Irish Heritage & Culture

Bruton on Home Rule

Why we should commemorate the enactment of Home Rule

Opinion: ‘I am realist enough to know that Home Rule would not have extended to more than 28 counties’

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“O’Connell, Butt and Parnell had all failed to achieve what Redmond and Dillon achieved.” Above, John Redmond, along with his wife, attends a Mass held at Westminster Cathedral in London for visiting Irish Guards in March 1916. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

John Bruton

Commemorating the 1916 Rising, as we do every year and are about to do on a grand scale in two years’ time, while not commemorating the enactment of Home Rule 100 years ago next month, would present an unbalanced version of history.

It would be to celebrate a violent struggle and, by omission, underplay the value of a successful peaceful parliamentary struggle. That would be a distortion of history and could be used by some to weaken belief in parliamentary methods.

Historian Ronan Fanning’s argument (aired on these pages recently) is that there should be no commemoration of Home Rule because the Home Rule Act which became law in 1914 would not have been implemented without an amending Act to provide for the possible exclusion of some Ulster counties.

But, as I said clearly at an event in the Irish Embassy in London in July, the Home Rule package did not guarantee united Ireland.

I am realist enough to know that Home Rule would not have extended to more than 28 counties. I said so in my submission to the Government seeking a commemoration next month. But, on its own merits, the enactment of Home Rule on that basis is still an Irish parliamentary achievement well worth commemorating.

When the Home Rule Bill received the royal assent on September 18th, 1914, it was the first time that a Bill granting Ireland Home rule had ever passed into law. The struggle to achieve such an outcome had gone on since the 1830s. Daniel O’Connell, Isaac Butt and Charles Stewart Parnell had all failed to achieve what John Redmond and John Dillon achieved. O’Connell did not achieve Repeal, and Parnell did not get Home Rule passed. Yet they are, rightly, commemorated.

As I said in my submission to the Government, the opposition to being under a Dublin Home Rule Parliament was so strong among unionists in Ulster that, no matter how hard the Home Rulers might have tried to persuade them, at least four Ulster counties would have stayed out of the Dublin Parliament. Under Home Rule, the exclusion might have been limited to four – instead of six, as in 1921.

‘No coercion’

Redmond told the House of Commons that “no coercion shall be applied to any single county in Ireland to force them against their will to come into the Irish government”. This was a sensible policy, and the only realistic one he could adopt.
Attempts to coerce Northern Ireland into a United Ireland, whether by the attempted incursions across the Border in 1922, by the propaganda campaign in the late 1940s, or by IRA killing campaigns in the 1950s, and again from 1969 to 1998, have all failed miserably, because they were based on a faulty analysis of reality.

To win Home Rule, the Irish Party had to: get the House of Lords veto abolished; have the Home Rule Bill passed three years in a row, in the House of Commons, in accordance with the Parliament Act; and finally, have Home Rule signed into law on September 18th, 1914.

All that was done by tough parliamentary tactics. These included declining to support the 1909 budget unless there was a Parliament Act; abolishing of the House of Lords veto (a huge achievement when one considers how little House of Lords reform there has been since); and holding the threat of an election over the head of the Liberal government unless Home Rule was passed three times to meet the requirements of that Act.

Under the Home Rule arrangement, any excluded parts of Ulster would have been under direct rule from Westminster. There would have been no Stormont.

And, at least for the initial period, there would have been continuing southern Irish representation in the House of Commons. These two safeguards would have ensured that there would have been none of the discrimination that northern nationalists suffered from 1921 to 1966.

But the important consideration here is Home Rule, admittedly with the exclusion of some Ulster counties, was irreversible politically and would have come into effect at the end of the Great War if the 1916 Rising and the consequent violence and abstentionism of the 1919-1921 period had not made it impossible.

The irreversibility of Home Rule is well-illustrated by a comment, quoted by Fanning in his book Fatal Path, by one of its staunchest opponents, the Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law. He said: “If Ulster, or rather any county, had the right to remain outside the Irish Parliament, for my part my objection would be met.”

My argument is that, at that time, instead of pursuing a policy of abstention from parliament and a guerrilla war, Sinn Féin and the IRA should have used the Home Rule Act as a peaceful stepping stone to dominion status and full independence, in the same way as the Treaty of 1921 was so used after so much blood had been shed.

I believe Irish politics under Home Rule would have evolved quickly once the Great War was over. The Irish Labour party and Sinn Féin could have gained strength in the new Dublin Parliament. Although Home Rule fell short of dominion status, there would have been incessant pressure for more powers, and Ireland, with its own parliament, would inevitably have benefited from the loosening of ties to London as Canada, Australia and the rest did. A Home Rule Parliament that pressed for dominion status and greater independence would have had the support of the British Labour party and the Asquith Liberals, both of which had, I believe, favoured dominion status for Ireland in the 1918 election.

