§ LORD ASKWITH
My Lords, it is with some diffidence that I rise to call attention to the condition of Ireland, and to move for Papers. It may be said of this Motion, as was said in another place, that it it inopportune and not helpful; but when one considers that in this House there are so many Peers who have the widest experience of Ireland, and many of them of administration in that country, and that there are a large number of Irish Peers who, though it may be difficult for them to speak at the present time, afford in this House a greater representation of 176 Ireland than there is in any other association in the country, it seems to me that it may be a wise thing to give your Lordships an opportunity of saying something of what you feel upon the matter, and of making suggestions that may be useful in the administration of justice, and at any rate of speaking out upon some of the conditions which from time to time are reported in this country.
It is a long time since Ireland was mentioned in this House. No debate of any moment has taken place since July 15 last. On that date, after criticising the suggestions made by two Peers from Ireland, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack stated that he thought there was no prospect of a happy issue from our labours until the cause of law and order had been vindicated and established in Ireland, and until honest men could there pursue their legitimate vocations without fear of the assassin's dagger or of the murderer's gun. Although the noble and learned Lord took great care to express that this was only his individual opinion, yet it was felt by many that it was the view that the Government themselves were taking, and that they would endeavour to the best of their ability to restore order and some semblance of recognition of the law in that country.
What is the condition of affairs at the present time? There is in Ireland, from every report one can get, a complete system of terrorism. There are murders to an extent that has never been known before, and it has become even unnecessary to murder because a threat has become enough, knowing that the sanction of murder remains behind. Arson, robbery, burglary, intimidation, giving up land, cattle-driving organised on the largest possible scale, destruction of police barracks—250 of them, without people knowing apparently that it was going to occur, without a single arrest, without a single conviction or punishment for it; 250 on one Saturday blown up or burnt within a few counties in Ireland—destruction of barracks, destruction of houses, destruction of churches; and then at last a deputation coming over here to the House of Commons and the leader of the House of Commons having to remark that "if the names of people coming as a deputation to put their case before the British Government were made public their lives would be in danger."
177 This state of affairs, as far as I have delineated it at present, has been almost unknown to the British public. They have taken comparatively little notice of it. It has not been spoken of much in the newspapers, except in one newspaper that was brave enough to send correspondents to Ireland, and then was warned that it must bring them back again because they were in danger of their lives. This system of terrorism has been better organised and better paid than any that has ever existed in any period of the history of Ireland. We cannot help admiring the ingenuity of the committees or of the people who organise it, and the secrecy and effectiveness with which it is carried out. It falls upon the poor as well as upon the rich. It falls upon women and upon men. The newspapers, until the last few days, did not dare to give the names or did not dare to speak of the localities, and were really not able to give any picture of the state of affairs that exists.
I have had handed to me an account of what one gentleman suffered whose house was raided, and the author of this account authorises me to give his name and his locality. It is a name well known to many of your Lordships. It is the name of Sir Arthur Vicars, who lives in the county of Kerry. It is a long letter about other matters as well as this particular raid, and at the beginning of it he speaks of not having had a raid up to the time of commencing that letter. But at the very time when he is writing the letter a raid occurs. These are his words—So far we have not suffered, but are about the only people in North Kerry whose house has not been raided. But one never knows what may happen. We have all our arms, etc., in a strong room. I have heard privately that they won't raid us, but why I do not know, as I ant a strong Unionist, and this they know. Last week they broke into a house 7 miles from here and stole blankets, boots, and clothes, etc.—how patriotic!—for the good of their cause!As a postscript to his letter he sends the following—3 a.m.—We have just been raided—1 a.m. I had just finished this letter, writing overnight, when a loud knocking came at a side door. I went to see who was there, and a voice said, 'Mr. Flanagan, open the door.' I said I would not, and the man proceeded to smash in the door with a sledge whilst I ran off to awake the menservants and to hide my revolver and ammunition, as over 100 men were outside and round the pouse. After a quarter of an hour the door hanels gave, and about ten or fifteen armed and masked men trooped into the dining room. Captain Moonlight demanded arms. I said I 178 would not give them up; that they were in the strong room. They demanded the key, which I refused, and they searched me for my keys, but I said I was not such a fool as to keep the strong room key on me. They then said that if I would not produce the key they would shoot me. The head man called on ten men to line up, and they levelled their guns at me as I stood against the side table at the end of the room. I said, 'You may shoot me first, but you won't get the key or any arms.' The head man told me to prepare to meet my God. I said, 'All right, fire away. He said 'One, two,' and then stopped and asked me to show them about the house. I refused, but said I would show them where the strong room was. They then placed me under arrest with three men as guard at the foot of the stairs while they brought crowbars and what, not and invaded the footman's bedroom which over the strong room. They tore up the floor and smashed into ceiling of our armoury (with no arms) and tried to tackle the top of the strong room. Such smashing I never heard—and dust. But they could make no headway on the strong room, which is of steel girders and concrete, and they finally left at 2.30 a.m., having got nothing or taken nothing. They smashed a key box and searched some of the rooms, and upset; things. … None of the men were front around here. One man seemed to have a Cork accent. I saw that resistance was useless because they were in such numbers, and over one hundred around the house. … My wife is actually bringing over rockets to fire off in case of a raid, but they are too late! I thought I would jot down these particulars to amuse you, as 1 had just finished my letter to you when the men arrived.That, my Lords, is the description of a raid, a first-hand description, from a man who gives his name.
The terrorism is not confined to men who knock at the doors at night. Nobody dare open a door on hearing a knock after dark. Murder, outrage, and wounding go on by day. There was the case of Mr. Bell, turned out of a tram way car filled with other people, murdered on the pavement, and his assassins walking off without either being recognised or any one saying anything further to them. Railways, trains, trains, mails, post-offices, income-tax offices—the whole machinery of Government upset. If a man will not give up land he is put into a coffin and nailed there. As the nails are driven in he is asked from time to time whether he will give it up or not. At another time he is taken down to a lake and told that he will be pushed into it unless he gives up his land. Policemen living in Dublin going to Galway or Cork to take their holidays are shot in the fields when they are working for their fathers. Civil jurisdiction is at a discount, the King's Writ does not run in the Courts, and as for the Criminal Courts no evidence dare be given, 179 and no convictions result from any trial. And if any one claims his due he is told that he is to abate his claim or he is doomed. An instance was told me the other day where a letter was received to the effect that if this man did not take £100 when £1,000 was due to him his death was certain, and he thought that it would be wise for him to give up his claim and say nothing further about it.
As for the southern counties of Ireland, in some of those places they are sending in returns that there are no malicious injuries at all, and they are not going to pay any damages for the injuries that have been done. I have here an account of the statistics of these outrages at various times between January 1 and the end of March. Police, soldiers, officials, civilians, there were wounded or murdered 131–11 of them being cases where the men met their death; barracks destroyed, 251, attacks, 25; military fired on, police patrols attacked, raids for arms and money; private residences, 131; attacked post offices, 13; trains held up and railways damaged, 12; Protestant churches destroyed or damaged, 3; attempts to destroy private residences, 29; highway robberies, 20; mail cars held up, 28; Income-tax offices destroyed, 23; houses fired into and civilians assaulted, 18. That is the roll for three months.
But it is getting worse, and between April 30 and May 4 there is a long week-end from Friday to Tuesday when fourteen events were reported in one day. Sergeant McKenna and Constables Colgan and Rabbett were fired on by a party of about fifteen masked men, and the sergeant. was killed instantaneously and both constables seriously wounded. Shots were fired at a police patrol at Park, near Kilkerrin, co. Galway; three police barracks were destroyed; on May 2 a mail ear from Miltown Malbay was held up by armed men. At midnight on April 30 armed and masked men entered the house of Michael Keegan in the Tuam district; they ordered his daughter out of bed; she fainted and was dragged into the yard, and while lying unconscious on the ground her hair was cut off. On the same date a farmer returning from the fair of Mullagh in Bailieborough district was waylaid and robbed of £52; near Broadford, co. Clare, on the same date notice was given proclaiming that district a military area by order of the Irish Volunteers. At Kinsale mail bags rifled; in Tipperary, mail cart held up by masked men and three mail 180 bags stolen. All this in a week-end. The Leader of the House of Commons said the other day—There is no doubt, and it is no good denying it, that the condition of Ireland at this moment is notorious, it is probably worse than ever before. The conditions are in the last degree lamentable.Apparently he agrees with the resolution that was passed and handed to him by the Irish Unionist Alliance, when they said the law had become completely paralysed, with the result that murder and every form of outrage is perpetrated with impunity, the liberty of law-abiding citizens has ceased to exist and their lives often imperilled, and they are now living on sufferance.
I am not going into the details of any more of these outrages. The tale that I have told gives you a sufficient sketch of what was going on in the South and South-West of Ireland. It is not as if it was being kept within any bounds. It is spreading from county to county, it is spreading from village to village. No man occupying an official position when he goes out in the morning but goes out with the thought that he may never return again. Men who are apparently innocent of any part in politics, of any interest an pursuing crime, are murdered perhaps for petty spite, perhaps for the sake of gain. And what is the Government doing? It is not as if this were in a sense a new thing. Ireland, of course, broods upon her past history, and one hears irrelevant references to Henry Plantagenet, or Henry VIII, to Cromwell, or Queen Elizabeth, or the White Boys as reasons for some of the state of affairs that now exists.
