§ Debate on the policy of His Majesty's Government in Ireland resumed (according to Order).
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, in rising to resume this debate I venture to express the hope that any criticisms which are made in the South and West of Ireland, whether in the Press or elsewhere, will not be considered to have arisen from a caviling spirit. We Unionists in the South and West of Ireland have always realised the immensity of the difficulties which present themselves to an English Government in dealing with Ireland, difficulties which have increased a hundredfold since the war, while the facilities and opportunities for dealing with them have decreased in a similar ratio. Therefore, my Lords, any criticisms which may arise are made with one object and one object only—that is, the furtherance of the welfare of Ireland not only for the Irish but also from the Imperial point of view. We welcomed a remark made by the Chief 432 Secretary in another place to the effect that one of the first steps which are to be taken is to rescue the liberties of the great majority of moderate Irishmen from the licence and terrorism of the extremists. If His Majesty's Government succeed in enforcing this, they will have gone three-quarters of the way towards quietening Ireland; and I congratulate the C ief Secretary on having realised this vital fact so early in his Irish career.
I have often wondered why the opinions of that section of the Irish people whose loyalty has never been questioned—I mean the Unionists in the South and West of Ireland—should hardly ever have been consulted, but should almost invariably have been neglected. The opinions of the Nationalists have been considered, and very properly. Their knowledge of Ireland is second to none, and he would be a poor Irishman who would fail to recognise their ability and the depth and sincerity of the opinions of such men as Redmond and those who thought, and still think, with him. The opinions of the Ulstermen have always been consulted, in spite perhaps of the rather non possumus attitude on Irish politics and the rather unhelpful attitude which is, perhaps, included in their party motto, "We will not have Home Rule." But the opinions of the Southern Unionists are always ignored, in spite of their knowledge of Ireland, and more particularly their knowledge of those parts of Ireland which have always caused, and are now causing, such infinite anxiety to His Majesty's Government. It is, I think, an error of judgment on the part of His Majesty's Government not to have consulted them. Owing to their peculiar knowledge of the affected parts of Ireland, the Southern Unionists could have told His Majesty's Government when it was possible to bring in Conscription. The opportunity is gone; I doubt whether it will ever recur. The Southern Unionists could have told His Majesty's Government when it was that Irish Conscription had become at least more than difficult. It might have saved His Majesty's Government that rather mortifying confession of failure which was wrapped up, in my judgment at least, in the Proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant, and further endorsed by the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, the other night, in your Lordships' House.
Now I understand that Conscription is not dead but sleepeth. If your Lordships 433 will allow me, since it is only dormant, I would like to say a few words upon what I believe to be an impracticable policy. The object of Conscription is obviously to obtain as many men as possible, directly or indirectly, for the Army in France. For reasons which I will presently give your Lordships, I believe that on the profit and loss account of this policy it will be a failure. The first of those reasons is that I believe it will take more willing English soldiers to enforce Conscription than you will get unwilling Irish soldiers by its enforcement. Every time I have been in Ireland lately I have made it my business to try and find out by personal observation and inquiry what the chances are of the success of Conscription. I have been in correspondence with men in various affected parts of Ireland of nearly all political complexions, and I regret to say that their conclusions agree entirely with those that I have formed from my own inquiries.
I will read a few lines of a letter from a man who is resident in one of the affected parts of Ireland and whose opinion is of value, all the more because he is a man who is himself serving and has had both his sons fighting in the war, one of whom has been killed, and who is also one of the most successful recruiters in the whole of the affected parts of Ireland. He says—I think that when they come actually to take the men in Ireland under Conscription hell will be let loose. You have no idea of the strength and tactics of the opposing forces. All factions—Sinn Feiners, Redmondites, and Roman Catholic clerics—are united to resist Conscription, and I believe it is too late to enforce it now. It will mean loss of life, and the men you will take by force, so far from being of any use, will only be enemies in your camp.That is only one of many letters which I have received from the affected parts of Ireland. I have not received from those parts of Ireland one single letter holding a different opinion.
You have three great factors against the success of Conscription in Ireland. First of all you have the Nationalist Party. Then you have the Roman Catholic Church, and all your Lordships who come from Ireland will, I think, endorse my view when I say that not only is there no more deeply religious people than the Roman Catholic Irish but also no people who follow more directly and more absolutely the dicta of their clergy. And since the Roman Catholic clergy have decided that Conscription is in itself an evil thing, these people 434 will oppose it absolutely and by all the means in their power, and far more deeply and conscientiously than most of the conscientious objectors whom your Lordships encounter in England. We do not know yet how they will oppose it—whether it will be only passive resistance, or active resistance; but, even if it is only passive resistance, how many English soldiers will it take to obtain your conscripts?
We do not know the numbers yet which His Majesty's Government really hope to get from Ireland, either by voluntary methods or by the method of Conscription. We know by the Lord Lieutenant's Proclamation that they hope to get by voluntary methods 50,000 men, and 3,000 a month afterwards, which makes between 80,000 and 90,000 together in a year. Speaking as an Irishman, knowing the present conditions of Ireland, and judging by the experience of the Recruiting Committee of the noble Viscount, Lord Wimborne, I do not think there is much chance of getting by voluntary methods anything like that number. How are you going to obtain the remainder if you obtain them by Conscription? You will have to do it by the aid of willing English soldiers. How many willing English soldiers will it take, and, having obtained them, how many willing English soldiers will it take—I do not know how to express it—to guard them, to keep them, because if they are objectors, they will not be willing Irish soldiers, and just at the time when willing English soldiers are so urgently needed in France.
There is a third factor, and that is the most serious factor of all, because it interferes not only with Conscription but with voluntary methods; and not only will it interfere with voluntary methods, but it is a danger to the allied cause—I mean Sinn Fein. During the last fifty years scarcely any supervision has been exercised over the teaching of history in Irish schools, and the only teaching, or almost the only teaching, that has been given has been of that period of English history which embraces the Cromwellian period in Ireland, when there were many episodes which, I think, even according to Lecky's account, Englishmen would be glad to see wiped out of their annals. The consequence of these lessons is that there exists in Ireland a sector of men who have been deeply influenced. That which is implanted in the infant breast often remains in that of the adult and forms the opinions of 435 lifetime. The consequence of these lessons is that there exists this sector of Irishmen who look upon England as a cruel oppressor and a brutal tyrant, and who regard her in the same light as a German is regarded by the people of Alsace and Lorraine. We must recognise things as they are, and not as we would wish them to be. We admire the impulse that often drives the Alsatian to forsake his home rather that to fight for the German; and it is the same impulse—although in the case of the Irishman wrong-headed, mistaken, absolutely foolish—which chives this section of Irishmen, or, rather, impels this section of Irishmen, to oppose Conscription by every means in their power, because they think, very wrongly, that they are being made to fight the battles of a country which they regard in the same light as the Alsatians regard Germany. I regret to criticise in the absence of other people, but owing, unfortunately, to the very weak policy of two recent Chief Secretaries—
THE EARL OF ARRAN
This section of Irishmen has been allowed to get the upper hand, and to influence public opinion in Ireland—a public opinion which is always only too easily influenced. This section of Irishmen hates England. Those people look upon any country who opposes her as their ally, and they will support any country who opposes her. They do not realise or recognise that this is a war against oppression. They look upon it as England's war; and, deeply as I regret to say so of any section of my countrymen, they hope to see England beaten. Not only will this be an opposing and a dangerous factor to Conscription as long as this sector is allowed to hold the field, but it will also be a dangerous factor to voluntary methods; and owing to this section of Irish opinion, and as long as it is allowed to hold the field, England has on her flank a dangerous enemy, a vindictive enemy, an enemy at the present moment who is not extremely powerful, but who, by a sudden turn in the wheel of fortune, might become a very important factor in the present circumstances during this struggle. It is a danger not only to England and to the Allied cause, but a danger which England can never for a moment afford to forget.
The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, in his speech the other night—if your Lordships will 436 allow me to quote it—asked us to disregard this disloyal element, although it was a right thing to scotch their power for mischief, and he rather claimed that it was being done by the arrest of eighty or ninety of their leaders. Since the noble Earl's speech, and, more than that, since the arrest of these eighty or ninety leaders five weeks ago, we have read in the Press of the discovery and capture of 40,000 rounds of ammunition, which are said to be only a part of the amount of ammunition that has been brought into Dublin. It would appear that the places of these eighty or ninety incarcerated leaders have been taken by others possessing equal powers for mischief, and the steps which his Majesty's Government apparently consider sufficient to scotch this movement have not as yet been entirely successful. I hope that His Majesty's Government both in England and in Ireland realise to what extent, to what depth, and how generally, this disloyal element has permeated the Irish country.
I should have liked to have said a word upon land, but other noble Lords who are better acquainted with that subject are going to speak upon it. As regards Home Rule I have practically nothing to say. It appears to be dormant; and I think in the present circumstances that many sections of Irishmen who at other times would take a different view have considered it a wiser thing to let sleeping dogs lie. I do not believe that the labour of the Convention has been useless, although for practical purposes it has been, perhaps, less strong. The difficulty of its being of any great practical use is that I do not think the delegates represented any great section of the Irish people. The constitutents of the Nationalists appear in great part to have become Sinn Feiners; therefore they do not represent the opinion of at least one-half of Ireland. The Southern Unionists appear in part to have disagreed with the opinions and the proceedings of their delegates. I speak as regards Ulster entirely under the correction of noble Lords from that province, but from all I can hear it appears to me that the attitude taken by Ulster towards her delegates was rather that of the mother who, during a hot afternoon, said to her children's nurse, "Go and see what the children are doing, and, whatever it is, tell them they must not do it."
437 But the conclusions at which I arrive on all this are conclusions which I deeply regret. I consider that it is better to face things as they are rather than to try and imagine that they exist on the basis on which one would wish them to be; and I believe that, as long as Sinn Fein is allowed to hold the field and to hold the power that it undoubtedly holds at present, in the stock-taking of our man-power England may write Ireland off the slate. You may get some thousands of men by voluntary methods; but if Conscription is threatened—as it is threatened—I think that you will lose even them. I am of opinion that the future policy of His Majesty's Government should be no longer to hope for any great military assistance from Ireland towards our winning the war, but rather to take such steps as are necessary to prevent this disloyal element to which I have referred being an active factor towards our losing it.
I believe that the present attitude of Irishmen will be deeply deplored by the generations to come. But the sentiments of the future are not our affair; the present is our affair; therefore I earnestly urge His Majesty's Government to realise not only the gravity of the situation in Ireland, but how serious it is to Ireland and, perhaps, to the Allied cause as a whole. I urge also, as far as Ireland is concerned, that His Majesty's Government may realise that we who live in Ireland hope that the kinema film which the noble Earl described in his speech the other day as continually unrolling itself before our eyes, may not for the second time end in a tragedy tinged with red. Lastly I urge upon His Majesty's Government that in future their policy in Ireland, whatever it may be, should be a continuous policy; that it should be well and carefully considered before they declare it; and that, having once declared it, they will adhere to it as closely as it is possible for men to adhere.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, I will not address myself, in the few words which I have to say to your Lordships, to the question of Conscription, which has been dealt with by my noble friend who has just sat down, but I should like to express my complete concurrence not only with the conclusion he has stated but with the argument which he has developed with so much lucidity and force in favour of this conclusion. I do not think that I could add anything useful to what he has said, 438 and on the subject of Home Rule I have only a very few words to say, for I wish chiefly to call attention to another point which arises out of Home Rule but is not directly connected with the arguments laid before you by my noble friend. Is it not extraordinary how often during the last seventy or eighty years, to go no further back than the recollections of this generation, British Governments seem by some malign fate to take the wrong turning in Ireland. It is not often, though it sometimes happens, that we do see afterwards that we have taken the wrong turning in English or Imperial Policy; but if you look at Irish policy you will find that during the last seventy or eighty years we have taken the wrong turning three times out of four, and it has been seen within a few weeks, or a few months, or perhaps a few years, what fatal mistakes we have made.
This consideration is what suggested to some of us thirty-two years ago that the time had come for trying to make an entirely new departure as regards the government of Ireland. I will not pursue this subject, or enter into criticisms of the zigzag action which His Majesty's Government has taken within the last few months. Above everything, you want to have in Ireland, as was said by my noble friend with perfect truth, a consistent policy. But I would like to say one word about the Convention. The Government did take the right turning a year ago when they set up the Irish Convention, and their action then was approved by most of the highest authorities upon the subject of Irish policy. If they had followed that up I believe we should have a very different state of things to-day. When the Convention came to an end, with a very considerable measure of assent—larger than at one time was expected—which had been attained by the union of all the more moderate and wiser Nationalists with so very large a body of Irish Southern Unionists who sacrificed some of their former convictions and views for the sake of endeavouring to obtain unity—after that had been achieved, was it not very unfortunate that the Government did not seize the opportunity and did not try to launch their ship upon the rising tide and float her into the open sea before there was time for a receding tide to discover and unveil those shoals in which she appears to be now entangled? That I cannot help thinking was very unfortunate.
