Lord Lieutenant of Ireland - Irish Attitudes Towards The Lord Lieutenant

Irish Attitudes Towards The Lord Lieutenant

The office of Lord Lieutenant, like the British government in Ireland, was generally unpopular with Irish nationalists, though it was supported with varying degrees of enthusiasm by the Irish unionist community. Some Lords Lieutenant did earn a measure of popularity in a personal capacity among nationalists. From the early 19th century, calls were made frequently for the abolition of the office and its replacement by a Secretary of State for Ireland. Though on one occasion, a Bill was even introduced by one government to make this change, the office survived right down until the end of British rule in most of Ireland.

Irish nationalists throughout the 19th century and early 20th century campaigned for a form of Irish self-government. Daniel O'Connell sought repeal of the Act of Union, with the re-establishment of a Kingdom of Ireland, while later nationalists like Charles Stewart Parnell sought a more moderate form of home rule within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Both made clear however, that the office of Lord Lieutenant could not survive in a restructured system of Irish government.

The last of the four Home Rule bills, the Government of Ireland Act 1920, did provide for the continuation of the office. The Act divided Ireland into two devolved entities inside the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. Two institutions were meant to join the two; a Council of Ireland (which was hoped would evolve into a working all-Ireland parliament) and the Lord Lieutenant who would be the nominal chief executive of both regimes, appointing both prime ministers and dissolving both parliaments. In fact only Northern Ireland functioned, with Southern Ireland being quickly replaced by the Irish Free State. The powers meant to have been possessed by the Lord Lieutenant were delegated by amendment to a new Governor of Northern Ireland, while the role of representative of the Crown in the Free State went to a new Governor-General of the Irish Free State. The Lord Lieutenancy as a result was abolished.

By tradition the coat of arms of each Lord Lieutenant was displayed somewhere in the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle; some were incorporated into stained glass windows, some carved into seating, etc. Dubliners noted that the last available space was taken by the last Lord Lieutenant, Lord FitzAlan of Derwent.

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