Britain & the Irish Question

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The Act of Union

Passed in 1800 (came into effect from 1801)

• United England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
• Regional parliaments abolished.
• All 4 ruled from a centralised parliament in London.

• Churches were united.

The Penal Lawspage1image4416

Imposed in an attempt to force Catholics and Protestant dissenters to accept the Protestant faith. They were supposed to be abolised with the Act of Union - this didn't happen. Daniel O'Connell led a campaign for emancipation - the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in 1929.

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Potato Blight

Population increase in first half of 19thC because of industrial revolution.

1845 potato blight struck and wiped out 1/3 of the potato crop in Ireland. By 1846 potato supplies sold out and people began to starve (potato was their staple diet).

1846 crops failed too - thousands starved and many died from related illnesses eg typhus.

The British government drastically underestimated the problem and many landlords (who were originally sympathetic) began evicting tenants because they couldn't pay their rents.

A lot of anti-British sentiment was caused and lots of Irish people emigrated to Ireland.

1858 - The Irish Republican Brotherhood was formed. Their aim was to create an independent Irish Republic by force. IRB was the first group to add a religious slant to Republicanism. 

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Why was Ireland a problem for British governments?

1) Religion.

Anglican Church the established church in Ireland but only represented 15% of the population. Resented by Cathlolics as it was regarded as a major instrument in the English control of Ireland.

2) Law and Order.

Irish Nationalists- freedom fighters/terrorists who believed they were being discriminated against. Resented being ruled by someone from an alien country.

British Unionists- they thought the terrorists were causing too much trouble so would have to impose coercion.

3) Land Tenure.

Protestants owned the bulk of the land and the majority of Catholics worked as tenant farmers - wanted more land of their own.

4) The Political System
Irish powers were severely limited - had to abide by rules of Westminster. 

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What the Act of Union meant for nationalists...

  • They felt like a colony

  • Police force was run by Britain#

  • Protestant#ascendancy continued its dominant position in politics, land and business in

• Ulster Presbyterian's built up strong economic and 
religious links with England so wereseen as being loyal unionists by Britain

• Catholics became increasingly anti-Unionist (and felt betrayed because the Union wasn't followed up by emancipation - weren't granted equal civil, political and religious rights ans Protestants).



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Parliamentary Reform

Problems before 1832 Reform Act

no secret ballot
bribery and corruption were rife
• landowners over represented/new city dwellers under represented

Post 1832 Reform Act

• new cities given MPs and 5 more for Ireland

The electoral role increased.

The 2nd Reform Act (1867) only approx 1mill men out of a population of 29 mill had the vote.Disraeli hoped by extending the franchise, the tories would be popular and gain a long period in power.

Ireland still discriminated against but politicians now felt the need to campaign - bigger electorate = had to deliver the vote to their party. A more modern form of politics. 

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Gladstone & Ireland

Gladstone introduced a series of resolutions into parliament calling for the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

Parliament dissolved and a general election was called (1868). Gladstone fought under the slogan 'Justice for Ireland' which helped unite the Liberals behind a just cause.

Liberals won.

Gladstone realised he needed a vigorous election campaign because of the increased electorate - Disraeli didn't.

He improved the Liberals position in Ireland
• Gained votes from Catholics and non-conformist Protestants.

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His mission to "pacify" Ireland...

He was very popular; speaking out for freedom, greater dignity and liberty for all. Many saw him as their champion - especially as he said it was his mission to pacify Ireland.

Some historians see his policies as a genuine attempt to address Irish grievances. That his motives were sincere and guided by a deep religious belief and conscience.


Others are more cynical, seeing him as an opportunist motivated by self interest. He had a desire to unite the liberal party and ensure his position as leader. 

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Policies of his first ministry (1868-74)

The Disestablishment of the Church Act - 1969

Ended the "special status" of the church.

Two parts to this bill;

1) Disestablishment - meant the link between Church and state was broken and the Church of Ireland was to become a#separate, voluntary organisation. Grants to Catholics and non- conformists were also abolished.

2) Disendowment - disposal of the properties belonging to the Church.
Unionists and conservatives opposed this bill because they thought it would weaken Protestant
supremacy (what Gladstone wanted).

Act given Royal Assent in July 1869.
Did remove a major grievance but made little difference to the lives of the majority of Irish people. 

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The First Irish Land Act - 1870

Background information

Many Irish farmers were 'tenants at will' without any compensation to improvements they had made on their holdings. However in the North a land custom allowed for compensation and the ability of a tenant to sell on his 'interest'.

