Home Rule

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Home Rule,

in Irish and English history, political slogan adopted by Irish nationalists in the 19th cent. to describe their objective of self-government for Ireland.

Origins of the Home Rule Movement

A basic theme in the history of Ireland through the centuries of English dominance was the desire for control over its domestic affairs. The modern Home Rule movement began in 1870 under the leadership of Isaac ButtButt, Isaac,
1813–79, Irish politician and nationalist leader. A member of both the Irish and the English bar, he was a noted conservative lawyer and scholar and an opponent of Daniel O'Connell.
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, whose program appealed most strongly to the Irish middle classes. The long agricultural depression beginning in 1873 increased economic stimulus for Home Rule, and under the leadership of Charles Stewart ParnellParnell, Charles Stewart
, 1846–91, Irish nationalist leader. Haughty and sensitive, Parnell was only a mediocre orator, but he possessed a marked personal fascination and was a shrewd political and parliamentary tactician.
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 the movement gained support from the agricultural laborers and erstwhile members of the Fenian movementFenian movement
or Fenians,
secret revolutionary society organized c.1858 in Ireland and the United States to achieve Irish independence from England by force.
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. In this period only a minority had recourse to violence, and Parnell disavowed the murder of two British officials in Dublin in 1882 (see Phoenix Park murdersPhoenix Park murders,
name given to the assassination on May 6, 1882, of Lord Frederick Cavendish, British secretary for Ireland, and Thomas Henry Burke, his undersecretary, in Phoenix Park, Dublin.
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The First Home Rule Bill

In 1886, William GladstoneGladstone, William Ewart,
1809–98, British statesman, the dominant personality of the Liberal party from 1868 until 1894. A great orator and a master of finance, he was deeply religious and brought a highly moralistic tone to politics.
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 committed the Liberal partyLiberal party,
former British political party, the dominant political party in Great Britain for much of the period from the mid-1800s to World War I. Origins
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 to Home Rule. His bill of 1886 would have established a separate Irish legislature, while reserving many powers, including taxation, to the British Parliament at Westminster. The bill failed to pass, and the incoming Conservative government developed a policy of land reform (see Irish Land QuestionIrish Land Question,
name given in the 19th cent. to the problem of land ownership and agrarian distress in Ireland under British rule. The long-term result of conquest, confiscation, and colonization was the creation of a class of English and Scottish landlords and of an
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) to mollify the Irish. The unity of the Irish party in Parliament collapsed after Parnell was ruined by a divorce scandal in 1890.

The Second Home Rule Bill

In 1893 the Liberals passed the Second Home Rule Bill in the House of Commons, providing a bicameral legislature for purely local matters and Irish representation at Westminster to vote on Irish taxation. While unsatisfactory to Home Rule advocates, the bill was, nevertheless, defeated in the House of Lords. Advocates of constitutional means to Home Rule began to lose ground to republicans and revolutionaries. The ideals of an increasingly self-conscious Irish people, expressed by the Gaelic League and Irish Ireland culminated in the founding (c.1900) of Sinn FéinSinn Féin
[Irish,=we, ourselves], Irish nationalist movement. It had its roots in the Irish cultural revival at the end of the 19th cent. and the growing nationalist disenchantment with the constitutional Home Rule movement.
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. The Irish Council Bill of 1907, which was to establish a purely Irish body to direct the spending of Irish tax proceeds, failed to pass because of Irish dissatisfaction with the plan.

The Third Home Rule Bill

In 1912 the Third Home Rule Bill passed the House of Commons. The most notable difference from the bill of 1893 was that it would have eventually given control of the police to Ireland. A tremendous outcry arose in Protestant Ulster, which feared Roman Catholic domination. Private armies—the Ulster Volunteers (in the North) and the Irish Volunteers (in the South)—were raised, and civil war threatened if the bill became law. In 1914, Commons again passed the bill, but the House of Lords excluded Ulster from its provisions. The Commons voted to allow Ulster to vote itself out of Home Rule for six years. At the outbreak of World War I the bill was passed once again with the proviso that it should not go into effect until after the war. The law never took effect.

