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John Redmond

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John Redmond

John Edward Redmond
Irish Parliamentary Party Leader
In office
1 February 1900 – 6 March 1918
Preceded by Charles Stewart Parnell
Succeeded by John Dillon
Member of Parliament
for New Ross
In office
Preceded by Joseph William Foley
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for North Wexford
In office
Preceded by New Constituency
Succeeded by Thomas Joseph Healy
Member of Parliament
for Waterford City
In office
Preceded by Richard Power
Succeeded by William Redmond
Personal details
Born (1856-09-01)1 September 1856
Kilrane, County Wexford, Ireland
Died 6 March 1918(1918-03-06) (aged 61)
London, England
Nationality Irish
Political party Irish Parliamentary Party
Spouse(s) Johanna Dalton (d.1889)
Ada Beesley
Children 3
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin
Profession Barrister
Religion Roman Catholicism

John Edward Redmond (1 September 1856 – 6 March 1918) was an Irish nationalist politician, barrister, MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 to 1918. He was a moderate, constitutional and conciliatory politician who achieved the twin dominant objectives of his political life, party unity and finally in September 1914, the prospect of Irish Home Rule under an Act which granted an interim form of self-government to Ireland. However, implementation of the Act was suspended by the intervention of World War I, and ultimately made untenable after the Conscription Crisis of 1918.

He was the elder brother of Willie Redmond and father of William Archer Redmond, both of whom were to serve as MPs in his party.


  • Family influences and background 1
  • Education and early career 2
  • Political profession and marriage 3
  • Leader of the Parnellite party 4
  • Home Rule and the Liberals 5
  • Home rule enacted 6
  • European conflict intervenes 7
  • Nationalists split 8
  • Easter Rising and aftermath 9
  • Defeat and death 10
  • Party's demise 11
  • Legacy and personal vision 12
  • Notes 13
  • Further reading 14
  • External links 15

Family influences and background

John Edward Redmond (the younger) was born at Ballytrent House, Kilrane, County Wexford, his grandfather's old family mansion. He was the eldest son of William Archer Redmond, MP by Mary, daughter of General Hoey, the brother of Francis Hoey, heir of the Hoey seat, Dunganstown Castle, County Wicklow.

For over seven hundred years the Redmonds had been a prominent Catholic gentry family in County Wexford and Wexford town.[1] They were one of the oldest Hiberno-Norman families, and had for a long time been known as the Redmonds of 'The Hall', which is now known as Loftus Hall. His more immediate family were a remarkable political dynasty themselves. Redmond's grand uncle, John Edward Redmond, was a prominent banker and businessman before entering Parliament as a member for Wexford constituency in 1859; his statue stands in Redmond Square, Wexford town. After his death in 1866, his nephew, William Archer Redmond, this John Redmond's father, was elected to the seat and soon emerged as a prominent supporter of Isaac Butt's new policy for home rule.[1] John Redmond was the brother of Willie Redmond, MP for Wexford and East Clare, and the father of William Redmond, whose wife was Bridget Redmond.

Redmond's family heritage was more complex than that of most of his nationalist political colleagues.[1] His mother came from a Protestant and unionist family; although she had converted to Catholicism on marriage, she never converted to nationalism. His uncle General John Patrick Redmond, who had inherited the family estate, was created CB for his role during the Indian mutiny; he disapproved of his nephew's involvement in agrarian agitation of the 1880s. John Redmond boasted of his family involvement in the 1798 Wexford Rebellion; a "Miss Redmond" had ridden in support of the rebels, a Father Redmond was hanged by the yeomanry, as was a maternal ancestor, William Kearney.[1]

Education and early career

As a student, young John exhibited the seriousness that many would soon come to associate with him. Educated by the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College, he was primarily interested in poetry and literature, played the lead in school theatricals and was regarded as the best speaker in the school's debating society. After finishing at Clongowes, Redmond attended Trinity College, Dublin to study law, but his father's ill health led him to abandon his studies before taking a degree. In 1876 he left to live with his father in London, acting as his assistant in Westminster, where he developed more fascination for politics than for law. He first came into contact with Michael Davitt on the occasion of a reception held in London to celebrate the release of the famous Fenian prisoner. As a clerk in the House of Commons he increasingly identified himself with the fortunes of Charles Stewart Parnell,[1] one of the founders of the Irish Land League and a noted 'obstructionist' in the Commons.

