Home Rule Opposition

Why did the Liberals fail to bring about Home Rule in Ireland 1905-1914?

Opposition at home

  • The Lords were pro-British empire. They were also land owners and were scared that Irish Home Rule would lead to the creation of an Irish parliament hostile to English land ownership in Ireland → loss of wealth.  he Lords were also conservative and so did not like change.
  • The Conservatives in the Commons were also pro-British empire; they did not like change and were also land owners.
  • The public were proud of the British Empire and did not want to let it go. 

Ulster resistance

  • The UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) imported 20,000 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition from Germany and so there was the fear that they were armed. This led to the threat of a potential civil war.
  • The Orange Order was prepared to fight and the fact that 250,000 people signed the covenant drawn up by Carson that committed the person signing it to “oppose Home Rule using all means which may be found necessary” shows this.
  • James Craig and Edward Carson were both very powerful, moving speakers which got a lot of support for the opposition to Home Rule. 

Government policy

  • Liberals were based on democracy and so they had to listen to everyone. This included Ulster’s (minority) wishes to not be given Home Rule.  
  • Asquith had a “wait and see” policy. This meant that he was not prepared to do anything about Ireland until he was forced to. 

Reliability of Army

  • Soldiers and officers were often from Ulster and made it clear that they would rather resign than fight Ulster and their fellow countrymen. An example of this is the Curragh Mutiny (1914). The government attempted to use the arm to reinforce its position in Northern Ireland but an army brigade refused to move and the government backed down. 

World War One

  • The onset of WWI delayed Home Rule. The government felt that they had more important things to worry about.  
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