John Redmond and the path of violence


Sir, – Stephen Collins associated John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party with “those who sought to achieve independence by peaceful, constitutional methods” (Opinion, March 8th). He is surely mistaken. Redmond’s enthusiasm for Irish participation in the first World War indicated support for violent constitutional methods.

One month after John Redmond died in March 1918, Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) MPs withdrew from Westminster. The new IPP policy of abstention was due to what the IPP termed a “declaration of war” by the British state on Ireland, in attempting to impose conscription.

The IPP became converted, partially, to the Sinn Féin policy of pursuing constitutional methods in Ireland, a policy realised by the foundation of the first Dáil in January 1919. British refusal to accept this peaceful Irish democracy led to the 1919-21 War of Independence. That was a conflict in which far fewer died, on any side, than was the case during the first World War.

In comparison, the republican policy was a lot less violent than the path pursued by John Redmond. – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 6w.

A chara, – I agree with Stephen Collins’s view that President Michael D Higgins should have attended the John Redmond commemoration in National Gallery on Tuesday and the fact that this point was so clearly emphasised from the floor on the day (Opinion, March 8th).

However, I disagree with Mr Collins’s view, when he writes of “the enormous achievement of Redmond and his party in forcing the British, through political action, to accept the legitimacy of an Irish parliament . . .”

I prefer James Joyce’s contention, as I mentioned from the floor on the day, that the British never intended to grant home rule.

Joyce even dubbed Gladstone as a hypocrite on that score, realising that parliament would never grant it, given its make-up. He was even cynical after the Parliament Law was passed and home rule went on the statute book, so diverse was the government. When the Conservatives sided with the unionists, home rule was never a possibility. He deemed John Redmond a “foolish leader”, preferring Arthur Griffith’s self-reliance.

As Joyce had forecast in 1907, the price would be a partition. Joyce wrote “The Irish Parliamentary Party has gone broke . . . The representatives have enlarged their own lot . . . From the sons of average citizens, traders, and legal representatives without clients they have become well-paid syndics, managers of factories and commercial houses, newspapers owners”.

Joyce called for an insurrection, writing that “though the Irish are articulate, an insurrection is not made of human breath and negotiations. But telling these Irish actors to hurry up is hopeless. I for one am certain not to see that curtain rise, as I shall have already taken the last tram home”.


Sandymount, Dublin 4.

A chara, – Revisiting accounts of attempts to introduce Home Rule in Ireland in 1918, it is interesting to recall that John Redmond achieved some measure of accommodation and understanding with Britain to this long-held aspiration, but found the stumbling block to be the unionists in Belfast. They feared subjugation to Gaelic language and culture.

As history reveals, while nationalists and unionists battled on arriving at an agreed Home Rule settlement, Redmond’s acquiescence to the partitioning of six counties as a “temporary exclusion” was ultimately trumped by unionist demands for a “permanent exclusion” which was agreed and set in stone three years later.

One hundred years on and that’s where we still are.

As we await a return to the re-implementation of the Belfast Agreement and the re-establishment of the power-sharing institutions at Stormont, amid “roadblocks” over language primarily, little has changed from a century ago.

Have we not evolved and modernised as people in the interim to be able to take this a step or two further? – Yours, etc,