On this day, May 3, 1920, the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Ireland passed The Government of Ireland Act (1920), dividing Ireland into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland.
Pre-Tudor Ireland, going back to the invasion by Strongbow, may have been nominally part of the English crown, but it was more of a self-governing afterthought. But after Henry VIII had to deal with a rebellion by his cousin, Thomas FitzGerald, the crown decided to pay more attention to Ireland. This “attention” was further exacerbated as the Tudors and England renounced Roman Catholicism; Irish nationalism and religion became intertwined. Making things worse, the Stuart King James rewarded Scottish Presbyterians from Scotland with confiscated lands in Ireland… The Plantation of Ulster, the idea was to at the same time, quell Irish Catholics in Ulster…. A brilliant win-win solution, that became lose-lose for generations of Ulstermen of both heritages.
Two-hundred years of Irish Catholic repression under the Penal Laws, but finally repealed under the leadership of Daniel O’Connell in the mid-nineteenth century. Renewed Irish nationalism and rising political demands by the Green Irish Catholic Gaelics, seemed like a threat, not in the South, but in the industrialized North where Orangemen had tremendous social privilege and wealth at state.
As the cry for Home rule got louder, the Orange Lodges got louder to in their insistence to remain an integrated part of Britain. The House of Lords vetoed home rule twice and then lost their right to veto; the third home rule bill and the home rule crisis, then WWI and broken promises… the Easter Rising, the unnecessary execution of a man, tied to a chair, with a broken ankle…. Finally, on this day, May 3, 1920, the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland passed The Government of Ireland Act (1920), dividing Ireland into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland.
The Act was intended to establish separate Home Rule institutions within two new subdivisions of Ireland: the six north-eastern counties were to form “Northern Ireland,” while the larger part of the country was to form “Southern Ireland.” Both areas of Ireland were to continue as a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and provision was made for their future reunification under common Home Rule institutions.
Home Rule never took effect in Southern Ireland, due to the Irish War of Independence, which resulted instead in the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment in 1922 of the Irish Free State. However, the institutions set up under this Act for Northern Ireland continued to function until they were suspended by the British parliament in 1972 as a consequence of The Troubles. The remaining provisions of the Act were actually still in force in Northern Ireland until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Yes, Home Rule is finally complete for both the southern Republic of Ireland and, somewhat begrudgingly in the northeastern 6 counties of Ulster. The Northern Ireland government has been suspended several times in the past twenty years. The fourth North Ireland Executive collapse in 2017 over the Cash for Ash Scandal.
Without a devolved Home Rule government of their own, Northern Ireland is managed from London, but there is peace. Not perfect peace, but peace none-the-less.
While on this day, May 3, 1920, the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland passed The Government of Ireland Act (1920), dividing Ireland into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, it is now Northern Ireland that wants to continue its relationship with the Republic Ireland in the fallout of the Brexit vote. Ireland, one small island in the North Atlantic only the size of the US State of Indiana, but with a long history of division and disproportionate drama.
That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,
Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.
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