§ 6.0 P.M.
§ On the British side we have allegiance to the Crown, partnership in the Empire, security of our shores, non-coercion of Ulster. These are the provisions we have over and over again laid down, and they are here, signed in this document. On the Irish side there is one supreme condition—that the Irish people as a nation should be free in their own land to work out their own national destinies in their own way. These two nations, I believe, will be reconciled. Ireland, within her own boundaries, will be free to marshal her own resources, direct her own forces—material, moral and spiritual—and guide her own destinies. She has accepted allegiance to the Crown, partnership in the same Empire, and subordinated her external relations to the judgment of the same general Council of the Empire as we have. She has agreed to freedom of choice for Ulster. The freedom of Ireland increases the strength of the Empire by ending the conflict which has been carried on for centuries with varying success, but with unvarying discredit, for centuries. Incidents of that struggle have done more to impair the honour of this country than any aspect of its world dominion throughout the ages. It was not possible to interchange views with the truest friends of Britain without feeling that there was something in reference to Ireland to pass over. This brings new credit to the Empire, and it brings new strength. It brings to our side a valiant comrade.
§ During the trying years of the War we set up for the first time in the history of this Empire a great Imperial War Cabinet. There were present representatives of Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and India, but there was one vacant chair, and we all were conscious of it. It was the chair that ought to have been filled by Ireland. In so far as it was occupied, it was occupied by the shadow of a fretful, resentful, angry people—angry not merely for ancient wrongs, but angry because, while every nation in the Empire had its nationhood honoured, the people who were a nation when the oldest Dominion had not even been discovered had its nationhood ignored. The youngest 49 Dominion marched into the War under its own flag. As for the flag of Ireland, it was torn from the hands of men who had volunteered to die for the cause which the British Empire was championing. The result was a rebellion, and, at the worst moment of the War, we had to divert our mind to methods of dealing with the crisis in Ireland. Henceforth that chair will be filled by a willing Ireland, radiant because her long quarrel with Great Britain will have been settled by the concession of liberty to her own people, and she can now take part in the partnership of Empire, not merely without loss of self-respect, but with an accession of honour to herself and of glory to her own nationhood.
§ By this agreement we win to our side a nation of deep abiding and even passionate loyalties. What nation ever showed such loyalty to its faith under such conditions? Generations of persecution, proscription, beggary and disdain—she faced them all. She showed loyalty to Kings whom Britain had thrown over. Ireland stood by them, and shed her blood to maintain their inheritance—that precious loyalty which she now avows to the Throne, and to the partnership and common citizenship of Empire. It would be taking too hopeful a view of the future to imagine that the last peril of the British Empire has passed. There are still dangers lurking in the mists. Whence will they come? From what quarter? Who knows? But when they do come, I feel glad to know that Ireland will be there by our side, and the old motto that "England's danger is Ireland's opportunity" will have a new meaning. As in the case of the Dominions in 1914, our peril will be her danger, our fears will be her anxieties, our victories will be her joy.
§ Captain CHARLES CRAIG
I admit it is a very difficult task I have before me, that of following no less than five speakers, all of whose speeches have been devoted to approving the action of the Government in connection with the Agreement we are discussing to-day. However, as the interests of Ulster are seriously affected by many particulars in the Articles of Agreement, no one will object to my putting forth the Ulster view. Before I deal with the point of view of Ulster, however, I hope I may be allowed to say a few words on the 50 Agreement generally, and on what has fallen from various speakers who have preceded me. I would like to remind the Prime Minister, first of all, that it is a complete mis-statement to call this document "Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland." It is nothing of the sort. They may be Articles of Agreement between Great Britain and Southern Ireland, but Ulster, which I maintain is a not unimportant part of Ireland, is no party to this Agreement, and repudiates it so far as its own area is concerned. The Prime Minister informed us that the position given to Ireland under this document was entirely similar to that of Canada, that the Constitution she would enjoy would be the same as that of Canada, and he then proceeded in the latter part of his speech to point out two or three directions in which it was not the same. I do not know whether he pointed it out, but it is obvious to everyone that it is not so in the matter of the Oath, which I was going to describe as much discussed. It has not been yet, but it will be, I am sure, before the Debate is finished. When we enter this House we swear allegiance to His Majesty in a few very plain, straightforward words. We know also that Members of the Parliaments of our great Dominions overseas—Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other parts of the Empire in the two hemispheres—do so in precisely the same words as we use. I would like whoever next addresses the House from the Government Bench to explain to us why the Oath which is good enough for us is not good enough for Sinn Fein. I would also make this statement, namely, that the Oath which is contained in this document is, as an Oath, not worth the paper on which it is printed. It is the most extraordinary rigmarole and conglomeration of senseless words I have ever read. If hon. Members have studied it, they will see it is nothing more than a legalisation of treason under certain circumstances.
§ Captain CRAIG
Perhaps the hon. Member will hear my argument. There are two distinct oaths contained in one. The person who takes the Oath swears allegiance to the Irish state. Later on he swears that he will be faithful to the 51 King, but bear in mind that the latter part of the Oath is not unconditional. He only swears that he will be faithful to the Kingin virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain, and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.That means to say, that if Sinn Fein passed a resolution, which I maintain she will do in a very few years, constituting herself a Republic, then these gentlemen who swear allegiance to the King are by the very Oath itself absolved from that allegiance. But, as I said, I do not place very much reliance on the Oath one way or another, for the simple reason that I believe, within a few years, Sinn Fein will throw off all the remaining trammels or bonds, which bind them to this country after the Act embodying this document is passed, and will become a Republic. I will go further than that, and I would like to have this on record, that whenever that does happen, in spite of all we have heard from Ministers on the Front Bench and on the platform as to the impossibility of this country ever allowing Ireland to secede from this country, I do not believe England will raise a finger, or send a pinnace or a single soldier to recover her allegiance to this country.
§ Captain CRAIG
I see this matter from a double point of view—from the point of view of Ulster, and from the point of view of the Empire. I am not ashamed to say that, first and foremost, I view it from the point of view of Ulster; but while I see it from that point of view, I see it also from the point of view of the Empire. From the point of view of Ulster, I desire to see a settlement of this question as much as the Prime Minister. Goodness knows, we are sick and tired of the murder and rapine which have been going on in Ireland during the last few years, and we want a settlement as much as anybody. On the other hand I, as a, member of the general public, and a representative of a constituency which delights in being part of the British Empire, cannot see my way to condone and pass over what I consider to be acts 52 of weakness on the part of the Government in this matter. As I have said, I have never objected to the idea of the Conference. I do not think anybody has a right to do so, for the House will remember that for two years at least before the Conference began, the Prime Minister, on more than one occasion, and indeed frequently, declared his willingness to meet in conference anybody who could speak on behalf of Sinn Fein. I am within the recollection of the House when I say that no objection was ever taken to that. Therefore, I submit that none of us really have any reason to object to the fact that the Conference was brought into being, and that Ministers should have met the representatives of Sinn Fein. I also take the view that it was not for us, as Ulster representatives, to do or say anything to jeopardise the chance of a settlement being arrived at so long as the interests of Ulster were not touched. We have during the fateful five months during which the Conference has been sitting adhered to that policy; but the interests of Ulster have been touched upon very seriously and are involved in this document. Therefore, it is our duty now to speak out in Parliament. I do not, however, propose to criticise the action of the Government to any great extent, except on one or two points.
I maintain that the besetting sin of the Conference, and the Prime Minister's negotiations, has been their most unfortunate procrastination. It has carried this Conference all along the weary weeks, when, in my view, it was clear from the first what should have been done. I say that the Prime Minister's letter of 20th July, containing, as everybody remembers, the terms that he was prepared to offer Sinn Fein were such that the world was astounded at its generosity. The American papers, even the hostile papers, had to admit most freely that the terms were of an extraordinarily generous nature. The proper course of the Prime Minister on that occasion was to have put those terms to Sinn Fein and give them one month, or at, the most a couple of months, to accept or reject them. I am sure the bulk of Members of this House will agree that Sinn Fein would have accepted those terms. If they had not, then the Prime Minister was in a very strong position. He could then have settled the rebellion 53 in Ireland by any means he chose to employ and he would have had the whole world behind him.
What has happened? The atmosphere created by the generosity of these proposals has been to a large extent dissipated by the horrible happenings in Ireland, in spite of the truce, and ever since that truce was proclaimed. The Government have allowed the truce to be broken day by day, and have taken no steps whatever to establish stability. [An HON. MEMBER: "Especially in Belfast!"] I say that atmosphere has been dissipated by the horrible acts of murder and riot which have taken place in Belfast and other places. Not only that, but the protection to which every loyalist and every law-abiding man in Ireland or any other country is entitled to ask for has not been given. I also blame the Government for their action in connection with the compensation which will be due to those public servants, police and others, who will not be required by Sinn Fein. The Prime Minister has told us that in such an agreement as this it is right to assume that the Sinn Fein Parliament will attend to these matters; but I maintain from my knowledge of them, which is as great, or greater perhaps than most Members, that they will do nothing of the kind. In matters of the kind they are likely to look somewhat suspiciously on the pensions of the police and other public servants who for years past they have regarded as their enemies. They will do all in their power to get out of their obligation, and this is one of those obligations which the Government are in honour bound to keep in their own hands and see that it is properly carried out.
Let me deal very shortly with my objections to the document from the mere Ulster point of view. It is called a Treaty with Ireland, but Ulster is left out. The Prime Minister told us that he and his Government long ago undertook that there was no coercion to be used against Ulster; that, in fact, by the underlying principle of the Act of 1920, Ulster would only come in, could only be expected to come in, to an all-Ireland Parliament by her own consent. The Prime Minister has always known—he knows at this moment as well as I know—that Ulster at this moment, at any rate, has no intention whatever of coming into an all-Ireland Parliament. Therefore I should like to ask him, or whoever replies for the 54 Government, later why, with that knowledge—and there is no question of uncertainty—it is only a couple of weeks ago since the right hon. Gentleman had a formal answer to his request that Ulster should come in from the Prime Minister of the Northern Parliament—he knows that as well as I do—does this document contain the clauses which can only come into operation if Ulster comes into an all-Ireland Parliament? One half of this so-called Treaty deals with the state of affairs that will exist if Ulster comes into an all-Ireland Parliament. What is the point of that? What, I ask, was the object of the Prime Minister in putting these clauses into this document when only a couple of weeks ago he got a formal reply from the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland declining to come into an all-Ireland Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER: "Perhaps Ulster may change her mind?"] Ulster never changes her mind in matters of this sort. She is not in the habit of doing that. What was the object of the right hon. Gentleman in filling this document with clauses dealing with a state of affairs which could only arise if Ulster does come in? Clauses 12 to 16 deal with that position. It is all camouflage to put these into the Bill.
The Prime Minister reiterated to-day what has been said on many occasions without, I am sorry to say, being acted upon, that Ulster is not to be coerced. I say that for the last two or three months Ulster has been subjected to a most unworthy form of coercion. The Press campaign that has been going on, organised by the Government, and fed by the Government, has been one of the most disgraceful facts in connection with the Government. Ulster has been held up to contumely and hatred by every means that the Press could employ. Coercion has not stopped there either, because the Government themselves have been directly guilty of it. The Prime Minister says they have tried persuasion. Take one instance of this sort of thing: the appeal made by the Leader of the House to the Prime Minister of the North of Ireland Parliament in a speech he made the other night. The Prime Minister and the Government have admitted on many occasions, and put the admission into legal form in the Act of 1920, that we were justified 55 in our attitude in asking for separate treatment. They stereotyped that. They put it on paper by passing the Act. It is only a year since that Act was passed. Yet the Government consider themselves justified in turning round, probably—because they have been persuaded by the Irish delegates at the Convention—to turn round and try to persuade us to undo everything for which we have fought. I say that is coercion. I say to the right hon. Gentleman who is not only Leader of this House, but also the Leader, for the time being, of the Conservative party—to which I belong—that I can assure him that we take it in very bad part that he has lent himself to this campaign of coercion.
There are other means of coercion, and I can only say this: We thought when we got our Parliament only a few months ago, opened, with such splendid success by His Majesty the King, that we had the goodwill of the whole community—[HON. MEMBERS: "So you have!"]—not only of this country, but of every country. We thought we had started off, and that at least we were to be left to attend to our own affairs. Ulster has been, I was going to say, between the devil and the deep sea for many long years, and when we got the Act and our Parliament opened we thought that now our troubles were at an end! Now we have the whole Government, one Member after another, one time by appeal, another by turning on a paid Press to slander us, using every means in their power against us. We have been treated in a scandalous way. Our position is made evident in the correspondence that is published this morning in the newspapers. Incidentally I may say, that it was an understanding between the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Ulster, that when the interests of Ulster were touched upon in these Conferences he was to be informed of it. He was sent for a few weeks ago, and when the correspondence is read it will be seen that his first intimation that the interests of Ulster had been touched upon was being handed a bald cut-and-dried scheme by which Ulster was expected to come into an All-Ireland Parliament. I call that rather late in the day to inform Ulster that her interests have been touched upon. The very fact that the Government representatives at that 56 Conference had discussed this question Sinn Fein and had actually drawn up the details, shows how far they had gone in their attempt to coerce us. We consider this an unfriendly act of the first magnitude.
In the document in question it was set out that the proper thing for us to do was to go into an All-Ireland Parliament. The bribe held out to us was that as it would have fiscal autonomy we should have less taxation to pay, and the threat held out was that if we refused to go in we should have to pay the high taxation we are being subjected to at the present time. On this subject the Press did not know what to do. Some of them thought we would accept at once in order to gain this bribe. Some of them knew us better. They assumed we would not accept, and they have been waiting until they hear us squeal because we are going to be put into a worse position than we are now in. I wish to say that we are not asking for any financial advantage, and we are prepared to bear the same burdens of Empire as you are. Let there be no mistake about that. The Clauses dealt with by the Prime Minister, and the advantages which he claimed that we should gain by coming in, and the disadvantages of staying out, were not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman. I have reserved for the end of my speech the points we object to most strongly in the Agreement. The House will remember that about a fortnight ago the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland read out a statement agreed to by the Prime Minister of the Imperial Parliament and himself at a meeting of the Northern Parliament in Belfast, which said that the negotiations with Sinn Fein would either break clown within a week or else new proposals would be sent to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and that in the meantime nothing would be done to prejudice or jeopardise the interests of Ulster. When the document which came upon us so suddenly the other day was read, it was found, in spite of the pledge of the Prime Minister to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, that he had actually incorporated in the document a Clause which is going to set up a Commission to interfere with our boundaries.
I cannot speak too seriously about that proposal. It may mean that our northern areas will be so cut up and 57 mutilated that we shall no longer be masters in our own house. The decision of that Commission may be a matter of life and death to us. I submit to the Prime Minister that he had no right to do that, and he was in honour bound not to allow such a Commission to appear in this document by the promise he had given to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. He told us to-day that this Boundary Commission was a matter of comparatively small importance, and he suggested that it was simply going to deal with a small number of Protestants on the southern side of our line and a small number of Roman Catholics on the northern side. He said that when the rectification of the boundary was finished there would be no great difference either in area or population in Northern or Southern Ireland. There is nothing in the Clause to guarantee that one way or the other. On the contrary, the terms of the Clause are drawn in the broadest possible manner. I will read the Clause:Provided that if such an Address is so presented, a Commission consisting of three persons, one to be appointed by the Irish Free State, one to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland, and one who shall be chairman, to be appointed by the British Government, shall determine, in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants,The inhabitants of what? Does it mean Northern Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman referred to an area in Northern Antrim in which there was a comparatively large number of Roman Catholics, and they are entitled to be consulted. Their wishes should be consulted just as much as any other part. They could be dealt with under this proviso. The Clause proceedsso far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland.The only three conditions are the wishes of the inhabitants and the geographic and economic conditions. Who is to decide? Are we to have a definition in the Bill as to what are the exact meaning of geographic or economic conditions? It will be obvious to everybody that there are no two men, if appointed chairman of that Commission, who would arrive at the same conclusion. I say that even if the right hon. Gentleman had given us notice that he was going to move such a Clause, such a Boundary Commission as that should never have been set up. 58 I admit that the boundaries are not in every way satisfactory, but they are fixed, and there is an end of them. There is a large number of Roman Catholics in the north and in the southern area there is a number of Protestants. The Prime Minister said that all that was intended was to rectify the boundaries by the exchange of a few Roman Catholics for a few Protestants, and, if that is so, it ought to have been stated. There is nothing that he could have done more calculated to rouse the ire and suspicion of the Ulster people than the appointment of this Boundary Commission, and that is all I want to say about Ulster.
