Print “Irish Parliamentary Party of 1885”
Framed and glazed print of a drawing by D. J. Reigh entitled “The Irish Benches -Irish Parliamentary Party of 1885” and printed by Forster & Co., Ltd., Dublin. The Irish Parliamentary Party was formed in 1882 having originated in the Home Government Association established by Isaac Butt who favoured limited self government or Home Rule for Ireland. Charles Stewart Parnell, a protestant landlord who was first elected to parliament in 1875 became the party’s leader after Butt’s death. The party flourished under his leadership and led a hugely successful election campaign in 1885 winning every seat outside eastern Ulster and Dublin University This was the start of a highly successful period in Parnell’s politic careeer, and as his popularity grew he began to be referred to as “Uncrowned King of Ireland” by his loyal supporters.
The town of Ennis played a part in the rise and fall of Parnell. Speaking in the town in 1880 Parnell first outlined his policy of boycotting urging those who supported him to shun any person who would take the land of an evicted person. Parnell is also reputed to have met his love interest Kitty O’Shea in Ennis at Carmody’s Hotel. Kitty O’Shea was married to Caption O’Shea, a member of parliament. An affair was carried on between the two for years, Captain O’Shea was aware of the partnership. However, he used the situation to his advantage putting pressure on Parnell to have him elected as an unpledged Home Ruler to the Galway city seat in 1886. However, in 1889 Caption O’Shea filed for divorce from Kitty naming Parnell in the proceedings. The divorce was a highly publicised scandal in both England and Ireland at the time and Parnell was expected by most to retire from public life. When it became apparent that he had no such plans a bitter split occurred in the Irish Parliamentary Party. Public opinion was also split in Ireland with many of supporters siding with the Catholic Church who condemned his actions, while some remained loyal to the man and his cause. Parnell married Kitty in 1891and travelled throughout Ireland trying to win back support. However the pressure of the previous years and constant travelling eventually overcame him and Parnell died on 6 October 1891 at only forty-five years of age.
The print here shows Parnell at the height of his powers amongst his victorious party colleagues in 1885. Each individual is numbered and their names are printed beneath. No. 43 is J.R. Cox who was elected for the East Clare seat. Cox was present as a supporter of the tenants during the Bodyke evictions. No. 77 is Jeremiah Jordan who had been elected for West Clare.