‘Ulster will not fight’, John Dillon tells Bristol demonstration
‘We will not tolerate any system in Ireland based upon the rule of a minority who hate and despise the majority of their countrymen’, John Dillon told a crowd in Bristol. The Irish Party MP is pictured here as a much younger man in the early 1880s Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

‘Ulster will not fight’, John Dillon tells Bristol demonstration

Irish Party MP also pays tribute to Augustine Birrell’s work for Ireland

Published: 28 June 1913

Mr. John Dillon, the Irish Parliamentary Party MP for East Mayo, last night told a Home Rule demonstration in Bristol that Ulster will not fight to oppose Home Rule because Irish nationalists ‘do not intend to interfere with her or give her any excuse to fight’. Dillon affirmed his belief in the commonsense of the English people and said they were ‘now convinced by our struggle in Parliament that we are fit to govern Ireland and to manage our own affairs, and in spite of the bullying and threats of Ulster I believe Great Britain will grant us freedom.'

To applause, Dillon remarked that Irish nationalists were only interested in liberty and equality and that Ulstermen who hated Home Rule and equality were living in the seventeenth century, not in the twentieth. ‘I say to these men’, he added, ‘that we will not tolerate any system in Ireland based upon the rule of a minority who hate and despise the majority of their countrymen.’

The rally follows close on the heels of a similar event in the city at which Sir Edward Carson tried up to whip up support for the unionist cause. And while it was towards Carson that Mr Dillon directed his principal criticism, he was equally scathing in his comments on Tory Party leader, Andrew Bonar Law. He accused Mr. Bonar Law of ‘winding up the debate on Home Rule’ with a recent speech in which he remarked that if the Irish people would agree among themselves and come to the Government with an agreed measure of Home Rule, that the Unionist party would accept it.

In contrast, Mr Dillon praised Augustine Birrell for doing more good for Ireland than any Chief Secretary since the Act of Union.

Augustine Birrell, who John Dillon MP has praised for doing more good for Ireland than any Chief Secretary since the Act of Union (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA)

Birrell, who was in attendance, also spoke in support of a Home Rule movement which, he stressed, encompassed everyone: young men and maidens to farmers, labourers, merchants, shopkeepers, pupils, teachers, professors, students, priests.  Unlike the Ulster unionists, he added, ‘Its direction is not civil war. It is not separation. It is union and it is friendship’.

The Bristol demonstration, held at Colston Hall, was attended by almost 4,000 people, who were entertained with a number of Irish airs played on an organ before the principal speakers arrived on the platform. When they did, they were greeted with loud cheers and the waving of hats and handkerchiefs. The only note of disharmony on the night was struck during Augustine Birrell’s when there were repeated interruptions by suffragette protestors, male and female, who shouted slogans from the gallery. ‘Why don’t you speak about votes for women?’ yelled one, while another shouted ‘You are torturing women’.

The night ended, however, with crowds outside Colston Hall cheering as Mr. Birrell and Mr. Dillon were driven away.

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