstand the position because we are under no misapprehension with regard to it. What the present Prime Minister meant to convey to this country, and to the world, was that some time in May the Government had discovered a new German plot in existence in Ireland in which Sinn Feiners and a large number of the people were involved. No particle of evidence has been produced to show the existence of a plot of that kind. The only direct statement which was made by the Prime Minister was, if I mistake not, one he made in one of the many speeches he delivered when he received the freedom of Edinburgh. He stated then that there had been found in the possession of the man in the boat a letter or documents which conclusively showed that there had been active intrigue going on between the German Government and the people of Ireland. At the trial, which was held in public, it transpired that there was not a single document of any kind found upon the man. Therefore, the only particle of evidence with which the Government started to hoodwink the people of this country, and blacken the character of the 124 people of Ireland by means of a Government campaign which has been industriously carried on in America, is evidence which never existed. Are we, then, not justified in taking up the attitude which Lord Wimborne adopted in the House of Lords when he said:That neither he nor anyone associated with the Government of Ireland had any knowledge of or any cognisance whatever of the existence of any such new plot.Therefore, we are, I think, justified in holding that it is not the discovery of any new plat that the Government has founded itself on in breaking its pledges in regard to Ireland. We are left to the former position of the hidden and unseen hand—the sinister influence which is always put into operation by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College and the control which he persistently exercises over His Majesty's Government. It is that influence which led to the War. It was that influence which formed the greatest plot in which Germany ever engaged to break up the British Empire. That is the plot spoken of by Mr. Gerrard, the great Ambassador of America in Germany, who lived there through the early stages of the War, and was in Germany until a year ago. Writing his reminiscences, he makes it perfectly plain that the German Government, in entering upon this War, calculated on the impotence of this country to take any part in fighting for the liberty of Belgium, or any oppressed people, because of the plot which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College carried on in Ulster—a plot in which he was assisted by the present Leader of the House, by the Attorney-General, and by most of the members of the Tory party.
What has happened to those men? The great plotters have all been rewarded by seats on the Treasury Bench. One of the leaders is now at the head of the administration of law and order as Lord Chancellor in Ireland, and we are supposed to be satisfied with the presence in the Government of Ireland of the present Chief Secretary, because on one occasion he voted against Conscription for Ireland, and because, in former years, he professed as firm a belief as any of us in the principle of Home Rule—aye, and in the practice of applying Home Rule and setting it up in Ireland! We are mocked to-day by his words when he says that if Ireland behaves, in the course of time—he does 125 not say when!—some measure of Home Rule may be given to Ireland. This measure is to be given on condition that we say we will accept it. By what right have you to ask us to accept Home Rule from you or from the present Prime Minister before we have seen the Bill? Is the reason you are going to urge upon us for taking up the position of blind folly of that kind that you and those associated with you in the present Government have established for themselves such a character for honour, for straightforward dealing, for faithfulness in their promises, that we on the Irish Benches or the people of Ireland can place any dependence upon them? What I say we are suffering from in Ireland is misgovernment.
You cannot have respect for law in Ireland, in the first place, for this fundamental reason: No civilised people will respect any law which is imposed upon them from outside. In the second place, you cannot expect the Irish people, or any other people, to respect an administration of the law which is characterised by the partiality which characterises the present administration in Ireland. You have one method of the law of force to apply to the great majority of the people of Ireland. You have in the present Chief Secretary a cheerful defender of the administration of that law of force, and of its application to one section, and that the great majority of the people of Ireland. You allow the Orangemen of Ulster to land arms, as many as they would, and you disarmed the Nationalists of the South and West of Ireland. I ask you, if you are about to administer the law with equality and fairness to both sections of the people in Ireland, how can the Chief Secretary justify taking away from the Nationalists of Ireland all their arms and leave the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College, and for all I know the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, to remain in possession of the great arsenals of the Provisional Government in Ireland?
The present Chief Secretary at Question Time in this House the other day announced the policy of disarming Ulster. I do not believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is capable of enforcing the law justly and fairly towards the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson). I ask him in regard to that pledge, Is he himself going to be a pledge-breaker like his 126 chief the Prime Minister? The people of Ireland have no confidence in this Government. The people of Ireland do not believe the word of the Prime Minister. He may talk of offering us measures, and say that we are to blame if we do not accept them without inquiry. The people of Ireland will never believe in your sincerity until you not only have put Home Rule right on the Statute Book, but until you have set Home Rule actually in operation, and made it the law of the land in Ireland. Until you have done that it is futile to ask for recruits. Once you have done that you can ask the people of Ireland as a free people, as a free nation, enjoying full self-government, to come forward. You will then be justified in expecting that they will come forward with a great and generous response to the call to freedom when justice has been done to themselves and their claims.
§ Sir GEORGE REID
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the question, and to insert instead thereof the words,this House declares its unfaltering allegiance to the great principle in vindication of which the Allied Armies are fighting, and gratefully acknowledges the heroic services of men of Irish birth or descent in the Allied Armies, but deplores the organised attempts made in many parts of Ireland to prevent Irishmen from joining their English, Scottish, and Welsh fellow citizens in defence of the liberties enjoyed by all free nations, and in securing the emancipation of oppressed nationalities.I have listened with great attention to the able speeches of the Mover of the Resolution and the hon. Member who has just resumed his seat. I suppose no hon. Member below the Gangway will deny this: that the greatest principle for which the Allied Armies are fighting is the right and the duty of all free nations to resist to the death the wicked attempt at conquest and domination which is being made by the two great military despotisms of Europe? There are other principles in this great contest between the democracy and despotism. But, with great respect, I fail to perceive in the conduct of the Government to Ireland a breach of any one of those principles, and I will give my reasons for the position which I take up. I have not been identified with any of the transactions referred to by hon. Gentlemen. As hon. Members know, I have passed a long life in a very distant part of this Empire.
§ Sir G. REID
And I approach this subject with the utmost friendliness of spirit for the great Irish race, who in Australia and in the other Dominions have managed to live in peace and contentment with all their fellow-subjects.
There is a phrase in the Motion moved by the hon. Member for East Mayo quoted from President Wilson, and there was also a phrase used by the hon. Member who followed him, and those two expressions I desire to address myself to in a very few words. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) quoted President Wilson as speaking of "a reign of law with the consent of the governed." I accept that statement, and the hon. Member may recollect that President Wilson, upon other occasions, has used the expression "self-determination," and I accept that statement. But may I suggest to the hon. Members opposite that they have robbed those phrases of the meaning attached to them by President Wilson in such a way that it might make any system of civilised government absolutely impossible? If one section in a community is entitled to refuse to obey the law—[Cheers]—I am not at all affected by those cheers, for I am dealing with the subject free from all those bitter antagonisms which unfortunately prevail in Ireland. The real trouble in regard to this question of Home Rule is not in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, but it is in Ireland itself. The hon. Member for East Mayo in this House, not two years ago, and the ever-to-be lamented Leader of the Irish party, the late Mr. John Redmond, both said that it was unthinkable that Ulster should be coerced. That was fatal to the Home Rule which was on the Statute Book, because that Act does coerce Ulster, and the hon. Member, by making that statement, shows that the Act on the Statute Book is acknowledged by universal consent to be an Act which must be amended.
§ Sir G. REID
What I have stated was said both by the late Mr. Redmond and by the hon. Member for East Mayo, and it is to be found in the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Sir G. REID
I have verified it. Robbed of the meaning which President Wilson 128 attaches to the phrase of "a reign of law with the consent of the governed," the expression would justify the secession of the Southern States in the American Union. They, as a large body of States in the United States, held a view that they were entitled to destroy and terminate their union. The words used by President Wilson have no such meaning. Self-determination does not imply that every part of the community can rebel against the other part if any particular law is offensive to them. No system of government could possibly work in a nation like the United States or the United Kingdom if it were to be ruled by minorities. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is the point."] I can see that the radical defect of the position which the hon. Members opposite take up is that they regard Ireland as if it were outside the United Kingdom, whereas it is just as large a part of the United Kingdom as England, Scotland, or Wales.
§ Sir G. REID
My hon. Friend opposite spoke of Ireland as if it were an oppressed nationality. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is!"] I wish to ask one or two questions on that point. The nationalities in Europe to which the hon. Member opposite referred, whose names I am quite unable to pronounce, are oppressed nationalities, and they have been cruelly and brutally oppressed, and are still being cruelly and brutally oppressed. I ask whether Ireland can fairly be ranged alongside those cruelly oppressed nationalities. In this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is there a single civil right or privilege enjoyed in England, Scotland, or Wales which the people of Ireland do not enjoy? Is the franchise of Ireland less free than the franchise of England, Scotland, and Wales? Is Ireland less fairly represented in this Imperial Parliament? As a matter of fact, is it not nearly twice as well represented in proportion to the electors as the people of the other parts of the United Kingdom? This House represents a vast Empire to which it is a great privilege to belong, but as a matter of fact the Irish party in this House possesses the balance of power. As hon. Members were returned at the last General Election there were 272 Liberals, 272 Unionists, and 42 members of the Labour party, together with 84 Irish Nationalists. Therefore, the Nationalists Members, whose electors are 129 really, according to their proportion, not entitled to return more than half the number that Ireland sends here, possess the balance of power in this House. This Imperial Parliament is the centre of a great Empire which has manifold advantages which are free to the subjects of the United Kingdom. Is there one single advantage in that vast Umpire open to an Englishman which is not equally open to an Irishman, and when we come to that cruel and terrible strain upon the United Kingdom which is involved in this deadly struggle for liberty, is the burden on Irish manhood greater than the burden of English or Scottish or Welsh manhood?
Hon. Members opposite talk of their love of freedom and their passionate desire for it, but surely they will remember that this deadly struggle in which we are engaged is a struggle for the freedom of all communities, for the political evolution of all communities and the removal of all political grievances, and I think it will be an undying reproach upon Ireland that in the time of the danger of our cause of freedom and the preservation of our vast Empire that gallant race is not more fully represented in the fighting ranks than it is. Ireland not being an oppressed nationality, and there being no real oppression of any sort in Ireland, the whole of the case of hon. Members about an oppressed nationality falls absolutely, in my opinion, to the ground. The people of Great Britain have always shown their desire to meet the wishes of the people of Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes; the vast majority of them have shown that in a thousand ways, but the existence of a large body which seems to flourish greatly in Ireland at the present time has added a great embarrassment to those who desire to see a measure of Home Rule passed. I speak for the Dominions when I say that throughout the Dominions as in the United Kingdom there is a keen desire to satisfy every legitimate aspiration of the Irish people for a larger measure of self-government, but there exists in Ireland a large body of men who hate the constitutional methods of my hon. Friends opposite. May I say without any impertinence that during past years I have not failed to notice the way in which hon. Members opposite have acted constitutionally in their desire to enlarge the powers of self-government in Ireland, but there is a considerable body of men in Ireland who hate the constitutional methods of hon. Members opposite, and 130 who hate the British connection and who would help Germany to crush us if they could. That is one of the serious difficulties in Ireland and it is one of the serious difficulties felt throughout the Empire because, although every one of our Dominions is anxious to see a large measure of self-government for Ireland, every Dominion is inflexible on this point, that no such measure as is demanded by Sinn Feiners ought to be passed.
Illustrious statesmen like Mr. Gladstone and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith), in their speeches in moving Home Rule Bills, have both stated that the bottom is knocked out of Home Rule if it would not strengthen the solidarity of the Empire. The existence of such a traitorous and treasonable and disloyal body in Ireland endangers the prospect of Home Rule in Ireland, because there is one thing that the Dominions will not stand. This United Kingdom, small in its area, is the base upon which the vast superstructure of our Empire rests. We will not have that base fractured. We will not have laws passed which may serve as a new starting point of separatist agitation. We will not stand that. I am asked what about the Dominions, but there is all the difference in the world between the position of the Dominions and the position of Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, There was a desire that the Colonies when their Constitutions were given to them should separate. The Manchester school was triumphant, and the Colonies were looked upon as a source of danger, and consequently they were given a Constitution which left only one link which the Colonies could snap, and which would enable them to separate from the Empire. But you cannot have that sort of Constitution for all parts of the United Kingdom. The Union of the three Kingdoms must be maintained inviolate, there must be nothing to fracture this narrow, perilous base upon which the whole of our Empire rests, and that makes all the difference.
If a distant Dominion wished to separate the paternal blessing would be ready. The stalwart offspring might start in business on its own account, but Britain and Ireland more resemble the position of a man and his wife. If your wife wants to start a separate establishment next door, it is not so easy to say "Yes." That is our trouble. If 131 Ireland were 5,000 miles away, it could cut the painter any day in the week and there would not be a word of complaint, but the fact is that, just as the American Union fought to the death to preserve the integrity of the Union, so the whole Empire would fight to the death to preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member speaks of friendship between the British and the Irish people. Is there one man in Great Britain who does not earnestly desire an ever-increasing measure of friendship with the Irish people? The difficulty is not there. The fact is that we are all ready to do our best for Ireland. It is almost an insult to talk of treating Ireland in any special way. Is there any better way to treat a people than the way the English people are treated or the Scottish people are treated? This idea of nursing schemes and feelings of hatred and revenge because of the oppression of the dark days of the past must disappear some day, and perhaps it may occur to some of those who act as if the British people were alien to the people of Ireland that the masses of the British people to-day are like the masses of the Irish people to-day: they are all the descendants of men who were themselves oppressed in those dark days when power had only one maxim, and that was "Oppression."
Colonel Sir MARK SYKES
I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down into the complexities with regard to self-determination. I noticed that everybody felt that they were on rather thin ice, as there were cheers and counter-cheers. When the right hon. Gentleman said that a minority, of course, could not govern, there were loud cheers in a certain quarter of the House. It immediately occurred to my mind that again it might be quite well argued that Ulster represented a majority in a given area, and that that area might be open to self-determination. And there might be another majority in an area within that area, and so on and so forth. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman in that rather perilous line, but I should like to say that I feel entirely in accord with the Resolution which he has just proposed. I could not, and I am sure it would be a great mistake for anybody, to deceive Irish Nationalists in this House into imagining that any section of the English people would for one moment accept mediation, even the mediation of the head of another 132 State. It has been suggested, I think, from the Front Opposition Bench on several occasions, that possibly the Dominion Premiers might advise, but I am certain that the suggestion that President Wilson should be asked to mediate would not be accepted for a moment. Before going into one or two points that I wish to lay before the House I would draw attention to the very violent attacks which have been made upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who will not have an opportunity of replying. He was accused, I think, of accepting a bribe—the bribe of a coveted seat upon the Front Bench, and of having somehow wormed himself into an office which no doubt hundreds of persons were anxious to secure. A greater act of political heroism and self-sacrifice than accepting the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland I do not think could be done in peace time, to say nothing of war time. I submit that so far as he has gone it would be very difficult for anybody to complain of the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman either in his intentions towards Ireland or in the work that he has done.
Again, we find ourselves at the end of a very long Session once more reconsidering the Irish situation. The natural sentiments that arise in one's mind are not very helpful. The sentiments of some shame, of some regret and grief, do not help one to find a solution. Might I put it another way. Looking backwards does not help us. It is no use the relatives of the friend of an insolvent lunatic looking at the pictures of the Rake's Progress. Here we have a situation the result of coming to turning-point after turning-point, and every time, by some means or other, managing to take the wrong turning. I do not want to weary the House with the history of how we have got into the position in which we find ourselves, but it is worth remembering in a word or two. The Buckingham Palace Conference ended in one fiasco. One had certain hopes from that. Then there was a longish period, followed by Mr. Redmond's War speech, which really looked like an opening towards a settlement, but which ended in the recruiting fiasco. Then there was the catastrophe of Easter week and the Prime Minister's intervention, which looked hopeful. Then there was the growing up of the Convention and its findings. But here we are at this point, as the result practically of the break- 133 down of the Convention scheme. I know it is wrong to despair, but one cannot help thinking that despair, although unpardonable, is sometimes understandable. I think we might have got somewhere if we had realised how we had contributed to this result. I submit that all of us, Conservatives, Liberals, Nationalists, Covenanters, have done our bit in bringing about this situation. We have all done something. I do not believe that it is the fault of the masses, who are misled one way or the other, or whose passions are acted upon one way or the other; I think it is the fault of the various acts of the various sections in this Parliament. This is a dying Parliament, and surely it is the duty of this dying Parliament to try and make some amends to the Parliament that is going to succeed it, and to try and put this situation—it will not solve this matter—upon a better basis than it is at present.
