- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Nov 1937, p. 65-77
- Tarr, Dr. E.J., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Why this particular subject was chosen by the speaker. Some recent facts about the background to the problems in Ireland, from 1914. The Home Rule Bill and its effects. The moral position of De Valera and the repudiation of the land annuities. The speaker's experiences in Dublin, arriving just a few days after the election in July of 1937. An examination of the Constitution. The External Relations Act. The question of the British connection and its role in the election. The economic issues. The result of the economic war for the Irish Free State. How and why De Valera did as well as he did in the last election. The speaker's impression of Cosgrave, General Mulcahay, and of Senator Gogarty. The attitude toward Great Britain and the Commonwealth generally by the Irish people in the Free State. The danger inherent in the situation which now exists. The speaker's impression, on leaving Ireland, that it would have been better, in the interests of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and Ireland itself, if De Valera had had a comfortable working majority as the result of the last election, and reasons for that impression. The difficulty of answering the question "What next in Ireland?" The serious threat and danger to the security of Great Britain. Finding solutions by gaining sympathetic understanding of the aspirations of the Irish people; recognizing the long centuries of progress for which our ancestors were responsible and trying to develop an attitude in Canada which will make the Irish people feel that they want to continue to be associated with us as a nation in a British group.
- Date of Original
- 4 Nov 1937
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- WHAT NEXT IN IRELAND?
AN ADDRESS BY DR. E. J. TARR, K.C.
Thursday, November 4th, 1937
PRESIDENT: Gentlemen: The Empire Club of Canada welcomes as its guests, member's of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs. This Institute was formed as a national organization early in January of 1928 and a meeting was held at the home of the late Sir Robert Borden in Ottawa. The purpose of .the Institute was to make an unofficial study of international questions and problems so as to form an enlightened public opinion among our Canadian people. The Canadian Institute functions as a branch of the Royal Institute of International Affairs of London, England. It is interesting to Canadians to know that through the generosity of the late Colonel R. W. Leonard of St. Catharines, the Institute came into possession of their present headquarters in LondonChatham House. All will admit it is a fitting place for their deliberations since it was the residence for years of the elder Pitt and many subsequent Prime Ministers of Great Britain. Since the foundation of the Institute in Canada such distinguished men as the late Sir Robert Borden, the present Chief Justice of Ontario, Honourable Newton W. Rowell, and Dr. J. W. Dafoe, of Winnipeg, have occupied the Presidency. Quite recently our guest-speaker for today succeeded Dr. Dafoe. Dr. Tarr has been associated with the Canadian Institute since its inception and has justly earned this high honour. To radio audiences he is well known as a member of the Kelcey Club of Winnipeg. When Dr. Tarr consented to speak to our Club, I asked him for his subject. He replied--What next in Ireland--with a large question mark. The printer perhaps being Irish, left off the question mark, but for Ireland it was probably unnecessary.
I have much pleasure in introducing to you, E. J. Tarr, K.C., LL.D., of Winnipeg. His subject is, "What next in Ireland?" Dr. Tarr. (Applause.)
DR. E. J. TARR: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I have no doubt that you are quite surprised at .the subject that I chose. There are so many matters that press upon our attention today. The crisis in the Far East, with its implications for us; the situation in Spain, a near farcical non-intervention Committee; the critical situation that Great Britain faces in Palestine; the whole question of Germany and the threat to world peace and the matter of British foreign policy which is crying out for constructive criticism.
Yet, while the choice of any of those subjects would perhaps have seemed perfectly natural, I, without any Irish blood in me, in a typical Irish way chose, "What next in Ireland?" for the simple reason that I don't think you are particularly interested in it. But the truth is that the pressing nature and the immediacy of all these other problems have more or less forced Ireland out of the spotlight, and I think the situation there and the problem which Britain faces there is not perhaps receiving the attention and consideration which its importance deserves. I think it is fair to say that English opinion today, both official and non-official, recognizes that for the most part and, in fact, almost invariably, Britain has been wrong in its treatment in Ireland and when right, has been right too late to be effective. Recognizing that, England today feels that it really can't take the initiative in trying to solve the problem. It is bafed and puzzled because of the historical background and feels it will be quite natural for the Irish people to expect ulterior motives if the initiative came from England's side.
