The Sorrows of Ireland
By Lady Aberdeen
[The Yale Review, October 1916]
Oh, the tragedy of it! For a time it seemed as if a silver lining might be found in one at least of the black clouds of the great war; as if the story of Ireland's controversy might be closed by England granting at last the long wrought-for boon—justice and self-government for Ireland—that much desired object being finally sealed by Irishmen of the North and the South learning to know and trust each other, as they had never done before, while they fought and died together for the freedom of other nations, winning fresh laurels for Ireland in so doing, and extorting eloquent testimonies from many quarters, such as this report of a Scottish soldier's remark at Gallipoli: "I have no Irish connections whatever; in fact, I was rather opposed to the granting of Home Rule, but now, speaking honestly and calmly, after witnessing what I did—the unparalleled heroism of those men—I should say nothing is too good to give the country of which they were such worthy representatives. We are all brothers, but to my dying day, I bow to the Irish." At such a time and in the atmosphere thus created, the news was flashed over the world that an attempt had been made to land arms in Ireland from a German vessel; that an Irish Republic had been proclaimed in Dublin; that a few hundred insurgents had seized the Post Office and had entrenched themselves firmly in various other public buildings, cutting off all telegraphic communication between Dublin and England and shooting down their fellow Irishmen who opposed them; and that risings were reported as imminent in various other parts of Ireland.
What did it all mean? Were the Germans right after all? In spite of more than 250,000 Irishmen fighting together in the trenches, who had given the lie to the expectation of civil war in Ireland, had a junction been effected between German invaders and disaffected Irishmen? Had boats with arms and ammunition and German officers on board to direct the insurrection, been landed at different points? Was there a general massacre of loyalists going on?
Such were the rumors flying about in England, gaining strength as they went. Nothing but the vaguest news could be obtained, and anxious relatives imagined all kinds of horrors happening to their friends in the disturbed areas. People in America, who heard something of the course of events day by day and who could therefore gauge the futility of the madcap rebellion from the outset, can scarcely realize the fears which were entertained in Great Britain for a few days, and which caused the dispatch of the military and the proclamation of martial law to be hailed with intense relief; and not only in England and Scotland but in Ireland itself, where there was but an infinitesimal portion of the population in sympathy with the rebellion, and where the soldiers were hailed in many parts with cheers and gifts of food and other comforts. Many regarded them in the light of protectors, who would restore order and prevent the homes and the shops from being looted by the disorderly youths and boys who are a natural product of Dublin's disregarded slums.
For a few days of anguish the city was given over to fire and sword and shooting of Irish Nationalist soldiers and policemen by Irish Republicans and vice-versa, during which time the Castle—that name of evil omen where the State Apartments and the Hall of St. Patrick's Knights had been for many months a Red Cross Hospital—became the common shelter of wounded insurgents, soldiers, and policemen lying side by side with wounded soldiers from France. Then came the news that the insurrection was quelled, that the rebels had surrendered unconditionally, and that orders had been sent by the man who was termed "provisional President of the Republic" to the outlying centres held by the insurgents, to lay down their arms to prevent further loss of life. And then came England's great opportunity, when Ireland and her kin beyond the sea could have been won for ever—an opportunity like to that which had been seized and acted upon by self-governing South Africa in the name of the King, after the South African rebellion headed by De Wet and quelled by Botha.
But alas! the country was in a state of war, and according to the soldier's code, military law had to be administered as on the field of battle, and there was no manner of doubt as to the guilt of those who had precipitated an insurrection causing the death of more than five hundred persons, the maiming of many others, the destruction of much valuable property, and the upsetting of the minds of the people at a time when the cause of Ireland, no less than the cause of the Allies, demanded entire concentration on the successful prosecution of the great European war. Never had any set of men more deeply forfeited their lives to the state, and never had any set of men done so more willingly, cherishing wild dreams of a free and independent Ireland, and forgetting the ties of brotherhood which united them to those other hundreds of thousands of Irishmen who believed that they were no less risking their lives for the sake of Ireland's freedom by fighting for her and the Allies in the trenches abroad.
