§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR rose to move to resolve, "That it is expedient that a Tribunal be established to inquire into a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the circumstances connected with the affray which took place at Clones on the 11th day of February." The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, it is probably known to the House that under the Statute the Tribunal to be established must in its terms be one whose purpose it is to inquire into a definite matter of urgent public importance. Such an urgent matter of definite public importance would seem to be afforded by the most unhappy occurrences, involving tragic consequences, which took place at Clones. Those incidents have already formed the subject of a Question, which was to have been addressed to me in this House by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, but he was unfortunately prevented by indisposition from putting the Question. I found it possible, however, to make some observations upon this Question, and to afford the House such information as I had upon the topic.
§ My examination of it led me to a conclusion which, I think, cannot be assailed. There were two stories, one told by the Northern Government, or the representatives of the Northern Government, and the other told by the representatives or agents of the Southern Government, and it is sufficient to say that while there were some broader facts, by no means unimportant, not subject to controversy, there followed incidents, which it was desirable to elucidate in order to arrive at the truth, which were the subjects of most violent controversy between the representatives respectively of the Northern and Southern Governments. There was an incident involving, as your Lordships know, serious less of life and injury, and it was, I thought, not an unhappy development that both the Northern Government and the Provisional Government in the South were sincerely desirous, as far as we could judge, of deciding where lay the truth between the apparently irreconcilable stories told by the representatives of the North and the South respectively.
§ It would, in the existing state of our knowledge, have been quite impossible for me to give a confident answer to the Question which stood on the Paper in the name of the noble and learned Lord, and 170 we therefore, acting in the only capacity which was open to us, which merely was that of those who were concerned to give every assistance they could to the parties chiefly concerned—namely, the representatives respectively of the North and the South—made inquiries about this matter and ascertained the state of mind of the two Governments respectively. I am of opinion that it was a gratifying circumstance that both the Government of the North and the Provisional Government in the South were sincerely anxious that this matter should be tested, and each of them represented.
§ It was, of course, desirable that the Tribunal should be one which would command the confidence of the inhabitants both of the North and of the South, and, so doing, would naturally command the confidence of persons in this country. It was, therefore, suggested, and the suggestion was welcomed by both Governments, that the Statute should be invoked and that an impartial Tribunal should be set up. It has been already stated, in another place, that the Southern Government has suggested two names in the alternative of those to whom this responsible Inquiry might be committed. One was Sir Dunbar Barton, who was a Judge of the High Court in Ireland of great distinction, and who is at the present moment Treasurer of Gray's Inn, and a man universally respected. He has discharged very important judicial work of great value to this country in connection with the work of the Losses Commission, and is presiding, at the moment, over one of the two panels. I should, myself, have placed this matter in his hands with as much confidence as I should have placed it in the hands of any of my judicial colleagues in this country. The other name suggested was that of Mr. Justice Wylie, against whose judicial competence and integrity, so far as I am aware, nothing could justly be said.
§ But I do not wish, of course, to be considered as committed, or for the Government to be considered as committed, to either of these names, because it is evident that the free and ready assent of the Government of the North is a proper condition precedent to the setting up of such a Tribunal and the nomination of its Judge. There ought to be no difficulty at all in agreeing upon a suitable person, and, if such a person is selected, it would, I think, be a source of satisfaction to your 171 Lordships generally that those two Governments, in a grave conflict of fact, thought it proper to pray in aid the assistance of this country in order that a Tribunal might be appointed in which all reasonable sections of the community might have confidence.
I have not failed to observe that there has been placed upon the Notice Paper, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, an Amendment in these words—
After the word 'with' in the last line, to insert the invasion of Northern Ireland by the Irish Republican Army and the kidnapping of British subjects and'.
The effect of the Amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord is apparent. It is that the scope of the Inquiry to be undertaken shall cover not only what has been known as the Clones incident but also the incident which is familiar to all of us under the name of the raid and kidnapping upon the border. This Amendment was, it is true, ruled out of order in another place, but I do not wish to discuss it upon the point of order in this House, because it may be usefully examined, in my view, from a broader consideration and one which relates entirely to the merits of the proposal.
§ I draw, I confess, a very great distinction between the Clones incident and the kidnapping incident. The Clones incident, as I have already shown, is one as to which the two authorities differ—I think most people will agree, with absolute sincerity—as to what actually took place in circumstances of great excitement and by no means free from difficulty and complication. And it is to an Inquiry of this kind that the labours of an impartial Commission would evidently be very usefully directed.