North/South violence

In the absence of violence, relations between Dublin and the counties in Ulster not under Home Rule would have been less fraught than North/South relations from 1922 to 1998. This is counterfactual history and unprovable. But so also is Éamon Ó Cuív’s more pessimistic view.
What is provable is that 100 years ago next month, against huge pressure and prejudice, Irish parliamentarians, a small minority in Westminster and far from home, by sheer persistence were able to force a British parliament to put Irish legislative independence on the statute book without firing a shot.

It is worth commemorating

Helene Fischer: The Power of Love

Postal Services review to assess how Government can support future of our Post Offices

17 Post Office closure from 2011 to 2013, compared with 72 in 2010 alone

Fine Gael TD for Donegal, Joe McHugh, today (Friday) welcomed the announcement of the establishment of a cross-departmental group to assess how the State can play a role in securing the future of our Post Offices. This would be achieved by encouraging all departments to consider the potential of the Post Offices to assist in the service they deliver.

“There is no doubt that the postal service in Ireland plays a vital role in communities, and that this role is magnified in rural communities. The local post office is more often than not located at the heart of local towns and villages, oftentimes acting as a social outlet for those who are in more isolated areas, people like farmers or the elderly.

“This Government is committed to the long-term viability of An Post and figures I had requested from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources highlight how this commitment has translated in real terms. Over the last three years, there have been 17 post office closures while in 2010 alone, 72 Post Offices closed their doors. Any closures are regrettable and we are doing our very best to avoid them, but we must accept that there is a very serious issue facing postal services throughout Ireland.

“While we must acknowledge that as communication is ever-changing and the mediums by which we connect evolve, the Post Office as we know it is not fit for purpose. It is essential that they adapt in order to continue to fulfil a sustainable role in society.

“There are a number of actions which could be taken to add strength to the role of Post Offices throughout Ireland. For example, Bank of Ireland’s UK entity has been an exclusive partner to the Post Office in the UK and has been providing financial services and products to customers since 2003. This partnership has, according to the bank ‘become one of the UK’s fastest growing financial service providers with almost three million customers and a savings book of £18 billion and the leading supplier of foreign exchange in the marketplace”.

“There is no reason why something similar couldn’t work here in Ireland. I understand that some of these financial services and transactions can be complex and there are legacy issues regarding trust in banks that the UK is not facing. However we need to explore these avenues which are having very positive effects on the UK Postal service to see if they can be tailored to suit the Irish market. An alliance between Post Offices and customer banking/ financial services has the real potential to strengthen the offerings of Post Offices around the country.

“Another possibility could involve Post Offices taking responsibility for all driver license issuing. In Co. Donegal, for example, many people are finding it difficult to renew their driver’s licenses as they now have to travel to Letterkenny or Donegal Town, since the cross over to the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) came into effect. This service could be offered through a local Post Office, saving people time and money while increasing the responsibility of the postal service.

“I have been working closely with An Post and my colleagues on the ground, meeting with Postmasters from around Co. Donegal to further this project. I very strongly welcome the Government’s announcement that there is to be a cross-departmental group established.

“I think it is important to highlight that it is not in anyone’s interest to see Post Offices closing down. The Government has repeated its commitment to ensuring the viability of as many Post Offices as possible. The Postmasters in local offices have long played a vital role in the community and we want to ensure that this tradition continues into the future, while adapting to changes in communication.”


Please Click here for a table of the number of post offices closed on an annual basis over the last ten years.



JLNR figures

Newstalk continued to add listeners in the first few months of 2014, a new snapshot of the Irish radio market shows. The station, owned by Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp, is one of the main winners in the latest Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey.

Some RTÉ presenters led by Marian Finucane have also increased in popularity, but there were losses for Seán O’Rourke, Liveline and theNews at One. Ray D’Arcy was the main casualty on Today FM, which saw listeners drift away from its daytime schedule.

As the listenership figures are averaged out over a 12-month period from April 2013 to the end of March 2014, they do not give a true indication of the full listenership of The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk and Today with Seán O’Rourke, which both began last September.

However, the figures suggest Pat Kenny is playing his part in boosting Newstalk, with his mid-morning slot listened to by 114,000 over the period. This is up by 18,000 since the last survey was published in January.

Newstalk Breakfast, hosted by Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue, has increased its audience to 137,000, up 11,000 since the last survey, though the station’s other big show, The Right Hook, slipped by 9,000 listeners since the last survey, to 121,000.

Today with Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 now has 312,000 listeners, down 15,000 since the last survey.

Despite the upheaval prompted by Kenny’s move to Newstalk, Radio 1 has maintained its market share over the past year. However, there were mixed fortunes across the schedule.

Morning Ireland remains the most listened-to radio programme in Ireland with an audience of 444,000, down 5,000 on the last survey but up slightly over the year. But Liveline, presented by Joe Duffy, fell for the fourth consecutive survey. It now has 390,000 listeners, down 9,000 since the last survey, and 34,000 annually.