And when once the supreme doom had been passed on any of the leaders, it was but natural, perhaps, that officers in command should feel that there could be no differentiation among those who had assumed a common responsibility in leading hundreds of unwarned youthful followers into a rebellion which involved for them and their families the direst consequences. But nevertheless, I doubt not that there are countless thousands of British subjects both in the United Kingdom and in the overseas Dominions whose hearts are wrung with regret that England could not temper "justice with mercy."
But the question arises, how were these rebels created? Are they a recent product? Is it just Irish innate "cussedness" that produces these sporadic insurrections from time to time, and always at the moment of danger for Britain?
To answer these questions we cannot confine ourselves to the immediate origin of the recent trouble, nor to the reasons which combined to bring its leaders into association with one another. We have to inquire into the causes of the never ceasing conflict between the two countries, ever since Strongbow first set foot on the soil of Ireland, invited thither by one of her own chieftains. We should have to produce volumes of oratory and tomes of poetry, all leading to the same conclusion, and breathing the passionate desire for the recognition of Ireland as a nation, with the right to manage her own affairs, and to bring up her children as Irish men and women, speaking their own language, proud of their own history and literature, and developing according to their own ideals. Set against these aspirations the character of the Anglo-Saxon with an unalterable belief in his country and its laws, its history, its language, its power to conquer whenever it resolves to vanquish, and the certainty that all countries and races that come under its rule and influence must of necessity be happier than under any other—and you get the conditions of the centuries of strife, misery, and misunderstanding between the two countries so closely related, and between races which should be, and which indeed are, complements of one another.
I think it was Dean Stanley who used to say that if you examined the pedigree of any Anglo-Saxon who attained any considerable degree of success, you would find that he had a dash of the Celt in his composition, whereas, on the other hand, the genius of the Celt needed the steadying touch of the solid Anglo-Saxon to make him more fully effective in practical life. There are those who scoff at the notion of this essential difference between the races, and who bid us remember that the people of Great Britain and Ireland are composed of a hopelessly confused medley of races from which it is vain for us to pick the predominating characteristics that mould the characters and destinies of the four component parts of the British Isles. And it is those very people who thus scoff, who will never understand the instinctive patriotism through which the Gael can ever be fired to noble deeds, whether you find him in Scotland or Wales, or Cornwall or Ireland; and it is those very people who have again and again wrecked the relations between England and Ireland up to the present day.
In 1601 we find Bacon writing to Cecil, Elizabeth's famous Secretary of State, regarding the roots of trouble in Ireland which had to be got rid of. Amongst them he mentioned "the ambitions of the chiefs," and "the barbarous laws, customs, habits of apparel, and the poets who enchant them in savage manner"—and so "the wild Irish" were to be driven out to waste lands, and settlements to be made of colonies of civil people of England and Scotland "who would reclaim Ireland and Ulster in particular...from savage and barbarous customs, to humanity and civility."
Successive leaders and orators have pleaded with England, for her own sake as well as for that of Ireland, to relinquish her futile policy of repression alternated by conciliation, and once and for all to acknowledge herself in the wrong in the attempt to rule Ireland against her will, and to wipe out the infamy of the Act of Union by establishing once again an Irish Parliament, clothed with the power of legislating for the domestic affairs of Ireland. For forty years an Irish Parliamentary Party has striven by constitutional means to obtain the rights, they; claim for their country, and to lead the people of Ireland to adopt this policy instead of that of physical force. That party has been a wonder of organization; it has maintained its policy under most severe and diverse trials. Its members have kept to their self-denying ordinance to accept no place under the British Government until Home Rule be established, and the party has received the steady support of the great majority of the people of Ireland. It was when successive elections proved that the Parliamentary Party represented the desires of the main body of people in Ireland, that Mr. Gladstone was convinced that the demand for Home Rule, reiterated again through Parliamentary representatives after the extension of the franchise in 1884, could no longer be disregarded.
As Lord Aberdeen and I enjoyed the privilege of living in intimate relations with Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone, we had the opportunity of watching the process by which the arguments of justice for Ireland and trust in her people acted on the great statesman when he was convinced that the demand made through her chosen representatives was real and continuous, and based on facts as well as on sentiment, From that time till his death the main object of his life was to obtain for Ireland the liberties which were enjoyed by other parts of the Empire; and at what cost to himself and his political followers he carried on the high mission which he believed to be entrusted to him, few remember now.
