Current History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 online

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made in the scheme for an extra representation of Ulster by direct

The majority of the Labor representatives associated themselves with
the Nationalists and Southern Unionists in building up the
Constitution, with the provisions of which they found themselves in
general agreement. They frankly objected, however, to the principle
of nomination and to what they regarded as the inadequate
representation of Labor in the upper house. Throughout our
proceedings they helped in every way toward the attainment of
agreement. Nor did they press their own special claims in such a
manner as to make more difficult the work, already difficult enough,
of agreeing upon a Constitution.

Knottiest Question in History

I trust I have said enough to enable the reader of this report and
the accompanying documents to form an accurate judgment upon the
nature and difficulties of the task before the convention and upon
its actual achievement. While, technically, it was our function to
draft a Constitution for our country, it would be more correct to
say that we had to find a way out of the most complex and anomalous
political situation to be found in history - I might almost say in
fiction. We are living under a system of government which survives
only because the act abolishing it cannot, consistently with
Ministerial pledges, be put into operation without further
legislation no less difficult and controversial than that which it
has to amend. While the responsibility for a solution to our problem
rests primarily with the Government, the convention found itself in
full accord with your insistence that the most hopeful path to a
settlement was to be found in Irish agreement. In seeking this - in
attempting to find a compromise which Ireland might accept and
Parliament pass into law - it has been recognized that the full
program of no party could be adopted. The convention was also bound
to give due weight to your opinion that to press for a settlement
at Westminster, during the war, of the question which, as I have
shown, had been a formidable obstacle to agreement would be to
imperil the prospect of the early establishment of self-government
in Ireland.

Notwithstanding the difficulties with which we were surrounded, a
larger measure of agreement has been reached upon the principle and
details of Irish self-government than has yet been attained. Is it
too much to hope that the scheme embodying this agreement will
forthwith be brought to fruition by those to whose call the Irish
Convention has now responded? I have the honor to be, Sir, your
obedient servant,

April 8, 1918.


The proposed scheme of Irish self-government referred to in Sir Horace
Plunkett's letter is set out below, the majorities by which each section
or subsection was carried being indicated in parentheses:

THE IRISH PARLIAMENT. (51 votes to 18.)

(1) The Irish Parliament to consist of the King, an Irish Senate,
and an Irish House of Commons.

(2) Notwithstanding the establishment of the Irish Parliament or
anything contained in the Government of Ireland act, the supreme
power and authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall
remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and
things in Ireland and every part thereof.

POWERS OF THE IRISH PARLIAMENT. The Irish Parliament to have the
general power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government
of Ireland, subject to the exclusions and restrictions specified in
3 and 4 below. (51 to 19.)

Parliament to have no power to make laws on the following matters:

(1) Crown and succession.

(2) Making of peace and war, (including conduct as neutrals.)

(3) The army and navy.

(4) Treaties and foreign relations, (including extradition.)

(5) Dignities and titles of honor.

(6) Any necessary control of harbors for naval and military
purposes, and certain powers as regards lighthouses, buoys, beacons,
cables, wireless terminals, to be settled with reference to the
requirements of the military and naval forces of his Majesty in
various contingencies. (41 to 13.)

(7) Coinage; legal tender; or any change in the standard of weights
and measures.

(8) Copyright or patent rights.

Governments shall jointly arrange, subject to imperial exigencies,
for the unified control of the Irish police and postal services
during the war, provided that as soon as possible after the
cessation of hostilities the administration of these two services
shall become automatically subject to the Irish Parliament. (37 to

COMPETENCE. (46 to 15.)

(1) Prohibition of laws interfering with religious equality. N.
B. - A subsection should be framed to annul any existing legal
penalty, disadvantage, or disability on account of religious belief.
Certain restrictions still remain under the act of 1829.

(2) Special provision protecting the position of Freemasons.

(3) Safeguard for Trinity College and Queen's University similar to
Section 42 of act.

