John Bruton

Opinions & Ideas

Category: John Redmond

Speech about John Redmond MP at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament in Westminster

I wish to thank Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, and Conor McGinn MP, for organising, with the support of Cooperation Ireland and the Irish Embassy in London, this commemoration of the life and service of John Redmond. I thank Christopher Moran, Chairman of Cooperation Ireland, for making this commemoration happen. When Christopher decides something is going to happen, it happens!

THE REDMOND FAMILY IN PARLIAMENTARY POLITICS

John Redmond was as an MP here from January 1881 right up to his death on March 6th, 1918.

He worked briefly as a clerk in the House, before he became an MP.

His father had been an MP from 1872 to 1880, and his uncle, and namesake was a member from 1859 to 1865.

His brother, Major Willie Redmond, served alongside him in the House of Commons from 1883 until 1917 when he died, as a 56-year-old volunteer in the Royal Irish Regiment, from wounds he suffered in the Battle of Messines Ridge.

John’s son, also William Redmond, who also later served on the Western Front, had been elected as an MP in 1910. He successfully defended his deceased father’s seat in the Waterford by Election of 1918.

He won the  Waterford seat again in the General Election of the same year, becoming the only elected Nationalist MP from Southern Ireland to take his seat here, which he did until the Treaty of 1921.  He later became a member of Dail Eireann.

THE CHARACTER OF JOHN REDMOND

In a recent biography, Alvin Jackson, Professor of History in Edinburgh University describes John Redmond as

“patient, careful, consensual-but occasionally capable of necessary anger, who held together, from a position of weakness, a national enterprise (Home Rule) which he brought to the cusp of victory in 1914.”

Dermot Meleady, my fellow speaker at this event, and the author of a comprehensive two volume life of Redmond, has recently edited Redmond’s vast correspondence. This correspondence illustrates the huge practical difficulties Redmond faced, in holding together, and servicing, the numerous constituencies he had to mobilize to achieve Home Rule.

To exercise influence in Westminster, he had to spend a lot of his life in London.

To mobilise, occasionally dubious, British Liberal opinion behind Home Rule, he had to address meetings all over the rest of Britain. Forinstance, in 1907, he addressed the Oxford Union on a motion favouring Home Rule. After his address, the local Oxford newspaper said

“It is doubtful if the Union has ever heard, or will hear again, a speech that will have such influence on its hearers.”

In this work in Britain, he was greatly assisted by an Irish Party MP, who represented a Liverpool constituency, TP O Connor.

To bring Irish public opinion along in the compromises he needed to make to achieve Home Rule by constitutional methods, he had to spend a lot of time in Ireland . Here the role of his Deputy Leader, John Dillon, who spent more time in Ireland that Redmond could, was vital. They complemented one another.

To raise funds and exert pressure on the UK government, he had to travel often to the United States and Australia.  In fact it was on a fund raising trip for the Party that he met and married his first wife, Johanna Dalton.

All this travel and stress eventually took a toll on his health, and contributed to his death, at the relatively young age of 61.

Born to a well off family, John Redmond lived modestly, but died a comparatively poor man,  because he put public service ahead of his own and his family’s financial interests.

REDMOND’S SUCCESS AS A POLITICAL LEADER

Travel and communications were much more difficult then, so a lot of Redmond’s negotiations were done by letter.

The correspondence Dermot Meleady publishes shows how Redmond was instrumental in seeking to avoid, and eventually in healing, the damaging split between Parnellites and anti Parnellites.

In 1890, Redmond stood by Parnell, a stance that Carson always admired.

But, by 1900, he was the one chosen lead a reunited Irish party, the majority of whom had been opponents of Parnell and, by extension, of Redmond himself.  Redmond was able to succeed in this because he had won the trust of his opponents, as well as of his friends. These same qualities enabled to win over sceptical British opinion to the idea of Irish self government.

Redmond’s career is sometimes presented as a tragic and unlucky failure.

This is not so.  Taken as a whole, his career was a success. He achieved much.

ENDING THE LORDS VETO

In the 1909 to 1914 period, he successfully used his pivotal votes of his Party, on which the survival of the Liberal government depended, to insist upon the end of the parliamentary veto of the House of Lords, a major constitutional achievement.

When one considers the slow progress made by successive UK governments since then, often with large parliamentary majorities,  in Lords Reform, one gets a sense of the scale of achievement by Redmond, who led a Party that was always in a minority.

To end the Lords veto, Redmond needed nerves of steel in his negotiations between 1909 and 1911. Such was John Redmond’s success that the Daily Mail, with its characteristic understatement when it comes to Irish matters, described him as “the Dictator from Dublin”. He had to exert discipline in his party, and recent academic analysis shows the Irish Party to have been the most  active, disciplined, and cohesive party in the House.

Of course, the abolition of the House of Lords veto was not an end in itself.

ENACTING HOME RULE

It was a means to an end, and the end Redmond sought was Home Rule for Ireland.

Under the terms of the Parliament Act of 1911, which ended the Lords veto, Redmond had to ensure that the House of Commons passed a Home Rule Bill, in identical language, three times in three successive  parliamentary sessions in 1912, in 1913 and again in 1914.

Again this required the consistent application of parliamentary pressure.  He had to ensure that the Liberal government did not take his support for granted, but equally he also had to ensure that the Liberal government survived, for, if the Liberals fell, the replacement government would have abandoned Home Rule .

Through this application of democratic parliamentary pressure, Redmond and his Party succeeded, on 18 September 1914, in having Parliament to enact Home Rule for Ireland, and in having it signed into law by the King.

It is very important for Irish people to remember, in this centenary week of Redmond’s death, that previous Leaders of Irish Nationalism, O Connell, Butt and Parnell had not succeeded in having Home rule become law. Redmond did.

And, unlike them, he faced the real prospect of unconstitutional armed resistance in Ulster.

The enactment of Home Rule, and its signature by the King, meant that the UK Parliament, and its Sovereign, had consented to the principle of Irish legislative independence. This was done long before a shot was fired, long before the first unarmed policeman was shot at gates of Dublin Castle on Easter Monday of 1916, and long before the killing of policemen recommenced, on a much larger scale in 1919.

The principle of legislative independence had been won before a shot was fired.

AND WINNING CONSENT TO IT FROM ALL PARTIES

By 1915, all parties in Westminster, including the Conservatives, had come around to accepting that legislative independence, for at least 26 of the counties of Ireland, was both inevitable and necessary. As a result, Home Rule was the policy of all the major parties, including the Conservatives, in the General Election of 1918.

All this was done without taking anyone’s life.

LEAVING THE UK CUSTOMS UNION?

One of the big controversies surrounding Home Rule was about whether the Home Rule government would have power to set and collect Customs duties, as well as other taxes. In other words, would Home Rule Ireland leave the UK Customs Union, or not?

Just as the UK is now finding that leaving the EU Customs Union has costs as well as benefits, Redmond found that leaving the UK Customs Union, one hundred years ago, would not have been without political difficulty.

Industrialised North East Ulster argued strongly, in the debates about Home Rule, that a government in Dublin should not be allowed to leave the UK Customs Union. They feared that if it did, it might use customs tariff powers to favour other parts of Ireland, to Belfast’s disadvantage.

Indeed, if the Home Rule Act had included customs powers, one might have had the same controversies, about checks at ports and borders a hundred years ago, that we are having today

Redmond wanted to avoid partition, and wanted to minimise differences with Unionism, so he was prepared to cede ground on the customs issue, and accepted that Home Rule would not include customs powers.

Other nationalists took a harder line and, in the end, they got their way.

After the violence of the 1916 to 1921 period, the Treaty of 1921 took the 26 counties out of the UK Customs Union. The Free State government took on the power to impose protectionist tariffs.  That inevitably meant border posts.

Home Rule was not brought into immediate effect in September 1914, after it was enacted, because holding an election to the new Irish legislature and setting up a new government  would have been difficult, given the distractions caused by the outbreak of the First World War in the previous month. Initially, this postponement was not controversial at all.

EXCLUSION OF ULSTER COUNTIES…TEMPORARY, REVERSIBLE, OR INDEFINITE?

But the possible exclusion from Home Rule, either “temporarily”, “provisionally”, “indefinitely” or “permanently”, of four, or six, Ulster counties was also postponed, and this WAS controversial.

As we know, in the end, Redmond and his Party did not prevent the eventual exclusion of six Ulster counties from the jurisdiction of the Parliament meeting in Dublin. They were much criticised for that at the time, and since.

But the campaign of violence that followed the defeat of Redmond’s Party in the 1918 Election, did not prevent partition either!

In fact, it entrenched it. And it is with us to this day.

HE SAW COERCION WAS A NON STARTER

All attempts to coerce Northern Ireland into a United Ireland, whether by the attempted incursions across the border in 1922, by the propaganda campaign in the late 1940s, or by IRA  campaigns in the 1950’s, and from 1969 to 1998, all failed, because they were based on a faulty analysis of the Ulster Unionist mind.

Redmond was the first Irish Nationalist leader to make a serious attempt to understand, in a respectful way, the genuineness of the concerns,  the fears, and the aspirations of Ulster Unionism.

For Irish Nationalism today, this is the most salient aspect of Redmond’s heritage.

Initially, like many today, he was among those who thought  Ulster Unionists were bluffing and could be over ruled, but gradually he changed his mind. In late 1914, he said clearly that

no coercion shall be applied to any single county in Ireland  to force them against their will to come into the Irish (Home Rule ) Government

His approach was persuasion. He was pragmatic.

SUPPORT FOR VOLUNTARY RECRUITMENT, AND OPPOSITION TO CONSCRIPTION

Two days after Home Rule became law, and a few weeks after the First World War had broken out, in a speech at Woodenbridge, John Redmond supported recruitment in Ireland to the Armed Services to fight in the Great War. He did so

+  partly because he believed that defending the neutrality of  Belgium, a small country, was a just cause, which Ireland should support on its merits, (Remember he OPPOSED the Boer War on similar grounds)  and

+ partly to persuade Ulster Unionists that, on this issue, he, and they, were on the same side. He wanted to stress loyalties that Unionists and Nationalists could share, as a means of minimizing and eventually healing divisions on the island of Ireland.

Inevitably, this lost him support among more extreme Irish Nationalists.

These people had no idea of persuading Unionists of anything. They thought Unionists were bluffing, and that Unionist views were best ignored.

Such people were wrong then, and they are wrong today.

While Redmond supported recruitment, he resolutely opposed any attempt to introduce conscription in Ireland.

In 1915, the Irish Party had, by political methods, prevented conscription being applied in Ireland, even while it was being applied across the entire island of Britain.

Given the huge losses being experienced by conscripts from the other parts of the UK, and the acute need for manpower at the front, successfully resisting conscription in Ireland, while it was being applied everywhere else, cannot have been easy.

