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After the Act of Union 1800, Ireland was under direct rule from England. The Act of Emancipation had slightly improved the position of the Catholics. However the campaign for Repeal of the Union led by Daniel O'Connell had failed.
The struggle for reform of land ownership had taken center stage. Land reform was important as it directly affected the lives of ordinary people. However, there was still a need to create meaningful political structures which would have introduced a measure of self-government to Ireland. The form of these structures was a matter of division and debate.
The Central Board scheme was developed by Joseph Chamberlain in 1884-1885. This would have offered a form of local government which it is argued would have fallen considerably short of legislative independence. The exact structure of the Board was subject to negotiation, however it was proposed to be indirectly elected with membership drawn from the existing county councils  and powers mainly over local government issues. Chamberlain had received some support from the Catholic bishops. His contact with Charles Parnell was ironically Captain O'Shea who led him to believe that this would be acceptable as a final settlement.
However Chamberlain's proposal was too radical for Gladstone who had not yet accepted the merits of Home Rule for Ireland. Lack of support led him to tender his resignation. Later in 1886 he was an opponent of the Home Rule Bill. Rejection of his Central Board scheme may have created personal feelings of bitterness towards the Irish Parliamentary Party.
Joseph Chamberlain was a leading Liberal who had been a successful businessman and had led the reform of the administration of the City of Birmingham, England. He also served in the important post of President of the Board of Trade.
All Ireland proposal, would have given good experience to Irish politicians and a Forum as an alternative to the parliamentary delaying tactics utilized in struggle for Home Rule.
Powers to be devolved were strictly limited and mere local autonomy would have been opposed by militants.
- Lyons, 1974
- Comerford, 1996