"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? I think the mistake we made in the beginning was that we did not sufficiently realise the absolute necessity of taking into consideration the feeling of Ulster."

These notable words were spoken by Viscount Grey of Falloden in the debate in the House of Lords on the Partition Bill on 24th November 1920. A more remarkable vindication of All-for-Ireland principles and a more utter condemnation of the egregious folly of our opponents it is not possible to imagine, coming especially from so clear and calm-minded a statesman as the former Liberal Foreign Secretary. The root principles upon which Mr O'Brien and his friends proceeded from the start were that success was to be had by making an Irish settlement depend, in the first place, upon the co-operation of a million of our Protestant countrymen, and next by enlisting the co-operation of both British parties, instead of making the Irish Question the exclusive possession of one English Party. These two principles are now universally acknowledged to be the wise ones, yet when we were urging them in the Home Rule debates we could find no support from the Liberal-Irish cohorts, and although we sedulously devoted ourselves to urging a non-party programme and the conciliation of the Protestant minority - about which all parties are now agreed - we only received vilification and calumny for our portion.

Great play is being made by distinguished converts within the past few years of Dominion Rule as if they were the discoverers of this blessed panacea for Ireland's ills, but it is proper to recall that the All-for-Ireland Party specifically proposed Dominion Home Rule in a letter to Mr Asquith in 1911 as the wisest of all solutions. Scant attention was paid to our recommendation then and it is not even remembered for us by the protagonists of a later time. In all our efforts to conciliate Ulster and to allay the alarms it undoubtedly felt owing to the growth and aggressiveness of the Catholic Order of Orangeism, we never received encouragement or support from the Government or the Irish Party. On the contrary, they denounced as treason to Ireland the proposal made by us that for an experimental term of five years the Ulster Party, which would remain in the Imperial Parliament, should have the right of appeal as against any Irish Bill of which they did not approve, the decision to be given within one month. This, we held, would have been a more effectual safeguard than any proposed since to satisfy Irish Unionists that legislative oppression would have been impossible.

Other proposals of a representation in the Irish Parliament proportioned to their numbers and of guarantees against the establishment of any Tammany system of spoils in favour of the secret sectarian association were also submitted. But all our overtures for a peace based on reasonable concessions were repudiated by the official Party and contemptuously rejected by them and we were held up to public obloquy as proposing to subject Ireland to the veto of fourteen Orangemen.

In the early stages of the opposition to Home Rule, curiously enough Sir Edward Carson did not count as a figure of any particular power or malignancy. True, he had his early period of notoriety in Ireland when he acted as a Crown Prosecutor under the Crimes Act. But when he transferred his legal and political ambition to England it is alleged that he was for a season a member of the National Liberal Club and was thus entitled to be ranked as a Liberal in politics. Whether through conviction or otherwise, his allegiance appears to have been promptly and permanently transferred to the Unionist Party, but even then he was in no sense regarded as an Ulster Member - he is himself a Southern Irishman by birth - and in the House of Commons comported himself as a good Unionist, holding office as such. It was only when the Irish Party set their faces sternly against any concessions to Ulster that Sir Edward Carson stepped into the breach and came to the front as the duly elected leader of the Ulster Party. It is the sheerest nonsense and pure ignorance of the facts to say that Sir Edward Carson created the Ulster difficulty. It was created by the statesmen and politicians who, in the words of Viscount Grey, "did not sufficiently realise the absolute necessity of taking into consideration the feeling of Ulster." When the full history of this period is written, and when documents at present confidential are available, I believe it will be shown that if the concessions and safeguards suggested by the All-for-Ireland Party had been offered by the Government or the Irish Party in the earlier stages of the Home Rule controversy they would have been, in the main, acceptable to Ulster Unionist opinion. I well remember Mr (now Mr Justice) Moore declaring, from his place on the Ulster benches:

"My friends and myself have always marvelled at the fatuity of the Irish Party in throwing over the member for the City of Cork (Mr William O'Brien) when he had all the cards in his hands."

