This Generation

A History of Great Britain and Ireland 1900 – 1926

by Thomas Cox Meech

Published 1928 by Chatto and Windus 

John Redmond Patrick Pearse De Valera captured in 1916 Michael Collins Dan Breen police notice

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1912    1913   1914   1916    1917   1918   1919    1920    1921    1922    1924

The Year 1912 brought with it more topics of fierce Parliamentary controversy.

It was common knowledge that the next legislative effort of the Government would be a Bill re-establishing a separate Parliament for Ireland. The Irish ‘Home Rulers’ had never ceased to agitate for this. For over a quarter of a century Home Rule for Ireland had been a Liberal doctrine. It was at one time the single dividing line between the Liberal Party and ‘Liberal Unionists’. Many of these latter had now returned to their old Party either convinced that Home Rule was inevitable or accepting it as a lesser evil than the abandonment of Free Trade. The rest were now blended into one Party with the Conservatives, with one organisation, under the joint designation of the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’.

Mr. Gladstone, with all his eloquence and genius, twice – in 1886 and 1893 – failed to carry Home Rule Bills. The first one was thrown out by the House of Commons; the second by the House of Lords. Once again Mr. Asquith was venturing where his illustrious chief had met disappointment little removed from despair.

The most perplexing aspect of the problem was the racial, religious and social division between the South of Ireland and that portion of the Northern Province, once the most Celtic part of Ireland, now peopled largely by descendants of Scottish Presbyterians who drifted into Ulster in circumstances which form an old chapter of history.

On the 12th July of each year the story of the defeat of the Irish and Catholic supporters of the dying Stuart dynasty on the banks of the River Boyne by the Protestant Prince of Orange – William III – has been retold by the celebrations in honour of the anniversary of the battle. The enthusiastic processions have become an institution in the streets of Belfast and other towns of the North of Ireland. The custom has extended to the west coast of Scotland and to parts of Lancashire.

The annual demonstration is the more firmly established by reason of the fact that in course of time the Orangemen – as the followers of King William were designated – became not only a political body but also a powerful benevolent Order with the ritual and passwords of a secret Friendly Society.

In the old days a very large proportion of the Protestants of the North, like their Scottish cousins, were Liberals who held strong views on Land Reform and other questions, but they held fast to the Act of Union. Older parliamentarians remembered the days of Mr. Gladstone’s first Home Rule Bill, when the Unionists of Northern Ireland declared their determination to resist by force any attempt to place them under an Irish Parliament.

The old battle-cry, said to have been coined by Lord Randolph Churchill, was revived by the new prospect of Home Rule:

Ulster will fight
And Ulster will be right.’ 

In the first week of 1912 twenty thousand Ulstermen marched past Sir Edward Carson at Armagh, County Tyrone, and declared their determination to defy the authority of an Irish Parliament if and when it should be established.

An announcement was made that those Liberals of Belfast who had remained supporters of the policy of the Liberal Party were organising a demonstration in favour of Home Rule and that Mr. Winston Churchill would address a meeting in the Ulster Hall. This building was associated with the memories of Lord Randolph Churchill’s attack on Mr. Gladstone’s Home Rule proposals, and the news that the son of their former champion would speak there in favour of the hereditary foe aroused bitter resentment among the Orangemen. Their leaders publicly asserted that Mr. Churchill would not be permitted to speak. It was stated that five thousand men would occupy the Ulster Hall for some days before his arrival and that the approach to it would be blocked by seventy-five thousand men. Conservative and Unionist papers like ‘The Times’ and the ‘Morning Post’ deprecated these threats. ‘Punch’, by a cartoon headed ‘A Silly Game’, depicted Sir Edward Carson standing with his back to the door of Ulster Hall trampling upon the placard of Mr. Churchill’s Meeting and shouting ‘Ulster will fight’. Mr. Punch, standing by, is represented as saying ‘What! against Free Speech? Then Ulster will be wrong.’

It was asserted by a correspondent of the ‘Daily News’ that a leaflet had been circulated at an Orange Meeting in Ulster calling on Germany, as the great Protestant Power, to come and save Ulster from being ruled by the Pope.

In spite of friendly advice, the Ulster Unionists continued their preparations for preventing Mr. Churchill from addressing the meeting in the Ulster Hall. A correspondence took place between Lord Londonderry and Mr. Churchill, from which it appeared that the main objection was to the use of the Ulster Hall. Mr. Churchill said he could not ask the Ulster Liberals to abandon their meeting, but ultimately it was agreed that he should speak in another hall, and ‘Punch’ in a further cartoon on the subject, pictured ‘our one and only Winston’ in various attitudes deciding that he would go as Daniel in the lions’ den and adding ‘for all I care, let ‘em choose their own den’.

The Meeting in the substituted hall passed off quietly.[…]

An analysis of the division [on women’s suffrage] showed that many Irish Nationalist Members had voted against the Bill and the rest had abstained. The abstention of those who voted, or the favourable votes of those who abstained, would have won the day for the Suffragists. This fact was the subject of excited comment among the friends as well as the opponents of the Irishmen. Somewhile afterwards Mr. Walter Roach, a fervent supporter of Home Rule and of Woman Suffrage, gave expression to current conversation. Quoting the fate of the Conciliation Bill, he said:

Every Member sitting as a Nationalist Member for an Irish constituency who was against Woman Suffrage voted against the Bill, whilst of those who were supposed to be in favour of the Bill not a single one was found in the Lobby! I say to the Irish Members my faith is quite as strong and undimmed in Irish Home Rule as it is in Woman Suffrage, but they will forgive me for saying that they then played a selfish game. It is just as well to talk quite frankly and not to say one thing in the Lobby or the Smoke Room and to use soft words to the Irish Members in the House. They have played a selfish game. I can assure them – not by way of making any threats – that selfish games react upon the people who play them.

Meanwhile, the way was clear for the discussion of Home Rule. Mr. Asquith introduced his Bill on the 11th April. In the Debate on the First Reading there was a bitterness and a passion hardly ever known at this preliminary stage of a parliamentary measure. Mr. Asquith referred to what he described as the ‘new style’. Mr. Bonar Law had been speaking up and down the country in terms that delighted his more enthusiastic followers but were in striking contrast to the usual tone of Mr. Balfour’s speeches. The Prime Minister quoted one passage from the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that:

The present Government turn the House of Commons into a market place where everything is bought and sold. In order to remain for a few months longer in Office His Majesty’s Government have sold the Constitution.

Following upon this quotation came a smart dialogue across the Table:

The PRIME MINISTER: Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman repeats here, or is prepared to repeat on the floor of the House of Commons-

Mr. BONAR. LAW: Yes.

The PRIME MINISTER: Let us see exactly what it is: It is that I and my colleagues are selling our convictions.

Mr. BONAR LAW: You have not got any.

The PRIME MINISTER: We are getting on with the new style. The right hon. Gentleman said that I and my colleagues are selling their convictions – 

Captain (afterwards Sir James) CRAIG: You have sold them to Mr. John Redmond. 

The PRIME MINISTER: That we are producing a Bill which the right hon. Gentleman said, elsewhere in the same speech, does not represent our views –

Mr. BONAR  LAW: Hear, hear. 

The PRIME MINISTER: In order that for a few months longer we may cling to office. Does he really believe that? What have I to gain? [An Hon. Member: Office.] What have my colleagues to gain- [An Hon. Member: Office] – by a transaction to purchase for us –

Captain CRAIG: Eighty Nationalist votes.

The PRIME MINISTER: To purchase for us a short further spell of the burdens and responsibilities which we have borne in very difficult and troublous times, now for the best part of seven years, at the price of surrendering our convictions and soiling for all time our personal and political honour. How many people, I wonder, in this House really believe that?

Mr. Redmond, speaking later, said it might be considered in the interest of some people to engender passion in Debates and to endeavour to overwhelm the issue by personal attacks. He appealed to his friends not to be tempted to retaliate – to conduct the Debate with self-restraint and good temper. He concluded a fervent speech with these words:

I pray earnestly that this Bill may pass; that it may achieve all the objects which its promoters have in view; and that, in the beautiful words of the prayer, with which the proceedings of the House of Commons are opened every day:- ‘the result of all our counsels may be the maintenance of true religion and justice, the safety, honour and happiness of the King, the public health, peace and tranquillity of the realm, and the uniting and knitting together therein of the hearts of all persons and estates within the same, in true Christian love and charity’.

The Bill received its First Reading and went forward to its further stages. Its proposals, in brief, were that Ireland should have a Parliament consisting, under the King, of a Senate and House of Commons with power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Ireland. The Crown, war and peace, the Navy and Army, treaties and other matters of a similar character were left under the control of Imperial authority. The Irish Parliament was to have no power to make laws, either directly or indirectly, for the free exercise of any religion of giving preference to or imposing disability on any religious body. The Lord Lieutenant was empowered to withhold the Royal Assent to any Bill under certain conditions, and the Imperial Legislature could nullify, amend or alter any Act of Parliament under certain conditions, for which purpose the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was to be preserved. Members for Irish constituencies, to the reduced number of forty-two, were to be returned to the Imperial Parliament.

The Debate was adjourned in passion, and meanwhile the thoughts of the nation and the whole world were centred on news from the freezing seas which reminded man with tragic directness that he had not yet subdued the forces of nature.

On the 16th April, just before the debate on the Home Rule Bill was resumed, Lord Charles Beresford asked for authentic information concerning the news that the passenger ship ‘Titanic’ had been wrecked. This triumph of swiftness and strength – the nearest to perfection in shipbuilding craft that modern science and human skill could attain – had been supposed to be unsinkable and the disaster had shocked all calculations.

Ordinarily, the President of the Board of Trade would answer questions relating to the Mercantile Marine. When the Prime Minister advanced to the box it was obvious that a statement of grave importance was about to be made. He asked the House to permit him to answer the question. As he proceeded to read the message received by the Board of Trade to the effect that the ship had foundered, Members in all parts of the House removed their hats. In tones of deep emotion Mr. Asquith continued:

I am afraid we must brace ourselves to confront one of those terrible events in the order of Providence which baffle foresight, which appal the imagination and which make us realise the inadequacy of words to do justice to what we feel. We cannot say more at this moment than to give necessarily imperfect expression to our sense of admiration that the best traditions of the sea seem to have been observed and of the willing sacrifices which were offered to give the best chance of safety to those who were least able to help themselves, and the warm and heartfelt sympathy of the whole nation to those who find themselves suddenly bereft of the nearest and dearest in their desolated homes. 

Further information which came to hand showed that the ‘Titanic’ left Southampton for a maiden voyage to New York, and struck a submerged portion of an iceberg with a glancing blow which tore open a number of her watertight compartments below the waterline.

The accident happened about half-past-ten on Sunday night, the 14th April, and some four hours afterwards the vessel sank with a loss of one thousand, six hundred and thirty-five lives. Of the total number of souls on board, seven hundred and eleven were saved. Amongst those who went down was Mr. W. T. Stead, one of the best-known journalists of this time – the founder of the ‘Review of Reviews’ and other periodicals.

On both sides of the Atlantic thoughts of the terrible calamity dominated public interest. An Inquiry was held in America. A Commission of Inquiry in London, presided over by Lord Mersey, formerly President of the Admiralty Court, while finding nobody to blame made certain recommendations for future guidance which led to a revision of the regulations affecting passenger ships.[…]

A few days afterwards Mr. Winston Churchill moved the Second Reading of the Irish Home Rule Bill, thus bringing the two great controversial measures of the Session into the arena for alternating demonstrations of furious gladiatorial combats.

Mr. Churchill, in the course of a comprehensive speech reviewing the whole Irish situation, leant across the Table and, addressing the Opposition, said:

Can you say that you are satisfied with the existing condition of things?

What position and what status do you accord to four-fifths of her [Ireland’s] representatives? They are to remain here, but they are to be regarded as political pariahs. [Several hon. Members: ‘Why?’] Anyone who co-operates with them or who accepts their co-operation in the ordinary working of parliamentary business – [Several hon. Members: ‘Oh’] – we are told is guilty of dishonourable and contemptible conduct, of paltering with the unclean thing.

The Irish position from both points of view was put in impressive speeches. Mr. Thomas Scanlan, the Member for North Sligo, in the course of a reasoned argument on the general problem, said:

We look forward to a time when those who have fought against one another as Protestants and Catholics will join hands and stand shoulder to shoulder and fight together to exterminate religious differences, and to bring about the peace and prosperity and happiness of Ireland and the greatness of the Empire.

