‘The One Bright Spot’ (August 1914–May 1915)
On 3 August, Edward Grey rose in the House of Commons to appraise Britain’s position in regard to the European hostilities and was able to qualify his otherwise gloomy assessment with the declaration that ‘the one bright spot in the whole of this terrible situation is Ireland. The general feeling throughout Ireland — and I would like this to be clearly understood abroad — does not make the Irish question a consideration which we feel we have now to take into account.’ Grey’s statement moved John Redmond to announce that British troops could be withdrawn from Ireland, since Irishmen would defend their own country against the threat of foreign invasion. This offer came as a particular relief to such Liberal ministers as Winston Churchill and Herbert Samuel, for whom the Irish problem was now dwarfed by the European conflict. As early as 26 July, Samuel had written to his mother, ‘How infinitely small, in the shadow of this awful catastrophe, appear the petty troubles of Ulster.’ Not all Liberal ministers took this view, for Viscount Morley, a strong pacifist and staunch Home Ruler, resigned as Lord President of the Council following the Cabinet’s commitment to war. Augustine Birrell considered that ‘the fate of Home Rule for Ireland, if war broke out, lay like a heavy weight on Morley’s mind, paralysing his activities. He thought the war would impair the chances of Ireland, whereas it did the very reverse.’ 1
KeywordsBright Spot Home Rule British Troop Liberal Minister Strict Neutrality
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