§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."—[Lord Edmund Talbot.]
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day three months."
In following such a course regarding this measure, the Labour party are acting quite consistently with the attitude that they have maintained towards the Bill from the first day. It may be remembered that on the Second Reading my right hon. Friend the Member for the Platting Division (Mr. Clynes), on behalf of the party, moved that the Bill should be read a Second Time that day six months. During the Committee stage the party put down Amendments which in their opinion would have removed some of the most objectionable and dangerous parts of the Bill. Being frustrated in our attempts to amend the measure in accordance with our ideas of the better government of Ireland, we refused to take any further responsibility for the Committee and the Report stages, but, so convinced are we that this Bill will miserably fail to settle the Irish question, that on Third Reading we renew our efforts to defeat it and to prevent it from being placed upon the Statute Book. Never in our history has there been such great need for setting aside any desire to take any party advantage or to give expression to personal prejudices and so-called religious animosities as at the present time. Instead of providing a satisfactory solution of the problem, the Government policy, if allowed to develop upon the present disastrous lines, will inevitably have the gravest consequences to the Empire.
To-day many of us stood beside an Empire grave. We did not know who was the warrior. For all I know it may have been my own boy, for up to the present I have not been able to discover his grave. It may have been the boy of an Irish father or mother, because we are aware that many of those who fell in the War belonged to Ireland. Of this we are 1414 assured, that the warrior, whoever he may be, is our common property; he is of our common stock, and he paid the Great Sacrifice for the common heritage of the people of this Empire. I want to put it to the Government, whether in their opinion this day of all others is an appropriate time for passing a Bill which, in the opinion of many Members of this House, will only go still further to embitter the relationship between the Irish people and ourselves. Already our methods of government in Ireland have done almost irreparable damage to our prestige and reputation among the other nations of the world for good government and for fair dealing. Day after day, as we open our newspapers, and read the terrible accounts of the things that are occurring in Ireland, we are absolutely ashamed of our methods of governing that country. Throughout the world the reputation of the British Empire as the champion of oppressed nations and of small peoples never stood higher than it did at the close of the great War. Our stupid, senseless, mailed-fist policy in Ireland is simply taking away from us much of the credit we earned in the course of that great struggle.
Does this Bill now under consideration provide us a way out of the terrible situation in which we find ourselves? On Second Reading the Prime Minister, in the course of an able and eloquent speech, said that he was sanguine enough to believe that the Bill would gradually work a union of the North and the South, a union of Protestant and Catholic, a union of Britain and Ireland, a real union in which all would be good partners in a great concern of which all would be proud. Does any hon. or right hon. Gentleman in his heart really believe that the application of this Bill to the ills that beset the body politic in Ireland will have the result which the Prime Minister said that it would have in the quotation which I have just made from his speech? In order to test that, we had better see what the parties most intimately concerned in the Bill have to say about the matter. I take, first, the opinion of those who represent that Northern part of Ireland that will be granted a Parliament of its own. The hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig) in the course of the Second Reading Debate stated:It has been said that this Bill lends itself to the union of Ulster and the rest of 1415 Ireland. I would not be fair to the House if I lent the slightest hope of that union arising in the lifetime of any man in this House. I do not believe it for a moment.The hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to state:We do see in this Bill the realisation of the objects which we aimed at when we raised our Volunteer force and when we armed ourselves in 1914.He stated further:The Bill to-day is the amending Bill which was promised at that time, and because it gives Ulster a Parliament of its own, and sets up a state of affairs which will prevent, I believe for all time, Ulster being forced into a Parliament in Dublin without its consent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1920, cols. 984–5-6, vol. 127.]You have there the opinion of the Northern section of the Irish people who are most intimately concerned in this measure, and I put it to Members of the House that the quotation I have just made from the speech then delivered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not give us much hope that this Bill will be the means of joining together the two sections of the Irish people in that happy union that was outlined by the Prime Minister in his peroration on the Second Reading.
I have been somewhat surprised at the attitude of many Members in this House, especially the Unionist Members from the North of Ireland, in accepting this Bill and leaving the fate of their political friends and social comrades in the South to the tender mercies of a Parliament for the South of Ireland. We on these Benches have been in the habit of pointing out to our own supporters the way in which other classes represented in this House stick together when their own interests are affected, but in this instance they appear to have forgotten their class-consciousness. I am free to prophesy that the minority of the South will receive as good treatment and consideration as the minority in the North. Perhaps the majority of the Ulster Members realise that. What is the position taken up by the other section, the men of the South and West, towards this measure?
Their answer to the Government and to this House is that they will never accept this Bill as a settlement of their claim to self-government. They say to us quite frankly, "We will never be consenting parties to the division of our country into two parts." They say to us also, "We 1416 are tired of your unredeemed pledges and your broken promises. We are sick of the Irish question being made the shuttlecock of British politics. All that we ask now is that you will clear out. All that we ask, as far as this Bill is concerned, is that you will put in a Clause stating that it will not apply to Ireland." They further say to us quite frankly, "We have set up our own government, and we are prepared to stand by our own government." We, on our part, in order to maintain our old hold on the Irish people, continue in the good old plan, coercion, with the result that, at the moment, we have a campaign of murder and of reprisal that has seldom been equalled in the long history of our unfortunate relationship with the people of Ireland. No one regrets the murders and reprisals that are taking place in Ireland more than the Members of the Labour party, and I say here and now that, in my personal opinion, if the 1914 Act had been put into operation, the whole Irish question would have been settled and done with. But the legitimate rights of the Irish people have been withheld from them, and now, when they put forward a claim which Members of this House, and possibly a considerable section of the people of this country, consider to be an illegitimate claim, how can they be blamed? At all events, they have logic on their side. What is the good of the Prime Minister talking about self-determination in Czecho-Slovakia and Poland, and other far away places in Europe, and talking obout freedom "as far away as Paris is," and refusing to concede the same principle to our own people in Ireland?
The great bulk of the Irish people in the South and West are, undoubtedly, demanding complete independence and the recognition of an Irish Republic, but I do not believe that in their heart of hearts they really want a republic; they are simplyputting forward, in my opinion, their maximum demand. The Labour party do not believe in an Irish Republic. The Labour party do not want to see an Irish Republic established. They do not think it would be good for the people of this country or for Ireland. At the same time, the Labour party believe that the Irish people should be given the right to determine for themselves, and, if you give them that right, you give them perfect freedom of choice. I am sure that it is 1417 not beyond the wisdom of Government to devise ways and means for producing an atmosphere which will bring out the best in the Irish people, and induce them to give an expression of their feelings of kinship with us. I have no doubt that, in the course of any reply that may be made to what I am now stating, I shall be asked, "What does the Labour party propose, if this Bill is such an unlikely measure to produce the result which we all desire?" I want frankly to face the situation from the point of view of the Labour party. We say that, first of all, the British army of occupation should be withdrawn, and the coercive measures which are now being applied to Ireland repealed. The presence of large bodies of troops, and the rules and regulations of Dublin Castle, are helping to reduce Ireland to ashes, and are driving away all possibility of a peaceful solution of the problem. If you want to create the proper atmosphere for finding a satisfactory solution of this age-long problem, in our opinion, you must remove that enormous army that is in Ireland.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The hon. Member will have his opportunity later on. I have every faith in the sincerity of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, but I strongly believe that he is ignorant of many of the things that are happening in that unhappy country. I believe that he has been furnished with information which in many ways bears little relation to the truth. Let the army of occupation be withdrawn, and let arrangements be made at once for the calling together of a Constituent Assembly, elected on the basis of proportional representation by a free, equal, and secret vote. That, in our opinion, would create such a response from Irishmen in all parts of the world as has never been given to any former proposal put forward by the respective Governments of Great Britain. Let that Constituent Assembly draw up a Constitution for Ireland, on the understanding that that Constitution shall be accepted subject to two conditions. The first is that it affords protection to the minority.
Again and again, in the course of my Membership of this House, I have heard responsible Irishmen from these Benches giving the most distinct pledges that it was possible for men to give, that every step would be taken to protect the minority, 1418 and to remove any fear that they might have of unjust treatment at the hands of the majority; and in interviews which I have had with representative Irishmen, I have been assured again and again that the majority in Ireland would be ready and willing to afford ample protection to the minority. The second condition is that the Constitution will prevent Ireland from becoming a military or naval menace. It may be said, by those who reply, that, under the scheme which I am putting forward on behalf of the Labour party, Ireland could declare itself a Republic if it so wished. I say that developments in Ireland have gone to such an extent that it is impossible to offer them now, with any chance of its being accepted, that which would have been accepted a few years ago as a settlement of this question. Ireland must be given full freedom of choice; that is where their self-determination comes in. On the other hand, we recognise that an independent Ireland would be a grave menace to this country, and it is self-determination on our part to say that the peace and safety of this realm shall be safeguarded. I am confident, however, that if Ireland be given a free choice, whether or not she elect to become a Republic, she will be anxious and eager to maintain a friendly and close relationship with the people of this country.
I put forward this suggestion on behalf of the Labour party as the method which we think should be adopted for the settling of this great problem. I have not much hope that this Government will accept it, but I am not going to close without making an appeal to the Government to withdraw the present Bill, and to get one put on the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment that will settle this question on a basis more in accordance with the feeling of the people of Ireland than this Bill does. Already I have said that we have been standing to-day beside a common grave. I hope that that experience will create in this House the atmosphere that is necessary for discussing this question in a new light, and in a different light from that in which it has been discussed on any former occasion. I hope that the Government will yet, even at the eleventh hour, withdraw the Bill, and introduce one that will create an atmosphere in Ireland that will make a satisfactory solution possible—an atmosphere that 1419 will make the people of Ireland for the first time believe that we are in earnest, for the first time realise that they are to be taken into the commonwealth of the British nation as free and equal partners, enjoying all the benefits as well as having to undertake the responsibilities of that great commonwealth. I therefore move, "That this Bill be read the Third time this day three months."
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity of making an observation or two upon the remarkable speech to which we have just listened. I do not think it is necessary for me to take its points item by item, but it shows a remarkable change of front upon this question of legislative independence, within certain limits, for Ireland, on the part both of the right hon. Gentleman himself and of those who work with him. I certainly would not dream of challenging his statement that he is speaking on their behalf, because that is bound to be a certainty. From my very earliest days in politics, I remember this Irish question as one of the most important. It has blurred all our public discussions; it has interfered with our public affairs; it has, as the right hon. Gentleman says, been used by parties, I believe both Irish and English, for their own purposes, to blanket other and more important proposals, probably more than any other thing during the whole of my political career, and during, I am afraid, the political careers of almost all hon. Members present. At last it seems as though there is a possible opportunity of settling it; and now the men who, apparently, have supported every kind of proposal for giving greater powers to Irishmen to manage their affairs, turn round and say, "No, we do not like this Bill; there is something wrong about it somewhere. It does not meet with the approval of this end of Ireland; it does not meet with the approval of the other end of Ireland; it is not asked for by Ireland as a whole." It is a moral certainty that, if we were to wait until we got a measure through this House that was unanimously approved of by the whole of Ireland, we should never deal with the subject at all.
