I am afraid that I must ask the indulgence of the House because I am suffering from a slight hoarseness. Before I say anything upon the Motion before us, may I take this opportunity—with which I am sure the whole House will be glad to associate themselves—of saying how pleased I am that we have back once more with us the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow [MR. BONAR LAW, for the first time since his illness, taking his seat on, the third bench near the Ministerial Gangway]—who has been too long away from us. Both he and I have interchanged amenities, political and otherwise, for a great number of years, and I am glad to acknowledge, and I am sure the whole House will agree with me, that we never had a man who set a finer example of Parliamentary tact and courage. I confess that I have been entertaining the hope that so far as this House is concerned the ratification of a great act of international reconciliation—[An HON. MEMBER: "International."]—Yes, international, and I use the term advisedly, might have been carried without a dissentient voice. Unhappily it would seem, from what we see on the Order Paper, that we are not to have complete unanimity, but let me add that there is a nearer approach to unanimity over a long and embittered subject of party and political dispute than I have ever witnessed in the more than 30 years which I have sat in the House of Commons. It is not, I need hardly say, my purpose to introduce a jarring note, and although I cannot pass by without reference to one or two observations which were made yesterday, I am not going to be tempted, or, at any rate, I am not going to succumb to the temptation, to indulge either in the spirit or the language of controversy. The question which you, Mr. Speaker, have just put from the Chair is one of the most momentous that has ever been propounded from the place where you sit. The question is this: Are we or are we not prepared to welcome, and in so far as we can to adopt, this new compact between two peoples, giving, as it does, to Ireland complete local autonomy, and at the same time, what is equally important, preserving for Irishmen a full share of free citizenship throughout the British Empire.
Is the House going to take the responsibility of rejecting such a proposal? Sir, that is the essence, in my opinion, of what is called Dominion self-government. I have been preaching Dominion self-government for the last two years, and I cannot admit that, so far as I am concerned, I have been content with vague formulae and general prescriptions. I agree, and I agree whole-heartedly, with those who say that Dominion status is a term which it is difficult—in fact, I will go further and say I think that it would be dangerous to regard it as one that can be defined with mathematical or scientific precision. In an Empire so varied as ours, with its vast, I might almost say incongruous, assemblage of the most diverse conditions, racial, geographical, and economic, it is of the essence of the case, and, indeed, I think it has been the real cause of our unique success in reconciling local autonomy with Imperial unity, that Dominion status has never come out of a cast-iron mould, but has been applied time after time in quarter after quarter with flexibility and elasticity. If that has been the case, as it has undoubtedly been in the rest of our Empire, then most of all ought we to bear it in mind when we are dealing with Ireland. It is because this Treaty—Treaty is the right word to apply to it—this instrument of Agreement, this Treaty between two peoples, as far as I can judge, gives the full substance of self-government without ignoring special local conditions, that I heartily commend it to the acceptance of the House.
The only point of detail upon which I will enlarge for a moment is the provision made in the Articles of the Treaty which deal with naval and military affairs. The Prime Minister appeared to be under the impression that I had, if not advocated, at any rate contemplated, as an incident of Dominion status in Ireland, the creation by the new Irish State of a navy and an army of its own—which might be, and probably would be, a potential menace to the security of Great Britain and of the Empire. I understand the cheers of hon. Members. They come from people who think that under the Treaty and Agreement now laid on the Table of the House such results may and are likely to follow. My right hon. Friend challenged me in a friendly spirit—I suppose he has his books here—
So have I. But just for a moment let me deal with this. My right hon. Friend quoted a letter which I had written to what he described as "my organ." I do not know what the "Times" will think of being described as "my organ." I know what I think when I hear it so described. What were the relations of the Prime Minister to the "Times" at the time I wrote this letter? They vary so much. I am not sure it did not appear during one, of those lovers' quarrels in which the estranged couple say hard words of one another. I wrote—it was on the 5th October, 1920:
In regard to naval and military forces I do not share the apprehensions of those who think it necessary to impose on the Irish
Dominion limitations and fetters which are not to be found elsewhere in our self-governing Dominions.
Why did I say that? I think the next sentence will explain. It was—
No Irish Government would be so insane.
And in attributing that condition of mental imbecility, I anticipated the Prime Minister—
No Irish Government would be so insane as to mortgage its scanty margin of resources for such a fruitless and costly enterprise as the creation of an Irish Navy.
Have they demanded it? Have they asked for it?
Then it is an absurd demand, as they must have had the common sense to see, as it is not in the Treaty. I continued:
Nor is it readily conceivable that it (the Irish Government) would seek to deny what it could never effectively prevent, the free access to Irish ports and harbours of vessels of the Imperial Navy.
But that is in the Agreement now before the House. And on the military side I added that
No grant of autonomy could be regarded as complete which did not include the right to raise and maintain for the purposes of local defence of an adequate military force.
That, too, is in the Agreement. That does not conclude the matter. A few days later at a meeting at Ayr I used this language:
I tell you quite frankly that I do not believe that a Dominion of Ireland created upon the lines that I indicate would exercise or claim the right to create a Navy. She could get all her naval work done for her much cheaper by the Imperial Government. I do not believe they would ask the right to create a Navy in any of its various forms. They would be great fools if they did.
I then went on to point out that as regards our Dominions which have sought power to bring into existence navies of their own they had done so under conditions in which the ultimate control in all serious matters was left to the Imperial authority. And I added this:
People say, and say with truth, that Ireland is close to our shores. They have all sorts of little ports and inlets and creeks into which not Dreadnought or battle-cruiser or battleship, but submarines could be secreted and used.
What was my reply to that? I said it was
a cardinal principle, quite apart from this special agreement of our naval relations with the self-governing Dominions of the Crown, that the Imperial Navy … is to have free access and unrestricted use of all their ports for all naval purposes.
And I added that
I would never agree to give Dominion self-government to Ireland on any other terms. In other words, apart from the special agreement, the British Navy, with all its overwhelming resources in material, personnel, equipment and experience, would always at any moment be able to use Irish ports for the purposes of Imperial defence.
That is the Agreement which is now before the House.
I only want to say to my right hon. Friend that the only thing I said was that my right hon. Friend proposed Ireland should have the same free and unfettered right to raise an army and navy as the Dominions had. The quotation he reads now is from a speech he delivered after I had said that, and it shows I was absolutely correct when I said he did propose there should be no limitations and fetters which are not to be found elsewhere in our self-governing Dominions.
What is there between us? It is complained that the agreement which you have made is one that gives to Ireland power to raise an army, to whatever limited extent, and gives her a power of menace against the United Kingdom and the Empire which ought never to be entrusted to her. But if you are going to give anything in the nature of Dominion self-government to Ireland, or to any other part of the Empire, it must be upon the footing that you believe that the larger and wider freedom you concede to them they can be trusted to use for common purposes. If you are going to give them all these great and wide powers, it must be because you think they will use them, not only in their own interests, but in the interests of the greater and wider partnership to which you are admitting them, and of which they have become spontaneous and for the first time voluntary members. Therefore, to base your objection, whether it be to the Army or Navy or any other form of reservation or concession, upon the theory that here, in the very heart of the Empire, you are arming potential enemies with weapons of aggression and offence, is to deny the very foundation of your scheme and to say that Ireland is not to be trusted and ought not to be trusted. The Agreement, as I say, in these respects carries out all that I contemplated, and all that those who believe in Dominion Home Rule contemplated.
That is, after all, a matter of detail, though a very important one. I must come now to another point. There was no part, I think, of the Prime Minister's speech yesterday which carried less conviction to the House and to those outside the House than that in which he sought to demonstrate, not only that the Government had done right—as they have—but that they had waited until the right moment to do so. The Prime Minister went back in a reflective and, perhaps, a humorous mood to his and my experience of a great profession—perhaps the greatest of all professions. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] He said that if you want to come to a settlement between parties to a dispute, you must choose the right moment. He appeared to think that the right moment—and if he does think so I agree with him—was to try and agree before the case came into Court; and, from the point of view of my branch of that great profession, what is a much more serious thing, before the briefs were delivered. The worst moment for settlement is after you have opened the case. when witnesses have been in the box, examined and cross-examined, with conflicts of testimony, and all the rest of it, when bad blood has been engendered and passions have been aroused, and when any possibility of a pacific settlement has been almost excluded. That is what the Government have done in this case.
In the early days of the Christian Church—I am going now to a different sphere—some of the most eminent of the Fathers imagined that they had discovered, in the hints and doctrines, and even dogmas, of the Pagan philosophers, what they called a preparation for the advent of the Gospel. It was called the evangelical preparation. What was the evangelical preparation for the settlement which has now been arrived at? It had one apostle, I might say protagonist—the Chief Secretary, who used to tell us—how well we remember it; I wish we could forget—from that Box, day after day, week after week, that the struggle was between those who were in favour of and those who were against assassination—he said, "I am against assassination," the inference being that we on this side were with the assassins. What happened? The most ill-starred, unhappy chapter of incidents in the whole history of our relations between this country and Ireland.
When I delivered at Ayr, in October of last year, the speech from which I have already read a quotation, I said, quite apart from these more or less subsidiary questions of detail—we were then on the threshold, or at least in the very early stages, of that terrible desolating civil war which went on for months—I said: "Now is the time to bring the leaders of the Irish people, the Sinn Fein leaders, into conference with you." I said: "You will have to do it sooner or later, and you had better do it sooner than later." They would not respond to that appeal; they would not accept that invitation. For months and months this terrible series of tragedies unfolded itself, with incidents which we should all be glad now to blot out of our own memories, and which we should be still more glad to blot out of the annals of history. Glad as I am, un-feignedly glad, that what might have happened then has happened now, when we are told that that would not have been an opportune moment, that all this terrible interlude had to take place before people could be brought into a frame of mind in which they could agree with one another, I should appeal with the greatest confidence to the verdict of history. As I said, I do not want to enlarge the area of possible controversy. Anything I have said in that sense has been in response, and not by way of challenge. But I wish, before I sit down, to give, if I may, a serious and, indeed, a solemn warning to the House. It will be a very great mistake, in my opinion almost a fatal mistake, when this Agreement has been ratified, as I not only hope but confidently believe it will be by both Houses of Parliament here in the course of these few days, to suppose that you have come to an end of your difficulties. The time for the waving of hats and ringing bells has not arrived, and when I heard, with much admiration, the rhetoric, which I think, perhaps, might be more economically and better employed, when I heard the kaleidoscopic series of perorations with which the Prime Minister finished his speech, all instinct with
sanguine hope, I could not help remembering past incidents in the history of this great controversy. I recalled to my mind the language used by Mr. Pitt when he was commending to this House perhaps the most ill-starred attempt to bring together the two peoples of these two islands which has ever been made, the so-called Act of Union. Pitt, in a moment of exaltation and inspiration, quoted a famous couplet from Virgil, then a very familiar writer:
Paribus se legibus ambœ
Invictœ gentes œterna in fœdera mittant"
["Under equal laws may the two nations, both unconquered, be partners to an eternal treaty."] Where are those ærterna fædera now? Do not let any of you forget that we are celebrating to-day in this House the obsequies of the Act of Union. We can fancy the ironic smile of the malignant genius who has hovered over the whole path of Irish history when she heard that prayer. Do not be too sure that the spell is yet broken. I am speaking not in a spirit of pessimism or of mistrust. On the contrary, I speak with a firm belief that the Government have taken the right course, the courageous course, the only course that offers any hope of a real future between these two nations. Whatever the future may have in store, he would be a bold, and as I think, an audacious man who would venture to be a seer. At any rate, we shall have this satisfaction, that if this great international pact is ratified now by both these Houses of the Imperial Parliament, we can start on our future relations—troubled, stained, in many ways discreditable and even disastrous as they have been in the past—with clean hands and a clear conscience.
I beg to move to leave out the words
we are ready to confirm and ratify these Articles in order that the same may be established for ever by the mutual consent of the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland, and we offer to Your Majesty our humble congratulations on the near accomplishment of that work of reconciliation to which Your Majesty has so largely contributed.
and to insert instead thereof the words
this House regrets that the proposed settlement of the government of Ireland indicated in the Gracious Speech from the Throne involves the surrender of the rights of the Crown in Ireland, gives power to
establish an independent Irish Army and Navy, violates pledges given to Ulster, and fails to safeguard the rights of the loyalist population in Southern Ireland.
We have gathered that even the right hon. Gentleman, who for a long period was responsible for the Government of this country, commending what he believes to be the right course to this House, feels considerable doubt and trepidation as to whether this course will produce the results which the Government have so loudly and jubilantly proclaimed—that we have now reached the end of the long-drawn controversy in this agreement. I am speaking under physical difficulties, and I trust the House will excuse me if they cannot hear me as well as I could desire. The situation has changed greatly since we last discussed this question on 31st October. Then we were kept largely in the dark. We only had scraps of information. Nothing had been decided. Negotiations were then proceeding. We now have before us the Articles of Agreement, and the House is asked to ratify them. This is the last occasion therefore on which those who believe that this agreement is fraught with danger to this country, will not bring peace to Ireland and will not settle the Irish controversy, can state our objections on the question of principle, and if, as may probably occur, Parliament should agree to ratify this agreement, we shall then have to accept the situation, and our efforts may then properly be directed to loyally accepting the decision of Parliament and to endeavour to assist in working out those details which will remain to carry the decision of Parliament to a successful conclusion.
We have to complain that Parliament and the Nation have not been fully informed in regard to these matters. We are being jockeyed into an agreement without adequate time for consideration. Parliament is being rushed. Every kind of pressure is being placed upon us by means of the Press, and by facts of which we are kept in ignorance, and even the King's name is being used in an endeavour to influence our decision. Against that I desire—and my feelings are shared by a vast number of hon. Members—to enter a most emphatic protest. Constitutionally, the Crown only acts upon the advice of Ministers, and the telegram that was sent on the notification that the terms of Agreement had been signed was, of course, a constitutional act of the Crown for which the Ministers of the Crown make themselves responsible. If they deny that responsibility, now is the time to deny it before Parliament. It was as much an act taken on the responsibility of Ministers as the Gracious Speech delivered from the Throne yesterday. The Ministry is as much responsible for it as for the Gracious Speech. It is grossly unfair to Parliament and the Nation to endeavour to drag the name of His Majesty into this controversy, and to expose his person to political criticism. Having made my protest I pass to another matter.
The Amendment states that we consider that the rights of the Crown have been surrendered in Ireland. What be comes of the Kingdom of Ireland if this Agreement be ratified? It comes to an end. If Southern Ireland is to set up a Free State, it is no longer the Kingdom of Ireland. That is quite clear. The rights of the Crown are limited to the rights which are set down in this Agreement. The chief of those rights is the appointment of a Governor-General, as in the Dominions. The other rights, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, are ill-defined. It would be dangerous to define them. Yet we are told that the rights of the Crown are being preserved. They are vague, and they are lost under this Agreement. It will no longer be competent for us to speak of His Majesty as the King of Great Britain and Ireland. The coinage will be altered. The Royal Arms will be altered. The peerage of Ireland will disappear. The right of conferring honours will be limited to that extent. In regard to foreign treaties, the rights of the Crown will again be limited. What do we get in exchange? We are told that the oath of allegiance is preserved. I have here a copy of the terms of the oath that is to be sworn by members of the new Free State Parliament. There is no other oath like it in any part of the British Empire. It is a very curious arrangement of words:
I … do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established.
What does that mean? In the first place, undoubtedly, the Free State will be established by some instrument which has been passed by the Imperial Parliament, but once the Dominions State has been set up, according to the terms of the Agreement, it will have unfettered power over
its own legislation, administration, and the whole affairs of Southern Ireland, and there will be nothing to prevent the Irish Free State altering their constitution and declaring an Irish Republic, which will immediately bring this oath into conformity with the oath which the Sinn Fein representatives who are parties to this Agreement have already taken to an Irish Republic. The oath goes on to say:
and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George V., his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.
What does it mean? There is here no oath of allegiance to the King. There is no oath of allegiance to the Throne. The allegiance to the Throne is the bond that binds the British Empire together. This new Irish Free State is to be admitted as the one exception to that universal bond. What is the British Commonwealth of Nations? It does not exist. The Dominions beyond the seas have refused to submit to any constitutional change setting up a British Commonwealth of Nations. It has often been proposed to federate the British Empire, and to set up a Constitution in some form of Commonwealth, but it has always been refused. The Government have not been able to persuade the representatives of this new Irish Free State to swear allegiance to the Throne. They prefer allegiance to something else—allegiance to the Irish Free State, which is to be set up by an Act of this Imperial Parliament, and they swear fidelity to the King, as the President or the chief citizen of something which does not exist. Surely this is the most ridiculous and the least binding oath or form of oath that one could possibly conceive.
What does Dominion status mean? Dominion status includes the power to secede. That point was made very clear by my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law), whose return to share in the proceedings of this House we all welcome. I think it was on the 30th March, 1920, that he devoted a considerable part of his speech in this House on the Home Rule Bill to showing that Dominion status led to, and must inevitably lead to the right to secede. I will pass from that matter to deal very shortly with the remaining points in the Amendment. The Irish Free State is to be empowered to raise an Army and a Navy. I will only ask: What is the Army for? Why is the Army required? Cannot defence be undertaken by His Majesty's forces as hitherto? I share the apprehensions felt by my hon. Friends who represent the Northern part of Ireland, that that Army, under certain circumstances, may, and probably will, be applied to bring pressure, either open and avowed by action or covertly, on the Northern part in any controversy which may arise between the North and South. The Government claim that they have safeguarded the British Navy; but an Article is inserted in the Agreement that after five years there is to be a conference with a view to the undertaking by Ireland of a share in her own coastal defence. I do not know what "coastal defence" means. The Article itself does not show. Apparently, it means defence at home, not merely the coast and coast areas, but also vessels afloat. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) stated that the cost would be so great that they would not in any circumstances endeavour to build a Navy. Very likely not, but submarines are much cheaper, they may be bought, and there is no part of the world where submarines may be more readily harboured, more easily hidden, and operated with more effect than off the coast of Ireland. The Prime Minister himself, in 1920, referred to the awful depredations by submarines on the coast of Ireland in the War. Yet Southern Ireland is to be empowered to take a share in coastal defence and to raise ships of war, which may well be submarines. There is no limitation of any kind in that matter. Although you do not set it out in terms, you imply that you are going to make an agreement.
Let us look at what Agreements have been made already. In times of peace the British Navy will be entitled by this Agreement to use only four ports in Ireland, and in one case there is to be an aerial station on the coast. What does that mean? By this Agreement, the British Navy will be in foreign ports in the Southern Irish Free State except in those four ports. It is true that the Agreement goes on to state that the British Navy shall have use of ports in Ireland in a state of war as they may require, but all that has to be laid down by agreement and worked out. It is not in the document; it is subject to limitation, to agreement, and to consent. After all, what is the value of a naval port if you do not hold the land behind? I venture to state that in their provision for the naval defence of the Southern Irish Free State the Government have not provided for the supremacy of the British Navy, and these matters are endangering the operations of the British Navy in any future war.
I return for a moment to the question of Ulster. There are many right hon. and hon. Friends of mine in this House representing Ulster who can speak with much greater effect than I or any other English Member; but perhaps the House will forgive an English Member if one or two remarks are made on the question of Ulster as it appears to us. The whole situation in Ulster has been altered by this agreement. The Act of 1920 proposed to set up two Home Rule Parliaments, one in the North and one in the South, with an equal status, and reserved powers in large vital matters to the British Imperial Parliament. That condition is not being continued by this agreement, because the Southern Free State of Ireland is to take over these reserved powers and become a Southern Independent State with some small and somewhat vague limitations. Face to face with this much more powerful autonomous State, Ulster will be in an inferior position. Under the Act of 1920 there was the Imperial Parliament to see fair play and to control forms of taxation which might be imposed. That is all swept away, and I and many others hold the same opinion that in these conditions the independence of the Northern part of Ireland, should Ulster by her experience desire to continue that independence, is inevitably doomed, and she must collapse under the economic pressure which will be applied to bring her into union with the rest of Ireland. It may be a good thing, but it is betraying the trust and pledges which have been given to Ulster. Ulster was to be free from pressure, moral or actual. This is a form of pressure to which she must be inevitably subjected, and it will radically alter the whole situation set up by the Statute of 1920.
Pledges are again broken in the matter of the Boundary Commission. This is a matter which Ulster feels deeply, and in which she may claim that she has been betrayed. We were told that her status was not to be altered except by her consent. Under these Articles of Agreement there is to be a roving Boundary Commission to deal with any part of the boundary between North and South without limitation except in regard to two matters, whatever may be meant by the words "compatible with economic and geographical conditions." There may be a majority here and there who desire to go over to the South, but Ulster is pledged to those who think with them, and who have acted with them hitherto, and they cannot, without a breach of the pledges which have been given, hand over their fellow-countrymen and their co-religionists to this Southern Parliament. I at any rate consider, and I submit it to the House for their consideration, that in dealing with a minority so loyal, so trustful, and so useful to this great country the least we can do is scrupulously to observe in the spirit and to the smallest detail of the letter any pledges or undertakings which we have given to them.
There is one matter which we have not been asked to consider, and on which no information has been given to us. What is going to be the general financial effect upon Great Britain and Ireland of these new proposals? It is impossible for us to deal with that part of the question. There has not been time to examine and collate such facts as may be available, and we are given no information by the Government. I doubt if the Government themselves know. Can they tell us what it is going to cost the British taxpayer, or indeed if the British taxpayer is going to be relieved of taxation? There is no information given, and in these days, when taxation is like an overmastering weight upon all of us, and when we are thinking from day to day how we are to carry on and meet the demands of the taxpayer and the ratepayer, this matter is one which cannot be ignored either from our national or the Irish point of view. To whom are we going to hand over these vast powers of independence, and to whom are we trusting in these matters? Men who hitherto have been open and avowed rebels? They have been rebelling against the British Crown; they have avowed their allegiance to an Irish Republic and their determination never to rest satisfied until an Irish Republic, independent of Great Britain and independent of the British Crown, has been finally and definitely established. This declaration has never been withdrawn, and I rather gather that there was something in the correspondence which was handed over by the delegates the other day for the inspection of the Prime Minister dealing with that matter. The delegates who came over to discuss these articles were the delegates of the Irish Republic. I gather from the statement made by Mr. De Valera at the meeting in Dublin yesterday, that the document stated so. These men have been responsible for an atrocious series of assassinations. They have not made open war; they have established a system of terrorism by the assassination of those who opposed them, men, women or children, armed or unarmed.
To these men, without any assurance that they will become loyal citizens of the Crown, all these vast powers are being entrusted. We do not know that the Parliament of Southern Ireland is going to accept this Treaty. It is impossible for anybody in this House to say what will be the issue of the struggle which is now taking place in Dublin. We are asked to ratify this Agreement before we know whether it will be accepted. We know that it will not be accepted by a very considerable minority of the most active, the best organised and most determined of those in the Sinn Fein movement. If these terms are accepted, does anyone imagine that those people will abandon their efforts? They will continue to exercise pressure in every way until their aims are achieved and they will produce turmoil in Ireland. There will not be peace. It is certain that under this Agreement you will get a new struggle opened in Ireland with the British troops withdrawn and the new provisional Government set up.
Take Clause 17 for a moment. All the proposals of Clause 17 are as illegal as anything in the present position of Ireland. The Act of 1920 provided that a Parliament should be summoned for Southern Ireland as for Northern Ireland, and that when the oath of allegiance was taken the powers conferred by the Act should be handed over to the Parliament and an administration should be established. But if the oath of allegiance was not taken, the Southern Parliament was not properly constituted, and the Act provided that in that case a Provisional Government should be set up under the Crown by the Lord Lieutenant to carry out that Statute until such time as the Lord Lieutenant was enabled to certify that elections in Ireland had been properly held, and a Parliament properly constituted, and that the powers might be safely handed over to them. Why has that Statute not been put into operation? Instead of putting into operation that Statute which they passed themselves through this House, the Government have allowed all the real powers of administration in Southern Ireland to drift into the hands of those who are actively engaged in rebellion against this country, and to-day everyone knows that there are two systems of administration in Ireland, the rebel Irish Republic, and the remnants of that nervous, weak and broken administration for which the Government is now responsible.