REALISM, NOT ABSOLUTISM, ON ULSTER

Redmond was pragmatic on the Ulster question. In this he was ahead of his time. Neither O Connell, nor Parnell had to face the dilemma of what to do, if Ulster Unionists said “No “, and meant it.

Against Redmond’s pragmatism, we have the absolutism of the Proclamation that launched the Rising of 1916 in Dublin.

It said an Irish Republic of 32 counties existed, not on the basis of the votes of the Irish people, but as of right, a right proclaimed outside the GPO in the name of “God and the dead generations”.

In this, almost other worldly, absolutism of the 1916 Proclamation lay

a resistance to compromise,

an abstention from reality, and

the roots of the Irish Civil War.

This same absolutism explains why the Nationalist voters of Northern Ireland have no one here today to cast a vote for them, when this House decides on the sort of Brexit they will have to accept.

REACHING AGREEMENT WITH CARSON

Returning to constitutional politics, a last great attempt was made by Lloyd George to find a formula for immediate Irish legislative independence, on a basis acceptable to both Nationalists and Unionists, in June 1916.

This agreement reached then, if implemented, could have resolved the Irish question.

In that month, Redmond and Sir Edward Carson, the Unionist Leader, reached a crucial agreement.

It involved the immediate implementation of Home Rule for the 26 counties, but with the six counties excluded for the duration of the war, when an Imperial Conference would be called to consider the matter.

Carson persuaded the Ulster Unionist Council to accept this formula, although it meant abandoning Unionists in Cavan, Donegal and Fermanagh.

Even more remarkably, Joe Devlin and Redmond persuaded an Ulster Nationalist Convention to accept it by 475 votes to 265, despite the opposition of the Catholic bishops.

But the UK government did not implement the agreement on which Carson and Redmond had reached an historic compromise.

Southern Unionism, represented by Walter Long MP and by Lords Midleton and Lansdowne, was sufficiently powerful in the Liberal/Conservative Coalition Government in the summer of 1916, that they were able to veto the plan. This should not have been allowed to happen, and Lloyd George, who induced Carson and Redmond to make their deal, by saying he would resign if it was not implemented , did not live up to the promise. Trust was irreparably damaged.

This was a tragedy, and the reasons for it deserve to be explored by historians.

Why did the Southern Unionists stop a plan, that would have protected their interests so much better than what eventually transpired, and why  did the UK government succumb to their threats?

Why did the Catholic bishops oppose any form of partition, when they had no constructive alternative to offer?

Both were attempting to protect the interests of minorities, southern Protestants in one case, and Northern Catholics in the other, but both minorities were ill served what eventually happened when the compromise was not implemented.

This failure, and the subsequent doomed attempts to introduce conscription in Ireland to assuage British opinion, undermined constitutionalism with the Irish public, and opened the door to the wars,  to the suffering, and to the bitterness of 1919 to 1923.

But that disappointment should not blind us to the fact that the principle of Irish legislative independence had already been won, in 1914, without a shot being fired. There might be delays, but there was no going back.

But winning consent to legislative independence was not the only success of John Redmond.

RETURNING THE LAND TO THOSE WHO WORKED IT

In the period from 1885 to 1910, Redmond and his Party, transformed the system of agricultural land holding in Ireland, and ended landlordism. This was perhaps the biggest transformations of property ownership in Irish history.

It created a rural middle class, which underpinned Irish democracy in the first half of the twentieth century, when many comparable European countries, where a landlord system had persisted, succumbed to authoritarianism, in the absence of a strong  and politically active middle class, with a stake in democracy.

MAJOR SOCIAL IMPROVEMENTS, AND ENDING OVER TAXATION

Redmond and the Irish Party also helped

+ establish the National University of Ireland,

+ enact Old Age Pensions and National Insurance, and,

+ through the Labourers Acts, make provision for the first ever programme of public housing in Ireland.

During most of the nineteenth century, Ireland was “overtaxed”, in the sense that more was collected in taxes in Ireland, than was spent by government in Ireland.

Old Age Pensions and National Insurance changed that, because Ireland benefitted from them proportionately more than Britain did.

Indeed Redmond expressed concern that additional insurance entitlements, proposed by Lloyd George, could not be afforded by an Irish Home Rule government, reliant on the limited Irish tax base. The Free State inherited this problem, and in 1924, it had to reduce the old age pensions it had inherited.

It is also worth mentioning that Redmond and the Irish Party played a role in preserving state support for Catholic, and Church of England,  schools in England , when the Liberal government, with whom the Irish Party normally allied itself, wanted to do away with it after the 1906 Election.

LESSONS, AND LEGACIES, FROM THE LIFE OF JOHN REDMOND

I again thank Jeffrey Donaldson and Conor McGinn for hosting this commemoration. It is right that they should do so, particularly at this time.

Redmond is a better model for a twentieth first century world, than are those did not accept the necessity for compromise, and who failed to make an adequate effort to understand the aspirations of  their traditional opponents.

When passions are inflamed, absolute demands backed by violence, are actually the easy way. No intellectual, or imaginative, effort is required. In these circumstances, compromise is harder, riskier, and more painful.

Redmond chose the hard way.

He took big political risks, while others sat on their principles….or hid behind them.

Redmond was a Democrat, who showed by his substantial achievements, that parliamentary democracy worked. It is partly because of the example of the Irish Parliamentary Party here in Westminster, that independent Ireland remained a strong democracy, drawing on the Westminster model in many respects (though not I am glad to say on its electoral system).

Redmond won the consent of British democracy to Irish legislative independence. Others, without acknowledgement, built on the platform he had created.

No other Irish leader, with the possible exception of Daniel O Connell, was as committed as Redmond was, to reconciliation between Ireland and Britain.

Some defined their Irish Nationalism as confronting Britain. Redmond defined Irish Nationalism as complementing Britain.

He did not see Ireland as fulfilling its destiny simply by “taking back control” on an “ourselves alone” or “Sinn Fein” basis.

He saw Ireland and Britain as being best able to fulfil their destinies, as part of something bigger than either Britain or Ireland. He saw a self governing Ireland working together with  Britain, and with the self governing countries of what became the Commonwealth, in a great multinational organisation that would work to the benefit of all.

While Ireland eventually left the Commonwealth, we realised Redmond’s aspiration, for a structure of constructive cooperation, including Britain and Ireland as equals, when Britain and Ireland joined the  European Common Market together in 1973.

Sadly, relations between the European Union, Ireland, and Britain are not as good today, as they could be.

Redmond’s example of courtesy, sincerity, and creative compromise is the best model, for all of us in this small  European continent to follow, as Europeans of all nationalities seek to protect ourselves in an increasing dangerous and protectionist world, of whose population we constitute a diminishing minority

“Ourselves Alone” is not the best way.

 

Speech by John Bruton, former Taoiseach and vice Chairman of Cooperation Ireland, at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament in Westminster at 6pm on Tuesday 7th March, commemorating the  centenary of the death, on 6th March 1918, of John Redmond MP, Leader of the  Irish Parliamentary Party .

CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF JOHN REDMOND…..6 MARCH


The 6th March 2018 is the centenary of the death of MP, who was the Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 to his death.

He was instrumental in healing the damaging split between Parnellites and anti Parnellites.

He succeeded, on 18 September1914, in getting the British Parliament to enact Home Rule for Ireland, something which previous Leaders of Irish Nationalism, O Connell, Butt and Parnell had not been able to do.

He overcame the veto of the House of Lords. This was possible because he had won the trust of his opponents as well as his friends, and because he used the pivotal votes of his Party in the House of Commons skilfully.

In addition to this, he, and his Party, transformed the system of agricultural land holding in Ireland and ended landlordism of the kind which had existed for most of the Nineteenth Century.

They also helped establish the National University of Ireland, enact Old Age Pensions and National Insurance, and, through the Labourers Acts, make provision for the first ever programme of public housing in Ireland.

All this was done without taking anyone’s life.

It is true that Redmond did not prevent partition, but the campaign of violence that followed the defeat of his Party in the 1918 Election, did not prevent partition either. In fact, it entrenched it.

Events to mark the centenary of Redmond’s death, which I hope to attend, include

………………………………………………..

WEXFORD ON 4 MARCH;

A seminar on Redmond, and the laying of a wreath onJohn Redmond’s grave in John Street graveyard in Wexford town.

…………………………………………………………

DUBLIN ON 6 MARCH;

A symposium in the Royal Irish Academy on the Irish Parliamentary Party

………………………………………………………….

WATERFORD CITY ON 10 MARCH;

A seminar on the Redmondite tradition in Waterford.

This will cover the work of John Redmond himself.  It will also cover the careers of his son William and his daughter in law, Bridget.

John Redmond was  first elected to represent Waterford in the House of Commons on 7 July 1892 and continued to represent it there until his death in March 1918

William represented Waterford in Westminster from 1918 to 1921, and in Dail Eireann between 1923 and his death in 1933.

Mrs. Bridget Redmond, William’s widow, represented Waterford in Dail Eireann from 1933 until her death in 1952.

 

 

JOHN REDMOND….A LIFE OF SERVICE TO IRELAND

JOHN REDMOND………..YEARS OF PATIENT POLITICAL AGITATION

“a bust of John Redmond in Ballytrent House, Rosslare Co Wexford,
John Redmond’s childhood home now the home of James and Mary Ryan”

John Redmond had a political career of 39 years and became an MP in his twenties. Previously he had worked as a clerk in the House of Commons where his father had been a member. 

When his father died, Redmond may have hoped to contest his father’s seat here in Wexford town, but Parnell, ironically as events turned out, preferred to have  Tim Healy (later an opponent of Parnell) contest the seat.

Not long after, Redmond did secure a seat in Parliament representing New Ross.

Later, after the Irish Party split when Gladstone and the Liberal Party refused to do business with them under Parnell’s  leadership because of his extra marital affair,  Redmond ,as a Parnellite,  contested and won a seat in Waterford, against Michael Davitt, an anti Parnellite. He retained that seat to the end of his life in March 1918.
Redmond came from a political family. At school he excelled in drama. He went to Trinity College but dropped out after two years.

His parents were separated, something that was uncommon and difficult at that time. Redmond, as the eldest son, had to act as a conciliator between his parents, thereby developing diplomatic characteristics, along with a certain solitariness, that were to mark his political career.

His life was marked by tragedies. His first wife died in childbirth in 1889. One of his daughters died as a young adult, and his brother Willie (MP for Clare) was killed in the Great War.

The crowning achievement of John Redmond’s career was the enactment into law of Irish Home Rule on 18 September 1914, a topic with which I propose to deal extensively in this address.

