D. D. Sheehan, Ireland Since Parnell (1921)

Chapters X-XIII

XXV
XXVI
XXVII
XXVIII
The Easter Week Rebellion and Afterwards
The Irish Convention and the Conscription of Ireland
The Times and Irish Settlement
The Issues Now at Stake
Postscript  

 

Chapter XXV: The Easter Week Rebellion and Afterwards
A world preoccupied with the tremendous movements of mighty armies woke up one morning and rubbed its eyes in amazement to read that a rebellion had broken out in the capital of Ireland. How did it happen? What did it mean? What was the cause of it? These and similar questions were being asked, and those who were ready with an answer were very few indeed. The marvellous thing, a matter almost incredible of belief, is that it caught the Irish Government absolutely unawares. Their Secret Service Department might as well not have been in existence. For the first time probably in Irish history an Irish movement had come into being which had not a single “informer” in its ranks. This in itself was a remarkable thing and to be noted. The leaders and their officers had accomplished the remarkable achievement of discriminating against the Secret Service agent.

Although everything was clouded in a mist of conjecture and obscurity at the time, the causes of the Rebellion of Easter Week are now fairly clear, and may be shortly summarised. From the moment that the Redmondite Party had imposed their conditions on the Committee of the Irish Volunteers the vast bulk of the Volunteers who were not also “Mollies” were thoroughly dissatisfied with the arrangement. This discontent increased when the recruiting campaign in Ireland was conducted with calculated offence to Nationalist sentiment and self-respect, and eventually developed into a split. The members of the original Committee as a result summoned a Volunteer Convention for 25th November 1914, at which it was decided to declare: “That Ireland cannot with honour or safety take part in foreign quarrels otherwise than through the free action of a National Government of her own; and to repudiate the claim of any man to offer up the blood and lives of the sons of Irishmen and Irishwomen to the service of the British Empire while no National Government which could act and speak for the people of Ireland is allowed to exist.”

The new body, or rather the old, resumed the original title of the Irish Volunteers. There were also a number of other bodies entirely out of harmony with the policy of the Parliamentary Party, such as Sinn Feiners, the Republicans, and the Citizen Army of Dublin’s workers organised in connection with Liberty Hall. These were all opposed to recruiting, and the extremists amongst them advocated total separation from England as the cardinal article of their faith. A new Separatist daily newspaper was published in Dublin under the title Eire - Ireland. Its attitude towards the war was that Ireland had no cause of quarrel with the German people, or just cause of offence against them; and it was not long before the Irish Volunteers came to be regarded by the British authorities as a “disaffected” organisation. Its organs in the Press were promptly suppressed, only for others as promptly to take their place. Its officers began to be deported without charge preferred or investigation of any sort. Fenian teachings became popular once more and “the Old Guard” of Ireland, who had remained ever loyal to their early Fenian faith, must have felt a pulsing of their veins when they saw the doctrines of their hot youth take shape again. The eyes of a small but resolute minority of Irish Nationalists began to see in red revolution the only hope of Irish freedom. Physical force may appear a hopeless policy but it was at least worth preparing for, and it may be also it would be worth the trial. This was their creed and this the purpose that animated them. There can be no doubt that through the medium of the old Irish Republican Brotherhood, which had never quite died out in Ireland, communications were kept up with the Clan-na-Gael and other extreme organisations in the United States, and through these avenues also probably with Germany. Indeed the German Foreign Office, quite early in the war, at the instigation of Sir Roger Casement had declared formally “that Germany would not invade Ireland with any intentions of conquest or of the destruction of any institutions.” If they did land in the course of the war, they would come “inspired by good will towards a land and a people for whom Germany only wishes national prosperity and freedom.”

The avowedly revolutionary party gained a great accession of strength when Mr P.H. Pearse and Mr James Connolly composed certain differences and united the workers in the Citizen Army with the Irish Volunteers. Mr Pearse was now the leader of the latter organisation - a man of high intellectual attainments, single-minded purpose, and austere character. “For many years,” writes Mr Henry, “his life seems to have been passed in the grave shadow of the sacrifice he felt that he was called upon to make for Ireland. He believed that he was appointed to tread the path that Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone had trodden before him, and his life was shaped so that it might be worthy of its end.”

Separation as the only road to independence was the burden of Pearse’s teaching. It was his definite purpose to do something which, by the splendour of the sacrifice involved, would rouse Ireland out of its national apathy and national stupor. He and his associates believed, as a writer in Nationality declared: “We have the material, the men and stuff of war, the faith and purpose and cause for revolution.... We shall have Ireland illumined with a light before which even the Martyrs’ will pale: the light of Freedom, of a deed done and action taken and a blow struck for the Old Land.” It was in this faith they went forth to their sacrifice. “On Palm Sunday 1916,” writes Mr Henry, “the Union of Irish Labour and Irish Nationality was proclaimed in a striking fashion. In the evening of that day Connolly hoisted over Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the Citizen Army, the Irish tricolour of orange, white, and green, the flag designed by the Young Irelanders in 1848 to symbolise the union of the Orange and Green by the white bond of a common brotherhood. On Easter Monday the Irish Republic was proclaimed in Arms in Dublin.”

