Irish political identity in Glasgow, 1863-91
The Irish in nineteenth-century Glasgow constituted a significant but essentially short-term element in politics. The purpose of this thesis was, first of all, to identify and characterise competing claims to their allegiances. Then, secondly, to decide whether one 'fusion' of loyalties, elaborated in the course of a dynamic, evolutionary engagement with Glasgow popular politics in the period 1863-91, made the integration of the Glasgow Irish into the mainstream of local and Westminster politics more possible than it otherwise might have been. A secular, at times radical, tradition of organising and representing Irish nationality in Glasgow had been moulded in O'Connell's various campaigns for catholic emancipation and Repeal, in Reform Bill and Chartist agitation. It however, was strongly opposed by the local catholic hierarchy. Irish people qua lay catholics, nevertheless, asserted a right to come together in social and political organisations. When such bodies were portrayed as insurrectionary nationalism in disguise in the 1860s, leading Irish catholics took measures to re-assert secular Irishness through more formal and enduring political association. This secular Irishness gave Irish protestants such as John Ferguson an entry into nationalist debate. Ferguson, from 1870 to 1879, through his agitation among the Irish and confrontation with local Liberal 'commonsense' united nationalists in the West of Scotland behind his militant constitutionalism. That said, in the 1870s, the Catholic Church and the drink trade made competing claims on the loyalty of the Glasgow Irish. During and immediately after the Irish Land War of 1879-82, however, Ferguson and Michael Davitt adapted the traditional rhetoric of anti-landlordism and a vision of land redistribution to the aspirations of Britain's urban-based Irishmen. These 'social' nationalists continued to represent their cause as one essentially allied to a vision of social reform. Ferguson and like-minded activists formalised this by entering into municipal electoral alliances with the cause of independent labour and crucially fused loyalty to organised labour with his representation of Irish political identity.