§ MR. HOLMES,
in rising to move—That this House is unwilling to entertain Estimates for the Civil Establishments in Ireland before being placed in possession of the policy which Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue for the restoration and maintenance of social order in that Country,said, that he rose to address the House under a sense of deep responsibility. He should not have brought this Amendment forward had he not been convinced that the subject was one of extreme urgency and of very grave importance. He need not apologize, however, for taking the course which he intended to take that evening. The first duly of any Government was to maintain social order; and if it could be shown that the Government of the day had failed in that respect, or was careless, or not entirely in earnest about preserving social order in any part of Her Majesty's Dominions, it became not only the right, but the actual duty, of a Member of that House, who represented a constituency situated in the country where the disorder existed, and who had been connected with the administration of justice in that country, to take every means in his power to impress the Government with the necessity of performing their duty, or at least of explaining their position. The Government had at all times peculiar means of forming a correct opinion as to the condition of any part of the country; and, that being so, the House had some reason to complain that in connection with the present state of affairs in Ireland it had not received the assistance and guidance which on former occasions it had generally obtained, and which at all times it had a right to expect. The question of social order in Ireland had been much discussed of late. They had heard on all sides that Ireland was in a dangerous condition; but notwithstanding that, and notwithstanding that upon the first occasion when the House met after the change of Ministry, 1918 his right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) challenged in the most pointed way the Irish Chief Secretary to make a statement as to the condition of Ireland, no definite information had yet been given by any Member of the Government. It was true that the Prime Minister had, on more than one occasion, used the expression "social order" in connection with Ireland; but they had not heard from him what his own opinion was as to whether the condition of that country with regard to social order was now satisfactory or the reverse; and if it were unsatisfactory, to what extent, and in what way, that unsatisfactory condition was made manifest. Under those circumstances, it would be necessary for him on the present occasion to endeavour from other sources, and by facts and inferences which could hardly be denied, to describe the state of Ireland. For that purpose it would be necessary to go back a little; but he would promise the House that he was not about to enter upon any matters of ancient history, and that in referring to bygone transactions he did not desire to enter into any Party recriminations, which seemed to him to be as unbecoming as they were useless. He would ask the House to consider if there was any material from which they could judge of the condition of Ireland as regarded social order in the month of May in last year. At that time the Executive in Ireland had for almost three years been governing the country by means of an Act passed in 1882, in the carrying of which the late Liberal Administration received the loyal assistance of the Conservative Party in the House. That Act did a very good and a very effective work. Crime, outrage, and all those offences described as agrarian, which had risen to an enormous amount in 1881 and 1882, towards the end of 1883 were reduced, he was ready to admit, to a very great extent from the operation of that statute, to about one-third of the number in 1881 and 1882. For the 15 or 16 months that followed the year 1883, and up to May, 1884, those offences, as regarded their character and number, remained almost uniform. In the month of May, 1884, there was a decided improvement as compared with 1881 and 1882; but he thought he was justified 1919 in saying that a reference to statistics would show that the state of things was far from satisfactory; for, although an improvement existed as compared with 1881 and 1882, if they made a comparison with the five-and-a-half years of Lord Beaconsfield's Administration they would find that those crimes and outrages were, at all events, twofold, if not three-fold, more than during those five-and-a-half years. In the month of May, 1885, Her Majesty's then Government, presided over by the right hon. Gentleman now Prime Minister, who had the assistance of many of the Members of his present Administration, undertook, he had no doubt in the most careful, anxious, and circumspect way, the consideration of this question; and what was the conclusion arrived at by them and announced to the House at the end of May or the beginning of June? They were told that, although that Parliament was then expiring, they had arrived at the conclusion that it was necessary for the safety of Ireland that some portion of the statute should be re-enacted. He did not think it was ever definitely stated in the House what were the particular provisions it was determined to submit to the House for renewal; but he gathered from a letter to his right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) that the provisions it was proposed to renew consisted of almost all the provisions that had been in practical use—in other words, all the useful and effective provisions of the Act of 1882. What was the natural inference from that? It was that the condition of Ireland, in the judgment of the then Government, was in the months of May and June last year so grave that it required immediate legislation for the enforcement of the law. Circumstances occurred, as they all remembered, in the month of June of the same year which led to the then Government being replaced by the Administration of Lord Salisbury. [Ironical Irish cheers.] He was quite prepared to hear from time to time that cry from hon. Members below the Gangway, which he supposed he was bound by courtesy to describe as a cheer; but he could assure hon. Members that he would proceed with his observations regardless whether the cheers were in one direction or the other. The first Question the Administration of Lord 1920 Salisbury had to take into consideration was the very same question their Predecessors had to consider, and in connection with which they arrived at the conclusion to which he had referred. The House was aware that after that question had been carefully considered by that Administration they came to the conclusion that the Act might be allowed to lapse for the period that would intervene until a Parliament was returned by the new electorate. There was no portion of the policy of Lord Salisbury's Government that had been more attacked by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite than the resolution not to renew the Crimes Act. That was the only portion of the policy of that Government that had been attacked in any general way. As regarded the foreign policy of that Administration, as regarded its Colonial policy, as regarded its domestic policy they had hoard little or nothing but praise from right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He was not rising on the present occasion to defend the resolution then arrived at, and he would at once tell right hon. Gentlemen opposite the reason why he did not consider it necessary to defend it. It was this—that if the House considered that the conclusion at which Lord Salisbury's Government arrived was erroneous, it strengthened a hundred, even a thousand-fold, the argument which he was now impressing upon the House. There was one matter to which he wished to call attention in this connection, and that was that at the time when that policy was submitted to the House by Lord Salisbury's Administration it was not stated in the House or elsewhere that in their judgment the social condition of Ireland was in a satisfactory state. The only thing stated was that, having regard to the peculiar circumstances of the time, to the fact that Parliament was then expiring, to the fact that any renewal of that measure must be of a temporary character, and having regard to the belief that the lapse of that measure would not be followed by any outburst of crime, the Government came to the conclusion that, under the special circumstances of the case, the Act should not be renewed. He would also state that in forming that opinion he believed the Government were further influenced by the hope that if Ire- 1921 land were relieved from the exceptional legislation against which she had so vigorously protested, if she were treated in this respect in a spirit of trust and confidence, the good feeling of the inhabitants themselves would operate in the direction of law and order, and that in this way a distinct and positive improvement might be obtained. Whatever might be said with regard to other anticipations, he regretted to say that that hope was not realized; and, in so far as that hope was concerned, the experiment proved totally and entirely unsuccessful.
§ MR. HOLMES,
continuing, said, he made that admission frankly and fairly; but, at the same time, he declared there never was a more ridiculous or absurd proposition brought forward with reference to Ireland than the one suggested, he believed, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said that the step thus taken by Lord Salisbury's Administration changed for ever the policy of Irish government. Statesmen who wore thinking of renouncing opinions but recently expressed, and of unsaying words that had been recently spoken, were very frequently driven to find extraordinary explanations; but he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, if he was contemplating any tergiversation of that kind, that it would be prudent of him to select some more reasonable explanation. In fact, he thought that if the right hon. Gentleman wished to justify his own change of opinion by a change of policy taken in reference to Ireland by a Government just coming into power, he might refer to what was done in that connection by a Government of which he was a Member when it assumed Office in 1880, and when, at a most critical period of that country's history, it determined to abandon that Peace Preservation Act which had been in existence over 30 years, and the renewal of which was considered by its Predecessors to be absolutely necessary for the public safety. He now came to the period during which, as regarded the state of Ireland, he had considerable knowledge, and as to which he might be even permitted to speak with some degree of authority. Being responsible to a considerable extent for the administration of justice in Ireland 1922 during the last months of 1885, he applied himself to the task with whatever abilities he possessed, and certainly with unremitting attention. The Criminal Law was put in force on every possible occasion; every effort was made to maintain the reign of law and order; but, nevertheless, the social condition of the country did not improve. As regarded crime and outrage, and those offences which found their way into criminal statistics, he did not say that, as compared with the month of May and previous months, there was a marked deterioration; but so far as there was a change it was a change for the worse. He had heard it said by Gentlemen below the Gangway on that side that during that period Ireland was never more peaceful and free from crime. He could only say that, so far as there was a change from the month of May, it was a change for the worse, and especially in the last months of the year it was more marked; and ho would ask, if the state of the country was not satisfactory in the month of May as regarded crime and outrage, how could it be contended that during the latter part of the year it never was more peaceful and safe? So far as regarded the number of criminals; but when they turned away from the mere enumeration to consider the nature and character of the crimes committed, and the circumstances by which they were attended, the picture became much more melancholy. In this country, and in many others, it was often said, and said truly, that crime, as a rule, was the work of the criminal classes, who had broken away from restraint, set society at defiance, and entered upon a regular life of lawlessness. It was not so long ago that the same description might have been applied to crime in Ireland. They had in years past crimes connected with "White-boyism," and with "Moonlighting;" and apologists had given extraordinary explanations of those crimes. They had been told that they were all the work of the police; at other times that they were the work of landlords; at other times that they were the work of the agents of Tory Governments; and more generally that they were the work of Liberal Governments. He supposed that that allegation would not be accepted. But they were also told that those crimes were committed by persons who came from 1923 a distance into the districts where they took place, and that they did not point to any general demoralization. Now, he had looked with great care into those crimes which were committed in Ireland in the latter part of 1885; and he regretted to say that, as far as he could judge, they were committed by men in the immediate district where they occurred, and whose antecedents and general character would lead to the presumption that they were law-abiding; and it was to be observed that the criminals received the sympathy and protection of the people in the districts in which the crimes were committed. He did not make that statement on his own responsibility only; it was supported by facts and evidence. Some of the Moonlighters about the end of last year were detected and brought to justice. They were tried and convicted. In every single instance, as far as he remembered, they were committed by farmers or sons of farmers who lived in the immediate neighbourhood, and who received, and in all other respects deserved, an excellent character; and in almost every instance witnesses of the same description were produced for the defence in support of fabricated statements, for the purpose of rendering convictions difficult, if not impossible. ["Oh!"] He said fabricated statements, because the verdict of the jury must be taken as conclusive on this point. All that pointed to a different state of things than that those crimes were the work of the merely ordinary criminal class—it pointed to a widespread demoralization. But other circumstances told the same story. Reference had been made in that House to what was called the Curtin murder case. That murder had been described by the Chief Secretary for Ireland as an unfortunate death. ["Hear, hear!" and "No!"] Certainly, that word had been used by the Chief Secretary.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN-MORLEY)
I used the word "death," but instantly altered it. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman why he did not indict Casey for murder?
§ MR. HOLMES
said, he supposed that the question just put to him covered a suggestion that the death was not a murder. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman why they did not indict Casey 1924 for murder. They did not indict him for murder because he had left the place and had abandoned the undertaking entirely and completely before the murder was committed; and by a well-known rule of law, though he was guilty of one of the most serious offences, it would not amount to murder. But Mr. Curtin was shot at and murdered. The man who fired the fatal shot was a murderer, and the man who died from the shot was a murdered man. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be satisfied with that explanation. Former Chief Secretaries for Ireland had applied to murder the name that it generally bore; and, as regarded the administration of justice in Ireland, it would be just as well that that practice should be continued. He now came to the case itself. Considerable attention was attracted to the case, by reason of the heroic conduct of members of the family; but in other respects it was a very typical case, and all its circumstances might be taken as an illustration of the state of things. Mr. Curtin was a man who, as far as anyone had been able to ascertain, had always lived a peaceable and blameless life, unless, indeed, it was considered as an offence to be a little more prosperous than his neighbours, and to have paid his rent. He had committed no offence, as far as he understood. A band of marauders, however, attacked his family and his home. They were composed of farmers living in the neighbourhood, having no just fault to find with him, and yet they engaged in that expedition. When that band entered his house there were in it, in addition to the members of the family, six farm servants who had been living there for years, and who were as strong and stalwart as any to be found in the country. Those farm servants had no quarrel with their employer. They were attached to him, as he understood; but, being there, they said no word and raised no hand to protect him or the family. In a civilized Christian country could anything be more demoralizing and more degrading than that? That was a typical case. There lay two corpses there after the terrible occurrence. One was the body of the head of the family—the man who had stood up in defence of his property and the people about him, and whose very last words before he received the 1925 fatal shot were words of moderation and kindliness. The other was the body of the man who was shot with a mask on his face and a gun in his hand, which he had discharged but a few moments before against the head of that family. With which of those two men was the general public sympathy of the neighbourhood? It was stated at the time, and never contradicted, that a few days after, on the following Sunday, after Mass had been celebrated and the clergyman was addressing the congregation and referring with respect to the murdered man's memory, the congregation rose and left the chapel. That had never been contradicted; it was true; but it had been explained, and the explanation proved his case. It was said that the congregation left the chapel, not on account of what was said, but to attend the funeral of the dead Moonlighter. And there were those two funeral processions; the one that was followed merely by the members of the Curtin family; and the other that of the dead murderer, which was followed by almost all the neighbours. But that was not all. The members of the murdered man's family, as they were bound in duty to do, gave evidence in the case. They did not seem to desire to bring home the guilt of the accused; they certainly gave their evidence without any apparent animus or desire for vengeance. A short time after they appeared as witnesses they returned to the place in the neighbourhood where they had always lived, and where up to then they had been respected. How were they received? Did hon. Members forgot the way in which this family were received by the people when they attended service at church, or the attack which was made on the chapel itself, and that it was necessary for the prelate of the diocese to announce that religious service would be suspended for several weeks?
§ MR. PARNELL
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he will inform the House as to the date of the murder of Mr. Curtin?
§ MR. HOLMES
No; I cannot inform the House. Nor can I see that the date can make the murder one whit less frightful a crime, nor the sympathizers with that murder one whit less guilty.