439 Now, as things have turned out, when these two policies have been successively both launched and both abandoned you have the Southern Unionists, as my noble friend has told you, disheartened and perplexed; you have the constitutional element among the Nationalists, which had been working for a settlement by constitutional methods, discredited and injured and its prestige lowered in the eyes of the masses of the Irish people. The result has been to strengthen the reckless and pernicious elements which go by the common name of Sinn Fein. To me this is one of the most lamentable aspects of the present situation. The constitutional party has lost and the extremist party of Sinn Fein has gained. I ought to add that I think there is good reason to believe that if the Government had taken its courage in both hands and launched a Bill upon the general lines recommended by the Convention immediately after the Convention had reported, they would have met with general approval and would have found means of satisfying all the reasonable demands of Ulster. Of course, we shall be told that Ulster was obstinate, but I believe it is possible to put forward plans which Ulster could not have rejected, which would have met all her claims, and brought about the passage of the Bill with comparatively little difficulty. That opportunity has gone by. I will not say more about Home Rule, except this—that the statement made by the Chief Secretary in another place has at any rate given ground for hope that the Government have only postponed the subject and feel that there is an obligation resting upon them to deal with the matter, created by previous promises and above all created by the presence on the Statute Book of the Act of 1914. That Act may be imperfect. It is imperfect. Circumstances have arisen which make it inapplicable as it stands. But at any rate there it is, and it cannot be simply repealed. Something must be done. Ireland cannot be allowed to drift.
The question of when Home Rule is to be dealt with brings me to the principal topic to which I want to address a few remarks to your Lordships. A new idea, a new scheme, has lately been started which would tend to defer the settlement of the Irish question for a considerable period, and it is of that I wish to speak. It is now suggested that the settlement of the Irish question ought to be a part of 440 what is called Home Rule All Round—a part of the federalisation of the United Kingdom—the splitting up of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom Parliament into four or five different Assemblies, each with special functions. It is suggested that the fairest way of dealing with the Irish question is to treat Ireland as one member of the Federation and to mete out to her the same treatment as to England, Scotland, and Wales. I wonder how much consideration those who in this light and airy way talk about federalising the United Kingdom, and think nothing is simpler than Home Rule All Round, have given to the matter and how far they have examined all its legal, practical, and political aspects in order to see what is involved.
Let me say that I am not going to discuss the merits of Home Rule All Round. It is an enormous question, and I will not venture to enter upon it. I wish to say nothing at all either for or against the principle of turning the United Kingdom from a United Kingdom into a Federation of four, and I frankly admit that a prima facie case in favour of some change in that direction may be made on the basis of the failure of our legislative machinery. There can be no doubt that Parliament is hopelessly overloaded. No doubt during the last fifteen, twenty, or thirty years—I think ever since Parnell began the policy of obstruction in Parliament—the wheels of Parliament have driven very slowly and heavily, and the difficulty of getting on with business is shown by those baleful expedients to which it has been driven—namely, the closure, the guillotine, and the kangaroo. I will not stop to consider whether it is necessary to pull down the whole house because you want to alter the arrangements of one room. I would call your Lordships' attention to this, that no case has been made for this tremendous change except the failure of our legislative machinery. That case was put the other day in a letter to the Press by my noble friend Lord Salisbury, and I do not think anything could be said more effectively than was said by him, to show that it is the failure of the legislative machinery and not discontent with the existing system as a whole which has been the cause of this idea of Home Rule All Round.
Now what is involved in the proposal to federalise the United Kingdom? To begin with, it is to undo the work of ten centuries. 441 It is just about ten centuries since a United Kingdom of England began to arise in the days of Alfred, and Athelstan. From that time we have continually gone on drawing in, and incorporating with the English nucleus, the outlying parts of what is now the United Kingdom—Ireland, Wales, Scotland—and in that way our present United Kingdom has been built up by a natural process, by a historical process which lies in the nature of things, and which was calculated to bring about, and which has brought about, a strength and a power for England which, as England alone, without those other countries, she would probably not have achieved. That is what we are asked now to undo. It may be right or it may be wrong, but it is "a very large order." It is a tremendous task to undertake to cut away the very foundations of the system built up in ten centuries and erect something new in its place.
What then, in particular, is it that we shall have to do? We shall have to create five new Parliaments—air Imperial Parliament, restricted to foreign affairs and the conduct of such matters as the Army and Navy and other things which are clearly common to the whole United Kingdom; and, in addition to that, we are to set up four subordinate Parliaments, one for each of the four divisions of the United Kingdom, wide one of these very much larger, very much more important, than the other three put together. We have got to set up new Ministries—five Ministries, I presume—an Imperial Ministry for the whole affairs of the United Kingdom, and four Ministries for the four divisions of the United Kingdom. I am only following the outlines of those who advocate this scheme. I do not suggest this; I take what I believe is their programme; and I suppose they contemplate that a system of having an Executive responsible to Parliament will be adopted in each of these cases, so that in each of these five Legislatures you will have five Executives holding power at the will of the majority of the Parliament. The party game will be played in those five Legislatures as it is played in our Parliament now, and the Executive will be turned out, or will come in, according to the passing majorities that may be obtained in those Parliaments. We shall have a great deal of politics to the square mile when we come to that.
442 It is possible, of course, to imagine some other plan. There are other plans which have been adopted in other countries for regulating tire relations of the Legislature and the Executive in a different way. If there were time, and if this were the occasion, I could state some of those plans to your Lordships, but they are new plans, they are plans we have never tried, and I think we must assume, as the matter stands at present, that the scheme of having Ministries responsible to Parliament is the one which would probably be adopted, as it has been adopted in all the Legislatures of the self-governing Dominions. Then another question arises. In these five new Parliaments, are we going to have two Chambers or only one; and, if so, how is each of them to be composed? How are you going to readjust the Civil Service? Parts of our Civil Service do work which is common to England, Scotland, and Wales, and to some extent Ireland also. Are you going to change the Civil Service arrangements and enter upon all the adjustments which a change of that kind would involve?
Then, further, you will have to delimit, and that very exactly by specific and precise legal enactment, the powers and the functions of those several Legislatures. Each of the five Legislatures will have its own special functions, and these will have to be carefully legally distinguished from one another. Under this system you cannot make what we will call the Highest or Imperial Legislature and give it sovereign powers to over-rule the other Legislatures, because if you did so you would very largely destroy the value of those Legislatures. If you gave what we will call the Highest Parliament—the one which will deal with foreign affairs, the Army and the Navy, and the Imperial Budget—power to over-rule the English Parliament or the Scottish Parliament, then clearly a decision of the English Parliament or of the Scottish Parliament would not be final, and everything would have to be fought out again in the Highest Parliament with a waste of time and trouble comparable to that which exists now. Therefore, you will have to specify the legal rights and powers of each of these Parliaments, and in order to do that (since no Parliament will be capable of interpreting its own powers) you will have to call in the Courts, and the Courts will be occupied—as they have been occupied in Australia lately, and as they were 443 occupied and have been occupied in the United States ever since the foundations of their Constitution—in determining the respective spheres of action of the Imperial Parliament and of the four Parliaments that lie beneath it; and our legislation, instead of having that freedom and elasticity which it now enjoys, will be subject to those rigid decisions which we shall have to accept from our Courts.
I am again proceeding—may I remind the House?—upon the hypothesis that what is desired is a Federation similar to the Federations which already exist. I am arguing on the basis, which is the basis adopted by the advocates of this plan, that we desire to have something like the Federation of the United States or the Commonwealth of Australia. You may, of course, devise some other plan. If you do that you will have to give it a great deal of thinking. It would be a new plan just as the conditions would be new, and what I want to suggest is that the gravity of the matter has not been apprehended. It has not been felt by those who are proposing this what an enormous task they are asking us to undertake. Another point was raised by the Prime Minister yesterday. In receiving a deputation upon this subject he asked very pertinently, "What are the wishes of England in the matter? Has England shown any desire to part with her present Parliament and have a Parliament of her own instead, plus the Imperial Parliament?" The same question may be asked as regards Scotland and Wales. Although I know there has been a certain amount of talk upon the subject in Scotland and Wales, I doubt if any evidence has been produced going to show that the people of Scotland or Wales as a whole desire a change in the arrangements under which they have lived happily so far in concord with England.
I pass that by, however. But I must ask, Will this system to make Ireland a member of a Federation—all of whose members are to enjoy the same powers and the same rights and be governed in the same way, subject to the same limitations—meet the wishes of the Irish? We know, those of us who have followed the debates of the Convention, that it will not. We know perfectly well that what the majority of the Convention asked for was something which would not by any means fit in with what would suit by England, Scotland, and Wales. England, Scotland and Wales 444 would not desire to have for their Parliaments, if they are created, by any means such large powers as the majority of the Convention appear to desire for Ireland; therefore, prima facie, that which will suit England, Scotland, and Wales will not suit Ireland, and that which will suit Ireland will be too much for England, Scotland, and Wales. I fear, therefore we are only embarking on a fresh set of difficulties if we think that by Federalism and giving exactly the same rights and powers to each of the component parts of the United Kingdom, we are meeting the Irish claims. Further, I fail to see how it will make the position any easier for Ulster if Ireland, according to this scheme, will become what may be called a State in the British Federation just in the same way as Pennsylvania or Illinois is a State in the American Federation; for in any such State, governed by its own Legislature and Ministers, the majority will prevail. Will the people of Ulster, or of North-East Ulster, be any better off, as such, in a British Federation, governed by a majority of their State legislators, than they would be under the system proposed in any one of the three Home Rule Bills? How will Federation help the Ulster Protestants? Of course, you can make special provisions for them, providing that, in the case of Ireland, Ulster is to have certain rights, certain special rights and privileges, and certain safeguards conceded to her, which will not, be necessary in England or Scotland. In that case, why not do it at once in a Bill for Ireland only? I thought uniformity was your object. If uniformity is not your object, why not at once frankly admit that these four cases are too different to admit of uniformity, and give Ulster what she wants in whatever Home Rule Bill you may pass?
These are very large problems. They are the largest that this country has ever undertaken to solve. At no period of our history have we ever entered upon any process like that which we are now asked to undertake. It will not only tax the very highest powers of constructive state-manship in this country, and the powers of statesmen comparable to those who framed the American Constitution, to devise such a system, and break up the United Kingdom into these four parts, but it must necessarily take a considerable period of time. I cannot imagine such a work being done offhand and in a casual way in the manner in which the work of the Speaker's Conference was done; I am 445 afraid before many months, or years, we shall regret the haste with which the Speaker's Conference acted. Can any one propose that we should attempt to deal with a problem like this in that way?
When are you going to give time to this task? You clearly cannot do it in the present Parliament. No one would suggest that the present Parliament should undertake a work of this magnitude. Can you do it in the next Parliament? The next Parliament will have many new and heavy dunes and obligations devolving upon it, and I greatly doubt whether it will be possible in the first, or second, or even the third, session of the next Parliament to find time for so great an undertaking as this. Are you going to ask Ireland to wait until Parliament has time to take up, work out, and pass into law a new Federal scheme. Are we content to go into the Congress to be held at the end of the war and have all these questions raised of discontented nationalities, and be obliged to confess that we have a nationality which is still discontented, and which says it has a right to be discontented because the promises that have been made have not been fulfilled? Would it not be a great deal better to set our house in order at home before coming to a Peace Conference where all these questions will emerge.
I must add that it is not only our enemy that inevitably thinks of the difficulties we have in Ireland. It is some of our best friends, our very best friends in our own Dominions and elsewhere, who think it is rather a reproach to British states-menship that it is not able to settle and get rid of the Irish question in some reasonable way before we come to that Peace Congress in which all these questions about nationalities will be raised. I was glad to see that the Prime Minister, with proper caution, did not commit himself in his answer to the deputation yesterday, and I hope your Lordships will not lightly, if I may presume to say so, commit yourselves to a declared adherence to this scheme until you have reflected upon what it means and the length of time it must needs occupy.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, when the Military Service Bill was before your Lordships I dill not hesitate to express my regret that Ireland was included in its provisions. I am as anxious as any one that Ireland should take her share of the suffering and sacrifice 446 cheerfully borne by this country in the war, but it did seem to me to be the most inauspicious moment which could have been selected to include her in the provisions of the National Service Act. I wish I had been strengthened on that occasion by the speech delivered by the noble Earl the Leader of the House last week, because in that speech he seemed to me to put forward every reason which could be urged in favour of trying every voluntary means to secure recruits before resorting to compulsion. In fact, in doing so he went even further than I should have thought myself justified in doing two months ago in view of the supreme necessity we were told then existed to obtain men for the Front.
Though the noble Earl's speech was entirely satisfactory from that point of view, I doubt whether it was equally successful as an apologia for the action of the Government in abandoning a policy they had undertaken after mature consideration, and after full warning from men of every shade of politics as to the danger and difficulties that attended it. The noble Earl told us that 50,000 men obtained voluntarily—think of it ! as Ireland's contribution, and not available for the Front until next year—would be more valuable than a far larger number obtained under compulsion. I wonder the Government, if that was all they required, did not accept the offer which Mr. Devlin made at the time the Military Service Bill was before the House of Commons, to lead a recruiting campaign and even enlist in the ranks of the British Army himself. The noble Earl also told us that the Derby scheme had been a great success in this country, but he did not remind the House that it had been tried before Conscription was on the Statute Book, and on the willing people of this country, instead of which it was now to be tried on people who are equally opposed to Conscription which is already on the Statute Book. There are one or two other points to which I should like to refer in the noble Earl's speech, but before doing so I wish to address myself to the main proposition before the House.
