Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £49,604, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1920, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary in Dublin and London (including Grants for the Higher Education of ex-Officers, etc.), and of the Inspectors of Lunatic Asylums, and Expenses under the Inebriates Acts."—[NOTE.—£30,000 has been voted on account.]
I do not know that in the many years that I have been a Member of this House, and in which I have had often to discuss the 4.0 P.M. question of Ireland, I have ever approached the question and addressed the House under a more serious and anxious spirit of responsibility than I do to-day. Indeed, if I had been left to my own free choice, I would have preferred to have been silent. I do not claim—I cannot claim—to speak in the name of Ireland. The majority of the constituencies of that country have repudiated both the party and the policy which I represent; but the question is so serious, it involves such far-reaching controversies, at the present moment it is in so perilous a position, that I feel I cannot be silent. Ireland, of course, is my theme, and before I sit down I hope to be able to bring home to the minds of the House that there are larger issues even than Ireland involved in the question. I hope to be able to show that with the Irish question are bound up not merely the future destinies of the Irish people themselves, but the future destinies of this Empire. I will even go further, and say the future destinies of the world. I am encouraged to address myself to this question by several facts. I think there has been a gradual and almost universal growth of opinion that Home Rule must be granted to Ireland. I remember, in the course of the old struggle between Free Trade and Protecttion, that when the "Times" newspaper came out in a leading article with a statement that the Free Trade League was a great fact, everybody knew that the struggle was drawing to a close, and nobody was surprised that a short time afterwards that great newspaper was able to announce the conversion of Sir Robert Peel, who had been the Protectionist leader for many years, to the principle of Free Trade. The same newspaper to-day has, I think, given fair warning to all the world, including hon. Members from Ulster on the opposite side, that the problem of Home Rule is practically settled in the opinion of the majority of people in this country. This article criticised the action of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast, and some of his colleagues, the other day on the Proportional Representation Bill. The article goes on to declare that "it is time the question should be raised again, and not only that it should be raised, but settled. In principle, Home Rule has passed beyond the scope of discussion. While its character, its extent, and its limitation have to be reviewed afresh, we are all Home Rulers to-day."
When one remembers the history of the "Time" newspaper in regard to the Irish Nationalist trouble and Irish National leaders, this is a very remarkable statement. I have re-read the articles in which the "Times" newspaper-used to deal with Daniel O'Connell in the days when he was the Nationalist Leader in Ireland, and "The Big Beggarman" was the most flattering title you could bestow on him. Most of us who have been in the struggle remember that the "Times" made a desperate effort—under different management, I admit—to destroy the character of the party and the policy of Mr. Parnell by publishing a forged document. This is the organ, with all its historic past, of violent and consistent opposition to Irish National claims. This is the organ that says, "We are all Home Rulers to-day." I also receive encouragement from the character of the present House of Commons. I believe, from some recent incidents, not including the one that occurred so recently as last night, that this House of Commons is going to give some surprises—whether pleasing or unpleasing to some of its leaders, as well as some of its critics, I do not know. I believe that on the Irish question it has an open mind. I believe that I express the opinion of almost everybody—not even excepting the hon. Members from the North-East of Ireland—when I say that there is in the House an eager and even passionate desire that this question should be settled. Most of the Members of this House do not, like some of us, remember the old rancours and the conflicting passions and interests of British parties in the Irish struggle. The majority of the present House of Commons have been free from these distracting influences. I therefore hope that I shall get a fair hearing and that I shall be able to bring home to the minds of the Members the realities of the rights and wrongs of this question, and though I may have to make some historical allusions to the bitter past, I shall do so with as strong control over my language as I can possibly exercise, and with no desire to arouse bitterness or passion in others.
I have alluded to the fact that I am not now able to speak in the name of the constituencies of Ireland. To me the most disturbing as well as the most remarkable phenomenon of the day is that whatever else the policy of successive Ministries since 1914 has been, in one thing the policy has been a conspicuous success. That policy has destroyed for the moment the constitutional movement and the constitutional party in Ireland. Whether that is a triumph on which any British Government, and especially any British member of the Government, can congratulate themselves, I leave to the House to determine. What is the position of Ireland to-day? I do not know whether I should say that we have, as a few people may be inclined to say, a good Government, or as a majority of the Irish people of all parties might say, a bad Government; my complaint is that we have no Government. The Government is a Government that is apparently unable to make up its mind; it is disposed to let things drift towards the abyss of chaos till we have in Ireland, in a mild way and in a different shape, some of the disturbances that have brought ruin to the countries of Europe. We have on the one side widespread disturbances—on the other, severe and militarist repression. There is running to-day in Ireland a curious result of British policy. There is running a stronger anti-English feeling than I have known in my life. There is running in the United States of America to-day a stronger anti-English feeling than I have known in my life. There is a very strong anti-English feeling even in our own Dominions. I know Ministers of the Crown in our own Dominions who are in as violent hostility to the policy of the Government as I am, or as is any Nationalist in Ireland. In the paper to-day I found the speech of one of them, in strong, even violent language —it was at Sydney, I think—denouncing the policy of the Government. I took up a paper yesterday and I found that in New South Wales an Irish priest had been fined by a police-court for an anti-English speech. As for the state of feeling in America, I got yesterday from a friend of mine who was one of my most ardent supporters during my visit there—and there my principle was a principle of constitutional action as opposed to revolutionary action—that man wrote to me to say that the feeling of the Irish in America was approaching almost insanity in its violence and rage against this country.
Some people may think that this is no new thing in Ireland—that it is not merely the chronic, but the immutable attitude of the Irish mind towards the people and the institutions of this country. I assure them they are wrong. I can speak with experience, and I can say that anti-English feeling is a tide that both ebbs and flows in Ireland. I have seen it in the height of its flood, and I have seen it at some brief periods ebbing till it almost disappeared. When I was a boy in Ireland Fenianism was rife, but when, in 1868, the late Mr. Gladstone began his policy of Irish reform I saw the beginning of a change. That change went on, not strong at first, but it went on until the moment when Mr. Gladstone made himself the protagonist of the Irish demand for self-government. During the years that that great and distinguished man was leader of the Liberal party, and adhered to Liberal principles, the feeling of bitterness and hatred towards England greatly subsided in Ireland. I can give my own testimony to the fact that it gradually and largely subsided even in America And it is much more difficult to have it subside in America than in Ireland. Nearly the vast majority of people of Irish blood and origin in America are either the sons or the grandsons of that vast body of the Irish population—nearly five millions—who were expelled from Ireland by famine, by eviction, and by all the horrors of the old landlord system, and there are scarcely any of these who did not hear at their mothers' knees the appalling story of the sufferings of that time, and these memories remain. I remember someone who told me how his three sisters had died on one of the death ships which were sent out from Ireland—the coffin ships as they were called—and that 300 or 400 people had died on the journey. That was the first thing he remembered hearing.
The extraordinary thing is that I found in America during my last visit—and I have reason to recollect that very sunny Sunday on which I landed there, sunny so far as the atmosphere was concerned, but not quite so sunny so far as the psychology which I found around me was concerned— and it did not take me long to find out the difference. I said at the end of the evening that "so far as I can gather Irish feeling in America at this moment has undergone a process of what I may call racial atavism"—that is to say, whereas from 1885 and 1886, the time of Mr. Gladstone, when he was loyally and faithfully serving the cause of the Irish self-government he had at heart—whereas during that period there had been a gradual waning of anti-English feeling, a waning so great that I was able on platforms to plead for reconciliation between the masses of England and the masses of Ireland, a waning so much that I was able to suggest and to get carried a resolution holding out the olive branch of the Irish people of America to the masses of the English people—well, I came to the conclusion that that process had been interrupted. I came to the conclusion that the Irish race in America had undergone a process of facial atavism. They had jumped back from 1917 to 1846 In other words, they had jumped from the period of gradual reform in Ireland and gradual improvement of the relations and feelings between the two countries to the period of bitter and almost murderous hatred which was in Irish minds at the time of the Irish exodus. Therefore I contest the proposition that anti-English feeling has been a regular, steady, and, above all, an immutable attitude of the Irish in America. I have seen the fact I state in my own time.
I want to ask the House why is it that this feeling has been changed? I want to make a statement which I dare say will be a surprise to some hon. Members of this House. That is that the attitude of Ireland to this country had not changed in 1914. I have reason to remember the historic afternoon of 3rd August, 1914. On that day my Friend Mr. Redmond made a speech which pledged Ireland, so far as he was able to pledge it, to support the Allies in this War because he regarded —as I did, and always have, I think, rightly regarded—the cause of the Allies as the cause of freedom against despotism, of justice against injustice. I remember very well when he made that speech. Old Members of the House may by this time have forgotten what were the conditions under which that speech was made. It was provoked, I think, by a statement made by the present Viscount Grey, then Foreign Secretary. Bather to the surprise of some parts of the House, the Foreign Secretary said that the one bright spot in the darkness was Ireland. That speech was immediately followed by the speech of the present Leader of the House, the Lord Privy Seal, who said that he had not only heard the speech, but that it was true, and he was glad to find it was so.
There were twenty-five speeches made in the course of that day. To a large extent the country stood united behind the Ministry in the declaration of War and in the determination, since realised, to carry it to a successful end. Anybody who was present at that Debate of 3rd August and had gone away after it without having had the opportunity of probing the mind of the country would have left the House of Commons in the opinion that the policy of the Government, in sending the Ultimatum to Germany had been, if not repudiated, certainly violently criticised by the House of Commons. The fact was this: There were twenty-five speeches altogether, long and short. The House may be surprised to hear that of those twenty-five speeches fifteen were in criticism of the policy of the Government, some severe, some less severe. In the fifteen there were various forms of emphasis declaring against the intervention of this country in the War. I hope that will bring home to the mind of the House the enormous and epoch-making importance of the speech of Mr. Redmond. After the speech of the Foreign Secretary and after the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, as he then was, the first voice to hearten and encourage the House and the country in immediate intervention and determined and successful prosecution of the War, the first voice raised to agree to that policy, was the voice of the Irish Leader. Little he knew—and little I knew—when he made that speech guiding and encouraging this country in the great enterprise on which it had embarked that he was, owing to subsequent events by the very Government he supported, signing the death warrant of his own personal and political life.
I am now dealing with the point that anti-English feeling to-day—the existence of which I admit—is permanent and immutable in Ireland. What happened after the speech of Mr. Redmond? He saw this country engaged in what every Englishman and Irishman knew to be a perilous enterprise—perhaps not so perilous and prolonged in anticipation as it turned out in the result. He saw an opportunity for an exhibition of anti-English feeling, according to the old doctrine, which is attributed originally to Daniel O'Connell, but really as old as Demosthenes. Without putting it into exact words it means: "England's danger is Ireland's opportunity." What happened? The response to the speech of Mr. Redmond was immediate, was deep, was widespread. Our young men rushed to the Flag. They went to every railway station in Ireland, with every mark of popular approval both of their course and of the policy of the Government towards which they were ready to contribute their lives. There was no band of young recruits that was not accompanied to the railway station by the parish priest, by the local political leader, by a procession, by a band! The War was as popular in Ireland as it was in England. When I come to my own people in England, Scotland, and Wales, I say that without Conscription, indeed, long before Conscription was proposed, the Irishmen of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and London rushed to the Front, not in thousands, but in tens of thousands.
Yes, of course. I thank my hon. Friend. I have no right to forget the Irishmen of Newcastle nor the splendid men of Newcastle-on-Tyne and Tyneside generally. One of the causes which has produced the transformation of feeling can be illustrated by Tyneside. A request was sent from there—and my hon. Friend will confirm it—to the War Office to raise an Irish battalion. It was refused Mr. Cowen, a worthy son of a great Englishman and a great friend of Ireland, put up £10,000 and the battalion was formed. Then a second was created, then a third, a fourth, and ultimately a fifth of Tyneside Irishmen who held their own in the worst, darkest, and most perilous hours of battle. My hon. Friend the Member for the Falls Division of Belfast (Mr. Devlin) went all over the country, especially among his own people of Belfast, and by his own eloquent tongue was able to raise thousands of men to fight on the side of the Allies, which meant, of course, the side of England. Would that our statesmen at that time had had an ounce of foresight? Ireland threw herself into the arms of England in one of England's most perilous hours. She should have been taken to the heart of England. I remember the very evening of the speech made by Mr. Redmond. I saw that an opportunity, a golden opportunity, had come to the statesmen of this country to deal with the Irish question. Men, personal friends, and fierce political foes for ten, eighteen, or twenty years, who had fought election after election and spent thousands of pounds of money in fighting Home Rule came up to me, and declared that after that speech of Mr. Redmond they never more could feel towards Home Rule as they had felt in the past. If there had been a little prescience and judgment, and a little statesmanship in the men responsible, not merely for the Government but responsible also for the Opposition, here was the opportunity, by the assent of the majority of the House of Commons, even on that day, to win over Ireland for ever, and do away with that misunderstanding which still pursues the destinies of the two countries. What happened? I have declared, and I think I could prove it to anyone with a knowledge of the facts, that the policy of Mr. Redmond was not only accepted, but enthusiastically accepted by the majority of the people of Ireland. I have shown how the people of Ireland were rushing to the Flag. What happened? I do not know, but I have heard a good deal of the dark hand, of the hidden hand. I have not yet seen if any of my English friends find it in English affairs. I have not found it in Irish affairs; but it is there. Then the hidden hand began to work. There were 16,000 or 20,000 in the Sixteenth Division popularly called the Irish Brigade. My hon. Friend who took a large part in filling its ranks, made applications for commissions for some of his friends and every application was refused. Another Irish Nationalist Member did the same thing, and it worked out that although 98 per cent. of the rank and file of the Sixteenth Division were Catholics and Nationalists, 85 per cent. of the officers were Unionists and Protestants. Everybody knows these facts. I do not mention them from a sentimental point of view, but human nature is human nature, and even soldiers prefer that men of their own religion should not be excluded from the right to control them, because they profess another religion. But bad as that system was it did not work out as badly as it might have done. Unionists and Catholics, rank and file came into the common life on the drill ground, and still more on the battlefield, but all Ireland was watching, and the result was that the conviction which was expressed to me by Major Redmond became universal in Ireland, that there was a determination on the part of the military authorities in London to throw a badge of inferiority and exclusion on the majority of the Irish people who were Catholics and Nationalists. That, of course, was bad. That I think was one of the first things that began to give Sinn Fein some of the greatest strength which it ultimately attained.
I now come to the next part of my statement. There have always been two conflicting methods by which Irish self-government could be attained. In my early days Fenianism was rampant, and revolutionary methods were regarded as the only means of obtaining self-government for Ireland. In those days those who came here, after having bought a constituency, I am not surprised that there was a decay of faith in Parliamentary efforts. Then came Mr. Butt and the constitutional movement. It will surprise some hon. Members to hear that when Mr. Butt started his party in 1870, of which we are the remnants to-day, he was stoned, hooted, and driven from his platform. I remember that he was standing as a Home Ruler at Limerick associated with Joseph Biggar a very prominent Member of this House, at a meeting held at Dumbarton or Manchester and they were met with stones and with nuts to prevent them speaking. Mr. Parnell, during the first years of his political activities was attacked by a remnant of the revolutionary movement, but in time Mr. Parnell and his successor, Mr. Macarthy, and Mr. Dillon and Mr. Redmond, were able to achieve so many great reforms that practically the revolutionary movement ceased to exist. A good deal of it was left, it is true, in New York and other big cities of the United States, but so low had the revolutionary movement in America fallen in the days after the constitutional movement, that I was able to raise in a single city in America more money for the constitutional cause than the revolutionary party were able to raise in a whole year. There was only one member of our party who became a Sinn Feiner, and he is a leader in the city of St. Louis in the United States. He vacated his seat, but he was snowed under by the man who represented the constitutional movement, and that movement would have been alive to-day if it had not been for you.
There was another force which brought back the strength to the revolutionary party. Then there was the movement led by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson). Tire right hon. and learned Gentleman showed that the Irish people thought he was able to defy and beat the Sovereign, the Parliament and the electors of this country, and the weapon with which he was able to accomplish this was the gun. Is it a matter for surprise that when after we had won self-government for Ireland, after a struggle extending over nearly a century, because our struggle was born the day after the death of our Parliament, is it any wonder when we had won that struggle with the assent of the House of Commons and with the assent of the electorate of Great Britain, after the struggle by constitutional means had been won and by unconstitutional means had been nullified and destroyed, was it any wonder after all that that revolutionary method was more successful than constitutional methods.
The story of Ireland would never be told if there was not a paradox in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn was almost as much a hero of the revolutionary movement as he was with his friend in the North of Ireland, and they thanked him for liberating Ireland from the miserable, cowardly gospel of constitutional agitation and teaching the youth of Ireland the higher and nobler gospel of the sword. That is what accounts for the gradual growth of the revolutionary feeling in Ireland. That, alone, however, would not have produced it without the help of the Government. I do not accuse hon. Members of the Government of any deliberate policy in this matter, but if it had been deliberately intended to destroy the constitutional movement and create a revolutionary one in its place, they adopted the kind of methods and policy best calculated towards that end.
Then there was the Rebellion. That in itself was not a very important event in regard to the number of people who took part in it, and it was not a popular movement at the time. The number of people in sympathy with it in Ireland was small, and if it had been treated properly the number in sympathy with it would have been smaller still. But when you send over your soldiers to deal with the people in a spirit of military dictatorship, when you really require the best statesmanship and the 'best tact of the best men of the country, when you have fifteen executions of young men, the whole spirit of Ireland is changed. You can find in history many quick triumphs of policy, but I defy you to give in the history of any country a triumph so wide and prompt as the triumph of the policy of execution which changed a friendly country into a hostile and rebellious country in the course of twenty-four hours.
We have been constantly engaged in trying to build up our movement after the misfortunes of recent events, caused by those whose country we tried to save. Some of us engaged in that work started the negotiations of 1916. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn took part in those negotiations and so did the hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin). I want to say again that my hon. Friend took great risks and he was given a very difficult and almost impossible task. As to us, we were given a task in which we were risking our political lives and a task in which, in my opinion, we lost our political lives. The agreement was that temporary exclusion should be given to six counties in the North of Ireland, and that the Irish Parliament should be brought into existence. When the right hon. Gentleman had beaten down all the great obstacles, passions, and suspicions of his own party, and when we had done the same, what happened? It was a difficult task. There was a Convention called in Belfast to agree to the compromise, which was addressed by the late Mr. Redmond, Mr. Dillon, and my hon. Friend the Member for the Falls Division. I think every bishop of Ulster was against the acceptance of this compromise, and hundreds of priests came there to vote it down. Owing to the eloquence and to the trust of these people in my hon. Friend the Member for the Falls Division, that compromise was carried by a great majority, and when both parties had agreed, when for the time being they had crossed the hideous chasm of hate that had divided them for centuries, when they had crossed the chasm of violent antagonism aroused owing to the Orange movement, when Irishmen of all sections had shaken hands on the compromise and agreed to try and create a new Ireland, down came the English so-called statesmen to break up the agreement, with the result that there was created a feeling amongst Nationalists that no claim could bind and no pledge could sanctify. Can you wonder that there should be an anti-English feeling in Ireland under these circumstances? That was the next step in the policy of triumphant destruction of the constitutional movement. But that was not the end of the story. You would have thought that would have been the end of this chapter of possible and impossible blunders. I should have concluded the chapter of the treatment of the Irish troops by reiterating the statement of the present Prime Minister, which was the epitaph on that chapter. He said that he was unable to defend the ineptitude, and even he might say the malignancies, of the War Office in dealing with Ireland. I wish that I could acquit the right hon. Gentleman of ineptitude and malignancies in his dealings with Ireland.
Then we come to the change of Government. The Coalition Government was made still more remarkable by the execution of the Sinn Fein leaders. I do not dwell upon this part of my speech, but I must look at the contrast between the destinies of the two schools of revolutionaries. On the one side were the calcined remains of fifteen men who had been executed in Dublin, but the other school has brought one man to the Lord Chancellorship in England and another to the Lord Chancellorship in Ireland. We do
not grudge these gentlemen their personal success. This other school has made two judges, one a peer, a very worthy peer—I need not say an intelligent peer, but an ornamental peer. It has made another baronet a member of the Government. This is a curious contrast between two kinds of revolutionaries in Ireland. Do you wonder that the majority of the Irish people have lost confidence and faith in British statesmanship? Then the present Prime Minister came into office. It was regarded as a good augury. He is the child of a small nation, and, so far as I know, he has been an avowed Home Ruler all his life. According to all the authorised and unauthorised biographies of him that I have ever seen, his first inspiration in his democratic career was derived by attending a lecture given by Michael Davitt. The Prime Minister's first speech was one delivered with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division of Belfast (Sir E. Carson) on one side and the Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Bonar Law) on the other—a somewhat strange association for a very old Radical Home Ruler, and the speech was very unsatisfactory. Through his means there was brought into existence an Irish Convention. I do not dwell upon the history of that Convention. I only want to allude to one instance in connection with it. A letter was sent to that Convention on 9th February, 1918, by the present Prime Minister, and this was the language which he used:
At the same time it is clear to the Government, in view of previous attempts at a settlement and of the deliberations of the Convention itself, that the only hope of agreement lies in a solution which, on the one side, provides for the unity of Ireland under a single Legislature with adequate safeguards for the interests of Ulster and the Southern Unionists, and, on the other, preserves the well-being of the Empire and the fundamental unity of the United Kingdom.
That was a remarkable letter which was sent to the Convention in the course of the proceedings. What did it pledge the Government to? It pledged the Government to the unity of Ireland under a single Legislature. What now becomes of the pretence that the Government are incapacitated from giving Ireland Home Rule because they cannot, owing to the opposition of hon. Gentlemen opposite, give Ireland unity under a single Legislature? If that be the case now, it was the case on 9th February, 1918, and if it were not true then it is not true now. The Prime Minister must have thought it true
then or else he would not have pledged himself and his Government to the unity of Ireland under a single Legislature. [Interruption.] I do not know whether the objection is that I did not read the whole of it.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not interrupt me at all. I was only anxious to answer him if he asked me a question. What happened? Here was a direct mandate of the Prime Minister on the part not only of himself but of his Government to give Ireland unity and unity under a single Legislature, and an undertaking to carry that out. On a certain morning, I cannot give the date, either at the end of March or the beginning of April, Sir Horace Plunkett, whose services in this Convention can never be measured—at least that is my opinion, and the opinion of the majority of sane, broad-minded Irishmen in Ireland—went to Downing Street and presented the Prime Minister with a copy of the Report of the Convention, and on the Report of that Convention the Prime Minister had ample material to carry out the policy to which he had pledged himself in the letter of 9th February, 1918. That was his opportunity. If I were writing fiction, the next statement which I might put into the mouth of my imaginary character would be dismissed as violating all the laws of probability, or even possibility. But on the afternoon of the day upon which he received the Report for which he had been waiting, and on which he was pledged by that letter to propose the establishment of a single Legislature for a united Ireland, he came down to the House and proposed Conscription for Ireland. In all the annals of folly and tergiversation, I defy anybody to produce anything more foolish. I was in America at the time fighting the revolutionists. Nobody has got more of the slings and arrows of the outrageous Sinn Fein and revolutionary attack than I have. I was fighting them. It was in the middle of the apparently successful and irresistible push of the Germans against our front. What was my business there? It was, on the one hand, to uphold the constitutional movement so far as Ireland was concerned, and, on the other hand, to go from meeting to meeting of anxious Americans to tell them to be of good heart, because we would push through in the end, in spite of all appearances to the contrary. I think in that way I did something to encourage American patriotism.
