name = John Edward Redmond
width = 190px
office = Irish Parliamentary Leader
birth_date = birth date|1856|09|01|df=y
death_date = death date and age|df=yes|1918|03|06|1856|09|01
title = House of Commons
term_start = 1 February 1900
term_end = 6 March 1918
Charles Stewart Parnell
Irish Parliamentary Party
spouse = Ada Beesley
John Edward Redmond ( _ga. Seán Éamonn Mac Réamoinn) (1 September 1856 – 6 March 1918) was an Irish nationalist
politician, barrister, MP. in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandand leader of the Irish Parliamentary Partyfrom 1900 to 1918. He was a moderate, constitutional and conciliatory politician who attained the twin dominant objectives of his political life, party unity and finally in 1914 achieving Irish Home Rule under an Act which granted an interim form of self-government to Ireland. Unfortunately for Redmond, implementation of the act was suspended by the intervention of World War I.
He was the elder brother of William (Willie) Redmond and father of
William Archer Redmondboth of whom were to serve as MPs in his party.
Family influences and background
John Redmond was born in Dublin City and raised in
County Wexfordin Ireland. Redmond's family had been an established and prominent Catholic gentry family in the county for over seven centuries and long been associated with Wexford town.Bew, Paul, "Redmond, John Edward (1856-1918)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-5).] Redmond's grand uncle, John Edward Redmond, was a prominent banker and businessman before entering Parliament as a member for Wexford in 1859. After his death in 1866, his nephew, William Archer Redmond, John Redmond's father, won election to the seat and soon emerged as a prominent supporter of Isaac Butt`s new movement for Home Rule.
Redmond’s family heritage was more complex than that of most of his nationalist political colleagues . His mother came from a Protestant and unionist family, though converting to Catholicism on marriage, she never converted to nationalism. His uncle General John Patrick Redmond, who had inherited the family estate, was created CB for his role during the Indian mutiny; he disapproved of his nephew’s involvement in agrarian agitation of the 1880s. John Redmond boasted of his family involvement in the 1798 Wexford rising, a "Miss Redmond" had ridden in support of the rebels, a Father Redmond was hanged by the
yeomanry, as was a maternal ancestor, William Kearney.
Education and early career
As a student, young John exhibited the seriousness that many would soon come to associate with him. Educated by the Jesuits in
Clongowes Wood, he was primarily interested in poetry and literature, performed the lead in school theatricals and was regarded as the best speaker in the school's debating society. After finishing at Clongowes, Redmond attended Trinity College, Dublinin order to study law, but his father's ill health led him to abandon his studies before taking a degree. In 1876 he left to live with his father in London, acting as his assistant in Westminster, where he developed more fascination for politics than for law. He first came into contact with Michael Davitton the occasion of a reception held in London to celebrate the release of the famous Fenianprisoner. As a clerk in the House of Commons he increasingly identified himself with Charles Stewart Parnell's fortunes, one of the founders of the Irish Land Leagueand a noted ‘obstructionist’ in the Commons.
Political profession and marriage
Redmond first attended political meetings with Parnell in 1879. Upon his father's death later in 1880 he wrote to Parnell asking for adoption as the Nationalist Party (from 1882 the
Irish Parliamentary Party) candidate in the by-election to fill the open seat, but was disappointed to learn that Parnell had already promised the next vacancy to his secretary Timothy Healy. Nevertheless, Redmond supported Healy as the nominee, and when another vacancy arose, this time in New Ross, Redmond won election unopposed as the Parnellite candidate for the seat. On election (31 January 1881) he rushed to the House of Commons, made his maiden speech next day amid stormy scenes following the arrest of Michael Davitt, then a Land League leader as was ejected from the Commons all on the same evening. He served as MP for New Ross 1881-1885, North Wexford 1885-1891 and finally for Waterford City, from 1891 until his death in 1918
The Land League conflict was by now at a turbulent stage. Early in 1882 he and his brother Willie were sent to Australia on a fund-raising mission, the trip a success both in political and personal terms where in 1883 he and his brother married into the prosperous Irish-Australian Dalton. family. In a short-lived but happy marriage, his wife Johanna having borne him three children, she died early in 1889. He also traveled to America in 1884, 1886 and 1904 where he was to use more extreme language but found his contact with Irish-American extremism daunting. His Australian experience on the other hand was to have a strong influence on his political outlook, causing him to embrace an Irish version of Liberal Imperialism and to remain anxious to retain Irish representation and Ireland’s voice at Westminster even after the implementation of home rule. During the debate which followed Gladstone's conversion to Home Rule in 1866, he declared:
"As a Nationalist, I do not regard as entirely palatable the idea that forever and a day Ireland's voice should be excluded from the councils of an empire which the genius and valour of her sons have done so much to build up and of which she is to remain" [ Gywnn, Denis, "The Life of John Redmond" p. 55, (1932)] .