Mr. Charles Craig, the Member for South Antrim, on the other hand, said:

You may call it what you like, but we in the North or Ireland believe that a Parliament in Dublin would be dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church, being what it is we do not believe, to use a colloquial phrase, that the Protestants would have a ‘fair show’. Protestants are not going to allow themselves to come under the domination of that Parliament.

A feature of the Debate was a maiden speech by Mr. Samuel Young, who, amid loud and general cheers, mentioned that he was ninety-one years of age. As a Protestant and an inhabitant of Ulster, in business in Belfast, - representing the Catholic constituency of East Cavan – he warmly supported the Bill.

For several days the Debate went on with eloquent speeches on both sides. One Ulster  Unionist, Mr. R. Thompson, whose remarks were greeted with interruptions by a ‘stranger’ – promptly removed – from the gallery, made a somewhat cryptic reference to the possibility of international complications if troops were sent to Belfast to repress the opponents of Home Rule. He said it had come to his knowledge that Germany had taken the measurements of the Docks in the Port of Belfast, and the depth of the water in the Channel, and he concluded:

Further, I may say, that Germany has actually named her officer to take charge of an expedition against Belfast if and when called upon to do so. If by this Bill you get up a state of civil war in Ulster and Belfast, see where you are. Germany did not take all this trouble for nothing. I will conclude by impressing upon the right hon. Gentlemen representing the Government and the House to beware before sending Government troops to Ulster.

Ultimately the Second Reading was carried by three hundred and seventy-two votes to two hundred and seventy-one.

New Year’s Day [1913] found the House of Commons in turmoil once more. There had been rumours, some vague, some professedly circumstantial, of threats from Ulster men that the historic appeal of the Protestants to William of Orange might be repeated in another direction and the name of the Emperor of Germany as the head of a great Protestant Dynasty had been mentioned. In a Debate on the Irish Bill Mr. Bonar Law, dealing specially with the case of Ulster, said:

These people in the north-east of Ireland, from old prejudices perhaps more than from anything else, from the whole of their past history, would prefer I believe, to accept the government of a foreign country rather than submit to be governed by honourable Gentlemen below the gangway [The Irish Nationalist Members].

Mr. Churchill, who rose to reply on behalf of the Government, seizing upon the passage said: 

I refer to the statement which he quoted with approval that the Loyalists of Ulster would rather be annexed to a foreign country –

Sir EDWARD CARSON: Than under moonlighters. 

Mr. Churchill tried to continue his remarks but he was assailed by angry interruptions. Shrugging his shoulders, he observed ‘If you do not listen to me it is a matter of total indifference’.

‘We listened to your Leader’, said Mr. (afterwards Sir) Stephen Collins, a popular Liberal Member, addressing the excited men on the Conservative Benches. 

For a moment there was a lull, and Mr. Churchill went on:

Ulster would rather be annexed to a foreign country than continue in her allegiance to the Crown –

 ‘No, no!’, ‘Withdraw!’, ‘Scandalous!’, cried the Members opposite.

 Mr. Churchill waited with reproachfully irritating patience till the force of the fierce resentment was spent, and then shot his shaft:

This, then, is the latest Tory threat. Ulster will secede to Germany. 

The storm now burst forth afresh. 

Germany? Who said Germany?’ cried several of the Conservative Members.

‘What will they say about that in Berlin?’ shouted Lord Winterton. 

Requested by the Speaker not to interrupt, the noble Lord asked on a point of order if the reference to Germany by the right honourable Gentleman was not deliberately provocative and calculated to cause ill feeling between this country and Germany.

Mr. Churchill said he felt bound to call the attention of the House to a statement indicating what the Leader of the Conservative Party considered proper conduct in the Loyalist population in the North of Ireland.

When Mr. Bonar Law rose once more people who had missed the significance of his words till the passage had been extracted and emphasised by Mr. Churchill possibly expected a sweeping denial of the whole of Mr. Churchill’s interpretation. The correction by the Opposition Leader was, however, purely personal. Mr. Churchill had said that he quoted the statement as to the intentions of the Ulster people ‘with approval’. Mr. Bonar Law said this was inaccurate, and added:

I deliberately and carefully stated I believed it to be the fact but I quoted it neither with approval nor disapproval. 

[…] With this domestic matter [of a food tax] out of the way, the Unionist Party in the House of Commons threw all their power of attack into the Debate on the Third Reading of the Home Rule Bill.

Member after Member on both sides reviewed yet once again the history of the subject. Mr. John Redmond, in a tone of mingled pathos and prophecy said:

The present Leaders of the Irish Nationalist Party in this House are war-worn in this struggle, and in the ordinary course of nature speedily their places must be taken by younger men.

After recalling the fact that the struggle had been carried on by their fathers before them, he continued:

This Bill has behind it the passionate enthusiasm of the great masses of the Irish people. It has centred on it the hopes and prayers of millions of loyal Irish subjects of the Empire wherever the flag of the Empire flies. At this moment when we are actually speaking here, amidst the snows of Canada and under the scathing sun of Australia there are millions of people of Irish blood who are eagerly waiting for the message this country is to send them. The fate of this Bill is also eagerly awaited by millions of people of Irish blood in America. My own belief is that there is not a people or a country in the civilised world who will not welcome as glad tidings of great joy the announcement that this powerful British nation has at last been magnanimous enough to undo an old national wrong and that in the words of Gladstone the long periodic time has once more run out and again the star of Ireland has mounted in the Heavens.

Mr. Bonar Law, again asserting that Ulster would resist, declared:

They have a right to rebel against such treatment if they think they can succeed. There is no question of their succeeding. They are bound to succeed. It does not mean that they must be in a position to defeat British soldiers. Nothing of the kind. It means this, and this only: that they should be ready in this case to give up their lives at the hands of British soldiers and they are ready. If you shot down a hundred of them in Belfast to-morrow a thousand would be ready the next day to share the same fate.

Every available man in all Parties was in the Division. One Irish Nationalist Member, bedridden through sickness, was brought over, attended by a nurse, who waited for him within the precincts whilst his colleagues carried him in to vote. The confident predictions of a substantial Liberal defection were not fulfilled: two Liberal Members only voted against the Bill. Some of the Members were paired, and some on both sides who were away had been unable to arrange pairs. In the end, the Third Reading passed by three hundred and sixty-seven to two hundred and fifty-seven.

Supporters of the Government were cheered on their way to their Clubs. A demonstration was held outside the Constitutional Club, at which the Home Rule Bill was burnt, and there was some rioting in Belfast but the excitement did not extend to the general public. The British man in the street was still philosophically inclined to let the politicians settle this matter among themselves.[…]

Meanwhile the House of Lords rejected the Home Rule Bill on the Second Reading by three hundred and twenty-six to sixty-nine, and politicians prepared for a two years’ campaign under the new Parliament Act.

By a coincidence, a bye-election occurred in Londonderry, the traditional stronghold of Ulster Unionism. Lord Hamilton, the Unionist Member, succeeded to the Dukedom of Abercorn, and the seat thus became vacant. Mr. D. C. Hogge, a Liberal Home Ruler, was put forward in opposition to the Unionist Candidate. Every available vote was registered on both sides; sick men were brought to the polling stations; some instances were quoted of voters attended by priests ready to administer Extreme Unction should they expire on the way. In the end, Mr. Hogge was returned by a majority of fifty-seven on a ninety-five per cent. Poll.

At a complimentary luncheon to Mr. Hogge, Mr. John Redmond declared that any scheme to safeguard the interests and liberties of Ulster, even if it involved her over-representation in the Irish Parliament, would readily be accepted by his Party.[…]

[1914]. Shortly after this Mr. Churchill was the central figure in a stormy Parliamentary scene arising out of the ubiquitous Irish problem. In the course of a speech in Bradford he had said if Ulstermen extended the hand of friendship it would be clasped by Liberal and by their Nationalist countrymen in all good faith and in all goodwill, but, he continued:

If all loose wanton and reckless chatter we have been forced to listen to these many months is in the end to disclose a sinister and revolutionary purpose, then I can only say to you: Let us go forward together and put these grave matters to the proof.

This was the text of many a vehement speech from the other side, and it formed subject matter for spirited discussion in the course of a debate upon a vote of censure moved against the Government in the House of Commons. Speaking on that motion Mr. Bonar Law again demanded the referendum, and referring to the possible consequences if this step were not taken the Leader of the Opposition went on to say:

And what about the Army? We really now have got to a stage when we must face facts. What about the Army? If it is only a question of disorder, the Army, I am sure, will obey you, and I am sure that it ought to obey you; but if it really is a question of civil war, soldiers are citizens like the rest of us. [Hon. Members: ‘No!’] It never has been otherwise in any country at any time. If it is civil war, whether it is right or wrong – and I say nothing about it, whether it is right or wrong – the Army will be divided, and you will have destroyed the force, such as it is, on which we depend for the defence of this country.

The Prime Minister gratefully acknowledged that upon the general question the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was couched in mild and moderate terms, and he heartily assented to the proposition that in dealing with this grave and momentous question no door should finally be closed, if it could be avoided, to a settlement. Proceeding, he said:

I cannot give the same, or, indeed, any degree of assent to a proposition advanced by the right hon. Gentleman towards the close of his speech in regard to the duties and functions of the Army in case of civil war? Who is to be the judge whether any particular contest in which the armed forces of the Crown are called upon to intervene does or does not fall within the category of civil war?

I very much deprecate the laying down by a responsible Statesman of the right hon. Gentleman’s position of any such doctrine – that it lies in the discretion of those in the service of the King to determine whether or not any particular contingency justifies them in acting as the right hon. Gentleman would seem to suggest.

Mr. BONAR LAW: The question, surely, whether a contest is or is not civil war is generally decided by both combatants. For instance, in the American War the South were regarded not as rebels, but as combatants. That is the distinction.

The PRIME MINISTER: The South, as a matter of fact, were always described as rebels. I do not want to go into that. I only wanted to enter my protest against what I thought was a dangerous and unwise proposition.

Mr. Asquith returning to the general question repeated a proposal which he had made at the beginning of the Session that counties in Ulster, including the county boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry, might vote themselves out of the scope of the Bill for six years at the request of one-tenth of the Parliamentary electors. At the end of that time they would come in unless the Imperial Parliament otherwise determined.

At a later stage in the debate Sir Edward Carson referred to Mr. Churchill’s Bradford speech and thus initiated this lively triangular combat:

Sir E. CARSON: The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) says I am wrong on the merits or something or other and that I shall be handed down to history as being so, as if I care twopence whether I was or was not. I am not on the make.

Mr. DEVLIN: I do not know what a great lawyer means by a politician on the make, but I will tell the House what an untutored layman means by it. When a young lawyer becomes an Irish Home Ruler, and subscribes to the principles of Home Rule, and when the forces of honour and justice are beaten, joins the forces of a powerful enemy – that is what I call a man on the make.

Sir E. CARSON: I wish to say that the observation of the hon. Member is an infamous lie, and he knows it.

White with passion, Sir Edward Carson stood by the table: his tall figure swung round towards the Nationalist benches. ‘Joe’, as his Nationalist colleagues affectionately called Mr. Joseph Devlin, was the centre of a cheering crowd who shouted across the gangway at the protesting men behind Sir Edward Carson. Very soon Members in all parts of the House were shouting indiscriminately at the two Irishmen and at one another. Rising impressively the Speaker quelled the storm. He reminded Sir Edward Carson that the expression he had used was not a proper one, however strong his feelings might be.

‘I should be sorry, Sir, to offend the dignity of the Chair by an expression I used’ said Sir Edward. ‘This is a statement which has been repeated and contradicted many times. At the same time, I would ask leave to withdraw ‘infamous lie’ and to say ‘wilful falsehood’.

Mr. Devlin endeavoured to pursue his point. The fact that Sir Edward Carson was once a Member of the National Liberal Club had been discussed quite recently in the press. It was asserted that membership of this institution was often broadly interpreted. Mr. Devlin was proceeding to quote the form signed on admission in which each member declared himself a Liberal in politics when the Speaker asked whether it was desirable to introduce personal matters which they had heard several times before. Speaking in very solemn tones he added:

We are now approaching a very serious climax in the affairs of this country, and I would appeal to hon. Members to drop these personal remarks.

