Sunday, January 30, 2011
Born in Cootehill, County Cavan, Smith was involved in the 1916 Easter Rising and later in the Irish Republican Army, during the War of Independence. An opponent of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922, Smith was first elected to the Dáil at the 1923 general election at age 22 as a Republican Teachta Dála (TD) for the Cavan constituency. He was also a founder-member of the Fianna Fáil political party in 1926. During his time as TD he served in the Cabinets of Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass as Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Local Government, and Minister for Social Welfare. He resigned from the government as Minister for Agriculture in 1964 in protest at the government's response to certain farming issues. Smith retired from politics at the 1977 general election at the age of 76.
Baxter was first elected to Dáil Éireann in the 1923 general election, when he won a seat as Farmers' Party TD for Cavan in the 4th Dáil. He had stood unsuccessfully in the 1922 general election, but after topping the poll in 1923 he was re-elected at the June 1927 general election with his vote halved. He lost his seat in the September 1927 general election.
After the collapse of the Farmers' Party in the late 1920s, he made three further unsuccessful attempts to return to the Dáil: at the 1932 general election as a Cumann na nGaedhael candidate in Cavan, at the 1933 general election as a National Centre Party candidate in Clare, and as a Fine Gael candidate in Cavan at the 1943 general election.
He was elected in 1934 as a senator, for a nine-year term, but the Free State Seanad was abolished in 1936. When the house was re-established, he was re-elected in 1938 to the 2nd Seanad on the Agricultural Panel, and held the seat until his death in 1959.
The first Cumann na nGaedheal was founded on 30 August 1900, at the suggestion of Arthur Griffith, to unite advanced nationalist/separatist groups and clubs. In 1907, it merged with the Dungannon Clubs and the National Council to form the original Sinn Féin.
The second Cumann na nGaedheal was formed by pro-Treaty Sinn Féin TDs in Dáil Éireann in Dublin on 27 April 1923 and was largely centre right in outlook.
The leadership of the pro-treaty Sinn Féin group included Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and W. T. Cosgrave. Cosgrave and Griffith had been part of the original dual monarchist Sinn Féin while Collins rose quickly through its ranks after 1916. Griffith and Collins died in August 1922 during the early stages of the Irish Civil War, leaving Cosgrave to lead the pro-treaty faction and the Provisional Government in the run-up to the formal establishment of the Irish Free State.
Cosgrave had fought in the 1916 Rising and had been prominent in the Government of the Irish Republic; the burden of responsibility for building the new state on solid foundations was now on Cosgrave and his colleagues.
Cumann na nGaedheal came into being when the pro-treaty wing of Sinn Féin decided to formally style themselves as a distinct party. The idea for the new party arose in late December 1922 but its formal launch was delayed until April 1923 as a direct consequence of the turmoil caused by the civil war. Difficult years of state building, in the face of Republican violence, would characterise the party throughout its time in Government.
The party contested its first general election in 1923 and won 63 seats (39% of the poll). Until 1932 Cumann na nGaedheal formed the Government of the Irish Free State with Cosgrave as President of the Executive Council. The fact that its leaders and members of parliament had been in Government before the party was founded would prove a major stumbling block to party unity and loyalty.
In Government, the party established the institutions upon which the Irish state is still built. It also re-established law and order through a number of public safety acts in a country that had long been divided by war and competing ideologies. The party's Minister for Home Affairs, Kevin O'Higgins established the Garda Síochána, an unarmed police force. As Minister for External Affairs in 1927, he was successful in increasing Ireland's autonomy within the Commonwealth.
Cosgrave provided both the party and the country with steady, reliable leadership. In difficult times, his judgement was correct while he succeeded in holding a bitterly divided state intact.
In 1927 the Government, through the Shannon Scheme, harnessed the massive potential for electricity generation of that river with the hydroelectric station at Ardnacrusha, while providing jobs on a large scale. Coupled with this, repairing infrastructural damage that had been caused during the civil war proved a drain on the new State's resources. Accordingly the government was forced into many unpopular decisions, notoriously reducing the old age pension from 10 shillings a week to nine in 1924, whereas in Northern Ireland it was being increased. In general the party had to adopt a conservative fiscal policy, far removed from that promised by Sinn Féin prior to 1922.
In the general election in June 1927, Cumann na Gaedheal performed very poorly, winning just 47 seats with 27% of the vote, and was able to survive in office only because of Fianna Fáil's continued refusal to take up its 44 seats due to the party's rejection of the Oath of Allegiance to the Free State.
The assassination of its controversial Minister Kevin O'Higgins by Republicans shortly after the election came as a bitter blow to the party. In response to this act of violence, the state introduced a second Public Safety Act, which introduced the death penalty and was widely unpopular with the public, and an Electoral Amendment Act which forced elected TDs to take the Oath of Allegiance. Thus the murder indirectly led to Fianna Fáil's forced entry to the Dáil and in August 1927 the government narrowly survived a vote of no confidence. Following victory in two by-elections, Cosgrave called a snap election in September 1927. Cumann na nGaedheal regained most of the ground lost in June, winning 62 seats and 39% of the vote, although most of these gains were from potential allies.
For the first time the party now faced vigorous parliamentary (if not entirely constitutional) opposition in the Dáil, as Fianna Fáil also made significant gains. Since the foundation of the state Dáil business had been relatively calm as the relatively small Labour party functioned as the official opposition in the absence of die-hard Republicans. The scene was now set for a volatile atmosphere in parliament as the two sides who had fought each other in the civil war now met face to face.
The party's support base gradually slipped to Éamon de Valera's new party Fianna Fáil after its inception in 1926. Cosgrave's Cumann na nGaedheal became solely identified with protecting the treaty and defending the new State while it seemed pre-occupied with public safety. Economically the party favoured balanced budgets and free trade at a time when its opponents advocated protectionism. The weak economy of the Free State suffered during the Great Depression.
Nonetheless, it came as a surprise when Cumann na nGaedheal was defeated by Fianna Fáil in the general election of February 1932, winning only 57 seats to Fianna Fáil's 72.
Its support base contracted further in the general election of January 1933 (48 seats compared to Fianna Fáil's 77) as it failed to counter de Valera's populism and was increasingly labelled the party of the middle class. The party subsequently entered discussions with the National Centre Party and the National Guard (Blueshirts) on the possibility of a merger. This came about in September 1933 with the formation of Fine Gael from the three parties, though in reality Fine Gael was a larger version of Cumann na nGaedheal. It was in the lead up to this merger that the then Editor of the Irish Times, RM Smyllie, famously described Cumman na nGaedheal as a party "who one wished would be open to ideas, until one saw the kind of ideas they were open to".
Election Dáil Share of votes Seats Government
1923 4th 28.9% 63 Cumann na nGaedheal government
1927 (Jun) 5th 27.0% 46 Cumann na nGaedheal government
1927 (Sep) 6th 38.7% 61 Cumann na nGaedheal government
1932 7th 35.3% 56 Fianna Fáil government
1933 8th 30.1% 48 Fianna Fáil government
Saturday, January 29, 2011
At the 1923 general election, company directors John Good and William Hewat were elected in Dublin under the label of Businessmen's Party. The woollen mill owner Andrew O'Shaughnessy won under the label of Cork Progressive Association. Its support base was largely Protestant; its policies were pro-Treaty and pro-economic orthodoxy, including low taxes and the Treasury View.
The list of the 153 TDs elected, is given in alphabetical order by constituency.
