After centuries of struggle to emancipate themselves from British rule, the Irish decided to act through diplomatic channels, launching the “Home Rule” project in 1870. This project consisted of giving Ireland an internal autonomy, never before acquired, allowing it to act on its administration and the various state bodies, despite the supervision of Great Britain.

History of the Home Rule


Charles Stewart Parnell - Public domain

Charles Stewart Parnell – Public domain

It all began in 1870: when Isaac Butt, an Irish politician firmly involved in the question of Irish independence, created the “Home Government Association” to continue the fight as a fervent defender of Irish emancipation. The aim of the Home Government Association was then to advance the steps to win Ireland’s autonomy and to negotiate as best as possible the different modalities of this autonomy with London. Butt’s first objective was to set up a Dublin Parliament, acting in close collaboration with the British.

As early as 1873, the Home Government Association was renamed the Home Rule League, and the organization received a considerable boost in 1875, when Charles Stewart Parnell, an elected member of the House of Commons, decided to take up the project and make it his priority. To everyone’s surprise, the British government did not seem to oppose the project, which then allowed things to move forward.

It was therefore on April 8, 1886, that a first draft of the text (the “Home Rule Bill”) was presented to the House of Commons. However, this first draft was rather badly received, and was rejected in the first instance.

The Liberal Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone was stubborn and decided to reintroduce the text on February 13, 1893. Although it was accepted by the House of Commons, the proposal failed again in the House of Lords, causing Gladstone to resign, disgusted by so many abortive procedures.

Much later, in 1912, a new Liberal prime minister named Herbert Asquith decided to bring the text back to the table. As with the previous attempt, this one was accepted by the House of Commons but rejected by the House of Lords. Nevertheless, luck turned, thanks to the Parliament Act of 1911, which stated that the House of Lords’ right of veto could only be extended for two years, and therefore implied a vote in favour of the Home Rule Bill.

However, this vote creates significant tensions within the island. The opponents of the text coming from Ulster protest by creating the Ulster Volunteer Force”, a militia of 200,000 men, while the pro-independentists retaliate by founding the Irish Volunteers. Faced with the conflict, King George V decided to postpone the application of the text to the end of the First World War. But tensions remained high, and the Irish Volunteers, along with other entities, fomented a revolt known as the Bloody Easter of 1916. From then on, the Home Rule no longer seemed to be able to solve the problem of Irish autonomy. The text is then abandoned, leaving room for a new struggle and civil war…