§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Duke of Devonshire.)212
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, during the discussion on this Bill I maintained silence—I hope I may say discreet silence—not because I was indifferent to the measure, for, indeed, during my long membership of this House I can recall no measure which has moved me so much or filled me with such grave anxiety for the future, but the logic of my noble friend who had charge of the Bill, and of his colleagues, always conveyed to us with great courtesy but also with some firmness, convinced me that any attempt, in the conditions which were before us, to modify the provisions of this measure would be wholly futile, and I therefore said nothing. But I am bound to say that I think the House owed a great deal to the comments of those Peers who did make observations upon the contents of the Bill. I feel sure that in cases of this kind nothing could be more unwise than to slur over the difficulties of the case, nothing could be so futile as to meet serious trouble by making believe that it does not exist. Therefore, I think that we owe a great debt to the noble Lords who commented freely upon the two Irish Bills.
I am not going to enter at length into the clauses of this Bill, but, if I may, I should like to lay very briefly before the House one or two impressions which have been left on my mind by the discussions which have taken place. My first impression is that there has never been a case in which Parliament has been so completely denied all opportunity of shaping or modifying the contents of a great measure. My noble and learned friend behind me, Lord Carson, dealt fully with that point the other evening, and I will not try to amplify what he said. At every stage we were carefully shepherded by the late Government and convinced that that particular opportunity was not a suitable one for going into detail. The fact is that this Bill and this Constitution have been made in Ireland and imposed upon the Parliament of this country.
Another impression that remains upon my mind is that those representatives of the loyalists of Southern Ireland who, like my noble friend Lord Midleton, who is not here to-night, made a great effort to obtain consideration for their claims to fair treatment, have been very shabbily treated indeed. Lord Midleton's story, as he told it to your Lordships the other evening, 213 seemed to me to be a very pathetic one, and I heard it with great sympathy. In the earlier stages of the controversy he was switched on to the Provisional Government leaders; he was given to understand that there were better prospects of doing business out of court than through the usual official channels. He was received with protestations of good will, written promises and assurances, of which great capital was made at the time. But now, at the end of the whole affair, he conies back, we may almost say, empty handed, faced with the complete frustration of all the hopes which he had been encouraged to form.
In one particular, I think he has every right to complain of his treatment; I mean in the arrangement which was ultimately made with regard to the Free State Senate. I do not suppose that I misrepresent your Lordships when I say that all of us are Two-Chamber men; that none of us believe in government in a civilised community by a Single Chamber; and I think I may add that we all of us believe that the Second Chamber should be given real and not illusory powers. If ever there was a country in which it was necessary that you should have the protection afforded by an efficient Second Chamber, Ireland is that country. We who know Ireland know that it is part of the unwritten law of the Irish jungle that when the top dog gets his teeth firmly embedded in the throat of the other one the top dog shows very little mercy. That has been the experience of Ireland, and I think it most unfortunate that in this particular matter so little care should have been taken to protect the minority which will always be a minority in Southern Ireland.
The next impression that remains upon my mind is that this Bill is a very unsatisfactory and a very imperfectly conceived measure. I fail altogether in my efforts to reconcile the Irish Constitution with the Treaty upon which it is supposed to be founded. We are told to find consolation in what I think Lord Sumner called the other day the "overhead clause" in which it is laid down that where the Treaty and the Constitution do not agree the Treaty is always to prevail. There may be some consolation to be found in that, but I still maintain that we are left in complete suspense upon a number of points which I think may fairly be described as cardinal points in this arrangement.
214 I will cite some of them. In the first place there are the clauses which deal with the question of citizenship and the rights of British subjects in Ireland. I notice that the Lord Chancellor, in referring to these clauses the other day, spoke of the "difficult and ambiguous provisions" contained in the Bill. It is not very comforting that a question of such magnitude and importance should be dealt with by provisions which can be so described. We are also left in great uncertainty as to the most important question of the control which can be exercised by the British Government over Irish legislation. The other evening my noble friend beside me (Lord Selborne) pointed out the wide divergence between the clause in the Bill which deals with this point and the corresponding clause in the British North America Act. I am sure my noble friend is right upon that point.
My noble friend in charge of the Bill, like myself, has been concerned with the British North America Act, and he will remember that under that Act it is clearly laid down that, even if a measure is passed by both Canadian Houses of Parliament, and not reserved or disallowed by the Governor-General—even then, within two years afterwards, the Crown, acting upon the advice of a Secretary of State, has the power of disallowing and annulling that measure. That certainly is not what is to happen under the Bill which I hold in my hand. Under that think it is in Clause 41—it seems to be laid down that if a Bill passes the Irish House of Commons, and afterwards passes the Senate by effluxion of time during the statutory nine months, and is thereafter not disallowed or reserved by the President, that Bill becomes law and there is no more to be said about it. That seems to me to be a very important discrepancy, and I do not think my noble friend beside me was sufficiently answered upon that point the other evening.
A third point seems to me to remain dangerously in suspense. I mean the position in which this country will find itself should we hereafter be engaged in war. How shall we stand with regard to the facilities which Ireland is bound to provide, and what will be our position generally? That point was dealt with by Lord Sydenham in the other evening, and, to the best of my belief, his argument has not been answered. May I say one word with regard to the idea that all these difficulties may be overcome by reference to the 215 Canadian Constitution. I must protest altogether against the idea that there is any real analogy between the Canadian case and the Irish case. My noble friend beside me pointed out that there was a good deal of difference between a country which is separated from this country by sixty miles of sea and a country which is separated from it by 6,000 miles. Apart from that the whole atmosphere is different. Ask anybody whether he can conceive that any section of the community in Canada would have been likely to deal us in the middle of a great war the kind of stab in the back which was given to us by Ireland in the year 1916. The thing is unthinkable.
