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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then my honorable friend is advising the acceptance by the leaders of Irish opinion of Mr. Lloyd George's offer?

Senator LYNCH - That is Dominion status on the South African pattern, as suggested by General Smuts. I am advising its acceptance by the Irish people to-day. Something has been said about freedom, but freedom, I suggest, is a peculiar and somewhat illusory state of human existence. j.We realize the truth of this in all walks of life. What is the position of the smaller nations of the earth in the enjoyment of their socalled freedom? Have they not been the playground, the very charnel-house, or slaughter-yard of Europe right down the centuries? And what is the position in relation to that strongest bond of union that can be entered into, and which preserves all that is sacred in civilized society, namely, the marriage tie? Does not each individual surrender some portion of individual freedom in order to promote complete mutual happiness and secure a greater unity? And so it is with Ireland. I say that Ireland stands at the cross-roads. If she does not accept this offer, I do not know what the end will be. I fear even to contemplate 'the alternative. For Ireland, the future may hold unending strife and gory civil war. To promote peace and bring about unity in this matter, we must discard all our predisposition to strife, and forget all about what our forebears have suffered or said or done. I was born to hate the Union J Jack ; but I lived under other flags after coming to this country, and returned with changed views. I felt that I was able to look upon that flag - which in the days of my boyhood had been to me .the emblem of servitude - as the badge, the very guarantee of .security and happiness for me and mine. .1 want other men to change their views in the same way if they .find themselves at ill-ease with their conscience. If they do not, they will land this country in trouble. Stubbornness in the past on - the part of Englishmen in every phase of human activity has been chiefly responsible for the differences between England and Ireland. It is on record that Sir John Moore, the great English warrior, declared that if he had been an Irishman he would have been a rebel, and Gladstone has told us that largely England's difficulties with Ireland can be traced to the Act of Union. Leckie, the historian, has said much that is similar on this subject. _ It is the opinion of all who have studied the situation in the past that the treatment of Ireland by England has not been such as might have been expected from a predominant towards a weaker partner.

Now a word in regard to the attitude of Ireland during the recent war. Very many people have referred to what they consider Ireland's inadequate share in the late war. That may be true; but if she did not do her share in that war she did far more than her share in all previous wars. While England's flag was being planted in many lands down the centuries, she had to resort to force. Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen shed their blood sparingly, but Irishmen shed their blood by the gallon. History gives the fullest indorsement to that statement. Therefore, it is not right that Ireland should be condemned for what happened in the recent war. She should be judged by what she did in previous wars and the attendant circumstances of the late war. If Ireland did keep out of the late war, the fault was not entirely on one side. The British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George), speaking in the House of Commons, and surveying the whole attitude of British power towards Ireland during the war, said that the only words he could find to describe British behaviour in Ireland, was " malignant stupidity." If the mouth-piece of British statesmanship thus characterized the attitude of England towards Ireland, are we justified in saying that the fault was all on one side? We want to hold the scales fairly, and divest ourselves of all old-time prejudices. We want to see what can be done to heal the differences that exist, and to find a solution of this problem. I appreciate the qualities of the people of the neighbouring island - the unemotional, dogged, and inborn love of freedom of the Englishman, the shrewd, metaphysical, and cosmopolitan nature of the Scot, and the Welshman's racial, burning pride which is proverbial, all of which qualities go to compose a very good national make-up. But there is something additional wanted, and that is the keen-witted, generous-hearted chivalrous nature of the Irishman; and surely it is worth some sacrifice to get that additional element for a more perfected national alchemy. I hope that Great Britain will not shrink from any necessary sacrifice. After spending £200,000,000 and losing 50,000 lives in South Africa, Great Britain, in her generosity, gave some millions of pounds to repair the area devastated by the war. I do not want the British power, the predominant party in the present Union, to buy the loyalty of Ireland by means of gold; but I want the British people to acknowledge, side by side with their insistence, in the interests of their own safety, on the unity of the British Isles, that Ireland has interests of its own. I also want the people of Ireland to remember that if they carry their demands too far, the result may be a long, galling, and awful warfare, with the possibility that they may end up in a worse position, being compelled to accept much less than is now offered to them. Looking back on what they asked for in the past, I do not think that risk is warranted, particularly in view of the fact that if Britain's power is weakened the means of the defence of this lonely outpost of the Empire must be correspondingly weakened. I want the people of Ireland to remember that the Omnipotent Power who planted those small isles in the North Sea never intended that the peoples of those isles should be ceaselessly and everlastingly at war and ill-will with one another. Ireland is now at the cross-roads. There are two fingerposts - one of which points to Empire disruption and Australia's danger. I appeal to the people of Ireland to pause before they take any fatal step in that direction, and I appeal to honorable senators to support me in the view I have expressed to-day.

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