Speech at the Formation
of the Ulster Women’s
January 23, 1911 — Formation of the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council, Wellington Place, Belfast, Ireland
It gives me great pleasure at the momentous time at a meeting comprised of Ulster women all banded together to confer an endeavour to see and know how best we may organise ourselves to impress our fellow countrymen in England with the fact that Ulster will not consent to the tearing asunder of this country from the predominant partner — England.
This is al the more necessary as we feel the question of home rule was not fairly put before the electors by the Government. First, we must realise that since 1895, when the battle of the Union was last fought, a great many changes have taken place. A new generation has arisen who thought till a few months ago, and still think judging from their attitude during [the] last general election, that the battle was over for all time. The English people have not seemingly noticed that Mr. Redmond and the Nationalist members have been fighting and maneuvering to get an English Government entirely dependent on their votes, and they ave succeeded in so doing . . . .
English people forget that Ireland manages her own local affairs in exactly the same way as England and Scotland do, by means of country councils. England and Ireland are now brought so close together by means of telephones, telegrams, and quick transit that distance is absolutely annihilated, and to think of separating politically two islands in such close proximity is absolutely beyond comprehension. Another point that we should endeavour to bring before the English people is this, that the Nationalist party have never acknowledged the King’s Government in Ireland, nor the heads of that Government. The Nationalist party is essentially disloyal; none of the usual loyal toasts are ever drake and the National Anthem is never sung at their gatherings, thought they affect to have a great personal loyalty, in words, for the occupant of the Throe. It should also be remembered that every law-abiding citizen in Ireland is free and enjoys the same privileges as any one of his Majesty’s subjects throughout the British Empire . . . .
It seems inconceivable that so violent a change should be forced on loyal citizens in Ireland when half the electorate of Great Britain is against it, when Ireland is at last on the way to solve her problems in a peaceful way and simply because the balance of power happens for the moment to be in the hands of the politicians who have been the bane of the country. . . .
How constantly during last few months has the South African Union Federation been thrown in our teeth by Radical members and the Redmondites as an example of what Ireland would be under Home Rule? But the facts of the case are entirely different. Eery colony connected with the British Empire governs herself and is self-supporting. England does not finance them as she does Ireland. Everything goes to show that since Ireland has been united to England she has prospered in every way. “Union is strength” and is it likely that we in Ulster would give our consent to tearing England and Ireland asunder! . . .
I earnest trust that this great and important meeting will be but the beginning of real and solid work and a thorough organising of the women of Ulster, and I earnestly appeal to the Loyalist women all over Ireland to do the same as we are going [to] do — to being work at once, to canvass voters, to trace removals, and to endeavour to bring every single over to the poll during elections, so that every seat in Ulster shall be won for the Union. It has been well said that every election is now not won by speeches and meetings, but on the doorstep, by the distribution of literature and by personally canvassing the people. We must impress upon England and Scotland the fact that Ulster will not let herself be cut adrift. . . .
I feel certain that the women of Ulster will be in no way behind the men in striving for so noble a cause. The whole aim and object the Unionist party, and for which was formed, is to preserve the legislature Union between England and Ireland, and to consolidate the Empire.
Source: Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, “Speech by Lady Londonderry at a meeting in Belfast for the purpose of forming an Ulster Women’s Unionist Association”, 23 Jan. 1911, D2846/1/2/2.
Also: Irish Women’s Speeches: Voices That Rocked the System, ed. Sonja Tiernan, (Dublin: University College Dublin Press) 2021, pp. 40-41.