§ THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORK rose to call attention to the speech made by the Viceroy of Ireland at Belfast on June 7, in which he is reported to have expressed his belief that the Act of 1920 for the better government of Ireland already requires amendment; and to move—
§ " That this House is of opinion that the situation in Ireland urgently requires 607 that His Majesty's Government should determine forthwith what amendments they are prepared to propose and authorise negotiations to be opened on such terms as they think calculated to terminate the present deadlock."
§ The noble Earl said:My Lords, I rise to call attention to the speech of the Viceroy of Ireland, which is referred to in the Notice on the Paper, and to move the Motion which stands in my name. There have been a number of debates during the past year or two on the condition of Ireland, and I, for one', and others, I believe for the same reason, have refrained from taking part in them. The reason is a simple one. Much as we deplored the state of Ireland, much as we disagreed with some of the things that the Government were doing, and much as we deplored some of the things that they were leaving undone, we realised the frightfully difficult problem facing the Executive, and we were anxious not to intensify their difficulties so long as there seemed to be any chance of their exercising the ordinary functions of government. It would have been impossible last year, or this year, for any resident in the South of Ireland to have joined in the debates, without being critical, if not bitterly critical; but we abstained. It is fair to say that we did our best, once or twice, by making communications to the Government, to put our views before them, and if those communications fell upon deaf ears, we, at any rate, considered that our responsibility had been discharged.
§ But, as I shall show in a few moments, new circumstances have now arisen, involving, I hope, a welcome modification of the Government's attitude. Speaking with respect, I think I am entitled to say that hitherto their attitude, while it has been consistent, has been almost obstinate. Their whole faith has been wrapped up in the Home Rule Bill which they have placed as an Act upon the Statute Book. This is shown, in the first place, by the attitude of the Government during the debates last year. Your Lordships will remember the debate on the Second Reading, which was opened by a speech from my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack— it was not in the least too long, though it was a long one—which enjoyed the advantage of being listened to by some of his colleagues in the Cabinet.608
§ The noble and learned Lord then dealt j in advance with anticipated amendments. He made it clear that he disagreed with them, and he earned high encomiums from his colleague, the Leader of the House, who used a very strong word as regards my noble and learned friend's speech. He said that it amounted to a very searching analysis, if not an exposure, of the amendments which were in some of our minds. I cannot help noting in passing that the exposure did not greatly influence your Lordships when we came into the Division Lobbies in Committee. But the use of such a phrase shows, at any rate, that the Leader of the House and the Lord Chancellor were at one in believing that there was no great necessity for the amendment of the Bill in Committee.
§ Your Lordships will remember the next step. The noble Earl, Lord Midleton, moved the adjournment of the debate, for reasons that he gave, being anxious to discuss possible amendments informally with His Majesty's Government. That Motion was resisted. In Committee, there was consistent resistance to Amendments; and, finally, when the Bill became an Act, though there were considerable Amendments, I think I am right in saying that the Government had made no Amendments except one, upon which they did not divide, although it was obvious that the whole sense of the House was against them—the exception being the omission of Clause 24. Apart from that, no Amendment was made in the Act, except in response to substantial defeats inflicted on the Government in the Division lobby. Defeat in the Division lobby was the only argument which really had any effect, and it confirms my claim, and I think it is my justification, for using so strong a word as obstinate in describing the Government's satisfaction with their Act.
§ What has happened since the Act received the Royal Assent? The Government have maintained and proclaimed unswerving admiration for their child. In their adulation, indeed, they have not been able to avoid exaggeration. I wonder how many of your Lordships received a circular from the Irish Office in the month of February, which was sent round with a copy of the Act. It came to me in an envelope from the Irish Office, without a covering letter, but I have no doubt that many of your Lordships received a similar compliment of having it sent to you. 609 You can read in every line of the circular how unhesitatingly the Irish Office pats itself on the back, if I may use the phrase. I commend the document to your Lordships. You will find that every point that can be made against the Act is either ignored or glossed over, and that every point that will assist even a friendly critic is carefully omitted, while the supposed virtues of the Act are vastly and unblushingly magnified.
I will not do more than quote the opening words: The first paragraph is headed in large type "What the Act does," and the first sentence is—
The Government of Ireland Act recognises the aspirations of the great bulk of the Irish people.''
Your Lordships will remember how the Act passed through Parliament. In the House of Commons not one single Irishman registered a vote for it. In the House of Lords our Ulster friends voted for the Bill, but not one Southern Irishman who was not a member of the Government voted for the Bill here. Is it quite fair comment to describe an Act with such a history as "recognising the aspirations of the great bulk of the Irish people "? The document, however, quite harmonises with the speeches and pronouncements of Ministers.
I noticed a speech in another place by the prime Minister, in which he said—
We shall offer them an opportunity to elect and attend a Parliament which has a complete authority over Irish education, over Irish local government, over Irish land, over Irish railways, over Irish labour, over Irish agriculture, over Irish licensing "—
The date of this speech is April 28. Mark these words of the Prime Minister—
practically over every question that concerns the ordinary lives of Irishmen, free unfettered authority.
Could language be stronger? I do not think so. Again, the Chief Secretary in a telegram of congratulation, and regret at his absence, to the Parliament in Belfast, last week, said—
Irishmen have now the power to settle their own affairs, and bring peace and prosperity to their own country.
Every Irishman who has the smallest knowledge of the finance of the Act knows that these statements which I have quoted are completely misleading and inaccurate. But I pass that by for the moment. I use them now merely to justify my
statement that the Government are obsessed with the perfection of their own scheme.
I ought, however, in fairness, to note one further fact. The Prime Minister has mentioned on several occasions his willingness to discuss alternative proposals. On April 28 he said—
I repeatedly, from this Treasury Box, stated on behalf of the Government, that we are willing to meet any representative Irishman to discuss any problem of Irish Government.
Why has that invitation not been accepted? One or two explanations have been given elsewhere, which are not very complimentary to the Government, and I do net desire to associate myself with them. I believe the answer is a very simple one. As long as His Majesty's Government adopt this Act as their colours, and nail it to the mast, no one in Southern Ireland would waste time in negotiations. But, remembering a few chance words spoken by the Irish Viceroy ten days ago, I hope and believe an entirely new situation has now arisen.
§ On Tuesday of last week the Parliament of Northern Ireland met for the first time, and of course the Viceroy was present. Although I have all along believed that the setting up of that Parliament was deeply to be deplored, it is now, after all, afait accompli, and I do not want to be so ungracious as not to wish its members, including my noble friend opposite (the Marquess of Londonderry), success in their undertaking. But let us for a moment picture what took place. As one who has often visited Belfast I have no doubt that no opportunity was lost of accentuating the pomp and circumstance of the occasion. We can picture the scene—flags flying, crowds cheering, bands playing, Orange drums beating, and all the rest of it. It was the birthday of the new Parliament, or perhaps I should say the christening feast, and no doubt it was worthily honoured, because, of course, when there is a feast no visitor can come to Belfast without at once being offered unbounded hospitality.
They drank the Lord - Lieutenant's health, and he, of course, replied, and he chose that occasion of all others to make what I believe is the most far-reaching public announcement which we have had from Government lips, that there are imperfections in the Act of Parliament
which made possible that day's proceedings. The quotation is very short, but it is so important that your Lordships will bear with me while I read two or three sentences. He said:—
I do not pretend for one moment that this Act, which is the foundation of your Parliament in Northern Ireland, is a perfect Act; in fact I believe it wants amending already, and I shall not be at all surprised if it is amended in the not very distant future.''
When we remember the previous attitude of His Majesty's Government towards this Act, I do not hesitate to characterise last Tuesday's proceedings as among the most remarkable in history. The character of the child is repudiated at its christening feast. I do not complain. On the contrary, I warmly congratulate His Excellency upon, and thank him for, his frankness and courage. It is the first ray of hope for my unfortunate country, the condition of which is slowly but surely going from bad to worse.
