§ Debate on the Motion of Viscount MORLEY of BLACKBURN for an humble Address—namely:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ "Having taken into consideration the Articles of Agreement presented to us by Your Majesty's command, we are ready to confirm and ratify these Articles in order that the same may be established for ever by the mutual consent of the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland, and we offer to Your Majesty our humble congratulations on the near accomplishment of that work of reconciliation to which Your Majesty has so largely contributed"—
§ resumed (according to Order).
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I ask the indulgence of the House while I say a few words upon the Resolution for the discussion of which Parliament has been called in special session, and may I say at once that it is with no feelings of satisfaction that I find myself in direct opposition, on this point, to a Government which I have had the honour for a period of serving, and of representing in this House. I would address your Lordships 59 in a double capacity—first as a member of this House, and a British citizen, entitled to express an opinion on a matter of policy which concerns so closely our Imperial interests; secondly, as a Minister of a Government, which you in your wisdom have lately set up in Northern Ireland.
No one at this time would seek to minimise the difficulties by which we as an Empire are now surrounded. Some of these difficulties are the necessary and direct corollaries of a war unparalleled in history. They arose with the war, and are direct legacies of the war. But there are difficulties other than these—difficulties to which, indeed, the war did not give rise, but which have been enormously increased by being forced from the path of peaceful and orderly evolution.
The age-long problem of Ireland is, we are told, to be settled once and for all by the provisions of the document, to discuss which Parliament has hastily been summoned. We are asked to believe that the signatories to this document have succeeded where others have failed. I wonder if others did fail: I wonder if statesmen of the present day are so far superior to those of a hundred years ago that history in years to come will bear such testimony to their success; or rather, will history show that statesmen of a hundred years ago were right, and that their policy has been faultily carried out by some of their successors. The closing years of last century and the first ten years of this one, in my judgment, vindicated the policy of our forefathers by showing to the world a peaceful and prosperous Ireland, and I go so far as to say that with a few years more of good and impartial government, the problem of the Irish question was solved.
I would not think of passing in review events of which your Lordships are so well aware. Whatever our opinions—and there is a sharp division amongst us here—we have to deal with the situation as it stands now. The mover and seconder of the Address to His Majesty have both always advocated what was known as Home Rule for Ireland. Perhaps I may be allowed to say with what great pleasure and satisfaction I heard my noble friend Lord Morley deliver his speech yesterday, and I am sure that I am only voicing the opinion of all your Lordships when I express the satisfaction we felt that he was able to come here and to advocate a policy, whatever our agreement or disagreement may have 60 been with him, so strenuously and so eloquently as he did yesterday. Lord Morley was associated with Mr. Gladstone in his initial effort in 1886 to set up a Parliament in Dublin, but I have never been made aware that Mr. Gladstone envisaged such a solution for the Irish problem as the one before us to-day.
Whereas I have always felt that Mr. Gladstone may have been desirous of granting to Ireland a measure of self-government for the purpose of managing her own affairs, still I have never been convinced that this was the whole consideration that occupied his mind. He was faced with the difficulty with which his successors in office have also been faced—the necessity of gaining the support of the Irish Vote in the House of Commons for the purpose of supporting his Party when in Office, and I am not sure that I should be wrong in saying that all those misfortunes which culminated in the outrage and crime of the last few years were directly attributable to the statesman who first associated one of the great British political Parties with the policy of the repeal of the Act of Union, a policy which had never been seriously questioned for eighty-six years. Be that as it may, I am prepared to assert that if peace and prosperity can be said to be signs of the possible successful solution of the Irish problem, under a certain form of Government exercised in turn by both Parties, those signs were present in a very marked degree between the years 1896 and 1910, and I maintain that the policy of Union can never be shown to have failed.
Lord Dunraven—may I be allowed to say with what delight I heard him yesterday?—has occupied a somewhat lonely position on this question. He has often said, I think, that he has confined himself to a Party which only claimed one follower. But Lord Dunraven and I have been associated for many years on this question. We may have approached it from different angles, but we have always had the same goal in view; that is, the peace and prosperity of Ireland; and I should like to take this opportunity of saying that, whatever happens, I shall do my best to bring that eventuality to Ireland.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House, who I am sorry is not in his place at this moment, has given us an account of this Treaty between the British Government and the Irish Free State—a Treaty which the Press, with singular but seemingly 61 inspired unanimity, have flashed with delight from one end of the Empire to the other. If hopes are realised, and objects achieved, simply by saying a thing often enough, there should be no doubt about the success of this Treaty. I listened to the speech of the noble Marquess with feelings of the greatest astonishment. He has been my leader not only in this House but in the Party with which I have been proud to be associated. I cannot say that the speech he delivered yesterday was original in any sense. I have heard the same speech delivered on many occasions. I have heard it delivered by Mr. Redmond and by all those statesmen to whom he and I have been opposed for many years. I do not think I am making any unjustifiable observation when I say that I think the noble Marquess, like Mr. Gladstone, has exploited the Irish question as a plank in the political platform he was advocating.
In the midst of this apparent jubilation and satisfaction over the arrival of a seeming solution, I feel a certain constraint when I ask the question how far outrage and crime in Ireland have been responsible for what constitutes an amazing change of the opinions of those who have hitherto consistently opposed a policy based on the lines now suggested; and to what extent the belief exists that the only alternative was the employment of an immense force and the expenditure of a huge sum of money, and that this was a policy which could not be successfully recommended to this country. I hole that the Lord Chancellor will answer both questions. Lord Curzon never answered them in his speech. Indeed, he began by asking himself the question whether the problem had been solved with honour? I listened carefully to the remarks of the noble Marquess, and I discovered no answer to that question whatsoever.
I do not believe for one moment that this country is so weary and so impoverished that a surrender of this description on the part of the Government, however much it is disguised in the Press and elsewhere, can in the end receive a full measure of popular support. If it should be so, it proclaims one thing and one thing only, and that is that sufficient force and sufficient crime can achieve any object which its promoters desire. And this will find an echo in every disturbed portion of the Empire.
The Lord Chancellor, one of the signatories to this Treaty, seems, like Saul 62 of Tarsus, to have seen a great light, and to have discarded those opinions which he formerly enunciated with such courage and vehemence, not only in Ulster but also in this country. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me your indulgence while I quote one or two of the utterances of the noble and learned Lord which in former days filled me with enthusiasm and certainly convinced me that he had formed opinions from which he was never likely to recede. In a speech at Coleraine he referred to the Irish Nationalist members, who in those days were the exponents of a mild form of the policy we are asked to accept at this moment. The Irish Nationalist members used one language to the British People, another language to the Irish people, and a still more forcible language to the American nation. This is what the Lord Chancellor said about them at Coleraine on September 21, 1912—Look at the Irish Nationalist members to-day. There is not one of them, if I had my way, that I would trust to administer a second-hand clothes shop. There is not one of them who has ever given sign of a greater degree of organising power than is necessary to arrange a well-conducted cattle drive. And these are the men under whose heel the great merchants of Belfast are to be placed. In other words, the successful men are to be placed under the heel of the unsuccessful men. The progressive part of Ireland is to be controlled by the unprogressive part of Ireland; and this is to be the, progress of your country, this is to be the reconciliation of your democracy.Then, speaking at Ballymena on September 23, 1912, he said—There has not been a moment in the last fifty years in which England has ever been in difficulty that the Nationalist party have not ranked themselves on the side of England's enemies. There has been no glory won by the English arms which has not grieved them. There has been no failure, no reverse which we have sustained which has not been rare and refreshing fruit to those who now ask you to believe that they are the friends and the patriots in the empire that is to be.Then, saying farewell at Belfast in September, 1912, he said—Citizens of Belfast, whatever else you have done to-day, there is one thing: you have once and for all killed Home Rule, and all that now remains is to bury its corpse. When the history of the present is written it will be said, I think, of Ulster, that this was a province that was neither conquered by cowards, or cheated by knaves. God save the King and no Home Rule.What is it that has caused the Lord Chancellor to change his views so completely?
I have known the Lord Chancellor for many years. He has honoured me with his friendship, which I value very highly. I 63 have fought side by side with him in this same struggle for some considerable time. I know him to be a man of just and mature consideration, who never conies hastily to any conclusion, and whose judgments are usually based on unquestionable evidence. The fact that he has formed a judgment entirely contrary to the one with which I should have credited him causes me to pause and reflect. The indictment of a lack of courage is one which is very easy to make and sometimes very easy to prove, but I naturally reject that suggestion even before considering it. The Lord Chancellor's career has required courage and perseverance, and his assured position now shows he has lacked neither of these great qualities, but I ask again, what is the reason for this amazing change?
A student of history can produce overwhelming evidence to show that this experiment is doomed to failure. South Africa offers no analogy whatever—a gallant enemy beaten in the field, granted independence in an Empire of glorious traditions, as an alternative to an insignificant and precarious existence, with perhaps at the end no real independence at all! After all, what is Sinn Fein as we know it? What is Sinn Fein as the Lord Chancellor knows it, and also as the surviving victims of the Sinn Fein atrocities know it? Sinn Fein is a band of assassins whose plan of campaign is terrorism through cowardly murder and outrage, a nucleus of men, hereditarily and irreconcilably hostile to the British connection, a nucleus which has always existed, able at times to fire an imaginative and grievance-loving population to an impracticable idealism, gaining strength at one time and losing adherents at another, but invariably rendered impotent for evil when the British Government has exerted its power to enforce the observance of the law and the indifferent administration of justice. That is Sinn Fein as we have every reason to know it.
There are countless stories of crime and brutal outrage which appear in the Morning Post. They very seldom appear in other organs of the British Press; those other organs appear so anxious to decry loyalty and on every occasion to apologise for and explain away disloyalty. My noble friend Lord Carson, in Ids speech yesterday, referred to a letter which appeared in the columns of the Irish Press, or perhaps I should say of the Belfast Press. This letter is only similar to many letters which I have 64 received personally, and which have appeared in the columns of the Press here sympathetic to these people. He told you the details of that letter. He told you how a gallant officer, who had received a bar to the D.S.O. and a Military Cross, was foully done to death by the agents of Sinn Fein—done to death, my Lords, because he refused to pay a tribute to Sinn Fein. That is the story which Lord Carson told you yesterday, but, if I may venture to say so, he missed the most important part of it, and that was the plaintive cry of the mother of this officer, in which she says:It breaks my heart, already full of sadness, to think that if my gallant son had only been a rebel he would now be alive, and probably a much honoured man by the traitors of Downing Street.But when the British Government are prepared, as they have been in the past on more occasions than one, to exploit Ireland for Party motives, Ireland of the south and west becomes a prey to this nucleus to which I have already referred, which of late years has used the opportunity to the full, with the result that during the war we saw that Ireland was the only danger spot in the Empire, and since the war this same nucleus has murdered and sought to terrorise the loyal population, who believe that the British Government are either unwilling, or incapable, or both, of protecting them.
I am sure the false analogy of South Africa is not one which could influence the Lord Chancellor. I am certain also that he is as cognisant of the teachings of history as any one of your Lordships. I am sure he realises and knows well that moderation and loyalty to the British connection in the south and west of Ireland never met with any loyal support. We have in our recollection the story of John Redmond, who battled consistently for a form of Home Rule of the mildest description, when compared with that embodied in this Treaty. John Redmond, with whom I was associated on the Irish Convention, and whom I had occasion to know very well, fell from his position as Irish leader the moment he threw in his lot with the British Empire at the crisis of its fate.
And yet, knowing all this, the Lord Chancellor has put his hand to a document of such far-reaching consequences. I can find but one answer to my question, and that is that the Lord Chancellor is considering not only the problem of Ireland but the whole complex of questions which 65 assail our administrators to-day. He probably feels, and probably rightly feels, that none of these questions is an isolated question, but that all of them have some connecting link, and that it is right to take a great risk in the hope of finding a temporary settlement of one difficulty. He may be right, and, if this Treaty is ratified, I sincerely hope he is right. But the only way in which we can see it now is that this is a gamble, that he is embarking on an enterprise of which, if it fails, no one can possibly predict the consequences. In my judgment this can only be a palliative, a very temporary respite, if it is even that. I have always felt—and I feel this more strongly now—that Ireland is a responsibility of Great Britain; that it is impossible, however much we may desire to do so, to thrust aside that responsibility; and that we have no right, even if we had that desire, to wash our hands of Ireland in this way.
I do not propose on this occasion to elaborate the multitude of problems which we shall have to face on the ratification of this Treaty. I could ask the Government many questions. First of all, what would be the attitude of the British Government in the event of a majority in the Irish Free State deciding to secede from the Empire? You have failed to suppress crime in Ireland; how will you prevent secession? What power have you to protect those who may have to look to the British Government for protection? They have done so in vain for the last two years, and your attitude towards them will have to be clearly defined. These questions can naturally be multiplied ad infinitum,and so far as I can see, the answer of responsible Ministers to every one of them will be that they are prepared to repose trust in the men who not only have hitherto taken every opportunity of expressing their hatred of the British connection, but also have actively aided and abetted the King's enemies and murdered and outraged the King's subjects. If I am right in my conjecture, the Lord Chancellor and his colleagues, even with consideration of other great subjects in their minds of which I am probably unaware, are pursuing a dangerous course. An obvious surrender not only to clamour but to terrorism is one which, in my judgment, can furnish no peaceful settlement.
I would venture to come to the second part of my remarks, and I must apologise to your Lordships for taking up so much of 66 your time. Your Lordships are doubtless aware of the negotiations, which have extended now over a considerable period of time, between His Majesty's Government and Sinn Fein, and to a certain extent with the representatives of Ulster, and of how we have expressly shown in Ulster that we are unwilling at present to enter a Parliament of what will be known as the Irish Free State. We have never expressed a determination to remain outside for all time. I can assure you that recent events have not stimulated those whom I represent to show any alacrity or any desire to enter a Parliament in Dublin. We have deliberately asked you to give us time to consider whether, after witnessing the establishment of a just and efficient administration in the south and west of Ireland, we may feel willing to co-operate. Speaking for myself, I do not hesitate to say that an efficient administration in the south and west of Ireland would go far to remove my objections to the establishment of a single Parliament for the whole of Ireland.
I have worked for peace and unity in Ireland for many years. I have co-operated with Lord Dunraven for many years, and although I am convinced that that peace and unity can be best achieved by a complete union between Great Britain and Ireland, still it is not likely, when other means are being decided upon to achieve that ideal of peace and unity, that I shall stand aside and refuse to employ every effort in my power to bring that ideal into being. Quite the reverse, I shall do all that lies in my power, but I fear that does not amount to much, to mitigate the dangers of your disastrous plan. Our attitude, my Lords, is I think sufficiently plain. We have never disguised our passionate adherence to the union between England and Ireland. We have fought for that union ever since its maintenance was threatened forty years ago. Reluctantly we accepted the Act of 1920, which certainly modified that union. Perhaps I may say, in speaking of myself, that for the purpose of making your new plan of 1920 a success, if I could possibly do so, by any humble effort I could put forward, I resigned a position in His Majesty's Government to do my best in that direction.
But as to these new proposals, embodying as they do practically a complete severance, we have said, and we say now, that 67 this is an arrangement which the British Government have power to make with the south and west of Ireland if so they desire, and if that desire is supported by the British people. For our part, we adhere to the modified form of union of 1920, which carries with it the representation of Ulster in the Imperial Parliament, and the bearing of those financial burdens which appertain to Ulster, as an integral part of the United Kingdom. I should like to make that very clear, as I have seen it stated in the Press that we are not prepared to bear those burdens.
I have seen, as has all the world, that financial inducements, not wholly unaccompanied by threats of financial pressure, have been held out to us in Ulster to join the Parliament of this so-called Free State of Ireland. Moreover, the suggestion has been made broadcast in the Press, that our adherence to the Union—our loyalty—is merely a question of pounds, shillings and pence. These insinuations are best ignored. No doubt financial pressure—or shall we say coercion?—will be exercised to the fullest extent by Dail Eireann. I am under no illusion but that this Irish Free State, neglecting the weapons of terrorism which have failed against Ulster, however far they may have succeeded in dealings with the Government of Great Britain, will use all those powers with which it has equipped itself, in the vain hope of compelling us to submit to financial necessities. And the British signatories, so far as I can judge, are fully alive to this, and are apparently wishing them God-speed.
