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Thursday, 2 June 1921


Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- I do not propose to discuss this question at length, but the motion having been moved by the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), I feel it incumbent upon myself to express my entire sympathy with the object the honorable member has in view, and generally, so far as I was privileged to hear them, with the opinions he has expressed with regard to this matter. There can be no doubt there is a growing estrangement between Great Britain and the United States of America, and there equally can be no doubt that it rests largely upon the treatment of Ireland by the present British Government. But the fact that our position as an Empire is being prejudiced in America is by no means the only or, from my point of view, the main consideration which should impel us to direct intelligent criticism to the conduct of the agents of the British Government in Ireland, because the sad truth is that the recent conduct of those agents is calculated not only to cause estrangement between America and Great Britain, but also to bring the whole of the Empire into discredit and disrepute among the civilized nations of the world. It is not too much to say that the present policy of the British Government in Ireland has not a single reputable supporter in any part of the world outside those persons who, being amenable neither to argument nor to appeal, have stood, while they can stand, merely as the open enemies of Ireland. It is a deeply regrettable and even painful thought that at this very time trials should be proceeding in Germany with respect to the treatment of British prisoners by the agents of the Central Powers. That fact tends to show up in even more searching light the conduct of the agents of the British Government in Ireland. If ever there was a case established against a Government in the courts of public opinion, it has been against the British Government, not only by the argument of Irishmen, but in equal measure by temperately expressed judgments of thinking Englishmen. We have upon our side the patriotism and the brains of England ; while on the other side are money, passion, and prejudice. The case of Ireland is quite safe, even in the view of reputable and wellinformed Englishmen. The British policy in Ireland is condemned, not only in America, but also, apart from official circles, in France, Italy, and the world over, and it is so condemned because it is indefensible. The British Government do not admit that there is war . in Ireland, because the practices that are taking place there to-day are not sanctioned according to the rules of civilized warfare. You, sir, must be perfectly well aware that there is no 'rule of civilized warfare which permits the indiscriminate destruction of property in the invaded country, and the ruthless, firing into 'the homes and houses of the people without regard to whether or not women 'or children, aged or infirm, sick or well, fall victims to the bullets. It must be well known to every honorable member, that there is no rule of civilized warfare which permits towns and villages to be sacked, ravaged, and destroyed in revenge for certain acts of war by the soldiery of the invaded country. The truth is that the people of this country are unfortunately largely dependent for their information upon that poisoned stream of fiction which reaches this country through the newspaper cables. But honorable members are not so dependent. They have at their call other sources of information, and if they are able to call in witness, as they ought to be able to do, the sober testimony of thinking men in every civilized country, they ought to be able to see that the conduct of the British Government in Ireland is indefensible. I suppose we shall be told, as we have been told before, that this is no concern of ours. That argument might be adduced with some colour of justification by the Republican in Australia, but it is curious that the Imperialist should say that we in Australia are not concerned with the operations of the British armies, and Black and Tans of odious memory, in a part of the Empire itself. If I had not any association or kinship with Ireland, and I still were a member of this Parliament, I would feel it my bounden duty, as I do to-day, to lose no opportunity on the platform, or in this House, of rising in protest against what is going on there. I do not propose to tell again to-day this thricetold tale. Ireland's claim to some kind of local autonomy has been so far established now that it is not denied even by Ireland's enemies. But at the beginning of the war, it was denied, and there axe persons - amongst them the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), the representative and spokesman of a class - who have always been opposed to anything that has been offered, to Ireland, and at whatever time it has been offered. Had the present Act, which is designed for the partition of Ireland, been submitted in 1914, to the honorable member for Kooyong, and those associated with him, they would have opposed it with all the bitterness and persistency with which they now oppose the Republican' -ideal, and formerly opposed the Home Rule movement. Every concession that is offered to Ireland meets with their wholesouled and bitter opposition. Hence it is to-day that they are always ready to concede something which the Irish people are no longer willing to accept. The Irish people now stand on the principle enunciated at the beginning of the war, and painted on the very moon during the course of the war - the right of self-determination, the right of Ireland as a nation to prescribe its own form of government. . An election has just taken place in Ireland. It was not an election of the Irish by the Irish for the purpose of determining their form of government, but an election under conditions and for an object prescribed by a power which to-day is an alien power. And we may as well face this fact: Ireland has in a spirit of friendship and candour offered to accept her position within the Empire. She has been refused, cheated, and despised. She no longer comes asking for her place within the Empire, but comes declaring that, as there is no place for her within the Empire, she will still have her place in the sun, and without the Empire. Although the election which has Been held has been conducted by an external power, and with machinery devised by that power, it nevertheless has yielded a result which shows the overwhelming majority of the Irish people to bo favorable to the Republican ideal. And yet, forsooth, we are told that Ulster, too, must have selfdetermination. Those who passed the Partition Act for Ireland took all sorts of care that the determination of Ulster should not be left to the people of Ulster. They selected a section of a segment of Ireland, and when they were satisfied that this section of the Irish people would be favourable to anti-Irish ideals - in other words, that theirs was the rebel stronghold against the constituted autho- ity in Ireland-


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member's time has expired.







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