It was believed tenants should benefit from

• Free Sale
• Fair Rent
• Fixity of Tenure

Gladstone accepted this idea as the basis of land legislation - he wanted to give more economic security to tenants because he realised the 'landlord-tenant' relationship was a big problem in Ireland.

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He put forward a bill with 3 parts;

1) The Ulster Custom

Proposed to give the customary rights of Ulster the force of law. If a tenant gave up his holding he had the right to sell his interest to an incoming tenant by claiming compensation for the work he had put into it.

2) Eviction

Tenants who were evicted were to be compensated by the landlord for the improvements they'd made to their holdings. Also to be compensated if they were evicted for any reason other than non-payment of rents.

3) John Bright Clauses

Enabled a tenant who wanted to purchase his holding from a landlord to obtain 2/3 purchase price as a grant from the state.

Passed through both houses but the Bright Clauses were a failure - offered no incentive to landlord to sell & few tenants could afford the 1/3 purchase price.

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Coercion - 1870

The land/church acts intended to bring peace to Ireland.

Gladstone furthered this by releasing Fenian prisoners in 1870 - he hoped he would be able to prevent disorder in Ireland.

Due to rural disturbances in Ireland the liberals found it necessary to introduce coercion.

Authority of magistrates was strengthened - they could arrest and detain persons suspected of disorder. 

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The Irish Universities Bill - 1873

Catholics had no major institutions of their own. They objected to the other Irish Universities because of their lack of religious teaching - they demanded their own.

Gladstone proposed the establishment of a national, non-denominational University of Dublin.To avoid controversy, religion, philosophy and modern history would not be taught.

• Non-conformists opposed the state endowment of a Catholic Uni

 • Catholics opposed and called it a "mis-education"

• Liberals thought all subjects should be taught.

Bill defeated in the House of Commons in March.
Gladstone resigned but Disraeli refused to assume office so Gladstone was soon back in power. 

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The rise of Parnell

The Home Rule Association was formed in 1970 by Isaac Butt - originally a conservative unionist who came to believe in a form of national self-government would be best for Ireland.

He created the association as a non-sectarian organisation with the single aim of Home Rule for Ireland.

In 1973 the Association was replaced with a more distinctly political organisation - The Home Rule League (this was again replaced in 1882 by Parnell and the Irish Political Party as official party for Irish nationalist MPs)

In the general election of 1874 the Home Rule League won 79 seats, highlighting the decline of the Liberal party in Ireland (following the failure of the Uni bill) 

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However the party lacked any real unity in ideas, organisation or membership.
Home Rule did little to bind the party together - only approx 1/3 of members were genuine Home

Rulers in the spirit of Butt. Also Butt was a weak leader

• Lacked ruthlessness
• Lacked the ability to inspire his followers

His innate conservatism made him deferential to the established practices of parliament. He was unable/unwilling to impose discipline on the HR party in order to weld it into a powerful, cohesive instrument for forcing parliament to consider the Irish claims.

His leadership was soon challenged. 1875 two Fenians (Biggar and O'Conner Power) began to apply tactics of 'obstructionism' in the House of Commons in order to force attention to the Irish grievances. Soon they were joined by Parnell. 

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Parnell's contempt for English opinion soon made him a popular hero for militant nationalist.

1877 he was elected as president of the Home Rule Confederation. However he still made no attempt to challenge Butt's leadership of the party. 1879 agricultural depression linked the national cause with the agrarian crisis. Agricultural depression (late 1870's)
Result of;

• Poor harvests
• Failure of potato crop in the West
• Import of cheap grain from America = slump in food prices

Drastic fall in farmers income - they demanded a reduction in rents or a pause on payments. Landlords soon began evicting tenants.

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The Land War 1879-82

All the material was present for a popular agrarian movement directed against the landlords. Michael Davitt

Family evicted from their smallholding and had to move to England - hated landlord class and English domination.

1878 met American fenian Devoy who encouraged him to work for land reform and self- government within Ireland.

In Spring 1879 agitation and violence flared up in the West against the landlords which began to spread.

Davitt provided national organisation and leadership - he led the war and campaigned for independence.

He encouraged Parnell to support the agitation. 

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The New Departure

Meeting between Davitt, Devoy and Parnell. They represented;

• Agrarian radicalism
• Revolutionary nationalism

• constitutional nationalism

They made an informal agreement known as the new departure - they agreed to support the tenant's demands and aim of Irish self-government.

