The Irish Parliamentary Party and the third Home Rule crisis
‘A brilliant new analysis of the political elite who were preparing to run the country under devolved powers when the First World War and the Easter Rising changed forever the course of Irish history … One important dimension of this book is the analysis of the papers and correspondence of the Irish MPs, which McConnel examines in order to understand and explain the relationship between the IPP and Irish society. Methodologically, this works very well and enables him to shed fresh light on a range of issues such as grass-root tendencies to religious sectarianism, the MPs’ patronage, and their understanding of “corruption” … Historians are greatly in McConnel’s debt, for his book represents an altogether impressive achievement: it is in fact one of the most original, best researched, perceptive and significant contributions to this subject since F.S.L. Lyons published his pioneering book The Irish Parliamentary Party, 1890–1910 in 1951’, Eugenio Biagini, English Historical Review (2015).
‘A comprehensive, meticulously researched book … There is a great deal to be admired in this ambitious book … McConnel’s work bears on our understanding of political behaviour, representation and organisation. It shines much needed light on an often overlooked group, the backbenchers, and reminds us that there was far more to a party than its leaders’, Naomi Lloyd-Jones, Irish Studies Review (2014).
‘McConnel adds materially to our understanding of the way the “bourgeois tribunes” of Redmond’s party sustained their links with their constituencies and created a sophisticated brokerage system that, arguably, re-emerged in the politics of the independent state. The mesh of interests and pressures (not always approved of by Redmond at his most Olympian) is richly delineated in his book, with the political warp and weft nicely flavoured by literary and anecdotal illustrations … The political challenges mounted by Sinn Féin are illuminated from below … and this adds to the picture of Home Rule MPs occupying a more nuanced and clued-up position in Irish life than often assumed; a tour-de-force chapter describes their London life, far from the world of gentlemen’s clubs and silk hats conjured up by Sinn Féin propaganda … McConnel’s important book is a valuable corrective to judgments based on hindsight', Roy Foster, Irish Times (January 2013).
‘In this extensively researched history of the crisis, McConnel places the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) at the centre of [20th'century] events … The author carefully reconstructs the lengthy and detailed process that John Redmond and the IPP enacted to raise the party to its leadership position, the assumptions and priorities underlying their actions, and the gradual heartbreak of their failure. In so doing, McConnel restores the focus on ordinary politics to the dramatic history of Ireland’s campaign for self-rule and the descent into civil war. Recommended’, H. Lune, Choice (May 2014).
‘A biography of the Irish Parliamentary as a living and breathing entity … the attempts to address the party in a variety of contexts is timely and useful … While challenging misconceptions about the Irish Party, McConnel’s work also makes much-needed additional contributions to modern Irish historiography … the book magnificently creates an image of the party as it may have existed without reducing it to a foil for other groups in Irish history. Finally, a book the party deserves’, N.K. Harrington, The Journal of British Studies (April 2014).
‘A fine study by James McConnell of the IPP at its apogee from 1910 to 1914 … a detailed study of these forgotten parliamentarians who but for the 1916 rising and its aftermath would have formed the governing elite of home rule Ireland … well researched, written and constructed. The chapters are organized thematically but within each chapter he theme is dealt with chronologically in a clear and organized way. It paints a sympathetic but not uncritical portrait of the men of the IPP who laboured long and hard in the cause of Ireland and of their constituents. A welcome addition to the historiography of the period, it can be recommended to the general reader and specialist student alike', Pat McCarthy, Books Ireland (2013).
‘With this new book on the IPP James McConnel has contributed significantly to our understanding of the political principles which underpinned constitutional nationalism in the critical years before the First World War … The book’s real strength is its level of detail on the nationalist movement at grass roots level … One fascinating chapter on the party’s day-to-day work at Westminster highlights the strain on the Irish MPs during 1912–13 … McConnel writes well and the book is the product of meticulous research in which provincial newspapers are used to very good effect … This is an excellent bottom-up analysis of constitutional nationalism in which previous judgements based on hindsight are effectively challenged', Russell Rees, Scolaire Staire (Spring 2014).