Home Rule Act 1914

Home Rule Act 1914

The Home Rule Act of 1914, also known as the (Irish) Third Home Rule Act (or Bill), and formally known as the Government of Ireland Act 1914 (4 & 5 Geo. 5 c. 90), was a British Act of Parliament intended to provide self-government ("home rule") for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The Act was the first law ever passed by the British parliament that established devolved government in a part of the United Kingdom. However, the implementation of both it and the equally controversial Welsh Church Act 1914 was postponed for a minimum of twelve months with the outbreak of the First World War; subsequent developments in Ireland led to further postponements which meant that the Act never took effect, but was finally replaced by a fourth Act in 1920.

Instead of home rule as envisioned in the act, most of Ireland was to achieve independence in 1922 as the Irish Free State; however, the six north-eastern counties that remained within the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland did obtain home rule in the previous year.


The separate Kingdoms of Ireland and Great Britain were merged on January 1 1801, to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Throughout the 19th century Irish opposition to the Union was strong, occasionally erupting in violent insurrection. In the 1830s and 1840s attempts had been made under the leadership of Daniel O'Connell to repeal the Act of Union 1800 and restore the Kingdom of Ireland, without breaking the connection with Great Britain. These attempts to achieve what was simply called "repeal" failed.

The struggle for Home Rule

In the 1870s the Home Rule League under Isaac Butt sought to achieve a modest form of self-government, known as Home Rule. Under it, Ireland would still remain part of the United Kingdom but would have limited self-government. Two attempts were made by Liberal ministries under British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone to enact home rule bills. The first, with beseeching parliament to pass the Irish Government Bill 1886 and grant Home Rule to Ireland in honour rather than being compelled to one day in humiliation, was defeated in the Commons by 30 votes, while the second, the Irish Government Bill 1893 was passed but defeated in the Lords. With its Conservative Party's pro-unionist majority, and ability to block any bill from becoming law, few expected a Home Rule bill to make it through the House of Lords.

The Parliament Act

In 1909, a crisis erupted between the House of Lords and the Commons, each of which accused the other of breaking historic conventions — the Commons accused the Lords of breaking the convention of not rejecting a budget (it had just rejected the budget of Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George), while the Lords accused the Commons of including in the budget measures and taxes that the Commons had traditionally agreed never to include as part of the bargain for the Lords not rejecting a budgetFact|date=February 2007, thus forcing them to veto it.

Two general elections followed in 1910 to decide the issue. Following the December 1910 general election the Liberals lost their majority, and were dependent on Labour and the Irish Nationalist to hold on to government. They threatened, with the promise of cooperation from both the late king, Edward VII, and the new king, George V, to swamp the Lords with sufficient new Liberal peers to assure the Government a Lords majority. The peers backed down, and the relationship between the Lords and Commons was changed fundamentally, with the passing of the Parliament Act 1911 which allowed the House of Commons to overrule the Lords in set circumstances.

The two general elections had left the nationalist Irish Parliamentary Party under its leader John Redmond with the balance of power in the House of Commons. Prime Minister H. H. Asquith came to an understanding with Redmond in which, if he supported his move to break the power of the Lords and support his budget, then Asquith would introduce a Home Rule Bill. The Parliament Act was passed in which the Lords agreed to a curtailment of their powers. Now they had no powers over finance bills and their unlimited veto was replaced with one lasting only two years, if the House of Commons passed a bill in the third year and was then rejected by the Lords it would still become law.