He was not permitted to see the desire of his heart accomplished. When my brother, Lord Tweedmouth, in his capacity as Chief Liberal Whip, brought to Mr. Gladstone the figures-giving the majority on which the Liberal Party could count in the House of Commons after the election of 1892 as only a little over thirty, Mr. Gladstone exclaimed in deep disappointment, "Then I shall not be in at the death!" Nevertheless, he labored more earnestly than ever to do all in his power to bring about the desired consummation.
But it was not till 1914 that the same Viceroy, Lord. Aberdeen, who was sent to Ireland by Mr. Gladstone as the first Home Rule Viceroy in 1886, saw a Home Rule Bill placed on the statute book. And meanwhile, what vicissitudes had that policy of self-government for Ireland experienced! We have seen it pass through every conceivable phase at the political meetings which it was our lot to attend in every part of Great Britain in order to plead for its adoption. We hare heard it cheered to the echo, and a few years later pronounced to be as dead as Queen Anne. There was a period when the forged letters published by "The Times" so blinded the people of England with prejudice that the cause associated with Mr. Parnell's name seemed as good as lost; but in a few short months he was so triumphantly vindicated that a public meeting in Edinburgh, over which Lord Aberdeen presided, was held to celebrate the conferring of the freedom of the Scottish capital on the Irish leader.
Again its fortunes waned, and there were years when to mention the words Home Rule was to court unpopularity, even in Liberal circles; and then again the faith of those who .remained loyal to the policy of trust in the people was rewarded by seeing it emerge out of darkness; and it was evident that the vast majority of the people of Great Britain had accepted it as a just and righteous measure, and wished to see the question disposed of. That was undoubtedly the temper of the electors who swept Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and the Liberal Party into power by a huge majority in 1905, and who heartily sustained his policy of self-government for South Africa.
But the Irish Parliamentary Party still had to wait for the fulfilment of their hopes, until the Liberal Government had carried legislation which would give Parliament power to enact great measures of reform in spite of an adverse majority in the House of Lords, if passed three times by the House of Commons. There were years of weary waiting, and recurring all-night sittings; but the Irish Party were found ever faithful and at their post; time and again defeating devices and snap divisions planned by vigilant foes who intended to wreck the Parliament Bill, and with it the hopes of great reforms demanded by the British democracy, as well as to bar the passage of Home Rule.
England and Scotland and Wales owe much to the Irish Parliamentary Party during those years of struggle, even as they were already in its debt during the previous Liberal Administration of 1892-95, when with a majority of only a little over thirty much important legislation was passed through the House of Commons, in many cases to be afterwards lost through the action of the House of Lords. Such was the fate of the second Home Rule Bill. But during all those years between 1886 and 1914, the Irish Party were able to promote the passing of many Parliamentary measures for the benefit of Ireland, both under Liberal and Conservative Governments, and none have been of greater benefit than the successive Land Purchase Acts through which two-thirds of the land of Ireland has passed into the direct control of the occupiers, the establishment of a Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction which has the co-operation of an Advisory Council, and of County Committees directly chosen by the people. The part played by the Parliamentary Party in pressing forward all these reforms has been most conspicuous, but they have never suffered it to be thought that these measures, beneficial as they were, lessened or obscured Ireland's demand for the restoration of her Parliament on College Green.
Unionists have constantly asserted that when once the land question was settled and farmers had an interest in the soil, and when local government was given, the Irish people would soon cease to press, for Home Rule. They little knew Ireland who could believe this; and those who do not come into contact with the conditions of life in Ireland little realize how the grip of English rule and English misunderstanding makes itself felt not only by constant supervision of the police but also through the influence of the innumerable officials connected with Boards and Departments without number, who are governed by English ideas and a supreme sense of responsibility to the British Treasury, rather than by what is needed for the health of the people of Ireland and the development of the country's resources.
The County and Borough Councils and the Municipalities of Ireland have done fine work, in spite of the abuse which is often levelled at them, and amongst their officials will be found well-trained men with experience and knowledge to fit them to take a useful part in the future government of Ireland under her own Parliament. But at present the powers of these local authorities are so limited in many ways, they .are so harried and hampered by numberless regulations and vexatious restrictions, that it is little wonder that they become disheartened and do not attempt to carry out the housing schemes and measures of reform so urgently needed for the benefit of the homes of the people.
