Equally unnoticed, and nowadays largely unremembered, the centenary of the 1910 election was also the centenary of the eruption onto the political scene of the All-for-Ireland League (AFIL).
The AFIL gained 8 seats in 1910 – a reasonable start for a newcomer. It turned out, of course, to have been a flash-in-the-pan, as the tumultuous events of 1914 to 1918 in Ireland swept it out of existence.
Unlike the other nationalist organisations of its day, though, the AFIL set out to create a consensus of 'political brotherhood and reconciliation among all Irishmen', primarily to win Unionist consent to an All-Ireland parliamentary settlement. In this it appeared to have had some success, at least in its home base, Munster:
What might have happened if the First World War and the Rising had not happened, we cannot say. But it is interesting to note that even in 1910 there were different parties working for different versions of Irish autonomy – not just the better-known Irish Parliamentary Party of John Redmond, or the then-irrelevant Sinn Féin of Arthur Griffith – and that at least one of them was able to persuade notable members of the orange section of the people to their cause.
Many of the leading Protestant gentry of Munster, and representatives of the wealthy Protestant business and professional community joined the League. Lord Dunraven, Lord Barrymore, Lord Mayo and Lord Castletown, Sir John Keane of Cappoquin, Villiers Stuart of Dromana , Moreton Frewen, were a few of the most
notable adherents. Even amongst the Orangemen the spirit of patriotism was stirring – hands were stretched out from Ulster to the Catholics of the South. Lord Rossmore, once Grandmaster of the Orange Institution, joined the League, Sharman Crawford and others. Unionism was declared by them to be a "discredited creed". Nationalist and Unionists were called upon to recognise the unwisdom of perpetuating a suicidal strife which sacrificed them to religious bigotry and the political exigencies of English parties.
(Source: MacDonagh, Michael: William O'Brien, the Irish Nationalist All for Ireland, and Ireland for All p.186, Ernst Benn London (1928))
History will not repeat itself, but it is interesting to see that the commonly-held view of unionism as monolithic is not always correct.