The fact is that in Ireland at the present moment there are being carried out schemes that have been foreshadowed in comparatively recent years, and which are almost clearly described by writers in the past. Because it has such an intimate relation with the state of affairs at present I would venture to read to you a short description of what Lalor in 1817 in the Irish Felon described, and what be suggested for the method of rebellion in Ireland. It is important because it was taken up by the Land League afterwards and is now apparently being taken up by Sinn Fein, for it accurately describes the condition of affairs. Lalor in that paper said this—The practical assertion of our right consists in two parts—the abolition of the British Govern- 181 ment and the formation of a national one. (1) The mode of action that this country might have recourse to consists in refusal of obedience to usurped authority; (2) in maintaining and defending such refusal of obedience; (3) in resisting very attempt to exercise such usurped authority and every proceeding adopted to enforce obedience; (4) in taking quiet and peaceful possession of till the rights and powers of government and in proceeding quietly to exercise them; (5) in maintaining and defending the exercise of such rights and powers, should it be attacked. Strip, then, and let Ireland strip now or never, if indeed it be not yet too late to achieve her designs. There is, I am convinced, but one way alone, and that is to link repeal with sonic other question, like a railway carriage to the engine—some question strong enough to carry both itself and repeal together. And such a question there is in the land—one ready and prepared. Ages have prepared it. An engine ready-made—one, too, that will generate its own steam without cause or care, a self-acting engine, if once the fire be kindled. Repeal had always to be dragged. This I speak of will carry itself as the cannon ball carries itself down the hill.That was taken up a generation later by Davitt when he founded the Land League. He says himself that there was a general similarity, that he followed that doctrine as far as he could, except that he gave up nationality, still keeping it at the back of his mind, in favour of the general word "self-government," which is now called in this country Home Rule. He called it self-government and he attached it to the land. In his description of it he said—Let them show that the social well-being of our people is the motive of their actions, the aim of -their endeavours, while striving for the grand object ahead, and then the farming classes in Ireland will rally round them to assist in reaching that object. They look upon a man's existence in an abstract light, and think he should be moved in their cause without consulting that selfishness which is invariably the mainspring of human action.One cannot quite agree with Mr. Davitt in that last part, but he was wise enough in his generation to link his demand for self-government with the demand for land, and he largely succeeded. To what is it that Sinn Fein, this abstract doctrine, is linking itself? Partly the land, partly greed, partly the paying off of petty spites, partly the lack of opportunity of self-expression in the numerous young men now in Ireland. It seems to me that it is a mixture of those many things; and that—although they may have created an atmosphere—all the crimes, or knowledge of the crimes, which have been committed cannot be laid at the door of those philosophers, artists, and other men of intellectual capacity, who declare themselves in favour of Sinn Fein—which, I believe, means "All for us." They have 182 collected around them, however, whatever in Ireland is of the worst kind, and there are men—there must be men—who are directing it with this extraordinary skill and ingenuity and who are paying for this conspiracy (whatever it is) which leads to such destruction of life.
Some are, like most Irishmen in the past, leaving a country which opens too little opportunity for the advancement of the young men. An item of intelligence which I take is that an unusually large party of emigrants have left the West of Ireland this week, and that the figures are almost equal to the pre-war days. Berths are being booked months in advance and the exodus promises to reach large proportions. A great number comprise men who have sold out their farms and are clearing out of the country. You can read that in two ways. They have sold their farms and cleared out either to have a wider outlook in another country, or they are leaving Ireland because of the terrorism which exists, or because they find there no opportunity for advancement. It occurs to me that a great deal of the industrial and other unrest in many parts of the world is due to lack of opportunity in different parts for the young men to get through. In Ireland, an agricultural country, there are but few careers—the Bar, some measure in the Church, and some measure in a few big towns as merchants; but almost all the great Irishmen of to-day come over here or go to other countries, and here we hail them as some of the most brilliant men born of the Irish race. The women of Ireland also leave that country because they have no career. I once asked why it was that from every emigrant ship which took over a number of girls to America every girl immediately on arrival was booked up and taken away—where did they go, and what became of them? The answer was that there was an unceasing demand from the West of America for these girls because they brought into every city to which they went an atmosphere of purity which was valuable to the citizens of that city, which was different from the ideas of the emigrants from other countries in Europe, "and that as soon as they had begun to make a little money they employed it in digging the foundations of a church. That is good material if only you can make use of it; if only you can give these people some opportunity of having a bigger and more open career, and something better than 183 entering into these conspiracies or outrages in their own country.
Behind all this is the aspiration I have mentioned, an aspiration linked, as I have said, to so much selfishness, and so on, which has grown greatly during the last few years; partly due no doubt to the war; partly due to disgust; partly to anger at the state of affairs which arose in the North of Ireland, anger at their own arms being stopped when they thought that the arms of that other portion of Ireland had been allowed to go in; anger at the vacillation and changes which took place over Conscription and over Home Rule; treating of Home Rule as "a broken treaty." There the thing is. How is it to be met by the British Government? These incidents have been attributed to British Government; the vacillations and changes have also been attributed to the British Government. I am not blaming particularly the present Government over this matter; it is unfortunately the fact that, owing to our Party system, we never have any continuity of government in Ireland. There is vacillation first to one policy and then to another; and even during the career of one Government there is vacillation because the Government of Ireland is carried on by a small coterie of men in Dublin Castle, and the policy they carry out largely depends on who is the most dominant person and how long he is in office.
Then there are the executive acts of the Government within recent times—the withdrawal of the police, leaving barracks to be blown up or burnt; no support of the police in the sieges that took place by having soldiers in the neighbourhood to protect the police, or having soldiers to occupy the barracks while the police held the outlying districts, with the result that whole districts in Ireland were left completely unprotected. The police are drawn from, perhaps, a quiet district and sent into a district where outrages may have commenced, and then that feeling of security which existed while they were in the first-named district comes to an end, and outrages commence there. This is not an exaggeration, I think, of what the condition of Ireland has been. And it has been varied by raids by the police—raids which have been dubbed "spectacular raids," in which persons have been swept up in large numbers. I heard of a 184 case where fifty were taken from one small town and have not been seen again. It is not known where they are. Their names are not given. They are not tried. They cannot be tried. Nobody gives any evidence. Nobody dare give any evidence. No jury dare convict, or a man dare to sit upon a jury to try them. Some may have been over in England. Some may be incarcerated in Ireland. A great many of them may now be let out, but let out because they engaged in a hunger strike and let out to go back to the villages from which they came with a power of denunciation against the policemen who may have been thought to have caused their incarceration or to have given evidence against them. That has caused a state of absolute fear over wide districts of Ireland, a fear which shows no sign of abatement but continues to spread.
It may be that sonic of your Lordships will be able to make some suggestions upon that state of affairs to assist the Government or to denounce the Government. The Government and their officers are not omniscient. Many of you know a very great deal about Ireland. The difficulty about it is that there are so many complications — political, industrial, religious—and divisions between various parts of the country. You have this state of affairs in a country which in 1911 had only 4,400,000 inhabitants all told, of whom, curiously enough, so different from England, Scotland and Wales, within 6,000 almost exactly half were women. If you take away Ulster and a few districts in the other parts of Ireland you cannot have much more than about one and a quarter million men to govern.
How are they being governed? Years ago when Mr. Gladstone claimed that he was going to take various steps in the West of Ireland, Mr. Disraeli got up and denounced the steps that were proposed, secret commissions and so on, and denounced him for not being able to govern a few counties in Ireland. Mr. Gladstone answered, "One county." "One county," said Disraeli, "you are not able even to govern one county in Ireland"; and it looks as if that is the state of affairs now. The noble Viscount, Lord Chaplin, will doubtless remember that happened long years ago, in March, 1868. Again to use the words of Mr. Bonar Law—The picture is a very black one, but there are sonic signs that the excesses are having this effect 185 —that they are now Wing directed against the men who call themselves Sinn Feiners, that they are suffering, and I cannot help thinking that the effect of that on Ireland will be to make them welcome the restoration of reasonable government and to try themselves to find some way out of the impasse in which we are."I am going to recur to that suggestion because it enters into some of the ideas that occur to me on this matter. It seems to me that the whole of the government of Ireland wants speeding up and that it is necessary, if possible, to whittle away every grievance that may exist.
During the war Ireland was much neglected. With the possibility of Home Rule very little has been done, but are you to allow this state of affairs to continue for month after month until this Bill, if it does go through, comes into operation, and to hand over to this new Government, if they choose to work a new Government, an Ireland in the state in which it is at the present moment? How you should deal with these questions is a very difficult matter. There are so many. It has been suggested that for the trial of prisoners and to stop this conspiracy, you should change the venue of trial. Personally, I do not believe that that would have the slightest effect or be of the slightest use. It would require an Act of Parliament. No witnesses could be got. If any man did come forward to give evidence he would be pursued to the uttermost parts of the earth in the same way as James Carey, the informer of the Phoenix Park murders, was pursued. That cannot be done.
Who is it who reviews the sentences or the reasons why these people are put into prison without trial? Is there anybody whose judgment is trusted even on the papers that may be produced or the suspicion that may be produced about any of these men? I do not know. There is no known man or men. Should it not be known who they are? Could not at least an advisory body of high judicial authority with common sense be established, who would review the decisions that are taken and would take care, so far as possible, that no innocent man should be locked up on suspicion if there are any now locked up? Then, for the prevention of crime, is it not possible to get some better co-ordination between the military and police? I have already alluded to the absence of that co-ordination. General Sir Nevil Macready has just gone out. He is a man of considerable tact and skill, 186 particularly in the handling of troops in disturbances. I know that from personal experience, because on several occasions he has had to deal with industrial disputes in this country. What are his powers? Has he powers over the police as well as over the military, or is he acting in concert with a man with whom co-ordination can be effectively carried out so that the police and military shall act together?