Now there are many considerations that could be usefully discussed in relation to the Easter Week Rebellion, but this is not the time or place for them. Let it be made clear, however, that the Rising was not the work of Sinn Fein, but of the leaders of the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army. It would be a pretty subject of inquiry to know how Sinn Fein got the credit for the Rising and why the title was given to the new movement that came into being afterwards. My own view is that the British journalists who swarmed into Ireland are chiefly responsible for the designation. Sinn Fein was a fine mouthful for their British readers to swallow, and so they gave it to them. Be this as it may, the Rebellion came to be referred to as the Sinn Fein Rebellion, and the movement to which it gave birth has ever since assumed the same name. It is not my intention to dwell on the grave incidents that followed, the prolonged agony of “the shootings of the Rebel leaders,” the assassination of Mr Sheehy-Skeffington, the indecent scenes in the House of Commons when the Nationalist members behaved themselves with sad lack of restraint - cheering Mr Birrell’s prediction that “the Irish people would never regard the Dublin Rebellion with the same feelings with which they regarded previous rebellions,” cheering still more loudly when, in response to Sir Edward Carson’s invitation to Mr Redmond to join him in “denouncing and putting down those Rebels for evermore,” Mr Redmond expressed, to the amazement of all Nationalist Ireland, his “horror and detestation” of Irishmen who, however mistaken they may be - and history has yet to decide this - at least “poured out their blood like heroes - as they believed and as millions of their countrymen now believe for Ireland” (Mr William O’Brien). Mr Dillon, needless to say, flung his leader overboard on this occasion without the slightest truth. He declared he had never stood on a recruiting platform (which was not true!) and that he never would do so, and accused the Government and the soldiers of washing out the life-work of the Nationalists in “a sea of blood.”

The Government were at their wits’ end what to do. Mr Birrell, the amiable and inefficient Chief Secretary, had to go. Mr Asquith went over to Ireland on a tour of investigation and returned to Westminster with two dominant impressions: (1) the breakdown of the existing machinery of Irish Government; (2) the strength and depth, almost the universality, of the feeling in Ireland that there was a unique opportunity for the settlement of outstanding problems and for a combined effort to obtain an agreement as to the way in which the government of Ireland was to be carried on for the future. He announced that Mr Lloyd George had undertaken, at the request of his colleagues, to devote his time and energy to the promotion of an Irish settlement.

Undoubtedly “the machinery of Government had broken down.” But the Government of England had taken no account of what was happening in Ireland - of the veritable wave of passion that swept the country after, the “executions” of the Rebel leaders, of the manner in which this passion was fanned and flamed by the arrest and deportation of thousands of young men all over the country, who were believed to be prominently identified with the Volunteer Movement, of the unrest that was caused by the reports that a number of the peaceable citizens of Dublin were deliberately shot without cause by the troops during the military occupation of the city. What wonder that there was a strong and even fierce revulsion of feeling! And this was not reserved altogether for the Government. The Irish Parliamentarians had their own fair share of it. The process of disillusionment now rapidly set in. That portion of the country that had not already completely lost faith in the Party and in Parliamentary methods was fast losing it. It only required that the Party should once again give its unqualified assent, as it did, to Mr Lloyd George’s “Headings of Agreement,” which provided for the partition of Ireland and the definite exclusion of the six counties of Down, Antrim, Londonderry, Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone, to send it down into the nethermost depths of popular favour and the whole-hearted contempt of every self-respecting man of the Irish race. The collapse of Parliamentarianism was now complete. There was no Nationalist of independent spirit left in Ireland who would even yield it lip service. Irish public bodies which a year or two previously were the obedient vehicles of Party manipulation were now unanimous in denouncing any form of partition. The proposals for settlement definitely failed, and the machinery of Irish Government which had “broken down” was set up afresh and the discredited administration of Dublin Castle fully restored by the appointment of Mr Duke, a Unionist, as Chief Secretary for Ireland.

The war was not going at all well for the Allies. America was still hesitating on the brink as to whether she would come in or remain steadfastly aloof. The Asquithian Ministry had been manoeuvred out of office under circumstances which it will be the joy of the historian to deal with when all the documents and facts are available. That interesting and candid diarist, Colonel Repington, under date 3rd December 1916, writes:

“Last Friday began a great internal crisis, when L.G. [Lloyd George] wrote to the P.M. [Asquith] that he could not go on unless our methods of waging war were speeded up. He proposed a War Council of three, including himself, Bonar Law and Carson. The two latter are with him, which means the Unionists too.”

