§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY rose to call attention to the responsibility of His Majesty's Government in respect to the position and sufferings of loyalists in the south and west of Ireland; and to move, 431 That it is the duty of His Majesty's Government to advise loyalists in the south and west of Ireland as to the course they should follow in order to protect themselves and their dependents against attacks on life, limb and property; and to state what steps it is proposed to take to give protection or relief.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not know whether it is necessary to offer any explanation or apology at the outset for the fact that a member of this House who is not resident in, and has no representative position towards, Ireland should be making a Motion relative to Irish affairs. At a later stage of what I have to say I hope to afford abundant justification for this apparent intervention in such an affair as this. I do not know whether it will be remarked as strange that any Motion which bears the character of censure should be moved by a member of this House who not only supported the ratification of the Treaty but also supported the Government of Ireland Bill of 1920.
§ Everything that has happened since the passing of that measure has convinced me that those who supported it were in the right. On my own behalf, and possibly on behalf of many others who supported the Treaty, I have to say that we were confronted with a state of things which can only be described as an accomplished fact. We considered that we were pledged to act up to the promises made by Plenipotentiaries in our name; that in the tragic circumstances of the case we were not free to propose any alternative policy; that we were faced with such alternatives as, though they might amount to the subjugation of a country, must also amount to its devastation. Besides that, we had a right to expect something else, and we thought we were going to get it. We thought that an amount of discretion would prevail and influence the actions of those in power as usually has prevailed in like cases. We thought that common sense would discover, and that action would give effect to, the necessity for providing for the inevitable period of transition which must intervene before anything like an effective Government could be set up under the Treaty to take the place of that which had gone before. We were entitled to suppose that an ordinary amount of foresight would be shown in this case as in any other, and we were given no cause to expect, either as part of the Treaty or otherwise, the imme- 432 diate withdrawal of the British power from Ireland.
§ I do not know whether it is necessary or whether it is expected that I should, but it is certainly not my intention to refer to the present campaign of crime in Ireland to the extent of horrifying your Lordships with long lists of descriptive detail. I take it that the existence of this persecution in Ireland—for that is the best name by which to describe it—is not really in dispute. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack adds to his attributes as a great lawyer those of a humorist, and he will appreciate that in humorous words there is sometimes weight and value beyond that which excites the laughter they provoke, and when I confess that I am not armed to-day with affidavits nor with evidence sufficient to satisfy a jury upon all the matters which form the ground of my Motion, I should like to remind your Lordships that a very humorous man of letters whom we all know, who is less successful as a politician than as a man of letters, has remarked that there are some things which are not known to the law but are perfectly well known to everyone else.
§ When you think of the poignant descriptions in private letters, of the large numbers of unhappy persons who have been driven over here and give first-hand accounts by word of mouth, of the sad descriptions given in Irish newspapers, which, for some occult reason, are not repeated in English newspapers, I conceive that I am discharged from the duty of giving more than a general reference to the state of things in Ireland which constitutes the mischief against which my Resolution proposes the small amount of remedy which, alas! is only possible now.
§ This has not been a land war between occupiers and owners. I do not know whether I am expected to go into the cases of those who have often been victimised and outraged in Ireland in the past. It is not merely landowners who have been driven from home by threats, their rent withheld, and their houses burned. Without taking into account those cases which, surely, are sad enough, you will find on going into the case of other classes of society that no sex, no age, no calling, no class has been spared. Taking at random the cases in one week I find that the victims were taken from the humblest ranks-ex-soldiers, ex-members of the 433 Royal Irish Constabulary, farmers, farm hands, old women, wives seeking to save their husbands, children. These, or some of them, have been the victims of orders to leave home under threats of kidnappings, of beatings, of farm burnings, in which I am sorry to say that cattle which it was not possible to rescue from the buildings have suffered; house burnings which have been so rapid in their action that in one case a man who was in a room in the burning building met with his death; murders, of course, and, in the dreadful case reported to us by my noble and learned friend who sits next to me, there has been something even worse than murder.
§ My preamble implies a responsibility, and my Motion seeks to affirm a duty. I understand that the responsibility which I imply has not been repudiated. Your Lordships remember the admirably chosen words in which my noble friend Lord Crawford—I think it was on Monday week—did what little he could to answer the Question put to him by my noble and learned friend who sits next to me, Lord Carson, when he told the House the dreadful story of the outrage which he was relating. Lord Crawford's words engaged our sympathy with him for the ungrateful task he had to discharge, and for his high sense of the extent of the horrors made possible by the situation that has been allowed to arise. His task was almost a confession of despair.
I will venture to read his words to your Lordships. Lord Carson, referring to the loyalists, asked:
What does the Government do for them? Or what does the Government advise them to do? Do they advise this class of people throughout the country to leave Ireland I if they do, will they help them? Will they set up some kind of Commission which will enable them to get out? Or do they advise them to stay there? If they advise them to stay there, to whom are they to look?
The noble Earl's reply to that part of my noble and learned friend's speech was:
I confess I wish I could give a clear and definite answer to the Question of the noble and learned Lord, as to what attitude should be adopted by the Government towards some hundreds of thousands of loyalists in the south of Ireland.
I take those all too significant words as meaning that a responsibility was recognised, but that the means of discharging it were all too difficult to seek.
§ I ask the House to-night to affirm the 434 duty that Lord Carson sought to describe, and which Lord Crawford could not disclaim, to advise the loyalists whether to leave Ireland, and, if so, to help them to get out; or whether to stay, and, if so, where to look for protection. The tragedy of the situation is that we cannot suggest what help should be given, excepting mere advice. We are kept in the dark to a great extent. What more material help is possible we cannot know. Of course, it is possible to consider the question of pecuniary compensation in cases to which pecuniary compensation is applicable, but that, can be given only after the event, and the event in too many cases is one which renders pecuniary compensation that which is hardly compensation at all. It can only be given after the dire fate has been suffered—in many cases death, or even worse.
§ There was a conversation in the House of Commons a day or two ago about this very matter of compensation, and it then appeared that a Commission was sitting, under the presidency of my noble and learned friend, Lord Shaw, to award compensation in certain cases upon both sides—compensation for victims of the late war in Ireland, on the one hand, of damage done by Imperial troops, on the other hand of damage done by rebel forces. But, however useful the inquiires of that Commission may be, however able may be the conduct of its noble Chairman (being, as he is, a man in whom your Lordships have such great confidence) how little effect can be had from the labours even of that Commission your Lordships will judge when I tell you that they are limited not merely to matters which happened before the Treaty, but even so far back as events which happened before this time a year ago—namely, before the conclusion of what was called the truce. Then there is a Commission sitting—I have not been able to trace its terms of reference—under a much respected member of the House of Commons, Sir Samuel Hoare, as Chairman. It is called the Refugees Commission, but, as I understand it, their powers do not extend beyond the administration of a sum of £10,000.
§ I should like to know whether the Government can seriously offer opposition to this Motion. Surely the Government are not going to say: "We will not give even the little that is asked." They surely will not say: "We will wash our hands of this 435 shocking affair." It is true that my Motion asks for little, but, though you ask for your minimum demand, you do not always mean to limit yourself to that if you find that you can get anything more. Therefore, my Motion does ask at the end that they should state "what steps it is proposed to take to give protection and relief." So much then for remedies, so far as such things are possible in a case of this kind.
§ I come now to the source of the responsibility, and what is to be said by way of criticism in case this House wishes to do what best it can to prevent such things happening again. I speak of the hasty and precipitate evacuation of Ireland by the Imperial Forces. I say that evacuation, however harsh it may seem, must be judged by results like everything else, and in the light of those results it seems to me that the judgment cannot fail to be adverse and severe. For my part, I cannot see how you can justify this deplorable precipitancy. I have been unable to suggest to myself what can have been the reason for it. Who asked for it? It was no necessary term of this or any other Treaty. What was put forward as the reason for it? Everything pointed to a necessary period of transition, confused and difficult if you like, and possibly dangerous, but, surely, the British power could and should have been for the time retained, as the friendly and helpful protection that the Treaty might have made it into, until time should allow for the setting up of an Irish force in its place.
§ There is one possible explanation, which I mention only in order to reject it. Ministers, like humbler persons, must have their intentions judged by the effect of their actions, and judged by the effect, which was that we got a great deal of credit abroad for the dramatic way in which the Treaty was concluded and the instant way in which effect was given to it, we might conclude that His Majesty's Government had a desire to gain credit in the United States of America and in our Dominions by some act of spectacular generosity, a beau geste of magnanimity. I do not impute that, and we have to seek elsewhere for the explanation.
