PAUL BEW - Two Irelands in conflict? 1912 Revisited.
Writing of this epoch in 1960, Conor Cruise O’ Brien observed: ‘the Confusion of the time was rich and
esplosive.. its the man of action not the man of prudence who has flourished in it ‘’.. All Ireland heard
ancestral voices prophesising war. Different ancestors and a different war?
There is truth in this.
But it is also true that from September 1914 until the Easter rising of 1916, Unionist and Nationalist
Ireland was to intents and purposes fighting on the same side of a European war.
This lecture attempts to explain this paradox by looking at the two Irelands as they faced each other in
1912. It will draw especially on a discussion of WP Moneypenny’s ‘ The Irish Nations’ published in
London in 1913. This major work of analysis was the most remarkable attempt to define the Irish
question in its full complexity in this period.
Going right to the heart of the Irish question, Bew offers an interpretation of Irish politics in the critical
1912 – 1916 period. He will look again at the issues at stake in the home rule crisis of 1912 – 1914,
arguing that John Redmond, the leader of constitutional nationalism in the period, possessed a plausible
political strategy. Redmond’s reputation has suffered from the critiques of those who argue either that
he failed to conciliate Unionists, or that he lacked the requisite fighting spirit of militant nationalism.
This lecture contains much that is a sympathetic reconstruction of Redmond’s vision but it also
acknowledges the seriousness of the Ulster Unionist case.
Bew offers a full treatment of the debate concerning land, economy, land, religion, language and
national identity in the period, and ends with a discussion of the Easter Rising of 1916 which destroyed
Redmond’s party. The political, cultural and economic implications of this development are drawn out,
and Bew examines their continuing effect on Irish history.