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A New Day has Dawned for Ireland
Nationalist Help for Ulster

"Resistance to the "Death" against Devlinism"
By D. D. Sheehan, Nat. M.P.



[Mr Daniel D. Sheehan is M.P. for Mid-Cork. He has held his seat as a Nationalist since 1901, and is central honorary secretary of the All-for-Ireland League. Mr. Sheehan authorizes the “Express” to state that his proposals for a Home Rule settlement outlined below have the entire support of Mr. William O’’Brien, M.P.]

Referring , in a speech a few days ago at Batley, Yorkshire, to the Home Rule question, Mr. Birrell said the Government would not recede a single inch from their position, except in pursuance to a design which would accomplish their main object. They would meet with friendly compromise any reasonable or unreasonable proposal having that object in view.

This inclines me to deliver myself of some reflections on the situation from the point of view of an Irish Nationalist representative, who is not awed or dominated by the tyranny of the official caucus, and who is accordingly in the position to express his views independently and fearlessly. The door is not yet banged upon friendly negotiation, and it will not be well, in my opinion, for England, Ireland or that closer union of the Empire which some of the best minds in all parties intensely yearn, if the weeks are allowed to pass without something better than indefinite conversations between the leaders taking place. These only tend to cloud and confuse the issue and to lead to hopeless misunderstanding- for the reason that neither "conversationalist" is in a position to postulate anything with authority or to concede anything to reason.


Only a duly delegated conference or convention – on the South Africa model if you will – could discuss and consider the various difficulties and complexities, which hedge the Irish question round, and hammer out a solution which would reconcile differences and appease the temper of the rebelliously inclined.

From some experience of my own in the south of England, I am absolutely convinced that if the moderate opinion of Englishmen, not of one party or the other,, but of every political belief – could assert itself, it would insist on a settlement of the Home Rule problem on lines of conference and consent. Let me briefly state what happened.

Lord Hythe – whose part in blazing “the trail of imperial evolution” as Earl Grey happily phrased it, is well known to your readers – recently inaugurated a campaign to promote a settlement of the constitutional controversy by the application of the federal principle to the United Kingdom.


At a dinner given by him to the mayor and corporation and some of the leading citizens of Hythe on January 13, he developed this view, and as a keenly observant and interested spectator, I was impressed at the intention given to his arguments. Then came my own turn to explain what I and the other Independent Nationalist associated with Mr. William O’Brien in the All-for-Ireland League conceive to be rational Irish standpoint.

We do not fatuously build our positions upon foundations of sand. We do not ignorantly declare with Redmond that there is no Ulster difficulty. We do not shortsightedly, with the Irish leaders, seek to irritate the susceptibilities of our fellow-countrymen in Ulster by telling them that all their warlike preparations are nothing but bluff and blackmail.

We take what we modestly contend is the more statesmanlike and soundly patriotic attitude. We say to the Protestants and Unionists in the northern Irish province: “Rightly or wrongly, you scent danger to your liberties in the present Home Rule bill. You are not satisfied with it – neither are we. You want to protect and secure yourselves against legislative and administrative aggression. We likewise seek to secure that the individual liberties of every Irishman – no matter what his creed or class – shall be safeguarded and assured.


“You hate and detest Molly Maguireism, but not with a more virile detestation or a more robust determination to make war upon its methods than we Independent Nationalists of the Catholic faith in the south, and if you want proof of our sincerity in this matter, well, we can refer you with pardonable pride to the fight we have made for the past ten years in Munster against the malignant influences of this secret sectarian association, a fight which we would have extended long before now to every other province and county in Ireland, only that the introduction of the Home Rule Bill stayed our hands.”

These are some of the things we have been saying in Ireland and which we think it would be well if they were more well known in England. We know that our Ulster fellow-countrymen attach little support to “paper safeguards”, and we can sympathise with their very natural fears.

We know only too well what the tyranny of Mr. Devlin's Board of Erin means. We have had experience of its ramifications. We have had registration agents, trained in the kindly air West Belfast, imported into Cork City "and County to "purify" the register in their own acceptable fashion. Why, for instance, in Mid-Cork last September there is not a farmer's son or servant boy of the Molly Maguire persuasion whom Mr. Devlin's agents did not seek to get on the register of voters as lodgers to their fathers or employers.


Seven hundred of these claims, with infinite care and with much expenditure of official funds, were lodged, but so manifestly bogus and absurd were they that not a dozen of them were admitted to the franchise.

And as I say that the Protestants of Ulster will never stand alone in Ireland in resistance to the death to the methods practised by Mr. Devlin's Board of Erin.

