July 9, 2015

Constans de Markievics against the ‘treaty’

Dáil Eireann Debate on the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, signed in London on the 6th December 1921, ratified by the Dáil on the 7th January 1922, 64-57: Sessions 14th December 1921 to 10th January 1922.

Tuesday, the 3rd January, 1922:

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: […] And what do the Southern Unionists stand for? You will all allow they stand for two things. First and foremost as the people who, in Southern Ireland, have been the English garrison against Ireland and the rights of Ireland. But in Ireland they stand for something bigger still and worse, something more malignant; for that class of capitalists who have been more crushing, cruel and grinding on the people of the nation than any class of capitalists of whom I ever read in any other country, while the people were dying on the roadsides. They are the people who have combined together against the workers of Ireland, who have used the English soldiers, the English police, and every institution in the country to ruin the farmer, and more especially the small farmer, and to send the people of Ireland to drift in the emigrant ships and to die of horrible disease or to sink to the bottom of the Atlantic. And these anti-Irish Irishmen are to be given some select way of entering this House, some select privileges – privileges that they have earned by their cruelty to the Irish people and to the working classes of Ireland, and not only that, but they are to be consulted as to how the Upper House is to be constituted. As a Republican who means that the Republic means Government by the consent of the people [hear, hear]. I object to any Government of that sort whereby a privileged number of classes established here by British rule are to be given a say – to this small minority of traitors and oppressors – in the form of an Upper Chamber as against all, I might say, modern ideas of common sense, of the people who wish to build up a prosperous, contented nation. But looking as I do for the prosperity of the many, for the happiness and content of the workers, for what I stand, James Connolly’s ideal of a Workers’ Republic—

A DEPUTY: Soviet Republic.

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: —co-operative commonwealth, these men who have opposed everything are to be elected and upheld by our plenipotentiaries; and I suppose they are to be the Free State, or the Cheap State Army, or whatever selection these men are, to be set up to uphold English interests in Ireland, to uphold the capitalists’ interests in Ireland, to block every ideal that the nation may wish to formulate; to block the teaching of Irish, to block the education of the poorer classes; to block, in fact, every bit of progress that every man and woman in Ireland to-day amongst working people desire to see put into force. That is one of the biggest blots on this Treaty; this deliberate attempt to set up a privileged class in this, what they call a Free State, that is not free. I would like the people here who represent the workers to take that into consideration – to say to themselves what can the working people expect in an Ireland that is being run by men who, at the time of the Treaty, are willing to guarantee this sort of privilege to a class that every thinking man and woman in Ireland despises.


Now, personally, I being an honourable woman, would sooner die than give a declaration of fidelity to King George or the British Empire. I saw a picture the other day of India, Ireland and Egypt fighting England, and Ireland crawling out with her hands up. Do you like that? I don’t. Now, if we pledge ourselves to this oath we pledge our allegiance to this thing, whether you call it Empire or Commonwealth of Nations, that is treading down the people of Egypt and of India. And in Ireland this Treaty, as they call it, mar dheadh, that is to be ratified by a Home Rule Bill, binds us to stand by and enter no protest while England crushes Egypt and India. And mind you, England wants peace in Ireland to bring her troops over to India and Egypt. She wants the Republican Army to be turned into a Free State Army, and mind, the army is centred in the King or the representative of the King. He is the head of the army. The army is to hold itself faithful to the Commonwealth of Nations while the Commonwealth sends its Black-and-Tans to India. Of course you may want to send the Black-and-Tans out of this country. Now mind you, there are people in Ireland who were not afraid to face them before, and I believe would not be afraid to face them again. You are here labouring under a mistake if you believe that England, for the first time in her life, is treating you honourably. Now I believe, and we are against the Treaty believing, that England is being more dishonourable and acting in a cleverer way than she ever did before, because I believe we never sent cleverer men over than we sent this time, yet they have been tricked. Now you all know me, you know that my people came over here in Henry VIII.’s time, and by that bad black drop of English blood in me I know the English – that’s the truth. I say it is because of that black drop in me that I know the English personally better perhaps than the people who went over on the delegation. [Laughter].