In 1899 Redmond married his second wife, Ada Beesley, an English Protestant who, after his death, converted to Catholicism.
Leader of the Parnellite party
Having belatedly become a barrister by completing his terms at the
King's Inns, Dublin, being called to the Irish bar in 1887 (and to the English bar a year later) he busied himself with agrarian cases during the Plan of Campaign. In 1888, following a strong and conceivably intimidatory speech, Redmond received five weeks’ imprisonment with hard labour. A loyal supporter of Parnell, Redmond like Davitt was passionately opposed to physical force nationalism, campaigning constitutionally for Home Rule as an interim form of All-Ireland self government within the United Kingdom.
When the Irish Parliamentary Party split over Parnell's long-standing family relationship with
Katharine O'Shea, the earlier separated wife of a fellow MP, whom he later married, Redmond stood by his deposed leader in the dispute. After Parnell's death in 1891, Redmond took over leadership of the Parnellite rump of the split party, the Irish National League (INL), where he soon demonstrated both his organizational ability and his considerable rhetorical skills. He also raised funds for the Parnell Monument at the northern end of Dublin's O'Connell Street, choosing the American Augustus Saint Gaudensto sculpt the statue, which was eventually completed in 1911. [ [http://ireland.archiseek.com/buildings_ireland/dublin/northcity/oconnell_street/parnell_monument.html Parnell Monument online] ]
The larger anti-Parnellite group formed the
Irish National Federation(INF) under John Dillon. During this period, he supported the Unionist Irish Secretary Gerald Balfourprogramme of "Constructive Unionism", while assuring the Tory Government that its self-declared policy of "killing Home Rule with kindness" would not achieve its objective. Redmond dropped all interest in agrarian radicalism and, unlike the mainstream nationalists worked constructively alongside Unionists, such as Horace Plunkett, in the Recess Committee of 1895 which led to the establishment of a department of agriculture in 1899. He further argued that the land reforms and democratization of elected local government under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898would in fact stimulate demands for Home Rule rather than dampen them, as was the case.
Home Rule and the Liberals
When on 6 February 1900, through the initiative of
William O'Brienand his United Irish League(UIL) the INL and the INF re-united again within the Irish Parliamentary Party, Redmond was elected its chairman (leader), a position he held until his death in 1918 -- a longer period than any other nationalist leader, except Eamon de Valeraand Daniel O'Connellcite news | url = . http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion/2006/0901/pf1156791308390.html | title = Our political debt to John Redmond is largely unpaid | last = Lysaught | first = Charles |publisher = The Irish Times | date = 2006-09-01] . However Redmond, a Parnellite, was chosen as a compromise due to the personal rivalries between the anti-Parnellite Home Rule leaders. Therefore, he never had as much control over the party as his predecessor, his authority and leadership a balancing act having to contend with such powerful colleagues as John Dillon, William O'Brien, Timothy Healy and Joseph Devlin. He nevertheless led the Party successfully through the September 1900 general election.