§ I inquired just now: Who asked for the withdrawal? Was it a term of the Treaty? Did Mr. Collins ask for it? We know now by the sequel that if he did make any such request he was at that 436 moment without the power which alone would have justified any such request, the power, namely, of giving that impartial protection owed by every civilised Government to law-abiding citizens of all races, parties, or creeds. The usual defence of Ministers up to now, against complaints as to what has been going on in Ireland, has been that they were convinced of Mr. Collins's good intentions and bona fides, that he was doing his best, and was only failing for lack of resources and the necessary force. I do not dispute the bona fides of Mr. Collins; I have no occasion to do so. He may have really believed that he was able to give protection, but I complain that that confidence of his seems to have been taken as a good enough security against risks of which the most elementary prudence was bound to take account, and in the face of warnings by which, already, any sanguineness or optimism in the matter was only too much belied.
§ I should not have been impressed very much if I had been told that Mr. Collins had said that he asked for the withdrawal because he feared that attacks upon British forces would continue in spite of the Treaty so long as those forces remained. We know now that the lawlessness, the savagery, the vindictive instinct for persecution, went far beyond the stage when it could be pretended to be justified by the continued presence of British troops in Ireland, and that to all the bad work that was going on the withdrawal of those forces has, unhappily, given no pause. And even Mr. Collins's good intentions were not to be put into execution; they could not be put into execution until after the Southern Irish Elections, which were so constantly being put off. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack advanced that upon 6 July in this House as a reason why Mr. Collins had not, as he said, struck earlier. I think that was a perfectly legitimate plea to put forward on behalf of Mr. Collins, because those Elections undoubtedly gave him a moral power which was so valuable, as well as any physical or military power he might acquire in the interval.
§ But, meanwhile, all these sufferers were being harried, and nothing was being done, and nothing could be done to afford the much-needed protection. Things were bad enough when the Treaty was being negotiated. They have gone from bad to worse since; and the Government have had 437 warnings. As is always the case in this sort of campaign, whatever spark of idealism there might have been in the guerilla warfare, which was the beginning of it, the methods adopted soon caused it to degenerate into the merest brigandage, in which patriotism gave place to private cupidity, private vengeance, and private lust. I have mentioned the warnings which were given to the Government. Newspapers stated, without contradiction, in the beginning of December, 1921, that with the ratification of the Treaty—it is really tragic to look back upon the optimism of those times—in Dublin and London "the withdrawal of British troops in Ireland will begin at once, and it is expected that the withdrawal will have been completed by the time the forthcoming legislation has been carried."
§ The Treaty was concluded early in December, 1921, and was soon ratified by the British Parliament. It was not, however, ratified by the corresponding Assembly in Ireland until well into the new year, and then only by an extremely small Party majority. That was a warning to begin with. In the House of Commons, on February 9, 1921, Questions were put to the Government as to their intentions with regard to the withdrawal of troops, and the only answers vouchsafed were that no requests from the Provisional Government had been received for the retention of British forces, and that the withdrawal of British forces was a subject not for Questions but for debate and a debate upon a future date, a future date which might never arise. It was also protested that anarchy was too strong a word as a description of what was then going on in Ireland.
§ Is there no remedy besides the giving of advice, and possible assistance in flight from this unhappy country? In the House of Commons, two days ago, there was a discussion on compensation, and I noticed that there was much more in that discussion about the reimbursement of Ireland by England than there was about any corresponding action by Ireland towards England. Surely, it may be intimated that in the last resort compensation to loyalists and refugees for injuries done since the evacuation, so far as compensation can be given in money, would be recorded as a debit against Ireland in the financial adjustment that must accompany the starting of the Free State. Surely, the Imperial Government might request the Free State 438 now to declare that the driving out of the loyalists from Ireland is not in the interests of the Free State, is not countenanced or desired by them, and will be prevented by them to the best of their power. At an early stage of these proceedings intimations were given that it was not desired to drive out even the old land-owning class from the south and west of Ireland. It was recognised, as it must be recognised in any civilised country, that persons of education and experience in public affairs, and persons of property, are useful in any community, and that it is folly to drive them out. I suggest that His Majesty's Government should ask the Provisional Government to make it clear that if that were; their policy at that stage it is no less their policy now.
§ I said at the beginning of my remarks that it might be considered strange that a non-Irish member of this House should concern himself with matters which, in the first instance, seem to concern Ireland alone. I have always thought that debates upon Home Rule were too much monopolised by Irish members in both Houses. I never knew any aspect of Home Rule which was not quite as much a British interest as an Irish one. We are now confronted with events which, a short time ago, not only possibly but, apparently, probably, might have involved and still may possibly (and, in a less degree, probably) involve such a thing as the total independence of Ireland as a sovereign State. There could be no higher British interest than that, military, strategical or economic, and, to my mind, looking at the dangers, threatened hardships, depredations and cruelty suffered in Ireland by those who have—and because they have—afforded to us and to the Imperial connection their sympathy and their support, that such things should be suffered is indeed a British interest, because it is a thing which affects British reputation and British honour, as does the British Government's failure to foresee and to guard against such things.
§ For myself I cannot sit down tamely and accept a position in which the British Government should even seem to be chargeable with abandoning its duty and deserting its friends. In these cases the great majority of the sufferers, though by no means all, are friends of the British connection, and their sufferings, as I say, are matters of British honour and British reputation. If it be the case that they have been led to expect that in all these 439 events they would receive British support, I must say that I hope we shall have an answer to-night that will show that, at all events to the full extent that is still possible in the circumstances of this terrible case, these unhappy people shall be told that the time has not yet arrived when they will ask in vain for support and sympathy from the strong arm and the great heart of this country.
§ Moved, That it is the duty of His Majesty's Government to advise loyalists in the south and west of Ireland as to the course they should follow in order to protect themselves and their dependents against attacks on life, limb and property; and to state what steps it is proposed to take to give protection or relief.—(Lord Stuart of Wortley.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I find it difficult not to say two or three words in support of the plea which has been put forward in such appropriate terms by my noble friend opposite. No one who has any knowledge of what is happening throughout a great part of Ireland will, I think, accuse him of having painted his picture in too lurid colours. I think it is our duty to remember, whenever we are told of these tragical happenings, that for every case that is brought before the public attention, there are not only tens but probably scores, or even hundreds, of other cases, which never see the light, partly because, throughout a great portion of the Press, there seems to be no great desire to lay the facts of the Irish story fully before the public, and partly, I am afraid, for another reason—namely, that in such cases the sufferers do not dare to report in full what has happened to them, for fear of the swift vengeance which will probably overtake them.
I agree with my noble friend when he says that in all this we are only paying the price which we were sure to have, to pay for the over-hasty manner in which the whole machinery of Government in Ireland was dismantled at the time of the truce. There never was a more dangerous, I would almost say a more reckless experiment. To put the whole power of governing the country into the hands of men, all or nearly all of whom, with a few quite trifling exceptions, had no experience of administration, of men a great many of whom were, if not half-hearted in their support of law and order in Ireland, actually hostile to it, and to expect that men of that 440 sort should be able to carry on the government of Ireland at a time of supreme crisis, and in the face of overwhelming difficulties, was really too much to expect of any similar body of men in any country in the world.
There was another error which seems to me to have been equally culpable; I mean the omission from the Treaty of any stipulation for the purpose of insuring protection for the loyalist minority in the south of Ireland. I think that, if at that time you had asked any intelligent Englishman to give you a list of the obvious conditions which ought to be insisted upon when the Treaty was made, he would have said that one of those conditions certainly would be a stipulation in favour of the loyalist minority. We all know that no such condition is to be found in the Irish Treaty, and I am afraid we can come to no other conclusion than that the omission was due to an inordinate desire to respect the susceptibilities of the Sinn Fein leaders, who might probably have regarded any such stipulation as a reflection upon their good faith.
In these circumstances, those who were interested in the cause of the loyalist minority were driven back upon private negotiations and conversations. My noble friend, Lord Midleton, is not in the House, but it is a matter of common knowledge that for a considerable time he and his friends were busily engaged in doing their best to secure the most favourable terms for their loyalist friends. Those negotiations were veiled in a considerable amount of secrecy, but, from time to time, we received the most encouraging reports of the attitude of the Irish leaders. Your Lordships will not have forgotten the Prime Minister's announcement that the conditions were to be made not only possible but attractive for the loyal minority. What, however, was the end of the diplomacy of my noble friend, Lord Midleton? There appeared the other day, over his signature, and those of my noble friend, Lord Donoughmore, and one or two other well-known loyalists, a letter which threw an invaluable flood of light upon the transactions which then took place. From that letter it appears clearly that Lord Midleton and his friends were indeed consulted with regard to that part of the new Constitution which had reference to the Senate, and that they are entirely dissatisfied with the shape in which that part of the arrangement was left when the Constitution was put for- 441 ward; and it also transpires that about no other section were they consulted at all! That, therefore, was the outcome of these informal negotiations which, out of consideration for the Irish leaders, we had to accept as the only means of obtaining a healing for our arguments.
