May 23rd, 1912

Wed, May 23, 2012, 01:00

FROM THE ARCHIVES:As the Home Rule Bill awaited its next parliamentary stage, both sides spoke to public meetings in Ireland and England, including this Liberal Party meeting in Barnsley addressed by Nationalist MP John Dillon. – JOE JOYCE

MR. DILLON, who had an enthusiastic reception, said that one of the blessings which Ireland would bring to the British Empire would be that its people would always endeavour to make that Empire what it ought to be, a missionary of freedom for the whole world. For his part, he was perfectly willing and ready to be a loyal citizen once Ireland obtained her freedom, and to do his best to serve the Empire. (Cheers.) The glory of England in the future would be not an Empire based on force and coercion, but on the willing association of all the States that acknowledged one flag and one King. (Cheers.) “I am not one of those who are over-sanguine as to the present position,” proceeded Mr. Dillon. “I am aware that there is before us a long and severe fight before we succeed and put the Home Rule Bill on the Statute Book. But we Irish are not afraid of a fight.

“When we compare the position of our party to-day with thirty years ago, it is not likely that Mr. Bonar Law [Conservative/Unionist Party leader] or any of these new-fledged politicians will terrify us.” (Cheers.) In Ireland there was no religious question on this subject except in the North. (A Voice – “It’s a lie.”) In the Southern parts of the country there was no religious question, and in the whole of Europe there was no cleaner record of religious tolerance than there was in Ireland. (Cheers.) They were told Ulster would resist to the last ditch to remain under the British flag; but the rest of Ireland did not want to thrust Ulster from under the Union Jack. They would all in Ireland be under it, and willingly under it, if this bill was passed into law. (Hear, hear.)

It should not be forgotten that in Belfast there was a ferocious system of boycotting and intimidation practised against any Protestant who was a supporter of Home Rule. Was there, he asked, ever such an audacious claim that twenty-eight counties of Ireland should take it lying down and submit to the dictation of a small minority in Ulster? (A Voice – “What about the Boer War?”) Ulster threatened to fight and paralyse the overwhelming majority of their fellow- countrymen, who themselves for years had been struggling within the Constitution for Ireland’s right to govern her own affairs. (Cheers.) It was not a question of religion, but of ascendancy. These people in the North looked upon themselves as a conquering race, and the Nationalists as a conquered race, and they said they would fight rather than be placed on terms of equality. That was a position Nationalists would never assent to, and one which the people of England would never support. (Cheers.) The rest of Ireland would not submit to such a position, and the people of Ulster would have to come down from that proud eminence and accept equality. (Cheers.)