No doubt this pressure—this coercion, shall we say?—will be exercised to the fullest extent by Dail Eireann. They will, in all probability, receive in this conspiracy the active and passive support of His Majesty's Ministers, who repeat so vehemently that they will never coerce Ulster nor consent to her coercion. But we have told you already, and I repeat it now, that we fully realise the position, and we are determined to remain in connection with the United Kingdom, notwithstanding that our determination carries with it a financial liability. I am making no complaint. The last thing I should think of doing now is to complain. Let me say this, however. The actual incidence of this burden is a matter for financial experts to determine, and I am prepared to leave it with them. With all the facts before them, they can arrive at the just amount. 68 I do not ask, we do not ask, for any favour whatsoever. Perhaps, as the years go by, it may appear to some of those so ready now to question the substance and the quality of Ulster's loyalty, that after many clear proofs, and notably upon the outbreak of war, there are qualities inherent in all sections of the British race whose existence in the Ulster man they have been too willing to ignore. I am ready to leave the matter there.
We come now to the question of boundaries, and on this we claim the right to speak. With this, as with many other details of your new plans I need hardly say that I find myself in direct disagreement. So far, each new move of the British Government in connection with Ireland has always been prefaced with an undertaking that it is a final settlement. That finality seems to be as far off as ever it has been, and this, doubtless, is only one more of the many concessions of the British Government to Sinn Fein, as the price for a grudging admission of allegiance. In order that the British Government may maintain their pledges to Sinn Fein, I suppose the loyal population of Ulster is to be penalised.
The Lord Chancellor may possibly reply that this Boundary Commission may not in any way militate against the interests of Ulster, and I sincerely hope that that may be the case. However, I should like to point out to your Lordships that the Act of 1920 was so recently placed upon the Statute Book that it has not yet come into full operation. There are services yet to be transferred to the Ulster Government. That Act definitely laid down the area of operation of the Northern Government. His Majesty, in person, opened the Northern Parliament at Belfast and members of constituencies representing that area were then present; and yet we are now told that the Act of 1920 is no final settlement in that respect, but that all those living on the border must exist for a further period of uncertainty, ignorant as to whether they will be allowed to remain under the jurisdiction of the Northern Parliament, or are to be handed over to the tender mercies of the Irish Free State. It is an intolerable state of things you have brought about by introducing as a condition of allegiance from Sinn Fein that there should be a Boundary Commission.
I should have thought that the undertaking to Ulster from the Prime Minister of 69 Great Britain, which Sir James Craig was authorised to give to the House of Commons, and which I was authorised to give in the Senate in Belfast, that "the rights of Ulster will be in no way sacrificed or compromised" might have been kept in its entirety by the British Government. Yet, if we take any exception to a breach of faith by the British Government, we shall once more see headlines in the newspapers, not wholly unconnected with Downing Street, to the effect that "Ulster blocks the way," a catch phrase which has been used on every occasion when we have ventured to stand upon our rights.
I will trespass still more upon your Lordships' indulgence by quoting the words of the Lord Chancellor, which we have clung to, and which even now we believe to have been sincere. In the House of Lords on August 19, 1921, the Lord Chancellor said—When the Irish Home Rule Act was placed upon the Statute Book, when, once for all, the just and indefeasible ease of Ulster had received protection, and for all time had become entrenched in an Act of Parliament, it depended therefore upon the honour and protection of the British Parliament. That position, secured for Ulster, will never be abandoned, at least by any Government of which I am a member.All I would say now is that it may be necessary for the Government of Northern Ireland to refuse to nominate a representative on the proposed Boundary Commission, and that if by its findings any part of the territory transferred to us under the Act of 1920 is placed under the Free State, we may have to consider very carefully and very anxiously the measures which we shall have to adopt, as a Government, for the purpose of assisting loyalists whom your Commission may propose to transfer to the Free State but who may wish to remain with us, with Great Britain and the Empire.
I regret to observe that, quite unintentionally, I have caused some irritation to my noble friend on the Woolsack. The administration of Northern Ireland, committed to us by His Majesty, in pursuance of a Statute of the Imperial Parliament, is at the present time, as your Lordships will easily understand, beset with considerable difficulty. Yet my noble friend deemed it right the other day, in a public speech, to use words which are capable of being construed as disapproval of a step we considered it essential to take to enforce the authority of the law.
THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY I have them here:—
We propose that a Boundary Commission shall examine into the boundary lines with a view to rendering impossible such an unhappy incident as that of a few days ago in which popularly elected bodies of one or two of these districts were excluded from their habitations by representatives of the Northern Parliament on the ground that they were not discharging their duties properly.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is rather important. I will read on from the passage where the noble Marquess closed the quotation:—I am expressing no opinions at all as to the provocation which those local bodies had given. Still less am I expressing, nor shall I be expected to express, any criticism of the action of the Government of Northern Ireland. I use this illustration merely in order to make plain what is the inconvenience and danger of attempting to combine, without some more scientific delimitation of boundary, counties where a minority of the population is entitled, in the affairs of the Province as a whole, to make its views felt, as the majority of the population in the particular counties is liable to have its corporate existence terminated in the circumstances I have indicated. I make it plain only that such a system cannot in our judgment be made permanently consistent with the maintenance of peace and order in Ireland.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
What the noble Viscount on the Woolsack says will certainly carry great conviction with your Lordships, but what he does not seem to be aware of—and there is no reason why he should, because he has been in London and we have been in Ireland—is the state of opinion which exists in Ireland at the present moment. And when my noble friend draws attention to a matter of that kind, naturally opinions are liable to be formed of what he has said. We considered the matter, and I should like to tell your Lordships exactly what we did. We thought it most important, when a direct course was taken by a county council to impugn and flout our authority, that we should take steps at once to bring that recalcitrant authority to book. We did so. And I should like to point out to your 71 Lordships that, after all, we are not an old Government, and any delay in asserting our authority was bound to be attributed either to impotence or to cowardice, which would have meant a condonation of the action which the county council have taken.
Now what is the inner history of the action of the county council? Is it not obvious that their action has been encouraged, if I may use the expression, by the attitude which the British Government have recently taken? Has not it been encouraged by the inspired Press in everything that they have said to decry the Ulster Government? And can your Lordships wonder that we took the first opportunity of showing that, whatever faults we might have, we were not prepared to submit to the flouting of our authority by a county council.
And what are the facts? What is the county of Tyrone? One would imagine that there is a great preponderance of Sinn Fein opinion there. There is nothing of the kind. There are four members who represent the Unionist theory—the theory which has now gone by the board. There are four other representatives, and all those representatives are not Sinn Feiners. The great bulk of the rates of County Tyrone are paid by those who profess Unionist opinion. When, therefore, the noble Viscount on the Woolsack tells his audience at Birmingham that really this is a question on which there is such a narrow balance that this Boundary Commission may put Tyrone on one side or the other, I am prepared to say that, whatever expressions Sir James Craig used in the House of Commons in Belfast were fully justified, and that, if the occasion offered again, I should stand up in the Senate and endorse the remarks which Sir James Craig made.
I feel that perhaps I have trespassed on your indulgence far too long. I am bound to assume, after yesterday's proceedings in Dail Eireann, that if this Treaty is not practically in existence, there is a possibility that it may be in existence, and that its provisions will be ratified, not only in Ireland by Dail Eireann but also in Great Britain by the Houses of Parliament here. But whereas the delegates appear anxious to accept the provisions which have been put before you—the so-called allegiance and the so-called undertaking to carry out the provisions of this Treaty—what you will have to reckon with 72 is the opposition in Ireland, and it is quite possible, and even probable, that in the near future you will find that all these undertakings are not worth the paper that they have been written upon.
I have desired most earnestly to place before your Lordships the dangers which I see in front of us. I cannot but feel, as I have said, that in this plan of yours there is no permanent solution. But if it affords a palliative or a breathing space for those whose time, for many years now, has been occupied in unravelling problems of unparalleled magnitude and difficulty, I can only hope that the very slender chance of success on which it is based, at its best will develop ultimately into a permanent solution of the Irish question; or, at its worst, will not plunge us into a disaster involving not only our unfortunate country but also the stability of the whole British Empire.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for very many minutes. But I am one who, himself unversed in the details of Irish politics, has yet by force of circumstances been in touch for many years with the larger aspects of questions such as this, and I do not, therefore, like to keep quite silent in this great debate. It is a great debate. There was a dramatic interest, almost unequalled perhaps, in its opening last night. Our thoughts were carried back along many years as we listened to veterans, the mover and seconder be it remembered of this Resolution, who for more than a generation have been labouring, each in his own way (and they have been very different ways) for an Irish settlement and Irish peace. That episode seems to many of us to be fraught with highest hope.
Then we had a scene less unfamiliar. The noble Marquess opposite, the Leader of the Opposition, made a speech in which he virtually said: "The proposal that you have made is a good one on the whole, and my only wonder is why you did not propose it long ago." And the noble Marquess the Leader of the House replied, as we should have expected him to reply: "If you deem it good, why did you not propose it long ago when you were in power." I hope it is not disrespectful to my two noble friends to say that these recriminations, however pungent and however eloquent—and they were both pungent 73 and eloquent—leave me cold. I think that with an hour in the library and a few volumes of the OFFICIAL REPORT I would undertake to prove from the spoken words of our foremost men on either side—with a few marked and notable exceptions like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, who spoke last night—absolute inconsistency between words spoken a few years ago, words spoken a couple of years ago let us say, and words spoken last night or this evening.
That, I think, is beyond question, and we ought to bear it in mind when we hear taunts or recriminations, as I have called them, bandied backwards and forwards across this Table. Most of us last night must have recalled and to-day, I think, must b recalling, the notable speech—the magnificent speech, Lord Salisbury called it—which was delivered by the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, from the front bench opposite just a year ago. He said: "It is easy for either of us to make party capital of the events of the last forty years," and he pointed out how each Party in turn had made mistakes which now seem quite self-evident as having been mistakes. Shakespeare makes Hamlet say—Use every man after his desert, and who should scape whipping?The quotation is not unmeet for such debates as we have been accustomed to listen to with regard to the Irish question in this House, and all the while the gaunt spectre of the Irish question haunts us still. It has been well said that it has never passed into history for it has never passed cut of present-day polities.
I have been in your Lordships' House, I think, for twenty-eight years and I can hardly think of a single session in which we have not listened to the self-same recriminations and the self-same replies bandied across this Table. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have referred, as I have, to the notable chapter on Ireland written by one to whose voice we used to listen with delight and to whom we hope to listen again, Lord Rosebery, in his book upon Pitt. In that chapter he refers to the condition, the permanent condition, of the Irish difficulty, and he says—The volcano that caused the eruption is still active. Beneath the black crust the lava torrent burns. The explorer of history who ventures near the crater finds the treacherous surface yield and himself plunged in the fiery marl of contemporary Party strife.74 Then, later last night, we had that trenchant and, to me, most moving speech, the philippic of Lord Carson—"philippic" is exactly the word. Its interest, to my mind at least, was only equalled by its pathos and its power. There were some parts of it in which he dealt, as a man of widest experience, in public affairs which left me a good deal puzzled as coming from him. He spoke, for example, of the consummate stage-management which has been shown in evoking the world-wide approval with which these proposals have been welcomed. I could not help wondering as he spoke what would be the feeling of the statesmen, or the Press, or the public in the great overseas Dominions or in the United States of America, when they read those words and learned that their expressions of opinion had been wire-pulled from 10, Downing Street. It is surely unworthy of one who has so wide a knowledge of the facts of to-day to over-paint the picture to a degree which should make it possible to think that those expressions of opinion from the whole round world had been wire-pulled by any living man.
He also spoke of this occasion as the splendid obsequies of the Unionist Party. Yes, and I think the obsequies of other sections, as Parties, too. This is a new departure. It is a new departure which bids us bury the policy not of the Unionist Party only, whatever that may mean exactly at this moment, and whatever its precise definition may be, but a great many other sections past and present in our political life. It would not be difficult to find in the speeches of Mr. Gladstone and those of Mr. John Morley a few years ago, sentences strangely inconsistent with the acceptance now of proposals such as these, and to that extent the sections of public opinion of which those men were the notable exponents are on this occasion being buried with the like splendid obsequies. It is a new departure, and it leaves the old order in very many of its sections, and not one only, far behind.
But a much larger thought than that came to me as I listened to Lord Carson. As his eloquence held the House I kept wondering two things. I wondered, first, does the noble and learned Lord suppose that we who support this Resolution do not feel, with him, the gravity and the difficulty of the situation? Does he think that we are indifferent, that we are callous to the fearful records of the last few years, of 75 which he reminded us with impassioned eloquence? Does he think that we do not care about the picture he drew of the storm clouds and the troubled seas which overhang and confront this new voyager as he takes his start—the new enterprise which we have in hand?
If the noble and learned Lord so thinks, he is as regards some of us, and I should say as regards all of us, wholly in error. We see and we know only too well what these things mean. Our sympathy with those who have been subjected to cruel bereavement and undeserved loss is deeper than we can easily express in words. We have to remember that however much the balance may preponderate on one side, it is not entirely on one side that these difficulties are felt, and that men and women are mourning bereavements to-day. But, anyhow, we who support this proposal now yield to none in the sympathy we feel, and in the recognition we give to the intense difficulties and the immense gravity of what we are asking the country to do.
But another question, larger perhaps, kept arising, too. What in plain prose do those for whom Lord Carson spoke last night desire now to bring about? I waited to hear the noble Lord in terms of equal eloquence draw for us the picture of what it is he would fain secure for the coming years. I listened, and your Lordships listened, in vain. He pictured the Government as having found itself unable by any powers at its command to withstand the forces of disorder and wrong, and therefore in craven fear cringing to its conquerors and suing for humiliating peace. Does that correspond either with your recollection of what has been said by the Government in this matter, or with the facts as we see them to-day? Never have I heard the Government or its representatives say: "We cannot put this thing down if we are called upon to do so." On the contrary, both from the Prime Minister and from the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack, we have heard, not once or twice, but we have heard it reiterated: "We can do it, and if we must, we must; and if we will, we will,"
Any of us can draw without difficulty the picture of what that would mean, of the bloodstained fields, the ruined and blackened homes, the people reduced to the sullen and resentful position of conquered folk, and the land, instead of being nearer to prosperity and happiness, further 76 off from it than ever. Has the memory of Cromwell in Ireland been a helpful recollection on the pathway towards peace? On the picture of the Irish life which he wishes to bring about in the next decade, Lord Carson surely threw no light at all, and yet, unless we have some unveiling of that, the picture is left unpainted in its most important part.
May I describe briefly and in the simplest terms the situation as I view it? Through the storm-clouds of competing policies there has seemed to open in these recent months a gleam of another pathway towards a possible goal—the pathway of conference instead of the pathway of rifles and bayonets, a roadway towards, at the least, new possibilities of peace. That pathway can only be opened by a most difficult but courageous resolve—to quote the King's memorable words at Belfast—"to forgive and to forget." The difficulty of that is almost beyond words. Is there any of us who does not feel in sympathy with the noble Lord to whom we have listened with such attention, who has put so clearly and so forcibly before us what are the difficulties with which he and those who, with him, represent Ulster, are confronted to-day? And is there any of us who does not feel the intensity of difficulty that there may be for them in any policy whatever that can be called the policy to forgive and to forget?
It can be done, but it can only be done if this solution is to be, I will not say attained, but approached, by sustained patience, of which we have already seen a noble example, by stern self-control, and by deliberate trust; and it has appalling difficulties of its own. May no one underrate these difficulties. I speak here as one who, perhaps, has no right to speak, without some detailed knowledge of Irish affairs, but surely it is clear to every one's vision. Let no one imagine that we are contending that this is going to be an easy thing. The storm has been too long, the waves have run too high, to have smooth water in sight soon. Nor, I suppose, are the Irish people, either in the north or the south, a race specially, shall we say, addicted to the tamer paths of orderly, placid, humdrum citizenship. That has not been their wont in the past. Have we any right to expect that it will be their wont now, and if not, must there not be difficulties whichever way we turn? But some of us at least believe that the thing 77 can come, and if so, we are resolved, please God, that it shall.