One is sometimes inclined to think, on reading these things, whether all is well with the police. It was found that the Metropolitan Police in London, a body which most people thought would be as safe and as sure as the Bank of England, was honeycombed with sedition, and that it had been very badly treated. Have the police in Ireland been badly treated? What is their position? Are they men who would dare to bring forward complaints against people living in their own villages with the knowledge that within a few months they may be under another Government? It is difficult for them to act under such circumstances, and still more difficult for them to act now that people whom they have brought to book have gone back to their places. They have, no doubt, to look to the future. But in looking to the future ought they not to know what their position is? Have they been told that at the end of the time if another Government comes in they will be compensated if permitted to leave the force, and if they do not wish to leave the force that care will be taken to see that nothing happens to them on account of what they have done under the present Government?
A curious change of attitude towards the police has occurred during recent years. The old idea of the Irish policeman seems to have gone. They are denounced by people who ought not to denounce them, and you have varying kinds of denunciations which are of a very curious character. I have seen one from a rev. Prelate who, if he belonged to my Church, I should be inclined to speak of very badly—the Bishop of Killaloe. He talks of the conduct of the police as "a mad riot, of raids, arrests, and organised assassination." And the Sinn Fein loan appeal speaks of their "leaders being murdered by the armed hirelings of England." The police are looked upon as persons belonging to another Government quite different from the Government which Sinn 187 Fein purposes to set up; as spies whom it is right for them to murder. There is another Bishop—the Bishop of Cork. What his instructions were or whether he did it out of his own spiritual mind I do not know. He takes a different line from that of the Bishop of Killaloe. He speaks of the two policemen who were murdered and wishes to know whether there was any- proof that the farmer's son, who was afterwards killed in the course of a raid by the police and military, was connected with an attack on the police. At the end the Bishop of Cork warns all people and especially young men against the possible false theory about the police—namely, that they are the army of an enemy Power who may be shot down. He said—Let there be no mistake about it—the killing of policemen is murder. I regret in particular the murder of two policemen at Upton. I have heard them spoken of as excellent Catholics and very reasonable and sensible men.Is it not possible to have some examination as to the reason why there arc these different views of policemen in Ireland; why some of them may be murdered and their murderers condoned, and others murdered and it is described as murder. The police, I believe, have a system of reward. Does that system cause a belief in the minds of the peasants that for the sake of reward the police may denounce them and bring them before the authorities. If the police have rewards, has any reward been given in the case where certain persons were bound and carried off by Sinn Feiners and as a result money stolen from a bank was returned to the bank? Mr. Bonar Law talked of the Sinn Feiners being ready to help. Why should not Sinn Feiners be as much encouraged to help in putting down these outrages, if they are ready to do so, as the police?
I do not wish to detain your Lordships too long, and I therefore pass on to the Congested Districts Board's administration. I said earlier in my speech that one of the most important things was the danger of the young men in Ireland. The policy of the Congested Districts Board is laid down by the Act of 1909. It does not allow them to give land to landless people, and one of the great difficulties of the present moment is these landless men. Could not a repeal of this clause be considered, or some discretionary power given to the Congested Districts Board to grant allotments, if land can be obtained—and land can be obtained if current prices are paid—up 188 to three acres for some of these landless men? It would hold out an opportunity to them to settle in their own country or to work on the land. Allotments in England constitute now one of the institutions of the country. The Congested Districts Board has a quantity of land. It may be keeping it for soldiers— I am afraid they will never be able to occupy it—but much more land might be acquired.
It is owing to the necessity of keeping the Congested Districts Board short of money that it has been profitable to them to keep the land in their own hands, unvested. The landlords get a low interest, the tenants have to pay more, and the balance of profit goes to the Congested Districts Board. When asked why they do not have the land vested they say that they are waiting for the landlord to prove title. The landlord may have never been asked to prove title, and if he does try to prove title then a lot of niggling will go on for a few years. More land could be made available for these landless people if a little more money was given to the Congested Districts Board to carry out its operations.
Then, my Lords, there is Labour, and the same complaint I make there, that a little less niggardliness might be shown. In Dublin during the last two or three years there has been established a branch of the Conciliation Department of the Ministry of Labour under the control of a very able young man, Mr. Gordon Campbell, a son of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and I know that he, for all the assistance that is given to him, has had to fight most bitter fights with the British Treasury. From experience I know the importance of having quick assistance in industrial disputes, and the difficulty of getting it when you have to write over from Dublin to London for a small allowance. This gentleman has been very successful, having regard to the comparatively little assistance he has had. He has the Irish Transport Workers Union to deal with, which is a very difficult union to deal with, but he has nevertheless had considerable success with that union. I remember a Dublin employer saying to me that he could not understand how I could speak to that man Larkin. But even if you cannot argue with such a man you can at least turn the facet of his mind in some other direction.
The last idea that I was going to speak of is on a very delicate matter, and on 189 which sonic of you will not at all agree with me. There was a manifesto by Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Bonar Law in which they spoke of Ireland being rent by trouble, and said that they must explore all possible paths to end it. On the basis of self-government they spoke of the two paths which were closed—namely, secession from the British Empire and the forcible submission of six counties of Ireland. Within that Declaration there is a fine opportunity for consideration. It has always struck me that one of the most senseless things is concentrating upon non-essentials, and that if you can sweep away some of these non-essentials you may have an opportunity of dealing with the vital matter. I am not going to propose a renewal of the conferences which took place in the summer, but there have been conferences and there have been meetings in the past in Ireland which have led to some success. Is it possible, on what Mr. Bonar Law himself has said, that some opening should occur, possibly through the Catholic Church, and that some of these leading Sinn Feiners, whom I do not accuse of being responsible for or even of knowing of these crimes, not excluding other conferences with other persons, may be induced to attend at. some conference, so that it would he possible to discuss or at any rate to get at their views with regard to the present and future government of Ireland? If they will not come, then the opportunity has been given to them, and the British nation will take its own line. If they do come, let it be known that they are cooling, and let the conference be perfectly without conditions before it takes place. If it is found that the conditions that are vital to us cannot be got round, then we shall know where we are—that we are practically at war, and that we have to put down the present state of affairs with the strongest power which the British Government can bring to bear. If, on the other hand, there are things upon which we can meet them; if, as has been said, you have allowed the principle of nationality in this very Declaration of Self-Government, and you can make a treaty giving some of the things which can hit the imagination of the Irish people, then there is a possibility of a settlement. It was attempted in the Kilmainham Treaty. It was attempted also in the Land Conference, where it was said that agreement under no circumstances was possible. 190 Mr. John Redmond came into that Conference with a half sheet of note paper bearing three words in one corner, whether in Irish or shorthand I do not know. He had come there with his points, and beyond them nothing more was essential to him. Yet the Land Conference came to an agreement, and the Land Act which has done such good to Ireland came as a result. Is it possible for the same kind of thing to happen in regard to this matter? I know that many of your Lordships would disagree with me, but I think it is possible. I will quote the words of Mr. J. H. Thomas with regard to Labour troubles. He said—The only method of settling labour troubles is the cold, hard, common-sense method which first of all entails learning the facts and then facing them and dealing with them accordingly. Let us avoid calling things by fictitious names. Unrest is not Bolshevism, and the wish to speed up the machine of social and industrial reform carries in it no more evidence of a desire for a Soviet Government than for a Tory Government.You must get at the facts, and put before these people the difficulty that, even if we went out of Ireland to-morrow morning, we should still have to move all our Government offices and administrations, and to settle the question of finance, and that even if we did not set a limit to the aspirations of the so-called nation, yet at least the thing would have to take years and years, and that meanwhile the present state of affairs, murder, outrage and so on, should not and could not go on.
It is best in these disturbances that people should be quiet, and that you should get at the facts before you begin to take action, but when you cannot do that, as often happens in industrial strife, the best thing you can do is to try to whittle away the difficulties that are around the subject until the leaders find that there are things which are not worth fighting about. At any rate, it is impossible to go back to the policy of sudden raids, imprisonment without trial, and of hunger striking, which would raise martyrs like Ash or like the Manchester martyrs, to be worshipped by future generations in Ireland. Although it may not be possible to avoid the arrest of some on suspicion, yet the wholesale method in which it has been done is a policy which it is doubtful could ever be pursued again.
I am afraid that I have occupied you too long with a speech upon this subject. I would only remind you that this day is the anniversary of a day thirty-eight years 191 ago when the greatest. disaster happened to the future of Ireland, when a messenger of peace going over there was foully murdered in Phœnix Park. Since his time there have been among the Nationalists men who held very strong views who have also held out the message of peace. I allude to the late Major William Redmond and also to his brother. This day it is well to consider what the future policy is going to be, and whether it is at all possible to hold out any message of peace. If not, let us know it. I beg to move.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, upon the interesting and thoughtful speech to which we have just listened I feel that we can congratulate the noble Lord, who has performed what is little less than a public duty in calling the attention of Parliament and the country to the state of affairs in Ireland at the present time. There is no doubt that what is wanted at the moment is greater publicity of the real and true facts as they present themselves to those living in Ireland to-day. In a certain section of the Press there seems to be a sort of desire, I will not say to minimise the events which have taken place, but not to put them prominently before the public. Only yesterday in one of our leading newspapers I saw that a foul murder was just mentioned in a corner of the page as if it were an ordinary event; it was not put in any way to attract the public.
I am convinced that the vast majority of our people are insufficiently informed regarding the actual facts in Ireland at the present moment. The events which the noble Lord has described to us are quite sufficient evidence of the problem which is confronting the Government to-day. I am sure nobody wishes to add in any way to the difficulties of the Government, and no one fails to appreciate the appalling problem with which it has to deal. I am afraid the situation is largely the legacy of the deplorable mistakes of the past, especially the régimeof Mr. Birrell, the want of insight, I may almost say the stupidity, of the War Office in the matter of enlisting men in the early stages of the war, and also the handling of the Irish situation at the time of the rebellion by Mr. Asquith's Government. But these are things of the past, and no good is done by more than mentioning them.