Asquith resigned, the Coalition Ministry was formed, and it is probably more than a surmise that the part played by Sir Edward Carson in bringing about this result and in elevating Mr Lloyd George into the Premiership explains much of the power he has exercised over him ever since. Mr Redmond and Sir Edward Carson were both invited to join the Coalition. The former declined, the latter accepted, and from his position of power within the Cabinet was able to torpedo Home Rule at will.

And thus came to an end in Ireland as gross a tyranny perpetrated in the sacred name of Nationality as ever disgraced our annals. The Party which had so long held power had destroyed themselves by years of selfish blundering. The country was growing weary of the men who killed land purchase, constituted themselves the mere dependents of an English Party in exchange for boundless jobbery, intensified the alarm of Ulster by transferring all power and patronage to a pseudo-Catholic secret organisation, and crowned their incompetence by accepting a miserably inadequate Home Rule Bill (with Partition twice over thrown in). The country which had been shackled into silence by the terrorist methods of the Board of Erin (which made the right of free meeting impossible by the use of their batons, bludgeons and revolvers) was emancipated by the Dublin Rising. And in the scale of things it must be counted, for the young men who risked their lives in Easter Week, not the least of their performances that they gave back to the people of Ireland the right of thinking and acting for themselves. How well they used this right to exact a full measure of retribution from the Party that had betrayed them the General Election of 1918 abundantly shows.

 

Chapter XXVI: The Irish Convention and the Conscription of Ireland
The time had now come when the Irish Party had to taste all the bitterness of actual and anticipated defeat. Several Irish newspapers had gone over to Sinn Fein. The Irish Independent had been previously a fearless critic of the Party, and the defeat of the Partition proposals was largely due to the manner in which they had denounced them and exposed their real character.

A bye-election took place in North Roscommon. There was a straight fight between the Parliamentary Party and Sinn Fein and the former were defeated by an overwhelming majority. Another trial of strength came soon afterwards, and the Party again bit the dust. The Coalitionists had now turned a cold shoulder to the Party. They could get along very well without them. They had got all they could out of them for war purposes. They foresaw their approaching defeat, and they did not, therefore, count on their scheme of things as a force to be conciliated or to be afraid of. And as if to ensure the complete downfall and overthrow of the Party the Government continued their arrests and deportations.

The Party had to “demonstrate” in some way and they hit upon the device of withdrawing from Parliament and sending a Manifesto to the United States and the self-governing dominions. But whilst they paid Sinn Fein the compliment of adopting their policy of Parliamentary abstention, they neither honestly kept away nor openly remained - asking questions and sending ambassadors from time to time. Sinn Fein was not inactive either. It summoned a Convention to meet in Dublin to assert the independence of Ireland, its status as a nation and its right to representation at the Peace Conference.

The Government was still faced with a reluctant and undecided America, and it became essential for “propaganda purposes” to do something of fair seeming on the Irish Question. The Prime Minister accordingly revived the old Partition proposals, but these were now dead and damned by all parties, the Roscommon, Longford and East Clare victories of Sinn Fein having brought the Irish Party to disown their twice-repeated bargain for Partition. He then proposed as an alternative that an Irish Convention, composed of representative Irishmen, should assemble to deliberate upon the best means of governing their own country.

The All-for-Ireland Party were asked to nominate representatives to this Convention, as were also Sinn Fein. In reply Mr O’Brien stated four essential conditions of success: (1) a Conference of ten or a dozen persons known to intend peace; (2) a prompt agreement, making every conceivable concession to Ulster, with the one reservation that partition in any shape or form was inadmissible and unthinkable; (3) the immediate submission of the agreement to a Referendum of the Irish people (never before consulted upon a definite proposal); (4) if any considerable minority of irreconcilables still uttered threats of an Ulster rebellion a bold appeal of the Government to the British electorate at a General Election to declare once and for all between the claims of reason and justice and the incorrigibility of Ulster.

One panel of names which Mr O’Brien submitted to the Cabinet at their request was: The Lord Mayor of Dublin, the Protestant Primate, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, the Marquess of Londonderry, the Marquess of Ormonde, General Sir Hubert Gough, Major “Willie” Redmond, M.P., the Earl of Shaftesbury, the Earl of Dunraven, Viscount Northcliffe, Mr William Martin Murphy, Mr Hugh Barrie, M.P., and two representatives of Sinn Fein. Mr O’Brien was in a position to guarantee that at a Conference thus constituted Sinn Fein would not be unrepresented. Instead of setting up a Conference of this character, which it is now clear would not have separated without coming to an agreement, the proposal was set aside - whether by Mr Lloyd George or by Mr Redmond’s advisers has yet to be revealed - and an Irish Convention composed of nominated representatives was constituted, which had no possibility of agreement except an agreement on the lines of Partition and which was doubtless planned and conceived for the purpose of fooling Ireland and America and keeping the Convention “talking” for nine months until America was wiled into the war.

