“Constitutional treason still thrives in Ireland,” read the opening line of an editorial piece that appeared in the News Letter on this day in 1879.
It went on to tell how a correspondent wrote daily to the paper relating how Dublin and rural districts that ongoing land agitation lead by Charles Stewart Parnell was building pace.
“He who tills must own the soil”, had become the motto of the agitators and “from the frequency that appears on banners paraded at meetings” there was little doubt that it had become “a most effective and most profitable election cry”.
The News Letter continued: “The ‘He who tills the soil must own the soil’ is an agitation cry which the tiller of any race will appreciate and believe in, but Mr Parnell and his colleagues, whether graduates in prison exercise or only candidates, must be conscious of the sham they are perpetrating in making this motto the object of their agitation.”
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While Parnell and his followers criticised landlordism as “the cause of incalculable evils in Ireland and if maintained will continue to work evil” the News Letter challenged them to present their alternative to landlordism.
The paper went on to remind Parnell that he himself was still a landlord after all, the paper stated: “It would be interesting to know exactly what circumstances in the present condition of his estate has he helped the work of the evils he refers to.”