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Ireland and the War
By F. SHEEHY SKEFFINGTON
HE extraordinary cleverness of Eng- friendship worth buying, is not likely to
lish diplomacy, which contrasts so get it. But what if it had? Bohemia has strikingly with German clumsiness in that home rule within the Austro-Hungarian department, is nowhere more manifest Empire. Is Bohemia contented ? It is than in the manner in which it has con- notorious that the great mass of the trived to blanket Ireland - to make the Czechs are eagerly longing for the moworld forget that there is such a place, ment when Russia will inflict such a blow and to eliminate it wholly from the dis- upon the Austro-Hungarian Empire as cussion of the rights of small nationalities, may enable Bohemia to become an indeabout which England is now so enthusias- pendent central European state. Again, tic. Yet Ireland's claim to independence is if Bohemia, why not Ireland ? as good as that of Belgium or Poland.
There is an idea in some quarters, seduEngland has so successfully hypnotized lously encouraged by England, with an the world into regarding the neighboring eye on the friendship of the United States, conquered island as an integral part of that whatever may have been the case in Great Britain that even Americans gasp the past, the English Government in Ireat the mention of Irish independence. land has improved of late years. Let us Home rule they understand, but indepen- therefore examine its conduct in Ireland dence! “How could Ireland maintain an during the months immediately preceding independent existence?" they ask. "How could you defend yourselves against all A Liberal government was in office in the great nations?" I do not feel under England, pledged to give home rule to any obligation to answer this question, Ireland. On the strength of that pledge, because that objection, if recognized as Mr. John Redmond and his party kept valid, would make an end of the existence that government in power for over four of any small nationality whatever. All years, and enabled it to pass not merely of them, from their very nature, are sub- the act for curbing the power of the House ject to the perils and disadvantages of in- of Lords, but other measures, such as the dependent sovereignty. I neither deny National Insurance Act, in which Ireland nor minimize these. But the consensus of had no interest or which were actually civilized opinion is now agreed that they detrimental to Ireland. In Ulster Sir are entirely outweighed by the benefits Edward Carson led, armed, and drilled a which complete self-government confers body of 80,000 men, pledged to resist by upon the small nation itself, and enables it force the enactment of home rule. Their to confer on humanity. If the reader will drilling and arming were in themselves not admit this, I will not stay to argue the unlawful; their avowed object was still matter with him. I will merely refer him more so, involving defiance of the enactto the arguments in vogue in favor of the ments of that imperial Parliament to independence of Belgium as against Ger- which they professed the utmost loyalty. many, or of the Scandinavian countries Nevertheless, the Liberal government alas against Russia.
lowed this open propaganda of rebellion, Neither will I stop to argue with those this aristocratically led and financed movewho say that Ireland should be content ment, to proceed unchecked. with home rule. Ireland has not got home After two years of this, the nationalists rule, and, unless England is sufficiently of the South awoke. After all, they said, humbled in this war to make Ireland's we outnumber these Carsonites by about
four to one. If they choose to introduce Both regions promptly started gunthe factor of physical force, if they can running In April, 1914, the biggest employ it successfully to intimidate the gun-running operation up till then was English Government, so that its leading carried out by the Ulstermen. The members say that the coercion of Ulster Fanny, the yacht which brought the guns, is "unthinkable," then we, too, will cease was talked about in the press for a fortto rely upon weapons of persuasion alone. night before it reached Ulster; the paWe, too, will arm and drill, and will face trols of the English navy were watching the English Government with the only the coasts: yet somehow the Fanny argument it appears to understand. And reached Larne, unloaded its cargo, and they formed the Irish Volunteers.
got away again without any interference That was in November, 1913. Within from the gunboat patrols. At Larne it a month the Government, which for two was met by a host of automobiles, which years had allowed the Carsonites to get in took away the rifles. To facilitate the all the arms they wished, issued an order operation, the Ulster Volunteers seized prohibiting the importation of any arms Larne harbor, imprisoned the harbor masor ammunition into Ireland.