I was trying to reconcile Ireland to England at the very moment when the Prime Minister threw his bombshell and ruined all hope of reconciliation. I stayed a few weeks more, but I knew that from that hour my mission was destroyed. I knew that the Prime Minister had given over the Irish cause to the revolutionaries. The Prime Minister was warned when he introduced that proposal. He was warned by Mr. Asquith, and Mr. Henderson made a speech in which he said, "As your policy threw Russia into the hands of the Bolsheviks, so your present policy will throw Ireland into the hands of the revolutionaries." And he was right in both cases. That splendid and attractive personality whose disappearance from this House is the grief of us all, Sir Mark Sykes, gave the same warning to the Government. Mr. Dillon, the leader of a party not of seven Members, but of seventy-three, warned the Prime Minister that he was destroying the constitutional movement. The Prime Minister went on his mad course undismayed and unchecked. He did not add one Irishman to the British Army by his Conscription Act. He stopped recruiting altogether for the Army, but he did the work of recruiting for the Sinn Feiners. He sent tens of thousands of men who were wavering into the revolutionary camp, and he gave the last and deadliest blow to the constitutional movement. From that hour we have never been able to make way against the converts of the right hon. Gentleman to the gospel of revolutionism instead of constitutionalism. Where are we to-day? There is not an avenue—not one—which leads to the setting up of a League of Nations and the peace of the world in which Ireland does not appear. I have here a bundle of extracts from the speeches and messages of the President of the United States. He said:
This War had its roots in the disregard of the rights of small nations, and of nationalities which lacked the union and the force to make good their claim to determine their own allegiance and their own form of political life.
At Washington's Tomb he said:
On the one hand, stand the peoples of the world, not only the peoples actually engaged, but many others also who suffer under mastery, but cannot act.
He asks, in his speech at New York
Shall the military power of any nation, or group of nations, be suffered to determine the fortunes of peoples over whom they have no right to rule, except the right of force?
Is not that a description of Ireland? Do you hold your control over Ireland to-day by any tie except the military power? Have you any right there to rule them except the right of force? Again:
Shall strong nations be free to wrong weak nations and make them subject to their purposes and interest? Shall peoples be ruled and dominated, even in their own internal affairs, by arbitrary and irresponsible force, or by their own will and choice?
And so I might go on. Very soon there will not be an avenue which leads to the temple of the League of Nations, and to the peace of the world, in which the path is not barred by the beckoning and accusing finger of unliberated and militarily governed Ireland. That was the opinion also of the Prime Minister at one time. I know it is said that we must not hold even a Prime Minister to a pledge six months after he has made it. That is a statute of limitations I must respect. It used not to be so when I was a younger politician, but the world has changed since then. When the right hon. Gentleman was pressing through the House of Commons his Conscription measure he was at the same time declaring to the House of Commons that he was determined to fulfil his pledge in the letter of 9th February, 1918, and to give Ireland Home Rule. Let me read some of the things he said:
I wish I could tell the House how vital it is (to give Ireland self-government). America—
He brings in America. I would like to hear the comments of the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) on the idea of bringing America into the domestic affairs of this country—
America, at the present moment, is coming to our aid after one of the most remarkable decisions ever undertaken by any Executive. The decision of the President of the Republic is not without difficulty. It was essential; it is the only way in which America can render practical assistance in this battle. It is full of difficulties for the Executive. I think, in these circumstances, they are entitled, I will not say to ask, because no Government can ask another Government to carry out domestic legislation of any particular character, but they are entitled, at any rate, to expect—
I make the Noble Lord a present of the difference—
from the Government of this country that we shall smooth those difficulties, and that, at any rate, we shall not increase them.
That is my case. I stand where the Prime Minister stood in April of last year. The American Government had no right to ask —I will respect the susceptibilities of hon. Members opposite and I will adopt the word of the Prime Minister—to "expect" assistance from this country in making good relations between the United States and the British Empire.
I say the successive acts of folly I have laid before the House have produced a feeling in America deeper and more widespread than in any period of the history of the two countries since the Civil War of 1865. What took place the other day? There was a Convention of the Irish race in Philadelphia, attended by old campaigners in the Irish movement, many of them known to me, and amongst those who attended was Cardinal Gibbons. I know no man in the United States who is more cautious, more restrained in language, and whose words carry more weight than Cardinal Gibbons. He is a man of great caution, of a fine mind. His words are listened to with equal respect on all sides. For, I believe, the first time in his life, Cardinal Gibbons appeared on an Irish platform and expressed his adherence to the policy of giving Ireland self-government. There was a debate in the House of Representatives, and the vote was 216 to 241 in favour of Home Rule, and on the very day when this debate took place there appeared, simultaneously with the account of the debate, a letter from the Prime Minister. It really was not meant to be comic, but it was comic. At the moment, so far as one can see, he was refusing Home Rule to Ireland. At the moment the House of Representatives was declaring, by an overwhelming majority, in favour of Home Rule for Ireland, the Prime Minister wrote a letter in which he said that nothing was more important and vital to the world than that America and England should keep step on the path to liberty. There are on the way now representatives of that State Convention to lay the case of Ireland before the Peace Conference. Why should not any nation have the right to lay its case before the Peace Conference?
I come to my last point. I think the security and the honour of this Emmre are important, but more important than either is, whether the world is going to advance along the path of blood, and of national hatred and ruin to a better era of conciliation and peace. If the League of Nations does not come into a true realisation, then, in my opinion, all the precious blood—and some of it is that of the sons of men in this House—has been shed to a large extent in vain. I could quote from Mr. Beck, the most Anglophile, perhaps, of American citizens, a statement warning this country against anything that would excite the people of America and the people of England. I could quote a speech from the Secretary of War, recently delivered, in which, discussing the same question of the good relations between England and America, he declared that any antagonism or estrangement between these two nations would be the end of all things. And so it would. Who are going to be the guarantors of the League of Nations? The guarantors of the League of Nations must be the British Empire and the United States, and without their guarantee the League of Nations is a vision and a trap. You cannot have a League of Nations without close, intimate, friendly understanding and relations between the peoples of England and the peoples of the United States. You cannot have these relations unless you reconcile the Irish race. You cannot reconcile the Irish race in America without reconciling the Irish people. In refusing to reconcile Ireland you are estranging Americans. I leave to this House the choice between the two policies. One, in my opinion, leads to ruin and disaster for Ireland, for England, for the world. The other is the only one that will give some chance of the hopes we all have of seeing a better and brighter future.
The speech to which we have just listened had a very familiar ring in the ears of those who, during the past ten years, have in this House or elsewhere been engaged in controversy over Ireland, and I suppose it was quite natural that my hon. Friend opposite should have thought it necessary to take an opportunity, in a new House of Commons, of encouraging what we may call a full-dress Irish debate for the especial benefit of those Members of the House who, probably, have not been giving much attention to this subject as my hon. Friend and myself have been obliged to do, and upon whom no doubt his eloquence was likely to make an impression. A great many topics which the hon. Gentleman has touched upon have worn rather thin in the Debates in this House. At the same time, I am very grateful to him for one or two omissions. One or two familiar topics are conspicuously absent from his speech to-day. I am glad to find, for instance, that the fabrication with regard to the supposed relations between my right hon. Friend and the Kaiser has dropped out of it. I also am glad to find that we have, apparently, seen the last, and heard the last, of the lie about Kuhlmann going to Ulster, and for these improvements—if I may so call them—I think we may be grateful. With those exceptions, a great deal of what my hon. Friend has said is extremely familiar. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is one of the most eloquent Members of this House. I remember that one very great authority laid it down that one of the great secrets of Parliamentary speaking was the faculty for the arrangement of material. That my hon. Friend possesses to the full. He arranges his material so successfully and cleverly that only that material appears at all upon the surface which can be useful for his particular ends, and all the connecting material which would tell against his argument is left out of sight. We had a good example of that at the very outset of my hon. Friend's speech. He was anxious to create a favourable atmosphere for his case in this new House of Commons by saying that, after all, the whole case against Home Rule was a thing of the past, that everybody had come round to his point of view and that effective opposition was entirely obsolete. Then he quoted the "Times" newspaper. The "Times" newspaper having apparently pronounced the dictum that "We are all Home Rulers now," the hon. Gentleman thinks that all is over bar the shouting. That is where my hon. Friend's great faculty for arrangement comes in, because, though he quoted that part of the "Times" article which said "We are all Home Rulers now," he was careful to say nothing about that other paragraph in the same article which said that Ulster had been made secure, and I have no doubt that the omission was not undesigned on the part of my hon. Friend.
Of course I accept my hon. Friend's compliments, but I cannot accept those I do not deserve. As a matter of fact, the extract I have does not contain that passage.
That does not surprise me at all. I should have been exceedingly astonished if my hon. Friend's extract had included that paragraph. That is exactly the compliment I was paying to his ingenuity in leaving out that kind of passage from his extracts. Those who have heard other Irish Debates know that this is all very stale. We have had the usual reference to the speech which we all admired, the famous speech of the late Mr. John Redmond. We have had trotted out again all those grievances, imaginary or real, of the Irish recruits against the War Office, capped, as they always are, by the particular quotation from the Prime Minister who, at the time he spoke on the subject, was very alive to that side of the case. We have had the same menace held out as to the terrible uprising of opinion in America and the frightful consequences, not merely to Ireland or the British Empire, but to the whole civilised world, on account of this American opinion, which is not to be pacified except by granting my hon. Friend what he wants. Then we were told that the War was popular in Ireland at the beginning, and, of course, we were told that the fact that it became less popular was entirely due to the wickedness of the Government. We are told that the Government, by a wave of the wand as it were, created a hostile Ireland instead of a favourable Ireland, that it destroyed all the good effects of Mr. Redmond's speech at the beginning of the War and, as my hon. Friend reiterated time after time with great emphasis, destroyed the constitutional movement in Ireland, with awful consequences to the political Friends of my hon. Friend, which is a conspicuous feature of the present Parliament.
We have had several Debates in which these topics have been treated, and my hon. Friends will agree that in these, for the most part, those of us who take what I may call the Ulster point of view have refrained during the War from challenging step by step, paragraph by paragraph, all those matters to which my hon. Friend has just referred. At this time I am not going to inaugurate a new course of debate by dealing with those matters-seriatim. I do that for two reasons, both of them good, first, because I have not the slightest desire in talking upon this subject to introduce any sort of bitterness or controversy if that can be avoided, and secondly, for a still better reason, because in my opinion the great majority of these matters, although they are no doubt of considerable interest and importance, are really irrelevant to the question of what we mean by the Irish question. There is, however, one matter to which I must refer, just to show, if I may, the skilful way in which the hon. Gentleman really manipulates, although he has no intention of so doing, the facts of history to suit his own argument. He was dealing with the subject of the rebellion in 1916. The Committee heard the eloquent way in which he described how in twenty-four hours that rebellion, which was undertaken by a few, and was only popular in a very small circle, was made the dominant view throughout Ireland. He said all that took place in twenty-four hours. To what did he attribute it? To anything but the right cause. There were really two reasons for that change. Everybody knew then who followed the matter at the time. No doubt it was an acute change by which the Sinn Fein attitude and rebellion became popular throughout Ireland. One reason was the well-intentioned but most mistaken visit of Mr. Asquith to Dublin at that time, which enabled the rebels to say that they had accomplished something, and the other reason, which was more important than that, was the speech made by Mr. Dillon from the other side of the House, which everybody remembers, in which he said that he approved of the action of these rebels and that he was proud of the youths who had shot down British soldiers in the streets of Dublin. Of course it was obvious that when the Leader of the Irish party publicly, in the House of Commons, expressed his approval and support of what had been done, it was the most natural thing in the world that public opinion in Ireland, especially the less well-instructed part of it, should take their cue from him and that the movement should immediately become popular.
The hon. Member went on to speak of the compromise which was proposed by the Prime Minister, with regard to which negotiations took place very shortly after the rebellion. What an extraordinary account the hon. Member gave of those negotiations and their breakdown. He declared with all his powers of eloquence that the representative parties in Ireland had come to an agreement. His language was, "Here were Irishmen prepared for the first time in history to work together for the common good of their country, and what happened?" He pointed to the Government Bench and said, "The Government destroyed it; the Government turned it down." What are the facts? How the misunderstanding arose I do not know. That has never been explained. The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman's political friends said they were never prepared, or rather said afterwards that they were never prepared, to come to an agreement which the representatives of Ulster could possibly have accepted. They were only willing to make a temporary and therefore a perfectly useless concession with regard to that portion of Ireland, and that had never been accepted by the representatives of that part of Ireland, and the moment it became clear that there had been a misunderstanding on that crucial point the negotiations broke down, not through any action on the part of the Government, but simply because of the obvious facts that nothing had been arranged to which either party had agreed.
The fact is that on the one side my hon. Friend and his Friends thought that the exclusion of the six counties, which was the basis of the arrangement, was to be temporary. That was a provision to which no accredited representative of Ulster could listen for one moment, because it was obviously futile. As soon as that misunderstanding became clear, the thing of course fell to pieces. The hon. Member was quite as far astray when he came to give an ac- count of the Convention. Several methods having failed, the proposal of the Prime Minister that there should be what is now known as partition not having found favour, we had the proposal for the Convention. There is the greatest possible misunderstanding with regard to that, and a great deal of misrepresentation with regard to what this Convention did and did not do. I believe that up to the present moment the Press has never been given liberty to discuss the whole matter and explain to the public what took place. Certainly the accounts that have been published have been far from complete or truthful accounts. I am afraid that my hon. Friend's attempt this afternoon has not added to our enlightenment on this subject. I am not going to criticise the merits of the Chairman of the Convention. I was astonished to hear my hon. Friend give his testimony, not merely personal testimony, to the action of the Chairman and say that that view would be widely shared among Irishmen who knew the facts. I thought everyone was aware that when Sir Horace Plunkett at the close of the Convention in the ordinary course was, as Chairman, going to prepare a Report, he could find no party and no group in the Convention who would trust him as Chairman to make a Report, and that they actually refused to allow him to put in the forefront of the Report a statement of his own. Without the leave of the Convention, if I am correctly informed, without any authority whatsoever, and practically flying in the face of all the instructions he had received from the Convention, not being able to make a report, not being able to write a preface, he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, which was taken by the public, who did not know what had taken place, read it as if it was part of the report signed by the chairman, and comparatively few people read the very elaborate Blue Book, and a great many people contented themselves with reading this unauthorised letter, and, assuming from it that they had derived some knowledge of what had taken place at the Convention.
May I say one word about the Convention itself, because there was a great deal said about the majority having arrived at certain conclusions, and it was asked why did the Government not act upon the majority report. What are the facts? Go back to the history of the institution of the Convention. The Convention was merely an attempt to bring together two parties in Ireland who had been at loggerheads. [HON. MEMBER: "Three!"] Three parties, but two mainly. It was really a continuation of the Conference at Buckingham Palace. It was an attempt to solve the Irish question, and although there may be some groups of representatives, roughly speaking, on the Irish question, there are only two parties, the Nationalists and the Ulster party. The object of the Convention was to try to bring those two parties together and arrive at a policy which both would accept. For weeks and months the Convention went on but the real crucial point never came up for discussion at all. A lot of minor matters were debated interminably, but when the real matter came up, whether or not there should be an Irish Parliament, for that after all was the gist of the matter, radical disagreement between the two parties immediataely became apparent. Therefore there never was anything in the nature of agreement in the Convention, and there was never anything which, in the ordinary sense of the word, could be called a majority report. My hon. Friend (Mr. O'Connor) lays great stress upon the passing of the Act extending Conscription to Ireland. He tries to persuade the House that that largely accounts for the state of Ireland to-day and for the destruction of what he calls the constitutional party. Surely we ought to observe some sort of perspective in these matters, and you cannot arrive at a decent perspective in a matter of this sort if you leave out of account the surrounding circumstances of the time just as the hon. Member speaking of what he calls the severity with which the rebellion of 1916 was punished leaves out of account the circumstances of the time. Here was this country engaged in the War, at a very dangerous stage of the War, a dangerous rebellion broke out, accompanied by a German landing in Ireland, an Irish traitor landed at Cork, and an armed rebellion broke out in the streets. Will anyone really say under these circumstances that such treatment as was accorded to the very small body of men who acted as ringleaders and who were executed, compared with the large number who were treated with very great leniency, can be called severity? It is equally true with regard to Conscription. The hon. Member described how he was at that time engaged in America in fighting for the constitutional movement and fighting for the favourable opinion of the Allied cause in America. I know he was doing all that. Then he says he was frustrated because at that moment the Prime Minister destroyed all his efforts by bringing in Conscription for Ireland. In other words, this terrible thing that was done was that the Prime Minister tardily, as many of us think, actually came to the House of Commons and proposed that Irishmen should bear their share of the War and make the same sacrifices as the rest of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member did not tell us that. He gave a very different colour to it, and I think I might strengthen my side of the picture by going on to point out what my hon. Friend ignored altogether, that at least one quarter of the people of Ireland were passionately anxious to bear the same burdens and the same sacrifices as the rest of the United Kingdom, and that that quarter, the Ulster people, who were willing to assume that sacrifice and that burden, had already under voluntary enlistment contributed more soldiers to the Army than all the rest of Ireland put together.
When the hon. Member makes that assertion, which has been so constantly made in this House and in the country, does he refer to Ulster or to the North-East corner of Ulster?
Do I understand that in this particular instance the hon. Member refers to the soldiers from Ulster as the soldiers who are political supporters of his or the soldiers who come from Ulster irrespective of politics and religion?
Certainly irrespective of politics. I have no means of knowing what are their politics. All I am saying is that hon. Members claim not only all the soldiers who enlisted in the Southern provinces, but apparently all the soldiers and sailors who enlisted in the Army and Navy of Irish birth in all the rest of the world. A very large number of Irishmen who have joined the forces both in England, and Scotland, and in the Dominions, are soldiers who, so far as politics and religion are concerned, are much more in sympathy with the Ulster point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It only shows that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Redmond) wants to have it both ways. Every Irishman who has enlisted in every part of the world is to be regarded as a Nationalist.
I quite agree, although I think it is a legitimate point, that a great deal too much can be made of it, and too much has been made of it perhaps by both sides. Throughout his speech the hon. Member spoke of the action of the Government in destroying the constitutional movement, and he has told us of the terrible consequences arising from that. Does he mean that he and his party are more constitutional than the Sinn Fein party, and, if so, in what way?
I have not seen any evidence of any particular difference in method or in aim between the two parties. It is certainly a very remarkable circumstance, which the hon. Member has not tried to account for, that within a very short period practically the whole population of the three provinces of Ireland have changed from calling themselves Nationalists to calling themselves Sinn Feiners. That is to say, they have altered their label at all events. Does the change of label represent any substantial change either in aim or in method? The hon. Member thinks the change is fundamental. He thinks it is a change, to use his own words, from constitutionalism to revolutionism. I am unable myself to see that great difference. Let me take the question of aim first. The aim of the Sinn Fein party, to judge by their speeches and writings, is the complete independence of Ireland. Does that represent a change of label? I do not think it does. The hon. Member has said the movement for Home Rule began the day after Gratton's Parliament was destroyed. I do not say there never has been any change made from that moment till to-day. No one more clearly pronounced that than the late Mr. Redmond, who said within very recent years that the aim of the party to which he belonged was the absolute and complete independence of Ireland. He said it in America. I do not know that he has ever said it in this House. Probably he was addressing a very different audience, with a very different object.
I have no objection to the hon. Member reading any passages he likes. As he wants me to read the passage to which I refer I will do so. This is what the hon. Member said, speaking in 1902:
I know there are many men in America who think that the means which are adopted to-day for the good of Ireland ere not sufficiently sharp and decisive. I would suggest to them, would it not be well to give cur movement a fair chance, to allow us to have an Irish Parliament which will give our people all authority over the police and the justiciary, and when equipped with comparative freedom then would be the time for those who think we should destroy the last link that binds us to England to operate by whatever means we think best to achieve that great and desirable end.
What he said in that speech was, first of all, that it was a desirable end to have complete independence of Ireland, and that he approved of achieving that end by whatever means. That is exactly the Sinn Fein position. The Sinn Fein position to-day is complete independence of Ireland by whatever means it can be achieved. The only difference is that the Sinn Fein party call themselves by a different name and they will not come to sit in this House. Is that a sufficient reason to justify my hon. Friend's "abundant evidence" as to the difference between the revolutionary party and the constitutional party to which he belongs, and which, he says, is being destroyed by the evil machinations of the Government in encouraging the revolutionary party. That is an extravagant travesty of the real facts.
As to the terror about American opinion, I am not in the least impressed. I know that the hon. Member (Mr. O'Connor) has been a great deal in America, and I do not for a moment deny that he is very much in touch with a certain section of American opinion, nor do I deny that the difficulty in the settlement of the Irish question is causing and always has caused a great deal of very undesirable friction between this country and the United States. I fully admit that. But we also have means of getting American opinion. We are not entirely cut off from America; we are not entirely dependent upon the hon. Gentleman for our knowledge of what people are thinking in America. During the last few years and the last few months I have met very large numbers of Americans in this country, some of whom are strong Home Rulers, and always have been, and I have come to this conclusion from what I have heard from Americans I have met in this country and from what I have seen in the Press as to what is going on in America, that so far from the animosity in America to this country increasing as the hon. Member would have us believe, the movement is entirely in the other direction. After the Americans went into the War there were two things which entirely changed their attitude as regards Home Rule and the Irish question. One was that they could not understand any more than we could understand the attitude of Irishmen, who professing loyalty and a gallant desire to help in the fight for freedom would not accept the same sacrifices as the rest of their fellow-countrymen. Another thing which the Americans could not understand was the agitation for resistance to the law which every American accepted perfectly readily and which every Englishman, Scotsman and Welshman accepted, and that that resistance was made effective by ecclesiastical assistance and by the use of spiritual terrorism which they thought had not been used in politics since the Middle Ages, These facts I believe entirely changed the opinion of America, and so far from being terrified by the menaces which the hon. Member holds out, my belief is that there is nothing we need fear so far as America is concerned.
