There was a lot of conflict between the Nationalist and Unionist agendas




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From 1912 onwards, what factors contributed to the partition of Ireland 1920?

The years 1912 to 1920 were a period of political and social unrest. There was a lot of conflict between the Nationalist and Unionist agendas. The Nationalists wanted independence from Britain as they felt that the ties to Britain were hindering their progress in all aspects. Unionists on the other hand, feared that if they left Britain that Ireland would be run by the Catholic Church. This was known as “Home Rule is Rome Rule”. Britain had a tough task of trying to maintain the integrity of the North and protecting Unionists while at the same time, placate the demands of the Nationalists. The first contributing factor to the partition of Ireland was the ‘Third Home Rule Bill, 1912’. A year before this was introduced the Parliament Act was passed. This forced the Lords in the House of Lords to give up their power of veto in exchange for a delay of two years. This was the reason that the Third Home Rule was able to be passed. This was undoubtfully the first step towards the partition of Ireland in 1920. (7/12)

The Bill was introduced by Henry Asquith on 11th of April, 1912.While it was similar than the previous two bills it had some slight differences. Similar to The Second Home Rule Bill, 1893, this bill emphasised the strong role of the Westminster parliament in key areas of Irish affairs. The bill proposed: an all-Ireland assembly that would include Unionists. The creation of an un-elected senate and a house of commons, the senate would have forty members while the House of Commons would have 164 members. There would be 42 Irish MPs in Westminster. The bill also stated that the Irish Parliament would not be allowed make laws that favoured one religion. While this was attempt to appease the worried Unionists that Home Rule was not ‘Rome Rule’ but it offended many Irish Nationalists.
The Home Rule Bill was passed in January 13 (?) but it was quickly vetoed by the House of Lords. It was set to become law in 1914. In response to this Home Rule Bill a man named James Craig, a leading Unionist MP and Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1940, set up a number of protest rallies against Home Rule. It was soon realised that Unionists would sign a common oath against Home Rule. It was to be signed on the 28th of September 1912. It became known as the ‘Solemn League and Covenant’. Carson was the first man to sign it and within a few days some 471,414 men signed the covenant. This covenant was a key factor in the partition of Ireland as it directly opposed the idea of Home Rule which the south were fighting so hard to get the British Parliament to agree to. (9/12)

Along with the ‘Solemn League and Covenant’ the Unionists set up a paramilitary force to resist Home Rule. This force was known as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). It was a very professional organisation that regularly practised military drilling and rifle practise. They were much more professional than the Irish Volunteers. In response to the setting up of the UVF and the success (threat?) of the Larne Gunrunning, the Irish Volunteers were set up. The Irish volunteers were set up by Eoin MacNeill. He often praised the UVF as he believed that it showed the Unionists dedication to their cause. This was possibly a way to put pressure on the British Government to keep its promise on Home Rule. A meeting was held on the 35th of November 1913. It was attended by over 7,000 men and 300 men signed up immediately, including Eamon deValera. MacNeill was elected as Commander-in-Chief. The main aim of the Irish Volunteers was to ensure the enactment of Home Rule. The two conflicting aims of each organisation was a major key factor in the partition of Ireland. (7/12)

When World War 1 broke out many UVF members joined the army as a sign of loyalty to Britain. John Redmond of the Irish Volunteers also offered nationalist support. In a speech at the House of Commons he said “Catholics in the South will be only too glad to join arms with the Protestant Ulsterman in the North. Is it too much to hope that out of this situation, there may spring a result which will be good, not merely for the Empire, but good for the future welfare and integrity of the Irish nation?” This was a foolish speech that destroyed Ireland’s opportunity to trade participation in the war for the immediate enforcement of Home Rule. On the 20th of September he made a speech to the Irish Volunteers. This speech was extremely controversial and led to a spilt in the Irish Volunteers. In his speech Redmond said “wherever the firing line extends, in defence of right, of freedom and of religion in this war “ in his speech some of his main points were; he believed that Germany was threatening democracy. Redmond felt that if the Irish joined the war effort it would show the British Government that the Irish could be depended on in times of difficulty. He also knew that if the Unionists supported the war effort and the Nationalists didn’t it would put the Unionists in a better position in the eyes of the British.

This would weaken the strength of Home Rule. The majority of the Irish Volunteers supported Redmond. However, ten thousand of the 180,000 men left the organisation and joined the National Volunteers under the command of Colonel Maurice Moore. This organisation was influenced by the Irish Republican Brotherhood who was opposed to Redmond. The organisation was led by Eoin MacNeill. When the war began, approximately 200,000 Irish men joined the army. Redmond wanted a separate division (?) for the Unionist and Nationalist in a hope that this would bring the two sides closer together.(?) The British Government did not allow this. Instead there were two different divisions set up. The Unionists were a part of the 36th (Ulster) Division. The recruits were allowed wear their own badges and elect their own officers. The Nationalists in the 16th (Irish) division on the other hand, were not given the same privileges. They were also posted to English regiments. This massive difference in treatment to both divisions by the British Government would most certainly be a factor that contributed to the partition of Ireland as it only made it more apparent that the South needed to be separate from Britain while it was clear to the North that they were safe within Britain. (9/12)

