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Buckingham Palace Conference ends in failure
Cartoon from The Irish World newspaper published on 25 July 1914. It depicts the 'national anthem' of Ireland with the lyrics: 'Home Rule for undivided Ireland.' Photo: National Archives of Ireland CSO/RP 1914, 13877

Buckingham Palace Conference ends in failure

Initiative by King collapses after four days

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Published: 24 July 1914

A last-ditch attempt to break the deadlock over Home Rule for Ireland has ended in failure.

Great crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace for a conference called by King George V in an effort to defuse the deepening crisis that surrounds the introduction of Home Rule, with repeated speculation that civil war in Ireland is now increasingly likely.

In welcoming the various parties to the palace, the King said he had called the conference because of the gravity of the situation and because of his ‘deep misgivings’ of what was unfolding.

Delegates arriving at the conference. Left: Sir Edward Carson and Captain Craig. Right: Lord Landsdowne and Andrew Bonar Law. (Images: Illustrated London News [London, England], 25 July 1914)

Left: the Irish Party delegation consisting of Mr Redmond and Mr Dillon. Right: representatives from the government, David Lloyd George and Prime Minister Asquith. (Images: Illustrated London News [London, England], 25 July 1914)

His Highness continued: ‘We have in the past endeavoured to act as a civilising example to the world, and to me it is unthinkable, and it must be to you, that we should be brought to the brink of fratricidal strife upon issues apparently so capable of adjustment as those you are now asked to consider, if handled in a spirit of generous compromise.’

‘My apprehension in contemplating such a dire calamity is intensified by my feelings of attachment to Ireland and of sympathy to her people, who have always welcomed me with warmhearted affection.’

The talks lasted for four consecutive days, beginning on 21 July, and drew together the leaders of nationalism and unionism in Ireland, as well as the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and the leader of the opposition Andrew Bonar Law.

The conference examined the possibility of defining an area in Ulster that would be excluded from the operation of Home Rule but the delegates were unable to agree either in principle or in detail upon such an area.

A resolution passed by the Tyrone Executive of the United Irish League, one of a number of resolutions passed by nationalist organisations around the country, stressing their opposition to the idea of partition. Click for more. (Image: National Archives of Ireland, CSO/RP 1914, 13109)

As the talks continued it became clear to observers that no compromise was emerging.

By the end of the second day, it was apparent that no party was willing to cede ground and, instead, there was a virtual breakdown. Yesterday saw renewed attempts to find fresh grounds for negotiations, but to no avail. A deepening feeling of pessimism settled on the conference and it broke up just after noon without agreement being reached.

This afternoon a special meeting of the cabinet was called and, after deliberations lasting more than 90 minutes, ministers headed for the House of Commons. It is not yet clear how the government intends to proceed.

Unionists have sworn to set up a Provisional Government in Belfast in the event that the Home Rule Bill is implemented, while it is now rumoured that nationalists will set up their own provisional government in Dublin, should Home Rule fail to become operative.

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.