John Edward Redmond (1856-1918) was next to Eamon de Valera, the longest- serving national leader of the Irish nationalist community in the twentieth century. As chairman of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the U.K. Parliament from 1900 to 1918, he brought the forty-year struggle for Home Rule to a successful conclusion in 1914, only to see his achievement wrecked by war in Europe and insurrection at home. He is now remembered principally - and controversially - for his call to Irishmen to enlist in the British army in the Great War. Previous biographies - the last appeared in 1932 - concentrated on the later part of Redmond's career. This book, the first part of a projected two-volume biography, sets out to provide a more rounded portrait of this important figure by examining his early life and career up to his election, in 1900, as chairman of the reunited Irish Party. Beginning with his family's tradition of public service in Victorian Wexford, it traces Redmond's first years as a young M.P. and acolyte of Parnell in the Home Rule campaign and agrarian struggles of the 1880s. The enduring impact of a fundraising mission to Australasia and the U.S. in 1883-4 is discussed.
The book examines his motives in taking Parnell's side in the disastrous party split caused by the exposure of the latter's affair with Katharine O'Shea. It then follows his efforts, as leader of the small rump of Parnellite M.P.s during the strife-torn 1890s, to uphold Parnell's principle of independent opposition in Parliament, while seeking at home to cultivate the support of both Fenian elements and Irish unionists.