But do let us remember when we quote the British North America Act what that Act was. That Act was a great drawing together of a number of communities. Row does the Preamble of the Act run? It says this—Whereas Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have expressed the desire to be federally united in one Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland…And then the provisions of the Bill follow. That was, so to speak, a marriage; this Bill is a judicial separation, a breaking up of the United Kingdom, and the case is wholly different.
There is one other rather painful impression that this measure leaves upon my mind. I am afraid there can be no doubt that, instead of being accepted as we hoped it would be with gratitude and demonstrations of loyalty, it has been accepted by a considerable number of people, including, I fear, more than one of the Irish Ministers, as a jumping-off point from which to obtain further concessions leading in the direction of the establishment of an Irish Republic which both the late and the present Government have solemnly undertaken that nothing will induce them to accept. That is a very discouraging symptom.
Having mentioned one or two points that seem to me to be disquieting, may I say that from the debates which have taken place I have gathered at any rate one crumb of comfort owing to the manner in which His Majesty's Ministers have dealt with the very important question of the ultimate liability of the British Government to make good certain obligations the existence of which they admit. I refer particularly to what was said in reference to the pensions of dismissed civil servants. 216 I noted with great satisfaction the form of words used by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. He said that His Majesty's Government are "bound to see that the just and fair thing is done." That is a very admirable sentence, and although the late Government gave hints i n that direction, I am glad to think that their successors have said the same thing with a great deal more emphasis and distinctness of phrasing. That pronouncement had reference to the question of pensions. The same principle, however, applies, no doubt, to the question of the compensation claimed by persons who have suffered from malicious injury, and I hope it will be also found to apply to another somewhat kindred question which is sure to come up, and must come up for solution —I mean the question of Irish land purchase which everybody has agreed ought to be solved as soon as possible in an amicable fashion.
At this point I wish to correct, if I may, one misapprehension which I think something that I said must have created in the mind of the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead. The noble Earl suggested to the House that I had proposed that His Majesty's Government should assume all these liabilities and thus relieve the Irish Government of them; that we should say, in effect: "Do not you worry about all these things, we are prepared to foot the bill." And he argued, very logically, that if that were to be said it would be a distinct inducement to the Free State Government not to meet their liabilities and to leave us to meet them. That was not my intention at all. Far from desiring to relieve the Irish Government of these liabilities, my hope is that His Majesty's Government, by using Judiciously the undoubted opportunities which will be presented to them for taking counsel with the Irish Ministers, for giving that guidance which an experienced Government can give to one which is not experienced, opportunities perhaps presented by the possibility of giving or withholding financial assistance, or the use of British credit—that by using those opportunities His Majesty's Government will find it possible, not to relieve the Irish Government of their liabilities, but to induce the Irish Government to meet those liabilities punctually and honourably.
Although I have offered one or two criticisms of this Bill, it is certainly very far from my desire to obstruct it in any 217 way. Indeed, so far as I am able to assist in making it work properly and easily, I am ready to assist to the best of my ability, and I think it must have been satisfactory to my noble friend the other evening to see one Irish Peer after another rising in his place and saying that he would leave no effort, unmade to bring about a satisfactory solution of all these difficulties. But it is of no use to disguise from ourselves the fact that, as Lord Birkenhead told the House, we are only at the beginning of a very long and arduous road. He would indeed be a bold man who would take upon himself to anticipate the windings of that road, or to forecast the end of it. I will make one prediction only—a negative prediction. I feel deeply convinced that the end of the road will not be found in the Bill which is on the Table.
That Bill seems to me, if you regard it as an opportunist transaction with a dangerous adversary, perhaps the best arrangement which the circumstances admit, but, regarded as a piece of constructive statesmanship, I believe it to be unworkable and full of danger. The merit which I discern in it is that it will give to each of the watertight compartments into which we have unfortunately subdivided Ireland, when they have had experience of the working of this new freedom which has been given to them, when they have taken stock of the advantages and disadvantages that they have gained, the chance of considering whether, after all, it will not be best for the whole country that they should join hands and make it their common object to create a prosperous, efficient and contented Ireland. That is the aspiration of almost every patriotic Irishman with whom I have discussed this question. It is an aspiration which I share from the bottom of my heart.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I ask your Lordships' permission to say a few words. Like the noble Marquess, I have sat silent during these debates, but for a different reason. It may fall to me in the course of judicial duties to have to interpret this Constitution, and I should feel myself in danger of being embarrassed hereafter if I had said much at present. That about which I do wish to say a very few words now is the broader point which was made by the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess is one whom we in this House admire, and, if he will let me say it, regard with affection. He is always sincere. He is always in search of truth, and we know 218 that his speech to-night was inspired by a profound belief. But it is a belief that is also characteristic. He has never been an adventurous person, nor has he been prepared to take steps into the future without very clearly seeing the nature of the ground on which he is going to put his foot.
