CHAPTER XXIII. CARSON, ULSTER AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

I quote this to show it was not the All-for-Irelanders alone who saw that the Board of Erin was the real stumbling-block in the way of a national settlement. And now when matters were to be put to the test the Government showed a monstrous culpability. It does not avail them to say that the Irish Party had been guilty of treachery to Ireland, that it misled the Ministry as to the extent and depth of Ulster's irreconcilability, and that it had betrayed its own supporters by reposing a childish faith in Liberal promises. The Government must bear their own responsibility for allowing Sir Edward Carson and the Ulster Covenanters to defy and thwart them at every point, for permitting what amounted to a mutiny in the army, for ordering the Channel Fleet and the soldiers to Ulster "to put these grave matters to the test even if the red blood should flow," and then withdrawing them again, for issuing a proclamation forbidding the importation of arms and allowing the Covenanters to spit at it in mockery, and finally for admitting, in the famous Army Order I have quoted, the Right of Rebellion as part of the constitutional machinery of the State.

"The gigantic game of bluff" - as the Ulster preparations were termed - had won outright. The political gamesters, who would not surrender an inch to Ulster when it could be negotiated with, were now willing to surrender everything, including the principle of an indivisible Irish nationhood. "Conversations" between the various leaders went on during the early months of 1914 to arrange a compromise and a settlement, the gigantic crime of Partition as a substitute for Irish Freedom was traitorously perpetrated by Ireland's own "representatives" and by the so-called "Home Rule Government," and Ireland woke up one fine morning to find that the Home Rule Act even when on the Statute Book might as well not be there - all the bonfires that were lighted in Ireland to hail its enactment nothwithstanding - that "Dark Rosaleen," the mother that they loved so well, was to be brutally dismembered, and that "A Nation Once Again" was to mean, in the words of Sir Horace Plunkett: "Half Home Rule for three-quarters of Ireland." The Prime Minister had proposed the partition of Ireland - three-fourths to go to the Nationalists and one-fourth to the Orangemen - and the Irish Party had accepted the proposal, nay, more, they summoned a Conference of Northern Nationalists and compelled them to pass a resolution, strongly against their inclination, in favour of the proposal, under threat of the resignation of Messrs Redmond, Dillon and Devlin if the resolution were not adopted.

An Amending Bill was immediately introduced into Parliament (23rd June 1914), which provided for the exclusion of such Ulster counties as might avail themselves of it. This measure was transformed by the House of Lords so as permanently to exclude the whole of Ulster from the operations of the Home Rule Act.

By people forgetful of the facts, it is sometimes supposed that the Partition was agreed to by the Irish Party under the pressure of war conditions. This is not so. The Party have not even this poor excuse to justify their betrayal, which was the culminating point in the steep declivity of their downfall. The All-for-Ireland Party resisted with all the strength at their command the violation of Ireland's national unity. We spoke against it, voted against it, did all we could to rouse the conscience of the people as to its unparalleled iniquity. But though a proposal more offensive to every instinct of national feeling could not be submitted, the Irish Party determined to see the thing through - they seemed anxious to catch at any straw that would save them from an irretrievable doom. On account of the deadlock between the Lords and Commons on the question of exclusion, and with a view to the adjustment of differences, it was announced that the King had summoned a Conference of two representatives from each Party - eight in all - to meet at Buckingham Palace. It is believed that this Conference was initiated by His Majesty but taken with the knowledge and consent of the Ministry. Messrs Redmond and Dillon represented the Irish Party, and thus the man (Mr Dillon) who had been for ten years denouncing any Conference with his own countrymen went blithely into a Conference at Buckingham Palace, where the only issue to be discussed was as to whether Sir Edward Carson should have four or six counties for his kingdom in the North. On this point the Conference for the moment disagreed, but nothing can ever undo the fact that a body of Irishmen claiming to be Nationalists had not only ignobly agreed to the Partition of their native land but, after twelve months for deliberation, agreed to surrender six counties, instead of four, to the Covenanters. And the time came when it was remembered for them in an Ireland which had worthier concepts of Nationality than partition and plunder.