The anxiety of the present situation cannot, I think, be exaggerated. I do not think that my noble friend said a word that was too strong upon that subject, and I trust that, because the Irish Free State forces have achieved, as they undoubtedly have, one or two not inconsiderable successes in the field, we shall not assume that for that reason alone we are at the end, or even in sight of the end, of our apprehensions for the future. We have, had a lesson in regard to the danger of premature rejoicings, and I hope we shall not forget it in the future. Mr. Collins has been dreaming dreams, and spoke the other day, in an eloquent Proclamation which he issued to the people of Ireland, of the approach of a period of constitutional liberty in which nothing should be permitted as an excuse for undermining "the people's right to security of the person, security of property, and freedom to live their own lives in their own way as long as they do not trespass upon the rights of others." I do not think we are at all drawing near to the age to which Mr. Collins seems to look forward. How many people are there in the south of Ireland who are allowed to live their own lives with security of person and of property, so long as they do not trespass upon the rights of others?
I am not quite sure that even the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has not also been indulging in over-pleasant dreams. I listened to him the other night in this House, when, as he described the military triumphs of the Free State Army, he expressed his hope that the time was coming when the young gentlemen of Southern Ireland and all those who have played their part for centuries, and been vilely treated in the past, will be able to take part in a movement designed to put down swiftly the disorder in the southern province of Ireland. I do not think the noble and learned Viscount can believe that at this moment there would be much chance of the services of what he called the young gentlemen of the south of Ireland being cordially accepted in alliance with those of the Free State Army. Above all do not let us forget that what is necessary now is not merely the 442 subjugation of these rebel forces which are in the field, and which can be attacked and perhaps defeated, and perhaps crushed, but the gradual restoration of a state of order, which has entirely disappeared from a great part of Ireland owing to the manner in which the affairs of that country have been managed.
Meanwhile, to me, the symptoms are most disquieting. The Irish Parliament, which was to have met months ago and was to have met this week, has again postponed its meeting. The country is overrun with disorder. The Law Courts do not function. As to that, I noticed an interesting statement made two or three days ago by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in another place. Me was asked this question: "Is the judiciary in the south of Ireland in a state of complete or partial paralysis? His answer was this: "I should say nearer complete paralysis." That is a picture of the state to which the judicial system in Ireland has come, and I have no doubt your Lordships have noticed cases in which, where criminals have actually been taken red-handed breaking into banks and doing things of that kind, the jury has refused to convict them. I am afraid every day that passes adds to the total of these deplorable happenings.
Can we be surprised if, things being in this state, the sufferers ask you to whom they are to turn for advice, assistance or redress. I venture to think that it is the duty of His Majesty's Government, so far as they are able, to meet that request and to meet it with open hands. I say this for many reasons, but mainly for this, that I do not understand His Majesty's Government to deny the great responsibility which they have in this matter. They have, indeed, to a certain extent set up machinery for the purpose of dealing with the grievous losses which have been sustained. There is the Commission presided over by Lord Shaw. That, as your Lordships will remember, deals only with pre-truce cases. It was said in another place that Lord Shaw's Commission has been able to deal with ten only of these cases out of a total of 10,000. I have also seen it said, apparently on authority, that Lord Shaw himself has gone away to America. The Shaw Commission does not, in the circumstances, look like a very promising enterprise.
But if I may pass from cases which arose before the truce to cases which have arisen since the truce, we are all aware that 443 under the Government plan, these are to be dealt with, not by His Majesty's Government or by any machinery set up by them, but by the Irish Government and the machinery which they can set up. I confess that the prospect opened out by this arrangement is one which fills me with considerable alarm, but I have been a little comforted by things which have been said upon this point by no less an authority than the noble and learned Viscount himself. He will forgive me, I am sure, if I remind him of a few words which he said the other day upon this subject. The noble and learned Viscount said:There is in our view a clear obligation, and there will be a clear obligation upon the Government of Ireland … to make compensation in all these cases—cases, that is, of acts of illegal violence. He also said:It is undoubtedly the function of the Irish Government, if and when formed, to pay such compensation as may be required to meet such cases. I have no doubt at all that this Government, in the elaborate taking of accounts which is contemplated in the Treaty … will hold such an Irish Government strictly accountable in relation to these matters.And then he went on in these remarkable words:It must not be taken, however, if for any reason … this reasonable expectation is not made good … that I exclude the reasonableness of an expectation that they should receive help from those in this country who have undertaken their responsibility in this matter.As I understand what the noble and learned Viscount said, the position is this. The liability is, in the, first place, with the Irish Government. Next, His Majesty's Government will hold the Irish Government strictly accountable in relation to these matters; and, finally, if the Irish Government should make default, then the sufferers may reasonably expect that they will get help "from those in this country who have undertaken their responsibility in this matter"—that is, I presume, from His Majesty's Government.
I dwell upon that because the point seems to me to be one of great importance, and of great importance to His Majesty's Government in particular. If they have accepted this responsibility, primary and ulterior, surely it is for them to keep an eye upon these proceedings, and to be prepared in good time with the policy which they will have to adopt in the quite conceivable case that the Irish Government may, for one reason or another, fail to make good the expectations which 444 have been formed. I should like, in particular, to ask the noble and learned Viscount, if he is going to speak presently, whether, in the first place, I have correctly interpreted the passage which I have quoted; and, in the next place, whether His Majesty's Government are not able to give to these unfortunate people now some advice as to the course which they ought to take in order that, when the time comes, all the, necessary evidence may not have disappeared and been forgotten, and in order that their claims may be put forward in a proper and intelligible shape.
Cannot His Majesty's Government give them any assistance in this matter? Remember, they have no one else to whom to go. We have been told that the Provisional Government is fighting for its life, and therefore cannot attend to ordinary matters of routine. That is perhaps a fair argument, but, if the victims of all this persecution cannot go to the Irish Government, is there to be no door of any kind open to them with the. Government here? I venture to maintain that some means should be found for enabling these people to come forward to record and substantiate their claims, and that His Majesty's Government should, so to speak, take official cognisance of them at once with a view, if necessary, to pressing them, and pressing them strongly, at the proper moment, whenever it comes. I do not add the other points which were so well dealt with by my noble friend in his speech, but I do feel very strongly that His Majesty's Government should deal, not only justly but generously with these poor people, who have, after all, a blameless record, who have deserved well of this country, and who have been very grievously wronged.
THE EAEL OF ARRAN
My Lords, after listening to the opening remarks of the noble Lord who initiated this debate, when he said he felt a certain amount of diffidence in speaking as an Englishman on Irish questions, I confess that I feel an even greater amount of diffidence to speak since I am no longer a resident Irishman, and it is only because of my experience of many years of life there that I am venturing to enter into this debate. It is not-only that we must think of the present awful conditions of those loyalists who are living in Ireland, but I would ask your Lordships and the Government also to consider the position of those loyalists under the difficulties (I will only call them 445 difficulties) which may arise when the Free State Government begins functioning. I think their difficulties have not yet been realised. I think that the blackness of their future is not yet realised everywhere, but, at least, those who drafted the Irish Constitution—I do not know who they were—did recognise throughout that Constitution that it would be impossible for certain people to live in Ireland, and under Article 4 they give the power for Irish citizens to change their State.
I do not wish to dwell upon the case of the Irish landlords, and I specially mention this because it has been so often said that the Irish landlords speak so much about their own case. I do not agree, but that has been said. Fortunately for them, the great majority of them have no longer any real stake in the country except, of course, a very real one in the shape of a sentimental stake, but if they find themselves unable to live under the Free State Government they can go and start their lives elsewhere. We are to be congratulated upon that possibility, but we must think more of those whose whole stake is left in the country—the loyalist solicitors, the loyalist doctors, who have sunk their all in buying a practice or in building one up. We must think of the farmers, who have already sufficient enemies to deal with owing to the extraordinary land hunger which has always existed in Ireland, and we must not forget those Irish landlords who have not sold, because I think their future is black indeed.
Your Lordships will wonder, perhaps, why I feel so pessmistic as to the future of the loyalists in Ireland since Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith have, I believe, both said that they require the services of every Irishman. Let us assume, and let us assume it with all our hearts, that Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins mean what they say; I do not believe they have the power of fulfilling those hopes. My life-long residence in Ireland has convinced me of one thing, and that is that in the breasts of eight-tenths of Irishmen living outside the Six Counties there is a feeling of the deepest hatred towards England and towards anything English, and that eight-tenths of Irishmen look upon the Southern loyalists as the English garrison. They have been taught to believe in their earliest years—and it is in our earliest years that we learn things which are never eradicated—that the Southern loyalists are their enemies. They have been taught 446 to believe also that when Home Rule for Ireland, or Free State government, or whatever it may be, has come into operation the goods, the property, and the possessions of those loyalists will be the spoils of war.
