Skip to main content
The Ulster Unionists 'On Velvet': Home Rule and Partition in the Lloyd George Proposals, 1916
American Journal of Irish Studies (2017)
  • M C Rast
One of the most controversial responses to the 1916 Easter Rising was an attempt to grant Ireland immediate home rule.  This revolt by Irish nationalist rebels seeking to establish a republic prompted Prime Minister H. H. Asquith to appoint Cabinet member David Lloyd George to negotiate a deal between Ireland’s nationalist and unionist leaders.  Lloyd George reached an agreement to implement home rule immediately while excluding six of Ulster’s nine counties from its operation.  A controversy arose over whether this partitioning of the island would be temporary or permanent, leading to the negotiations’ collapse.
This episode forms a footnote to many discussions of the period.  Academics often note the short-term effects of the negotiations’ failure, but do not assign any particular importance to the episode.  By carefullyanalysing the incident from the perspectives of each of the groups involved—Irish nationalists, Ulster unionists, and the British Cabinet—I argue that the negotiations had a long-term result.  The formula for partition that Lloyd George proposed in 1916 was almost identical to that enacted between 1920 and 1922.  Lloyd George’s proposal to exclude six counties without consulting the affected population and his decision that Westminster would determine the temporal length of partition became his semi-official policy regarding Irish self-government.  Lloyd George became Prime Minister in December 1916, and he and his Cabinet codified the form of partition he had proposed in the terms of the Government of Ireland Act (1920).  This act established Northern Ireland and gave the area its own parliament subordinate to Westminster.  Therefore, the 1916 Lloyd George proposals laid the foundation for partition in the form it continues to exist today.
  • Ireland,
  • Northern Ireland,
  • Ulster,
  • Home Rule,
  • Partition,
  • Nationalism,
  • Unionism,
  • Easter Rising,
  • John Redmond,
  • Edward Carson,
  • David Lloyd George
Publication Date
Citation Information
M C Rast. "The Ulster Unionists 'On Velvet': Home Rule and Partition in the Lloyd George Proposals, 1916" American Journal of Irish Studies Vol. 14 (2017)
Available at: