Irish Party’s new leader sets out vision
Enniskillen, 18 March 1918 - The new leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Dillon, has delivered his first major public speech in which he set out his vision for the party and for the country.
Delivered in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh before a large crowd, many of whom had walked in procession to the town behind banner and bands, Mr Dillon declared that the first task for himself as leader ‘will be to tell England before the world that her statesmen must cease talk of a League of Nations, or pretend to carry on this war in defence of small nationalities unless she sets her own house in order, and sets free the nation which for more than 700 years has groaned under her misgovernment. That is the message, which I hope, with more or less united support from all Irish nationalists throughout the world, to convey to the Government of England.’
Mr Dillon had some very direct words of challenge to Sir Edward Carson, Unionist leader, who in recent speeches had voiced his scorn for the idea of a League of Nations as a possible solution to this war.
Referring to Mr Carson as ‘the apostle of discord’, Dillon remarked that he hoped that having surveyed the results unionist activism before the war, Carson would ‘shrink from standing up before the world now, and undertake to any that the liberty of mankind and the hopes of the world to be free from war in the future are as dust in the balance compared with his ideal of maintaining faction and religious differences in this country’.
The speech has been received in the press along predictable lines. An unimpressed Irish Independent has editorialised that it offered no more than the rehashing of ‘the old policy of blindly trusting British statesmen’. The Belfast Newsletter has viewed the speech as characteristic of Mr Dillon’s ‘arrogant domineering tone’ and a statement of intent that the Irish Party under his leadership was set to be ‘more anti-English’ than it was under his predecessor.
[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.]