§ EARL LOREBURN rose to call attention to the recent disorders in Ireland; and to move to resolve, That this House records its profound dissatisfaction with the administration of affairs in that country.
§ The noble and learned Earl said: My Lords, I put down this Notice because I think it is the duty of Parliament to place upon record its opinion in regard to the recent transactions in Ireland, and I trust that your Lordships may be satisfied that the events justify the language—I hope the not extreme language—which finds its place in the Motion. I also think that it is our duty to consider this subject now, although we are—all the more, I am inclined to think, because we are—in the middle of a serious war. Before the war arose there were acute differences between your Lordships and those outside in regard to Irish policy. I do not propose to say a single word to revive any one of those unhappy controversies. The Sinn Fein organisation, which is responsible for the recent outrage, is outside the pale of political differences; it is hostile to His Majesty, to His Majesty's Government, and to this country, and hostile also to Mr. Redmond and Mr. O'Brien and their 956 followers. Ireland is not represented by the desperate men who have caused this insurrection. Ireland, I believe, is truly represented by the scores of thousands of men who are doing their duty at the Front in company with their English and Scottish comrades; and it is to them and to their influence when they return that I look forward for the coming reconciliation between different sets of opinion in this country.
§ This Resolution expresses profound dissatisfaction with the administration of Ireland. I need not dwell upon the details of what has taken place. We all know of the terrible crimes committed in Ireland a week or a fortnight ago. A large part of Dublin was seized by rebels; I believe that it was only by an accident that the Castle was not captured; there have been incendiarism and pillage and murder; and I see in the newspapers this morning that 500 of our own troops and the constabulary have been killed and wounded. There were also movements in other parts of Ireland. The Government appear to have been wholly unprepared for anything of the kind. There are certain essential features which one ought to notice. One is the great number of the insurgents, although many of them, I should like to believe and do believe, were very largely dupes, and not aware of the desperate enterprise in which they came to be engaged. Speaking for myself, I trust that this circumstance will incline His Majesty's Government towards clemency, believing as I do, looking to the future, that no sure foundation is ever laid in blood, especially in blood upon the scaffold.
§ But there are other things to notice. For some time there have been large armed gatherings parading openly, as I understand, in Dublin, with arms not belonging to His Majesty, and actually conducting sham street fights in anticipation of the real street fighting which was to come. Arms have been imported on a large scale, and there have been depots in different parts of the country and meetings and circulars issued full of seditious and inflammatory language. These things, I should have thought, would have placed any Government upon their guard. Also we were told the other day by Lord Midleton that the Government had received express warnings, not only once, but repeatedly. All these things went on under the eyes of the Government at a time when 957 they ought to have been particularly careful—namely, when we were engaged in a very serious war. The Government had plenty of weapons at their disposal. The ordinary law is not so silly as to allow things of this kind to pass with impunity. But apart from the ordinary law there were the Defence of the Realm Acts, which were expressly passed in order to preserve security in the country. Under those Acts civilians ordinarily must be tried by civil authorities; that is necessary unless the whole of the United Kingdom is to be placed unreservedly under Martial Law. But in a case of special military urgency the Government could, by Proclamation, subject civilians as well as soldiers to Martial Law. They did not issue any such Proclamation. That may have been desirable, and I can welt understand the reluctance to do anything of the kind. But quite apart from that, under the Defence of the Realm Acts regulations may be made "for securing the public safety." Those words are very wide, and it has been decided in the Court of King's Bench in England within the past few weeks that under this provision there was power even to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act or to take any steps which came within that very wide language. But, my Lords, if it was desired to avoid extreme steps—and it is very intelligible that it should have been so desired—it is not intelligible that sufficient troops should not have been kept in the neighbourhood of Dublin for the purpose of quelling any insurrection that might be attempted.
§ It has been publicly stated that a Committee of inquiry is about to be set up for the purpose of investigating these transactions. In my opinion that is no reason whatever why Parliament should refrain from expressing its opinion. I hope that the Committee will hold a searching, impartial, and public Inquiry, and that we may learn how the Sinn Fein conspiracy grew, how this particular plot was hatched, who were concerned in it, and the complete history, I hope, of this unhappy conspiracy. But if the Inquiry is to be of any use it must last for months, and it may last for even longer. These details, however, are perfectly irrelevant to the Motion which I have placed on the Paper. The broad facts show that the King's Government, after warnings of every kind, were surprised by an open insurrection on a large scale. The Chief Secretary has resigned, saying that he misunderstood and 958 misinterpreted the true character of the Sinn Fein organisation. If that does not require the notice of Parliament I do not know what circumstances could require it. It was very honourable on Mr. Birrell's part to make the candid and manly avowal that he did. I have great sympathy with Mr. Birrell, for whom every one who knows him must have the most sincere regard and admiration; and that has been enhanced by the way in which he has taken the blame solely upon himself. But it is not right that Parliament should allow one Minister to be the scapegoat. There ought not to be two measures of Ministerial responsibility. Some other Ministers must have known what was going forward and must have been informed of the things which came as a surprise to the nation at large, and they ought to be as frank as Mr. Birrell has been. It may be—very likely it would be—that Parliament would consider their services so indispensable or their merits so great that they ought still to be retained in the Government of the country at this crisis. But I think they ought to treat Parliament candidly and give us an account in the manner which at all times has been customary under the Parliamentary Constitution under which we live.
§ There has been, I am afraid, a neglect of the elementary duty of Government—namely, to give protection against outrageous violence directed against the whole population of a great city; and I think we should be neglecting our elementary duty if we passed such an occurrence over in silence. There is, indeed, one consideration and one consideration alone which would warrant members of this House in passing a thing of this kind over without comment or without any expression of opinion—namely, the very serious state of war in which we find ourselves. But in my view the experience of the war shows the danger of silence carried to excess, and it shows that there has been too much reticence on the part of Parliament in controlling by an expression of its opinion, the conduct of His Majesty's Government. Every one must judge for himself. It would be inexcusable to interpose for any light reason. It is true that the task of Ministers is a very heavy one and that mistakes are unavoidable, and no one doubts that they all wish to serve their country to the best of their power. But these reflections—I think wrongly—have led us to pass over a good many things that we thought unwise.959
§ Broadly speaking, secrecy and silence have gone too far, and have gone too far in regard to the war itself. I am about, very briefly, to give a few illustrations, not for the purpose of diverting this debate in the least—I should not think of doing so if I could—from the subject that I have in hand, but for the purpose of showing how necessary it is that there should be constant watchfulness and vigilance on the part of Parliament in order to prevent that inevitable liability to errors of judgment, errors of policy, on a large scale of which we have seen more than one example. If Parliament had taken up seriously the Antwerp Expedition eighteen months ago, we might have been spared the unwisdom of later Expeditions. We do not know in the least who was to blame for that, but had we known and had it been known that there was a close watch being kept upon the way in which the resources of this country were being used, and I am afraid in some cases wasted, it would have been a very wholesome restraint. A similar reticence was exercised as to a whole series of subsequent Expeditions which have proved unfortunate, and, indeed, disastrous. We have dissipated our forces and diminished our prestige; we have destroyed scores of thousands of lives; we have taken a great part of the British mercantile marine from its necessary duties, and have enormously added to the expenditure on the war. All these things were passed over without serious criticism; and one of them alone—the Dardanelles—cost us 200,000 men killed or wounded, and many ships. The same thing might be said on a smaller scale in regard to the recent unfortunate disaster in Mesopotamia. The same thing might be said about munitions, in regard to which every one of us was being told privately that there was a shortage; yet it was officially denied, and Parliament never took any pains to ascertain what the truth was.
§ Who was to blame in these things? No one knows at this moment who was to blame in regard to any one of these incidents to which I have referred. I think we ought to take the blame largely upon ourselves and not throw it wholly upon the Government. On the question of munitions a number of Ministers left or had to leave the Government, but no one of the Ministers who had to leave had anything to do with munitions. Nor were we offered any explanation on the subject. 960 The fact is that no one is blamed because no one is allowed to know who was responsible. I think that is a mistaken method. It would be a convenient method for making things comfortable in the House of Commons and for keeping together a majority, but I will not be so unjust as to suggest—and I do not believe—that this is the object of the Government. I know what their object ought to be. I know what I believe it is. At all events, I know what my object is in this terrible time. It is to secure an honourable peace as soon as that is attainable, and until that comes to make any sacrifice to support the men who are fighting our battles in the field. I believe that some of the trials which have fallen heavily upon them might have been averted had there been more plain speaking in this House and in the other House of Parliament.
§ No one would desire to make, and I am sure I have refrained—certainly I have desired to refrain—from making captious or illnatured attacks, but when a grave mistake has been made it is our duty to record our dissatisfaction, to ask how it arose, and be told who is at fault. Parliament is not likely to be censorious or to be ungenerous, but it is entitled to know where the blame lies and how the fault came to be committed. And when so grave an instance occurs as that which has recently happened in Ireland, I think it is our duty to place on record at once the general conclusion—in regard to which no details can make any difference at all—which I have invited your Lordships to record.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House records its profound dissatisfaction with the administration of affairs in Ireland.—(Earl Loreburn.)
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, the measured and dignified language in which the noble and learned Earl has presented his case to the House will, I am sure, apart from his own position, make it quite clear that there is no desire on the part of any one of us to make Party or other capital out of these unfortunate proceedings. I have ventured to rise at once to follow the noble and learned Earl for two reasons—first, because I desire to make good to your Lordships the statement which I made across the floor of the House a fortnight ago in answer to my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, namely, that the Government had throughout the many months before these 961 unfortunate occurrences received ample and considered warning of what was likely to happen; and, secondly, because I think that there is at this moment too great a tendency to regard all that has taken place as a bolt from the blue rather than as the obvious outcome of a policy of inaction or of tremulous action in the face of a great trouble and of overwhelming danger.
