Parnell, and Obstruction

Justin McCarthy
Chapter XII | Start of Chapter

One of his ancestors was Thomas Parnell, author of "The Hermit." Later, Sir John Parnell lent resolute help to Henry Grattan in the defence of the Irish independent Parliament; and, later still, Sir Henry Parnell was a conspicuous figure in the British House of Commons. Charles Stewart Parnell had studied at Cambridge, but had given no evidence of any commanding ability there, and was utterly unknown to the vast majority of the House of Commons when in April, 1875, he was elected as Home Rule representative for the county of Meath. Parnell soon showed that he had a deep interest in the land question, and he devised and introduced a policy which came to be known as the policy of obstruction. The idea of this policy was that, if the House of Commons could not be prevailed upon to devote time and interest to the demands of Ireland, the Irish National representatives must make it clear that it would not be allowed to attend to any other business. Obstruction had, indeed, been put in practice again and again by English statesmen for the purpose of talking out some measure obnoxious to them, but it had never before been employed as the systematic policy of a Parliamentary party. The Parnellites debated every question as it came up with unwearying pertinacity, and as the rules of the House were not then framed with a view to the prevention of obstruction, they kept the Commons sitting night after night by mere continuity of speech-making.