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Ireland

In the cabin, in the shieling, in the home of the "fattest" farmer, as well as around the open hearth of the most lowly peasant, in town and country, wherever there were hearts that hoped for Irish liberty and that throbbed to the martial music of "the old cause," the name of Parnell was revered with a devotion such as was scarcely ever rendered to any leader who had gone before him. A halo of romance had woven itself around his figure and all the poetry and passion of the mystic Celtic spirit went forth to him in the homage of a great loyalty and regard.

Mr O'Brien went abroad in March 1909, leaving his friends in membership of the Irish Party. His last injunction to us was that we should do nothing unnecessarily to draw down the wrath of "the bosses" upon us and to work as well as we might in the circumstances conscientiously for the Irish cause. I had some reputation, whether deserved or otherwise, as a successful organiser, and I wrote to Mr Redmond offering my services to re-establish the United Irish League in my own constituency or in any other place where it was practically moribund.

There is no Irishman who can study the incidents leading up to Parnell's downfall and the wretched controversies connected with it without feelings of shame that such a needless sacrifice of greatness should have been made.

It boots not to dwell at any great length on the contests that followed. Suffice it to say that Irish manhood and Irish honesty magnificently asserted itself against the audacious and unscrupulous tactics of the Party plotters. Mr O'Brien, by a destiny there was no resisting, was forced into the fight in Cork City and emerged victoriously from the ordeal, as well as winning also in North-East Cork.

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.

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