§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I beg to moveThat this House views with regret and concern the present conditions prevailing in Ireland, which tend further to alienate the people of that country from the people of Great Britain and subject to international suspicion our earnest efforts to promote and safeguard the freedom of other small nations.I may as well say at the outset that I do not consider it at all necessary or desirable to enumerate a long list of the grievances and wrongs which the Irish people have suffered since the passing of the Act of Union. Those wrongs are well known to us all. All the world knows them. Wherever there is any democratic opinion throughout the world, whether in our Colonies, on the Continent, or in the great free Republic of America, Ireland's wrongs are known and are execrated to the damage of the fame of this country and the Mother of Parliaments. Had I thought it desirable to tabulate a long list of grievances, I should have found it a very easy task, because since it has been known that this Motion was to be moved tonight I have received communications from people in all parts of the United Kingdom, and have been supplied with particulars and data relating to British rule in Ireland. If half or even a fiftieth part of what has been said in those communications could be proved to be true, it would be only necessary to make known to the people of this country what is actually taking place in that unhappy country; and we should have such a storm in this land as would sweep out of power any Government which tolerated such conditions and allowed them to go on. I shall content myself by reading just two or three cuttings of very recent date, and by referring to two or three communications that have been sent to me by correspondents. The first cutting I took from one of the Welsh papers last Saturday night. It reads as follows:— 1693A reception of the Irish-American delegates was to have been held by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress at the Mansion House, Dublin, on Friday evening, but shortly before the time for the ceremony the military, wearing trench helmets and carrying rifles and bayonets, arrived in three covered motor lorries, and took possession of the Mansion House. Cordons were drawn in front of the side streets, the soldiers being so disposed as to prevent all approach to the Lord Mayor's residence. The sudden appearance of the military, who were followed immediately by a large body of police, attracted a big crowd, which the police, who were unarmed, dispersed towards Stephen's Green. A guard of soldiers with machine guns was posted outside the Mansion House, and for a time tramway traffic was diverted to other thoroughfares. The Lord Mayor said that he was unable to account for the action of the authorities. One reason assigned is that among the members attending the Sinn Fein meeting during the day was some of the prisoners who recently escaped from Mount joy Prison, and it is suggested that the authorities suspected that they might be in hiding in the Mansion House. No arrests were made, and later the military were withdrawn, and the reception of the delegates proceeded.It is the sort of thing that is going on, not in Russia, but in Ireland under British rule. I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not in his place to-night. He understands the Welsh people and Welsh sentiment, and I would like to have had his opinion as to what would happen in Wales if we had some Welsh Americans who were to be entertained by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Cardiff, and we had the authorities acting as they are reported to have acted in Ireland. The next cutting relates to the boy Connors, concerning whom questions were asked in this House last week—The boy Connors, who is aged eleven, was carried off by the police on 10th February, and released after two months' detention. He reached home about 9 p.m. on Wednesday of last week in a motor car, in which there were three policemen. The boy, in the course of an interview, said that from the Monday on which he was arrested until the following Friday he was kept in the police barracks, where he was questioned every day as to what he knew of the shooting of the two policemen at Sologheadbeg. 'I told them,' he said, 'that I knew nothing about it, but they kept on questioning me every day. On Friday morning I was taken by policemen in a motor car to Limerick Junction. A policeman's top coat, with three stripes on the sleeve, was put on me, the collar of which was turned up so as to nearly cover my face. I was put into the train and brought away, I did not know where!' His experience at the depot was pretty much the same as that of the boy Matthew Hogan. He was brought to Dublin Castle two or three times a week and questioned about the Sologheadbeg affair, but told them time after time, he said, that he was at school at the time it happened and knew nothing about it. During the two months that he was there he was never allowed to attend Mass and never saw a priest, but he regularly said his morning and night prayers.1694 I ask any father in this House from Wales, England, or Scotland what would be his feelings if his boy were treated as that Irish lad was treated, and what would be the result in this country if incidents of that sort were daily occurrences? I am not a Catholic, and I neither visit nor receive visits from a priest, but I have sufficient imagination to realise the intense indignation that must be caused in the minds of these people when they see their religious convictions outraged in the way that is described by that lad in that interview.
I want to give two other cases. Military law, I am informed, prevails throughout the country, and in all political cases the civil law is suspended. Persons accused are taken before a court-martial and charges against them are decided by army officers, some of whose sentences can only be described as brutal and blackguardly. A professional singer was sent to gaol for two years for singing a song called, "Felons of the Land." I am informed that the song has been sung in Ireland for forty years, and four years ago it was sung in the dining room of this House and highly applauded by the Prime Minister. Yet under military rule in Ireland, at the present time, men are being sent to prison for singing a song of that description.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Macpherson)
Will my hon. Friend give me that case in which he says a long term of imprisonment was imposed for singing a song?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Surely as the hon. Gentleman has made that charge I am entitled now to ask for the particulars.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
If I had known I was going to be questioned about anything I said I should have come prepared. But I have got sufficiently reliable data for what would be a most damning indictment of the Government. I have only selected three or four cases which I am sure are thoroughly reliable.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I presume my hon. Friend, who speaks of a "damning indictment," has produced the two worst cases he can find.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
The right hon. Gentleman will be entitled to describe in any way he thinks advisable what I have said, but I want to put this other fact. Captain Stephen Gwynn, formerly a respected Member of this House, went down to Newry to address a meeting in support of a federal settlement of the Irish question. Both the chairman of the meeting and Captain Gwynn himself invited free and open discussion. A small band of Sinn Feiners accepted the invitation, and there was a great deal of good-humoured interruption, but no breach of the peace. Both the chairman and Captain Gwynn said they had no complaint whatever to make as to the character of the interruptions. Yet four of these men were dragged from their beds in the early morning, taken before a resident magistrate, and sent to prison for six months in default of giving bail for good behaviour. These men have since been released in consequence of the persistent protests of the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. MacVeagh). These two cases, which are merely given as an indication of what is going on in Ireland at the present time, constitute, in my opinion, a disgrace to the Government of Great Britain, and I trust that the Government will be prepared to tell us to-night that it is their intention to do something to wipe out the stain which is besmirching our reputation as far as Ireland is concerned throughout the world wherever free peoples gather. One of my correspondents asks me this: What would you think of the infamous system of declaring districts to be military areas? Does anyone suggest that if a policeman were shot in Birmingham that city would be declared a military area, that thousands of troops would be poured into it, together with tanks, armoured cars, aeroplanes and machine guns; that soldiers would be stationed in the streets of Birmingham, that workmen would not be allowed to move in or out except within limits prescribed by the military authorities, that machine guns would be mounted on house-tops, and all in order to establish a reign of military terror over these people? What would be thought if working men were required to obtain military passports to enable them to go to and from their work? But all this has happened in Limerick, and I want to say we are heartily sick in this country 1696 of military rule. We want to get rid of it not only in this country but in Ireland as well before long.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I do not know whether I do or not. That does not touch the issue I am raising. I may or may not agree with it. It is true, as I gather from the Press, that the Government has been deliberating and considering the advisability of using the military in the streets in this country. We do not propose to accept that in this country or in Limerick.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Dealing with the wrongs of Ireland, I got a letter from one correspondent who told me that according to history books the conquest of Ireland took place in 1172.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
My correspondent said that a lad was asked to write an essay on this subject and he started by stating that the conquest of Ireland commenced in 1172 and has been going on ever since. Truly, it is going on there at the present time. The Labour party feel, and I hope all Britishers feel, that the state of things which now exists in Ireland is no credit to this country or to the British Government. My object in moving this Motion to-night, and the object of the Labour party, is not to deal particularly with a long series of these grievances, but we want to try and arouse the conscience of this House and to induce it to insist on the Government taking such steps as will wipe out the stain which besmirches the reputation of this country before all the free peoples of the world. We are anxious that such action should be taken as will enable us to repudiate the charge of hypocrisy which is being brought against us by our critics abroad. We are anxious that the principles of the Government of all these Islands should be brought into line with the principles which we have been advocating for alien races. It does not matter what list of wrongs may be drawn up in relation to Ireland, the one supreme wrong which Ireland has suffered has been the refusal on the part of powerful reactionaries in this country to grant her the right and opportunity to express her nationality, her 1697 ideals, and her culture in her own way and by the only method of government in which Ireland or any other country can express its nationality, that is, by the principles of self-government and self-determination.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I will try to explain what I mean. The system which I describe as self-government and self-determination is a system of government for which we have just fought successfully through the bloodiest war the world has ever seen. We have been fostering aspirations in the Poles, the Czecho-Slovaks, and other alien races, yet it is the very aspirations we have fostered in other people which we treat with intense hostility when we find them in our Irish brethren. [An Hon. Member: "Why did not the Irish fight?"] I shall want to know what we have done to Ireland. What we want to know is, why should the sentiments of nationality which are admirable in the Poles be execrable in the Irish? I want to say very deliberately that for the conditions which now prevail in Ireland this country of Britain and this representative assembly is responsible, and upon certain well-known public men blood guilt lies heavily. I am not an Irishman. I am not approaching this problem from the standpoint of an Irish Nationalist or of a Sinn Feiner or of an Ulster Unionist. I approach it from the standpoint of a democrat, as one who believes that the principles of democracy are invariable and should be applied all round. Above all, I approach it from the standpoint of a Labour leader, as one who has had considerable practical experience of the organised working-class movement in this country. The Irish question is becoming more and more a labour question. It has become peculiarly a labour question, because the Irish problem in its effects goes right down to the very roots of representative government and of Parliamentary institutions. It would be well for this House to remember that Parliamentary institutions are on trial before the workers of the world. They form a system that is being scrapped in several of the countries of Europe, a system that has not yet justified itself either in relation to the wrongs of Ireland or in relation to the wrongs of labour. I say, with regret—I 1698 am not pleased to say it and I wish it were otherwise; I am simply giving expression to an unquestionable fact—that the organised workers are being slowly but surely forced to the conclusion that Parliamentary Government is a fraud. [An Hon. Member: "Who says so?"] I think I know what I am talking about. The workers of this country are being slowly but surely forced to the conclusion that Parliamentary Government is a fraud and that the real power rests, not with the Government itself but with a compact and organised gang of aristocratic military men and reactionary political partisans by whom the Government is being swayed. [An Hon. Member: "It is not aristocratic!"] These reactionaries thwart the will of the people. In the case of Ireland the methods by which they have thwarted the will of the people there has been by the threat of civil war. In all seriousness I say that what has taken place in Ireland in relation to Home Rule is producing a line of thought in the minds of the workers which will inevitably lead from constitutional procedure to methods of a reactionary and a wrecking character. I do not know how many Members have seen the document I hold in my hand, which is called, "A Complete Grammar of Anarchy." It is a little book that has been turned down by the Irish Government and, I am told, also by the Irish military power. [An Hon. Member: "Who published it?"]
§ Mr. HARTSHORN—with which I have ever come in contact. It is a collection of speeches, or of parts of speeches, in which the authors incite men to all sorts of things. Among other things, the people are incited to hang up Members of the Government on lamp-posts. They are told that if they will fight and resist the considered judgment and decision of Parliament, they will have certain support. Army officers are invited to refuse to carry out the decisions of Parliament. All sorts of indictments, and all kinds of revolutionary utterances are contained in that document. Where are the gentlemen who delivered those speeches to-day? The first given here is said to have been made 1699 Attorney-General for England in 1916, the First Lord of the Admiralty in December, 1916, and a member of the War Cabinet in 1917. Another of these revolutionaries was made Secretary to the Colonies in 1915, and has been Leader of the House since. Another is sitting on the Woolsack as Lord Chancellor of England. Still another is Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Another has been made Treasurer of His Majesty's Household, and another has been made a Judge of the High Court. The position that exists in Ireland to-day is due more to the speeches delivered by those men, and to the actions of the men who backed their speeches by the military organisation than to any other cause.
§ What did these gentlemen do? In effect they said: "It is true, Parliament has expressed its decision, but we will set Parliament at defiance. We will get hold of the Army and we will organise resistance in every possible direction. Although there is a Government with Parliament behind it, we have the military forces of the realm and we will use them in resistance to the public will." It is now the policy of those who are declining to concede Home Rule to Ireland to talk about the rebellion of 1916, as though that were the outcome of a sort of special dose of original sin that is in the Irish. As a matter of fact, it is the natural consequence of thwarting the Irish hopes by methods which are the exact antithesis of democratic government. Before the War, Ireland had given the representative system of these Islands a long and patient trial. The late Mr. John Redmond, that great and wise Irishman, devoted his unexampled influence to keeping his own country in the path of peaceful propaganda and constitutional action. He believed he could depend upon the democratic conscience of this country. He believed he could depend upon the word of statesmen in this country, and that ultimately he would be able to win for Ireland the possession of that right which he had been striving for for generations. After years of patient and devoted work, he secured the passage of the Home Rule Bill. The will of the British Parliament had been expressed, but it was the will of the Ulster Unionists, backed by the military party, which was the ruling power in this country. The Parliamentary system was revealed as impotent. The real power was with the determined, organised gang of men who were prepared, if necessary, to run this country into civil war, 1700 even at a time when we might have been attacked and defeated by Germany, in order that they might get their way.
§ Democracy so dominated by an armed and reckless minority is not a democracy at all. It is simply an oligarchy based on armed force. The Curragh scandal finally made that clear. Ireland was disillusioned. Many of the Irish people lost faith in constitutional methods and in politics and they swung over to rebellion. Their claims, from being moderate in the extreme, became more or less extravagant. That is the necessary development that takes place, not merely with Irishmen. I have seen that mental process gone through over and over again in the Labour world. Whenever working men have their reasonable, just claims met by a blank denial, up go their claims at once, and they immediately adopt more ruthless methods in order to secure them. What is the position in Ireland to-day? I am not quite sure that I can tell. I asked the Secretary of State for War to-day how many troops were in Ireland, and he is going to let me have an answer to-morrow. I do not exactly know how many there are, and I do not expect I shall know after I get a reply. But I am told from other sources that we have about 40,000 troops. Whether it be 40,000, 50,000, or 60,000, you cannot keep Ireland peaceable without a great Army of British troops. Does the Government imagine that when peace has been signed with Germany there is going to be quiet and content in this country while conscripts in peace time are to be used for suppressing the natural aspirations of the Irish people? If they do, they do not understand the working-class movement in this country. There are those among my colleagues who say we ought never to use an industrial weapon for political ends. I am prepared to go a long way with them, but suppose the working-class movement decides, after the declaration of Peace, that they will organise a week's holiday from the North of Scotland to the West of Wales, organise great monster mass meetings, and concentrate upon the issue of Home Rule for Ireland, and the policy of Conscription—
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
Follow out the business after Peace has been declared and we will do it, and very effectively, and if the sixty men who sit on these benches agree to leave this House any week, and 1701 co-operate with our colleagues in the industrial world on the question of Conscription, and the government of the people of Ireland, we could create a public feeling in this country which would make it impossible for the Government to live another day. Throw down the challenge if you like and we will accept it. I want to know where the Government got their mandate.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
From the people! They did not get a mandate from the people at the last election to introduce Conscription in this country in peace time. They are not acting on delegated power at all; they are playing the part of usurpers, and they have no right to complain of any action we take as industrialists on the ground that it is unconstitutional, having regard to the way that they themselves have flouted constitutional government in this matter of Conscription for peace time in this country. We have just about had enough of it. What I want to know from the Government is this: Are the Ulster Unionists to be allowed to paralyse the British Executive and the overwhelming majority of the Irish people, and to thwart the operations of democratic government? If not, why are the Government not carrying out the will of the people? [An Hon. Member: "What is it?"] What is it? You have the declaration of the Irish people more than once, and if you want to know what their will is, put it into operation when you get it and do not resist them and continually thwart them until they make further demands. I understand now that the Government say, "We will have a settlement by agreement." I do not know whether that is part of the Parliamentary system. I do not know whether that is part of democratic government. I understood that representative government meant rule by the majority, the carrying into effect of the expressed will of the people. Now we are told that we must have an agreement of all sections before a settlement can be effected. I wonder what the Welsh people would have said if when they were agitating for the Disestablishment of the Church the Government had said to them, "You go and get the Welsh churchmen to agree on the question of Disestablishment and then we will introduce a Bill." If such a proposal had been made to the Welshmen it would have been laughed to scorn. That 1702 is exactly what we are told is to be done before a settlement can be effected in the case of Ireland.