Following William O’Brien’s amicable Land Conference of 1902 involving leading landlords under Lord Dunraven and tenant representatives which resulted in the enactment of the conciliatory Wyndham Land Act of 1903, Redmond first sided with O’Brien's new strategy of conciliation, but refused O’Brien’s demand to purge Dillon for his criticism of the act, leading to O’Brien’s resignation Maume, Patrick, "Who's Who in The long Gestation", p. 241, Gill & Macmillan (1999) ISBN 0-7171-2744-3 ] . Then fearing another split Redmond quietly endured Dillon’s dictate of distancing from any understanding with the landlord class. However, they made a good team, Redmond, who was a fine speaker and liked the House of Commons, dealt with the British politicians. Dillon, who disliked London, the Commons and their influence on Irish politicians, stayed in Ireland and kept Redmond in touch with national feelings [Collins, M.E., "Movements for reform 1870-1914", p. 127, Edco Publishing (2004) ISBN 1-845360-03-6] .
Though government had been dominated by the Conservative Party for more than a decade the new century saw much favourable legislation enacted in Ireland’s interest. An electorate swing to the Liberal Party in the 1906 general election renewed Redmond’s opportunities for working with government policy. The Liberals however did not yet back his Party’s demands for full Home Rule which contributed to a renewal of agrarian radicalism in the ranch wars of 1906-1910. Redmond’s low-key and conciliatory style of leadership gave the impression of weakness but reflected the problem of keeping together a factionalised party. He grew in stature after 1906 and especially after 1910 . The Home Rule movement which, as far as Redmond was concerned, was interested in promoting Irish nationality within the British Empire, but it was also a movement with a visceral antipathy to the English and their colonies [Jackson, Alvin, "Home Rule, an Irish History 1800-2000" p. 121, Phoenix Press (2004) ISBN 0-75381-767-5] .
The second election of December 1910 changed everything to Redmond’s advantage giving his parliamentary party the balance of power at Westminster. His deal over the budget crisis of 1909 led to the curbing of the power of the
House of Lords, which had previously blocked the budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George. With the Lords' veto abolished under the Parliament Act 1911, Irish home rule (which the Lords blocked in 1894) became a reality. In April 1912, the government of H. H. Asquithintroduced the Third Home Rule Bill to grant Ireland national self-government. This could no longer be blocked by the Lords, its enactment merely delayed for two years. Home Rule had reached the pinnacle of its success and Redmond had gone much further than any of his predecessors in shaping British politics to the needs of the Irish [Jackson, Alvin, "Home Rule, an Irish History 1800-2000" pp. 123, 130, Phoenix Press (2004) ISBN 0-75381-767-5] .
Yet for all its reservations, the Bill was for Redmond the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. "If I may say so reverently", he told the House of Commons, "I personnally thank God that I have lived to see this day" [Stewart, A.T.Q. "The Ulster Crisis, Resistance to Home Rule, 1912-14", p. 58, (Faber and Faber, London, 1967, 1979), ISBN 0 571 08066 9 ] . But Asquith missed a magnificent opportunity, by failing to incorporate into the Bill any significant concessions to Ulster Unionists, who then campaigned relentlessly against it. Nonetheless by 1914 Redmond had become a nationalist hero of Parnellite stature and could have had every expectation of becoming head of a new Irish government in
Home rule enacted
But like most leaders in the nationalist scene, not least his successors in the republican scene, he knew little of Ulster or the intensity of Unionist sentiment against home rule. His successor, John Dillon claimed that Redmond had removed all the obstacles to Irish unity except those of the Ulster unionists. He had persuaded British public and political opinion of all hues of its merits . William O’Brien and his dissident AFIL Party warned in similar vein, that the unresolved and volatile Northern Ireland situation was left unresolved.