The curse of "conversations" that have been going on in England is that leaders petulantly appear to be waiting on each other as to who shall first boldly initiate a scheme of concessions or formulate a budget of demands.

Mr. William O'Brien and his friends of the All-for-Ireland League have left no doubt as to their position in this regard. They feel the occasion is too grave and dangerous for equivocation of any sort — for indulging in the politician's game of strategy or maneuvering for selfish party advantage, at a cost that may prove terrible or a calamity that may be overwhelming. Hence they say," Let us be done' with all this rant and rodomontade and waste off precious, time. Let us consider what will satisfy Ulster. No British party will ever again restore the Protestant ascendancy. Neither must there be a Catholic ascendancy. Let us, then, come to terms on a business basis.


“You Protestants are roughly one fourth of the Irish population. We are willing you should have at the outset at least something more than your proportionate degree of political power." And what are the proposals of the party of conciliation in Ireland? They are briefly as follows :--

(1) That the representatives of Ulster in the Imperial Parliament, roughly say, eleven in number, should have an exercisable veto over all Irish legislation until it was approved by a resolution of the House of Commons

(2) That Ulster should have sixty representatives in the Irish House of Commons, which in as much as the total membership would be one hundred and sixty-four, would give them the balance of power. Nay, more, a compact and united body of this number putting forward a reasonable and rational Irish policy might very easily attach to itself the thirty or forty additional members sufficient to constitute a working majority, but, in any event, it would be in position of such power and influence that neither administratively nor legislatively could an Irish parliament or an Irish Executive oppress it to treat unfairly those whom it represented.

(3) That all appointments to the Irish Civil Service should be by competitive examination, securing full fair play for the youth of every rank and religion in the country.

(4) And finally, that North-East Ulster should have the appointment of, say, its own county court, judges, resident magistrates, and inspectors of education.

Here you have the All-for-Ireland contribution to the discussion of a settlement of the Home Rule difficulty by consent. I submitted it to a very remarkable gathering at Bexhill on Friday, January 16. An ex-mayor of the borough was in the chair.


The resolution, advocating a settlement of the constitutional controversy on the lines of conference and consent, was proposed by Lord Hythe, seconded by a Methodist minister, who also happens to be chairman of the local Liberal Association, supported by the chairman of the Conservative Association, by a Liberal and a Unionist farmer from the district, and spoken to by Mr. J. A. Murray Macdonald M.P., a Scotch Radical representing the Falkirk Burghs, and by myself, an Independent Irish Nationalist who has represented Mid-Cork for the past thirteen years.

Furthermore, the vote of thanks was proposed by the archdeacon of the diocese, and seconded, by the mayor of the borough. This was a unique, a very remarkable, and it well may be an epoch-making gathering. I do not that any of the speakers, supported Lord Hythe's resolution for exactly the same reasons.

His lordship desires a convention on the South African model, in which all parties and all nationalities of the United Kingdom must be represented, to consider a modification of the Constitution from the broader imperial point of view; and his main argument is that what has happened during the past twelve years immensely strengthens the case for the establishment of subordinate legislatures in the several countries of the United-Kingdom, as the only means by which the congestion of business in the House of Commons can be relieved, and the dangers to which the Empire under our present system is exposed can be avoided for the future.


The Irish argument and the position of the All-for-Ireland League as here adumbrated by me - necessarily in a very summarized form have since received special emphasis by the resignation of his seat by Mr. William O'Brien and the unequivocal challenge he has issued to Mr. Redmond. Mr. O'Brien, as an answer to the Devlinite insults in connection with the recent municipal election in Cork is anxious to take issue at the polls with Mr. Redmond and his party as to whether the premier Nationalist constituency in Ireland is or is not in favour of a settlement of the Home Rule question by conference, conciliation, and consent.

While this is the matter of immediate interest and moment in Ireland, Lord Hythe is resolved to press forward with his British campaign. He has made a magnificent beginning - one which has greatly impressed me. as an Irishman. He believes that if the moderate men of all parties could be got to listen to a non-party presentation of the case for settlement by consent they would unanimously favour a settlement on these lines, as they did so enthusiastically at Hythe and Bexhill.

Mr. Birrell in the words I quoted at the onset, said the Government would meet with friendly compromise any reasonable or unreasonable proposal having this object in view. My purpose in writing this article is to show that there are reasonable proposals which might be met with friendly compromise and that there are men of influence and representative positions in Ireland as well as in England and Scotland who are earnest and resolute in their advocacy of them.




This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.

The author died in 1948, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.