With regard to the Debate to-day, I just want to ask one or two questions. I do not think there ever was an occasion when so many precedents were being set up. The Prime Minister referred to the precedent set up by the Mover and Seconder of the Address. They delivered two most graceful speeches—I do not say they were excellent, because I do not agree with half of what they said, but it is an improvement upon having two new Members of the House who are not always very happy in the discharge of their duty. There was another precedent I ask the House to note, which has been set up. In former times, so far as my recollection goes, and it goes back over 19 years, I have never known an Address to the King couched in any other terms than a plain motion of thanks to His Majesty for his Gracious Speech from the Throne. I challenge any older Members than myself, who know the records of the House better than I do, to refer me to a case where it has been in any other form than that.
§ Captain CRAIG
What does the right hon. Gentleman mean? It cannot be so, because the state of affairs which has arisen to-day has never been before the House on any former occasion.
It was customary down to 1890, down to the year when Mr. W. H. Smith was Leader of the House, for the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne to follow the Speech from the Throne article by article, and it was considered a revolutionary change when a simple motion of thanks 59 was substituted. We have now reverted to the older form.
§ Captain CRAIG
I apologise for my ignorance of the forms of the House, but I know that in my time this form has not been reverted to before, and why has the right hon. Gentleman reverted to it now? I suggest the reason is that he wants to use the Address to the Throne as equivalent to a resolution in favour of this document. Did the right hon. Gentleman hear that?
I heard it, but I do not want to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and if I think it necessary to make a reply, I will make it when I intervene in the Debate.
§ Captain CRAIG
I did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman heard my question. These are points of considerable importance. My last point is with regard to the Bill which we are to see some time or other embodying the conditions of this Agreement. Are we to understand that when that Bill comes before the House there is to be no power of amendment? I heard something very like that statement fall from the Prime Minister in his speech. All I can say with reference to that is I am perfectly convinced that this House five months ago, when they took no exception to the Conference being entered into, if they had thought for one moment that the conclusions of that Conference were to be, so to speak, put in a hermetically sealed document in which they could not introduce any improvements or amendments they would never have allowed the Prime Minister the latitude they did. We are asked to treat this as a sacred document. Take the question of the boundaries which I am sure, by their cheers, hon. Members recognise as being of great importance to us. According to the Prime Minister we are not to be allowed to alter the terms of the reference in any way, and the only terms that can go before the Commission will be those contained in Clause 12. I ask the House to reflect very seriously as to whether they are going to allow themselves to be so gagged and muzzled as that when we come to legislate on such an important question.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I wish to say a word of respectful congratulation to the Government upon one aspect of what we 60 are doing to-day, and that is the cessation, or very great diminution, of crime in Ireland by which we are saved much innocent bloodshed, and that the great horror we have suffered for the last three years has passed away. Everyone, whatever his opinion on the merits of this proposal and the method by which it is arrived at, must agree in rejoicing that, at any rate, that great evil is out of the way for the moment. Further, it is due to the Government to say that they seem to me to be quite right, if any adjustment for any temporary or permanent peace is to be introduced into Ireland, and if it be not possible to go back to the position, with which I agree, and of which I was a supporter, as it stood before 1914, that it is fundamental and essential to try to get the assent of the majority of the people of Southern Ireland to whatever form of government is to be set up. I have always been of the opinion that there is really no choice in the government of Ireland except one of two systems. You must either have a system of treating the United Kingdom as a single political unit and of giving within that unit equal rights to every citizen, whether he be an Irishman or an Englishman, which is the system which we call the Union, or you must try and satisfy the Irish people about the form of government which is to be set up, so that you can rely, at any rate, on their approbation when the system is first, inaugurated.
When I have said those two things, I come to the end of that which, conscientiously, I am able to say, favourable to the Government position. I cannot believe that there is any probability that this plan for Irish government will succeed, and I cannot help thinking that the method by which the Agreement has been arrived at deserves the grave censure of Parliament. We have heard a great deal during this Debate, and still more whimsically outside in the newspapers, about Irish history and the healing of the feud of 700 years, as it is sometimes put, or of 800 years, as it is at other times put. We even heard it from my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) in the interesting speech which he made in moving the Address. Surely there can be nothing more absurd to anybody who knows anything about it than to suppose that there has been a 61 single controversy running through Irish history for the last 700 or 800 years of which the Sinn Fein movement is the ultimate expression. One wonders what is the picture of the state of things in the latter part of the 12th century when the invasion of the Barons of Henry II. began. I suppose it is something of this kind: A peaceful Ireland, united under a single national Government, leading a harmless, useful, civilised life. Then there entered certain Empire builders, persons like the late Cecil Rhodes, persons who obeyed Henry II., who is thought of as a great English builder of Empire, perhaps like Lord Milner in 1899, or the distinguished father of the Leader of the House, Mr. Chamberlain. These great English statesmen, in the name of English nationality, invaded and overcame the Irish nation which was then in a peaceful and happy state. As a matter of fact, there has never been peace in Ireland from time immemorial. There was quite as much disturbance in Ireland before the invasion of the Barons of Henry II., for prior to that invasion one petty king fought against another petty king. I cannot help thinking how strange it is that the Sinn Fein party, which attaches so much importance to these Celtic reminiscences, opposes partition. Partition was the normal state of Ireland, partition not into two States, but into four or five petty States. Nor had the Celtic High King more authority than the Council of Ireland under the Act of 1920. Nationality does not really come into Irish history until the movement that ended in 1780. That is the honest truth. Earlier there was a racial struggle between the colonists who believed themselves to be a higher race, and the natives, a struggle greatly resembling that which has taken place all over the world where a colony has been founded in defiance of native feeling.
One of the difficulties which stand in the way of the Sinn Fein theory of Irish nationality is that either you say that what our ancestors called the Englishry was a part of the Irish nation, or you do not. If they were a part, then all the oppressions and cruelties were the work of one part of the Irish nation inflicted on the other part of the Irish nation. I believe that that argument was put by Colonel Saunderson, a long time ago in this House, when he said that he did not see why England should be 62 blamed because the ancestors of Mr. Parnell had ill-treated the ancestors of Mr. O'Brien. That very picturesquely puts the point. If you take the true view, there have been at least two streams, one the Anglo-Irish colonists supported, no doubt, from time to time by England, and the other the Celtic population, which, under the leadership of Swift and afterwards of Grattan, was gradually drawn out of the state of servitude to which they had been reduced into what was then called a kingdom, and which we now call a nation.
I recall these things because it is necessary to see what is the real mischief in Ireland. It is not a claim to self-government, though it is often said to be. So far as self-government is concerned, that was amply secured under the Act of Union. Every Irishman had precisely the same political and civil rights as every Englishman. My right hon. Friend opposite said that they were in the minority. Has he ever reflected how much the English people have suffered under precisely that grievance. If we are to think in these national terms, then the English people were opposed to the Government of which he was a Member and which was under the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). The English people were by a majority opposed to the Parliament of 1910, but that Government not only carried the important scheme of taxation associated with the name of the present Prime Minister—and there is no greater grievance of the subject than being taxed against his will—but it actually destroyed the legislative power of a purely English institution, the House of Lords. Therefore, if you are coming to a proposition that a nation is not self-governing if it is outvoted in a common political unit by a majority, then England was not self-governing during that period. The whole doctrine of nationality is really a tissue of absurdities. You cannot pursue it for a moment without finding yourself in one absurdity or another.
The important thing to recognise is that the Irish are asking for recognition as a separate nation. That is common ground to us all. It is important to emphasise it, because we have to see how far they will be satisfied ultimately by the settlement that has been set up. Great hopes are raised merely because of 63 the assent of the Irish delegates, and the chorus of praise and welcome with which this scheme has been received by great bodies of opinion all over the world which the Prime Minister read out. He was perfectly entitled to draw attention to that, but it is not the first time that it has happened. We must all remember what took place in this House in September, 1914, when Mr. Redmond, speaking with quite as much authority on behalf of the Irish people, welcomed in the warmest terms the settlement achieved, as it seemed, by the passing of the Home Rule Act through its concluding stages. His language deserves to be remembered. Let me read what he said. He referred in glowing terms to what had been achieved in South Africa, and to the evidences of loyalty there, and he went on:Just as Botha and Smuts have been able to say in the speeches which were published three days ago that the concession of free institutions to South Africa has changed the men who but ten or a little more years ago were your bitter enemies in the field into your loyal comrades and fellow citizens in the Empire, just as truthfully can I say to you that by what of recent years has happened in this country with the democracy of England, Ireland has been transformed from what George Meredith described a short time ago as 'the broken arm of England' into one of the strongest bulwarks of the Empire."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th September, 1914; col. 912. Vol. 66.]It is difficult to conceive stronger language than that, and yet within little more than 18 months there was a most formidable rebellion in Dublin, and the country has been profoundly discontented and alienated from this country ever since. The Prime Minister says that his Government did not bring that Act into operation, but that they had the fullest consent and approbation of Mr. Redmond to its suspension. He thoroughly approved of that suspension.
§ Lord H. CECIL
That is sufficient to show how easy it is to hope, and how often one is disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman, in his very interesting description of what the Dominions did in respect of foreign affairs, and of how the newly revised constitution of the Empire worked, claimed, and rightly claimed, that it was goodwill and good sense which made such a system work. That is very 64 true. But if you give it, not as an extraordinary example of how patriotic statesmen can work together, but as a piece of political machinery likely by reason of its mechanical smoothness to work well, one must say that a more incoherent system was never devised. The right hon. Gentleman explained how foreign affairs were now settled with the Dominions. Supposing there was disagreement, I suppose if it was sufficiently grave it would lead to secession. Obviously, there is no machinery for solving disagreement between the Dominions. You rely upon good sense. Similarly, in respect of other matters, such as the completeness of fiscal autonomy. I mention that, because, in former times, the Lord Chancellor, in another place, strongly objected to Dominion Home Rule on the ground that it gave fiscal autonomy. Fiscal autonomy may be worked in a manner altogether injurious to this country. The Prime Minister says that we shall find the remedy in our own hands. When it is remembered that every term of the settlement can be worked only with good will, if we are going to embark on a tariff war with Ireland, then the prospects are extremely bad. Nothing would be worse than to have a quarrel on some question of customs. In almost every respect the Irish people could make the system intolerable if they choose to do so. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman does not at all deny that there is no prospect of working this agreement, except by good will on both sides.
§ Lord H. CECIL
What prospect is there of that good will? We start with the fact that a minority, an influential minority in Ireland, are opposed to this settlement.
The President of the Sinn Fein Organisation has declared against it, and it is stated that he will be supported in that opposition by some others although not perhaps by the majority. That, at any rate, is a bad beginning for a permanent acceptance. Then there is the question of the oath which has been criticised more or less on account of its composition. It belongs to a category of documents, some of them very excellent documents, some of them very important and famous documents, which are composed with a desire by 65 ambiguity to turn the edge of conflict. Directly I read the form of oath I was reminded of the 39 Articles. How does it read?I … do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George V., his heirs and successors by law in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.The citizenship, it will be seen, is attributed to Great Britain. What the meaning of the words "in virtue of" may be I do not know. I doubt if anyone does know. But the most significant thing is to be found in the difference of expression used in respect of the Free State and in respect of His Majesty King George V.I solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State … and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George V.That suggests that there in the mind of Sinn Fein the possibility that allegiance to the Free State and allegiance to the King may point in different directions, and they have therefore accepted this form of Oath because it seems to provide that allegiance to the Free State is in any event to have precedence of allegiance to the King. I do not, however, want to deal with mere points of language. If things were perfectly smooth, if prospects were bright, if there were cordial goodwill, if there were true agreement, you would not have ambiguous language, and the fact that you have had to take refuge in ambiguity shows the difficulty in which you are landed.
In answer to all these arguments the Government fall back on the encouraging example of South Africa in 1914. The Mover and Seconder of the Address have both referred to that to-day, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House referred to it the other day in a speech which he made in the country. There are always dangers in these analogies. We have had comparisons between the Irish and other people in days gone by. Cromwell and his soldiers spoke of fighting them as if they were fighting the Canaanites. Other people now compare them to the Boers. I do not know which is the sillier opinion. What are the dissimilarities between the case of South Africa and the case of Ireland? 66 First of all, Ireland is an old country, South Africa is a new one. That makes a great difference. Then South Africa has an economic future; Ireland has probably no economic future at all. I should be greatly surprised if Southern Ireland could ever be richer than she is to-day. Ireland, again, is so placed that other countries, such as America and this country, draw from her the cream of her population. The ablest Irishmen go away from Ireland—not all of them, but a very large proportion of them, and accordingly you have to deal only with the remainder of the Irish race. They are also Celtic. The Boers are of Teutonic blood, and it is a matter of experience that Teutonic blond works much more smoothly in matters of self-government and autonomous administration. Then, too, the Boers are Protestants, and it may honestly be said that while the Roman Catholic religion produces the most elevating individual characters, in the great majority of cases it makes society politically difficult. Finally, the settlement with South Africa was a result of war; but this settlement with. Ireland is a result of murder. The Prime Minister spoke of rebellion, and if it were only rebellion I should agree. If the-Irish had not been worse than open rebels in battle, as, for example, were the French Canadians at Quebec in 1839, the right hon. Gentleman's argument is one I should be inclined to agree with. But the position is different in every possible respect.
§ Lord H. CECIL
That does not make it any better. These murders were, in a very extraordinary degree, social acts which were screened by the Irish people, no doubt as a result, very largely, of intimidation; but does that promise any prosperity for a scheme of Dominion Home Rule? Is that the sort of material out of which a strong Dominion can be created—a Dominion which can work reasonably and with goodwill? Murder breaks up society from the very bottom, and the moment it exists the law begins to collapse. Self-government also collapses, and there can be no reality in any self-governing system brought about under such conditions. It reduces the, whole constitution to a farce. I blame, the Government very severely for not having had this in their mind when they 67 entered into negotiations with Sinn Fein. If they had called together a constituent Assembly, if they had got a representative Assembly of the Irish people and met it openly and publicly in the light of day, there might have been much to be said for their action, but they entered into a private conference which involved treating murderers as honest men, a course profoundly demoralising to the Irish nation because it gave a triumph to murder. I do not want to appeal to the national pride either of Englishmen or of Irishmen. Such appeals to national sentiment in the last hundred years have been carried so far as almost to drive the world mad, but I do say this, that there could be nothing more unwise than to treat murder as though it were a mere incident. The Government have humiliated us not before rebels but before murderers. That is a grave charge against them.