I haven't time to set up anything accurate in the way of historical background. Let me just remind you of a few more recent facts. In 194, not long before the War, the Home Rule Bill was passed. Ulster, of course, decided to resist by force of arms. The result was the Ulster Volunteer Forces were organized and as a reply to this the National Volunteer Forces were formed in the south of Ireland: The situation was ominous. Then the war broke out. Adjustment was made, postponing the coming into force of the Home Rule Bill until after the termination of hostilities. A large proportion of the National Volunteers entered the Army to go to the Continent. Things went fairly well until 1916 when an attempt was made to enforce conscription throughout Ireland. This meant resistance and the movement of Republicanism swept the country with the result by 1918 there was established what was perhaps, not technically, but to a large extent in fact, a government which operated along side the official government. Many of the taxes were voluntarily paid to this Republican Government and in fact it carried on a number of the ordinary government activities. The situation, of course, was impossible, and after the conclusion of the war the decision was made by Britain to try and rectify the situation by force. Then followed that period known as the "Black and Tan" period, when a state of war practically existed as between Great Britain and Southern Ireland. This is a period of which neither party has much reason to be proud. English public opinion rather weakened and would not stand for the extension of hostilities on any large scale with the result that because of the fact there was a substantial element in Ireland also anxious to arrive at a settlement, negotiations were carried on and the Treaty of 1921 became effective. While De Valera had agreed to the appointment of negotiators, he himself was not one of those negotiators. After the Treaty was concluded, under his inspiration two of the negotiators joined with him in repudiating the treaty, and they started the movement which resulted in the Civil War following the period, with Mulaney and Griffith, Cosgrave and Mulcahay, leading the government party and De Valera being the moving spirit in the rebel party. A terrible period followed which left its legacy of hate with which one soon comes in contact in visiting the Free State today.
After order was restored De Valera continued his attitude of non-recognition of the Treaty, and refused to take part in the political like of the country or to run for election. He was forced to abandon that position by the lapse of time, and contested the later election and in 1932 was returned to power and Cosgrave, the former President, stepped out. Almost immediately after, he did what he had said he would do, namely repudiated the liability of the Irish Free State to pay the land annuities. These annuities, as you know, were in effect bonds that had been sold, the proceeds of which were used for the purchase of landed estates and re-sales were made to the tenants. They were direct government obligations. Under the Treaty Ireland was to assume none of the government debt. The Irish Government, however, looked upon these land annuities as something apart from the regular government debt, and assumed responsibility for them and paid them because the income from the purchases of the land was, of course, going to the Irish Government.
Now, there is nothing to be said, I think, for the moral position of De Valera and the repudiation of the land annuities. A case of some force, but not a very convincing one, can be made for the legal position, and it may be the weakness of the legal case had something to do with the refusal of Great Britain to refer the matter to arbitration. In any event, the repudiation of land annuities by De Valera was immediately followed by the British Government putting on duties against Irish products--cattle, bacon and dairy products being principally affected.
In 1937, there was an election on the first of July when De Valera went to the country and returned with exactly one-half of the members--sixty-nine. On the appointment of a Speaker this left him a voting minority of one. He therefore became dependent upon the Labour Group. Cosgrave about held his own, strengthened slightly by the Labour Party which threatened his position substantially. The leader of the Labour Party is a violent, out-and-out Republican. His name is Norton, so De Valera was more or less dependent upon the Labour Group for continuing in office.
I arrived in Dublin just a few days after the election and there were still evidences of Irish wit, and various slogans still about the place. I remember, there was a candidate by the name of Ryan running in one of the Dublin consituencies. He was an extreme Leftist and in any country other than a Roman Catholic country he would have been called a Communist. There were big signs surrounding the constituency-traffic signs on the road--"Keep to the Left." Some supporters of his had gone out with a pot of white paint and had added the words, "Keep to the Left by Voting for Ryan."