The Government can carry out the Statute of 1920, but apparently that is not intended, because the present Agreement binds them to hand over powers for the administration of law. This should be done by statute in virtue of that obedience to the law which is due from Ministers as well as from all other subjects of the Crown. But this is a matter of little concern to His Majesty's present advisers, who care little for Statutes or whether the law is carried out, provided that they get their way. Methods such as these are revolutionary. They destroy respect for all law and order; they sap the foundations of the constitution. Ministers should he the first to uphold those statutes by which they are bound. Ministers have been responsible for the government of Ireland for several years, and this is the condition which results. From bombastic and blatant declarations the Government merge into negotiations Those Irishmen in Ireland who have been able to observe events closely tell rue that all those who have been watching what was happening in Ireland observed a great change taking place in March of this year, and that all the time they were convinced that negotiations with the leaders of the Irish republican movement had commenced, and yet we had the Irish Secretary and other Ministers coming down to this House declaring that they were suppressing rebellion, and that the Government had the murderers on the run, and leading us to believe that they were going to establish law and order in Ireland, before they called the more moderate and more stable elements of the Irish people into consultation as to how best the Irish difficulty should be solved.
That would have been the proper course, and the course consonant with the stability of the Empire. But before this state of things had been established, though we were drawing near it, they suddenly announced that they were in active negotiation to bring about a conference with these very men whom, up to the last moment, Ministers were denouncing so strongly in this House and in the country. It is indefensible. All this surrender has been produced by methods of violence, murder and tyranny. The Government have declared since that they are not prepared to be responsible for the expenditure in life or money which would be necessary to put down rebellion, and they have issued in the Press, or at any rate allowed to go uncontradicted in the Press, most exaggerated statements as to what the cost would be. I observe that no Minister has committed himself to a detailed statement except the Postmaster-General, who apparently is the on]y Minister who dared to make these exaggerated statements with his own mouth. At any rate, they are not prepared to go on. They have submitted to terrorism. Perhaps Ministers themselves have not been free from some fear as to what might happen in this country to themselves.
I do not want to detain the House by a long list of crimes and assassinations. I will only mention two taken from many others, two harrowing instances. One is the case of Mrs. Peacock, whose son was foully murdered in Ireland when he came home to help his mother after his father's death. His sole crime was refusing to subscribe to the funds of the Sinn Feiners. The house was afterwards burned, and the horses, cattle, and farm stock were stolen off the farm, and, with the implements and carriages, were sold by public auction without any protection by His Majesty's Government. Then there was the case of Mrs. Lindsay. She gave information of an ambush which was intended for the destruction of Crown forces. The information was successful. The attempt failed, and recoiled on those who were endeavouring to bring about the destruction of troops. Mrs. Lindsay was seized and carried off, and for a long time was held as captive, and nothing effective was done to obtain her release. In the end she was killed and her body was mutilated.
We do not hear of these things through the Press. This lady was trying to serve the State, trying to do service to the King's servants in carrying out the orders of the Government in Ireland, and she lost her life. The Press rang with indignation when a lady during the War was shot by the Germans in Belgium for sheltering prisoners of war who were trying to escape to this country, but there was no word of indignation, except from one or two independent papers, for the foul murder of this true-hearted lady who showed her loyalty to this country. Ireland is full of loyalty, of loyal men and women who have lost much and suffered much in endeavouring to uphold by loyal action the principles in which they believe. They are left unprotected, undefended, unprovided for by this Agreement. There is no word of them, nor have we heard a single word of commiseration, sympathy, pity or hope from any one Minister during all these Debates that have taken place, and in the course of the declarations of joy throughout the country. Is that the way in which loyalty to the Crown and this country is to be maintained? It is shameful. It makes one's blood boil with indignation to think of the treatment of loyal people, misguided as they may have been in supporting a policy of the Government, which the Government did not mean, and with which they were only playing, because they believed that His Majesty's Ministers were doing their best to protect them and uphold the Crown and the British nation in Ireland.
We know from history that when the Danes began to ravage the Saxon shores, the feeble Saxon kings tried to buy them off by this, that, and the other concession. They did not succeed. The Danes came looking for more, and the institution of Danegeld led to the clown-fall and destruction of the Saxon king- dom. We are repeating that process. We are inviting everybody throughout the world to come to the British Government with sufficient violence and persistence in outrage, to insist on getting what they want, and we shall be told of another great act of statesmanship, another great, glorious and generous concession. This policy is destructive, ruinous, and fatal. Believing strongly and sincerely, as we do, that this policy will not settle the Irish question, that it is a danger to the whole future and safety of this country and of the Empire, and cruel to the Irish people, we should be false to ourselves, to our trust, and to our manhood, if we did not protest on the last occasion that is available to us, and go into the Lobby to register our protest.
I beg to second the Amendment.
It is only a few weeks since my hon. and gallant Friend and I moved a Motion in somewhat similar terms to that now before us. In these times, when change is so fashionable, when the Government alters its programme and its policy with almost the same certainty and regularity with which the management of a cinema alters its pictures, I hope it is not asking too much of the House to listen to the same people propounding the same policy for a second time. There is another charge which no doubt will be levelled against us. It may be said, and said with some justice, that as we failed on the last occasion to convince either the House or the Press to any extent—not the people, because they have not been consulted—it would be more becoming in us now to hold our peace and to let this proposal go through unchallenged. It is not a matter of obstinacy on the part of my hon. Friends and myself; it is a matter of conviction. As this is apparently the last time when we can register an effective vote against these proposals—I gathered from the Prime Minister's speech yesterday, and from his answer to a private notice question this afternoon, that the Sinn Feiners are to draw up this Bill, which is to be presented to us, and that we have to take it or leave it, and that if we do not take it we shall be told that we are guilty of a breach of faith—it is necessary and essential for those of us who really believe that this step is against all the principles which we hold dear, to register our protest once more, even if there be only a few of us to go into the Lobby.
May I say at once that this group which my hon. Friends and I represent want peace as earnestly as anyone. If time shows that we are wrong, that peace is maintained, that justice is done to the loyalists, and that strife which has lasted a century has been ended, no one will be more delighted than my hon. Friends and I. But we are not so optimistic. We believe that the Government has started on the wrong road—I should perhaps say the wrong avenue. If you get on to the wrong road there is no use in rushing headlong forward. Pace will not help you to reach the goal of peace. You must turn back and get on to the right road. If the Government will do that, and will restore law and order, my hon. Friends and I will welcome any scheme calculated to produce reconciliation between Ireland and this country.
I think that the way this Treaty has been put before the country, the jubilation with which it has been heralded, has really been overdone. The Government seem to have adopted as their motto:
Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Cry, and you cry alone.
The unfortunate loyalists are left to cry alone while the Government laugh. Was there ever anything more indecent than the photograph of Members of the Government smiling and laughing at these terms, which involve the surrender of part of the British Empire? If the Members of the Cabinet had been a troupe of musical artistes, if they had been the Midnight Follies starting on a tour, I should not have minded if they had been photographed, and had had the photograph sent round officially to all the Press; but for the Prime Minister of England and his Cabinet, deciding a momentous question which at any rate must be in the balance and must mean great risks, it really was not becoming to have this photograph sent round.
What were they laughing at? Perhaps the Secretary for the Colonies, who, I understand, will reply on this Debate, will tell us what the joke was. Were they laughing because they were starting at our door a Free State? Was it jubilation for the way in which the Chief Secretary has carried out law and order in Ireland? Were they laughing at the thought of the widows and orphans?
Were the Members of the Cabinet laughing because they had surrendered to intimidation and murder? It has been contended on behalf of the Government that this is not a surrender. I think my hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Address said that no one could contend that it was a surrender. I believe the Prime Minister said that the Sinn Feiners do not look upon it as a surrender. I have before me an extract from a paper, "New Ireland," which, I understand, is a Sinn Fein publication. Under date 10th December of this year, that paper said:
We predict that Imperialism has become a losing game. Ireland has taken the strongest Empire by the throat and has brought it to its knees. Ireland has proved that the soul of man has grown greater than Empire. And that fact will have a more enduring repercussion on mankind than had either the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. Henceforward, no small nation will despair, no small people will accept slavery. We have shown the way and others will follow. Some of them are following. India and Egypt are following, and there will be a general awakening.
There are many other specimens from so-called responsible Sinn Feiners which I might read to the House. I do not think it can be seriously contended that Sinn Fein does not claim that it has brought us to our knees, and it seems, alas, that there is some justification for
the suggestion. I take exception also to the new methods of statesmanship adopted by the Government, this policy of haste. At one time it was procrastination. When the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was Prime Minister it was always "Wait and see." Now you are not allowed to wait or to see. You have to pass proposals without being allowed the time to read them. What an amazing sitting it must have been the other night when the final terms were agreed to! We were told that at 11 o'clock or midnight the negotiations were practically "off," but that by 3 a.m. the matter had been settled. Matters affecting this Empire, which under ordinary circumstances would have been submitted to a General Election, were decided by, I think, four Cabinet Ministers and four representatives of the murder gang.
On a point of Order. I hope I shall be allowed, before I am thrown out, to ask this question: Is it in order for an hon. Member to describe men, who have met representatives of another country as plenipotentiaries and who have been in consultation by invitation with the Government of this country, as a murder gang?
When I was interrupted I was dealing with the question of hasty action on the part of the Government. I was pointing out how I thought it rather indelicate to decide this important question in such an extreme hurry, and to ask other people to decide as well, because as soon apparently as the final terms were signed at 3 o'clock in the morning an emissary was sent off to Ulster by special train and special destroyer in order to get the very next day an answer from the Ulster Cabinet. That I do not think was a very fair proceeding. The Sinn Feiners were given as much time as they liked—months and months—but the Ulster Cabinet was asked for an answer on the next day. Furthermore, I ask was the way in which the news was given to this country very desirable? The Lord Chancellor galloped off to Birmingham with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House as outrider waiving the white flag violently. He could not even wait until dinner time or evening to deliver himself of his speech. He had to do it at lunch. There he described the hectic time he had had the night before. It appeared to have been a cross between a wake and a nightmare. I am reminded of the saying of the Psalmist:
Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
I am bound to say that some years ago, when I had the honour of the acquaintance of the Lord Chancellor, before he occupied his present exalted position it was generally the other way: "Joy may endure for a night though heaviness cometh in the morning." [Hon. MEMBERS: "Order!"]
I said I was. During his speech the Lord Chancellor made reference to the group of which I am a member, and he described us as imbeciles. May I say this, and perhaps the Colonial Secretary will convey it to the Noble Lord, that if we are imbeciles to-day he must have been an imbecile last June, because we are upholding the same policy which he said was indispensable a few months ago. It is a pity he did not attempt to tell his audience at Birmingham what brought about his sanity. Referring to his speech of 21st June in the House of Lords I find he told some of the Bishops who were suggesting that a conference should take place between Sinn Fein and the Government:
You cannot cast out a devil by calling in devils. You will not cure mischief which exists by the sublime admonitions of the Sermon on the Mount. The only way you can cure this is by force.
Does he recall that? Does he say that he was wrong then and that the prelates were right? May I suggest that he might, on the principle of "casting out the mote" suggest to the Archbishop of Canterbury that he ought to get into conference with the Pope with a view to wiping out those differences which have existed so long between the two churches, and when they have come to an agreement they might inform the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church what he has got to do in the matter in the same way as Ulster is told now that she has got to do what the Government and Sinn Fein have come to terms upon. The Lord Chancellor with his usual modesty proceeded to smite himself on the chest and to thank God that he was not as Cromwell or Pitt or Disraeli and that he, with the Prime Minister, has been able to settle this great question when all others failed. May I tell him that neither Cromwell nor Pitt nor Disraeli would have surrendered to force. It does not require any great genius to do so, and
there is no question about the fact that this Treaty is really a surrender to force. It is accepted by the Sinn Feiners only as an instalment of their claim for a Republic. It is a "milestone" as it has been expressed by one of their own representatives. The Prime Minister himself cannot refute that, because he said in this House:
If you give self-determination you must go the whole length of planting an Irish Republic in Ireland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1920; col. 1323, Vol. 127.]
Did he mean that? If he did not, why did he say it? If it be not true he should not have said it, but I suggest it is true. The same sentiments were expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the late Leader of the House. He said, time after time, that Dominion Home Rule meant a Republic. Do they say now that it does not? Will the Colonial Secretary tell us definitely whether Dominion Home Rule means a Republic or whether it does not. If it does not, why did they say last year that it did? Really, if one reads through the correspondence which took place between the Prime Minister and De Valera during September it will he found to be one of the most humiliating documents for which any British Government has ever been responsible. I am not going to weary the House with quotations, but I take one extract. The Prime Minister wrote on 19th September of this year:
My colleagues and I cannot meet you as representatives of a sovereign independent State without disloyalty on our part to the Throne and the Empire.
But they did meet them. They have met them. In the Prime Minister's own words, they have been disloyal to the Throne and the Empire. If the Prime Minister did not mean that, why did he say that. He is not playing a game of poker. He is the Prime Minister of England, and this was a document carefully thought out, drafted and re-drafted, and sent by him as Prime Minister of this country to someone who obviously had been a great thorn in his flesh. Why, then, did he say that, and, having said that, why did he meet them?
Now let us take the question of the army. We are told now that Sinn Fein is to be allowed to set up an army. With my hon. and gallant Friend the Mover of this Amendment, I ask, Why and for what purpose? The Prime Minister said last year:
We cannot consent to anything which would enable Ireland to organise an army and navy of its own.
He said further at Carnarvon:
If Ireland were given an army it would mean conscription, and we could not have in Ireland an army under the command of Arthur Griffiths and Michael Collins who have vowed destruction to this country.
As regards the question of the navy, he said over and over again that it would be impossible to allow any state of affairs which did not keep for us the ports in Ireland. He said during the war these were the most dangerous spots of the British Empire, and that he spoke with some knowledge. Are these to be handed over? Apparently they are, if this document—this Treaty—means anything. It says that at the expiration of five years a Commission or Convention is to be set up which is to give Ireland the chance of starting a navy of her own. I would like to ask the attention of the Secretary of State for War to this question. He went up to Liverpool and made a very important speech, which I am bound to say, although I did not agree with it, carried great weight. He said there:
I will not agree to any settlement which will not leave the British Navy the sole guardian of these shores.
The Secretary for War may say that under this Agreement, for the moment—for the next five years—it does remain so, but I think it would have been more like him, it would have been more desirable, if he either had not said that at all or had said "for the time being;" In five years' time we are to make an agreement allowing Ireland her own Navy. I do not think it is an unfair
question to put to the right hon. Gentleman when I ask him: If he had got up at that Conference and said that in five years' time Ireland should have a Navy, that at once she was to have an Army, and that immediately the Sinn Feiners were to be given a Provisional Government and allowed to set up tariffs, and that we were going to violate our pledges to Ulster, does he think he would have carried his resolution? I daresay the Secretary of State for War will tell us that he did not know at that time. If he did not know, then, having made that speech, he should not have put his signature to this document.
It would be very interesting to discover the real reason for this change of front on the part of the Government. Why have they turned from vowing vengeance on the murder gang and from upholding law and order? Why have they suddenly swung round and taken up a completely different attitude? We are told they have been impressed with the very patriotic spirit of the delegates who came over here. Before I deal with those delegates in detail, I would like to ask the Colonial Secretary this question: Is it or is it not a fact that for the last 18 months or two years the majority of Members of the Cabinet have had to be—and I daresay rightly—shadowed by detectives? Is it or is it not a fact that they barricaded Downing Street? Is it or is it not a fact that it was not even safe to come to this House of Commons, because they were afraid of being murdered by the Sinn Fein Party? If that is a fact that they were afraid of the Sinn Feiners, who has given the orders to release these very men who were the leaders of the Sinn Feiners? Were they suddenly impressed with the honesty of those. who had been threatening them for the last two years? But supposing they really are right, that Mr. Michael Collins and Mr. Arthur Griffith and their confederates are genuinely out now for a settlement, supposing they have really reformed, does the right hon. Gentleman not think it is a most gigantic gamble to trust to the virtue of four men to keep the whole of Ireland quiet? After all, they have not been able to keep the terms of the truce, for, with the best intentions, it was broken, according to the Government's own admission, over 600 times. Then what about the Irish temperament?
The Irish temperament is too uncertain a factor for us to risk the whole life of Britain upon the chance that they would always act rationally and never lose their temper at the wrong moment.
The Prime Minister said that at Carnarvon, and he thought it would be taking too great a risk to hand over this question in view of the excitable Irish temper. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case are, has not history proved conclusively that leniency has time after time been mistaken for weakness, and that the Irish really look upon you, when you give in to them, with contempt? Even if Mr. Michael Collins and Mr. Arthur Griffith were two archangels, they would not be able to keep in order this body of rebels which we have allowed to make headway in Ireland. I really do protest against this glorification and laudation of Mr. Michael Collins. I remember hearing, I think it was the hon. Member for Hackney, say that the late Mr. Crippen had the most estimable qualities, but the Prime Minister did not ask him to tea, and the Colonial Secretary did not give him cigars.
How can you justify upholding law and order in this country if you allow these men to go about unpunished? And it is not only these four men, but apparently a Bill of Indemnity is to be brought in for the whole of these rebels. The other day I was at Victoria Station, and I saw five men handcuffed and chained together, and I asked who they were. They were being moved from one prison to another, serving terms of imprisonment for theft. Those men were walking handcuffed and bound in the streets, kept in confinement for robbing a house, when perhaps they were hungry, but these other men, organising murders, brutal murders, of women, and men dragged out of their beds and shot, going about—
I was listening very carefully, and intended at once to intervene if I had heard a charge made against a person not convicted. I do not think the hon. Member was making such a charge.
I am quite willing to bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but if I had been called to order I think the same course would have had to be taken with regard to Members of the Front Bench who have referred so constantly to certain people in certain terms. We have been told time after time that one of the reasons why this Agreement has been made is because of the analogy with South Africa, but there is no analogy at all. In the case of South Africa, we were fighting a foe who fought in uniform, who were fighting us with an organised army, and they laid down their arms. Whether it was taking a risk or not to give them self-government so early—and in justice to the Colonial Secretary I must say that he was right and some of us were wrong—does he suggest that Mr. de Valera and Mr. Collins are the same type of men as General Smuts and General Botha? If you want to have an analogy and you want to use South Africa, the only analogy you can have is the Convention of Majuba, by which independence was given to the Transvaal, retaining the sovereignty of the Crown, and what was the result? The South African War. But apart from Ireland, what effect must this surrender, or Treaty, or whatever you like to call it, have on other parts of our Empire? It is a direct inducement to the rebels in India to go on and shoot more. If they only make themselves unpleasant enough, if they only murder sufficient people, they will get what they want. After all, it is only fair to ask if Ulster is not satisfied with the terms she gets, how many people will it be necessary to shoot before she gets consideration?
The truth of the matter is that this Treaty is the result, not of conviction, but of fear. The Prime Minister, in his old days, both before the War and during the War, however much one may have disagreed with him, was at any rate a fighter, and during the War we got accustomed to see him caricatured in the figure of the British lion. I do not think there is much of the lion about this Agreement. I would rather suggest that it is more like that insignificant animal, the rabbit. The rabbit is a very prolific and a very timid animal, and it has some characteristics which some Members of the Government seem to have. For instance, if they are frightened, they eat their own offspring. The Prime Minister eats his words, he eats his Bills, he even eats his Acts, and that is from fear, no doubt, of the gunmen. He has even gone so far as eating one of his older offspring, the land taxes, for fear, we are told by the Labour party, of the Tory party. Unfortunately, this is a microbe which spreads to other Members of the Cabinet. The Chief Secretary for Ireland has consumed his whole litter of Bills—the Act to restore order in Ireland, the Home Rule Act, and a dozen others. The Minister of Agriculture, through fear of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, swallowed his offspring before it was six months old, and I suppose the Secretary of State for War is going to swallow all his Irish regiments. The only Minister who refused to consume his own progeny was the late Minister of Health. God bless him! He was turned out, and a new Minister, with a larger gullet, was put there.
My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary is slowly and with difficulty, like a boa-constrictor, trying to swallow Mesopotamia. [An HON. MEMBER: "Mesopotamia will swallow him!"] While I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman, may I say how very dis- appointed I am at his attitude in regard to putting down these rebels? I remember when he was Home Secretary, not many years ago, when one of the early masters in Communism was trying to create trouble in London, in Sidney Street. Does he remember Peter the Painter? I understand he is now Lord Chancellor, or something of that sort, under Lenin and Trotsky, but I still cherish a picture of the right hon. Gentleman the present Colonial Secretary showing great courage on that, occasion. He went down there, personally conducting the Scots Guards, directing the operations himself. That was when it was in London, but he does not seem to mind about the unfortunate people in Ireland. It is peace at any price then. I confess that I did think the Colonial Secretary would put his foot down. I have never accused him of want of political courage, and I say to him with all respect that I deplore the fact that he has not seen fit to insist upon law and order being maintained in Ireland, even if his colleagues gave way.
When it comes to voting on this question, I do not expect much from the Liberal party. They have always been willing to take risks as regards our strategic position, to cut down our Army and Navy when we were menaced by the Germans, and one cannot expect very much now from them. After all, it is their policy. I thought this afternoon, as I listened to the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), his speech was one of the most magnanimous things I have ever heard. The Prime Minister has stolen his clothes, and he is left like a baby on the beach in a nude condition. Elisha has run off with the cloak of Elijah before he has gone to Heaven, and here the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley comes and almost gives his blessing to the Prime Minister. At any rate, as the Liberal party has behaved so well, when the Honours List comes out in connection with this Irish Peace, please do not forget Mr. Birrell. He is the grand old man of this policy. Give him the Order of Merit. When I come to deal with the Tory party, I confess that I feel some disappointment. Yesterday I heard my hon. and gallant Friend opposite, gloriously decked with medals and epaulets, advocating the policy which for years he had condemned. Do not let the Tory party think that statesmanship lies in weakness. It does not. It is not always wise to sacrifice your friends because you are able to make friends with your old enemies. Except from the group which I represent at the present time, there has been no protest whatever against the omissions contained in the Treaty. Not one word of sorrow has been expressed by the Prime Minister, and not one word of indignation from the late Tory party, or the remnants of the Tory party, because there has been no provision whatever made for those unfortunate Loyalists who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and, in some cases, their relations.
When it is said, "All will be well; we are in now for peace and contentment in Ireland," is it realised that there are men over there who will feel that their last hope has gone when this Treaty is ratified, whose homes are being sold up—men who served during the War, men who volunteered, and have been boycotted since for doing it? What is going to happen to them? Are you going to sit still and say, "It is done now. The people want it, and America wants it. You had better keep quiet?" What about Ulster? What did you mean in 1914 when you swore you would back Ulster when in need? Is it because she went to the War and was loyal? Is it because of her loyalty that you can afford to neglect her now? Is it because the Sinn Feiners were absolutely disloyal, and the Ulstermen have been absolutely loyal, that you turn round now and say, "Go on under Sinn Fein, and do the best you can?" If hon. Members are afraid of losing their seats, let them take their courage in their hands. It does not matter whether they are here or I am here. It is a question of principle. Those who believe in the principles of the Tory party have no right to turn round now because they think that public opinion is against them. I do not think it is. I have taken strong action over this question. I was challenged in m3 constituency when I seconded the Resolution the other day. They called a meeting, and asked me to explain my position. I did so, and had a meeting of between 2,000 and 3,000 people. It was hostile at the start, but at the end a Resolution o confidence was passed, asking me to set this thing through to the end, and there were only three dissentients. If you believe in your cause, if you believe in right you gain. When you waver, and do not know what to do, you wait to see what the bulk of the people are going to do—and the present Cabinet always gives way to fear now. Then let the Tory party stand up, and try to uphold the principles in which they have been brought up, and in which they believe and preach; otherwise, they will be proved to be absolute humbugs.
