Date of Award
Level of Access
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Scott W. See
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
From 191 2 through 1925, Ireland's political destiny dramatically and sometimes violently shifted between the near completion of a constitutional settlement granting limited self-government, or home rule, and the revolutionary attempts to establish an independent republic. Opposing both of these potential outcomes were the Ulster unionist Protestants, who strenuously protested even limited self-government, and preferred that the union between Britain and Ireland be maintained, and the British government, which aggressively asserted law and order in Ireland and demanded a negotiated settlement that included Ireland as a constituent of the British Empire. Irish Canadians of both Catholic and Protestant descent diligently followed these historic events as they unfolded in Ireland. Irish Catholic and Protestant Canadians maintained an interest in events in Ireland to such an extent that they sometimes became active participants in the struggles. For example, Orange-Canadian unionists contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Ulster Volunteer Force, a Protestant paramilitary organization that imported weapons from Germany in order to obstruct the lawful enactment of the British Parliament's will: the Irish Home Rule Bill. Several Orange- Canadian unionists went to the North of Ireland to help train Ulster Volunteers in the use of weapons. Orange-Canadian unionists and Irish-Canadian nationalists possessed conflicting interpretations of the meaning of British Empire membership, and ultimately Canadian citizenship. In particular, after World War I each community argued that the Empire's integrity would be severely damaged if Ireland were, or were not, granted the right of self-determination. Orange-Canadian unionists believed the Empire would crumble if Ireland were set free, and worse yet, the loyal unionist Protestants would be controlled by their traditional enemy, Irish Catholics. Irish-Catholic Canadians believed Britain's reputation as the bastion of democratic liberties and fair play would forever be rendered meaningless if the world powers denied Ireland national status at the Paris Peace Conference. These conflicting interpretations of Empire membership shaped a protracted debate among people of Irish descent concerning the meaning of loyalty in Canada. Orange-Canadian unionists insisted that only those who openly proclaimed their loyalty to Britain exemplified a truly patriotic Canadian. Irish-Canadian nationalists argued that by criticizing British politicians, and demanding that British statesmen live up to their wartime promises, they were true Canadian patriots in exercising their Canadian rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.
McLaughlin, Robert, "Irish Canadians and the Struggle for Irish Independence, 1912-1925: A Study of Ethnic Identity and Cultural Heritage" (2004). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 977.
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