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Ireland

"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.

The General Election of 1900 witnessed a wonderful revival of national interest in Ireland. Doubtless if the constituencies had been left to their own devices they would have returned members responsive to the magnificent resolves of the people. But the Parliamentarians were astute manipulators of the political machine: they had for the most part wormed themselves into the good graces of the local leaders, and arranged for their own re-election when the time came.

A world preoccupied with the tremendous movements of mighty armies woke up one morning and rubbed its eyes in amazement to read that a rebellion had broken out in the capital of Ireland. How did it happen? What did it mean? What was the cause of it? These and similar questions were being asked, and those who were ready with an answer were very few indeed. The marvellous thing, a matter almost incredible of belief, is that it caught the Irish Government absolutely unawares. Their Secret Service Department might as well not have been in existence.

I can only rapidly sketch the events that followed the publication of the Land Conference Report. Mr Sexton made it his business in The Freeman's Journal to decry its findings on the sinister ground that they offered too much to the landlords and were not sufficiently favourable to the tenants, sneering at the proposal for a bonus, hinting that no Government would find money for this purpose.

The time had now come when the Irish Party had to taste all the bitterness of actual and anticipated defeat. Several Irish newspapers had gone over to Sinn Fein. The Irish Independent had been previously a fearless critic of the Party, and the defeat of the Partition proposals was largely due to the manner in which they had denounced them and exposed their real character.

The vital declaration of the objects of the Irish Reform Association was contained in the following passage: -

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.

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