This study of Irish Unionists in the Edwardian House of Commons fills an important gap in Anglo-Irish history, and is the first to examine the role of parliamentary action within the political strategies of organized loyalism. In reconstructing a neglected parliamentary party, Dr Jackson sheds new light on the mobilization of Unionism in Ireland, and on the bond between loyalism and British Conservatism. Rejecting the conventional and dismissive view of these MPs, he argues that the Irish Unionist parliamentary party possessed both influence and durability throughout the early development of popular opposition to Home Rule. By 1905, however, a combination of local dissent, and an increasingly unsympathetic Conservative leadership threatened the party's effectiveness. The book shows how Irish Unionists were forced to abandon their dependence on the House of Commons in favour of agitation and organization in Ulster. This, in turn, helps to explain why loyalists turned to a militant strategy in the years 1912-14.
Dr Jackson draws on a wide range of manuscript collections and contemporary political comment to produce a study which restores the Edwardian Irish Unionist movement to a British political context, and provides a new understanding of the nature of its local development.