Charles Stewart Parnell returns to Parliament … sort of

UPDATE:

Historians Conor Mulvagh and Diarmaid Ferriter discuss Parnell, plus a report on the opening of  the Charles Stewart Parnell museum at Avondale House in 1986, all from RTÉ Radio.

ORIGINAL POST:

Long-dead Irish Parliamentary Party leader Charles Stewart Parnell, MP from 1871 to 1891, this week haunted the Brexit debate in the House of Commons.

Charles Stewart Parnell

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Tory leader who supports the split from Europe, said the successful cross-party efforts to block a no-deal Brexit were “the most unconstitutional use of this House since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell, when he tried to bung up Parliament.”

As The Irish Times explained, Parnell disrupted the chamber’s sedate procedures in pursuit of Irish Home Rule more than 130 years ago.

Under Parnell’s leadership, the Irish Party adopted obstructionist tactics that brought the work of the Commons to a standstill for days on end. The most famous filibuster lasted for 41 hours in 1881 but the Irish MPs made a nuisance of themselves day in and day out in pursuit of their political goal.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, a Member of the European Parliament he wants to divorce, also revealed that he has “long been a great admirer” of Parnell. In fact, he keeps a picture of the 19th century constitutional nationalist in his Brussels office.

Parnell was “the Great Disruptor of the U.K. parliament” Farage said, according to several media reports. “I have tried, in the same way, to cause some disruption in the European Parliament … If you believe in the cause of national freedom and self-determination, you cannot consent to Brussels rule or being a member of the European Union.”

Many Irish seemed displeased about Parnell being exhumed by the Brexiteers.

“It is a compliment to Parnell – back-handed or otherwise – to suggest that his impact continues to resonate today. But beyond that, the politics espoused by Rees-Mogg and Farage shows no sympathy with Ireland,” the Times editorialized.

“No doubt [Rees-Mogg] was trying to imply that the Irish are always troublesome and that insistence on the backstop is in a tradition of Irish obstruction of British politics,” historian Felix Larkin wrote in a letter to The Guardian. “But he should remember that if it were not for Daniel O’Connell he would be ineligible to take his seat in the House of Commons by virtue of his [Catholic] religion.”

Parnell was even trending on Twitter. Some select posts:

  • Nice to see Parnell causing a bit of bother in the House of Commons again.
  • [Rees-Mogg] doesn’t deserve to even mention [Parnell’s] name.
  • Fairly certain that Parnell would have kicked the shit out of Rees-Mogg.

Rest in Peace: Parnell’s grave at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, July 2016.

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