It is not an agreeable thing to think, it is not an agreeable thing to say, but we are discussing the future of men whose whole sentiment and whose sole thought has been loyalty to the Empire, and it would ill become England, I think, to betray them at a moment like this. The young soldier of the Irish Republican Army or the Irish Free State Army, whichever it is, took part in what is now described as a war with the hope that if the war succeeded it would enable them to live in their own country. I think that is a very natural and laudable idea. Ten years ago, owing to circumstances, the vast majority of these men would have been obliged to earn their living in America or the Colonies, and one of the reasons which persuaded them to take up arms was the belief that if they attained to an Irish Republic, or an Irish Free State, anyway, to a large measure of self-government, that necessity of leaving their Fatherland would bi removed.
They will ask now for the fulfilment of those beliefs, and if Mr. Collins is to fulfil those beliefs and to continue to retain their support he will have to find them some means of remaining in Ireland and of pursuing their livelihood there. I do not see what means can be given them except the means of wealth and the means of property of those who have been looked upon, from their own point of view, as the enemies of Ireland, and when the Southern loyalists ask the Free State Government to protect them and give them consideration, the answer of the Irish Free State Government, it seems to me, will be: "Have you given us that consideration and support in return for which you now ask our protection?"
Ten days ago, Mr. Collins sent out a call to arms. I do not know whether many Irish loyalists have replied to that call, because, as your Lordships know, we get very little news from Ireland now. If they have not replied to that call, looking at it from the point of view of the Irish Free State, the obvious answer will be, at any rate to those who have not responded: "Did you support us when we wanted you? Did you take up the duties of citizenship? If you did not take them up, what reason 447 have you to ask for your rights? "I confess that if I were still resident in Ireland I should have felt extremely diffident as to responding to that call, and I think a very great many Irish loyalists will and must feel the same thing. We must remember the means by which this Government came into power.
I do not think I ought so much to say we must remember as that we cannot help remembering. There are certain things that one cannot forget. One cannot forget the British soldiers who died in this war, and the manner of their dying. We cannot forget that awful holocaust of British officers on what is now known as "Bloody Sunday," and without any wish to create, ill feeling or re-open old sores, many of us feel—and I am speaking for others as well as myself—that we would rather go to another country there to pursue our political ideas and our loyalty in peace. None the less would I urge that if the Southern loyalists have not joined—I do not know how many of them have joined —in response to this call to arms, they will be considered and said by the Free State Government to have at least endangered their rights of citizenship.
It is, I know, a difficult thing to say how these men can be relieved, but I do not think it is absolutely impossible. I think it is far more easy than anyone can have any idea of. The property that these men leave behind them, for I do not think they will be able to take any, is of great value. Somebody must own that property; perhaps the Irish Free State, for distribution amongst those who work for it. Is it impossible that some machinery might be arranged by which the value of this property might be realised to a certain extent, and the proceeds taken by the Irish Free State Government and handed over to the English Government for distribution amongst those who have lost everything? It appears to me to be only fair that those who have gone on account of their loyalty should receive compensation, and that those who have gained property unexpectedly should not obtain it without payment.
In all previous cases, and, more than any, in the American War of Independence, I believe I am absolutely correct in saying—those who are students of history among your Lordships will correct me if I am wrong, but I am convinced that I am right—that compensation was paid to 448 loyalists in those States when peace was declared. They were not left to starve; they were not left—because they did not wish it —to remain in the United States. I think, with such a precedent as that, it is not too much to expect that England may feel it her duty to compensate, and to provide for those whose, sole fault has been loyalty to the Empire.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the case which has been made has not been presented in a controversial or a bitter tone, and I can make such reply as seems appropriate entirely in the same spirit as that which has animated the speeches that have been made. I may, perhaps, begin by pointing out, what seems to have escaped observation, that if you take the first month, or the second month, or the third month before the signing of the truce, and contrast the position of the Southern Unionists in any one of those months, or in any other month near the date of the signing of the Treaty, with their position in any month which you choose to take since, you will discover that—melancholy as is that which is going on to-day, and to which noble Lords, in moving language, have called attention—each month of the post-armistice time is marked by incredibly fewer casualties, murders, outrages and hardships than any comparable month which might be selected before the Treaty was signed.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My information on that point is from the Irish Office, and I cannot do more than ask for the return of the statistics. If that statement is challenged by any noble Lord who has a special means of knowing, let me, in order not to put it too high, say this. It is notorious that there, was, before the signing of the Treaty, in almost every part of Southern Ireland, a series of gross outrages. They were the subject of debate in this House week after week. I only want to make it plain that the situation with which we are confronted to-day, bad as it is, is not a situation which is an entirely new one, or which has come into existence since the signing of the Treaty. I would like to point out that the situation with which we were confronted before the signing of the Treaty was one, as far as any of us could judge, or any of our critics could suggest, with which there was 449 no means of dealing, or correcting, or bringing to an end, but one, and that was that we should raise sufficient forces, numbering some hundreds of thousands of men, to be added to our existing troops, in order to establish a complete domination over Ireland, and hold it there, and continue to hold it there, with a strong hand. I am entitled to say that nobody has ever suggested that by any other means that were available to us when that fateful decision was taken could we have dealt with the existing situation.
We did not take that course. We still think that we were, right in adopting a different course—a course which has since received the overwhelming approval (I will explain the use of the adjective in a moment) of the peo2)le in Ireland, and the overwhelming approval of Parliament, and I am satisfied—and I think few noble Lords would deny—that if it were submitted to the judgment of the constituencies of this country, whether they were actually at the time in favour of or adverse to the signing of the Treaty, the reply of the people of this country would now be as overwhelming as the reply of the people of Ireland has been. In some quarters, it is said that the decision in Ireland, though decisive enough, cannot be described as overwhelming. I find it necessary to remind noble, Lords that the Election took place in circumstances which made it as certain as anything could be that every man who went to give a free vote against the pact entered into between Mr. de Valera and Mr. Collins was giving a vote which might easily endanger his life or his limbs. It is therefore astonishing, in these conditions, that so large a number of independent candidates should have been elected. That circumstance, in itself, makes the conclusion irresistible that had the pact not been made—as we thought, unhappily made—and had Mr. de Valera gone to the country upon the anti-Treaty platform in competition with Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith on the Treaty side, the result of the appeal to the Irish people would have shown a very much greater majority in favour of the Treaty.
Noble Lords, of course, may question whether I am right or not in saying that had we submitted our Irish policy to the electors of this country the result would have been the same. It is not yet settled whether we may not have to submit it, and, whatever other charges have been made against the Government, it has not been 450 suggested against them, and it could not be suggested against them, that they were not very willing, and even very anxious, to strengthen their hands within the last nine months by obtaining the opinion of the constituencies upon this very issue.
If I am entitled to make those submissions, what is the situation which today is complained of, and which has been rightly described in the moving language which we have heard to-night? It is that great sufferings are being endured by large numbers of Southern Unionists—sufferings in relation to life and limb, and sufferings in relation to their property. I am not in any way concerned, nor would it be expected that I should be, to attentuate the case that is made. I have not the material which would enable me to do so, still less have I the disposition to do so; because such an attempt would come very badly from one who has no small share of responsibility for hat which has taken place. They are suffering in many parts of Southern Ireland at this moment terrible things. Those who are concerned to make their charge against the Government in this matter—and here I include both Lord Stuart of Wortley and Lord Lansdowne—have put forward but one single point of criticism apart from the general charge. You may say, "All this is the guilty fruit of the Treaty policy." I have argued that before, and I am prepared, when it is a substantial subject of debate, to argue it again against any one in this House. I take the view which has been affirmed by Parliament of the wisdom, as between the two anxious courses which presented themselves at the time of our signing the Treaty, of the one course we adopted. But I do not argue that tonight. The subject is too large.
If, then, that more general charge is amended, what charge remains? It is that made by Lord Stuart of Wortley and by Lord Lansdowne, that we were premature, precipitate, and most incautious in withdrawing the police and soldiers from Ireland after the Treaty was signed. That is the case made. Lord Stuart of Wortley went so far as to say that he was unable even to conjecture what was the motive which led the Government to suppose that they could, with prudence or propriety, adopt this step. I should have thought that the reasons which led us to adopt that step were obvious enough for the noble Lord to appreciate without very protracted reflection.
451 What is the suggestion? The suggestion is that after signing the Treaty, which handed over the responsibilities of Ireland to the new Government, we were to continue to employ our police and our soldiers in the task of preserving order in the country until the Provisional Government was in a position to undertake the task. What would have been the position of the police in those circumstances? We should have been asking the police, every one of them knowing that he was going to be disbanded within a few months, to continue for those months utterly unable to imagine with any definiteness what in the near future was to be the destiny of Ireland; we should have been asking them to continue to discharge their dangerous and anxious duties with the knowledge that every one would cease to be employed by the Government in the space of two or three months. Whether or not they would have consented to discharge those duties, I am quite certain that we had no right to ask them to do so, and that had we asked them to undertake this task in the disaffected districts we should have incurred a deep responsibility had they lost their lives.
