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S P E C I A L C O M M E M O R AT I V E I S S U E
FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
AMERICAN INFLUENCES: BOSTON + NEW YORK THE LEADERS * THE WOMEN * THE POETRY * THE PRESS TOURING THE BATTLEGROUND * U.S. EVENTS & MEMORIALS
CANADA $4.95/ U.S. $3.95
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contents | february / march 2016 Hibernia Highlights Irish Eye on Hollywood
It’s awards season for the Irish. p. 16
ILLUSTRATION: DAVID ROONEY
St. Patrick’s Day
66 The Man Who Cried Halt! 30 1916 – 2016: An Introduction
Facts and figures from Easter week, 1916.
32 A Strike Against the Empire
A Notre Dame documentary is a catalyst for global dialogue. By Jason Kelly
38 Profiles in Courage
The lives of the 15 executed leaders.
48 The Last Martyr
Roger Casement was a British knight and human rights advocate. By Rosemary Rogers
52 Michael Collins
From the G.P.O. to Béal na mBláth. By Dermot McEvoy
56 Man of Mystery
ILLUSTRATION: DAVID ROONEY
Éamon de Valera was an enigmatic figure until the end. By Robert Schmuhl
60 The Rebel Countess
Constance Markievicz honed both refined and rebel personas. By Rosemary Rogers
62 Women of the Rising
The forgotten role of women in Ireland’s independence. By Mary Pat Kelly
4 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
Eoin MacNeill was the man who tried to stop the Rising. By Maureen Murphy
68 Hand in Hand for Freedom
The unique marriage of American workers and Irish Rebels. By Terry O’Sullivan
72 Home Away from Home
The long history of Fenians in New York. By Dermot McEvoy and Tom Deignan
78 Heart of Boston
How the Rising unified the Boston Irish community. By Michael Quinlin
82 The Spy in the Castle
The life of David Neligan, Dublin cop and Collins spy. By Megan Smolenyak
86 The Age of Cable News
How censorship affected reporting of the Rising in America. By Marion R. Casey
90 The Rising Tour
As an urban battlefield, Dublin offers ample space to explore the locations critical to the Rising with CIE Tours. By Sharon Ní Chonchúir
94 1916: Portraits + Lives
A new Royal Irish Academy tome is handsome and incisive. By Sharon Ní Chonchúir
98 The Poet’s Revolution
Can the Rising to be framed in a literary narrative? By Christine Kinealy
George Mitchell is Grand Marshal of the NYC parade, plus other Paddy’s Day news. p. 20
Photos from the 2015 awards. p. 22
1916 Vignettes The Program
How the U.S. is commemorating the Rising. p. 24
His legacy is marked with sculptures in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. p. 26
The Proclamation The drafting of Ireland’s founding document. p. 45
De Valera’s right-hand man in America. p. 59
Departments 6 10 12 21 102 104 106
First Word Readers Forum Hibernia Those We Lost Last Word Books Photo Album
COVER: British troops fire at the Four Courts from the south side of the Fr. Matthews Bridge.
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Vol. 31 No. 2• February/March 2016
IRISH AMERICA Mórtas Cine
Pride In Our Heritage
Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd
Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing Kate Overbeck Art Director: Marian Fairweather Deputy Editor: Adam Farley Copy Editor: Brid Long
Advertising & Events Coordinator Tara Dougherty
Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Editorial Assistants: Julia Brodsky R. Bryan Willits
875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344 Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org www.irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial ofﬁce: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: Submit@irishamerica.com. Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1-800-582-6642, (212) 7252993, ext. 150. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing ofﬁces. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.
6 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
the first word | By Patricia Harty
“Two Hearts Beat as One” “No New York. No America. No Easter Rising. It’s simple as that.” – Prof. Joe Lee
hile editing the articles in this issue, I was struck by two related observations: without the Irish in America the 1916 Rising would not have happened; and Britain sealed its fate by implementing its terror policies, and allowing a famine that forced millions to leave Ireland for America. As far back as pre-Revolution days, the Irish found a home in America. The United Irishmen took their lead from the American Revolution in an early quest for Irish independence, and after the failed rebellion of 1798, many of them settled in the U.S. – including the family of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. whose story is in this issue. Half a century later, the Great Famine would begin a new phase in the history of the Irish. The flood of immigration from the mid- through the end of the 19th century was so strong that the Irish became a major American presence. By 1860, New York was the largest Irish city in the world. Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other port cities also saw a large influx of Irish. Many of those immigrants would fight in the American Civil War, and some used that experience to inspire another rebellion in Ireland in 1867. When that rebellion also failed, many of the rebels made their way to America where they continued the quest for Ireland’s freedom. After the Civil War, the Irish spread out across the country laying track for the transcontinental railroad, finding employment in expanding industrial cities like Chicago, and passing on the dream of Irish freedom to the next generation. And it was to these Irish Americans that Éamon de Valera turned when he made his almost two-year trip across America (191920) and raised $6 million for the fledgling Irish Free State back home. America not only galvanized Ireland’s fight for independence, but also became a protector of Irish heritage and culture. As I researched for this issue, I spent several happy hours at Villanova University’s digital library, lost in time, combing through de Valera papers in the Joseph McGarrity Collection (McGarrity managed de Valera’s tour of America). In the process, I was excited to come across a photograph of McGarrity greeting the Rebel Countess, Constance Markievicz, at Philadelphia’s train station in 1919. The Countess, a major figure in the Rising, and the other women who took part, are especially interesting to me – and there is so much material available online now that wasn’t accessible 25
years ago when we commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Rising. YouTube especially has a wealth of archival footage. On the site, you can hear Maud Gonne talking about founding the revolutionary women’s group The Daughters of Ireland, and hear Nora Connolly speak of a final visit to her father, James Connolly, the day before he was executed for his part in the rebellion. But as we commemorate 1916, let us not forget the “ghosts of partition,” as Gerry Adams put it in a 1991 interview with this magazine. At the time, the conflict that ultimately took over 3,600 lives was still raging, but Adams spoke to me about it being time for a political solution. It was time for talks, he said, and he called on Irish Americans to get involved. And they did! In the next few years they rallied to the cause of a peaceful settlement to the conflict that had gone on since the partition of Ireland into two territories in 1921. It was amazing for me to witness so much involvement; to see then president Bill Clinton, whose mother was a Cassidy, take up the cause; and others, including Jean Kennedy Smith, who in 1994 helped secure a U.S. visa for Adams, thus enabling him to address the American Irish here, preparing the way for the IRA “complete” ceasefire. I was privy to the often-weekly information sessions put together by the American Committee on American Foreign Policy hosted by Bill Flynn and Tom Moran at the Mutual of America HQ in New York. In this setting, both sides of the Northern divide had an opportunity to air their grievances, and promote a better understanding of the situation on the ground. I also had the opportunity to meet and interview Clinton appointee George Mitchell, who chaired the talks that ultimately led to the Good Friday Agreement (which, like the Rising, also happened at Easter time). That historic document put in place the power-sharing government that successfully, peacefully, presides over Northern Ireland today. I’ll let W.B. Yeats sum up the past 25 years: “All changed, changed utterly!” Change for Ireland would not have happened without America. And the beauty of it is, for all the great change, we are still Irish, as ever, always. Mórtas Cine
“Two Hearts Beat as One” is a song by rock band U2 on their 1983 album, War.
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Christine Kinealy completed
her Ph.D. at Trinity College, Dublin, on the history of the Irish Poor Law. Since then, she has written extensively on the Great Hunger; most recently, she is the joint author of a graphic novel about this tragedy The Bad Times; An Drochshaol (Quinnipiac University Press, 2015). In 2013, Christine was appointed founding Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. In 2014, she was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame. Christine lives in Hamden, CT, with her son, Ciarán, and their puppy, Cú.
writes columns about movies and history for Irish America, and is a weekly columnist for The Irish Voice and regular columnist and book reviewer for the Newark Star-Ledger.
Jason Kelly is an
associate editor at Notre Dame Magazine. In his first weeks on the job, he was sent to rural Montana on assignment twice, but returned both times. In his spare time, he enjoys writing autobiographical blurbs in the third-person.
is the author of the The 13th Apostle: A Novel of a Dublin Family, Michael Collins, and the Irish Uprising and Irish Miscellany (Skyhorse Publishing). He may be reached at dermotmcevoy50@gm ail.com. Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy. com.
Michael Quinlin is author of Irish Boston (Globe Pequot Press: 2013) and editor of Tales from the Emerald Isle and Other Green Shores (Lyons Press: 2014). He cofounded the Boston Irish Tourism Association in 2000 and created Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail. Mike lives in Milton, Massachusetts with his wife Colette and son Devin.
is the inaugural Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Chair of American Studies and Journalism at the University of Notre Dame, where he is also director of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy. The author or editor of a dozen books, his most recent is Ireland’s Exiled Children: America and the Easter Rising, published by Oxford University Press. His article in this issue is adapted from the chapter about Éamon de Valera in that book.
8 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
1928 – 2016
John Anderson was the head copyeditor of this magazine for 24 years. Beginning in 1992, at the age of 63, he edited with the greatest of care and insight and never hesitated to make incisive changes in the service of clarity. We are in his debt. He was born in Minneapolis in 1928 and moved to New York in 1951 to look for a writing job. He was hired by a design and architecture magazine called Interiors, and worked there for 10 years, eventually becoming managing editor. He had worked as a freelance magazine and book editor since 1961. A Minnesotan of Finnish descent raised in the Lutheran faith, he shrugged off his religion but was proud of his Finnish ancestry and took pride in the accomplishments of other Finnish Americans. Yet for all that, he was a true New Yorker who wouldn’t live anywhere else. He invented a board game named “King Hamlet” and marketed it personally; it is still available online. A lifelong opera and film enthusiast, he loved to proclaim his five favorite opera singers of all time, his ten favorite film stars, his twelve favorite films, and disputed earnestly with those who differed, waving his arms vigorously as he did so. He appears here in a painting by the artist Philip Pearlstein. – Clifford Browder
Terry O’Sullivan is general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
Megan Smolenyak is a
genealogist and the author of six books, including Trace Your Roots with DNA and Who Do You Think You Are?, a companion to the TV series. She prefers to call herself an incurable genealogist and sometimes author.
Marion R. Casey
is a clinical assistant professor of Irish studies at NYU as well as the senior archivist for the Archives of Irish America. Most recently, she is the editor of the forthcoming Religious Freedom: Bicentennial Reflections on People v. Philips (Fordham UP).
Dr. Maureen Murphy is
Fulbright Fellow at University College, Dublin, and is the Chair of New York’s 2016 Commemorations Committee.
Mary Pat Kelly is
the author of numerous books, including the bestselling novel Galway Bay, an epic family saga set in 19thcentury Ireland and Chicago, and the recently-published Of Irish Blood (Forge).
Sharon Ní Chonchúir lives
and works in West Kerry, Ireland, and much of her writing is concerned with the changing face of modern Irish culture.
Rosemary Rogers co-authored,
with Sean Kelly, the best- selling humor/reference book, Saints Preserve Us! (Random House) currently in its 18th international printing. The duo collaborated on four other books for Random House and calendars for Barnes & Noble. Rogers co-wrote two info/entertainment books for St. Martin’s Press. She’s currently co-writing a book on empires for City Light Publishing.
IMAGE: BETTY CUNINGHAM GALLERY
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letters | readers forum
Smoky the Lucky War Dog
Thank you, Ms. Donohue, for the wonderful article – very well done, and a true honor given to both the dog and the man! Bill Wynne spoke at the Rocky River Library Auditorium in December. A brief award ceremony followed with a presentation of the Purple Cross Award TOP RIGHT: Jim from the Royal Murphy, far left, in the Society for the Brooklyn of his youth. Prevention of LEFT: Smoky, as photographed by Bill Cruelty to Animals, Wynne during WWII. Australia – the highest Australian honor given to BELOW: Silver screen animals that have saved lives. There is currently legend Maureen O’Hara, who was born in Dublin a screenplay in the works for their story. Dave Smith, submitted online
Kathy “White House”
Would love to see more of her recipes and history!
Sam Mauldin, submitted online
Farewell to Our Beloved Maureen O’Hara
A true Irish beauty – my favorite actress who was a wonderful ambassador for Ireland. May she rest in peace. Walter Crawford, submitted online
and died in Idaho.
A Child’s Christmas in Brooklyn
I enjoyed Mr. Murphy’s article as I grew up in Brooklyn in the ’50s. It brought back many memories of my Irish parents, who, although poor, went all out to make Christmas special for the three of us. Putting on the tinsel and lights was a major event. Thanks for the memories.
Mary Kelly, Sarasota, Fl.
Loved reading this story. I was from St. Teresa’s parish in Brooklyn and my parents, like Mr. Murphy’s, were from Donegal, and met out here. My mother would cry often when she got letters from home. Thank you for this memory.
Nary Sprague, submitted online
Query + Correction
I am a recent subscriber to Irish America, having just received my third magazine. I am delighted with the magazine and look forward to reading the contents every two months. I am especially pleased that the past two issues have highlighted successful Irish Americans who were born in Northern Ireland as I was in 1952 in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, the home of the beginning of the civil rights movement. 49ers at Pittswide but certainly is burgh, Sept. My question is: although my major in the Pittsburgh 20, 2015. They hat is off to Mr. Kelly and Mr. area) is that the San lost 18 – 43. Clerkin for their accomplishFrancisco 49ers do not ments, is Irish America aware of the hold the record for Super Bowl wins. contributions that other immigrants That privilege goes to the Pittsburgh have made outside of the business Steelers, founded by the Rooneys world? I am by no means nominatwho hail from Co. Down. (Dan ing myself but surely there are Rooney served as ambassador to many instances of immigrants who Ireland). The Pittsburgh Steelers won have made major contributions to a record holding six Super Bowls in American society outside of the 1974, ’75, ’78, ’79, 2005, and 2008. business world. I look forward to your next issue One correction regarding your and thank you for the really outarticle “Super Bowl 50 for SF Bay standing magazine. Brian Corr, Pittsburgh, PA Area” (which may be minor world-
Visit us online at Irishamerica.com to leave your comments, or write to us: E-mail: email@example.com, send a fax: 212-2443344, or write to Letters, Irish America Magazine, 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Letters should include the writer’s name, address and phone number and may be edited for clarity and length.
10 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
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hibernia | news from ireland Irish Miracle Baby
Connects Ireland and U.S.
PHOTO BY: NAOISE CULHANE
Enda Kenny observes the cable landing in Sligo last year.
First Trans-Atlantic Fiber-Optic Cable
reland and the U.S. are now connected through a brand new $300 million transatlantic fiber-optic cable that went live on January 31. Aqua Comms, the Irish based company behind the America Europe Connect (AEConnect) system, put the final splice in the cable in November of last year, making AEConnect the first and only dedicated modern subsea fiber-optic cable system running directly from Ireland to the U.S. The connection runs 3440 miles from Shirley, Long Island, New York, to a station in Killala, Co. Mayo, where it then connects directly to Dublin and then on to London and the rest of Europe. The system has the latest 130Gbps x 100Gbps fiber pair and 52Tbps of capacity, meaning AEConnect can cover all of the European and American data traffic, can handle one third of all telephone calls made worldwide, and should be able to double its capacity within a few years. Though AEConnect is the first and only dedicated modern subsea fiber-optic cable system to run directly from the U.S. to Ireland, it is not the only notable state-of-the-art transatlantic wire connection in Ireland’s history. The first commercially viable transatlantic cable was established in 1866 and ran from Valencia Island, just off the Co. Kerry coast, to a station in Newfoundland, Canada. It was also from Valencia that a leading member of Clan na Gael, (most likely John Devoy) received a cyphered message 50 years later reading “Tom [Clark] Successfully Operated On Today,” signaling the outbreak of the 1916 Easter Rising. Now, 100 years after that, AEConnect allows Ireland and her “exiled children in America” to be even more connected than ever before. – R.B.W.
Waterford Artifact May Be Oldest in Ireland
n mid-2015, a group of fishermen off the coast of Waterford inadvertently picked up what could potentially be Ireland’s oldest archeological artifact. While trawling for scallops off Creaden Head near Woodstown, they also caught a fragment of a flint axe, which they turned over to the Waterford History Group. The fragment has since traveled to University College Cork for age testing, but local historians are still buzzing about the similarities between the Waterford axe and
12 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
oe Ireland Drake, the American baby girl born just minutes after landing in Dublin on October 28th, 2015, spent Christmas in Ireland. Her parents, Jenny and Gavin Drake, have remained in Dublin ever since their Nashville-bound American Airlines flight redirected to Dublin when Jenny went into premature labor at 25 weeks. Jenny and Gavin were heading home after enjoying a “babymoon” in Paris when Jenny began to experience pains. She quickly alerted a flight attendant, and shortly thereafter, the plane redirected to Dublin. Jenny considers herself lucky that there happened to be seven or eight doctors on board, but she knew that at 25 weeks, her daughter’s chances would have been extremely slim if she hadn’t made it to the hospital. “My big fear was that if she was born on the plane she wouldn’t make it because she was so young and her lungs were not properly developed,” she said. Only four minutes after arriving at Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, Zoe was born, weighing just 1.8 pounds. Since then, she has been developing steadily. The couple had initially planned on naming their daughter Elizabeth, but realized they needed to pay homage to the country of her birth. “She had to now be Ireland,” they told the Irish Independent. The Drakes have spent the months since their daughter’s birth in Ireland, and the couple’s three-year-old son, Aidan, who had been staying with his grandparents, joined them in Dublin for Christmas. – J.B.
a similar one found in Norfolk in 2001, which turned out to be 700,000 years old. Waterford History Group member Vincent O’Brien noted, “That was a game-changer over there because they had to re-write the history books in the U.K.” The Waterford axe may be a similar game-changer, as it could prove that a tribe of people existed in Ireland over one million years ago. Historian Noel McDonagh, who studies flint artifacts of bygone eras, has said
A flint axe similar to this may be the oldest Irish artifact ever.
that if the Waterford axe is proved to be as old as the Norfolk one, “it would re-write the whole history of early Ireland.” The axe could potentially prove that tribes of people have lived in Ireland since the earliest part of the Paleolithic Era. In addition to rewriting history in Ireland, the Waterford axe could also be among the oldest of its kind found in all of Europe, making it hugely significant internationally, as well as nationally. – J.B.
