U is for Union

Two versions of 'An Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland' were passed in 1800 in the British and Irish parliaments, resulting in the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Prior to this GB and Ireland had been in personal union, sharing the same head of state but with separate laws and interests.

This situation came to be resented within Ireland and led to the development of the Irish Home Rule movement. One activist for Irish nationalism was Michael Davitt, who emigrated from Co Mayo to Haslingden (2 miles from Springhill) age 4 in 1850. He developed an interest in Irish history and politics, becoming secretary of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

The January 1892 parliamentary by-election in Rossendale was fought largely over the issue of Irish Home Rule, placed at the forefront of the campaign by the Liberal Unionist candidate Sir Thomas Brookes, a colliery owner. However the election resulted in a victory for the Liberal candidate, John Maden, a cotton spinning manufacturer who was in favour of home rule with a separate Irish parliament. Maden won by 1225 votes, a result which sent shockwaves throughout the political establishment prior to the general election in July 1892. This saw the Conservatives win the greatest number of seats but the Liberals form a government with the support of the Irish Nationalists.