What we have to deal with is the present situation, and I am afraid that the present 192 situation has been largely led up to by what you may call the better portion of the Irish people, by the Nationalists and the Irish people, losing all confidence in British intentions respecting self-government in Ireland. The result is that now we have an inner ring of desperate revolutionaries who have taken charge of the situation, and the country seems to be drifting rapidly towards that appalling calamity, civil war, unless some means be found to stop it. I say advisedly that I believe it is really an inner ring of revolutionaries, and, with the noble Lord who has just spoken, I do not think for a moment that the vast majority even of those who call themselves Sinn Feiners are really in sympathy with this campaign of murder. That is the deplorable factor that we have to deal with. I think that we may regard it as a certainty that the great mass of the Irish are really as much opposed to the murders and terrorism which is now going on as we are, but they arc absolutely powerless in face of the well-organised minority which, as the noble Lord said, seems to be so astutely directed.
It seems to me that the only chance of averting further disaster is to leave no stone unturned in order to try and convince the orderly portion of the Irish nation of the great change of opinion which I believe has been brought about in England with respect to the problem of Irish Home Rule, and that no greater harm could be done to that cause than is done by a continuation of the murder campaign which is now going on. Speaking for myself, as a humble and insignificant individual, I was opposed to Home Rule in the past, and I have spoken against it on many platforms as keenly as anybody else. Not that I in any way believed in that fear of religious persecution on the part of either one side or the other, or in all the extravagances on the subject which came from the Orangemen of the North and which have done such an immense amount of harm. The one thing that I always had before me was the international danger that was confronting us before the war. I thought that anybody who had any conception of the international danger must ask himself whether we should be weaker or stronger when the time came that we had to put our backs to the wall and fight for our lives if we had one Parliament to deal with instead of two. The answer seems to me to be absolutely indisputable. I know perfectly well that a sentimental Home Ruler always says, "Oh, if you will only 193 press the Irish people you will find them your friends in time of trouble." But it is a little too much of a gamble. We had to face too many things that had come from the Irish Party in the past about England's difficulty being Ireland's opportunity and all that sort of thing, and the risk was too great. It was not good enough even for the purpose of placating Irishmen to risk the appalling danger of weakening ourselves to a fatal extent in the event of any great crisis.
I suppose there is no doubt whatever that there was an active Party in Ireland that was helping the enemy in the war. Fortunately they were not able to do very much. But if that party had been strong enough, if they had been able to control the harbours of Ireland and give more active assistance to the enemy than they were able to do I do not suppose that anybody would gainsay the fact that. we should very likely have lost the war. I have no hesitation in saying, as one among a great many, that now, with the removal of that danger, I have altered my opinion with regard to self-government in Ireland. I said so some time ago in a letter I wrote to one of the Irish Nationalist papers which made a reference to something I had said. I was at once denounced as a mere opportunist. They are very hard to please, some of these gentlemen of the Irish Nationalist Press. They entertain the same opinions of you whether you agree with them or whether you do not. But if retaining the liberty to change one's opinions in the face of time and altered circumstances brands one as an opportunist and therefore as a criminal. I am afraid I must plead guilty on this occasion to being an opportunist. I am not ashamed of it.
But I am certain of this, that we want more publicity with regard to these matters, both at home and also in America. It is all very well for us to say the Americans have nothing to do with the question of Irish government, but we have to remember that large Irish population over there, and the undoubted fact that at the present moment they are doing everything they can, in conjunction with the German interest, to stir up hostile feelings against this country, which can only be deplored. I am perfectly certain that there is a very poor appreciation in America of the real facts of the case. I had an interesting talk some months ago with an American 194 friend of mine who had been over there last year and gave a course of lectures. He told me he had given 130 or 140 lectures on English and American characteristics, trying to get his countrymen to understand us. He told me that his practice always was to give his lecture and then to invite the audience to heckle him, to ask questions. He said they invariably began on the Irish question—" Why don't you give justice to Ireland?" And then, he said, he generally used to begin by reminding them that if any Americans wished to take a really active part in forcing upon Great Britain a new system of government in Ireland they must, in the last resort, be prepared to fight for it. And lie used to invite any of the audience who were prepared to fight England for the sake of Ireland to stand up. He said that in all his audiences he not only had not one single individual who stood up but if at any time there was any standing up at the far end of the room, or the tent in which he was, they generally sat down on the floor.
Then he Would go on to remind them of what had taken place in Ireland. He would tell them that Ireland had probably come under the stress of war less than any country in the British Empire, that there had been no conscription there, no food regulation, no air raids, that the coasts had not been bombarded, that they had made a great deal of money, and they were extremely prosperous. And all this, be said, seemed to come as an entire surprise to his audience. They had not appreciated the facts before. He also asked if they had ever heard of the Convention which sat for many months trying to come to some conclusion as to what they really wanted. He said the greater number of them in the Middle West had never even heard of the Convention. Then he pointed out to them the strategical position of Ireland on the Atlantic flank of England, how it dominated the routes of our food supply and how, if the German Fleet had obtained control of the Irish harbours, it would have been practically impossible for the American Army ever to have crossed the Atlantic, and he told me he was immensely struck time after time with the total want of appreciation of what we here regard as this elementary question. But I am afraid it is too true that what was generally known as the dissemination of information or propaganda in America for the purpose of, lightening en-lightening that nation on the difficulties 195 which we have to deal with in the Irish question has been far too much neglected.
We have had some interesting suggestions from the noble Lord, and there is no doubt that changes are required in the manner of Irish government—of what is known as "Castle" Government. But it is one thing to stop the wholesale deportation of suspected political prisoners, and it is another thing to release men who have been convicted of attempted murder simply because they have embarked on what they please to call a "hunger strike." But, whatever happens, there is one thing which must be made absolutely clear, as clear as it was made in the welcome words of the Prime Minister the other day, that any secession will be resisted to the very utmost by the people of this country, and that Ireland has got to remain as a portion of the strategical unit which is known as the British Isles.
LORD MAC DONNELL
My Lords, I should like to make some comments upon the speech of my noble friend who initiated this debate, and perhaps I may present my comments to you more effectively if I give a brief sketch of the main topics of Irish history since the year 1902, when they came under my personal notice. I went to Ireland in the year 1902 as Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. I had the fullest opportunities of making myself acquainted with all the facts of Irish administration, and it was known—I made it perfectly clearly known—to the then Chief Secretary, Mr. Wyndham, that I was not a Conservative, and that although I did not see eye to eye with him in all matters of administration in Ireland there was such a similarity between our views on the main subjects of administration that I was willing to take office under him. Mr. Wyndham accepted my services under those conditions, and I spent in Ireland six years.
When I went to Ireland I found pretty much the same sort of thing that we find now in Ireland. Men were imprisoned without trial. Among those who were imprisoned was my friend Major William Redmond, as lie afterwards became, and surely there was no more loyal man, although he was a Nationalist, no more loyal subject or more loyal soldier than Willie Redmond. After a time it became known throughout Ireland that a spirit of conciliation was rife in the Castle of 196 Dublin and, in course of time, no difficulties of a police character were encountered by myself or by the police. Efforts which had been made to hold public meetings discountenancing evictions and to restore if possible the evicted tenants were abandoned when it became known that such cases would be considered in connection with the amendment of the land law which Mr. Wyndham had undertaken.
The result was that when the Land Act of 1903 was passed a complete change of temperament occurred in Ireland. The people were no longer hostile to the British Government; they were hopeful that in times to come not only would their holdings be secured to them but that they would have some voice in the administration of their country. Things improved, so that when the Liberal Government came into office, and when Mr. Birrell relieved Lord Bryce and became Chief Secretary he was able to say that not for six hundred years had such a reign of peace prevailed as at that time obtained in Ireland. That was in the year 1907, and it was entirely due to the feeling engendered that the régime was one of conciliation and not one of coercion.
The change occurred when the Treasury failed to provide funds for the carrying out of Mr. Wyndham's Act. In the year 1905 it was found that not only was no money available for land purchase, but that the money which had been allocated for education in Ireland was applied to the purpose of land purchase. That was thought in Ireland to be an unfair thing to do, and I certainly have never been able to reconcile myself to the equity of the change. The people became discontented with the suspension of land purchase, and in order to stimulate the Government, as they thought, cattle-driving was taken up. In that way, through the fault of the Government, cattle-driving became common in Ireland. It has not been altogether abandoned now; and the noble Lord who initiated this debate has called your Lordships' attention to the fact that in the West of Ireland, especially on the Congested Districts Board estate, large cattle-drives have taken place in recent time. As I understood him, the noble Lord imputed that resumption of cattle-driving to his supposition that the Congested Districts Board have failed to distribute the land which they bought. The noble Lord is 197 mistaken in that. I hold in my hand the last Report of the Congested Districts Board in which they say that at the present time there are only 54,167 acres of arable land in their hands. This land they have bought for the purpose of improving uneconomic holdings, and you can imagine that in nine counties, in the whole sea-board of the West of Ireland, what a small quantity 50,000 acres is to distribute among such a number of people.
