D. D. Sheehan, Ireland Since Parnell (1931)

[Source: Gutenberg Project - online; accessed 28.09.2014.]

Chap. I: A Leader Appears
There are some who would dispute the greatness of Parnell - who would deny him the stature and the dignity of a leader of men. There are others who would aver that Parnell was made by his lieutenants - that he owed all his success in the political arena to their ability and fighting qualities and that he was essentially a man of mediocre talents himself.
  It might be enough to answer to these critics that Parnell could never hold the place he does in history, that he could never have overawed the House of Commons as he did, nor could he have emerged so triumphantly from the ordeal of The Times Commission were he not superabundantly endowed with all the elements and qualities of greatness. But apart from this no dispassionate student of the Parnell period can deny that it was fruitful in massive achievement for Ireland. When Parnell appeared on the scene it might well be said of the country, what had been truly said of it in another generation, that it was “as a corpse on the dissecting-table.” [See under Charles Gavin Duffy - supra.] It was he, and the gallant band which his indomitable purpose gathered round him, that galvanised the corpse into life and breathed into it a dauntless spirit of resolve which carried it to the very threshold of its sublimest aspirations. To Isaac Butt is ascribed the merit of having conceived and given form to the constitutional movement for Irish liberty. He is also credited with having invented the title “Home Rule” - a title which, whilst it was a magnificent rallying cry for a cause, in the circumstances of the time when it was first used, was probably as mischievous in its ultimate results as any unfortunate nomenclature well could be, since all parties in Ireland and out of it became tied to its use when any other designation for the Irish demand might have made it more palatable with the British masses. Winston Churchill is reported to have said, in his Radical days, to a prominent Irish leader: “I cannot understand why you Irishmen are so stupidly wedded to the name ‘Home Rule.’ If only you would call it anything else in the world, you would have no difficulty in getting the English to agree to it.”
  But although Isaac Butt was a fine intellect and an earnest patriot he never succeeded in rousing Ireland to any great pitch of enthusiasm for his policy. It was still sick, and weary, and despondent after the Fenian failure, and the revolutionary leaders were not prone to tolerate or countenance what they regarded as a Parliamentary imposture. A considerable body of the Irish landed class supported the Butt movement, because they had nothing to fear for their own interests from it. They were members of his Parliamentary Party, not to help him on his way, but rather with the object of weakening and retarding his efforts. It was at this stage that Parnell arrived. The country was stricken with famine - the hand of the lord, in the shape of the landlord, was heavy upon it. After a season of unexampled agricultural prosperity the lean years had come to the Irish farmer and he was ripe for agitation and resistance. Butt had the Irish gentry on his side. With the sure instinct of the born leader Parnell set out to fight them. He had popular feeling with him. It was no difficult matter to rouse the democracy of the country against a class at whose doors they laid the blame for all their woes and troubles and manifold miseries. Butt was likewise too old for his generation. He was a constitutional statesman who made noble appeal to the honesty and honour of British statesmen. Parnell, too, claimed to be a constitutional leader, but of another type. With the help of men like Michael Davitt and John Devoy he was able to muster the full strength of the revolutionary forces behind him and he adopted other methods in Parliament than lackadaisical appeals to the British sense of right and justice.
Chap. VII: Forces of Regeneration and Their Effect
The Gaelic League, founded in 1893 by a few enthusiastic Irish spirits, was formed to effect an Irish renascence in matters of the mind and spirit. It was non-sectarian and non-political. Its purpose was purely psychological and educational - it sought the preservation of the Irish language from a fast-threatening decay, it encouraged the study of ancient Irish literature and it promoted the cultivation of a modern literature in the Irish language. Its beginnings were modest, and its founders were practically three unknown young men whose only special equipment for leadership of a new movement were boundless enthusiasm and the possession of the scholastic temperament. Douglas Hyde, the son of a Protestant clergyman, dwelt far away in an unimportant parish in Connaught, and, while still a boy, became devoted to the study of the Irish language. Father O’Growney was a product of Maynooth culture, whose love of the Irish tongue became the best part of his nature, and John MacNeill (now so well known as a Sinn Fein leader) was born in Antrim, educated in a Belfast school and acquired his love for Irish in the Aran islands. It is marvellous to consider how the programme of the new League “caught on.” Some movements make their appeal to a class or a cult - to the young, the middle-aged or the old. But the Gaelic League, perhaps because of the very simplicity and directness of its objects, made an appeal to all. It numbered its adherents in every walk of life; it drew its membership from all political parties; it gathered the sects within its folds, and the greatest tribute that can be paid it is that it taught all its disciples a new way of looking at Ireland and gave them a new pride in their country. Ireland became national and independent in a sense it had not learnt before - it realised that “the essential mark of nationhood is the intellectual, social and moral patrimony which the past bequeaths to the present, which, amplified, or at least preserved, the present must bequeath to the future, and that it is this which makes the strength and individuality of a people.”
Chap. XIV: Land and Labour
As a very little boy I remember trudging my way to school with children who knew not what the comfort of boots and stockings was on the coldest winter’s day; who shivered in insufficient rags and whose gaunt bodies never knew any nourishment save what could be got from “Indian meal stir-about” (a kind of weak and watery porridge made from maize). And it was not the children of the labourers alone who endured this bleak and starved and sunless childhood; the offspring of the smaller struggling farmers were often as badly off - they were all the progeny of the poor, kept poor and impoverished by landlordism. This further bond of blood and even class relationship also bound the farmers and labourers together - the labourers of to-day were, in countless cases, the farmers of yesterday, whom the Great Clearances had reduced to the lowest form of servitude and who dragged out an existence of appalling wretchedness in sight of their former homes, now, alas, razed to the ground. My mind carries me back to the time when the agricultural labourer in Munster was working for four shillings a week, and trying to rear a family on it! I vowed then that if God ever gave me the chance to do anything for this woe-stricken class I would strive for their betterment, according to the measure of my opportunity. And it happened, in the mysterious workings of Providence, that I was able to battle and plan and accomplish solid work for the amelioration of the labourers’ lot.
Chap. XXVII: The Issues Now at Stake