Members of the 3rd Dáil Constituency Name Party
W. T. Cosgrave Cumann na nGaedheal
Edward Doyle Labour Party
Seán Gibbons Cumann na nGaedheal
Denis Gorey Farmers' Party
Michael Skelly Republican
Patrick Baxter Farmers' Party
John Cole Independent
Seán Milroy Cumann na nGaedheal
Paddy Smith Republican
Éamon de Valera Republican
Conor Hogan Farmers' Party
Patrick Hogan Labour Party
Eoin MacNeill Cumann na nGaedheal
Brian O'Higgins Republican
Richard Beamish Independent
Mary MacSwiney Republican
Alfred O'Rahilly Cumann na nGaedheal
Andrew O'Shaughnessy Businessmen's Party
James J. Walsh Cumann na nGaedheal
John Daly Independent
John Dinneen Farmers' Party
Michael Hennessy Cumann na nGaedheal
David Kent Republican
Thomas O'Mahony Cumann na nGaedheal
Daniel Corkery Republican
Thomas Nagle Labour Party
Daniel Vaughan Farmers' Party
Seán Buckley Republican
Cornelius Connolly Cumann na nGaedheal
Timothy J. Murphy Labour Party
Timothy O'Donovan Farmers' Party
John Prior Cumann na nGaedheal
Eugene Doherty Cumann na nGaedheal
Patrick McGoldrick Cumann na nGaedheal
Patrick McFadden Cumann na nGaedheal
James Myles Independent
Joseph O'Doherty Republican
Peadar O'Donnell Republican
Peter Ward Cumann na nGaedheal
John White Farmers' Party
Bryan Cooper Independent
Michael Derham Cumann na nGaedheal
Darrell Figgis Independent
Desmond FitzGerald Cumann na nGaedheal
John Good Businessmen's Party
Thomas Johnson Labour Party
Kathleen Lynn Republican
Kevin O'Higgins Cumann na nGaedheal
Alfred Byrne Independent
Francis Cahill Cumann na nGaedheal
Margaret Collins-O'Driscoll Cumann na nGaedheal
William Hewat Businessmen's Party
Seán McGarry Cumann na nGaedheal
Richard Mulcahy Cumann na nGaedheal
Seán T. O'Kelly Republican
Ernest O'Malley Republican
Philip Cosgrave Cumann na nGaedheal
Peadar Doyle Cumann na nGaedheal
Michael Hayes Cumann na nGaedheal
Myles Keogh Independent
Daniel McCarthy Cumann na nGaedheal
Constance Markiewicz Republican
Cathal Ó Murchadha Republican
Ernest Alton Independent
James Craig Independent
William Thrift Independent
Seán Broderick Cumann na nGaedheal
James Cosgrave Independent
Frank Fahy Republican
Patrick Hogan Cumann na nGaedheal
Barney Mellows Republican
George Nicolls Cumann na nGaedheal
Thomas J. O'Connell Labour Party
Louis O'Dea Republican
Pádraic Ó Máille Cumann na nGaedheal
Patrick Cahill Republican
James Crowley Cumann na nGaedheal
Fionán Lynch Cumann na nGaedheal
Tom McEllistrim Republican
Thomas O'Donoghue Republican
John O'Sullivan Cumann na nGaedheal
Austin Stack Republican
Hugh Colohan Labour Party
John Conlan Farmers' Party
George Wolfe Cumann na nGaedheal
Thomas Carter Cumann na nGaedheal
Frank Carty Republican
James Dolan Cumann na nGaedheal
John Hennigan Cumann na nGaedheal
Alexander McCabe Cumann na nGaedheal
Martin McGowan Republican
Laurence Brady Republican
Francis Bulfin Cumann na nGaedheal
William Davin Labour Party
Patrick Egan Cumann na nGaedheal
Seán McGuinness Republican
Seán Carroll Republican
Patrick Clancy Labour Party
James Colbert Republican
John Nolan Cumann na nGaedheal
Richard Hayes Cumann na nGaedheal
Patrick Hogan Farmers' Party
James Ledden Cumann na nGaedheal
Conor Byrne Republican
James Killane Republican
John Lyons Independent
Patrick McKenna Farmers' Party
Patrick Shaw Cumann na nGaedheal
Frank Aiken Republican
Peter Hughes Cumann na nGaedheal
James Murphy Cumann na nGaedheal
Henry Coyle Cumann na nGaedheal
John Crowley Republican
Joseph McGrath Cumann na nGaedheal
P. J. Ruttledge Republican
Michael Kilroy Republican
Joseph MacBride Cumann na nGaedheal
Tom Maguire Republican
Martin Nally Cumann na nGaedheal
William Sears Cumann na nGaedheal
Eamonn Duggan Cumann na nGaedheal
David Hall Labour Party
Patrick Mulvany Farmers' Party
Ernest Blythe Cumann na nGaedheal
Patrick Duffy Cumann na nGaedheal
Patrick McCarvill Republican
National University of Ireland
Michael Hayes Cumann na nGaedheal
Eoin MacNeill Cumann na nGaedheal
William Magennis Cumann na nGaedheal
Gerald Boland Republican
Henry Finlay Cumann na nGaedheal
Andrew Lavin Cumann na nGaedheal
Count Plunkett Republican
Dan Breen Republican
Séamus Burke Cumann na nGaedheal
Louis Dalton Cumann na nGaedheal
Michael Heffernan Farmers' Party
Seán McCurtin Cumann na nGaedheal
Daniel Morrissey Labour Party
Patrick Ryan Republican
Caitlín Brugha Republican
John Butler Labour Party
William Redmond Independent
Nicholas Wall Farmers' Party
Richard Corish Labour Party
Michael Doyle Farmers' Party
Osmond Esmonde Cumann na nGaedheal
Robert Lambert Republican
James Ryan Republican
Christopher Byrne Cumann na nGaedheal
James Everett Labour Party
Richard Wilson Farmers' Party
Date Constituency Gain Loss Note
27 October 1923 Dublin South Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal
Hugh Kennedy (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Michael Hayes (CnaG)
3 November 1923 National University of Ireland Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal Patrick McGilligan (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Eoin MacNeill (CnaG)
12 March 1924 Dublin South Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - James O'Mara (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the death of Philip Cosgrave (CnaG)
19 March 1924 Dublin County Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Batt O'Connor (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the death of Michael Derham (CnaG)
28 May 1924 Limerick Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Richard O'Connell (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Richard Hayes (CnaG)
18 November 1924 Cork East Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal Michael Noonan (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the death of Thomas O'Mahony (CnaG)
18 November 1924 Dublin South Republican Cumann na nGaedheal - Seán Lemass (Rep) wins the seat vacated by the appointment of Hugh Kennedy (CnaG) as Chief Justice
18 November 1924 Mayo North Republican Cumann na nGaedheal - John Madden (Rep) wins the seat vacated by the disqualification of Henry Coyle (CnaG)
19 November 1924 Cork Borough Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Michael Egan (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Alfred O'Rahilly (CnaG)
20 November 1924 Donegal Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Denis McCullough (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Peter Ward (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Carlow–Kilkenny Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Thomas Bolger (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Seán Gibbons (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Cavan Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - John Joe O'Reilly (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Seán Milroy (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Dublin North Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Patrick Leonard (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Francis Cahill (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Dublin North Republican Cumann na nGaedheal - Oscar Traynor (Rep) wins the seat vacated by the resignation of Seán McGarry (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Dublin South Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Thomas Hennessy (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Daniel McCarthy (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Leitrim–Sligo Republican Cumann na nGaedheal Samuel Holt (Rep) wins the seat vacated by the resignation of Thomas Carter (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Leitrim–Sligo Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Martin Roddy (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Alexander McCabe (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Mayo North Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Michael Tierney (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Joseph McGrath (CnaG)
11 March 1925 Roscommon Cumann na nGaedheal Cumann na nGaedheal - Martin Conlon (CnaG) holds the seat vacated by the resignation of Henry Finlay (CnaG)
18 February 1926 Dublin County Labour Party Independent - William Norton (Lab) wins the seat vacated by the death of Darrell Figgis (Ind)
18 February 1926 Leix–Offaly Cumann na nGaedheal Republican - James Dwyer (CnG) wins the seat vacated by the disqualification of Seán McGuinness (Rep)
September 1926 Waterford National League Party Independent - William Redmond (Ind) joins the National League Party as founder member.