Where we preached all reasonable concession and conciliation our opponents proclaimed that Ulster must submit itself unconditionally to the law and that it must content itself in the knowledge that "minorities must suffer." And all this while the Board of Erin Hibernians were consolidating their position as the ascendant authority in Irish life, from whom the Protestant minority might not, without some reason, in looking back on their own bad past, expect that it would be taken out of them when the Catholics got into power. Thus in very real fear and terror of their disabilities under an Irish Parliament, which would be elected and dominated by a secret sectarian organisation, they entered into the famous Ulster Covenant and solemnly swore to resist Home Rule and to raise a Volunteer Army for the purpose of giving force and effect to their resistance. The visit of Mr Winston Churchill to Belfast early in 1912 to address a Nationalist meeting there was an aggravation of the situation and there was a time during his progress through the city when his motor car was in imminent danger of being upset and when it was surrounded by a howling and enraged mob of Orangemen, who shouted the fiercest curses and threats at him. As a result of this experience Mr Churchill was never afterwards a very enthusiastic supporter of what came to be called "the coercion of Ulster."

Meanwhile Mr Churchill's most ill-advised visit, from the point of view of political tactics, was just the thing required to raise all the worst elements of Orangeism and to give its best fillip to the signing of the Covenant, which proceeded apace, not only in Ulster, but in Great Britain, even to the extent that the army was said to be honey-combed with sworn Covenanters, contrary to all the rules and doctrines of military law and discipline. And in due course, in reply to the challenge of Mr Churchill's visit the leader of the Unionist Party, Mr Bonar Law, visited Balmoral, near Belfast, and reviewed from 80,000 to 100,000 Ulster Volunteers, who marched past him in military order, and saluted. Sir Edward Carson made the meeting repeat after him the pledge: "We will never in any circumstances submit to Home Rule."

The Unionist Party was now solidly and assertively on the side of Ulster in its opposition to Home Rule. They held a demonstration at Blenheim on 27th July 1912, when some three thousand delegates from political associations, invited by the Duke of Marlborough, were present. Mr Bonar Law described the Liberal Ministry as a revolutionary committee which had seized by fraud on despotic power, and declared that the Unionist Party would use whatever means seemed likely to be most effective. He made the declaration that Ireland was two nations, a theory which, strangely enough, Mr Lloyd George, as Coalition Premier, advocated eight years later. He went on to say that the Ulster people would submit to no ascendancy and "he could imagine no lengths of resistance to which they might go in which he would not be ready to support them" and in which they would not be supported by the overwhelming majority of the British people.

In Parliament a few weeks later Mr Asquith described Mr Bonar Law's speech as a declaration of war against Constitutional Government, but the Ulstermen went on calmly making their preparations for levying war and Sir Edward Carson and his friends coolly delivered speeches which reeked of sedition and treason against the State. Sir Edward Carson declared (27th July 1912): "We will shortly challenge the Government. They shall us if they like it is treason. We are prepared to take the consequences." And again he said (1st October 1912): "The Attorney-General says that my doctrines and the course I am taking lead to anarchy. Does he not think I know that?" And that fine exemplar of constitutional law, Mr F.E. Smith (now Lord Chancellor of England) said: "Supposing the Government gave such an order the consequences can only be described in the words of Mr Bonar Law when he said: 'If they did so it would not be a matter of argument but the population of London would lynch you on the lamp-posts.'" Ulster scarcely needed these incitements to encourage it in its definite purpose of armed resistance to Home Rule. It began to organise and discipline its army of Volunteers under able military leaders who subsequently demonstrated their capacity in no uncertain fashion, under the tests of actual warfare on many fields of battle. With the knowledge we now possess it seems scarcely believable that Mr Redmond and his friends should have professed to treat what was happening in Ulster as "a gigantic game of bluff." They joked pleasantly over the drilling of the Ulster Volunteers with "wooden guns," and they only asked that the Government should "Let the police and soldiers stand aside and make a ring and you will hear no more of the wooden gunmen." Ribaldry and gibes of this sort in the face of open and avowed treason was but a poor substitute for that firm statesmanship which should have grappled with the Ulster difficulty in either of two ways - to come to terms with it or, in the alternative, beat all unruly opposition to the ground.

