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LEINSTER LEADER EDITORIAL 22 APRIL 1916

NAAS, SATURDAY, APRIL 22, 1916.

PEACE, AND TRADE POSSIBILITIES

Although peace is not yet within sight, indications are not wanting that a termination of hostilities is not regarded as beyond the bounds of possibility within a period which a reorganisation of the trade, commerce, and industries of the nations affected is considered necessary. In other words, the possibilities of peace are anticipated by the inauguration of a commercial campaign in which rival countries seek to command a share or monopoly for their respective products in the worlds markets. These activities have been stimulated by the peace talk indulged in recently by the German Imperial Chancellor, and the reply of the British Premier, Mr. Asquith, thereto, in which each sets forth the only possible terms upon which a conclusion of the war can be even contemplated. These speeches may, and in fact are regarded as the preliminaries for paving the way for a possible cessation of hostilities, and in which each attempts to feel the pulse of his opponent as to how far his demands or concessions would go, in agreeing to bring the conflict to an end. The speeches therefore, are all-important in this respect, and although veiled in language truculent and defiant, make clear certain issues which have been vague; if not misunderstood. The German Imperial Chancellor declares in effect that the war, as carried on by the Central Powers, is not one for conquest or the acquisition of territory, but the defence of the Fatherland from the aggression of surrounding enemies, and the right of its people to find an outlet for its surplus population and energies, and the freedom of the seas for its merchandise without molestation or restraint by the pressure of outside powers. This is a version of the doctrines of Bernhardi and other German authorities as to German domination as a world power, which had not been read into them by the ordinary man. Neither did the invasion of Belgium or other actions on the part of Germany since the outbreak of the war lead to such a construction of German declarations and intentions. German militarism in effecting German aims did not, either, appeal to the Allied powers as a guarantee for a peaceful solution of the international problems it raised. Mr. Asquith’s declaration on the other hand, contained in a speech specifying the objects for which the Allied Powers were at war in 1914, that German militarism must be crushed, and that the sword would never be sheathed by the Allies until that object was achieved, bears a definition in his more recent utterances which must disabuse the minds of those who regarded it as a vow to utterly destroy the German empire as such. Mr. Asquith adheres to his pronouncement of the Allied aims as contained in his deliverance of 1914, which, he says, means nothing more and nothing less than a determination to destroy that militarism which was a menace to permanent peace, and which it was sought to impose on other nationalities. This did not mean the destruction or disintegration of the German Empire or its unnecessary humiliation. Germany, again, has declared its determination to re-habilitate Poland as a small nationality, while the Allies stand for the restoration of Belgium and Servia to their former status, to which Germany apparently has no serious objection, although claiming certain reservations as to the precise terms upon which Belgium is to resume its regal and international standing. It must, therefore, be inferred that on the question of small nationalities, and the recognition of their rights and privileges, there is between the belligerent powers nothing except the particular terms upon which it may be adjusted, and it may further be inferred that on the question of conquest of territory, there is no insurmountable barrier to an understanding. True, the possession of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, by France or Germany, may present an awkward question for adjustment, and the settlement of terms by which the Near Eastern difficulty may be surmounted will in all probability present problems that may not be easily solved; but they can hardly be regarded as beyond the bounds of diplomacy or arbitration. Once a general understanding is arrived at in regard to these different issues, a more sanguine outlook for the restoration of peace would present itself. In many respects the difficulties surrounding the main issues have been dispelled by the speeches of the Premier and the German Imperial Chancellor, and when to this is added the undoubted potent influence exercised by the Pope in aiding these preliminaries to peace, the hope for an ending to the conflict is not entirely without justification now. In view of all these happenings and the hope they thus awaken, the inauguration of an industrial and commercial campaign between the nations in which keen business acumen, and energetic organising capacity rather than big guns, and the marshalling of military forces will play their part, the position of Ireland and its commercial and industrial development in the future must command attention if we are to keep pace with the changed conditions of the times. The war, it has been declared on hundreds of recruiting platforms all over the country, is Ireland’s war as much as England’s, and this can scarcely be controverted if measured by the number of men we have sent to the fighting forces, and the amount of money we have been called upon to contribute towards it. How are we going to share in its spoils, or in the trade and commerce in view of which active preparations are already being made in England and elsewhere, are pertinent questions just now. Commissioners are being appointed and representatives selected to visit countries abroad to lay the foundations upon which future trade and commerce are to be built up and so far Irish interests are felt unorganised. If we had a tithe of the activity displayed in raising and organising battalions for service in the war, diverted to this organisation of our commercial and industrial resources, what an amount of useful work could be accomplished in this direction, and in providing for the depression which we have been warned is before us. Self reliance and unity of purpose in organising the national resources are the only hope for assuring Ireland’s place in the commercial struggle of the future, as judged by the treatment we have experienced in the distribution of the war expenditure, we have little to expect from the state aid. The promises so readily given as to munitions works have been left unfulfilled (although lately again renewed), and the war taxes levied are being expended in England and Scotland with a lavish hand, while even millions have been sent to Canada for supplies that might be obtained in Ireland. Industries which, instead of being encouraged and fostered, are threatened with extinction by the weight of fresh taxation, and so far there is nothing to indicate a commensurate return for the sacrifices in men and money which the country has been called upon to bear in order to ensure a redemption of the promises and pledges given for the requital of our national aspirations, and which we have been led to believe are to be the reward of our acquiescence in the sacrifices demanded by the war. These are considerations which force themselves on the mind in viewing the present position in relation to peace possibilities and the opening of the new chapter in the world’s history, and in our own particularly, which the conclusion of peace will open. They are considerations which no man, no matter what position in private or public life he holds, can ignore with equanimity, and we think they are furthermore timely as reminders of what we owe to ourselves and to those who will come after us. Some letters respecting the question have appeared in the public press, and the Irish Industrial Development Association has, we believe, moved in the matter; but what is necessary is collective or combined action backed up by orgainsed public opinion, so that Ireland’s claims to a share of the industrial and commercial advantages of the future will be at least as much recognised as her obligations to make the sacrifices demanded for the war.

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