The Banshee's Kiss: Conciliation, Class and Conflict and the All for Ireland League

Murphy, PJ
(2019) The Banshee's Kiss: Conciliation, Class and Conflict and the All for Ireland League. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Historians have frequently portrayed constitutional nationalism as being homogeneous - ‘the Home Rule movement’- after the reunification of the Irish parliamentary party in 1900. Yet there were elements of nationalist heterodoxy all over the country, but it was only in Cork where dissent took an organised form in the only formal breakaway from the Irish party when the All for Ireland League (A.F.I.L.) was launched in 1910. The AFIL took eight of the nine parliamentary seats in Cork and gained control of local government in the city and county the following year. Existing historical accounts do not adequately explain why support for the Home Rule movement collapsed in Cork, but also why the AFIL flourished there but failed, despite the aspiration of its name, to expand beyond its regional base. The AFIL is chiefly remembered for its visionary policy of conciliation with unionists following the Damascene conversion of its leader William O’Brien, transformed from the enemy of the landed classes to an apostle of a new kind of bi-confessional politics. This would, he claimed, end the ‘Banshee’s Kiss’, a cycle of conflict in which each new generation attempts to achieve Irish freedom. However, conciliation was a policy which was unpopular with both nationalists and unionists and O’Brien therefore needed to develop an electoral base by other means with more popular policies. He did this primarily by co-opting labour dissent: firstly, in Cork city because of divisions between skilled and unskilled workers; and secondly, harnessing discontent amongst elements of the rural working class which arose following the Wyndham land act of 1903, which excluded small farmers, evicted tenants and farm labourers from the new dispensation. The AFIL ran populist campaigns in which it presented itself as an alternative to the hegemonic grip of the Home Rule movement. However, as this study will demonstrate, there was little to choose on social and economic issues between the O’Brienites and the Home Rule movement and the only policy which fundamentally divided the two parties was conciliation. Disaffection in elements of the working class in Cork, which precipitated the rise of the AFIL, both pre-dated and outlasted its existence. This thesis will, therefore, explore these fault lines over a more extended period from the Parnell split in 1890-1891 to the party’s launch in 1910 and beyond its demise in 1918 to the revolutionary years when the underlying issue of working class dissent, which the AFIL had co-opted and obfuscated, manifested itself again. The AFIL’s record in both parliamentary and local government is considered during its most active period from 1910 to 1914, through the successive crises of the Parliament act, the Home Rule bill and the outbreak of war. The Easter Rising and the rise of Sinn Féin administered the coup de grâce to the AFIL (as it did to the Home Rule movement), and the narrow ground of compromise and conciliation was lost.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2020 16:33
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2023 00:20
DOI: 10.17638/03061037