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hibernia | news from ireland Kerry WWII Veteran Receives France’s
inety-seven-year-old Kerry man John “Jack” Mahony was named a Chevalier de La Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, for his participation in the European theater of World War II. Mahony received his medal and commendation from Phillipe Ray, first counsellor from the French Embassy, in early December at a ceremony in Middleton, Co. Cork, where he and his late wife, Mary, settled in 1973. “In honoring you today, Jack, we honor the bravery, commitment, and strength of all the Irish men and women who stood for liberty, equality, and fraternity alongside France over time and continue to do so,” said Ray. After his family’s London home was bombed by the Germans during the Blitz in 1942, Mahony resigned from the London Metropolitan Police and enlisted in the British Army. After training, he
joined the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders and landed on Gold Beach in Normandy on D-Day. He aided in the liberation of the French city of Caen, and, despite being wounded twice in Normandy, went on to the Netherlands to aid airborne units until he was captured by the Germans near Venlo. Mahony spent the remainder of the war in German prisoner-of-war camps. Mahony’s son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, extended family, and friends attended the ceremony to honor the hero. “I want to thank all you people who have traveled here, some of you quite a distance for the occasion, which is in the twilight of my time,” Mahony said after receiving the medal. “I’m delighted to receive this honor.” – J.B.
Ireland Launches Campaign to Bring Emigrants Back
n early December of 2015, the Irish government launched a campaign to bring its emigrants home to help grow the economy. Inspired in part by #hometovote, the hashtag that urged Irish abroad to come home to vote in the marriage equality referendum, the #hometowork campaign displayed posters in Ireland’s major airports just in time for heavy holiday traffic. One poster showed a young emigrant returning home, suggesting “Make your Christmas commute shorter next year. Come #hometowork in 2016.” A cleverly placed follow-up greeted travelers in the departure sections of the airports, reading, “Slán go fóill. Hope to see you again soon… Have you thought about making 2016 the year you move back to Ireland?” Minister of State for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, announced the initiative at last year’s Other TOP: Minister Deenihan. Voices festival in ABOVE: The #hometowork ad that ran in Dublin Dingle in a speech Airport over the holidays. unemployment rate that stressed both has dropped below 9% for the the economic and familial. first time since 2008. The govern“We want to see our emigrants ment plans to have that rate returning to play their part in redown to 6% by 2020 and to have building their economy, bringing recovered all jobs lost in the rehome their experience to take up cession by 2018. Economic some of the jobs that are now growth won’t affect just the major being created,” he said. “We cosmopolitan centers, either; a want them back amongst their €250 million regional jobs profamilies and friends.” gram is also being launched to Indeed, the Irish economy is ensure that all of the country regrowing, with over 1,000 new covers together. – J.B. jobs being added weekly, and the
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hibernia | news from ireland
Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald and Margaret Thatcher sign the AngloIrish Agreement in 1985.
Anglo-Irish Agreement Anniversary ovember of last year marked the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which attempted to bring an end to the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Signed by then-Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Agreement gave the Republic of Ireland a consultative role in Northern Ireland’s affairs and offered the possibility of a united Ireland, should a majority of the population wish it. The Agreement met vehement opposition from both Unionists and Republicans. The Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party quickly formed the “Ulster says no” campaign and organized a huge rally at Belfast’s City Hall protesting the
Agreement just a week after it was signed. Ian Paisley, leader of the D.U.P., saw the Republic of Ireland as a hotbed of I.R.A. terrorists, and at the rally demanded of the crowd, “And Mrs. Thatcher tells us the Republic must have some say in our province? We say never, never, never.” Republicans opposed the Agreement because it forced them to recognize Northern Ireland as part of the U.K., which “copper-fastened partition,” according to Gerry Adams. Ultimately, the Anglo-Irish Agreement did little to quell the Troubles, though it is acknowledged to have paved the way for the eventual Good Friday Agreement. – J.B.
First Soldier Arrested for 1972 Bloody Sunday Deaths
his past November, detectives in County Antrim arrested a former British soldier who was involved in 1972’s Bloody Sunday. The arrest was the first made in connection with the incident, which claimed the lives of 14 civil rights protesters in Derry nearly 44 years ago. The man was arrested and held and ques-
Arlene Foster is Northern Ireland’s First Female First Minister
rlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, the largest political party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, officially began her tenure as First Minister of Northern Ireland in January, making her the youngest person, at 45, and the first woman to fill that position. Foster has represented Fermanagh and South Tyrone in the Northern Ireland Assembly since 2003, and took over from Peter Robinson as the head of her party after he stepped down in November. Fosters ascension to first minister also comes just before the centenary of the Easter Rising, a point that was not lost on Foster, who in a BBC interview stated that she would not travel to Dublin for the official centenary celebrations and said that it would not be right for her to take part in the commemorations since she believed firmly in democracy and the Union. “Easter 1916 was a very violent attack on the state,” said Foster, “and it wasn’t just an attack on the state. It was an attack against democracy at that time.” She also believes the commemorations give succor to violent republicanism. In response, Taoiseach Enda Kenny argued that the events would be put together in a “very sensitive, comprehensive, inclusive way” and reminded Foster that there were “people of the nationalist persuasion in Northern Ireland” who have attended many events related to sensitive issues. Despite her original statements, Foster’s intransigence has since faded and said that she would participate in a symposium that would explore the consequences of the Rising saying, “Will I go and discuss historical significance, will I go and have other conversations about what happened in 1916? Yes, I will of course.” – R. B. W.
tioned at a police station before being released on bail. Since the arrest, there has been a petition for British troops to be exonerated for their actions on Bloody Sunday, as many members of republican groups have been pardoned for crimes committed during the Troubles. The 2010 Saville inquiry, which took 12 years to complete, exonerated the dead and asserted that none of the victims posed a threat to soldiers when they were shot. In 2012, a new investigation into the events was launched, and in the following year, the Ministry of Defense offered the families of the victims £50,000 each. Not one of the families has accepted the money.
“It’s the biggest thing to happen since the Saville Report,” said Jean Hegarty of the Free Derry Museum, regarding the arrest. Her brother, Kevin McElhinney, was among the civilians shot dead on Bloody Sunday. He was 17. John Kelly, whose brother Michael was also 17 when he was killed on Bloody Sunday, affirmed that this arrest was the start of a change 44 years in the making and said, “I hope it will not take long to see these people in court being charged for what they did on Bloody Sunday – killing children. We believe everyone who fired that day should have been prosecuted.” – J.B.
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hibernia | irish eye on hollywood
By Tom Deignan
Awards Season Highlights Irish Talent
t’s that time of year again in Hollywood. Everyone from critics’ associations to film review boards are giving out awards, all leading up to the Oscars, which will be held this year on February 28 in Hollywood. The Irish are doing quite well thus far, racking up a wide range of awards and nominations, which suggests they will be well-represented by the time the Academy Awards roll around. Saoirse Ronan (right) has already picked up numerous awards and nominations for her turn as Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey in Brooklyn, directed by Irishman John Crowley. The New York Film Critics Circle, for example, gave Ronan their Best Actress award back in December. They also named the Belfast thriller ’71 a “top independent film” for the year. Ronan also received a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination alongside Irish American Rooney Mara (for the ’50s love story Carol). Though it was Brie Larson who won the Best Actress Golden Globe for Room, directed by Irishman Lenny Abrahamson, based on the book by Irish author Emma Donoghue. Indeed, the Golden Globe nominations have a particularly strong Irish flavor this year. Room and Spotlight (about the sex scandal that rocked Boston’s heavily Irish Catholic church) were nominated for Best Drama while Kerry-reared Michael Fassbender (for Steve Jobs) was nominated for Best Actor. But it was Leonardo DiCaprio, playing brutalized Irish American pioneer Hugh Glass in The Revenant, who won the award, as did The Revenant, which ultimately took away the Best Drama Globe. Irish American Melissa McCarthy was up for a Best Actress in a Comedy Golden Globe, while Tom McCarthy (no relation) was up for Best Director. McCarthy (Tom, that is) as well as Emma Donoghue were up for Best Screenplay and Maura Tierney won Best Supporting Acress in a TV series for her work in the searing cable drama The Affair. Finally, Dublin native Caitriona Balfe – who will next be appearing alongside George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the film Money Monster – earned a Best Actress in a TV Drama Golden Globe nod for Outlander. The L.A. Film Critics Association also recognized Spotlight as Best Picture, McCarthy’s script as Best Screenplay, and Fassbender as Best Actor. The National Board of Review tabbed Brie Larson as Best Actress for Room, which the Board also named as one of their nine top films for the year. All of which means Brie things are shaping up Larson. nicely for the Irish when the Academy Awards roll around in February.
Mammal Gives Second Chances at Sundance
Above: Keoghan. Below: Griffiths
Meanwhile, the Irish will also be represented at the prestigious annual Sundance Film Festival. In Mammal, star Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) portrays a woman named Margaret who has learned that the teenaged son she abandoned as a baby has been found dead. Disoriented by the tragic news, Margaret becomes involved in the life of a homeless teen. What seems like a second chance at motherhood begins to take a very dark turn. Mammal also stars Dubliner Barry Keoghan, who played a boy under the sway of the Irish Republican Army, in the thriller ‘71. Game of Thrones actor Michael McElhatton, also from Dublin, is also featured in Mammal, which will be screened at Sundance as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Meanwhile, a documentary about Afghan children entitled The Land of the Enlightened, which was supported by Bord Scannán na hÉireann (The Irish Film Board) will screen at Sundance in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.
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Fionnula Flanagan Returns to the Box Office
Fionnula Flanagan has already appeared in one movie slated for an early 2016 release and is shaping up to have an overall busy year. Flanagan – the Dublin-born veteran of stage and screen – was most recently seen in the psychological thriller Trash Fire, alongside Ronnie Gene Blevins and Adrian Grenier (Entourage). The film was released in January and Flanagan has several other films slated for release later this year that also dabble in horror and other scary matters. Look for Flanagan beside Julie Benz in Havenhurst and alongside Sally Kellerman and singer Macy Gray in Flycatcher.
Driving Miss Daisy for the 21st Century
alifornication actress Natascha McElhone (right), who uses her Irish mother’s name for professional purposes, is slated to appear alongside Eddie Murphy in what is being pitched as a heartwarming film in the tradition of (and directed by the same person as) Driving Miss Daisy. McElhone (born in London to Irish journalist Noreen Taylor née McElhone) will join Murphy as well as Britt Robertson and child actor Mckenna Grace in a film entitled Henry Joseph Church. The movie – currently slated to be released in the spring of 2016 – tells the story of the unlikely friendship that blossoms when a dying woman hires a cook to help care for her young daughter. Henry Joseph Church will be directed by Bruce Beresford, the Australian Hollywood veteran whose credits, in addition to the 1989 classic Driving Miss Daisy, include 1980s dramas such as Tender Mercies and Crimes of the Heart.
Comedian Bill Burr in F is for Family
omedian Bill Burr has found inspiration for his next project in his Irish American roots. The result is a dark animated comedy entitled F is for Family, now streaming on Netflix. “Sometime in my mid-30s I noticed this whole generation of kids that wear helmets when they ride bicycles and live behind gates,” Burr told the New York Daily News recently. “When I was a kid, you’d go outside and you and your friends would collectively decide with your kid brains what to do that day. It could be to go play Wiffle ball, play with matches, throw rocks in someone’s pool or have a crabapple fight. Kids were allowed to be kids.” The show will reflect Burr’s old-school mentality. F is for Family is produced by actor-director Vince Vaughn as well as Peter Billingsley (yes, that’s little Ralphie from the classic A Christmas Story). Burr voices Frank, the character loosely based on his own father. Laura Dern portrays his wife. Executive producer Michael Price – an Emmy winner for The Simpsons – added, “A lot of the incidents in the show are based on things that really happened. Bill and I had similar childhoods. We were both raised Irish-Catholic and we both grew up in the suburbs — although he’s from Massachusetts and I’m from New Jersey.” Six episodes of F is for Family are currently available on Netflix.
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hibernia | irish eye on hollywood
Wrestling onto the Big Screen
WWE wrestler “Sheamus.”
Aidan Gillen’s Knights of the Roundtable idan Gillen (The Wire, Game of
Thrones) sticks with the historical costume genre in Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur, to be directed by Sherlock Holmes auteur Guy Ritchie. Gillen stars alongside Wicklow native Katie McGrath as well as Jude Law and Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam (playing the title character) in this action-adventure epic. The film – expected to be the first in a franchise-style series – explores young Arthur, who is granted powers Dubliner once he lays his hands on the sword Aidan Gillen known as Excalibur. Arthur must decide if he wants to join a rebellion against the dastardly Vortigern, all the while falling in love with the fair maiden Guinevere.
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He was born Stephen Farrelly in Cabra, Dublin, and raised to speak fluent Irish, but the world knows him best as the professional wrestler Sheamus. A World Wrestling Entertainment champion, Sheamus is now looking to break into the acting world. (That is, if you don’t consider wrestling as a kind of acting.) Look for Sheamus this summer in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadow, alongside the likes of Megan Fox, Laura Linney, Tyler Perry, and Johnny Knoxville.
Colin Morgan Is on the Up rmagh native
(above) is currently busy with two Hollywood movies as well as a BBC TV series. In April, look for Morgan beside Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron in The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which one web site cryptically described as “a prequel / spin-off/sequel” to the 2012 hit Snow White and the Huntsman. Later this year, look for Morgan playing the lead role in Waiting for You, a coming-ofage drama in which a son’s fascination with his father’s past may well turn deadly. Finally, on the small screen, Morgan is filming The Living and the Dead, set in 1890s England and created by Ashley Pharoah (Life On Mars) and also starring Charlotte Spencer. Morgan and Spencer play a married couple whose happiness is unhinged by what may or may not be supernatural forces.
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hibernia | awards Dr. William Campbell in his lab at Drew University.
William Campbell’s Nobel Prize
onegal native Dr. William Campbell was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on a drug that fights roundwormrelated infections. He and his colleague, Professor Satoshi Omura, shared this year’s award for their work in discovering Ivermectin, which has drastically reduced occurrences of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (commonly known as elephantiasis tropica), among other ailments. The drug was developed in the late 1980s and annually treats roughly 25 million people, preventing new cases of river blindness. “I was a bit shocked, to be honest,” Campbell said upon hearing he had been awarded the prize. “It’s a great
thrill and I’m delighted for everyone involved in this research.” Dr. Campbell was born in 1930 in Ramelton, County Donegal and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with honors in 1952 with an undergraduate degree in zoology. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1957. Campbell is currently a research fellow emeritus at Drew University in New Jersey, and despite having lived in the United States for many years, has remained exceedingly proud of his Donegal heritage. In fact, he always begins his semesters at Drew by showing his new students a picture of his father’s cows on the Mall in his hometown. – J.B.
Irish Presidential Awards
Tom Moran is a hugely successful businessman and a well-respected humanitarian. Born on Staten Island to Irish American parents, he is the chairman of Mutual of America, and Concern Worldwide (U.S.) and a noted philanthropist when it comes to Irish causes. He has been an influential voice in the Irish peace process, developing relationships with social, political and business leaders in Northern Ireland and continuing to open doors to promote reconciliation.
Dr. Maureen Murphy is Fulbright Fellow at University College, Dublin, and was awarded Honorary Doctor of Letters by the National University of Ireland for her contributions to Irish Studies. She is the Chair of New York’s 2016 Commemorations Committee, the American Irish Historical Society (of which she is a Board member) and with other prominent historical, heritage, and community groups on a comprehensive and coordinated programme of commemorative events into 2016.
Fr. Brendan McBride is President of the Irish Apostolate in the United States. Originally from Donegal, he is also founder and head of the Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center in San Francisco. He has committed his life’s work to serving the Irish community through advocacy and provision of support services and is one of the key leaders in the Irish community’s efforts to bring about immigration reform. McBride played a central role in providing support to those involved in the recent Berkeley tragedy.
Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Induct Ambassador Anne Anderson
rish Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson will become the first female member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, an honorary role, at a St. Patrick’s Day dinner this year. The occasion marks the first time any chapter of the Friendly Sons has allowed a woman to be a member. “I am delighted by this decision, especially as we approach the centenary celebration in 2016,” Anderson said. “It is a great moment to embrace and celebrate a more open and inclusive Ireland and Irish America.” Since assuming the ambassador role in 2013, Anderson has been a strong advocate for overturning allmale Irish societies longstanding exclusion of female members. The decision to change admission policy was spearheaded by the society’s president, Joseph Heenan, who was elected in June and made the issue one of his top priorities. Calling the decision “long, long overdue,” Heenan said that 90 percent of the chapter’s 650 active members voted in favor of the measure. “The decision came from a sense of fairness. I think it was a sense of imbalance and that it needed to be on fair footings for all of us,” Heenan told our partner publication IrishCentral. “Whether we’re male or female, you have your Irish heritage and you should be participating in it. “I strongly see the value in having the accomplishments of many, many females that will only enhance our organization. I want the Philadelphia branch to be around for another 245 years and I think we have good footings with the addition of female members. “I hope we set an example [to other branches] and I hope they look at the progress over time and follow suit. It took us 245 years and hopefully it won’t take others as long.” Founded in 1771, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in Philadelphia provided aid to Irish immigrants and welcomed both Catholic and Protestant male members. For the time being, the change only affects the Philadelphia branch, the founding branch. Each branch is operated independently with no central offices or rules, with chapters able to establish their own regulations. – A.F.
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hibernia | st. patrick’s day 2016
Senator George Mitchell, Kevin Bacon, and Pat Quinn Among the Country’s Grand Marshals
eorge Mitchell, the former senate majority leader (D – Maine) and Northern Ireland peace broker, has accepted the invitation to be the Grand Marshal of New York’s 5th Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade. Mitchell was appointed United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland by president Bill Clinton, and was a chief architect of the Mitchell Principles and the Good Friday Agreement, which have both led to relative peace and the current power sharing government in Northern Ireland. The long-standing New York City parade has in recent years been embroiled in controversies over whether or not to allow LGBT groups to march in the parade. Mitchell was consequently reluctant to accept the invitation at first, but told The New York Times that he agreed to lead the parade after he was assured that the issue had “been satisfactorily resolved to all concerned.” In that case, he said he was “happy to accept.” It will be the first parade in which he has marched, as well. Mitchell, who is 82 and grew up in Maine and now lives in Manhattan, told the Times he was prepared though. “I’m in good shape,” he said. “I play tennis, and I live in New York, so I walk a lot. I’ll have my running shoes on.”
lsewhere, Pat Quinn, Irish America Hall of Fame inductee and founder of the A.L.S. Ice Bucket Challenge will lead the parade in Yonkers, while movie star Kevin Bacon and his brother will lead the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The parade will be kicked off by actor and comedian 20 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
Gary Busey, and will be followed with a free concert featuring The Bacon Brothers. In Boston, the nation’s second largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Boston Police Department Lieutenant Christopher Hamilton, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, will serve as Chief Marshal. The parade, which is co-hosted by the Allied War Veteran’s Council, also celebrates Evacuation Day in Boston, when British Troops evacuated Boston during the Revolutionary War. Michael J. Madigan, Illinois Speaker of the House, will be the Grand Marshal of Chicago’s parade, held this year on Saturday, March 12. San Francisco will hold its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on the same day, which will feature Jerry Boyle, the president of the Knights of the Red Branch, the organization that commissioned the recent groundbreaking, independent study that showed that political unification in Ireland would result in economic improvement for the entire Island. Across the Pacific, the world’s fourth largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade (after New York, Dublin, and Boston) in Sydney, Australia will not be held in 2016 as a result of financial problems incurred in 2014 when a storm passed through the city as the parade began. The parade committee has been unable to recover and is looking into multiple fundraising strategies to reinstate it for 2017. – R.B.W.
