The Irish Parliamentary Party, 1890-1910

The Irish Parliamentary Party, 1890-1910

The Irish Parliamentary Party, 1890-1910

The Irish Parliamentary Party, 1890-1910

Excerpt

Historians have in the past been somewhat neglectful of the story of the constitutional movement in Ireland from the death of Parnell to the introduction of the third home rule bill, and the events which loomed so large in the records of the time have been compressed into a few pages, or at most a few chapters, of those books which deal with the period 1890-1910. The reasons for this neglect are obvious. In the first place, the period is so nearly contemporary that objectivity has been difficult to achieve, while the material upon which an impartial study might be based has only recently been opened to examination. Secondly, the quarrels which divided the nationalist party during that time have tended to give the impression that those were years of futility and frustration and of little else. Furthermore, the ultimate failure of constitutionalism to secure the full realization of all the aims which it had for so long set in the forefront of its programme, and the apparently greater success of more direct methods of action, have alike cast a shadow over the Irish parliamentary party from which it has not yet emerged. Finally, the events occurring between 1885 and 1890 and from 1911 onwards were so dramatic and so pregnant with important consequences that the intervening years cannot but appear by contrast dull and uninspiring.

In recent years, however, increasing attention has been given to the origins of the revolution which, within living memory, has overthrown the political system established by the Act of Union and has launched Ireland -- north and south -- upon the path of self-government. Since that revolution took the form of a violent reaction against the attempt to solve the Irish problem by constitutional methods, and since the first of its victims was the parliamentary party itself, it follows that the histories of the two movements are closely related and that no account of the rise of Sinn Fein can be completely satisfactory unless it includes also an account of the decline of the nationalist party. It is generally assumed that the party succumbed to the cumulative strain of the successive crises to which it was subjected from the time when opposition to the third home rule bill first became serious until the time when it suffered complete annihilation at the general election of 1918. While it . . .

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