Imatges de pÓgina

were dismissed, and 110 were held over till the Winter Assizes, with what result we shall presently see.

Parliament rose late in August and, as soon as the doors of discussion were closed, the Chief Secretary proclaimed six Irish counties to be in a state of disturbance requiring an additional establishment of police, under an ancient and quite ineffective Act of King William the Fourth. It was with a modified sense of relief that Unionists observed the partial recovery of the Irish Executive from their disease of purblindness to the actual state of affairs; but no one could congratulate the Irish Office on its courage in postponing action until it was beyond reach of Parliamentary criticism. It still seems strange that no public justification has yet been forthcoming, either on the score of efficiency or economy, for having ransacked the armoury of. King William the Fourth's antiquated legislation in order to find a weapon with which to deal with modern crime. There was not a man in Ireland who did not know that the old Statute could do no more than permit large forces of police to be drafted into the proclaimed counties at great expense, for the purpose of punishing, not of preventing, crime; it was commonly said at the time that under this proclamation the agitators would get off untouched ; it was thoroughly realised—and in some quarters with much apprehensionthat if Mr. Birrell had employed the Crimes Act the promotors of disturbance could have been dealt with immediately, and the agitations which are ruining the material prosperity and the moral reputation of Ireland would have promptly disappeared. So, all through August and September, the law-abiding people in the disturbed counties had to stand by patiently, and live their lives under a tyranny which is a disgrace to the reign in which we live. I suppose that it is the perpetual feeling in the breasts of Englishmen that ' Ireland is always more or less discontented' which causes them to be bored with any mention of the subject. But one has only to observe the state of a poor man's fields after a cattle-drive; to see the terror in which men and women live after their houses have been fired into; to spend a day with a man (one of scores) so boycotted that he can neither sell nor buy nor get an indoor servant or a herd to work for him ; to witness

common occurrence of worshippers at Mass leaving a pew if a marked man or woman comes into it; once seen these things can never be forgotten, nor the subject disappear from one's mind. And all of this is permitted and encouraged every day that the Crimes Act remains in abeyance. Yet we are said to be a humanely disposed people, even though the great majority of our fellow countrymen hear of these national disasters every week and cannot be aroused to agitate for their cessation. Such apathy makes one wonder whether, if Ireland were situated in Russia or Armenia or the Congo, her condition would be the more heeded by the people of England.

In October, as the nights grew darker, the outrages increased


in number and cattle-drives were of almost daily occurrence ; there were also thirty-seven awards for malicious injuries to property and cattle, amounting to some six hundred pounds which had to be charged on the rates. Threatening letters abounded, and the activity of the United Irish League was everywhere felt. Life in many counties in Ireland is only possible if you have the permission of the League to live, and the area of disturbance is growing wider every week. I wish that it were prudent to publish in this paper a few samples of the letters which I receive from victims whose veracity I have carefully tested ; they would show that, though slavery is abolished in the East African Protectorate and elsewhere, there is a tyranny in Ireland compared to which such slavery is freedom. I observe that we are warned by those who are authorities in such matters that 'things will be worse' during the coming winter; and I notice with some surprise that so cautious a statesman as Mr. Harcourt, M.P., declares that, if these vaticinations are fulfilled, “the responsibility will rest with the House of Lords'! It is difficult to follow the reasoning here, but no doubt the argument will be developed later on. We must be thankful, in the meanwhile, that there are Unionist Members of Parliament who will, from the day that the new Session commences, cross-examine the Chief Secretary on his stewardship. They need not be afraid of hard names, for their record up to the present is singularly clear in the matter of questions dealing with outrage. During 1907 they put 202 questions which asked if certain allegations of agrarian outrage were true. In only seventeen cases were the facts contained in the questions denied. If, as Mr. Birrell and the Nationalist Members contend, these interrogations are defamatory of the Irish people, the fault can hardly be said to lie at the door of those who asked the questions.

