1900 the two opposing factions of the Irish Parliamentary
Party agreed to unite under the leadership of John Redmond,
MP for Waterford. An act, later passed by parliament, decreed
that any Bill, even if rejected by the Lords, would become
law after a two years delay if it passed the Commons a second
time in the same parliament. A third Home Rule Bill then
came before Parliament in 1912 and was again passed in the
Commons only to be rejected once more by the House of Lords.
As a result of the new Act, however, it would now become
law in 1914. By that stage, however, other events ordained
that attention would be switched away from Home Rule.
The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th
century also saw the emergence of a number of new movements
aimed at reviving Irish Nationalism. These included organisations
for sport, language, the arts, politics, culture and heritage.
The 1898 centenary celebrations of the 1798 Rebellion also
gave a tremendous impetus to this amazing new interest in
Ireland and things Irish.
The first of these was the formation of the Gaelic Athletic
Association (GAA) by Michael Cusack, Maurice Davin and some
others at a meeting in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, Co Tipperary,
on Saturday 1st November 1884. Davin was elected first President
of the Association and Cusack its first secretary. Gaelic
Games had been played regularly prior to that time all over
Ireland but they were very disorganised, extremely rough,
and practically without any semblance of rules applying.
A complete new set of rules for hurling and gaelic football
were drawn up and an All-Ireland championship commenced
the following year. The GAA has gone from strength to strength
ever since and very successful Centenary Year Celebrations
were held throughout the country in 1984.
Connradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) was founded by Dr.
Douglas Hyde and Eoin McNeill in 1893 for the restoration
of the Irish language which they realised was dying out
completely at that stage. The Penal Laws, especially the
laws against the education of Catholics, and the Great Famine
which had decimated the Gaelic speaking population of the
western sea-board, were the main reasons for the decline
in the native tongue, and these two great Irish scholars
knew that immediate steps would have to be taken if was
not to die out altogether. Their efforts met with almost
immediate success with branches of Connradh springing up
in practically every parish in the country. Feiseanna
were organised on a county basis and many books were published
teaching simple Irish words and phrases for those anxious
to learn. Dr. Hyde (an Craoibhin Aoibhinn) who
was born at Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon in 1860, later became
the first President of Ireland in 1938 under a new Constitution
drawn up in 1937.
The Irish Literary Renaissance came as a result of the Irish
Literary Theatre which was founded by William Butler Yeats
and Lady Gregory in 1898, and which then became the Irish
National Theatre Society in 1903. In 1904 the Abbey Theatre
was founded in Dublin for the staging of plays by Irish
authors and it was managed jointly by Yeats and Gregory.
Writers like playwright JM Synge and poet George Russell
(AE) emerged from this literary revival and these were followed
by a long line of highly successful Irish authors, poets
and playwrights, all of whom became famous in literary circles
Probably the most important of all these new organisations
was Sinn Fein (Ourselves Alone) which was founded by Arthur
Griffith in 1905. Disappointed with the slow progress of
the old Irish Parliamentary Party, Griffith envisaged a
much more independent national policy than that being purposed
by the Home Rulers. Seeing that they were getting
nowhere in Westminister, he conceived the idea of elected
Irish representatives setting up their own parliament in
Dublin, something which would later come to fruition in
1919. Within weeks there were branches of Sinn Fein set
up in practically every corner of the country.
The Local Government Act of 1898 had also abolished the
old Grand Juries and, with new County Councils democratically
elected and taking office in 1899, control of local affairs
now passed to authorities more representative of the people
than were the Grand Juries, which had been made up mainly
from the landlord classes. Along with this, agriculture
was improving by leaps and bounds, mainly through the efforts
of Horace Plunkett, who also organised co-operative movements
on a hitherto unprecedented scale. All this gave more power
and prosperity to the native Irish, who were quick to avail
of Plunketts schemes and who were also taking full
advantage of the series of Land Acts, that had given them
the right to buy out their own farms for the first time
However, the most influential of all the new movements was,
unquestionably, the Irish Volunteers, founded by Eoin McNeill
in the Rotunda, Dublin on 25th November 1913. There was
a truly amazing response to McNeills call and thousands
enrolled on the very first day. The Earl of Longford and
Thomas P ONeill, in their biography Eamonn De
Valera (published 1970), stated (p.20) that this success
owed much to the stirring of national consciousness
by Sinn Fein, the Gaelic League, the GAA, and it may be
argued, the Irish Literary Revival.
