When Enemies United: Before the First World War, Irish Unionists and Nationalists Were Poised to Fight Each Other over the Imposition of Home Rule by the British. Then, Remarkably, They Fought and Died Side by Side

By Grayson, Richard S. | History Today, March 2010 | Go to article overview

When Enemies United: Before the First World War, Irish Unionists and Nationalists Were Poised to Fight Each Other over the Imposition of Home Rule by the British. Then, Remarkably, They Fought and Died Side by Side


Grayson, Richard S., History Today


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In the summer of 1914 war threatened to engulf Ireland. Sure enough, it came in early August. But it was not the war that anybody had expected. For much of 1912-14 Ireland verged not on a Great War but on civil war. Yet remarkably, when Europe erupted into flames, Ireland's two rival paramilitary groups both marched to join the British army to fight against a common foe.

At the root of divisions in Belfast was the campaign for Home Rule, a form of devolution not independence. Home Rule consistently secured

the support of the vast majority of Irish voters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, it was different in the north-east of Ireland (the greater part of the province of Ulster). There, unlike in the rest of the island, Protestants were in the majority. They feared that Home Rule would mean Rome Rule by a Catholic-dominated Dublin Parliament. They also had a fiercely British identity and believed that Home Rule would undermine the Union between Great Britain and Ireland.

While the House of Lords had powers to block any legislation from the Commons indefinitely, there was no question of Home Rule becoming law as the Conservatives (who opposed Home Rule) dominated the Lords. However, that changed with the 1911 Parliament Act which pared back the Lords' powers. Suddenly, it became clear that a combination of the votes of Liberal MPs and the Irish Parliamentary Party (the 'Nationalist' party led by John Redmond which represented most of Ireland) would inevitably lead to Home Rule.

When the Home Rule Bill of 1912 was introduced to Parliament, Unionists in Ulster resolved to resist in every way they could. Despite their staunch loyalty to the Crown, they believed that it was justified to resist Parliament, ultimately through force. The Unionist leader in Ireland, Edward Carson, led mass public opposition to Home Rule, primarily in Ulster. On 'Ulster Day', September 28th, 1912, 237,368 men and 234,046 women publicly declared their opposition by signing the Ulster Covenant, which declared that they would use 'all means which may be found necessary' to defeat Home Rule.

Many gave practical form to their opposition by joining a paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), which was ready to seize control of strategic locations to support a provisional government and ultimately to fight the British military and police. By the end of February 1914 the UVF had recruited around 90,000 men, one third of them in Belfast. There are questions about the true strength of this force, but the UVF became threatening enough when in April 1914 it landed 20,000 rifles it had purchased in Hamburg. Meanwhile, many members were uniformed and units steadily acquired the trappings of a regular army such as regimental colours.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Irish nationalism did not stand idly by while the UVF was established. In November 1913, led by Eoin MacNeill, a professor at University College, Dublin, the Irish Volunteers (IV) were established as a counterbalance to the UVF. Across Ireland their support soon topped that of the UVF, with as many as 40,000 in Ulster. Overtly, the Irish Volunteers used conciliatory language, aided by the fact that, if Home Rule were passed, they would be upholding the will of the British Parliament.

Bythe summer of 1914, the Home Rule Bill had passed through the Commons and was about to become law. One day in June the rival volunteer groups drilled in West Belfast. Carson told the UVF: 'Now, men, that you have got your arms, no matter what happens, I rely upon every man to fight for those arms to the end.' Although Redmond had initially been alarmed by the radical potential of the Irish Volunteers, his party had steadily gained influence over them and the Nationalist MP for West Belfast, Joseph Devlin, attended their parade.

So, by the summer of 1914, there were two paramilitary forces in West Belfast, implacably opposed and ready to fight for or against the imposition of Home Rule by the London government.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

When Enemies United: Before the First World War, Irish Unionists and Nationalists Were Poised to Fight Each Other over the Imposition of Home Rule by the British. Then, Remarkably, They Fought and Died Side by Side
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.