In the News: Roots of Unionist Political Parties in Northern Ireland

Since last week’s election, the Democratic Unionist Party has received more attention outside of Northern Ireland than it has in years, now holding the balance of power in the UK Parliament.  While the DUP was founded by Ian Paisley in 1971, the separation of political parties in Northern Ireland from the main United Kingdom parties has roots in the late nineteenth century before and during the Home Rule era.

2017 Election

2017 General Election Results – BBC News

In the 1870s, sectarian strife in the north of Ireland was at a low ebb as both Catholics and Protestants united through Liberal Party politics.  Continue reading

Political Cartoon: The Anti-Home Rule Orange Circus Over the Water

irish-world-11-mar-1893

Irish World, 11 March 1893

In the midst of the second Home Rule crisis in 1893, the most prominent Irish-American newspaper, the Irish World, published this political cartoon: “The Anti-Home Rule Orange Circus Over the Water.”

Here we see Edward Saunderson, MP and leader of the Ulster unionists in Parliament, beating the Orange drum.  Reverend Richard Rutledge Kane, of Belfast’s Christ Church, rips and stomps the Home Rule bill.  And in the background, Prime Minister William E. Gladstone is burned in effigy.

The Irish World described the scene: “More than 5,000 persons were present at the great Orange meeting here [in Belfast] to-day.  Dr. Kane, who presided, said that Ulster was prepared to defend herself to the last against the proposals of the Home Rule Bill.  The men of Ulster need not feel, however, that they would be alone and unaided in the fight for their liberties.  They had the sympathies of Englishmen of all classes throughout the world.

“He had received letters from military and police officers in England and Ireland and telegrams from Canada and Australia promising co-operation with the men of Ulster if the latter resorted to arms to defend their liberties against the tyranny of their historic foes.  A hundred thousand Orangemen were ready to resist to the death the Home Rule Bill.”

The Irish World‘s serious tone in reporting the event contrasts with the snarling and chaotic feel to the political cartoon, with the beating of the Orange drum an annoying “circus” and distraction from what Irish nationalists considered as the larger issues at stake with Home Rule.