Ireland

With the death of Parnell a cloud of despair seemed to settle upon the land. Chaos had come again; indeed, it had come before, ever since the war of faction was set on foot and men devoted themselves to the satisfaction of savage passions rather than constructive endeavour for national ideals.

"The question I put to myself is this: In the years of failure, where have we gone wrong? What are the mistakes we have made? What has been the root cause of our failure? The Lord Chancellor was perfectly frank so far as the Unionists were concerned. He said, indeed, that he was still a Unionist, but he had come to the conclusion that the maintenance of the Union was impossible. What lesson have we who have been Home Rulers to draw from the past?

The blight that had come upon Irish politics did not abate with the death of Parnell. Neither side seemed to spare enough charity from its childish disputations to make an honest and sincere effort at settlement. There was no softening of the asperities of public life on the part of the Parnellites - they claimed that their leader had been hounded to his death, and they were not going to join hands in a blessed forgiveness of the bitter years that had passed with those who had lost to Ireland her greatest champion. On the other hand, the Anti-Parnellites showed no better disposition.

Sinn Fein had a comparatively small and unimportant beginning. It was not heralded into existence by any great flourish of trumpets nor for many years had it any considerable following among the masses of the Nationalists. It is more than doubtful, if there had been normal political progress in Ireland, whether Sinn Fein would ever have made itself into a great movement.

Whilst the slow corruption of the Party had been going on in Ireland, the cause of Home Rule had been going down to inevitable ruin. The warnings on which Parnell founded his refusal to be expelled from the leadership by dictation from England were more than justified in the event. And later circumstances only too bitterly confirmed it, that any blind dependence upon the Liberal Party was to be paid for in disappointment, if not in positive betrayal of Irish interests.

In the play and interplay of movements and events at this time in Ireland we cannot leave out of account the Labour Movement - that is, the official Trade Union organisation as distinct from the Labourers' Association. Hitherto it had mainly concerned itself with industrial and social questions and had not made politics or nationalism an object of direct activity.

"George A. Birmingham" (who in private life is Canon Hannay), in his admirable book, An Irishman Looks at his World, tells us: "The most important educational work in Ireland during the last twenty years has been done independently of universities or schools," and in this statement I entirely agree with him. And I may add that in this work Canon Hannay himself bore no inconsiderable part.

With the nearness of the time when Home Rule must automatically become law, unless something happened to interfere, events began to move rapidly. The Tory Party, largely, I believe, through political considerations, had unalterably taken sides with Ulster. The Liberal Party were irresolute, wavering, pusillanimous. Mr Redmond's followers began to be uneasy - they commenced to falter in their blind faith that they had only to trust Asquith and all would be well.

Whilst Ireland was thus finding her soul and Mr Gerald Balfour pursuing his beneficent schemes for "killing Home Rule with kindness," the country had sickened unto death of the "parties" and their disgusting vagaries.

Meanwhile Nationalist Ireland was deep in its heart revolted by the way the Parliamentary Party was managing its affairs. They sought still to delude it with the cry that "the Act" was on the Statute Book and that all would be well. My experience of my own people is that once confidence is yielded to a person or party they are trustful to an amazing degree; let that confidence once be disturbed, then distrust and suspicion are quickly bred - and to anyone who knows the Celtic psychology a suspicious Irishman is not a very pleasant person to deal with.

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