(4) Money bills to be founded only on Vice-regal message.

(5) Privileges, qualifications, &c., of members of Irish Parliament
to be limited as in act.

(6) Rights of existing Irish officers to be safeguarded.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. Section 9 (4) of the act of 1914 to apply
to the House of Commons with the substitution of "ten years" for
"three years." The constitution of the Senate to be subject to
alteration after ten years, provided the bill is agreed to by
two-thirds of the total number of members of both houses sitting
together. (46 to 15.)

EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY. The executive power in Ireland to continue
vested in the King, but exercisable through the Lord Lieutenant on
the advice of an Irish Executive Committee in the manner set out in
act. (45 to 15.)

summoned, prorogued, and dissolved as set out in act. (45 to 15.)

ASSENT TO BILLS. Royal assent to be given or withheld as set out in
act with the substitution of "reservation" for "postponement." (45
to 15.)

CONSTITUTION OF THE SENATE. (48 votes to 19.) Lord Chancellor, 1;
four Archbishops or Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, 4; two
Archbishops or Bishops of the Church of Ireland, 2; a representative
of the General Assembly, 1; the Lord Mayors of Dublin, Belfast, and
Cork, 3; peers resident in Ireland, elected by peers resident in
Ireland, 15; nominated by Lord Lieutenant - Irish Privy Councilors of
at least two years' standing 4, representatives of learned
institutions 3, other persons 4; representatives of commerce and
industry, 15; representatives of labor, one for each province, 4;
representatives of County Councils, two for each province, 8 - 64.

On the disappearance of any nominated element in the House of
Commons an addition shall be made to the numbers of the Senate.


(1) The ordinary elected members of the House of Commons shall
number 160.

(2) The University of Dublin, the University of Belfast, and the
National University shall each return two members. The graduates of
each university shall form the constituency.

(3) Special representation shall be given to urban and industrial
areas by grouping the smaller towns and applying to them a lower
electoral quota than that applicable to the rest of the country.

(4) The principle of proportional representation, with the single
transferable vote, shall be observed wherever a constituency returns
three or more members. (47 to 22.)

(5) The convention accept the principle that 40 per cent. of the
membership of the House of Commons shall be guaranteed to Unionists.
In pursuance of this, they suggest that, for a period, there shall
be summoned to the Irish House of Commons twenty members nominated
by the Lord Lieutenant, with a view to the due representation of
interests not otherwise adequately represented in the provinces of
Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, and that twenty additional members
shall be elected by Ulster constituencies, to represent commercial,
industrial, and agricultural interests.

(6) The Lord Lieutenant's power of nomination shall be exercised
subject to any instructions that may be given by his Majesty the

(7) The nominated members shall disappear in whole or in part after
fifteen years, and not earlier, notwithstanding anything contained
in Clause 5.

(8) The extra representation in Ulster not to cease except on an
adverse decision by a three-fourths majority of both houses sitting
together. (27 to 20.)

(9) The House of Commons shall continue for five years unless
previously dissolved.

(10) Nominated members shall vacate their seats on a dissolution but
shall be eligible for renomination. Any vacancy among the nominated
members shall be filled by nomination.

MONEY BILLS. (45 to 22.)

(1) Money bills to originate only in the House of Commons, and not
to be amended by the Senate. (Act, Section 10.)

(2) The Senate is, however, to have power to bring about a joint
sitting over money bills in the same session of Parliament.

(3) The Senate to have power to suggest amendments, which the House
of Commons may accept or reject as it pleases.

DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN HOUSES. Disagreements between the two houses to
be solved by joint sittings as set out in act, with the proviso that
if the Senate fail to pass a money bill such joint sitting shall be
held in the same session of Parliament. (45 to 22.)


(1) Representation in Parliament of the United Kingdom to continue.
Irish representatives to have the right of deliberating and voting
on all matters.