The Irish Free State and the Fourth Home Rule Bill

By this time Irish labor leaders like James ConnollyConnolly, James,
1870–1916, Irish nationalist and socialist. An advocate of revolutionary syndicalism, he went (1903) to the United States, where he helped to organize the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
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 had been drawn into the struggle, and Irish radicalism—along with impatience and doubts as to Britain's good faith—brought about the Easter Rebellion of 1916. In 1918, S Ireland elected to Parliament only Sinn Fein members pledged to republicanism instead of Home Rule. These members did not go to Westminster; they set up their own Irish assembly, the Dáil ÉireannDáil Éireann
[Irish,=diet of Ireland], the popular representative body of the Oireachtas, or National Parliament, of the Republic of Ireland. The second, smaller chamber, the Saenad Éireann, or Senate, has very limited powers, and the executive, as
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, which declared Ireland independent. There followed a period of guerrilla war between the nationalist Irish Republican ArmyIrish Republican Army
(IRA), nationalist organization devoted to the integration of Ireland as a complete and independent unit. Organized by Michael Collins from remnants of rebel units dispersed after the Easter Rebellion in 1916 (see Ireland), it was composed of the more
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 (IRA) and a force of British irregulars known as the Black and Tans.

In 1921 the British government entered into negotiations with the de facto Irish government headed by Eamon De ValeraDe Valera, Eamon
, 1882–1975, Irish statesman, b. New York City. He was taken as a child to Ireland. As a young man he joined the movement advocating physical force to achieve Irish independence and took part in the Easter Rebellion of 1916.
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. The Irish Free State, with dominion status, was created by an Anglo-Irish treaty in 1921. Remaining ties with Great Britain were gradually discarded (see Ireland, Republic ofIreland, Republic of,
Gaelic, Eire, republic (2015 est. pop. 4,700,000), 27,136 sq mi (70,282 sq km). It occupies all but the northeastern corner of the island of Ireland in the British Isles. (For physical geography and history to 1922, see Ireland.
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). The six counties of Northern Ireland (see Ireland, NorthernIreland, Northern,
division of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2011 pop. 1,810,863), 5,462 sq mi (14,147 sq km), NE Ireland. Made up of six of the nine counties of the historic province of Ulster in NE Ireland, it is frequently called Ulster.
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) remained part of the United Kingdom, their government established under the provisions of the Fourth Home Rule Bill of 1920, which was rendered void in the South by the establishment of the Irish Free State. The continued British presence in Northern Ireland was abhorrent to Irish nationalists, but except for scattered IRA terrorism, the issue was dormant until Protestant repression led to revived militant nationalism among Northern Ireland's Catholics.

Home Rule in Contemporary Northern Ireland

Escalating violence between Protestants and Catholics and an intensive campaign of terror by the IRA caused the British cabinet to suspend the Northern Ireland government in 1972. A new government was established in 1973, in which the Roman Catholics shared power with the Protestant majority for the first time and provision was made for increased cooperation with the Republic. However, Protestant pressure brought about the resumption of direct British rule of Northern Ireland in 1974. Direct rule continued until 1981.

In 1985, Great Britain signed an agreement with the Irish Republic, giving the latter a consultative role. While the Catholic party (SDLP) favored the agreement, the Protestant Unionist Parties used their majority in the regional Assembly to block it, resulting in the resumption of direct rule in 1985. An accord reached in 1998 provided for a new assembly, but disagreement over the disarmament of paramilitary groups slowed the formation of a multiparty goverment (Dec., 1999) and the end of direct British rule. Disagreements on the same and on other issues have led to several suspensions of home rule.