I am afraid that even with your Lordships' constant attention to public affairs, your Lordships do not realise, any more than the public realise it over here, how bad things in Ireland really are. The latest official figures that I have seen bring the statistics up to June 6, and are issued, of course, by Dublin Castle, but I quote from the Press. They give the following melancholy figures for that week:— Police: 16 killed, 19 wounded; Military: 8 killed, 24 wounded; arrests for outrages and political offences, 52; 53 trials of civilians by Court-Martial, and conviction in 47 cases; 3,167 persons are now interned. These are the words of the Government communiqué:—
The casualties inflicted upon the Crown Forces are the highest since 1916.
That is the position after months of Martial Law. But, of course, statistics as regards the Crown Forces do not tell the whole story. What is the position of the ordinary citizen, the man in the street?
I hope many of your Lordships have noticed a very remarkable article that appears in a well-known magazine this month, the Round Table. The article is not signed, and therefore I do not trench upon its anonymity, but I cannot help suspecting that I see at any rate the hand— a share in the writing of the article—of an old friend of mine, of whom I will only say that his constructive services to the Empire have been not inconsiderable.
The Irish people as a rule do not attach great importance to articles written by visitors, but I believe that a part of this article, at any rate, owes its inspiration to a visit, and I pay my tribute to the accuracy of the picture that is given. The article sums up the position in Ireland in one pregnant sentence:—
There is no protection of private citizens.
In a letter that I had last year from a neighbour in my county, picturing the position, it is stated a little more epigra-matically, but equally truly:—
We live in Ireland under two Governments and neither is powerful enough to protect us from the other.
Those are only single sentences illustrating what is going on. But it is no exaggeration to say that in restoring law and order in Ireland the present régime has been a failure. I do not pretend now, in view of the subject of my Notice, to examine deeply into the causes. Anyone who has been in residence in Ireland in the winter, as I have, realises, or, at any rate, believes that Dublin Castle is a family that is divided against itself, and that a central controlling hand is conspicuous by its absence. That is probably one, if not the main, cause of the trouble.
§ But I think I ought to try to answer, in anticipation, one question which is so often asked in public discussion, and which is, of course, important when considered in connection with the state of Ireland. "Why," we are often asked, "does not a great wave of public indignation arise to support the Government, and sweep away the murder and outrage campaign?" It is a very proper question to ask, and it can only be answered by those very closely in touch with Ireland. But the answer is very brief. The first answer is—the state of the country. You have disarmed all the law-abiding people, and yet, as the magazine article which I have quoted says, then; is no protection of private citizens. How can you expect private citizens who are not protected, and who are disarmed, to work up a great public opinion in any-such circumstances?
§ Secondly (and I refer to this point with regret) public opinion does not rise and boil up in your favour, because of your policy of reprisals—reprisals which were at first denied, then palliated—" Poor fellows, look at the temptation they have." I am informed that the unauthorised reprisals 613 have been almost entirely put a stop to, and if that is so, I pay my tribute to the distinguished officer to whom is attributed the honour of having restored discipline in the Forces of the Crown. But reprisals are going on, they are, multiplying, they are officially ordered, officially sanctioned, officially avowed. Arid the Government must take the responsibility for them. I do not hesitate to say that reprisals are a detestable and degrading policy, and public opinion is right in refusing to associate itself with you as long as they go on.
§ The third reason brings me in closer touch again with my Motion. I apologise if I have slightly departed from it, although I do not think I have much. Public opinion in Ireland does not support you because of your refusal to state definitely that you are willing to make any modifications in the Act that is on the Statute Book, for which no one in Southern Ireland has a good word. May I say one thing, in passing, dealing with an argument of which we heard a good deal last year It is no use saying to the South of Ireland," Ulster is going to work this Act "—Ulster, of course, meaning in this case the. six counties—" and Ulster's example will persuade the rest of Ireland to follow suit." That is an argument really unworthy of use outside a nursery. I can imagine going to a naughty child, and saying, "Why don't you eat your sweet like, a good child, as your sister does?" and possibly persuading my son to take the powder concealed in the sweet. But seriously, grown men with political instinct are not going to be persuaded by arguments of that kind. Possibly—and I hope it is so—the Act will suit the six counties, in which case they will work it. But you are face to face with the fact that the twenty-six counties are practically unanimous in saying that they cannot work the Act. That is the situation you have to face.
§ I therefore desire to invite His Majesty's Government to tell us frankly and openly what their amendments, referred to by the Viceroy, are to be. I cannot hope for a permanent settlement. I believe strongly that the abolition of the partition of the country alone can provide a permanent settlement, and in that we shall have no help, I am afraid, from His Majesty's Government. We must settle it for ourselves. It will be a difficult negotiation, but, if we may judge from the experience of some of our friends who have been negotia- 614 ting in a totally different walk of life during the past few weeks, we are entitled to believe that the negotiations are more likely to succeed if members of the present Government have nothing to do with them. As regards the terms of the Act itself, I urge as strongly as I can that it is the duty of the authors of the Act to announce frankly what they mean to do, and to open negotiations in the hope of obtaining agreement with their proposals. I do not ask you to surrender to crime, We believe even now—I do, and I hope I am not unduly optimistic—that it is not too late to build up in Irelard a volume of public opinion favourable to the Imperial connection. We ask you, therefore, so to mould your policy that it may attract to your side what I believe to be the vast mass of public opinion in Ireland, which at present does not know which way to turn in its dislike of the murder policy and in its dislike of your Act of Parliament.
§ Obviously it is in the realm of finance that the advance must be made. It is no use answering, as was done in the debate last year—"I shall be ready to discuss fuller financial powers with a united Irish Parliament." You created the two Parliaments and it is not for you now to plead their separate identity as a bar to our request. The main fact is that you will not get a united Parliament until you get a Southern Parliament to work, and you will not get a Southern Parliament to work with the present financial system remaining in the Act. Why, I may be asked, is the financial scheme unable to obtain acceptance from any one in Southern Ireland? I can answer that in two or three sentences. It is obvious on the face of it that in the scheme as drafted the needs of Southern Ireland were considered of secondary importance to those of the British Treasury and the British tax collector; they and he were the people not to be inconvenienced.
§ What is the scheme? First of all, it is unsound constitutionally to set up a Parliament without the usual Parliamentary powers of taxation. The vast bulk of the revenue collected in Ireland—over 90 per cent, was the figure given last year— is to be collected by the Imperial Parliament; not all spent, but collected. The policy of collection is maintained at Westminster. The Imperial Parliament controls not only the policy of collection, but the whole policy of taxation—what the taxation is to be. The Irish Parliament 615 controls only the expenditure of a part. No Parliament would stand that. No Parliament in any part of the Empire would stand it. The scheme, again, is unsound financially. It is unsound that one body should tax and another body should spend and not have the responsibility for the taxation. Again, the scheme is unpopular because it fixes the Imperial contribution. I am in favour of, and I hope we shall always receive, an Imperial contribution from Ireland, but, once you set up the Irish Parliament, that Parliament should have a voice in what the amount should be, and how if should be produced.
Lastly, your Lordships will remember that the whole thing is presided over by the Joint Exchequer Board, a body on which the Westminster Treasury will have a permanent majority and which inspires no confidence from one end of Southern Ireland to the other. That is the great field, I am certain, in which the first amendments are necessary. Those amendments will not solve the Irish problem, but they will give it a chance of solution. I wonder whether I have a new and unexpected ally in the person of the Chief Secretary for Ireland himself. In the course of a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday he used some very remarkable words. I will read the whole quotation to your Lordships, and then leave it almost without comment. Sir Hamar Greenwood said—
The point is that one Parliament is functioning, and I would like to see the other Parliament functioning on the 28th June and taking over from this House "—
that, of course, is the House of Commons—
all questions of law and order and having them administered by Irishmen for Irishmen.
Mr. O'Connor then interrupted—
And Sir Hamar Greenwood went on—
With the widest possible measure of financial control as well. That "—
he went on to say—
is nothing new.