Political profession and marriage

Studio portrait of Mr and Mrs Redmond and (possibly) Johanna Redmond their daughter. Circa 1914.

Redmond first attended political meetings with Parnell in 1879. Upon his father's death later in 1880, he wrote to Parnell asking for adoption as the Nationalist Party (from 1882 the Irish Parliamentary Party) candidate in the by-election to fill the open seat, but was disappointed to learn that Parnell had already promised the next vacancy to his secretary Timothy Healy. Nevertheless, Redmond supported Healy as the nominee, and when another vacancy arose, this time in New Ross, he won election unopposed as the Parnellite candidate for the seat. On election (31 January 1881), he rushed to the House of Commons, made his maiden speech next day amid stormy scenes following the arrest of Michael Davitt, then a Land League leader, and was ejected from the Commons all on the same evening. He served as MP for New Ross from 1881 to 1885, for North Wexford from 1885 to 1891 and finally for Waterford City from 1891 until his death in 1918.

By the time of Redmond's election, the Land League conflict was by now at a turbulent stage. Early in 1882 he and his brother Willie were sent to Australia on a fund-raising mission[1] which was a success in both political and personal terms; in 1883 he and his brother married into the prosperous Irish-Australian Dalton family and became friends with James Dalton and whom he spent much of his time with. His marriage was short-lived but happy: his wife Johanna died early in 1889 after bearing him three children. He also travelled in 1884, 1886 and 1904 to America, where he was to use more extreme language but found his contact with Irish-American extremism daunting. His Australian experience, on the other hand, was to have a strong influence on his political outlook, causing him to embrace an Irish version of Liberal Imperialism and to remain anxious to retain Irish representation and Ireland's voice at Westminster[1] even after the implementation of home rule. During the debate which followed Gladstone's conversion to Home Rule in 1886, he declared:
"As a Nationalist, I do not regard as entirely palatable the idea that forever and a day Ireland's voice should be excluded from the councils of an empire which the genius and valour of her sons have done so much to build up and of which she is to remain".[2]

In 1899 Redmond married his second wife, Ada Beesley, an English Protestant who, after his death, converted to Catholicism.

Leader of the Parnellite party

Having belatedly become a barrister by completing his terms at the King's Inns, Dublin, being called to the Irish bar in 1887 (and to the English bar a year later), Redmond busied himself with agrarian cases during the Plan of Campaign. In 1888, following a strong and conceivably intimidatory speech, he received five weeks' imprisonment with hard labour. A loyal supporter of Parnell, Redmond like Davitt was deeply opposed to the use of physical force and was committed to political change by constitutional means,[3] campaigning constitutionally for Home Rule as an interim form of All-Ireland self-government within the United Kingdom.

John Redmond plaque, Redmond Square, base of the Redmond monument, Wexford

When the Irish Parliamentary Party split over Parnell's long-standing family relationship with O'Connell Street, choosing the American Augustus Saint Gaudens to sculpt the statue, which was eventually completed in 1911.[4]

The larger anti-Parnellite group formed the Irish National Federation (INF) under John Dillon. During this period, he supported the Unionist Irish Secretary Gerald Balfour programme of Constructive Unionism, while assuring the Tory Government that its self-declared policy of "killing Home Rule with kindness" would not achieve its objective. Redmond dropped all interest in agrarian radicalism and, unlike the mainstream nationalists, worked constructively alongside Unionists, such as Horace Plunkett, in the Recess Committee of 1895[1] which led to the establishment of a department of agriculture in 1899. He further argued that the land reforms and democratisation of elected local government under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 would in fact stimulate demands for Home Rule rather than dampen them, as was the case.

Home Rule and the Liberals

When on 6 February 1900, through the initiative of William O'Brien and his United Irish League (UIL), the INL and the INF re-united again within the Irish Parliamentary Party, Redmond was elected its chairman (leader), a position he held until his death in 1918—a longer period than any other nationalist leader, except Éamon de Valera and Daniel O'Connell.[5] However, Redmond, a Parnellite, was chosen as a compromise due to the personal rivalries between the anti-Parnellite Home Rule leaders. Therefore, he never had as much control over the party as his predecessor, his authority and leadership a balancing act having to contend with such powerful colleagues as John Dillon, William O'Brien, Timothy Healy and Joseph Devlin. He nevertheless led the Party successfully through the September 1900 general election.

