Justin McCarthy, Irish nationalist and Liberal historian, novelist and politician, is born in Cork, County Cork on November 22, 1830. He is a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1879 to 1900, taking his seat in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
McCarthy is educated in Cork. He begins his career as a journalist at the age of 18 in Cork. From 1853 to 1859 he is in Liverpool, on the staff of the Northern Daily Times. In March 1855, he marries Charlotte Ailman. In 1860 he moves to London, as parliamentary reporter to the Morning Star, of which he becomes editor in 1864. He gives up his post in 1868 and, following a lecturing tour in the United States, joins the staff of The Daily News as leader-writer in 1870. In this capacity he becomes one of the most useful and respected upholders of the liberal politics of the time. He lectures again in America in 1870–71 and in 1886–87.
McCarthy is first elected to Parliament at a by-election on April 4, 1879, when he is returned unopposed as a Home Rule League MP for Longford. He is re-elected unopposed as a Parnellite Home Ruler in 1880, and when the two-seat Longford constituency is split into two divisions under the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, he is elected as an Irish Parliamentary Party member for the new single-seat North Longford constituency. His sole opponent, James Mackay Wilson of the Irish Conservative Party, wins only 6% of the votes.
At the 1886 United Kingdom general election, McCarthy is returned unopposed in North Longford, but also stands in Londonderry City, where he is declared the loser to the Irish Unionist Alliance candidate by the narrow margin of 1778 votes to 1781. However, the result is later overturned on petition and McCarthy opts to sit for Londonderry City. During the divorce controversy surrounding Charles Stewart Parnell in November 1890, the British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone expresses a warning, given to McCarthy as intermediary, that if Parnell retains leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party, it will mean the loss of the next election, the end of their alliance and Home Rule. When the annual party leadership election meeting is called later that month, the threat is somehow not conveyed to the members, who re-elect Parnell leader of the Party.
After a further historical meeting of the Irish Party MPs in early December, Parnell refuses to retire and the Party divides. McCarthy becomes chairman of the Anti-Parnellite group, the Irish National Federation, for a year in 1891–92. His nationalism is of a temperate and orderly kind, and though his personal distinction singles him out for the chairmanship during the party dissensions of this period, he is in no active sense the political leader.
At the 1892 United Kingdom general election, McCarthy again stands both in North Longford and in Londonderry City. In each seat there is a two-way contest between the Anti-Parnellite McCarthy and a Unionist candidate, but the narrow Unionist victory in Londonderry is not overturned, and McCarthy sits for North Longford, where he wins over 93% of the votes. He is returned unopposed for North Longford in 1895 United Kingdom general election and stands down from Parliament at the 1900 United Kingdom general election.
It is claimed that McCarthy’s true vocation is literature. His earliest publications are novels, some of which, such as A Fair Saxon (1873), Dear Lady Disdain (1875), Miss Misanthrope (1878), and Donna Quixote (1879), attain considerable popularity. His most important work is his History of Our Own Times, which treats of the period between Queen Victoria‘s accession and her Diamond Jubilee. He begins a History of the Four Georges (1884–1901) and the latter half is written by his son, Justin Huntly McCarthy.
(Pictured: Portrait style photograph of Irish politician Justin McCarthy, taken in 1891 by Herbert Rose Barraud)