Interview: Conor Mulvagh on the Home Rule Party

IPP leader John Redmond addresses a public meeting on Home Rule in 1912.

Conor Mulvagh, historian of the Irish Parliamentary Party, talks to John Dorney about the IPP or Home Rule Party that dominated Irish politics for nearly 50 years, between the 1880s and 1918.

The IPP, Conor argues was, ‘a dual issue party’, the two issues being the land question – specifically improving the lot of tenant farmers – and Irish self-government.

We talk about how the land question came to be central to Irish nationalist politics and how land reform came to be viewed as ‘ the re-conquest of Ireland’ or undoing the process of colonisation.

The IPP is often contrasted with the more radical militant tradition of Irish separatism, but Conor argues that in fact, below the parliamentary elite of the Party, the two were often linked, especially in land struggles.

In early 20th  century Ireland, the IPP behaved very much as an Irish government in waiting. We talk about their authoritarian tendencies, in particular local corruption and their attempt to suppress a rival nationalist party, the All For Ireland League. We also discuss their relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. Was Home Rule really Rome Rule?

Finally, despite having been the hegemonic party in the south of Ireland since the 19th century, the IPP sank without trace in the face of the separatist Sinn Fein challenge in the election of 1918, we discuss why. We finish with a consideration of the Party’s legacy.


Dr Conor Mulvagh completed his PHD on the Irish Parliamentary Party. He teaches history  in University College Dublin. His research was funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. You can listen to another podcast by him here.

Milestones in the Home Rule Party’s history

*1870, Home Government Association founded by Isaac Butt seeking the restoration of a Home Rule parliament for Ireland. It later becomes a powerful political party under Charles Stewart Parnell.

*1879-1886 a coalition of Irish Parliamentarians, Fenian radicals and farmers associations agitate on behalf of the tenant farmers in the ‘Land War’. The land question popularises the Home Rule movement and the Irish Nationalist MPs consistently hold approximately eighty seats in parliament from 1885 to 1918.

*1886, The first Home Rule Bill is defeated in the British House of Commons.

*1890-91, the Party is split between Parnellites and anti-Parnellites (or ‘clericalists’) when its leader, Charles Stewart Parnell is embroiled in a divorce scandal and is denounced by the Catholic hierarchy.

*1893, The Second Home Rule Bill is defeated in the British House of Lords.

* 1900 The Party is re-united under the leadership of John Redmond. It subsequently absorbs groups like the United Irish League and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

*1906-1909, The Ranch War. The Party is involved in another, sometimes violent bout of agrarian agitation in the north midlands.

*1912, The Third Home Rule Bill is proposed and passes into law in 1914, but is suspended due to Ulster Unionist opposition and the outbreak of the First World War. Redmond pledges Irish support for the War.

*1916, The Easter Rising and its repression helps discredit constitutional nationalism.

*1918, The IPP is decisively defeated in the General Election by the Separatist Sinn Fein party.

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