My Lords, it is something entirely new if it means what it says—if it is genuinely meant. I hope it was genuinely meant and I, therefore, ask for particulars to-day. Once you have made the announcement for which I ask, there will be a chance for successful negotiation and my Motion, therefore, covers both.
§ The matter is urgent. You hope to end the session a couple of months hence, but I cannot state too strongly how vital it is that agreement should be reached and, if possible, an Amending Act passed before Parliament disperses.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
If nothing is done I shudder at the outlook; I shudder at the thought of the chaos of the coming winter. You have talked glibly, you talk glibly in this Memorandum on the Act which I have already quoted, about Crown Colony government in Ireland if the Southern Parliament refuses to meet, as we believe it will refuse to meet. Crown Colony government is based on a legal system and is based on tradition. Above all, Crown Colony government even is based on the good will of the governed and cannot be successful without it. Do His Majesty's Government really believe in their hearts that a system akin to Crown Colony government, under Section 22 of the Act, would enjoy the good will of anyone in Southern Ireland? Any such belief is a profound hallucination. Drowning men clutch at straws, and it may be that the hopes founded on the pronouncements of the past ten days are but straws and valueless. On the other hand, it may be that they may prove, in the end foundations of firmer structures, and it is in this most sincere hope that I ask your Lordships to pass the Motion which stands in my name.
§ Moved, That this House is of opinion that the situation in Ireland urgently requires that His Majesty's Government should determine forthwith what amendments they are prepared to propose and authorise negotiations to be opened on such terms as they think calculated to terminate the present deadlock.—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
§ EARL BUXTON
My Lords, I quite realise that nothing fresh, or possibly useful, or possibly even harmful, can be said in this debate on Ireland, and therefore I ask your Lordships' indulgence not only because I am addressing you for the first time but also, of course, because of the difficulty of the question involved. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that in some ways I bring to this question a somewhat more detached view than those of your Lordships who have been following it from day 617 to day in the last six or seven years; also possibly, as having had direct control and experience of one of our great Dominions, one's experience may be of some value in dealing with the question. I have been greatly impressed, in coming back to England after six or seven years, to find what large changes have taken place in the opinions and views of the people of this country in regard to Ireland.
One thing that struck me somewhat forcibly, as showing what a change and what a different attitude is now taken in regard to Ireland, is that when I left this country in 1914 the Government of that day had introduced and were passing a Home Rule Bill which was fiercely opposed by the North and accepted to the full by what is called the South of Ireland. I come back, six years later, and I find another Home Rule Bill being introduced by the Government of the day, and that Bill is accepted by the North and fiercely denounced by the South of Ireland. That is rather a topsy-turvy state of things. Perhaps it is somewhat of an explanation of our difficulties in regard to Ireland. I think that one of the tragedies of the position is that at the very moment, as I believe, the people of this country as a whole are extremely anxious to go as far as they can, and to do the utmost justice To Ireland, the position of Ireland has never been so black or so dark.
I am speaking here, if I may be allowed to say so, as a Home Ruler of forty years' standing, and as one who has had some experience of Ireland in the disturbed times, but I need hardly add that I am not going to dwell upon what might have been, or to say "I told you so." I entirely agree, as I think all your Lordships will, with what fell from Lord Grey a month or two ago, when he said that all Parties in the State had made mistakes in their dealings with Ireland, and that if they could have their time over again they would deal with that country in a totally different way. But the views which I held in earlier years in regard to Ireland have been greatly intensified by the experience which I have had of the effect of the grant, voluntarily and fully, of responsible government to the Transvaal and the Orange Free State in 1906.
In some ways, I think, the position of South Africa after the Anglo-Boer War is somewhat similar to that of Ireland. Every one here appears to take too much for 618 granted in dealing with this matter. It seems to be taken for granted now that every one at that time was in favour of the grant of responsible government to those countries, and that it was quite obvious that it would be a success. May I remind your Lordships that the case was very different, and that the Cabinet of the day were denounced by responsible persons in no measured terms? The Cabinet were accused of taking an almost criminal risk in regard to the matter. Even many of those who were friendly disposed had considerable searchings of heart. Remember that at the time self-government was granted only four years had elapsed since the conclusion of the Anglo-Boer War, and— this is a material point— the people of Dutch descent were in an overwhelming majority in the Transvaal and also in the Free State. But the Cabinet, of which I am proud to have been a member, was prepared to take the risk, in the full belief that their action would be justified. I venture to say that there is now no one in the three Kingdoms who would question the wisdom of the step which was then taken— a step which has been fully justified by the splendid action of the overseas contingent from South Africa and elsewhere, consisting of Boer and Briton. It may be said that, in spite of that, there has been a Nationalist movement for independence in South Africa. But I feel, and feel profoundly, that if further time bad been given, and if this great war, with its disintegrating forces, had not taken place so soon, there would have been no rift in the lute, and the racial and other difficulties would have been satisfactorily settled.
Before dealing with the Motion of the noble Lord I would like to say a few words in regard to the deplorable position of Ireland at the present moment. I desire to make it clear that in anything I say I have no desire whatever to score off the Government. Rather would I endeavour to strengthen their hand; not, indeed, in a policy of force, but in a policy of settlement. In my view, it does not help towards peace and a settlement to weight the balance of blame against the Government, nor to ignore the great difficulties with which they are faced, many of them, unfortunately, of their own making. At the same time, it is quite clear that no Government are entitled to reject criticisms of their action, and no Government, looking at the deplorable position in 619 Ireland, can possibly resent any criticisms of their conduct in regard to that country. I do not want to say much about outrages and retaliation, but we all believe that the cowardly, brutal, and treacherous murders which are committed by those who profess to represent the Sinn Feiners cannot possibly be palliated or excused by any sophistry in argument, or by any argument of force.
We all have great sympathy with those men— military, police, and auxiliaries— who, under great difficulties, and with great courage, in a nerve-racking position, are carrying out their duties, but unfortunately, as the noble Lord who moved the Motion has pointed out, and as we all know, events take place from time to time which cannot be defended, and which are allowed, and apparently condoned, by the Government; if not, it is very unfortunate that the impression should be left upon the mind of the public that they are allowed or condoned. No doubt, in these matters, there is possibly some considerable exaggeration, and some invention, and a deliberate propaganda of untruth. I think it was an Irishman who said that a great many lies had been told about him, but who, when questioned, confessed that half the lies told about him were true. I am somewhat sceptical sometimes in regard to these matters. Yet, after allowing a very considerable discount, I am afraid there is a very large and a very bad balance left on the other side. This retaliation and these outrages are of such a nature that they affect the public at large, and cause them great uneasiness, and, rightly or wrongly, they have tarnished the good name and the prestige of this country, which stood so high after the great war.
I hope, with the noble Earl who moved this Motion, that they are now being brought to an end, or, at all events, are being controlled. The worst of them is that, whether they are authorised or unauthorised, the innocent are bound to suffer with the guilty. It is in the nature of these reprisals that the punishment cannot be fitted to the crime, and the reprisal cannot be made to weigh exactly in the balance. Mistakes occur. Wrong people are shot. The houses of loyalists are burnt down. I venture to say that reprisals lead to this— for every reprisal you recruit to the Sinn Fein cause a dozen men, in addition to which you leave behind bitter memories. The worst of it is that 620 two can play at the game. One reprisal leads to another, and we have that ghastly, vicious circle, of which the noble Lord spoke, and in which the public at large are between the devil and the deep sea. The Government have assured us that their policy was successful. Over and over again they have told us that they had the murder gang by the throat, or on the run, and that if we only gave them a little more time it would be all brought to an end satisfactorily, and order would again prevail. Any one who looks day by day at the list of murders that are occurring in Ireland must feel that this is a deplorable delusion on the part of the Government; yet they continue this policy of force, which is a policy of despair, and offer us no alternative.
