We have since learned, through much travail and disappointment, what little faith can be reposed in the most emphatic pledges of British Parties or leaders, and we had been wiser in 1890 if we had taken sides with Parnell against the whole world had the need arisen. As it was, fought on front and flank, with the thunders of the Church, and the ribaldry of malicious tongues to scatter their venomed darts abroad, Parnell was a doomed man. Not that he lacked indomitable courage or loyal support. But his frail body was not equal to the demands of the undaunted spirit upon it, and so he went to his grave broken but not beaten—great even in that last desperate stand he had made for his own position, as he was great in all that he had undertaken, suffered and achieved for his country. It was a hushed and heart-broken Ireland that heard of his death. It was as if a pall had fallen over the land on that grey October morning in 1891 when the news of his passing was flashed across from the England that he scorned to the Ireland that he loved. It may be that those who had reviled him and cast the wounding word against him had then their moment of regret and the wish that what had been heatedly spoken might be unsaid, but those who loved him and who were loyal to the end found no consolation beyond this, that they had stood, with leal hearts and true, beside the man who had found Ireland broken, maimed and dispirited and who had lifted her to the proud position of conscious strength and self-reliant nationhood.
[Footnote 1: This is not exact. What Dillon proposed was that Parnell, McCarthy and Dillon himself should be the trustees, the majority to be sufficient to sign cheques. When Parnell objected to a third being added, Dillon made the observation which ruined everything: “Yes, indeed, and the first time I was in trouble to leave me without a pound to pay the men” (O’Brien’s An Olive Branch in Ireland).]
An appreciation of Parnell
With the death of Parnell a cloud of despair seemed to settle upon the land. Chaos had come again; indeed, it had come before, ever since the war of faction was set on foot and men devoted themselves to the satisfaction of savage passions rather than constructive endeavour for national ideals. We could have no greater tribute to Parnell’s power than this—that when he disappeared the Party he had created was rent into at least three warring sections, intent for the most part on their own miserable rivalries, wasting their energies on small intrigues and wretched personalities and by their futilities bringing shame and disaster upon the Irish Cause. There followed what Mr William O’Brien describes in his Evening Memories as “eight years of unredeemed blackness and horror, upon which no Irishman of any of the three contending factions can look back without shame and few English Liberals without remorse.”