I suppose, though I would very much like to do it, I dare not treat this motion as it really deserves to be treated, that is to ignore it. The mover and the seconder of the motion have made no case whatever. They have not tried to make a case. They talked about history; they talked about everything under the sun, but they did not try to put up a single argument in favour of their contention that the Government was paying insufficient attention to the question of Partition, unless indeed we are to conclude, as I think one of the speakers on this side already concluded, that the only way to end Partition was for us here in this part of Ireland, although we are the majority of the whole nation, to surrender and give up every ideal that appealed to us and that we thought right.
I think we are entitled to resent the attitude of those who here speak to us as if the people of this part of the country were responsible for Partition or that there is anything which we could reasonably do which we have not shown our willingness to do to end Partition. Surely it is an absurd position to take up that the majority of the people of this country must surrender everything that they think right and proper, in order to bring the minority into what should be for them, as for us, a common nation.
I have not merely listened to the speeches that were made by the proposer and the seconder of the motion; I hoped to read something into the speeches which might deserve a reply, but all I have been able to gather in reading these speeches, as well as listening to them, is exactly what I have said—the assumption that we were to blame for this, that the minority was right, that the minority should get everything they wanted and that we should surrender everything we wanted in order to bring them in. They have not even shown us that even if we were willing to surrender most of these things it would bring in the minority. Those Deputies know very well what has been the attitude all through the past. They know now Partition came about by the action of the minority which felt that they were supported elsewhere, and were strong enough elsewhere, to do in this country what no minority would do in any other country. In the United States of America there were a number of States which, for years, took one political view. Who is going to think that the minority there would have been justified in cutting off these States because they differed from the majority in the Union? I hold that there has been no justification at any time for the actions of the minority. I say that if a motion like this were brought into the Northern Parliament it would be understandable and it would be justifiable, but those who bring a motion of this kind here know perfectly well— they have admitted it in their speeches —that everybody in this part of the country is interested in the unity of Ireland, that everybody in this part of the country would do anything that is reasonable to bring Partition to an end.
Having read the speeches delivered on this motion I can find nothing useful in them. The only thing that I would think worth recording or worth re-reading is a statement made by Deputy MacDermot. It is the truth, at any rate, and fundamentally sound. He said that he thought anyone was living in a fool's paradise who imagined that the people of this country would reconcile themselves to Partition or that good relations between the Free State and Great Britain ever would be possible on the basis of Partition. That is the truth, and it is well that all who are interested in this question should understand that. It is fundamental; we all admit that. There has been no suggestion on their side as to how Partition should be brought to an end. Force is out of the question. That is nothing new for us to say. We have admitted it at all times. I am not saying now that force would not have been justified, but we have always, since 1921, at any rate, and even before that, admitted that as far as this part of Ireland is concerned, to compel the minority by force to be part of the whole country and to acknowledge that they were part of this country was out of the question. We have simply said that Partition is unjustifiable, that no case has ever been made for the separation of the Six Counties from the rest of the country. Conceivably a case might be made for a certain portion on the basis that they were a homogeneous community, a very small group in the neighbourhood of Belfast, but it is only in the neighbourhood of the City of Belfast that there is anything that would justify it on any grounds. I do not say it is justifiable. I have indicated that I would not regard that as justifying portion of the United States cutting itself off from the Union, so I do not think that even that small portion here would be justified. There might be some basis for a case for a minority, where it seemed to be homogeneous, in the neighbourhood of Belfast, cutting themselves off, but there is no justification for that minority compelling those who are in the hinterland—who wish to be united with the rest of the country, and who if they were given an opportunity of expressing their votes would vote to be united with the rest of the country —to be cut off.
I am talking to people who know all those facts. What is the use in my speaking about them? I myself believe that motions like this, instead of doing any good, do a great deal of harm. We feel very strongly about this down here, and it is extremely difficult to speak calmly about it because we regard as a cruel outrage this whole question of Partition. Deputy MacDermot asked us to have faith. We have faith. We are perfectly satisfied that this country will be united, and that empires will go to pieces long before the desire of the Irish people to have their own country to themselves will cease. We are perfectly certain of that. We may not be able to bring it about to-day or to-morrow, but if the Irish people remain as true to themselves in the future as they have been in the past there is no doubt whatever about it.
