1. Ireland like Belgium.
Last Monday morning I had just prepared for the Press the translation of an important letter, when news of the terrible tragedies of Sunday morning and Sunday evening in Dublin came like a “bolt from the blue.” This letter is signed by His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Malines and all the Bishops of Belgium. It conveys cordial sympathy with us in our trials — trials so like those of which they themselves have had such sad experience — eulogises the faith and unfailing attachment to their religion of our Catholic people, expresses a hope that we may succeed in asserting our just rights, and promises, for our success, the prayers of their clergy and faithful. I have hesitated to give this letter to the Press in the present sad circumstances. A pronouncement breathing peace, moderation, prudent reserve, kindly interest and warm fraternal charity, would ill consort with the atmosphere of excitement and recrimination which now, unfortunately, prevails. I shall, therefore, content myself with sending copies to the Irish Bishops, to whom the letter is addressed.
2. The Dublin Murders.
The tragedies of last Sunday have oppressed me with a deep sense of sadness of a feeling akin to despair. I have never hesitated to condemn in the strongest terms at my command such deeds of blood from whatever source they may have sprung. I believe that every man and woman in Ireland, who retains a spark of Christian feeling or even of the instincts of humanity, deplores, detests and condemns the deliberate cold blooded murders of Sunday morning. No object could excuse them; no motive could justify them; no heart, unless hardened and steeled against pity, could tolerate their cruelty. Patriotism is a noble virtue when it pursues its object by means that are sincere, honourable, just and in strict accordance with God’s law; otherwise it degenerates into a blind, brutal, reckless passion, inspired not by love of country but by Satan, “who was a murderer from the beginning.” The perpetrators of such crimes are not real patriots, but the enemies of their country; robbing her of her just sympathy, raising obstacles to her progress and impressing a deep stain on her fair fame. The most terrible thought of all is the outrage to God’s majesty and the consequences which it brings of misery and remorse in this life and the danger of everlasting misery in the next.
3. Reprisals Described.
I believe, moreover, that every right-thinking Christian equally deplores and condemns the general, indiscriminate massacre of innocent and inoffensive victims which was perpetrated by the forces of the Crown in Croke Park on Sunday evening. If a balance was struck between the deeds of the morning and those of the evening, I believe it should be given against the forces of the Crown. They are bound by their office to protect, not to destroy the people, especially those who are within their rights and innocent of any offence. Their pay and even the weapons placed in their hands — machine guns and rifles — are provided from the grinding taxation of an oppressed people. Assassination of individuals is a detestable crime and terrible outrage against God’s Law; but it is a greater shock to humanity and a graver outrage against the divine ordinance by which human life is protected, to turn lethal weapons against a defenceless, unarmed, closely packed multitude, reckless of the numbers of innocent people who may fall victims. No amount of special pleading or misrepresentation can rob such an act of its horrors.
God help our poor country, groaning under the infliction of this competition in murders. Nor is it always a case of reprisals, however unjust it may be to punish the innocent for the misdeeds of the guilty. Numbers of valuable young lives are being sacrificed, valuable property destroyed and the homes of poor unoffending people burned, even in places where there has been no outrage to give colour to retaliation. Men have been taken out of their houses, even out of their beds, at dead of night, and shot near their homes, though they have committed no crime. It is enough to know, or even to suspect that they sympathise with Sinn Fein. Their captors act promptly as judges, juries, and executioners.
Lorries laden with armed men career through the country by day; and when the unhappy people seek cover or fly, as one naturally would, when a cry is raised of a mad dog at large, or a savage beast escaped from a menagerie, their flight is taken as sufficient proof of guilt, and they are pitilessly shot down at sight. No false pretences, no misrepresentations, no pall of lies, even though it were as dark as Erebus, can screen or conceal the guilt of such proceedings from anyone who knows and can weigh the facts.
4. Arrests and Attacks on Peaceful Citizens.
Just as I write these lines word is sent to me that a most respectable and respected member of my flock, Mr. James M’Gee, of Roodstown House, near Ardee, has been arrested last night, no one can tell why or wherefore. He is generally regarded as a peaceful inoffensive gentleman, attending diligently to his business and farm, troubling little, if at all, about politics, and having no political affiliation. It looks as if the famous Bocca di Leone, the Lion’s Mouth, has been transferred from the Ducal Palace in Venice to Dublin Castle. Anyone who wished to avenge himself on an enemy or to ruin a rival dropped a docket of denunciation into the Lion’s Mouth. The unfortunate denounced was brought before unknown disguised judges, and generally got a trip over the Bridge of Sighs.
Some nights since lorries of armed men made a descent on the neighbouring little town of Ardee, where there has been no crime and no outrages. Those midnight invaders came, I believe, from the camp at Gormanstown, which is supposed to have more outrages to its charge than the sack of Balbriggan. They broke into the principal business establishment, which belongs to a peaceful cultured gentleman, an M.A. of the Royal University. There was a large transfer of a wonderful variety of articles, including beverages, all told, of the estimated value of £300 from the business establishment to the waiting lorries. Worse still, petrol was requisitioned from a neighbouring garage to burn the little town; but saner counsels prevailed. Fortunately, some of the party retained enough discretion beyond the blind unreasoning lust of destruction. This proceeding looks very like provocation, and an attempt to carry the war into a part of the country hitherto comparatively peaceful.