§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
I shall endeavour, so far as I can, not to traverse the ground in the last speech which I made a few days ago. I take this second opportunity of raising this question of the so-called reprisals because they are still going on. Many of them have occurred since the last Debate. In my opinion these reprisals will go on until the Government make it clear that they are determined that they must come to an end. I hope that we may elicit from the Chief Secretary to-night a pronouncement quite different in tone from those which he has previously made on this subject, and that his repudiation and condemnation of these reprisals shall be in terms so clear that there may be a hope of their coming to an end, and if, as I fear, the Chief Secretary does not rise to the demand which I make upon him I warn him that, so far as the Rules and Orders of this House will permit me, I shall go on raising this question of reprisals until all the world knows of them, and the Government will have to yield if not to us to the shocked conscience of the whole world.
The first complaint which I have to make of the Government with regard to these reprisals is their consistent and persistent evasion of the real issue. Not only have they evaded the issue, but they have falsified it. The other night, towards the close of the Debate, I heard a speech by a gallant Admiral, who vindicated the vote he was about to give by the statement that he was going to stand by the soldiers and other servants of the Crown. This was a very natural misapprehension 1468 on the part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because he was the victim of the manœuvre of the Government not to face but to evade and misrepresent the issue. There have been individual cases of misconduct by the soldiers and by the police and the Black and Tans. Some of them have been already admitted, but a general charge against the soldiers and police is not the issue. The men I am arraigning are the Government, the high officials whom the Government controls. Most of the soldiers hate the hellish work, most of the police hate the hellish work, and even some of the Black and Tans now and then have shown their hatred of the hellish work. They are the servants, and I may even say the slaves of their masters. Their masters are the Government. The order for this policy came from the Government. The real criminals are the Government.
I have often asked myself during the War, who could be the man, what kind of human being he was, who invented the horrible system of bombarding peaceful cities like our own here in London? But I am wondering to-day who is the callous-hearted and calculating politician who set all these terrible things in motion? It is the work of politicians, and not the work primarily of even soldiers or policemen. I call it the work of politicians, by which I mean the Government, for this reason: First, that, with all its irregularities, there has been a system. A definite, thoroughly well thought out system. The frightfulness, indeed, has been as systematic as the frightfulness of Germany in Belgium. I am not. sure that it was not suggested by that great example. Everybody has remarked in connection with these incendiary occurrences that barrels of petroleum, torches, and all the other implements of war used in the burning of towns and villages with which we were made painfully familiar during the war in Belgium, have appeared at the incendiary outrages that have taken place in Ireland.
My great reason for putting the responsibility on the Government is the character of the defence made by the 1469 Government. There is not a single speech made by a Member of the Government since this controversy began that has not excused and has not condoned, I may say that has not encouraged, this policy of frightfulness. I have already spoken of the evasion and falsification of the issue. Here is one case:Are policemen,said the Prime Minister,to be shot like dogs, without attempting to defend themselves?Has anybody asserted that the police should be shot like dogs without defending themselves? Has anybody found any fault with any policeman or soldier for preventing themselves from being shot like dogs? Then why is this said?
Here is another extract from that speech:I will give you one case. Five policemen were driving along a road in Ireland. They were suddenly fired upon by civilians with soft-nosed explosive bullets. A second car with police came up in two minutes. They saw their comrades not merely murdered but mutilated. They found the men who were undoubtedly the assassins and shot them. That it called reprisals; that is called" murder.That is not called reprisals. Whether I should call it a murder or not is a question to which two answers may be given. It may be said, and it is said, that the proper course for the officers of a free and responsible Government would have been to have captured these men, to have put them before the Courts and, if they were convicted, to have meted out punishment. I drop that point, for that is really not the issue. Policemen have a right, everyone acknowledges, to defend themselves against assassins, and so have the soldiers. But that again is not the issue. It is not that policemen or soldiers can defend themselves and shoot down assail ants that they see. The question is whether the soldiers and the police are justified in shooting down, not their assailants whose guilt is palpable, but in shooting down and persecuting and torturing men, women and children, who may be as innocent of the attack on the soldiers and the police as any man.
On a point of Order. The terms on which the hon. Gentleman obtained leave to move the adjournment of the House was to draw attention to a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the renewal since the last Debate in the House of Commons of the policy of 1470 frightfulness in Ireland, by indiscriminate shooting, by floggings, by incendiary fires, and to the arming of Orange volunteers in Ulster as special constables. I wish to point out that up to the present the hon. Member has been employing himself simply in continuing the Debate which we had five days ago, and I ask a ruling on the question whether, under the terms of his Motion, he is not bound to confine himself entirely to matters which have occurred since the last Debate in the House, of Commons?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. and gallant Member is quite correct in saying that, in a Motion for the Adjournment under Standing Order No. 10, a discussion must be confined to the matter raised in the notice on which the House granted permission. I took it that the hon. Member was leading up to and intending to deal only with incidents that have occurred since the recent Debate in the House. I hope he will keep to that point.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
That is certainly my intention. If you see me wandering from the strict rule I trust that you, Sir, will pull me up, and I will at once obey your ruling. Of course I shall deal with the cases that have arisen since the recent Debate. But I think I am entitled to point out that these cases are dictated by a certain policy, and to indict that policy.
On a further point of Order. May I submit that the question of the policy of the Government in this matter was decided five days ago in this House? We devoted a whole day to the discussion, and when a Division was taken it gave a large majority in favour of the Government's policy in Ireland. I submit, therefore, that it is not within the rights of the hon. Member on this occasion to discuss that policy. I submit, moreover, that his only right is to draw attention to anything which has happened since this matter was last discussed.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
He is entitled, surely, also to submit to the House that, in his opinion, what has happened since in Ireland does not point to the carrying out of the policy declared to the House by the Government on the last occasion. I took it that that was what he intended to do.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will make no further attempt to spike discussion, which I think is in the interest of everyone.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I want no promise. I am under the control of Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and not under that of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is not now in Belfast. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or in Lisburn!"] That is the policy which underlies everything that has taken place since our last Debate. The Government undertook that reprisals would be prevented. Reprisals have gone on and the Government has not, so far as I have seen, uttered a single word, either in condemnation of the so-called reprisals—frightfulness is the real name for them—but on the contrary the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary Has met every statement to which I have drawn his attention with a denial, with a statement either of blank ignorance or of violent disbelief. How can the right hon. Gentleman maintain that position? I have here before me a large number of extracts from papers which not only describe some of the acts of frightfulness, but witnesses actually give their pledged word that they have examined the persons on whom these cruelties and tortures have been inflicted, and have with their own eyes seen the fresh marks of the torture that have been inflicted upon these people. Has the right hon. Gentleman yet admitted a single case of flogging? Will the right hon. Gentleman again deny to-night that there has been no system of flogging? Since the last Debate there have been floggings in the West of Ireland. Men have been dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night; they have not been allowed to put on their clothes, or if they had put them on they have been compelled to take them off again and their bare backs have been flogged. Not only that, but in some cases pellets have been fired into them by the soldiers or the police. I have here two columns from a special correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian." It is a description of the attacks made on the Moycullen Cooperative Society just outside Galway, and is the story of the manager (Mr. Tallan):On Monday afternoon, about twenty minutes past twelve, a lorry load of the 6th 1472 Dragoons and mixed police (i.e., police in ordinary uniform, police with black caps and khaki uniform, police in civilian clothes), with rifles slung across their shoulders and revolvers, halted at the cross roads. They surrounded our store, a large building 60 feet square, with a cordon of soldiers with fixed bayonets. A man walked in and, holding up a rifle, told all the men to come out and put up their hands. One employee upstairs was a little time in coming, and a shot was fired in the corridor to bring him down. The staff of four men and myself were ordered outside and searched and then put with our backs against the wall. A policeman asked me my name and position. He were khaki with a black cap, and said: Understand, if Joyce is not returned before six o'clock to-night 100 Sinn Feiners will be shot and this village and this house go up to flames with the rest of them.' They then turned to the first man of the row, Walter McDonagh, and asked him if he knew anything about Joyce, who was missing. He replied he did not, and was hit on the face with the butt of a revolver. 'On my honour,' he said, 'I know nothing of the man. I have heard of him, that is all.' 'Well, we will make you know something,' was the reply. The questioner was a man carrying in one hand a revolver and in the other a whip and a leather thong. He were khaki breeches, a blue guernsey and a round, soft, knitted blue cap. He spoke with a slightly Cockney accent. 'I know nothing,' McDonagh repeated. 