HOME RULE AND NAVAL DEFENCE
BY ADMIRAL LORD CHARLES BERESFORD, M.P.
Ireland under Home Rule must, in the event of war, be regarded as a potentially hostile country.
In this statement resides the dominant factor of the situation viewed from the naval and military point of view. It is not asserted that the government of Ireland would be disloyal; but it is asserted that the authorities charged with the defence of his Majesty’s dominions cannot afford to take risks when the safety of the country is at stake. That such risks must exist under the circumstances indicated, is obvious to all those who have studied the speeches of the leaders of the Irish Nationalist party, in which they have unequivocally declared their intention to rid Ireland of English rule, and in which they extol as heroes such men as Theobald Wolfe Tone, who intrigued with France against England in order to achieve Irish independence, and who took his own life rather than receive the just reward of his deeds. That some among the Irish Nationalist leaders have recently professed their devotion to the British Empire cannot be regarded by serious persons as a relevant consideration. The demand for Home Rule is in fact a demand for separation from the United Kingdom or it is nothing. Naval officers are accustomed to deal with facts rather than with words.
In the great sea-wars of the past, Ireland has always been regarded by the enemy as providing the base for a flank attack upon England. Had King Louis XIV. rightly used his opportunities, the army of King William would have been cut off from its base in England, and would have been destroyed by reinforcements arriving from France to assist King James II. There is no more concise presentment of the case than the account of it given by Admiral Mahan in “The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783.”