In the next place, in considering whether complete “colonial” self-government can be conceded to Ireland, it must not be forgotten that the island is bi-racial, that the two races differ widely in character, in politics, and in religion, and that the differences are apt to find vent in violent conflict or secret attacks. Further, Ireland has for generations been the scene of a revolt against one particular species of property, the ownership of land; and although under the operation of the Land Purchase Acts this cause of conflict tends to abate, it still breaks out from time to time in the form of cattle drives and attacks on “land grabbers." Hitherto we have, broadly speaking, kept the peace. That we should now forsake this duty, and, washing our hands of Ireland, leave the Protestant and the landowner, at or small, to his fate is unthinkable.
In connection with the question last-mentioned it may be necessary at some time to consider how far it is the constitutional right of this country to impose upon the minority in Ireland the new obligations implied in a grant to the whole island of colonial Home Rule. It may be that the Imperial Parliament can disallow the claim of a section of the population of Ireland to remain subject to its own control. But it is one thing to reject the allegiance of a community, it is quite another thing forcibly to transfer that allegiance to a practically independent legislature; and this is especially the case when the transfer may involve the use against a loyal population of coercion in its extreme form.
In every formal proposal for Home Rule in Ireland, weight has been given to the above considerations, and attempts have been made to meet them by qualifying the grant of responsible Government. The qualifications suggested have taken the form of (a) the reservation of certain powers to the Imperial Parliament, or (b) the restriction of the powers granted to the Irish legislature by prohibiting their exercise in certain specific ways, or (c) the provision of some form of Imperial veto or control. It is important to consider whether and how far such checks or “safeguards” are likely to prove effective and lasting.
The “safeguards” proposed by the Government of Ireland Bill, 1886, were somewhat extended by the Bill of 1893; and the proposals shortly to be submitted to Parliament, so far as they can be gathered from recent speeches of Ministers, will not in this respect differ materially from those contained in the latter Bill. It will therefore be convenient to take as a basis for discussion the provisions of the Bill of 1893, as passed by the House of Commons.