The noble Earl dealt at some length with the position in this House last November, when the Home Rule Bill was before us. Perhaps at that time, the Government, anxious to pass their Bill, and stating, and I hope believing, that it would be a remedy for the evils from which Ireland was suffering, naturally objected to any delay in order to consider an alternative policy. By the light of what has occurred it is clear that the Bill, now an Act, has been neither a remedy nor a panacea. The noble Earl has clearly shown that the Act has completely broken down. It has not the support of Southern Ireland, and has not been a success in effecting a settlement. It is true that Ulster, greatly to her credit and patriotism, is endeavouring to adapt herself to the position and to show how Irish affairs can be conducted by Irishmen. But as regards the rest of Ireland, the failure is complete, and the farce of the Elections the other day only emphasised the complete failure of the Act to bring about a settlement.
The Government themselves endeavoured to persuade a certain number of persons to stand at the last Election, but no one in Southern Ireland desired to do so against the Sinn Feiners, on the simple ground that if they had they would have been held to be in favour of the Act, which no one in the South of Ireland supports. What is the Government going to do? The noble Earl has asked them to give us a definite lead. In the course of our debates last year, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said that if the Bill was not successful the Government 621 would have to fall back on Clause 70; that is to say, we should have to have Crown Colony government in Southern Ireland. Incidentally, may I say that, so far as I am aware, there is no Crown Colony under the Crown which has not some representative system, and, therefore, it is a complete misnomer to apply the term "Crown Colony government" to that which the Government intend to impose on Southern Ireland.
The first obvious alternative to such a policy is that which the noble Earl has suggested in his Motion— namely, that we should reason together, and see if we cannot come to terms by negotiation. Unfortunately, negotiations in Ireland, both internally and externally, are beset with difficulties. Many of the friends of Ireland have been dabbling in negotiations. I myself am not altogether free from the taint, and some members of your Lordships' douse have endeavoured to explore the ground and see if they could do anything to help. But the conclusions which these amateur negotiators have come to is that the only practical way in which negotiations can take place, so far as a settlement is concerned, is through the Government. Obviously, after Ireland has its Parliament, it is for them to settle things themselves. The Prime Minister has asserted more than once that he is willing to negotiate, but he always points out that he has no one with whom he can effectually negotiate; that the more moderate sections are dominated and coerced by the extremists who put forward such impossible proposals that the negotiations arc ham-strung almost before they are begun; and, finally, and this is the great point of the Government, that they cannot negotiate because there is no one with whom they can negotiate who can "deliver the goods." That argument has always seemed to me to be futile. Every Government, in a matter of this kind, must take the risk, and the Government have to see whether they cannot arrive at a conclusion with those who are authorised to negotiate.
The fact is that there is some truth, unfortunately, in these arguments, and for the moment the avenue towards negotiation seems more or less closed. What is the further alternative? The only way to settle the Irish question is for the Irish to settle it themselves; and the only way for them to be in a position to do so is for 622 them to know exactly how they stand, what powers can be conceded, and what powers cannot be granted. It is this part of the noble Earl's Motion to which the House attaches most importance. His suggestion is that the Government should make up their mind. In my view, the only-way in which a declaration of any value can be made is for the Prime Minister, apart from negotiations specifically, in a public document, definitely and in detail, to state how far he can go on the one hand, and what reservations are required on the other. It is necessary for him to put all his cards on the table. So far, we have had only vague statements by members of the Government, and, to put it bluntly but truthfully, those in the South of Ireland do not trust the Government in this matter. The only way they will be satisfied is by some solemn and deliberate statement, on record, which cannot be withdrawn or whittled away in any circumstances. After all, Sinn Feiners are entitled, on their side, to ask what security there is for the goods being delivered.
We have to make the Irish really believe that we are in earnest, that our intentions are sincere, and that we are prepared to make great sacrifices in order to carry them out. If the Government would give the country a lead on this matter I am convinced that it would go to any length in order to bring about peace in Ireland. I believe that the greater lengths to which we go, the more likelihood there is of our being successful in the end. What would carry the greatest weight, of course, and would bring about the greatest likelihood of success, would be that, in addition to the Government, the other Parties in the State, the Liberal Party and the Labour Party, should be able to endorse the proposals which were made. It may, perhaps, seem an Utopian idea to think that this could be done; but looking to the melancholy history of the past and the deplorable conditions of the present, is it too much to ask that all the Parties in the State should come together and give a clear, a full, and a final Declaration as to how far they could go, so that the Irish would know that they could go to such a length, and that the country would back them in the matter.
What would be the nature of this Declaration? I believe that the country would desire that it should be boldly written. The proposals made have been 623 designated Dominion Home Rule, but that, I think, is a misnomer, because, after all, we cannot ignore the fact that we are only thirty miles from Ireland, while we are 3,000 miles from Canada, 6,000 miles from South Africa, and 10,000 miles from Australia. Some qualifications must, therefore, be made of the liberty which the Dominions enjoy, and of which they make such admirable use. In my view, these restrictions and qualifications ought to be as few as possible. I think they might be confined practically to three. First comes the question of foreign affairs. Even here, if Ireland had a real Home Rule, there is no reason why she, like the Dominions, should not, to a certain extent, have a voice in foreign relations. In the second place, the Navy is practically essential to this country; I do not think there is any difference of opinion in regard to that. But that has also this advantage, that the restriction, if necessary, could be easily and effectively enforced. The third point is the question of Ulster. But Ulster is now in a position to look after herself. She would, of course, be offered the same proposals as those made to Southern Ireland, and she could take them or leave them, as she desired.
The noble Earl has mentioned that all this would involve (as it obviously would) complete fiscal freedom in regard to various parts of Ireland. I know that some difficulties are found in regard to that matter, but nothing could be more exasperating than the present position, and I believe that the country also would endorse the fullest extent of fiscal and economic freedom being given to all parts of Ireland. If that were done, either by Declaration or Resolution, the Irish would know exactly how they stood, and what they could obtain, if they were prepared to accept the proposal. They could take full responsibility for themselves; they could decide their own fate, and work out their own salvation in their own way. Too long has Great Britain had the responsibility, and Ireland the grievance. "We want to get rid of such a relationship. It is bad for both, and worse for the Irish. We want to place the responsibility on the proper shoulders. I believe that if the Government could see their way to adopt the Motion of the noble Earl and carry it out to the fullest extent, the country would feel that their conscience was clear and that they had made a genuine attempt to settle the Irish question.
624 Further, I know it is a delicate question, and some people, perhaps, resent its being mentioned; but after all we cannot ignore it—the position in Ireland is damaging to our friendly relations with some other nations, and brings us into some friction with our own Dominions. We believe that both the Dominions and foreign countries, if we could go to the full length that I have suggested, would realise that the old order had changed, and that we were genuinely and ungrudgingly desirous of doing what we could for Ireland. So far as the Government are concerned, I believe that would help them to open negotiations. At all events, if the offer were rejected, they would then be in the position which they are in now, to continue—reluctantly, I hope, and of necessitv—the policy of force for force. I was glad to hear that the noble Earl was sanguine as to what might be the outcome of his proposal, if it were adopted. At the present moment, as he pointed out, the loyalist section are all adrift. They have had no rallying point and no means of knowing what to do and how to do it. This proposal would, I think, put them on firm ground, and, for the first time, they would be able to come together, and slowly and surely make their influence felt in the direction of order, peace and good government in Ireland.
I thank your Lordships very sincerely for having allowed me to make these observations. I feel that we are now at the parting of the ways. This, as the noble Earl has said, is the last chance that we shall have for many years to come. The Government' s policy has been a failure They have to find some other alternative, and I think they may be assured that no one would feel that they need stand on their dignity, or that, in the circumstances, it would be any humiliation to them to accept a new policy, which, I am perfectly convinced, would be enforced and endorsed by the country at large.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I do not propose to trespass on your Lordships' attention for more than a few moments. There are, however, one or two things I should like to say with regard to the Motion which has been proposed by the noble Earl. I may say at once that I regret that he has chosen this moment for addressing your Lordships on this subject. He has had many previous opportunities of putting forward his views, 625 and I regret that he has taken the speech of His Excellency the Lord-Lieutenant as his text for the speech which he has delivered to-day. It seems to me unfortunate that at this moment, on the eve of the opening of the Ulster Parliament, before, in fact, the ink is dry on the Act, lie should bring forward a Motion which must naturally disturb opinion in Ireland, and must hamper us in our endeavours to make the Ulster Parliament a success.