If we look and examine the responsibilities we shall see them. I think, as follows: There is the British Government's responsibility and that of all the sequence of Governments that have held office between the introduction of Home Rule and the introduction of Conscription in 1918. We must never forget that the Liberal Government introduced Home Rule knowing that Ulster would resist and knowing that they would not put down that resistance for fear of losing by-elections and for fear of the General Election that would follow. We have that to remember, and all that has passed between the introduction of that Bill and the introduction of Conscription in 1918 which practically brought the thing finally on to the rocks. The two English parties—Liberal and Conservative—have so plastered the two Irish parties, Nationalist and Covenanting parties, with pledges and promises on both sides that the Irish parties have lost practically all possibility of confidence in the Government of this country. I do not think that I shall be contradicted when I say that the Nationalists suspect that the present promise of amending Home Rule Bill or Federalism, or whatever is spoken of, is merely camouflage for Conscription, and that Conscription is brought in not entirely for the purpose of getting men. On the other hand, I think there can be no doubt that in North-East Ulster there is no sublime and complete confidence in the acts of the present Government. There is a feeling, perhaps, that Con- 134 scription is only spoken of, and that the voluntary recruiting scheme is only brought forward as camouflage for Federalism, and that Federalism is mere camouflage for Home Rule of the particular brand that they will not have. That is the position of the Government. That is the contribution of the two English parties to this situation.
The two Irish parties cannot escape all responsibility. If we examine the Nationalist party, many points were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary himself. I think—they will not like one saying this—they were too easily disheartened at the beginning in not persisting in recruiting and in not persisting in laying the whole question of the Entente and Allied cause before the nation, even although they were repelled by the War Office. I do not think they showed sufficient pertinacity in that matter. Another great error, I am certain, has been the reiterated proposal that the granting of Home Rule really means the granting of self-government to Ireland of a Dominion status. That is unacceptable to the British people. It is unacceptable, I am certain, to British Home Rulers. The Irish Nationalists also, I think, have exhibited a want of courage frequently in dealing with their own extremists at an early stage in this matter, and to-day's Resolution brought forward by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) does not help Irish Nationalism or Ireland. But theirs is not the only responsibility. It cannot be denied that North-East Ulster also has its share of responsibility. It is not possible for any person in this country to judge when a man's conscience tells him he must defy the law rather than accept a certain law. Of course, our responsibility towards the Government was when we Unionists who were not concerned in defying the law urged people living outside this country, living in another island, to defy it. One cannot blame people in another place for acting on their own conscience. I want to make it clear that is not the point on which I am criticising the action of the people of North-East Ulster. Freely must one admit that Great Britain is beholden to North-East Ulster for much in the way of materials and a great number of men lavishly given. But one also has to remember that every lawless act or nearly every lawless act or quasi lawless act of the Sinn Fein party had an Ulster precedent, that the North-East Ulster party kept the covenant going 135 during the War, and retained their arms for action after the War was over, that is to say, this War was only a truce in a hypothetical civil war that might take place in Ireland. I believe that if North-East Ulster had taken the opportunity when the late Mr. John Redmond made his War speech, there might have been a possibility of reaching a settlement which has not been reached and which is a long way off now. There might have been an opportunity then of welding Ireland together as a whole for common action and for a common purpose.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) went over to Ulster to raise that magnificent Division, but I do not think that he took full advantage of Mr. Redmond's speech, for he reminded Ulster that their loyalty was not a thing of yesterday, which was to infer that the loyalty which had come from the Nationalist Members was a thing of yesterday. At any rate, the recruiting and the magnificent war effort of North-East Ulster was pretty well on a political basis. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College did not accept the invitation of Mr. Redmond to go on a common platform. Perhaps that might have been good politics. It might have been necessary for an Ulster leader not to accept the invitation, but I do not think that non-acceptance helped the War. In fact, Ulster has not failed to take political advantage of her own merits and of the Nationalists' misfortunes during this War. The climax was reached on the 12th July last, when there was a great meeting. I understand that 25,000, 30,000, or more, men went to a certain field near Belfast to hold a great demonstration. I have no doubt that the political results of that were excellent. I have no doubt that the local recruiting results were excellent, and successful. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] That is a matter I am not going to enter upon. Most probably it was a success, but, from a War point of view, that meeting was a grave error and mistake. If anyone were to ask a member of the German General Staff, "What do you want in Ireland?" he would reply, "I want more political strife, more religious bitterness, and more hatred between Irishmen than exists now." It may be that the meeting stimulated recruiting in some way, 136 but it could not fail to help to stimulate things which we wish to suppress. I will give my reasons for saying that.
There are two brief quotations I wish to make from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College which seem to me not likely to help on the War so far as Ireland is concerned, and not likely to help on recruiting in Ireland as a whole. In explaining the reason for the meeting, the right hon. Gentleman said—I quote from the "Morning Post" report, which is pretty full—The Battle of the Boyne is celebrated by us, not out of any hostility towards our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen, but as a great landmark in the advance and extension of civilisation and of Christianity.I cannot imagine any expression more likely to arouse bitter feeling in the rest of Ireland than the final words of that quotation. The expression came from the right hon. Gentleman, who, I believe, is the successor, though not the direct successor, of Professor Lecky, who wrote the "History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century." The right hon. Gentleman knows, and anybody knows who has read that book, that whatever the Battle of the Boyne was a landmark of, at least it was a prelude to eighty years of the most villainous persecution, rascality, plundering, and villainy that have ever been seen. More than that, and most interesting of all, it was not confined to Catholics, but was applied with the greatest bitterness to the Presbyterians too, many of whom went to America and were responsible for the break-up there. I should have thought it would have been a point of statesmanship to bury all that past, to forget it, and not to dig it up, parade it, and fondle it as if it were a thing to admire. I do not know how the Irish people felt about that particular sentence, but it seemed to me to be something like a challenge and a threat which would increase the number of Sinn Feiners and tend to make them close their ranks, if no worse than that. There is another quotation which it may seem odd to make, and upon which my comment may seem odder still, but I venture to make it. The right hon. Gentleman said:The bench of bishops—That is, the Irish Roman Catholic bishops—say you cannot defend your country. What will they say about the defence of the religion against which they have struggled, and against 137 which they are always struggling, and which is the real basis of their desire to keep Ulster under their heels both in the past and in the future?I ask the House to consider the circumstances in which these words were uttered. We must imagine this assembly of 15,000, 20,000, or 30,000 persons assembled together, with drums and banners, and seething in their minds all the ideas which are the result of 200 years of strife on one side and the other, with passion worked up to any extent and by artificial means. Then we see a great man, a man with enormous power, with a tremendous influence, whom these people love, and who loves these people, who makes that the climax of his speech. It seems to me it was an appeal to feeling, an appeal to anger, and an appeal to religious passion. It could do no good; it could only serve the purpose of those who wish to see the people in Ireland worse enemies than they were before. I admit that the bishops gave the right hon. Gentleman his opportunity, but I do not think that in war-time he should have taken it. It did not help the War. Had the right hon. Gentleman himself been born and brought up in Belfast, then I could have understood it. Then we might have found the same excuse for him that was found for Sir John Falstaff—But then he was rheumatick; and talked of the whore of Babylon.But the right hon. Gentleman comes from the South, and he knows, whatever the action of the bishops may have been, that the real and only motive of the action the bishops took was in order to avoid bloodshed.
Sir M. SYKES
If the right hon. Gentleman professes not to believe that, I only ask him to tell his Dublin friends in private that he does not believe it.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Does my hon. and gallant Friend mean to say that I would say one thing in this House and another in private, because, if that is the charge against me, it is utterly false.
Sir M. SYKES
Perhaps under the influence of the moment I went further than I ought to have gone. It seems an extraordinary thing to me that anyone who knows the South well should imagine that the Irish Bishops acted from any other motive than that of trying to prevent the bloodshed which they knew would result if once the Sinn Fein element got the lead of the resistance to Conscription. If the Irish bishops had not taken that lead 138 their belief was that dreadful things might have happened in Ireland, and that by taking the action they look bloodshed was prevented. I am not defending their action, because I do not believe that clergymen collectively should ever take political action, any more than I believe that a Privy Councillor should organise a rebellion, or any more than I believe that it is right in war-time to pour oil on the flames of religious and political passion.
There are two attitudes which a Unionist may adopt towards Ireland without any peril to his Unionism. There is the attitude of Pitt, who dreamed that liberty and equality, really practised, would bring loyalty. That was a theory elaborated by Lecky, and for far too short a period it was practised by my old Friend George Wyndham. There is another Unionist theory which may be applied to Ireland. That is the theory of Cromwell, that the Irish are a race of superstitious savages, who must be exterminated like the Amalakites from the face of the earth in order to make way for the chosen of the Lord. That is another way of dealing with the Irish question. The method adopted by the right hon. Gentleman when he held his great meeting at Belfast was a very long way from Pitt's method. I submit to the House that we all have our responsibility, and we all ought to make our sacrifice. I believe that if the Nationalist Members made it clear that they were going to find men for the Entente cause, quite irrespective of the question of Home Rule, they would be doing no more than right, and that they could get their following in Ireland. But I entreat them to drop the idea of a Dominion status, because that would never be accepted. I believe that Ulster would do well to drop the theory once for all that it is possible for any association of people in these islands to challenge by use of arms the actual constituted authority or a law which is passed by this House and put into practice by the will of this House. Both parties might yet, in face of the situation—the battle is not won; it only goes a little better, and the situation on the Continent is still perilous—find an opportunity for common recruiting on a common platform in Ireland. That is so far as the Irish parties are concerned. I believe that for the British parties there is this that ought to be done: that the Unionists, Liberals, and the Labour party in this country—the Labour party will probably count more in the next Parlia- 139 ment than it does in this old moribund one—should come together and really decide on a practical Federal solution of this question, with this proviso, that Ireland should in any case, have priority of treatment, that it should come into operation fairly quickly, and that Ireland should be treated as a unit in the Federal system. That is essential. That lies with the British parties. That is a matter upon which the British parties ought to make up their minds. Then, with regard to the Government, I believe that there is much that the Government can do. Let Lord French complete his disarmament of the whole of Ireland.
Sir M. SYKES
Then, after that, I believe it would be well, as the Government, now practically on the verge of a General Election, can bring in no legislation of a Home Rule nature, if it could so reconstitute the civil administration of Ireland as to show that Castle rule is over, and that the existing Government is only temporary until a new one comes in. Also, I think much could be done if the Government would invite both sections of politics in Ireland to form a Committee for the investigation of the resources of Ireland, the coal, peat, and iron, and for their development for war purposes. I do not believe, when you come to fiscal matters, no matter how vexed my right hon. Friend may be with me—
Sir M. SYKES
—no matter what the divisions of the Irish people may be, when it comes to any question of spending English Treasury money in Ireland they are at one. Certainly unless all parties combine a terrible Nemesis awaits us, and for this reason. Great Britain is approaching a Peace Conference. I will not develop the result of having Ireland garrisoned and controlled during the Peace Conference. That would be thrown not only in our teeth, but in the teeth of our Allies. Also, if things are allowed to drift in Ireland we shall have the canker of revolutionary Republicanism in the United Kingdom. We are also immediately after the War approaching the problems of reconstruction. How 140 are we to deal with reconstruction if the whole of our future Parliaments are to be clogged and gritted by this Irish question, when we have to deal swiftly with this gigantic problem, and if our time is not to be wasted as in the last ten years. Then, to Ulster, I also believe if there is no settlement now evil things may result. I do not believe it is possible to go on eternally swearing eternal negatives. The time has come when Ulster should face this matter and talk it out with individual Nationalists. Otherwise, with two armed extreme parties, one in Ulster and one in the South, both bound together for the purpose of challenging the law, I honestly believe that sooner or later these two forces will coalesce under the banners of Larkinism and this would be a much more terrible thing for the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) than any Irish bishops, and more terrible to hon. Gentlemen opposite, than my right hon. Friend's (Sir E. Carson) ascendancy.
Lastly, with regard to the Nationalists themselves, I should like before I sit down to put to them the great dangers that Ireland is running at this moment. Ireland is running the danger of being estranged from the English democracy. The English people of this country, I am not speaking of political parties—are growing vexed with Ireland. It may not be realised by Irishmen, but it is the fact that the English people are undoubtedly sorely stricken by this War. In my own home the gardens, the fields, and the houses are the same, but many men are dead, and there is much sorrow and grief. My own home is in a constituency in which I was beaten twice, and each time on Home Rule. I, as a Unionist, was beaten on that. I will say this that to-day you will find there our farm hands will not work alongside German prisoners and they will not work alongside Irishmen. That is what is going to happen. Do not let Irishmen imagine that this is the result of propaganda. The people of Britain have heard what their own boys have told them about men having come from India and from the Dominions and from America to fight. They feel and believe that Ireland has not put forth its full effort. I do ask Irishmen—I ask hon. Members opposite to remember that the English people can have their grievances as well as Ireland. Then also it is not to be forgotten by Irishmen, at any rate, that the attitude of America is to-day colder to the Nationalists of Ireland than it was. 141 When the American Roll of Honour increases, as alas, it must increase, that feeling of resentment which you have in England may grow in America. But the worst punishment for Ireland if it does not play its part is what Irishmen will feel themselves afterwards. The Irish have read history. They have little pettifogging things about this Bill or that Bill, about the settlement of Derry or of Fermanagh, but how will they feel if Irishmen have to read that while the French cathedrals were levelled to the ground Irish racecourses were crowded with men; that while Belgium was outraged they hugged their grievances; that while Armenia fell by the roadside they were the Levite who passed on; and, worst of all, that their own Irish regiments—the Leinsters, the Connaughts, the Munsters, the Irish Guards, many Nationalists and wholly Irish—withered away and Ireland remained self-pitying, sulking, and aloof? That is the danger I foresee for Ireland, if some step is not token to avert failure. Ireland has had worse evils in the past. They have been material things—famines, rebellion, and horrors of that kind—but they are not worse than the horror of a nation which feels itself guilty.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
My hon. Friend who has just sat down has made, as he always does, an interesting and a suggestive speech. He is in the happy enjoyment of a blank, or relatively blank, record, and he appears to think, as is natural to a person in such a position, that political parties ought to clothe themselves in a comprehensive white sheet, and spend the last days of what he justly describes as a moribund Parliament in confessing the shortcomings of the past. I very largely agree with him. It is almost a platitude in our political rhetoric to say that the history of the relations of these two Islands one with the other constitutes a sinister narrative of "might have beens." Still, if this Debate serves no other object, I hope it may leave upon the minds of all who take part in it a still deeper impression than ever before of the supreme—I cannot exaggerate the strength of my language—the supreme and overwhelming importance of our coming to a settlement in this matter. I say nothing, or hardly anything, on the question raised by my hon. Friend in the first part of his speech on the subject of the present Administration.
I heard my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary make a speech curiously remi- 142 niscent of speeches which I have heard from successive Chief Secretaries now for thirty-two years, in which he dwelt, and quite rightly, on the paramount duty Laid on the Irish Executive of stamping out sedition and maintaining law and order. Certainly the Executive cannot and ought not to fail in that duty. But I am constrained to point out what I think my right hon. Friend hardly appears to appreciate, and that is that the difficulties which he has encountered have been sensibly aggravated, as some of us predicted they would be, by the adoption in the Man-Power Bill of the present year of contingent compulsion for Ireland. You will find exactly the difficulty which might have been anticipated in getting your manpower, and, what is more serious, an atmosphere has been created—I do not say whether rightly or wrongly, and I do not seek for the moment to trace the responsibility for it to its ultimate source—that is a very complex problem—but an atmosphere has been created, as it was certain it would, which has shifted the balance of political opinion, political preference, and political power for the time being from the constitutional to the revolutionary party. That is a very serious state of things. It has in my judgment enormously increased the difficulty of my right hon. Friend's task and embarrassed him in its prosecution.
