§ LORD DANESFORT had the following Notice on the Paper—To ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been called to the statements made by Mr. de Valera in the Dail on the 8th, 13th and 20th of June to the effect that his people were determined not to observe the Treaty or any of their obligations to the British Government; that his Government, by their general economic policy, were getting the country into a position of strength for the time when the final severance of the connection with the British Government will take place, as he was sure it would take place; and that his Government proposed with all possible speed to get rid of the post of Governor-General and all those functions carried on by what they regard as an unnecessary official; and whether, in view of the manifest intention of Mr. de Valera and his Government to secede from Great Britain and establish a Republic in Southern Ireland at the earliest possible date, and of the widespread anxiety amongst South Irish born loyalists in regard to their future, His Majesty's Government will give an assurance that they will take adequate steps to safeguard the constitutional status and the legitimate rights of all South Irish born loyal subjects of the King; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the object of my Motion is to obtain from His Majesty's Government an assurance which will allay the deep anxiety that is felt by Southern Irish Unionists as to
their future. The recent speeches which have been made by Mr. de Valera in the Irish Dail show that he and his Government are determined to repudiate the Treaty of 1921 and all other solemn engagements entered into by the Free State with Great Britain and to secede from the Empire on the earliest possible occasion. May I in a very few words recall the main conditions on which the Free State was established, which were accepted by the Free State and which were embodied in legislation both in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Parliament of the Free State? Those conditions were well stated by Sir Austen (then Mr.) Chamberlain in another place on the Second Reading of the Irish Free State Bill on February 22, 1922. Then, after referring to the position of almost absolute liberty which was offered to Southern Ireland, he used these words:
We place upon this offer only these limitations, that Ireland shall remain within this Empire, and accept citizenship; that she shall acknowledge allegiance to the King, and that she shall give us those securities which are vital to our national existence and to the maintenance of the communications of the Empire.
That speech will be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 150.
I would ask your Lordships to consider for a very few moments how those conditions have been carried out. Let me quote, at no length I hope, some of the numerous recent utterances of Mr. de Valera in the Dail. On May 24 of this year he said:
If we want a Republic we are entitled to have it. The majority of our people want a Republic.
On June 8 last, referring to the Treaty of 1921 and other Agreements with the British Government, he said:
These Treaties and contractual obligations are standing in the way of a proper settlement.
We know what in his view a proper settlement means. He went on:
We say quite definitely that our people will not keep them—
that is, the Treaties and contractual obligations. Again, on June 20, he declared that the intention of his Government was to abolish His Majesty's representative in Southern Ireland, whom he called "that unnecessary official the Governor-General," with all possible speed. And on July 13—I think
this is the last quotation I need trouble your Lordships with—he referred to their "general economic policy of getting the country into a position of strength" for the time when the final severance from Great Britain would take place, as he was sure it would take place.
§ But Mr. de Valera has not confined himself to mere words. He has made elaborate preparations with a view to severing the link with Great Britain and establishing a Southern Ireland Republic. Let me remind your Lordships of some of the things he has done. In the first place, he has abolished the Oath of Allegiance in direct violation of one of the conditions laid down by Sir Austen Chamberlain. In the second place he has swept away the appeal to Privy Council which was embodied in the Treaty; and then, further, the Governor-General, the King's representative, is destined for extinction. Already—and this is yet another step towards his ultimate object—legislation has been passed in the Dail for abolishing the Free State Senate, and, although that Bill was rejected by the Senate, it will come into operation automatically next March. Fifthly, and lastly for the moment, the annuities which were payable by Free State tenants—they were a just debt, as we all know, to Great Britain for the moneys which were advanced by Great Britain to enable the tenants to purchase their holdings—have been withheld from Great Britain and have been appropriated by the Free State, I suppose as part of his announced policy to get the country into a position of strength with a view to a final severance.
I want to refer for a moment to a somewhat remarkable letter which appears in to-day's Times from Mr. Frank MacDermot, who is a well known Member of the Dublin Dail and a man of some independence. Be says this:
The present Irish Government can hardly avoid asking at the next General Election for a mandate to declare a Republic unless something happens in the meantime.