If I were asked to state some of the essentials of peace I would say it must depend first of all on the re-establishment of a belief in the good faith of England. This belief, and for the reasons which I have attempted to outline in the preceding chapters, has been shattered into fragments. There is a strong feeling in Ireland that the Prime Minister’s recent peace “explorations” are not honestly meant - that they are intended to rouse the “sane and moderate” elements in opposition to Sinn Fein. Whilst this feeling exists no real headway can be made by those who seek a genuine peace along rational and reasoned lines. The Prime Minister must be aware that when he professes his readiness to meet those who can “deliver the goods” he is talking rhetorical rubbish. “Delivering the goods” is not a matter for Irishmen, but for British politicians, who have spent the last twenty years cheating Ireland of the “goods” of Home Rule, which they had solemnly covenanted again and again to “deliver.”
 Mr Lloyd George’s conditions for a meeting with “Dail Eireann” are so impossible that one wonders he took the trouble to state them - viz. (1) that “Dail Eireann” must give up to be tried (and we presume hanged) by a certain unspecified number of their own colleagues; (2) that they must recant their Republicanism and proclaim their allegiance to the Empire; (3) that negotiations must proceed on the basis of the Partition Act and the surrender of one-fourth of their country to the new Orange ascendancy.
 No section of honest Irishmen will dream of negotiating on such a basis, and any attempt to make use of “sane and moderate” elements to divide and discredit the elected representatives of the people will be met by the universal declaration that the “Dail Eireann” alone is entitled to speak for Ireland. Until this primary fact is recognised the fight in Ireland must go on, and many black chapters of its history will have to be written before some British statesman comes along who is prepared to treat with the Irish nation in a spirit of justice and generosity. Peace is still perfectly possible if right methods are employed to ensure it. It is futile to ask Sinn Fein to lay down arms and to abjure their opinions as a preliminary condition to negotiations. I doubt whether the Sinn Fein leaders could impose such a condition upon their followers, even if they were so inclined - which they are not and never will be. Let there, then, to start with, be no preliminary tying of hands. The initiative must come from the Government. They should announce the largest measure of Home Rule they will pledge themselves to pass. They should accompany this with a public promise to submit it to an immediate plebiscite or referendum of the whole Irish people on the plain issue “Yes” or “No.” All they can ask of the Sinn Fein leaders is that they will leave the Irish people absolutely free to record their judgment. I can imagine that, in such circumstances, the attitude of the Sinn Fein leaders would be: “We do not surrender our Republican opinions, but if the Government offer full New Zealand Home Rule (let us say) and pledge themselves to enforce it if Ireland accepts it, Sinn Fein would be justified before all National Republicans in saying: ‘This is a prospect so magnificent for our country we shall do nothing in the smallest degree to prejudice the opinion of the people against its acceptance or to fetter the free and honest working of the new institutions.” Beyond this no person desiring a real peace ought to expect Sinn Fein to go, and I am convinced that if this were the attitude of Sinn Fein and if the offer were made by the Government as suggested, the majority for acceptance, on a plebiscite being taken, would be so great that there would be no further shadow of opposition even in Ulster, where nobody would object that it should have local autonomy in all necessary particulars.
 I can conceive only one man standing in the way of a settlement on these lines - a settlement which would be just to Ireland and honourable to Britain. So long as Sir Edward Carson remains the powerful figure he is - dictating and directing the policy of the Cabinet - it is improbable that he will consent to have the opinion of “the six counties” taken by a plebiscite. But if Sir Edward Carson were to quit politics, as one may hope he can see a thousand good reasons for doing, I can well imagine that Mr Lloyd George would be very glad to come to a satisfactory arrangement. Whatever happens this much is certain, there is only one road to peace in Ireland - the recognition of her nationhood, one and indivisible, and of the right of Irishmen to manage their own affairs in accordance with Irish ideals. [The End.]


Postscript: Since this book went to press, the appointment of Sir Edward Carson as Lord of Appeal and the interview between Mr de Valera and Sir James Craig are developments of a more hopeful character which, it is devoutly to be hoped, will bring about the longed-for rapprochement between the two countries.

[ Source: Gutenberg Project - online; accessed 08.10.2010; see full version as attached. ]