TOP LEFT: George Mitchell. FAR LEFT: Pat Quinn. TOP CENTER: St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hot Springs, Arkansas. TOP RIGHT: Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael. ABOVE: Jerry Boyle. BELOW: St. Patrick’s Day in Sydney, Australia.
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those we lost | passages
Rick Cluchey 1933 – 2015
n February 2, 1955, the man who would become one of Samuel Beckett’s greatest protegés, got into a car in Los Angeles with a loaded gun. Rick Cluchey robbed and accidentally shot the driver, was caught, and subsequently sentenced to life in San Quentin Prison without the possibility of parole. It was through this violent episode that he was to find his calling in theater, especially as a interpreter, director, and actor for the works of Samuel Beckett. When the San Francisco Actors Workshop performed Waiting for Godot at San Quentin in November 1957, Cluchey was not allowed out of his cell. He was a skilled boxer, violent, and seen as an escape threat. But he heard Godot through the public address system, and it inspired in him and his prisonmates a redemptive and creative streak that would ultimately secure his release from prison. Cluchey became a leading member in a theater troupe comprised of San Quentin inmates which focused heavily on Beckett’s work. Cluchey eventually authored his own play, The Cage, which played a role in helping Cluchey leave prison on parole. It was also due to this play that he met his second wife, Barbara Bladen, who reviewed a prison performance of the play for The San Mateo Times. Their love story became the basis for the film Weeds, starring Nick Nolte. Out of prison, Cluchey formed a theater company, Barbwire Theater, which was comprised of other excons. He continued to be recognized as a great talent – even by his ultimate inspiration, Beckett, whom Cluchey met in the 1970s. The two developed a collaborative friendship that saw Cluchey work as assistant director to Beckett and act in many performances, including Krapp’s Last Tape and Endgame, some of which Beckett himself directed. Born as Douglas Charles Cluchey on Dec. 5, 1933, Cluchey married three times. He died on Dec. 28 and is survived by his four children and his wife, Nora Masterson. – R. B. W.
Aidan Higgins 1927 – 2015
rish fiction writer Aidan Higgins died December 27th, 2015 at the age of 88. Despite being relatively unknown to American audiences, his work was critically lauded and poet Derek Mahon referred to him as “the missing link between high modernism and the present.” Higgins was born in Celbridge, Co. Kildare on March 3, 1927 and attended Clongowes Wood College (immortalized by the school’s most famous alumnus, James Joyce, in his semi-autobiographical bildungsroman, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). After school, he worked as a copywriter for a Dublin advertising agency before moving to London and later traveling throughout Europe and Africa. In 1960, Samuel Beckett recommended Higgins’
first collection of short stories, Felo de Se, to John Calder, his London publisher. Langrishe, Go Down, Higgins’s 1966 novel, details the lives of four spinster sisters living in a decaying Big House, and was lauded by the Irish Times as “the best Irish novel since At Swim-Two-Birds and the novels of Beckett.” The novel won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was adapted for television with a screenplay by acclaimed English playwright Harold Pinter. In 1981, he helped found Aosdána, an Irish artists’ association supported by the Arts Council of Ireland. Higgins made his home in Kinsale, Co. Cork, where he settled in 1986 with writer and journalist Alannah Hopkin. The two married in 1997. In addition to his wife, Higgins is survived by three children and several grandchildren. – J.B.
Christy O’Connor Jr. 1948 – 2016
egendary golfer Christy O’Connor, Jr. died unexpectedly in his sleep early January while acationing in the Canary Islands. He was 67. O’Connor boasted a long career on the course with 17 professional wins. He also competed twice in the famed Ryder Cup, and it was his 1989 Ryder Cup performance at The Belfry that earned him the accolades of colleagues and commentators alike when he managed a commanding shot on the 18th hole from 235 yards, landing the ball just four feet from the flag. Just before the shot, he was encouraged by his teammate, Tony Jacklin, who told O’Connor, “Come on, one more good swing for Ireland.” The subsequent shot sealed O’Connor’s victory over future U.S. Masters champion Fred Couples, ultimately helping the European team retain the cup. In 2010 O’Connor referred to the shot, famously executed with the ever tetchy two-iron, as “the greatest shot” he ever made and “the most emotional moment” of his professional life. Born August 19, 1948 in Knocknacarra, County Galway, the young O’Connor remembered a difficult upbringing with school lessons bookended by farm work in the early mornings and often late into the night. He still managed to squeeze in a few holes where he could and become a professional golfer at the age of 19. O’Connor was also the nephew of his namesake, another great Irish golf legend. Irish President Michael D. Higgins said O’Connor was “an iconic figure in golf” and that he “represented his country and its people on the international stage with distinction, dignity and great humour.” Taoiseach Enda Kenny said O’Connor’s passing “will be a source of great sadness to many Irish people and all golfing fans in Ireland and across Europe.” O’Connor is survived by his wife Ann, his son Nigel, and daughter Ann. He is predeceased by another son, Darren, for whom O’Connor often prayed. At O’Connor’s funeral, Father Michael Kelly said that he “spoke openly and confidently of his conviction that he would meet Darren again.” – R.B.W.
Top to Bottom: Rick Cluchey, Aiden Higgins and Christy O’Connor Jr.
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hibernia | events The 30th Annual Business 100 Awards
rish America celebrated its 30th annual Business 100 awards with a luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan on December 3. Keynote speaker Jim Clerkin, CEO of Möet Hennessy North America, emphasized the importance of branding and teamwork saying, “It’s so important to recognize that people like myself can’t succeed unless you have a brand that you understand, appreciate, know what the DNA is, what the perception of that brand is. And then you get the right people in the right jobs.” Among the many honored guests was Michael Flatley who received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to Irish dance. Flatley was the first American to win a world-Irish dance championship. That same year, in 1976, he also won the All-Ireland flute competition, and following his acceptance remarks he obliged the audience with a medley of Irish tunes on his flute. Both Clerkin and Flatley received House of Waterford Crystal vases.
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1 Patricia Harty, Jim Clerkin and Niall O'Dowd with House of Waterford Crystal Colleen Vase keynote award. 2 Honoree Kevin Kelleher, Pat Tully and Kyle Clifford. 3 Dave and Stacey Fitzgerald. 4 Honoree Bill Mullaney. 5 Honoree Brian Wynne. 6 Ruth Riddick, Ambassador Anne Anderson, and Trudy Avery of Caron. 7 Marty Daly, Patricia Harty, honoree Larry Hunt and his father, Jerry Hunt. 8 Award recipients Michael Flatley and Jim Clerkin with House of Waterford Crystal vases. 9 Consul General Barbara Jones, Michael Flatley, John Greed, and Loretta Brennan Glucksman. 10 Honoree Sam Barry and Kyle Clifford. 11 Patricia Harty and honoree Wayne Reuvers. 12 Honoree Ted Sullivan. 13 Honoree Tim Connolly. 14 Honoree Pat Keough. 15 Niall Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Dowd with honoree Kelley Spillane. 16 Honoree Michael O'Hare and wife Christina Clark. 17 Honoree David Walsh and wife Alice. 18 Honoree Danny McDonald. 19 Honoree Tom Codd with mother Marilyn. 20 Honorees Ciaran Murray and Kieran Claffey with John Neary. 21 Honoree James Delaney and wife Marybeth. 22 Alfie Tucker, Ed Kenney and Paul O'Hara. 23 Honorees Brendan Farrell and Mark Gallagher. 24 Michael Flatley and Jenn Rapp.
Photos by Nuala Purcell FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 23
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hibernia | events
A Transcontinental Commemoration
he program for the 2016 U.S. commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising launched in January with members of the Irish and American governments and Irish celebrities in New York City. On hand to mark the occasion was Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, chair of Culture Ireland Mary McCarthy, author Colum McCann, singers Anthony Kearns and Maxine Linehan, and Liam Neeson. “It is highly appropriate to have this launch here in New York because no other city, and no country, played a more important role in the Easter Rising and the subsequent one hundred year journey for a lasting and just peace settlement, than the United States,” Minister Flanagan said. Over 200 commemorative events will take place across the U.S. over the year, including over 70 events in New York. The highlights will include The Bloody Irish, a musical drama set Easter week in 1916, for a potential two-week run on Broadway (April 10-24) followed by an East Cost tour, and a threeweek Irish Arts Festival taking place at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. from May 16 to June 5, that will feature contemporary Irish artists, actors, dancers, and singers, including actress Fiona Shaw, dancer Jean Butler, writers Colum McCann, Anne Enright, and Colm Tóibín, as well as the contemporary trad group The Gloaming. Here is a sample of the year’s highlights. For more, visit ireland.ie/programmes.
Irish band Téada sets historical musical and song material beginning from the early 20th century to a backdrop of archival video and still images from the Rising. Yuma, AZ. Additional performances in Phoenix, AX (March 10 & 11). teada.com
MARCH 21 The North American premiere screening of the Notre Dameproduced documentary 1916: The Irish Rebellion. Chicago, IL. Additional screenings in Ann Arbor, MI (April 15); Cleveland, OH (April 7); Atlanta (April 15); Charleston, SC (April 17); Long Island City, NY (April 22); and New York, NY (September 23). 1916.nd.edu
MARCH 10 – 13 The 16th Annual Irish Film Festival of Boston will award a piece of work that best represents Irish film in the 100 years since the Rising. Short fiction and animation films highlighted. Boston, MA. irishfilmfestival.com
MARCH 12 – 17
Macnas, an internationally acclaimed Irish performance and spectacle company, will perform at the South by Southwest festival. Austin, TX. sxsw.com
APRIL 15 – 17 “Easter 1916: Pittsburgh Remembers” – A three-day event featuring educational, athletic, cultural, entertainment, social and interactive sessions. Pittsburgh, PA. pittsburghremembers1916.com
APRIL 21 – 22 “Independent Spirit: America and the 1916 Easter Rising” – A symposium at NYU featuring 20 acclaimed scholars investigating the role of Americans and of New York in the Easter Rising. Fionnula Flanagan delivers the Proclamation at the Washington Square Arch. New York, NY. irelandhouse.fas.nyu.edu
JUNE – NOVEMBER The Abbey Theatre’s production of Seán O’Casey’s 1916-themed The Plough and the Stars tours the U.S. Washington, D.C.; Cambridge, MA; Philadelphia, PA; Montclair, NJ; Columbus, OH. abbeytheatre.ie
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hibernia | memorials Remembering 1916: Golden Gate Park to Long Island Sound Though the majority of memorials to the Easter Rising are on the East Coast, the influence of the revolution are spread coast to coast. memorial in his honor. In neighboring Nassau County, an Irish Monument dedicated in 1979 sits at Courts of Justice in Mineola as a living symbol of the county’s dedication to end discrimination in Northern Ireland. iagovt.org/easter-rising-monument
Construction began on a new remembrance garden in Springfield’s Forest Park in January, the first of its kind in America to pay homage to the centenary of the 1916 Rising. It will feature seven oak trees to represent the seven signatories of the Proclamation, a stone replica of the proclamation, and the Irish tricolor alongside the American stars and stripes. Opens in May. springfield-ma.gov/park
BAY RIDGE, BROOKLYN, NY
TOP: Detail of the proposed G.A.C. memorial in Fairfield. LEFT: Troy, NY Mayor Lou Rosamilia, left, and former Irish Consul General of New York Noel Kilkenny rededicate Troy’s Connolly statue in 2013. BELOW: Tom Clarke Monument in Manorville, NY. BELOW: Nassau County’s Irish Monument.
The Gaelic American Club of Connecticut will dedicate a new memorial to the 1916 Rising on April 24. A dedication Mass will be held at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, officiated by the Bishop of Bridgeport, followed by the dedication of the memorial in front of the G.A.C. headquarters and a community parade. gaconline.org
James Connolly only lived in Troy for two years, but local trade unionists raised funds to commemorate his time there. The bust was unveiled in 1986 and stands atop a granite pillar in Troy’s Riverside Park. It was re-dedicated in 2013. troyrecord.com
LONG ISLAND, NY
Tom Clarke lived in Manorville, Suffolk County, New York on Long Island just prior to returning to Dublin in 1907. On the site of his 60-acre farm, a Wicklow granite obelisk in his memory, dedicated in 1987. And on May 3, 100 years to the day of Tom Clarke’s execution, the Suffolk County Courthouse in Central Islip will dedicate a new
On March 19, the Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day parade will begin with a tree-planting ceremony and rock dedication in memory of the Rising at the edge of Brooklyn on the Atlantic Ocean. bayridgestpatricksday.com
A life-size statue of James Connolly stands in Union Park. The sculpture monument was commissioned by Frank O’Lone, President of the Irish-American Labor Council of Chicago and was placed in 2008. Another is planned for his birthplace in Edinburgh, Scotland. unionparkchicago.com
SAN FRANCISCO, CA / EMMETSBURG, IA / WASHINGTON, D.C. There are three identical statues of Robert Emmet in the U.S. Each dedicated in the years following the Rising in memory of the event, the original was crafted by Irishman Jerome Connor (see page 26). A copy now stands in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, in Emmetsburg, IA, and near the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C. It’s a simple statement of Emmet’s importance to the ideals of 1916. goldengatepark.com / emmetsburg.com / dcmemorials.com RIGHT: The James Connolly Monument in Chicago’s Union Park.
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Robert Emmet: A Symbol for Independence
ithin sight of the Irish Embassy is Kerry-born sculptor Jerome Connor’s famous memorial to Irish patriot Robert Emmet, commissioned in 1916 by a group of Irish Americans (including the singer John McCormack) to commemorate Irish independence. Connor chose to render Emmet delivering his famous speech from the dock, an enduring symbol of the struggle for freedom, because without Emmet, there would quite simply have been no 1916 Rising. Robert Emmet was born in 1778 to a family of Irish patriots imbued with passion for Irish independence. In 1803, Emmet led an armed insurrection that proclaimed an Irish Republic. The rebellion was crushed by British troops; Emmet was captured, tried, and sentenced to death. In his inspiring speech Emmet proclaimed: “I wished to procure for my country the guarantee which Washington procured for America.” His concluding words have echoed through the ages: “When my country takes her place among nations, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written.” In 1803, the 25-year-old Emmet was executed by hanging and beheading. His legacy helped inspire the sequence of events resulting in Irish independence: the 1916 Easter Rising, which set off the War of Independence, the Irish Civil War, and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. In 1917, the Robert Emmet Statue Committee, with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in attendance, presented its gift to the Smithsonian and the American people. The sculpture was placed on view in the rotunda of the Smithsonian’s U.S. National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History). To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rising, the sculpture was moved to its present site on April 22, 1966, on long-term loan to the National Park Service. The seven-foot-tall sculpture of Emmet proved so popular that a copy was cast and unveiled in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1919 by Irish leader Éamon de Valera. In 1922, Congress authorized the gift of a third replica to the National Gallery of Ireland that now stands in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. The statue will be re-dedicated in March 2016 to commemorate the centennial of the Easter Rising. The Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Irish American Unity Conference are spearheading the collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum 26 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
ABOVE: Jerome Connor’s 1916 statue of Robert Emmet on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. BELOW: Kerry-born sculptor Jerome Connor.
and the National Park Service. Jack O’Brien, who was instrumental in creating a memorial to Commodore John Barry as well as the Irish Brigade Monument at Antietam National Battlefield, sees the Emmet statue as a priority for the Irish community in Washington. “We have a synergy of centennials here, one to honor the heroes of the Rising and the other to honor the great work Connor created in 1916,” he says. Jerome Connor was born in Coumduff, Annascaul, on the Dingle Peninsula, in 1874. In 1888 he immigrated to Massachusetts, where he trained as a stonecutter and bronze founder before moving to the Stickley arts and crafts center in Syracuse. As a young man, he became interested in Walt Whitman and made studies for a monument to Whitman and a commemorative Whitman medal (1905) that brought him critical notice as a sculptor. In 1910 he settled in Washington, D.C. When the Irish Free State was established, Connor returned to Ireland and executed designs for the new coinage and relief portraits of leading politicians. “His work celebrated heroes of America’s past and subjects that resonated with the Irish-American community,” wrote historian John Turpin. “His work in Ireland related to the struggle for independence. Connor’s best work was modeled from life, as in the two fishermen on the Lusitania Memorial.” The Lusitania Memorial was a prestigious project that ended tragically for Connor. In 1925, he was commissioned to create the memorial in Cobh, Co. Cork, to commemorate the 1,198 lives lost in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. But by 1943, the year of Connor’s death, the Lusitania Memorial was not complete, and he died penniless. Sculptor Domhnall O’Murchadha saved the principal plaster figures in Connor’s studio and supervised the memorial’s completion. O’Murchadha helped to form the Jerome Connor Trust, which enabled the National Gallery of Ireland to offer its collection of small bronzes to Connor’s home town of Annascaul. A permanent sculpture gallery for the collection officially opened in 2014 at the South Pole Inn in Annascaul. Tom Kennedy, who consults with art historian Catherine Marshall, encourages visitors. “We welcome all to our gallery. Your visit will honor this remarkable Irishman, Dingle’s native son, who does us all proud in America and in Ireland.” – By Turlough McConnel
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hibernia | 1916: exhibitions Dublin GPO Opens 1916 Visitors’ Center
NLI Launches Ambitious 1916 Program
n addition to the 70,000 digital im- successful application in 1956. Presiages already available through the dent Higgins is sure his father’s appliNational Library of Ireland’s (NLI) cation was denied repeatedly due to online catalogue and the Irish Military his participation on the Anti-Treaty Archives’ file, the personal papers and side of the Civil War, and the release photographs of the seven signatories of of the documents supports his suspithe 1916 Proclamation will be sequen- cions. “I think you will see, my father tially digitized by March – Tom Clarke sends all the stuff and it gets lost. If and James Connolly’s papers were re- you were dealt with on the Free State leased in January; Sean MacDiarmada side, you were dealt with quite early,” and Tom MacDonagh’s will be reHiggins said. leased in February; and The NLI has also paired with Pádraig Pearse and Joseph Google Cultural Institute’s Plunkett’s materials in virtual tour entitled March. And Ireland’s “Dublin Rising 1916 – Department of Defense 2016” as part of their (DOD) recently ancentenary program, nounced the digitizacontributing items from tion of thousands of their special collections documents relating to like Joseph Plunkett’s the Easter Rising, Irish notebook and a draft of War of Independence, and Pearse’s surrender. the Irish Civil War, to take The tour is narrated by place over the coming years. Dublin-born actor Colin The project will make acces- TOP: The National Farrell, who provides hisof Ireland. sible over 300,000 files per- Library torical background informaABOVE: Farrell. taining to roughly 80,000 tion at each of the 22 virtual people and is one of the biggest projects tour sites, beginning with O’Connell of this kind in the world. Street and ending with the mass grave The announcement came shortly of the executed leaders at Arbor Hill. after the DOD’s decision to fund the The tour ensures that visitors from digitization of the Military Service around the world can experience the (1916–1923) Pensions Collections key locations of the Easter Rising both project until 2023, the end of the circa 1916 and as they are today Decade of Centenaries (which began through Google Street View and midwith the 100th anniversary of the 1910s film reels, photographs, and Dublin lockout in 2013). personal accounts. Says NLI’s direcAmong the files recently released tor, Dr. Sandra Collins, “Combining are the pension applications of one digital innovation with our nation’s John Higgins, father of Ireland’s pres- cultural and social heritage allows us ident, Michael D. Higgins, who was to share the story of 1916 with the denied pension for 22 years until a world.” – J.B. 28 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
new immersive exhibit is slated to open at Dublin’s General Post Office in March as part of the Irish government’s commemoration program for 1916. The exhibit – dubbed the “G.P.O. Witness History Interpretive Exhibition Centre” – was developed by Shannon Heritage, one of Ireland’s largest and longest-running visitor experience operators. The exhibit will be located in the inner eastern courtyard of the G.P.O., and anticipates hosting some 300,000 visitors annually. Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys says that “G.P.O. Witness History will leave us with a lasting
Artist’s rendition of the interior of the G.P.O.’s new immersive exhibition space.
legacy from Ireland 2016 and will be a fantastic addition to Dublin’s tourism offering.” Shannon Heritage won the $8.65 million contract to manage the exhibit back in 2015, which, according to their website, will feature “special effects, soundscapes and heartfelt stories of real people in extraordinary circumstances” that “will captivate all age groups, from the curious, young international visitor to the well - informed history buff.” The G.P.O. was not only the place where Pádraig Pearse read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic before the rebels of 1916 transformed it into the headquarters for the leaders of the Easter Rising, but was also Dublin’s epicenter of daily life and communication. Accordingly, G.P.O. Witness History reminds potential visitors that “in the course of its long history, the G.P.O. has witnessed much more than the events of Easter Week” as they invite them “to dive into that history and discover the many tales it has to tell.” – R. B. W.