Other achievements with which he was closely associated were the settlement on the land question, in a way which transferred ownership of the land of Ireland to those who were actually farming it, the achievement of democratic Local Government in 1898, the Universities Act of 1908 which established NUI, and the beginnings of the welfare state with the introduction of old age pension and social security in 1909.Redmond suffered imprisonment for his beliefs during the land struggle.

Apart from these achievements, Redmond played a crucial role in reuniting the Irish Party, after the Parnell split of 1891, in 1900.  John Dillon, who was on the other side of that split from Redmond, described this work, at a banquet in Redmond’s honour in 1908, as “one of the greatest works of reconciliation ever wrought for Ireland”.

In this address, I will concentrate how important it is to commemorate this year, the centenary of Redmond’s biggest achievement, the enactment of Home Rule.

But, first, I will say a word about commemorations in general.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF COMMEMORATION?  WHAT SHOULD WE COMMEMORATE?

” the vault in which John Redmond is buried on the occasion of a visit
there by the Wexford Historical Society”

Commemorations involve choices. We cannot officially commemorate everything, or everyone. We are not obliged to commemorate things, just because our ancestors commemorated them.  We must reinterpret the past, and, through commemoration, learn from it  for ourselves.


Commemorations  should highlight the things in our past that are helpful to us in understanding our present, and which bring to notice precedents and practices from our past, that help us shape our future, as we want it to be. 
Especially if we decide  to commemorates  conflicts in our past, we  should take the opportunity to learn from mistakes made on one’s own” side” of that conflict, not just the mistakes made on the other side. 
President John F Kennedy, a man with strong connection with New Ross-John Redmond’s first constituency, said
“ A nation reveals itself not only in the men it produces, but also in the  men it honours, the men it remembers”
President Kennedy’s yardstick should be applied to the centenaries   we will choose to highlight in what we have decided will be a decade of commemorations of 1913 to 1923.

Which centenaries, and which men and women, from that period, should we highlight for commemoration, so that we best, in Kennedy’s words, reveal the nation we are today, and hope to be in the future?

In my mind, it boils down to a very simple question.
Should the focus of commemoration be on killing, and death, or on living and working?
Given that this country is organised as a parliamentary democracy, one of the oldest surviving ones in Europe, and hopes to remain so, I argue most strongly that it is important to highlight, and celebrate, centenaries of parliamentary achievements, from the 1913 to 1923 period.

This is especially important as there is, here and elsewhere in Europe, a high degree of impatience and cynicism about parliamentary democratic politics.  I argue that we should therefore single out the centenaries of parliamentary achievements of the 1913 to 1923 era, and every other era,  and go out of our way to remind people today, that patient parliamentary politics can and does bring great dividends.

One such centenary has already passed…..the centenary of the passage into law of Home Rule for Ireland on 18 September 1914.
I commend the Wexford Borough Council and Wexford  Historical Society for remembering that centenary of Home Rule and laying a wreath on the grave here in the town, of the man to who did the most to bring it about, John Redmond.
  I commend the Reform Group for organising a seminar in Dublin on the centenary.
  I commend the” Irish Independent” for their centenary Supplement.
  I commend the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the references they made to it in speeches around the time. 
I commend too the Parnell Summer school in Wicklow for especially remembering Redmond during the centenary of his greatest achievement

The passage into law of Home Rule for Ireland was an Irish parliamentary achievement without equal in the preceding 200 years. 
It granted Ireland its own legislature, something denied it since 1800. And that was obtained without violence, or the threat of violence, on the part of those who worked for it. It was of comparable importance to the Land acts, also achieved by diligent parliamentary work, and peaceful agitation, and by the same people. 

Commemoration of the 1916 rebellion,  of  the warfare of the 1919 to 1923 period that it engendered, and indeed of the Great War as well, all violent episodes, without balancing commemoration of peaceful parliamentary achievements, like the enactment of Home Rule,  would glorify military activity, at the expense of  the  achievements of less glamorous, but  contemporarily  far more relevant, peaceful parliamentary struggle. It would be a totally unbalanced commemoration policy, and would fail, in President Kennedy’s words, to “reveal” this nation as it really is. It would not do us justice

TOUGH, BUT NON VIOLENT, TACTICS WERE NEEDED TO WIN HOME RULE

The enactment of Home Rule may have been a purely peaceful achievement, but this is not to suggest that those who obtained it, the Irish Parliamentary Party of John Redmond and John Dillon, were mild mannered and non confrontational.

Two previous attempts to obtain Home Rule had failed, one because it was defeated in the House of Commons, and another because it was vetoed in the House of Lords. 

To get Home Rule onto the statute book, the Irish Parliamentary leaders had to get a majority for Home Rule in the House of Commons, and simultaneously to get the British constitutional arrangements changed to remove the House of Lords power of veto. 
There was a permanent majority against Home Rule in the House of Lords, and the veto could only be removed with the consent of the House of Lords itself. 

Furthermore, in the House of Commons, the Liberal party, which had been committed to Home Rule under Gladstone, had moved away from that policy under Lord Rosebery, Campbell Bannerman, and Herbert Asquith. The Liberal Party had first to be won back to a firm commitment to pass Home Rule.

In a masterly exercise of parliamentary leverage and constructive opportunism, Redmond and Dillon achieved both goals, in a very short space of time. 

They withheld support for the radical 1909 Budget, unless and until there was a commitment to remove the Lords veto and introduce Home Rule. They also, in effect, exercised pressure on the King, because the Lords eventually only passed the legislation to remove their veto, only under the threat of the King swamping the House of Lords with a flood of new Lords.
All this was achieved from the position of being a minority party in the House, albeit a party whose votes were needed to avoid a General Election which the Liberal Government feared they would lose.  Considerable brinksmanship was needed, because, if the Liberals lost the election, the cause of Home Rule would also be lost. Redmond and Dillon did not have all the trump cards. They just played the cards they had very well indeed.

On the other side of the House, the Irish Party faced a Conservative Party that was so determined to force a General Election, and to that end they were prepared to incite Ulster Unionists to military insurrection, and to connive with elements in the British military to ensure that the insurrection would not be prevented.

In Britain itself, Home Rulers had to overcome deep anti Irish, and anti Catholic, sentiment is some sections of opinion. Redmond toured Britain, over 30 years, gradually preparing British opinion to accept Irish legislative independence.
Financial gaps also had to be bridged. Unlike Scotland today, Ireland in 1914 had no oil.

Between 1896 and 1911, British Government expenditure in Ireland (including recently introduced old age pensions) had increased by 91%, whereas revenue raised in Ireland had risen by only 28%. That enduring gap between spending commitments and revenue explains why the Irish Free State had to take a shilling off the old age pension in the 1920’s.

In face of all these difficulties, getting  Home Rule onto the statute book, without the  loss of a single life, really was a remarkable  parliamentary achievement.

If commemorations are about drawing relevant lessons for today’s generation from the work of past generations, this remarkable exercise of parliamentary leverage, to achieve radical reform against entrenched resistance, has much greater relevance, to today’s generation of democrats, than does the blood sacrifice of Pearse and Connolly.
The subsequent turning away, after 1916, from constitutional methods has obscured the scale of this parliamentary achievement. There may have been a fear that too much praise of the prior constitutional achievement would delegitimize the subsequent  blood sacrifice.

THE WOODENBRIDGE SPEECH

The Woodenbridge speech of John Redmond on 20 September 1914, urging Irish men to join the Allied cause in the Great War that had broken out six weeks previously, must be seen in the context that Home Rule had been placed on the statute book just two days previously.
Home Rule was law, but the implementation of it was simply postponed until the end of what most people expected would be a short war.

But Redmond’s address to the Volunteers at Woodenbridge was not a mere reciprocation for the passage of Home Rule.

He also wanted to show that the passage of Home Rule had inaugurated a new and better relationship between Ireland and its neighbouring island.

He wanted to show everybody, including Ulster Unionists, that things had changed. As he was still aiming to persuade Ulster Unionists to come in under Home rule, he felt he needed to do this if there was to be any chance at all that they would voluntarily do so. He wanted to show to Ulster Unionists that, in some matters, Unionists and Nationalists were now “on the same side”. 
Let us not forget that Irish men h fought in the British Army in the Boer War, notwithstanding Redmond and the Irish Party’s opposition to that war, so those many of those who volunteered to fight in what turned out to be the Great War, would have done so anyway, whether Redmond asked them to do so or not.

Suppose Redmond had given a different speech in Woodenbridge.  

Suppose , Home Rule having been passed into law two days before, Redmond had instead vocally opposed recruitment, what would have happened then? Is that what his present day critics are suggesting he should have done? 

He would have handed arguments to those who had opposed Home Rule all along, to the effect that a Dublin Home Rule Government could not be trusted not to undermine Britain’s international position at a time of great danger Carson and Craig would have felt themselves entirely vindicated in their opposition to Home Rule. Furthermore the vast majority on Nationalist opinion supported what Redmond said at the time.
The Woodenbridge speech also stood on its own merits. The unprovoked invasion by Germany of a small neutral country, Belgium,  in order better to be able to attack France, was something that many people at the time, and since, regarded as profoundly wrong and deserving to be opposed. Gerry Adams has said that his support for recruitment makes John Redmond a “man of violence”. I do not think a willingness to defend a country that had been invaded without provocation, Belgium, makes Redmond a man of violence.
That said, the Great War was an avoidable tragedy, and a failure of statesmanship. But it was not a failure for which Redmond or the Irish Parliamentary Party was responsible. They were not party to the secret assurances Grey had given to the French, on the strength of which the French egged on the Russians to confront Austria. Redmond had nothing to do with this. He had to deal with the situation as they found it, and Belgium’s sovereignty HAD been violated.

It is right to commemorate the Irish dead of the Great War, but  I would like to stress that Home Rule’s passage into law is a separate matter. It should be commemorated on its own merits, and separately.

WERE THE POWERS OF HOME RULE TOO LITTLE?

Some have criticised the limitations of the initial Home Rule Act of 1914.  The powers were limited only because Home Rule was initially designed to apply to all 32 counties, encompassing a reluctant Unionist minority.
Although the possibility of temporary exclusion of some Ulster counties had been conceded by the time the Home Rule Act finally came to be enacted, 3 years after it was first introduced, the Act had been framed from the outset in terms that could apply to all 32 counties of Ireland , where there was a Catholic majority. So safeguards, and understandable limitations, had to be inserted to protect or reassure the Ulster Protestant minority. Some historians, who have recently criticised is limitations, studiously ignore the fact that it was designed for a 32 county, not a 26 county, Ireland.
For example a provision was inserted whereby the Home Rule Government “ could not endow any religion”. This safeguard was actually a worry to the Catholic hierarchy, who feared it might affect existing state funding for Catholic teacher training colleges, but it was put there to reassure Protestants in a 32 county Ireland. 
For the same reason reason, marriage law was to be kept at Westminster, because the Vatican’s  “Ne Temere” decree of 1907 on mixed marriages had caused  alarm among Protestants.