'Take off your trousers,' he was told. He was slow about it, and a man pulled them down for him. His waistcoat was torn off, and the man with the whip lashed him unmercifully, while two policemen stood with pointed rifles, one on each side.Tim O'Connor was put through the same ordeal, asked the same question, and thrashed in the same way with trousers down. I protested 'That man is absolutely innocent.' but they would not listen to me. A bayonet was shoved into my face, and I was told to 'Shut up, you—.' 'We want Joyce or blood!' one shouted. They then said to us 'Clear immediately!'As I was going away a policeman asked me my name. I said I was the manager. He said nothing, but walked away, and just as I was crossing the road he turned like lightning and raised his rifle. I put up my hand. He fired, and pellets struck me on the hand and on the nock and on the upper part of the arm, 32 altogether. I went inside the store, where the girls were in a terrified state, kneeling on the floor praying. the police sat on a wall across the road. After a few minutes they laid their rifles on the wall and emptied their magazines into the building, there being several volleys of rifle bullets and some rounds of small shot, for I heard the pellets dropping round. Several bullets pierced the roof, which is of composition. There were about twenty soldiers in the party, but I did not see an officer, as I looked for one to appeal to.McDonagh was in a bad state. He fainted, and when he came to himself, tried to cycle home, but fell off the machine.1473 Here is a case described by Mr. Tallan:The 'Black and Tans' knocked at the door about nine o'clock at night. The door was wide open, but they fired through it. They entered by the side door, covered him with revolvers, and accused him of being a Sinn Feiner, to which he replied that he was not, and had nothing to do with politics. Three remained with him, while the remaining 18 or 20 searched the house. They fired a couple of shots. All were drunk. They went away, leaving three behind. Mr. Tallan gave them tea, and they sat down to it. laying their revolvers on the table. At eleven they went away. At one o'clock in the morning two lorries drew up full of mixed police, and demanded tea for the lot. Some were well behaved, others were threatening. Mr. Tallan did his best to provide but no payment was offered.On the next night two lorries coming from Oughterard fired shots into the store as they were passing.There are several cases of other men who were taken out.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether or not these are occurrences which took place since the last Debate?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I am reading from a paper of last Friday, 22nd October, and I understand this is a record of proceedings that had taken place the night before. I do not think I would be justified in sickening the House with further cases, for I am sure the House must be sickened with this sort of proceeding which even in the 19th century would only be possible in countries like Turkey or Russia. Our position is not that soldiers and policemen should not defend themselves from their assailants. Our position is that perfectly innocent people, or people whose guilt nobody has attempted to prove, are subjected not only to murder, because many people have been murdered, but to floggings, under conditions which I am sure if they could be realised by the mass of the people of this country would wring from them cries of shame and indignation and incredulity that such a thing were possible under British Government.
My Motion deals also with the question of Belfast and of the last extraordinary performance of the Government, namely, the enrolling of Orange volunteers a? special constables. Both the House and myself have the advantage of the presence of the hon. Member for the Falls Division of Belfast (Mr. Devlin), who will be able to put the ease in the manner which he, of course, alone can do. I will just say 1474 this. Here you have in the North of Ireland two peoples of different reeds and different blood. Those different creeds and races could have made a friendly and patriotic effort long ago on behalf of their country if it were not that Ireland was involved in British politics and if it had not been for the, question of rebellion which was brought forward by a certain number of political leaders in the North of Ireland. Matters nave recently burst into explosion, and there has been loss of life, and on the very morning of this situation in Ulster the Government have resolved on a policy of arming one race and one creed to keep the peace between the two races and two creeds. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary think that we do not see his tongue in his cheek when Le tells us that this offer is not confined to Ulster, but extends to all Ireland. He knows very well that nobody is taken in by that kind of thing. Let me, if I may, give the right hon. Gentleman a bit of friendly advice, and that is that that kind of breezy trans-Atlantic bluff does not go down with the Irish people. Let him put matters a little more frankly and with less bluff and camouflage. Nor are we taken in by the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that these are offers open to men of all creeds, races, and politics. That is not true. They may be open in theory, but we all know that what is meant is to arm the Orange volunteers so that they may have the lives and the liberties and the properly of their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen at their disposal, armed with the guns which they get from the Government. I will deal with one one other point. I think the Chief Secretary gave some signs of irritation today when I quoted a speech by Governor Cox, the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the United States. I do not know what the result of the presidential election may be, but I think some respect may be demanded from every sane English politician for a man who may be the ruler of 110,000,000 of people in a few months from now. Governor Cox in that speech declared that America had a right to make her views known with regard to the treatment of Ireland. There were some interruptions of an irritated character from some hon. Members when I alluded to the speech of Governor Cox, and I thought the right hon. Gentleman rather made himself the echo of that attitude. If there is any people in the world 1475 who have not a right to take up that attitude it is the English people. There has never been, except in the case of Ireland, perhaps, and under the rule of Disraeli, a case of oppression, of wrongdoing in any country in the world, from the days of negro slavery down to the days of Armenian slavery, there has never been such a case in which the voice of England has not made itself heard, and in which the voice of England has not been one of the factors in liberating such people.
That is one of the reasons why I am so angry with the policy of the Government. It is because of the injustice they are doing to the character, to the instincts, and to the repute of their own countrymen. I am old enough to remember the days when Lord John Russell helped to liberate Italy, when Palmerston de nounced the tyranny of Russian Poland. I am old enough to have taken part, more than forty years ago as a poor, humble, young man under the leadership of Gladstone, in protesting against the massacres by the Turkish Government in Bulgaria, and is not every Englishmen proud of the record of his country in being the voice of the conscience of the world outraged by tyranny? If that is so, England has no right to be surprised, England has no right to be shocked, and England has no right to complain if the shocked conscience of America asserts itself in favour of Ireland against such a policy of fright-fulness as that for which the Government is responsible. As I mentioned Governor Cox and his stern indictment of the policy of the Government, let me tell the right hon. Gentleman this. The British Empire has no firmer friend in the world, so far as her relations with America are concerned, than Governor Cox. The other day I read in the "Morning Post" an account of an interview between its very able representative in America and Governor Cox:It would be. impertinent for me," said Governor Cox, "to discuss or criticise the action of the British Government, which, of course, I will not do; but one thing that prevents a perfect relationship between England and the United States is Ireland. Again, I will not go into a discussion of the causes or merits, rights or wrongs. I am merely stating a fact that is as well known to you as it is to me. I believe,continued Governor Cox—and if I may say so it is language similar to that I 1476 have often used in these Debates in this House—that no greater crime can be committed against civilisation than for England and the United States not to be on good terms or for anything to be allowed to arise to drive the two countries apart and prevent them from working in harmony… do you not see how everything turns on the League of Nations? …Much of the opposition in England to Irish self-determination, as I gather, is based on the fear that Ireland, disunited from Great Britain, would be a menace to the safety of the Empire and to the peace of the world. With the League of Nations vitalised by America's membership, and Ireland a signatory to the Covenant, all just fears of this character would, I think, be removed.I tell the Government to-night, and the people of this country, that the men both in England and in Ireland, and in the United States, who are most vehement in their protest against this hellish policy of frightfulness are the men who mean best to the future security of this country and the good relations between this country and the United States and other parts of the world. You are antagonising all these men. What do you hope by your policy? Does anybody outside this group of Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House—and I do not believe even they have the doctrine in their minds that I am about to declare—believe that this country can continue for ever to keep down Ireland's aspirations by might? Does anybody think that it is for the good of England that Ireland should be made more and more in deadly hostility to this country? I tell the right hon. Gentleman that he has made ten Sinn Feiners for one, "a hundred Sinn Feiners for one, in every part of Ireland where this frightfulness has been practised. One of the most vehement on the bench of bishops against Sinn Feinism has heard three men murdered in the dark of the night—I think one or two since the last Debate—and the result of it is that this man, who hated and denounced Sinn Fein, has become a Sinn Feiner. His feelings of resentment against the Government are as strong as those of any Sinn Feiner in Ireland. I denounce this policy, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will come to the conclusion that it is neither for the good of England nor for the good of Ireland.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to second the Motion. I wish to make this definite accusation: There is 1477 a plot that has been arranged with the heads of the War Office in this country and a certain section of the Cabinet and the heads of the Army in Ireland by which certain persons have undertaken, if given a free hand, to apply to the disturbed parts of Ireland the methods that have been used for dealing with savage tribes on the north-west frontier of India, and they have guaranteed within a certain time to break the spirit of the Irish people. The methods they are using since the last Debate have been slightly modified. A show is made by the police, as in the case of Bandon, of putting out fires started in the night in a peaceable town by the soldiers, but ricks and growing crops are being destroyed on a systematic plan throughout the countryside. Buildings known to be in the possession of, or at one time kept by, prominent Republicans, who might or might not belong to the murder gang or by members or relatives of Members of this House who are Sinn Feiners, are burnt by soldiers under their officers with written instructions.