I have always been a strong partisan of the liberties of Debate, and certainly I take no exception—save on one small point, which, I am sure, my hon. Friend will realise—to any of the taunts and sallies which he has made in his excellent and sprightly speech. Indeed, I was very much surprised that the hon. Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones), who certainly does not bear the reputation of being mealy-mouthed, should have been brought into such a state of extreme agitation by language which, I should have thought, a man of his moral fibre and physical structure could have afforded to sustain with a fair degree of composure. Speaking on behalf of the Government, I do not at all complain that the case—the grave and serious case which has been deployed against the policy and the proposals which we have submitted to this House and country—should have been stated here formally, with reasoned consideration, by the two hon. Members who have moved and seconded the Amendment. But if I attempt to meet, or to deal with, the case which they have deployed, it is not with any desire to get into unnecessary controversy or to develop a provocative mode of speech. I am very anxious, indeed, that there should be the greatest. possible measure of agreement, that there should he the least possible division of opinion among those who in many matters equally essential think alike.
I should like the House, however, to turn its mind from the amusing excursions and the effusion of the fancy of my hon. Friend to the realities of the Irish situation—grim, grave, and, in many cases, shocking realities—during the last two years. One would think, to hear the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment, that all we have to do is to lay down the conditions which commend themselves to us, to veto anything which is not to our liking, and that there will then be an end to all this tiresome Irish business. During the last two years the condition of Ireland has been worse than at any time during living memory. Whether it was a war that was going on or not is not worth arguing. It is not my purpose to argue it, but, at any rate, a violent and homicidal campaign was being conducted by persons ready to risk their lives and liberties, and for no personal object. And the actions of these persons were very widely supported, or, at any rate, countenanced among the general population of the, South o, Ireland. It was a war, as it were, or a struggle in a forest, in which the enemy was protected by a forest of other human beings, many of them law-abiding, many of them peaceable, and harmless, and some of them actually friendly to the British Government. These conditions involved and led to a demoralising and detestable form of strife. Our soldiers and policemen were murdered. Unable to catch the guilty persons, and unable to convict them very often when they were occasionally caught, our soldiers and policemen, infuriated beyond endurance, retaliated. I am not going to blame them now or at any other time for their behaviour in those circumstances; but the Government and the whole country became inevitably involved in the discredit of these violent actions.
Nor was the movement of the rebels quelled. On the contrary, it attained larger proportions every week. There was more fighting; there were more casualties; there was fighting on a larger scale. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There was bloodshed on a larger scale. The gaols are filled with Irish convicts. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Were!"] They are filled. Four thousand interned persons, against whom there was no evidence, and no means of formulating a charge—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Shame!"]—were wired in compounds all over the country. [Interruption.] I hope I may be allowed to have the full liberty of debate, and to pursue my argument without interruption. Martial law was declared over a large portion of Ireland. Plans were made to declare it over a much larger area. The troops at our disposal were insufficient. Plans were on foot to raise much larger bodies of troops. At a certain stage, with a view to trying to curb the reprisals in which the troops and the police indulged, official reprisals were instituted under martial law. Our whole army was tethered to Ireland. Our great interests, to which both hon. Members who have spoken have referred, in India and in Egypt, were sensibly affected by that weakness. So were our interests all over the world, especially in our Dominions and in the United States They were affected, and prejudicially affected, by the reproach directed against us, and by the loud insistent outcry raised by the Irish race all over the world. There was, of course, no doubt of the power of Great Britain to crush Irish resistance, if we chose to employ enough men and to employ them long enough. And I myself believe that the nation would have been willing, and would still be willing—certainly that part of the country with which I am politically acquainted, Scotland, would still be willing—if there was no other way, to make the sacrifices and the exertions necessary, and to face the obloquy which would be inevitable.
But, as I say, if there was no other way! That was the question which had to be resolved. Sir, it has been resolved. Another way has been found. We believe that since that way has been found, a new, a completely new situation has been created. Let me ask the House to consider how these negotiations which have reached a conclusion originated. Have the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment considered that? It is quite true, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reminded me when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was speaking, that we announced in this House last year that we were perfectly ready to negotiate with Sinn Fein. No response was made. It is perfectly true that on one occasion some pourparlers were entered into in which, I think, Father Flannigan was concerned, but again without result or response of a satisfactory character. These are matters which occurred before the present year. How did the negotiations in the present year originate? They originated on that day when the Prime Minister of Ulster (Sir James Craig), the brother of the leader of the party in this House, to whose serious speech we listened with so much attention yesterday—those negotiations originated on that day when the Prime Minister of Ulster sought. Mr. de Valera in the remotest haunts of the rebels, or what might be called in the secret hiding places of the murder gang, and when he demanded fair speech for his Irish fellow-countryman.
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but it is hardly fair to say that Sir James Craig sought Mr. de Valera. It is well known that Mr. de Valera asked for an interview with Sir James.
Certainly, I do not desire to take any advantage involved in that point. Sir James Craig undoubtedly responded to that invitation by an act of statesmanship and superb courage, full of hope for the future, and probably destined when the passions of this time are dead to rank among the most famous and fruitful of the episodes of Irish history. That was the beginning of all that evolution of opinion in the Cabinet and in the country which has led us to our present position. What was the second step?
The Cabinet were confronted with the preparations for the autumn and winter campaign in Ireland. It was obvious that many, many thousands of troops would have to be raised, and that martial law must be extended to the whole of the 26 counties. There were a good many Ministers who, at that time, with this meeting of Sir James Craig and Mr. de Valera in their minds, were determined that before operations of that gravity were undertaken, and war really begun on an extensive and almost universal scale in Ireland, we should be absolutely sure of where we stood in relation to the Shin Fein leaders—that we should know for what it was that we were going to make these great exertions; that we should be sure it was not merely a question of finance or of Dominion status that stood between us and peace, but that we were confronted with an irreconcileable demand to build up an independent sovereign republic on the flank of this country. The meeting between Sir James Craig and Mr. de Valera was reported to the Cabinet by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary (Sir Hamar Greenwood), and it was so stated in the Press—and may I say that my right hon. Friend has received far less than justice——
—far less than justice from both sides of the House, and from all three of the great parties in the State. I am going to read to the House the report which my right hon. Friend made on 7th May. It is as follows:
The meeting between Sir James Craig and Mr. de Valera on the 5th inst. must be regarded as an event of the first political importance. With the doubtful exception of the Convention of 1917–18, which was held at a time when Mr. Redmond's authority to speak on behalf of the majority of Southern Irishmen had already been seriously challenged, this is the first occasion in modern history on which duly accredited representatives of the North and South of Ireland have met of their own initiative, and without the intervention of British statesmen, to discuss the differences that have so long divided the two sections of the Irish people. Although neither Sir James Craig nor Mr. de Valera appears to have emerged from the interview with his convictions in any degree shaken, the fact of their having entered into direct negotiations has produced a deep impression in the minds of men in all parties and has materially improved the prospects of peace. The consensus of approval given to the meeting by the Press of the whole country—
This means Ireland, of course—
is a further encouraging sign that the influence of fanatics and extremists on both sides is gradually giving place to a growing disposition towards a settlement by conciliation and compromise. The hope of permanent peace in Ireland depends upon those two leaders meeting again, as in my opinion they will, and upon their agreeing on some plan acceptable to the two sections of the Irish people.…
In view of the hideous prospect which lay before us in the autumn and winter and of this new hope and new light that began to break through the parley of Irishman with Irishman, Ministers decided to make an effort to secure a clear declaration as to where the Sinn Fein leaders really stood.
The next step was the speech which Ministers put into the mouth of the King—that is the correct and constitutional form—at the opening of the Belfast Parliarnent—a speech for which, of course; as well as for every other utterance of His Majesty, Ministers are solely responsible. But it is perfectly correct and proper to say that never did the Sovereign accept advice with more sincere gratitude and more heartfelt conviction than did His Majesty on that occasion. That was the next step. That speech undoubtedly and immediately created a new situation. There was on every side made manifest a profound desire for an honourable peace. It is in consequence of that desire that the Government has laboured for the last five months. It is to that that we have addressed ourselves, but within severe and rigid limitations which almost at the last minute seemed to make all prospect ofagreement impossible. Sinn Fein Ireland demanded an independent sovereign republic for the whole of Ireland, including Ulster. We insisted upon allegiance to the Crown, membership of the Empire, facilities and securities for the Navy, and a complete option for Ulster. Every one of those conditions is embodied in the Treaty. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
I am going to refer to these matters. I say every one of these conditions is embodied in the Agreement, and the Government is perfectly prepared to deal at length and in detail with every one of these points. If I have not time to deal with them all, other Ministers will, and every point will be rigorously and rigidly defended.
As a matter of fact, I am going to deal with it. I say that our debt to Ulster is great. Not only has Ulster shown unswerving loyalty and allegiance to the British Empire, but she has taken the most important steps to promote peace in Ireland. It is no longer open to anyone to say that Ulster is barring the way to the rest of Ireland, that Ulster is forbidding the rest of Ireland to have the kind of government they want. That is all past. These great sacrifices of opinion have been made by that small but resolute community at a time of great, distressing, and protracted anxiety to them, and they have been made for the sake of their common interests in the British Empire. Ulster has boldly said to the rest of Ireland: "Have the Government you choose; we will do our best to make things go right, and as long as you stay within the British Empire, we close no doors on the future." That, it seems to me, is what Ulster has said, and I repeat that our debt to her is great. It is the view of the Government that the Treaty strictly, fully, and finally pays that debt. The option is absolute. There is no time limit on the action of Ulster. There is on our part a complete obligation for the defence of Ulster whilst she remains in the Imperial Parliament. If Irish unity can be achieved, it can only be because the Government of the Irish Free State will have convinced Ulster of its loyal association with the British Empire, and will have offered Ulster conditions of security and partnership in every way satisfactory to her. Of those conditions Ulster is the sole judge. The worst that can happen to Ulster in the meanwhile is what happens to all of us. That is the worst that can happen to her. They share our fortunes for good or for evil, taking the rough with the smooth, no more and no less.
We do not at all conceal the fact that we hope that some day—surely we are permitted to do so—Ulster will join herself with Southern Ireland, and that the national unity of Ireland within the British Empire will be attained. That is our policy, and I have frequently heard it approved in bygone days by Lord Carson when he was a Member of this House. If, on a satisfactory agreement being made, Ulster, of her own free will, and in her own time, chooses to join with her Irish fellow-countrymen in the Government of Ireland, we are sure that this would be a great advantage to the general interests of the British Empire as a whole, to the interests of all Ireland, to the special interests of Ulster, and to the particular interests—and this is referred to in the closing lines of the Amendment now before us—of the Unionists and Protestants in the South of Ireland, whose position would be enormously fortified, and who undoubtedly look forward to that day with the keenest hope. This opinion, Mr. Speaker, we feel entitled to proclaim, and we are fully entitled to make sure, as we have done, that our legislation and our policy contain nothing that shall be a barrier to such an ultimate consummation. Further than that we cannot go. Ulster is absolutely free. She is the sole judge, and the initiative rests entirely with her.
I think Ulster has already beneficially affected the Irish settlement, and affected it in a vital degree. I do not believe myself that, if Irish Republicans have consented to swear allegiance to the British Crown and Empire in the terms which are set forth, I do not believe, as has been suggested, they have done so out of fear of a renewal of warfare but it is in the hope that by so doing they will render possible that unity between North and South of their country for which more than anything else in the whole of this settlement they care, on which they more than anything else have set their hearts, and for which they are prepared to make the greatest efforts and sacrifices. Of course, it is quite easy to find fault with the details of the Treaty. I am not at all complaining that hon. Members who hold strong views, and have always held those views, and who are represented by the supporters of this Amendment, should point to the shortcomings, as they regard them, of what is admittedly a compromise agreement.
This is not a partisan solution. It is not the triumphant assertion of one extreme view over all others, and, as my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Gretton) has pointed out, the oath is not the same in this case as in the rest of the British Empire. Complete fiscal autonomy is conceded. It is true that the Irish Free State can raise, within certain limits, a small army of its own. But to all these arguments we can reply, and no doubt replies will be made to them. In our view they promise allegiance to the Crown and membership of the Empire. [HON. MEMBERS: "No. no!"] That is our view. The oath comprises acceptance of the Irish Constitution, which is by Articles 1 and 2 of that Constitution exactly assimilated to the constitution of our Dominions. This oath is far more precise and searching than the ordinary oath which is taken elsewhere. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] It mentions specifically membership of the Empire, common citizenship and faithfulness to the Crown, whereas only one of these matters is dealt with in the Dominion oath.
The oath they are asked to take is more carefully and precisely drawn than the existing oath, and it was chosen because it was more acceptable to the people whose allegiance we are seeking, and whose incorporation in the British Empire we are earnestly desirous of securing.
With regard to fiscal autonomy I cannot conceive how this can be a peril to Great Britain. On the contrary, I think the boot is on the other leg, because never was one country so absolutely dependent in economic matters upon another as Ireland and Great Britain, because we are her sole market and her only source of supply. My own view on this point has for many years never varied. I have been sometimes at variance with some of my colleagues on that subject, but I have always conceived that fiscal freedom is a great advantage to this country, and may enable us to turn the corner of many difficulties with Ireland in the future which cannot be foreseen. Why, Sir, it seems to me that it would be pertinent in these matters to consider the boycotting of the goods of any part of this country or any part of Ireland when arranging a commercial treaty. How can you lent' to Ireland, when you are investing her with a Dominion status, that fiscal autonomy which every Dominion in the British Empire has long ago obtained and exercised, and has exercised m many cases without the slightest regard to our opinion, and ready to resent in the fiercest manner any interference with a matter so essentially belonging to autonomous Governments?
The Noble Lord opposite (Lord H. Cecil) said tariffs would be fatal to good will, and that without good will this settlement would fail. I am not so sure about that. I hope there will be no tariffs and plenty of good will, and I think it may be found that this Agreement will stand a good deal of knocking about from all quarters. I think there will be plenty of good will, but even if we were disappointed in this respect, it does not follow that the Agreement will break down. It certainly will not break down because of the undoubted fact that under complete fiscal freedom England holds Irish prosperity in the hollow of her hand. I have not the slightest doubt that a completely satisfactory commercial convention covering not only the interests of Great Britain but those of Ulster as well can be negotiated between the parties on terms of mutual advantage.
Then there is the question of the Army, and I ask how can we talk of Dominion status if you deny the right of raising an armed force for local purposes, which every Dominion enjoys, which we conceded to South Africa within a few years after the closing of a war in which we lost 50,000 men, which every State in the American Union enjoys, and which, in the case of the late German Empire, was conceded for military purposes to Saxony, Bavaria, Würtemberg, and perhaps to some of the smaller German States. How can you deny that principle, and talk about giving Dominion status? I think it is better that there should be a moderate armed force maintained there for keeping internal order, and for absorbing into a disciplined or responsible organisation the elements of potential unrest. Certain I am that any force which is raised by Ireland will not be a force beyond the military power of the British Empire to control.
As for the Navy, nothing has been conceded which is essential to the security of this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) has tried to argue that similar treatment to what is accorded to the Dominions would have been sufficient for Ireland, because she would never have availed herself of the liberty which the Dominions have of indulging in the practice of creating navies of their own. We have not been able to accord her the same liberty in regard to naval measures as our Dominions, and we have definitely stipulated that, unless an agreement be reached to the contrary—and for that agreement the assent of the two parties is necessary—the British Government is solely responsible for the safety of these islands and the seas around them. We have secured these small conveniences and facilities in time of peace that the Navy is likely to require upon the coast of Ireland, and they are all set out in the Schedule. Scarcely any use will be made of them in time of peace; but in time of war or strained relations with a foreign power we have an absolute right to the freest possible use of all harbours and inlets of Ireland, to enable us to undertake the control of coastal waters, the defence of these islands, and the sea routes by which our food is brought to this country.
It is true that we have said there may be a revision in five years, but is that unreasonable? It is conceivable that we might require other facilities in five years' time, and the Irish Government may be very glad to see the Navy bringing custom into Irish ports, after the differences of the present time have passed away. It is also possible that in 5, 10, or 20 years the British Government and the Admiralty might be quite willing to concede to the Irish Free State the power, for instance, of constructing motorboats, which are so valuable for hunting submarines, while at the same time we might refuse anything in the nature of liberty to construct submarines or any craft that could be used as an injury to this country. All these matters are entirely within the control of the Imperial Parliament and the Government of the future, and there is no jot or tittle in which the naval securities of this country have been departed from or whittled down.
Those are the answers that can be made to the criticisms which have been raised. No doubt similar answers are being made at this moment to similar objections in Dublin from an opposite point of view. Here then is the question which those who take most sincerely the extreme view on either side of the Channel should be asked and should answer. They say the Treaty is not satisfactory. They point to various provisions in which it is unsatisfactory, but are the differences outstanding between what they would wish and the Treaty on their side sufficient to make it imperative to renew the fighting, with all the loss and risk entailed thereby? I cannot believe you will find any body of responsible men here or in Ireland, Liberal or Conservative, North or South, soldier or civilian, who would solemnly declare that on the margin of difference remaining between these extreme views and the Treaty it would be justifiable to lay the land of Ireland waste to the scourge of war, or to drag the name of Great Britain through the dirt in every part of the world. For you cannot embark on such a struggle without being prepared to face conditions of public opinion all over the world which undoubtedly would be profoundly detrimental to your interests. You could not do it without being prepared to inflict the most fearful injury on the land and people of Ireland. When we have this Treaty, defective, admittedly, from your point of view, but still a great instrument, I ask: Are the differences between the Treaty and the extreme desire worth the re-embarking on war? You cannot do it. If you tried, you would not get the people to support you. On the contrary, they would complain in both countries of their leaders, and they would complain with violence and indignation that they were dragged from their hearths to maltreat each other on pretexts which had been reduced to such manageable dimensions. It is high time that the main body of Irish and British opinion asserted its determination to put a stop to these fanatical quarrels.
Let me direct the attention of the House to a remarkable phenomenon. Yesterday, at the other end of the passage, I heard Lord Carson, with sonorous accents and with brilliant and corrosive invective, denouncing Lord Curzon as a turncoat and a traitor. I do not think it necessary to deal with such a charge, because everyone in this House knows that Lord Curzon's whole life has been devoted to the patriotic service of this country, and those of us in this country who have served with him know well that his counsel was always robust and vigorous in the time of the greatest difficulty and danger through which we passed. At the very moment when Lord Carson was denouncing the Secretary for Foreign Affairs as a traitor and a turncoat, Mr. de Valera in Dublin was almost simultaneously denouncing Mr. Collins for a similar offence. Both were held up as traitors to their respective countries, and for what? For having supported a treaty of peace which nineteen-twentieths of the people of both countries are determined to carry through. Are we not getting a little tired of all this? These absolutely sincere, consistent, unswerving gentlemen, faithful in all circumstances to their implacable quarrels, seek to mount their respective national war horses, in person or by proxy, and to drive at full tilt at one another, shattering and splintering down the lists, to the indescribable misery of the common people, and to the utter confusion of our Imperial affairs.
My hon. Friend who proposed this Amendment referred to the charge so frequently made that we are humiliated by this Treaty which we have signed and by these negotiations, and referred to it as a Danegeld, while his Seconderreferred to it as a surrender. No doubt England is conceding more to Ireland in this Treaty than she has as a nation ever been willing to concede before, and no doubt she has done it, not only with a view to the future, but with a sincere desire to end a period of brutal and melancholy violence. I agree with my hon. Friend who proposed the reply to the Gracious Speech that our reputation is such that we can afford to take the step we have taken. If we had shown ourselves a feeble nation, fat and supine, sunk in sloth, our mission exhausted, our strength gone, our energies abated, our credentials impaired, if we had shown this lack of quality in the struggle from which we have emerged, then indeed there would be some explanation and justification for such misgivings in the breasts of many gathered here.
But when we have just come out of a world-war with our record such as it is, in which our armies have broken the German line, in which our navies have carried on the whole sea business of the Allies, in which our finances have sustained Europe, when we have come out of all these dangers, and have shown that we are capable of taking a leading part, if not the leading part, in the great struggle which has overthrown the largest and most powerful military Empires of which there is a record—when all these facts are considered, surely we can afford to carry on these Irish negotiations according to a clear, cool judgment of what is best in the country's interest, without being deflected or deterred from any particular course of action by a wholly unjustifiable self-accusation of humiliation. But in truth it is not humiliation. It is not as a humiliation that this event is viewed by the world or by the Empire. It is as a great and peculiar manifestation of British genius, at which the friends of England all over the world have rejoiced. Every foe of England has been dumbfounded. Every Colonial statesman will feel that if this succeed, his task in his Dominion of bringing people closer and closer into the confederation of the British Empire will be cased and facilitated. There is not a Dominion Parliament throughout the British Empire where this Treaty will not be accepted and endorsed. And these are facts which we are entitled to deal with at a time when undoubtedly there is so much ground for hard and bitter taunts to be directed against our policy.
It is a curious reflection to inquire why Ireland should bulk so largely in our lives. How is it that the great English parties are shaken to their foundations, and even shattered, almost every generation, by contact with Irish affairs? Whence did Ireland derive its power to drive Mr. Pitt from office, to drag down Mr. Gladstone in the summit of his career, and to draw us who sit here almost to the verge of civil war, from which we were only rescued by the outbreak of the Great War. Whence does this mysterious power of Ireland come? It is a small, poor, sparsely populated island, lapped about by British sea power, accessible on every side, without iron or coal. How is it that she sways our councils, shakes our parties, and infects us with her bitterness, convulses our passions, and deranges our action? How is it she has forced generation after generation to stop the whole traffic of the British Empire, in order to debate her domestic affairs? Ireland is not a daughter State. She is a parent nation. The Irish are an ancient race. "We too are," said their plenipotentiaries," a far-flung nation." They are intermingled with the whole life of the Empire, and have interests in every part of the Empire wherever the English language is spoken, especially in those new countries with whom we have to look forward to the greatest friendship and countenance, and where the Irish canker has been at work. How much have we suffered in all these generations from this continued, hostility? If we can free ourselves from it, if we can to some extent reconcile the spirit of the Irish nation to the British Empire in the same way as Scotland and Wales have been reconciled, then indeed we shall have secured advantages which may well repay the trouble and the uncertainties of the present time.
I am told that we are not to refer to South Africa, because the cases are not
parallel. Of course they are not, but surely it would be very foolish for us to cut ourselves off from the encouragement and inspiration which we may naturally and legitimately derive from studying the most adventurous and most modern instance of trust and conciliation which the annals of the British Empire records! I remember when I was charged with the duty of commending the Transvaal Constitution in this House. I remember many facts which were known to me, and which certainly would have justified the gravest pessimism, and would have caused the deepest anxiety. I remember the intelligence reports which we got of Boer wagons moving about the veldt in the moonlight, leaving their dumps of rifles and ammunition here and there in lonely farms. They were reports which caused the greatest disquietude in all who were responsible for the policy. But we persevered. We grasped the larger hope, and in the end, when our need was greatest, we gained a reward far beyond our hopes. In those days we had far less satisfactory Parliamentary circumstances than now exist. Party fighting was very bitter in those days. I appealed to the Opposition of that time to join with the Government in this matter. I said:
With all our great majority we can only make this the gift of a party, but you can make it the gift of Britain as a whole.
The appeal was not acceded to. To-day in this enterprise, which also is full of uncertainty, but full of hope, we can undoubtedly count upon the active and energetic support of all the three great parties in the State, who are resolved to take what steps are necessary to bring, if possible, this Irish peace to its consummation, to carry it out in the spirit and in the letter, and to stand firmly against all efforts to overthrow it, whether they be in Parliament or out of doors.