Whatis most remarkable about this business this afternoon is the change of front under such circumstances, because every time I remember when the right hon. Gen- 1420 tleman (Mr. Asquith) fought so strenuously and placed the Home Rule Act upon the Statute Book—and I suppose I tramped with him into the Lobby hundreds of times—the violent and heated discussions and the passion displayed in discussing every line of those Bills constitute one of the most remarkable exhibitions of bitterness one has seen in British politics since I have been in the House and even before, and now we come to a point when a Home Rule Bill is introduced by those who have been opposed to the principle hitherto. That strikes me as a very important fact which cannot be overlooked. We may not agree with all that is proposed. I do not suppose any great measure ever received absolute unanimity so far as the opinion of Members of the House is concerned. There must be differences as to method and as to the actual concrete proposition itself, but on the general question, when it appears that we have got those who were the stumbling block to any form of legislative independence or self-government for Ireland to come into line with us, the Labour party say that is the moment when they ought to either fall to the rear or take a step to the right or left, whichever they choose to describe it. It is most regrettable if a single Labour man goes into the Lobby to-day, and I say that most emphatically, knowing the possible consequences of the attitude I take in my own constituency—it would be most regrettable if, on principle, any Labour man walks into the Lobby against a measure that is to give additional help to the Irish people to manage their own affairs We must confess that this is one of the most dangerous subjects this House can deal with. It is now not only a purely British question. It has become a world question. That is the unfortunate part of it.
Not from the purely Irish point of view. Probably from the English point of view it may be fortunate that the world now knows and begins to take notice of both sides of the question, and it is compelled to do so, and there is being gradually dissipated that idea that the British House of Commons presents a solid and hopelessly indifferent attitude to every aspiration that Irishmen put forward in a united 1421 way. The unfortunate part of the business is that we have not to deal with a united Ireland. We cannot deal with a united Ireland, it does not exist, and we English Members therefore have to grope about between one idea and another as best we can, knowing that nothing we propose will be satisfactory if one end of Ireland is coerced into it by the other. Therefore we are limited to a certain extent in the way in which we can deal with this problem. It has become a world question, and it is necessary that we should do something at once to show that we are prepared to give the Irish people an opportunity of governing themselves. I do not recede an inch from the position I have taken up ever since I have been in the House. Legislative independence for Ireland within some limit is absolutely necessary. I also see that there are insurmountable difficulties in making one general Legislative Council for the whole country because of the fears that one section of Ireland have that they may be trampled upon by the other section of the Irish people. But here is an opportunity at last to avoid this difficulty. I do not look at the details of the Bill. Not nearly so important to me are they as the general structure of the measure. What is the general structure of the measure that seems to me so different from and more important than any other that has ever been proposed?
I admit I have not been in the country sufficiently long to make myself acquainted with the internal political discussions which have taken place amongst the different classes during the last three or four years; but I think I may fairly describe in my mind why I support this measure, and think, from the point of view of the general structure, it is the best measure that has been proposed for solving this difficulty, and I say that most deliberately. In the case of the Home Rule Act, which was passed on to the Statute Book by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith), it was assumed that there was to be only one Parliament for Ireland, and the first possibility of organised violence in Ireland came out of that proposition. The first definite, dogged suggestion of refusing to obey the law came out of that one proposal. There is not the slightest doubt that we should have been obliged to use the British Army, if not in actual conflict with the North, at least as a coer- 1422 cive measure behind to enforce that law, had it not been that the War intervened. I ask the Leader of the Labour party, is it possible to suggest one Parliament for Ireland to-day with the prospect of having to coerce one half under the other half? It is not possible to do anything of the kind. Therefore it seems to me you are obliged to proceed in any measure with a due recognition of the different mental and political outlooks in the North and the South, and tentatively, at the beginning of the operation and administration of your measure, make provision for the difference of opinion and mental outlook, which you do in this Bill by constituting two Parliaments, one for Ulster and one for the rest of Ireland.
If I understand the Bill aright and its general structure, we take the question of the unity of Ireland completely away from this Imperial Parliament. Those two Irish Parliaments are there, North and South. The moment Irish opinion says "We are one," those two Parliaments will not exist. I understand that the Bill automatically, from that moment, ceases and Ireland practically becomes one within the scope and authority that the Bill lays down. I do not think I am misreading the general structure of the Bill. I quite agree with the quotation the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adamson) made from a speech delivered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Craig). That is true. He says he does not believe in the lifetime of any man Ireland will ever work under one Parliament. But that is not our fault. If we give Ireland the power to work under one Parliament, surely that is as much as we can do towards a solution of this difficulty, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman is correct and the antipathies of the North and the South of Ireland are so deep-rooted and intense and permanent that it is utterly impossible for these two peoples to work together, does the right hon Gentleman propose to coerce them into one Parliament? His proposal is to withdraw the Army. What a contribution to the solution of the present situation! So far as I understand it, it is the only instrument of government that exists in the country at the moment. Whether it is good, bad or indifferent or whether it is the right sort of instrument or anything of the kind I am not for the moment concerned with. In the present situation of Ireland, with terrorism rampant, murder and 1423 reprisal, reprisal and murder, backward and forward, that the Army should be removed! Why? That a peaceful condition should be secured and a Constituent Assembly called to decide the future government of Ireland.
I agree with the Constituent Assembly as a rule for deciding the future of any nation or people where the nation is a united people, but you do not get away from your difficulty if a constituent assembly representing an overwhelming majority of Catholics or of one political persuasion decides to present a code of laws or regulations for the future government of the country to give them a complete ascendency. Do you suppose you get away from the difficulty of being obliged to compel the minority to observe the majority's wishes merely by calling a convention? The mere name of constituent assembly does not sweep away all these deep-rooted differences that one sees so glaringly illustrated in the different Irish Benches in this House. You would still have the same difficulty to contend with. Supposing a Convention decided on a scheme by which they could decide the form of religious education for the whole of Ireland, and that is one of the things it ought to be able to decide. It is a moral certainty that if it decided to do it, it would raise the most violent opposition on the part of the Protestant North. You would have exactly the same difficulties to contend with after your Constituent Assembly had met and discussed the subject as you have at present. You get away from no difficulty whatever. But the removal of the Army, it strikes me very forcibly, would lead to such anarchy that you could never call a properly elected constituent assembly to deal with the problem at all, and therefore I suggest to Labour Members, sticking staunch to the principle of Home Rule, that a greater measure of self-government for Ireland should be conferred upon the Irish people and that it is sheer madness to vote against this Bill which first of all establishes the right to government without coercion either by the North or by the South. Then in the fulness of time, when acrimonious Debates, the murders and conspiracies have been forgotten, say in 20, 30 or 40 years' time, when a new generation has grown up that has forgotten this internecine war that is being carried on between the peoples 1424 now, there in these two Councils they have the germ and power to call one Council together which shall give unity of purpose to the entire country. That is why I cannot understand the position of the Labour Members and why I am going to support the Government Bill.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I stated at length, and in considerable detail, when the Second Reading of this Bill was under discussion the reasons why it appeared to me to offer a wholly inadequate and, indeed, an illusory solution of the problem with which it professes to grapple. Since then, the Bill has been through the stages of Committee and Report, and we now have it as far as this House is concerned in its final shape. In my judgment, so far as I am able to form one, it has not been improved in the process of further consideration. What does it amount to in the form to which we are now asked to give our final assent? It amounts to the grant to one part of Ireland, the North East corner of Ireland—what is sometimes very inaccurately described as Ulster—a Parliament which confessedly the majority of that area do not want. They would much prefer, ns all their accredited spokesmen have told us in the course of these Debates, to remain as they are. It offers them something which they do not want, but which they are content to accept, not with enthusiasm, not even with conviction, but because in their opinion it interposes an effectual, and, so far as they can foresee, a permanent barrier to the attainment of Irish national union. On the other hand, it offers to what is called the South of Ireland—again the term is a misnomer, for what is called the South of Ireland really means, in point of area and of population by far the greater part of Ireland—a Parliament not only which they do not want, but which, judging by-all the evidence that reaches us—and which there has been no attempt to controvert—they will not work. All the probabilities point to the so-called Southern Parliament of Ireland being from the first still-born and a dead letter. What if it does not function? If it will not take an active part in the government of that large part of the island? That probability has appeared to the framers of the Bill as so imminent that at the last stage, on the Report, they introduced a Clause expressly to provide for the con- 1425 tingency and in the not improbable event of the South of Ireland repudiating this so-called boon, and it is to be refused representative institutions either here or in Ireland and committed both for legislation and administration to a non-electod and irresponsible body of Crown nominees.
This is the Bill which my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) has just described as the most generous form of Home Rule which has yet been offered to Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] This is a Bill which, apparently, in tho opinion of a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is a generous form of Home Rule; a Bill which gives to part of Ireland a power of self-government for which they do not ask, and gives to the rest of Ireland a power which they will not use, and will not use for very good reasons, and for which, if they do not use it, you propose to substitute Crown Colony government. I maintain to the full every objection I felt and expressed on the Second Reading. I never was more certain of anything in the whole domain of politics than that, if this Bill passes into law, and takes its place upon the [...]atute Book, it will provide not even an istalment of hope or promise, let alone o[...] practical result, in the solution of this secular problem.