I am not speaking here from information received from unreliable sources, but from information received first hand from gentlemen who have come over from Ireland very recently. I received this afternoon a letter from Dublin written on Sunday night. I do not want to read extracts from the letter, but I am going to send it to the Chief Secretary, and I hope he will deal with the dreadful accusation there of the conduct of the military in Dublin; but it particularly mentions one case of a young woman whose confinement was due in about two months' time. A party of soldiers came to her house under an officer who spoke with a cultivated voice—an educated man—and he told this young woman, who was in a delicate state of health, that if they could capture her husband they would shoot him. They then set her house on fire. These are the methods by which it is hoped to break the spirit of the Irish people. I am going to send the letter to the Chief Secretary and I will show it to my hon. Friend opposite, if he doubts the facts. It is written by a man who served in the Army during the War and who says he is ashamed of the conduct of the military, acting, no doubt, under orders.
This plot is, I venture to hope, being enacted without the knowledge, and, at 1478 any rate, I trust, against the wishes of the Chief Secretary. The same party which was behind the Orange Rebellion in 1912 are in power in the War Office now, and in the councils of Dublin Castle. The Commander-in-Chief of the army that was raised by hon. Members opposite is now the head of the War Office in London, and his minions are in power in Dublin, and have the high commands in the Army. This plot is being worked carefully out, and history will prove the truth of the words I am saying here to-night. Will the right hon. Gentleman call for the pamphlet that is being carried about now by Brigadier-General Crozier, and being shown to the ex-service men in what, I believe, is called the new auxiliary corps of the Royal Irish Constabulary? I had a letter over the week-end from one of these cadets, so called, asking me to press for the document in the possession of Brigadier-General Crozier, who, I understand, is in charge of training camps. He describes it as a hellish document which shows how to put down murders. I have not seen the document, but it is a matter for the right hon. Gentleman to look into, and I will send him the letter from this cadet. Since our last Debate, Athlone has been fired, and there have been terrible scenes of destruction at Bandon after the terrible murder, I admit, of soldiers who were ambushed at Ballinliassig. The troops broke barracks—how disciplined troops are allowed to break barracks in this way, and terrorise a town, I do not know—but they broke barracks, and the women and children, the old and sick, had to flee into the fields in this weather. That sort of thing is being done in Ireland to-day since the last Debate, and I repeat is being done as part of a deliberate plan of terrorism, and that is a thing we fought against in the War. In Bandon there was some show of police following after these soldiers who broke barracks and attempting to put out the fires.
These same Ulster Volunteers, whose chiefs, I say, are responsible for these acts of terrorism, have driven 5,000 Catholic workmen out of their employment in Belfast, of whom a thousand are ex-service men who fought in the War. Hon. Members cry out against ex-soldiers not being employed in this country, but, at any rate, these ex-soldiers were getting something to live upon, but the exsoldiers 1479 driven' from work in Belfast are refused out-of-work donation by the same vile influences which are working in Ireland. There has been at least £1,000,000 worth of damage—the right hon. Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) says more-caused by these factionfights in Belfast, and now so-called well-disposed persons are to be armed, equipped and organised, and then, I suppose, will have the same bloody licence to do what they like to the Catholic Irish in the, same policy of terrorism. It is ridiculous for the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that he is going to rake Ireland for arms north, south, east, and west, and that he is going to arm these bigoted, vile, religious factionists. There is no religious bigotry in Ireland to-day, no religious persecution, except in the north-cast, where it is fostered by the rich linen interests who want their workers to be thinking about religion when they ought to be thinking about their economic conditions of life. The Uniurnsts and Protestants in the south and west of Ireland are. as safe as anywhere; in England. I have seen a good many of them. The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church has declared that no Protestant, as such, has been in any way hurt or persecuted in the south and west. It is only in the north-cast that this artificial lust, this artificial religious faction is planned, and those are the men who are going to be enrolled, as well as well-disposed persons. These men. who killed a policeman in the last few-weeks by shooting him, these men who, carrying the Union Jack, burned houses—I admit there has been killing on both sides in the. Recess—these same men are to be armeed, and used to keep so-called law and order in Ulster. If that is our latest policy for preserving order in Ireland, Heaven helo us all! In Poland they armed the soldiers against the Jews in the pogroms. In Ireland you are arming your fanatical Orangemen in the northeast against the Catholics. I hope the House will support the Motion brought forward by my hon. Friend. I have no hesitation whatever in supporting him. I can give the House harrowing details of what has happened since our last Debate. This policy of arson, flogging, and indiscriminate killing is going on because it is said to be successful. It will not be successful. I hope it will bring down the 1480 Government before it brings down the British Empire.
§ Major HAMILTON
I must confess, as an Irishman, I deeply regret that the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) has allowed his Motion to be seconded by such a speech and such a Member as the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kcnworthy). We on these Benches view with equal horror as the hon. Member for the Scot land Division the tragedy in Ireland at the present time. If the statements which he has made are true, I for one, while giving my deep sympathy to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, hope that his strength, which I believe will be sufficient, will prevent any policemen or any soldiers taking part in reprisals of the type which my hon. Friend has detailed. When the hon. Member for Central Hull starts to lecture us I really feel that it is very difficult indeed to believe in this great plot, led by the head of the War Office, and organised with the permission of the Cabinet—this great plot that the hon. Member hurls at our heads. I believe that in the War Office we. still have a considerable number of English and Irish gentlemen who do not plot murder. I believe in the Cabinet we have men who have the confidence of this country. and who would hold in contempt any such scheme as the hon. Gentleman has outlined. I have no doubt he has obtained his information from Russia: from his Bolshevist friends there.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I obtained it partly from men who have been in the War under as reputable circumstances as the hon. Member.
§ Major HAMILTON
We are not talking about fighting in the War. The hon. Member's reputation for fighting in the War is well known to most people in this House, and I should be very sorry to have to repeat it.
§ Major HAMILTON
I should be sorry to repeat it here: but the hon. Gentleman has brought, religion into this question. He was talking about the Protestant bigots of Ulster. It is a curious thing, but the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion seemed to be chiefly concerned about American opinion. I am going to 1481 combine the two speeches and to give American opinion. I do not know whether my hon. Friend (Mr. O'Connor) has read a book which has been in print for twelve months, which was originally published in America and very widely circulated in this country, a book called "A Straight Deal." This book was written by Mr. Owen Wisten, a very eminent American author, and a good friend of my hon. Friend opposite, I have no doubt, and also of many well-known statesmen in this country. The book was written with the object of making that feeling about which my hon. Friend is so anxious—the international feeling—between America and Great Britain better, and encouraging a brighter outlook and co-operation between the two great nations. What does Mr. Owen Wisten say on this question of religion and Ireland? On page 249 of his book he starts to quote half a dozen or more sermons preached by Roman Catholic priests. Mind, I am not making any attack upon the Roman Catholic religion. I believe from the bottom of my heart that all Christians ought to work together, and that any attack upon one religion, or upon the feelings associated with one religion, is wrong. I am, however, only quoting definite sermons. Those quoted in this book, I presume, must be accurate, or they would not be in print for the time they have been without having been contradicted by the Roman Catholic Church, which is powerful and rich enough to contradict these sermons if they are not true. I would draw the attention of the House to the dales of these sermons and also to the fact that, besides the dates being given, the names of the priests are also given.
§ Major HAMILTON
I do not think that really concerns the matter. I am trying to show that my hon. Friend, who spoke about religious feeling being heated by the action of the Protestants in Ulster, is most unfair in dealing with the general situation in Ireland. The reprisals about which the hon. Gentleman has raised this Debate are undoubtedly caused, in many cases, by very heated feeling which, in Ulster and all over Ireland, has been felt when they read this book. They have read many other illustrations, and they have heard 1482 from their friends of the actions of such gentlemen as these priests. At Castletown, on 21st April, 1918, after Mass— and this was shortly after the Roman Catholic hierarchy had objected to the Conscription Act in Ireland—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman going a little wide of the mark? This was before the last Debate.
§ Major HAMILTON
As the hon. Gentleman opposite has said that religious differences are the cause of these troubles and are caused by the Protestant Church for religious purposes, surely I may quote sermons preached by the Roman Catholic Church whenever they were preached. They are still in print; they still exist.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will kindly hang his observations upon the last words of the matter on which the Adjournment has been moved, and show how they concern the enrolling and arming of Orange volunteers in Ulster as special constables.
