On Friday 27 September 1914 the West Limerick Executive of the United Irish League held a meeting at the Carnegie Hall in Rathkeale, Co. Limerick. The meeting dealt with some cases of evicted tenants before the President of the Executive, Rev. Fitzgerald, made a remarkable speech that denounced both John Redmond‘s call for the Irish Volunteers to join the British Army and the entire plausibility of the effective enactment of Home Rule. What follows is a transcription of his speech that was recorded in the Limerick Leader on the 30th September 1914, and I’ve changed it from third person (as reported) to first person with edits.
I suppose the present state of affairs in the political arena called for a few words…the opinions I am about to express are my own – I do not think that they will coincide with those of the other members present. However, at this meeting we are all free lances and every man is entitled to speak out his own mind. The vital question before us at present- a question which we had so often discussed at previous meetings of the Executive – was the attainment of our National rights, which meant the opening of a native Parliament in Dublin. As we are all aware the Home Rule Bill had received the Royal Assent and had been placed on the Statute Book of England.
That, of course, would be all very fine and would meet with the desires of the Irish race, for, although the Home Rule Bill was not up to our expectations, at the same time it gave us substantially what we had been looking for. But there was a danger in the whole situation, and the danger was the Amending Bill. Of course the situation would not be all bad if we only knew what the Amending Bill was, but we did not know, and, perhaps, it might tear the original Bill to shreds. What they did know was from statements that had been made by prominent Ministers of the Government, and by members of the Opposition Party. Carson and his crowd declared that they would not have Home Rule at all, and, on the other hand, Mr. Asquith and other members of the Government, said they would not force the Bill by force of arms on Ulster, or coerce that province into submission to the Act.
There was nothing to be enthusiastic about in the Bill as it stood, and it seemed as if the battle which they had been fighting was indeed far from being won, for it was quite possible that Home Rule, as it stood, might not be worth the paper it was written on. However, I earnestly hope it would be otherwise, and, I dare say, other people would view it in an entirely different light and be more optimistic about it than I am.
The other question I would like to refer to was the recent manifesto issued by Mr. Redmond calling on Irishmen to join the English army and fight England’s battle. To speak out honestly and sincerely, I never got such a surprise in my life as I did when I read that manifesto, and I never believed that Mr. Redmond or any member of the Irish Party would so degrade himself as to act as a recruiting sergeant for the English Government. All the talk about the Germans going to invade Ireland was done for recruiting purposes. If England wanted to keep Ireland let her keep it. The history of England in this country was written in blood, and we need not go back centuries to be reminded of it. We saw what occurred in the streets of Dublin a few weeks ago, and what England did then she would do at any time. They heard of the atrocities of the Germans, but they were not at all equal to the atrocities of England in this country.
The present war was not Ireland’s war, and if England is so anxious to protect the rights of small nations let her commence with Ireland. I am not pro-German, but I trust the young men of the country will not join England’s army to fight England’s battle on the Continent. We never got anything out of England by soft soap and palaver. Whatever we got, it was [through] fighting for it, and in my opinion, the more manly and the more independent course for Ireland to adopt would be to stand up to England.