Leadership in a Liberal era, 1906–9
in The Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster, 1900–18
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This chapter examines the difficulties faced by the IPP from 1906 when the Liberal party, their ostensible allies, won a landslide general election. On the face of it, the change of government after ten years of hostile Tory rule was a positive but the Liberals proved to be preoccupied with the passage of British social legislation and their offer of a ‘gradual’ solution to the Irish question was not enough to satisfy nationalist Ireland. This presented the Home Rule movement with an apparent stalemate and, from 1907, the party faced a major challenge from more advanced nationalists who now declared that continued attendance at Westminster was futile and that abstention was now the surest course to win Home Rule for Ireland. This chapter concludes with analysis of the IPP backlash to this, witnessing a consolidation of the leadership’s power in the face of Sinn Féin and other residual dissidents. In the process, the tetrarchy is tempered and strengthened. The role of Joseph Devlin in this final episode and his rise as the protégé in the leadership comes in for particular attention.

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