The Convention could by no possibility succeed, and my belief is it was never intended to succeed. It was numerically unwieldy. Nine-tenths of its representation was drawn from the Ulster Party’s and the Irish Party’s supporters, both of whom were pledged in advance to the Partition settlement, and as far as the Irish Party representation was concerned the last thing that could be said of it was that it was representative. Of the seventy-five Redmondites who composed three-fourths of the Convention only one escaped rejection by his constituents as soon as the electors had their say! The Convention laboured under the still further disadvantage of being at the mercy of an Orange veto, which makes one wonder how it was that Mr Redmond or his party ever submitted to it. The Ulster delegates to the Convention were under the control of an outside body - the Ulster Orange Council. They could decide nothing without reference to this body, and hence the Convention was in the perfectly humiliating position of carrying on its proceedings subject to an outside Orange veto.

Neither the All-for-Ireland Party nor Sinn Fein was represented at the Convention, although Mr Lloyd George made a second appeal to Mr O’Brien to assist in its deliberations. It says something for the wisdom of Mr O’Brien’s proposal for a small Conference that after debating the matter for months the Convention decided to transmit their powers to a Committee of Nine to draw up terms of agreement. This Committee did actually reach agreement, only to have it squelched instantly by the veto of the Ulster Council when the Ulster nominees reported the terms of it to them. Lord MacDonnell, in a letter to The Times, dated 2nd November 1919, makes the following disclosure regarding Mr Redmond’s view of this matter: -

“In regard to this episode I well remember the late Mr Redmond saying in conversation that if he had foreseen the possibility of a proposal made there being submitted for judgment to men who had not participated in the Convention’s proceedings, and were removed from its pervading atmosphere of good will, he would never have consented to enter it.”

Mr O’Brien, however, saw this danger in advance and drew public attention to it. In a speech in the House of Commons he also foretold what the failure of the Convention meant: the destruction of the constitutional movement and the setting up of “the right of rebellion, whether from the Covenanters or Sinn Feiners as the only arbiter left in Irish affairs. You will justly make Parliamentary methods more despised and detested than they are at the present moment by the young men of Ireland.”

The Convention failed to reach unanimity. It presented various reports, and the Government, glad of so easy a way out, simply did nothing. The Convention served the Ministerial purpose, and there was an end of it. The proceedings were, however, notable for one tragic incident. Mr Redmond sought to rally the majority of the Convention in support of a compromise which, whilst falling short of Dominion Home Rule, avoided partition and would have been acceptable to Southern Unionist opinion. Mr Devlin and the Catholic Bishops opposed Mr Redmond’s motion and the Irish leader, feeling himself deserted at the most critical moment, did not move, and withdrew from the Convention to his death, adding another to the long list of tragic figures in Irish history.

The only practical outcome of the Convention was the acceptance of Dominion Home Rule by a minority, which included Mr Devlin. As if to make matters as impracticable as possible for the Parliamentarians, Mr Lloyd George introduced a Bill to conscript Ireland at the very time the Convention proposals were before Parliament. A more callous indifference to Irish psychology could scarcely be imagined. A series of Sinn Fein victories at the polls had decided the fate of Partition once and for all. But the war exigencies of the Government were so great, the military situation on the Continent was so hazardous, they seemed determined to risk even civil war in their resolve to get Irishmen to serve. They must have fighting men at any cost. The menace was very real, and the whole of Nationalist Ireland came together as one man to resist it. The representatives of the Irish Party, of Labour, of Sinn Fein and of the All-for-Irelanders met in Conference at the Mansion House, Dublin, to concert measures of Irish defence. The Mansion House Conference, at its first meeting, on 18th April, issued the following declaration: -

“Taking our stand on Ireland’s separate and distinct nationhood, and affirming the principle of liberty, that the Governments of nations derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, we deny the right of the British Government or any external authority to impose compulsory military service in Ireland against the clearly expressed will of the Irish people. The passing of the Conscription Bill by the British House of Commons must be regarded as a declaration of war on the Irish nation. The alternative to accepting it as such is to surrender our liberties and to acknowledge ourselves slaves. It is in direct violation of the rights of small nationalities to self-determination, which even the Prime Minister of England - now preparing to employ naked militarism and force his Act upon Ireland - himself announced as an essential condition for peace at the Peace Congress. The attempt to enforce it is an unwarrantable aggression, which we call upon all Irishmen to resist by the most effective means at their disposal.”

The Irish Catholic Bishops on the same day received a deputation from the Mansion House Conference, and, having heard them, issued a manifesto, in the course of which they said:

“In view especially of the historic relations between the two countries from the very beginning up to this moment, we consider that Conscription forced in this way upon Ireland is an oppressive and inhuman law, which the Irish people have a right to resist by every means that are consonant with the law of God.”