§ MR. HOLMES
said, he presumed that hon. Members must feel that there was something to answer in regard to this matter, and bethought their answers might be little more relevant. He had referred to what inference could be drawn from the statistics of crime, and also to the inference which could be drawn from the character of that crime, and the circumstances which had attended it. He had shown that even in the month of May it was necessary, in the opinion of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that there should be some repressive legislation which could actually brook no delay, and which became much more important in December of last year. It would be a great mistake to judge the social condition of any country, no matter where it was situated, by criminal statistics alone. As far as Ireland was concerned, the statistics of crime and outrage reflected but a small light on the social condition of that land. He asserted without fear of contradiction that in Ireland a terrible tyranny was spreading over the three Provinces. When the Land League was suppressed for its illegal acts, the Government of the day, having behind it an Act which enabled the Executive upon the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant to imprison any person throughout the country, allowed within a short time the National League to spring up. This body increased in strength and in power; and he had not the smallest doubt that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when considering this matter in May, were impressed with the power which the National League possessed. Even at that time—aye, and long before that time—it was exercising a kind of intimidation which made it almost impossible for any man to use his personal liberty. As far as he was aware, or could judge, he did not think that the provisions of the Act of 1882 were calculated to produce much effect, if any, on the intimidation carried out by that League. He was under the impression that the noble Earl who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had come to a somewhat different opinion; but he thought it must be admitted that that intimidation had become of such a character that, though some check might be placed on it by the provisions of the Statute, yet an effective check that Act was not. They found month by month that the National League 1927 increased in power and in influence, until at last, towards the end of 1885, it overshadowed not merely the three Provinces, but the paralyzed administration of the law and the Queen's authority in those Provinces. There was not a single act of social life in which it did not presume to judge between man and man. It dictated to the master what servant he should employ, and to the servant what master he should servo. It dictated to the merchant and the shopkeeper whom he should supply with necessaries, and from whom he should buy goods. In short, there was no social relation of life into which the tyranny of that body was not carried. He believed that he spoke of things which were generally known. The House might remember that during the Licensing Sessions in Ireland held in October and November last, in almost every county in the South and West of Ireland it was necessary to oppose licences given to publicans, who were the only purveyors of the necessaries of life, because at the dictation of the League they refused to supply persons who came under the ban of the League. In November such was the difficulty of serving legal process that it was necessary for the Judges to direct that that process should be sent by post. Not long ago the House was engaged in considering a Supplementary Constabulary Vote, which was needed because the Constabulary could not hire cars, and actually could not obtain the necessaries of life. It was necessary, therefore, to supply capital wherewith they might buy cars, establish depots for food, and forges at which they could shoe their horses. As regarded this part of the matter, he would appeal to events which could hardly be denied. In the first place, he appealed to a late Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Government of Ireland was entrusted to a capable and conscientious body of public servants. Those men had no interest except to perform their duty. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) whether or not he could bear out his testimony that these men could be trusted and could perform their duty? [Mr. TBEVELYAN expressed assent.] A few days ago he was reading a speech of the right hon. Gentleman in which, in a most generous spirit, he described the 1928 men from the Judge to the constable as a body of public servants who were thoroughly to be trusted. It would be, and had been, the duty of persons in that position to make representations on this point. They made reports, and it was in the power of the Chief Secretary always to obtain them. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman to say whether the information which could be obtained from that authentic source did not show the country might be painted as black colours as he had described it? He asked hon. Members, however, if they wanted authentic information on this point, to read the Nationalist newspapers which were published in Ireland during October, November, and December last. What would they find? They would find that records of the branches of the National League were kept, and the way in which the League was carrying its influence through every circle of society, rendering individual action in any way almost impossible. He knew that a week or two ago a letter was written by an hon. Member on the subject of what were called Land League Courts, and they were told that such Courts did not exist. But the House was not altogether under the dominion of words; they might sometimes look at facts. If a man was summoned before the National League ho was described as having been "invited;" and if he was subjected to a trial they were told that he had "submitted to arbitration;" and if judgment was passed upon him they were told that "advice" was given him. When the master of a hundred legions sat down before a small and undefended fortress and invited it to surrender, it was an invitation which was not likely to be refused. In the same way, when a footpad presented a pistol at the breast of a traveller and "invited" him to hand over his purse, such an invitation could not be lightly regarded. They knew that the "invitation" of the National League was equivalent to a command which could not be disobeyed, and they knew that the "advice" tendered was far more efficacious than the judgment of any Court, and had far more terrible sanctions behind it. Such was the state of Ireland, as he believed, in the month of December last year, and in the beginning of January of the present year. It was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to take 1929 that matter into their most serious consideration. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Sir William Harcourt): Hear, hear!] He could tell the right hon. Gentleman who cheered ironically that it received as serious consideration as any subject ever received at the hands of any Government, not, as had been stated again and again, within a day or two of Parliament meeting, but at a considerable period before that. It was fully discussed and considered, and the remedies to be applied in order to counteract those evils were not allowed to remain in any shadowy form, but were reduced to writing, and in that form discussed and considered too. There was no want of elaboration and care, and the only reason why a measure was not announced before the fourth day of the Session was because a change in the person responsible for the government of Ireland took place at that period. It was natural, therefore, that, although the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) had investigated this matter with the greatest care, and had gone through the Reports with the greatest accuracy—although he had seen the provisions which were suggested as a remedy to counteract the evils—it was natural that the now official should say that he must personally see some of the important persons in Ireland before he gave his sanction. If hon. Members were to assume Office in similar circumstances they would do the same. Was there any unnecessary delay on the subject? Some doubts had been suggested that there was no measure in preparation. He spoke of a thing which he knew, and ho knew that not only was the measure in preparation, but it had been prepared; and when the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) announced his intention to submit the measure to Parliament, it might have been laid at that moment on the Table of the House. He could further say that long before that time the provisions embodied in that measure had been fully discussed and had boon reduced to the form of a Statute; so that, in point of fact, there was no foundation for the allegations that what was done by the late Government was a thing quickly conceived and very hastily executed. In the circumstances he had described there came a change of Govern- 1930 ment. The new Government was practically that which was in power in the preceding May. If it had then considered repressive legislation necessary; and if the state of Ireland at the end of the year and at the beginning of this year were what he had described, how was it to be explained that the present Government had not taken some steps in reference to the serious question of social order? Under the circumstances ho had mentioned, surely it was the first duty of the Government at the earliest moment to consider the social condition of Ireland; and he presumed that that duty was done. Yet not a word had been heard from right hon. Gentlemen opposite in reference to that question. There had, however, been some indications to which he would refer. In drawing an inference from words of the Prime Minister he was approaching a matter of some difficulty; but it was a difficulty he would endeavour to overcome. The right hon. hon. Gentleman had two or three times spoken of social order in Ireland as a question deserving most serious consideration; and it was not an unreasonable inference to draw from that that the right hon. Gentleman considered that as regarded social order Ireland was in an unsatisfactory state. It was not said that social order in Scotland required careful consideration, because law and order prevailed there. Furthermore, it was said that it was not the intention of the Government to propose repressive legislation; but that was generally accompanied by the qualification "at present," or "immediately;" it was, therefore, not unreasonable to assume that it might be necessary at a very early date to introduce such legislation. There was difficulty in attaching a meaning to the term "at present" unless it would justify some such inference. Within the last few days a noble Earl, better acquainted than any other noble Lord, perhaps, with the state of Ireland, had said that it was worse—a hundred-fold worse—than it was in May or June last. It might, therefore, be assumed that he had not now drawn any exaggerated or too highly-coloured picture of the state of Ireland. If that were so, what was the reason why it had not received the immediate attention of the Government? It might, perhaps, be said that some improvement had taken place recently; 1931 but, at all events, such improvement was not due to any action of the Government. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had made no positive announcement on the subject. He remained silent when challenged. If the Chief Secretary had any doubts remaining, he appealed to him to resolve them that evening, or as soon as possible. The Chief Secretary, it was true, had said that under certain circumstances, and within certain limitations, he reserved it to himself to decide whether military force should be employed for the purpose of carrying out decrees of eviction. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman cheered that statement; but what was it that he cheered? How could the Chief Secretary know, when the judgment of a Court was produced to him, whether it covered a shadowy right or a substantial one? For that was what he undertook to decide. That view of the right hon. Gentleman was repugnant to every principle of justice, law, and equity. Earl Spencer had, within the last few days, described the state of Ireland as much worse at present than it was in May or June last. If this were so, what reason was there why this question should not receive immediate attention? Could it be said that any improvement had taken place in the country since the present Administration had taken Office? If improvement existed, it had not arisen from any action of the Government; but action had been taken in other quarters. Mr. Davitt had gone to one of the disturbed districts and preached in the strongest way that those outrages must be given up. To what extent this advice had been followed he did not know; but the organs of the National League had to a great extent ceased the publication of the proceedings of their branches in these respects. [Mr. W. O'BRIEN: Consult the last issues.] At all events, they were materially altered in their character, and anyone could see that by comparing what used to be printed with what was now printed in those journals. Suppose it to be the fact that these things conduced to make the country a little better, surely this showed that a more alarming state of things existed than even the outrages. What was demonstrated was that what the Queen's Government could not do could be performed by that terrible force which had been carrying on this tyranny in the 1932 country for months past, and whose object it was now to arrest it for a limited time, and for a limited purpose. Anyone looking at the state of Ireland in a fair and ordinary way could see that it required immediate attention, and every day's delay rendered the problem much more difficult. There was another aspect of the case, which involved an element of still greater danger. When the Government was considering the question in May last, not a word was said in reference to the Repeal of the Union. As far as could be gathered from all that passed, the Government appeared to adhere to the views that had been laid down by all English statesmen of the present century. They held with Lord Althorp that if they had to choose between civil war and the Repeal of the Legislative Union they would choose civil war. Similar views had been expressed by Russell, Peel, and Palmerston. And what words had the present Prime Minister used on more than one occasion?
§ MR. HOLMES
said, that if he could not quote the exact words of the right hon. Gentleman he could refer him to where he would find them. He referred him to the occasion when Mr. Butt's Home Rule Resolution was before that House.
§ MR. HOLMES
If the Prime Minister wished he would withdraw, in the most unreserved way, what he had said, and he would assume that the policy of the Prime Minister differed from that of the other statesmen he had named, and that the right hon. Gentleman not merely now, but when the scheme of MR. Butt was before the country, considered that much might be said in favour of the Repeal of the Legislative Union.
§ MR. HOLMES
said, he did not attribute those words to the right hon. Gentleman. All he said was that if the right hon. Gentleman so desired he would assume them. But better far than going into old matters of this kind, than discussing what might have been said in the past, it was to consider what was now before the country. It was generally conceived that some statesmen during the month of December began to 1933 look at this question in a different light from what they had done before. Had this any effect upon Ireland at the present time? It could not be denied that this question of Repeal was now spoken of in every part of Ireland. What was the position of Ireland at the present moment? Ireland at the present time consisted, not of a single nation, but of two distinct nations or nationalities; and, indeed, it might be said to have been in that condition for years and even centuries past. One of these nations, he admitted, was in a majority. That majority, at the present moment, were looking forward with the most anxious hope to a measure which would sever their connection with this country, as to which they had never concealed their hate. The other nationality, which was in a minority, looked with dread to the measure which would sever their connection with this country, to belong to which was their glory and their pride. Ireland was in an intense state of tension, and social order was very much disturbed, and rendered much more critical by this situation. He had used the words majority and minority, and he hoped the House would pardon him if he called to mind the extent of the majority and of the minority. Hon. Members more than once had stated that the Nationalist Party in that House was five-sixths of the whole number of Irish Members returned. Would anyone tell him that the Nationalist Party represented five-sixths of the population? It was perfectly clear that the power of a minority in the country and the extent of its representation depended very much upon the way in which it was distributed. He contended that the statement that the Nationalist Party represented five-sixths of the entire population of Ireland had not been proved. A more accurate calculation was that the minority was one-third, while the majority was two-thirds. Hon. Members below the Gangway had spoken of the minority in a somewhat contemptuous way; but he could tell hon. Members opposite that if they shared in these feelings they were holding them against their own kith and kin, seeing there was a great number of Scotch and English in the minority. So far from the minority being in any respects turbulent, it was the most industrious, law-abiding, and prosperous portion of the people. They 1934 had hoard a great deal about the town of Belfast. That was a town of which any country might well be proud. It was by the untiring industry of the citizens that there had been formed in Belfast one of the greatest manufacturing centres in the country, and this had been done in spite of laws discouraging to their industry—laws which, however, had long since passed away. He might mention that the minority in Ireland—as, perhaps, the House understood—was on this question thoroughly in earnest. Hon. Members below the Gangway would say that the majority was also in earnest. There had been a great deal said, and it seemed to him that a great deal of folly had been spoken, about his noble Friend the Member for Paddington. It had been said that his noble Friend went to Belfast for the purpose of stirring up civil war. His noble Friend was anxious to meet that charge face to face if an opportunity were given him. That opportunity, however, had not been afforded him. It seemed to him that if any attack was to be made upon the noble Lord, it would be much better that it should be made to his face, instead of behind his back. What was the lesson that might be drawn from the visit of the noble Lord? The reception which he got at Belfast, judging it by the might and majesty of numbers and the earnestness of the people, was a reception which had probably never been given to a statesman before. From all they had heard, it would be difficult to parallel that reception by any Viceregal or Royal progress. They admired the genius of his noble Friend, and they acknowledged the fact that by the exercise of his abilities he had obtained a very commanding position among public men. But it was not the reputation arising from his genius or position that collected the vast assembly in Belfast. The greatest statesman that ever lived could not have drawn away artizans from their workshops but for a cause which went to the hearts of those men. The great question of the Repeal of the Union and the severance of the connection between England and Ireland, which was their glory, and which stirred souls to their inmost deaths, brought the hundreds and thousands of workmen together. He had stated that the minority was in earnest. How did that reflect upon the 1935 question of social order? Would it be denied that at the present time the social ties which bound people in Ireland together were drawn so tight as to run the risk of snapping? Suppose that in four or six weeks the Government made an announcement with regard to Ireland, had they taken into consideration the effect which it would have upon the excited population of Ireland? If the result of the deliberations of the Government should be to deny what hon. Members below the Gangway expected, would any Member of the Government say that that would lead to peace and order? If, on the other hand, the deliberations of the Government should result in the granting of that which those attached to the Union dreaded, would any Member of the Government say that that would lead to peace and order in Ireland? Then, again, if the measure satisfied neither the one nor the other, but disappointed both, would that lead, if the crisis was prolonged, to the promotion of peace and order in Ireland? It seemed to him that by delaying this matter they were adding terribly to the alarming state of the country; and if the delay was persisted in the crisis would become of a most fearful character. Had any suggestion been made why guidance on these important questions should not be given by the Government? The Prime Minister had told them that the Business of Supply would necessarily occupy the attention of the House for some time; but if the question of Ireland was a question of serious importance, ought there to be any hesitation in taking the time now at the disposal of private Members? Supply had already given way to the Crofters' Bill, and surely the present state of Ireland was a more serious matter than the Crofters' Question. They had been told by the Prime Minister that it would be impossible for the Government, suddenly called upon to take Office under the present circumstances, to deal with this matter as quickly as some hon. Members thought they ought. He was bound to admit that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not compelled to declare their policy when in Opposition or when they were striving for Office; but he contended that they ought to have some definite views now. There never was a Government more prepared than this to come to a rapid 1936 conclusion. There were in the Government two noble Lords who had occupied the position of Viceroy in Ireland, and there were two right hon. Gentlemen who had been Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. Besides this, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had had opportunities during his long experience of considering this question, and they all knew that he had given attention to it of late both by day and by night. Were they to be told that the Government had been four weeks in Office, while Parliament had been sitting a fortnight, and yet they could not state what their policy was? He did not ask for a Bill; but could not the Government announce something like what their policy would be? The Chief Secretary, in a speech which ho recently made, referred to the critical position of the country, and said that we were standing on the brink of a crisis resembling that mighty cataract which swept away everything with irresistible force. That was the position of the country according to the right hon. Gentleman. Surely, therefore, they had a right to call upon the Government for some guidance. They had a right to call upon the right hon. Gentleman opposite to say, whether it might embarrass his Parliamentary plans or not—he did not say that it would—to let the House know what was in contemplation, so that they might be the better able to judge whether there was any real attempt to grapple with the condition of social order in Ireland. He would not have trespassed on the House so long were it not that the matter appeared to him of supreme importance. He would now conclude. He would only say, as he had in the beginning, that he believed it was his right, and that he should not be fulfilling his duty, were he not to take the opportunity which the Forms of the House presented to-night for bringing forward this grave and serious question. The basis of his argument was that the social condition of Ireland was in a dangerous state, and each hour that passed made it more critical. Under these circumstances he asked the Government what course they were prepared to take? That was a question which the House had a right to ask, and the Government were bound to answer; and any delay in the granting of the Civil Service Estimates that might occur would be but a small 1937 matter when compared with the advantage that would arise if they could obtain such an assurance from the Government as he asked for, upon which would depend the future peace and safety of the State.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is unwilling to entertain Estimates for the Civil Establishments in Ireland before being placed in possession of the policy which Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue for the restoration and maintenance of social order in that Country,"—(Mr. Holmes,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE)