Likewise, limitations on the imposition of tariffs and customs duties by the Home Rule Government of a 32 county Ireland were needed to assure the minority industrial interests on Ulster, that their trade interests would not be sacrificed to those of the majority, predominantly agricultural, economy of  the rest of the country. 
As it transpired, these safeguards were not enough. Ulster Unionists continued to insist on exclusion from the whole system, and backed their demand with the threat of force.  Modern critics may claim Home Rule was too limited. The Ulster Unionists of the time clearly did not think so! 
If John Redmond had wanted to maximise the powers of the Home Rule Government in Dublin, he could, early on, have accepted the exclusion from Home Rule of the 4 Ulster counties where there was a Unionist majority.  Even the Conservatives would have given Redmond more powers on that basis, as Bonar Law’s remarks which I will quote later will show.

HOLDING OUT FOR A UNITED IRELAND

But Redmond, unlike those who negotiated the Treaty or the Good Friday Agreement for that matter, did not accept any open ended exclusion from Home Rule of any part of Ireland. In that sense, John Redmond in 1914 could be said to have been more idealistic than the republicans and physical force men who came after him were in practice. 
In January 1914, at the height of the Ulster resistance to Home Rule, John Redmond was speaking at a meeting in his constituents in Waterford about the difficulty of winning over Ulster Unionists, and a heckler shouted up at him “We are as well off without them”. Redmond replied indignantly, “No, we are not. That is an absolute fallacy”

The American historian, Joseph P Finnan in his book, “John Redmond and Irish Unity  1912-1918” said that Redmond prized Irish unity more than he prized Irish sovereignty.

He added
            “Although he (Redmond) acceded to demands for temporary exclusion of northern counties, he never gave them up for lost. The Irish revolutionaries who negotiated the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 did just that. Even the anti Treaty forces led by de Valera based their objections on the loss of the republican ideal, not the loss of the northern nationalist population”
Redmond’s 32 county ideal has not been achieved .

Perhaps the two communities on this island are too different, in their sense of their deepest identity, for that.  What is certain is that all those who came after Redmond, using the gun, did not bring unity any closer than he did.

THE 1916 RISING AND ITS IMPACT ON POSSIBLE UNITY

Charles Townsend said in his book “Easter 1916”
“The Rebellion played a part in cementing partition”
Indeed, the words of the 1916 Proclamation itself were literally “oblivious” of the problem of resistance in parts of Ulster to any form of rule by Dublin, notwithstanding Pearse’s professed admiration for the UVF arming itself to resist  even a modest measure of Home Rule.
The 1916 Proclamation said it was 

“Oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, who have divided a minority from a majority in the past” 

In effect, the 1916 leaders apparently did not think the Ulster Unionists had minds of their own, and were simply tools of the British. Apart from rhetoric, no attempt was made, by the organisers of the 1916 Rebellion, to persuade Ulster Protestants of the merits of an Irish Republic for them, or even to work out how such persuasion might be done. While Redmond had at least tried to talk to Carson and Craig, the 1916 leaders were simply oblivious of them.

Put simply, there was nothing in the Proclamation to deal with the fears of Ulster Unionists.  The Irish Republic was deemed to include them. That was it.
Let us also not forget that when the decision to use physical force was made by the leaders of the  IRB and the Irish Citizen Army in April  1916, Home Rule was already law. So a basis for proceeding towards fuller Irish legislative independence,  without use of  force was already there on the statue book, having been reaffirmed by Parliament in 1912, 1913 and again in 1914, and signed by the King as Head of State.

Home Rule’s  implementation was simply postponed for the duration of the war, but there was no doubt but that it would come into effect once the war was over, either for the whole of Ireland, or, more likely, for 26 or 28 counties. Let me underline that.

THE IRREVERSIBILITY OF HOME RULE

The irreversibility of Home Rule is well illustrated by a comment that had been made by one of its staunchest opponents, the Conservative leader, Andrew Bonar Law.  He admitted
 “If Ulster, or rather any county, had the right to remain outside the Irish Parliament, for my part my objection would be met”.

Furthermore, the Lloyd George Coalition Government’s re election manifesto  in the December 1918 Election stated bluntly “Home Rule is upon the statute book”. There was thus no going back on it.  

My belief  is that , in 1918, instead of launching a policy of abstention from Parliament and a guerrilla war, Sinn Fein and the IRA should have used the Home Rule Act as a peaceful  stepping stone to dominion status and full independence, in the same way as Treaty of 1921 was so used, but only after so much blood had been shed.  

WAS 1916 A “JUST WAR”?

Many of the 1916 leaders were familiar with Catholic teaching on what constitutes a just war.
 One of the criteria is that war should be a” last resort.”

Given that Home Rule was already passed, would have come into effect, and would have been a platform for further moves to greater independence, the use violence in 1916 was not a genuine last resort, and does not meet that criterion for a just war.
Another important context in which the 1916 decision must be judged is the Great War.

WAS ALLIANCE WITH GERMANY WISE?

By forcibly occupying the GPO the 1916, leaders explicitly took the opposite side in this war to their fellow Irishmen in the trenches. In proclaiming the Republic, the 1916 leaders spoke of their “gallant allies in Europe”. These allies were the German Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Austrian Empire.  Although their immediate target was Britain, those, against whom the Irish Republicans went to war,  included the French Republic and Belgium, whose territories had been invaded, and occupied , by Germany.

The1916 leaders were not neutral. They were taking the side of Germany , Turkey and Austria and said so in their own Proclamation. Gerry Adams who recently attacked Redmond at a meeting of  the” Irish Neutrality League” should remember this. The 1916 rebels were not neutral, they were explicitly allied with the Germans, and had concerted their activities with them.

This alliance with Germany subsequently weakened the position of Irish negotiators, including Sean T O Kelly, who sought to get a hearing, at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, for the case for Irish independence. The 1916 leaders’ decision had put them on the wrong side, and had made them “allies”, in the words of the Proclamation, of the losers in the Great War.

Sean T O Kelly’s job in Paris was further complicated by the fact that the Irish Republic had already been declared any way, regardless of the Peace conference. As Townshend put it in his other book “The Republic…the fight for Irish Independence” 
         “The Peace Conference would now be asked not to investigate and adjudicate on a national claim, but to recognise an already existing Republic,(thus) approving an act hostile to a great power” (Britain).
This would have been hard for Woodrow Wilson to do, even if he wanted to.
 The contention of the authors of the Rising was that, as of Easter Week 1916, a Republic already existed, because it had been declared outside the GPO. This   prior declaration made any compromise afterwards more difficult. Settling for anything that did not involve immediate British acceptance of a 32 county Irish Republic could be interpreted a form as a backtracking on the 1916 Proclamation. 

The absolutist decision to DECLARE a Republic, rather than just announce an intention to fight for one, should be critically appraised 100 years later.
In any event, it would have been wiser to have had patience, avoided violence, and adhered to the Home Rule policy, and to constitutional methods.

HOME RULE…… A BETTER DEAL FOR NORTHERN NATIONALISTS

I  concede that, although John Redmond and his colleagues would not have accepted it at the time,  the Home Rule policy would not have led to a United Ireland in the medium or perhaps even the long term. 
The opposition to being under a Dublin Home Rule Parliament was so strong among Unionists in Ulster that, no matter how hard the Home Rulers might have tried to persuade them, at least four Ulster counties would have stayed out of the Dublin Parliament. 
The leader of the Irish Party, John Redmond, told the House of Commons that
 “no coercion shall be applied to any single county in Ireland to force them against their will to come into the Irish Government”. 
This was a sensible policy, a policy consistent with the principles of the Good Friday Agreement in a way that his opponent’s policies were not.

Irish attempts to coerce Northern Ireland into a United Ireland, whether by the attempted incursions across the border in 1922, by the propaganda campaign in the late 1940s, or by IRA killing campaigns in the 1950’s and from 1969 to 1998, have all failed miserably, because they were based on a faulty analysis of Ulster reality.

Likewise attempts to persuade the British to do the job for us, and to use THEIR military and economic force to coerce Unionists into a United Ireland were also failures.

Only when all forms coercion towards a United Ireland were abandoned, did progress eventually become possible, in the 1990s. 
John Redmond’s policy was one of attempting to persuade Unionist to accept a United Ireland, and his support for recruitment to the British army in 1914 was part of that.
But, under the Home Rule arrangement, if Ulster counties opted out, they would have continued under direct rule from Westminster. 
There would have been no Stormont Parliament, no “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people”, no B Specials, no gerrymandering of local government,  if Irish Nationalists had stayed on the Home Rue path, and  not taken the detour into violence in 1916.

Stormont was not part of the Home Rule arrangement and it  came about because of the threat posed by the nationalist violence of the  1919 to 1921 period, and because the  abstention of Sinn Fein from the Irish Convention, and of its MPs from parliament after the 1918 election, created an opening for the creation of Stormont. 
In contrast, under Home Rule, there would have been continued, but reduced, Irish representation at Westminster, so any attempts to discriminate against the minority in the excluded area of Ulster would have been open to immediate and vocal criticism from a large body of Irish Nationalist MPs in Westminster. Thanks to decision to abandon the Home Rule policy, those voices were not there,  and Southern Ireland turned in on itself, and towards  its own many post civil war problems, and forgot about Northern Nationalists. 
The constitutional Home Rule policy would thus have been much better for Northern Nationalists than the policy of violent separatism was to prove to be. Northern Nationalists probably sensed this. While the rest of Ireland was plumping for Sinn Fein in the election of December 1918, the electors of West Belfast chose Joe Devlin of the Irish Party to represent them in preference to Eamon de Valera of  Sinn Fein.  

STICKING WITH THE HOME RULE POLICY WOULD HAVE SAVED THOUSANDS OF LIVES
The Home Rule path would also have been better because it would have saved many lives throughout Ireland. People who died between 1916 and 1923 would have survived and would instead have contributed to Irish life, rather than to Irish martyrology. 
All things being equal, in my opinion, living for Ireland is better than dying (or killing) for Ireland.

I would emphasise that the waste of these extra lost lives needs to be weighed, and weighed heavily, in the balance against any extra  advantages secured by the use of force.  What value do you put on a life?

There is a moral issue here. Irish people today take the taking of life seriously. We have abolished the death penalty. 1916, and the subsequent campaigns of violence it inspired, involved taking thousands of lives.

Any commemorations of the wars of 1916 to 1923 should take those lost lives, all of them, into account,
Consider those dead for a moment. 

WE SHOULD REMEMBER ALL WHO DIED, ON BOTHS SIDES, AND NO SIDE

256 Irish civilians died during the 1916 rebellion, some at the hands of the rebels and many as a result of British artillery designed to expel the rebels from the positions they had occupied. 