(2) Forty-two Irish representatives shall be elected to the Commons
House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the following

A panel shall be formed in each of the four provinces of Ireland,
consisting of the members for that province in the Irish House of
Commons, and one other panel shall be formed consisting of members
nominated to the Irish House of Commons. The number of
representatives to be elected to the Commons House of the Imperial
Parliament shall be proportionate to the numbers of each panel and
the election shall be on the principle of proportional
representation. (42 to 24.)

(3) The Irish representation in the House of Lords shall continue as
at present unless and until that chamber be remodeled, when the
matter shall be reconsidered by the Imperial and Irish Parliaments.
(44 to 22.)

FINANCE. (51 to 18.)

(1) An Irish Exchequer and Consolidated Fund to be established and
an Irish Controller and Auditor General to be appointed as set out
in act.

(2) If necessary, it should be declared that all taxes at present
leviable in Ireland should continue to be levied and collected until
the Irish Parliament otherwise decides.

(3) The necessary adjustments of revenue as between Great Britain
and Ireland during the transition period should be made.


(1) The control of customs and excise by an Irish Parliament is to
be postponed for further consideration until after the war, provided
that the question of such control shall be considered and decided by
the Parliament of the United Kingdom within seven years after the
conclusion of peace. For the purpose of deciding in the Parliament
of the United Kingdom the question of the future control of Irish
customs and excise, a number of Irish representatives proportioned
to the population of Ireland shall be called to the Parliament of
the United Kingdom. (38 to 34.)

(2) On the creation of an Irish Parliament, and until the question
of the ultimate control of the Irish customs and excise services
shall have been decided, the Board of Customs and Excise of the
United Kingdom shall include a person or persons nominated by the
Irish Treasury. (39 to 33.)

(3) A Joint Exchequer Board, consisting of two members nominated by
the Imperial Treasury, and two members nominated by the Irish
Treasury, with a Chairman appointed by the King, shall be set up to
secure the determination of the true income of Ireland. (39 to 33.)

(4) Until the question of the ultimate control of the Irish customs
and excise services shall have been decided, the revenue due to
Ireland from customs and excise, as determined by the Joint
Exchequer Board, shall be paid into the Irish Exchequer. (38 to 30.)

(5) All branches of taxation, other than customs and excise, shall
be under the control of the Irish Parliament. (38 to 30.)

IMPERIAL CONTRIBUTION. The principle of such a contribution is
approved. (Unanimously.)

LAND PURCHASE. The convention accept the recommendations of the
Sub-Committee on Land Purchase. (Unanimously.)

JUDICIAL POWER. (43 to 17.) The following provisions of the
Government of Ireland act to be adopted:

(_a_) Safeguarding position of existing Irish Judges.

(_b_) Leaving appointment of future Judges to the Irish Government
and their removal to the Crown on address from both houses of

(_c_) Transferring appeals from the House of Lords to the Judicial
Committee, strengthened by Irish Judges.

(_d_) Extending right of appeal to this court.

(_e_) Provision as to reference of questions of validity to Judicial

The Lord Chancellor is not to be a political officer.

LORD LIEUTENANT. The Lord Lieutenant is not to be a political
officer. He shall hold office for six years, and neither he nor the
Lords Justices shall be subject to any religious disqualification.
His salary shall be sufficient to throw the post open to men of
moderate means. (43 to 17.)

CIVIL SERVICE. (42 to 18.)

(1) There shall be a Civil Service Commission consisting of
representatives of Irish universities which shall formulate a scheme
of competitive examinations for admission to the public service,
including statutory administrative bodies, and no person shall be
admitted to such service unless he holds the certificate of the
Civil Service Commission.

(2) A scheme of appointments in the public service, with
recommendations as to scales of salary for the same, shall be
prepared by a commission consisting of an independent Chairman of
outstanding position in Irish public life, and two colleagues, one
of whom shall represent Unionist interests.

(3) No appointments to positions shall be made before the scheme of
this commission has been approved.