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hibernia | 1916: legacy Cork Newspapers were “Actors and Reporters” Following the Rising
n article written by Alan McCarthy, a pression of newspapers in Cork post-1916 first-year Ph.D. student in the School represented a devastating restriction of of History at University College Cork freedom of speech during a pivotal period (UCC), reveals the unique importance of in history,” according to a UCC statement County Cork newspapers following the about the publication. According to the au1916 Easter Rising and the difficulties they thor, his work aims to “encourage closer faced under the strict and sometimes vio- engagement with the role of the media in lent censorship campaigns of both British the Irish Revolution and serve as a timely forces and the IRA. The article has been reminder, at a time when we take freedom published in the fifth volume of The Boolean, an online journal that presents snapshots of postgraduate research at UCC. The work examines “West Cork’s Southern Star and Skibbereen Eagle, and Cork City institutions, the Cork Examiner and Cork Constitution” all of which “acted as central actors, in conjunction with their role as reporters, in the equally significant battle for hearts and minds.” McCarthy is keen to inform his readers that censorship in this period McCarthy (center) of information and the with UCC faculty. wasn’t just about the suppression of freedom to access this innationalist papers under the Crown Forces, formation for granted, that editors, rebut involved the IRA’s vigorous efforts to porters, and journalists alike suffered dismantle the loyalist organs also operating grievous harassment and suppression in in Cork. order to circulate the news to their respecThe article demonstrates how “the sup- tive communities.” – R.B.W.
First Model of Irish Unification Published
he first ever independent, non-partisan study that models the economic implications of a politically and economically united Ireland suggests that there would be positive effects on both sides of the border, both in the short- and long-term. The report, titled “Modeling Irish Unification” involved a sizable team of researchers led by Kurt Hübner (right) of KLC, a consulting firm in Vancouver, Canada, and Renger van Nieuwkoop of Model Works in Switzerland. The researchers based their work on studies of German political and economic integration after reunification, and also used predictive models produced to examine the implications of political and economic integration of North and South Korea. The report predicts a greater benefit for Northern Ireland in the event of unification than it does for the Republic. “As has been found in past analyses” the report asserts, “mergers of partners where one partner is significantly smaller, poorer, and more distorted initially than the larger partner….the results are uniformly more profound for the smaller partner.” In the case of Northern Ireland, adoption of the Euro will increase exports while greater integration would open the region’s industries to common markets, increase productivity, and ultimately decrease governmental spending over time. “In the medium-term future the relationship between these two parts of Ireland potentially could become more problematic due to the possibility of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the E.U.,” the report warns, but ultimately, “Irish unification would be economically beneficial to both parts of the island, and especially for smaller, poorer, Northern Ireland.” – R.B.W.
Civil Rights Ruling on Malaysian Massacre Has Implications for N.I.
he U.K. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in a Malaysian civil rights case has caused dramatic repercussions for Northern Ireland. Families of victims of the Batang Kali massacre were pursuing action against the British government under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which forbids any governmental force from intentionally killing civilians and requires that any doubt in intention be investigated. The Batang Kali massacre occurred in December of 1948, during the Malayan Emergency (so termed by the British government for insurance purposes), a guerrilla war fought over 12 years between the British Commonwealth forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army. British troops surrounding a rubber plantation in Batang Kali, a town less than 50km north of Kuala Lumpur, allegedly seeking out insurgents, and separated the men from the women and children. The troops then shot dead 24 unarmed men in front of their families. Last November, Lord David Neuberger, the Supreme Court’s president, ruled that the massacre occurred too long ago to be the subject of public inquiry. He then officially declared 1966 as the earliest cutoff year for any historic investigations into deaths that British forces may have caused intentionally. While the ruling is a disappointment for the families of the Batang Kali victims, who have struggled for decades to have the case heard, it offers the potential for justice in the hundreds of unsolved deaths that occurred during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. As the Troubles-related violence was arguably only beginning in 1966, potentially all of the unsolved deaths (over half of which were civilians) at the hands of British forces must now potentially be publicly investigated and tried. – J.B. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 29
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1916 The Easter Rising
his special issue of Irish America is dedicated to the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Its aim is two-fold: to highlight and investigate the key individuals and movements, both American and Irish, who had a hand in the planning, execution, and aftermath of the Rising, and to showcase underrepresented aspects of the Rising, like the role of women, the part the American labor union movement played, and what the Rising meant in the context of the British Empire at the time. The legacy of the Rising lies in how it is remembered and commemorated, interrogated and studied. Fifty years ago, for the 1966 anniversary, it was commemorated very differently, as Notre Dame professor Tom Bartlett tells Jason Kelly in this issue, with the emphasis on celebration. “There was no probing questioning, no critical examination, no scrutiny of the revolution’s motives,” he says. Twenty-five years ago, this magazine situated its 75th commemorative issue of the Rising around a discussion of what followed, namely the partition of Ireland and the Troubles, and included
one of the first interviews published in the U.S. with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. In the years leading up to the centenary, questions again arose of how best to mark its anniversary. In a post-Troubles, still-partitioned Ireland, it’s clear it can not be exclusively heralded, nor can its significance for bringing about the 26county Republic be under-represented. Into this year, this debate is ongoing, and this issue is a continuation of these inquiries. As a simple fact, there is too much to cover with respect to the Rising in the pages of one issue. Indeed, this magazine does no seek to be a comprehensive guide to the events of 1916, because its significance and meaning is still undergoing transformation at all levels. The Rising, as culture critic Fintan O’Toole writes in The Guardian this month, “is unfinished business that makes powerful demands on Ireland’s future.” This special edition is a launch pad for our readers to begin their own investigations into the Rising and it’s legacy – a space to learn new information and a space to raise and posit questions. Mórtas Cine
“We’ll mark them, as we should, in a spirit of mutual respect, inclusiveness, and friendship.”
– U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron on being invited by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to participate in the 1916 commemorations
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View of the O’Connell Bridge, looking north, following the British shelling of Dublin during the Rising.
“America is absolutely crucial to Easter 1916… particularly New York, which is the epicenter of Irish nationalism in the United States. No New York. No America. No Easter Rising. It’s simple as that.” – Director of Glucksman Ireland House NYU Joe Lee
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“Though a rebellion in Dublin might seem relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, it would actually be the pin piercing the heart of the imperial giant. It meant, for other anti-colonial groups, that the empire could be challenged.”
• The Easter Rising began just
before noon on April 24, 1916, Easter Monday, when Pádraig Pearse and the signatories of the Proclamation took control of the General Post Office on what is now O’Connell Street, and lasted through Saturday, April 29.
• In total, about 1,600 Irish Volunteer and Irish Citizens Army troops fought in Dublin Easter week, including roughly 200 women who were members of Cumann na mBan.
• By the end of Easter week,
– Notre Dame professor of Irish Studies Declan Kiberd in Jason Kelly’s “A Strike Against the Empire,” p. 32
Michael Collins (fifth from right) with other Irish prisoners at Frongoch internment camp in Wales
British Army forces numbered 16,000, in addition to 1,000 armed members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police who also battled against the I.C.A. and the Volunteers.
• The first shot fired during the Rising were at
Dublin Castle, when Sean Connolly shot and killed unarmed policeman James O’Brien, who refused to let Connolly’s garrison enter.
• The last shots fired were on Moore Street,
after the Volunteers and I.C.A. were forced to abandon the G.P.O. and retreat up the road. They barricaded themselves in 16 Moore Street until Pearse surrendered.
• British artillery shelling of Dublin city center
accounted for the majority of non-combatant civilian casualties during the Rising.
British soldiers display the captured “Irish Republic” flag from the G.P.O.
254 (incl. 40 children)
GLASNEVINTRUST.IE / IRISHMEDALS.ORG / THE EASTER RISING (HISTORY PRESS, STROUD, 2011)
“The crosspollination between the American trade union movement, the Irish labor movement, and the Irish republican movement has been so extensive that it is hard to imagine any one of the three without the others.” – Terry O’Sullivan, “Hand in Hand for Freedom: American Workers and Irish Rebels,” p. 68
“On Easter Sunday 1916, Devoy received a cipher cablegram sent the previous evening from Valentia, County Kerry, to “a certain Irishman in New York.” It was the pre-arranged signal that the Rising was about to start.”
– Marion R. Casey, “Rebellion in the Age of Cable News,” p. 86
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British soldiers barricading the streets during The Easter Rising.
A Strike Against
Notre Dame’s Keough-Naughton Institute has produced a documentary on the the historic event that led to Ireland’s independence. Historian Thomas Bartlett remembers how Ireland commemorated the Easter Rising’s 50th anniversary, in a full-throated, pro-rebel fashion in 1966: “Not so much commemorated, as celebrated,” he recalls. Bartlett, a visiting faculty fellow at Notre Dame’s Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, explains, “There was no probing questioning, no critical examination, no scrutiny of the revolution’s motives.” The passage of time, the lasting impact of the Northern Ireland Troubles that scarred the end of Ireland’s 20th century, and the volume of new information that’s emerged since the ’60s, have prompted a more sober reflection about the Easter Rising 100 years on. Notre Dame plans to be at the forefront of this discussion, and, in an effort to bring all the relevant scholarship, documents and research to center stage, has created a documentary film that re-
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By Jason Kelly
examines the political and cultural forces that shaped the defining moments of Ireland’s struggle to free itself from Great Britain. Five years in the making, the documentary, 1916: The Irish Rebellion, produced by The KeoughNaughton Institute for Irish Studies, will be a centerpiece in the Easter Rising commemoration and a catalyst for a global dialogue on the topic. Among the many historical currents the film explores is the role of the United States – the inspiration of its own successful revolution to the rebels and the influences and financial support provided by the Irish diaspora. The film also captures the impact that the Irish revolt had globally: how Vladimir Lenin took notice as the revolutionary spirit stirred in Russia, and how reverberations from the Irish revolt resonated with anti-colonial movements in Africa, India, and Palestine.
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PHOTO BY: CAMERA PRESS.
“Though a rebellion in Dublin might seem relatively minor in the grand scheme of things,” says Notre Dame professor of Irish Studies, Declan Kiberd, “it would actually be the pin piercing the heart of the imperial giant. It meant, for other anticolonial groups, that the empire could be challenged.” Challenging British rule was contentious among the Irish at the time. The unionists in Ulster had resisted Home Rule proposals. And many nationalists had doubted the viability of any effort but force to secure independence. For the Irish committed to an armed overthrow of British rule, the 19th century had been a big disappointment – a hoped-for major campaign that would preoccupy the Empire and give the rebels room to act never came. Insurrection-minded Irish thought the Crimean War in the 1850s might divert Britain’s attention away from Ireland long enough for them to stage a revolution. Or that an interest in reclaiming its former North American colonies might have had Britain engaged in hostilities there during the U.S. Civil War. But those hopes were dashed. Britain didn’t get sidetracked by enough major global campaigns to let nationalists fight for Irish independence without taking on the full weight of British might. In the wake
who died in British uniforms. But, for much of the 20th century in Ireland, those soldiers were largely forgotten, as the ultimate triumph of the Easter Rising and the independence it led to overshadowed all other issues. “Those 40,000 Irish casualties in Europe were erased from history,” says Christopher Fox, the director of Irish Studies at Notre Dame. “You couldn’t talk about them.” For some in Ireland, the events surrounding the Easter Rising are still difficult to talk about. The Keough-Naughton documentary attempts to provide a platform sturdy enough to support the full spectrum of opinion, including those of scholars whose conflicting points of view might not put them on speaking terms with one another. “What does a teaching and research institute do?” Fox asks. “It should be opening up conversations.”
Let The People Talk
Notre Dame’s part in the 1916 centenary began five years ago with a conversation between Fox and Briona Nic Dhiarmada, the O’Donnell Chair in Irish Language and Literature, who has written dozens of screenplays and documentaries. She proposed a project that would do for the Easter Rising what Ken Burns had done for the American Civil War. Her plan was to present a polarizing flashpoint from the past, in all its complexity, to a wide audience in a format that educates as it entertains. To capture the prevailing forces of socialism, feminism, militarism, and nationalism – “all these –isms,” she says – that shaped events but, at the same time, tell the story at a human scale. “They’re people,” Nic Dhiarmada says. “Flesh-and-blood people.” Many firsthand accounts, from witnesses to the events that shaped the Irish revolution, accounts that were all but lost to history until now, are given a central role in Notre Dame’s 1916 narrative. These accounts became available to the film when researchers discovered hours upon hours of television interviews – conducted in the 1960s, but seldom if ever aired – in the vaults of Ireland’s national broadcasting service, RTÉ. “Accounts from all over the place,” Fox says, “from British soldiers, from Irish bystanders, people who were around to see 1916 and experience it.” Newly available documents, including witness statements from the Irish Bureau of Military History, provide the film with an insight into the motivations and experiences of the ordinary volunteers who joined the rebel cause. And stories, like the one from a British intelligence officer responsible for taking information from captured nationalist insurgents, reveal Ireland’s political divisions in intimate
The Empire Easter Rising that promises to stir a global debate on of famine and mass emigration, the Young Ireland movement launched a revolt in 1848 that failed. Two decades later, the Fenian uprising of 1867 suffered a similar fate. For years afterward, Irish Home rule was pursued, contested, discarded.. When the Great War began in 1914, it presented a long-awaited opportunity for Irish nationalists since Britain had to divert its soldiers, artillery, and attention to the European front. But, in a surprising turn of events, Irishmen – unionists and nationalists, Protestants and Catholics, by the hundreds of thousands – put on British uniforms and joined the quagmire of trench warfare in France. For nationalists, the worry became that a revolution carried out at home might be seen as a treasonous stab in the back to those soldiers and would poison the local population against their cause. The film, 1916: The Irish Rebellion, shows the scroll of Irish names at a World War I cemetery that stands as a poignant tribute to the sacrifice of the men
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relief. The officer, Nic Dhiarmada says, instead of taking notes from his captives, was spotted chatting with a prisoner as if they were well acquainted. “Do you know that fellow?” someone asked him. “Yeah, I do. He’s my brother,” the British officer said. Nic Dhiarmada also tells another story of a 47year-old Belfast man the father of eight, who enlisted to fight for the British in Europe. He died before he was deployed, but was commended in a letter for serving “King and country.” A year later, one of his sons joined the Irish Republican Army. The challenge for the production team was how it would tie all the threads into a compelling and illuminating story. Early in the process, the production crews, from both the United States and Ireland, gathered at Nic Dhiarmada’s 1790s mill house in rural Tipperary to begin to tackle the creative puzzle together, after months of working on aspects of it on their own. “For me it was like an English professor’s dream,” Fox says, “to sit and listen to these highly creative and brilliant people break the story down and figure out how to tell it.” The producers chose to limit their interviews to scholars to assure that the information presented – however divergent the academic interpretations – would be grounded in deep knowledge and research. They also decided that a constant, narrative voice would be needed to unify the storytelling, and they enlisted Irish actor Liam Neeson for the role. The production team on the film included Jon 34 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
Siskel and Greg Jacobs, whose Chicago-based production company has won five Emmy awards; composer Patrick Cassidy, whose credits include the score for the 2014 film Calvary; and graphic designer Annie Atkins, who won an Oscar for her work on The Grand Budapest Hotel. Being able to assemble such a talented team exceeded Fox and Nic Dhiarmada’s wildest expectations. And they were thrilled to see that good fortune seemed to infuse the production at every turn. One day, while visiting the New York recording studio where Neeson would voice his narration, Fox remembers browsing some posters from the studio’s previous productions, and coming across one for Ken Burns’ The Civil War. He says he grabbed Nic Dhiarmada. “You’ve got to see what was made here,” he said. “This is karma,” she replied. But the woman at the front desk at the studio upped the ante when she told them, “Ken’s in the next room, if you’d like to meet him.” Over the course of the following week then, as Fox and Nic Dhiarmada added Neeson’s voice to their dream project, they often broke for coffee and conversation with the man who had inspired them to make it.
The revolution would be staged
Cultural influences were among the most potent motivations for the poets and playwrights who were leaders of the Irish independence movement. Some traced their militant stance directly to the 1902 play Cathleen Ni Houlihan, a nationalist call to arms by
Bombarded by British artillery, Dublin’s Bread Company building is brought to ruins.
