The "Irish question" was so central to the discussion of the United Kingdom constitution that many of the federal schemes which were developed from 1870 to 1922 focused on resolving the problem of home rule for Ireland. John Kendle examines this key issue in depth and gives full attention to the concerns and ideas of Scottish and Welsh nationalists as well.
The debate over internal constitutional change took place at a time when many people were concerned about relations between Great Britain and the self-governing colonies. The issue of Imperial federation was continuously and exhaustively discussed and promoted from the late 1860s through World War I. The waters became so muddied that at times it has been difficult to separate arguments for closer imperial union from proposals for internal decentralization. Kendle comments extensively on this confusion.
During the fifty years from the early 1870s to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, politicians and publicists devoted considerable energy and attention to the notions of "home rule all round," "devolution," and "federalism" as possible means of resolving the urgent political, administrative, and constitutional issues confronting the United Kingdom. The increasing complexity of government business, the gathering forces of ethnic nationalism in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and concern with maintaining and strengthening the role of the parliament at Westminister in imperial affairs combined to keep the possibility of decentralization at the forefront of political and public debate. Kendle explores and analyzes the motives and attitudes of participants in this debate and looks at the schemes and proposals that resulted from this power struggle.
Ireland and the Federal Solution gives a lucid appraisal of what was meant at the time by the terms "federalism," "home rule all round," and "devolution" and evaluates how firmly the participants grasped the constitutional similarities and differences between existing federal systems.