Then followed William O'Brien's amicable and conciliatory Land Conference of 1902 involving leading landlords under Lord Dunraven and tenant representatives O'Brien, Redmond, Timothy Harrington and T. W. Russell for the Ulster tenants.[6] It resulted in the enactment of the unprecedented Wyndham Purchase Land Act of 1903. Redmond first sided with O'Brien's new strategy of "conciliation plus business", but refused O'Brien's demand to rebuke Dillon for his criticism of the Act, leading to O'Brien's resignation from the party in November 1903.[7] Again though approving of the 1904 devolution proposals of the Irish Reform Association, fearing another party split,[1] Redmond quietly endured Dillon's dictate of distancing from any understanding with the landlord class. However, they made a good team: Redmond, who was a fine speaker and liked the House of Commons, dealt with the British politicians, while Dillon, who disliked London, the Commons and their influence on Irish politicians, stayed in Ireland and kept Redmond in touch with national feelings.[8]

John Redmond satirised by the suffragette movement in 1913. Redmond had said he would never support female suffrage under any circumstances.[9]
Scene at the Waterford Court House when John Redmond, M.P. was nominated, 1910.

Though government had been dominated by the Conservative Party for more than a decade, the new century saw much favourable legislation enacted in Ireland's interest. An electoral swing to the Liberal Party in the 1906 general election renewed Redmond's opportunities for working with government policy. The Liberals, however, did not yet back his party's demands for full Home Rule, which contributed to a renewal of agrarian radicalism in the ranch wars of 1906–1910. Redmond's low-key and conciliatory style of leadership gave the impression of weakness but reflected the problem of keeping together a factionalised party. He grew in stature after 1906 and especially after 1910.[7] As far as Redmond was concerned, the Home Rule movement was interested in promoting Irish nationality within the British Empire, but it was also a movement with a visceral antipathy to the English and their colonies.[10]

The second Parliament Act 1911, Irish Home Rule (which the Lords blocked in 1894) became a reality. Redmond used his leverage to persuade the Liberal government of H. H. Asquith[3] to introduced the Third Home Rule Bill in April 1912, to grant Ireland national self-government. This could no longer be blocked by the Lords, its enactment merely delayed for two years. Home Rule had reached the pinnacle of its success and Redmond had gone much further than any of his predecessors in shaping British politics to the needs of the Irish.[11]

For all its reservations, the Bill was for Redmond the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. "If I may say so reverently", he told the House of Commons, "I personally thank God that I have lived to see this day".[12] But Asquith missed a magnificent opportunity, by failing to incorporate into the Bill any significant concessions to Ulster Unionists, who then campaigned relentlessly against it. Nonetheless by 1914 Redmond had become a nationalist hero of Parnellite stature[1] and could have had every expectation of becoming head of a new Irish government in Dublin.

Home rule enacted

Redmond caricatured by Spy for Vanity Fair, 1904
Anti-Redmond Unionist Party poster

But like most leaders in the nationalist scene, not least his successors in the republican scene, he knew little of Ulster or the intensity of Unionist sentiment against home rule. His successor, John Dillon, claimed that Redmond had removed all the obstacles to Irish unity except those of the Ulster unionists. He had persuaded British public and political opinion of all hues of its merits.[5] William O'Brien and his dissident AFIL Party warned in similar vein, that the volatile Northern Ireland situation was left unresolved.

Home rule was vehemently opposed by many Irish Protestants, the Irish Unionist Party and Ulster's Orange Order, who feared domination in an overwhelmingly Catholic state. Unionists also feared economic problems, namely that the predominantly agricultural Ireland would impose tariffs on British goods, leading to restrictions on the importation of industrial produce; the main location of Ireland's industrial development was Ulster, the north-east of the island, the only part of Ireland dominated by unionists. Most unionist leaders, especially Sir Edward Carson—with whom Redmond always had a good personal relationship, based on shared experiences at Trinity College Dublin and the Irish bar—threatened the use of force to prevent home rule, helped by their supporters in the British Conservative Party. Redmond misjudged them as merely bluffing. Carson predicted that if any attempt to coerce any part of Ulster were made, "a united Ireland within the lifetime of any one now living would be out of the question".[13]

During negotiations early in 1914, two lines of concessions for the Carsonites were formulated: autonomy for Ulster in the form of 'Home Rule within Home Rule', which Redmond was inclined to, or alternatively the Lloyd George scheme of three years as the time limit for temporary exclusion. Redmond grudgingly acquiesced to this as "the price of peace". From the moment Carson spurned 'temporary' exclusion, the country began a plunge into anarchy.[14] The situation took on an entirely new aspect in late March with the Curragh Mutiny together with the spectre of civil war on the part of the Ulster Covenanters, who formed the Ulster Volunteers to oppose Home Rule, forcing Redmond to then in July take over control of their counterpart, the Irish Volunteers, established in November 1913 to enforce Home Rule.

