The introduction charts the divergent aspirations of Irish nationalism and Ulster unionism from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century and details the emergence of the partition settlement as a resolution to their differences. It discusses the broadly accommodating and moderate position on Unionism held by the dominant pro-Home Rule constitutional nationalist Irish Party, and the political repercussions of that Party’s decline following the ascendancy of Sinn Féin in 1918. The Introduction also examines the strategy of constitutional nationalists following the establishment of the Northern Ireland state in 1921. It considers the outcome of a period of electoral pacts in the North between the Irish Party and Sinn Féin in the early 1920s, a time of intense IRA activity. Developments within constitutional nationalism from the mid-1920s are also assessed. Constitutional nationalism, by this time independent of Sinn Féin, was diverse in composition and undecided in terms of strategy, but although it coalesced into a new political formation (National League of the North) by 1928, there was little agreement on whether Catholic interests were better served by their active representation within the North’s parliamentary institutions or by an abstentionist policy and an emphasis on anti-partitionism.
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