Third home rule Bill

The cause of home rule languished until the Liberals returned to government in 1906.

In January 1910, H H Asquith - Prime Minister since 1908 - was forced to call an election because of an impasse with the House of Lords over the 1909 People’s Budget.

John Redmond, the new leader of the Irish Party, demanded that home rule be included in the Liberal election programme.

Balance of power

Following the election Redmond held the balance of power with 70 MPs.

After another election in December 1910, the House of Lords finally lost its absolute right of veto over Bills from the Commons in August 1911.

The Conservatives, however, had fought the most recent election on the basis of opposition to home rule in Ireland.

Opposition

Opposition to home rule was also strong in the North of Ireland, where a majority of the population was Protestant mainly as a result of the settlement policies of previous centuries.

Their leader was the charismatic barrister and Dublin MP, Sir Edward Carson. The Ulster Unionist Council, meanwhile, drew up plans to establish its own government should the UK government persist with plans for home rule.

On 11 April 1912 Asquith introduced his home rule Bill, the Liberal Party’s third since 1886.

Limited self-government

This Bill offered only limited self-government and asserted the supreme authority of the UK Parliament “over all persons, matters, and things in Ireland”.

Redmond, nevertheless, was willing to accept it, unlike Sinn Féin (another Irish nationalist party) and the Conservatives, for different reasons. The latter opposed it so fiercely that its third reading was not carried until January 1913.

A fortnight later the Government of Ireland Bill was voted down in the House of Lords.

Two year wait

There then followed a two-year wait while revolution fermented in Ulster and the First World War loomed in Europe.

Attempts at a negotiated settlement with the Ulster Volunteers - a Unionist militia opposed to home rule - failed, while the declaration of war between the UK and Germany in August 1914 meant that the third home rule Bill was effectively in limbo.