I think the hon. Member very seriously misjudges the British people if he thinks that the policy which he desires to realise is going to gain anything either in this House or in the country by resort to threats of that kind, of appealing to foreign opinion. I think the whole purport of the hon. Member's speech, and not for the first time, has been to persuade this House and the country that they are obliged to go in for Home Rule, otherwise they will have hostile America producing complications in the world situation which we dare not face. I do not believe that. The hon. Member referred to the League of Nations, and he has referred on other occasions to the watchwords of to-day in regard to oppressed nationalities, self-determination, and the rest of it. We who take the Ulster standpoint do not admit for one moment, although we have heard it asserted in this House time after time, that there is any sort of analogy between Ireland on the one hand and the oppressed nationalities on the continent of Europe, for which we have been fighting, on the other. If the Poles, the Czechs, the Slovenes, or any of the other people who have been brought up very often in debate as analogous to the Irish, had been over fed for fifty years in a free Parliament in which they were over-represented, if they had their peasantry enjoying an agrarian code that was the envy of every other country in Europe—
That is another story; it has nothing whatever to do with it. If their Press and their person were free, if their native and dead language had been encouraged and revived by being taught at the expense of the Treasury in the public schools—if those were the sort of conditions which prevailed in the countries which have been emancipated in this War, then we might have found some analogy between Ireland and those countries. The hon. Member cannot, without an abuse of language, draw an analogy between Ireland and these oppressed nationalities. When it comes to self-determination, he knows quite well that he is not going to allow self-determination in Ireland. He referred to the negotiations in 1916. What were those negotiations, and what did they propose? It was proposed that after this age-long conflict between two sections in Ireland who had not been able to arrive at any settlement in regard to their future government that those parts of Ireland which wanted Home Rule should have it on the principle of self-determination. Those who had fought for the maintenance of the Union for generations, under the stress of War, who were anxious not to be obstructive to the Government, gave up their insistence upon that maintenance, and were no longer chargeable with being anxious or willing to deny a settlement to other parts of Ireland. But they said, "If you are going to have self-determination for yourselves, then let us have it too." The hon. Member and his Friends, and the bishops of his Church and all the other forces which are in co-operation on that side, said, "No; we will not have it. Anything rather than partition."
What does that mean? It means that the policy for which my hon. Friend and his party stands, and which he wants if he can to carry into the councils of the Peace Conference in Paris, and which he wants to impress upon the world, is self-determination for Munster, Leinster and Connaught, coupled with domination over us; domination over those who are outside their own borders. That is the sort of self-determination which I do not think the Peace Conference are likely to support. So far as I am concerned, and I believe most of my Friends are in agreement with me on this, although we have never sought partition, if we have to have partition we should dislike partition from England a great deal more than partition from the South of Ireland. When the settlement comes, as the settlement must come, it is upon such lines as that, true self-determination for all parties concerned, that I believe the only hope lies of a solution of this question.
There is one sentiment which my hon. Friend uttered with which I entirely agreed, and it is that it is the business of this country, undeterred by the opinion of any other country, and unafraid of it, to determine our policy with regard to the constituent elements of our own country. That is perfectly clear, and, while I am not certain that my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) in any way intended to threaten this country when he referred to the condition of American opinion to-day, I am sure he will agree with me, and with my hon. Friend opposite, that it is the business of this country, and this country alone, to settle her internal affairs on her own sole responsibility. Those who are new Members of this House will be glad to know there is nothing new in the speeches to which we have listened.
Then my right hon. Friend has forgotten a good deal, and let us hope that he is going to make a new beginning. My hon. Friend (Mr. McNeill) has spoken this afternoon with an eloquence, an earnestness, and a sympathy which he has seldom exceeded, but I was particularly interested in the concluding sentence of his remarks, when he uttered what I knew was in his heart and the hearts of his colleagues from Ulster, the knowledge that this question has to be settled, speedily settled, and undoubtedly settled on lines of self-determination. There is no doubt about that. I knew it would come; I waited for it, and it came at the end. There is that spirit, undoubtedly, in the leaders of all parties, certainly of the constitutional parties of Ireland. We have to consider this afternoon not what the past has been, not what are the bright hopes that have been shattered, but what is the position to-day. The present position is tragic. I had a letter sent to me a few days ago from a friend of mine, a distinguished author, one who has served four years in the War, a true son of Ireland, who has just returned there. This is one sentence:
Returning to the country after four and a-half years, I am really appalled by the scandal it presents of people governed by naked force; essentially the same system as in Belgium and in Germany; armed police, soldiers, machines, tanks, gas, etc.—all the hideous paraphernalia of war. The whole of it apparently to repress a people who are determined in some way or another, to attain their liberty.
The Secretary of State for War told us that there are no fewer than 44,000 troops in Ireland. We all know that that cannot go on. Something must be done. This is the first opportunity which this House has had of getting from the Government a declaration of its policy. I hope that we shall get that from my right hon. Friend, in whose task we all, in every part of the House, extend to him our sympathy, while expressing the hope that he will be able to bear the heavy burden laid upon him and do something to lighten the darkness across the Irish Channel. What is the position there? Not only have you armed force, but, as always happens in Ireland, you have some comic relief. Sinn Fein Members of Parliament are showing a new form of gaol delivery and release in a form which occasionally suggests comic opera rather than serious dealing with the methods of justice.
Something must be told to the House of Commons, which, after all, at the present moment is responsible. Parliament is responsible, and I ask my right hon. Friend to tell us, so far as he can bring his mind to the responsibility with regard to the military situation, what numbers of troops are there, how they will be used, what is the position of the judiciary? Because, after all, the news is censored from Ireland. We do not really know here what is going on through the Press. Now is our opportunity, and we ask the responsible officer of the Government that he shall tell the House of Commons frankly what is the position in Ireland and what is the policy of the Government with regard to it? I repeat it is impossible that the present position should go on. I do not wish at all to enlarge upon the difficulties of the situation. There they are. Everybody agrees as to them. No matter where you turn, you find the problem of Ireland continually cropping up. And we have need of an immense amount of moral force in dealing with these larger questions so long as Ireland remains as she is. It is perfectly clear that the Irishman himself cannot settle it. I was hopeful—we all were—after the tragedy of the rebellion of 1916, when the Convention was set up and within an ace, as far as we could judge, of a real chance of settlement being approached; but the tragedy broke out at the end. It has been tried over and over again, and I do not think that Conventions will ever settle it. It has got to be done by some people outside of Ireland.
My idea of government is that the only principle on which government can adequately be based is that there must be government by consent. But there must be the intervention of Parliament to deal with it. That is our responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Government at present in power, or of any Government, to deal instantly with this terrible problem. Is there any hope of the situation? I believe that there is great hope. While I confine the brief remarks which I have made on the present position, I cannot stop emphasising what I believe to be the only way, and a way that has never yet been tried, in Ireland, though wherever we have tried it in our far-flung Dominions beyond the sea it has succeeded. There are two difficult facts at present. One is the pledge to Ulster. I agree. And the
other is the fact that the Home Rule Bill is on the Statute Book. I believe that if the Government firmly grasped the position and took risks not on the side of physical force, but with the great moral forces that are brought into the world today, a great and beneficent change would speedily take place. It is the only way we have not yet tried. We have tried every other way. Material advantages—Ireland is materially prosperous to-day: more materially prosperous than ever she was. It cannot be that. There is something far more deeply seated than that, and all history teaches us that the only way to cure that is by the application of the moral forces. If I may be allowed a quotation I would ask the House to remember the appeal of Macbeth to the physician:
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd;
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow;
Raze out the written troubles of the brain;
And, with some sweet oblivious antidote,
Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff,
Which weighs upon the heart?
And the reply of the physician:
Therein the patient
Must minister to himself.
I am not at all sure of the great futility of this Debate to-day. For my own part, on the lines that it has gone I shall hope to continue it for a very short time. Everybody knows that this question will have in some way or other to be dealt with by the Government at the end of the War. There is an Act upon the Statute Book—the Act of 1914. I am not going to take time to inquire into the way in which it went on the Statute Book, as to which I might have a great deal to say. It is accompanied, as my right hon. Friend has said, by a pledge by his former Leader, and I think his present Leader.
I have no doubt that he and Mr. Asquith will loyally carry it out. But since then by every party in the State there have been further pledges upon the same lines, and there is a specific policy on which the Government went to the country at the General Election contained in the letters that passed between the Leader of the House and the Prime-Minister and a large majority was returned, who, I suppose, at all events most of them, were satisfied with the arrange- merit contained in those letters. There for, I say at some time this question will have, I suppose, to be thrashed out. But the remarkable thing at the present moment is—it may be altered in the course of the evening—that I know of no one in Ireland who approves of the Home Rule Act of 1914. The Sinn Feiners repudiate it. What they conceive to be the miserable subordinate rights that were created under that Act, far removed to their thought from independence, was one of the most powerful factors in throwing over what has been called here for shortness the constitutional party. I do not think that the hon. Members opposite desire the Home Rule Act of 1914—indeed, I think the Leader of the party—
You. I am not in your secrets, but I naturally selected the hon. Gentleman as he came from Belfast. He declared that the only thing that would satisfy him, and I suppose that is steering as near Sinn Fein as possible, would be what he calls "Dominion Home Rule." I think that I am right in that.
That is very far removed from the Home Rule Act on the Statute Book, and, as someone used to say in this House, we are getting on. That is virtual independence, because everybody knows that to-morrow, if Canada or Australia were to decree that they should cut the painter with this country, no one would try to hold them. They are held by sympathy, loyalty, and affection to the Mother Country, and nobody would dream for a moment of using force to retain them. Therefore, they are independent. Therefore, the new complications that are arising now are something quite different from what was always the allegation in the controversy with reference to the old Act of 1914. It may be that from the lessons of the War, which we are always told to take, this country will make up its mind that Ireland is utterly unimportant in the event of war breaking out, or for any other reason that it may desire to cut the painter with Ireland and to say, "We will have no more to do with you. Go and do for yourself, and you can in a future war hand over your ports, whether on the West or the Eastern Coast to such people as may be the enemies of this country, though only twenty miles away from here." That may be so. But all that seems to me to be a matter which has to be considered when the Government proceed to say what they are going to do with the Home Rule Act which is now upon the Statute Book, and all I really wish to know this evening is this, and all I was going to say on the part of the subject is this, that I can find no one—and I hope that the Government will notice this—who is in favour of an Act put on the Statute Book no longer than five years ago, which took many, many years to frame, and as to which I have incurred great odium for the extreme course which I took in trying to prevent its being put on the Statute Book.
One other matter only will I refer to. I have been challenged by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) with crimes in regard to what I did in Ireland in relation to the resistance of Ulster. I do not think any good is to be gained by entering into a justification of my position. It would take too long, and now it is past history. Let me say this much, that no one has yet quoted to me an instance of any country trying to drive out from its citizenship those who were contented and loyal so long as they were in it; and if ever resistance was to be justified on any ground nothing would justify it more, in my opinion, than that men who lived and believed in the citizenship of the United Kingdom should be told "notwithstanding that you are loyal, you must be driven out and handed over to those who hate you and are disloyal to the rest of the United Kingdom." What has been the development since? Has it not shown how right we were? Ireland is now showing her true colours, and the men you wanted to hand us over to, and for resisting which action you jibe at us, are the men who, in the darkest hour of your need, shot your soldiers in the streets of Dublin and stabbed you in the back at a moment when the vital interests of the country were in the scale. After all, I am of opinion that myself and others from Ireland have talked a great deal too much about this question in the past, and I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite as to whether, in the interim until these matters have to be again raised—whether in an acute form or more mellow form, I do not know which—it would not be well for us to turn to many of the shortcomings of the administration of legislation in Ireland while it is still under the Imperial power.
At my election I gave pledges that I would do my best to get remedied a state of facts which are a disgrace to this country in relation to education in Ireland, and I hope that hon. Members who are expecting what I may call a fighting speech on Home Rule will allow me to say that at the present moment, at all events, I look upon the question of reconstruction in Ireland—the questions of education, of health, of housing, and many other matters—as of far more immediate importance than raising our old controversy under the Home Rule Bill. If I may I would say a word of welcome to the Chief Secretary, who has undertaken the most difficult office in the whole Government; and I say with all sincerity that until, at all events, these controversies again become acute I would ask him to try and be rather the friend of Ireland than the champion of its political parties; and if he will only be that, I think he will have already learnt that his hands are full with the many ways in which he can bring home a greater alleviation of grievances in Ireland. Education in Ireland is really one of the most lamentable matters one can bring up, and which we are bound to bring up and to press on this House. I know it is not a very interesting subject to the House, but, after all, it is one of those matters which go to the very root of society, which commences to operate on children at the very earliest age, and which must have regard not only to their progress and prosperity but to all the elements that go to make up the life of a good citizen. I read a speech—a painful speech—made a few days ago—on the 28th of last month—by Dr. Starkie, the resident Commissioner of Education in Ireland. Dr. Starkie has been a long time Commissioner and he gives the sad history of his efforts from time to time to have this question of education seriously gone into by representatives of His Majesty's Government. I will only quote one passage to show the way in which he has been met. The words are these:
Then came along Lord MacDonnell in 1905. He was full of hope and appointed two commissions and a single individual—Mr. Dale—who reported on all sorts of proposals. But there was no money for them forthcoming, and they had to be carried out for nothing. Then came Mr. Birrell, who kept them going with a few jests for nine years. … Then came Mr. Duke who was
going to do everything, but whose record is that for even a simple matter he generally took six months.
That is a statement by a very earnest eminent permanent official. Lately we have had two reports. I have not been able to get the one on Intermediate Education, although I have asked for it here in the House of Commons. The second was the Primary Education. I am very glad that the Minister of Education for England is here, and I am really obliged to him for being present, although I dare say his presence is quite accidental. He has done great things for this country. He passed two Bills last year, or at least he passed one and a similar measure was passed for Scotland. These two Bills were described by the Prime Minister as being the charter of education for every British child, however humble—the charter enabling him to reach the highest rung of the ladder. I asked at the time why neither of these Bills was applied to Ireland, and why nothing relating to or equalling them was passed for Ireland and I never got an answer. One of the things I pledged myself to do at the General Election was this, that I believed it to be entirely in the interests of Ireland that we Members representing Ulster constituencies, whatever the rest of Ireland might do, should, so far as was in our power, insist on every advantage given to Englishmen or Scotsmen in this Parliament being also given in the period of Reconstruction to our Irish fellow countrymen, and, at all events, if the people of the South and West did not want it it should be given to our Ulster fellow countrymen in the North. Education in Ireland is one of the scandals of the Government which stand out preeminently above all others, and I hope the Chief Secretary to-night—because after all we are upon the Estimates, and this is the occasion that the Leader of the House told us last week when I put a question to him was the proper occasion to raise this question—will tell us he is seriously taking into his consideration the very grave situation which has been disclosed by the Report on Primary Education with regard both to the teachers and to the pupils.
Let me say that I have been for years struggling in this House trying to improve the condition of the teachers. Everything we have ever said on that subject is justified by the Report of the Commission appointed by the Government last year, and I do beseech my right hon. Friend this year without delay—and this does not require legislation—to accord to the teachers in Ireland the conditions both of pay and employment which are recommended by the Report of the Commission. It is all very well to talk of the children growing up disloyal and being this, that or the other. Why, they were taught by people who were ground down to a position almost of slavery by the wretched pittance with which they had to try to appear in a state of respectability before their classes, and then, when their work was over, they had to go out and, as best they could, try and scrape together money for the cleaning and carrying on of the schools. That has been allowed to go on— and why? Because hon. Members and myself were spending whole days discussing the question which has been introduced here this afternoon, while the necessity of really bringing up these things and insisting upon the Government giving to these people the same rights as are enjoyed by Englishmen was ignored. I am sorry to have to go into details of this kind—but there is more than that. The House will hardly believe it, but there are a number of teachers who were promoted and entitled to certain salaries. I have got the dates and particulars here, but I need not go into them, as I am sure my right hon. Friend knows them perfectly well. Although they were promoted, they were told year after year that they could not get the promotion pay until further funds came in. It was what they call in Ireland —and no wonder they do so call it—paper promotion. Some of these claims have been settled, but there are still remaining?—and they have been a pathetic sight during the War—many cases where it has been practically impossible to make both ends meet, and yet some of these men have been owed arrears of money for three or four years. I think the total amount only comes to £6,000 or £7,000. We were promised twice in this House that these men should be paid, and although the Board of Education in Ireland have applied over and over again to the Treasury to enable them to carry out the pledges of the Chief Secretary, the Treasury, which will give millions for many purposes, have refused to give these poor men this £6,000 or £7,000 up to this date. These paper promoted people have never got a shilling of the money, which is just as much their right as is the salary of the right hon. Gentlemen sitting on that bench their right. Therefore, I hope that the Chief Secretary tonight will put an end to that scandal.
The Report of the Commission laid down that it was impossible to improve the education, having regard to the buildings and everything else, unless a rate is struck. You struck a rate in this country —I think it is nearly fifteen or sixteen years since you put education on the rates —and it is perfectly clear, as pointed out by the Commission, that you will make no advance until you do that. The way it is done now in Ireland is this. The Board of Commissioners write over to say, "We want so much," and the Treasury write back and say, "We can only afford so much," and, as Dr. Starkie, the Resident Commisioner, says in his Report, "No matter what glaring grievance wants to be attended to, I cannot attend to them, because I am only given so much, and I am told, 'Make it do as well as you can, and trust to next year.' "That is, let the schools be insanitary, as they are, and let the teachers be inefficient, as they are; and let the teachers be underpaid, as they are underpaid. Let it all go on, because we have other obligations, and we cannot afford some comparatively small amount until, I suppose, the National Debt is paid. There is a plain remedy suggested by the Report of the Commission, and it is that there should be a rate struck—a local rate. I do not exactly know, I have not been able to make out from the Report how they propose to raise that rate or who is to be rated, and I do not think it is clear by the Report. But let me say this, taking Belfast, which I know, and which I am bound to know most about, and let me ask the House to notice this. Belfast is a great industrial centre. Eighty-five per cent. of my Constituents, although I am represented by the hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) as representing the aristocracy, are working men mostly in the shipyards. Belfast is a city which has entirely outgrown its clothes. It has really nothing there to be increased. In 1881 the population was 208,000, and it is probably 414,000 at the present moment, and growing every day. This House will hardly believe in a great industrial centre of that kind filled with those great working classes, who, I venture to say, have proved to be as worthy citizens of the Empire during the War as any others in the whole United Kingdom, and who contributed out of their population without any Conscription 42,000 or 43,000—[An HON. MEMBER: "46,000!"]] — men, or one in nine, or something of that kind, and who built your ships and turned them out quicker than in any other yards in the Kingdom, and who built standard ships which were sorely needed, as we all know, in times of danger—will this House, believe that in that community at the present moment there are from 15,000 to 20,000 children who cannot go to school from day to day because there is no school for them to go to. I think it is a positive shame, and I have told the people in Belfast in no uncertain tones since I came there that it was their duty not to tolerate it for one moment, and if they could get it in no other way they must go down and never leave the steps of the Chief Secretary's Office until their claim is satisfied. What is the difficulty? There are from 15,000 to 20,000 children for whom there is no room, and eighty of the schools even that are there, insanitary and condemned, but still going on to the danger of the health of the children, and children are turned away by the medical officers from day to day on the ground that the existing schools are overcrowded.
But there is something more. The Corporation of Belfast are quite willing to have a rate. The Chamber of Commerce and the Corporation have been working together and have evolved a scheme, of which I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has had a copy. There are nine Members in this House from Belfast, and nine out of the ten who have been returned at the election, and I give the hon. Member for the Falls the credit of being just as anxious about this subject as I am, are in favour of it. Therefore we are prepared in Belfast to have a rate. The rate recommended by the Committee on Primary Education will not do for us because it is limited to maintenance and upkeep. That will not do for us because we must get schools and more modern schools, and we know perfectly well we cannot come here asking for large Grants in the present state of affairs, sufficient to meet those wants. We are willing to pay for them ourselves if this Parliament will only allow us to do so. That is our whole demand. I may be met, and I will be met with this difficulty. It will be said: "Oh, but the rest of Ireland do not want it." Then give us the chance in Belfast, and what is more I firmly believe this. If you give us the chance in Belfast it will not be very long until the rest of Ireland imitate our example and come to ask for the very same power. I do beseech of my right hon. Friend to hold out to us this evening some hope that we may have this great commencement of some prosperity as regards education in one of the most progressive and most growing communities in the whole of the United Kingdom. There is a sectarian difficulty, I am very sorry for it. When I at the General Election at Belfast said I was in favour of a rate for education in Belfast I was at once denounced by a very reverend gentleman, one of the bishops. He said I wanted to introduce godlessness into Ireland. Heaven knows I do not. I do not want to interfere with that in the slightest degree, and I say here now in the most emphatic way that any way my right hon. Friend likes to come to terms with the Catholic Church in Belfast, so as to please them in regard to their schools, I shall not oppose it one iota. We want schools for our own children; we want new schools for those 15,000 children, and better schools for those at school, and so far as I am concerned you can settle sectarian differences any way you like, only let us have the schools. Let us have decent schools, let us have decent teachers, and let us not have these boys and girls and children wandering about the streets and growing up without any hope that education may give them. There is something more. I hope my right hon. Friend will also tell us that he will try, as far as Belfast is concerned at all events, to bring us up to date. By that I mean that he will give us all that is given to England and Scotland by what I may call the Fisher Acts. I hope so. What is happening at the present moment in Belfast? I am told that the bulk of the children, or a great many of the children leave school at ten years' old, or eleven years' old, pass out and nobody interests themselves very much about them afterwards, because that makes vacancies in the school in which, there is a long waiting list to try and get somebody in. I want those children to go on at school and to go on into continuation classes and to get the same chance as boys in England or in Scotland get, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell us that that is his policy. But there is something more. We also want full power over our technical institute, which is most important in a place like Belfast.
I do not want to wait until we get Some Rule. I have been waiting thirty years, and I am afraid a great many boys have grown up ignorant during that time. The War has knocked a great deal of politics out of me, and I want to do my best to show some gratitude to the people who won the War. The technical institute is a very fine institution in Belfast, and I believe the best in Ireland. What happens? Nobody can go over this building without being delighted at seeing the technical instruction that is given there. What happens? It cannot expand. There is no money and no building. It is a large building as it is. I spoke to the head of the technical institute when I was over there, and I said, "Is it progressing," and he replied, "How can we progress; there is no room to progress. I had to turn 700 students away last year from the technical institute." I say that this Parliament ought to be ashamed of itself, and there again I say give us power to deal with it from our own rates. Belfast is quite rich enough to pay for these things, and they ought to be made to pay. Then again as regards the technical institute, I do indeed, with all the force I can command, beg of the right hon. Gentleman to take it seriously in hand. I am not in a position to deal with the Intermediate Education Report because I have not seen it, but I have no doubt my right hon. Friend will see what is there, and will have it considered. Just let me take one or two other matters. You will hardly believe it, but even as regards the blind and the deaf we are behindhand in Ireland. I have a Report here of an Advisory Committee on the Blind. Fortunately there are only a few hundred, but they are a very piteous few indeed. Here is what they say:
The position of the blind in Ireland is on an entirely different footing to that in England and Scotland. As a result of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Blind, etc., 1889, Parliament passed the Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) (England and Wales) Act, 1893, and the Education of the Blind and Deaf Mute Children (Scotland) Act, 1890. These measures gave compulsory education to England and Scotland, while additional provision for secondary and technical education was included in the England and Wales Act, 1902, and the Education (Scotland) Act, 1908. In carrying out the enactments liberal financial assistance is provided by the Government and the local authorities. Boards of guardians also, under previous Acts, had full power to provide for the education, training, employment, and relief of the blind to any extent they might think fit.
Not a single one of those Acts applies to Ireland. The Report goes on:
In Ireland nothing of a similar nature has been done, and the care of the blind has been left entirely to private charity, assisted to a small extent by grants from boards of guardians. The grants are only given in the case of the destitute poor and cannot exceed 5s. per week in the case of persons over eighteen years of age. There are no other grants applied for, either education, training, employment, or relief of incapacity.