ter and the police, and took the entire conWhen Ireland is taunted, as a New trol of the town into their hands. AnYork evening newspaper has taunted it, other ship-load was disembarked on the with its “poltroonery” in not taking ad- same night at another Ulster port. Here vantage of the present war to seize free- a too-zealous customs official offered redom, these facts have to be remembered. sistance; he died of heart disease. NoAnything in the nature of arming or body was identified, punished, or even drilling was sternly repressed in Ireland prosecuted for this flagrant defiance of until Carson began it. The "Volunteers" the law, although the episode was deand the "Territorials" of England had no scribed by Mr. Asquith in the House of counterpart in Ireland, where the people Commons an "unprecedented outwere never trusted with arms. Carson rage," and pledges were given that due and his followers were left untouched, punishment would be meted out to its perbecause it was known that, however they petrators. Nothing was done. After all, might declaim against a particular Eng- these were the faithful “English garrilish Government, in effect they stood for son in Ireland"; for the moment the polithat English domination in Ireland which ticians must pretend to oppose them, but every government, whether it calls itself in reality they were doing England's work Liberal or Tory, is careful to maintain as and helping to make more difficult, or perthe very sheet-anchor of the British Em- haps impossible, any measure of home rule pire. But the arming of Irish National- for Ireland. ists, who were pledged to maintain the Very different was the attitude of the rights and liberties of Ireland only, was Government and its officials toward Naa different matter. The gravely per
tionalist gun-running. Here the utmost turbed English Government could not vigilance was displayed. Gunboats pasuppress the movement altogether, -Car- trolled the shores of Dublin and Wickson's immunity had made that impossi- low, as well as the western coast, unble, - but, with an ingenious show of im- ceasingly. Even when Mr. Redmond, by partiality as between the two regions, it order of the English Government, as is prohibited all import of arms. Carson's generally believed in Ireland, asserted his men had been arming for two years; the right to command the Irish Volunteers, Nationalists had just begun to organize. which he had not founded; even when The strict impartiality of the order will the founders of the organization yielded appeal to those who now protest against to Mr. Redmond and gave his nominees any embargo on the export of munitions half the seats on their committee, still, from the United States.
Mr. Redmond could not persuade the
Government to relax the ban on the importation of arms. Perhaps he did not try very hard. He was as much afraid of the Volunteers as the Government was; his only wish was to keep them under his control, lest they might become an instrument for those Nationalists who looked beyond Parliamentary sham battles to the complete liberation of Ireland.
This portion in the Volunteers continued gun-running under the double disadvantage of having to deceive both the Government and their own Redmondite colleagues on the Joint Executive Committee. On July 26, just after the Austrian ultimatum to Servia, the famous gun-running exploit of Howth took place. The Dublin Volunteers made a Sunday route-march to Howth (nine miles), none but a few leaders knowing the object. As they entered the village, a yacht, steered by a woman, came alongside the pier. The English patrol-boat was not in the neighborhood, a conveniently disseminated rumor of gun-running in Wexford having sent it off on a false scent. This yacht's arrival had not been boomed in advance, like the Fanny's, otherwise the vigilance of the patrol would not have been so easy to elude as the Ulstermen had found it. The Volunteers, following strictly the Ulster precedent, took possession of the pier, excluded the police and harbor officials, - they did not go so far as to imprison them in their own offices and barracks, as had been done, with only a shadow of resistance, at Larne,-disembarked the guns, and marched off to Dublin with them. Meantime the wires had been humming, and Dublin Castle was on the alert. At Clontarf, in the outskirts of the city, the Volunteers, marching with unloaded rifles, were met by a combined force of police and soldiers. A parley took place. The Government's official, Harrel, demanded the surrender of the rifles; the Volunteer leaders refused. Harrel ordered the police to take the rifles. Some of the police refused, and the remainder acted with evident reluctance, an unheard of thing in Ireland, but a symptom of the general perception of
the deliberate favoritism shown by the Government to the Ulstermen as compared with the Irish Volunteers. The soldiers, a company of the King's Own Scottish Borderers, were then ordered to charge the Volunteers with fixed bayonets. Some Volunteers were stabbed, and a massacre seemed inevitable, when a fresh parley was entered upon. By the time it was over, Harrel discovered that only the front ranks of the Volunteers still stood their ground in front of him; the remainder, in obedience to a rapidly disseminated order, “Save the guns,” had executed a strategic retirement. Harrel then drew off his forces, and the remnant of the Volunteers completed their march unmolested, no guns having been lost.