There have always been two schools of thought with regard to what ought to be the proper government of Ireland. These are, first, those who hold that she is an integral portion of the United Kingdom; that law and order should be enforced there as it is here, and that she should have the full benefit of British credit and gold 447 in order to create and develop her industries and agriculture. There are others who hold that she is a totally different people in religion and tradition, in custom and culture; that it is impossible for this country to govern her, and that the only chance of reconciliation between the two peoples is to allow her to govern herself. Neither of these schools of thought have ever been able to prove whether their theory is right or wrong, because the first school of thought—which may be said to be associated with the dictum of the late Lord Salisbury regarding twenty years of resolute government and the killing of Home Rule by kindness—has never had more than five years in which to carry their principles into effect. At the end of that time Party exigencies have made it desirable to obtain the Irish vote, and good government has gone by the board. The other school of thought, I suppose, may be identified with the word to which a great deal of lip service is paid at the present time—namely, self-determination, a word which appears to me to be little understood, but affords as much comfort to those who use it as did the word "Mesopotamia" to the old lady in the sermon. That cannot be carried to its logical conclusion, because if it were it would satisfy, as far as I can make out, the aspirations even of Sinn Feiners, and would enable Ireland, if she wished, at the end of the war to declare her separate nationality or even to say that she wished to become a component part of the German Empire; and I do not think that there is any advocate of self-determination, however advanced, who will be prepared to go that length.
Last year His Majesty's Government, consisting of members of both the great political Parties, determined to adopt the views of the latter school to a modified extent. They determined to summon a Convention of Irishmen to frame a form a Government within the Empire, and they asked the Unionists in Ireland who are strongly opposed to this to waive all the objections of a lifetime for high political reasons so as to assist the Government in carrying out that policy. The Government, in fact, wished to create a moderate party in Ireland, and that is not a very easy thing to do. It is said that a woman of moderate virtue is not a very satisfactory production, and I think that the same may be said with regard to a moderate Irishman. We are people of very strong views, both political and religious. We have 448 not that genius for compromise which is so peculiar a gift of the Anglo-Saxon race, and if an example were wanted of that it would be found in the case of the late Mr. Redmond who, directly he became moderate, was deserted by many of those who had been his supporters. In order to make the creation of a moderate party in Ireland more easy the Government, having secured the presence in the Convention of Irish Unionists by a promise that no Sinn Feiner would be released, immediately proceeded to set free every extremist who had been under lock and key—men who were responsible for having reduced a great part of Dublin to ashes, and for having sprinkled its streets with the blood of British soldiers and of innocent civilians.
The Convention took place. I am not going to criticise the action of the Ulster Unionist delegates, but so far as the Southern Unionists were concerned we did the very utmost we could to carry out the wishes of the Government; in fact, we did so to such an extent that we went somewhat beyond what seemed to our own friends in the country desirable. The noble Earl the Leader of the House said the other day that he believed my noble friend Lord Midleton had been thrown over by the Southern Unionists. I do not think that he was quite accurate in that statement, but it must not be forgotten that the Government made our position in the Convention extremely difficult by the release of the Sinn Fein prisoners. This, which was supposed to create an atmosphere of conciliation, really created an atmosphere of anarchy in Ireland, and led many of our supporters in that country to think that even if we could come to an agreement in the Convention it would mean the handing over of the government of Ireland to these extremists. It would be very ungenerous on my part if I did not acknowledge the help which we received from the moderate Nationalists in the Convention—men who showed their independence, and who gave up many ideals that were very dear to them in order to meet our views—and the result of this was that the Convention presented a Report which set forth a scheme of government for Ireland which I believe safeguarded the interests of Unionists and at the same time maintained the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament.
One of the recommendations of the Convention was the approval of a special 449 sub-Committee of Defence which set forth that in the event of a Home Rule Government being established it would be impossible to enforce Conscription in Ireland without the consent and co-operation of the Irish Government. Hardly was the ink on that writing dry before His Majesty's Government threw a bombshell among us which scattered to the extreme limits those who had tried to get together for the purpose of effecting a settlement. The Government announced their intention at once of bringing forward and passing into law a Home Rule Bill based on the recommendations of the Convention. At the same time, as a last exercise of Imperial power, they announced their intention of enforcing Conscription in Ireland. This was based on the ground of supreme military necessity. What did Mr. Bonar Law say in the House of Commons—We are proposing, and we intend to carry out, this legislation for one reason only, because in no other way that we can see can we get the men who are vital if this nation is to do everything it can to face the most deadly peril that has ever confronted it.In view of that declaration there was but one course for Unionists to follow. We knew perfectly well that this killed all hope of an Irish settlement for the present. But if England requires men, Irish Unionists could give but one answer. They must be found. But on the other side we found the moderate Nationalists thrown into the arms of their more extreme colleagues. These men joined forces with the Sinn Feiners, and the whole received the blessing and the approval of the Roman Catholic Church. This then was the position at the end of April.
The Government announced their intention of trying to raise to manhood the Siamese twins of Home Rule and Conscription knowing full well that they had against them, as far as the latter policy was concerned, Nationalists of every shade of political opinion in Ireland, backed, controlled, and financed by the Roman Catholic Church. Only last week—seven weeks afterwards—the noble Earl the Leader of the House comes down and tells us that the Government had decided to kill both their bantlings, and he gave us two reasons why this policy was decided upon. The first one is that a German plot had been discovered in, which the Sinn Feiners were implicated. I should like to hear a little more about this plot. The noble Earl told us that it burst with 450 suddenness upon the Cabinet at the beginning of May. I had the pleasure of listening to the Chief Secretary in the House of Commons the day before yesterday, and he traced its progress all through the month of April. Again, we have my noble friend the late Viceroy, who assures us that not only he but none of the Irish Executive at that time—up to May 6, I think, the date of his resignation—had any knowledge of the plot. I think that we should like to be acquainted with a few more particulars regarding it. Of course, we know perfectly that Sinn Fein has always been implicated with Germany. That came out quite clearly in the evidence which was given before Lord Hardinge's Commission. It was there stated that the Sinn Fein executive, after hearing that Sir Roger Casement had been taken prisoner and that the ship from Germany containing the munitions and the guns which they expected had been sunk, sent orders to stop the Rebellion.
The noble Earl made a great point of the difference between what I suppose he would call sedition and treason. In a very eloquent passage of his speech in this House he said—Agitation in Ireland is one thing; crime in Ireland is one thing; lawlessness in Ireland is one thing; the attempt to set up an independent Republic in Ireland is one thing—but treason is absolutely another.I fail to see the subtle difference.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
It seems to me that an attempt to overthrow the government of the King and to set up an independent Republic in Ireland is a most reprehensible proceeding, and one which deserves condign punishment. I cannot help thinking that the Government have made a mistake from a practical point of view in introducing this question of a German plot. We all know that the same men who were implicated in connection with Germany two years ago have been pursuing the same course in Ireland. We all know that they have been making seditious speeches and threatening to raise an army. Surely it would have been quite possible to have arrested them under the Defence of the Realm Act and to have interned them on those grounds. Everybody in Ireland was delighted that they were arrested, with the exception of the men who were themselves arrested and a 451 few who believed that they might share the same fate. But the fact that they were being accused of being implicated in a German plot, and that so far the Government have not been able to produce any evidence which implicates any individual Sinn Feiner with that plot has made ill-disposed people in Ireland say that these persons are being charged with a crime and are not being given an opportunity to defend themselves. The Government have done an absolutely right thing in arresting these men, and I heartily congratulate them upon it, but I think from a tactical point of view they made a mistake in saying anything about a German plot when they were not able to bring forward fully the evidence to convince everybody that these special men were implicated in it.
With regard to the second matter, the noble Earl said that that had been dropped owing to the action of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland. I was shocked to hear that admission from a member of the British Government. The Government knew perfectly well that the Roman Catholic Church were opposed to Conscription. The Report of the more extreme Nationalist members of the Convention, which comprised the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, and the very eminent Prelate the Bishop of Raphoe, who is the leader of the Party, besides the Bishop of Down, made the following statement—As regards the question of Conscription, we are ready to take it for granted that no attempt would be made to apply it to Ireland without the consent of the Irish Parliament. Any attempt to impose Conscription upon a nation without its sanction is utterly impolitic and unjust, and is bound to end in disaster.But that is not all, because Mr. Devlin, when the matter was before the House of Commons, also alluded to the subject. He said—You paid no attention to the solemn declaration made the other day by the Bishops of Ireland, in which they declared that it would be a fatal mistake, surpassing the worst blunders of the past four years, to furnish a telling plea for desperate courses by attempting to enforce Conscription, and which concluded:With all the responsibility which attaches to our pastoral office we feel bound to warn the Government against entering upon a policy so disastrous to the public interests and to all order, public and private.'The Government knew perfectly well that they were going to cross swords with the Roman Catholic Church; they have done so, and they come and confess to us that they have been utterly defeated. I look upon this as a disastrous confession for a 452 British Government to make, and one which will be remembered in Ireland long after the present Government has passed away.
If I am not wearying your Lordships, before I sit down I should like to say one word with regard to the Proclamation of the Lord Lieutenant offering land to soldiers who enlist. I am very glad to see that this is not to be confined to those men who have now come in at the eleventh hour—that it is not only to be a bribe to them, but also a reward to those gallant Irishmen who have fought so well for us in Flanders and Gallipoli, and have done so much to redeem the name of Ireland from the discredit into which it has of late fallen. The noble Earl the Leader of the House dealt with this question, and attempted to whittle down the number of soldiers who will probably acquire land, but I think I may appeal to any noble Lord who comes from Ireland and he will affirm that I am right when I say that any Irishman, from priest to ploughboy, from retail trader to mechanic, who is offered land in Ireland will not hesitate to accept it.
I have taken some trouble to obtain the numbers of soldiers who are likely to come within the purview of this offer. In the first place, there are the 50,000 men whom Lord French hopes to get before October 1, and from inquiries I have made I gather that there are not less than 300,000 Irish soldiers in the British Army; this makes 350,000 men altogether. The Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners have determined that the smallest holding which is an economic one is 20 acres. Therefore for the supply of those men not less than 7,000,000 acres will be required. I am afraid I must trouble the House with a few more figures; otherwise I cannot make my point clear. The total acreage of Ireland is 20,253,000 acres. From that you must deduct 2,900,000 for woods and plantations, turf bog, marsh, barren mountain, and roads and fences. That leaves roughly 17,000,000 acres. Out of that the Estates Commissioners have already sold over 10,000,000 acres and have made agreements for the sale of a further 3,500,000 acres. That disposes of 13,500,000 acres. Deducting this from the 17,000,000 which remain after the barren land has been taken off, you have 3,500,000 acres. But we must not forget that there are still 50,000 tenants 453 in Ireland who have not bought their holdings, and even if you were to turn every landowner out of whatever land remains to them, if you were to raze every town to the ground in Ireland you would still be very short of the amount necessary to supply even ten acres apiece to the soldiers. We are all anxious that our soldiers should be rewarded, but I think that before a Proclamation of this kind is issued care ought to be taken to see that expectations are not raised which it is impossible to gratify.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
What, then, do His Majesty's Government intend to do? How much longer do they intend to continue this policy of vacillation? First of all, Home Rule is put forward; then it is dropped. Then Conscription comes to the fore; then it is put into the background. It is impossible to govern any country in this way. I foresee grave difficulties in the future in regard to the government of Ireland. But I congratulate the Government at any rate on having made up their mind to repress crime and to enforce law and order. I am very sorry that the voluntary effort was not tried before Conscription was put on the Statute Book; but now that it is being tried it is the duty of every Irishman to do what he can to assist it. As to Home Rule, I do not suppose that even Mr. Dillon would accept it at the present moment if it were offered to him. I shall not go back personally to the position which I took up at the Convention, and I hope that the time may come—it may be sooner or it may be later—when moderate men in Ireland will be able to meet together and may at last be able to solve the eternal Irish question.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, the noble Marquess who initiated this debate last week has, I think, no reason to complain of the interesting discussion to which his Motion has given rise. May I parenthetically say that he has asked me on his behalf to apologise to your Lordships for his not being present in the House this afternoon, but he had a long-standing engagement to support in a public function the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and he did not think it was becoming in him to fall short of fulfilling that engagement in all the circumstances of the case. He made a very interesting speech which, if 454 he had been here, I should have liked to congratulate him upon. We have heard in the discussion which has followed more than one member of the Convention which recently sat in Ireland breaking the long silence and explaining to your Lordships and to the country the view which they take of the situation as it has been modified by the extraordinary policy of His Majesty's Government. They have told your Lordships that as far as they are concerned—I know that my noble friend Lord Midleton said so, and I think Lord Oranmore said so just now—no policy of Home Rule for Ireland is possible at this moment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Besides that, we have heard other interesting speeches, notably a speech from my noble friend Lord Bryce this afternoon dealing with a subject of wide importance on which he is a great authority. But perhaps the most interesting speech was delivered by the Leader of the House. I an sorry that Lord Curzon is not in his place, but I am well aware of the reason. I shall allow myself at any rate to congratulate him upon the energy which he has displayed, not only in the speech to which we listened last Thursday, but on several recent occasions. It is nothing short of amazing that my noble friend is enabled by his great capacity to deliver speech after speech of the most eloquent kind on every conceivable topic, almost on succeeding nights, without showing the least sign of fatigue or of loss of that grasp of the subject and grip of your Lordships' House which he always displays. I think also that in many respects my noble friend Lord Curzon took a sounder view of the situation than his colleague the Prime Minister took in the other House; because the noble Earl, according to his own phrase, "adjusted his policy according to the facts." He realised what the facts are, and consequently he left upon your Lordships the impression which I will say is almost universally held—namely, that the policy of His Majesty's Government, the dual policy, had been postponed sine die. That was not the view expressed by the Prime Minister. Mr. Lloyd George seemed to think that it was postponed for only a very short time. But I will say that almost any impartial observer will believe that Lord Curzon was right and that the Prime Minister was wrong.