Mr Asquith is blamed because he did not put the law in operation against Sir Edward Carson, proclaim his illegal organisation of Volunteers and deal with him and his friends as a people seditious and disaffected towards the State, who, by their acts and conduct, had invited and merited the traitors' doom. But Mr Devlin declared not long after in Parliament that the reason why Mr Asquith did not move was because he and his friends would not allow him. Whence this extraordinary tenderness for the man who was thwarting and defying them at every point, it is not possible to say. No doubt the Ministry knew themselves in the wrong in that they had not considered the position of Ulster and had not attempted to legislate for their just fears. It is beyond question that there were conditions upon which the consent of Ulster could have been secured. If, these conditions being offered, this consent was unreasonably withheld, then the Government would have been absolutely justified in throttling Sir Edward Carson's preparations for rebellion before they had gained any ground or effective shape. But the weakness of the Liberal-Irish position was that they would not bring themselves to admit that the All-for-Ireland policy of Conciliation and a settlement by Conference and Consent was right.

Meanwhile, with a weak Irish administration in charge of Mr Birrell as Chief Secretary - most amiable of litterateurs, but most imbecile of politicians - the Ulster opposition was allowed to harden into potential violence and civil war. "Engagements" between the Orangemen and the Hibernians began to form a sort of political amusement in the north of Ireland. The cries of religious and race hatred were allowed to devour the sweeter gospel of reconciliation and the recognition of a common country and that communion of right and interest between all classes and creeds which was the evangel of Wolfe Tone and other northern Protestant patriots in sublimer days. Matters were drifting from bad to worse under the fatal weakness and irresolution of the Government. So little fear had Sir Edward Carson of any penal consequences to himself that he declared, on the 7th September 1913:

"We will set up a Government [of their own as provided for in the Ulster Covenant]. I am told it will be illegal. Of course it will. Drilling is illegal. The Government dare not interfere."

And he was right! It did not interfere. And the Ulster Volunteers began to provide themselves with arms and ammunition and to organise themselves for actual war conditions. There were no more feeble jokes about "wooden guns" and "making a free ring" - as if it were to be only an ordinary pugilistic encounter and of no account. In 1913 the Ulster Volunteer Force was said to be well armed and probably better drilled than the northern regiments at the outbreak of the American War of Secession.

Official nationalism was, though it knew it not, passing through the gates of disaster. It was still able to maintain its hold on the old stagers who were grafted on to it for various reasons, and the Board of Erin was still able to count on the fidelity of those who believed in the secret sign and watchword as the avenue to place and preferment.

The Government of Ireland Bill was merrily pursuing its three years' course through Parliament - passed by the House of Commons and rejected by the House of Lords after the usual farce and formality of debates which had very little reality in them. What counted was that Ulster was in arms and determined to resist and that "the Home Rule Government" had proved themselves incapable either of conceding or of resisting. Other things began to count also in Ireland. The young manhood of Nationalist Ireland, seeing the liberties of their country menaced by force, decided to organise themselves into a corps of Irish Volunteers to defend these liberties from wanton aggression. The Transport Workers' Strike in Dublin, in 1913, under Mr James Larkin, also showed the existence of a powerful body of organised opinion, which cared little for ordinary political methods and which was clearly disaffected to the Party leaders. Forces were being loosed that had long been held in check by the power of the place-hunting and sectarian "constitutional" movement asserting and enforcing its authority, through unscrupulous methods already described, to speak and act on behalf of the people. If Sir Edward Carson had risen to power through open and flagrant defiance of all constituted right and authority, there were others who were not slow to copy his methods. The Irish Party may denounce him in Parliament as a disloyal subject of the Crown, but there were young Nationalists in Southern Ireland, aye, even in Rebel Cork, who sincerely raised cheers for him because he had shown them, as they believed, the better way "to save Ireland." The Government could not make one law for the North and another for the South. If it allowed the Orangemen to drill and arm it could not well interfere with the Nationalists if they took a leaf out of their book and proceeded to act in like manner. And thus are the destinies of people and the fate of nations decided. In preparing for civil war Sir Edward Carson gave that spur of encouragement to Germany that it just needed to rush it into a world war. And for how much else he is responsible in Ireland every faithful student of current history knows!