Mr. Churchill here asked to be allowed to say, as his name had been brought in, that he had not the slightest personal resentment in respect of any comments made about him, and he certainly did not desire that anyone should take up the cudgels on his behalf. Mr. Devlin, passing to the broad issues, delivered an eloquent speech on the general principle of Irish self-government. As an Ulsterman he represented the Home Rule aspirations of that considerable portion of the population in the North-eastern counties who were opposed to the Orangemen and Unionists. He observed that it had been inferred in Conservative speeches that the Irish Home Rulers were ‘skulking behind British troops’. On this he declared:

I have stated on platforms, and I repeat it now, that if this were to be determined by the arbitrament of the sword, and if you took your British troops and British police out of Ireland we, who hold passionately to the conviction that Ireland ought to have Home Rule upon logical, upon democratic, upon reasonable, upon historical, and upon traditional lines, are prepared to have the issue fought out in that way.

The next incident followed upon wild rumours in London as to the movement of troops in Ireland and alleged disaffection in the Army.

March hares were chasing each other madly round all the circles of political gossip.

There was little doubt that arms had been landed in the North of Ireland and leading men in Ulster still asserted they would fight against Home Rule even if passed by Parliament. Picturesque stories of active preparations for armed resistance; vague references to elaborate military measures by the Government; sensational predictions of impending violence kept the political world ablaze. 

Questions, interjections in debate, and scenes followed each other in the House of Commons with such turbulent persistence that the ordinary onlooker found a difficulty in disentangling a connective narrative from the maze of assertions and contradictions.

According to the Minister for War information had reached the Authorities which led them to assume that hotheaded persons under no discipline might try to capture certain stores of arms and ammunition. It was resolved that steps should be taken for guarding military supplies against any such attempt, and reinforcements were moved into this particular district. As there was a suggestion that there might be a difficultly in carrying the troops by train, preparations were made to send them by sea. It was also decided that a battle squadron and a flotilla should be moved form Arosa Bay, where they were cruising, to Lamlash, whence they could rapidly reach Belfast. 

Mr. Churchill, summing up the situation in the light of history, says in his realistic book ‘The World Crisis’:

Beyond this nothing was authorised; but the Military Commanders, seeing themselves confronted with what might well be the opening movements in a civil war, began to study plans of a much more serious character on what was the most inherently improbably assumption that the British troops would be forcibly resisted and fired upon by the Orange Army.

[…] And then occurred this enlivening passage:

Mr. CHURCHILL: Here we get the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) and the Hon. Member who sits behind him, fresh from their gun-running exploits –

Sir E. CARSON made an observation which was inaudible to the Gallery.

HON. MEMBERS: Behave like a king! 

Sir E. CARSON: You behave like a cad! 

Next came the inevitable point of order. The Speaker ruled the expression used by Sir Edward Carson improper, but also rebuked other hon. Members for their “taunting and offensive” observations.

Out of these volcanic debates, strangely enough, arose a general movement in the direction of concord.

Towards the end of his speech Mr. Churchill adopted a conciliatory attitude, and appealed for some agreed settlement on the lines of safeguarding the dignity and interests of Protestant Ulster. Mr. Balfour took a similar line. He declined to admit that there were no circumstances in which it was justifiable for a population to resist the Government. Such cases, he added, were rare:

The coercion of Ulster, in the sense of compelling Ulster to leave a free Government under which she is happy, and put her under a Government which she detests, is one of those cases. I hold now, and I held nearly thirty years ago, that if Home Rule was forced upon Ulster, Ulster would fight and Ulster would be right.

Then followed one of the most affecting and impressive passages of persuasive oratory ever delivered  in the House of Commons. Accepting Home Rule with the exclusion of Ulster as a possible solution Mr. Balfour in a tone of deep emotion that fascinated the House continued:

There was a time, and it is not so very long ago, when I cherished the dream that… ancient memories would gradually soften, men would look forward as well as backward, and there would grow up what there ought to be as between these two islands, a common hope, a common loyalty, confidence in the common heritage, and all this might be accomplished under one Parliament… If in order that there is yet to be established in Dublin a separate Parliament to the injury, as I personally think, of the British people, then I, for my part, may be an object of pity to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill); but he need not think that I shall regard such a consummation as a triumph over my political enemies. On the contrary, it is the mark of the failure of a life’s work; it is the admission that the causes for which I have most striven, which I have most earnestly sought to accomplish, are fated to break down, and that long labours spent in this House, and out of this House, in political work have not borne the fruit that I once hoped they might.

With such an example before them Statesmen in the forefront of the conflict were encouraged to make another effort towards mutual concessions, but when the House met for the Third Reading of the Home Rule Bill on the 21st of May there was a thrilling demonstration of the fact that no agreement had yet been reached.

Lord Robert Cecil opened the attack with a motion that the debate be adjourned. When the Prime Minister rose in response to this motion he was met with a running fire of interjections.

The Speak appealed to hon. Members to continue the discussion in the ordinary parliamentary way, and later on called Mr. Amery to order for referring to the Prime Minister as “an old gentleman who cannot make up his mind”.

Eventually the motion to adjourn the debate was defeated and then the crescendo note was struck.

Mr. J. H. Campbell rose from the Front Opposition Bench ostensibly to continue the debate.

“Adjourn! Adjourn!” shouted the Conservative Members below the gangway. The cry was taken up by the back Bench Members of the official Opposition above the gangway. If Mr. Campbell was addressing the House no syllable could be heard. He stood at the Box complacently surveying the Government Benches opposite outwardly unmindful of the continuous roars of “Adjourn! Adjourn!” from his own side.

Some two years before Members of the Opposition had been advised in certain quarters to shout “Dissolve! Dissolve!” continuously and thus prevent the House of Commons from proceeding with its business. The fact that a Member of the Conservative Party – a vehement anti-Home Ruler – happened to be on his feet was incidental. The demonstration had no reference to his presence at the Table: Either the advice formerly given was being followed or this was a spontaneous outburst of violent protest against the policy of the Government.

Mr. Bonar Law sat in the middle of the Front Opposition Bench with folded arms looking straight over the heads of the men on the Government Bench. The other Conservative Leaders sitting beside him, while taking no active part in the commotion, indicated by their attitude that they had no subduing advice to offer their followers.

The shouts consolidated into a deafening chant. Any attempt at ordered debate was impossible. The Speaker rose and the turmoil subsided for a moment. What followed is thus officially recorded:

Mr. Speaker: Hon Members seem determined not to hear their Leader. I would ask the Leader of the Opposition whether that is with his assent and approval –

Earl Winterton: Do not answer! 

Mr. Bonar Law: I would not presume to criticise what you consider your duty, Sir, but I know mine, and that is not to answer any such question.

Mr. Speaker: Having invited the right hon. Gentleman to assist me in obtaining order, I have been disappointed in that – [An Hon. Member: “Hurrah!”] – and there is nothing open to me except, under Standing Order 21, to suspend the sitting of the House, which I do until to-morrow.

The Conservative Members wildly cheered their Leader. One of them walked over to the Front Bench and stood in front of the Prime Minister shouting abuse at him as the Speaker left the House. They then crowded into the Lobby jeering and gesticulating as they passed the Government supporters who complacently remained in their seats.

A Private Member’s day intervened, and when the House met again for Government business a more conciliatory atmosphere all round prevailed, in which the Speaker with judicial tact took the lead. He remarked that Mr. Bonar Law seemed to think that his request conveyed some imputation of responsibility for the demonstration which had taken place. “I wish to say frankly” added Mr. Speaker “that no such idea was in my mind, and if I conveyed such an imputation by the question which I put to him, I am extremely sorry.”

Dealing with the strained situation generally, the Speaker suggested that the Prime Minister, if he could see his way to do it, should give some further information to the House with regard to the amending Bill which it was understood would be introduced with a view to a settlement by agreement. Mr. Bonar Law expressed his personal gratitude to the Speaker for the generous statement which he had just made, adding “Such a statement could only be made, if I may venture respectfully to say so, by one who is conscious of his strength”.

Mr. Asquith, also responding to the Speaker’s suggestion, said he had not abandoned hope of agreement, and he assured the House it was the intention of the Government to introduce an amending Bill embodying the substance of the proposals which had already been outlined by him with respect to the position of Ulster. Mr. Bonar Law admitted the conciliatory nature of the Prime Minister’s speech.

After a little “sniping” across the floor from below the gangway the Bill was read a third time by a big majority, and another stage was reached in the controversy which at that moment appeared to be monopolising public life.

[…] Lord Robert Cecil… moved the adjournment of the House in order to call attention to “the growing danger caused by the existence of the Volunteer Forces in Ireland and the failure of the Government to deal with the matter”. There was no doubt that as a counter to the Ulster forces the Irishmen in the South and West were drilling. It was estimated that the Ulstermen had some one-hundred-and-ten-thousand men, while the Irish volunteers representing the Home Rule forces were already estimated at eighty to one hundred thousand, and it was said that they were increasing at the rate of some fifteen thousand a week. This was generally accepted in the debate as a correct summary of the position. Mr. John Dillon on behalf of the Irish Nationalist Party asked if Lord Robert Cecil had ever remonstrated with his own Front Bench who went over to review the Ulster Volunteers. Mr. Birrell the Chief Secretary of Ireland remarked that he had recently spent some days in Ulster and the one thing brought home to him very much indeed was the genius of the Irish people for admiring each other. He went on to say:

The recent gun-running expedition by Ulster Volunteers excited almost as much admiration amongst the Roman Catholic Nationalists as it did even in the highest councils of the Ulster Volunteers. There are a great many people, I find, strongly opposed to Home Rule who also entertain, I will not say a sneaking, but a really genuine feeling of pride in the fact that amongst the Irish National Volunteers are so many old soldiers ready for action, and so many of the very finest and best of the young men in the South and West of Ireland.

From this Mr. Birrell drew the moral that self-respect might spring even out of these somewhat strange methods, and that it might still be possible to find a solution of the difficulties. He intimated in effect that he saw no useful purpose in prosecuting either side. A voice from the Liberal benches was raised against this attitude by a son of Lord Rosebery – Mr. Neil Primrose, whose ability and sincerity in debate predicted a distinguished future, but who was destined, like others, to complete his service to his country while yet in the full glow of youth and hope. Mr. Primrose declared that it was “impossible to conceive a more farcical motion being brought forward by a prominent member of a party which has aided and abetted and organised armed force in Ulster,” but he nevertheless urged upon the Government the importance of administering the law without any respect for persons on either side. Otherwise, he went on to say, they would lose the moral right to enforce law elsewhere.

Mr. Bonar Law’s remedy was that the Government should have a General Election and seek the sanction of the people for their policy, in which case he said he and his friends would not support resistance in Ulster.

[…] When the ordinary controversies of political life were renewed, Ireland was still an unsolved problem. It was agreed on all hands that the Leaders of political parties should make an approach to each other, and the King clearly interpreted the wish of the nation in a summons inviting Conservative, Liberal, and Irish Party leaders to meet in conference at Buckingham Palace.

[…] The Speaker of the House of  Commons presided over the Buckingham Palace conference, and, as afterwards became known, the two sections of Irishmen were unable to agree, mainly upon the boundaries of the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. The question at issue was whether these counties or parts of them, and which parts respectively, belonged to the South of Ireland, or to that part of Ulster which should be excluded from the Home Rule Bill. On Friday 24th July the House of Commons had been discussing a Housing Bill brought in by Mr. Runciman the President of the Board of Agriculture, designed to do something for the housing problem in the agricultural districts. Just before five o’clock information circulated through the usual channels that the Cabinet were sitting, and an important announcement on the Irish question would be made on the motion for the adjournment.

Onlookers who were privileged to be in a position to watch the Members of the Cabinet filing in from behind the Speaker’s chair were struck with the look of deep solemnity on the face of each individual Member.

It had already been rumoured that the Buckingham Palace conference had broken down. That was serious enough, but Statesmen had been living with that problem for so long at high tension that the failure of another attempt at a settlement was hardly sufficient reason for such profound gravity.

When the Speaker put the motion “This House do now adjourn” the Prime Minister briefly announced that the conference summoned by His Majesty the King held meetings on the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th July respectively, and being unable to agree either in principle or in detail upon the possibility of defining an area for exclusion from the operation of the Government of Ireland Bill, it had brought its meetings to a conclusion. Mr. Asquith further announced that the Government’s amending Bill embodying his own proposals would be taken the following week.

Mr. Bonar Law, who rose after Mr. Asquith sat down, merely said “I propose to follow the example set by the Prime Minister and make no comment on the report”.

He agreed to the suggestion that the amending Bill should be discussed the following week. In reply to a question as to whether the House could be informed of the exact difference of opinion, the Prime Minister said with the brevity of a man who is thinking of deeper matters that he would rather make no statement.