I was very glad to see the language in which the noble and learned Earl has moved his Resolution. He calls upon this House to record its profound dissatisfaction with the administration of affairs in Ireland without pronouncing any direct censure upon His Majesty's Government. The circumstances of the time are peculiar. In ordinary cases it is obvious that such grave issues as have been raised in Ireland must have come before the notice of every member of the Cabinet. But at the present time, when we gather that at every meeting of the Cabinet there are issues of the most serious and immediate description usurping probably the whole time and attention of most of the members, it is much more probable, I should think, judging from the experience of those of us who have sat in Cabinets, that questions which can by any sense be considered Departmental will largely escape the general notice of members of the Cabinet. Therefore in anything that I have to say I hope I may be pardoned if, although I fully realise that the responsibility lies with the Cabinet as a whole, I endeavour as far as I can to fix the responsibility on those more immediately concerned with Irish affairs. I feel great difficulty with regard to this also. When a man admits his error everybody has a generous feeling with regard to a Minister who has unfortunately fallen; but I do not think that ought to deter us from looking the facts in the face, more especially because I will ask your Lordships to draw some deductions from them which ought to be of material bearing, not merely on future Irish Governments, but on the immediate treatment of this revolt.
The first point to which I direct attention and which I believe to be the starting-point of the Sinn Fein trouble was the conduct of the Government at the moment the war broke out about the landing of arms at Howth, near Dublin. That event took place on July 26, 1914. I do not wish to argue either the facts or the results. The Paper containing the particulars can be 962 obtained by any of your Lordships in the Printed Paper Office. The facts were these. A large number of arms were landed close to Dublin. A police officer endeavoured to arrest the process, and found himself outnumbered. He called for military help, and it was afforded. An affray took place, and certain persons were injured. The arms went into the hands of unauthorised persons in large numbers. The Government appointed Lord Shaw with two other officials a Committee to report to them on those events, and the upshot was—not to go into legal technicalities—that it was decided that the police official was acting illegally from first to last in endeavouring to arrest these arms; that the help of the soldiers ought not to have been called; that, in point of fact, it was lawful to land arms whomever they were intended for; and that no official of the Government had power to interfere. I dare say—and this is the only political reference which I will make in the course of what I have to say—it will be said that similar events had occurred in other parts of the country; but I believe I am right in saying that not long before the landing of arms, at Howth an order had been sent to Belfast that similar landings elsewhere should be stopped. I do not quarrel with that order in the very least; but if that order was sent to Belfast, then the proceedings at Howth and the result, by which a most distinguished public servant, Mr. Harrel, was relieved of his position and had to find work elsewhere, should be inquired into by the Committee which His Majesty's Government are about to appoint. After the landing at Howth—we can hardly think of it now—arms were deliberately left in the hands of, not merely unauthorised persons, but of an association which was notoriously disloyal to the Crown, at the very moment that this country had entered into the greatest war that we have ever undertaken; and the reception of those arms has been a sort of charter of liberty to the Sinn Fein organisation up to this very day.
That was followed step by step by a sort of collusion of the Irish Government of the day with the growth of this disloyal organisation. In the November following—November, I914—the so-called Major McBride delivered a seditious and treasonable speech in the South of Ireland. It was the subject of great public comment, but no action of any sort was taken against him by the Government. A few weeks later 963 an organised party tore down the Union Jack at Tralee and replaced it by a disloyal flag, and the police were ordered to take no notice of the perpetrators. Drillings and parades of the Sinn Fein Volunteers became more numerous; they went on, as I explained to your Lordships a fortnight ago, up to the very Sunday before the outbreak under the very eyes of the authorities in Dublin, and both the police and the military were ordered to lake no notice. The question of German spies—a most serious one in Ireland—was entirely ignored at the outset by the responsible authorities. Over and over again it was brought to their notice that men, apparently of malice prepense, had been placed in the seaports and the places where His Majesty's ships were constantly moving, and that Germans, or naturalised Germans, had been holding points of vantage in those seaports. Nothing, however, was done. It is perfectly well known that the enemy's submarines received supplies from some point on the Irish coast. Yet it was not until after the "Lusitania" had been torpedoed that action was taken. I remember going myself to an official, who said "One of the men about whom there was a question has, since we arrested others, gone to America, and all is now well." But what had he done before he went to America? Again, quite recently men were caught redhanded distributing Sinn Fein proclamations and treasonable literature. The police asked for instructions, and were ordered to take no action. Newspapers of the most scurrilous and also the most treasonable character were circulating in considerable numbers. The authorities knew all about them and ordered that they should not be seized until quite the last moment, when one or two offices were closed. Judges were criticised and attacked; juries were dragooned. In Cork one offender was tried—I think in the month of November last—for a most treasonable speech. After a scene in Court, in which the German Emperor was cheered by the crowd in Court, he was fined 1s. At the same time another official of the Sinn Fein party was found in possession of explosives in the neighbourhood of Dublin. He was tried before a jury and acquitted in the face of the clearest evidence. The Government, though urgently pressed, took no steps whatever to obtain a law which would enable them to get convictions, although they had only to come to Parliament to do so.
964 On March 28 a manifesto was issued by the Sinn Fein organisation, which never found its way into the London Press, and with which I must trouble your Lordships. It was a challenge to the Government, and was published only in one Dublin paper. This is the manifesto—With regard to the recent proceedings of the Government towards the Irish Volunteers, the Council of the Irish Volunteers, which met on the 26th inst., wish to warn the public that the general tendency of the Government's action is to force a highly dangerous situation."The Government is well aware that the possession of arms is essential to the Volunteer organisation, and the Volunteers cannot submit to being disarmed either in numbers or detail without surrendering and abandoning the position they have held at all times since their first formation. The Volunteer organisation also cannot maintain its efficiency without organisers. The raiding for arms and attempted disarming of men, therefore, in the natural course of things can only be met by resistance and bloodshed."None of the Irish Volunteers recognise, or will ever recognise, the right of the Government to disarm them or to imprison their officers and men in any fashion. The Council also draws attention to the repeated instances in which the Government's arbitrary action has been associated with the movements of hostile crowds, which are led to believe that they act under Government approval. In this Council's belief, this feature of the case is based on a deliberate policy of creating factious hostility between sections of the Irish people."Nothing need be hoped from remonstrance with the Government, but we appeal to the Irish people to look closely into the facts in every instance, and keep a watch on the conduct and policy of the authorities, and to fix the responsibility for any grave consequence that may arise.That was regarded as a deliberate challenge to the Government. The editor of the one Dublin newspaper which published it received a letter from the Castle. It warned him that the other Dublin newspapers had thought it inadvisable to give currency to the "bluff" which these people were using, and the writer went on to say—I am quite certain that it would be to the public advantage if the Express did the same.That bluff of March 28 was followed by what was not bluff on April 24.
I have stated these facts in order to point out that a Government cannot act in this way with impunity. In order to emphasise what I have said I may mention—I believe the noble Marquess opposite will not be able to contradict me—that when the Constabulary heard of the approach of Sir Roger Casement's expedition they were in a position to seize a considerable number of those who had gone to meet him. But their experience of the past of the line which 965 the Government had taken for so long in these matters was of such a character that they were unwilling to use their, powers, and a considerable number of the men escaped. I was so informed, and I have every reason to believe it to be true. I only quote it because I cannot imagine anything worse, especially in time of war, than to give either the civil or the military authorities the idea that in doing what scorns to them at the moment their duty they will not meet with the support of the Government.
Now as regards the warnings given to the Government. If I use the personal pronoun I hope it will not be supposed that such interviews as I had with various prominent members of the Administration were on my own behalf. I was acting as the mouth piece of a small but well-informed body of business men of position who have devoted their minds to considering in the interests of Ireland what was going to be the outcome of this line of policy; and I may say this at all events—that, so far, none of the warnings which they instructed me to give to the Government have proved to have been without foundation. In December, 1914, I called the attention of the noble Marquess opposite, Lord Crewe, to certain speeches, and to the absence of any attempt on the part of the Government to make those who had delivered them responsible. By direction of the noble Marquess, a Paper was handed to me showing what the Government had done and had not done. That, like every Paper which I have in my possession, is entirely at the disposal of His Majesty's Government. I did not think it satisfactory, and I raised the question in the debate in January, 1915, in this House, and was courteously set aside by the noble Marquess, who said he did not propose to enter into it, and the organs which support him in the Press expressed their astonishment that I should even have alluded to a subject which might divide the people of this country at a critical time.
Last autumn I approached the Chief Secretary, and handed him a copy of a speech of the very worst description, and a copy of an order issued by the Irish Volunteers. As regards my interview with Mr. Birrell then and afterwards, I would only say that I recognised to the full not merely his courtesy but his entire belief that he was acting in the best interests of the country in the course which he was 966 taking. But I am not, I know, traducing him when I say that one sentence, which I will quote from a note I made of his conversation, conveys the whole gravamen of error. He said—To proclaim the Irish Volunteers as an illegal body and put them down by force wherever they are organised would, in my opinion, be a reckless and foolish act, and would promote disloyalty to a prodigious extent in Ireland.Being unable to storm that fortress with success, I at Mr. Birrell's instance, had an interview with the Under Secretary early in the month of February, and subsequently with the Prime Minister, to whom, at his wish, I handed a memorandum covering the whole of these facts. Having alluded to the Prime Minister, I should like to say that we are all aware of the enormous and overpowering weight of responsibility which has fallen upon him since that date, and which has obliged him on several occasions to be absent for a period from this country. Therefore I am not endeavouring to fix upon the Prime Minister any greater responsibility than he should bear. I had also an interview with the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland here in London and ascertained his opinion. I do not know how far the Lord Lieutenant will be held responsible for what has taken place, but I think this should be said with regard to his position—that he had behind him the damnosa hereditas of nine years of action or inaction by his predecessor and the Chief Secretary, who seemed to think that the best policy with regard to Ireland was a policy of weakness; and it was an extremely difficult thing, I fully recognise, for any man who was not himself master to come in and turn back the optimism of the whole of these authorities. At all events, the whole matter was laid before him.
