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Successes and Failures in Irish Constitutional Nationalism, 1800-1900. - page 8

Keywords: ireland constitutional nationalism 1800 1900 19th century success failure henry grattan daniel o'connell isaac butt charles stewart parnell catholic emancipation home rule repeal of the act of union

By exploiit on 19/06/2010

Level: A Level (Year 13)

Page Number: 8 of 12   pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

that “in Ireland the total, almost ludicrous, failure of the Fenians’ rising had cleared the way for a recrudescence of constitutional agitation pointed towards specific and realizable reforms”. Therefore in 1970, Isaac Butt established the ‘Home Government Association’, which would promote the cause of a new parliament in Dublin with, as Butt put it, “full control over our domestic affairs” and to mobilize opinion behind this demand. “A call for the re-establishment of an autonomous Irish parliament in Dublin had a very high level of brand recognition among Irish voters for it was basically a resurrection of the O’Connellite call for the Repeal of the Act of the Union” (Alvin Jackson) and the link between O’Connell and Butt does not end here; where O’Connell had worked with the Young Irelanders, Butt worked with the Fenians, further cementing the link between constitutional and revolutionary nationalism. Butt’s approach to this legislative independence differed greatly from O’Connell’s however, as he intended to introduce federalism, where Westminster would be “the great council for the whole empire and as such, Irishmen, as well as Scotsmen, Welshmen and Englishmen should be represented” (F. S. L. Lyons). This idea of federalism was to prove a consistent problem throughout Butt’s leadership of the party. The Home Government Association (later renamed the ‘Home Rule Party’) boasted a heterogeneous support base, followed by Liberals, Constitutional Nationalists, some Protestant Conservatives and even Fenians. It was unreasonable to think that all groups would agree on Butt’s proposals and it is for exactly this reason that Butt failed to keep his party united, in the House of Commons or otherwise. Although the members of the party were all united in that they wanted legislative independence, the party failed to agree on other issues, with many promising their electorates that they would work for other causes – land reform, for example. Butt was a weak leader, who lacked “the single-mindedness and ruthlessness, and the ability to inspire his followers” (Adelman). The result of this, as well as the opposition within the party to Butt’s ‘policy of argument’, saw the small band of Fenians become more impressed by “the activities of a small group of more militant Home Rulers who refused to be constrained by Butt’s moderation” (Rees). These people were led by Joseph Biggar, MP for Cavan, and the inevitable split within the Home Rule Party was here confirmed. Biggar employed a new strategy

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Successes and Failures in Irish Constitutional Nationalism, 1800-1900.- page 8