The explanation has been supplied in vivid language by Mr. Winston Churchill in “The World Crisis”:

The discussion [on Ireland] had reached its conclusive end, and the Cabinet was about to separate, when the quiet grave tones of Sir Edward Grey’s voice were heard reading a document which had just been brought to him from the Foreign Office. It was the Austrian note to Serbia. He had been reading or speaking for several minutes before I could disengage my mind from the tedious and bewildering debate which had just closed. We were all very tired, but gradually as the phrases and sentences followed one another, impressions of a wholly different character began to form in my mind. This note was clearly an ultimatum; but it was an ultimatum such as had never been penned in modern times. As the reading proceeded, it seemed absolutely impossible that any State in the world could accept it, or that any acceptance, however abject, would satisfy the aggressor. The parishes of Fermanagh and Tyrone faded back into the mists and squalls of Ireland, and a strange light began immediately, but by perceptible gradations, to fall and grow upon the map of Europe.

Mr.  Churchill’s book was published years afterward. At the moment people outside the Cabinet little knew what the anxious faces of the Ministers portended.

[1916] On an April night in 1916 a German submarine drew into Tralee Bay off the coast of Kerry. Three men were landed in a collapsible boat.

At about the same time a German auxiliary, disguised as a merchantman, arrived and while endeavouring to evade capture went to the bottom.

The disguised auxiliary was found to contain arms. The men who landed were arrested.

The leader in this miniature invasion was Sir Roger Casement who was born in 1864 in Dublin and formerly in the British Consular Service. He was knighted for services rendered in the course of his duties. About 1912, for some reason, he began to develop a hatred of England. At the outbreak of war, he went to America and thence to Berlin. In 1915 he published anti-British pamphlets and attempted to form a brigade for service against England of Irish soldiers who were prisoners of war.

His avowed mission in Ireland was to stir up strife. His capture ended his rebel activities. Another and more serious revolt was to follow.

On Easter Monday the crowds in Dublin, enjoying the holiday sanctified as the “Happy Feast”, watched the parade of Irish Volunteers and members of what was known as the Citizen Army. It was assumed at first that the display was in the nature of an Eastertide parade but the irregular forces soon dispelled all thoughts of a holiday demonstration. They proceeded to seize the public buildings, and when the  soldiers arrived fierce fighting began. The young idealists of Sinn Fein had set forces in motion that had gone beyond their dreams and beyond their control. Scenes of bloodshed in Dublin were followed by risings in the country districts, and a state of civil war was proclaimed.

A day or two later Mr. John Redmond in the House of Commons expressed horror and detestation of the outbreak - speaking on behalf of the Nationalist Party, and, as he claimed, the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland.

In about a week the rebellion was subdued by the military and the rebels surrendered. It is believed that there were about five thousand of them in action from start to finish  in various forms of resistance to authority. Some twenty leading business establishments, three branch Banks, and about a dozen smaller offices and shops were burnt to the ground, as well as the General Post Office. The value of the property destroyed was estimated, roughly, at nearly two million pounds. Some seventeen Army officers were killed and forty-six wounded. About eighty-six of other ranks were killed and three hundred and eleven wounded.

Very shortly after the tragedy Mr. Augustine Birrell entering the House of Commons turned off at the gangway instead of taking his place on the Treasury Bench.

Every Parliamentarian knew what that mean. Another front bench career was closed. From his new seat on a back bench the good-natured, even-tempered humorist, who always endeavoured to see the bright side of everything, confessed to the House of Commons that he had not sufficiently appreciated the possibilities of the Sinn Fein movement. In this, perhaps, he was at one with other people who had every reason to believe they understood the Irish race. Sinn Fein, founded, as previously mentioned, by persons of romantic and poetic views, was now a bigger and more daring force than modern Irish politics had ever known.

The House of Commons as a whole, irrespective of Party, believed Mr. Birrell had acted, as he thought, for the best; but he was Chief Secretary for Ireland and in a democratic Constitution the failure of a Department is the failure of its Chief. Mr. Birrell became a private Member of the House with more opportunities than office permitted him for the congenial diversions of his literary work.

The end of the rebellion was not the end of Sinn Fein.

The rebel leaders were tried, several of them were sentenced to death, but the penalty was commuted to penal servitude. There were, however, some executions. One well-known literary man, who had taken no criminal part in the incident, was shot, as it was afterwards held on enquiry, through the frenzy of a demented officer.

Apart from the problem of the necessity or otherwise for stern and rigorous measures, the fact soon became evident that among the Irish people sympathy which had been against the rebels while they were in armed resistance to authority was followed by pity for the men who died in the cold dawn.

In addition to those persons who were shot or imprisoned a number were arrested on suspicion and deported. A detention camp at Frongoch in Wales was the temporary habitation of men whose names became very prominent in subsequent events.

The Prime Minister went over to Ireland to conduct a personal inquiry into the whole situation. He reported to the House of Commons that he had come to the conclusion that there had been a breakdown of existing machinery in Ireland; that there was also a strong feeling amongst the people of that country that a unique opportunity had now arisen for a settlement. This belief was corroborated by the experience of many people who had travelled in Ireland during the last few weeks and months.

Apart altogether from the Sinn Fein movement and the rebellion there was a distinct feeling of friendliness between people hitherto rivals in the sense that only a Celtic population understands political rivalry. The desire for a new friendship still existed, not because of the rebellion, but in spite of the rebellion. Mr. John Redmond and Sir Edward Carson in the House of Commons expressed the hope that the new spirit might be encouraged. Mr. Lloyd George who had acted as a negotiator on behalf of the Government in some recent industrial troubles was asked by the Prime Minister to devote his energy to the promotion of a settlement, and in the confident belief that something might be done Parliament passed on for the moment to other questions.

Meantime the House of Commons had instituted another precedent. In the far off centuries it was an offence to report the proceedings of Parliament. Down to comparatively recent times it was the privilege of any Member to call attention to the presence of strangers and the mere fact that he exercised this privilege was sufficient to compel their withdrawal. In 1875 Mr. Joseph Bigger, a persistent Member of the Irish Nationalist Party, called attention to the presence of strangers on an occasion when the Prince of Wales, the German Ambassador, and other distinguished personages had come down to the House to hear a debate. Mr. Bigger afterwards disclaimed knowledge of the fact that the Prince was present, and said he had taken the step in order to call attention to what he regarded as a defect in the rules for the admission of the Press and strangers. The Standing Order relative to the admission of strangers was suspended during the sitting of the House by special motion. The distinguished strangers were then invited back, and in order to prevent a similar occurrence in future debates a resolution was eventually adopted to the following effect:

That if at any sitting of the House or of a Committee any Member shall take notice of the presence of strangers, Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, shall forthwith put the question without debate or amendment; provided that Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, may, whenever he thinks fit, order the withdrawal of strangers from any part of the House.

On several occasions after that a motion had been made by individual Members and put to the House by the Speaker. In some instances it had been carried out and in others defeated, but, so far as those people who were well versed in Parliamentary history could remember, no definite step had been taken by the Government of the day to secure a secret Session until April 1916, when in response to various suggestions that the House should have a “heart to heart” talk Mr. Asquith rose and called the attention of the Speaker to the presence of strangers. By a unanimous vote of the House the strangers, who of course included the Press, were called upon to withdraw.

[…] Roger Casement for the part which he had endeavoured to take in the Irish Rebellion by his attempt to raise troops was tried for high treason before a Court composed of three Judges and a Jury. He was found guilty. He took advantage of the opportunity of bringing his case before the Court of Criminal Appeal where it was argued with skill by eminent counsel but his sentence was confirmed. He was deprived of his knighthood and executed.

Apart from the fact that it was many years since a tribunal of three Judges and all the other accompaniments of a trial for high treason had been called into effect for the administration of law in this country, no very great interest attached to the climax of this misguided person’s career.

Mr. Lloyd George’s mission for an Irish settlement had not been successful. Matters remained pretty much as they had been for some time – serious minded men on both sides very anxious to arrive at some understanding; irreconcilables frustrating their efforts. Mr. H. E. Duke, K.C. (afterwards Lord Merivale) was appointed to succeed Mr. Birrell as Chief Secretary. Mr. Duke was a foremost advocate and his experience extended beyond the Courts of Law. In his early days he was a Journalist and he had been a Member of Parliament for many years. It was hoped that as a Conservative who during the war had given general support to the Liberal Government he would be able to create an atmosphere of impartiality in which conflicting opinions might find some way to a general understanding.

[1917] A new Irish Convention was announced, and in order to create a “conference atmosphere” there was a general amnesty for Irish prisoners. They were released from prison and detention camps and allowed to return to Ireland. Foremost among them was Eamon de Valera the son of an Irish mother who was born in American in 1882, and came to the maternal home in County Cork at a tender age. He was a man of superior education, and in 1913 associated himself with the Irish Volunteers formed as a counter force to the Ulstermen who were drilling to resist Home Rule. By 1916 his zeal had reached the stage of joining in the Easter rebellion where he commanded one of the insurgent bands for which he was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life.

His first act after release under the amnesty was to contest the seat in East Clare rendered vacant by the death of “Willie” Redmond. He was returned by an overwhelming majority but as a Sinn Feiner declined to take his seat in the “English” Parliament.

[1918] The death of Mr. John Redmond in March 1918 was a severe loss, in view of the critical stage of the Irish problem. Mr. Redmond was born in 1851. He came of a well-established Irish family although it was said to be of Anglo-Norman origin. In his younger days he was called to the Irish Bar and for a while was one of the junior officials of the House of Commons. Somewhat to the consternation, it was said, of his immediate relatives he threw himself with the fervour of a young and ardent patriot into the Irish cause upon the side of the Nationalist Party lead by Mr. Parnell, whom he ultimately succeeded in the leadership. Tributes to his personal qualities and his statesmanlike gifts were made in the House of Commons on the day of his death. The Prime Minister and the leaders of the other Parties gave eloquent testimony to the impression which he had made upon his colleagues of various schools of thought. Sir Edward Carson, whose whole Parliamentary life had been devoted to a strenuous conflict with Mr. Redmond, in the course of a speech delivered with deep emotion said:

I can say with absolute sincerity that during the whole of that period I cannot recall to mind one single bitter personal word that ever passed between John Redmond and myself.

Just before the outbreak of War when the Conference held at Buckingham Palace broke down, Sir Edward Carson and Mr. John Redmond passed out of the Palace gates together. Sir Edward now recalled the fact that Mr. Redmond came up to him and said: “For the sake of the old times on the Leinster Circuit let us have a good shake hands”. Sir Edward in relating this touching incident added “And, Mr. Speaker, we had”.

A side of the special Man Power Bill which was not treated as humorous was that which gave the Government power by an Order in Council to extend the Military Service Acts to Ireland on the same conditions as they applied to England. When power is given to act by Order in Council the matter dealt with comes into force if and when the Order has been laid upon the Table for a stipulated time. During that period it is open to any Member of the House to move a “Prayer” that it be not put into operation, but unless vetoed by a majority of the House it has the force of law. The procedure leaves the way open to the Government to choose its own time for using their power.

On this part of the new Conscription Act there was a very strong opposition indeed from the Irish Nationalist Party, not because – as Mr. John Dillon and other Irish Members emphatically asserted – the Irishmen did not want to fight, but because of the disappointment and the failure of negotiations to settle the Irish problem. Mr. Dillon, who had now succeeded Mr. John Redmond in the Leadership of the Party, speaking in the debate on the Bill, said:

The Ireland you have to deal with is an ancient nation and a very proud nation, and it has as intense a sense of national self-consciousness as exists in the whole wide world. They see to-day Poland, Finland and Ukraine recognised by the great Powers of Europe as independent nations… and Ireland… is to be ordered to go out to fight for a people whose Government has broken faith with her over and over again.

Mr. Joe Devlin declared that if the Government would pass a Home Rule Bill he would be the first to join up as a private.

It may be mentioned here that the “Order in Council” was not put into force.

[...] thoughts were directed once again to the apparently interminable Irish problem.

In anticipation of an early peace a Nationalist resolution was proposed that before this country took part in any Peace Conference in Europe, the Irish question should be settled in accordance with the principle of self-determination for all nations which President Wilson had laid down for each of the Allies. Mr. Asquith said every Dominion Parliament would assent to such a resolution, and he called upon the Government “at this eleventh hour” to take such steps that when they went into the Council Chamber Ireland would not be a standing reproach. Mr. Bonar Law resisted the motion and contended that the Irish question was a domestic matter for the British Empire.[…]

[In the General Election] the Irish Nationalists had been so universally unfortunate that the Party for all effective purposes had ceased to exist as a Parliamentary force. Some Northern Nationalist Members succeeded in retaining their seats, including Mr. Devlin, whom the old Members generally – politics apart – welcomed back. The veteran favourite of the House, Mr. T. P. O’Connor, who represented an English seat at Liverpool as an Irish Nationalist, was there to continue another chapter in his long Parliamentary experience. Captain Redmond, the son of Mr. John Redmond, was returned for Waterford.