The Irish Labour Party called a one-day strike on 23rd April as “a demonstration of fealty to the cause of labour and Ireland.”

The Government went on with its preparations for enforcing Conscription. The Lord-Lieutenant, who was known to be opposed to the policy of the Ministry, was recalled, and Field-Marshal Lord French was put in his place. A “German plot,” which the late Viceroy declared had no existence in fact, was supposed to be discovered, and in connection with it Messrs de Valera and A. Griffith, the two Sinn Fein members of the Mansion House Conference, were arrested and deported. The Sinn Fein, the Gaelic League and allied organisations were declared to be “dangerous associations.” Concerts, hurling matches, etc., were prohibited, and Ireland was frankly treated as an occupied territory. A bye-election occurred in East Cavan and Mr Griffith - England’s prisoner - was returned, defeating a nominee of the Irish Party. This gave the death-blow to Conscription, though Ireland still stood sternly on guard.

The Mansion House Conference during its existence held a position of unique authority in the country. During its sittings a proposal was made to initiate negotiations with a view to combined action between Sinn Fein, the two sections of Parliamentary Nationalists and the Irish Labour bodies, on the basis of the concession of Dominion Home Rule, while the war was still proceeding with the alternative, if the concession were refused, of combined action to enforce the claims of Ireland at the Peace Conference. There was reason to believe Sinn Fein would agree to this proposal, and that the Cabinet would have invited the Dominion Premiers’ Conference to intervene in favour of an Irish settlement, limited only by the formula: “within the Empire.”

Mr Dillon blocked the way with the technical objection that the Conference was called to discuss Conscription alone and that no other topic must be permitted to go further. Could stupid malignancy or blind perversity go further?

This fair chance was lost, with so many others. The war came to an end and a few weeks afterwards the Irish Parliamentary Party, which had so long played shuttlecock with the national destinies of Ireland, went to crashing doom and disaster at the polls. The country had found them out for what they were, and it cast them into that outer darkness from which, for them, there is no returning.

 

Chapter XXVII: The Times and Irish Settlement
No volume, professing to deal however cursorily with the events of the period, can ignore the profound influence of The Times as a factor in promoting an Irish settlement. That this powerful organ of opinion - so long arrayed in deadly hostility to Ireland - should have in recent years given sympathetic ear to her sufferings and disabilities is an event of the most tremendous significance, and it is not improbable that the Irish administration in these troubled years would have been even more deplorably vicious than it has been were it not that The Times showed the way to other independent journals in England in vigilant criticism and fearless exposure of official wrongdoing.

When, on St Patrick’s Day, 1917, Lord Northcliffe spoke at the Irish Club in London on the urgency of an Irish settlement and on the need for the economic and industrial development of the country, and when he proclaimed himself an Irish-born man with “a strong strain of Irish blood” in him, he did a sounder day’s work for Ireland than he imagined, for he shattered a tradition of evil association which for generations had linked the name of a great English newspaper with unrelenting opposition to Ireland’s historic claim for independence. If Ireland had been then approached in the generous spirit of Lord Northcliffe’s speech, if the investigation into Irish self-government for which he pleaded had then taken place, if British statesmen had made “a supreme effort,” as he begged them to do, “to find good government for Ireland,” I am convinced that all the horrors and manifold disasters of the past four years would have been avoided, and the Irish people would be at this moment in happiness and contentment administering their own affairs. But the voice of sweet reasonableness and statesmanlike admonition was not hearkened unto. The neglect of Ireland and of her industrial concerns, of which Lord Northcliffe so justly made complaint, continued, and instead of the counsels of peace prevailing all the follies of wrong methods and repressive courses were committed which will leave enduring memories of bitterness and broken faith long after a settlement is reached. Meanwhile The Times devoted itself earnestly and assiduously to the cause of peace and justice. It opened its columns to the expression of reasoned opinion on the Irish case. The problem of settlement was admittedly one of extreme difficulty - it welcomed discussion and consideration of every feasible plan in the hope that some via media might be found which would constitute a basis of comparative agreement between the various warring factors. It even instituted independent inquiries of its own and gave an exhaustive and splendidly impartial survey of the whole Irish situation and of the various influences, psychological, religious and material, that made the question one of such complexity and so implacably unyielding in many of its features. Its pressure upon the Government was continuous and consistent, but the Government was deaf to wisdom and dumb to a generous importunity. Not content with appeal, remonstrance and exhortation, The Times, in the summer of 1919, boldly, and with a courage that was greatly daring in the circumstances of the moment, set forth in all detail, and with a vigorous clearness that was most praiseworthy, its own plan of settlement. As it was upon this model that the Ministry later built its Government of Ireland Act, I think it well to quote The Times, own summary of its scheme, though it is but proper to say that whilst the Government adapted the model it discarded everything else that was useful and workmanlike in the structure:

Legislatures

Creation by an Act of Settlement of two State Legislatures for

(a) The whole of Ulster,
(b) The rest of Ireland,

with full powers of legislation in all matters affecting the internal affairs of their respective States. In each State there will be a State Executive responsible to the State Legislature.

