Topic: Politics & GovernmentGovernment

Last updated: November 20, 2019

The struggle over home rule and the divide that it caused within Ireland can be seen in SOURCE B. The source is written by Gladstone, a current liberal leader who is declaring in favour of home rule by arguing that the majority in Ireland are supportive of the bill, and therefore places great emphasis on behalf of the constitutional argument. The source is written by a leading political figure, which enhances the value of the source as it provides an insight into the opinions of the country as well as the state in which Ireland is in.

Despite the source being a supporter of home rule, it also provides a huge insight into the opposition regarding home rule and its inevitable failure due to such resistance. The source immediately casts doubt regarding the opinion of Gladstone, as he may be using his political influence to help shift public opinion regarding home rule in order to forward his own goals. The partisan nature of the source is evident through the use of emotive language such as the ‘voice of Ireland’ in regards to constitutional support, and therefore Gladstone can be regarded as adopting a moral and guarded tone in an attempt to satisfy and perhaps prevent the violent form of nationalism commonly used by the Fenians from returning. This causes Parnell’s methods to be considered less successful as a result of being defeated by personal aims and questionable motives. Also, by the date of 1886, the prominent majority of unionists and conservatives in the house of lords and commons would have most likely prevented the home rule bill from moving forward, thus strengthening the view that home rule was a failed attempt from the beginning due to defiance from the British government, which further emphasizes the unavoidable failure of the constitutional objective.

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However, to a certain degree, Gladstone convincingly argues that Ireland is ‘constitutionally spoken’, as Parnell gained major popularity and support during this period of time through methods such as the second land act which granted the three F’s – fair rent, fixed tenure and free sale thus satisfying tenants by granting their major demands. Also, to an extent, Parnell reduced the influence of violent opposition. Parnell successfully persuaded most members of the Fenians (a revolutionary group) to adopt a more nonviolent policy, which provided a sense of respectability to the cause, thereby enabling conservative administers to consider doing business with them – a major achievement which was capable of withstanding the political upheaval caused by the phoenix murders, further emphasizing the strong leadership of Parnell. However, Parnell’s affair with Kitty Oshea in 1881 greatly reduced his popularity and support within and outside Ireland, which is evident in the split of the Irish parliamentary party that led to 47 MP’s turning against him, hence supporting the view that Parnell’s leadership had greatly disintegrated due to growing dislike and therefore goes against Gladstone’s argument that Ireland was ‘constitutionally’ spoken. Also, to a certain degree, the source has limitations as it omits the extent of opposition and division which home rule caused within Ireland; Gladstone declaring that he will never allow a ‘protestant minority’ to ‘rule the question at large for Ireland’ is a clear exaggeration, as resistance from Ulster is what ultimately caused the home rule bill to fail. Such resistance in 1886 by unionist majority is also seen in 1893 where a second home rule bill was put forward by Gladstone, but was once again declined because of the conservative and unionist majority in the upper house which further highlights the inevitable failure of home rule due to constant opposition from the ulster ‘minority’.

This source is highly useful as it reveals its common attitude towards the Fenian problem and therefore emphasizes the problems that home rule will cause and the potential dislike that it will bring, thus undermining Parnell’s main objective and furthermore heightening his failure to win support over his cause as a result of continual defiance.


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