§ The second case is an entirely different one. I never heard anybody contend that the raid upon Ulster subjects, which is within all our memories, was not a most wicked, foolish, and detestable act. I have never heard anybody so far suggest that there were matters in connection with it to which any particularly obvious useful contribution could be made by the examination of those facts by a Judicial Tribunal. The Provisional Government of the South was unable to control at the moment the disorderly elements who were responsible for this raid, and I believe it is not disputed that many, or most, of those persons were acting in entire insubordination to the Provisional Government. I am entirely unable to see that the two matters are 172 comparable. The admission is made without any reservation at all that the second incident was as wicked as it was indefensible and foolish.
§ There is a very grave further objection to adding to the scope of the Inquiry in the manner proposed by the noble and learned Lord. We are living to-day, as everybody knows, upon a volcano in Ireland. There is no one so inattentive to that which is going on every day before our eyes as not to be aware that every man undertakes a deep responsibility who, by one word or one act, tends to inflame that which is already inflammable enough. The embers are smouldering there, and the manner in which one handles them depends entirely upon whether one wishes that there should be, or that there should not be, a conflagration. Every one in this House must most earnestly desire that there should be no avoidable conflagration.
§ If there is included in the subject-matter of this Inquiry a case in which the Government of the North has a most grave cause of complaint against those who live across the border—a cause of complaint so grave that no answer has even been attempted to it, or can be attempted to it—is it not evident that, if the other case were put—it cannot be put in this House, because it so happens that there is no Peer, so far as I know, in this House who is a member of the Sinn Fein Parliament—but, supposing that there were, how is he to meet the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord? I suppose he would immediately meet it by saying that this Inquiry should also deal with sonic of the outrages which have taken place in Belfast—with that outrage, for instance, of which Sir James Craig has spoken with a generous warmth of indignation and reprobation—the bombs that were thrown upon the Catholic children. But here, as in the case of the kidnapping outrage, there is no controversy as to the facts, there is nothing which it is proper for a Judicial Committee to examine and to report upon. It is obvious that the only effect of carrying an Amendment such as that which is down on the Paper in the name of the noble and learned Lord would be to invite a request which would most certainly, as I anticipate, follow from the Provisional Government, that several other matters arising out of the recent unhappy events should also be placed before this Judicial Committee.
§ I do not take the view that a Judicial Committee is a body very happily selected 173 for the purpose of holding a general inquiry into all the wrongs and all the crimes which have taken place in Ireland in the course of the last five or six weeks. I do not, for instance, in the least know when such an inquiry would leach a conclusion, and of this I am certain, that every day during which its deliberations lasted, instead of alleviating, would contribute to the bitterness and the unrest and danger of the existing situation in Ireland. We have not been asked, so far as I know, by the Government of Northern Ireland to include in the scope of the Inquiry the subject-matter of the noble and learned Lord's Amendment. If Sir James Craig had addressed—I am informed I am in error upon that point, and the argument I attempted to found on that misunderstanding is, of course, withdrawn.
§ The merits of the argument are unaffected by it. The merits of the argument depend upon the consideration that I have already advanced, that the nature of these two matters is altogether different. In one case yon have a matter where the whole responsibility depends upon the ascertainment of fact; in the other ease you have a matter where nobody whose opinion I have heard expressed so far has even attempted to make the slightest defence, and in regard to which, therefore, for the reasons I have given, I do not believe that an Inquiry would be of the slightest advantage. In these circumstances, and subject to the observations of the noble and learned Lord, which will naturally be most carefully examined by us, I express the hope that your Lordships will adopt this Motion without thinking it necessary to embarrass it with the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord.
§ Moved to resolve, "That it is expedient that a Tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the circumstances connected with the affray which took place at Clones on the 11th day of February."—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD CARSON had given Notice to move, as an Amendment to the Motion, after the word "with," to insert "the invasion of Northern Ireland by the Irish Republican Army and the kidnapping of British subjects and." The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, with a good deal of what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has said in the latter part 174 of his speech I entirely agree. Once you get into these inquiries into the present condition of Ireland there is no knowing where you will end. That is the result, of the millennium. That seems to me to be a very good reason for considering carefully what is the use of this Motion at all. How can you take these incidents piecemeal? When you have investigated them, what is to be done? What are the questions that the Tribunal is to consider?
§ Just let us see what happened. This Clones incident was part of a chain of incidents arising out of the invasion of Ulster, some two days before, by the Irish Republican Army— an invasion in which they attacked the houses of a large number of your fellow subjects in the Northern Province, took them out of their beds and carried them off. Many of them have not yet been returned. I have a telegram here saying that the statement made by Mr. Chamberlain in another place last Friday, that the number liberated was 12, is a mistake, and that only 26 have, as a fact, been liberated. And at the present moment the Army of the Provisional Government set up by His Majesty's Government whether a legal one, or an illegal one, I am not going to discuss at the present moment— have in their custody 26 kidnapped British subjects, and have had them in their custody since, I think, the 7th of this month. Amongst others are the ex-High Sheriff of Fermanagh, who was wounded, and two gentlemen who were kidnapped on the borders of Tyrone and Donegal.
