Ireland Under English Rule: A Colony Or A Burden?

2013 words - 9 pages

"Although formally part of the same state, [Ireland after the Act of Union] was not and could not have been ruled in the same fashion as Great Britain".The Act of Union had aimed to lessen the threat of Ireland being used to launch a military attack on Britain. It had aimed to uphold the privileged position of the colonists' descendants, the landed Protestant ascendancy; and it had meant that Ireland could be governed from London to rather than rule herself. All these were the features of a colony. Other features typical of a colony might be, perhaps: -a situation where the mother country benefits financially from the colony, and -the dependence of the colony on the mother country.In most of ...view middle of the document...

Here is how one Protestant Irish Unionists felt about the recent reforms: "We have - I should rather say we had - a Protestant Constitution ... [The English Government] betrayed their trust and commenced, step by step, to assail that Constitution, break down the most precious bulwarks, and seek to destroy the Protestant faith". But it was not only in the fields of parliamentary representation and religion that the Protestant landed class saw their position threatened by reforms. The Land Acts saw the landowners lose rights that they had previously taken for granted; hence the phrase: "Tenant right is landlord wrong". The 1903 Wyndham Land Act (despite the fact that it was Conservative Party legislation) has been described by a recent historian as "revolutionary". Finally, under Birrell's Land Act of 1909 landlords could be forced to sell land to their tenants whether they wised to sell or not. Indeed, the position of the landed Protestant ascendancy had diminished to such an extent that Oliver MacDonagh believes that, by 1903, "a social and economic transformation of the first magnitude, of the same order as that begun in France in 1789, had been initiated. A once-ruling class was to be dispossessed". However, the ascendancy still had one last support to fall back on: their allies in the House of Lords still had the right to veto any piece of legislation. As long as this right existed, there was still protection from the "rank socialists" in the Liberal party, even when they had a majority in the Commons. As a result of the Parliament Act of 1911, even this had been reduced to a mere two-year suspension. By the First World War, therefore, the privileged position of the colonists' descendants was no longer upheld by the Government; in this sense Ireland could no longer be considered a colony.But what about the benefits that England derived from Ireland; after all, most colonies contribute towards the wealth and/or military strength of the mother country. The Union had been "[b]orn of fears" ; it was "conceived of as the only effective means available of gaining a firm military control of a weak point in Britain's defences against revolutionary France". Yet more than a hundred years later, during the First World War, Ireland remained the UK's weak point. The numbers of men who were corresponding with Germany, who were responsible for the importation of arms and for the Easter Rising may have been tiny, but the population in general was far from giving full allegiance to the British cause. For example, in 1918 when John Dillon heard of the proposed Military Service Bill, which would give the Government power to apply conscription in Ireland whenever the need arose, he warned Lloyd George: "All Ireland will rise against you". By this stage, England was not making any economic profit from Ireland either. Despite the 1895 claim "that Ireland had been overtaxed relative to the rest of the United Kingdom since 1801" ; despite Arthur Griffith's belief...

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