Ought we not to be ashamed? I might go on. I believe the teachers in the industrial schools get miserable pittances and no pensions; and as regards pensions, I do suggest to my right hon. Friend to follow the example of the English Minister, because I know very well that nothing has done more to improve the whole status of teachers than the Bill brought in last year, which put the teachers' pensions on such a satisfactory ground, and which I know has given a great deal of satisfaction. To make one more suggestion to my right hon. Friend, may I remind him that there is a university in Ireland? I am not going to ask for a further Grant towards it, because I might be making too large a demand; but will he see this, what I see I hope clearly, that with primary education, technical education, and a university in a great and growing community there is good material to work on? They ought to be so coordinated that the student who wants to do so, and who is of sufficient ability to do so, ought to be able to pass on from his primary education to his technical education and on into the university. We ought to have these three coordinated, and may I say that one of the best ways of helping would be that you should have a teachers' training college in Belfast? One of the most absurd things, it seems to me, considering the population of Belfast to be a tenth of the whole of Ireland, is that a teacher to be trained has to go to Dublin, while you could have the training college in Belfast directly in contact both with the technical institute and the university.
Is it a sectarian college? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] If so, they do not go to it, of course. The bulk of the people in Belfast—I mean three-quarters of them—are Protestants, and if that is a purely sectarian training college of course, they do not go to it.
Then let us have a sectarian one in Belfast also, but I do not know whether the hon. Member is right in his information. I should not have thought that that would have been admitted when I heard the Education Acts discussed here. However, all I say is—I do not want to raise any controversy—that the teachers who teach in the schools that are under managers who are Presbyterian or Episcopalian or other Protestant denominations have to go to Dublin to be taught, while at the same time there is the very best material and the very best organisation in the University of Belfast which could be utilised for that purpose. One point more about education. I really hope my right hon. Friend will refer to the Committee what I see they were not allowed to discuss before, and that is the merits of the managerial system. I see that Dr. Starkie says that if they had discussed it at all the roof of the house in which they were met would have been blown off. But the managerial system is really a great failure in Ireland, and I can assure hon. Members opposite who disagree with me on most things that even teachers in the Catholic schools are in many cases very discontented, as they write to me about the managerial system, about the methods of appointment, and, above all, about the method of dismissal. They complain over and over again—I have had letters from all parties on this subject—of the unfair way in which they are treated and that they have no remedy whatsoever. I hope my right hon. Friend, in considering the salaries of these teachers, will really seriously consider whether the basis of capitation grant cannot be altered. The teacher is paid not according to the number of his scholars, but according to the numbers who come, which seems to me the most absurd system that could be possibly suggested. I might say a great deal more about education, but I will not do so now. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend what the Government are doing about housing. A housing Bill has been brought in for England, and I was told by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that there was to be one brought in almost immediately for Ire land. I hope it will soon be brought in. All I can say is that in Belfast there is a great dearth of houses, and with a growing population of that kind it is likely to lead not merely to great inconvenience but to a great deal of discontent and a great deal probably of illness. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is pressing on with that Bill, and I apologise to the House for detaining them so long with questions of this kind. I know they anticipated that I would rather make another kind of speech, as regards Home Rule, but—
That is not my view. I think we can get the money better out of the Imperial Treasury than we ever will out of a Sinn Fein treasury. However that may be, all I can say is that everybody knows I never cloak my views about Home Rule and never refuse to express them, but I do hope that in the short time that I remain in this House—and it cannot be very long—I shall have much more opportunity than I have had in the past of trying to do something real and tangible for the classes which I represent in Belfast, and I believe that by taking a line of that kind and trying to assist in obtaining for them the same advantages as are got in England and in Scotland, I will be doing far more service than ever I was by devoting my whole time to politics.
I should have preferred if it had been possible for the Chief Secretary to have spoken at this stage, but the Debate has taken a turn and matters have been introduced into the discussion this afternoon in a way which I think entitles me to intervene at this stage of the proceedings before the right hon. Gentleman has spoken. May I be allowed to say how deeply I rejoice that the right hon. and learned Gentleman bad the distinction of the presence of so many Members in this House when he delivered his speech, because I think it will be admitted in every part of the House, whatever the peculiar political distinctions may be, that a more powerful indictment of British rule in Ireland has never fallen from the lips of any hon. Gentleman than the speech which we have just heard. What was the picture that the right hon. Gentleman painted? He painted a picture of bad housing, of starved teachers, of neglected education, of shivering children, of an inflated British Treasury refusing to disburse a single farthing for the promotion of anything in Ireland. How long has the right hon. Gentleman been asleep? He constitutes himself to-night the vocal Rip Van Winkle of British politics. How long have teachers in Ireland been badly paid?
But you were the master of the situation. We had no power. You are the master of successive British Ministries. The late aide-de-camp of the right hon. Gentleman, the late Marquis of Londonderry, was Minister for Education in England, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House was Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he could have secured the services of the Leader of the House to assist him in his Ulster campaign surely he would have sufficient influence with him to endeavour to extract from him some of those golden British sovereigns that would have brought some comfort to the shivering children and some advantage to the bad schools. But we are living in strange times, and instead of meeting the situation as it exists, instead of recognising as the whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman must have recognised that it is not by coming here to a Parliament over-weighted with Imperial and national concerns, and that it is not by coming here to an institution of seven hundred Members engaged in a never-ending competition for the precise interests that they stand for and for the universal interests for which the Parlia- ment stands as a whole, every one of those questions which have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman to-night are not questions for the Imperial Parliament at all, If ever there was a litany of grievances recited which could only be redressed by the application of native intelligence and local information, it is the series of grievances which have been mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his speech to-night. For forty years in this House Nationalist Members from Ireland have raised everyone of these questions. The right hon. Gentleman only omitted one question, and that was the question of sweated labour. In a spirit of intellectual forgetfulness he forgot that there was such a thing as sweated labour, and omitted that from the series of grievances under which the workers and toilers suffer in Belfast. But to come here now, at the eleventh hour, and to tell us that there was a cessation of political hostilities—I think that was his expression—that political passions and controversies were not acute, that it was a cold and placid moment in which to raise this question—well, I would ask the Chief Secretary, when he comes to reply, Are the passions in Ireland cold; is the political situation not acute? Do the right hon. Gentlemen, and also the hon. Gentleman who spoke before him and who, no doubt, has had very little association with Ireland, know that the country at this moment is in a political ferment unprecedented in its history? Do they know that passions are let loose, that feelings are embittered, that the whole spirit of the nation is in revolt; and that there is a universal spirit of irritation and discontent, not only throughout Ireland, but throughout the world wherever that universal race exists, for which there is no parallel in the history of the relationships between Ireland and this country?
I am quite prepared to discuss education, the equipment of schools, the payment of salaries to teachers, and questions of housing, and I regard them not only as important but as vital to Ireland as to this country. But what is the good either of making fools of ourselves or of making fools of this House by saying that things are just precisely as the right hon. Gentleman would like them to be? I thought that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would have assumed the character that it has to-night because he led us to believe, in the course of a speech he delivered the other night, that if he had not reached the light he was coming very near it. In a speech the other night on the Proportional Representation Bill, he said, "I think I am becoming a Home Ruler." He has not made that declaration to-night in so many words, but he has made a Home Rule speech, and I do not think he was justified in condemning us for taking advantage of this opportunity to have a Debate, because if the moral progress continues, if the intellectual development goes on, he will be not only a Home Ruler, but a Sinn Feiner before very long. In the course of his speech to-night the right hon. Gentleman also quoted another eminent public man in Ireland, and a great administrator, Dr. Starkie. In my judgment Dr. Starkie is the prince of bureaucrats. He is the head of the educational system in Ireland, of the National Board, which is not responsible to Ireland, is not responsible to England, is not responsible to this Parliament, is not responsible to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and is not even responsible to itself. What did Dr. Starkie say? He said, "It was only lately I was asked by a Minister "—he was going to make a speech in Belfast. They are nearly all changing now in Belfast. When Dr. Starkie wanted to go and give vocal expression to this marvellous change in his mind he came to Belfast, a very good place to rear rebels against indefensible systems of government. He said, "Lately I have been asked by a Minister whether it was any wonder that teachers became Sinn Feiners," and he said, "I am thinking of becoming a Sinn Feiner myself, if the Irish Government continue to treat education as they have done for the last twenty years." As the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) says, we are getting on when the chief bureaucrat in Ireland—I regard myself as a mere, pale constitutional Nationalist—comes forward and proclaims himself to be a Sinn Feiner, and, above all places in the world, in the heart and centre of the great city of which the right hon. Gentleman is the political master. Indeed, we are in changing times when these are the" man-festations which we are witnessing in that country and in this. The right hon. Gentleman, in his statement of the educational case, hardly stated it fairly. He has stated that education is in a bad way in Ireland, and he says, "Oh, we do not care about the rest of Ireland. We want to deal with the educational problems in Belfast."
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not misrepresent me, because I am a South of Ireland man myself. What I did say was, if in the South and West they were opposed to having a rate for the purpose of building schools and improving education, there was no reason why you should not have it in Belfast. I would like to see it all over Ireland.
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman, because I think I am justified in making the position of the Catholic minority in Belfast perfectly clear in this educational matter, that the Catholic schools in Belfast are as good and well equipped as you would get in any of these islands?
I know some are imperfect: I am taking them on the whole. In addition to that, there are no Catholic children in Belfast who have not got school accommodation; even in the poorest locality they have got it by putting their hands into their pockets and paying for it. Why do not the rich constituents of the right hon. Gentleman do the same? They could raise money to organise a rebellion, but they cannot raise money to educate their children. There was their chance, and they did not take it, and, because they refused to discharge their responsibility to their children in building schools out of their own pockets, they now come along and want to immerse the community in these religious conflicts and bitter internecine quarrels which have been the curse of our educational controversies in the country and in this House. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman this—because I would not have risen at this stage only that I wanted to make my position perfectly clear-every farthing that can he secured for improving Protestant schools, for securing the attendance of Protestant children, for making the schools more sanitary, for enlarging the playground accommodation, for paying better salaries to the teachers, for developing everything of which an educational system can be composed, will have my hearty support. But one thing will not have my support, and that is that the Catholic schools in Belfast shall be controlled by the Belfast Corporation.
That is all the better. The right hon. Gentleman may rest assured that I am not making that statement without good reason. There is a sanatorium school for tuberculous children a few miles from Belfast, controlled by the Belfast Corporation: 56 per cent. of the children there are Protestants, and 44 per cent. are Catholics. A vacancy occurred for a teacher, and they appointed a Protestant. Nobody objected to that. There was a vacancy for another school teacher, and a Catholic was proposed, but she was defeated. So two Protestant teachers were appointed at this school, although 44 per cent. of the children were Catholic. I am very glad to know that one of the most notorious bigots in Belfast, when face to face with the corporation the other day, was compelled to get up and say he was ashamed of them. But do not imagine, where the religion of the children is so sacred to the parents of the children in Belfast and in Ireland, that we are going to allow the religious interests of the Catholic children to be placed at the mercy of the Belfast Corporation. I tell the right hon. Gentleman, as I think it is only fair he should understand, that any attempt of that character will be received with the most violent hostility by those who constitute nearly 30 per cent. of the population of Belfast; and not only that, but a large percentage of the toiling masses of Belfast, whose labour and whose toil have done much to build up its greatness.
I pass from that, and I come to what is really the vital question which this House has to consider. When Parliament opened there was, for some reason or other which I cannot understand, a passage in the King's Speech referring to Ireland. In the course of that speech it was stated that His Majesty hoped that shortly his Government would be able to suggest a strong and durable settlement of the Irish problem. My colleagues and myself endeavoured, in a series of speeches from these benches, to extract from the Government what was meant by that paragraph. The Prime Minister was not here, and the Chief Secretary was not here—that was not his fault—but we were told by the Leader of the House (Mr. Bonar Law) that no doubt we should get an explanation of that when the Chief Secretary came to the House. The Chief Secretary is now in the House. We trust to be able to secure from him some declaration as to what precisely is the policy of the Government, and what was intended by His Majesty when the words were placed in his Speech that his Government were prepared to introduce a strong and durable settlement of this Irish question. If ever there was a time when the need existed for a solution of this question, it is now. The first thing he should do, if he would bring about a strong and durable settlement, would be to clear away the old machinery, to destroy the old system. The right hon. Gentleman need have no hesitation about doing that. You may get speeches in this House from the Orange benches, from the Southern Unionists, from anybody and everybody else, but nobody will defend the present system of government in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman has not been long in office, but I can assure him that if he were there from now until Doomsday, representing the present system of government, there is no single section of the community who, at the end, would present him with a bunch of withered primroses. Therefore, to come here and, as I have no doubt he will, to hold out hopes and promises, hopes of a housing scheme, hopes of improving our educational system, hopes of a Ways and Transportation Bill—about which I will say something in a moment—while all these things are important, it is like endeavouring to destroy a cancer by asking the patient to swallow some mild sedative. It cannot be done.
The right hon. Gentleman and his Government may make up their minds to that here and now. Whether they do it now or later, it must be done. The whole system of government as it exists in Ireland must disappear. In its place there must be established a system of government that will not only have the respect of somebody, but will endeavour to have the respect of everybody. The right hon. Gentleman opposite made an important admission, that he agreed that this question would have to be settled. The Home Rule Bill was on the Statute Book, and there it would remain. Six months after the end of the War the Bill becomes law. But nothing is done. He said you are still face to face with the problem of Ulster. I have never denied there was a problem in Ulster. I have done my very best, and offered my puny contribution towards the solution of the Ulster question. I did not succeed. But one thing you must make up your minds upon, and it is this—partition is impossible! That, however, does not mean that there is no solution of the Ulster question. Hon. Members in this House have been told not once but twenty times that there is nothing to be done to satisfy Ulster. Is the House aware that in the Report of the majority of the Convention, composed of the Nationalist party, one of the clauses in our proposals was that the representation of the Unionists in Ireland should be 40 per cent. in the Lower House and 60 per cent. in the Upper House, and that when the two met together—when a difference existed between them—that the Unionists should have an equal number with the Nationalists. That is, that a quarter of the population should have half the representation and the other 75 per cent. of the Nationalist population would only have—
As a matter of fact, it worked out that when the two Houses sat together they would, I believe, have had a large majority, at all events they would have been equal. Everybody knows that the equality proposed was more equality than it appears on paper. Their friends are more wealthy and are better united than we are. They represent the rich classes, and the rich classes never divide. They may divide the spoils, but they do not divide amongst themselves. Therefore I say their representation was greater than their numbers. What more did they want] To us the unity of Ireland was a great thing. It was sanctified, not only by the passionate desire of Munster, Connaught, and Leinster to stand with Ireland, but by the fact that some of the most superb, the most glorious, and the most courageous fights for liberty against the domination of this country were organised by gallant Protestants whose names stand on the beadroll of Irish glory. Nobody wanted partition. The alternative to partition was to do what was eminently undemocratic in giving the minority in Ireland a representation of half when they were only one-quarter of the population. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman says that when the question comes up to be finally adjusted it must be on lines of partition, because Ulster demands partition, as it is the only safety and safeguard, I tell him partition would not be accepted, and that the proposals of the Convention is the only real solution of this problem. We hear a great deal about the 300,000 Protestants in the three provinces in Ireland. What I object to about the hon. Members opposite is that they are too selfish and too insular. They are selfish because they think they are the only people on earth. You would imagine that Belfast was the Ark of the Covenant. I am a Belfast man. Belfast is not such a great place, after all. It has its good points and bad points, just like every other city. It has its magnificent buildings, its palatial residences, and its great technical school. It also has its slums.
Belfast has its sweated workers. It has its toiling and struggling women in our great mills and factories. It has very many evils; in some respects many more evils than some of your great industrial centres. But hon. Members believe it is the hub of the universe. I say they are too selfish and too insular. They talk about persecution, about belonging to the defenceless minority. Yet they would come to an arrangement and a settlement on this Irish question by which that powerful and strong dominant section stand there to protect their own interests, whilst they would desert to the tender mercies of the intolerable bigots and lions of the South of Ireland, who want to tear them asunder, these isolated Protestants in the other three provinces of Ireland. The Ulster Unionists would not have partition. The Ulster Catholics would not have partition. The rest of Ireland do not want partition. I believe that hon. Gentlemen opposite in their own hearts do not want partition. They only use the argument, not because it is good in itself, but because it is a good political instrument to use. There is no safety and no safeguard for this loyal minority! I want to say there is the greatest safeguard and the greatest security to be found in the generous and tolerant spirit of the Irish people. These people who never were religious persecutors. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) has repeatedly stated in this House that he does not believe that there would be a persecution of Protestants. Apart altogether from that historical and traditional attitude there is this additional guarantee put in our Report of the Convention that for fifteen years at least you will have the right to have the same representation in Ireland as we have ourselves.
Of course they do not want it! I put it to any English Member: "Would you want equality if you could get domination?" That is what exists to-day. Here in England you get the blame of misruling Ireland, whereas many of our rulers are Members from Ulster and occupy all the high places, and are provided with the various emoluments. You have the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He is a member of the Ulster Unionist party.
I know he is not an Ulster man. Do not make a debating point like that! Why is it when you want-able men you always have to go to the South of Ireland? How is it your leader is not an Ulster man? Why do you not have a man of conviction, instead of a man speaking with a brief, to guide your shady fortunes? Of course, when you want hard heads and hard fists, and, I regret to say, sometimes hard hearts, you go to the North When you want a skilful, subtle, political leader who can throw dust in the eyes of the innocent Englishman you bring a man from Cork. Therefore, I say you have the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. You have the Solicitor-General for Ireland, who is not an Irish Unionist. You have the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General. Perhaps he will permit me to say he is one of the most efficient and energetic public representatives in the House. He also is a Unionist. The most violent rhetoricians on the Irish Benches are made
judges in Ireland. One of the paradoxes and one of the jokes of the British government in Ireland is that when you get violent and rhetorical Members representing Ireland, the more violent they become the more certain it is they will be put on the judicial bench. Therefore, to all these potential judges on the other side I say, If you want promotion, be as vituperative as you possibly can. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) says he is sick of British rule in Ireland. We know that in Dublin the President of the Education Department has become a Sinn Feiner. And of all the astonishing experiences I know of, here is what the "Morning Post" says about your government:
Castle government, as it is called, has long been an anomaly. The British Government, by appointing to the office of Chief Secretary party hacks whose services demanded recompense and who are utterly ignorant of Ireland, besides being naturally incompetent—
I should be the very last to make a charge like that against the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Everybody knows he is not a party hack. As a matter of fact I believe, although not that, he has got his coupon framed at home. I say, therefore, if this system of government does not please the hon. Member for the Duncairn Division, if it does not please Dr. Starkie, if it does not please the "Morning Post"—I thought any sort of government for Ireland would please the "Morning Post"—if it does not please anybody, why is it there? I do not believe, if you offered a reward of £100, that you would get a single intelligent man with a spark of conscience to say one word in favour of the Irish Government that exists to-day. What are we to do?
We are just now at the conclusion of a great war. Great sacrifices were made in Ireland. We have been taunted on these benches that we played no part in that War. In these things the public memory is very short. I remember hundreds and thousands of my Constituents marching to the railway station to entrain for the South of Ireland to train and then to go out to fight. They fought, and they fought well. Their glory is described in the deeds of heroism publicly recorded about the members of the 16th Division. Are we to be told that there is to be a new world point of view after this War for every country but Ireland? Was this great battle waged on the plains of France and Flanders waged for the freedom of every small nationality except Ireland? Why was it not put into
Mr. Wilson's fourteen points that this is a War for the right of small people to determine their destinies except Ireland. Ireland, the home of ancient civilisation, declared to be the land of saints and scholars that has sent its fighters and scholars and preachers and apostles, not only of spiritual ideas but of great democratic principles to lay the foundations of many of the great nations that stand as monuments to commercial and industrial greatness throughout the world, is the only country for which humanity has successfully fought where that principle is not to apply. It is no use imagining that Ireland can be governed by English principles. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) said in a speech in Belfast:
I am going now to have every Bill passed fm England applied to Ireland.
Now how did the right hon. Gentleman put his policy into operation? The Transport Bill was introduced for England, and it was a grand Bill, or at least the Leader of the House said so, and as I did not give any attention to the matter I accept his words. On a question whether a thing is good or bad and where there is controversy or difference of opinion between the hon. Member below me and the right hon. Gentleman, I at once accept the right hon. Gentleman's judgment. The right hon. Gentleman says this Transport Bill is a magnificent measure. Did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn throw wide his arms and with loving tenderness take it to his bosom on behalf of Ireland? No, he denounced it in all the moods and tenses. He addressed the Treasury Bench on this subject as if we were looking at my humble self and says, "If you introduce this evil thing into Ireland I will fight it with all my determination." This is his first attempt to apply all Bills to Ireland.
Then you introduce an English Health Bill. Is he satisfied with that? Not at all, because the whole Bill has been changed, and we have practically had to get a new Bill for Ireland incorporated in order that he may be saved from as little humiliation as possible. Why is not the English Housing Bill good enough for Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman rightly wants an Irish Housing Bill and a special Bill for Ireland, and strange to say that although-he denounces as anathema the Transport Bill, the Health Bill and the Housing Bill, he wants all these things settled, not by an Irish Parliament of his own countrymen, but by an English Par-
liament of eminently respectable gentlemen gathered in this House who know as much about the affairs of Ireland as I do about the affairs of Timbuctoo. I am glad to say that when I make a special appeal for the separate and distinct treatment of Ireland I can call as eloquent witness to this view, the Member for Bury-St.-Edmunds (Lieutenant-Colonel W. Guinness), who said the other night:
Ireland differs from England in race, in temperament, and in social organisation, and that difference must be reflected in the legislation suitable for that country. England's meat is in many cases Ireland's poison.
[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I think that is splendid, and if I sat up all night I could not have conceived such a blessed impeachment of British rule in Ireland. The hon. and gallant Gentleman continued:
To force the same regimé of Government on both countries would be to create a grievance, and place it in the hands of the Separatists.
It is different in temperament and social organisation, and yet we are to have all classes of English legislation applied to us. I will leave the hon. Member to argue that case with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn. In addition to this method of legislation, what have we in administration in Ireland to-day? Your name is a bye-word all over the world. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) has told us, this figure of Ireland haunts your banqueting table, it clogs your progress, and it is responsible for countless misunderstandings between this nation and every democratic nation in the world, and to-day America, your great and powerful ally, who in the moment of your national fortunes, when you were face to face with the most critical situation in the War, played a great and glorious part in the war is absolutely essential for peace.
You treat with contempt the judgment and verdict of the British electors on Home Rule twice declared. Have the views of your Colonies expressed in favour of self-government for Ireland dozens of times no concern for you? Are you going, because you have not the courage, to make the position of President Wilson and his great party almost impossible because of your refusal to do what I have said courage and imagination could do in twenty-four hours? You may ask me what do I want? That is a question very easily answered. When President Wilson issued his fourteen points he invited the Prime
Minister of this country to say whether he agreed with them or not, and the Prime Minister accepted them as the basis on which the peace of the world should be built. What was one of these points? He said:
The reign of law based upon the consent of the governed and sustained by the organised opinion of mankind.
