The Times, London

QUAKERS AND IRELAND
A Tour of Investigation
Distrust of British Government
A month ago the Society of Friends
decided to send a deputation of its
members to discover for themselves the
truth about Ireland. The deputation
included the Right and Left Wings of
opinion in the Society, and also the
present Clerk of the Yearly Meeting—
representing the Centre. Miss Edith Ellis
(sister of Lady Parmoor) can be
described as being the Left; Mr. Roger
Clark—a grandson of John
Bright—the
Centre; and Mr. John H. Barlow—
Chairman of the recent All Friends
Conference—calls himself of the
Right.
And certainly he is not the kind of
person to bo carried away by his feelings.
His keen face, suggesting the successful
lawyer, and his balanced judgment
combine to inspire confidence in men of
all shades of opinion.
The deputation returned last week, and
presented their report. It was read at the
Executive Committee of the Society of
Friends by Mr. Clark, but it was Mr. Barlow's
comments thereon that produced the most
profound impression. I I had an opportunity
after the meeting of having some talk with
two members of the deputation, and learned,
in the detached atmosphere of a quiet room,
that the almost lurid pictures drawn by Mr.
Barlow were studiously moderate.
The investigation covered a period of 14
days. The visitors had 55 interviews, I and the
people seen represented every shade of Irish
opinion—Members of the Sinn Fein
Cabinet, Unionists, Quakers of North, South,
and East Ireland, Labour leaders, Belfast and
Dublin employers, the Moderator of the
Presbyterian Church, the Grand Master of one
of the chief Orange Lodges, and a Catholic
Bishop. And there was everywhere, among
every shade of political and religious opinion,
a profound distrust of the British
Government. "It is clear," said Mr. Barlow,
"that it is useless for this Government to make
any offer to Ireland. It must present the Irish
people with a <i>fait accompli</i>, and so far as we
can judge the following seems the best,
indeed, almost the only way out of the
impasse: The gift of a liberal measure of
self-government with independent fiscal
control, with the prompt withdrawal of the
military and the armed police, would be
taken as a definite act of good faith. I believe
there is hope in this direction, but action
must be prompt and decisive. Tempers are
hardening, and the chance of doing something
that will save the situation is slipping past.
Ex-Unionists and Protestants believe that
under these circumstances order and good
government could be restored." The terms of
reference guiding the
deputation included the discovery of
methods of relief, reconstruction and
reconciliation possible between the two
countries. On relief and reconstruction there
is little, as yet, to report. There are
opportunities for reconciliation, but the way
is particularly difficult. The Irish people feel
that England does not care, and the hatred of
the Government may spread to hatred of the
English people.
"As Friends," Mr. Barlow said, "we must
deplore the violence and the bloodshed on
both sides. As English citizens we mast
surely feel chiefly the shame of the direct
responsibility of our Government for the
policy of reprisals by the so-called Black and
Tans, led by their officers. Town after town is
burned and women and children are driven
terror-stricken into the fields and woods to
seek safety at night." I saw,"continued Mr.
Barlow, "the ruins of Limerick—
labelled 'The Work of the R.I.C.,' 'The Work
of the Black and Tans.' The houses had not
been burned, but every window -had been
smashed, and every article of household
furniture broken and destroyed. And on the
walls of the surrounding streets one read and
understood the feeling that prompted the
writing, 'Sorrow to England,' and similar
inscriptions."
The deputation visited Dublin, Belfast,
Lisburn, Limerick, the " shot up " villages of
Ennistymjon, Lahinch, and Milltown Malbay.
The first of these was still smouldering, and
"Mr. Barlow told how he heard from one of
the inhabitants how the body of one of those
who had been shot was thrown into the
flames by the frenzied raiders.
"And it must be remembered," he went on,
"that the English Government does not govern
over 80 per cent, of Ireland. Agricultural and
other Commissions have been appointed by
Sinn Fein, and on these Commissions
prominent Unionists are serving, and it is
generally admitted that the only protection the
people enjoy—moderate men,
Unionists and Protestants alike—is
from the Sinn Fein police, who see that their
meetings are free from interruption, their
stolen goods are recovered, blackmailers are
punished, and the licensing laws rigorously
enforced. And yet it is a penal offence for
those carrying out this work of maintaining
order to act in this capacity.
"Amidst all the tragedy and horror of the
situation one finds a gleam of hope in the
irrepressible humour of the Irish people. One
woman, whose house had been raided on five
successive nights by the police and military,
and had had her belongings thoroughly
ransacked, at last appealed to the officer in
charge. 'Shure, tell me what it is you're
lookin’ for,' she said, 'and I'll buy it for you,
and you can have it when you come
to-morrow night.' " A people who can smile
through their tears like that can be won, but
the way to win them is nearly closed.
MAURICE WHITLOW
The report written by the deputation as printed in The Times.     More John Henry Barlow resources.
Digitisation by Roger W Haworth (email and website) to whom errors should be reported, please.