Such are the conditions which, in the eyes of Nationalist politicians, constitute a tyranny so intolerable as to justify Ireland in repudiating her fair share in the burden of war against the enemies of civilisation.
The appeal which the Nationalists make to the principle of “self-determination” strikes Ulster Protestants as singularly inappropriate. Mr. Dillon and his co-signatories have been careful not to inform your Excellency that it was their own opposition that prevented the question of Irish Government being settled in accordance with that principle in 1916. The British Government were prepared at that time to bring the Home Rule Act of 1914 into immediate operation, if the Nationalists had consented to exclude from its scope the distinctively Protestant population of the North, who desired to adhere to the Union. This compromise was rejected by the Nationalist leaders, whose policy was thus shown to be one of “self-determination” for themselves, combined with coercive domination over us.
It is because the British Government, while prepared to concede the principle of self-determination impartially to both divisions in Ireland, has declined to drive us forcibly into such subjection that the Nationalist Party conceive themselves entitled to resist the law of conscription. And the method by which this resistance has been made effective is, in our view, not less deplorable than the spirit that dictated it. The most active opponents of conscription in Ireland are men who have been twice detected during the war in treasonable traffic with the enemy, and their most powerful support has been that of ecclesiastics, who have not scrupled to employ weapons of spiritual terrorism which have elsewhere in the civilised world fallen out of political use since the Middle Ages.
The claim of these men, in league with Germany on the one hand, and with the forces of clericalism on the other, to resist a law passed by Parliament as necessary for national defence is, moreover, inconsistent with any political status short of independent sovereignty—status which could only be attained by Ireland by an act of secession from the United Kingdom, such as the American Union averted only by resort to civil war. In every Federal or other Constitution embracing subordinate legislatures the raising and control of military forces are matters reserved for the supreme legislative authority alone, and they are so reserved for the Imperial Parliament of the United Kingdom in the Home Rule Act of 1914, the “withholding” of which during the war is complained of by the Nationalists who have addressed your Excellency. The contention of these gentlemen that until the internal government of Ireland is changed in accordance with their demands, Ireland is justified in resisting the law of Conscription, is one that finds support in no intelligible theory of political science.