We hear, from men who ought to know something of Ireland, that if the Land question is once settled, and dual ownership practically abolished, the tenants will be satisfied, and the movement for Home Rule will no longer find active support in Ireland. Without going into the whole of this argument, I should like to say two things: first, that I do not know how a large scheme of Land Purchase can be carried through Parliament with safety to Imperial interests without establishing, at the same time, some strong Irish Government in Dublin to act between the Imperial Government and the tenants of Ireland; and, second, that the feeling for Home Rule has a vitality of its own which will survive the Land question, even if independently settled.
Home Rule is an expression of national feeling which cannot be extinguished in Ireland, and the only safe method of dealing with it is to turn its force and power to the support of an Irish Government established for the management of local Irish affairs. There are those who think that this must lead to separation. I cannot believe in this fear, for I know of no English statesman who looks upon complete separation of Ireland from Great Britain as possible. The geographical position of Ireland, the social and commercial connection between the two peoples, renders such a thing impossible. The Irish know this, and they are not so foolish as to think that they could gain their independence by force of arms; but I do not believe that they desire it. They are satisfied to obtain the management of their own local affairs under the aegis of the flag of England. The papers in this volume show how this can be done with due regard to Imperial interests and the rights of minorities.
I shall not enlarge on this part of the subject, but I wish to draw attention to the working of the Irish Government, and the position which it holds in the country, for it is through its administration that the policy of the Cabinet will be carried out. At the outset I feel bound to deprecate the exaggerated condemnation which the “Castle” receives from its opponents. It has its defects.