The seventy-three Sinn Feiners, in accordance with their policy, declined to take their seats at Westminster. Among their number was the first woman elected to Parliament, Countess Markeivicz, who had undergone imprisonment for her share in circumstances arising during the Dublin Rebellion. Sinn Fein was now dominating the political Force beyond all challenge in the South and West of Ireland. Many Sinn Feiners were in goal, having been rearrested on charges arising since the Amnesty of 1917, but twenty-nine of them met at the Dublin Mansion House, constituted themselves a Dail Eireann (Assembly of Ireland) and formally declared Ireland a Republic with Mr. de Valera as President and Mr. Arthur Griffiths as Vice President.

Mr. Griffiths proved to be one of the most influential forces in Irish history. He was born in Dublin in 1872 and in his youthful days was a printer. In the early part of the century he joined the Gaelic League for the revival of the Irish language and was one of the founders of the “Sinn Fein” party. With an eloquent and forceful pen he wrote for and conducted newspapers which had various vicissitudes but came out continuously under one name or another, pouring forth a constant stream of Celtic propaganda. He took no part in the Easter Rebellion but was one of the “suspects” interned at Frongoch.

Both de Valera and Griffiths were prisoners again and another historic figure now came to the forefront. Mr. Michael Collins, one of the young men who in a sense held the “Presidency of the Republic” in commission, was born in 1890 and thus still under thirty. He was the son of a County Cork farmer. He qualified for the second division of the Civil Service and for a while was a postal clerk in London. As a youth he was an ardent member of the Gaelic League and, having left the Civil Service, was back in Ireland by 1916, fighting with that section of the Irish Volunteers who took part in the Easter Rebellion.  He escaped capture but was afterwards arrested on suspicion and formed one of the party interned at Frongoch, who were released in 1917. Of all the leaders of advanced movements in Ireland – probably in history – he proved the most resourceful and powerful. In the absence of the elected leaders he undertook all the responsibilities of organisation.

An administration was formed with Ministers and Departments. Sinn Feiners elected to County and Town Councils refused to recognise the British Administration at Dublin Castle.

In effect there were two separate ruling authorities in Ireland – the one established by law, the other practically at war against it. So thorough were the Sinn Fein methods that Courts were set up to which litigants resorted and their Decisions had in actual practice the force of law.

[1919] The industrial troubles in Great Britain were, however, overshadowed in tragic importance by events reported from Ireland.

The Sinn Feiners had been consolidating their forces. Their “Law Courts” had been functioning, and, under Arthur Griffiths, a policy of government by passive resistance had been organised. Side by side with that was a state of active rebellion, in which, so far as could be gathered, Mr. Griffiths had no part.

Ireland was in fact in a state of civil war with all the horrors of guerrilla warfare intensified. Barracks and Court houses were burned by insurgents, police were shot and their families were boycotted. There were reports also of reprisals by the forces of Dublin Castle.

Moderate men of all parties were endeavouring to find a way out. Public opinion in Great Britain still adopted the attitude that it was an affair of the politician who ought to be able to “settle it somehow”. The old objections to the broad principle of Home Rule were gradually breaking down. Mr. Walter Long, one of the most orthodox of Conservative Members of the Government and of previous Conservative Governments, announced that proposals would shortly be placed before Parliament to deal with the government of Ireland with a view to giving the Irish people the opportunity of coming together and forming a single Parliament, or, if they preferred it, two Parliaments.

A meeting of the Irish Self-determination League was held in London to demand the recognition of the “Irish Republic” and the withdrawal of “the English Army of Occupation”.[...] 

[1920] Conditions in Ireland grew worse as the months went on. The Government had brought their Bill before the House of Commons and the country. It was, from the beginning, bitterly opposed by all sections of Irish Nationalists and it held out no prospect of a settlement. It did, however, take a distinct step towards self-government in that it proposed two Parliaments, one for the six counties of Ulster and another for the rest of Ireland, linked together by a council through which it might be possible for the two Parliaments to coalesce. The powers given to the Parliaments were however regarded by Home Rulers as quite inadequate. So far as the North was concerned, there was acquiescence rather than approval. Sir Edward Carson indicated that he would do nothing to prevent the Bill becoming law. The British public took a more or less apathetic interest in the measure, and in effect wished it luck if it could accomplish anything to remove the old bone of contention from British political life.

In the month of August the Government deemed it necessary to introduce a “Restoration of Order Bill”, which was moved by Sir Hamar Greenwood, the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Mr. Duke had gone to the judicial Bench; Mr. Edward Shortt, now an effective Home Secretary, had next held the Irish office; followed by Mr. Ian Macpherson, a popular Highland Scot whose Celtic associations were expected to have some sympathetic interest for the Irish people, but who had been transferred to another Office shortly after he introduced the modified Home Rule Bill.

Sir Hamar Greenwood came to England from Canada as a young man and took an active part in Liberalism, first as a candidate, then as the Member for York, during the great Liberal revival which culminated in the sweeping victory of 1906. During the War he commanded a battalion, and on his return to Parliamentary life his inclusion in the Coalition Government was assumed to be a strengthening of the “Radical” element of the Liberal section. It now fell to his lot to ask the House of Commons for what was historically known as another Coercion Act giving exceptional powers to Courts Martial to dispense civil as well as criminal justice.

The Bill was very strenuously criticised in various quarters of the House. Mr. Asquith said no one could dispute the gravity of the situation. He went on to observe:

Even in the annals, the sombre annals of Irish disturbances, there has been no parallel to the existing order of things in Ireland… I am not sure myself that the worse features of the case is not the amazing apathy with which, to all appearance the tragic breakdown is regarded by the great mass of the public on this side of St. George’s Channel.

Mr. Asquith went on to say nothing would procure peace which did not to all intents and purposes put Ireland on the same footing as our great self-governing Dominions.

Mr. Lloyd George repudiated the suggestion that Dominion Home Rule was either a possible or a practicable solution of the problem. In the course of his argument on that question he said:

My right hon. Friend said he would give Dominion Home Rule. Would he? Dominion Home Rule involves an Army and a Navy.

Major M. WOOD: Not necessarily.

The PRIME MINISTER: Yes, necessarily. There is not a single Dominion which has not the power to set up an Army and a Navy – not one. There is not a single Dominion that has not an Army; and if it has not a Navy, it is because it has not set it up. It has full power to do so.

At a later stage of his speech he returned to this part of the subject and added:

The authentic representatives of the Irish people… decline to accept the autonomy of Ulster. They decline to accept the authority of the Crown. They decline to accept the defence of the realm. These are three fundamental conditions. What is the use, then, of talking about schemes of self determination and of Dominion Home Rule until, at any rate, there is some gleam of sanity introduced into the minds of those who are responsible at the present moment for directing the majority of Irish opinion?

The most significant part of the debate consisted of speeches from the Conservative side by Lieut.-Colonel Guinness and Mr. Aubrey Herbert. Colonel Guinness belongs to an Irish Unionist family and he had taken an active part in opposing Home Rule. He said the speech of the Prime Minister had left him with a feeling of deep disappointment. There was, he asserted, a strong feeling among lifelong Unionists that the time had come for some change. He went on to say:

We had hoped that the Prime Minister might give this moderating influence a chance. He cannot negotiate with Sinn Fein, and others have to make the bricks with which Irish peace is to be built. Unless he will make an offer which will appeal to moderate men there is no straw with which these bricks can possibly be made. He has never really tested the effect of offering such a settlement as would satisfy moderate people in the South.

Mr. Aubrey Herbert, the son of the Earl of Carnavon, had an hereditary interest in the Irish question. His father was understood to have “explored the possible avenues” to an Irish settlement as a colleague of the Marquis of Salisbury so far back as the early eighties before Mr. Gladstone had brought in his Home Rule Bill. Mr. Aubrey Herbert, who had distinguished himself as a soldier and a traveller, and had fought as an Officer with the Irish Guards in France, sat as a Conservative  Member for the Yeovil Division of Somerset. He dealt with the question of self-government historically: the circumstances under which “we lost America”, and our support of self-government in other countries. Coming to the immediate situation in Ireland he said:

I am an Englishman, and I want to see my own people looked after… If it is war, let it be war. War is war, and you should do what you can to equip our people and see their numbers are sufficient, but as both the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and my hon. and gallant Friend here have said, that in itself is not sufficient. You must go deeper, and you must cut at the original root of the thing, and that root is political. If you want to get rid of this discontent, you must redeem your promise in giving self-government to Ireland.

Concluding a strong appeal to the House to grasp the chance of making a settlement before it was too late, he said:

When you are discussing Ireland, do not only remember one side of the thing that has happened. Do not only remember Sinn Feiners. Think of the Irish Guards, too, and the Munsters, and the work they did. When you are discussing Ireland, do not only remember Mr. de Valera, but think also sometimes of Mr. William Redmond.

The powers asked for by the Government were given by Parliament and so for the time being the old trouble continued.[...]

The “Black and Tan” was a dominating influence on Irish discussions.

He belonged to a body of specially recruited auxiliary Irish constabulary who had served in the Army during the War and were retained for police purposes. They wore their khaki uniform but were given a policeman’s black hat – hence the nickname “Black and Tan”.

Affairs in Ireland grew more and more serious in the Autumn of 1920. Sir Hamar Greenwood addressing a Review of the Royal Irish Constabulary in September, congratulated them on their smartness. He recalled the fact that 103 of their comrades had been murdered, 170 wounded, and their wives and families boycotted. There had, he said, been cases where members of the Force had taken action, and he enjoined the importance of refraining from reprisals, which would ruin the disciple of the force.

Notwithstanding this warning categorical assertions were made that reprisals were being practised. Sensational stories were told about the “Black and Tans”.

Towards the end of October Mr. Arthur Henderson moved what amounted to a vote of  censure expressing regret at the “present state of lawlessness in Ireland and the lack of discipline in the armed forces of the crown”, calling for an independent investigation into the “Causes, nature and extent of reprisals on the part of those whose duty is the maintenance of law and order”. Mr. Henderson quoted communications which had reached him to the effect that factories had been destroyed and that private citizens had been killed.

Other communications were read in the course of the debate to the effect that people had been flogged. On the other hand Sir Hamar Greenwood quoted cases in which servants of the Crown had been done to death, and read what he asserted was “the official order of the Irish Republican Army” to the following effect:

Small groups of snipers should be posted so as to cover their [soldiers and police] line of advance. Ready, as soon as opportunity offers, to direct an effective fire on them. If possible they should be cut off from their base, and annihilated.

The Chief Secretary declared that nobody regretted reprisals more than he did, but he contended that if he could bring to the mind and heart of every Member of the House the two years of agony and the “intolerable provocation” that these policemen, and in some cases soldiers, had gone through, reprisals though condemned and properly condemned, would also be understood.

Commander Kenworthy who read various communications as to reprisals and attacks on private citizens, suggested as an argument for a definite investigation that the experience of history showed that there were always conflicting statements as to what happened between contending forces. In the trouble of the Cuban people for freedom from Spain there was fighting, massacring and insurrection. In London we heard of the brutality of the Spanish police and troops; in Madrid they heard of the brutal murder of Spanish soldiers and police. In the struggle of Italy for national independence we heard of nothing but the heroic struggle of the Italian people for freedom; in Vienna probably they heard of nothing but the brutal assassination of Austrian policemen. In Poland all we heard of was the struggle of the Poles and the atrocities committed by the Czarist police. Commander Kenworthy said he was prepared to wager that in Odessa, and Kieff and Moscow all they heard of was the assassination of the brave Russian police by the revolutionary bands of the Polish Republican Brotherhood. In this country we heard of the struggle of the Bulgarians and the Armenians and the atrocities committed upon them; while what was heard in Turkey for the most part was the wicked assassination of Turkish police and soldiers.

Commander Kenworthy quoted a passage from the “Manchester Guardian” which indicated that even in this tragic business there were touches of humour. He referred to a case in which a raid was made by the military on a lunatic asylum, and the following account was given of the incident:

One patient was arrested for speaking flippantly to the raiders. The main purpose of the raid was to arrest an attendant. On arrival the soldiers ran up to the man they were looking for, but did not know him. The officer in charge asked the man if he had seen him. “Not for the past hour,” replied the wanted man himself. The attendant took off his uniform and donned the dress of a turbulent patient. He then interned himself in a padded cell, and the military left without him.