As the soldiers marched back to barracks, the Dublin populace assailed them with curses and later with stones. The troops retaliated with a series of bayonetcharges, which further enraged the crowd, in which wild rumors of the fight at Clontarf had spread. The soldiers were undoubtedly peppered pretty severely with stones; but the assailants were all unarmed, and were largely composed of women and children. There was no justification whatever for the action taken by the soldiery. They turned and fired at the crowd without giving any warning, without even firing a preliminary volley
their heads. Four people were killed, one man, two women, one boy. Several others were wounded, of whom one subsequently died. Nobody was punished ; a whitewashing inquiry was held, but meantime the Scottish Borderers had "distinguished themselves" by getting wiped out in the retreat from Mons, and no disciplinary measures taken. Harrel, the assistant commissioner of the Dublin police, who had taken it upon himself to call out the soldiers in the first instance, was made a temporary scapegoat; but he is now again in the service of the Government in Ireland, helping in the secret-service department, which looks after political offenses.
I have dwelt upon this incident of the struggle at Clontarf and the shooting at
this war. do so.
Bachelor's Walk because it happened be- A period of storm and confusion folfore the war. Some people in America, I lowed Mr. Redmond's betrayal of Irefind, think that England's present severity land's interests to England. The Govto Ireland is merely a result of the state ernment tried to avoid even putting the
When the anniversary of Bache- home-rule bill on the statute-book; Redlor's Walk came round this year, the peo- mond, driven by public opinion, increasple proposed to put up a commemorative ingly stormy in Ireland, was obliged to tablet, but the military forbade.
insist upon that as a minimum. But in A week after the Bachelor's Walk mas- passing the act, the Government also sacre (the Irish Zabern, as we call it) the passed a suspensory act, holding it up for war against "German militarism” broke
a year, or longer, if so ordered by the out. Mr. Redmond, in the House of Government at the end of the year; and Commons, had the incredible audacity to they also declared that they would not in commit the Irish people to the support of any circumstances “coerce Ulster.” With
He had no right whatever to this “home rule for three quarters of Ire
He and his party were returned to land" in the form of a scrap of paper, Mr. Parliament for one object only, to secure Redmond tried to induce his followers to home rule. At no Irish election did any join the army. The immediate result was other question become an issue. Repeat- a split in the Irish Volunteers. The edly had Mr. Redmond, when called upon founders of the Volunteers, who had acto help some progressive cause, sheltered cepted Redmondite coöperation on the himself behind his lack of "mandate"; committee so long as no recruiting plank his mandate, he declared, was for home was adopted, now expelled the Redmondrule only. Yet without any mandate he ite nominees from the committee, seized ventured to commit Ireland to the support the Volunteer offices in Kildare Street, of England in a European war. By doing Dublin, barricaded and garrisoned them, so he missed the greatest opportunity that and prepared to hold them against all has ever come to an Irish statesman. Had
The Redmondite portion formed he, on August 3, 1914, spoken as follows a new body, the “National Volunteers," in the imperial Parliament: "I have no who never troubled much about drilling mandate from the Irish people as to what or arming, but were, and are, merely a our attitude should be in the event of a branch of the Redmondite political maEuropean war; the question has never chine. Their devotion to their leader, been discussed between My col- however, did not go so far as to induce leagues and I are now going home to them to follow his advice and enter the Ireland to consult our constituents as to English army, as was shown when 30,000 what Ireland's attitude should be”-had of them paraded before Mr. Redmond he spoken thus, and followed up such a last Easter, men who, if they had taken speech by walking out of the House and Mr. Redmond's words seriously, ought returning to Ireland, the English Gov- to have been in Flanders or at the Dardaernment would have been on its knees to nelles. him within a fortnight, and he would Much confusion was introduced into have been able to command, as the price the Irish situation by the case of Belgium, of his and Ireland's aid, something much and by the unscrupulous use made by the better than a mutilated home-rule act on English recruiting agencies of Ireland's the statute-book which can never come traditional and historic sympathy with into operation. He should, in short, have that country and with France. Catholic acted after the fashion of those wise Bal- Ireland must fight to save Catholic Belkan statesmen, who care nothing for gium, was the cry. We countered that either of the warring parties, but look by asking why should we not fight for with a single eye to the interest of their Catholic Galicia, which was then in posown country.
