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Handkerchief, Political Cartoon for Northern Ireland, 1914

  • 1914 political cartoon, keep Northern Ireland part of Britain

At this time Britain ruled all of Ireland, but there was a lot of unrest, with some people, mainly Catholics wanting to break away to form a new independent country, while most Protestants who lived mainly in the North wanting to remain part of the UK. The people who wanted to remain part of the UK are called Unionists, while the opposite side are Irish Nationalists. This Handkerchief supports the Unionist view.

In 1914 the British Liberal Government had supported the 3rd Irish Home Rule Bill to provide Ireland with self government within the British Empire. The Government of Ireland Act of 1914 was given Royal Assent after it was passed in the House of Commons, but defeated in the Lords. The Act was the subject of great internal division within Britain and Ireland. This symbolic Unionist handkerchief opposes Irish Home Rule and depicts England (represented by John Bull) pulling Northern Ireland closer to Britain and away from Irish Nationalism and Home Rule.

More info

Before Britain entered the Great War on 4th of August 1914 the main concern of the British Government was the prospect of a civil war in Ireland. The prospect of Irish Home Rule was bitterly opposed by the Ulster Unionists who were also backed by the Tory Party. Unionists wanted Ireland to remain tied to the United Kingdom and feared the prospect of being a minority in a devolved and predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland. The result of these tensions led to gun running by the Ulster Volunteer force at Larne and the National Volunteers at Howth.

When war was announced in August the Government of Ireland Act was suspended. Both British Unionists and the Irish Home Rule Party supported the war effort but had widely differing political agendas to trade for helping Britain in the war.

Key facts: 
  • This is a Unionist political cartoon. The Unionists wanted Northern Ireland to stay a part of the British Isles. Irish Nationalists wanted Northern Ireland to leave Britain and rule itself. This was called Home Rule
  • The cartoon shows a Unionist politician pulling Northern Ireland away from 'The Home Front Rocks' and towards England. Around the coast of England are key issues of the Unionist argument- budget, tariff reform, and the House of Lords

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