On March 15, failing in any other direction, I sent to the Chief Secretary these proposals as the result of what had been communicated to me from Ireland—In view of the above facts, it is submitted that the following action should be taken by the Government. First, that Lori Parmoor's clause—the clause which bears the name of my noble and learned friend, and which was inserted in the Defence of the Realm Act substituting trial by jury in most cases for trial by a Military Court—should be suspended by Proclamation in so far as it gives the option of trial by jury of serious charges under the Defence of the Realm Act, and that cases of this description should be dealt with by the military authorities. Secondly, that immediate action should be taken by suppressing 967 their papers and seizing their plant, against the printers of those journals which are prejudicing recruiting in Ireland. Thirdly, that the Irish Volunteers should be suppressed and their arms and all explosives seized and confiscated.I sent forward those proposals, but I cannot say that they met with success.
Having no answer from the Chief Secretary, I went to Dublin on April 14 and had another interview with the Under-Secretary. He was good enough to enter into the whole subject with me, and I may perhaps sum up the conversation. Before leaving I said to him—You admit that you know these men have explosives in large quantities, that they have also a large number of arms, that they have also been tampering with newly-joined recruits in His Majesty's Service to buy their arms, and that they have also received money in large sums. Do you think they have done all these things for nothing, and with no intention of using them?His answer was—I am sure I am not putting it in any way that he would not wish—that he feared there might be some bomb outrages, but that he had no fear of a rising; he deeply regretted that the powers of the Government were not sufficient. Armed with that admission, I again had an interview with the Lord Lieutenant and two other officials, and I placed the whole of the facts before them on April 18—that was four days later. I do not think it can be doubted from what has happened that, if the advice which was tendered to the Chief Secretary on the authority of many of the most responsible people in Ireland had been taken, you would never have had this rising and all the horrors which have accompanied it.
I have only gone into this in order to show that we on our part had done what we could to bring all these points before the Government. I think there is something to be said on the other side. I think we have some right to ask why those to whom they were made known took so little notice of these earnest representations. They belittled the facts in their own minds; but surely the representations from outside ought to have been listened to. It will be the duty of the Committee to investigate what happened within the few days before the raid took place. To my mind, it is one of the most incomprehensible episodes ever seen in a country in which the standard of public life is exceptionally high, in which the conduct of our civil officials is almost invariably beyond reproach, and in which to find the soldier who is not at his post at 968 the moment of duty is almost impossible to imagine. But here are the facts. The fact that a raid was to be made was known to the Government. Whether it was known to all the members and to all the officials in Ireland I cannot say, but that it must have been known to the leading officials almost goes without saying. Yet although orders had been given to certain troops to keep the balance because of feared disorder in Dublin, three or four days before the outbreak we know that the General Officer was over in this country, that the head of the Constabulary was also absent, and that even on the Monday there were high officials of the Government at the races near Dublin, after four officers had come there who had been shot at on the way, one of whom had been wounded in the leg. It is inconceivable that there should have been this standard of disbelief in anything troublesome arising. I have said that one can feel generously about a man who has fallen, but I cannot help reminding your Lordships that within a month of his taking the post of Chief Secretary, Mr. Birrell publicly said—You may take my word for it that Ireland has not been in so peaceful or contented a state for 600 years.What is the condition of Ireland now? A large quarter of Dublin is in ruins; there has been a loss in action equivalent to the loss of officers in the worst battle which we fought in the South African War; a legacy of bitterness has arisen which may take years to heal; and there is a feeling of unrest in other places very remote from Dublin which I hope the Government will not ignore. And all this has come about merely because a public official who has governed Ireland longer and resided there less than any other Chief Secretary since the Union would not listen to the warnings addressed to him from however responsible a quarter they proceeded.
I have two requests to make to the Government before I sit down. The first is with regard to the suggestions which have been made at different times. If I have established the fact that the Government were warned, and that the state of mind in which they were forced them to reject frequent warnings, I should like to found upon that two demands on the Government. I said at the outset that we were living in very exceptional times. Think back on the story which I have just been allowed to tell. In any ordinary time 969 in the normal course of Parliamentary responsibility, as the noble and learned Earl pointed out, would not the Government have been brought to book, and urged to take fresh powers? It goes without saying that in any ordinary time, with an ordinary Opposition, that must have been so. But our tongues have been tied by the constant reiteration that to prophesy disorders at home was likely to be of advantage to the enemy. Is it not obvious, if the Castle authorities tried to muzzle the Dublin Press when a challenge of the kind to which I have referred was given to them officially by the Sinn Fein organisation, that the Government would still more have wished to avoid the sort of controversy that might have arisen in this House? I ask them, Will they not follow the advice of the noble and learned Earl and give us a little more consideration in the future than we have had in the past? I can supplement what fell from the noble and learned Earl with regard to two matters that he mentioned immediately connected with the war. Grave and serious warnings were addressed to the Government with the result of not changing their policy. They were courteously received, they were rejected, but they were acted upon many months afterwards; and I cannot tell your Lordships what the loss in money and lives was by action having been deferred. Surely if we are in a position on this side of the House to do something for the advantage of the country we might get a little more consideration from the Government than we have had up to now.
The second point which I would urge is with regard to the treatment of the present emergency. We cannot wait for the Report of the Inquiry. There is, very naturally, a great demand at this moment for leniency. There will be no doubt a demand for amnesty, and one's feelings all tend in this direction, but I hope the realities of the case will be understood. You are dealing not with Dublin alone. If it had not been that a ship of 1,800 tons burthen, crammed from the hold upwards with rifles, machine-guns, and bombs had been sunk you would have had a good many more arms in the South and West of Ireland. Men went to various centres to receive arms, and went home when they were not found there. You cannot play with these things. I ask the Government to remember that they owe it only to this —namely, that the naval authorities were 970 more wide-awake than the civil authorities —that far more trouble did not occur. I ask them, in the first place, to see to it that Martial Law is continued until the arms which can be collected have been secured in order to avoid further trouble. I ask that, no matter what pleas are addressed to them, every man who can be proved to be guilty of murder shall suffer the death penalty. I ask that particularly because I have a case before me at this moment—it has come to me from two quarters in Dublin within the last two hours—where a person responsible for the direct shooting of a police constable in cold blood has been reprieved. It is possible that is not true, but certainly my authorities are good. I ask that the Government will see that all those who have joined the Sinn Fein organisation are dismissed from Public Service. High officials whose position in the Sinn Fein Party must, I think, have been known to somebody connected with the Irish Government were continued in the Post Office up to the very day of the revolt. And I ask that all seditious speaking and writing, however much it may be froth and bubble, should be from this time at all events and during the war absolutely taboo and kept under in Ireland.
I ask these things not out of any hostility to the Irish Party or to Mr. Redmond or to any one in Ireland except those who have broken the law. I know Mr. Redmond's position is a very difficult one. I fully realise what he has endeavoured to do for the Empire in the matter of recruiting; but I ask the Government not, as hitherto, to base themselves on the advice of Mr. Redmond in governing Ireland unless he becomes the Governor of Ireland. They have to bear their own responsibility. If I were Mr. Redmond and were speaking for the majority in Ireland. I would urge upon the Government that it is only by taking the course which I have ventured to sketch out that they can, while most of the best and bravest men of Ireland are fighting for us abroad, avoid what has taken place up to now through the practices of a minority which nine out of ten Irishmen feel to be a stain and a reproach upon the people. I ask the Government to go back upon their own theories and practice during the last eight or nine years and to let Ireland have the advantage of all the prosperity, the high prices, the inflated trade due to the measures brought in by both sides and which have given such immense prosperity to the 971 country. I believe that unless the Government take a strong and vigorous course, and unless they make it perfectly clear that there is to be no more tampering with sedition, they will not be able to purge the recollection from this year of what is certainly one of the most disastrous and also one of the most needless episodes that have ever caused trouble and unrest in Ireland.