Arrangements to be made to permit the Irish Government, if they so
desire, to defer taking over the services relating to Old-Age
Pensions, National Insurance, Labor Exchanges, Post Office Trustee
Savings Banks, and Friendly Societies. (43 to 18.)

The final division on the question of the adoption of the report as a
whole was as follows:

FOR (44)

E. H. Andrews
M. K. Barry
J. Bolger
W. Broderick
J. Butler
J. J. Clancy
J. J. Coen
D. Condren
P. Dempsey
Earl of Desart
J. Dooly
Captain Doran
Archbishop of Dublin
Lord Mayor of Dublin
T. Fallon
J. Fitzgibbon
Sir W. Goulding
M. Governey
Earl of Granard
Captain Gwynn
T. Halligan
A. Jameson
W. Kavanagh
Alderman McCarron
M. McDonogh
J. McDonnell
C. McKay
A. R. MacMullen
Viscount Midleton
J. Murphy
J. O'Dowd
C. P. O'Neill
Lord Oranmore and Browne
Dr. O'Sullivan
J. B. Powell
T. Power
Provost of Trinity College
Sir S. B. Quin
D. Reilly
M. Slattery
G. F. Stewart
R. Waugh
H. T. Whitley
Sir B. Windle


Duke of Abercorn
Sir R. N. Anderson
H. B. Armstrong
H. T. Barrie
Lord Mayor of Belfast
Archbishop of Cashel
Sir G. Clark
Colonel J. J. Clark
Lord Mayor of Cork
Colonel Sharman-Crawford
Bishop of Down and Connor
T. Duggan
H. Garahan
J. Hanna
M. E. Knight
Marquis of Londonderry
J. S. McCance
Sir C. McCullagh
J. McGarry
H. G. MacGeagh
J. McHugh
Moderator General Assembly
W. M. Murphy
P. O'H. Peters
H. M. Pollock
Bishop of Raphoe
T. Toal
Colonel Wallace
Sir W. Whitla


Nineteen Ulster Unionists signed a dissenting report in which they
declared that it had soon become evident to them that no real approach
to agreement was possible, as the Nationalists put it beyond doubt that
what they wanted was "full national independence," or a Parliament
possessing co-equal powers with those of the Imperial Parliament. If the
Ulster Unionists had anticipated this at the outset, their report
explained, they "could not have agreed to enter the convention."
Objection was taken to the Nationalist scheme, which aimed at denying
the right of the Imperial Parliament to impose military service in
Ireland "unless with the consent of the proposed Irish Parliament."

Dr. Mahaffy, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and the Archbishop of
Armagh, in a separate note, stated that they found it impossible to vote
for the majority proposals, since these involved, in their opinion,
either the coercion of Ulster, which was unthinkable, or the partition
of Ireland, which would be disastrous.

Twenty-two Nationalists, including Joseph Devlin, M. P., the Archbishop
of Cashel, the Bishop of Raphoe, the Bishop of Down and Connor, and the
Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork, signed a report favoring a subordinate
Irish Parliament with immediate full powers of taxation.

The majority of the Nationalists also signed a note explaining that for
the sake of reaching an agreement with the Unionists they did not press
their claim for full fiscal autonomy.

The Southern Unionists, who for "high considerations of allied and
imperial interests" signed the majority report, also added a note. They
insisted that all imperial questions and services, including the levying
of customs duties, be left in the hands of the Parliament of the United
Kingdom; that Ireland send representatives to Westminster; and that the
whole of Ireland participate in any Irish Parliament.


Apart from the main question whether an Irish Parliament with an
Executive responsible to it should be established, debate chiefly
centred on the question of fiscal autonomy. By January, 1918, it became
apparent that on the financial issue there were three clearly defined
bodies of opinion:

First - The Ulster Unionists favoring the maintenance of the fiscal unity
of the United Kingdom;

Second - A section of Nationalists insisting upon complete fiscal
autonomy for Ireland;

Third - The Southern Unionists, supported by other Nationalists, and the
majority of the Labor representatives, favoring a compromise which left
to Ireland the proceeds of all sources of revenue and the imposition of
all taxes other than customs.

