Pope-Hennessy, Ladislas Herbert Richard, 1875-1942
/ The Irish dominion: a method of approach to a settlement ()
MANIFESTO OF THE IRISH DOMINION LEAGUE.
1. In recognition of the inherent right of peoples to political and economic freedom, and as the only possible remedy for the disorder and unrest which disturb the present and darken the future of our country, we, the undersigned Irishmen, of heretofore divergent views, have formed ourselves into an association, called The Irish Dominion League, to promote the immediate establishment of self‐government for Ireland within the Empire.
2. Our demand is for a measure of freedom that will satisfy our national aspirations and give full scope for the development of our race in accordance with the promptings of its genius. At the same time, we have framed a scheme which we believe to be possible of attainment in existing circumstances.
3. In the status of a self‐governing Dominion we find all essential conditions supplied. It recognises our distinctive nationality; it offers us an equal place in a great Commonwealth of free nations; and, our demand once conceded, it will enable us to cultivate friendly relations with them all. We wish Ireland to take her part in guiding the foreign policy of the Commonwealth and preserving the world’s peace. Hence we claim for her the same place within the League of Nations as the Dominions overseas.
4. Even if it were politically attainable, which we are sure it is not, we see no advantage for Ireland in the status of a Republic, but many grave disadvantages which, as a Dominion, she would not have to fear. We indicate below an entirely satisfactory economic relationship between Ireland and England which we believe would result from the settlement we desire. By complete severance from the Empire, Ireland would not only expose her produce to the possibility of hostile tariffs in her main market, but would lose her share in whatever Imperial Preference may be established. But our strongest reason for rejecting the Republican demand is that it must of necessity disastrously [p. 29] divide Irishmen at a time when every effort should be made to unite them.
5. There is one further consideration we would put before our countrymen in favour of our proposals—a consideration based upon the extreme urgency of a settlement, and upon grounds of practical politics. A large and influential body of British opinion, wholly friendly to a liberal settlement, will not press for the immediate setting up of an Irish Parliament while there is a likelihood that it would be bitterly hostile to the British peoples and work for separation. As long as only two voices from Ireland are heard, the one demanding sovereign independence, the other demanding the unthinkable continuance of the existing régime, nothing will be done. It is, therefore, the plain duty of every Irishman, who does not believe in either of these extreme policies, but who realises the urgent importance of setting up responsible government in Ireland at the earliest possible moment, to do what in him lies to let the British Parliament and people know that he desires, and is prepared to support, a form of government which has satisfied our countrymen abroad wherever it has been tried.
6. To do this effectively, those who think with us must have some organisation capable of giving expression to their views. The Irish Dominion League has been formed to meet the needs of the situation by having, first a clear‐cut policy, and, secondly, a plan for bringing that policy to fruition.
7. Let us, then, be clear as to what we mean by the political status we claim for Ireland. As a self‐governing Dominion, Ireland would cease to be represented at Westminster; but she would be represented along with the other self‐governing Dominions in the League of Nations, and in whatever Imperial Conference, Council or Parliament may at any time be established. All Irish legislation would be enacted in Ireland. The Irish Parliament, through an Irish Executive responsible to it, would have complete control of all internal government, and would fix, levy and collect all taxes, including duties of Customs and Excise. It is more than probable that the Irish Parliament would find it to its interest to conclude a Free Trade agreement with the country from which Ireland derives most of the raw [p. 30] materials for her industry, and in whose markets she sells most of her produce and manufactures. The essential thing is that the trade relations between the two islands should be mutually agreed and not, as heretofore, dictated by the more powerful country. The naval and military defence of the whole of these islands would remain, as now, under a single central control, but no authority other than the Irish Parliament would have power to impose compulsory service upon Irishmen. Ireland would make an agreed contribution to the naval, military and diplomatic services in money, in kind, or both.
8. It has been alleged that the Dominion status implies the right to “cut the painter.” It implies nothing of the kind. No portion of the British Empire has any constitutional right of secession, and, moreover, such is the virtue of constitutional liberty, no fully self‐governing Dominion has ever claimed such right. It is true, however, that Canada and possibly Australia, if they desired to secede from their present allegiance, would have the physical ability to do so; other distant Dominions, if their peoples really desired separation, might meet with no opposition in the British Parliament. But in the case of self‐governing Ireland, even if, as we do not believe possible, a majority were found desirous of sacrificing its Dominion status in favour of separation, the demand would be foredoomed to failure. Not only an important and substantial minority of the Irish people, but practically the entire population of England, Scotland and Wales genuinely believe that a break in the strategic unity of these islands would involve them in the gravest peril.
9. There remains the Ulster difficulty, which competes with the Republican demand as an obstacle to a settlement. Once we are able to show that a body of Irish opinion, far more widely representative than that which speaks for the northeast corner, is ready to accept, in no spirit of hostility to the British peoples—still less to any section of the Irish people—a just and reasonable settlement, the whole situation will be changed. Public opinion in Britain and beyond will no longer sanction the interposition by any minority either of a veto which necessarily involves the perpetuation for the whole of Ireland of an intolerable situation, or of [p. 31] a denial of the fundamental right of the Irish race to have the unity of their country preserved. It is worth recalling Mr. Lloyd George’s admission in his letter of February 25th, 1918, to the Chairman of the Irish Convention, that “a single Parliament for an united Ireland” had even then become “an essential of a settlement.” It is much more so now.
10. Under a Dominion status the rights of minorities can be constitutionally recognised and their wishes respected in a multiplicity of ways. So we appeal to Ulster Unionists to state what special safeguards they demand. We should indulge the hope that, when the question is submitted to friendly discussion, means will be found to provide, within the machinery of a single Parliament adequate and acceptable safeguards for all minorities. But, if our appeal meets with no response, the Irish Dominion League will be prepared to show that the Ulster difficulty can be met in the Irish constitution as analogous difficulties have been met elsewhere within the Empire.
11. In the foregoing we believe that we have expressed, with substantial accuracy, the opinions of a large number of thinking Irish men and women who are as gravely alarmed as we are at the present state, and future prospects of our country, and who realise the urgency of an immediate settlement. Ireland will be hopelessly handicapped in the world‐wide struggle of nations for existence, if she has to face the necessity of adjusting her social and economic machinery to the conditions of a new era under a government over which her people have no control, and which has no authority over them, save what it derives from force. If the silence of those to whom this invitation is addressed were due to fear, to apathy, or to an incurable lack of public spirit, there would be little hope for Ireland under any form of government. We prefer to believe that the failure of those who sincerely desire some such settlement as we have sketched to make themselves heard is due to the hopelessness of individual action in national affairs, and the absence of any effective organisation for united action. Such an organisation we have sought to provide, and we appeal to all who are concerned for the peace, order and progress of the Irish nation to join the new League, giving it their moral and financial support.
Information concerning the Irish Dominion League may be obtained from the Secretary, Irish Dominion League, 13, Stephen’s Green, Dublin, or from the Hon. Secretary, Irish Dominion League (London Branch), 5, St. James’ Place.
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