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1920 - Fourth Home Rule Bill

For the first time since the Act of Union united Great Britain and Ireland (in body, tho not in spirit) in 1801, in 1920 a Home Rule bill was passed with the consent of both Houses of Parliament. Gladstone's first bill was defeated in the House of Commons by a split in the Liberal party. His second bill passed the Commons but was rejected by the Lords. A third bill was actually placed on the statute book during Asquith's Premiership, but it had been re- passed over the opposition of the House of Lords and never came into effect owing partly to the militant hostility of Protestant Ulster and partly to the coming of the Great War. The Home Rule bill of 1920 had a smoother course in Parliament. It was backed by a coalition Government, containing many members of the Unionist or anti-Home Rule party, and so it did not provoke the unyielding hostility of either the Orangemen of Ulster or the House of Lords. Premier Lloyd-George had conciliated Ulster by establishing two Parliaments instead of one within Ireland.

The connecting link between the Parliaments for northeastern Ulster and for the rest of Ireland is a Council, selected by the two Parliaments and with such powers as they may agree to confer upon it. The House of Lords was contented with making a few amendments of minor importance. The speech of the King on the adjournment of Parliament was devoted largely to Irish affairs. After deploring the state of anarchy and civil war in Ireland, the King concluded: "I sincerely hope that this act. the fruit of more than thirty years of ceaseless controversy, will finally bring about unity and friendship between all the peoples of my kingdom."

The immediate prospects of this wish being realized were not very good. Premier Lloyd-George had gone so far in conciliating the foes of Home Rule that he is no longer supported by its friends. On behalf of Sinn Fein, Father O'Flanagan demanded recognition of the revolutionary "Government" as preliminary to a conference of conciliation, and this demand the Premier emphatically rejected. Even the Irish Nationalists, who did not demand complete independence, were not content with the Home Rule Act of 1920.

Sir Horace Plunkett, always a moderate man, stated that the new law was rejected by four-fifths of Ireland and that nothing short of Dominion Home Rule, such as was enjoyed by Canada, would content the Irish people. Other Nationalists object to the partition of Ireland between two Parliaments. They point out that the Home Rule bill which died during the war at least recognized the principle of Irish unity.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:00:33 ZULU