AFFAIRS in Ireland have reached a pass that makes all comment or advice seem a work of supererogation. The pretence that troops and police were not involved in anything more than protecting life and property has had to be abandoned in view of the systematic sacking of towns and murder of innocent persons carried out by uniformed officers of the Crown. Those who foresaw that such indiscipline must ensue from the Government’s reckless disregard of all portents are now confronted with official condonation of a system of reprisals. Do our public men read foreign newspapers? If they do, they must know that the Irish disgrace is accorded more publicity and excites more interest than any other topic. The good name of Britain has long been sullied by the past history of maladministration in Ireland, but recent events have caused a perplexity and dismay among our friends that will be difficult to remove. But that is a small matter compared with the moral culpability of a powerful State which has enjoyed constitutional government for centuries electing to rule by a barbarous system of terror. One clear voice of reason, and a voice that none can disregard, has been raised. Lord Grey of Fallodon, in his message to the Westminster Gazette, outlines a policy which he believes is alone capable of satisfying Ireland. He proposes that a definite announcement that, except on matters of foreign policy and naval and military defence, Irishmen should be as free as the people of any great self-governing dominion to settle for themselves how their country is to be governed. To give them time to come to agreement, he proposes that the British Government should continue to perform as best it can the function of government in Ireland for a period not exceeding two years. At that time, or sooner if Ireland is ready, Lord Grey suggests that it should withdraw, leaving responsibility for government with Irishmen themselves. That, in brief, is Lord Grey’s scheme, and we are bound to say that we see no prospect of Ireland being induced to accept anything less. Irishmen no less than any other people must be permitted to choose their own scheme of government, and we join with all who care for the welfare of Ireland in calling upon the Government to take action that can be justified to the citizens of our nation and empire.
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