The month of November is important in the Irish History of 1907 for several reasons. In the first place, it was then that the Attorney-General for Ireland was asked by the Lord Chief Justice why he did not prosecute inciters to outrage instead of 'a lot of poor boys’; the Attorney replied that that was rather a political issue,' to which the judge rejoined, 'It is not a matter of policy at all. It is a matter of justice which the law recognises—incitement to offence. The conversation is significant as showing that the motive which prompts the Government to ignore incendiary speeches is a purely vote-catching one. It was alluded to later in the month when, at Belfast, Mr. Birrell deemed it proper to lecture the Judge from a party platform. He cannot be said to have improved his case by adding that his fingers ‘itched' to incarcerate Mr. Ginnell and his tribe, but that he refrained from doing anything so agreeable to agitators. Justice has certainly fled from the ken of that

• In the large majority of answers Mr. Birrell used the formula . The facts are as stated in the question.'

eminent King's Counsel if we are to understand from his observations that no crime is to be punished, when the necessary sentence coincides with the ambitions of the criminal. Indeed, the Belfast speeches shed a flood of light on the new diplomacy of his Majesty's 'Government' in Ireland. For it was in the northern capital that the Chief Secretary first indulged in a plaintive wail that he, as Executive Officer, had no control over the ordinary law which is enforced totally irrespective of the will of the Executive,' and then proceeded to justify the non-prosecution of ringleaders under the ordinary law by claiming that as Chief Secretary' he must be allowed occasionally to exercise his own discretion.' And his pledge-bound colleague, the Attorney-General (who referred to the Chief Secretary as my dictator '), further exhibited the chaotic conception of law which obtains in the Irish Government by declaring that ' until the whole of the people of Ireland are united with us in the desire to enforce the criminal law there is no good in prosecutions.' One can only observe upon this that, so long as the 'dictator' continues to use his discretion, and to shirk punishing the chief offenders, there is no use in the Attorney-General trying to shelter himself behind the people of Ireland.' The desire to enforce the criminal law should begin with the dictator and his law officers, and the people of Ireland (like the inhabitants of every other civilised country in similar circumstances) should be compelled to obey it.

These speeches formed the somewhat unpromising prelude to a melancholy series of law-farces at the Nisi Prius Court in Dublin. The two Irish law-officers there prosecuted in a number of agrarian cases, which involved the arraignment of ninety-four persons, during the last week of November. In spite of the great legal talent employed, of uncontradicted evidence, of the admission of the facts as stated, and of the Judge's direction to the juries that such evidence showed riot and unlawful assembly, the juries convicted only five men. Two were acquitted; the jury disagreed about seventy-two; in the remaining fifteen cases the Crown abandoned the proceedings. Let me recall the words of Mr. Justice Wright at the end of the first week of these trials : ' It is the most degrading experience that I have had since I have been on the Bench.' No reference to this black week in the annals of British Law would be complete without a quotation from the Attorney-General's speech in which he opened the first prosecution. The Crown does not ask for very severe punishment in these cases ; all we want to do is to put a stop to this business. If punishment is necessary, we shall ask his Lordship to give as little as will be consistent with maintaining law and order in Ireland.' Verily such a labourer is worthy of his hirers! As I write the Assizes

"They will have to be tried before a jury of their fellow-countrymen ... that will not return any other verdict except "More power to you-God reward you (Mr. Wm. O'Brien. Aghamore. January 31, 1897).

are being held in the disturbed counties, and everything points to a similar breakdown in our bold attempt to carry on the administration by the ordinary processes of law' (Solicitor-General); Mr. Ginnell is rampaging over the country urging all the young people to continue cattle-driving ; some of the Radical Press in England is seriously alarmed at the condition of Ireland, and concerned for the reputation of the Government; but the Chief Secretary is using his discretion' and doing nothing. He is, in truth, very nearly at the end of his tether, and his difficulties multiply as his courage diminishes. At Belfast he declared that it would be ridiculous to use the 'Crimes Act' against which the Liberals inveighed so vehemently when in opposition, and well-informed persons say that Sir Antony MacDonnell will resign if it be put in force ; so the King's Counsel is in straits about the maintenance of law and order. Again, he sang a swan-song in Dublin, and promised the University College students that if he could not settle the Roman Catholic University question in the coming Session he would disappear from Ireland; the British Nonconformist is already sharpening his sword to meet him. Finally he is in very deep water at the Treasury, and it is said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot find the money to continue Land Purchase under the 1903 Act, which must, therefore, be suspended for a few years until times are better. So the Liberal Party may, if Mr. Birrell remains Chief Secretary, have to try and pacify Ireland and England with such an electioneering cry as this : 'No law and order, no Church Schools, no land purchase, but a Roman Catholic University.' The prospect cannot be alluring.

