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Redmond, John

Redmond, John

Born in County Wexford, John Redmond (1856–1918) was the leader of Irish constitutional nationalism in the first decades of the twentieth century. An effective parliamentarian throughout his career, Redmond was a loyal follower of Charles Stewart Parnell, becoming one of his chief supporters in Parnell's final years. Because he was never tightly associated with Parnell's divisive legacy, Redmond was able to take on the mantle of leadership of the minority Parnellite faction.

Redmond's political career can be divided into two periods. In the first phase, which lasted from 1900 to 1914, Redmond achieved a number of important successes for Irish nationalists. The first of these occurred in 1900, when Redmond's gentlemanly diplomacy reunited the Irish Parliamentary Party, which had been shattered and ineffectual for the previous decade. Taking advantage of the favorable political conditions provided by the election of 1910 and the Parliament Act of 1911, Redmond was able to force a Liberal Party dependent on nationalist votes to pass the Third Home Rule Bill into law in 1914. Redmond seemingly had won Home Rule for Ireland.

The outbreak of the war in August 1914 put Redmond in a very difficult spot, for the implementation of Home Rule was delayed until after the war ended. The logic of Redmond's position meant that he had to support the British war effort, a difficult balancing act for an Irish nationalist. As the war dragged on, the radicalization of Irish politics increasingly left Redmond behind, particularly after British blundering transformed the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 into heroes and martyrs. But Redmond was not simply a victim of circumstance. His public calls of support for the British war effort provided ammunition for his separatist opponents, and his attitude toward partition proved to be an even more serious problem. Desperate to achieve some form of tangible victory, Redmond reluctantly agreed in 1916 to accept Ulster's temporary exclusion from a Home Rule Ireland in exchange for immediate implementation of his cherished legislation. When the deal fell through, Redmond was tarred by his seeming willingness to accept partition. Election results in 1917 and 1918 made clear how far his party had fallen: In 1918 the once proud political machine won only six seats to Sinn Féin's seventy-three. His hopes crushed, Redmond died in March 1918. The war had transformed Irish attitudes, making Redmond's goal of Home Rule increasingly irrelevant as Irish nationalist men and women pressed for something closer to independence.

SEE ALSO Carson, Sir Edward; Electoral Politics from 1800 to 1921; Great War; Home Rule Movement and the Irish Parliamentary Party: 1891 to 1918; Parnell, Charles Stewart; Sinn Féin Movement and Party to 1922; Struggle for Independence from 1916 to 1921; Unionism from 1885 to 1922; United Irish League Campaigns


Bew, Paul. The Life and Times of John Redmond. 1996.

Fitzpatrick, David. The Two Irelands, 1912–39. 1998.

Laffan, Michael. The Partition of Ireland, 1911–1925. 1987.

O'Day, Alan. Irish Home Rule, 1867–1921. 1998.

Sean Farrell

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