Gladstone and Ireland: Cloud in the West

Kevin Haddick Flynn looks at the attempt of the Grand Old Man of Liberalism to solve the Irish question and his conversion to Home Rule in the mid-1880s.

Ireland! Ireland! That cloud in the west, that coming storm, the minister of God’s retribution upon cruel and inveterate and half-atoned injustice!Gladstone, 1845.

In the opinion of some, William Ewart Gladstone was the greatest statesman of his age. His career continues to fascinate and its appeal springs not only from his pre-eminence as a politician but from the unusual nature of his personality and character. ‘A comic genius’ is how one contemporary described him. But in truth the Grand Old Man, or GOM as he became known, was never comic, at least not intentionally. He was a highly resolute man in a sombre and straitlaced age. Benjamin Disraeli neatly captured Gladstone’s character when he remarked that he did not possess ‘a single redeeming defect’.

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