Some English Liberals imagine that Home Rule would be followed by an uprising of popular independence which would destroy the power of the Roman Church in Ireland. Let those who think this consider that the more independent spirits among the Irish Roman Catholics go to America, and let them further consider what has happened in the Province of Quebec in Canada. The immense strength of the bonds—religious, social, and educational—by which the mass of the people in the South and West of Ireland are held in the grip of the Roman ecclesiastical system, and the power which would be exerted by the central authority of that system by means of the recent decrees, make it certain that clerical domination would, from the outset, be the ruling principle of an Irish Parliament.
There is no desire nearer to the hearts of the clergy and people who form the Church to which the writer belongs than that they should be enabled to live at peace with their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, and work in union with them, for the good of their country and the promotion of that new prosperity which recent years have brought. They dread Home Rule, because they know that, instead of peace, it would bring a sword, and plunge their country once again into all the horrors of civil and religious strife.
(ii) THE NONCONFORMIST VIEW
BY REV. SAMUEL PRENTER, M.A., D.D. (DUBLIN),
Moderator of General Assembly of Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1904-5.
For obvious reasons, the Religious Difficulty under Home Rule does not receive much attention on the political platform in Great Britain. But in Ireland a religious problem flames at the heart of the whole controversy. This religious problem creates the cleavage in the Irish population, and is the real secret of the intense passion on both sides with which Home Rule is both prosecuted and resisted. Irishmen understand this very well; but as Home Rule, on its face value, is only a question of a mode of civil government, it is almost impossible to make the matter clear to British electors. They say, What has religion got to do with Home Rule? Home Rule is a pure question of politics, and it must be solved on exclusively political lines. Even if this were so, might not Englishmen remember that the Nationalist Members of Parliament have been controlled by the Church of Rome in their votes on the English education question? I mention this to show that under the disguise of pure politics ecclesiastical authority may stalk in perfect freedom through the lobbies of the House of Commons. Is it, then, an absolutely incredible thing that what has been done in the English Parliament in the name of politics may be done openly and undisguised in the name of politics in a Home Rule Parliament? That such will be the case I shall now attempt to show.
Let us begin with the most elementary facts. According to the official census of 1911 the population of Ireland is grouped as follows:—