The wonder is that under the present system of constant espionage it can still be recorded that the proportion of crime in Ireland is so low. Up till now the cities of Ireland have not been permitted the power to borrow in the open market for civic schemes.* [* A special permission has quite recently been granted to local authorities in Ireland to borrow in the open market in the United States, for urgent housing purposes, and it is more than possible that the Dublin Corporation may avail themselves of this permission to meet Dublin's dire need.] All such loans have had to be negotiated in their behalf through the Board of Works and with its approval. Many instances might be quoted of much-needed local improvements falling through. Some important housing was required in a small town, but difficulties cropped up about obtaining land at reasonable cost, no Town Planning Act authorizing compulsory purchase of such land by municipalities being applicable to Ireland. The landlord, however, was approached by a local philanthropic organization, their petition was granted, and the desired land offered very reasonably. The Urban Council took up the matter, decided to go forward with the scheme, the plans were made, the contracts were drawn up, the approval of one Board was obtained, but at the last the work was stopped because another Board held that the scheme would involve too high a rate for the town. The laborers for whom the houses were required are to this day without them, and the Urban Councillors will be hard to persuade to take up the matter again.
Of course, regulations and standards by which local authorities must carry on their business are necessary, but it all depends upon how such supervision by the central authority is administered. Fancy what an American city would say if it were told that it had no power either to maintain a municipal Pasteurized milk depot for the benefit of weakly babies, nor to give a grant to such a milk depot already running under voluntary workers and proved to have done excellent work in saving scores of babies' lives! Yet that is what the Dublin municipality was informed by the Law Officer and by the Local Government Board. And accordingly the said milk depot had to be closed after the first few weeks of the war owing to the diversion of voluntary subscriptions to war purposes; and the doctors agree that an increase of infant mortality in the City of Dublin is the result.
This is merely an illustration, but it is in matters of this kind, and in the arrangements for primary and secondary education, in the provision of suitable and sanitary schoolhouses, and in the administration of the Poor Law, that the people of Ireland, and especially the children of Ireland, are at such a disadvantage as compared with the children of England and Scotland. Recently it was computed that there were over 20,000 children in Belfast for whom there was no room in the schools; and when School Attendance Officers in Dublin are urged to insist on the more regular attendance of the children, they will tell you how shamefully overcrowded many of the schools are already.
If a widow in Dublin, with four children, applies for relief, she can receive the value of three shillings, fivepence a week in 8 ounces of tea, 2 pounds of sugar, and 10 loaves of bread, or the alternative will be to enter the hated workhouse. In Glasgow, the order for a widow under like circumstances would generally be three shillings a week for each member of the family, on the understanding that the mother undertakes to remain at home to care for her family. In Liverpool, the allowance would be a penny per child less.
In England and Scotland, there is now medical inspection in the schools, as well as medical treatment and special schools for children in any way defective, open-air schools, and children's sanatorium. In Ireland, there is no provision of the kind, although the children are relatively more in need of such help. The medical dispensaries in Ireland, though they look well on paper, do not meet the needs of the poor, and they have a flavor of the Poor Law which renders them distasteful. Illustrations of these differences and disabilities might be easily multiplied; they can only be remedied by the power and the responsibility for their adjustment being placed in the hands of the Irish people themselves, who understand their own needs and who will meet them, although they may do so by methods not in exact accordance with English ideas.
The faults most apparent in Ireland are those which are bred in a people who are alternately tyrannized over and cajoled; and if they seek by secret means to obtain their desires, who can blame them? Certainly not those who deprive them of the responsibilities and the duties which are the rights of a free people. Certainly not those who, after a long period of shameful penal laws imposing endless disabilities on all who would not conform to the State Church, whether Catholics or Presbyterians, and making it a crime to provide education for Catholic children, ultimately devised a system of so-called national education which excluded any instruction in the history and literature of Ireland and sent, teachers who could not speak one word of Gaelic to teach Irish-speaking children.