When we come to the question of the Army similar considerations arise. Complete and detailed protection was found to be entirely outside the range of anything we could do before the armistice was signed. We could not give it with our resources; it was a constant and repeated ground of complaint in this House that the Government were quite unable to give protection in many parts of Southern Ireland. If we could not give it then, how far does any one suppose that by keeping our soldiers all over Ireland after the armistice we could have attained the object which every one agrees to have been most desirable? Either we should have kept our troops massed together in barracks in large numbers, in which case they would have been entirely useless for the protection of isolated districts in Ireland, and still less useless for the purpose of giving assistance, or we should have had to distribute them in small numbers in all parts of Ireland, in which case they would have been liable to have been massacred, as they were massacred before the armistice was signed. The result of the policy adopted, and, as I am prepared to argue, necessarily adopted if you are going to adopt the Treaty at all, made it absolutely impossible to retain the police and soldiers scattered over the whole 452 country. These were the reasons that led to the decision.
Noble Lords have spoken of that which has been done in Ireland as if it had no element at all that justified encouragement, as if there was nothing in it to which a reasonable man who voted for the Treaty might apply himself with the belief that here at least there was some ray of hope. I wish in the most emphatic way at my command to dissociate myself entirely I from a state of mind of that kind. Let me attempt to set before your Lordships the grounds upon which I base the view I hold. It was the case when the Treaty was signed that the overwhelming majority of the population of Southern Ireland was in-flexibly opposed to this country, and to any association of any kind with this country. The noble Lord who spoke last announced his melancholy conviction that 80 per cent. of the inhabitants of Southern Ireland loathe and detest England and Englishmen. I have no knowledge as to I whether this is an exaggerated estimate or not, but I accept it as coming from the noble Lord, who evidently spoke with much knowledge and feeling upon Irish subjects.
If it be the case that 80 per cent, of the population of Southern Ireland, after all these long centuries in which they have known England and Englishmen, hate and detest both England and Englishmen, how much does this reflection add to the difficulty and anxiety of the situation as it existed at the time the Treaty was signed? At that time you had the whole of these men, the whole 80 per cent., pledged and confederated together in violent hostility to this country. Those who were of military years, members of the Irish Republican Army, and those who were not of military years, were all pledged in no circumstances ever to become part of the British Empire, and you could not have discovered amongst the whole of that 80 per cent, five or ten people who would have believed it to be conceivable that you could evolve, create, somehow in Ireland, a body of men who would change not only their policy but their fundamental conception, mental hatred and traditions of centuries in order that they may accept and act upon this new conception.
What do we find to-day? The Treaty has been in operation for nearly a year. It has brought with it many disillusion- 453 ments, many disappointments, many hopes postponed; but is that all that it has brought? It has brought a result which I have referred to before, and which I repeat—namely, the knowledge that you can elicit from the people of Southern Ireland, taken as a whole, when circumstances are most depressing, a clear and unmistakable preference for the existence of Ireland as an integral part of the British Empire as opposed to the violent and separatist policy of Mr. de Valera. I see that His Grace the Duke of Somerset can hardly control his merriment, and I beg leave to tell him that I am not quite so extremely foolish a person as he appears to suppose. The noble Duke seemed to regard it as an irresistible source of merriment that I should claim that the result of the Irish Elections has been to show that there exists in the South of Ireland an overwhelming majority who prefer to stay within the Empire rather than go out with Mr. de Valera.
If that is a proposition which may justly excite merriment I do not understand the frame of mind of the person on whom that impression is produced. Every man who wished voted with Mr. de Valera, and voted with the knowledge that he was running no risk, that Mr. de. Valera would not accept the Constitution. He could vote with the knowledge that, Mr. de Valera was in his heart at that moment as clearly a Republican as ever he was in his life. If people do not vote for an avowed Republican whim it is safe to do so, but vote for a Treaty, which, undoubtedly, maintains the English connection, it shows that the majority of the people of Ireland prefer the less violent course to the de Valera Republican policy. It is not, at least, let me assure the noble Duke, a ridiculous proposition, whether it will claim the assent of the House, taken as a whole, or not.
That is the first result which has been attained. Let me proceed to the others. You have, at this moment, in Ireland, a Party representing the Provisional Government, which has raised a considerable Army, and which is trying every day to increase the power and the resources of that Army. Had a Treaty not been made, no one who is listening to me is under the slightest delusion as to where the military enthusiasm and the organising power of the young men of Ireland would have been 454 employed at this moment. They would have been employed at the expense of Southern Unionists, of the Irish Constabulary and of English soldiers. To-day, we find that these men have not only signed that Treaty, but have given the clearest possible proof that they are prepared themselves to run every conceivable risk in the attempt to carry out that Treaty.
Is it not a remarkable circumstance that, at this moment, you should find Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith, who, a year ago, were members of the same Army, pledged by every conceivable bond to the same common purpose, and that a Republican purpose, now engaged in arms against those who have refused to accept the Treaty which they signed as Plenipotentiaries?. That is an immense change in the temper of those men, and it is a change which I am entitled, as the result of the Elections, to say reflects the views of the people of that country.
When I hear, as we have heard so much and read so much, about the destruction of the property of Unionists in Southern Ireland, am I not entitled to call attention to another very remarkable circumstance? Look at Sackville Street. Look at that great historic street of the historic capital of Ireland, which was the property, and would have remained the property in the national sense, certainly so far as its great buildings were concerned, of this new Government. They have not even hesitated, in order to stamp out the armed resistance to the Treaty, to invade by force of arms, and to destroy as a result of their assault, even their own property, worth millions of pounds. These circumstances are lamentable enough; all destruction of property is lamentable. But do not let us fail to notice, as a remarkable evidence of the seriousness of these men and of the intensity with which they are pursuing their purpose, that, not only in life but in property, they are ruthlessly carrying what I think no one can dispute is a pacific purpose to its necessary conclusion.
I read to-day a Proclamation, which has been issued, to-day, I think, by the Provisional Government. It is possible that some of your Lordships may not have read it. I think its terms are very remarkable. It is the Proclamation of which the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, spoke, post-poning the Parliament. It runs thus— 455The armed conspiracy to defy and override the authority of the Irish people is being defeated in open warfare and is resorting to murderous sniping, brigandage and the interruption of communications and transport essential for the nation's food supply in a last effort to frustrate and reverse the national policy approved by DailEireann and endorsed by the electorate. The soldiers now being sniped and ambushed are the servants of the people responsible to the people. Injury to these soldiers is therefore an attack on the people.The Proclamation continues, under the heading, "Action not Discussion," as follows—It is the first duty and the firm intention of the Government to assert the authority of the people and re-establish in every county full security for the individual and the free working of the economic life of the nation.1 may pause here to say that I thought Lord Lansdowne was not quite just to Mr. Collins when he quoted from a similar appeal and said that Mr. Collins had been too sanguine. I did not read anything in what has been attributed to Mr. Collins which is inconsistent with the complete realisation of the difficulty of his task, but I did read in it the expression of an earnest desire and a resolute intention to attain that state of things as soon as he could.
The Proclamation continues—Were the armed troops who are taking upon themselves to make unnatural war upon the Irish people to be permitted to remain under arms for any length of time the country would be faced with economic ruin and famine. … It is not by discussion but by action that such calamities can be averted.It then goes on to point out that many Members of Parliament are on active service, and that, therefore, Parliament will stand prorogued for a further period of fourteen days, while a great number of its Members are actively engaged in restoring public order. Your Lordships will recollect that the members of the late DailEireann were largely in prison on a celebrated occasion when it was necessary to communicate with them. I am myself unreasonable enough to suppose that it is a significant fact that the majority of members of the existing DailEireann— and all, so far as I know, are of military years and with no disability—are now, at the risk of their lives, in various parts of Ireland, attempting to put down disorder, and are, being sniped, murdered and wounded by the very force who were sniping, murdering and wounding British troops some twelve months ago.
456 The Proclamation declares—Parliament will stand prorogued for a further period of fourteen days while a great number of its members are actively engaged in restoring public order and while difficulties in the way of a free and full Assembly of the representatives of the nation are being removed by the valour of the people's Army.A further prorogation may be necessary in order that Parliament may meet free from the threat of arms.I look back at events as they were so short a time ago, I examine—and I try to do so detachedly and impartially—the situation, anxious as it is, to-day, and I must boldly claim that the situation to-day contains elements of promise which have not existed between Ireland and England for centuries.
The noble Lord has said that 80 per cent, of Irishmen hate and detest the inhabitants of this country. Men who are prepared to fight, men who are prepared to kill or be killed by their own comrades in arms, are men at whose sincerity no one has the right to sneer. No man can give a higher proof that when he signed the Treaty he meant the Treaty, and intended to be bound wholly by its provisions, than to go out and risk his life by attacking those who were associated with him in the same Army only eight short months ago. I am not, therefore, making an extreme claim, I am making a most moderate claim, when I say that the Provisional Government has given ample proof of its good faith in the operation which it is now carrying on.