§ I beg your Lordships to consider what a humiliation and what a disgrace that is to this country. Do not let us, because we are daily growing too familiar with these outrages in Ireland, give them the go-by as if they ought to be daily occurrences about which we should get accustomed to read. Twenty-six British subjects, who have no concern and no connection with the so-called Provisional Government in the South, who are British citizens and your fellow citizens, still remain in custody. I ask His Majesty's Government: Are they too feeble to prevent that? I ask His Majesty's Government: Are they going on receiving the heads of that Provisional Government who are accountable for these things? Are they going on receiving them and treating with them from day to day as honourable men, as we are told they are, until things become worse? Surely there 175 must be some remedy in a great country like this. There must be some power left. We cannot suddenly have become absolutely exhausted in our efforts to protect our own people.
§ The Lord Chancellor says there is nothing in that incident to inquire into. Yet that, mind You, was the commencement of the matter, and that is why I take it first. I should have thought there were very serious matters into which to inquire. At whose instigation was it done? Who is accountable for it? Mr. Collins, as I understand it, said he had the power of liberating them, and he has liberated some. He is the noble Viscount's colleague. Why does he not liberate the rest of them? Is not that a matter to be inquired into? Is it not a matter to be inquired into as to what this Irish Republican Army is to which you have been handing over guns and stores in order that they may carry out their will and behest? It is all very well to tell us that the Provisional Government cannot keep them in control. That would seem to me to be a very good reason why you ought to keep them in control. At all events, where British subjects are concerned somebody ought to exercise control.
§ But what is this Irish Republican army? Is it not the fact that they have taken an oath to the Irish Republic? Is that denied? If it is, is not that a matter that ought to be seriously inquired into, and not allow a regular paralysis of the ordinary protection that you afford to your subjects throughout the country? It is very, very difficult to speak of a matter of this kind. I do not know if any of your Lordships ever read the Trish papers, because it is only in the Irish papers that you see what is happening in Ireland. These are not isolated instances, and that is why I agree with the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that the moment that you begin to go into any one of them there is no end to it. I notice from an answer given by the Colonial Secretary to a question in the House of Commons, either yesterday or the day before, that since the millennium brought about by the surrender there have been eighty-two attacks on police involving many murders; there have been thirty-four attacks upon your military officers. That is the return for your generosity in letting out all the people who were burning timber-yards and hayricks and everything of that kind in this 176 country—even in this country. I say that by far the most important question in relation to this matter is the kidnapping of these gentlemen.
§ Now, let me go a step further and ask, when this Tribunal is set up, what are the questions that will arise? The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack says there is a dispute of fact as to what occurred. That may be. Whether it is important or unimportant I do not know; or, when you evolve it, what its effect will be, having regard to the general state of Ireland, upon which I will say a word in a moment, I am sure I do not know. But may I suggest one which goes to the heart of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. What does he think is likely to happen to the witnesses that under his act his Government will compel to come forward in relation to the elucidation of this important matter?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Lord will pardon the interruption, but I should like to ask him what in those circumstances will become of the greater number of witnesses if there is a larger Inquiry—a far more extensive Inquiry than the one to which he is referring.
§ LORD CARSON
I quite agree, but it is the noble and learned Viscount and his Government who started this matter. I am not the originator of it. All I say is that if you do it at. All you cannot do it by leaving out half the question, which is what you are attempting to do. You cannot take it piecemeal and, if I may say so with great respect, I do not think the answer is worthy of the noble and learned Viscount when I ask him what will become of the witnesses and he says to me: "What will become of the greater number if you have a larger Inquiry?" Everybody who knows anything about Ireland at the present moment knows that if any man came forward and gave evidence on any one of these matters he could no longer live in Ireland—I do not believe there is a noble Lord from the North or South of Ireland who will deny that statement—and his life would not be worth an hour's purchase. But you are going to bring all that upon yourselves. I do not know with what object. I have never known anything come of these Tribunals which are set up by the House of Commons or this House for the purpose, I think, very 177 often, of taking away public attention from them or from other incidents, and saving that they are, sub judice.