 By the same Act of Settlement, the creation of an All-Ireland Parliament on the basis of equal representation of the two States - i.e., Ulster is to have as many representatives as the rest of Ireland.
 The All-Ireland Parliament to be a Single Chamber which may sit alternately at Dublin and Belfast.

Powers

 Governing powers not conferred on the State Legislatures will be divided between the All-Ireland and the Imperial Parliament.
 The Imperial Parliament will retain such powers as those involving the Crown and the Succession; peace and war; the armed forces.
 To the All-Ireland Parliament may be delegated, inter alia, the powers involving direct taxation, Customs and Excise, commercial treaties (with possible exceptions), land purchase, and education. The delegation may take place by stages.

Executive

 Upon the assumption of the Irish Parliament of any or all of the powers transferred from the Imperial Parliament, an All-Ireland Executive, responsible to the All-Ireland Parliament, will come into being. The Office of Lord Lieutenant, shorn of its political character, will continue. The Lord Lieutenant will have the right of veto on Irish and State legislation, and may be assisted by the Irish Privy Council.

Safeguards

 To safeguard the liberties of both States, each State Legislature is to have a permanent veto upon the application of its own State of any legislation passed by an All-Ireland Parliament.

Representation at Westminster

 Ireland will be still represented at Westminster by direct election. The number of representatives to the Commons is to be determined on the basis of population relative to that of Great Britain. Irish representative peers will retain their seats in the House of Lords.

Constitutional Disputes

 Constitutional disputes between the Imperial and Irish Parliament will be decided by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; those between the Irish Parliament and State Legislatures by an Irish Supreme Court.

Finance

 In the financial section of the scheme, the case for the over-taxation of Ireland is considered, but it is urged that, while due account should be taken of this circumstance in any plan for financial reconstruction, Ireland ought not to be relieved of her proper share of the cost of the war or of liability for her share of the National Debt.
 Ireland is to contribute an annual sum to the Imperial Exchequer, calculated on the relative taxable capacity of Ireland. This will cover interest on the Irish share of the National Debt and a contribution to the Sinking Fund, as well as to defence and other Imperial expenditure.

I do not intend to subject the foregoing scheme to any detailed criticism. The method of constituting the All-Ireland Parliament was open to grave objection. It was to be a single chamber legislature and was to be selected or nominated rather than elected. This damned it right away from the democratic standpoint, and the defence of The Times that “the system of delegations would probably have the advantage of being the simplest inasmuch as it would avoid complicating the electoral machinery” was not very forceful. The supreme test to be applied to any plan of Irish Government is whether it provides, beyond yea or nay, for the absolute unity of Ireland as one distinct nation. Unless this essential unity is recognised all proposals for settlement, no matter how generous in intent otherwise, must fail. Mr Lloyd George grossly offended Irish sentiment when he flippantly declared that Ireland was not one nation but two nations. This is the kind of foolishness that makes one despair at times of British good sense, not to speak of British statesmanship. Mr Asquith, whatever his political blunderings - and they were many and grievous in the case of Ireland - declared in 1912: - “I have always maintained and I maintain as strongly to-day that Ireland is a nation - not two nations but one nation.” And those Prime Ministers of another day - Mr Gladstone and Mr Disraeli - were equally emphatic in recognising that Ireland was one distinct nation.

The Times itself saw the folly of partition, for it wrote (24th July 1919):

“The burden of finding a solution rests squarely upon the shoulders of the British Government, and they must bear it until at least the beginnings have been found. Some expedients have found favour among those who realise the urgency of an Irish settlement, but have neither opportunity nor inclination closely to study the intricacies of the question. One such expedient is partition in the form of the total exclusion from the operations of any Irish settlement of the whole or a part of Ulster. Far more cogent reasons than any yet adduced, and far more certainty that every other path had been explored to the end, would be needed to render this expedient other than superficially plausible. Politically there are acute differences between Ulster and the rest of Ireland; economically they are closely interwoven. Economic bonds are stronger than constitutional devices. The partition of Ireland would limit the powers of a Southern parliament so severely, and would leave so little room for development, that it would preclude any adequate realisation of Nationalist hopes. For instance, fiscal autonomy for the Southern provinces could be enjoyed at the price of a Customs barrier round the excluded Ulster Counties. Yet to Irish Nationalists fiscal autonomy is the symbol of freedom. However speciously it may be attired, partition offers no hope of a permanent settlement.”