455 The recent policy of His Majesty's Government in Ireland is, indeed, a lamentable spectacle. How comes it that a Government composed of men who are individually strong men should be the parents of such a very feeble policy? How can it be that Lord Curzon, who governed India for many years with a strong hand, and Lord Milner, who was one of the greatest Pro-Consuls in South Africa that the British Empire has ever seen, and other noble Lords and right hon. gentlemen who compose the present Government, with all their talents, with all their experience, and with all their strength, have only been able to produce the extraordinary muddle of which your Lordships have been the witnesses.
I am bound to draw the conclusion that these noble Lords and right hon. gentlemen are governed by a stronger will than their own—that is, the one mind and the one mind alone which I expect is responsible for this vacillation of my noble friends here and my right hon. friends in the other House. Having made up their minds (for which I do not criticise then) that the maintenance of this Government in power is absolutely essential, they are not willing to risk its life by differing, in the only way in which a Minister can effectually differ, from the Prime Minister in respect of his Irish policy. Well, it has been a lamentable failure. Disorder has grown as we have watched Ireland, and disorder has been followed by disloyalty. I do not think that all your Lordships were in the House when, in a very thoughtful speech, my noble friend Lord Arran opened the discussion this afternoon. The picture which he drew of Ireland, which he knows personally, would have given your Lordships a very depressing idea of the state of things and the condition to which Ireland has been reduced. The responsibility rests upon His Majesty's Government.
When Mr. Birrell was in power no one had seen such a Chief Secretary before. Mr. Birrell retired under strong public pressure; and then you would have thought that the lesson had been learnt. Not at all. Another Mr. Birrell was appointed in his place; and the Government, with the experience which they had had through all these years, allowed Mr. Duke, I may say, to improve upon Mr. Birrell. What has been the result? They have not settled the Irish question. They 456 have obtained hardly a single recruit lately in Ireland. In fact, so far from getting recruits, they are obliged to keep, as we were told last Thursday, 80,000 British troops in Ireland, of which the Western Front is deprived, because of the disorder and the disloyalty existing in Ireland. So that we have not only obtained no recruits but we have lost 80,000 British soldiers in addition.
Now, as I have said, though I must perforce hold the Government responsible for this, I do not hold my noble friend Lord Curzon and his Unionist colleagues responsible in the first degree. But there was a passage in my noble friend's speech which I am bound to say I profoundly regretted. Lord Curzon said that it was the common experience of all British Governments to mismanage Ireland; and it was only in answer to an involuntary dissent from myself that my noble friend remembered the great Unionist Administration which held office for, I think, practically fifteen years. When he did remember it, my noble friend confessed that it was an exception. But, my Lords, the Government which succeeded in administering Ireland without mismanaging it was a Unionist Government, was the Government at the feet of whose leaders my noble friend had sat, from whom he had learnt all the great statesmanship which he now displays. This Government, these leaders, this great tradition, had all vanished from his mind; and, in order to defend the mess into which his present colleagues have placed him, he treated that great Unionist Government as if it had never existed. I confess that I regretted it profoundly. What will people outside think of that? After all, the great thing in these days is to impress upon the people a feeling of confidence in the Government, and if they find great Unionist statesmen like my noble friend and his colleagues abandoning for the purpose of debate the beliefs in which they have been brought up, and which I know in their hearts they really hold, and ready to commit themselves to the proposition that it is impossible for a really strong Government to govern Ireland well, then I say the people of this country will increase rather than diminish the contempt in which they have begun to hold our politicians and statesmen.
I turn for a moment to the question of Conscription in Ireland. Now, my Lords, there is no question about the strength of 457 the case in favour of Conscription in Ireland. No one in your Lordships' House doubts that Ireland ought to contribute its quota of men for the common defence. I am not going to say that it is possible to enforce Conscription in Ireland at this moment, bat I earnestly hope that that part of the policy of His Majesty's Government will not be abandoned. Of course, they must restore order. They are doing something to restore order, but I confess I am astonished, like my noble friend Lord Midleton last week, that they have not taken a step which is so obviously dictated by the necessity of the situation. Why have they not proclaimed Sinn Fein as an illegal association? What is there to prevent their doing that? Why are they going to allow apparently every part of Ireland to be gradually seduced from its allegiance by the pressure of the Sinn Fein organisation, and every local body to be gradually dominated by Sinn Fein? Why do not they grapple with it, and why do not they treat Sinn Fein as in my younger political days Mr. Balfour treated the National League and the Land League, and as, although he was not a statesman whom I followed, the great Mr. Gladstone himself treated the Land League. Surely, my Lords, it would be an earnest to the people of this country and a means of carrying conviction to the people of Ireland that the Government were really in earnest, if they proclaimed Sinn Fein. But undoubtedly to restore order is a necessary preliminary to enforcing Conscription. Then I hope and believe that something might be done to convince the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland that to oppose Conscription as if it were a breach of the law of God is so outrageous and so utterly indefensible and out of keeping with the policy of the Roman Catholic Church in every other part of Europe that they might be willing to take their stand, as they ought to do, on the side of law and order and in defence of the sovereign powers, whatever they may be, in this country.
My Lords, I turn to the other branch of the policy of His Majesty's Government. I have said that I hope that they will not abandon Conscription, but I confess that I do hope they will abandon Home Rule. I will recall to your Lordships the language which my noble friend the Leader of the House used of the dominant power in Ireland at this moment. As Lord Oranmore has just now reminded your 458 Lordships, Lord Curzon definitely charged them with treason. He spoke of them as the party in Ireland which, if a Home Rule Parliament were set up, would be likely to exercise preponderating influence in it. In other words, he not only accused Sinn Fein of being a treasonable organisation, but he definitely stated, on his responsibility as a Minister, that they were likely to be the preponderating force in Ireland if a Home Rule Parliament were set up—that is to say, not merely that there is an organisation in Ireland which is treasonable, but that it commands the majority of the Irish people. I am not saying that the Irish people if left to themselves would necessarily take that view. I hope to God it may not be so, but as things stand every one will agree with the Leader of the House that the majority of the Irish people, if a Home Rule Parliament were to be established, would be rebels. Can it be a matter for surprise, then, that we do not want to see a Home Rule Parliament set up in Ireland? How long is this state of things likely to continue? That is what is so vitally important.
My noble friend the Leader of the House seemed to think, as Lord Oranmore has just said, that the Government had no reason to suppose that this state of things existed until the evidence of the plot came before them. I have no doubt there is some special evidence of a plot. There must be, because the Government have told us so; but the state of things in Ireland was quite apparent without that evidence. It was apparent and it was of long standing; but if there had not been evidence, if it is true that not until quite recently was there evidence, the only conclusion to be drawn from this is that we should have established Home Rule and placed it in the hands of traitors and only found out afterwards what we had done. It is not important to us what evidence convinced His Majesty's Government. What is important to us is the fact which I think they ought to have known, but which now is established. The truth is that we have had a very narrow escape. But for the conviction which has gradually been forced upon the Government we might have had a Home Rule Parliament established.
What would have been our position then, supposing Home Rule had been established? Let us go back to 1914. Supposing there had been no resistance to Home 459 Rule, supposing that your Lordships' House had not existed, supposing that Home Rule had been carried and that when the war broke out Home Rule had been an established fact in Ireland—do you think that would have been a pleasant thing for this country? I want the House to realise what the real state of things was. Lord Arran, speaking just now as an Irishman who knows Ireland, bore witness to the fact that these things in Ireland are of longstanding. I am not in a position to confirm what he said—I am not an Irishman—but I take his word for it, that the whole course of the education of the young in Ireland and the state of feeling which has prevailed there for a long time, has made the people profoundly unfriendly to this country. Supposing we had had Home Rule under those circumstances, supposing we had had upon our Western flank a Government in being which was not friendly to this country, see what a difference that would have made in this campaign. If I may say so respectfully, will your Lordships try to realise what an escape we have had—how we might have been far worse off than we are, but for the resistance of public opinion and your Lordships' House to the imposition of Home Rule?
Then I am told that under all these circumstances, and with all this experience and this history behind us, we ought to establish Home Rule in Ireland—I think the Prime Minister said in October. It is almost incredible that a British statesman can have committed himself to anything so outrageously foolish as that. That reflection must convince all impartial men that the state of things which we see in Ireland, although it has been exaggerated by Sinn Fein and although it has been allowed to get its head by the weakness of the Government, is really of long standing. What bearing has that upon the future? Are we going to establish Home Rule in October, or next year, or the year after? Are we really going to do such a thing? My noble friend Lord Bryce made a most interesting speech just now, with the greater part of which, as he knows, I most cordially agree. He said that he hoped we would establish Home Rule. I cannot understand him. I cannot understand how we should establish Home Rule under these circumstances. I cannot even understand how we should establish Federation. I am not going to discuss Federation now. It would be, perhaps, presuming on your Lordships' patience; moreover, I have had 460 an opportunity of discussing it elsewhere. But although the argument is not so strong against Federation as it is against naked Home Rule, a large part of the argument applies. How can it be wise in such circumstances as I have described to establish in Ireland a semi-autonomous Parliament, which is enabled by its position and by its control of all the engines of administration throughout the country, if it is unfriendly, to strike a fatal blow at the safety of this country?
And what of the future? What ought to be done? In the first place, in spite of the momentary forgetfulness of my noble friend the Leader of the House, we must not be afraid of the phrase "resolute government." We must go back to a policy of resolute government. An appeal is made to the opinion of the Dominions and of America. I believe that the British Government in Ireland, by its weakness, has become a by-word in Dominion and in American public opinion. Do you believe for a moment that any of them would have stood the kind of disorder we have seen in Ireland? Not for an instant. I was talking not long ago to a great Dominion statesman. He said to me, "You talk about Home Rule in Ireland. The first thing you have got to do is to govern Ireland." That is the beginning and end of wisdom so far as Ireland is concerned; and, after that, you must go on with your policy of Conscription—not now, but as soon as you can. As to Home Rule, you must realise that recent events have thrown a searchlight upon all the evil features of this bastard cry of nationality in Ireland. I do not despite Irish feeling. I am closely connected with Irish people. Every one loves their character; every one respects their great affection for their own traditions and their own history; but the nationality in Ireland which rebels against the far greater nationalities of the British Crown and the British Empire is a bastard nationality which ought not to be encouraged. Above all, we must see that the bonds which unite us with the Loyalists in Ireland, and especially with Ulster, are not weakened. If the Government will now, at the eleventh hour, follow a policy on these lines, believe me the future history of Ireland may be far better, far wiser, far happier than it has been in the past.
§ LORD MACDONNELL
My Lords, I will not endeavour to follow the noble Marquess through an oration which reminds 461 one of the old, bad days of Irish difficulties. I have recently come from being a member of a Convention in which such sentiments as the noble Marquess has uttered found no echo. I came from a body which assembled with the object of exploring the difficulties of Irish Government, examining how far the difficulties might be removed and safeguards supplied, and I have been astonished that the measure of success which was attained has had no influence on the noble Marquess or gentlemen who similarly think with him. I believe that the cause of Irish nationality has greatly suffered from the fate which has befallen the Report of the Convention. It has been taken for granted that the Convention was a failure because the members did not arrive at a unanimous conclusion upon all points. If you will allow me the opportunity now of explaining in a very few words what a surprising measure of success was attained in the Convention, how all expressions of hostility between party and party were carefully excluded, and how the endeavours of most parties there were directed towards constructing a Constitution for Ireland within the Empire I think perhaps I shall render the greatest assistance and help I can to the cause of Irish nationality, so much decried by the noble Marquess.
Your Lordships are probably broadly aware of the origin of the Convention. They- are stated in the first page of the Convention's Report in the following words—Would it be too much to hope that Irishmen of all creeds and parties might meet together in a Convention for the purpose of drafting a Constitution for their country, which shall secure a just balance of all the opposing interests, and finally compose the unhappy discords which have so long distracted Ireland and impeded its harmonious development? … The Government therefore propose to summon immediately, on behalf of the Crown, a Convention of representative Irishmen in Ireland to submit to the British Government a Constitution for the future government of Ireland within the Empire.You will observe that in the terms of reference no limitation whatever was put on the discretion of the Convention. All they were called upon to do was to provide that the results of their labour should be "within the Empire." I call particular attention to that point, because in the note appended by the Ulster Unionist delegates fault was found with the Convention for having gone over such a large number of subjects. Bat in a matter concerned 462 with the construction of a Constitution for Ireland it was obviously necessary that the fullest range should be given for all discussion. The Convention was formed not of one class of Irishmen. The object directly was the representation of all classes. Consequently not only were Unionists and Nationalists represented, but every section of Nationalists, and therefore you may find in the proposals of some of the Nationalists extreme proposals, and extreme proposals put forward by the Ulster Unionists in condemnation of the Nationalist case. I would remind your Lordships that the thing to be considered is not the opinions of individual men but the opinions of the Convention as a whole, or the opinions of its Committees. You have to form your judgment upon the results of the Convention and its Committees' deliberations, and not on the proposals brought forward by any particular man.
