Home Rule (Almost)

So close, yet so far away. On September 18, 1914, King George approved the Government of Ireland Act1914, also known as the Third Home Rule Bill, which was intended to provide self-government for Ireland. Unfortunately, implementation of the Act was put on hold for the duration of World War I, and the Irish were forced to wait until 1922 to receive the self-government they wanted so badly.

Ireland was never all that happy to have been made part of Great Britain, and there were frequent bouts of violence as Ireland sought to break the bond between the two countries. Since that wasn’t going so well, the Irish Home Rule League instead tried drumming up support for Home Rule, which would keep Ireland part of the United Kingdom but grant the Emerald Isle some sort of limited self-government. Prime Minister William Gladstone was fine with that, and he proposed two Home Rule bills in 1886 and 1893. The first was defeated in the Commons by 30 votes, the second was voted down in the House of Lords.

Home Rule was shelved for a bit, but it didn’t go away. A pair of general elections in 1910 left the Irish Parliamentary Party with the balance of power in the Commons, and Prime Minister Asquith was forced to broker a deal with them: if they supported his efforts to diminish the power of the Lords, he’d introduce a new Home Rule Bill. The Lords were reigned in, and in April 1912, the Third Home Rule Bill was introduced. It provided for a bicameral Irish Parliament located in Dublin, the abolition of the Dublin Castle administration, and the allowance of a certain number of Irish MPs in Parliament at Westminster. The bill passed the Commons but was voted down in the Lords by a huge majority. It was re-introduced in 1913 and the same thing happened. After it was introduced a third time in May 1914, the government used its right to override the Lords and sent it to the king for approval.

Unfortunately, between the re-introduction of the bill in May and its passage in September, a little conflict broke out between Germany and all of Europe. The bill was still sent to the king but was accompanied by the Suspensory Act 1914, which prevented the controversial bill from coming into force until September 1915 at the earliest. Attempts in 1916 to establish government in Ireland ended in disaster, and tempers ran high until the Irish War of Independence broke out in 1919. Realizing that Home Rule as it was envisioned in 1914 wasn’t going to work, Prime Minister David Lloyd George replaced the Home Rule Act of 1914 with a fourth Home Rule Bill, the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which carved Ireland in half and gave the territories their own governments. Eventually, Southern Ireland became the Irish Free State, but the political institutions the act set up for Northern Ireland continued until they were suspended in 1972 due to the Troubles. The Act’s remaining provisions were repealed under the terms of the Belfast Agreement in 1998.



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