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Pope-Hennessy, Ladislas Herbert Richard, 1875-1942 / The Irish dominion: a method of approach to a settlement ([1919])

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[Section]

  [p. 12]  

II.

INTRODUCTORY.

THE claim of the Irish Dominion League is that if its solution be adopted, that is to say, if a Dominion comprising the whole of Ireland is constituted with adequate safeguards within it not only for the Unionist Majority in Ulster, but also for the Unionist Minority in the rest of Ireland, that solution will be acceptable to the vast majority of Irishmen, including the bulk of the Sinn Fein party which now demands an Irish Republic.

The small minority in Ireland which is irreconcilably republican and irreconcilably anti‐British in sentiment, can and will be effectually dealt with by the government of a real Irish Dominion in a way not possible to any government which is not based on the consent of the people of Ireland. Ireland wants a strong government, just as every other country does, including England. The trouble is that unless government has popular sanction behind it law cannot be enforced and criminals cannot be punished. Popular sentiment shields them from arrest by the agents of a government which is considered alien and hostile, and is now universally distrusted owing to repeated breaches of faith in its dealings with the Irish people and their Parliamentary representatives.

There is no desire on the part of any Irishman to coerce the Unionists of North‐East Ulster, or to injure in any way their moral or material interests. Any measure deemed necessary by the people of North‐East Ulster to safeguard their religious, moral, or material interests will be gladly accepted by the Irish people, provided it does not nullify the national demand for autonomy and the national ideal of Irish unity.

On the other hand, no settlement is possible on the basis of exclusion. The only chance of self‐governing   [p. 13]   Ireland becoming and remaining friendly to Great Britain, and coming to acquiescence in the Imperial connection, is through a solution which recognises the unity of Ireland by the creation of an Irish Dominion comprising the whole of Ireland. For the ideal of Irish unity the Irish Republican can alone be induced to sacrifice his dream of an Irish Republic, since Ireland and what she stands for is more to him than the form of her government, provided that the form imposed comprises the reality of autonomy for the whole undivided country. This means that Ulster must consent to come in and must make acceptance of the Empire her condition for coming in. Nationalist Ireland would make a pact with Unionist Ulster and keep it if Ulster came in. It would accept the Empire for Ulster’s sake.

It is often said that every step towards self‐government is a step towards separation, but this is only true of a settlement in which Ulster takes no part. This makes it the more urgent to explore any path leading towards an all‐Ireland settlement which Unionist Ulster may possibly be persuaded to follow.

In a speech made to the members of the National Liberal Club on October 29th, 1919, which was reported in the press, Sir Horace Plunkett indicated such a path. He suggested that the best line of approach to a solution of the Irish question was for the Imperial Parliament to define the relations of Ireland to Great Britain and to the Empire, while leaving it to an Irish Parliament—sitting as a Constituent Assembly—to work out the details of the Irish Constitution, thus defining the relations of the Irish Government and Legislature to the people of Ireland, and to determine by agreement the safeguards required by minorities.

In the following pages I have endeavoured to examine this proposal as dispassionately as is possible for an Irishman who firmly believes that no settlement will endure which, on the one hand, does not give to his country the status of a Dominion within the Empire, and, on the other   [p. 14]   hand, is not based on the voluntary inclusion of Ulster in the Irish Dominion, and on her willing co‐operation in the government of Ireland.

As the alternative to inclusion is exclusion, some aspects of the policy of seeking for a solution of the Irish problem by the exclusion of a portion of Ulster are examined first, to clear the ground for a consideration of the method of approaching an Irish settlement now advocated.

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