Since the Second Reading, social conditions in Ireland, and particularly the condition of the country in regard to the maintenance of law and order, have steadily deteriorated We are face to face with a situation which is without a parallel in our own country. I am not going to enlarge upon that aspect of the matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I do not understand that interruption. I am not going to enlarge upon that aspect of the matter because I think it not only irrelevant but, in the circumstances in which we are placed and in the atmosphere in which we are now, is one which we had better for the moment, if we can, leave out of consideration. I am quite prepared, as everybody knows, at the proper time to go into the matter, and I have very strong feelings about it. But I have risen to make an appeal, not only to the Government, but to Irishmen. We are met here on the anniversary of the Armistice, which was concluded two years ago, after four years of unexampled struggle and sacrifice, to put an end to the domination of military force in 1426 Europe, and to lay the foundations, as we hoped and believed, and as I still hope and believe, for a new and better era of freedom, as well as of peace. Some of us have taken part to-day in those moving ceremonies, more moving because they were so simple and unstudied, in which we celebrated the second anniversary of that great event. Could we here, in the House of Commons, make a better or more worthy use of the association and of the emotion which such an anniversary properly, and, indeed, necessarily, arouses, than by trying, if we can, by a concerted effort, to find a basis for a real settlement here at home of the greatest and by far the most urgent of our domestic problems? I have been engaged, as some of my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench have been engaged, with whom I have been associated in days gone by, in the controversies which for over thirty years have raged round this Irish question. In some respects, at any rate to the superficial observer, there has never been a blacker or more unpromising moment than the present. I do not take that view.
§ 5.0. P.M.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I have believed, and I still believe, that it is possible to impress upon the Irish people a sense of our sincerity, and the joint voice of this House would be the most authentic and authoritative exponent of such a feeling. The men who are engaged in murder and outrage, whether on one side or the other, are a relatively insignificant minority of the population, although they happen for a moment to be on the forefront of the stage and to occupy and absorb so much attention. We must strive to impress upon the minds of the Irish people as a whole, who are not to be identified or associated in any real sense with the organs and ministers of this terrible campaign of murder and outrage, that they can trust us; that there is a real, genuine feeling which pervades the body politic in this country, without distinction of party or section, that there is much that we acknowledge and repent of in the past; that we have many arrears to make good in our Imperial duty to this great people, not great in point of population, not great in point of wealth, but great in history, great in the splendid service which as a whole, and by many men of genius and courage, it has ren- 1427 dered; great in the long succession of illustrious individuals who have contributed in the building of our Empire. We must strive to impress upon the Irish people that we are ready and willing to meet them in a frank and in a generous spirit, not to secure the triumph either of the minority or of the majority in that country, but consistently with the provision of every safeguard, both for our own strategic and Imperial interests, and for the protection, be it in the North or in the South, I care not which, of minorities that might suffer but for these safeguards, that we are ready and willing in a frank, generous and ungrudging spirit to give to them the great boon of absolute self-government in regard to their own internal affairs. I believe that we might then impress upon the minds of the Irish people—and it can only be done in this House, so far as this House remains, as I hope it will remain, the authoritative and representative exponent of British, and, indeed, Imperial tradition—that if they will come together on that basis to deal with us, we on that same basis are perfectly prepared to come together and deal with them. I am not speaking vague words; I am speaking with a strong sense of responsibility, and not only of responsibility, but, I have no hesitation in saying, of hope; but it must be a joint effort.
It must be ungrudging in spirit. It must be generous in its conception of the possibilities and potentialities of the future. To what better purpose can we apply the associations of this hour and this day than to bring ourselves into the mood to induce the Irish people, the great bulk of the Irish people, to turn their back upon, repudiating, as I am sure in their hearts and consciences they do, these foul and barbarous methods, by which, in their wilder moments and through their wildest spirits, they are giving expression to feelings, in some ways not unnatural in their origin, but feelings which, in their saner and soberer moments, they know to be unworthy of Irishmen and of Christians. If we can only do that, I have believed and still believe that we can within a measurable distance of time banish these old controversies, with their traditional watchwords of division and animosity, bring the two peoples together in a spirit, not only of fraternity, but 1428 of far-seeing statesmanship, and secure at last the fruition of the long delayed and often frustrated hopes of the best friends of both Ireland and England in a union of peace.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My right hon. Friend has made a very eloquent and exalted appeal for a better temper in the settlement of this long and unhappy controversy between Great Britain and Ireland. So far as this Government are concerned, we are only too anxious to respond to that appeal in the spirit in which it was made and in the spirit in which it was received by the House of Commons. There is nothing with which Great Britain would be better pleased than a frank reconciliation with Ireland. The British people are not a vindictive people. To them it would be a source of joy and pleasure to extend the right hand of fellowship to Ireland and let the past be forgiven and forgotten, so that the two nations should proceed together side by side to solve the great problems of the Empire and of humanity.
Unfortunately, the difficulties, as always, are first of all difficulties of temper and then practical difficulties. Take temper first. It is one of the misfortunes of the history of the relations between Britain and Ireland that they are never quite in the same temper at the same moment. When Ireland desired conciliation, England in the past has been hostile. When Britain has been anxious for conciliation, Ireland has been angry. It is one of the curses of the relations of the two countries, which have pursued them, that they have always been at cross purposes. They do not understand each other. Perhaps their racial obscurities, I will not say racial antipathies, but racial divergencies, have made it difficult for them to understand each other, and, of course, there are religious difficulties as well. These have tended to create and promote misunderstandings and suspicions. There is nothing that baffles one more in dealing with Ireland than the atmosphere of suspicion in which the whole problem is considered and discussed. My right hon. Friend knows that from his long experience, longer than mine, in dealing with the problem. When proposals are put forward in all sincerity they are always viewed with great suspicion. There is 1429 suspicion in Ireland, towards Ireland and from Ireland. The trouble has been not so much in discussing particular details, but in scattering the cloud of suspicion that obscures the intentions and the goodwill of one nation towards the other.
If my right hon. Friend will allow me to say so, and I shall certainly avoid controversy as much as possible because I do not think that it is desirable at this stage—I am not sure that it is desirable at any stage—of this Bill, the Bill may have defects, but I am absolutely certain that it has merits that have never been acknowledged and have never even been considered. I ventured the other day to put to an audience of my own fellow-countrymen, who are as proud of their nationality as Irishmen are, and I would like to put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party, who I am sorry is not here, how Scotland would regard a measure—there is a very strong Scottish Home Ruler, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Murray MacDonald) present—which would confer on Scotland full powers for dealing with its own education, its agriculture, its land question, its labour problems, its Poor Law, its local government, questions of health, railways, liquor, law and order, old age pensions, unemployment, health insurance. Would anyone say that a measure conferring, say, either upon Wales or Scotland all those powers would be regarded by either of these two countries, which are full of pride in their nationality, as a niggardly, mean, paltry measure that conferred no powers upon the peoples of these countries?
I only want to put this in order to show how, whenever you come to Ireland, this atmosphere of morbid suspicion somehow obscures a fair consideration of every proposal whenever it is put forward. That is why it is so important to remove those suspicions before you can consider any proposals which are put forward. Until that is done, I am firmly convinced you will get no measure that would be accepted by the Irish people. I will just point out the difficulty in which my two right hon. Friends have been placed by the demand that they should satisfy the Irish people in their present temper. My right hon. Friend has put forward proposals of a very extreme character. He himself would be the first to recognise that. They are of 1430 a character which the people of this country would not look at, and I should be very surprised if even the bulk of his own supporters would support him I am not putting this forward in any spirit of controversy, but in order to point out the difficulties which every friend of self-government in Ireland is in at the present moment in trying to set up some scheme which would be accepted by the Irish people in their present temper. He has been driven to propose something which gives Ireland the power to set up an Army and a Navy, and even proposes foreign relations. Without foreign relations there is no self-determination.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I quite agree. Australia not only has the power to have an army, but has an army. Canada has not only the power to have an army, but has an army, and Australia has a navy as well. That is what I want to point out, that if you try to satisfy Ireland in her present rather aggressive, and if I may say so, unreasoning frame of mind, you are driven to proposals that Irishmen in their better temper would never dream of putting forward. I am not going into controversial questions in pointing this out. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour party has also been driven by that very desire to put forward proposals which are quite unacceptable I am certain to the vast majority of the workers of this country. May I point out where he has got to to-day. He has talked about giving them the right to self-determination. He gave the illustration of Czecho-Slovakia. What does that mean? Czecho-Slovakia is an independent sovereign State; it is a Republic. It is just as independent of Great Britain as France or Belgium or Italy. If you give the right to Ireland to determine what form of government she likes, the majority of those who speak for Ireland make it clear that that is what they would claim. My right hon. Friend gives the precedent of Czecho-Slovakia. Is it conceivable? Let us see what the policy means. He sets before us the spectacle of the debris of the Austrian Empire after a shattering war as something that Great Britain ought to apply in principle when it comes to deal with Home Rule for Ire- 1431 land. That is inconceivable. You have a beaten and broken Empire like Austria. I cannot conceive of any policy that would be more disastrous to Ireland than that policy.
The whole interest of Ireland is in the closest association with the United Kingdom. Just see what it means. If you now give Ireland that choice, if at this moment you withdraw all your troops, summon your assemblies, and leave it to the majority of Sinn Feiners, pledged to a Republic, to declare what they want, they will say, "We want an independent Irish Republic." They have said so. I put this question to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Adamson). If in this assembly they said that that was what they wanted, would he give it to them? That is rather important. It is important from the point of view of Great Britain, but I am now discussing it from the point of view of Ireland. What would happen would be that Ireland in a moment of temper—undoubtedly there is temper—would give an answer which would be disastrous to her own future, and which does not represent in the least her own real mind. Do not, therefore, let us talk about self-determination. You cannot, at the present moment, propose anything to Ireland which anyone now is in a position to accept, which would not be disastrous to Ireland itself, and which the whole of the British Empire would not resist to the utmost of its strength. Therefore there are only two things you can do. You can propose what this Parliament, representing not merely Great Britain, but representing Ireland itself, thinks it is fair and reasonable should be given to Ireland. I have given a list of things which we propose. Does anyone deny that that is conferring upon Ireland a measure of self-government of the most generous character?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My hon. Friend is bound to deny it. But look at the list. It is a list dealing with practically every question that affects the life of the people. Their pursuits, the education of their children, the building of their houses, the health of their homes, the railways that carry their business, their social habits—all those questions are left to the Irish Parliament to decide.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The money powers conferred by this Bill are more extensive than the powers conferred by the Bill of 1914, which my hon. Friend supported—much more. There is more fiscal autonomy in this Bill than in the Bill of 1914. There were practically no powers of taxation in the 1914 Bill; the taxation was to be levied by the Imperial Parliament and collected by Imperial officers, and was to be handed over to the Irish Parliament. In the present Bill very considerable powers of taxation are given. In addition there is this fact. In the Bill of 1914 the Irish Parliament had only £500,000 margin with which to deal. That margin came down to £200,000, and ultimately was to vanish, I forget in how many years. By this Bill there is a margin of £9,000,000 provided for the Irish Parliament. How can my hon. Friend, under these circumstances, say that this is not a Bill giving the most generous measure of self-government yet proposed for Ireland? It has been impossible for us to get these facts to the Irish mind. I do not believe that any Irishman really knows these things at the present moment. He is in a temper. I am not going to say who is responsible. My hon. Friend will say we are responsible. Well, let us accept his view. The thing that matters is that Irishmen at present are in a temper, and they will not look at these things. They do not know them; they do not care about them. They say, "We will have nothing but a republic."