Let me remind the House and the Government of the very scandalous contrast between the language which they are using to-day and the language which they used a few months ago. The contrast is really demoralising. The Government in March and April last used the most violent language about murder and murderers, but in September and October they welcomed the murderers in Downing Street. That is a most serious injury to the moral standard of the country. The Chief Secretary used to speak of persons who were "on the run." I believe one of the delegates was among those thus spoken of as being "on the run." He was a fugitive from justice, but at last he was welcomed in the Prime Minister's House in Downing Street, and it has been placed on record that little jokes passed between him and the Prime Minister. It is impossible not to remember this difference which has occurred within a few months or weeks. My memory goes back to the time when knives of a particular pattern, of a pattern similar to those with which the Phœnix Park murders had been committed, were found in the office of an English branch of the National League, having been deposited there for a time. Evidence was given of that fact before the Parnell Commission, and it caused a painful shock in those days to British opinion. Of course, if "The Times" had succeeded in connecting Mr. Parnell with the Phœnix Park 68 murders, there would have been an end to the Home Rule movement of that day, and Mr. Parnell would have been driven out of public life, but the alleged connection was very remote compared with what now exists.
The point of view now seems to have changed, and whether there has been murder or not, it is now agreed that what has happened has been war, although it was not war which came to an end by one side or the other forcibly occupying its enemy's territory and subduing its opponents. But it was not war in any sense whatever, although it was called war. There is a strange hope, resembling the teaching of the Christian scientists, that if you call a thing something which it is not, or refuse to call it by its true name, there is some great gain. Let us speak the truth. Southern Ireland is at this moment dominated by murder, and to suppose that any system of government so complicated and difficult as that which is called Dominion Home Rule—which mechanically is not at all admirable, and which is dependent at every turn on good will and good sense and an infinite capacity for self-centrol and political concession—to suppose that that system of government can work in a country dominated by murder seems to me to be the most fantastic optimism. The Government think that Ireland is like South Africa, but it is vastly more like one of the tropical republics of South America. There you have to deal with a Roman Catholic population, and you have also these recurrent fits of violence which you have had in Ireland for 160 years. They may be political in origin. They come down from political causes, if you like to trace them back, but the occasion of them has been sometimes religious, sometimes agrarian, and sometimes, as is the case now, political. They have been, on the whole, more commonly religious, and, later, agrarian. Any community that has these recurrent fits of violence will become demoralised. Therefore the only way to solve the Irish Question is not to concern yourself so much with political machinery, but to achieve the triumph of law and religion over the wickedness of murder.
§ Lord H. CECIL
By resigning as a first step, since the Prime Minister asks me. By resigning office and giving place to people who can govern. I have not the least doubt that you could put down 69 murder in Ireland, but I do not say that it could be put down by the singularly inefficient methods of the present Chief Secretary. I do not believe in military administration at all. The only efficient administration is civil administration. Give the civilian administration as large powers as you please, but you should never permit military administration. Secondly, you should never soil your hands, because you give away all the moral advantage of being in the right, and of having a claim on all citizens—who, after all, exist in every country—who do disapprove of murder. Above all, by that you gave away the opportunity of forcing the Roman Catholic Church to use its vast influence—and its influence still remains vast, though it is not so great as it was—in putting down murder. If you had kept your hands clean, sooner or later you would have forced them to do that. The Irish Roman Catholic Church is not a body that I admire; I profoundly dislike and distrust that particular branch of that great community. But in the end no Christian Church can refuse you the help to which you have a right in putting down murder. Had you taken that course, had you worked through a civilian administration, had you rigidly abstained from breaking your own laws, had you tried rigidly to enforce them by legal means, and at the same time appealed to every religious and moral person in Ireland to support you in putting down so hideous an evil as murder, I am confident that in a year or two you would have succeeded, as all previous Governments did succeed, in putting down this recurring access of violence. I emphasise this point of murder, which in my view is the governing consideration. It affects the position of Ulster. The Government now say that they would like Ulster to join in an All-Ireland Parliament. That is quite a novel doctrine. The Lord Chancellor, speaking in another place as lately as the 21st June of this year, said:What has been the consequence of setting up this Parliament in Northern Ireland? It is a consequence which some Noble Lords will find welcome and some will find very unwelcome. Let me state it. It is to make it clear, written in legible characters upon the face of the Statute Book, that there are to be dealt with, as there have always had to be dealt with in this matter, not one Ireland, but two Irelands.70 Your theory is that there are two Irelands. What conceivable sense is there, then, in urging that, for the sake of giving national recognition to a nationality, you are to count two nationalities together? Was there ever such an absurdity? If there are two Irelands, and if the whole question is one nationality, what is the sense of lumping them together? The Prime Minister tells us that he is not to blame for not proposing this solution earlier, because he had not yet reached the exact moment when it was likely to be accepted. That is an extraordinary picture of his mind and of the mind of the Government. As far hack as 1917, apparently, he was distressed in mind; he began to see things. He saw the vacant chair, and, like Macbeth at the banquet, in the vacant chair he saw a spectre. All this happened in a meeting of Dominion representatives, and he was led to think, apparently, that even then Ireland ought to be a Dominion. But he kept that opinion to himself. When he and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law), who was then the Leader of the House, appealed for support, they said they were going to explore all the avenues to arrive at Irish peace. That is one of those metaphorical expressions which sound very well the first time, but become a little comic when they are repeated over and over again. Starting on this career of exploration, it never occurred to them, apparently, in spite of the vision of the right hon. Gentleman a year before, to explore the way of Dominion Home Rule. The Prime Minister announced that he was getting ready for the psychological moment. In his view there had to be a certain preparation of murder before peace was ripe; so many policemen and so many soldiers had to be killed, until the moment came when Dominion Home Rule could be suggested. Accordingly, he turned down another avenue—the avenue of the Act of 1920, which led, as it turned out, nowhere in particular. It ended as a cul de sac, as many persons, including my humble self, believed that it would end.
§ Lord H. CECIL
Does the right hon. Gentleman really maintain that if, instead of propounding the Act of 1920, he had 71 propounded Dominion Home Rule, it would have been less easily accepted in Ireland? If not, was the design merely to amuse the House of Commons by passing this Act? Then, with the eye of genius, the Prime Minister—the Lord Chancellor, apparently, was not equally quick-sighted—saw that the moment had come to explore the avenue which had all the time been staring him in the face, and he got where he is now. I never had the right hon. Gentleman's advantage in having a distinguished official position. Perhaps I should have got somewhere if I had been so fortunate. In the meantime difficulties lie ahead about questions turning round Ulster. He says truly he is pledged against coercion. Apart from any pledge about coercion, he certainly will find it impolitic if he treats Ulster worse than the South of Ireland.
As I say, the South of Ireland is under the influence of murder. You must not put a premium upon murder. You must not teach anyone in Ireland that if they commit murder they get much better fiscal terms than if they do not. You must not teach people in Ireland that the boundary will be revised in such a fashion that more people are to be put under a Government dominated by murderers and fewer people put under a Government dominated by honest men. If you do that you inculcate the practice of murder in Ireland. You will make it clear that murder pays and it is a wise thing to do, and you will therefore produce sooner or later anarchy—first murder, then retaliation, then every private individual committing murder, and you have very nearly got to that in the past few months. And if that applies to the whole Government something more applies to my right hon. Friends who are Unionists. They are pledged to the very neck to stand by Ulster. They were deeply engaged in resistance to the Home Rule Act of 1914. They gave pledges encouraging the Ulstermen and promising them assistance. They will certainly not be justified in merely abstaining from coercion. They must treat Ulster as well as the South is treated. They must not give the Ulstermen occasion to say, with MacbethAnd be these juggling friends no more believ'dThat palter with us in a double sense:That keep the word of promise to our earAnd break it to our hope.72 Macbeth was cheated because he trafficked with the devil: are Ulstermen to suffer as much for trusting Unionist leaders? It is certainly a deep obligation of honour on any Unionist Minister to see that Ulster is fairly and honestly treated. I know nothing about the financial settlement and how the Customs system will work, but I am certain that it will be deeply dishonourable to them if they consent to any arrangement which enables the South to put financial pressure or pressure through the Customs, or in any other way, upon Ulster to give up the autonomy of which she is naturally proud. If it is so, it is a shameful thing. For, observe, what you are asking Ulstermen to do is to come under a Government which is dominated by murder. You are asking them, that is to say, to give up self-government, for there can be no self-government under such a Government. You are asking them to take a step down in civilisation, as they are, at any rate, on a higher level than the Government of a country in which there is a widespread commission of assassination. That applies also to the question of boundaries. You have no right to take great bodies of Protestants, even for the sake of getting a rather better boundary, and put them under the Government of Sinn Fein. It is not a Government on the same level of civilisation as the Government of the North of Ireland. It is a lower Government. If you say that is hard on them, it is part of the penalty of tolerating these atrocious crimes. Till they rise to the level of hating murder as a civilised Christian nation ought to hate it, they must be treated as being on a lower level.
I shall be asked, do you see any hope, under any circumstances, of solving the Irish question? Only the hope that is always before mankind of some moral improvement. It is a moral question and not a political question. There will be no peace in Ireland until the mass of the Irish people have a higher conception of the moral duties of a citizen—until, at any rate, they have scruples about murder. Drive murder out of Irish life and you may be able to have political freedom and civic freedom. Get the Irish to he a law-abiding, peaceable, God-fearing people, and then you will have begun to settle the Irish question. But, of course, you cannot do that by 73 political changes. I am very far from blaming the Prime Minister for not being able to effect that change. It lies in other hands if it lies in any human hands at all. It lies with the religious leaders. But what the Government can do is not to make things worse. They can clearly show that whatever else they will tolerate they will never tolerate breaches of universal moral law, like murder. It is not an offence against the British Crown. It is not a mere act of rebellion which the British Crown has a right to be indulgent about. It is an offence against the laws of the universe, and there is no future for Ireland unless it be cast out. So far as the Government have dealt with that great evil, they have made it worse. They have sanctioned the doctrine that murder is a legitimate political instrument. So, while I have no good hopes of the future success of this scheme, I think also the method of doing it is a grave offence against this country and against all sound principles of legislation. I believe it to be a folly. I believe it to be a dishonour.
§ Mr. HAILW00D
In the earlier part of his speech the Noble Lord touched upon a good many points of historical interest, and sketched some of the history of Ireland some centuries back. It would be folly for me to controvert his knowledge of history, representing such an important centre as Oxford University, but nevertheless there are one or two points in history of which my Noble Friend has omitted to tell the House, and which have a direct bearing on this case. He has also given us a very high moral disquisition with regard to murder, and, here again, I am sure the whole House must feel in perfect sympathy with him. He has also touched upon the differences between Ireland and this country on a good many points, and has brought out the distinction of religion. Here again I should like to say a word or two for, being a Catholic myself, I feel that it is only fair that I should put some view-point before the House as it appeals to me, and also as a supporter of the Government, all through the days when they were applying all the force they knew to the suppression of murder. I was an ardent supporter of the Government all through those days, and to-day I find myself equally a supporter of the Government in their process of 74 conciliation. Undoubtedly the religious question has something to do with the Irish question. It has a fundamental bearing on it, and it is only right that we should recognise it, and that we should lay it bare on the Floor of this House before we reach any settlement. I quite agree with the Noble Lord that in ages past there were a good many factions in Ireland fighting one against the other. In fact, it is quite a commonplace that if you get into confidential chat with anyone of Irish nationality you will find they are all descended from some king, and they all come from the aristocracy of Ireland, and one wonders how many kings there really were at the same time in Irish history. It is an undoubted fact that at the period of Henry VIII. there was an attempt made to alter the religion of Ireland during the Reformation. Clergymen were sent over there with English prayer books, and with the English Church service, and they both prayed and preached in a language which was foreign to the people of Ireland. No matter how the Irish people may have fought amongst themselves before, the tyranny that was used in order to try to force the Protestant religion upon Ireland did nothing but consolidate the country into one mass against England. Although the Noble Lord told us of the earlier differences, he did not touch upon this point. It is a fundamental point with regard to the Irish people that they are, at any rate, a very large percentage of them, true adherents of the Catholic faith. They know that the people of one part of Northern Ireland belong to another faith, and they have felt that the British Government for ages past has listened too sympathetically to the representations which have been made in Northern Ireland, and that any kind of government from this country is prejudiced in favour of Ulster.
The Noble Lord touched upon the question of the unity of Ireland. It is not necessary to go back into Irish history in order to find out what is meant by the phrase "Ireland a Nation." We all know that the Irish people have embodied this thought of "Ireland a Nation" pre-eminently in their songs and in their movements, and it is something to which they attach great importance. I remember, as a lad, a paper called "United Ireland." We remember the United Irish League and the Nationalist Party. 75 All these movements breathe in them the sense of "Ireland a Nation." We know that the Sinn Fein movement means "Ourselves alone," meaning the Irish nation alone. They have a song "Ireland a Nation Once Again." If any approach at a settlement was to be reached it was necessary to have in mind these sentiments of the Irish people. They are a sentimental nation and attach great importance to the sentiments which have been fostered in their minds. It was necessary for the Government of this country to seek some different method than they had sought before if anything like a solution was to be obtained with the Irish people.
Undoubtedly, there is the religious sore between the rest of Ireland and Ulster, and it is a difficulty that stands in the way. The Noble Lord paid a compliment to the Catholic faith and to the many shining examples of individual character under that faith; but he seemed to draw a line between the Catholics of Ireland and Catholics in other parts of the world. I am afraid that is in the minds of a great many people, and one need not wonder much on this point when we have had for so many months, and from time to time for many years, outrages, murder, and violence in Ireland which no civilised country or Government could countenance or sanction. I regret as much as the Noble Lord, and I am sure the Government regret, that it should have been necessary to meet in conference with men who have founded their case on these methods, and as a Catholic I deeply regret that the Catholic Church in Ireland has not been stronger on this point, as they ought to have been. However, we have been urged by our King to forget and forgive, and as a loyal subject of His Majesty I say that we ought on both sides to forget and for give if we are to make any progress. I believe that His Majesty's Ministers and the representatives of Ireland have met in that spirit. If they had met in any other spirit it would have been impossible to have reached a satisfactory conclusion.
Undoubtedly, it must be a very difficult time for the people of Ulster, and as one who has supported the Government in whatever measures they chose to take for the repression of murder and violence in Ireland, I have been really on the side of Ulster all through these difficult months. I have sided with Ulster because 76 the rest of Ireland was disloyal. If to-day we have a chance of settlement under which the rest of Ireland is going to be loyal, and under which they are going to swear loyalty to His Majesty the King, the case is different. If we look at it from the purely English point of view we had a good case while the rest of Ireland was disloyal; but if there is a chance of the rest of Ireland being loyal, the case is different altogether. If we continued to fight or turn our backs on the rest of Ireland, we should make the division of religion more pronounced and more emphatic than ever before. We should be enthroning the people of Ulster in a privileged position, and we should be saying, in effect, that because they are Protestants they are to dictate to the rest of the country the form of government they are to have. I believe that there is great anxiety felt in Ulster from the religious point of view. Ulster is entitled to all the safeguards possible in order that the difficulties which they foresee may be overcome and in order that any fears that they may have may be allayed; but they have no right to dictate to Ireland and to say what form of government she shall have for the whole country. It is a different thing altogether asking for safeguards for a minority from allowing that minority to dictate to the whole country what form of government there should be for the whole country.
I believe that if Ulster has any doubts with regard to loyalty and these other matters, we ought to safeguard Ulster in every way possible, and do our best to allay her fears. We do not wonder, if they have to live side by side with these people who have been committing these acts, that there is apprehension on their part, and in view of this religious prejudice, because, after all, it is a prejudice which may exist on both sides, and it is only natural to turn to people and to say that because these other persons are of a different religion it is impossible to believe their word, and their loyalty is of a different stamp. And here, as a Catholic, I feel it important to bring this point out into the clear light of day. I am one of those who believe that a Catholic can be nothing else than a Conservative. There may be others who have a different view point, but if we look all the world over, we shall always find the Catholic Church 77 on one side and extreme Liberals and Socialists and Anarchists on the other. No matter to what country in the world you turn, there you will always find that the Catholics are truly loyal to their own country, and always have been so.