Deputy MacDermot's cure is that we should surrender everything. Let us take some of the things he wants us to surrender. In the realm of mere politics he wants us to surrender the desire that the majority of our people have to be independent. That is what it means. He shakes his head, but he knows as well as I do that when Home Rule, as a very milk-and-water form of independence, was mentioned, they did not want Home Rule. He talks about making Ireland a part of the Commonwealth. I have challenged him here, and challenged all those who want to have it as a useful Party label to talk about the unity of Ireland, to get from the people in the North a single expression which would lead any reasonable man to believe, if the majority here were to be content and satisfied with being a Dominion in the British Commonwealth, that you could secure the unity of Ireland on that basis. Let us hear either from the English or from the people of the North that that is a truth, and then the people of Ireland will know where they stand. Then perhaps they might build up a Party on the basis of a united Ireland. But the people of this country are not fools. They know perfectly well that the people who were asked on a previous occasion about a basis like that said "not an inch". The people who said "not an inch" then, are likely to say "not an inch" to-day.
Possibly, if we went back and had a Union Parliament in Westminster again we might have a united Ireland. What form of united Ireland would it be? What would Ireland be then— as a political unit anyhow? Possibly— I do not believe it myself—under some form of federation in which you would have some kind of common Parliament again for the two countries Ireland might appear as a unit, but the only basis on which I have ever seen that those people in the North—the minority whom it is said we are not doing proper things to win—were prepared to be united with us was that this Parliament should allow itself to be completely absorbed. Undoubtedly they will glorify the name of Ireland as a sort of geographical term, but they have not been thinking—certainly as far as I can see—in terms of Statehood or even of nationhood. We are to surrender, then, all our political ideals. We are to surrender our ideals of what Irish nationhood should mean to our people. We must, of course, give up all ideas of trying to restore the language, because if we move in that direction we are going to antagonise the people in the North. We have been told that there is a religious difficulty. I suppose we are to surrender our religion, too, as a method of bringing about this unity. That is the sort of talk we have been treated to by the people on the opposite benches, who knew perfectly well that that line of talk is going to get us nowhere. Have the majority any rights whatever in Ireland? Is there to be no limit to what they must do? Must they completely obliterate themselves in order to bring about this good feeling which we are told is so necessary for the bringing about of unity?
I think that the majority of the people of Ireland as a whole have shown themselves in all this to be people who desire unity; who have tried to make no difference; they have always admitted the minority to equality, but they have said that they are not entitled to privilege, and I think it is right that the majority should say that. Equality they are entitled to, but in regard to privilege the majority have a right to say: "We will not give it to you." If there were a Party of 40 or 50 members here they would be entitled to their rights, to their voting strength and so on, but would they be entitled to settle policy here if they were not a majority? I cannot see any light whatever, any hope whatever, in the directions in which the movers of this motion would lead us.
The only way in which we can do our part is by acting honestly and justly and with conviction; doing the things that we think are becoming for us to do; not seeking to injure them, but doing the things that we think are right on our own account. We cannot, of course, completely forget that they are there. When we are making up our minds on certain lines of action it is right that we should keep that question in mind, and I think every reasonable man in any responsible position dealing with this matter will always do that, but when he has taken stock of the situation he may very properly say to himself: "Clearly, I cannot win these people by anything that I can do; then the best thing for me is not to frustrate myself in my own regard by omitting to do the things that I think are right and good in themselves." I think the proper thing for us to do here is to go ahead and do the things we want to do because we think they are right, and to trust very largely to the influence which they will have on the other people. If that has no influence on them, then you certainly are not going to have influence upon them by the methods which have been suggested by those who have been speaking to this motion. I think that is quite the wrong way.
Deputy Rowlette talked about compromise. I have nothing to say to the word. I am not one of those who have been talking about the word compromise at any time, or thinking that there is anything foul or wrong about it. It altogether depends upon the conditions under which the compromise is made, the nature of the compromise, and what it is all about. Speaking about selling the cow, I thought that the diplomacy of McGrath the cattle-jobber was somewhat better than the diplomacy which was recommended by Deputy MacDermot and Deputy Rowlette in that regard. Speaking about the cow business, it is extraordinary how lies will continue to circulate and be believed. I never made that statement about selling a cow. That originated in a report which I made on the attitude of Mr. Lloyd George. After my interview with him I reported that it seemed to me his attitude was like that of a man selling a cow at a fair; he wanted to get the highest price he could. Of course, it was turned around in quite the other direction. However, that is a small matter. But when it was mentioned I did think that the best way to get them to go after you was to walk the other way. There was more in that diplomacy than in the diplomacy of Deputy MacDermot.