September 1926 Galway National League Party Independent - James Cosgrave (Ind) joins the National League Party as founder member.
Again, I will go through the list above and post new members to the Third Dáil. I will not repeat any already posted.
The eldest son of Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 6th Marquess of Londonderry, and Lady Theresa Susey Helen, daughter of Charles John Chetwynd-Talbot, 19th Earl of Shrewsbury, he was educated at Eton and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.
Pressured by his parents to stand for election to the House of Commons at the 1906 general election for Maidstone, his relatively unsuccessful career on the depleted Unionist backbenches was broken by a return to the British Army during the First World War. Hitherto reluctant to involve himself like his father in Irish politics, the war prompted him to take up the cause of recruitment in Ireland. With his father's death in 1915 he inherited not only the Londonderry title, but also the immense wealth and status that went with it. His exalted position helped his political career, not least in Ireland, and this in turn brought him favorable attention at Westminster.
After serving on the Irish Convention of 1917–18, Lord Londonderry served on the short-lived Viceroy's Advisory Council, meeting at Dublin Castle in the autumn of 1918. This was followed by his appointment to the Air Council at Westminster in 1919, as part of the postwar coalition government. With only a promotion to Under-Secretary of State for Air in 1920, Londonderry grew frustrated and took advantage of his Ulster connections to join the first Government of Northern Ireland in June 1921, as Leader of the Senate and Minister for Education. At Belfast, he acted as a check on the increasingly partisan and survivalist government of Prime Minister Sir James Craig. Nevertheless, Londonderry's Education Act of 1923 received little in the way of good will from either Protestant or Catholic educational interests, and was amended to the point that its purpose, to secularise schooling in Northern Ireland, was lost.
In 1926, he resigned from the Northern Ireland Parliament and involved himself in the General Strike of that year, playing the role of a moderate mine owner, a stance made easier for him by the relative success of the Londonderry mines in County Durham. His performance earned him high praise, and along with the Londonderrys' role as leading political hosts, he was rewarded by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin with a seat in the Cabinet in 1928 as First Commissioner of Works.
Londonderry was also invited to join the emergency National Government under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and Lord President Baldwin in 1931. This was the cause of some scandal as MacDonald's many critics accused the erstwhile Labour leader of being too friendly with Edith, Lady Londonderry.
When the National Government won the 1931 General Election he returned to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Air (Londonderry also held a pilot's licence). This position became increasingly important during his tenure, not least due to the deliberations of the League of Nations Disarmament Conference at Geneva. Londonderry toed the British government's equivocal line on disarmament, but opposed in Cabinet any moves that would risk the deterrent value of the Royal Air Force. For this he was attacked by Clement Attlee and the Labour Party, and thus became a liability to the National Government. In the spring of 1935 he was removed from the Air Ministry but retained in the Cabinet as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords.
The sense of hurt Lord Londonderry felt at this, and of accusations that he had misled Baldwin about the strength of Nazi Germany's air force, led him to seek to clear his reputation as a 'warmonger' by engaging in diplomacy. This involved visits to senior members of the German Government and the much-discussed visit of Joachim von Ribbentrop, then German Ambassador to the Court of St. James (and later the German foreign minister), to Mount Stewart in the spring of 1936, and subsequent briefings with government officials in London. His high-profile promotion of Anglo-German friendship, in the end, marked him with a far greater slur than that which had led him to engage in appeasement in the first place.
Under attack from anti-Nazis inside and outside Westminster, Lord Londonderry attempted to explain his position by publishing Ourselves and Germany in 1938. After playing, it is said, a marginal role in the resignation of Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister in 1940, he failed to win any favour from his cousin, the new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who thought little of his talents. Out of office he produced his memoirs, Wings of Destiny (1943), a relatively short book that was considerably censured by some of his former colleagues.
Lord Londonderry also served as Lord Lieutenant of County Down between 1915 and 1949 and of County Durham between 1928 and 1949 and was Chancellor of the University of Durham and The Queen's University of Belfast. He was sworn of the Irish Privy Council in 1918 and of the British Privy Council in 1925 and appointed a Knight of the Garter in 1919.
On 28 November 1899, Lord Londonderry married the Hon. Edith Helen Chaplin, eldest daughter of Henry Chaplin, 1st Viscount Chaplin, and Lady Florence Sutherland-Leveson-Gower (herself a daughter of the 3rd Duke of Sutherland) and had issue:
- Lady Maureen Helen Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1900–1942), who married in 1920 the Hon. Oliver Stanley and had issue: (i) Michael Charles Stanley (1921–1990), who married (Aileen) Fortune Constance Hugh Smith and had two sons; and (ii) Kathryn Edith Helen Stanley DCVO (1923–2004), Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II from 1955 to 2002 and who married Sir John Dugdale KCVO (1923–1994) and had two daughters and two sons, one of whom, Henry Dugdale (b. 1963) is married to Litia Mara Dugdale.
- Edward Charles Stewart Robert Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 8th Marquess of Londonderry (1902–1955)
- Lady Margaret Frances Anne Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1910–1966), who married in 1934 (div. 1939) Frederick Alan Irving Muntz and in 1952 (div) 1958 as his 3rd wife, Hugh Falkus (1917–1996).
- Lady Helen Maglona Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1911–1986), who married in 1935 Edward Jessel, 2nd Baron Jessel, and had issue: (i) Hon. Timothy Edward Jessel (1935–1969) who married twice and has issue; (ii) Hon. Camilla Edith Mairi Elizabeth Jessel (b. 1940) who was married and has issue; and (iii) Hon. Joanne Margaret Jessel (b. 1945) who is married and has issue.
- Lady Mairi Elizabeth Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1921–2009), who married in 1940 (div. 1958) Derek William Charles Keppel, Viscount Bury (1911–1968), eldest son of Walter Keppel, 9th Earl of Albemarle and had issue: (i) Lady Elizabeth Mairi Keppel (b. 1941) who married in 1962 (div.) Alastair Michael Hyde Villiers (1939–2005) and has issue, and in 1980 (div. 1988) Merlin Hanbury-Tracy, 7th Baron Sudeley; and (ii) Lady Rose Deirdre Margaret Keppel (b. 1943) who married Peter Lathrop Lauritzen and has issue.
Having suffered a stroke after a gliding accident a few years after the end of the war, Lord Londonderry died on 10 February 1949 at Mount Stewart, County Down, aged 70.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
The Act was the first law ever passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom that sought to establish devolved government in a part of the United Kingdom. However, the implementation of both it and the equally controversial Welsh Church Act 1914 was formally postponed for a minimum of twelve months with the outbreak of the First World War. Subsequent developments in Ireland led to further postponements, meaning that the Act never took effect; it was finally superseded by a fourth home rule bill (enacted as the Government of Ireland Act 1920).
Instead of home rule as envisioned in the 1914 Act, most of Ireland was to achieve independence in 1922 as the Irish Free State; however, the six north-eastern counties that remained within the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland did obtain home rule in the previous year.
The separate Kingdoms of Ireland and Britain were merged on January 1, 1801, to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Throughout the 19th century Irish opposition to the Union was strong, occasionally erupting in violent insurrection. In the 1830s and 1840s attempts had been made under the leadership of Daniel O'Connell to repeal the Act of Union 1800 and restore the Kingdom of Ireland, without breaking the connection with Great Britain. These attempts to achieve what was simply called repeal, failed.
In the 1870's, the Home Rule League under Isaac Butt sought to achieve a modest form of self-government, known as Home Rule. Under it, Ireland would still remain part of the United Kingdom but would have limited self-government. The cause was then pursued by Charles Stewart Parnell and two attempts were made by Liberal ministries under British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone to enact home rule bills, accompanied by a revival of Ulster's Orange Order to resist any form of Home Rule.