§ Major HAMILTON
It is very difficult to hang that on to these words; but surely I can hang it on the previous speeches to which you took no objection.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am trying to help the hon. and gallant Gentleman by suggesting that he should connect his quotations with the Motion before the House, which suggests, in the last sentence, that religious subjects have been brought in.
§ Major HAMILTON
Thank you. I am very much obliged to you. I am glad you have called attention to the Resolution, which says there is great resentment in Ulster to these volunteers being armed. But I want to put this to the House, that these sermons, whenever they were preached by the leaders of the Christian religion, at whatever date, provided they are still in print, are inclined to engender heat on these questions. At Castledown, on 21st April, 1918, after Mass, Father Breanan said:Resist conscription. If the police resort to force let the people kill the police. If soldiers support the police, treat them the same. Police and soldiers dying in their attempt to enforce conscription would die the enemies of God. Those who resist will 1483 die in peace with God and under the benediction of His Church.At Eyries, 28th April, 1918, a week later, after Mass to 300, Father Gerald Dennahy said:Any Catholic who, as policeman or agent of the Government, assists in conscription shall be excommunicated and cursed by the Roman Catholic Church. The curse of God will follow him in every land. You can kill him at sight. God will bless you, and it will be the most acceptable sacrifice you can offer.I do say that all the talk about religious bigotry and preventing the people of Ireland becoming constables, from endeavouring to protect. property and keep the peace and uphold a decent Government—to say that it is the Protestant religion which is causing these differences—well, no individual has said that from our side of the House or on our platforms in the country. We hate these religious references. The hon. Gentleman who proposed this Motion did not drag these in, but they were dragged in by the hon. Member for Central Hull who seconded the Motion. He hurls these tuants at us, and I must answer them. I must point out to him that we believe in real Christianity, No one who is a member of the Protestant Church would ever state that murder could receive the blessing of God. No one of us has said that God will bless those who commit murder. I say it is time we in this House and country realised that Ireland is suffering from an absolute debauch of murder, policemen shot in the back, soldiers murdered, civilians murdered. Then after the Debate we had the other night, it is considered necessary again to raise this question here, and again to hear these stories, when we know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is doing his utmost, to do what? To govern Ireland and to help Ireland back to decent conditions of civilisation and Christianity, and if only the hon. Gentleman, and not him so much as the hon. Gentleman for Central Hull, would not talk such a lot of nonsense, not only in this House but out on the platforms of the country, quoting anything he can find, always disbelieving the Ministers of the Crown, always thinking that Members at the War Office are plotting and planning murder, always imagining that the Cabinet is supporting them, if only he would cultivate a 1484 little more sense, and if only he would try-to help the Government, then I believe we might have a chance of real support for the Chief Secretary of Ireland to get that country back to a decent condition of things.
§ Mr. CLYNES
I fear that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has scarcely done himself justice, moved so much as he has been by the feelings of indignation in his reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded him, and I am not going to be led along the road of discussing the rival virtues of the rival religions in Ireland. This is not to us a Debate raised because of religious differences in Ireland, and we are less concerned with the sermons, whether ancient or recent. of certain clergymen in Ireland than with the Government in regard to its responsibility as to what is happening in Ireland at the present time. I wish to bring the attention of the House to the fact of how far the foundations of the law are being loosened in Ireland now, with virtually Government sanction and support, and how far that loosening is soon to have its effects in this country. I think that at Question time to-day the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary derided the evidence referred to as being printed in certain reputable English papers on the authority of the correspondents of those papers now in Ireland. I should like to supplement what has already been" submitted to the House under the head of this newspaper evidence by the summary which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" only this morning of what occurred in Dublin on Saturday night:A raid by the ex-officers' auxiliary police corps in Sackville Street, Dublin, at 9 o'clock on Saturday night caused great alarm in this crowded thoroughfare, which was cleared by shots fired in the air. An English journalist was forced back to his hotel and followed into the hall by a police cadet, who threatened him with his revolver. A large billiard hall was raided, and one hundred men searched one by one, some of them being compelled to keep their hands above their heads for half an hour.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The report says:One of the cadets warned the proprietor that if one of their men should be shot they would burn Sackville Street. The cadets fired shots in the streets as they departed, and two civilians were wounded.1485 It may be that people in this particular billard room were suspected of having revolvers in their pockets, but imagine any billiard room in London or in any part of the country where there was a like suspicion. Imagine this same procedure being followed by English soldiers or police to discover the offenders. We have not forgotten—no one ever can—the fact that there have been assassinations and murders of the most wicked and reprehensible type. We do not forget the duty of the Government or its responsibility in detecting and in punishing these murderers and assassins. What we are entitled to ask is this: Do the Government regard it right to burn property, to put under conditions of menace of the severest physical punishment people who are not even arrested and have not been, so far as they know or so far as we know, suspected of any offence or arrested for it, and who have never been tried or found guilty of anything? Is it the policy of the Government that it is right for their agents, the military and the police, in this manner to put pistols at the heads of the people, to go into the streets of the City at 9 o'clock at night and to treat civilians in this way? Is it right to go into the smaller villages, to set fire to the houses, and to flog, bayonet and treat people in the manner in which they have been treated? Is that the policy of the Government? If it is, if they are going to maintain silence, or seek to excuse it by declarations that it is human nature to hit back, they will find that they are only laying in this country a foundation of excuse for lawlessness and crime, for force and brutality which will cite for its justification the more recent pronouncements of the most powerful personages who occupy positions in this country. That is virtually what they are doing. As one who dreads the example that has been set in Ireland, evidently with Government sanction, I say I fear it because it is in the nature of things that this bad example should travel, and that what is excused and defended only a few miles away should soon be practised here as a right and proper thing merely on grounds of precedent.
As I sat and listened to the recital of recent events as given in the speech in which this Motion was moved, I remembered how deep was the feeling in this House in the years 1915–16 when hon. Members read extracts from the press of how the Germans were treating the 1486 Belgians. I know there is a difference in degree in the scale, but clearly there is no difference in the object or the spirit in which these actions have been carried out or sanctioned. Yet no single representative in this House appeared to regard what was read to us with feelings of anything but unconcern and complacency; with almost the feeling that this was the right way to treat the Irish, and that now that murders have been committed it was only right and proper that somebody else should be murdered by the agents of the law. This House has ceased to be the repository of the law. If the idea is to crush the spirit of, at any rate, a considerable section of the nation by these means, it is clear that the whole lesson of history has been lost upon those who lead and guide the Government of the day. I am driven reluctantly by the attitude of those who speak for the Government, to the conclusion that this method of governing Ireland with these reprisals by the action of the military and police are part of a plan arranged here, and are carried out with the deliberate purpose of destroying the spirit of a people, and by that means they think they are reaching the people who have committed offences against the law. If it is not so, and these acts are not sanctioned and not to be excused by the Government, we are entitled to ask that they should not tolerate them, but stop them. They are as responsible for preventing breaches of the law by those who are the appointed agents of the law as they are responsible for detecting civilians who may commit crimes against the police or other persons.
A part of this Motion deals with the particular situation now being developed in part of Ulster, and with the newly announced policy of the Government in proposing to call upon well-disposed persons to volunteer to uphold the law, A considerable number of workmen in Belfast, amounting, I think, to some 5,000 odd, suffered for a long time all the privations that result from unemployment because their opinions were not popular amongst those whose numbers enabled them to prevent them from pursuing their ordinary employment. That is the situation in Belfast. Evidently opinion must not be tolerated, and a Sinn Feiner is to be regarded as one having no legal or other rights or social protection in 1487 Ireland. Let this House face the question frankly and honestly. The trade unions in this country, however far they have gone in doing damage to trade or material property interests, have not gone the length of excusing these crimes or murders. It is that which is the burden of our complaint against the Government, and I allege that all the evidence seems to prove that these illegalities are part of a plan covered by occasional excuses and by other means about it being only in human nature to hit back and defend themselves against physical harm.
I can well understand certain Members of this House not desiring to have these matters discussed too often, but so long as they last we shall regard it as our business ceaselessly to bring the conduct of the Government before the world, because it is having a very damaging effect upon the minds of the industrial population. What has happened to the men in Belfast who have the right to work and have been denied it by the action of these well-disposed persons who are now being called upon for Assistance to maintain the law? The situation is this. Thousands of Orangemen who have already taken steps without the backing or the force of arms, such as the Government now are offering to them, have deprived other men of an opportunity of earning their living. These; thousands of men will be made still stronger because they will become the leaders and recognised embodiment of the law, and we can imagine how much further they will be able to carry their power to menace and prevent the peaceful pursuit of ordinary employment by men who would be peacefully engaged in industry if they were left alone.