Asquith conceded to the Lords' demand to have the Home Rule Act 1914, which had passed all stages in the Commons, amended to temporarily exclude the six counties of Northern Ireland, which for a period would continue to be governed by London, not Dublin, and to later make some special provision for them. A Buckingham Palace Conference failed to resolve the entangled situation.[15] Strongly opposed to the partition of Ireland in any form, Redmond and his party reluctantly agreed to what they understood would be a trial exclusion of now six years; under Redmond's aspiration that "Ulster will have to follow", he was belatedly prepared to concede a large measure of autonomy to it to come in.

Redmond's confidence was strong and communicated itself to Ireland. But whatever could be said to shake confidence was said by William O'Brien and Timothy Healy, who denounced the Bill as worthless when linked to the plan of even temporary partition and declared that, whatever the Government might say at present, "we had not yet reached the end of their concessions". On the division they and their All-for-Ireland Party abstained, so that the majority dropped from 85 to 77.[16] Using the Parliament Act, the Lords was deemed to have passed the Act; it received the Royal Assent in September 1914.

European conflict intervenes

John Redmond, circa 1916
The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 caused the enforcement of Home Rule to be postponed for the duration of the conflict. Judged from the perspective of that time, Redmond had won a form of triumph: he had secured the enactment of Home Rule with the provision that the implementation of the measure would be delayed "not later than the end of the present war", which "would be bloody but short lived". His Unionist opponents were in confusion and dismayed by the enactment of Home Rule and by the absence of any definite provisions for the exclusion of Ulster. In two speeches delivered by Redmond in August and September 1914, deemed as critical turning-points in the Home Rule process, he stated:
"Armed Nationalist Catholics in the South will be only too glad to join arms with the armed Protestant Ulstermen in the North. Is it too much to hope that out of this situation there may spring a result which will be good, not merely for the Empire, but good for the future welfare and integrity of the Irish nation?"

Under these circumstances any political bargaining might well have been disastrous to Home Rule. Redmond desperately wanted and needed a rapid enactment of the Home Rule Act, and undoubtedly his words were a means to that end.[17] He called on the country to support the Allied and British war effort and Britain's commitment under the Triple Entente; this was a calculated response to the situation principally in the belief that the attained measure of self-government would be granted in full after the war and to be in a stronger position to stave off a final partition of Northern Ireland. His added hope was that the common sacrifice by Irish nationalists and Unionists would bring them closer together, but above all that nationalists could not afford to allow Ulster Unionists to reap the benefit of being the only Irish to support the war effort, when they spontaneously enlisted in their 36th (Ulster) Division.

Speaking at Maryborough, now Port Laoise, on 16 August 1914, he addressed a 2,000 strong assembly of Irish Volunteers, some armed, and according to the report in the Irish Times stated, "recently, I took the liberty of saying in the English Parliament that, for the first time in the history of the connection between England and Ireland, it was safe to-day for England to withdraw her armed troops from our country and that the sons of Ireland themselves, North and South, Catholic and Protestant, and whatever the origin of their race might have been – Williamite, Cromwellian, or old Celtic – standing shoulder to shoulder, would defend the good order and peace of Ireland, and defend her shores against any foreign foe. (Cheers.)

I am glad to recognise the response which my words evoked. From every part of Ireland I have received assurances from the Irish Volunteers that they accepted my suggestion, and that they were ready to fulfil the duty that I indicated. (Cheers.) And more than that – perhaps, better and happier than that – I have had evidence from every part of Ireland, from the North as well as from the South, of a desire on the part of men who in the past have been divided from us, to come in at this hour of danger and peril – this hour which may be fraught with the happiest consequences for our country. They are prepared to come in and stand shoulder to shoulder with their Catholic Nationalist countrymen in every quarter of the country.

