History of Ireland
History of Europe

What caused the Irish home rule crisis of 1912-1914?


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2010-11-08 19:18:21
2010-11-08 19:18:21
Irish home rule crisisThe conduct of the Conservative/Unionist party in relation to the Home Rule issue was indefensible in a parliamentary democracy. They indulged in what Carson called an effort to 'degrade the British House of Commoms'. The strstegy of the Ulster Unionists, even the Irish Times, a staunch supporter of the anti-home rule campaign, admitted, was 'inherently vicious'. Bonar Law said in his famous Blenheim speech of July 1912 that 'there are things stronger than parliamentary majorities' and that there was no limit to which the unionists would go in their opposition to home rule that he would not be prepared to support them. Patricia Jalland in her book on the Liberals and Ireland called these remarks 'menacing and irresponsible' and declared that they could not be defended. Alvin Jackson in his book on the subject is of the opinion that that 'the sanction bestowed by the Tory leaders upon the most extreme forms of Ulster Unionism during the third home rule crisis has burdened the party with an extremely awkward political legacy'. Edward Pearce in Lines of Most Resistance said of Bonar Law that he helped to create 'the nearest thing to a genuine fascist mood in the shrewd history of the British Toryism'. Even Jeremy Smyth's sympathetic treatment of Bonar Law's and the Conservative/Unionist party's realpolitik reached a censorious conclusion. 'The Tory party - rather than see Ireland achieve self-government status along similar lines to that of Canada, Australia and ... South Africa - appeared willing to eschew constitutional precedents, destabilise the British state, encourage civil disobedience, succour army mutiny and tolerate Ireland's slide into civil war.' He quoted Sir Ian Gilmour 'The opposition was ... under ... Andrew Bonar Law ... unconstitutional. ... The Conservative party ... betrayed itself and came close to betraying its country'. Irish nationalists perceived themselves as an alien minority and were regarded as not quite full citizens by influential sections of of the British political and media establishment. Maume in the Long Gestation emphasised 'the contempt and ignorance of Irish affairs among much of the British political establishment'. The heroic efforts of John Redmond to operate democratic procedures and work within the constitution and of William O'Brien to conciliate on behalf of the nationalist underdogs was certainly not matched by Bonar Law nor indeed by Asquith or Lloyd George on behalf of the establishment. This is exemplified by Asquith turning to, in his own unusually brutal phrase, 'putting the screw to' Redmond with a view to 'wringing humilaiting concessions' from him. (quotes from Patricia Jalland in The Liberals and Ireland). At the same time the government of the British Empire on which the sun never set was was appeasing unionists rather than confronting the threat of force to an act of parliament. After that many nationalists, unfortunately but understandibly, came to the conclusion that force and threats of force were more effective than constitutional means in achieving results. Tony Leavy 1 Shielmartin Drive Sutton Dublin 13 353 1 8322954

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