Home rule was vehemently opposed by many Irish Protestants, the
Irish Unionist Partyand Ulster's Orange Order, who feared domination in an overwhelmingly Catholic state. Unionists also feared economic problems, namely that the predominantly agricultural Ireland would impose tariffs on British goods, leading to restrictions on the importation of industrial produce; the main location of Ireland's industrial development was Ulster, the north-east of the island, the only part of Ireland dominated by unionists. Most unionist leaders, especially Sir Edward Carson– with whom Redmond always had a good personal relationship, based on shared experiences at Trinity College Dublinand the Irish bar, threatened the use of force to prevent home rule, helped by their supporters in the British Conservative Party. Redmond misjudged them as merely bluffing. Carson predicted that if any attempt to coerce any part of Ulster were made, “a united Ireland within the lifetime of any one now living would be out of the question” [Jackson, Alvin, "Home Rule, an Irish History 1800-2000" p. 162, Phoenix Press (2004) ISBN 0-75381-767-5] .
During negotiations early in 1914, two lines of concessions for the Carsonites were formulated: Autonomy for Ulster in the form of "Home Rule within Home Rule" which Redmond was inclined to, or alternatively the Lloyd George scheme of three years as the time limit for temporary exclusion. Redmond grudgingly acquiesced to this as "the price of peace". From the moment Carson spurned 'temporary' exclusion, the country began a plunge into anarchy [David W. Miller "Church, State and Nation in Ireland 1898-1921" Gill & Macmillan (1973), pps. 296-304 ISBN 0 7171 0645 4] . The situation took an entirely new aspect in late March with the
Curragh Mutinytogether with the spectre of civil war on the part of the Ulster Covenanters who formed the Ulster Volunteersto oppose Home Rule, which forced Redmond in July to then take over control of their counterpart, the Irish Volunteers, established in November 1913 to enforce Home Rule. Asquith conceded to the Lords' demand to have the Home Rule Act 1914 which had passed all stages in the Commons, amended to temporarily exclude the six counties of Northern Irelandand to later make some special provision for it, which for a period would continue to be governed by London, not Dublin. Strongly opposed to the partition of Irelandin any form, Redmond and his party reluctantly agreed to what they understood would be a "trial" exclusion of now six years, under Redmond's aspiration that "Ulster will have to follow", he was belatedly prepared to concede a large measure of autonomy to it to come in. Using the Parliament Act, the Lords was deemed to have passed the Act; it received the Royal Assentin September 1914, .
European conflict intervenes
The outbreak of
World War Iin August 1914 caused the enforcement of Home Rule to be postponed for the duration of the conflict. Judged from the perspective of that time, Redmond had won a form of triumph, he had secured the enactment of Home Rule with the provision that the implementation of the measure would be delayed ‘not later than the end of the present war’ which ‘would be bloody but short lived’. His Unionist opponents were in confusion and dismayed by the enactment of Home Rule and by the absence of any definite provisions for the exclusion of Ulster. In two speeches delivered by Redmond in August and September 1914, deemed as critical turning-points in the Home Rule process, he stated:
"armed Nationalist Catholics in the South will be only too glad to join arms with the armed Protestant Ulstermen in the North. Is it too much to hope that out of this situation there may spring a result which will be good, not merely for the Empire, but good for the future welfare and integrity of the Irish nation? "
Under these circumstances any political bargaining might well have been disastrous to Home Rule. Redmond desperately wanted and needed a rapid enactment of the Home Rule Act, and undoubtedly his words were a means to that end [Jackson, Alvin, "Home Rule, an Irish History 1800-2000" p. 166-167, Phoenix Press (2004) ISBN 0-75381-767-5] . He reacted in a calculated fashion principally in the belief that the attained measure of self-government would be granted in full after the war and to be in a stronger position to stave off a final partition of Northern Ireland.when he called on the country to support the Allied and Britain's war effort and her commitment under the
Triple Entente. His added hope was that the common sacrifice by Irish nationalists and Unionists would bring them closer together, but above all that nationalists could not afford to allow Ulster Unionists reap the benefit of being the only Irish to support the war effort, when they spontaneously enlisted in their 36th (Ulster) Division. His appeal to the Irish Volunteers to also enlist caused them to split; a large majority followed Redmond and formed the National Volunteers, who enthusiastically enlisted in Irish regiments of the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions of the New British Army, while a minority of around 3,000 to 10,000 men formed the Irish Volunteers.
