Treaty Debates in Dáil Éirann
December 21, 1921 — Dáil Éireann, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, Ireland
I love my people, every single one of them; I love the country, and I have faith in the people, but I am under no delusions about any of us. We are not a race of archangels, and you allow that Governor — General’s residence, with drawing-rooms, levees, and honours and invitations to be scattered broadcast to your wives and your sisters and your daughters, and mothers even, with all the baits that will be held out to them to come in for the first time by consent of the Irish people in the social atmosphere of the Governor-General’s residence.
Remember that there will be functions there which will be partly social and partly political, which will be Governmental functions. The Ministers of the Government of the Irish Free State — I will omit for the sake of argument the offensive words “his Majesty’s Ministers” — will be obliged to attend the Governor-General’s functions and he will attend theirs. Wherever the Governor-General is, or the representative of the Crown in Ireland is, there you will have the Union Jack and “God Save the King,” and you will have the Union Jack and “God Save the King” for the first time with the consent of the people of Ireland.
You may say to me, some of you, that there will be, perhaps, a self-denying ordinance clause which will prevent the Ministers of the Irish Government, or any person belonging to the Irish Government, entering the portals of the Governor-General’s house. You cannot. You will have to have him there as representative of the King with certain functions to perform. You cannot exclude him. You cannot stay away from him.
You will have to get his signature to documents. You will have to get his signature to every law that is passed by the Irish Free State Government, and if the Minister for Foreign Affairs stands up and contradicts that, if he says we can make a Constitution which will take care that the Governor-General does not have to sign any such document, again I say, “wait and see,” wait until your Constitution has come through Westminster, wait till the English Government, by means of this instrument of theirs, signed by the Irish Delegation — they have demoralised the people of this country as they had already demoralised some of the men in this assembly by their specious arguments.
Your Constitution must be “as by law established.” Wait and see whether it will get you out of the English representative’s domicile in Dublin. You may tell me that the patronage — abominable word — think of the word patronage being used to an Irish Republican Assembly — “his Majesty’s patronage” will be under the control of the Irish Government.
I have no doubt, none whatever, but that any Minister of the Irish Free State, any one of those advocating support of this Treaty in the present Dáil, would refuse a title from his Majesty’s Government, but wait a little while until the first fervour of the Irish Free State is worn out, wait a little while until a stage is reached when the demoralisation has eaten into the soul of the people of this country, and the next Parliament won’t be so very self-denying with regard to honours and patronage. . . .
I, for one, will have neither hand, act nor part in helping the Irish Free State to carry this nation of our, this glorious nation that has been betrayed here tonight, into the British Empire, either with our without your hands up.
I maintain here now that this is the grossest act of betrayal that Ireland ever endured. I know some of you have done it from good motives; soldiers have done it to get a gun. God help them! Others, because they thought it best in some other way. I do not want to say a word that would prevent them from coming back to their Mother Republic; but I register my protest, and not one bit of help that we can give will we give them. The speech we have heard sounded very beautiful — as the late minister of finance can do it; he has played up to the gallery in this thing, but I tell you it may sound very beautiful but it will not do. Ireland stands on her republican government and that republication government cannot touch the pitch of the Free State without being fouled; and here and now I call on all true republicans; we all want to protect the public safety; we want no such terrible troubles in the country as faction fights; we can never descend to the faction fights of former days; we have established a government, and we still have to protect it.
Therefore, let there be no misunderstanding, no soft talk, no ráiméis at this last moment of the betrayal of our country; no soft talk about union; you cannot unite a spiritual Irish Republic and a betrayal word than Castlereagh’s, because it was done for the Irish nation. you may talk about the will of the Irish people, as Arthur Griffith did; you know it is not the will of the Irish people; it is the fear of the Irish people, as the lord mayor of Cork says; and tomorrow or another day when they come to their senses they will talk of those who betrayed them today as they talk of Castlereagh. Make no doubt about it. This is a betrayal, a gross betrayal; and the fact that it is only a small majority, and that majority is not united; half of them look for a gun and the other half are looking for the fleshpots of the Empire. I tell you here there can be no union between the representatives of the Irish Republic and the so-called Free State. . . .
