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. I received a formal note of acknowledgment and heard not a word more, nor was my offer ever availed of. On the contrary, the fiat went forth that the constituencies of those who had for five years remained staunch and steadfast to the policy of Conciliation should be organised against them and that not a friend of Mr O'Brien should be allowed to remain in public life. We were not yet actually cut off from the Party or its financial perquisites, but in all other ways we were treated as political pariahs and outcasts and made to feel that there was a rod in pickle for us.

In the autumn of 1909 I was attending my law lectures in Dublin when it was conveyed to me that a raid on my constituency was contemplated, that the officials at the League headquarters in Dublin were, without rhyme or reason, returning the affiliation fees of branches which were known to be friendly to me, and that a Divisional Conference of my enemies was summoned for the purpose of "organising" me out of Mid-Cork. I immediately resolved that if the issue were to be knit at all the sooner the better, and I took my own steps to circumvent the machinations of those who were out, so to speak, for my blood. Hence when the bogus delegates were brought together in Macroom one Saturday afternoon a little surprise awaited them, for as they proceeded to the Town Hall to deliberate their plans for my overthrow, another and a more determined militant body, with myself at their head, also marched on the same venue. There was a short and sharp encounter for possession of the hall: the plotters put up a sorry fight; they were soon routed, and my friends and myself held our meeting on the chosen ground of our opponents. Moreover, Mr Denis Johnston, the Chief Organiser of the League, who had come down from Dublin with all his plans for my extermination cut and dried, dared not take the train that evening in the ordinary course from the Macroom station, but, like a thief in the night, stole out of the town in a covered car and drove to a station farther on.

Thus began the foul attempt to exterminate Mr O'Brien's friends, who, be it noted, were still members of the Irish Party, against whom no crime was alleged or any charge of Party disloyalty preferred. The funds of the League, its organisers and its executive machinery, instead of being used for the advancement of the Irish movement along constitutional lines, were brutally directed to the political execution of Mr O'Brien's friends, who, now that he had gone for good, and was reported to be in that state of physical breakdown which would prevent him from ever again taking an active part in Irish affairs, were supposed to be at the mercy of the big "pots" and their big battalions.

Mr Maurice Healy, who had been elected for Cork City by an overwhelming majority over the nominee of "the leaders" after Mr O'Brien's retirement, was unconstitutionally and improperly refused admission to the Party, although he was quite prepared to sign the pledge to sit, act, and vote with it. There was scarcely a thing wrong they could do which these blind leaders of the blind did not clumsily attempt at this juncture. They might have shown us, whose only crime was loyalty to principle and to a policy which had been signally ratified by the repeated mandates of the people, a reasonable measure of generosity and a frank fellowship and all would be well.

But no; we had committed the cardinal offence of preferring a policy to a personality and, in famous phrase, we were marked down to "suffer for it." Hordes of organisers were dispatched to our constituencies to "pull the strings" against us. I can aver, with a certain malicious satisfaction, that wherever they made their appearance in Cork, we met them and we routed them. This may appear an ill way to conduct a political campaign, but be it remembered that we were fighting for our lives, almost resourceless, and that the aggressors had practically limitless powers, financially and otherwise. I will mention one incident to explain many. It was announced that Mr Redmond was to speak at Banteer, on the borders of my constituency. I could not allow that challenge to pass unnoticed without surrendering ground which it would be impossible to recover; and so I took the earliest opportunity of proclaiming that if Mr Redmond came to Banteer my friends and I would be there to meet him. He never came! Meanwhile through a private source - for none of his colleagues were in communication with him - Mr O'Brien heard of the nefarious attempts that were being made to exterminate his friends and he broke silence for the first time since his retirement by despatching the following message to the Press Association: -

"If these people are wise they will drop their campaign of vengeance against my friends."

Doubtless "these people" thought this the threat of a man helpless through illness, and not to be seriously noticed, for they went on with their preparations, surreptitious and otherwise, for our destruction, in suitable time and form. I will ever remember it with pride and gratitude that the labourers of the south, the President of whose Association I was, were gloriously staunch and loyal and that there never was a demand I made upon them for support and encouragement they did not magnificently respond to. They gave repayment, in full measure and flowing over, for whatever little I was able to accomplish in my lifetime for the alleviation of their lot and the brightening of their lives.

Meanwhile the Party had matters all their own way, yet their only "great" achievement was to get the Birrell Land Bill passed into law and to put an end to the operations of the Purchase Act of 1903 which was so rapidly transforming the face of the country. They also passed for Mr Lloyd George what Mr Dillon termed "the great and good" Budget, but which really added enormously to the direct taxation of Ireland - imposing an additional burden of something not far from three millions sterling on the backs of an already overtaxed country. But if the people were plundered the place-hunters were placated. The Irish Party had now become little better than an annexe of Liberalism. They sat in Opposition because it was the tradition to do so, but in reality they were the obsequious followers of a British Party and browsing on its pasturage in the hope of better things to come.

