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How serious was the crisis in Ireland between 1909 and 1914?

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Introduction

How serious was the crisis in Ireland? (1909 - 1914) During the period of 1906 - 14 Britain witnessed a climate of social unrest and political bewilderment. A number of radical movements such as 'suffragism' and 'trade unionism' had undermined the disillusioned Liberal government in their attempt to push for reform. In spite of this, the crisis in Ireland had arguably posed the biggest threat. As recalled by Cate Brett "more important than votes for women and labour unrest was the vexed issue of Ireland and the controversy over Home Rule." The failed attempt to install the Home Rule Bill in 1886, which had the unfortunate effect of splitting the Liberal party, had repeatedly surfaced to cause further political segregation throughout the 1880s. It was unfortunate though that Asquith together with the Liberal party had the unenviable task of finding a solution to the re-emerged issue during the administrative period of 1909-1916. In order to counter the problem Asquith employed the use of somewhat impractical 'wait and see' approach. Nevertheless the tactic seemed logical. On one hand Asquith could not afford to lose the support of the Irish Nationalists. However it was impossible for Asquith to follow Gladstone's course due to the conservative opposition. The Conservatives were determined to preserve the ties with Ulster as a result of their stance in relation to imperialism. Subsequently Asquith was not in a position to give direct orders due to the awkward nature of the crisis and the various aspects of the erratic political climate. ...read more.

Middle

As part of the process of opposing the Home Rule Bill Sir Edward Carson, leader of the Irish Unionist Parliamentary Party, and James Craig, leader of the Ulster Unionists, were prepared to raise the political temperature in Ireland. Apart from organised mass meetings and demonstrations such as the ceremonial signing of the 'Ulster Covenant', according to Watts, "more militant steps were taken to form an army force, the UVF." Judging by Carson's course of action, it can be said that the Ulster Unionists were prepared to sanction armed resistance in order to bring the dispute to the brink of a civil conflict. Subsequently in January 1913 an Ulster paramilitary organisation was formed. The organisation was highly organised and increasingly popular in Ulster. In retaliation to this, the Irish set up the Irish Volunteers and the Sinn Fein, which was a more radical alternative. More importantly, despite the ban on importing arms both paramilitary organisations had gradual obtained viable supplies of weapons. Although both organisations had the possession of small arsenals by contrast it was the UVF gunrunning as argued by Peaple that "provoked deep resentment amongst Nationalists." On the 25th April 1914 the UVF had successfully completed a transaction of weapons during which, as Kee explains, "the police and the military were physically prevented from interfering." In comparison the Nationalists attempt to seize a deal in July 1914 had met some difficulties, which as renounced by Peaple "infuriated the Nationalists and weakened the government." ...read more.

Conclusion

As a result of this, in 1916 the Easter rebellion was launched, in which strategic points in Dublin, including the general post office, were seized. Overall the uprising was considered to be a failure as it was immediately suppressed by British troops. Nevertheless, as argued by Watt "the uprising had many repercussions... the issue of Home Rule was once again given the full attention." The increase in the support for Sinn Fein and the IRA as a result of the uprising was an added problem. Watt maintains that Lloyd George tried to get Ulster to agree to the Home Rule scheme "thus detaching Home Rulers from Sinn Fein." In general this added further pressure to the hectic situation. The Conservatives refused to accept the scheme and therefore as Watt argues "the last chance of settling the Irish problem was peacefully lost." In conclusion the crisis over Ireland in the period of 1909-1912 was, according to Foster "a tactic that left the government vulnerable", but as argued by many historians, Asquith's 'wait and see' strategy worsened the situation. Consequently, it can be argued that Asquith's weak leadership and inability to make a firm decision almost resulted in civil war and this disastrous event was probably only avoided due to even more worrying happenings on the continent. Moreover, the constitutional problem clearly highlighted the Liberal government's weakness, which as highlighted by Daingerfield "had no real answer to the various problems". Daingerfield continues by insisting that, "when faced with a pattern of violence...Liberalism was incapable of a decision." History British Politics M Norejko 1 ...read more.

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