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"Rehabilitation of the Irish Vote: A Humorous Analogy" | Limerick Gazette Archives

“Rehabilitation of the Irish Vote: A Humorous Analogy”

The process of rehabilitating the Irish vote for market purposes is currently underway in Ireland with seemingly great success. This process brings to mind the infamous tales one hears about buying and selling horses in Ireland. Even in their decrepit state, horses can be miraculously rejuvenated for the purpose of sale, leading to accusations from ill-natured foreigners that Irish horse dealers excel in presenting horses with a temporary appearance of value when, in reality, they are worthless.

A recent court case in a Western county exemplifies this analogy. The plaintiff, claiming to be a victim of an unfair transaction, dramatically swore that the horse he purchased, which was supposed to be free from vice, could “kick the stars out of the sky.” Whether true or not, this analogy applies aptly to the Irish vote, which some British statesmen hope to ride triumphantly to College Green, Home Rule, and parliamentary glory in the future.

The Irish vote, once a powerful force symbolizing constitution and stability, has been weakened by various old and new issues. However, these defects and weaknesses must be concealed at all costs. The Irish vote must appear flawless, sound in every aspect, and guaranteed to perform exceptionally in any situation. Regardless of its behaviour after the sale, even if it indeed “kicks the stars out of the sky,” it must be marketed as a highly desirable acquisition, available at a reasonable price. Consequently, experts are hard at work, doctoring and perfecting the Irish vote for the upcoming political sale.

The recent appearance of Mr John Redmond and Mr William O’Brien on the same platform has played a significant role in this rehabilitation process. For the first time in a long while, these two influential figures stood together, resulting in headlines proclaiming “Unity at Limerick” appearing prominently in Irish newspapers. Despite Mr O’Brien previously declaring his independence from the party, it now seems he used the term “independence” in a Pickwickian sense, just as he did when casting doubts on Mr Redmond’s leadership skills. In the interests of the Irish vote, Mr Redmond has made it clear that there is no dispute or disagreement within the Nationalist organization regarding Mr O’Brien. Any dissension lies solely among the Unionists.

In this context, Mr O’Brien welcomed the Dunravenists, stating that they belong to the class that produced notable Irish figures such as Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Smith O’Brien, and Parnell. This welcome, given the professed Unionism of the Dunravenists, speaks volumes. The Freeman’s Journal, in an editorial titled “One Party, One Policy, and One Organisation,” proclaims with even greater fervor that Ireland must govern its own affairs. The existence of such blessed unity is expected to yield its reward in the form of a Home Rule Parliament in College Green. However, the Freeman’s Journal remains silent regarding Mr O’Brien’s newfound cordiality with Mr Redmond, noticeably ignoring this development.

To be truthful, the “unity” achieved in Limerick has few genuine believers. In a balanced article, the Irish Times warns against excessive optimism regarding the solidity of this newfound unity, citing past incidents such as the Leinster Hall meeting, Committee-room 15, and Boulogne negotiations. While hoping it will last the winter, the Irish Times expresses doubt about Mr John Redmond’s ability to withstand the scrutiny of the Freeman’s Journal now that he has embraced the popular Mr William O’Brien. From all this, English readers can form a fair estimation of the level of confidence that should be placed in Nationalist claims of unity and the value of the Irish vote to any English party.

The Limerick meeting did have one valuable outcome: the speakers unequivocally repudiated the Irish Reform Association’s devolution scheme. As the Irish Times points out, it became apparent that bit by bit, all power, privilege, profit, and emolument were being taken away from a class that historically opposed Home Rule. With these changes, their main objection to self-government will also be rendered obsolete. The Irish Times challenges the Devolutionists, asking whether they supported the Union in the past for personal gain and if they now seek to abandon it because they realize that only Nationalists will benefit from recent legislation.

These developments in Ireland deserve attention from English and Irish Unionists, as they will play a significant role in determining the future of the Union. The question of redistribution, which has gained prominence in England, remains of utmost importance to Irish Unionists. The Ulster Liberal Unionist Association and various other Unionist organizations have passionately urged the government to prioritize dealing with this crucial matter in the forthcoming parliamentary session. Professor Dicey’s comprehensive article on the subject, published in the National Review, addresses and dispels the alleged constitutional obstacles hindering the reduction of excessive Irish seats. Ulster Unionist members actively discuss this issue in their addresses to constituents, with Mr Gordon, Member of Parliament, recently reiterating the demand for a Redistribution Bill. The Belfast News-Letter commented that if ministers fulfill their duty, they will address this urgent political question, despite expected opposition and obstruction from Nationalists. The publication also stressed that such a bill would unite the Unionist Party and prepare them for the upcoming general election.

The Freeman’s Journal, in an elabourate and anxious editorial response, dismisses Professor Dicey as an “hysterical Unionist.” This attempt to discredit the esteemed writer is as transparent and futile as the newspaper’s efforts to manipulate the Irish vote before it crosses the channel for sale.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Tuesday 15 November 1904