John Redmond’s reputation
Sir, – Perhaps part of the reason that John Redmond does not occupy the same public space as figures like O’Connell and Parnell (“Redmond’s role in story of State should be recognised”, July 21st) is because people have a sense that he actually had a chance to listen to and try to address the genuine concerns unionists had about home rule – how it would affect their businesses, their access to UK markets and their religious freedoms.
It can be argued that his failure to take that chance sowed the seeds for partition and a century of sectarian violence, the consequences of which we still face today, when we tiptoe around certain Sinn Féin figures afraid to call them out on their past in case they revert to that past – which they deny having.
With hindsight, we can now see that all of the Unionist fears for what Home Rule would mean in reality, and worse, were proven to be correct. When we did finally achieve independence, we promptly handed control of the new state’s decision-making processes to the Catholic Church and replaced what was meant to be a democracy with a particularly vicious form of Catholic theocracy.
If Redmond had made more effort, then perhaps the island could have had the best of both traditions in one state instead of the worst of both traditions in two states. Of course it is ironic that the use of the term Redmondite, usually levelled at Fine Gael in particular, but also at anyone who doesn’t worship at the altar of 1916, is meant as a more refined insult than the more blunt “West Brit”, when in fact Redmond proved himself to have been even more weak-kneed towards the Catholic Church than even John A Costello, the personification of a Free Stater. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There is much truth in Ronan O’Brien’s article on John Redmond. The Irish Parliamentary Party occupies an unfortunate position historically, having been so comprehensively defeated in the 1918 election. It is worth bearing in mind, however, one of the reasons for that comprehensive defeat. The party had been a vocal supporter of a deeply unpopular and highly bloody European conflict, a conflict that had just killed more Irish people than all of the political strife this island was to endure in the 20th century would kill. And at the end of it all it seemed like there was not much to show for it.
The Ulster Unionists had just made a similar sacrifice, for opposite reasons. So by all means let the work of Redmond and the IPP be recognised and indeed honoured in this State. But it should be remembered that the war effort was a logical outcome of the home rule policy. Redmond’s great act of conciliation cost many Irish lives. The IPP’s strong support for recruitment was to influence many who joined up after August 1914. The cost of Redmond’s policy is something his professed admirers do not seem to want to acknowledge. – Yours, etc,