There is no doubt whatever that Ireland is in the worst condition that it has ever been within the recollection of any person alive. The reason is the disappointment which has been over and over again repeated in regard to the claim of the Irish for Home Rule. The principle of Home Rule has been agreed for a long time, but its fruition has been prevented equally long. I well remember attending the meeting held by Mr. Asquith in Dublin at the beginning of the war at which he made a promise to the Irish people that if they would enlist in His Majesty's Forces he would provide that they should be enrolled in particular regiments which were to be brigaded, and thereby renew the distinction which attaches in history to the name of the Irish Brigade. I remember also a debate in the House of Commons when Mr. Redmond brought to the attention of the House the manner in which that promise had been definitely defeated through the malfeasance of the War Office. I also remember hearing Mr. Lloyd George—I forget whether he was then War Minister or not— saying that the matters which Mr. Redmond had brought to his notice were scandalous in the extreme, and that he would do his best to have them redressed and remedied.
The noble Lord who spoke last stated that the treatment of the Irish people by the War Office, especially in regard to the enrolment of the Irish Volunteers, was one of the reasons which estranged the Irish people from the British Government. I know perfectly well, and your Lordships possibly know also, that no one was more earnest in the promotion of the war than Mr. Redmond, and that he then had behind him the whole of the Irish people. My own belief is that if the War Office on that occasion had taken advantage of Mr. Redmond's offer and had at that time enrolled the Irish Volunteers, those men would beyond doubt have volunteered for foreign service, because they were very 198 willing indeed to supply the drafts required to replace the losses in the Irish regiments. The result would have been that none of the difficulties which occurred owing to the enforcement, or attempted enforcement, of Conscription in Ireland would have occurred.
I was a member of the Irish Convention, and throughout the whole of the time during which that assembly sat there was the utmost good feeling maintained. But there never was from beginning to end any proposal made by any member from the delegation of Ulster to help the Irish Convention to a successful conclusion. When at the latter end there was a difficulty about the Customs Duties—whether the English Government or the Irish Government should administer them—I remember that Mr. Lloyd George summoned a deputation of the Irish Convention to proceed to London to explain to him the exact points upon which the difficulties occurred. I was one of that deputation, and I thought at the time that on all points there was no difficulty in meeting Mr. Lloyd George's view. He was particularly anxious in regard to Customs, and I thought with him that to change the system of Customs in England during a great war was a very hard proposition to maintain. He proposed that that question should be postponed till after the war, and I was one of those Who supported in the Irish Convention the proposition that the Prime Minister's proposals should be accepted. When the Convention was over and Mr. Lloyd George confided his findings to the Irish Convention, he wrote as follows—It is clear to the Government, in view of previous attempts at settlement and of the deliberations of the Convention itself, that the only hope of agreement—I beg your Lordships' attention to these words—the only hope of agreement lies in a solution which, on one side, provides for the unity of Ireland under a single Legislature with adequate safeguards for the interests of Ulster and the Southern Unionists, and on the other, preserves the well-being of the Empire and the fundamental unity of the United Kingdom. It is evident that there is on the part of all Parties in the Convention a willingness to provide for and safeguard the interests of the Empire and of the United Kingdom. A settlement can now be reached which will reserve by common consent to the Imperial Parliament its suzerainty, and its control of Army, Navy and foreign policy, and other Imperial Services, while providing for Irish representation at Westminster, and for a proper contribution 199 from Ireland to Imperial expenditure. All these matters are now capable of being settled within the Convention on a basis satisfactory both to the Imperial Government and to Ireland.In a debate in the House of Commons some time ago I noticed that Mr. Lloyd George denied that any settlement or conclusion was come to in the Irish Convention. We went into the Irish Convention on the basis that if a complete settlement was not arrived at a provisional settlement would fall to the ground. A provisional settlement on all points, except upon the point of the control of Customs and on the point of the Parliament which at that time was not voted upon and which was voted upon afterwards, had been come to, as you can see by reference to the Report of the Convention. Therefore, the statement of Mr. Lloyd George that no settlement had been arrived at can only be justified by referring to the agreement that unless everything was agreed to nothing would be held to have been agreed to. It was understood by the people and by the men in the Convention that practically they had agreed upon certain things in which Customs were not included, but the Convention accepted Mr. Lloyd George's proposition that the question of Customs and control should be dealt with after the war and finally decided by the Parliament at Westminster.
Why, then, has Mr. Lloyd George failed to carry out his own promise, a promise which is contained in his letter of February 25, that if we did what he asked he, on his part, would institute legislation? Why he should then have abandoned his own assurance and his own direction given to the Convention in which he said that the only mode of solution which was at all practicable was a Parliament for the whole of Ireland with safeguards for Ulster—how he could then propose a measure which denies the creation of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland, passes my comprehension. Certainly, a solution to which people in Ireland will agree will never be come to unless on the condition that a Parliament for the whole of Ireland is established, with such safeguards as Ulster in reason may wish. It was the endeavour of the Convention to find out from Ulster what safeguards were wanted, because the feeling in the Convention was that to the utmost limit of reason the demands of Ulster should be met. I had great sympathy with what Lord Denbigh said, but I think he failed to understand—as my noble friend who initiated the debate, if he will 200 permit me to say, also failed to understand—that sentiment counts greatly with Ireland, as it does with every other nationality in the world, and it is because the opponents of Home Rule for Ireland failed to give any weight to sentiment in this matter that such estrangement and opposition are permitted to continue. It is very difficult to forecast the future, and I regard with the utmost discontent the proposal, with the great strength of the Coalition Government behind it, of such a Bill as is now before the other House of Parliament.
My only hope is that still some English Member in the Lower House—for all the Irish Members have abandoned it—taking into consideration what the history of Ireland has been, the fact that almost every one of these atrocities and of these illegalities to which my noble friend referred is due to the action of the Government itself, in the first place by not providing money for land purchase, and in the next place by its vacillation and its withdrawal of promises which it made on Home Rule—that some English Member can be found to propose two Amendments. The first is the extension of the Belfast Parliament to the area of the whole of Ulster, because if that is not done you will have a division on purely religious lines, and I cannot conceive any worse division than a division according to religion. In point of fact it will establish in circumstances of the present day the Plantation of Ulster as it was established by James I. You cannot get the whole of Ulster under the control of the north-east corner of the Province, and if you restrict the Ulster Government to the north-east corner of the Province you will, for all time, bar any association or reconciliation between the people of Ulster and the rest of Ireland. In Ulster the Nationalists are nearly one-half as numerous as the non-Nationalists. If the City of Belfast is excluded the Nationalists of Ulster actually exceed the non-Nationalists by one or two hundred. Ever since I have had anything to do with Ireland my hope and aim has been to bring the people of Ulster to work together with the people of the rest of the country. In business matters they do not quarrel. As long as religion is excluded they do not quarrel. At bottom the ground of this dis-union is religious. Let us not perpetuate that for ever by making a division of six counties and the rest of Ireland. 201 I am sorry for some reasons that my noble friend has raised the question tonight. I do not think such a speech as his is very opportune at the present moment. It creates passion and satisfies a great portion of Irish Nationalists that Englishmen do not consider with sufficiently broad minds their difficulties in the matter. I am perfectly certain that if a Parliament for the whole of Ireland is not created at least the hope should be given that the Parliament for the whole of the country should have in its constitution such germs as will enable well-wishers of English rule in Ireland to look forward to the time when it will expand and embrace the whole of the country. It can be easily done. I do not know any Member of the other House to whom I could address myself. If I did I should have spared your Lordships listening to what I am now saying. I do make this appeal to an English. Member of Parliament; that he will consider the great advantage to the Empire, to Ireland, and to England, of such an expansion of the Council of Ireland as will make it in course of time capable of embracing the whole of Ireland.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
; My Lords, I hope that when the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who I understand will speak for the Government to-night, rises to address us he will not think for a moment that this debate has been initiated with any desire to embarrass the Government in a difficult situation. On the contrary, it is one of the most remarkable things within the recollection of the oldest member of your Lordships' House that for so many months for more months than I can quite remember—all members of this House have foregone any criticism of the Government with regard to their conduct of affairs in Ireland.
If any justification were needed for departing from that course of silence I am sure it was found in the speech of my noble friend behind me, in the extraordinary recital he gave us of the present condition of outrage and crime. He referred to the tragic event of 1882. That was, I suppose, the highwater mark in modern times of trouble, danger, and almost despair: but any member of your Lordships' House who was in Ireland in l882 would say that the circumstances of that year were comparatively calm and trivial as compared with the circumstances to-day. It 202 is true there was a conspiracy, but it was a conspiracy which, after the execution of half a dozen prominent men, was found to be completely different from the land trouble with which Ireland had been so long harrassed, and the actual trouble with the "Invincibles" was brought under by comparatively a few being placed on trial. That is not the condition to-day. We regard the present situation as urgent because unless the Government are able to deal with it within the next few months I, for one, apprehend that they may not be able to deal with it at all. It is because it is absolutely necessary for every man who can reinforce their policy by suggesting changes or modification to do what he can to assist them in this crisis that we are taking part in this debate.
So far as I can see, there are three classes of crime at this moment in Ireland. For nearly a year it has been a deliberate attempt at the murder of the constabulary, which the late Chief Secretary for Ireland told us was the result of a conspiracy, practically of an army. That is one class. In the last six months this has been supplemented by a totally different class of crime the stoppage of mail carts and trains, and outrages which suggest much more than a mere loosening of the bonds of civil order. Within the last few weeks—I especially beg the Government to remember this— since April I. in fact, there has been a great development of agrarian crime of a Bolshevik character. In the west of Ireland numerous cases have occurred of courts being set up, of landlords and even tenants being called upon by bodies of men and informed that their land has been parcelled out amongst others, that any resistance on their part would be followed by murder, that they might either remain and acquiesce, or go. Over large portions of Mayo, Clam, Kerry, and one or two other counties ordinary law no longer operates. That is a condition of things which does not admit of waiting until the month of August or September. If it is not dealt with in the next few weeks a spirit will have grown up which it will be almost impossible for the Government to quell.
