March 10, 2016

William Brodrick, Leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance, responds in the House of Lords to the Easter Rising

Viscount Midleton (William Brodrick), Leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance (1910-1919)

William O'Brien wrote about Lord Midleton in ‘The Irish Revolution and how it came about’ (1923), writing:
"Lord Midleton and the Irish nobles and country gentlemen, who were afterwards to follow him into the Anti-Partition League were not yet heard of."
He continued:
"It was an enterprise nobly worth "all the cost and the pain," for to the policy of "Conference, Conciliation, and Consent" is traceable the whole course of events which made Lord Midleton and his friends in the House of Lords fast friends of Home Rule, and brought Sir James Craig into friendly conference with Mr. Michael Collins, and Mr. Lloyd George into still friendlier conferences with "The Murder Gang," to whom he proffered the extremest form of Irish liberty short of a Republican name as well as substance."
On April 25 1916 the House of Lords responded to the Easter Rising which began the day before, April 24 1916. Viscount Midleton (William Brodrick), Leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance (1910–1919) rose and said:
"My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Marquess the Leader of the House whether he is in a position to give your Lordships any information as regards the grave occurrences in Ireland yesterday.
The Lord President of the Council (The Marquess of Crewe) said:
"My Lords, the only information that I am able to give is as follows. At noon yesterday grave disturbances broke out in Dublin. The Post Office was forcibly taken possession of and telegraphic communication was cut off. In the course of the day soldiers arrived from the Curragh and the situation is now well in hand, although as communication is still exceedingly difficult I am not now able to give the House further particulars."
Viscount Midleton said:
"I will ask a further question tomorrow on the noble Marquess’s statement."
Viscount Midleton (William Brodrick), Leader of the Irish Unionist Alliance (1910–1919) rose and said, April 26 1916:
"The previous day, at about twelve o’clock, some of the most important spaces in Dublin were occupied by the Sinn Fein organisation. Several officers and other persons were shot. The statement to which I have referred was made here at half-past four o’clock yesterday afternoon. So far as my information goes, at that hour not only were the rebels in possession of a variety of the most prominent spots in Dublin, but no attempt had been made to dislodge them. I do not know whether that is held to be a situation well in hand. It appears to me to be a situation well in hand on the part of the rebels, because His Majesty’s Government were not sufficiently provided with forces to deal with the insurrection. But that is not the only important point. Telegraphic communication has been almost entirely interrupted. The rebels, I understand, seized the Post Office, cut the wires, and, unless I am misinformed, also cut the cable connected with this country, so that a good deal of the news of what has passed has come by wireless. 
We were assured that the situation was excellent, and that no further trouble had arisen in other parts of the country. What we should like to be assured of is that, as this particular movement in Dublin came upon His Majesty’s Government as a bolt out of the blue, they have provided themselves with sufficient forces in other parts of the country to prevent the spread of this disorder or others arising from the same source—that is to say, from organised bodies of Sinn Feiners whom the Irish Government have ignored in other places as in Dublin during the past few months. I desire to distinguish in this matter between His Majesty’s Government and the Irish Government. I know that the members of the Cabinet have been so deeply engrossed with the very grave issues which have been before them in connection with the war that it is probable that a good deal of what I am going to say would not come before the whole Cabinet, but would be dealt with by the Irish Government. And by the Irish Government I mean more especially the member of the Irish Government who sits in the Cabinet, the Chief Secretary, because, obviously, the Lord 821 Lieutenant, who, I have no doubt, is doing all lie can to deal with the present emergency, has not the authority possessed by the Chief Secretary, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Crown in Ireland. 
Why has this business come upon the Government as a bolt out of the blue? I speak with some knowledge of what has occurred, and I do not think that the noble Marquess opposite will be able to deny a single one of the facts that I am going to state.  
In the first place, the Irish Government have been perfectly aware that not in Dublin alone large bodies of Sinn Feiners have existed, perfectly armed, perfectly equipped, and constantly drilled for some months past.  
Secondly, that they possessed explosives in considerable quantities. 
Thirdly, that they were well provided with money, the origin of which is well known to the Irish Government. Beyond this, the avowed purpose of the Sinn Fein organisation was set forth, week after week, by a variety of newspapers published in Dublin and elsewhere, which the Irish Government have allowed to continue without making any but the most feeble efforts to suppress them. The heads of this organisation are well known to the Irish Government, who, except in, I think, two instances, decided that they would not deal with them. 
We are tongue-tied by the war in regard to bringing forward matters in public which ordinarily would, naturally and properly, be brought before Parliament; but I ask you to accept my statement that every one of these points has been brought, not once, but constantly, and up to the most recent date, by the most influential persons possible, to flu notice of the Irish Government, with an urgent request that they should take authority from Parliament to deal wish them, if they had not sufficient authority already. Nothing has been left undone by interview or memoranda, or the giving of evidence so far as it was necessary, to induce the Irish Government to act. Yet they allowed parades of the Sinn Feiners to continue Sunday after Sunday; they allowed these newspapers to circulate; they allowed posters of the most seditious character, especially directed against recruiting, to be put up broadcast in a number of districts in Ireland. As recently as last week all these matters were brought before the Irish Government, with an intimation that if they did not deal with them quickly the opportunity might come too late… 
My case was that the Government had been repeatedly warned by most influential persons that if they did not take action against the heads of the Sinn Fein organisation they would have serious trouble. Those warnings were in the most unmistakable terms. Yet in the face of that, last Sunday fortnight the Government allowed a whole battalion of Sinn Feiners to parade and to go through a number of exercises armed with side arms, the officers carrying revolvers; whilst last Sunday week the same people were occupied in practising street-fighting in the streets of Dublin, without any interference by the Government."
Lord Charles Beresford said that Ireland had been smothered in disloyal literature for months.

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