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LEINSTER LEADER EDITORIAL 20 MAY 1916

NAAS, SATURDAY, MAY 20, 1916.

THE GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND

Mr. Asquith’s visit to Ireland has at least definitely led to one uncontrovertible result: it has raised a splendid crop of political speculation. That may not be altogether displeasing to Mr. Asquith himself for a Statesman of his experience and temperament would possibly find it convenient to conduct a mission of the kind amid a good deal of outside and harmless confusion. It is not possible to find any substantial case for the belief that the Prime Minister is aiming at a settlement of the Irish question. He stated himself in the House of Commons before his departure for Ireland that the condition of this country was not satisfactory and that he was about to consult the military and civil authorities responsible for the present government of Ireland. We all know that he was consulted the military authorities and that he has been sworn in a member of the Irish Privy Council. We also know that Mr. Asquith’s visit has taken some of the bitterness from the military rule which followed the rebellion in Dublin. His clear mind saw beyond the narrow passion of a dark hour. He had helped to some extent to check a policy which was sowing the needs of trouble in the times to come. There Mr. Asquith’s achievements, as far as we know, stop. Any hour may reveal to us fresh and welcome fruit of the visit, but at the time of writing we have no evidence that there is any hope of a settlement of the Irish question. Some change in the situation is inevitable since the posts held by Mr. Birrell and Sir Matthew Nathan, deserted at the close of the insurrection, have got to be filled. But the mere filling of these posts, no matter how striking the personalities of the new authorities may be, cannot affect the general trend of the Government. The old impossible, antiquated, machinery will grind on as before, for we see no hope at the moment of Mr. Asquith doing what any same Statesman would like to do – scrapping Dublin Castle. He is no doubt urged to that same policy by English public opinion and that public English opinion is not at all confined to Liberals. The chief Unionist organs of opinion in England have within the past week been expressing views which have helped to raise the hope that some settlement of the Irish difficulty may be forthcoming. The London “Daily Press,” one of the most bitter and unscrupulous opponents of Home Rule, has editorially urged a settlement of the question on the basis of a government of Ireland by Irishmen. It declares frankly that “Dublin Castle must go.” Unionist organs like the “Evening Standard” and “The Pall Mall Gazette” have reechoed the sentiment. Lord Northcliffe’s paper, “The Daily Mail,” through its special representative in Dublin, writes in an astonishingly frank and direct strain on even more advanced lines and urges the Government to action because it considers the moment one entirely unique for a settlement – a moment which, it warns the Government may not present itself again. These expressions of opinions are valuable as far as they go. They indicate that English opinion favourable to the government of Ireland by Irishmen is no longer confined to one political party. The atmosphere for a settlement is to that extent good. What Mr. Asquith is actually doing in his favourable atmosphere is a matter of the merest speculation. He is consulting various people, we are told and he has made a trip to Belfast and been in conference with business men in that city. If we are to judge the temper of Unionist Ulster as expressed in the Belfast papers there is very little hope of a favourable atmosphere there. The comments are in the usual lines of class bitterness: all the old shibboleths are still with them copious and apparently potent. Sir Edward Carson has telegraphed to some anxious followers that he knew nothing about any settlement of the Irish question. In face of all these rumours it is surprising to read the opinion that Mr. Asquith is not really exercising his great influence for a settlement of the Irish question, but endeavoring to come to some arrangement for the voluntary disarmament of the Ulster and the National Volunteers. We are not very much surprised to learn in this connection that the Ulster Volunteers are hostile to any disarmament. We expressed the opinion last week that it would be a real relief to the country that such an arrangement for disarmament had been arrived at. The political condition of a country were party leaders own private armed forces must always be intolerable. It simply means that when a political campaign is won by fair constitutional means that its opponent, deprived of his moral weapon, falls back on physical force or the threat of physical force. This is what happened in the case of Sir Edward Carson and his party. He was beaten in a clear constitutional Parliamentary fight: every moral weapon which he was able to lay hands upon had been met and overcome. He then raised his private army. Ireland laughed at him because it believed it was a stage army with wooden guns and painted artillery. When Ireland saw that the real guns were landed in defiance of the law at Larne and heard that the country mansions of Ulster were stocked with ammunition – as they are still – Ireland no longer laughed. Nationalists began to arm their men as a precaution, the upholders of physical force, always a negligible quantity in Irish public life saw the chance of their lives, took it and today the heart of Dublin is in ruins. That in brief, is the modern political history of Ireland. History we are told, repeats itself and if this country is to be placed upon any same basis of government now is certainly a favourable time for an honest attempt. Such an honest attempt would be welcomed by the great bulk of the people and especially by Nationalist Ireland. If it fails it only remains to be said that the end of the war sees the Home Rule Act coming automatically into operation. “I am convinced.” Says Mr. Redmond in a message on the situation cabled to America, “that many old opponents of Home Rule will be profoundly impressed by these events, and will come to the same conclusion as Irish Nationalist reached so long ago – that the one security for good order as well as good government in Ireland is a native Executive and Parliament backed by Irish opinion and that if such an Executive had been in existence during the last six months there would have been no Dublin riot.” That is the whole case in a nut-shell. When may we expect all sane men, no matter what their polities, to realize this fact and, taking their courage in their hands, make an honest and a frank attempt to place the basis of our existence on a secure and a natural foundation?

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