Although The Times specifically denounced partition its proposals undoubtedly perpetuated the partition idea and were thus repugnant to national opinion. Its plan also suggested a settlement by process of gradual evolution, but Ireland had progressed far beyond the point when any step-by-step scheme stood the slightest chance of success. Credit must, however, be given to it for its generous intentions, for the magnificent spirit of fair play it has shown ever since towards a sadly stricken land and for what it has done and is still doing to find peace and healing for the wrongs and sufferings of an afflicted race. For all these things Ireland is deeply grateful, with the gratitude that does not readily forget, and it may be that when all this storm and stress, and the turbulent passions of an evil epoch have passed away, it will be remembered then for Englishmen that their greatest organ in the Press maintained a fine tradition of independence, and thus did much to redeem the good name of Britain when “the Black and Tans” were dragging it woefully in the mire.

 

Chapter XXVIII; The Issues Now at Stake
And now my appointed task draws to its close. In the pages I have written I have set nothing down in malice nor have I sought otherwise than to make a just presentment of facts as they are within my knowledge. It may be that, being a protagonist of one Party in the struggles and vicissitudes of these years, I may sometimes see things too much from the standpoint of my own preconceived opinions and notions. But on the whole it has been my endeavour to give an honest and fair-minded narrative of the main events and movements of Irish history over a period in which I believe I can claim I am the first explorer. There are some subjects which would come properly within the purview of my title, such as the power, province and influence of clericalism in politics, but I have thought it best at this stage, when so many matters are in process of readjustment in Ireland, and when our people are adapting themselves to a new form of citizen duty and responsibility, to leave certain aspects of our public life untouched. It may be, however, if this book meets with the success I hope for it, that my researches and labours in this field of enterprise are not at an end.

All I have now to do in this my final chapter is to summarise some of the issues that present themselves for our consideration. I do not propose to deal with the activities of Sinn Fein since it won its redoubtable victory over the forces of Parliamentarianism as represented by the Irish Party at the General Election. The country turned to it as its only avenue of salvation from a reign of corruption, incompetence and helplessness unparalleled in history. Mr O’Brien and his friends of the All-for-Ireland League, of their own volition, effaced themselves at the General Election. They had striven through fifteen long years, against overwhelming odds and most unscrupulous and malignant forces, for a policy of reason and for the principles of Conference, Conciliation and Consent, as between all Irish-born men and a combination of all parties, Irish and British, for the purpose of effecting a broad and generous National settlement. Had they received that support which the events of the last two years demonstrates could have been had - had the moderate Irish Unionists, and especially the Southern Irish Unionists, the moral courage to declare their views, temperately but unequivocally, as Lord Midleton and others have recently declared them, the tide might easily have been turned and wiser counsels and policies prevailed.

If the great peace pronouncement of Cork City merchants and professional men, made a few months ago on the initiative of Alderman Beamish, had only been arranged when the All-for-Ireland League was founded; if Lord Bandon had then held the meeting of Deputy-Lieutenants he recently convened to declare for Home Rule; if Lord Shaftesbury, three times Lord Mayor of Belfast, had then made the speech he made at the Dublin Peace Conference last year, nothing could have resisted the triumph of the policy of Conciliation, and Ireland would be now in enjoyment of responsible self-government instead of being ravaged as it is by the savagery of a civil war, in which all the usages of modern warfare have been ruthlessly abandoned. It is also to be deplored that Sir Horace Plunkett, who is now the enthusiastic advocate of Dominion Home Rule (and, indeed, believes himself to be the discoverer of it), did not, during all the years when he could potently influence certain channels of opinion in England, raise his voice either for the agrarian settlement or for Home Rule and refused his support, when he was Chairman of the Irish Convention, to Mr W.M. Murphy’s well-meant efforts to get Dominion Home Rule adopted or even discussed by the Convention.

Of course this much must be said for the Unionists who have pronounced in favour of Home Rule within the past few years, that they could plead fairly enough that every man like Lord Dunraven, Mr Moreton Frewen, Lord Rossmore, Colonel Hutcheson-Poë, and Mr Lindsay Crawford, who came upon the All-for-Ireland platform from the first, was foully assailed and traduced and had his motives impugned by the Board of Erin bosses, and other Unionists, more timid, naturally enough, shrank from incurring a similar fate.

But these things are of the past, and we would turn our thoughts to the present and the future.

The country, at the General Election of 1918, by a vote so overwhelming as to be practically unanimous, gave the guardianship of its national faith and honour into the keeping of Sinn Fein. This is the dominant fact of the situation from the Irish standpoint. Other considerations there are, but any which leave this out of account fail to grip the vital factor which must influence our march towards a just and durable Irish settlement. Another fact that cannot be lost sight of is that there is a Home Rule Act on the Statute Book. With this Southern Ireland will have nothing to do! Unionists and Nationalists alike condemn it as a mockery of their national rights. But the Orangeman of the Six Counties are first seriously going to work their regional autonomy - they are going to set up their Parliament in Belfast. And once set up it will be a new and vital complication of the situation preceding a settlement which will embrace the whole of Ireland.

