Book Review: Home Rule in a Nutshell, by J. McVeagh

Home Rule in a Nutshel, by J. McVeagh, M.P., Price 3d.

It is significant for the members of the working class – in Ireland or elsewhere – that there is no direct mention or statement of their position and problems anywhere in this pamphlet. While as if to emphasise its concern for the chosen class we are told on page 3 that “the impulse of Nationality comes from higher than earthly powers”.

What a consolation to those who find themselves put to so many shifts in endeavouring to account for the shortcomings of Home Rule! All through the plea it is the owning section of the Irish race – whether agricultural or manufacturing – whose interests are considered and argued for on every page.

Perhaps this accounts for the short-sightedness of the author when he tells us, in italics, on page 6, that “The Act of Union has . . . crushed Irish trade and industries”, while on page 7 he says “so far back as the middle of the seventeenth century England began to legislate to destroy Irish industries . . . The great woollen industry was destroyed by an Act of the English Parliament”. And on page 8 we are told that “every industry to which Ireland turned was destroyed by England by the imposition of prohibitive duties or by the closing of ports”.

That fifty years elapsed between the middle of the seventeenth century and the Act of Union hardly seems a sufficient reason for saddling the actions of both periods with the same single result. How much the  Home Rule movement is a capitalist movement is shown when our author boasts that “Ireland gave generals and soldiers to fight for Great Britain in South Africa” (p. 18), and has given to the British Empire some of its greatest statesmen, generals, diplomats – men like Henry Grattan, Edmund Burke, O’Connell, Parnell, Govan Duffy, Duke of Wellington, Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener” – all, be it noted, toadies and lickspittles of the English ruling class.

While reference is made to the famine of 1847, not a word is said regarding the fact that it was not lack of food that caused the dire calamity, but the selling of the foodstuff to pay rent to Irish, as well as English, landlords.

On page 60, however, the truth appears. “The United Irish League is a sort of Farmers’ Trade Union”, we are told. Exactly. Hence its opposition to the agricultural labourers’ attempts to improve their miserable position. And among the chief causes of the so-called improvement that has taken place in late years is given, “five years of Liberal administration”!

Two things, however, are done well in the brochure. One is the showing of the hopelessness of the physical force movement against England – a movement that unfortunately contains a large number of the working class in its ranks. The other is the exposure of the humbug of the self-styled loyalists of Ulster with their threat of civil war if a Home Rule Bill were passed.

The facts and figures given in the latter connection are the most valuable in the pamphlet.


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