|dc.description.abstract||The 4th earl of Dunraven was born in Adare in 1841 into one of the wealthiest landed families in Ireland. Succeeding to the title in 1871 he was the quintessential Irish peer, engrossing himself in travel and adventure, interspersed with occasional, but highly significant, contributions in the House of Lords.
His decision to contest the Croom division of Limerick County Council in 1899 marked the beginning of his public life, into which he packed, in twenty five short years, a lifetime of endeavour for Ireland, much of which ended in frustrating lack of success. The contest threw up many surprises, notably his tangle with Bishop O’Dwyer of Limerick over the want of higher education facilities for catholics, and an unavailing, but enterprising attempt, on behalf of his nationalist opponent, to snatch victory at the end of an unusual campaign. Though he never became chairman, which was one of his aims, he left his mark on council business, none more so than as an example to his fellow unionists that they, too, could and should aspire to serve their fellow countrymen on local bodies.
The second period of his active life showed remarkable acuity and resilience as he helped to steer the land conference of 1902 and the university imbroglio to successful conclusions. During that period, also, the trauma and difficulties attached, at that time, to the sale of his estate and the disposal of his village property in Croom, are manifested. Unusual for a landlord he, in conjunction with his new found soul mate and collaborator, William O’Brien, doggedly pressed for a resolution of the festering problem of the evicted tenants, the so-called walking wounded of the land war. One of his most endearing enterprises was his involvement in the resuscitated Irish tobacco industry but that venture, too, failed due to no fault on the part of the two pioneering entrepreneurs, Dunraven and Col Nugent Everard from County Meath.
The third part, taken chronologically, deals with matters political and was the least fruitful of his life’s work and yet had the most potential. His unrelenting unionism, a credo he adhered to until the early 1920s, coupled with his shifting of the political goalposts (he gave the land settlement precedence over home rule) earned him the undying antipathy of the Irish Party and the nationalist press. His proposals, in 1904, for wide administrative reform, under the banner of the Irish Reform Association, floundered on the narrow rock of devolution. Despised by the nationalists he failed to win over any appreciable number of unionists to the new policy of conciliation. He failed, also, to divert the Ulster unionists from their path of separation. Abhorring partition, he, more than anyone else, before and after the great war, continually suggested workable and practical remedies for Ireland’s ills, but they fell on deaf ears as, by then, Dunraven had become a nonentity, accentuated by his strong support, during the war years, firstly for recruiting and, later, his advocacy of conscription. A realist at heart, in the early 1920s, he accepted the establishment of the Irish Free State as the best solution available at that time.
This is the first attempt to chronicle the life-work of Dunraven, a worthy representative of a gallant band of Irishmen whose attempts to meaningfully contribute to the emerging Ireland of the first two decades of the last century were despised at the time, and neglected and unrecorded since.||en