Speech delivered by Mr. William Redmond to members of St. Patrick’s Society at the annual banquet in the Windsor Hotel, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 1914.
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‘I esteem myself very favoured in having the honour of being here with you to-night. I am on no political mission in this country; I am just returning rapidly, through this great land, home where I hope to take my place within a very few days in the ranks of the great party to which I have belonged for the last thirty-one years. But the chance which enables me to be here is a happy one for me since it gives me the privilege of witnessing the extraordinary devotion exhibited here to the cause of Irish nationality. Your welcome is not a personal one to myself, but I feel it and appreciate it all the more because I know you intend to show your esteem for, and confidence in, my colleagues of the Irish Nationalist party. As the only member of that party on this continent to-night I may say that the confidence of the Irish people throughout the world is well placed in the Irish national representatives to-day, because it is our boast to be able to say, without contradiction, that the National representation of Ireland organised thirty years ago by Mr, Parnell, bas remained faithful to its trust, absolutely incorruptible, devoted at all times first, to the cause of Ireland and devoted also, to every good cause which needed support in the British Parliament until to-day, thank God, we are recognised at Westminster, not merely as the representatives of Ireland, but as defenders of [he cause of liberty and humanity in Great Britain and every part of the land. (Loud applause).
A Power the World Over
Ladies and Gentlemen, before I say a few words that I believe, you may be glad to hear, about the present position of the cause to which we are all pledged at home, will you allow me to le-echo faintly the sentiments expressed by Dr. Walsh and Mr. Fitzgerald when they referred to the wonderful strength, and power and influence of the national race to which we are proud to belong’. I have travelled round the world; I have seen our people in every part of it, in the great Commonwealth of Australia, which may be really described as the home of freedom, in the progressive Dominion of Canada, all through this land from Vancouver to Montreal, and in the mighty States of the Union. I have seen our people everywhere. I can say of the people of New Zealand and Australia, and other distant portions of the great Empire, what Mr. Fitzgerald has said of the people of Massachusetts, that wherever our people have gone, they have done honour to the cradle of our race. Not only is this true in Canada in the persons of men like Hon. Mr. Doherty, the Minister of Justice, but in every State of America, in the Commonwealth of Australia and elsewhere, the Irish people hold up their heads amongst the foremost of the land. We can say of them as has been said of the Empire, that the world round the “sun never sets” upon the greatness, the power, the influence and the honor of the Irish race m all those lands where their great qualities are given free play, and where they are allowed the great bless- ing of governing themselves. (Loud applause).
Ireland’s Saddest Chapter
One of the saddest chapters in the history of Ireland has been the enforced migration of its people. Looking at the population of Ireland to-day of a little over four millions of people, it is al- most impossible to believe that, seventy years ago, the population of Ireland was more than half the population of England and Wales, was four times the population of Scotland, was very nearly half the population of all Great Britain. Today there is left practically only a remnant of the race at home. On this St. Patrick’s Day when we are anxious to banish all trace of bitter- ness, it is not for me to refer to the causes why Ireland is the only country in this Empire in which men and women have been forced to leave their homes, it is sufficient for us to know that our people have gone, and surely, it is no sign of good government that they have gone. Our consolation is in the fact that they have prospered wherever they have gone. Some races would have been exterminated long ago had they had the experience which has been ours, but not so with our people. In every part of this Empire the Irish are influential and strong. (Applause).
Millions All United
If our to-morrow is to be as glorious as we confidently believe, it will be largely because the scattered seed of the Irish race has taken root and is furnishing comfort and help to those who are left. And if, on this St. Patrick’s Day, we are more jubilant than ever before, if our cause stands, as it does, in the foremost, occupying a preeminently strong position it is largely because — and how we thank you for it, because you in Canada, our kin in the United States and in Australia, our people throughout the world, have stood behind those in Parliament and enabled them to say “We are making our claim, not for a remnant of our race, but backed by, the sympathy, the support and the hearts of millions of our race, in every part of the world.” (Applause).
Nationalists Wonderful Boast
I have been for thirty-one years a humble member of the great party which Parnell organised. In that time we have had severe experiences, and prolonged struggles, but it surely is a privilege for me to be able to say that, as St. Patrick’s Day has succeeded St. Patrick’s Day, we always have been able to mark some improvement in our country. Thirty-one years ago the condition of Ireland w^as deplorable, from every point of view. The people were handicapped and penalised in every direction wherever we looked. When Parnell and Davitt took up the great movement now on the eve of consummation, Ireland’s condition cried out for betterment; now, am I not entitled to consider myself and my few colleagues who survive the stormy days follow- ing the inception of our’ party, exceptionally privileged and honoured to be able to say, as we can say to you, that every item on our programme of reform, which we set out to accomplish, under Parnell’s leadership, has been achieved. Ireland is a changed country better fitted for Government, with better conditions of the people better educated and better governed. It has been greatly transformed from the Ireland of thirty-one years ago. (Applause). And now we stand on the threshold of the one re-form necessary to make every other reform effective in the highest degree; we stand on the threshold of the concession of self-government to our country. (Prolonged applause).
All Reforms Long Overdue
I have sometimes been asked by our Conservative friends in England how it is since Ireland has so much improved, it is not satisfied with the form of Government under which these re- forms have been effected? That is a fair question which is answered very fully in this way: We in Ireland claim that every reform brought about in the last thirty years has been long overdue. Had we a Government of our own there was no doubt we would have accomplished them long before. We may point out that no single one of the reforms was carried in Ireland without paying the price of long years of agitation, of turbulence, of violence, if you will. The Irish people, too, have this characteristic, the better off they are, the more educated they are, the more independent they are, the more absolutely resolved they become never to rest until they enjoy at least a modicum of those self-governing institutions, which have been granted to all other peoples in the Empire and which have made the Empire great.