A DEPUTY: Why didn’t you go over?

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: Why didn’t you send me? I tell you, don’t trust the English with gifts in their hands. That’s not original, someone said it before of the Greeks – but it is true. The English come to you to-day offering you great gifts; I tell you this, those gifts are not genuine. I tell you, you will come out of this a defeated nation. No one ever got the benefits of the promises the English made them. It seems absurd to talk to the Irish people about trusting the English, but you know how the O’Neills and the O’Donnells went over and always came back with the promises and guarantees that their lands would be left them and that their religion would not be touched. What is England’s record? It was self aggrandisement and Empire. You will notice how does she work – by a change of names. They subjugated Wales by giving them a Prince of Wales, and now they want to subjugate Ireland by a Free State Parliament and a Governor General at the head of it. I could tell you something about Governor-Generals and people of that sort. You can’t have a Governor-General without the Union Jack, and a suite, and general household and other sort of official running in a large way. The interests of England are the interests of the capitalistic class. Your Governor-General is the centre for your Southern Unionists, for whom Mr. Griffith has been so obliging. He is the centre from which the anti-Irish ideals will go through Ireland, and English ideals will come: love of luxury, love of wealth, love of competition, trample on your neighbours to get to the top, immorality and divorce laws of the English nation. All these things you will find centred in this Governor-General. I heard there was a suggestion – there was a brother of the King’s or the Queen’s suggested as Governor-General, and I heard also that this Lascelles was going to be Governor. I also heard that there is a suggestion that Princess Mary’s wedding is to be broken off, and that the Princess Mary is to be married to Michael Collins who will be appointed first Governor of our Saorstát na hEirennn. All these are mere nonsense. You will find that the English people, the rank and file of the common people will all take it that we are entering their Empire and that we are going to help them. All the people who are in favour of it here claim it to be a step towards Irish freedom, claim it to be nothing but allegiance to the Free State. Now what will the world think of it? What the world thinks of it is this: Ireland has long been held up to the scorn of the world through the British Press. According to that Press Ireland is a nation that lay down, that never protested. The people in other countries have scorned us. So Ireland can bear to be scorned again, even if she takes the oath that pledges her support to the Commonwealth of Nations. But I say, what do Irishmen think in their own hearts? Can any Irishman take that oath honourably and then go back and prepare to fight for an Irish Republic or even to work for the Republic? It is like a person going to get married plotting a divorce. I would make a Treaty with England once Ireland was free, and I would stand with President de Valera in this, that if Ireland were a free Republic I would welcome the King of England over here on a visit. But while Ireland is not free I remain a rebel unconverted and unconvertible. There is no word strong enough for it. I am pledged as a rebel, an unconvertible rebel, because I am pledged to the one thing – a free and independent Republic. Now we have been sneered at for being Republicans by even men who fought for the Republic. We have been told that we didn’t know what we meant. Now I know what I mean – a state run by the Irish people for the people. That means a Government that looks after the rights of the people before the rights of property. And I don’t wish under the Saorstát to anticipate that the directors of this and the capitalists’ interests are to be at the head of it. My idea is the Workers’ Republic for which Connolly died. And I say that that is one of the things that England wishes to prevent. She would sooner give us Home Rule than a democratic Republic. It is the capitalists’ interests in England and Ireland that are pushing this Treaty to block the march of the working people in England and Ireland. Now, we were offered a Treaty in the first place because England was in a tight place. She wanted her troops for more dirty work elsewhere. Because Dáil Eireann was too democratic, because her Law courts were too just, because the will of the people was being done, and justice was being done, and the well being of the people was considered, the whole people were behind us. You talk very glibly about England evacuating the country. Has anybody questioned that? How long did it take her to evacuate Egypt? What guarantee have we that England will do more than begin to evacuate Ireland directly the Treaty has been ratified? She will begin to evacuate, I have no doubt; she will send a certain number of troops to her other war fronts. Now there is one Deputy – not more than one, I hope – who charged