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The MARQUESS of CREWE)
My Lords, in the view of His Majesty's Government it would have been an advantage if my noble and learned friend below the Gangway had postponed his Motion for a time, for reasons which I will explain in a moment. He, however, stated that one of the principal causes of his producing the Motion at this moment was not merely the lamentable series of events in Ireland, but also the general practice of His Majesty's Government in withholding information and stifling debate upon all manner of subjects connected with the war.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I have every desire to represent my noble and learned friend correctly. He apportioned a certain degree of blame to Parliament for not having compelled us, in both Houses, to be more open and explicit in the description of events and in the ascription of blame. My noble and learned friend named some particular instances in which, in his opinion, we had refrained from instituting, and the House had also refrained from instituting, debates. He went back as far as the attempt that was made to relieve the garrison of Antwerp, and he spoke of later Expeditions which had been attended with misfortune. My noble and learned friend gave a strategical opinion to the effect that in undertaking those Expeditions we had unduly dissipated our forces. He will forgive me if I do not attempt to argue those purely military questions with him, either as regards the Expedition to the Gallipoli Peninsula or the Expedition to Mesopotamia, and as regards the latter I may remind him that we are making every effort to produce as soon as possible all the necessary Papers, upon which either my noble and learned friend or anybody else in the House will be able to found a discussion. Nor will I attempt to argue with my noble and learned friend whether Parliament was 972 right or wrong in not entering into a closer discussion on the question of the supply of munitions in the autumn of the year 1914. He, in his róle of critic, holds that a useful public purpose would have been served by Parliamentary discussions on that subject. It is his view, I take it, that blunders and misfortunes which take place in the course of the war, whether within the United Kingdom or outside it, ought in the public interest to be discussed in Parliament. Such successes as by sea or land we may obtain clearly do not need discussion of that kind, because they, as we are all agreed, speak for themselves. My noble and learned friend, therefore, desires a continual Parliamentary commentary following the events of the war.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
That is the impression that I drew from my noble and learned friend's speech, and I cannot help thinking that the part which he has undertaken of general critic of the Government has somewhat run away with his sense of proportion. In many of these instances, as we have often pointed out before, public discussion, particularly at the time when discussion is most interesting—that is to say, immediately after the events have occurred—is difficult for two reasons. In the first place naval or military considerations, which we all agree must be paramount, are often involved, and involved in a sense which to the lay mind is often difficult to comprehend. The kind of information which the enemy may obtain from Parliamentary discussion on military or naval events is exceedingly hard to estimate except to those who are experts in naval and military affairs. Statements which may seem to a civilian perfectly harmless may in fact be thoroughly dangerous when they come, as of course they do, to the immediate notice of the enemy. Then, in the second place, there is the further difficulty, in discussing these matters so far as regards what happens abroad, 973 that in most eases the interests and plans of Our Allies are intimately involved; and the, House, I think, will see how difficult and often how impossible it is to engage in a full discussion of these matters—even after obtaining, as we should have to obtain, the general consent, from one or other of our Allies—without risk of unfairness or mischief.
But, of course, so far as concerns the subject-matter of this particular debate these considerations do not arise. This is a purely domestic matter, and if, therefore, we, deprecate immediate discussion of the kind which the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Midleton) has undertaken to a greater extent than my noble and learned friend below the Gangway did, it is for reasons which I will now explain. I quite agree that, on the face of it, this appears to be a case for the promptest possible investigation. But ought that investigation to take place in Parliament, either on these Benches or in another place, or ought it primarily to take place elsewhere? I would put this question to the judicial mind of my noble and learned friend below the Gangway. It is, of course, easy to say that the event shows of itself that there must have been somewhere blunders or neglect. That is a simple proposition. But it is important, surely, to ascertain at whose door these charges ought to lie. My right hon. friend the late Chief Secretary, whose concurrence in our councils for personal reasons we, my noble friend here and the rest of the Government, most deeply regret to lose, stated in the House of Commons that he desired to take a definite share of the blame for what had occurred on the ground that he had misunderstood and under-rated the true meaning of the criminal conspiracy which existed in Ireland; and he resigned his office. The Lord Lieutenant has also resigned his office, and the Under-Secretary, Sir Matthew Nathan, has also retired, and, as your Lordships know, inns place has been filled. To what extent those three gentlemen ought to incur blame for what has occurred and what other persons connected with Irish administration, civil or military, ought to be blamed is clearly a matter for investigation, because the real imposition of blame can only, as we hold, be allotted by an independent Inquiry undertaken by people who have no original bias of any kind, as is always desirable if you can find them, in 974 connection with Irish affairs, and by people who possess experience of the kind which is useful for such an Inquiry. It is proposed, therefore, that a Commission of three gentlemen should investigate the facts which brought about the unhappy events that have occurred recently in Dublin.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
No; it is not. I am sorry I have not the precise terms with me, but I will get them as soon as I can. My noble and learned friend below the Gangway holds the view that an investigation of this kind must necessarily be prolonged. He gave it as his opinion that it would take months to inquire into the causes of this insurrection. I confess I cannot see that it is necessary that such an Inquiry need be prolonged, on the understanding that all that it is necessary for such a Commission to inquire into are the actual events of those few unhappy days in Dublin and in other parts of Ireland, and the immediate causes which led up to them—that is to say, such facts as the precise amount of preliminary information possessed by the authorities in Ireland, either civil or military, to cause them to estimate the particular danger of a rising, and the steps they took to prevent or to nip in the bud an insurrection of the kind which occurred. The noble Viscount opposite thought that the investigation ought to go back to the time of the landing of arms at Howth in July of the year before last. I venture to think that if any attempt were made to carry the Inquiry by this particular Commission so far back as that, and to inquire into the general political causes which may or may not have contributed to this particular rising, then my noble and learned friend would be more than justified in supposing that such an Inquiry would spread over a prolonged period. Nor do I think that public opinion would allow it to be confined to the somewhat convenient date which was fixed by the noble Viscount as the proper one to start from. As he himself indicated, there might be serious differences of opinion about the date which ought to be chosen or the particular event which ought to be regarded as having set the example for the importation of arms into Ireland.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I do not quite see the connection. I think it is only obvious to the noble Viscount. The connection between the two things, I am afraid, is not real; and it certainly seems on the face of it that to limit this particular Inquiry to the events themselves and to the immediate responsibility of the Executive in Ireland for what has occurred is the proper course to take. What burden of responsibility may rest on His Majesty's Government as a whole is altogether another matter. That is a matter for Parliament, and clearly cannot be inquired into by the three gentlemen whose names I am going to mention in a moment who are about to enter upon this purely formal and official Inquiry.
The three gentlemen who have undertaken the task are, in the first place, Lord Hardinge of Penshurst. His career is well known to the whole House, and his particular qualification for this special task, as the House will no doubt recognise, is the fact that for six years he has administered India by common consent with great success, and that he has had a unique experience of Inquiries into criminal conspiracies and general questions of law and order; and from the point of view of Lord Hardinge's administration of the internal affairs of India I do not think it would have been possible to find anybody more fitted for the task. The other two gentlemen who have agreed to serve are a distinguished Judge, Sir Montague Shearman; and Sir Mackenzie Chalmers, who was for a time Legal Member of the Viceroy's Council in India—many years ago he was counsel to the Treasury, and for a time was Under-Secretary at the Home Office, having obtained there precisely the kind of experience which we consider would be most useful in an Inquiry of this kind. When in possession of the facts which will be elicited by this Inquiry it will then be for Parliament to consider in both Houses whether it is desired, as it conceivably will be, to discuss the whole question of responsibility for these events. But I venture to think that it is impossible to enter into a discussion of this kind without being in possession of the facts which the Inquiry will produce.
The noble Viscount opposite gave us an 976 interesting account of the warnings which he personally had given from time to time, both to some members of the Government and more particularly to the Irish Government. The noble Viscount reminded me of a case which he had mentioned to me in the course of last year, which so far as my recollection goes was confined to the attempts that were notoriously being made in some parts of Ireland to interfere with recruiting, and, as he was good enough to say, I duly passed it on to my colleague at the Irish Office, with whom the noble Viscount was in subsequent communication. The noble Viscount gave as his reason for not debating these subjects in the House before, or not trying to debate these subjects here—because I think I am accurate in saying that no noble Lord has, as a matter of fact, attempted to raise a debate upon the state of Ireland or upon the activities of the Sinn Feiners; at least I have certainly not heard of any desire on the part of any noble Lord to bring these matters forward—that a discussion of the kind might be held to be giving encouragement to the enemy by speaking as though rebellion were imminent in Leland, and that it was therefore better to refrain from a debate of the sort. I do not deny that there is force in what the noble Viscount said. At the same time, whatever may have been the noble Viscount's activities in informing the Government of Ireland of particular events which he considered highly suspicious and dangerous, so far as my personal knowledge goes no organised effort was made by any body of persons to bring before the Government—of course, I do not know what has happened in the Irish Administration, because I have no knowledge of what passes there—but no organised attempt was made to bring before the Government as a whole a collection of facts which would have made it imperative to take some further action, and for the Government as a whole to over-ride what the Government of Ireland appeared to have considered necessary in order to preserve peace there.
The noble Lord on the Cross Benches, Lord Oranmore, was good enough to send us a list of particular questions, referring to what happened in Dublin, which he desired to ask in the course of the debate. From what I have said I think my noble friend will see that we do not regard it as possible, in view of the Inquiry to be made at once by this Commission, to enter into a piece- 977 meal discussion of that kind on particular points. It is clear that it would not be fair to the Commission to have a running debate going on by means of question and answer referring to the particular subjects into which they have specially to inquire. I venture to submit that it is necessary to regard the whole business, so far as the action of the Irish Executive is concerned, as for the time being sub judice. It cannot be expected that those who are going to conduct an Inquiry of this kind would be anything but hampered by discussions, by question and answer, going on in either House of Parliament; and I have very little doubt, if particular questions are put in another place to Ministers about special events such as those which my noble friend on the Cross Benches (Lord Oranmore) desires to raise, that the questioner there would receive a similar answer to that which I am obliged to give.
