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Home Rule

Home Rule refers to a demand in parts of the United Kingdom that regions and nations (notably Scotland, Wales and Ireland) be given self-government within the United Kingdom. It is often called devolution. Home rule also refers analogously to the process and mechanisms of self-government by municipalities in many countries with respect to their immediately superior level of government (e.g., U.S. states, in which context see special legislation).

Home Rule is not however comparable with Federalism. Whereas states in a federal system of government (e.g., Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America) have a guaranteed constitutional existence, a devolved home rule system of government is created by ordinary legislation and can be reformed, or even abolished by mere repeal or amendment of that ordinary legislation.


From the late nineteenth century, Irish leaders of the Irish Parliamentary Party under Isaac Butt, William Shaw and Charles Stewart Parnell demanded a form of home rule, with the creation of a subsidary Irish parliament within the United Kingdom. This demand let to the eventual introduction of four Home Rule Bills, of which only two, most notably the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 (which created the parliaments of Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland -- the latter state did not in reality function and was replaced by the Irish Free State), were enacted. The home rule demands of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century differed from earlier demands for Repeal by Daniel O'Connell in the first half of the nineteenth century. Whereas home rule meant a subsidary parliament under Westminster, repeal meant the repeal of the 1801 Act of Union and the creation of an entirely independent Irish state, separated from the United Kingdom, with only a shared monarch joining them both.