Redmond believed that
Imperial Germany's hegemony and military expansion threatened the freedom of Europe and that it was Ireland's duty, having achieved future self-government "to the best of her ability to go where ever the firing line extends, in defence of right, of freedom and of religion in this war. It would be a disgrace forever to our country otherwise". Redmond requested the War Officeto allow the formation of a separate Irish Brigade as had been done for the Ulster Volunteers, but Britain was suspicious of Redmond after he declared to his National Volunteers that they would return as an armed army to resist Ulster’s opposition to home rule. Eventually he was granted the gesture of the 16th (Irish) Division which, with the exception of its Irish General Bernhard Hickie was officered at first, unlike the Ulster Division which had its own reserve militia officers, largely by English officers - since most Irish recruits enlisting in the new army lacked military training to act as officers [Bowman, Timothy, "Irish Regiments in the Great War", Ch. 3: "Raising the Service battalions", pp. 61-99, Manchester University Press (2003) ISBN 0 7190 6285 3] . His own brother Major Willie Redmond MP., despite being aged over 50 years, was one of five Irish MP.s who enlisted, the others J. L. Esmonde, Stephen Gwynn, William Redmondand D. D. Sheehanas well as former MP Tom Kettle [Department of the Taoiseach: "Irish soldiers in the First World War", see also: * [http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/index.asp?docID=2517 ] .
Redmond was, and is still criticised for having encouraged so many Irish to fight in the Great War.
"Redmond could have tactically done nothing other than support the British war campaign; . . . nobody committed to Irish unity could have behaved other than Redmond did at the time. Otherwise, there would be no chance whatever of a united Ireland, in which Redmond passionately believed" [ Lee, Prof. Joe, "Nationalist or Imperialist?"He had no idea of the horror and losses the war would cause. Like most people of the time, he thought the war would last no longer than a few months.
The Sunday Tribune, 4 June 2000] .
Easter Rising, aftermath, decease
During 1915 Redmond felt secure in his course and that the path was already partly cleared for independence to be achieved without bloodshed. He was supported by continued by-election successes of the IPP, and felt strong enough to turn down the offer of a cabinet seat which would have offset Carson’s appointment to the war cabinet but would have been unpopular in Ireland. Even in 1916 he felt supremely confident and optimistic despite timely warnings from
Bonar Lawof an impending insurrection . Redmond had not expected the 1916 Easter Risingstaged by the remaining Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Armywhich was led by a number of influential republicans, under Pádraig Pearse. Pearse, once standing on the same platform with Redmond in 1913 where the Rising now took place, at that time praising Redmond’s efforts in achieving Home Rule. Redmond later acknowledged that the Rising had shattered all his plans . It had equally helped fuel republican sentiment, particularly when Britain's General Maxwell, in a highly misguided act, executed the leaders of the Rising, treating them as traitors in wartime. Redmond privately besought Asquith to halt them. There followed Asquith’s attempt to introduce Home Rule in July 1916 failing on the issue of partition.
Redmond, after 1916 increasingly eclipsed by ill-health, the rise of
Sinn Feinand the growing dominance of Dillon within then Irish Party , made a desperate effort in June 1917 to broker a new compromise with Irish unionists and to entangle Home Rule when he called the Irish Conventionwhich sat from July and ended in March 1918 with unresolved recommendations. But June 1917 also brought a severe personal blow when his brother Willie died on the front in action at the onset of the Battle of Messinesoffensive in Flanders, his vacant seat in East Clare then won in July by Eamon de Valera, the most senior surviving commandant of the Easter insurgents .
His health permanently affected by an accident in 1912, Redmond had also suffered assault on the street in Dublin by a crowd of young Sinn Féin supporters , including C.S. 'Tod' Andrews. In March 1918 an operation to remove an intestinal obstruction appeared to progress well at first, but then he suffered heart failure. He died a few hours later at a London nursing home on 6 March 1918. After a funeral service in
Westminster Cathedralhis remains were interred, expressed and wished in a manner characteristic of him, in the family vault at the old Knights' Templars' chapel yard of Saint John's Cemetery, Wexfordtown, there amongst his own people rather than in the national burial place in Glasnevin. The small high-walled neglected cemetery near the town centre is kept locked to the public - his vault which has been in a dilapidated state is only partially restored by Wexford Borough Corporation.
