Gladstone & The Irish Question

What was Gladstone’s level of success in dealing with the “Irish Question”? He looked at the whole complex of issues in a fresh way and that gave the Irish Catholics hope for the future.

Evidence for
The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland was an act of genius! So obvious, so simple, but no-one had done it already. Yes, in a country where 7/8ths of the population was Catholic, it didn’’t make any sense to have an established Protestant Church, and certainly, its existence only served to discredit the English presence in Ireland.
Maybe it was only Gladstone who could disestablish it? Maybe his impeccable credentials as a staunch Anglican helped him. Had anyone else tried, fears about the status of the Church of England might have quashed the whole enterprise? (bit like Nixon and détente)
What bravery, to examine the land issue; most people (inc Disraeli) were awed by its complexity and steered well-clear… OK, the first Land Act wasn’’t successful, but it does pave the way for the Second Land Act of 1880 which, by all accounts, does give the Irish the 3Fs and does finally bring Irish tenants onto a level playing field with their English counter-parts.
Wasn’’t the University Bill far-sighted? A noble failure, at least. I mean, even today, politicians are looking for ways in which to make the Northern Irish educational system more integrated for Catholics and Protestants. It’s the key to peace! And there’’s Gladstone grasping that fact 150 years beforehand.
Yes, with the 3 pieces of reform, Gladstone shows that he takes Ireland seriously, and is keen to deal with its problems. He’s trying to show that Westminster government CAN work for them. It’s difficult to point to a C19th ministry that did more for Ireland.
Moreover, if PACIFICATION was his aim, then it worked for a while:
Fenianism DID die down.
Ireland WAS peaceful through the 1870s?
Isaac Butt’s fledgling Home Rule Party DID struggle through the early 1870s; most Irish didn’’t seem interested. Gladstone maybe had won them round to the Union?

Evidence against
The Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland did little to help the everyday lives of the Irish peasantry. So much for hope for the future”. Ireland’s problems were all about a lack of cultivatable land and a lack of industrialization…….Had Gladstone even considered these, let alone formulated policies for their alleviation??
The Irish Land Act was rubbish, as lots of Irishmen recognized. Most of the Irish MPs, who ha’d voted with the Liberals since 1859 (if not before) deserted them in 1874 and instead join Isaac Butt’s new Irish Home Rule Party. Gladstone had to come back in 1880 for a second bite of the cherry.
Ireland went berserk in 1879, once a bad summer plunged the nation back into economic calamity. The Irish Land War begins, led by Michael Davitt and his Land League; the rule of English absentee landlords is very seriously jeopardized……So much for successful pacification. Its effects didn’’t even last out the decade…..By 1885, even Gladstone realized that pacification had failed and that some measure of Home Rule was inevitable. So even he realized that he’d failed.

Comments? Conclusion?

This entry was posted in A Level History, British Empire, Empire and Expansion, Imperial Expansion 1815-1870, Ireland, Victorian and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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