The first bill, with Gladstone's Irish Home Rule speech beseeching parliament to pass the Irish Government Bill 1886 and grant Home Rule to Ireland in honour rather than being compelled to one day in humiliation, was defeated in the Commons by 30 votes; while the second Irish Government Bill 1893 was passed, but then defeated in the Lords. With the Conservative Party's pro-unionist policy, and joined by a group of Liberal Unionists on this issue, the consequent majority could block any such bill from passing the Commons. Few expected a Home Rule bill to make it through the final stage, the Conservative-majority House of Lords.
In 1909, a crisis erupted between the House of Lords and the Commons, each of which accused the other of breaking historic conventions — the Commons accused the Lords of breaking the convention of not rejecting a budget after it had rejected the budget of Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George, which was so framed by him that the Lords were certain to reject it. By this means Lloyd George hoped to clear the way for a determined onslaught on the privilege of the Lords and their veto on legislation. The Lords duly rejected the Finance Bill in November 1909 and the Liberals joined battle with the Lords. The Prime Minister Herbert Asquith appealed to the country.
Two general elections followed in 1910 to decide the issue. Far from breaking the deadlock, they left the Liberals and Conservatives equally matched. In the December 1910 general election the Liberals having lost their majority, were dependent on the Irish Nationalists to hold on to government. The issue was now quite clear: if the Liberals were to bring down the House of Lords, they would need the vote of the Irish Party, and the price would be Home Rule for Ireland. With the promise of cooperation from both the late king, Edward VII, and the new king, George V, the Liberals threatened to swamp the Lords with sufficient new Liberal peers to assure the Government a Lords majority. The peers backed down, and the relationship between the Lords and Commons changed fundamentally.
The two general elections had left the nationalist Irish Parliamentary Party under its leader John Redmond with the balance of power in the House of Commons. Prime Minister Asquith came to an understanding with Redmond in which, if he supported his move to break the power of the Lords and support his budget, then Asquith would introduce a Home Rule Bill. The Parliament Act 1911 was passed in which the Lords agreed to a curtailment of their powers. Now they had no powers over finance bills and their unlimited veto was replaced with one lasting only two years, if the House of Commons passed a bill in the third year and was then rejected by the Lords it would still become law without the consent of the Upper House. Thus the last obstacle to Home Rule was removed.
On 11, April 1912, the Prime Minister introduced the Third Home Rule Bill which foresaw granting Ireland self-government. Allowing more autonomy than its two predecessors, the bill provided for:
- A bicameral Irish Parliament to be set up in Dublin (a 40-member Senate and a 164-member House of Commons) with powers to deal with most national affairs;
- A number of Irish MPs would continue to sit in the Imperial Parliament in Westminster (42 MPs, rather than 103).
- The abolition of Dublin Castle, though with the retention of the Lord Lieutenant.
The financial situation was a concern. Irish taxes had yielded a surplus of £2 million in 1893, that had turned into a current spending net deficit of £1.5m by 1910 that had to be raised by London. An annual "Transferred Sum" mechanism was proposed to maintain spending in Ireland as it was.
The Bill was passed by the Commons by a majority of 10 votes but the House of Lords rejected it 326 votes to 69. In 1913 it was re-introduced and again passed the Commons but was again rejected by the Lords by 302 votes to 64. In 1914 after the third reading, the Bill passed the Commons on 25 May by a majority of 77. Having been defeated a third time in the Lords, the Government used the provisions of the Parliament Act to override the Lords and send it for Royal Assent.
In Ulster, Protestants were in a numerical majority. Much of the northeast was opposed to being governed from Dublin and losing their local supremacy — before the Act of Union in 1801, Protestants were the business, political élite and landed aristocracy in Ireland. Catholics had only been allowed to vote again in 1793 and been excluded from sitting in parliament until Catholic Emancipation in 1829. Since the Act of Settlement 1701, no Catholic had ever been appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the head of the British government in a country that was 75% Catholic. In 1800 Protestant privilege in Ireland was based on land ownership, but this had diminished from 1885 with the introduction of land purchase by a Land Commission and the Irish Land Acts.
By 1912, Protestant influence remained strong in Ulster, based not on farmland but on new industries that had been developed after 1800. Many Protestants in Ulster were Presbyterians, who had also been excluded from power before 1801, but now wanted to maintain the link with Britain. Further, Belfast had grown from 7,000 people in 1800 to 400,000 by 1900, and was then the largest city in Ireland. This growth had depended largely on trade within the British Empire, and it seemed that the proposed Dublin-based parliament elected by a largely rural country would have different economic priorities to those of Belfast and its industrial hinterland. The argument developed that 'Ulster' deserved separate treatment from the rest of Ireland, and that its majority was socially and economically closer to the rest of Britain. Unionists declared that the Irish economy had prospered during the Union, but with Ulster doing better than the rest of Ireland. The Protestants of Ulster had done well with their industries, particularly linen and shipbuilding. They feared a Dublin parliament run by farmers would hamper their prosperity by imposing barriers on trade with Britain.
All the arguments for and against Home Rule, in general or as proposed in the Bill, were made by both sides from the day it was introduced in April 1912. The main issue of contention during the parliamentary debates was the "coercion of Ulster", and mention was made of whether or which counties of Ulster should be excluded from the provisions of Home Rule. Irish Party leaders John Dillon and Joseph Devlin contending "no concessions for Ulster, Ulster will have to follow". On ‘Ulster Day’ 28 September 1912 over five hundred thousand Unionists signed the Ulster Covenant pledging to defy Home Rule by all means possible, drawn up by Irish Unionist leader Sir Edward Carson and organised by Sir James Craig, who in January 1911 had spoken of a feeling in Ulster that Germany and the German Emperor would be preferred to the ‘rule of John Redmond, Patrick Ford (veteran Fenian) and the Molly Maguires'.
Unionists continued to demand that Ulster be excluded, the solution of partition appealing to Craig; Carson however, as a Dublin man, did not want partition, which would leave 250,000 Southern Unionists at the mercy of a huge nationalist majority. He was willing to talk partition hoping that Redmond would give up Home Rule rather than agree to it. Redmond under-estimated the resilience and strength of their resistance and thought they were bluffing and would accept Home Rule after Parliament passed it. On New Year's Day 1913, Carson moved an amendment to the Home Rule Bill in the House of Commons, to exclude all nine counties of Ulster and was supported in this by Bonar Law.
Represented mainly by the Ulster Unionist Party and backed by the Orange Order, the unionists established in January 1913 the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force, with 100,000 members who threatened to resist by physical force the implementation of the Act and the authority of any restored Dublin Parliament by force of arms, fearing that Dublin rule would mean the ascendency of Catholicism—in the words of one MP, that "'home rule' in Ireland would prove to be 'Rome Rule'. Later that year Carson and other leading men in Ulster were fully prepared to abandon the Southern Unionists, Carson's concern for them largely exhausted.
The Nationalists in turn raised the Irish Volunteers from late 1913 and planned to help Britain enforce the Act whenever it passed, and to oppose Ulster separatism. In the Curragh incident of 20 March 1914, dozens of army officers stationed in Ireland offered to resign or accept dismissal rather than enforce Home Rule on Ulster. In April 1914 the Ulster Volunteers illegally imported 24,000 rifles from Imperial Germany, being worried that force would be used to impose the Act upon the northeast. Nationalists, led by John Redmond, were adamant that any partition was unacceptable, and he declared that they could never assent to the mutilation of the Irish nation. "Ireland is a unit . . . . the two-nation theory is to us an abomination and a blasphemy". In June 1914 Erskine Childers imported 900 German rifles for the Irish Volunteers in his yacht. In mid-July Padraig Pearse complained of Redmond's takeover of the Volunteers, that he wanted to arm them for the wrong reasons - 'not against England, but against the Orangemen'. It seemed that Ireland would slide into a civil war.
The economic arguments for and against Home Rule were hotly debated, but all agreed that without the ability to tax Ulster's industrial areas the future prospects for the rest of Ireland would be worse. The case in favour was put by Erskine Childers' "The Framework of Home Rule" (1911) and the arguments against by Arthur Samuels in 1912. Both books assumed Home Rule for all of Ireland; by mid-1914 the situation had changed dramatically.