There was another poster that I noticed. It was simply this, "Vote Finnegan" (?) He was the Cosgrave party candidate. De Valera's party had added on a lot of posters, "And thus Offend Ireland's Dead."
Mulcahay, a representative in one of the constituencies had gone to great expense painting a tremendous sign on the long stone wall, "Vote 1 for Mulcahay." His opponent had put two strokes on the 1, making it, "Vote 4, for Mulcahay."
De Valera's people had a slogan with the simple phrase, "Keep up the Work." The Labour people were also, of course, pressing for higher wages and added to a lot of posters the words, "And pay the Workmen."
However, there was a splendid good spirit, apparently, and every person took the changes in very good part. The issues in the election are hard to define. The Constitution was one. It was voted on at the time of the election and carried by a substantial, but not an overwhelming majority, and comes into force at the end of this year. The Constitution is a most peculiar document. It makes no mention of the Crown, whatever. The President, under the new Constitution has functions much the same gas our Governor-General. He doesn't derive in any way from the Crown but direct from .the people. On .the other hand, the word, "Republic" is not used in the Constitution, it is not mentioned in any place. There is a study, an attempt to make the Constitution appear to be something in the way of a religious document, .to constitute the Irish Free State as a Christian State. There is a clause in recognition of the fact that the vast majority of the people of Ireland belong to the Roman Catholic Church, that the special position of that Church in Ireland is recognized, but it then goes on to name the various Protestant denominations, to say they are also recognized. It goes on further to restrict the government from giving any endowments to religious institutions. It provides for non-discrimination in matters of education as between the Protestant and the Catholics, and after stating that .the special position of the Catholic Church is to be recognized, it very carefully makes it impossible to recognize any special position of that church in the State. Many Catholics were exceedingly annoyed and felt there was an element of deception in that part of the Constitution. And, I would say that it was, to a considerable extent an issue, but not nearly to the extent that was anticipated, and that really arises out of the Abdication crisis, a most unexpected development, so far as Mr. De Valera was concerned. There is no doubt, I think, that it had been his intention to go up and down the country, representing the Constitution to the people as constituting their Republic, the complete elimination of the Crown, but when the Abdication crisis came in December, he was faced with a very embarrassing situation. There was no way in which Ireland could carry on international dealings except by Ireland's King. The representatives of Ireland in the various capitals were there as the representatives of Ireland's King, consequently it was necessary for him to pass an Act, cared the External Relations Act, under which it was provided, so long as Ireland associated with the British Government group of nations it shall in international dealings carry on in the name of the King, on the advice of the Irish Parliament. Consequently, when it came to the election, Mr. De Valera could not present the Constitution, in effect establishing an Irish Republic because there was too easy a come-back, in that he had become the only Irish President who had ever passed legislation which had recognized the King.
I think that there was really relief on the part of many moderate people that the Constitution passed. I know a number of those I talked to, though not really in favour of the Constitution, voted for it because they feared what might take place in Ireland if it had been defeated. It was opposed on the platform chiefly on two grounds. One was that it really made possible a dictatorship under the new President. The other, it lowered the position of women in the state. The reading of the Constitution shows both of the objections quite unreal and not justified. Yet, it is significant there was no general opposition to the Constitution, on the part of those opposed to it, on the grounds it did constitute an unnecessary slap at the Crown and at Great Britain.
In other words, it doesn't seem to be politically expedient in Ireland for a politician to represent himself as being as cooperative in spirit as he is in fact.
Now, in addition to the Constitution the whole question of the British connection took some slight, but not important, part in the election. The major parties really didn't discuss it much at all; some of the labour candicenter around the well-known facts--to which they are so violently opposed--the occupation of Port Cork as a British naval base, and the definition of Irish status being that of Dominion status. This is really keenly felt by the Irish people from the left to the right. They look upon Ireland as being a mother country in the same sense that England and Scotland are mother countries, and feel rather hurt that their status should be defined in Dominion terms. The real issue on the part of the more thoughtful candidates was, of course, the economic issue. The result of the economic war' has really been quite disastrous for the Irish Free State. Prices on many commodities have gone up tremendously; even commodities produced at home, such as bacon, could be purchased considerably cheaper in London than in Dublin. So it is with butter. This really meant a subsidizing of the exports at the expense of the home consumer. Then, again, the artificial dressing for industrial development means articles of ordinary consumption are costing more, while the products of the farm, and of course Ireland is essentially agricultural, are bringing less money than they otherwise would.