Before the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House arrived at his very interesting, if somewhat vehement and, perhaps, a little bombastic peroration, he made an observation to the effect that the proposals which are now before the House for settling the Irish question were not a triumph of party, but were really a compromise; and he implied, if he did not say it, that they could not be regarded as extreme. No doubt, if anyone were to propose that the right hon. Gen-
tleman should be skinned alive, it would be a moderate proposal that he should be hanged; but it is only in some such sense that a proposal scouted by every party in the State until recently, but now, as he would have us believe, adopted by all, can be regarded as anything but extreme. I wish, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had been not only vehement in his defence, but a little more candid. I will give one example, and one only. The right hon. Gentleman was endeavouring to fortify the answer of the Prime Minister to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) with regard to the opportuneness of this particular settlement. He said:
We were quite ready and prepared last year to negotiate if we could have got anyone to negotiate with us";
and I think he said, or at any rate his argument implied, that, if they had negotiated last year, they would have negotiated on these same lines. He mentioned the fact that they did get into some sort of communication with Father O'Flanagan. But the Prime Minister sent a telegram to Father O'Flanagan, and in that telegram he pointed out the conditions prevailing in Ireland, and the number of persons who were implicated in serious crime; and the Prime Minister said, "The Government cannot abandon their elementary duty of bringing such persons to trial." Consequently, even if the right hon. Gentleman is right in his suggestion of readiness to negotiate last year, the Government were not ready at that time to negotiate on the present terms, and were not at that time willing to negotiate with the present negotiators.
There is one aspect of this whole Debate which I think has not been sufficiently realised, or, indeed, mentioned. I think that we owe the Government a debt of gratitude—not at all for the Articles of Agreement which they have introduced, but because they are allowing us to be here at all. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the leader of my party has thought it necessary to go, because I hoped to address a. few remonstrances to him, but, at all events, I include the Leader of the House with the Prime Minister and the other great men who sit there, in my tribute of gratitude for allowing us to be here. We are actually given two pleasant days' outing in the House of Commons, and, when the appropriate moment comes, we shall all be allowed to say "Aye." Very serious remonstrances have already been made to any of us who may venture to say "No." I should like, in that connection, to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary—who, I suppose, is for the moment the representative of the Government, though why the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House and the Chief Secretary, who are all intimately concerned, are so quickly wearied with this Debate, I am not able to understand—I should like to call the attention of the House to a very interesting interview that was published only a day or two ago with a distinguished visitor from overseas, Mr. Stephen Leacock. He described how he hoped, when he went back to Canada, to describe our political institutions in this country, and he concluded by saying that when he went back he would explain that the Legislative Chamber was very little used, because at the present time legislation was not conducted there but elsewhere—as, for example, in the home of Mr. Lloyd George, or in Ireland, or in any other convenient spot. Then, at the earliest convenient moment, the Members were summoned together to hear the latest thing in legislation, and they were expected to cheer or groan, or, if they chose, do both. We have been called here, as this intelligent observer has noticed, and we are given an opportunity of seeing the latest thing in legislation. For that we should be grateful.
All this is in pursuance of repeated promises given by Members of the Government, and especially by my own respected leader, the Leader of the House. I remember that on many occasions, when some of us felt a little anxiety or justifiable curiosity as to what was going on, we were told by the Leader of the House, and also by the Prime Minister, that nothing would be done, that nothing could be done, without the complete assent of Parliament. Now we are here; we have been told the conditions under which we are debating; and this, if you please, is the complete assent of Parliament. What a world of sham and fraud it is. It would require the caustic scorn of a Carlyle to describe the world in which we live. We call ourselves a self-governing country numbers of Members in this House flatter themselves that the principles of democracy are applied to our legislation; and what is the truth? For five months the House of Commons has been sedulously kept at arm's length and in the dark, denied every particle of information when it asked for it—denied it in the public interest, of course—while such information as happened to be convenient to the Government, whether false or true, was allowed to leak out from Downing Street into Fleet Street, in order that it might influence public opinion so as to create a suitable atmosphere. In these circum stances it is idle to suggest that this House has any decision in the matter whatever. I am certainly not going to be one who would, if I could, take the responsibility at this hour of breaking down this Agreement. The right hon. Gentleman says that nineteen-twentieths of the people are in favour of it. How does he know? He has absolutely no means of knowing. All he can say is that this House, in the present circumstances—and I am not surprised that it is so—the greater part of this House is not going, in the present circumstances, to take the responsibility of turning down this Agreement. The same view is taken by the Press. But as regards the real bedrock opinion of this country, and still more what it is likely to be in three or four months' time, after there has been the necessary reaction and people have begun to realise what has been done, I shall be very much surprised if the right hon. Gentleman can then say that nineteen-twentieths of the people are in favour of these negotiations and of the result of them. I am certain that, whatever may be the attitude of the House or of the country or of the Press at the present time, there would not have been very many who would have consented if they had known in time what the Government were intending to do, and could have stopped it in time.
To one part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech I listened with very great interest and with agreement. That was the part in which, without, I think, wholly knowing it himself, he showed us that these negotiations were the result, as I have always maintained that they were, of absolute failure on the part of the Government to deal with crime. The right hon. Gentleman said, in the course of his speech, that the conditions were such that our police could not catch the guilty; and he went on to say that the movement of the rebels was not quelled. That is quite true. Not only did the Government fail to put down crime in Ireland, but that was their only justification. I think the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) has left the House, so, perhaps, I may venture to whisper the word "murder." The hon. Member objected to it very strongly, and I think he was in good company. I do not think it is quite the thing just now to mention murder; it is not thought to be good manners in Downing Street. There are two interesting circles, to use the journalistic phrase, where murder is not called by its own name—Silvertown and Downing Street. In Downing Street it is a case of, "Oh, no, we never mention it; its name is never heard." That is an extraordinary change. I remember not so very long ago when some hon. Members on the other side of the House used occasionally apparently to shirk the word "murder." They occasionally mentioned that people in Ireland had been killed and others wounded. Does the House not remember the double diapason organ note with which the Chief Secretary used to say, "Killed? Wounded? I say it is murder." Then he used to tell us that he had got murder by the throat. Murder was on the run. That is just what has happened. Murder was at bay. It turned on the right hon. Gentleman, and now he is on the run. I do not know whether any of his colleagues would really question the proposition that they have failed absolutely to put down murder in Ireland. There is not one of them who has not said over and over again in this House that the first duty of every Government was to repress crime, to maintain order, and to protect life and property. The Prime Minister, in one of those very negotiations which the Colonial Secretary referred to only a few minutes ago, referred to it as the elementary duty of every Government. I am certainly not going to do the injustice to the Government of saying that they did not passionately desire to do what is the elementary duty of every Government, and if they failed to do it, it can only have been because they could not do it, and what I say is that that is their only justification. It was for that reason that I personally did not join with my hon. Friends who a short time ago moved a Vote of Censure on the Govern- ment. I was not prepared to say at that time that the Government ought not to have entered on negotiations at all, but their only justification for doing it was because they had failed, and if that was so I cannot understand how the right hon. Gentleman or anyone can maintain that they have not been humiliated.
My first shock in this respect was a speech made as long ago as June or July, in which the Lord Chancellor said that there was not a single Unionist Member, I think he said—I do not know whether he included the other Members of the Cabinet—who felt any humiliation or any shame from having entered on these negotiations. I cannot understand that. I think it would be very much better, much more candid, and much more likely to attract the sympathy and support of all right-thinking men if they were manfully to admit that they had been humiliated and that they were ashamed of it The Leader of the House is on occasion not at all backward to admit being ashamed of himself. He positively revels in the white sheet. What I regret is that he only puts on the white sheet in order to do penance for Unionist policy. I think it would have been very much better if he had put on the white sheet now instead of saying that he is absolutely and entirely free from either humiliation or shame—or, at least, the Lord Chancellor said it for him. I paid very little attention at the time to the speech of the Lord Chancellor, because I did not believe it. I did not find it incredible that the Lord Chancellor himself should be shameless, but I was not prepared to think that the Lord Privy Seal was shameless. I was not prepared to think the Secretary of State for War was shameless. I was not prepared to think that other of the Unionist Members of the Cabinet were all shameless, but now I find that they are. There is not one of them who will admit that he has suffered any humiliation or has done anything to be ashamed of.
The effect of their action is that now, after five months, we have this atmosphere which has been created, and there is, as many speakers have said, a universal sense of relief that all the horrors that went on in Ireland are to be brought to an end as we hope, or, at any rate, to a pause. That is why this Agreement is going to be supported. There has been a wonderful chorus of approval all through the country, although no one has read it. The Articles have not been examined, and I do not believe that it would make the slightest difference to the amount of support it has received from the public, no matter what its terms were. What is that universal sense of relief caused by? It is caused by two circumstances, in my judgment. First of all, because they realised the hopeless failure of the Government in carrying out any policy with regard to Ireland, and, secondly, because these Articles of Agreement have been launched upon the world in a carefully prepared atmosphere. What were the steps that were taken to prepare that atmosphere? We have been told over and over again, and the Colonial Secretary has repeated it now. It was when His Majesty went to Belfast, or rather, I ought to say on that point, the Colonial Secretary ante-dated the beginning of the atmosphere. He put it back to the time when my friend Sir James Craig and Mr. de Valera had a meeting in Ireland. I want as strongly and emphatically as I can absolutely to repudiate, as I think I am entitled to do, on behalf of Sir James Craig, the utterly false interpretation which has been put upon it. What nonsense the Colonial Secretary talked about the report which he read to the House. He sent the Chief Secretary a paragraph—a sort of social gossip—which would have done honour to any scribe in Fleet Street, but it was absolutely unsuitable for a Government Report dealing with an important matter of this sort. What really happened was that when Sir James Craig happened to be in Dublin for a short time Mr. de Valera, for his own purpose—I do not know what it was—asked him to come and see him, and, with the superb courage rightly attributed to him by the right hon. Gentleman, Sir James Craig went and had a short interview, at which I believe Mr. de Valera gave a long rehearsal of Irish history from the time of Strongbow, while Sir James Craig smoked his pipe in silence. There was, as this precious Report admitted, absolutely no sort of agreement between them. The two men separated with civility and there the matter dropped, and it had absolutely no influence whatsoever upon the future development of these negotiations. That was more than a month before the King went to Belfast. So that on mere matters of date, what the right hon. Gentleman tries to extract from that meeting between Sir James Craig and Mr. de Valera absolutely falls to the ground.
Then we come to the King's Speech in Belfast, a speech for which, of course, His Majesty's Ministers were responsible, and in that Gracious Speech the King said that he hoped the time had come in Ireland to forgive and forget, or words to that effect. Of course, that was a sentiment with which everyone must agree. It was a fine Christian sentiment to begin with. It was a peace-making sentiment. It was a sentiment from which no person could dissent, whatever his views, his hopes, or his aspirations might be. But I should have thought that that particular occasion when His Majesty said, "Forgive and forget" was particularly a moment for applying the well-known maxim, "Que Messieurs les commencent." But that was not the view the Government took. They thought the "forgive and forget" of His Majesty were directed, not to the murder gang, who were at that time on the run before the Chief Secretary, but to His Majesty's Ministers and their agents in Ireland, and consequently they began creating this atmosphere. But when the right hon. Gentleman tells us that all this has absolutely flowed from that atmosphere created in Belfast by the King's Speech he leaves out one very important circumstance. The House will remember how the Prime Minister yesterday endeavoured to make that extraordinary point that he could not possibly have made peace a day before but just struck the psychological moment. When the King's Speech was made at Belfast, that, apparently, according to the Prime Minister, was striking the psychological moment, but seventeen days elapsed between that and the beginning of the truce, and in those seventeen days there were no fewer than 124 murders of British soldiers and of loyal police. Therefore, after the forgive and forget moment, after His Majesty's great reception in Belfast, which according to the Leader of the House and others was the beginning of it all, still, according to the Prime Minister, the psychological moment for beginning did not come and could not come until there were 124 more murders to the credit of the murder gang.
I do not think it is of the slightest use in these days quoting speeches of last year or even six months ago to show what were the views of right hon. Gentlemen. I should certainly, apart from all other considerations, be sorry to give unnecessary pain to the Leader of the House; otherwise, of course, I could amuse the House by reading, in the light of his present action, some of his past speeches. There was a time, not so very long ago, when it was considered a useful method of Parliamentary debate to quote a speech made by a right hon. Gentleman with a view to convicting him of inconsistency or, in extreme cases, of want of principle, but it has now become out of date. There is no point in it. You quote what some right hon. Gentleman says. "When did I say that?" "Last June." "Oh, June, that is ancient history. Nobody pays the slightest attention to it." I do not intend to quote any speeches of the right hon. Gentleman, but I would like to ask him whether facts have changed, along with opinions and along with principles. For example, last year—which I admit is very ancient history for opinions—so long ago as the 24th November, 1920, when the Chief Secretary for Ireland was speaking about matters that were going on in Ireland, and giving a description of them on information which he had as a Member of the Government, he said:
There is a great conspiracy based on Ireland to smash the British Empire.
That statement came out with all the great wealth of tone which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is able to impart to any emphatic pronouncement I want to know whether that statement was true. Was it true last year, or was it only misleading the House and the country to say that? Did the Government know that there was a great conspiracy going on, based on Ireland, an international conspiracy, to smash the British Empire? If there was such a conspiracy, presumably it is going on still. If it is going on still, these Articles of Agreement are supporting it, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, whose signature is on this document, is aiding and abetting it. The Government are now supporting, with all their authority, this great conspiracy, based on Ireland, to smash the British Empire.
There is some evidence of a specific design, not only of a great conspiracy, on the part of some of the negotiators at Downing Street. We heard yesterday, in an eloquent and persuasive passage from the Prime Minister, with every word of which I entirely agree, as to the danger that it would be to our Dominions and the Empire if the loose constitutional usage which is now so elastic and undefined were to be subject to any rigid definition. The right hon. Member for Paisley to-day reinforced the same doctrine, and it is a very sound doctrine, but there is another statesman within the Empire who takes a very different view. I mean the gentleman whose charm has exercised such irresistible fascination upon the Leader of the House—I mean, Mr. Michael Collins. Mr. Michael Collins gave an interview, two days after he had written his signature in some barbarous language on this document. This is what he said:
As full-grown children, the Colonies are restive under the appearance of parental restraint, though willing to co-operate with the parent on an equal footing in regard to family matters. Ireland, as a separate nation, would naturally be more restive under any control of the neighbouring nation.
That is a clear warning to us. In spite of the great loyalty, love and affection which we have for Canada, Australia and South Africa, although there has never been any real serious difficulty, there has been, possibly, a little restlessness, which has always been assuaged because of the loyalty of the Dominions. That restlessness is not enough for Mr. Michael Collins. He and Ireland are going to be more restive. They are going, he says, to form an association of nations, of which Great Britain, Ireland and the other Dominions are to form units. He says:
The only association satisfactory to all concerned will be one based, not on the present technical, legal status of the Dominions, but on the real position which they claim and have, in fact, secured.
What does that mean?
In the interests of the Associated States, in the interests, above all, of England herself, it is essential that the present de facto position should be recognised de jure, and that all its implications as to sovereignty, allegiance, and the constitutional independence of the governments should be acknowledged.
That means that Ireland, under this new guidance, is to do the very thing that the
Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Paisley agree in saying would be of the utmost danger to the British Empire, namely, to reduce all these things to a rigid definition. Let me take one example. Mr. Collins wants the de facto position to be recognised de jure. One of the de facto understandings in the Empire is that if any one of the great Dominions chose to-morrow to assert her independence, and to sail off, as the North American colonies did, and to found a new nation, this country would never dream of interfering. The de jure position is quite different. Under the de jure position, this Parliament could repeal the North America Act, 1867, and reduce Canada to a Crown Colony. The de facto position is that any one of the great Dominions could secede from the Empire if they liked. What Mr. Collins says they will demand is that the de facto right to secede shall be recognised as the de jure right, and that there will have to be, or they will, at all events, demand, an Imperial statute setting forth the declared right of any Dominion at any time to secede.
Is that sort of proposal affected in the slightest degree by the oath of allegiance about which we have heard so much? A good deal has been said about the difference between swearing to be faithful and swearing true allegiance. This new oath was prepared by the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General. They know perfectly well that the term "true allegiance" has a long antiquity behind it, and has a definite legal implication. The promise to be faithful means much or little, according to what the promiser has in his mind. This new oath of allegiance omits the usual words which terminate oaths of all sorts in this country: "So help me God! "Hon. Members in this country who are accustomed to affirmations and all sorts of objections to religious formulas may say that this omission is a small matter; but the Irish are a religious people, some may think that they are even a superstitious people, and they have a rather topsy-turvy mode of expression, and I know perfectly well what the ordinary Irishman will say when he sees this oath. He will say: "Oath! This is not an oath. There is divil a word about the Almighty in it."
Let me say a few words about Ulster. One member of the Government after another has told us that they want Ulster to come into the Irish Free State. I do not quarrel with the Secretary of State for the Colonies for saying that. I do not quarrel with the Prime Minister for saying that. He said yesterday that they were very well entitled, if they thought it would be for the good of Ireland and for the good of Ulster, to express that opinion, and put it before Ulster. I cannot, however, understand the position of the Leader of the House, and I hope my right hon. Friend will give some explanation of why he came, and why he comes now to make a proposal of that sort.
Yes. I will tell the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot understand his position because, among other things, I have a very clear recollection of a very eloquent speech which he made from the other side of the House when he welcomed the proposal to exclude Ulster from the Home Rule Bill of 1912, on the expressed ground that if Ulster was excluded it would put an end for ever to the idea of "Ireland a nation." That is one reason. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten it. I had not.
It is only another case of the white sheet. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will put on another white sheet. He always puts on the white sheet for Unionist policy. I have very little doubt that we shall all of us, unless we are suddenly cut off, live long enough to hear the right hon. Gentleman, either in this House or on some platform in the country, saying that the proposal for Colonial preference was the supremest folly ever presented to this House. I have no doubt that that will come in time. Meanwhile in this Agreement there is a good deal for discussion. Much has been said about Ulster. I say that the treatment of Ulster in this matter has been utterly shabby from the beginning to the end. First of all, the Government made proposals in November which they were not willing to admit. They allowed the Press to get hold of what was being done, but they would not allow this House to know what was being done. I did know, and I went to Liverpool and I said what I knew, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War got up afterwards, and said that I had misrepresented what had been going on. Now that the correspondence between the Government and Sir James Craig has been published, I have gone through it very carefully, and I find that I was correct in every particular.
At that time the Government made a proposal that Ulster should come into an All-Ireland Parliament. We have heard a great deal about the coercion of Ulster. What I have to complain of is, not that the Prime Minister, or anybody else, is not perfectly entitled to say, "We think you ought to come in; it would be a good thing for you to come in." The Government are entitled to say that, but what they were not entitled to do, and what they have been doing for months past, was to put a proposal before Ulster that Ulster should come into a common Parliament for Ireland, and then to work up public opinion in this country so that everybody would say, "Ulster stands in the way. Because they are so obstinate, and will not accept this proposal, the negotiations are going to break down, and on their shoulders will rest the responsibility." The great complaint that Ulster has to make about these negotiations is that she was induced to accept the settlement under the Act of 1920 on the express ground that it was a final settlement. Sir Edward Carson, as he then was, went to Belfast specially charged by the Government to put before the people in Ulster the position that if they would accept that Act it would be a final settlement. When the Secretary of State for War at Liverpool, or any member of the Government, says, "We are never going to coerce Ulster, but we are going to do this, that, and the other," they leave out of account this very salient point, that that settlement of 1920 was accepted because it was final. But it was accepted also because it was equal as between two parts of Ireland. It is nothing to the point that the Government should keep on saying, "You have got all the powers you were given in 1920; we are going to take nothing away from you; you will be in exactly the same position as then." They might just as well say that they have got two evenly weighted balances, because that is what the Act of 1920 was, and that it will not make any difference to the balance, if they do not take anything out of one side, if they put extra weights into the other. That is what they are doing. They have taken nothing out of the Ulster balance, but they have put a great deal into the other balance. Therefore the effect, so far as Ulster is concerned, is radically changed. Not content with treatment of that sort, the last thing that happened was a breach of a Government pledge rather more flagrant than is usual. We have heard plenty about broken pledges and promises in connection with the whole of this question, but I certainly thought until recently that the written word of the Prime Minister would hold good for at least ten days. That was not so. Sir James Craig left London on the 24th November, a Saturday. He took with him a piece of paper written, I think I am right in saying, in the Prime Minister's hand-writing—it was certainly signed by him—on which the Prime Minister promised that during the ensuing week, up till the following Tuesday week, unless fresh proposals were put before the Ulster Government, nothing would be done to prejudice or compromise their position. That written word he had permission to read out in the local Parliament. Yet, in spite of that promise, the next communication of any sort or kind which was received by the Government in Belfast was these Articles of Agreement signed by all the members of the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] A graver breach of a written word by a Minister of the Crown it would be impossible to imagine. All these efforts to cajole, to intimidate, or to drive Ulster to go into an All-Ireland Parliament will fail, if I know anything of that people. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House may—I think he has already done so—he may smash the Unionist party, but he will not make Ulster budge.
If I may be allowed I should like, as my first word, to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) for the very kindly reference which he made to my return. I feel that I owe a debt of apology to the House for being here and for addressing them this afternoon. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] When a man has had the good fortune to read his own obsequies, his own obituary notices, it shows very bad taste to come to life again. I cannot honestly say that I regret it, for I am rather enjoying my life now, which was not the case during the last few years that I sat on the Government Bench. I had no intention of coming back to the House until the beginning of next Session, and I can assure the House that I was very unwilling to come either to speak or to vote in connection with the Agreement which is now before us. I have no responsibility of any kind for it. I know how strong feeling on both sides is, and the last thing that I should think of doing would be to make my first speech in this House one that had a note of controversy in it. I wish, as little as I could wish anything, to indulge in anything of the nature of criticism of my right hon. Friends who sit on that Bench, with whom I have worked very intimately, and who, not only in a Parliamentary sense, but I hope in every sense, are my friends. Among the most intimate is my right hon. Friend who succeeded me, to whom so much reference—to which I will not refer—has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill). Just as little do I wish to say anything controversial about those who take the other view. They are called "Diehards." It is regarded as a term of reproach. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, I see it is so used. [HON. MEMBERS: "Only by Die-softs!"] It is not an insult, and it certainly was not so regarded when it was applied for the first time to a regiment fighting in the Peninsula.
Many of them are intimate friends, and among them is one who, throughout the whole of my political life, has been most intimately associated with myself—Lord Carson. I do not think I have had more personal friendship with anyone with whom I have worked in political life. We have differed very strongly often, very often very strongly. We differ now, but I hope that nothing that has happened, and certainly nothing that can happen, will diminish my respect for him, and I still hope to retain his friendship. The only reason, in these circumstances, why I have come this afternoon is that on the whole, on a subject so important as this, I think it would be almost cowardly not to express my opinion in regard to it.
Let me say at the outset that I am in favour of this Agreement. I will tell the House quite frankly why any other attitude is impossible for me. For a time it looked as if there might be an attempt to compel Ulster to go into an All-Ireland Parliament against her will. That would have seemed to me an impossible thing, and I am glad to see that the fear has turned out to be quite unjustified. For a time, however, it seemed a possibility—I will not go beyond that—that I might be one of those who would ask the country to condemn that policy. I would not say it was a probability, but a possibility. I had to look a step further, and I said to myself, "Suppose that happens, what alternative policy could we present to the country." It seems to me now that it would have been impossible to present any other alternative policy except this—that we would give to the South and West of Ireland what the Prime Minister has been ready to agree to, and that Ulster should be kept absolutely, if she wished it, within the United Kingdom. That seemed to me the only alternative, with one exception, that of the boundaries, to which I shall refer later. If the words of the Agreement are taken in their obvious meaning—that is, the meaning that it is impossible to think of throwing out counties, and that it is only adjusting boundaries between the different parts of Ireland, I do not think in substance that is very important. I will tell the House why later, though the manner in which it has been done, from the point of view of Ulster, is objectionable. With that exception, in my view, this Agreement represents the alternative policy which I should have presented, if it had been my responsibility, to the House of Commons.