My purpose in rising—I have very frequently and recently expressed my opinion to the House on the main general question—I shall not therefore now detain it long—my sole purpose in rising is to deal with the latter part of my hon. Friend's (the Member for Mayo) speech, the part in which he suggested not only the necessity for a settlement, but the possibility of finding a road in that direction. The situation is very familiar to the House, and I think I might summarise it in a few perfectly colourless words which would excite no controversy or difference of opinion. When the Home Rule Bill passed into law, and was about to be put on the Statute Book, we made an attempt—as my hon. Friend reminded us in his speech just now, on the eve of the outbreak of the War—we made an honest attempt to settle the outstanding difficulties connected with the position of Ulster by what was called the "Buckingham Palace Conference." That attempt broke down. The War came. The late Mr. Redmond, as everybody acknowledged, with magnificent patriotism and self-devotion, did his best, some- 143 times under very discouraging conditions, to obtain from Ireland, and from those parts of Ireland in which he had a predominant influence, a satisfactory rally. When that process had gone on for some months, a change in the composition of the Government of this country took place. We formed what was called the Coalition Government. My hon. Friend (Mr. Dillon) pointed, I think, to the formation of that Government as a decisively fatal step in the history of this matter, because of the inclusion in it of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. Let me point out—here again I am only dealing with historical facts—that I was the head of that Government, responsible for its formation, and did everything in my power to induce Mr. Redmond to join it.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Because I am speaking of him less as a person than in respect of the great forces which he represented—I felt, as I think all my colleagues felt, Unionists, Liberals and Labour, just as much as myself, that a Coalition Government from which he was absent was of necessity incomplete in composition and imperfect in authority. I knew perfectly well Mr. Redmond's reasons for refusing. I understood them, and respected them. But I regretted at the time, and have always regretted since, that he could not have seen his way to take part, because I could not help hoping that if we had all sat there together week after week and month after month, just as we found in other matters, as my late colleagues will bear me witness, that differences and even asperities of opinion disappeared, or were smoothed and diminished in their strength and in their extent, so we might perhaps also have found in regard to this, far the greatest and far the most serious of all our domestic difficulties, that at any rate some approximation could be made to common agreement. I blame nobody. But that was not to be.
Then came the Easter rising in 1916, which again was followed by an attempt at an arrangement conducted mainly by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. There also we appeared at one moment to have been within at least a measurable distance of agreement. I do not like to bandy charges in these matters; indeed, I make no charge against 144 anyone. It will always be a matter of opinion which history alone can determine who were responsible for the breakdown. But again that malign influence, which has so often presided at critical moments over the fortunes of Irish history, made itself felt, and the attempt failed. Then came the Convention. Why was that Convention set on foot, and why did Irishmen of practically all shades of opinion give themselves, as they did, for the best part of a whole year to an honest and loyal and, as all accounts tell us, a thoroughly good-tempered effort to arrange their differences around the table? It was because not only the Government which set up the Convention, not only the House of Commons which supported it in doing so, but because Irishmen themselves felt, perhaps more strongly than anyone, that things had reached a stage at which not only the dignity, but the elementary interests and the safety of the Empire required a settlement to be obtained. There, again, we seemed to be on the eve, at any rate, of approximate agreement. That also failed. Reference has been made to pledges on the part of the Government. Is there any politician of any responsibility or authority in this country who has not pledged himself to do everything he can to bring about a solution of this question?
The Government, as we have been reminded by my hon. Friend (Mr. Dillon), set up the Convention avowedly as a War measure, so important did they regard it in the interest of our due conduct of the War, and still more of our authority and influence in the council chambers of peace, that this reproach should be removed from our escutcheon, for reproach it is to all parties in the British Empire. When the Convention failed to come to an agreement, though it went a very considerable distance in many directions on the road—when the Convention failed to come to an agreement, or to that measure of agreement which had been, if not anticipated, at any rate hoped for, we were again told, most properly, from that bench that the Government still regarded it as a matter of obligation, and even of honour, to prosecute a settlement of this question. That is the position. I am sure I have not said a single thing in this narrative of facts which will be disputed by anyone who is acquainted with them. That is the chain of circumstances which had led us up to the position in which we stand to-day.
145 Are we going at this stage, with that history behind us, with those pledges fresh on our lips or in our ears, to drop the whole thing and give it up in despair? That is the question which the Government and the House of Commons have to answer. I agree that the very fact that so many efforts, in so many different ways, have been made to arrive at a settlement without success is in itself a formidable omen hovering over the heads of those who seek to make a fresh step in that direction. I myself have suggested more than once that possibly it is a matter in which, other modes of settlement having failed, we might have taken advantage of the presence of the leading representatives of our great Dominions and taken them into counsel and seen, at any rate, if by an interchange of ideas with them some further advance might not be made. I do not know whether anything has been done in that direction. I believe not, and I can well understand that the representatives of the Dominions themselves might possibly have been loth to undertake any share in such a task.
My hon. Friend has put forward to-night another suggestion, namely, that the matter should be referred to the arbitrament of the President of the United States. I am very loth to appear to discourage any plan which offers any hope of a settlement, but I may point out, in the first place, that if, as seems to be the case, our own Dominion Premiers are loth to touch a matter of this kind, it would take a very sanguine man to believe that President Wilson, crowded as his mind, his energies, and his time must be with urgent matters of the War, would undertake a task which has baffled so many pioneers in the past. I share the reluctance which was expressed by my hon. Friend just now to submit a question as to which you might properly take into counsel members of your own household and your own family, such as the representatives of the great self-governing Dominions, to the arbitrament of a foreign Power, however friendly that Power might be, and however closely allied, as America is with us, by every tie of kinship and affection.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am only pointing out some of the practical difficulties in the way of the adoption of such a suggestion. To what then do we come? In my opinion we must make one more effort to settle it for ourselves and by ourselves; and though it may seem to savour of a credulous optimism to imagine that at this hour of the day, and with the disappointing, heart-breaking experiences of the past of which I have told the story, better fortune awaits us, yet I myself, largely for the reasons which were so admirably given in the concluding part of my hon. Friend's speech just now—reasons which appeal on the one hand to Great Britain and on the other to Ireland, and which in Ireland appeal on the one hand to the Nationalists and on the other to the Ulster section of the community—I cannot help thinking and believing, under the pressure of those feelings, which increase in force and volume every day that the War lasts, and which as you approach, as Heaven grant we may soon be approaching, the prospect of actual peace, become overwhelming in their imperiousness, that we might bridge over the chasm—not a very wide one, as the Convention proved—which still separates contending parties in this matter. At any rate, of one thing I am certain. The Government of this country, by whomsoever it is for the time being conducted, and the Parliament of this country, of whomsoever it is for the time being composed, will not have discharged their first and their most essential duty to this Kingdom, to the Empire, to the Allies, and to the great cause which we have at heart in the War, and the ultimate settlement of peace upon a durable and an honourable foundation, unless even now, at this eleventh hour, we bring ourselves together, and combine our energies for this task.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am quite sure that all those who have followed the recent utterances of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) will be somewhat disappointed by some of his closing observations in regard to the proposal of my hon. Friend (Mr. Dillon). I have not only myself become an ardent supporter of the principle of a League of Nations, but I have been strengthened in those convictions by the powerful and impressive speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister, and it is 147 to me a sign of little faith in these convictions which he has so splendidly expressed that when here we have an opportunity of putting this principle into operation by the best weapon by which that principle can be applied the right hon. Gentleman gives us not merely tepid support but hostility. I am sorry the barren policy of British statesmanship has to be expressed from the Opposition Bench this afternoon. I protest to the House most emphatically against the absence of the Prime Minister who came here to-day and listened to the opening speech—a powerful and unanswerable indictment of the Government of Ireland by this country and by this Administration—and then, having kept us here for four or five hours, refuses to come and answer that indictment of my hon. Friend, but treats Ireland and the great issues involved with complete and absolute contempt. The Minister who runs away from Parliament cannot run away from a great principle. If he were to leave the House not once, but fifty times, this Irish question is still here, living and ever present. But I confess that I felt humiliated to find in the first speech that I have ever listened to delivered by the new Chief Secretary for Ireland, a statement barren in everything except in insult, and insult levelled at men who have rendered service to the cause of the Allies—service which ought to have shamed him into a reticence which he did not manifest when dealing with this question. What right has he, an Englishman, who was never heard of in the public life of these islands and who was not even very well-known in Newcastle-on-Tyne, but who was sent over to Ireland to govern it, like every other Chief Secretary who has governed the country, with one qualification, and one qualification only, and that is that he never saw the country which he was sent to govern until he went there to govern.
He gets up in this House to reply to the representatives of the people of Ireland and the statement they have made for their cause and for their country, and he tells us that it is we, not the Government, not the Sinn Feiners, not the anarchists there or the anarchists in Ireland, but the representatives of constitutionalism and constitutional principles. We are responsible for the present position. Let me show not only the moderation but the wisdom of the new departure of this double-handed administration, with the 148 military machine on the one side and, as I thought, a plausible lawyer on the other, so that for the policy of militarism in Ireland we might have a gentle gramophone in the House of Commons. That is what I understood the function of the right hon. Gentleman to be. Instead of coming fresh to his work, going to a new country and living in a new atmosphere and bringing a new mind to old conditions and coming back with freshness and even genius to tell us what his solution of the Irish question is, he stands up here and lectures the Irish Members of Parliament because they have not done what he conceives to be their duty, and he tells us that we are responsible for all the evils that have fallen upon our country. Then he invites us, as his final contribution to this Debate, to recruit under his recruiting banner; to go over to Ireland and get recruits behind a Gentleman whose first utterance as Chief Secretary in this House is an insult to Ireland and her representatives. I confess it is a humiliating position to be in. The right hon. Gentleman never would have made that declaration if he had known anything about what he was talking about. I deny both his statement and the statement of my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir M. Sykes) that Ireland has not done her duty in this War.
You had no claim upon us at the commencement of this War, none whatever. We had behind your rule for a hundred years, since you robbed us of our Parliament, a consistent and implacable reign of tyranny, of confiscation, of eviction, of emigration, and of wrong. That was in concrete the one great feature of your relationship with Ireland, and Ireland could have stood silently and sullenly aside if she had liked, and could have declined to associate herself with your fortunes when the great moment of trial arose for this Empire. But Ireland, touched with that spirit of human freedom and love of liberty, that anxiety to serve the cause of human justice which has burned in our souls even when our backs were flayed with the scorpions of tyranny—Ireland, instinct with passion for the cause of liberty, spoke through the voice of the late Mr. Redmond, and without bargain of any sort or kind offered a contribution of Ireland's loyalty to freedom in this War, and committed the Irish people to the policy of winning this War. Ireland was then the one bright spot. The right hon. Gentleman's speech to-day was a fine compliment to the one bright 149 spot at the commencement of the War. Why has Ireland become the one dark spot in the Empire? The Irish people were in favour of the War at the beginning. They rallied their manhood. The youth of the nation rushed to the flag of freedom with far greater enthusiasm than in the majority of counties in Great Britain. It was not they who changed.
I have a record here of the figures that followed the declaration of Mr. Redmond in the House of Commons. In the rest of Ireland in 1914 nearly 18,000 men were secured. In 1915, after Mr. Redmond and myself and many of my colleagues had addressed meetings in favour of the Allies in every county in Ireland—we who have brought about the present situation in Ireland, according to the new ruler of our country, when we were going about week after week, Sunday after Sunday, making-speeches and impressing upon our people all that was involved in this War—the recruiting went on progressively from 17,000 in 1914 to 27,000 in 1915, 11,000 in 1916, and 8,000 in 1917. Each year Ireland was giving this contribution to the War and giving it to a war in which this Empire was involved, and giving a far larger—I want this to be understood here—or as large a proportion as was given by Ulster. What are the figures? I put a question to the Under-Secretary for War last April and I have the figures before me. I find that while the total for Ulster was 58,000, of these 20,000 were Nationalists, which gives Ulster Unionists 38,000. The rest of Ireland got 65,000 and we allow for Unionists 10,000, leaving 55,000 for the Nationalists. Therefore, according to the figures given by the Under-Secretary for War, the Nationalists who had recruited up to that date numbered 75,000, while the total number of Unionists was 48,000. And yet it has become almost a commonplace saying upon platforms and in the Press of this country that Ulster has given everything and the rest of Ireland has given nothing. Instead of that, if you examine the figures, you will find that the rest of Ireland has given as large a number of recruits as Ulster has given.
The Leader of the Opposition the other day presided at a dinner given in honour of Mr. Burton, the Minister of Mines in South Africa, and if I remember rightly the speech of the right hon. Gentleman it was something to this effect: We are grateful for what South Africa has done in the War. We recognise that the con- 150 tribution of South Africa has been due to our contribution to the freedom of South Africa, and that we have won the magnificent support, not only of the British but of the Dutch population to our cause, because we have established representative government and have given self-governing institutions to South Africa. Surrounding the right hon. Gentleman, as president of that function, was the Secretary for the Colonies, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and a number of members of the hierarchy of Imperialism. Mr. Burton in reply quoted a statement of a wounded soldier whom he met before he left South Africa. He said this man prayed that he might be strong and capable enough to be able to leave South Africa and be able to come to France and Flanders and assist the Allies. The man said, "Why am I so anxious? Because I as a free citizen of South Africa owe it to the British Empire that has established free institutions in my country to repay that gift of liberty and fight for imperial greatness and freedom. I desire to get to France and Flanders." The Minister went on to say that the man's eyes brightened as he said, "I would not have raised one single hand for the Empire if the Empire had refused to establish in my country that freedom which South Africa now enjoys." Who cheered that statement? It was cheered by the Secretary for the Colonies, it was cheered by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who, I understand, has been one of the most active agents in destroying any prospects of a settlement of the Irish question. It is all very well to lay down these principles everywhere but in Ireland. This man declared that he would not raise a hand for the Empire if it were not for the liberty which the Empire had conferred upon South Africa. Ireland did not go so far as that. Ireland gave you a contribution of 130,000 men in the very early stages of the War, and she made no bargain. Then you tricked us and betrayed us and tried to destroy the constitutional movement.
I am not here to adjust the blame to the precise persons who are responsible, but I say, whether it was deliberate or whether it was designed, the whole policy of this Government since the Coalition was formed, has been the policy of weakening the constitutional party, of nullifying our influence, of preventing us from exercising that power which we formerly had in our hands of winning the 151 people to your side and of giving the country entirely over to those who hold more extreme views than we do and who believe that force is a remedy, although we have been trying to teach them for forty years that force is no remedy. They have come to the conclusion that force is a remedy. The right hon. Gentleman in his recruiting mission might take this suggestion from me. When he goes to the Sinn Feiners and the extremists and delivers addresses I suggest to him that his lectures should take this form—force is no remedy.
We have kept to constitutional methods, and when our conduct comes before the tribunal of the public, in my view, their judgment will be for us, and justice will be done. Our constitutional treatment of the question for the past three years has convinced and converted England to our cause at three General Elections. You may convince the Colonies. The great self-governing Colonies declared in their Parliaments that the blessings of self-government, which had so inspired the greatness of these great lands, should be conferred on Ireland. There is hardly one of the Congresses of the United States of America but has declared in our favour. We win here in this House by constitutional methods, and we carry through all its vicissitudes the Parliament Act both here and in the House of Lords; yet, after all this has been done by constitutional procedure, the Sinn Feiners say to us, "No matter how you win your cause, so long as the military in this country dominate public life here you will not get what you want." That is what has caused this trouble in Ireland to-day and roused passion and hatred in that country. The Chief Secretary for Ireland complained that he had nothing to reply to. That was his statement. We have put here a clear and definite proposal which we want to put into operation and which President Wilson has declared that the Allies are fighting for. Perhaps someone who follows the right hon. Gentleman will point out to the House of Commons and to Irish Members why, if you are fighting for land sustained by the will of the governed—that principle which is laid down by President Wilson and accepted by you-why is it that that principle is not to be put into operation here? I will tell you the reason. It is because you are doing the very thing that President Wilson declared is a fatal and false policy. You are trying to bring 152 about an accommodation, you are aiming at a balance of power, you are watching for a national opportunity, you are disposing of the great and fundamental foundations upon which liberty is based, you are making Ireland the plaything in all your party controversies, and you have neither courage nor statesmanship to rise above these things and to accept the principle laid down by President Wilson. Does the right hon. Gentleman invite or expect us to regard as sacrosanct a law which is not sustained by the will of the people? Before whose law are we expected to pour incense? Is it the law which regards dancing in villages as a penal offence? Is it the law that a man cannot talk common sense in Irish, but may talk treason in French, because I understand that at one of these Gaelic meetings an eminent Gaelic scholar was speaking in the Gaelic language when a policeman came up and told him that he could not speak in Irish, and this gentleman, having been closured, proceeded to use the most treasonable statements in French, and was allowed to go on! Is it the law which makes it treasonable to play Gaelic games, because it is said they are political? Is it the law which says it is treasonable to hold hurley matches? Is it the law which says it is treasonable to have Irish concerts, at which Irish songs are sung? Is it treasonable to meet in public meetings? How can you ask myself and my colleagues to assist in recruiting when, before I can come here and ask a question in the House of Commons, I have to ask you for a passport? Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that?
