'A Platform Upon Which All Could Unite?: Temperance in Ulster and the Irish Temperance League, 1858-1914'

Campbell, Orfhlaith (2017). 'A Platform Upon Which All Could Unite?: Temperance in Ulster and the Irish Temperance League, 1858-1914'. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000bf12


This research looks at the Irish temperance movement in Ulster between 1858-1914. It focuses on the organisation, the Irish Temperance League that was formed in Belfast in 1858. The League’s fundamental aim was to provide a platform upon which all total abstinence reformers in Ireland could unite. This research considers how successful the organisation was in its aspiration. It argues that while the League was successful in unifying the temperance movement in Ireland, there were limitations and issues within this agenda. The League successfully incorporated a dual methodology, encompassing both moral suasion and legislative prohibition, which had not been seen before in the Irish temperance movement. This enabled a range of different temperance reformers to work together under the auspice of the ITL. In particular the League was successful in uniting both religious and secular temperance reformers. The breadth of the League’s work also meant that it united individuals from all classes in society under its organisation. That being said, despite the League’s rhetoric contemporary social structures were maintained. For the members of the ITL, total abstinence was their political and religious dogma which superseded contemporary political and religious concerns. However this ultimately caused tension within denominational and political peers. The League aimed to function as a national organisation and it attempted to become an all-Ireland body, providing an inclusive teetotal culture for its members where they were safe from the temptations of the intemperate society around them. This research shows that while the League could claim an all-Ireland status by 1912 it continued to struggle to overcome its Protestant and Ulster roots and become an inclusive organisation in terms of religious affiliations. However against a backdrop of political tension in Ireland this was not the League’s fault but a consequence of the religious divide.

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