that we rattled the bones of the dead. I must protest about the phrase of rattling the bones of our dead. Now I would like to ask where would Ireland stand without the noble dead? I would like to ask can any of you remember, as I can, the first time you read Robert Emmet’s speech from the dock? Yes, it is all very well for those who now talk Dominion Home Rule to try to be scornful of the phrases – voices of men from the grave, who call on us to die for the cause they died for. I don’t think it is fair to say what dead men might say if they had been here to-day. What I do think fair is to read the messages they left behind them, and to mould our lives with them. James Connolly said, the last time I heard him speak – he spoke to me and to others – a few phrases that very much sum up the situation to-day. It was just before Easter Week in 1916. We had heard the news that certain people had called off the Rising. One man wishing to excuse them, to exonerate them, said: ‘So and so does not care to take the responsibility of letting people go to their death when there is so little chance of victory’. ‘Oh’, said Connolly, ‘there is only one sort of responsibility I am afraid of and that is preventing the men and women of Ireland fighting and dying for Ireland if they are so minded’. That was almost the last word that was said to me by a man who died for Ireland, a man who was my Commandant, and I have always thought of that since, and I have always felt that was a message which I had to deliver to the people of Ireland. We hear a great deal of the renewal of warfare. I am of quite a pacific mind. I don’t like to kill. I don’t like death, but I am not afraid to die and, not being afraid to die myself, I don’t see why I should say that I should take it for granted that the Irish people were not as ready to die now in this year 1922, any more than they were afraid in the past. I fear dishonour; I don’t fear destiny and I feel at all events that death is preferable to dishonour, and sooner than see the people of Ireland take that oath meaning to build up your Republic on a lie, I would sooner say to the people of Ireland: ‘Stand by me and fight to the death’. I think that a real Treaty between a free Ireland and a free England – with Ireland standing as a free sovereign state – I believe it would be possible to get that now; but even if it were impossible, I myself would stand for what is noblest and what is truest. That is the thing that to me I can grasp in my nature. I have seen the stars, and I am not going to follow a flickering will-o’-the-wisp, and I am not going to follow any person juggling with constitutions and introducing petty tricky ways into this Republican movement which we built up – you and not I – because I have been in jail. It has been built up and are we now going back to this tricky Parliamentarianism, because I tell you this document is nothing else. Pierce Beasley gave us to understand that this is the beginning of something great and that Ireland is struggling to be born. I say that the new Ireland was born in Easter Week, 1916, that Ireland is not struggling to be born. I say that the Irish language has begun to grow, that we are pushing it in the schools, and I don’t see that giving up our rights, that going into the British Empire is going to help. In any case the thing is not what you might call a practical thing. It won’t help our commerce, but it is not that; we are idealists believing in and loving Ireland, and I believe that Ireland held by the Black-and-Tans did more for Ireland than Ireland held by Parliamentarianism – the road that meant commercial success for those who took it and, meaning other things, meant prestige for those who took it. But there is the other stony road that leads to ultimate freedom and the regeneration of Ireland; the road that so many of our heroes walked and I, for one will stand on the road with Terence MacSwiney and Kevin Barry and the men of Easter Week. I know the brave soldiers of Ireland will stand there, and I stand humbly behind them, men who have given themselves for Ireland, and I will devote to it the same amount that is left to me of energy and life; and I stand here to-day to make the last protest, for we only speak but once, and to ask you read most carefully, not to take everything for granted, and to realise above all that you strive for one thing, your allegiance to the men who have fought and died. But look at the results. Look at what we gain. We gained more in those few years of fighting than we gained by parliamentary agitation since the days of O’Connell. O’Connell said that Ireland’s freedom was not worth a drop of blood. Now I say that Ireland’s freedom is worth blood, and worth my blood, and I will willingly give it for it, and I appeal to the men of the Dáil to stand true. They ought to stand true and remember what God has put into your hearts and not to be led astray by phantasmagoria. Stand true to Ireland, stand true to your oaths, and put a little trust in God.

Ireland’s so-called treaty with England, patriotic recitation by Countess Markiewicz

Ireland’s dead leaders, patriotic recitation by Countess Markiewicz