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Governing HiberniaBritish Politicians and Ireland 1800–1921$
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K. Theodore Hoppen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198207436

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207436.001.0001

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Partition or Squaring (Some) Circles

Partition or Squaring (Some) Circles

(p.289) 10 Partition or Squaring (Some) Circles
Governing Hibernia

K. Theodore Hoppen

Oxford University Press

Given that, while the two main British parties certainly differed on the question of Home Rule, they did not differ on the importance of introducing policies of Irish differentiation, a clear tendency becomes apparent characterized by the emergence of underlying similarities with regard to the ways in which Ireland should be handled and governed. Thus a logical (though not a necessary) tendency can be seen to emerge in discussions about Irish government that stressed the difference, the strangeness, the peculiarities of Ireland, the things that marked it out from the rest of the United Kingdom. And this was something no less evident among Conservatives or Unionists as among Liberals. While, therefore, Home Rule remained a dividing and totemic issue between the parties, beneath the waves a potential consensus was beginning to emerge. What restrained this emergence were the powerful campaigns against Home Rule mounted in Ulster in the early twentieth century and the still considerable (though waning) influence of Southern Irish Unionists among their Conservative allies in Britain. Once, however, the solvent of partition, of dividing Ireland along roughly denominational lines, became apparent and practicable, this underlying agreement about what was to be done meant that partition’s potential implementation undermined opposition to Home Rule for the South of Ireland. The form of independence granted in 1921–2 was therefore in an important sense a logical outcome of the dominance of Irish differentiation that had begun to become apparent fifty years earlier.

Keywords:   independence, partition, unionists, liberals, ulster, differentiation

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