There were many reasons why the Irish participated in the War. It gave many men a good income to support their families and war veterans received pensions. Peer pressure was also a massive factor in many men joining the army. In the case of the Unionists joining, the army had a political appeal. It was a pledge of loyalty to Britain. However, there was massive opposition to the war in Ireland. There were 12 nationalist newspapers opposing the war. This anti- war attitude had a huge influence on the start of the 1916 rising. The 1916 rising was probably the event the solidified the partition of Ireland. World War 1 went on for much longer than anyone expected. Home Rule seemed a distant hope. The IRB began to plan an insurrection. They felt that the war was ‘England’s difficulty and Ireland’s opportunity’. On the 25th October, 1914, the National Volunteers held a convention to outline their policies. They were to maintain the defence of the Irish nation by means of force. To unite the people of Ireland and resist all attempts at partition. This aim in particular was quite controversial as it was a challenge to anyone trying to enforce partition. A key leader in the rebellion was James Connolly. He set up the Irish Citizen Army in November 1913 to protect workers engaged in the infamous Dublin Strike and Lock-out. Connolly constantly discussed the idea of rebellion. This led to the IRB offering him a seat on the Military Council. The rebellion was meant to occur during 1915 but due to a lack of weapons they delayed to Easter Sunday 1916. The rebellion was a failure at first. There was much confusion due to countermanding others. Originally MacNeill believed that he was to be arrested but soon discovered that the ‘Castle Document’ was a fake. He called off the rebellion but a small number of men carried it out anyway. They were soon defeated. It was the events following the rebellion that sealed the partition of Ireland. At first a lot of Irish people were angry about the rebellion. A lot of the city was destroyed and many lives had been lost. However, the execution of key leaders like James Connolly, Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Willie Pearse changed public opinion. The rising had long lasting effects. It led to the rise of Sinn Fein and the decline of the Home Rule party. This was the beginning of the separation of Ireland. (8/12)

After the rising the Unionists were convinced that there could be no compromise with whom they considered traitors in the South. The British mistakenly associated Sinn Fein with the rising. Sinn Fein played no part in the rising but many of the IRB and Irish Volunteers were members of Sinn Fein. This led to a rise in the popularity for the party which led to them having the majority of Irish support. This caused major problems in the Convention that was held in 1917. This Convention was set up to try and accommodate Nationalist demands for Home Rule in the U.K. however; Sinn Fein did not attend as they saw it as a discussion for Home Rule. This weakened the Convention significantly. Unionists also said that they would not make a decision without discussing it with the Ulster people. This caused the Convention to be a massive failure. With the death of John Redmond on 6th of March 1918 and the failure of the Convention partition seemed very likely. In 1918 there was a general election. In this election Sinn Fein won by a landslide. The Home Rule Party only took 6 seats while Sinn Fein won 73. This was a seal of approval from the Irish people of Sinn Fein’s policies. They now began to set up their own Government in Ireland which directly led to the War of Independence 1919-1921. (8/12)

The War of Independence lasted just over two years. The British considered it an act of terrorism as they did not recognise Ireland as a separate country who could engage in war. The first phase of the war lasted between 1919 and 1920. It was a series of Low-Key operations. Including the ambush in Soloheadbeg Co. Tipperary led by Sean Tracey, Dan Breen and Seamus Robinson. The second stage was the Intelligence war headed by Michael Collins. The British Army brought in the ‘Black and Tans’ and the Irish used guerrilla warfare tactics. By 10th December 1920, the British Government brought in Martial Law to show the Unionists that they were doing something about the situation. This failed however to stop the war as the IRA ambushed a group of soldiers killing one and injuring ten others. In December 1920, Lloyd George introduced the Government of Ireland Act 1920. This bill implemented the partition of Ireland and was an attempt to create a solution for the problems in Ireland. The act said that there would be two parliaments, one in Dublin and the other in Belfast. Both houses would take the Oath of Allegiance. A council of Ireland was set up. Forty- Two Irish MPs would sit in Westminster. Westminster would keep control of defence, foreign policy and finance and Westminster could intervene in Ireland. (8/12)

Through 1912-1920 there were many factors that led to partition. There were the cultural differences between the Unionists and nationalists. There was also a difference in how the British treated the North and South. It is possible that if Britain had have treated the North and South fairly (evenly?) that the demand for partition would not have been so great. Also, the British made a massive mistake by sending General Maxwell to deal with the Ireland. Maxwell was not used to dealing with the public. His behaviour and decisions on what to do with the soldiers would most certainly a reason why there was such an upsurge in the followers of Sinn Fein. If General Maxwell had have dealt with the situation more diplomatically their wouldn’t have been such a backing for Sinn Fein and the War of Independence could have been avoided all together and by avoiding this there would not have been an All-Ireland implementation of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. (7/12)

CM = 7+9+7+9+8+8+8+7= 63/60


OE = 26/40

Overall = 89/100 (A2)



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