The Sixteenth Division were still on the sector about Loos, and their casualties were heavy and continuous in the perpetual trench warfare. With the last days of August they were withdrawn—for a rest, as they believed at first; but their march was southwards to the Somme.
The purpose was to use them for an attack on Ginchy; but a shift of arrangements brought the 47th Brigade into line against Guillemont and its quarries, which had on six occasions been unsuccessfully attacked. The Irish carried them. Three days later the whole division was launched against Ginchy. They equalled the Ulstermen’s valour, and were luckier in the result. For these achievements praise was not stinted. Colonel Repington in The Times described the Irish as the “best missile troops” in all the armies.
The deeds of Irish soldiers helped us greatly outside of Ireland; in Ireland, the news was received with mingled feelings. There was passionate resentment against the Government, and the question was asked, For what were their men dying? Redmond’s answer could not be so confident as it would have been six months earlier. There were many who said that he dare not face the country. His answer to this was given at Waterford, where on October 6, 1916, his constituents received him with their old loyalty—though now for the first time there were hostile voices in the crowd. He spoke out very plainly, saying with justice that in all his life he had never played to the gallery and would not now. Things had to be looked at squarely.
“We have taken a leap back over generations of progress, and have actually had a rebellion, with its inevitable aftermath of brutalities, stupidities and inflamed passions.”
He would impugn no man’s motives, least of all the motives of the dead; but those who had set this train of events in motion had been always the enemies of the constitutional movement. The constitutional movement must go on, he said; but it would be folly to pretend that it could go on as if nothing had happened. Ireland must face its share in the responsibility. But the real responsibility rested with the British Government.
To establish this he entered on a review of the whole series of circumstances, not omitting Ulster’s preparations for civil war, and stressing heavily the mischief that was done when Sir Edward Carson was chosen “by strange irony” to be the First Law Officer of the Crown.
Passing from his review, he issued grave warning against the idea of conscription: it would be resisted in every village and its attempted enforcement would be a scandal which would ring through the world. For Ireland also he had admonition. He had told them before that Home Rule was an impregnable position. But “no fortress is impregnable unless the garrison is faithful and united.”