Sir, I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I perfectly understand the modest request at the close of his speech, when he asked the Government for some guidance. The meaning of that is that he intends and desires that we should proclaim the principles and basis of the measures which we hope to frame and introduce without being able either to state the reasons upon which they will be founded or the particulars by which they will be adjusted to the circumstances of Ireland, and that by an imprudence of that kind on our part he considers, after the irresistible speech he has delivered, it will be no longer possible for us to evade a declaration, and he and his Friends will be in a condition to undertake more pilgrimages to the North of Ireland, of which we recently had a conspicuous example, and that in the course of those pilgrimages they will be able to offer the kind of contribution which we have had tonight from the right hon. and learned Gentleman towards the settlement of the great question of the social condition of Ireland. Sir, I do not take credit to myself for any great sagacity. [Laughter from the Opposition.] I am delighted to be agreed with those Gentlemen; there is nothing that pleases me more than to find myself in perfect harmony with hon. Gentlemen who are remarkable for their experience, for their wisdom, and for all their other high statesmanlike qualities. But, without giving credit to myself for any great sagacity, I may, perhaps, not betray 1938 undue presumption in saying that I am not such a simpleton in the position that I occupy as to be led away by the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The right hon. and learned Gentleman complains of us that he cannot hear our views. He hoped that we were going to attend to the social condition of Ireland. why, upon the very first occasion that we occupied this seat he was told in language I should have thought plain—but there are none so deaf as those who will not hear, none so ignorant as those who will not understand—that the social condition of Ireland was the very first of all the questions that attracted and fastened our attention from the first moment of our entrance into Office, and that attention has been maintained without intermission down to the time at which I speak. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, I may observe, has not said one single word upon the subject of his own Motion. His feelings entirely drew him off, and caused him to forget the proposition upon which we are invited to agree. I may say, paying attention to the paper put into my hands this morning, I saw that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson) had given Notice of a Motion taking precedence of that now made, and declaring that the condition of Ireland is such as to require the immediate attention of Her Majesty's Government, with the object of restoring the authority of the law. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not satisfied with the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member. He thought he could improve upon it, and no doubt he had the assistance of the statesmanlike qualities and collective wisdom always to be found on that Bench. But how did he recommend his Motion? Instead of merely saying in a plain and intelligible fashion that this was an urgent matter, he resorted to the ultima ratio of Parliament, and threatened us with a partial stoppage of Supply. That is an extreme remedy which the House of Commons possesses, and which it applies, or might apply, when the obstinacy of a Government in its adherence to Office or to a particular policy is so perverse or extreme that nothing can be done but to stop Supply. But surely this is not a case to warrant resort to this extreme remedy. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said we have 1939 been four weeks in Office; that is rather an exaggerated statement of the case. But we are certainly approaching, I believe, the completion of four weeks. Under those circumstances, the right hon. and learned Gentleman finds it necessary to bring out of the armoury of Parliament this very formidable weapon, and threatens the Crown with withholding the Supplies necessary for the Public Service. And what does ho propose to do? He proposes—and I do not wonder that he said nothing upon his Motion, for it may have dawned upon him that it was totally indefensible—he proposes to withhold the Irish portion of the Supplies. Was there ever a proceeding that could be called, by those who criticize Ireland, more Irish? What portion of the country is it that is suffering from the present misconduct and neglect of Her Majesty's Government? It is poor Ireland. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman tells us, the condition is intolerable, and is becoming worse and worse every day; and in that state of facts the prescription offered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to amend the state of Ireland is that he adds to this condition of things, already intolerable, the stoppage of all the services necessary to work the social machinery. This, I think, the right hon. and learned Gentleman ought in some degree to have explained in the course of his speech. The House will remember that, instead of withholding our views, we made to the House a most important declaration—a declaration that, after reviewing the social state of Ireland, we arrived at the conclusion that at the juncture at which we stood we should not be justified in proposing to supply the defects of social order in Ireland, whatever they may be, by means of special repressive legislation, but that it was our duty to search out more positive, substantive, remedial measures, and to present them to Parliament at the earliest possible moment consistent with the due consideration of matters of such complexity and such difficulty. I have said, and I must repeat it, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has found my language so hard to understand. That is a stereotyped method of proceeding. It is well known, I think, that I have been more than a half a century in public life; that I have spoken a great deal; and that I 1940 was never able to say anything which my countrymen were able to understand. No doubt that is a natural defect on my part, which I am afraid it is too late for me to hope to remedy; but this I have said, which appears to mo to be not wholly unintelligible—that there are three questions before us in regard to the condition of Ireland—the first, that of social order; the second, the question of the land; and the third, the question of the future government of Ireland. These three questions are so entwined together that I defy the wit of man to disjoin them; and we hope to get at the question of social order, as I have said, not by the specific of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—namely, repressive criminal legislation—but by positive and substantial measures relating to the other two branches of the subject. Well, Sir, is it really to be said that Ireland has suffered horribly from the delay in the announcement of our plans? Why are our plans so late? I do not hesitate to say what is the time the Government ought to have for the purpose of preparing plans dealing with subjects so large, so vital, and so difficult. It ought to have at least three months —three clear unembarrassed months—before the Session of Parliament. Why were we deprived of that opportunity? Three months, Sir, there could not have been; but there was a considerable time between the first week of December, in which the Elections were decided, and the Queen's Speech on the 21st of January. I do not censure the late Government when they departed from a course of precedent uniform since 1868, and first established by Lord Beacons-field; because when I saw 250 Gentlemen determined to meet Parliament as the Government of the country, I said surely these men have, and mean to have, a policy for Ireland. They know, and they knew, that the last support I could give them was at their command. [Ironical cheers from the Opposition.] I do not say that the Gentlemen whom I see cheering me knew it, but I say that the late Government knew it. It is in that way, Sir, that time has been lost, if time has been lost. And how was it spent by the late Government? Well, it was spent in a hopeless attempt to consider the state of Ireland; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman tonight has given us an excuse so futile 1941 and so ludicrous that he must indeed have a mean opinion of the understanding of this House if he believes that here it can pass muster for a moment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has told us that the late Government on the 21st of January had made up its mind to propose repressive criminal legislation for Ireland. I am not misrepresenting the right hon. and learned Gentleman in stating that to have been the dear declaration that he has made. In the first place, I do not know how it is possible to reconcile that declaration with the language of the Queen's Speech, which was "that there had been during the last year no marked increase of serious crime;" and still less is it possible to reconcile that declaration with the express and explicit words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who, on the 21st of January, speaking in this House, used these words in addressing us—Whether it is possible to deal with the outrages and social disorders by any further application of the powers of the ordinary law, or whether it is neces3ary for the Government to ask Parliament to confer on the Executive additional powers, are questions which "—what? which according to the right hon. Gentleman have been decided? No; but—are questions which will receive the immediate and earnest attention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster"—(3 Sansard,  128.)who at that time had undertaken a mission to Ireland, and on whose Report the decision of the late Government was to depend. Now, Sir, my contention is that these statements, both proceeding from very high authority, are in flat, absolute, diametrical contradiction. And then comes the futile excuse which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been bold enough to palm upon us. He said it was impossible to make the announcement, because there was to be a change in the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. But why should that make it impossible? Was there no other Lord Lieutenant to be found? I could have understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman if ho had gone a little further into the facts, and told us that the mind of Lord Carnarvon, a humane, honourable, and intelligent man, was so struck by his experience in Ireland that he was no longer 1942 willing to be a party to a policy of repression. But to tell us simply that because there was to be a change in the hands that were to wield the Executive power in Ireland, therefore the fundamental principles of the policy of the Government could not be announced, is to propound to us that which would not pass muster in the lowest class in a national school. It seems to be forgotten that besides Lord Carnarvon there was somebody else in the Cabinet—another Irishman, a most distinguished Irishman, whose able exertions in this House we shall not lightly forget—I mean Lord Ashbourne. Why was not his presence in the Cabinet sufficient to enable the Cabinet to bridge over this vital interval, and to maintain some continuity of ideas between the day when Lord Carnarvon held Office and the day on which he did not? Now, Sir, I will say a word more as to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's defence of this extraordinary Motion, in which, because we have been cruelly and unjustly punishing Ireland by keeping her in painful suspense, he proposes further to punish her by stopping the action of the Civil Service of that country. There is much more to be said of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman than that. It is a speech for the immediate application of coercive legislation to Ireland. I hope I shall speak intelligibly, even to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when I tell him that to such a purpose we will be no party. I will go further, and say that it is my firm conviction that if the late Government had been enabled by continuance in Office to make their proposals, the effect of their attempt to pass them through this House would, under the actual circumstances of Ireland, have led to nothing but disastrous Parliamentary discomfiture. But, Sir, the right hon. and learned Gentleman, besides making such a plea, has made it with accompaniments on which I must offer an observation. Ho has spoken, especially in the last portion of his speech, of the condition of Ireland, and of the relations of one set of Irishmen to another set of Irishmen, and the only proper mode of dealing with Ireland in such a case is to stir up again every ancient controversy, to aggravate and inflame every animosity, and to show us more clearly, if possible, than we see it already, that if there is 1943 to be hope for Ireland in the future, or hope for the relations between the countries, it must be from the adoption of very different proposals and the promotion of a very different temper from that of the late Attorney General for Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in his speech, said a great deal more than that, for he has pronounced the heaviest indictment I have yet heard pronounced against the late Government; and he has likewise supplied the present Government with an acquittal with which I, for one, am perfectly satisfied. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is pressing upon us an immediate resort to coercive or repressive legislation. He says there is nothing else for it, and he proves it by the most ingenious argument. He says, either you will fail to please the Nationalists, and then there will be no peace for Ireland, but increased exasperation; or you will fail to please the Protestants, and then there will be no peace, but increased exasperation; or you will fail to please both, and then the same mischief will occur, and there will be increased exasperation.
§ MR. HOLMES
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent me. I never used the word "Protestant."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am much obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I was wrong in using the word "Protestant;" I meant the minority. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, I have no doubt, is proud of that argument by exhaustion; and he does not at all question the fact that he contended that there was nothing to be done by any medicine for Ireland except the drastic purge which he recommends. He stated facts which are most material to the case on both sides—most material to the case on our side; for what is his—I will not say his admission, but his allegation? He seemed to suspect there was some real improvement in the state of Ireland; but then he said—"What does that come to, and what does that signify? It is not an improvement which is due to the action of Her Majesty's Government." So, according to the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it does not signify how much Ireland improves through the action of the people, or through the action of the popular leaders, unless you can show that it improves through re- 1944 pressive legislation. He says there is no improvement worth having unless it comes through the action of repressive legislation. "Mr. Davitt has been down preaching order;" I am extremely glad to hear it; "and the National League is mitigating and moderating its language." Again, I am extremely glad to hear it. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman says not only that he is not glad to hear it, but that this is exactly what alarms him. It is so much the worse, not only in the sanctuary of his private mind, which I do not seek to penetrate; but it is so much the worse in this sense, if I understand him rightly—that he considers the fact that Mr. Davitt is preaching order, and the National League is mending its manners, as an additional point strengthening the argument for repressive legislation. That is the precise representation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument. But I have much more than this to say. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has drawn a dreadful picture of the state of Ireland in order to sustain his argument on behalf of coercive legislation. From whence did he draw materials for his demonstration? What are the dates? He dwelt particularly upon the deplorable Curtin murder. He was asked what was the date of that murder? He did not know. Oh, Sir, what a delightful infantile innocence of recollection! Most fortunate for him was it that ho did not know the date of that murder. Ono thing we know from the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and that is the character of the murder as he views it, and as in substance too truly views it. The character of that murder was not ascertained by investigations carried on long after, but became palpable at the time; because the right hon. and learned Gentleman truly says it is not the more amount of crime in the country, but the sympathy with which it is regarded, which determines its character; and the sympathy in the Curtin murder was manifested immediately on the day of the funeral. Therefore it becomes a matter of fresh and enhanced interest to investigate this recondite and almost inaccessible fact of the date of the murder. The date of the murder was, it appears, the 13th of November, and Parliament was dissolved on the 17th of November, and the Elections began about the 24th of 1945 November. There was thus plenty of time, aided by the glaring light of the Curtin murder, to exhibit to the country the condition of Ireland at that time, and to announce to the country at the Elections the intention of the Government to deal with that condition in the manner in which alone the right hon. and learned Gentleman conceives it can be dealt with—namely, by establishing repressive legislation. Where, then, were the declarations of the Government after the occurrence of the Curtin murder? Such sentiments as we have heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman to-night were not forthcoming at all. But other declarations were forthcoming after the Curtin murder, and yet before the Elections; for, unless I am much mistaken—I did not copy out the words of the sentence, but they were supplied me—a speech was made by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), on the 20th of November at Birmingham, a week after the Curtin murder. What said the noble Lord on the 20th of November? I hope he has been correctly reported; but he is here to correct the statement if it is inaccurate. On the 20th of November the noble Lord is reported to have spoken thus—We undertook on accepting Office that we would endeavour to govern Ireland and preserve order by the same laws with which we preserve order in England, and that we would endeavour to do without the abridgements of liberty which Mr. Gladstone has found necessary. I venture to say that up to the present date that decision has been abundantly justified. Although there has been one or two outrages of a serious character, on the whole crime and outrage in Ireland have greatly diminished.Now, Sir, first of all, I call attention to that speech; and, secondly, I will say how far it is true that crime and outrage in Ireland had greatly diminished. According to the right hon. and learned Gentleman—and upon this subject he practised a somewhat prudent reserve—it may be clearly inferred to be his belief that in June and July last the late Government were justified in abandoning the Crimes Act. He has not said "Aye" to that proposition, but neither has he said "No;" and as he is a Gentleman so much alive to the value of clear and perspicuous speech, no doubt he is prepared to sustain the inference which this raises. I assume that he thinks the late Government were justified in abandon- 1946 ing the Crimes Act, because he says there was nothing for which they were so much attacked. I do not know if the right hon. and learned Gentleman was in this House at the time the announcement was made. But my recollection is that no attack whatever was made on them unless by some of their own Friends. For myself, I gave them every encouragement. I thought the experiment was rash; but I cordially wished it success, and nothing would have been more delightful if we had found that we had been demonstrably wrong in the intention which we had previously formed. Since that a great change has taken place—according to the late Attorney General for Ireland—a great change in the condition of Ireland, and a great change in the views and intentions of the late Government. When did the two changes occur? It is obvious that down to the Elections not the faintest intimation was conveyed by the late Government of the failure of their scheme. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEAOH: It was intimated.] Such an intimation was conveyed! Let us hear it, and in the meantime I stand not upon an intimation, but upon a declaration, a solemn asseveration made on November 20 by the noble Lord that the decision of the Government had been abundantly justified. But now the charge against us is that we do not immediately resort to repressive criminal legislation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says there has been a fatal change. When did that change take place? When did the increase of outrages and of "Boycotting" occur? It is idle to take the mere fact of the multiplication of the branches of the National League without reference to the work which those branches are accused of doing. We have a test of the efficiency of whatever is evil in the working of those branches in the amount of "Boycotting" in the country. What is the history of "Boycotting" in Ireland? Conveyed in very few words indeed, in the month of May, before Lord Spencer retired, there were, according to official Returns, 53 individuals under the unmitigated proscription of "Boycotting" and 174 under the partial proscription, making 227 in all. What was the state of things in October, three months after the retirement of Lord Spencer, and at the time when, as the noble Lord tells us, the decision had been 1947 abundantly justified? The number of persons totally "Boycotted" had risen to 165, and of those partially "Boycotted" 714. Thus, the number had risen from 227 to 879; and yet, according to the noble Lord, the experiment or decision was abundantly justified. What is the state of things with regard to "Boycotting" now? The point is that the late Government said its experiment had succeeded in November, but has now failed, and that there must be immediate coercive legislation. What is the state of "Boycotting" now? Between June and October "Boycotting" rose from 227 to 879. In the latest Returns for January the number was virtually stationary—for it has risen from 879 to 900. I am justified in saying that it is stationary, as between the dropping of the Crimes Act and November it had increased fourfold. Yet the Government persisted in saying that the experiment had succeeded until after the Elections were over. Then, after a considerable time, the state of things in Ireland is declared to be intolerable, when, in point of fact, as regards "Boycotting" it had undergone no change whatever since November worth the naming. What was the state of things in regard to agrarian crime? It was this. In November the agrarian crimes reported, including threatening letters, were 84; in December they were 89; and in January they wore 96. And yet, Sir, in October, when the state of things was satisfactory, and nothing required to be said which could produce a breach between the Tories and the Nationalist Party, the agrarian crimes reported were 106—the highest figure of all that has come before us. That was in the month of October, the month immediately preceding the General Election. How does the right hon. and learned Gentleman meet this? It is true that there has been a change up to a certain point in the state of Ireland; in my opinion, it is not a change which would justify our resorting at this juncture to repressive criminal legislation. It is true that there had been a change, a great change; it is also true that that change had taken place in the month of October; but from the moment that the late Government announced its change of intention and a determination to resort to repressive criminal legislation there was no change whatever of a sensible magnitude as 1948 compared with what had been going on for months without their notice and without their action. This appears to be a state of things requiring a great deal more explanation than the right hon. and learned Gentleman has afforded even in his lengthy speech. He has dealt with the Curtin murder. I have shown that the character of that murder was known in the month of November, and it was not until the end of January that coercive legislation was announced. He has dwelt upon the action of the National League; I have shown that that action, in so far as it is objectionable, as tested by the amount of "Boycotting" and intimidation, had been stationary since October, and that the greater change that had taken place took place long before. What appears, therefore, upon the undoubted showing of the fact is this—that while the state of Ireland was changing in respect of crime and intimidation, the late Government stood calmly by with folded arms, and said nothing and did nothing that could interfere with the then recently established political harmony. It was not till after the Election that the state of things was described as intolerable. Then it was that the late Government came forward and said that they must have coercive legislation immediately, and that they must put aside all Business of Parliament, although, as I have shown, no change whatever had occurred in the state of Ireland. I do not know that there is anything in the state of Ireland now which we can regard as conveying the idea of a radical change. I do not doubt for a moment the evils that mark the social condition of Ireland with reference to law and the execution of justice. The question between us is a question of the mode of meeting those evils, and I own it appears to me that the course pursued by the right hon. and learned Gentleman of exasperating and inflaming passion and thwarting every attempt we can make to deal largely with the Land Question, or with other matters in which Ireland takes so deep an interest, is simply to aggravate the difficulties and dangers of the situation; certainly it can do nothing whatever in any sense to mitigate or relieve them. Yet I observed with some satisfaction that the agrarian crimes, which in October were 106, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman saw no neces- 1949 sity for repressive legislation, now, when he is urging repressive legislation with might and main, are, at any rate, a little better than they were, because they have sunk in February to 71. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: Including threatening letters.] I rather believe that the proportion of threatening letters in February was remarkably large. I am not, however, quite sure as to that point; but I stand at present upon the unquestionable fact with regard to the numbers. Now, I think I had some justification for the statement when I said the right lion, and learned Gentleman supplied us with the material for an acquittal, and that he had, on the contrary, raised a most grave and serious question tending to the condemnation of himself and his own Government. Because they amount to this—a total neglect of the facts as to the state of Ireland down to a certain date in November, which it would be invidious to connect too closely with the occurrence of the General Election; but, at any rate, a total neglect of the state of Ireland. And as to the assertion that upon the whole the experiment of governing Ireland by the ordinary law has succeeded, I have shown that, in point of fact, all the additional evils that are alleged to have come had come then. The subsequent change of intention everybody presumes to have been founded upon some great aggravation then going on; whereas we now find that there was no aggravation whatever, and no addition to the evils which required to be faced. I must say that the attack of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, though he has made it under the pressure of conscience and the sharpness of its stings, which, he found, would have been perfectly intolerable unless he had brought this Motion forward, is one of the feeblest attacks that I have ever witnessed against the policy and the proceedings of an Executive Government.