I say here to you: Welcome these men; they are Irishmen as much as you. (Cheers.) For the first time, perhaps, a real, favourable opportunity has been afforded to them of joining hands with us, and if now the ideal that we all have at heart comes to be realised, the result will be that out of this moment of seeming danger we will win for our country the most inestimable treasure to be obtained, in creating a free and united Ireland – united North and South, Catholic and Protestant. (Cheers.)

I read a couple of days ago in the public Press an account of the departure for the seat of war of one of the most gallant Irish regiments in the world, the Inniskilling Fusiliers; and I read how they were escorted from Enniskillen by the united bodies of the Ulster Volunteers and the National Volunteers. Pray God that may be an omen for the future. You are not drilling and arming to attack any body of your fellow-countrymen. God forbid that should ever take place.

I have in my possession – and it will be possible for me very shortly to distribute them –several thousands of rifles. (Cheers.) In addition to that, I have information to the effect that the Government are about to arm and equip and drill a large number of the Irish Volunteers with the rifles which my colleagues and I will supply. With the rifles which are being supplied from various other quarters, and with the arms from the Government, the day is near when, I believe, every Irish Volunteer will have a rifle in his possession. (Cheers.)"

Nationalists split

Redmond's appeal, however, to the Irish Volunteers to also enlist caused them to split; a large majority of 140,000 followed Redmond and formed the National Volunteers, who enthusiastically enlisted in Irish regiments of the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions of the New British Army, while a minority of around 9,700 members remained as the original Irish Volunteers.[18] Redmond believed that Imperial Germany's hegemony and military expansion threatened the freedom of Europe and that it was Ireland's duty, having achieved future self-government:

"to the best of her ability to go where ever the firing line extends, in defence of right, of freedom and of religion in this war. It would be a disgrace forever to our country otherwise". (Woodenbridge speech to the Irish Volunteers, 20 September 1914)[3]

Redmond requested the War Office to allow the formation of a separate 'Irish Brigade' as had been done for the Ulster Volunteers, but Britain was suspicious of Redmond. His plan was that post-war the 'Irish Brigade' and National Volunteers would provide the basis for an Irish Army, capable of enforcing Home Rule on reluctant Ulster Unionists.[19] Eventually he was granted the gesture of the 16th (Irish) Division which, with the exception of its Irish General Bernhard Hickie at first had mostly English officers, unlike the Ulster Division which had its own reserve militia officers, since most of the experienced officers in Ireland had already been posted to the 10th (Irish) Division and most Irish recruits enlisting in the new army lacked the military training to act as officers.[20] Redmond's own son, William Redmond, enlisted, as did his own brother Major Willie Redmond MP, despite being aged over 50 years. They belonged to a group of five Irish MPs who enlisted, the others J. L. Esmonde, Stephen Gwynn, and D. D. Sheehan as well as former MP Tom Kettle.[21]

Redmond was and is still criticised for having encouraged so many Irish to fight in the Great War. However the Irish historian J. J. Lee wrote:
"Redmond could have tactically done nothing other than support the British war campaign; . . . nobody committed to Irish unity could have behaved other than Redmond did at the time. Otherwise, there would be no chance whatever of a united Ireland, in which Redmond passionately believed".[22]

Easter Rising and aftermath

During 1915 Redmond felt secure in his course and that the path was already partly cleared for independence to be achieved without bloodshed. He was supported by continued by-election successes of the IPP, and felt strong enough to turn down the offer of a cabinet seat, which would have offset Carson's appointment to the war cabinet but would have been unpopular in Ireland. Even in 1916 he felt supremely confident and optimistic despite timely warnings from Bonar Law of an impending insurrection.[1] Redmond did not expect the 1916 Easter Rising, which was staged by the remaining Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, led by a number of influential republicans, under Patrick Pearse. Pearse, who had in 1913 stood with Redmond on the same platform where the Rising now took place, had at that time praised Redmond's efforts in achieving the promise of Home Rule. Redmond later acknowledged that the Rising was a shattering blow to his lifelong policy of constitutional action.[3] It equally helped fuel republican sentiment, particularly when General Maxwell executed the leaders of the Rising, treating them as traitors in wartime. Redmond's plea, and John Dillon's, that the rebels be treated leniently were ignored.[3]