I do not wish it to be inferred that I regard all these outrages as of a Sinn Fein character. There are two classes of Sinn Feiners. There are men with an academic hatred of British rule who are not directly associated with outrages of a murderous 203 character. There are also men who have undoubtedly banded themselves together to commit the most terrible crimes. And on top of that has come a large number of men who see in the troubles and disorders an opportunity of private gain and personal profit. My Lords, not one person of any description has been made amenable in the last year and a half. You have from 40,000 to 50,000 troops in the country, and a constabulary of whose courage, loyalty, and endurance I do not think any man in this House can speak too highly. You have your magistrates doing their duty, and with it all you are not making one man amenable, and I venture to say that one single man captured red-handed and shot would have more effect than the internment of a hundred men.
Your Lordships will ask what remedy we suggest. In the first place, my Lords, what is the use of taking the police away from every district because they are being personally attacked? If 200 barracks have been burned down it means that in 200 different localities the whole force of order has been withdrawn altogether. A man who was previously two or three miles from a police station now finds himself distant twelve to fifteen miles, and I am not over-stating the case when I say that, although the forces of the Crown prevail for the most part in the towns, so far as the country districts are concerned a large part of the country is entirely in the hands of Sinn Fein. What I would urge is this. The noble and learned Lord behind me asked whether it was certain that there was perfect co-operation between the police and the military force. I have not the least doubt that Sir Neville Macready, in whom I think your Lordships must all have confidence as a man of tried courage, and not merely of courage but of tact and judgment in his management of men—I have not the least doubt that he will introduce, as far as may be, a perfect cooperation between the two forces. But what I ask the noble Lord to tell us to-night is that the Government will, instead of withdrawing the police, wherever the police are attacked establish a detachment of soldiers; that instead of taking away two or three men because they are unable to maintain themselves, they will send thirty men and an officer. This they will have to do unless they mean that the whole country is to be handed over to the revolutionaries.
204 I urge, with all the force that I can, that the Government have no right to leave undefended not merely the loyal population but even a large number of Catholic farmers, men who are Nationalists but who have as much right to be protected as any man in the common work in which they are engaged. At this moment they are being absolutely terrorised, and if they do appear to side with the enemy it is because there is no other course open to them if they are to preserve their lives. Therefore I ask, in the first place, that there should be drastic reconsideration of the position of the Army. If you send troops across to Dublin you should feel yourselves still more compelled to distribute troops— between ten thousand and twelve thousand at least—in those out-of-the-way districts. You must establish patrols. Patrols by cavalry will be difficult, but by motor-car it can largely be carried out. No consideration of discipline should be allowed to stand in the way. If there are troops whom you cannot trust you must send troops whom you can trust, because you cannot afford to allow the country to relapse further.
The second point which I would suggest is this. Is it not possible, first, to satisfy those who genuinely wish to support the Government of the justice of the internment of these men by establishing a judicial tribunal which would at all events, as a Committee, go carefully into the evidence and decide whether the action of the Executive had been justified. I do not wish to throw any doubt upon the action of the Executive, but mistakes will occur, and my proposal would, I think, give great public confidence. Then, thirdly, is it not possible to bring a man in one single instance to trial? I know the difficulty about witnesses, and I know the danger, but there surely may be cases in which the Government by an Act could establish a tribunal which at all events would cause to disappear that want of knowledge which there is in this country, and that sympathy which exists in foreign countries with those who have committed these outrages.
Then with regard to recent troubles in the West. I do not know whether it is realised what state the population of Ireland is in at this moment. For many years adventurous spirits, and men who found insufficient work in their own neighbourhood, have been accustomed 205 to emigrate if they felt disposed to. For the last five years emigration to America, and indeed to Canada, has been entirely shut down. Large numbers of young men in the West, who have no regular occupation, cannot find employment readily at this moment at the enormous wages which are asked, and are open to emigrate. You can send a man to Canada and establish him there for the cost of one private soldier in Ireland for a year, and I venture to suggest to the Government, as a policy, that they should not only open emigration, but that in the case of men who are not suspected of crime they should encourage emigration and even give grants towards emigration in order to prevent these scrambles for land and these pilferings and general predatory proceedings being further developed. Of course, I am not suggesting that any advantage of that kind should be given to any man who is suspected in any way of crime.
There is one other consideration which I should like to put to the noble Lord. Does he realise how greatly the chances in the material dealing with these crimes and troubles would be increased if the Government could get the moral force of the people behind them. At this moment a sort of duel is going on between the forces of the Crown and the most dangerous conspirators. I think a member of the Government—I forget whether it was the Prime Minister, but at any rate it was some prominent member of the Government—said the other day that while this was going on the majority of the Irish people were looking on, and the speaker pointed out that in other countries the mass of the people were against crime and were aiding the police authorities. Now, my Lords, you can only get the moral force of the people behind you if the Government will for once make up their minds to a policy and stick to it.
I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord, with all the many calls upon his time and attention, has cast his mind back on what has happened in Ireland in the last four years. I would not allude to this were it not that gradually the Government have antagonised every political Party and every body of men who could best have supported them in the country. In 1916 the Government invited a great concession from the Nationalist Party in regard to an agreement by which the six counties were left out. The 206 Nationalist Party having agreed, the Government were unable to carry the matter through. The Nationalist Party were deserted, and they have lost the whole of their position in the country. Nobody will say that the Nationalist Party has any sympathy with the outrages that are being committeed, but they would have been a valuable auxiliary on the side of the Government at the present moment. In 1917 the Government appealed to all classes in the Convention. Again something like an agreement was come to. The Government approved of the decision, and said that the condition was the only one under which they could act. But all those persons who assented to that agreement also found themselves jettisoned. Again the Government called for conscription in 1918. That policy was thrown over before the end of the war. You cannot build up a policy by continually leading the people who assist you into trouble and then deserting them.
I submit to the noble and learned Lord that nothing is more important than that the Government should endeavour to regain the confidence of some classes of the people of Ireland. I assure him that the farce which is being conducted at this moment in the House of Commons of attempting to impose a Bill for which no single Irishman will vote as a remedial measure in the midst of all these troubles is one which, if the noble and learned Lord could bring it to an end, he would do a very great service to his country. I know that the Government feel that they can only continue this system of government if at the same time they pass some remedial measure of self-government. I am not going to discuss that. But taking their own promise I urge them to consider whether they cannot find a measure that some Party in Ireland can support and which therefore will have some power behind it. I urge the Government to see whether they cannot bring forward a policy which will have the support of a considerable section of the Irish people.
We are not at this moment at the parting of the ways. I suggest that if the Government cannot deal with this question before Parliament rises in August the situation will have assumed proportions with which they will not find themselves able to cope. The last news from Ireland, as my noble friend suggested, is worse than the first. Each successive month things have gone 207 more down hill, and I hope the Government will deal with it not merely by giving full powers, which I believe they have done, to the Lord Lieutenant, but by recognising that the first thing they have to do is to follow the noble and learned Lord in his view that order must be preserved. That is a policy. The other policy, and the second one which is possible, is to make an agreement with someone regarding remedial measures. The one thing which is not possible is to endeavour to preserve order while at the same time pressing upon the country measures which antagonise every section of the Irish people.
I ask the Government to consider whether it is not possible now to give more than the occasional moment to Ireland that was given during the war. The noble and learned Lord himself has multifarious duties to perform, and so also have the members on the Bench opposite. Think how vital is the present situation, and then remember the claims upon the time of the Foreign Secretary. He is not even able to listen to the debate at this time. I do not say that he ought to do so with the many other claims upon him. Then there is the Colonial Secretary. Think how many claims he has upon him. Yet these gentlemen have to settle the question of Ireland in the Cabinet. It is not possible under present conditions for the Cabinet as a whole to give that consideration to Ireland which Governments have given to it in the past. I would urge that there should be two or three men who, until this question has been set at rest, should give their whole time to considering the facts, which are not known; to realising the atmosphere, which is not appreciated; and to endeavouring to clear the air of the many troubles which exist.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, it will probably be the desire of the House that some observations should be made in reference to the extremly important debate to which we have just listened. I would, if I may, make an observation at the outset upon the last suggestion or request that fell from the noble Earl, who pointed out that the occupations of Cabinet Ministers in these days are multifarious. And indeed they are as exacting, though not quite as anxious, in their claim upon the time of Ministers as at any period, or almost any period, of the war that I can recall.
208 The noble Earl made the suggestion that the consideration of these matters should be remitted to two or three individuals who would give their whole time to the task. It is after all necessary to remember that consideration alone without authority will hardly supply a solution of the particular difficulties. A Cabinet Committee, of which I was a member, for many weeks closely considered the Irish situation, and the number of able and experienced persons not being members of the Cabinet who by day and by night consider nothing else than the Irish question and our present difficulties would, I think, surprise the noble Earl if he were aware of it, even if he found no particular comfort from their conclusions up to the persent time.
I welcome the debate which the noble Lord initiated in a powerful, sombre, but in the main entirely accurate speech. It. is true, as Lord Askwith said, that nothing but advantage can follow from the widest possible dissemination of the actual facts of the existing Irish situation. From every point of view it is necessary that those facts should be known. It is necessary in order that if their gravity develops, as it may, the Government should be able to appeal to a nation which will be prepared to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to deal with that situation.
No one here has been ungenerous enough to suggest that the task which has confronted this Government or its predecessors at any moment has been an easy task. No speaker has attempted to make a resurrection of the old recriminations and bitternesses in order that some controversial advantage might be attained over an opponent. The debate has been approached in the spirit, as is right, of deep responsibility, and we have been told that it is useless for any member of this House to open his lips in order to take part in the debate unless he thinks there is at least a chance that he might contribute some practical solution of the difficulty which faces us.