There was, I remember, a very strong Commission set up after the Irish Rebellion in 1916. Their recommendations were very valuable recommendations. The Commission was presided over by an English Judge who was taken away from his business for a long time. The recommendations of that Commission were very Valuable recommendations. What was done with them? The Report was pigeonholed and, notwithstanding those recommendations, things were allowed to drift and the present condition of Ireland is part of the result. That is all you got out of that Tribunal and the findings of that Tribunal, and I could mention many other Tribunals which have been set up and have made elaborate Reports of which nothing has ever come.
The truth of the matter is that this affair at Clones, if you examine the real condition of Ireland at the present time, is of no more importance, terrible as it is, than incidents that are going on from day to day since, having signed your surrender, you proceeded to leave Ireland derelict, without the pretext or shadow of any legal Government there. Hardly a day passes that I do not have an Irishman come over from Ireland to see me, or, if he cannot come over, get some one to deliver a letter to me— that is the only way I can get one— and give me instances of what is going on there.
Let me give your Lordships a few of those incidents, for these things never appear in the Press. There is hardly a place in the South of Ireland where the Sinn Feiners are not driving off the cattle of every loyalist who is trying to farm there, and also the cattle of many others. A man came to me two days ago and told me that he had very large farms in a particular county. I had better not mention the county. He said that every single head of cattle that he had— and his cattle were probably the whole of his capital— had been driven away, and that there were notices up all about the place saving that if anybody dared to bring back the cattle he would be shot. Would it not be well to have an inquiry into that? Or is that a condition of affairs that needs 110 inquiry? The next day I met a man who told no that a friend of my own, and a friend of his, had been over here two days before and had 178 said that he was told he must make a certain contribution to the resources of these people whom you have allowed to get command over there. When he said he could not do so they went out and seized his horse and cart, which he used for taking, him about his business. So it goes on from day to day.
Here is a statement which I cut from an Irish paper yesterday. It is a letter written by an unfortunate farmer in another county who says:—All Protestant farmers who attended"—he gives the name of the fair—on the 13th instant, and another fair on the 14th instant, were ordered Out of the fairs at the point of a revolver by the I.R.A. Men attended from … districts to point out these farmers to the I.R.A. It is changed times when men of straw can get farmers hunted out of the fairs, farmers who had obliged them in the past and given them food whom they had none. Farmers can and will take their cattle to towns where there is no mob law. This is the first instalment of the Free State law. When will the second arrive?I believe you will find that in almost every county in the South and West of Ireland there have been interferences with property and with the person so numerous that they have become almost everyday incidents. Only to-day I saw in the newspaper that two of your military officers had been shot in Ireland. Is that a subject for inquiry, or does nobody care?
So far as I am concerned, therefore—not that it affects me in the slightest, or that I personally mind whether there is an Inquiry or not—I do ask the Government to consider whether it is opportune or proper to hold the Inquiry at all. Think of the men who have to give evidence ! Think of the tension there will be while the Inquiry is going on ! Think of the people who will say: "There is just as great tyranny, there is just as great hardship, there is just as great sacrifice, but nothing is being done for us." Five men came to see me the other day from Ireland —five loyal citizens who have stood by you during all these years of your troubles and dangers. One of them was a prisoner for a considerable time, and in great danger, during the late war, and the others have served you in various capacities. Those five men came from Ireland to ask me what: I could advise them to do, and to tell me of the interferences with everything that they had tried to do, of the insecurity of their property. I think one man told me that there have been seven 179 murders outside his lodge gate. One of them was paralysed and absolutely broken in health.
What could I tell them to do except to go back? They could not afford to stay here. "There is no use," I said, "your sticking to the old flag of which you were so proud. It has been hauled down by the Government. There is no use taking sides with de Valera or with Collins. Either of them will treat you in exactly the same way. If you try to help Collins, de Valera's men will shoot you, and if you try to help de Valera, Collins' men will shoot you." I advised them to go back and bear their sufferings As best they could.
If you have an Inquiry at all, have an Inquiry into all that has happened since you signed the Treaty that brought that peace that passeth all understanding, or have an Inquiry as to who it is that has muddled the whole of this business and brought the country into this horrible condition. I have been told by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that the North of Ireland Government wish to have this Inquiry, and of course I take it from him that that is so. But one thing I know is that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has been insisting that if you have the Inquiry it must be the whole Inquiry as to the invasion of Ulster and the kidnapping of British subjects there which led up to the Clones business. But his feelings and his views have been entirely disregarded by His Majesty's Government. For that reason, and in order that they may have sonic voice here, I have put down this Amendment.
I do not think you can inquire into the matter unless you go into the whole origin of it. It would take too long to go through the statements that have been made to the effect that the object was to try to get some murderers out of Derry gaol who have since been reprieved by His Majesty's Government, and released. How can you shut out these considerations? How can you avoid going into the whole question of the validity of the Government that you have set up in the South and West of Ireland? If you do enquire you must go into all the incidents and not have a piecemeal Inquiry.