Lord Robert Cecil while he could not accept the suggestion that the Irish Republican Army represented an independent country and that we were there as the aggressors, earnestly pressed the Government to institute an enquiry. Mr. Asquith, observing that he should have hoped it would not have been necessary to disclaim on the part of any of those who supported the motion for an enquiry either anything in the nature of sympathy with the abominable crimes and outrages to which the Constabulary and those engaged in the maintenance of order in Ireland during the last two years had been exposed, or anything in the nature of want of sympathy with the gallant men on whom the Chief Secretary passed a high encomium, assured the House that from his very heart he denounced crimes and outrages of this kind with as much emphasis and energy and conviction as it was possible for any tongue to express or any temperament to feel. He did not share the view – if it was entertained in any quarter – that the military and police in Ireland were not entitled under the conditions in which they were placed, to use a homely phrase, when they were hit to hit back again. They had not only the right but the duty of self-defence, and everything that was consistent and fell within the legitimate bounds for self defence they could and ought to resort to. The reason put forward for an enquiry was that there appeared to be what lawyers would call prima facie evidence to show that in not a few instances the officers and servants of the Executive had gone far beyond the limits of legitimate self defence and had engaged in what under the name of reprisals could be described under no other term than a campaign of outrage against unoffending and innocent people.

Mr. Bonar Law reminded the house that reprisals had been officially condemned and contended that an enquiry was not practicable. It would be difficult to get the evidence; men might be ordered to swear that such and such a soldier was engaged in such and such reprisal, and it would be impossible to have an enquiry in public which was fair. In reply to a suggestion that an enquiry might be made in this country, the Leader of the House said “How would you get the evidence and what would happen to the people who gave it?”:

Once you give the impression that these people are liable to have every act they do submitted to an unfair enquiry and perjured evidence, the weapon breaks in your hand.

In the course of this debate a speech of some special interest in that it indicated the beginning of a severance of a promising young Conservative from his Party, was made by Mr. Oswald Mosley. He still spoke from the Conservative side but he declared that the Government surrendered to the Sinn Feiners when it emulated their policy of assassination. “It has” he continued “surrendered something which I, at any rate, believe to be more important in this world even than outrages in Ireland. It has surrendered the very root principle of British justice”.

Day by day questions were put on the subject of reprisals; debates were initiated on motions for the adjournment; with counter accusations on both sides.

Troubles between the Home Office and the Suffragette prisoners, over the policy of the “Hunger Strike” were recalled by the case of Alderman McSwinney the Lord Mayor of Cork, who had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment “for having under his control a secret police cypher and having in his possession seditious documents”. He was brought over from Ireland to Brixton Prison, and like some other Sinn Fein prisoners he adopted the hunger strike as a protest against his conviction. The circumstances in which these papers were found in the Mayor’s Parlour and their contents were the subject of considerable discussion, in Ireland and in Great Britain. Lengthy correspondence took place between various people and the members of the Government as to the desirability or otherwise of ordering Alderman McSwinney’s release.

The Government took the stand that the Lord Mayor having been found guilty of an offence must serve his sentence; and that if he persisted in starving himself the responsibility did not rest upon the Authorities. Food was offered him and his friends were allowed to visit him. Information was published from day to day of the state of his health and of the incidents connected with the prolonged “strike”. The case became one of the “leading features” in the news pages of the daily papers. On the 25th of October Alderman McSwinney died in Brixton Prison on the seventy-fourth day of his hunger strike. The following morning the Nationalist newspapers in Ireland appeared with heavy black borders, and the contents of the pages consisted almost exclusively of accounts of his life and death. His body was handed over to his friends to be taken to Ireland for burial. A letter was addressed to the relatives by the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the effect that he was advised that the landing and funeral in Dublin might lead to demonstrations of a political nature. Sir Hamar Greenwood said he therefore regretted that the Irish Government could not allow the disembarkation at any other port in Ireland except the deceased’s native city Cork. In order to save the relatives inconvenience the Government had directed the London and North Western Railway Company to provide a suitable steamer to carry the remains direct to Cork from Holyhead, with the relatives and twenty friends “if they so desire”.

While the funeral procession was passing through the streets of London on the way from the Prison to the Railway Station traffic was suspended and crowds lined the pavements, reverentially raising their hats as the cortege passed by. Questions were put in the House of Commons as to the facilities for this demonstration afforded by the action of the authorities, but there was an atmosphere of silent concurrence with a question put by Captain Loseby who had been elected as a member of an independent group of Government supporters:

Is the hon. Baronet aware that there is  a strong body of opinion in this country which cordially supported the Government in their last action in paying respect to a brave and possibly misguided man?

The circumstances surrounding the death of the Lord Mayor of Cork demonstrated that the Hunger Strike was an obsolete weapon, but the respect paid by the Government to the dead man and the demeanour of the crowd had a marked significance.

The attitude of the British public towards Irish questions, as often commented upon in the course of this work, was that a political question should be and could be settled by the wisdom of politicians.

Many examples from history might be quoted of interest aroused by the picturesque and personal touch. The tribute of respect to the dead body of the Lord Mayor of Cork was the foundation of a newly awakened popular determination to end the age-worn controversy. 

Ireland continued to provide material for debate in Parliament and discussion in the newspapers. Articles on reprisals appearing in the “Manchester Guardian” and those contributed by Mr. Hugh Martin, a notable journalist, to the “Daily News”, were attracting widespread interest. Again Lord Robert Cecil from the Conservative side, and others from the Liberal side, urged that these questions should be thoroughly investigated by an Inquiry. Mr. Asquith during the course of one of the discussions was reminded of “Featherstone”. This referred to an incident in a long Coal stoppage during the last decade of the nineteenth century, when Mr. Asquith was Home Secretary in the Liberal Government which was in office from 1892 – 1895. A riot occurred at a coal pit at Featherstone in Yorkshire and the military were called upon to fire, with the result that there were fatalities in the crowd. Mr. Asquith when the matter came up again on a subsequent Debate pointed out that he then ordered an Inquiry which resulted in a declaration of the law regulating the position of the police and the military in case of public disorder.

The Government still held to the position that a Public Inquiry was not practicable. It was also urged by Sir Hamar Greenwood that they had the insurgents “on the run”, and by the Prime Minister that they had “murder by the throat”.

During a week-end towards the end of November a terrible tragedy was reported from Dublin. On Monday the 22nd of November the Chief Secretary for Ireland gave particulars to the House of Commons of reports received by him. Onslaughts had been made on the residences of Officers in the Army and upon the Gresham Hotel in Sackville Street, where Officers were staying. In each case, it was reported, the marauders fired point blank at the Officers and killed them. The report in summing up said:

There have been fourteen deaths, six injured, including one assassin, and three assassins captured red-handed with arms.

When Sir Hamar Greenwood had completed his report Mr. Devlin said “May I ask the right hon. Gentleman - ” He was immediately assailed with shouts of “Sit down!” which were renewed each time he got up to put his Question while other points were being dealt with. A little later he said “May I ask the Prime Minister why it is when a Question is put to himself and the Chief Secretary to recite all the horrible occurrences that have taken place last Sunday in Dublin, that we have heard nothing about the appearance of the military forces at a football match”. At this there were loud shouts of “Oh, oh” and “Sit down”. The subsequent scene is thus officially described:

Mr. DEVLIN rose to put further supplementary questions, amid loud shouts of “Sit down!”

An effort was made by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Major Molson) forcibly to remove the hon. Member for the Falls Division from his seat, but the attempt was resisted. Mr. Devlin struck out, and unintentionally hit an hon. Member (Mr. Higham) who was sitting in close proximity.

Grave disorder having thus arisen, Mr. Speaker rose, and ordered the suspension of the Sitting under Standing Order No. 21.

Sitting accordingly suspended at Five minutes after Four o’clock, the public galleries being also temporarily closed.

Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair at Twenty minutes after Four o’clock.

Major MOLSON: I wish to apologise to the hon. Member for the Falls Division (Mr. Devlin), to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House. I am afraid that I allowed my feelings to get the better of myself, and I forgot myself.

Mr. Devlin accepted the apology and assured Major Molson that in this or in any matters affecting him in the House he had not the slightest personal feeling. But he protested that the hon. Members were taking out of the Speaker’s hand the question of order in relation to supplementary questions. He again put his question as to what had happened at the football match. Then followed the further official pronouncement with a sharp exchange of comments:

The authorities had reason to believe that Sinn Fein gunmen came into Dublin on Sunday under the guise of attending a hurling match between Dublin and Tipperary, but really to carry out the Sunday morning’s murders. A mixed force of military, Royal Irish Constabulary, police, etc., therefore surrounded the playing fields at Crow[sic] Park on Sunday afternoon to search for arms, etc. This force was fired upon and they fired back, killing ten and wounding others. About 3,000 men were searched. Thirty revolvers and other firearms were found on the field. I regret to say that a woman and a man were crushed to death in the crowd.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: Is that the total casualty list?

Sir H. GREENWOOD: Ten killed, a number wounded, and a man and woman crushed to death in the crowd.

Sir W. DAVISON: Does not the fact that thirty revolvers were found scattered over this football field impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the extreme urgency of getting hold of the arms as the crux of the whole question?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: Ulster!

Sir W. DAVISON: Wherever they are. If the right hon. Gentleman has not power to do it by proclaiming martial law, should not legislation be introduced immediately to enable these arms to be taken?

Mr. MACVEAGH: Begin with Carson – he began.

Sir E. CARSON: You are a liar!

Mr. MACVEAGH: I presume, Mr. Speaker, that you heard the observation made by the right hon, Member for the Duncairn Division – “You are a liar!” [Hon. Members: “And the provocation given”].

Mr. SPEAKER: I did not hear it. I was speaking myself at the moment… It is not a Parliamentary expression and it should not be used in this House.

Throughout the Autumn Sitting the subject still came up again and again. On the 24th of November another Vote of Censure was moved upon the Government, this time by Mr. Asquith, in the following terms:

That this House condemns the outrages committed against the Forces of the Crown and civilians in Ireland, and expresses its deep abhorrence of the brutal assassination of His Majesty’s officers and other British subjects in Dublin on Sunday last; it deplores and condemn the action of the Executive in attempting to repress crime by methods of terrorism and reprisals which involve the lives and property of the innocent and are contrary to civilised usage; and it declares the urgency of taking immediate steps to bring about the pacification which is demanded in the interests of Ireland and the Empire.

Sir Hamar Greenwood admitted that some of the Creameries which were connected with the movement in Ireland for the co-operative collection, use and distribution of farm produce had been destroyed by the forces of the Crown. In some cases he said they were justified by the circumstances, and if he had his way no compensation would be paid in those cases. But if there were cases where the circumstances of destruction were not justified they would have his most sympathetic consideration on the question of compensation. He admitted that the Creamery in Ireland was one of the most beneficent institutions in that country, but it was the rendezvous of 200 to 300 farmers and their sons in the locality, and some times the rendezvous of the republican army from which orders to the local brigade were issued. One in particular, he said, had been actually an ambush for the destruction of the police. Summing up the position between the forces of the Irish administration and the insurgents he said:

We are succeeding. The Sinn Fein court has disappeared, except in back rooms, where it is held for the purpose of propaganda, especially in the American Press. The boycott is broken and its ugly sister, intimidation, is going.. I have been a party to the smashing of the hunger strike… The Irish Republican Army is being broken up, as I have quoted evidence to show.

Again Sir Hamar Greenwood repudiated any official sanction of reprisals. Speaking for Labour, Mr. Clynes asserted that since the crimes began in Ireland they had denounced them in the strongest manner, but they also felt compelled to urge that the policy pursued not merely by this Government but by every Government responsible for law in Ireland, was certain to fail once more “in this pitiful trail of Irish history”.

An important personal feature of the debate was the “crossing” of Mr. Oswald Mosley. Parliamentarians of experience have witnessed this process before. As in the case of Mr. Winston Churchill and Major (now General) Seely, who sat on the Conservative side at the beginning of the century, and other less conspicuous men who had gone from time to time from one Party to another, the effort to maintain an independent attitude amongst his original Party, upon questions of vital difference followed the same process. It began with speeches, questions and other suggestions of a critical attitude. Then came the direct attack on certain definite points, with suggestions and hints from immediate neighbours to “go to the other side”. Finally the “cross over”.