Unfortunately, in the, constitution of the British Empire, and in the history of that Empire, our course has had to be quite different. He spoke of Canada. How did we settle our relations with Canada? How did we get peace with Canada after the Durham report, when Canada was in a state of partial rebellion? How did we get peace in Australia? The position was never so serious there, but anybody who has read the Despatches in the time of the Duke of Newcastle to the Governors of the Australian States knows what conditions of extreme friction there were in those days. We gave that up, acting upon a new principle, the principle on which the Government is asking the House to act to-night.
We are asked to take a momentous step, the last in a long series, and it is this. Instead of trying to hold Ireland back we are inviting Ireland to take responsibility upon herself, and to put things right. We seek to give her the utmost liberty we can. I say the "utmost." The noble Marquess has complained that this Constitution has not been debated by Parliament, but that it has been produced in Ireland, brought over by the Government, adopted by them, and rather forced upon Parliament. I think, in a limited sense, that is true. But is it consistent with the nature of the situation that any other course should have been taken? What is this settlement that we have made? It is the settlement of a bloody warfare. It is a truce made almost literally upon the field of battle.
I have never been one of those who took the view that the state of things with which we had to deal only a few months ago was one which resolved itself into the grievances of individual Irish citizens. It was a question which affected the whole nation. The real reason of suffering in Ireland was that the Government here was in conflict with Irish democracy. That may be the fault of Irish democracy, but you put that democracy there, you gave it these institutions, and if you would not recognise them, well, the natural consequence, the Irish temperament being what it is, was that which happened, that we were at civil war 219 with Ireland a short time ago. Literally, it was a bloody conflict.
I never was one of those who abused the Government for resorting to the necessary means of waging war. I felt that the situation was too serious. I am not one of those who think that we have to consider that condition of things as one in which it wanted only courage to decide the other way. It was very easy to decide the other way. If we had chosen to put our whole strength into the effort we could easily have crushed Ireland. It is a military operation which I have discussed with soldier after soldier. It might have been a long business, and a costly one, but there was no difficulty in utterly reconquering Ireland, and putting down the rebellion.
Then arose a question which was not for the soldier but for Parliament and the nation. To what end; to what purpose? Do you think that would have been final? Do you think you would have had a chance of succeeding? Can you do those things properly if you have got democratic institutions? No, you cannot. The evil will recur. All our efforts and all our expenditure would have helped us no further on. Therefore, the Government made a Treaty on the field of battle. That is why the Treaty is so sacred. It was a Treaty between two opposing forces. I dare say the people of Ireland realised as clearly as the people here that the contest was an unequal one, and relied on our not pushing it to its conclusion, but, as we were pushing it, and had begun to push it fairly hard, they thought it better to make a peace, and that peace is embodied in the Articles of Agreement. That is why the Articles of Agreement did not come before Parliament. You do not make a truce, you do not make the terms of Armistices, you do not even make the Treaties which embody them, in Parliament. The Government must be responsible for them, for better or for worse. That is always so when you are dealing with war.
We are here with this Treaty. The noble Marquess says it is defective in many respects. I rather agree with him in that—there are many points which I could criticise—but the substance of the noble Marquess's complaint is that really we have not discussed it and put these things right. We could not put them right; they were settled in Ireland. We were bound, and had to be bound. The noble Marquess has spoken of the Constitution of Canada, and 220 he said that in Canada a Bill can still be vetoed within two years after it has been passed by the two Houses of Parliament. He knows Canada very well from one point of view and I know it from another point of view, but I would ask him when has that power been acted upon in recent years, or dreamt of being acted upon? I can conceive nothing more embarrassing than the proposition that an Act passed by the Dominion Parliament of Canada should be vetoed after it has received the assent of the Governor-General. It is impossible. The British North America Act was passed in 1867. Since then the tide of democracy has flowed on, and you do not do these things now. The very policy which has been adopted of giving the Colonies their head has attached them closer to us, and it would be inconsistent with that policy to make the least use of the power of which the noble Marquess has spoken. It would have been most abnormal to put this power into the Irish Constitution; it would have led to great friction.
There is another Constitution which Lord Novar knows well, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. That was passed by Parliament in 1900. Are there in that Constitution the provisions which there are in the Canadian Constitution? Not a bit. The executive powers of the Crown are vested in the Governor-General advised by Australian Ministers. The Commonwealth of Australia is given large powers of changing the Constitution itself without reference to Parliament here. If ever there was a Constitution which gave freedom more complete and full than that contained in the four corners of the Bill which I hope we are now going to read a third time, it was the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia.
All this shows that in this matter we have only two alternatives. You may conquer Ireland, or you may carry out the peace you have made with Ireland on the battle field. You must do one or other, and, therefore, I am unmoved by what the noble Marquess has said. I realise that he does not wish to throw out this Bill, or even to alter it. All he says is that we should have taken a different course. If I am right there is no different course. Possibly the Bill might have been better drafted, and possibly the negotiations might have been better; I cannot tell. But to me there is no alternative in the notion of introducing these various amend- 221 ments and improvements of which the noble Marquess has spoken.
To-night, the Government are inviting us to pass the final stage of this great measure. I think it is one of the greatest things any Government ever did. I may be wrong; my faith is only based on the observations of other cases. But I have observed the British Empire, and I have observed how its stability and strength have come from the trust and freedom we have given to all its Dominions and Commonwealths. Ireland, it, is true, is only sixty miles away from these shores. It is a difficult case. I do not think it will be so easy, or come right so quickly, as those we have been dealing with, but I am sure that on the basis of probability there was no other way of dealing permanently or efficiently with the terrible evil that has been confronting us all these years in Ireland, and for myself I have no hesitation in congratulating the Government on having attained the final stage in one of the greatest measures that has ever been submitted to the British Parliament.
