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Thursday, 2 June 1921

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - It is not my intention toaddress myself to the motion before the House at great length, because honorable members already, know my opinion on the Irish question. I think it is generally understood that the position in Ireland- is largely responsible for the strained relations existing, not only between Great Britain and America, but between. Great

Britain and other countries. The position in Ireland has brought Great Britain to the verge of war, and it is still doing so.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Brought what?

Mr MATHEWS - The position in Ireland is bringing America and England to the verge of war.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - That is ridiculous.

Mr MATHEWS - It is not. 'Any reader of Irish history realizes that for generations the Irish people have been seeking independence, which has been refused owing to the crass stupidity of the people of Great Britain.

Mr McGrath - Not the people.

Mr MATHEWS - I blame the people for not carrying out the proposal just as I blame the people of Australia for submitting to the present intolerable economic conditions. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has endeavoured to justify the action of the British agents in Ireland,; but that honorable member has . twice voted in this House for the principles which he now denounces.

Mr Foley - But not for what they are now- asking.

Mr MATHEWS - It would have been better to give the Irish people Home Rule when they wanted it, and it would be preferable to grant them a Republic rather than allow them to form one by force.

Mr Higgs - I did not vote for a Republic

Mr MATHEWS - The honorable member supported Home Rule.

Mr Higgs - I voted for local government, not a Republic.

Mr MATHEWS - Who has broken up the Empire?

Mr Jowett - Is the Empire broken tip?

Mr Brennan - It is only under a cloud.

Mr Jowett - A cloud of the honorable member's imagination.

Mr MATHEWS - The British Empire is under a cloud as the result of her treatment of the Irish people. Whenever this question is discussed, the sectarian issue is introduced.

Mr Foley - No one has spoken of the religious element to-day.

Mr MATHEWS - The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) may not know as much as I do concerning the opinions held by honorable members of this Chamber. It has been said that Home Rule for Ireland means Rome Rule, but it does not mean anything of the sort ; because, if Home Rule had been granted toIreland, there would not have been bitter religious controversy, but merely contests between the capitalists and the workers, such as we have here. The religious element has been introduced with the idea of bolstering up landlordism in Ireland. During previous discussions on this topic much has been said of loyalty to the Empire ; hut have the loyalists ever helped the workers? No. The so-called loyalists are always on the side of the capitalistic section of the community.

Mr Foley - Rot!

Mr MATHEWS - On hearing the remarks of some honorable members, one would thinkthat those who are in favour of Home Rule, or the formation of an Irish Republic, were reared in a certain religious atmosphere. I was not, and honorable members know it. I am sorry that this matter has been introduced into this Chamber; but, whenever it is, it is my intention to express my opinions. It would have strengthened the British Empire if Ireland had been given -Home Rule, and it would strengthen it now if the British Government would allow the Irish people to establish a friendly Republic rather than allow matters to drift, which will result in the formation of a Republic antagonistic to British ideals and aspirations. The demands of the Irish people have beenrefused merely to protectthe interests of landlordism.

Mr Fowler - Does; not the honorable member know that the interests of Irish landlords were purchased with £200,000,000 of British capital?

Mr MATHEWS - I know that. I have read a good deal on the Irish question, and many of those who speak of loyalty have said' that it would be better to grant the Irish people Home Rule than allow the country to be a drag on the British people. It is a question of whether the British Empire is to be for ever saddled with the trouble that now exists. We all desire to know when peace will be restored, and when the interests of the general community in Ireland will not be subordinate to those of the capitalistic class. We will never have a united Empire, which we so much desire, while the people of Ireland are being so shamefully treated. Do honorable members really believe that peace can be restored under the present policy? The sooner the people realize the position, and allow the question of loyalty to stand aside in deciding the issue, the better it will be. Some may think that this is a sectarian question; but I remind honorable members that Devlin was returned as a member for Ireland for an Orange constituency. Why? The people know his opinions.

Sir ROBERT BEST (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) - He is not a Republican.

Mr MATHEWS - The honorable member says that he is not a Republican, but we know that he would not give the people of Ireland Home Rule. He has always been against doing so. He would not give them even the measure of Home Rule which the people of Australia enjoy. It is the pig-headedness and stupidity of the honorable member and those with whom he is associated that have brought about the present position, and they have used the question always to serve their own purposes. I am sorry that it should be necessary to introduce the question into the Parliament of Australia, but I say that the trouble in Ireland has its reflection in Australia, and throughout the Empire. It would be better for Australia if the trouble were put to an end, and there is only one way of stopping it, and that is by giving the people of Ireland what they desire. I, as a representative of the people in this House, say that the Irish should be given their rights, and the man who says that they have no rights in this matter is unworthy of membership of a Parliament such as we have here to-day.

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