It was now a more#concerted#attack on Britain. 

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The National Land League - Oct 1879

Formed by Davitt.

Parnell became President (he believed support for a popular agrarian movement would encourage the cause of#constitutional nationalism)

Aims of the Land League:

1) To get more rights for tenant farmers

2) To reduce evictions


 • Organisation among the people for the purpose of self defence

• Persistent exposure of the injustices of the current system

• A resolute demand for the reduction of excessive rent 

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  • Urged tenants to offer little or no rent.

  • Helped those who were evicted

  • Applied boycotts against farmers who took over the land of evicted tenants and boycotted against the evicting landlords.

    Outrages against the landlords became the characteristic feature of the land war. Placed the authorities in a difficult position.

    • It was a legal organisation and couldn't be easily prosecuted. Parnell in a difficult position too

    • It was hard to dissociate the violence from the land league. 

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1880 general election

Led to victory for Gladstone and the Liberals.

 Parnell elected as leader of the IPP.

61 Home Rulers elected to parliament.

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Gladstone's Second Ministry 1880-1885

Had no plans for further reform but soon realised Ireland still had major grievances. He believed land reform was the only long term solution.

He also thought Ireland faced social revolution following the activities of the land league and the land war.

The Coercion Act - 1881

Gladstone accepted the need for exceptional powers of arrest. Act introduced and opposed by the Home Rule League by 41 hours using obstructionism.

The Irish hated it because they thought it was imposing on their will.

The Bill was passed - Davitt was arrested under the new Act which caused uproar. This led to the suspension and expulsion of 36 Irish MPs including Parnell.

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The Second Land Act 1882

1) Fair Rents - rents to be set at a fixed price for 15 years by the land courts.

2) Fixity of Tenure - tenants couldn't be evicted if they had paid their rents.

3) Free Sale - if a tenant had made improvements on his holding, he could get compensation when he relinquished it.

Land Purchase Scheme

State proportion of purchase price raised to 3/4 (more favourable to tenants than 1st Bill - implied they had a right to buy)

Success - by agreeing with the land league, Gladstone destroyed some of their power.

Failure - failed to face up to economic realities (eg it was the lack of cultivable land which was the problem)

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The Kilmainham Treaty - 1882

Arrest of Parnell worsened the violence so Gladstone agreed to release him.

A treaty was decided

• Coercion act to be relaxed
• Land act to be amended to help those in arrears
• Parnell to use his influence against violence and in support of the land act

After the treaty, Parnell was determined to turn the Home Rule League into a powerful, unified Irish party which could hold it's weight in British politics. He turned it into the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1882 which he intended to make the dominant nationalist organisation in Ireland. 

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The Pheonix Park Murders - 1882

New accord between Gladstone and Parnell shaken by brutal murder of the Irish secretary and under-secretary in Pheonix Park by a revolutionary group known as 'the invincibles'.

Parnell's sincere horror created a good impression.

Followed by a general reaction against political violence, the new Irish secretary felt compelled to impose new security measures.

By 1882 politics superseded the agrarian struggle. 

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The National League

Formed in October 1882 by Parnell.

It was a political organisation with the aim of 'national self government' for Ireland - it became an electoral role of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Unofficial alliance between IPP and the Catholic Church in 1885-86.

The Church now came out definitely in supporting Home Rule and in return, Parnell was prepared to go along with the Church's policies on education.

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Parnell's Influence

He imposed greater discipline on the IPP, helped by the homogeneous nature of the party's membership - candidates chosen by party's leadership and required to sign a pledge stating that they would act and vote only with the Irish Party.

By mid 1880's he dominated the party.

He was viewed with awe, respect and fear - he was the "uncrowned king of Ireland".

He was courted by both Liberals and Conservatives, both recognising that the Irish Party might hold the balance of power after the general election.

First move made by CHAMBERLAIN who proposed a CENTRAL BOARD scheme for Ireland - which would have given the Irish wide ranging powers of internal control. Chamberlain was an imperialist so saw it as an alternative to Home Rule - therefore it had no chance of being accepted by Parnell.

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Parnell and the Tories

He hoped to get more from them than from the Liberals.

June 1885 - Irish Party switched their votes to the Conservatives.

Number of liberal abstentions a sign of the the divisions within the liberal party - Gladstone resigned. Conservative caretaker government formed until the results of the election were known.

