John Bruton and home rule


Sir, – John Bruton’s assertion that the Home Rule Act of 1914 would have ultimately led peacefully to national independence is mere speculation (“Scotland shows 1916 Rising a mistake, says Bruton”, September 18th). The parallel he now draws with Scotland is absurdly unhistorical and ignores the radically changed contexts of a century. Even if the 1914 Act had been implemented (with some form of partition) it would have delivered no more than a mild measure of local government, of the kind later provided by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The truth is that the imperial government was determined to preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom at all costs.

At a time of rapid transformation of a London-controlled British Empire to a Commonwealth of self-governing states (at least for the former “white” colonies), the London government set its face adamantly against dominion status for Ireland, with Lloyd George denouncing the notion as “lunacy”.

Whether we like it or not, the imperial mindset was forcefully changed only by the nationalist resurgence of 1919-1921 guerrilla war, a successful counter-administration, civil resistance, dramatic hunger strikes, the impact of British and world liberal opinion – resulting in the 1921 treaty. That settlement, whatever its limitations,provided the essence of independence, and constituted a chalk-and-cheese difference from 1914 home rule.

Moreover, independent Ireland, and the way it came about, was a world removed from the genteel order envisaged by well-off, elite, gentlemen politicians and their latter-day admirers. – Yours,etc.


Emeritus Professor

of Irish History,

University College Cork.