Mr. MacDermot appears to suggest that the best way of avoiding a Republic is to give the Free State complete power to declare a Republic. It seems a somewhat strange way of avoiding secession to say "Secede if you like." However, one cannot quite follow all the workings of
the inner mind of some of the gentlemen in Ireland.
§ In that state of things is it any wonder, I ask your Lordships with all sincerity, that the Irish loyalists feel deep anxiety for their future? They have suffered, as your Lordships know, severely in the past through no fault of their own and they have good reason to fear for the future. Some may ask: What are the anticipated dangers? They are dangers to which no free-born British citizen ought to be asked to submit. Let mo briefly suggest some of those dangers. As regards residents in Southern Ireland, if a Republic is declared these men, unless the British Government by appropriate legislation or otherwise intervene, will forfeit all their rights as British citizens find become aliens with all the consequent disabilities. Perhaps it is hardly necessary to remind your Lordships, but I will state some of those disabilities. They will be unable to enter this country for business or for any other purpose without a permit. They will be unable to get employment here. They will be ineligible for obtaining diplomatic or other protection from the British Government. So much for the residents in the Irish Free State.
§ As regards those Southern Irish born subjects who are not resident there, their constitutional position, in the view of many of the best constitutional authorities, may be imperilled. Their fears are not wholly without reason, because your Lordships will remember that by the Statute of Westminster passed as recently as 1931, under Sections 2 and 3, the Free State is empowered to repeal or to amend any existing or future Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom so far as the same is part of the law of the Free State, and, further than that, the Free State has full power to make laws having an extra-territorial operation. It may be said with perfect truth that the other Dominions have similar powers by the Statute of Westminster, but I think it is only fair to say that the condition of affairs and the prospects of the future in the other Dominions are very different from the condition of things and the prospects of the future in the Irish Free State.
§ So seriously do the Irish loyalists regard the situation that they have formed a new organisation the object of which, to use their own words, is "to assert the 1067 constitutional rights of all loyal Southern Irish born subjects of His Majesty." That organisation is known as the Irish Loyalist Imperial Federation. Its president is Lord Carson, a name which I think will always be respected in this country and in Ireland and throughout the Empire. The organisation's offices are at Broadway Court, Westminster. Large numbers of men have already joined that Federation. They include not only residents in the Irish Free State, in Northern Ireland and in this country, but residents in Canada, in Australia, in South Africa, in India, and also in Kenya and other outposts of the Empire. May I be permitted strongly to urge on all those whom my words may possibly reach the importance of joining this association? If they desire to maintain by legitimate means the rights and interests of these Southern Irish loyalists for whom I speak I ask them to join the Federation without delay.
§ Before I sit down I desire to make it clear to your Lordships' House and to the noble Viscount who, I think, is going to answer for the Government, what is my request. I do not ask them to make a pronouncement to-day as to the general attitude they would adopt towards the Free State Government in case the Free State Government proclaim a Republic. The representatives of His Majesty's Government here would probably say—I think they have already said it in another place—that such an announcement would be premature and that they declined to make any statement on the subject. What I do ask His Majesty's Government is this: I beg of them to give an assurance that they are determined, in the words of my Motion, to "safeguard the constitutional status and legitimate rights of all Southern Irish-born loyal subjects" of His Majesty. Such an assurance as that could not be said to be in any sense premature. We are accustomed in this country in various matters, in matters of defence, in matters affecting the interests of large sections of the population, to look a bit ahead and to make preparations for contingencies which may happen. Your Lordships had an instance of that in the debate which took place yesterday. If they did not do so I think His Majesty's Government and the Parliament of this country would be accused of dereliction of duty. I venture to think that such an assurance as that 1068 for which I ask would not only be reasonable and right, but would give relief and deep satisfaction to those loyal subjects of the King who have so severely suffered by their loyalty to the Crown.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, as an old militant Unionist I have every sympathy with the object of my noble friend's Motion, but all the same I deprecate the Question that he has put, and I deprecate it on two grounds. In the first place, I think it is highly inexpedient to ask a responsible Government what they would do in a hypothetical situation. In the second, I deprecate it because, although I do not think my noble friend intended it, there is a hint of what I can only call defeatism in the words of his Question. It might be construed as meaning that were a Republic to be proclaimed in Ireland all we should have to think about would be to salve the interests of our particular friends as in the case of the United Empire Loyalists in the year, I think, 1784. I repudiate that suggestion. If a Republic were proclaimed in Ireland the Ministers proclaiming it might call themselves what they pleased, but none the less they would remain British subjects and we could not regard them as anything else. Of course, undoubtedly a de facto situation would arise, and that situation would have to be dealt with, but I believe that without any question whatever of force it could be effectively dealt with. But it would be entirely premature to discuss it now.