We have here a Report which has been submitted to the Government. It was sent in in April, 1913, and the Chairman in submitting it to the Government said:For the immediate object of the Government the Report tells all that needs to be told. It shows that in the Convention, while it was not found possible to overcome the objections of the Ulster Unionists, the majority of Nationalists, all the Southern Unionists, and five out of the seven Labour representatives, were agreed that the scheme of Irish self-government set out in paragraph 42 of the Report should be immediately passed into law.What is Clause 42? This is what it says:We propose an Irish Parliament with full powers of legislation in all Irish affairs, subject to the religious safeguards contained in Section 3 of the Act of 1914; all existing disabilities to be removed in the Constitutional Act, and with full powers of taxation, but with no powers to make laws on Imperial concerns, on the Crown, on foreign relations, on pence and war, on the Army and Navy, and other allied matters duty specified.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ What less than that could the Irishmen have suggested to this House if they were to have any sort of Homo Rule? The Prime Minister said that he would introduce legislation in order to carry that into effect. Nothing has been done, and now we are faced with the position of very much more extreme demands. We are told in one of the London daily papers today that nothing less than Dominion Home Rule will satisfy the Irishmen. Why should they not have Dominion Home Rule? What is there in the Irish people that they are not entitled to the same right to work out their own destiny as the other people who are part and parcel of the British Empire? I am inclined to think that the longer we resist the reasonable demands that are made to this House by the Irish people the more extreme the demands will become. I hope the day is not far distant when we shall realise that Ireland is entitled to this measure of reform which it is asking for, and I hope we shall treat them generously. I hope we shall try for once to do a big thing in a big way, and to give to Ireland all that a free, responsible, and intensely national people can wish in the way of self-government.1703
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
I do not know that it is exactly the business of myself or of the Labour party to determine the exact lines upon, which this should be done. [Laughter.] You get hilarious directly, but what have we been contending for? Not that the Labour party are entitled to determine what Ireland should do, but that there should be self-determination for Ireland itself, that the people of Ireland should determine for themselves. I hope that we shall not be met to-night with the usual reply from the Government. [An Hon. Member: "You will get no reply!"] I would rather have no reply than a sham reply. It would be very much better. One thing certain is that the moment the position of Ireland is made known to the people of this country, intense dissatisfaction and discontent will be created unless a real and genuine effort is made to discharge the obligation which devolves upon us to do our part to settle it. If, having done that, we find a position among the Irish which makes it impossible for us to apply a solution, then it will be time for this House to say, "We have done our duty. We have offered you what is fair, just, and generous. You have refused to accept the best that could be done." Then we shall have some excuse for putting up some resistance. But until we have done that I say that this House has not done its duty. I hope that, as a result of this discussion, the Government will determine seriously to consider what can be done in Ireland to remedy the state of things existing there at the present time.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Although this is a Labour Resolution, emanating from the Labour party, and I happen to be a member of that party, I want to be perfectly frank with the House and to say without any hesitation that I cannot approach it from a purely Labour point of view. Though born in perfidious Albion myself I am the descendant of Irish grandparents, and not only myself but two generations of my family have been born in this country—my father and mother. I 1704 was reared and nurtured, so far as economic conditions would allow, in an essentially Irish atmosphere, brought over here by my grandparents who were chased out of Ireland by the famine of 1847. Therefore I shall be excused if, labouring under that memory, I do not treat the subject with altogether an un-biassed judgment. I have made up my mind as far as possible to eliminate all the bitterness that was instilled into my youthful mind by the mournful history of the country, of which, notwithstanding the fact that I was born in England, I claim to be a descendant.
An hon. Member below the Gangway wanted to know why did not Ireland fight. I do not know whether to admire more his colossal ignorance or his colossal impudence. I would remind the hon. Member that for more than a century Ireland has been fighting—unfortunately for England, fighting against the brutal "Yeos," and against the oppression of the Irish people themselves. I have sat at the feet of my grandfather, and I have heard him relate the history of the pitch-cap and the gallows which were the fate of the Irish people who dared to teach the Irish language and the Irish religion to the Irish people. I have heard him state over and over again the methods of the brutal "Yeos." Talk about Prussianism strikes horror into hon. Members in this House, but I have heard of innocent children who were bayoneted and carried on the points of the bayonets of the "Yeos," previous to the rebellion of 'Ninety-eight. [An HON. MEMBER: "After the rebels did it."] But I want to forget it all. [Laughter.] I do not see what there is to laugh at or what is the reason of the hilarity. The hon. Gentleman wanted to know why did not Ireland fight. I am telling him, and I am telling him that for more than a century Ireland has been fighting against the kind of thing that existed in Ireland. I am old enough to remember the Clerkenwell explosion, the mistaken raid on Chester Castle—and it was a mistake—and the smashing of the prison van in Manchester. I have a vivid recollection of that, and with my father I stood beneath the gallows when Allen, Larkin and O'Brien were swung off for a pure accident—for it was never intended to kill or murder anyone. [Laughter.]; Again I can only pity the colossal ignorance of the Gentleman who laughs. I do not know who the Gentleman is.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I am old enough to remember the Fenian movement. In fact I do not mind confessing that my own father was a Fenian head centre in the very district which I now represent. I remember how the Army and the police of this country were infected by the fighting spirit which the hon. Gentleman denies to the Irish people, and I only quote my own case as an example, because it is typical of that of millions of men of Irish descent all over the world. And yet we have the Chief Secretary the other night, with all his historic facts before him, showing that Irishmen take their lives in their bands every day, performing heroic actions, as was proved in the unfortunate rebellion of 1916, getting up in this House and threatening the Irish people with force My God! after all these years, with all these examples of fearlessness, fearlessness of any cost, knowing that they were going into a business in which it was impossible to succeed, we had the spectacle of the right hon. Gentleman the other night again threatening the Irish people with the forces of the Crown and an army of occupation in Ireland. I can only sympathise with him in that respect. I can remember the time when you could not pick up a newspaper in this country or read an advertisement for a situation without seeing the footnote, "No Irish need apply." In the face of all this, can you expect any particular gratitude from a people and a country who are treated in that way?
In my early days as a lad I was attracted by the physical force movement in Ireland, but as I grew older I began to see the folly of a physical force movement, and the first gleam of hope we got in this country was the rise of the constitutional movement in Ireland and the gradual disappearance of the physical force movement. Personally I welcomed that. I lived in the days of Butt and Shaw and Parnell and the first time I exercised the franchise, being a Radical and revolutionary and as far as possible a Liberal all my life, was when I voted on the advice of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division, at whose feet I sat at that time, in response to Gladstone's challenge, for the Tory Government which turned Gladstone out of this House, The Tory Government 1706 came into power There was the point made of destroying physical force and encouraging constitutional action. What was the reply to Mr. Gladstone's appeal? Ireland spoke solidly and returned to this House seventy-five or eighty Members, and amongst them were convicts and felons who had been in gaol and whom the Irish people honoured for that reason. From that day to this, as an eloquent example of the incapacity of the British Government to rule Ireland, if you send an Irishman to gaol to-day he is a hero no matter what he goes to gaol for. You had men in this House who were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. You had J. F. Z. O'Brien a Member of this House, and he had been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. You had my dear old friend Michael Davitt, a convict from Portland and a prominent figure in this House. You had John Mitchell, who was also sentenced to death and exiled, returned for an Irish constituency, although you refused to recognise the right of the Irish people to elect him. With those examples you go on blundering in the same old way and expect Ireland to be conciliated. It never will be. We have had Chief Secretary after Chief Secretary. Some of them, and indeed most of them, found their political graves in Ireland. We had the stern W. H. Foster; we had the man who followed him, and who is now in Paris negotiating peace, in which I hope he succeeds. We had the humane man, Mr. Birrell, a humanitarian, who like Lanna Machree's dog, went a bit of the road with everyone and never got anywhere. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded the present Chief Secretary was wise in his generation and gave it a miss in. balk for the short time he was there.
I want to approach this subject now without any bitterness. I do not think I have been bitter so far; I am merely quoting historic facts. I want to approach this question from the purely Labour side. I have had to quarrel with my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division, although I was a member of the United Irish League when the mandate went forth that the Irishmen in this country must recognise the alliance which then existed between the Liberal and Irish parties. Occasionally, being a bit of a rebel myself, I have kicked over the traces when we have been presented with a political adventurer who suddenly displayed, a love for Ireland he never had. 1707 before and who took advantage of the alliance in order to get into a city or town council. They might be sweating employers or the like, but I stood alone in my objection. I only quote that as an example of the loyalty of the Irish trade unionists in this country and to show that they were prepared to suffer even that infliction rather than endanger the probability of securing the principle of Home Rule for Ireland, which was on the banner of the Irish people all over. There is a greater danger than that. When constitutional action was adopted by the Irish people the result was that the Coercion Act was introduced, and the men who were acting constitutionally in Ireland were arrested and sent to gaol. What happened? Though the men were in gaol they were more powerful in Kilmainham than outside. I think it is recorded as an historical fact that the then Government had to go to Kilmainham Gaol to make a treaty with Parnell, who was imprisoned there before peace could be obtained in Ireland. I am speaking now of what I know really happened during the agitation. Then we had the introduction of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, and again we thought the Irish question was going to be settled, and that the British and Irish workers would unite in order to improve their industrial conditions, because the Home Rule question was keeping this back. Let me give an example. I represent an organisation composed of what is generally known as unskilled workers; they are not unskilled workers, but they are generally accepted as such. We have, in Ireland, Catholics and Protestants in our ranks, as we have them in England. We are not singular in that respect, for other trade unions have the same experience. From one year's end to the other these men, without any thought as to what shrine they worship at, or the place of their nativity, went on paying their contributions, having on their cards, under the clasped hands, "United we stand, divided we fall"; and fraternising with each other in the trade union lodges, except on two illucid intervals, the 17th of March and 12th of July, when one crowd cursed the Pope and the other cursed the King of Great Britain.
