I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Thing That Never Was

The Thing That Never Was

Frank Callanan
This essay is a revised version of a paper given in Waterford on April 11th, 2012 to mark the centenary of the introduction of the Third Home Rule bill. In the second chapter of Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus is teaching a class of bored and restive boys in a Protestant private school in Dalkey in June 1904. He muses: For them too history was a tale like any other too often heard, their land a pawnshop. Had Pyrrhus not fallen by a beldam’s hand in Argos or Julius Caesar not been knifed to death? They are not to be thought away. Time has branded them and fettered they are lodged in the room of the infinite possibilities they have ousted. But can those have been possible seeing that they never were? Or was that only possible which came to pass? Weave, weaver of the wind. Weaving in ancient Irish tradition is connected with the art of prophecy. Political events often do not turn out in the way that contemporaries anticipate. There are few events that so spectacularly exemplify this as the introduction of the third Home Rule bill in the House of Commons on April 11th, 1912. In the voluminous annals of the “ousted possibilities” of modern Irish politics, the third Home Rule bill has a strong claim to pre-eminence. The controversies that what became the Home Rule act and its successor legislation set in train are with us still a hundred years later, all the time subtly inflecting our perceptions of those controversies, the lines of which were at the time of unprecedented vehemence, fixity and rootedness. For Irish nationalists, the bill’s introduction by the Liberal prime minister Herbert Henry Asquith represented the long overdue fulfilment of the commitment to Home Rule wrung from Gladstone by Parnell . That issued in the first Home Rule bill of 1886, defeated in the House of Commons. The second Home Rule bill, introduced by Gladstone in 1893, after Parnell’s death, was lost in the House of Lords. There followed a succession of Conservative governments until the Liberal landslide of 1906. A constitutional crisis followed the rejection by the House of Lords of David Lloyd George’s “people’s budget” in November 1909. The Liberals dissolved parliament and the first election of 1910, in January, saw the return of a Liberal government dependent on the support of Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party. Determined to ensure that the issue…



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