Even before the Bill became law, questions arose about proposals to exclude Ulster from the Act. At the Bill's third reading on 21 May several members asked about a proposal to exclude the whole of Ulster for six years; it seemed remarkable, as the proposal was being made as a new amending Bill in the House of Lords, where the government had less support. Liberal and Irish government supporters were instantly critical of any effort to water down the existing Bill. Lord Hugh Cecil, a Conservative MP, was also mystified, saying: "Let them bring in their amending Bill under the Standing Orders before next Tuesday. It is perfectly manifest that somebody is going to be tricked. There is no genuine honest reason for making a secret of this kind. My hope is that it is the Nationalist party who are going to be tricked. It may be them, or it may be us, but that somebody is going to be tricked is perfectly plain.."
It now appears that in late May Asquith sought any solution that would avoid, or at least postpone, an Irish civil war. He had not been frank about the new temporary-partition possibility, leaving everyone wondering what, exactly, they were voting for in the main Bill, when it might be seriously altered by the as-yet-unseen Amending Bill that was to be launched in the House of Lords.
Sir Edward Carson and the Irish Unionist Party (mostly Ulster MPs) backed by a Lords' recommendation, supported the government's Amending Bill in the Lords on 8 July 1914 for the "temporary exclusion of Ulster" from the workings of the future Act, but the number of counties (four, six or nine) and whether exclusion was to be temporary or permanent, all still to be negotiated.
The compromise proposed by Asquith was straightforward. Six counties of the northeast of Ireland (roughly two thirds of Ulster), where there was arguably or definitely a Protestant majority, were to be excluded "temporarily" from the territory of the new Irish parliament and government, and to continue to be governed as before from Westminster and Whitehall. How temporary the exclusion would be, and whether northeastern Ireland would eventually be governed by the Irish parliament and government, remained an issue of some controversy.
Redmond fought tenaciously against the idea of partition, but conceded only after Carson had forced through an Amending Bill which would have granted limited local autonomy to Ulster within an all-Ireland settlement. The British government in effect accepted no immediate responsibility for the political and religious antagonisms which in the end led to the partition of Ireland, regarding it as clearly an otherwise unresolvable internal Irish problem. To them, the Nationalists had led the way towards Home Rule from the 1880s without trying hard enough to understand Unionist apprehensions, and were instead relying on their mathematical majority of electors. In the background, the more advanced nationalist views of ideologues such as D. P. Moran had nothing to offer the Unionists.
William O'Brien alone made a concerted effort to accommodate Unionist concerns in his All-for-Ireland League (AFIL) political programme, prepared to concede any reasonable concessions to Ulster, denounced by both the Irish Party and clergy. The eight Independent AFIL Party MPs abstained from voting on the final passing of the Bill on 25 May in protest that it had not taken any account of Protestant minority concerns and fears, being in effect a "partition deal" after the government introduced an Amending Bill into the House of Lords to give effect to the exclusion of Ulster constructed on the basis of county option and six year exclusion, the same formula rejected by Unionists in March. To save endless debate in parliament, George V called a Buckingham Palace Conference with two MPs from each of the British parties, and two each from the nationalists and unionists, held between 21 and 24 July, which achieved very little, except a flicker of understanding between Carson and the Nationalists, that if Ulster were to be excluded, then in its entirety, that the province should come in or out as a whole.
With the outbreak of war with Germany in August 1914, Asquith decided to abandon his Amending Bill, and instead rushed through a new bill the Suspensory Act 1914 which was presented for Royal Assent simultaneously with both the Government of Ireland Act 1914 and the Welsh Church Act 1914; although the two controversial Bills had now finally reached the statute books on 18 September 1914, the Suspensory Act ensured that Home Rule would be postponed for the duration of the conflict and would not come into operation until the end of the war. The Unionist opposition in Parliament claimed that this manouevure by Asquith was a breach of the political truce agreed on at the start of the war. However, with the Home Rule Bill effectively put into limbo, and the arguments surrounding it still capable of being resurrected before home rule was actually to come into operation, Unionist politicians soon left the issue aside in the face of more pressing concerns.
The Ulster question was 'solved' in the same way: through the promise of amending legislation which was left undefined. Unionists were in disarray, wounded by the enactment of Home Rule. and by the absence of any definite arrangement for the exclusion of Ulster. Nationalists, in the belief that independent self-government had finally been granted, celebrated the news with bonfires alighting the hill-tops across the south of Ireland. But as the Act had been suspended for the duration of what was expected to be a very short war, this decision was to prove crucial to the subsequent course of events.
With the outbreak of what was expected to be a short Great War in August 1914, looming civil war in Ireland was averted. Both mainstream nationalists and unionists, keen to ensure the implementation of the Act on the one hand and to influence the issue of how temporary was partition to be on the other, rallied in support of Britain's war commitment to the Allies under the Triple Entente (See: Ireland and World War I).
The Irish Volunteers split into the larger National Volunteers and a rump who kept the original title. The NV and many other Irishmen, convinced at the time that Ireland had won freedom and self-government under the Act, joined Irish regiment of the 10th (Irish) Division or the 16th (Irish) Division of the New British Army to "defend the freedom of other small nations" and to fight in France and Belgium for a Europe free from oppression. The men of the Ulster Volunteers went on to join the 36th (Ulster) Division, and unlike their nationalist counterparts who apart from Irish Generals William Hickie and Bryan Mahon, lacked prior military training to act as officers, were allowed their own local reserve militia officers.
However, a fringe element of nationalism, represented by the remaining Irish Volunteers, opposed Irish support for the war effort, believing Irishmen who wanted to "defend the freedom of small nations" should focus on one closer to hand. In Easter 1916 a rebellion, the Easter Rising, took place in Dublin. Initially widely condemned in view of the heavy Irish war losses on the Western Front and in the disastrous Gallipoli V beach landing at Cape Helles (the main nationalist newspaper, the Irish Independent, demanded the execution of the rebels), the British government's mishandling of the aftermath of the Rising, including the protracted executions of the Rising's leaders by General Maxwell, led to the rise of an Irish republican movement in Sinn Féin, a small previously separatist monarchist party taken over by the rebellion's survivors, after it had been wrongly blamed for the rebellion by the British.
This marked a crucial turning on the path to attaining self-government. The rising put an end to the democratic constitutional and conciliatory parliamentary movement and replaced it with a radical physical-force approach. Unionists became even more trenchant in their views on All-Ireland self-government, ultimately leading to a perpetuation of partition.
After the rebellion, the British Cabinet urgently decided in May 1916 that the 1914 Act should be brought into operation immediately and a Government established in Dublin. Asquith tasked Lloyd George, then Minister for Munitions, to open negotiations between Redmond and Carson. As to how long the period of partition was to last, due to the ambiguities of the wording of the final document purposely intrigued by Walter Long to jeopardise Home Rule, Redmond, understanding it would be temporary, broke off negotiations when he realised this was not so. The tragedy of the failure to reach agreement between Redmond and Carson is underlined by the narrow division separating the disputants and the fact that the deal was very nearly concluded had Long not undermined it.
But before anything could evolve from this new constellation of nationalists and unionists, the massive German Spring Offensive of 21 March swept all before it, smashing the Allied and Irish Divisions, both the Irish Convention and any hope of Irish self-government. Britain had a manpower shortage and planned to enact Home Rule immediately, but under a dual policy of Home Rule linked with conscription. Britain could not have chosen a worse time or manner to introduce either to Ireland.
The issue now became the threat of conscription; all interest in Home Rule dissipated when moderate Nationalists and Sinn Féin stood united during the Conscription Crisis of 1918.
Fortunately an Allied defeat was staved off, just as American support reached the front, so that the military draft bill was never implemented. However its threat resulted in a dramatic rise in popularity for Sinn Féin and a swing away from the Irish Party. The Armistice ended the Great War on 11 November 1918.