I cannot myself believe that the forces of lunacy are always going to prevail in Ireland. We may remember that for some years after the Irish Treaty was signed Ireland was governed by men who kept faith and respected minorities and under whom the country prospered. Indeed it was a matter of taunt to some of us old Unionists that the condition of the country then belied our fears. Now it is proved that our fears had only been too well justified. But I submit that even now we must exercise further patience. There are men still with influence in Ireland, men who, I trust, may attain to power and may be willing again to keep the word they have pledged. I entirely repudiate any speech or any Motion that may suggest that sanity and good faith may not again prevail in Ireland.
My Lords, I am sure that I may be allowed to say that noble Lords on this side of the House feel sympathy with the noble Lord who introduced this Motion in his anxiety as an old campaigner in Ireland and for Ireland. He naturally feels that his fellow Irish former Unionists may be in some danger in the future. I desired to make that perfectly plain at the outset of the very few remarks that I propose to address to your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Rankeillour, who has just addressed your Lordships, while deprecating the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, let fall certain expressions that, if I may be a lowed to say so, will be splendid ammunition for the very Republican elements who so alarm the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort. To speak of Irishmen, who are in their own good judgment claiming certain national rights, as lunatics and to question their good faith and so on really does no service, if I may respectfully urge that upon the noble Lord, to either country.
The first observation I desire to make in the remarks I intend to address to your Lordships is that I myself am a frequent visitor to both the east and west of what is now the Irish Free State. I have been at pains to find out what really is the position of those whom I may call the ex-Unionists, those who were opposed, in the past, to Home Rule, who are, generally speaking, Protestants and who, I suppose, would be described by the noble Lord as loyalists. I believe it is unquestioned that in the vast majority of cases they are suffering no kind of persecution at all. I am speaking of the former Unionists in Ireland who are living there now. They are not in a favoured position, that is perfectly true, but they are not treated any worse or any better than other Irishmen, and I believe that both Parties that have held the reins of government in Ireland have been most careful to see that there are no religious or former political disabilities on these families. Since the noble Lord put his Motion on the Paper I have seen two important Irish gentlemen who have large business interests in Ireland, who are always backwards and forwards—they are actually domiciled here—and who would fall within the exact category described by the noble Lord. They have assured me that there 1070 is no sort of differentiation or disfavour shown to them.
I would also very respectfully venture to observe to the noble Lord and to the other distinguished Peers and leaders who are organising this League of Irish Loyalists of Empire, or whatever they are called, with offices in Westminster, and with the very distinguished Peer, Lord Carson, at the head of them, that that sort of action is calculated to arouse suspicion in Ireland. Therefore I would ask the noble Lord, when he addresses your Lordships' House again at the conclusion of this debate, to tell your Lordships a little more clearly—and I most seriously ask him to do this—what is the object of this new body. If it is to bring pressure to bear upon the British Government, and if it consists of electors resident here or in the Dominions, well and good, there is no complaint; but if it is a league formed in London to bring pressure to bear upon the present Irish Government, then I do most seriously warn the noble Lord that that is a very dangerous step indeed to take.
