From Sinn Féin Weekly, May 5, 1906.
The Policy which Sinn Féin is born to advocate and advance needs no lengthy explanation. Its leading principles have been introduced to the notice of the Irish people during the past two years. It is the policy of national faith and national work. It is the policy with which Deak rebuilt Hungary in the teeth of Austrian opposition, and whose triumphs the nineteenth century witnessed, and the twentieth century is witnessing in Greece and Romania, Bohemia and Poland, Finland and Norway. Its essential is faith – a nation’s faith in itself. Lacking this, it is of no avail. Every country that has achieved its independence, that has regained its independence, that maintains its independence achieves, regains, and maintains by faith in itself. The political policy pursued in Ireland for thirty years past substituted for national faith national dependence. Ireland was taught to regard herself as too weak to rise by her own efforts, and to centre her hope and place her reliance in the generosity of her enemies. The economic history of Ireland for those thirty years attests the result of this disastrous policy, which alone in Europe Ireland adopted. The population of Ireland has dwindled by a million people, the tillage land of Ireland has decreased by a million acres; the manufacturing industry of Ireland has dwindled 30 per cent; and the taxation of Ireland has increased year by year until it has now become the heaviest in Europe. We are today in Ireland paying £2 5s. per head to England against the £1 5s. which he paid before we rendered her political and economic extinction of this country easy by transferring the field of fight from the soil of Ireland to the ground she has chosen for herself and has fortified through the centuries for her defence and perpetuation – her Houses of Parliament.
During those years Ireland was taught that she had grievances, and that the remedy for these grievances was to be gained by appeals to the people who inflicted them. It appeared, in fact, that the Irish question was a bundle of grievances – grievances about land laws, fishery laws, franchise laws, labour laws, education laws. Men spoke of “Ireland’s grievances,” but never of Ireland’s Right. They cried the phrase, “Ireland a Nation,” from a thousand platforms, but they did not apprehend its meaning. They craved the removal of grievances – they never asserted the right of a nation. The question of Ireland is not a question of grievances. If it were, the removal of those grievances would render her evermore a simple province of England. Her claim is the claim of a nation to national, political, and economic freedom. Her claim is the claim Hungary made good on Austria, and by the same methods the Sinn Féin policy proposes to make it good on England. It is because England has disarmed this country, because she has impoverished it, because she is strong, that we write “humbug” beneath the policy of appeal to England’s sense of justice. So long as Great Britain counts 567 votes to 103 in her House of Commons England retains 567 conclusive replies to the appeal. Whilst Ireland continues to efface herself from the political and economic calculations of the outer world; whilst she meekly continues to make her island a profitable market for British produce and manufactures; whilst she silently pays up the annually-increasing impost for British ships and British guns, and breeds up her young men to man them, England’s sense of justice will never be aroused, even were the whole Irish Parliamentary Party to crack its lungs in the effort.
THE RIGHT OF IRELAND
The Sinn Féin policy will apply that stimulus in arousing the English sense of justice which Hungary applied to the Austrian sense of justice, with such excellent results, forty years ago. It is not the power to manage its “internal affairs” Ireland demands – when by that cant phrase it is intended to convey that Ireland disclaims or does not possess the right to accord protection and bounty to its industries, to regulate its taxation in all its branches, to create and maintain a national guard to preserve its territory from hostile attack, to devise its own educational system, its own land tenures, its own legal codes, to make its own commercial treaties, appoint its own consuls, and dispose as it deems well of its own surplus revenues. When men speak of Ireland regulating her own “internal affairs” and mean that she is not do any of these things, they speak mischievous nonsense. The Constitution of 1782, which guaranteed to Ireland those rights, is still the Constitution of Ireland. The Renunciation Act in which England took the world to witness that the independence of Ireland was “established and ascertained for ever, and should at no time thereafter be questioned or questionable,” is still inscribed on the statute book. Ireland’s title to independence does not rest upon any Act or Treaty – it comes from God, and no man can definitely mark its bounds; but Ireland’s Charter is written in the Constitution of 1782, which remains the de jure Constitution of Ireland, even as the de jure Constitution of Hungary remained, through the years of its armed repression, the Constitution of 1848. Not on recognition of usurped authority, but on its denial – not on aid from our enemies, but on action for ourselves the Sinn Féin policy is based. Its essence is construction, and its march to its ultimate political goal must be attended at every step by the material progress of the nation.