§ LORD ERNEST HAMILTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister proposed, as he had just told the House, to adopt positive and substantial remedies which should deal with the three questions—the three great questions in Ireland—namely, with social disorder, the land, and the question of self-government collectively; and the right hon. Gentleman had told the 1950 House, moreover, that these three questions were bound together by ties so strong that it was not in the power of man to separate them. Now, he (Lord Ernest Hamilton) would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if these three questions were bound together so strongly, which was the one question of the three upon which the other two turned? For an answer to this question the Prime Minister could do no better than appeal to hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway, and who professed to represent Irish opinion. What had the House been told by them? They were told the other night by the hon. Member for North Long ford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) that they declined to take the questions in the order in which they were proposed to be taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. The hon. Member for Long ford had told them that the question of self-government must come first. He (Lord Ernest Hamilton) had little doubt as to the minds of hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway now; but he would like to ask those Gentlemen had they always put this question so prominently forward? What was the question that was put forward most prominently at the hustings during the last Elections? Ho had no hesitation in saying that the question of Local Self-Government pure and simple—that was to say, the right to govern the Irish people by an Irish Parliament sitting in Dublin—was never put before the people of Ireland at the Elections. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh, but he challenged them to quote a single speech in which Home Rule pure and simple was put forward in the way he had described. It was the question of the land that was put before the people; and it was upon the distinct understanding that the establishment of a native Parliament would be the signal for the abolition of rents, the extinction of landlords, and the redistribution of property, that these 84 Gentlemen were sent to Parliament nominally to represent four-fifths of the Irish people. These hon. Gentlemen had two very distinct and opposite sides to their views—one being used when expressing them here, and the other when addressing the people of Ireland. It had been his (Lord Ernest Hamilton's) fate to mix with the crowd when hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway 1951 were addressing friendly and sympathetic audiences in Ireland. He thought that if hon. Gentlemen could see the extraordinary transformation which took place the moment they were transplanted to their native mountains, out of sight of the Front Treasury Bench, and compared them with their attitude in the House, they would hardly believe that the mild and lamb-like individuals they saw sitting below the Gangway, speaking in honeyed accents, were the same persons whom he (Lord Ernest Hamilton) had seen holding forth in places like Cork and Kinsale. In the House they were Vesuvius in repose; in Ireland they were Vesuvius in eruption. No one would guess that under the tranquil and placid exterior the fires of Ireland smothered within. He could tell the House that these men were now slumbering volcanoes. It was not his intention to produce extracts from speeches delivered by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, showing deliberate intention to incite crime and. outrage. Those facts were on record, and it was needless to repeat them; but he would say that there were many meetings held in Ireland where reporters were not present, and where the speakers were not kept back by the fear of seeing their speeches in print next morning, where all restraint was abandoned, and where it was possible to sow the seeds of crime in minds only too ready to receive them by subtle references. At these meetings the whole powers of the speakers were brought to bear upon the ignorance and excitability of their credulous audiences to the one object of stirring up their passions against landlords. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had excused these instances, when some of his followers had recommended their hearers to get rid of their landlords by shooting them like partridges, by saying that they could not put old heads on young shoulders. He (Lord Ernest Hamilton) should imagine that the hon. Member for the City of Cork included his own head in this category, because there was no one whoso utterances could be more easily construed into an incitement to outrage and crime than those of the hon. Gentleman himself. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway disclaimed that they were in any way concerned in or responsible for the outrages which had taken place in 1952 recent years in Ireland. Very probably they would say that their only object was to impress upon the people of Ireland a due sense of the wrongs they suffered at the hands of the needy and exacting landlords. Well, if they acknowledged that, they acknowledged that they were responsible for every agrarian outrage which had taken place of recent years in Ireland. In respect of that he would produce the testimony of Archbishop Walsh, who, writing to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in the middle of last month, and speaking of the state of Ireland, said—In point of fact, every disturbance of social order which has appeared amongst our people has arisen from a sense of wrong entertained by a large majority of the occupiers of the soil, owing to the merciless exactions of unfeeling or extravagant landlords.["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen applauded the sentiment; but it was a mere sense of wrong that was entertained; and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway had done everything in their power to foster and promote it. Now, when they considered this, and when they coupled it with the connection which undoubtedly existed in the mind of every Irishman, and which, he confessed, the present Government had done everything in their power to confirm, that as long as they were peaceful and law-abiding their claims would be ignored, and that the only way to enforce the recollection of their grievances on the British Government was by the perpetration of crime and outrage, was it to be wondered at that the Irish people resorted to crime and outrage? The Prime Minister had produced figures to show that crime had not been on the increase since the expiration of the Crimes Act. ["No, no!"] He begged pardon — since the Election. At all events, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway claimed that crime had not been on the increase since the expiration of the Crimes Act; and what else wore they told by the same Gentlemen—that crime had not been en the increase, because it had been superseded by the safer and more effectual method of "Boycotting." ["No, no!"] It certainly had been said by the hon. Member for South Sligo (Mr. Sexton) that "Boycotting" was a safety valve for crime, and that so long as "Boycotting" was unchecked, so 1953 long crime would not increase. The moment steps were taken to suppress "Boycotting" they were given to understand that the safety valve would burst, and the inevitable explosion take place. At the present moment, crime was only kept in check by the supreme efforts of the Leaders of the National Party; but it was not because crime was repugnant to their feelings, but because they were making a final and combined effort to obtain that legislative independence which they— he did not say the Irish people—were so anxious to have for obvious reasons, which he need not mention, and because they knew that at a juncture like the present acts of crime and outrage would be a serious stumbling block in the way of obtaining their object. But if they were foiled in their efforts the restraining hand would be withdrawn. Under such circumstances, if the Government failed in its obvious duty, it would have the blood of many innocent people on its head. If the question were met firmly it would prove to be no more serious than the bursting of a soap-bubble. Irish Celts were not made of the stuff that martyrs were made of. The very knowledge of the fact that they could not commit crime with impunity was sufficient to prevent it. But if concessions were granted in the outbursts of crime it would most assuredly be taken for weakness, and be an incentive to fresh crime for the sake of obtaining fresh concessions. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway exclaimed against coercion; but there was now in Ireland coercion of the very worst kind. It was coercion to compel the people to resist the law of the land, and submit absolutely to the law of the National League. He maintained that if the ordinary law was not sufficient to cope with this state of things, if it was to be a question whether it was to be coercion to resist or to obey the law, could any Government hesitate about its duty? He was sure there were some hon. Members of the House who would agree with him that, at the present moment, a measure which would, suppress crime in Ireland would be looked upon, not only by the Loyalists, but by a considerable portion of the Catholics, not as an Act of coercion, but as an Act of universal emancipation. They were tired of this agitation, which was ruining the country. They were tired of the domination 1954 of the National League, and they wanted quiet and rest in order to be able to pursue their ordinary occupations in peace. It was not his intention to refer at any length to the absurd attempt on the part of the hon. Members below the Gangway to censure a prominent Member of the Late Government (Lord Randolph. Churchill) for his alleged incitement to outrage and intimidation of the House; but he did desire to say this— that being as he was tolerably familiar and conversant with the language and style which those hon. Gentlemen adopted in their native country, it appeared to him supremely ludicrous that they should seriously and with all solemnity express virtuous indignation at the conduct of the noble Lord, and that they should try to misinterpret his meaning into an attempt to incite the people to outrage. He had read the speech of the noble Lord, and also the resolutions passed in the recent meeting in Belfast, with interest and with care, and he failed to see in the language of the noble Lord or in the wording of the resolutions anything but an expression of the opinion which was entertained not only by the Loyalists of Ireland, but which he had every reason to believe was shared even by many of the most devoted admirers of the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and that was when they contemplated the possibility of handing over the entire control of Irish affairs to the Parnellite Members they must remember that a long term of apprenticeship in the art of brewing social disorder and in creating social difficulties, though it might possibly ingratiate them for the time being with certain classes, was hardly calculated to fit them in a marked degree for the duties of legislators, excellent as they might be, and excellent as they undoubtedly were in their present capacity as agitators. If their past actions were taken as indications what might be expected in the future? The probability was that as framers of the law and preservers of the peace they would prove to be ridiculous, worthless, and incapable. This was the unalterable opinion of a large portion of the Irish population, and this opinion the people would express. As long as there was liberty of speech in the country they would continue to protest against a form of government which, not taking into considera- 1955 tion other grave facts, they had every reason to believe would in itself prove I ridiculous and incompetent, and make Ireland the laughing-stock of the civilized world.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY
said, that, as an Englishman who had spent many years in Ireland and had thus acquired a considerable knowledge of the Irish character, he felt that it was his duty to make a few observations upon this question, especially as the House had heard a great deal in reference to it from hon. Members who had no acquaintance whatever with that country. At the present moment an exceptional state of things prevailed in Ireland. The Queen's writs did not run in that country, and the people were practically at the mercy of the National League. The National League had ramifications all over Ireland—a fact for which the landlords themselves were greatly to blame. When the National League first came into power the landlords should have called attention to the power that was gradually overspreading the country, and to the growth of a tyranny under which people were prohibited from entering into free contracts and from discharging the ordinary duties of life. The Irish Question ought to be approached from a National and not from a Party point of view. To show how little he was biased by Party considerations in reference to this subject, he might say that when he found that the late Government had made no statement in the Speech from the Throne of their intention to proclaim the National League, he wrote to his friends in Ireland asking them to communicate to him facts with regard to the condition of things in that country which were within their own knowledge, so that he might have materials for calling the attention of the House to this subject at an early date. In response to that invitation he had received a large number of very valuable communications which showed that the landlords could not get their rents from their tenants, and that even those tenants who were in a position to pay and who were willing to pay their rents were prevented by the National League from doing so. The present Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) had arrogated to himself the right of determining which of the writs from Her Majesty's Courts of Justice 1956 should be permitted to run, and he should I like to know whether the Chief Secretary was ready also to prevent the mortgagees from foreclosing on those estates on which the landlords were prevented from meeting their obligations in consequence of his action? In one of the letters which he had received from Ireland it was stated that the people had cut down the woods on the estate and had burned the timber, and had threatened to cut off the ears of the agent if he interfered. [An hon. MEMBER: Where has that taken place?] Not being anxious that any person's ears should be cut off, he must decline to give names or places. Just before coming down to that House to-day he had received a letter from an officer in the Army asking for the loan of £25, on the ground that he was in want of almost the necessaries of life in consequence of the non-payment of rent on his Irish estates. In May next a large number of loans would become due, and if the Queen's writs were not to run in Ireland the landlords would be totally unable to meet their obligations. In his opinion, the Irish people had not been properly treated. The votes of the Irish people ought to be disregarded and justice ought to be done, not only to the tenants, but to the landlords. The question had been raised as to whether Ireland should have Home Rule; and he should like to know whether hon. Members were prepared to hand over to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway the actual manipulation of the affairs of that country? He might say that whatever Government suppressed the National League, which body was a disgrace to Ireland and also to this country, they would have his support, and if the present Government brought forward effectual measures to uphold Her Majesty's authority in Ireland he was sure they would have a much larger majority than they now had in that House. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had stated that he was prepared to protect the Protestants of Ireland as well as the Catholics in the event of a Home Rule measure being passed. He had no doubt that that was the hon. Gentleman's intention. But there was an old saying "that he who pays the piper calls the tune," and though the hon. Gentleman might be very useful to the people who now employed him, still the moment he ceased to play 1957 the tune they wished him to play his power would be gone. If they gave Home Rule to Ireland there would be nothing but jobbery practised there. He wished to protest against any greater power being given to the Irish nation until the National League was suppressed.
§ MR. JOHNSTON
said, that the question now before the House was one that so largely interested all the Loyalist Members from Ireland that it would not be right if he hesitated for a short time to trouble the House in laying before it some of the views of the constituency which he represented upon the question of the future well-being and government of Ireland. The hon. Member for the City of Cork, on various occasions, had taken care to utter with no uncertain voice the sentiments of the great Party which he led. He quite admitted that it was a great Party. It was a Party which was well organized, thoroughly united, and which had no indefinite object or uncertain aim. It aimed at the utter annihilation of the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland and at breaking up the whole British Empire. ["No, no!" It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen to cry "No!" but he might point out that in a recent publication of a newspaper—which he sometimes read, and which, no doubt, the hon. Members below the Gangway read regularly and eagerly—called The Irish World, of the 30th of January last, there appeared some correspondence under the heading "Transatlantic," which spoke of Ireland's mission to destroy the British Empire. It was for this mission that the National League had been organized. Well, he wished to draw attention to the fact that an hon. Member below the Gangway wrote a weekly letter to the organ of the League in America under the signature of "Transatlantic." ["Name, name!"] Well, probably hon. Gentlemen would cry "Oh, oh!" if he said it was Mr. T. P. O'Connor.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I rise to give the most emphatic contradiction to that statement. I never wrote a line in The Irish World in my life.