As one who has some right in some degree to speak for Labour, I ask the Chief Secretary, what has he done in the North of Ireland so far to secure the resumption of work, to secure this right of opinion of even Sinn Feiners to peacefully pursue their ordinary daily avocation and earn their daily bread? As he knows, a deputation of Irish working men saw him not very long ago and some of us have discussed this matter with them. We understood that certain steps were Open to these men to secute them the right to work. What is being done in this direction? Furthermore, what does the right hon. Gentleman expect will follow from arming this one faction and 1488 making them even more powerful than over for the sort of mischief which so far they have pursued?
The Government is entitled to protect criminals and punish them and to take the severest steps which the whole of its apparatus and machinery of government enables them to take to put down crime, but the Government which excuses the burnings, the bayoneting and floggings which have taken place to which innocent people have been subject in different parts of Ireland in recent weeks, you might call it anything but a Government, because it has ceased to be that, and we are entitled to call upon it to use its power, not merely to appeal to its instruments and its agents of the law not to do these things, but to take steps effectively to make it impossible that they shall do them in any part of Ireland.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I do not desire in any way to add heat to the controversy with reference to Ireland, but I cannot help observing that in the discussion raised in this House to-night, and the one we had last week, all have reference, to protecting those who belong to the organisations that are murdering the police and officials, and we never have a Debate or a Motion to adjourn in sympathy with the hundreds of honest soldiers and police who are being attacked in various parts of Ireland. I should like the Chief Secretary, when he comes to reply, to tell us how many soldiers and police have lost their lives in Ireland since the last Debate. I read the other day—really it is a daily occurrence—of the ambushing of certain men in the Essex Regiment. Three soldiers who were going along the read were foully murdered and three more seriously wounded. I have not heard a word about that in this House. Why? The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House (Mr. Clynes) has no sympathy, I know, with this kind of outrage. But he has not told us that which would be of great assistance to His Majesty's Government.—he has not told us how when he is Prime Minister, as undoubtedly he will be one day, he will deal with this sort of thing. Will he let it go on with impunity? Will he say, "It does not matter; they are only soldiers, only policemen. It is their business to be murdered, and to be suddenly attacked on the highway in the discharge of their duties."
1489 I hear a great deal in this House of the sufferers from all kinds of bigotry in Ireland. But I have never heard a word of suggestion as to how those who have to carry on the ordinary maintenance of the law and to protect life and property, are to be protected and safeguarded against an enemy who has openly declared war against this country. We get no assistance whatever on that branch of the subject. It is easy—and I could do it myself—to denounce lapses of the soldiers or police who break out when they see men shot to pieces with dum-dum bullets, their entrails hanging on the side of the road, their brains scattered over the pavement. It is easy to blame men while sitting down calmly, as some Members do, in 10, Downing Street, in armchairs, smoking cigars, and to say that these men ought not to mind these things as it is after all the business of the soldier or the policeman. The Chief Secretary was asked to-day at question time what he was going to do with the men who use dumdum bullets: would he treat them as they would be treated in time of war? He replied, "No," but added that they would be treated as men who were still at peace with this country. I think he is wrong.
Do let us have a fair picture on both sides of what is taking place in Ireland. These soldiers and policemen do not go out on these patrols for pleasure. They do not go out bee. use they wish to do so. They go out because it is part of their duty, and no matter how you may try, you will never get rid under any circumstances, not even trade union circumstances, in the consideration of these things, of human nature. It is that which governs everything. Do not let us be hypocritical in supposing that the policemen and soldiers in Ireland who see their comrades shot down like dogs, and worse than dogs, and who themselves know that they may be shot at to morrow, ought to possess all the virtues under the sun and that they are the only people who are not to be animated by human feelings. It is ridiculous. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman opposite would say the right way is to concede the Irish demands, and thus get rid of the whole thing. I do not believe it would do that. I do not believe if you gave a republic to-morrow you would prevent a recurrence of these things in Ireland. They have gone on for 700 years, and you would not stop them the day after a republic was granted.
1490 The right hon. Gentleman is always reasonable—my observation may be entirely wrong, but at any rate he appears to be always reasonable, and I am suspicious of very reasonable men. I would ask him this, pending the bringing round of this country to the establishment of a republic 20 miles from her shores, what would he do? That is a fair question.
§ Mr. CLYNES
The right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to ask me many questions which I cannot answer now, but I do say that, whether the way we are suggesting be right or not. it is clear that the wrong way is in reprisals.
§ Sir E. CARSON
That is no answer to the question. I ask what the rieht hon. Gentleman thinks is the right way, and his answer carries me no forrader.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I want to know what is the right way. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) says we are going the wrong way. When he says that we are ontitled to ask him to go further and tell us what is the right way. He is a very responsible man in this country He ought to tell us what he would do. Would he allow these men to go on being murdered, slaughtered, and assassinated in broad daylight in the midst of the community with this Government responsible, or would be withdrow the froops from Ireland? It is no use talking in the air. It all comes down to a Belies of solemn facts. I am always being accused—I do not. mind it—of liking what is going on in Ireland. I loathe it; I detest it. But I think you ought to put the blame upon the right people. I certainly am not going to put the blame, so far as I have a voice in the matter, and I have very little, although I am supposed to be the mystery man behind the whole of these proceedings I certainly am not going to blame officers who are trying honestly to do their duty and to carry on the tomble employment which they are called upon to follow. We have received no assislance in this Debate, or in any previous Debate, as to how these matters ought to be dealt with. Let us get down to hard facts. Hon. Members know just as well as I do, and the Government knows as welk that there is an organised campaign of assassination in Ireland going on from day to day at the present moment. But 1491 hon. Members probably do not know what I know, or otherwise they would not lend themselves to it, that Debates like this do more to encourage that campaign than anything which can possibly happen.
In the absence of any suggestion from any other source, I believe that the duty of this House, and the duty of the country, is to support the Government. Do you think that my right hon. Friend (Sir H. Greenwood) has an agreeable task at the present time? When he goes out of this House, and everywhere else where he or his family go, he carries his life in his hand. You know that well, and he knows it; and you ought to back him. You ought to be proud of his courage. You ought to be glad that in a crisis of this kind you can get such a man; there are not too many of them knocking about—they like soft jobs. The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us has talked about the conduct of the working men in the yards in Belfast, who have refused to work with the Sinn Feiners. I do not object—I have no right to object—to his speaking about that, if he would only state the whole case. I can never understand the Labour party's thinking that the vilest class in Ireland are the Labour men—their own class—in the shipyards and in the linen trade in Belfast; and why? I wonder if they ever hunt up their trade union records, and find what percentage of those in benefit in trade unions are in Belfast? I venture to think that they would find that they are about 90 per cent. of the whole of Ireland. They are always down on them, and yet they are as solid, honest, and true trade unionists as ever lived. That is what the Labour party are coming to: they will not back trade unionists unless trade unionists follow their politics. They think it is a crime for a Belfast trade unionist to be a unionist, a loyalist, to wish to keep up his connection with this country. You value your connection with this country and your citizenship here so little that you cannot understand why any man in Ireland should wish to enjoy it.
Why are you always down on Belfast trade unionists? Is it because they follow me? Why do they follow me? You know as well as I do that a more independent body of men never lived than the trade unionists of Belfast; and you know that they only select me as a 1492 leader in politics because I represent their views, and I represent them as honestly as I can. I know perfectly well what would happen to me if I represented them dishonestly—and I hope it would happen. Why, therefore, are you always down on them? Why should a Protestant in Ireland be such an enemy of yours? Putting it on the lowest ground, it is no crime to be either a Protestant or a Catholic or an Atheist, if a man is conscientious in his belief. Why are the trade unionists—it is the one thing I never can understand—why are they always down upon the Protestant Unionists in Belfast? I remember a trade union deputation coming to me in Belfast some time ago, and they said to me: "Look here, we have to import every ounce of coal from Scotland, we have to import every ounce of steel, and we build the best and the biggest ships that are turned out in the whole world. We are in better conditions than they are on the Clyde and the Mersey; we have made Belfast, and we are very proud of it." You ought to be proud of them too, but you go against them on every occasion. You believe everything against them that you see in every Sinn Fein paper, and you attribute to them the whole of what is taking place in Belfast at the present moment and think it is all their fault.