They dropped coercion and introduced the Ashbourne Act (100% state loans at low interest rates).

Gladstone refused to publically commit to Home Rule so Parnell called upon Irish voters in GB to vote conservative in 1885 election.

Results: IPP won every seat in Ireland south of Ulster - destroyed the power of the Liberals in Ireland!! Neither the Whigs nor Tories could govern without his support, whichever he chose depended on their attitude towards Home Rule. 

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The First Home Rule Bill - 1886

1885, Gladstone became convinced Home Rule was the only solution. He realised his previous programmes had failed and that further reform/continuance of English rule was bound to be unsuccessful.

He also thought he had been singled out by providence to lead a moral crusade on behalf of the Irish people which would culminate in Home Rule and the solution of the Irish problem.

He kept quiet during the election campaign

• If he spoke out it would inevitably break up the Liberals

• Could be accused of counter-bidding for the Irish vote

He also realised the advantages of a Home Rule policy introduced by Salisbury and backed by the majority of Liberals - only they had the power to pass bills (majority)

The fact that IPP did so well in the general election clinched his support - he thought the Irish had spoken.

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Gladstone's Third Ministry (Jan - June 1886)

"Flying the Hawarden Kite"

Gladstone's son leaked information about his change of opinion to the press in December 1885 because he thought Chamberlain was trying to take over the liberal party.

He also wanted Parnell to support his father so that the conservatives could be ousted from power.

Salisbury had no intention of introducing Home Rule - instead he reintroduced coercion. He thought the Libs would split trying to introduce Home Rule.

Gladstone was upset that he didn't have time to educate his party and the public to accept Home Rule - he wanted to explain/persuade before introducing the legislation. 

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General Election 1886

Irish deliberately supported a liberal resolution on land reform and the conservatives were defeated. However the liberal party was disintergrating.

Yet Gladstone was now PM and committed to Home Rule!!
He thought he had to work quickly because Ireland was in a revolutionary mood. Gladstone contributed to the problems of getting the Bill passed though:

• Didn't explain or get party on side
• A
lienated the party (didn't consult anyone when devising the Bill) didn't give the Irish a chance to say what they wanted
• Arrogant in the way he handled things

He began to lose high profile support in his party after giving details of the scheme to his cabinet.

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The First Home Rule Bill Package

2 Bills aiming to solve the social and political problems of Ireland

1) Irish legislature

• Bi-cameral legislature with two orders - first order weighted in favour of property and second order where MPs were elected in the normal way.

Irish MPs to be excluded from Westminster (where affairs such as defence, foreign policy and the Irish police were dealt with) meaning they would have no say affairs decided at WM however Gladstone thought this was important for the proposed parliament to begin its life without the undivided loyalty of its members - thus gaining respect and authority.

UK parliament would keep supreme power.

2) The Land Purchase Scheme

Government would lend all money to tenants to buy their holdings 

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Parnell thought the Irish people would accept it as a settlement but he was wrong;

• Fenians wanted independence
• Unionists rejected the idea of Home Rule altogether

• Parnell's own supporters thought it was too limited.

Tories also attacked the Bill because they didn't want to break up the Empire or the UK.

May 1886 Chamberlain called a meeting for liberal anti-home rulers, 55 decided to vote against the Bill.

June 1886 the Bill was DEFEATED - 93 liberals voted against it! Parliament dissolved and a general election was called

• Tories confident and united, shared views with liberal unionists

• Liberals split and in a weak position

Victory for Conservatives and unionists - Home Rule was dead for now 

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The Fall of Parnell

Parnell was determined to stick to constitutionally gaining home rule - which meant sticking with the liberals.

• Therefore he refused to support the 'plan of campaign' aimed at further reducing rents by collective action by the tenants.

• Both the libs and the Irish condemned the harsh coercive measures of the conservatives. Why did he fall?

1) His party was tied to the libs - meaning there was limited room for political manoeuvring.

2) More radical element of nationalism was gaining support.
O'Shea divorce meant he was repudiated as leader for being an adulterer.

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"Parnellism and Crime" - 1887

The Times' published a series of vindictive articles accusing Parnell of complicity in violence in Ireland and approval of the Pheonix Park murders.

1889 - investigation revealed they were based on forged letters.

Collapse of the case led to a wave of public sympathy for him.

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The O'Shea Divorce

November 1890 Parnell offered no defence and O'Shea was granted his divorce.

