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Irish Parliamentary Party

From Academic Kids

In 1882 Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Nationalist Party, formed the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), replacing the Home Rule League, as a parliamentary party with strict rules. Each member was required to swear an oath to sit, act and vote with the party, one of the first instances of a whip in western politics. The members were also given a salary from party funds, long before other MPs, which helped both to increase parliamentary turnout and to enable middle-class members such as William O'Brien or D.D. Sheehan to be elected. It was instrumental in laying the groundwork for Irish self-government.

Following Parnell's fall in 1891, it split into Parnellite and anti-Parnellite wings, but reunited in 1900 under the leadership of John Redmond and his deputy John Dillon. Around this time many notable Acts of social legislation were pressed for and passed in Ireland's interest:
a Local Government Act (1898), a Town Tenant's Act, Housing of the Working Class Act, Department of Agriculture Act, Technical Instructers Act, a New University Act (1908), three Land Acts (1903, 1906, 1909) - contributing greatly to the solution of the contentious land question, an Evicted Tenants Act and an Old Age Pensions Act.

In particular the Local Government Act abolished the old landlord-dominated Grand Juries and replaced them by forty-nine county, urban and rural district councils, managed by Irish people for the administration of local affairs. The councils were very popular in Ireland as they established a political class, who showed themselves capable of running Irish affairs. It also stimulated the desire to attain Home Rule and to manage affairs on a national level. A consequence of this was that the councils were largely dominated by the IPP, which eventually led to cronyism.

Following the December 1910 general election and the passing of the Parliament Act limiting the veto power of the Lords, the party subsequently achieved Home Rule, which promised national self-government under the Third Home Rule Act 1914, although the provision for the partition of Ireland into North and South was deeply unpopular (and remains so).

The outbreak of World War I led to its suspension for the duration of the war. This was to prove crucial to subsequent Irish history. Most of Redmond's Irish National Volunteers, established to help enforce the Home Rule Act, responded to his call that in order to ensure that Home Rule would be implemented, they should support Britain's war effort and its committment under the Triple Entente as well as the Allied cause of maintaining a Europe free from German domination, by joining the Irish divisions of the British Army. Unlike their unionist counterparts in the Ulster Volunteer Force, they were not permitted to have their own officers and were given English commanders.

The 1916 Easter Rising and the British reaction to it, radicalised Irish politics to such an extent that the IPP lost almost all of their seats in the 1918 general election to the more militant Sinn Féin, and was dissolved. Many IPP members went on to join the pro-Treaty Cumann na nGaedheal in the 1920's.


The greatest achievement of the IPP was the introduction to Irish society of parliamentary tradition and all that went with it -- a fully up and running local government administration with its diverse institutions, which had rooted itself more deeply than anyone could imagine into the life of the country. The party had above all prior to 1914 contributed in its prime to the political maturity of the nation and to the transformation of its society.

This in turn paved the way for the creation of the Irish Free State, in which Dáil Eireann had scarcely started to function before, almost unconsciously , it began to utilise and to build upon the constitutional tradition it had inherited. This is perhaps the highest tribute that can deservedly be bestowed upon the old Irish Parliamentary Party, which during fifty years of hard and exacting as well as frustrating parliamentary labours, established and fostered the development of representative institutions which gave stimulus to democratic action and discussion at every level of political envolvement.

Leaders of the Irish Parliamentary Party, 1882-1918


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