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Ulster to be ‘hampered’ no more by the rest of Ireland, says Carson
Sir Edward Carson being shouldered by a Belfast crowd while on his tour of Ulster earlier in 1918 Photo: Manchester Guardian, History of War 1918. Full collection available in the National Library of Ireland

Ulster to be ‘hampered’ no more by the rest of Ireland, says Carson

Belfast, 16 November 1918 - Home Rule for Ireland is not on the horizon and the British government has no intention of coercing Ulster into a new constitutional arrangement, Sir Edward Carson told a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council yesterday.

The tone of Carson’s speech indicated a desire on his part for Ulster to be treated, by the British government, as a completely separate political entity than the rest of Ireland. A Belfast Newsletter editorial says that this signals a new policy on the part of Carson, one which it believes his supporters will heartily endorse:

‘There is a new spirit abroad which demands that a higher standard of living shall be maintained, and that parliament shall devote far more time than hitherto to legislation framed to promote the welfare of those who are commonly called the working classes. When the millions of soldiers who have fought and won the great battle for right and liberty are demobilised they will expect to be able to live in better conditions than those which existed before the war, and the government and the nation are looking forward to a period of great and beneficent activity in the new parliament. It would be intolerable if Ulster were excluded from the advantages of the measures of reconstruction, and it is to prevent this that its leader recommends to it a new and positive policy’.

Ulster was no longer prepared to be ‘hampered’ by a reluctant nationalist party in Westminster. Referring to the common practice of Ireland being excluded from legislation due to nationalist opposition, the Newsletter argues that this is a ‘bad system, and it must come to an end. If the Nationalists will not allow progressive legislation...they must not be permitted to exclude Ulster from it.’

In the course of his Belfast address to the Ulster Unionist Council, Sir Edward Carson mocked and rejected the nationalist demand for self-determination. ‘Self determination of whom and what? Self determination by the south and west of Ireland of the destinies of Ulster? Never!’, he declared to the cheers to his enthusiastic followers.

Prof. Alvin Jackson describes the way in which Sir Edward Carson's attitude to partition changed between 1910 and 1918

Carson’s return home
Edward Carson only returned to Ireland the day prior to delivering his address.

He arrived into Larne Harbour where he was met by cheering crowds and travelled onwards by train, where he was prevailed upon to make an impromptu speech in which he declared his happiness to be back in Ulster, and at such a happy time, when peace was secured.

On arrival at York Road Terminus in Belfast, which was bedecked with bunting and flags, there were further demonstrations of public support, the station and surrounding roads being filled by workers, holidaying in honour of the armistice, notable among them the shipyard workers.

Carson subsequently travelled in a horse-led procession which stopped on Royal Avenue where he thanked the people of Ulster for not forgetting him and, to cheers, he declared his delight to be among them to celebrate the ‘splendid victory of the British Empire and of Ulster. Our hearts are very full today, and we ought to be very grateful for the victory that we have won. We will go on. Up Ulster! No Home Rule.’

[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.]

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.