In the meanwhile Mr. Redmond, 'the leader of the Irish Party at home and beyond the seas,' is touring through Great Britain and assuring his audiences that Ireland is crimeless compared to England and Scotland, and threatening that, if in or out of Parliament there is any more absolute nonsense' written or spoken about anarchy and lawlessness in Ireland, he will set his colleagues to work' to collect criminal statistics about Great Britain. He calls the empty gaols in Ireland to witness the paucity of Irish crime; but he forgets that if the magistrates and juries of a large part of Ireland sided with law instead of with crime many prisons would be inconveniently crowded. He thinks that a comparison between British and Irish crime would be disadvantageous to Great Britain. That depends upon the persons who compile the statistics ; if crime of a personal and spontaneous nature be left out of account on both sides of the Channel ; and if premeditated crimes, engineered by political leagues for political ends to the ruin of the country in which they are committed, be carefully tabled and presented to the public, the comparison will be indeed interesting. His other arguments to persuade the British public to grant Home Rule for Ireland are as new and as true as they have always been. The loyalty of Australia, Canada, South Africa, &c., is

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again invoked; but the tendencies of all these great groups of Colonies to federate and not to separate is overlooked. The enormous advantage which would accrue to the Empire by surrendering to the Nationalist demands is, of course, reiterated ; but the sincerity of Mr. Redmond's anxiety to see the Empire prosperous has yet to be established. Some of us still remember the cheers of the Irish party, during the recent Egyptian and Transvaal Wars, when news arrived of some check to the forces of His Majesty; and Mr. Redmond in these days of peace is no less implacable than he was in time of war. Only last June, at New Ross, he informed the audience that We send this message to England. We tell her that we to-day hate her rule just as bitterly as our forefathers did when they shed their blood on this spot. We tell her that we are as much rebels to her rule to-day as our forefathers were in '98.'

One cannot complain of such a hostile declaration, frank enough in all conscience, except when it is so soon followed by another pronouncement which suggests a certain line of political action as being advisable for the good of the Empire. One speech or the other must be open to the suspicion of insincerity.

Thus we conclude the melancholy annals of Ireland during 1907; a history of crime unpunished and of license permitted to progress from strength to strength. In the course of my narrative I have not delayed to inquire into the multiplication and development of such societies as the Gaelic League, Sinn Féin, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Republican Brotherhood and others, whose thoroughly disloyal proceedings must be as familiar to the Irish Executive as they are to everybody in Ireland. Some of these are affiliated to the United Irish League, others are separately organised and at open war with the Nationalist Parliamentary party. Some are more violently disposed than others towards Great Britain and everything British; others are prepared to take what they can get, as an instalment, from us and to ask for more. But, in the end, their aims are the same : separation and an independent Parliament; it is only as regards their methods that they disagree. The United Irish League and its ramifications support the Nationalist representatives, bidding them paralyse the Imperial Parliament until their demands are satisfied; the Sinn Féiners & Co. insist on the withdrawal of all the Home Rule Members from the legislature at Westminster, in order that the representatives may be liberated to conduct an extreme agitation in favour of an independent Parliament. Both sides have organised a 'virile campaign' throughout Great Britain, holding meetings in all parts of this island during the present winter; and though their arguments are mutually destructive, they agree in saying that 'the people of Ireland were never so united. What is the Unionist party doing to counteract these pernicious influences ?

or next to nothing. I have reason to believe that although


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