Plunkett, Sir Horace Curzon
PLUNKETT, SIR HORACE CURZON (1854- ), Irish politician, third son of Edward, 16th baron Dunsany, was born on the 24th of October 1854, and was educated at Eton and University College, Oxford, of which college he became honorary fellow in 1909. He spent ten years (1879-1889) ranching in Montana, U.S.A., where, together with a substantial fortune, he acquired experience that proved invaluable in the work of agricultural education, improvement and development, to which he devoted himself on his return to Ireland in 1889. At first Plunkett resolved to hold himself aloof from party politics, and he set himself to bring together men of all political views for the promotion of the material prosperity of the Irish people. In 1894 he founded the Irish Agricultural Organization Society, which accomplished a work of incalculable importance by introducing co-operation among Irish farmers, and by proving to the latter the benefits obtainable through more economical and efficient management. But already in 1892 he had felt compelled to abandon his non-political attitude, and he entered parliament as Unionist member for south Dublin (county). Continuing, however, his policy of conciliation, Plunkett suggested in August 1895 that a few prominent persons of various political opinions should meet to discuss and frame a scheme of practical legislation. The outcome of this proposal was the formation of the " Recess Committee " with Plunkett as chairman, which included men of such divergent views as the earl of Mayo, Mr John Redmond, The O'Conor Don and Mr Thomas Sinclair. In July 1896 the Recess Committee issued a report, of which Plunkett was the author, containing valuable accounts of the systems of state aid to agriculture and of technical instruction in foreign countries. This report, and the growing influence of Plunkett, who became a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1897, led to the passing of an act in 1899 which established a department of agriculture and technical instruction in Ireland, of which the chief secretary was to be president ex officio. Plunkett was appointed vice-president, a position which gave him control of the department's operations. It was intended that the vice-president should be responsible for the department in the House of Commons, but at the general election of 1900 Plunkett lost his seat. An extensively signed memorial, supported by 'the Agricultural Council, prayed that he might not be removed from office, and at the government's request he continued to direct the policy of the department without a seat in parliament. He was created K.C.V.O. in 1903.
On the accession of the Liberal party to power in 1906, Sir Horace Plunkett was requested by Mr Bryce, the new chief secretary, to remain at the head of the department he had created. But, having sat in the House of Commons as a Unionist, Plunkett had incurred the hostility of the Nationalist party, whose resentment had been further excited by the bold statement of certain unpalatable truths in his book, Ireland in the New Century (1004), in which he described the economic condition and needs of the country and the nature of the agricultural improvement schemes he had inaugurated. A determined effort was therefore made by the Nationalists to drive from office the man who had probably done more than any one else of his generation to benefit the Irish people; and in moving a resolution in the House of Commons with this object in 1907, a. Nationalist declared that his party " took their stand on the principle that the industrial revival could only go hand in hand with the national movement." The government gave way, and in the summer of 1907 Sir Horace Plunkett retired from office. Since the year 1900 a grant of about 4 had been made annually by the Department of Agriculture to the Irish Agricultural Organization Society; but the new vice-president, Mr T. W. Russell, who had been himself previously a member of the Unionist administration, withdrew in 1907 this modest support of an association with which Sir Horace Plunkett was so closely identified, and of which he continued to be the guiding spirit. In addition to the publication mentioned, .Sir Horace Plunkett published Noblesse Oblige: An Irish Rendering (1908), and Rural Life Problems of the United Slates (1910).
See Sir Horace Plunkett, Ireland in the New Century (London, 1904) ; Report of the Committee of Inquiry: Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction (Ireland), (Cd. 3572) (1907).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)