Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and Northern Ireland Is Created Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

After decades of discussion, the British parliament passed legislation granting home rule to Ireland in the form of two separate parliaments that would govern domestic concerns.

Summary of Event

The duration of British influence in Ireland can be measured in centuries. Anglo-Norman aristocrats settled in Ireland among the native Celts in the twelfth century, and Protestants from England and Scotland were given lands there by British monarchs in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was not until 1800, however, that Ireland was fully integrated into the political system of the United Kingdom. Prior to that date, Ireland had its own parliament, although that body was often subject to the influence and control of the British authorities. The Act of Union in 1800 abolished the Irish parliament, leaving a single Parliament for the entire United Kingdom. Northern Ireland, creation Ireland;home rule Home rule, Ireland Government of Ireland Act (1920) [kw]Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and Northern Ireland Is Created (1920-1921) [kw]Home Rule and Northern Ireland Is Created, Ireland Is Granted (1920-1921) [kw]Northern Ireland Is Created, Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and (1920-1921) [kw]Ireland Is Created, Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and Northern (1920-1921) Northern Ireland, creation Ireland;home rule Home rule, Ireland Government of Ireland Act (1920) [g]England;1920-1921: Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and Northern Ireland Is Created[04970] [g]Ireland;1920-1921: Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and Northern Ireland Is Created[04970] [c]Government and politics;1920-1921: Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and Northern Ireland Is Created[04970] [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;1920-1921: Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and Northern Ireland Is Created[04970] [c]Independence movements;1920-1921: Ireland Is Granted Home Rule and Northern Ireland Is Created[04970] Lloyd George, David Craig, James Carson, Sir Edward De Valera, Eamon Law, Bonar

Many in Ireland were dissatisfied with the union. Some wanted full independence, and this led to rebellions such as the nationalist Fenian movement of the 1860’s. Other Irish people were willing to remain within the United Kingdom but wanted some sort of home rule, with a restored parliament in Dublin, for domestic matters. The most famous home rule advocate was Charles Stewart Parnell, Parnell, Charles Stewart an aristocratic Protestant landlord whose supporters were, paradoxically, mostly Catholic farmers and shopkeepers.





The religious dimension is significant in any discussion of Ireland. Approximately three-quarters of the population at that time was Catholic, but the Protestant minority was concentrated in the north, in the province of Ulster, where they formed the majority. Home rule tended to be more popular among Irish Catholics than among Irish Protestants: Many of the latter feared that home rule would become Rome rule. There were other issues—Ulster was more industrialized than the agricultural South, and the majority in Ulster were descendants of Scottish and English immigrants—but religion was at the core.

Britain’s Liberal Party twice introduced home rule legislation in the late nineteenth century. It failed to pass both houses of Parliament, and so did not become law. After the second defeat, the movement for home rule waned. As a result of a parliamentary deadlock in 1910 between the two major political parties, Liberal and Conservative, the issue of home rule returned. The Irish party supported the Liberals in exchange for Liberal backing for a new home rule bill. The third home rule bill was introduced in 1912, and as a result of legislation limiting the power of the House of Lords, the bill appeared destined to become law in 1914. Parnell’s dream was about to be realized.

Many in Protestant Ulster, however, demanded that the union be maintained. After the bill was introduced, almost one-half million people in Ulster signed a Solemn League and Covenant against any home rule. A militia, the Ulster Volunteers, Ulster Volunteers was created to fight the British government if necessary in order to stay within the United Kingdom. Weapons were smuggled into Ulster. Some British military officers sympathized with the Ulster position, as did many Conservative politicians, including Conservative leader Bonar Law and fellow Conservative Sir Edward Carson, who accepted the leadership of the Ulster resistance. In the South, reacting to the events in Ulster, supporters of home rule formed their own groups of volunteers to fight for the British government and for home rule. By the summer of 1914, it seemed that civil war might erupt. The outbreak of World War I in August, however, pushed the question of home rule into the background. Home rule legislation was passed in 1914, but it would not take effect until the war was over. The contentious issue of Ulster’s relationship to home rule was left unresolved.

Most Irish, Catholics and Protestants alike, loyally supported Britain in the war against Germany. As the war dragged on and actual home rule remained in the future, the Irish home rule party began to lose influence. A violent uprising against British rule occurred on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. Easter Rebellion (1916) A group of several hundred, inspired by earlier rebellions and committed to an independent republic, not home rule, occupied key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The rebellion lasted less than a week, but hundreds died and much of central Dublin was destroyed. The rebels had little support, either during or after what became known as the Easter Rising, until the leaders were executed by the military authorities sent to restore order. As the list of martyrs lengthened, public opinion turned in favor of the rebels.

In a series of elections in 1917 and 1918, the Irish home rule party was regularly defeated by a new bloc founded by Arthur Griffith Griffith, Arthur that became known as Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin meaning “we ourselves” or “ourselves alone.” Sinn Féin demanded not home rule but independence and identified itself with the Easter uprising. The most prominent of its members was Eamon de Valera, one of the leaders in 1916. The movement was not just political. The secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood, Irish Republican Brotherhood which led the 1916 rebels, believed that force would be necessary to get rid of the British.

In December, 1918, at the end of World War I, a general election was held throughout the United Kingdom, including Ireland. In Ireland outside Ulster, Sinn Féin candidates swept away the old Irish home rule party, winning almost all the parliamentary elections. The victorious candidates, however, refused to take their seats in Parliament. Instead, they formed their own parliament, the Dáil Éireann, Dáil Éireann in Dublin. It was outlawed by the British and could do little but issue proclamations and send delegations to the peace conference at Versailles and to sympathetic countries, particularly the United States, with its large Irish community. Behind the Dáil and its politicians was the military wing of Sinn Féin, which became known as the Irish Republican Army Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The wartime coalition government was headed by David Lloyd George, a Liberal, but was dominated by Conservatives strongly opposed to home rule, much less an independent republic of Ireland. Before becoming prime minister, Lloyd George had unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate an Irish settlement after the 1916 rebellion. As prime minister, in 1917 he urged the Irish to settle their own disputes. Sinn Féin refused to participate, and the unionists were obstructive. Lloyd George was sympathetic to home rule but more interested in preserving the unity of the United Kingdom. He moved cautiously to solve the Irish problem.

In 1919, the Conservatives still supported the Ulster unionist position but with less vehemence than before: As the dominant party in the coalition government, they needed Ulster less. James Craig, a decisive but less abrasive politician than Carson, had taken over Ulster’s defense. Craig’s position was improved because the old home rule party had been replaced by the Sinn Féin republicans, who were unwilling or unable to negotiate with the British enemy. Some were in prison or in hiding, such as de Valera, who had been incarcerated in an English jail until his escape in February, 1919. In June, de Valera left for the United States to garner support. He did not return until December, 1920, a crucial period for Anglo-Irish relations.

In October, 1919, a British cabinet committee began to draft a bill to be submitted to Parliament. The assumption was that Ulster had to be treated separately from the rest of Ireland. Some suggested that each of Ireland’s thirty-two counties decide by popular vote whether to accept home rule, but that proposal had no support within the cabinet. A decision was made to establish two home rule parliaments, one for Ulster and one for the rest of Ireland. This surprised the Ulster unionists: They had opposed any home rule parliament, and now they were being asked to have their own. They accepted what they initially did not want, concluding that having their own home rule parliament would in the long run protect them from the vagaries of future British governments that might give their rights away to the southern majority. Most members of the cabinet wished to include all nine Ulster counties in Northern Ireland. Craig was opposed to this; he demanded only six. If the other three with their large Catholic majorities were included, he argued, in time a Catholic nationalist majority might emerge, willing to unite North and South. Even though only four of the six had Protestant majorities, Craig argued that those four counties would form too small a political unit and would not be viable. Ultimately, the cabinet bowed to Craig’s demand for the six counties. The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 easily passed through Parliament and went into effect on May 3, 1921. Ireland had been partitioned, and Northern Ireland had come into existence with its own home rule parliament.


The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 did not settle the Irish difficulties. The creation of Northern Ireland, which was two-thirds Protestant and in favor of the union with Britain, seemed to satisfy the majority in that province. In the rest of Ireland, however, troubles continued. Sinn Féin and the IRA refused to accept the act, which created a second home rule parliament, in Dublin. Their goal was complete independence. The violence that had broken out in 1919 was bloody and brutal. The IRA resorted to guerrilla tactics. To fight against the IRA, the British government enlisted former soldiers. Given makeshift uniforms, they became known as the “Black and Tans.” Violence from one side led to reprisals by the other, resulting in incidents that went beyond the rules of war. On November 21, 1920, twelve British officers, members of a counterterrorist squad, were shot dead in Dublin. Later that same day, in retaliation, twelve civilians were killed at a football match. Civilian casualties in the first six months of 1921 numbered more than seven hundred dead and almost eight hundred injured, some by the British, some by the IRA.

By early 1921, the British government began to get the upper hand, but at considerable cost and with much criticism. On June 22, 1921, King George V, at the formal opening of the parliament of Northern Ireland, and with the support of Lloyd George, appealed for peace. Lloyd George followed up with a letter to de Valera, who responded in turn. On July 11, 1921, a truce was declared. Formal negotiations began in London in October.

The crucial issues were the relation of Ireland to the United Kingdom and of Ulster to Ireland. After hard negotiations, a treaty was agreed to on December 6, 1921. Dominion status was accepted by twenty-six southern counties, which would be known as the Irish Free State. Irish Free State;creation The other six counties formed Northern Ireland. Lloyd George misleadingly intimated that a boundary commission would probably award enough of the territory of Northern Ireland to the Irish Free State to make the north untenable, thus leading to a unified Ireland. De Valera, however, opposed the treaty from Dublin, arguing for an external association with Great Britain instead of dominion status. Amid great controversy, the Dáil approved the treaty in January by the narrow margin of sixty-four votes to fifty-seven. De Valera resigned and Griffith took his place.

The result was civil war. The IRA split between pro- and antitreaty factions. In six months, the Irish Free State government executed seventy-seven antitreaty republicans, more than three times the number executed by the British government in two and one-half years. Griffith died of a heart attack in 1922, and in August of that year, Michael Collins, a major figure of resistance to British rule, was killed in an antitreaty ambush. De Valera was arrested by the Free State authorities and remained in jail for a year. In Northern Ireland, the police were given extensive powers to deal with the continuing violence. A special bill was passed giving the authorities almost unlimited powers. The worst casualty of the civil war was the cause of a united Ireland: The violence between the pro- and antitreaty groups in the Free State confirmed to the majority in Northern Ireland that the South could not be trusted. A partial peace came to the Free State with the defeat of most of the antitreaty forces during 1923. By then, the Protestant unionist majority in Northern Ireland was in control of the province at the expense of the Catholics and Irish nationalists. In the South, Protestants faced less overt discrimination, but the bitterness over the treaty continued to divide Irish nationalists for decades to come. Northern Ireland, creation Ireland;home rule Home rule, Ireland Government of Ireland Act (1920)

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Buckland, Patrick. A History of Northern Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1981. Excellent short volume provides more than a history of Northern Ireland. Presents material concerning the rest of Ireland and background to continuing Irish conflicts. Includes select bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Coogan, Tim Pat. Eamon de Valera: The Man Who Was Ireland. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. Comprehensive biography places de Valera in the context of his times. Includes bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Ireland in the Twentieth Century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. History of twentieth century Ireland by a respected historian and biographer examines events, attitudes, and cultures. Includes bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Michael Collins: A Biography. London: Hutchinson University Library, 1990. Biography of a de Valera ally who differed with him over the 1921 treaty. Argues that Collins was more pragmatic than de Valera and that Collins’s death was a tragedy for Ireland. Includes bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kee, Robert. Ourselves Alone. 1972. Reprint. London: Penguin Books, 1989. Last book in a three-volume series titled “The Green Flag” begins coverage in 1916 and continues through the civil war of 1922-1923. Keeps an impartial tone in portraying the controversial events of those difficult years. Includes bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Laffan, Michael. The Partition of Ireland, 1911-1925. Dundalk, Ireland: Dundalgan Press, 1983. Brief volume intended for students and teachers of history, sponsored by the Dublin Historical Association. Provides an excellent introduction to the formation of Northern Ireland. Includes brief bibliography and extensive footnotes.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Longford, Frank Pakenham, and Thomas P. O’Neill. Eamon de Valera. London: Hutchinson, 1970. Readable biography of the key southern Irish figure was published before de Valera’s death and is not overly critical. Includes photographs, bibliography, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rowland, Peter. David Lloyd George: A Biography. New York: Macmillan, 1976. Excellent biography of the most important British statesman during the crucial years after World War I. Provides good coverage of the Irish imbroglio. Includes bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stewart, A. T. Q. Edward Carson. 1981. Reprint. Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1997. Brief biography of a major anti-home rule politician offers a sympathetic portrayal of Carson as pro-United Kingdom but not anti-Irish. Provides an excellent introduction to an important personage.

Sinn Féin Is Founded

Parliament Act Redefines British Democracy

Irish Home Rule Bill

Easter Rebellion

Categories: History