So, when we are asked—and it is all we are asked at this stage—to say "Yes" or "No" to a Resolution accepting this proposal for a settlement, we give a deliberate welcome to the endeavour. If we say "No" we see clearly enough the nearer consequences in bloodshed and in the renewal of untold horrors. As to the further consequences on that field at least, see no sunlight at all. If we say "Yes," we have at least the possibility of comparative daylight and comparative calm. The storm is there; we heard some sound of it last night. There are ruder, rougher, blasts which may come to roar outside, but we believe, with deliberate hope, that those ruder blasts may be outborne and conquered by other voices more akin, may I say, to the Christmas message of these weeks—the message of peace and good will.
Is it irreverent to quote in this connection the words—Well roars the storm to those who hearA deeper voice across the storm.I hope you will cast your votes to-night with a large-hearted forgiveness, and with the confession of many failures of our own. I hope you will cast them on the side of hope, on the side of trustfulness, and on the side, as we believe, of ultimate peace.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I do not think we ca a have any doubt that it has been a great advantage to your Lordships to have the ease of Ulster stated so admirably as it has been stated by the noble Marquess who sits on this bench (Lord Londonderry), and although there may be some of us who would join in some portion of the criticism which the most rev. Primate has just addressed to the speech of the noble and learned Lord last night, I think the prevailing feeling in this House will be that a great addition has been made to our debating power and to the knowledge of the conditions with which we have to deal in this debate. Indeed, I could not help feeling, when the moving references were made from more than one quarter of the House to the debating loss which we had suffered by the removal of that great lawyer, Lord Halsbury, that if that loss represented a memorable sunset, so the advent of Lord Carson represented a notable dawn.
78 We have first to deal with the opinions of those who have behind them the serried battalions of Ulster. I cannot claim to have any such reason as those who have spoken for Ulster for asking your Lordships' indulgence. Nevertheless I would say that the Southern Unionists have, in the last few years, endeavoured to look at this question not from the point of view deprecated by the most rev. Primate, of recriminations concerning the past, but from the point of view of the actual facts of the present and the actual necessities of the future. Perhaps I ought to make clear what responsibility, if any, lies with us for the present state of affairs. We have, since the Convention met four years ago, consistently urged that Ireland should be given full power and authority over her own local affairs. We have, equally consistently, urged that all Imperial matters should be referred to Great Britain and the British Parliament. Your Lordships will see that the present agreement is based on much wider lines, and has carried us far beyond that which was, in many quarters, condemned as too forward a policy only a year ago. We take some responsibility for having gone so far.
I think that my noble friend, Lord Donoughmore, in the debate which he initiated in this House six months ago, did one of the greatest public services which has ever been rendered by any man to Ireland. It is true that his Motion was met by an absolute negative from the Government. It is true that the Lord Chancellor made a speech which many of us felt, and some said, he would regret during the whole of the rest of his life. Since then I have been led to believe that the fact that so large a body of this House, representing the considered and conservative elements in the country, went into the lobby to ask the Government to press upon His Majesty the necessity of stating then and there the fullest terms that the Government intended to grant, had much to do with the change of front which the Government adopted within a few days. If that be true, then I say that the name of Lord Donoughmore will, from one point of view, go down in history for his having struck as fateful a blow in the cause of Ireland as that which the withdrawal of Lord Fitzwilliam struck years ago.
From the time of that debate we have had very little to do with this scheme. It is true—probably in consequence of the 79 attitude taken in this House—that we were invited to confer with Mr. de Valera in Dublin, and that we did what we could to induce him to answer in the affirmative the offer of the Government to come over here and negotiate. On one occasion since, at the instance of the Prime Minister, some of us have met in a friendly and informal manner a leader of the Sinn Fein Party in order to discuss not general questions of policy but special questions of fact. The great Southern minority, for whom no provision of any description is made in the Treaty, can take no responsibility at all for the terms of that Treaty, which was never submitted to us. The actual Articles of the Treaty we saw for the first time after they were published. I would go further and say that it will be hard to hold any members of this House responsible for what we conceive to have been—with great respect to the statements of the Prime Minister last night—the absolute error in time made by the Government in continuing one policy (which ultimately they were going to abandon) until offers which would have been gladly negotiated and received many months before had ceased to have any effective appeal, and had finally to be replaced by what my noble friend behind me called the total surrender of the Government case.
The most rev. Primate spoke just now against recriminations. I am not going to refuse the request that he made, but I would ask the most rev. Primate a question. A year ago every speaker from the south of Ireland implored this House, if there was going to be a Bill at all, to insist that it should be something which the south of Ireland could accept, and on which the extremists could negotiate, and we went into the lobby supported by every one, so far as I know, who votes with the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. There were thirty-six Peers representing the south of Ireland in the large Division which took place. In those circumstances I ask the most rev. Primate: Is there no responsibility on the independent members of the House who, with these facts and arguments before them, went into the lobby with the Government and obliterated our offer of an adjournment for a fortnight to consider what terms the Government would give, which if it had been accepted, would have saved Ireland from six months of bloodshed and saved some persons from the shame of having had to desert the men who stood by them during that period? I wish to make it 80 clear that we can take no responsibility for the terms of the Treaty nor yet for the time.
I should like to add one other thing. Great difficulty has been placed in the way of many Peers by the form in which this Motion is presented to us. We had always believed that whatever was done would be done by a Bill, and we are not yet clear what is to be done, not in this Motion, but after the agreement has been come to. We had thought that it would be submitted to us in such a form that this Parliament could make Amendments. If it is going to be submitted in the form of a Treaty between foreign Powers to which we are to say "Aye" or "No," then I think this Parliament will have a just grievance against His Majesty's Government. I feel bound to state that, because I am going to dwell upon one particular point, made most prominent by the speeches made here and in another place yesterday. I take this as an illustration of what appears to be ill policy on the part of His Majesty's Government.
As regards the Ulster case I wish that Lord Carson was present in the House at this moment as I should like to put to him one point which has been a difference between us, which will always remain a difference, and upon which Ulster has not yet, I think, found the true course. Two or three years ago Lord Carson said that the Southern Unionists had lost their bearings in the Convention because they had lost their courage. The past does not matter. What does matter is the fact that from the time when the two great political Parties in this country made up their minds that Home Rule was to be granted in some form it became imperative on any man who had any influence in Ireland to try and secure that the form should be a workable one tending to the future prosperity of Ireland, and a form which would continue, as all Unionists desired, the ties with this country.
Where I think my noble and learned friend has erred perhaps more than others is in this. None of us contest, we all advocate, that Ulster in her peculiar position, and with her great qualities, should have full control of her own local affairs. To put it shortly, as many of your Lordships desire to speak, if everything in the Act of 1920 was given to Ulster and secured to her as her own peculiar Province, I cannot see that any Irishman could complain. 81 The one thing which Ulster never has seen, but which goes through every sentence of the noble and learned Lord's speech last night, was that she cannot get away from her geographical position. It is perfectly useless for her to say: "I am shut up in this circle, in this house as it were, and it matters nothing to me if all the rest of the building is on fire." Ulster has now found what we have been preaching to her for years past; that if every man wished the same, and all our intentions were those which Lord Carson and Lord Londonderry could wish, you cannot triumph over these physical difficulties.
If there is disorder in the south of Ireland you may have a barrier, but it will re-act on Ulster. If the south of Ireland is to have a tariff and use it to create a great preference, it will re-act on Ulster. If the south of Ireland is riven by Labour unrest, a fact which will play a large part in the future, it will re-act on Ulster. Outside their own particular Province and those matters which were handed over to Ulster by the Act of 1920, there is a whole schedule of affairs which must be dealt with by some common authority for the north and south of Ireland. I do not think Lord Londonderry will contradict me. I have no desire except to try and elucidate a solution and get rid of this great difficulty.
Consider what Lord Carson said about armies. I beg the noble Marquess the Leader of the House to reconsider what he said last night. The noble and learned Lord told us that the existence of an Army in the south is a threat of the first degree to Ulster. The Prime Minister, speaking last night in words which I am not justified in quoting, spoke not of the fear of the south of the Army to be raised by Ulster, but of the necessity felt by Ulster to have an Amy for her own protection. If Ulster is arming against the south and the south is arming against Ulster I say, with all respect to the noble Marquess and the glamour he attempted to throw over it, that the statements made by members of His Majesty's Government, by the Lord Chancellor and the Prime Minister, as to the dangers to this country and to the world by the raising of large armed forces in Ireland are too recent and too conclusive to be blown away by the admirable eloquence of the noble Marquess.
I speak not in the interests simply of those with whom I act and who are ready to make great sacrifices for peace and 82 prosperity. If you are going to have rival armies in the north and south, each becoming larger because the other hears rumours that more arms have been manufactured, more artillery made and more aeroplanes provided, you will have one continual competition which cannot end in peace, and the financial effect of which will, at the outset, rob the two new Governments of all that they most stand in need of for the improvement of the social welfare of the country. Therefore, I hope we shall be told that Ulster has not said her last word as regards the possibility of finding some machinery by which those Services which are common to both parts of Ireland—the Army, the railways and tariffs—will somehow be brought into the same Assembly without the slightest fear of a general control of Ulster.
I hope also that the Lord Chancellor, when he replies, will give me a specific answer to one or two questions I propose to put to him. The first question is: In what form will the assent of Parliament to this Treaty be asked? If it is to be simply "Aye" or "No" to the whole thing then, in my opinion, a grave error will have been committed, and I much doubt whether the peace, which Lord Londonderry, with all the knowledge he has of the temper of the North of Ireland, spoke of as merely a temporary respite, will be permanent: the goal towards which the Government and all of us are striving. The second question is: Will the Constitution be submitted for sanction? That is to say, the Houses of Parliament to be established and the methods of government. Will that be put to us in a single vote, or shall we be able to consider it from any standpoint? I believe there is nothing so much needed at this moment in Ireland as the establishment of an authority of some kind which may bring to an end the anarchy which has been going on for six months. I should like to know, therefore, whether the Provisional Government will be responsible to His Majesty's Government here or to the noble Viscount the Viceroy, who is present here to-night.
Those are my questions, and I ask them in no grudging, no litigious spirit. I feel strongly, and I believe that it is the feeling of the great mass of Southern Unionists, that the future of Ireland depends on some arrangement being established which will 83 bring together, in whatever form, the north and the south, and will bring the south into closer relations with this country. I do not know how long the present status of your Lordships' House will go on, but I will undertake to wager that even two or three years after this date there will be nothing which will be more valued in the numerous difficult questions which must arise between the two countries than that nucleus of Irish opinion which is at present within your Lordships' House, and which I hope will always be at the service of Ireland and of this country for a peaceful settlement of these questions.
I will not for a moment conceal from your Lordships that, so far as we have any status or power in the new Government of Ireland, it will be directed not to loosening but to making firmer the ties with this country. The experience of modern history is that communities loosely bound together are unable to sustain themselves. Two centuries ago the States of the Netherlands loosened their ties. Within fifty years the strongest nation of that time became a third-class Power. Within the last fifty years Germany has linked up and become a most powerful nation and a danger to her neighbours. If we can only get good feeling between the two countries, I firmly believe that a similar increase of strength may be the result of a tightening rather than a loosening of the ties between them.
As to the attitude which those of us who have been handed over in the south to the new Government will take up, I can only say this. There are two courses which any of us might take. We have the precedent of the great changes of Government in France, of the aristocrats and landowners of the French people who, despairing of their country, left it, or in any case withdrew themselves from all participation in the government which they had opposed, and of which they had much reason to complain. They passed out of history, and France was not the gainer. I have, with your Lordships' permission, put such points as I think are vital to be considered at this moment in the settlement at which we have arrived. But I would say that whatever settlement is reached, so long as Ireland contains over 3,000,000 people in the south, subject to the King and part of the Empire, I believe, for my part, that it is the duty of every Southern Unionist to do his best to work with the new Government.
84 The problems before them are grave to the last degree. Few members of this House who do not know Ireland from personal knowledge can be aware of the absolutely universal demoralisation which has set in during the last few months. It has set in as regards crime, as regards payment of rent, as regards labour, as regards property, as regards the action of the law. If the best administrators from the whole of Europe and from this country had to take over the country at this moment, they would have a difficult job, and they will need all the ability, all the experience, and—as I think Lord Dunraven said last night—all the patience which can be brought to bear.
I hope that in some respects it may be possible to change certain portions of this Treaty, which has been hastily agreed to at the last moment. I hope that, somehow, the door is not yet shut to some accommodation which may bring the two parts of the country together. But I feel that it is the duty of all true subjects of His Majesty to seek their inspiration in the immortal words which he used at Belfast, and to do their duty, under whatever Constitution, so long as it is within the Empire, for the prosperity of Ireland and for the unity of the British peoples.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND had given Notice, on the Motion of Viscount Morley of Blackburn for an humble Address, to move at the end of the first paragraph to leave out all the words after "Parliament" and insert "But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that this House regrets that the settlement of the Government of Ireland indicated in the gracious Speech from the Throne would involve the surrender of the rights of the Crown in Ireland, give power to establish an independent Irish Army and Navy, would require further sacrifices from Ulster, and would not safeguard the rights of the loyalist population in Southern Ireland."
§ The noble Duke said: My Lords, I think it advisable to move the Amendment which stands in my name, principally for two reasons. In the first place, I think it would be, to put it mildly, a misfortune if this House did not have an opportunity of registering a protest, even if only a minority of the House are to register that protest, against a measure which I venture to think is one of the most disastrous that it has ever been called upon to consider. In the second place, I move this Amend- 85 ment because, if we do not take this course, if we do not divide against this Resolution, if we allow it to go by default, we shall be told when the time arrives for this Treaty or Bill or whatever it is going to be called—it will be called a Treaty, as a matter of fact—to come before us, that we have approved of it in principle, and that we shall not be able to amend it in any important particular.
§ It is a source of great regret to me that I am compelled to move an Amendment to the Address itself. But that is not my fault; it is the fault of the Government, which has chosen to take the very unusual course of incorporating the Resolution in the Address. I am therefore compelled to take the equally unusual course of opposing the Address itself. This may be a form of that stage management to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, referred yesterday. At any rate, it seems to be a form of pressure which is being brought to bear on Parliament in a not altogether fair manner. There are other forms of this pressure. There is one which I will not elaborate. I mean the unwarranted and—I venture to think—unconstitutional use which has been made of His Majesty's name throughout the whole of these proceedings.
§ There is also another form of pressure. Your Lordships will observe that we are to consider these Articles of Agreement in the form of a Treaty. The reason was explained by the Prime Minister in another place last night. I believe I am not in order in quoting his exact words, but the reason he gave was that the House would not be able to alter or to amend the Treaty in any important manner at all. If it required any amendment, it would have to be done by the plenipotentiaries themselves. So your Lordships will perceive to what the constitutional procedure of this country is now reduced. It is literally this. On a Monday the Government says that it cannot, in any circumstances, embark upon a particular course of policy; that such a course of policy is utterly inconceivable; and it undertakes, by most solemn promises to the country, that it will never embark upon a policy which consists in negotiations with rebels with arms in their hands. On Tuesday, not more than twenty-four hours later, it embarks upon a totally different policy, which consists in an invitation to the leaders of those rebels to come over and confer with it.86
§ They do so. It then negotiates for five months, without ever getting any authority from Parliament, without ever offering any explanation to the country, and, when that period is over, it produces a settlement which it promised never to accept at all, and it produces it in such a form that the hands of Parliament are completely tied in dealing with it. Really, after this, to talk about representative government or popular government, or Parliamentary government is merely a farce. They are meaningless expressions. We are governed by an absolute autocracy in Downing Street, to which the nearest parallel is, perhaps, the Venetian oligarchy of the seventeenth century, the only difference being that whereas the one ensured popular support by a combination of bribery and terror, the other secures popular support by a servile Press purchased by the sale of peerages or baronetcies or knighthoods. This is also a direct breach of all the engagements made by Ministers within the last five months.