And I do not think it is necessary to apologise to my noble friend or to the House generally for asking that a discussion of this kind should not take place now, owing to the belief which we hold that this particular Inquiry need only be a short one. I will not attempt to indicate the period by which, in my opinion, it ought to be concluded; but I feel certain, if it is limited, as it ought to be, that it ought not to be long. Then either my noble and learned friend, or anybody else, or the noble Viscount opposite, will be supplied with an infinitely larger bulk of material on which to work if and when it is desired to have a full Parliamentary discussion. Such a discussion now cannot be useful or fruitful. It is bound to be merely partial. We on this Bench are certainly not yet acquainted with a vast number of the details which the Commission will be able to obtain. Therefore I venture to put it to the House generally whether it is not wiser and fairer, and more likely in the end to bring about a really reasonable discussion and a proper allocation of responsibility, if noble Lords do not attempt to-day to enter into all the details, whether culled from newspapers or from private information, with regard to what has taken place in Dublin and in Ireland generally during these days. I sincerely hope that noble Lords, on consideration, will see that this is the wiser course to take. I would ask the House to believe that it is altogether foreign to our desire to attempt to prevent a full discussion on this subject, but we feel that this is not the moment for it.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of adding to the criticisms of the conduct of the Irish Government which have come from the noble Viscount opposite as well as from my noble and learned friend beside me (Lord Loreburn), and which will, no doubt, if the debate is continued, come from other quarters also. Nor, on the other hand, should I rise to defend the Irish Government, because, apart altogether from these last deplorable events, I think there have been several matters connected with the course of the Irish Administration and various points in its career which have been very grave errors calculated to induce what has happened later. Though I have had some little experience of the government of Ireland—and I am afraid that since the lamented death of one whom we all admired and respected so much, Lord St. Aldwyn, I am now the only member of your Lordships' House, with the exception of my noble friend Lord Morley, who has been responsible for Irish administration as Chief Secretary—I do not propose to enter into the questions which have been raised, because I confess to finding myself quite too ill-informed to be able to do so.
The facts which were given by the noble Viscount opposite were very serious; they made a strong prima facie case, no doubt, but they may of course be open to an answer. Any other remarks of the same kind that may be made may be open to an answer. We gathered from the noble Marquess that the Government are not now in a position to make that answer, that they have not got the facts, and I suppose they would say that in the present condition of things in Ireland they are not able to get the facts which would enable them to give a complete answer. If the Government are not yet properly informed, much less can the rest of us be; and for that reason I should feel it quite impossible to come to any conclusion as to the exact amount of culpability resting upon the Irish Executive.
It is necessary to have had something to do with Irish government to know how infinitely difficult and perplexing it is. I do not suppose there is any post in the British Empire which is more difficult than the Chief Secretaryship of Ireland. It may not be so important as some others, but I think the difficulties that belong to it are almost as great, because the politics of Ireland and the relations of the different forces that go to make up its politics are so intricate 979 and complicated, and you hear so many different statements, honestly made, from so many different quarters, that it is at all times immensely difficult, even in times of comparative peace, such as when it was my fortune to be connected with Ireland, to arrive at just conclusions. I remember some one who said, "The longer I stay in Ireland the less I think I understand it." That being so, I venture to interpose a plea for a certain amount of suspension of judgment until we know a little more about the matter. It is easy to be wise after the event. In this case the event proves that the judgment of the Irish Government and the view which they took of the character of Sinn Fein was a wrong one. About that there can be no doubt whatever. So much was acknowledged by Mr. Birrell himself in the manly and candid speech in which he admitted his mistake.
At the same time it is right to remember that there were considerations on the other side which might have gone further than it is easy for most of us now to realise to lead the Executive to think that it was better to wait rather than to precipitate matters. I do not at all defend the course that was actually taken, but I say that the question was not so simple and not so free from difficulty as anybody might suppose who had not had this particular kind of experience. And you must remember how utterly wild and absurd this whole project was. It was hardly possible to believe that any human beings outside Bedlam could have been guilty of such mad action. What could be more improbable than to think that even a set of hot-headed fanatics, such as most of the Sinn Fein were, whose heads were turned by traditions and memories which they had misunderstood and by old ideals which they had misapplied could be guilty of such wild conduct? Nobody can deny that a mistake was made; but was it unnatural that, looking at the absurdity of the thing, people should have thought it in the last degree unlikely that an armed rising of this kind would be attempted?
Let me, if I may, relieve a little of the darkness of the picture which the noble Viscount has drawn and which naturally arises to our minds when we think of these shocking events in Ireland. There has been more bloodshed than at any time since the Rebellion of 1798, and there have been, I am afraid, a good many murders committed incidentally. But, after all, compare this with the condition of things in 980 1798 or even with much later times. This is the first time when the vast majority of the Irish population has been on the side of law and order, the first time in which a political rising has found no sympathy at all from, I should almost venture to say, nine-tenths or more of the Irish people. In 1798, as you know, the bulk of the people were in sympathy with Wolfe Tone and the French attempts to raise Ireland. Even in 1848, which I am just able to remember, the attitude of the bulk of the Irish people was something between indifference and languid sympathy with the insurgent forces of that time; and I suppose the same to a large extent was the case also in the days of the Fenian rising. But here there have been no manifestations of sympathy with the rebels; and some of those districts which in former times were most disturbed, as, for instance, Tipperary, and parts of County Limerick at another time, County Kerry at another, and still later County Clare, all those districts as far as I know—I speak subject to what may be disclosed to us later—have remained quite quiet, and the only places where there has been any serious difficulty and danger have been Dublin (in which there is always a very dangerous element in the worst part of the town) and the notoriously disturbed district of East Galway around Loughrea. The rest of Ireland has remained quiet and has entirely condemned this wild rising.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
I am obliged to the noble Lord for reminding me of Enniscorthy, which I had forgotten. There the trouble seems to have been entirely local. I have not heard the details.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
That is really included in the Dublin rising, for it may be taken as a part of it. In these circumstances I cannot help hoping that the work of this Commission will be pushed forward as fast as possible, and that it will be very soon in our power to give that judgment which my noble and learned friend beside me now invites us to do upon the recent events.
There is one remark more which I want to make in consequence of what fell from the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton. He spoke of the maintenance of Martial Law in order to obtain the complete surrender 981 of all arms. Everybody who knows Ireland will agree that it is very desirable that the fullest possible power should be given for the pacification of the country by the seizing of all arms at the earliest possible moment, and I think the noble Viscount was also entirely justified in saying that members of the Sinn Fein organisation should be dismissed from the Government posts which it appears they have been allowed to occupy, and I am very much surprised that they should have been allowed to occupy those posts, because although Sinn Fein began in an insignificant way it was evidently becoming more seditious and more treasonable in every later year that passed over its head.
As to the question of further punishment, it is a moral of all, and especially of Irish, history that far more harm has been done by undue severity than by undue clemency. I think it is a moral of history in general. There never was a better instance than the clemency which was shown after the conclusion of the great Civil War in America, when not a single person suffered death except those who were convicted of what were positive murders. A like example of clemency has been given by the Ministry of General Botha in South Africa. I feel certain it will contribute greatly to the rapid pacification of Ireland and to the destruction of any sympathy with those who have been guilty of these crimes if no more executions take place and as large a clemency as is compatible with the maintenance of order is extended by the Government for the treasonable and wicked acts of which many of these misguided men have been guilty. I venture to hope that the fact that there has been no sympathy shown by the bulk of the Irish people with this movement is an augury of better times for Ireland, and that we have now seen the last of these wild attempts to bring back the bad traditions of an earlier time, to forget the immense benefits which have been conferred upon Ireland in recent years by the Imperial Parliament, and to ignore the new spirit which, in spite of these unfortunate events, does, as I believe, pervade the great mass of the Irish people.
THE EARL OF DESART
My Lords, as I understand, the purpose of the speech of the noble Viscount who has just addressed the House is to support the adjournment of the discussion of this question until the 982 Commission which is about to be appointed has reported. Before commenting upon that, I would like to say that I noticed a very remarkable statement of his, by way of excuse for or a possible explanation of the inaction of the Government, that anybody would have thought it absurd that such an attempt at a rising should take place. I can only say that a great many people in Ireland, I think the people who knew Ireland best, not only thought it not absurd but anticipated it for a long time, and spoke about it, and would, if allowed, have done what they could to avert it. The noble and learned Earl, in moving his Resolution, presented an indictment against the policy of the Government in measured and temperate language; and nobody who heard him could doubt that his object was to seek an explanation, and that even if not now, then shortly, that explanation must be given. He was followed by the noble Viscount (Lord Midleton) who produced a long list of warnings that had been given to the Government. I think the list must have been startling to every member of this House.
The noble Marquess who leads the House says that no formal presentation of these things was ever put to the Government as a whole. I do not think that anybody who listened to what Lord Midleton said could have any doubt that the Government, or many members of it, had access to what Lord Midleton described. Indeed, they must have had access to much more than that, through information supplied to them by their agents. But, these two speeches having been made, the noble Marquess stated that the time was not ripe for them to be answered. He gave, as his reason for saying that, the fact that there is an Inquiry to be held by three gentlemen into the immediate causes—I hope I am speaking correctly—of the recent insurrection or rebellion in Dublin.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I might correct the noble Earl to this extent, that I have no reason to suppose that the inquiry will be confined to Dublin.
THE EARL OF DESART
I was going to ask that question. The Inquiry is to relate to the immediate circumstances of this outbreak, in whatever part of Ireland it may have taken place or may have been threatened. But the arguments in support of the Motion relate to matters far anterior to that to which this Inquiry will relate; 983 and, with the greatest desire to pay respect to what the noble Marquess says and to fall in with his wishes, I cannot see that it would be desirable to postpone this debate, the Resolution having been moved and seconded, without the discussion that it most certainly deserves.
