Nothing will derail Home Rule for Ireland
Prime Minister rules out compromise over Ulster
Speaking today in Scotland, Mr. Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, made plain his government’s determination to introduce Home Rule for Ireland in the coming year.
Mr. Asquith was unequivocal in his response to threats of armed resistance from the north-east of the country: ‘We need not, and shall not, be intimidated by the threat of force. I have more than once expressed the belief that the new system of government in Ireland will be brought into operation without any recourse to the armed forces of the crown.’
He continued: ‘But, if a statute deliberately enacted by parliament were to be met by organised and armed resistance, it would clearly be not only the right but the duty of the executive to assert the authority of the law by every appropriate and adequate means.’
Mr. Asquith noted the opposition to Home Rule was obviously genuine and deep-seated, and was rooted in historical, racial, religious, social and economic forces. Nonetheless, he said, ‘the ties which bind Irishmen together will, I firmly believe, in the long run be far more durable and effective than the differences which seem to keep them apart.’
To this end, Mr. Asquith appeared to rule out the proposal that a formal conference should be held between party leaders: ‘A conference would in all probability leave matters worse than it found them, and tend to defeat more than promote any hope of settlement.’
To prolonged cheering from the crowd of 500 Liberal Party members who had gathered to hear the Prime Minister speak in his home constituency of Ladybank, Mr. Asquith confirmed that his government would be proceeding with the introduction of Home Rule for Ireland.
Reaction to the speech has been mixed. Although nationalist newspapers welcomed Mr. Asquith’s pledges in respect of Home Rule, the unionist Belfast News-Letter has offered a trenchant critique: ‘The effect is to put an end to all the talk of conference and compromise. There is therefore nothing for it but a straight fight against the passing of the Home Rule Bill.’
The Northern Whig was equally blunt in its rejection of the speech: ‘If Mr. Asquith thinks he will terrorise us he is making a great mistake.’