May I say a few words in regard to the procedure which the Convention adopted? The procedure of the Convention was divided into four stages. The first stage was called the "Presentation stage," during which each member of the Convention, or any outsider, submitted a scheme for a reform of the Irish system of government. That scheme was explained by its author or representative, and was fully discussed in the Convention. The discussions lasted over many days. Finally the schemes were referred to the second stage, which was the "Grand Committee stage," for more particular examination and the construction of schemes which should be submitted to the Convention. The third stage was the "Sub-Committee" stage. The Grand Committee divided themselves, and drew members from the general body of the Convention into sub-Committees which dealt with particular sections of the subject, took evidence that was necessary upon these points, and reported their conclusions to the Grand Committee. The Grand Committee, in turn, considered all these conclusions and framed their recommendations for the consideration of the Convention. All these matters were then submitted to the Convention and fully discussed. You will see that the work was done with extreme care, that all points were carefully considered, and that whatever matters did not permit of an easy solution at first, they were left over. Other matters were taken up, and subsequently the points of difficulty 463 were again considered and conclusions come to. The conclusions which were come to in the Grand Committee were fully discussed by the Convention, and upon them votes were taken.
The conclusions and questions dealt with come under seven groups. The first was the "Status and Constitution of the Irish Parliament." You will find in the statement of the Ulster Unionists it is said that a particular member claimed that the Parliament should be "a sovereign independent Parliament for Ireland coequal in power and authority with the Imperial Parliament." So far from that being correct, the Irish Parliament is deliberately stated to be a subordinate Parliament. It is doubtful whether any statement on that point was necessary, seeing that it is not in the power of the Imperial Parliament to create a sovereign independent Parliament within the King's realm. At all events, the section of the Act of 1914 which places beyond doubt that the Irish Parliament was to be a subordinate Parliament has been embodied in the front of the Convention's proposals. On that point, therefore, there can be no doubt whatever. The Convention did not proceed in the direction in which they are stated to have proceeded.
The next point is the "Constitution of the Irish Parliament." The Nationalists of Ireland clearly saw from the commencement that the Unionists of Ireland could not be properly represented in an Irish Parliament under existing conditions. They therefore proposed to secure to the Unionists representation in the Irish House of Commons to the extent of 40 per cent. of that House. In the case of the Unionists of the South and West it was found to be impossible to secure that additional representation by any other means than by nomination by the Crown, but the Ulster Unionists, while admitting the generosity of the offer, said they could not accept it, because nomination was an undemocratic procedure. Then it was arranged that additional constituencies should be formed by grouping together the industrial towns in the North of Ireland, the additional constituencies enabling Ulster to elect their own representatives. When that was offered the Convention was no longer faced with any objection on the part of the Ulster constituencies.
Futhermore, the Senate which the Irish Convention determined to create was so 464 manned as to consist in the greater portion of its members of men having substantial interests in the country. We nominated four Roman Catholic Bishops, two Bishops of the Established Church, and the Moderator of the General Assembly. We enabled the Irish Party to select fifteen of their number to sit in the Senate. I think the Senate of sixty-four seemed to draw its members from a different social class to the House of Commons, selected by the general electors of the country. The principle was also adopted that if the Senate and the House of Commons differed, both Houses should sit together. It was thought that the deficiency of Unionists in the House of Commons would be made up in the Senate, and in that way adventurous legislation of any description would be avoided. Not satisfied with providing a Parliament so constituted, we proposed to give a safeguard to any province in Ireland which thought its interests injuriously affected. We enabled the representatives in the House of Commons and in the Senate of each Province to form themselves into a Grand Committee for the Province, which would have the power of imposing a veto upon any legislation or upon any administrative action which seemed to them to threaten the interests of their Province. It was hoped that this Provincial Grand Committee would only be assembled ad hoc, because it was hoped that all provincial interests would find adequate representation in the Parliament, and that no injury would be done to them; but for greater surety this provision was made which enabled any Province—the Province of Ulster, for example—if dissatisfied with any project of legislation, or with any administrative action, to record a resolution by majority to that effect, and thereby to stop all further proceedings. In regard to administrative acts, the veto would be to call upon the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to institute a special inquiry into the facts, and to base Orders upon them. If the Orders which the Lord Lieutenant passed were unsatisfactory to the Province of Ulster, they would have an appeal from the Lord Lieutenant to the King in Privy Council. It seemed to us that every attempt was made by that device to secure to every Province in Ireland the means of preserving its own interests.
I next come to the legislative, administrative and financial powers which were conferred upon the Parliament. The 465 legislative powers conferred were exactly those which existed in the Act of 1914. They are powers to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the country, except in regard to certain matters which were excluded. The excluded matters practically agreed with those which we excluded under the Act of 1914. The question of the power of the Irish Parliament to maintain a Territorial Force was submitted to a Committee which was composed of the Earl of Desart as chairman, the Duke of Abercorn, Captain Doran, Captain Gwynn, and Mr. Powell, one of the Irish law officers. Their conclusions were that the control of an Irish military force was not in present circumstance to be thought of, that everything depended upon the conclusion of the war, and that then the whole of the military forces in Ireland for the defence of the Realm—the Army and the Navy—should be in the hands of the Imperial authorities. That afforded no room for discussion. The administrative functions of the Parliament remain as under the Act of 1914 also, except in regard to the police, to which matter I will presently refer.
In regard to the financial powers of the Irish Government, the Nationalist Party wished to introduce a radical change. The question of Customs was stated by the Ulster Unionists to have been introduced with a view to establishing a claim to independence. I desire to say in the most emphatic manner that this was not the reason. The reason was that the Irish Parliament could not be financed by any other means than by the introduction of Customs. The Irish Revenue as it existed at the time of the Convention amounted to £24,040,000. During the Home Rule debate in 1912 the Irish revenue was £10,500,000. Under the war taxation it rose in four years to £24,040,000. The Irish expenditure at the time of the Convention amounted to £12,686,000. There were many claims, especially claims in regard to increases of salary to schoolmasters, which were unsatisfied, and it is very probably that during the current year Irish expenditure will not fall far short of £13,000,000. The Irish Party, looking forward to the future, thought it was quite unwise to consider their finance on the basis of war taxation. Those who looked into the matter were of opinion that a £24,040,000 income would diminish by 466 several millions. In the first place, the Excess Profits Duty, which was £5,000,000, would cease on the conclusion of peace. There would be some reduction also in Income Tax and such things, and it was the opinion of the Irish party in the Convention that we could not count upon an income for Ireland of more than £15,000,000 to £16,000,000 in normal times.
Then we had to consider what would be the increase in Irish expenditure during the coming year, and we thought that the principal increase was the contribution which would have to be made by Ireland towards the common expenses of the Empire. It is stated in the Note of the Ulster Unionists that the Irish representatives were always unwilling to give a grant to the Crown for the common expenses of the Empire. My Lords, if you throw your minds back to the days of Gratton's Parliament you will remember that this was a question which was greatly debated, and that the position of Gratton was that Ireland should contribute to the defence of the Empire when it was in funds, but not when it was in deficit. The fact that Great Britain could count upon an income from Ireland was one of the reasons which predisposed it towards the Union of 1800. That consideration weighed a great deal with some of us in the Convention, and we both in Committee and in general Convention agreed that a compulsory contribution should be made to the Government of the United Kingdom for common expenditure. But on the motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, it was agreed that the amount of the contribution and the method of its payment should be reserved for future consideration. If it was thought that Ireland should take over, as they have proposed to take over, the whole burden of land purchase in Ireland, it would have to pay something over £1,500,000, the obligation for paying which now rests upon the British Treasury. It was thought that if Ireland paid that £1,500,000 it should go towards whatever sum would be fixed for the contribution. In that way the method and the amount was left over, but the obligation was recognised both in the Report of the Committee of the Convention and in the Report of the Convention itself.
So far the action of the Nationalists was rather misinterpreted by the Ulster Unionists. The Nationalists on the Convention have been found fault with for bring that question under consideration at the 467 present moment. But their answer is this. Your Lordships will remember that in the Act of 1914 it is provided that when the growth of the finances of Ireland is such as to extinguish the debt which Ireland was held to owe at that time, a debt of £1,500,000, the question of Irish finance would be fully considered. The words of the Act are these—The presentation of such a report—that is, the presentation of a report that Irish indebtedness has been liquidated—shall be taken to be a ground for the revision by the Parliament of the United Kingdom of the financial provisions of this Act, with a view to securing a proper contribution from Irish revenues, towards the common expenditure of the United Kingdom and—I beg your Lordships' attention to these words—extending the powers of the Irish Parliament and the Irish Government with respect to the imposition and the collection of taxes.The very condition had arisen under which it was imposed as an obligation upon the British Government to reconsider the Irish financial settlement with those two objects in view—the objects of extending the powers of the Irish Government and of the Irish Parliament, with regard to taxation and with regard to the collection of taxes.
Therefore I think that the claim of the Irish Government, in view of the insufficiency of the internal taxation to supply the funds necessary for Irish administration, was a sufficient justification for claiming the Customs. It was said that Customs were claimed by the Nationalist Party in the Convention for other reasons. No, this was the substantial reason. Some did say, and I agreed with them, that seeing that the control of Customs and Excise is exercised by our Dominions it was only reasonable that in a settlement of the Irish question similar powers should be conferred on Ireland. But at the time we claimed Customs we also claimed that the same document which gave us control of Customs should create a free trade arrangement between Great Britain and Ireland, and we also expressly repudiated any desire to claim the power of negotiating commercial treaties which the Dominions did not also exercise.
When these proposals were before the Convention the Southern Unionists came forward with a compromise—and perhaps 468 I may be allowed to say how greatly Nationalist Irishmen respect the attitude of Lord Midleton in the Convention. His proposal was this, that all powers of internal taxation in Ireland should be conferred upon the Irish Parliament, but that the one head of Customs should be reserved to the Parliament at Westminster. That proposal was very attractive to the Irish Nationalists. Their only objection to accepting it was that when the time came when it would be possible to reduce taxation after the war had been cleared up, Ireland would have the power of reducing the tax on the rich, but would have no power of reducing the tax on the poor, which consists principally of Customs duties upon tea, sugar, and so forth. Lord Midleton endeavoured to meet that claim of the Irish, and he undertook that when certain conditions existed in Ireland in excess of certain conditions in England it would then be possible to reduce the Irish Customs. Upon that it was said that if the Irish Parliament could not reduce Customs duties on the poor it would stand before them in a very invidious position.
A counter proposal was made, inasmuch as Customs was manifestly a rock upon which the Convention would probably split, to postpone the question of Customs until after the war, and then to allow it to be considered by a special Commission here in England, the result of its findings being submitted to the Imperial Parliament, to which it would have to be submitted in any case. When things had reached that point the Prime Minister wrote to us saying that he understood matters were in a difficult position; and he invited the Convention to send a delegation to him in London. That was done; and three weeks were spent here in conference with the Prime Minister. The results of these conferences and interviews are recorded in the letter of February 25 which is published in the Report. The Prime Minister agreed to the postponement of the question regarding Customs, and he indicated in his letter other points. Having heard the full account of the Convention, he enumerated all the points in the letter of February 25, and in that document he made suggestions for the removal of such remaining difficulties as emerged from his conversations with the members of the Convention in London. All these recommendations were accepted; and I am now justified in saying that upon all points of the Convention which I have enumerated 469 there was agreement between the Southern Unionists and the Nationalists, although it is to be said that the Ulster members did not come in.
A principle was laid down before we went into committee. That principle was that all agreements come to should be contingent upon a general agreement. If an agreement were not come to on all points, then the points on which agreement had been reached were to be null and void. But because we could not come to an agreement upon the Customs question; because then and there we could not repudiate the claim of Ireland to have the Customs; because we agreed to this postponement until the war was over and the thing could be thoroughly threshed out in London, the Ulster Unionists disagreed with the proposals to which they had agreed in Committee. They were within their rights in doing so, but still it justifies me in saying that there was a substantial agreement come to in the Convention upon all points discussed, with the exception of Customs.
I submit to your Lordships, such being the fact, that degree of assent in the Convention had been reached upon which it was incumbent upon the Prime Minister to place legislation before Parliament, unless some great event, some all-dominant event of State, had in the meantime occurred which prevented the fulfilment of the Prime Minister's promise. And what are those great dominant events which have occurred to prevent the fulfilment of his promise? The discovery of the "plot," and the resistance to Conscription. It is a tragic thing that the cup which was close to Ireland's lips should be dashed away because of such things as that. The "plot"! I have examined as carefully as I could all the information contained in the documents which have been published. In the documents published by Mr. Lloyd George after his Edinburgh speech two points, and two points alone, emerged. One was that when the Rebellion occurred in Easter week all connection between Ireland and America was interrupted, and pending the resumption, a man—I think he was called the Director of Revolutions—was appointed in America to draw up a scheme for the invasion of Ireland. The English Government obtained a copy of that scheme. That is one fact. The other fact was that at Cuxhaven in the beginning of May certain arms were laden on submarines. I heard the Chief 470 Secretary's speech the other night in the House of Commons, and he referred to a certain document which was found on the person of De Valera, and which in a cryptic manner alluded to some future event which might happen. Is it on these grounds that a nation's hopes are to be disappointed?