With regard to the broad terms of the noble Lord's Motion, I do not want to say anything which will make more difficult the task of peacemaking, which I hope the Government are now once more going to undertake; but there are certain remarks which, should be made. We hear a great deal now about loyalty and loyalists. I would remind your Lordships, if I may, that a forced loyalty is no loyalty at all; it really is not worth having. I would further remind your Lordships that the old argument, which I have heard for the last thirty years and longer, that it would be strategically dangerous for this part of His Majesty's Dominions to have an independent Ireland on its flank—that strategical argument, if I may so describe it—is quite out of date now, for the reason that in Southern Ireland there is practically complete self-government now, and if we were involved in any international complication there would be equal danger (if such a danger exist) from the present Free State Government in Dublin as there would be if it were called a Republic.
The next point which I wish to make to your Lordships is that we are to-day actually stimulating the more extreme section in Ireland by the course which is at present being pursued. I do not wish 1071 to use the name of any Party, because, as in this country, Irish political Parties have their different wings and their different sections, but the members of the more extreme section in Ireland are actually being stimulated to-day by the non-committal attitude taken up as to our action in the possible event of a Republic being declared. I also read the letter from Mr. MacDermot in The Times to-day which was referred to by the noble Lord. He is a man who carries weight in his own country, and his remarks should carry weight here. He is a member of a very ancient Irish family who performed great services to their country in the past. Mr. MacDermot puts in another way what has been put by another very distinguished Southern Irishman, a fellow-countryman of the noble Lord opposite, Mr. George Bernard Shaw—a most distinguished Irishman of whom every Irishman should be most proud. He said that the best way to deal with this matter was to threaten Irishmen with a Republic. That is putting Mr. MacDermot's argument in another way. So long as it is possible to say to the people of Southern Ireland, especially to the young men, who are of a militant nature (as we found to our great profit when we needed them as soldiers), "You are being prevented by the overwhelming power of Britain from doing certain things," naturally they will be stimulated into doing those very things, or at any rate talking of doing them.
I desire to end by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, if he will allow me to do so, for bringing this Motion before your Lordships' House, because I think the time has come when we should have some declaration from the noble Viscount who leads us as to whether the Government are really going now to make an effort to settle the present difficulties over the land annuities and to get rid of the great friction and loss which is occurring to both countries. Here you have that small country, a neighbour of this mighty and wealthy country; that small country used to be our best customer, with the possible exception of the Indian Empire, and we were practically her only customer. We can really in this case afford to be generous. How long is this wretched, sordid dispute going on?
And the situation has changed. If every nation which is owed money and is not paid is going to carry out a policy 1072 of trade reprisals, then what international trade still remains will end completely. Ireland is declared to be a defaulter. Technically we are defaulters to the United States of America—unavoidably, if you like; I do not want to enter into that now, but technically we are defaulters in that sense. Many valuable customers of ours and valuable trading friends are also defaulters, perhaps through no fault of their own. We really should, I think, re-examine this whole question. The stronger we think our case—I must, I am afraid, speak a little frankly here—the more ready we should be to submit it, if necessary, to a tribunal of arbitration with an independent chairman. Otherwise, if we maintain what I may call the Thomas attitude, we are standing on a punctilio, to the loss of many farmers in Ireland, working people here and traders generally, and of course adding to the embitterment of relations between the two countries.
The Irish think that they have a case over the land annuities. It is not simply a mere question of default. They do not simply say: "We are not going to pay, because you oppressed us in the time of Cromwell or of Queen Elizabeth." That is not the Irish case. They think that they have a strong legal case. His Majesty's Government believe that they have a strong, or a stronger, case. Very well; if we think that we have a strong case, we can afford in those circumstances to give way and to say: "Very good, we will have a tribunal if you like, and the chairman of it shall be a citizen who does not belong to the Empire." We are strong enough, we are powerful enough, and generally speaking, we are just enough in our dealings, and clean enough in our reputation, to be able to do this thing. We do not lose prestige by doing such a thing as that; we gain prestige enormously, and by doing it I believe we should strengthen our position throughout the world amongst those many Irish Empire builders referred to by Lord Danesfort who sought their fortunes overseas, and played a great part in our Dominions and in other countries such as the United States of America. They have long memories; and they have a double allegiance—an allegiance to their Irish ancestry and an allegiance to the Empire with which hitherto they have been proud to have associations.
