Parnellism and Workers: The Experience of Cork and Limerick

  • Maura Cronin


The political movement for Irish home rule and agrarian reform led by Charles Stewart Parnell in the 1880s collapsed in disarray with the O’Shea divorce case of 1891. This case revealed many of the internal fissures within Parnell’s movement, but it did not cause them. During its decade-long existence, the movement had been held together by a potent mix of centralisation and flexibility, Parnell maintaining tight control through a pledge-bound party and a centralised leadership, yet simultaneously encouraging the multiple expectations of the many interest groups within the rank and file.1 Thus, the meaning of Parnellism varied from one constituent group to the next. To farmers it meant anything from mere rent reduction to a complete revolution in land ownership. To party activists and the non-farming public its interpretation ranged from limited political independence, through the ‘restoration’ of the Irish parliament of 1782, to the establishment of a separate republic. To Catholic churchmen, suspicious though many were of both Parnell’s socio-denominational background and his authoritarian leadership style, Parnellism nonetheless meant a clerical share in political power.2


Trade Union Skilled Artisan National League Temperance Society Home Rule 
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    Emmet Larkin, The Roman Catholic Church and the Creation of the Modern Irish State 1878–1886 (Dublin, 1975), pp. 267–301.Google Scholar
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    Conor Cruise O’Brien, Parnell and his Party 1880–1890 (Oxford, 1957), p. 25.Google Scholar
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    Brian M. Walker, Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland 1801–1922 (Dublin, 1978), pp. 265, 334–5.Google Scholar
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    John S. Kelly, The Bodyke Evictions (Ennis, 1987), pp. 72–98;Google Scholar
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    James S. Donnelly, Jr, The Land and People of Nineteenth Century Cork: The Rural Economy and the Land Question (London, 1973), pp. 344–5.Google Scholar

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© Maura Cronin 2005

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  • Maura Cronin

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