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By 1914, who had the greater success, Irish Nationalists or Ulster Unionists?

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Introduction

By 1914, who had the greater success, Irish Nationalists or Ulster Unionists? The question of the division of Ireland between the predominantly Protestant North and the Catholic South is a long-standing, deep seated and highly complex issue which still continues to be controversial to this day. There have been many attempts to resolve the problems in order to restore peace to this small island, however none have been found. The Irish Nationalists and the Ulster Unionists both had powerful reasons for fighting their own cause, and both sides claimed small victories towards their ultimate goal over the years but 1914 was a year when the balance could have been tipped one way or the other if it had not been for the advent of World War I. The northern part of Ireland had, by the 16th century, become populated by a large number of Presbyterian Protestants, from Scotland who had a hatred of Popery and Catholicism. The whole of Ireland was, and had been since the 12th Century, part of the British Empire, and therefore expected to be loyal to the British King, who was also the Head of the Anglican Church. Ireland was also predominantly ruled and owned by wealthy Protestant landowners. The vast majority of Irish people were Roman Catholic and the British government was highly suspicious of their connection and possible preferred loyalty to Rome. ...read more.

Middle

Their aims were the same, an improvement of the standard of living and an end to the Act of Union, but they dreamed of total Independence for Ireland. Historically, the British government had responded to violent threat in the past, so the Fenians adopted a new, hostile approach, in order to get the attention of the government and be listened to. This was the first time that Irish violence reached English shores, deaths of both police and civilians in Manchester and London the consequence. As a result of the great famine, many farmers turned away from agriculture and took up sheep farming. Many people who had lived on the land were evicted, and roamed, starving around the country looking for work. Once the tenants were evicted, wealthier people took over and paid higher rents. The Land League started as a protest against these evictions. Its first president was Charles Stuart Parnell, accepting the presidency on the condition that the protests of the Land League should be above all, peaceful. He advocated shunning the new tenants of the farms from which people had been evicted, this became known as boycotting. The Land League became increasingly violent, as peaceful methods failed to produce results, and atrocities were committed in their name. Ireland was by this time, close to anarchy. Parnell was by now, the Irish leader in Westminster and made Home Rule the main policy of the party. ...read more.

Conclusion

By 1914, Ireland was firmly split into two camps, the nationalist Irish Volunteers and the unionist Ulster Volunteer Force. The situation became so tense that Asquith had to act quickly to diffuse the situation. He proposed that the North would remain part of the United Kingdom, and the South would be granted Home Rule. Both sides reluctantly agreed to this compromise. With the imminent threat of World War I in July 1914, it was further agreed to suspend Home Rule until the war was over, which was confidently predicted to be by Christmas of that year. History now reveals how this was far from reality, and once again, the Nationalists, seemingly so close to achieving the goal of Home Rule that they had fought so long and hard to attain, were once again defeated. Throughout the majority of the 19th Century, the Nationalists seemed to have the upper hand in grabbing the political attention, and forcing successive Home Rule bills to be heard in parliament. The large number of Irish Nationalist MPs always meant that the government of the day needed their political support. However, despite this, and although they came very close to achieving their aim in 1914, they were never able to fulfil their ardent wish for Home Rule or Independence. The Union, both political and commercial between Ulster and Britain was too strong a bond to be broken, and ultimately, the Ulster Unionists held onto their links with Britain, and therefore achieved the greatest level of success. Helen Herzberg Page 1 13/1/03 ...read more.

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