Before the war John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, dominated Irish politics. Through his alliance with Asquith and the Liberals he appeared to be on the brink of achieving self-government for Ireland, with Asquith committed to introducing Home Rule despite the opposition of the House of Lords, Ulster Unionists and elements within the British army. The outbreak of war allowed Asquith to delay Home Rule for the conflict’s duration. To hasten the war’s end and to win Ireland favour with the British government, Redmond encouraged Irishmen to join the British army, which they did in great numbers.
Today Redmond dies, of complications following an operation. The political tide has gone out for him and on his deathbed he reputedly tells a visiting priest that he is a broken-hearted man. The war has claimed the life of his brother, while the ever-lengthening casualty lists have engendered hostility to people like Redmond who encouraged enlistment. The British response to the Easter Rising of 1916 has turned many against any link to London. The rise of Sinn Féin means that Redmond’s support for Home Rule (limited self-government within the United Kingdom) seems like a feeble half-step. As Redmond dies he is now almost an irrelevance.
Redmond had already stepped down as leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. His successor is John Dillon, who will have his work cut out if he is to arrest the rise of Sinn Féin and ensure his party’s remains at the centre of Irish politics.
image source (Wikipedia)