Emmissary of Lloyd George

Archbishop Patrick Clune

Patrick Joseph Clune  1864-1935, Archbishop of Parth, was born on 6 January 1864 near Ruan, County Clare, Ireland, son of James Clune and his wife Margaret, née Lynch. Educated locally and at St Flannan’s College, Ennis, in 1879 he entered the Catholic Missionary College of All Hallows, Dublin, to study for the priesthood and was ordained in 1886 at the early age of 22. His first appointment was to St Patrick’s College, Goulburn, New South Wales, where he taught English literature and developed a love for it which always influenced his style of public speaking. He was later the administrator of the Goulburn cathedral until his return to England to train as a Redemptorist missioner in 1893.

In 1895-98 Clune gave very successful parochial missions throughout England and Ireland and in 1898 went to Perth with the first band of Redemptorists obtained by Bishop Matthew Gibney Here his eloquence and manliness had a remarkable influence on the men in the rough settlements. In 1905 Clune became superior of the Redemptorist monastery, Wellington, New Zealand, where he remained until 1909, when he went back to the Perth house as superior. Gibney used Clune freely for his appeals at the openings of churches, schools and convents. Next year he reached the heights of sacred oratory in two famous sermons: the panegyric on the death of King Edward VII and the dedication of the cathedral organ.

Because of serious financial troubles, on 21 March 1910 Gibney was requested by Rome to resign; he had mentioned Clune as a successor, and he was the first choice of the diocesan clergy, and of three bishops of the other provinces. Clune was consecrated by Cardinal Patrick Moran on 17 March 1911. The church had a huge debt of £204,039, and to reduce it he appointed a committee of experienced lay financial administrators. With their help within four years he had paid off over £97,000—of which £82,000 came from the judicious sale of real estate that Gibney had acquired. In 1913 Perth was elevated to an archbishopric with Clune as its first incumbent. He continued to express himself on Home Rule for Ireland.

In World War I Clune was senior chaplain to the Catholic members of the Australian Imperial Force. In 1916 he visited troops in England and also those in the Ypres salient where he made a profound impression. At the end of his appointment in the A.I.F. in March 1917, he returned to Western Australia where he appealed for the Belgian patriotic funds, assisted the families of Yugoslav internees and expressed himself publicly but tolerantly in favour of conscription.

In December; 1920, Archbishop Clune, was sent to Dublin by Lloyd George, with a guarantee from the Cabinet that he would not be followed by detectives, and would be allowed to find Michael Coffins, without any attempt at molestation.

De Valera was in America, and Arthur Griffith in jail. The Archbishop had been Chaplain-in-Chief to the Catholic Australian forces in the War, and was backed by the Australian Prime Minister, Hughes. He saw Collins, who gave him the lines on which peace could be made.

Afterwards His Grace visited Dublin Castle and outlined to the officials there the conditions necessary for a truce. These were telegraphed to Lloyd George, who was asked to reply definitely whether or not they could be agreed to by the Government. The Prime Minister wired authorizing the Archbishop to accept them. So Cope (now Sir Alfred Cope) placed a Government car at his disposal in order that he might inform Collins that the Ministry agreed to what had been patched up.

He saw Collins twice, and communicated the facts to the Chief Secretary, Sir Hamar Greenwood, who was more or less in the dark as to the peace proposals. Sir Hamar consulted General Macready, who informed the War Office. Archbishop Clune journeyed back to London with high-hope, thinking everything was settled. Yet he was not allowed to see Lloyd George for a day and a half and then only to be told that the terms he had negotiated with Collins on the basis that they had been approved at Whitehall could not be agreed to.

The late Field-Marshal Wilson (Sir Henry Wilson was shot by Reginald Dunne & Joseph O’Sullivan July 2nd. 1922 in Belgravia, London) had advised the Cabinet that no terms should be accepted without a surrender of arms.

The Archbishop then left London for Australia. He travelled via Rome, and at the Vatican he told the Pope (Benedict) of the treatment he had received. He arrived in Rome at a moment when intense British pressure had been brought to bear on His Holiness to issue a rescript against the Sinn Feiners. The revelations His Grace made changed the current of Papal thought.

Politicians acquainted with ministerial minds have since attempted a defence of Mr. Lloyd George. It is that he first believed that repression in Ireland would succeed (as did Forster 40 years before), and wished not to yield anything beyond what Gladstone conceded in 1893. Then, growing alarmed at the effect on American opinion of the excesses of the Black-and-Tans, he retained Archbishop Clune to parley.