The only other observation I desire to make is as to the personnel of the Commission if it is decided to set it up. All I can 180 say is that I hope that the Government will consult equally the North and the South. The noble Viscount mentioned two names, put forward by Mr. Collins. He did not tell us of any names put forward by the Prime Minister for Northern Ireland, though I have a telegram, given me by the noble Marquess, from the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, informing me that he had put forward certain names. But they are not mentioned.
In conclusion, as regards Ireland and its present miserable condition, in consideration of her horrible state and of the way in which von have to work out something like order out of chaos there, I beg your Lordships in the next few weeks, in the important work we have before us, to follow carefully and note what is happening in that country. I said, when I spoke against the surrender, that I believed you were leading straight to civil war in the course you had taken. God forbid that it may be so, but all I can say is that it is my own firm belief that the state of Ireland now is ten times worse than it was when you surrendered.
After the word ("with") in the last line, to insert ("the invasion of Northern Ireland by the Irish Republican Army and the kidnapping of British subjects and").—(Lord Carson.)
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, when I first saw upon the Paper the Motion standing in the name of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack my inclination was to congratulate the Government upon their new-found zeal for Inquiries. I remembered so well how often we had urged them to institute inquiries into matters just as grave and just as perplexing as the incident which figures upon the Notice Paper, and I remembered well, too, how all our efforts were either evaded or denied. It is a tempting prospect to pursue inquiries of that kind upon the present occasion, but reflection, strengthened by the moving speech to which we have just listened, has satisfied me that the condition of Ireland has become far too serious to be regarded as an opportunity to express one's feelings about the misgovernment for which His Majesty's Ministers must be held responsible.
As far as one can tell the oily possible hope for Ireland to-day is that everything should be done, and done as quickly as 181 possible, to strengthen the hands of Mr. Collins and the Government in the South of Ireland. It is utterly impossible to go back. The Government have got into the middle of the stream and retreat is impossible. Whether they will ever cross to the other side, or whether they will be swept drowning down the river, is a matter that no man can speak upon with confidence. But retreat is now out of the question. Unless something is done, and that soon, to strengthen and stabilise the Government in the South of Ireland, the whole country will dissolve in anarchy, and there is no means that I can see by which, when once that has happened, we can ever restore Ireland to stable Government. It is these reflections that have led me to consider why it is that the Government have selected one particular incident in the series of most unhappy outrages that have disfigured our newspapers during the last few weeks, why they have selected one, and one only, as a proper subject matter for inquiry.
First of all, I must own that I find myself a little perplexed to know why it is that the inquiry is to be resolved upon by the Houses of Parliament over here. So far as I can understand, we have distinctly abnegated government in the South of Ireland. It is left entirely to the Provisional Government of Mr. Collins, a Government which is faced with almost insurmountable difficulties and cannot even rest upon a sound legal foundation, though the Government in the North of Ireland is established by Statute. I want to know what is our position in the matter. Why are we interfering? Why is it that we have to appoint an Inquiry, and what is it that has induced the Government to act on their initiative in this matter? I understand that Mr. Collins has asked for it. Why was not the answer made, "After all, this is a matter between yourselves and the North; had not you better both agree upon the people whom you think are the best to inquire into it, and ask them to investigate?" For some reason that I do not understand we are required to interfere.
I believe that the whole thing is a mistake. I do not think any good whatever can come out of this Inquiry. There are three things that may happen. You may decide that the Sinn Miners were to blame; you may decide that the Ulstermen were to blame; or you may obtain a perfectly colourless whitewashing Report in which 182 the blame is put on both sides. Whichever you get, what good is going to result I Supposing it is said that the Sinn Feiners are to blame, will that help Mr. Collins in attempting to establish order and to conduct the government of that most unhappy and distracted country? Supposing that you find that the Ulster people are to blame, it is not likely, so far as I can understand, that the whole of Ulster will unanimously accept the verdict. They will undoubtedly think that it was a mistake. And even if they accepted it, what good have you obtained from that? You have only made the Sinn Feiners more triumphant than they were before, and instead of healing, you have done everything in your power to aggravate the strife between them, when the one thing to which all ought to bend their efforts is to remove as far as possible all the unhappy causes of ill-feeling and misunderstanding between the South and the North.