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A Strike Against The Empire William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory. Yeats later wrote in his poem, “The Man and the Echo,” “Did that play of mine send out / Certain men the English shot?” The organization of the Easter Rising itself drew on artistic inspiration. “It was staged to some degree as street theater,” Irish studies professor Kiberd says. And the revolt’s symbolism would become central to its historical importance since, the distraction of the Great War did not make Britain and its mighty military especially vulnerable to the rebels, and their failure on the streets was inevitable. But, determined to seize their moment in history and forge an independent future for Ireland, the rebels proceeded with little heed for what they lacked in manpower and munitions. This, finally, was their time. They negotiated with the Germans – the enemy of their enemy – for munitions to support an uprising, but the British intercepted their cables, and stayed appraised of their plans. Sir Roger Casement, a Dublin-born, retired British consular official that supported independence, secured a commitment from the Germans to release Irish prisoners of war to join the fight. It didn’t have any impact. The insurgents also believed German soldiers might supplement the rebel ranks, but this too proved to be an unfounded hope. Without such reinforcements, the rebels were not an imposing force, and Britain took little notice of them. By early 1916, exercises for an insurgency had become commonplace, held under the noses of the British government in Dublin Castle. And English leaders seemed to have made a strategic decision not to obstruct the rebel drills. On March 17, for instance, Irish volunteers practiced setting up roadblocks and checkpoints around the city, provocative exercises that attracted no obvious official notice. When a German ship, running arms to the rebels, was trapped and scuttled off the Kerry coast a month later, during Holy Week,
a proclamation declaring an independent Irish republic, and took control of key locations in Dublin. At the rebel headquarters in the city center’s General Post Office, rebel leaders, such as Pádraig Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, and Desmond Fitzgerald, discussed the preservation of Irish identity as a core principle of the Rising. To do nothing, they believed, risked the loss of the national character once and for all – a recurring concern for nationalists over the decades and one that had been revived when so many of their countrymen went to fight in France under the Union Jack. The leaders also discussed the theological validation of their actions. While they knew the Catholic just-war doctrine calls for a genuine hope of success in any act of aggression, most realized that any such hope would be severely tested given their situation and battle strength. Some of the leaders were blunt about their chances; James Connolly, for one, believed they would be slaughtered. “He said that to a comrade,” Kiberd explains. “He didn’t want to lie to anyone that was taking the risk with him.” But, while most would die, the leaders believed their slaughter would not necessarily be a defeat. Connolly believed that to strike was to win – it was a symbolic gesture that would inspire his Irish countrymen, as well as oppressed peoples all over the world.
Britain Made to Wobble
When the insurgency began, it caught the British off-guard, and it seemed, for a fleeting instant, that the rebels could win. “If you look at the panicked reactions of the British,” Kiberd says, “it does seem like they were, at least momentarily, made to wobble.” The British Government sent reinforcements to Dublin to quell the rebellion. Interestingly, as they boarded ship for Ireland, many of these believed they were en route to France, and the majority of them were so green and untrained that they had never fired a gun. As the soldiers disembarked at Kingstown, now Dún Laoghaire, a sergeant ordered them to shoot into the sea for practice. More than a hundred of these soldiers were dead within three hours, gunned down as they crossed a bridge into Dublin. Once the element of surprise passed, however, the rebels could not match the waves of British artillery and manpower coming across the Irish Sea. Within two days, Christine Kinealy writes in A New History of Ireland, “the troops outnumbered the insurgents by twenty to one.” The rebel leaders surrendered in less than a week. Some among the Irish public respected the rebel’s effort, and were proud that the country’s few freedom fighters could withstand the counterattack for as long as they did. But many were also ambivalent – about the cause, the timing, the tactics – and were hostile toward the rebels. Reports of the large number of innocent bystanders who died also fueled anti-rebel feeling. Civilians made up the largest number of fatalities during the revolt – 230, compared to 64 rebels and 132 British troops. Many of those who had been caught in Dublin’s chaotic crossfire had also lost relatives on European battlefields. They felt no patriotic affinity with Irish freedom fighters.
If you look at the panicked reactions of the British,” “it does seem like they were, at least momentarily, made to wobble.” any imminent threat of a successful revolt seemed likewise lost at sea. The British, to paraphrase historian Bartlett, shrugged and decided to go to the races on Easter Monday. The rebel plan to take Dublin, meanwhile, was being developed in absolute secrecy, the truth known only to the smallest inner sanctum, within a larger clandestine circle, within the open group of regular volunteers. That structure created a helpful fog of obfuscation that threw off the British, but it also confused the volunteer rankand-file throughout Ireland. When the revolt began, chaos prevailed in the ranks, and many from Cork, Galway, and other isolated parts of the country were unaware that Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, was to be the first day of fighting. The fewer than 2,000 rebels stationed in Dublin, Bartlett says, took up the fight, “against the backdrop of order, counter-order, the Rising’s on, the Rising’s called off, the Rising’s on, it’s off.” Some of them even thought the orders they received to mobilize were for them to stage another exercise and drill. But some events took place as planned. The rebel leaders issued
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A Strike Against The Empire
Poster for the documentary, 1916: The Irish Rebellion, produced by The Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at Notre Dame.
“A lot of these guys were spat upon afterwards,” Fox says. “Who was spitting on them? Widows and mothers of Irish kids, guys who had been killed in the trenches.” Irish public opinion changed, however, when the British executed 16 rebel leaders. To the imperial government, the men were traitors. But for the Irish, the death sentences became a rallying point greater than the Easter Rising itself. George Bernard Shaw wrote in a London newspaper that the surrendered rebels should have been
treated as prisoners of war, like any enemy soldiers. In conducting secret courts martial, as if the men had turned traitor against their own country in wartime, and not stood up for their own people, the British miscalculated the disposition of the Irish toward the Empire. In the end, and despite the initial hostility toward the rebels, the executions increased the revolutionary temperature in Ireland. “I think the authorities utterly misinterpreted the importance of the moment,” Kiberd says, “because they were distracted by what they would call the main theater of actions in Europe.”
Seeing The Big Picture
AN 80-MINUTE FEATURE VERSION OF 1916: The Irish Rebellion will be screened in theaters and at global events, beginning with the March 16 world premiere in Dublin hosted by the Irish government. The U.S.premiere will be March 21 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, with screenings to follow in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Various PBS stations will air the full series of three hour-long episodes of the documentary, with times yet to be determined. Notre Dame Press is publishing a companion book to the film. For more information, including a schedule of screenings and events, visit 1916.nd.edu.
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The political context of the executions, and their local and global ramifications, give the cause of Irish independence its historical bone structure. But, in the Notre Dame film, 1916: The Irish Rebellion, the intimacy of individual stories adds flesh and blood to this history. It lets the viewers see, for instance, an aging Nora Connolly O’Brien, the daughter of James Connolly, describing the family being summoned for a final meeting with him. She recalls, in a filmed interview, being escorted by British soldiers along a still-smoldering O’Connell Street, smelling smoke and cordite in the air, and hearing her grieving mother cry out when she saw her condemned husband for the last time. Adding to the variety of eyewitness accounts, there’s also the recollection of a British soldier who survived an initial ambush in Dublin, and who recounts his experience in an interview, in what Fox calls “gut-wrenching” detail. “These guys hadn’t been in action,” Fox says, “and all of a sudden they’re walking down a Dublin street and they’re getting mowed down . . . and then they tell us what that’s like.” The main objective of the 1916: The Irish Rebellion project, is to blend scholarly perspectives, evocative music, and archival footage and imagery – a combination unique to the medium – to give viewers a vivid insight into the hopes and fears, the thoughts and attitudes of the participants on all sides. A photograph of Dublin in ruins serves as a defining illustration for this documentary. The fighting is over, but the rebuilding of personal and national life has yet to begin. Two children in the foreground face away from the camera and look toward the rubble. More bloodshed, but eventually independence, will be their conflicted inheritance. This film is the story of their lives, and the story of the Ireland that the Easter Rising helped create. IA This article was originally printed in Notre Dame magazine. Reprinted with permission.
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he 16 men who were executed in the aftermath of the Easter Rising included the seven leaders who sealed their fate by signing the Proclamation (Forógra na Poblachta). It was read by Pádraig Pearse outside Dublin’s General Post Office, on April
24, 1916. The names of the seven as they appear on the Proclamation are: Thomas J. Clarke (who was invited to be the first signatory because of his involvement with the Fenian movement since the 1870s); Seán MacDiarmada, Clarke’s right-hand
Éamonn Ceannt September 21, 1881 – May 8, 1916
amonn Ceannt was born Edward Thomas Kent in Ballymoe, Glenamaddy, Co. Galway to parents James and Johanna (née Galway) Kent. James Kent was a fluent speaker of Irish, and after the 1898 centenary commemorations of the United Irishmen’s insurrection, Ceannt took a keen interest in cultural nationalism and began to learn Irish under the tutelage of his father. Before long, he adopted the better-known Gaelicized version of his name. Ceannt joined the Gaelic League in 1899. It was in the League that he met Pádraig Pearse, as well as Irish language scholar and future Sinn Féin politician Eoin MacNeill. His interest in Gaelic culture did not end with the Irish language. He became a serious musician, mastering the uilleann pipes and traveling throughout Ireland collecting folk songs. Ceannt was known as a particularly devout and abstemious Catholic, and also traveled to Rome to play the uilleann pipes for Pope Pius X at his jubilee celebration. Ceannt was an early member of Sinn Féin and was eventually elected to its national council. Ceannt also had a penchant for socialism, was an avid reader of Marx and Engels, and was active in the campaign to unionize his fellow workers at the Dublin Corporation. When the aristocratic-leaning leader of Sinn Féin, Arthur Griffith, berated the workers who participated in the famous 1913 lockout, Ceannt objected on their behalf. Seen by his colleagues as an uncompromising and militant nationalist, Ceannt was brought into the Irish Republican Brotherhood by Seán Mac-
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man; Thomas MacDonagh, commandant of the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Volunteers; P. H. Pearse, president of the provisional government and commander-in-chief of the army of the Irish Republic; Éamonn Ceannt, commandant of the 4th Battalion of the
Diarmada. He also played a significant role in the importation of arms for the Irish Volunteers, and was present at both the Howth and Kilcoole gunrunnings. Following the split in the Volunteers between Redmond’s National Volunteers and the Irish Volunteers, Ceannt became the commander of the 4th battalion, Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers and eventually joined the I.R.B. Military Council. During Easter week, Ceannt’s battalion fought at the South Dublin Union, a workhouse and hospital near several army barracks. This position also controlled one of the main roads to the city and consequently, Ceannt and his small group of men were involved in some of the fiercest fighting of the Rising. Ceannt was a fearless leader, and earned the admiration of his men when he led them into battle from the front. He is also said to have been deeply disappointed when the news of the surrender by the leadership in the G.P.O. reached his position. Along with Pearse, Ceannt had a proclivity for romantic imagery and the rhetoric of blood sacrifice. He likely had hoped for a fight to the death with the British, rather than an inglorious surrender. In his final moments, Ceannt, the ever staunch Catholic, remained humble and turned to his faith for comfort when he knew his life was about to end. “I wish to record the magnificent gallantry and fearless, calm determination of the men who fought with me,” he wrote from Kilmainham Gaol on May 7, one day before his execution. “All, all, were simply splendid. Even I knew no fear nor panic and shrunk from no risk even as I shrink not now from the death which faces me at daybreak. I hope to see God’s face even for a moment in the morning. His will be done.” But Ceannt was not all calm and fearlessness. He admitted to his wife on the day of his execution, “My cold exterior was but a mask. It has saved me in these last days.” Then he wrote a rare but sweeter message to his soon-to-be-widow. He reminded her to be strong and to never forget, “You will be – you are, the wife of one of the Leaders of the Revolution.” – R. Bryan Willits
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Irish Volunteers; James Connolly, commandant-general of the forces of the Irish Republic in Dublin; and Joseph Plunkett, an original member of the I.R.B. Military Committee responsible for planning the Rising. The leaders and seven other rebels
were executed by firing squad in the Stonebreakers’ Yard at Kilmainham Gaol. Two others were also executed for the part they played in the Rising: Thomas Kent faced a firing squad at Cork Detention Barracks, and Roger Casement, whose hanging at
James Connolly June 5, 1868 – May 12, 1916
n 1868, James Connolly was born in Edinburgh to John Connolly and Mary McGinn, both Irish Catholic emigrants. He was the youngest of three boys. His family lived in extreme poverty, and he had to leave school at the age of 11 to work. At 14, he joined the British Army and served in Ireland for seven years. He deserted in 1889 when his parents were seriously ill. In the same year, he married Lillie Reynolds, from a protestant Wicklow family. The couple had one son and six daughters. Connolly spent his adolescence voraciously reading books on history, economics, politics, and socialism. In 1890, when he and his family returned to Edinburgh, he became active in socialist organizations. He lost his job in 1894, but his reputation among socialist circles in Scotland earned him an employment offer from the Dublin Socialist Club in 1896. When he moved to Dublin, he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party and formed a friendship with Maud Gonne, whose influence inspired him to support women’s suffrage. The two organized many antimonarchist protests. He also began a newspaper, The Workers’ Republic, which had sporadic success. Unlike the other future members of the Provisional Government, Connolly opposed Home Rule, which he dismissed as middle class and capitalist. In 1900, he wrote, frustrated, that “Ireland without her people is nothing to me.” In 1903, discouraged by Irish socialists, Connolly and his family emigrated to America. He became active in American leftist and Irish nationalist circles, and became the New York organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”). Connolly founded the Irish Socialist Federation in 1907 and its newspaper, The Harp, the following year. In the United States, Connolly wrote his most famous works, including, “Labour in Irish History,” which applied international thinking to the Irish situation and greatly influenced Pádraig Pearse, and “Labour, Nationality, and Religion,” which asserted that
Pentonville Prison in London, on August 3, 1916, brought to an end the executions of those involved. The men were from various backgrounds, and the extent of their involvement in the Rising varied greatly. Here are their histories.
Catholicism and socialism were not incompatible. Both pieces were later published in Dublin, in 1910, when Connolly returned to Ireland, following several disagreements with American socialists. After his return from America, Connolly worked as the Belfast organizer for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, which was founded by Jim Larkin. In 1912, he helped found the Independent Labour Party of Ireland, from which the modern Irish Labour Party evolved. Connolly was famously instrumental during the 1913 Dublin Lockout, when the Dublin Employers’ Federation locked their employees out of work to prevent them joining trade unions. The Irish Citizen Army was formed to protect locked out workers, and when the lockout ended in early 1914, Connolly became its commandant. When World War I began, Connolly helped organize massive anti-recruitment protests. When those protests failed, he aligned himself with the Irish revolutionary cause, and joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood in early 1916. Connolly’s writing had made a deep impression on Pádriag Pearse, who penned the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, and Connolly’s influence is apparent in the proclamation’s egalitarian, socialist, and feminist elements. At the establishment of the Provisional Government, Connolly was named vice president. During Easter Week, 1916, Connolly directed military operations at the General Post Office as commandant-general of the Dublin division of the Irish Republican Army. He suffered a serious ankle wound, but continued to command the garrison. After the surrender, he was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death. Connolly was so gravely wounded that it was estimated he would not have lived more than a few days, but was executed on May 12th, regardless. Unable to stand, he had to be tied to a chair to face the firing squad, cementing his legacy as a martyr for the Republican cause. – Julia Brodsky
Connolly directed military operations at the General Post Office as commandantgeneral of the Dublin division of the Irish Republican Army.
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profiles in courage |
Joseph Mary Plunkett November 21, 1887 – May 3, 1916
oseph Mary Plunkett was born in Dublin to George Noble Plunkett and Josephine Plunkett (née Cranny), the second son of a prominent and wealthy Catholic family. Not only was his father a papal count, but he boasted among his relatives the martyred bishop Oliver Plunkett; Sir Horace Plunkett, a leading figure of the cooperative movement in Ireland; and the writer Edward Plunkett, who was the 18th Lord of Dunsany. Joseph Plunkett came
J Plunkett convinced the socialist and labor leader, James Connolly, to join ranks with the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Together with Patrick Pearse and Éamonn Ceannt, Connolly and Plunkett are presumed to have devised the the final plans for the Easter Rising.
from the most well-to-do background of those who led the Rising. Plunkett was a sickly child who developed glandular tuberculosis at a young age. His many ailments, and his turbulent, ambulatory upbringing left him with an eccentric and introspective personality. He eventually became an erudite scholar and studied in Paris, England, and Ireland. He was a polymath and pursued a myriad of interests, ranging from the hard sciences to mysticism and poetry. It was this latter interest that brought him into contact with Thomas MacDonagh, whom he originally sought out as an Irish language tutor. Despite the disparate personalities of these two men and their contesting views of religion, their relationship flourished to such an extent that Plunkett became engaged to MacDonagh’s sister-in-law, Grace Gifford.
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“Of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic,” Gifford wrote from the jail on their wedding day, “Joseph Plunkett and Thomas MacDonagh were the most like each other, and from this fact resulted the inseparable friendship which existed between them. Both were warm, kindly, and essentially human – but to Joseph Plunkett the love of his friends – the beauty of nature – the arts and sciences stood for one thing only – the expression of God’s divine power.” MacDonagh encouraged Plunkett to write poetic verse, and he eventually published a book of poetry, The Circle and the Sword, with MacDonagh’s help. Plunkett also became the owner and editor of Irish Review, a journal that published articles on science, economics, politics, history, and the Irish language. In its day, it was considered to be one of the best journals of its kind. Just before Plunkett acquired Irish Review, it had publish an article by a British consular with whom Plunkett would thereafter be inexorably intertwined. The article was titled, “Ireland, Germany and the Next War” and was published under the nom de plum “Shan Van Vocht.” Its author was Sir Roger Casement. Plunkett and Casement went on to become friends and founders of the Irish Volunteers. After Casement traveled first to Germany by way of America in 1914, Plunkett also arrived in Berlin, and alongside Casement, negotiated with the German Imperial Government for arms and munitions for a revolution in Ireland. Plunkett also played a role there in trying to establish the ill-fated Irish Brigade made up of Irish P.O.W.’s held in prison camps in Germany. Plunkett later traveled to America to meet with John Devoy and the Clan na Gael revolutionary directory. He had to be brought in under dubious pretenses due to immigration restrictions on those infected with tuberculosis. After briefing the Clan, Plunkett also convinced the socialist and labor leader, James Connolly, to join ranks with the I.R.B. Pádraig Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, Connolly, and Plunkett are presumed to have devised the majority of the final plans for the Easter Rising. A part of the Plunkett family estate outside Dublin was used to store weapons, train soldiers, and manufacture explosives in preparation for the Rising. Just weeks before Easter, Plunkett’s lifelong ailments continued to dog him, and despite having recently undergone surgery, was present when the Rising began, and fought in the G.P.O. alongside the other members of the Provisional Government. He and Gifford were married in Kilmainham Gaol just hours before his execution on May 3. – R. Bryan Willits
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Pádraig Pearse November 10, 1879 – May 3, 1916
ádraig Pearse was born in Dublin to James Pearse, who originally hailed from London, and his second wife, Margaret Brady. Pearse became exceptionally enamored with the Irish language at a young age, and joined the Gaelic League in 1896. He was founding literary societies and delivering papers and lectures on the Irish language and culture in his teenage years. In 1908, he established a bilingual boys school, Saint Enda’s, and a lesser-known school for girls called St. Ita’s. These places proved to be a breeding ground for the revolution, as three of his instructors, Thomas MacDonagh, Con Colbert, and Pearse’s brother Willie would all go on to fight in the Easter Rising and were all executed along with Pearse. Many of the older boys from St. Enda’s fought at the G.P.O. as well, and as the final letters from Pearse show, their fate remained in his thoughts until moments before his execution. Pearse was not always a radicalized nationalist with revolutionary aims. He started his career as a cultural nationalist, and was a long time supporter of the Home Rule Bill. But once it became clear that cultural and constitutional nationalism would not free Ireland from its British colonial overlords, he advocated the use of physical force. Recent scholarship also suggests that, after Pearse helped set up the Irish Volunteers and was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood, it was during his travels in America where he met John Devoy and other influential leaders of Clan na Gael that his transformation into a radical republican was completed. Pearse was regarded as a powerful orator, and it was the graveside panegyric he delivered over the repatriated remains of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa that brought him particular renown. This speech, delivered on August 1, 1915, is especially remembered for its final line: “but the fools, the fools, the fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” This remark was later seen by many as a call to arms, coming as it did just several months before the Easter Rising. Along with MacDonagh and James Connolly, Pearse is also assumed to have written the majority of the text in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which, as president of the Provisional Government, he read aloud from the portico of the General Post Office on Easter Monday, just before the fighting commenced. After nearly a week of fighting, Pearse sent nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell to General Lowe to
declare his intentions to surrender. Lowe was unconvinced either because O’Farrell first carried only a verbal message or, as some have suggested, because he refused to negotiate with a woman. Ultimately Pearse returned with a message for surrender that read in part, “In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at Headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender.” At his May 2 court-martial, Pearse exaggerated his role in the fighting in order to spare the lives of his comrades. He was executed by firing squad in the early morning hours of May 3, 1916. Before dying, he wrote to his mother, saying “This is the death I should have asked for if God allowed me my choice of all deaths.” – R. Bryan Willits
“But the fools, the fools, the fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”
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Seán MacDiarmada January 27, 1883 – May 12, 1916
eán MacDiarmada was born John Joseph McDermott in 1883 near Kiltyclogher, Co. Leitrim, to Donald McDermott and Mary McMorrow. He received his education in the national school at Corradoona, and later attended night school in Tullinamoyle, Co. Cavan, where he learned bookkeeping and Irish. After spending time in Scotland, he settled in Belfast in 1905, and began working as a tram conductor and barman. Belfast was also where MacDiarmada began his interest in politics and joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the
He joined the I.R.B.’s military council upon his release from prison and began planning the 1916 Rising.
