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and to distribute literature which will enlighten the free and independent elector as to the woeful plight of Unionists across the water, the great majority reply, 'For Heaven's sake do not worry us about Ireland ; our people take no interest in the subject; wait until “ C.-B.” introduces Home Rule again, and then we will listen with pleasure.'
Now let us see what is the condition to which Ireland has been reduced by the present Administration, ably backed by its majority of anti-Imperialists who are well aware that the surest way to bring about the death of the Empire is to foment its Heart's disease.
The trouble began in the Session of 1906 which, contrary to all Nationalist expectations, was a legislative blank for Ireland. The leaders of the Irish Parliamentary party held their followers in check for many months, believing that Mr. Bryce (the then Chief Secretary), who was so ardent a Home Ruler in Opposition, would immediately translate his good words into better deeds. But they were disappointed ; and so, in the month of November, a certain Mad Messiah, by name Mr. Ginnell, M.P., started preaching the Gospel of cattledriving with a new set of Beatitudes, one of which has lately been formulated by Mr. Delany, M.P.: 'Blessed are the cattle-drivers, for they shall possess the land.' This new agitation proved exceedingly popular, for its objects were so obvious : first of all to break up the grazing land by driving out the graziers after they had been ruined, and then to secure such untenanted estates at a very much lower purchase price than (but for this illegal conspiracy) they would have been offered to the Estates Commissioners. But Mr. Bryce took no notice of these things, for by this time his eyes were looking across the Atlantic Ocean. Oblivious of the ruinous movement that was being started in Roscommon, he went to Newcastle on the 15th of January, 1907, and said that 'the disorder of which you hear so much has now practically disappeared in very nearly the whole country ;' and 'we have not prosecuted anyone for any speech because we have not found any harm in those speeches.' Thus he sowed the wind, and we are reaping the whirlwind. At the moment he was speaking there were scores of families boycotted at the instigation of the United Irish League, men and women who could not get the necessaries of life in their own villages, who were under police protection, next to whom neither man nor woman would sit at Mass. A week after he had spoken, injuries of so extensive and malicious a character were perpetrated on a farm in Monaghan that the judge gave a decree for 11511. to be levied off the district in which the outrage had occurred; and at the same time (20th of January) Mr. Beirne, of Tonlagee fame, whose cattle had been chased all over the country, surrendered to the United
1. Whilst the Unionists were in power there was not a cough out of these gentlemen. They only blossomed into heroes when the Crimes Act was laid on the sbelt' (from Mr. William O'Brien's paper, the Irish People, November 23, 1907).
Irish League, 'out of respect to Mr. Redmond, Mr. Dillon, and all the Irish party,' a farm which he had purchased in the open market at a price which ran into four figures. At this point Mr. Bryce's career as Irish Secretary terminated, and it may safely be said already that no traces of his administration remain except his precedent for ignoring crime and disorder, and his farewell scheme for grafting & Roman Catholic College on to Trinity College, Dublin ; these are, in Mr. Balfour's words, the colours which he nailed to his successor's mast.
