John Redmond was one of the most influential leaders of Irish nationalism. A classic tragic hero, Redmond displayed more integrity than his fellow contemporary Irish leaders. He was a sophisticated intellectual with an open mind but was plagued by a fatal flaw - his unreasonable optimism. Redmond's trust in British politicians, especially his Liberal allies, led him and Ireland to the events that probably had the most impact on Irish history since the Great Famine of the 1840s - his active support for Great Britain in the first World War. It severely damaged Anglo-Irish relations for three generations, and if Redmond's brand of inclusive, cosmopolitan nationalism would have been introduced sooner, it could have saved Britain and Ireland from decades of conflict. In his treament of Redmond, Joseph P. Finnan demonstrates the multiple identities of the Irish Parliamentary Party as nationalist, liberal, and Catholic.
He looks at Home Rule as part of a federal solution to the Irish question within the United Kingdom, the reasons for the failure of Redmond's war policies, and the collapse of the Irish Parliamentary Party as part of the wider phenomenon of the decline of liberalism during the Great War. As he looks at Irish nationalism in its worldwide context, Finnan also shows how Redmond's handling of organizational problems in America sets the pattern for his later handling of similar problems in Ireland.
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