Is it all their fault? Do you know what is happening there? Have you followed the course of events there? Do you know that, when you were all on platforms here telling your own trade unionists to go out and fight the Germans in the War of the world's freedom, your trade unionist fellows from the North of Ireland went out with your men here, and that, while they were away, their places and their houses were taken by men from the South and West, whom they found there when they came back, and they had to walk the streets without houses, while those men, whom you would not have looked at during the War, were taking their very jobs? And then they found men like Colonel Smyth—a brave Ulsterman of whom we are very proud—and his brother and all the rest of them, murdered in cold blood, doing their duty in Ireland. Are you ashamed of that? Are you sorry for that? I am sure you are. Why should not the Belfast men resent it? They were Ulstermen. Do you think it was a great crime that they should say," As long as 1493 you are members of Sinn Fein, which has, as part of its organisation, a murder conspiracy of assassination and outrage which is killng off these men of whom we are proud, we will not work alongside of you"? Do you wonder at that? There you have the whole story, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us should think that there was some slur upon those men because they took that course. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: If, during the War, there were men in his own trade union who were standing beside men who were trying to bring victory to this country, and they were heard day by day pronouncing eulogisms upon and backing the Germans and their vile works, and his followers had said to them, "If you go on like this we will not stay here working side by side with you: either you or we go out," what would he have said to them? He would have said that they were right. It is the samo thing with these men in Belfast. I do not set up the man of Belfast as being the ideal citizen who, no matter how he is treated, is prepared to take it lying down. I do not set him up as the quiet lamb of civilisation; nor do I so set up the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He is a member of the Council of Direct Action, I believe. What is the good of pretending that this ideal existence is to be found everywhere but in Belfast? But perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not believe what I am saying.
§ Sir E. CARSON
That is as far as one can expect the right hon. Gentleman to go. He has given all this as a reason why there should not be this civilian force. Will he allow me to refer him, because this cannot be said to come from a tainted source, to a letter written the other day by the Rev. Nicholas Lawless, parish priest? He was asked to attend a meeting to protest against the expulsion of these Belfast workers. That gentleman is not in sympathy in religion with my friends at the shipyard. I am prouder of my friends in the shipyards than of any other friends I have in the whole world. He is there. He knows something about it. I do not say the right hon. Gentleman does not, but what he knows is got out of a particular class of newspaper. Here is what this reverend gentleman, who certainly 1494 would not touch mc with a barge pole, says:It seems to me you are beginning at the wrong end. The direct way to save our people in the North is to end at once the crimes which are disgracing Catholic Irish, North and South. It is these crimes that enrage, and no wonder, the workers of Belfast, who have said they will let the Catholic workers back when the shooting of R.I.C. men and others stops. When Catholics, clergy and laity, pluck up courage to grapple with secret societies and prevent their sending out murderous commands and compel them to give a dispensation to the unhappy youths they even have condemned to suicide, then let us stand in sackcloth and ashes with bread and water in our hands and tell the Belfast workers to sit on the stool of repentance. That will have more effect on them than the crimes of Republicans with more and more English troops to shoot them down.This is by a clergyman in the North of Ireland, and surely he is not a prejudiced witness upon an occasion of this kind. I, above all others, in my old age loathe and detest this sort of thing, and naturally, if any any of you will consider for a moment, for I look forward under the Home Bule Bill to these people, whether they like it or not, having to live together in the future, and I tell those who trust me in the North of Ireland, here from my place in this House, that it is their duty to remember that, and to take care that nothing is done now which will prevent as soon as possible that amity under the Government which is set up, which alone can make it a success for both sides. No one in this House would desire to see, friendship between both of them more than I do, particularly at the present moment. Let us not impute to the Government unworthy motives and objects in the task they have before them.
That is all I have to say on that particular aspect of the case. I hope it is not irrelevant if I ask my light hon. Friend when will the Second Beading of the Education Bill be taken. The question of the education of the Irish people gees to the root of this matter. I wish more time were given to it than to many other questions that come before the House. How can you expect an enlightened state of society, how can you expect an absence of hooligans or illiterates, if you are satisfied, notwithstanding all that has been brought before you, that a great, progressive city like Belfast should go on day after day, month after month, year after year, 1495 with 25,000 children per day who never see a school house and never get a chanco? That is where your responsibility comes in. Do not tell me it is not germane to the subject we are now discussing. We get off on these wrong tangents, and we do not get to the root of the matter. There are matters brought before us from the other side on which anyone could make a speech of reproach. Let us not get off on false tangents and on a false humanity, but let us do our best, doing justice to each side, to take care that the case is fairly represented. My right hon. Friend has been blamed for the institution of special police, and the right bon. Gentleman who has just addressed us seems to think it is a monstrous thing that these men should be put into that position. As for the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), of course, he says hell has been created. I suppose he knows what hell is. But after all. is it such an improper position? I think it is a wise step.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I do not think I am so vain as that. I have really got beyond that. The thing is too serious, and I can assure the hon. Member who represents a neighbouring constituency to mine that I have laftier ideas than my own petty suggestiens. I will tell you why. Do you think do not admit that I have hotheads behind me. Have you hot heads behind you? Has every leader hot-heads behind him, except the present Prime Minister They are dangerous people sometimes, though often the nicest followers you could have, but they all have their uses. I am certain that in every party, even in the party of the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin) there are always a number of men who are just as keen about the cause as the hot heads and who do more For the cause because they are not hot-heads. Is it not a good thing to have these men in a responsible position' These men will cause confidence in the particular organisation and the cause to which they belong, and I think that when these special constables are instituted, if they are going to be instituted, there will be nobody more down on the hotheads than the special police who have the same ideals and the 1496 same objects in view as the hotheads. If there was a railway strike could there be a better special constable than the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas)? I can see him with his baton going down the line, and there is not a man he would not keep in order. That is the way in all these matters if you get men to take the responsibility, and so far from abusing them for being willing to take the responsibility you ought to be grateful. Like everything else that is exaggerated in Ireland, it is said that this is only done for one lot. That is not true. As I read the newspapers, and I have no other information, I understand that anybody would be welcome who would undertake the job. It is not a pleasant job. To go out in the streets or into the alleys of either Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Limerick or any other place, and set yourself up as a target at the present day is not a pleasant job. The reality of the case is that there never was a more difficult situation with which a Government had to deal, and my last word to the House is, above all things, let us try to support a Government which in the difficult circumstances is trying to do its best.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman is not only an eminent lawyer but a splendid actor. He has stood in his place to-night and one would imagine on hearing his speech that he was perhaps the most conservative apostle of law and order and the most violet anti-revolutionist that the world has ever known. Since he was able to gather tears into his voice with such perfection I should have imagined that he would have tendered some apology to the House for the rack and ruin which his policy has created in Ireland to-day. He was very eloquent in his denunciation of the murder of policemen. I am just as much opposed to the murder of policemen as he is. To me the murder of either a policeman or peasant is an outrage on civilisation. The preservation of human life ought to be the first and most sacred function of citizenship. I am in this happy position that I am different from the right hon. Gentleman for I never inspired either a murder or a rebellion.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman is a fine cross examiner. Perhaps 1497 he will give some incident where I ever did that.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I was not in the Land League. The Land League was almost out of existence before I was born. It is characteristic of the unfairness of the right hon. Gentleman to make an observation of that sort. He has been allowed to stand there and without interruption level vile charges at anybody he liked to level them against, and then, sitting there, he makes an infamous suggestion of this character. The right hon. Gentleman was the organiser of a rebellion in Ulster, part of which was the gun-running in Ulster. He himself declared in this House, I think in my hearing, or in Belfast, indeed in several places, "eI am going over to Ireland to break every law in the country," and when he was engaged in the gun-running if policemen or soldiers had crossed his sacred path in his pursuit of that scientific preparation for rebellion, every one of these policemen or soldiers would have gone down mercilessly before his followers. Fortunately for himself he had the military on his side. Therefore he had not to fight. I believe that there vas a coastguard man who did attempt to do something to prevent the progress of the right hon. Gentleman's friends, and he was shot. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]. In Larne. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]. It does not matter where it was. Hon. Members know more about it than I do. They were there. The only victim was a coastguard, simply because he was the only man who stood in the way. But is there anyone in this House so destitute of intelligence as to believe that if soldiers or policemen had stood in the way of the onward progress of the right hon. Gentleman's militant friends in their march from rapine to murder, every one of these men would not have gone down?
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Was it merely camouflage? Was the gun-running merely part of the physical play-acting which is displayed intellectually in this House by the right hon. Gentleman? I say if it was a real rebellion then the right hon.
