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Home Uncategorized The Road to Partition

The Road to Partition

Frank Callanan
Fatal Path: British Government and Irish Revolution 1910-22, by Ronan Fanning, Faber & Faber, 448 pp, £16.99, ISBN: 978-0571297399 Ronan Fanning has contrived to write a fresh and sparkling narrative of the course of Irish history from the Irish party gaining the balance of power at the election of January 1910, and retaining it in December 1910 to the establishment of the Northern Ireland and southern Irish states. This is no mean feat. The high politics of the “Irish question” in this period is fairly well-trodden ground, in general or thematic works, and occupies daunting chunks of the biographies of the main players. While the end dates vary, the focus strikingly tends to narrow to the extraordinary thirteen-year period Fanning chooses. This saw the long-deferred prospect of the attainment of home rule with the enactment of the Parliament Act in August 1911 and the introduction of the third home rule bill in April 1912 (just over a quarter-century after Gladstone introduced the first) turn to ashes, and the turmoil that ensued in nationalist politics, leading to the foundation of the Free State in 1922 after the establishment of the Northern Ireland state by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The two-state outcome was engendered in circumstances of extraordinary political drama: the seemingly imminent triumph of the Irish parliamentary party under John Redmond’s leadership, to which nationalist Ireland prematurely adjusted its expectations; the emergence of a grimly formidable leader of Irish unionism in the person of Edward Carson in February 1910, coupled with the election of an implacably resolute defender of Ulster, Andrew Bonar Law, as leader of the Conservative party in the following year; the rise of marshalled resistance to home rule in Ulster abetted by the leadership of the Conservative party; the convulsive political crisis that ensued in British as well as Irish politics; the outbreak of the Great War, followed by the enactment of a suspended third home rule bill in September 1914; the 1916 rising; the death of Redmond in March 1918; Sinn Féin’s defeat of the Irish party at the general election of December 1918; the first meeting of Dáil Éireann on January 21st, 1919, with on the same day the killing of two policeman in an ambush at Soloheadbeg in Tipperary that marked the inception of the War of Independence; the enlistment of British recruits in the Royal Irish Constabulary (the “black and tans”); “Bloody…

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