4 MARCH 1905, Page 14


and a humble member of the Unionist party, I take the liberty of protesting against a practice too common among Englishmen of both sides in politics, and occasionally indulged in even by yourself. In your leader in the Spectator of February 25th on "Government by Philander- ing " you accuse Irish Unionists of a desire for "ascendency." By this word I presume is meant Protestant ascendency,— about which, I admit, there was far too much talk a century ago, and even half-a-century, but which has now become wholly obsolete. What is really happening is that our Roman Catholic fellow-citizens, not content with the equality which has been conceded to them in full measure, are bent upon establishing in Ireland a Romish ascendency. And then, if any one calla attention to this craving for counter- ascendency, he is reviled as a reactionary Orangeman. People in England, no matter of what political party, can- not see Irish affairs as we Irish see them on the spot. Irish Protestant Unionists know full well that they cannot cherish any hankering after Protestant ascendency, if for no other reason, because there are so many Roman Catholic Unionists whom they could not afford to alienate. Besides, Protestant ascendency is so completely a thing of the past that even the most bigoted Orangeman knows it could not be recalled to life. All this politicians and publicists in England seem unable to see, and if any protest be made against Romish aggression, they put it down at once to a desire to restore Protestant ascendency. The fact is that a determined effort is being made by Roman Catholics to "get on top,"—I take the phrase from the Handbook of the "Catholic Association." All the machinery of local government is being worked for this purpose. Already, except in the counties of Down and Antrim, no one except a Roman Catholic has a chance of being appointed a dispensary doctor. As fast as other posts become vacant under Boards of Guardians, County or District Councils, or any other local authority, such posts are filled up by Roman Catholics, wholly irrespective of qualification. I do not, of course, affirm that local bodies require no evidence of fitness, but I do say that their first rule of election is : No Protestant need apply. Is it "hankering after ascendency" to wish that this could be remedied ? It cannot, we know, because these Guardians and Councillors hold office by virtue of an Act of Parliament which was passed at the request of nobody in Ireland, but under the influence of a doctrinaire craving for symmetry. Surely, however, it is open to Unionists to point out the result of this doctrinaire " symmetrical " legislation, and to express the hope that the error will not be repeated. But if we do this, you and other English publicists straightway tell us to hold our noise, and not "hanker after ascendency " ! Again, you are probably not aware that there is hardly a meeting of a railway company, banking company, or trading company at which some shareholder—whose name is more often than not preceded by Reverend—does not ask how 'many Roman Catholics are in the employ of the company ; and, if the answer does not please him, go on to denounce the directors in all the moods and tenses as a gang of bigots. The very administration of justice is perverted by this effort to "get on top." I cannot ask you for space to recount the Riverstown case, in which a bench of Magistrates, appointed by popular election under the Local Government Act, overruled two Resident Magistrates and dismissed a, prosecution for riot, part of which riot actually took place iu the Courthouse ! Incidents like this are of daily occurrence ; sometimes they are reported, mostly they are not. Whether or no, they never would reach the eyes or ears of the English public unless some one raised a protest; and if any one does, he is straightway rebuked for "hankering after ascendency!"


[We have also received a long and interesting letter on this subject signed "A Liberal Unionist," but regret that owing to the great pressure on our correspondence columns we cannot find space for it. This correspondent is strongly against any attempt to create a University with a Roman Catholic atmosphere, and generally endorses Mr. Robertson'a view. Though we have not room to traverse Mr. Robertson's points in detail, we may say that we have protested, and always shall protest, against appointments being given to Irishmen because they are Roman Catholics, or against attempts to establish any form of Roman Catholic ascendency. Appointments must go to the men best fitted to fill them, and not be considered the perquisite of any creed.—ED. Spectator.]