December saw Sinn Féin secure a clear majority of seventy-three Irish seats in the general election, twenty five of these seats taken unopposed. Twenty-six Sinn Féin MPs assembled in Dublin (the rest were imprisoned) and proclaimed themselves as an independent parliament of an Irish Republic, the First Dáil where they ratified the Irish Republic (Poblacht na hÉireann) proclaimed in 1916 and announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, only Russia recognising it internationally. A ministry (Aireacht) was formed under Éamon de Valera. The Dáil unrealistically refused to negotiate any understanding with London and abstained from attending Westminster, thereby abandoning Ulster and its Catholic Nationalists to their fate. The killing of two local RIC constables at Soloheadbeg in county Tipperary became the first shots of the Irish War of Independence (Anglo-Irish War) fought between 1919 and 1921.
A second attempt to introduce self-government in Dublin was made by Britain with the calling of the Irish Convention in July 1917, to which Lloyd George, now Prime Minister, invited representatives of all parties. Two refused to attend, William O'Brien's dissident All-for-Ireland Party because Redmond objected to prominent Unionists he wished to have invited, and Sinn Féin on the grounds that the Convention would not lead to the Irish Republic they aspired to. The Convention sat until March 1918, discussing various options from Dominion status to a federal solution within or outside the United Kingdom. Southern Unionists, opposing the Northern Unionists, eventually sided with Redmond's Nationalists and accepted the setting up a Dublin Home Rule parliament. Redmond died in March 1918. Proposals contained in the Convention's report later formed the basis for a new Home Rule Act, a dual Home Rule parliament settlement from which just one evolved as Ireland's first Home Rule Parliament established in Northern Ireland in 1921.
The British prime minister David Lloyd George responded by replacing the suspended Home Rule Act of 1914 with a new (Fourth) Home Rule Bill, the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which was largely shaped by Walter Long's Committee which followed most of the recommendations contained in the Irish Convention's March 1918 report. Long, now with a free hand to shape Home Rule in Ulster's favour, partitioned Ireland into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland; strict adherence to the policy of abstentionism meant that there was no Sinn Féin MP or Dáil envoy at Westminster to voice a protest. Lloyd George foresaw in each case a bicameral legislature and an executive presided over by a shared royal representative, the Lord Lieutenant.
Whilst Home Rule for Northern Ireland did come to pass in June 1921, Southern Ireland remained a political entity on paper only: the overwhelming majority of Irish MPs refused to recognise either of the enacted Houses of the Parliament of Southern Ireland, sitting instead as Teachtaí Dála (Deputies) of the Second Dáil. Just three MPs and four senators turned up for the state opening of the "Parliament of Southern Ireland". The war continued until a truce was agreed in 1921. Dáil Éireann delegated five envoys, with plenipotentiary powers, to negotiate terms of secession with the British government, Éamon de Valera remaining in Dublin having been informed in advance by Lloyd George that under no circumstances would a republic be conceded.
The outcome was the Anglo–Irish Treaty, signed on 6 December 1921, modelled largely on the foregone Fourth Home Rule Act, but giving Ireland Commonwealth Dominion status under the British Crown, and effectively abolished the Irish Republic. All of Ireland would become the Irish Free State, but Northern Ireland would be allowed to vote itself out of the Free State within a month. After a long and acrimonious debate lasting some weeks, the Dáil ratified the Treaty on 7 January 1922 by 64 votes to 57. Those opposed (led by Éamon de Valera) refused to accept the decision of the constitutionally elected Second Dáil and led their anti-Treaty forces into the Irish Civil War six months later, boycotting the Third Dáil after it had been elected.
The Parliament of Southern Ireland functioned as such only once, when pragmatically and in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty, the House of Commons of Southern Ireland assembled in Dublin in January 1922 to ratify it.
Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty a provisional parliament, the Third Dáil, was elected on 16 June 1922. This parliament was recognised both by pro-Treaty Sinn Féin and the British Government and so replaced both the Parliament of Southern Ireland and the Second Dáil with a single body. Ninety-four out of a total of 128 elected members of the new Dáil attended, thus democratically sanctioning it. The Irish Civil War started on 28 June 1922. The Irish Free State or Saorstát Éireann was established on 6 December 1922. Northern Ireland voted to exclude itself on 8 December, as expected, leaving 26 counties out of 32 (Leinster, Connaught and Munster plus three counties of Ulster) in the new Free State.
Gladstone had become personally committed to the granting of Irish home rule in 1885, a fact revealed (possibly accidentally) in what became known as the Hawarden Kite. Though his 1886 Home Rule Bill had caused him to lose power, once re-appointed prime minister in August 1892 Gladstone committed himself to introducing a new Home Rule Bill for Ireland.
As with the first bill, the second bill was controversially drafted in secret by Gladstone, who excluded both Irish MPs, the leadership of the (recently split) Irish Parliamentary Party and his own ministry from participating in the drafting. The decision led to a serious factual error in the Bill, a mistake over the calculation of how much Ireland should contribute to the British Imperial Exchequer. The error in the calculation was £360,000, a vast sum for the time. The error was discovered during the Committee Stage of the Bill's passage through the Commons and forced a major revision of the financial proposals.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir William Harcourt, was himself alienated from the Bill having been excluded by Gladstone from its preparation, while the Chief Secretary for Ireland was engaged on other matters, and Gladstone, in the words of a historian, "increasingly disengaged". On 21 April, the Bill's second reading was approved by a majority of 347 to 304.
By the third reading on 1 September, 26 of the Bill's 37 clauses had still not been debated. A fist-fight developed on the opposition benches between Home Rule and Conservative MPs. The Bill, though passed by the Commons with a slimmer majority of 30, had lost much of its credibility. At that time all legislation could be negated by the Conservative Party-dominated House of Lords, and here it failed on a vote of 41 in favour and 419 against.
The bill proposed:
- A bicameral Irish parliament to control domestic affairs, made up of a legislative council with 48 councillors elected for eight years and a legislative assembly with 103 members.
- An executive under the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland would form the Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Ireland.
- The new executive would not be answerable to the Irish parliament and would contain no prime minister.
- This bill was different from the first bill that Gladstone introduced in 1886 because it allowed for the eighty Irish MPs to vote in Westminster but only on bills that affected Ireland.
Gladstone retired soon afterwards. Some historians now suggest that Gladstone was the author of his own defeats on home rule, with his secretive drafting alienating supporters, and enabling serious flaws to appear in the text of his bills.
The Bill, like his Irish Land Act 1870, was very much the work of Gladstone, who excluded both the Irish MPs and his own ministers from participation in the drafting. Following the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act 1885 it was to be introduced alongside a new Land Purchase Bill to reform tenant rights, but the latter was abandoned.
The key aspects of the 1886 Bill were:
The vote on the Bill took place after two months of debating and, on 8 June 1886, 341 voted against it (including 93 Liberals) while 311 voted for it. Parliament was dissolved on 26 June and the UK general election, 1886 was called.
Historians have suggested that the 1886 Home Rule Bill was fatally flawed by the secretive manner of its drafting, with Gladstone alienating Liberal figures like Joseph Chamberlain who, along with a colleague, resigned in protest from the ministry, while producing a Bill viewed privately by the Irish as badly drafted and deeply flawed.[
With the secession of Northern Ireland from the Irish Free State back to the United Kingdom, in accordance with the Treaty it fell to the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland to nominate members to a Boundary Commission to delineate the precise border between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. While nationalists hoped for a considerable transfer of land from Northern Ireland to the Free State (reflecting the wishes of people who lived along the new border), the Northern Ireland government refused to appoint their commissioner, resulting in the British government assigning a Belfast newspaper editor to represent Northern Irish interests.