Not far off were heard the rumblings of an approaching General Election. There were the usual flutterings of the "ins" who wanted to remain in, and of the "outs" who were anxious to taste the social sweets and the personal pomp of the successful politician, who had got the magic letters "M.P." to his name. It is wonderful what an appeal it makes to the man who has made his "pile" somehow or anyhow (or who wants to make it) to have the right to enter the sacred portals of Westminster, but it is more wonderful still to see him when he gets there become the mere puppet of the Party Whips, without an atom of individual independence or a grain of useful initiative. The system absorbs them and they become cogs in a machine, whose movements they have little power of controlling or directing.

It was pretended by the leaders of the Nationalists that their subservient surrender to the Liberal Party was a far-sighted move to compel Mr Asquith and his friends to make Home Rule "the dominant issue," as they termed it, at the General Election. The veto of the House of Lords, the hitherto one intractable element of opposition to Home Rule, was to go before long and the House of Commons, within certain limits, would be in a position to impose its will as the sovereign authority in the State. Yet it is the scarcely believable fact that in all these precious months, and after all the servile sycophancy they had given to the Liberals, neither Mr Redmond nor those true-blue Liberals, Mr Dillon and Mr O'Connor, had ever sought to extract from Mr Asquith an irrefragable statement of his intentions regarding the Irish Question, or whether he and his Government intended to make it a prime plank in the Liberal platform at the polls. The rejection of the Budget by the Lords was made the real issue before the electors, and little was heard of Home Rule, either on the platform or in the Press. True, Mr Asquith made a vague and non-committal reference to it at the Albert Hall on the eve of the election, but the Liberal candidates, with extraordinary unanimity, fought shy of it in every constituency, except where there was a considerable Irish vote to be played up to, and one of the Liberal Party Whips even went so far as to declare there was no Home Rule engagement at all. Far different was it in other days, when Parnell was in power. He would have pinned the Party to whom he was giving his support down to a written compact, which could not be broken without dishonour, and he would leave nothing to the mere emergencies and expediencies of politics, which are only the gambler's dice in a devil's game.

But the men of lesser calibre who had now the destiny of a nation in their hands "trusted" in the good faith of the Liberals and in return asked the country to "trust" them. There never was such a puckish game played in history. Criticism was stifled and the people were told, and no doubt in their innocence believed it, that Home Rule was already as good as carried and that the dream of all the years was come true. Mr Dillon was audaciously flying the flag of "Boer Home Rule as a minimum," although he had not a scrap of authority or a line of sanction for his pronouncements.

It seemed as if every friend of Mr O'Brien was to go under in the campaign of opposition that was being elaborately carried out against them. Our constituencies were swarming with paid organisers and men and money galore were pouring in from outside, so that our downfall and defeat should be made an absolute certainty.

It was in this crisis that the generous spirit of Mr O'Brien impelled him to come to our assistance. For my own part I never had a doubt that when the hour struck the champion of so many noble causes would be found once again stoutly defending the men who had staked all for the sake of principle, but who, without his aid, must be mercilessly thrown to the wolves. We were in a most benighted state, without any trace of organisation of our own (except that I had the Land and Labour Association unflinchingly on my side), without any newspaper to report our speeches, and with only the bravest of the brave to come upon our platforms and say a good word for us. The outlook was as bleak as it well could be, when suddenly, towards the end of December 1909, the joyous news reached us that "the hero of a hundred fights" was about to throw himself into the breach on our behalf. Our enemies laughed the rumour to scorn, but we knew better and we bided in patience the coming of our man.

One stipulation, indeed, Mr O'Brien did make, that in coming to our assistance it was not implied that he was to be a candidate himself and that he was merely to deliver three speeches in Cork City to put the issue clearly before the people. Matters had now reached so grave a pitch that not only were Mr O'Brien's own friends to be attacked by the "Board of Erin," which was now in complete control of the machinery of the national organisation, but that every other Member of Parliament who had not bent the knee to its occult omnipotence was to be run out of public life without cause assigned. All this while there was rumour and counter-rumour about Mr O'Brien's return. The Dillonites up to the last moment believed we were playing a game of bluff and went on right merrily with their preparations for making a clean sweep of every man who was "suspect" of possessing an independent mind. Then on one winter's night, shortly before the election writs were issued, the doubters and the scoffers were once and for all confounded. Mr O'Brien arrived in the city which was always proud to do him honour, but which never more proudly did him honour than on this occasion, when they mustered in their thousands at the station and lined the streets, a frantic, cheering, enthusiastic and madly joyous people, to see him back amongst them once again, neither bent nor broken nor physically spent, but gloriously erect, acknowledging the thunderous salutations of the tens of thousands who loved him, even to the little children, with a love which was surely compensation for many a bitter wound of injustice and ingratitude.