Wednesday 23 May 2018

Mini profile: John Redmond

John Redmond.
John Redmond.

Donal Fallon

John Edward Redmond was born on 1 September 1856 at Ballytrent House in Wexford. He was the son of William Archer Redmond, a Home Rule MP who would profess that Ireland possessed an "indefeasible right to be governed by an Irish Parliament". Sharing his father's belief, John was first elected a Member of Parliament in 1881 for New Ross, representing the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP). In a single evening, Redmond would make his maiden speech and be suspended and expelled from the House.

A committed Parnellite, he became an important figure in the minority of the IPP that remained loyal to its leader after his downfall, stating "it is because I believe that your maintenance is necessary to the success of our cause". Following Parnell's death, Redmond took over the leadership of the Irish National League, the Parnellite faction, but by 1900 political unity was restored.

His relationship with advanced nationalists was complex. While he opposed the use of physical force, he was a vocal supporter of the Amnesty Association in the 1890s. He championed the cause of Fenian prisoner Thomas Clarke, describing him as "a man of whom no words of praise could be too high".

Under his leadership, the IPP once more became an important force in Westminster, holding the balance of power from 1910. He utilised this importance to push the Liberal Government of HH Asquith on the issue of Home Rule. The outbreak of the First World War saw the postponing of its implementation, and Redmond encouraged the Irish Volunteer movement to support the British war effort, insisting famously that "the interests of Ireland - of the whole of Ireland - are at stake in this war".

It is this decision which has dominated much of the historical discourse and debate around his career.

Donal Fallon is an author and historian, currently researching republican commemoration and memory at UCD

Irish Independent

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