Home Rule for Ireland!
John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, addresses a large Home Rule demonstration ca. 1912 Photo: National Library of Ireland, INDH 0009

Home Rule for Ireland!

House of Commons to debate bill for second time

Published: 1 May 1913

The Bill to give Home Rule to Ireland will again be put before the House of Commons in London this week by the British Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, Herbert Asquith.

The Bill was first introduced in April of last year, where it was passed by the House of Commons, before being rejected by the House of Lords. The passage of a year has now allowed for the Bill to be re-introduced to the House of Commons. 

Despite the opposition of the Conservative Party, not least its leader Andrew Bonar Law, it is certain that a majority of MPs – drawn primarily from the Liberal Party and the Irish Parliamentary Party – will again support the Bill. It is equally certain that the Bill will then be rejected once more in the House of Lords. Such a rejection, though, will be the final opportunity for the House of Lords to delay the introduction of Home Rule for Ireland.

Unless the Liberal government collapses, the House of Commons will pass the Home Rule Bill for the third time in the Spring of 1914. As the House of Lords does not have the power to reject any Bill for a third time, the Home Rule Bill will be placed on the Statute Book. Over the past year, the plan to give Home Rule to Ireland has dominated politics both inside and outside Westminster. While Irish nationalists – led by the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond – have acclaimed the prospect of having a parliament in Dublin to legislate for the island, unionists have been adamant in their rejection of the proposal. 

Home Rule

Unionist opposition to Home Rule intensified and became more organised in the early months of 1913. ‘Our cause stands for the peace, prosperity and happiness of the people, irrespective of creed or class.’  [NLI, MS 9469]

Although led by the Dubliner and Trinity College graduate, Sir Edward Carson, unionist opposition has centred on Ulster. Massive public rallies of opposition to Home Rule, the signing of the Ulster Covenant by almost 500,000 people and the establishment of the Ulster Volunteer Force in January 1913 has underlined determined opposition to the introduction of Home Rule. 

The pledge by unionists in Ulster to reject any measure of Home Rule for the north of the island has received powerful support from the Conservative Party leader, Andrew Bonar Law. Against this opposition, nationalist opinion has been equally determined that Home Rule will be introduced as planned and that it will apply to all of Ireland. Although they have not established a militia of its own to rival the Ulster Volunteer Force, Irish nationalists have held public meetings to demonstrate in favour of Home Rule and plan to do so again this week.

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