Irish Council Bill

X.

The Liberal Party had returned into power in 1906 by the aid of the Irish vote, although the Liberal Leaders had pledged themselves beforehand not to introduce a Home Rule Bill in the forthcoming Parliament. Therein "the Party" probably acted wisely, but their support was a sufficient defence of Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, if he found himself helpless to do anything better than bring in "the Irish Council Bill." He took care to make the compromise a bearable one by announcing it as "a measure consistent with and leading up to the larger policy "of full Home Rule. Furthermore, he was in a position to guarantee that the Bill would be passed in the House of Lords; that it would respect the integrity of Ireland; that it would be subject to revision in five years, and if it worked harmoniously in the interim to expansion unlimited in extent. The effusive acceptance, and, after twenty-four hours, the ignoble destruction of that Bill by the Party which was now the Hibernian Party, was a tergiversation the effects of which upon the unity of Ireland are disastrously apparent enough to-day. The Freeman and the other Dublin newspapers which wrecked the Bill endeavoured to justify themselves by lyingly calling it "the Irish Councils' Bill," and, in spite of repeated remonstrances, have ever since persisted in propagating the falsehood. It is the misdescription by one letter that makes all the difference. The prime merit of the Bill was that its true title was "The Irish Council Bill" and that it would have once for all fused Ulster with the rest of the country in an elective National Assembly, one and indivisible. On that ground I unhesitatingly faced unpopularity even among influential friends of our own, in supporting the Bill. So did Mr. Redmond, as long as his own judgment was unfettered. He and his Party went even so extravagantly far as to entertain the supposititious father of the Bill, Mr. Birrell, at dinner in the House of Commons, the night before they crossed over to Ireland to secure its adoption by the National Convention. When Mr. Redmond arrived in Dublin, it was to find that Mr. Devlin and his Board of Erin had for the first time shown their teeth in open revolt against their titular leader, and the unfortunate gentleman was obliged to submit to the degrading ordeal of himself moving the rejection of the Bill he had come over from London to bless. It is now obvious enough that, had the Irish Council Bill been allowed to pass, the Partition of Ireland would never have been heard of.

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The Irish Revolution

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William O'Brien was a County Cork M.P. who participated in the negotiations for Home Rule in Ireland. In this account, first published in 1923, he provides an insight into the politics and politicians of the time - John Redmond, John Dillon, Arthur Griffith, Sir Edward Carson, Bonar Law, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, etc. - and gives his analysis of the origins of the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent Irish Civil War. From his own perspective, O'Brien was very much anti-Partition, and was evidently frustrated at the failure to give adequate reassurance to the Northern Unionists.

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