The Third Home Rule Bill

infobox home rule
Bill=Third Home Rule Act

govt=Asquith (Liberal)
HoL=No but overruled by Parliament Act
house=House of Lords 3 times (overruled)
date=1912, 1913, 1914 (overruled)
name="upper": Senate;
"lower": House of Commons
size=Senate: 40
Assembly: 164 members
westminster=42 MPs
executive=Lord Lieutenant
body=Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Ireland
imple=not implemented
succeeded=Government of Ireland Act 1920|
On 11, April 1912, the Prime Minister introduced the Third Home Rule Bill which foresaw granting Ireland self-government. Allowing more autonomy than its two predecessors, the bill provided for:
* A bicameral Irish Parliament to be set up in Dublin (a 40-member Senate and a 164-member House of Commons) with powers to deal with most national affairs;
* A number of Irish MPs would continue to sit in the Imperial Parliament in Westminster (42 MPs, rather than 103).
* The abolition of Dublin Castle, though with the retention of the Lord Lieutenant.The Bill was passed by the Commons by a majority of 10 votes but the House of Lords rejected it 326 votes to 69. In 1913 it was re-introduced and again passed the Commons but was again rejected by the Lords by 302 votes to 64. In 1914 after the third reading, the Bill passed the Commons on 25 May by a majority of 77. Having been defeated a third time in the Lords, the Government used the provisions of the "Parliament Act" to override the Lords and send it for Royal Assent.

Conflict of interests

In Ulster, Protestants were in a slight numerical majority. Much of the northeast was fiercely opposed to being governed from Dublin and losing their local supremacy — before the Act of Union in 1801, Protestants were the business and political élite in Ireland. Catholics had only been allowed to vote again in 1793 and been excluded from sitting in parliament until Catholic Emancipation in 1829. Since the Act of Settlement 1701, no Catholic had ever been appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the head of the British government in a country that was 75% Catholic. Protestant privilege was endemic, and nowhere more so than in Ulster.

However, many Protestants in Ulster were Presbyterians, who had also been excluded from power before 1801. They also wanted to maintain the link with Britain. Further, Belfast had grown from 7,000 people in 1800 to 400,000 by 1900, and was the largest city in Ireland. This growth had depended largely on trade within the British Empire, and it seemed that the proposed Dublin-based parliament elected by a largely rural country would have different economic priorities to those of Belfast and its industrial hinterland. The argument developed that 'Ulster' deserved separate treatment from the rest of Ireland, and that its majority was socially and economically closer to the rest of Britain.

Represented mainly by the Ulster Unionist Party and backed up by the Orange Order they established in January 1913 the Ulster Volunteer Force, with 100,000 members who threatened to resist by physical force the implementation of the Act and to resist the authority of any restored Dublin Parliament by force of arms, five hundred thousand Unionists having previously signed the Ulster Covenant in 1912, drafted by Sir Edward Carson.

The main issue of contention during the parliamentary debates was the "coercion of Ulster" and whether or not some counties of Ulster should be excluded from the provisions of Home Rule, Irish Party leaders John Dillon and Joseph Devlin contending "no concessions for Ulster, Ulster will have to follow". Unionists continued to demand that Ulster be excluded, on New Year's Day 1913, their leader Sir Edward Carson, in the House of Commons , moved an amendment to the Home Rule Bill to exclude all nine counties of Ulster and was supported in this by Bonar Law, Carson and other leading men in Ulster fully prepared to ditch the Southern Unionists.

Some of these MPs had been instrumental in establishing the paramilitary Ulster Volunteers to prevent by force the enactment of the Act, fearing Dublin rule would mean "Rome Rule". The Ulster Volunteers illegally imported thousands of rifles from Imperial Germany in the expectation that the British army would be used to impose the Act upon the northeast "(see the Curragh incident)".

Nationalists, led by John Redmond, were adamant that permanent Partition was not an acceptable option and raised a volunteer force of their own, similarly importing arms illegally for the Irish Volunteers to oppose Ulster and help enforce enactment of the Act.

The shaping of Partition

Sir Edward Carson and the Irish Unionist Party (mostly Ulster MPs) backed by the Lords' recommendation, forced through a Amending Bill on 8 Juli 1914 for the "temporary exclusion of Ulster" from the workings of the future Act, the number of counties (four, six or nine) and whether exclusion was to be temporary or permanent, still to be negotiated.

The compromise proposed by Asquith was straightforward. Six counties of the northeast of Ireland (roughly two thirds of Ulster), where there was a safe Protestant majority, were to be excluded "temporarily" from the territory of the new Irish parliament and government and to continue to be governed as before from Westminster and Whitehall. How temporary the exclusion would be, and whether northeastern Ireland would eventually be governed by the Irish parliament and government, remained an issue of some controversy.