To such an heritage of woe succeeded Mr. Birrell, of whom it is reported that he left the Education Office with the ominous words, the executors found all his papers in order and were unable to assign any motive for the rash act'-presumably of exchanging Downing Street for Dublin Castle. Time went on, and with it boycotting and intimidation, cattle-driving, and shooting outrages, increased rather than diminished, until the new Session opened in February 1907. The affairs of Ireland came before Parliament, and the Prime Minister announced that “The Irish people should have what every selfGoverning Colony in the whole Empire has——the power of managing its own affairs,' to which Lord Rosebery replied (on the 26th of March), that “that goes considerably beyond anything that Mr. Gladstone ever indicated in any of his schemes in 1886 or 1893'; and therefore he held to his earlier pronouncement that the Liberal Prime Minister was ‘hoisting once more in its most pronounced form the flag of Home Rule ... and I say emphatically, explicitly, and once for all, I cannot serve under that banner.' Winter mellowed into spring, and with March came the Assizes when the Lord Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Kenny made some very forcible remarks from the Bench concerning the state of Clare and Leitrim. The former Judge called attention to the fact that in Clare there was an increase in the number of persons under 'special' police protection, and that thirty people in that county alone were under 'general' protection ; said he : ‘Now, in an English Shire, if it was found necessary either by “special protection, or protection by police, to protect from risk of outrage thirty persons, what would be thought ?' How interesting & contrast to Mr. Birrell's words in the House of Commons a month before : 'I know enough of village Nonconformity to say that if a microscopic eye was focussed on our villages we too should have a record of exclusive dealing.' During March also, besides cattle-driving, some of the cruellest cases of boycotting came within range of my own personal experience ; intimidatory notices and threatening letters (of several of which I have copies) were sent to farmers throughout the disturbed districts ; seditious placards were widespread throughout the land ; police huts were erected on many estates, and the force was strengthened in various parts of the South and West of Ireland. To the leaders responsible for such a condition of things Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was ready to transfer 'the power of managing Ireland's own affairs.' In April the power of the United Irish League became even stronger than before ; men who would not surrender their farms were menaced and denounced by name-generally successfully-in meetings of the Executives ; but not a word did Mr. Birrell say to save them. Collections were taken at the Chapel doors by large numbers of priests for the support of the League to which nearly the whole Roman Catholic priesthood of Ireland belongs; the King's writ ceased to run in several counties ; postmen supposed to be serving processes were robbed of their mail bags and set upon by mobs and beaten ; bailiffs and Civil Bill officers declined to serve writs, one man writing, ‘I am sorry that I can't do it, but my life would be in danger as the people are mad in this part of the country.' Scores of League meetings were held in support of the men who made the observance of law and order impossible ; Mr. Birrell denounced as carrion crows' the Members of Parliament whose questions to the Chief Secretary showed that the condition of Ireland was a public scandal to the fame of a British Administration ; and, in the course of the same speech, at Halifax, he said that'Ireland is at this moment in a more peaceful condition than she has been for the last six hundred years !' During this month the Government, as a first item in its programme of surrender to the forces of disorder, supported a Nationalist Land Bill which utterly upset the compact of 1903, by which the British Treasury agreed to advance for Land Purchase in Ireland a total sum of 112,000,0001. on the understanding that this should be a final settlement of the question. The Bill of 1907, however, tore up the contract; it abolished the zone-system, admitted compulsion when three-fourths of the tenants desired to purchase, and declared that lands held under the eleven months' system'should be deemed untenanted lands' and purchaseable as such by the Estates Commissioners.
In the following month the movement for full surrender by instalments was well under weigh. On the 7th of May, early in the afternoon, the Chief Secretary informed Mr. Bridgeman, M.P., that 1245 grazing farms were at that moment under police protection; and then he proceeded to introduce his 'Irish Councils Bill. We need not pursue the ill-starred career of that ridiculous measure which few people understood and which nobody wanted. It had only two results worth considering : first, that the Nationalists now demand nothing less than an independent Parliament; and secondly, that Mr. Birrell has once more proved his natural aptitude for statesmanship by succeeding in tasks which have foiled all other politicians hitherto ; for just as he managed to unite the whole of Ireland against his Devolution measure, so he induced the Churches of England and of Rome to combine as a single instrument to defeat his Education Bill. No more need be said, therefore, about the Irish Councils Bill in detail ; but those who desire to know how far the Government were prepared to go in the direction of an Independent Parliament will do well to study the clauses of Mr. Birrell's Bill with care. The result of their investigations will surprise them. I need only note in concluding this chapter of failure, that a carefully packed Convention in Dublin threw out the Bill on its first reading, and that the Government in the humblest spirit accepted humiliation at the hands of Mr. Redmond's party, a defeat which might have caused a dissolution if it had been inflicted by the House of Lords. But Mr. Birrell has not learnt his lesson, which is that the Bishops insisted on the rejection of the 'Irish Councils Bill' on account of the clauses which handed over primary education to popular control. In Belfast the Chief Secretary has recently been suggesting this very remedy for the defects of the managerial system. It is safe to prophesy that if such a proposal ever reaches the House of Commons it will meet with disaster, and
from the same quarter.