Gaelic League. He was also sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood by Dennis McCullough, whom he helped to organize the Dungannon clubs, which were precursors to Sinn Féin. MacDiarmada moved to Dublin in 1907 and there met Tom Clarke, whose friendship and guidance would shape his political life and ultimately determine his fate. Under Clarke’s influence, he became a full-time organizer for the I.R.B. and managed Irish Freedom, the Brotherhood’s newspaper. In 1911, MacDiarmada, together with McCullough and Clarke, formed a three-man executive, that gave them control of the I.R.B. MacDiarmada and McCullough also created the group’s military council, which would later plan the 1916 Easter Rising. In 1911, MacDiarmada was struck with what was then identified as polio (but may have been tubercu-
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losis), which forced him to walk with a stick thereafter. It is said, however, that his disability only sharpened his resolve to fight for Ireland’s independence. He maintained his activity as an organizer for the I.R.B., often infiltrating other republican organizations and recruiting their members. In August of 1914, he campaigned against Irish soldiers joining the British army, an activity for which he earned four months in prison. In a speech that same year in Tralee, Co. Kerry, MacDiarmada said, “The Irish patriotic spirit will die forever unless a blood sacrifice is made in the next few years.” This pronouncement was not simply fiery rhetoric to excite the crowd. Upon his release from prison, he joined the I.R.B. military council and with them began planning the Rising. In organizing the Easter Rising, MacDiarmada kept in mind that previous Irish rebellions had been undermined by spies and informants and became notoriously secretive in his plans, so much so that the lack of communication with his comrades may have contributed to much of the disorganization and confusion once the Rising began. During the events of Easter Week, when he held the General Post Office with the other members of the Provisional Republican Government, MacDiarmada was unable to engage directly in the fighting due to his limp and did not hold an official military rank, but he was acknowledged as one of the garrison leaders. Executed May 12, he and James Connolly were the last two of the Rising’s leaders to have their death sentences carried out. MacDiarmada had no illusions about his fate, and wrote that “the executions will create a reaction in this country that will wipe out the slavish pro-English spirit.” Despite his limp, he was described as being handsome, with dark hair and blue eyes. He is reported to have been courting Mary Josephine Ryan (nicknamed “Min”), of County Wexford, and acknowledged in one of his final letters that had he lived, Min would have likely become his wife. Ryan herself was of a political bent; she was one of the founding members of Cumann na mBan and had been a courier to the G.P.O. during Easter Week. Following MacDiarmada’s execution, she managed to escape arrest and emigrated to the United States. Though he is not typically thought of as the most famous of the Rising’s organizers, Irish cleric and historian, F.X. Martin, named Seán MacDiarmada the “mainspring” of the Rising in a series of radio lectures in the 1960s. The Rising, the upcoming 2016 film, will focus on MacDiarmada as the mastermind of the rebellion. – Julia Brodsky
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Thomas J. Clarke March 11, 1858 – May 3, 1916
om Clarke was the first signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, a lifelong advocate of armed rebellion, and one of the Rising’s primary links to U.S. support. Born on the Isle of Wight to James Clarke, an Irish sergeant in the British Army, Clarke was raised in England and later South Africa. The family eventually settled in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, in 1865, where James was stationed. Though James was a member of the Church of England, Tom was raised Catholic, the faith of his mother Mary Palmer. He attended Saint Patrick’s national school. By his midteens, he was a member of the Fenians and by his late teens, had joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, serving as the head of the local Dungannon chapter. He was involved in a number of clashes with the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Orange Order, and fled to the United States in 1882 to avoid arrest, and in the U.S. joined Clan na Gael. The following April, Clarke was sent to London on a Fenian bombing mission to destroy London Bridge. He was betrayed and arrested while in possession of explosives at the age of 25. He was sentenced to penal servitude for life, and served 15 years. His years in various prisons – Millbank, Chatham, and Portland – were extremely harsh and are recounted in his posthumous memoir Glimpses of an Irish Felon’s Prison Life (1922). On his release, he returned to America. He resumed work with Clan na Gael, and served as an assistant editor to Clan na Gael leader John Devoy’s newspaper, the Gaelic American. In prison, he met fellow Fenian John Daly, uncle of Ned Daly, who was also executed for his role in the Rising, and Kathleen Daly, whom he married despite being 21 years her senior. Clarke became an American citizen in 1905, and he and his wife lived in Brooklyn and Long Island until 1907, when they, along with their three children, returned to Ireland and settled in Dublin. There, Clarke established a tobacconist business on Great Britain Street (now Parnell Street) and Amiens Street, but was still primarily concerned with making Ireland a free republic. He became highly active in the I.R.B., which was undergoing a leadership change in favor of more youthful leaders. He acted as a mentor to the likes of Bulmer Hobson, Denis McCullough, and Sean MacDiarmada, with whom he would plan the Rising and who would also sign the Proclamation. When the Irish Volunteers formed in 1913, Clarke
saw them as the natural army of revolution and joined as a member. He refused to take a formal leadership role due to his status as a known Fenian felon. Throughout this time, he was a crucial link to the U.S. Irish republican base, and was eventually appointed to the I.R.B.’s Military Council in 1915. This council was directly responsible for coordinating the Rising. Clarke is said to have outlined the general strategy while MacDiarmada was responsible for tactical planning. Officially, however, Clarke never held a military role or rank with the Irish Volunteers or the I.R.B. During the Rising, he was stationed at the G.P.O. with the majority of the other signatories and though he refused military rank, participated in the fighting throughout the week. Following the surrender, he was held at Kilmainham and was the second to be executed, after Pádraig Pearse. “I and my fellow signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for Irish freedom,” he wrote to his wife from prison. “The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief, we die happy.” – Adam Farley
He was a crucial link to the U.S. Irish republican base and was eventually appointed to the I.R.B.’s Military Council in 1915. This group was directly responsible for coordinating the Rising.
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Thomas MacDonagh February 1, 1878 – May 3, 1916
homas Stanislaus MacDonagh was born in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, to schoolteachers Joseph MacDonagh and Mary Parker. Their home was a literary one, and Thomas developed an interest in storytelling and writing at a young age. He attended Rockwell College, near Cashel, Co. Tipperary, when he was 14 years old, with the intention of entering the priesthood. In 1901, he left Rockwell and taught for some years in Kilkenny and Cork. During this time, he joined the Gaelic League and ignited his interest in Irish nationalism. He later traveled to the Aran Islands to improve his Irish fluency, and there met Pádraig Pearse, who invited MacDonagh to join the teaching staff of his own St. Enda’s school. While teaching, MacDonagh earned his Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees at University College, Dublin, where he was later appointed as a lecturer in 1911. During the 1900s, MacDonagh wrote several plays, poems, and critical essays, many of which had a nationalist theme. He circulated among Dublin’s literary and artistic sets, and became friends with Padraic Colum, George Russell (Æ), Arthur Griffith, and Joseph Plunkett. He and Colum, along with James Stephens and David Houston, founded the monthly Irish Review. He wrote a play entitled When Dawn is Come, which depicted Ireland rising against English rule. It was performed at the Abbey Theatre in 1908 and called the “first Sinn Féin drama.” MacDonagh published his most accomplished work, Lyrical Poems, in 1913, a selection of original work and translations from the Irish. In 1914, he, Plunkett, and Joseph Martyn established the Irish Theatre in Hardwicke Street. They believed Dublin needed a home for theater that focused on the realism of Irish life in contrast to the fantasy and romance of the Abbey. MacDonagh carried on a relationship with Mary Maguire (who would later marry Colum and establish herself as a poet in her own right) until 1910, and in 1912, married Muriel Gifford, a protestant, despite her family’s disapproval. The couple had a son, Donagh, and a daughter, Barbara. In addition to his literary and theatrical activities, MacDonagh was consistently involved in nationalist politics. During the 1913 lockout and labor dispute, he was a member of the Dublin Industrial Peace Committee, and he later joined the
He had little part in planning the Easter Rising, but some believe MacDonagh contributed to the language of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
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Irish Volunteers when they formed that same year. He became a member of their leadership and took part in their Howth gunrunning operation in 1914. Despite his political activities, he was still able to put his poetic abilities to good use, and wrote “The Marching Song of the Irish Volunteers.” In March of 1915, he was appointed commandant of the 2nd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the Volunteers. MacDonagh was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.) in 1915, and believed, as many did, that “zealous martyrs” would be the ones to secure Irish freedom. He did not join the I.R.B.’s Military Council until April 1916, so he had little part in planning the Easter Rising, though some believe MacDonagh contributed much to the language of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. During the Rising, MacDonagh commanded the garrison at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, and was initially reluctant to comply with Pearse’s order to surrender. He was court-martialed on May 2 and executed by firing squad the following day at Kilmainham Gaol. – Julia Brodsky
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he 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic has been called the most important document in Irish history, establishing the idea of equal rights across gender, fair labor practices, and conferring the right of self-governance from the provisional government to the people. It was based in part on a similar proclamation of independence issued by Robert Emmet during the 1803 Rebellion. While its authorship is not known for certain, Pádraig Pearse is believed to have contributed the majority of the language of the Proclamation, with additional input from James Connolly and Thomas MacDonagh, particularly with respect to the document’s socialist passages. Unsurprisingly, America is the only foreign country specifically mentioned in the Proclamation, which singles out Ireland’s “exiled children” in the U.S. as a primary body of support for the Rising, almost certainly a reference to Fenian leader John Devoy. A reference to Ireland’s “gallant allies in Europe” refers specifically to Germany, whose guns and ammunition were meant to land prior to the Rising but were captured. But beyond this, the Proclamation linked the Rising to all previous risings, claiming an inherited right to armed rebellion and a right to speak for the Irish people. The drafting of the Proclamation was one of the final tasks of the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council. According to Tom Clarke’s wife, Pearse was asked to submit a draft of the Proclamation to the I.R.B. Military Council on the Tuesday before Easter Monday for final approval, where additional council members weighed in to finalize the language. Once the language was final, a master copy was given to printers to hold until Easter Sunday, when the full print run would be completed. The actual printing of the Proclamation was done in the basement of Liberty Hall on what was even then an antique printing press. The document, printed on 30 x 20 inch poster paper, had to be run off in two passes, because there were not enough typesetting letters to cover the entire text. This accounts for the discrepancy in ink shade between the top and bottom half of the original documents. Indeed, the Proclamation was printed in such a rush that when British troops raided Liberty Hall, they still found the typeset in the printer for the lower half, and many printed off these half-pages as souvenirs. Of the roughly 1,000 original copies that were printed on Easter Sunday, less than 50 remain. – A.F.
TOP: The flag of the Irish Republic, allegedly created by Countess Markievicz from a bed sheet, that flew over the G.P.O. during Easter Week, 1916, now on display at the National Museum of Ireland. ABOVE: A reproduction copy of the1916 Proclamation, read from the portico of the G.P.O. on Easter Monday. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 45
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profiles in courage | Con Colbert
Cornelius “Con” Colbert was born in Moanlena, Co. Limerick, into a family with nationalist leanings and Fenian connections. His parents were Michael and Honora (née MacDermott) Colbert. The young Con did not deviate from his pedigree and became a fluent Irish speaker after he joined the Gaelic League. He later rose through the ranks of Na Fianna Éireann, the nationalist youth organization founded by revolutionary nationalists Bulmer Hobson and Constance Markievicz. Colbert excelled in the arts of drilling and marching, and was recruited by Pádraig Pearse to be a drilling instructor for St. Enda’s. Colbert was also enlisted by the I.R.B., and became the leader of a cell comprised only of Fianna members. He was part of the initial leadership of the Irish Volunteers, and led the anti-war faction after John Redmond committed the National Volunteers (who split from the Irish Volunteers) to fighting for the British in WWI. In the Rising, Colbert and his men began fighting at Watkins’s Brewery. They saw little action there and moved to Jameson’s Distillery. There the battalion did more but still comparatively little fighting. After the surrender he was tried by court-martial, and executed on May 8. As an unmarried man and one of the youngest leaders in the rising who did little fighting, his execution is said to have brought on some of the most bitter recriminations. – R.B.W.
Born in Westport, Co. Mayo, to Patrick MacBride, a trader and shopkeeper, and Honoria Gill, John MacBride was educated in Westport and at St. Malachy’s College in Belfast. He later moved to Dublin where he worked for a wholesale chemist. About this time he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. MacBride moved to Transvaal in southern Africa in 1896 to work in the Johannesburg gold mines. When the Second Boer War began the following year, he organized “the Irish Brigade” to fight on the side of the Dutch Boers against the British. He was deemed a British traitor and escaped to Paris, where he met Maud Gonne. They married (though they separated in 1905) and had one son, Sean MacBride. He returned to Ireland after the pardoning of Boer War militants and settled in Dublin. He served on the supreme council of the I.R.B., but was excluded from the planning meetings for the Easter Rising because of his wartime history. Reportedly, he had no involvement in the Rising until after it began, chancing upon Thomas MacDonagh on Grafton Street the morning of Easter Monday. He volunteered his services and fought at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. – A.F.
Michael Mallin was born into a Dublin workingclass family to John and Sarah (née Dowling) Mallin. He joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1889 and served in India for six years, fighting against insurgent tribes. While there, Mallin became disillusioned with the army and equated the Indian struggle for independence with his own experience as an Irishman. After serving in the army for twelve years, Mallin returned to Dublin to join the family trade as a silk weaver and soon became an active socialist and labor organizer. In 1914 he was appointed by James Connolly as chief-of-staff of the Irish Citizen Army. He wrote for the Irish Worker and also published articles on guerrilla warfare in the Worker’s Republic. During the Rising he led an I.C.A. force of about 250 in St. Stephen’s Green. Since James Connolly was fighting in the G.P.O., Mallin became the main commander for the I.C.A. along with Countess Markievicz, whom he chose as his second in command. After the I.C.A. abandoned its position at St. Stephen’s Green, the majority of the I.C.A. occupied the College of Surgeons until the surrender. Mallin surrendered along with a force of 109 men and ten women. He left behind a large family, the youngest member of which was born four months after his execution. – R.B.W.
October 19, 1888 – May 8, 1916
May 7, 1868 – May 5, 1916
December 1, 1874 – May 8, 1916
February 25, 1891 – May 4, 1916
At 25, Edward “Ned” Daly was the youngest leader of the Easter Rising to be executed. Born in Limerick, he was the only son of ten children by Catherine O’Mara and Edward Daly, a prominent Fenian, who died five months before Ned’s birth. His uncle John Daly was an organizer for the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He served 12 years in prison on false possession of explosives charges. Ned worked as a bakery apprentice and timber yard worker before eventually settling in Dublin at a wholesale chemist shop. There, he lived in with his sister Kathleen, who was married to Thomas J. Clarke. He reinforced Daly’s ideological republican politics. He joined the Irish Volunteers in November 1913 and was a consummate student of military strategy and was soon one of the youngest military authorities in the Volunteers. By March 1915, he was promoted to commander of the 1st Battalion. During the Rising, Daly commanded a battalion at the Four Courts. This battalion saw some of the most intense fighting during the week, as it lay on the main route from a British barracks in the west of Dublin to the city center. – A.F. 46 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
FROM TOP: Con Colbert, Edward Daly, John MacBride, and Michael Mallin.
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Michael O’Hanrahan (also Miceál Ó hAnnracháin) was born in New Ross and raised in Co. Carlow, where he was educated at the Christian Bothers’ School and Carlow College Academy. His father Richard is said to have taken part in the 1867 Fenian rising. After graduating, he worked briefly for his father’s cork-cutting business before becoming secretary for the Gaelic League, founding the first Carlow branch, and teaching Irish at the Catholic Institute. By 1903 he had moved to Dublin where he was a proofreader for Cló Cumann, a publisher of Gaelic League literature. He also worked as a freelance journalist, publishing in nationalist newspapers Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteer, and authored two novels, A Swordsman of the Brigade (1914) and When the Norman Came (published posthumously in 1918). A vocal nationalist from an early age, he joined the Irish Volunteers on their founding and was a member of the I.R.B. around the same time. Eventually he became quartermaster of Thomas MacDonagh’s 2nd Battalion, and he and MacDonagh became close friends. During the Rising, he was third in command, after MacDonagh and John MacBride, of the 2nd Battalion, fighting at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. – A.F.