We know that when in this country, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Catholics were being persecuted right and left, and when the priests were being hunted from the land, the King of Spain sent an Armada here and fully expected that the Catholics of this country would come to his help, and that he would have very little difficulty in establishing himself here. But we know as a matter of history that the direct opposite to that took place, and that the Catholics of the land as one man supported the Queen at the time, and that one fleet of ships under Lord Howard sailed into the Channel along with Drake, and was instrumental in accomplishing the defeat of the Spanish Armada. We know that during the late. War there may have been conscientious objectors in different faiths. There may have been Quakers and others who on account of their religion were conscientious objectors, but I have not heard, during the whole course of the War that there were any Catholic conscientious objectors. We know that at our meetings we have a song which is the embodiment of patriotism in this country. This song contains the wordsLand of hope and glory, Mother of the free,How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set,God who made thee mighty make thee mightier yet.We know that that song is the composition of a very famous musician, Sir Edward Elgar, who is a Catholic, and he has written this song which is the embodiment of patriotism at most of our big public meetings. I might instance various generals who have held important positions under the Crown, and have fought for this country. We know also that Catholics have held very important positions with great distinction, and do to-day, and yet we find that in some minds there is an idea of disloyalty as though the Catholic were not quite so loyal as other sections of the community. We know that even such a great man as the late Mr. Gladstone, when the late Marquess of Ripon joined the Catholic church, said 78 that he was horrified, and he had the temerity to say in public that no man could join the Catholic church without in some way subjecting his conscience and that he could not be as free and loyal a citizen as before he accepted the Catholic religion. Yet we find that six years afterwards Mr. Gladstone made the Marquess of Ripon Viceroy of India.
I am instancing these things to show that really there is nothing in the Catholic faith which should give rise to any doubt whatever with regard to loyalty to the Crown either in this country or any other, and yet why is there this difference in Ireland? Why is an Irish Catholic looked upon as being something different from an English, French or Belgian Catholic? I believe that some of the blame must be attached to this country, and after all if there is some blame to be attached to this country and we can overcome the fears which these people have had in the past, it may be quite possible so to stimulate the loyalty of the people of Ireland until they shall be just as loyal as the Catholics in any other part of the world to their country.
And really this nationalism of the Irish people is something akin to loyalty if it be analysed properly. What is patriotism, what is jingoism, what is loyalty to the Crown in its extremest form but a high sense of nationality, and what is this nationality of the Irish people except the ideal of nationality driven to the extreme? And if we can in some way associate the people of Ireland in one nationality, if we can meet this conception of theirs, Ireland a nation once again, and if we can in some way link this nationality on to the Crown so that their loyalty is got in one sense by respecting their nationality and showing that the Catholics of Ireland are not to be considered to be in an inferior position, we shall have achieved a very big success, and I heartily wish God-speed to the Government Measure when it is introduced, and I have very great pleasure in giving my sanction to the proposition.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I rise to put another point of view than that which has just been placed before the House by my hon. Friend. I am afraid that I look upon the signing of this Agreement as a very deep humiliation to this country. I feel that it would be more fitting if we were to have in the Gracious Speech from the Throne something like 79 that which was in the Speech from the Throne in 1782 when we were about to acknowledge the independence of the United States. In the Gracious Speech of that day these words occurred:In thus submitting the separation from the Crown of these Colonies I have sacrificed every consideration of my own to the wishes and opinion of my own people, and I make it my humblest, earnest prayer to Almighty God that Great Britain may not feel the evils which might result from so great a dismemberment of the Empire.This is not a complete dismemberment as yet, but it is a surrender to a weapon of assassination. No country has ever surrendered to rebels in arms, and least of all to assassins, with advantage to itself or with any possibility of their being an era of peace. In 1783, when we passed the Peace, we had surrenderd to rebels in arms, it is true, but in that case there was not the same humiliation because, firstly, there was no question of assassination in that campaign, and, secondly, we were operating at a great distance from England in those days of slow transport, and our revolting Colonies were assisted by the French, our great enemy at that time, who cut our forces off at Yorktown by sea, and I believe it is a fact that Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown to a greater force of French than Americans. Under the circumstances the whole world knows it was not a disgrace to Great Britain, which was fighting the whole of the rest of the world, to be defeated by her own colonists in the United States. Every other campaign which has been fought for the freedom of a nation, such as that the Boers fought from 1899 to 1902, was clear of the fearful stain of murder and assassination. The Boers, on the whole, fought cleanly and well. We are asked to believe that because South Africa was granted self-government in 1906, therefore it must necessarily be a very good example for the granting of Dominion Home Rule to Ireland.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House stated at Liverpool that he regretted the vote which he had given against that grant. If my memory serves me right, the party to which he and I belong were always in favour of granting self-government to South Africa. The only difference between us and the Liberal party was as to the time when it should be given. It is only 15 years 80 ago since it was given. Upon what issue was the last election in South Africa? The election turned upon the question whether South Africa should secede from the Empire or not. It is quite true that a majority, I think very nearly two-thirds, is in power there and is returned for the retention of South Africa within the Empire, but if we have many more elections fought upon that issue it is not a very safe example to hold out for the granting of Home Rule to Ireland. Then, again, we have been told by the Lord Chancellor that there was in the Orange Free State a very good example for the name of Irish Free State. It is a curious thing about the election of last February in South Africa that of 17 members from the Orange Free State no fewer than 16 were secessionists and the other member was a Labour party man whose views I do not know. Sixteen out of 17 members wanted secession from the Empire. It is not a very happy example to bring forward in relation to Ireland.
The Prime Minister is a past master in the art of negotiation. He has been held up to admiration by a servile Press for the manner in which he has negotiated so many disputes in this country. In every case he has brought them to a successful conclusion by handing over to protestants large blocks of the taxpayers' money. In this case he is outstripping even that record by handing over to rebels in arms a very large proportion of the United Kingdom. It is useless, of course, for us to go back to the speeches of Ministers. There was a time when Ministers thought it necessary to give some explanation of a very rapid change of opinion, but nowadays Ministers do not. seem to think that necessary. As the Chief Secretary for Ireland is present I might remind him of a statement made by him in February last, when he said:The policy of calculated and brutal arson and murder, with all its ghastly consequences, remains uncondemned by De Valera and the Sinn Fein leaders. The authors of that policy hope to terrorise into submission the British people and the British Government. It is the policy of the assassin that we are fighting, and it is watched by sinister eyes in Great Britain, in Egypt, in India, and throughout the world. Its success would mean the breakup of the Empire and our civilisation. I submit there are only two alternatives. The one is to surrender to the assassin and the81other is to fight. I am for fighting the assassin."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1921; col. 648, Vol. 138.]The right hon. Gentleman spoke to the same tune in June last, yet within a very few weeks he is entirely in favour of this policy of negotiations. I cannot follow these rapid changes of mind. Perhaps the fastest of the lot was the Lord Chancellor in the other House. On the 21st June he told the House of Lords that they could not negotiate with the Sinn Fein rebels because they were steeped to the Ups in the policy of assassination. Yet within three weeks from that date he was one of the principal negotiators with these very men. Take the agreement in a few of its principal aspects. When the offer was made to De Valera in July, 1921, there were six conditions laid down, and those conditions, in the opinion of the Government, were vital to the welfare and safety of Great Britain and Ireland. The offer was made subject to those conditions. The House will remember that we have been deliberately told that the Government felt they must put all their cards on the table, and that they must put down exactly what they could offer to Ireland, and that beyond that they could not go. The Government especially laid it down that there were certain things which were vital to the welfare of England and Ireland.
I do not think enough attention has been paid to a comparison between the Articles of Agreement and those conditions. No fewer than three of the conditions have been entirely abandoned, and two of the remaining three have been considerably altered and weakened. Take the first which relates to the Royal Navy. It is asserted in Condition 1 that the Royal Navy alone should control the sea around the United Kingdom. Now we know by Article 6 that there is to be an Irish naval defence force of some sort, and that the Royal Navy is to have only partial rights in the harbours of Ireland. Take Condition 2, which dealt with the question of an Irish Territorial Force. Although all of us who disagree with these negotiations thought that the question of a separate Irish Army was the worst thing that could be put into any offer, yet, at the same time, our opposition was modified to a certain extent by the fact that it was to be a Territorial Force only and to be of very small proportions. Now we learn, under Article 8, that it is be a defence force, and that 82 there is no question at all of its being a Territorial Force. It may be a Regular Army with a short service, a one-year service—
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
That would give them a reserve, probably, of the 400,000 or 500,000 men which the Prime Minister gave as the number Ireland might possibly be able to arm.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
I did not understand the hon. and gallant Member's interruption. If we were absolutely sure that that army of, say, 400,000 men would be as friendly to us as the Australians are at the present time, then I admit it might be possible to allow it, but I think it is a very grave danger to allow it until that has been proved or, at any rate, until stable government has been set up in Ireland, which is very far from being the case at present. If Ireland really is going to take this Agreement as a final settlement of all differences and if we are going to pull together in friendship in the future, why not keep one Army for the whole of England, Ireland and Scotland? The Irish people never hated the British Army in the old days, and I do not believe for a moment they do so now. I say, on the other hand, it is an enormous weakening of all forces—both the Navy, Army and the Air Force—not to be allowed to be recruited in Ireland, which is one of the things laid down in this Agreement. I have had the honour of serving in both the Navy and the Army. For four years I wore naval uniform and for 17 years military uniform. Everyone who has served, like so many of us in this House, in the Navy or Army, knows what a very large number of the regular forces we used to get from Ireland before the War. Now we are not to be allowed to recruit these men, and if they come over here to join, supposing there is a hostile party in power—say, a Republican party under De Valera or somebody else—they will, in all probability, be boycotted and their relations in Ireland ill-treated. Condition 3 dealt with the necessity of the Royal Air Force having landing facilities and air ports in Ireland. That has gone overboard entirely. The 83 only mention of that in the Articles of Agreement is a reference to the possibility of naval aeroplanes in the neighbourhood of the ports being allowed to fly in times of war. There is nothing at all about air ports in Ireland and apparently we are not to be allowed to have them any more than we are to be allowed to garrison British troops in Ireland. Under Condition 4 the hope was expressed that Ireland will contribute a proportion of her wealth to the Regular Naval, Military and Air Forces of the Empire. That has gone altogether. It was assumed apparently that the recruiting of these forces would be permitted. That assumption has been entirely destroyed. On the contrary, we are given to understand that the Sinn Feiners absolutely refuse to allow that recruiting. Condition 5 said that in order to avoid the possibility of a ruinous trade war no protection duties should be imposed. The Prime Minister has dealt with that and he has said that had been given away, but with great reluctance. Yet it was one of the conditions laid down, and it should not have been given away, and it will perhaps have very serious consequences on the possibility of peace between the two countries.
Condition 6 deals with the responsibility of Ireland for her share of the debt of the United Kingdom. I think the Prime Minister said he would leave that question alone, but that if any questions were asked he would deal with them later. I should like to know a great deal more about this very important matter. I should like to know what amount, if any, Ireland is going to undertake of the War debt. We owe something like £8,000,000,000, and if Ireland were to take a proportion according to population she would take £800,000,000 of that War debt. By the Articles of Agreement, however, she is to be allowed to settle a large number of counter claims and there is to be arbitration. It is interesting to know what sort of claim Ireland is going to make against England. I hold in my hand a copy of an address presented to the United States Congress by Dail Eireann. This was passed in January, 1921, at a session of Dail Eireann and was presented to the United States Congress about March or April of this year. It is a very interesting document. It begins with two or three pages of most absurdly 84 fabricated Irish history. Among other things it says that Ireland enjoyed for over 1,000 years the rights of an independent sovereign State among the States of Europe. That is absolutely untrue. I do not wish to follow all these things, but I mention that to give an idea of the sort of statements contained in this paper. Everybody who knows anything about the history of Ireland knows that in 1170, when the Pope asked Henry II to take over the suzerainty of Ireland, there were five separate kingdoms in Ireland, and all the five separate kings paid homage to Henry II and swore fealty to him and his successors. The handing over of Ireland to the Crown of England by the Pope in 1170 was twice confirmed by subsequent Popes, and as lately as 1555. I have not time to go into these questions of Irish history, and I only bring out this point to show the absurd statements in this document. There is an appendix to the document, which deals with this very question of what is claimed as being due from England to Ireland, and the House may be surprised to know that Dail Eireann has informed the United States Congress in that official document that England owes Ireland no less a sum than £4,584,000,000. As regards loss of manpower, a sum of £3,152,000,000 is put down against us, this being for everybody who ever emigrated from Ireland. We are supposed to have been responsible for this by our bad treatment of Ireland. That sum is seriously put down, and this is a serious document which has been sent to me, and I dare say to several other Members of the House by Senator Borah of the United States. They also state that Ireland has been overtaxed to the extent of £2,750,000 a year for 120 years. That is put down at £330,000,000. They also say that Ireland was overtaxed in the War to the extent of £102,000,000, and that was also put into this little bill. It is claimed that owing to absentee rents Ireland has been robbed of £1,000,000,000, and that is also put in, and altogether we get the huge sum of £4,584,000,000. I do not suppose, of course, it is seriously supposed that anything like that sum could be obtained from this country. In the first place, we could not pay it, but even if you cut out absurd sums such as those for loss of man power and absentee rents, you get a very large sum which would 85 very nearly off-set the amount Ireland ought to take over of the War debt according to her population. When you add to that a bill for every house that was ever burned in Ireland on both sides during the recent trouble, and all the compensation to dependants of Sinn Feiners who have lost their lives, you will find that Ireland probably would have a little on the credit side, according to their own estimate. This Agreement, as far as it safeguards the interests of this country regarding the debt which Ireland ought to take over as her share of the War debt, is absolutely illusory.
Ireland is not going to take over any part of our War debt, and it cannot be too often and too clearly pointed out to the people of this country that by letting Ireland go like this they are letting Ireland escape her proper share of taxation. Not only was she treated better than any other part of the United Kingdom during the War in the way of restrictions, not only did she send a far less proportion of her population to fight in the great War, but she is to be allowed to escape her proper share of taxation for that War. When the English people know that they will not perhaps be quite so happy and jubilant about this settlement as some people think they are. When they understand it, I think they will take a different view, and I do not think they are very jubilant now, but I think they are looking on with somewhat cynical indifference, and that this newspaper campaign to try and work up a wonderful enthusiasm for this Agreement of the Government is entirely exaggerated. I do not know what prospects there are of Dail Eireann ratifying this Agreement. I see that already Michael Collins—it is on the tape—said that one of the Sinn Feiners had called him a traitor, and that was just before they adjourned for lunch. The ink was not dry on that Agreement, on the signature of Michael Collins—at least, I do not suppose it was, because it was not 24 hours before he made a statement in which he advocated complete abandonment of all allegiance, not only in Ireland, but in every other part of the Dominions of the British Empire. He said it was the only solution apparently of our troubles. He said:In the interests of all the associated States, in the interests above all of England herself, it is essential that the present de 86 facto position should be recognised de jure, and that all its implications as to sovereignty, allegiance, and constitutional independence of the Governments should be acknowledged.That was within 24 hours of signing this Agreement. Again, we have the fact that every member of Dail Eireann has sworn a very strong oath to be absolutely faithful to Dail Eireann and to repudiate all those who were the enemies of that particular Parliament. How are these people who swore allegiance to their own rebel Government going to swear the oath which has been put before them in the Agreement? The Prime Minister made a great deal about that oath being an oath of allegiance, but it is not an oath of allegiance at all——
§ Lieut.-Colonel ARCHER-SHEE
Because it says so. They first of all swear allegiance to the Irish Free State, and the second part is only an oath of fidelity to His Majesty as head of the British Commonwealth of Nations. To begin with, there is not a British Commonwealth of Nations, and in the second place, fidelity is not allegiance. When we come to look into it, there is no other Dominion in the British Empire in which the Members of their respective. Houses of Parliament do not swear allegiance to the Crown. Why Ireland should be allowed not to do that I fail to understand, except upon one ground, and after all it is the ground upon which this Agreement has been framed. It is, of course, because the Sinn Feiners refused, if they had to swear allegiance, to go on with the negotiations. As the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil)—and I thought he made a most telling speech against this Agreement—said, it really comes back to a miserable, and shameful, and humiliating surrender to these people who have been guilty of the most horrible campaign of murder and assassination, and it means handing over the South of Ireland to a Government of bullies and tyrants. That is what it means. Ireland itself will be miserable, I believe, in a very short time if this Agreement goes through. I think the sort of separation which is to be carried out now is one of the saddest things that has ever happened in the history of this country, and I 87 agree with Burke, who, writing in 1797 from Bath, said this with reference to that question:There is a great cry against English influence. I am quite sure that it is Irish influence that dreads the English habits … I think that Great Britain would be ruined by the separation of Ireland; but as there are degrees oven in ruin, it would fall the most heavily on Ireland. By such a separation Ireland would be the most completely undone country in the world; the most wretched, the most distracted, and, in the end, the most desolate part of the habitable globe. Little do many people in Ireland consider how much of its prosperity has been owing, and still depends upon, its intimate connection with this Kingdom.Those words are as true, in my opinion, as they were when they were written 124 years ago. I believe it is bad for Ireland and bad for England. I believe this Agreement does not safeguard the rights and liberties of this country, and for these reasons I hope we shall have an opportunity of registering our emphatic protest against this Agreement.