§ Mr. DEVLIN
No; to get back from England to Ireland. I look upon the right hon. Gentleman as a lawyer, but I object to his cheap legal distinctions. I notice that one of the functions of the Coalition Government is always, when there is some malignant policy to carry out, to get a good-natured lawyer to come into the House of Commons. I am afraid there has been a mistake this time, because there is nothing very sweet about 153 the right hon. Gentleman, inasmuch we have to apply for passports to get back to our own country from here.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
No; to the police. Is there a single country, dominated by a Central Power, where a Member of Parliament has to apply to a policeman for a passport? I am not allowed to address a meeting of my Constituents without the permission of the police. I would rather rot than ask a policeman for a pass to address my Constituents. It may be that this Parliament is becoming a laughing-stock, that all its freedom is disappearing, that it has become moribund, and that inch by inch and day by day the liberties of Britons are being taken from them by your rules and regulations, and all the rest of it, but you have no law in England under which you have to apply to the police for a pass to address your constituents. The right hon. Gentleman invites us to address recruiting meetings, but I object to having to apply to the police for permission. He asks us also to give him some instances of tyranny, and he talked about upholding the law. I have heard that pharisaical reference by Chief Secretaries during the seventeen years I have been a Member of this House; they have all talked about the law. What law? Is it the law of trial by jury that has been abrogated? Is it the law by which local tribunals are set up, not to try, but to convict Irish prisoners? Is it the law of military tribunals instead of civil Courts? Is it the law which refuses to allow Members of Parliament to speak the tilings they will before people without the leave of policemen, and that we must approach our constituents from the antechambers of the police barracks? Is it the law that football matches, athletic sports, Gaelic festivals, Irish concerts, are to be held only if the local police and military permit? Finally, we were taunted by the Prime Minister from that bench that we did not speak our own language. That challenge was taken up by Irishmen in their own country, and they held great Gaelic meetings for the promotion of their own language, but they were not allowed to speak it from platforms in that country. There is only one law which I recognise, the only one that any man of any courage would recognise, and that is the law which is made for the people by the people—the law, as President Wilson said, which is sustained by the consent of the governed.
154 8.0 P.M.
Then take the Press. A censorship has been set up in Ireland by which only those portions of speeches and declarations and writings can be published that the Government choose to allow, and the whole system of freedom and constitutionalism in every shape and form has been abrogated; yet the right hon. Gentleman says that he does not know what we have to complain of. What we complain of is this: You have had two courses to adopt. One of them was to govern Ireland by force or govern her by reason—by the consent of the governed. You have adopted a policy of force. I could quite understand the right hon. Gentleman saying, "We have divorced ourselves from Ireland; we are treating her worse than a Crown Colony; we have stamped out her liberties, but we ask nothing from her." Was there ever a policy like this? The right hon. Gentleman invites us to go over to Ireland to get recruits for the purpose of fighting for the freedom of Serbia, of Roumania, and of Belgium. We are asked to get recruits to fight for the freedom of those nations that are far distant, yet our people in Ireland are refused liberty. All I can say is that the right hon. Gentleman has not any sense of humour, or he would never have put forward a proposal of that kind. You need not think that people in Ireland will do anything which in their conscience and hearts they think they ought not to do. You were getting 1,200 recruits a month in Ireland before this ridiculous policy was launched, and now you are getting forty a month. If you want men to fight your battles, get them by establishing in Ireland a system of government broad-based upon the people's will; you can get them in hundreds by entrusting recruiting to the agents of an Irish Parliament and through the operations of men returned to that Parliament. If you want men you must go another way about it. What you are doing is to camouflage Home Rule. If we remain patient we will get Home Rule in some far-away future, after the liberties of the countries for which we are asked to fight have been established, and if we do that you say, "Well, perhaps some time or other you will be capable of governing yourselves, and you will get something." That is the stage we have reached now after forty years' fighting for freedom! And if you got any value for all this, one could see the force of it, but you have aroused bitter passions. You have created racial 155 hates. The union and goodwill that existed between the two democracies have been broken. There is no one who has fought for happier relationships between the peoples who does not feel saddened at the tragic termination of the splendid work for democratic union that has been carried on during the last twenty-five years. For our part, we are convinced that the right hon. Gentleman will no more succeed than his predecessor succeeded. He thinks that the establishment of law and order in Ireland means the stamping out of the national spirit. That is what he means by law and order. Everyone is in favour of law and everyone is anxious to preserve order, but everyone also will fight to the bitter end against any attempt to stamp out the national spirit which has been a beacon light that has guided fighters and patriots to labour, and even to die, for those principles which, once established, would secure for you our friendship and goodwill.
We are now near the end of the Session, and the Irish cause is perhaps in a worse condition than it has been at any time, for you as well as for us. It may satisfy you to weaken, and even destroy, the constitutional party in this House, to destroy the constitutional movement in Ireland. That might be all very well, and you might be perfectly satisfied if things went in the future as they have gone in the past, if society would move normally just as it has done for the last fifteen or twenty years. But there will be great changes. You might have in Ireland an ally of sane government, and in all those great and co-operative efforts for the creation of a stable society in face of the discontent that will spring up in this country after the War. You will have trouble enough of your own in Great Britain. You want to have continued discontent and bad blood in Ireland. Well, you may have it, but I think that there are persons in this House who will come yet to realise that the greatest blunder that has ever been made by this or any other Government was to insult Ireland as she is insulted to-day, to traduce her public men, to hand over the destinies of the nation on the one hand to a military Government. The right hon. Gentleman may occupy a position of greater honour and perhaps greater security in the future, but the evils of his administration will be felt not only in Ireland but throughout the world.
§ Mr. FARRELL
I listened to the speech of the Chief Secretary with a strong feeling of anger and resentment, because of all the speeches that were ever delivered on the Irish question the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was the greatest outrage that was ever offered to Irish feeling in this House, and it came all the more hard on us by reason of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is a Liberal who voted, I believe, in this House for Home Rule, and during the passage of the Conscription Bill voted at least on one occasion against its application to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman sought to prove that the troubles which have arisen in Ireland as a result of the progress of Sinn Fein were not due to his Government or to the provocation given by its acts to misguided people in that country, but were due entirely to members of our party. A more monstrous or grotesque charge was never made by a responsible Minister. To endeavour to saddle the Irish party with responsibility for the growth of Sinn Fein is like stamping the right hon. Gentleman as a Tory while he professes to be a Liberal. I was present in this House four years ago when a former Foreign Secretary, a very able man (Lord Grey of Falloden), delivered his famous speech announcing the war policy of the Government. I well remember the occasion The right hon. Gentleman congratulated Ireland as being the one bright spot in the Empire, and the overtures which he made were accepted by the then Leader of the Irish party (Mr. John Redmond), and were put in force by him as far as one man could do it.
I do not think that, prejudiced as the right hon. Gentleman seems to be against the present Irish party, he will deny that Mr. Redmond did all that a man could do to give effect to friendly relations between Ireland and England, and to bring the Irish people to the side of the English people in the greatest struggle that ever lay before it. He took his political life in his hands, and he sacrificed his life, for I believe that the thing which sent John Redmond to his unexpected death was the shocking treatment which he received from the British Government. We know that from the very start his efforts were thwarted by the then War Minister, Lord Kitchener, who scarcely received his visit through courtesy, and certainly accepted none of his advice. We know that everything he 157 did to make recruiting popular in Ireland and to bring in the people of that country in large numbers on the side of the British Government was thwarted and upset by the Government and the War Office. It was almost two years before he succeeded in getting a division called the Irish Division formed. The word "Irish" seemed to be objected to by the autocrats in the War Office, and everything that could be done to obstruct Mr. Redmond in his policy of reconciliation was done until it finally broke his heart, and, as I believe, his death can be laid as much to the door of the British War Office and the British Government as if they had had him executed publicly for some crime. I have been a Member for this House now for twenty-three years, but I must say that, as time goes on, the longer I am here the more I despair of any practical result from our efforts in this House. That may seem to some to be a sort of confession of Sinn Feinism, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am not a Sinn Feiner. I am not a sympathiser with Sinn Fein. In my own county and in my own district I have fought it as strongly as any one man could do, not because of my belief that there was not a great deal of excuse to be made for these young men who professed it, and that they could not put forward a good case for their actions, but because of the fact, as I believe, that they were being used as a tool by the British Government for the destruction of the constitutional movement.
I was here during the years of the Tory Governments from 1895 to 1900, and from 1900 to 1906. I saw the benches of this Chamber crowded with exultant Tories after the General Election of 1895. The Liberals were squashed, they were sneered at and jeered at from the benches opposite, and the men on whom they depended to fight for them and advocate the democratic cause in this Chamber were the now despised and contemned Irish party. I wonder was the right hon. Gentleman a Member of Parliament at that time? I do not know. I was here again from 1900 to 1905, when on the false telegram of Lord Roberts that the Boer War was over the Queen dissolved Parliament, and the Tories again came back with a large majority, and I remember in those days the poor fight which the Liberal party put up, and the men on whom they relied then and who did not fail them in their hour of trial was the party which the right 158 hon. Gentleman has insulted this evening. Then the Liberal party came in. It was the defeat inflicted on the Tories in 1905 by the Irish party that led to the subsequent decision of the then Prime Minister, now the Foreign Secretary, to advise the Dissolution of Parliament, Then the Liberals came in with a large majority of 300. There we were with Tories in and with Liberals in pleading our cause on these benches, making the best case we could, explaining the grievances from which our country suffered, and a deaf car was turned to all our attempts to obtain justice. Is it any wonder that Ireland should be soured and disappointed? You talk of going on a recruiting campaign. How could you expect the people who no longer take their views second-hand, but read the daily and the weekly Press themselves, people treated as they have been, to regard any appeal made to them by this Government after such treatment?
On the subject of Home Rule I have only this to say: The Home Rule Bill which is on the Statute Book was, in my opinion, far from being a satisfactory measure. I said so at the time to my own Constituents. But I looked upon it as a beginning of something better to come. But small and paltry as that measure was, watered down in every conceivable way to please the Orange Members in this House, you would not trust us with it, but when you got an excuse you hung it up, and it has hung up ever since, and I suppose will remain hung up. If the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends were sincere on this question of Home Rule, why not at least make an attempt to put into operation part of the Act which is on the Statute Book? Last April the Prime Minister came to this House to help to apply the Man-Power Bill to Ireland. He said it would be inconceivable to ask the Irish people to send their men into the Army under the Man-Power Bill and not at the same time to make them a fair and reasonable offer of Home Rule in return. He pledged the Government, as far as human language could do, that Conscription was not to be put into operation in Ireland until a Home Rule Act was put into operation for that country. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars in his place. He will remember his speech on that occasion. I do not think it is a pleasant remembrance for him now. When we know what has happened I do not think it can be, but I did not get up 159 for the purpose of taunting him with not carrying out anything he then said. He is perfectly honest and fair, but he, like ourselves in this connection, is a victim of larger circumstances over which he has no control. The right hon. Gentleman said—and I think the Prime Minister said or took the view—that if they were not able to do what they had said and give a Home Rule Bill to Ireland the Government would resign or a particular individual Minister would resign. But they have neither given us Home Rule nor have they resigned, nor has any Member of the Government resigned—at least, willingly—as far as I know. The Chief Secretary quoted a number of speeches from the hon. Member for East Mayo, and against him. As man to man, was that fair? Does not every word which the hon. Member for East Mayo used stand to his credit in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman? Did not the hon. Member for East Mayo make the strongest case he could for you, at the very time you wanted it? Yet you score a petty point off him like that! The right hon. Gentleman now quotes the speeches of the hon. Member for East Mayo as if they had been meant the other way. I do not think that is a fair argument.
The right hon. Gentleman has inaugurated his reign in Ireland by the revival of coercion. We have had coercion from Liberal and from Tory Chief Secretaries, and it broke each and every one of them who touched it, politically and physically, in the end. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forster)—this will be within the recollection of the Vice-President of the Department—was a great coercionist in this House. The Right Hon.George Wyndham tried coercion; it led to his political death, and, I am sorry to say, to his physical death. I believe he never survived it. I tell the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that he is not going to make a success of his administration by starting with coercion. He may say, "Oh, but it is only a trifle, a little part, that we are imposing." Yes, but who imposes it—how is it done now? Formerly it was done solely through the police, now there is an adjunct to the force which will impose it, namely, the military. I may say, in passing, that some of these military officers make the very most of their opportunity to insult and degrade the people with whom they come into contact. I was amused in listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, 160 Hanover Square, who moved the Amendment. He told us that Ireland was absolutely free and equal with every other part of the British Empire. He told us that we suffered from no grievance at all, that we never had, and that ever since the Union was passed we had been in a kind of elysium, enjoying all the grand things as well as the British and Scotch. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman shows he knows nothing at all of the history of Ireland when he talks like that, and he betrays his ignorance in a very great degree. If he would only go back, even within the lifetime of this present generation, he would find many things in which Ireland was not equal in the matter of treatment with England, Scotland and Wales. He says that we sit here with equal privileges and powers with the other representatives of the country. Well, we are seventy-three Members in this House as against 600 others, and will any hon. Gentleman argue with me that seventy-three can overbear 600 in the Division Lobby, or in argument in this House, considering the manner in which decisions have been recently given effect to.
But I noticed one point in the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and that was that he carefully avoided the question of Conscription as it affected the country from which he came. He was at one time, I believe, Prime Minister of Australia, or of some Colony in Australia, I do not know exactly where, but he carefully avoided telling the House that, on a free referendum to the people of Australia on two occasions, conscription for Australia was rejected by a large majority. You gave no referendum for Ireland; you gave us no choice in the matter. You would not accept the advice of your own Irish Cabinet, of your own Lord Lieutenant, or of your own Chief Secretary, who is now Lord Justice Duke. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Department, would not on agricultural grounds have advised you to do what you did, namely, to apply the Man-Power Bill to Ireland. You disregarded our advice, of course, at once. You applied the Bill, and now we see the result. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is endeavouring to find a way out. I agree with the hon. Member for West Belfast, that it is mere camouflage on the part of the Chief Secretary and on the part of the Government. They wanted an excuse to kill Home Rule, and they coupled it with Conscription, believing that that was the 161 way out for them. There is an end of all things in this world no matter how long they exist, and the end of your power is coming. You are about to dissolve Parliament in a few months, and to go to the country. I say to you, beware of the result. It will not be as pleasant for you as you think it will. I do not anticipate, of course, that it will be very pleasant for us either, but I am quite sure it will not have the result that the Prime Minister anticipates, of returning him with a majority somewhat like Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had in 1906. You have introduced a new element into the electorate—a more democratic element—and be careful of the result when you come to the polls. For my part, as one who has served in this House for twenty-three years, who has seen the fruitlessness of our efforts here, and who has seen argument, reason, and justice borne down every time it suited you, I cannot be sorry for your fate, whatever it be.
The mistake of the position you assume is this: you apply rigid British rule to Irish sentiment where it suits you, and you apply a different policy in other cases where it suits you. When it suited the Government in 1914—it was a Liberal Government—Lord Grey of Falloden came down, and at the Box told us that Ireland was the one bright spot in the British Empire. That was four years ago. When it suited the right hon. Gentleman he came down and told us that Ireland was the one black spot. That was in 1918. He was forgetful of the fact, whether wilfully or not I do not know, that the responsibility for everything that has happened lies at the door of the Government of which he is now a member, who set themselves deliberately, it seems to me, to thwart and obstruct the efforts of the Constitutional party in Ireland. Let them beware lest, in doing what they have done, it may be said, as of the American Revolution, that they have sown a crop the fruits of which will be sorry in the reaping. They have now brought about a state of feeling in Ireland which will continue for long. Mind you, the Irish have long memories, do not forget that; they can cherish a grievance as long as any nation on the face of the earth. You talk about the Jugo-Slavs and the other nations of Europe, the small nationalities that you are fighting to free, but to the one that is at your own door you will not give the simplest measure of freedom. I am sorry to trouble you in the last speech 162 I shall ever make in this House, but I am compelled to close in this vein. I do not expect to return to this House. Personally I shall do my best to do so, but I do not expect to, and I say that the fault is yours. The state of feeling you have created in Ireland has created a situation which does not make the prospect too hopeful, and I am sorry therefore that this is probably the last occasion on which I shall address the House of Commons, but whether it be the last or not, I advise the right hon Gentleman before it is too late to retrace his steps, not to be guided by the permanent officials of Dublin Castle, not to take his advice from the entrenched forces of ascendancy-ism in that den of iniquity, but to have more regard to the opinions of the Irish Members expressed in this House. I sincerely hope and trust that before the Debate closes we will still have from another member of the Government some declaration that will lift the present black cloud that lies over our country.
