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1886 - 1893: The First and Second Home Rule Bills
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In 1886, the Liberal Party Prime Minister of the UK, William Gladstone, decided that in order to end the problems in Ireland, some action would have to be taken. He felt that giving Ireland back their local Parliament, which was removed in the Act of Union of 1800, would solve the problem. So in 1886, Gladstone introduced the First Home Rule Bill. However it was defeated in the London Parliament because others, especially, the Conservative Party were against Home Rule which they thought would weaken the United Kingdom.

After this attempt to introduce Home Rule, the Irish Unionists formed an organisation called the 'Irish Unionist Alliance' to fight Home Rule. This organisation was very influential, despite being small in numbers, and received large donations from rich businessmen in Dublin, Cork and Belfast. These were the people who stood to lose most from Home Rule. The IUA also gained support with the opposition in the UK Parliament (the Conservatives) because they felt that if Ireland broke away from the UK, other parts of the British Empire would try to as well. These people were called the 'British Unionists'. This meant that the two sides in the London Parliament were against each other when it came to the issue of Home Rule.

After the First Home Rule Bill had failed, the Conservative leader had come to Ulster, where Irish Unionism was significantly stronger than anywhere else. He told the Unionists that they could count on British Unionists to help them resist Home Rule. He famously commented that 'Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right'. In 1892, the Unionists started to use the slogan 'Erin go bragh' which is Irish for 'Ireland for ever' to show their commitment to maintaining Ireland's position as a part of the UK. There was also some sporadic rioting in Belfast, because the Unionists in Ulster had begun to be regarded as anti-Catholic. This was a charge they didn't face in the rest of Ireland, where there was less trouble. In 1886 alone, 50 people were killed in the city of Belfast.

In 1884, the Irish Nationalists began the first phase of forging a single Irish national identity. This started with the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to promote Irish sports. In 1893, the Gaelic League was founded by two (Nationalist) Protestants. Its purpose was to promote the Irish language. The Irish language was mainly of Celtic origin with some Scottish influence. Both organisations were extremely successful, attracting thousands of members. Together, they instituted what is now referred to as the 'Gaelic Revival' in Ireland.

In 1886, the anti-Home-Rule Conservatives came to power. Their policy was to introduce new and fairer laws for Ireland. These laws, called the 'Plan of Campaign', gave more rights to tenant farmers and helped them to become financially much better off . The purpose of this policy was to show the Irish, by kindness, that Home Rule was unnecessary. It worked well, and between 1885 and 1905, most of Ireland's land changed hands from the landlords to the tenant farmers.

In 1892, the Liberals regained power. Despite threats from the Unionists at their 1892 conference, William Gladstone introduced the Second Home Rule Bill in 1893. In a victorious vote, it was passed by the House of Commons. However it was defeated in the UK's upper house (the House of Lords), where there were many more Conservatives than Liberals. A Bill can't become law in the UK unless both houses pass it.

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