Sunday, 13 November 2011

Charles Stewart Parnell

Charles Stewart Parnell

Charles Stewart Parnell

Isaac Butt was replaced as leader in 1879 by another protestant called Charles Stewart Parnell.  Parnell was born in Wicklow and educated at Magdalene College in Cambridge.

In 1879 he was elected president of the Irish National Land League, an organisation who stood for the reduction of rents and to obtain the ownership of soil by the occupiers. He addressed the House of Representatives in Washington in 1880.

He had been arrested twice for his connection with the Land league and on one of those occasions had been sent to Kilmainham jail from October 1881 to May 1882.

His policy was to obstruct business in the House of Commons and create agitation against the high rents being paid by the Irish tenants.
Around the same time as this action was happening a man called Michael Davitt returned to Ireland from America.

In 1878 Ireland experienced a very severe winter and the threat of famine loomed yet again, with the poorer western counties being most at risk.  Davitt organised a successful protest which prevented the eviction of tenants.  He quickly realised that if he worked with Parnell and the American Fenians, now known as Clan na Gael, he could bring together a broad coalition that would get more support throughout Ireland.

Davitt had already spent seven years in an English jail for Fenian type activity and had been motivated when younger as he was the son of a farmer from County Mayo, who had been evicted for non-payment of rent.  He founded the Irish National Land League and Parnell became president.  Having financial support from America broad support, the league was able to provide relief to those who faced or had suffered eviction.
The Land League organised demonstrations and rallies to keep the pressure on the government.

The country did start to move towards anarchy and once again the English government responded by arresting Parnell, which made him into a national hero.  As more leaders were arrested the campaigns intensified, and Gladstone the British Prime Minister passed a land act in 1881.  This did not go far enough and he was obliged to negotiate the Treaty of Kilmainham with Parnell, where he would be released if he used his influence to end the land war.

During these negotiations murders took place in Phoenix Park of Chief Secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish and Under Secretary T.H.Burke.  Another group calling itself “The Invincibles” claimed responsibility, but the talks between Parnell and Gladstone ended.

Parnell also survived attempts to implicate him in these murders and won libel damages against The Times Newspaper.  Gladstone introduced the Land reforms which guaranteed fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale.  The process of the transfer of ownership was also changed which allowed almost one million of acres of land by tenants using government loans.

You should now read about the Home Rule Bill in Ireland.