“In view especially of the historic relations between the two countries from the very beginning up to this moment, we consider that Conscription forced in this way upon Ireland is an oppressive and inhuman law, which the Irish people have a right to resist by every means that are consonant with the law of God.”
The Irish Labour Party called a one-day strike on 23rd April as “a demonstration of fealty to the cause of labour and Ireland.”
The Government went on with its preparations for enforcing Conscription. The Lord-Lieutenant, who was known to be opposed to the policy of the Ministry, was recalled, and Field-Marshal Lord French was put in his place. A “German plot,” which the late Viceroy declared had no existence in fact, was supposed to be discovered, and in connection with it Messrs de Valera and A. Griffith, the two Sinn Fein members of the Mansion House Conference, were arrested and deported. The Sinn Fein, the Gaelic League and allied organisations were declared to be “dangerous associations.” Concerts, hurling matches, etc., were prohibited, and Ireland was frankly treated as an occupied territory. A bye-election occurred in East Cavan and Mr Griffith—England’s prisoner—was returned, defeating a nominee of the Irish Party. This gave the death-blow to Conscription, though Ireland still stood sternly on guard.
The Mansion House Conference during its existence held a position of unique authority in the country. During its sittings a proposal was made to initiate negotiations with a view to combined action between Sinn Fein, the two sections of Parliamentary Nationalists and the Irish Labour bodies, on the basis of the concession of Dominion Home Rule, while the war was still proceeding with the alternative, if the concession were refused, of combined action to enforce the claims of Ireland at the Peace Conference. There was reason to believe Sinn Fein would agree to this proposal, and that the Cabinet would have invited the Dominion Premiers’ Conference to intervene in favour of an Irish settlement, limited only by the formula: “within the Empire.”
Mr Dillon blocked the way with the technical objection that the Conference was called to discuss Conscription alone and that no other topic must be permitted to go further. Could stupid malignancy or blind perversity go further?
This fair chance was lost, with so many others. The war came to an end and a few weeks afterwards the Irish Parliamentary Party, which had so long played shuttlecock with the national destinies of Ireland, went to crashing doom and disaster at the polls. The country had found them out for what they were, and it cast them into that outer darkness from which, for them, there is no returning.
“THE TIMES” AND IRISH SETTLEMENT