For an economic interpretation see E. Strauss, Irish Nationalism and British Democracy (1951); for an opposing political interpretation see N. Mansergh, The Irish Question, 1840–1921 (rev. ed. 1965). See also W. K. Hancock, Survey of British Commonwealth Affairs (2 vol., 1937–42; repr. 1964); A. T. O. Stewart, The Ulster Crisis (1967); D. Thornley, Isaac Butt and Home Rule (1964, repr. 1976).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Home Rule


the struggle from the 1870’s to the early 20th century for the realization of a program of autonomy for Ireland, providing for the creation of an Irish parliament and national bodies of government and at the same time a preservation of the supreme authority of Great Britain over Ireland.

In 1869 a program for the autonomy of Ireland was put forward by the Irish liberal I. Butt. In 1870 he founded the Home Rule Association of Ireland, which in 1873 became the Home Rule League. In 1874, 60 supporters of home rule were elected to the English parliament. In 1879, in an attempt to obtain mass support for home rule, the leader of the Home Rule movement, C. S. Parnell, and his colleagues helped form a mass peasant organization, the Land League. However, in 1882, Parnell concluded an agreement with the English Liberals to cease agrarian demonstrations in return for various concessions. The growth of the influence of the Irish opposition forced the Liberal Party in 1886 and 1893 to introduce bills in Parliament for the home rule of Ireland, although in a very reduced form. But the Conservatives and some Liberals who broke away from their party rejected the bills each time. In 1890 the Liberal Party itself suffered a schism.

At the beginning of the imperialist era the national liberation struggle of the Irish people outgrew the limits of the movement for home rule. The slogan “home rule” began to express the aspiration of only that part of the Irish bourgeoisie interested in preserving a softened form of colonial dependence on Great Britain. In 1912 the Liberal government introduced a bill on home rule that the House of Lords rejected three times from 1912 to 1914. Conservatives organized a separatist movement of the Protestant bourgeoisie and landowners of Northern Ireland (Ulster), where armed ranks of Unionists (the supporters of the preservation of union with Great Britain) began to be formed. After the start of World War I royal sanction gave a bill on home rule the force of law (Sept. 17, 1914), but with the condition that its implementation would be put off until the end of the war and be accompanied by a supplementary act that would except Northern Ireland from its provisions.

The popular masses of Ireland answered the colonial politics of Great Britain with the Irish revolt of 1916. At the end of the war a new revolutionary crisis arose in Ireland. The Sinn Feinians, who had achieved dominance in the nationalist movement, refused to recognize the act on home rule and proclaimed a struggle for an Irish republic. On Dec. 6, 1921, the British government was forced to sign a treaty with right-wing Sinn Feinians that created the Free Irish Republic (Eire) on the territory of the southern 26 counties.


Engels, F. “Angliiskie vybory.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol 18.
Lenin, V. I. “Angliiskie liberaly i Irlandiia.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 24.
Lenin, V. I. “Konstitutsionnyi krizis v Anglii.” Ibid., vol. 25.
Kerzhentsev, P. Irlandiia v bor’be za nezavisimost’. 3rd ed. Moscow, 1936.
Jackson, T. A. Bor’ba Irlandii za nezavisimost’. Moscow, 1949. (Translated from English.)
O’Brien, C. C. Parnell and His Party, 1880–1890. Oxford, 1957.
During World War I, a movement for home rule also appeared in India. There the slogan “home rule,” borrowed from Ireland, was also understood as the achievement of self-rule by constitutional methods within the framework of the British Empire. In India this slogan was put forth in 1914 by A. Besant. In 1916 two political organizations were formed to support home rule (in the Madras presidency under the leadership of Besant and in the Bombay presidency under the leadership of B. Tilak), and these organizations became especially active in 1917 and 1918. In 1919, because of the growth of new forms of the national-liberation struggle in India (above all, satyagraha), the movement for home rule died out.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

home rule

1. self-government, esp in domestic affairs
2. US Government the partial autonomy of cities and (in some states) counties, under which they manage their own affairs, with their own charters, etc., within the limits set by the state constitution and laws
3. the partial autonomy sometimes granted to a national minority or a colony
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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