No surrender: Carson’s makes defiant speech during Ulster tour
Covenanter before Cabinet member
Belfast, 8 February 1918 - Sir Edward Carson, who recently resigned his seat in the British cabinet, has said that there will be no settlement in Ireland that involves a sacrifice on the part of Ulster unionists.
‘If by settlement people have in their minds surrender, well, then, there will be no settlement.’
Carson delivered his defiant message to a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Ulster Unionist Council in Belfast, which he addressed as part of his ongoing tour of Ulster.
Carson also explained his decision to resign from his position in the British war cabinet. There was no hidden reason for his departure and there was certainly no disagreement with his colleagues over any special scheme in relation to Ireland.
He was motivated by an acknowledgement of the problems that beset the Irish Convention. Should the Convention break down, it would inevitably raise questions as to what steps the government should take, which would create for him a conflict of interests. He explained:
‘Now, I felt that that was a position which put me in a grave difficulty... If I stayed in the Government I should have to be party to their considerations. So long as you are a member of the Government all your help should be given wholeheartedly to the policy which the Government may think right to adopt. On the other hand, in advising the Government I really was not free, because I had my pledges to observe. I am a Covenanter.’
Mr Carson also addressed the issue of conscription, remarking that Irish unionism had never opposed its extension to Ireland and that there was not a man in Ulster who would disagree that they should be treated the same was the rest of the UK.
He continued, saying that ‘one of the greatest mistakes that has been made in the government of Ireland during the last three years was applying different treatment to Ireland from the rest of the kingdom. What was gained by the exceptional treatment? There came the rebellion in Easter week. I am not going to dwell on it. Heaven knows the more we forget it the better.’
[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]