§ There are many of us in this House who, rightly or wrongly, would have been very anxious to protest against these negotiations when they were initiated, and I think we all admit that our position to-day would have been infinitely stronger if we had done so. We were induced not to do so. Over and over again I have been implored by various Party leaders not to take any steps at all, not to hamper the Government in its negotiations, because we should have an absolutely free hand in amending or rejecting the settlement, or doing anything we liked with it, and there was no question of its being rushed through Parliament or of Parliament being coerced in any way. Therefore, I say that we have been directly betrayed in this respect.
§ I think that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House remarked, last night, that measures like this were always the result of a change of policy—a gradual change of view in order to meet changing circumstances. I am afraid that that explanation will not hold water for one moment. It has been one of the most startling and sudden conversions in history. On the very day on which His Majesty made His Speech in Belfast which we were told altered the situation so entirely, the Lord Chancellor also made a speech in this House in which he condemned any such solution as has now been arrived at. He convinced the House, to the satisfac- 87 tion of the great majority of its members, that such a solution was absolutely impossible and unthinkable. I do not know whether Lord Curzon really means to tell us that within twenty-four hours, or perhaps forty-eight hours, at any rate within a very short space of time, the Lord Chancellor really came to the conclusion that all he had been saying was but nonsense, that the policy which he had asked the House to take was wrong and that a perfectly contrary policy should be adopted which the Lord Chancellor then considered to be incredible.
§ The real explanation is very simple. If Ministers would only treat the country with absolute candour and the strictest regard to veracity, they would make some such explanation as the following: "We were placed last summer in a terrible dilemma. We were either faced with a further period of bloodshed and devastation in Ireland or we had to patch up some agreement with the leaders of the secret terror society, the murder gang with whom we had refused to have anything to do. We decided to take the latter course as the lesser of two evils. We do not pretend that the Agreement which is concluded is not fraught with the utmost danger to this country and to the Empire. Indeed, we could not do so, because we have spent our whole lives in demonstrating these dangers. We realise the awful risk that such an example of the Government weakness must involve for Egypt and India as well as for this country. We know that we thereby admit to all the world that what we are not prepared to grant to legal and constitutional methods we can be forced to grant to the bomb and to the revolver. We know that the guarantees which the Settlement provides, or will provide, for the loyalists of Ireland, for Imperial defence, and for the maintenance of the British connection, may well prove to be not worth the paper on which they are written. But we are in a position where we have thought it right to take these chances—to take this leap in the dark—and we ask the country to accept it and to help us in meeting the difficulties and risks which it involves."
§ Ministers are entitled to claim that they were in a position last summer—whether through their own fault or not we need not now discuss—in which this surrender was inevitable. Whether we agree with this view or not is another matter, but to pretend that a surrender to blackmail, 88 that a leap in the dark, is statesmanship, is ridiculous. We are told that this settlement satisfies the national aspirations of Ireland. The present national aspirations of that country have, curiously enough, only existed for five years. Previous to that they were supposed to be represented by the Home Rule agitation under Mr. Redmond, and it is a point worth noting, and a very interesting point, that those national aspirations of five or six years ago were satisfied to a far fuller extent than are the supposed national aspirations of Ireland by the present Agreement. Home Rule was on the Statute Book in 1914. Everything that every Irish leader had ever advocated for the last 114 years or so had been granted. They had got it all and had only to wait till the war was over when they would have realised their most ardent ambitions. Why then, having granted five years ago the most exaggerated dreams of Nationalist Ireland, are we to suppose that this settlement is any more likely to satisfy the present supposed national aspirations of Ireland?
§ There is another very interesting question in dealing with this matter. Why did Ireland drop Nationalism in favour of Republicanism? It is a very important question, because upon its correct answer depends our understanding of the Sinn Fein movement. Sinn Fein was originally a literary and artistic society and it remained so until a few months before the war. Then it came to an understanding with Germany through Casement, who acted as an intermediary between Sinn Fein and Germany. As a result it at once became a very formidable revolutionary organisation, supported by Irish Americans in the United States. It stood for armed revolt, and with this object it formed the Irish Volunteers in order to be ready to strike a blow at the heart of England when she was engaged in war with Germany. With this object, too, Sinn Fein initiated the movement in favour of an independent Republic. If, therefore, Sinn Feiners really represent the national aspirations of Ireland they represent the bitterest hostility to this country. They represent a movement for the destruction of the British Empire through Irish independence, and are not only different from but entirely opposed to the old Nationalism of Parnell and Redmond. Sinn Fein does not represent the national aspirations of Ireland. It is an historical fact that Sinn Fein smashed those aspirations altogether.89
§ But that is not all. If it were, Sinn Fein would have remained a comparatively ineffective agitation. Its real strength is derived from its alliance with revolutionary labour and from its association with the International Revolutionary movement of the world. From the time of the Easter Rebellion, when the Irish Volunteers of Sinn Fein and the Citizen Guard of Connolly and Larkin united their forces, Sinn Fein has presented a dual character. It has been, to a large extent, a Bolshevik movement masquerading under the guise of a National revolt. As such it entered, in 1919, into an understanding with the Soviet Government of Russia through its so-called "Ambassador" in America, Dr. MacCartan. As such it has sent its envoys to successive Conferences of the Third International in Moscow, these dealings resulting in a draft treaty which has been published in a White Book. As such it has received large subsidies from Russia and America, and as such it is regarded as the main hope of the International Revolutionary movement all over the world. Marx long ago pointed out that England's weak spot was Ireland, and that through that country alone could the ruin of the British Empire be achieved, and quotations could be given from all his principal disciples on the Continent emphasising the importance of "that Achilles heel of England."
§ Of course, all this talk about national aspirations is nonsense. These aspirations are not those of the Irish people. They are the programme of a gang of conspirators who by a system of terror, by an alliance with our foreign enemies in time of war, and by the aid of a secret society, have established one of the most awful tyrannies over the Irish people, and now pretend to be acting in their name. It is to this organisation, to this conspiracy, that we are going to hand over the wretched people of Ireland.
§ The first act of the tragedy is over. Irish independence is won if this Agreement goes through. The second act is now beginning, and in it there are three dramatis personæ. The first is the political movement known as Sinn Fein proper; the second is the industrial revolutionary movement; and the third is that sporadic agrarian movement which has always existed in Ireland, which was formerly directed against landlordism but is now directed against the farmer class. And this agitation has been greatly aggravated 90 during the past few years by the fact that Sinn Fein has promised to reward its landless supporters out of the lands of Protestants and loyalists, and in some districts this has taken the form of the systematic extermination of Protestant farmers.
§ Behind these three movements is a very powerful secret society called the Irish Republican Brotherhood, controlling an efficient, well-armed, and well-disciplined force—disciplined, at least, in a sense, because its main object is not fighting, but murder—which has reduced terrorism to a science, and murder and outrage to a fine art. And it is to this army that we are now going to hand over the defence of Ireland. These forces are dealing with a population which, owing to its age-long subservience to successive systems of terror, has shown itself capable of becoming so morally corrupted by the various malign influences brought to bear upon it as to submit to a levée en masse of the whole able-bodied male population for the purpose of organised assassination, accompanied in numerous instances by torture of the living and mutilation of the dead, after the manner of the tribesmen of the North-West Frontier of India. Truly, here are all the elements of a very happy, peaceful, prosperous, and contented Ireland!
§ It seems hardly necessary to refer to the so-called guarantees in this Agreement, because I should have supposed that they were absolutely worthless. To say that the Admiralty is satisfied because it retains a few naval harbours must certainly convince no thinking person. If the country adjoining those harbours is in the hands of a hostile force the presence of British ships in those harbours is only a danger to the British Navy. The only authority that can express any opinion on the safety of Irish harbours is the General Staff, and not the Admiralty. The Admiralty may know something about the defence of harbours from the sea, but they know less than nothing about their defence from the land. So far as we can make out the General Staff do not seem to have been consulted. Perhaps, on the whole, it was wiser not to consult them.
§ It seems safe to predict that the total insecurity of these harbours and the facilities for submarine bases offered by the west coast of Ireland will ultimately necessitate an increase in the British Fleet, so that the Agreement lately concluded at Washington will not be of very 91 much use. This Agreement means that our strategical situation will be greatly endangered in time of war, and may lead to the loss of British sea power and to the starvation of our population. As regards the Army, to say that there is any safeguard in limiting its numbers is, of course, ridiculous. Napoleon limited the Prussian Army to the number of 40,000 in 1807, and in 1814 they put over 800,000 men in the field. They had a population about as large as Ireland, if I remember rightly.
§ As to the loyalists of Southern Ireland, who have kept our flag flying in the country for seven centuries, who have been first disarmed by the Government, and then robbed, murdered, and forced to emigrate by the Government's new allies, Sinn Fein, there is no guarantee whatever for them in the Agreement; they are net even mentioned. I admit that it would not have been any good mentioning them, because you cannot do anything to help them. But I should have thought that it would have been more gracious if the Government had made some show of doing something for these wretched people. There is no mention of them either as regards compensation for the losses they have suffered, or for their future security if they choose to remain in Ireland. Loyalty to this country may be a very eminent virtue, but it certainly does not seem to pay.
§ The noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, told us last night that he understood that Lord Midleton has very satisfactory assurances from Mr. Michael Collins regarding the future of the loyalists of Southern Ireland.
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
I beg the noble Marquess's pardon; that is what I understood him to say. But I think Lord Midleton has received satisfactory assurances from Mr. Arthur Griffith.
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
But that hardly seems to me to be sufficient. I should have thought that the Government would not be satisfied with passing 92 on their responsibilities to the shoulders of Lord Midleton. Whatever we may think of Lord Midleton's views regarding this Irish question, we all know that he has done his utmost for the sake of the loyalists of Southern Ireland, and no more capable person could be entrusted with their case. But one would have supposed, at least, that the Government would have done something to help them in this emergency. It may be worth mentioning that whatever view this House may choose to take regarding the position of the loyalists, it can do absolutely nothing to protect them now; it can do absolutely nothing to alter the terms of this Agreement, because it is going to be embodied in the form of a Treaty, which we cannot amend in any important particulars.
Whether it be advisable to proclaim to all the world in these somewhat critical times that blackmail and violence can extort concessions which are denied to loyalty and devotion is, of course, a matter of opinion. But in some countries, at least, there can be no doubt what its effect will be. Let Gandhi in India and Zaghlul in Egypt once obtain the position that de Valera has occupied in Ireland and the game is in their hands. The course of agitation in those countries is following precisely the same lines as it has followed in Ireland. You begin first with a boycott; it is all planned and settled beforehand. That gives place in due time—and, indeed, has already done so—to open violence. Mr. Gandhi had, before his fit of repentance, avowed his intention of resorting to this more effective form of pressure. And he will, no doubt, be greatly encouraged by the speech which the Prime Minister delivered in another place last night, in which he said that every great reform in this country, and even the very foundation of our Parliamentary government, was based upon rebellion.
Then we come to another guarantee, the Oath of Allegiance, which would appear to have been designed in order to offer as many loopholes as possible for evasion. In the first place, allegiance is not given to the King at all; it is given to the Constitution of the Irish Free State. And it is only given on a rather curious condition—in virtue of the common citizenship and in virtue of adherence to the Commonwealth of Nations known as the British Empire. As regards the common citizenship, of course, that is the one thing the 93 Irish have always denied. But, in any case, if there is any doubt as to the meaning which they will attach to this particular Oath, it has, fortunately, been dissipated by Mr. Michael Collins himself who, in an interview with the Press, has informed us that he regards Ireland as a sovereign and independent State, which has formed an Alliance with this country for its own purposes, and, in virtue of that Alliance, it takes this oath of fidelity to the King. It is obvious that if Ireland is a sovereign and independent State, which voluntarily enters into an association with our Commonwealth of Nations, it is perfectly easy for it to withdraw from that association whenever it pleases.
He has also told us that Ireland will now do its utmost to induce the other Dominion to adopt the same principle, and to come into the British Empire and belong to the British Empire under the same conditions. So that it would appear that the rôle which Ireland is going to play in this community, this Commonwealth of Nations, is that ofThe little rift within the lute,That by and by will make the music mute.We have also been informed by another eminent Sinn Fein leader, Mr. O'Brien, that those who take this Oath have previously taken another; so that it is perfectly clear with what mental reservation that particular gentleman will take the Oath.
If the declarations of Ministers mean anything, the days of this House are numbered. It would seem to be a misfortune that one of its last important acts should be to register approval of a settlement in which, I venture to think, very few of its members in their hearts really believe or of which they approve. In the position in which we are placed it may eventually be necessary to submit to this Agreement, but at least I should have thought that we might have made it clear that we were not deluded by empty phrases into approving a settlement which means the abandonment of the lifelong convictions of the vast majority of the members of this House, and which history may well pronounce to have been one of the greatest disasters in British history—a surrender even more fatal than those which followed Majuba or Khartoum.
I do not know whether any members of this House will hesitate to vote for this 94 Amendment because they are afraid of the consequences which it will have. I do not know in the least, but I believe it will have no consequences whatever, and that there is nothing to prevent the Government continuing with their Treaty. I only wish it had consequences. Supposing it had any effect, supposing it had the effect of forcing the Government to go to the country, what better result could it have or what result more consistent with the duty of this House? We certainly have no mandate to pass this measure. We do not believe in it. Why not submit it to the country and let the country decide?
Ministers virtually admit that they have not the slightest idea—indeed, how can they have?—of what the morrow will bring forth in Ireland. We are living in a twilight of doubt and uncertainty. Some people tell us that this twilight is going to usher in the dawn. It is a rather hackneyed simile of which I should imagine most of us are very tired, because we have seen a good many false dawns in the last few years. At the same time, it bears an ominous resemblance to a more sinister twilight which will deepen before very long into the shadows of night—the night of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen.
At the end of the first paragraph to leave out all the words after ("Parliament") and insert ("But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that this House regrets that the settlement of the Government of Ireland indicated in the gracious Speech from the Throne would involve the surrender of the rights of the Crown in Ireland, give power to establish an independent Trish Army and Navy, would require further sacrifices from Ulster, and would not safeguard the rights of the loyalist population in Southern Ireland.").—(The Duke of Northumberland.)
§ VISCOUNT FINLAY
My Lords, I have now taken part in a great many debates on the subject of Ireland, and I have often thought with something of melancholy of what was said about Ireland by the poet Spenser in his description of the country in which he lived long, and which he knew intimately. What he said was this:—Whether it be from something in the soil or from the influence of the stars, yet so it is that no scheme formed for the advantage of this country ever prospers.It is impossible not to feel what a blessing peace to Ireland would be. Every one of us would do anything in his power to achieve that result; and to have a loyal, a prosperous, and a contented Ireland is an object which, if it could be achieved, would 95 achieve at the same time the lasting renown of the statesman who had brought it about. I feel, and have always felt, that the United Kingdom would be very much the poorer for the loss of the elements which are contributed to it by the Irish; I speak of the Irish of all parts of Ireland. But we must take care that peace, a transient peace, is not bought at too high a price, and we must remember that this House is the guardian of the permanent interests of the United Kingdom, the permanent interests of Great Britain, and the permanent interests of Ireland.
It has been pointed out with great force by the noble Duke who has just spoken that one most sinister feature of the position in which the House is now placed is this. If this Agreement be ratified it cannot be amended; your hands are absolutely tied and, except by the consent of those who have imposed these terms already, they cannot be varied. Now that is surely a most serious state of things. The reason why I, individually, feel unable to support this Agreement is that in my judgment it does not make adequate provision for the protection of the Imperial interests which are connected with Ireland.
Before saying something on that subject, I should like to refer to the very remarkable form in which this matter comes before us. Negotiations were undertaken by His Majesty's Government with certain of the King's subjects in Ireland, and they entered into the Agreement which is before your Lordships, subject to the approval of Parliament and of Dail Eireann. How should that approval be obtained? An Act of Parliament, of course, would be necessary for altering the Constitution in so vital a matter. How should the approval of Parliament be obtained? Surely by the introduction of a Bill. The question of the principle would be determined upon the Second Reading, and if the provisions of the Bill were in any respect defective they could be amended in Committee.