The reception of Mr. Oswald Mosley’s first speech from the Opposition benches by his old colleagues was not quite so noisy as the demonstrations against Mr. Churchill’s first “Liberal” pronouncement. There were not many interjections, and the speech was comparatively brief. As Mr. Mosley proceeded with his passionate denunciation of reprisals the old Parliamentary device used on one occasion against Major Seely was adopted. By personal conversations carried on in audible tones the Conservatives tried to indicate an indifference to his opinions and murmured down his efforts at persuasive eloquence. The speech thus concluded:

It is because I am a passionate believer in the mission and in the destiny of the British Empire, however, much hon. Members may scoff at the conception, that I am willing to see sacrificed this tradition of ages of British rule, even to satisfy the transient purpose of his gambler’s effort, which the Government appears to think is the only solution of the Irish Question.

“Pearls before swine” observer Commander Kenworthy, which remark he was called upon by the Speaker to withdraw.

Another speech of strong personal interest was delivered by Colonel Ward, the representative of the Navvies’ Union who undertook military service in the War and was promoted to the command of a Battalion. He was in Vladivostok for a time carrying out the instructions of the British Authorities during the period when the Allies were in the somewhat delicate position of endeavouring to maintain order in that part of Russia without any definite united policy of active intervention in the struggle between the Bolsheviks and Admiral Kolchak’s troops. A considerable degree of responsibility therefore rested upon the individual Commanders and, referring to this experience, Colonel Ward remarked that it was not so very long ago since he found himself in a situation perhaps something similar to that in which some of the isolated officers in Ireland might find themselves, when they were bound to take action according as they saw the immediate circumstances. “It is quite simple” he said “after the period has gone by and you can weigh up and balance the pros and cons of the situation, to say which way you ought to have acted… but I had to decide at the moment”.

In the course of a vigorous defence of the Officers and men in Ireland Colonel Ward amid cheers said:

Of all the heroic figures the world has ever seen I think the most heroic, the most chivalrous, the most honourable is the ordinary British Tommy.

Colonel Ward moved an amendment to Mr. Asquith’s motion to the following effect:

To leave out from the word “last” [“on Sunday last”] to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:

“and thanks the military and police and other servants of the Crown for the courage and devotion with which they are fulfilling their duty in Ireland in circumstances of inexampled difficulty; and expresses its approval of the steps which are being taken by His Majesty’s Government to restore peace in Ireland”.

Mr. Asquith’s motion was defeated and this amendment carried.

Circumstances did not improve as the year drew to a close. The Sinn Fein movement extended from Ireland to England and precautionary measures were taken against the possibility of outrages in Westminster. Barricades were erected at the entrance to Downing Street and special precautions taken within the precincts of the House. The privilege of viewing the House by the public was withdrawn and a very old precedent had to be quoted for any analogy to the situation. Mr. Arthur Henderson went over to Ireland to investigate matters on the spot, and on his return said he found in Ireland a widespread desire for peace.

Mr. Lloyd George was, just at this time, entertained at the Constitutional Club, the first occasion on which such an invitation had been extended to or accepted by a Liberal Minister, and some people were inclined to draw the conclusion from this event that the fusion between the Conservatives and the Liberals in the Coalition was coming within the bounds of practical politics.

Early in December a Proclamation was issued declaring Martial law in Cork County, Tipperary, Kerry, and Limerick, demanding that by the 27th of December all arms and arms held by unauthorised persons in these countries must be surrendered, the penalty for infringement being death. Just at this time a party of the authorised forces was ambushed in a lorry on the outskirts of Cork. One cadet was killed and some officers wounded. A series of reprisals followed and fires broke out in all parts of the city. The question was debated in the House of Commons and discussions arose as to the precise responsibility for the incendiarism. The Bishop of Cork condemned murder and arson and promulgated the decree that anyone in his diocese who should be guilty of murder or attempted murder would incur the censure of excommunication. The Government on their side also issued a warning that under martial law acts of indiscipline by forces of the Crown might involve the penalty of death.[…]

[1921] The most significant political event of the new year was the adoption by the Government of a policy of officially authorised reprisals in Ireland. It was announced that where there was reason to suspect that a house or building was being used for the unlawful purposes of those who were committing outrages on the forces of the Crown it would be destroyed.

Deeds of violence, however, grew worse and worse; there were more battles between the police and the Sinn Feiners and a curfew already in force was put into operation at eight in the evening. For a precedent in these islands historians went back to the days of the Norman occupation of England and their conflicts with the Saxon population of those times.[…]

The rumour that an Earl in disguise was negotiating in Ireland gave the staple problem an added element of romance.

The story was not all fiction. It may indeed be accepted that in order to explore the avenues of possible peace in Ireland Lord Derby went over under an assumed name. His visit was entirely unofficial; but it was understood that he reported what he had seen to the Prime Minister.

An interesting appointment was made to the highest office in Ireland. To fill a vacancy which occurred at this juncture, Lord Edmund Talbot, son of a former Duke of Norfolk, was appointed Lord Lieutenant. He was the leading lay Catholic in the British Isles and the first member of the Roman Catholic Church in modern times to act as direct representative of the Crown in Ireland. He took the title of Lord Fitzalan. After the long and often bitter record of antagonism between the Catholic majority in Ireland and the section of the community whom they called the “Protestant Ascendancy Party” this was regarded as another effort to heal old wounds. Lord Fitzalan had been the Chief Conservative Whip in the House of Commons for a long time. He was very popular with men of all parties there, and a shrewd tactful leader of men.[…]

A mild sensation enlivened the lobbies of Westminster and the centres of the legal profession when it was announced that Mr. Justice A. T. Lawrence (afterwards Lord Trevethin) as highly esteemed Judge of the King’s Bench, had succeeded Lord Reading as Lord Chief Justice. By accepted tradition the Attorney-General of the day has the first claim to the post, but the fact that the Prime Minister was very unwilling at this stage to lose the services of Sir Gordon Hewart portended possible developments of the Irish situation, rendering it desirable that the Law Officers of the Crown should be officials of experience, knowledge, and Parliamentary skill.

Rumours of an Irish truce, were, indeed, fluttering in political circles like miniature kites – testing the changing breezes. The two Sinn Fein leaders, easiest to find, because they happened to be in prison, were Mr. John McNeill and Mr. Arthur Griffiths. An intimation was supposed to reach them in some way that the Government might be prepared to grant Dominion Home Rule, subject to safeguards about the Navy and Army, but would have to be certain first that Ireland would accept. A meeting was in some way arranged between Sir James Craig, the leader of the Ulster Unionists, and Mr. de Valera. It was said that Sir James Craig sat silently smoking his pipe most of the time, but those people who knew this solid man from the North did not draw the conclusion which other people might infer from his silence. The fact that the two men had met was a significant step. The General Election under the Government Home Rule Act – which had now gone through without any strong blessings from any quarter – resulted in an overwhelming victory for Sinn Fein candidates in the South and West of Ireland, with the exception of four members for Dublin University. In Ulster there was a majority of twenty-eight for the Unionists, with six Nationalists and six Sinn Feiners, making up the forty.[…]

At the beginning of June, General Seely who had hitherto urged upon his fellow Liberals patience and consideration for the officers on duty in Ireland, called attention to the “urgent necessity” of putting a stop to such official reprisals as the burning of a house in Tipperary. This it seems was the residence of a widow, and also the original home of two nephews of the lady who were killed in the War. The occupant was given an hour’s notice to clear out; no furniture could be removed and only sufficient clothing for immediate needs. Nothing incriminating was found, said General Seely, but all the articles of furniture were smashed and the house blown up.

General Seely, who had served in South Africa when what was known as the “farm burning policy” began, said the almost unanimous opinion of the officers and soldiers condemned it. Colonel Guinness supported General Seely’s motion, and other support came from the Conservative side of the House. Sir Hamar Greenwood said the owner of the house had strong Republican sympathies and was suspected of having harboured rebels. That was the official opinion. The Irish Secretary admitted it might possibly have been wrong, but the authorities acted upon their judgment. A touching human incident was referred to by Sir Hamar Greenwood. The soldiers who undertook the work were hungry and thirsty, and Sir Hamar remarked the spectacle of the hostess making tea for the destroyers of her household, and entertaining them on the lawn, was a thing that could only happen in Ireland.[…]

The progress of Irish negotiations was slow but it proceeded stage by stage. General Smuts, the ever present help in stress and trouble, went over to Ireland. He had a private interview with de Valera and a truce was arranged. Those Members of the Southern Irish Parliament – which though elected had refused to meet – who were in prison were released in order to attend a special meeting, when an offer from the British Government was considered.

Mr. Lloyd George had gone up to Gaerloch in Inverness-shire for a holiday. In the Scottish highlands there were “conversations” between the two other branches of the Celtic family. Mr. de Valera contended that as Ireland had formally declared its independence and recognised itself as a Sovereign State it could only negotiate with another State on that basis. This position the Prime Minister could not admit but negotiations still went on.

In October a conference was held between Ministers representing the Government and Sinn Fein leaders as representatives of the Irish people. The Pope telegraphed to the King his satisfaction at the resumption of negotiations and prayed that an end would be brought to the age-long dissention. The King in reply joined in the Pope’s prayer that the conference might achieve a permanent settlement of the troubles in Ireland and initiate a new era of peace and happiness for his people.

An indication of future trouble with Mr. de Valera was provided by his telegram to the Pope denying that the people of Ireland owed allegiance to the British King. This was sent without previous consultation with the Sinn Fein delegates and Mr. de Valera did not attend the conference.

Colonel Gretton put down a motion censuring the Government for entering into negotiations with delegates from Southern Ireland who had taken an Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Republic. In the course of a heated debate in the House of Commons Mr. Lloyd George said:

I am going to deal quite frankly with the House of Commons; it is no use unless you do so. If this Conference be broken off… the first thing that any Government would have to do would be to come to this House, and ask for a considerable expansion of the forces of the Crown… You have to surround and hunt down small elusive bands over a very considerable tract of territory, a good deal of it highly difficult, mountainous country and swampy country, with a population entirely in sympathy with your guerrillas.

If it is to be done, and if the people of this country are convinced that it must be done, it can be done and it will be done.

In that terrible hour, when someone standing at this Box has to ask the House of Commons to invite the country to make greater sacrifices, his conscience must be clear.

We shall examine every proposition, we shall seek every path which leads to an honourable peace. We want to be able, honestly and sincerely, to tell our countrymen if we fail that it has not been through our fault.

Mr. Asquith said twelve months ago some of them were bold enough to advocate Dominion self-government. “I think” he said “I myself was represented by the fertile and inventive rhetoric of the Prime Minister as being qualified to be the next inmate for political Bedlam.”

Now they were perfectly content to support the new Government policy by every means in their power.

The speeches of well known Conservatives made it clear that the general spirit of the House of Commons was in favour of exploring every possible avenue that might lead to peace. Colonel Gretton only took forty-three men into the lobby with him.

In the hours of the 6th of December 1921 twelve men met in the Council Chamber at Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, signed the “Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland”.

The first clause in the Articles of Agreement was to the following effect:

Ireland shall have the same constitutional status to the community of nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa, with a Parliament having powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Ireland and an Executive responsible to that Parliament and shall be styled and known as The Irish Free State.

Ireland in fact had Dominion Home Rule. The most controversial point in recent negotiations was the nature of the oath to be taken by Members of Parliament of the Irish Free State. Ultimately the form embodied in the Articles of Agreement was in the following terms:

I,         do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George the Fifth, His Heirs and Successors, by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.

The question of the naval and military forces was dealt with in special clauses, the first of which provided that until an arrangement had been made between the British and Irish Governments whereby the Irish Free State undertook her own coastal defence, the defence by sea of great Britain and Ireland should be undertaken by His Majesty’s Imperial Forces, but the Government of the Irish Free State might construct and maintain such vessels as were necessary for the protection of the revenue or the fisheries. The ports of Great Britain and the Irish Free State were to be freely open to the ships of the other country on payment of the customary port and other dues. The Government of the Irish Free State undertook to His Majesty’s Imperial Forces:

(a)    In time of peace such Harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the annexe hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State; and

(b)   In time of war or of strained relations with a foreign power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for purposes of such defence as aforesaid.

The annexe dealt with the special facilities in detail.

As to military forces, the Agreement was to the effect that with a view to securing the observance of the principle of international limitation of armaments, if the Government of the Irish Free State established and maintained a military defence force, these establishments should not exceed in size such proportion of the military establishment maintained in Great Britain as that which the population of Ireland bore to the population of Great Britain.