1073 In dealing with Ireland we have to remember, speaking most respectfully of that great people, one of the mother peoples of the world, that they regard things of the spirit as very much more important than material things. It is the way the approach is made, the way the demands are met, that matters in the case of Ireland. I do not believe that we are going to force the Irish to come to our way of thinking by cutting off their trade. The more I see of Ireland and the more I talk with Irishmen, even those who are opponents of the present Government in their own country, the more convinced I am of that. I do once more thank the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, for bringing forward this Motion, as I think your Lordships should have discussed it, and I think the time has come when we should have some hopeful and constructive suggestion from His Majesty's Government.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, everybody of course realises the real interest which my noble friend Lord Danesfort has always, taken in this Irish question, and the enthusiasm and sincerity with which he has sought to champion the cause of the Irish loyalists which he has always taken so much to heart. But unlike the noble Lord who has just spoken, I confess that I am really sorry that he has chosen to bring this matter to debate in your Lordships' House this afternoon, because I cannot Feel that any useful purpose is served by discussions in Parliament upon this topic, or that anything I am likely to be able to say is calculated to bring about that peaceful and friendly settlement of any disputes which all of us in this country, at any rate, most earnestly desire.
So far I agree with the noble Lord opposite, that I am glad to understand that the Irish loyalists are not suffering from any injustice or persecution by reason of their political faith. I think it is quite true that those who served in our Forces during the War are in a worse position in Southern Ireland than they are in this country, but that is due very largely to the fact that Ireland itself is a poorer country, and that in Ireland, without in any way inflicting persecution or ostracism, or anything of that kind, undoubtedly the fact that they have served in the 1074 War does not make the same appeal to their compatriots in Ireland as it makes in this country, by reason of the fact of a man being, as we call him, an ex-Serviceman. But, so far as I understand, there is no justification for saying that those whom we describe as Irish loyalists are being penalised for their loyalty in Southern Ireland. I know there have been articles in the newspapers, recently, which suggest that they are suffering hardships, but I know also that there have been indignant protests in the Irish Times and the Irish Church Gazette which disclaim any persecution or ill-treatment, and I think your Lordships will be reassured to know that this, so far as we can ascertain it, is the real position.
It is true that Mr. de Valera has made the statements some of which have been cited by my noble friend Lord Danesfort, and it is true that those statements are calculated to cause considerable anxiety as to the attitude which he and his Party adopt. I think it is fair also to say that Mr. de Valera has made other statements which are more promising, and certainly more conciliatory. For instance, just at the same date as the speeches to which my noble friend has called attention he made a statement in the Press in these terms:The Irish people have always been anxious for friendly relations with the people of Great Britain. They would welcome a just settlement of the political and financial questions at issue between the two countries. The Government would also welcome it, and it is not our fault if it has not hitherto been achieved.I do not think I should be assisting matters by bandying words as to whose fault it is that a just settlement has not been achieved.
Personally, I profoundly disagree with the noble Lord opposite when he suggests, or seems to put forward, that we in this country have not been willing to submit the question of the annuities to arbitration. So far from that being the case we have offered over and over again to submit that question to arbitration, and have actually offered to submit it to the very tribunal which all the self-governing Dominions, including the Irish Free State, thought to be suitable as recently as 1930. Unfortunately that offer has not met with acceptance on the other side of the Irish Channel, and all 1075 I can say in regard to that is that it has been repeatedly stated, here and in another place, that we should be very ready to resume negotiations with a view to a settlement of that and other questions when a suitable basis of settlement can be found. Unfortunately it has not been found possible to find a common basis or common means of adjudicating upon the questions which are in dispute. We believe, with regard to the land annuities, that we have an unanswerable case, and we are quite willing to have that question arbitrated by any impartial Imperial tribunal. Unfortunately that proposal has not yet found acceptance on the other side of the Irish Channel, and so far as I know there is no immediate prospect of its being accepted.
