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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Extraordinary Political Record
What are the political facts with regard to Ireland? I claim that what I am about to tell you is the most extraordinary political record that the history of any country in the world can show. In 1885, when we had the third Reform Bill the franchise was extended and the Irish people at large got the power of say- ing what they wanted. Even before that with a much restricted electorate the Irish people asked for Home Rule. When that franchise was extended what happened? In 1885 Parnell was sent back at the head of a Nationalist party 86 strong. We have had a great number of elections since then. Election after election has been held, but there has been no change in Ireland. Year after year, bill after bill has been passed for the improvement and betterment of conditions in other parts of Great Britain but all though that period the answer to our one claim has been the same, our attempts to gain what Ireland has wanted for so long have been countered in the same way, and the eighty-five Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons still stand for Home Rule exactly as they did when the franchise was first extended.
Democracy Answers the Plea
The indisputable claim of Ireland, however, has impressed the present Prime Minister of England, Mr. Asquith, as it impressed Mr. Gladstone, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and the leading British statesmen, Liberal in politics, in Great Britain, and they hold by the principle that you cannot ignore the voice of the people. The voice of Ireland always has asked for Home Rule and the British Democracy at last is answering it favourably. I do not pretend to be able to speak in detail of the changes that seem to have taken place in the question of Home Rule since I was at home. But I can say this with perfect confidence that there is nothing I know of, that the members of the Nationalist party are not prepared to do, to allay, and to meet, the honest and sincere doubt, of any countryman of ours, whether Protestant or Catholic, about Home Rule. (Applause.)
Ready to Make Concessions
There was a time, I confess, when feeling ran high and bitter in Ireland, but whatever may have been said or done in the early days of the agitation, under coercion and exceptional laws, I tell you that in view of the near approach of the responsibility of Government on Irish shoulders, no member of our party will say one word of provocation calculated to make broader any difference there may be between part of Ulster and the rest of Ireland. We are prepared consistently with the principle for which our fathers struggled, of an Irish Parliament and Government by Irish people, to go to every reasonable length to disarm all reasonable opposition. (Applause).
Irishmen Will Unite
I hazard the opinion that no section of Irishmen in the long run will consent to the partition of Ireland. (Applause). There may be those, who, at the commencement, hesitate and doubt, but with my knowledge of Ulster as well as the South of Ireland I hazard the opinion, confidently, that, in the long run, the North of Ireland will throw in its lot with the South. I believe that the people of Ulster are a sturdy race, almost a stubborn race, and I believe if their rights, privileges, properties and particularly, their conscience were touched they would resist strongly and effectively and, under these circumstances every honest man must agree they would be right. But the question we have to ask is, if there be no interference with these rights, or properties of conscience are they a race of men likely to neglect their homes to take the field without just cause?
Dishonest Misleading Opposition
Since I have been in Canada I have seen a good many expressions as to resistance in Ulster. It is not surprising that they should talk about resistance if their lands and rights of citizenship are endangered, but is it fair to go on assumptions such as these? There is no interference in the Home Rule Bill with the citizenship of any man in Ulster. It is not suggested that he live under another flag to the one he is accustomed to, or that he be deprived, by one single jot, of the privileges he enjoys today. Under the provisions of the Home Rule Bill the first thing these gentlemen have to do is to elect their direct representatives and spokesmen to go to the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. That Parliament retains all its power and all its potency for the protection of minorities just as it possesses them today. And I submit, especially here in Canada, that this great question ought to be discussed fairly. Such loose talk as the destruction of citizenship ought not to be indulged in when every honest man must deem such language untrue.
A Cruel Slander
What is the real fact of the case. The public of Canada and the Empire have been told that Ulster will not submit to Home Rule because tlie residents in Ulster being non-Catholic, cannot trust themselves in any Parliament in which the men of the Ancient Faith would be predominant. Now, stripped of all subterfuge, that ‘is the kernel of the argument against the inclusion of Ulster with the rest of Ireland. I speak as an Irish Catholic representative, I speak as Catholic of the Catholics and, as such, I submit that the whole of history proves that this is a cruel and heartless and outrageous slander upon the Catholic people to say that it is in them to injure any man because he worships God in his own way. (Applause).
What of Persecution of Catholics
At this time with our hearts full of hope and the determination to banish all bitterness from our minds, it is not timely to speak of such things, but what a tale could I unfold were I to go back to the treatment accorded us all through centuries because of our faith. We were only emancipated the other day. It was not until years after our Parliament was taken from us by fraud and corruption, not until years after we lost that Parliament without any appeal to the people that we were emancipated. To this day the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland may belong to any faith the law says, but the faith of the majority of the people. It is too, only within the last few years that the present King came to the throne, only when he was crowned, that, for the first time, the slanderous reference to bis subjects of the Catholic faith, contained in the Coronation oath, was left out.