Irish Home Rule Essay

2287 words - 10 pages

The division between liberal and conservative party politics in Britain significantly dictated the debate on Irish Home Rule. The Liberal party supported the establishment of Irish Home Rule, whereas the conservative party fought to maintain the union of Great Britain and Ireland. Liberals, especially under Gladstone’s leadership, strove to serve the needs of their Irish constituents by providing for them their long-sought autonomy. Conversely, the conservative party worked to maintain the union, by passing legislation that proved beneficial for Irish quality of life. However, although the party lines were drawn in this way generally, fragments within parties also served to further complicated the debate on Irish Home Rule. Aside from the main liberal and conservative parties, the unionists, especially the later Ulster unionists, influenced the debate on Irish Home Rule by standing firmly against Irish Home Rule in every way possible. The unionist party was thusly composed of imperialist conservatives and liberals who were against Irish Home Rule. Furthermore, party politics itself were influenced by a number of factors. Personal relationships forged within and between parties often led politicians to draft policy in favor of friends and in opposition to rivals. The individual dogma of important political figures also influenced the way each party formed its policy on the issue of Irish Home Rule.
Although not completely polar, the division between those who were for home rule and those who were against home rule generally fell along the party lines of liberal for the former and conservative for the latter. The most notable English liberal proponent of Irish Home Rule was the politician William Gladstone. In total Gladstone made two attempts at passing a bill that would enact a form of Irish self-government. This is noteworthy as Gladstone was the head of the liberal party and his decision to support home rule ejected his party out of power the first time he proposed it, and yet he tried to pass a second bill once in power again.1 Gladstone clearly placed a high premium on pacifying the Irish through home rule.2 When trying to pass the second bill for Irish Home Rule, Gladstone was able to pass it in the House of Commons where the liberal party was in power, but the bill was defeated in the House of Lords where the conservative party was more secure. The bill’s acceptance in the liberal House of Commons but not in the conservative House of Lords exemplifies the agenda of each party that heavily affected the debate and influenced the decision on Irish Home Rule.
The debate on Irish Home Rule was further muddled by the divisions within parties. This is exemplified particularly by the fracture William Gladstone caused in the liberal party when introducing the Irish Government Bill of 1886 to establish Irish home rule.3 The bill was so controversial among liberal unionists that the party split because of it. Since the liberals were comprised of...

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