§ MR. JOHNSTON
said, that was very satisfactory, and he would withdraw the statement. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway often spoke about the wrongs 1958 of Ireland, past and present. This generous country was always ready to listen to the story of the wrongs of Ireland; but because statements made by some Irish Members were uncontradicted in that House, Englishmen thought they were incapable of contradiction, and therefore believed them. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had been accused of uttering violent language and inciting to civil war. But he should like to point out that there was such a thing as an Irish-American military organization on the other side of the Atlantic. It might not be known to every hon. Member of the House that Patrick Egan, who, for reasons which might be easily understood, thought proper to place the broad Atlantic between himself and the administration of justice in Ireland, was now President of the National League in America. There appeared in The Irish World in January last the following letter: —New York City, Jan. 22, '86.Editor Irish World,—I am glad to see by the announcements in your last issue that the preparations for the Irish-American military encampment at Newark, N.J., next Fourth of July are proceeding steadily. In view especially of what has lately occurred on the other side, the military movement ought to be looked on as of supreme importance and ought to be heartily supported by all in a sincere and disinterested way.The men" who originate an idea can best bring about its development and practical application, and I therefore hope that while all Irish Americans will give every encouragement to the officers who have started the project, there will be no attempt whatever made by any parties or under any pretexts to interfere with their work. Let them go on as they have begun, and the outcome will be not only creditable to themselves and their race in the United States, but help greatly to advance the cause of Irish liberty.HIBERNIAN.And he (Mr. Johnston) declared his belief that hon. Members below the Gangway were in league with the conspirators across the Atlantic in order to compass the destruction of the British Empire; but the Loyalists of Ireland were proud to belong to the British Empire, of which they were determined ever to form a part. In fact, the contents of their letters in The Irish World were in complete conformity with the utterances of the Leaders of the Irish Party in this country and in Ireland. A little while ago Mr. Parnell said—on the 1959 6th September, 1880—[Laughter]—well, hon. Members no doubt looked upon what was said five years ago as ancient history; and, at all events, they did not like to be reminded of their own words. Mr. Parnell said—"We will work within the lines of the Constitution as long as it suits us." How long it would suit them would depend upon the action of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury—whether governing Ireland on the principles that the country had been governed by British statesmen from generation to generation, or whether he attempted to carry out the newfangled ideas which he had taken up in order to seat himself on the Treasury Bench. It would also appear from certain passages in The Irish World that there was a quarrel as to whether Russians or Irishmen were entitled to the honour of the invention of the dynamite mode of warfare, and that Irishmen claimed the honour. In dealing with this question it was necessary to make some allusion to the attitude taken up by the priests and Prelates of the Church of Rome. For a long time those reverend gentlemen had held aloof, and had looked upon the Parnellite Party as revolutionary; but of recent years they had been compelled by the force of circumstances to place themselves at the head of the anti-English Party in Ireland, and, seeing in that Party the means for carrying out their ultimate designs, they had now thoroughly identified themselves with it. There was one thing upon which the Roman Catholic clergy and the Party led by the hon. Member for Cork were at one, and that was the desire to accomplish the destruction of Orangeism in Ireland. He would call attention to recent utterances of Archbishop Croke, who said he wished to see the country restored to its pristine vigour, that commerce and agriculture and honest industry might flourish, Orangeism be broken down, and that the green flag might float once more over a prosperous people. It was within the knowledge of hon. Members that in the Province of Ulster, where Orangeism flourished, commerce flourished also; whereas in the other parts of Ireland, where the Orange Institution scarcely existed, commerce was almost extinguished, and honest industry 1960 was rewarded by being "Boycotted." The only industry the National Party cared to support in Ireland was the whisky industry; for when it was proposed to close the public-houses on Sunday in Dublin they held a mass meeting in the Phoenix Park to protest against it. It had no doubt disappointed hon. Members below the Gangway that the anticipation of The Irish World with regard to the recent change of Government had not been realized. A paragraph had appeared in that paper to the following eifect:—Chief Secretary Parnell.—I am strongly of opinion that the time has come for Parnell to accept the Chief Secretaryship of Ireland. It is due to the Irish Party that the offer of the office be made. It is a hundred times more important for Irishmen to administer English laws in Ireland than to make laws for themselves and have them administered by aliens, as under the régime of 1782. Of the four now law officers of the Castle, it is expected by many that Tim Healy shall be one. There will be no difficulty about Parnell's or Healy's reelection.He was afraid, however, that those anticipations had been grievously disappointed. He wondered if the Prime Minister had made any overtures to Mr. Parnell—he begged pardon, the hon. Member for the City of Cork—on the subject. [Home Rule cries of "Divide!"] He knew that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway were always very anxious to divide. They had expressed a great desire a night or two ago to hear some statement from the Benches on which he sat; but he had waited in vain for any of them to rise and attempt to explain the damaging statements that had been made against them and their League by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University. Were they prepared to repudiate in that House the charges brought against them; or would they not substitute for their mild and dove-like utterances in that House those violent speeches they made in Ireland, such as that he was about to quote? In October, 1880, a Gentleman whose name was reported to be Biggar made use of the following words: —Now, our worthy chairman in his speech said that it was undesirable that anything in the way of violence towards the landlords should be perpetrated. Now, on that subject I will say this, that the Land League as a body wants to do what is most beneficial, and they do not 1961 want that any violence should be offered, to the landlords. Now, one of the reasons is this— that persons who have undertaken to shoot landlords have missed the landlord and shot someone whom they did not intend.He thought he might also refer to the manner in which the Leader of the Party below the Gangway spoke on the same subject. Speaking on the 26th of September, 1880, at New Ross, the hon. Member for the City of Cork said—I had wished, in referring to a sad occurence which took place lately—the shooting, or attempted shooting, of a land agent in this neighbourhood—I had wished to point out that recourse to such measures of procedure is entirely unnecessary, and absolutely prejudicial, where there is a suitable organization among the tenants themselves.They had heard that night from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Holmes) a very pathetic account of the murder of Mr. Curtin. But the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister treated that account in a rather jocose manner, and a smile played upon the right hon. Gentleman's countenance when he said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University had forgotten the date of the occurrence. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had forgotten the date of the murder of General Gordon when he was seen enjoying the play at the Criterion Theatre. Was it hopeless of those who were contending for life and liberty in Ireland to expect anything from those who at present ruled the destinies of the British Empire? Murder had for the moment comparatively ceased in Ireland; but that country had been too long the shuttlecock of Party. The lives and liberties of the fellow-subjects of Englishmen and Scotchmen in that portion of the British Empire were, or ought to be, of some consideration to British statesmen, and he could not think that when the destinies of the Empire were committed to the care of right hon. Gentlemen opposite there should be any hesitation in announcing a policy for protecting the lives and liberties of the Loyalists in Ireland. He would not wish to trench upon the province of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of Treasury in denouncing the deeds of the Land League. The National League was only another name for the Land League, and on the 7th of October, 1962 1881, the right hon. Gentleman, when Prime Minister of England, speaking be-before 20,000 people at Leeds, openly and deliberately charged the President of the Irish National Land League with complicity with the assassination Press of America. The right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion—Mr. Parnell has said America is the only friend of Ireland; but in all his references to America he has never found time to utter one word of disapproval about what is known as the assassination literature of that country. Not American literature—no, there is not an American who does not spurn and loathe it; but there are, it is sad to say, a knot of Irishmen who are not ashamed to point out, in the Press which they maintain, how the ships of Her Majesty's Navy ought to be blown into the air to destroy the power of England by secret treachery, and how individuals they are pleased to select ought to be made the object of the knife of the assassin because they do not conform to the new Irish gospel.The whole policy of the Nationalists was to disintegrate the Empire. That was the object of the United Irishmen in the Rebellion of 1798, and, down to the present day, the whole policy of the Party was to destroy the welfare and prosperity of the country. He need only point to the recent attempt of The Freeman's Journal to damage bank stock in Ireland. When the Prince of Wales passed through Cork it was well known how the Nationalists received him. There were a great many things which hon. Members below the Gangway were prepared to deny; but could they deny that at recent meetings in Ireland, the name of the Mahdi was greeted with loud applause, while that of England was received with groans? The Loyalists of Ireland appealed with confidence to this country, for they could not imagine that it was a crime, by sending soldiers to the field and officers to command them, to uphold the great British Empire. They had assisted in sending out Governers to the Colonies, and they had promoted by every means in their power the trade and commerce of this country. They did not think that at this critical moment they ought to be abandoned to those who hated the name and were the eternal foes of England, and who were leagued with traitors in the American States to bring about the ruin of this great Empire and to destroy the rule of the Queen in Ireland. An eloquent writer had described 1963 how crime was brought about in Ireland. He said—Half a score of men met in secret; the leader tells them that Ireland has been too long trampled upon by such men as A. B., that it is time to throw off the yoke of landlords and tyrants. Three of them are sworn to shoot A. B.; they armed themselves and find their opportunity; and we read of another brutal murder. This is the type of transaction which has exasperated England during the last two years.That passage appeared in The Nineteenth Century, November, 1882, and the writer was "John Morley." He (Mr. Johnston) hoped that the right hon. Gentleman entertained the same views on that grave question at the present moment. It was not the landlords and agents principally, but the farmers and labourers, Roman Catholics more than Protestants, who were the victims; and the description given in The Nineteenth Century was strictly and literally true. He (Mr. Johnston), although an Orangeman, would give perfect liberty to his fellow Roman Catholics, and in the matters affecting their welfare he would show no Party feeling in that House. He regretted to think that there was too much truth in the statement made recently by a priest in Dublin to a Correspondent of The New York Nation, when he said—I'll tell you what, there is no use in your talking of moderation or reconcilement with England. They hate us, and we hate them. So long as I have the power I'll work and I'll work for Home Rule; and then I'd work and I'd strive for separation; and then I'd work and I'd strive for the destruction of the British Empire.The First Lord of the Treasury had from time to time introduced measures for the pacification of Ireland and the conciliation of the people. With such a people conciliation was out of the question and impossible. Some of those measures for the amelioration of the condition of the tenantry had his support in 1870. But each measure seemed to be attended with disastrous failure, and the Irreconcilables would take his measures to-day and work for the destruction of the Empire to-morrow.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM
said, they could not get rid of the wrongs and injuries of two centuries in the short space of years that that Parliament had been working in the right direction. In dealing with Ireland they ought to aim at the peace and prosperity of the country, 1964 and whatever else might bring about that happy result, he was quite sure that coercion was not going to do it. If coercion would make a country happy and prosperous, Ireland ought to be in that condition, for there was no country that he knew, except such as had the misfortune to be under the rule of the Turks, that had ever had so much of it. Yet Ireland stood in a position of which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Johnston) was ashamed—and so was he—and he should continue to be ashamed till every wrong under which that country suffered had been removed. What had tended more than anything else to cause the evils under which Ireland laboured were the efforts made by some people, including certain hon. Members, to fan the flames of religious bigotry. The attempt to fan the flames of religious bigotry and hate would not promote peace and prosperity. Such speeches as those delivered lately by the hon. Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) would have just the opposite effect. Another thing that would not promote peace and prosperity was to have one policy before the elections and another after. That would not only not promote peace and prosperity, but it would tend to destroy confidence in public men by the vacillating policy that had been pursued. [Opposition cheers.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite wanted proofs of that, he would not have to go further than the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. Ireland had been lately invited to express its opinions in a Constitutional way, and having so done he, as a Liberal, maintained that those opinions ought to be listened to. There were only two ways in which a nation could express its views —the one being the Constitutional way, and the other illegal, and a way that would bring disgrace upon any country. In no way could a country be brought into greater misfortune in crime — namely, the refusal to listen to its Constitutionally-expressed opinions. Ireland had sent her Representatives to the House of Commons to express her views; and while he did not say that the House was bound to agree with them, he did say that it ought to hear them. He entered a serious protest against the sentiment that Ireland was to be governed against her own will, and as a Liberal 1965 and Constitutionalist he claimed for a people the right to govern themselves. He respected the views of a minority as much as any man; but surely in that House they would not hesitate to admit that minorities must yield to the will of majorities. It would be a happy day for legislation in regard to Ireland, as well as in regard to England, when the wishes of the people were listened to; most of the troubles and misfortunes in Ireland, as in England, were clue to government for a class. The noble Lord who spoke from the Opposition side had said that the Irish National Members had two sides to their character, and he was happy to hear that they had only two. The speech of the late Premier (the Marquess of Salisbury) delivered at Newport just before the elections, and his speech at the Crystal Palace on the previous night, undoubtedly exhibited two sides, if not several, or he (Mr. Cossham) did not understand English. There were points in them which oven the genius of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington could not reconcile; and, more than that, he could not reconcile his own. They were told that for some reason or other the National League were now endeavouring to suppress crime, and he was thankful for that, but believed that any attempt to promote coercion would lead to a revival of crime. The cheapest, wisest, and most Christian thing to do was to do justice; and the most unsafe thing in law and legislation was injustice— and when he said that he referred to injustice to the rich as well as to the poor, to the men who paid the rates as well as to those who received them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite thought of justice only in relation to landowners; but he thought of justice with regard to producers and consumers. Some of the darkest chapters in the history of the nation had been associated with this coquetting with the interests of a class. The Prime Minister had that night raised himself to a higher position than he had ever stood in before. The right hon. Gentleman had conferred great blessings upon this country, and he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the legislation of the last 50 years had been mainly associated with his name. The measures which had made the country great had not come from the Conservative side. Their policy had 1966 been to say "No" to everything that had been proposed with the object of making the country great. Mr. Gladstone's name would be remembered in history, whereas those of hon. Gentlemen opposite were only written in sand; and he was going to crown his honourable and noble career by one more attempt to make Ireland peaceful and happy.
§ COLONEL BRIDGEMAN
said, he thought the Prime Minister's references to the terms of the Motion now before the House were scarcely called for, having regard to the fact that it was well understood that those who brought it forward had no desire to stop the Supplies, and only framed the Motion in the usual Constitutional mode. A great deal had been said as to whether there should be coercion in Ireland; but it would be more honest to admit that there was coercion in Ireland at the present moment; and the question was whether the coercion should be exercised by the Representatives of the Queen's Government or by the members of a League responsible neither to God nor man. Again, upon whom was this coercion to to be exercised? The Loyalists wished it to be applied to the moonlighter, the lawbreaker, the vicious, and the disloyal; but hon. Members who sat below the Gangway appeared to be quite satisfied provided it was only applied to the weak, the virtuous, and the loyal. The Prime Minister had tried a great number of experiments for the pacification of Ireland, but what had been their result? He asked whether hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal Benches were satisfied with the experiments in legislation which the Prime Minister had made in respect to Ireland? He was glad to find there were some men who refused to follow the right hon. Gentleman on the present occasion—noble exceptions like the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and the hon. Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), who sacrificer place and power in order to stand up for right and justice, principle and truth. He hoped they would reap a rich reward, a reward far higher than a seat on the Treasury Bench. They had gained the pleasure of a satisfied conscience and the admiration and respect of their fellow-countrymen.
§ MR. ALLISON
expressed the pleasure with which he had heard that night 1967 from the Prime Minister, in distinct and emphatic terms which would be understood even on the Opposition Benches, that he did not consider that at this moment the Irish Question could be satisfactorily solved by another resort to coercive measures. It would, he thought, be felt by the House and throughout the country that if it was right to abandon coercive measures last year that the Tory Party might climb to power by the votes of Irish Members, then it must be right to continue the abandonment of coercive measures that they might in the future more than in the past govern Ireland according to the views of the majority of the people of that country, and not through the minority. They had been told very often that the 85 Members from Ireland were elected by ignorance and intimidation, just as it had been said that Members on the Ministerial side had been sent there by the ignorance of the agricultural labourers and miners; but they had seen how ignorance ceased to be ignorance, how vice became clothed in the garb of virtue, and how the votes of Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite ceased to be dangerous things when they were applied to the promotion of the interests of the Tory Party. The case for coercion did not exist at the commencement of the Session, or they would have had the Bill that had been referred to to-night mentioned in the Queen's Speech; and still less did it exist now, because they had heard from the Prime Minister that there were fewer cases of crime in Ireland now than there were a month ago. Yesterday, the Marquess of Salisbury had admitted that there was some oversight in the Queen's Speech. They had heard that evening that the right hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) was sent to Ireland because Lord Carnarvon had retired from the Viceroyalty; but they all knew that Lord Carnarvon had determined six months before to retire; and as the late Government were aware of the fact they ought to have prepared for that eventuality. They, however, had not made up their minds for coercion when they met Parliament, as the speech of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) showed. It was true that "Boycotting" might have increased; but, at Newport, the Marquess of Salisbury stated that the Crimes 1968 Act was no remedy for that evil, which must be left to the influence of time. The Irish Question could not be settled by sneers at the debauchory of hon. Gentlemen who sat below the opposite Gangway—sneers against which tu quoques might be hurled back, and sneers which had to be ignominiously-withdrawn. It could not be settled by a policy of soft words and hard cash, nor by what had been happily called "a policy of Mr. Smith." [Laughter.] He did not use that phrase in an offensive sense towards the right hon. Member for Westminster, but as one that had stamped itself on the English language as indicating a policy clutched at by despairing Ministers in the last moments of their political existence. The presence of the 85 Irish Members opposite was no new fact in the history of Ireland, but the expression of an old fact which had hitherto been refused recognition by the English people, though he hoped that would be the case no longer. Gentlemen on his side of the House had been told that they were in favour of Home Rule; but had there been no coquettings with Home Rule in other directions? The Marquess of Salisbury, speaking two or three days after a speech had been delivered by the Leader of the Party opposite (Mr. Parnell), observed in reference to that speech that he saw that some proposition had been made for settling that question on the terms of the Austro-Hungarian settlement; and he said that he saw no hope at present of settling it in that direction, and he added—"I wish it may be so." ["No, no!" and cries of "Quote!"] The Marquess of Salisbury said—I have not seen any plan or any suggestion that will give mo at present the slightest ground for anticipating that it is in that direction we shall find a satisfactory solution.["Hear, hear!" from the Opposition.] Let hon. Gentlemen cheer the words that followed. They were—"I wish it may be so." What did that mean? Did it mean that he would wait till another election? Was that declaration of the Marquess of Salisbury received with the horror and dismay that were immediately manifested the moment the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was supposed to be turning his view in that direction? No, it almost passed without observation, and at the General Election 1969 the Irish vote was obtained by the Party opposite. He thought these were facts which the House and the country ought to consider. They were standing on the eve of a new Parliament, which had already solved some questions which the late Parliament had been unable to settle. In the present Session they had been enabled to introduce the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad-laugh), and he (Mr. Allison) was quite sure the solution of that difficulty had met with the approval of the country. He hoped this new Parliament would also solve the Irish difficulty, allowing such an achievement to be added to the long record of progressive legislation which the Prime Minister had been able to deal with during the course of his distinguished career. He believed that the settlement of that difficulty would not be in the direction of separation, but towards that of knitting the two countries together in firmer and closer bonds than had ever bound them before.