There is another consideration. We cannot, I think, stop at the causes remote or immediate here. We must consider them in their due light, and have some regard to what were the consequences. It is all very well for the two Houses of Parliament to say, "We will sit still and do nothing while this Inquiry is proceeding." Events in Ireland are not going to stand still while this Inquiry is being held, and it is of the utmost importance, whatever view any one may hold, that the action that is to be taken should be watched and considered as it goes on, so that false steps should be avoided. As the noble and learned Earl has said, Parliament should have some cognisance of what is being done, should have some power of using its influence to see that what it may think right should be done. I confess that at one time I was not indisposed to think that this debate would be premature, because I thought it would be better that the public should know more. But I think it would be extremely undesirable that we should refrain, now that the debate has been started, from discussing the matter in a manner in which it can only be completely discussed. Therefore I am sorry that, in spite of the appeal of the noble Marquess, I think I must say what I had intended to say when I came here tonight.
There is not much that one can add to the melancholy history, the melancholy steps on the down grade, since the period after Mr. Wyndham's Land Act of 1903. In common with others who live in Ireland, who love that country, I was then in the highest hopes. And we all know the tribute that Mr. Birrell himself paid when he took over the government of the country. But we all know also what, step by step, has occurred: the rousing of passions by the Home Rule controversy, the formation of the Ulster Volunteers, the reply of the National Volunteers, the breaking off of the Sinn Fein Volunteers, the Larkin Labour Volunteers, the introduction of arms—that is all melancholy history, up to the toleration of open disloyalty not only in Dublin but throughout the country, of confessedly disloyal volunteer forces marching through the country towns with rifles and banners in 984 the middle of a war untouched, unmolested by the police, and the population looking on. This has brought about its natural result. One is really reminded of the incidents in a Greek drama, which step by step draw on to the inevitable and final tragedy which is the certain result and direct consequence of an obvious cause.
And as to warning, my Lords, we have heard from my noble friend Lord Midleton of the many warnings which were given to the Government as to what would happen. I myself—though that stands in a different category—in November of 1914 twice ventured to call the attention of this House to the matter; and remember that in November, 1914, things were very different from what they were in April, 1916. In 1914 the Sinn Fein organisation was led by a few men, fanatics, but men without means. It was not thoroughly organised, and, unless I am badly advised by those in Ireland with whom I have consulted, at that time you might have met that movement and suppressed it with a minimum of difficulty and a minimum of risk of any disturbance. That opportunity was lost. The movement has grown in organisation. It possessed itself of rifles, and was supplied with funds. We know the rest, and what it has produced. I have been in Ireland during the fateful ten days, and only crossed last night to this country. It is startling to come from the realities there into the newspaper—and I think to some extent the Parliamentary—atmosphere here of minimising what has occurred. It illustrates how incomplete is the appreciation, not only of the events themselves that have happened in Ireland, but of the signification that must attach to those events.
Attention, naturally, has been focussed on events in Dublin. God knows there was reason enough for that! But of the situation in the country districts I think very little is known. Indeed, even Lord Bryce expressed incomplete or little knowledge of the serious rising in County Wexford, which has been the subject of more notice in the newspapers than most of the movements in the South and West. Indeed, people talk—and I have had letters from friends in this strain—of the rebellion being over. I do not think there will be organised fighting again; it may be over in that sense. But I wish I could think that the danger to unprotected people, the danger to the Constabulary, the danger of further disturbance was over.
985 The country may be divided into three groups. There was Dublin, which we know a great deal about. There were places, such as Enniscorthy, Meath, Louth, parts of Galway—I am not sure about Mayo—where unquestionably there were risings of a serious character. There was the murder in Fermoy of a police constable, the murder of two policemen in Kerry, and there was that terrible incident when a gallant band of Constabulary in Meath, commanded by inspector Grey, were practically wiped out after fighting to their last cartridge. These incidents lead to feelings which are not suppressed in a few days, and you must be on your guard against them in the future. Then there was the situation in districts where no disturbance took place. I live in one of those districts, and I see them described in the newspapers as "quiet," "peaceful," or "normal." Quiet, yes; but I do not think anybody who lives in them could have said they were normal or peaceful. There was a very thin crust between peace and the eruption of volcanic fires.
I felt it my duty to be in communication with the county inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary, on whom lay a very heavy responsibility. He had charge of a town of 10,000 inhabitants. There were no troops. He had a very small body of police. I know the number, but perhaps the noble Marquess would not think it right that I should state it. But it was very small. The town lies rather low, and the military barracks are outside. Kilkenny Castle, which contains some of the most priceless documents in connection with the history of Ireland, stands outside on a hill. There is also the very ancient and interesting cathedral. The military barracks were indefensible and were left in charge of a caretaker; they were extensive barracks for three batteries of artillery. I am going into this detail because this case is typical, I believe, of what was going on all over Ireland. Knowing that there had been for months and years an active Sinn Fein propaganda going on, that there were active leaders in Kilkenny, and that the followers were not of a number to be neglected or despised, the question was whether the safety of the place could be ensured if anything happened. That was uncertain. Being as I was with the officer in charge every day I wish to say in public that I was extraordinarily impressed by the judgment, calmness, and 986 fairness with which he met the situation. I will not go into the steps that were taken —giving confidence and keeping people quiet—but they answered and succeeded, and that is the best tribute to pay to them. I wanted to say that, because it so often happens that deserving officers when they take active steps to suppress disturbance get the credit they deserve, but are apt to be overlooked altogether when disturbance is averted.
This situation lasted from April 24 to May 6, when reinforcements came and steps were able to be taken to remove the danger that had hung over the town during that period. An arrest had to be made on May 2, because there was an American Sinn Fein propagandist who was agitating and endeavouring to make the people rise, and the danger of leaving him at large was considered greater than that of arresting him. His arrest was happily effected without disturbance. On May 6 the troops came. Twenty-three persons, all leaders, were arrested and sent to Dublin. So the immediate danger was averted. I believe the National Volunteers offered their services, and I have no doubt that as a body they have very little sympathy with the Sinn Feiners. I think it is due to them that I should say this, but it is obvious that to have invited their assistance would have been likely to provoke the disturbance we wanted to avert. We believed, rightly or wrongly, that the Sinn Feiners were armed, and the National Volunteers in my part of the country are very little armed and very little organised. It is a fact—it will be verified, perhaps, later on how far this extended to other parts of the country—that in the Post Office there were three men known to be Sinn Feiners; they were suspended immediately after the rising in Dublin—one of them was a brother of a prominent Sinn Fein leader who has been arrested. I am afraid it is rather significant of the Irish Administration during the last ten years that for public employment loyalty was not the best qualification. I may have been tedious in telling the story of Kilkenny. But I have gone into detail as it is only one class of incident which must have occurred in all parts of the country and of which the public would hear nothing. People do not know what those who were responsible for authority had to bear, what anxiety they had to undergo. For if anything had happened—and this is the point 987 really—if in Dublin they had had a success, if those arms had been landed from Germany, there was no possible means of meeting any general rising in the country. It would have gone on unchecked, and had that disaster happened you would practically have had to reconquer the country. It was a terrible peril, one in which peaceable, loyal, and worthy subjects of His Majesty should not have been placed.
I was in Dublin yesterday, and I do not think that anybody who sees it can minimise what has happened. I have seen a shattered village in France with hardly any living inhabitants in it. The quarter of Dublin that has been wrecked presented a spectacle as appalling as, if not more appalling than, that deserted village in France. I never thought to live to see such a thing in this country. The photographs in the newspapers give no idea of it. The numbers of the dead are being stated. I do not suppose the Government say that the figures are final. I feel sure they are not, but that will be a subject of inquiry and it is not necessary to go into it now.
The noble and learned Earl who initiated this discussion said there had been too much reticence in Parliament and too much secrecy. And looking at the tone of comment in the newspapers I did think that it was right that some one who had been in Ireland during this time should state his impressions of what he has seen. There have been incidents even in Dublin which I do not think have been mentioned but which ought to be mentioned. No doubt there was German ammunition. There was no horror of war that was omitted by some of these men, I do not say by all. Soft-nosed bullets were used, police on their beats just before the outbreak were shot, Red Cross motor ambulances were fired upon, and unarmed and wounded Army officers from the hospitals were fired upon while walking in the street. I heard yesterday on unquestionable authority that among the wounded Sinn Feiners in the hospitals it was common to hear, as rather a sort of general statement, "We know our mistakes now and what to avoid next time." And the hooligan class—which exists in every big town—are said, by those who have gone into the subject, to be determined, on the departure of the soldiers, to go for the police because they gave information.
You do not extinguish in a few minutes fires that have flared up like this. It is not 988 a pleasant thing to urge what used to be called "resolute government." or that Martial Law should be continued, but it would be no kindness to Ireland to advocate any other course. You must protect the peaceable people. I am speaking, I honestly believe, in the interests of the unprotected people in Ireland who live so largely in isolated and solitary houses, and for the Constabulary, who have served you so well on their lonely beats. My Lords, if the Government think there will not be an aftermath of passion and hatred following this, I believe they are profoundly mistaken. It maybe that the rising has been suppressed and that what has been done will carry fear into many hearts and many minds, but if the Government entertain the idea that bitter feelings will not survive I think they are mistaken, and they must guard against them. They are mistaken if they think that they have now restored the ordinary law, and can rely on juries convicting. The law-abiding people of Ireland must be given the sense that they have the arm of the law round them, that they have the protection of the Government. That will not be done if the Government relax.