I listened to Lord Salisbury to-night saying that it is not possible to grant Home Rule to Ireland because of some action that might be taken by the Irish. The resolute government to which he referred ended, after a certain time, in the grant that was being withheld in those days. Mr. Wyndham, one of the best Chief Secretaries who was ever in Ireland, gave his answer in the Land Act of 1913, which is now the Charter of Irish tenants. What will come from this? The noble Marquess says that in no circumstances can Home Rule now be given. Very probably not. But if I were Prime Minister of England—and I am a loyal subject—I would do what Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman did in regard to South Africa—I would grant Home Rule to Ireland according to the recommendations of the Convention, and you would then have rallied to yourselves in Ireland an enormous mass of honest men.
I heard Lord Arran say that he was not sure whether the Convention was representative of Irishmen. My Lords, I managed on the Convention to get into close touch with, you might say, every man in the Convention from the North to the South—the Ulstermen, the men of Cork, the men of Connaught, and the men of Munster. I would be perfectly willing to entrust the destinies of Ireland to that body. They were a body of level-headed business men; not men who would be led away by any high falutin' arguments or speeches. But if you always refuse to trust, and fall back on the days of resolute government, will you ever have peace in Ireland? On my conscience I believe that the only way to peace in Ireland is the way pointed out by Convention; and the day will come when you will regret having rejected the advice of the Convention and gone back to your old discredited policy.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, there is only one point in the excellent speech of the noble Marquess who introduced this debate with which I cannot agree. Lord Londonderry said that the Irish question is certainly domestic in its character and ought to be so considered at this moment, 471 though I think in the later parts of his speech he distinctly swerved away from that doctrine. I believe that the Irish question is essentially Imperial, if, indeed, it is not international; and I believe also that the non-recognition of this fact has been one of the great reasons why it has been from first to last deplorably handled.
I wish to say a few words upon the Irish question from the Imperial point of view. The war has drawn all the scattered members of the Empire into very close union, and united them as they could not have been united in any other way for a common cause. They have all borne their share most nobly, and they have sent their best manhood across the seas without stint to help in the great contest in which we are engaged. But Ireland, alone of all the parts of the Empire, has failed the Empire at the crisis of its fate; and Ireland has declined to fill the ranks of her own historic regiments, leaving it to Frenchmen, to Americans, and to Italians to make good her deficiency. At a time when every man who could bear arms was required, when middle-aged men with families have been freely called up in England, Scotland, and Wales, young men in Ireland are walking about and amusing themselves. It was stated last week before the War Losses Commission that "the people in Ireland do not recognise that the country is at war"; and yet Irishmen have fought and died gallantly upon every field of battle.
No part of the Empire has felt the strain of this war less than Ireland, and Ireland alone of all the members of the Empire is showing at the present time widespread lawlessness. Now what reason will the philosophic historian of the future assign for the amazing facts that no one can for a moment dispute? It has often been said that when Mr. Birrell went to Ireland he was able to announce that Ireland had never been so tranquil or so prosperous during 600 years of her history. Ireland is, perhaps, now even more prosperous than when that was said, because she has profited out of the exigencies of this war. How, then, are we to account for the tremendous and sinister change which has come over Ireland during the last twelve years? There can be only one explanation for that change, and if we do not recognise it and take its lesson to heart we shall be faced in the future with worse troubles than those which now confront us. Since Mr. 472 Birrell was appointed Chief Secretary, we have until very recently ceased to attempt to govern in Ireland. We permitted a most dangerous illegal conspiracy to grow up under our eyes, and we not only did not suppress it but we encouraged its development by concessions to the forces of disorder. We forgot that it is the business of Governments to govern, and that the great majority of civilised people like and expect to be governed. We paraded the shibboleths democracy; but we failed to understand that there is no liberty where law is set at defiance; and there is no liberty in Ireland at present. In the last debate on Ireland it was urged that at the eleventh hour the Government should enforce the law. I noted that a newspaper which represents democratic ideals at once said that we were pressing for "coercion." Has it come to this, that democratic principles require us to regard the maintenance of law as the same thing as coercion? If we were really coming to that we should soon be on the high road to Bolshevism, because Bolshevism starts by abolishing the law courts and then goes on to do away with patriotism and to proclaim that no man should ever fight except against his own fellow-countrymen.
We exempted Ireland from Conscription, which was accepted by England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as by Canada and New Zealand. Ireland was thus placed in a privileged position, which she had occupied for some years in other respects, and the manhood of the rest of the United Kingdom was impressed on her behalf. Voluntary recruitment having totally failed, we suddenly changed our minds and announced that Ireland must henceforth be conscripted. The noble Earl the Leader of the House said at the beginning of this debate that the reason of this sudden change of attitude was the great military emergency which, as we all know, arose on March 21 last. He added—We have since been told that that is a wrong decision. I do not agree with that criticism myself.Nor do I think that any of your Lordships will say it was a wrong decision. But that decision should never have been taken unless it was determined to carry it out. It is an axiom of government that you should never announce what you are not able and ready to make effective. There is a closely parallel case. The Province of Quebec is much more homogeneous in population and more distinctively national 473 than is Ireland. The people speak the French language. Their forefathers were conquered not so very long ago. They objected to Conscription and there were riots and loss of life, but Sir Robert Borden's Government did not waver. The result was, as he told us the other evening, that before Conscription was applied many thousands of French Canadians voluntarily came to join the Colours. We cannot say whether that would have been the case in Ireland, but I should like to tell your Lordships a little story which was told to me. The narrator said a friend of his went into a Sinn Fein meeting and told all the men there he was sent to conscript them. He said they all followed him out into the road like lambs, and he had to explain after they had gone a little way that it was only a joke.
Now, having changed our minds—unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably—we appointed as Chief Secretary an English barrister who had always opposed Conscription. A life spent in the Law Courts does not impart the least training in administration, and it is not fair to Ireland to provide a succession of barrister Chief Secretaries who had no experience qualifying them for their difficult task. Nor is it possible to understand why for thirty years no Irishman has been found fit to hold this high office. Among people so gifted as the Irish surely it must be possible to find a qualified man. With Mr. Shortt's arrival came the Proclamation which has been so severely criticised by many of your. Lordships. It has had the effect of making Conscription impossible in Ireland, and that was an effect which the Chief Secretary cannot have disliked. If the offer of land is not to be called a bribe, at least it bore that appearance in the Proclamation, just as the unfortunate conjunction of Conscription with the promise of a new Home Rule Bill must have had the appearance of a bargain. From the purely military point of view, I do not understand why the figure of 50,000 men was selected. It is almost a negligible number compared with the number which Ireland owes to the Empire and to the Allies. Australia with 5,000,000 population has contributed 426,000 recruits. Ireland with a population of 4,500,000 has contributed only 170,000. But I do agree, and I think we shall all agree, that 50,000 volunteers would be far more valuable than four times that number including men who might be disaffected or sullen. I hope that the 474 powerful appeal which has now been made to Irishmen by Irishmen will go straight home to what is the best feeling in Ireland.
The whole story of our proceedings in regard to Home Rule and the bitter controversy which has raged round it since the 'eighties is most melancholy reading. This was, I submit, from the first an Imperial question of great importance, but we made it the shuttlecock of Party politics, which by reason of the grossly unjust over-representation of Ireland in the House of Commons caused it to become from the first a confusing and a corrupting influence in our whole, political life. Yet there was a clear policy in the 'eighties which we might have adopted. We could have approached Home Rule from the Federal side, as Lord Bryce said, and we might have defined precisely the limits beyond which we would never go. Why should Ireland have more rights than are accorded to Quebec, Tasmania, or the State of New Jersey in the American Union? Such a policy as that would have been perfectly intelligible in our Dominions and also in America, and it must have tended to alienate the sympathy which has been shown to organisations which, as we know, have been seeking to undermine the solidarity of the United Kingdom and thus to weaken the very citadel of the Empire.
Americans would not have listened for a moment to such claims as have been made for Ireland, if advanced by California. Nor would Canada listen for a moment to such claims in the case of British Columbia, nor Australia in the case of Tasmania. But we forgot all this, and we put a Home Rule Bill on the Statute Book which was passed, as you will remember, on condition that another Bill, which changed it in the most essential particulars, would shortly be forthcoming. That second Bill has never yet made its appearance, and we are now at work, or supposed to be at work, on a fourth Home Rule Bill. One result of all this playing with the Home Rule question was a dangerous Rebellion in Ireland that has been so often referred to in the speeches which have gone before—a Rebellion, as we all now know, financed and planned and assisted by Germany.
Then came the greatest of our opportunities, and it was lost. I am quite convinced that, most Irishmen were thoroughly ashamed of the murder of British soldiers 475 in the streets of Dublin. They were also ashamed of the German plot which lay behind it. I believe most of them expected that at length the Government would suppress the Sinn Fein conspiracy and would enforce Conscription. Instead, we encouraged the conspirators and we let them out of prison even when the Convention was sitting, and enabled them to extend their treasonable organisation far and wide throughout Ireland. Then again we changed our mind, and arrested some leaders for the second time; and Nationalists can now say, and are now saying, that the Government invented this German plot, as if the existence of a plot was not perfectly well know when Casement landed from a submarine.
From the Imperial point of view a change has come over the Irish question. The Dominions, after what they have heard and seen, will not easily forget that when they were fighting for their existence some Irishmen, under German inspiration, not only refused to bear their share but added immensely to the difficulties of the Empire by detaining troops sorely needed at the seat of war and also by feeding German submarines. The Dominions now understand, as they certainly never did before, the attitude of Ulster and of the Southern Irish Unionists in declining to trust their fate to the Nationalist Party. Americans have had personal experience of Irish lawlessness and disloyalty to the Allied cause. They, too, are attaining a new understanding of the Irish question, and they realise that American sympathies with Home Rule were largely engineered by German propaganda. Surely, that is a gain to set against the grave injury which some Irishmen have inflicted, and are still inflicting, on the greatest of causes.
I venture to think that our path is quite clear before us, even though we cannot say exactly where it will lead. We must, at any cost, restore order in Ireland and break up the Sinn Fein conspiracy. By so doing we shall rally to ourselves all that is best in Ireland, and there must be a vast amount of moderate opinion now being suppressed by the intimidation which is being resorted to. At the same time, I think we should declare plainly and frankly that there is no longer any question of Home Rule till the war is ended, and that then it can only be considered with the limitations which a Federal system demands. People do not keep up violent agitations for what 476 they can be led to believe is quite unattainable, and when the time comes to reconsider Home Rule, when the war is ended, I hope the wise advice of the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, will not be forgotten. He said—Let us be extremely careful not to give Ireland in advance anything which we are not prepared to extend to other parts of the United Kingdom—England, Scotland, and Wales.I gather from the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House that Home Rule is to be dropped, and Conscription seems to me to be absolutely impossible. I think if there were any doubts in our minds they would be dispelled by the excellent speech of the noble Earl, Lord Arran. The Government has certainly and distinctly undertaken to restore order in Ireland, and that is a great point gained. The Government has not apparently made up its mind yet whether Sinn Fein is a treasonable conspiracy or not. The moral and warning of all this remain, and they must not be forgotten. Our system of Party Government has not proved adapted to the wise handling of Imperial questions or to the framing and maintenance of a consistent or reasoned policy. In India, as in Ireland, we have shown inability to govern in recent years; and in India, as in Ireland, we may find that the Pax Britannica has been gravely shaken. No Government can neglect its essential functions without incurring the nemesis which inexorably dogs weak and wavering footsteps.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I am very glad the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, has called attention to the policy of His Majesty's Government in Ireland, and before I proceed further I should like to say that I quite agree with Lord Sydenham with regard to the knowledge which the Government had of a plot. That I will deal with later. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said he would like to see the question of Ireland put entirely on one side. When I look round the House now and at the Front Benches I think a great many noble Lords have put the question on one side, at all events for this evening, because there are few members of the Government present and few occupants of the other Front Bench either. I agree with that in another sense. That in these times of stress and struggle, with the work that is placed on Ministers, the question of Ireland should be brought 477 up makes me, as an Irishman, feel a sense of shame. The policy of His Majesty's Government of late years has been sketchy, I would even use the stronger word, slipshod; and this is the reason for this debate and the reason for the very forcible speech which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has delivered.
What is more to the purpose with regard to what I have to say is the admission of the noble Earl who leads the House, who said—Broadly speaking, the British Government have not understood and have not been able successfully to handle Ireland, and if in any respect we share that misfortune we share it with the largo majority of our predecessors.That is an admission of weakness to a certain extent, and the Government cannot complain in any way about all that has been said. The noble Earl went on to say—The worst of Irish politics is that Ireland herself always insists upon living in the past.I quite agree. But I am not going to allude to the distant past in any way. Memories are short, and political memories are excessively short. I am not going to allude to any time other than that just before the Rebellion of 1916, when Mr. Birrell was Chief Secretary. Every warning was given to the Government. Lord Midleton gave them warning. Letters were written warning the Government of what was going to take place, and I believe—I have every reason for saying so—Lord Wimborne was prepared to act but was not allowed to do so. The warnings were not heeded. The Rebellion broke out. There was not a battery of artillery in Dublin at the time; if there had been, the Rebellion could not have lasted forty-eight hours. It was suppressed, and those who did not suffer the extreme penalty were imprisoned in England. Before they left the Prime Minister visited them. There have been all sorts of stories with regard to that visit. Some say the Prime Minister shook hands with them. I do not believe that for one instant, but it would have been much better had he stopped at home and attended to the business of the war, as his visit gave rise to all sorts of stories and wicked gossip.
