CHAPTER XXVII. "THE TIMES" AND IRISH SETTLEMENT

No volume, professing to deal however cursorily with the events of the period, can ignore the profound influence of The Times as a factor in promoting an Irish settlement. That this powerful organ of opinion - so long arrayed in deadly hostility to Ireland - should have in recent years given sympathetic ear to her sufferings and disabilities is an event of the most tremendous significance, and it is not improbable that the Irish administration in these troubled years would have been even more deplorably vicious than it has been were it not that The Times showed the way to other independent journals in England in vigilant criticism and fearless exposure of official wrongdoing.

When, on St Patrick's Day, 1917, Lord Northcliffe spoke at the Irish Club in London on the urgency of an Irish settlement and on the need for the economic and industrial development of the country, and when he proclaimed himself an Irish-born man with "a strong strain of Irish blood" in him, he did a sounder day's work for Ireland than he imagined, for he shattered a tradition of evil association which for generations had linked the name of a great English newspaper with unrelenting opposition to Ireland's historic claim for independence. If Ireland had been then approached in the generous spirit of Lord Northcliffe's speech, if the investigation into Irish self-government for which he pleaded had then taken place, if British statesmen had made "a supreme effort," as he begged them to do, "to find good government for Ireland," I am convinced that all the horrors and manifold disasters of the past four years would have been avoided, and the Irish people would be at this moment in happiness and contentment administering their own affairs. But the voice of sweet reasonableness and statesmanlike admonition was not hearkened unto. The neglect of Ireland and of her industrial concerns, of which Lord Northcliffe so justly made complaint, continued, and instead of the counsels of peace prevailing all the follies of wrong methods and repressive courses were committed which will leave enduring memories of bitterness and broken faith long after a settlement is reached. Meanwhile The Times devoted itself earnestly and assiduously to the cause of peace and justice. It opened its columns to the expression of reasoned opinion on the Irish case. The problem of settlement was admittedly one of extreme difficulty - it welcomed discussion and consideration of every feasible plan in the hope that some via media might be found which would constitute a basis of comparative agreement between the various warring factors. It even instituted independent inquiries of its own and gave an exhaustive and splendidly impartial survey of the whole Irish situation and of the various influences, psychological, religious and material, that made the question one of such complexity and so implacably unyielding in many of its features. Its pressure upon the Government was continuous and consistent, but the Government was deaf to wisdom and dumb to a generous importunity. Not content with appeal, remonstrance and exhortation, The Times, in the summer of 1919, boldly, and with a courage that was greatly daring in the circumstances of the moment, set forth in all detail, and with a vigorous clearness that was most praiseworthy, its own plan of settlement. As it was upon this model that the Ministry later built its Government of Ireland Act, I think it well to quote The Times, own summary of its scheme, though it is but proper to say that whilst the Government adapted the model it discarded everything else that was useful and workmanlike in the structure:

                     Legislatures

Creation by an Act of Settlement of two State Legislatures for

(a) The whole of Ulster,

(b) The rest of Ireland,

with full powers of legislation in all matters affecting the internal affairs of their respective States. In each State there will be a State Executive responsible to the State Legislature.

By the same Act of Settlement, the creation of an All-Ireland Parliament on the basis of equal representation of the two States - i.e., Ulster is to have as many representatives as the rest of Ireland.

The All-Ireland Parliament to be a Single Chamber which may sit alternately at Dublin and Belfast.

                     Powers

Governing powers not conferred on the State Legislatures will be divided between the All-Ireland and the Imperial Parliament.

The Imperial Parliament will retain such powers as those involving the Crown and the Succession; peace and war; the armed forces.

To the All-Ireland Parliament may be delegated, inter alia, the powers involving direct taxation, Customs and Excise, commercial treaties (with possible exceptions), land purchase, and education. The delegation may take place by stages.