You may wonder how, under the circumstances, De Valera did as well as he did in the last election. It seems the answer is, during the period of the economic war from 1933 to 1937, the price level of Ireland's exports-cattle, bacon and dairy products, has been steadily going up, consequently, the situation is not as bad as it was in 1933 and De Valera apparent has been able to deceive the people, to a considerable extent, as to the effect of the economic struggle, because their position is getting better. Many of them feel that De Valera is winning the battle for them.
Of course, personality plays a tremendous part in the Irish situation. De Valera himself, is a most intriguing person. Perhaps I might give you the estimates of two or three or four of his political opponents with whom I spoke. One of them for instance, said, "De Valera is like Gladstone, he is intensely religious, completely universal, supremely confident that he is right and frequently wrong." The next man I saw, also a political opponent, said, "He is so crooked he could hide behind a cork screw." Now, another gentleman, a devout Catholic, said, "De Valera is intensely Catholic, so long as it suits his political purposes." Another, again a political opponent said, "De Valera is the outstanding personality in Ireland today, by far the ablest and most astute politician and in many ways a constructive force." And that from a political opponent.
So, you have a wide variety of views. I would say, generally speaking, the inner ring of his opponents don't trust him. They think he is an opportunist of the worst order. This, perhaps, isn't surprising because it is not very long since they were literally trying to kill each other. As you get further away from the front rank of opposition, one feels, even among political opponents, here is a considerable element of pride in De Valera, and many are rather, proud of him as a great Irishman. Among his political supporters I think I am right in saying a number of those very closely associated with him rather feel he is something of a dictator, that his government is a one-man government, and that he does not recognize the ability of his colleagues as being as great as it is in fact. But his position is not in the least threatened because unquestionably he is outstandingly the most able and astute of the Irish leaders.
Cosgrave is a man with whom I was very favourably impressed. I spent an afternoon with him in his home, a few miles from Dublin. He impressed me as being a most sincere person, able, not outstandingly brilliant, kindly-I think one could trust him without any hesitation. His attitude toward the whole British problem is one of a keen desire for friendly co-operation. He has not, however, that outstanding personality that De Valera has and would not in any sense have the same ability of swaying the mob.
In General Mulcahay, I found another interesting person. He was a former member of the Cosgrave Government. During the War he was Chief-of-Staff, and notwithstanding the fact that the English had a price of £5,000 on his head for nearly two years he has retained no bitterness and again is striving for a mutually satisfactory adjustment.
Senator Gogarty is another rather dynamic personality--a leading surgeon in Dublin. He is a rather brilliant author and no doubt many of you have read his latest book, "As I bras Going Down Sackville Street." Recognized as one of Ireland's wits, he arose in the Senate a couple of years ago to make a violent attack upon the De Valera Ministry. Just as he arose the Minister leaped from his seat to leave the House and the Senator said, "Mr. Chairman, I am sorry the Minister is leaving. I have some pearls I wish to place before him."
I would say that in connection with the attitude toward Great Britain and the Commonwealth generally, the Irish people in the Free State may be roughly divided into four groups. The first group consists of those who are out and out Republicans and are determined to cut all connections with Great Britain. The second group consists of those that are dominated only by a desire to serve Ireland's interests, but who recognize that the underlying fundamental objectives of external policy, namely national security and economic welfare, can only be achieved by exceedingly close economic co-operation and some kind of political association with Great Britain; but because of an underlying dislike or the historical background the members are determined, if they possibly can, to have the joy of slapping England in the face in the working out of the settlement. The third group consists of those whose objectives are much the same as those in the second group but who have no desire whatever to embarrass England in working out a settlement and are quite willing to have and desire a mutually satisfactory arrangement. The fourth group consists of those who still retain in their minds Commonwealth solidarity as an end in itself, rather than as a means of serving Irish interests.