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, I am very loath to speak but I take such an entirely different view of the position which this country holds in relation to Ireland under this Treaty, as it is called, from that of the noble and learned Viscount who has just spoken that I should like to make a few observations to your Lordships. The noble and learned Viscount says that this Treaty was a truce on the field of battle in a bloody war. It was not a war waged by this country. It was a war waged by the Irish people in which you had to acknowledge you were beaten. The full effects of this throughout the Empire and throughout the who e world will perhaps not be entirely realised for many years to come.
But when the noble and learned Viscount says that it was a truce upon the field of battle in a bloody war, what was the truce? It was a truce in which you did not insert one line for the protection of your own friends. It was exactly as if, when you were beaten in the course of the war at Gallipoli by the Turks, you had turned your backs and said: "We will not run the risk of taking our troops from Gallipoli. We will leave them to the tender mercies of the Turks." Those of your Lordships who are interested are, I hope, proud of the truce. It was the most cruel, the most cowardly, scuttling away; the desertion 222 and abandonment of men who only a few months before you yourselves had been using for the purpose of trying to maintain you authority in Ireland. It was the action of this country in so manipulating events prior to the truce that has brought upon these unfortunate people the terrible acts of vengeance which have been going on since this truce on the field of battle in this bloody war was announced.
It is chiefly upon that part of the matter that I desire to say a few words. I care about the loyalists of Ireland; a good many of you do not. The truce is now nearly a year old. Have you looked back over the year since the peace came? Are you looking at it to-day? Have you any conception in your own mind of what your own friends have gone through in that year? I have before me a statement made by the late Prime Minister when speaking in the House of Commons on the day he brought this Treaty, as he called it, before it. Just listen to what he said, and contrast it from your own knowledge, such as it may be, of the reality—By this Agreement we win to our side a nation of deep, abiding and even passionate loyalties.Let us all get microscopes and try to find out if there is a scintilla of evidence to give the noble Viscount such hopes. In such conditions, it would not be taking too hopeful a view of the future to imagine that the last peril of the British Empire is past.
The right hon. gentleman afterwards went on to say—… the old motto that 'England's danger is Ireland's opportunity' will have a new meaning. As in the case of the Dominions in 1914, our peril will be her danger, our fears will be her anxieties, our victories will be her joy.And what has happened in one year? I wish I could draw your Lordships a real picture. To those who were loyal to you in Ireland it has been a year of hell. It is still hell, and it is because I do not know how long you are going to tolerate such a condition of affairs if it continues, or how far you can ever interfere again, that I rise to address your Lordships most sincerely and with deep and grave anxiety to-night.
During that year, almost every house of any importance in Ireland has been burned down. Men have been taken out of their beds, because they served you in the war, or because they served you in the 223 year before the Treaty as those whom you selected to put down crime — taken out one after the other, and shot dead. All law has vanished from Ireland. All protection is at an end in Ireland. I should like to know how many of your Lordships have ever pictured the daily life of those who wanted to live in peace when you had withdrawn from them any chance of even the slightest protection while they were carrying out their ordinary work. I saw a gentleman from Ireland the other day and he told me that his wife had been to a hospital in Dublin to see a patient, and that she came away from the hospital with a broken heart, because she found the hospital full of ravished ladies. Even that, probably the basest of all crimes, has become a commonplace in Ireland at the present time. I cannot go into the cases that are brought before me from day to day. There are hundreds of them. They have worn me out, and they would wear out anyone who had any humanity about him.
Perhaps your Lordships would like to hear a short description of the state of Ireland from one who is not connected with the kind of views that I have held in relation to the Government of that country. I have here a lecture on "Anarchy in Ireland," delivered by the Rev. Mr. Gannon, a Jesuit priest, and himself a Sinn Feiner.
§ LORD CARSON
Last month, I think, or the month before. Do you want the exact date? It was on October 14. Just listen to this:Ten years ago life had still a certain sanctity. Now it has none. Men shoot their fellow countrymen with apparently as little compunction as would be felt in shooting a pheasant or a snipe before. Blood-letting has become the order of the day.He went on to say that, unless they could get back, and that very quickly, to their reverence for life, they might put up the shutters and attach crape to the front door of civilisation.
Then he comes to the Treaty. He says:A year ago I thought we had escaped from the maelstrom in which so much was perishing, but Ireland has been drawn backwards towards the maelstrom by some treacherous undertow or current, and sucked under. It is to-day a country with a broken heart. I have heard a farm labourer's wife ask, 'I wonder whether we shall ever again be as well off as under the English'; and if that be not despair, what is? I have heard another poor old woman, whose son had 224 been on the run from the Black and Tans, and whose husband had had his eye blown out by a mine left by these worthies in a field trench near his door, exclaim: 'I had rather the Black and Tans were back than see the fine bays—for they are fine boys, Father—killing one another.' Ireland is more like an asylum now than a gaol, but an asylum where even mental aberration cannot foster hope. For me, the history of the last twelve months is just inexplicable. It is also very terrifying, as pointing to some inherent defect in the national character.I suppose the noble Viscount thinks I ought to join in congratulations at the making of such a truce.
