History Pt.2. Home Rule [182]



The subject of Home Rule, which, due to its non-implementation, resulted in the 1916 Uprising, is a very complex subject.  This basic outline does not nor cannot address these complexities in any detail but rather links the names and events pictured on postage stamps..

In the late 1880’s,Charles Stewart Parnell (Figure 1) was the leading proponent for autonomy within the United Kingdom for Ireland, which was, in essence, governed by London, often with limited knowledge of actual conditions.  This “Home Rule” was to address local problems within the Province rather than accept the delay and often well-meaning but unworkable legislation from London.

This concept was opposed by those located mainly in Ulster, primarily the wealthy Protestants who feared a Catholic majority rule.  In reality, it threatened their economic monopoly.  To defend their interests, a quasi-political force, the Ulster Volunteers, was established in 1912 under Edward Carson’s leadership.(Figure 2)  This un-armed para-military  unit was to augment the existing Royal Irish Constabulary in “maintaining order”.  Insofar as the linen mills and shipyards of the North were controlled by the Protestants, this was a direct challenge to trade unions and those who sought social change.  

The Ulster Volunteers formation was countered in the South in 1913 by the establishment of the The Irish Volunteers, a similar para-military unit under Eoin MacNeill and John Redmond whose aim was to ensure that the Home Rule Bill was passed. A combinations of various factions: the Sinn Fein party, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, among others, supported the Bill.  Figure 3 shows the protagonists, Carson and Redmond. The Home Rule Act was passed in Parliament, but with the “temporary” exclusion of the six counties of Ulster that would eventually become Northern Ireland. Before the it could be implemented, however, the Act was suspended for the duration of the First World War.

At this point, neither group was armed.  The Ulster unit covertly received 1,000 rifles from British sources. The Volunteers reciprocated by obtaining arms from Germany, but in the process, Sir Roger Casement was captured, tried for treason, and hanged in London.(Figure 4).

Conditions were further exacerbated by a general lockout by employers in August 1913. Over 24,000 people were locked out. The labor unions, led by Jim Larkin (Figure 5) of the Transport & General Workers Union lead one of the longest and economically devastating labor disputes in Irish history.  It ended in May 1914, and neither side won.

Due to support for the British war position by John Redmond, head of the Volunteers, the Irish Volunteers split into two groups. The majority, approximately 175,000 in number, under Redmond,  took the name National Volunteers and supported Irish involvement in the war as the top priority. Figure 6 is a political cartoon of Redmond encouraging men to “… join an Irish regiment.”  A minority, approximately 13,000, retained the Irish Volunteers’ title, and opposed Ireland’s involvement in the war under John O’Rahilly (The O’Rahilly), Patrick Pearse, and others whose names would become famous during the Easter Rising. (Figures 7-10)


Wikipedia, https://EN.wikipedia.com/wiki/Ireland#partition reviewed 15 July 2019
Hibernian Handbook and Catalog of the Postage Stamps of Ireland, Hamilton-Bowen, Roy, 2014.
Dulin, Dr. C.I., Ireland – Transition, The Postal History of the Transitional Period 1922-1925, MacDonnell-Whyte Ltd, Dublin, 1992.
Moody, T.W. & Martin, F.X., The Course of Irish History, 4th ed., Roberts Rinehart, Lantham, Md., 2001.
Irish Philatelic Bureau, “The Collector”, 1/16,2/16.