Redmond fought tenaciously against the idea of partition, but conceded only after Carson had forced through an Amending Bill which would have granted limited local autonomy to Ulster within an all-Ireland settlement. The British government in effect accepted no immediate responsibility for the political and religious antagonisms which in the end led to the partition of Ireland, regarding it as clearly an otherwise unresolvable internal Irish problem. To them, the Nationalists had led the way towards Home Rule from the 1880s without trying hard enough to understand Unionist apprehensions, and were instead relying on their mathematical majority of electors. In the background, the more advanced nationalist views of ideologues such as D. P. Moran had nothing to offer the Unionists.

William O'Brien alone made a concerted effort to accommodate Unionist concerns in his All-for-Ireland League (AFIL) political programme, prepared to conceed any reasonable concessions to Ulster, denounced by both the Irish Party and clergy. The eight Independent AFIL Party MPs abstained from voting on the final passing of the Bill on 25 May in protest that it had not taken any account of Protestant minority concerns and fears, being in effect a "partition deal" after the government introduced an Amending Bill into the House of Lords to give effect to the exclusion of Ulster constructed on the basis of county option and six year exclusion, the same formula rejected by Unionists in March. Jackson, Alvin "Home Rule: An Irish History 1800—2000" p.159, Phoenix Press (2003) ISBN 0-75381-767-5 ] The Act was passed to the Statute Books and enacted after it received Royal Assent on 18 September 1914 and simultaneously postponed for the duration of the World War I conflict. The Ulster question was 'solved' in the same way: through the promise of amending legislation which was left undefined.Jackson, Alvin "Home Rule: An Irish History 1800—2000" p.164, Phoenix Press (2003) ISBN 0-75381-767-5 ]

Unionists were in disarray, wounded by the enactment of Home Rule. and by the absence of any definite arrangement for the exclusion of Ulster.Jackson, Alvin "Home Rule: An Irish History 1800—2000" p.166, Phoenix Press (2003) ISBN 0-75381-767-5 ] Nationalists, in the belief that independent self-government had finally been granted, celebrated the news with bonfires alighting the hill-tops across the south of Ireland. But as the Act had been suspended for the duration of what was expected to be a very short war, this decision was to prove crucial to the subsequent course of events.

An Act overtaken by events

With the outbreak of what was expected to be a short Great War in August 1914, looming civil war in Ireland was averted. Both mainstream nationalists and unionists, keen to ensure the implementation of the Act on the one hand and to influence the issue of how temporary was partition to be on the other, rallied in support of Britain's war commitment to the Allies under the Triple Entente.See also: * [http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/index.asp?docID=2517 Department of the Taoiseach] - Irish Soldiers in the First World War.

The Irish Volunteers split into the larger National Volunteers and a rump who kept the original title. The NV and many other Irishmen, convinced at the time that Ireland had won freedom and self-government under the Act, joined Irish regiments of the 10th (Irish) Division or the 16th (Irish) Division of the New British Army to "defend the freedom of other small nations" and to fight in France and Belgium for a Europe free from oppression. The men of the Ulster Volunteers went on to join the 36th (Ulster) Division, and unlike their nationalist counterparts who apart from Irish General William Hickie, lacked prior military training to act as officers, were allowed their own local reserve militia officers.

However, a fringe element of nationalism, represented by the remaining Irish Volunteers, opposed Irish support for the war effort, believing Irishmen who wanted to "defend the freedom of small nations" should focus on one closer to hand. In Easter 1916 a rebellion, the Easter Rising, took place in Dublin. Initially widely condemned in view of the heavy Irish war losses on the Western Front and in the disastrous Gallipoli V beach landing at Cape Helles (the main nationalist newspaper, the "Irish Independent", demanded the execution of the rebels), the British government's mishandling of the aftermath of the Rising, including the protracted executions of the Rising's leaders by General Maxwell, led to the rise of an Irish republican movement in Sinn Féin, a small previously separatist monarchist party taken over by the rebellion's survivors, after it had been wrongly blamed for the rebellion by the British.