If ever in the future this Constitution is to succeed—and I need hardly say that I naturally wish it success—in my opinion you have already paid too big a price for the honour of this country, and for the preservation of civilisation. How these people have suffered in the last twelve months, and how they are suffering to-day ! I have heard men describe how they could never get one wink of sleep, night after night, not knowing whether their house was the next one, until they were actually broken down in body and spirit and nerves. I personally can thank God that nearly all my relatives have been able to come away, and that is the only consolation they can have as a reward for having been loyal subjects of the Crown.
The truce has already been a failure, and nothing that can come of it in the future can ever blot out the terrible stain which the making of it brought on British honour. What a picture ! Look even at Downing Street twelve months ago and now. Two men who were negotiating this Treaty, which was to bring us a deep, abiding and passionate loyalty, had hardly gone home when they were foully murdered, and then another who was there is shot by the men—and I am not complaining; I have no right to complain—who were on that day his colleagues. Look on your own side. A man who was your greatest soldier at that time foully murdered on his own doorstep; and that is not at all the only tragedy in his family, for his brother's beautiful old place was shortly afterwards burned down, with everything in it that he possessed. The brother of that gallant soldier is now living in humble lodgings in an English village, shattered in health and broken in spirit. I saw him lately, and I assure you it was hard to bear—the wreckage which all this had brought about.
My only consolation is that the other negotiators have gone out of office. I 225 would have more consolation if so many of them had not been willing to come into the present Government. It is, however, some consolation, and it has been added to a little by this, that I observed that Mr. Austen Chamberlain, then supposed to be a Unionist leader, has said that it was from the moment of the signing of this Treaty that the Coalition began to topple down. Of course it was, and I am glad of it. It is the just reward of the treachery of which he was at the head, and so may it always be. So may the public always value the men who act as he acted in relation to this matter.
Well, there is the picture, and what I want to ask is this: We have had a year of the Irish Government, unable to afford protection to anybody,£35,000,000 or £40,000,000 of property destroyed, trade almost at a standstill, murder rife throughout the land, the whole of the railway system brought into such a condition that it is impossible for people to move about—and I want to ask the Government what is to be their policy in the future if that continues. People go on saying you must give the Treaty a fair chance. Of course you must. I love a platitude. It is always so easy to agree. But they have had a year. What progress have they made? I venture to say they are weaker to-day than they were a year ago, and the terror which haunts me is that if once this Bill is passed His Majesty's Government, and the people of Great Britain, will at once begin to wash their hands and say: "We have nothing more to do with Ireland; let the Irish manage for themselves." That, of course, only means, after all, that you will go on treating your friends there as you treated them at the time of the Treaty. I do not believe that is a possible course.
The noble Marquess talked of Ireland as being sixty miles away. It is more like twenty. Do you imagine you can have this sort of thing going on and becoming what I may call the normal life of Ireland? Do you imagine you can have that going on within twenty miles of your shores without a reaction in this country and throughout the whole of your Empire? It is impossible. Therefore, I ask the Government to give us a clear declaration. If the Irish Government is unable to afford protection to British subjects in Ireland, what is going to be the attitude of His Majesty's Government? You may say that I ought not to ask the question. You 226 would not object if I asked you about Turkey or Mesopotamia or Palestine. But Ireland ! Yes, I believe one member of the late Cabinet used to say that everything would go well in Ireland "if it were not for those infernal loyalists." That is my first question.
Is there any hope for them? Do not imagine, because you do not see things reported in the papers, that things are any better. That has all been part of the great conspiracy. It was one of the most wonderful attributes of the late Prime Minister that he could always get up the "joy bells," as if a defeat was a victory or a crime was a virtue. It did not matter; it only depended upon the manipulation of the Press. I have read within the last two days an account, relating to a lonely part of Galway, of marauders going in, burning down a church there, then calmly walking over and burning down the rectory, and, not being satisfied, burning down the schools. What do you think that means in that little district, with only scattered Protestants? It means the wiping out of the community. Where will they ever get money again to build a church, or schools, or a rectory? The account appeared in three lines in the Press, and I suppose many people merely glanced at it and said: "Oh! another church burnt down" ! Do try to picture to yourselves what is the meaning of such an occurrence in a scattered community.
So, day by day, this sort of thing goes on. I read yesterday in a newspaper that the fine mansion lately belonging to Sir Edward Harland (who was a member of the other House in my time) in County Louth had been looted. A crowd appeared there the other day and stripped it of everything it contained. It was full of priceless things, and they brought up carts and horses, and those who were too poor to have horses and carts brought donkeys. They stripped it of everything they could get, and walked away in broad daylight. There was no secrecy about it. And nothing is done. How long is that to go on?
Then the noble Marquess referred to the answers that have been given about compensation. So far so good, but what you want is speedy action. You are dealing with starving people. A man came to me the other evening who has a large property and many tenants, but nothing but the rents. He has had none for two years because the people have really taken pos- 227 session of every particle of property that is available. He said to me: "Apart from this property I have not a shilling. I have to live down there because I have nowhere else to go. I was fired at twice last week. I should not mind all that, but I have got a poor old stepmother, who is eighty years of age and bedridden. I have her in a home where she is looked after, because she has a jointure of £300 a year upon my property, but I cannot pay it; I have not got 300 pence." I think he went to one of our organisations and got an advance of a hundred or two pounds while he was over here. He said to me: "My poor, bedridden old stepmother, who lived in affluence and was looked to all her life as a fine lady ! There is nothing for me to do but to take her into the infirmary, and let her die there." That is only one case out of thousands.