Are you prepared to accept that principle for Ireland? I want an answer to that question. If you tell me you have difficulties and complications, etc., I will answer you again in the words of President Wilson:
These great aims cannot be achieved by debating and seeking to reconcile and accommodate what statesmen wish with their projects for balances of power and for national opportunities.
You have here the demand and the reason why the demand should be conceded. You cannot go on as you are going. You cannot tell the world that you ask Englishmen and Irishmen to work together to kill militarism in Prussia while you have it in Ireland. Do you think you present a very dignified spectacle to the world when you include in the Peace Conference small nationalities like Montenegro and Serbia while you have Ireland in chains? You have 44,000 British soldiers in Ireland, and how many of them come back here as bitter Sinn Feiners as the people themselves? You have had controversies and discussions here upon the continuance of compulsory service in this country, and the Minister for War said, when he was reciting the places where the soldiers were, that there were 44,000 to 50,000 in Ireland. You may say that you need them there, but is that a tribute to your rule? Is it a compliment to your statesmanship, and is that a condition of things that should exist? If you have anarchy in the Government, you must have anarchy in the nation. It is a conflict between the two great forces—the moral force of a people rightly struggling to be free, and a physical and military force that always goes down, and has gone down, in this great world conflict, and will go down again, and I say that Heaven will bless the day for your sake, for Ireland's sake, and for the world's sake, when these high spiritual and moral principles will be established in Ireland.
I will try and make my observations as brief as I can. I do not think the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the Committee with so much ability has really brought within his notice what is the new element, and the only new element, in the Irish question. It is, of course, perfectly true that the situation in Ireland is profoundly unsatisfactory, but there is a new element in the situation different from that so often discussed, very much in the same way in this House as it has been discussed to-day by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. We have heard speeches so charming to listen to, exactly like those, more times than I can remember. We have heard the same story over and over again, but we have not had the new element, which is that Ireland, by something approaching unanimity, has rejected what we call the federal solution of the Irish question. The voters in Ulster rejected it on the ground that they preferred the legislative union, but the Southern and Western provinces and Leinster have rejected it because they prefer now a different settlement fundamentally inconsistent with federalism, and what amounts to independence. That is the great new phenomena, and that is what it makes it worth while to have this discussion at all, and the only thing that makes it worth while to bring the question again before the House.
That presents us once again with a problem very difficult of solution. The Leader of the Opposition (Sir. D. Maclean) says we must find an answer. The question is, Can we find an answer? The hon. Member for the Scotland Division all through his speech assumed that the way was open, and that it was only our obstinacy that prevented a settlement. We often hear language of that kind, but it is untrue, and we shall never make any progress in dealing with this subject unless we recognise that it is not the perversity of Unionist human nature that creates the Irish question, but the circumstances of the case. It is a conflict of various opinions, and to suggest that there is something within the reach of Parliament which we could adopt any day, and that we are too obstinate to adopt it is to miss the whole point. You will not get through a closed door by saying it is an open one. It is possible that it is closed with a lock of which the key may be found.
Now the hon. Member is going over to Sinn Fein. I do not think you will break it open, because that has been tried several times and has failed. What is it that has produced this very remarkable phenomena of the rejection of the federal solution by the Irish people? My right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson) said with perfect truth that no one now is in favour of the Home Rule Act, and they are not in favour of the Home Rule Act, not, I suppose, because they particularly object to that federal solution, but because they are against all federalism. I do not think that it is at all surprising, considering that the attack that the Irish people have always made against the Union is that it is inconsistent with Irish nationality. Obviously, federalism never has been and never can be a solution of a claim of that kind, because federalism is suited to a claim of provincial self-government, and is in contradiction to national self-government. The contradiction has been written in letters of blood in the history of the events in America some fifty years ago. The whole controvery between the North and south was whether South Carolina and the other States had a national claim to self-government or a mere provincial claim, and after a long struggle it was ultimately decided that they only had a provincial claim, and must continue to form part of a federal system. That being so, what prospect is there that we can find a solution satisfactorily to the Irish people? How shall we set about finding a solution which will be satisfactory in the new circumstances? I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for the cot land Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) helps us with his interesting account of how the present situation arose. He thinks that it was because the War Office was tactless, or because my right hon. Friend threatened resistance to Home Rule, or because the Convention was discounted—
And because pledges, as he thinks, were broken. I believe that the explanation is quite a different one. As I read the signs of Irish opinion, there is a body of opinion—not a very large body, but a very enthusiastic and sincere body—which is absolutely absorbed with the idea of Irish nationality, and will accept nothing less than complete independence. But a much larger body of opinion, only abstractly agreeing with the national claim, and until quite recently at any rate with only a very slight and superficial interest in it, have been brought over to the side of the Sinn Feiners, not because they hope it will achieve independence, but because they want to destroy Home Rule. They want to destroy the prospect of getting that which is at their very door, because the Home Rule Act is upon the Statute Book. Nothing but that, I think, is sufficient to account for so large a movement. To suppose that the Irish people would be driven to rebellion, and would be driven to reject all their old leaders or representatives, merely because the War Office had been tactless, or because they thought that faith had not been kept with them, or for some similar grievance, seems to me to argue great effects from ludicrous causes. On the other hand, if you say that what the Irish do not want is a federal solution, their attachment to the Sinn Feiners becomes natural. They adopt the extreme independent position, because they know that it is the most certain way of wrecking the Home Rule Act and destroying the federal solution. I believe that to be the attitude of a very influential body in Ireland, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. They profoundly dislike the federal solution and the Home Rule Act, and they were delighted, when the opportunity came their way, to combine with the extreme Sinn Feiners to destroy what seemed to be the threatened solution. If my theory of the Irish situation is right, we must wipe out the whole of the British attempts to solve the question since 1886. We must go back to where we were when Mr. Gladstone first advocated his celebrated policy. The whole foundation of Mr. Gladstone's policy was that his solution was the solution that was asked for by the Irish people, and was a solution which there was every reason to hope would be accepted as a final settlement by the Irish people. Destroy that and the whole basis of his argument is destroyed. If Ireland does not want federalism any more, then we must go back to 1888, and we must re-study the question as it was then.
I think it is reasonable to say to the hon. Member who has just addressed us that you cannot ask the British people to adopt suddenly, and, as it were, on a year's notice, so tremendous a change as the grant of Dominion Home Rule, which I gather is what he desires for Ireland, when, for aught we know, in some years' time some other demand may be acceptable to the Irish people. As long as it was possible for hon. Members to say, "We have always asked the same thing; we have asked it for thirty years; grant us this one thing for which we have always asked," there was an argument, whether conclusive or not, certainly weighty, and peculiarly suited to appeal to practical people like the British people, for granting that demand which had been so consistently made. But this demand is a wholly new one. No one can say whether the Irish, if they adhere to it to-day will adhere to it ten years hence. As my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir E. Carson) reminds me, the mass of the Irish people make a demand which goes further. They demand positive independence. Can you grant positive independence? Can you, consistently with the safety of the British Islands, give an absolutely independent Parliament to Ireland? I suppose that even the hon. Member with all his dislike of partition would not go so far as to say that we should force Ulster under an independent Irish Parliament. And even if you separated Uslter from the rest of Ireland you would have enormous opportunities, with an enemy country in Ireland, made available for attacks upon the East Coast whenever a quarrel happened to arise between the Irish Government and the British Government. I do not think that you can reasonably ask Great Britain to concede absolute independence to Ireland, but I am sure that the argument for the absolute independence of Ireland, as things now are, is much stronger than the argument for Home Rule or any form of federalism, because it is the demand of a large number of the Irish people. It is said that we cannot face Europe, or America, or a League of Nations, while we have this question unsettled. Sometimes I have heard it represented that we may suffer an intolerable humiliation because the League of Nations may undertake themselves to settle the Irish question for us. I should bear that humiliation with great resignation. If the League of Nations want to settle the Irish question, by all means let them settle it. I sometimes imagine how they would go to work.
I do not think that would be a very judicious course, especially in the interests of the Peace Conference. I try to imagine how the League of Nations would set about it. They would probably select some very eminent juristic statesmen, Swiss, Spanish, French, American, Brazilian, and so on—probably the President would be a Swiss statesman because the Swiss not only have a high reputation for detachment but also for the learning of their statement—and these men came over here and begin by an initial course of study in the history of Ireland, and they would read all the Blue Books relating to the Irish problem. They would proceed to Ireland and meet all the leaders of Irish opinion, including my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson), the hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin), the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), those who used to be in Parliament, Mr. Dillon, Mr. Healy, and Mr. O'Brien, the new Sinn Fein members who decline to sit here, the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. De Valera), and very likely our only lady member (Countess Markeivicz). They would see these various leaders of opinion in Ireland. They would probably see various eminent divines, the moderator of the Presbyterian Assembly, the head of the Methodists, the Lord Mayors of Belfast, Dublin, and Cork, all the great municipal leaders, and Sir Horace Plunkett. They would talk to all these gentlemen, and they would find that there was a vast number of different solutions of the Irish question put before them. Each adviser, while strongly recommending his own solution, would treat with supreme contempt the solution of everyone else, and, whenever these learned Gentlemen ventured upon a solution of their own, they would be told by all their advisers, "You do not know Ireland." Any observation of anyone outside Ireland regarding the Irish question is always received in the same way. He is always told "You do not know Ireland." These distinguished foreigners would ultimately come to the conclusion that it was quite true that they did not know Ireland, that it was also true that no-one else knew Ireland, and that Ireland, indeed, was a province of the unknowable. Disheartened as they probably would be, they would come back and set to work to formulate their own scheme. Presently it would be published, and then all these gentlemen who never agreed together before, would combine to explain that of all the many schemes for Irish government it was the very worst and the most unworkable. Thereupon, the deputation in indignation would go back to their own countries, Switzerland, Spain, America, France, Brazil, and so on in a rather bewildered state of mind, and nothing in the world would ever induce them again to meddle in the government of Ireland. I myself am not apprehensive of the League of Nations.
Does not the Noble Lord think that, perhaps, when they had gone through all this experience, they would say to each other, "We ought to let these people settle it for themselves"?
Very likely they would say that very early in their investigations, but they would find at once that was exactly what the Irish people were not willing to do. The essential thing in the Irish question is to force the Irish people to recognise the hard facts of the case: the Ulster difficulty, the Sinn Fein aspirations of the South and West of Ireland, the strategic necessities of Great Britain, and the national dangers that might be presented by the loss of Ireland. Those are the hard facts. The facts of the case must be recognised, and we shall make no progress until the Irish people face the difficulties and have a settlement which really does take account of the facts. They are always saying, "We must have this, that, or the other," but they do not define the settlement that they want. If they do, one-half of the nation instantly rejects it. Therefore, the suggestion that I make is this: The Home Rule Act should be suspended for five years in order that during those five years an effort may be made to settle the Irish question. Let there be assembled provincial councils in the four provinces of Ireland. That is the way that you can get out of the difficulty that Ulster will not sit with the other provinces. Let the three councils, if they like, sit together and Ulster sit alone. Let them then proceed to propound whatever scheme they think proper for the acceptance of this Parliament. The hon. Gentleman says that the Convention failed, and it is no use trying the experiment again. I think the Convention was full of instruction, even held as it was, but I think it would have been much better if it had been a formal representative assembly, and had sat in public. I do not believe in working democratic institutions except on a democratic basis. I never heard so astonishing a suggestion as that put forward by the hon. Gentleman, that you should have a Parliament for Ireland, and that you should so construct that Parliament that, in the ultimate division between Unionist opinion and Nationalist opinion the minority of one-fourth should carry a question as against three-fourths. Does he really think that such a system could be worked? Unionists are perfectly satisfied with what they have got. They say, "Let us remain as we are."
They do not even say that. They say, "Leave us alone, at any rate," and the hon. Gentleman says "No, you must not have partition; you must come in and join in a nationality which you repudiate." That is the fundamental unreasonableness of the Nationalist position. My suggestion is that these councils should be set up to face the situation. Let them debate the whole of the moods and phases until they can get a scheme which does not threaten Ulster or the independence of Great Britain, and which, at the same time, satisfies the other three Provinces. I see not the slightest ground for thinking that anyone else can find a solution. The situation is really insoluble in terms. What would satisfy the three provinces is absolutely inconsistent with the safety of Great Britain on the one side, and the liberty of Ulster on the other. There may be such things as insoluble problems even in politics, but we shall get no good by reverting to the old plan of Great Britain propounding a solution, and Ireland rejecting it. Let us try the alternative, and ask Ireland to find a solution, and then we will consider whether we can accept it. That will educate the Irish people in the facts of the case, and it is only by loyalty to facts that you can solve this or any other great question of politics.
Hon. Members with whom I act on this side of the House listened with interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) I think it can be said that, at least, there is in this House one party—it may be small in numbers, but it is not without some influence, and, I think, not without some prospects in the country—which is united in the desire to meet tie claims of Ireland embodied in the Act which was passed by such large majorities in this House, and which received the approval on more than one occasion of the electorate of the country. The Noble Lord who has just addressed us has given us a very diverting and very interesting exposition of the difficulties which beset this question. He explained, as is usual, with very great resource and very great skill what are the fundamental causes of the trouble, but really I cannot accept the suggestion which he made as being any more serious than the mood of some of his earlier observations. To suggest that you can get a settlement by doing nothing for five years, except leave it to others, and to hang in a state of suspense the Act which is now on the Statute Book for that term of five years in the hope really that something will turn up, is a suggestion in keeping with the merriment created by many of his equally interesting observations. If we are to take his speech as being wholly serious, it is then nothing more than a doctrine of despair, leaving us no prospect whatever of reconciling the different conflicting elements in this century-old Irish controversy. The Noble Lord, for instance, pointed out that at present Ireland would not have the present Act on the Statute Book—that no party would be satisfied with such a settlement. If that be true, surely the fault is ours; it is the fault of this Parliament, the fault of this country. Certainly it is not the fault of the Irish people, unless it be by a withholding of their rights for so long a time the terms for the settlement of the Irish question were run up and were stiffened because of the manner in which the more modified demands were denied years ago. It is the common thing, I believe, of all of us, to think—although I do not want so to consider this great question—in the terms of bargaining, and to ask for more than we are likely to get. That was true in the case of South Africa, the last of the greatest examples of how people can be satisfied and reconciled by meeting their national demands for self-government. In that case they demanded independence as full as the most extreme Irishmen might ever have demanded. We met their demands by giving them a condition of self-government, with which I am certain at about the same time Ireland would have been well content.
It is not true, therefore, that there is not an opinion in Ireland—a very considerable body of opinion indeed—which might not be reconciled to the acceptance of the conditions of Home Rule embodied in the Act on the Statute Book at this moment. I am not sure that we can always treat this great question as one which will have to be settled upon a basis of reason and arguments. Surely, if that were the case, the procession of reasons which formed the burden of the speech of my hon. Friend who began this Debate would have convinced us of the necessity of meeting the Irish claim on lines similar to those which are being demanded. A great many emotions, sentiments, traditions, and aspirations, however, are factors in a question of this kind which are even stronger than the factor of reason or argument. The House, I am sure, heard with very great pleasure the general lines of the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for the Duncairn Division of Belfast (Sir E. Carson), and I agree with the description already given of that speech, that it was perhaps the most powerful indictment of rule in Ireland from Westminster that this House has ever heard—an indictment, no doubt, unconscious, as I cannot imagine the right hon. and learned Gentleman was deliberately destroying all those beautiful pictures which he and others have often painted in this House when the country had to be told that the conditions of government which existed in Ireland so long produced happiness, prosperity, contentment, and all the material advantages which a modern people can desire. I have listened to speeches in this House in which we have had the most virulent denials of allegations that there were slums in Belfast, or that the people were not wholly satisfied with the conditions under which they existed. We welcome these admissions, because we shall better be able unitedly to apply a remedy when there is a unanimous admission of the evils which abound in all these great cities.
I want to address to the representatives of the Government in the House at the moment the feeling of the Labour party with regard to the serious neglect of the Government in not only not attempting to deal with this question, but in not even giving any indication of an intention to deal with it. The Prime Minister, as has been already mentioned, gave at the General Election a general assurance to the country that this Irish question would be one which would be taken in hand. I remember that in the forefront of the Speech from the Throne, when we began our work this Session, there was a paragraph full of hope and generous promise of some intention to do something. Yet the country, despite the state of things in Ireland, evidently growing daily worse, is left in darkness as to whether the Government is really serious in this matter or whether they are no more than drawing upon the good faith and the patience of the people. In view of the development of the state of things in Ireland, the Government can trifle too long, and play really too much with this subject. Having some association with organised Labour in this country, I want to express my own feelings of the effects of what is now happening in Ireland, and what has been happening for more than a year, upon the future trend of Labour action in this country. So far as I see it, lawlessness and unconstitutional action have received every encouragement from the inaction of our Government, until now the party which stood for constitutional action and for law and order in the affairs of their country and in the affairs of its Government, was nearly destroyed at the polls, and the party which treats this country and this House with contempt, and refuses to come near it, has received the support of the great majority of the Irish people. Lawlessness is being encouraged, I repeat, by the Government' neglect of this troublesome subject, and the fact that it is so troublesome, and presents so many difficult aspects, is all the greater reason why statesmen who have now such an immense majority behind them, who have such great influence in the country, and who are undertaking to do for so many of their peoples in all parts of the world what Ireland asks should be done to Ireland—I say such statesmen should no longer neglect this difficult question and allow this unconstitutional procedure to continue.
I have been frequently to meetings in connection with labour questions, and have spoken in support of the proposals of the Government on many labour questions, and in regard to the League of Nations, the procedure of the Paris Conference, and other matters, for which the Government is responsible, and frequently I have been arrested in what I have had to say by shouts from the audience, "What about Ireland?" To very large masses of the working population the position presents itself in the light of our going to very remote parts of the world to give the blessings of freedom and self-government, whilst we deny them to our near neighbour from whom we received very practical and substantial help during the course of the War. The picture of Ireland at this moment, so far as I understand it from the figures that have been given to me, and the facts which have been admitted, is not very different from those days when there was a succession of insurrections and serious instances of disorder, which had to be put down by the 50,000 bayonets on which former statesmen in this country relied. I believe that the military force at present in Ireland for the purpose of keeping the Irish people in order is larger than it has been for a considerable time past. It is certainly much more effective and formidable and in possession of materials of war previously unknown as the instruments of suppressing disorder in that country. Really, are we to wait till these two parties or until these two sections of the Irish population have completely exhausted each other or until they have fought this out, or until they have produced some settlement that can be considered and receive the sanction of this House? That is a method of government never applied in the case of any other country or in the case of any other difficulty in this country. Supposing the Government were to apply to labour and industrial difficulties in this country the same doctrine they apply to Ireland, that of letting the parties fight it out, leaving them alone and seeing if somebody else can settle it. The Government dare not apply that procedure to the internal and comparatively small industrial and domestic difficulties of this country. Accordingly as the Government are obliged to intervene and become responsible for what is done in the settlement of those difficulties here, they cannot with any credit to themselves any longer shirk the obligation which the Irish situation imposes upon them. We have heard some reference to the position of Ireland at the Peace Conference, and the Noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil) drew a diverting picture of what might happen if the case of Ireland had to be left for settlement by a League of Nations. I have heard it said very frankly at gatherings of working men, at which very, few Englishmen were present, that the attitude of the Government towards Ireland in this matter is either one of inexplicable inconsistency or of actual hypocrisy; for how can we claim to be, as actually we are, the defenders and protectors of the smaller but troubled nations in other parts of the world, using our great resources and our position of being almost at the head of the family of nations in order to settle, we hope for ever, the claims of those smaller and comparatively unknown peoples—how can we claim to undertake that duty, as being a natural and proper duty of a great Power, and yet be guilty of the inconsistency or the hypocrisy of refusing to concede similar conditions of safety and self-government to the Irish nation?
I am not arguing for independence. I am not at this moment, nor is any other member of the Committee, able to go into the principles and certainly not into the details of the special form of self-government which should be conceded to Ireland. I am complaining of the claim of the Government to be a neutral party in a matter of this kind instead of courageously attempting to deal with it themselves. Instead of doing that in this most difficult and most urgent question, they are protecting and sheltering themselves behind the plea that it is the business of somebody else to produce a scheme for them, which they might consider and accept. If I might offer my own comment on the question of self-government for Ireland, I should say that in respect of Ulster, as was said by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, the plea was for a united Ireland, governed by the collective rule of the people of Ireland, under conditions which would give the amplest and fullest safeguards to those who claim to represent Ulster's interests and rights. I do not know that any other section that is a minority in this country has ever had the same offers, of effective safeguards as the minority in Ireland. I admit that there are peculiar circumstances which entitle them to press that claim, but this minority had no right to take the stand it did in the Irish and Home Rule agitations prior to the War. That stand was "No Home Rule for Ireland!" It was not merely that they claimed certain things for themselves; they claimed to deny certain things to other people. I believe that there is a growing common interest between Ulster and the other parts of Ireland. The speeches we have heard in other Irish Debates, and particularly the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division of Belfast (Sir E. Carson), indicate that the grievances of Irishmen are being recognised by Irishmen themselves as being very much the same. They have similar grievances about education, about the financial arrangements between Ireland and this country, and with regard to industrial and slum life. Irishmen may be trusted to find some reasonable measure of agreement in an Irish Parliament when these matters are considered.
Without proposing to go into that point, I say that the Government might well try something else than that which the most extreme section of opinion in Ireland is at this moment disposed to deny. So far as we are trying to meet a national aspiration, we should try to meet it from a standpoint that we would expect anyone else to treat our own view of nationality. If Englishmen had been treated as Irishmen have, if their land had been governed by some other Parliament and some other people, if they had suffered through recent generations, as Irishmen at least believe they have suffered—
I do not know whether my hon. Friend was in the Committee earlier in the evening when the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Duncairn Division spoke. If there has been no misgovernment of Ireland, if Ireland has been well, skilfully and effectively governed, then the results of good government in Ireland are strange if the picture drawn for us this afternoon is true, as evidently that picture is true. You have in Ireland the very greatest reason to complain of industrial conditions, educational conditions, and financial and other conditions. But even if there was nothing whatever to complain about, I would even go this far, if Ireland presented to us an example of a perfectly governed and contented country, that would not dispose of what we might surely term the national aspiration, the national claim, the desire to govern oneself. Is it true that, at any rate speaking of civilised people, any one civilised country has yet been so very good as to be entitled to govern another, as to be entitled to withhold from another the right of self-government? I think we may trust the view of the masses of Irishmen themselves as to what they have and as to what they have not, and their view is that they will not have self-government until they can govern themselves in their own country, in their own Parliament, and be responsible to their own people for all those daily domestic and other affairs which materially affect the well-being of that country. So that we do not dispose at all of the national aspiration and of the just demand of the Irish people by stating that they are not now placing their claims so very high as to actually want the national aspiration to be met by conceding to them an extreme form of government which was, perhaps, never previously in the mind of British statesmen who have faced this question. It is clear to us that resistance to English-made law is hardening and is extending in Ireland. Ireland is, to a very great extent, an agricultural country. It has trading interests interwoven with our own. During the War she supplied us with a considerable quantity of the food which we required. Ireland was as well paid for that work as any other section of agriculturists in this country. Ireland is perhaps at this moment materially, as a matter of pounds, shillings and pence, conditions of unemployment and industrial outlook, better off than she ever was and yet in face of that increased and improved material prosperity you have a more dissatisfied and angry Ireland at this moment than ever. That then is the problem which this country has created for itself, and that is the problem which the Labour Members tell the Government ought not to be avoided or evaded, but ought to be faced, because unless it is faced in a sympathetic and broad-minded spirit so as to meet the proper and natural demands of the Irish people, the difficulty now great enough will be greater still in the immediate future.