But what has been done here is to ask the House, in answer to the gracious Speech from the Throne, to present an Address containing these words:—We are ready to confirm and ratify those Articles in order that the same may be established for over by the mutual consent of the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland.Now, your Lordships' attention may have been drawn to the remarkable words used 96 yesterday by the noble Marquess who leads the House, when he said that he had thought of having a document printed to give information before this debate, but that after all he considered this was not the Second Reading and that might be deferred. It is perfectly true this is not the Second Reading of a Bill, but it is a debate in a form which will effectually tie the hands of the House when the Bill is introduced and when it comes to Second Reading. The debate on the Second Reading would be on the principle of the Bill; details would be left for Committee. But the principle of the Bill is embodied in that Agreement from which, if it is once ratified, there is no power to depart, and if the House approved of the terms of the Agreement what would be the use of having a Second Reading debate? It really would be a mere farce, because the principle had already been adopted, and all that remained would be to work it out in the form of a Bill. There would be no power without the consent of the other Parties to the Treaty to introduce any variations, any changes however important, that might appear to be necessary as the measure went through Parliament in its ordinary course.
I deprecate very strongly the adoption of the method which has been taken in throwing this Agreement at the head of the House, and asking us at this stage to express our readiness to ratify it, and thereby to tie our hands for dealing with it in the ordinary course of Parliament. It seems to me not to be in harmony with the genius of our Constitution. It is a procedure which is adopted in the case of a matter which is of transcendant importance. No matter more important to the Constitution of the United Kingdom can be imagined, and it is on this matter of all others that we are asked to tie our hands before we embark on the regular Parliamentary procedure. This procedure is really a coup d'état. If it became general it would revolutionise our Parliamentary system. There is, so far as I am aware, no precedent for it, and it appears to me to be thoroughly unsound in principle. On these grounds I protest strongly against the procedure which His Majesty's Government have adopted in this matter, and I propose to say a few words on the Imperial aspects of this Agreement.
I recognise, of course, the enormous importance of the question of Ulster. The root fact of the situation in Ireland is really 97 that Ireland contains not one nation but two nations, and until that fact is grasped no one can pretend to deal with the Irish question. But the Irish question is not merely a domestic question for Ireland itself, to be settled in Ireland among the different sections of the Irish people. It also affects Great Britain very nearly, and through Great Britain it affects the Empire; and in arriving at a settlement, some regard must be had to the interests and the wishes of the people of Great Britain.
The first fact that strikes one on looking at the map is how inter-dependent nature has made the two islands of Britain and Ireland. We are dependent upon our sea communications for the existence not only of our Empire but of Britain itself as a great nation. Ireland is within a few miles of our shores. Its situation is such that from Irish creeks and ports might be commanded all our great trade routes, and it is now proposed under this Agreement to give to Ireland what Canada has—virtual independence. Canada is a country to which we owe much. Canada, on the whole, is absolutely loyal to the Mother Country, and to the Crown, and Canada is on the further side of the Atlantic. But what analogy is there between these two cases where you are dealing with a country which lies at our very door, and which, if it fell into hostile hands, or was dominated by a nation hostile to this country, might strike a blow at the very existence of Great Britain and of the British Empire?
We must not buy peace at any price. It is desirable, but let us see what we are about and look beyond the emergency of the moment to the permanent facts of the case. We hope and trust that we have a long peace before us. It will be hard indeed if we have a recurrence of war at an early date after the terrible experience through which we have gone, but we may be disappointed, and I suppose, if there is anything certain in the world, it is that some day, after the lapse of some period which, as the lives of nations are counted, is not a long one, Great Britain will again be involved in war. Now it appears to me that it is absolutely essential in such an event that Great Britain should have command of the Irish coast, and that it should not pass under enemy control.
We have had a great object lesson during the war which has just closed. We all remember the submarine campaign and 98 how critical was the situation at some points. Look at the Irish coast upon the map, and see the number of inlets and creeks. If every one of those creeks had been in the hands of those who were ill-disposed towards this country—as the people of the south and west of Ireland were during the war, as they showed in every way—that fact would have called for an addition to our burdens in the war by undertaking, ill the first place, the re-conquest of the south and west of Ireland. We could not have afforded to go on with an enemy stationed there, upon our lines of communication, and at whatever cost it would have been essential, if such an Agreement as this had been in force during the war, that we should have resumed that command of the Irish coast and of the land of Ireland of which the Agreement deprived us.
What would have been the effect of submarines issuing from every Irish creek? I believe that it might have ended in our losing the war. It would have added tremendously to the efficiency of the submarine campaign, which was the greatest danger that we had to encounter during the war, and we cannot say how the war could have ended if what is now proposed to be lone in Ireland had existed at the time the last war began. If there is another War, and the south and west of Ireland are in hands hostile to this country, what might the effect be? Another war may be a long time off, but it is not right in national affairs to say: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Let there be peace and rest in my time." Time runs on, and the danger develops, and it is the duty of every statesman to provide safeguards for the distant, as well as for the near, future.
But we are told that the Agreement contains safeguards. There are certain safeguards, contained mainly in Article 7 of the Agreement and in the Annex. There is a promise of continuous control of certain ports in time of peace. The clause is not a long one, and I had better read it because it is double-barrelled.7. The Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to His Majesty's Imperial Forces:—As regards the securities in time of peace, we find in the Annex that they provide for four ports—Berehaven, Queenstown, Belfast Lough, Lough Swilly. There are to be facilities for aviation in the neighbourhood of those ports, and there are to be facilities for storing oil fuel at Haulbowline. The first provision as to these stations is that they are to be offered for sale to commercial companies under guarantee that purchasers shall maintain a certain minimum stock for Admiralty purposes.
- (a) In time of peace such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State; and
- (b) In time of war or of strained relations with a Foreign Power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the purposes of such defence as aforesaid.
With regard to the promise of control of the ports, I say that without control of the adjoining territory any control of the ports is useless. It is no use to say you control the ports. Suppose that by any misfortune the feeling in the south and west were as hostile to us during another war as it was during the last war, then to be safe you must have control also of the adjoining territory. Control of the port without something of that kind is merely illusory, and you hold merely at the good will of those who have control of the land. It must be remembered that the Trish Free State is to have an Army of its own. It is true that a limit is imposed on the size of that Army, but how is that limit to be enforced? There are to be facilities for aviation. The oil fuel storage is to be secured by the stations where we keep the oil at present being sold to a commercial company with a guarantee of enough fuel being supplied for the Admiralty requirements. Surely it is clear that these agreements all depend either on the good will of the new Irish Free State or on our ability, by occupying territory in the south of Ireland, to enforce their performance.
I have been dealing so far with the provisions relating to the time of peace. The second branch of Article 7 deals with a time of war, or of strained relations with a foreign Power. It would be a nice subject for discussion with the Irish Free State (if it were not altogether friendly) as to whether our relations with any particular Power were strained. In these cases they are to provide such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require. But how is that to be enforced? There is no provision for enforcement. It means that, you would need to have recourse to 100 the strong hand for tile purpose of securing these so-called securities. These safe-guards, I suspect, will be of more use to the Government in debate than they would be amid the transactions either of peace or the stern realities of war.
I remember very well when Mr. Glad-stone's very mild measure—all things are comparative, and that measure was mild as compared with this—was under discussion in 1886, Mr. Chamberlain, after referring to its terms, asked: "Do you call that maintaining the integrity of the Empire?" I think we may, with even greater reason, say now to the Government: "Do you call this maintaining the integrity of the Empire?" They are mere paper safeguards, and we are driven back on what is the real security, and that is the good will of the Irish Free State.
We are told that the Admiralty have been consulted, and they consider that these guarantees are adequate. I recall that in 1911 there was a Convention—the Convention of London—under consideration in the House of Commons, of which I was then a member, and we were assured by the Government that the Admiralty approved of its provisions. A great deal depends, in getting assurances of that kind from a Department, on the form in which the question is put. I suppose there was some foundation for the statement that assurances had been given. That Convention was thrown out by the action of this House, and everyone, even of those who at the time were supporters of the Convention of London, has admitted that the experience of the war showed them that if it had been passed into law it would have tied our right arm in time of war. I am not content to rest upon the assurance that any Department is satisfied on a point so vital as this is. We must look at the facts for ourselves, and I think we can see with perfect plainness that all that the Admiralty can have been satisfied of is that if the provisions of the guarantees were carried out by the Irish Free State they would, so far as they go, he satisfactory. But the whole question is, "Can you enforce their being carried out?"
There is one safeguard which would be of tremendous potency, and I wish to heaven we could secure it. It would be that we should, by this Agreement or by any such means, convert an old enemy in the people of Ireland into a fast friend. We are told that this is to be the case. I 101 devoutly hope that these sanguine expectations may be fulfilled if this Agreement comes into force. But what a gamble it is; and for what stakes are we playing! Suppose the Irish Free State turns out to be of the same mind with regard to this country as the south and west of Ireland in the time of our direst necessity during the war; suppose that state of mind continues; what security have you? Why, the British Empire will exist upon sufferance. On such points as these every British statesman, until now, has made sure. Are we to throw over the record of this country from time immemorial in its attention to the vital interests of Britain that are involved in the control of Ireland, on the strength of the expectation that the Irish Free State will be animated by warm friendship for Great Britain? Are we to trust to their gratitude for the concession of this Agreement? It is just possible that they may think they have achieved this Agreement not by our good will but by our fears.
It is not very long ago that speeches were delivered by the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor in a very different tone from those which we hear now. How often were we told that they had rebellion and crime well by the throat? One got, almost tired of the expression. There was a tone of "Never, never, never," with regard to any such ideas as those which the Government have now wholeheartedly and suddenly adopted. What a sudden change it is; and what a tremendous experiment you are embarking upon. Suppose the Irish Free State thinks it owes no gratitude to this country, that it owes everything to the fear which it is able to inspire, what are your chances in the future of similar motives not being relied upon by the Irish Free State, which has so far achieved such signal success? And what will be the effect of such ideas as to the origin of this Agreement? What will be the effect in India and in Egypt? What will be the effect throughout the Empire if the idea once gets abroad that the British Government yields to fear? What will be thought throughout the world? And how indefinitely will our difficulties be multiplied.
There is another point on which Imperial interests are concerned. It would be greatly to the advantage of the Empire if the Irish question could be finally settled. But is there finality about this Agreement? I greatly doubt it. The aspiration for one Ireland, an Ireland which should comprise 102 not only the South and West but the North-East and the North has never been relinquished. I do not believe it ever will be dropped. Will the means by which the attempt is made to carry out that aspiration be confined to argument and competition in well doing, in showing the people of Ulster that the south and west is even better governed than Ulster is under her Parliament? I wish I could think so. Or will other levers be brought to bear upon Ulster? Will pressure be brought to bear upon Ulster in the way of a boycott of Ulster and Ulster goods? If so, that is a matter which affects the Empire, because the Irish question, instead of being settled, would be very much alive.
Suppose such pressure were brought to bear upon Ulster, can Ulster count on the support, the whole-hearted support, of His Majesty's Government in maintaining what was given to her by the Act of 1920? One would have thought so; one would have thought it was beyond question, for the honour of this country is pledged up to the hilt to do nothing, and suffer nothing, which can impair the settlement, which, rather against the wishes of Ulster, was urged upon her in 1920. Ulster during the war gave her blood and money freely to help us. Of the attitude of the south and west of Ireland I desire to say nothing. I will never believe that a supposed political expediency will, in the mind of any Government in this country, for ever efface alike the sense of gratitude for past benefits or the feeling of resentment which past wrongs may have inspired.
This settlement, if it takes effect, may be but the beginning of troubles. I have sometimes thought, in connection with Ireland, of a fable of Æsop, which perhaps some of your Lordships may not have forgotten. A shepherd, to save his goats from the severe winter, brought them into a cave while the snow was on the ground. He had a stock of food there for them. One day he saw a number of wild goats, and thinking he would add to his flock induced some of the wild goats to come into the cave. He fed them during the winter and half starved his own goats in order to do so. A good many of his own goats died, and when the spring came the wild goats went back to the mountains. We may repeat such an experience.
To my mind there has been a good deal of precipitation about, the way this Agreement was knocked up. We understand 103 that after a prolonged sitting, at something like one or two o'clock in the morning, they succeeded in hitting upon the precise blend of allegiance which would suit the Irish palate. We have the Oath of Allegiance in this Agreement, and I think it is the most remarkable document I ever read. It is not long; that is its only merit. It is—I … do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to H.M. King George V., his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship a Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.There is a wholeheartedness about the declaration of allegiance to the Irish Free State.
What mar be described by some people as a reason, by others as a qualification, is appended to the declaration of allegiance to His Majesty—In virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.What do these words mean? What was in the minds of the Irish delegates when they insisted on the introduction of these words? We do not know; I dare say we never shall know. But what is perfectly plain is that there was an objection, and an insurmountable objection, to taking the Oath of Allegiance in the form in which it has been taken hitherto by everyone in the British Empire.
The issues involved are momentous, and it seems to me—I speak with great deference—that it would be an act of great rashness if we were to declare our adhesion to a document which could not be amended except by the consent of the other side in the course of subsequent proceedings. The situation would be different altogether if the constitutional course of introducing a Bill had been followed, but as it stands it appears to me that there are very grave objections, to my mind insuperable objections, to saving that we are content to accept this Agreement and to abide by it without the possibility of altering it. It is for these reasons, and on Imperial grounds, that I, for my own part, feel it impossible to give my adhesion to this Agreement.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, no one can have listened to the two speeches which have been delivered this afternoon 104 by the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, all by my noble friend, Lord Finlay, without feeling that then, is a great deal of force in the criticism they have made upon the form in which this so-called Treaty—not a happy phrase, think—is presented to us. Nobody can refuse to admit that the constitutional difficulties in which the House is placed are grave and unexampled. It is hardly going too far to say that they constitute a sort of coup d'état and I should like to add that I think the difficulties in which the House will be placed when the Bill which is to issue out of these Articles is ultimately brought before us will be very great indeed.
My noble friend, Lord Midleton, asked what was the process to be followed. As I understand it, and I hope I shall be corrected if I am mistaken, the process to be followed will be that the new Constitution for Ireland will be drafted by Irishmen in Ireland; by those, in fact, with whom we have made the so-called Treaty. That was the process which was followed, as your Lordships will remember, in the case of Canada and Australia. The Canadian Constitution was drafted by a Committee of Canadian statesmen in conjunction with the Colonial Office, and was then enacted by us by the Act of 1867. Similarly, after much longer discussion, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, prepared by two Conventions which sat there, was ultimately enacted in this House by the Statute of 1900. In those cases Parliament had full power, if it chose, of introducing Amendments, but Parliament abstained from doing so on the ground that the matter had been so thoroughly settled and worked out in the long discussions that had passed between Ministers and the Canadian Committee of statesmen that it would be extremely difficult to re-open the questions with which it dealt. The only exception to that was made in the case of the Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth. One change was introduced, and even that change gave rise to a great deal of difficulty here.
I suppose the Government, will say that the same process must be followed here, but I should like to have it from them definitely what amount of freedom the House will have when Bills embodying the principles laid down in these Articles are submitted to us next year. The drafting will require enormous care. There is nothing in the world more difficult than to 105 take brief Articles and to expand them into the provisions of an Act. The mere turn of a phrase may make all the difference in documents which will hereafter be a subject of judicial interpretation, and therefore the time allowed before this Bill can be presented to us seems to me to be shorter than the importance of t he matter demands, although I fully recognise that the more rapid progress we can make with the matter the better.
One thing more must be admitted. This proposal is a surrender. The Government themselves practically admit that it is a surrender, and there is only one defence that I suppose they will make, the only defence that I, who desire to support them, should think that on a broad view of the case was justified. In spite of all the difficulties and objections which have been and may be taken—because far more may be taken than even the exhaustive speeches of the two noble Lords who have just spoken have touched upon—in spite of all these, I think the plan will have to be accepted, and I will presently try very briefly to give your Lordships some reason for that belief. But I would say this on behalf of the Government. There are moments when surrenders are inevitable, and it wants some courage to make a surrender. I am not sure that it does not want more courage to make a surrender than to win a battle. I remember a passage—I think it is in the Book of Proverbs—which declares that better is "he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." It wanted a great deal of ruling of the spirit, I am perfectly certain, before this could be accepted, but I think that the Government were, on the whole, justified.
