The Indivisible Island. By Frank Gallagher. (Gollancz, 21s.)
IRELAND has been partitioned for rather more than thirty-five years. Ten years earlier such a sever- ance would have been unthinkable. 'Ireland is a nation,' said Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister in 1912, 'not two nations but one nation'; and in the same year 'you can no more split Ireland into parts than you can split England or Scotland into parts.' Half a province,' said Mr. Churchill, as he then was, 'cannot impose a permanent veto on the nation. Half a province cannot obstruct for ever the reconciliation between the British and the Irish democracies.'
The British responsibility for partition is widely recognised in the Twenty-Six, and 1 think in the Six, Counties. It is almost totally ignored in this country. There is a guilty awareness that England treated Ireland disgracefully in the past, but a determined if still precarious self-assurance about the balance of blame in recent years. This oblivious complacency Mr. Gallagher sets out to overthrow in this powerful, historical indictment, well composed and vividly written. It should be read by every Englishman who is concerned for the honour of his country.
He relies massively on quotation, and what deadly quotations are available! 'The British,' says Mr. Gallagher, 'considering themselves secure only when Ireland was weak, used all the arts, influence and patronage at the disposal of a Government to tear uniting groups [of Protestants and Catholics] apart.' Unfair? Extravagant? Then listen to Sir Robert Peel, a notably high-minded Prime Minister : 'I hope they will always be disunited. The great art is to keep them so,' and so on for page after distressing page. Till the honest Englishman cries—Hold,
enough ! But so what? Your country has been cruelly wronged. But you rely apparently on self- determination. You can't persuade the majority in the Six Counties to join you. You agree they mustn't be coerced. What on earth can we British do about it?
To which Mr. Gallagher's answer is plain. You are stultifying the principle of self-determination
in at least three ways : 1. That principle cannot be applied within counties. To Kent and Sussex, for instance.
2. Self-determination is meaningless without fair democratic rights and these are denied to the present minority in Northern Ireland.
3. Even as things stand, there are at least two counties—a wider area in fact—which arc held by the North against their will. Leave out history if you must, but still admit a shocking contemporary injustice which it is your duty to use your good offices to remove!
The Englishman, his conscience now thoroughly
aroused, becomes practical. But assuming Northern open-mindedness, what form could a solution take? You say that the rights of the Northern minority could be guaranteed, if neces- sary under a Federal Government. But would a united Ireland enter the Atlantic Pact? Would she accept, as Cardinal D'Alton suggests she should, 'the Indian basis of a Republic which was a member of the Commonwealth'? Myself I,
believe that satisfactory answers to questions such as these can be provided given goodwill and interest. Mr. Gallagher leaves them outside his present volume, but if he has stirred this country to some sense of responsibility, not only for the past but for the future of the so-called Irish question, he has half won the battle, and I hope and believe that this book will help to make a real impact on that kind of public opinion here