 Gladstone soon found himself under pressure from some who refused to accept an alliance with a leader who was a confessed adulterer - he felt he had no alternative but to urge the Irish to repudiate Parnell as their leader if the alliance (and cause of Home Rule) was to be maintained.

Parnell refused to resign, denounced the alliance and re-affirmed the Irish Party's independence. If Irish MPs stood by Parnell they would lose liberal support and any chance of Home Rule.

• December 1890 - meeting of Irish Party - they split.
The Irish Catholic clergy leaders called upon the public to repudiate him.

He fought in a series of bi-elections but anti-Parnellites won. He died in October 1891. 

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Parnell's achievements

1) Made Home Rule a realistic aim

Turned it from a vague ideal into practical politics

He was able to convince the majority of the Irish people that Home Rule was a#feasible solution to the problem of Irish government.

2) Uniting the Irish Parliamentary Party

 The party (under his leadership) played a key role in British politics
he created a united and disciplined party backed up by an efficient electorate. 

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Gladstone's Fourth Ministry (1892-94)

1892 general election: Working class dissatisfaction with Tories economic and social policies = support for liberals.

Hung parliament but the Irish backed Gladstone so became PM again and was determined to re-introduce Home Rule.

This time he discussed the Bill with his party;

• Financial provisions were better than in the previous Bill
80 Irish MPs to remain at Westminster
• Thought more carefully about Ulster but still didn't make any concessions!

Introduced in Feb 1893. Bill passed in Sept by a small majority in the Commons - defeated by the Lords. Home Rule could never be passed without the reformation of the Lords'.

Failed because;

• Underestimated the problems concerning the unionists • continued opposition within the liberal party
• House of Lords = main obstacle! 

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Origins of Ulster Unionism

Ulster Unionism born due to:

• Re-emergence of Irish nationalism
• Rise of the Home Rule party
• Home Ruler's capture of the Roman Catholic vote

• Introduction of the Home Rule Bill's.

The Loyalist Anti-Repeal Union

1886 Gladstone's Home Rule Bill and the IPP's growing popularity brought the most influential Protestant groups together.

Churchill decided to use the Ulster Unionism to weaken his opposition;

He called upon the Ulstermen to organise in opposition to Gladstone and Home Rule and hinted that such resistance would receive support in England.

Counties with a Protestant majority feared they would be dominated by and discriminated against a Catholic government. 

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Cultural Revival (1895-1905)

1) Growing emphasis on all things Irish to keep alive the idea that Ireland was a separate nation with its own culture and heritage

2) Revival of interest in Irish sports

3) The Gaelic League founded in 1893 aimed to spread the Gaelic language and culture

4) Sinn Fein founded in 1905! 

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Why were the Ulster Unionists so opposed to HR?

1) Economic Reasons

Believed there were economic benefits to keeping the union - British connections produced thriving industries which would be threatened if the union was broken.

2) Political Reasons

Fearful of results of an Irish parliaments - believed it would be dominated by extreme nationalists and fenians.

3) Religious Reasons

Said "home rule is Rome rule!" - thought their religious and civil liberties would be threatened by a Catholic majority.

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Conservative Power

Defeat of 2nd Home Rule Bill = Gladstone retired and IPP split into factions. Conservatives being in power killed any chances of Home Rule.

Wyndham's Land Act - 1893 Virtually solved the land problems.

• It organised the buying out of landlords at an acceptable price by the government.
• It allowed tenants to purchase land through state loans at very low interest rates over long
periods of time.

1904 Devolution Scheme produced: proposed the control of some important aspects of Irish internal affairs by a representative Irish council. Denounced by Unionists for being "home rule by instalments". Led to distrust of the government and the formation of the Ulster Unionist Council in 1905 - a democratically elected body representing every strand of Ulster Unionism - now they could speak with one powerful unified voice. Ulster possessed the framework for an independent governmental organisation. 

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The Liberals and Home Rule post 1900

Many Liberals found Home Rule irritating. New leader CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN saw his main task as the re-unification of the Liberal party.

His members wanted a more practical approach to Home Rule - so many accepted his formula of a "step-by-step" approach. In the election campaign of 1906 he made it very clear there would be no early introduction of Home Rule - landslide victory!

In 1907 he offered a COUNCILS BILL which was a revised edition of the devolution scheme.