What is wanted is an atmosphere in Ireland where you can get calm consideration of what has been proposed, of what the Imperial Parliament suggests, and of any further suggestions which Ireland has to make. We have never ruled that out. On the contrary, both here and outside, at the request of the Government and on behalf of the Government, I invited spokesmen who claimed that they had authority to speak on behalf of the Irish people, to come forward and discuss our proposal, and to put forward any alternative proposals of their own, subject to certain well-defined conditions. There are certain conditions that, as far as the British public are concerned, are condi- 1433 tions which are quite immovable. It is better that Ireland should understand them. There are certain things we could not give them. We cannot agree to anything which tears up the United Kingdom. I have heard pretty well all the discussions on Home Rule in this House. I did not hear the first Debate, but I remember reading it very closely. I remember how Mr. Gladstone, when he introduced his Bill and advocated it, constantly dwelt upon the fact that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament and the integrity of the United Kingdom must be unimpaired. Those who criticised his measures always said that under the provisions of his various Bills there were not adequate guarantees for the preservation of the United Kingdom. Every Home Ruler, English, Scotch, Welsh and, I believe, Irish, accepted the integrity of the United Kingdom as a fundamental basis for Home Rule. That is the position which we take to-day. Therefore we regard this as an insuperable and immovable condition.
The independence of Ireland as a Sovereign State we would not recognise, not merely because it would be injurious to the United Kingdom, but because it would be injurious to Ireland. It would be a source of weakness, it might be fatal to the security of Britain; it would be a constant source of temptation to Ireland, and it would be a constant source of temptation to others who wanted to injure the United Kingdom, try intrigue in Ireland. Neither for the sake of Britain nor for the sake of Ireland can we contemplate anything which would set up in Ireland an independent Sovereign State. It is no use quoting Czecho-Slovakia. Czecho-Slovakia is an independent sovereign State. If my right hon. Friend proposes that I venture to say to him he will not get the working people of this country behind him. What is the second condition? We could not consent to anything which would weaken the strategic security of the United Kingdom by depriving us of complete control over the harbours of Ireland for strategic purposes. I am glad that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) accepts that position.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, but let me point out to my right hon. Friend that 1434 when he talked about Dominion Home Rule he did not quite mean it.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I would give to Ireland the same power, neither greater nor less than that given to the self-governing Dominions.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It shows the danger of using these phrases. Australia has complete strategic control over her own harbours, and so has Canada. Can anyone contend that Canada and Australia and South Africa have not the most complete strategic control over their own harbours?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I agree, and that is the difficulty. If my right hon. Friend will take the trouble to read the documents which the persistence of an hon. Member has induced the Government to publish, I am not so sure that he will be quite so pleased when he sees them. He will also see what a menace the creeks of Ireland could be to the security of the Empire, how they plotted to use them, how they did use them, and how they would have used them much more fatally to the detriment of this country if we had not had a complete grip on them. That grip we mean to retain. It is vital to Britain. It would be a fatal temptation to Ireland. It is not well that a small nation like Ireland should be tempted, lured by the enemies of Britain into a course that would be disastrous to herself. Therefore upon that, so far as the present Government is concerned, we can have no parley. We cannot consent to anything which will enable Ireland to organise an army and a navy of her own. It is well that this should be stated again. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) said one day that I used a very ridiculous figure when I said that Ireland could have had an army of 500,000 men. As a matter of fact, during the War we raised in Ireland something like 100,000 men.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We raised out of a population practically of forty-two 1435 millions between six and seven millions of men for the War in Great Britain. That is one-sixth or one-seventh, and if we raised a similar force in Ireland we would raise about from six or seven hundred thousand men. Scotland, as a matter of fact, sent six or seven hundred thousand men, and in my country (Wales) with a population of two millions we raised between two and three hundred thousand men. So that five hundred thousand men for Ireland is not a figure which is unreasonable, having regard to what France and Great Britain raised in the War. If powers were given to Ireland to raise a conscript army it would be a menace to Britain, and I warn Labour Members who have been taking a leading part in opposing conscription, that if you were to have an army of that kind in Ireland, which under full powers of Dominion Home Rule would be given to it, conscription in this country would be inevitable. As for the Navy, there are smaller countries than Ireland that have got navies and you do not want an expensive navy to be formidable to this country. Submarine bases, submarines and small craft would be dangerous. It is tempting Ireland. She does not need it in the least for her national life. She could only use it for her destruction, for the peril of Britain, and neither for the sake of Britain nor of Ireland does this Government contemplate any proposal of thatkind. The other proposal is one which I think I learned at the feet of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith), and that is that under no conditions was Ulster to be coerced into the acceptance of any Parliament into which she did not choose to come. My right hon. Friend was also in the same Cabinet as myself when my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley made that declaration. So we are all at one on this. That I stand by, and so does my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Were any of the right hon. Gentlemen on this Bench, or the right hon. Gentleman when he was next in importance to the late Prime Minister, ever committed to a Parliament for Ulster?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is a different proposition. The proposition which I am maintaining now is that we are in honour bound by the statements which we made not to consent to any scheme of self-government for Ireland 1436 which will involve the coercion of Ulster into acceptance. That is the proposal. Whether you deal with that by leaving Ulster as it was or by setting up a separate Parliament, is a matter of expediency as to the best way of dealing with it. In my judgment we have taken the way that is likeliest to lead to the unity of Ireland. I will give my reason. Those are the main propositions which we stand by, but beyond them you have the whole domain of self-government for Ireland. I am not going to discuss the question of fiscal autonomy because I do not think that, if there is going to be a discussion, it will be advanced by a discussion at this stage. That is my view. Fiscal autonomy in principle we have conceded to a much larger extent than in the Bill of 1914. We have provisions in this Bill that will enable the Council of Ireland when there is Irish Union, real union, even to have powers to take into consideration the transferring of Customs and Excise to the Irish Parliament. I will speak quite frankly to the House on this subject because it is better it should be done. On merits I certainly would prefer that the Customs, if not the Excise, the Customs certainly, should be an Imperial tribute. Every country that has started by giving Customs to its constituent parts has always ended by surrendering to the centre. In the Dominions that has happened. In Australia, South Africa, I believe in Canada, wherever there has been unity they always began by surrendering the powers of Customs to the centre, and there are obvious reasons why that should be the case. I do not think the United States of America ever gave Customs to the States. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I am told the same thing happened in the United States and that at first the various States got the Customs and afterwards surrendered them.
The same process has been followed with regard to Income Tax. The United States of America was crippled by the fact that the Income Tax was a State collection, and one of the greatest struggles they had was to secure the Income Tax as a central tribute. It was ineffective as a State tax. You did not get as much out of it in the aggregate because of the splitting up of the machine. Ireland would lose, in my judgment, by making it a national tax instead of a United Kingdom tax. Germany suffered in exactly the same way. They found that 1437 their central authorities were largely crippled owing to the fact that the Income Tax was sometimes a municipal tax and sometimes a State tax. For that reason, on the merits, I should regret very much if we did not take counsel from the experience and practice of nearly every State in the world who keep this tax as an Imperial tax. All I say at the present moment is that when you come to discuss it there is a great difference between discussing it with people who frankly say, "We will give up our ideas of independence, we are not asking for a Republic, we do not want to be sovereign State, we will enter into the partnership of the United Kingdom, and we will work with you heartily." That is one thing, but to tender it, when in itself it is not a very good thing, to people who say, "We will use it to set up an independent and hostile Republic," would be folly. May I point out the danger of the proposal which has been very often put before us, "Why do you not put it in? We can assure you chat Ireland will accept it." In the first place, the people who tell me that always admit that they have no right to speak for Ireland. I have never met a man who himself said he had the right to speak for Ireland who told me Ireland would accept it. If you did put it in the Bill, if the whole machinery of the Customs was handed over to a people who, in so far as their public professions are concerned, remain rootedly hostile to the United Kingdom, rootedly determined to set up an independent Republic, and to use all this machinery, not honestly to work the Act, but for hostile purposes, it would not be so easy to take it back afterwards. I will not say it would be impossible, but it would increase your difficulties. Therefore I say your autonomy is something which we have never ruled out of discussion, but it can only be discussed with people who accept the conditions that I have laid down on behalf of the Government as to the relations between Ireland and Great Britain.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that although there are very unhopeful features in the story of Ireland to-day, the situation is not one that bids us despair. The relations between Britain and Ireland have passed through phases just as desperate, just as dark, just as fierce, just as sad. It is one of the curses 1438 which have pursued the partnership between Ireland and Britain that, at the moment of greatest hope, something has always intervened to shatter that hope. It is no use referring to one thing. You have only to look at the whole story of Ireland, and you will find it is full of them. I am trying to get away now from any controversies. I am trying to review fairly a serial of misunderstanding which I hope is coming to an end. It may be that it was an Irish soldier we honoured to-day. Ireland has had a great and a brilliant share in this Empire. Some of its greatest soldiers, some of the most gallant warriors that have helped to fight for this Empire, some of its greatest Statesmen—we have the shining wisdom of Burke as well as the stern leadership of Wellington — contributed to build the Empire. All we ask is that the people of Ireland should not, in a moment of anger—let them, if they will, say legitimate anger—cast away an inheritance just as much theirs as ours, but that they should join in the Empire they have helped to build and to adorn.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I entirely appreciate the tone in which this Debate has been carried on up to the present, and I cannot but think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), in the touching speech which he made to the House, brought us all back to a sense of the realities of the clay which we are celebrating, and of the touching function which took place this morning. As far as I am concerned, I shall try to follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman [An HON. MEMBER: "I hope you will!"]—you are not doing it now—and also of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, whom I thank from the bottom of my heart for his closing words as regards the part that my country has played in the War, and the part she has played in the building up of the Empire, and if I and those who are with me and support me from Ireland have put up for many years a persistent and consistent fight to maintain our position in the United Kingdom and in the British Empire, have we not some justification for that course in the compliment that has been paid to what we have done to help the Empire in the past? My right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Asquith) said we are not enthusiastic about this Bill. How could we, with the feelings we have, be enthusiastic about any Bill which 1439 interfered with our position as citizens of the United Kingdom? The right hon. Gentleman speaks as if this was the Bill that we disliked most, and when he twits us with not liking this Bill, is he at the same time prepared to offer us anything better? It is no use saying to us "You are not enthusiastic about this Bill," when he knows perfectly well that what he foreshadows would be utterly detestable to us, but after all, is it not natural that we should not have this enthusiasm? I at all events represent a constituency which is a child and product of the Union, which has grown up under the Union, flourished under the Union, which has progressed as well as any city in the whole of the. United Kingdom, which has, during the recent War, in its contribution to war work, been surpassed by no city in the United Kingdom.