I must say that I cannot see what is the particular opportunity associated with the circumstance that is the subject of this Motion that has rendered it necessary to ask this House and another place to resolve at once that an inquiry should be established into this isolated and particular outrage. If I can be satisfied—and to the best of my power I try to keep my mind open on these questions—that this is going to help iii the slightest possible degree in the solution of the task that lies before those interested both in the North and South of Ireland in governing their people, I will support the Motion; but until I can see that, I cannot help thinking that the Motion ought to be resisted and not passed.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, before the Lord Chancellor replies I should like to say one word on the speech which we have just heard. What are the facts which your Lordships have before you? You have, on the authority of Lord Carson, the statement that it is quite impossible to get a fair verdict in this matter. The noble and learned Lord told us, speaking with an authority with regard to Ireland which nobody will deny, that in the present state of affairs it would be impossible to expect persons to come forward in order to give evidence before this Tribunal, and the noble and learned Lord behind me adds to that an argument which I cannot controvert, as to what the effect will be of any decision that has been come to by this Tribunal.
183 Now, for the first reason I find it impossible to go into the Lobby with Lord Carson, but I hold that his argument equally affects the Motion of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. I will vote for anything which will bring a better condition of things than exists at present in Ireland, but I will not give a vote, if I can avoid it, which is going to aggravate the present position, especially on the borders. I hold that His Majesty's Government have the gravest responsibility in this matter of any body of men. For six months after the truce was declared they abrogated all authority in Ireland. They allowed disorder to increase month by month, and they handed over to the new Government, both in the North and the South, a damnosa hœreditas, by giving up powers which it was their bounden duty to exercise, and allowing a degree of disorder for which there has been no parallel in the last half century. That being so, for them to step forward at this moment and endeavour to assuage this difficulty by an investigation, which may carry with it the authority of the verdict but which cannot be put in force against either party, is really not helpful either to the Government in the North or that in the South. I confess I find it very difficult to accept the Motion of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and I think it would be better, in the interests of peace in Ireland, if he would withdraw his Motion. If that is not done, and if any noble Lord challenges a Division on the Motion, I must go into the Lobby against the Government.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, perhaps your Lordships will listen for a few moments to one who lives in Ireland, and who has experienced some of the disabilities of being a resident in that country. What struck me in the speech of Lord Carson is that it went far beyond the Resolution, and he said nothing has ever come of Tribunals. Then, I ask him, why on earth he proposes to enlarge the scope of this Tribunal? Surely it is better that we should have none at all. We all know perfectly well what happened at Clones. There was firing, and naturally the firing was returned. It is one of those incidents which come about in Ireland and have been pretty frequent of late, and I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, entirely that it is much better to have nothing whatsoever to say to this matter. I also 184 agree with what the noble and learned Lord said—namely, that you will not get witnesses to come forward and tell the truth about this matter. They are sure to be terrorised, and it is much better to drop the matter altogether, and try to strengthen, as Lord Buckmaster said, the Government which you are going to set up for a certainty next week or the week after.
If you want law and order, as you translate it here in this House, kept in Ireland, you have got to support the Government, with money especially, and every help you can give them, in order that they may enforce law and order. Anybody who has a revolver and a trench coat can say he belongs to the Republican Army. The Government want money to put their men in uniform, so that they can act with authority. I shall vote against the Motion because its effect can only be mischievous and it will lead to nothing. There is one more point. I understand that Mr. Collins or Mr. Griffiths has suggested the names of Mr. Justice Wylie and Sir Dunbar Barton. I want to know what are the names put forward by the Northern Government. They have never been mentioned. Why not? If the Government are going on with the Motion we should like to know who are the Northern men who are going to be on the Commission of Inquiry. The truth is, the Government had much better drop the matter and let it alone altogether.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if it will relieve the anxiety of the noble Earl I may say at once that the Government have not the slightest intention of dropping this Motion. If this Motion fails to meet with the acquiescence of this House the responsibility will be the responsibility not of the Government but of the House. The circumstances in which this Resolution becomes necessary may be shortly explained. Under the Act of Parliament, if a Tribunal of this kind is to be set up, a Resolution in each House of Parliament must authorise it. Such a Resolution was passed last night in the House of Commons, and such a Resolution is offered for acceptance to your Lordships to-night.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, has asked me why it is necessary for this country to interfere. I confess that, having to handle these 185 difficult matters in this House, I greatly prefer the open, undisguised and bitter hostility of Lord Carson to the patronising and nagging help which Lord Buckmaster, who professes to be a friend and supporter of the settlement, applies at each step to our efforts, in order to paralyse and render them hopeless. We are assailed from very different sources. We are assailed by Lord Midleton, who was the first, or among the first, to meet with Mr. de Valera. We are assailed by him from one quarter, we are exposed to attack by Lord Carson from another, and one of our friends then rises to bless our efforts with an acid rebuke.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This unhappy controversy is rapidly diminishing the circle of my acquaintances, but I must support these growing defections with such composure as I have at my command.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
So I understand, but although the noble and learned Lord has made it quite plain that he was never a friend of the Government, he was, or at least he professed to be, a friend of the settlement, and my criticisms are based entirely upon his other observations. Whenever we come before the House in order to defend our position against its strong assailants all the noble and learned Lord and his friends do is to get up and make disparaging observations, and, if there happens to be a Division which will either destroy or confirm the settlement, valiantly to leave the House in order not to take part in it.