I wish here and now to disclaim the suggestion involved in the speech of the noble Lord who has just spoken that we are endeavouring to force the Irish people to give in by destroying their trade. It has always been made clear that the purpose that we have in view in imposing such duties as it has been found necessary to impose has merely been to collect those sums due by way of annuity, and no question of attempting to penalise trade arises, because in the first instance it would defeat the very object we have in view, and secondly, if we desired to penalise the Irish people by stopping their trade we should not levy duties on the goods we allow to come in, but would prevent the goods coming in. We have scrupulously refrained from doing anything of the kind, as I think is well within the recollection of your Lordships. If that statement can possibly be made and perhaps allowed to go unchallenged, it is an illustration of the sort of risk which is run by too much discussion on matters of so much delicacy as the questions between the United Kingdom and the Irish Free State.
I have, like noble Lords who have spoken, read the letter which Mr. MacDermot wrote to The Times. He is the leader of one of the Parties in the Irish Free State, and a gentleman of position. I think all that it is probably useful for me to state with regard to his letter is this. The position of the members of the British Commonwealth in relation to one another was described in the Declaration of the Imperial Conference of 1926, in which the representatives of the Trish Free State participated 1076 and to which they assented. That Declaration was in these terms:They are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.Your Lordships will remember that in the Report of the Inter-Imperial Relations Committee of that Conference a further comment upon it appears:The tendency towards equality of status was both right and inevitable. Geographical and other conditions made this impossible of attainment by the way of federation. The only alternative was by the way of autonomy; and along this road it has been steadily sought. Every self-governing member of the Empire is now the master of its destiny. In fact, if not always in form, it is subject to no compulsion whatever.That was a statement which was made as long ago as 1926, and was made unanimously by all the representatives of the self-governing Dominions and of the United Kingdom.
And that statement defines the general position in the case of the Irish Free State as of the other members of the British Commonwealth, but of course in the case of the Irish Free State it is conditioned by the terms of the Treaty under which the Irish Free State was granted the status which it enjoys, and the main difference which seems to me to arise between Mr. de Valera and the British Government is his assumption that a Treaty which is entered into by two parties can be repudiated or modified at the will of one of them. I do not want to do him any injustice, but he seems to have a theory that, inasmuch as no one enters into a treaty completely freely, that is to say, that since every nation when it enters into a treaty does so under the pressure of surrounding circumstances, but for which it would probably not assent to the terms contained in the treaty, therefore it is involved that any nation can at its will repudiate the obligations which it has undertaken under a treaty, whilst at the same time retaining the advantages. I believe that doctrine is wholly untenable either in International or Municipal Law.
In every contract between individuals the reason why the particular individual makes a particular bargain may be due 1077 to the pressure of surrounding circumstances. I may be compelled to sell my property when the market is very much against me by reason of the fact that I am in urgent need of ready money; or, to take a more extreme instance, in the Criminal Law we know every day that young offenders are bound in their own recognisances to come up for judgment if called upon to do so. They enter into those recognisances under the pressure of the knowledge that, if they did not, they would probably be sent to prison. But I have never heard it suggested in the Courts of this country or of any other country that those facts enable the person who sells an article which he would much prefer to keep, at a price which he thinks inadequate, or the person who eaters into recognisances to which he would much rather not submit if he were not compelled by circumstances to do so, is at liberty later on to repudiate his bargain and to claim to be entirely free of his obligation.
And the same is true in International Law. If it were possible for any self-governing community to contend that it was at liberty at its will to repudiate all its contractual obligations with other countries, merely on the ground that at the time it made the bargain circumstances existed which compelled it to accept them, and that those circumstances have now disappeared, there would be an end of any possibility of agreement between any sovereign States, because one would know that at any moment the persons who have accepted an obligation did so on the implied condition that they might thereafter claim to be free, on the ground that they were compelled by pressure of circumstances to accept the obligation, and therefore it was not binding on their conscience. There is, in fact, of course no such condition.
