- Birrell, Augustine
▪ British politicianborn Jan. 19, 1850, Wavertree, Lancashire, Eng.died Nov. 20, 1933, Londonpolitician and man of letters whose policies, as British chief secretary for Ireland (1907–16), contributed to the Easter Week rising of Irish nationalists in Dublin (1916).A lawyer from 1875 and a Liberal member of the House of Commons (1889–99, 1906– 18), Birrell became well known in British literary circles for two essay collections entitled Obiter Dicta (1884–87). After serving as president of the Board of Education (1905–07), he received the secretaryship for Ireland. In 1908 he was successful in getting Parliament to create the National University of Ireland (with constituent colleges in Dublin, Cork, and Galway) and the independent Queen's University, Belfast. Although the new universities were legally nondenominational, under Birrell's plan the Irish Roman Catholic bishops were permitted a considerable degree of supervision.Birrell's unconcerned attitude was unsuited to the passionate complexities of Irish affairs. In addition, he relied excessively on the advice of the Irish patriot leader John Redmond, who himself had lost touch with Irish problems. Despite the armed parading of nationalist groups in Dublin, as well as their staging of mock attacks as rehearsals, Birrell seemed unable to sense any peril and was shocked when the uprising of April 24–29, 1916, occurred. He resigned amid general condemnation, which was tempered by respect for his frank avowal of responsibility.
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