There followed Asquith's attempt to introduce Home Rule in July 1916,

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Joseph William Foley
Member of Parliament for New Ross
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
New constituency
Member of Parliament for North Wexford
Succeeded by
Thomas Joseph Healy
Preceded by
Richard Power
Member of Parliament for Waterford City
Succeeded by
William Redmond
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by John Redmond
  • John Redmond Ireland's Forgotten Patriot
  • John Redmond Portrait Gallery: UCC Multitext Project in Irish History
  • Works by John Edward Redmond at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about John Redmond at Internet Archive

External links

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bew, Paul, Redmond, John Edward (1856–1918), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004–05).
  2. ^ Gywnn, Denis, The Life of John Redmond p. 55, (1932)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g O'Riordan, Tomás: UCC Multitext Project in Irish History John Redmond
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Miller, David W.: Church, State and Nation in Ireland 1898–1921 Land for the People pp.86–87, Gill & Macmillan (1973) ISBN 0-7171-0645-4
  7. ^ a b c Maume, Patrick, Who's Who in The long Gestation, p. 241, Gill & Macmillan (1999) ISBN 0-7171-2744-3
  8. ^ Collins, M.E., Movements for reform 1870–1914, p. 127, Edco Publishing (2004) ISBN 1-84536-003-6
  9. ^ John Redmond (1856–1918)
  10. ^ Jackson, Alvin, Home Rule, an Irish History 1800–2000 p. 121, Phoenix Press (2004) ISBN 0-7538-1767-5
  11. ^ Jackson, Alvin: pp. 123, 130
  12. ^ Stewart, A.T.Q. The Ulster Crisis, Resistance to Home Rule, 1912–14, p. 58, (Faber and Faber, London, 1967, 1979), ISBN 0-571-08066-9
  13. ^ Jackson, Alvin: p. 162
  14. ^ Miller, David W.: pp. 296–304
  15. ^ Jackson, Alvin: pp.159–163
  16. ^ Gwynn, Stephen: John Redmond's last years (1932) p.62
  17. ^ Jackson, Alvin: pp. 166–67
  18. ^ Cambell, Fergus: Land and Revolution: Nationalist Politics in the West of Ireland, 1891–1921, p. 196
  19. ^ Bowman, Timothy, Irish Regiments in the Great War, Ch. 3: Raising the Service battalions, p.62, Manchester University Press (2003) ISBN 0-7190-6285-3
  20. ^ Bowman,Timothy: 'Irish Regiments' pp.66–69
  21. ^
  22. ^ Lee, Prof. J. J.: article Nationalist or Imperialist? The Sunday Tribune, 4 June 2000
  23. ^ Maume, Patrick: pp.182–84
  24. ^ Jackson, Alvin: pp.199–202
  25. ^ Miller, David W.: pp.377–79
  26. ^ MacDonagh, Michael: The Life of William O'Brien, the Irish Nationalist, p.231, Ernst Benn London (1928)
  27. ^ MacDonagh, Michael: p.232
  28. ^ The Times, 8 March 1918: The Queen Mother's message to Mrs. Redmond: "Pray accept my most heartfelt sympathy in your great sorrow and irreparable loss, which we all share for our Irish leader".
  29. ^ Collins, M.E., Sovereignty and partition, 1912–1949 pp. 59–62, Edco Publishing (2004) ISBN 1-84536-040-0
  30. ^
  31. ^ Horgan, John J.: Parnell to Pearse p.323, Brown and Nolan Dublin (1948)


"His reward was to be repudiated and denounced by a generation which had yet to learn, as they learned three years later when they were forced to accept Partition, that true freedom is rarely served by bloodshed and violence, and that in politics compromise is inevitable. Yet it can be said of John Redmond that none of Ireland's sons had ever served her with greater sincerity or nobler purpose".[31]

He had above all a conciliatory agenda; in his final words in parliament he expressed "a plea for concord between the two races that providence has designed should work as neighbours together”. For him, Home Rule was an interim step for All-Ireland autonomy:

"that brighter day when the grant of full self-government would reveal to Britain the open secret of making Ireland her friend and helpmate, the brightest jewel in her crown of Empire".

Redmond's personal vision did not encompass a wholly independent Ireland.[30] He referred to:

Wall plaque on the Redmond Square, Wexford

John Redmond's home town of Wexford remained a strongly Redmondite area for decades afterwards. The seat of Waterford city was one of the few outside Ulster not to be won by Sinn Féin in the 1918 general election. Redmond's son William Redmond represented the City until his death in 1932. A later Irish Taoiseach (prime minister), John Bruton, hung a painting of Redmond, whom he regarded as his hero because of his commitment to non-violence, in his office in Ireland's Leinster House Government Buildings. However, his successor, Bertie Ahern TD replaced the painting with one of Patrick Pearse.