It was rejected by Redmond (IPP leader since 1900) under pressure from extremists & Sinn Fein to stand firm over demands. He made it clear to the government that 1/2 measures wouldn't suffice - nothing less than Home Rule would be acceptable! 

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Lead up to the parliament act

Asquith replaced Cambell-Bannerman as Liberal leader in 1908. He was determined to address the problem of the House of Lords, but didn't want it to be over Home Rule. December 1909 - Asquith made a commitment to introduce Home Rule if re-elected and to deal with the grievances of other groups affected by the Lord's absolute veto.

In 1909 Lloyd-George's "people's budget" was rejected by the Lords' #when they had no right to reject a "money bill" passed by the Commons - this made reform inevitable.

1910 general election followed the rejection of the budget. Redmond conveyed his views to Asquith that the Libs would need Irish reform and that if there was a Liberal victory, and reform of the Lords' then there would be no legitimate obstacle in the way of Home Rule. Asquith did need the support of all anti-conservatives.He was able to continue as PM with the support of the Irish & the labour party.

1911 the Parliament Act abolished the absolute veto of the Lords' and ensured they could only hold up a bill passed by the Commons' for 2 years. 

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Home Rule Bill of 1912

Very moderate - both Unionists and Nationalists hated it.

  • Irish parliament would be created with a upper house and a house of commons

  • It would have limited powers (control over defence, foreign policy and finance lay with Westminster)

  • It could pass limited laws

  • 42 Irish MPs to sit in Westminster

  • Ulster wouldn't remain part of the Union

1912 - passed in Commons. 1914 - passed but postponed until a year after the war had ended.

Libs should have faced up to Ulster realities - should have banned private armies and arms imports....instead both sides built up their manpower and openly imported arms. Asquith's policy of "wait and see" made the situation so bad any compromise was bound to fail. 

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Ulster Resistance

Unionist Council began to organise resistance.The main leaders of resistance were Carson and Craig. Named 28th Sept "covenant day" - 1/4 million men pledged to refuse to accept the authority of an Irish government.


Organised into county divisions. It was an ILLEGAL organisation yet SUPPORTED BY MPs such as Carson and Craig - they made it clear they were prepared to use force to reject subjection to an Irish parliament.

They claimed they were JUSTIFIED in resisting a law which overrode the rights of the minorities.

1) No safeguards provided for religious or civil liberties
2) Decided their duty to the crown was greater than their duty to a particular government. 

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1914: Year of Crisis

January - Ulster Volunteer Force founded & November - Irish Nationalists founded. 1914 - Asquith faced private armies in the North and the South!


Rumours the UVF were going to seize the army depots forced Asquith to send reinforcements to key positions in the North - Ulstermen saw it as invasion.

Bonar-Law put forward proposals to amend annual army act to stop the army being used against Ulster unless and election was held first - wrong: leader of the opposition shouldn't interfere. It implied the army had a right to question their orders.

The War Office became worried about Ulster officers and told the commander-in-chief any Ulsterman could "disappear" from duty when the troops were being moved North - if the officers went the men would think they could too!! General Gough and 57 others said they would rather resign than fight the UVF. It helped them think they could do what they wanted to. 

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Asquith abandoned his plans for military operations which made it look like he couldn't control the Ulstermen. The Unionists felt powerful.

Gough met with Seely and Sir John French from the War Office. He extracted promises that the army wouldn't be used to crush Unionist's opposition to Home Rule. Made Asquith's government POWERLESS - home rule couldn't be enforced without the army!

• Made government weaker and unionists stronger
• Showed the government couldn't control the army
• Nationalists were furious - looked like Britain were favouring the unionists

Many army officers kept Bonar-Law informed about the army's plans - WRONG because he was leader of the opposition, it was treason. Plus the conservatives would tell the Unionists so that they could be prepared. 

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The Larne Gun Running

24th April Unionists defied ban on importing arms. UVF obtained 35,000 rifles and 5 million rounds of ammunition from Germany.

They were collected under the noses of the authorities and distributed throughout the province. Army & police did nothing to prevent the unloading of such large amounts of arms, despite it being illegal.

Nationalists left outrages and government demoralised.

Asquith felt like he had not choice but to seek a political settlement which gave some recognition to Ulster's claims. 

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Policy excluded Ulster from a self governing Ireland
British public approved, Carson and Craig prepared to accept, Redmond prepared to consider temporary exclusion.

March 1914 Amending Bill based on "county option" those who opted out did so for 6 years. House of Lords' rejected amending Bill and put forward their own Bill for the permanent exclusion of Ulster.