Taking part in this, my first Debate in this House, I must own to a feeling of very great disappointment because when we came to discuss questions that affect Ireland I had hoped that the old routine which we have had so often, and which has so often been discussed in this House and out of it, would have been dropped and that some of the really material and vital issues which are affecting Ireland to-day would have come up for discussion, and that we in Ireland would have had the benefit of the assistance and guidance of many English Members in getting rid of many of the grave problems which affect us in that country to-day. It was therefore very disappointing to find the hon. Member (Mr. O'Connor) going back over the old trail once more and giving us the history of grievances which had better be forgotten, and not one word did he say about the present problems which effect practically everyone of the people in our country at present. There was one bright moment in the Debate when the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) turned to some of those problems in which we are all vitally interested. When I was returned for my Constituency it was very much on the lines that I would devote at least some of the time in the House to those problems which the right hon. Gentleman opened to the House today, and that I would do what I could to see that legislation was passed for Ireland on those lines. It was, therefore, very disappointing to me also to find that the right hon. Gentleman's proposals dealing with education, housing, and social legislation generally were looked upon by many hon. Members as if he were running away from the old issue of Home Rule. And although the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin) did deal with one or two of those questions, we have come back once more to the old question of what is to be done to settle Ireland. I listened with some measure of amazement to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes). I never could understand why it is that members of the Labour party in this country do not better appreciate the Irish question. I do not know why they do not come to Belfast and do not come to the Members who represent Belfast and to the employers of labour. If hon. Members would come to Belfast and there meet the labourers, many of whom come from the Clyde and from the Tyne, and when they came were as Radical as any Member of this House, they would find that they have retained every bit of their radicalism and are just as radical now as when they left England or Scotland, but on one point they are very clear and strong. That is, that they are sound Unionists, and the great backbone of the Unionist party in Ulster is the Ulster Labour party. I was very much struck indeed by what the right hon. Gentleman said about the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson). He referred to the picture which he had drawn of what took place in Belfast, and argued from that that at any rate it was an admission that there was misgovernment in Ireland. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in that respect. Would he also argue, from the fact that a very remarkable and very excellent Education Bill was passed for this country no longer ago than last year, that there had been great misgovernment in this country in the matter of education up to last year? We are living in a very progressive age. The Act that was good fifteen or twenty years ago may be quite out of touch with the sympathies and feelings of the people to-day, and because we are asking that we also should progress in those matters, that when you are getting a new Education Act for England, an Act that is placing your education on a much higher plane than it has been hitherto, we also should receive some of these same benefits, it is no argument that up to this we have been misgoverned in the matter of education, but it is an admission that our ideals of education to-day are higher than they were ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago.
The right hon. Gentleman also was wondering, does this country intend to trifle or play with this Irish question? Let us take it as seriously as we can. The right hon. Gentleman "would like to see this Irish question settled. Granted. With whom are you going to settle it? If there is going to be any settlement it must be with the bulk of the Irish people, and the great bulk of the Irish people, at present not represented in this House, are Republican. Their sole aim is a Republic. They will take nothing less than a Republic. Everything less than a Republic for Ireland was turned down at the Convention, and nothing less than that will satisfy the Sinn Fein party. If you grant them Dominion Home Rule, if you grant them a federal Home Rule you are not satisfying the Irish party. You are not putting an end to dissatisfaction, you are not putting an end to agitation in Ireland, you are simply staving it off for some time. The only way that you can settle the Irish question, the only way that you can put an end to the agitation which is going on in the Sinn Fein party at the present time, is by going the whole hog and granting Ireland a separate republic. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is going to trifle and play with Ulster. If they are trifling and playing with Ireland, what is he going to do with Ulster? He has suggested that he would give Ulster certain safeguards. I can see no greater admission of the futility of trying to settle the Irish question in any such way as is proposed than the fact that he considers it necessary to offer safeguards to Ulster. There is only one way in which there is a reasonable hope of settlement of this Irish question, and I respectfully submit that there is only one way in which we can hope to put an end to political agitation in Ireland, and that is by increasing the welfare of that country. By industrial prosperity, and by that method alone, will you put an end to political agitation. You cannot have in any country a growth of its industrial prosperity unless you have at the same time protection for its industries, unless you have protection for the administration of the law, and unless you are certain that capital when it is invested in that country will be protected by the forces that govern that country. Can we say at the present time in Ireland that industries outside a certain district have any protection whatever?
Not knowing the lines that this Debate would take, I looked carefully through the Irish Estimates. I was foolish enough to think that this Debate was going to be on the various sums set out in the Irish Estimates. Two of those sums I will call to the attention of the Committee. One is the amount for police—£2,185,000 during the next year. I notice that that is an increase of about £750,000 over the sum allocated for police last year. I wonder whether that increase in the amount to be given for police purposes means that there will be an increase in police efficiency during the coming year! Does it mean that a man in Ireland will be able to go out at night to visit a neighbour and know that when he comes back his family will be in A the same condition as when he left them? I wonder if it means that the police will be able to attend to their duties in such numbers that there is not the slightest danger of the whole of them being wiped off the face of the earth without a moment's notice! I wonder if it means that those Government servants in Ireland who are trying to attend to their business and trying to see that law and order is properly maintained will receive adequate protection! I must ask the House to bear with me and to excuse me if I speak in this matter with some little feeling. On Saturday last a great personal friend of mine, a man to whom I had to look up physically and in every other way, a most charming fellow, one of the most charming personalities in Ireland, was alive and well. On Sunday morning he lay dead in his own house, shot through the window. His only crime was that he loved to do his duty. I hope that when this sum of £2,000,000 odd is granted for the police force in Ireland that it will be spent in such a way that there will be more adequate protection for those in that country who are seeking to do their duty and who intend to do their duty. If two millions is not sufficient for the purpose, then I hope the House will increase it. Whatever may be the cost it will be well-spent money if it brings to Ireland and to the Irish people a feeling of satisfaction that behind them they have a power which, so long as they are doing right, will protect them and will save them from death or from injury.
Another sum to which I would allude is the amount to be spent on prisons. It is a very small amount, but it is very suggestive, because our prison administration has recently been inquired into. I understand that the Report is ready to be presented to this House and I am awaiting it with great interest. What I suggest to the Irish Government is that they can never have a settlement of Irish affairs, and they can never have a settling down of the people in Ireland to look after their own business so long as it remains possible that a criminal who is convicted and sent to gaol to-day may to-morrow hop over the wall and disappear from his prison surroundings altogether. Therefore, I would say that if this sum of £182,000 which is allocated for prison administration is going to be provided so that we may have a proper system of detention, by all means let us have it. If is is not sufficient, it is must be doubled or trebled, then by all means let us double or treble it. I only hope that in the coming year we may not have any more Debates after the order of to-night's Debate. I hope that the old conditions, the old animosities which have so long separated people in Ireland and kept them from working together for Ireland's industrial prosperity, will be forgotten. I hope that when next we have an Irish Debate, Irishmen in whatever part of the House they sit will be found working together with one common end, and that to improve the industrial position of Ireland and to get for Ireland as much as we can in the hope of making the Irish people a happy and united people.
I desire to congratulate the hon. Member on his very eloquent maiden speech. I wish I could agree with everything he said. He began by saying that he was disappointed at the course which the Debate had taken. He wished that the House had turned more to the really vital problems affecting Ireland. The hon. Member has quite forgotten that Ireland at the present time is not only an Irish question but it is a British question, an Imperial question and an International question, and it is for that purpose that the Vote for Ireland was put down to-day. I desire to take part in this Debate as one who has voted for all the Home Rule measures and resolutions in the three preceding Parliaments, and who now gives his support to the Government of the day as what is known as a Coalition Liberal. I wish as far as possible to abstain from making a controversial speech—I think the subject is much too grave for that—and if I give utterance to anything with which hon. Gentlemen opposite disagree, I hope they will believe me when I say that I do not say it with any desire to score a party point. My chief reason in rising is to give expression as a Coalition Liberal to my anxiety regarding the Irish policy of the Government. I speak only for myself. But I know there are other Members who act with me who hold the same views. I realise full well the immense responsibilities of the Government at the present time. Nothing should be done to weaken the hands of the Government in the very difficult negotiations that the Prime Minister is carrying on in Paris, but what I wish to urge upon the Government, namely, that they should embark upon an attempt to arrive at a just settlement of the Irish question, cannot weaken the hands of the Prime Minister. On the contrary, its effect would be quite the reverse.
The Prime Minister stated last year that a settlement of the Irish question was a War measure of the first importance, and so now is its settlement inexplicably bound up with the successful solution of all the problems of peace. I do not wish to travel over familiar ground which has been traversed already by some hon. Gentlemen to-night, but I may say this, that many of us who heard the moving speech of the late Mr. Redmond in August, 1914, were filled with hopes of a new era in the relations between Britain and Ireland. Those hopes were not fulfilled, and if only to allow us to appreciate the facts of the situation I say quite frankly—and those of us who are not Irishmen can say it better than those who are—that the fact that those hopes were not fulfilled was not the fault of Ireland. I do not think that we ought to forget that fact. I believe that, had the Government of the day listened to the advice given them by the late Mr. Redmond, Ireland would have played in the War a part second to that of no other portion of the British Empire. But the advice given by Mr. Redmond was not followed, with the result that the situation which at that time was full of hope gradually and finally developed into one in which Ireland became to all intents and purposes during the War a subsidiary theatre of operations.
In submitting my case, I must briefly traverse a little of the old ground. This brings me to the year 1918. In that year an attempt was made after the declaration of the Prime Minister from that bench to draft a Home Rule Bill. Time after time during last year it was said that the Home Rule Bill would be introduced, but, for some reason or another, it never saw the light of day. Perhaps history will relate the contents of those drafts, and will tell us why it was an agreement on a Bill was never reached. Public opinion will then be able to do what it is unable to do now—to judge which section of the Coalition Government was more responsible for failure to arrive at an agreed Bill. Speaking, at any rate, for myself this evening, I am bound to say that the failure on the part of the Government to introduce a Home Rule Bill last year gave rise to the feeling that that section of opinion in this country which is opposed to self-government in Ireland had gained the day, and that the liberal principles which in their application laid solid the foundations of the British Empire had given place in the case of Ireland to the theory and practice of the firm hand. I do sincerely hope that I am wrong. I earnestly hope that the Government have it in mind, as was urged by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clynes) a few minutes ago, to consider forthwith the solution of the Irish question.
I cannot agree with those who say that this matter ought to wait. From the domestic, Imperial, and international points of view, it becomes daily more necessary to settle the Irish question. Most of us in this House and in the country hope that after the War there will be created some international machinery in the shape of a society of nations which will prevent war, or at any rate make it difficult to embark upon hostilities. Some hon. Gentlemen may say that that is impossible, but at least let us make the best effort we can in that direction. If that effort be successful, it is essential, as was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scotland Division who opened the Debate, that there should be the fullest possible understanding and friendship between the British and the American peoples in order to ensure the fruitful operation of the League. If, on the other hand, the effort is not successful, which I devoutly hope will not be the case, it is equally if not still more important that that friendship should be developed if the peace of the world is to be assured. The British and American peoples, both peace-loving peoples, standing together without any alliance, can do much to guarantee that peace, but so long as the Irish problem remains unsettled there will be great difficulty in the way of developing this understanding.
My excuse for introducing America into this Debate is that during the latter stages of the War I spent some considerable time in that country and was able to watch the currents of public opinion there, and, before I go further, I would like to say that I would not desire to justify any action on the part of America which could rightly be considered as an interference with British domestic affairs. On the other hand, I suggest that our judgment should be tempered by the consideration that on both sides of the Atlantic we come of the same stock, and that just as one member of a family takes an interest in, and not infrequently very severely criticises another member of the same family, so ought we to recognise that there are special reasons for the interest that America takes in the Irish problem. I hope lion. Gentlemen who sometimes suggest that we are guided on Irish matters by threats from America will agree with me in that. It is in reality the spirit of freedom born of their British heritage which makes most Americans Home Rulers. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill), who suggested this evening that, so far as America is concerned, the fact that in their opinion Ireland has not played her part in the War has changed American sentiment in regard to Irish Home Rule. I do not think that to be the case. It is quite true there is a section of American opinion which does consider that Ireland has not taken her proper part in this War, but that section of American opinion believes, as do many of us here, that that is due to the mishandling by the British Government of Ireland, and it is not considered that self-government for Ireland should be delayed on that account. Even if it be said that the Irish question is no concern of America, that is no argument against the settling of it. If, on the other hand, a settlement of the Irish question will bring America and ourselves closer together, surely that is an added argument for settling it.
I do not wish to develop at any length the arguments that might be adduced for the settlement of the Irish question from the Imperial point of view. Opinion in the Dominions on this matter is quite unmistakable. The settlement of the Irish problem would strengthen the bonds of Empire as much or more than any other action the Government could take. It has been said to-night that no attempt to settle the Irish question can be made under existing conditions. I submit that that is a counsel of despair and a continuance of the policy of drift, which has been so fatal in the past. If the Government is sincere in its desire, expressed last year—and it is doubt as to this sincerity that gives some of us cause for grave concern—if the Government is sincere in its desire to grant Home Rule to Ireland, it should announce without delay that it intends to frame a Home Rule measure to which all reasonable men in Great Britain can give their support. There is no excuse for the Government delaying in this matter. It has been suggested by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), and by other hon. Gentlemen opposite, that until Ireland can herself find some method of agreement the Government should take no action at all. But I submit to the Government that need for action in this matter is urgent from every point of view, and perhaps the Chief Secretary will, in the course of his remarks to-night inform us whether or not the Government intend forthwith—not at an early date, not as early as possible—we have been put off with such phrases before—but that they intend forthwith to consider this question and endeavour to arrive at some settlement of it There is no reason whatsoever why, because the Prime Minister is in Paris, the members of the Government who are here should not put their heads together in order to attempt to arrive at a settlement. I hope the Irish Secretary will be able to give the Committee a satisfactory answer in this connection. But if he is unable to do so, if he informs the Committee that the Government propose to continue to follow the policy of drift which it has pursued in the past, I hope he will also tell us whether that view of the situation is the view taken by the Prime Minister, for if it be so, then I think it is eminently necessary to say that the Prime Minister, in holding that view of the situation is the view will be straining the loyalty of some of his Liberal supporters almost to breaking point.
As a new Member of this House I crave its indulgence. If I have not learned anything new from the speech of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool I have at least derived considerable amusement from it. As he repeated the ancient litany of imaginary Irish wrongs I could not help thinking that he was an excellent example of English tyranny For something like forty years he has been interned in this benighted country. His Celtic spirit rebels because he is forced to become the associate of Prime Ministers to listen to the unintelligible jargon of those whose daily thoughts are concentrated on "bulls" and "bears" or to watch the frivolities of Mayfair. The rustle of a duchess's petticoat may make or unmake Governments, but for the hon. Member for the Scotland Division it simply brings back the glories of Queen Maeve and the time when it was dishonourable for an Irish King to die in his bed. The plight of the hon. Member must touch every sympathic heart. The only parallel which I can find for his case is that of Joseph in Egypt. There has been a good deal of talk to-night with regard to Irish nationality. I hate to have to prick a fairy bubble, but truth forces me to say that Ireland never was and is not to-day a nation. You might as well speak of Lancashire or of Middlesex or of Yorkshire as a nation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or of Scotland."] Well, Scotland has a great many of the characteristics of a nation which were never present in Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: "A great many are present in Ireland."] I understand that the first speech of an hon. Member is allowed to go on without interruption. Personally I have no objection to interruptions provided that they are relevant, but I do object to irrelevant interruptions. If any hon. Member of this Committee can convince himself that Ireland is a nation, then I think it follows that there are two nations in Ireland. If the Southern Nationalist claims to have a right to separate from Great Britain, surely the Northern nation of Ireland, the Ulstermen, has a right to remain part and parcel of Great Britain. We only ask for ourselves the right to remain part of this Empire, in the building up of which we have taken an important part. The truth of the matter is that the Irish Nationalists are trying to build up an impossible future on an imaginary past, and that is not a very successful thing to attempt.
We have heard from the hon. and gallant Member who last spoke a good deal in regard to American opinion. One would imagine that all American opinion was in favour of Home Rule for Ireland; but the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of the American people take not the slightest interest in Ireland except occasionally at election times, when the Irish vote in America is used in much the same way as it is used in some English constituencies—to force people to become Home Rulers, not from conviction, but from expediency. I have only two observations to make with regard to America's attitude to Home Rule. The first of these is, as I have said, America has no right, and the bulk of the American people have no desire, to interfere in our affairs. The second is, that America had a war of over three years' duration rather than allow her
own country to be dismembered. Are we to dismember our country at the dictates of an outside country? I think not. Who are these people in America who are carrying on the agitation? They are the people who for the first three years of the War did a great deal to assist our enemies, and who were only compelled by coercion—and the American people know how to apply coercion—to submit to the laws of America and to submit to support the Allies. I noticed that during the Debate to-night very little was said with regard to Sinn Fein. I think that aspect of the question requires more attention than it has received. It is not the fault of the Sinn Feiners that their attitude is not known. I, of course, disagree with them, but I am free to admit that they have honestly and openly declared their principles. We have got to get back to 1903, when we find that Sinn Fein was originated by Arthur Griffith. Arthur Griffith, in the formation of that movement, held a Convention, and at that Convention it was stated that
The most important of all matters was the anti-enlisting crusade …the Irish Nationalist who entered the English Army or Navy deserved to be flogged.
The anti-recruiting movement was only too successful, because the Sinn Feiners were working on soil that had been carefully cultivated for thirty years by Nationalist agitators. They were also helped in their agitation by reason of the fact that in 1906, at the dictation of the Nationalist party in this House, the then Government repealed the Peace Preservation Act and from that time onwards large quantities of arms and ammunition were brought into Ireland. I ask hon. Members to bear in mind, and I do so because so many taunts have been thrown across the House at us about our arming in Ulster, that we did not start arming in Ulster until the Nationalists had been arming for eight years, and not until it was absolutely imperative that we should arm, not only in our own defence, but in defence of the Empire. It is only necessary to follow the movements of the Sinn Fein conspiracy from 1903 until the present day to see that their one aim was to overthrow Great Britain. Roger Casement, a gentleman who had been heard of and who was> the beau ideal of the Nationalists for some years, was knighted in 1911. At that time Roger Casement had already entered into traitorous relations with Germany. [An HON. MEMBER: "So
did others!"] The hon. Member, I presume, refers to Ulster. The first relation we had with Germany was on the 1st July, 1916, when, for the first time the Ulster Division broke through the German ranks. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the gun-running?"] We had relations with Germany on several occasions like that. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the German rifles?"] I am not going to enter into that. As I said, in 1911, a long time before the gun-running, Roger Casement was in alliance with Germany. Casement realised, as Napoleon had realised a century before, that the country that controlled Ireland controlled Great Britain and he wrote, and he knew what was coming:
In this War Ireland has only one enemy. Let every Irish heart, let every Irish hand, let every Irish purse be with Germany.
"Irish Freedom," a paper to which Casement contributed, wrote:
If, then, Ireland lends her aid to Germany and Germany wins in a war with England, Ireland will become an independent nation.
The Sinn Feiners were well informed long before the War that the War was coming. I would ask hon. Members to note this. It was written by Sinn Feiners early in 1913, a year before the rifles were brought to Ulster:
The mighty British Empire is on the verge of destruction. The English live in daily terror of Germany. War between Germany and England is at hand.
Yes, those people knew what they were writing about. They were in close touch with Germany. I now challenge the Government to deny that Roger Casement was in the pay of Germany from 1911, and that Germany had sent large sums to Sinn Feiners in Ireland from 1911 onwards for the purpose of fomenting rebellion, and that German spies had been in Ireland for some years before the War, and had formulated plans which the Sinn Feiners were to carry out during hostilities, and that secret wireless installations were established, and that German submarines were supplied with petrol and other necessaries, and that large quantities of arms and ammunition were landed on the West Coast of Ireland for the use of the Sinn Feiners, and that elaborate arrangements had been made for a German landing in Ireland. We are entitled to some information from the Government as to the extent of the help which Sinn Feiners gave Germany during the War. I have tried on two occasions since I entered this House to drag some information out of the Leader
of the House with regard to this matter. I was not successful, but I hope I will be more successful with the Chief Secretary, and that he will tell us something with regard to the relations which he knows existed between the Sinn Feiners and Germany. Why cannot our Government be as frank with us as the American Government have been with the American people on this subject? I will tell you why. It is because they are ashamed of some of the incidents that happened. For example, after the War started the Irish Nationalists wanted to bring some arms and ammunition into Ireland, and Mr. Asquith gave instructions that facilities were to be given for the bringing in of those arms. Those arms were landed in Dublin, and were stolen, by the Sinn Feiners, and were used afterwards for shooting down British soldiers and Irish policemen. Probably that is one of the reasons why the Government are afraid to go into the question of Sinn Fein. If you establish a Parliament in Ireland that Parliament must of necessity be controlled by Sinn Feiners who have shown themselves the enemies of our country. Are you going to place Ireland in the hands of people who during the War did what they could for the overthrow of Great Britain? Unless people are bereft of all common sense they never would agreed to do so. I have no hesitation in saying in all sincerity and emphatically that to establish a Parliament in Ireland would be an injustice to Ireland and an act of treachery to Great Britain.
Lieut.-Colonel WALTER GUINNESS:
Certain of the speakers to-day seem to be suffering from the usual Irish complaint of living in the past rather than in the present. The only constructive proposals we have had put forward from the Nationalist Benches were, firstly, that we should go by President Wilson's fourteen points, and, secondly, the proposal of the hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin) that we should base ourselves on the Irish National Convention, but the National Convention, where the Nationalist party played a very conciliatory part, was absolutely repudiated by the people of Ireland at the last election, when they refused to return the Nationalist party, and instead sent as their representatives a party which had no part nor lot in the Convention. Therefore, I think it would be a waste of time to think of conciliating Ireland by adopt- ing a proposal which the electorate has emphatically refused. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division gave us a diagnosis of the revolutionary movement in Ireland. This movement is really nothing new. It has certainly changed its symptoms, but whether they are seeking their ends by methods of violence or by methods of the Constitution, the driving force of the anti-British party in Ireland has always been separatism. The Nationalist party used to be separatists. Their followers in this respect have not left their leaders, but their leaders, so far as they are not now separatists, have left their followers. The Nationalists were repudiated by their former supporters in Ireland as soon as they showed those supporters that they had become moderate and were content to accept a system of Home Rule within the Empire. In fact, the hon. Member for the Scotland Division gave us the strongest confirmation of that when he said Mr. John Redmond signed his political death warrant when he took up a pro-British attitude at the beginning of the War.
