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Liberalism Under The Union

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review 2001


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by J. L. McCracken

Three Generations of an Irish Liberal Family

"The bicentenary in 2001 of the union between Great Britain and Ireland, which came into effect when the Act of Union was introduced in 1801, provides an appropriate occasion for recalling the role of an Irish family whose prominence in public life over three generations as avowed and dedicated liberals coincided almost exactly with 119 years that the union lasted.

The Porters were not adherents of one of Ireland's leading socio-political faiths. In the heart of Dublin there is a pub called "The Flowing Tide". The name has nothing to do with any product it dispenses; it was adopted in the latter half of the nineteenth century by the then owner from a speech Gladstone made in which he claimed the the flowing tide of liberal opinion would make home rule a certainty.

But liberalism was never a flowing tide in Ireland; what Gladstone discerned in the early 1880s was rather a temporary spate in a placid stream which was soon to dry up almost entirely."

This article looks at three generations of the Porter family, whose loyalty to liberalism reveals much about the nature and role of the movement in Ireland.