We have to note in May the removal of Sir Horace Plunkett (an Irishman) from the Vice-Presidency of the Irish Department of Agriculture, and the substitution of Mr. T. W. Russell (a Scotsman) in his place ; and also the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Bryce's Roman Catholic University Bill, against which the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Scotland, Wales, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool, as well as other important academic and scientific institutions protested. I do not wish to weary the reader with the lists of evil doings, all of the same agrarian character and increasing in frequency, as the year wears on ; but I will ask him to remember that at this time the Nationalist agitators made fearless claims to Government approbation for cattle-driving. A magistrate on the bench at Athenry said on the 10th of May, 'Are you going to condemn these men for doing what they were told to do by the Chief Secretary?'; and again on the 2nd of May, a Mr. Fagan said, at Carrick-on-Shannon, “I know we have the sympathy of the English Government on our side, and I know that the Chief Secretary is heart and soul with us in the movement.' This arrogant pretence has never been unmasked by any member of the Government; it remains therefore in the category, with the dissemination of seditious leaflets, of statements which need not be refuted or suppressed.
The position of affairs at the beginning of June may be gathered from Mr. Birrell's answers in the House of Commons : 1245 farms under police protection ; eighty-one policemen affording protection to graziers in Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon; 400 police preserving stock from molestation ; six officers and 280 men drafted into ConDaught; the reserve force of Constabulary depleted by 177 men who had been drafted into various disturbed districts. This last piece of information was vouchsafed on the same day that Lord Denman
* In Ireland pamphlets are distributed wholesale, laying scandalous charges against the British Army and Navy and exhorting no Irishman to join them.
advised the astonished Peers that 'in the opinion of the Government the driving off of cattle cannot be considered a crime of a very serious nature,' a view shared by the magistrates and juries in most of the Sessions and Assizes where they generally dismissed cases, or else refused to convict. Towards the end of the month Mr. Birrell made another stride toward surrender and produced an Evicted Tenants Bill, which intended to reinstate in their old farms not only the
wounded soldiers of the Land War,' but their sons and grandsons, their sisters and cousins and aunts. The high-water mark of injustice was surely reached when it was found that the Bill permitted the expropriation of 'new' tenants who had paid their rents for twenty-five years in favour of a class of peasant whose forbears had been evicted for refusing to pay. The 'new' tenant was, it was true, to be compensated; but he was to take whatever monies the Estates Commissioners (from whom there was no appeal) offered, or a new farm in some spot chosen for him by the same officials, or go without compensation altogether. And the arguments for this coercive measure were largely drawn from evidence taken before the 'Dudley Commission' which has not yet-six months afterwards-issued its Report !
Meanwhile matters were going from bad to worse and personal violence was on the increase, as may be judged from the fact that, in the first days of July, fifty persons were under constant police protection; agrarian cases in which fire-arms were used had risen from four in the June quarter of 1906 to twenty-two in the same quarter of 1907; whilst the spread of lawlessness and the sense of helplessness may be estimated by the information that since 1st of June, 1906, there had been 271 cases of outrage reported. Connected with these there had been arrests 3 in only twenty-nine cases (involving 121 persons), and in six other cases summonses bad been issued against thirty-one persons ; thus it will be seen that in 236 cases out of 271 the offenders got off scot free! No wonder it became the duty of the Judges of Assize to comment most severely on the terrible conditions of the country. It is difficult to say which of these gentlemen used the strongest language on the subject, but they were unanimous in the opinion that a large part of Ireland was drifting into a state of anarchy; and when judges of the standing of the Chief Justice and Justices Ross, Wright, Madden, Andrews, Kenny, and Gibson take so serious a view of the prospect, we must realise to the full how grave is the responsibility of the Administration that will not, or dare not, strengthen the arm of the law. At those Summer Assizes, 167 persons were returned for trial for agrarian offences ; in no case, I believe, were the facts contradicted, and in very few was a proper defence offered. Yet only three persons were convicted, fifty-four
s. We have made vigorous efforts to punish the persons that we have been able to catch' (Mr. Birrell in Dublin, December 13, 1907).