The War came, and the War has been very very liberal education. The Orangemen and the Nationalists in the North of Ireland, and the Orangemen and the 1708 Nationalists in Britain fought side by side in the trenches. They fraternised and exchanged opinions, and if the Government had only taken their courage in both hands when this new spirit was developing, and had put the Act, which is now on the Statute Book, into operation, the difficulty in Ireland would have been overcome long ago. What do we wish for? So far as I am concerned, this Resolution is a very tame Resolution. Without hesitation I now say that nothing short of Dominion Home Rule would satisfy me as being applied to Ireland. I may be asked what I mean by Dominion Home Rule. I will leave that to the experts. But I know this, that what is good enough for South Africa, which fought England vigorously and bitterly, ought surely to be extended to the neighbouring isle of Ireland. As a matter of fact, it was so extended. This; House discussed, and deliberately passed an Act, which gave power to this country and to the Government to declare Home Rule for Ireland, without any partition. I do not think that can be denied. What happened? A section of the small corner of the North-East of Ulster objected, and said they would not submit, and that they wanted their own way. May I give an illustration of how that principle would apply in other cases? My hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool represents, in the city to which I belong, a purely Irish constituency. The Irish Nationalists of Liverpool return to the City Council sixteen or seventeen Irish Nationalist Members. If it is right for the small North-East corner of Ulster to claim a separate Government in Ireland, it surely ought to be right for the seventeen Irish Nationalists of Liverpool to want a city council for themselves. To me it appears that the same principle applies to either. If this Government had applied the Act which was passed there would have been no difficulty in Ireland with respect to the response of that country for the defence of the country. If hon. Gentlemen ask why Ireland did not fight at that time I want to say that nobody regrets more than myself that the general, policy of Conscription was not applied to Ireland as well as to England. Why was it not applied? The Government, with the awful record behind them, dared not apply it to Ireland, because they knew the response would be meagre unless they gave them the justice which this House had said they should get and which they never had. History is repeating itself 1709 again. The House deliberately passed an Act for the self-government of Ireland. The country expected it to be put into operation. It was the Treaty of Limerick over again. The Irish people have long memories, and very vivid ones, and they know how they have been treated in the past.
May I be allowed just to refer to a cutting from the "Times" of yesterday? A gentleman, writing under the signature of "Sir West Ridgeway," puts what he calls five pertinent questions to the Labour party. He asks for definite answers to these crucial questions, and that they should not be evaded. I am going to attempt to answer them, and I am not going to attempt to evade them. The first question was:Is the Labour Party in favour of separation; that is to say, of the establishment of an Irish Republic?If I know the Labour party at all—and from an association of over thirty years I think I ought to know it—I should say that the Labour party was not only not in favour of separation, but, from the point of view of economic tradition and geographical and social conditions, it would be very much opposed to the separation of Ireland from the United Kingdom. Why? Let any student of geography, sociology, or economics just consider that question for a moment. The separation of Ireland from the United Kingdom would, in my opinion, mean social and economic ruin for Ireland. I do not think there is a member of the constitutional Irish party who would deny that for a moment. The next question was:If not, is it in favour of this grant of full Dominion rule; that is, the right of the Irish Government to maintain an Army and Navy, to enter into treaties with foreign Powers, to take exclusive possession of harbours and other strategic points essential to the safety of the United Kingdom, and the right to secede?I think Sir West Ridgeway must be possessed of a very vivid imagination. I thought I knew the conditions of Dominion rule, and I have yet to learn that either the right to secede or to enter into treaties with foreign Powers was any part of the conditions of Dominion Home Rule. The next question is:If not, what other settlement of the question would they propose, and would they impose it on Ireland even if the majority of the Irish electorate refused to accept it as a final settlement?1710 But that is not the case. The vast majority accepted the Home Rule Bill, and it was only a minority who opposed it. The fourth question is:If Ulster refused to submit, would the Labour party coerce her?That is paying a great tribute to the Labour party. But I think again I can answer for the Labour party, and to console Ulster and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who represents Ulster, the Labour party, if it had the power, would not attempt to do any more to Ulster than is done to every faithful citizen of the Empire, and that is to obey the laws made in this House and administer them for the good of the community and not for a section. You talk about coercion, but is there alaw passed in this House that does not coerce a minority? Are we to give the right to minorities to rebel against every Act of Parliament passed in this House? That is the privilege which the right hon. and learned Gentleman from the North-East corner of Ulster claimed to exercise.
§ Sir E. CARSON
No; I did not. The hon. Gentleman says we claim to set at nought every Act of Parliament passed by this House. I say we have never claimed any such thing. We claim to refuse to be driven out of our British citizenship.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Well, of course, I think the right hon. Gentleman is justified in that, not to be driven out of the United Kingdom, but has anybody suggested that he should be? I have never heard that the Home Rule Act would drive any man out of the United Kingdom, and, if I thought that, I should vote against the Home Rule Bill.
§ Mr. SEXTON
But I do not think it, and I do not think there is any ground or justification for the right hon. Gentleman assuming that that would be so. What did happen? The minority did rebel. The right hon. and learned Gentleman—I am not saying whether he should or should not, I am only saying he was wrong, in my opinion—led the rebellion, and his understudy, Mr. Galloper Smith, like John Gilpin, has now been rewarded with the highest honours that the King of this country can bestow upon him.
§ Mr. SEXTON
Anyhow, the result is that, of those two gentlemen, one is elevated to the War Cabinet and the other to the Lord Chancellorship of England. The next question is:Would they employ the British Army for this purpose, or would they allow the Nationalist Government to make the attempt with its own troops; or, in other words, would they encourage civil war in Ireland?I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he thinks is happening in Ireland now? The British Array is employed in Ireland, not to coerce a minority, but to coerce a majority, the very antithesis of democratic Government. I know the Sinn Feiners are in a majority, but I hope it will not last. I say this without any bitter feeling against the Sinn Feiners. I do not think it will last, because I think that the men who are following the Sinn Fein policy to-day are following it because they are disgusted with political action and with the action of this House towards Ireland. It has gone farther. It has affected the loyal Irishmen in this country. I know I am speaking truly when I tell you that in my own Constituency and in my own union men with all the bitter memories I have mentioned sank them all, did not wait for Conscription, and joined the Colours when the War broke out. The old cry used to be, "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity," but that was all forgotten, when this country was in danger, by the Irish residents in England. [An Hon. Member: "And in Ireland!"] Yes, and in Ireland. [HON. Members: "No, no!"] The only thing you can throw at Ireland is that they did not agree to Conscription, but the Government had not the courage to apply Conscription. If they had applied Conscription and granted Home Rule at the same time, there would have been no objection in Ireland to taking up this country's battles as their kith and kin did in this country. Further than that, it is affecting the British trade union movement, and the whole industrial unrest today, and that is what makes me plead with the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they want to build up peace and to secure the future of this old country of ours, of which I am as proud as they are, they will recognise that, all this bitterness must be forgotten and that there is only one way to do it, and that is by an intelligent and determined interpretation of the franchise, the recognition of the true spirit of democracy. When the majority 1712 of a country declares for a policy, the minority, in the true spirit of democracy, must fall into line.
