Nationalist hostility to the I.A.O.S. has not been confined to words. When the Agriculture and Technical Instruction Bill was passing through the House of Commons, Mr. Dillon endeavoured to secure an undertaking from me that public moneys should not be employed to subsidise the work of the Society. I naturally refused to give any such undertaking. I had followed the efforts of the Society very closely; I was deeply impressed with the value of the results which it had accomplished; but its field of activity was limited by the narrowness of its resources. In my opinion, a subsidy to the Society from the Endowment Fund of the Department would be a useful and proper application of public money. At the same time I pointed out that if the Agricultural Board, which in the main represented the popularly-elected local authorities, thought differently, they had a power of veto and could use it in this case.
Sir Horace Plunkett held the position of Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction from 1899 to 1907, and during his tenure of office, as I had always expected and intended, there was close co-operation between the Department and the I.A.O.S. During that period a sum amounting in all to less than L30,000 was paid by the Department to the I.A.O.S., of which more than half was for technical instruction, while the balance represented contributions to the work of co-operative organisation.
When Sir H. Plunkett was replaced by Mr. T. W. Russell, the pressure of the Irish Parliamentary Party immediately began to make itself felt. The new vice-president informed the Council of Agriculture that he had made up his mind to withdraw the subsidy, but he undertook to continue a diminishing grant for three years, L3000 for the first year, L2000 for the second, and L1000 for the third. The I.A.O.S. were not seriously opposed to the gradual withdrawal of the subsidy, the loss of which they hoped to be able to cover in course of time by increased voluntary subscriptions.
The opposition of the Nationalist Party was, however, not yet exhausted. In the Freeman’s Journal of January 21, 1908, there appeared a letter from Mr. John Redmond enclosing a copy of a letter from Mr. T. W. Rolleston to a correspondent at St. Louis. Mr. Rolleston accompanied his letter with a copy of a speech by Sir Horace Plunkett. In his letter he remarked plainly upon the antagonism displayed by the Irish Nationalists to the co-operative movement. Although Sir Horace Plunkett declared that he had nothing whatever to do with the letter, the Irish Parliamentarians professed to find in it abundant proof of an intention to destroy Nationalism. “That correspondence,” said Mr. T. W. Russell," compelled me to take action. Mr. John Redmond made it imperative upon me by his letter—I mean a public letter to the Press—and as so much was involved, I took the precaution of convening a special meeting of the Agricultural Board.” The Board decided that the subsidy should be withdrawn at the end of the year 1908.