Legacy and personal vision

Home Rule was finally implemented in 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 (Fourth Home Rule Bill) which foresaw two Home Rule Irelands, although only adopted by the six counties forming Northern Ireland.

The crisis boosted Sinn Féin so that in the December general election it won the vast majority of seats, leaving the Nationalist Party with only six seats for the 220,837 votes cast (21.7%) (down from 84 seats out of 105 in 1910). The Party simply did not win a fair share of seats because the election was not run under a 'proportional representation' system, but on the 'first past the post' British electoral system.[29] Unionists, on the other hand, won 26 seats for 287,618 (28.3%) of votes, whereas Sinn Féin votes were 476,087 (or 46.9%) for 48 seats, plus 25 uncontested, totalling an impressive 73 seats. In January 1919 a Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the provisional Sinn Féin First Dáil proclaimed an Irish Republic, later abolished in 1921 after the Anglo-Irish War under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty which agreed on the Partition of Ireland and established the Irish Free State with its parliament Dáil Éireann. The Irish Civil War followed.

Redmond was succeeded in the party leadership by John Dillon and spared the experience of further political setbacks when after the German Spring Offensive of April 1918, Britain, caught in a desperate life or death struggle with Imperial Germany, attempted to introduce conscription in Ireland linked with implementation of Home Rule. The Irish Nationalists led by Dillon walked out of the House of Commons and returned to Ireland to join in the widespread resistance and protests during the resulting conscription crisis.

Party's demise

Condolences and expressions of sympathy were widely expressed.[28] After a funeral service in Westminster Cathedral his remains were interred, as requested in a manner characteristic of the man, in the family vault at the old Knights' Templars' chapel yard of Saint John's Cemetery, Wexford town, amongst his own people rather than in the traditional burial place for Irish statesmen and heroes in Glasnevin Cemetery. The small, neglected cemetery near the town centre is kept locked to the public – his vault, which had been in a dilapidated state, has been only partially restored by Wexford County Council.

He ended his participation by saying that under the circumstances he felt he could be of no further use to the Convention in the matter. His final word in the Convention was the tragic one – Better for us never to have met than to have met and failed. Late in February the malady from which he was suffering grew worse. He left Dublin for London knowing that a settlement from the Convention was impossible. An operation in March 1918 to remove an intestinal obstruction appeared to progress well at first, but then he suffered heart failure. He died a few hours later at a London nursing home on 6 March 1918. One of the last things he said to the Jesuit Father who was with him to the end, was, Father, I am a broken hearted man.[26] At the Convention, his last move was an adoption of O’Brien’s policy of accommodating Unionist opposition in the North and in the South. It was too late. Had he joined O’Brien ten years before and carried the Irish Party with him, it is possible that Ireland’s destiny would have been settled by evolution.[27]

John Redmond is interred in St. John's cemetery, Upper St John's Street, Wexford town.
Redmond Family vault (in hollow, partially restored, top relief missing, unnamed) seen from entrance gate.

An Irish Convention of around one hundred delegates sat from July and ended in March 1918. Up until December 1917 Redmond used his influence to have a plan which had been put forward by the Southern Unionist leader Lord Midleton, accepted. It foresaw All-Ireland Home Rule with partial fiscal autonomy (until after the war, without customs and excise). All sides, including most Ulster delegates, wavered towards favouring agreement. Already ailing while attending the Convention, his health permanently affected by an accident in 1912, Redmond also suffered assault on the street in Dublin by a crowd of young Sinn Féin supporters on his way to the Convention,[1] which included C.S. 'Todd' Andrews. On 15 January, just when he intended to move a motion on his proposal to have the Midleton plan agreed, some nationalists colleagues, the prominent Catholic Bishop O'Donnell and MP Joseph Devlin expressed doubts. Rather than split the nationalist side he withdrew his motion. A vital chance was lost.[25]

Defeat and death

[3] June 1917 brought a severe personal blow when his brother

[7] and the growing dominance of Dillon within the Irish Party.Sinn Féin Redmond, after 1916 was increasingly eclipsed by ill-health, the rise of [24]

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