I would say a word or two about our position in this matter. One would imagine from the noble Earl' s speech that the establishment of the Ulster Parliament was the lifelong ambition of all of us who live in the North of Ireland. If there is any noble Lord in this House, who believes in that suggestion, I would venture to give it at this moment an absolute denial.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
May I say that I made no such suggestion, from the beginning to the end of my remarks?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Then I apologise to the noble Earl, but I thought perhaps he addressed himself to it in rather a flippant manner, at a serious moment, when, as I venture to say again, we are doing our best to work the Act of Parliament which has been forced upon us.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
We had no desire to establish a Parliament in the North of Ireland, but the Act of Parliament having been passed, we are proposing to do our best to make the Parliament a success, and to show that Irishmen can manage their own affairs. Notwithstanding what the noble Earl has said, I sincerely hope that if we do achieve success, as I believe we, shall, that success will in some way assist the rest of Ireland to realise that they can do the same thing in the South and West. I was not aware exactly what points the noble. Earl was going to take up in his speech, but I suggest to him that he has fallen into the same error, if I may use the expression, as the British Government. The British Government have fashioned a scheme, and are endeavouring to cause, Ireland to accept that scheme. We in the North are proposing to accept it, and to do what we can to make it a success. The rest of Ireland 626 is making no such proposition. It seems to me that when history is read in years to come, it will be said that it would have been far better for the British Government to say that the policy which was in operation, and which after 110 years had brought peace and prosperity to Ireland, certainly held the. field, and that it should have been left to hold the field until something better could be brought forward to take its place. An attempt was made. There was the Irish Convention, which was a nominated body and which assembled with no reference whatever. I believe, looking back, that it was an assembly which had no chance of making any success of the proposition which was put before it.
I venture to ask whether the noble Earl has not fallen into the same error as the British Government. He comes forward with a tentative proposition. He does not bring it forward in the form of a Bill, nor does he tell us for whom he speaks, nor who will support him if he brings forward a proposal. I wonder whether, if his tentative proposals are put into a Bill, he will find a large body of opinion in Ireland is supporting him. Is he prepared to guarantee that if this fiscal liberty is given to Ireland, which he adumbrates— he docs nothing more than that—the whole of Ireland will accept the Government proposals as they stand at the present moment t I feel that unless the noble Earl has a concrete proposal, it would have been far better for him to have waited until he had such a concrete proposal, and until he had support for it in Ireland, before bringing forward the Motion which he has on the Paper. I have no desire to detain your Lordships further. But I would say that if the Irish question is going to be settled it is well to ascertain what is the opinion of Irishmen at the moment, and what they are prepared to accept, and, to continue Lord Buxton' s suggestion, that this country should consider what it is prepared to give to Ireland in that respect.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I listened with great interest to Lord Buxton' s speech. Of course, he knows a great deal about South Africa, but there is no analogy whatever between South Africa and Ireland. There was a policy of settlement brought forward there. That settlement was a success, and we must congratulate ourselves on the fact that those in 627 that great continent who had been our enemies aided us in the great war. Now let me allude for a moment to what the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said. I can fancy myself back in the Convention again, and recall the remarks and arguments, and the way that the Northern members of that Convention spoke to those of us who came from the South. I agree with him when he says that this is a serious moment and that the speech of His Excellency at the luncheon after the opening of the Belfast Parliament was a very serious one. That is confirmed by the statement of the Chief Secretary last Tuesday, which my noble friend, Lord Donoughmore, mentioned. My noble friend, Lord Donoughmore, wished the Ulster Parliament every success, and it is no good the noble Marquess making complaint of this Motion being brought forward, because we in the South of Ireland do not like this Act. We do not think it will work. Its finance is bad for us. Lord Londonderry also said that the Convention was a nominated body and that there was no reference. There were terms of reference to the Convention, which were read out to us—I think they were printed—when the Convention was called together.
I wish to support the Motion now before the House, and I think everybody in Ireland will thank my noble friend for having brought it forward. I ask myself, was it the Lord-Lieutenant' s private opinion, or was the statement inspired by the Cabinet? In either case, as he is the representative of His Majesty, we take his statement as a true and important one. In these troublous times the Lord - Lieutenant speaks in all seriousness, and I should imagine he means exactly what he says. We sat for five weeks upon this Act, speaking on it, and amending it as best we could, and I certainly would have liked to do a great deal more in the way of amending it. There is one thing upon which I do not quite agree with my noble friend, Lord Donoughmore. It is the first time in my experience, and I have sat under five, Lord Chancellors, when noble Lords who live in Ireland and come from Ireland were listened to and their arguments were admitted. We were beaten in the Division lobby, but if your Lordships read the debates I think you will agree that we who came from Ireland were better listened to, and better treated, than ever before. I do not mind being beaten in the Division Lobby. In the past, warnings given about 628 Ireland have been passed by with courteous sneers and official pedantry—that is our opinion in Ireland—and I must frankly state that there was nothing of this in the debates last winter. The Lord Chancellor understood his Bill and he understood us, having been in Ireland.
The question was a very serious one. We were grafting on to the Constitution of this country another Constitution, and altering the British Constitution. It was a moment of great seriousness for everybody, and especially for those who came from Ireland. The Act is now on the Statute Book, and there are three great blots on that Act. One is partition, which has come to pass; the second is the financial portion of the Act; and the third is the setting up of Crown Colony government in the event of the Southern Parliament not functioning.
Let me say something about partition. What has already been the immediate effect of it? The immediate effect has been a complete boycott of the Northern merchants in the South and West of Ireland. I do not speak about the shipbuilding or the linen industry; but the ordinary business, that is carried on between the South and West of Ireland and Belfast in its wholesale houses, has come absolutely to an end. That is one of the effects of partition. It is a platitude to say that that sort of thing is very bad for trade, and it is a thing terrible to contemplate. Your Lordships will remember, I dare say, that in The Timesnot long ago there were some very interesting articles about Ireland. I know the writer of those articles, and though he did not put this into the articles, he went into the question very closely. But what do you suppose the turnover is between the South and West of Ireland and the North?£3,000,000 a year. That is a great deal of money for a small country with a population' of about 4,500,000. Well, that is the effect of partition under the Act at present. I admit that the Northern Parliament may in the future have a moral effect, perhaps a slight one, but with this reservation, that the words "in the future," must be most carefully underlined. You will have to look a long way ahead before that Parliament will have an effect on the South and West of Ireland.
With regard to finance, anything more confusing than the White Papers issued during the period when the Bill was passing through both Houses is hardly to be 629 imagined. It would require the cleverest actuary in the world to make head or tail of them. Administrative conditions have altered, expenses have gone up, and the Excess Profits Duty has been given up altogether. I wish the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, was here, because all those figures are very hard to follow in a speech, yet when you read his speech in the OFFICIAL RFPORT it is a very lucid and clear explanation of the financial provisions of the Act, from the English taxpayer' s point of view, and the Treasury' s point of view. What some of us wanted was that the Customs and Excise should be collected by an Irish Government.
That was put down with a strong hand by His Majesty's Government. The noble Viscount' s main contention was that Customs and Excise were 60 per cent. of Ireland' s Revenue, and were security for the payment to the English Government of the£18,000,000 which is the contribution to the English Exchequer (I do not complain about that) and also security for the other taxes. That is true, but when that is paid, and when other services not reserved in that Act are paid, what has an Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer got on which to borrow money? Nothing at all. If these Parliaments are set up and we want to improve our country, to improve the drainage of the country, which is really wanted, to improve the harbours, and generally if we want to go ahead, we must have money with which to do it. What on earth have we got to hypothecate as a security? Nothing whatsoever.