Let us consider—I will do so dispassionately—what the effect all round of this arrangement is. Take first the position of Ulster. I have noticed—it is not putting it too strongly to say with great grief—that there seems to be a bitter feeling growing up in Ulster on the ground that she has been betrayed. For what my opinion is worth, that would seem to me to be one of the most disastrous things that could happen. What could be worse, at a time when we are, and I think rightly, trying to make peace with those who admittedly, by their own admission, were our old enemies, what could be sadder than that, as a result of that, you should make enemies of those who have always been your friends? I honestly think that that feeling is not justified by anything in this Agreement. I am inclined to believe that it exists—that is my opinion—not so much because of what is in the Agreement, but because of what happened here in the Press of this country before the Agreement was made public. When I came back from the Continent I found every morning London newspapers saying: "There would be peace—it is only Ulster that makes it impossible." That was to me, with my record, very irritating, and it seemed to me then, and it seems now, to have been utterly unjust. What has Ulster done to deserve it? Only 18 months ago, I think it was, we passed an Act of Parliament and set up two Parliaments. One of them, the Ulster Parliament, has loyally tried to carry out the wishes of the Government and the House. The other Parliament, unfortunately, would have nothing to do with it. It seems to me a strange topsy-turvey to throw the blame on the Parliament which did act.
Let me say another thing. It was constantly said: "If there is to be peace there must be concession, Ulster must make concessions too. What was asked of Ulster was not concession; it was the surrender of everything for which they had fought for 35 years. I remember very well in this House hearing the, late Mr. John Redmond, of whom I shall always think and speak with respect, over and over again offering to Ulster, if they would come in, every conceivable guarantee. Ulster would not have it, and the whole Unionist party backed them up in their refusal. Then why should you expect them now to give up, not as a concession, but to surrender everything they have fought against for the whole of those years? I said at the outset that I did not wish to criticise my friends on the other side. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said last night quite fairly:
Surely there is no harm in trying to persuade Ulster.
Undoubtedly there is not. But there is no greater defect in statesmanship than to propose something which in the nature of the fact is impossible. My hon. Friend (Mr. McNeill) said that there is no use in quoting old speeches. That depends on how you interpret them. The Prime
Minister said yesterday that he had been reading Pitt's speeches about the Union. It so happened, by accident, that I was reading one of the older and greater Pitt's speeches which contained words to this effect:
I deprecate extremely going back in retrospect to the speeches in previous Debates of any Gentleman whatever.
But with the complete system of reporting which exists now that is not possible nowadays. Let me read—I am sure that my right hon. Friend will forgive me—an extract from a speech of his:
It is not our business to seek for facts agreeable to anybody, but to seek for the facts whether they are agreeable or not. In the North-East of Ireland you have a population, a fairly solid population, a homogeneous population, alien in race, alien in sympathies, alien in religion, alien in tradition, alien in outlook from the rest of the population of Ireland. It would be an outrage on the principles of self-government to place them under the rule of the remainder of the population.
I only refer to that for this reason. That speech was made on the introduction of the last Government of Ireland Bill. I do not wish to re-open old sores or go back on what happened within the last few years, but could anyone say that what has happened in Ireland since that speech was made, is more likely to make the people of Ulster willing to come in now. Certainly not. And if it is reasonable to expect them to come in now it was equally reasonable to expect them to come in then, and if so nothing could have been more foolish than the Bill for which I was responsible, like my right hon. Friend, in 1920. I shall say a little more about Ulster coming in, but I wish to refer to another question on which I think that the Ulster people have been unfairly treated. I am not speaking of the Government. I am speaking of what I read in the Press. We were constantly told these people are not fighting for sentiment. They are fighting for their pockets. They wish to have the best of both worlds. When it is a question of Government they wish to be treated as part of Great Britain and when it is a question of taxation they wish to be treated as the rest of Ireland. I have been accused of great bigotry in regard to this Ulster question. I read the other day an article by Mr. Stephen Gwynne, who was a respected Member of this House. I do not think I knew him personally, but I shall always remember
him with respect for the part which he took in the War. He said of me, and I think that it is a compliment to my friend, Lord Carson
He is far more bigoted and unreasonable than Lord Carson ever was.
One is very apt to be wrong about his own feelings, but I always thought that I was defending Ulster because I thought she was right, and I am certainly not going to defend her at any time if I think she is wrong. I, for one, do not think that it is possible to have the best of both worlds in this matter. If Ulster decides to remain with Great Britain she has a right to bear her own burdens. She has the right to say, "I will submit to anything to which the rest of Great Britain submits."
She has the right also to say, and I am perfectly sure that the Government which has been so much abused and the House of Commons and the country will take care, that, what- ever happens, she will not be worse treated than other sections of the United Kingdom. Sir James Craig came to see me at the time that Ulster was being urged to join an All-Ireland Parliament. Without expressing my own view at all to him, I said, "You will be given the alternative of going into an All-Ireland Parliament or paying our taxes." He said, "We would jump at it. We would jump at paying your taxes, at being in the same position as the rest of you," and that is the position of Ulster. One of the grounds on which this Agreement has been attacked is that Ulster would be subject to unfair economic pressure which would coerce her into an All-Ireland Parliament. According to these Articles of Agreement, the new Irish Parliament is not to escape their payment of the National Debt, and I do not see why it is assumed that the arbitrator will make that debt much less than it is supposed to be now. The Agreement says that it is to be the fair amount due by Ireland, and I do not see why it is to be assumed that it is going to be greatly reduced, but, apart from that, you will never get- low taxation, whether you contribute to the Imperial Fund or not, unless there is good government
I have no bitterness against the South of Ireland; but look at the facts. The men who will form the Government are all young and inexperienced. There have been Governments of that kind in various countries in the past, nearly always as the result of a revolution. They have many merits, but a Government of that kind never in the history of the world has been an anti-waste Government. I do not suggest that there will be corruption. I believe that we have a right to give credit for merits which are possessed by those to whom we have been opposed. I believe that there is an amount of idealism on this question among certain leaders of the Sinn Feiners which would make them endeavour to put down corruption. But apart altogether from corruption, inexperienced people, with power to make a new Heaven and earth, are likely to indulge in some attempt which, at all events, will not have the effect of lowering taxation, and therefore on that question, if I had to make a prophecy, my opinion would be that the taxation of this new Free State in Ireland will be higher than it is in the United Kingdom. If so, what becomes of the economic pressure?
We were told—it is an argument which has been used in these Debates and elsewhere—that other economic pressure will be used from the point of view of finance. We are told, for example, that this new State is surrounded on every side, and that this means that Ulster has got to spend its money on preparing an army to resist possible invasions. But it was stated by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, in the most emphatic way, that under this new arrangement Ulster will be part of Great Britain for that purpose as much as is Yorkshire or Lancashire, and it will clearly be the business, not of Ulster, but of the United Kingdom, to face an invasion of any kind. I know that in Ulster at this moment there is the feeling, which I deprecate so much, and if I had an influence I should try to eradicate it, that this country is not to be trusted. But we need not trouble about that argument as to invasion, for whatever Government was in power would, or the country would change that if it would not, take all steps to see that an invasion was put down by British force. If this were not so, then the Empire is at an end. I am going to deal now with the only aspect of this Treaty which is open to serious objection. That is as to the Boundaries Commission. If ever the Ulster people considered that anything was settled and settled for ever, it was the boundaries. I think it is hardly worth while elaborating, but I may point out that in the letter written to me by the Prime Minister just before the last election he specified, that in dealing with Ireland anything which interferes not with Ulster but with the six counties is impossible. That was not accidental. We know, everybody knows, how bitter the controversy was over it during the passage of the Home Rule Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley knows, I think, that it would have been settled but for that difficulty. That letter was worded in that way to settle that question so that, so far as this Government and Parliament were concerned, it could not arise again. Then of course there was the passing of the Act of 1920, and there was the King opening the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Nothing, one would have thought, could have been more binding than all these things, but I want to say something else. In substance, I do not think that that is so important. In the secret negotiations which were carried on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley with the view of settling this question, we who spoke as representing Ulster were prepared to have an adjustment of the boundaries. If we had agreed to some clearly defined modification of the boundaries I am inclined to think they would have accepted it. The great mistake which has been made is that the Government should have put this provision in, signed, sealed, and ratified, without consulting Ulster.
I am going to be fair in this matter if I can, for if anyone ought to know both the difficulties and the responsibilities of the Government, and if anyone ought to know how little there is in the idea that people are doing certain things because they wish to stick to office. I am that man. No one ought to know that better than I. I am going to look at the thing fairly. It would not be any defence, to me, that Sir James Craig declined to enter a Conference to consider the possibility of an all-Ireland Parliament. Very likely the Government felt that if they did not conclude negotiations right away they might not conclude them at all. If so, I think that that is a defence which ought to be seriously taken into account by the Ulster representatives. I say further that if the Boundaries Commission is carried out in a spirit worthy of the Agreement, which means not the possibility of throwing out a county but a real adjustment of boundaries, and if that is what it means, I think Ulster would make a very great mistake if it refused to have anything to do with the agreement on that account. That is my own view, but I can quite understand the soreness of Ulster at the moment. There is this advantage in what has been done. The Government and the House have no right to ask Ulster to express any opinion about it. They were not consulted. Let a certain amount of time elapse, and when that time has elapsed I shall be very much surprised if we do not find Sir James Craig and his friends—as regards Sir James Craig he is what is not often found in politicians, a wise man—I shall be very disappointed if he does not see some way of avoiding breaking the Agreement for such a reason.
I hope my hon. Friends, especially my old friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), will not think that in what I am saying I am showing hostility to the South of Ireland. I shall try to show that I have no feeling of that kind. When my right hon. Friends press Ulster to come in, I say that so far as I am concerned one of the great merits of the Agreement is that whilst things are as they are, and Ulster does not come in, it is a great advantage that there should be time for peace to grow up between these people. The hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) quoted a speech made by me about Dominion Home Rule. I am not sure that I have greatly changed my mind. Unless you get goodwill in time, nothing else much matters. I believe the Government are perfectly right—they could not have done otherwise—to put in that provision about the use of the ports and all the rest of it. That is worth a great deal. There can never be any question of using them when they think it necessary. If the Southern Parliament and people are hostile, whether you call them a Republic or a Dominion will not make very much difference. We have always said that strategic considerations were of great importance, but I say for myself—I have not consulted any military expert, and his opinion, whatever it was, would not alter my view—that the fact that Ulster, so large a part of Ireland, inhabited, as we believe it to be, by a population which is on our side in any struggle, would be worth more as a security in case of danger than any number of conditions in any Bill. I do not look upon existing conditions as permanent. Heaven forbid! If they were permanent the whole thing would be a failure. One of the curses of Ireland, perhaps the greatest curse, has been that everything is looked at from the point of view of religious bigotry.
If it is true—it is an argument which in the old days I used with Southern Unionists—if that bigotry should continue, the Ulster people will form a solid and powerful block on the one side, and for a long time there will be divisions on the old religious lines. If we get the Parliaments started and working freely for some years, in the South at least, and I hope in the North, you will find people separating quickly on the same grounds as in other communities, and later on it will be far easier to have a union for the whole of Ireland.
I will deal with one very serious objection to this Treaty. It has been urged by every speaker, and I think it influences very many who do not mean to vote against this and who approve on the whole of carrying it out. They say it is a surrender to a campaign of murder. I do not think it is, but, if my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues will allow me to say so, they are partly to blame for giving that impression. I have read speeches by Ministers of the Crown about the expenses, statements that they would not get people to volunteer to fight in this quarrel. That seemed to me to be profoundly absurd. If the people of this country believe that they are right in this matter, the idea that we would think any more about money than we did in the late War with the Germans is utterly nonsensical. So far as the mass of the people of this country are concerned, I do not think they are influenced in the least by surrender. The British people—perhaps I had better say the English people, because I have no English blood in my veins that I know of—are the most magnanimous people on the face of the earth. I do not think that the Prime Minister is wrong when he says that at this moment the overwhelming mass of the people is in favour of this Agreement. I do not doubt it. But they are in favour of it, not because they would not have been ready to see the quarrel to an end, but because they hate bloodshed and see no reason, and never have seen a reason, why we should not live in peace with Ireland.
Let anyone consider the facts in regard to nationality. There is no sentiment in the human being so strong as the sentiment of nationality, and no lapse of time, unless conditions make the change acceptable, will alter it. Look, for instance, at the troubles in Silesia. I am not surprised that the feeling of Polish nationality should have existed all these centuries. Take what happened in Scotland when the Union was made. The great and overwhelming majority of the Scottish people were against it, and for more than two generations they hated it. What has made them reconciled?
My right hon. Friend says they are all on the Front Bench. The union brought immense material advantages to Scotland. They had been shut out from all English trade, but in course of time the obvious improvement of conditions in Scotland reconciled the people to the union. In Ireland we had the union and absolutely no benefits of any kind were given to the Irish people. If Pitt had succeeded in what he intended, the whole history of Ireland might have been different. It is quite true that in our generation there have been benefits and we have found a proof of them. After ten years, I will not say of resolute government, but of decided government, we found the benefits in 1906, when Mr. John Redmond told us that his country had never been so prosperous. But it came too late. Members who were present in the last Parliament will recall the speech of Major William Redmond. It was a speech to which I, as the then Leader of the House, had to reply. There was a man almost as old as myself, who had not only taken our side in the War, but had actually gone into active service in the trenches, and had ultimately paid the price with his life. He appealed to us. His plea was that Ulster and the South were fighting harmoniously against the common enemy, and he said, "Cannot we and Ulster live harmoniously together?" I was deeply moved, but I could say nothing but platitudes, and I will state why. I was as convinced then as I am now that there was no chance of a settlement which did not recognise, for the present at least, the right of Ulster to shape its own destiny. By this agreement, for good or evil, that has been acknowledged. In my view it makes a tremendous change and it gives me a hope, which I never had before, that there may be peace in Ireland.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley—I do not know that it is my business, for it is a controversy rather with the Prime Minister—said that this Treaty might have been got much sooner. That is a prophecy about the past. A great Scottish writer once said, "You cannot argue with a prophet; you can only refuse to believe him." I do refuse to believe him in this matter. I cannot make a prophecy any more than he, but if after all that has happened there is this division now among the Sinn Feiners—and it is a great. mistake to suppose that they like it any more than we do—if there is this tremendous division now, I do not think there would have been any chance of getting these terms accepted three years ago. When I say I am in favour of this Agreement, I do not pretend to like it. I am sure the Government do not like it in many particulars. I do not pretend to like it, but I ask myself this What is the alternative? Are we to go back to the condition of things which prevailed for the past year or two? Nobody would like that. We could do it, we have done it before and we could do it again, but how much better off would we be? Throughout my whole life this Irish Question has been a trouble to this country and to Ireland. The first election I remember in which I took an interest was that of 1874, and it was begun—and those who are old enough will remember it well—by a letter from Lord Beaconsfield to the Duke of Marlborough, who had been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. That was an appeal to the electors on the Irish Question, and that has been my experience ever since. It has been a menace to the tranquillity of the country, and it is not merely in our lifetime. That has been the history of our dealings with Ireland for 700 years. When we think of the disadvantages and the dangers of this Treaty—and they are great—think of the alternative. Is it not worth taking some risk, perhaps a considerable risk, to try and get our relations on a better footing? In regard to this I would like to say one word more. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Paisley when he said that this was not a time for throwing caps into the air. I read in some newspaper, I forget which, that as a result of this achievement my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was on the highest pinnacle ever occupied by any Premier. He is too wise a man to think that. I remember coming back with him from the signing of the Armistice with Germany, and I said to him, "If you are a wise man, since you have not the wings of a dove, you had better take an aeroplane and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth and have peace if you want to enjoy your life." I think there is a feeling all through the Empire of rejoicing, but there is going to be a. reaction from all this. Six months hence I do not think this will be a political asset to my right hon. Friend, but I do hope that it will be otherwise in the distant future, and that by the verdict of posterity it, will be a permanent triumph for him. It is absurd to think we have settled the Irish Question when both Parliaments agree to this. Ireland is in a state of demoralisation and chaos as great as ever has been almost in any country. That is not going to be changed by waving a wand. There are going to be terrible difficulties, but I see this prospect for us. Up to now there has never been any public opinion in Southern Ireland except hatred of this country. Whatever else happens we are now more or less out of the picture, and if they must fight they will fight each other. It is not too much to hope that the friendly feeling which exists in England towards Ireland will be felt by Ireland towards England. A great many of those who are opposed to this Treaty say that the men who signed it mean when they get this power to have a republic and to upset it all. The facts do not seem to tally with that. It looks really as if the men who signed it intend loyally to carry it out, and is it not worth our while giving them the chance? There is bound to be something like chaos in the South of Ireland for some time, but if they get a Government which really tries to govern, then they perhaps have a better chance of restoring order than we would have. There is a platitude which the Liberal party are fond of applying very often when they are in Opposition, though I never heard them use it when they were in office. It is that some- thing must be wrong with the laws unless they have the support of the community. I do not think it is our fault, but it is our misfortune that we have never had that moral support from the South of Ireland. There is at least the possibility that these people may get it—that if they do not get it to-day or to-morrow, or next year, they may get it some time, and they may restore civilised conditions in Ireland, and there is a chance, which is worth going for, that we shall be on better terms with Ireland.
I feel it necessary to intervene in this Debate, having regard to the fact that I am one of those concerned in the making of the truce in Ireland, and having regard to the further fact that I represent a Southern Irish constituency. It is my intention to support the Government in regard to this Treaty. I think we get to the bedrock of this matter when we ask ourselves the question which has been put by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, in the course of that very able speech, namely, what is the alternative policy? Gentlemen in this House, although they have been full of sympathy with us in Ireland, have been uninformed, insufficiently informed, at any rate, as to what was really transpiring in Ireland. Do they realise that one might be shot either by Sinn Fein, or by the forces of the Crown, when in pursuit of one's ordinary avocations, in the streets of any of our cities? Do they realise that, as a matter of fact, a great many innocent, people were shot while walking through the streets, and that there is one case of a poor man who, after a long life, was killed in his bed by an accidental shot? Is the alternative to these proposals to be the devastation of Ireland by fire and sword? The Government have already resorted to very drastic measures in Ireland, and unless they were to resort to further measures, for which they would find no sanction, in the opinion of the Colonies and other people in sympathy with them—unless, I say, they resorted to that mode of government, it would be quite impossible to carry on. It is not alone with regard to the loss of human life that we have had, what we may describe without exaggeration as a hell of a time in Ireland, but our prosperity has been at stake. It has been almost impossible, except at the most prohibitive rates, for any man to insure his property. I am one of those who come here from the South of Ireland prepared to take all the risks involved in this Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that for a long time he looked forward to a period of chaos in Ireland. I ask him what was the condition before the truce? Was it not the most absolute chaos? The King's Writ no longer ran, courts were set up against the laws of this country, and every form of reprisal was resorted to by the people who considered themselves the stronger Government. Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman laid down an axiom with which I entirely agree, namely, that there should be no taxes unless you get good government. What kind of government have we had in Ireland lately? If we were to adopt that axiom we would all refuse to pay our taxes. I know there are men holding important positions in Ireland who have declared that they do not see the joke of paying a dog and barking themselves. A number of gentlemen in this House look askance at the idea of accepting this Treaty. "What," they say, "accept this Treaty with all its implications of defeat and failure? Certainly not." I have learned in the course of a fairly long life to realise that he is a wise man who recognises when he is beaten. This is not the time to debate the matter, but there are wiry grave and cogent reasons why it is difficult indeed to rule Ireland unless you have the sympathy of the people.
No, I have not got the wind up. It is easy for gentlemen who sit at home of ease in Ulster to lecture us about getting the wind up. There are other gentlemen here who are similarly happily circumstanced. Put yourselves in our place.
If you lived there and if you heard the rifle fire as we heard it before the truce, going on all round you night and day, and if you said goodbye to your family every morning never expecting to see them again, then perhaps you would not talk as some of you have done. In the circumstances that have arisen in Ireland, I say to my hon. Friend that they must not blame us if we turn our attention to those whom we consider can give us good government, and there have been indications, to which I cannot be oblivious, that Sinn Fein means to give us good government. It may be, as the right hon. Gentleman has just said, a considerable time before we have an ideal Government, but my opinion is that these men—and I sat with them for some days—earnestly desire if they get the government of Ireland to do their very best to govern us well.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that is in regard to the attitude of Northern Ireland, or, to speak more correctly, the six counties. I plead with Ulster, not to suggest that Ulster ought to have the smallest coercion, moral or physical, but I am here to ask my fellow countrymen in the North to take their place with their colleagues and with their co-religionists the minority in the South of Ireland. If they were to do that, you would have an Opposition in Ireland such as you have not in this House—a more powerful and efficient Opposition. I know what their views are, and I have often appealed to them for their sympathy, which has sometimes been given, but I prefer the action of the old Quaker gentleman who, when some friends were met in reference to a friend in distressed circumstances, and were expressing how much they felt, said, "I feel £10 for him." That is what we want here. We ask our hon. Friends from the North at some stage, and very soon, to come in and join us in Ireland. With their help we can achieve great things in Ireland. We have taken risks in the South that they have not taken. I have been for three years in this House, and I have learned that, owing to the enormous burdens of Empire, there are many questions affecting Ireland for which it is impossible to get a sympathetic hearing, and I think the Government are well advised in taking the step they are now taking. It would be impossible for us to be in a worse condition than we have been in, and we may easily be in a very much better position. Therefore I appeal with all the emphasis I can that this Agreement may have its reward in a happy and contented Ireland.
The hon. Member for Rathmines (Sir M. Dockrell) has, I think, summed up the situation from his Sinn Fein friends' point of view—"How much are you going to pay us?" That is exactly what lies behind the Sinn Fein movement: How much can we get out of it—not How much can we give to Ulster or to the Empire? As far as we are concerned, I may tell them quite frankly that we have no intention whatever of joining with men whose hands are dripping with the blood of our friends, and I hope the hon. Member and the others who are asking us to go into a Dublin Parliament, will take that as a final answer from Ulster. So far as Ulster is concerned, there is no desire to be associated with murderers, to say nothing of the people who tried to stab Great Britain in the back during the Great War. One feels a difficulty in following the Prime. Minister. The Prime Minister is such a clever acrobat that you do not know exactly where he is, and you feel when he has made a speech, if you reply to it, that he probably has changed his opinion before you have spoken yours. I know he is very versatile. He has made this country a country fit for heroes to dwell in, and he is now going to make Ireland a country safe for murderers to operate in. I do not know what he expects to get. I know there is a strong feeling over the country that the Government, in giving way as it has done to murder and outrage, has betrayed the interests of every loyal man, not only in Ireland, but in Great Britain and the Empire. The Prime Minister may say there is no cowardice, and that this is done out of the bounty of our hearts, but I submit that, all over the South and West of Ireland, the people look at this thing—and I think rightly—as if they have beaten the British Gov- ernment to its knees. The Chief Secretary often told us that he had got murder by the throat, but now he has got the murderers on his knees, and is fondling them as a father would his children. As far as I am concerned, I would love to see peace in Ireland. I run greater risks because of the situation in Ireland than either the Prime Minister or the Chief Secretary. You cannot put a barrier up at the end of every street in Ireland as you can in Downing Street. You have to run your risk, and as long as the murderers can do as they please, there will be a reverberation, and you will find in India and Egypt and all over the world people who think that what the Government call magnanimity is really cowardice.