§ Mr. P. MEEHAN
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary places the blame and the responsibility for the condition of Ireland on the Members who sit on these benches. I say that the responsibility for the condition of Ireland and for any trouble that exists there at present lies jointly between the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Dublin University and the Government. The eggs of anarchy and disorder were produced by the senior Member for Dublin University and were hatched in the Government incubator. Anybody who was in this House in 1914, after the Home Rule Bill had passed through its various stages and become an Act, and when this War had broken out, knew the attitude that the Members on these benches took. They knew that we were a constitutional party, and that our supporters in Ireland were bound to adopt, and had adopted, constitutional means and methods. We pledged ourselves, and our Leader pledged us, to support the Allies in the War unconditionally, and, on the other hand, we find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, although pledged to support the Allies in the War, did not give his support altogether unconditionally, because there was the reservation that as soon as the War was finished he would use the arms which he had illegally imported from Germany to resist the application of an Act of the Imperial Parliament to Ireland. 163 What was his reward? He was received into the Government, and his Friends were placed on the Irish Executive. What was the Government treatment of us? As a result of it we have been practically alienated from our people in Ireland, and is there any wonder, when we compare the treatment of the two different sections from Ireland, that the people in the South end West of Ireland are embittered and full of rancour and resentment? Let us examine how the administration is different in Ireland to-day. I say to the Chief Secretary that it is carried out in a one-sided and a partial manner, and in such a way that many thinking people in Ireland believe that it is the policy of the Government to goad the people either into secret crime or open violence, as otherwise there would be no reason why many of these petty and vexatious restrictions should be placed upon us.
Let us take an example. The other day, in the constituency that I represent, in a small village in the Queen's County, a county of which at the last Assizes, held about a month ago, the judge stated it was perfectly free from crime and any disorder, a group of men, on Sunday last, assembled on the village green to play a simple game of cards, and the police-sergeant came out and dispersed them as an illegal assembly. What is the other side of the question? The men from the North of Ireland, who import arms for the purpose of armed rebellion and to resist the enactments of this Parliament, are allowed to hold their arms while in a quiet village in Queen's County an innocent game of "Twenty-five" is looked on as a dangerous practice. If the Government do intend, and I do not think they seriously intend, to take the arms from the Ulster Volunteers, I think they should send a military authority there oh whom they can rely to seek out those arms and to take them from the Volunteers. At present I find that the competent military authority in Ulster is Brigadier-General Hacket Pain. He is one of the chief staff officers of the Ulster Volunteers, and in his hands, in conjunction with the police, will be placed the duty of taking the arms from the Volunteers, if the Government mean to do so seriously. Does anyone here think that a man in the position of General Hacket Pain, who is himself on the staff of the Ulster Volunteers, is a proper person to whom the duty of taking up these arms should 164 be delegated? We in the South of Ireland do not believe so, and when we look and see that such a man has the duty put upon him we certainly have no confidence that he will carry out that duty as it ought to be carried out. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has not been treating us very fairly with regard to the question of the arms in Ulster. He said, in reply to a question of mine on Thursday last, that the Ulster Volunteers had been asked to give up their arms, and to-day I asked the following question:To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland if he will state what reply was given by the leaders of the Ulster Volunteers to the request by the Government for the surrender of the arms and ammunition held by the Volunteers; if he can state whether the Ulster Provisional Government formed by the leaders of the Ulster Volunteers is still in existence; and, if so, whether it is the intention of the Government to proclaim this body as an illegal and dangerous association?The right hon. Gentleman completely ignored the first part of the question, as to what reply was given by the leader of the Ulster Volunteers, and I assert here that the reply which was given was that under no conditions would they give up their arms, and, if that was not the reply, why should the right hon. Gentleman fear to give an answer to-day or on Thursday last to my question? I say that that was the reply, and if you look back at the various speeches made by the leader of the Ulster Volunteers, the senior Member for Dublin University, one of which was quoted to-day by the hon. Member for East Mayo, you will see that that is so. I will give a further quotation from an address to a battalion of the West Belfast Regiment. This is what he said:And now, men, keep your arms, no matter what happens. I rely upon every man to fight for his arms to the end. Let no man take them from you. I do not care who they be or under what authority they come, I tell you, 'Stick to your arms.'That is his advice to his men, and I say he is of the same opinion to-day, and I say he has given a similar answer to the Irish Executive Government when the arms were demanded from them. Under these circumstances, I further asked the question as to whether it was the intention of the Government to proclaim this Provisional Government as a dangerous and an illegal association? In his reply to me to-day, the Chief Secretary admits that the Ulster Provisional Government is still in existence. Now, what was it formed for? It was formed to take over the government of the Northern portion 165 of Ireland in the event of this Act of the Imperial Parliament being applied to Ireland. It is a rebel Government. According to his own admission, it is still in existence. I further asked him whether it was the intention to proclaim it as a dangerous and an illegal association, and there was no answer to that. He has told us to-day in his speech that it was necessary for the better order of Ireland to proclaim certain associations as dangerous and illegal, and I ask this House, Is a Council or a Provisional Government, that has been formed with the avowed object of carrying on rebellion, that is supported by a Volunteer force, that will not give up its arms, a dangerous and an illegal association? Is it any wonder that the people of Ireland, seeing the manner in which the South has been treated, and the manner in which the Government have dealt with this Provisional Government and the Ulster Volunteer body, do not regard the administration as being in any way impartial, but, on the contrary, one-sided and unjust?
We heard a lot to-day about German plots in Ireland, but the Chief Secretary did not tell us anything of the first German plot in Ireland—the original German plot in Ireland, the plot that probably put into the heads of others in Ireland the idea of seeking support from Germany in the event of their undertaking any physical force movement, and it is undeniable that this plot has existed. It existed before the War broke out, and, if there is any doubt about the matter, I should like to give this quotation from the "Irish Churchman" in 1913:It may not be known to the rank and file of Unionists that we have the offer of aid from a powerful Continental monarch, who, if Home Rule is forced on the Protestants in Ireland, is prepared to send an army sufficient to release England of any further trouble in Ireland by attaching it to his dominion, believing, as he does, that if our King breaks his Coronation oath by signing the Home Rule Bill he will, by so doing, have forfeited his claim to rule Ireland. And should our King sign the Home Rule Bill, the Protestants of Ireland will welcome this Continental deliverer, as their forefathers, under similar circumstances, did once before.Who is this Continental deliverer? Another quotation will show, and that is the quotation from a speech of Major Crawford, who assisted in landing arms in Ireland. He said:If we are put out of the Union, I would infinitely prefer to change my allegiance right over to the Emperor of Germany or anyone else who has a proper form of government.166 That is the German plot. We heard nothing about the first German plot in Ireland, which was a very serious one. The Chief Secretary endeavoured to give some colour to the idea of a German plot, but I do not think he convinced anybody in this House of the existence of his own alleged plot of which we have heard so much lately in the papers. His attitude, I think, was most unfair. He painted a picture of the military system in existence in the South of Ireland. He told the House how military officers, who had examined the system, had said it was perfect in every detail, and that there were the various military weapons available for these men, but he never said a word about the military situation in Ulster. He never said a word about the Volunteers. He refused, as a matter of fact, to-day to give any information as to what their action was, or as to what their future action would be. I merely say, in conclusion, that we in Ireland believe and assert that the present administration has been carried on, not in a fair and a straight manner towards us Nationalists, and that the Ulstermen in the North, who still retain their arms for the purpose of preventing the application of the principles of President Wilson to Ireland—principles that have been adopted by the Government—are still the favoured and the petted familiars of the Government.
§ Mr. J. O'CONNOR
If any evidence were wanted of the receding position of the Irish cause, the appearance of the House at the present moment would supply that want, because not only are the benches opposite denuded of their usual occupants, but the Government Bench is sadly wanting in those who ought to represent it on an important occasion like the present. At a very early stage in the discussion the Prime Minister left the House, although I think many Members from Ireland had hoped that he would give the benefit of his views to the House on the subject of the occasion, and stated, to the satisfaction of Irish Members, what his intentions were for the immediate future of the cause of Ireland. I have listened to the effective appeal—the almost pathetic, and certainly eloquent appeal—of the late Prime Minister the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, when he called upon the Government to state what they intended to do. Having reviewed the situation for the past few years in a most interesting and 167 historical manner, he came down to the logical and final point which always must be reached—what are you going to do? We had the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister: What is his answer to that very pertinent question? He has just left. So far as he is concerned this Irish question and this important Motion has no interest for him. The right hon. and learned Gentleman whose name has been so frequently mentioned, namely, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, has also left his usual place and evidently does not intend to reply.
The Irish Government is represented by one whom we have all learnt to respect, the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture. I am quite certain that he is not going to stand up and defend the policy of the present administration of affairs in Ireland. The Government is also represented by the Labour Member of the War Cabinet, who has good right and reason to be here this evening, because he made an important statement with which he has been confronted here to-night. I do not suppose he will stand up or accept the challenge which has been thrown down to him by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sligo to say what is going to be his conduct in the future, having regard to the important statement that he made in the recent past, namely, that if a Bill giving effect to the Home Rule measures of 1914 was not produced, the Government would resign. He made that important statement, fortified as has been pointed out, on one side by the Prime Minister, and on the other side by the Leader of the House. When the Prime Minister was asked to endorse what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars he turned round and nodded his head, and when further challenged to endorse what was said he replied: "Certainly I do." Where is the Bill giving a live Home Rule measure, as a war measure? The Bill has not been produced.
Where is the Government. They are still in office, and the right hon. Gentleman sits opposite to represent them. I repeat the challenge uttered by my hon. Friend the Member for Sligo: Will the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars stand up and explain the extraordinary situation? I want to speak as to the conduct of the Chief Secretary this evening. I was rather sorry when he took 168 office. I have had the honour of knowing him for a long time. I have seen him in the practice of his profession at the Bar, and I have learnt to respect him as an honest man. I was sorry to see him go into a position which has been the grave of so many honest men. I could not help saying, "another good man gone wrong." If I wanted any evidence of that I should find it in his speech this evening. Oh, but his perversion has been rapid! Rapid to a most extraordinary degree! I have seen in the last thirty years in this House a succession of Chief Secretaries. From time to time I have seen them all struggling with adversity, sometimes struggling with their own opinions, struggling sometimes for a short time and sometimes for a long time against the perversity of Dublin Castle. But I have never in the whole course of my experience seen such a rapid perversion as that of the right hon. Gentleman who now holds office. His speech to-night might have been heard any time, say over the last twenty or thirty years.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Yes; during the period of coercion. We heard then similar speeches, the same in tone, the same in character, the same excuses, the same language, and the same basis of argument—which is no argument. We heard that all twenty, twenty-five, and thirty years ago. We have heard it back up every system of coercion that human ingenuity could devise to destroy the cause of the Irish people and to defeat their claim for self-government; to justify every severe measure of oppression passed by this House of Commons in recent years. His extraordinary speech was not, I must say, too severely handled by my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast. He said that it conveyed an insult to the Members of this House from Ireland. I think it did. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might not have meant it, but it was a most maladroit speech, and I think he will be sorry for it when he reads it to-morrow in the OFFICIAL REPORT. It was one that might have been expected from a man of little experience. I was surprised to hear it from a man of large practice in the Courts of law, who has been sitting in this House now for some years, and who, if not very active in the line of oratory himself, has, at all events, had the 169 opportunity of listening to the masters of oratory who sit beneath and in front of him in this House.
We were asked by the Chief Secretary in his speech what had we to complain of? Why did not he rise to the occasion? He dwelt upon the most finnicking parts of the Irish question. Why did he not handle it in a great manner? Why did he not look upon the opening sentences of the Motion we are now discussing? What is the opening sentence? If I may go back to my first observations, I find that he, too, has followed the example of the Prime Minister, and has departed from the House—I suppose for the very best of reasons—but we shall forgive him for it. May I draw his attention to the first sentence in this Resolution—That this policy pursued towards Ireland by His Majesty's Government is inconsistent with the great principles for the vindication of which the Allied Powers are carrying on the War.What could be plainer than that? Then, he asks us: What have we to complain of? We have to complain of that which is admirably expressed in the terms of the Motion. That the policy pursued towards Ireland by His Majesty's Government is inconsistent with certain principles there stated. That policy is inconsistent with those principles, and with the policy, and has long continued so. We have often heard it said by old Members of this House that they regret very much that the English nation did not rise to the invitation of Mr. Gladstone in 1886 and pass then a just measure to confer upon the Irish people a measure of self-government. Those old Members constantly express regret to me that the Irish nation did not rise to that invitation, because, they say, Ireland to-day, instead of being a thorn in the side of England, instead of being her broken right arm, would have been her best Ally, friend, and her strongest aid, and it would need no special measure of Parliament or coercion to call upon them to take up the sword and the gun, and to march with the other members of the Empire in this war that afflicts us to-day. I never will forget the noble efforts of Mr. Gladstone on that occasion. I always think how wise a man he was, but I always think how foolish the nation of England and Great Britain was in not accepting that invitation. That was in 1886.
What have we to complain of says the Chief Secretary for Ireland? We have to complain that Home Rule for Ireland has been dangled before the people from that 170 time to this, and always our hopes have been excited but doomed to disappointment. Again, in 1886 and 1893 the cup was held to the lips of Ireland only to be dashed from her, and again she was disappointed. I cannot distribute the blame for these things because the whole nation of England must be indicted for that miscarriage of justice. It will be remembered that after the House of Commons had failed to carry in 1886 the measure proposed by Mr. Gladstone, he went to the country and met with an absolute debacle. He was thrown out of office and remained out for some years. In 1893 Home Rule was again proposed for Ireland and defeated by the House of Lords, and there was an appeal to the country in 1895, and again Home Rule was defeated. The nation, so far as it could, and this is the only way it can, condemned Mr. Gladstone each time, therefore the whole nation of Great Britain must be indicted for this failure to do justice to the Irish cause. The whole English nation associated herself with the crime of delaying this admitted justice to Ireland.
I would ask the House of Commons if hon. Members were only present and the English people not to be impatient with the Irish people who suffered this disappointment. I would ask the English nation to look into its own mind and there find in their own conduct towards Ireland the true reason for the present position. There is such a thing as human nature, and Irishmen have a good deal of it, and they are very likely to suffer from the sickness of heart that arises from hopes deferred. However, the Irish people clung to that hope, but all hope was lost. The Liberal party, great and strong as they still were, stood to the Gladstonian tradition, and we find as late of 1908 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) using these words, as words of warning to the House of Commons of that day. He was addressing the House of Commons on a Motion made by my late leader, Mr. John Redmond, and the right hon. Gentleman said:Who will stand up in this House and say that that settlement of the Irish question can be delayed. Is there ought in the condition of the British Empire to warrant delay? Well, delay there was. The ancient prejudices still prevailed; the ancient prejudices of many of the English people prevailed to the selfish affectation of a certain faction in Ireland, and therefore there was delay which kept back the cause 171 of Irish. Government reform, and they must all bear a share of the blame for delaying this act of justice.When at last it was seriously taken up, what had to be done? the ancient Constitution of this country had to be torn up. One branch of the Legislature had to be emasculated and made impotent in order to take from it power to prevent this and other just causes from receiving legislative expression, and at last Irishmen began to think that all this meant business. Hopes were excited, but they were again blasted. Why? This time, for a very serious reason, to pander to a pampered minority of super-Irishmen in their own estimation who are allowed to invoke the spirit of rebellion, and do it with impunity. The Act of Parliament which was passed into law after the violence that was done to the Constitution that I have pointed out, was hung up at the instance of these very people to whom I refer, and who have been referred to so frequently to-night, for the very same reason because this pampered section of the Irish people threatened rebellion. Therefore, in order to pander to them the hopes of the Irish people had to be again suspended. But of all these exhibitions of bad faith the worst of all is to come, and it has relation to the effort that was made in the year 1916, in order to carry forward this measure. It was the worst example of the misused opportunities which this House and the Government of Great Britain have missed to settle this question.