The Gaelic League was started as a non-political association formed to endeavor to save the language which was the only language of ninety-nine hundredths of the Irish race up to 1700, and in which there exists so noble a literature. It accomplished great things in keeping alive the use of the Gaelic in Irish-speaking districts, and in reviving the old songs and music and dancing, and also in forming centres all over the country where people could meet to study the old language and at the same time the old history and literature of their country, mingling for social intercourse on the basis of common love for Ireland and all things Irish. It also contended for the teaching of Irish in the schools and succeeded in bringing this about. If it had done nothing else save to revive the old happy country-side gatherings, restoring hope and confidence and inducing in the young a desire to study and to spend their leisure time in learning the old Irish songs and music and dances instead of hanging about the corners of the streets, it would have done a great deal. But it also promoted the .cause of Irish industries by encouraging the use of articles made in Ireland, so often neglected for more easily obtained imported goods. Many of its members took a deep interest in the formation of local Industrial Development Associations which have been a real and beneficial driving force for the development of Irish industries and resources. Beside these organizations there has been a remarkable Irish literary movement, producing a number of writers and poets and dramatists of an essentially original and Irish type, creating also an Irish Theatre which has made a deep impression not only on Ireland but also in Great Britain and America.
Thus on all sides national sentiment is being nurtured and deepened, and is finding practical outlets. At the same time the farmers are making astounding progress under the new conditions of being owners of their farms; and under the fostering care of the Department and the County Agricultural Committees, together with Sir Horace Plunkett's Irish agricultural organization, are being incited to fresh effort in co-operation with one another. The re-established evicted tenants are settling down under the arrangements of the Land Commission, and the dwellers in the congested districts are entering into a new inheritance in the re-distribution of land amongst them on an economic basis, and with opportunities for learning how to make the most of their land. The fifty thousand cottages built by the local authorities under a special grant changed the position of agricultural laborers, and the opening of technical classes and technical schools, so eagerly taken advantage of, has given a new outlook in life to the younger generation, the only sad side of this being that there are so few industries in Ireland where skilled workers are required. Thus agricultural Ireland is walking in new paths, and paths full of hope.
But the housing conditions of the cities and towns of Ireland remain a blot and a menace, culminating in Dublin with a lamentable lack of houses suitable for the working classes, and with 22.9 of its population living in one-room tenements—12,042 of them families, consisting of 73,973 persons, thus giving an average number of occupants in each room as 6.1. The Corporation of Dublin has done more in regard to providing new housing in proportion to the number of the population than any other city of the United Kingdom, but its powers are too limited; the task with which it has to deal is stupendous. The proportion of poverty is indicated by the fact that about half the deaths in Dublin occur in hospitals, institutions, and workhouses. The fact that more than a quarter of the male population is engaged in unskilled labor at a rate of wages not exceeding eighteen shillings a week explains largely the reason of the poverty, the ill health, and the high death rate of Dublin, and for that matter, of other Irish cities too.
However, three years ago the municipalities of Ireland formed an association amongst themselves after a housing and health conference, held at the invitation of the Women's Health Association and the Town Planning Association. They decided that their first duty must be to promote some schemes whereby the Irish urban laborer should be put on the same footing as his rural brother. The prospect seemed hopeful, the Government promised a grant, there was a possibility of helpful legislation, and at a Civic Exhibition opened in Dublin in July, 1914, where an immense concourse of municipal and other local authorities met to support and push the cause of civic progress, the Viceroy announced a prize for the preparation of the best town-plan for a new Dublin, beautiful in itself, and convenient for its workers.
But during all these years of progress there was a group of people who were neither satisfied with material development nor with the cult of Irish nationalism provided by artistic, literary, and industrial organizations, nor with the action of the Irish Parliamentary Party. This group had come to the conclusion that Home Rule would never materialize in any practical form, and that those who wished to save Ireland from losing her nationality and becoming a mere province of Great Britain, must organize on different lines. And so in November, 1905, the policy of the newly formed Sinn Fein National Council was explained in an address by Mr. Arthur Griffith, the editor of the Sinn Fein newspaper.