I always look at this question not from an Ulster or from an Irish point of view, but from an Imperial point of view. We have heard a good deal to-day with regard to the failure of the Union, but I deny that the Union was a failure, and I say that the men who were trying to operate the Union were very often failures. My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) took charge of Ireland in 1906–7, and he found that Ireland was peaceable, prosperous, happy, and contented, and had been so for 15 years previous to that, and in that time had increased in prosperity to an extent that had not even been excelled by Great Britain. Why is Ireland in the position in which she finds herself to-day? It is because of the cowardice of successive Governments. We need never have had murder, outrage, and bitterness—and God knows the bitterness is terrible at the present time—if we had had a Government with any backbone, a Government that would have taken murder really by the throat rather than talked about taking it by the throat, a Government that would have suppressed crime and insisted on law and order being carried out. I submit that this Treaty—I am not quite sure why it should be called a Treaty, because I understand that Treaties are made between nations, and Ireland is not a nation, and has never been a nation. We hear a great deal of flapdoodle with regard to "Ireland a nation." Ireland never was a nation, and is not to-day. You might as well talk of the Western Isles as a nation, and probably with greater right. Ireland has been made up of warring tribes and factions, and the bitterness has gone on for years and still exists, and the nearest approach to nationality that Ireland has ever had has followed the Union. I submit that this Agreement—for I prefer to call it an Agreement rather than a Treaty—will, if it is carried out, be injurious, not only to the Empire, but to Ireland itself. Hon. Members opposite talk about the past bitterness in Ireland and the past wrongs of Ireland, but the greatest wrongs that ever were inflicted on Ireland were inflicted during the times when Ireland had her own Parliament, when there was a full-blown Parliament in Ireland. The trouble that existed in the seventeenth century will reproduce itself in the twentieth, and you will find that, instead of getting nearer to a settlement, things will be worse than they have ever been.
I would like for a moment to refer to the coercion of Ulster. There is a distinguished statesman, whose name has been mentioned in this House during these Debates, who galloped into fame through Ulster, and that gentleman on one occasion declared that Ulster could neither be conquered by cowards nor cheated by knaves. That is as true today as it was when the present Lord Chancellor uttered those words to Ulster in 1912. Ulster is not going to be conquered and is not going to be cheated, and I say that we have a grievance against the Government in regard to its behaviour towards Ulster. The right hon. Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law)—and I am sure we are all delighted to see him back in this House again—has referred to the grievance that we have. In 1918, he, as the leader of the Unionist party then—I do not know where the Unionist party is now—and the present Prime Minister signed a letter in which they said that if the Irish question was ever to be settled there were two paths that were absolutely closed. One was with regard to the allegiance of Ireland to the Crown, and the other was in regard to the six counties. There was no reference to a portion of the six counties, or to a Boundary Commission. The whole arrangement with regard to a Boundary Commission is part of the scheme that the Government have been carrying out in order to coerce Ulster to-morrow. They have utilised their doped Press with the object of showing that we, and we only, stand in the way of peace, and they have been doing everything they could to coerce Ulster from a moral point of view, but they have failed, and they will fail. They will discover that, instead of getting nearer to their journey's end, they are much further from it than ever. Not only in 1918, but in the Act of 1920, we had a definite pledge that Ulster should have the six counties, so that we really have a double pledge that the six counties were to be kept for Ulster. Though the Prime Minister gave his pledge that nothing would be done to prejudice Ulster without consulting Sir James Craig and the Northern Government, he went and made this arrangement. We have some right to ask those Members of the Government, especially those who used to profess Unionism, why this thing has been done?
I pay no attention to the question of an oath. A man who swore an oath of allegiance to the Irish Republic six weeks ago, and is prepared to swear allegiance to an Irish State, which is to be responsible to a, British Commonwealth of Nations, which does not exist, will have no trouble whatever in taking any oath, and this oath is really camouflage. It is really for the purpose of throwing dust in the eyes of the British people. There is not a Member on the Government Benches who does not know it. The Colonial Secretary, I think, proved too much this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman said that this oath is much more expansive, much more expressive than the simple oath we take in this House, and they take in the Dominions. Why did he not, then, stick to that oath? Because the Sinn Feiners would not take it, and he had to find some excuse to get out of it. If right hon. Gentlemen who represent the Government would read the first letter of the Prime Minister to Mr. de Valera they would discover that there are six points in it, four of which have disappeared. The one thing about the Prime Minister is that the irrevocable is always revoked, and the inevitable never happens. I do not know what explanation they are going to give with regard to the army and the navy. I suggest that the setting up of a navy is a great danger. I suggest that the setting up of an army in Southern Ireland will only lead to our creating an army in Northern Ireland, and that in time will lead to civil war. The Prime Minister some time ago made it plain that such a thing as an army being set up in Ireland was impossible. He taunted Members opposite with wanting to set up an army in Ireland, and he said that such a thing would be a menace to Ireland which would not be tolerated. But what could not be tolerated 12 months ago can be tolerated now. What was black then is white now, and when the Prime Minister says that black is white and white is black the other Members of the Government say the same thing.
I hope the House will register its emphatic opinion that this Treaty is one that should not be passed by the House. I remember, many years ago, the late Mr. Gladstone, speaking of the Parnellite party, said they were marching through rapine and murder to the dismemberment of the Empire. I would say, with regard to the present Government, that it is crawling over the bodies of its murdered servants to the same end.
I hope the Prime Minister will permit me to offer him my congratulations on having brought this Conference to so successful a conclusion. If I may say so without offence, he has done a big thing, and he has done it in a big way. The Unionists in the South of Ireland have received the news of this agreement with feelings of satisfaction that can only be appreciated by those who have lived there in recent years, and perhaps by those who have got imagination to visualise what would have happened had these negotiations fallen through. I think I am correct in saying that the majority of Southern Unionists have for a long time seen that there was no other possibility of settlement of the age-long struggle, and the healing of this Irish sore, except through a Conference. Now it may be gratuitous to suggest that this Conference ought to have taken place long ago. The Prime Minister expressed his opinion that that was not possible. I disagree, but however that may be, it is right that this should be said, that if it did not take place a considerable time ago, the fault does not lie at the door of the Southern Unionists. As a body, we welcome it now. Most of us,
if not all, believe that through its instrumentality the country has now an opportunity of pursuing the paths of peace and progress—an opportunity of which we trust and believe she will avail herself. I know that she will receive the cordial support and the sympathetic co-operation of the Unionists of Southern Ireland. I think I am correct in saying that they are prepared to throw their lot into the common stock, and to help, as by their business capacity and by their education and position they are fitted to help, in the building up of the new State and in making a success of the new system. I believe that the end of this Agreement will be an accession of strength, not only to Ireland herself, but to the peace and the prosperity of the world at large, and particularly of that great community of nations of which Ireland will, in the future, herself form an integral part. In this connection, I may quote the resolution which was passed by the Board of Trinity College, Dublin:
That the Registrar be instructed to write on behalf of the Board to the members for the University at Westminster, and to the members for the University in the Southern Irish Parliament, and to express the hope that they will find it possible to support the terms of settlement for the future government of Ireland, already accepted by the British Cabinet and by the delegates from Dail Eireann. The true interest of Trinity College can only be furthered by Irish peace, and in the building up of happier conditions in Ireland, the Board of Trinity College believes that Trinity men should take an active and a sympathetic part.
I feel sure that the enormous preponderance, if not entire body of electors of the University, of which I have the honour to be one of the representatives in this House, will be in cordial agreement with that resolution. I feel sure that the appeal will be responded to worthily and loyally. For my own part I look upon the future as being brighter than for a long time. I believe that in the future the feelings of distrust and enmity which have existed in Ireland towards this country will die down, and that, whereas in the past there has been a nominal union and real estrangement, in the future we shall have real union.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to some matters of very vital importance to the people of Ulster, not only from their local point of view, but from the Imperial point of view.
In the first place, we are very much concerned about this question of boundaries, the readjustment of which is mentioned in the Treaty. In his opening speech the Prime Minister said that there were certain areas, boards of guardians or county council areas where readjustment could not be left to the care of the Northern Parliament in view of the majority of the people living there. We feel strongly upon this question of the six counties' boundaries. We feel it is a breach of faith and a violation of the pledges given us by so many of the leading politicians on both sides of the House and by the Prime Minister himself. We feel that it is a deliberate weakening and succumbing to the threats of Sinn Fein, as a sop at the last moment given by the Prime Minister in order to have a conclusion and a settlement even if it were 2 o'clock in the morning. Lord Carson speaking last night in another place made a very remarkable statement. In 1916, as reported, he was asked by the Prime Minister at the instigation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who was then his chief, to go to Ireland and try to induce the Ulster people to agree to set up the Act of 1914 in the South and West on condition that the six counties should be left out. I knew, he said, they would hate it, but I cared more about the success of the War than I did even about Ulster, and I went over. I had as a guarantee a letter from the present Prime Minister which I shall always keep as a precious possession, that the six counties should be left out and never put back again without an Act of Parliament." That is the position which the Northern Parliament accepted, that these six counties should be left inviolate to us, and that we should try for the sake of peace in Ireland and in order to assist the Government and the country to work our Parliament. We have, set up our Parliament, but have not even yet got all our powers. The ink is hardly dry on the signature of the King when we are informed that there is to be a fresh delimitation of those boundaries. Trouble and suspicion have been engendered amongst the mass of the Ulster people, and this fighting is going on in the interests of peace, so to speak. A new source of bitterness is being created in-face of the Act itself, and the Prime Minister says it is a crowning effort of this Government!
Let us examine the merits of the case. The Prime Minister gave a pledge to this House that you should not delimit by county, but by the mass of the people of any given area, the homogeneous mass, with a view to the preservation of unified ideals, outlook, and religious feelings. Following out this plan we have been given the six counties. Take the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh. At the election for the Northern Parliament the voting was on the principle of proportional representation. In view of the balance of parties it is utter folly to put this Clause in the Agreement. In one area of Tyrone and Fermanagh where a membership of eight was returned to the Northern Parliament, four were Unionists, three Sinn Feiners, while the eighth belongs to the old Nationalist party. In other words, the balance was about equal. There was not sufficient on one side or the other to change the balance of power, even in this eighth Member constituency of the two counties.
I felt, listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law), that something ought to be said from our side of the House as to the reasonableness of our opposition. We do not object to the Boundary Commission being set up if it is going to be an honest Commission, delimiting areas according to the spirit enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow. In proof of this, we are willing, if the Government will see that the Boundary Commissioners are only to act in case of three members of the Commission being agreed in the interchange of areas between Sinn Fein and the Northern area—the representatives of Sinn Fein, Ulster, and this House. If these three sit together and are agreed in an honest delimitation we are quite willing to accept. it, but we are not willing to put our case again into pawn or to have the matter re-opened and settled according to the political methods of the time. We not only object to this question of boundaries, but we also feel that it was very bad treatment and very unfortunate consideration of the Northern Parliament that this matter of the Agreement should have been accomplished behind the back of our Prime Minister. We realise that this has been done, as explained, at 2 o'clock in the morning and that it was to close a deal with Sinn Fein on the allegiance question. They believe they have got a quid pro quo in giving up something on allegiance; they have made it impossible, or almost impossible, to govern the Northern area in raising this question. It is also, we feel, another way of coercing Ulster. It is a threat to coerce Ulster by taking away her boundaries in order to force her into a Dublin Parliament.
Probably hon. Members do not know that at the present time in Ireland a fierce boycott is going on against all goods manufactured or sold in any part of the Northern area against their being sent to any part of the Southern area. This boycott is also carried on, to an extent, against British goods, especially if they go through the wholesale people in Belfast or the port of Belfast. Therefore we realise why our people feel very strongly that this is brought in to clip off something from our areas, depreciate our boundaries, and to contract the area of distribution for our merchants, and economically to compel us to come under the Southern Parliament.
We object to, and view with apprehension, the idea of an army for Northern and Southern Ireland. The Prime Minister says it is to consist only of 40,000 men, but how does he know? What is the number of the Irish Republican Army to-day The Prime Minister knows that it is nearer 100,000. What will happen when the police force and the British soldiers are taken away in Ireland? The Republican Army can then do as it pleases. It is contemplated that in Southern Ireland there will be an army of something like 400,000 men, and yet we in the Northern area are asked to go in for a joint Customs and Excise arrangement with a Dublin Parliament and support this army of 400,000 men, which may be put on our flank as a menace to come over some day like an avalanche to destroy us and to disturb the security of the United Kingdom. That is what is in the mind of the Ulster people, and it is one of the reasons why we look with great apprehension to the future.
We feel that if this army is permitted to come into being the day is not far distant when you must have conscription in this country in order to keep up your standing army to anything like the strength of the army in Southern Ireland. As to the financial proposals, we were informed when we consented to a Northern Parliament of two things, namely, that we should always retain our citizenship in the British Empire and our direct connection with this House. We were told also that we were to be on equal terms with the Parliament of Southern Ireland. In this Agreement we find that there is to be one financial arrangement for Southern Ireland and a different system for the North. We know what this means. It is simply a bait to the people of Ulster to withdraw their allegiance to the Northern Parliament and Great Britain and join the South, because then they may have lower taxation. The people who formulate such ideas do not know the Ulster people. We are not to be bought like this.
We have always asserted and claimed equal citizenships with the people of the United Kingdom, and we are willing to bear equal burdens with you, no matter what conditions are given to the South. These proposals will not move us one inch. We will meet the liabilities that will come, although we feel that we are not being fairly treated in the matter of protection of our markets or by the British administration which allows such ruthless boycotting to go on. We have no protection and our merchants are being ruined, and yet through it all we shall endeavour, so long as we can evade bankruptcy, to bear equal burdens with the people of this country. We say that it is unfair on the part of the Government to offer one set of financial terms to the people of the South and to ask that a different system should be retained in the North. For these reasons we say that the promises given to Ulster have been violated. We shall resist to the limit of our power arty tampering with our boundaries. They have been incorporated in an Act of Parliament, and they are ours, and this House has no right to tamper with them hardly six months after the Act has been passed and before the Northern Parliament has had time to function.
It is an insult to our Parliament and our people that now, in order to please rampant Sinn Fein and bring them into some sort of agreement, you are doing this at the cost of the areas of the people of Ulster. You are only spreading suspicion amongst Ulstermen, you are showing that British politicians cannot be trusted, and that the letter of the Prime Minister is only a scrap of paper and cannot be depended upon. You are simply re-opening the old troubles between North and South, which ought to have been eliminated and buried long ago. We ought to have more opportunities of understanding each other and having more confidence in each other.
We want the Southern people to do three things. We want them, first of all, to put their priesthood in its proper place and alienate them from politics and from dictating the policy of the people. We want them to place education where it ought to be, and we want them to make the fellow at the street corner obey the law. If those things were done, in a very short time we should have a complete change. It is the religious authority which strives to dominate the civil authority, and when this kind of thing prevails there must be trouble. That is the great trouble in Ireland. It is the only trouble, and, knowing these facts as we do, I hope the British people will sympathise with us when we say we will remain as we are until we see the Roman Catholic Irish people thinking and acting for themselves and making laws such as honest men can live under. When that time comes there will be no people who will rejoice more than those in the North of Ireland, there will be no people who will more gladly extend a brotherly hand to the people of the South. We have no antipathy to the Irish people who differ from us in religion. God forbid that we should; but we are not willing for a moment to go under the gun-men, under the men who, in the streets of Belfast, threw bombs into a car in which were travelling a number of artisans returning from their work, bombs which blew two into eternity and from the effects of which two other men have since died. We are not willing to go under a system of that kind. Our fathers did not train us for that. Our citizenship is of a different type, but if these people will become reasonable, if they will seek to develop their country, no one will rejoice more than we in the North of Ireland. In the meantime we object to this picking at our areas and our institutions—at these endeavours to coerce us to come under this Parliament whether we like it or not. We object to this re-opening of our boundaries, and we will continue to object to it. We shall put our case before the British people as we are putting it before this House. We trust that the British people and the majority of this House will see that justice is done, and that they will not seek to tamper with an Act of Parliament which has only just been brought into existence. We trust that they will protect the interests of those who have stood by Britain in fair weather and in foul, and we are most anxious, not only that there should be peace in Ireland and security in the Empire, but that this age-long quarrel should once and for ever cease.
As an Irishman representing an English constituency, I want to say a few words on this all-important question. Let me at the outset congratulate the Prime Minister and the Government, although I am not tied in any way to the Government, for I never received their coupon, and therefore the support I give them is entirely voluntary—let me congratulate them upon bringing about this peace. In my opinion the country owes them a deep debt of gratitude, and so, indeed, does the whole world, for what they have done. The King at Belfast made a speech. What I wonder is that the loyal people of Belfast, as they call themselves, and the loyal people of this country, have seemed to ignore the advice given by His Majesty on that occasion. I have heard a good deal about the religious question. Let me say here that in the South and West of Ireland, as I know full well, we have no religious difficulty whatever. There no man has ever suffered on account of his religion. He may have suffered on account of his politics, but never on account of his religious belief. In fact, part of the education in the South and West of Ireland is religious toleration, and in my early days, in the National Schools, there was exhibited a card upon which was printed in large type, "A General Lesson." At the hour of noon each day the headmaster of the school had it as a duty to read that General Lesson to the scholars and, let hon. Members remember, these are schools whose managers are the parish priests of Ireland. This so impressed me that I can almost repeat certain words of that General Lesson, and I will endeavour to do so if the House will permit. It starts by saying that Christians should endeavour, as the Apostle Paul commanded them, to live peaceably with all men, even with those of a different religious persuasion. Our Saviour Christ commanded His Disciples to love one another, to bless those who cursed them, and to pray for those who persecuted them. He himself prayed for his murderers. If any person holds an erroneous doctrine we are not to hate or to persecute him, but we are to seek for the truth, to hold fast to what we are convinced is the truth, and not to treat harshly those who are in error.
This is an example that might well be held up to our friends in Ulster. It would do them a lot of good if they were to copy it and not to exhibit that religious bigotry of which we have read so much in the papers during the last 40 years, during which period, in Belfast, we have always had periodical outbursts of it. We have had Roman Catholics turned away from their work in the shipyards, and if Protestants have been turned out I agree that it is equally bad on both sides. It does seem to me that the narrow spirit of the Orange Ulstermen is apparent even in this House. When I was a boy I heard that the prayer of the Orangeman was this, so restricted was he in his views and in his outlook:
God bless me and my wife, and my son John, and his wife, us four and no more, for ever more, Amen.
Speaking seriously, this is an opportunity which we now have to wipe out the black memories of the past, and the Government are wise in thus endeavouring to put an end to the strife which has been going on for 750 years. You have tried, and tried cruelly, in the past, to break down the Irish spirit, and you have failed. You had your Strongbow in Ireland—Stronghow was a gentleman. You had your Cromwell in Ireland, and he, too, was a gentleman compared with the last whom you had there—the Black-and-Tans. I went to Ireland last August, and the tales that were told me there by the inhabitants about the cruel behavour of that force were absolutely horrible.
I find that the people who are opposed to peace are those whose class has always hindered a settlement of the Irish question. Ulster, of course, I can quite understand. They are privileged people, and they were privileged people also in the past. They have had their own laws. They have had their own land laws, and it was only in Gladstone's time that the tenant right law of Ulster was extended to the rest of Ireland. Ulster was planted there to foment strife amongst the rest of Ireland. They have faithfully carried out their task, and to-day the Government of the party who sent them there would be glad if they never had done so. We have heard about resolute government. Hon. Members in the past spoke of 20 years of resolute government in Ireland. You have tried that. You have tried to hunt down priests, and you made it a penal offence to say Mass. You prohibited Catholics from holding land, and you enacted a Measure which, I believe, is on the Statute Book to-day, whereby if a Catholic in Ireland had a horse worth £50, and if a Protestant came and offered him £5 for it, he was bound to sell it to him. All these things have been done without result. I am sorry to see that the old spirit of Ulster is not dying out. I am sorry to see their bigotry on the question of religion. Every time they speak it is religion. There is talk of bringing education in Ireland up to a certain standard, but from the accounts we have had in this House of Belfast itself, education in Belfast is in a most deplorable condition.
I hope that these things will all be forgotten, and that a saner policy will prevail. I hope that this Agreement will be ratified by the present House of Commons, and that it will bring peace between the peoples of these countries.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. ALLEN:
I do not know that I would like to follow my hon. and gallant Friend into the discussion he has raised. I rather like my hon. and gallant Friend, and I would not care to say any-thing that would hurt his feelings in any way, more particularly from the religious standpoint. It may be that he sees through green spectacles while I see through orange, and perhaps, if we are inclined to do that, our words and our lives will be coloured accordingly. I have been an Orangeman for, I suppose, almost 30 years, and I am not ashamed to say that this is the first time I have heard that humorous prayer of the Orangeman which my hon. and gallant Friend quoted. I can assure him that the one we use is very different. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to the school to which he used to go, and I can quite appreciate everything that he said. The trouble in Ireland which is largely responsible for the stand-offishness, so to speak, of the two religions, is that almost from infancy Protestants and Catholics are educated separately. When I was a boy I used to attend a school where both were educated together, but there came a time, I am sorry to say, when the Catholic clergy of Ireland demanded that their children should be entirely under their own instruction, and from that time they were separated. They were separated in infancy, they were separated when they went to secondary schools, they were separated when they went to the University; and, when the University has closed behind the young man who has been educated in that way from his youth, that young man is expected to go out into the world and mix with his fellow-countrymen, although he has been taught so differently right from his infancy. I am afraid I can never hope to see again the time that I saw in my youth, when all the boys and girls in Ireland were educated together. If we had that again, I believe we should have a very different Ireland in another generation. It would take a generation, because it would be a matter of education from infancy until that generation had been through the University.
With regard to the real business before the House, I have been profoundly disappointed in the apologies from the front Government Bench with regard to this matter. I can look upon them in no other light than as apologies—apologies for reversing the policy of the past. Not long ago I read this. It is an extract from the writings of an individual who found his political grave, as many others did, in the Chief Secretary's Office in Ireland—Mr. Birrell. He said:
It is a British characteristic, though not an agreeable one, that once we are beaten we go over in a body to the successful enemy and too often abandon and cold-shoulder and snub, both in action and in writing, the suffering few who adhered to our cause in evil and difficult times.
That is exactly what the present Cabinet have done with regard to the loyalists of Ulster. I should like to enter my emphatic protest, and to join with others, more particularly the late Leader of the House, when he chastised, as he did, the Press of this country. He described the condition of the Press and its views on Ulster when he came back from the Continent. I think nothing has done more
to alienate the people of Ulster from the acceptance of this Agreement than the action of the British Press. Week after week, month after month, Ulster was entirely in the wrong, and I think my right hon. Friend proved conclusively—and I think on the whole the British nation relies pretty well on his judgment, they appreciate him so much—that Ulster at no time during this period has been in the wrong, and has been treated by the British Press in a most harsh manner. But my chief complaint is not so much against the Press, because of its propaganda, as because of the propaganda of the present Cabinet, which has taken a most degrading form in throwing pictures of their Cabinet on the screens in music halls in London. A more degrading form of propaganda we could hardly conceive by a responsible Government such as we find in England to-day. But I go further than that. The Prime Minister said this:
The part played by the Monarch has added dignity and splendour to the Throne.
It is not our right, it is against the orders of this House, that we should debate a question of that character, and I do not intend, to do it. But not only have the Cabinet, as a Cabinet, paraded themselves before cinematograph operators in order to parade this so-called Treaty, this so-called peace, but in the centre of that moving picture in the music halls of this city the King himself is posing. I say no more about it. I leave that as a standing disgrace, in my opinion, to the action of the Cabinet, who ought to know better.