This marked a crucial turning on the path to attaining self-government. The rising put an end to the democratic constitutional and conciliatory parliamentary movement and replaced it with a radical physical-force approach. Unionists became even more trenchant in their views on All-Ireland self-government, ultimately leading to a perpetuation of partition.

Attempted implementation

After the rebellion, the British Cabinet urgently decided in May 1916 that the 1914 Act should be brought into operation immediately and a Government established in Dublin. Asquith tasked Lloyd George, then Minister for Munitions, to open negotiations between Redmond and Carson. As to how long the period of partition was to last, due to the ambiguities of the wording of the final document purposely intrigued by Walter Long to jeopardise Home Rule. Redmond understanding it would be temporary broke off negotiations when he realised this was not so. The tragedy of the failure to reach agreement between Redmond and Carson is underlined by the narrow division separating the disputants and the fact that the deal was very nearly concluded had Long not undermined it.

A second attempt to introduce self-government in Dublin was made by Britain with the calling of the Irish Convention in July 1917, to which Lloyd George, now Prime Minister, invited representatives of all parties. Two refused to attend, William O'Brien's dissident All-for-Ireland Party because Redmond objected to prominent Unionists he wished to have invited, and Sinn Féin on the grounds that the Convention would not lead to the Irish Republic they aspired to. The Convention sat until March 1918, discussing various options from Dominion status to a federal solution within or outside the United Kingdom. Southern Unionists, opposing the Northern Unionists, eventually sided with Redmond's Nationalists and accepted the setting up a Dublin Home Rule parliament. Redmond died in March 1918. Proposals contained in the Convention's report later formed the basis for a new Home Rule Act, a dual Home Rule parliament settlement from which just one evolved as Ireland's first Home Rule Parliament established in Northern Ireland in 1921.

World War I aftermath

But before anything could evolve from this new constellation of nationalists and unionists, the massive German Spring Offensive of 21 March swept all before it, smashing the Allied and Irish Divisions, both the Irish Convention and any hope of Irish self-government. Britain had a manpower shortage and planned to enact Home Rule immediately but under a dual policy of Home Rule linked with conscription. Britain could not have chosen a worse time or manner to introduce either to Ireland.

The issue now became the threat of conscription, all interest in Home Rule dissipated when moderate Nationalists and Sinn Féin stood united during the Conscription Crisis of 1918. Fortunately an Allied defeat was staved off by America's late entry into the war, so that the military draft bill was never implemented. However its threat resulted in a dramatic rise in popularity for Sinn Féin and a swing away from the Irish Party. The Armistice ended the Great War on 11. November 1918.

December saw Sinn Féin secure a clear majority of seventy-three Irish seats in the general election, twenty five of these seats taken unopposed. Twenty-six Sinn Féin MPs assembled in Dublin (the rest were imprisoned) and proclaimed themselves as an independent parliament of an Irish Republic, the First Dáil where they ratified the Irish Republic ("Poblacht na hÉireann") proclaimed in 1916 and announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, only Russia recognising it internationally. A ministry ("Aireacht") was formed under Éamon de Valera. The Dáil unrealistically refused to negotiate any understanding with London and abstained from attending Westminster, thereby abandoning Ulster and its Catholic Nationalists to their fate. The killing of two local RIC constables at Soloheadbeg in county Tipperary became the first shots of the Irish War of Independence (Anglo-Irish War) fought between 1919 and 1921.

Fourth Home Rule Act

The British prime minister David Lloyd George responded by replacing the suspended Home Rule Act of 1914 with a new (Fourth) Home Rule Act, the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which was largely shaped by Walter Long's Committee which followed most of the recommendations contained in the Irish Convention's March 1918 report. Long, now with a free hand to shape Home Rule in Ulster's favour, partitioned Ireland into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland; strict adherence to the policy of abstentionism meant that there was no Sinn Féin MP or Dáil envoy at Westminster to voice a protest. [Alvin Jackson, "Home Rule, an Irish History, 1800-2000" pp 227-232.] Lloyd George foresaw in each case a bicameral legislature and an executive presided over by a shared royal representative, the Lord Lieutenant.

