Everything depended on an instant and almost desperate move. He might have left the sole offer of service from Ireland to lie with Sir Edward Carson. What he did actually was to offer instantly all that the Ulstermen had offered, and more, for he proposed active union in Ireland itself. It was a bold stroke, but it was guided by an ideal perpetually present with him—the essential unity of Ireland. To set Irishmen working together at such a crisis in the common name of Ireland was an object for which he was willing to jeopardize the whole organization which stood behind him, at a moment when he could speak of full right for three-fourths of his countrymen. And, when he is called a failure, let it be remembered that in this he did not fail.
This fight is not yet ended, the long battle is not lost. Had Ireland from the first stood aloof, had she been drawn at the war’s opening into the temper which she displayed in its closing stages, then indeed we might despair of any hopeful issue, any genuine peace between these two neighbouring islands, and, what matters infinitely more, between the strong yet divergent strains that make up Ireland itself.
But as the mists of passion clear and deeds rather than words come into sharp light, it will be seen and realized that for a thousand Irishmen who risked their lives to defeat Redmond’s effort there were fifty thousand who at his summons took on themselves far greater hardships and faced dangers far more terrible. By them we take our stand—we who followed Redmond, who believed and still believe in his wisdom. We wish no word of his last years unspoken, no act undone by that great and generous-hearted Irishman in the supreme period of his life. In his defeat and ours, we accept no defeat; we shall endeavour to keep our will set, as his was, for a final triumph which can mean humiliation for no Irish heart. Tangled as are the threads of all his policy, he leaves the task far nearer to accomplishment than he found it; and if in the end freedom and prosperity come to a united Ireland, they will be found to proceed—however deeply overlaid by years and by events may be the chain of causation—from the action which John Redmond took in August 1914, and upon which his brother, with a legion like him, set the seal of his blood.
To have served long and faithfully without reward—to have given all of life to one high purpose—to have faced a great crisis greatly—these are claims enough for Redmond that the allegiance of his comrades and followers may be justified when it is judged. The grave has closed over him, and the rest is for us to do, that a coping-stone may be set on his life’s labours, and that reparation final and conclusive, for what he suffered undeservedly, may yet be offered to the dead.
[Footnote 10: When ultimately we did meet, these were the elements which assembled.]