The Government of Ireland Act 1920 was enacted during the height of the Anglo-Irish War and partitioned the island into two separate Home Rule territories of the United Kingdom, to be called Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. In its determination of this border, the Parliament of the United Kingdom heard the arguments of the Irish Unionist Party – but not those of most of the elected representatives of the nationalist population. Sinn Féin refused to recognise any legitimate role of that Parliament in Irish affairs and declined to attend it, leaving only the minuscule Irish Parliamentary Party present at the debates. James Craig's brother told the British House of Commons unambiguously that the six north-eastern counties were the largest possible area that unionists could "hold".
After a clause providing for Northern Ireland (as defined by the Government of Ireland Act 1920) to opt out of the new Free State, the remainder of Article 12 declares:
Provided that if such an address [exercising Northern Ireland's right to opt out of the Irish Free State] is so presented, a Commission consisting of three persons, one to be appointed by the Government of the Irish Free State, one to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland, and one who shall be Chairman to be appointed by the British Government shall determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland, and for the purposes of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and of this instrument, the boundary of Northern Ireland shall be such as may be determined by such Commission.Accordingly in 1922 the new Free State established the North-Eastern Boundary Bureau which had prepared 56 boxes of files to argue its case by 1925.
Within months the three governments signed the "Craig-Collins Agreement" in March 1922, in an attempt to end the conflict in Northern Ireland. Despite Article 12, the agreement envisaged a two-party conference between the Northern Irish government and the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland to establish:
"(7) a. Whether means can be devised to secure the unity of Ireland" and "b. Failing this, whether agreement can be arrived at on the boundary question otherwise than by recourse to the Boundary Commission outlined in Article 12 of the Treaty", but the agreement quickly broke down for other reasons.
- Justice Richard Feetham of South Africa as Chairman (appointed by, and representing, the British Government)
- Eoin MacNeill, Minister for Education (appointed by, and representing, the Free State Government)
- J.R. Fisher, a Unionist newspaper editor (appointed by the British government to represent the Northern Ireland government)
On 7 November 1925, an English Conservative newspaper, the Morning Post, published leaked notes of the negotiations, including a draft map that suggested that parts of east Donegal would be transferred to Northern Ireland. This was seen as an embarrassment in Dublin, being contrary to the overarching purpose of the Commission, which was to award the more Nationalist parts of Northern Ireland to the Free State, and Professor MacNeill resigned on 20 November. Despite resigning, he then voted in favour of the settlement on 10 December. It is likely that the press leak caused the boundary negotiations to be swept into the wider agreement signed on 3 December.
McNeill's resignation suspended the Commission's work. In late November members of the Irish government visited London and Chequers to go over the ground since the Treaty and to consider the exact meaning of Article 12.
The Irish view was that it was only intended to award areas within the six counties of Northern Ireland to the Free State.
The British view was that the entire 1920 boundary was adjustable in either direction, as the Irish side had insisted in the 1921 Treaty that Northern Ireland was deemed part of Ireland until it voted to secede in December 1922, but that the net balance of property and people transferred either way would benefit the Free State.
Cosgrave emphasised that his government might fall but arrived at the idea of a larger solution including interstate financial matters after receiving a memo from Joe Brennan, a senior civil servant. On 2 December Cosgrave summed up his attitude on the debacle to the British Cabinet.
In the background, under the terms of Article 5 of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Irish Free State had agreed to pay its share of the Imperial debt:
"(5) The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined in default of agreement by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the British Empire."
Diarmaid Ferriter suggests a more complex trade-off; the debt obligation was removed from the Free State and non-publication of the report, in return for the Free State dropping its claim to rule some Catholic / nationalist areas of Northern Ireland. Each side could blame the other side for the outcome. William Cosgrave admitted that the security of the Catholic minority depended on the goodwill of their neighbours.
The final agreement between the Irish Free State, Northern Ireland, and Britain was signed on 3 December 1925. Later that day the agreement was read out by Stanley Baldwin in the House of Commons. The agreement was enacted by the "Ireland (Confirmation of Agreement) Act" that was passed unanimously by the British parliament on 8–9 December. Effectively the agreement was concluded by the three governments, and the Commission then rubber-stamped it, so the publication, or not, of the Commission's report became an irrelevance. The Agreement was then formally registered with the League of Nations on 8 February 1926.
In the Dáil debates on the outcome on 7 December 1925, Cosgrave mentioned that the sum due under the Imperial debt had not yet been fixed, but was estimated at £5m. to £19m. annually, Britain having a debt of over £7 billions. The Free State's annual budget was then about £25m. Cosgrave's aim was to eliminate this amount: "I had only one figure in my mind and that was a huge nought. That was the figure I strove to get, and I got it."
On the final day of debate, Cosgrave revealed that one of the reasons for independence, the elimination of poverty caused by London's over-taxation of Ireland, had not been solved even after four years of freedom:
His main opponent was Professor Magennis from Ulster, who particularly objected that the Council of Ireland (a mechanism for future unity by the 1970s, provided under the Government of Ireland Act 1920) was not mentioned."In our negotiations we went on one issue alone, and that was our ability to pay. Not a single penny of a counter-claim did we put up. We cited the condition of affairs in this country—250,000 occupiers of uneconomic holdings, the holdings of such a valuation as did not permit of a decent livelihood for the owners; 212,000 labourers, with a maximum rate of wages of 26s. a week: with our railways in a bad condition, with our Old Age Pensions on an average, I suppose, of 1s. 6d. a week less than is paid in England or in Northern Ireland, with our inability to fund the Unemployment Fund, with a tax on beer of 20s. a barrel more than they, with a heavier postage rate. That was our case."
The government side felt that a boundary of some sort, and partition, had been on the cards for years. If the boundary was moved towards Belfast it would be harder to eliminate in the long term. Kevin O'Higgins pondered:There was in that wretched and much resisted Act of 1920 a provision for bringing about ultimate union. Some of our leaders would have said in those days that was all hocus-pocus, but, at all events, the Bill declared, just as the President's statement declared, that what was intended was to bring about a union of hearts. If I had the Bill by me I am confident I could read out a clause in which the seers, the diviners, and the soothsayers, who framed the Act of 1920, told us that, ultimately, it would bring about union. There was a date on which the Council of Ireland was to go out of operation, and that was a date on which by a similar joint resolution of both Parliaments—the Parliament of Ireland was to be set up. That was one of the clauses in the Act of 1920. Do we find anything to that effect in this agreement? Is there any stipulation in the four corners of this document for the ultimate setting up of a Parliament of all Ireland or anything that would appear to be a Parliament of all Ireland? No!
...whether the Boundary Commission at any time was a wonderful piece ofOn 9 December, a deputation of Ulster nationalists arrived to make their views known to the Dáil, but were turned away.
constructive statesmanship, the shoving up of a line, four, five or ten miles, leaving the Nationalists north of that line in a smaller minority than is at present the case, leaving the pull towards union, the pull towards the south, smaller and weaker than is at present the case.
After 4 days of heated debate on the "Treaty (Confirmation of amending agreement) Bill, 1925", the boundary agreement was approved on 10 December by a Dáil vote of 71 to 20. On 16 December, the Irish Senate approved by 35 votes to 7.
Both Irish prime ministers agreed in the negotiations on 3 December to bury the report as part of a wider inter-governmental settlement. The remaining Commissioners discussed the matter with the politicians at length, and expected publication within weeks. However, WT Cosgrave said that he: "..believed that it would be in the interests of Irish peace that the Report should be burned or buried, because another set of circumstances had arrived, and a bigger settlement had been reached beyond any that the Award of the Commission could achieve."
"If the settlement succeeded it would be a great disservice to Ireland, North and South, to have a map produced showing what would have been the position of the persons on the Border had the Award been made. If the settlement came off and nothing was published, no-one would know what would have been his fate. He himself had not seen the map of the proposed new Boundary. When he returned home he would be questioned on the subject and he preferred to be able to say that he did not know the terms of the proposed Award. He was certain that it would be better that no-one should ever know accurately what their position would have been."