It was to overcome these and other differences that Premier Lloyd George
invited representatives of the convention to London to confer with the
Cabinet. The Premier's letter, dated Feb. 25, 1918, is published in the
report. It discloses the fact that some of the Nationalists had been
willing to set up an Ulster Committee in the Irish Parliament to veto
the application of certain legislation to that province, to make Belfast
the headquarters of the Irish Ministry of Commerce, and to let the Irish
Parliament meet alternately in Dublin and Belfast.


Dealing with "the difficult question of customs and excise," Lloyd
George wrote:

The Government are aware of the serious objections which can be
raised against the transfer of these services to an Irish
Legislature. It would be practically impossible to make such a
disturbance of the fiscal and financial relations of Great Britain
and Ireland in the midst of a great war. It might also be
incompatible with that federal reorganization of the United Kingdom
in favor of which there is a growing body of opinion. On the other
hand, the Government recognize the strong claim that can be made
that an Irish Legislature should have some control over indirect
taxation as the only form of taxation which touches the great
majority of the people, and which in the past has represented the
greater part of Irish revenue.

The Government feel that this is a matter which cannot be finally
settled at the present time. They therefore suggest for the
consideration of the convention that, during the period of the war
and for a period of two years thereafter, the control of customs and
excise should be reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament; that, as
soon as possible after the Irish Parliament has been established, a
Joint Exchequer Board should be set up to secure the determination
of the true revenue of Ireland - a provision which is essential to a
system of responsible Irish government - and to the making of a
national balance sheet, and that, at the end of the war, a royal
commission should be established to re-examine impartially and
thoroughly the financial relations of Great Britain and Ireland, to
report on the contribution of Ireland to imperial expenditure, and
to submit proposals as to the best means of adjusting the economic
and fiscal relations of the two countries.

The Government consider that during the period of the war the
control of all taxation other than customs and excise could be
handed over to the Irish Parliament; that for the period of the war
and two years thereafter an agreed proportion of the annual imperial
expenditure should be fixed as the Irish contribution; and that all
Irish revenue from customs and excise as determined by the Joint
Exchequer Board, after deduction of the agreed Irish contribution to
imperial expenditure, should be paid into the Irish Exchequer. For
administrative reasons, during the period of the war it is necessary
that the police should remain under imperial control, and it seems
to the Government to be desirable that for the same period the
postal service should be a reserved service.


The announcement of the British Government's twofold plan of home rule
and conscription for Ireland caused an outpouring of protests from the
whole of the Nationalist population. Preparations for resistance were
begun, a great anti-conscription fund was opened, resolutions from
public bodies began pouring in, and the Sinn Fein clubs renewed their

The most striking feature of the opposition to conscription was that it
welded together all the Irish elements represented by the Nationalist
Party, the Independent Home Rulers, led by William O'Brien and Timothy
Healy; the Sinn Fein, and the Labor organizations, which in recent years
had not been very friendly to the Nationalists. Representatives of all
these parties were present at a conference in Dublin, held, under the
Chairmanship of the Lord Mayor, on April 18. The Catholic Bishops, at a
meeting in Maynooth the same day, adopted a declaration against
conscription. This meeting was attended by five representatives from the
Dublin conference - John Dillon, Edward de Valere, Timothy Healy, a Labor
delegate, and the Lord Mayor of Dublin.

A majority of the Nationalist members of the House of Commons decided
to abstain from attendance in Parliament during the crisis, thus
adopting the attitude of the Sinn Feiners who were elected to the House
but have never attended. Fifty-five of the Nationalist members met in

Online LibraryVariousCurrent History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 → online text (page 21 of 30)