June 19th, 1912

Tue, Jun 19, 2012, 01:00

FROM THE ARCHIVES:The amendment to exclude four Ulster counties from Home Rule in 1912 was defeated by 69 votes in the House of Commons with Unionist MPs voting for it. Some of the political calculations behind the voting were discussed in this editorial. - JOE JOYCE

IT IS an old Nationalist legend that the Ulster Unionists, while good fighters and excellent money-makers, are shockingly bad politicians. Mr. [John] Redmond and Mr. [Joe] Devlin are never tired of ridiculing their blundering stupidity in all matters of political finesse.

These gentlemen were confident, therefore, that the Irish Unionist members would walk blindly into the trap which the Cabinet had set for them [and vote against the amendment].

They would declare their vehement resolve never to desert the Unionists of the South, and so would enable Mr. Redmond to insist that Home Rule must come for the sake of the Nationalist provinces, and must, on Ulster’s own showing, include Ulster.

The complete failure of this trick has filled the Nationalists with anger and dismay. They pretend to believe that Ulster has betrayed the Unionist minority in the rest of Ireland. They suggest to these Southern Unionists that, having realised the worthlessness and insincerity of Ulster’s professions, they should now throw in their lot with their Nationalist fellow-countrymen.

These disinterested wailings will deceive nobody at all. The action of the Ulster members, which has been so abundantly justified by results, had from the beginning the complete approval of all Irish Unionists. We believe that Southern Unionists are, like ourselves, utterly opposed to the separation, under any form of Government, of any part of Ulster from the rest of Ireland.

They full agree with Mr. William O’Brien’s refusal even to contemplate such a misfortune. If Home Rule must come, Ulster, so far as Southern Unionists are concerned, could assert herself far more powerfully in an Irish Parliament at Dublin than in the isolated independence which Mr. Agar-Robartes proposed .

We see that Mr. McMordie and Captain Craig are apparently of a different opinion, but, fortunately, they are not the makers of Ulster Unionist policy. Southern Unionists, of course, never felt the slightest alarm about the Ulster Unionist attitude to the amendment. They knew that it would be rejected. They knew that Mr. Redmond could not possibly accept it . . .

Ulster is now in the Bill for better or worse. When, if ever, the Bill becomes law it will be the Government’s duty to hand over Ulster as a “going concern” to the new Irish Parliament. There is not the least doubt that Ulster will resist the attempt by force of arms. We need not discuss the wisdom or legality of this attitude – it would be mere waste of time.

No moralising can get rid of the fact that Ulster’s last doubt as to the justice of overt resistance has been removed by the Government’s refusal to submit the Home Rule issue to the electors of the United Kingdom.