Whilst Home Rule for Northern Ireland did come to pass in June 1921, Southern Ireland remained a political entity on paper only: the overwhelming majority of Irish MPs refused to recognise either of the enacted Houses of the Parliament of Southern Ireland, sitting instead as "Teachtaí Dála" (Deputies) of the Second Dáil. Just three MPs and four senators turned up for the state opening of the "Parliament of Southern Ireland". The war continued until a truce was agreed in 1921. Dáil Éireann delegated five envoys, with plenipotentiary powers, to negotiate terms of secession with the British government, Éamon de Valera remaining in Dublin having been informed in advance by Lloyd George, that under no circumstances would a republic be conceded.

Treaty, Partition

The outcome was the Anglo–Irish Treaty, signed on 6 December 1921, modelled on the foregone Fourth Home Rule Act, gave Ireland Commonwealth Dominion status under the British Crown, acknowledged partition, and abolished the (1916) Irish Republic. After a long and acrimonious debate lasting some weeks, the Dáil ratified the Treaty on the 7 January 1922 by 64 votes to 57. Those opposed (led by Éamon de Valera) refused to accept the decision of the constitutionally elected Second Dáil and led their anti-Treaty forces into the Irish Civil War six months later, boycotting the Third Dáil after it had been elected.

The Parliament of Southern Ireland functioned as such only once, when pragmatically and in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty, the House of Commons of Southern Ireland assembled in Dublin in January 1922 to ratify it.

Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty a provisional parliament, the Third Dáil, was elected on the 16 June 1922. This parliament was recognised both by pro-Treaty Sinn Féin and the British Government and so replaced both the Parliament of Southern Ireland and the Second Dáil with a single body. Ninety-four out of a total of 128 elected members of the new Dáil attended, thus democratically sanctioning it. Anti-treaty Irish republicans started the Irish Civil War on 28 June 1922. The new partitioned 26 county state (Leinster, Connaught and Munster plus three counties of Ulster) became the Irish Free State or "Saorstát Éireann" came into existence on 6 December 1922.

See also

* Sir Edward Carson
* John Redmond
* John Dillon
* William O'Brien
* Parliament of Southern Ireland
* Parliament of Northern Ireland
* Solemn League and Covenant (Ulster)
* Unionists (Ireland)
* Devolution
* Curragh incident
* Easter Rising
* Irish Government Bill 1886 (First Irish Home Rule Bill)
* (beseech in its favour)
* Irish Government Bill 1893 (Second Irish Home Rule Bill)
* Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898
* Parliament Act 1911
* Government of Ireland Act 1920 (Fourth Irish Home Rule Bill)
* History of the Republic of Ireland
* History of Ireland (1801–1922)



* Geoffrey Lewis, "Carson, the Man who divided Ireland" (2005), ISBN 1-85285-454-5
* Alvin Jackson, "HOME RULE, an Irish History 1800-2000", (2003), ISBN 0-7538-1767-5.
* Thomas Hennessey, "Dividing Ireland", World War 1 and Partition, (1998), ISBN 0-415-17420-1.
* Jeremy Smith "Bluff, Bluster and Brinkmanship: Andrew Bonar Law and the Third Home Rule Bill" pages 161-174 from "Historical Journal", Volume 36, Issue #1, 1993.
* Robert Kee, "The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism" (2000 edition, first published 1972), ISBN 0-14-029165-2.
* W. S. Rodner "eaguers, Covenanters, Moderates: British Support for Ulster, 1913-14" pages 68-85 from "Éire-Ireland", Volume 17, Issue #3, 1982.
* A.T.Q. Stewart "The Ulster Crisis, Resistance to Home Rule, 1912-14", (Faber and Faber, London, 1967, 1979), ISBN 0 571 08066 9
* Government of Ireland Act 1914, available from the House of Lords Record Office

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