On 11th April 1912 the Third Home Rule Bill was introduced by Prime Minister to parliament. After passing in the Commons then being defeated in the Lords three times, the Liberal government used the provisions it had won in the 1911 Parliament Act, a result of the constitutional crisis, to send the law for Royal Assent.
Two earlier attempts at Home Rule had failed, first in 1886 which had split the Liberal party, and then in 1893 – both under William Gladstone – had failed. The 1886 attempt was a failure as it split the Liberal party, which led to there being less than adequate numbers of Liberals in the Commons to pass the bill, which was defeated by 30 votes. After the Liberals were re-elected 1892, Gladstone introduced the Second Home Rule Bill in 1893. This time it passed in the Commons by 34 votes, but was defeated in the Lords.
What changed during the constitutional crisis was that the Liberals in two 1910 general elections lost the great majority they had gained in the 1906 general election. They therefore were running a minority government where they had to rely on the support of both the newly formed Labour Party and John Redmond’s Irish Nationalists in order to pass legislation. Redmond and Asquith came to an agreement in which the Irish Nationalists would support the Parliament Act in return for a new Home Rule Bill, which the Liberals would support. As the Lords would now no longer be able to block a bill, Home Rule was almost inevitable.
The Third Home Rule Bill comprised of the following:
- An Irish Parliament to deal with most purely Irish affairs, which included:
- 40 member Senate
- 164 member House of Commons
- A reduction of the number of Irish MPs in Westminster from 103 to 42.
- Abolition of Dublin Castle (although the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland would remain).
For the Ulster Unionists the bill was outrageous and could not be allowed to pass. The leader of the British Conservative Party, Andrew Bonar Law, even suggested that “there were no lengths” that Ulster could go in resisting Home Rule that he would not support – the leader of a opposition calling for violence to defeat an Act of Parliament.
The Unionists took up the call, first signing the Ulster Covenant, then forming the Ulster Volunteer Force. After the Irish responded by forming the Irish Volunteers the path was set towards civil war.
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