Law and order in Ireland

From The Call, paper of the British Socialist Party, March 7 1918

The continual delay in meeting the just demand of the Irish people for the right of self-government is creating a situation of the gravest nature in Ireland.

During the last few weeks there has been a serious revival in cattle-driving, accompanied by sporadic attempts by the people in some districts to take actual possession of their country. The journalists call it land-grabbing.

It is important to note that these evidences of the subjection of a small nation were exhibiting themselves while the Allied ‘socialist’ conference was drawing up the charter of liberty for the small nations subjected to the rule of the Entente countries. Nothing is contained in their memorandum on the freedom of Ireland.

It is interesting also to compare the present condition in Ireland with the lurid picture which our press has been painting of the conditions in Russia under Bolshevik rule as a warning to the workers against any attempt to interfere with the established order.

The governing class can only maintain law and order by peaceful means so long as the people agree to be subjected to them. But immediately there is any sign of dissent, law and order exhibits itself in force and violence, which is met by force and violence, resulting in disturbances and disorder. Thus we have the extension of martial law in Ireland, as ruthless as in Alsace-Lorraine or Poland. If the ruling class would agree to get off the backs of the people quietly, order would always be maintained.

Sinister rumours are afloat as to the origin of some of the disorderly incidents. The Sinn Fein organisations are repudiating them, and there are hints in the press that they are instigated by enemies of the convention. That the Irish people in the main have no faith in the results of the convention is pretty evident, but they have nothing to gain by wrecking it in this way. The blame cannot rest on that side.

That reactionaries deliberately provoke disorder in order to prevent reforms is no new thing. But such tactics usually recoil on the heads of those who are preventing the settlement of the Irish problem. In doing so it would establish some belief in the purity of its motives in dealing with the world problem.