It has been said that it creates great inconveniences if a Customs barrier exists between England and Ireland. Of course, if we collect the Customs there must be a Customs barrier, although Lord MacDonnell has suggested there might be free trade between Ireland and England. Those inconveniences would exist, but the truth is that inconvenience exists now. When you arrive at Holyhead, to go to Ireland, your luggage is most carefully searched. It is not searched for dutiable things, it is searched for arms; and I am told that amongst collars, and shirts, and pyjamas, and chemises a very large quantity of small arms has been collected. That is a great inconvenience: I have been through it myself. It does not matter who or what you are, it makes no difference; and it delays you very much. And remember that in former times a Customs barrier existed, and also that we are accus- 630 tomed to it when travelling abroad. A little inconvenience we do not mind, if we can get the money. I should like to say a great deal more about finance, but it is a very dull subject. The truth is that unless the finance of the Act is very much improved, and we are given something with which to work our Parliament, if it is set up, that Parliament cannot work.
The third point is the setting up of Crown Colony government, in the event of the Southern Parliament not functioning. It was very interesting to hear my noble friend, Lord Buxton, state that what is in the Act is not Crown Colony government at all, but a peculiar sort of government. If there is one thing more odious than another it is Crown Colony government, as the Government have made it in Ireland. One has heard a good deal of "government by the people for the people," but what is this? It is practically a nominated body. And dear old Dublin Castle will come into its own again with a vengeance! This nominated body consists of Privy Councillors and other members nominated by the Lord-Lieutenant. I can imagine what that means. It will mean the same officials, and the same people. I really think it is no use setting up this other Government because, after all, you have got a Government in Ireland, though I do not say it is working very well.
Why on earth saddle us with this bastard Crown Colony government? It is the most irritating thing that you could possibly have put into the Act. The noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, said something about that in Committee. I value his opinion greatly, and it is very much valued on the other side of the Atlantic. When he was speaking of coming to better terms with regard to Customs and Excise, he said it would be worth while to deal with the matter in a generous way in order to get rid of this terrible Crown Colony government. I agree with him.
During the nine years of Mr. Birrell' s administration the dragon' s teeth were sown, and armed men sprang up. You cannot deny that. That has come home to us in the most terrible way in Ireland, and it is coming home to the Government, I am sorry to say. There are a great many noble Lords in this country who complain that they are never able to find out the truth from Ireland. I ask them in all sincerity to read the Irish Times. Some years ago 631 I asked the librarian to take that paper. It is there. The Irish Times is really what it says it is. It is the official report of the Government. It has not omitted, as far as I know, one outrage, one reprisal, one murder, or one ambush. If noble Lords in this country would take the trouble to read that newspaper they would find out exactly what is going on in Ireland and know exactly the feelings of the Irish people with regard to it. I might almost say it is the official paper of the Government as well as of Sinn Fein, because everything is quoted.
I have put forward what I consider to be the points that should be amended in the Act. You will not get a Southern Parliament in Ireland unless you amend the Act. The responsibility rests entirely with the Government. We are twitted with not putting forward anything at all. I have put forward three things that must be altered.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I was referring to public opinion in Ireland. That is what we want to get at.
THE EARL OF MAYO
I have something to say about public opinion in Ireland. Public opinion in Ireland is this—that the Government, having put Ireland into a great mess, must get Ireland out of that mess. As an Irishman, I have suggested the means by which they can do so. I do not say it will be accomplished to-morrow, or the next day, or the month after, but it will be a beginning.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, I do not desire to repeat what has been so well said by my noble friend, the Earl of Donough-more, and by those who have followed him, but perhaps I may be permitted, on behalf of some of your Lordships who are old friends of Viscount Buxton, who knew him and sat with him in the House of Commons, to say that we arc very glad to see him here and to welcome the ripe experience which he will bring to our debates.
632 I do not want to enter into any controversy about what is past, but I do want to reinforce the appeal, which my noble friend, Lord Donoughmore, has made to His Majesty' s Government, to do something. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, seemed to complain that this was not a good moment to raise the question, but anyone who knows what the condition of Ireland is will feel that it is difficult to refrain from constantly calling the attention of this country to what is happening there. If any further reason was needed for bringing forward the subject now, surely it can be found in the admission, the first admission yet made, and made from the most authoritative quarter possible, that the Act passed at the end of last year has failed to fulfil its purpose—it has not brought peace to Ireland.
My noble friend, Lord Donoughmore, mentioned two facts which, I think, have struck the keynote of this debate. Since the end of last year things have been going from bad to worse in Ireland. There are now in prison 3,691 persons. That number is always increasing, but the fact has not had the result of tranquillising the country. The casualties to the Crown Forces last week were the highest yet reported. All this has happened in spite of the policy which the Government has followed. The policy of reprisals, official and unofficial, was justified on the ground that it was inevitable, that the condition of the country was such that these grim stern measures must be resorted to. Reprisals have failed, just as the Act has failed. The condition of Ireland is worse than it was when the Act was passed. The crimes are worse. The loyalists are more and more disheartened. There is less and less of that moral support to the Government on which every Government must rely. The loyalists have been alienated; they have lost confidence.
But another thing has happened—power has fallen into the hands of the extremists. In the Sinn Fein Party, as in all Parties, there are some men who are fairly moderate and reasonable, and some who are violent and ferocious. What we have been doing is to throw more power into the hands of the ferocious extremists. The crimes are more horrible. I do not suppose there is one of your Lordships who does not open his newspaper in the morning with alarm lest some new and frightful murder should be reported from Ireland. Murders 633 now begin to be perpetrated where one can assign no reason. These measures have thrown power into the hands of the extremists, partly because the Government have seized more and more upon the moderate men whom it is easy to catch, and have thrown them into prison, so that they can no longer exert an influence upon their more violent partisans. The longer that blood shedding goes on the more do people lose whatever control over themselves they possess. The more that passions arc embittered the more violent and unreasoning will action become. That is what we see in Ireland now, and I am sorry to say that it is not only in Ireland. I believe that there are extremists in other countries also who give comfort and support to the extremist parties in Ireland. All the acts of violence and harshness that are done here, and all the delay there is of any hope of coming to a possible arrangement, strengthens the influence of those who, in other countries, arc indulging their hatred against England by endeavouring to do the worst they can for Ireland.
I hope it is not necessary to go any further than to say that this sort of thing cannot go on. It cannot go on! We are trying to govern the country in defiance of the opinion of the people; because no opinion comes from the South and West of Ireland in favour of the policy of the Government. It is not as if we had a Party there. If the opinion of the South and West of Ireland may be taken to be expressed here by those of your Lordships who come from those parts of Ireland it is all in condemnation of the present law. Those of your Lordships who remember the debates of last autumn will recall how many words of warning came from those noble Lords who know the West and South of Ireland. They said then: "This Bill will not succeed," and, unfortunately, their prophecies have been fulfilled. What opinion there is in Ireland, as far as we can learn it from those of your Lordships who come from that country, is entirely against the policy which His Majesty' s Government have been following.
Now, my Lords, if force has failed and if the Act has failed, what is to be done? I have nothing to say at all against the Northern Parliament. I join with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Donough-more, in wishing all success to that Parliament, and I do not suppose that any of 634 us thinks that this Parliament ought to disturb an arrangement which has so recently been reached. We are not thinking of that. We are thinking of the South and West, and I want to know what course the Government propose to take. There are three courses that His Majesty' s Government may take. They may try to open, or resume, negotiations with the more moderate element, if there is any still left, in the Sinn Fein Party. I know how great the difficulties are, and I think one of the greatest of the difficulties is to be found in the growth of the power of the extremist element, which makes it more and more difficult for the moderate men to speak out and to have their way. I am not at all sure that some of those moderate men in Ireland who would like to negotiate are not now going in fear of their lives from the extremist party if they make any approach.
The second course would be to summon some body in Ireland which would have the capacity and the commission to construct a Constitution for the South and West of Ireland under which government might go on there. That experiment was tried in the case of the constitutional Convention some years ago, but I think it might be tried in a better way. Of course, it would have to be tried under the preliminary condition that no Constitution could be accepted by the British Parliament which did not recognise the ultimate supremacy of the British Parliament, and its control of the Army, Navy and foreign relations. That is clear. It is possible that in the present state of Ireland you could not get a Convention representing the general opinion of Ireland, and representing the moderate element among the Sinn Feiners, which would accept those conditions.