Nobody suggests that a treaty—the Irish Treaty or any other international agreement—remains sacrosanct for ever and is incapable of alteration. But what we do contend is that, in order to make an alteration, there must be an agreement between the two parties to the treaty. In the very instance of this Irish Treaty there were several occasions on which modifications of its terms were negotiated between the Irish Free State and the Government of this country, on the ground that a particular obligation pressed hardly on the Irish Free State, 1078 or was one which it could not be fairly asked literally to perform. But that is a wholly different proposition from saying that either the Irish Free State or the United Kingdom is at liberty to repudiate its obligations under the Treaty, while retaining the advantages, merely on the ground that the circumstances of the time were such as virtually to compel it to accept the bargain.
I think it is important that we should define where the British Government stands upon this matter. If there are any terms which it is desired to discuss we are willing to discuss them. But if it is suggested that we are to accept a unilateral repudiation, that is a position in which His Majesty's Government is not able to acquiesce. Then my noble friend asked whether I would make a declaration in the terms of his Motion, a declaration which, he said, did not involve, or was not intended to involve, an intimation that force would be used to prevent the establishment of a Republic, but which was intended to assure the Irish loyalists, on whose behalf he was purporting to speak, that they might rest quite satisfied that we should take, as he describes it, "adequate steps to safeguard the constitutional status and the legitimate rights" of those people. I think that that would be a highly dangerous statement or assurance to make.
I am not in the least oblivious of the fact that there are duties which legitimately rest upon His Majesty's Government with regard to the interests of British subjects of the classes named by my noble friend. But to assume, first of all, that there is going to be a change in the relationship between the Irish Free State and this country, and then to announce in advance what steps we should take, or that we should take any particular steps, in the event of such a change taking place would, in my judgment, tend to do the very opposite to that which my noble friend desires. It would tend to create a feeling of resentment and hostility and indignation in the Irish Free State, and it might even go so far as to make the position of those whose interests he has at heart more difficult than it is at present. In those circumstances I very much hope that my noble friend will not press his Motion, because I cannot help feeling with my noble friend Lord Rankeillour that it 1079 would be far better not to ask for the sort of declaration that I have referred to.
I have endeavoured to repeat as definitely as I can the attitude of His Majesty's Government. I can assure your Lordships, as we have repeatedly assured you in the past, that we have nothing but the friendliest feelings and the desire for the most cordial relations with the Irish Free State, as with the other self-governing Dominions. Mr. de Valera is of opinion that it is not the fault of the Irish Free State that those relations are not so friendly to-day. For our part we equally feel assured that it is not our fault that they are not so friendly as we should like them to be. I can only say that any—I will not say any advance, but any sign of a willingness to enter into a friendly discussion would be welcomed by His Majesty's Government as cordially as by any member of your Lordships' House, and that it is a matter of profound regret to us that under existing circumstances there should be these unsolved differences existing between the two countries, differences which cannot redound to the good of either of them, considering the geographical and economic relations in which they necessarily stand to one another. I am sorry that there are no Papers which I can offer to the noble Lord. I have done my best to state as frankly and as fully as I can the position of His Majesty's Government and to explain the reason why I am not able to give my noble friend such assurances as he asks for, and I hope that, after that explanation, my noble friend will see his way to withdraw his Motion for Papers.
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, the only satisfactory portion, to my mind, of the speech of the noble Viscount was his reassertion of the undoubtedly correct principle that a treaty entered into by two parties cannot be abrogated by one party alone. He insisted on that with great strength, as he has done before, but unfortunately he did not seem to apply that principle to the state of affairs in Ireland. He had not one word to say in condemnation or comment as to the breaches of the Treaty that have already taken place in Ireland. Of these breaches of the Treaty, breaches of solemn obligation entered into, not a word did he say, not an assurance did he give to those in 1080 Southern Ireland who are deeply concerned as to their future. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked what was the object of my Motion.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I am much obliged. The object of my Motion, I wish to make quite clear to the House, is to show to those Southern Irish who have observed with anxiety all these breaches of the Treaty and all the preparations that have been made for a Republic, that we in this country are not prepared to forget them, to abandon them, to do nothing to help them, when their hour of trial comes. I am quite certain that there are large numbers of people in this country who, if they knew the facts as to the situation of the Irish loyalists, would be only too delighted to show their sympathy and determination to help them in any way they could.