The Prime Minister of that day after the Easter rebellion came back and said it was a great opportunity for settling the Irish question. He declared that the Castle system had broken down and he said the Government had decided upon asking the right hon. Gentleman who was then the Minister for Munitions and who afterwards became the Minister for War, to take the matter in hand and try and reconcile the differences that existed between Irishmen at that time. That was a great opportunity. This question had ben taken in hand by a master mind, a man who had been accustomed to allay differences and disputes between various classes of the community. That was a favourable opportunity. A strong feeling had been created in England. I can vouch for it that all through England there was very little opposition to the cause of Irish Home Rule in the year 1916. I claim, and it has been referred to 172 frequently this evening by the Mover of the Motion and other speakers, that the speech made by Mr. Redmond from his place in this House in 1914 absolved the last serious opposition on the part of the English people to Home Rule for Ireland. I have many opportunities of meeting men commercially and professionally in the City of London and in other parts of Great Britain, and I can say from my experience that I marvel at the effect of that speech. I met men in the City of London who declared to me that they had voted against Home Rule all their lives, but that never again would they cast a vote against the rights of the Irish people.
That was the case in 1916. There was a favourable atmosphere both in this country and in Ireland for the settlement of the question. Recall for a moment that the late Mr. Redmond risked his popularity by going to the Irish people and recommending the measure. Be it also remembered that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) went to the North of Ireland and recommended the acceptance of the measure, as he stated in the speech that he made afterwards, with a sad and a sore heart. Those were his own words. The proposals of the Government were accepted in Ireland. There was no opposition to them in England or in Great Britain. What, then, was the cause of their defeat? There never was a more favourable opportunity. That fact was dwelt upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) in his eloquent speech this evening. There never was a more favourable opportunity. Then why were not these proposals given effect? They were introduced as a war measure. They were actually designed as a war measure in order, it was stated, to more effectively carry on the War. Then why were they not put into operation? Ask Lord Lansdowne, ask the Orange faction in the Cabinet and out of it—these men who give lip-service to the Empire, but who on every critical occasion prefer their own selflish ascendancy to the nation's welfare. They are not sincere in their expressions of loyalty to the Empire.
And what a shabby reason was given for the change of mind with regard to the proposals. I will not weary the House by reading the proposals, but they were altered by the Cabinet at the instance of these lip-servants. They were altered at the instance of Lord Lansdowne and 173 those who follow him. They were altered in the most material particulars at the instance of this Orange faction in the Cabinet and out of it. What do you think was the reason? Because it was suggested in the original proposals that the Irish Members until a final settlement had been made should remain here in full force. On that rock, as well upon another, they split. It was stated in this House that if the proposals were carried out as agreed it would make all the difference between a Liberal and a Conservative Government. That was why the project was ruined after the light hon. Gentleman who was then Minister of War and who is now Prime Minister had given up his duties on the eve of a great battle and had striven hard, with the aid of the late Mr. Redmond and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University, to get the proposals adopted. It was all set aside because some persons preferred this to winning the War Thus the fairest prospects were closed to Ireland, and hopes that seemed almost realised were blighted. Once more Ireland was thrown into despondency and despair, and I may add the last shred of confidence that we had in Great Britain was blown to the winds. Now we come to the last phase, the Convention. And surely we set out upon the Convention with very fine words indeed! In May the Prime Minister said in this House:The Government have therefore decided to invite Irishmen to put forward their own proposals for the government of Ireland. We propose that Ireland should try her own hand at hammering out an instrument of government for her own people. The experiment has succeeded in other parts of the British Empire. It has succeeded in Canada. It has succeeded in South Africa. What has been accomplished in South Africa, in Australia, and in Canada, I cannot help believing, is achievable in Ireland."—And much more to the same effect—If substantial agreement should be reached as to the character and scope of the Constitution….the Government will accept the responsibility of taking all the necessary steps to invite the Imperial Parliament to give legislative effect to the conclusion of the Convention. A settlement in our judgment will materially help the successful conclusion of the War.That is the point that we have reached, and that is the point that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) rose in his place to satisfy on the occasion referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Scanlan) a little while ago. He challenged him to make good his words on that occasion. As I stated in my open- 174 ing remarks, the Prime Minister endorsed what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars Division. When he was challenged and asked whether he would resign if the Bill were not carried, he turned round to his supporters and said, "Yes, certainly." Very well, where is the Bill? That is what we want to know. Why are we again disappointed? The Convention has reported to the Government. We have members of the Convention sitting upon these benches, and they will tell you, if they get the opportunity, that the Convention was no failure. The Convention came to a unanimous conclusion upon one constitution, and it was signed by the Chairman and by the Secretary for all the members of the Convention. There is at least one Report which is not divergent from any other Report, and upon which all were agreed. Why is not effect given to the Report of the Convention? The Prime Minister, when he found that there were differences of opinion in the Convention, wrote a letter to the Chairman, and he stated that no matter what happened, in any event, whether the Convention agreed or not, the Government were determined to produce a measure of self-government. We demand that measure of self-government here to-night. Where is it? It is not produced. The effort to pass it has not been made. The condition that would call for the retirement of the Government has been wilfully avoided. Therefore, when the Chief Secretary asked us, in his callow speech to-night, what complaints we have to make, I say that is our complaint which is expressed in the first sentence of the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo. The Chief Secretary could not rise to that occasion. He has not read with the eyes of a statesman the words of the Motion, or he would not have made the finicky and callow speech which he did. We complain that disappointment after disappointment has been the lot of the Irish people for the past three or four years while this Government has been in power.
I have completed the tragic series of misused opportunities to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife referred in his speech outside this House. I have shown by this historical series of disappointments what has been the lot of the Irish people with regard to the Government, and the broken faith that has always been their lot. But that is not all. It is 175 not only that we have to complain of this tragic series of misused opportunities and broken faith, but we have to complain of the return to the old system of coercion. I do not need to dwell upon that coercion, because it has been ably treated by my colleagues on these benches. But what I want to refer to before I sit down is the lamentable state of things that now exists as between Ireland and Great Britain. We came to this House thirty to forty years ago as a party, determined to appeal to our own people and to the English people to settle the long-standing grievances of Ireland, and to bring about an agreement between the people of Great Britain and Ireland based upon the foundation of friendship. That is no longer possible, and that is what I regret. I, and men like me, who have trod upon English platforms for the last thirty years and appealed to the best instincts of the English people have lived in vain. We have laboured in vain. The good feeling that was established between the two countries and that was the basis of the measures I have enumerated, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University endeavoured to ruin—the good feeling that we created is no more. The good feeling I referred to a little while ago as following upon the speech of the late Mr. John Redmond has gone. The persons to whom I referred, I am afraid, have gone back from the friendship they have expressed to the Irish cause. We are not to blame. We put the blame upon the Government. Their administration of affairs in Ireland, and their constant disappointment of the Irish people, constantly dangling before them the satisfaction of their just rights, and constantly despoiling them of their hopes—that is the cause of the change of feeling in this country. So also is there a change of feeling in my country. To-morrow, or at some future day, you may pass a measure of self-government for the Irish people. They will not thank you for it. There will be no gratitude in their hearts. You now produce your Bills, not because they are just, but because they will enable you to carry on the War mere effectively. The Irish people will say that you satisfy their demands not for the sake of justice, but for your own selfish purposes, and they will not be grateful to you. Therefore I say that I, and men like me, have lived our lives in vain. The basis of the 176 settlement will no longer be friendship between the two peoples. It will take this country many a long day to obliterate the past. It will take many a long day to do away with the effects of these constant disappointments. I am afraid you will never reach the affection of the generous Irish heart, because the motive that will be at the bottom of the satisfaction of their claims and the granting of Irish rights will not be the motive of justice but the motive of convenience. Finally, I regret the defeat of the intentions of the Irish Parliamentary party, because those intentions have been defeated, of bringing about a settlement of the differences between Great Britain and Ireland based upon friendship and the justice of the cause.
§ Mr. FITZGIBBON
I had no intention of taking part in this Debate, and therefore made no preparation in the way of a speech, but because of certain things which fell from the Chief Secretary I feel called upon, as a member of the Convention, to give to the House my experience of that assembly, and to say at once that it was not a failure but a success. It requires from me no preparation to give to the House a description of the composition of that assembly, of its sittings, and of the state of things that existed within its hall. We had there men representing views which for a century were diametrically opposed to each other. We had the Southern Unionists fully represented there, we had the North represented, and also the chairman of the various Irish county councils. One of the members of the Convention, who was not a Nationalist, said that in his opinion Ireland could not have assembled a better body than that composing the Convention. We were brought into contact with each other. Men who held opposite views learned from each other what their differences were, and ultimately we arrived at what was expected by this House and the Prime Minister, namely, a substantial agreement on the most vital question. Of all things that have occurred within my memory this act of the betrayal of Ireland on the part of the Government I brand as certainly the most serious and most discreditable on their part. We had every other day communications which we understood came from the Prime Minister urging on us the importance of arriving at a settlement purely from the war point of view. We 177 thought it was a war measure, but at the same time we hoped that when the Unionists learned that the Nationalists were not unreasonable men we should be ultimately able to arrive at a conclusion. This we did, and it was that one Parliament for Ireland would be a satisfactory settlement. We also knew that at that Conference there were men representing Unionist feeling, men of the type of Lord Midleton, who was foremost among them—and I should like to give him and those associated with him credit for that fact—in the desire to bring about a settlement. Lord Midleton did everything in his power, so far as I could see, both by private negotiation and speeches of a most pleasing character to bring about a settlement, and when the assembly was breaking up we all felt—or, at any rate, four-fifths of us felt—that we had done our part, and that the Government would be only too anxious to do theirs and would introduce a Bill at once on the lines recommended by the Convention.
For my part, I went into the Convention, not expecting we were going to reach the high-water mark of Nationalists' aspirations, though I yield to no man in my desire to attain them, but I went into the Convention in a spirit of compromise. We met there our Unionist friends, and we came to a conclusion which might well have formed the basis of a settlement. We certainly expected the Government to carry out our recommendations. I have been coming to this country a good deal, and I have gathered the impression that, although England has wronged Ireland to a terrible extent by her treatment of that country and by her arrangement of her affairs which has brought our population down from 8,000,000 to 4,000,000, whereas, under proper conditions, it would have been at least 16,000,000 to-day—that treatment of Ireland by England has been not only bad for Ireland, but equally bad for England and equally stupid in the interests both of the country and of the Empire. What have you done? I may be wrong, but I feel that had Ireland been treated as she ought to have been instead of being the weakest part of your Empire should have added to its strength, and you would not, in my opinion, have had this terrible war. Germany would not have attempted the war. That, at any rate, is my conviction, because events have shown that she calculated on the discontent in Ireland as a very important asset on her side. Is the present state of 178 things to continue, and if so why? To what is to be attributed the change of front on the part of the Government? Is it because these is less pressure from America? During the Convention I overheard Unionists say, "Wilson is most anxious to have this thing settled." I should like to know if that pressure has been withdrawn, or is it merely as a war measure that you are going to deal with Ireland? Are you going to deal with us because it is just to do so?
We have been taunted by the Chief Secretary with having raised this question during the War. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that after the Dublin rebellion it was not we who suggested that a settlement of the Irish question ought to be brought about. That suggestion came from the Government of the day, and hopes were thereby raised that there was going to be a settlement of some sort. But that, however, is a small matter compared with the conduct of the Government after the Convention. I have heard for the first time to-day from the benches opposite the statement that the Irish Convention was a failure. I deny it. There was no person at the Convention who thought that except a handful of men from the North-East corner of Ulster who, by the way, were not delegates in the true sense of the word, but were merely sent by the Ulster Council to carry back to them what was taking place at the Convention and even these men, I say deliberately, were, as far as I could see and read, anxious that we should arrive at a settlement. I have learned in the North of Ireland that the business community are most anxious for a settlement; many business men have told me that while they do not want Home Rule they do not want separation. They object far more to separation, that is to cutting Ulster off from the rest of Ireland, than they do to Home Rule. They were all anxious for a settlement, but the difficulty was to undo what had been done, to tell the Ulster people that the many misrepresentations which were made in the past were wrong, and that Home Rule did not mean Rome Rule. That was their great difficulty. I know one prominent Unionist from the North of Ireland made a speech differing from the vast majority of the Convention, and he mentioned to another member of the Convention that he never made a speech in his life in which he was more depressed or felt more sore at heart. I put these remarks 179 forward in the hope that Englishmen, from the English point of view, for their own sakes, from the selfish point of view, even at the half-past eleventh hour will restore to Ireland that which she should never have been deprived of, the right to rule her own destinies.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I desire to support the Motion on behalf of the party with whom I am associated. The frequency with which this question is discussed is remarkable. The Irish question is like a recurring decimal. No matter how serious and urgent the work that this House and the country has in hand, we have always to stop and to take this question into account. It is continually cutting across our political issues, our national struggles and our international relationships. I fear this is the penalty the nation has to pay, and will continue to have to pay, so long as this festering sore remains un-healed at the very heart of the Empire itself. At no moment in this country's history has it been more embarrassing and inconvenient than at the present moment to have this question cropping up. But the Motion gives, us another opportunity of getting to close grips with this century-old problem—and I hope the House and the Government will avail themselves of the opportunity and will make an eleventh hour attempt to settle this matter. There never was a time when unity was more essential than at present. We are engaged in the grimmest struggle that our people have ever had to face, and if we are to emerge successfully English, Scotch, and Irish will need to stand together. To my mind it is tragic that at the very moment when unity is so essential, when, perhaps, civilisation itself is at stake, we are quarrelling again over a domestic matter. This state of affairs shows the bankruptcy of statesmanship. We are face to face with a situation in which we require the help of the manhood of Ireland, and the Chief Secretary has made a strong appeal to the Nationalist Members for that help to be given. But can he, or the House, or the country expect that it will be forthcoming so long as the Irish nation labours under a sense of wrong and injustice and is denied that measure of Homo Rule which she has so long demanded? The Chief Secretary told us that since he took office the position in Ireland was vastly improved, and that Ireland was never more prosperous than she is now. I am certain everyone of 180 us was delighted to have that Report from the right hon. Gentleman. But suppose every word that he said represented the condition of affairs in Ireland, good government never was and never will be a satisfactory substitute for self-government. How can we expect Irishmen to enter heartily into the fight for the freedom of small nations while they are denied the right to govern themselves? The Labour party is strongly of the opinion that this matter can be settled by a generous measure of Home Rule being granted. They are of the opinion that this matter ought to be settled now. This continual friction and ill-feeling should be got rid of at the earliest opportunity. So long as the Irish people feel that they are suffering under injustice you cannot expect that that harmonious feeling, so necessary at a time like this, so necessary even in peaceful times, can be secured. I cannot agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) or with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) when they suggest that this matter should be settled either by President Wilson or the Colonial Premiers. This is a matter which I feel strongly ought to be settled by the British people themselves.
§ Mr. DILLON
I said I shared that view, and my own desire was that British statesmen would have the courage and the statesmanship to settle it themselves.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman make that qualification, and I join with him in sincerely wishing that the day is not far distant when some British statesman will be strong enough to handle this question. What I fear is that unless this is done by ourselves a larger Court than either President Wilson or the Colonial Premiers will settle it for us, and I should regard that method of settlement as a national calamity.
If we are to go into the Peace Conference and demand the freedom of small nationalities, what shall we say for ourselves when we are taunted, as we are certain to be, about the position of Ireland? Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have been reminding us of the factors that have been present in the situation during the past four years which have brought about frequent discussions of the question of Home Rule. The struggle in which we are engaged has brought many questions to the front, none of which I think is more urgent than a satisfactory settlement of this question of Home Rule. If we are to 181 go clean-handed into the Peace Conference, I think we ought to have this question settled before that Conference takes place, and the Government and the House would be well advised to get speedily to work to rid ourselves of what, in the circumstances I have already described, will really be an untenable position. If that is done, I believe we shall receive the good will and the support not only of the people of Ireland, but of the Irish race all over the world. I think that is the only possible method by which it can be settled. That is my view, and it is also the view of my colleagues on these benches, and I would make a strong appeal to the Government to get this matter in hand at the earliest possible moment. I would also strongly appeal to all sections of the Irish people to assist as well as they can the Government in getting this question settled on satisfactory lines. Until we have given to Ireland a satisfactory and generous settlement of this question, I am convinced that we cannot expect the relationship to be what it ought to be, and what is an absolute necessity during the trying time through which we are passing. That being the position, I hope that the Government will speedily take this matter in hand, and that we shall pass such a measure of Home Rule as will be satisfactory to the aspirations of the Irish people. When we have done that, I am certain that we can look for their generous co-operation in all our national and international relationships, and that if the necessity still remains for the manhood of Ireland giving a larger share in the present struggle that share will be given.