Let me begin by describing to you the attitude which this Government has adopted in relation to the Irish question since the present Prime Minister assumed the principal individual responsibility. The noble Earl has said that there has been vacillation. That there has been change of plan is undoubted; that one course has at one time been favoured and at 209 another, having been found impracticable, has been abandoned, is undenied and undeniable. For such changes of opinion as took place while the war was actually in progress—the noble Earl gave the illustration of the decision in reference to conscription—for such changes of opinion as took place during those critical years, years charged recurrently and often only at intervals of months with issues in which the very destiny of this Empire as a whole was concerned, I do not shrink from taking my share of the responsibility. And I say that the decisions in those as in other matters were almost infinite in their difficulty, and they were taken by men who were confronted with a staggering succession of problems and decisions.
For what took place during the war I attempt no other defence. It is said that there has been vacillation and change of plan since that date. I have freely admitted that we have made many mistakes. We have not made one mistake with which we have frequently been charged. It has been said of other Administrations, and sometimes it is said with truth, that through weakness or through timidity they shrank from supporting the men to whom was committed the responsibility on the spot. Confronted with the problems which faced us we reached the conclusion—whether it was right or whether it was wrong 1 do not know, but I am confident that it was a conclusion which at that time commanded the support of this House and of the community as a whole—the conclusion that the office of Lord Lieutenant should for a time at least be filled by a distinguished soldier, one whose courage and judgment and experience were known to all of us, and one who, by universal admission, was one of the most distinguished of living Irishmen. We sent Lord French there. Mr. Macpherson, in that critical and trying time, discharged the duties of Chief Secretary. In the criticisms which have been made I am not sure that there has not been some want of generous recognition of the courage which those two men have shown in the terrible situation in which they have found themselves. I do not ask your Lordships to weigh in the balance here their difficulties with the result as we see the result to-day, but I claim, in the first place, that in the appointment of those two Ministers we made appointments which were at that time approved by Parliament and by the public and which, I think, would still, if 210 the matter could be tested, be regarded as wise and reasonable appointments.
Having appointed these Ministers, having committed to Lord French greater responsibility and greater power than his immediate predecessors in that position had possessed, we at least never made the mistake of withholding from him one single thing for which he ever asked us. There has never been a man, a battalion, a gun, or a tank for which Lord French asked with which he has not been immediately supplied; and on matters far more important than these material requests, on matters of local policy, and particularly on matters of what I may call tactical policy, on which it would have been absurd for us to try and overrule his decision, we have invariably adopted the advice that Lord French has given us, while we have invariably supplied him with the material he needed to carry out that which he desired.
I say this, and I say it quite plainly. Whatever changes—I do not mean changes in the higher personnel—may take place from time to time, either as the result of debates here or elsewhere or as the result of our actual experience of Ireland, I assure your Lordships, with all the formality which I can command on behalf of the Government, that it is our policy to continue to give to the Executive authority in Ireland everything for which they ask and to give them our support in every conceivable way. This is an assurance which, if a wise choice is made as to those who are engaged in the co-ordination which is in process in Ireland to-day, should at least quieten any apprehension that uninstructed interference from without is rendering our prospects even more unfortunate.
Let me add this, which I think I should have said at an earlier stage, that the state of Ireland is quite as bad as any previous speaker has described. It has been in no way exaggerated. It is quite true that the withdrawal of the police from the barracks has resulted in the condition described by the noble Earl over large portions of the countryside. But when the noble Earl and the noble Lord who made this Motion asked the Government whether there had been co-ordination between the police and the military during this critical period, I can only say that I have no reason whatever to doubt that there has been the most complete co-ordination 211 between the military and the police. I know that when I was myself in Dublin some months ago discussions were taking place, consultations daily, almost hourly, between those who were representing the military element and those who were representing the Constabulary. I have never until this moment heard any suggestion that on the question of any broad decision there was any lack of harmony between the military and the police.
But if it is put to me that it is not so much the lack of harmony that is suggested as the lack of co-ordination, then I can only say this. We have to the best of our ability put the soldier who is most suited to discharge high military responsibility at the head in Dublin. We have in making changes from time to time placed the men who, in the judgment of those who knew these things best, were able to make the most prudent decisions, at the head of the police. We have given those men everything for which they asked. We have given them our confidence, our support, our loyalty in every conceivable way. And no one, I think, can suggest, whether the tactical decision was a wise one or an unwise one, that we in Downing-street, when we were told—and I have every reason to think were told as the result of complete agreement between the military and the police—that tactically the best step to take at a given moment was to evacuate these police barracks, that we should have ignored their advice. If it is suggested that we, sitting in the Cabinet, should have overruled their advice on a point which of all other points was within their competence and their experience—was, indeed, one of those very points which they were sent to advise us upon—no one who was governed by the most elementary sense of responsibility could ever have recommended such a course.
We are not blind to what has happened in the last few weeks or the last few months any more than is the noble Earl. I assure him that we have been most carefully in contact with the appalling and melancholy list of casualties, and so on, which happen as the weeks go on. They are analysed, the circumstances under which they occur are closely examined, with the object of discovering, if one can, some method of reducing them; and I have no doubt whatever that the suggestion made by the noble Earl—indeed, I 212 know from the official papers which I have read—is engaging the very closest attention of those who are primarily responsible for making a decision. The noble Earl may be assured that the unfortunate consequences, justly pointed out by him and admitted by us all, of the policy which has been adopted will be carefully considered when a decision is taken; but they must be weighed in the scale, on the opposite side of which it must be recognised there are other mischiefs.
It is for those who have experience in these matters to make the best valuation they can. The difficulties of military patrols are, of course, apparent. The noble Earl greatly under-rated the number of police barracks in the case of which patrols would be necessary. I think if the noble Earl took in the aggregate the number of attacks there have been on police barracks in the course of the last two or three months, he would discover that the question of patrols—frequently in lonely districts, and in cases very often where attacks have been made by bodies of men consisting of some hundreds—would be one of anxiety and difficulty, though I do not, of course, say that from a military point of view it is insurmountable. But of this the noble Earl may be sure, that if we are advised by those who are actually responsible in Ireland that this course ought to be adopted, it will be adopted without the least delay.
Other suggestions were made and questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, which I confess I thought were more fanciful and of a less practical character. He said that it might be possible to give land to the land-less men. At the present moment, as is known to most members of the House, and as the noble Lord, Lord MacDonnell, pointed out, the land which is available in Ireland is almost negligible; and at this moment those to whom the task has been committed of finding small parcels of land to be given to discharged Irish soldiers who have served gallantly in the war know that the land available is wholly inadequate to meet the claims which are before the Commissioners. I suppose no one will suggest that, in the attempt to conciliate those who are in great suspicion of sympathising with the mischiefs of which we complain, we should discover some means of giving land to these men while at the same time we are unable to find land for 213 the Irish soldiers who actually served in the war. It is hardly to remedies like this that we must look for a successful issue.
Then the noble Lord asked whether we could not summon another Convention. The noble Lord, Lord MacDonnell, I think, repeated that suggestion; and the noble Earl, among the complaints he made of the conduct of the Government, drew special attention to what he described as the vacillation, or weakness, which they had shown in connection with the Convention. I say quite plainly that I was never one of those who founded sanguine hopes on the results of the Convention. I will tell your Lordships why. When it was first decided to set up that Convention an invitation was extended to the Sinn Feiners to attend. The then constitutional leader of the Nationalist Party, a man of a loyalty to this country which every one now recognises—Mr. Redmond—in my hearing in the House of Commons made it plain that he hardly placed any limit upon the representation which Sinn Fein should have in that Convention if only they would co-operate and help: and it was stated, either by him or by the then Irish Secretary, that, although there was no precise method of determining the numerical strength of Sinn Fein at the time the Convention was held, if they would put forward any claim, reasonable or unreasonable, in relation to their supposed numerical strength, they should be represented at the Convention in that strength.
What was the result? The only force in the South of the country which even then possessed vitality, force, driving power, and enthusiasm refused to come to that Convention; and it was deprived of all the authority which it would have possessed had the vital forces in Ireland belonged to it and which it would never possess as long as those vital forces were withdrawn. Why did not the Sinn Feiners come? Many estimations may be given by those who are concerned to show that all these difficulties could have been avoided had a wiser policy been pursued in the past; but the real reason is, I think, transparently clear to any sincere person who throws his mind back over the happenings of the last four years. The Sinn Feiners refused to come to that Convention because they knew quite plainly what was the extreme possible result of a harmonious Convention, and they knew 214 equally plainly their own aims and their own determination, and that there was nothing which the Convention could do for them which it was conceivably possible they could accept having regard to the doubts which possessed them, and which they had no more intention of altering then, than they have of altering now. Therefore when it is suggested that we should invite the Sinn Feiners to come to a Convention, I say that the proposal is wholly out of contact with any living reality.
