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John Redmond: Irish PM calls for Home Rule leader memorial

John Redmond Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Redmond led the campaign for Ireland to be given power over its own affairs, while remaining under British rule, in the early years of the 20th Century

The Irish prime minister has said he supports a call for a new memorial to honour the leader of the Irish Home Rule movement, John Redmond.

Redmond led the campaign for Ireland to be given power over its own affairs, while remaining under British rule, in the early years of the 20th century.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny has suggested a new memorial in the Irish parliament.

He was responding to a call by ex-Irish PM John Bruton, who said Ireland had "undervalued" Redmond's contribution.

Mr Bruton said that 100 years ago this week, Redmond had succeeded in persuading British public opinion that "self-rule for Ireland was OK", paving the way for later peace agreements.

The former prime minister said Irish history had "romanticised" republican rebel leaders and the use of violence, while at the same time overlooking parliamentarians who used peaceful, democratic methods.

Mr Bruton said Ireland had erected memorials to the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, but there was no similar tribute to Redmond.

This week marked the centenary of the passing into law of the Third Home Rule.

The bill was given Royal Assent on 18 September 1914, exactly a century before this week's Scottish Independence referendum.

The legislation marked the pinnacle of Redmond's political career and set Ireland on the path to devolved self-government - until fate intervened in the shape of the First World War.

Enactment of the law was delayed until after the war - but the turbulent events that followed over the next few years meant Redmond's Home Rule ambition was never achieved.

However, he remains one of the most influential and controversial figures in Irish history.

John Edward Redmond was a Westminster MP from Wexford, who led the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 until his death in 1918.

His party lobbied the British government to restore Dublin's parliament, giving it control over political affairs solely relating to Ireland, while the island remained under overall British control.

Mr Bruton, who was the Republic of Ireland's prime minister (Taoiseach) from 1994 to 1997 has described the passage into law of Redmond's Home Rule Act as "an Irish parliamentary achievement without equal in the preceding 200 years".

The former prime minister said that in 1914, Redmond had won the opportunity for national self-determination solely by "parliamentary means and without the loss of a life".

When the bill was passed, Redmond agreed to postpone the legislation, and actively encouraged his fellow Irishmen to fight for Britain in the First World War.

Image copyright PA
Image caption John Bruton wants greater public recognition for John Redmond, one of his political heroes

But two years into the conflict, Irish republicans opposed to the late and limited nature of Home Rule, staged an insurrection in Dublin - the 1916 Easter Rising.

The rebels were quickly defeated, but the execution of their leaders resulted in a wave of public sympathy for their cause, and a drop in support for Redmond.

Redmond died from heart failure in March 1918, shortly before the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence, which eventually led to the partition of Ireland.

During his tenure as prime minister in the 1990s, Mr Bruton borrowed a picture of Redmond from Ireland's National Gallery and displayed it in his office.

On Thursday, he received a letter from the current prime minister, supporting his call for greater public recognition of one of his political heroes.

According to the Irish Times, Mr Kenny wrote it was "timely to consider the introduction of a monument or memorial to John Redmond in the Oireachtas [Irish parliament]".

Mr Bruton said he was pleased with the response to his campaign and would ideally like to see a bust cast of Redmond and placed in the Irish parliament.

A spokeswoman for the Oireachtas said any request for a new memorial in the building would have to be considered by the committee on procedure and privileges.

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