Born in Yorkshire, he was a barrister and Liberal MP for East Fire before becoming Home Secretary in 1892 and then Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1905 where is is credited with introducing the first provisions for old age pensions. Asquith was Prime Minister of England in 1908 and relied on John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party for a majority over the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists. He succeeded in delivering Home Rule(Government of Ireland Act, 1914), but the plans involved partition of Ireland and the exclusion of an unspeciﬁed number of Ulster counties. Home Rule was suspended for the duration of the world war which the United Kingdom had entered on August 4 1914.
It is claimed on hearing the news of the 1916 Rising, Asquith said: ‘Well, that’s something’, and went to bed. He belatedly took action, dispatching thousands of troops and declaring martial law but appointment of General Maxwell to oversee military affairs was disastrous.
Asquith finally arrived in Dublin on May 12, almost three weeks after the insurrection. and stopped further executions. By then, however, public opinion had turned and British hopes of maintaining Ireland within the Union would soon crumble as a new wave of republicanism swept the country.