The year 1873 saw the practical inception of the movement for Irish Home Rule. O'Reilly, wise from experience, advised the Fenians to give the new scheme a fair hearing. "They," he said, "had done their work. Their movement, whatever its faults, aroused the national sentiment and forced the people into the study of their country's position. Nobody in the world has clearer grounds of objection to Fenianism than we have: we have known it all through, root and branch, its faults, its weaknesses, and its virtues: but we are not quite sure that had it not been at all, there would be no such hopeful movement as there is in Ireland to-day."
He, of all men, might have been justified in declaring war to the knife against the oppressors of his native land, but he did not think of his own wrongs when the best interests of his country were to be considered. He sincerely espoused the cause of Home Rule, and urged the wisdom and charity of forgetting past grievances. "That measure once attained," he said: "Let both neighbors combine for every neighborly purpose, and pull together, if need be, against the rest of the world, as good neighbors should; but let each give up, once for all, the arrogant, mischievous pretension of lording it over the hearthstone and dictating the domestic economy of the other. Thus will be combined national freedom with national strength."
Thenceforward, and to the end of his life, he remained an unwavering advocate of the pacific policy, an unshaken believer in its ultimate success. In his sanguine way he made, in 1886, one of the predictions which failed of fulfillment, that Home Rule would be achieved in the year 1889. He had not reckoned on the treachery of Chamberlain, and the selfish ambition of the English Unionists.