One thing at least Redmond gained, I think, from his visit to the front—the sense that with the British Army in the field he was in a friendly country. He never had that sense with regard to the War Office. Running all through this critical year 1915 is the history of one long failure—his attempt to secure the creation of a Home Defence force in Ireland. Given that, he would be confident of possessing the foundation for the structure of an Irish Army—an army which would be regarded as Ireland’s own. Without it, the whole fabric of his efforts must be insecure. He desired to build, as in England they built, upon the voluntary effort of a people in whom entire confidence was placed. In the War Office undoubtedly men’s minds were set upon finding a regular supply of Irish troops by quite other methods—by the application of compulsion.
Redmond saw to the full the danger of attempting compulsion with an unwilling people; it was a peril which he sought to keep off, and while he lived did keep off, by securing a steady flow of recruits, by gaining a reasonable definition of Ireland’s quota, and by exerting that personal authority which the recognition of his efforts conferred upon him. I do not think he was without hope of a moment when Ireland might come, as Great Britain had come by the end of this year, to recognize that the voluntary system levied an unfair toll on the willing, and that the community itself should accept the general necessity of binding its own members. But before this could be even dreamed of as practicable, the whole force of Volunteers, North and South, must feel that they were trusted and recognized, a part in the general work.
The practical organization of the great body at his disposal was under discussion between him and Colonel Moore from February 1915 onwards; and the idea was mooted that by introducing the territorial system Ulster Volunteers and National Volunteers might be drawn into the same corps. This, however, was for the future; the immediate need was to extend the arming and training under their own organization. Redmond learnt at once that Lord Kitchener was against this; that he pointed to the existence of another armed force in the North of Ireland and argued that to create a second must mean civil war; that he believed revolutionary forces to exist in Ireland which Redmond could not control and perhaps did not even suspect. Those who then thought with Lord Kitchener can say now that events have justified his view. They omit to consider how far those events proceeded from Lord Kitchener’s refusal to accept Redmond’s judgment.