Easter Rising Parliamentary Debates - M.P. Laurence Ginnell's Defiant Speech to House of Commons

I would like to share the following passionate speech that was made by Independent Nationalist M.P. for Westmeath North, Laurence Ginnell, on 11 May, 1916, during a debate in the British House of Commons on the continuance of Martial Law in Ireland following the Easter Rising.


"The present military rule in Ireland is not so exceptional as some Members in this House appear to think. It is quite characteristic of English rule in Ireland, even in times of peace to see the Irish recruiters now getting what they have been looking for so long. A revolution or rebellion, or whatever you choose to call it, has been spoken of with horror. All revolutions and rebellions are so spoken of. Success is the one thing that commands universal approval of revolutions. Had this one been successful, those heroes whom you shot down in cold blood would have been real heroes, living and ruling the country at the present time, instead of being in their graves. Besides, the Irish people have been told within the last two years that illegalities such as have been just indulged in at Dublin are not crimes. They have been told that by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Edward Carson). But the Irish Volunteers who put that opinion to the test have been shot in cold blood in order to show the world that Ireland is the one bright spot in the British Empire...
You wanted our young men to remember the German atrocities—they prefer to remember yours in our country. You wanted our young men to remember Belgium—they prefer to remember Ireland. They remember how time and again in the past you decimated them by fire and sword, pitch-cap, and gibbet, and coffin ships. They remember those things, and it is because they remember those things that they took the action they did, prematurely I regret to say, and deeply regret; but it was because they remembered those things, because they remembered their own country instead of Belgium, that they are dead men. Hon. Members laugh, they laugh the coward laugh at men who had the courage to lay down their lives in a brave and desperate effort for the freedom of their country. That is what Englishmen gentlemen have come to. And with that state of things the Prime Minister of England professes himself perfectly satisfied. Of course he is perfectly satisfied. If there were not a man of military age in Ireland he would be still more satisfied, and so would you, Mr. Speaker, and so would the majority of Members in this House. Hence, I have no hesitation whatsoever in declaring myself the friend, the dear friend of those dead men—the enemy, the inplacable enemy, of every Empire that swallows up and crushes to death those small nationalities, for whose independence and integrity you profess to go to war, a war which you are unable to carry through. You want to sacrifice all the manhood, not of England, but of the outlying countries —of Scotland, of Wales, of Ireland, and of your unfortunate Dependencies and Colonies. You want to wipe out the Celtic race, as the "Times" boasted sixty years ago: "The Celt has gone, gone with a vengeance." No, by God, we are here still, and before you are done with the Celt you will have something more creditable to do than laughing and making a mockery of brave men who sacrificed their lives in the noblest 'cause for which men can die or fight."


In 1917 Ginnell resigned his seat at the British Parliament, joined Sinn Fein, and was elected as representative for Westmeath in the 1918 General Election. He was a member of the First and Second Dail, and was elected anti-Treaty T.D. at the pre-Civil War, June 1922 General Election. He died in 1923 while campaigning on behalf of the Irish Republic in the United States, at the age of 71.

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Tags: Easter Rising, Irish Freedom Struggle

Comment by Gerry Regan on April 14, 2014 at 2:29pm

I'd love to learn more about Honorable Lawrence Ginnell -- for examle, his burial place and the identity of his living descendants. His eloquence and passion and righteousness elicit my admiration.

Comment by DJ Kelly on April 16, 2014 at 12:52am

What a great speech.

During my 37 years working for the UK Home Office, I worked under 17 Home Secretaries. However, here is the one Home Secretary for whom I would love to have worked:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._R._Clynes

JR Clynes was a great man who never got the recognition he deserved. The son of an evicted Mayo tenant farmer, he himself worked as a child in the mills of Lancashire and, as a self educated politician, stood up for the rights of child workers. He also highlighted the sins of those profiteers who, under lucrative contracts, were providing sub standard food and dangerously sub-standard arms and ammunition to the men at the front in WW1.  My aunt worked in his household, caring for his invalided wife, and always said he was a true gentleman and a thoroughly nice man.


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