These civilians did not have any say in the IRB/Citizen Army action, and would all have lived if that action had not take place. They were not volunteers for the sacrifice they bore.

We know of the rebels who died, and their deaths have been commemorated  by the Irish State. Each year the Irish army has a Mass to pray for the souls of those who “died for Ireland “ in 1916.  It is unclear to me whether this formula includes the civilians who did not decide to put their lives at risk “for Ireland”, but who were killed anyway because they were in the wrong place.
153 soldiers in UK Army uniforms were killed in the fighting in Dublin in 1916. Of these, 52 of the dead were Irish. These are the names of some of these Irish soldiers , many home from the trenches on leave, who were killed….. Gerald Neilan from Roscommon, Francis Brennan from Ushers Island in Dublin, Abraham Watchorn from Rathvilly Co Carlow, John Brennan from Gowran Co Kilkenny, John Flynn from Carrick on Suir and many more. Three members of the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police were killed, and 14 members of the RIC, including Patrick Leen from Abbeyfeale and Patrick Brosnan from Dunmanway. 

I hope the 100th anniversary of THEIR deaths will not be forgotten in Easter Week 2016 

These Irish men were acting on the orders of a duly constituted Government, elected by a Parliament, which had already granted Home Rule to Ireland, and to which Ireland had democratically elected its own MP’s. 

Did these men “ die for Ireland”? How should they, and their sacrifice, be remembered.  These are questions we need to answer between now and 2016
Consider also the dead of the War of 1919 to 1921, and the dead of the civil war of 1922 to 1923, for these deaths flowed, in large measure, from the initial decision to use force in 1916.

1200 were killed in the war of 1919 to 1921. Many of these were civilians who had not chosen the path of war. Others were policemen, who had chosen that vocation as a service to their people, and not to become participants in a war. Yet others were supposed or actual informers on behalf of either side.

If, notwithstanding  the appeal of the “blood sacrifice” of the 1916 leaders, the executions, and the gross mishandling of conscription by the British Government at the beginning of 1918, the Home Rule policy had not been rejected by the electorate in the General Election of  December 1918 in favour  of abstention and separatism, Home Rule would have come into effect, and ALL THOSE PEOPLE WOULD HAVE LIVED.

Many of those who died were very talented people, whose lives and service were a huge loss to this country.

Many families of minority religions, or families some of whose members were  in the Crown forces, were made to feel unwelcome in Ireland as a result of the violence, and some left.  That is the sort of thing that happens after civil wars.  Southern Ireland became a less diverse society, as a result of the policy of violence initiated by IRB and the Citizen Army at Easter of 1916.

Then around 4000 more Irish people were killed in the Civil War. Like those who were killed in the 1916 to 1921 period, many of these were amongst the brightest talents of their generation. 

THE SACRIFICE OF THE DEAD MADE COMPROMISE HARDER

Violence breeds violence. Sacrifice breeds intransigence. The dead exert an unhealthy power over the living, persuading the living to hold out for the impossible, so that the sacrifice of the dead is not perceived to have been in vain.

In that sense, the uncompromising policy of  declaring a Republic unilaterally in April 1916, and backing that declaration with immediate violence,  contributed to the Civil War of 1922/3, because it made compromise harder. 

For example, the  earlier deaths of those who occupied the  General Post Office in 1916, seeking to achieve a 32 county Republic, made it so much harder for those on the Anti Treaty side, who occupied the Four courts in 1922, to accept anything less than a 32 County Republic. Those in the Four Courts probably did want to appear to “betray” the dead  of the GPO by accepting a compromise that appeared to be less than already Proclaimed Republic.

Betrayal of the sacrifices of the dead is one of the most emotionally powerful, and destructive, accusations within the canon of romantic nationalism. It exercised its baleful influence in recent times in delaying the abandonment by the IRA of its failed and futile campaign to coerce and bomb Unionists into a United Ireland.  


HOME RULE WOULD HAVE LED TO DOMINION STATUS, AND TO THE SORT OF INDEPENDENCE NOW ENJOYED BY CANADA, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

I believe Ireland would have reached the position it is in today, an independent nation of 26 or 28 counties, if it had stuck with the Home Rule policy, and if the 1916 rebellion had not taken place.
Like all counter factual historical arguments, this proposition is impossible to prove. So also is the converse contention by some, that Home Rule would not have led to full independence. Both arguments are counterfactual, because the Home Rule approach was never given a chance. But, given that the British Labour Party was already committed to Dominion Status for Ireland from 1918 on, and given the Labour was in Government twice in the 1920’s, I believe the burden of proof rests much more with those who claim the Home Rule would NOT have led on to Dominion status and full independence, than it does with those, like me, who contend that it would

I contend that, once the Ulster question had been resolved by some form of exclusion, the path from Home Rule towards greater independence was wide open.

The policy of the Irish Party in the 1918 Election was Dominion Status for Ireland, and I believe they would have achieved it. It was also the policy in that election of the British Labour Party and of the Asquith Liberals.  Perhaps Ireland  would not have achieved by 1921, as  it was  in the Treaty of that year, but it would probably have been achieved by the end of the 1920’s, probably from a Labour Government, whose policy, as I have said, in 1918 already envisaged dominion status for Ireland.

Certainly many of the parties in the Home Rule Parliament would have been demanding greater independence. Irish politics would not have stood still after Home Rule, as some historians seem to assume.

Indeed some of the critics of Redmond’s policy have actually put forward the best argument as to why Home Rule would have led to greater independence…..the extension of the franchise. It is arguable that the Irish Party of 1910 was a relatively conservative party because, like the rest of Westminster, it had been elected on a restrictive franchise.

But from 1918 on the franchise was dramatically widened. All men, and all women under 30, got the vote. They are the people who would have been the electorate of the Irish Home Rule Parliament.  Such an electorate would not have been satisfied by the limitations on Home Rule. They would have demanded more powers and would have elected members and parties committed to demanding more powers. And they would have got them, sooner rather than later….but peacefully.

Once Ireland had its own legislature in Dublin , it would also have been able to avail of the progressive loosening of ties within the Empire, in the same way as the Irish Free State was able to do , for example through the Statute of Westminster of 1931. 

Some might argue that security and defence considerations would have made this unlikely. I doubt that.

If a Conservative dominated Government was willing, in 1938, peacefully to hand over the Treaty ports to Eamon de Valera, who, 22 years previously, had been a declared ally of Germany, it would surely have been willing to place as much trust in, and give full powers to, a Home Rule Government in Dublin, whose political antecedents had stood with Britain in its moment of greatest threat in 1914.
To say that a decision was a mistake, is not to deny the heroism or sincerity of those who made the mistake, or the heroism of those who followed them. It is right to commemorate the bravery of the 1916  leaders, without agreeing with, or necessarily endorsing, their political judgement. 
Hindsight enables all of us to see possibilities that were not visible at the time.

But the reality is that, in 1916, Home Rule was on the statute book and was not about to be reversed. The stepping stone was there. If the 1916 leaders had more patience, a lot of destruction could have been avoided, and I believe we would still have achieved our independence.

THE DEATH OF JOHN REDMOND

My personal interest in Redmond is mainly a matter of personal conviction, and partly one of family tradition. 

Along with other memorabilia, all the editions of the Freemans Journal covering the death of John Redmond, at  7.45am on 6 March 1918, were carefully preserved by my  grand aunts and by my grand uncle(who was in Redmond’s National Volunteers) in the home in Dunboyne, where  I live. I read these earlier this week.

In Dublin Corporation, Sean T O Kelly described John Redmond as “ an honour to his country”, and his fellow Sinn Fein member of the Corporation, WT Cosgrave, associated himself with these sentiments. At the other end of the spectrum, the leader of the Irish Unionists, Edward Carson, described him as “invariably an honourable and courteous opponent”
The Governors of Wexford County Infirmary said the Redmond “deserved the everlasting gratitude of the Irish people”, a sentiment echoed by the then Mayor of Wexford, Alderman McGuire. 

17 members of Wexford County Council attended John Redmond’s funeral, here in Wexford, led by their Chairman, Mr John Bolger.  I am proud to say Meath Co Council was represented by its Chairman, Thomas Halligan. A Wreath was sent on behalf of the Minister for Justice of Queensland in Australia, a country Redmond had visited to promote the Home Rule cause.

The Freemans Journal itself described Redmond’s character as “ a rare combination of  inflexible will and genial humanity”.

It added that “had he deserted Irish for Imperial politics, place and title would have been open to him”. 
It emphasised that “He would have been an ideal first Prime Minister of an Irish Cabinet, skilled in bringing men and parties together”. 
Such a man is deserving of commemoration, and to adapt President Kennedy’s phrase quoted earlier, an Ireland that remembers Redmond reveals itself a country committed to peaceful change within a democratic framework, and that is the sort of nation I want Ireland to be.


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Hadden Memorial lecture by John Bruton, former Taoiseach, at 8PM on Friday 31 October 2014 at a meeting of the Wexford Historical Society in St Michael’s Hall. Green St . Wexford
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A CENTENARY OF A VICTORY FOR IRISH INDEPENDENCE WON BY PEACEFUL PARLIAMENTARY MEANS

Today, Scotland is going to the polls to decide if it wants complete independence.

Whatever decision they make today, the Scots are exercising full national self determination. That came about  because, for the past number of years Scotland has had a Home Rule Government, and a Home Rule Parliament, and a majority in that parliament was later democratically won by a party that wanted complete independence. That could have happened in Ireland too…..90 years ago.

The experience of Home Rule, of making their own laws in Scotland, of administering their own services and making their own policies, has given the Scots the self confidence, and the international credibility, to freely consider moving now to full independence. All that  has happened in Scotland without loss of life, without the bitterness of war. 

Ireland was given a similar opportunity 100 years ago this week, to move  through Home rule, towards ever greater  independence, gradually and peacefully,  when Home Rule for Ireland became law on 18 September 1914.  Ireland could have followed the same peaceful path towards independence that Scotland is now considering taking.

We won that opportunity for ourselves 100 years ago, and won it by parliamentary means and without the loss of a life.

We chose, for various reasons which I will explore, not to follow that path. But the fact that we won the opportunity to take it, and won it by parliamentary methods, should be celebrated  by this parliamentary democracy, 100 years later.

Given that this IS a parliamentary democracy, one of the oldest surviving ones in Europe, one that did not descend into totalitarianism during the twentieth century, it is important that we should  celebrate parliamentary achievements. Remembering democratic, non violent achievements, should be part of the civic education of our nation.

The passage into law of Home Rule for Ireland was, as I have said, an Irish parliamentary achievement without equal in the preceding 200 years.

