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The end of the British empire - Ireland
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Extracts from police reports on the situation in Ulster in 1913
(Catalogue ref: CO 904/27/3)
  • This report was sent to the British government in July 1913 by the Commissioner of Police in Belfast. His report was based on the reports of his senior officers around Belfast.
  • Home Rule for Ireland meant that Ireland would still be part of the United Kingdom, but would be ruled by its own parliament based in Dublin. The British Parliament rejected Home Rule in the 1880s and 1890s. However, in 1910 there was an election in Britain. After the election the Liberal Party did not have enough MPs to pass the laws it wanted to. The Liberals did a deal with John Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party. The Irish MPs agreed to support the Liberal's plans and in return they would get Home Rule.
  • Home Rule was approved by Parliament in 1912 but it was agreed that putting it into action would be delayed until 1914.
  • Straight away, opponents of Home Rule (Unionists) went into action, led by Sir Edward Carson. There were Unionists all over Ireland, but the main concentration of Unionists was in Ulster, especially Belfast.
  • Unionists vowed that they would resist Home Rule. They even said they would take up arms if the government tried to make it happen. They formed their own army, the Ulster Volunteer Force, in 1913 and smuggled guns into the country for the UVF.
  • There is a lot of debate about whether Ulster would have fought. Redmond and the Nationalists thought they were bluffing. However, they formed their own army, the National Volunteers.
  • Many members of the British government also thought the Unionists were bluffing. However, they were shocked when army officers at the Curragh base in Ireland threatened to resign if they were ordered to enforce Home Rule.
  • By this stage Ireland was getting close to civil war. This was avoided when the Great War broke out in 1914. Both sides agreed to suspend their arguments until this war was over.
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