After he agreed to the conditions of His Grace, counter-pressure was put on by opponents within the Cabinet, who had not been previously consulted. The Irish Solicitor-General, James O’Connor, had brought to London Father O’Flanagan, the Vice-President of Sinn Fein, to discuss peace terms. Lloyd George treated this visit as a hoisting of the white flag and Griffith’s newspaper protested in vain against their intrusion, which resulted in Archbishop Clune being thrust aside.

Now the Partition Act of 1920 became law, but few Nationalists treated it seriously. The cue of the Orange Party was to pretend they did not want it, and that the measure was being forced down their throats. It was a fruit of the policy of abstention from the House of Commons by the newly-elected Sinn Feiners, inspired by the inexperienced de Valera.

The inclusion of Catholic areas within the ambit of Belfast jurisdiction in the 1920 Act was not made the subject of a prior Boundary Commission. Ulster had been “shired” on a “clan” basis three centuries earlier, irrespective of any question save shrieval jurisdiction. In 1920 six of its counties were compacted into a new territory wherein the descendants of the “planters” held sway. No Protestant zone could have been set up to justify the creation of a Belfast Parliament, except in parts of four counties. In Britain the transfer of a ward or a parish from one city or county to another for the minor purposes of local government would not be tolerated unless preceded by a public inquiry.

Material for comedy underlies the doings before the passing of the Partition Act. The Orangemen had sworn a “Covenant” that they would never have Home Rule, and imported rifles from Germany to resist it. Yet over an area which they selected in secret, they secured Home Rule for themselves two years before the Irish Free State was established.

Their decision condemns the Act of Union of 1800, which they were supposed to cherish, but which the rest of Ireland had resisted for 120 years. Lord Carson, at Belfast in October, 1926, declared that he never desired the Act of 1920. Still the first inroad on the Act of Union came from its alleged upholders.

The refusal of de Valera’s party to attend the House of Commons helped the Orangemen. “When the cat’s away the mice will play,” and the Ulster leaders prevailed on the Government to confer a Parliament on six of the Northern counties. Protestants surrounding Belfast had a majority in four counties, yet the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh, where the Catholics are in greater strength, were added to give dignity to the new enclave.

At that date three Northern members were members of the British Ministry – the Attorney-General (Denis Henry), the Solicitor-General (D. Wilson), and Mr. Charles Craig. Their Party asserted that the measure was forced upon them against their will and they abstained from voting for it, although there was an inflexible rule that Ministers must support Government measures or resign. This was stage- managed between Lloyd George and Sir Edward Carson. The latter in 1918 gave up his seat for Trinity College, Dublin, to become member for Belfast.

In Paris in January 1921, on his way to Rome, Clune stated publicly that he believed Lloyd George ‘sincerely yearned for peace’, but unhappily several members of his government and other politicians did not share this view; he described the Sinn Feiners as ‘the cream of their race’.

Clune’s work for peace aroused public awareness in Europe and the United States of America as to the true state of Irish affairs, and in a speech at his official welcome back to Perth, he spoke fully and frankly of what he had seen in Ireland. Many in Australia had known only the partial reports of the newspapers, and also seemed to believe that ‘loyalty’ consisted in exhibiting conditioned reactions based on the English class system. The governor of Western Australia, Sir Francis Newdgate, under the restrictions of his office, made no public statement. However, he had failed to have the Colonial Office intervene to delay Clune’s return, and he promptly denounced Clune’s speech to Downing Street as likely to revive bitterness all over Australia. The governor, blind to the significance of Clune’s role, even as an Australian, but aware of his reputation for moderation, feared his ‘full influence with the Roman Catholic Community’.

Clune now developed his expanding archdiocese: between 1921 and 1931 fifty-six new buildings were erected, including the foundling home at Subiaco, a home for the aged at Glendalough and a school for mentally handicapped boys at Castledare. Helped by Dr J. T. McMahon he supported the establishment of the ‘Bushies’ Scheme’ in 1923, for the religious education of children in isolated areas, and the Newman Society of Western Australia, founded in 1925, for Catholic university students and undergraduates. Clune will be well remembered for the building of the beautiful present sanctuary and transept of St Mary’s Cathedral for which he made the appeal for funds. The completed portion, opened on 4 May 1930, owed much to his taste and care.

He was Uncle of Conor Clune one of three men along with Dick McKee and Peader Clancy killed in controversial circumstances in Dublin Castle on Bloody Sunday Nov. 1920,