What problems did Irish nationalists face in 1905? To what extent had these been overcome by 1949?
For several hundred years, there has been increasing tension between southern and northern Ireland, giving rise to Irish Nationalism. The roots of conflict are to be found in the past when Henry II first landed in Ireland in 1169. At this time, Ireland was recognised for their nationalistic pride and the arrival of an English king generated resentment amongst the people, as England gained some control over Irish land. However, when Henry VIII made England Protestant in 1538, he further alienated the majority of Irelands Catholic population. It was not until Queen Elizabeth I introduce a policy known as plantation, where she gave loyal Protestants supporters land that had been confiscated from Catholic Irish rebels that English control took its hold. The plantation caused enormous uprising from the Catholics and they rebelled for several years causing the death of thousands of people; it was the strong beginning of Irish Nationalism. As Irish discontent mounted, the Act of Union came into effect in 1801. At that time, five sixths of the population were Catholics under the rule of Protestant England. “William Pitt the Younger saw clearly that something had to be done to prevent Ireland from being a constant source of danger.” (Page 233) He aimed to reunite the Irish parliament with Great Britain – the Irish parliament was bribed to agree to the union and sent 32 members to the House of Lords and 100 to House of Commons. The union aroused further bitterness in Ireland where commercial, political, religious, and agricultural problems caused further uprisings and rebellions from those who resented British interference.
Throughout the 1800’s Irish nationalism continued to grow as tension built up between Protestants and Catholics; north and south. Three nationalist forces emerged during the 19th century. Fenians were first; they hoped to achieve an independent Irish republic by violence. The second group, the Home Rule Movement, wanted to achieve self-government for Ireland by using constitutional means. The third nationalistic force was known as the Gaelic Revival that aimed to renew and enrich the Gaelic language, customs, and culture of Ireland. These forces of Irish nationalism were strongly opposed by a significant proportion of the Irish people. Almost all of them were Protestants, especially in the province of Ulster. It was the overwhelming majority in Ireland that caused Ulster Protestants to reject Home Rule with violent emotion. Opposition to Home Rule found its political expression in activities of two groups; Unionists were Ulster Protestants who belonged to the Orange Order. The unionists aim was to oppose Home Rule, keep intact the Act of Union, and elect members of parliament who shared these ideas. Home Rule was defeated in 1886 and 1893. The third Home Rule bill of 1912 renewed the old fears and revived opposition from Ireland’s north. At the start of the 20th century, neither the cultural nationalism of the Gaelic Revival nor the revolutionary nationalism of the IRB seemed to threaten the predominance of the Home Rule Movement in Irish politics. In 1905, a moderate alternative to Home Rule emerged. An Irish journalist, Arthur Griffith, started a new political party call Sinn Fein. He suggested a simple way by which Ireland could gain its independence. Those Irish members elected to British parliament would boycott the assembly and instead meet in Dublin as the Irish parliament. Sinn Fein remained small, struggling, and not very popular for several years. By 1910, the ideas of the IRB, Dr Hyde, and Arthur Griffith along with an Irish socialist movement had combined to produce an Irish nationalism that went far beyond the demand for Home Rule. The Protestants in Ireland felt threatened. Protestant resistance to Home Rule, led by Sir Edward Carson, grew to dangerous proportions. Since 1911, members of the...
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