session of the anti-Catholic Russians ?
Mr. Ginnell, the only Irish member of behalf of Belgium and of the principle of Parliament who is not attached to any small nationalities imposed on a few, but political machine, and also the only one not for long; the frank declaration of the who opposes recruiting, has repeatedly London "Times" on March 8 that Engasked the Government to bring pressure
land is in this war for her own interests to bear on its Russian allies, with a and for the preservation of her dominance view to getting for the Cardinal Arch- over the seas, is generally recognized as bishop of Lemberg as good treatment as stating the position accurately. Even if that accorded by the Germans to the Car- Belgium were the cause of the war instead dinal Archbishop of Mechlin; but the of an incident in it, there would still be Government has decided that it would no reason why Ireland, of all countries, not be proper to “interfere with the in- should plunge into the fray. Ireland is ternal affairs of our ally."
the most depopulated and impoverished Louvain was the recruiters' trump- country in Europe, thanks to the beneficard. “Remember," the Irish were ad- cent English rule of the last century, and jured, "that your priests went to Louvain has no blood or money to spare; and if to be educated when they could not get Holland and Denmark and Sweden and education in their own land.” Some one Switzerland, all richer and more densely with an inconvenient historical memory populated than Ireland, still feel that it replied by a reminder that it was Eng- is their duty to keep out of the war, lish persecution that prevented Catholic a fortiori it is the duty of Irish statesmen priests from getting education in Ireland to use every effort to keep their people and compelled them to go to Louvain. out of it. Ireland's highest need is peace Similar audacity was attempted in the and the peaceful development of her recase of France. Ireland was adjured to sources; not a man can be spared for fight for France because France had of any chivalric adventure. Belgium, hard old helped Ireland—against England! pressed as it is, has not yet suffered a tithe Another cry was, “The brutal Germans of what has been endured by Ireland at are the descendants of those Hessian the hands of England, and Ireland is still troops who helped to put down the rising bleeding at every pore from the wounds of 1798." But who brought the Hessians England inflicted. Thus even were the to Ireland and paid them? The English Belgian legend true, there would be higher Government. In this fashion has every reasons of self-interest to keep Irish attenrecruiting argument proved a boomerang. tion concentrated on our own problems. Despite the subsidizing of the daily and Belgium apart, the other objects of the the suppression of the weekly press; de- war— the real objects — have still less spite the pressure exerted by all the po- claim on Ireland. England's domination litical machines and all the influence of of the seas has been used not accidentally, social and economic resources; despite the but of set purpose, to discourage Irish prosecution, under the Defense of the trade, to keep derelict Ireland's magnifiRealm Act, of any who venture to advise cent harbors, the finest natural harbors in an opposite course; despite military law, western Europe, and to prevent the suspension of trial by jury, arbitrary im- growth of any mercantile marine in Ireprisonment, and deportation, the Irish land. Ireland has never been a partner people have stood fast. Four hundred in the empire or its advantages; she has thousand Irishmen of military age have been a Helot dragged at the chariot-tail stood their ground quietly and tenaciously, of the empire. As it has been put, "Ireand have refused to be stampeded into a land belongs to the empire, and the emwar in which they have no concern. pire belongs to England.”
For it is the essence of the Irish case The latest instance of deliberate Engthat Ireland has no concern in this war. lish interference with an Irish trading inThe pretense that it was being waged in terest, before the war, was the stoppage