Home rule

Autonomy could have led peacefully to independence

Home Rule, already law, could have led this part of Ireland peacefully to the same totally independent position that Canada enjoys today, if it had not been derailed by the rebellion of 1916, its consequences and the result. of the 1918 elections.

Peaceful methods had already proved their worth. The landlord system had been overthrown. A national university had been created. The Irish language was increasingly recognized.

More importantly, the principle of Irish legislative independence had already won the Imperial Parliament, in September 1914, with the passage and signature by the King of the Home Rule Bill.

The point of principle was therefore already won, without striking a blow.

It is therefore difficult to say that the outbreak of a rebellion in 1916 and a war of independence from 1919 to 1921 were – one or the other – a “last resort”, which is a essential condition for a just war.

The only question open in 1914 was whether, or for how long, Antrim, Down, Armagh and Derry (and possibly up to Fermanagh and Tyrone who had narrow nationalist majorities) could have been excluded from autonomy. . The violence of 1916 made this problem more difficult to solve.

I believe that the self-government would not have ended up having jurisdiction over most of these counties. But, after all the murders and deaths of the 1916-1923 period and the 1921 Treaty, the Free State did not get jurisdiction over them anyway.

Under the autonomy formula, the excluded counties would have been under direct administration (not Stormont), which would have been better for the nationalist minority.

The Irish parliamentary party tried unsuccessfully to solve the Ulster problem during the period 1910-1918. The men of 1916 simply ignored it.


John Redmond Brian Murphy

The autonomous House of Commons, which would have emerged at the end of the Great War in 1919, would have been elected with a much larger electoral list than that applied in the general election of 1910. All adult men, and all women over 30 for the first time, would have had the right to vote. It would probably have favored those who seek a greater degree of independence.

I don’t think the UK would have denied an autonomous Ireland the powers it freely bestowed on dominions such as Canada and Australia under the Statute of Westminster of 1931. If so, the sufferings of the War of Independence were unnecessary. The proof is there.

In the British elections of 1918, Ireland’s dominion status was not only the policy of the Irish Party, led by John Dillon, but also the policies of the Asquith Liberals and, above all, of the British Labor Party. The policy of the Liberal / Conservative coalition government of Lloyd George was autonomy.

During the 1920s the British Labor Party came to power in Westminster and this would have been a first opportunity for the Irish Self-Government Administration in Dublin to push for, or beyond, dominion status.

Separation policy

Autonomy is said to have left the British forces on Irish territory. But the 1921 treaty did the same. He left the ports of Cork and Donegal to the British Army. But these ports were returned in 1938, thanks to peaceful negotiations on the eve of the Second World War. This suggests that unwanted limitations on local self-government could also have been negotiated peacefully.

If a nation is to learn anything from history, it must consider what might have happened if different historical choices had been made.

As a rule, compromise is good, killing is bad. Bargaining is better than coercion. The uncompromising Proclamation of 1916, with its emphasis on “dead generations” and “irrevocable rights,” took us down an unproductive path.

Tags : home rulelocal governmentworld war
Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera