A Chinn Chomhairle agus a lucht na Dála, isé mo dhualgas fáilte oifigeamhail ceart do chur os cómhair an Choimisiúin ar son na hÉireann ar fad. Ba cheart gur as Gaedhilg ar fad a chuirfinn an fáilte sin rómpa cé nach dtuigean siad an teanga sin, mar seo í Páirliméad an Náisiúin, agus isí an Ghaedhilg teanga an náisiúin, agus ba chóir dhúinn an Ghaedhilg do chur san gcéad áit i gcomhnuidhe.
I have spoken a few words of Irish even though our friends do not understand them in order that they might understand, as I am sure they understand without its having been impressed upon them, that this assembly is a National Assembly, and that the official language of this assembly is the Irish language. Our friends have been but a few days amongst us, but in these few days I am perfectly certain that they have experienced and that they understand the warmth and the sincerity of the welcome by which they have been received by the Irish people.
My part here is simply to give a formal and official expression to that welcome as the chief representative of the Irish Nation. Had they come amongst us simply as individuals, distinguished citizens of the great Republic of America as they are, and of our own kindred, they would merit many of the marks of honour and affection with which they have been received; but I am sure they understand that our reception of them here to-day in this National Assembly is for them in their representative character as the chosen representatives not merely of our race in America, but of all true lovers of liberty in America and I hope that comprises the whole American nation.
We greet them then and we salute them as a sign that America will not regard the official assurances of her responsible head as mere scraps of paper, but that the principles of right and justice are about to be supported by the massed strength of the greatest nation on the earth to-day that nation which the whole world recognises as its only hope, that nation on which it depends whether the principles of right and justice are to prevail, or whether, as formerly might and might only is to be right. The honour we pay here to day to our visitors will naturally be associated with the honour paid formerly to Franklin in this country, and the honour paid later to Parnell and to other distinguished Irishmen in America, and it will be a notable link in the chain of friendly relations that binds this nation to the great nation beyond the Atlantic. As I looked in the course of the past few days on the flag of the Irish Republic and on the flag of the great Republic of America floating side by side, I could not help thinking what an appropriate combination these two flags were. I would wish to remind our friends that Mary's Heights and the Forts of Fredericksburg were a monument to the man, Thomas Francis Meagher, with whose name they will ever be associated, the man who was the first to unfurl that flag of orange, green and white here in our land. I am sure, too, that, as history acknowledges, it was the success of the American Rebels against England that was the precursor of the Republican idea in Europe, and in particular the precursor of the Republican idea here in this country. Therefore it seems to me, that even in all the combinations in which the American flag has recently been found, there is no one of which America has so great a reason to be proud as its combination with the tri-colour of Ireland in the past few days a combination, too, for which no man who knows Ireland's history need be ashamed.
It is a matter of much regret to me that our friends' stay amongst us is to be a brief one. I regret that they cannot stay another week so as to give us an opportunity to arrange that they might meet with Irishmen whose political views are not those of the majority of the people but who are in a sense types that it would be instructive for our visitors to come in direct contact with. Then again there are certain notables whose voices, even if unrepresentative, carry far. Had the Delegation an opportunity of meeting these they could judge for themselves the exact weight that should be attached to their opinions, which, at least, would be interesting.
In private I have urged these considerations on the Delegation, but unfortunately the demands of the main purpose of their mission are inexorable and they must leave us without having obtained at first hand that varied experience which would enable them to envisage with certainty and as a whole the Irish political situation as it is, in its almost astonishing simplicity, and to apportion truly to their relatively small dimensions the almost insignificant differences which the microscope of England's Press has (for England's purposes) enlarged beyond all recognition not merely enlarged, but distorted as well, so that the foreigner in matters relating to Ireland is truly in the position of one who cannot see the forest for the trees.
Had the Delegation been able to stay, longer I am certain they would have departed convinced that the Irish people show a unanimity of feeling and desire which it would be very hard to match in any other nation in the world; convinced that if it depended upon their own will the Irish Republic which has been proclaimed as thede jure Government of this country would be accepted enthusiastically by all except perhaps the avowed Unionists; convinced also that such as are heard to advocate Colonial Home Rule, etc., do so not because they consider it the best, not because they hanker after the English connection, but because they think that the militarist power which has kept Ireland within its grasp for centuries can never be persuaded to let her go; that the moral appeals of justice and right despite the professions of English statesmen during the war will have as little influence on English selfishness now as in the past, and that just as Cabinets and Chancellors remained deaf to the appeals of the suffering subject nations of Europe until their own selfish advantage prompted them to listen, so will they remain deaf now to our appeals and suffer England to work her will upon us.
