That Irishman and India

Irish and Indian Nationalists made common cause. In 1875, together with Ganendra Mohan Tagore and Frank Hugh O’Donnell*, O’Connor Power founded the Constitutional Society of India, a group promoting political autonomy for India – Indian Home Rule.  The Prince of Wales was to travel to India and O’Connor Power questioned the benefit of his visit ‘either for the people of England or the people of India’. India had no representation at Westminster and there was a proposal to run an Indian candidate for the British Parliament.

During the debate on the Army Discipline Bill in 1879, O’Connor Power asked that flogging be abolished in the armed forces ‘with the object of bringing native soldiers in India under the operation of the Bill’.

In 1885, O’Connor Power was elected a member of the administrative council of the Indian National Congress. In 1892, with the help of the Irish vote, an Indian Nationalist, Dadabhai Naoroji, was elected, as member for Finsbury Central, to the House of Commons.

The close relationship between India and Ireland is reflected in similarities in their constitutions and their flags. On Friday 2 June 2017, Leo Varadkar, the son of an Indian father and an Irish mother, was elected as leader of the Fine Gael party. He will be the first openly gay Prime Minister of Ireland.  The opening line of his acceptance speech:  Prejudice has no hold on this Republic.

 Home Rule for India. Mr O’Donnell’s grand passion in politics was a confederation of all the discontented races of the Empire under the lead of the Irish party. He once brought down some scores of dusky students of the races and creeds of Hindustan to the House of Commons.

William O’Brien, Recollections, 1905.