Walking the other way, as far as we are concerned, simply means this: that we have political ideals here, social ideals here, national ideals, and other ideals, and that we propose to pursue those ideals to the best of our ability to satisfy the longings and the aspirations of our own people down here. We believe that we are entitled to do it. We believe that our people are entitled to do it, and we believe, further, that we are injuring nobody in doing it. Furthermore, we believe that we will get far more respect by doing so than if we were to surrender everything in a faint hope—and a faint hope it would be, at any rate—that the people there are going to change their attitude towards us.
The questions of the Irish language and Irish nationality were inevitably brought in here in this debate, because the people who introduced the subject were not able to speak about it. They spoke around and around and about it, and, consequently, they had to bring in everything they could in the way of padding. As far as the Irish language is concerned, I think it is admitted that the great majority of the people in this country want to see it restored. Nobody, of course, who knows anything about it, doubts that the restoration of the Irish language is a difficult task. Some people, however, are only realising now that it is a difficult task, and because they realise that it is a difficult task they think that that is a reason to be discouraged. I think that the fact that it is a difficult task is only a reason to go faster, and that we ought not to pause or hesitate in the hope of getting some ideal way of restoring the language. The language can only be restored by personal effort, by personal encouragement, each to the other, to go ahead with the restoration of the language, and anybody who thinks that there is any royal road to the restoration of the language is making a big mistake. I do think, however, that people who wish to see the language restored, should be more careful in the methods they adopt and that they ought to consider whether the methods they adopt might not do a great deal of harm. It must be remembered that this is a critical period, and that to hesitate is fatal. Therefore, let us go ahead with the present method until it can be shown that it is not the right method.
I am not a little suspicious about the people who hesitate as to the road we are going on. I think that if you examine things a little bit deeper, you will find that the people who are opposed to us going on for complete independence, or for the restoration of the language, are only trying to find an excuse in the Northern situation for opposition to our progress. If they believe that the unity of the country is of vital importance, just as those who think that the restoration of the Irish language is of vital importance, I think they should be very careful, in introducing motions like this, that they are not doing more harm than good, because, if we are to have speeches such as we have heard today and last night—speeches which completely misrepresent the situation—completely misrepresent our attitude, which has been always one of goodwill—and which seem to throw the blame upon our shoulders, when, clearly, the blame is not on our shoulders, unless it is to be taken for granted that the majority must always surrender the things dear to them if the minority wants that surrender— well, then, as I have said, it would be better not to have such motions as this.
As I have said, I really would have preferred not to speak on this debate at all. However, I did not want to appear discourteous in not replying; but there is nothing, in any of the arguments put forward, to reply to. There has not been a single occasion on which the Government could reasonably have been expected to take action on which they have not done so. I have repeatedly made an equivalent statement to that of Deputy MacDermot, that anybody was living in a fool's paradise who imagined that the people of this country would reconcile themselves to Partition or that good relations between the Free State and Great Britain ever would be possible on the basis of Partition. In every case in which the Government could take action, the Government has done so. In every case in which it could take action, it has taken the action, both publicly and privately, referred to by Deputy MacDermot.
As far as the League of Nations, to which Deputy Davin referred, is concerned, there seems to be a misconception abroad. There is a definite feature of the Treaty of Versailles under which certain minority questions do not come up for discussion. The only way in which they could come up for discussion is when these problems involve the disturbance of the general peace of the world. You might make the case that certain problems were leading to unrest, so far as this country is concerned, but certainly not in the ordinary way in which people would say: "Why not raise this matter at the League of Nations?" As I say, there are a number of things which might be raised, but there is also the question of whether the raising of these matters might be useful or the reverse. In any case, we believe that in this particular question we are the aggrieved party, and not the aggressors. We believe that we are not the people who are doing wrong.