With regard to this Treaty I think it is only fair and right that we should inquire—and we sometimes forget this—with whom this Agreement has been made. We had the Prime Minister, in his opening statement, saying that he had received kindly congratulations from all over the world because the Peace Treaty had been signed. And why? It was telegraphed to the nations and communities of the universe as a treaty of peace which had at last been signed. In my opinion, the joy bells of peace have been rung too soon, and the Prime Minister may find this out in a very short time. We are puzzled, and we cannot find any explanation, and we have not had an explanation from the Members of the Cabinet who have spoken why this change of front has taken place. It has been suggested that this is a surrender to the murder gang. The very first word of that Treaty is the word "Ireland," leading people, I believe intentionally, to believe that the Treaty has been made between the British Government and the Irish people. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is part of the deception of the Treaty, in my opinion, and how the people of the various Governments all over the world have been deceived and led into the trap of sending messages of congratulation to the Prime Minister. This Treaty, according to the Treaty itself, has been made between this Government and Ireland, but it has really been made between this Government and certain representatives of a section of the people of Ireland. I think it is well that we should remember—that is the trouble in Ulster, that we are compelled to remember every day—who these people are with whom the Treaty has been made. It has been repeated here, over and over again, that up to November over 600 breakages of the truce have occurred. That proves that the men who have started this fire have started an uncontrolled force, and that they have no power to stop it. I understand that even this very day in Southern Ireland four policemen have been murdered. That shows you, and it ought to show this House and the nation and the world, if they could only hear it, how far it is from the truth that a Peace Treaty has been signed. That is our trouble in Ulster. Almost a year ago, when the 1920 Act was passed, I said in this House to Sinn Fein, "Here is your opportunity. Up to the present the Ulster people have no reason to have any confidence whatever in Sinn Fein or the Nationalists of Southern Ireland. All your actions have gone to prove to us that we cannot trust you, that we do not trust you. Here is the Act of Parliament of 1920. We have been given a Parliament in Ulster. You have been given a Parliament in Southern Ireland. Prove to us that you are worthy of our confidence by the working of this Act, and then, perhaps, in time, we can see that you are worthy of our confidence." Is that not a reasonable attitude to take? It is not an unreasonable attitude on the part of those who have been described as bigots and extremists. We are extremists in our love for England and the Empire, and we have proved it over and over again.
Who are the people we are asked to trust in Ireland? We are asked to trust them. We have been asked to trust them by the Leader of the House. In a speech he made an appeal to Sir James Craig to come into this bargain. It would appear to me as if that appeal was made from an Irish bog into which the Leader of the House had, unfortunately, fallen. All through these negotiations there is one figure which stands out clearly and distinctly before the world as that of a fair-minded, straightforward, honourable man. That man is Sir James Craig. There can be no question about that. We admire him all the more, the more we see of him, and we cannot help thinking that if the British Cabinet had been as straightforward with him there would be less difficulty in the situation than there is to-day. There is no doubt that he was given a definite promise in regard to the interests of Ulster, and there has been no worthy explanation as to the breaking of that promise. When I want a description of the people whom we are asked to trust in Ireland, and whom we are asked to join in an All-Ireland Parliament, I do not go to the description given by a bigoted Ulsterman. I do not go to the description given by what may be described as a bigoted Orangeman. I go to the words of the Prime Minister. In referring to the difficulties in which we found ourselves in the early part of the War, and to the individuals who were responsible for creating trouble, the Prime Minister used these words:
Ireland was a real peril. They were in touch with German submarines. There it stands at the gateway of Britain. You cannot turn to the right, you cannot turn to the left, except by either the right or the left gate of Ireland. I saw a map the other day that had been captured, a German map circulated to show how Britain was having her fleet destroyed. The coast of Ireland was black with British ships they had sunk, in the Atlantic, in the Irish Sea, and in the St. George's Channel. It is girdled with British wrecks, yes, and British seamen are there, too. We are to hand over Ireland to be made a base of the submarine fleet, and we are to trust to luck in our next war. Was there ever such lunacy proposed by anybody?
That is the position which was described by the Prime Minister. He inferred that the people who were responsible for that state of things around the coast of Ire-
land were those who were the friends of Germany in Ireland. A great deal of talk has occurred in this House with regard to giving to such people the responsibility of an army and a navy. The description given by the Prime Minister was of the state of things when this country had absolute control of the waters around Ireland. How can we possibly think of entering into a Treaty of the character proposed, which gives such people control of the waters around Ireland. If it was an Act of lunacy at the time that the Prime Minister spoke, surely this Treaty is a greater act of lunacy. I would like to go a step further with regard to these people with whom this Treaty was arranged. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, speaking in this House on 24th November, 1920, said:
I do not want to delay the House, but I should like to go into certain other matters in order to bring before the House and the country the real issue—not the debating issue, not the propaganda issue, but the real issue—namely, the organisation of this conspiracy in Ireland, subsidised by foreign money, which has as its object the smashing of the British Empire.
In his very best style the Chief Secretary proclaimed that
Recently we captured some intimate despatches of a man who calls himself the Commander-in-Chief and another who calls himself the Chief of the Staff of the Irish Republican Army. We found from these despatches that over £7,500 had been spent in wages in organising the headquarters of the Irish Republican Army between 10th July and the 30th September last. This is the centre of the murder gang; that is where the money comes from to pay for assassination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1920; cols. 505–6, Vol. 135.]
On 22nd November the following question was put
Mr. HOGGE asked whether the Chief Secretary could give the name of the Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army.
I think that speaks for itself with regard to the individuals whom the Prime Minister had at Downing Street, and with whom he arranged this precious Treaty. We have great reason in Ulster to complain of the action taken by the Prime Minister. In his speech yesterday he said:
What is the decision that we have come to in this Treaty? Ulster has her optior
either to join an All-Ireland Parliament or to remain exactly as she is. No change from her present position will be involved if she decides by an Address to the Crown to remain where she is. It is an option which she may or may not exercise, and I am not going to express an opinion upon the subject. If she exercises her option with her full rights under the Act of 1920, she will remain without a single change, except in respect of boundaries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1921; cols. 39–40, Vol. 149.]
I wish the Prime Minister or anyone else, when they speak on such an important subject, which affects the destinies of these islands, and may affect the destiny of these islands for years to come, would be a little more accurate. In the correspondence between the Prime Minister and Sir James Craig, which has been published, we find a very different state of things set out. Not only have our boundaries to be altered according to this precious Treaty, but there are other changes which the Prime Minister suggests must take place. With regard to this question, the Prime Minister wrote to Sir James Craig as follows:
His Majesty's Government are fully aware of the objections which the people of Northern Ireland may feel to participation on any terms in an All-Ireland Parliament. They have therefore been examining some alternatives, and their study has convinced them that grave difficulties would be raised in all parts of Ireland if the jurisdiction over the reserved subjects were not conferred upon a common authority.
The first thing referred to is Customs, and the next is that the finance of the Government of Ireland Act would necessarily have to be recast. What is the prospect before us? A recasting of the Act of 1920 and a change of our status with regard to finance. I agree with those who have spoken with regard to our privileges in remaining outside an All-Ireland Parliament and with regard to our responsibility; but we do not want any favours in connection with all these arrangements. Surely, however, it is not a crime for us, who believe that we have been loyal to this Empire, to be treated with fair play as compared with those who have been disloyal and whom the Prime Minister has repeatedly so well described. That is all we want. When I come to read some of the Clauses with regard to finance, I find that the Government have slid over all the difficult passages as if thy were on thin ice all the time and have studiously avoided the
difficulties. I would invite the House to look at Clause 5. It states that the Irish Free State shall assume responsibility concerning their liability for a financial contribution to the Imperial Exchequer, but it goes on to say that that contribution shall be calculated having regard to any just claim on the part of Ireland by way of a set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums, in default of agreement, to be determined by arbitration. There is the opportunity which these gentlemen have of getting rid of their entire contribution of £10,000,000 per year to the British Exchequer. Of course, just as we contributed loyally our share to the War in blood, so we shall contribute our share in treasure, but the Government really ought to see that that counterclaim shall be in regard to Sinn Fein s own territory alone and shall have nothing to do with All-Ireland.
There is one thing more of which I have to complain in connection with what I call the coercion of Ulster. While there may not be physical coercion, there is in every line of this Treaty a moral coercion of Northern Ulster. Take Clause 12, with regard to the Boundary Commission. If we do not, present an Address, or, in other words, if we throw in our lot with an All-Ireland Parliament, there will be no question of our boundaries; but if we remain outside an All-Ireland Parliament, then we are to suffer the penalty of having our boundaries remodelled. Is that not, coercion? I think it is. Then take the inducement which the Government tried to hold out to Sir James Craig:
If Northern Ireland were part of the Irish State, its contribution would be voluntary like those of the Dominions.
And, I suppose, like that of Southern Ireland. All I have to say with regard to that is that we are not to be bribed by money to come into this Parliament at the present time. It is for Sinn Fein and Southern Ireland to prove to us that they can carry on the functions of a Government fairly, honestly, and straightforwardly. Up to the present they have proved to us by their action that we can have no confidence or trust in them. They have got to prove to us their ability, and, not only their ability, but also their desire to work amicably with the Northern Parliament. If ever that time comes, then it may be that those words which were used by the Prime
Minister as a quotation from references that were made in this House by Lord Carson may be consummated, but in the meantime I must take this stand, and we Ulstermen do take this stand, that until Sinn Fein proves to us that they are worthy of our confidence we cannot enter into a Parliament for all Ireland. Some people tell me that is a narrow outlook; Our outlook is not a six-county outlook; our loyalty and our Imperialism are not bounded by the confines of Ulster or of Ireland. We did not enter the War for the sake of Ulster. We entered the War for the, sake of Empire. That is our outlook to-day, and it is because we believe that this Treaty will lead to the disintegration of the Empire as no other Act passed or attempted to be passed in this House has done, and because we love our Empire, that we take this stand. Not long ago I was out in that devastated land taking part in the unveiling of a very fine memorial to comrades whom I left behind me there. That was not for Ulster; that was not for Ireland; it was not for the United Kingdom; it was for the Empire. That is our outlook on this question. If I did not take that outlook, I would be unfaithful to the memory of the men who went out with me to keep this Empire together, and so long as I have blood so long will I have that outlook and view. The boundaries of the Empire are the only boundaries that can limit an Ulsterman's outlook on this question.
We are presented with a very grave and a very doubtful issue, and I heard with some surprise the statements made by various Members of the Government of their belief that in this matter they had the almost universal support of the citizens of Great Britain. The Secretary for the Colonies, with, I think, an inaccurate knowledge of fractions, put it as high as nineteen-twentieths. I am sceptical of these extraordinary figures, and I believe that His Majesty's Government on this particular question is in for a fairly quick awakening. There has been a very great change in the position, and if there is one thing true about the English people, and to a large extent about the Scottish, it is that they do not turn so very quickly as the Government has done, with almost Celtic celerity. I do not think that the mass of the English people were fully prepared for such a great change as this, in spite of the widespread newspaper propaganda which was so universal that it excited derision everywhere. It used to be said that the mass of the people believed a thing because it was in print in the newspaper, but after the newspaper propaganda on this particular subject, I think that the feeling is that the fact that a statement appears in a newspaper is primâ facie evidence that it is false.
I never saw such shameless propaganda, such shocking propaganda. It began long ago. For instance, one paper referred to the murder of Mrs. Lindsay, the shooting of an informer, as murder of an old woman, and another quoted the murder of an old Protestant clergyman as the murder of a priest. That was to take away the blame from the right quarter. That was the sort of line on which the propaganda went abroad, and not only in the British Press, for the Scottish Press was just the same. I rather blush for the whole profession of journalism. I do not know whether certain editors were going to be enobled or what Peerages the proprietors were going to receive—probably only baronetcies—but it certainly created a very bad impression. It was quoted to me as evidence of the tremendous feeling of the country in favour of the proposal. It was said, "Look at the Press." But anyone who remembers the election of 1906 remembers that at that time the Press was in favour of the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and Tariff Reform, and look at the result that then ensued. You should take that result into account in this case. Then as to the congratulations from all the Colonies, there is something very much in the nature of the same stimulated propaganda. Even were these manifestations spontaneous I would distrust them. For whenever you find universal approval of something which you are doing, when every fellow comes up and tells you what a fine fellow you are, and what a wise thing you are doing, you may generally draw the conclusion that you are making a fool of yourself. The only time that you are really safe is when you find people going against you.
But having said all that, I am not wholly opposed to this Agreement. I will not call it a Treaty, I think that is a word invented for the sake of stroking the backs of the Irish delegates. This Agree- ment is a tremendous experiment, an experiment that you could not possibly have made before the European War. It would have been too great a risk. But, having won that tremendous War, I am not wholly opposed to such an Agreement being entered into because there is not the same danger of war. I hope that the possibility of war between the nations of Europe is distant for at least a century. Therefore we may make with comparative safety an experiment, which prior to the War would have been exceedingly dangerous. Of course, I do not say that it is the only course open to us because I do not accept the alarmist statements, made by those who are responsible for this Agreement on our side, that it would have required the conscription of enormous numbers of our people and vast expenditure to hunt out a few hundred gunmen from Ireland. I am satisfied that the regiments in Ireland and the auxiliary police, if brought up to their ordinary war strength, would have been amply sufficient. I do not accept these statements.
The real reason why these gunmen were not suppressed long ago is that we had far too many Sinn Feiners in Dublin Castle and too many Sinn Fein officers in the Army in Ireland. Everybody who knows the inside working of what goes on in Ireland knows that whenever there was an opportunity of getting in a good stroke by the Government some person in control would interfere with the forces of the Crown, who never got a fair chance of operation. The Chief Secretary told us that he had got the murderers by the throat, and that the murderers were on the run, though how they could be on the run when he had them by the throat I do not know. I believe that if you had taken away your political soldiers from Ireland, and if you had sent a few men like General Maxwell, who knew their job, they would very soon have put an end to the whole business. But when I have said all that, I should add that Ireland, I think, has had considerable cause for discontent since the Act of Union. One of the reasons has been the existence of that bureaucracy known as Dublin Castle. It has always been a sore and an irritation in Ireland. It is appointed from Westminster and it has irritated the Irish people to an extraordinary degree. I am sure that if you had an Edinburgh Castle bureaucracy appointed from Westminster you Would have a very irritable lot of Scotsmen. There is a certain amount of bureaucracy growing up in Edinburgh, but we will manage to weed it out. Yet in spite of Dublin Castle both Mr. Birrell and Mr. Redmond testified that Ireland was never so peaceful and prosperous as from 1895 to 1906. The right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) may well claim that this Agreement is his policy. He was responsible for the whole business. He and his man Friday, Mr. Birrell, as part of the political pledges to gain the Irish vote, repealed the Arms Act in 1906, and the South of Ireland began to arm. Naturally the North did so too. The Protestants of Ireland recollected how in 1798 their grandfathers had been murdered by someone else's grandfather who lived alongside them. When that has happened in the past you naturally suppose that the hereditary principle may come into operation again another day. Therefore the North of Ireland armed too.
The repeal of the Arms Act is responsible for all the deaths that have happened in Ireland. They lie at the door of the right hon. Member for Paisley and his political policy. Out of that has come this Agreement, and the right hon. Member may well say it is his. He may well be proud of it if he chooses, but if he looks into the real causes he should be heartily ashamed of the part he has played. I would not have any words of approval for this Agreement were I able to certify that the Government of Ireland, as it was from 1895 to 1906, would continue for another 50 years. We cannot be sure that in the next 30 years the right hon. Member for Paisley will not come back as Prime Minister. As long as real Government is to be replaced by alternations of flabby, foxy government, which looks purely to political reasons for guidance, you cannot hope successfully to govern Ireland or any troubled part of the Empire. And we know that every generation is afflicted with one Liberal Government at least. Every generation has to be deceived and to learn its lesson. That is the time when trouble arises in Ireland.
I have never heard such topsy-turvy logic as was talked by the right hon. Member for Paisley and by a Welsh Member who spoke last night. The two of them together reminded me of the vision one sees in a photographic camera, where everything is upside down. Lord Carson was blamed as a rebel. It was proposed to turn him out of Great Britain and to put him under a Dublin Parliament. He said he refused to consent to that. There was just about as much logic in the criticism of his statement as there would be in the criticism of the rustic who sold his wife to another man, and when she refused to go reproached her for refusing to obey the commands of her lawful wedded husband. There was no rebellion in Ulster, and Lord Carson could never have been prosecuted. You cannot be prosecuted for prophetic treason. You might as well say to any childless Member of this House: "When you have a son I shall give him a jolly good thrashing." Could you then be accused of threatening him with assault? There never was in existence an Irish Parliament for Lord Carson to rebel against. But he was entitled to say to the British Parliament, as the rustic's wife said, "If you cut me off, if you divorce me, I will choose my next husband for myself." That was the position of Ulster and is so still.
Even supposing it was worth while to enforce law and order in Ireland, as we did from 1895 to 1906, there is still something to be said for Southern Ireland's desire of having greater freedom from Dublin Castle interference. I welcome this agreement, therefore, as far as it deals with Southern Ireland. Let them have self-determination if they want it. As far as I can see it is more likely to be self-extermination, once Sinn Fein and the Transport Union get busy with each other. But it will not be our funeral, and that is the enormous advantage of it. We shall see whether the Transport Union or Sinn Fein will prevail. Those who were in the rebellion of 1916 state that it was Jim Larkin's dockers who did the fighting, and that the Sinn Feiners did no fighting at all. I suppose it will be a lifetime before Ireland is settled, but it will be the South of Ireland's own business, and that is an enormous advantage for us. It is perhaps the best solution that could possibly happen, that they should settle their own difficulties in their own peculiar Hibernian fashion.
When we come to the Treaty, in so far as it affects the South of Ireland, I agree with the right hon. Member for the Central Division of Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) that there has been displayed an extraordinary want of common sense and of human nature. The worst thing you could have done if you wanted Ulster to join with the South of Ireland was to make the suggestion to Ulster. It should never have been made; it was one of the silliest things it was possible for a Government to do. If you wanted the nuptials to take place you should not have told the parties that they ought to engage in these nuptials, but have left them to their own goodwill. It was extraordinarily insulting to Ulster, and that is why she so strongly resents it. Then the clamour of the Press was enough to make anybody turn aside from that course, even if they were going to take it. The Cabinet in making these suggestions to Ulster, and automatically putting her under one Parliament in the Agreement which they have framed, making her say that she will come out if she feels so inclined within a month, are just taking the course which I should have recommended if they had asked me: "How shall we secure that North and South shall not join in, but shall remain separate?" I should have advised them in that case to take the course they have adopted. The Cabinet must have known perfectly well that Ulster would not come in. They cannot have been under the slightest delusion about it. Sinn Fein also knew it perfectly well, but they thought it would be a grim Sinn Fein Irish jest to get the British Cabinet to insult Ulster, and it was a jest and nothing else. Nobody knew better than Michael Collins and Griffith and the others that it was a futile thing to ask Ulster to come in, but they said to the British Government, "You put it up to Ulster." Then the chorus of the venal Press supported them. It was the last thing that should have been done. The Government should have said to Sinn Fein. "That is impossible!" They should have pointed out to Sinn Fein that this matter had been fixed as regard the six counties, and that if Sinn Fein wanted the six counties to come in this course would only annoy them and make union more difficult.
There is an extraordinary stupidity about this, and I do not understand it, because I believe the Cabinet is composed of astute men for whose capacity and ability I have the greatest possible respect. I cannot understand how they have been led into this Irish trap, and I am sure Sinn Fein chuckled and said, "This will be a knock for Ulster, and we shall have the British Cabinet and Ulster by the ears." The Cabinet walked into that booby trap with both feet. They were not content with that. If you look at the end of the Treaty you will see that they have agreed with Sinn Fein that the Belfast Lough defences are to "remain in charge of British care and maintenance parties." Belfast Lough! Ulster's Lough! They partly have done the same with Lough Swilly, another Ulster Lough. Why did they do these things? After all, surely you can make peace with your enemy without offending your friends. I say these actions have indefinitely postponed agreement with the South. I have heard Lord Carson say again and again that all Ulster ever asked was to be left alone. Why could they not leave her alone? Why irritate her and annoy her? It is a terrible calamity. I do not believe you have permanently alienated her, for you have not yet fathomed the depth of Ulster's heart. It is far too sound for her to regard this as other than a little misjudgment on the part of the Cabinet. They know very well that the British people are their friends, and I can assure them the mass of the Scottish people are their friends and will resent anything in the nature of trifling with what Lord Rosebery once called "the salt of the British Empire," namely, the Ulster people.
Then again there is the provision of a Boundary Commission. This is the same Cabinet which existed last year and which appointed a Committee to investigate into boundaries. The matter was gone into in the most meticulous way. They arrived at a decision and then they came to us and we approved. Why are we going to have another Boundary Commission just now? Is it another Sinn Fein joke? We have seen enough of Commissions, such as the Sankey one which ruined the miners. I do not believe in this way of devolving the responsibilities of the Cabinet or the responsibilities of the country. It is for us to fix the boundaries of Ulster, and we have done so after the fullest possible consideration. There is to be an Ulster man and a representative of the South, and there is to be an independent chairman. I hope the latter will not be some officious politician, who desires to get a peerage or something like that. If they are going to have such a chairman, the best thing is to take one who already possesses all the honours that can be got. They had better take a Duke—the Duke of Northumberland for example. It is a great mistake, this Boundary Commission, and it will be perfectly useless. They talk about not taking away counties, but what about towns? Supposing that Boundary Commission decides to hand over the Maiden City of Derry, what is going to happen? Do you think you will do that in a peaceful manner? No fear! They will close the gates, and you will have another siege in Derry, and you will thus get, not peace, but a sword. I am glad to see peace if it is here. I approve of it if you leave Ulster alone. I am not the least affected when you talk about negotiations or shaking hands with murderers. If a nation or a race like to be represented by murderers, let them have it so. After all, these are the people who, undoubtedly, whether by gun, or bullet, or bayonet, have got the pull, and we had better negotiate with the people who have the pull. There is nothing in that. We have negotiated with Abdul Hamid, the greatest murderer of the age, and I would negotiate with his Satanic Majesty if I thought I could lower the temperature of the nether regions. Of course, if during the truce I caught him laying in larger stocks of coke and sulphur, I would have my suspicions of his good faith, and I believe there have been far more breaches of this truce than we have any idea of. The only thing, apparently, is that it is agreed they would not be published so that we would not hear anything about them. Yet it is a great step, however, if we have managed to get even the gunmen, or some of them, to come to Downing Street. For what is the alternative?
You can never conquer a people unless you exterminate the aborigines; you must come to a peace with any country by agreement. In all the talk about South Africa I have not seen the real glory of the South African result attributed to the proper source, but I can always recollect that Lord Salisbury said he would dictate peace in Pretoria and how Lord Rosebery urged that we should have a peace by agreement that was signed by the Boers, and then, if it was broken, he said, their conscience was behind them reproaching them for a breach of faith. That would give us what Bismarck called the imponderables on our side. It is through that that we got the peace of Vereeniging, and it was got when the temper of both races was still hot and the smoke of battle had not fully died away. That was the great service that Lord Rosebery rendered to the Empire, and I remember how struck I was with the wisdom and sanity of his suggestion. Here, also, this is a peace across the table, and I believe the very fact that you have got a peace that is signed by some of the Irish, no matter how objectionable or criminal their previous life may have been from our point of view, means that again you have got the imponderables on your side. I believe that this peace will be kept, and I think too that in course of time it will be possible to have a united Ireland, notwithstanding the premature effort that has been made to apply moral coercion to Ulster. I say that union has been postponed by these ill-advised attempts that have been made to coerce Ulster. If you wish to succeed in bringing Ulster in, do not let the suggestion come from Great Britain, but leave it to the people and their own spontaneous wishes. Do not interfere with them, and it is far more likely to come about than by what I call these impertinent interferences.
I welcome this Treaty; I think it is a wonderful thing; but I am not going to vote for it, because of the treatment of Ulster. Ulster has not been fairly treated at all; she has been discourteously treated. The ungracious way in which the Cabinet have acted, the false position it has endeavoured to put Ulster into the Press propaganda, and the correspondence recently published between the Prime Minister of this country and the Prime Minister of Ulster have caused so much feeling in the country that they have done a great deal to take away the glory or the satisfaction of the credit of arriving at a settlement; and merely as a protest against the treatment of the loyalist part of our Empire, I for my part will be no party to recording a vote in favour of an instrument that in certain of its Clauses is unfair to that most loyal portion of the British people.