I want to know whether we are to take it, that under the terms of these Articles more exact and full provisions as regards religion, the protection of minorities, and the tenure of land and property can be introduced into the scheme. As I understand it, when the draft has been framed in Ireland it will come here to be settled with His Majesty's Government, and if it is not to be open to amendment by this House, there is all the more reason why His Majesty's Government should give the greatest possible attention to these subjects, because they are subjects out of which difficulties are likely, to arise. Personally, if I may express my belief, I do not think the difficulties as regards religion will be great. It was once my 106 fortune to be responsible for the government of Ireland for fourteen months and coining to Ireland as an impartial observer I thought that all the troubles supposed to be likely to arise in the south, centre and west of Ireland between members of different religious bodies had been greatly exaggerated.
There is far more friendly and neighbourly good feeling between Catholics and Protestants all over the south and centre of Ireland than your Lordships may be apt to believe from many statements that reach us from the newspapers. I do not think that these people, who have got on well together, will be disposed to quarrel over their religion. I hope I am right in that view, which I understand is also held by my noble friend Lord Midleton. I understand also that it is the, view of those who have been living in Ireland that not much danger is to be apprehended on that score.
With regard to land, your Lordships must remember that the position of the landlord in Ireland has been completely changed by recent legislation, and especially by the Land Purchase Acts. A very large proportion of the land is now in the hands of the tenant farmers. No man is more attached to his property than is the small Trish tenant farmer, and therefore I cannot attach very much weight to the belief, expressed by the noble Duke this afternoon, that this is part of a communist conspiracy, and that we may apprehend a revolution in which property will go by the board. I think that is the last thing that is likely to happen in Ireland. I have no doubt at all that there are revolutionary societies, and that there is the nucleus of a Communist Party, but I believe that to be confined to the wage-earning population and to the very humblest class in a few industrial centres and not at all likely to lay any hold upon the agricultural population.
I noticed with great pleasure, and as a sort of omen and index of the spirit which I hope we may expect in Ireland, what was said the other day by some exponent of Sinn Fein opinion with regard to Trinity College, Dublin. It was a statement that they meant to preserve and respect the independence and the character and importance and revenues of Trinity College. I heard that with the greatest pleasure. Trinity College is one of the things of which Ireland may be proud. A blow at 107 its importance was unfortunately dealt by an Act passed about 1908, which seriously impaired its position, but I hope that when Ireland regulates these matters for herself she will realise the great place Trinity College has held in Irish history, and will try to make it again the central hearth of Irish genius, from which, as in former times, light may radiate over the whole island.
As regards Ulster, happening to know something about that part of Ireland, I would venture to express the opinion that the less advice we give to Ulster the better. Ulster is at this moment not in the mood to accept advice, even from His Majesty's Government. It is not unnatural, after all that has happened, that there should be that feeling which was expressed by the vehement eloquence of Lord Carson yesterday, and I believe that the sentiment which he expressed is pretty generally held throughout the north-eastern counties. On the other hand, we have had the assurance of Lord Londonderry, that he hoped that a time would come when the feelings of Ulster would be softened. I welcome that, and, so far as I can judge. I think he was well entitled to make that prediction. A great deal will depend—in fact, everything will depend—upon the way in which the Irish Government is conducted during the next few months and years. I trust there is enough good sense and foresight in those in whose hands the fortunes of Ireland will then lie, to see that it will be a great deal easier to bring Ulster in, and induce her ultimately to unite her fortunes with those of the rest of the island, if law and order are maintained in Southern Ireland and if legislation respects property and the rights of every citizen.
Of course, no one who knows Ireland can doubt that it is manifestly to the interests of Catholic and Protestant alike, both in the north-east and in the rest of the country, that Ireland should be one. The two regions are more or less complementary to one another. The qualities which have made the commercial and industrial prosperity of north-eastern Ireland are qualities which are not equally developed in some parts of the west and south. On the other hand, one often finds striking qualities in the more purely Celtic population of Ireland, which will play a distinctive part, and a high and worthy part, in United Ireland; and so, not merely in the commercial and industrial, but also in the larger aspects of the 108 matter, it is greatly to be desired that they should be able to coalesce and unite.
I cannot be surprised at the language which has been used by some noble Lords who have spoken with regard to the suddenness with which this volte face has been effected. The curve has been exceedingly sharp. I am reminded of the anecdote of the Bishop of the fifth century who told the barbarian king, pointing to his idols, that he was to burn what he had adored and to adore what he had burned. It is a sharp curve. Even the change effected by Sir Robert Peel in 1846; even the passing of household suffrage in 1867 by the Conservatives under Mr. Disraeli, were not so complete and startling changes as this is. But these things have to be done. A surrender was made in Ireland in 1782 when we yielded to the armed demonstrations of the Irish Volunteers. We made a great change and a still larger surrender in 1783 when we yielded complete independence to our North American colonies. I think, however, that these cases show that it is only a country conscious of its strength which can afford to make concessions.
But I venture to submit to your Lordships that it is a sad pity that the offer which is now made was not made sooner. It is a dangerous lesson that what had been refused to persuasion and constitutional methods is surrendered to rebellion and violence. I think it is a deplorable lesson, and I cannot but fear that disaffected persons elsewhere who do not understand all the conditions under which it became inevitable that the Government should take the course they have at last taken, will be apt to derive encouragement from seeing what the course of our Irish policy has been.
I am not going to argue the case for Home Rule, even for this Dominion Home Rule, which I must say goes further than I thought five years ago I should ever myself be able to go. I leave it to the speakers for the Government to advance again those arguments which we heard with so much interest yesterday from Lord Curzon. In listening to him, and to others who advocate this scheme, I am reminded of the very arguments used almost in the same words, although perhaps with less force and eloquence, by many of us in the House of Commons between 1885 and 1906. All the arguments that we advanced then are the arguments used by the Government now, and it certainly is not 109 for me to repeat them, much less to disparage them.
But when I listened to noble Lords who are denouncing this Agreement, I felt that there was throughout their speeches a complete absence of any indication of an alternative policy. They have not told us what else we are to do. May I endeavour—I will not say to administer some consolation to them for the change that is made, but at least to soften some of their apprehensions, and to try to show them why I believe that this policy now entered upon is inevitable? For that purpose will your Lordships allow me very briefly to imitate my noble friend, Lord Midleton, in calling your attention to the history of Ireland within our living memory?
There have been four movements towards independence in Ireland, and they are in a sort of crescendo. The longer the struggle lasted, the more frequently revolts recurred, the greater has been the support which they received from the Trish people. I am, I am sorry to say, old enough to remember the rising of 1848, which we commonly call Smith O'Brien's Rebellion. That Rebellion had the very faintest support in Ireland. It petered out, so to speak, in an attack on a police barrack at Thurles in Tipperary. It perished under universal ridicule. It received no general support from the Trish people. More serious was the Fenian Conspiracy in 1866. It did receive some amount of support, and at one time it threatened to become dangerous. Then came the other movement of 1879 down to 1882. There the party of constitutional action, under the leadership of Mr. Parnell, tried to keep it from becoming a movement for absolute independence, but it was a strong movement, which enlisted practically the whole population of Ireland, and it showed signs of becoming a political danger, which had to be appeased by the Land Act of 1881 and other remedial measures that followed down to 1886.
Last of all, we had the Easter Monday Rebellion of 1916. That Rebellion was quenched in Dublin, but it revived, and it has gone on growing, and, I am sorry to say that there can be no doubt that the support given to the present Irish insurrectionary movement—I will not say the demand for a Republic, or the desire for complete independence, for I still doubt whether that is the general wish of the 110 Irish people; I should say it is not their wish—but no one can doubt that it has confronted the Government during the last three years with a far more formidable force receiving far more support from the bulk of the Irish people, than those revolutionary movements did in 1848, or in 1866, or in 1879 82.
There is a moral in that. The sentiment of disaffection in Ireland has gone on increasing, and that which would have sufficed in earlier years is not sufficient now. Your Lordships will remember what was the state of Ireland in those days. In 1848 Ireland had been passing through a period of frightful distress; a large part of the population had died of famine, and the condition of the country was deplorable. We met that distress as well as we could, and by degrees we improved the condition of the people. When Mr. Gladstone tried his remedial policy in 1869 he believed that a great deal would be done by the disestablishment of the Irish Church. It did not remove disaffection; think it scarcely even lessened it. He believed that a great deal would be done by reforming the Land Laws, and he carried a Bill for that I think in 1871. That Bill did not give full satisfaction; it had to be amended in 1881. Then also the remedy proved insufficient.
In those days we all said: "What Ireland is suffering from is the poverty of her peasantry, conditions of industry, the oppression of her landlords, the unfairness of her Land Laws." All those tangible grievances have been removed. And we have gone further. We have advanced large sums on British credit; we have built cottages for the labourers; we have done all sorts of things for the Irish people. And Ireland is richer and more prosperous at this moment than she ever was in her history. Even if you go back to those bright visions with which Irish patriots indulged their imagination of what Ireland was in the days of Ollam Fodhla, or even the fourteenth century, I do not think there is any reason to believe that Ireland, and especially the bulk of the Irish people, were ever half so well off as they are at this moment.
Still, we are confronted with the fact that, in spite of all these remedies, there is more disaffection in Ireland than ever before. What is the explanation of that? May I as one of the few surviving members of Mr. Gladstone's Ministry recall one historic 111 moment? In 1886, when he brought in his Bill in the House of Commons, he put the case for Home Rule. I remember his very words. He said:—I put this subject before the House primarily as a question of social order.And he proceeded to explain that by social order he meant this, that in Ireland law has not the support of the people; that in Ireland the law and its Ministers are regarded by the people as their enemies; and that you never will enjoy social order unless you give the people the sense that the law is theirs—made by them and administered by them, in their interests. And that was the foundation of Mr. Glad-stone's Home Rule policy. It was not that he thought that Ireland would be so much better administered, although he was more sanguine than most of us, but he did think that Ireland would never make her first step towards the real establishment of law and order until the feeling of the people was behind law and order.
That which moved most of us who supported Mr. Gladstone in 1886 was another sentiment. It was that experience had proved that a Parliament sitting in Westminster, in which there is a large majority of English and Scottish and Welsh members, cannot properly administer and govern Ireland; and for this reason, that Ministries are unstable, that there can be no continuity in policy, that when one Ministry goes out another comes in, and that any Party will endeavour to obtain a temporary advantage by making offers to Ireland because the Irish members have votes which can turn out the existing Ministry and bring in another.
I do not know if any of your Lordships remember the Maamtrasna debate in July, 1885. That Maamtrasna debate was really the beginning of Home Rule. The Irish Party and the Conservative Party coalesced to overthrow the policy of Lord Spencer. That convinced most of us that the existing state of things could not go on, and everything that has passed since has confirmed that belief. We had the policy of "resolute government," which could not have been continued because Ministries changed. And therefore, as we have had no steady policy it has been brought home to us that it is not possible for us effectively to govern Ireland from Westminster.
When repeated experiments have failed, when every policy that has been proposed as a remedy for the ills of Ireland 112 has been tried in succession and found wanting, is it not time to try some other experiment? I think the only experiment that can be tried is to make the Irish people masters of their own fortunes. Throw responsibility upon them, make them feel that it is to their interest to preserve law and order. Make them feel that the laws they are to obey are laws made by themselves, and that if they adopt a policy it will not be reversed by people sitting at Westminster, who have not that intimate knowledge of Irish conditions and wishes which can be possessed only by those who live in the midst of the people.
Referring to the expression used by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Finlay—that there were those who hoped that we would convert the Irish into friends—I would go so far as to say the less interference the more friendship. The less you interfere with Ireland and the fewer occasions there are for a quarrel between the two islands, the more likely is friendship to spring up. There is a famous saying of Henry Grattan which I wish I could remember, but its substance is this—Nature herself has prescribed that Ireland and England should be connected, but should not be united: they should be politically connected and subjects of one Sovereign, but they should not be parliamentarily united and have the same Legislature.
All our experience since the days of Henry Grattan has gone to prove the truth of the dictum of that great man, who was not only a great patriot but a wise thinker. I think we are now at last coming to adopt the policy which Grattan suggested and I congratulate His Majesty's Government upon having the boldness to try the experiment. I believe that friendship may grow up if we abstain from interference with Ireland, and I believe that Ireland then may learn a lesson she most needs to learn—the lesson of forgetfulness. Ireland has gone on brooding, for these last two centuries, upon her ancient wrongs. Things which in England and Scotland are forgotten are vividly remembered in Ireland, and it is these old rankling wrongs, renewed every now and then by the political struggles we have had with Ireland, that have poisoned the minds of the Irish people. Let us have forgetfulness and indulgence, let us leave their fortunes to their own efforts, and I venture to think that friendship will grow up.
113 Ireland, as was said by one speaker, this evening, I think it was the Duke of Northumberland, is at present in a state of chaos. She is in a state of anarchy, and whoever rules her will have the greatest possible difficulty in pulling her back again to anything like orderly life. We cannot do it. The experience of the last two years has shown that we cannot do it. Therefore, let them try to do it themselves. I could have wished, and this is the last word I have to say, that this scheme did not go so far; I frankly admit that. But when I remember the dictum "The less interference the more friendship" I am inclined on the whole, to congratulate His Majesty's Government upon having the boldness to go the whole way. Probably it is better to give Dominion Home Hide and to let Ireland be no longer able to cast the blame upon us for whatever misfortunes befall her. She can learn only by experience. We have been trying to teach her self-government, but we have not succeeded.
She will have to learn self-government for herself, and I hope that the passionate patriotism which has stirred the Irish people sometimes to criminal action, but is still patriotism, and has inspired them through all the struggles since 1800, through the days of O'Connell, W. S. O'Brien, Parnell and all the rest of them, may now be turned into the better and safer course of endeavouring to unite the people and to improve the conditions of the country. I hope that out of this turbid whirlpool in which the fortunes of Ireland have been plunged, never so badly as during the last three years, there may issue a smooth and steady stream which, in course of time, when it lets passed the first rapids, will carry the barque of Ireland's fortunes down into the calm haven of peace and prosperity. We in this country most sincerely hope that the people of Ireland may attain to a unity of hearts and purposes which will express itself in a respect for law and in attempting the long-deferred task of constructive statesmanship.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, every Irishman must earnestly desire that this great experiment may lead to peace, but I confess as an Irish Unionist that I have listened to this debate with very mixed feelings. This may be the swan song of the Union, and for the last time I should like to express what I believe to be the conviction not only of myself but of every Unionist in Ireland that the 114 Legislative Union is the government which least divides our people north and south, with their different characteristics and their strong differences of religious and political faith—that that Government, if properly administered, is the one which divides us least. We must all acknowledge that for the last ten, perhaps fifteen, years, the government of the Union has not been efficiently administered. There have been periods of repression followed by periods of surrender to crime and, whatever may be the chance of a resurrection of the Union, the last death stab was given to it in the early hours of the morning of December 6 with the pen with which the leader of the Unionist party in the House of Commons and the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, signed the momentous document which we are now considering.
I must confess that, perhaps, that document came as less of a shock to me and to some noble Lords whom I see in this House than it did to the great majority of the southern Unionists, because we were amongst those who, in 1917, at the request of the Government and at a time of very great danger to the Empire, determined to surrender the convictions of a lifetime and to join with our fellow-countrymen in trying to frame a Constitution for Ireland within the Empire. Had we been more uniformly and strongly supported by His Majesty's Government, and had they at a moment of great crisis, while still announcing their intention of introducing Home Rule, not introduced into our midst a bombshell in the shape of projected conscription for Ireland—a bombshell which separated us from those with whom we had made friends—I am firmly convinced that a settlement might have been arrived at which would have been more satisfactory to this country and infinitely more advantageous to the Unionists of Ireland.
This Agreement which we are considering is so far-reaching in its effects that it is impossible to go into detail concerning it, but there are one or two points on which I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack certain questions, and I hope that when he replies he will be kind enough to give me specific answers to them. In the first place, I should like to express my regret that it has been found necessary to invent a new name for Ireland. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House is a very able apologist, and he thought it necessary to explain to 115 the House the reasons why this name had been adopted. I think he must have been conscious that he had a very weak case. The name smacks of Republicanism. The noble Marquess told us that the reason it had been taken was because of what was done in reference to the Orange Free State. But that State was a Republic. It was conquered by force of arms by England, and only after ten years, and for sentimental reasons, was the old name restored to it. This is not an old name which has been restored to Ireland, nor is Ireland a new-fangled State like the mushroom Republics that the Entente Powers have set up on the ruins of the Hapsburg Monarchy.