I already see a clamour that this and that must not be done, a sort of claim that executions and military trials must stop. I agree with my noble friend Lord Midleton that where murder has been committed the appropriate penalty should follow. I do not wish any excessive punishment to be imposed, or any punishment indeed, on many of those who took part. But how can any country, more especially any country in time of war, afford to spare the leaders of a movement of this kind? The measure of the consequences is for the Court that tries them, and I think it is a slander to say that any of the people who compose those Courts will err on the side of undue severity, or do more than their duty in any case. I hope it may be unnecessary to extend great severity further, but it is absolutely necessary that you should show that treason cannot be tolerated in time of war. One sees no comment on the shooting of the German spy taken in this country. His trade is not respected, but he is a brave man and an open enemy. What about the traitor who in the middle of a war tries, in alliance with our enemy, to attack us on what he believes our most vulnerable point? There is no doubt at all of the expectation of German co-operation. I am quite sure about that. Round my 989 country machine-made rumours were spread and believed in. First, that the Germans were bombarding Queenstown, that Verdun had fallen, that we had been turned out of Salonika, and, finally, that the French had concluded a separate peace. Those rumours were circulated to convince the people that England was failing, and that this was the moment to attack her. I do not think people here know how nearly all these things succeeded. We do.
I have thought it my duty to tell your Lordships some of the truths concerning the things that have happened. I do not think I have trenched on the Inquiry, or that anything I have said can do any harm. Peace will have to be kept, certainly until the arms have been collected, and it may be longer. Until the danger is removed great care will have to be taken in not weakening the law. I long as much as can any member of this House for the restoration of normal conditions, and I believe that justice and strength tempered with mercy will bring that end appreciably nearer, and is the best way to attain it. In conclusion, I must say we look to the Government who have allowed this thing to happen that they will make sure that we have seen its worst consequences and that it will go no further; that they will take whatever measures are necessary which will, not I fear for many years lead to the happy conditions in 1905, but which, by confidence and justice, will gradually bring back to Ireland a state of security. If the Government can do this, it is well. But if the Government cannot, and at the same time claim that they cannot constitutionally be replaced without disaster, then I ask, Who is to help us? Who is to govern us?
LORD ORANMORE and BROWNE
My Lords, I wish to say a few words on this subject, and I desire to use the greatest restraint in doing so, so that no word of Party politics should come into any of my remarks, for I am perfectly certain that anything of that kind is of all things to be avoided at the present time. And I further think that any Irishman, be he Unionist or Nationalist, who passed through Dublin as I did last Wednesday, who saw the town in the possession of the military, with pickets on every bridge and also at every street corner, who viewed the ruins of many of the largest buildings in that city and saw rising to the sky the smoke from the smouldering ashes under which lay the 990 bodies of both civilians and soldiers, who saw over-turned tramcars, motor-cars, and lamp-posts forming the ground work of barricades in the streets—I think that anybody who has seen those things can only feel sorrow and shame for what has taken place, and anger against those who are the cause of those occurrences. Surely it is a tragedy, at a moment when Party passions in Ireland were lower than I had ever known them in my life, when men of all political Parties were trying to co-operate together for a common cause and to find out rather what they had in common than what separated them, that once more the malignant fate which seems to watch over Ireland should dash to the ground the prosperity which seemed to be firmly grasped in her hands.
I am very glad that this Subject has been brought forward by my noble and learned friend, because we know that he is a friend of every project of democratic reform, and he is one of the very few members of your Lordships' House who has been able to convince me of the strength of his Home Rule convictions. This makes me certain that he would be the first to sympathise with any legitimate national aspiration either by word or by deed, and consequently his indictment in this case is all the more scathing. I am very glad that he called special attention to one point—namely, that the responsibility for this as far as the House is concerned should not lie with any one particular person, not even with the whole Irish Executive, but that it must be shared by the whole of His Majesty's Government.
We have been told that many members of the Government are so occupied with their various duties in connection with the war that it is impossible for them to give sufficient time to the general affairs of the country. My Lords, is this any excuse? I do not think so. If this is true—and I have no doubt it is true—surely it behoved the Prime Minister in the first place, and in a lesser place every member of the Cabinet, to see that the men to whom they entrusted the government of Ireland, to whom I may say they gave carte blanche as to what was to be done at this most critical moment in her history, should be men who should be fully competent to fulfil their duty. We heard that some of them have retired, and I do not wish to say very much about these gentlemen; but I think it has been proved up to the hilt that epigram- 991 matic optimism is not the way by which Ireland can be ruled. I was going to except from the criticism one member of the Government—the Lord Lieutenant. I was very sorry to hear that he had resigned, as I had hoped very much that he might have still continued in Ireland. Lord Wimborne assumed the Lord Lieutenancy at a time of political truce, and was continued in his office by the Coalition Government in order that he might represent a Constitutional Sovereign in a Constitutional manner and rescue the Viceroyalty from the disfavour into which it had fallen before his advent. And I think I may say that Lord Wimborne performed that task admirably, not mixing in any way in politics and doing his utmost to promote the social, economic, and intellectual welfare of the country. I think it would have been almost impossible for him to have taken a leading part (without the approval of other members of the Executive) in suppressing the Sinn Fein organisation, for he would have found against him not only the whole of that organisation, which perhaps would not have mattered much, but also a strong feeling amongst the greater number of Nationalists, who looked upon the Sinn Feiners as merely hot-headed vapourers who were not likely to turn their words into action. I have no brief to speak for Lord Wimborne, but I think it is only right, as a Unionist living in Ireland, to express my gratitude for the part he acted as Lord Lieutenant and my regret that he has resigned the appointment.
There is another gentleman about whom I should like to say a few words, who is not a member of the Executive but who took upon himself the other day a certain amount of blame for what occurred—Mr. Redmond. I am very glad to have this opportunity of paying a tribute to what Mr. Redmond has done since the war began which is gratefully recognised by his political opponents. He has had a very difficult task to perform; he has had to convince the members of his Party that it was their duty and also to their interest to side with England in this campaign. It would have been absolutely impossible for him to have urged the suppression of the Sinn Fein movement, because if he had done so his Party would have been riven from top to bottom. He had promised that without the aid of a single soldier Ireland should be kept quiet, and the only way in which he could hope to perform that promise was by implicit 992 trust, by having that faith which would move mountains, which endureth all things and believeth all things. Unfortunately he has been mistaken in his belief, and very sincerely I venture to offer him my sympathy.
But if I wish to exempt these two gentlemen from blame, the same cannot be said for the other members of the Irish Executive. My noble friend Lord Midleton has given us many instances to show how fully they were made aware of the danger of the situation, and I should like to add one more to what he has stated. Only five days before the insurrection broke out, at a meeting of the Dublin Corporation on the Wednesday before Easter, a member of that Corporation produced a secret document which he stated he had been able to procure, which was in the hands of the military authorities, giving full particulars as to what was to be done to the Sinn Fein leaders and to Liberty Hall in case the Executive Department should take action in order to carry these instructions into effect. I do not know whether the secret document which he quoted was absolutely correct in every particular, but I think it shows how far the Sinn Fein organisation extended, and proved, what is commonly believed in Ireland, that in nearly every branch of Irish Administration Sinn Feiners are to be found. I was very glad my noble friend Lord Midleton pressed that any members of this body found in any Government Office should be dismissed, and I hope if any are found in this country—for it is said they also exist over here—that the same will be their fate.
We know that for two years the Irish Government have allowed the Sinn Feiners to drill openly, that these men have printed and published newspapers of a most seditious nature which have had currency all over the country, that they have been allowed to interfere with and stop recruiting meetings in every part of Ireland, that although occasionally their leaders have been arrested they have been freed after two or three days, and, above all, that they have been allowed the free importation of arms and munitions. I know that the reply to that—which the noble Marquess hinted at—was that the importation of arms into Ireland originated with the Ulster Volunteers, and that if anybody ought to be prosecuted with regard to that they ought to be the first to suffer.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I say that I never hinted anything of the sort. I am very anxious not to be misrepresented, and I must say that my noble friend is absolutely misstating what I said.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
I thought the noble Marquess said, when my noble friend Lord Midleton referred to the importation of arias at Howth, that it was necessary to go further back if those matters should be referred to. But I am sorry if I misrepresented what the noble Marquess said. At any rate, there are many people who hold the view I have put forward. And I think a great deal was to be said in favour of that course if the Government at that time thought themselves strong enough to carry it into effect. But that is going into Party politics, and I do not want to say any more about that at present. I should like to point out with regard to the Ulster and Nationalist Volunteers, that they were totally different from the Sinn Feiners, because they were under the control of responsible leaders who had given an undertaking that there should be a political truce while the war lasted. Therefore up to the time of this rebellion we could confidently believe that there would be no outbreak with regard to either body. But the Sinn Feiners were totally different; they were absolutely free lances, known to be disloyal, and it was perfectly certain to anybody who knew Ireland that they would take advantage of the old saying that "England's peril was Ireland's opportunity."
As the noble Marquess has said, I gave notice of many questions to the Irish Office. I did not think they would answer all of them because it was a very long list, but when I mentioned what they were I hoped they would contradict any of them which they believed not to be correct. May I mention a few of them? In the first place, I should like very much to have known what was the garrison in Dublin at the time on Easter Monday when the insurrection broke out, because it is stated that it had been reduced to an abnormally small number and that nearly all the officers of that very small garrison were absent at some races. Another point is whether it is true that at midnight on Easter Monday all the troops available at Athlone were removed to Dublin, and that consequently for two days the West of Ireland was without military protection of any kind 994 whatsoever; and during that time there was a Sinn Fein rising consisting of, some people say 500, some say 1,700, Sinn Feiners, who marched from Galway to Athenry, where they seized the premises belonging to the Department of Agriculture, made hostages of the officials on the spot, and proceeded to slaughter all the cattle on the farm. This did not tend to increase the feeling of security amongst the people in the neighbourhood. It is also stated that arrangements had been made to seize the pier at Fenit, where it was expected that a large quantity of ammunition would be landed from Germany. I point out these things as taking place in different, parts of Ireland, as I should like it to be known that the rising was not confined to Dublin, as appeared to be supposed by the noble Viscount (Lord Bryce). The Sinn Feiners elsewhere were only waiting for success in Dublin in order to break into rebellion.