RTÉ’s News at One has also suffered following O’Rourke’s move to Kenny’s old mid-morning slot, with the bulletin shedding 13,000 listeners since the last survey, to 336,000.

On 2fm, Ryan Tubridy continued to decline, recording a listenership of 148,000, down 4,000 since the last survey and 11,000 over the year. It is too soon to calculate the performance of Breakfast RepublicNicky Byrne and other recent additions to the 2fm schedule.

On Communicorp-owned Today FM, the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show was one of the few gainers, with the presenter holding onto all of his 189,000 listeners since the last survey and adding 14,000 over the past year. Ray D’Arcy now has an audience of 218,000, down 11,000 since the last survey and 25,000 annually.

The Dempsey and D’Arcy shows are the only two of the top 20 most listened-to programmes that are not broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1, which dominates the radio landscape with a 23.1 per cent market share.

Today FM is the next biggest with a 9 per cent share, ahead of its rival 2fm, with 7.1 per cent. Newstalk’s market share is still just 5.6 per cent, though it has made gains both nationally and in Dublin. Local and regional stations have a combined 52.8 per cent share of the market.

A total of 16,600 people were interviewed during the year-long survey period by the research firm Ipsos MRBI on behalf of radio stations, advertising bodies and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. Some 83 per cent of all adults listen to the radio on a typical day, tuning in for an average of almost four hours.

An Gaeilge in An Dun!

Down UUP members walk out of Linda Ervine DDC talk, claim ‘views of unionists’ ignored



Three Down District Council Ulster Unionist members defiantly left the council chamber on Monday before a presentation by Linda Ervine on how the Irish language is embedded into the Protestant Culture.


Mrs Ervine has staged numerous presentations relating to the Irish language and social integration, despite facing opposition from some,namely senior Orange Order member George Chittick, who publicly claimed that the Irish language should not be adopted by Protestants as it has become ‘politicised’. Mr Chittick, facing a strong crowd at Twaddell Avenue, told those gathered that the spread of the Irish language was a part of a ‘Republican agenda’.


“A word of warning to Protestants who go to learn Irish… it’s part of the republican agenda. What do we think of the republican agenda? No.”


At the time this comment was made, Tom Elliott (UUP) said that: “George Chittick is entitled to express his views in his own way. If people wish to learn the Irish language, they are fully entitled to do so”.


However, it seems something has changed in the Ulster Unionist camp. We are post-Haass and we are approaching election season. However, it remains unclear why the party are so opposed to even talking about the Irish Language.


Mr Walter Lyons, who was in attendance at the council meeting, released a statement:


“We were delighted to meet with Linda Ervine before tonight’s Council meeting and agreed to meet again at the East Belfast Mission to learn of the work that she does, to hear of positive aspects of the Irish Language and to lend our support to her group.


“For years the Irish Language has been used as a political weapon by some in Down District Council when instead it could be used as a means of reconciliation. Unfortunately the views of Unionists and others have been ignored in the implementation of Irish Language policy in Down Council.”


Letter heads and the Down bi-lingual policy


In the past there has been a number of instances when unionist parties have come to blows over the Irish language within Down Council and it is not the first time that this complaint has been raised. On Monday 28th of October 2013 unionist Councillors – as reported by the Down News – ‘expressed their serious apprehensions about being asked to use Council headed letter-headed paper with a bilingual logos including the Irish language’. It was also on this day that Down UUP Councillor Robert Burgess called the letter head showing the Irish language ‘extremely offensive’ for unionists.


The issue came to light after the Down District ‘bi-lingual policy’ which the council describe as a policy that ‘applies to all Council business and functions and is intended to deliver linguistic equality for all who avail of and / or provide Council services’.


UKIP member Alan Lewis stated, in relation to the bi-lingual policy, that it showcased inequality within the council: “The policy also states Council will support Irish language and cultural activities by facilitating events within the council buildings and venues”. Will unionist events be looked upon with such favour? Will equal facilitation be made available to Ulster Scots groups? Will funding be made available to unionist groups on equal bases?




Alexander Redpath, UUP candidate for Downshire West who was recently co-opted onto Lisburn City Council replacing Councillor Ronnie Crawford, stated that he felt the Irish language proposals were damaging the unionist culture – making references to Sinn Fein asserting ‘dominance’ and the use of the Irish language on a number of road signs.


“Sadly the reality in Down District Council is that the Irish language has been politicised to the extent that many unionists see it as a way of Sinn Fein asserting their dominance”


 ”Under the Belfast agreement your identity is protected and therefore the Irish language receives attention and support from government. However certain measures connected with the Irish language e.g. Irish language on road signs. Have been advanced by SF in the face of consistent resistance from unionists. Road signs are about communication not identity and we see this sort of measure as Irish language being used as a political weapon. In reality SF are just trying to make south down more like the RoI. I don’t think that’s a legitimate use of the Irish language and I think it damages the position of the Irish language.”


Off The Record will update this story as it develops. We have reached out to a number of sources for comment.


Jason Murdock