§ Sir E. CARSON
This is not a party matter. In the building of your ships, in the making of your aeroplane cloth, in the manufacture of aeroplanes, and of everything that was necessary for war, our men there, not for the mere advantage of wages, but from the patriotism which they have always professed and always practised, lent themselves to the carrying out of the necessary work of the War in a manner which I think was an example to any part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, when we are asked to give up our position in the United Kingdom, do pray look at what we have achieved through our position in the United Kingdom.
But there is another question, which I hope you will allow me to refer to for a moment. Do you think that we feel nothing in the abandonment of our fellow Protestant countrymen in the South and West? That is the most tragic part of the whole of this Home Rule policy. That is the part most discreditable to this country, that the men in the South and West, who have ever been loyal to you, and who could always be relied upon by you, are the men you are preparing to abandon to the tender mercies of the Parliament which you are setting up over them in Ireland. Therefore, when we are chided with not being enthusiastic about the Bill, let me say that I see no reasons for 1440 being enthusiastic towards any change that would bring about a diminution of our position as citizens of the United Kingdom. But that is not the whole question, even as regards our position.
We have to take facts as we find them, and we know perfectly well that the Act of 1914 is upon the Statute Book, and we know perfectly well that if there were a change of Government to-morrow, we would not gain our old position if my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Asquith) came into power or if the Labour party came into power. We know perfectly well the hostility of the Labour party to the Labour party in Ulster—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and "Withdraw!" and "Yes!"]—which they never cease to demonstrate, for reasons that I do not understand, and therefore, as practical men, we have to face the situation as it actually appears. Under these circumstances, as I announced on the Second Reading of this Bill, we could take no responsibility for a policy in which we did not believe, for a policy which we believe put us in an inferior position to what we have at present. And upon that account all we could undertake to say was this, that you must take the responsibility of this policy. But if the Government, a Government composed of all parties, tells us that it is essential, in the interests of the United Kingdom and of the Empire, to bring forward and put into force a scheme of this kind, then I promised that I would go and do my best in Ulster to reconcile them to this policy. That promise I have faithfully carried out, and may I say this? A good deal has been said about our preference to remain as we are as part of this country, even if Home Rule were granted to the South and West of Ireland. That was quite true, but I feel bound to state this, that as far as I understand the facts the Ulster people, having accepted the view of the Government that it was essential that they should be put under a Parliament of their own, for which they did not ask, have set themselves to get ready for that Parliament, and they have resolved and determined to work it in the best interests of their own country and of the Empire.
I desire to say frankly to the House that I do see a great change in that direction in Ulster, and they are beginning to realise, now that they 1441 themselves will have charge of their own affairs—us the Prime Minister says of all the affairs that go to the daily happiness and lives of our people—they do see, and are beginning more and more, from day to day to see, that if that Parliament is worked successfully and with goodwill, it may turn out more beneficial in their ordinary daily lives and in the local affairs of the country, and may, under the scheme of the Bill, be able at the same time to protect in the closest degree the connection with this Parliament and with the United Kingdom as a whole. Therefore, as far as we are concerned, I am now even better fitted than before to give the pledge that Ulster will do its best to perform the obligations put upon it under this Bill. I think that is of considerable importance. And let me say this. A great many hon. Members talk very loosely of self-determination, but I would ask them to consider this short proposition. Could there be any proposal nearer to self-determination than what is proposed in this Bill? I do not believe that even the House has realised it, let alone the country.
The Bill sets up a Parliament for the North of Ireland and a Parliament for the South of Ireland. It says these two Parliaments can select representatives to meet together on a council, and it says that that council can self-determine whether there shall be a Parliament for the whole of Ireland. Where will you get a better method of self-determination than that? Do you think it would be a better self-determination to say to the Irish people, "You go by a majority, and set up something that the people of the North of Ireland loathe and detest, and then, if they do not accept it, go and shoot them down?" Is that self-determination? No, Sir, this Bill sets up a procedure for a union and unity of the whole of Ireland, but it will be a real unity and not a sham unity. In my belief, no other scheme so statesmanlike, or so near to self-determination, which is so loosely defined, has ever yet been brought before this Parliament.
I am not going to dwell upon the merits or the demerits of the Bill. I have spoken a good deal during the Committee and Report stages, but I would like to enter a protest once more against the tactics of those who are opposing this Bill, for what have they done? They 1442 say, "Your Bill is a bad one, and therefore we decline to come down and discuss it, with a view to making it a good one." If that practice in the future be carried out, whenever an Opposition or a minority dislike a Bill, it will put an end to the whole efficacy of Parliament, and I cannot but think that if hon. and right hon. Members opposite, instead of taking holidays while, this Bill was in Committee, or in the Report stage, had come down, and tried to impress upon it and upon Ireland their views of the proper method of carrying out a settlement, we might be a great deal nearer accord at the present moment than we are. To my mind, it is never the, right thing or the right policy in this House to refuse to discuss a Bill, and then to go to the country and abuse it.
That is nearly all I have to say, except one more observation, which is, perhaps, the most important, of all. I have indulged in this controversy for over 30 years. This is the third Home Rule Bill controversy I have been through. I know I shall never be through another. I hope with all my heart that this Bill will be a success. I hope with all my heart that in the long run it will lead to unity and peace in Ireland, that in the long run it will lead the hon. Gentleman opposite and myself to see Ireland one and undivided, loyal to this country and loyal to the Empire. But, Sir, if that result is even to be anticipated, if you are even to have a commencement on the road to that result, believe me you must give the Bill a fair and loyal trial. If hon. Gentlemen opposite proceed, the moment this Bill is passed, to try and thwart its working, or to encourage others, for political or other purposes in Ireland to try to thwart its working, you may readily succeed in thwarting its working, but you will be doing the greatest disservice to Ireland and to this country that can be conceived.
I hope all setions of this House may throw their whole weight behind the working of this Bill, and I say to those who for so many years have trusted me in the North of Ireland, whose Parliament s going, as I believe, to be set up—I tell them that they will have the greatest opportunity of showing the reality of their professions of loyalty towards your impire by displaying in their acts of government a tolerance, a fairness, and a justice towards all classes and all religions 1443 of the community. They must forget faction and section, and they must resolve to govern the community over which they are placed in such a way as will show that they are the worthy citizens of this Empire that I believe them to be. Yes, and if they do, may not something else follow? We are told that the South and West will not function in the Parliament set up there. Perhaps even there Ulster may show an example. If Ulster does what I ask her to do, and what I hope and believe she will do, in setting up an example and a precedent of good government, fair government, honest government, and a government not for sections or factions, but for all, her example may be followed by the rest of Ireland, and in that way you may bring about a peace which you do not at the moment anticipate.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I will venture to say, at the outset of the observations I am going to make to the House, that I think the right hon. Gentleman somewhat destroyed his case by overstating it. He was so profuse in pouring his blessings on this Bill that one would have imagined the Bill was his own. The right hon. Gentleman is not accustomed to a profusion of rhetorical description in praise of anything in which he does not believe, and, therefore, I confess that I cannot follow him and recognise that, in the acceptance of this Bill, he is making the remarkable sacrifice he says he is. This House of Commons is accustomed to have constantly ringing in its ears the word "Ulster." The right hon. Gentleman and his party do not represent Ulster. The six-county area that is to have a Parliament of its own is not Ulster. Not even four of the six counties are under the political direction of the right hon. Gentleman, and, therefore, I would say to the House of Commons, when it is considering the question of Ulster, to remember that the right hon. Gentleman, who gets everything he wants in this Bill, does not represent even the six counties in Ulster, because on a ballot he will only secure four counties. Because the right hon. Gentleman happens to hold political control over four counties, he is to come here and claim that he speaks for Ulster, and these four counties are to be regarded as Ulster.
I would like to approach the consideration of this matter in a spirit of goodwill. There is no one in this House so anxious 1444 to see some ending to this long and bitter quarrel between two nations. I never could work myself up, even in the midst of the horrors which I think British rule has brought on Ireland, to a hatred of the British people. Ever since I entered public life, it has boon my one earnest hope and desire to see these two great democracies working in a spirit of friendship and comradeship for all the great causes for which men inspired by humanitarian ideas and high purposes should work together. Therefore, if I were convinced that the proposals contained in this Bill would really terminate this unhappy quarrel of centuries, if I could bring my mind to believe that even putting the most tolerant and generous interpretation upon these proposals, they could carry out the purpose which I think all of us have in mind in trying to bring the two peoples together, I would hesitate before I voted against the Bill, but I must frankly confess to the House that I do not think any proposal submitted by any government could be so foreign in its ultimate end to that purpose than this proposal.
I hear about two Irelands. There are two sections of political thought. The right hon. Gentleman represents one of them, and I think we may fairly claim to represent the other. The right hon. Gentleman is very fond of emphasising the fact that nobody can speak for Ireland, but I am still firmly convinced that if a great scheme of Dominion Home Rule wore introduced for Ireland, with what all sane men could regard as adequate safeguards for North East Ulster, we could say that such a scheme would undoubtedly satisfy the overwhelming sentiment of the people of Ireland. Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, if he is not able to confer with delegated Irish opinion, if he is not in a position to-day to discuss proposals with Ireland, with Irish delegates appointed to speak for Ireland, that is not the fault of Ireland. There were delegates from Ireland for forty years in this House. There were 85 Members out of 100 who came here year after year. They were delegated speak for Ireland, and I have seen no passionate or intense anxiety to concede to them what they believed, and what Ireland believed, Ireland ought to have. I confess that was less than Ireland is prepared to accept to-day.
Under what conditions is this proposal made? I confess I cannot understand the 1445 logic of your English statesmanship. I hear not only very prominent public men in this House, but itinerant orators of the party opposite, say what they have to say, and it would appear that the chief recommendation of this Bill is that nobody believes in it, that nobody supports it, nobody has asked for it, and nobody will stand by it except, the Government! I remember hearing a speech in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in which he declared that "what we have to do as the statesmen, as guides of the destinies of the Empire, is to satisfy American opinion."