I picked up a newspaper last night, and I read that in no fewer than nine different-parts of Ireland quite considerable forces of Irish troops were operating. In one case it was twenty, in another thirty-five, in another forty, and in another seventy; and in all those cases they were either attacking, or being attacked by, that Army which, twelve months ago, reinforced by these men, would probably have been attacking English troops, and I am sufficiently an Englishman greatly to prefer that which is going on to-day in Ireland so far as the military operations are concerned. I do not think that there is any sensible person who would take such a view of the responsibility of this country as not to think it a profound gain if, without a degree of injustice which could otherwise have been avoided, you can attain the realisation, as it has been attained in Canada and in Australia, that the duty of suppressing disorder and re-establishing civilised conditions of life rests with the authorities in Ireland, with Irishmen, and does not rest, 457 and ought not to rest, except in circumstances which I will shortly indicate in a moment, with the people of this country.
I have been asked what is to happen. Let me again attempt to make it as plain as I can. Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith will either succeed or will not succeed in their ultimate purpose, the restoration of order and stable conditions in Ireland. If they succeed, we shall still be entitled to claim that the Irish question has been solved by the decision of this generation. If they fail, what then? If they irrevocably and admittedly fail to carry out their purpose, if, as the; noble Marquess apprehends, they prove not to be strong enough to carry it out, and a welter of savagery and anarchy results, undoubtedly the people of this country would not stand aside. Recognition would have to be made that the experiment had failed. But at this moment I refuse to make the admission that the experiment has failed. If, however, we are entirely wrong in all our hopes and in all our aspirations, nobody, I hope, supposes that this Government, or any other Government, could allow the failure to result in general anarchy in Irish society.
There is every indication at the present moment that this experiment is not going to fail, and when the noble Lord who spoke last says that he would not have responded to the appeal of the Free State Government for help, I certainly would not be guilty of the presumption of saying what is the duty of any man in those difficult circumstances. Retaining, as the noble Lord does retain, very naturally, many unhappy memories of many unhappy years, I do not presume to offer advice upon such a point, but I am certain that there could be no better omen for the future Government of Southern Ireland, and the future happiness of Ireland as a whole, than that the Unionists of Southern Ireland should be willing to contribute their ability, their experience and their strength, and that the Provisional Government with the same liberality and frankness should accept the co-operation so offered. It is upon these lines that we must look for a happy and contented Ireland.
I am not much concerned to quarrel with the terms of the Resolution. I do not think it is very happily framed, because it is very easy to say that the Government should advise the Unionists of Southern Ireland. Every case differs from almost every other case. The circumstances of each individual case have to be examined 458 and weighed before the only advice which is valuable can be given. As for the general case, the advice that the Government is bound to give, and as to the answers to the questions in relation to that, topic put to me by the noble Marquess, I will now attempt to deal with them. In the first place, I am quite clear that the duty of the ordinary Unionist in Southern Ireland who has reason to apprehend that he and his are in special peril is to do that which has been done by every patriotic citizen when his country has been in peril, that is to say, to co-operate, not necessarily by arms but by example and by calmness, in the attempt to regenerate the country at all periods of civil convulsion.
Terrible losses have been sustained by large sections of the population. It was so in both our own great civil struggles, and it has been so in civil convulsions in every other civilised, country in the world. It is easy to harrow the heart, of every sympathetic person by describing the cruel sufferings of individuals. All one can say is that great countries and great peoples work out their own salvation from, these very difficulties which at the moment seem as though they would destroy them. This people has done it on many occasions in its history, by keeping a stout heart and a calm head, and by resolving that national continuity should be maintained, whatever the interference and menace to it may appear to be at the moment.
The noble Marquess has asked what will be done to compensate and help. As your Lordships are well aware, an arrangement has been made under which tribunals will inquire into and deal with the matter of compensation. The noble Marquess informed me—I was unaware of the fact— that Lord Shaw's Commission had only dealt with ten cases out of 10,000. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Shaw, is not in America, although I understand that he is going there in the Long Vacation. I confess I was unaware of the figures mentioned by the noble Marquess, and I wish my noble and learned friend had been, here to afford some information on the topic. However, I will take care to acquaint myself with the actual situation, and if it is evident that Lord Shaw's Commission cannot proceed with such a degree of despatch as to render it reasonably certain that the total number of cases will be dealt with within a reasonable period, no doubt some other arrangements will have to be made. Possibly, the tribunal may have 459 to be duplicated, or perhaps there may have to be three or even four tribunals. I will inquire into the matter, and no doubt the noble Marquess will mention it again on a future occasion.
Then the noble Marquess asks me what is the guarantee that those who have suffered will ever be compensated. In a case in which all of us consider that the responsibility falls upon the Provisional Government, and in which they have accepted that responsibility, I am sure he will see the unwisdom of our entering into public discussions as to what we may do if the Provisional Government do not carry out their responsibility. When the noble Marquess read out an earlier utterance of mine and speculated somewhat on what I might mean, I took credit to myself that I am not often, I hope, obscure in my observations, and I hoped he would have seen that I was carefully using general language. But nothing could be more impolitic than that here and now it should be declared to the whole, world that the British Government, in the last resort, would be prepared to pay the compensation. At the moment we look to the Provisional Government to discharge that duty.
If the question is asked: Are you going to do anything in the meantime?—that will require more detailed discussion than is possible to-night. But, in the course of assessing the compensation, English claims against Ireland will, of course, as a matter of book-keeping and so forth, be arranged against the Irish claims against England. I am informed by those who are undertaking the arrangement that they are told it is inevitable that Irish moneys payable under the head of compensation will come into the hands of the British Government, and I think, and several of my colleagues also think, that it would be a practicable and a reasonable scheme that advances should be made out of these moneys— these Irish moneys in the hands of the British Government—early advances in cases where compensation was required and asked for in circumstances of special difficulty. If some noble Lord would ask me on a future occasion, I should like to develop this topic at somewhat greater length, because the subject is one of some complication and difficulty. I hope I have said enough, however, to make it plain that the Government is not in the least indifferent to, but is, on the contrary, greatly moved by, the frightful hardships 460 under which so many persons are suffering in the south of Ireland, and they have not the slightest intention of evading the large measure of responsibility which the Government of this country must bear in the matter.
I have only one further observation to add. Some time ago a noble Lord, I think in this House, raised the case of the persons desiring to leave; Ireland in the special contingency that their lives were in great danger. As Lord Stuart of Wortley has pointed out, the Committee under Sir Samuel Hoare has been sitting now for many weeks, has dealt with a considerable number of cases, and has given considerable assistance in a great many deserving cases, and the Committee will continue to discharge its duties.
I have attempted, like the noble Lords who preceded me, to avoid making a single provocative remark in the course of this debate, but I do desire to make it plain that I am far from thinking that at the present moment those who have throughout opposed this Treaty would be wise in rushing to the conclusion that it had broken down and was an established and demonstrated failure. We may, on the contrary, be bold enough to hope that at this very moment we are witnessing the birth of a nation, even though it be attended by the agonies which accompany birth.
My Lords, as one who is daily brought into contact with many of my fellow countrymen and fellow countrywomen who are now suffering the pangs and agonies which the Lord Chancellor has just described, perhaps I may be allowed to say how grateful I am to Lord Stuart of Worthy for putting this Motion on the Paper, and for making the very admirable speech which he made on behalf of these poor, wretched, miserable people who, through no fault of their own, except that they were loyal to this country, are now outcasts, and who, I am afraid, after the Lord Chancellor's speech, are intended to remain outcasts as citizens of this country. It is remarkable that this Motion was moved by one who felt himself bound to support the Treaty. I was much struck the other day by a letter in the Press by Lord Russell of Liverpool, who had supported the Treaty, but who, having gone to Ireland and obtained further information, publicly expressed his regret that he had ever done so.
461 I do not wish to bring any controversial matter into this debate. I want to try and raise the human element, and to excite sympathy for those who only suffer because they have been betrayed, who only suffer, if you like to put it in the Lord Chancellor's way, because in every great revolution or upheaval of this kind there must be a number of persons who suffer. Stated in this House that, to me, is an abominable doctrine. I am bound to say that, so far as the, Lord Chancellor's speech was concerned, while it was a clever political exposition of the policy of the Government, as Ids speeches always are, I failed to find in it one single argument that was really germane to the Motion on the Paper.
I am not going to follow the Lord Chancellor, though I think I should disagree with him on almost everything he said in relation to the present, state of affairs in Ireland. It is twelve months since the signature of the armistice which preceded the Treaty. We were then told that we should have the most immediate relief, which would banish many of the anxieties from which Irish people and English people were; suffering. We got no relief. Then came the Treaty, and I have heard that same speech many times before —that once and for ever the Irish question had been settled; that the Irish would always be our friends in the future, that our joys would be their joys, and so on. But I should like to ask the Government this question: How many people are there in Ireland who, since the armistice, since last June—aye, or even since the Treaty— have been dispossessed of every particle of property which they possessed under British law before the Treaty? They are numberless; they are all the loyalists.