Another man came to me the other day, and gave me an account of what had happened shortly before in his old place, where his family had lived for years. He had an aged mother, over eighty also, who had lived there for over sixty years. At three o'clock in the morning the raiders came to the house. They took the old lady out of bed, and would not allow her to put on her clothes. They brought her down, and put her, standing in her nightdress, upon the lawn in the middle of the night, in order that she might be a spectator of the burning down of all that she had lived with during her whole life, and of everything that she cared for in the whole world. Was any one brought to justice? There was no effort made even to exercise punitive justice upon the scoundrels and ruffians who did all this.
May I again suggest—I know it is very tedious, but I am afraid I shall have to go on suggesting—that the Government ought to set up a statutory Commission to deal with these cases where people are in want. It is no use telling them that in five, ten, or fifteen years they may get something. They want it now, and, after all, it is not a very great price to pay. You have agreed to a revolution in Ireland: do not do it on the cheap. Try to save these people from their misery, or some of it. The late Lord Chancellor said that however bloody the road was we must go along it. How easy it is for those who have not to travel the bloody road to make that kind of observation. I do exhort His Majesty's Government to take this matter seriously in band. I do not doubt their 228 promises. I have as much confidence in the present Prime Minister and, if I may say so, in the present Lord Chancellor and the present Deputy Leader of the House of Lords as I have in any three men in public life. I do not doubt them. But these things pass away. Somehow or other, they get out of the public mind. You become suddenly interested in something that happens in Armenia, or Turkey, or Mesopotamia, or somewhere else, and you forget these fallen soldiers in the war. They did your work and your bidding in the past, and then they are forgotten.
The noble Marquess said that one of the unfortunate things about this Bill is that it is not going to be the end. It certainly is not. But never has a great Government gone ahead with its eyes open—or, if they are not open, who have had such opportunities of having them opened—as the British Government has in relation to this matter. Anybody who has followed the course of Irish events since the Treaty knows perfectly well that all those concerned on the other side in passing this Constitution have over and over again announced that it is only a stepping stone to make it easy to go still further. I am not going to trouble the House by reading extracts to prove that, though I have them here; I assume that the House follows these matters. But there is one of them from the late Mr. Collins, who has said over and over again that the difference between themselves and those whom they are fighting in Ireland is only a difference of a shadow, of a method of getting to the ultimate goal.
I believe both the last Government and this have laid down that they will not allow a Republic. Will you permit me to say, without giving offence, that I do not believe it? I believe that if they started a Republic to-morrow there would be another Treaty on the field of battle. The only thing I am doubtful about is whether there would be any battle at all. Why, if it was not worth while defending all the friends you have had, and all the vantage points you have had in Ireland, how can you go there now after you have handed them all over to the enemy, and say, "So far and no farther." I do not believe it. You are too busy in Palestine making a home for the Jews of the whole world. You are too busy in Mesopotamia getting oil concessions. What matters it about Ireland? It is only here at the heart of the Empire. Yes, perhaps a day will 229 come—do not imagine that I wish it would come—when all this will have to be reconsidered, not from an Irish point of view, but from an Imperial point of view, from the point of view of the United Kingdom.
You are about to pass this Bill. Let us take one subject that has never been discussed, the effect of allowing Ireland to have an Army, and let me quote to your Lordships a great authority—Nobody wishes to manage their domestic affairs, the Irish domestic affairs, but dangerous weapons like armies and navies I think we had better not trust them with. It would hurt them to grasp weapons of that kind. For the sake of Ireland they had better not have an army. As far as I am concerned, and I am speaking on behalf of the Government, we shall certainly resist out and out any attempt for an army being set up in Ireland at our doors to menace the very existence of the United Kingdom.That was said by the late Prime Minister a few months before he entered upon this Treaty which brought us the undying love —I always forget the exact words and I like to be accurate—the deep, abiding, and passionate loyalty of these people. But he went further and said more. He said this—If Ireland were given this power—that is, the power of having an army—Ireland could enact conscription, and that would mean we should have to enact, conscription here, too.Then a few months afterwards, he grants it, and now what have they got? An Army of 30,000 men.
What strikes me as so extraordinary about any discussion of a matter of that kind is this. Although the motives and the views of the late Prime Minister may change in a month or two, somehow or another Ireland is exactly where it was. It does not move any further away; its Army does not become any the less menacing because the views of the late Prime Minister change. And now they have got an Army of 30,000 men, costing £229 per man per annum, in a population of about 3,500,000. The latest rumour is that they are going to have conscription, for several men have come to me and told me they were leaving Ireland, and that nothing would induce them to allow any of their family to be conscripted. 30,000 men ! Does not that show that the whole position was entirely underrated and entirely unknown to the late Government when they made this truce? It is, of course, for this country to assess in their own minds the danger of such all Army. Your Lordships are going to assent to it 230 by your vote in a few moments, but you have never even discussed it. I discussed it with the late Sir Henry Wilson. I well knew his views upon the subject, and he was no mean authority.
