Parnell's Legacy: Ivy Day in the Committee Room and How Irish Religion and Politics Betrayed Their Country's Last Hope

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Parnell’s Legacy: “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” and how Irish Religion and Politics Betrayed their Country’s Last Hope
Ireland has suffered much throughout its history from an almost inherent state of political paralysis. Time and time again, they have been invaded by an overwhelming outside force, and each time the Irish people have failed to come to the certain conclusions or actions necessary for a people to truly rise up and reclaim their way of life. Whether it was the Catholics in the celtic pagan era or more recently the British, there is always talk, and then there is always hope, perhaps too much. Oftentimes, the Irish people, at the height of their pride and chatter, come inches from carrying out the act of liberation and freeing themselves not only from the oppressors, but from their own political and social stalemates. However, it is these times that have also become the most unfortunate for Ireland, as their chances for freedom are usually ripped away in one swift move by an unfortunate series of events. These bad draws end up souring any hope for revolution or revival in Irish minds, making the dream of a free Ireland seem ever more distant and hopeless with each turn.

It is easy to observe the trend in Irish literature, whereby the writing goes from sad to inspired to prideful to ignorantly revolutionary and right back down to lament again. None, however, have been able to grip the reality of Ireland’s failure to unite and make good on their pride like James Joyce in the 20th century. Joyce, so torn by the stunning reality of his people, commits himself as an exile and writes about the country he once loved but has now lost his innocence about from afar. Of the various criticisms, none was greater than his work “Dubliners,” which attempted to capture Dublin in all of its paralyzed, defeated, and empty glory. In it, he expresses a loss of faith in Ireland to revive its political and moral standards, as well a loss of faith in Catholicism. There is no truer story in the compilation of “Dubliners” that expresses this than “Ivy Day in the Committee Room,” which highlights perhaps the single most important event that has shaped his apathy (as well as Ireland’s): The failure of Ireland’s last hope, Charles Stuart Parnell.

In order to analyze “Ivy Day in the Committee Room,” one must first look at the overarching historical background of the central thematic figure, Charles Parnell. There are two possible reasons for his downfall, both outlined by Cawood and Finnegan in their work “The Fall of Parnell.” In the 1880’s, Parnell was the head of the largely popular Irish National Party. At that point, most of Catholic Ireland was united under Parnell (a protestant) and his party’s attempts to establish a series of legislations to British parliament known as “Home Rule.” (Cawood & Finnegan.) At the time, hope for the legislation seemed promising, and even the Conservative Party under Gladstone was open to experimenting with an independent Irish legislature. Of course, Parnell was not without his enemies. Initially Joseph Chamberlain, the Liberal President of the Board of Trade, proposed the idea of a 'central board scheme' (with wide-ranging powers of internal control for the Irish). However, Parnell rejected this because it did not offer 'legislative independence'. “During the summer of 1885, the Irish Party actually sided with the Conservatives in a Tory-Parnellite alliance.” (Cawood & Finnegan)

Thus, between the politics of Ireland and its strict Catholicism, Parnell had a watchful eye upon him when the Home Rule Bill was introduced in 1886. When it was shot down by Parliament just months later, there was pressure on conservative-siding and Protestant Parnell to leave office. He lamented this monumental failure, but he still had a hope which members of his party did not share. (Cawood & Finnegan) Ireland had turned its back on it’s once great hero at the first sign on failure, and the political and Catholic...
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