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Universal Acceptance Of Agreement

Volume 149: debated on Wednesday 14 December 1921

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No agreement ever arrived at between two peoples has been received with so enthusiastic and so universal a welcome as the Articles of Agreement which were signed between the people of this country and the representatives of the Irish people on the 6th of this month. They have been received in every quarter in this country with satisfaction and with relief. They have been received throughout the whole of His Majesty's Dominions with acclaim. I saw that they were characterised in some quarters as "a humiliation for Britain and for the Empire." The Dominions of the Crown are not in the habit of rejoicing over acts of humiliation to the Empire, for which they have sacrificed so much. Every article was telegraphed to them as soon as the Treaty was signed and, without a dissentient voice, Governments and Parliaments not merely sanctioned and approved, but expressed satisfaction and joy at the transaction. Every Ally sent through its leading Ministers congratulations to the British Government on the accord—tried friends of ours, not in the habit of being glad when we are humiliated. At home, in the great Dominions of the Crown, among our Allies, throughout the whole of the civilised world, this has been received not merely with satisfaction, but with delight and with hope.

I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend (Sir Donald Maclean) for the kind words he used in reference to the part which I took, but let me say at once that, in so far as this Agreement has been achieved, it would not have been done without the most perfect collaboration among all the members of the British Delegation. Every one of them worked hard; each of them contributed from his mind and from his resource. The same thing applies—and here I am in cordial agreement with my right hon. Friend—to the part played by the representatives of Ireland. They sought peace, and they ensued it. There were some of my right hon. Friends who took greater risks than I did in signing this Treaty. It will be remembered to their honour. There were men on the other side who took risks. The risks they took are only becoming too manifest in the conflict which is raging at this hour in Ireland, and all honour to them. Not a word will I say—and I appeal to every Member in this House not to say a word—to make their task more difficult. They are fighting to make peace between two great races designed by Providence to work together in partnership and in friendship.

It is very difficult on an occasion like this to knew exactly what to say, what to dwell upon, what one ought to elaborate, what needs elucidation, what you can just leave to the mere Articles to speak for themselves; and there is no greater difficulty for a man who has been immersed in a business for months than to know exactly what to explain. That is the difficulty I am experiencing at the present moment. If the House will put up with me, I propose to expound the general effect of the Articles of Agreement, leaving it to those who take part later in the Debate to answer any criticisms or respond to any inquiries, or to clear up any obscurities which may appear in the mind of any Member of this House. I understand that an Amendment will be moved which traverses practically the whole of these Articles of Agreement, and there will certainly be another opportunity for my right hon. Friend, and probably for myself, to say a few words later on.