Its name "ourselves alone" was to be its slogan; it was to aim at "the re-establishment of the independence of Ireland," and to adopt the platform that, first, "Ireland is a distinct nation"; second, that "no agreement should be made with Great Britain until the latter kept the compact made in 1783, which enacted that the right claimed by the people of Ireland to be bound only by laws enacted by His Majesty and the Parliament of that Kingdom is hereby declared to be established and ascertained for ever, and shall at no time hereafter be questioned;" and, third, that all existing powers are to be used "for the creation of a prosperous, virile, and independent nation." Meanwhile national self-development was to be advanced "through the duties and rights on the part of the individual and by the aid of all movements originating within Ireland, instinct with national tradition." A protective system for Irish industries was to be introduced; also the establishment of an Irish Consular Service, and an Irish Mercantile Marine. The creation of an essentially Irish Civil Service was to be effected by persuading all local bodies to appoint only those\who had passed a qualifying examination in the Irish language and in the knowledge of Irish history, literature, and industrial resources. The reform of education on a national basis was to be undertaken, and Sinn Fein members were expected "to refrain from consuming as far as possible articles paying duty to the British Exchequer," and from "giving any voluntary support to the British armed forces."
The Sinn Fein movement had doubtless from the outset a considerable number of sympathizers in the United States amongst the irreconcilables who still dream of an independent Irish Republic. The enemies of the Home Rule movement and of the Irish Parliamentary Party of all kinds were glad to give covert support to the Sinn Feiners, and in this way there were sundry strange alliances. But for many years the Sinn Fein movement gathered little strength, and its weakness was manifest in having to abandon the daily issue of its organ and in the diminishing number of its candidates returned at the municipal elections in Dublin and elsewhere.
It was once again Ulster which was to give the impetus to a movement of revolt, by organizing and arming a body of Ulster Volunteers, by smuggling in arms which were said to be supplied from English sympathizers, and from Germany, and by planning a provisional government which was to proclaim itself in charge of Ulster the moment that a Home Rule Parliament was established in College Green. "Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right" was the watchword. If King George signed the Home Rule Bill, he would forfeit the loyalty of the Ulster Unionists.
A Liberal Government pledged against coercion believed that the wisest policy was to turn a blind eye to these threatenings and vauntings of treason, and these secret drillings and parades, so long as no actual violence was attempted; and by this policy they doubtless greatly disappointed sundry leaders who courted arrest and prosecution. But meanwhile Nationalist Ireland looked on with scarce concealed admiration of their Ulster brethren's performances, and took note. Then came the time when they, too, decided to organize a volunteer force to defend themselves in the event of hostile proceedings from Ulster. And the Government which had suffered the organization of the Ulster Volunteers could not interfere with the National Volunteers. And then came England's great opportunity at the outset of the war. The Home Rule Bill had been placed on the statute book, after anxious delays, yet not to become operative without an amending Bill. Still it was there, and on its faith Mr. John Redmond in a never-to-be-forgotten announcement offered the National Volunteers to the British Empire to fight alongside the Ulster Volunteers in defense of their common country and thus to free the British forces in Ireland for service abroad.
The enthusiasm that was evoked by this courageous speech re-echoed over the world, and the Volunteers would doubtless have made Mr. Redmond's offer good had the British War Office been wise enough to clinch the bargain. That day of opportunity went by, and although the young men of Ireland responded generously to the appeal to stand by the rights of small nations and to realize that in fighting for the cause of the Allies they were fighting for Ireland, yet there was a section which drew off, suspicious, resentful, believing that the Home Rule Act was but a sham, intended to draw Ireland on and then leave her in the lurch. And so, as recruiting for Kitchener's new army went on, there was always a tendency for some to join the ranks of the Sinn Fein, and some 13,000 Sinn Fein Volunteers broke off from the main body of National Volunteers who followed Mr. Redmond. And then came the unexpected shock of the formation of the Coalition Government, with not only Sir Edward Carson but several other avowed opponents of Home Rule in the Cabinet, and Mr. Redmond by the pledge of his party unable to accept a place beside them. The confidence in the materialization of the looked-for Irish Parliament grew fainter, the rumors of conscription being applied to Ireland grew stronger, and the apostles of Sinn Fein and physical force, in company with the leaders of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and of the Citizen Army which was the legacy of the days, of the terrible strike of 1913-14, decided by the majority of one vote that, in the words of their own proclamation, the moment had arrived for "Ireland to summon her children to her flag and to strike for her freedom." They accordingly "seized that moment, supported by Ireland's exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe."