It granted Ireland its own legislature, something denied it since 1800. It was of comparable importance to the Land acts, also achieved by diligent parliamentary work, and peaceful agitation, and by the same people. 

I welcome the fact that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be delivering a speech, later on today, on Home Rule at a locally organised event in Wicklow, which I will attend. I commend the work that has been done by the Government to draw attention to the introduction of the Bill and its passage through various stages in Parliament, and the contribution to the restoration of John Redmond’s grave in Wexford.

Given that the Home Rule Act of 1914 provided Ireland with a right, a right that had been denied for the previous 114 years, the right to an Irish legislature meeting in Ireland, its centenary today should  be specially marked today in our legislature, in Dail and Seanad Eireann.

The 1916 rebellion,  the warfare of the 1919 to 1923 period that it engendered, and indeed of the Great War as well, are all to be commemorated.  That is good. But if  these commemorations  are not seen to be accompanied by a balancing and equally high profile commemoration of peaceful parliamentary achievements, like  Home Rule,  that would glorify military activity, at the expense of  less glamorous, but  contemporarily more relevant, peaceful parliamentary struggle.

As it is today, Ireland in 1914 was a divided society, an emotionally divided island, with a majority (mainly of one religious tradition) favouring a large measure of independence, and a strong minority (mainly of another religious tradition) opposing this, and favouring integration in the United Kingdom.

In emotionally divided societies, or islands, it is vital that commemorations be used  to learn useful contemporary lessons from history, not merely to celebrate one protagonist or another, or to freshen up old divisions. 

TOUGH, BUT NON VIOLENT, TACTICS WERE NEEDED TO WIN HOME RULE

The enactment of Home Rule may have been a purely peaceful achievement, but this is not to suggest that those who obtained it, the Irish Parliamentary Party of John Redmond and John Dillon, were mild mannered and non confrontational.

Two previous attempts to obtain Home Rule had failed, one because it was defeated in the House of Commons, and the other because it was vetoed in the House of Lords. 

To get Home Rule onto the statute book, the Irish Parliamentary leaders had to get a majority for Home Rule in the House of Commons, and simultaneously to get  British constitutional arrangements changed to remove the House of Lords power of veto. There was a permanent majority against Home Rule in the House of Lords, and the veto could only be removed with the consent of the House of Lords itself. 

Furthermore, in the House of Commons, the Liberal party, which had been committed to Home Rule under Gladstone, had moved away from that policy under his successors, Lord Rosebery, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Herbert Asquith. In order to secure Home Rule by peaceful and constitutional methods, the Liberal Party had first to be won back to a firm commitment to pass Home Rule.

In a masterly exercise of parliamentary leverage and constructive opportunism, Redmond and Dillon achieved both goals, in a very short space of time. 

They withheld support for the radical 1909 Budget, unless and until there was a commitment to remove the Lords veto and introduce Home Rule. They also, in effect, exercised pressure on the King, because the Lords eventually only passed the legislation to remove their veto in response to the threat of the King swamping the House of Lords with a flood of new Lords.

All this was achieved from the position of being a minority party in the House, albeit a party whose votes were needed to avoid a General Election which the Liberal Government feared they would lose.  Considerable brinksmanship was needed, because, if the Liberals lost the election, the cause of Home Rule would also be lost. Redmond and Dillon did not have all the trump cards. They just played the cards they had very well indeed.

On the other side of the House, the Irish Party faced a Conservative Party that was so determined to force a General Election that they were prepared to incite Ulster Unionists to military insurrection, and to connive with elements in the British military to ensure that the insurrection would not be prevented.

In Britain itself, Home Rulers had to overcome deep anti Irish, and (as Ronan Fanning has shown in his book Fatal Path) anti Catholic, sentiment is some sections of opinion – including within the Liberal Party.
Financial gaps also had to be bridged. Unlike Scotland today, Ireland in 1914 had no oil.

Between 1896 and 1911, British Government expenditure in Ireland (including recently introduced old age pensions) had increased by 91%, whereas revenue raised in Ireland had risen by only 28%. That enduring gap between spending commitments and revenue explains why the Irish Free State had to take a shilling off the old age pension in the 1920s.

In face of all these difficulties, getting Home Rule onto the statute book, without the loss of a single life, was a remarkable parliamentary achievement.

If commemorations are about drawing relevant lessons for today’s generation from the work of past generations, this remarkable exercise of parliamentary leverage, to achieve radical reform against entrenched resistance, has much greater relevance, to today’s generation of democrats, than does the blood sacrifice of Pearse and Connolly.

The subsequent turning away, after 1916, from constitutional methods has obscured the scale of this parliamentary achievement. There may have been a fear that too much praise of the prior constitutional achievement would delegitimize the subsequent blood sacrifice.


THE WOODENBRIDGE SPEECH

The Woodenbridge speech of John Redmond on 20 September 1914, urging Irish men to join the Allied cause in the Great War that had broken out six weeks previously, must be seen in the context that Home Rule had been placed on the statute book just two days previously.

Home Rule was law, but the implementation of it was simply postponed until the end of what most people expected would be a short war.

Redmond’s address to the Volunteers at Woodenbridge was not a mere reciprocation of the passage of Home Rule. He also wanted to show that the passage of Home Rule had inaugurated a new and better relationship between Ireland and its neighbouring island.

He wanted to show everybody, including Ulster Unionists, that things had changed. As he was still aiming to persuade Ulster Unionists to come in under Home rule, he felt he needed to do this if there was to be any chance at all that they would voluntarily do so. He wanted to show to Ulster Unionists that, in some matters, Unionists and Nationalists were now “on the same side”.

Let us not forget that Irish men had fought in the British Army in the Boer War, notwithstanding Redmond and the Irish Party’s opposition to that war, so those many of those who volunteered to fight in what turned out to be the Great War, would  have  done so anyway, whether Redmond asked them to do so or not.

Suppose Redmond had given a different speech in Woodenbridge.  Suppose , Home Rule having been passed into law two days before, Redmond had instead vocally opposed recruitment, what would have happened then?

He would have handed a powerful argument to those who had opposed Home Rule all along, namely that a Dublin Home Rule Government could not be trusted not to undermine Britain’s international position at a time of great danger.
Carson and Craig, and their allies in the British Conservative Party, would have felt themselves entirely vindicated in their opposition to Home Rule.
The Woodenbridge speech also stood on its own merits. The unprovoked invasion by Germany of a small neutral country, Belgium,  in order better to be able to attack France, was something that many people at the time, and since, regarded as profoundly wrong and deserving to be opposed.

That said, the Great War was an avoidable tragedy, and a failure of statesmanship. But it was not a failure for which Redmond or the Irish Parliamentary Party were responsible. They had to deal with the situation as they found it.

It is right to commemorate the Irish dead of the Great War, but Home Rule’s passage into law is a separate matter.

It should be commemorated on its own merits, and separately. It is not mere addendum to the remembrance of the Great War, but a unique parliamentary achievement.

Parnell did not get Home Rule onto the statute book. Redmond and Dillon did, 100 years ago this week.

O Connell did not succeed in re-establishing by law an Irish legislature. 100 years ago this week, Redmond and Dillon did

WERE THE POWERS OF HOME RULE TOO LITTLE? 

Some have criticised the limitations of the Home Rule Act of 1914. These limitations can be explained by the fact that, although the possibility of temporary exclusion of some Ulster counties had been conceded by the time the Home Rule finally came to be enacted, the Act had been framed from the outset in terms that could apply to all 32 counties of Ireland , where there was a Catholic majority, so safeguards, and  understandable limitations,  had to be inserted to protect or reassure the  Protestant minority in Ulster and elsewhere in Ireland.

For example a provision was inserted whereby the Home Rule Government “could not endow any religion”. This safeguard was actually a worry to the Catholic hierarchy, who feared it might affect existing state funding for Catholic teacher training colleges. 

For a similar reason, marriage law was to be kept at Westminster, because the Vatican’s Ne Temere decree of 1907 on mixed marriages had caused alarm among Protestants.

Likewise, limitations on the imposition of tariffs and duties were needed to reassure the large industrial sectorin Ulster that their interests would not be sacrificed to the needs of the predominantly agricultural interests that dominated the rest of the country. 

As it transpired, these safeguards were not enough. Ulster Unionists continued to insist on exclusion from the whole system, and backed their demand with the threat of force. They were encouraged in this by the Conservative opposition in Westminster.

If John Redmond had wanted to maximise the powers of the Home Rule Government in Dublin, he could, early on, have accepted the exclusion from Home Rule of the Ulster counties where there was a Unionist majority. This is what the Irish state subsequently did in practice. Even the Conservatives would have given Redmond such a deal. Under such a deal, the exclusion might have been limited to four Ulster counties – instead of six, as in 1921.

But Redmond was unwilling to accept any open ended exclusion from Home Rule of any part of Ireland. In that sense, John Redmond was more idealistic than the republicans and physical force men who came after him.

In January 1914, at the height of the Ulster resistance to Home Rule, John Redmond was speaking at a meeting in his constituents in Waterford about the difficulty of winning over Ulster Unionists, and a heckler shouted up at him, “We are as well off without them”. Redmond replied indignantly, “No, we are not. That is an absolute fallacy”

The American historian, Joseph P Finnan in his book John Redmond and Irish Unity, 1912-1918 said that Redmond prized Irish unity more than he prized Irish sovereignty. He added
            
“Although he (Redmond) acceded to demands for temporary exclusion of northern counties, he never gave them up for lost. The Irish revolutionaries who negotiated the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 did just that. Even the anti Treaty forces led by de Valera based their objections on the loss of the republican ideal, not the loss of the northern nationalist population.”

The Cork-based supporter of the Irish Party, J.J.Horgan, said much the same thing in his 1949 memoir, Parnell to Pearse. His book concludes with these words: 

“We constitutionalists had been wisely prepared to make large concessions in order to avoid the division of our country which we believed to be the final and intolerable wrong.  The price of our successors’ triumph was Partition … They sacrificed Irish unity for Irish sovereignty .”

A sovereign 32 county State was not achieved in 1921, but the “freedom to achieve freedom” for 26 counties – no more than was available to Redmond in 1914.

Those who came after Redmond, using the gun, did not bring unity any closer than he did.

Perhaps the two communities on this island are too different, in their sense of deepest identity, for that. 

THE 1916 RISING AND ITS IMPACT ON POSSIBLE UNITY


Charles Townsend put it this way in his book Easter 1916: “The Rebellion played a part in cementing partition”
Indeed, the words of the Proclamation were literally “oblivious” of the problem of resistance in parts of Ulster to any form of rule by Dublin, notwithstanding  Pearse’s professed admiration for the UVF arming itself to resist  even a modest measure of Home Rule.