The noble Earl drew a distinction—whether well founded or not, I do not know; to some extent it must obviously be well-founded—between Sinn Feiners who are neither the conceivers, the planners, nor the executive officers of crime, and those who banded together in guilty association to commit murder and assassination. I have said that it is obvious that such a distinction must exist. What the numerical strength of the two sections, so distinguished, may be I do not know. The data are conspicuously lacking. There is no doubt that many people are either the accomplices of those who are banded together to commit murder, or they are intimidated by the growing and terrible strength of those who are actually planning and carrying it out. To say to a population like that at this stage, "You refused to come to the Convention two or three years ago, we advise you to come to a Convention now," I am sure that on reflection the noble Lord, who in his speech showed much knowledge of Ireland and such a shrewd and patient examination of the problems which beset it, must know that the real road to a conclusion in Ireland will be found, if at all, elsewhere. I will carefully examine the suggestions that were made by him and by the noble Earl. I can assure him that not one suggestion has been made in the course of the debate to-night by the noble Lords who have spoken which shall not be communicated by me directly to the Irish Office and which shall not be made the subject of discussion between myself and the Attorney-General and Chief Secretary for Ireland. At least noble Lords who have taken the trouble to contribute to us their apprehensions and their suggestions may know that nothing which they have said will fail to receive the attention of those who are charged at this moment with this terrible responsibility. 215 Let me make one point plain. I am clearly of the opinion that the overwhelming majority of those who to-day hold Sinn Fein views are determined, first, that they will conquer separation, and, secondly, that their strength is the mate of their will and that they can conquer separation from this country; and of this I am sure—that we should be well advised to face the situation which awaits us with the knowledge that a body of desperate men, a body of well-organised men, and a body of able men have banded themselves together to challenge the strength of this country and to shrink from no means which will enable them to make good what they call their self-determination and their independence.
When the time comes to discuss certain legislative proposals of which the noble Earl spoke in the debate to-night I will take the opportunity—it would be too long to-night, because I have still further observations to make—of attempting to reconcile the opinion which I have just expressed with the request which, if the Bill is passed through another House, I shall then address to your Lordships to give it consideration here. But, holding that view, what is the position in which we find ourselves at this moment? We are approached by a demand to which, in no conceivable circumstances, can we give our sanction—in no conceivable circumstances.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is, indeed, eloquent, of the simplicity of those who, openly and scornfully refusing other concessions—and who knows how far this country would go in concessions if it discerned the slightest prospect that those to whom concession was offered would, at any date however remote, be transformed into loyal and willing subjects of the Empire?—have staked all upon requiring from this Empire that which this Empire can never concede to them. I need not insist—Lord Denbigh spoke about it—upon the strategical place which Ireland has in the British Empire. I need not point out to your Lordships that every single motive which led the United States of America to resist the attempt at secession and to meet it at the terrible price of blood and treasure which they then had to face, would operate with an even greater force in our case, and if my voice can reach those 216 who have banded themselves together in courses so desperate, I would advise them that while they tell us that they hate the British Empire, it has never been found by any nation, still less by any section of a nation, wise to despise either the strength or the determination of the British Empire.
Our difficulties to-day are great. They have become greater. I see at this moment no end to them. I can give your Lordships little reassurance but that reassurance which has been found fruitful of ultimate hope at many periods in our nation's history, and that is in the tenacity and stubbornness of this race where its Imperial interests are concerned. My memory goes back very clearly to a period full of disappointments, full of hope deferred, in the South African War, in which the tenacity and the experience of Lord Kitchener, after many, many weary months, broke down by his system of blockhouses the resistance of the Boers. I recall, as every noble Lord listening to me recalls, crisis after crisis, danger after danger, in the five years of that war through which we have happily passed; and those who are planning against us in Ireland at this moment would, I think, do well to remember that, though many people differed on many points in that war, there never was a considerable section in any part of the British Empire that faltered on the supreme issue as to whether we would yield to the enemy and allow him to impose his will upon us.
Having resisted the might of the German Empire, having inspired (as I say here plainly we did inspire) the spirit and strength of the resistance to that menace, does any one really believe that we are going to give way to the section of a people, that we are going to destroy this Empire when we have no longer the strategical unit which can contemplate any struggle with any enemy? That has not been the character of this people through history. It will not be the character of the people of this country in the years, how grave soever they may be, that lie in front of us, and I am sure of this. While they may fail, while they may prove unequal at times to their task, while they may be guilty of the errors to which human nature is prone, the Government of this country will be the instrument of the wishes of your Lordships and of the determination of the people of this country, and if they are not, and if they prove incapable of that task, they will give way to others.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, His Majesty's Government know, I am quite sure, that we have no desire except to do what we can to support them in their extraordinarily difficult Irish task. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack began his speech with words which I hope he will allow me to say I thought most wise and helpful. He laid stress, as I understood him, on the need for light on all that is now happening in Ireland, that the whole of public opinion throughout these islands should be thoroughly informed of what is going on. I believe that to be absolutely necessary and true. May I say that I do not think the columns of the daily papers afford quite a sufficient source of information for us for this purpose? I do not make any reflection on those daily papers—they know their business—but I am quite sure that a very large portion of the population of this country do not know in any accurate detail what is really happening in Ireland from day to day, and, as I will show before I sit down, it seems to me absolutely essential that the Government should carry with them public opinion and the public conscience in all that they do. It is very essential not only here but in the whole Empire, and I hope they will take steps to keep the whole world informed in a full and accurate manner of what really transpires in Ireland from day to day.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack paid a just tribute to the courage of Lord French and Mr. Macpherson. He told us, what I do not think for a moment we had doubted, that the Government had given their representatives in Ireland a strenuous, consistent, and loyal support. But will the Lord Chancellor allow me to draw his attention to that part; of Lord Midleton's speech in which he referred to the relations of the constabulary and military and the use of the Army. We may be quite wrongly informed, but the impression is widespread that there has not been complete co-ordination of effort and co-operation between the constabulary and the Army. I do not know, and it has not been suggested to me, where the fault lies, but this impression, brought to us by friends coining from Ireland and given in letters from Ireland, has been very widespread and constant.
It does not seem to us that nearly as much us, is being made of the Army as might have been made. I do not want to 218 go over the ground covered by the noble Earl. I am sure the noble Earl the Leader of the House remembers, as I do, what happened in the early 'eighties. In those days the Army was used in a wholesale way for detachment purposes. The regiments in Ireland were broken up into small detachments which occupied isolated posts and garrisoned country houses and farms, and if the records of that time were referred to it would be found that the Army was used exactly in the way my noble friend suggests. To a less degree, but also for the same purpose, it was used by Mr. Balfour when he was Chief Secretary. We have seen nothing in the Press to lead us to suppose that the Army has been used in that way now. In those days it was used to supplement the constabulary, and the suggestion is that it should be so used now.
Might I make this suggestion to the Government? It is quite true that the Army they have in Ireland is a young Army, and that its proper function would be training in order to take its turn in service abroad. It is very difficult to use it for this purpose; they are not very efficient as their length of service has been too short. But there are in this country a large number of splendid military men who have served in the Army. They do not want to serve in the Army again in the ordinary sense, but I should have thought it would have been possible to form out of this material, with its physical strength and war experience, a temporary regiment, a sort of garrison regiment, to take the place of those immature soldiers and form an auxiliary body to the constabulary. I throw out that suggestion for what it is worth. If an appeal is made by the Government I think they would get a large response from such men who are in this country who come under that classification.
Every one who takes part in a debate on this subject must feel the deepest responsibility. It does not matter whether we are Unionists or Liberals, we all must recognise that the past for which we contended is the past and that a new situation and a new group of facts confront us. We must recognise that we cannot resurrect the past, that the ideals to which we looked forward are no longer possible, and that now we have to help the Government, irrespective of political opinion, to try and find a solution for this tremendous 219 problem. The first step towards a solution is, I think, to face the facts as the noble and learned Lord faced them.
What is the real root difficulty in Ireland? It is the fact that the majority of the people are actuated by a malignant hatred of England, and that the leaders of those men have only one ideal before them, and that is an independent Irish Republic. That is the root fact of the position we have to meet, and I entirely agree with the Lord Chancellor that under those circumstances I see no use in summoning Conferences which the representatives of the majority of these opinions will not attend. The Irish nation have the reputation of being very clever. I deny that they have political sagacity. Just think of their record in the war! Nobody supposes that they really were in sympathy with Germany. They might have expressed their detestation of everything English and said they were going to take their part in the war because of their appreciation of France and America. If they had done that with the Home Rule Act on the Statute Book, does not any one know that they could have got any amendment to that Act and have had any solution of the problem compatible with inclusion in the Empire. Instead of that they took the attitude they did solely and only, as far as I can understand, for the sake of indulging in the luxury of expressing their malignant hatred of England. That is the position we have to meet. How to meet it I do not know. I am sure it will be a very long and painful task.
There are, however, certain principles, which I am sure the Government have before them, which I think are the only ones that can lead us to a solution, however long the path may be. We must try and keep with us all through the public opinion of the United Kingdom and the Empire. This is not only a British and Irish question. It affects the whole of the Empire, and every part of the Empire, according to my view, has the right to say something on it and to give expression to its opinion. I do not say any foreign country, because this is not a matter which affects the legislature or the people of any foreign country whatever. We resent foreign interference in our domestic affairs just as much as any foreign country would resent our interference. But it is the business of the whole of our people, Scottish, Welsh English, Irish, of Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, and, with 220 light thrown upon everything that happens in Ireland, if the Government take no step that does not carry behind it the general conscientious approval of public opinion in the Empire, I am quite sure we shall be on the direct path to an eventual solution. Our duty is quite clear. In no circumstances whatever, as the Lord Chancellor has said, can we agree to any solution which is not compatible with the safety of the United Kingdom and the Empire or of those who have been the friends of England in Ireland. The struggle may be very painful, very difficult, and very prolonged; but, if I may summarise what the Lord Chancellor said, when they know their duty the British people are good stayers.
§ LORD ASKWITH
My Lords, I do not wish at this hour to make a speech in reply to what has been said, although I have moved for Papers. I should like, therefore, with your leave to withdraw the Motion with my thanks to the Lord Chancellor for the information that lie will have the suggestions taken into consideration by the Irish Office; and also upon examination I hope he will see that he has rather misunderstood the idea of the Conference which I suggested.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [From Minutes of May 5.]