§ MR. DE COBAIN
denied that the Leaders of the Conservative Party had expressed sympathy with the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. The noble Marquess who spoke the previous evening at the Crystal Palace (the Marquess of Salisbury), and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), had denied with frankness and disclaimed in the most outspoken manner that they had the least sympathy with hon. Members below the Gangway. If the hon. Gentlemen opposite did the same thing the House and the country generally would be better satisfied. Up to the present they had no repudiation from hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal Benches of the claims put forward by the hon. Members below the Gangway. During the debate on the Address the House was anxious to hear an exposition of the policy to be pursued by the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman, however, evaded the opportunity given him; and at the present time, although the people of the country remained agitated and anxious as to what his views were, he had pursued a policy of reticence, and had refrained from giving to the country a statement of his opinions regarding Irish policy. It had been said that no reason had been shown for the course which the Conservatives had taken; but he (Mr. De Cobain) thought his right hon. and 1970 learned Friend (Mr. Holmes) had conclusively shown that evening that there was a growth of crime in Ireland, which, if it did not warrant repressive legislation, was, at least, a strong argument that the Irish Executive should show some firmness in dealing with evils which were gradually augmenting. If the Common Law was sufficient to cope with anarchy and outrage by all means let it be put in force with energy and determination. Why was it not enforced for the maintenance of the integrity of the Empire and the preservation of the lives and properties of Her Majesty's subjects? It appeared to him that true justice was the enforcement of the law impartially administered to all classes of people. Why, then, were these outrages against life and property permitted, and why was "Boycotting" allowed to go on? What the Irish people asked for was an impartial and a firm administration of justice. The legislation of sentiment conferred no good upon Ireland, but among a large number of persons practical legislation received their unmistakable sympathy. Those who represented the Loyalists of Ireland had been spoken of as belonging to the landlord class. Speaking now on behalf of the Loyal Yeomanry of Ulster, of the artizan class in the great towns, and of the lower elements of the Ulster population, he said a feeling existed of strong apprehension with regard to the future policy of the Government as to any concession being made in the direction of Home Rule to the hon. Member for the City of Cork. He had no sympathy with coercive legislation, and he believed that but few hon. Members on his own side of the House sympathized with such a policy. He maintained that the policy of coercion had been the policy of Liberal Governments, while that of the Tory Party had been one of relaxation and tolerance. The demand of the Irish Members, in his opinion, was for a purely sentimental concession, which might be of interest to the class which they represented, but not to the class which had done the most for the material prosperity of Ireland. If this demand on the part of the Nationalist Members were acceded to, in a short time a corresponding demand would spring up on the part of Ulster for a separate Legislature. If hon. Members below the Gangway were in- 1971 vested with authority to administer the interests of Ireland, that administration would be in the interests of anarchy and to the detriment of those elements which had contributed to the peace and prosperity of the Irish population. It was quite within the mark to say that the Loyalists of Ireland amounted to one-third of the population, and it was a matter that ought to be put to the test at the earliest moment. It could be demonstrated by an impartial plébescite if all terrorism were withdrawn. He believed that one-half the population— and that half the law-abiding, thrifty, and prosperous—would be found to be antagonistic to the policy of concession, and in favour of the maintenance of the unity of the Empire, and of drawing the bonds of union closer than they were at present. It was said that there were two Nationalities in Ireland; but the Prime Minister seemed to recognize one only, and to make his concessions to it. The hon. Member for South Sligo (Mr. Sexton) told the House that every Parliamentary device would be resorted to for the purpose of embarrassing the Government if the claims of his Party were not satisfied; but two could play at that game, and it was not a dignified or just thing that the Business of the Empire should be obstructed and time frittered away by these everlasting discussions. If any Party undertook to solve this question by the desperate expedient of severing the Union, some hon. Members would resort to every Parliamentary and Constitutional means to resist the granting of such a concession. If upon the eventful day of the 1st of April the Prime Minister disclosed a scheme which they found to be inimical to the interests of the Loyalists of Ireland, so far as their Representatives were concerned they would offer it the most strenuous and inflexible opposition.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
I am one of those who have never altered their opinions with regard to Ireland, one of those who have always advocated the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, which it is the first duty and business of the Government to maintain, in spite of the opinion of hon. Members whose business I believe it to be to see Ireland never at peace and never tranquil. I have never hesitated to say that the late Government made a mistake in that they did not maintain 1972 the portions of the Crimes Act upon which the former Government went out. It is all very well to say that the former Liberal Government went out on trifling questions with regard to beer and spirits; they went out because they could not agree among themselves with regard to the renewal of the Crimes Act. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I will undertake to say, unless the right hon. Gentleman contradicts me, that the Crimes Act was the difficulty in the Cabinet. Will the right hon. Gentleman get up and say his Cabinet was agreed?
§ MR. GLADSTONE
I am anxious to meet that request of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and therefore I rise to say that I have not a word to add to my letter to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), in which I stated that the Cabinet met to consider the Crimes Act on the day before the debate on the Budget, that every point was settled in the Cabinet excepting one, and that the subject of that one, as I stated in the letter, I believe, was with respect to the provisions against "Boycotting"—whether they should continue as direct provisions, or as provisions which the Lord Lieutenant should be empowered to put into force.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
That may be so; but the right hon. Gentleman will not go further and say that there was not a great disagreement in the Cabinet, nor will he say that it was not upon that question that the Cabinet made up their minds to resign.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
That may be so; but that was not the opinion of the country, nor is it the opinion of the country at this moment. It is remarkable that, having gone out on the question of the Crimes Act, they have now come in upon that question. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that he did not turn out the late Government on the Motion of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), but that he really turned them out on the question of dealing with Ireland. [Cries of "No!"] Why, the admission has been made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley). No doubt, the first object of the right 1973 hon. Gentleman is to maintain law and order; but what has been done to obtain that object? Not a single thing, and it is this the House has to consider. The right hon. Gentleman admits that the cases of "Boycotting" had increased enormously by the month of October, and yet when he came into Office he took no steps to diminish the number of such offences. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the case of Curtin, and no case can demonstrate more clearly the shocking state in which Ireland is. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), with reference to whom the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt), who is now all civility, once used very strong terms, stated on one occasion that if he were in possession of a farm he would fire upon any man who should come to turn him out of it. I will ask the hon. Member for Mayo whether he looks with complacency on the incidents of Curtin's murder, and the treatment to which his heroic daughters were afterwards subjected by their neighbours?
§ MR. DILLON
said, that he did not look with complacency on what had happened. He considered the whole matter a most disgraceful and miserable business.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
The question is this—Would these things have occurred if the National League had not been in command? If the Queen's Government had been in authority would these things have occurred? And, if they had occurred, it would have been the duty of the right hon. Gentleman, having newly come into power, to take care that they were at once put a stop to. He says that no more coercion is to be introduced. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that, as the late Government had given up coercion, it would not be possible to reintroduce it; but that is a decision I think the right hon. Gentleman may have to reconsider. We have given up bleeding, because it is considered to be an antiquated remedy; but, if you think that the only way to save the life of a patient is by bleeding him, surely you would not refuse to take that step. I venture to say that at some future time we may find the Prime Minister a most strenuous advocate for the reintroduction of coercion. I have 1974 no desire to go into ancient history; but I must do so for a moment. I cannot but remember that, notwithstanding the warnings which sounded in his ears, the right hon. Gentleman was the man to give up the Peace Preservation Act, although he was cautioned in the strongest terms that it was the worst thing that could be done for Ireland. What was the effect of not continuing the Peace Preservation Act? The Arms Act had expired, and arms were allowed to be brought into the country, and very soon the right hon. Gentleman had to come down to Parliament and ask for a large measure of coercion, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was the man who had to carry out that coercion. But there was something a great deal more than that, and I would like to mention it to the House, because it is as well to recall these things in the present aspect of affairs. After the right hon. Gentleman got that Act passed, murders continued to be rife in Ireland. Lord Lietrim and Mrs. Smythe were murdered. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head; but it is a fact. [An hon. Member: In 1877.] Yes; it was my mistake. Lord Loitrim's murder was earlier. It was Lord Mountmorres who was murdered at that time. It was not until after Lord Mountmorres and Mrs. Smythe were murdered that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) came down here and demanded, in solemn tones, that further powers should be given to him. I have the speech of the right hon. Gentleman here, if I can find it. ["Oh, oh!"] The groans of hon. Members below the Gangway do not upset me. Nothing was done by the Government until after the right hon. Gentleman had retired, and after those two terrible murders took place in the Phoenix Park. The right hon. Gentleman himself will well recollect those murders. Up to the time those two murders took place he would do nothing to remedy or prevent the outrages which were taking place in Ireland. I do not want to enter into too many details; but I also recollect, and the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) will recollect, that the right hon. Gentleman made a speech in Leeds. The hon. Member for the City of Cork answered 1975 that speech, and the moment the hon. Gentleman had made his reply the right hon. Gentleman gave orders that he should be apprehended and put in prison, and then the right hon. Gentleman went down to the dinner at Guildhall, and stated that he had at last placed in prison the man who was steeped up to the lips in treason.
§ MR. SEXTON
It was the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland who said that.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
I think it was the right hon. Gentleman, and that the statement was made at the Guildhall dinner, the words being that he had caused the hon. Member for the City of Cork, who was steeped to the lips in treason, to be thrown into prison. The right hon. Gentleman, after the Phoenix Park murders, came down to this House and introduced the strongest Coercion Act that had ever been submitted to the House. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford say? He told us that, terrible as these murders were, they had saved Ireland, and that if they had not taken place the Government would not have thought it their duty to bring in the Prevention of Crimes Act, or, at any-rate, anything like so strong a Crimes Act as that which was introduced. The state of matters had gone from bad to worse, and in a very short time it would have been necessary to put crime and outrage down, not by a Prevention Act, but by cannon and an armed force of soldiers. That was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, expressed to his constituents long after the Phœnix Park murders took place. What were the steps taken by hon. Members below the Gangway to bring to justice the perpetrators of the murders I have mentioned, and what will they do to prevent a repetition of such horrible crimes? Can it be said that what happened then is not likely to happen again? I venture to say that if the right hon. Gentleman does not grant to hon. Members below the Gangway all they ask for, and what they think they have a chance of getting, things in Ireland will shortly revert to the very worst condition in which they have ever been, and you will find that, instead of peace and order being preserved in Ireland, crime and outrage will again prevail. Will the right hon. 1976 Gentleman say for one moment—because he must remember that the late Government were only in Office for something like six months—will he say that Ireland is in such a state of prosperity and well-being, that it is able to attract capital, and to induce men to invest their money there as they ought to do, in an integral part of this great Empire? I venture to say that until things are settled and until we know what is going to be done in Ireland, which we do not know at present, there can be no confidence whatever that peace and order will be restored in Ireland. Look for a moment at the population of Ireland. I have no desire to put one class against another, or one religion against another; but I believe that there are many men in Ireland—Roman Catholics as well as Protestants—who as firmly support the Union between the two countries as any hon. Member sitting on this side of the House. I believe that the desire for the repeal of the Union has been grossly exaggerated. I firmly believe that if they came to the test, and the people of Ireland were left to themselves, you would find a large number, who are now believed to be in favour of the separation of England and Ireland, who would be found in reality to be warm supporters of the Union. Do not let us make any mistake about that question. The question at present before us is that peace and order should be maintained; and I say that when the right hon. Gentleman told us that day and night for weeks and months, and even for years, he has been thinking of a solution of this difficult question, surely he is able to say what it is that he proposes to do for the preservation of peace and order in Ireland. I am sorry to say that is the one thing he will not tell us; and I think it will be for the interest of Ireland, and for the interest of the United Kingdom, if he will inform us plainly and distinctly whether he means to have a Parliament on College Green. That is the question which is agitating the minds of hon. Members below the Gangway—that is what they have taken off their coats to fight for; that is what they have stated distinctly will satisfy them, and nothing else. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, that is a point gained. We now know exactly where we stand. Hon. Members below the Gangway do desire a Parliament 1977 on College Green; and if I know the views and opinions of my countrymen and of hon. Members who sit in this House, and of men who are ready to put Party considerations on one side, and to look only to the interests of the country, the first thing they have at heart is that the interests of this great Empire shall be preserved. I know that, whether we may or may not agree with many hon. Members in all particulars, there are on the opposite Benches hon. Gentlemen who have already made sacrifices in the interests of their country; and the time will come, and that before long, when they will have an opportunity of saying that, although they did not agree with many things we have done, yet, in the main, there is no very wide separation between us. [Laughter.] It is very well to laugh; but the times are a great deal too serious for laughter; and I think that the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) to the moderate Liberals to join us, was a fair, reasonable, and just proposal. I am satisfied that although some hon. Members on that side of the House differ from us in many of our views, yet, when the time comes for placing this great question before us by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, it will be found that there are men in the ranks of our opponents who prefer their country's interests to that of their Party, and who are convinced that it is for the interests of their country that the Union, which has subsisted for the last 700 years, should be maintained. I trust that that Union will be preserved, not only by us and our sons, but by our sons' sons for generations, for I firmly believe that without the existing Legislative Union the honour, dignity, and the integrity of this great Empire cannot be maintained.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Mr. Speaker, I desire to say a word or two, after the powerful speech which has just been delivered—[Laughter]—by the hon. Baronet the Member for North-Western Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). There is one remark with which, I think, all Parties in the House, and every individual in the House, will almost entirely and absolutely agree, and that is, that the times are rather too serious for laughter, and that the subject of debate to-night raises not only 1978 questions involving the highest and longest-cherished hopes of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, but that it also raises questions which we believe in their ultimate solution will greatly affect the fate of the British Empire. I think that hon. Members will be inclined to agree that these are questions that are worthy of the most serious and grave discussion by the House of Commons; and certainly, in any remarks I may offer to the House, I will endeavour, to the best of my ability, to act up to the principle I have ventured to lay down; and on this occasion I ask for more than the usual measure of the indulgence of the House, because it would have been far more agreeable to me, on account of feeling extreme fatigue by reason of various incidents, to have postponed my remarks to a later occasion; but I thought that I myself had been chargeable, and am chargeable, with a very great deal of the controversy about this Irish Question; and I also thought that a good deal of controversy had been raised, even in this debate, about the remarks I have made, and about the attitude with regard to this Irish Question which I have taken up. I was, therefore, anxious to take the earliest opportunity not only to explain, to the best of my ability, my views with regard to Ireland so far as the indulgence of the House will permit me, but I was also anxious to take the earliest opportunity of inviting those—and they are many—who have accusations to bring against me—some accusations such as those made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, made in open discussion in public, and other accusations made by a more contemptible class of opponents— mean opponents who shelter themselves under pseudonyms or other disguises. I thought it right that I should take this opportunity of inviting such, if there are any in the House, to state in the House what they have to urge against the views I have put forward in regard to Ireland; because, if I exhaust my right of speaking, I know there are Friends on this side of the House who are capable of answering the charges which may be made. Therefore, with the indulgence of the House, I will now endeavour, to the best of my ability, to reply to the arguments adduced by the Prime Minister against the Motion of my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. 1979 Holmes). Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to put aside altogether an argument with which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the First Lord of the Treasury) occupied a great deal of time this evening. It was a thoroughly technical argument—an argument which I have often heard used in the House of Commons, and an argument which I have never known to have any weight with the House of Commons—but it is an argument of apparently inexhaustible resource with the right hon. Gentleman. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman was this—"You"—meaning us, the Opposition—"you allege that the state of Ireland is grave and bad, and how do you propose to remedy the state of Ireland while you ask the House of Commons to stop the Supplies?" Now, no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the Motion before the House; and not only is that not the Motion before the House, but no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that even if by any miracle this Motion were to receive the support of the majority of the Members of the House, the Supplies to the Crown would be voted with the same regularity as in former years. That being so, why did the right hon. Gentleman occupy so much of his time, and exhaust so much of his satire and power of invective, in what I can only call beating the air? The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that when the House is called upon by the Government to go into Committee of Supply, it is the right of every Member of this House—and more especially is it the right of the Opposition as a body—to raise any great question of public or State importance in the best manner they can; and that it is a most convenient and Constitutional opportunity for eliciting from the Government of the day the policy which the Government intend to pursue on any important or critical state of affairs. Now, the right hon. Gentleman's experience of the House of Commons is too long and too profound for him to offer the smallest contradiction, either by interruption or by sign, to that statement of mine. Therefore, I proceed to affirm, without fear of contradiction from the Prime Minister, or from any other Member of the House who is experienced in its working, that the Motion which my right hon. and learned Friend has sub- 1980 mitted to the House to-night is an eminently Constitutional Motion; that the occasion which my right hon. and learned Friend has chosen is an eminently Constitutional occasion; and that no blame or censure can be pronounced either upon the one or upon the other. Well, Sir, there was a reason—a very grave reason—which induced my right hon. and learned Friend, after consultation with those in whom he had confidence, to submit this Motion to the House of Commons. The Prime Minister is the greatest living master—I believe he is the greatest master that ever lived—of the art of Parliamentary tactics. I cannot at all describe, in my limited knowledge of English, my admiration for the resources—the Parliamentary tactics—which the right hon. Gentleman is on every occasion able to display; and the right hon. Gentleman himself, on a very solemn occasion—the opening of Parliament—gave the most serious advice to his Followers to take such and such a line of action, because he said he was an "old Parliamentary hand." Well, that being so—and we recognize the fact that the utmost limit to which the right hon. Gentleman would wish us to recognize it—it behaves us to be on our guard, as far as our limited faculties enable us to be on our guard, because what do we find in the position of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to Ireland? We find that the right hon. Gentleman, undoubtedly for one purpose or another, contemplates a large policy with regard to Ireland; but the tactics which he is pursuing, and the delay which he has claimed from Parliament, and which he still claims, are calculated to lull the public mind of England into a state of torpor and lethargy, and are calculated to accustom the public mind of England to policies and schemes which, if they were at once placed before the public mind of England, would not have a chance of being accepted. That is the danger which we feel we have to guard against. Hon. Gentlemen need not imagine for a moment that I underrate the tremendous power of the Prime Minister in this country. Not for a moment; but it is because I estimate his power at its proper value that I agree in the prudence of the Motion which my right hon. and learned Friend has brought before the House to-night; because, even if he 1981 does not succeed in securing the sympathy of the House, the object of the Motion—be it right or wrong—is, at a Constitutional moment and in a Constitutional manner, to draw the attention of England to the state of Ireland, and to the policy which we believe Her Majesty's Government contemplate with regard to that country. Now, I understand from the reply of the Prime Minister, which was an eminently controversial reply, that he questions, and even denies, the right of the Opposition who sit in this quarter of the House to raise the question of Ireland at all, not only in the form of censure on the Government, but even in the form of inquiry from the Government. The right hon. Gentleman asserts that our whole Irish policy was a mistake from beginning to end—that it has utterly failed. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The general tenour of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was undoubtedly that our policy had altogether failed, and that it betrayed vacillation, hesitation, and incapacity for making up our mind. The right hon. Gentleman asserted that altogether our Irish policy had been so essentially wrong, and so essentially vicious, that it was impossible and utterly hopeless, even with the best will in the world, for him and his Party, in the position they then occupied, to restrain themselves from turning the late Government out of Office. And the right hon. Gentleman also denies the right of the present Opposition to raise this question of social order in Ireland, because, he asserts, or he assumes, or he imagines that the present Opposition, when they were in Office, had entered into a compact and an alliance with the Irish Nationalist Party in this House—a compact which was based essentially upon the utter and permanent abandonment of all measures in the nature of repressive legislation; and that, therefore, having entered into that compact and having broken that compact—according to his argument—we are utterly precluded, either from inquiring from the Government what policy they intend to pursue, or from pressing on the Government legislation which the Government might deem to be of an extraordinary or repressive nature. That is the position which the Prime Minister takes up. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] That is the essential position which the right hon.
