NUGGETS FROM THE POLITICAL DIARIES OF C.P. SCOTT. Introduction MAY 1916 by Donal Kennedy


I mentioned these Diaries in a  recent blog and described them as a mine of information that I would excavate. I’m unaware of any reference to them by commentators during this alleged Centennial Decade of Commemoration,  though they are prime sources for an understanding of the world we live in today.

On 25 May 1916 Scott met with David Lloyd who had that day been made Minister for Munitions, after  seven years as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Prime Minister  Asquith had asked him to go to Ireland as Chief Secretary, but he had declined. Immediately Scott met John Dillon, John Redmond’s deputy leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party,

“He was deeply impressed with the seriousness of the situation in Ireland. The executions had converted the Sinn Fein leaders from fools and mischief-makers, almost universally condemned, into martyrs for Ireland. Redmond had been far too complaisant. Unless some big measure of appeasement were now brought forward there was a danger that the Nationalist Party would be broken up and Nationalist Ireland would be divided between the O’Brienites who were now striking an attitude of ultra-patriotism”

(I quoted the diary verbatim. Not one of the executed leaders was a member of Sinn Fein. The “O’Brienites” aka “The All For Ireland League” had broken away from the Redmond-led party and held 10 seats, mainly in Cork. They threw in their lot with the Republicans, newly campaigning under the title “Sinn Fein” in 1918 and swept the Redmondite/Dillonite Party into the dustbin of history, fulfilling Dillon’s prophecy.)

On the morning 26 May 1916 Scott met Dillon, “who was going down to Lewis early to visit some of the Irish prisoners, of whom he said there were  2,000 now in England.”

The last of the executions, of Sean Mac Diarmada and  James Connolly, was on 12 May 1916. Within about a month  of that date,General Maxwell,who had overseen the executions wrote-

“There is a growing feeling that out of Rebellion more has been got than by constitutional methods, hence Mr Redmond’s power is on the wane, therefore this desire to curry favour with the people on the part of the M.P.s by agitating for the release of Sinn Feiners.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between a  Nationalist and a Sinn Feiner.

Mourning badges, Sinn Fein flags, demonstrations at Requiem Masses, the resolutions of  public bodies are all signs of the growth of Sinn Fein.

Recruiting (for the war effort) in Ireland has practically ceased…….

If there was a General Election very few, if any, of existing Nationalist MPs would be re-elected so there is a danger that Mr Redmond’s party would be replaced by others less amenable to reason.”  (Leon O’Broin “The Chief Secretary – Augustine Birrell in Ireland” (1969) cited  by Ronan Fanning in “Fatal Path” (2013).

Maxwell need not have worried. Sinn Fein’s conduct of affairs from 1918 to the 1921 Truce was extremely reasonable.

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