I think this is a serious indictment against the Government; and now we are told that the rebellion has been squashed. Salutary punishment has been and is being inflicted on the leaders of the insurrection, and nobody is anxious that more should be done than is absolutely necessary. But when we read of casualties of over 500 amongst our troops and Constabulary and know that over £3,000,000 worth of damage has been done to property in Dublin alone, we cannot say that the punishment that has been inflicted has been too severe. But in addition to the ringleaders there are a large number of rank and file who are at present in England, and I am sure that everybody would be anxious that such clemency as is possible should be extended to them. If they are sentenced to short terms of imprisonment in English prisons they will return to Ireland with their feelings against England even more bitter than before the rebellion started. It has been suggested in many newspapers and has been approved by many people that, if possible, these young men should be permitted to join the British Army. If this is possible nobody would be more glad than I should be, because I believe the result would be that at the end of the war they would return to Ireland better citizens, with larger views of their duties. I am told that this was tried at the time of the rebellion of 1745 in Scotland with excellent results, and I do not see why equally good results should not follow in the present ease.
995 There is one more thing which I think is necessary, and that is the complete disarmament in Ireland of everybody with the exception of the Forces of the Crown. This can easily be done if Sir Edward Carson and Mr. Redmond consent; but even without that consent it should be carried into effect. We have Martial Law in Ireland, and, although it would not be easy, I believe it would be quite possible to disarm everybody there; and I am perfectly certain that the result of doing so would be to create a feeling of much greater security in Ireland with all quiet peaceable people, who would believe that the Government were trying to retrieve the errors of the past and were alive to the dangers which still exist in that country.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I do not intend at this hour to detain your Lordships at any length, but I should not like this debate to go through and give a silent vote, as I hope I shall have the opportunity of giving a vote when, as I understand, this debate concludes tomorrow. The noble Marquess who leads the House has made two personal announcements to-night. It was news to us that the Viceroy had resigned, and I join with my noble friend who has just sat down in regretting to hear that news. I agree with him in my admiration for the way in which during the short time he has been there the Viceroy has conducted his business. I do not feel that he is in any way responsible for the inaction of the Government which brought about the late catastrophe, and I say frankly, in the bitterness that I feel against certain individuals, that I feel no bitterness whatever against the Lord Lieutenant as having had any responsibility for the position in which we find ourselves.
The noble Marquess made a second announcement. He announced the names of the Commission who are to inquire into all the facts winch the Government already know, and which, according to our case, if they had been made use of might have avoided the recent outbreak. Personally, of course, not one of your Lordships will have the smallest criticism to make of those names. I myself am second to none in my admiration for the distinguished career of Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, who will preside over the Commission; but I cannot help feeling some queerness as regards the appointment when we consider that it is 996 made at this moment. What is the position? We are all extremely anxious over two catastrophes that have overtaken us at this moment—one in Dublin and the other in Mesopotamia. We are sure to have an Inquiry as to what has happened in Dublin. Are we to have an Inquiry as to what has happened in Mesopotamia? I expect so. It will certainly be asked for. Who are responsible for what has happened in Mesopotamia? The Government; and certainly the late Viceroy of India prima facie shares some responsibility. Well, it almost fills me with despair when I come to think that His Majesty's Government select one who possibly may be in no way to blame for Mesopotamia but who, at any rate, will have to clear himself of blame over Mesopotamia, to conduct the Inquiry and to allocate the blame as to what has happened in Dublin. It sounds almost farcical. If the Government had not announced that they had already staged the first act, I confess that if I wanted to continue the farce I should be inclined to ask, Will Mr. Birrell be made the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into what has taken place in Mesopotamia? It would be a pretty picture, my Lords. Mr. Birrell whitewashing Mesopotamia, and Lord Hardinge whitewashing Dublin, and both joining hands to whitewash the Government! I am sure that seriously the Government cannot contemplate any such thing, but it does make one feel supremely anxious and entitled to say that the Government have not yet realised the anxiety which many of their supporters and followers feel as to the lightheartedness with which they are treating the whole situation.
I do not think it necessary to go any deeper into the question of the warnings which the Government received. The situation had been described in the Government's own language, as read out by my noble friend, as "bluff." But, after all, the Chief Secretary has practically admitted that he knew the facts, and he said, quite honestly, that he misunderstood them. But what makes me feel more anxious is, as the noble Earl, Lord Desart, said—and I can support him from knowledge in Ireland—that the minimising is still going on; the minimising went on all through the week before last, when the rebellion was proceeding. I was astounded to see, in the first newspaper that came into my hand for five days, that on Tuesday, the 25th, 997 the situation was described in the House of Commons as being "well in hand." That statement, I suppose, was made at between half-past three and four o'clock in the afternoon. At about half-past five I drove into Dublin. I saw no sign of a soldier or a policeman until I got within reach of the Sinn Fein bullets. There was not the smallest attempt to warn peaceable citizens that there was any danger. The situation was entirely in the hands of the Sinn Feiners, and no one else. Yet two hours before the Government official statement was that the situation was "well in hand." There was no sign, at any rate, of any dealing with the situation on the main routes. What few troops there were I was informed were confined to barracks, and I was told that they were confined to one barrack in particular because they had not enough rifles to enable them to come out. And so on again last week.
Your Lordships will remember the Sunday on which officially the insurrection came to an end. Sniping was going on two days afterwards. I have to-day seen a traveller who crossed from Dublin last night, and he tells me that people were warned yesterday even not to go to certain districts because there might be sniping going on. And again as regards my local knowledge I can confirm what the noble Earl, Lord Desart, said. I live in a district which has been described all along as "all quiet." It is true there was no disorder there, but there was no disorder only because the situation was admirably dealt with. Three lots of Sinn Feiners set out towards the county town—I have spoken myself with an eye-witness of one of the parties—and they only went back because whoever was responsible (I do not know who it was) acted with the greatest promptitude. A number of troops were brought over to Clonmel in motor lorries from Fermoy, and the Sinn Feiners found that discretion was the better part of valour. I agree with my noble friend that whoever prevented that outbreak should have the credit. But it is hardly fair to describe a district as "all quiet" when steps of that kind had to be taken to make it quiet.
This being our knowledge of the insurrection, I do feel the importance of your Lordships expressing some opinion with regard to it. After all, we are at war, as the noble and learned Earl (Lord Loreburn) reminded us. And what has been one result of this insurrection? How many 998 troops have been called upon to help quell it? I do not know, but I should be ready to wager any moderate sum that it must be as many as 20,000; and if the services of 20,000 troops and of an able General, whose action we all greatly admire, had to be wasted in Ireland when all the troops and the best Generals we possess are wanted on the other side of the English Channel, surely we are entitled to know from the Government—and for this purpose no Inquiry by a Commission is necessary—what steps they are taking to prevent a recurrence of what happened the week before last. Martial Law cannot go on for ever. I agree with my noble friend behind me that Martial Law is necessary until it has worked out its purpose.
But what is going to happen then? Disarmament is suggested. I do not know if your Lordships are all aware of the fact that in normal times there are less restrictions on owning arms in Ireland than there are in any other part of the United Kingdom. With Martial Law abolished we shall, I presume, resume that position. There are certain provisions in this country as regards the ownership of pistols which do not apply to Ireland, and in this country I suppose the game and gun licences are some restriction; but it is a well-known fact that these licences have been more honoured in the breach than in the observance for a good many years in Ireland. Hence it is that private armies have grown up. What would disarmament therefore mean? I am sorry to say that I disagree with my noble friend as to the desirability of disarmament, because under the régime we have got accustomed to I cannot persuade myself that there would be any great check on the Sinn Feiners rearming themselves although disarmament had been decreed. I felt it necessary to sleep two nights last week with a loaded rifle beside my bed. I was informed by the police that the Sinn Feiners were out and in between me and the nearest military; and it would not have diminished my anxiety if, disarmament having been ordained, I had known that the rebels were fully armed but that a grateful and protecting Government had taken my own rifle away. Yet that is what I feel is more than likely to happen if disarmament is decreed by His Majesty's Government. The loyal people will disarm, but the disloyal will remain armed. Yet if Martial Law is taken off and if Sir John Maxwell leaves Ireland, we have not the 999 slightest guarantee that rebellion may not very shortly resume. The regulation of arms, at any rate, must in some way or other be undertaken.
Therefore I appeal to the Government, especially as this debate is not to conclude to-night, to tell us frankly what they are going to do. It has nothing whatever to do with the ascertainment of detailed facts by Lord Hardinge's Commission. Tell us what you are going to do to ensure peace in Ireland in the immediate future. I do not ask that you should do anything in the spirit of vengeance. I associate myself with noble Lords who, whilst desiring punishment, do not desire vindictive punishment. I agree with the noble and learned Earl opposite that there are dupes among the Sinn Feiners, though a bullet fired by a dupe can go just as hard as a bullet fired by a murderer. Above all, there does seem to me to stand the necessity of knowing what our future security is to be—security that no more innocent lives are to be endangered by anybody who chooses to put on a green 1000 uniform and start sniping, and security that our energies and attention are not to be diverted to our own shores when they ought to be entirely concentrated on the efforts of our friends on the other side of the English Channel. I regretted very much that I saw no sign of any anxiety on this head in the speech of the noble Marquess who leads the House, and it is in the hope that by recording our anxiety as to what has happened we may induce the Government to be a little more energetic in the direction that they should be, that I trust the noble and learned Earl opposite will divide upon his Motion when the Question is put tomorrow.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned—(Lord Beresford.)
§ On Question, the further debate adjourned until to-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.