It was the beginning of September before Carson was in a position to go to Belfast to announce that such an arrangement had been made with Lord Kitchener. And when he went he had also the painful duty of telling the people of Ulster that the Government was going to give them the meanest recompense for the promptitude with which they had thrown aside all party purposes in order to assist the Empire.
When war broke out a “party truce” had been proclaimed. The Unionist leaders promised their support to the Government in carrying on the war, and Mr. Asquith pledged the Government to drop all controversial legislation. The consideration of the Amending Bill had been shelved by agreement, Mr. Asquith stating that the postponement “must be without prejudice to the domestic and political position of any party.” On this understanding the Unionist Party supported, almost without so much as a word of criticism, all the emergency measures proposed by the Government. Yet on the 10th of August Mr. Asquith astonished the Unionists by announcing that the promise to take no controversial business was not to prevent him advising the King to sign the Home Rule Bill, which had been hung up in the House of Lords by the introduction of the Amending Bill, and had never been either rejected or passed by that House.
Mr. Balfour immediately protested against this conduct as a breach of faith; but Mr. Redmond’s speech on that occasion contained the explanation of the Government’s conduct. The Nationalist leader gave a strong hint that any help in the war from the southern provinces of Ireland would depend on whether or not the Home Rule Bill was to become law at once. Although the personal loyalty of Mr. Redmond was beyond question, and although he was no doubt sincere when he subsequently denied that his speech was so intended, it was in reality an application of the old maxim that England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity. In any case, the Cabinet knew that, however unjustly Ulster might be treated, she could be relied upon to do everything in her power to further the successful prosecution of the war, and they cynically came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to placate those whose loyalty was less assured.
This was the unpleasant tale that Sir Edward Carson had to unfold to the Ulster Unionist Council on the 3rd of September. After explaining how and why he had consented to the indefinite postponement of the Amending Bill, he continued: