OVERTAKEN BY WORLD HISTORY; on the Brink of Delivering Home Rule John Redmond Was Hailed as a Hero, but a Tsunami of Seismic Events Overtook Him and Left His Hopes in Tatters

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), November 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

OVERTAKEN BY WORLD HISTORY; on the Brink of Delivering Home Rule John Redmond Was Hailed as a Hero, but a Tsunami of Seismic Events Overtook Him and Left His Hopes in Tatters


Byline: JOHN LEE BIOGRAPHY

Redmond: A Life Undone Chris Dooley Gill & Macmillan [euro]32.50

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The conventional historical view of the career of Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond is that his life's work was somehow snatched from his grasp by a savage stroke of ill fortune.

But can being overcome by a vast tsunami of historical events be classed as ill fortune? Or did Redmond simply lack that fundamental political trait - the requirement to adapt to events? Redmond was a 19th Century man who was fatally outflanked by younger radicals and the rapidly changing aspirations of the common people, who no longer allowed their betters to dictate to them their future.

This latest volume on the heir to Parnell's throne Redmond; A Life Undone, by journalist Chris Dooley, concentrates on the seven climatic years of the Irish Party leader's political career. The account opens in 1910, at a mass rally on Dublin's O'Connell Street, where Redmond is hailed as a hero for his impending success in winning Home Rule for Ireland. Redmond's Irish Party held the balance of power and their support was crucial to the ruling Liberal Party's plans.

Soon, surely, the parliamentary battle that had been fought since the 1880s would end and limited self rule for Ireland would be introduced.

By the end of the book, in 1917, with hopes for Home Rule as an accepted path for Ireland in tatters, so deep is Redmond's unpopularity that he comes close to being beaten by a mob of Dubliners just yards from O'Connell Street.

A small tragedy for one politician in our little country but this was an era of unprecedented upheaval internationally. Radical men with radical politics were hurtling along the highways of history, casting old men like Redmond aside into the ditches.

The great fault line in world history that was World War I appeared 100 years ago. In Russia the Tsars fell - the Romanov dynasty, which had ruled Russia since 1613 ended with the February revolution in 1917. Nicholas II and his family were shot in cold blood by Lenin's men in 1918 and communism began its creep across the globe. The Kaiser was to fall in Germany as a result of the Great War, and his dynasty, which had ruled the kingdom of Prussia since 1701, fell. And the House of Hapsburg, which had ruled an Austrian empire since 1276 was obliterated.

The masses living in industrialised cities demanded equality. In the US, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were busy ejecting the political 'boss' machines from eastern cities. Wilson brought the US into the war in 1917 and his insistence on self-determination for all nations was to have profound effects on Ireland's relationship with Britain.

Even before WWI the most skilful and prescient of politicians had seen that the newly enfranchised masses were e e e e demanding change. Nowhere more than in Britain were the seismic changes in society more apparent. Such was its historical importance as a war leader, it is often forgotten that in the first alst e nee ', ht -quarter of the 20th Century the two most radical politicians in Britain were David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. The Liberal Party's 'Terrible Twins', as they were christened by right wing opponents, were revolutionaries in their own way. …

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OVERTAKEN BY WORLD HISTORY; on the Brink of Delivering Home Rule John Redmond Was Hailed as a Hero, but a Tsunami of Seismic Events Overtook Him and Left His Hopes in Tatters
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