Newcastle was a breeding ground of Irish Home Rule politics during the second half of the nineteenth century. The enthusiasm for Home Rule in Newcastle reflected the prominence of the Irish community in the city. Hugh Heinrick published a series of articles in the Nation newspaper in 1872 which put the total number of first- and second-generation Irish within a ten mile radius of Newcastle at 83,000. This sizeable Irish population – and its commitment to self-government for Ireland – was recognised in August 1873, when Newcastle was chosen to host a meeting of the Home Rule Confederation. The Confederation represented an attempt to coordinate the various Home Rule associations that sprung up in British towns during the early 1870s. With 3,000 delegates present in the Town Hall in Newcastle, an Executive Council was established to direct the entire Irish vote in all English constituencies. This laid the foundation for future Irish nationalist electoral influence in England, particularly in Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester. The leader of the Irish Home Rule movement, Isaac Butt, who was also the President of the Confederation, addressed the Newcastle meeting; on his return to Ireland, Butt wholesomely praised the commitment of the Newcastle Irish to the Home Rule cause. Ultimately, the Home Rule Confederation, including its Newcastle delegates, grew weary of Butt’s cautious leadership, and forced him out of the presidency in 1877 in favour of the more confrontational Charles Stewart Parnell. Under Parnell, a new and decidedly bitterer phase in British-Irish relations began.
Alvin Jackson, Home Rule: An Irish History 1800-2000 (London, 2004); Eugenio Biagini, British Democracy and Irish Nationalism, 1876-1906 (Cambridge, 2010); Felix Lavery (ed.), Great Irishmen in War and Politics (London, 1920).