The third course, therefore, remains, and that is the one which I understand my noble friend to advocate in the Motion he has brought before your Lordships. That course is that the Government should come forward with a positive and specific proposal to amend the Act of last session, and to amend it on lines which would be likely to win the support and confidence of all that remains loyal in Ireland. They ought, in other words, to make a firm offer. They ought to say that they feel events have proved that they did not go far enough in the Act of last session. That is what the Lord-Lieutenant has substan- 635 tially told us. They ought to enlarge the scheme of last session, and enlarge it especially in the direction in which it was found most unsatisfactory.
The criticisms of Peers from the South and West of Ireland were almost entirely directed to financial questions. They pointed out that the financial position in which the Act left Southern Ireland was an impossible position, and that the Act offered no prospect of giving a Government which would be accepted by the country. They said that the Act could not be worked. The provisions of the Act ought to be re-cast upon the lines of the criticisms made last December. I would like to add that I do not think that where a question of money arises as between England and Ireland we ought to lie very careful or meticulous in insisting upon England' s rights in the matter. No man is more anxious that we should economise than I am. No one is more anxious that we should save money in every direction, but I believe we are losing more by the way in which we are trying to govern Ireland now than we should lose if we gave the most liberal treatment to Ireland.
Therefore, I venture to hope that financial considerations will not be allowed to stand in the way, and that the Government will approach the question with a desire to deal in the most liberal manner they can with Ireland, and to give her, if need be, more than justice requires, in order that we may bring about peace. That would be good policy in the long run. If I may be permitted to do so, I would adjure the Government to look round the world, and see that we are the only free country which has found itself unable to deal with the disaffected part of our nation. I beg them to remember how the good name and credit and influence of Great Britain are suffering in the world through what is passing in Ireland, and I appeal to them to endeavour to relieve us from the disgrace we are incurring.
§ LORD KILLANIN
My Lords, I did not intend to take part in this debate this afternoon, because I am rather in agreement with my noble friend, the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, who said that to introduce amendments to the Act at the present time, or to say- what amendments should be introduced, was rather premature. The only amendment that I would be willing to support to-night would 636 be one which is commonly moved in connection with Irish Bills, and that is an amendment to repeal the Home Rule Act. I have risen because there is one aspect of this question which has not been referred to to-night, and which I think is rather an interesting and an important one. I would ask your Lordships to endeavour to consider what will be, what must be, the effect of the results of the Election in the North of Ireland upon the South of Ireland. When the question of constituting a Northern Parliament was before this House there was a great deal of discussion as to what should be the size of the Northern Parliament, and what would be the effect of the Election there. In regard to the Southern Parliament the whole matter was a foregone conclusion, and our anticipations have been fulfilled. But in reference to the Northern Parliament there was considerable doubt as to what might occur.
In the course of the debates in this House, when the Government of Ireland Act was passing through it, many suggestions were made as to what should be the size of the area of the Northern Parliament, and as to what probably would be the complexion of the members returned to that Parliament. My recollection is that the very highest figures given in regard to the Northern area were that thirty-two Orangemen would be returned and twenty Nationalists. The results, however, have been very different. We have seen forty Orangemen out of 52 members returned to Parliament in the North of Ireland, only twelve Nationalists being returned. I think that is an interesting fact, and one that is bound to have an effect on the South of Ireland. The South must give attention to it. They must make up their minds what attitude they are now going to take towards that result.
Perhaps I may be allowed to recall the past for a little in reference to the relation of Unionists, on the one hand, and Nationalists on the other, to the formation of a Parliament in the North. The position we Unionists always took up was that we believed, if Home Rule were given, there would have to be partition in Ireland, and that there would have to be a Parliament in the North. We were opposed to that, because we cherished the identity and the unity of Ireland. Unionists wanted to keep Ireland within the Union because we saw that was the only way in which the I identity and unity of Ireland could be pre- 637 served. In the past, if you said to a Nationalist: "If you press your policy to the bitter end, it will only result in something to which you are opposed, and to which you as Nationalists ought to be more opposed than we as Unionists— namely, the partition of the country "— the Nationalist would reply: "The Northern question is all bluff. It is only action on the part of a handful of people." I am quoting words actually used by Nationalists.
What do they say when they find all their preconceived views as to how many Orangemen and how many Nationalists would be returned to the Ulster Parliament have been upset? They are now I up against a fact which, in Ireland, is very unusual. Perhaps I ought not to say against a "fact," because there are not: supposed to be any facts in Ireland. I think there was once a statement in the Press about a representative of the Government coming back to England from Ireland and being asked by the Premier here to give him the facts of the case. "Facts of the case?" he said, "There is no such thing as a fact in Ireland." But, strange to relate, we are up against this fact— that Ulster has asserted herself, and has shown that she exists. Nationalists, however opposed it is to their wishes, their hopes and ideals, are, I submit, bound to recognise it. They cannot get away from it. Over forty Orangemen have been returned to a Parliament now almost established in Ulster, and perhaps they are inclined to be rather too satisfied with themselves. They remind me of "Little Jack Horner" who "sat in a corner, and said 'What a good boy am I.' "But we have now to consider these facts, and I submit that the Sinn Feiners and Nationalists must, if they are to deal with the question in a statesmanlike way, take note of the situation as it exists now.
For the last few years it has not been very easy to know to what Party one belonged in Ireland; but if that was the case in the past, the issue now in Ireland is perfectly simple for all Nationalists and Unionists in the South of Ireland. The issue is whether you are in favour of the independence of Ireland, or the unity of Ireland; whether you are going to work for independence, or whether you are going to work for the unity of Ireland and submit every proposal to the test as to whether 638 it will tend towards the unity of that country. What is the attitude of Sinn Fein at present? Since the Election in the North they have given no expression to their views. Do they still say they are in favour of a Republic for Ireland? And if so, do they mean for all Ireland? Do they include Ulster in their demand for a Republic? If not, do they mean that they want a Republic for three-quarters only of Ireland? Are they willing to leave Ulster out, or are they, as I hope they are, willing now to take a more moderate view of the whole situation, give up their demand for independence, and work for what is a greater and more necessary thing—namely, the unity of Ireland.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, after the full statement that has been made by various noble Lords it may seem a work of supererogation on my part to try to elaborate the arguments so ably put forward, but as one who has taken a small part in the various negotiations on the Irish question, and, in doing so, has been obliged to sacrifice the most cherished political convictions of a lifetime, perhaps your Lordships will bear with me for a few moments. I returned from Ireland yesterday, and it is difficult to find adequate words to describe the miserable state of that country, which is getting daily worse and worse. Those who believe in the doctrines, though they may not approve the action, of Sinn Fein, live in constant dread of the Black and Tans, and those who rely for support on the. Auxiliary Forces of the Crown are in terror of a visit from flying columns of the Irish Republican Army.
Nor is the state of the Army of Occupation much better. You find men and officers virtually confined as prisoners to their barracks for fear of ambush if they should go out. Their only relaxation is on three or four nights in the week when they are taken in armoured cars to scour the country and round up Sinn Feiners on the run. The ordinary inhabitant finds that he cannot, with any pleasure or safety, go more than a mile or two from his own door. In many parts of Ireland there are trenches across the roads and the bridges have been blown up, and when that is not the case the action of the heavy military lorries, on roads which have not been built for that purpose, has been so injurious that they are almost impossible for vehicular traffic, because the county councils refuse to give 639 any money for the purpose of mending them. In addition to this the post in many parts of Ireland is only delivered once in ten days or a fortnight, and telegrams also take a long time to reach their destination.