§ Mr. C. L. MALONE
This is one of those very rare occasions when I am able to accord my support to the Government. The Prime Minister and his friends appear to have come to the House to-day in an atmosphere in which they appear to have as their motto "Peace on earth, goodwill towards men," and I would extend to them my greater support on this occasion if I felt that this motto was being applied to the Government's policy in this country as well as in Ireland. I am not concerned so very much with the actual terms of the Irish settlement. In themselves they are only a step, though a step in the right direction, removing one obstacle in the way of the improvement of the admittedly deplorable conditions of the Irish workers. An immense amount of devoted work still remains to be done in their country, and I shall watch with very great interest how the new Governments, North and South, set about dealing with the terrible slum areas in both Dublin and Belfast. I am chiefly concerned with the methods of this settlement by conference, because I hope that it indicates that the Government have at long last realised that military force does not crush an idea. It can never crush an idea. We all make mistakes and miscalculations sometimes, but surely the Government should realise, after their Russian experience, that militarism cannot crush out an ideal. They should have 88 learned that after they have squandered £200,000,000 in their fruitless support of Denikin, Koltchak, Yudenitch, and subsequently Wrangel. I hope the Government will apply their new-found knowledge to the situation in India, in Egypt, and perhaps even in this country as well.
I would urge the Government to cease their campaign of repression in this land. I would urge them to curb the military-minded obscurantists in their midst. The Chief Secretary will celebrate his Christmas with a contented feeling that throughout the length and breadth of Ireland thousands of men and women, whose only crime is that they are patriots, will be returning to their homes from their confinement in Government establishments. There is going to be an amnesty for political prisoners in Ireland. Why cannot we have an amnesty in Great Britain as in Ireland? Will the Government on this occasion, now that Christmas is approaching, release the English political prisoners as well, all of them working men or people who have espoused the cause of working men, who are in orison simply for expressing their opinion? The highly placed are, apparently, immune, whether they urge or organise military resistance against the constitutional authority. Statements which, on the lips of the highly placed, constitute, in the words of the Attorney-General, not even a hypothetically contingent threat, become, when uttered, perhaps, in heated moments, at times of great emotion, sedition, and are punished by imprisonment. Perhaps, however, the recent changes in Scotland Yard indicate that we are at long last emerging from the dark ages——
§ Mr. ERSKINE
On a point of Order. Is it right for the hon. Member to go into a long dissertation on English social matters? We are talking about Ireland. I should have thought it was quite out of order, but I submit to your ruling.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
It is an Address in answer to His Majesty's Gracious Speech, and on this occasion it is in order to review the general policy of the Government on the situation of this country.
§ Mr. MALONE
I think my points were very closely connected with the Irish Question, because I was endeavouring to point out that the release of political 89 prisoners in Ireland might be followed at this Christmas time by a similar release of political prisoners in England. As I was saying when I was interrupted, perhaps recent changes in Scotland Yard may indicate that we are at last opening up a new era when those who cherish the ideal of the good of the masses of the people will not he punished as criminals by this Government. I think we may see behind this Irish settlement the powerful hand of the mighty Federation of British industries, which, ever since it issued its whips to Members calling upon them to support the Government against the "Die-hard" Vote of Censure on 31st October, has thrown its mighty influence in the cause of peace, though I do not deceive myself that was either from altruism or idealism. It was simply because they realised that the disturbed conditions in Ireland were against their vast activities all over the country. Could not this great organisation, which has such influence on the present Government, apply what it has learnt in Ireland to its operations in England, and strive, for peace, ceasing its attacks, not only on the workers in regard to the standard of living, wages, and so on, but also in a way which is far more insidious and far more deeply resented, namely, attacks on the workers in the Press? If they do this—and it is a very auspicious moment for it to be done—they will no longer be haunted by the spooks and bogies of plots and machinations, which are simply the creation of their own bad conduct.
The last speaker but one gave us a very interesting discourse on the question of policy. As a final word, I would like, as a message before we separate for Christmas, to make an appeal on this matter. What of Christian ethics? What of our duty to humanity at this time? Cannot we apply something of the spirit that has brought about conciliation in Ireland in this country as well? We have recently seen expounded—and expounded, if I may say so, very lucidly by a former Minister of the Coalition in a wonderful little book called "Success"—another code, a different ideal, a religion in which he calls upon us to worship in the temple, whose foundations are firmly placed upon power and money, and whose golden pinnacle is money and power. That is what we have come down to in 1900 years—back to the worship of the golden calf. This worship of the golden calf is the 90 creed which has been followed by the Government in all its dealings up to date. Will it continue to apply this creed to internal affairs in England? It is this attempt on the part of a few to monopolise all power and all wealth, which came near to destroying Ireland, that is the cause of the suffering in England and throughout Europe to-day. It is this creed which makes it possible, while a few can celebrate Christmas in comfort, and even in luxury, for 2,000,000 of our fellow-Christians to drag themselves, barely clothed and ill-shod, to the guardians and the exchanges for their miserably inadequate dole. Are not the celebrations of Christmas under these conditions, with millions suffering cold and hunger, men and women imprisoned throughout the land—nay, throughout the whole Empire—for the utterance of their convictions and ideals, an insufferable mockery of the cause and the ideal for which this feast is supposedly to be an everlasting reminder? Is there no escape from this terrible creed? Why not give real Christianity a trial in this country?
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I confess to have listened with deep disappointment to the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon. I found in it no real attempt at justifying the great departure in policy in which he and his colleagues have engaged. The greater portion of the speech was devoted to an exposition—it appeared to be a somewhat laboured one—of the details of the so-called Treaty, interspersed as it was with apologies, or explanations he might have called them—I think rather unsatisfactory ones—of the more objectionable features in that Treaty, and he wound up by picturing before our eyes the vision of the paradise which is going to enrapture Ireland and the world if this settlement comes into operation. I wish he had devoted a little more time to telling us why he and his colleagues changed their minds in a month or two, threw all their convictions of a lifetime into the melting-pot, and asked us to follow them. There was one portion of his speech really alarming, and that was that when a Bill is brought in to give effect to these Articles of Agreement, it will be utterly impossible for this House to alter one iota of the Bill, unless we are willing to throw the Treaty on the floor. I venture to think no Member of this House had realised that was the position into which we were 91 going to be engineered. For my part, I thought the Government would have laid down some broad principles, on which they and the Sinn Feiners had agreed, that a Bill would have been brought in, and it would be open to us to enlarge or modify that Bill consistently with the main provisions of the Treaty. Apparently nothing of the kind. My opinion was gathered from an answer he gave to myself in the House on 27th October last. I asked him:What is the precise meaning of the statement in his letter of 20th July last to the Member for East Clare in which he says that the British Government propose that the conditions of settlement between Great Britain and Ireland shall be embodied in the form of a Treaty, to which effect shall in due course be given by the British and Irish Parliaments; and whether it is intended that the terms of any settlement shall be open to revision and alteration by the Imperial Parliament?That was a very clear question. The answer of the Prime Minister was as follows:The results of the conferences now being held will be submitted to Parliament, and the concurrence of Parliament in any settlement is, of course, necessary.Then, leaving out something which is unimportant, I put to the right hon. Gentleman this point:Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question as to whether the terms of settlement are to be open to revision and alteration by Parliament.The answer of the Prime Minister wasMost distinctly.That is to say, it would be open to revision and alteration by Parliament. The Prime Minister went on to say:It will be quite impossible to have a settlement except with the full consent of Parliament. The whole of the terms will be submitted to Parliament on the assumption that there is a settlement, and every provision will have to be ratified by Parliament even to the smallest detail"—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 27th October, 1921; col. 1025, Vol. 147.]The impression left upon my mind, and I venture to think upon the minds of other Members of the House, was that the freedom of Parliament to discuss, revise and, if necessary, to alter this settlement, was not going to be taken away from it; that it was to be open to us to introduce revision into the terms of settlement if necessary. It now appears that was a total misapprehension. Parlia- 92 ment has its hands absolutely tied behind its back, and is unable to exercise any discretion whatsoever. I call this a grave constitutional infringement. It is taking away from Parliament Parliament's undoubted right to revise legislation, to pass legislation or to amend it. It is an assumption on the part of the Executive of the day of the right not only to initiate but to settle the details of legislation and then to throw it at the head of this House and say: "Pass it, or destroy the whole thing." That is a disaster. It is an insult to Parliament. It is a very grave comment upon the way in which this gigantic constitutional change has been brought about.
The House is asked to-day to sanction a constitutional revolution. It is a singular, and I venture to think, an unprecedented position. The Government have, behind the back of Parliament, negotiated with avowed rebels a fundamental and revolutionary change in the constitution of the United Kingdom which goes beyond anything ever proposed before by any responsible Minister.
The remarkable thing about it is that the principles on which this settlement, which they call a Treaty, is based are entirely subversive of every principle on which successive British Governments have acted for the last 120 years; principles which have been declared by the present Government, and repeatedly declared until quite recently, to be absolutely vital to the security of our Empire and the peace of Ireland. The Government now come to the House of Commons and tell us that the abandonment of all these cherished principles is absolutely essential for security and peace. It is quite true that a settlement has been reached which has been approved in many quarters, many of which have no very great appreciation of the conditions which exist either in Great Britain or in Ireland. The Government now come and ask the House of Commons to accept the settlement under conditions which make it an absolute impossibility for the House of Commons to exercise an independent judgment. The Government tell us that this settlement is going to bring Ireland peace, and happiness to the world, and say that the House dare not, in the exercise of their discretion, do other than approve it.
The man of independent thought to-day is denounced in many quarters as a fool or 93 a wrecker, and a great deal else which is quite absurd. He is exhorted to obey the Government Whip, and to yield to outside pressure. I am glad to think there are some men in this House who are not going to accept that advice. It will be an evil day for independence and honesty in Parliament if methods of pressure such as these were to prevail. Speaking for myself, I can only say I have done my very utmost to try to persuade myself that the Government position is just, correct, and right. I have failed. I have been unable to persuade myself that this settlement is consistent with the security of the Empire, or sound principles of government, or that it is at all likely to bring peace and happiness to Ireland. I regret it deeply because, like everyone in this House and outside, I desire a settlement of this age-long controversy. Holding, however, the opinion I do, I should despise myself, and every honest man would despise me, if I did not vote according to the honest conviction I have formed.
Let me enumerate very shortly some of the reasons which have led me to this position. In the first place, I say that this Treaty is a surrender to crime. No candid observer, least of all no Sinn Feiner, can deny that. What has happened? Before this campaign of violence and crime commenced there was no responsible statesman of any party who ventured to put forward concessions on the lines set out in this Treaty. On the contrary, the principles on which this Treaty is framed, Dominion Home Rule, with power to create an army and navy and other vast powers, were denounced by the Leader of every responsible party in this House as dangerous and impossible conditions. Then what happened? The campaign of crime commenced. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, with a courage that I personally admired, did his best to put down crime, and he said that it must be put down if we are to secure peace and happiness in Ireland. He did not succeed so quickly as he thought he would, and it became more difficult. All of a sudden, on the 20th of July, without any sanction or communication with Parliament, the Government put forward these proposals which are a violation of everything they have ever proposed. They made the physical force party in Ireland an offer of concessions which they had persistently and always refused to the old Irish 94 Nationalist Constitutional Party, to whom some concessions might have been fairly offered. On this matter of surrender to crime let me quote a greater authority than myself, namely, the present Prime Minister. I quote him, not by way of recrimination, but, on the contrary, with warm approval. What did he say, in a speech at Carnarvon only so lately as the 9th of October, 1920, when this question of Dominion Home Rule was being discussed by him? He said:The murder gang, who were dominating and terrorising the country, should be broken up, and unless I am greatly mistaken we shall do it.He then referred to the Home Rule proposals of Mr. Gladstone, and the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) in 1912, and he pointed out that those proposals went as far as they could consistently with the security of the United Kingdom and of the Empire, and that was the view both of Mr. Gladstone and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley. There were, he said, some who asked them to go further and grant Dominion Home Rule. Let me quote the Prime Minister's own words:Why are we asked to go further? I protest against the doctrine that you should go further and give more, not because Ireland needs it, not because it is fair to the United Kingdom, but because crime has been more successful. That is a fatal doctrine for any Government in any country to adopt. Give it because it is right and just, or because it is good for Ireland and the United Kingdom, or because it is for peace and goodwill, but do not give it because you are bullied by assassins.I leave it to hon. Members to say how far those admirable principles are being followed by this House to-day. What has happened? What change has taken place since those words were uttered? Is there any change any man can suggest in the position in Ireland except that in July, 1921, crime was more successful than in October, 1920, and that appears to be the reason why that policy which was impossible and ruinous in October, 1920, is declared to be necessary and just to-day? Is that not a surrender to crime? I say that is a fatal doctrine for any Government to adopt. It is a disastrous doctrine. What will be the effect of it in different parts of this Empire? There are to-day in different parts of our Empire revolutionary bodies with dangerous objects in view, and they are prepared to 95 carry out those objects by crime and violence. There are such bodies to-day in India and in Egypt, and even in the United Kingdom itself, and what will be the effect of this surrender upon those revolutionary bodies? Could there be a more deadly precedent? Could there be a more potent incentive to those men to persist in their career of crime in order that the Government of this country may surrender to them and give them power by reason of that crime to carry out their dangerous enterprises?
I pass from that to consider for a few moments the terms of the settlement itself. I am not going into the full details now. I am only going to refer to what appears to be the great and fundamental mischief at the bottom of this settlement. It grants virtual independence to Southern Ireland which may at any time be turned into real independence. There is not a Member who sits on the Treasury Bench, or a Member of this House, who would not look upon the complete independence of Ireland as an unspeakable calamity to be fought against at any price. But what do you find under this Treaty? That Southern Ireland is given what is practically independence, and when once she gets it then it will be open to her at any time she likes to have absolute independence, and the only way to stop it would be by engaging in a bloody civil war far more terrible than anything that would be necessary now to put down rebellion.