That is quite wrong. That is not the statement I made, and I cannot allow it to go unchallenged. I said he signed his political death warrant after he had made that speech, when he was betrayed by the country, by the men, and by the cause in whose favour he spoke.
Anyhow, we have got to face the present, and the Sinn Fein movement is no longer actuated in Ireland as it was for so many years by harmless literary coteries and by a lot of gentlemen of academic eminence. It is now frankly an anti-British and anarchistic movement. Captain Stephen Gwynne said quite recently that Sinn Fein was more and more committed to Bolshevism, and I will not weary the House with quotations, but will just give one, and that is of Countess Markievicz, because this shows the connection not only with Bolshevism but also with Germany. The Countess Markievicz, speaking at Cookstown, said the Bolshevists were friendly to Ireland, and they had told a delegation of the Irish Republican party that they would support Ireland at the Peace Conference. "We have also a treaty with Germany. That treaty guarantees Ireland as a free and independent republic." I do not agree with the hon. Members opposite who think that in view of these facts the electorate of this country are prepared to hand over the control of Ireland to such forces. We have got quite enough difficulty in Ireland to control disorder as it is, without handing over the Executive to people who are openly going to use it for wrecking the British connection. To set up, as is now apparently proposed, an Irish Parliament separate from this country, and without any counterpoise in the shape of the loyal sentiment of the North, would be a certain way of getting complete separation in a very few years. I do not wish to pursue this subject any further, because after all this is the only opportunity we shall have to get a little information about Irish administration.
I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman is going to do to maintain order in Ireland. There was a very horrible crime committed the other day at Westport. An Irish resident magistrate, Mr. Milling, was shot in his house, and very little notice of it has been taken over here, as is usual. It was first said he had been wounded, quite a common occurrence in Ireland. Why was this gentleman shot? He was shot as a result of a deliberate propaganda which has been going on in Ireland. A Member of this House, Mr. W. Sears, was prosecuted for having on 11th December at a Sinn Fein meeting delivered a speech inciting those present when occasion arose to "shoot the military, the police, and the Government officials, as the moonlighters did similar good work by shooting landlords and bailiffs in the eighties." And Ireland has been flooded with leaflets, from which I will only give one quotation. This is a leaflet seized in Cork recently, on the. 20th March:
The man who drives the police ear or assists in the transport of Army supplies, all these having assisted the enemy, must be shot or otherwise destroyed with the least possible delay. In short, we must show that it is not healthy to be against us and that those who are not going to be against us must be with us.
By allowing this sort of thing to be circulated in Ireland the authorities have led up to the kind of occurrence which is now taking place in Westport. The murder of Mr. Milling is not the only case. Since the troops were withdrawn from the Westport district there have been at least three brutal and murderous attacks in the streets of that town, to try and intimidate those who were not friendly to the Sinn Fein cause. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman why he withdrew these troops
from Westport. I understand he was warned over and over again of the certain results of taking away this protection which was needed by the loyal inhabitants of Westport, and in spite of that the troops were withdrawn in January.
I did not mean his personal responsibility, but the responsibility of the Department which he is administering. No doubt he has the information, and it has been brought to his notice that these representations were made. I would like an explanation of the extraordinary laxity of prison administration in Ireland. It is turning the law into contempt to see the kind of performances which go on among prisoners. At Belfast Gaol, at the end of last year, disturbances took place in which about £3,000 worth of damage was done in destroying stairs and balconies. The authorities took the mildest measures against these people. They first turned out the light and turned off the water, but it was represented, I understand, that this was inconvenient to the rioters, and so they turned the light and water on again, and they finally yielded the full political rights which had been enjoyed before, and promised as soon as possible to remove the prisoners, if they wished, to an internment camp. As anybody who knows the Irish people might have guessed, this only encouraged them, and three, weeks after we had another demonstration, when the prisoners began wrecking another wing of the prison. On that occasion they did, I think, only a small amount of damage, about £300. That is not the only kind of trouble we have had in Irish prisons. We find that prisoners can escape without any trouble whatever. There were four cases recently. In England it was on a smaller scale. Apparently they had to take a little trouble to get out of prison in England. On 16th March, in Ireland, Mr. Barton, M.P., escaped from the Mountjoy Gaol, leaving a note behind saying, that owing to the discomfort of the place he felt compelled to leave, and asking the Governor to keep his baggage safe until he sent for it. You would imagine that the Government would take the trouble to prevent this happening again, but less than a fortnight afterwards twenty more prisoners, including two Members of this House, escaped from the same prison by means of a rope ladder. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some explanation of these extraordinary performances, which are having very bad effects at the present time in Ireland. Although it is the duty of the Government to maintain law and order in Ireland you have sent over a series of Chief Secretaries who have apparently been selected for their complete ignorance of the Irish question, with the only result that they have been made fools of. I hope we have departed from this, and that we have now got a reformer in Ireland and not merely a dialectician. We hope that although the right hon. Gentleman is a barrister, his Celtic blood will prevent him making those idiotic mistakes of which his predecessors have been guilty, and he has a golden opportunity because, in the absence of the Sinn Fein representatives, he will be able to stop talking and get to business. Much bitterness has been aroused in the past by raising unrealisable hopes, and I trust he is going to say at once that Ireland is not going to get Home Rule, or anything else, as a reward for rebellion. We have to make up our minds what reason there is for change in Ireland so as to satisfy Irish unrest. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Irish majority,"] But the Irish majority, judging by their representatives, want complete independence. So the hon. Gentleman, apparently, wants to give Ireland complete independence. I thank him for his frankness, but I do not believe that that is the wish of the majority of the House. I think most people in the House wish to give Ireland what they want, short of independence, but they do not realise that neither partition nor Home Rule within the Empire is going to satisfy the unruly in Ireland.
If you cannot satisfy the extremists, you must concentrate on reform that is really needed in the country, and there is a very fertile field in reconstruction. Sinn Fein, so far, has been a really negative programme, and we can add to their difficulties by bringing forward social reforms which they cannot really oppose. If you bring forward any constitutional change, they will tear it to ribands, and you will give them a great opportunity for further agitation. There is a great need for small changes in private Bill legislation in Ireland, and I hope we are going to have some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the promised measure will be
shortly introduced. We want better health administration, because, although the Health Bill has been amended to include Ireland, it does not go anything like far enough. In Ireland, the dispensary doctors are terribly overworked, and about anything between 40 and 60 per cent. of the population depends on them. One sees a dispensary doctor aged seventy-five looking after an area of about twelve miles square, and I do not know really whether I am sorrier for the dispensary doctor or for the people whom he has to look after. The only way out of it is to raise the status of this overworked service, and to put it on a national basis. We have got a death-rate of 16.8 in Ireland against 14.4 in the rest of the United Kingdom; we have the highest tuberculosis death-rate, and a rapidly falling birth-rate. If the Government would devote themselves to these kind of questions, instead of trying to bring in a constitutional change, they would be able to dish the Sinn Feiner. I remember, in my early days, that one used to hear a doggerel in Dublin, which said that the Irish were
fighting like devils for conciliation and hating each other for the love of God.'
No doubt they will go on doing that. Political unrest will be a national sport, but I do beg this House to avoid giving legislative prizes for these political diversions.
I do not intend to detain the House at very great length by going over any of the points which have been dealt with by the speakers in this Debate. I am inclined to agree somewhat with the expression of the last speaker in the early portion of his remarks, where he stated that, after all, what we had to look into now was the present and the immediate future, and not to dwell too much in the past. It is sometimes said that Irishmen are inclined to dwell too much in the past. After all, I know that the past, especially the Irish past, has not a very nice taste in the mouths of British Ministers, but it is perfectly true that there may be reason for our dwelling in the past. We cannot discuss the present or the proposals of the future without, at any rate, a reference to the past. At the present moment what are we up against in Ireland? The country is in a state such as ft has never been in before. It is almost, I believe, on the verge of revolution. Who is responsible for the state of Ireland? Who is responsible for the government of Ireland. Is it the members of one particular political party in Ireland or another? No. The government of Ireland is conducted by and is the sole and only and proper object of the British Ministers in this Parliament, who insist upon the conduct and continuance of a system of government averse to the majority of Irish people. At the present time there is a Home Rule Act upon the Statute Book. It was said this afternoon that nobody in Ireland was in favour of the Home Rule Act. That may or may not be so. Nobody in Ireland may be in favour of that particular measure, which at the time was acceptable as a means of transferring the wishes of the people into legislative effect, but which, owing to the efflux of time and to the change of conditions, especially financial conditions, brought about by the War, would undoubtedly have to be considerably amended, financially and otherwise, to fit the case.
The fact remains that the Home Rule Act is there. It is true there is a Suspensory Act in existence, the terms of which are that the Home Rule Act is, by Order in Council, to come into operation at a fixed date at the end of the War. That being so the question I have to ask the Government is this: Do they propose to do anything in regard to the government of Ireland? If they do, do they propose to repeal the Home Rule Act or do they propose to put it into operation? If they propose to repeal it let them say so once and for all. Let them have this much courage at any rate, boldly to tell Ireland and the rest of the world that she has been fooled, that they have played the confidence trick upon her, and pledged the word of the British Parliament, of the British electorate, and of His Majesty the King, whose signature is affixed to the Home Rule Act, that that all now counts for nothing, and that Ireland is to be blatantly, grossly, and openly betrayed; that the voluntary sacrifices which were made by Irishmen in the War are to count for nought, that Irish blood has been spilt in vain for Ireland and merely for the benefit of small nationalities in other parts of the world! Let them openly and avowedly make that assertion; then we will think something of them. I do not imagine that they will do this. They will say they are going to put the Act into operation? I do not think they will take that course either.
I myself do not for a moment see why, if they have any desire whatsoever for the future of Ireland—and after all they are always professing that they have some desire for it, though they give very little manifestation of the desire—why they could not come forward and put the Act into operation, subject to the modifications necessary owing to the effluxion of time and the conditions brought about by the War. It will be said that the then Prime Minister pledged an amending Bill. Very well. Let the Government come along with their amending Bill—which will be necessary owing to the facts I have mentioned. Let them propose to the House a fair solution of this question. I fear that that will not be the case. No; what will happen will be the same old story. We will not be told that the Government are going to repeal the Home Rule Act, nor to put it into operation. We will not be told that they are going to bring in an immediate solution or device for settling the Irish question. We will be told that, owing to the lamentable state of affairs in Ireland, nothing can be done. We know very well the nature of the reply to expect. But if the conditions are such—and I for one certainly do not deny that the condition of affairs in Ireland was probably never more serious—if they are in such a deplorable state, who is responsible? The beautifully vicious circle the Government are constantly travelling in! First of all, owing to the state of affairs brought about by the malignity of the War Office and the stupidities and blunders of successive—not successful—Chief Secretaries and their associates—this state of affairs has been brought about. Once the Government have brought about these conditions, they say, "Ah, now that we have brought about these conditions, of course, we can do nothing until they improve." Therefore they keep gaily sailing round in this delightfully vicious circle.
What I am particularly anxious to know to-night from the Chief Secretary it, Has the Government got any Irish policy at all? I heard one hon. Member say in Debate that he "did not say it was a bad Government in Ireland nor a good Government: so far as he can make out there was no Government at all." I must say I am very largely in agreement with that hon. Member. I do not really know if there is any Government in Ireland. I do not know who the Government are. I do not know what their policy is. I do not know what is their programme. I do not think they know themselves! Let me give the Committee an instance of what happens, and of the utter futility, lack of purpose, lack of coordination, and general objective throughout the whole system of government in Ireland. At Newry the other day a friend of mine was making a speech. He was interrupted. I suppose a great many of us have been interrupted in our speeches. He paid no attention to the interrupter. I do not know whether or not he was able to hand his speech to the Press. However, he made no complaint. Within ten days of this occurrence, at a late hour at night, three men were hauled out of their beds, brought under arrest before a magistrate, and subsequently sentenced to six months' hard labour.
For interrupting a public meeting contrary to the Defence of the Realm Act. Is that a serious way to deal with Ireland? Are these pinpricks—because they are nothing else!—a serious way of tackling a serious situation? I heard a story of a countryman of mine down at Cork the other day, although I do not vouch for its accuracy. An Irishman was going merrily along the footpath and someone shouted out, "Three cheers for the King's cousin." He was arrested and he got six months' hard labour. That may be high policy and statesmanship, but it does not go very far towards reducing the present state of Ireland to a normal and proper condition. We are told owing to the present condition of Ireland that nothing can be done. We may be told that a few sops will be handed out, such as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dun-cairn outlined this afternoon in his extremely able Home Rule speech. They may give us better houses, and even the Treasury may become munificent, although that needs a stretch of the imagination. They may go on handing out doles, they may give us housing and better schools and a better form of education and anything else they like, but hon. Members from Ulster know as well as I do that not one of those questions will ultimately affect He inherent demand that there is, and always will be, in Ireland for a recognition of the national right of the people to govern themselves according to their own ideas on their own soil, and in their own country.
I do not know whether many hon. Members have read the petition, which was taken notice of rather considerably in the Press, and it was signed by about 150
officers from Ireland who had served in the Army. It was a petition to the King, an unprecedented course for officers to take if you like, but they had an unprecedented case. In this petition they made out that they, as Irish Nationalists, enlisted in the Army at the outset of the War on the understanding that they were fighting for the cause of small nationalities in particular, and democracy at large, and that by so enlisting they were ratifying on their side, at any rate, the treaty which had just been cemented between the two countries by the placing of the Home Rule Bill upon the Statute Book. In the course of this petition they called upon the King to have this question placed before the Peace Conference, and why did they do so? For this reason, that they had come to the conclusion, owing to the action of British Ministers during the War, and owing to the flagrant transgressions and breaches of faith, that there is no hope, at any rate in the present Parliament, of this question being definitely and properly settled, and that the fairest and quickest and best means would be to refer it to the Peace Conference. In the course of this petition they say:
In our opinion, Ireland as a nation has been robbed of her treaty rights, and the Irish people as a race reduced to the position of helots by the withholding of that which in virtue of their citizenship they had won by constitutional action. Of those for whom we speak, the survivors feel that their reliance on the Home Rule conpact was ill-founded, and that their comrades who have given their lives in that reliance have made a sacrifice fruitless up to the present of benefit for the Fatherland that they loved. We appeal to Your Majesty, under these circumstances of unprecedented difficulty, for a sympathetic consideration of the cause of your Irish subjects. We submit that, under present conditions, it is in accordance neither with expediency nor natural justice that the issue between the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain should be finally determined by Your Majesty's Ministers.
I am not going to read any more of this document, but I want to impress upon hon. Members if it is within my power to do so, the feeling of tens of thousands of Irish Nationalists who voluntarily joined the Army at the outbreak of hostilities on the understanding that by so doing they would be offering up their lives, if necssary, for a cause which was embodied in the Home Rule Act, which had been placed on the Statute Book. It is no use mincing words, and I say that we feel they have been cheated out of the lives of their comrades. The relatives and friends
of those men who went to the front and fought, and many of them sacrificed their lives to the cause of the Allies, feel that that cause was a sham and that they have been grossly betrayed by British Ministers and British statesmen.
I am very anxious to hear what the Chief Secretary has to say, but I am most anxious to know if the Government has any policy what that policy is. I want to know if they are going to put forward that policy at all with anything like power and determination, or whether they are simply going to indulge in pious hopes amounting to nothing in the future, as they have so often done in the past. We have beautifully expressed pious hope about the future of Ireland, but, as we say in Ireland, "Soft words butter no parsnips." We have had pious hopes in the King's Speech, from the Chief Secretary and from the Prime Minister, but it does not do simply for the Government to say that they mean well towards Ireland, and in a most patronising manner declare that Ireland has some right to exist and that they will not hinder it from existing in the future. We want to know: Are the Government going to shelve their own responsibility in regard to Ireland, because the responsibility rests with this Government and with this Government alone. I therefore call upon the Chief Secretary, and upon the British people as well, to tell the Irish people once and for all what they have made up their minds to do, if they have made them up at all, in regard to Ireland in the future.
I hope the Committee will allow me now to reply to the various speeches which have been made in the course of this afternoon and evening. Before I come to the main points which have been raised, which are two in number, namely, the reconstruction problem in Ireland and the general Irish policy, I should like to draw the attention of the House to one statement which was made by the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down (Captain Redmond). It was one of those statements which become so distorted when once they cross the Irish Channel. He referred to one outstanding example of malpractice and incompetence on the part of the Irish Government in a case which occurred the other day in the town of Newry. He tried to frighten the House into consternation by telling us that three men for asking questions at some political meeting were sent to six months' hard labour. [An HON. MEMBER: For heckling!] I made it my duty to look into this case, and I found that these men were simply bound over for six months to keep the peace. The moment the responsible magistrate in charge of the case had given that decision they could have walked out of the Police Court free men. That is the way that facts are apt to be distorted when Irishmen discuss their own affairs across the Channel.
Might I rise to a point of Order? I reside in the town of Newry, and I beg to say that the right hon. Gentleman must have been wrongly informed. The alternative sentence inflicted, not upon three men but upon four men, was six months' imprisonment. They were put under a rule of bail, and they refused to give bail. The alternative sentence was six months' imprisonment.
I think the House will agree that my statement of the case was perfectly fair. As a matter of fact, they were not charged with heckling the distinguished Irishman to whom my hon. and gallant Friend referred. There was a charge made against them under the Defence of the Realm Act of trying to incite breaches of the peace. That was the charge, and it was upon that charge that they were tried.
Let me first deal with the reconstruction problem, which was adumbrated, first of all, by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division (Sir E. Carson). He laid very great stress not upon the past but upon the present and the great problems of the future, and I cannot help thinking that the whole House must have heard, with great satisfaction the great desire which he expressed to see the town of Belfast particularly, and indeed the whole of Ireland, in a better condition than it has been in the many years that have gone by. I need hardly tell him and the House that I approach the problem of education with the greatest possible sympathy. At the same time, knowing as I do the history of education in all parts of the country, and especially in my own native land, I approach it with awe. I know how much education means in the history of any country, and I take a pride, a legitimate pride, in that my own native country recognised that fact many centuries ago. Until quite recently it had twice as many universities as any other country in the Empire, and its system of education, avoiding at all times the pitfall of religion, brought it to the forefront of the nations of the world, and to-day, by the splendid effort of my right hon. Friend and colleague the Secretary for Scotland—the same also applies to England, by the efforts of my right hon. Friend and colleague the Minister for Education—Scotland has even overcome the pitfall of religion, and, so far as I can gather, there is no grievance among any denomination with regard to education across the border.
I wish it were my lot to see education on the same footing in Ireland. After all is said and done, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin), Ireland was the island of saints and scholars, and did more for education, culture, and religion in the early centuries of civilisation than any other country or island in the world. The tendency, however, in Ireland, as it is in all Celtic countries—I feel it in my bones—is to dwell upon the traditions and greatness of the past. That is a very good thing to do, provided that you do it within reason. But if you are going to keep in the forefront of the industrial competition of life you have to be careful. The modern always overcomes the ancient in the industrial struggle, unless it be in the case of wine. I speak, as I say, about education in Ireland with awe. I am not even responsible in this House for the defects of education in Ireland, though I seem to be responsible, for I get all the blame, for everything else. When my right hon. Friend asks me a question about education in Ireland all that I can do is to stand up and read a carefully prepared answer, prepared by somebody else, as best I can. I should like during my term of office in the Irish Government to see someone in this House who would be responsible for all education in Ireland, and when I say that I realise the enormous importance of education, particularly in a country like Ireland, and I also realise the right which the representatives of the people of Ireland ought to have to demand from the Minister responsible in this House an explanation of the defects of the educational system or of anything else. I have made it my duty, so far as I could in the short time I have occupied this office, to try to understand the educational system in Ireland. I have been fortunate in having had the opportunity of reading the two admirable Reports which have just been submitted to me—one on primary and the other on intermediate education. I wish the terms of reference, as my right hon. Friend has suggested, had been wider in scope and less circumscribed, and that while dealing with the very important points with which these two Reports dealt, these eminently qualified and representative Committees had also a direction to discuss the situation in its wider and broader aspects. But still they have come to very valuable conclusions, and I propose to ask a Departmental Committee of experts to consider these two Reports, and to see what proposals can be formulated for me to embody in a Bill which I hope to introduce.
The two points, in my judgment, that ought to be considered—and I was interested to hear my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Dun-cairn Division emphasise these two particular points—are these. The first is whether a central authority represented in this House is not desirable to coordinate the three existing departments of education in Ireland, namely, primary, intermediate and technical education; and secondly, whether any rate should be levied for purely educational purposes. I realise, as my right hon. Friend has realised, and as my right hon. Friends on these benches have realised, that extraordinary advance has been made in Ireland with regard to the striking of a rate. It says a good deal for the common sense of the members of those great Committees that they should have taken a step in the right direction. For of all things to which the people of a country should attend first and foremost, I know of nothing to compare with education. I should like this Committee to consider whether the rate should be a national one or a county one. I quite realise, as was adumbrated in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Falls Division, there may be a great difficulty, but I am hopeful that the spirit of conciliation, which I noticed in his speech and that of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Duncairn Division, will lead to great results, and that it will be my joy and satisfaction to see a great system of national education established in Ireland. I need hardly say I for one would not be a party to what is called in Ireland "Godless education." In my judgment, it could easily be provided for in any Bill which is brought forward that the religious atmosphere and the control of any school, whether Protestant or Catholic, should be left as at present and should be preserved as at present. I notice my hon. Friend the Member for the Falls Division nods his head. I am quite convinced that if he uses his great influence in his own territorial district to ensure this, he will be a proud and happy man to realise the effect of his own wisdom.
I thought my hon. Friend was in thorough agreement with my appeal to him to continue the spirit of conciliation which I saw existed between himself in the matter of education and my right hon. and learned Friend.
I do not want to be misunderstood, but I nodded my head at the sentiment expressed by the right hon. Gentleman that there would not be interference with the present managerial system in Ireland.
I was not talking about that. There are some points, I realise, which can be given effect to administratively, and I will make it my business to see if I can bring them into effect as speedily as possible. I am quite convinced that one thing we have got to see to is this. It is not to be expected that education can be good in any country if teachers are poorly paid. If a teacher is poorly paid, if he has got hardships at home—and I have had many cases of extreme hardship brought to my notice by teachers in well-known schools in Ireland—he is bound to have his mind embittered, and if his mind is embittered, it is bound to be reflected in the teaching given to the children. And I am not at all sure there may not be feelings of discontent emanating from that source. The other point which my hon. Friend raised and drew special attention to at the end of his speech was the question of housing.
As my right hon. and learned Friend will understand, till I see the paper and find out all the facts of the ease, I do not like to make a definite promise, but I will give this promise, that I will make it my duty as soon as ever I can—possibly to-morrow—to have the whole matter looked into.
I was not surprised that my right hon. and learned Friend drew my special attention to the housing conditions in Ireland. It is a problem which did not escape my attention. Indeed, it was the very first problem which occupied my thoughts when I took office in Ireland, and I set myself to see what could be done, and done quickly. On its rural side in Ireland, great progress has been made with regard to this problem by the Labourers Acts, and it is a cheering and an attractive side to anybody who visits Ireland to see the countryside dotted with clean white houses in which men can fitly dwell. I think that as many as 50,000 of these houses have been built. I cannot, however, discuss that scheme at the present moment. But it was a scheme for which generous terms could be given. The conditions demanded that generous terms should be given. Agriculture in Ireland was, and is, the great industry of the country. It had to be fostered. It was necessary to have labourers on the land, and if they were housed well they would work well, and their children would begin life with a fair chance morally and physically. It paid the State to give generous terms to ensure this alone, though it had of necessity to do so for the more material reason that wages were low, and high terms of repayment were impossible.
