In 1926, on this day Irish landlord, nationalist political leader, land reform agitator, and the founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party Charles Stewart Parnell (pictured) died just weeks short of his eightieth birthday.
Strong to the point of weaknessA vigourous spokesman for Parliamentary nationalism in Ireland between 1875 and 1891 he was eventually brought down by a scandalous extra-marital affair with Katharine O'Shea. Prime Minister, H. H. Asquith, described him as one of the three or four greatest men of the nineteenth century, while Lord Haldane described him as the strongest man the British House of Commons had seen in one hundred and fifty years. Despite these patronising statements from the British political class, the Irish author James Joyce was far closer to the mark when he described Parnwell as " Strong to the point of Weakness". For example, as a matter of principle he chose to marry O'Shea immediately her divorce was granted and just before a crucial by-election.
Having taken Irish Home Rule inside what Victorians would describe as "the sphere of practical politics", he was at the zenith of his popularity considered an "uncrowned King". And yet Joyce's observation marked a deeper flaw, his stubborn unwillingness to extend the franchise or contemplate any form of irregular warfare. In his later years, he would be forced to watch a new generation of leaders such as Michael Collins take the necessary ruthless steps forward to seize devolved power from the British. Locked in a Victorian gentleman's system of thinking, he was by then a sad distant figure out of time living in a brutal era of Civil War where ironically Home Rule was finally achieved through methods he could not force himself to countenance.