Courtesy Reuters

Ireland Since the Treaty

LONG before the first ten years of the Irish Free State's existence were over, those who had prophesied a demonstration of unfitness for self-government were reduced to rueful silence; even old nationalists were amazed by the swiftness with which a handful of inexperienced young men evolved order out of chaos. Within the last two years all this has changed; the prophets of evil are chuckling "we told you so;" many nationalists are discouraged; while friendly lookers-on exchange the tone of admiration for one of sympathy. I shall attempt to explain so brusque a relapse after so remarkable a recovery.

Ireland attained self-government after a revolution prolonged over a century, and carried out stage by stage against the resistance of a great power. To have the revolutionary temper ingrained through generations is the worst conceivable preparation for using that freedom which is the goal of revolution. Yet at each stage revolution justified itself by concessions obtained: equal rights before the law for Catholics; ending of the landlords' absolutism; and finally, autonomy. The British electorate and House of Commons had conceded autonomy before August 1914; nothing remained but the resistance of the House of Lords, and that would have been withdrawn at once had we been content to accept Home Rule for 26 counties. What were called constitutional methods -- as practised by O'Connell, Parnell and Redmond -- had succeeded as against the methods of the Secret Society. Yet Ireland had never wholly shaken off faith in violence and in the end it was by the methods of the Secret Society and guerilla warfare that much better terms were attained in the Treaty than ever offered to the Constitutionalists.

Yet once more England was offering a compromise: for Ireland's demand had risen to complete independence and a Republic. Or rather, this was the demand of the Secret Society, which had acquired the title to speak for Ireland. It was, like all violent revolutions, a minority movement, which owing to the character of the struggle acquired

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