Curiously, the attitude implies that they have no trust in the professions of the statesmen. And yet during the war they were active in asking support for Britain and the Allies as if every word uttered by these statesmen could be taken as gospel to be depended upon.
The attitude of the majority of the Irish people during the war has not been this the majority, too, believed the fine professions of the statesmen as for the most part hypocrisy, except in so far as these could be used as means of weakening their enemies. But they acted consistently with their belief no doubt.
When America entered the war, and when the American people had adopted as their own, and given their nation as a guarantor of the principles of Self-Determination and of a League of Nations so that the rules of justice and right should be established as the basis of their relations with each other instead of the rules of force and might, many who doubted began to hope. But still Ireland had not in herself the material strength which alone could be a sufficient guarantee that she would not be cheated cheated as those who obeyed Mr. Redmond's call, and fought and died for Britain have been cheated. The only course then open to Ireland was to show unmistakably that she approved of the principles America went into the war to promote, and to make it clear, that, if these principles were impartially applied to Ireland, Ireland's choice would be an Independent Republic and a distinct and separate unit in the League of Nations.
Every Irishman knew that the British connection was one which was never freely desired by the mass of the Irish people and has always been maintained not by Ireland's choice but by England's force. The Home Rule movement was an attempt by Irish political leaders to bring about an arrangement by which they hoped the two peoples might live side by side less in direct antagonism; less in the relations of master and slave. These leaders had hoped that the result of the removal of England's irritating interference in the immediate domestic concerns of Ireland by which the statesmen of England made these concerns subservient to England's interests would be that a better understanding might be reached which would enable the two countries to live side by side in peace as equal constituents in something like a Commonwealth Federation. They were willing to accept the British Empire on the terms of autonomy within it, but their efforts were met almost uniformly by England with insult and treachery. The hand of Irishmen held out in good faith was spurned and spat upon. The purely conditional acceptance of the British connection was exploited to place us in a false position, to misrepresent our national claims, and to create division in our national forces.
In the name of "loyalty" as if the Federation were already in existence England made demands for which a basis could only have been found had Ireland's side of the proposed bargain been conceded, but which were unjust and intolerable when the position was that England wanted to gain the benefit which by the proposed bargain would accrue to her whilst denying to Ireland the freedom for which the benefits were the proposed price.
Ireland has been cheated often she is not going to be cheated again, neither will she be deceived by promises. To some of us the saddest incidents of the war were the deaths of Irishmen, who, believing England's promises, fought in England's army in the hopes that success meant Ireland's freedom. To us it seems they must have known they would be betrayed and that in their generous impulsiveness they were but contributing to maintain England's strength and England's power to keep their own nation in slavery. The majority, thank God, have been saved from the tragedy. The threat of possible extermination was held over their heads, but they never wavered, and to-day they are proudly conscious that they have saved the national position, cleared away the fogs and mists with which England surrounded it and let in the sunlight.
To-day the world sees Ireland as a distinct nation fearlessly asserting her national individuality and demanding her rights. To-day Ireland is understood, and even if her struggle for freedom should be still further prolonged, she has the satisfaction of at least knowing that this time she has not allowed her natural nobility and natural generosity to be traded upon, but that the majority of her people have acted in accordance with the dictates of common sense and saved themselves from the humiliating agony of yet another betrayal at the hands of England.
There are a number of other aspects of the Irish question which if time permitted I would like very much to speak about publicly so that our friends may have a complete view of the situation. I would like to deal here with England's claim that the question of Ireland's independence is an English domestic question. I would like also to have time to deal with our minority question under which a small fraction of our people occupying a small portion of the country wish to set up a veto on the desires and wishes of the whole Irish nation. I would like also to give a picture of the present government of the country by England's army of occupation; I would like to impress upon them what land purchase really means to this country; the history of the struggle for freedom we have endured and how every "concession" - as they have been called - every particle of justice wrung from England has been wrung from her by violence. We charge England here as being the cause of all the violence and of all the regrettable incidents connected with that struggle.
We charge England as being responsible for them all. I cannot enumerate in detail all these matters, but some of them will be touched upon by the Ministers responsible for other departments in so far as they relate to their departments, and I am sure our friends will be able to gather from them the true position of affairs and will be able to tell the Irish in America and the American people the true position here in Ireland and they will then be in a position to use their power and influence in America and amongst all the lovers of liberty to see to it that the mendacious propaganda carried on by England is not taken for gospel in America or anywhere else.
Our meeting, then, is one of welcome, but we also mean it to be one of instruction for the members of the Delegation. I wish on behalf of the Irish Nation to give our distinguished visitors a hearty welcome, and I also wish to express to them our gratitude and our pride that they have come here to defend the right.