§ The PRIME MINISTER indicated dissent.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman made that speech, I think it was delivered on the occasion on which he announced his intention to introduce conscription in Ireland. If he will go back he will find I am not misrepresenting him. He said: "This is a Bill to satisfy American sentiment and give evidence to the American people who are not Irish that it is at any rate an attempted solution of the problem." But has it satisfied Labour? There is not a single Labour Member who has supported it. They have not only not supported it, but they have declared that the thing is not worth discussing. It has not satisfied Liberal opinion as expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Paisley. It has satisfied nobody. It has not satisfied Conservative opinion. What have we found in this House during the last three weeks, in this listless House, this House of empty Benches in connection with this, the greatest constitutional change for a century in the history of the relationship of the two nations? What have we seen? We have seen that Members in the House took no interest in the Bill because they thought the whole thing was artificial. The only people who really could carry on violent hostility against the Bill were Conservative Members of Parliament. When the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have declared they were ready to consider Amendments, those Conservative Gentlemen on the other side of the House, old time Unionists who in my recollection were some of the most bitter partisans against us in the old controversies—when these hon. Gentlemen proposed Amendments which would have made the Bill more acceptable not one of their 1446 Amendments were accepted. On the contrary.
When, however, proposals were made in the form of Amendments by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson)—Amendments made for the purpose of weakening the Bill, the Government accepted every one. What was one of the Amendments proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman? He is the leader of the Ulster Labour party. One of the Amendments he proposed was that these Irish Parliaments, North and South, should not have power to levy a tax on capital. Another Amendment put forward and accepted by the spokesman of the Government was to give him power to take away proportional representation at the end of three years in order to rob the minority in the North of Ireland of whatever privileges they might have enjoyed in the operation of proportional representation. So much for what is thought of the Bill by labour, by America, by Independent Liberalism, by the House of Commons itself, and finally by the intelligent Conservative Members who, rising above the gangway—young men who have a larger vision than many of the hon. Gentlemen otherwise accomplished on these Benches—looked into the future and have attempted to improve this Bill in many ways. Yet not one of their suggested improvements has been accepted by the Government.
The real purpose of this Bill has really never been stated except by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson). He declared that he was accepting this Bill because it meant the destruction of the Act of 1914. I do not believe—he has admitted it—that he would ever have listened to this proposal and, of course, the Government dare not introduce it if he had not approved of it—if it had not been for the fact that once this Bill was passed it might never be brought into operation. Here, let me say, that the Bill of 1914 has been assailed from many quarters, but my own belief is that if you had taken the financial Clauses of the Bill and made them satisfactory that it would have been a solution of the Irish problem. That is my own view. At all events, it is now understood, and I believe everyone is of that opinion, that the one real and genuine reason why this proposal has been brought forward was simply to clear 1447 away from the Statute Book the Act of 1914—a betrayal as gross as the Act of Union. That Act was a sacred seal and sanction. It was to consecrate a higher and nobler comradeship of the two democracies. That seal has been broken and the sanctity of the arrangement has been destroyed; we get this Bill in its stead.
What has been the secret, the real cause of this Irish question not being solved during the last 30 years. The real reason was a religious reason. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Duncairn dwelt upon the wrongs of the minority. He made the whole of England ring with stories of the criminality of putting the minority in Ulster under the majority of the rest of Ireland. How has this Government proceeded to deal with this question of minorities? They have placed the Protestant minority in 26 counties in Ireland absolutely at the mercy of the Catholic majority. They take the Catholic minority, which is a homogeneous minority of 340,000 in a population of a little over 1,000,000, and place that minority at the mercy of the Protestant majority, and they plead in the most tender way, almost with tears in their voice, for the acceptance of this Bill, that it may end religious rancour. The Protestant minority scattered broadcast ever the 26 counties are being left without a single representative in the Parliament of the 26 counties, and my friends and myself, 340,000 Catholics in the six-county Parliament, covering a population of 1,200,000, are to be left permanently and enduringly at the mercy of the Protestant Parliament in the North of Ireland. If your object is to extirpate this religious rancour, I say to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who grows so eloquent about matters when he is not defending indefensible outrages in Ireland—I say if you want to go the wrong way about the extirpation of these religious wranglings, jou could not have chosen a more effective method of doing it than by putting forward proposals of this character.
Just let the House realise further what this Bill proposes to do. It sets up a Council in Ireland. I listened with amazement to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, and I have 1448 listened to other Members of the House. I have heard this thing go ringing through this House, and through the United Kingdom. It has been said that Ireland is now being given the first chance it ever had, the first real chance of becoming a united nation. How? It is to become a united nation by the formation of a Council, a superior body, to be composed of twenty members from the Parliament of the twenty-six counties and twenty members from the Parliament of the six counties. That is to say, in this overriding constitutional body the people of the twenty-six counties are to have precisely the same representation as the people in the six counties. One Orangeman in the North of Ireland will be equal to six Nationalists in other parts of the country. It goes further. It states that until the twenty from Ulster agree with the twenty from Munster the Council can never operate. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for them, their rhetoricians are not so skilful as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Duncairn. So one of their wild men comes forward—and, of course, it is the wild men that count—for when the right hon. and learned Gentleman passes the Bill and passes delightfully and joyfully from Belfast and back to England, when this Parliament is set up it is the wild men who will govern—and the hon. and gallant Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig) expresses the true mentality of the gentlemen who will sit in this six-county Parliament. He said—and I never witnessed him in so tragic and histrionic a mood—that never will there be unity in Ireland in the day of the oldest of us. It was a declaration beforehand of what we might expect. The Government gives him the power to say that Ireland will never be united, because the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I am sure, will be one of the chief Members of the Ulster Government, and I know something about the mentality of the gentlemen who sit opposite.
I sat in the Convention with them for over six months. I have great personal respect for them. I like them anywhere but when they have anything to do with the Government of Ulster. I sat with with them in Convention, and a more hopeless, unimaginative, rigid, uncompromising crowd I never did sit with in my life. I remember during our proceedings at the Conference that I witnessed a 1449 thing which I have only seen repeated once in my life. I saw an Archbishop angry. The only other time that I have seen this was the other day in the House of Lords when Irish reprisals were discussed. It was an interesting experience. What did this Archbishop say? He said: "We have been here for nine months. We have been bringing forth all our capacity, our ingenuity, our patriotism, our common-sense, every quality that men should have"—and there were a great; many fine qualities, I can say that as one who played the least part in those deliberations—but if I wanted to prove to the British people the power, capacity, good temper, tolerant spirit, and genius for government which Ireland may manifest I would give them a picture of that Convention.
What, then, did the Archbishop say? "We have been," he said, "sitting here for months in this Convention trying to get the Ulster men to say something, to tel us what will satisfy them, what concessions they are prepared to make. What can we do? All of us are making sacrifices." It would take me too long to state the sacrifices which we Nationalists were prepared to make. The Southern Unionists made many sacrifices, but the Northern Unionists would agree to nothing simply because instead of listening to sane and wise counsels, instead of being moved by the true spirit of justice of the cause you have had this band of reactionaries able to determine your policy, and be the masters of your government in Ireland, and they say, "Saddled as we are in the places of authority, the real masters of the whole of Ireland, we will sit tight and remain where we are, and we will concede nothing." That is precisely their position, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) will not expect me to recognise in him the Grand Conciliator who is making such sacrifices as those which he has unsuccessfully attempted to make out here to-day. This council can never come into operation until these gentlemen desire it. They were not dealing with Sinn Feiners at the Convention, and they would not unite with their own country-men.
I come to a question which is far more important than the powers under this Bill, and one which concerns me most deeply, namely, the treatment of the 1450 Catholic and Nationalist population in those six counties. Is the House aware that during the last 30 years of the Home Rule controversy you could not get a couple of cases where a single Protestant has been persecuted for conscience sake in the South and West of Ireland. However deplorable these outrages in Ireland may be to-day they are not outrages because of religious persecution.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There was an observation made by the hon. Member which gave me some concern. He said that the Council of Ireland could never come into existence unless the Members for Ulster desired it. That statement is not correct, and I think I ought to put it right. Not only will that Council come into existence, but by the terms of the Act there is certain work it has got to do.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
The right hon. Gentleman will not deny that it can carry out no Home Rule functions unless with the support of the Northern party.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My hon. Friond is qviite wrong. Under present conditions, this Bill is not getting fair play. The Council of Ireland has very important functions to discharge under the Bill.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
We will clear that point up later on. I have read the interpretation Clause, but we need not delay the House with that matter. One of the constant statements made in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn is in regard to the services which Belfast rendered to the Empire during the period of the War. He talked about what his constituency did. I am prepared to prove that in my constituency in Belfast, a purely Nationalist constituency, we contributed just as many volunteers to the Army as they did in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, although he and his party had received all the glories and advantages of the Empire, and we had received none of them.
That brings me to a matter to which I am bound to call the attention of this House. You are going to make in Ireland an immense change. In every proposal that has been made before by the Prime Minister or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), even when making concessions to Ulster, there never was any proposal 1451 to set up another Parliament. This would be a permanent barrier against unity in Ireland. The right hon. Gentlemen may not agree with me, but they do not know Ireland as well as I do, and they do not know Ulster as well as I know it, and they do not know the spirit of hon. Members opposite as well as I know it. I say that this proposal will form a permanent barrier against unity. The right hon. Gentleman must have heard the speech of the hon. Member for South Antrim (Captain Craig), who declared that not in his day or generation would there ever be unity in Ireland.
This is a very remarkable change that is about to take place, and I am bound to say that with regard to the Ulster Parliament, at the very time when this Bill was being dissected and analysed by the people of these islands, these gentlemen were prepared to keep the Parliament of the six counties in their own hands, and without waiting for this Bill they proposed to wage a war on inoffensive Catholics, the most wanton and brutal and the most far-reaching in their consequences as any pogrom that was ever organised against a savage community. They burned the houses of every Catholic inhabitant in one town in Ireland. I do not believe there was a single political organisation in that town. I do not believe there was ever a public meeting of Nationalists in that town, and yet the houses of the Catholics there were burned down. When the new special constables were appointed to maintain the peace, 310 joined, and when 10 were arrested and brought to justice for looting those houses, the other 300 special constables resigned.
Take the town of Dromore, where every Catholic was driven out. I met a parish priest from that town, who is as strong a Constitutionalist as I am, and he told me that his functions had now ended, and that there was practically not a single Catholic left in the town. In my own native city 5,000 men who had never done a wrong to a single soul were driven out like hunted sheep, and they were told that if they dared to come back to their employment they would lose their lives. A great many of those people have no politics at all, and many of them who had politics were supporters of mine, and it is 1452 all humbug to say that they were Sinn Feiners.