In these circumstances I would far rather listen to the kind of criticism that is addressed to us by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson. Let me deal with it. We are asked in the first place—I think this was Lord Buckmaster—why we interfered at all in this matter. Let me give your Lordships an answer to that question. The moment this Clones incident happened the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, put down on the Paper a Question to ask whether the Government could or could not give information about the matter. I had before me an answer from the Govern- 186 ment of Northern Ireland. We telegraphed in the most peremptory language a request to the Provisional Government for their account of the story. I have made it plain that no possible two accounts could have exhibited more divergencies than those two accounts did. What could I say in answer to that or any other question except: "This is the one story, that is the other story, and in the existing state of that divergence no living man can pronounce upon which side the truth lies." In these circumstances both the North and the Provisional Government of the South proposed independent Inquiries. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, who ridicules the holding of Inquiries at all, is apparently quite unaware that the Government of the North originally and independently proposed that there should be an Inquiry to deal with the Clones incident.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Of course I do not say so, but I say that the noble and learned Lord will not, in my humble judgment, command very much weight in objecting to this Inquiry, if it be conceded and established that the Government of the North desire it as strongly as the Government of the South.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
When the noble and learned Lord says it is not the same Inquiry, I, on the contrary, am informed that, in the first place, the Government of the North declared their intention of holding an Inquiry; that the Government of the South equally declared their intention of holding an Inquiry; that it was then suggested to both Governments that it should be a joint Inquiry, and that both Governments assented to that proposal without any reservation or qualification of any kind. If the noble and learned Lord is in a position to tell your Lordships here and now that he has the authority of the Government of Northern Ireland for saying that, in the present state of the proposal, and unless this Inquiry is extended, they do not wish to take part in it, a very different situation arises. If the noble and learned 187 Lord can say that, unless his Amendment is carried, it is the wish of the Government of Northern Ireland that the proposals of the Government here to-day should be defeated, I say at once, on behalf of the Government, that that is the one announcement, if authoritatively made, which would lead me to abandon this Resolution.
§ LORD CARSON
I may say in answer to the noble and learned Viscount that the telegram I had from the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was to press for the addition of the words which I have put upon the Paper, and to which, I understand, the Government have been pressed to assent.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have been informed that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland at a later date asked that this Inquiry should be extended. I am informed that, in the first place, there was no proposal at all except that each side should hold an Inquiry into the Clones incident. The question I addressed to the noble and learned Lord was not the question he answered. The question I addressed to him is this: Is it, or is it not, his view that the Government of Northern Ireland would rather have the Inquiry proposed in this Resolution than no Inquiry at all? If the Government of Northern Ireland tell us to-morrow that, unless this proposal is extended, they prefer to have no Inquiry, the situation will be left that on this incident, in relation to which the noble and learned Lord was asking for information a week ago, the Southern Government is prepared to have an Inquiry, and the Northern Government is not. I, for one, do not believe that that is the attitude of the Northern Government. I, for one, believe that, if it were put to them as an alternative whether they will have this Inquiry or no Inquiry, they would adhere to their original purpose, plainly expressed to us, that there should be an Inquiry into this incident.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Can the noble and learned Viscount quote the telegram in which those words were used?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I cannot quote the telegram. If the noble Marquess will come to my room I will show him all the relevant telegrams, and if I have in any way misrepresented any one he can 188 call the attention of the House to it. I cannot be expected to carry about with me all the telegrams we receive. The only substance of the Amendment to which I need address myself is this. Almost all the noble Lords who have spoken say they cannot see that there is any advantage in an Inquiry—they do not think witnesses will come. It may be useful to remind them that, in the first place, both the Government of Southern Ireland and the Government of Northern Ireland have the misfortune to differ from them, because both those Governments thought this Inquiry would be useful, and proposed the holding of Inquiries independently. In the second place I may remind them that it is possible that these Inquiries, if thought useful, could be held in camera, and the dangers, as I should have thought, to those who attend, must have teen well in the minds both of the Government of the North and the Government of the South when they announced their separate intentions to hold these Inquiries.
