January 26th, 1912


From the ArchivesThis editorial rejoiced in the decision of Winston Churchill, then a member of the British Liberal government, to abandon a pro-Home Rule speech in Belfast

Another conference was held at Downing street yesterday on the subject of Mr Churchill’s visit to Belfast. It was private, and the journalists were told that it had produced “no important development.”

Mr Churchill’s letter to the Marquis of Londonderry – no doubt, a fruit of the conference – is, however, a very important development. The protest of the Ulster Unionist Council has triumphed. Mr Churchill has abandoned his intention of speaking in the Ulster Hall. He insists on coming to Belfast, because he has given a promise, and thinks it is his duty to assert the right of free speech. But he has made the sudden and belated discovery that the place of meeting is “not a point of any importance” to him. If Unionist Ulster’s main objection is to his speaking in the Ulster Hall, he is ready to ask the Ulster Liberal Association to change the venue to the place which is least likely to cause ill-feeling. [It was changed to Celtic Park, on Donegall Road.] We congratulate Mr Churchill on his tardy recognition of the facts of the situation. If he had insisted on speaking in the Ulster Hall, grave disorder must have followed, and for this – in spite of his attempt to put the blame on the Ulster Unionist Council – he would have been directly responsible. We think that Mr Churchill is ill-advised in not abandoning his visit altogether. No glory is to be gained from coming to a city where he is not wanted. Even if he speaks in the Nationalist quarter of Belfast, the risk of disturbance cannot be wholly eliminated.

But, if he must keep his promise to the Liberals of Belfast, there appears to be no urgent reason why the Ulster Unionist Council should put any obstacle in his way. The sturdy Unionists of the North have won all along the line. The conspiracy to misrepresent Ulster Unionist feeling has been a miserable failure. Mr Churchill was to have repudiated the Union in the Hall where his father affirmed it. The English people were to be shown that Ulster was no longer hostile to Home Rule, that her resolution to resist it to the end, was in the words of Mr Redmond [the Nationalist Party leader], “Orangemen’s bluff.” How false and foolish those words appear in the light of Mr Churchill’s surrender! If Mr Redmond really believed that Unionist Ulster was “bluffing,” he is a wiser man to-day. His plans have miscarried utterly, and the Radical [Liberal Party] Ministers who put their trust in him have been disappointed and deceived. The conspiracy has ended, not in an advertisement for Home Rule, but in an historic and unforgettable demonstration of Ulster’s loyalty to the Union . . . If the Government cannot as much as advocate Home Rule in the chief public building of Belfast, how does it hope to impose Home Rule on the whole Province of Ulster? That question will brood like a shadow over all the Parliamentary discussion of the [Home Rule] Bill, will make it perfunctory and unreal.

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