Ireland and Conscription
Ireland & Conscription
Sir, — I am in hearty sympathy with your views upon this question. I do not suppose that anyone has written more strongly than I have done in the Irish Press upon the sad failure of so many Irishmen to rise to this European crisis, but none the less my heart sank, for the first time in this war when I saw what the Government proposed to do. They have acted so wisely up to now that it seems the more terrible that they should make so fatal a mistake at this all-important moment.
Consider the series of impossibilities. Suppose that in face of every sort of riot and uproar they obtained the men, how could they make them take the oath of allegiance? And if they took the oath how could they make them train? And if they trained how could they make them fight? What would be the feelings of a British division which had such troops upon its flanks? What would be our own feelings if half a dozen divisions, rotten with Sinn Fein, were now in our battle line? Is it not clear that it might lead to serious military disaster, as it has so often done with the disaffected troops of Austria? Would not the sane General say that he would rather have half the troops, but know that he can rely upon them? And yet it is to attain such an end as this that we are venturing upon this desperate path.
Surely there is an honourable alternative for the Government. Let them frankly say that after the eloquent speech of Mr. Devlin, and the way in which it was received by the party, and also in deference to the expressed desire of the Irish officers who have donned the King's uniform, the Home Rule Bill will be passed at once without conditions, and the rest left to the sense of chivalry of the Irish people. The rights of Ulster should be conserved to the point of making the Irish Constitution such as will readily fit hereafter into a federal system.
If this or some other similar solution is not found we shall find ourselves landed in a sordid guerilla war in the West, as well as the vital contest in Flanders.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, April 16, 1918.