CHARLES STEWART PARNELL
The Great Famine of 1845 to 1849 left over 1 million dead
with a further 1 million emigrating over the following 10
years. One of the effects of the disaster was to
demonstrate to ordinary Irish people that the English
Government had failed them in their time of need and
that they must seize control of their own destiny.
Out of the Famine grew several revolutionary movements
which culminated in the 1916 Easter Rising. In the
second half of the nineteenth century the main concern
of the Irish people was their land and the fact that
they had no control whatsoever over it ownership.
Charles Stewart Parnell was the son of a Protestant
landowner who organised the rural masses into agitation
against the ruling Landlord class to seek the 3 Fs:
Fixity of Tenure, Freedom to Sell and Fair Rent.
Violence flared in the countryside but Parnell preferred
to use parliamentary means to achieve his objectives and
the result was a series of Land Acts which greatly improved
the conditions under which the Irish agricultural class
Parnell's main ambition was Home Rule for Ireland (local
Government) and he led the Irish Party, deposing Isaac
Butt in the process to achieve this aim. He and colleagues
such as Joseph Biggar made a science out of 'fillibustering'
and delayed the English parliament by introducing amendments
to every clause of every Bill and then discussing each aspect
at length. His popularity in Ireland soared to great heights.
Trouble loomed for Parnell however, in his private life.
had secretly courted a married woman, Kathleen O'Shea, the
husband of whom filed for divorce, naming Parnell as the
co-repsondent. He tried to ignore the scandal and continued
his public life. Public pressure in Ireland and from
Gladstone in England eventually brought his downfall and he
died shortly afterwards, in 1891. The Home Rule Bill that
he had forced Gladstone into introducing was passed in the
House of Commons, but defeated in the House of Lords.
In his last speech in Kilkenny in 1891 he said: 'I dont
pretend that I had not moments of trial and of temptation,
but I do claim that never in thought, word, or deed, have
I been false to the trust which Irishmen have confided in me'.
But perhaps he will be most remembered for the quotation
that can be found on his statue at the junction of O'Connell
Street and Parnell Street in Dublin City Centre:
'No man shall have the right to fix the boundary to the
march of a Nation'.
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