Things are still worse in the towns. I wonder whether your Lordships realise the state of affairs in Dublin? I have calculated that in walking along the streets you are passed once in every three minutes by a motor lorry full of Black and Tans or military, travelling at a rate of 40 miles an hour and often followed by another car with a Lewis gun. These lorries have armoured sides and tops, but about two feet on each side is free from armour and filled with wire netting. Behind this you can see about a dozen soldiers, in their khaki and tin helmets, with their rifles protruding through the wire netting, apparently pointed at every pedestrian on the roadway. These peculiar cars have given rise to the story in Dublin that an old apple woman said that it was the Boers who put the British into khaki; it had taken the Germans to teach them to use tin helmets; but the Irish had done better, and had turned them into fowls and shut them up in hen coops.
While in Ireland I had an opportunity of talking with people of all shades of thought—Unionists, Nationalists, and Sinn Feiners. It is extraordinary how everybody seemed to talk of no other subject but the state of the country, whether in the tram, train, or anywhere else. One and all complained of the intolerable state of affairs, saying that it was impossible to live there, and wondering whether something could not be done to bring about a happier state of things. With the optimism; which is at the bottom of very Irishman' s I heart, they said that if half a dozen men would only meet together and talk things I over, the whole affair would be settled in twenty-four hours. When I inquired how they would settle the Irish question I am not quite sure that their terms would be approved by every Englishman, but, at any rate, they did not necessitate the creation of an Irish Republic. I lay emphasis on that point, because the argument is put forward that it is no good negotiating since the extremists will have nothing but a Republic. Irishmen say that they must ask for a good deal. They remark that if they ask for Dominion Home Rule they are certain the demand would be 640 whittled down, and noble Lords who know Ireland will understand that an Irishman always pitches his first demand pretty high for the purpose, of making a good bargain in the end.
Another thing which struck me as curious, and as showing the trend of the times, was that so many people in Ireland seemed to look on those of your Lordships in this House who come from Ireland as their friends and the only people who could effect something in the way of settlement. They do not say that the Sinn Feiners were wrong in not sitting in the House of Commons, but they feel acutely the. fact that they have no representatives there, and their only hope is in the Irish Peers who sit in your Lordships' House. Speaking for myself, I should be only too glad if I could be of any use whatever, but our experience in the past has been that any advice which we offered the Government is absolutely disregarded. We are asked over and over again, "Whom do you represent?" The noble Marquess, who is not now in his place, said so a few minutes ago. We have on many occasions, both privately and publicly, approached His Majesty' s Government and given them our advice. We have entreated them to take certain action. Our remarks have been received with cold courtesy and absolutely disregarded.
I can quote many instances in which this has happened. The first which recalls itself to my memory is the well-known instance of the occasion when the Conscription Bill was put in force. The strongest recommendations were then made to His Majesty' s Government by members of your Lordships' House. It was pointed out that the whole of the good effects which had arisen from the calling together of the Convention and the association of Irishmen of different trends of thought, and the friendly relations which had thus grown up between them, would be absolutely destroyed if the Act was put in force. Moreover, we told them that it would be impossible to enforce the Act. But, as we all know, that measure was passed in order to placate English Labour. What was the result? It was found impossible to enforce, conscription. The Sinn Feiners had an opportunity of saying that they had won a great victory over the British Government, and had been able to resist what they called the "blood tax" which the "enemy" was attempting to put upon 641 Ireland. I will not continue to give instances of the way in which our representations are received. One other will be familiar to your Lordships' House. Upon the introduction of the Home Rule Bill, none of the Southern Unionists were consulted, with the result that no advice could be given on the financial question, though that is the point on which that Act is at present breaking down.
Lastly, our advice that the Elections in Ireland should not take place has again been disregarded, with the result that we foretold. On June 28, Parliament is to be summoned to meet in Dublin. Of what will that Parliament consist? The House of Commons will consist of four members elected by Trinity College. As regards the Senate, it is possible and probable that those Peers who have been elected to that body, the Privy Councillors, and the members of the hierarchy of the Church of Ireland, will take the Oath. It is even doubtful whether the Lord-Lieutenant will be able to find gentlemen who will be willing to represent commerce and trade in a Parliament which they know will never come into being. The main body of Irishmen will be absent. There will not be a single representative of Irish counties or Irish boroughs, and, in the Senate, the democratic clement, which we were so anxious to see introduced through the representatives of the county councils, arid also that great and powerful body in Ireland, the Roman Catholic Church, will not take their seats.
What will be the result of that? We are told that a form of Crown Colony government is to be introduced. Who are going to constitute the Legislative Council which is to be set up? Nobody but the public officials, for I think I am right in saying that no senator who is willing to be elected as part of a constitutional Parliament, where the electors are duly and democratically represented in the Upper House, will be willing to take his place in a body of that kind. The Government would have to fall back upon Martial Law. There is no doubt that if they do that and make up their minds to reconquer Ireland it is in the power of England to do so. If blockhouses are placed all round, with barbed wire, and the country is driven, there is no doubt that eventually Ireland can be conquered. The Sinn Feiners will retire, using fire and sword as they retreat. And ultimately England will be the con- 642 queror of a country which will resemble the devastated areas of France after the Germans had retreated. Will that be a great honour for England? The malediction that one Irishman will cast upon another in years to come will not be the curse of Cromwell. I fear that in that case it would be the curse of the Prime Minister—one to whom we, in this country, think we owe so much for having so greatly assisted in winning the war.
Is there no other alternative? I believe that the spell is working, that the Sibyl is offering the books for the last time, and, that they may be accepted. I believe it is still possible to reconcile moderate opinion in Ireland by giving fiscal autonomy. I do not mean that no contribution shall be paid to the debt of this country. Various suggestions of that kind have been made; for instance, that there might be a fixed sum, or that Ireland should be enabled to raise a loan to pay up what is considered to be her share of the National Debt, and so start fair. Were this done I believe it might still be possible to induce the Southern Parliament to sit; and in the sitting of that Parliament lies our last hope of effectually bringing together, by consent, the Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland, and of once more re-uniting those two portions of the country which have been so rudely severed by the Government of Ireland Act.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I believe that it is not convenient for the Minister who represents His Majesty' s Government in this debate to reply this evening, and therefore it seems necessary that the debate should be adjourned. I beg leave, therefore, to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, on that Motion, I should express myself a little differently from the noble Marquess. I made careful inquiries whether it was the expectation that the debate should take one day or two. Had it been possible at that time to anticipate that the debate would take two days, I should, of course, have arranged that a Minister representing the Government would have been prepared to speak to-day as well as on the second day. Indeed, I should myself have replied most willingly this evening to the speeches that 643 have been made, but, inasmuch as it has become known to me that other speeches will be delivered in the adjourned debate, I cannot, I think, reconcile it with the duty which I owe to the House as a whole that I should not have an opportunity of replying to all the speeches that are made. I do not, of course, in any way disagree with the Motion of the noble Marquess; on the contrary, I concur in it.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I am sure everybody will acquit the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack of any imputation of discourtesy, but I confess 1 think it is high time that we offered a protest against a debate of this magnitude—a debate which touches issues of vital importance to the whole country—being always left to be decided by one statement on behalf of the Government. We think we have the right to ask that speeches such as those which have been made by five or six noble Lords this evening, and which require the most careful consideration by the Government, should have the attention of the Lord Chancellor and also the Leader of the House, and that, if it be necessary for any of us to reply to the Lord Chancellor, there should still be members of the Government ready to deal with the arguments which we bring forward. I venture to put this point, because, in debate after debate, the whole burden of discussion has been left to be borne by the noble and learned Lord.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I did not wish to impute the least discourtesy to the noble and learned Lord, who is always most courteous.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I should like to say on behalf of the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, that he very much regrets that he could not stay longer, although he remained a great deal longer than Lord Midleton seemed to indicate. Lord Curzon has eight hours work to-night, before leaving for the Continent to attend an important conference at 10 o' clock tomorrow morning. Therefore, I trust your Lordships will excuse him for not having been able to be here for more than an hour and three-quarters. May I suggest that the debate be resumed on Tuesday next?
§ On Question, Motion to adjourn the debate until Tuesday next, agreed to.