So far as Ireland is concerned the public mind is occupied at the moment of my writing with the question of “reprisals.” Various efforts have been made to bring about peace. They have failed because, in my view, they have been reluctant to recognise and make allowance for certain essential facts. The whole blame for the existing state of civil war - for, repudiate it as the Government may, such it undoubtedly is - is thrown on the shoulders of the Irish Republican Army by those who take their ethical standard from Sir Hamar Greenwood. It is forgotten that for two or three years before the attacks on the Royal Irish Constabulary began there were no murders, no assassinations and no civil war in Ireland. There was, however, a campaign of gross provocation by Dublin Castle for two reasons: (1) by way of vengeance for their defeat on the Conscription issue; (2) as a retaliation on Sinn Fein, because it had succeeded in peacefully supplanting English rule by a system of Volunteer Police, Sinn Fein Courts, Sinn Fein Local Government, etc. The only pretext on which this provocation was pursued was on account of a mythical “German plot,” which Lord Wimbourne never heard of, which Sir Bryan Mahon, Commander-in-Chief, told Lord French he flatly disbelieved in, and which, when, after more than two years, the documents are produced, proves to be a stale rehash of negotiations before the Easter Week Rising, with some sham “German Irish Society” in Berlin. On this pretext the Sinn Fein leaders, Messrs de Valera and Griffith (whom there is not a shadow of proof to connect with the German plot), were arrested and deported, with many hundreds of the most responsible leaders. Furthermore, an endless series of prosecutions were instituted and savage sentences imposed for the most paltry charges-such as drilling, wearing uniform, singing The Soldiers’ Song, having portraits of Rebel leaders, taking part in the Arbitration Courts which had superseded the Petty Sessions Courts, and such like. All this, with suppression of newspapers and of all public meetings, went on for many months before Sinn Fein, deprived of its leaders, was goaded at last into attacking the Royal Irish Constabulary. Whatever the juridical status of the guerrilla warfare thus entered upon (which it is not improbable England would have applauded if employed against any other Empire than her own), it was conducted on honourable lines by the Sinn Feiners. The policemen and soldiers, including General Lewis, who surrendered, were treated with courtesy, and not one of them wounded or insulted. Their wives and children were also carefully preserved from danger until the police “reprisals” in the Thurles neighbourhood - the wrecking of villages and the savage murders of young men - ended by producing equally ruthless “reprisals” on the other side. In Dublin, since the Dublin Metropolitan Police declined to go about armed, not one of them has been fired upon.

The real ferocity on both sides began when the “Black and Tans” were imported to take the place of the R.I.C., who were resigning in batches. It is indisputable - independent investigation by the Committee of the British Labour Party and the daily messages of fearless British journalists, such as Mr Hugh Martin, establish it beyond possibility of contradiction - that when the “Black and Tans” were let loose on the Irish people they began a villainous campaign of cowardly murder, arson, robbery and drunken outrage, which should have made all decent Englishmen and Englishwomen shudder for the deeds committed in their name. Whenever the particulars are fully disclosed they will, I venture to say, horrify every honest man in the Empire. Not the least disgraceful feature of this black business was the manner in which the Chief Secretary sought to brazen things out and the audacious lies that he fathered, such as that Lord Mayor M’Curtain was murdered by the Sinn Feiners, that it was Sinn Feiners who raided the Bishop of Killaloe’s house at midnight and searched for him (unquestionably with intent to shoot him), that it was the Sinn Feiners who burned down the City Hall, Public Library and the principal streets of Cork, etc.

And then the utter failure of all this “frightfulness”! Several months ago Sir Hamar Greenwood declared that Sinn Fein was on the run, and the Prime Minister declared they had “murder by the throat,” the fact being that the young men they sought to terrorise were made more resolute in their defiance of the Government. The only people at all terrorised were the invalids, the nuns whose cloisters were violated by night, the women and children whose homes were invaded at night by miscreants masquerading in the British uniform, maddened with drink and uttering the filthiest obscenities. And does England take account of what all this is going to mean to her - that the young generation will grow up with never-to-be-forgotten memories of these atrocities, while the thousands of young men herded together in the internment camps and convict prisons are being manufactured into life-long enemies of the Empire? Might not Englishmen pause and ask themselves whether it is worth it all, apart from other considerations, to implant this legacy of bitter hatred in Irish breasts?

Let it be admitted that since the Government have been shamed into dropping their denials of “reprisals” and taken them in hand themselves the military destruction has at least been carried on with some show of reluctance and humanity by the regular army, but it cannot be too strongly emphasised that the disbandment and deportation of “the Black and Tans” is the first condition of any return to civilised warfare or to any respect for the good name of England or her army.

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) 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.