The three sectional organisations—the National Federation, the National League and the People’s Rights Association thereafter died a natural death. There were no ceremonial obsequies and none to sing their requiem.
The first National Convention of the reunited country was then summoned by a joint committee consisting of representatives of the United Irish League and the Party in equal numbers, and it gave the League a constitution which made it possible for the constituencies to control the organisation, to select their own Parliamentary representatives and generally to direct national affairs within their borders. The conception of the Constitution was sound and democratic. But in any organisation it is not the constitution that counts, but the men who control the movement. And the time came all too soon when this was sadly true of the United Irish League.
[Footnote 1: To Dr Robert Ambrose belongs the credit for having first introduced, as a private member, in 1897, a Bill to confer upon the Congested Districts compulsory powers for land purchase. This was subsequently adopted as an Irish Party measure. Dr Ambrose was also the author of a measure empowering the County Councils to acquire waste lands for reclamation. He was one of the pioneers of the Industrial Development Movement and wrote and lectured largely on the subject. He was, with the late Bishop Clancy, prominent in promoting “the All-Red Route,” which would have given Ireland a great terminal port on its western coast at Blacksod Bay. He, at considerable professional sacrifice, entered the Party, at the request of Mr Dillon and Mr O’Brien, as Member for West Mayo. The reward he received for all his patriotic services was to find himself opposed in 1910 by the Dillonite caucus because of his independent action on Irish questions. Mr Dillon had no toleration for the person of independent mind, and thus a man who had given distinguished service to public causes was ruthlessly driven out of public life.]
THE LAND QUESTION AND ITS SETTLEMENT
The General Election of 1900 witnessed a wonderful revival of national interest in Ireland. Doubtless if the constituencies had been left to their own devices they would have returned members responsive to the magnificent resolves of the people. But the Parliamentarians were astute manipulators of the political machine: they had for the most part wormed themselves into the good graces of the local leaders, and arranged for their own re-election when the time came. But there was nevertheless a considerable leavening of new members—young, enthusiastic and uncontaminated by the feuds and paltry personalities of an older generation. They brought, as it were, a whiff of the free, democratic air of the country to Parliament with them, and gave an example of fine