James Connolly


Independent Labour Party of Ireland:
Ireland Upon The Dissecting Table

(April 1914)

Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.


As the only political organisation in the North of Ireland which, seeking first the well-being and freedom of the working class, has yet at all times resolutely stood for the attainment of Irish Nationhood, we desire to appeal to you and the public generally to protest with all possible power and without loss of time against the proposal to allow the unity of Ireland to be placed at the mercy of the voters in a small part of Ireland. The Exclusion Proposals put forward by the Liberal Government and accepted by the Home Rule Party, mean that a vote is to be taken of the electors in the Ulster counties and in the two boroughs of Belfast and Derry on the question of whether these places will continue to be reckoned as part of Ireland, and therefore as subject to the Home Rule Bill. If the majority in any one of these places vote against Home Rule then chat county or borough will be cut off politically from Ireland and the Home Rule Bill will not apply to it. This, in simple language, means that a local majority, in Belfast or Derry, for instance, are to be given the power to wreak their hatred upon Ireland by dismembering her, by cutting Ireland to pieces as a corpse would be cut upon the dissecting table.

Cromwell, in his worst days, the Orange Order in its most atrocious moments, never planned a more dastardly outrage upon the Irish nation than this. And remember that this is planned by the political parties who for a generation have taught you to believe that they hoped for and worked for


Yet in the moment when it was possible and easy to realise that ideal they consented to betray you, and to place your hopes and the unity of your nation at the mercy of the voters in the Ulster counties and boroughs, where the seeds of intolerance, bigotry and opposition to social progress have borne the most evil fruit and darkened the vision of the largest multitudes.

But we will be told that this Exclusion is to be only temporary, and Home Rule and Liberal politicians are whispering into your ears that they are resolutely opposed to any extension of the six years’ limit. Do not be misled. Remember that no man can foretell the course of politics. Could any Home Ruler have foretold one year ago that the Home Rule Party would have consented even to discuss this dismemberment of the Irish Nation? He would have been driven in disgrace out of the A.O.H. or the U.I.L., if he had suggested a year ago that such a thing was possible. But today these organisations are loud in their approval of the proposal to put Ireland upon the dissecting table and to give into the hands of Sir Edward Carson and his dupes the knife with which to cut her up. But truth will out, and even the politicians themselves let slip the fact about the real probabilities of the future. Read the speech of Mr. John Dillon, M.P., in the House of Commons on the night of Wednesday, April 1st, as reported in the Liberal Daily News and Leader of the following day. He laid stress upon the fact that two General Elections will take place within the six years. He said:

“Ulster had been offered the safeguard of two elections, and it would be an event unparalleled in British history for the Unionist Party not to win one of them.”

What would happen then, if the Unionist Party won one of these elections, as Mr. Dillon says they almost certainly would? On the same night the Solicitor-General supplied the answer. He said:

“If the other side came into power and brought forward a Bill to exclude Ulster it would have a royal and triumphal procession to the foot of the throne.”

So that here you have two leading spokesmen of the Liberal and Home Rule Parties admitting that the six years’ limit is only a form of speech – that in practical politics it will have no real existence. What this proposal is really doing is establishing the right of, and giving the power to, a small minority to destroy the nation as a nation to – we again repeat it – place Ireland upon the dissecting table, and give into the hands of Sir Edward Carson and his followers the knife with which to cut her up. No amount of speeches against Exclusion which the Home Rule politicians may hereafter make should be allowed to cover or hide their complicity in this damnable crime, or to obscure the fact that it was and is their acceptance of Mr. Asquith’s proposal that alone makes Exclusion possible.

Think of all the measures needed by the workers in this part of the country which will be impossible if this Exclusion is allowed. The Nationalisation of Irish Railways, so badly needed, will be an impossibility; the Extension to Ireland of the Medical Benefits of the Insurance Act, the Provision of Meals to Children at School, the Abolition of Sweating, and the general safeguarding of the interests of Mill Workers and other forms of Labour needing Legal Protection, will all be delayed, if not absolutely lost, if any part of Ulster is cut off from Ireland as a nation. And in addition, all the old sectarian jealousies will be kept up, workers will be kept fighting with workers and progress will be impossible.

We appeal to you then to arouse yourselves to the gravity of the occasion. Make your protest in every possible way. Do not allow it to be said of you by the children of the future that your generation was the only generation in all the history of Ireland that consented to betray her, that granted to an intolerant minority the power to destroy the unity of the country to disrupt and dismember it, and that you granted this at the very moment when Labour elsewhere in Ireland was most assertive of its rights and most desirous of a Free Irish Nation as the natural guardian of those rights.


Independent Labour Party of Ireland,
Belfast Branch


Last updated on 14.8.2003