Time went on, and the Coalition Government came in. Mr. Lloyd George wrote a letter to Mr. Redmond offering a plan of Home Rule or a Convention for Leland. Mr. Redmond accepted the Convention, 478 and it began its sittings in July last. My noble friend Lord Midleton made the point that if the Southern Unionists were to join the Convention there should be no further release of Sinn Fein prisoners. Mr. Duke gave the assurance that there would be no question of such a release; yet a short time afterwards they were released. I notice that the noble Earl the Leader of the House took Lord Midleton to task as to his strictures on Mr. Duke's elevation to the Bench, but he carefully avoided saying anything about his assurance as to not releasing Sinn Fein prisoners. I should like to hear something about this assurance, this pledge, and I hope my noble friend Lord Crawford, who I believe is going to answer for the Government, will have something to say on that point. Why was it broken? It has a direful effect in Ireland. The Sinn Feiners, when they came back, drilled men, broke into houses for arms, made seditious speeches, drove cattle—I had cattle driven from my farm—and organised the country in order to defeat British rule and ordinary law and order. These men you let out had declared for a Republic and total separation from England.
I am going to ask the Government another question, and if the answer is unsatisfactory this debate will be adjourned. The question is this: Are the Government, under the Defence of the Realm Act or under any other powers, going to declare Sinn Fein a dangerous association? The effect of letting out these men was most marked on the Convention. The Ulster delegates, at no time anxious for a settlement, wrapped the mantle, or rather the toga, of Unionism round them, with some of the Orange fringe peeping out, and sat still—to use a common expression they "sat tight," and the Convention could not come to substantial agreement. And no wonder. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, speaking of the Report of the Irish Convention, said—I think this Blue Book affords some of the most tragic and disappointing reading I have ever encountered in any document of the kind.For myself I feel disappointed. The tragedy is what His Majesty's Government did when they let lo[...]se the Sinn Fein prisoners, and played havoc with the Convention. We were told that this was "creating an atmosphere." An atmosphere of what? It did not create an atmosphere; it created a poisonous fog.
479 A change has come at last, and that gallant soldier and Irishman, Lord French, has been appointed Lord Lieutenant. I do not think enough credit has been given to Lord French for the way he bore the burden and heat of the days at the beginning of the war, and I am proud to think he is our Lord Lieutenant. Mr. Shortt, the Chief Secretary, I know nothing of. I read his speech in the House of Commons the other day, and I only wish, with a great many others, that he was an Irishman.
THE EARL OF MAYO
The arrest of the Sinn Feiners, and their imprisonment in England, has had a good effect towards establishing law and order. It is welcomed by all respectable citizens who live in the country. A Proclamation had been issued asking for 50,000 voluntary recruits before October 1, and promising these men land when they return from the war. I should like to say something about that. It has been dealt with by my noble friend Lord Oranmore and Brown, and I want to know where the land is coming from. My noble friend put it pretty clearly that there was no possibility of giving them sufficient land. I understood from the Leader of the House that land is also to be given to those Irishmen who had already joined, as well as to those now recruited. That is quite right; it is a sound policy; but it is very difficult to carry out. There is not only the difficulty which Lord Oranmore and Brown pointed out, but when this land is up for sale to certain "eligible classes" preference is to be given to soldiers and sailors. I am afraid I must confess that in many parts of Ireland the soldier is not persona grata with the population, and the people who will consider themselves "eligible" will be those who have not gone to the war, and do not intend to go. Therefore there is that other difficulty, besides the shortage of land.
I come now to the last phase, and that is the pronouncements of the Government's policy with regard to Ireland. I am glad that the noble Earl the Leader of the House gave the Convention some credit when he said that for the first time in history a Constitution for the future government of Ireland had been worked out by a considerable majority of Irishmen. I formed one of that majority, and I intend to stick to my opinions expressed at the Convention. But it was not a substantial agreement. The noble Earl intimated to the House that 480 Home Rule had been dropped. He said that it would not be statesmanship, it would almost amount to a crime, to introduce it now, and he gave as one of the reasons that a plot had been discovered in the month of May last. Surely there has been a plot all along. I do not understand this sudden discovery of a plot by the Government. What about the landing of Casement from a submarine? His arrest and subsequent ending was proof enough of what was going on. The noble Earl said that the information was absolutely new. I suppose there is new information, but there has been a plot all along. We who lived in Ireland knew this. We knew there was a certain amount of German money, or money coming through America from Germany, being sent to Ireland. I had much rather the noble Earl had said, "This is not a time for the introduction of contentious legislation for Ireland, and we must wait until after the war." I think myself, that this would have been much more statesmanlike, with all due respect to the noble Earl. And it would have been a strong and unanswerable declaration.
As regards Conscription, I agree with the noble Earl the Leader of the House that it is much better to get voluntary soldiers than to have strife and bloodshed and perhaps civil war. I say frankly—and I move about in Ireland a great deal during the year—that you might get a certain number of soldiers by Conscription, but you will have serious resistance from the population, and it is no use shutting one's eyes to that fact. You would have fighting and shooting, and surely you do not want English soldiers to be chasing about looking for recruits in the Wicklow mountains, or in the mountains in Connemara and in Mayo. Reviewing what has taken place, I say plainly that no country has been put through such a course of political gymnastics as Ireland—one policy started and given up, and another started and abandoned. Is it to be wondered that Irishmen do not feel that respect for Government that they ought to have? You must maintain law and order in Ireland. We have now, as far as I can see, settled policy, a strong Lord Lieutenant, and a Chief Secretary who I believe is going to do his duty. I must say that the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, was quite frank in his statements, but they were open to searching criticism. He has laid down what is proposed for Ireland. Let the Government 481 stick to it firmly, and without favour to the end of the war, and then and only then should a settlement of the Irish question be taken up.
My Lords, the noble Lord who is sitting on the front Bench below the gangway made a statement which reminded me that the situation in Ireland and the position of the Irish people is very little understood in this country. He told us that the people of Quebec were distinguished from the people of Ireland in the fact that they were possessed of a language of their own, and while I listened to that statement—
§ LORD SYDENHAM
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I did not say distinguished from the Irish people; I said that, they had a language of their own in universal use. I did not say it was a distinguishing point.
I understood the noble Lord to imply that Ireland was devoid of a language of her own.
That is how I understood it, and other noble Lords may have done the same. That reminded me that a short time ago, when Mr. John Dillon approached the Prime Minister on some point connected with an Irish question and spoke rather roughly to him, the Prime Minister answered that Ireland was not a nation in the sense that Wales was a nation, for Wales had a language whereas Ireland had not. Any assumption of that kind, as he is well aware, was untenable. Beidheadh se i mo chumas gan acht gaedhlig a labhairt agus mise ag cur i g-ceil dibh ar an g-ceist sea. Ta gaedhlig againn in Eirinn agus ta an teanga ceadna ag na h-Albanaighibh fos. Ba mhaith liom gan focal a radh i d-teanga eile acht ta eagla orm nach tuigeadh an cuid is mo agaibh me. Da d-tuigeadh, leaneadh me leis an sgeul ar feadh na h-oidhche. Acht an fiu sin? Is doigh liom nach fiu, agus ar sou sin labhrochaidh me i m-Beurla anois. I could go on and make a whole speech to your Lordships in the language of our country. It is abundantly evident from this—and I am sure Mr. Lloyd George knows it—that we have a language. I am not sorry that he made that point, because it has now been distributed all over Ireland by the. Gaelic Leagues in their leaflets and propaganda literature, all of which are headed with the statement of the, Prime Minister that Ireland is not 482 a nation in the sense that Wales is because Ireland has not it language. I think that your Lordships will not mind my preventing the continuance of that belief here.
The situation created last week by the noble Earl who leads the House has been somewhat complicated by the more recent speech of the Prime Minister on the same subject, but I propose to deal more particularly with the speech of the Leader of this House, because the Prime Minister being, like myself, a Celt—and that is why I can speak of the matter, for if any one else mentioned it I should probably resent it—he possesses the virtues and the faults of our race, and the chief fault of our race in public life which IS WA often understood in this country is that we have too much imagination for the amount of education that England allows us to have, and on account of the unsuitability of that education to our countrymen and our past. The education that we have had in the past in Inland has been such that our whole national character has been falsified. Irish children for a long period have been forced to learn and to be able to read in the schools these lines of which I believe Archbishop Whately is the author—Thank the goodness, and the grace thatOn my birth has smiledAnd made me in these blessed daysA happy English child.Those lines have had to be learnt in the Irish schools, and to be repeated by the Irish children. The result is that the modern Irishman, as we know him, is a man whose character has been systematically falsified. Now we are trying to deal with this situation, and we are met by a state of things in Ireland which I think every speaker in this House is agreed is a state of anarchy. We are met by the incapacity of any Government in England to deal with Ireland, and we have to face that. A mere negative solution is no solution. It will lead to nothing.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House last week made three main points, as I understood him, in his speech. First of all he told us that the Bishops—or I think he said the clergy, but of course he meant the Bishops had forced the Irish people, under pain of eternal damnation or something to that effect, to oppose Conscription. I was in Ireland when the crisis came, and when the news of the announcement Parliament was given. I happened to meet some of the Bishops, and the conclusion I came to was that they did not 483 know what on earth was going to happen, and they did not know what they should do. The fact is that in the present state of things in Ireland no one can be said to be leading. The Nationalist Party has lost a great deal of its hold, and I am perfectly certain that the Northern leaders could not hold their followers if they tried to go against the stream that is flowing. I am also quite certain, from having been very much in touch with them at one or another time in different meetings, etc., that the so-called leaders of Sinn Fein are doing no more than toddle along after or with the people who are pretending to follow them. In the middle of all this, by the strenuous situation created by the proposal of Conscription, the Bishops have had the position of leaders thrust upon them. I am sure that they were very much surprised on the day that they found themselves leaders, and I am also perfectly certain that the description of the process given by the noble Earl the Leader of the louse does not fit the situation.
The second point in his speech was the plot. I read the Irish papers every morning, and I do not think that there is a single person in Ireland who believes in that plot; but my personal feeling is that I would not take the responsibility of going against the Government in the matter, for this reason. I was living in France some years ago when the Dreyfus ease was on, and I remember the howl of indignation that there was all over Europe about that case. I recall that I was one day in Switzerland taking a walk with three friends. Two of them were Austrians, and the third, I am sorry to say, was a German officer, but they were all very nice men. They began to discuss the Dreyfus case. They were all agreed that Dreyfus was guilty, but they said the French Government could only have discovered his guilt through some one in the highest; position in some foreign country. They said it was probably Germany, but they were not going into that. The object of some foreign Power is to discover how the French Government got that information: the French Government is bound, as a matter of life and death, to conceal that information. Consequently, not for the purpose of getting a condemnation of Dreyfus, but of throwing the necessary amount of dust in the eyes of the philanthropic and sentimental part of the public, they have to invent evidence against Dreyfus: that is the Dreyfus case.
484 Seeing this, if the Government conies before us and tells us that there is a plot I am not going to take the responsibility of saying that there is not, but I daresay they know by this time that in Ireland itself people are saying very strong things on the matter.
The third point in the noble Earl's speech was about Home Rule itself, and that is the main question. I was pleased that the noble Marquess sitting below me on the Front Bench (Lord Salisbury) made the speech he did to-day. We all know what his opinions have been, but I was glad that he brought them strongly before us on this point, because it gives me an opportunity of saying something as to how the matter stands and will stand in Ireland. The very use of the term "resolute government" reminds us of the famous "twenty years of resolute government." It reminds us of the whole past of Irish history, and it leads me to say this, and to insist upon it, that in modern conditions—they may be bad conditions, but they are modern conditions—you cannot keep up a system of resolute repression for ever. It may be weakness on the part of the modern Constitution—I am not saying it is not—but you simply cannot do it. The result is, if you try to do it, it will be followed by a reaction. Things will happen which will disgust public opinion here and there, you may get a sentimental outburst against the whole thing, and your whole echafaudage will fall to the ground.
The result is that you have to face the question in a positive way. The fact that we are a nation in Ireland, the fact that Shill Fein is there, the Irish language is there, and the Irish movement is going on, guarantees that whatever happens we shall be there to create a situation. It does not matter what you do to our representation in the House of Commons—you may halve it if von like, there will be a sufficient nucleus there to take advantage of any confusion—and there must be confusion in modern conditions. The result will be that if you do not settle the Irish question you will unsettle the English Constitution. Enough of that Constitution has been destroyed already. I have had to take part in it. I have been at public meetings, I have stood with Mr. Redmond, I have stood on various platforms in Ireland and England, and I have had a hand in the scrapping of things which I venerate most in the British Constitution. I was sorry 485 for it, and I think most of us were sorry for it, but we had to do it. And you have here to-day a people which is one of the most conservative peoples in the world, if they get a chance, and you have forced them to ally themselves with elements in this country with which they can never have a permanent sympathy.
All I want to do, in conclusion, is to warn any who may think that Ireland can be dealt with by a system of repression, even if you call it resolute government, without any attempt at remedial legislation, that they are creating a terrible situation for this country and for the British Empire.