The 1916 Proclamation said it was “oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, who have divided a minority from a majority in the past” 

In effect, they did not think the Ulster Unionists had minds of their own, but were simply tools of the British. Apart from rhetoric, no attempt was made to persuade them of the merits of an Irish Republic , nor thought given to how such persuasion might be done.
 Whereas Redmond had tried to talk to Carson and Craig, the 1916 leaders were “oblivious” of them.

THE IRREVERSIBILITY OF HOME RULE

When the decision to use physical force was made by the leaders of the IRB and the Irish Citizen Army in April  1916, Home Rule was already law. Its implementation was simply postponed for the duration of the war, but there was no doubt but that it would come into effect once the war was over, either for the whole of Ireland, or, more likely, for 26 or 28 counties.

The irreversibility of Home Rule is well illustrated by a comment that had been made by one of its staunchest opponents, the Conservative leader, Andrew Bonar Law.  He had admitted

“If Ulster, or rather any county, had the right to remain outside the Irish Parliament, for my part my objection would be met”.

This comment shows that Home Rule could easily have led to an ever larger measure of independence for the rest of Ireland , so long as some Ulster counties were allowed to opt out of it.

As to the irreversibility of Home Rule, the Lloyd George Coalition Government’s   re election manifesto in the December 1918 Election stated bluntly “Home Rule is upon the statute book”. There was thus no going back on Home Rule as far as the conservative and Liberal politicians who wrote that manifesto were concerned.
  
My belief is that, at that time, instead of launching a policy of abstention from Parliament and a guerrilla war, Sinn Fein and the IRA should have used the Home Rule Act as a peaceful  stepping stone to dominion status and full independence, in the same way as Treaty of 1921 was so used, but only after so much blood had been shed.   They might not have got more than 28 counties, but there would have been no more bloodshed.

WAS 1916 A “JUST WAR”?

Many of the 1916 leaders were familiar with Catholic teaching on what constitutes a just war. One of the criteria is that war should be a” last resort”. Another is that it should have a reasonable chance of success.
The fact that Home Rule was passed, would have come into effect at the end of the Great War, and would have been a platform for further moves to greater independence, shows that use violence in 1916 was not a genuine last resort, and does not meet that criterion for a just war.

Moreover, the 1916 leaders accepted they had no chance of military success when they marched out on Easter Monday 1916. 

WAS ALLIANCE WITH GERMANY WISE? 

Another important context in which the 1916 decision  must be judged is the Great War,  which was then in progress, in which thousands of Irish soldiers were fighting on the Allied side when the GPO was occupied by force.

The 1916 leaders explicitly took the opposite side in this war to their fellow Irishmen in the trenches. In proclaiming the Republic, the 1916 leaders spoke of their “gallant allies in Europe”. These allies were the German Empire, the Ottoman Empire and the Austro Hungarian Empire.  Although their immediate target was Britain, those, against whom the Irish Republicans went to war, included Belgium and the French Republic, whose territory had been pre-emptively invaded, and occupied by force, by Germany.

The 1916 leaders were not neutral. They were taking the side of Germany , Turkey and Austria-Hungary and said so in their own Proclamation.

This greatly weakened the position of Irish negotiators, including Sean T O Kelly, who sought to get a hearing at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference for the case for Irish independence. The 1916 leader’s decision had put them on the wrong side, and had made them “allies”, in the words of the Proclamation, of the losers in the Great War.

This was complicated by the fact that the Irish Republic had already been declared any way, regardless of the Peace conference. The Irish delegation was not making a claim, it was looking for a retrospective vindication of its declaration of a Republic

As Townshend put it in his other book The Republic: the fight for Irish Independence:

“The Peace Conference would now be asked not to investigate and adjudicate on a national claim, but to recognise an already existing Republic, approving an act hostile to a great power [Britain].”

This would have been hard for Woodrow Wilson to do, even if he wanted to.
The fact that a Republic had been declared anyway in 1916, and again in 1919, made winning support for any subsequent compromise, short of the ideal Republic of 32 counties, much more difficult, as the Treaty negotiators were to find.

It would have been wiser to have had patience, avoided violence, and adhered to the Home Rule policy, and to constitutional methods. 

HOME RULE – A BETTER DEAL FOR NORTHERN NATIONALISTS

I concede that I do not believe that the Home Rule policy would have led to a united 32 county Ireland in the medium or perhaps even the long term – although John Redmond and his colleagues would probably not have accepted that at the time. 

The opposition to being under a Dublin Home Rule Parliament was so strong among Unionists in Ulster that, no matter how hard the Home Rulers might have tried to persuade them, at least four Ulster counties would have stayed out of the Dublin Parliament. 

The leader of the Irish Party, John Redmond himself, told the House of Commons that

“no coercion shall be applied to any single county in Ireland to force them against their will to come into the Irish Government”. 

This was a sensible policy.

Irish attempts to coerce Northern Ireland into a united Ireland, whether by the attempted incursions across the border in 1922, by the propaganda campaign in the late 1940s, or by IRA killing campaigns in the 1950s and from 1969 to 1998, have all failed miserably, because they were based on a faulty analysis of reality.

Likewise attempts to persuade the British to do the job for us, and to use their military and economic force to coerce Unionists into a United Ireland, were also failures.

Only when all forms coercion towards a united Ireland were abandoned, did progress eventually become possible, in the 1990s. 

John Redmond’s policy was one of attempting to persuade Unionist to accept a united Ireland, and his support for recruitment to the British army in 1914 was part of that.

But, under the Home Rule arrangement, if Ulster counties opted out, they would have continued under direct rule from Westminster. 

There would have been no Stormont Parliament, no “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people”, no B Specials, no gerrymandering of local government. 

Stormont was not part of the Home Rule arrangement and it came about largely because the abstention of Sinn Fein from the Irish Convention, and of its MPs from parliament after the 1918 election, created an opening for it. There was then no Irish nationalist voice to object to it in the corridors of power. 

Under Home Rule, there would have been continued, but reduced, Irish representation at Westminster, so any attempts to discriminate against the nationalist minority in the excluded area of Ulster would have been preventable in a way that was not possible under the eventual settlement.  Stormont was left to its own devices after 1921. 

The constitutional Home Rule policy would thus have been much better for Northern Nationalists than the policy of violent separatism was to prove to be. Northern Nationalists probably sensed this. While the rest of Ireland was plumping for Sinn Fein in the election of December 1918, the electors of West Belfast chose to return Joe Devlin of the Irish Party to represent them in preference to Eamon de Valera of Sinn Fein.  
STICKING WITH THE HOME RULE POLICY WOULD HAVE SAVED THOUSANDS OF LIVES

The Home Rule path would also have been better because it would have saved many lives throughout Ireland. People who died between 1916 and 1923 would have survived and would instead have contributed to Irish life, rather than to Irish martyrology. 

All things being equal, in my opinion, living for Ireland is better than dying (or killing) for Ireland.

I would emphasise that the waste of these lost lives needs to be weighed, and weighed heavily, in the balance against any supposed advantages secured by the use of force. 

There is a moral issue here. Irish people today take the ending of life seriously.  1916, and the subsequent campaigns of violence it inspired, involved ending thousands of lives. Any commemorations should take those valuable lost lives, all of them, into account,
Consider the dead for a moment. 

REMEMBER ALL WHO DIED, ON BOTHS SIDES, AND NO SIDE

256 Irish civilians died during the 1916 rebellion, some at the hands of the rebels and many as a result of British artillery designed to expel the rebels from the positions they had occupied. 

These civilians did not have any say in the IRB/Citizen Army action, and would all have lived if that action had not take place. They did not volunteer for the sacrifice they made.

We know of the rebels who died, and their deaths have been commemorated  by the Irish State. Each year the Irish army has a Mass to pray for the souls of those who “died for Ireland“ in 1916.  It is unclear to me whether this formula includes the civilians who did not decide to put their lives at risk “for Ireland”, but who were killed anyway because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

153 soldiers in UK Army uniforms were killed in the fighting in Dublin in 1916. Of these, 52 of the dead were Irish. These are the names of some of these Irish soldiers, many home from the trenches on leave, who were killed: Gerald Neilan from Roscommon, Francis Brennan from Ushers Island in Dublin, Abraham Watchorn from Rathvilly Co Carlow, John Brennan from Gowran Co Kilkenny, John Flynn from Carrick on Suir and many more. I hope the 100th anniversary of their deaths will not be forgotten the year after next.

Three members of the unarmed Dublin Metroplitan Police were killed, and 14 members of the RIC, including Patrick Leen from Abbeyfeale and Patrick Brosnan from Dunmanway. 

These Irish men were acting on the orders of a duly constituted Government, elected by a Parliament, which had already granted Home Rule to Ireland, and to which Ireland had democratically elected its own MPs.  Did not these men “die for Ireland” too? How should they, and their sacrifice, be remembered.  These are questions which need to be answered between now and 2016.

Consider also the dead of the War of Independence from 1919 to 1921, and the dead of the civil war of 1922 to 1923, for these deaths flowed, in some measure, from the initial decision to use force in 1916.

1200 were killed in the war of 1919 to 1921. Many of these were civilians who had not chosen the path of war. Others were policemen, who had chosen that vocation as a service to their people, and not to become participants in a war. Yet others were supposed or actual informers on behalf of either side.
 If, in response to the appeal of the “blood sacrifice” of the 1916 leaders, the executions, and the gross mishandling of conscription by the British Government at the beginning of 1918, the Home Rule party had not been rejected by the electorate in the General Election of December 1918 in favour of a policy of abstention and separatism, Home Rule would have come into effect, and all those people would have lived.

Many of those who died were very talented people, whose lives and service were a huge loss to this country.

Many families of minority religions were made to feel unwelcome in Ireland as a result of the violence, and some left.  Southern Ireland became a less diverse society as a result of the policy of violence initiated by IRB and the Citizen Army at Easter of 1916.

Around 4000 Irish people were killed in the Civil War. Like those who were killed in the 1916 to 1921 period, many of these were amongst the brightest talents of their generation. Why did they die?

THE SACRIFICE OF THE DEAD MADE COMPROMISE HARDER

Violence breeds violence. Sacrifice breeds intransigence. The dead exert an unhealthy power over the living, persuading the living to hold out for the impossible, lest the sacrifice of the dead be perceived to have been in vain. In that sense, the policy of violence, initiated in April 1916, contributed to the Civil War of 1922-3. It did so in this way. The  earlier deaths of those who occupied the  General Post Office in 1916, seeking to achieve a 32 county Republic, made it so much harder for those on the anti-Treaty side, who occupied the Four Courts in 1922, to accept anything less than a 32 County Republic. They did want to appear to “betray” the dead by accepting any compromise. Unfortunate, but understandable.