Along with Roger Casement, Thomas Kent was the only person executed for the Rising who was not in Dublin during Easter Week. He stayed Co. Cork since national mobilization orders had been countermanded. Once the Rising began, the Royal Irish Constabulary began arresting known sympathizers and members of the I.R.B., Sinn Féin, and the Irish Volunteers, of which he, along with brothers Richard, David, and William, was a member. On May 2, the four brothers engaged the R.I.C. in a gunfight. Richard died, as well as killing Head Constable W.C. Rowe. Thomas was court martialed for the killing of Rowe and executed in Cork. Born in rural Cork, near Fermoy, Thomas was one of seven sons and two daughters. He was educated at the local national school. He emigrated to Boston, where he spent five years at a publishing and church-furnishing company. He participated in numerous cultural activities there. When he returned to Cork, he was politically active in the Gaelic League. In 1914, he organized the Castelyons branch of the Irish Volunteers with his brothers – the first teetotal branch in the country. – A.F.
March 17, 1877 – May 4, 1916
August 29, 1865 – May 9, 1916
November 15, 1881 – May 4, 1916
Seán (John J.) Heuston February 21, 1891 – May 8, 1916
Seán Heuston was born in Dublin, the son of John Heuston and Maria Heuston (née McDonald). In 1910 he joined Fianna Éireann, a nationalist youth organization founded by revolutionary nationalists Bulmer Hobson and Countess Markievicz and later became a founding member of the Irish Volunteers. As a close friend of Con Colbert, he helped with drilling instruction at St. Enda’s school. He also took part in landing weapons for the Irish Volunteers in the Howth gunrunning. Heuston rose to the rank of captain of D Company in Edward Daly’s 1st Battalion of the Irish Volunteers’ Dublin Brigade. When the Rising began, he was assigned commander of the Mendicity Institution, and was charged with controlling the route between the Royal Barracks and the Four Courts. He and fewer than 30 men fought from this position for over two days. They capitulated when they were surrounded by hundreds of troops who came close enough to lob grenades into the building. Heuston is said to have surrendered only to save his comrades’ lives. As a junior officer and one of the youngest executed, it is presumed that his sentence came as a result of his effectiveness in battle; he and his men held an independent position and inflicted serious losses on the British. – R.B.W.
FROM TOP: Michael O’Hanrahan, Seán Heuston, Thomas Kent, and William Pearse.
William “Willie” Pearse was born the second son – and the younger brother of the more famous Pádraig Pearse – to James and Margaret (née Brady) Pearse. William studied as an artist and sculptor. He joined the Gaelic League and was a member of the executive of the Wolfe Tone and United Irishmen Memorial Committee. By 1910 William was teaching art and English at Pádraig’s St. Enda’s school and its sister school, St. Ita’s. Along with Thomas MacDonagh, he insisted that drama should be an integral part of the curriculum. Pearse later founded the Leinster Stage Society and was an actor at the Abbey Theater. With his brother, he joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and by 1915 was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He was not intimately involved in the planning of the Rising, nor was he subsequently seen to be a principal leader. During the Rising, he served as captain on the headquarters staff in the G.P.O. After surrender, it was expected he would be released, but he was executed on May 4, the day after his brother was shot. Of the executed, William Pearse was the only one to plead guilty at his court-martial. This, with his family ties to Pádraig, a principal leader of the Rising, is considered to be the primary reasons for his execution. – R.B.W. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 47
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Hanged by the British in 1916 for working with Germany and Irish nationalists in planning the Easter Rising of 1916, Sir Roger Casement is remembered as the “father of twentieth-century human rights investigations.” By Rosemary Rogers
Standing in the gallows of Britain’s Pentonville Prison, Casement was asked by the governor if he had any final words. He did, but only one: “Ireland.” The hangman, moved by his elegant bearing, gently adjusted his tie after placing the noose around his neck. When it was all over, his body was thrown naked in an open grave, covered with quicklime and laid beside the notorious wife murderer, Dr. Crippen. The quicklime, the execution by hanging (not firing squad), and his graveyard companion were Britain’s way of showing their contempt for him – the traitor, the fallen knight, and the homosexual. Roger Casement was born in Dublin in 1864. His father, an army captain, was a Protestant and his Cork-born mother was a Catholic who had her children secretly baptized. Like his country, Casement was a study in contradictions – he has been called “a microcosm of Ireland:” Dubliner, Ulsterman, Catholic, Protestant, poet, and patriot. Orphaned at a young age, he lived with his father’s family in Antrim. He was a child of promising intellect who wrote poetry and immersed himself in Celtic myths. Unwilling to accept the charity of relatives, Casement left school at 15 to work for a shipping company in Liverpool. He had always dreamed of far-off places and now the handsome, hardworking clerk was soon promoted to be the British Consul, serving in West Africa. Word of the brilliant Casement had reached the
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British Foreign Office. So, too, had word of the atrocities in King Leopold II’s private fiefdom, the Belgian Congo. Leopold, a staunch imperialist was perpetuating genocide there, eventually killing 10 million natives. He became, thanks to Congo resources, the richest man in Europe. The Foreign Office sent Casement into the Congo to investigate, photograph, and bear witness. He took the testimony of Africans who told stories of endless barbarity, murder, and mutilation. It was a job that forever ruined his health. It forever changed his life too. Exploitation and greed, he realized, were business as usual for empires, including the world’s largest, the British Empire. His dormant Irish nationalism awoke; he shed his Anglo skin and found the Irishman underneath. He wrote his sister, “This journey into the depths of the Congo has been useful in helping me discover my own country and understand her destiny. In these jungles, I’ve found not only the true face of Leopold II. I’ve also found my true self: the incorrigible Irishman.” Released in 1904, The Casement Report, a litany of horrors, forced Leopold to quit the Congo. Having sparked the world’s first human rights campaign, Casement was awarded one of Great
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FAR LEFT: Roger Casement circa 1910. LEFT: Casement was captured on April 21 having landed in Kerry via German submarine. He was transferred to the Tower of London, charged with espionage and treason, and hanged on June 29, 1916.
Britain’s highest citations, the Order of St. Michael and St. George. But that same year Roger Casement joined the Gaelic League and signed, for the first time, his name as Ruairí Mac Easmainn. The British Empire had forever lost her international hero. In 1906, the “incorrigible Irishman” was again drawn into the belly of the beast – the Putumayo basin in Peru. The Peruvian Amazon Company, was the world’s largest exporter of rubber. It was run by the fiendish Julio Arana, but was registered in London, thereby making it a British company. Dispatched into the Amazon rain forest, Casement discovered that the P.A.C. had systematically enslaved, tortured, and murdered Indians to reach rubber quotas. His findings were made public and an embarrassed Great Britain forced P.A.C.’s Board of Directors to resign. Subsequently, it laid claim to the famous humanitarian, and Roger Casement was to be a Knight of the Realm. Casement was anguished: the title would elevate his diplomatic efforts on behalf of Irish nationalism but, still, how could he accept such an “honor” from a regime that had enslaved his country for centuries? He told his sister that rather than being knighted, he “ought really to be in jail.” Prophetic words: five years later he was in the Tower of London awaiting execution. In 1913, Sir Roger became an official Irish rebel when he joined the Irish Volunteers and visited New York to raise money for the Rising. He worked with
John Devoy of Clan na Gael who, at first put off by his title, soon accepted him into the brotherhood, always addressing him, not as Sir Roger, but simply, “Rory.” During World War I, operating on the principle, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Casement and Devoy met with a German diplomat. They promised Ireland would remain neutral if Germany helped the coming Easter Rising by supplying guns and expertise. In Germany, Casement tried to secure arms and persuade Irish P.O.W.s to form an Irish Brigade. After two years, both initiatives were disappointments. There was no brigade – Irish soldiers wouldn’t dishonor their oath to the King – and Germany could only deliver some 20,000 guns, a fraction of the weaponry needed. Worse, British Intelligence was intercepting his messages. The Easter Rising was imminent. Believing that there were not sufficient arms for the rebellion, Casement slipped out of Germany by submarine to warn the leaders. He placed the armaments on a separate boat, the Aud, flying under a Norwegian flag, which he planned to meet on the Irish shoreline. First to arrive was the Aud, but it was ambushed by the waiting British navy and taken to Cork. Unaware of the plight of the gun-runner, Casement had moved from the submarine to a dinghy. But this capsized, leaving him to swim onto Banna Strand in County Kerry. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 49
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TOP: August 1, 1916, The Scranton Times reported on the hanging of Sir Roger Casement.
It was 3:00 a.m., Good Friday, 1916. Once on land, Casement, ill, drenched, and exhausted, found there was no one to meet him. Still, he rejoiced: “I was for one brief spell happy and smiling once more… all round were primroses and wild violets and the singing of the skylarks in the air and I was back in Ireland again.” His happiness was short-lived. He soon heard a voice – “Sir Roger?” When the Easter rising began and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read, Casement was in the Tower of London. His trial at the Old Bailey lasted four days. It took the jury one hour to find him guilty, strip him of his knighthood, and condemn him to death by hanging. After his sentencing he delivered a speech from the dock, arguably one of the greatest political statements of all time. He stated, logically – and ironically, since he had a cultured British accent – that he couldn’t commit treason against England since he wasn’t an Englishman to begin with. Then he railed against the colonial system, “…where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs… surely it is a braver, a saner, and a truer thing to be a rebel…” Because he was a renowned human rights activist, pleas to have his death sentence commuted came from around the world. But Britain, deter-
mined to see the execution proceed, produced a secret weapon. They circulated the Black Diaries purportedly written by Casement and relating his homosexual activities in the Congo and South America. The infamous diaries remain controversial today as many consider them forgeries written by the British Secret Service. Others acknowledge they were written in Casement’s hand but were only the fantasies of a lonely, exhausted, and sick man. No matter, since the diaries proved to be, as much as his rebellion, the reason he was hanged. Now he died on the gallows as both a traitor and a pervert. After receiving the last rites of the Catholic Church, Roger Casement was executed on August 3, 1916, the sixteenth and final leader of the Rising to be executed. His final wish, “Bury me in Ireland,” and his family’s plea for his body were denied. This gratuitous cruelty inspired W.B. Yeats to write, “The Ghost of Roger Casement” – in which the poet sees Casement’s spirit coming across the sea, knocking on the door, still wanting to come home: O what has made that sudden noise? What on the threshold stands? It never crossed the sea because John Bull and the sea are friends; But this is not the old sea Nor this the old seashore. What gave that roar of mockery, That roar in the sea's roar? The ghost of Roger Casement Is beating on the door.
Casement was late to enter the pantheon of 1916 martyrs, marginalized, no doubt, by his sexuality. Finally, in 1965, an Irish military escort removed his remains from the prison graveyard in London and accompanied them to Ireland for a state funeral. Hundreds of thousands came to pay him tribute including the very conservative President de Valera, a veteran of the Easter Rising, who delivered his eulogy. He lies today in the Heroes section of Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery where his name, Ruairí Mac Easmainn is carved on a gravestone reading, in Gaelic, “He died for Ireland.” IA
men must beg with bated breath surely it is a braver, a saner, and a truer thing to be a rebel…”
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From the G.P.O. to Béal na mBláth
By Dermot McEvoy
ichael Collins was born into a farming family near Clonakilty in County Cork in 1890. In 1906 he passed a civil service exam and went to London to work in the British postal system, which included the banking and communications sections – an invaluable learning experience for the future Minister for Finance in the first Dáil. While in London, Collins joined the usual Irish organizations such as the Gaelic League and Gaelic Athletic Association. It was in 1909 that Sam Maguire, also from Cork, swore him into the Irish Republican Brotherhood, setting him on the path to revolution. It is in the latter part of 1915 that the mystery surrounding the romantic figure of Collins begins to emerge. Most of Collins’s biographers have him returning to Dublin in January 1916 to begin preparations to fight in the Easter Rising. But he actually returned in late summer 1915 and went to work for Joseph Mary Plunkett, straightening out the family’s real estate investments which had gone awry under the eccentric Countess Plunkett. At this time he came under the tutelage of the likes of Tom Clarke and Seán MacDiarmada, the two main organizers of the upcoming rebellion. On Easter Monday he served as aidede-camp to Commandant-General Plunkett, who was dying at the time of tuberculosis of the neck glands. Collins would escape the burning G.P.O. on Friday with the rest of the Volunteers and find refuge in Moore 52 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
BELOW: Collins addresses a crowd in Cork, 1922. RIGHT: From left, Arthur Griffith, Eamon de Valera, Laurence O’Neill, and Collins at Croke Park, 1921.
Street. Though he participated in the Rising, he was skeptical of it. “I do not think the Rising week was an appropriate time for the issue of memoranda couched in poetic phrases, nor of actions worked out in a similar fashion,” he wrote from the Frongoch prison camp in Wales. “Looking at [the G.P.O.] from inside it had the air of a Greek tragedy about it.” He realized that the way to beat the British was not to have big military battles with the finest army in the world. Another form of warfare – and intimidation – would have to be used. Along with the rest of the rebels, he surrendered to the British and was marched up Sackville Street to the garden of the Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Parnell Square. Arguably, it was here that Collins first learned the importance the British paid to the use of intelligence and he vowed to match them in this science. It is also here that one can see the young Collins begin to plot future strategy. He saw members of the G-Division, the intelligence sector of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, begin to separate Fenians according to their importance. He saw them abuse Seán MacDiarmada, a victim of polio, and strip naked Tom Clarke. Collins secured the name of MacDiarmada and Clarke’s abuser, Deputy Inspector Percival Lea Wilson. Three years later Wilson would be gunned down by Collins’s Squad
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in Gorey, County Wexford. Collins spent the rest of 1916 in British prisons and at Frongoch before being freed that December. In early 1917, he was appointed head of the National Aid and Volunteers Dependants Fund by Tom Clarke’s widow, Kathleen. N.A.V.D.F. was a charity for indigent members of the Volunteers and their families, but for Collins it was more. It was a way to meet rebels from all over the country and plan for the future. It was a way to ensure that the first person a rebel from the countryside would meet in Dublin would be Collins himself, a fellow “culchie.” Collins spent 1917 and 1918 organizing the newly formed I.R.A., campaigning for Sinn Féin members to parliament, opposing conscription, and reviewing his options for dealing with the G-Division of the D.M.P.
De Valera Leaves — Guerrilla Warfare Arrives
The lives of Collins and Eamon de Valera are intimately connected by the decisions de Valera would make between 1919 and 1922. In May 1919, de Valera decided that the place for the head of a revolutionary movement was not in Dublin, but America. He arrived in New York to bring word of Ireland’s struggle to the world and to raise funds for the nascent nation. His vacuum back in Dublin was to be ably filled by his robust Minister for Finance. Hayden Talbot’s Michael Collins’ Own Story gives an inside look at Collins’s thinking during this time. The book, supposedly, was to be Collins’s autobiography, but he died before it was published. In it, Collins maintains the biggest problems facing the insurgents were twofold: “beating the English Secret Service until it was powerless” and “cleaning our own house until the last traitor Irishman had been identified and fittingly dealt with.” To bring this about Collins opened an intelligence office at 3 Crow Street – a little alley running off Dame Street and only two blocks from Dublin Castle – under his Deputy Director of Intelligence, Liam Tobin. Here dossiers were collected on every member of the G-Division and movements of suspicious strangers were monitored with the help of sympathizers in the railroad, shipping, taxis, and hotel industries. Unsurprisingly, Tobin also found that sometimes the best way to keep track of enemy agents was through the society pages.
In a parallel move, Collins set up in September 1919 his own Active Service Unit known simply as “the Squad,” or more colorfully as “The Twelve Apostles.” At first the G-men were warned to leave. If they did not, they were roughed up. If they still persisted, they were shot. During 1920, there were specific shootings that caught the eye of the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill. One was the assassination of a British spy nicknamed Jameson, who got close enough to Collins to see he was wearing a mustache. The other was the elimination of Alan Bell, who was searching the banks, looking for Collins’s National Loan. Bell was pulled off a tram by the Squad and shot. Collins observed that there were no more bank examiners rushing to Dublin to find the National Loan money. The shootings of Jameson and Bell precipitated Churchill rushing the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans into Ireland to maintain peace. He also put a £5,000 bounty on Collins. The biggest blow to the British happened on the morning of “Bloody Sunday,” November 21, 1920, when the Squad shot fourteen members of the British Secret Service. “There is no crime,” Collins wrote of that fateful day, “in detecting and destroying in war-time, the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.”
De Valera Returns
One month and two days after Bloody Sunday, Eamon de Valera returned from America. By July 1921, King George V had finally managed to arrange a truce. The truce came at an ideal time because after the I.R.A. burning of the Customs House in May 1921 – which ended with five I.R.A. members killed and over 80 taken prisoner of an estimated 100 who participated – Collins knew that the I.R.A. in Dublin was on its last legs. De Valera went to London to meet British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. In preliminary discussions, Lloyd George made it clear that a Republic was out of the question, but he could settle for an Irish Free State which would complement the newly established six-county government of Northern Ireland. There would also be an Oath of Allegiance to the King. De Valera went back to Dublin to plot. It was a delicate negotiation process that de Valera knew would FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 53
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be a no-win for him if he wanted to stay in power. According to Tim Pat Coogan’s biography of de Valera, he was heard commenting of the plenipotentiaries: “We must have scapegoats.” Ultimately, he persuaded Collins to lead the delegation in his stead. Collins resisted – he knew that he could not bring back a Republic. “To me the task is a loathsome one,” Collins wrote. “I go in the spirit of a soldier who acts against his best judgment at the orders of his superior.” Collins was wary of the whole deal. In London he brought his own staff and even lived apart from the rest of the delegation. He was highly suspicious of Erskine Childers, secretary to the delegation, who he was sure was a de Valera spy. The negotiations dragged on for a month without any progress. One night with their meetings going nowhere, Churchill suggested they return to his townhouse for drinks before continuing work on the Treaty. Collins and Churchill proceeded to drink a lot of cognac (Collins liked his spiked with Curaçao to keep his sweet tooth sated) and the talk turned ugly. At one point Collins reportedly exclaimed, “You put a £5,000 bounty on my head!” to Churchill. Churchill, years later, wrote that “[Collins] was in his most difficult mood, full of reproaches and defiances, and it was very easy for everyone to lose his temper.” Churchill took him by the hand to the other end of the room to show him a wanted poster. It was for the young Churchill in the Boer War. “At any rate it was a good price – £5,000,” said Churchill. “Look at me – £25 dead or alive. How would you like that?” Collins roared with laughter, the tension was broken, and on December 6, 1921 Michael Collins signed the Treaty creating the Irish Free State. Collins knew that to give Ireland life he had most likely to pay with his own. “Think – what have I got for Ireland?” he wrote. “Something which she has wanted these past 700 years. Will anyone be satisfied with the bargain? Will anyone? I tell you this – early this morning I signed my own death warrant.”