§ Lieutenant-Colonel Lord HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I rise to express my sympathy with the Resolution which has been brought forward by the hon. Members opposite. I have been all my life a member of the Unionist party, but I am free to confess I have now completely changed my opinions, and, what is more, I have the entire consent of my Constituents to speak my mind upon the Irish question. For a great many years I used to believe all the shibboleths which passed current about the Irish people. I used to believe that they were an impossible people, that they were entirely incapable of governing themselves, and that it was quite impossible ever to reconcile them. Well, I have entirely changed my views. I believe that if we cease to thwart the deeply inherited instincts of the Irish people, and we have the wisdom to throw upon them the responsibility of governing their own affairs, and allow them free leave to develop their own national individuality, there will be no more contented, happy, prosperous, and well-governed community within the British Empire. I have no desire to say anything which will hurt the feelings of any Member in this House, or to say anything disrespectful of any Member of this House, but I would, with all humility, make an appeal to those Members of the party with which I have been so long associated, and ask them if it is not possible for them to take a somewhat more sympathetic view of the aspirations of the Irish people, and particularly of the action of the constitutional movement, which I am sorry to see represented by so few Members in this House. And I am emboldened to do so by the recollection that seventy-live years ago Disraeli made in this House exactly the same appeal. I would like to read to the House what he said:He could find no ground in history for the common assumption that hostility to the Irish people was a characteristic of the Tory policy. At a time like the present, when those who had been their leaders no longer lead, it was their duty to recur to the principles of their party. Believing that Ireland is governed in a manner which conduces only to the injury of both countries, I hope that the time will come when a party framed on true principles will do justice to Ireland by really penetrating into the mystery of this great misgovernment, and so to bring about a state of society which shall be advantageous to both England and Ireland, and which 1713 will put an end to a state of things which is the bane of England, and the opprobrium of Europe.I do not want to enter into the question of what, is the traditional policy of the Tory party, but I do not think it can be denied that the result of an indifference and our hostility to the constitutional movement in Ireland has been to destroy the constitutional movement, and project the Irish people into Republicanism and violent courses. Neither can it be denied that the condition of Ireland, just as it was seventy-five years ago in Disraeli's day, is still the bane of England and the opprobrium of Europe. It is more than the opprobrium of Europe. It is the opprobrium of Canada and Australia and of the United States. [Hon. Members: "No!" and "Yes!"] And, inasmuch as it is the only white nationality which has not yet been given the power of self-government, it causes us to stand in the eyes of the world convicted of the grossest hypocrisy.
I should like also to make an appeal to the Liberal members of the Government—those Liberal Members who are such an ornament to their present Government. I do not wish to hurt the feelings of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. I have reason to know his courtesy, and I have every reason to believe in his sincerity and his honesty, but I would like to ask him, with all humility, how long does he think it really possible to continue the government of Ireland upon the present lines? How long does he think it possible to continue to hold down the Irish people by an army of thousands of men, and with tanks, barbed wire, bombs, and machine-guns? It was Edmund Burke who said that it was the first duty of a statesman to consider the temper of his people, otherwise the government becomes a mere scuffle between a Minister and the multitude, in which one alternately yields or prevails in a succession of contemptible victories and scandalous submissions. I do not think there could be a more accurate description of the present system of government in Ireland. My right hon. Friend is not really and truly governing Ireland at all. He is engaged in a mere scuffle with the Irish people—a scuffle in Limerick to-day and Dublin to-morrow. One day there is a contemptible victory and another day a scandalous submission. I would submit to him that he and his Government must make a beginning some day, and that it is impossible to browbeat and to kill the 1714 spirit of a proud, independent people with a great history. If we are, in the words of Disraeli, to penetrate into the mystery of this great misgovernment, we cannot hide from ourselves the fact that the unhappiness and misery of the Irish people at the present time is caused by the fact that Ireland is not being governed in the interest of the majority but in the interest of the minority. I do not want to say anything at all which is distasteful to hon. Members from Ulster. I would only repeat this assurance, that neither I nor anybody else wants to coerce Ulster into a Home Rule Bill, but I would ask them this: How long do they think really and truly that the government of Ireland can be conducted in the interest not of the majority but of the minority?
There is really no difference between the Irish question and the question of the settlement of Eastern and Central Europe. All these nationalities we have freed have subject nationalities, minorities within their own borders—Poland, the Czecho-Slovaks, and the Jugo-Slavs have all subject nationalities within their own borders. Is it really believed for a moment that we can arrive at a settlement of the Central European question if we allow these national minorities to hold up the national aspirations of the majorities? It is not possible to arrive at any peaceful solution of the Irish question if we allow the people of Ulster to hold up, retard, and thwart the aspirations of the majority of the Irish people. Again I repeat, nobody wishes to coerce the people of Ulster, but what I do submit is that England expects the people of Ulster to show some spirit of compromise. We are in a vicious circle in this matter in Ireland. Violence leads to repression, and repression leads to violence. Yet there is a way out of it, a door to be unlocked. It is the right hon. Gentleman the Irish Secretary who sits there on the Front Bench who has the key. I would appeal to him most urgently and sincerely to put that key in the hands of the Government.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
At this late hour I must not take up unduly the time of the House, which, as I know, anxiously awaits the reply of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. The Motion that has been brought before the House has been brought by the Labour party, and the speakers representing the Labour party have covered a great quantity of ground, much of it only remotely connected with 1715 the present situation in Ireland. I do not propose to follow them over that ground, but I must be allowed to say that their view of Irish history, so far as my reading can inform me, is an entirely incorrect and untrue view. It is a misrepresentation of the facts arrived at by looking at only one side of the question and greatly exaggerating that one side. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion was so little informed of the subject upon which he was instructing the House that he actually believed that the Home Rule Act now on the Statute Book is the same thing as Dominion Home Rule, and he apparently believed that it would be acceptable.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I accept the disclaimer of the hon. Gentleman, but he said precisely what I have said. His arguments depended upon that.
§ Lord H. CECIL
No; probably if the hon. Member would be guided by my memory he would be more accurate. But what I say was indeed the ground of a good deal of his argument. The Home Rule Act is, in fact, an entirely different proposal from Dominion Home Rule, and all that part of his argument which went to show that his solution was that Dominion Home Rule might be adopted by enforcing the Home Rule Act falls to the ground.
§ Mr. SEXTON
May I interrupt the Noble Lord? I myself would go further than the present Act. I would prefer Dominion Home Rule.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Lord H. CECIL
Neither the one proposal nor the other would meet the principle laid down by the Mover of the Resolution. The argument is that you must give the Irish people all they ask. The Mover of the Resolution based his arguments on this: you must treat Ireland precisely as you would treat the Czecho-Slovaks or as the Noble Lord said. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] Very well, that is independence. I quite understand the different line. Are you going to treat Ireland like Poland or like Bohemia, as a country, and going to give it absolute independence—that is the proposal—or an Irish Republic? 1716 Moreover, the hon. Member who seconded the Motion saw that the position was bound to arise that if you do that you cannot upon that hypothesis leave Ulster outside and force her from her allegiance to the British Crown. Therefore, you are at once faced with all the difficulties of the problem, and the hon. Members who jointly spoke for one hour and a half really shed no light whatever upon the difficult parts of the problem. They contented themselves by reciting in general terms a completely false view of Irish history, and declaiming against the present Government. That really does not assist anyone in solving the problem Let me come now to my Noble Friend (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), whose heart has steadily grown stronger than his head in recent years. He is entitled to respect for the sympathy which he feels for subject nationalities. He assured us he had changed his opinions. That is always an interesting and sometimes an attractive declaration to hear announced. But he really did not tell us why he had changed his mind. I waited to hear, on the lines of Newman's famous "Apologia," how he had developed from point to point and become a Home Ruler. Nor did he tell us exactly what his present opinions were, except they were different from his past opinions. He told us very little about them. He did not tell us whether he was in favour of independence or of Dominion Home Rule, or of the Home Rule Act, or in a sort of compromise between the three. He merely said that in general something ought to be done.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
It h the speeches of the Noble Lord that to a large extent have converted me.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I am tempted to make a reference to the throwing of pearls—but that would be delibertely discourteous to my Noble Friend. I really wanted to illustrate what seemed to me the essential lesson we have to learn, and that is that the Irish problem cannot be solved merely by rhetorical phrases. There are definite conditions to which you have to conform. I do not think seriously that any one proposes that you should force the North-East of Ireland to conform to a Government which it despises. My Noble Friend says that that is happening in Eastern and Central Europe. If so, I very much regret it. I do not believe you will find a single instance either in Eastern or Cen- 1717 tral Europe, or anywhere, where there is a district in the country made to conform by a Government to that Government which it hates so intensely that it would be prepared to take up armed resistance to avoid it. That, after all, is a plain fact. No one who has looked into the question doubts the sincerity of the repugnance of Ulster to a Home Rule Government, and still more, to any government by an Irish Republic. I cannot help saying that the extreme reluctance of the Nationalist party of Ireland to acquiesce in the partition throws a serious reflection on the reality of their demand itself. The difficulties of national independence are not helped by the position that if you cannot emancipate the whole of their country you are not to emancipate any part. What, for example, would Cuvier and Garibaldi have thought in 1860 of the proposition that because you could not deal with Venice and Rome you were not to have any part of Italy liberated? I am trying to put the case to those with whom I am not in agreement, that in this matter Ireland resembles the position of Italy under the Government of Austria. Cuvier and Garabaldi in practice were ready to accept the liberation of certain parts of Italy, and to leave the problem of the remaining districts to be solved as opportunity offered and time permitted. Why do not the Irish Nationalists, and the Irish Sinn Feiners take a similar line? I cannot help thinking that at the bottom of their hearts, in the case of a good many of them, there is a wish to have Home Rule rejected. They wish to go on under the Union under protest. They do not wish to have a new settlement in respect of three-fourths of Ireland and then see whether afterwards by good government they can win over the dissentient part of Ireland. They do not wish to do that, but they wish to take up an irreconcilable attitude so that they may say that Great Britain has refused their demand, and so they wish to go on under the Union with a grievance.
