The enactment of the Government of Ireland Act 1914, gave at last some degree autonomy for Ireland. A last minute arrangement in 1915 established a joint committee in the Irish House of Commons to deal with issues of Ulster, waiting for an amendment of the Home Rule Bill by the Imperial Parliament that would gave a more permanent solution to Ulster unionism. To calm down Unionist fears of nationalist sectarism it was approved a modification of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 that allowed the county borough of Belfast and districts of Ulster to associated themselves in matters of local interest.
However Unionists resistance was being organized in the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Most of UVF members became the first volunteers in the British Army on World War I. Militant nationalist, or republicans, also organized themselves in the Irish Volunteers (Óglaigh na hÉireann), being secretly infiltrated by the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
The 1914 elections to the Irish Parliament gave the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) a majority and its leader John Redmond was named First Minister. Ireland entered World War I has part of the United Kingdom. For some time division between nationalist and unionist where put aside. A war coalition cabinet under Redmond and integrated by the IPP, All-for-Ireland League and Unionists was formed. On Redmond's death in 1918, John Dillon was named First Minister.
The Easter Rising and the Conscription Crisis of 1918 undermined support for the limited autonomy. The general and local elections of 1920 gave an overwhelming majority and endorsement of Sinn Féin. It set up its own parliament (Dáil Éireann) and proclaimed an Irish Republic.
The Government of Ireland Act 1914, also known as the (Irish) Third Home Rule Bill, passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom intended to provide self-government ("Home Rule") for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It provided Ireland with:
- The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland as the British King's representative and head of the Irish executive. He was empowered with suspensory powers over Irish legislation and the right of veto, according to instructions supplied by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The last one also a member of the British Cabinet.
- Following common practice in Australia and Canada, the Lord Lieutenant named an Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Ireland, under the direction of First Minister. The First Minister and Executive Committee where politically responsible to the Irish House of Commons.
- A bicameral Irish Parliament to be set up in Dublin composed of:
- A Senate of 40 Members that hold office for eight years and retire by rotation. Their places are filled by the Irish Executive.
- A House of Commons, with 164 elected members. Ulster 59 Members, Leinster 41, Munster 37, Connaught 25 and Universities 2, elected for a mandate of 5 years or until dissolution. The House had powers to deal with most national affairs. The Parliament of the UK is responsible for crown relations, foreign policy, trade, customs and excise and military matters. Also a set of reserved services were temporally exclude from the Home Rule Bill these included land purchase, pensions, national insurance, tax collection, the Royal Irish Constabulary, Post Office, Banks and friendly societies. It is also prohibited any sectarian or religious legislation.
- the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was the highest judicial office in Ireland, named by the Lord Lieutenant. The judiciary was organized by the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877 that created a Supreme Court of Judicature, consisting of a High Court of Justice and a Court of Appeal.
An annual Transferred Sum mechanism was created to maintain spending in Ireland.
Ireland continued with is representation of elected Irish MPs (42 MPs, rather than 103) that sat in the Imperial Parliament.
The Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP, or Irish Party or Home Rule Party - Páirtí Parlaiminteach na hÉireann) was the largest party in the first election to the Irish House of Commons (1914-1920), local governments (until 1920) and the main delegation of Irish MPs to Westminster. The IPP had championed and supported the implementation of the Third Home Rule Bill and had its tight party discipline enable it to hold the balance of power in the British House of Commons.
The main opposition to Home rule was represented by the Unionist and Republicans. The Unionist where organized in the Irish Unionist Alliance (also known as the Irish Unionist Party) the main representative of unionism, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) that called for the exclusion of Ulster and Ulster Unionist Labour Association. Republicans were organized in the Sinn Féin that called complete independence of Ireland and the establishment of a republic.
Other parties of importance were: The Irish Labour Party, the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress founded in 1912, and the All-for-Ireland League (AFIL) an Munster based political party established itself as a separate non-sectarian party, binding a group of independent nationalists MPs to pursue a broader concept of Irish nationalism, a consensus of political brotherhood and reconciliation among all Irishmen, primarily to win Unionist consent to an All-Ireland parliamentary settlement.
The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 created the following local government bodies:
- Administrative counties
- County boroughs
- Urban districts
- Rural districts
- Municipal boroughs, which were governed by the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840, and
- Town Commissioners which were governed by the Towns Improvement (Ireland) Act 1854. The latter had limited powers, forming part of a rural district for most purposes.
An modification in 1915 allowed the county borough of Belfast and districts of Ulster to associated themselves in matters of local interest, creating the Ulster Provincial Council.
Public and internal order
The armed Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was Ireland's major police force until the partition of Ireland. A separate civic police force, the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) controlled the capital.
British Armed forces in Ireland
The British Army had eight Irish regiments raised and garrisoned in Ireland.
The Ireland Station of Royal Navy had three deep water ports at Berehaven (County Cork), Queenstown (modern Cobh, County Cork) and Lough Swilly (County Donegal).