Mr. Bruton may do so, if he wishes, but he is not comparing like with like when he suggests the achievements of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, and Eamon de Valera were no more than that of John Redmond.
British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith referred to the limitations set out in the first clause of the 1914 act, which showed where the real power in Ireland would remain: “Notwithstanding the establishment of the Irish Parliament or anything contained in this act, the supreme power and authority of parliament in the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things within His Majesty’s dominions.”
Secondly, excluded from the competence of an Irish Parliament were the crown, declarations of peace and war, the army, the navy, treaties, dignities, treason, and services such as the collection of annuities, the appointment of the estates commissioners, the old age pension, the National Insurance Act, the Royal Irish Constabulary, the post office savings banks, public loans made in Ireland before the passing of the act, and the collection of taxes other than duties of postage, all controlled by the veto of the Lord Lieutenant. Furthermore, the Irish Parliament could neither repeal nor amend the act. Nor could it stop an appeal to the Privy Council about the validity of laws passed by the Irish Parliament.
In 1914, Asquith even introduced amending legislation to exclude the six plantation counties of Ulster. There is little doubt that he bowed to the gun in the hope of avoiding civil war. All this meant that the huge garrison of British troops and sailors stationed in Ireland (7,000 in Cork alone) would have remained; the Irish Government would have had no financial independence and no control of foreign policy. This act set the ultimate ‘limit to the march of a nation’.
Mr Bruton sees only that good would have sprung from the 1914 act, but it is just as likely that there would have been a much more brutal and bloody outcome. Nobody will ever know, because Irish history took a different path.
The War of Independence achieved virtually everything excluded in 1914.
You should never argue backwards in history and Mr. Bruton’s logic is a classic example of this.