From my observations, I would say the groups on either side, groups one and four, constitute a small minority of opinion in .the Irish Free State and that the vast majority of the people belong in groups two and three. While De Valera and most of his followers call themselves Republicans, I am confident they really belong in group two, and are really anxious to work out some settlement in Ireland's interest, not for any larger purpose. Cosgrave and most of his followers unquestionably fall in group three.
There is a definite danger in the situation which exists now. Because of De Valera's dependence on the support of Norton it is not likely steps will be taken toward completion of a settlement at an early date. In the meantime I ,am rather afraid there may be a drift to the left. For one thing, as I said before, politicians do not express themselves frankly in public as being as much in favour of co-operation as they really are. Another thing is that so far as political strategy is concerned, I am afraid there will be a tendency on the part of Cosgrave and his leaders to try and steal voting strength from de Valera's right, with the idea that Cosgrave himself cannot lose any strength from his right because there is no place for those voters to go.
I put that up to Mr. Cosgrave as a danger. He says, "No, it is not a proper estimate of the situation," but I talked it over with Cosgrave's supporters and several of them admitted to me they thought there was real danger of that movement taking place.
I left Ireland with the impression, surprising as it may seem, that it would have been better, in the interests of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and Ireland itself, if De Valera had had a comfortable working majority as the result of the last election. My reason for saying that is this: If he had a working majority he would be able to work out his own policy and not be dependent upon any other group or party. If he had that there would be no substantial body of opinion to the left of him which would repudiate any settlement that he arrived at. What I would be afraid of is, if Cosgrave comes in and develops a new treaty with Great Britain, there is a definite rising of the left sections of opinion-that is, left of Cosgrave, which would include De Valera, again repudiating that and following the procedure after the 1921 treaty, creating great confusion and lack of stability. I think that view is shared to a considerable extent in England itself.
However, that didn't happen and we are faced with a position which almost surely is going to mean continued delay because initiative can't be taken by England and De Valera is in the position of being dependent upon Norton, the leader of the Labour Party, who is a violent Republican. I don't want to assume that all labour leaders are violent Republicans. I discussed the question with a man who is one of the ablest leaders of the Labour Party, Senator Johnston, and he told me he didn't think in the rank and file of the labour movement in the Commonwealth it was a question at all, that their interests are primarily economic. One thing is abundantly clear, all political leaders admitted that there could be no reverse to the Treaty of 1921. Many Irishmen would be quite content to do that but all were united in acknowledging that is a political impossibility and the settlement when it comes will have to be something in the way of a new Treaty. I think we may assume the union of the north and south of Ireland in our time will not be achieved. I don't think in itself it would make a settlement possible. I think there would probably have to be an entire restatement of the situation so far as naval ports are concerned, so as to change the psychology of that arrangement, making one where Britain is providing naval defence for Ireland, rather than getting privileges from Ireland, and in the economic realm there is a boundless field for the closest possible and mutually advantageous co-operation between the two countries.
Now, I have asked the question, "What next in Ireland?" and frankly I can't answer it. The situation is quite serious. There is no question it is a threat to the security of Great Britain. All I can say, Mr. Chairman, is if we want to make any contribution to the solution of the problem, it behooves us to try to gain sympathetic understanding of the aspirations of the Irish people, to recognize the long centuries of progress for which our ancestors were responsible and to try to develop an attitude in Canada which will make the Irish people feel that they want to continue to be associated with us as a nation in a British group. (Applause.) PRESIDENT: Dr. Tarr, in addressing us today you have fulfilled an added duty to the people of Canada and in thanking you most sincerely on behalf of the Empire Club of Canada and the radio audience, may I wish you and the Canadian Institute of International Afairs continued success.
The members of the Empire Club will please notice that owing to next Thursday being Armistice Day, our regular
meeting will be held on Tuesday.
The meeting is adjourned. (Applause.)