1982 Gentleman takes up. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] Well, I am so anxious to get as rapidly as I can, with the kind indulgence of the House, to the principal part of the argument, that I will clear the way of these preliminaries. I am, therefore, prepared, mainly for the purposes of this debate, to make to the Prime Minister very large admissions. I believe it to be the hereditary and inalienable tendency of all British Governments to blunder. I am led to that conclusion from a close and profound study of history, and of the career of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am quite prepared to admit—I see no object whatever in denying it, because I want to get at the real gist of the argument— that the late Government did not present themselves before Parliament, with regard to Ireland, in that absolutely perfect and impregnable form which an ideal Government would like to occupy. I make the Prime Minister a present of that admission. Therefore, all the arguments about the incapacity of the late Government—all the alliances they concluded, and the blunders they committed —I put aside, for the purpose of argument, because, if the right hon. Gentleman likes, I admit them all. But there is one accusation which he almost directly made, which I do not admit, and which I will not admit for a moment. He asserted, perhaps not directly—but the whole tendency of his argument was to assert—that the decision of the late Government, when they took Office, with regard to coercion, was influenced, and solely influenced, by the prospect of catching the Irish vote at the late Election. Well, now, if the House of Commons had only to do with myself—had only to rely upon my assertion—I should not think of arguing this matter with it. I see no object in this kind of argument. Therefore, I say, assert whatever you please, make whatever accusations you like, attribute to me, if it will do any good, the worst and most despicable motives—I content myself with the knowledge of what I have in my own mind, and what is in my own mind is enough for me. But what I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman is this—without claiming the smallest consideration for myself, I would ask—Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously think that a statesman like Lord Salisbury, with Colleagues like Lord Carnarvon and Lord Cran- 1983 brook—does he think that a Gentleman who has been so long before the House of Commons as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in this House—does he think that one whom he was always ready to flatter and eulogize, when it suited him—Lord Iddesleigh— does he think that these men are so utterly lost to all consideration of political honour and to every consideration of political honesty that they are influenced, and only influenced, by the meanest and most corrupt motives which can actuate the lowest politician? Does he think that men like them would, in dealing with the question of the government of Ireland—involving the future of Ireland — an integral and, perhaps, one of the most interesting portions of the United Kingdom—would take a decision, with regard to the government of Ireland, guided only by considerations of an electioneering character? I will go further, and ask him whether he thinks that Lord Salisbury, or Lord Iddesleigh, or my right hon. Friend who sits near me, would take a decision of that kind— [Cries of "Yes!" from the Home Rule Members] — from electioneering considerations? I am certain that hon. Members below the Gangway, although, in the heat of debate, they manifest some slight signs of incredulity, if this matter were calmly discussed in a room with two or three people, would admit that my arguments are perfectly sound, and that a Minister like Lord Salisbury is utterly incapable of being liable to, or chargeable for one moment with, an accusation of that character. Well, Sir, I am not going to deny—I am not going to conceal it from the House for one moment—why should I do so, for I never have concealed anything from the House, and I am not going to begin to-day— that at one time I had an idea that the Tory Party might co-operate with the Irish Party. [Laughter.] I must pray the House to allow me to argue this out calmly. I have often worked with Irish Members. I hope to be able to do so again. I am anxious not to detain the House longer than it is necessary; but it will be difficult for me to argue consecutively unless I am assisted by the kind indulgence of the House. I admit that I have never concealed—I never concealed it in the last Parliament— that I thought it possible that, on many Irish subjects, the Tory Party might co- 1984 operate with the Irish National Party. But what did I go upon? I had an immense precedent to go upon. I had the precedent of the Whig Ministry of the days of Mr. O'Connell. O'Connell occupied, at one time, as strong, and if possible a stronger, position, having regard to the relative position of Parties, than the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) now occupies. ["No, no!" from the Home Rule Members.] I maintain that I am historically correct. What was the state of the case then? O'Connell had got a large Irish Party of about 35, after a change of Parliament, and pressed upon Parliament the policy of Repeal; and in the Election of 1835—I think I am accurate in saying it was 1835—O'Connell, in addressing his Dublin constituents, used these words—"Sink or swim, live or die, I go for Repeal, and nothing but Repeal." Mr. O'Connell came back to Parliament on that programme, determined to press it upon Parliament at all hazards and at all costs. What happened? The Whig Ministry of that day, being unable to carry on the Government of the country without an alliance with the Irish Party, came to terms with Mr. O'Connell, and O'Connell dropped the policy of Repeal. [Cries of "No!"] Is it not so? ["No!"] Yes, certainly. And why? He dropped the policy of Repeal, on condition that the Whig Ministrv——
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I have nothing to do with that. Mr. O'Connell dropped the policy of Repeal, on the understanding that the Whig Ministry would bring forward such measures for Ireland, short of Repeal, as Mr. O'Connell and his Friends thought absolutely necessary to be put before the country. That is a great historical precedent. There you had a powerful English Party, perhaps one of the proudest England has ever known, allying itself with the Irish Party, elected on the platform of unconditional Repeal, on the condition that that Irish Party dropped the policy of Repeal, and consenting to legislate for such matters as the development of Irish prosperity and progress in a manner which might be agreeable to the Party from Ireland. Well, I own I had that precedent in my 1985 mind in the last Parliament, and I did not see why that state of things should not occur again. It always appeared to me that the Tory Party were well qualified to deal with many questions of Irish interest in a manner which might be thoroughly agreeable to the Irish people, and which would not be in the least dangerous to the general welfare of the Empire. I particularly allude to the question of education, and to the question of the land. Judging by past history, I imagined that though the cry of Repeal might be raised as strongly as ever, and the Irish Members might say again — "Live or die, sink or swim, we go for Repeal," still I imagined that might merely turn out to be a sentiment for keeping together a powerful political Party, and that if Repeal was absolutely against the wish of the Imperial Parliament the policy of Repeal would be dropped. [An hon. MEMBER: Times are changed.] Well, it is quite true that times are changed. I do not pretend to be a magician, or a prophet, and I could only judge by the past; and I did not see why the Irish Party, finding that the House of Commons, as a whole, was totally opposed to the Repeal of the Union, might not co-operate either with the Tory or the Liberal Party in bringing forward such measures short of Repeal as the Irish Party might wish for. I maintain that there was nothing unreasonable, extravagant, or wrong in that supposition. I never concealed it from anyone, but made a frank and open confession of it. I quite admit that that supposition turned out to be entirely wrong. I make no concealment of that. There were two tremendous faults in my calculation. One was that I never calculated—it never entered into my wildest dreams—that the present Prime Minister would ever go in for the policy of Repeal. Now, that was not an altogether unsound calculation on my part. I rather fancy that there are many on that side of the House—in fact, I doubt whether there was a single person on the Ministerial side of the House who did not make the same calculation. I wonder whether there is any person on the Front Ministerial Bench, with the exception of the Home Secretary, who made so remarkable a speech at the time of the Pontefract Election, who did not make the 1986 same erroneous calculation? It was in my calculation that whoever might go in for Repeal, in whatever quarter he might sit, the last man to go in for it would be the present Prime Minister of England. Now, why did I take that view? Hon. Members will at once admit that I had enormous ground for believing that the whole House of Commons, whether under Tory or Liberal Leadership, would be opposed to Repeal. That was my view. My right hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General for Ireland, in the speech with which he opened the debate, declared that the Prime Minister had often spoken strongly against Home Rule, or the policy of Repeal, and the Prime Minister interrupted the late Attorney General for Ireland, and said—"Quote, quote." Well, if the Prime Minister will allow me, and if the House will allow me, I will quote one of the most remarkable and one of the strongest declarations against the policy of Repeal which any modern public man has ever put before the English people. They are the words of the present Prime Minister at Aberdeen, when the citizens of Aberdeen, believing that he was a strong supporter of the Union of the United Kingdom, conferred upon him the freedom of that city. And it is not very long ago—nothing considering the rate at which we live now. It was only in 1871; and you must remember that 1871 was a very remarkable epoch, for at that time the Prime Minister imagined that he had altogether settled the Irish Question. He had disestablished the Irish Church; he had dealt with the Irish land; and it is perfectly certain that at that time—but I will not anticipate. Mr. Butt had at that time just been returned for the City of Limerick, and the Prime Minister alluded to his return and the claims he was going to make on Parliament in regard to the Repeal of the Union. This is what the Prime Minister said—We are told that it is necessary for Ireland to close her relations with the Parliament of this country, and to have a Parliament of her own. Well, now, we shall say to this demand —Why is the Imperial Parliament to he broken up? Has Ireland great grievances? What is it that Ireland has demanded from the Imperial Parliament which that Imperial Parliament has refused? (Loud cheers from the freemen of Aberdeen). I have looked in vain"—recollect that the Prime Minister at that 1987 time had had much experience of public life—I have looked in vain for any practical scheme of policy which the Imperial Parliament is not equal to deal with, which it refuses to deal with, and which is to be brought about by Home Rule.Then the Prime Minister proceeds to turn the policy of Repeal into ridicule. The House heard him satirize my right hon. and learned Friend with all the force of his satire; but that satire was perfectly feeble compared with the force of the ridicule he poured upon the policy of Repeal at Aberdeen. What did he say? He said—I have seen nothing in favour of Repeal, except that it is stated that there is a quantity of fish in the seas which surround Ireland; and that if they had Home Rule they would catch a great deal of these fish." (Much laughter and loud cheers from the citizens of Aberdeen.)But the Prime Minister argued his point out very closely. He continued—There are fish in the seas which surround England and Scotland. England has no Home Rule; Scotland has no Home Rule; but they manage to catch the fish.Again loud laughter and renewed cheers. Then he goes on—You would expect, when it is said that the Imperial Parliament is to be broken up, that at least a case should be made out showing great subjects of policy and great demands necessary for the welfare of Ireland which the Representatives of Ireland had united to ask, and which the Representatives of England, Scotland, and Wales had united to refuse.Then he goes on to state categorically—There is no such grievance. There is nothing that Ireland has asked, and which this country and this Parliament has refused. This Parliament has done for Ireland what it would have scrupled to do for Scotland and England.Again loud cheers, and then the Prime Minister goes further. He said—What are the inequalities between England and Ireland? I declare that I know of none, except that there are certain taxes still remaining which are levied upon Scotchmen and Englishmen, and not levied upon Ireland; and likewise that there are certain charges for which public money is freely and largely given in Ireland, and not given in England and Scotland. That seems to me a very feeble case indeed for the argument which has been made, by means of which the fabric of the United Parliament of this country is to be broken up.May I read a little more? After all, we are greatly dependent upon the arguments of these great men for our opposition to the policy of Repeal. We can 1988 never produce anything better; and as at the present moment the policy of Repeal is the Prime Minister's remedy for the restoration of social order in Ireland—[Mr. GLADSTONE dissented, and cries of "No, no!" from the Ministerial Benches]—I feel that I am not travelling far from the question in placing the most convincing arguments before the House. Then the Primo Minister went on to say—If the doctrines of Home Rule are to be established for Ireland, I protest on your behalf that you are just as well entitled to it in Scotland, and, moreover, I protest on behalf of Wales, in which I have lived a good deal, and where there are 800,000 people who to this day —such is their sentiment of nationality—speak hardly anything but their own tongue—I protest on behalf of Wales that they are entitled to Home Rule there.Now, observe this—Can any sensible man, any rational man "—it is strong, though it is redundant—can any rational man, can any sensible man, suppose that at this time of day, in this condition of the world, we are going to disintegrate the great capital institutions of the country for the purpose of making ourselves ridiculous in the sight of all mankind, of crippling any power we possess for bestowing what blessings we may through legislation on the country to which we belong?Loud cheers from his audience. There is one more sentence, if I am not trespassing too much on your time. [Cries of "Go on!"] I have a great mind to keep it for another day. But, Sir, that is not all. The Prime Minister stated, in interrupting my right hon. and learned Friend, that when Mr. Butt first introduced his Home Rule scheme to Parliament he took no part in the debate. The Prime Minister will not suspect me of intentional disrespect if I am obliged to contradict him from the columns of Hansard. In the year 1874 —I daresay the right hon. Gentleman forgets that year, because it is not a pleasant year for him to recall—Mr. Butt, who was at that time at the head of a considerable Party, moved an Amendment to the Address. [Mr. GLADSTONE made an observation which was inaudible.] Pardon me; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed. Mr. Butt moved an Amendment to the Address, asking for inquiry and examination into the existing system of government in Ireland, complaining that the Irish people did not enjoy 1989 the full benefits of the Constitution, and the right hon. Gentleman took part in that debate. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He made a most able speech; and this is how he described the speech of Mr. Butt. He said—What is it my hon. and learned Friend asks ns to do? He says he has framed a perfectly intelligible plan by which affairs exclusively Irish are to be discussed in an Irish Parliament, but that affairs not exclusively Irish are to be discussed in this Parliament, and the Members representing Ireland are to come here for that purpose.That was the object of Mr. Butt in moving an Amendment to the Address; and the right hon. Gentleman thus reasons—He"—that is, Mr. Butt—"says great dissatisfaction exists in Ireland, and we are to promise to inquire with a view to the removal of this dissatisfaction. Taking my hon. and learned Friend on his own showing, does he think, if dissatisfaction exists in a country, the vague promise of an intention to inquire into it can be held a fitting mode in which a great Assembly like the Imperial Parliament should meet that state of things? I say, on the contrary, it is a dangerous and tricky system for Parliament to adopt—to encounter national dissatisfaction, if it really exists, with the assurance which may mean anything or nothing —which may perhaps conciliate the feelings of Ireland for a moment, and attract a passing-breath of popularity, but which, when the day of trial comes, may be found entirely to fail them. It is a method of proceeding which, whatever Party may be in power, or whatever measures may be adopted, I trust this House will never condescend to adopt."—(3 Hansard,  131.)["Hear, hear!"] These, of course, may be admirable arguments, and I myself thoroughly agree with them; but I am surprised at their being cheered so enthusiastically by hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the House, because there could not be a more convincing proof afforded to my mind that a few years ago the Prime Minister was perfectly hostile not only to any policy involving Repeal, but to the particular policy now recommended to Parliament —the policy of inquiry and examination for which he now claims the indulgence of Parliament. That policy was only a few years ago, in the words of the Prime Minister, a dangerous one, and one which Parliament ought never to adopt. That was why, as I think I have shown to the House, I was not unjustified in believing—in fact, I was pretty sure— that whatever happened, the two great British political Parties would unite in 1990 opposition to the policy of Repeal. But my calculation has been entirely upset on that point, not only by the speech which the Prime Minister has made tonight, but by the inclusion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the exclusion of the noble Lord the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), which have shown my error in a most unmistakable manner. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to deny it—I challenge any single responsible Member on that Bench to get up and deny that the policy which the Prime Minister contemplates as a substantial and remedial policy is a policy of Repeal. If I am wrong, there is no apology I will not make—none. I challenge him to say whether I am right or wrong. Well, the House is very kind in allowing me to explain the failure of all my calculations. With regard to my calculations as to the future of Ireland, of course it was because I was wild enough to base my hopes upon the consistency of the Prime Minister that I made them. But I made another great error in my calculations, also connected with social order; and I expect that some of my Colleagues sitting on this Bench did the same. We totally under-estimated, and we totally miscalculated, the enormous power in Ireland of the Irish National League. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: And in England.] Hon. Members below the Gangway need not be ashamed of the power of the Irish League—[Cries of "No!" from the Irish Benches]—they are very proud of it in Ireland. Then, why does the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor], an English Member, appear to be offended and annoyed because I say that when the late Government came into Office, and for a little while after they came into Office, I had under-estimated and miscalculated the power of the National League?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
