Its opposition to partition was sustained and unyielding: throughout the two months of June and July 1916, the paper ran 52 editorials, 38 of them enunciating an anti-partition message.And to this chorus line of influential critics were joined the Catholic bishops, among the most vociferous and trenchant of them the Bishop of Limerick, Dr. Writing to a Belfast Anti-Partition Committee, O’Dwyer denounced Irish political leaders for agreeing to sell northern nationalists ‘like chattels’ and cut them ‘off from their own country’.
Dillon, who had witnessed the rebellion close-up, saw in the prosecution of this punitive policy the unravelling of decades of constitutional nationalist progress which had been expected to soon deliver the prize of an Irish Home Rule parliament.This was, as Dillon put it, the ‘fruit of our life work’: ‘We have risked our lives a hundred times to bring about this result.Instead, Lloyd George met separately with both sets of negotiators and found agreement for a solution on the basis that the Home Rule Act of 1914 would come into force as soon as possible but would not apply to the six north-eastern counties; that Irish representation at Westminster would be reduced; and that, at the conclusion of the war, an Imperial conference would be convened to find a permanent settlement for Ireland.For unionist and national negotiators, the compromise offered sufficient crumbs of comfort to earn their support.We are held up to odium as traitors by those men who made this rebellion, and our lives have been in danger a hundred times during the last thirty years..now you are washing out our whole life work in a sea of blood.’ Dillon’s words proved prophetic.
Just over two years later, the life’s work of a generation of Home Rule Irish nationalists had been all but swept away: the Irish Parliamentary Party was routed in the British general election of December 1918 when Sinn Féin, campaigning on a platform of complete independence for Ireland and abstention from Westminster, secured 73 of the 105 Irish seats available.
' The problem of divided Ireland solved by a simple feat of engineering - if Scotland make not objections.' Satirical magazine , 8 October 1913) But what exactly was the nature of that partition and how long would the exclusion of the six counties last?
Here, in what historian Eamon Phoenix has described as an act of ‘pre-meditated duplicity’, Lloyd George offered assurances to the two parties that were not only incompatible, but inimical.
Not prepared to be easily sold, some constitutional northern nationalists, in what was construed by the authorities as a ‘revolt ...against Mr Redmond and his colleagues’, launched a new vehicle for resisting any carve-up of the country – the short-lived Irish Nation League.
Founded following an anti-partition meeting in Derry in late July, the League was, within a month, reported to have had as many 29 branches and 1,000 members in the counties Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone.
The House of Commons filled with noise and animosity.