There is not a day when I do not either see somebody, or get communications from somebody, who has been deprived of everything he has. The other day a young man came to me and asked me to sign his papers for the Bar. He said: "I had a share with a brother of mine in very large farms and ranches in one of the counties of Ireland. I had to come across here. I have now nothing to live upon, and I will tell you what my circumstances were a week ago. My brother and I had farms and stock worth £80,000. The other day the gunmen came, and they gave us four hours to clear out, and they now have, possession of every particle of that stock, and of every one of those farms." I had 462 a letter a few days ago from a lady whose husband was well known as one of the best landlords in Ireland—so good a landlord that, although he had 200 tenants, he never sold an acre. He had not a shilling charged upon his property. He was a man whom everybody looked up to for advice. His wife, who lived with him there for 45 years (he died about a year or two ago) was turned out the other day, and every one of her tenants was turned out and the whole, property was publicly taken possession of. She is now acting as companion to a kind lady who was good enough to give her a job, and she does not complain about it. That is all that is left of her property, after trying for 45 I years to do her duty as a wife and as a good; citizen. It is not one, or two, or three; it is everyone; and—mark my words—there will not be one single loyalist or I Protestant left in the south and west of Ireland by the time that the policy of His Majesty's Government has been carried out.
The Lord Chancellor finds great satisfaction in the fact that Mr. Collins is fighting Mr. de Valera, or that Mr. Griffith is fighting Mr. de Valera, and that Mr. de Valera is fighting Mr. Griffith. I care nothing about any of them. I know of no difference \ really between them, except the difference of methods. The Lord Chancellor talked a great deal about the Elections, and how brave men were to vote. Has he followed the Elections? Does he know that they each put forth a Republican policy, and that the only difference, was that one said: I "Let us set up a Free State and get into the saddle, and then we will very soon have our Republic," while the other said: "No, set it up immediately." And the answer was: "But then you will have to fight British troops." I gain no consolation whatever from that. What troubles me is that, despite the gratification you I feel in these, two Parties fighting it out in Ireland, it is being fought out amid the destruction of the loyalists, of the people I care for, of the people who have been true to you.
Let me mention two things. I read the other day with very great sorrow, because I am a Southern Irishman myself, a report of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church which was joined in by the Methodist Church, and what did it disclose? It disclosed that in some parishes of the south and west of Ireland where there 463 were considerable numbers of Protestants, there is not one left. It disclosed the whole chain of circumstances. And the point they had really to consider was as to how the matter should be dealt with, because the Protestants were clearing out of those parts to such an extent that there would be no necessity for holding services there in the future. Your Lordships may think that is nothing very much. But this is a great Protestant country. This is the country which says that it will protect all religions. Yet the Government sit complacently by while all this is going on, while these men are being driven out. And the Lord Chancellor says: "Well, surely things are better when you find de Valera fighting Collins and Collins fighting de Valera." Yes! I have followed with interest the recent battles in Dublin. It is a lament able proof of their loyalty to the Treaty that they fired at and burned down that beautiful building, the Four Courts. That is what the Lord Chancellor said—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No, it is not. What I said was that it was a proof of the sincerity of the Provisional Government in trying to restore order and conditions of security in Ireland that, in the necessity to throw men out of that building, men fired at and did not hesitate to destroy the Four Courts—which is a very different thing.
§ LORD CARSON
I do not want to misrepresent the Lord Chancellor in any way, but, believe me, that gives me no gratification and no hope whatever, and I will tell your Lordships why. The building which was destroyed between these factions was that of the Courts of Justice. They destroyed, and purposely destroyed, a great deal more. They destroyed the documents of title of vast amounts of property in the Record Office in Ireland. They destroyed all the records of the various moneys invested under the Court of Chancery in relation to trustee estates. They have got rid of all these. What is it that they have burnt down in the course of these operations? Almost every particle of it is loyalist property. Let us take St. Thomas's Church, a beautiful old church in Dublin, erected, I think, in the year 464 1758, or thereabouts. It is burnt to the ground. Why was St. Thomas's Church burnt to the ground? It happens to be a Protestant Church. The Fowler Hall, a memorial to a gentleman named Fowler who, I remember well, took the greatest possible interest in trust affairs, was seized and then shot at. The Young Men's Christian Association in Sackville Street was burnt to the ground. The two hotels that I know—the Gresham and the Hammam, both of them, particularly the Hammam hotel, where country gentlemen always went to stay when they came up to Dublin, were destroyed. But not a particle of Sinn Fein property. That is the kind of warfare which does not bring any consolation to the loyalists of Dublin, strange as it may appear.
Then, the Lord Chancellor sees hope in the prosecution of this policy, which he calls trying to restore order. Let me ask the Government this question. Has one single person who was deprived of his property before the Provisional Government began to operate had that property restored to him? Have they restored his property to one single loyalist in Ireland who was turned out of it I do not know of a case. I have in my hand a document in which I find that the Provisional Government anticipated, on May 18, that normal conditions would be re-established in Ireland in the course of the next two months. This is the thirteenth; by the eighteenth of this month you are to have normal conditions in Ireland, and it will then be possible for these people to return I in safety to their homes!
At every stage of this controversy, every one of the hopes formed by the Government has been falsified. Do not imagine that I am glad they were falsified. Once they ran away, or once they were beaten, which was the case, nothing could be worse for Ireland, or even for the people whom I try to champion here, than unsettlement or the want of settled government. Therefore, do not imagine for a moment that for the sake of some political triumph or something of the kind, because I am opposed to the Government's policy, I do not want to see settled government. On the contrary, I know that settled government is the only thing which can bring back any hope to my country.
But remember that all this time, daily 1 and hourly, the sufferings of these loyalists are going on. You cannot get rid of those 465 sufferings by clever speeches. You cannot get rid of those sufferings by any defence of your policy. It is the human side of the matter that conies in there, and neither this House, nor this Government, nor anybody here has the right to say to these people: "Go and starve, or go and be shot, or go and suffer further disaster in Ireland." It is un-British un-English, something unknown in history. I do appeal to your Lordships, no matter what the Government may say or how it is to be done, to see these people through, and not to allow them to become the victims of any policy, ill-conceived or well-conceived. I appeal to you to do your duty to them, as they have done their duty to you in the past.
The Lord Chancellor said things were becoming better month by month. I doubt, it very much. There is this to observe, that the loyalists and their property are becoming scarcer month by month. What is the condition of affairs at the present moment, after twelve months? Civil war, the demolition of property, hundreds turned out of their property, hundreds taking refuge in this country. I have my pockets stuffed with letters from people asking what they are to do when, after a few days, they have nothing left. No Courts are functioning. Men who have fought and been captured are immediately released. If they are really to be treated as rebels, and as treasonable to the constituted Government of the land, set up your Courts and try them. Then we will believe in you.
The Lord Chancellor read out some paragraphs from a newspaper which seemed to give him comfort. Nothing is more obscure than what is going on at the present moment in Ireland, and I have very little confidence in the newspapers. I brought a case before this House last week of an outraged lady. I have had another sent me since—a horrible one. I am not going to read it to your Lordships, but I think it well to make the statement I am going to make in order that the public may see how they are being served by their Press, or a portion of it. This is a horrible tale of an outraged woman, almost as horrible as the one I brought forward last week. The particulars of it were sent over to a gentleman by a friend of his who was near the place where it occurred. He sent over the particulars by a special messenger, as he could not entrust them to the post.
466 This gentleman happened to be going to the south of England at the moment this arrived, and he applied to one of the newspapers here to send a representative down, as he, at all events, looked upon this kind of intelligence as a matter that ought to be at once published. The newspaper sent a representative, and he took away this letter which gave particulars of the outrage upon this woman. The newspaper kept the letter for a day or two, and here is the reply from the newspaper office:
§ Dear Sir,
§ I am very much obliged to you for allowing us to see the enclosed letter. We have read its very carefully, and, while very interesting, it does not really contain anything of which we were not previously aware.
§ Yours faithfully."
§ That is the way in which this country has been doped. I do not believe the sympathies and the humanity of the people of this country are any less to-day than they ever were. What is the meaning of this persistent keeping of the people in the dark as to the wrongs, the outrages, the miseries and the anxieties of the loyalists in Ireland?
§ The noble and learned Viscount asked us, in what was the only relevant part, if I may say so, of his speech: "What could we have done for these people when we entered into the Treaty?" He said: "If we had not allowed the police and soldiers to go they would have been massacred." What a good reason for leaving the country alone without any soldiers or police ! Then the Lord Chancellor said that the Government had set up a tribunal over which Lord Shaw presides. Does the Lord Chancellor know that that tribunal does not deal with any case that has happened in the last twelve months, and that it only deals with cases which occurred before the truce?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Lord does not think that affairs that have taken place within the last twelve months will not form the subject of an Inquiry?
