Home Rule party

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The Home Rule Party, was a political party which campaigned for Home Rule and a number of other political aspirations for the island of Ireland from 1873 to 1882, when it was replaced by the Irish Parliamentary Party. Despite this official renaming, the party was popularly known as the Home Rule party for its entire existence both by politicians and the electorate.


The Home Rule League grew out of the Home Government Association, a pressure group formed in 1870 and led by Isaac Butt, a Dublin Barrister who had once been a leading Irish Conservative before becoming a convert to Irish nationalism. Isaac was a relatively weak leader, who allowed his party members unprecedented freedom to work independently and ignore the party line. On 18 November-21 November 1873, the loose association re-constituted itself as a full political party, the Home Rule League, and in the 1874 general election, it won 59 seats. In that period however it was not a political party in a cohesive sense but a loose alliance of home rule-leaning Irish politicians. Because of this the party rapidly became divided, between the less committed members of Parliament, many of whom were from an Irish aristocratic or gentry Church of Ireland background and other more radical members who gathered around Cavan MP Joseph Biggar and Meath MP Charles Parnell. This radical wing of the party famously decided to launch parliamentary filibusters to obstruct the passage of Parliamentary business, to the embarrassment of Butt and frustration of successive British governments. This parliamentary tactic was commonly called obstructionism and generally focused on talking at length about issues such as the importance of changing pub closing times by ten minutes more or ten minutes less.

Reform of the Party under Parnell

See here for the full article of the Irish parliamentary Party

Following Butt's death in 1879, William Shaw served as chairman for one parliamentary session. In 1880, the radical Parnell was elected chairman of the party, and in 1881 elections the party increased its number of seats. In 1882, as part of a wholescale move from being an informal rather amateurish alliance to a cohesive unified, whipped political movement Parnell renamed it the Irish Parliamentary Party. The party under Parnell, himself a Protestant, became more radical, middle class, and Catholic. It largely, though not completely squeezed out other political rivals, notably the Irish Liberal Party and the Irish Conservative Party.

Parnell also ordered his members to sign the Party pledge, and this ensured Parnell had almost full control of voting actions of his parliamentary colleagues within the party. Before this the parliamentarians in the Home Rule party were weak and divided over many issues.

Chairmen (leaders) of the Party, 1873-1882

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