= DEADLOCK. Civil war loomed nearer.

May - original HR Bill passed all necessary stages to become law but it was likely the unionists would carry out their threats if it did so. 

July - Howth Gun Running #increased tensions - less successful than the Larne Gun Running - the nationalists were furious. (Catholics stopped but Protestants weren't).

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Buckingham Palace Conference

21st July all party leaders invited to discuss exclusion.

Accepted 4 Protestant counties should be excluded but conflict about the other provinces.

Conference broke up in failure but pronciple of exclusion accepted on all sides. However Irish problem temporarily shelved because of upcoming war.

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World War One

The Government of Ireland Bill received Royal Assent on the 18th Sept.
Both nationalists and unionists fought in the war.
UNIONISTS - so Britain would be persuaded to keep the union because they're loyal. NATIONALISTS - so Britain would give them Home Rule for being loyal subjects.

Redmond believed the war would soon be over = the implementation of HR. Therefore he wanted to prove loyal and defend Ireland from attack. More extreme nationalists a) hated the crown so wouldn't fight for it. b) saw it as an opportunity for Ireland because Britain was preoccupied.

The Iriah Parliamentary Party split! Most supported Redmond and called themselves the 'national volunters'. 10,000 split away and kept the name 'The Irish Volunteers' and said they wouldn't die for Britain. 

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Massive recruitment from North and South Ireland. Men from Ulster formed the Ulster division but the nationalist volunteers weren't allowed one (weren't trusted). Nationalists felt discriminated against.

Number of volunteers decreased. Conscription needed to be introduced which caused controversey. Nationalists were frustrated and thought Home Rule was a "cheque continuously post dated". Especially because leading Unionists were appointed to Asquith's coalition in May 1915.

Unionists thought they were going to get their own way and nationalists thought they were being shunned. 

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The Easter Rebellion - 1916

Revolutionary nationalists opposed the war and policies of Redmond.

The Irish Volunteers came under the leadership of Eoinn MacNeill - main aim proclaim an Irish republic.

Easter Rising planned by the IRB. By 1916 a large proportion of the Volunteer's leaders were devoted republicans in favour of physical force.

Exception was McNeill who opposed rebellion only if Britain launched a campaign of repression against Irish nationalist movements or if they attempted to impose conscription.

IRB were split over whether to have an uprising - advocates of physical force hoped to win McNeill over or bypass his command altogether. 

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Pearse issued orders for 3 days of "parades and manouvers" by the volunteers for Easter Sunday.

True republicans would know what it meant whilst people such as MacNeill and the British authorities would take it at face value.

MacNeill found out what was happening and issued a countermand cancelling all plans for Easter Sunday. He only succeeded in putting it off for#a day but it greatly reduced the number of men who turned out. 

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Events of Easter Rebellion

Monday 24th April: most of rebels targets seized without opposition apart from

1) Pheonix Park Arsenal (full of guns and ammunition)

2) Dublin Castle (where Britain ruled from). Pearse and others took the GPO. Britain sent for reinforcements.

Tuesday 25th: Britain declared martial law
Wednesday 26th: Britain suffered heavy casualties but rebels were outnumbered and forced back Thursday 27th: Connolly hit, unable to walk but still gave commands. Maxwell arrived.

Friday 28th: rebels forced to evacuate the GPO.

Saturday 29th: Pearse tried to negotiate but Britain would only accept unconditional surrender - the rebels had no choice. 

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End of the Rebellion

Rebellion was condemned by the public opinion, denounced by moderate nationalists and public opinion was hostile.This started to change because:

• Martial law was proclaimed and the army's handling.
• General Maxwell had very harsh policies (15 of the members were executed and many
were arrested).

This aroused resentment throughout Ireland. Asquith decided a new settlement must be secured. A HR solution was proposed to Redmond and Carson based on the exclusion of 6 mainly Protestant counties. Both sides accepted.

Although Redmond was led to believe it was temporary and Carson that it was permament.

Redmond's willingness to accept led to his denunciation by important sections of the nationalists - led to the decline of his party's influence. 

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Coupon Election 1918

After 1918 Reform Act the franchise was extended to all men over 21 and women over 30.

In 1918 Britain arrested republican leaders and clamped down on public meetings and the press - their excuse was that they thought they were involved in a German plot.

This antagonised public opinion and played into Sinn Fein's hands.

