The National Leader
Though in many ways the forgotten man of Irish politics, John Redmond came closer to achieving the long-sought goal of Home Rule for Ireland than had his more illustrious predecessors Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. In John Redmond: The National Leader (Merrion Press, 2014), Dermot Meleady describes how Redmond led the Irish Parliamentary Party to the cusp of this political victory and how it came apart for him. Picking up where his previous volume, Redmond: The Parnellite left off, Meleady introduces his readers to Redmond immediately after his assumption of his party’s leadership in 1900. With the anti-Home Rule Unionist Party in office, Redmond bided his time by shepherding other reforms that reshaped Irish society. When his party gained the balance of power in Parliament after the elections of 1910 Redmond used his newfound leverage to push Home Rule to the forefront of British politics, winning its passage but bringing Ireland to the brink of civil war by 1914 as a consequence. The outbreak of war in Europe in August 1914 led to a suspension of British politics and triggered a split in the Irish nationalist movement over Redmond’s appeal to support the war effort a split that, with the British response to the Easter Rising in 1916, led to Redmond’s political eclipse and the failure of his vision of an autonomous Ireland prospering within the British empire.