In July 2014, former Taoiseach, John Bruton, opined that the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent War of Independence were “completely unnecessary” in the light of the Home Rule Act of 1914. He expanded on this view in an article in The Irish Times the following month.
To begin with, he confused the position of O’Connell on repeal of the Union with Home Rule; the first would have restored the independence of the Irish parliament abolished in 1800, while the second would have only entailed a degree of devolution to an Irish assembly.
As for Home Rule, he displayed a political naïvety, which is not untypical of some other commentators as well. He trusts that the British would have gone ahead with Home Rule after the
Great War’s end, as promised, in some form or other. In fact, he states that such rule not only would have been “irreversible”, but could have led on to dominion status. (Some pundits have actually asserted that there was no difference between Home Rule and the Irish Free State, even though, while the latter was short of a republic, it was still considerably in advance of the former, as demonstrated by 26 counties at least leaving the United Kingdom and so ending the Act of Union of 1800 in respect of over three-quarters of the island.) Britain’s historical record of equivocating on Home Rule, even on paper, between 1886 and 1914 is blithely ignored by Bruton. Indeed, even the statute only came about when the Liberal Party began to rely on Irish nationalist votes at Westminster in order to stay in power.
The Rising and Anglo-Irish War did not scupper Home Rule; rather did the falseness of Home Rule proposals make certain the armed struggle of 1916-21.
John Bruton spoke at a lecture to the Wexford Historical Society on 2 Nov 2014 [comments in parentheses added]. ”Given That home rule was already passed [and suspended at same time], would have come into effect [naïve speculation], and would have been a platform for further moves to greater independence [further speculation], the use of violence in 1916 was not a genuine last
resort”, he said.
He referred to the allies Britain, the French Republic and Belgium as though they were the representatives of democracy rather than all empires in their own right. He omitted altogether to mention the other ally, namely Tsarist Russia.
He stated that Irishmen in Ireland in the British army and police force “were acting on the orders of a duly constituted Government, elected by a parliament, which had already granted home rule to Ireland, and to which Ireland had democratically elected its own MPs.” He ignores the fact that the Government was a foreign one, with a franchise of only 30%, including in Ireland.
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