From the beginning to the end of the inquiry there was no suggestion that this immense operation could be carried out except by the use of Imperial credit, involving the two conditions: (1) that the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom be charged, and (2) that the British public be asked, and should be willing to find the money. Although the Majority Report contemplated an Irish elected authority to work the railways so purchased and amalgamated, it was never suggested that any such Irish authority could raise the necessary purchase capital, or, indeed, any portion of it. The whole scheme from beginning to end pre-supposed the continuance of the Union, with its advantages of credit and capital. Upset that Union, establish an Irish Parliament working out its own salvation, financially and otherwise, and the basis of the whole scheme of railway nationalisation vanishes.
That the British Government should allow its credit to be used to the tune of fifty millions, after full legislative, executive and taxing powers were handed over to an Irish Parliament, is too fantastic to be considered seriously. Whether an Irish or English authority controlled the working of the railways would under such circumstances make little difference, with the Courts of Law, the Executive, and Police in other hands than that of the Government guaranteeing the interest. The security for the advance would be imperilled; and, indeed, it is doubtful whether a tenth of the money required would be advanced, even in London, on those terms. For a similar reason any formal pledge of Irish rates and taxes, to make up deficiencies in working, would be illusory. At any rate, if Irish Land Purchase is to be continued under British credit (and it certainly will be a prior claim and charge), it is idle to expect Parliament to undertake the vast additional obligations involved in Irish railway nationalisation. Parliament would pay the piper but could not call the tune.
IRISH CREDIT NOT SUFFICIENT.
There remains the alternative of the new Irish Parliament financing the operation. This it must do by means of payment in cash to the selling shareholders, for reasons which will be hereafter stated, unless it wishes to start its career by a scheme of spoliation, which would not merely rob the shareholders (who are mostly Irish), but would destroy the credit of the Irish Government. Mr. Redmond has recently acknowledged that a large number of Irish railway shareholders are good Nationalists; and it is certain that a great portion of the ordinary stock is held by Irish farmers and traders; and much of the preference and debenture stocks are also held by Irish charities, convents, diocesan trustees, and monastic institutions. These persons will expect, and justly expect, cash on a compulsory purchase, on basis of market value, or capitalisation of dividend, so as to secure the same return of interest.