Redmond was succeeded in the party leadership by John Dillon and spared the experience of further political setbacks when after the German
Spring Offensiveof April 1918, when Britain, caught in a desperate life or death struggle with Imperial Germany, foolishly attempted to introduce conscription in Ireland jointly linked with implementing Home Rule. The Irish Nationalists led by Dillon walked out of the House of Commons and returned to Ireland to join in the widespread resistance and protests during the resulting conscription crisis.
The crisis boosted Sinn Féin so that in the December general election it won the vast majority of seats , leaving the Nationalist Party with only six seats for the 220,837 votes cast (21,7%) (down from 84 seats out of 105 in 1910). The Party simply did not win a fair share of seats because the election was not run under a "proportional representation" system, but on the "first past the post" British electoral system [Collins, M.E., "Sovereignty and partition, 1912-1949" pp. 59-62, Edco Publishing (2004) ISBN 1-845360-40-0 ] . Unionists on the other hand won 26 seats for 287,618 (28,3%) of votes.
Whereas Sinn Féin votes were 476,087 (or 46,9%) for 48 seats, plus 25 uncontested totalling an impressive 73 seats. In January 1919 a Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the provisional Sinn Féin
First Dáilproclaimed an Irish Republic, later abolished in 1921 after the Anglo-Irish Warunder the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treatywhich agreed the Partition of Irelandand established the Irish Free Statewith its parliament Dáil Éireann (in the Irish Languagethe "Assembly of Ireland"). The Irish Civil Warfollowed. Home Rule was however finally implemented in 1921 as the Fourth Home Rule Act under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which only Northern Irelandadopted.
Legacy and personal vision
John Redmond’s home town of Wexford remained a strongly Redmondite area for decades afterwards. The seat of Waterford city was one of the few outside of Ulster not to be won by Sinn Féin in the 1918 General Election. Redmond's son
Captain William Redmond, represented the City until his death in 1932. A later Irish Taoiseach(Irish prime minister), John Bruton, hung a painting of Redmond, whom he highly regarded because of his commitment to non-violence as his hero, in his office in Ireland's Leinster HouseGovernment Buildings. His successor, Bertie AhernTD however, replaced the painting with one of Padraig Pearse.
Redmond's personal vision did not encompass a wholly independent Ireland [cite book | title = The Open Secret of Ireland | last = Kettle | first = Thomas M. | publisher = IndyPublish.com | date = 2005 | id = ISBN 1-4219-4834-6 ] he stated that:
"that brighter day when the grant of full self-government would reveal to Britain the open secret of making Ireland her friend and helpmate, the brightest jewel in her crown of Empire."
He had above all a conciliatory agenda – in his final words in parliament he expressed – “a plea for concord between the two races that providence has designed should work as neighbours together”. For him, Home Rule was an interim step for All-Ireland autonomy:
His reward was to be repudiated and denounced by a generation which had yet to learn, as they learned three years later when they were forced to accept Partition, that true freedom is rarely served by bloodshed and violence, and that in politics compromise is inevitable. Yet it can be said of John Redmond that none of Ireland's sons had ever served her with greater sincerity or nobler purpose [John J. Horgan "Parnell to Pearse" p.323, Brown and Nolan Dublin (1948)] .
Stephen Gwynn"John Redmond's last years" (1919)
Denis Gwynn"The Life of John Redmond" (1932)
Paul Bew"John Redmond" (1996)
* Paul Bew "Redmond, John Edward (1856-1918)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-5)
* Dermot Meleady [http://www.corkuniversitypress.com/cgi-bin/corkuniversitypress.storefront/EN/product/9781859184233 Redmond: The Parnellite] (2008),
Cork University Press
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