§ Lord H. CECIL
There is no doubt that a large part of Ulster would be left out under a system of partition. I under- 1718 stand that the whole of the Sinn Fein party and all those who sat on the Convention representing Nationalist opinion repudiated partition as impossible and a thing which they would not look at. [Hon. Members: "Yes!"] I do not doubt the sincerity of hon. Members opposite or the Roman Catholic Episcopate, and there are a good many people in Ireland who are not sorry that the Home Rule Bill was wrecked.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I will not vie with the hon. Member as regards the confidence of the Irish Episcopate, because he has studied it more closely than I have. There is not the least doubt that the establishment of Home Rule in any part of Ireland has been wrecked by the obstinate opposition to partition of the Nationalists and the Sinn Fein parties. Is it possible to make any suggestion that would afford any light on the subject? My suggestion to the Government has always been that the Irish people should be asked to submit their own proposals, and for that purpose they should be given such a measure as would set up assemblies to formulate their proposals. I do not think the Convention was satisfactory from the point of view that the Sinn Feiners did not sit on it. The Convention was appointed not to formulate a scheme for Irish government but to try and find some agreement between the Ulstermen and the Nationalists, and in that respect it failed.
I should like to see four provincial councils set up in Ireland with power to sit together if they please or to sit separately, and leave them to formulate whatever form of Irish government they like in a Bill, and not in general resolutions, which do not advance matters. They should draw up a Bill with all the difficulties worked out in regard to finance, and their form of government adjusted in all its details. That Bill could be brought here and considered by this House. Obviously, this House has to consider not only the interests of Ireland but the interests of Great Britain as well, and the House would be inclined to judge the matter not only in the light of Irish wishes but also in the light of British wishes. We should then know what the various bodies of opinion in Ireland did think, and we should have before us not general phrases 1719 and resolutions but a definite authoritative programme of the Irish people, the practicability of which we could judge.
I am afraid we should first see a demand for Irish independence so far as the three Southern provinces are concerned. I think hon. Members will have to make up their minds whether they will grant independence. Personally, I think total independence less objectionable than Dominion Home Rule, and I would rather see the three Southern provinces independent than subject to a Dominion form of Parliament, which would only be the means of a new agitation with endless perturbation and no finality. But you must have something like a persistent demand. The Irish people only decided to demand independence at the last election, and before you could grant it you would have to find out whether it was really the deliberate purpose of the Irish people, and you would have to find out whether that demand had existed for a long period of time and that the Irish people really wished to have independence in the sense I have indicated.
Irish history is entirely different from the history of Poland or Bohemia. I do not myself think that historically you can find any real claim for Ireland to be a nationality. If you study Irish History you cannot reasonably maintain Ireland as a nation, but the real truth is that history does not very much matter. We have heard a great deal about the atrocities of the past, but we have now to deal with the difficulties of the present. I quite agree that if for a period of time long enough to make it clear that it was the persistent desire of the Irish people, and if the three Southern provinces persisted in that way with a demand for an independent nation and would accept separation and part of Ireland preferred to remain under the British Government it would not be policy to resist the demand for independence, and you would gain nothing by persisting in resisting it. But that would involve a great many difficulties, and it would be a certain naval and military danger to this country. It would also be a very great hardship on all those innocent Irishmen, whether Nationalists or Unionists, who would be reluctant to choose once and for all between British and Irish allegiance.
It would also involve a completely different trade policy in regard to Ireland, and a completely different financial policy, because we could not be expected 1720 to give British money to assist Irish difficulties any longer. It would involve a number of consequences which ought to be very carefully considered, and we shall gain nothing by not facing the fact that, as Irish politics now stand, there is no appearance that anything except independence would be of any use. There is no appearance even in respect of independence that the Irish people in the South-west have accepted the obvious necessity of partition. There is no appearance that the Irish people, or at any rate those of the Irish people who make their voices heard, have faced the realities of the situation, and until they have done so we cannot legislate in regard to Ireland. The first thing we should do is that we should set up assemblies which will oblige the Irish people to form their own judgment and frame a policy which we could criticise from a British point of view
§ Major Sir KEITH FRASER
My only reason for speaking is that for the last four years I have been quartered in Ireland, and I have had exceptional opportunities of studying this Irish question. I have travelled over the provinces of Ulster, Munster, and Leinster, and I have come a great deal in touch with the civilian population, especially when employed on recruiting duties in the counties of Wicklow and Kildare in the winter of 1915–16. I never met anyone in Ireland who understood the Irish question, except one man, and he was an Englishman, and had only been in Ireland a week. I want to point out one or two false impressions that have been created about this Irish question, and also to make a suggestion which I hope may help in some little way to solve the present difficulty. In the first place, it is a very popular fallacy to say that they have not done well during this War. I think I am right in saying that there is no part of the United Kingdom that has sent more men in proportion to population than Ireland, except the Highlands of Scotland. We know what Ulster has done. We know how well they have served. You can hardly go, however, into a cottage in most of the villages in the provinces of Munster or Leinster without finding that someone has gone to the War, many of whom have never returned. In spite of that, they would not have Conscription in Ireland. I well understand that. It was due to the mismanagement of the then Government. They did not 1721 introduce the Derby scheme in Ireland at the time that it was in operation in England, and Conscription became a party question there. The Unionist party wanted Conscription, and because they wanted it the Nationalists said that they would not have it. Nevertheless the Nationalists and Unionists both joined up equally well. I am very optimistic about the Irish question. This Sinn Fein movement is not half as bad as we think it. There is not one man in a hundred in Ireland who would have an Irish Republic, and Ireland as foreign to this country as Spain. They know that there would be chaos, civil war, unemployment, starvation, and ruin. That, however, does not influence them; it is their loyalty to the British Empire which prevents Irishmen from wishing for a Republic. I do not for a moment think that they want a Republic. They have such a grip on this Empire for which they have fought so well. It is a question of sentiment with them. The Irish are among the most loyal people in the Empire. It is a strange thing to say, but it is a fact: The growth of the Sinn Fein movement is the natural outcome of the sequence of events. If those events had occurred in any country in the world, the same result would have followed. In most of the constituencies in Ireland the same party have been in power for the best part of a hundred years. Fancy that happening in this country. If a Roman Catholic in Ireland was not satisfied with the local authority he could not vote Unionist. There was only one party in the south of Ireland. Is it to be wondered at that after this long time the Irish are getting fed up with their Members. If a man did not happen to belong to a particular clique in his parish then goodbye to his ever getting a soft job. That was the foundation of Sinn Fein. It was born in corruption. It started at the time of Larkin before the War, and they worked it very cleverly. They worked as trade unionists. They got a certain number of members to join throughout Ireland. It was a trade union movement.