The origin of the tragedy of the Sinn Fein rising of Easter week, 1916, is thus laid bare, and its bitter consequences are but too well known. Out of the darkness of the gloom that followed came a ray of light, when the Prime Minister declared, on his return to England after visiting the scenes of the rebellion, that one thing at least was certain and agreed to by all parties, and that was, that the system of governing Ireland known as "the Castle" had absolutely broken down and could never be renewed.
And then we heard that Mr. Lloyd-George had accepted a commission, unanimously confided to him by the Cabinet, to negotiate with the different parties in Ireland with a view of arriving at a settlement whereby the Home Rule Act would be set in operation, with certain special arrangements for those northern countries that wished to be left under the present system. And then, miracle of miracles, an Ulster Convention accepted the situation and agreed to a Home Rule Parliament being set up in Dublin; Sir Edward Carson was authorized to carry on further negotiations; and the Unionists of Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan agreed to their counties being placed under the Dublin Parliament. The Nationalists of Ulster by a large majority accepted the advice of Mr. Redmond and Mr. Devlin and agreed to the six northeastern counties being left out for the present, believing they would come in of their own accord later. The Directory of the Nationalist Party met in Dublin and accepted the terms submitted to them as suggested by Mr. Lloyd-George; and the Unionists had a meeting in London which passed no resolution, but at which it was understood that the great majority were in favor of the settlement. The press of Great Britain almost unanimously welcomed the proposals, and Sir Edward Carson and Mr. Campbell agreed to sit in the Dublin Parliament. What announcement could more emphasize the new state of affairs?
True, there were mutterings from the ultra Tory-Unionist party who could not part from their bogie of distrust in the people and, hence, terror of Home Rule. The O'Brienites set up a fresh wail at the treachery of the Irish Parliamentary Party in consenting to a "partitioned Ireland." But the friends of Ireland on both sides of the Atlantic rejoiced, believing that the establishment of an Irish Parliament by consent, with control over all those Boards where officials had hitherto carried on Irish business with their eyes turned to London for orders, would surely mean the beginning of the dawn which would brighten into fuller day when an Imperial Conference, composed of representatives of that sisterhood of self-governing nations which is the true British commonwealth, would undoubtedly decree that Ireland could no longer be the one exception to the policy which had created and proved the power of an empire founded on trust in the people.
At the moment of writing, these fair prospects are overclouded. By some inexplicable process, that section of the Tory Party which has always proved to be wrong, and which at every crisis has resisted reform until it was wrested from it, now appears to have so influenced the Cabinet that it decided to change the form of settlement which Mr. Lloyd- George had submitted to the various parties to the agreement, in two particulars, which were impossible for Mr. Redmond and the Irish Party to accept with any hope of carrying their followers with them and of ensuring a fair beginning to the new regime.
It appears certain that the vast majority of the people of Great Britain are bitterly disappointed at the break-down, and resent the influences whereby the settlement has been wrecked. Their whole-hearted admiration has been aroused for Mr. Redmond during the last two years when he has, time and again, shown himself so true and courageous a statesman, with the gift of understanding and interpreting not only the feelings of his own people, but also those of the Empire which he has served so well during these days of stress and trial. And through him and through the gallant deeds of the Irish soldiers, the British people have learned to understand Ireland and the value of Ireland's friendship as they have never understood it before. They may be inarticulate during this time of war; but they have taken note of what has occurred and of the part played by various persons and parties, and it may be accepted as certain that they will make it manifest that they will not brook any longer their country being made a byword throughout the world because of her obstinate refusal to yield to Ireland the ordinary rights of a free country while she is championing the freedom of small nationalities all over the world.
The leaders of the two great Irish parties have openly said that it is impossible to go back to the old strifes which so bitterly divided them before the war. They are going to find a way to agree—they are going to set to work to build up their country, to develop its resources, and to care for its little children so that they will all have a chance of growing up in vigor of body and mind to serve their native land and make it a name of praise and joy amongst the nations. Let those who dare, say nay. The democracies of the British Empire and of Ireland will deal with them.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
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THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald