Leading Irish historian Professor Ronan Fanning has demolished former Irish leader John Bruton’s claim that the 1914 Home Rule bill deserves to be remembered more than the Easter Rising of 1916. He was writing in the Irish Times.
Fanning, who wrote the definitive book on the subject “Fatal Path, British Government and Irish Revolution” noted that Bruton’s call was “the propagation of a bland, bloodless, bowdlerized and inaccurate hybrid of history which, if carried to extremes, is more likely to provoke political outrage than to command intellectual respect, let alone consensus."
Fanning says the bill was passed to keep John Redmond’s Irish party on the side of the Liberal Party government because they held the balance of power, but the Liberals never intended to enact it into law.
Fanning noted that “John Bruton’s clarion call represents ..an extreme because it flies in the face of two historical realities about the third Home Rule Bill. The first is that the Bill was always an exercise in hypocrisy. Asquith’s government never intended that it should be enacted in the form in which it was introduced.”
Fanning also stated that the two year suspension was to allow the unionists time to arm and resist, that the British government was perfectly aware they would do so and would then allow them an out.
That language is contained in the bill, Fanning says, quoting it “if, in the light of such evidence or indication of public opinion, it becomes clear as the Bill proceeds that some special treatment must be provided for the Ulster counties, the government will be ready to recognize that necessity.”
Fanning concludes that the Home Rule Act “disguised but could never reverse the British government’s commitment to the principle that Ulster’s unionists had rights of self-determination comparable to Ireland’s nationalists.”
“Mr Bruton, in short, is calling for the commemoration of a settlement that never was: the 1914 Act was a fudged compromise that could never have been implemented as it was enacted,” Fanning concludes.