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Government of Ireland Bill 1893

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Title: Government of Ireland Bill 1893  
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Subject: Devolution in the United Kingdom, Government of Ireland Act 1920, History of Ireland (1801–1923), Government of Ireland Bill 1886, Irish Boundary Commission
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Government of Ireland Bill 1893

The Government of Ireland Bill 1893 (known generally as the Second Home Rule Bill) was the second attempt made by William Ewart Gladstone, as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to enact a system of home rule for Ireland. Unlike the first attempt, which was defeated in the House of Commons, the second Bill was passed by the Commons only to be vetoed by the House of Lords.


Gladstone had become personally committed to the granting of Irish home rule in 1885, a fact revealed (possibly accidentally) in what became known as the Hawarden Kite. Though his 1886 Home Rule Bill had caused him to lose power, once re-appointed prime minister in August 1892 Gladstone committed himself to introducing a new Home Rule Bill for Ireland.

As with the first bill, the second bill was controversially drafted in secret by Gladstone, who excluded both Irish MPs, the leadership of the (recently split) Irish Parliamentary Party and his own ministry from participating in the drafting. The decision led to a serious factual error in the Bill, a mistake over the calculation of how much Ireland should contribute to the British Imperial Exchequer. The error in the calculation was £360,000, a vast sum for the time. The error was discovered during the Committee Stage of the Bill's passage through the Commons and forced a major revision of the financial proposals.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir William Harcourt, was himself alienated from the Bill having been excluded by Gladstone from its preparation, while the Chief Secretary for Ireland was engaged on other matters, and Gladstone, in the words of a historian, "increasingly disengaged". On 21 April, the Bill's second reading was approved by a majority of 347 to 304.

By the third reading on 1 September 26 of the Bill's 37 clauses had still not been debated. A fist-fight developed on the opposition benches between Home Rule and Conservative MPs. The Bill, though passed by the Commons with a slimmer majority of 30, had lost much of its credibility. At that time all legislation could be negated by the Conservative Party-dominated House of Lords, and here it failed on a vote of 41 in favour and 419 against.[1]


The bill proposed:


  • A bicameral Irish parliament to control domestic affairs, made up of a legislative council with 48 councillors elected for eight years and a legislative assembly with 103 members.


  • The new executive would not be answerable to the Irish parliament and would contain no prime minister.[2]

Irish MPs in Westminster

This bill was different from the first bill that Gladstone introduced in 1886 because it allowed for the eighty Irish MPs to vote in Westminster; this was a reduction from the previous 103.

Passed by the Commons, defeated in the Lords

The Bill was passed by the House of Commons on 1 September 1893, by 347 votes to 304. However when it was presented to the House of Lords it was defeated by 419 votes to 41. This was a major stumbling block for the Irish MPs because the House of Lords was controlled by the Conservative Party and there would be little chance of it getting passed by them.

Gladstone retired soon afterwards. Some historians now suggest that Gladstone was the author of his own defeats on home rule, with his secretive drafting alienating supporters, and enabling serious flaws to appear in the text of his bills.[3]


  1. ^ Alvin Jackson, Home Rule: An Irish History 1800—2000 p.97.
  2. ^ This did not in practice mean that the executive would not be answerable to the assembly, nor did it mean that there would be no prime minister. Contemporary British enactments for the dominions contained exactly the same provisions. However in reality governments became answerable almost immediately, and, as in the case of Canada, a prime ministerial office evolved early on, even if not mentioned anywhere in law.
  3. ^ Jackson, op.cit p.98.

See also


  • Bill to amend provision for Government of Ireland (as amended in Committee, and on Consideration) HC 1893–1894 (448) 3 323
  • Robert Kee, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism (2000 edition, first published 1972), ISBN 0-14-029165-2.
  • Alvin Jackson, Home Rule: An Irish History 1800—2000, (2003),
    ISBN 0-7538-1767-5.
  • Loughlin, James Gladstone, Home Rule and the Ulster Question, 1882–1893, Dublin: 1986.
  • Thomas Hennessey, Dividing Ireland, World War 1 and Partition, 1998,
    ISBN 0-415-17420-1.

External links

  • Government of Ireland Bill 1893 from EPPI online (Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland), DIPPAM.
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