1498 Gentleman was prepared to do all that was done by the Sinn Fciners or by any section of rebels in Ireland. If it was not the real thing, thon the English people were blinded and led astray to believe that Ulster would be up in arms if a moderate solution of the Irish problem was brought into operation. The right hon. Gentleman is always boasting of his frankness in the House of Commons. Why does he not be frank? He had not the courage either to condemn the pogrom in Belfast or to commend it. He actually taunted the Labour party in the House of Commons with sympathising with Sinn Feiners, who were murderers, men who took the place of the eminent patriots of his par y who went out to fight in the War. That is the picture he presents to the House of Commons. There never was a falser picture painted. As a matter of fact, I do not believe there were 10 per cent. of these men Sinn Feiners. There was a number of Protestant workmen driven out of Queen's Island because they were Labour men and Socialists. They were driven out of Queen's Island because their propaganda, their democratic ideas, their progressive spirit, their enlightening influence, were luring the ignorant followers of the right hon. Member for Duncairn from the darkness of their economic and industrial environment, and because they were rallying to the standard of a common democracy. [Laughter and Interruption.] An bon. Member interrupts. I know of no soft-nosed person here but himself. I would not mind the hon. Gentleman having a soft nose if he had not a soft head, but there are occasions when I like to have an argument with some person of intelligence like the right hon. Member for Duncairn.
I would like to tell the House why the pogrom took place. Because there are 25,000 of the children of the right hon. Gentleman's followers who have never been to school in their lives. He has told us that himself. Is it any wonder that their highest form of Christianity is to drive from their employment innocent men who are guilty of no crime or offence against anyone? It is not because they are murderers or because they are Sinn Feiners, but because they are Catholics. You would think, to listen to the right hon. Gentleman, that there never was 1499 anything like it before, that these gentle lambs who follow him and who carried on this infamy a few months back, and cast countless men and women and little children into poverty and even starvation, were responsible for a rare event that was caused by the extraordinary political conditions of the moment. Why, these pogroms are almost as plentiful as the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and they occurred before there ever was a Sinn Feiner heard of in Belfast or in Ireland. One of my earliest recollections as a boy was the sight of hundreds of working men at Queen's Island being driven from their employment every time there was any sort of political crisis in regard to Home Rule. It is not new at all. When I find these hypocrites on the Front Opposition Bench. [Laughter.] It is natural that a person of my intelligence should be carried away in that way. I mean the hypocrites on the Ministerial Bench, who day after day stand up in the House and almost thrill you with the tragedy of the murder of a policeman here and the murder of another there, and yet have not a single word of sympathy for men against whom crimes have been perpetrated worse than murder, namely, driving them out of their employment. It is quite enough for a man to stand before a furnace, or in a shipyard, or in an ironworks to pursue his labour from eight o'clock in the morning till six o'clock in the evening without the feeling that after his work is done he will be waylaid and chased, not, I must frankly say, by the great body of the Island men or real trade unionists, but by an organised band of ruffians who are dragged at the chariot wheels of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dun-cairn, and who are incited to do these deeds, not because of any natural indignation against murder, because every one of them is a potential murderer himself, but who do it because it is a political and industrial instrument in their hands for the purpose of smashing up that good democratic relationship which was springing up in Ulster, and growing and developing, and that is what you fear, and it is not Sinn Fein you fear. I therefore say to the House, when you hear the Chief Secretary, in pathetic accents and tearful voice, coming here and talking about murder and about persecution on the part of Sinn Feiners 1500 in other parts of Ireland, let him come up to Belfast and preach peace instead of inflaming the passions of the mob, and let him do something to contribute to the bringing back of those men to their employment and to the creation of that friendly relationship which would exist if interested politicians did not drive these people asunder.
I have something to say about this pogrom. I notice that the Chief Secretary went down to Belfast lately and made a speech. He claims to be a very courageous man—no, he does not, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dun-cairn says he is a courageous man, and of course that right hon. Gentleman is infallible in this House of Commons. Therefore he is a courageous man. In Belfast he denounced murder in the South and West of Ireland, but never from his life fell one word of protest amongst the leaders of the pogromists who were entertaining him there in royal state, and never one word did he utter in the festival hall of those gentlemen against the scandalous conduct which was carried on against those men. Will the House believe that these "pro-Germans," these "murderers," these "Sinn Feiners" are the men who returned me to this House against the candidature of Mr. de Valera, and that there are 1,500 of them who have fought in the War? The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny and it never has been denied, and I challenge denial, from any Member of this House that 3,000 of my constituents went out to the War.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I know that the hon. Gentleman thinks he is a very important person, but he is not so important as to have forty-three thousand in his constituency who went out to the War. He had better engage in a little more mathematical calculations in order to be accurate when he places them before the House. In my constituency, with 8,000 of an electorate, 3,000 went out to the War, and the great bulk of these men are the victims of other men, who I do not believe went out to the War at all; that is, the men who organised and carried out this pogrom. When I read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in the House of Commons the other day, and when he talked about these gallant soldiers who were fighting the glorious battle of the Empire in the village of 1501 Balbriggan, I should imagine he would have said a word for the gallant soldiers, Nationalists, Constitutionalists, every one of them, who Were driven from the Queen s Island, and who made one great blunder, as I made it, that we ever dared to help you in an emergency, because you could not be true to any man. Those who have conducted the destinies of the Government of this country for the last ten years could not be faithful to anybody or anything, but all the same, they went out and fought, and I would have imagined that here was the place for the courageous man to stand up in the midst of all these festivities and tell these gentlemen that the first function of a real citizen was to put an end to this boycott, to reinstate these workers, and to endeavour to repay them for one of the foulest outrages that was ever committed against a people, but not a word of it.
It is a common thing now for Chief Secretaries for Ireland to go up to Belfast and to make there grand, eloquent denunciations against the other parts of Ireland, and then we are to have faith in the impartiality of a Government whose chief spokesman is inspired by a spirit of that character. But there were other men who did make references to the pogrom on the Queen's Island. There was a gentleman who holds the position of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, and he went up and made a speech, and he announced the policy of organising these special constables, and after he announced that the special constables were to be brought into operation—and this was a meeting of these pogromists called together under the chairmanship of the man who organised the pogrom—he went on to say:He thought it only fair that he should he asked a question in return, and that was, 'Do I approve of the action you boys have taken in the past?' I say, 'Yes.'That gentleman is still in the Government and is Parliament Secretary to the Admiralty. That gentleman is the spokesman of your Government, going up among an impassioned crowd, and never a word of censure and never a word of comment from those who are so splendidly eloquent in their denunciations of the conduct of the people in the South and West of Ireland. All I have to say is this—I want to say it frankly—I was prevented from making a speech here last Wednesday, 1502 and I am going to make it now. The Chief Secretary need not point to the clock, because he made a speech last Wednesday, and I believe three-quarters of it was a series of misstatements, and I will make my speech now if he speaks or not.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Lieut.-Colonel Sir Hamar Greenwood)
I gave way in order that the hon Member (Mr. Devlin) might speak.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I did not come back to this House because I like it—nothing of the sort. If I consulted my own personal opinions and convictions, I would not come within 20 miles of this House. I know that nothing that I or anyone else says for Ireland will have the slightest effect on this assembly. I merely use this House because I think it is the best platform from which I can address whatever is decently left of the spirit of English democracy in these islands and throughout the world. That is the only reason why I come here at all. The right hon. Gentleman, in a speech which he made here a few nights ago, said:The Irish Nationalists have nothing to do with the difficulties of Ireland at the moment. There are no reprisals, or alleged reprisals, on Irish Nationalists.I would not have occupied so much of the time of the House if it had not been for the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I came here to deal with the reprisals policy. I came here to say that a more infamous doctrine was never preached, that, because a policeman is shot here or a soldier shot there, there should be a war upon innocent people, that villages should be burnt, men flogged, and children hunted out in the dead of the night, cold and hungry, and a general hell created. Did not you get a Coercion Act? Was it not the most drastic Coercion Act ever passed in this country for the sister isle? Was there a single power you sought, however terrible, you did not get? Was that not enough? You let loose your servile tools, because I do not believe this so-called reprisal is a mere outburst of passion, although in some cases it may be, but I believe it is a deliberate policy organised by the Government, encouraged by the Government, and inspired by the Government, and it is not, mark you, a war upon Sinn Feiners or upon murderers alone. The right hon. Gentleman has said that there are no reprisals, or alleged reprisals, on 1503 Irish Nationalists. I have never been engaged in any work in my life in politics except two things. One of them was to win the freedom of my country by constitutional means; the other was to try to foment and foster the spirit of good will between the democracies of these two islands. There was just another, and that was during the last two years to work night and day for the discharged soldiers in Ireland for whom I was, with Mr. Redmond, largely responsible. The right hon. Gentleman, if he will permit me to say so, and does not regard it as a breach of confidence—his letter was not marked "private"—wrote to me saying, "The soldiers of Ireland ought to be grateful to you for what you have done and are doing for them." What happened to me the other day in my office, in Dublin, of the United Irish League, where the work has been practically suspended? Armed men smashed and opened the doors of that building. They broke open a safe, and dragged the documents out of it. My bag, which was there with a key in it, was torn asunder, panels of priceless value in this old historic house were smashed to atoms, and a thousand soldiers' letters, which were locked in drawers, were scattered all over the building, and two ladies, the daughters of a lately respected Member of this House, who were employed in the place, were frightened almost to death—they were the only occupants of the House at the time—by the armed minions of the Government, who broke into this office of a constitutional organisation. Yet the right hon. Gentleman says there are no reprisals. He wants evidence. There is evidence. That is only one of the countless proofs we could give of the organised villainy that is carried on by an infamous military machine, heartless and conscienceless, a danger to the Empire and a curse to Ireland.