But even so, I am sure the Prime Minister would say that they are entitled, as long as they obey the law, to their freedom. I do not believe in the principles or the methods of Sinn Feiners, and I am not prepared to join them; but, even if they are Sinn Feiners, that is no reason why they should not be allowed to work and live in their own country. This was done by men who are represented by me, and I have given almost every moment of my life in the interests of these Protestant workers, and until the passion and defiler of political hatred was instilled into their souls, they pleaded with me to do everything I could, as the representative of the people, to secure reforms for them in this Parliament.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Yes, the future Prime Minister of the Ulster Parliament. You would think that they alone had made sacrifices in the War. This Bill means that I am to live under a government in Ulster that will never make the slightest attempt to conciliate labour, because this new government will cut out every democratic desire. When they were asked the question, "Why is labour always against you?" they did not answer, but I will tell the House. During the 20 years I have been here I have never known them vote for a single democratic measure in my life. The very last notable vote they gave was when they marched into the Lobby against granting old-age pensions to the wounded soldiers of your commercial system. I see little sunshine for democracy in this new Parliament, but when I come to this House, short as I shall be in it, I am determined that the House of Commons shall understand what they are doing and under what thraldom they are prepared to put our people. Here is a letter which I have received:I was three years and three months through the Great War. My son Joseph was through the War from the 10th August, 1914, to the time when the Armistice was signed. My second eldest son was 2½ years through the War, joining up at the age of 18 years and 6 days, and they have all suffered and are suffering from wounds or gas; and yet we are refused the right of earning our living in Belfast because we are Catholics. Therefore, as a disabled ex-service man who has been driven from my wife and family to look for a 1453 living amongst strangers, I appeal to you to expose this business. I have been told that I was a Fenian, and deserved to be murdered, although I was fighting in Prance while my assailants were earning big wages in peacetime in Belfast.What is it this man asks me to do? He asks me to write to somebody to get him a house in which he can live with his wife and children. He cannot afford, he says, to keep his family in Ireland and to live over in Durham himself. He cannot even get a house in this land which was to be made fit for heroes to live in. Let me give another case. At a meeting of the Belfast Board of Guardians the other day the Relieving Officer gave a long detailed statement about a woman who had applied for outdoor relief. She had been unable to work for a long time, being in failing health. She was 67 years of age. She had one son 48 years of age in receipt of 10s. weekly from a voluntary fund raised to endeavour to keep people from starving. He had been out of employment since July, having been expelled from the shipyard. The woman had another son aged 23, also out of employment for the same reason, but not yet in receipt of any grant from the voluntary fund. She had a daughter 32 years of age earning 25s. a week, another daughter earning 10s. weekly, and a third daughter an invalid. The family were all residing together and were practically starving. That was the report of the Relieving Officer.
Let me quote another case. A man, Richard Bowman, was charged with assaulting Daniel O'Neill on 23rd September in Belfast, and, at the close of the trial, the judge, who before his appointment was one of the corner-stones of the Unionist party in Ulster—no one will question that—said he had never known a worse case in his life. This judge, who is the Recorder of Belfast, a post to which he was appointed by the present Government on the recommendation of the right hon. Member for Duncairn, declared that no one would have imagined that in that loyal City of Belfast any man's hand would be raised against a man who had proved his loyalty in the War. The prosecutor in this case was in the War for four and a half years, and he fought for the benefit of the accused as well as of his country. He came back hoping to have a happy home, but was foully and brutally beaten. We have witnessed the horrified faces of 1454 hon. Members when reference is made to outrages in the South of Ireland, yet this young man, because he happened to be born into a Catholic family instead of a Protestant family, had been thus brutally treated; and Judge Matheson said he would have thought that at least in Belfast men would have respected loyal men who had fought for their King and country. He could understand their finding fault with disloyal men, but the treatment of this man, because he happened to be a Catholic, was more than any sensible person could understand.
I am sorry to detain the House with these details, but I do it in order to emphasise the importance of this question so far as we are concerned. It may be said that this was only the conduct of a rabble. But after these things had gone on for some time a Minister of the Crown, a member of the Government, a gentleman who, I understand, is to be Prime Minister in the New Ulster Parliament, said, at the close of a long speech to Orangemen who had been organising a demonstration, "Do I approve of the action you have taken in the past?" He answered the question himself by adding "I say, yes." This was said by Sir James Craig, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. We have therefore not only these scandalous demonstrations of wanton and savage bigotry on the part of the rank and file, but we have also the Leader of the party, a member of the Government, at the commencement of the twentieth century going down to Ulster to give his blessing to one of the most outrageous and inhuman demonstrations of ruffianism that the world has ever known. May I further call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this paragraph in the same speech?The life and property of any man who is true to the colours would be safe under the new Ulster Parliament.We may take it, I suppose, that our lives, our property, and all that we stand for will be safe under this Ulster Parliament if we cling to the Orange flag. Under that flag I will not stand. I will follow no such colours. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that I know beforehand what is going to be done with us, and therefore it is well we should make our preparations for that long fight which, I suppose, we will have to wage in order to be allowed 1455 even to live. The right hon. Gentleman has not put a single Clause into his Bill to safeguard the interests of our people. This is not a scattered minority. Will the House believe we are a hundred thousand Catholics in a population of four hundred thousand? It is a story of weeping women, hungry children, hunted men, homeless in England, houseless in Ireland. If this is what we get when they have not their Parliament, what may we expect when they have that weapon, with wealth and power strongly entrenched? What will we get when they are armed with Britain's rifles, when they are clothed with the authority of government, when they have east round them the Imperial garb, what mercy, what pity, much less justice or liberty, will be conceded to us then? That is what I have to say about the Ulster Parliament. I will not go further into the Bill.
I would rejoice to enter into the spirit of the higher ideals which have been expressed in some quarters in this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman tells us how completely satisfied he is the Parliament in Ulster would work. But he has never repudiated these transactions. He has given us no guarantee that things will not be worse for us instead of better. While this saturnalia of persecution goes on, while men and women are denied the right to live and to do the things which constitute the inspiring purpose of genuine liberty, what can we expect? The right hon. Gentleman has plenty of courage. He could have said to the shipyard owners in Belfast, "Let these men go back to their work, or no further contracts will be given to you." He could have brought pressure to bear upon them. The Government have the power to do that. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that he and his colleagues are only inflaming passions when they recite fhe deplorable and indefensible story of policemen and soldiers who have been killed. After all they have been killed in what is a sort of war. These things to which I have been referring are not war. They are acts of gross cruelty, of refined cruelty It is persecution so wicked that one would imagine that any man responsible for it, and defending it, would be unworthy not only of a seat in the Government but of a seat in this House.
1456 Before this Bill passes through its final stages I would advise the right hon. Gentleman to remember there are 350,000 Ulstermen. They may be working men. They have given their lives, their treasure, their skill and their energy to the building up of Belfast just as much as the capitalistic gentlemen who are engineering, organising and inspiring these political manifestations in the form I have described. Therefore when we come to finally deal with this Bill I want to know where we stand in Ulster. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that we have been prepared to meet him in a reasonable way. We will not deny that. In any relationship he has had with us in the past we have shown that we are prepared to do anything that we can to put an end to all this mischief in the country which is causing so much anxiety, anger and irritation, and which has become not only an international matter but a matter of world interest. It is all very well to talk of this as a domestic question. Remember the atrocities committed upon the Armenians by the Turks. Remember the demonstration they called forth. The last time I ever heard Mr. Gladstone was in the City of Liverpool. I had travelled over from Belfast in order to hear him, and in Hengler's Circus I saw that old man, the symbol of England's humanity, standing there in his eighty-fifth year—but a few years before his death—and as a result of that golden eloquence of his, that something more than golden eloquence, that outburst of the human heart in favour of freedom, right, and justice, I saw that mighty audience thrilled with passionate resentment against the atrocities inflicted by the Turks upon the Armenians. Was there ever anything worse than that? Was there ever anything worse than what is occurring over in Ireland to-day? We want our country restored to its normal Christian feeling. We want our country re-established as a nation. Apart from political crime it is the most crimeless country in the world. We want our people saddled with a sense of responsibility such as springs not from a mere simulacrum of freedom, such as is suggested by this Bill, but from real genuine freedom. We want the minority in Ulster so protected and defended as will make such horrors impossible in the future.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. JELLETT
Before this Debate is over an opportunity should be given to one who intends to deal, in a very short speech, with this great question from the point of view of the policy hitherto adopted and pursued by what is now the largest party in this House. Certainly the position in which we find ourselves to-day is anomalous in the extreme. A portion of Ireland, which has hitherto been most strenuous in its opposition to Home Rule, is apparently going to be the first to accept it, and that portion of Ireland which has hitherto been supposed to be most strenuous in its demand for Home Rule will have nothing whatever to do with it. The answer to that rather peculiar position is easy and simple enough to give. Ulster accepts this measure in order to avoid the future danger of being governed by rebels. The South of Ireland rejects the Bill because they are rebels. There is another anomaly in connection with this matter which is not so very easily dealt with. The once great Unionist party, which for the last 30 years has successfully opposed this policy as being ruinous to Ireland and a menace to the security of the United Kingdom and of the Empire, is deserted by its leaders and, after waiting for the fulfilment of all its predictions, has abandoned them. At the moment when this policy is more dangerous and fatal than ever it was in the past, it is proceeding to give up the course it has hitherto pursued and adopting Home Rule for Ireland. Many of those who have advocated Home Rule in the past have talked of Ireland as being an oppressed nation, struggling for freedom, and ground down by a brutal tyranny. I have no hesitation in saying that all that sort of talk is rank hypocrisy. What is the position of Ireland? It is over-represented in the Imperial Parliament with one-and-a-half times the power in this Parliament compared with any other party in the United Kingdom in proportion to the population. Take another test. Look back to the position of Ireland during the War. England, Scotland, and Wales submitted loyally, and without complaint, to many restrictions connected with food and other matters. Nothing of the kind in Ireland. Orders in Council and Regulations were made necessarily restricting different matters of that kind here, and they always wound up in the same language, 1458 "this shall not apply to Ireland." Take conscription. Every part of the United Kingdom was subjected to conscription except Ireland.