On the contrary, Ireland is a Kingdom as old as England itself, and Irishmen are still proud when they talk of the days of King Brian Borohma. And although, after the conquest of Ireland by England, the Kings of England called themselves for a certain period Lords of Ireland, in the reign of Henry VIII in order to meet the wishes of the Irish people the title "King of Ireland" was assumed. From that date, whether in College Green or Westminster, Ireland has been a Kingdom ruled by King, Lords and Commons. I suppose this is an academic protest, because I do not think it is likely that the name, having been decided on, will be changed, but I am sure it would have been made much easier, both for Unionists and for Moderate Nationalists, if the name of the old Kingdom of Ireland had been preserved. Let us hope that some day Ulster will be induced to join the rest of Ireland, and I am perfectly certain that one of the conditions she will make, when she does so, will be that this new-fangled title shall be done away with, and that, as a sentimental act, the old name of Kingdom of Ireland shall be restored.
The first question I want to ask is this. I know the answer that will be given, and as a different view is held in Ireland it is very desirable it should be placed on record. What I am anxious to know is this. Is this an Act of Parliament which is passed by His Majesty the King of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons of this Parliament assembled, granting to a portion of His Majesty's Kingdom of Ireland a Constitution with the title of the Irish Free State, or is it, as is asserted in Ireland, a Treaty between the Kingdom of Great 116 Britain and the President of the Irish Republic, by and with the advice of his unicameral Parliament—because I should like your Lordships to notice that it is not with the advice of the Parliament set up in 1920—by which that Republic enters into an alliance with the community of Free States known as The British Commonwealth, and under what, for want of a better name, I may call the suzerainty of the King of Great Britain? I think I know what the answer will be, but it is very desirable that, there should be a definite answer to that question in this House in view of what is stated in Ireland. I should like further, as a corollary, to ask whether His Majesty will in future assume the title of "King of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the Irish Free State," or if not, what title is to be devised.
The second question which I have to put refers to the Oath, the very ungrammatical Oath if I may say so, which figures in this document. I cannot help thinking that it must have been written originally in Gaelic, and then translated into English by one of the Sinn Fein delegates who is not well acquainted with the language. I will not say much about the form of allegiance, because that has been dealt with by the noble Duke whom I do not see now in his place, and the noble Viscount, Lord Finlay. I must say that I have not much opinion of that qualified allegiance, which is very different from the robust form which most of your Lordships took at the Coronation. I am not sure if I am quoting the words correctly, but as far as I remember they are: "I swear to be your liegeman of life and limb." I have little faith in a qualified allegiance. I do not think allegiance can be qualified any more than virtue, and allegiance bears the same aspect with regard to qualified allegiance as a virtuous woman would with regard to a woman of moderate virtue.
There is another point with regard to the Oath I am anxious to elucidate. The words begin: "I … do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established." What I am anxious to find out is what is the Constitution of the Irish Free State, and by what law will it be established. I understand that in the case of South Africa, and in that of Australia, the various Premiers and other Ministers assembled in convention or otherwise to decide on the form of Constitution suitable 117 for the various Colonies which they represented. I have not the books with me, so I may be stating it incorrectly, but to the best of my memory this is what happened. When they decided on what they thought was the best form of Constitution, it was referred to the various Parliaments, and when it had been confirmed by them it was then sent home to be submitted to His Majesty's Government, and presented by them to Parliament in the form of a Bill, which became the Act constituting the various Dominions.
Is similar action to be taken in Ireland, and if so, to what Parliament is it to be submitted? Is it to be submitted to the unicameral Parliament which is what Mr. de Valera recognises, or is it to be submitted to the Parliament which was set up by the Act of last year in which Unionists in the Upper Chamber at any rate might hope to have some representation? To whichever Parliament it is that this measure is to be submitted we must not forget that what an Irish Parliament gives an Irish Parliament can also take away, and therefore what we are anxious to know is whether this Constitution, when it is framed, will be submitted in the Bill setting up the Irish Free State, and will then receive the sanction of the Imperial Parliament. In that case we shall know where we stand. We shall know that the. British Parliament has given it, and that that Constitution cannot be changed without the consent of the British Parliament.
That is a matter which is of extreme importance for us in the South of Ireland. Consider our position. We were told that we should be amply safeguarded. Where are the safeguards provided in this Bill? The only one I can find is that we are to have freedom of religious worship. There are lots of safeguards put in for the Sinn Feiners in case they have anything to do with the Northern Parliament. I see that page 6 of the Agreement swarms with them. There are safeguards with regard to patronage, with regard to collection of revenue, and with regard to import and export duties, safeguards for minorities in Northern Ireland, the settlement of financial relations, etc. Surely one would have thought that the least His Majesty's Government could have done would be to insert similar provisions with regard to the Southern Unionists in Ireland.
118 But what happened? We have seen an open letter front Mr. Arthur Griffith to the Prime Minister in which he promises that he will do his best to consider our interests. I am not for one minute doubting the good faith in this matter of Mr. Arthur Griffith, but we do not in the least know whether he will be able to control his own followers. We do not even know whether he will continue in the position of a Minister. Someone else may take his place. Therefore we contend, and contend very strongly, that it is the duty of His Majesty's Government to see that those safeguards which are mentioned in an open letter which my noble friend, Lord Midleton, communicated to the Prime Minister, are embodied as an agreement between His Majesty's Government and the Irish signatories to the Agreement, and that it should not be left merely for an Irish Government to give us what safeguards they think proper. Even France, in 1871, after the severe defeat she had suffered, insisted on some protection for those of her nationals whom she was handing over to Germany. Even Germany, in 1919, was able to secure some protection for her nationals in the Treaty of Versailles. Surely England is not less strong than they are, and we claim, as your nationals, that you should see that we are safeguarded before the new Government is set up.
I think it is best to be perfectly candid about this Agreement. We do not profess to like it. It goes beyond what we consider necessary. We do not at all relish descending from the position of being an integral part of the United Kingdom to finding ourselves colonials in this Imperial city of London, but we are not going to copy the example of the French émigrés in the eighteenth century, and leave the country. No chain is stronger than its weakest link, and the weakest link in the chain which the Government has forged is the golden link of the Crown. That link is so attenuated, so covered up with verbiage of Free States, of Commonwealths and of citizenships, that sometimes it almost requires a magnifying glass to discern it at all. If we are allowed to assist in the government of our country it will be our duty to try to strengthen that link, to re-gild it, to re-burnish it until it becomes as strong as any other link, and bright beyond all others.
The noble Marquess said the other day that he looked forward in the future to finding that the Crown was an increasing 119 rather than a diminishing factor. We know the interest that His Majesty has shown in the peace which we hope will ensue. I would not be so impertinent as to offer any word of advice to His Majesty, because his own good feeling will lead him to know that his personal presence will do much, in the case of an emotional Celtic people, to strengthen the feelings of devotion and loyalty to himself. We are ready to help in this work of pacifying Ireland if we are allowed to do so. This is a great venture, a terrific leap in the dark. We pray that it may succeed. If our help is asked we shall do our best to help the cause of peace in Ireland and to make Ireland faithful to this country and loyal in its allegiance to our common Sovereign.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
My Lords, I shall occupy the attention of the House for a very few moments only, because Lord Carson and Lord Londonderry have put the case for Ulster so admirably before you. It will take very few minutes to say what I wish to say. I am glad to have an opportunity of expressing my detestation of this proposed Treaty. I feel that if this treaty of surrender is accepted by the Houses of Parliament it is the beginning of the break-up of the whole of the Empire. How can we expect to hold India or Egypt when those people realise that the weapon of murder and assassination is sufficient to free them from the bonds which tie them to Great Britain?
It is not, however, only the Treaty itself but the manner in which it is presented to us that I consider so objectionable. If the Government had come and said that owing to the great financial stress of the country, or owing to our policy in Ireland not being approved by America, or owing to the fact that England was war weary and could not find the men they had to give up their campaign against Sinn Fein—if the Government had said that, they would, anyhow, have been frank. But instead of that they have made speeches extolling themselves as a sort of super-statesmen who have succeeded where others have failed and have brought peace to Ireland. Surely their predecessors also would have been able to have had that sort of success if they had been willing to scrap everything that we hold most sacred, and had been willing to burst the tics which have connected the two countries together for 120 centuries. Even the very messenger who brought the Treaty over to Belfast seems to have thought that the whole business was fishy, for he changed his name from Shakespeare to Salmon.
I think it is really a most regrettable thing that in none of the speeches that I have read have there been any expressions of regret or sorrow for the unnecessary lives which have been lost by this policy of the Government. I wonder whether the Government have ever thought what must be the feelings of the wives and the mothers of those soldiers and policemen who have been killed. At the present moment they have the added sorrow of knowing that those lives have been thrown away quite unnecessarily. If the Government went into the fight, why did they not continue it? What was the good of getting a lot of men killed and then suddenly ceasing? I should think that the spirits of those dead men ought to haunt the members of the Government in their sleep.
I wonder whether any members of the Cabinet ever read the speeches which they made some months ago. If they do, and if they have any sense of humour, they must roar with laughter. I myself heard the Lord Chancellor make speeches quite a short time ago in which he expressed his stern determination to put down the rebellion. No words were too severe, no sarcasm too bitter, for those who opposed his policy. He was granite in his determination not to yield. I never heard a more resolute man. And then what happens? Five months afterwards he is taking tea with Mr. Collins—Mr. Collins, to whom, as Lord Carson reminded your Lordships, Sir Hamar Greenwood had referred as the leader of the murder gang. I can tell your Lordships that he is known as such in Ireland. I hope the Lord Chancellor apologised to Mr. Collins for all the rude things he had said about him during the preceding few months. If he did not, I think he ought to have done so.
The Government may not be people of great determination, they may not be men of iron, but they are exceedingly cunning. They wish Ulster to come into this new Irish Free State. They will not coerce her—they would not think of it—but they have framed these financial paragraphs in such a way that they think Ulster will be forced to come in. I can tell your Lordships that, however financially uncomfortable Ulster may feel, she will not come 121 in unless she feels that Sinn Fein has improved in her conduct. Would your Lordships submit yourselves into the hands or a barber who was found to have a predilection for cutting throats? Would you not first make sure that he had thrown away his old razors and taken to safety ones? Surely that is only common sense. But if the Irish prove that they really mean to mend their ways, and that they will give up the policy of murder and assassination, and will show toleration and justice to our unhappy co-religionists in the South and West, then Ulster will come under one All-Ireland Parliament.
There is, however, one Article in this Treaty to which Ulster will not give her consent, and that is the one which refers to the appointing of a Boundary Commission. When the Act of 1920 was passed we were told that it was a final settlement, and Mr. Lloyd George, I believe, said that it could never be abrogated without our consent. That was an absolute pledge; and now, even without consulting the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, we are suddenly confronted with the, suggestion that our area should be filched from us by Sinn Fein. That is really what it amounts to. They have their eye on Tyrone and Fermanagh. That is what they are after. I tell the Government that we in Ulster mean to keep them to this pledge. Even if it morns offending their new friends of Sinn Fein they must wipe this provision out of the Treaty.
There is another matter to which I desire to refer. There appeared in a morning newspaper, generally well-informed, the statement that at public functions the name of His Majesty was no longer honoured in Ulster. That is not true. Ulster is as loyal now as ever she was. They do not hold the King responsible for this. Mr. Lloyd George has done his best to give prominence to the name of the King, but Ulstermen have seen through it. They hold the Cabinet responsible, and I have no doubt, that were the Lord Chancellor, for "auld lang syne," to ride through the streets of Belfast, they would not throw bouquets at him. Is not the loyalty of nearly a million men worth something to the Empire at this moment? Are the wishes of those men who in the moment of the Empire's direst peril stabbed England in the back and shot her soldiers in Dublin to weigh more with your Lordships than the wishes of a million loyal men? I ask 122 you, as it is of so much importance, to see that the clause concerning the Boundary Commission is washed out of this Treaty. You passed the Act in 1920 which gave us a certain area, and you have no right now to allow one single house of it to be filched from us.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I have no hesitation in saying that I cannot vote for the Amendment moved by the noble Duke. It is drafted to cover the case of loyalists in the south of Ireland, and I listened with attention to the noble Duke in order to see how he would prove that his Amendment would be of the smallest value to any resident in Ireland. My curiosity was not satisfied. I am myself unable to think how it could be of any value, and I shall therefore vote against his Amendment if he goes to a Division.
I certainly cannot, vote against the Motion moved by Viscount Morley, and any lingering doubts I may have had as to whether I should vote for it have been removed by the proceedings since the debate began. I desire to explain the reasons why I intend to support the Government, and in doing so I can be brief because my noble friend, Lord Midleton, in his speech, has covered most of the ground I should have covered, and I generally agree with all he said. I desire only to confirm and supplement one or two of the things he said.
I confirm what he said as regards the attitude we are forced to take over the Address and over the Treaty it covers. We are in the position that we cannot suggest any Amendments to the Treaty; we are in the position that we cannot make a Motion explaining what our Amendments would be. We are not asked to approve; we are asked to confirm and ratify. Therefore, if we vote with the Government, and intend to vote with the Government, and I understand that Lord Midleton also intends to vote with the Government, we are voting that way because we feel that we are voting for peace. We are at any rate voting for a chance of peace, and in doing so I am sure no one will claim that we are approving every line of the Treaty which has been submitted in this extremely awkward form for your Lordships' approval.
In the course of the debate reference has been made to the chorus of approval with which this document has been received in all parts of the world. I was very glad 123 that the most rev. Primate raised his voicein repudiating the suggestion that this chorus can possibly have been a manufactured chorus. Can it be seriously argued that the Colonial Premiers, even if they had been asked, and I refuse to believe they were asked, would have complacently telegraphed from all the Colonies a chorus with the object of helping the Prime Minister in the difficulties of the debates of this week? That chorus I accept as genuine, and it has been almost an unanimous one.
Until this debate began and my noble friends from Ulster, led by Lord Londonderry, made their position plain, there had been only two voices raised, that I am aware of, against this document. The first was that of Lord Carson. He made his position plain within a few hours. I assume that the interview reported in the papers is accurate. Another distinguished Irishman, Mr. de Valera, promptly explained his disagreement with the Treaty. These are the only two voices; a curious pair, perhaps, to find together. These two Irishmen, of course, differ as the poles asunder, but they are at one, at any rate, in denouncing this Treaty in extremely violent language, and I am not prepared to follow this strange association. Nor do I follow my noble friends from Ulster in the attack upon the Coalition Government, though I am afraid Lord Stanmore opposite and his colleagues the Government Whips would not give me a very good character as a supporter of the Government. With much that has been said in criticism of them I agree. With much that has been said in criticism of them I disagree, and I have no doubt the Lord Chancellor will have plenty to say in defence of the Government when he addresses us to-morrow. I do not, for the moment, wish to interfere in what I feel, in view of the importance of the issues before us, is perhaps a concern of little value.
Everyone of us here probably has a bitter feeling in the corner of his mind against old colleagues, against old associates whom he has trusted. I could speak for half-an-hour on that subject myself, but is it of the smallest value now, with the condition of Ireland as we know it, to pour vitriol into every wound that you can find? How does it advance us one step in face of the events that confront us? It is perfectly useless to concentrate on the past, because we know that the past is past 124 praying for. But that does entitle me to raise my protest against the description which arises from the various speeches that have been made in this debate of the position of people who live in Southern Ireland at this moment, and the general condition of the country round. I do not think I am exaggerating if I say that one would think from the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, that long and eloquent speech which he delivered yesterday, that there was nobody in Southern Ireland except assassins and members of murder gangs. They were the only people mentioned in connection with Southern Ireland.