THE EARL Or MEATH
My Lords, the present position of the Irish question is one of extreme obscurity. As far as we understand the matter, Home Rule and Conscription have not been dropped, but have been postponed; in other words, at any moment we may have the sword of Damocles dropping on our heads in Ireland, either in the form of conscription or of some Home Rule which may lead to separation. It is of the greatest possible importance that we should all think out as far as we possibly can all the forms of Home Rule which might possibly be sprung upon us some time or other at a moment's notice. I have already spoken in this House about my views on Conscription, and your Lordships are aware that, whereas at the time of the Rebellion I and many others were of opinion that Conscription might very easily have been brought in, at all events I am perfectly certain that it is a great mistake to have done it at this particular moment.
Another point which I hope we shall all take deeply into consideration is this, that everything depends upon what is the kind of Home Rule which we are going to give at some time or other to Ireland. There is Home Rule and Home Rule. I am positive that the old Home Rule of 1914 is dead and gone, whatever we may wish. At the same time I am perfectly persuaded that we must have some kind of self-government in Ireland, because it is not only an Irish question and an English question, but it is an Imperial question. The whole of our self-governing Colonies have to consider this question of self-government in Ireland. Not only that, but America has to consider it. When I was in America has to consider it. When I was in America I used laughingly to say to Americans when sometimes they spoke a little grandly, "Well, at all events we Irish govern you"; and it is 486 perfectly true. And therefore America is bound to think very deeply on this question.
I hope that we may not ignore the suggestion which was made by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, in another place to take into consultation the representatives of our Dominions, and, I would add, there presentatives of the great Republic of America, and see whether they could not assist us in this most difficult problem of how to bring peace to Ireland and peace to the Empire and though that to the world. It appears to even that even at this moment the attitude of His Majesty's Government is one of opportunism. Home Rule and Conscription have apparently been put off, but we do not know what the Government intend to do in regard to the matter.
The debate has been au exceedingly interesting one, but in some ways slightly disappointing. We have had a great deal of destructive criticism, a good deal of warning, but to my mind very little constructive policy has been advocated or laid before us. Take, for instance, the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. I have been a Unionist all my life, but I recognise now that the old Unionism cannot be carried on any longer. The noble Marquess still adheres, apparently, to the old resolute government without anything, as he said, to show us what we can do in the future. On the other hand, there was Lord MacDonnell, who took the other side but shirked (if he will excuse my saying so) the real point—how to get over the difficulty of Ulster. Ulster has a population, as your Lordships know, of about 1,500,000 out of 4,500,000; and the people of Ulster honestly and firmly believe that it is impossible for them to accept the Government of three-quarters of Ireland. If we have a Home Rule Parliament of the old class, or even a Home Rule Parliament of a Federal nature, with a Parliament in Dublin, even though it may be subordinate to the Parliament in London, what will be the result? The result will be that these Ulster men will be out-voted in Dublin. And do your Lordships imagine for one moment that they will not resent that? Do you think it will be possible to coerce Ulster? To my mind it is absolutely unthinkable. The intelligence of Ulster, the wealth of Ulster, the energies of Ulster—how are you going to get over these difficulty if you have a Parliament in which the Ulster men are in a minority? I do not believe that you will ever induce them to accept any safe- 487 guards, because it will be simply impossible to keep them. Then there is also the difficult that, unless Ireland is part of a Federal system of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, you will have this Parliament in Dublin—even though Ulster may be excluded—which will be representative of the great majority of the disloyal people in Ireland; and at any moment, if you do not, do exactly what they require, what will there be to prevent them from throwing off their allegiance to the Empire? All these questions are most difficult.
I speak to-night as an Irish Southern Federal Unionist. The whole of my interests are in the South of Ireland; my heart is wholly for Ireland; I have always been an Irishman from my heart. I am an imperialist, it is true, but I am an Irishman first and an Imperialist afterwards. Therefore if I say that you cannot coerce Ulster it is not because I am an Ulsterman. I give all honour to Lord Midleton for the way in which he carried on the leadership of the Ulster Unionists in the Convention. I give honour to his followers; I give honour to the Convention for the way in which they brought about a certain amount of agreement between Irishmen—a greater amount of agreement than has ever been brought about before—but at the same time I have been unable to see eye to eye with Lord Midleton and his Party, because it appears that they seem to have overlooked the difficulty of Ulster. If Ulster had consented to come in, then the position would have been entirely different; then we should have been united; then I, like many others, would have accepted the position, and, although we should have been swamped by the three-fourths of Ireland—still, there we should have been. But Ulster has not come in, and you will not make her do so by compulsion. What are you going to do? I believe that the only thing to do is to leave Ulster out. Let her remain as she is. And, if the three-fourths of Ireland will not accept Home Rule for their three-fourths, I say consult the Empire; consult our great Colonies, consult America, and then abide by the decision of the British Empire and America combined.
THE MARQUESS OF SLIGO
My Lords, I shall occupy your time for only a few minutes, and upon but one portion of the subject which has been discussed this evening—namely, the effect that the recent 488 policy of the Government has had, and is having, on us who live in the West. We have been told that the questions of Home Rule and of Conscription have been postponed until law and order have been restored, and that the announcement of this intention has produced relief in Ireland. It has produced considerable relief. At the same time we who live in the West have very grave misgivings. We doubt if the Government are really in earnest and intend to take measures that will be of a permanent character; and we hope that we may receive some assurance which will dispel those doubts.
I submit that we have good grounds for our doubts. Time after time during the last ten years Ireland has been allowed to drift into a state of disorder, and it is only after that disorder has culminated in some appalling outrage that the Government have stepped in and taken measures to restore order. We maintain that those measures have been withdrawn too soon. The result is that all law-abiding people are cowed, and depressed, and despondent. People in England do not realise the conditions under which we exist. We live under a law of systematic tyranny, persecution, and intimidation. It is no exaggeration to say that the law-abiding people live awaiting the next outrage, wondering how soon it will take place, wondering on whom it will fall, wondering what form if will take, and wondering, above all, why more outrages are not committed, because the majority of them—I may say three out of four—are perpetrated with impunity. Some of these outrages have a definite purpose, to obstruct authority, like the disappearance of an Admiralty launch, throwing a bomb into a police barracks, felling trees to stop the passage of troops, and so on. Others are committed merely wantonly in order to establish a reign of terror, such as blowing up a statue—not the statue of a sovereign, or of a statesman, or of a landlord, but of an ordinary inconspicuous individual, dead and forgotten long ago; the burning to cinders of a yacht belonging to a magistrate; and so forth.
We live there in the dread that we shall be awakened one night by the glare of a bull's-eye lantern, and find ourselves in the presence of men demanding arms and ammunition. We live in dread, if we are tradesmen, that we shall be boycotted if we do not, for instance, subscribe to funds 489 for separation allowances for the wives of men who have been deported. If we are farmers, then we live in dread that our crops and our implements may be destroyed or our cattle maimed or that, we shall be tired at in our houses through the door or windows as soon as it is dark. Is there any wonder that we have doubts when we see that there has never been continuity—I will not say there has never been, but that there has frequently been a want of it, and a want of consistency of policy. We were told by the noble Earl last Thursday that this feeling of relief which had been produced was to be encouraged. I do not think we have during the last week received much encouragement. Lord Curzon said that the Government did not see its way to proclaim Sinn Fein as an illegal association. He said that he was waiting for a further reference. I earnestly hope that in the meantime His Majesty's Government have satisfied themselves that they can proclaim this as an illegal association. The last Government I understand, did denounce it as an illegal conspiracy. In the meantime it has not modified its claims or its aims in any way. On the contrary, it has advanced them. If the Government does not see its way to proclaim this organisation, I fear that any measures which it is now taking to restore order will be seriously discounted.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House seemed to think that because eighty or ninety of the leaders of the Sinn Fein movement had been deported, this would be sufficient to destroy the association's power of doing further mischief. We in the West, my Lords, differ entirely. It is boasted there, and it has appeared in the public Press, that the arrest of these men was anticipated, that arrangements had been made to provide substitutes for them, and that in fact when they were arrested and deported the substitutes immediately took up the reins; and the activities of the association have not been checked for one day. My Lords, we earnestly hope that we may receive some assurance from His Majesty's Government which will restore confidence to us who have the misfortune to live in the West of Ireland.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
On behalf of my noble friend Lord Selborne, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ LORD BERESFORD
My Lords, I will not intervene between the noble Earl and the House for more than a few minutes, but I want to warn the Government that they are going to embark upon another cruise of broken pledges. They have now promised men who jour as volunteers, to the number of 50,000, that they will get land in Ireland. The Government cannot do it. It is absolutely impossible. It means another broken pledge, and broken pledges have brought Ireland to her present condition. The Government broke a pledge when they brought a controversial matter like Home Rule before the House of Commons. They have broken pledges to Ulster, and they are now breaking pledges to the Sinn Feiners, because they will not have Home Rule and the Government will have to break their pledges with regard to land. It is that sort of thing which has put Ireland in a state of chaos.
I was very much distressed to see that the Roman Catholic hierarchy have taken the line they have about Conscription, because there is no doubt that the Roman Catholic hierarchy have the confidence of the people and have clone a very great deal of good for them in times gone by; but I warn them that whenever the Roman Catholic hierarchy have gone against any State enactment of a country they have always gone under. They have only to look at France and Italy. There is no doubt that what was at the bottom of their intention was to kill the Home Rule Bill. I believe that the great Prelates in Ireland were absolutely opposed to Home Rule, and that they have always been opposed to Home Rule since the Nationalists declared, in reply to the Ulster assertion that Home Rule meant Rome Rule, that it would be found that under Home Rule education would be taken out of the hands of the Priests.
With regard to Conscription, the people of this country have been taken in, and I am perfectly certain that the men of from forty-one to fifty would never have consented to Conscription if they had not understood that the people of Ireland would be called in too. Conscription means in Ireland the maintenance of a garrison of 100,000 men, and you ought to have 300,000 Irishmen; this means that 400,000 men are there, all of whom are wanted on the Western Front. I blush for shame of 491 my countrymen; they are the finest fighting race and have many of the finest characteristics in the world. But the present condition of things in Ireland is entirely due to the broken pledges of the Government—pledges to all classes of political opinion—and now the Government are promising land which they cannot give.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, the debate has been very general in its character. I have taken note of a dozen speeches which have been delivered, and upon which I shall not be expected to reply; but I desire to deal with two concrete points, and two alone, which have arisen this afternoon. I see no occasion, for instance, to meet the highly controversial statement as to the attitude of the Imperial Parliament towards Ireland which has been given to us by the noble and gallant Lord opposite. There is quite another side to that question, and I think one could make out a good debating answer to his case. Then, again, I do not think it necessary to deal with what I might almost call academic speeches, such as Lord Bryce's extremely interesting and valuable statement as to the merits and difficulties of Federalism. Lord Salisbury criticised the Government of Ireland during the last ten years, and contrasted it with the previous ten years. Lord Oranmore dealt with the point whether there is enough land in Ireland to satisfy recruits who are likely to join the Colours—a point to which Lord Beresford also alluded. I do not think it is necessary for me to go into the statistical position of land. Lord MacDonnell's chief contribution of interest was some inner history of the Irish Convention, and so on. Lord Ashbourne, whose speech was interesting to your Lordships, especially the part which noble Lords on both sides failed to understand, made an extremely interesting and vivid attack upon the system of Irish education. If worth while I think one could show that elementary education in Ireland is the education which the vast majority of Irish Members desire. But that, again, has nothing to do with the departmental and executive problems before the House and the country to-day.
The only two points on which I feel it incumbent to reply are one raised by the noble Marquess, Lord Sligo, who made an extremely practical and highly relevant contribution to the discussion, and by Lord Mayo. On one of the matters raised I am 492 powerless to answer. Lord Midleton first, and Lord Mayo this evening, made a grave charge against the honour and good faith of Mr. Duke. A pledge was given by Mr. Duke. Well, the pledge was given in private, and the charge has been made in public. I do not know what the private pledge was, or what Mr. Duke's version of it is. It is, therefore, impossible to deal with a matter of that kind, which I gather must be twelve months old, and which may be interesting as marking a certain historical development in the history of the Irish Convention, but which, so far as I see, has little practical bearing on the problem of to-day.
One definite and concrete point has been put to your Lordships by Lord Sligo and by, I think, Lord Mayo, too. That is the attitude of the Government with regard to proclaiming the Sinn Fein society or organisation. It seemed to me that the noble Marquess opposite had some doubt if the Government had ascertained whether it was within its power to proclaim this society. Of course it is within the power of the Government to do so, apart from the Defence of the Realm Regulations. Under the Act of 1887 it is possible for the Government of Ireland, after due notice by Proclamation, to proclaim this society to be an illegal association. All I have to say to your Lordships is this, that the Government of Ireland is fully conscious of its powers under the Act of 1887. At least two clauses of that Act have quite recently been put into operation.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Change of venue—numbers three and four. If it is held advisable by the responsible advisers of the Government the remainder of that Act will be put into force, but I think Lord Sligo underrated the measure of activity already shown by the Government. I do not know how many leaders of this society have been apprehended—ninety, my noble friend the Leader of the House tells me. This shows at least that the statement by the Lord President is well founded—that the Government are determined to do what lies in their power to re-establish and to maintain law and order, and if the Government do not think it advisable to put into effect the remaining clauses of the Act of 1887, I hope that neither Lord Sligo nor Lord Mayo will think that the reason is that they do not mean, and are not de- 493 termined, to carry out the policy of maintaining law and order.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I have no right to speak again, but as I ventured at his request to represent the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, at the beginning of the day's proceedings, perhaps your Lordships would allow me to ask leave that the Motion should be withdrawn.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.