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Monday, 8 April 2013

8‭ ‬April‭ ‬1886:‭ ‬British Prime Minister William Gladstone [above] introduced the‭ ‬1st Home Rule Bill in the House of Commons on this day.‭ ‬He did so with the intent of giving Ireland a limited control of her own internal affairs.‭ ‬His intention was to prove to the House that since the Act of Union in‭ ‬1800‭ ‬all efforts to govern Ireland through the Parliament at Westminster had failed,‭ ‬and to propose for that reason a system of governing her through a legislative body sitting in Dublin.‭

In a long and winding speech he outlined the historical background to Ireland’s grievances and the attempts by the Crown to suppress Discontent.‭ ‬All concessions had failed to satisfy the Irish and the reason was that they wished to govern their own affairs.‭ ‬He proposed a limited form of self Government or‭ ‘‬Home Rule‭’ ‬to resolve the issue.‭

Law is discredited in Ireland,‭ ‬and discredited in Ireland upon this ground especially—that it comes to the people of that country with a foreign accent,‭ ‬and in a foreign garb‭…‬.
These Coercion Bills of ours…are stiffly resisted by the Members who represent Ireland in Parliament.‭

The case of Ireland,‭ ‬though she is represented here not less fully than England and Scotland,‭ ‬is not the same as that of England and Scotland‭…‬.The consequence is that the mainspring of law in England is felt by the people to be English‭; ‬the mainspring of law in Scotland is felt by the people to be Scotch‭; ‬but the mainspring of law in Ireland is not felt by the people to be Irish.

Gladstone however was determined that any devolution of political power to an Irish Legislature:

‭  ‬Everything that relates to the Crown—Succession,‭ ‬Prerogatives,‭ ‬and the mode of administering powers during incapacity,‭ ‬Regency,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬in fact,‭ ‬all that belongs to the Crown.‭ ‬The next would be all that belongs to defense--the Army,‭ ‬the Navy,‭ ‬the entire organisations of armed force.‭ ‬I do not say the Police Force,‭ ‬which I will touch upon by-and-by,‭ ‬but everything belonging to defense.‭ ‬And the third would be the entire subject of Foreign and Colonial relations.‭ ‬Those are the subjects most properly Imperial,‭ ‬and I will say belonging,‭ ‬as a principle,‭ ‬to the Legislature established under the Act of Union and sitting at Westminster.

While he ruled out a separate Parliament for the North he stated that:

We propose to provide that the Legislative Body should not be competent to pass a law for the establishment or the endowment of any particular religion.

He concluded with the lofty words:

The best and surest foundation we can find to build upon is the foundation afforded by the affections,‭ ‬the convictions,‭ ‬and the will of the nation‭; ‬and it is thus,‭ ‬by the decree of the Almighty,‭ ‬that we may be enabled to secure at once the social peace,‭ ‬the fame,‭ ‬the power,‭ ‬and the permanence of the Empire.

But for all Gladstone’s fine words his attempt to accommodate Ireland’s claim to legislate for her own affairs was to result in a political fiasco and the downfall of his own Government.‭ ‬Two months later to the day the Home Rule Bill was defeated in the Commons by‭ ‬341‭ ‬votes to‭ ‬311.‭  ‬The‭ ‬Parliament was quickly dissolved,‭ ‬and elections were held in early July.‭ ‬Gladstone’s hopes were dashed—the Liberals won‭ ‬191‭ ‬seats,‭ ‬the Home Rulers won‭ ‬85‭ ‬but the Tories and Liberal Unionists won‭ ‬317.‭ ‬With his very comfortable majority,‭ ‬Lord Salisbury formed a government,‭ ‬which remained in power until‭ ‬1892.