Betrayal of the sacrifices of the dead is one of the most emotionally powerful, and destructive, accusations within the canon of romantic nationalism. It exercised its baleful influence in recent times in delaying the abandonment by the IRA of its failed and futile campaign to coerce and bomb Unionists into a United Ireland.  
HOME RULE WOULD HAVE LED TO DOMINION STATUS, AND TO THE SORT OF INDEPENDENCE NOW ENJOYED BY CANADA, AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

I believe Ireland would have reached the position it is in today, an independent nation of 26 counties, if it had stuck with the Home Rule policy and if the 1916 rebellion had not taken place. Indeed, we might have been a state of 28 counties. All that was needed was a deal on Ulster.
Like all counter factual historical arguments, this proposition is impossible to prove.

But, once the Ulster question had been resolved by some form of exclusion of areas with a Unionist majority, the path towards greater independence was wide open. The policy of the Irish Party in the 1918 Election was dominion status and I believe they would have achieved it. Perhaps they would not have achieved it by 1921, as was achieved in the Treaty of that year, but it would probably have been achieved by the end of the 1920s, probably from a Labour Government whose policy already envisaged dominion status for Ireland.

Certainly many of the parties in the Home Rule Parliament would have been demanding greater independence. Irish politics would not have stood still after Home Rule, as some historians seem to assume. Redmond’s party might have won a majority in the first Home Rule Parliament, just as Scottish Labour got the majority in Scotland’s first Home Rule Parliament. But subsequent elections might have seen more independence minded parties win majorities in Dublin in the 1920’s or 1930’s, just as happened in Scotland under Home rule 80 years later.

Once Ireland had its own legislature in Dublin , it would have been able to avail of the progressive loosening of ties within the Empire, in the same way as the Irish Free State was able to do , for example through the Statute of Westminster of 1931. Ireland could have followed Canada , South Africa and Australia’s path.

Some might argue that security and defence considerations would have made this unlikely. I doubt that.

If a Conservative dominated Government was willing, in 1938, to hand over the Treaty ports to Eamon de Valera, who, 22 years previously, had been a declared ally of Germany, it would surely have been willing to place as much trust in a Home Rule Government in Dublin, whose political antecedents had stood with Britain in its moment of greatest threat in 1914.
IN CONCLUSION

To say that the 1916 Rising was a mistake is not to deny the heroism or sincerity of those who made the mistake, or the heroism of those who followed them. Hindsight enables us to gain a perspective that may not have been obvious at the time.

But the reality is that, in 1916, Home Rule was on the statute book and was not about to be reversed. If the 1916 leaders had had more patience, a lot of destruction could have been avoided, and I believe we would still have achieved the independence we enjoy today.

Address by John Bruton, former Taoiseach, at 10am on 18 September 2014
at a seminar organised by the Reform Group, in the Royal Irish Academy, Dame St., Dublin
marking the exact centenary of the passage into law, for the first time ever, of an Irish Home Rule Act  (18 September 1914)

Address by John Bruton, former Taoiseach, at 10am on 18 September 2014
at a seminar organised by the Reform Group, in the Royal Irish Academy, Dame St., Dublin
marking the exact centenary of the passage into law, for the first time ever, of an Irish Home Rule Act  (18 September 1914)

JOHN REDMONDS LEGACY…….A RESPONSE TO THE IRISH TIMES

On the 11 April 1912, 100 years ago, the Third Home Rule Bill was presented, for the first time, to the House of Commons. Under it a united Ireland of 32 counties would have enjoyed a devolution of  the powers of legislation and domestic administration, but without control over foreign and military affairs and without control of customs duties. Any exclusion of Ulster counties  was to be purely temporary.

In an editorial on 11 April 2012, the Irish Times newspaper described the introduction of the Bill as “moment of triumph “ for John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. But it then went on to condemn John Redmond for  “a disastrous miscalculation “  in asking, three  years later, for Irish men to join the Army to fight against German aggression against neutral Belgium.   The Irish Times claimed that “a generation of young Irishmen paid a terrible price” for this supposed “miscalculation”.

In this, the Irish Times both underestimates what Redmond achieved, and grossly overstates his responsibility for the Irish casualties in the Great War.

WHAT JOHN REDMOND ACHIEVED

 His achievement was enormous. Relying on wholly constitutional and parliamentary methods, Redmond  had succeeded where O Connell, Butt and Parnell   had all failed.  He actually got Home Rule onto the Statute Book .

 After an intense political struggle, in face of vetoes by the House of Lords, threats of mutiny within the military, and threats of physical violence by the Ulster Volunteers, the Home Rule Bill was finally passed into law on 18 September 1914.  

This was a month after the war had broken out with Imperial Germany. When the War first broke out in August 1914, the Asquith led  Liberal Government initially wanted to postpone the final passage of the Home Rule Bill, which  was still strongly opposed by the  Conservative party, as part of a  wartime political  truce,   which was, in Asquith’s words, to be “without prejudice to the domestic  and political positions of any party”.

 But John Redmond insisted that Home Rule be brought into law. He got his way. The law was passed, and  assented to by the King, but its operation was suspended for twelve months, or until the end of the war, whichever was to come  later. This postponement was seen as reasonable in the circumstances. It allowed the energies of all concerned to be concentrated on winning  what was expected to be a short  War.

THE TIMING OF REDMONDS WOODENBRIDGE SPEECH….TWO DAYS AFTER SIGNATURE OF HOME RULE INTO LAW

 It was as a direct response to the success of his tactic in forcing the Liberal Government  to  put Home Rule on the statute book on  18 September, that , just two days later, on 20 September 1914, John Redmond called at Woodenbridge Co Wicklow on members of the Irish Volunteers to  freely join the  Army to fight to  defend France and Belgium. This is what the “Irish Times” now condemns.

I believe the newspaper is unfair, and mistaken.

REDMOND WAS RIGHT ON THE ISSUES AT STAKE IN THE WAR…….

The German invasion of neutral Belgium the previous month was entirely unprovoked.

 Germany found itself facing a war with Russia. It was worried that France might go to war support Russia. But France had not yet done that.  Imperial Germany it did not wait. It decided to attack France first, hoping it could quickly knock out France like it had done in 1870. And the best route by which to attack France   was through Belgium. Belgian neutrality was to be treated as an irrelevance.

 The Irish Times seems to believe that ,as an Irish Leader, John Redmond was wrong to takes sides in such a war to defend the territorial integrity of a neutral state. This is a strange position to take, given that we make so much of our own neutrality today. Or perhaps the view is that only our own neutrality is important, and other people’s neutrality does not matter. That is hardly a sustainable position in international relations. 

AND THOSE WHO ALLIED THEMSELVED WITH THE CENTRAL POWERS WERE WRONG

Redmond’s position was much more responsible than that of the rebels of Easter Week 1916, who explicitly stated, in their Proclamation , that they were  allied with what they described as  their “gallant  allies” in Europe. These “allies” were Imperial Germany, the Austro Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.  The morality of this “alliance” has never been seriously questioned or debated in Ireland in the past century, and perhaps it is time that it was.

UNITY BY CONSENT WAS HIS GOAL

Leaving morality aside, was Redmond tactically foolish to call for Irish men to join the Army in September 1914?

This question has to be judged by what Redmond was trying to achieve at the time.  He was trying to persuade Ulster Unionists to voluntarily come in under  a Home Rule Government in Dublin.

All the concessions he made, including accepting Home Rule as a final settlement and accepting a reduction in Irish  representation in the House of Commons , were made to achieve that  goal, free acceptance of  Home Rule by Unionists, or ” unity by consent”.

 Redmond believed it was attainable, but only if he could demonstrate to Ulster Unionists that  Home Rule did not mean abandoning their British loyalty.  Redmond believed that one way of making Ulster Unionists see Irish Nationalism in a different light, would be if Irish Nationalists stood shoulder to shoulder with them in a common endeavour to defend Belgian neutrality, and the rights of  small nations. Rather than being opponents, as they had been in the previous four years of bitter domestic political struggle, they would thus  be  on the same side.

Redmond  knew he was taking a risk in his call at Woodenbridge. But it was a calculated risk. He took the risk in an attempt to achieve genuine Irish unity by consent.

THE METHODS TO ACHIEVE UNITY USED BY REDMONDS CRITICS FAILED OVER AND OVER AGAIN

 Given that all subsequent attempts, including terror, boycotting Northern goods, and  demanding that the British  deploy the threat of coercing Unionist into a  united Ireland, have  failed to achieve  voluntary (or any other kind of ) unity, one should be slow to criticise Redmond, unless one has, or had, a better plan.

 Of course, if a united Ireland by consent was never a serious goal,  was more of a necessary piety, and if  maximum  separation of just 26 or 28  counties  from Britain was the real  goal, one could take a different view.    But that was not John Redmond’s position. He believed he could  win over Unionists, but  he did not believe that was possible, if  he stood aside from a conflict that Unionists regarded  as existential, and he could show was inherently just on its merits anyway.

WAR WAS LONGER THAN ANYONE PREDICTED

 One might accuse Redmond of making a miscalculation because he did not foresee that the war would  go on so long,  that there would be so many casualties, and that it would  bring down the Liberal Government whose dependence on Irish party parliamentary support after the 1910 election support had made Home Rule possible in the first place.  

At the time most people, including most military experts , expected that this war, like most of the wars of the nineteenth century, would be over within  a year or so. Unfortunately they were wrong. Improved defensive military technology, like the machine gun, which made it harder to advance, and easier to defend ground, meant that the war dragged on for four and a quarter awful years.

IRISH WOULD HAVE JOINED ARMY ANY WAY

It is wrong to make Redmond responsible for the terrible price that was paid in the trenches. Large numbers of Irish men would have joined up anyway, especially now that Home Rule was passed, whatever Redmond said or did not say at Woodenbridge. All the historical evidence suggests points in this direction.

 After all, just fourteen years after the passage of the hated Act of Union,  40% of Wellngton’s army at Waterloo was Irish. Large number of Irish fought in the Crimean War. In his book on that war, Olando Figes states that in the parishes of Whitegate and Aghada in East Cork, almost one third of the male population died fighting in the British Army in the Crimea.

 So to say that Redmond’s stance is responsible for the  “terrible price” that a  generation of  young Irish men paid in the trenches is  unhistorical .

 The only way Redmond could have affected the issue would have been if he had campaigned for Irish men NOT to join up. But if he had done that, he would have been saying goodbye to Irish unity, and would  have run the risk that the Home Rule Act, he had worked  so hard to pass, would have been repealed ,on the  ground that Home Rule, in those circumstances, would have been a threat to British security.

The Irish Times is right to  editorially commemorate the introduction of the Home Rule Bill  100 years ago. But introducing the Bill was one thing, passing it ,and implementing it on an all Ireland basis  was another. That was what Redmond worked for, which subsequent generations have yet to achieve.

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