Even the war was dragged in. The noble and learned Lord spoke of Ulster's contribution to the war. Every Irishman is proud of it, and no Irishman ought to minimise it. I certainly rejoice in it; I rejoice in what my friends did in the Ulster Division; I mourn for those who laid down their lives in the supreme sacrifice. But what was the contrast in yesterday's speech when we were told of what Ulster had done? The only mention of the South of Ireland was that Ulster had done these magnificent things, while—as the noble Lord said to the Government—"while your new found friends were murdering your troops in the city of Dublin." Do people really think that that is all that Southern Ireland did in the war? I really believe that some people in Ireland do believe it.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I am glad to hear a contradiction. I have here an interesting collection of pamphlets that were issued from Ulster. I will not trouble your Lordships with them now, because I want to let the past bury its dead. But I have yet to see a speech delivered by a prominent Ulsterman that has been fair to all that was done in the south of Ireland to help you in the war. It was done in spite of the greatest difficulties, and—I say it with regret—in spite of great discouragement from the British War Office, who could have made things much easier.
Have your Lordships heard of Captain Willie Redmond, not an old man, but a man of sufficient age to claim that he was not to be called upon to enter the trenches? He went to the trenches again and again, and laid down his life going over the top. 125 That was not "murdering your troops in the city of Dublin." Even one of the Sinn Fein delegates, I am informed, Captain Barton, served with distinction as an officer in the British Army in the war. He was not "murdering your troops in the city of Dublin." But much more important than all these individuals, around my home in the south of Ireland there is household after household of poor and humble inmates they are not Unionists, they are Home Rulers but loyalists—who are mourning their dead who laid down their lives in the supreme sacrifice in Flanders and other theatres of war.
I join sincerely in the wish that Ireland had done more to help in the war than she did. I should be the last to deny that much has happened since the war which is deplorable. But the truth is bad enough. Do not spoil your ease by vastly exaggerating and vastly minimising, and above all, do not condemn the whole community for the actions of a few. Is it not fair, is it not right to be more optimistic, and to concentrate a little bit, not on the bad but on the good that was lone, and to hope to build on that for the future loyalty of the people to minim you are going to give those powers?
I approach this subject, of course, from a very different point of view from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson. Like him, I am a Southern Irishman, but unlike him my home is still in Ireland and my heart is wrapped up in my home in Ireland. I spend every minute that I can spare from my duties in your Lordships' House in my home in Ireland, and I turn to ask the question that he asked yesterday—What is the outlook for the future? I say without hesitation that I am prepared, from the Imperial point of view, to trust the majority in southern Ireland under the œgis of the Oath of Allegiance which is prescribed in this Agreement. This Oath of Allegiance has been scorned. An astonishing phrase was used yesterday by Lord Carson, and I have, of course, confirmed from the OFFICIAL REPORT the note which I took at once, "An Oath of Allegiance," he says, "which means nothing." Has so astonishing a phrase as that been used in your Lordships' House for years? Every one of your Lordships has taken an Oath of Allegiance probably many times.
Does this Oath of Allegiance mean nothing? Let me read the Oath, which 126 has been partly read once or twice but never right through:—I … do solemnly swear trio, faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to H.M. King George V., his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of NationsCan anybody seriously maintain that any substantial body of men anywhere could take that Oath of Allegiance and that it would mean nothing? Why, you have a proof of the opposite under your eyes at the present time. There are, I believe, about seventy Sinn Fein members of the House of Commons. Why are they not there? Because they would not, in existing circumstances or in past circumstances, take the Oath of Allegiance. Would they hesitate to take the Oath of Allegiance if it meant nothing? I draw from their present attitude the fact that they realise that if they took an Oath of Allegiance it would mean something, and from that I draw the augury that if that is their attitude—and they are not the most moderate body that may come to the head in Ireland if a new Constitution is started—if a majority of Southern Irishmen accept this Oath and consent, to take it, you are safe in believing that, they will carry it out in the same way as any other honourable men would anywhere else in the world.
I have, of course, been in Ireland during the autumn and since the Prorogation. I was astonished to hear that there is a boycott of English goods in Ireland. I was shopping in Ireland the day before yesterday, and I saw plenty of English goods for sale in my small town. I bought some. I bought some Christmas presents. But there is, of course, a much more serious boycott of Ulster goods. There are far fewer Ulster goods for sale in the south and west of Ireland than there are English goods. I have no hesitation in saying that a boycott in any circumstance is a stupid thing, and I believe that while a boycott will injure Ulster, it will injure just as much the people who make the boycott. My noble friends from Ulster must not quote the boycott as a solitary instance of the wickedness of everybody who lives outside the Six Counties, without allowing me to appeal to them to do a little to mitigate the harshness of their language.
It does sometimes annoy people outside the Six Counties, and I am informed—I 127 was not in Ireland at the time—that the boycott received considerable impetus from certain discharges of Roman Catholics by Ulster firms in Belfast and around it. Possibly the discharges were exaggerated—I do not know the facts—but there is no doubt that the discharges took place under the suspicion that a Roman Catholic employee would probably be in sympathy with murder. But my Ulster friends cannot have it all their own way. If you cannot refrain from pouring, on every opportunity, abusive epithets on the whole of the southern counties, you cannot expect the southern counties to tumble over each other in order to increase your dividends by buying your goods. I therefore particularly welcome the spirit of Lord Londonderry's speech. It contained a conciliatory note, at any rate, although, of course, he made his position and principles perfectly clear. The north and the south will never come together unless they can restrain the eloquence of some of their orators, and I do not think my Ulster friends will take it unkindly if I say that they must restrain theirs, at the same time as the southern people restrain theirs.
My recent residence at home makes me clear of one thing. The predominant feeling of all classes is that a settlement should be made, if it is possible to make a settlement. I agree with my noble friend, Lord Dunraven. I absolutely refuse to believe that if there was a free and fair Election in Ireland to-morrow these terms would not be accepted by an overwhelming majority, and accepted honestly and straightforwardly, with every intent to work them. We do not all realise what the community, not only the loyalists but the whole community in Ireland, went through during May, June and July of this year. A "reign of terror" is a moderate phrase to use for what went on in many parts of the country. In mercy to them, I hope that the British Parliament will give settlement a chance. That is all that I feel we are asking should be done in voting for His Majesty's Government to-day.
What, after all, is the salient fact which is now offered to us? I am second to none in my tribute to the success of the Union. I entirely agree with Lord Londonderry in what he said upon that point; but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that government under the Union has not succeeded in Ireland—as it did succeed for many years—because it had public 128 opinion behind it; it succeeded in spite of the fact that public opinion was opposed to it. I do not wish to say anything unkind, but under the recent stress government under the Union has broken down. The facts of the present situation offer a chance of an organisation of some Government with some public opinion behind it, in which I believe all classes will be anxious to co-operate in their several spheres. That chance is not lightly to be thrown away, and therefore I conclude by repeating what I said when I commenced my remarks, namely, that I feel no hesitation in voting, and hoping that the vast majority of your Lordships will vote, in the Government lobby when we conic to a Division tomorrow.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE
My Lords, I propose to intervene for a very short time in this debate, in order to get certain information which at present. I think, has not been given to your Lordships' House. As I listened to the speech of the noble Marquess who leads the House, I could not extract from that speech information on certain very important matters which are at present left to be discovered. The noble Marquess said that in the course of the Second Reading of the Bill certain things would be made known. I turn to the speech of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, yesterday, and I find that he speaks as if there could be no question on the Second Reading of the Bill. As I understand the Prime Minister, the only thing which your Lordships' House and the Commons' House will have to do will be to sanction a cut and dried scheme of Constitution which has been prepared by the Irish representatives. If that is so, if our Bill is only to be a Bill of one clause scheduling a Constitution drafted by the Irish representatives, then to-day, or tomorrow, we commit ourselves to everything. The protest of Lord Midleton and the inquiries of other Peers will be fruitless. We shall have merely to accept or reject, and we shall have already pledged ourselves to accept, a Bill of one clause, embodying what has taken place in Ireland.
I want to know if that is the view of His Majesty's Government. I want to know what are to be the contents of the Bill ultimately to be submitted to Parliament, and I want to know something further. Some repeals must be made of Acts of Parliament, and I want to put a particular question. Is the Act of Union to be 129 repealed? Is it intended that the style of the nation should be changed? Is it to remain the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or is to be the Kingdom of Great Britain only? Is His Majesty to be King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or is he to become once again King of Great Britain only? And is his style to be that of Great Britain and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, including, I suppose, Ireland as one of the British Dominions? Those are questions which, I think, your Lordships' House should be informed upon. I think your Lordships' House should be told what is intended to be in the Bill which will ultimately be brought forward.
And then, another matter. Your Lordships have not been told in terms that the Irish Members will cease to come to the House of Commons, but I suppose they will. But what about the Irish Representative Peers? Is it intended that they shall cease to come to this House, or is it intended that a fraction of them only, as representing Ulster, shall come here? Those are questions upon which I think we ought to be further informed. And there is another matter of even greater importance, for which my text is portion of the speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon of Kedleston. He pointed out, as one of the links of Empire or of unity, that the Privy Council will remain, as he says, the final Court of Appeal in Ireland. Of course, the noble Marquess was guilty of a slight mistake there. It is not the final Court of Appeal now; this House is the final Count of Appeal.
I do not suppose it very much matters whether Irish appeals go to this House or to the judicial Committee. But these are the important words which I want to quote. The noble Marquess is speaking—and if any community or any individual in Ireland feels, for instance, that his or their rights in respect of religion or religious education, as provided for in Article 17 of the Agreement, are infringed by any laws that may be passed in future in Ireland, their remedy lies in an appeal to the Privy Council.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I do not know that it is mentioned in the provisions, but it is inherent in her status as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. There is given to her no more and no less than is conceded to them. If, however, there is any doubt about it can easily be made clear." 130 I wonder how it is to be made clear. If we cannot, as the Prime Minister says, touch anything, I do not know how it is to be made clear if there is a doubt about it.
But what I want to know is whether that refers only to religion and religious education, or whether it is intended that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should be, in case of appeals from Ireland, in the position in which it is in case of appeals from Canada. When Canadian cases come under appeal the validity of the Acts of the Canadian Parliament may come in question, and it is for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to say whether or not an Act of the Dominion Parliament is good or ultra vires because it impinges on the liberty of the Province; or whether an Act of one of the Provinces is good or ultra vires because it impinges on the powers of the Dominion Parliament. And I think the Privy Council may even say that an Act of the Dominion Parliament is ultra vires because it impinges on the original statutory Constitution.
Only three weeks ago I was honoured by my brethren by having to deliver a judgment in which we decided that an important Act of the Province of Quebec levying tax was ultra vires and bad, and could not be enforced. I want to know if it is intended that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should have the same power; that if, for instance, the Parliament of Ireland passes Acts which are outside the intention of the Constitution, or of these Articles of Agreement converted into a Constitution, it would be open to the Privy Council to set aside that Act, or to disregard it and to say that it is ultra vires and not binding. Those are questions—and questions only—upon which apparently at present your Lordships' House has not had any information, and I think that it is extremely important before your Lordships come to a vote that you should have the assistance of His Majesty's Government in a clear answer on these subjects.
THE EARL OF WICKLOW
My Lords, your Lordships have listened to a great many speeches on this subject, and I should not venture to inflict myself upon you but for a very few moments. I think it is right that we whose homes are in Ireland should give some reason for whatever vote we may cast on this question, and that we should say something as to 131 the Government's proposals, either in the form of a curse or a blessing. I hasten to say that I am come to bless and not to curse—not because I am very fond of the proposals of his Majesty's Government, but because it seems to me that they present us with the only possible way out of an intolerable situation.
I hope it will not be for one moment supposed that we in Ireland or, at any rate, those who think as I do in Ireland, are in the least obliged to His Majesty's Government, or that they have any share in any blessings which we may have to bestow. It seems to me that it would be difficult to imagine anything more contemptible than the Government's management of Ireland and of Irish affairs since 1916, and for a good while before that. It is no thanks to noble Lords opposite or to their colleagues in another place, if there are any of us alive to come here and talk at all. It is no thanks to the Government that we have got houses in which to live in Ireland. If we have been undisturbed and have not been killed we have to thank the forbearance of our own fellow-countrymen, or perhaps attribute it to the fact that they did not think it was worth while to interfere with us at all.
We listened yesterday to a tremendous indictment of the Government by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, and I think most of us agreed that they fully deserved the heavy chastisement which he administered. The only quarrel which I have with the noble and learned Lord is that, as far as I could make out he made no suggestion as to what might be done instead of the Government's proposals. If he did make any suggestion it quite escaped my notice. And I cannot see that there is any alternative but to revert to the state of affairs which prevailed in Ireland before the truce. And, if we do that, it seems to me to be possible that before very long there will be nobody left alive in the south of Ireland at all. Possibly the noble and learned Lord might say that that did not matter very much, but, after all, it is quite conceivable that the same sort of thing might happen in Ulster, and even in Lord Carson's own beloved six counties.
I believe that, more by good luck than good management, or perhaps I should say by the blessing of Providence, the Government have stumbled upon the germ of a settlement which may lead to peace 132 in Ireland. If that germ grows to a tree which bears the fruit of peace in Ireland it will be a credit to His Majesty's Government which I, for one, hardly think that they deserve. My friends and I have always been Unionists, and we are still Unionists. We still hold that the Union provides the best possible arrangement under which Ireland can be governed. It is not pleasant to turn one's back upon one's convictions, to face an entirely new and untried state of affairs, and to try to place oneself in the position of having a new outlook for that changed state of affairs.
But if a Constitution for Ireland is set up we are quite willing to do our very utmost to make that Constitution a success. We acquiesce in the proposals of the Government, not because we like them, but because we are convinced that the majority of our fellow-countrymen desire some such change, and because we see in these proposals the only alternative to a return to a state of affairs with which His Majesty's Government have made it quite plain to the whole world they are absolutely incompetent to deal. If under any settlement that may be arrived at it should happen that Ireland obtains better terms or better conditions than are enjoyed by the rest of His Majesty's Kingdom, I hope that any noble Lord in this country or any Englishman who is inclined to grumble will take into consideration the fact that the loyalists in Ireland have been called upon to swallow a very bitter pill and that it would, perhaps, be churlish to grudge us a little jam.
There is a question which has been put, I think, to the Lord Chancellor but is still not quite clear to me, and it is this. When your Lordships have agreed, as I hope you will agree, to the document which we are considering, how is the Constitution for Ireland to be put together? Is it to be framed in Dublin, or is it to be framed here? I have very little doubt that the gentlemen who represented Ireland at the Conference would be competent to frame a Constitution, and I dare say they would make a very good one; but there are a good many people in Ireland who would much rather that the Constitution was the work of this Parliament, and I cannot see any legitimate reason why the representatives of Ireland should not come here and discuss with His Majesty's Government the many extremely difficult questions which, no doubt, will arise. I do not find it altogether impossible to hope that 133 those of them who have the right may be willing to take their seats in another place and there assist in the discussion of the Bill which, I suppose, will be introduced.
Before we arrive at the discussion of the actual Constitution there are, surely, some questions which earnestly require consideration. They have been pointed out by other speakers and I will not weary your Lordship, by referring to them at any length. But there is the question of finance; there is the question of land purchase, which we understood would be completed before any settlement was made in Ireland; there is the question of the compensation to be allowed to those who have suffered during the recent troubles; and there is, to my mind, the very important question of the Royal Irish Constabulary. For my part I believe that the officers and men of the Royal Irish Constabulary will not suffer at the hands of a National Irish Government, but I think it is expecting a little too much to suppose that those officers and men share that confidence, and I think it is for the Government to see to it, before the new régime comes into force in Ireland, that any officer or man in the Royal Irish Constabulary who wants to retire shall have every chance of doing so without the loss of pension or any other disadvantage whatever. I hope very much indeed that His Majesty's Government may discover some way of doing that, and I have no doubt that 134 the Government, if they choose, can find a means of dealing with the very natural fears of this excellent body of men.
We are asked to try a very hazardous experiment in Ireland. I think it ought to be tried. I hope it will be tried, and I hope that nothing will be done either here or anywhere else to prevent a trial of that experiment which, as I believe, may lead to the ending of that feud which for so long has been a blight both upon this country and upon Ireland.
THE MARQUESS OF SLIGO
May I, on behalf of the noble Earl, Lord Desart, move the adjournment of the debate until to-morrow.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Marquess of Sligo.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.