The ever present Ulster problem had been dealt with by a process of voluntary “contracting out”. Under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, there was now a Parliament for Northern Ireland with two Houses. It was provided by the Treaty that within a month of the signature of the Treaty an Address might be presented to His Majesty by both Houses of Parliament of Northern Ireland to the effect that the powers of the Free State should not extend to Northern Ireland, and the Act of 1920 should so far as it related to Northern Ireland, continue in force; in which case a provision was adopted for the appointment of a Commission to determine “in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants and so far as might be compatible with the economic and geographic conditions” the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland.

A special Session of the British Parliament was summoned to receive the Articles of Agreement. The proceedings are thus announced in the official report:


The King being seated on the Throne, and the Commons being at the Bar with their Speaker, His Majesty was pleased to make a most gracious Speech to both Houses of Parliament and then retired.

His Majesty’s Speech was as follows:


I have summoned you to meet at this unusual time in order that the Articles of Agreement which have been signed by My Ministers and the Irish Delegation may be at once submitted for your approval.

No other business will be brought before you in the present Session.

It was with heartfelt joy that I learnt of the Agreement reached after negotiations, protracted for many months and affecting the welfare not only of Ireland but of the British and Irish races throughout the world.

It is my earnest hope that by the Articles of Agreement now submitted to you the strife of centuries may be ended and that Ireland as a free partner in the Commonwealth of Nations forming the British Empire, will secure the fulfilment of her national ideals.

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your labours.

The discussion of the Agreement by the House of Lords was preceded by a melancholy duty which by fateful coincidence marked the passing of an old Order. The Lord Chancellor referred to the death of Lord Halsbury[…] The business for which the House had assembled suggested that, although there might possibly be some Tories left, Lord Halsbury was, in all probability, the last of the Tories whose Toryism had force and effect. There is little doubt what his opinion would have been upon the Irish settlement – or any other settlement of that problem which departed one iota from the old Conservative conception of unyielding government from the centre.[…]

It was a day of coincidences. Viscount Morley moved the address in reply to the speech from the Throne. Lord Morley was associated with all the previous Home Rule Bills, and he recalled that on one occasion, when Home Rule happened to have received one of its many repulses, he ventured to observe to His Majesty the King “Well, Sir, do not let us be too sure that Your Majesty will not, some day perhaps, sooner or later, receive Home Rule proposals from Conservative Ministers”.

The Earl of Dunraven seconded the Address. Here again the modesty of past attempts was eclipsed by the boldness of present achievement. Lord Dunraven had incurred the criticism and indeed the hostility of his Conservative colleagues in days of old for suggesting a policy of “Devolution” as a possible solution of the Irish problem. Mr. George Wyndham, one of the most popular figures in the public life of the earlier years of the century, had been driven out of the Chief Secretaryship for Ireland – and practically exiled from politics – as a “suspect” in the cause of mild devolution.

The speech from Lord (formerly Sir Edward) Carson, bitter, eloquent, sincere, reminded old Parliamentarians that the memories of those days still lingered. The unyielding Irish Unionist, who had become a Law Lord, referred to the Radical and Home-Rule associations of Viscount Morley and went on to say:

It is befitting that he should attend here at these splendid obsequies of the Unionist party. I think he is a very proper person to pronounce a funeral oration over all that has been said and done by that misguided party.. for the last thirty-five years, dead and buried from to-day, with all this engineered splendour to cover up the defeat and humiliation you have had in Ireland.

When the milk-and-water Home Rule Bill was put upon the Statute Book… I was ordered to walk out of the House of Commons with indignation – which I did. And now… I am to have no indignation at the grant of what they are pleased to call Dominion Home Rule to Ireland… Look at this document… You may put in window-dressing about status of the Colonies… but from the beginning to the end there is nothing you will find except that England beaten to her knees by the gun of the assassin says: “We are willing to scuttle out of Ireland.”

Some forty-seven peers voted against the Treaty but 166 voted for it.

In the House of Commons there was another animated Debate. The Address was moved by Sir Samuel Hoare, a Conservative and seconded by Mr. George Barnes, a life long British Trade Unionist. The Prime Minister spoke with glowing hope of the future. Mr. Stanley Baldwin making, as he observed, his first speech of Irish affairs in the House of Commons, urged Members of all parties to go on with faith in the future. Mr. Asquith declared that this great international pact gave us clean hands and a clear conscience.

The Die-Hards in the Commons still put up a sturdy fight. Colonel Gretton moved an amendment to the Address, which practically proposed to reject the Agreement and he was supported by some other members.

Mr. Winston Churchill in one of his vivid speeches, recalling to old Parliamentarians his declaration on South African self-government, thus summed up the situation:

During the last two years the condition of Ireland has been worse than at any time during living memory. Whether it was a war that was going on or not is not worth arguing… at any rate a violent and homicidal campaign was being conducted by persons ready to risk their lives and liberties and for no personal object… Our soldiers and policemen were murdered. Unable to catch the guilty persons, and unable to convict them very often when they were occasionally caught, our soldiers and policemen, infuriated beyond endurance, retaliated… At a certain stage, with a view to trying to curb the reprisals in which the troops and the police indulged, official reprisals were instituted under martial law… There was, of course, no doubt of the power of Great Britain to crush Irish resistance… the nation would have been willing if there were no other way, to make the sacrifices… and to face the obloquy which would be inevitable… Another way has been found… It is a curious reflection to inquire why Ireland should bulk so largely in our lives… How is it that the great English parties are shaken to their foundations, and even shattered, almost every generation by contact with Irish affairs… Whence does this mysterious power of Ireland come?... How is it that she sways our councils, shakes our parties, and infects us with her bitterness, convulses our passions and deranges our action?... How much have we suffered in all these generations from this continued hostility? If we can free ourselves from it… then indeed we shall have secured advantages which may well repay the trouble and the uncertainties of the present time.

There was still a tremor of uncertainty. A word might decide the rank and file. That word was spoken by a tall, tired man from the corner seat of the Third Bench near the gangway.

Mr. Bonar Law, the ex-leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, had come back after an illness. In the seclusion of the sick room he had been able to take a detached view of those controversies in which he had played so prominent a part. In the House of Commons his word still counted. His influence was stronger in this moment of trial than when he was its official leader. As he rose to address the House a tense silence fell upon the Assembly. Speaking in a softened voice, he explained that the only reason why he had come there that afternoon was because he thought it would be almost cowardly in such circumstances not to express his opinion. Then he added in the same quiet tones:

Let me say at the outset that I am in favour of this Agreement.

Whatever doubt there might have been was now dispelled. If the Die-Hards had any hope of a majority, that hope had now departed. Incidentally, Mr. Bonar Law spoke in friendly terms of those old colleagues of his. The phrase “Die-Hards”, he said, was sometimes applied as a term of reproach. It was not regarded as such when it was applied for the first time to a regiment fighting in the Peninsula War.

The debate went on for some time, and in the end some fifty-eight members followed Colonel Gretton to the Lobby against the Agreement while over four hundred voted for it.

Thus concluded the momentous business of “the fourth Session of the thirty-first Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in the twelfth year of the reign of His Majesty King George the Fifth.”[…]

[1922] The task of 1922 in Ireland was to bring the newer conception of self-Government in line with the practical work of every-day life. The Dail – the Irish Parliament – by the small majority of 64 to 57 approved the terms of the Treaty, and Mr. de Valera then resigned his office as Chief in the Executive of the Provisional Government. Mr. Arthur Griffiths was elected President, and the Irish Free State officially came into existence. Its authority was formally acknowledged by Lord Fitzalan at Dublin Castle – the outward symbol of English rule in Ireland for centuries. The Southern Unionists who had taken an active and a determined part in opposing Home-Rule in the past now met and decided to support their fellow-countrymen in order that peace might be brought about and the welfare of the country secured.

As might have been expected there was a long and rough journey still before the leaders of the Irish people who had undertaken to mould the destinies of their country anew. There was trouble awaiting the new dispensation from the wild young men of the mountains.[…]

Civil war in Ireland was still going on. This unhappy fact was emphasised by a series of dramatic incidents. Mr. Arthur Griffiths took strong action, fortified by the June elections of 1922 which gave a verdict for the acceptance of the Treaty. On the 12th of August, on his way to his Office in Dublin, he fell dead from cerebral haemorrhage. The Irish Free State could ill afford to lose so able an administrator at this time of crisis. The utmost sympathy was expressed from all quarters, and the King sent a message of condolence to the deceased President’s relatives.

A grimmer tragedy was to follow. Michael Collins, who had been closely associated with Griffiths, and was the most powerful opponent of the insurgents, had worked hard to secure acceptance of the Treaty, and no doubt it was largely due to his genial personality that he had carried the Dail with him.

Michael Collins was one of the most remarkable men in the world’s history. There is no direct evidence as to how far he was responsible for the guerrilla warfare during the time when the Free State forces were in conflict with the British forces, but there is no doubt that he was inspiring brain of the “Irish volunteers”. During 1920, he was the most “wanted” man in Ireland. A reward of £10,000 was offered for his arrest and his pictures were published. It was impossible to catch him, although he used no disguise and it is said that letters addressed to him were duly received and dealt with.

It was understood that he conducted private negotiations for an Irish settlement through the Australian Archbishop Clune and in July 1921, when the truce was proclaimed, he was foremost in the discussions which concluded the Treaty with the British Government. Having entered into the Treaty he devoted all his energies to a faithful fulfilment of the conditions.

When the Republicans made war against the Treaty he assumed chief command of the Free State Forces. On the 22nd August 1922, while he was motoring with a strong escort from Skillereen to Cork, his party were ambushed and he was shot through the head. His body was taken by sea to Dublin and embalmed. It lay in State there, and many thousands of persons passed in procession beside it. He was undoubtedly the hero of the Irish people and it is recorded that the demonstration of deep reverence was more impressive than any similar public event within living memory.

With the death of Arthur Griffiths, and of Michael Collins, a figure hitherto unknown outside the Irish movement came prominently to the fore. William Thomas Cosgrave was born in Dublin in 1880, and educated at the School of the Christian Brothers. He qualified for a business life in his younger days, but became a strong adherent of the earlier Sinn Fein movement. In 1913 he joined the Irish Volunteers and in 1916 took part in the Irish Rebellion. While amongst those political prisoners interned at Frongoch, he was elected to the British Parliament but did not take his seat and was one of the organisers of the movement of public bodies in Ireland who refused to co-operate with Dublin Castle. In 1922 he acted as Deputy to Arthur Griffiths. He now became President of the Executive Council, and was destined to take a prominent place in the future development of Irish history.[…]

One of the earliest measures of the new [British] Parliament was the Irish Free State Constitution Bill ratifying the Treaty. The Die-Hards made one last protest but the Conservative Government, with Mr. Bonar Law as Prime Minister, set the seal on the Agreement.

The formal assent was given on the 5th December, and on the 6th the King signed the Proclamation announcing the adoption of the Irish Free State Constitution.

To Members of Parliament and to a large number of the British and Irish public one of the interesting features of the new dispensation was the appointment of Mr. Timothy Healy who was sworn in as Governor General of the Free State. There was a popular story of the great Irish wit, Father Healy, who was said to have been asked “What will Mr. Tim Healy be in the Irish Home Rule Government?” To this the politician’s reverend name-sake is reported to have replied “An old man!” This story was often quoted as indicating the prospects of Home Rule – another example of the true word spoken in jest!

Mr. Tim Healy was 67 – not quite an old man, as the age of Statesmen is counted. He had lived to see Home Rule.

Mr. Cosgrave was re-elected President. The Parliament of Northern Ireland immediately voted itself out of the Free State under the provisions of the Constitution, and the ordinary public in Great Britain left their brethren in the sister isle to work out their own salvation.

[1924] There were changes and innovations in the more serious matters of national life. Mr. J. H. Thomas, who had become Colonial Secretary, announced that the Irish Free State desired to be represented in the United States by a Minister Plenipotentiary authorised to take charge of all affairs relating only to the Irish Free State. Mr. Thomas observed that the Government had agreed to a similar application from the Canadian Government in 1920, and they were bound by the Treaty with the Irish Free State to give the Irish Free State the same facilities which would be accorded to the other Dominions. In making this announcement, Mr. Thomas added:

There are people in both countries who continue to urge that demands for a Republic in Ireland, if made, should be conceded. Once for all, let it be understood that any such demand would receive from His Majesty’s present advisers the same reply and no other than that which it would, I believe, have received from either of the two previous Governments which have been in Office since the Treaty was signed. We shall carry out the letter and spirit of the Treaty ourselves as the Government of the Irish Free State has done in the past, and as we look to all future Governments of the Free State to do in the future.

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