Let me take a wider view. I say without fear of contradiction that Ireland has been the spoilt child of Imperial legislation in the past. For the last 40 years Statute after Statute has been passed to ameliorate the condition of Ireland, and, above all, to ameliorate the the conditions of the agricultural class in Ireland, which, as I need hardly remind the House, is by far the largest in the community. The Irish farmer has been given a position which is the envy of all the agriculturists in other parts of the Kingdom. The position of the labourer has been improved beyond recognition, Old-age pensions have been established, and Ireland has had all through the benefit of Imperial credit, with the result that public works have been carried out under the Union which would never have been done under any system of self-government in Ireland.
Losing all that, what are we to get? One thing connected with the Home Rule question is that no one has ever attempted to point out the benefits that are going to accrue to Ireland under it. It is easy enough to point out what she has lost, but what she would gain is a thing we have never been told. I listened with intense interest to the speech of the Prime Minister. It was one of the strongest arguments against Home Rule which I have ever heard. We all know, in spite of observations which I have heard to-night to the effect that this is a golden opportunity for settling the Irish question, that there never was a Home Rule Bill more universally repudiated by every section of opinion in Ireland than this. There is not a single section of opinion in Ireland—North. South, East or West—that has a good word to say for it, and the only reason why Ulster is having anything to do with it is to save herself from worse. We were told by the Prime Minister this evening that use had been made of the ports and creeks in the South and West of Ireland during the War. We are promised further revelations during the next few days. We know what happened in 1916 and in 1918, and we know also that at the present moment those who are the dominant party in Ireland are in secret alliance with and are being financially supported by 1459 Russian Bolsheviks. We also know that there is an international conspiracy, worked from Russia, aided by Germany, for the establishment of an independent Ireland and thus to bring about the destruction of the British Empire.
It is easy enough to talk about Home Rule in Ireland, but I would ask the House to remember that the question is very much larger than that. It involves the whole future of this Kingdom and of this Empire. It is not too much to say that if any Bill had been in operation, either on the lines of the present Measure or the Act of 1914, while the War was in progress, the result might and in all probability would have been something very different. What is the policy of His Majesty's Government? The Government—and in this they deserve and are entitled to expect and obtain the support of all loyal men in this House—are determined to put down crime by every means at their disposal. In that I hope and believe they will have the unanimous support of the House. If they stopped there, nothing more would be said, but in the very same breath they introduce legislation to hand over the whole future of Ireland to the very forces which they are now combating. There are two courses to them to pursue in the presence of the existing revolution. They can surrender to it or they can put it down. His Majesty's Government are taking both courses. The surrender is only postponed. They crush the revolution beneath the surface, and when they have done that they hand over to the revolutionaries the whole future of Ireland. If Home Rule were established in Ireland to-morrow, and if the powers conferred by this Bill were handed over to what is now the dominant and most powerful party in Ireland, the only result would be that they would use those powers for the purpose of attaining their ultimate goal, which is absolute independence and separation. In this matter there is only one issue; there never was any other. The issue is the same as it has been from the very beginning. It is union or total separation, and as the right hon. and learned Member for Duncairn has said, many a time, there is no half-way house between the two. I ask His Majesty's Government and tins House to face the issue, and to face it now. There is only one answer; the Union, firmly, justly, impartially and generously administered is, as has been shown by experience, 1460 the one and only policy to preserve Ireland from anarchy and ruin and the Empire from destruction.
§ Mr. HARBISON
—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"]—I am not going to stand long between those hon. Members who are crying "Divide!" and the Division, but I wish to impress upon this House that in every word I am going to say I am sincere, and that I believe in what I am about to remark. I represent a county which is to be included in this arbitrary partition of my native land. Since we got freedom, under the Franchise Act of 1885, that county has, without a shadow or sign of hesitation during those 36 years, made its legitimate demand constitutionally and by overwhelming majorities for freedom in a Parliament for all Ireland. I have represented the party with which I have acted in that county for the last 35 years. I have given all my life's poor effort to fight legitimately, and according to constitutional means, for the right to the majority of the people to rule in their native land. The provisions of this Bill are an insult, to the Irish nation. The Prime Minister sometime ago declared that there were two nations in Ireland. I answered the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion by saying that that was not a true statement, and I brought to witness here the Act of Parliament passed by this House which declared—it is still on the Statute Book—that Ireland was then, it was in 1783, a nation "now and forever." That-still stands upon the Statute Book of this Realm, and the Bill that is now being proposed is a denial of the declaration made in that Statute. We, in the constituency that I represent, have always acted up to the spirit of that Statute, and we have constitutionally given our judgment in verification of it in General Election after General Election. A neighbouring constituency in the county of Fermanagh, which was represented at one time by the brother of our late leader, Mr. Redmond, has always and consistently declared for a Parliament for all Ireland. The city of Derry has made a like declaration time after time.
If this is an honest Bill, and if we assume for the sake of argument that it is true that there are two nations, the one nation is supposed to be represented by Ulster, and the other by the rest of Ireland I ask the Prime 1461 Minister, Why is not the whole of Ulster included in this Bill? If he is sincere in his declaration that Ulster represents one nation, and the rest of Ireland another, there are three counties cut out of Ulster and cast to the wolves of Southern Ireland. Why is that? Is that an honest thing to do? Is it an honourable thing to do? Is it an honourable thing for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn to cast out his brother Unionists to the wolves, or the rebels, or the "murderers," as they call them, of the South and West of Ireland? Is not it all the purest hypocrisy to say that there are two nations in Ireland. If there are two nations in Ireland, the Government is dissecting the Ulster nation as well as dissecting the whole of Ireland. Take the local representation of these nine counties. At the present moment we, the Nationalists of Ulster, hold five out of the nine County Councils of Ulster. Tyrone is a Nationalist County Council; so is Fermanagh, and so are Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal. Tyrone and Fermanagh have been won against a system of shameless jerrymandering. We won them in spite of that jerrymandering. We have fought for 35 years; and now, by this Bill, we are to be cut off from the rest of Ireland and thrown into eternal slavery by another system of jerrymandering. In this proposed Parliament in Belfast we, who represent nearly half a million of the population, will not have more than eight or nine seats out of 50 or 52.
§ Mr. HARBISON
I know the register of Ulster as well as any living man. I have served for 35 years in connection with that register, and I know how we will stand when the electoral units are divided under this scheme. I want peace, but this is not peace. This is not a Bill for the better government of Ireland. I believe that the people in the county that I represent would be legally justified in using every form of resistance in their power to prevent this Act, if it ever becomes an Act, from coming into operation. It is a sentence of death, in my opinion, upon us as a unit in that Parliament. Our liberties are gone; and if the younger men of Ireland become indignant, and take courses that no sane man could defend, who will be responsible? The responsibility will be upon the men who 1462 have produced this Bill at the dictates of a narrow-minded set of reactionaries in the North-East corner of Ulster. It is a very small corner of Ulster; I have the map of it here. A set of reactionaries in that corner will have us under their heel for all time. I know the feeling of the men whom I represent, and I assure you, on this Armistice night, when all should be peace, that you are going to create, not peace, but eternal dissatisfaction, division, and, I am afraid, destruction. I think it my duty to say that here to night, because I believe that, if this Bill takes its course, things will happen that, as the old President of the late Boer Republic said, will stagger civilisation. I pray to God that such things may not happen. I am not a man for violent measures, but the people whom I represent demand justice, and they are not getting it under this Bill. I do not take the responsibility of the consequences that follow from that; I place it on the shoulders of the men who are rushing this Bill through in spite of the Irish people.
It is the case of the Act of Union over again. You all know that the Act of Union was passed over the heads of the people of Ireland. The Parliament of Ireland, some six or seven years before that Act was passed, had granted the franchise to the Catholics of Ireland. What did the Government of that day do? Without allowing the people to have an election, they passed that Act over their heads, and that Act has been the cause of all our troubles. To-day they are doing likewise. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Duncairn, if he has the courage of his convictions, and if he says he represents the men in the six counties—before this Bill comes into operation, I challenge him to allow each of those six counties and the two cities to give a vote on this Bill. I am prepared to abide by the result of that vote. He will find that he haw not six counties—not four, in my opinion—in support of it. There are only two counties and one city in that neighbourhood who will support it. Even in the City of Belfast there is a strong Unionist element that does not want this Bill. The merchants of Belfaso to-day, to my knowledge, are crying for peace and for a settlement of this question. They know that, if this Bill is proceeded with, it will not be a settlement that will bring them peace, so that 1463 they may go on with their vocations and prosper, as we are all proud to see them prosper. If it goes on, it will economically ruin the City of Belfast, and the rest of Ireland as well. This Bill will bring, not peace, but a sword. I ask the Government, even at the eleventh hour, to settle the matter by putting it to a vote of the people. We are always prepared, and always have been prepared,
§ to abide by the vote of the people as to whether in those six counties they wish to come in under this Bill or to remain out. That is the only offer that I can make, and I believe that it is the only offer that will save us from another black page of Irish history.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 183; Noes, 52.1465
|Division No. 361.]||AYES.||[7.24 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Greer, Harry||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Amery, Lieut-Col. Leopold C. M. S.||Greig, Colonel James William||Purchase, H. G.|
|Armitage, Robert||Guest, Major O. (Leic, Loughboro')||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Hanson, Sir Charles Augustin||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Haslam, Lewis||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Remnant, Sir James|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Renwick, George|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Gulidford)||Roberts. Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hurd, Percy A.||Rogers, Sir Hallewell|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart.(Gr'nw'h)||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Jesson, C.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Johnstone, Joseph||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Seager, Sir William|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Brassey, Major H. L. C.||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Kidd, James||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Simm, M. T.|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Casey, T. W.||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.(Birm.,W.)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Lorden, John William||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Taylor, J.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Vickers, Douglas|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Edge, Captain William||Mason, Robert||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Morrison, Hugh||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Murchison, C. K.||Wise, Frederick|
|Forrest, Walter||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Neal, Arthur||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Parker, James||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Pearce, Sir William||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Younger, Sir George|
|Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward A.||Percy, Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest.|
|Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Devlin, Joseph|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Dockrell, Sir Maurice|
|Donnelly, P.||Irving, Dan||Redmond, Captain William Archer|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Jellett, William Morgan||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Finney, Samuel||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Kenyon, Barnet||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Lawson, John J.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Lunn, William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Gould, James C.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(Midlothian)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Mills, John Edmund||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Wintringham, T.|
|Harbison, Thomas James S.||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Myers, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hayday, Arthur||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Mr. Tyson Wilson and Mr. Neil|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||O'Connor, Thomas P.||Maclean.|
|Hogge, James Myles||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Holmes, J. Stanley||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
Question put, and agreed to.