The speech we have heard this afternoon from the right hon. Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law) is one that interested every Member of this House, and as a humble back bencher I should like to say that I join with others in rejoicing over his restoration to health and the fact that he is back here in order to advise us once more. Personally I took very little exception to most of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I thought it was a most damning indictment of this Agreement. My only trouble is that, although his speech was so effective from the point of view of those who agree with me, I am afraid that his vote is going to be rather different from the general teachings of his speech. If one understood the right hon. Gentleman aright, it seems to me he is quite clear in his mind that in six months' time—that was the period he mentioned—this country is going to agree, not with His Majesty's Government, but with the "Die-hards," who take a different view now. He is most anxious lest in six months' time Ireland will be in a state of chaos. If we have any doubt on that question and think it may be worse then than it is to-day, I venture to think we need no further justification for going into the Lobby for this Amendment to the Address. If the Government is right to-night, then I say there was never a greater tragedy than the attitude of the Government during the past two years; everything they told the House of Commons, without exception, was wrong; every pledge they made then to this House and to the nation has been broken, and every justification for their past harsh conduct, as I suppose it would be called in Ireland, has gone. When they pledged their word to this House that they would stamp out the murder gang, the House of Commons believed them and supported them by extraordinary majorities, but if the Government did not mean what they said, what right had they to sacrifice the lives of 600 men of the Army and the police in carrying out a policy which they never meant to see carried to fruition?
We in this House ordered our soldiers and the Royal Irish Constabulary to stamp out assassination in the South and West of Ireland. These men went, and many of them were murdered, and then I am afraid they felt that we ran away from them after having sent them out there. Why did we run away? Not because there was one single reason to be advanced for our change of front, or shall I call it our advance to the rear, not because of any change of heart on the part of Sinn Fein, but simply because the murders were so numerous, the ferocity of the criminals was so great, and the methods of assassination were so fiendish. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary in his remarkable speech—because I think every Member will agree that it was a remarkable speech this afternoon—told us that what influenced the Government was that every week the bloodshed was increasing. That was true. Every week the murders were increasing, and it was because they were so numerous that we had this complete change of policy on the part of the Government. The extraordinary fact is that the very men who, the Lord Chancellor in June of this year said, were steeped to the lips in the express policy of assassination, were invited to Downing Street, and were hailed and applauded as honourable men by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Unionist party. These honourable men, who were received in solemn conclave at the very time that the truce was being broken in a thousand different directions in Ireland by the very people whom they were supposed to control—these are the people who can deliver the goods, and we are told that the Government trust these gentlemen implicitly. Do you?
The Secretary of State for War is fortunately in his place. I ask him, does he trust the delegates for Sinn Fein implicitly, or is it a fact that they were behind the recent conspiracy for stealing machine guns from Windsor and Chelsea barracks? Was 18, Cadogan Gardens involved in the conspiracy, and were the delegates of Sinn Fein at the Conference exploring the avenues to Windsor and Chelsea barracks at the very moment that they were also exploring the avenues to allegiance at the Conference with His Majesty's Ministers? Was Michael Collins involved in this conspiracy at the very time he was engaged in this Conference? Was Desmond Fitzgerald, or was Francis Fitzgerald? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer these facts. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not facts."] I ask him something very much more important even than that. I ask every single Member of the Coalition whether as individuals they believe that Ireland is going to be better governed by men, who were proved by the Lord Chancellor to be assassins, rather than by the Imperial Parliament? That is the real question we have got to ask, and if we cannot answer that question in the affirmative, then are we really serving humanity and civilisation by abandoning our mission, and by hurling that country back into the chaos and misrule which we believe is going to come from those who are to control the situation? Whichever way we like to look at it, I think it will be agreed that we have done more things than the matters which have been discussed this afternoon. We have shocked and distressed all those in this country who generally detest a policy of frightfulness. We have deliberately conceded that might is right. Hon. Members sitting on the Front Bench on this side will remember how their great chief, Mr. Gladstone, a man to whose memory I always try to pay respect as one of the greatest Englishmen, because he was so honest, and maintained the traditions of this country, was prepared to plunge this country into war on account of the ghastly murders which took place in Armenia and Bulgaria; but we have deliberately yielded to terrorism in Ireland, and completely violated that spirit which caused the manhood of this country to take their part when they found Belgium overrun by other forces of frightfulness.
In this Agreement which we are discussing—and this is the last chance we have of discussing it, because, amazingly, it is to be rushed through this House in three days, although Mr. Gladstone regarded a whole Session as necessary for discussing questions of much less vital consequence—there are certain grave omissions. If we are betraying the loyalists of the South and West of Ireland, we have surely one solemn duty, and that is, that if any of them want to go out of that country, and remain under the Union Flag, or, rather, now the flag of this country, I suggest it is the bounden duty of the Government to transport them, and to compensate them, and maintain them in this country until they have found other occupations. Again, there is the question of the ex- service men in Ireland. Everyone in this House knows that these men are being persecuted and deprived of their rights. I say it is the bounden duty of the Government to see that that pledge of honour is kept to these men.
Obviously that is their bounden duty following the pledge of honour. Further than that, everybody knows, except a certain section of the Press, that there is a most fiendish boycott going on in that country against Northern Ireland. There is nothing in this Agreement to stop the boycott. We must demand that some safeguard should be put in to prevent that going on. The most essential thing is that in this Agree-merit the Government have not put in one word to the effect that Dominion Home Rule would only be granted if there is a cessation of crime and outrage in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Churchill) told us this afternoon that he "-could not conceive how fiscal autonomy could be any peril to this country; Ulster could be upheld." I want to read what the Lord Chancellor said in the House of Lords again in this most useful speech in June last. It was to this effect:
Is there any Noble Lord in this House, whether he conies from Ireland or any part of His Majesty's Dominion, prepared to sanction a financial policy which in the first place will enable Southern Ireland to erect a tariff wall discriminatory against the manufactures of this country and in the second place will provide Northern and Southern Ireland respectively with machinery which will enable them to erect tariff walls discriminatory against one another's manufactures? I have not heard a single protagonist of these proposals who has ever had the courage to get up in either House and say, This is what I mean by fiscal autonomy, and I am in favour of it.' Unless one has faced this it is, I think, not only useless but mischievous to use phrases which have no correspondence with any intention in the mind of any statesman.
The Colonial Secretary has had the courage to which Lord Birkenhead referred. He is both "mischievous" and uses phrases which "have no correspondence with any intention in the mind of any statesman." It seems to me, following what the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech this afternoon, that an extraordinary situation has been disclosed. He gets up in this House and says: "Ulster no longer bars the way.
Our debt to her is great." We are very glad to hear that from a Member of the Front Bench after these months. If that is so, why did the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Unionist party reproach Ulster with weakening the Empire by staying out of an All-Ireland Parliament? That is a poor sort of gratitude for this wonderful debt that we owe her, and that you acknowledge by passing this Agreement behind her back—because that is what has happened! It is an odd way of expressing our gratitude for this great debt. This self-governing State was only set up last year. We told her the Act was final. Yet you steal her territory without her consent. I have only one word more in regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee. He could not forebear to have a gibe at Lord Carson, whose sincerity, courage, and consistency are well known to every Member of the Conservative party, and are not likely to be affected by anything said in this connection. I am bound also to remind the Colonial Secretary that although he is so slow to shed at this moment the blood of anyone guilty of murder in the South or West of Ireland it was only in 1914 that he was prepared to "let the red blood flow," not of traitors or rebels, but of a people whose only crime was that they wanted to remain under the Imperial Parliament at Westminster.
In conclusion, I wish to say that I do not believe that this country is going to refuse to face its responsibilities. I believe there are men in this House and in this country ready to carry out their mission, if permitted under Providence, to the uttermost parts of the earth for advancement and civilisation. If we had withdrawn from every country under the British flag because it was an expense to maintain the law, or because we found difficulties, there would not now have been a single country left under the British flag. It is because we have faced those difficulties, and because we have retained our hold upon those countries, that we have found our reward in the fact that they have proved to be a gain to the British Empire. Some of us have been attacked very unfairly in this campaign, and every sort of gibe has been thrown at us not by Ministers but by the newspapers. We feel that you cannot compromise on this question. We feel that our children will say that if you give way now then murder will not he considered such a great crime as it seems. It is our duty not only to ourselves, but to our country and our Empire, and to our religion that we should on this, the last occasion we shall have, make a protest, because when the Bill is introduced we cannot honourably endeavour to upset it. For that reason we have introduced this Amendment, and we hope that everyone who agrees with 'us that there must at some time be an end to a shameless betrayal, and that there must be some discrimination between a policy of right and wrong, will take their courage in both hands and go into the Lobby with us when we divide against the Government.
Before I deal with the terms of the Amendment before the House I propose, if the House will allow me, to answer some specific questions which have been addressed to the Government which I think ought to be answered at once. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Finsbury (Lieut.-Colonel Archer-Shee) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) asked about the position of the Royal Irish Constabulary. I think that is a most pertinent question and important, and for better accuracy I propose to read the answer of the Government. The Treaty contains a provision securing the existing public servants compensation on terms not less favourable than those accorded by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. The Government are fully conscious of their obligation towards those who have been and will shortly cease to be under their control as servants of the State. Having regard to the nature of the duties which the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary have been required to discharge, the position of that force is one calling for special treatment, and the Government are now considering the best means of effecting the necessary changes in a manner which, while adequately safeguarding the interests of the taxpayer, will do justice to the members of that very gallant force. His Majesty's Government will be the ultimate guarantor of the payments and pensions of this force. That, I hope, will allay the very natural fears of the Royal Irish Constabulary and show them that the Government is not endeavouring to evade any responsi- bility or liability to them, but is recognising it to the full. Then a question was asked about the ex-service men and the responsibility of the Imperial Government for the pensions due to them. That responsibility remains, as it always has remained, a charge on the Imperial Exchequer, and will so remain under the Treaty. There is no shifting of the burden to the Irish Free State, but there is a provision in the Treaty that the Irish Free State will contribute a fair proportion towards the debt of the United Kingdom. The responsibility and the primary liability will rest on the Imperial Government, which w ill have a right to claim from the Irish Free State a fair contribution.
There was one other question which the hon. Member, who was so courteous to me in the concluding part of his speech, will, I hope, allow me to answer. He asked whether it was the fact that negotiators on behalf of Ireland were behind the conspiracy for stealing machine guns at Windsor and Chelsea. To the best of my knowledge they were not behind that conspiracy. I have no evidence whatever connecting any one of them with that conspiracy. I would not hesitate to denounce them if I had any such evidence, but I have none.
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not suggest we are willing to keep back anything. This case is before the courts at the present moment—at any rate a week ago it was before the police court. The evidence is being brought out in the police court, and I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman there certainly will he no endeavour whatever to prevent the evidence coming out. On the contrary the whole evidence will be brought out.
May I ask the House to consider for a moment the Amendment which is before it now? Many of the interesting speeches have very naturally gone a good deal wide of the words of the Amendment. My proposal is that I should deal with the Amendment and the speeches which have been directed to it. The Amendment really makes four complaints, with
which I will deal separately and in their sequence. It first asks the House to regret that the proposed settlement of the Government of Ireland involves surrender of the rights of the Crown in Ireland. The argument has been addressed to the House, especially in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) that, in the oath which is included in the terms of the Agreement, there is nothing to prevent an Irish Republic being set up notwithstanding the new oath. I found it extremely difficult to follow that argument. It is based upon an accidental omission on the hon. Member s part to read the words of the oath. They are these:
I … do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established.
The words "as by law established" were omitted from his speech and from other speeches which I heard dealing with the question. What does "as by law established" mean? It means that presently—next Session—we shall be asked in this House to establish a Constitution for the Irish Free State, and part of the terms of the settlement will be that the Members who go to serve in that Free State Parliament will have to swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution as passed by this House of Commons. How is it, possible to say that within the terms of that oath they can set up a Republic and still maintain their oath?
That is precisely the point with which I was endeavouring to deal. That part of the oath is an oath of allegiance to the Constitution "as by law established." The Constitution as by law established will not be a Republican Constitution; it will be a Constitution in the terms of paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Treaty, namely, a State within the Empire. It is the exact contradiction of the point which my hon. Friend was trying to make.
No, that has never been stated, and I suggest to my hon. Friend that he should really read the words of the statement to which he refers. He is not accurate in his present representation of them. Then it was suggested by the hon. Member for Burton that this oath contained no allegiance to the Throne, but merely fidelity to the King. I have not time to go into the history of the oaths which have from time to time been taken in this Parliament, but I did have time, while the hon. Member was speaking, to look up Anson on Constitutional Law, and I extracted this: There were at one time three oaths. There was the Oath of Allegiance, and this is how Anson defines it:
It was a declaration of fidelity to the reigning Sovereign.
That is precisely what this is—a declaration of fidelity to the reigning Sovereign. Then there was the Oath of Supremacy, which was a repudiation of the spiritual and ecclesiastical authority of any foreign prince, prelate, etc.; and then there was the Oath of Abjuration, which was a repudiation of the right and title of the descendants of James II. to the Throne. In 1858 a single form of oath—the oath with which we are now familiar—was prescribed instead of the three oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration, but Anson's description of the Oath of Allegiance is that it was a declaration of fidelity to the Throne, so that in this oath, as included in the Treaty, we have got this: We have got the Oath of Allegiance in the declaration of fidelity:
I will be faithful to His Majesty King George V., his heirs and successors by law.
And we have got something in addition—a declaration of fidelity to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established; and, in further addition, we have the declaration of fidelity to the Empire itself.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say why the word "allegiance" is used before the Free State and not before the King? It is purposely put in in one case and not in the other.
I am sorry, but the hon. Member has already addressed the House. I have less than 20 minutes, and I have a great many other hon. Members to reply to besides himself.
The next complaint in the Amendment is that power is given to establish an independent Irish Army and Navy. The hon. Member for Burton claimed that it was power to raise an army, but forgot altogether to mention the limitations which are prescribed in the Agreement itself. The power is to raise, in the present proportions, not exceeding 30,000 men—it is less than 30,000. The hon. Member asked, What is it for? Why do they have power at all to raise an army? It was obviously, he said, for use against the North. To raise an army of 30,000 men against the North is not to do the North justice Such an army would be useless. Moreover, the North is Great Britain for this purpose, and the Army of Great Britain is at the service of the North if ever a Southern army was raised for that purpose. To state it in that form is to show how ridiculous a fear that is. What was the reason why power to raise an army of this limited nature was given? We are passing over to the Irish Free State the obligation to maintain law and order within their area. How can they maintain law and order unless they have something more than the ordinary police force in the event of necessity? It is less than six months ago that we were called upon to raise a defence force of 60,000 or 70,000 men. Fortunately they had not to be used, but the fact that they were there no doubt contributed to the maintenance of law and order, and so also, although this local force in the Irish Free State may never have to be used, yet its presence will help to maintain law and order.
Then the hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) said in support of this Amendment that there was power to establish an independent Irish Navy. He said that power was insinuated in the Agreement.
And the hon. and gallant Gentleman now supports him. Does he mean that power to raise a navy is insinuated in the Agreement? I really do not understand the phrase. There is an actual provision that there shall be no such navy.
There is no provision that there shall be a navy in five years. The hon. and gallant Gentleman taunted me that I had signed an Agreement that was contrary to the statement I made at Liverpool. It is not true. It is not the fact. There is no agreement here that there shall be a navy in five years. On the contrary, Clause 6 provides that until an arrangement is made the defence by sea of Great Britain and Ireland shall be undertaken by His Majesty's imperial Forces. Then it goes on:
The foregoing provisions of this Article shall be reviewed at a conference of representatives of the British and Irish Governments to be held at the expiration of five years.
I will tell you exactly what it means.
Five years from the date hereof with a view, to the undertaking by Ireland of a share in her own coastal defence.
Is that an agreement that Ireland shall have a navy now or at any time? Nothing of the sort. What it agrees to is that at the end of five years there shall be a conference to see whether Ireland shall be asked to take over a part of her coastal defence in the same way that Canada, South Africa and every Dominion of the Crown has done. To say that that is an agreement now that Ireland shall be entitled to set up a Navy is to state something which is not only not in the Agreement, but is actually contrary to it.
The next point in the Amendment is that the Agreement violates pledges given to Ulster, and the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. R. McNeill) complained that for five months the House of Commons had been denied information. Does he really suppose that if people are wanting to have an Agreement it is possible during the time of the negotiations to keep reporting to the House of Commons how things are going, what points have been raised on the one side, what answer has been given on the other, and what the difficulties are? He must know enough about negotiations to know that that sort of thing cannot be done in public. The only chance of success is to negotiate, to meet the points of the other side, to endeavour to come to an agreement, and when the agreement is come to, publicly submit it to the approval of the House, as the Government is doing now. If hon. Members do not want agreement, I can understand that they would wish to put difficulties in the way of agreement, which would be bound to exist, no matter how honest each party was, if the Agreement had to be negotiated in public.
Then my hon. Friend complains that the treatment of Ulster is shabby. He resented the contradiction of his statement which I made at Liverpool. He repeated the statement to-day, that the Government had attempted to force Ulster into an All-Ireland Parliament. I say that. is not so, it is not true. I said so at Liverpool, and I say so now that all the correspondence has been published. I am prepared to take the judgment of anybody who reads the correspondence. What did we do? We asked Ulster to come and consider upon what terms, and subject to what safeguards, she could entrust herself to an All-Ireland Parliament. She would not come.
The hon. Gentleman says that is not so. He has only to read the correspondence and ho will see that it is so. If Ulster had come they might have said, "All the safeguards proposed are inadequate." They might have said, "With none of these safeguards can we agree." What would have been the result? They would have acquired the option which they have now got, to come in or remain out, as they themselves determine. That would have been the result if they had come to the Conference. Surely they have not got more by not coming to the Conference than they would have got if they had come to the Conference. They have the option now. Is it suggested that they would not have got it if they had come to the Conference? Of course they would have got it. If when they had explored all the safeguards, they had come to the conclusion that they were inadequate, they would have got exactly the same option that they now have.
I wish to make it quite clear that when I contradicted the hon. Gentleman at Liverpool I had that in mind; but I could not tell him, because the documents were not then published. They are now published, and I challenge him to point out to me one thing in the published documents which in the least contradicts what I am saying.
As the right hon. Gentleman challenges me, I am obliged to reply. What happened was different from what he has said, as the correspondence shows. What happened was that the Government presented to the Premier of Northern Ireland a set of proposals, the first of which was that Ireland should acknowledge allegiance, although the Prime Minister said that that was preliminary and would not be in the terms. Another proposal was that there should be an All-Ireland Parliament, and the request to go into conference was not to discuss this point, but the points of detail arising out of it.
I do not accept that as a correct statement of the documents. They speak for themselves; therefore I will not argue the matter now. The gravamen of the charge was that coercion of Ulster was intended and was tried, because there was an endeavour to force Ulster into an All-Ireland Parliament. My answer is that that is not so in fact. What was in fact true was that Ulster was invited to come into conference to discuss whether, and upon what terms, she could join an All-Ireland Parliament. The next point that my hon. Friend made was that the 1920 Act set up two equal Parliaments. He admitted that there was nothing in this Agreement which took anything away from the Ulster Parliament; but he complained that a great deal was put into the scale of the Southern and Western Parliament which was not given to Ulster, and that that constituted a form of coercion of Ulster.
Well, not coercion, but a breach of faith with Ulster. How does that constitute a breach of faith? Does Ulster say that she is entitled to stop the South and the West from having such a Parliament as this House chooses to give her? She has never said so yet. She has always said: "Leave us alone." She has always said: "We will not bar the way." Does she now claim that she is entitled to bar the way? If she does not claim that, what is the use of saying that we have weighted the scales of the South and the West because we have given the South and the West something which we have not given to the North? My hon. Friend and his colleagues have never claimed that, and it has been because they have never claimed that that I have always supported their claim to fair treatment. Then the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. Coote) objected to the different treatment in finance that is given to the South and West. He seemed to claim that that was a form of coercion of Ulster. There again the same answer applies. Unless Ulster claims, which she never has done, that she is entitled to block the way in the South and the West, what right has she to complain that the South and the West are treated on different terms from herself? Her claim has been that she wanted to be treated exactly as the United Kingdom is treated. She is so treated.
It cannot be coercion to give an option. An option in the nature of things is to be perfectly free. Coercion is not to be free; it is the reverse. An option means a choice. It means that you can choose to go to the North or to the South; it does not mean that you are compelled to go either to the South or to the North. No, there is no coercion there. When I try to examine the various grounds upon which that Amendment is moved, I confess that it seems to me that those who have moved it are really under a misapprehension as to what the Agreement contains. Let me now deal with the last point in the Amendment. It condemns the Agreement because it says that it fails to safeguard the rights of the loyalist population of Southern Ireland. That is a very important part of the Amendment, but it is curious that not a single speaker, except the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Lieut.-Colonel Croft), has made any reference to it or attempted to show that this Agreement in any way does an injustice to the South and West. There are two hon. Members—the hon. Member for Trinity College (Sir R. Wood) and the hon Member for Dublin County (Sir M. Dockrell)—who have spoken for the Southern Unionists in this Debate, and far from opposing this Agreement, they have urged the House to accept it. They related how the Board of Trinity College has sent out a circular, I think it was, advocating the acceptance of this Agreement by all its members, and the Government have good reason to know that Lord Midleton has expressed his satisfaction at statements made or promises given by Mr. Griffith with regard to the proposed treatment of the South and West. The only two Members who have spoken in this Debate from the South and West of Ireland have urged upon the House the acceptance of this Agreement.
Does the hon. Member think so badly of his co-Members as to think that fear has dictated their speeches? I do not think that he will find that the hon. Member for Dublin University has been forced to speak in this Debate because of fear. That is not so. When the hon. Member has been longer in this House he will find that there are other brave men in this House besides himself. I have dealt with each one of the points of this Amendment, and I venture to say that if this Agreement is considered in a reasonable spirit—
I hope my hon. and learned Friend will got his answer. I am not prepared at this moment to go into these matters. I am dealing with other matters. The alternative to the passing of this Agreement is one which seems to me to hold out no hope whatever to the House of Commons or to the country. The alternative is a renewal of civil war. Even the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gwynne) wants peace. He says that if this scheme is successful he will be glad, though he does not believe in the Treaty itself. He may be right, but what is his alternative? His alternative is to embark immediately upon a campaign to do what he calls restore law and order. That, of course, in other words, means to intensify the civil war which until recently has been raging in Ireland. If that meant a definite settlement, that is an alternative policy, but it does not mean a definite settlement. It means that at the end of all that, or at some time during that intensified civil war, you would have to begin to negotiate again, and what would be the result? Are you going to get any better Treaty then than the Treaty which you have now?
I would never have signed this Agreement unless it secured what I believe to be the essentials. I do not claim any certainty, and it certainly has not been entered into, so far as I am concerned, or so far as any Member of the Government is concerned, in order to secure a political asset. On the contrary, we realise just as well as hon. Members do that there may be a reaction in this country, but we believe that along these lines lies hope, and along the other lines lies despair, and of the two we prefer the hope. Hon. Members have got to remember that we are not dealing with some temporary difficulty, soma difficulty which can be easily got over. We have got to look forward to future cooperation. It may be that we may not secure immediately a better Government, but at least we shall secure a more friendly people, a people who will turn their eyes off us as their governors and concentrate them upon their own representatives who will have the responsibilities of government and will realise the difficulties of Empire, and I believe that, as one of the partners, they will find out that it will be to their interest to support the Empire and to support it not merely at home but in the Dominions of the world, wherever members of the Irish race may be found. This Treaty renders such support possible, and I hope and believe that the Irish may still be willing to share the glory and the burden of Empire.