Irish Compromise (16 july 1914)

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Irish Compromise is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 16 july 1914.

See also his second letter on the same topic: Irish Compromise.

Irish Compromise

The Times (16 july 1914)




Sir, — The sands are running low, and every one expresses dismay at the Irish situation, while no one, so far as I can see, builds a bridge which can bring the two parties together. Is it really impossible to suggest a compromise which could be a basis for peace ?

The essence of a compromise is that neither party in a dispute should get its full claim. At present the full claim of Ireland is for an unbroken Ireland and of Ulster for an unbroken Ulster. A compromise, therefore, must give Ireland something less than Ireland and Ulster something less than Ulster.

The question, then, resolves itself into how much should be taken from Ulster. It seems to me that the subtraction of the two predominantly Catholic and Celtic counties of Cavan and Monaghan would in any case be greatly to Ulster's advantage. Without such an excision the province would be nearly equally divided between Catholics and Protestants, with the result that political life would be one continual crisis, in which every parochial election would assume the utmost importance as affecting the balance of power. There would be every material for civil strife inside the province itself, which would communicate itself to the rest of the island. It is surely better that Ulster should be compact and comparatively homogeneous than that it should be large and fatally divided within its own borders.

In the giving up of these two counties to Ireland there would appear to be a compromise which might go some way to satisfy reasonable Irish opinion without being absolutely unacceptable to the more moderate men of Ulster. Ulster would still retain two counties, Tyrone and Fermanagh, in which the Catholics are somewhat in a majority, and one, Donegal, which is predominantly Catholic. Therefore, by consenting to such an arrangement the Irish leaders would show generosity, while by refusing it Ulster would appear to be unreasonable and weaken her case before the general public.

Of course such an arrangement should not be hampered by any time-limits. At the same time, every Irishman would hope that the day would speedily come when the tolerance and loyalty of Ireland would be as unquestionable that Ulster's present fears would pass for ever and the island be reunited by the voluntary adhesion of the north-eastern counties.

The only strong objection which I can see to such an arrangement is the financial one. But that can surely be overcome. If Ulster is paying taxes into an Imperial instead of a national fund, then the British Treasury can afford to be more generous with Celtic Ireland. In any case, nothing can be more extravagant than civil war.

Yours faithfully,

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, July 14.

P.S. — Donegal is of course Celtic and Catholic, but its geographical position makes it an integral part of Ulster.