Lord Strabolgi is, if I may say so without hurting his feelings, a typical example of a man who speaks on a subject of which he is entirely ignorant. I do not know what personal knowledge he has of Ireland, but he gives the impression that Southern Irish loyalists have every reason to be satisfied with their position, that they are not being badly treated, and, I suppose he would add, that they have no real ground for anxiety. I do not know whether he would go as far as that, but that is his general view, and in support of that he said he had been told something to that effect by two unnamed gentlemen who came from Ireland. I should very much like to know who they were, if he could tell me without breach of confidence; but, whoever they were, let me tell your Lordships that I have received representations not from two, but from very large numbers of Southern Irish loyalists who are not given to unnecessary fears or extravagant anticipations, and who say that their future is to them a matter of the gravest anxiety.
As regards ill-treatment, I think my noble friend would do well to go over to Ireland and hear from some of these people what their position is. They are looked upon as strangers, as outside the Irish desires for a Republic and greater independence, and they have this terrible fear before them that in an event which appears to be very possible, and 1081 indeed probable, they may become aliens and be deprived of their rights as British subjects. The noble Lord is proud of being a British subject. How would any of your Lordships like to have this staring you in the face, that at any moment, by the decision of the Irish Dail, you may be deprived of the rights of British subjects to which you have been born? Is that not a matter for anxiety? Is that not a matter in which they deserve reassurance? One or two other points in the noble Lord's speech really did surprise me. He asked what is the object of this new Federation? I have a statement here of the reasons why this Federation was established. I would be delighted to furnish my noble friend with a copy, and perhaps after reading it he may decide to join. The Federation is formed to assert the constitutional rights and privileges of all loyalist Southern Irish born subjects of the King, wherever resident, and to take such steps as may be necessary and as the occasion arises, and they see what dangers are in front of them.
They do not desire war. They desire by peaceful organisation to influence the British people in this country and elsewhere in order that they may be able to preserve their rights. The noble Lord referred to Mr. Bernard Shaw as being a distinguished Irishman. Some people admire his works more than others. I agree that he is most distinguished, but my noble friend did not tell your Lordships that Mr. Bernard Shaw has taken very good care in the last fifty or sixty years to live out of Ireland. He does not show his devotion to the Irish Republic or to Mr. de Valera or any of these leaders of revolutionary Irish opinion by going and living in Ireland and sharing the fate of the Irish loyalists. I shall not comment on him any more, but I recommend my noble friend, if he wishes to cite a case, to get a better one than that of Mr. Bernard Shaw as showing; the happiness and prosperity of Southern Irish loyalists.
As regards the speech of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, with the exception of that very clear declaration he made about the sacred rights of treaties there was nothing in it that did not cause me the most profound disappointment. He said not one word of 1082 all I have put before him—probably he knew it before—as to the declarations of Mr. de Valera and the Dail, clear and decisive as they were. He said not one word of all these breaches of the Treaty which have already been made. He said not one word of the preparations that have been made for declaring a Republic. He did refer in what I may call a somewhat half-hearted manner to what he described as the more encouraging statements of Mr. de Valera. The only statement of that kind that I have been able to find is when Mr. de Valera said on one occasion he would like a just settlement. Of course he would. He wants to get off all tariffs and so on, and be able to trade with this country as if he had paid his debts. That is what he means by a just settlement, and that is the best and most encouraging statement of Mr. de Valera which my noble friend can produce.
I cannot think it is a very good answer to the anxiety which these Irishmen feel for whom I desire your Lordships' sympathy. I hope my noble friend feels rather more than he is able to express. I hope he does feel real sympathy with these people and a real desire—I am sure he does, although he did not express it—to help them in the future if the occasion should arise. Meanwhile, I am glad to think that there are people in this country who are deeply sympathetic regarding what has happened to them in the past and what may happen to them in the future, and who are determined when the occasion arises to protect their interests and to get any Government that may be in power to take the necessary steps for this purpose. My noble friend says there are no Papers. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.