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Parnell gets the plaudits, but Redmond should be praised for concluding Home Rule campaign

Letter of the day: political history

The assertion that "Charles Stewart Parnell would have led us into the promised land of Irish freedom and independence with William Ewart Gladstone had he not been devoured by his own people merely for the love of an English lady" is an affecting piece of Christmas romance that ignores other obstacles standing between Parnell and this outcome.

Firstly, there was the House of Lords veto, which, had he survived until late 1893 instead of dying in 1891, he would have seen in action after the House of Commons passed Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill.

Secondly, the Bright's disease which was already slowly killing by the time of the divorce crisis would very likely have carried him off long before the removal of the Lords' veto in 1911 and the introduction of the third Home Rule Bill in 1912.

Thirdly, in the highly unlikely event of his surviving as Irish Party leader to witness the latter events, the brick wall of Ulster unionist resistance to the imposition of Home Rule on north-east Ulster would have seen him face exactly the same dilemma faced by John Redmond in 1914 and in 1916/17 - accept the "hateful expedient" of partition and lose his followers to extremism or abandon the project for another generation.

It is possible to nurture these dreams about Parnell only because he died before he could bring his political project to completion.

Redmond, on the other hand, is counted a failure, though he brought the 40-year Home Rule campaign to a successful conclusion in parliamentary terms, but lived just long enough more to taste the paradoxical fruits of his victory. When his death centenary comes round in March 2018, the Irish State should do something to commemorate him.

Dermot Meleady

By email

Belfast Telegraph


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