By Michael de la nedogere WHATEVER conscientious dif ferences there may be over the Irish question—and it is only charitable for the different parties to believe that others are actuated by conscientious, and not sordid, motives—there is one point on which a very wide agreement could surely be reached. We refer to a formal investigation of the whole nature of the regime in Northern Ireland.
The opportunity was never better. Parliament has felt obliged, with almost unanimous assent, to balance the provisions for Irishmen, under their new national status, in Britain by maintaining the status quo in me Six Counties; but it is common knowledge that many members of Parliament and a great number of the public are not happy about the regime which rules in those counties. The Tribune. a paper fairly representative of the main Labour body, wrote last week : On the other hand, there is a deep, widespread and legitimate suspicion of the policies and actions of the Northern Ireland Government. Geoffrey Bing, the M.P. for Hornchurch, has done a brilliant lob in educating members in a knowledge of the undemocratic practices of the Ulster regime. Strong feeling about their methods is shared by many who voted for the. Government. There was a case for the Bill as it stood. But there is no case for washing our hands of everything which happens in Northern Ireland, Having got the Bill, the Government should now consider setting up some Commission to examine the state of civil liberties in Northern Ireland."
The Labour Paris/ has a special responsibility and interest in the matter, seeing that it has so keenly suffered in Northern Ireland through the Unionist tactics in preventing at all costs the growth of the Labour movement in their territory.
We judge, too, that there are not a few Conservatives and Liberals who would be glad to see such an investigation made. And, naturally, we take it for granted that practically all Catholics in this country would support any steps directed towards bringing to an end the intolerable discrimination against Catholics which should find no place under the British flag.
Our British Responsibility Too little importance has been attached to Governmental statements that Britain would not interfere if by free vote and consent the Six Counties agreed to join the Republic of Ireland. So far as we are aware this acceptance of the situation that would thus be caused has not been made before by Britain. By making it, Britain really involves herself implicitly in the duty of examining the quality of the democracy that reigns in Northern Ireland for obviously the real views in Northern Ireland cannot be ascertained except under a regime where genuine freedom uncle' the law flourishes.
In other words, it is our pledge that we do not wish or intend to
hold the Six Counties by any sort of force. But there are strong prima facie grounds for believing that force is a relevant factor in Northern Ireland as at present ruled. The resppnsibility therefore falls on us to make quite sure that the voice of the people can be accurately heard and that it will go on being heard. Any idea that it is the duty of the Northern Ireland regime or of the British Parliament to resist by unfair and undemocratic means the free development of opinion in Northern Ireland must be held to he inconsistent with our whole policy towards Ireland.
We believe, then. that the question should not be dropped, but that, on the contrary, Members of Parliament should press in season and out of season for impartial examination of the Northern Ireland regime and the elimination from it of all suspicion of force. Only if this is done, can the full honesty of our present policy be substantiated, and, so far as we can see, only if this is done is there any real hope of a final settlement of an issue which must seriously embitter the otherwise most friendly relations between the British and the Irish.
WILL YOU WALK INTO MY PARLOUR ?
OUR readers this week-end will
probably know a good deal more about Russian intentions and tactics at the Four-Power Conference than we can possibly suggest
at the time of writing. Political forecasts have to be based on some sense of rational continuity in political leaders and human affairs. But Communist tactics are consistent only in their ultimate ends, and these ends are pursued by tactics which can be so utterly reckless and unscrupulous as to defy all reasonable prophecy. It is clear that the Western Powers are in substantial agreement and intend to be tough. On the other hand, the Conference has opened with a show of great reasonableness on the part of the Soviet Foreign Secretary. It looks therefore as if the Conference is going to prove a test of whether the Western toughness can hold out against the alluring Russian enticements.
To do this will not be easy, for the Russians have been ingenious enough to cash in on their own previous aggression. Having poisoned the very source of good international relations by their defiance and their Communising policy wherever they could obtain a hand-hold, they are now in a position sweetly to demand a restoration of good international relations and thus seem to catch the West on, the wrong foot. The unity of Germany. the withdrawal of occupation troops, the peace treaty, a sane currency system, peace in Greece, these are all demands which should be made by the West. Now they are to be made by Russia and will have to be largely resisted by the West, because Russia has so arranged things as to ensure that all these desirable rational and peaceful objects will play into the hands of
the Communist ruthlessness which she has been flee to exploit.
We have little doubt but that the resourceful and genial Mr. Vishinsky will thoroughly enjoy his part of the ruthless spider trying to entice the fly into so lovely a parlour. But In the long run we count on the bulky Mr. Bevin objecting to the role of the innocent ny.
THE AUTHORITY OF THE VATICAN NEWSPAPER WE have noted recently Various occasions when the Osservatore and its eminent editor, the Count della Torre, has been appealed to by Catholics and others as evidence against what would otherwise appear to be the general Catholic view, and even the Pope's. Let us note. in parenthesis, that this is usually done by the type of person who in other circumstances would be the first to denounce the sort .of ecclesiastical centralisation and bureaucracy that would have to exist if indeed the opinions of the Editor of the Vatican newspaper were to be respected as approaching the de fide category. Indeed we are reminded of the well-grounded complaints after the Modernist controversy of the then obtaining unofficial quasi-police system run from Vatican origins—an abuse which Pope Benedict XV brought to a sharp end with his first pronouncement after his accession.
Not, of course, that we wish to charge Count della Torre with anything of this kind. The Count. as he has just pointed out, expresses his own personal views and ideas, to which he has a perfect right, as the
free Editor of a free paper. His views are well-weighed and with them we often agree, but certainly not to the extent of the naive confidence apparently reposed in him by the Editor of the New Statesman when he picks out some rather obscure views on the trial of Cardinal Mindszenty, or semi-pacifists who misinterpret his views on the Church's attitude to international affairs (upon which the Pone himself has lately spoken), or critics of the Catholic Press who confuse the Vatican Editor's careful distinction between the rights of capital and the abuses of capitalism. The fact is, as we have more than once pointed out—and no one has refuted the assertion —, that the Osservatore Romano is only an official Vatican paper where one of its columns is concerned, namely the ecclesiastical information contained under the headline " Nostre Informazioni." The rest of the paper is sometimes loosely called "semi-official," but this means no more than, being published in the Vatican City, it must clearly by and large represent views taken in the Vatican City, and would hardly publicise, at any rate for long. views objected to in high Vatican quarters. Apart from this. it is just another Catholic paper, though a very excel lent one as well as a most useful one because of its location and sources of information.
THE FALL OF SHANGHAI
THE occupation of Shanghai is a
further, seemingly predetermined, step in the pattern of China's submission to the Corn. munist forces. It can only be a question of time before the whole country, with its immense territories and peoples finds itself subject to the new tyrant's yoke.
It is the fashion to suggest that when Communists take over countries they are replacing corrupt feudal regimes which have only themselves to blame for the Communist successes. The charge is too lightly made, as for example in the case of Poland which was anything but a feudal State between the wars. Nor is the charge very relevant to the realities of the Communist aggression since the "model " democracy of Czechoslovakia suffered precisely the same fate as much more primitive lands. In the case of China it can hardly be doubted that corruption of every kind has for a long time been associated wine the defeated regime, though equally we should not overlook the original idealism of Chiang Kai Shek's China whose downfall has come after endless years of war
and troubles. In this way the advance of Communism has been made smooth. But we cannot iumo to the conclusion that the evils of the old regime are a sufficient justification for the Communist aggression. It is certain that a good Government in China, while it might have retarded the Communist progress, would not have deterred the Soviet agents from their aggression. Indeed the Soviet was at work and well-established long before the esense of bad government could be made.
The Communist triumph inevitably raises difficult questions about the future relations between the Western democracies and the new order. In general it may be said that the recognition of the fact of successful revolution is necessary and need not carry with it any approval of the recognised regime.
FREE DISCUSSION IN OUR PRESS nUR attention has been drawn by '"'" the Nottingham Central Council of the C.P.E.A. to an article in the Daily Herald by Hannen Swaffer, in which he quotes from the Henshaw Report on juvenile delinquency in Bradford to the effect that the highest percentage of offenders. came from Catholic schools. The Council wrote to the Daily Herald pointing out that this 1942 Report was not accepted by the Bradford City Council owing to the insufficiency of the evidence put forward in it. It was returned to the Education Committee with which it remains. The Council's letter to the Daily Herald was neither published nor acknowledged.