On the urban side, the problem is even more urgent, and more urgent in certain parts of Ireland than in any other part of the United Kingdom. Report after report has disclosed the appalling conditions which, in my judgment, are a disgrace to civilisation. Filth, squalor, congestion, rack-rents—these are not the concomitants of a wise and beneficent civilisation. They are the allies of death and disease, of immorality and vice all over the world. But in Ireland they are that and something more. They are the allies of Bolshevism and Sinn Fein. No man can have but an embittered feeling if, morning, noon, and night, he has to carry on his occupation surrounded by brutal conditions of life, which he feels have been thrust upon him by a power which he is too weak to fight single-handed. The problem of housing is largely a problem of health in the family or in the State. A good house, with all the associations of a home, is the most effective weapon, in my judgment, to secure the sanest outlook on life, and is the best guarantee for the moral and physical well-being as well as for self-government. In Ireland there are in existence separate housing enactments which have created a housing tradition. I had to consider what scheme would beat fall in with these without losing any advantage to Ireland and with the securing, if possible, of some advantage. I hope I have been successful. I came to the conclusion that the system in the English Bill was not at all suitable to the conditions in Ireland. The towns in England where housing is most required are wealthy, industrial centres, and an addition upon the rates for the ratepayers there would have been no great consequences. But in Ireland, with three or four exceptions, the towns are very poor, the rates are most oppressive, and already the losses upon the building schemes which have been carried out have been very large. In one case the loss has been so great as 1s. 8d. in the £, and, as the Committee has reason to know, the rates in the great City of Dublin are as high as 16s. 10d. in the £. I had, therefore, to find a means which would give an equivalent relief to the ratepayers in Ireland to that given in England, and which would enable housing schemes to be carried out without any loss to the rate-
payers if the schemes were economical, appropriate to the needs of the people, and if the houses were built, on clean, healthy sites. Such a means, after the most careful consideration, has been found. It has been calculated that a Grant equal to the rent charged and collected for the house would provide the difference between the actual rent which people might reasonably be expected to pay and the economic rent, which would include loan charges, repairs, insurance, upkeep, management and collection. For example, if you take a house which cost £550, the economic rent sufficient to pay all charges would be 15s. If the reasonable rent charged and collected were fixed at 7s. 6d., the State would pay the remaining 7s. 6d. It can also be put in this way: If the rent charged and collected is £25 a year, the State will give a grant of another £25, namely, will pay £l for every £l of rent charged and collected by the local authorities. As the Committee may remember this problem was discussed at great length by a representative Committee of the Convention, and this was the conclusion at which they arrived:
The general conclusion at which we have arrived is that the number of houses to be erected in urban areas as soon as circumstances admit of the work being carried out may be put at £67,500; that the total cost will be approximately £27,000,000; and that it will be necessary for 50 per cent. of the loan charges to be borne by the central Government.
It must be clear that the rent payable for the house must bear a certain proportion to the cost of the house. Otherwise there would be a danger of the house being let at too low a rent, which would mean really a form of out-door relief in aid of low wages. I am quite convinced that no trade unionist would tolerate such a system. I hope that the proposal I now make for Ireland is an eminently fair proposal. It is clearly a proposal which is better than the proposal presented to the Convention, for it is 50 per cent., not only of the loan charges but of all the other charges—upkeep, maintenance, and insurance. I was glad to find that deputations which I met in Ireland on the question of housing thoroughly agreed with my scheme so far. But my difficulty came when I had to discuss the raising of the loan by the local authorities. At that time I suggested that they should raise the money locally from the Irish banks. I have not yet been forgiven, either in the public
Press or in the pulpits, for making such a statement in Ireland. As a matter of fact, the statement was made to me by a very distinguished Belfast man who told me that the Irish banks were full of money. Consequently, I thought, when the Treasury told me that they would not finance any scheme, that the proper place for the Irish corporations and local authorities to find the money was from the loyal Irish banks.
That is very likely. I am going to tell the Committee what proposals I made to the Treasury. In any case, the Treasury really met the Irish people with a very worthy anxiety to deal fairly with them, and made the following proposals: They agreed to lend money at market rates to all the local authorities whose rateable value is less than £200,000 a year. There are only two towns in Ireland which have a greater rateable value than that, namely, Belfast and Dublin. I have every hope that those two cities, with the very good securities which they can give to the bankers, will be able to raise the money locally. If not, I must do my level best to approach the Treasury again, but I am convinced that any corporation which has good security could easily raise such a loan. We want to make this scheme as cheap and economical as possible, and with that in view we have offered a prize for the best plan for a cheap house in three grades of houses. I am glad to think every house will provide for a bath room and a wash-house. There is no reason, therefore, why the local authorities should not at once begin to cope with the demand for 50,000 houses. If this scheme is loyally carried out with due regard to economy and health, I hope we shall have helped in no small degree to promote the strength and happiness of the people of Ireland.
I know I am expected to say a few words about general Irish policy. I could not help feeling that even Irish Members speaking in this Debate about the condition of Ireland were far away from the realities of the case. It is quite clear, in my judgment, from the feeling of the House, that no outside authority can interfere with us by intervention or otherwise in the solution of our own Irish problem. The hon. Member (Mr. Devlin) asked me what was meant by the statement in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. If I remember aright, that speech said that His Majesty viewed with grave anxiety the condition of Ire land, and until that condition was changed there could be no durable settlement of the problem. It is quite clear, in my judgment, that so long as the condition of the country is what it is, a condition which has been thrust upon it by irresponsible men within its own borders—
—no steps can safely be taken by the Government to alter the present system of government. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Redmond) said the country was near a state of revolution. It is not my duty to judge the past or to consider who is responsible for the past. It is my duty now to consider the present and, as far as I can, to judge the future. The hon. Member (Mr. Devlin) told the Committee that we did not understand the condition of Ireland, that it was not placid, that it was not cold, that anyone who knew anything of Irish life had to deal with "Passions." He made a brilliant speech, but he never said a truer word in the whole course of it. My right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) asked me directly why we were keeping the military in Ireland and how many we had now. With regard to numbers, the Secretary for War stated those the other day. When I tell my right hon. Friend—and I hope he will appreciate the fact as I go along—that political unrest in Ireland continues unabated, and that outrages of the most cruel and unforgivable kind continue to darken Irish life, he will understand why we need the military to maintain law and order. Let me give some examples. They are from the latest reports, and I have taken them indiscriminately. In Galway shots are fired through the house of an honest man because his children are attending a school which has been boycotted by Sinn Fein. In Clare, the Estate Commissioners are threatened that if they give land to ex-soldiers they will be shot. In the Tipperary district, which we unhesitatingly proclaimed on account of the brutal and callous murders of two policemen, we published a proclamation asking for information as to the murderers. That was pulled down and in its place a threatening announcement was made that if any man gave any sort of information of any sort or kind with regard to these brutal murderers he would be shot. The hon. and gallant Member for Bury St. Edmunds gave some quotations Here is a proclamation published as a counter attraction to our proclamation in the district; a proclamation which recites the death penalties, and so forth, for everybody who in any way gives any sort of information to lead to the capture of the perpetrators of this heinous act. Here let me say that nothing could equal the courage, the bravery, the endurance of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and the military who act under extreme provocation and only in accordance with their orders; and so long as I and those who act with me are in the Irish Government, we shall do everything that lies within our power to see that they are supported in any action which they legitimately take. Then there is the splendid behaviour of the resident magistrates who are determined to see justice clone whatever the consequences to themselves. All responsible people are shocked that the other day a distinguished member of that body, the Resident Magistrate of Westport, Mr. Milling, was brutally attacked and mortally wounded.
I am glad that one hon. and learned Member to-night, the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Brown), passed an encomium upon him, and that relieves me of what would have been a most pleasant duty. He did so in a maiden speech of great brilliancy—a maiden speech which I feel sure will place him high in reputation in this House. We all expect great things of him in future. While I am referring to maiden speeches let me also mention the maiden speech of another Irishman, the hon. Member for the Woodvale Division of Belfast (Mr. Lynn). I cannot, of course, be expected to agree with everything he said; but I am quite convinced of this that he said it with great skill and with great brilliance and that he too has a great position of importance marked out for him in his own party and in this House.
To come back to my recital of the Crimea and the audacity of the Sinn Fein party let me say that the Government itself the other day was threatened with a State entry of a so-called President of a so-called Irish republic, a republic which as the late Mr. John Redmond—one of the great men of the day, in my judgment—said it was both impossible and undesirable.
He always got it from me and he always appreciated it. The attitude of His Majesty's Government on that occasion was clear and definite This was the first overt act of defiance of a body which was opposed to responsible constitutionalism. It was regarded as such, and there was no hesitation on our part to show that the Government would act, and act effectively, against those who made any such attempt to usurp a power which they could neither honour in the breach or the observance. In Ireland it is fatal, as I know too well, to make a promise which you cannot fulfil, or a threat which may turn out to be meaningless. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds asked me whether I was going to maintain law and order? I am determined neither to make a promise nor a threat, but so long as I occupy the office which I do occupy, which was not of my seeking, I am determined, so far as I can, to maintain law and order, to preserve the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens, and to see that those who desire to carry on their daily toil on farm or in factory can do so unharassed by the thought of the terrorist or the assassin.
Ireland to-day is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. At no time in its history was the bank depositor so numerous or so affluent. Save for the gallant dead who gave their lives freely in the cause of liberty Ireland has passed through the crisis of the world practically unscathed. With this successful materialism some may go so far as to say that it is in danger of losing its own soul. Whether that be so or not it can only preserve its soul if it frees itself from the shackles of unreason and aberration which seek to bind it. The menace of Sinn Fein, self-centred and selfish, with its cruel and wanton allies, of oppression and tyranny, with its enemy association, and its hatred of constitutionalism and those who represent it can ensure no progress for the country which it seeks to govern. It can only alienate sympathy. It can only maintain the deadlock, which it has produced and fostered. It can only stifle industry and initiative and hamper industrial and social development. The Gracious Speech from the Throne could have but one meaning and one meaning alone. The enemy of Ireland, wherever he may have been in the past, is not now without the gates but within the gates. The main body of opinion in Ireland is inflamed, menacing, scornful of compromise, accepting outrages as argument, and openly and ostentatiously defying law and order. If she continues to be rent as she is by contending forces, no self-determination upon constitutional lines is possible. If there is self-determination offered to Ireland again we know what that self-determination would be. It would be republicanism, Sinn Feinism in the rankest form. If she continues to give daily and hourly proofs that life, property and peace and even the harmless enjoyment of her people are not safe in her keeping, she makes it daily more difficult for the Imperial Government to explore all practical pathways, as they are prepared to do, to give a generous settlement of her problem which was never more pressing than it is to-day.
My only reason for intervening in this Debate is that I happen to be a native of God's own country and, judging from the concluding part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech evidently it is not a country in which he desires to remain. We expected this evening to hear from the authoritative report of the Government some definite statement as to the solution of the Irish question. The legislation of the past may be forgotten. I left Ireland thirty-four years ago a bare-faced boy. I am not talking about any bareness of other parts of my anatomy because most Irishmen have generally been bare in other parts as well as their face when they left their native country. I want Members of this House to remember that while you may get an Irishman to forgive you cannot always get him to forget, and although the past may not always be palatable to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, it always remains with the Irishman as something which he is compelled to remember. We have heard a good deal to-night about the problems of Ireland and matters of education, hous- ing and other questions which are generally dealt with by the local authorities on the spot. Are we to understand that Ministers of the Crown have to get up in this House after hundreds of years of British government in Ireland and say that they have made such a horrible mess of the whole business that Ireland is an eye-sore even now to the rest of the British Empire? Sinn Fein! I hate Sinn Fein as much as any one on the Government benches. As a Trade Union official I have had to travel to Ireland in connection with the work of my own union and I have been met not merely with antipathy to Englishmen and England, but antipathy to their own countrymen who have lived here for generations and who have assimilated some of that cosmopolitanism which I hope will not become a too uncommon quality. We are all human beings, whatever our nationality, and in recent years I have found in the composition of Irishmen no more original sin than in people of other nationalities. But simply because of the way in which they have been betrayed, cheated, cribbed, cabined and confined and denied their rights constitutionally they have become absolutely sick unto death of the continued broken pledges and promises of successive British Governments.
I have come from a fairly mixed constituency, which has sent here a fairly mixed Member. We have in that constituency Orangemen and Lemonmen, and it is a most peculiar thing that whilst these men carry from all parts of Ireland a very strong prejudice, religious and otherwise, yet they work together in factory and workshop and they assimilate and come together, they co-operate and fight for one of their own to represent them here and to help to solve the problems which affect their lives, and I say this—that what can be done in England by blending nationalities together can be done in Ireland by a wise policy on the part of those responsible for its government. I suspect there are some people who are not really opposed to vested interests, and want to perpetuate vested prejudices, and so long as they can keep Ireland divided on matters racial and religious everything in the garden will be lovely, and they will continue to rob the people as they have done hitherto. I am not an advocate of the Green Flag waving over green people. I do not recognise an Irishman as better than an Englishman. I recognise that we are all about as good as each other. Bad as they are and good as we are, they are as good as we are and we are as bad as they are. Nationality ought not to be brought into it, but prejudice has been kept alive by people who hope to profit thereby. Why do we hear from the Government nothing but that they propose to use bullets? We have heard to-night about outrages in Ireland, but the whole history of Ireland for 300 years has been a history of outrage.
All the crimes that can be levelled against the majority of the Irish people are always being brought, but there has not been a word said here by the people who ought to know the position of the outrages that have been committed against a people rightly struggling to be free. Why is rebellion in one part of Ireland denounced and proclaimed whilst in another part it is looked upon as if it were a visitation from God, and to be recognised as one of the virtues I You have heard to-night about Sinn Fein and Germany. I have no love for Sinn Feiners. I have fought Sinn Fein and Bolshevism. I am going to continue to fight against Bolshevism. I believe in constitutionalism. My idea of constitutionalism is that the people of a nation constitutionally expressing themselves by means of the vote have the right to govern the nation according to the will of the majority. Whatever hon. Gentlemen on the other side may say, we are still a nation. We who have left Ireland believe, and there is not an Irishman but believes, that Ireland has all the qualities and rights that entitle her to demand treatment as a nation. Therefore I want to say as an Irishman living here, and not prejudiced against any man because of his antagonism or racial point of view, that the Government to-night have confessed to the whole world through their mouthpiece, the Chief Secretary, that however things may change, the more they remain the same.
The same old story will have to be told at the Peace Conference. We can settle the troubles of Esthonia and of Poland and of the Czecho-Slovaks, and for the whole world, but for God's sake do settle the serious problem at our own doors. I want to say as one who did my little bit to help to win victory for democracy, and to try and make Europe safe for democracy, and to win the war for humanity against Kaiserism it is a poor thing here to-night, speaking not merely as an Irishman but a democrat, that the Government of this great Empire have nothing better to offer Ireland than less brains and more bullets. Why is Ireland so disaffected? Perhaps some hon. Gentlemen might think it should be disinfected, and that as a result of misgovernment a certain amount of Sanitas would not be out of place. I want you to realise that so far as we are concerned we have pledged ourselves to the League of Nations, not a league of diplomatists or of people who are to rig the world, but a league of the people to make it possible for humanity to enter into a higher state of civilisation. With due deference to my opponents, if Ireland cannot be shown to be a country worth governing, and a country fit to govern herself, well then I venture to suggest that all your theories of government fall to the ground, and your right to take part in the administration of Europe in the future becomes absolutely untenable. I would ask hon. Members to take into consideration that you are dealing not merely with Irishmen in Ireland. In every great industrial centre in Great Britain some of us are working amongst men of Irish blood, and amongst the descendants of Irishmen, and who are looking forward not to Sinn Feinism or a revolutionary movement which is unconstitutional in its inception and conception. They believe in democracy. They believe that the people of this country are generous in their instincts and desire to do justice to Ireland, and they expect that the Government of this country will recognise the democratic instinct, and instead of threatening us as to what they are going to do if we are not good boys that they will come forward with statesmanlike proposals, and justify their claim to be a Government in reality. You have tried to govern Ireland for over 300 years by the methods adumbrated here this evening. It has proved to be a miserable failure. The best speech delivered to-night against the Government of Great Britain in Ireland has been delivered by the representative of the British Government in Ireland—an absolute confession of miserable failure. Because that confession has been made, we on these benches, as Labour men, declare ourselves the friends of every country struggling rightly to be free, and we are willing to give every possible assistance we can to the constitutional representatives of Ireland to make that country not a sore upon the body politic, but one of the brightest gems in the British Crown, which she could be if we only translated into actual legislation those fine theories we have heard from the Treasury Bench to-night.
The speech of the Chief Secretary, sympathetic though it was on all social sides, has profoundly disappointed us, for what did he offer us? As he told us, the Government have no solution to give for the Irish problem. I will ask the Committee to consider where we stand. There is a Home Rule Act on the Statute Book. Is he going to accept the advice of my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University and repeal that Act or suspend it for five years; if not, what is he going to do? I put this simple question to my right hon. Friend and the Government. Either the Government have got a policy or they have not. If they have not got a policy, it is the bankruptcy of British statesmanship. If they have got a policy, in God's name let them tell us what that policy is. I am not impressed by threats of external influence, and when my right hon. Friend says with a great deal of show of resistance that he will not yield to outside authority and that he will not submit to the dictation of the U.S.A. or any other Power, I entirely agree. It is not President Wilson I am afraid of. The danger lies nearer home; it is our own consciences and our own hearts. How can we go into the League of Nations, how can we honestly, without hypocrisy, accept the principle of self-determination, without at the same time dealing with the Irish question? We seem to have gone a very long way back tonight. We had hoped from what we knew of my right hon. Friend to have something better than he has given us. All that he has said, all the instances that he has given of disorder in Ireland, all the regrettable occurrences which have happened in Ireland, all call for something more than he has given us to-night. I ask the Committee very earnestly, can we leave things where they are? I do not accept, all that the hon. Member for the Falls Division said, but I ask the House to remember that all through the War he has, with one possible exception, which the House may remember, not thrown himself on to the side of the opponents of this country, and when it is said that he has played the game of our enemy, as is often said, I ask the House to remember that he has staked his whole reputation, he and the late leader of that party, on the future of the British Empire, and the fact that that party sits there now few in numbers, is due to the mistakes and, indeed, to the betrayals of others. What are we to do who believe we have fought for the freedom of small nationalities, who believe we have fought to establish Poland, the Czecho-Slovaks, Montenegro, and all these small nations? Are we possibly going to face, not criticism from President Wilson or from our friends in the Uuited States, but criticism from ourselves? I do hope that before the Debate closes we shall get something more than we have got to-night, for unless we do it is an admission either that the Irish problem is quite insoluble or that the present Government are incapable of solving it. I do not in the least say it is easy of solution. I speak to-night with great diffidence; I do not think anyone would want to speak on a subject of this sort, because he must feel a great sense of responsibility. But this is a case in which the House generally, and this Committee in particular, can give a lead to the Government, and show them that they will not stand away paltering with a great cause like this. They must find some better solution than they have up to the present. It is no use telling us that they had put down revolution here and preserved order there and moved 44,000 troops into this and that district. It is not that that we want to know. We want to know that they are thinking and intending to bring before this House some permanent solution of this great problem. I do not ask them to be supermen. We all know how essentially difficult this great problem is, but surely we are entitled to expect something better than we have got to-night, and I believe from what I know and what I have seen of my right hon. Friend in this House, if he would cast aside the shackles which I believe have burdened him to-night, he could do something better. For, after all, he is akin to the Irish race by national and racial sympathies, and I am inclined to believe—at least, I hope it is the case—that he is burdened by instructions which he feels it impossible to disregard. I have said all I have got to say. I merely rose to say that I, as a Unionist, find the present position perfectly intolerable. I feel that we cannot go on as we are, and that the Government must find some solution.
As an Irishman and as one who, I expect, has studied the Irish question at least as long as my hon. Friend who has just spoken, and who, at any rate, has lived in Ireland a good deal longer, I desire to express my most profound dissent from the strictures which he has passed on the policy announced by His Majesty's Government. As an Irishman—and I think I may speak in this matter for the great majority of this Committee—I have listened with extreme satisfaction to the extremely manly and courageous speech of the right hon. Gentleman this evening. We know him, and we learned to trust him and to look on him with confidence when he was at the War Office, and from what he has said to-night, I am confident that we shall learn to look on him and his administration in Ireland with equal confidence. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary showed that he had already mastered many of the Irish problems of reconstruction, and is going to deal with them in a manner which will command not only the assent of Unionists, but, I hope very much, the assent of Members of the Nationalist Party, and indeed of all parties in Ireland. Because, after all, these social reforms should not be party matters, either here or there. There was no part of my right hon. Friend's speech which will be greeted with greater satisfaction in England, and also I trust in Ireland, than the part in which he said that he was going to maintain order and administer the law. The administration of the law is the first duty of the Government in every country. If there is any country where slack administration of law leads to disaster it is in Ireland. I think Members know that as well as I do.
Then on the political question, my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last (Major Hills) expressed dissatisfaction that the Government had not produced a solution. I should like to know his solution. It is no use coming here and shouting Home Rule. We have had enough disasters in Ireland by experiments in constitutional changes. Let us pause well before we make another experiment which will cause uneasiness and distrust and produce mutual friction and hatred between this country and Ireland. Let us produce no more of these experiments. Let us wait until the state of Ireland is such, and the unity of Irishmen is such, that we can produce a measure which will command some substantial support amongst the different parties in Ireland, at the same time safeguarding the interests of Great Britain. I should like to know what my hon. and gallant Friend suggests. Does he suggest that the majority of the representatives who were returned to Ireland at the last election should have their way, and that there should be an Irish Republic? I do not see any assent to that proposition. May I ask him or any other gentleman—are they in favour of Dominion Home Rule; in other words, of an absolutely practically independent Ireland with command of the harbours and ports, and the military and naval positions in Ireland, and which can cut itself adrift from this country at any moment it likes?
I do not see that there is much assent to that proposition! My hon. Friend, if I may call him so, for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) made a speech to which we all listened with interest, if not with admiration. We have listened to that speech a great many times before. How many more times?
I hope the hon. Gentleman will repeat that speech because it does prove to me that he has no solution to put forward. Yet he comes here and says, "Make a great constitutional change." Is he in favour of the scheme suggested, I think, by the hon. Gentleman opposite, namely that we should leave it to the League of Nations or to the Peace Conference? I was delighted to hear from my right hon. Friend that England has not fallen so low that a matter of her internal affairs is going to be brought before the Peace Conference or the League of Nations.
All these solutions which have been brought forward to-night are either dangerous—as many of them are, or useless, or perhaps both—then I say it is no use coming to this House and talking of constitutional change. Let us do what, after all, is the duty of the Government. Let us maintain law and establish better social conditions in Ireland. Then we have had—