It says in the Bill that you are to have facilities for the Fleet in time of war. If Ireland is hostile just imagine what it would mean to go and ask leave to send a few ships into Queenstown or any of the other places where it is necessary to keep your Fleet in time of war, with a hostile Army of 30,000, say, round the hills outside the port. If this Bill had been in operation during the late war and you had had a hostile Ireland to your west, you never could have won the war, and I say that having had experience for many months as First Lord of the Admiralty while we were daily losing merchant and many other ships off the Irish Coast. I am further fortified in that view by a great strategist, the late Prime Minister. What did he say—I saw a map the other day that was captured, a German map, a map circulated to show how Britain was having her fleet destroyed, and the coast of Ireland was black with British shipping they had sunk in the Atlantic, in the Irish Sea, and in St. George's Channel. It is girdled with British wrecks. Yes, and British seamen are there too, and we are to hand over Ireland to be made a base of the submarine fleet, and we are to trust to luck in the next war. Was there ever such lunacy proposed by anybody? (Loud cheers.)All these are great Imperial questions. They concern you and, as far as I, a humble individual, have a right to express views, they concern me. But they concern you not only in relation to Ireland, not only in relation to England and to Scotland, but in relation to the whole Empire. Aye, and in relation to the maintenance of your whole position as a first-rate Power upon the Continent and elsewhere. Yet all these things are passed without one word of discussion either in the House of Commons or in this House; and you call that Parliamentary Government.
So far as I am concerned, if this Bill turns out well I hope I may enjoy the happiness of seeing Ireland peaceful. I shall certainly be entitled to no credit because I would not take the credit, even if I had been in the original negotiations, at the cost of sacrificing all whom I know to be the very best friends of this country in Ireland. But so long as I am able I shall continue so far as I can to attract the attention of this House and of the public to the wrongs of those men whom you have abandoned and who, so far, have received 231 little or nothing at your hands but kind words. Therefore, the chief aim and object with which I have spoken to-night is that I may do whatever in me lies to bring home to the Government a sense of the grave responsibility that rests upon them of seeing that there is immediate relief for those men who in the past have been their best friends.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has been so good as to give me permission to call attention to a point in Article 3 of the First Schedule. Under that Article a great many British subjects will to-morrow become citizens of the Free State. A great many of them are not aware of it. It says at the end of the Article thatthe conditions governing the future acquisition and termination of citizenship in the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) shall be determined by law.The question which I venture to put to the noble and learned Viscount is whether a British citizen can by leaving Ireland terminate his citizenship with its privileges and liabilities, or whether it is only by such future legislation of the Irish Free State Parliament that such termination can be brought about.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, it is not an easy task to attempt to follow a speech such as that to which we have just listened from my noble and learned friend, Lord Carson. I can well sympathise, and I know your Lordships sympathise, with him, and with all that he represents, but, if I may venture to do so, I would most respectfully ask what useful purpose is served by a speech of that character at this moment? We, as a Government, could have made it clear from the very outset of the Election that we were not bound by any Treaty which had been made before we came into Office. We were committed to no promise. We had a clear field, and we could take what action we wished. After full deliberation the Prime Minister committed himself to the policy of carrying out the legislation necessary for the implementing of the Treaty.
I hope I have no occasion to assure your Lordships that that was no mere vote-catching or electioneering decision. It was a policy deliberately arrived at for the sole purpose of endeavouring, so far as lay in our power to bring about a better and a 232 happier condition of things in Ireland. Though it would indeed have been a heavy responsibility for us to undertake, if we had made the choice, and the taxpayers of this country had been willing to endorse it, I have little or no doubt that it would have been possible, by force of arms, to produce a nominal peace in Ireland. Whether it would have settled the long-drawn-out agonies of Ireland is a matter upon which, at any rate, there would be considerable doubt. We took the course that we have taken fully aware of what it entailed, and aware that we might be making it difficult for those who have been our keenest friends in the past to give us their support in the future. I should wish to assure my noble and learned friend who has just spoken that it is in no idle or perfunctory sense that I use the words when I say that we do realise that a heavy responsibility rests upon us, and I think, if I may say so, that it is a little unworthy of him to say what he did.
Our minds are not going to be distracted from the clear sense that we have of our duty by what may be taking place in Palestine, Mesopotamia, or elsewhere. We have a great duty to perform, and we intend to perform it courageously and honestly. It may be said that these are mere idle words from me, but I can assure your Lordships that it is the intention of the Government to give the new Irish Government the fullest and freest opportunity of exercising the undoubted rights which will be conferred upon it by the passage of this Bill.
We have an equal responsibility, reference to which has been made in the course of these debates, in relation to compensation, land purchase, and the position of servants of the Crown. It is for us who have accepted that responsibility to see that full and ample justice is rendered in all cases. If you ask me to say at this moment how and when we are going to do that, I must reply that it is impossible for me to return a categorical answer. I can only say that we do realise those responsibilities, and that we shall act upon them, even if we have to make considerable demands upon the people of this country. We shall not hesitate to do that if we think it is our duty to do so. I can only leave the matter in that position.
On the other hand, your Lordships will, I hope, not think that a short month of administration of Irish affairs has entirely converted me from my previous convic- 233 tions. The question which I hear again and again is: "Can the new Trish Government deliver the goods?" I have a right to my opinion equally with every one of your Lordships. I have no more facilities Or opportunities for being in a position to express a decided opinion than your Lordships as to whether they can deliver the goods, but from my experience during the past few weeks—and I say this with all sincerity—I am convinced that the Irish Government intend, so far as they possibly can do so, to deliver the goods. I do not mean that merely in a formal sense, but in a full sense, and in the true spirit of the Act. I may be wrong. I may have been deceived over this, but I am confident, from what I have seen and heard in those few short weeks in which I have been responsible for the preparation of the legislation now before your Lordships' House, and during which I have taken part in various other negotiations connected with Ireland, that it is their honest endeavour to act in a manner true to the carrying out of the Treaty both in the latter and in the spirit.