§ LORD CARSON
All I know is that the difference between the Lord Chancellor and myself is this: I want something done now. I want these people helped now. It is no use telling them that perhaps in one, or two, or three, or five years it may be, something will be done. Their sufferings are horrible, and this House has no 467 right to allow them to go on. Only the other night the Lord Chancellor said that there would be cross accounts as to damage done by this country towards Ireland, and by Ireland towards this country, and that some balance might eventually be found which could be applied for the purpose of assessing compensation. Was there ever such a method of compensation? What have these loyalists to do with the blunders, if there were blunders, that were made by this Government in carrying out the policy of law and order? The only other matter the Lord Chancellor referred to was Sir Samuel Hoare's Committee. I would like to know to what extent that Committee has done anything.
§ LORD CARSON
The Committee was only allowed £10,000. I noticed that the other night in the House of Commons Sir Samuel Hoare complained that he had not the machinery for dealing with the amount of business that was being put upon his Committee. That great warrior, the Secretary of State for War, at once replied: "Oh, Sir Samuel Hoare is surely equal to anything." That is the kind of cynical way in which these matters are being treated. I suppose nothing will be done, and that you will tell these people once more: "We can do nothing for you. You are in the middle of a revolution, and you must take your place in that revolution which we, either by our misgovernment, or at all events by our policy, have brought about." That is the only answer, as far as I can see, which has been given on behalf of the Government to-night. The Government will find that this country is composed of people who are not the mean, miserable people that the Government think they are. We had a debate here the other day about what the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, described as the experiment in Palestine. You have lots of money to try to get people together from all quarters of the globe, whether aliens or otherwise. For any Jew who wants a home in Palestine your money, and the taxpayer's money, is there in full, but these wretched Irish loyalists, how dare they raise their heads and ask for a sixpence!
I can say no more. I tell you frankly that by the treatment of these people my own heart is broken. I have encouraged them all my life to be loyal. I have 468 preached the doctrine of British honour, British loyalty and British justice, which I believed. What a mistake they have made. If they were only murderers, if they were only moonlighters, if they had only shot your soldiers in the war instead of sending their whole families to fight for you, you would now be making them heroes and doing anything they asked, but because they were loyal to you you now find it convenient to cast them off.
VISCOUNT LOING OF WRAXALL
My Lords, I am anxious to say a word or two before this debate closes, but I shall not trespass on your attention for more than a few moments. It will be within your recollection that on the Motion of the noble and learned Lord about ten days ago this same question was raised, and I then argued that it was not a question of the Treaty but what has happened since the Treaty. The Lord Chancellor has told us now that those who supported the Treaty cannot complain of the action of the Government in removing the soldiers and police from Ireland because it was an inevitable consequence of the Treaty, and that if we had left them there they could not possibly have protected human life. That is a matter of opinion, and I entirely disagree with the Lord Chancellor. I know something of Ireland and of the way Ireland is governed. I hold very strongly that if the police and soldiers had been left there until the Provisional Government had a force ready to take their place the consequences would have been very different.
As one of those who supported the Treaty, and still believe that when the Treaty was passed it was the only course open to the Government, I implored them to allow no more water to pass under the bridges, to allow no more time to be wasted, not to give us statistics intended to soothe our outraged feelings, but to act. I thought from the speech of the Colonial Secretary in the Commons, and from that of the Lord Chancellor in this House, that the Government had made up their minds to impose a time limit. The question that is raised to-night is not what is going to happen six or twelve months hence, but what is happening now, and what we are going to do to protect those whose sufferings have been but faintly described to-day.
The Lord Chancellor has told us, on the authority of the Irish Office, that there is a great improvement in Ireland. Someone 469 once said that statistics can be made to prove anything, and the Lord Chancellor will allow that the value of statistics is entirely dependent upon whether you really are comparing like with like. We were entitled to expect that the establishment of the Free State in Ireland would get rid of the fundamental difficulty that lad always stood in the way of the administration of the law in that country. For the first time for at least 120 years, in fact, I believe almost for the first time in our history, you had a Government which was supposed to be in sympathy with the muss of the people in Ireland. The figures quoted from the Irish Office—I can only state my own opinion, based on the information I get—are to me no source of comfort, and are, I believe, actually misleading.
There is a diminution, a large diminution, in the particular kind of crime which was rampant in Ireland before, and at the time of, the Treaty. At that time it was open and deliberate murder of people who were in responsible positions. That is not what is going on now. People are not directing their bullets and hatred against a particular class of landlord, or farmer, or tradesman, or clergyman. What they are doing is to subvert by the aid of the revolver —not by the actual use but by the threat of a revolver—all law in the country, and I can only repeat my appeal to the Government: For God's sake, come out and act, and make the Provisional Government in Ireland understand that there is a time limit to our patience, and a time limit during which they must act, otherwise the British Government will act in their place.
I may be asked: What can our Government do? They will be compelled sooner or later, if the Provisional Government do not govern, to take the law into their own hands and do something in Ireland. Day by day the state of things is getting worse. I have no doubt that Lord Carson has many more communications than I have, but I have many more than I can possibly deal with, and I have in my pocket now a whole list of cases that I received only this morning. And nothing is done. I do not know whether these men are members of the Republican Army or hooligans who have broken loose, or to what section in Ireland they belong, but they are raiding houses, taking away property and livestock, and smashing out of pure devilment, the property of these unfortunate loyalists, who either have to leave the country or remain there because they dare not leave.
470 I must repeat what I said on a previous occasion, that it is to the Government here that these people are entitled to look for advice as to what course they should take, and if the answer of the Government is that they are to stay in Ireland and take part in the performance of civic duties, then you are bound to give them such protection as will secure their lives and property. But if, on the other hand, you tell them that the game is up, and that they had better come here, you must give them enough to live upon, and the means of doing it. I submit with great respect that there is no other course open to the Government of this country, or to us, as honourable men.
The Lord Chancellor reminded us that in this old country of ours, we have gone through many difficulties, many black times, out of which we have eventually emerged triumphant, and that we shall do so again, so long as we keep stout hearts and cool heads. I asked myself, as I heard that remark in the Lord Chancellor's speech, who were to keep the stout hearts and cool heads. Are we here to do it? That is easy enough; we live in comfortable circumstances; we can go about our business as we like; we do not go to our homes wondering whether we shall find them in flames and all our property gone. We know that we live in security and under the protection of the law. But it will be a cynical thing to tell the people in Ireland that they are to keep stout hearts and cool heads. They have done their level best; they have supported us; they have supported the British flag, and, when I hear in this House, or in the other House, that there is a much greater improvement in the condition of Ireland than we realise now, I find all the evidence that reaches me at first hand in conflict with that statement.
A quotation was made by the Lord Chancellor in support of the contention he advanced, with so much ability and so much power, that there is real improvement, and that, we can look to Mr. Collins's Government to conquer. I hope and pray that the Government are right, and that Mr. Collins's Government will assert itself. Rut what was the sentence; read from that Proclamation I It was a sentence to the effect that the Army is the people's Army —I think that was the phrase. You never read a single sentence in any Proclamation or Declaration by the governing Party in 471 Ireland referring to the authority of the Crown. We never hear that the King's Government will do this, that or the other. Unless there is a fundamental change, we shall be deceiving ourselves and living in a fool's paradise if we believe that there is a real improvement.
I wish to throw no discredit upon Mr. Collins. I know nothing about him, or about Mr. de Valera. I hope Mr. Collins and his colleagues are in real earnest, and that they appreciate the difficulties of the task which lies before them. With all my heart I pray that they may succeed. But we are entitled now to ask His Majesty's Government, pending the realisation of all their hopes, pending the time when Mr. Collins will be in a position to assert himself, that Mr. Collins should be told that there is a limit to the patience of the British people, that we are getting very tired, that action must be taken, and that, if action is not taken, His Majesty's Government will have to act themselves.
I have only one other word to say. Like most Englishmen, I hope it is my natural inclination to stand up for and give such humble aid as I can offer to those who are 472 fighting in a very difficult position. I have done my little best—little enough I know it is—to support the Government in a time of extraordinary difficulty, and there are many others like me. I say with all respect to His Majesty's Government that our patience is being sorely tried. We feel that since the armistice they have made mistakes of a grievous character, and among them I put first, as I did on the last occasion when this matter was discussed in your Lordships' House, the removal of the soldiers and police. I do not believe that those mistakes are irreparable, but I do pray the Government, even now at the eleventh hour, not to rest upon the statement made by the Lord Chancellor to-day —that would bring no comfort to any one of us, whether we support the Government or are opposed to them—not to rely upon that aspect of the case, but to insist that action shall be taken to protect people who are as much entitled to protection as we are ourselves.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.