Isaac Butt's strengths and weaknesses for Leaving Cert History #625Lab

Comment on Isaac Butt’s strengths and weaknesses as leader of the Home Rule Party.

  • The factual content of the essay is very good for the most part, and covers all important topics of the Home Rule movement
  • If you're going to abbreviate the names of parties and movements like the Home Government Association, make sure that when you spell it fully for the first time, put your intended abbreviation in brackets after it - Home Government Association (HGA)
  • The paragraphs are quite long, and could maybe be split into twice as many shorter paragraphs
“My mission is to pacify Ireland,” Isaac Butt. (Edit: This quote is by Gladstone, so it's really not ideal to misquote in your opening sentence.) The Home Rule Party was established by Isaac Butt in 1870 with the aim of dominating Irish political affairs for the next 50 years. Isaac Butt was the son of a Church of Ireland minister and believed that Ireland should have its own parliament to “mobilise opinion” backing the call for an Irish parliament with full control over domestic affairs. 
Along with the establishment of the Home Rule Party, Butt also founded the Home Government Association at a meeting in Dublin on May 19th 1870. This was organised to advance his policy of Home Rule. The main aims of this organisation was to let Britain control foreign affairs and for the parliament in Dublin to control internal affairs. The HGA was an extremely diverse group with members such as Protestants, Catholics, Tenants and landlords. Protestants joined as they shared Butt’s distrust of Gladstone’s policies; Fenians joined in hope of exploiting the organisation; Supporters of tenant right joined as a result of how crestfallen they were with the new Land Act; and constitutional nationalists took it as a chance to advance their demand for an Irish Parliament. The HGA was weakened from the beginning due to its lack of any discipline and not following any predefined plan of action. Instead, the HGA became an umbrella organisation that included Catholics, Protestants, Constitutional nationalists and fenians. Concerned with the Catholic nationalist dominance many protestant’s left the movement. The same year that Isaac Butt reconstituted the HGA and transformed it into the Home Rule League, he also established the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain. This was an attempt to advertise his ideas among the Irish in England, Scotland and wales. Isaac Butt could not control such a diverse group due to his weak leadership skills, his gambling problem and his gentlemanly approach, illustrating some of the weaknesses Butt possessed as leader of the Home Rule Party.

  • Introduction needs to address the question: the question asks for you to comment on Butt's strengths and weaknesses, so you need to outline these in the introductory paragraph
  • This essay seems to focus more at times on the strengths and weaknesses of the HGA and then the Home Rule League - be careful that you always focus on Butt himself, and how his own characteristics were behind these strengths and weaknesses
The Home Government Association did not organise itself on a national level as it was mainly a Dublin pressure group and most members were more concerned about getting their land back. From the outset the HGA was plagued by many limitations and problems including: a diverse composition, lack of funds and lack of support from the Catholic Church. The movement was tolerated rather than encouraged by the various groups of Irish nationalists, and it was not fully supported by the Roman Catholic clergy until the 1880s. Isaac Butt failed to maintain proper control over the HGA and realised he had to transform it into a more political organisation called the Home Rule League. This effort to convert the HGA to the Home Rule League was greatly aided by the 1872 Secret Ballot Act and Gladstone’s University Bill in 1873. In November 1873 Isaac Butt replaced the Home Government Association with the Home Rule League. Many members desired to organise the association on a national level. In order to achieve this they opened membership to those who paid an annual subscription of £1. Once again the league was laced with problems; M.P’s were divided, it remained a single issue movement and the organisation failed to properly organise itself nationally. This once again highlights Isaac Butt’s weaknesses as leader of the Home Rule Party.

  • It is not enough to simply say at the end of each paragraph something along the lines of "these were some of Butt's weaknesses" - you must support your arguments throughout the paragraph and if you find that what you're writing doesn't highlight either a strength or a weakness of Butt's, then it's not relevant information
  • There is too much focus on Butt's weaknesses and very little mention of his strengths - there is particular overuse of his personal struggles as a weakness - you need to address both parts of the question equally
The Home Rule League came to its first electoral test when Gladstone called a general election in 1874. The League was greatly unprepared and did not have enough time to find suitable candidates. The Home Rule League won 59 seats out of 105 seats at the Westminster Parliament, now becoming a political party. This was in fact an exaggeration of their strength. As it appeared, only 20 f the 59 were committed to the Home rule cause. The remaining members were Liberals who were standing under a Home Rule ticket to win votes. 

Although Isaac Butt possessed many weaknesses over the course of his career one of his few successes was becoming chairman of the party. This was the highest point in his career. This success was only short lived as once again the party suffered many difficulties. Isaac Butt proved to be a weak leader as he was regularly absent, due to his work as a barrister and his debts, there was no party discipline along with the absence of a pledge binding its members to vote as a group. Isaac Butt also had a gentlemanly approach which was outdated. Butt also obeyed parliamentary debates, the British realised he was a parliamentary lightweight and he failed to establish himself as an important political figure. The 1874 general election had returned a Conservative Government who did not need any H.R votes. 

Many members of Isaac Butt’s own party became increasingly unhappy with the party’s lack of unity and success in the House of Commons along with Butt’s gentlemanly and parliamentary tactics employed by their leader, highlighting his lack of leadership skills. They believed that a more aggressive approach was necessary to advance the popularity of the party. The Party’s advocated tactic was called ‘parliamentary obstructionism.’ Obstructionism was used when a bill was introduced in parliament; the ‘obstructionists’ would talk and debate at a great length to delay these bills/laws/etc. parliamentary obstructionism was first utilised by Joseph Biggar, a Belfast merchant and fenian who played a leading part in the creation of the Home Rule League. Biggar along with Charles Stewart Parnell were the main figures of obstructionism. He along with other MP’s engaged in disrupting the business of the House of Commons in order to force politicians to pay attention to Irish grievances. Isaac Butt greatly disapproved with these tactics and believed they were ungentlemanly and unparliamentary. He also feared it would anger British MP’s and therefore jeopardise the cause of Home Rule in Britain, on which all Irish reforms depended. It is evident that Isaac Butt failed to connect with his party members therefore illustrating some of the weaknesses he possessed during his time as leader of the Home Rule Party.

In 1875 the obstructionists gained a new supporter when a young Home Rule MP was elected in a by-election to represent Co. Meath in the House of Commons. His name was Charles Stewart Parnell and he was to control and remould the Irish political scene over the following years. In 1877 Parnell replaced Butt as leader of the Home Rule Confederation of Great Britain. However, Butt remained leader of the Home Rule League out of sympathy. The rise of Isaac Butt and the Home Rule 

  • The conclusion is weak and incomplete - use the conclusion to wrap up your argument, not to add more information that doesn't address the question
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