As a responsible member of the Government I have to thank your Lordships, and I do so most sincerely, for the facilities which you have given us for the passage of this Bill. You are fully aware of the difficulties with which we had to deal on recently assuming Office. In that connection there is a point that I have not before heard mentioned. It affords a rather curious commentary upon the somewhat strange position in which we find ourselves on this Bench. Unless there had been the legislation in connection with Ireland which has taken place during the past two years it is practically certain that the composition of the present Government, and of the present Bench, would have been very different from what it is. Under one of the Acts—I cannot remember which—passed in connection with Ireland, the representation from Southern Ireland entirely disappeared.
It is out of place to discuss the position of the House of Commons, but it is sufficient for my purpose to say that there are many groups in the House of Commons to-day. If there had been a group of representatives from Southern Ireland I certainly should not have imagined that the members of the present Government could have looked for very much support or assistance from that quarter. Perhaps, indeed, the very exist- 234 ence of the Government is one of the indirect effects of the passage of this Irish legislation. But I rose to thank your Lordships for the facilities which you have granted us for passing this Bill and to assure you that the Government is very grateful for the help which you have given us. I assert that the action your Lordships have taken in giving an easy passage to this Bill will have a marked effect for good not merely in our relations with Ireland but throughout the Empire as a whole.
Whatever may be the fate of Ireland your Lordships at any rate can feel that you have carried out your part of the bargain. The bargain to which by our own act we were committed, was made, and we can honestly say that our part has been carried out. I am convinced—this is my purely personal private opinion—that the Irish Free State, when given an opportunity, will also carry out its share of the bargain. We have worked, and we are working, to make this Bill a success. We shall continue to work on the same lines. At the same time we recognise that we have heavy responsibilities upon us in respect of many subjects. These we shall endeavour to carry out, and if we do I trust that we shall not merely bring peace and prosperity to Ireland but be able to look with greater confidence to Ireland taking her share and doing her part as one of the nations of the Empire.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, perhaps I may just answer, in one or two sentences, the question put to me by the noble Lord as to citizenship. He referred to Article 3 of the Constitution which provides that "the conditions governing the future acquisition and termination of citizenship in the Irish Free State shall be determined by law," and he asks me by what law it would be so determined. I think the answer is plain. As long as a man is in Ireland it would be by the law of the Irish Free State.
§ LORD GLENAVY
My Lords, there is another question which follows on that. Suppose an Irishman acquires by residence thestatus of a citizen of the Irish Free State, can he ever get rid of that? Will it follow him to England should he take up his residence in England? Is there any process by which he can divest himself of that citizenship; and if not, will he be liable to all the obligations and duties of an Irish 235 citizen? That is the point I think which the noble Lord desired to raise.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Lord knows well the answer to that question. While he is in Ireland, and as regards his property in Ireland, the Irish law must rule. If he leaves Ireland and comes to live in England, of course, his personal rights in this country are governed by English law.
§ LORD GLENAVY
I am sorry to pursue this point, but it is really an important matter, and I do not think it is quite as clear as the Lord Chancellor thinks. One of the Articles of the Constitution says that the position, obligations, duties of an Irish citizen are to be defined by legislation by the Irish Free State. I want to know what provision in the English or the Imperial law will enable an Irish citizen who has acquired thestatus of a citizen of the Irish Free State to divest himself of that by coming to England. I know of no method by which he can do it under our existing law. And if the Irish Free State by its legislation imposes on their citizens the permanentstatus of citizens of the Irish Free State the question to be answered is: How are they to divest themselves of that citizenship if they transfer their residence, temporarily or permanently, from Ireland to England?
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, the point, no doubt, is a difficult one; but the confusion is between nationality and domicile. As I understand the Bill, what happens on its passage is that certain people are invested with the rights of Irish citizens, which means that they are domiciled Irishmen. That is the necessary result. If that is so, it is plain that, though you might hold that a man who has left Ireland and come over here had for the purposes of English law acquired an English domicile, yet the question is whether he had lost his Irish domicile. For Irish purposes that would be a matter for the Irish Courts and not English Courts. It is quite possible you may have two conflicting systems of law; but you cannot avoid it. You cannot make one country declare what are the rights of citizens in another country.
§ LORD GLENAVY
My Lords, every lawyer knows the difficulties and distinctions that arise on questions of domicile, 236 but they have been pretty well determined now and have been solved by a variety of decisions. A new position is going to arise under the Irish Free State Constitution. The Constitution provides not only that every resident in the Southern Province becomesipso facto from the passing of this Bill a citizen of the Irish Free State, but it goes on to say that it shall be the duty of the Irish Free State Legislature to make provision for the obligations and duties that are to be consequent on thatstatus. That is not a question of domicile; that is a question of citizenship and a difficult point arises. If, subsequent to the date of the passing of this Bill, an individual who, by reason of his being in Ireland at the date of its passing, had thereby acquired thestatus of a citizen; if subsequent to the passing of the Bill, and subsequent to the acquisition by him of thatstatus, he leaves Ireland and comes to reside in England, will the Free State citizenship still attach?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, as far as I am concerned I have given the best answer that I can to the question.
§ LORD GLENAVY
I apologise for having brought the matter up without notice, but the point was raised by the noble Lord.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.