What is their latest performance? They are maddening the whole people of Ireland. I cannot conceive what is their mission or their purpose. There is hardly a Constitutionalist left in the country. I have only one comfort in being a Constitutionalist, and that last comfort left is that I detest and loathe this Government worse than any Sinn Feiner. The Government broke up the Constitutional movement when they started their policy of petty persecutions, their searches, their 1504 midnight raids, etc., for there were no murders in Ireland then. Compare the number of murders in Ireland with those recorded two years ago when this policy was started. When your military machine crushed deeper and fell more powerfully upon the race, the murders increased day by day. All your dealings, your horrors and tragedies are driving away every man with decent and moderate instincts, who was hopeful for his country's welfare. He looks everywhere now without faith, and seemingly with such blackness that there is not a single glimmer of light. You are driving every man not only to hate you, but the very British Empire itself. What are they doing now? I would ask the House of Commons which has swallowed many and all things against Ireland, to note what the Government proposes to do now. What they propose was announced at a meeting of the pogromists. I frankly tell you this, I am without any power in Ireland now, I have none whatever. But if I had power, if I thought I could do it, honestly if I believed I could do it, I would go out to-morrow and would organise special constables to fight your special constables. That is what I would do. What do the Government propose to do to get special constables?
Sir Ernest Clarke came to me to consult me about this thing and he asked me to co-operate with the authorities. I put the question to Sir Ernest Clarke: "What do you want the special constables for?" He said to preserve law and to maintain order. "But," I told Sir E. Clarke, "I have always heard the excuse offered to the Government, after they turned Ireland into a state of hell and chaos, that it was all done because law must be maintained and order preserved." "If," I said, "you are going to preserve peace and if you are going to turn three provinces of Ireland into a regular hell in order to preserve peace and order through the operations of your military and police, why do you not apply the same principle to Ulster, and why should you ask for special constables in Ulster to do it?" And he could not answer me. Why? Because this suggestion has come from the friends of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir E. Carson). This suggestion is to arm these people in the six counties, especially Belfast. The Chief Secretary told us in a speech the other day he was 1505 going to rake Ireland from end to end for arms, yet he is going to arm "pogromists" to murder the Catholics. These will be going along as peaceful, lawabiding citizens. Happily we have the character of the men who will be these special constables. One of them was arrested in the midst of the riots at Belfast for looting. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman to-day about Lisburn. Three of the special constables were convicted—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
If you English lovers of justice tolerate this sort of thing, you will tolerate anything. Three hundred special constables resigned their position because the three looters, belonging to their class, were arrested by the police. And it is to The Mercy of these men that 500,000 of we Belfast Catholics are to be left. The Protestants are to be armed, for we would not touch your special constabularyship with a forty-foot pole. Their pogrom is to be made less difficult. Instead of pavingstones and sticks they are to be given rifles. That is how civil war is to be prevented in Ireland and in Ulster. It is impossible to speak with patience of what is going on over there. Englishmen have no conception of it; if they had they would hide their heads in shame. I remember one of my brightest and happiest memories was of a visit I paid nearly 20 years ago to Liverpool to hear the last speech of Mr. Gladstone. I had never heard him, and I thought it was the opportunity of my life. I went over to Liverpool, and there was a great meeting in Hengler's circus. It was a meeting of protest against the Turkish atrocities in Armenia. I looked at that vast gathering, and at the vast cheering and thrilling crowds that followed Mr. Gladstone when he left the hall, and I said, "After all, there are some splendid instincts in a nation far, far away from the scene of these operations when it can be aroused to indignation against Turkish atrocities in Armenia." I tell the House frankly that there are things going on in Ireland worse than ever occurred under the Turkish yoke in Armenia. Believe me, we shall survive it. My shame is for England and that there is no great moral teacher and preacher like Mr. Gladstone, who ought, in all the fervour of a passion ate apostle—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
At all events, if he is not pompous, he is honest. I do not agree with him always, but let me say this that it is a rare thing to hear any voice raised for any great and holy cause,. and the man who raises it is a friend of mine. One of the greatest calamities. that can befall the British race is to find that all these things are possible; that people seem to acquiesce in them or to take no interest in them; that there is not some great voice to inflame genuine indignation and to educate the masses of the country in a knowledge of what is going on in Ireland.
The England of Gladstone and of Bright has disappeared. The England of this House of Commons—profiteers, self-interested, the claimors of seats that are slipping away from them, the expediency politicians playing fast and loose with principles on the Front Bench, irrespective of the evil consequences that may come to these islands and the British if these things go on. England is losing the friendship of France; it has lost the friendship of America. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]. Your Colonies are up in arms [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] You are making enemies in every country in Europe and in every country in the world by your Irish policy. When an Irish Member comes here, with two or three others alone, to plead the cause of right and justice for our crushed and agonising country, you think you can overwhelm us with your votes. A greater power than you shouted liberty down, as you shout it down. That was Germany. It gained an enduring influence on the nation's will. It was as great a machine, though 'not more cruel, than is yours in Ireland. That machine was broken and that country destroyed. The only things that can make a nation great are justice, freedom and liberty. Destroy them and you destroy yourselves. For, when you have settled this transient transaction which is in your hands, the spirit of the Irish race for freedom, irresistible, unquenchable, indestructible, will be there. You may think to crush by force a section of the people, but the spirit will live on and go on. I regret that it will be difficult to settle this question in the future. There are memories of flogged men, of young fellows brought out before their fathers and mothers and shot. The right hon. Gentleman has a son of his own, and 1507 he ought to think what it would be to him if, because somebody was murdered five streets down the soldiers came into his house and murdered his son. There never yet was any human power that could withstand such actions.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
For the first time in the history of this House, those who support a Motion for the Adjournment have compelled the Minister in charge of the Department involved to reply within three minutes. I always welcome the raising of the Irish problem in any place, in order that one may deal with it from the point of view of the Irish Secretary. Since our last Debate—when the House carried by a very large majority a Motion in favour of the policy of the Government—here are some of the hard and cruel facts of Irish disturbances: Three soldiers killed and eight wounded, eleven Royal Irish Constabulary murdered and twelve wounded, three civilians murdered and three wounded, three sentries fired at, three police barracks destroyed, and two different servants of the Crown fired at, or their homes destroyed.
The policy of the Government has succeeded, and succeeded rapidly. The total number of outrages has rapidly decreased. The issue is now between the assassins of the Irish Republican Army and the British Government. All I ask the House of Commons is to support me and the Government not in opposing Sinn Fein or the Irish language—for we have never clone that—but in tracking down, as we are doing, these assassins, who bar the way to any settlement of the Irish political question. This Motion again raises the question of reprisals. There was only one case quoted, and that in general terms, dealing with the alleged flogging of a couple of men.
The hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) referred to Belfast and the labour difficulty there. What is the difficulty? It is not the Government's difficulty, but a quarrel between members of the same trade union, one set refusing to work with another. I appointed Sir Ernest Clarke to go to Ulster, among other purposes to try and settle the question. He did his best, and so did the Lord Mayor. The employers did their best, and we had terms arranged for these expelled workers 1508 to go back to the yard three or four weeks ago. But on the Sunday preceding the Monday on which they were to return, some brutal Sinn Feiner shot and murdered a policeman in the streets of Belfast. I dealt with murder in Belfast, because murder is the curse of Ireland, in the industrial world of Belfast, as well as in the political world of the rest of Ireland. I have done my best to get these expelled workers back, and the speech of the hon. Member for the Falls Division, long as it was, has done nothing to help the return of those men.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.