It is no use for you to look at your watches. Go out if you like, but this is probably the last time that I shall ever speak before you in public, in an assembly like this; certainly and most emphatically the last time until the Irish Republican Government comes back again with the full consent of the people, and I care not, and apologise not, if I take more of your time than you are willing to give. Those who want to hear the Treaty will stay and listen; those who are afraid of the Treaty can go out.
One thing more I want to say about that oath. I have said that I am ashamed of the arguments that have been brought about it. I am ashamed of the efforts that are being made on the other side of this assembly to show the people of this Dáil how they can drive, not one couch-and-four through it, but a coach-ad-four through every line of it. That, I maintain, is not consistent with the honour of our people; it is not consistent with the attitude we have adopted towards the world and on which we have got the sympathy of the world. What use, you will tell me, is sympathy? it is this use, that it is the sympathy of the world and the judgment and conscience of the world that brought England to her knees in these negotiations. She has the military. I know that., but she cannot win this battle, for if she exterminates the men, the women will take their places; and if she exterminates the women, the children are rising fast; and if she exterminates the men, women and children of this generation, the blades of grass, dyed with their blood, will rise, like the dragons’ teeth of old, into armed men and the fight will begin in the next generation.
But I am concerned for the honour of my country before the world, and I tell the world that it is not the true voice of Ireland that has spoken so flippantly about oaths and their breaking. It is not the true voice of the people of Ireland that has spoken to you. Have no doubt about it whatever. This fight of ours has been essentially a spiritual fight; it has been a fight of right against wrong, a fight of a small people struggling for a spiritual ideal against a mighty rapacious and material Empire, and, as the things of the spirit have always prevailed, they prevail now.
Up to last December we had won the admiration of the world for our honour, and I tell the world that the honour of Ireland is still unsullied, and that Ireland will show it, and will show that Ireland means fidelity to the Republic and not the driving of a coach-and-four through the oath which she will never consent to allow her Ministers to take. This is a spiritual fight of ours, but though we are idealist standing for a spiritual principle, we are practical idealists, and it is your idealist that is the real practical man, not your opportunist; and watch the opportunist in every generation and you will see nothing but broken hopes behind them. It is those who stand for the spiritual and the ideal that stand true and unflinching, and it is those who will win — not those who can inflict most but those who can endure most will conquer.
The war of 1914 has left the world in a very different position from what the world was in before . . .
I stand here, and nobody will tell me the I am not an Irish Republican, but I can truthfully say, and I challenge any Member in this assembly to say otherwise, that in 1911 I did not believe that I would see an Irish Republic established in my generation. The war brought many changes; the war brought forth idealists and the self-determination of small nationalities. Their right to express their freedom in their own way was bandied about from one Government to another, and every Government in the world has been false to it but our own. Still all the peoples of the world have not been false to it. The peoples of the world, including a growing number of the people of England, are true to that ideal; they want peace, and they know that peace can never be established except on the basis of truth and justice to all alike. Therefore our fight to-day has a chance of victory. You have told us it is between the acceptance of that document and war. If it were, with every sense of deep responsibility, I say then let us take war.
I am not speaking as a young, ardent enthusiast. I am speaking as a woman who has thought and studied much, who realises, as only a woman can, the evils of war and the sufferings of war. Deputy Milroy yesterday in a speech to which I shall not allude, for it made me ashamed to think the public was listening to it, acknowledged that the women are the greatest sufferers of the war. I would ask him, if it were a democratic proposition, to the the women of Ireland judge this, and I have no doubt what the issue would be.
Source: Iris Dhaie Éireann: Tuairisg Oifigiuil, Díosbóireacht ar an gConnradh Idir Eire Agus Sasana, Do Signigheadh i Lundain Ar An 6ADH Lá de Mhí na Forlag, 1921 — Official Report Debate on the Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, Signed in London on the 6th December, 1921 (Dublin: The Talbot Press, Limited), 1922, pp. 108-127.