The Parliament of Northern Ireland was bicameral, consisting of a House of Commons with 52 seats, and an indirectly-elected Senate with 26 seats. The Sovereign was represented by the Governor, who granted Royal Assent to Acts of Parliament in Northern Ireland, but executive power rested with the Prime Minister, the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons.
The House of Commons had 52 members, of which 48 were for territorial seats and four were for graduates of Queen's University, Belfast (until 1969, when the four university seats were replaced by an additional 4 territorial seats). The Government of Ireland Act prescribed that elections to the House of Commons should be by single transferable vote (STV), though the Parliament was given power to alter the electoral system from three years after its first meeting. The STV system was the subject of criticism from grassroots Unionists but because the three-year period ended during the Labour government of 1924, the Stormont government decided not to provoke the known egalitarian sympathies of many Labour backbenchers and held the second election on the same basis. The loss of eight Unionist seats in that election caused great acrimony and in 1929 the system was changed to first-past-the-post for all territorial constituencies, though STV was retained for the university seats.
The boundary changes were not made by an impartial boundary commission but by the Unionist government, for which it was accused of gerrymandering. The charges that the Stormont seats (as opposed to local council wards) were gerrymandered against Nationalists is disputed by historians (since the number of Nationalists elected under the two systems barely changed), though it is agreed that losses under the change to single-member constituency boundaries were suffered by independent unionists, the Liberals and the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Population movements were so small that these boundaries were used almost everywhere until the Parliament was dissolved in 1972.
In 1968, the government abolished the Queen's University constituency (long after university constituencies had been abolished at Westminster) and created four new constituencies in the outskirts of Belfast where populations had grown. This change helped the Unionists, as they held only two of the University seats but won all four of the newly-created seats. There had, however, long been calls from outside Unionism to abolish the graduate franchise (and other anomalies) and to have "one person one vote".
The Senate was a last-minute addition to the Parliament, after the original plans for a single Senate covering both the Stormont and Dublin Parliaments were overtaken by events.
Twenty-four senators were elected by the House of Commons using the single transferable vote. The elections were carried out after each general election, with 12 members elected for two parliaments each time. The other two seats were held ex officio by the Lord Mayor of Belfast and the Mayor of Derry. The Senate generally had the same party balance as the House of Commons, though abstaining parties and very small parties were not represented. Because of this, and its dependence on the House of Commons for election, it had virtually no political impact.
Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland
- Lord Craigavon (1922–1940)
- John Miller Andrews (1940–1943)
- Lord Brookeborough (1943–1963)
- Captain Terence O'Neill (1963–1969)
- James Chichester-Clark (1969–1971)
- Brian Faulkner (1971–1972)
In 1932, Parliament moved to the new purpose-built Parliament Buildings, designed by Arnold Thornley, at Stormont, on the eastern outskirts of the city. The city boundaries were extended slightly to include Stormont within the capital city. "Stormont" came to be a nickname referring both to the Parliament itself and to the Northern Ireland government.
The British monarch was meant to have been represented in both Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. However the replacement of Southern Ireland by the Irish Free State led to the abolition of the post of Lord Lieutenant. Instead, a new office - Governor of Northern Ireland - was created on 12 December 1922.
This was the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) which abolished proportional representation in local government elections; the issue was referred to London and Royal Assent was eventually given. The output of legislation was high for a devolved Parliament, though some of the Acts were adaptations of recently-passed acts by the United Kingdom parliament. Stormont was an innovator in much of its legislation. It was nominally prohibited by section 16 of the Schedule to the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922 from making any law which directly or indirectly discriminated against a religion, although this provision had little effect.
The 1921 general election was explicitly fought on the issue of partition, being in effect a referendum on approval of the concept of a Northern Ireland administration. Thereafter, general election timing was up to the Prime Minister. Elections almost always took place at a time when the issue of partition had been raised in a new crisis. This generally guaranteed the loyalty of Protestant voters to the Unionist Party. Independent Unionist candidates and the Northern Ireland Labour Party were usually accused of being splitters or dupes of the Nationalists.
The 1925 general election was called in order to tie in with the expected report of the Boundary Commission required by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922. The Boundary Commission was expected to recommend the transfer of many border areas to the Irish Free State, and the Unionist election slogan was "Not an Inch!". They lost eight seats in Belfast and County Antrim, where the issue of the border had far less resonance. Sinn Féin had fought in 1921, but by 1925 was suffering the effects of its split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Éamon de Valera's Sinn Féin fought as Republicans but won only two seats. The border was never changed.
A minor row erupted in 1925 when the elections to the Senate took place. Eleven Unionists and one Labour Senator were elected, despite there being a block of three composed of two non-abstaining Nationalists and a dissident Unionist. The latter three had mailed their votes, but due to a public holiday and the practices of the postal service, they arrived an hour after the election.
For the 1929 general election, the Unionists replaced the proportional representation system blamed for their bad performance in 1925. The new boundaries set the pattern for politics until Stormont was abolished; the Unionists never fell below 33 seats. In the 1930s, the phrase a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people was a debated term.
The 1938 general election was called when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Neville Chamberlain was negotiating a settlement of outstanding disputes with Éamon de Valera, whose new constitution laid claim to Northern Ireland, and the 1949 election was called when the Irish government declared itself a republic.
During the Second World War, the Stormont government called on Westminster to introduce conscription several times, as this was already the case in Great Britain. The British government consistently refused, remembering how a similar attempt in 1918 had backfired dramatically, as nationalist opposition made it unworkable. Much of the population of serving age were either in essential jobs or had already joined up voluntarily, making the potential yield of conscription low.
1965 saw a significant change, in that the Nationalists accepted office as the Official Opposition.
This was intended as a reward for the attempts made by Terence O'Neill to end discrimination against Roman Catholics and normalise relations with the Republic. However, the Unionists split over O'Neill's tentative reforms at the 1969 general election and Ian Paisley's Protestant Unionist Party began to win by-elections. The new nationalist party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, withdrew from Stormont in July 1971 over the refusal of an inquiry into Royal Ulster Constabulary actions in Derry.
Stormont was abolished just six weeks after Bloody Sunday, when the Unionist government refused to hand over responsibility for law and order to Westminster. In its 50-year history, only one piece of legislation was passed that originated from the Nationalists (concerning wildlife). In October 1971, as the Troubles worsened, Gerard Newe had been appointed as a junior minister at Stormont, in an attempt to improve community relations. Fifty years after it came into existence, Newe was the first Catholic to serve in a Northern Ireland government, but due to the fact that he was neither an MP nor a Senator, his appointment could last only six months.
Northern Ireland, Sweden, and Canada are alone in the democratic world in having spent more than half the 20th century under one-party rule. The influence of the Orange Order in the governance of Northern Ireland was far-reaching. All of the six prime ministers of Northern Ireland were members of the Order, as were all but three cabinet ministers until 1969. Three of the ministers later left the Order, one because his daughter married a Catholic, one to become Minister of Community Relations in 1970, and the third was expelled for attending a Catholic religious ceremony. Of the 95 Stormont MPs who did not become cabinet ministers, 87 were Orangemen. Every unionist senator, with one exception, between 1921 and 1969 was an Orangeman. One of these senators, James Gyle, was suspended from the Order for seven years for visiting nationalist MP Joe Devlin on his deathbed.
A fully digitised copy of the parliament's debates (187,000 printed pages of Parliamentary Debates) is available online.
- Northern Ireland general election, 1921
- Northern Ireland general election, 1925
- Northern Ireland general election, 1929
- Northern Ireland general election, 1933
- Northern Ireland general election, 1938
- Northern Ireland general election, 1945
- Northern Ireland general election, 1949
- Northern Ireland general election, 1953
- Northern Ireland general election, 1958
- Northern Ireland general election, 1962
- Northern Ireland general election, 1965
- Northern Ireland general election, 1969