The election was decisive for the future

• Sinn Fein won 73 seats

• IPP won 6

• Unionists won 26

Sinn Fein could now claim to represent the will of the people - the ELECTION GAVE THEM LEGITIMACY. 

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Dail Eireann

Sin Feinn didn't take their seats in WM - refusing to accept the authority of the UK parlaiment.

INSTEAD 21st Jan 1919 - Sinn Fein summoned MPs to Dublin to form the parliament of the Irish Republic = DAIL EIREANN.

Issued a declaration of independence
Demanded English withdrawal from Ireland
Set up a provisional government under de Valera 

Backed up by the Irish Volunteers - Britain were in a weak position especially as they made their new authority highly effective. 

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1918 General Election

  • Victory for coalition government of Lloyd-George (dominated by tories but led by a small amount of liberals)

  • Other section of liberals led in opposition by Asquith Unionists still in a strong position

    • Some in government
    • Carson still influential
    • The only Irish voice in WM as Sinn Fein refused to take their seats.

    Conservatives distanced themselves from the Unionsists - were prepared to accept HR as long as Ulster claims were recognised and Ireland didn't break from the Empire. 

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The Government of Ireland Act - 1920


  • 2 seperate parliaments for North and South

  • Election by proportional representation

  • Parliaments responsible for most internal affairs

  • Supremacy of British government remained unchallenged

  • Both to be represented at Westminster


  • Council of Ireland with representatives from N & S to deal with common problems

  • If both sides consented then one common parliament could be established for the whole of Ireland 

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Successes and Failures

Unionists came to see the advantages.
Bill passed in 1920, terms came into effect in 1921.
Craig became PM of Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein disregarded the Act and boycotted the new parliament.

Home Rule was no longer a solution for the nationalists.

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The Anglo Irish War 1919-1921

1919 IRA launched a campaign of murder against British police and army. Lloyd George thought he was facing a "tiny murder gang".

• Government had little understanding of the real situation
• Refused to accept the resistance of a state war
• He
reverted to repression (SF and IRA outlawed, Dail declared illegal and special powersof arrest enforced)

He relied on the Royal Irish Constabulary but they were backed up by the Black and Tans (exsoldiers).

1920 campaign became more widespread and more brutal - now directed at civilians associated with the enemy. Black and Tans responded - politicians had little control of the forces on either side.

Finally accepted the existence of a civil war - applied troops on a wider scale and martial law proclaimed in the south. 

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Bloody Sunday - Nov 1920

Morning - 11 English civilians shot dead by IRA
Afternoon - Black and Tans shot randomly at crowd at Croke Park

The Anglo Irish Treaty

Obvious war was winnable by neither side.

• IRA incapable of beating British army
• British government not prepared to use full power in an all out war against Ireland

Lloyd George forced to accept that the nationalists represented the will of the people. 

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The Truce

1920 early negotitaion attempts by Lloyd George failed but de Valera and Collins were moved by the fact that they couldn't have carried on for much longer.

Both sides therefore agreed to a truce on 11th July 1921

PM offered dominion status.

• Full control of internal affairs

• Membership of British empire

• Allegiance to the crown

Rejected by republican majority but de Valera was prepared to accept some form of connection with Britain. 

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The Irish Delegation - 11th October 1921

De Valera sent to men to London to negotiate, led by Griffiths and Collins. There was confusion over the status of the delegates

• Either PLENTPOTENTIARIES = could sign a binding agreement on their own authority

• De Valera insisted any draft treaty must first be submitted to a government in Dublin.

3 questions up for delegation:

• It was agreed GB would have 3 naval bases in Ireland

• Ulster to be given the option to opt in/opt out - boundary comission

• Dominion status but oath to the crown to be watered down 

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December - LG threathened war within 3 days if SF rejected the Act.

Griffiths and Collins reluctantly signed the Anglo-Irish treaty on 6th December 1921. Passed through Parliament 10 days later.

Caused conflict in Ireland:

• Collins supported
• de Valera rejected because of oath to the crown (succeeded by Griffiths because he


Provisional governement set up under Collins, British government handed over power and army began to withdraw.

1922 June- general election in Ireland = victory for Collins an failure for de Valera, led to civil war in Ireland 

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The Consitution of the Irish Free State

1922 the Irish government under Cosgrave felt it was strong enough to promote a formal constitution for the Irish Free State.

Approved by Dail and British government Northern Ireland chose to opt out
By 1923 partition had triumphed. 

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