Then came what the Government of the day called the Irish Rebellion. It was the Liberty Hall crowd who were responsible for that; a crowd consisting of about 3,000 boys. Remember there were very few troops in Ireland at the time, and had it really been a rebellion spreading over 1722 the whole of Ireland it would have gone bard with them. But, as I say, it was the Liberty Hall crowd in Dublin who were responsible. What happened? The Government came along and almost promised Home Rule and thereupon the bulk of the Nationalists declared "these Sinn Feiners are splendid fellows. They have got us Home Rule." They promptly joined the organisation. And the Sinn Feiners, having thus been established by the Government of the day, proceeded to play their cards well. They organised on trade union lines all over the country. They put up the wages of the agricultural labourers by something like 100 per cent., and, indeed, they put up wages all round. They thoroughly organised that question, and if the Government had followed their example things might have been different. Can one be surprised that when the election came a few months later, in December, Irishmen voted Sinn Fein? In so doing, they thought they were voting for higher wages. They were not voting for Germans. They were not disloyal. They were as loyal as any men to be found in this country. It was purely local matters in Ireland which actuated thorn, and I have the greatest confidence that by the use of proper diplomacy we could still secure peace and prosperity for Ireland. I have spoken longer than I intended. I want to make one suggestion. I make, it seriously. I give it for what it is worth. We have hoard a good deal lately about Devolution. There have been alterations in our methods of legislation in this House. Grand Committees are sitting upstairs. Why not have a Grand Committee of Irishmen to deal with Irish Bills in Dublin before they come to this House? Let Irish Members get together, with power to add to their number, choosing their own president, and dealing with these Bills, drafting, discussing, and amending them, then sending them to this House, which would act as a safeguard for the Ulster people. If these matters were dealt with in Ireland, it would do much to allay the feeling against this House, because they would feel they were dealing with their own interests. If there is going to be Devolution for England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, it will not be a success unless this House acts as a sort of Second Chamber in command of them all. I make this suggestion for what it is worth. I believe the Irish to be a loyal race, loyal to their King, to their country, and to the Empire, and if ever 1723 they have an opportunity they will show it, as the majority of them have shown it during this War.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I did not intend to take part in this Debate, because I thought it was about time that Englishmen should have a chance of saying something about Ireland. I should not have risen had it not been for the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). I would like to get into the mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division of Belfast (Sir E. Carson). I would like to know what he thought of this Debate?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
That is exactly what I thought. I am perfectly sure that my hon. Friends from Ulster have only to hear a number of English Debates on Ireland to be perfectly convinced that the best place to get the affairs of Ireland dealt with would be on the floor of an Irish Parliament. I turn to the speech of the Noble Lord. He always reminds me of the famous passage in Carlyle where he describes the visit of the women of Paris to Versailles, when those wretched creatures cried out for "Bread, bread, bread!" Such little respect had these wretched creatures, says Carlyle, in his sardonic style, for Parliament. The Noble Lord can always treat us to bursts of Parliamentary eloquence which have as little relevance to the realities as if we were discussing the politics of the planet Mars. Tonight he committed himself to two extraordinary statements. He says—I am paraphrasing his academic language—that Ireland pretends to be in favour of Home Rule, but that is only Ireland's way; that she really does not want Home Rule; that she is like the hysterical and misunderstood wife. It is a case of the tyranny of tears. Since 1800, from the hour the Irish Parliament was destroyed to this hour, Ireland, by every means, by rebellion, by constitutional agitation, by Parliamentary elections, has declared that she wants the government of her country by herself, and that, according to the academics of the Noble Lord, in his burst of Parliamentary eloquence, is all play acting. I assure him that we are built on more robust lines than is believed in the somewhat ethereal atmosphere of Oxford, and its dons in the practical affairs of life. Then he comes forward with a practical proposal. I 1724 should like to hear what the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) thought of that. The Noble Lord has become a revolutionary—aSinn Feiner. A poor moderate old Constitutionalist like myself must hide my head in shame since the Noble Lord has formed an alliance with Mr. de Valera and the Sinn Fein party. He now declares that all that is necessary for Ireland to get a Republic are two things. He says, "They have declared in favour of a Republic, but they have only done it at one election. Let them do it at two or three, then we shall begin to know their demands and, of course, we shall consider them, but on one condition. We are quite willing to give Ireland a Republic if she declares for it, not in one, but in two or three or four elections, and if she allows a portion of Ulster to be excluded." Is that the programme of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson)? Will he support an Irish Republic if Ulster be left out of it? These are the stupid futilities with which in a grave moment of national danger the Member for a learned university thinks it right to amuse and to insult the intelligence of the House of Commons.
We are face to face with most serious things. What is the state of opinion in Ireland? I asked a question of the Chief Secretary two days ago. Most extraordinary incidents have been happening in many respects in Ireland lately. There was a reception of some delegates from America, men of great repute and high position, at the Mansion House. There was a meeting between them and members of the Sinn Fein party. Just after they had gone away, to return later in the evening—at seven o'clock, I believe—all the thoroughfares to the Mansion House were occupied by soldiers and police. The soldiers came there as if they were facing the German Army—armoured cars, all the modern appliances of war, fixed bayonets—and some of the police entered the Mansion House. The streets were empty up to that time. When they saw this large body of soldiers and police talking together, a great deal of excitement and curiosity was excited. People began to gather to the thoroughfares leading to the Mansion House. There was serious danger of riot and collision, and perhaps severe bloodshed. When the delegates from America came back at seven o'clock they found themselves faced by this cordon of soldiers and police. A nice portrait for them to take back to America of the 1725 manner in which Ireland is governed! The Commissioner of Police, I believe, offered the delegates the right to enter the Mansion House if they would go alone. They very properly refused, and said they would not go unless accompanied by their friends. Eventually they and their friends were allowed to enter, and the soldiers and police disappeared. On that night, if the Government had an intention of provoking riot leading to bloodshed, they could not have adopted better methods of doing so. Supposing bloodshed had taken place. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman had any idea of provoking riot. There is a certain place the road to which is paved with good intentions, and I am sure his intentions were good. I do not know who his advisers were, but the man who ordered soldiers and police there, in the excited state of Dublin, and on the occasion of the reception of these gentlemen, ran the risk of provoking bloodshed the result of which would have rang all over the world and would have brought more shame upon this country and upon its administration in Ireland. The excuse given was that there was a man there against whom there was a warrant, and that he had presented a revolver at a policeman. The man was disarmed, according to the right hon. Gentleman, by the Sinn Fein volunteers themselves. To order the arrest of one man in the Mansion House, which was full of police, while the thoroughfares were full of soldiers and an excited crowd was almost sufficient to bring the crowd into collision with the police. There is another feature. In times like these rumour is very busy, and there is all sorts of exaggeration. There were a number of American soldiers in the crowd and the report went round that the delegates from America had been imprisoned in the Mansion House. That was quite untrue, but such a report was quite enough to excite the feelings of the American soldiers, many of whom declared that if their fellow countrymen were detained in the Mansion House they would go in and rescue them in spite of the soldiers and police. A nice picture! I hear some interruption from hon. Members. I do not know what it means. Do hon. Members think I would not regard that as a most deplorable occurrence? What would have been the feeling in America, where we have not all friends, if these American soldiers had got into collision with the British soldiers and the 1726 Irish police and bloody riot had occurred? More reckless conduct I do not think any Chief Secretary could be guilty of.
Make up your minds—it is one thing or the other—whether it is to be self-government in Ireland or militarism in Ireland. If it is to be militarism in Ireland, say so. [An Hon. Member: "If it is, it will be revolution here!"] If it is to be militarism in Ireland, say so and then withdraw your pretence at the Peace Conference, and describe yourselves to the world as Pharisees and hypocrites in demanding liberty for other nations while you refuse it to our nation. I appeal to all Members of this House to rise to the reality of the perils by which we are surrounded. The situation in Ireland, according to my information, is most dangerous. I hope that my apprehensions will not be realised, but every day, every hour that the present system continues is full of danger to Ireland, to England, and to all these hopes of good feeling between America and England with which our hearts were filled when we won our victory a few months ago.
§ Mr. DONALD
I rise to a point of Order. There has been a discussion on the present condition of Ireland, and not a solitary representative from Ireland has spoken yet.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I need hardly tell the House that I agree with the abstract liberty all over the world which has been adumbrated in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. I do not think that that particular point of view is in question. I have been by conviction a lifelong Home Ruler, and I have never at any moment, even since I took up my present office, receded from that position. But there is a primary duty laid upon anyone who accepts the office which I have accepted. It is a primary duty, which has been asserted by every Liberal Government that I have ever known, that wherever the law is broken, whether in Ireland or in any other part of the United Kingdom, the law must be maintained. [An Hon. Member: "Ulster!"] I was really astonished to find that in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment there was scarcely a word about the condition of Ireland to-day. The whole Debate is a trumped-up affair. 1727 [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] It was—[An HON. MEMBER: "Your Home Rule Bill was a fraud!"]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Chief Secretary has only about a quarter of an hour in which to speak. The Mover and Seconder of the Motion occupied an hour and a half. Surely hon. Members will give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of making his statement.
