Jacob Rees-Mogg angrily references Charles Stewart Parnell in Brexit debate—but who exactly was he?
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Jacob Rees-Mogg angrily references Charles Stewart Parnell in Brexit debate—but who exactly was he?

Jacob Rees-Mogg had a busy day during British Parliament’s Brexit debates yesterday.

He made international news for his infuriating bad manners—stretching out and practically falling asleep as the battle for the future of the UK and Ireland waged around him.

In Ireland itself, Rees-Mogg was also being discussed at length for a different reason: his irritated name-drop of Irish nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell.

Speaking of the chaos and gridlock within British government regarding the next steps to take with Brexit, the Conservative Leader said:

"The approach taken today is the most unconstitutional use of this House since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell, when he tried to bung up Parliament,”

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History buffs were quick to find hilarity in the fact that the man was haunted by the ghost of Parnell, who died in 1891, but many more had to do a quick Google campaign to find out what exactly the Tory MP was referencing.

To save you the trouble, here’s a little history lesson…

Charles Stewart Parnell was a 19th-century Irish Nationalist who wanted Ireland to be granted Home Rule.

He served as an MP in the House of Commons between 1882 – 1891, and while he was a resident of the house, the Home Rule act was a dominating topic—most likely because Parnell did everything he could to prevent any other topic from being addressed.

Parnell, together with his tiny party The Home Rule League, began disrupting Parliament by opposing to every single name and bill being put through the House of Commons, delaying procedures every step of the way.

Parnell and his crew would Filibuster any bills the British Parliament were trying to pass, by speaking non-stop for up to 24-hours at a time on obscure subjects, or by objecting to tiny, utterly normal clauses on proposed laws-- for no reason other than to force attention to the importance of the Irish Home Rule act.

While Parnell and his party’s tactics infuriated British MPs who were serving alongside them, the Home Rule League party’s effective tactics were immensely popular at home in Ireland, and he became known as the ‘uncrowned King of Ireland’.

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It is widely accepted in history circles that Charles Stewart Parnell’s strategies could have successfully brought Home Rule to Ireland without the need for violence, bloodshed or war—but Parnell’s personal life caught up with him.

It emerged that Parnell had been having an adulterous affair for several years, and he was immediately rejected by important Irish people due to the deeply Catholic nature of the island at the time. He was alienated by former allies in England, his party was fractured and disbanded, and he died a year later with his reputation in ruins.

Despite this, through the lens of hindsight Parnell’s legacy is a positive one— now even more-so, as we see his tactics still haunting British Parliament as they decide on a course of action which could so easily have detrimental effects for Ireland.