The Prime Minister told us this afternoon that Ireland must be put into the position of Canada. Will anyone say if Canada were to decide to secede—which, thank God, there is no chance of happening!—from this country, could we stop it? Of course we could not. Canada has the right de facto, as all the Dominions have, to secede from this country, and according to the analogy put forward by the Prime Minister, Ireland would have the right to secede, and we should have no right to stop her. That position is even more assured to Ireland by virtue of the astounding so-called Oath of Allegiance which is embodied in the Treaty. The Prime Minister said this afternoon that by this Treaty allegiance to Great Britain is completely accepted, but is it? What does Article 4 provide? It contains the form of the Oath, and there is not in it one word of allegiance to His Majesty. 96 It is an oath of allegiance to the constitution of the Sinn Fein State which they will no doubt succeed in getting the Members of the Sinn Fein Parliament to accept. The only reference to His Majesty in the Oath isI will be faithful to His Majesty King George V., his heirs and successors by law,and this is qualified by the wordsin virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.Why is there that qualification? It is most significant. I hate these new formulæ which are being discovered every day to conceal or wrap up the truth. This formula means that so long, and so long only, as the Irish Free State adheres to the British Commonwealth of Nations, so long, and so long only, will a man who takes this oath be faithful to the King, and his fidelity is only by virtue of this adherence. There is not a word in the Treaty binding the Irish State to continue adherence to the British Commonwealth of Nations. If that be so, so far from this oath being any help to keep the allegiance of the Irish Free State, it is an absolute help to them becoming independent, because it will be open to them at any time to declare that they give up their adherence to the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the moment they give up that adherence their oath falls to the ground, and with an easy conscience, if they desire that help, they can declare their independence and set up an Irish Republic.
The truth is that this settlement will last only so long as there is goodwill between the British Government and the Irish Free State. I wish that I could see some stronger indications of goodwill than those which I see to-day. There is a strong faction in Ireland and a strong party in America who have always maintained the principles of hatred to Britain and who have not by reason of this proposal or of anything which has ever happened in the way of concession to Ireland abated one jot or tittle of their hatred of England or their condemnation of British rule, and I see to-day strong indications that there will be in Ireland as well as in America a strong party hostile to any goodwill. 97 Therefore, I confess that I can see little hope of it coming about. The truth is that we are gambling to-day on this goodwill. It is a desperate venture. We are gambling with the security of the Empire. The stake is too great for the chances of success.
There are other things in this settlement which, though not of the same great fundamental importance, nevertheless deserve attention on the part of the Members of this House, and all the more so because of the declaration of the Prime Minister this afternoon that when the Bill conies before the House we cannot alter it and we cannot put anything into the Agreement which is not already there unless we get the consent of the Sinn Feiners. Let me point out some things which are not in the Agreement which ought to be put into it, and which will give rise to anxiety on the part of people in Ireland if no provision is made for them. In the first place, there is not one single syllable in the Agreement safeguarding the interests of the loyal minority in Ireland, not one single safeguard for those subjects in Ireland who have been true to our rule and loyal to us through good weather and foul, and whose lives are now a hell upon earth. There is not one single provision to safeguard the lives or the property of ex-service men who fought for us in the late War, or ex-men of the Royal Irish Constabulary who most loyally and gallantly served us in times of great trouble and distress. I know that the Chief Secretary is anxious to do justice to the men of the Royal Irish Constabulary and ex-service men, and I do implore him, before it is too late, to go to the Sinn Feiners and ask them if they really object to putting in some safeguards for the loyalists of Ireland. Let me mention another omission. There is not one word of guarantee in this Agreement against the Irish Free State imposing unfair and, it may be, intolerable taxation upon British goods and goods made in loyal Ulster. There is not one guarantee against their continuing that savage boycott which exists to-day against British goods and goods made in Ulster. Was it not worth some passing thought on the part of the British Government to provide for the safety of loyal British subjects in Ireland, and to see that great 98 commercial interests are not to be prejudiced by this settlement.
Again, look at Clause 10 of your Articles, which says that your judges, your officials, your members of police forces and other public servants, who may be turned out at a moment's notice by this new Irish Free State or who may have to leave by reason of the fact that they can no longer serve these new masters, are to be given compensation, fair compensation I grant you, but given by whom? Not by the British Government whom they have loyally served, but by the Irish Free State. Supposing the Irish Free State does not choose to pay them. What then? Is the British Government going to stand by and see its own servants starve, trusting to the honour or generosity of this new Sinn Fein rebel Government? Surely that is a matter for which the Government might have made some provision in this Treaty, bearing in mind, as they must have borne in mind, that they cannot add a line to this Treaty without the consent of the Sinn Feiners. With regard to the judges, may I draw this fact to the special attention of the Chief Secretary? By their patent of office the judges of the High Courts of Ireland just as the High Court judges in this country are not dismissible except upon a Vote of both Houses of Parliament of this country, and their pensions and salaries are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of this country. By your new Treaty you are going to tell the judges that all these privileges, upon the terms of which they took office are now to be taken away from them. They are to be left to the generosity of the new Irish Free State in case they are discharged or dismissed, and, if they are not generous, then they are to starve. Again, I hope that before this Treaty comes before Parliament in the terms of the Bill the Sinn Fein delegates may be induced to take a more reasonable attitude than that which they have done as yet.
Holding, as I do, these views upon the nature of this settlement, upon the grave dangers to the Empire by which we are menaced, upon the absence of all provision for securing the lives and the safety of the loyal subjects, some 300,000, in the South of Ireland, and upon the omission of material and important 99 matters from this settlement, I cannot support it. I cannot express an approval of a settlement which I do not feel and I cannot pretend to cherish hopes which I do not entertain.
§ Mr. KIDD
There are Members of the Coalition who will unhesitatingly support this Treaty, and, in doing so, will resent very strongly any suggestion that they have sympathy with murder or outrage or other atrocities. So far from having the slightest sympathy with those outrages they deplore and condemn them, but, on the other hand, they cannot escape responsibility, in some measure, for the existence of conditions which may have to some extent been responsible for those outrages. Over a lengthy period we have had these outrages constantly recurring, and it is only fair to the younger Members of the Unionist party to consider very seriously whether there is any remedy for them. Are we to assume that the Catholic Irishman is utterly incapable of being as respectable a citizen as, say, a Scotsman? Very proud as I am of my own country and its traditions, I should, I feel, be unworthy of my country if I entertained any such opinion as that of Catholic Irishmen. Therefore I want at the very outset to enter my strong dissent to the suggestion that any Conservative Member is to be regarded as having any sympathy whatever with disorder because he supports the Treaty now before the House. I should like, in supporting this Treaty, to say that I have arrived at my decision by a somewhat different route and have been influenced by far different considerations from those put forward by the Prime Minister to-day. If it is not presumptuous for one in my position to say so, it seems to me that the Prime Minister, in his desire to be as tactful as possible at the present stage, unduly strained the analogy of Dominion Government. I speak in the presence of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who has doubtless studied the subject closely, when I say that of the many tests which can be applied to Dominion Government of the character to which the Prime Minister referred, although the right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to give anything like a final definition, there is one best to be satisfied, and that is that the Dominion Government has only been resorted to when government by representation in this Parliament was impossible to a British State.
100 Dominion Government has only been granted where representation in this Parliament was impossible, and the converse applies that where representation in this Parliament was possible then whatever is granted to a country capable of being so represented cannot really be described as Dominion government. It is just as well to make it perfectly clear that in supporting the Treaty, so far from repudiating the policy of the Union, we are truly lending our support to the Treaty in vindication of the policy of the Union. What is the policy of the Union? It is a policy of wisdom which is reinforced day by day by the progress of education and the march of science. As science gets rid of space, time and tide, as it draws the world together into a smaller compass, as men are brought into closer contact with each other, surely it becomes more and more obvious how wrong it is to multiply unnecessarily those parliamentary institutions which by their separate existence must tend to create conditions of friction, if not of conflict. The policy of the Union postulates, if it is to be successful, that the parties to the Union shall enter by voluntary co-operation. The hon. and learned Member who has just spoken represents an English constituency. I represent a Scottish constituency, and here, in discussing the test that must be satisfied before the Union policy is satisfactory, I am enabled to offer the House a very simple but a very effective contrast by comparing the positions of Scotland and Ireland. Scotland came into the Union, it might almost be said, by accident. She came in by reason of the Law of Primogeniture. She came side by side with the English people in the happiest way from the Scottish point of view because England was practically annexed under that Law of Primogeniture. That was an excellent first step. Then the Parliamentary union of the two countries was devised by the two Parliaments, the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament, each Parliament being represented of its own people, and it might easily be said that Scotland entered the Union by pride of birth. The Union represented to Scotland, not only an increase of material prosperity, but, what was more important, it was very gratifying to her pride.
Contrast that position with the position of Ireland in this matter. The union of 101 Ireland with England was arrived at by an Irish Parliament, but it was a Parliament totally unrepresentative of the views of the majority of the Irish people because the majority adhered to an ancient faith. Therefore, at its very roots the union between England and Ireland was possessed of a cancer. We may have sought to allay that cancer; we have sought to excise it now and again; but, like a cancer, it has always broken out. All that this Treaty asks is that we give to the majority of the Irish people the power to satisfy that spirit of nationhood which must always be satisfied before a country can proceed to a larger growth. Having cleared away the basic cause of the disaffection between Ireland and this country—having, at least, done our best as a people to get rid of the cause of that disaffection—we have made the conditions possible for Ireland to grow, and to grow in the direction of reunion with this country. The hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) referred to the fact, as I understood him, that the Treaty made no provision for the protection of the Southern Protestants. I would ask the hon. Member, as an eminent lawyer, which position he would have—the present position with Ireland as a co-partner only in name, and an enemy in spirit, or the position with Ireland politically not so close to this country, but with, as I hope, her spirit satisfied? I grant that Ireland might commit a breach of the Treaty, but, if so, she will offer us a clean, honest casus belli, and, were I a Southern Protestant, I would prefer my security behind an honest casus belli, rather than the wretched security afforded me to-day by a nominal Government from London, when my life was dominated by Sinn Fein.
Even from the standpoint of the Southern Unionists, I submit that, as compared with the present position, this Treaty offers great advantages. In the Press, from platforms, and even in this House, we have heard appeals made to Ulster in order to persuade Ulster to join at once in an all-Ireland Parliament. Strongly supporting this Treaty as I do, I venture—modestly, in view of the source of the appeals to which I have referred—to suggest that, even if Ulster decided to-morrow that she might join, the wisdom of her joining now is open to grave doubt. In Southern Ireland, 102 at the present moment, a keen contest is being waged between what I may describe as the moderate and constitutional party and the extremists. There is no doubt, at any rate, that there are two parties, and that is one factor to start with. There is no doubt that one of them is an extreme revolutionary party, totally antagonistic to this country; and, if the other party is different from that, I hope I am entitled to refer to it as the moderate party. With such a contest being waged, nothing would be more harmful to the moderate and constitutional party than for Ulster to enter now, because the revolutionary party would be able to use the representatives of Ulster to stir up again radial and religious feeling—that is to use the Ulster party as a kind of political red rag. They would be able to represent to the people of Ireland, "Here is the unholy Alliance. Your ancient enemy is brought in to destroy the aspirations of Ireland," those aspirations being in the direction of independence. Therefore, speaking as a loyal supporter of this Treaty, I venture to put in my plea that there is room for doubting the wisdom of Ulster coming in now. Ulster has always been on the side of law and order. She would certainly prefer to have that law and order maintained from the central Parliament here. But can anyone doubt that, when the Irish Free State has, under the new régime, established methods of law and order, Ulster will automatically move into the Union? She will do so for the very reasons which were urged last night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), namely, for economic reasons and for the reason that Ireland's spirit will be satisfied. But at that point those reasons will also constrain a movement towards re-union with this Parliament by a united Ireland. Therefore, I say that this Treaty, so far from being contrary to Unionist policy, is a vindication of that policy, and it is in the hope that we shall turn enmity in Ireland into friendship and a later voluntary reunion that I and many others of my party support it.
§ Sir W. DAVISON
The Prime Minister, in his speech this afternoon, complained that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley had not read his speeches. I think the complaint was justified, and that the Prime 103 Minister's speeches are not only always worth hearing, but that, if you have not the good fortune to hear them, they are certainly worth reading. They also have not the fault that the speeches of some speakers have, in that people sometimes say, "I heard Mr. So-and-So deliver a speech on that subject two or three months ago, and I do not care to hear him again"; because the advice which the Prime Minister often gives in a speech which he may have delivered at one time is by no means the same as the advice which he may give to his hearers in a speech delivered 3, 4, 9, or 12 months afterwards. As to the speech to which the Prime Minister made reference this afternoon, and to which he complained the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley had not given sufficient study, I have since taken the trouble to refresh my memory of what the Prime Minister then said, and I only wish that this House of Commons, before it comes to a vote, could hear within these walls that speech, which the Prime Minister delivered with that ineffable eloquence, that charm of style, and that pungency of form of which he is so great a master, on the 9th October, 1920, at Carnarvon. There is hardly a thing which the Prime Minister said this afternoon that he did not conclusively refute in the speech which he delivered at Carnarvon on the 9th October, 1920. We are asked in this paper which has been put into our hands to give what is practically a blank cheque to the Prime Minister, and if anyone, still more if this great Assembly, gives a blank cheque to anyone, surely it will require to be assured that the judgment and the opinion of that person can be relied upon and, is not one which is changed month by month.
Allusion has been made by the hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig) to the misrepresentation of a large portion of the Press with regard to Ulster. Those of us who have not seen eye to eye with the Government on this question of Ireland have also cause to complain of the gross misrepresentation from which we have suffered. We have been described as men who make violence and repression our first instinct. We have been described as British Junkers whose blind hate will destroy the Empire. I am giving an actual quotation. [An HON. 104 MEMBER: "Who is it from"?] The last was from the "Observer" newspaper, which is a supporter of the Government on the Irish question. We have also been described elsewhere as rebels and Bolsheviks. These libellous statements I think it is unnecessary for me to contradict, but at the same time it is well to draw attention to them. It is because we abhor violence, because we believe that to give to violence what has been refused to argument and constitutional appeal is the negation of sound government and means sooner or later the overthrow and the disruption of the Empire, that we have opposed these negotiations and that we have had serious doubts with regard to this Treaty. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in the course of this great Press campaign which the Government has been booming throughout the country, on Sunday last wrote an article in one of the periodicals which is supporting the Government through thick and thin in this matter. He began by saying,This is not a humiliation; it is an achievement.Qui s'excuse s'accuse. Whether or not it is an achievement, time alone can show. It is possible that one of the things it may achieve is the breaking up of the British Empire. Time alone can show whether it is an achievement, but there is no doubt whatever that it is a humiliation. Surely it is a humiliation for a country whose statesmen recant the solemn assurances and pledges and advice which they had given only a few months before, and surely it is a humiliation for the Empire to give, after the commission of violence, what it has again and again refused when urged with moderation and constitutional appeal.
Let us look at this agreement for a moment. I had the audacity to contradict the Prime Minister when he said to-day that the Members of the Parliament of the Irish Free State had agreed to take an Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty, the King. Again and again we have had Ministers going up and down the country saying, whatever was given away, whatever was surrendered, the Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty was a sine qua non which would never be given up. I ask hon. Members of this House where, in this Agreement, is there an Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty, the King. Here is the Oath: The Members of the Irish Parliament solemnly swear "faith 105 and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State."
§ Sir W. DAVISON
One moment, all in good time. Had it been desired to swear allegiance to His Majesty, the King, all that was necessary was to add those simple straightforward words, "and to His Majesty, King George." But no. We have the word "allegiance" taken away and then we have the garbled, ununder-standable jumble of meaningless phrases which has been referred to. It goes on, after swearing faith and allegiance to the Irish Free State, "and I will be faithful," and then the words which the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Butcher) has dealt with so fully that it is unnecessary for me to deal with them again, conditional on the Free State continuing its membership of the "group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations," a thing which can be repudiated at any moment. The next thing which there was to be no going back upon was the supremacy of the British Navy. The British Navy alone shall be responsible for guarding the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland. In this Agreement the whole of that has been given away. The British Navy will no longer have any right, except in time of war, to guard the coast of Ireland. Ireland is to have its own coastal defence, and but for three ports, which are specified in the Schedule to the Agreement, where care parties of the British Navy are to be established, so far as Ireland is concerned the British Navy is to withdraw. I have referred to the speech of the Prime Minister at Carnarvon, and I should like to quote a few words on this point:Then as to the Navy, Mr. Asquith says, 'Why not? They will not be so foolish as to spend money on the Navy.' They do not want to spend much money on submarines. They are vicious little craft. They are dangerous and perilous. But they are not expensive. I am not sure they cost as much as a respectable yacht. And mines you can have, and they are cheap, and those under full and complete Dominion Home Rule the Irish Republic can have.Is there anything in this Agreement which prevents the Irish Free State from having submarines or from having mines in their harbours, or from erecting fortifications round their naval bases of which only small care parties from the Navy are to have charge? Not a word. Is that not a humiliation for a great nation? 106 I think it is. Again, the Prime Minister in another place says:And we are to hand over Ireland to be made a base of the submarine fleet, and we are to trust to luck in our next war. Was there ever such lunacy proposed by anybody?That is the phrase he objected to the right hon. Member for Paisley not remembering. That is where the lunacy came in.Do not take these risks. This is a great country, a great country. It has done more for human freedom than any other country. Do not risk its destinies and its future through any folly or any fear of any gang in Ireland.That was the advice given by the Prime Minister little more than a twelvemonth ago. That advice was not given here to-day. I ask the House of Commons to ponder well these two advises, one advice given freely, without any compulsion, and the other advice given after wrestling between two and three o'clock in the morning with people who brought arguments to bear of which we do not know.
With regard to the Army, the Prime Minister does not adhere to what he said at Carnarvon as to the danger of Ireland having an army without restriction. He says that that is provided for in the Agreement. Paragraph 8 of the Agreement provides,With a view to securing the observance of the principle of international limitation of armaments, if the Government of the Irish Free State establishes and maintains a military defence force, the establishments thereof shall not exceed in size such proportion of the military establishments maintained in Great Britain as that which the population of Ireland bears to the population of Great Britain.The establishment of a military force in Great Britain is not for the protection of Great Britain only. Great Britain has established a large Expeditionary Force, which is capable of going to any part of the world at very short notice. In addition, Great Britain is the headquarters of the nucleus of all drafts that have to go to India, to the East, Egypt, and other places. Is Ireland to have a proportionate part of the Expeditionary Force, and the force established for garrisoning India and the other commitments of a great Empire, of which England is the centre? Surely, that is a point upon which we want further information, and surely that is another ground for saying that in this Agreement there is humiliation to this country. 107 The Prime Minister said 12 months ago in regard to an army for Ireland:For the sake of Ireland they had better not have an army. Armies are expensive. Navies are expensive, too. Not only are they expensive, but they are also extremely dangerous, and may go off. So, on the whole, I think the Army and Navy had better be under the control of the Imperial Parliament. So far as I am concerned, and I am speaking on behalf of the Government, we shall certainly resist, out and out, any attempt for an army or navy being set up in Ireland, at our doors, to menace the existence of the United Kingdom.Is it possible to believe that the man who made that statement is the same person who spoke to us this afternoon.
I should like to put a few questions to the Government. In the first place, under the Agreement is Ireland to cease to be a recruiting ground for the splendid Irish regiments, which have been an honour to this country and the Empire for so many years? There is not a word in the Agreement providing that Great Britain shall have the right to recruit for these regiments in Ireland; (2) is His Majesty to remain King of Great Britain and Ireland, or is the oath of Succession and the Coronation Oath to be altered; (3) is the Free State Government to have any say in foreign affairs? That question has been answered, because I understand it is admitted that the Free State Government is to have its foreign representatives and deal with foreign affairs. Fourthly, are we to have the Union Jack tampered with? I read a leading article in the "Daily Mail" a few days ago, from which it would appear that that newspaper is going to start a competition for a design for a new Union Jack. I do not know what other Members of this House feel on this matter, but I feel that it would be an unspeakable humiliation to tamper with that flag under which our people have died, under which their souls have throbbed for many years, and for the sake of which so many great things have been done. Under this Agreement is it proposed again to trample upon the Union flag, as I saw it trampled upon within a stone's throw of this building, at a meeting at which Lord Derby was making a speech only a few weeks ago, on which occasion the police force of the Metropolis, when called upon, failed to interfere. If that is to be done some of us will have to make a stand. The same police force arrested a man a few days 108 before because he pulled down a Sinn Fein flag in Whitehall.
This Treaty is a great confidence trick. We are asked to give confidence to the Prime Minister, but in view of what I have quoted to-night, and in view of other speeches in this House and in the country by the Prime Minister, and when the right hon. Gentleman is asking us to give him our confidence, I ask whether we are to give it to Dr. Jekyll, of Carnarvon, or to Mr. Hyde, of Downing Street. They are two different people. It does not matter for my purpose which way it is, because they are both different. The hon. Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) has referred to another speech made by the Prime Minister, with regard to giving way to compulsion, and I do not think it is necessary again to refer to it, but I would ask the House to remember the stirring words in which the Prime Minister con-chided that speech:Give it because it is right, give it because it is just, give it because it is good for Ireland and good for the United Kingdom, give it because it brings peace and good will, but do not give it because you are bullied by assassins.I ask the House to say to-night whether they can honestly believe that this surrender will bring peace and good will to Ireland. Is there peace in Ireland today? Is not the bitterness of Ulster as the bitterness of gall? You have—Jeered at her loyalty,Trod on her pride,Scorned her, repulsed her—Great-hearted Ulster—Flung her aside.That is the feeling of Ulster to-day. You asked Ulster to come into a final settlement, where they shall have their own Parliament, and be free; but in the Press of the country to-day we see from the correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, that pressure has been brought to bear. Bribes almost have been offered to him, that he would be excused from the liabilities of the Empire, excused from paying the costs of the Navy and the Army, if only he would put his Northern Province under the power and Dominion of Sinn Fein. It is a fine thing to forgive your enemies, but it is a damnable thing to give away your friends to appease your enemies. In old days it was the proud boast that the pax Britannica was always founded upon 109 justice and right. I cannot vote for this Treaty. I believe it will bring not peace but the sword, because it is founded on violence and blood.
§ Rear-Admiral ADAIR
I came here with certain convictions with regard to these proposals. Nothing which I have heard has altered my convictions. My sympathies are entirely with the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison), who has made a most impassioned speech. My firm conviction is that these proposals are an ignoble surrender to rebellion, assassination and outrage. No chicanery, no glorification of these proposals in the Press can mask that fact, though the Press has done its best to do so, nor can the splendour of the opening of Parliament for the special purpose of passing these proposals mitigate the sad reality of that surrender. That surrender has come about in consequence of the vacillating, weak, not to say craven, conduct of affairs by His Majesty's Government during the past few years. I called attention to this 18 months ago when I told the Government that their weak-kneed policy was at the bottom of the whole of the trouble. This lamentable conduct of affairs has landed the Government in an appalling situation from which there are two means of escape. The first is the suppression of rebellion, assassination and outrage, and the other is surrender. In spite of all the protestations as to effecting the suppression of rebellion, assassination and outrage, the Government have chosen surrender.
I have referred to utterances by Ministers as to suppressing rebellion, assassination and outrage, and I am going to quote one or two. I do not choose the sensational ones which refer to gangs of murderers, gangs of assassins, and so on, in the words of Ministers themselves, I choose the more statesmanlike ones; as I shall call them. Speaking of the Government of Ireland Bill, the Prime Minister at Carnarvon in October, 1920, said:I protest against the doctrine that you should go further and give more, not because Ireland needs it, not because it is fair to the United Kingdom, but because crime has been more successful.Has crime been more successful? Where is that protest to-day? The result of the success of crime has been these proposals. On the Second Reading of that 110 Bill in this House the Leader of the House said this:The powers given are the most generous that are compatible with the existing conditions in Ireland.They have gone very much further in these proposals. Are the divisions any less than they were when they had already given everything that was compatible with the existing state of affairs in Ireland? And he went on to taunt the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) for having suggested that, having lost control of the horse they should throw the reins on its neck. Is it not the case that, having lost control of the horse, the Government have now thrown the reins on its neck? The Government new propose to go far beyond the proposals of the Bill of 1920. They propose to set up an Irish Free State, to give even more than Dominion Home Rule, in so far as they claim no oath of allegiance to the Sovereign, though it is in the most unmistakable way contained in the oath that is necessary in the Dominions overseas. No matter what the Prime Minister has said to-day, there is no oath of allegiance to the King in these proposals, and in spite of that they set up an army and navy. Let us have no mistake about it. They do set up a navy. There is the nucleus in those ships which are to guard the Customs, Fisheries, etc., and there is the possibility of much more, as admitted by the Prime Minister—submarines—when in five years it will be further discussed, when they are to be given the defence of their own coasts.
But I do not presume to base my own decisions and my absolute refusal to be a party to these proposals on my own reasoning alone. I go back to the opinions of great statesmen in support of the conclusion to which I have come. Mr. John Bright said:If Ireland could be towed out 2,000 miles towards America you would then find that there was a considerable resemblance between the case of Ireland and that of the Colonies.Mr. Gladstone, the protagonist of Home Rule, said:The case of the Colonies is not identical with that of Ireland and does not resemble it. The nearness of Ireland compared with the remoteness of the Colonies prevents it.How does that accord with the settlement put forward by the Prime Minister to-day of Dominion Home Rule and even 111 more for Ireland? Lord Grey of Fallodon said:Between Great Britain and Ireland there can be one foreign policy and one Army and one Navy, and we cannot stand any separation in those matters any more than could the North stand the separation of the South in the case of the United States.I would ask Members of this House whether or no they attach any importance to those opinions? If so, can they conscientiously support the proposals of the Government? And I ask my fellow Unionists is not this the very destruction of the foundation of our Unionism and of the Union which, in spite of anything which the Prime Minister said to-day, was established by William Pitt because Ireland had proved a danger in the old French Wars and was likely to prove it again? Do not let us be befogged by details. I do not want to go into details to-night. Even in our anxiety for the safety of Ulster do not let us overlook the safety of the United Kingdom. That is the point which is before this House—the safety of the United Kingdom in the future. It is a question of breaking up or maintaining the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as understood by all those Unionists who returned us to Parliament; aye, and by the Coalition Liberals, too. If we accept these proposals, I claim that we are betraying our trusts towards the people who elected us to this Parliament. Our pledges at the General Election were fully implemented by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. All Coalitionists, by their support of that Act, have loyally abided by their pledges as given at the General Election. That Act, as described by the Prime Minister,Is the outcome of the best judgment of the Government and is the wisest conclusion which the Government could possibly arrive at after serious reflection."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1920; col. 1326, Vol. 127.]Why should we go any further if that Act is the wisest conclusion that the Government could come to after serious reflection? In having supported them in that Act, I claim that we Coalitionists, Unionists or Liberals, have fulfilled our pledges to our electors, and we have no mandate to go any further. The Act of 1920 embodies the great principle that for the safeguarding of Great Britain the union of Ireland with it is essential. It embodies also the undoubted fact that Ire- 112 land comprises two peoples, two distinct and separate peoples, and as a corollary it comprises the principle that it should be left to those different peoples to settle for Ireland as a whole its own self-determination without any further interference from this Parliament. What more statesmanlike act could have been devised by the wit of man? I supported that Act loyally as a Unionist. I believe it to be the best and only solution of the Irish problem. I will be no party to any departure whatever from it. Does any hon. Member honestly believe that the proposals before us now will settle the Irish problem?
The very foundation of the Sinn Fein ideal is complete independence of a whole Ireland from England. So long as there is partition Sinn Fein will have a grievance; so long as the six counties of Ulster stand apart, supported by this country, as it always must be until it chooses voluntarily to join the other Parliament in Ireland, Sinn Fein will be at enmity with Great Britain. For, apart from the sentimental aspect of it, Sinn Fein covets the businesslike properties, the richness, the prosperity of Ulster, and that is really why they wish to have it under their dominion. Let us be clear on the point of Ulster, although it is only incidental to the main question, which is the safety of this great Empire. The great bulk of the people of the six counties are of a race totally different from that of the remaining 26 counties. They differ in character absolutely and they differ in that most important thing, religion, which is at the bottom of nearly all the trouble in Ireland. Indeed, looking at this lamentable Agreement and the ridiculous signatures attached to it, we might say that Ulster differs in language also. In the Prime Minister's own words:Ulster is a separate and distinct entity.Does anyone really think that the loyal, progressive and Protestant six counties will ever accept the domination of the disloyal, ignorant and Roman Catholic majority of the South? In saying "Roman Catholic," let me make this quite clear; I have no disrespect whatever for Roman Catholicism such as that, for example, of the Viceroy of Ireland and Members of this House; but the Roman Catholicism of Maynooth is a different thing altogether. Does anyone think that Nova Scotia would have 113 accepted the domination of Quebec? Is it not very much the same thing? Never would they have accepted it; yet each of them, each province, was ready to come into a united Canada. There lies the solution of the Irish problem, the solution provided by the 1920 Act, but not in these proposals which have gone very much further. Whether there is partition or not, whether there is enmity towards Great Britain arising from that partition, let us bear this in mind: in these proposals we are surrendering to Sinn Fein, to people who were described by Dean Swift 200 years ago as "unscrupulous." That is his word and not mine. Has it not been borne out by their conduct in the War, their unscrupulous assassinations and so on? Is it not a true word?
We are handing over to these people, we are putting at their mercy, the passage of the whole of our ships through those water gates to Great Britain, a safe passage through which is absolutely essential to our very life and sustenance in this country. We will have the possibility of the destruction, by submarine or by other methods, by an Irish navy possibly associated with the navy of some other country, of ships bringing to us all that is essential to our life, our commerce, our trade and our industry. It is not so much the present moment I am concerned with, as the future. We are safe enough at the moment, but what will our successors think of us in 50 years' time? [An HON. MEMBER: "You need not bother about that!"] I do bother about that. I think of our successors even 20 years silence if we now set up on the vulnerable flank of Great Britain a potential enemy, with all her harbours and ports open to the use of other enemies that may arise, and from which not only her own submarines, but those of other enemy countries may work devastation among the ships approaching Great Britain with her food and sustenance. I would ask those who are supporting these proposals to consider whether in the course, say, of 50 years, Germany may not arise and again become our enemy, seeking her revenge for what we achieved in the last War. Why, they talk of it to-day, and if that occurs, can we rely upon Irish ports and harbours in the way set out in these proposals? I doubt it. I bear in mind Dean Swift's opinion of the Irish character, which is that it is unscrupulous. 114 We have no right whatever to commit our successors to that danger or to go any further than the mandate we received from our electors, which was fully carried out by the Act of 1920. I am not going to elaborate any further on that, nor am I going to refer to any details whatever. I shall conclude with a quotation which has already been made, but which bears repetition, it is so apposite to the subject under discussion. Speaking at Penarth, the Prime Minister said:As far as I am concerned, and I am speaking on behalf of the Government, we shall certainly resist, out and out, any attempt to have an army or navy set up in Ireland at our doors to menace the existence of the United Kingdom.With that clear statement of the potential danger that lies in these proposals, I feel it unnecessary to say more. I beg of my fellow Unionists to think well whether the maintenance of the Union, from which they take their very name, is not a thing of the very first importance, not only to Great Britain, but the whole British Empire? Let them not overlook their Unionism and forgo it in voting for these proposals.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I think Wales should have a voice in regard to the problem which is before the House to-day. Liberal Members from Wales are a united body on this matter. We have returned Members to this House for the last quarter of a century to advocate the claims of Ireland. We have been Home Rulers in Wales for at least 30 years, and we are Home Rulers to-day. We sympathise with the sister island and with her Celtic aspirations, and I think it requires a Celt from Wales or Scotland to appreciate the Irish point of view. We in our country feel very proud that a Welshman is at the head of the Administration which is to-day bringing a message of peace and goodwill to Ireland. My hon. and gallant Friend who has just addressed the House suggests that those who support this Treaty are committing a breach of faith with their constituents. We are not doing that in Wales. By supporting the Prime Minister and the Government in this matter we are fulfilling the earnest and enthusiastic wish of practically the whole of the Welsh nation. I am glad there are hon. Members able to look at this problem from another point of view than the naval point of view, which is, after 115 all, a rather narrow point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] An hon. Member who can only look at our industrial and civil problems from the naval or the military point of view is taking a narrow view. We want a little of the human touch in our politics, and we are getting it in this. It is suggested that the Irish may commit a breach of this contract. Why do you say that? What have Irishmen done under free institutions in our colonies? That is the acid test. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] My hon. Friends opposite say "No!" I have travelled throughout our colonies extensively, and I have met Irishmen, many of them in responsible positions, and it could not be said that these men are not loyal and patriotic. Many of them went from Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere to fight in France, and it is a shame for anybody to stand up in this House and say that Irishmen, whether they be Catholic or Protestants, cannot be loyal men, and to suggest that the men who have attached their signature to this contract will not stick to it. Whether they are rebels or not, they are acting to-day on behalf of the Southern Irish nation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] If they are not, who are acting for that nation? I say these men who can fight well can also be honourable in peace time. These men have fought for their national rights, and when you talk of rebels, who was it started rebellion first in Ireland? I have just been listening to an hon. and learned Gentleman in another place making a most violent speech not conducive to harmony or goodwill, a mischievous speech that is going to do infinite harm in the country. I have heard him quite recently make that speech—within the past few hours—and he was one of the first to import arms into Ireland.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
He ought to be impeached for high treason. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw, withdraw" and "Sit down"!] That is the spirit of Ulster!