§ Mr. WATERSON
On a point of Order. Is it Parliamentary to refer to the Debate as being "a trumped-up affair"?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I did not interrupt the speeches of any of those who preceded me, and I have been left with hardly a quarter of an hour in which to deal with the action of His Majesty's Government at present in Ireland. I came here to meet a case. That case has not been presented. That is one of the reasons I made the remark. I came here to hear some suggestions from hon. Members in any part of the House of assistance in any attempt which the Government might make to provide a helpful solution of this ever-present Irish problem. There has been no attempt on the part of either the Mover or the Seconder of this Amendment to give any reasoned explanation as to how they would proceed to solve the Irish question. All that I have listened to was a series of outrages, and not a single one of them in my judgment has been substantiated either in substance or in fact. The first outrage that was mentioned was the outrage which was enlarged upon by my hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. O'Connor). He attempted to picture to the House the extraordinary effect all this would have in America so far as the Irish delegates are concerned. His Majesty's Government dealt with enormous patience with those delegates in Ireland.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
What was the outraged? In the midst of the morning two police-constables were standing in front of the Mansion House, to arrest, if need be, two or three men who were fugitives from justice. The charge against them was 1728 cruelly inciting men to murder the police. One of the constables very gallantly approached those men, to arrest them, and one of the men whipped out a revolver. That was a felonious act, an attempt against a humble member of His Majesty's Forces, and the moment I heard that act was committed I unhesitatingly came to the conclusion that, Mansion House or no Mansion House, if that man were there he should be arrested.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would ask the hon. Member not to interrupt. He must be prepared to listen to the other side sometimes.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
We heard of the other outrage and the charge as to Tipperary. The charge was, in this case, the abduction—the word used was the "arrest"—of two small boys. What are the facts? We know the facts were these. Two boys, who might or might not have been able to give evidence, were taken into the care of the police, in order to preserve them from the menacing attitude of the Sinn Feiners of that district. When the hon. Gentleman recited some statement of the case he forgot to mention the explanation of the boys as to their treatment. They were kindly treated by the police, and the moment that their fathers and mothers requested the police to hand them over, and they were assured there was no further danger, those boys were sent to their homes. I am not going to recite once again the proclamation of the Sinn Feiners of that particular district. It is a well-known fact that they had made up their minds to shoot or kill anybody who would give any information to the police about two or three dastardly murders. So bitter is the feeling at the present moment in that part of Ireland that no man's life is safe who endeavours to come forward to help the Government to maintain law and order and preserve the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens. It has gone to this miserable extent that the two white crosses that were placed at the grave of those two policemen who were murdered have been taken away in the dead of night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] What has happened since then in that particular area? Hon. Members who speak from the opposite side of the House seem to think that there is no reality in the difficulties and dangers of Irish govern- 1729 ment at the present time from Sinn Fein and its attempts at assassination and intimidation. What happened to-day? A Sinn Fein prisoner was being taken from Thurles Gaol to Cork Gaol, when armed men attacked the train. They killed one constable, another is wounded; nothing has been heard of a third, and the other is in one of the barracks, and the prisoner has been rescued. And we are asked to-day that the Irish Government should stand aside and do nothing when innocent men who are doing their duty on behalf of the Crown are being massacred and murdered wholesale in every direction.
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution drew a picture of Limerick as a place, quiet in itself, but which, by the action of the military, was made a military base, with machine-guns and so on. What for? The hon. Gentleman forgot, and so did his colleague, to express a single word of sympathy with the relatives of the murdered policemen. Not a word. Limerick was made a military area because of the brutal and dastardly murders of men who were performing their duty, and not a single word came from the Labour Members of this House of sympathy with these men.
§ Mr. HARTSHORN
My point was that whatever was done in that way in this country would not have involved making the place a military area. If a man had committed a murder he would be hung, and the place not put under military rule.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Everyone in Ireland knows perfectly well what happened. They are not the same law-abiding body of citizens in that district in Ireland as they are in the district of Wales which the hon. Member represents. [Hon Members: "Why?" and "Thanks to you."] That is for them to explain. I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman's two friends to find out what was the explanation. I have never been able to get any explanation of any sort or kind. The reason we placed Limerick under the military was because the Sinn Feiners and certain irresponsible members of the Labour party were attempting to curb the rights of law-abiding citizens in that city by proclaiming a strike, not for any legal reason—after all, a strike is a legal weapon—not to increase the wages of the workers or to obtain better hours, but simply to resist as an act of open defiance the lawful decrees of His Majesty's Government. I am perfectly, certain that 1730 the hon. Gentleman who moved this Resolution would be the first to deny the right of anybody to effect a strike for that reason, and I am quite convinced of this that, as a law-abiding citizen, my hon. Friend would be the first to realise that on this occasion the Government were justified in safeguarding the rights of the law-abiding citizens. The hon. Gentleman devoted almost the whole of his speech to reminiscences, and the only thing I could find in it of modern application at all was that he remembered the day when the folly of the physical force movement was in existence. That is exactly what we are saying to-day. The physical force movement in Ireland at the present day is the entire folly of the whole Irish policy.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
No, I am not responsible more than anyone else. But when the hon. Gentleman was asked what he meant by any specific, by Dominion Home Rule or any Home Rule proposition which he and his party could place before the country, all he could say was that he left it to the experts. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution, and his Seconder, both said that they would have nothing whatever to do with an independent Irish Republic. But at the present time the one party in Ireland of any force or significance is the very party which demands, in their literature, in their. Press and on the platform, an independent Irish Republic, separate entirely from the British population, having a Republican president of its own, and without any connection, material or otherwise, with the British Empire. My hon. Friend who seconded the Resolution has, I know, done magnificent work during the War. I am perfectly certain that he would not ask us at the present moment to give Home Rule to those who claim to be in a position to determine the future of Ireland.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
He says so. We are not going to bargain with Sinn Fein because they have defied us. This is what they say:Membership shall be open to adults of Irish birth or parentage, irrespective of sex, class or creed, who accept the constitution of Sinn Fein, save that no member of the British armed forces nor pensioner thereof, nor any person who has taken the oath of allegiance to the British Government, shall be eligible.1731 And they go on to say that it must be entirely independent and have nothing to do with British legislation or the British Crown.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am glad to hear that. What would the hon. Member suggest, then, if he were in my place?
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I am an anxious inquirer, and I have been trying to find a solution myself. Can I bargain now with the approval of the Labour party with Sinn Fein? Will the Labour party, as a party, ask me, as a representative of the Government in this House, to bargain with a set of revolutionaries who are determined to have nothing to do with the British Empire in any shape or form? [Hon. Members: "No!"] That is the problem I am up against. It is all very well for hon. Members to come forward, utter pious reminiscences of days that have long since gone by, and never attempt to deal with the actual and vivid realities of life in Ireland as it is to-day. It is all very well to criticise the Government. The Government, believe me, is only too anxious to find a solution of the Irish problem. There is not a single Member of this House, to whatever party he belongs, who is not anxious to heal this sore of the body politic in Ireland, but to come forward now and to ascribe to the present Irish Government all the grievances which Ireland has at the present moment is to me an extraordinary fact. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Resolution said he would be no party to any economic separation from the United Kingdom, and that is of great significance. How does that tally with the record of brutality and murder that was given to us in the earlier part of his speech? Here is, in my judgment, a direct contradiction. The fact is that Ireland is more prosperous at the present time than any country in the world. I assert that without fear of any contradiction at all. Ireland is a contented country except for the rebellious acts of revolutionaries, which are now growing steadily. Every one of us at the present time is anxious for the revival of constitutionalism. All I can say is that unless constitutionalism is revived, we can have no parley with Sinn Fein, which endeavours to destroy 1732 our Empire, a thing which right-minded citizens of this great kingdom will never tolerate.
Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS
I should like to say a word of congratulation to the Chief Secretary for his courageous speech. When the House saw on the Order Paper that we were going to have an Irish Debate, it was generally expected that we should hear something of the extraordinary happenings in Ireland owing to the action of the Prime Minister during the last few days. The Chief Secretary deserves the sympathy of this House in the difficulty in which he has been placed by the very unfortunate action of the Prime Minister in having given facilities to these American delegates to go over to Ireland and stir up rebellion and discontent.
§ Mr. ADAMSON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
Sinn Fein in Ireland was dying down, and by this ill-advised action the Government have done very much to revive it. It is an extraordinarily unfortunate position for the Chief Secretary to find that the careful work which he has been doing—
§ Mr. ADAMSON rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
During the weeks he has been in office Ireland has been entirely—
It being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.