October 11th, 1920

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES:Halfway through the War of Independence British PM David Lloyd George justified reprisal shootings in Ireland in this speech in Wales and explained that he opposed Dominion Home Rule for Ireland (which was supported by other British and Irish politicians apart from Sinn Féin, and was the basis of the treaty just over a year later) because it would allow Ireland have its own army and navy. – JOE JOYCE

In 1914 we entered the war with the unanimous approval of every Irish representative. There were English representatives who disapproved, and I think there were Scottish representatives who disapproved, but there were no Irish representatives who were not breast-high in entering the war.

In 1916 they were shooting down in the streets of Dublin British soldiers, many of them not recovered from wounds received in the war. In 1917 and 1918 they were conspiring with German submarines, and we discovered documents in the pockets of men who were arrested in 1918 showing that they were prepared within two months of a German offensive that they knew of to raise a huge force in Ireland to stab Britain in the back when it was engaged in a life and death struggle for the freedom of the world. What a change!

You are asked to trust the destinies of Britain and the Empire to people who are apt to get fits of passion, that sweep away all reason, and make them swing violently from one extreme to another in the middle of a great conflict. You must not ignore these great facts. Why did they do it? They have grievances, but so have we all. No, it is too uncertain a factor - the Irish temperament - under trying conditions for us to risk the whole life of Britain upon the chance that they will always act rationally, that they will never lose their temper at the wrong moment, and that you can depend on them, whatever the temptation, always to resist it, and to stand by Britain and her interests. You cannot do it.

This is a great country, and it is vital to the freedom of the world that its strength and its majesty, which saved the world in the great war, should still be preserved. (Cheers.) Well, let Irishmen manage their own domestic affairs in their own way. Nobody wishes to manage their domestic affairs, but dangerous weapons like armies and navies, I think we had better not trust them with. They had better not have an army. Armies are expensive; navies are expensive, too; and you do not want to condemn people into keeping an establishment which is beyond their means. And not only that, they are not only very expensive and costly, they are extremely dangerous, and may blow off. So, on the whole, I think the Army and the Navy had better be under the control of the Imperial Parliament, as far as I am concerned, and I am speaking on behalf of the Government. We shall certainly resist out and out any attempt for an Army and Navy being set up in Ireland at our doors to menace the existence of the United Kingdom. (Cheers.)


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