§ Mr. HARBISON
I should like to extend to the hon. Member who has just spoken the hearty thanks of the Irish people, and particularly because he leads the Labour party of England, because in the very near future, unless I am a very poor political prophet, the Labour party of England will have to rule in this country. We are quite content if this question is not settled before then to leave the destinies and the justice of our cause in the hands of the party of which he is the Leader. I was astonished, coming as I do from the North of Ireland and representing the constituency which up to two or three months ago was represented by Mr. Redmond's son, to hear the Chief Secretary who has been a fortnight or so in Ireland, and into whose hands the destines of our country are now placed, impeaching 182 us, the Members of the Irish party, for having done some act or acts to impede the progress of this War, and that we threw difficulties in the way of the Government of this country to carry the War to a successful conclusion. I represent the constituency which Captain Redmond lately represented, and which seat he resigned in order to fight his father's constituency, and I stand here as the representative of the policy of the late Mr. Redmond. If any British Minister dares to get up in his place and accuse the party who have been and who are followers of the principles enunciated by the late Mr. Redmond, I have not much respect for his judgment. It is a positive proof, I think, that he has not learned much in his experience of a fortnight in Ireland.
I have lived for half a century in Ireland, and I think I know the heart of Ireland. I know the feelings of the Irish people, and I can say, without fear of contradiction, that we can boast in Ireland of what you cannot boast in England. I know the feelings and sentiments of my countrymen, and I can say truthfully, and without fear of contradiction, that in that part of my native land where Nationalists most do congregate there is not one pro-German. There is a vast number of men in Ireland who have been driven wild by the criminal blunders of the men who were sent from this country to govern Ireland, and as long as the present system of Government lasts so long will they have that feeling in my native country. You know our history, or perhaps you do not. I am afraid that the history of my country has never yet been taught in English schools. It is only quite recently and only quite partially that it has been allowed to be taught in my native country, and how is any nation to rule another when it is itself ignorant of the nation which it attempts to rule. The right hon. Gentleman asked what is our complaint. I will give him a comprehensive answer to that—that the history of the Government of the last three or four years showed that it has always found the wrong way of doing things. If there were 999 right ways in every 1,000 ways of doing a thing they would invariably find the one wrong way. That is the policy which they have adopted.
The right hon. Gentleman says that under the Coercion Act which he has put in force the state of Ireland has improved greatly I am glad to say that at the 183 recent assizes all over Ireland crime in the true sense of the words—because fighting for one's country is no crime—has entirely disappeared, and, strange to say, political agitation has become extraordinarily silent. But does the right hon. Gentleman tell us that that indicates peace? I tell him that it is the surest sign of war, that it is the sign of a coming storm, and that that storm will not be confined to Ireland. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman laughs. But many British Ministers have laughed before at the warnings given from these benches, but the laugh was on the other side of their faces before many days or many months had passed. It has ever been for the last hundred years, since we were wrongfully deprived of the power to manage our own affairs, the policy that no matter what counsel the representatives of tine Irish people put forward it was spurned and spat upon. But whether you settle this question now before the end of the War or whether you do not, I can tell you that it will be settled, and if not in a friendly manner now it will be settled in spite of you. The whole judgment of the democracies of the entire world will be against you. We have a case to put before any tribunal in this country, in America, in France, or in any other country. We have an unanswerable case to put before the jury of the peoples of those countries. Our case will be shortly this: that since 1885, when first we got the power of exercising the franchise, we have unfailingly for those thirty-three years returned a 4 to 1 majority of our nation for the rights of self-government. We have in our different elections, for ten or eleven general elections, expressed our determination that we must have it, and President Wilson has expressed the same determination, that Ireland, as well as Poland, Bohemia, and all the other countries, should have the right to have the Government which its people express the will to have. The Chief Secretary said that we are the people to blame in this matter, and he asked, "Why don't you settle it?" My answer to the Chief Secretary is this: In the first place, the democracy of England and of the three Kingdoms have three times in succession voted Home Rule for Ireland. That democracy passed the Parliament Act for the purpose of having their will expressed upon the Statute Book. That Statute is 184 still upon the Statute Book, and I ask the Government now why is not that Statute put in force?
I come from the North of Ireland, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman why. It is because of the objection of a little narrow clique in the North of Ireland who hate their fellow-countrymen more intensely than the Germans hate the British, and whose whole policy for the last thirty-three years, since we got the franchise, has been a song of hate. I remember that on the 23rd July, 1917, on the first day of the Irish Convention, of which I was a member, I was walking through the grounds of Trinity College with our late lamented leader, and he asked me, "What do you think about this Convention? What will be the result?" "Well," I said, "you put a plain question, and I will give you my conscientious answer. I said I did not know how long the Convention would last, but I told him that it would end as it began, as far as the Ulster Unionists were concerned, and that they never, under any circumstances, would agree to any settlement that would grant Home Rule to any part of Ireland. As an example and a proof of what I say, I happened to be appointed a member of a sub-committee of that Convention, one of the duties devolving upon which was to fix a constitution for the new Irish Parliament. I went into that sub-committee determined that, so far as in my power lay, I would try to remove the prejudices of my Ulster fellow-countrymen We sat at the table, the Archbishop of Dublin in the chair; we sat down to build up a Constitution for the two Houses of the Irish Parliament, and it was partly on my suggestion that the proposal was put down and carried unanimously, that the Constitution of the two Houses should be such that where there was a dispute on any subject between the two Houses, they had to sit together as one House to decide the question, and that the Unionists of Ireland should have a majority of the entire sitting. That was rejected by the Ulster Unionist Members, and that was convincing proof that there was nothing in reason that would satisfy these men. Therefore, I again ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary Why does he not put the Home Rule Act in force? What legitimate reason has he, or what legitimate reason has the Government, for refusing the rights legitimately and justly earned 185 by Ireland, and passed by the British Parliament under the Constitution of the country? Why? There is no answer.
Then I would ask the right hon. Gentleman another question: Why are there Sinn Feiners in Ireland? Simply because the Government, I do not care what Government it was, had not the moral courage to put the law of the land in force. That is why there are Sinn Feiners in Ireland, and that is why I now deliberately accuse the Government of being in fact, if not in fact, at least in theory, pro-German. Hon. Members may laugh, but he who assists the enemy is not a friend of the nation here, and if that is not assisting the enemy by creating disaffection amongst His Majesty's subjects, then I do not know what an unfriendly act means. That Statute has been signed by His Majesty the King, but you have not the courage to enforce that Statute, with the King's sign manual, because a higher authority than the King has said "No"—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. That is why we are here tonight. We are here in the eleventh hour to demand our rights, the result of the labour of our party for the last forty years. We have laboured in the vineyard by constitutional action, we have won our rights by constitutional action, and this House, which likes to be considered the citadel of democracy, this democratic House has refused us those rights. Is it any wonder that Ireland is mad with rage? 1s it any wander that few recruits are joining the Army? When the result of this Debate to-night is known in the trenches in France, where there are 500,000 Irishmen to-night, when they find that the land of their birth, the land that gave them all their birth, or gave their fathers their births, the men who are fighting under the real flag of liberty and equality, the Stars and Stripes—when these men find that this House of Commons, this citadel of liberty, has denied their motherland her rights, it will not increase their enthusiasm for the cause in which they are fighting That briefly is our case. I could say many other things, but the hour is getting late.
We are told that we committed certain depredations. I might recite the misdeeds of this Government and others. I am myself most impartial in my denunciation of the Government. I do not care what the Government it is—whether Liberal or 186 Conservative, or a mixture, a very bad mixture. What did they do? I will just give you two or three of their misdeeds which have brought about the present situation. The first was their action for the last three or four years in palliating organised resistance, prior to the War and during the War, to the law. Men—I admire them for their determination—who swore that they would never obey a Statute signed by the King were as good as their word, and they were able to threaten, and their threats had some effect. The Government were afraid to perform the functions of a Government by putting the law in force. The name of the King has been degraded. The next action of that Government was when the leader of that movment, of that seditious, treasonable movement, was brought into the Government. On the next morning, when that was announced, I am quite certain there were 100,000 more Sinn Feiners in Ireland. Then, to my mind, one of the cruellest and most iniquitous acts any Government has committed was this: It was not sufficient to make the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University Attorney-General, for he would not be quite effective for the Government's purpose of destroying the constitutional party in Ireland until they made him Minister of Propaganda. I do not know much about the Minister of Propaganda, but I presume one of his duties was to spread his doctrines far and wide over the world, and one of his first duties as leader of a rebellious army would be to slaughter his enemies and to spread poisonous gas all through America, as he has most effectively done. But I am glad to say that fortunately there was in America one man who was able, by his eloquence and by addresses he delivered, to dispel the poisonous gas spread by the Minister of Propaganda. Finally, the great reason of all the trouble that is going on in Ireland is the absolute and complete want of confidence which the Irish people have in the promises of Ministers. Never, never in dealings with our country has the British Minister once kept his word. Your Government have never, at any stage of their dealings with Ireland, granted any ameliorating measure to Ireland except at the point of the bayonet. Is this going to be a repetition of it? Must bare steel again come into use? I would venture to pray "No." I do not want to see any of my countrymen's 187 blood shed, but I tell the Government that if they pursue the policy they are pursuing the history of Ireland will most certainly repeat itself. It has had a habit of doing it a great many times, as many in this House now remember. As sure as you refuse our rights to us here, so sure will history repeat itself, and I tell the Government here to-night that on their shoulders will be the consequences.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Very various views have been expressed in the Debate to-day, as is usually the case when Irish topics are before the House, but in one respect, I think, we shall all be agreed. There is probably no Member of the House, no matter in what quarter he sits, who can view the present Irish situation with any degree of satisfaction. I think, however much Members may dispute propositions that I shall afterwards address to them, on that point at least there will be universal agreement; and particularly in these days when, in the face of Europe and the world, we have declared ourselves to be fighting for the freedom of small nationalities, and the present condition of Ireland and the Debate that we have had to-day is a thing in which none of us can take pride. Hon. Members will remember the Biglow Papers, and the satire addressed by James Russell Lowell against those Americans who sympathised very warmly with struggles for freedom in Europe, but who did not see the great blot of slavery at their own door—I do believe in Freedom's cause as far away as Paris is,and there are many to-day who believe in freedom's cause, quite rightly, as far away as Czecho-Slavakia or as far away as Jugo-Slavakia and who cannot see Ireland because Ireland is so close. My right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's Hanover Square, who moved the Amendment which is now before the House, said "After all, what has Ireland to complain of? She has equal liberty with the rest of the United Kingdom. She has her representatives here. What more can she want?" What is the real test of self-government, of political liberty? It is that a people should be governed by men of its own choice and selection. Does the present Irish Administration answer that test? Are there any of the members, who question what I have just been saying, who would assert that the Irish people clamoured for the present members of the Irish Government; that the Irish people 188 were consulted as to their choice; or even that the Irish people acquiesce in there presence in Dublin to-day? Their very presence, I venture to say, is in itself a proof that liberty is denied. The most unhappy and, indeed, humiliating situation in which Irish affairs now are comes from causes well known to the House. I do not propose for a moment to go into the ancient history, which we have recited again and again, but I would venture to suggest that the condition of things which now exists springs from two proximate causes, from two grave errors committed by the present Government within the last few months. The first was what many of us consider, and so declared at the time, to have been the unwise, though easily understandable, attempt to impose Conscription upon the Irish people without their own consent. Till that moment, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo has told us in the House this afternoon, the constitutionalists in Ireland had the upper hand—
§ Mr. SAMUEL
—and the revolutionists were being defeated at election after election and had clearly lost the confidence of the country. The prospects of a settlement were by no means dark. The introduction of Irish Conscription in a tentative and provisional form in the Military Service Bill of this year altered the whole situation. With respect to military service, both voluntary and compulsory, my own view, which I have expressed more than once in this House, is that the Irish people ought to have followed freely and willingly the advice given them by their great leader, who is now dead, at the beginning of the War, and should have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into this War from that date to the present moment, no matter what might be the discouragements, no matter how much they might have been held at arm's length by the War Office and others, seeing as we see to-day that the winning of the War is the one thing that matters and that the fortunes of Ireland, and, indeed, of all the Western democracies, depend upon the final victory over militarism. I profoundly regret, though I can quite comprehend, the reason that led them not to take that course, but let it be remembered at the same time, with respect to compulsory military service, that of our 189 own four great Dominions two, it is true, have adopted Conscription, but two also, for local reasons, have not. Therefore, do not let us be too hasty in condemnation of Irish public opinion. The fact remains that the Irish people are in present circumstances against compulsory military service. I was in Ireland a few months ago, and no doubt could be left on the mind of anyone who visited Ireland at that time that the feeling of the people, rightly or wrongly, was passionately opposed to Conscription imposed from Westminster.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I am not speaking of the North of Ireland. I have been speaking all through of the great majority of the Irish people. It may be that in Ulster there are very many, perhaps a majority, who are in favour of compulsory military service.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
If so, all the more to their credit. The fact remains that the majority of the rest of Ireland, at all events—as to Ulster I cannot speak—are sincerely and genuinely opposed to accepting compulsory military service from this Parliament, and, that being so, what was to be the attitude of the Constitutional representatives of the Irish people? That being the sentiment of the mass of the population, if their constitutional representatives will not voice their opinions, you may be sure of it they will turn to the unconstitutional ones. After all, the first duty of a representative is to represent. True it is, as has been again and again pointed out, that the legal right of enforcing compulsory military service is vested in this Parliament. True, also, that every Home Rule Bill introduced here has reserved to the Imperial Parliament all matters of defence, and amongst them such a question as compulsory military service. But that is the legal right. From our point of view, the spirit of our Constitution does not really justify the enforcement, against the will of a people, who have all the characteristics of a nation, of such a thing as compulsory military service so long so they are denied self-government. I am profoundly convinced that, if we had had self-government in Ireland 190 before the War, we should have seen in these matters a wholly different spirit among the Irish people.
Let hon. Members who very naturally resent, as the British people as a whole, I think, resents, that Ireland should not bear her fair share in this War, consider what their own feelings would be suppose the situation were the other way about. Suppose it had happened that Ireland was the larger island, and Great Britain the smaller one, that after promising the people of this country again and again self-government, it had again and again been denied, and that ultimately the Parliament in Dublin, in which we were allowed to sit as a small minority of representatives, had decided to enact compulsory military service on the British people—[An HON. MEMBER: "A small minority?"] I am taking what is obviously an impossible supposition in order to induce hon. Members to do what is always a very healthy thing to do, and that is to look at the thing from the other person's point of view. In those circumstances, I think we should have found that there would have been considerable opposition to the enactment of such a measure. And the Chief Secretary is, or was, of my opinion. It cannot be so obviously right to impose compulsory military service against the wishes of the people of Ireland upon the country or he would not have voted against it in this House when it came before us for decision, and I would ask him what it is that has happened since to make it right now for him to administer what he thought it wrong for him to enact? All the expectations, from a military point of view, which were held out to us when the Military Service Act was passed have not been verified. Those have proved to be right who said that the enactment of compulsory military service in Ireland would not add to the military strength of this country, but was more likely to deduct from it, because very large forces, we all know, have had to be withheld from France—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—in order to maintain peace in Ireland, while the addition to the Irish forces has proved to be negligible.