rose amid cries of "Order!" he said: The noble Lord has made a personal reference to me; and I have a perfect right, in accordance with the Rules of the House, to explain. He seems to imply that I disapproved of his statement. What I said was that we are proud of the power of the National League in Ireland, and also in England.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I am sorry the hon. Member has thought 1991 it necessary to make that interruption, because it only strengthens my argument. I say that the power of the National League in Ireland, supported by the power of the National League in England, and by 86 Members in this House, was a power which the late Government, I admit, has omitted in their calculation, and that they had totally under-estimated it. Now, Sir, I come, if I may be allowed, to that quotation from my speech at Birmingham on which the right hon. Gentleman has laid so much stress. I am glad that he made a quotation from my speech. I may say I feel a kind of personal vanity, because it is the first of my speeches that the right hon. Gentleman has condescended to notice. The words which I used at Birmingham were, I believe, correct and justifiable, so far as official information at that time went, and were based upon facts and figures of crime and outrage. I did not make that statement on my own authority. Before I went to Birmingham, I had the opportunity of passing a few days in Ireland, and of consulting the Lord Lieutenant and the Irish authorities. My statement that the abandonment of the Crimes Act had been abundantly justified was solely limited to the information given me with regard to the state of crime and outrage in Ireland, and to one thing more—namely, to the prospect which the Administration had of dealing with that crime and outrage by the ordinary criminal process. I contend that the statement I made was an accurate statement, and that there was nothing erroneous in it. More than that, it was based on the statement of my right hon. Friend who now leads the Opposition. The Prime Minister said that we had never given any intimation of what our policy with regard to Ireland would be when the new Parliament met, if the social state of Ireland did not improve. May I not ask the right hon. Gentleman, in common fairness, to modify his assertion, that at the time of the General Election, for the purpose of electioneering gain, we stated that the state of Ireland was perfectly satisfactory; that the policy of abandoning the Crimes Act had been a complete success; and that there was no reason to suppose that anything would induce a Conservative Government again to apply to Parliament for exceptional legislation. The state- 1992 ment is that we did that for the purpose of gaining an electioneering advantage. I think I am not misrepresenting the statement; and, of course, it is a point on which I feel a little sensitive. When you come to analyze it, it is not a very pleasant accusation; but I think, when the Prime Minister reads the speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) to his constituents, or rather to those from whom he was seeking election, he will be prepared to modify, if not altogether to withdraw, his statement. My right hon. Friend said—That the Conservative Party had resolved that they would not introduce exceptional legislation for the prevention of crime in Ireland, unless perfectly convinced that crime could not be prevented by the ordinary law;but he added—and let me draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this—That he could assure his hearers that if it should be proved that the powers of the ordinary law did not suffice to preserve peace and order in Ireland, the Ministry would not allow months to elapse, as did Her Majesty's late Government," (that is, the last Liberal Ministry) "without coming to Parliament to ask it to help them in this matter.I do not think that there was any concealment or fraud practised on the electors in that matter by my right hon. Friend, any more than by Lord Salisbury. It was by him clearly stated that the success of the experiment that had been tried was a matter of doubt, and that if we found the ordinary law to be inadequate for the preservation of order and national freedom in Ireland, we should not hesitate to come to Parliament and ask for further powers. With regard to this question of social order in Ireland, when I was myself in Ireland—I think in the middle of October—certainly Lord Carnarvon, and many of the authorities in Ireland, developed to me their views as to the tremendous power of the National League; and I can say that at that time Lord Carnarvon and those who advised him were extremely anxious and alarmed at the growing power of the League in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] Are hon. Members from Ireland, who cheer that statement, quite certain—is the House quite certain—that the same alarm, that the same fear and the same nervousness as to the power of the Na- 1993 tional League in Ireland are not to be found on the Treasury Bench? Well, Sir, obviously at that time no Cabinet meetings were being held—none were held from the middle of October to December, for the Elections were taking place. A Cabinet meeting was held in December—I hope I am not wearying the House too much—I think on the 2nd of December, and Lord Carnarvon and Lord Ashbourne brought before the Cabinet the extraordinary development and the unlimited resources of the National League. That was the nature of the League then—a tremendous and formidable organization. What it was then it is at the present day, without the slightest doubt whatever. Now, the Crimes Act was utterly useless for the purpose of dealing with the National League; and if I was in power to-morrow, without a Colleague, and with irresponsible power, and wished to restore order, I would no more think or renewing the Crimes Act for this purpose than of flying. That is not, to my mind, required for the state of things existing in Ireland now. The Crimes Act was passed to deal with an undetected and an unlimited amount of crime. But in Ireland at present what we have is a power which, by the errors of former Governments, perhaps the last Government, perhaps the Government before that, has been allowed to extend its despotic sway over three Provinces of Ireland—absolutely a despotic sway, and by the side of that power the Queen's Government is powerless. There are two Governments in Ireland at the present moment. That is the fact I wish to draw attention to. There are two Governments in Ireland at the present moment, and of those two Governments that which sits in this House is the weaker. If that is so, I will again venture to challenge the official opinion of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, who has now been some time in Office, but who has never given to the House his opinion on this most important question. That is our view of the state of Ireland, and the state of social order there. There are two Governments in the country, and it is absolutely impossible for any man to serve two Governments. A society which is divided against itself is a society which is in a ruinous and dying state. This is our position; this is what we believe. We believe that 1994 the existence of the National League in Ireland, exercising co-ordinate authority in Ireland, has more power and authority than that of the Queen's Government, and has produced an unparalleled state of national demoralization. This is an opinion we are entitled to hold. Hon. Members below the Gangway, I daresay, altogether disagree with it; but, at any rate, they will admit that it is an opinion which the Opposition are entitled to hold, and which right hon. Gentlemen recently in Office are not only entitled to hold, but are bound to place before the House. What was our remedy? It was that those two Governments could not continue to exist if social order was to be maintained; and we proposed by law to suppress the National League. That is a remedy which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister tells us is a bad remedy, because it would have led to Parliamentary discomfiture and disaster. But if the Government believe a certain remedy to be right, should their remedy be kept back for fear of discomfiture and disaster? I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is because he feared it would lead to disaster and discomfiture that he refused to adopt our remedy, and proposes another the details of which we have not before us? The 1st of April may give those details to us; but the nature of them we know beyond any manner of doubt. The remedy of the Prime Minister, in order that he may escape discomfiture and disaster, is not to suppress the National League, but to concede the government of Ireland almost entirely to the National League. When in Office, I and my Colleagues had a most unfortunate prejudice in the matter. We took into our heads a most reactionary and obsolete opinion. We thought it was the duty of Her Majesty's Ministers to support and assert the Government of the Queen; but it appears, from the doctrine which the right hon. Gentleman now holds, that these are unfashionable doctrines, which would lead to discomfiture and disaster. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to make a most extraordinary statement. He said that if the late Government, abandoning the policy of suppressing the League, and taking up some other policy, had come to Parliament with that policy, the late Government knew that they might count 1995 on the generous support of the right hon. Gentleman. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I shall be glad not to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman on this point, or to misquote him; but that is certainly what I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say; but I will put it in this way—that if we had produced an Irish policy we might have counted on his generous support. [Mr. GLADSTONE assented.] Certainly we had reasons to believe that we might count on the right hon. Gentleman's support if our policy took a certain direction. If we were to abandon all the traditions of the Tory Party—all the traditions that have animated every English Minister about Ireland, then, indeed, we might have counted upon his support. But, much as we value the right hon. Gentleman's support, we could not buy it at that price. I feel that the House has been very indulgent to me; and although the subject is one which admits of much inquiry, and is one which I think the public have a right to have placed before them in much detail, I will endeavour to conclude my remarks within a very few minutes. I was referring to the power of the National League, and I was asking the House to recollect that that power was greater than that of the Queen's Government. Now, I ask the House to allow me to quote the words of the Members of the League, in order to illustrate the power of the League, and also the fact that that power is as great as ever, although, for a moment, it is disarmed. Nothing could have exceeded the ridicule which the Prime Minister poured on the arguments brought forward by my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Holmes), because he stated that the League had exerted itself to restore order in Ireland, and he referred to the visit of Mr. Davitt to Kerry. My right hon. and learned Friend drew a conclusion from that which the Prime Minister ridiculed. But what does the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)—one of the most influential Members of the League—say about that organization? I entreat the attention of the House to this quotation. The hon. Member said, on the 17th of February—The Irish people were not destined to be caught in a trap. Their eyes were open; their resources were inexhaustible; and"—mark this—"though this splendid organization which 1996 had been built up was very quiet at present, they could meet whatever was before them, perfectly willing to take the field again with undiminished vigour and increased resources, should the Whigs prove treacherous again.That is the power which, counting on your meeting their wishes, has exerted the tremendous resources of the League in producing a momentary calm in Ireland. What do you think will happen in Ireland if you fall short of satisfying the wishes of hon. Members, or the House of Commons will not support you in meeting their wishes? What sort of measures will it be necessary to propose to Parliament for the restoration of social order in Ireland? It will become a life-and-death struggle between the National League and the Government of the Queen; and on which side will the Prime Minister be? That is a question I wish to put to the House tonight. We see this great struggle coming; you may put it off by various attempts to construct an Irish Parliament. I do not myself believe for a moment that that policy will be accepted by the Imperial Parliament; I believe it will fail. I believe, further, that any policy you may propose which may unite your Cabinet and your Party will not come up to the desires of that powerful organization. I believe it will fall short of it, and that organization will oppose your policy as being inadequate for the National League; but it will go too far for the great common sense of the Parliament of England; and then I want to know, in that case, what will be the state of social order in Ireland itself, and what views and what policy will you then place before Parliament? Are the Opposition asking an unreasonable question of the Government? ["Yes, yes!"] I ask the House to forbear for a few moments. Have we taken up, uselessly, the time of the House of Commons to-night? Were we not bound, holding the opinions which we do, possessing the knowledge which we ought to possess of Ireland—were we not bound to take the earliest Constitutional opportunity offered us by the Forms of Parliament to endeavour to elicit from the Government their views with regard to their policy in Ireland and their views with regard to social order there, as well as those of the House of Commons in the matter? I quite admit that the Liberal Party have 1997 not taken a large share in this debate; I quite admit that we, as the Opposition, have not succeeded in extracting from the Government that amount of information which, I believe, we have had a right to look for. But that is not essential to our calculations, What we want to do is to lay before the House of Commons and the country, so that the country may not go to sleep, as it is apparently the object of statesmen opposite that it should do, our knowledge of the dangerous state of Ireland, and our views, in the most explicit and formal manner, of the way in which that most dangerous state should be dealt with by the Government of the Queen.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Sir, I rise to make an explanation which the noble Lord would not permit me to give in the course of his speech—of course, he was quite justified in refusing me the opportunity while he was speaking. I do not speak of the policy of Repeal, nor will I speak of the speech at Aberdeen further than to say that I shall take the opportunity of reading it over again. But I refer to the declaration of the noble Lord that he would convict me out of Hansard of having been in error when I said I was absent at the time when Mr. Butt brought forward his plan of Repeal. Sir, that statement was strictly true. I was present at the time when Mr. Butt proposed to deal with the question by means of a Committee of Inquiry. His Motion was for an inquiry. I spoke upon that occasion, and I objected, as I should now object, to that method of dealing with the question. The noble Lord does not seem to know that, in 1874, Mr. Butt did bring forward his plan.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That was the occasion upon which I was absent; and if the noble Lord knew that, I am sorry he did not say it to the House.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Major Saunderson.)
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 204; Noes 364: Majority 160.—(Div. List, No. 16.)1998
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I had hoped, Sir, when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson) moved the adjournment, the House might have been disposed to agree to that Motion, not merely because of the knowledge and eloquence which my hon. and gallant Friend brings to the discussion of Irish affairs, but because, although three remarkable speeches have been delivered to-night, this debate has been principally remarkable for the conspiracy of silence which has been maintained amongst the Liberal Party. Not one word, in spite of the charges made against the National League, has been heard from its Members; not one word has fallen from those Members of the Government who, like the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. Trevelyan), if we may judge from their previous utterances, can hardly agree, I should have thought, with very much that has fallen from the Prime Minister: not one word from the right hon. Gentleman who is primarily responsible for the government of Ireland, though he can speak on this subject outside the House. Again, Sir, we have heard nothing from the new Fourth Party represented now by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Henry James) who sits behind the Government. I had thought, in those circumstances, with these great omissions, that the House might have been willing to consent to a prolongation of the debate; but so far as we are concerned we are content, after the able speech of my noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill), to leave this matter where it is. We have made the protest which we felt it our duty to make against what we consider the betrayal of their country by Her Majesty's Government. We are content, Sir, in having made that protest, and I do not propose to put the House to the trouble of a second division.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."