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
On a point of Order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to refer to a debate in another place and to refer to a speech there as a mischievous speech?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This House is not the place in which to make any reply to speeches made in the other House.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I bow to your ruling, Sir. I was not replying to the speech made by the Noble Lord in another place, I was making a passing reference to the late leader of the Northern Unionist party in this House, who has gone to another place and who made a speech to-day which is not calculated to promote harmony. I was referring to the importation of arms into Ireland.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I say this, when people talk about the disloyalty of the Southern Irish, that they should bear in mind that the people who first imported arms into Ireland are the people of the North of Ireland.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
Therefore it ill becomes hon. Members opposite to talk in this way of Irishmen in Southern Ireland.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
As to all speeches which we have heard to-day from hon. Members opposite who are out to avoid this contract or pact being ratified, what is their alternative?
§ Sir R. THOMAS
Law and order! You have tried it for 700 years and failed. Law and order! You will never get it,—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Perhaps my hon. Friends will allow me to finish my sentence. You will never get law and order by the sword. You have tried it, and you have failed. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who are declining to ratify this Treaty surely ought to bring forward some alternative. Are we going to continue to have this bloodshed and ruin in Ireland without some attempt at a settlement? If you have declined to negotiate with Griffith and these other men, with whom are you going to negotiate? What is your alternative policy? I would like someone to tell us what is the way out of this difficulty. I have heard no one yet give any indication of a solution.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
Really, I am surprised at my hon. and gallant Friend making a suggestion of that sort. We have tried it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The Sinn Fein members declined to attend the Parliament. They would not administer that Act. That is no solution. The Irish want self-government. Under this Treaty they are going to have self-government. They are to govern themselves according to their own ideals. The North can govern themselves according to their own ideals. What I would like to know is, What is the alternative to the policy proposed by the Government? I do hope that this House will not be intimidated by the North of Ireland, by the "Diehards," by the men who will advocate no policy of their own, and obstruct every other policy. It is time, in these enlightened years, that really we should approach these problems with a little common sense. If we were able to trust to the Dutch in South Africa, surely we can trust men of our own blood across the water. [An HON. MEMBER: "We cannot trust the Welsh."] The people of this country can trust the Prime Minister, who is Welsh!
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Some hon. Members below the Gangway are continually interrupting. I hope they will allow the hon. Member to proceed with his speech.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I do not know where my hon. Friend comes from. If he be a Saxon, I will tell him, for his enlightenment, that we had civilisation in Wales when his ancestors were running in the backwoods with painted skins. Not trust a Welshman! I would like to know what would have happened in the War if it had not been for a Welshman, and the three principal figures of to-day are Welshmen. Mr. Secretary Hughes, of the United States, who is a Welshman from Anglesey, and the Prime Minister, who is a Welshman, and we are proud of him, and the Prime Minister of Australia. Therefore it is not for my hon. Friends opposite to cast aspersions upon Welshmen. There was a time when that sort of thing went down, but to-day a Welshman can hold his own with most men. Owing to the interruptions I have been taken rather away from my subject, but, in conclusion, 118 I would like once again to appeal to every man in this country who wishes to settle down to conditions of peace and prosperity to support this contract. Ireland has been a clog on the wheels of progress ever since the War terminated—and before it. Until this clog, this difficulty, is removed we cannot have prosperity not only in Ireland, but in this country. We have been prejudiced all over the world. Our name is becoming a byword. It is time the fair name of Britain was redeemed. I do hope that, notwithstanding the opposition of the "Diehards," we shall give the Government an overwhelming majority when the Division is taken.
I wish to ask a few questions on behalf of the ex-service men in Ireland whose lot at present is anything but a happy one. These men joined the Army in the dark days, voluntarily, without coercion, when the country needed men badly, and now, many having been demobilised, are having a very miserable time of it at the hands of those about them. They are suffering insults and derision, as they did in the first instance on joining the Army. In this Measure to be brought forward to give effect to the agreement of the conference there is a paragraph which says something about the Royal Irish Constabulary, but there is nothing said about the ex-service men. I consider that their lot is an uncommonly hard one, and it is the duty of the Government to see that some arrangement is made under which these men can live in peace. Moreover, many of these men cannot get employment simply because they have served their country. They, therefore, deserve the protection of the Government.
There are many officers serving in the Royal Irish Regiments who are anxious to know something of the future of these regiments. Are they still to be part and parcel of the British Army or are they going to be disbanded? If the former, are they to be allowed to recruit in the districts to which they belong? If these districts are still open to recruiting what will be the attitude in Southern Ireland of the Sinn Fein Parliament towards that recruiting? We saw the attitude of the Irish towards recruiting in the dark days and we want to know what is going to be done in the future. Is it going to be possible for the Irish regiments again to do their recruiting in Ireland? We all 119 know the splendid service these Irish regiments have performed, not only in the last War, but in all previous wars. An Irish regiment is not an Irish regiment unless it is recruited from Irishmen, and has mostly Irish officers. Something must be done by the Government, if possible, to see that these regiments remain part and parcel of the British army, to see that recruiting takes place as I have suggested, and under the British Government. These questions I have put are very important to the men concerned who are serving, and I have been asked by more than one to discover what the Government is going to do for them in the future, not only in respect to their services, but in regard to the recruiting for the regiments.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Baldwin)
I appeal to the House for that courtesy which they always extend to an hon. Member making his maiden speech on Irish affairs. Although I have been in the House for many years and have voted many times on Irish questions, and hold an unwavering position in regard to Ireland, this is the first time I have risen to address the House on an Irish subject. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken will not think that I am lacking in courtesy if I do not go into details in the short time that remains for me to address the House, as those who have had more direct concern with the negotiations are in a better position to answer detailed questions. I wish to confine myself to the main lines of argument used this afternoon and give such answer as I can. In passing, I may say that I have had no part in the negotiations and that my mind is always rather of a critical than of an enthusiastic kind. I have always considered myself as a typical representative of an ordinary rank and file Member of the Unionist party, and so I am pleased that it has fallen to my lot to stand at this Box and explain why I support, as I do whole-heartedly, the agreement which is before the House. It was always said by our opponents, and I think my Unionist friends will remember, that the position we took up over Ulster was that we wanted Ulster to be predominant in Ireland and be in such a position that she could exercise a veto over 120 the rest of Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] At any rate that was said. I have fought many elections on that and we always denied it on this ground that all we claimed for Ulster was equal rights with the United Kingdom. I want to make it quite clear that the link between Ulster and Great Britain was only to be broken at the will of Ulster. I think we are all agreed on that point, and that is my attitude to-day. Had the question arisen of forcing Ulster at this moment into a United Ireland Parliament—I do not know that I have any right to speak for other Unionist Members of the Cabinet—I do not think there is one of those sitting on this bench who would advocate such a course. I should not do so, and I do not think any of my colleagues would. However, that question has not arisen.
There has been talk in some quarters as though we were treating Ulster unfairly in that there is a possibility of the taxation in the South of Ireland being less than in the North, and that therefore we are exercising a form of financial pressure upon her. I think that is a very unfair argument, for this reason. Ulster has never at any time that I am aware of claimed that she should be treated on financial grounds otherwise than as an integral portion of Great Britain. That has never been her claim in the past, and I do not think it has been put forward during this controversy. What taxation may be in the North of Ireland in the future time alone will show. I am just an ordinary Englishman, and I think it is not unlikely that the taxes in the South of Ireland may in time be higher than many people at this moment anticipate. But whether the argument of different financial treatment holds at the moment or not, and whether it will hold in the future, is not the point, because differential treatment has never been claimed by Ulster, and the question does not therefore arise. If I thought that in this Agreement there was any differential treatment of Ulster I should not be supporting it, but, so far as the relationship between Ulster and this country is concerned, there is nothing in the agreement to effect it, because she has the option of maintaining the status quo, and, in giving her that option, I feel, and my colleagues feel, that we have made sure of the one point to which we believe we are bound. We made sure of it for 121 her, and whether in years to come she thinks fit to come into a united Parliament is her business, and her business alone. I wish to say a few words on that point, because I know that it is a subject that has, in the course of recent discussions, agitated the minds of a great many members of our party. It is very natural that it should have done, but I cannot see, up to the point at which the negotiations have arrived to-day, any cause for anxiety to an honest English Unionist unless he takes the view that to have gone into the Conference at all was wrong. If he takes that view, nothing that I or anyone else can say will move him, and he will show the force of the ideas which he holds by his vote in the Lobby.
There is one other question on which I propose to say rather more, and that is the question which has underlaid a great many speeches to-day, and especially the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), to whom I listened, as I always have done, with great delight, if not with perfect sympathy. I never see him rise to speak, or, indeed, the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), without feeling that in them there are ancestral voices prophesying woe, and, when he rose, challenging the Government, and said that the only remedy which he could suggest was to turn us out and put somebody else in. I could not help asking myself, whom? Was it to be the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith)? Was it to be the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes)? No; the Government which the Noble Lord would favour would be one consisting of himself and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, and I do not know which of them would resign within a week. The subject of his speech—and I have heard it in this House, and from friends of my own many times—may be summed up in this, that the Government have surrendered to murder. That is a question which I wish to examine, because it touches every one of us. There is no one in this House who would be less willing to feel that he had surrendered to murder than I shall, and my Friends may rest assured that before I, as a single member of the Cabinet, agreed to a conference. I satisfied myself, at all events, that, so far as I could interpret 122 it, I was not surrendering to murder. I know that that view is not shared by all in this House, and I would like, if I may, to put before the House the simple motives which lead me to accept the Conference. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University said that what he wanted to see in Ireland was a moral change—a change of heart which would look upon murder as a sin. I quite agree with him, but the obvious retort which springs to one's mind is, Are we going to secure that end by shooting people, and, if so, how many? How are we to know when to stop? Are you more likely to get that by trying to secure law and order by force, or are you more likely to get the moral result by leaving the people free, so that in time the sanctions of their own religion may cut away the glamour, and murder will be removed? It will no longer be murder of those who may be described as oppressors, but it will be murder among themselves, for which they will have to justify themselves before the eyes of the whole world. That is the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, but it does not touch my point. Did we yield to murder?
Let us look for a moment at the past in Ireland. I do not want to go into ancient history. I venture to question the wisdom of my hon. Friend who spoke just now in dealing too much with ancient history. We have to look forward to-day instead of looking backward. The more one looks back the less likely one is to move forward. We have in this matter to keep our sense of perspective. We have emerged from a very Great War. I will say nothing about that, but the fact remains that it filled our thoughts and lives for years. The rebellion in Ireland filled the minds of that small population in that small country in the same way, but to us in England it did not fill our minds, and, after all we have been through, it seems a small thing. We may be wrong in that, but that is the perspective and the way in which we regard it. It was very small after the terrors which we had passed through, and so it was that when this rebellion took place, rightly or wrongly, we did not regard Ireland as a country in rebellion, but we sought to put an end to it by trying to hunt out the people who were suspected of murder—a slow and tedious process. We had come to a point when it was quite clear 123 that, by making war upon the country, we could reconquer it—there is no question about that—and reconquer it sooner than many people think. But it would have meant war; it would have meant treating them as belligerents, and it would undoubtedly have meant bloodshed oh possibly a large scale. What was the question that we had to ask ourselves? Remember that, when I had to put that question to myself, I was not a retired man, sitting in an armchair in a club with my pipe, with no responsibility attaching to the decision I might come to. What I decided must mean for me peace or war. I thought of this—that this country had suffered almost beyond all other countries in the world in the last four years. I reflected that we were the leading nation in the League of Nations; that we had already attended their conferences, that our influence was essential to any successful move forward in the League of Nations. I remembered that we had consented to go to Washington, with a view, not only to consider the question of possible disarmament, but to consider questions of policy which might mean peace or war in the Far East within the next 10 or 15 years. I had these three points clearly in mind, and I felt that, having regard to the part which we had played in the War and having regard to the stand which we were taking before the nations of the world, this country was big enough, before embarking in further bloodshed within our own boundaries, to make one last effort for peace.
Having decided to do that, we took the next step; and what step could we have taken but the one we did, which was to ask those representatives who had been returned to Parliament in the South of Ireland, under an Act passed by this House, to select their representatives to meet our representatives. That was done, and the result we all know. It may be that in parts of Ireland, inhabited by a certain race, remote from contact with the world, ignorant, if you like, of many of the realities of the world, very self-centred by their very name—it is possible that among those people our action might be described as a surrender. It Was not a surrender to us; it has not been looked on as a surrender in our Dominions, from each of which the policy 124 of this Government has been fully endorsed—including the Government of New Zealand, of which the Prime Minister, if I remember aright, is an Ulsterman himself, and which is the last Government in the world to congratulate us if, in their opinion, we were shaking hands with murder. The argument that we are yielding to force is the same argument that the extremists in Ireland are using to try and upset this settlement. It is the argument used by all those who turn away from the way of peace and are trying to use the argument of force. I believe this argument, alike in this House and in Ireland, will be defeated, and that the extremists on both sides of the Channel will be beaten. There is a saying of Milton which I came across the other day. It impressed me more than anything I have come across for many a long day. It is this:When God wants a hard thing done in this world He tells it to His Englishmen.If ever a hard thing has been told to his Englishmen, it is in this matter of peace in Ireland, because our history, our pride, our prejudice, and everything stand in the way. But we have made the attempt. We have in this agreement the seeds of peace, and we must take care that by no word or action of ours we prevent those seeds coming to fruition. We have started climbing a very hard and steep path, and when you are engaged in climbing a hard and steep path, if you look backwards you lose your way, and if we look back on the blood-besmeared path we have trodden, with the precipices that lie on either side of it, we shall lose our heads and be incapable of proceeding. Our duty is plain and straightforward. It is to go on in the strength of this agreement we have made, and to go on with faith.
Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. George Thorne.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.