However, it also came as a counter-measure to the founding
of the Ulster Volunteers (UVF) by Edward Carson in 1912.
The movement towards Home Rule was vigorously opposed by
the Unionists of Ulster who had suddenly found a new leader
in the Dublin lawyer, Carson. Realising that Home Rule would
be the probable outcome, following its second passing by
the Commons in 1912, Carson now aimed at excluding Ulster
from Home Rule and he found widespread support in the north-east
where the fear of Home Rule becoming Rome Rule struck terror
into the hearts of northern Protestants.
Carson campaigned vigorously throughout the North, addressing
huge rallies of Orangemen right across the province and
then getting them to sign a Covenant by which
they pledged to oppose Home Rule, even by force if necessary.
The signing of the Ulster Covenant became a ritual and thousands
flocked into the newly formed Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF),
to which the authorities turned a very blatant blind eye.
Regular training became common and a ship-load of arms from
Germany was landed at Larne on 24th-25th April 1914 to arm
the UVF men.
It was in response to the formation of the UVF that McNeill
had formed the Irish Volunteers. If the Orangemen could
recruit an army to oppose Home Rule, then he felt it quite
legitimate to raise an army to fight for Home Rule. Units
of the Irish Volunteers sprang up all over the country with
companies usually based on church areas and
training in arms drill, usually with wooden rifles, became
a regular occurrence and was done quite openly. The situation
became tense with the outbreak of civil strife looking like
becoming a reality and also when British army officers stationed
at the Curragh camp in Co Kildare had refused in March 1914
to march against the Ulster Volunteers of Carson - an event
that became known as the Curragh Mutiny.
The Irish Volunteers also tried to import arms, but when
a yacht named The Asgard successfully discharged
a cargo of rifles at Howth on Sunday 26th July 1914, the
Volunteers were fired on by the British army as they marched
back towards the city. It was patently obvious that a very
different stance was being adopted towards the Irish Volunteers
than was being shown towards the UVF.
Home Rule was now only a reality if provision could be made
for the northern Protestants and Britain realised that the
Partition of the country was inevitable. Carson pushed for
the exclusion of all Ulster from the Home Rule Bill but
eventually agreed to the exclusion of just six of the provincess
counties. Shane Leslie, in his Irish Tangle for English
Readers, wrote (p.158): The Government gave
Redmond his Home Rule on paper with the hopeless proviso
that Ulster must not be coerced. However, the outbreak
of World War One gave the British a breather in the matter
and they decided that the implementation of Home Rule would
have to be postponed until that world conflict ended.
The Ulster Volunteers immediately enlisted in the British
army for the conflict and Redmond urged the Irish Volunteers
to do likewise. This resulted in a split in the movement,
those Volunteers who followed Redmonds call taking
the name National Volunteers, but the majority, under McNeill,
refusing to enlist with the British and retaining the name
Irish Volunteers. Discrimination again showed its ugly head
when Kitchener allowed the Ulster Volunteers to fight under
their own banner and in their own regiment The 36th
Ulster but a similar request was refused to the National
Volunteers who were to be scattered among a plethora of
British regiments. More than 50,000 Irishmen died in that
World War, the majority of them Catholic Nationalists, most
of whom were led to believe that they were fighting
for the freedom of small nations.
The postponement of Home Rule was probably the straw that
broke the camels back as far as the Irish Volunteers
were concerned and preparations were now begun for an armed
rebellion which would materialise in 1916.