The only issue in the Amendment which I am to put from the Woolsack is whether or not this Inquiry should be extended. I thought the observation which I interposed when Lord Carson was speaking was extremely relevant. I did not think then, and I do not think now, that it was in any respect unworthy of me, or any other speaker in this debate. If you believe that you cannot hold any Inquiry because of intimidation and danger to the witnesses when an Inquiry is proposed in relation to a specific matter, how can you ask this House to divide upon the basis that you should immensely extend that Inquiry—that you should make it deal with a whole series of questions in which there is hardly anything which is so specific as the question of responsibility for the Clones outrage; how, in other words, if you believe that no Inquiry can be usefully held, or held without danger, can you rationally invite the House to vote in favour of an immense extension of the area of the Inquiry?
Lord Carson greatly enlarged the scope of the debate, and, indeed, carried it beyond the point anticipated from the words which appeared on the Paper. He has spoken, as he habitually does, with great sarcasm of that which we have done, and of the consequences of that which we have done in the last few months in Ireland. The folly of our policy is not, 189 believe me, established by pointing to mischiefs admittedly existent in Ireland to-day, by recalling the tale of suffering and outrage in Ireland in the last few weeks or the last few months; it is only established if the noble and learned Lord is able to persuade your Lordships to-day that we were wrong, and Parliament was wrong, in the midst of the terrible mischiefs by which we have been assailed for months, in saying that the course which we recommended and Parliament adopted was, on the whole, the least mischievous and perilous of the strictly alternative routes along which it was open to us to travel. I suppose, if the noble and learned Lord had been Prime Minister at that moment, if he had received the same advice that we had received as to the only alternative pokey, lie would have said: "I will go to the country, and I will ask for a hundred thousand volunteers, in order that, at the point of the sword, I may put down, after I know not how many months or years of suffering, this insurrection in Ireland." The noble and learned Lord may be right or he may be wrong. Give me leave to tell him that there are large numbers of his fellow-countrymen, not absolutely affected by insanity, who take an entirely different view.
What, at least, have we still some prospect of attaining? We have rallied to the cause of the Treaty which Parliament has accepted a very large and very powerful section of opinion amongst those who, in the past, were bitterly opposed to us. We have remitted to the hands of those men what is their proper task, the task of carrying out that to which the chosen plenipotentiaries of the Irish nation set their hands; and I for one, anxious, torturing as much that we
§ see happening before our eyes in Ireland to-day is, uncertain as the prospect in the near future must at this moment be pronounced to be, say without the slightest hesitation that if you look at the two pictures at that which would have happened had a policy of repression been attempted, to be followed at the end by inevitable negotiations, and the prospect which still offers, though somewhat doubtfully offers—that is the only rational and true course that can be persisted in as between the two nations.
§ I have been betrayed into a much larger discussion of this subject than I contemplated though not a larger one than the occasion requires, and in conclusion let me say that both Governments propose to hold an individual Inquiry. A suggestion was made to them both that it should be a Joint Inquiry, and both concurred in the view that we should afford our good offices in assisting them to hold that Inquiry, in regard to which we, and we alone, could give statutory protection to the witnesses who were to be brought to it. The House of Commons has already agreed to the adoption of this course by a Motion, and the only issue involved in the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord is that we should expand an Inquiry which he holds in its limited form to be alike mischievous and dangerous.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 41; Not-Contents. 40.191
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Stamford, E.||Gorell, L.|
|Birkenhead, V.(L. Chancellor.)||Granard, L.(E. Granard.)|
|Farquhar, V.(L. Steward.)||Hemphill, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Burnham, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Peel, V.||Kilmarnock, L (E. Erroll.)|
|Curzon of Kedleston, M.||Ullswater, V.||Lambourne, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Birmingham, L. Bp.||Meldrum, L.(M. Huntly.)|
|Chichester, E.||Pontypridd, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Annesley, L.(V. Valentia.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Avebury, L.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Lucan, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Mount Edgeumbe, E.||Brancepeth, L.(V.Boyne.)||Stanmore, L.[Teller.]|
|Onslow, E.||Clwyd, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Colebrooke, L||Wigan, L.(E. Crawford.)|
|Somerset, D.||Morton, E.||Decies, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Abercorn M, (D. Abercore.) [Teller]||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Farnham, L.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M. [Teller.]||Allendale, V.||Gisborough, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Charlemont, V.||Lyell, L.|
|De Vesei, V.||Pentland, L.|
|Hambleden, V.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Airlie, E.||Raglan, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Ampthill, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Buxton, E.||Askwith, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Bellew, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arrar.)|
|Lichfield, E.||Buckmaster, L.||Sumner, L.|
|Mavo, E.||Carson, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Midleton, E.||de Mauley, L.||Wyfold, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.