The second error of statesmanship—as I venture respectfully to suggest it is—which has been committed by the Government, and which is partly responsible for the present situation, has been their handling of the constitutional question since the Report of the Irish Convention. 191 We were told by the Prime Minister in this House as soon as the Convention reported that, although it had not come to an agreement—such an agreement as could be embodied in a Bill—the Government themselves would take up the matter, frame a Bill upon their own lines, introduce it into this House, and stand or fall by it. Where is that Bill? A Committee of Ministers was appointed to draft it. We were told that the draft was ready. We were told later that it needed a few trifling alterations. We were promised that it would be introduced the next week; the week after next, before the Whitsuntide Recess, immediately after the Whitsuntide Recess. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked questions about it, and he gave answers of a kind until the questioners wearied—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]—and the right hon. Gentleman himself was fatigued with the incessant repetition. However that may be, the Bill has never seen the light.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Why was it? The reason was at last given, not in this House, but in the House of Lords. It was to the effect that a plot had been discovered—[An Hon. MEMBER: "A mare's nest!"]—which made it unsafe to proceed with further legislation of that character. I am not at all disposed to regard that plot as a mare's nest. I regard the Sinn Fein organisation as a very dangerous conspiracy. I think that the Government were very well advised to take firm and resolute action to suppress any possible danger to the State from that quarter.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I for one refuse absolutely to believe that the real reason for dropping the Home Rule legislation was really the discovery of this conspiracy. I detect a much simpler reason, and one much closer to hand. The Committee that was set the difficult task of drafting the Bill was composed of many discordant elements. It had as its chairman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who himself has been a- lifelong opponent of 192 the settlement of the Irish question on the basis of full self-government. I believe that the Committee very soon found that it was impossible to agree on any acceptable scheme, and the plot, so far from being a disaster to the Government, and a shock to the members of the committee, was really, from that point of view, a godsend. It enabled the many drafts of Bills to be thrown into its flames. I cannot refrain from expressing the opinion that the whole handling of this situation, in respect of Conscription, the Report of the Convention, the introduction of the promised Bill, and the failure to fulfil that promise, as one of the gravest oases of the mishandling of a momentous political situation that this House has ever known. The Irish people were irritated, angry, and suspicious when the Government made them a further offer. They endeavoured, quite rightly, to secure voluntary recruiting for the Army from Ireland. The part of that offer they made, the famous offer of which, very strangely, little has been heard today, was that land should be given to Irish soldiers who came forward to serve in the War. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord French, in a Proclamation to the whole of the Irish people, widely published throughout the length and breadth of the land, said:We recognise that the men who come forward to fight for their Motherland are entitled to share in all that their Motherland can offer. Steps are therefore being taken to ensure, so far as possible, that land shall be available for the men who have fought for their country, and the necessary legislative measure is now under consideration.That was at the beginning of June. The Proclamation went on to say. "Full details"—about the land? No!—"in regard to pay, separation allowances, pensions," says the Proclamation, "will be published in due course." Questions addressed in this House to the Government elicited the reply that legislation would be necessary to carry out the terms of that offer, that the preparation of that legislation was far advanced and would shortly be laid before Parliament. We are now within a few days of the Adjournment—
§ Mr. SAMUEL
But why is legislation necessary at all unless it is necessary to fulfil this offer? Now we are told that the Bill is not to be passed until October. Then voluntary recruiting come to an end, and the Irish people—and, indeed, this House—cannot but feel that this matter has not been treated in a serious spirit, that the policy has not been carefully thought out, and that the many difficulties surrounding the granting of land have not been properly envisaged.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
If it has been thought out for eighteen months how is it that to carry out an offer made in June a Bill is not to be introduced until the end of July and is not to be passed until October? As an earnest of goodwill and proof of good faith surely the necessary legislation ought to have been laid upon the Table and passed through before this. It is impossible for the Irish people not to regard with suspicion an offer couched in such terms which has been treated by the Government in such a fashion.
With respect to the Resolution which is now before the House, those who vote for it, of whom I shall be one, must not be taken in any way to condemn or dissent from the very vigorous action which the Government have very properly taken to suppress sedition in Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I was Home Secretary at the time of the Easter Rebellion, and for some months after that time, when there was no Chief Secretary for Ireland, I had the very invidious task of conducting the civil government of Ireland, such as there was of it—it was mostly military government—and I am well aware of the great difficulties of meeting this dangerous movement in time of war. I was also responsible for retaining in internment the whole of the Sinn Fein leaders and their chief followers during the whole of that year. [An HON. MEMBER: "You let them out!"] I did not let them out It was the present Government who let them out. Therefore I would ask hon. Members to do me the justice of believing that I am 194 quite sincere when I say that the Government were well advised to take whatever steps were in their opinion necessary to strike, and strike, hard, against any dangerous conspiracy that threatened the life of the State.
I desire that there shall be no misunderstanding as to myself when I vote for the Resolution of the hon. Member for East Mayo. I vote for it, not on account of the reference it contains to President Wilson, for whom I have the greatest respect, or the speech that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo, suggesting that the settlement of the Irish question should be referred to him for solution. That is a proposal which must be regarded as neither practicable nor acceptable. I vote for this Resolution because I am convinced that if the Government proceed with their present policy of enforcing compulsory military service in October they will be heading straight for disaster, and I desire to record my opinion on that in the Lobby of this House. I vote for it, secondly, because, if no serious effort is made to settle the Irish question before we enter the Peace Conference at the end of the War, this country will find itself faced with great international difficulties. And I vote for it, thirdly, as a protest against those who have no real desire for a settlement of the Irish question on the basis of full self-government, and who, again and again, during the last few years, have defeated the fairest hopes of a settlement. A few days ago we were celebrating in London the great American national day of the Fourth of July. It was a very significant thing that here in London, after 150 years of estrangement, you found that day celebrated. Nowadays we honour on the Fourth of July, not the Norths and the Grenvilles of those days, but Washington and Franklin and those who fought with them. But we have still Norths and Grenvilles amongst us, and it is chiefly in condemnation of their policy and activities that I shall vote with my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo in the Lobby to-night.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister intended to be present during this Debate to-day, but I think the House will accept it from me that he was prevented for other reasons.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am not surprised that the hon. Member does not think of them. I had no intention of taking part in the Debate, but perhaps it may be as well that I should say a few words on behalf of the Government, though presumably I should be content with the case as left by my right hon. Friend. I have listened with interest to the speech of my right hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Samuel). In some respects there is a resemblance between his speech and those which have been made on the benches below the Gangway, but in another respect, as is natural, there is a little difference. Hon. Members below the Gangway were quite impartial in their condemnation of every British Government. Naturally, my right hon. Friend sees in the sins committed only those which have been committed by the British Government since he left it. My right hon. Friend will forgive me for saying that I am glad that for once his vote is apparently going to follow his speech. That is a good practice in the House of Commons. But even that is not quite certain, because, after telling us which way he intended to vote, he was careful to explain that his vote was given, not perhaps against the words of the Resolution, but against the great bulk of the speeches which had been made in support of that Resolution, and which were directly in condemnation of those very actions of the Government of which my right hon. Friend approves. I have listened to many Irish Debates, but I have never listened to one which seemed to me so utterly unreal as that to which we have listened to-day. The hon. Member for East Mayo made what struck me as being on the whole a moderate speech. But it is curious that he never once touched or came within a hundred miles of the real difficulties of this old problem. He spoke—indeed the manifesto which was sent to America was another illustration—as if this was a case of the British people tyrannously refusing the rights of the Irish.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
There is not a man in this House who does not know that no picture of the situation could be less real than that. There is no one who does not know that the real difficulty of the solution of this question does not consist in differences between Englishmen and Irishmen, but that it consists in differences 196 between Irishmen and Irishmen. That is the whole thing. In view of the really vital issues with which not only this country, but the world is faced to-day, the kind of speeches to which we have listened about the tyranny of the English—speeches like that of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin), who spoke of thebacks flayed with the scorpions of tyranny,—how ridiculous they are! I admit that we would like to see a different spirit in Ireland and between Ireland and this country, and it may be said with some truth that some method of statesmanship should have been found which might have got over that difficulty. But as to tyranny, there is not a man in this House who in his heart does not know that if we have committed a fault towards Ireland, it has been of laxity and of giving her different treatment from that which has been given to the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member for East Mayo has put down his somewhat lengthy Resolution, and when he refers so constantly to the speeches of President Wilson and the fighting for the liberties of small nationalities—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
What is a small nationality? The hon. Member says, quite incorrectly, that we regard Ireland as insignificant, because it is so small. But is nationality to depend upon size? If so, Ireland, which has something like 4,000,000 in a population of 45,000,000 or thereabouts, is not an important figure. If it is not to depend upon its size, if it is to depend upon real differences of sentiment and feeling, surely the very same right of self-determination which the majority of the Irish claim in regard to their nationality can be claimed with equal right by the people of Ulster as against the rest of Ireland.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to carry out the pledges he has personally given to settle the Home Rule question?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I should like to say this further: I believe the hon. Member 197 for East Mayo understands the difficulty perfectly. Until he is prepared to recognise its reality in public as well as in his own mind, there is absolutely no possibility of the kind of settlement of this question which we all desire. If anything could have surprised me from my right hon. Friend, who spoke last (Mr. H. Samuel), it was the way in which he treated this aspect of the question. What a difference it makes to be a member of the Government and to be a critic of the Government! Let me read words actually used in this House by my right hon. Friend. They are as true today as when he uttered them. At that time he was a member of the Government, which consisted of three of the English parties. He spoke not only for us Unionists, but he spoke also for Liberals and Labour, and this is what he said:On the other hand the six counties of Ulster refuse to accept any scheme which tends to involve automatic inclusion. Are the Irish Members prepared to leave out the six counties until, they are ready to come in? No. If not, are they ready to wait for Home Rule until the six counties are ready to be included? No. And if neither of these, are they prepared to coerce Ulster? The answer is, No. That being the case, I put it to the Irish Members: What do they propose?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Of all the attempts to get out of a difficulty that is the most amazing! His argument was that they could not do it because of Ulster. But how does that affect the willingness of the other people. I put that to my right hon. Friend. I do not wish, I assure the House, to do anything to increase the difficulties of the situation. We would all like to see a settlement of this question, but it can only be settled if those who make one set of demands consult those who make another, and are prepared to look at the whole facts and deal with the case justly. Take the position now held by the hon. Member for East Mayo If you were to have Home Rule for the whole of Ireland, and Ulster felt aggrieved, the immediate result would be that there would be a Home Rule agitation in Ireland itself, and in that way no solution would be arrived at. Then my hon. Friend said that the proposal of the Government at the time of the Convention was really put forward in order to get out of Home Rule—that it was a trick.
§ Mr. DILLON
At the time of the Convention? No. What I said was that it was the universal and unfortunate belief in Ireland that the Government proposed the introduction of Conscription for the purpose of enabling them to get out of a difficult situation.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
In other words, to get rid of Home Rule. The suggestion is that we proposed and introduced a Bill which would give effect to some form of self-government in Ireland. But does the hon. Member not know that that proposal would have run the risk of alienating a large section of our party and of our own Friends? Does he think we proposed that in order to get rid of Home Rule? Can anyone seriously suggest that in view of what had happened in Ireland since then it is possible at this moment to attempt to put any form of Home Rule Government in force? The hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) himself told us that the people who are against this country, and are on the side of the Germans, are in a majority to-day. There is more than that. The attitude of the hon. Gentleman opposite has itself made a great difficulty. My right hon. Friend in his speech just now said the question of defence was theoretically part of the Home Rule Bill. If he had told the House of Commons that when the Bill was going through, that Bill would never have passed. These Gentlemen below the Gangway, in spite of the terms of the Home Rule Act—to which they had consented—the moment the idea was suggested of getting the support of Ireland in this War the same as the rest of the Kingdom, at once said to us, "You have no right to do it. We will leave your House of Commons." In these circumstances, is it conceivable, at this hour, that any sane man could suggest handing over the government of Ireland to them?
No one regrets more than I do the position which has arisen in Ireland. No one rejoices more, I am sure, than all my colleagues on this bench at the attitude which was taken up by the late Mr. Redmond and many of his Friends. What do they tell us now? That it was all our fault, that the stupidity of the War Office and things of that sort have turned the Irish from being on our side to being against us. We are face to face—the Irish as well as the rest of the world—with the greatest crisis I believe that ever happened in the world's history. 199 Are they going to take up the attitude that, because they are not pleased with what we are doing and the way we have done it, they are going to be against us, and not with us in this struggle in which we are engaged? This Resolution speaks of the exasperation of the Irish. An hon. Member whom I heard half an hour ago said, "What will the Irishmen in the trenches think of our decision here to-day?" Irishmen all over the world
§ who not only want liberty, but are willing to fight for it, will put to themselves this question, "Do the men who hold back in this struggle really represent the race and the principles for which we are fighting and are willing to die"?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 106; Noes, 245.201
|Division No. 77.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Anderson, W. G.||Hearn, Michael Louis||O'Dowd, John|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Durham)||O'Grady, James|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hogge, James Myles||O'Leary, Daniel|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Holt, Richard Durning||O'Malley, William|
|Bryce, John Annan||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Shee, James John|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hudson, Walter||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Jowett, Frederick William||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Joyce, Michael||Price, Col. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Keating, Matthew||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Cosgrave, James (Galway, E.)||Kelly, Edward||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Crumley, Patrick||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Cullinan, John||Kilbride, Denis||Reddy, Michael|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Kiley, James Daniel||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Devlin, Joseph||King, J.||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.|
|Dillon, John||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Donnelly, Patrick||Lundon, Thomas||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)|
|Duffy, William J.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow in-Furness)||M'Ghee, Richard||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Esmonde, Capt. John (Tipperary, N.)||M'Kean, John||Sheehy, David|
|Farrell, James Patrick||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Snowden, Philip|
|Ffrench, Peter||Martin, Joseph||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Field, William||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Tillett, B.|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Meagher, Michael||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Fitzpatrick, John Lalor||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, E.)||Trevelyan Charles Philips|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix.)||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Molloy, Michael||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Molteno, Percy Alport||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Mooney, John J.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Hackett, John||Muldoon, John|
|Harbison, T. J. S.||Nolan, Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Nugent, J. D. (College Green)||Boland and Mr. Doris.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, E.)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Boyton, Sir James||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Anstruther-Gray, Lieut.-Col. William||Brassey, H. L. C.||Currie, George W.|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Bridgeman, William Clive||Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Burdett Coutts, W.||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)|
|Baker, Col. Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.)||Butcher, Sir J. G.||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Denison-Pender, Capt. J. C.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Dixon, C. H.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Du Pre, Major W. Baring|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Faber, Col. W. V. (Hants, W.)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Falle, Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Fell, Sir Arthur|
|Bathurst, Capt. Sir C. (Wilts., Wilton)||Clyde, James Avon||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Fisher, Rt. Hon W. Hayes (Fulham)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Fletcher, John Samuel|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William|
|Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (Greenwich)||Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Foster, Philip Staveley|
|Bigland, Alfred||Coote, William (Tyrone, S.)||Ganzoni, Francis John C.|
|Bird Alfred||Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Gardner, Ernest|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Gastrell, Lieut.-Col. Sir W. Houghton|
|Boles, Lieut. Dennis Fortescue||Courthope, Major George Loyd||Geddes, Sir A. C. (Hants, N.)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Lonsdale, James R.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Col. John||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Brim., Edgbaston)||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Goldman, Charles Sydney||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir H. C. (Appleby)||Royds, Major Edmund|
|Greer, Harry||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Russell, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W.|
|Greig, Col. J. W.||McCalmont, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Gretton, Col. John||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Samuels, Arthur W. (Dublin, U.)|
|Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Macleod, John Mackintosh||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Macmaster, Donald||Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G.|
|Hanson, Charles Augustin||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Shortt, Edward|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James Ian||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S.||Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel-||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. H. (Asht'n-u-Lyne)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||Malcolm, Ian||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Ormskirk)|
|Harris, Rt. Hon. F. L. (Worcester, E.)||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Staveley-Hill, Lieut.-Col. Henry|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Meux, Adml. Hon. Sir Hedworth||Stewart, Gershom|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Meysey-Thompson, Colonel E. C.||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald|
|Henry, Sir Charles (Shropshire)||Middle brook, Sir William||Stoker, R. B.|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Mitchell-Thomson, Sir W.||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Swift, Rigby|
|Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza||Sykes, Col. Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Morgan, George Hay||Terrell, Major Henry (Gloucester)|
|Hills, John Waller||Mount, William Arthur||Thomas, Sir G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Hinds, John||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Tickler, T. G.|
|Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Murray, Major Hon. Arthur C.||Tryon, Capt. George Clement|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hope, Harry (Bute)||Newman, Major J. R. P. (Enfield)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid.)|
|Horne, Edgar||Norman, Rt. Hon. Major Sir H.||Wardle, George J.|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Parker, James (Halifax)||Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)|
|Hunter, Major Sir Charles Rodk.||Parkes, Sir Edward E.||Weston, J. W.|
|Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Hrbt. Pike (Darlington)||Whaler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Suffolk, S. E.)||Whiteley, Sir H. J.|
|Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Jessel, Colonel Sir H. M.||Peto, Basil Edward||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Jones, Sir Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Phillpps, Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor (S'ampton)||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Wilson, Col. Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Pratt, J. W.||Wilson, Lt.-Cl. Sir M. (Beth'l Green, S. W.)|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest George||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)|
|Joynson-Hicks, William||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Kerry, Lieut.-Col. Earl of||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Roland Edmund||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Keswick, Henry||Pryce-Jones, Col. Sir E.||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Kinloch, Cooke, Sir Clement||Pulley, C. T.||Wood, S. Hill- (Derbyshire)|
|Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Quitter, Major Sir Cuthbert||Worthington, Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Randles, Sir John S.||Wright, Captain Henry Fitzherbert|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Ratcliffe, Lieut.-Col. R. F.||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Younger, Sir George|
|Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Edmund Talbot and Capt. Guest.|
|Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.