The Treaty and the Oath of Allegiance
In early January 1922 the Dáil began to debate the Treaty. It came down to Collins vs. de Valera. Collins viewed the Treaty as a vehicle. “In my opinion,” he wrote, “it gives us freedom, not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire ... but the freedom to achieve it.” De Valera viewed the Treaty as a failure because it did not bring back a Republic. There was also the problem of the oath of allegiance to the king. It was mandatory that all members of the Dáil had to take the oath. This was verboten to de Valera and his followers, people like Cathal Brugha and the Countess Markievicz. “Deputies have spoken about whether dead men would approve of it,” said Collins during the Dáil debate, “and they have spoken of whether children yet unborn would approve it, but few have spoken of whether the living approve it.” De Valera and his loyalists plotted every parliamentary trick they could to derail the Treaty, frustrating and infuriating Collins to no end. “We will have no Tammany Hall methods here!” shouted Collins in the Dáil. “Whether you are for the Treaty or whether you are against it, fight without Tammany Hall methods. We will not have them.” Not getting their way, de Valera and cohorts deserted their duty as the loyal opposition and marched out of the Dáil. The Dáil passed the Treaty by a vote of 64 to 57 and Ireland, finally, was a nation once again – albeit a nation in civil war. 54 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
Death at Béal na mBláth
Because of de Valera’s withdrawal, Collins and Arthur Griffith were left to run the country. Griffith became President of the Dáil and Collins ran the army as he continued to work with the British over the transferal of government agencies. In April, anti-Treaty forces took over the Four Courts in Dublin. Collins, because he had so many friends among the anti-Treaty forces, did not immediately react. He wanted to find a way out through negotiations. He waited two months, until under pressure from Churchill, he blasted them out. Large sections of the country had to be retaken by the new Free State army, particularly in the west and in the south. Things were seemingly beginning to coalesce for the new government when President Griffith suddenly died on August 12th from a cerebral hemorrhage. The weight of the nation once again fell on Michael Collins’s shoulders. Collins, still looking for a mediated settlement to the Civil War, decided to travel to his home county – strongly hostile to the Treaty – to not only show the flag, but to politic among the locals. Also, it was known that de Valera was also in the vicinity. Perhaps a settlement could be reached? When told he was a fool to go to rebel Cork, Collins reportedly replied, “Yerra, they’ll never shoot me in my own county.” On August 22nd Collins and his entourage traveled the back roads of West Cork, stopping in pubs to talk with the locals. In the early evening at a road called Béal na mBláth – “the mouth or the gap of the flowers” in Irish – shots rang out. “Drive like hell!” shouted General Emmet Dalton, his traveling companion. But Collins would have none of it: “Stop! Jump out and we’ll fight them.” Minutes later he was dead from a bullet wound to the back of his head. Seán O’Connell, a member of the entourage, whispered an act of perfect contrition into the General’s ear. Collins’s service to his country was finished.
Michael Collins Today
At his last meeting before traveling for Béal na mBláth Collins told Churchill, “I shall not last long; my life is forfeit, but I shall do my best. After I am gone it will be easier for others.” But it was not easy – the Civil War would last until 1923 with terrible atrocities committed by both sides, polluting the political waters of Ireland for the rest of the 20th century. With Collins’s death, de Valera’s star began to rise. In 1927 he entered the Dáil and, in the hypocrisy of hypocrisies, took the oath of allegiance. By 1932 he was the President once again and slowly but surely the figure of Michael Collins was airbrushed out of Irish history. Then, 50 years after his death, there was a resurrection. Margery Forester wrote a wonderful biography called Michael Collins: The Lost Leader, which brought Collins alive to a new generation of Irish. She was followed by new and thorough biographies by the likes of Tim Pat Coogan and T. Ryle Dwyer. With these books the Irish rediscovered their Dublin Pimpernel, a man who made James Bond look foppish. Then Hollywood came calling with Academy Award winner Liam Neeson filling the big screen with a bigger rendition of the Big Fellow. What is the legacy of Michael Collins today? Most would say that it is rather simple: he found a way to beat the British and in doing so returned nationhood – albeit an imperfect nationhood – to the Irish people. Perhaps the greatest salute comes from his old antagonist, Eamon de Valera: “It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time history will record the greatness of Michael Collins and it IA will be recorded at my expense.”
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MAN OF Éamon de Valera, the dominant political figure of Ireland’s 20th century, was an enigmatic figure to the end of his life. By Robert Schmuhl
amon de Valera was sentenced to death for his involvement in the 1916 Easter Rising, but, under circumstances that are still a mystery, he escaped the firing squad and was instead shipped off to prison in England. Later that year, in July, the United States Embassy in London, prompted by requests from de Valera’s relatives in America, contacted the British Home Office for a report on the prisoner’s status and for a statement from him about his citizenship. Six weeks later, the Governor of Dartmoor Prison passed on the following information from the 33year-old de Valera: “The prisoner gives New York as his place of birth. He states that he has asked his mother to find out whether his father – who was a Spaniard – became an American citizen. If so, he (the prisoner) claims to be such. If not, he is a Spaniard. He further states that he did not become a British citizen, but he would have become an Irish citizen if that had been possible.” So then, vehemently not a Brit, and, if he couldn’t be an Irishman, happy to be an American or a Spaniard, de Valera enters public life as something of a mystery man. And, while his political career spanned half a century, and he served as President of the Irish Republic for two terms, from 1959 until 1973, questions about his origins and character continue to be debated today. Complexities of citizenship aside, a person’s name
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doesn’t usually demand explanation. But that’s not the case with de Valera. Born on October 14, 1882, his original birth certificate gave his name as “George de Valero.” A corrected birth certificate for “Edward de Valera” was issued by the State of New York in 1910. In addition to the birth certificates, two baptismal records exist – one for “Edward De Valeros,” and an amended one for “Eamon de Valera.” De Valera lived in the U.S. for only two years before his mother, Catherine Coll, had her brother Edward take him to Bruree, Co. Limerick, to be raised by members of her family. At the local school, he was enrolled as “Edward Coll,” rather than “Edward de Valera.” And later, “Edward” morphed into “Éamonn,” a result of his participation in the Gaelic League. Then, for several years, “Éamonn” spelled his name with two n’s – but dropped one of them as he became more involved in public life. During the almost six decades de Valera spent in the hurly-burly of politics, he consciously shaped his identity, which seems to have added to the sense of mystery about him. Making a new name for himself – Éamon – seems to have been the start of that process, one that would continue for years, as he became who he wanted to be seen to be. De Valera’s first full-time employment was as a mathematics teacher, and he served at several colleges in Ireland. In November of 1913, he joined the Irish Volunteers and later, as the prospect of an insur-
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rection loomed, the secretive, oath-bound Irish Republican Brotherhood. Interestingly, de Valera harbored serious misgivings about the planning for the Easter Rising, and did not believe he would survive the impending skirmishes with the British Army. In his authorized biography, Éamon de Valera, the Earl of Longford and Thomas P. O’Neill write that, “he felt that death was almost inevitable.” He survived Easter Week’s fighting, but, following his surrender, he was immediately staring death in the face again, this time by firing squad in Kilmainham Goal. He wrote letters of farewell to his family and friends, so he must have been surprised when he was reprieved, and sent to jail instead. He was released in 1917, as part of a General Amnesty for Irish political prisoners, and immediately embarked on a career in electoral politics. He became president of Sinn Féin, a post he held until 1926, and he represented Clare in a parliamentary seat until 1959. In early 1919, Sinn Féin members of the House of Commons formed a revolutionary Irish parliament, known as Dáil Éireann. And in April that year, following another stint in an English prison – and a movie-worthy escape from it – de Valera was elected Priomh Aire (Chief Minister) of the Dáil. The exciting personal dramas that are part and parcel of de Valera’s life – dodging a firing squad bullet, his daring jailbreak – continued when he stowed away on a ship bound for the U.S., and arrived in New York on June 11, 1919. This was his first trip back to the land of his birth since he was a toddler. His visit lasted 18 months and, during that time, he solidified his reputation in the minds of Irish Americans as being the native son of U.S. soil that would
emerge as a major figure in Ireland’s future. De Valera’s purpose in coming to New York and travelling throughout the U.S. was to promote and get support and recognition for the idea of an Irish republic. He set the message for the visit during his first press conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, when he was introduced as the “President of the Republic of Ireland.” In his book, With De Valera in America, Patrick McCartan, a Dáil member and Sinn Féin’s representative to the U.S., explained how the title “President of the Republic of Ireland” came about, since in reality, no republic existed. “De Valera pointed out that he was not President of the Republic of Ireland, but only Chairman of the Dáil,” McCartan writes. But the spin doctors advising de Valera weren’t all that worried about falling foul of the niceties of constitutional law when projecting the best image for him. Since George Washington’s time, Americans had a clear understanding of the role of a president in a republic – he was the democratically elected leader of the state – and that is what de Valera became. During his time in the U.S., “the president” spoke to massive crowds, raised millions of dollars, and made enemies with two key figures in the IrishAmerican republican movement – John Devoy and Daniel Cohalan. While in the U.S., de Valera founded the American Association for Recognition of the Irish Republic as a vehicle to funnel financial support from Americans through his hands. This move angered Devoy, who had long been recognized as the voice of the Irish revolution in America. He used his weekly newspaper, The Gaelic American, to denounce de Valera for his guile, and later nursed a lifelong loathing of him. Because of de Valera’s imprisonment and sojourn
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: De Valera under arrest by British troops following the Rising. De Valera at the University of Notre Dame in October 1919. From left: Harry Boland, a member of the first Dáil for Sinn Féin; Michael Collins; and de Valera.
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ABOVE: De Valera in Philadelphia, 1921.
This article is adapted from Ireland’s Exiled Children: America and the Easter Rising (Oxford University Press).
in the U.S., he was away from Ireland for most of the Irish War of Independence, which ended with a truce on July 11, 1921. The following month, in the Dáil, de Valera pushed for a change to the 1919 Constitution to upgrade his office from prime minister, or chairman of the cabinet, to full president of the Republic. Ironically, two years after his American supporters had bestowed an invented presidential title on him, de Valera now assumed it, even though Ireland wasn’t a republic – and wouldn’t be until 1949. Even so, by making himself head of state he was able to argue that, since the British head of state would not attend the peace conference that led to the Treaty and the partition of Ireland he would not attend either. His maneuverings meant that, when the Treaty proved contentious, he was able to avoid any blame for it, because he had not been at the negotiating table. When the Treaty was ratified on January 7, 1922, de Valera resigned as president and led a large minority of anti-treaty Sinn Féin T.D.s from the Dáil. By June, the pro- and anti-treaty sides were locked in a civil war that lasted until the following May. For the first several years of the 26-county Irish Free State, the unpopular entity that had been established by the Treaty, de Valera was at odds with his former colleagues in government and struggled politically. But then, in 1926, he was instrumental in founding Fianna Fáil and, when it became the largest party in the Dáil, following the general election of 1932, he was appointed President of the Executive Council. In that role, essentially prime minister of parliament – the title was changed to “Taoiseach” in late 1937 – de Valera was head of the Irish government from March 9, 1932, until February 18, 1948. Later, in the 1950s, he served two more times as Taoiseach, prior to being elected head of state, as President of Ireland, in 1959.
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Taken together, he was either head of government, or head of state, for a remarkable 35 years between 1932 and 1973, and to call this period “The Age of de Valera” is no understatement. During his time at center stage, de Valera always kept an eye on the republic of his birth. He went on speaking and fundraising tours in the U.S. during the late 1920s to build support for his new Fianna Fáil party and himself. During his visits, the issue as to whether his American citizenship had helped him escape a firing squad in 1916 became a recurrent story in the press, and the meme that an Irish rebel commandant was saved from British Army injustice because they had to bow to his U.S. heritage, was a popular one in Irish America, and even more broadly. It’s a story that continued to engage. When John Kennedy, U.S. President, visited Ireland in 1963, he talked to de Valera about it the last night the American presidential party was in Dublin. In their book Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye, Kennedy aides Kenneth P. O’Donnell and David F. Powers report that he asked his Irish host why he had not been shot in 1916. “De Valera explained that he had lived in Ireland since his early childhood,” they write, “but he was born in New York City, and because of his American citizenship, the British were reluctant to kill him.” Six years later, however, de Valera had changed his mind, if not the facts. He wrote: “The fact that I was born in America would not have saved me.” He added: “I have not the slightest doubt that my reprieve in 1916 was due to the fact that my court martial and sentence came late.” Was the president of Ireland, then 86, privy to new information? Or was he continuing the process of shaping a preferred identity, this time one that would be seen not as half-Spaniard or half-American, but as completely Irish. While de Valera did, in the end, become a world statesman and a quintessentially Irish leader who steered the nation he had helped create for most of his life, when biographers, historians, and journalists study his legacy, the footnote to an amazing life that never fails to engage them is, whether his seemingly miraculous escape in 1916, was due to an accident of birth, the slow grinding of his court martial, or simply pure blind luck. Since the man himself gave two different reasons, at two different times, to account for his salvation, there’s every likelihood it will still be an engaging footnote another hundred years from now, and de Valera, man of mystery, will still be an enigma. IA
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De Valera’s Man in America “…the general awakening that was taking place in Ireland seemed to make us forget everything else for the time and think only of the fight in prospect.”
oe McGarrity was Éamon de Valera’s right hand man in America and was once described by poet Padraic Colum as “a gallowglass ready to swing a battleaxe with his long arms.” It was an apt description for the old warrior. McGarrity was born in Carrickmore, County Tyrone, in 1874. Legend has it that as a penniless 16year-old he walked to Dublin, boarded a cattle boat to Liverpool disguised as a drover, and sailed to America on someone else’s ticket. He settled in Philadelphia and made a fortune selling liquor and real estate. He joined Clan na Gael, the Fenian movement in America, and devoted his life to the cause of Irish
PHOTO: JOSEPH MCGARRITY COLLECTION /VILLANOVA
TOP: Joseph McGarrity. CENTER: Joseph McGarrity greeting Countess Constance Markievicz at Broad Street Station, Philadelphia in April 1922. RIGHT: Program for Friends of Ireland Freedom dinner honoring Éamon de Valera in Philadelphia on October 1, 1919.
independence. He conferred the title “President of the Irish Republic” on Eamon de Valera when the latter landed in New York in June 1919 to seek U.S. support for the Irish Republic declared by the first Dáil in January 1919. De Valera’s title was “President of Dáil Eireann.” Joe argued that Americans had no idea what “Dill Eireann” meant but that “President of the Irish Republic” was analo-
gous to the title “President of the United States” and its use by de Valera would make that clear. Henceforth, McGarrity was de Valera’s first lieutenant in America and a fount of wisdom on all problems until the mid-1930s when the ex-President of the Irish Republic suppressed the I.R.A. under the Offenses Against the State Act and used military courts to jail them. McGarrity ended all contact with de Valera. Almost two decades earlier, McGarrity had exposed a plot against de Valera by his enemies in New York, which, if successful, would have forced his return to Dublin in disgrace and ended in his defeat because he had incurred the wrath of Judge Daniel Cohalan and the aged Fenian veteran John Devoy as Dáil Eireann’s spokesman in the U.S. Devoy, writing in the Gaelic American, denounced de Valera for a published interview with a British correspondent in which the politician had said Britain should declare a “Monroe Doctrine” for Ireland, as the U.S. had done for Cuba. Devoy’s point was that the Monroe Doctrine had made Cuba a dependency of the United States. De Valera, however, seemed ignorant of Cuba’s real status. Discussion of the issue at a large meeting in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel turned into an indictment and trial of de Valera. McGarrity, who had letters proving this was a plot, saved the day for de Valera. “From the day I landed in America, I had the absolute cooperation of Joe McGarrity,” de Valera declared. “If I were dying tomorrow and had the power to hand over the cause of Ireland to one man, that man would be Joseph McGarrity “ On December 9, 1920, on the eve of his return home to Ireland, de Valera did exactly that. He nominated “Joseph McGarrity of 3714 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, as my substitute, entitled to act with all my powers in case I am incapacitated by imprisonment or death or any other cause. I anticipate to be absent from the U.S. for some time. During my absence I wish you to act for me as Trustee of Dill Eireann in regard to such funds as are at present in the US.” McGarrity died on September IA 4, 1940. – By Sean Cronin
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The Rebel Constance Gore-Booth may have married a Polish Count, but in her heart she was an Irish revolutionary who had an active part in the Easter Rising and in the formation of the new state. By Rosemary Rogers
ABOVE: Countess Markievicz in prison following the Rising.
ountess Markievicz, the fierce Irish revolutionary of the 1916 Rising, cultivated her romantic image by fusing a flair for theatrics with her great heart, earning forever a place in Ireland’s history and imagination. Constance Georgine Gore-Booth was born into County Sligo aristocracy, married into Polish royalty (hence the “Countess”), and was immortalized in poetry by W.B. Yeats who likened her to a gazelle. More a comet than a gazelle, Constance – once presented before Queen Victoria as “the new Irish beauty” – was, in 1916, sitting in Kilmainham Gaol, condemned to death by firing squad for “waging war against His Majesty the King.” At the beginning of the 20th century, Constance Gore-Booth, a feminist and landscape painter married fellow artist Count Casimir Markievicz, and the titled, elegant, and (very) tall couple settled in a Georgian mansion. Soon they were the center of Dublin’s artistic set. As he painted, she painted; he wrote plays, she starred in them; and both were the darlings of Dublin Castle. Some time later when asked why she no longer attended balls at the Castle, the Countess didn’t hesitate – “Because I want to blow it up.” Her transformation from society doyenne to rebel
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was swift, beginning innocently enough on a painting retreat in the country. It was there she found the writings of Irish revolutionary poet Padraic Colum and, as she put it, “the lightning struck at last.” Back in Dublin, she joined, in quick order, Sinn Féin, Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland), Cumann Na mBan (Irishwoman’s Council), and founded Fianna Eireann. In what would be a pattern for the rest of her life, she funded soup kitchens where she worked tirelessly, then personally delivered food to the poor and starving of Dublin. She joined with “Big Jim” Larkin and James Connolly in the Lockout of 1913, the workers’ strike that led to the formation of the Irish Citizen Army, a band of trade union workers. The Countess, a lieutenant in the Army, was its most enthusiastic member – she designed the Citizen Army uniforms and wrote its theme song. Its leader, James Connolly, the scrappy and brilliant socialist from the slums became, forever, her hero. Together, they were a formidable pair: when World War I broke out, he enlisted her in the Irish Neutrality League – not only were Irishmen volunteering to fight for the Empire that had enslaved them but there was danger that the British government would, at any time, impose conscription. During a rally in Dublin, Connelly took one side of a tremen-
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dous banner, “We Serve Neither King Nor Kaiser But Ireland,” and the Countess took the other – they unfurled it, and the photograph made international headlines. Now the world knew that Britain’s first and nearest colony wanted out of her Empire. The Countess’s house, always open to artists, poets and playwrights, became, in the time leading up to the Rising, a meeting place for Republicans and rebels to hold strategy sessions and plan maneuvers as she took careful notes. Madame, as she now preferred to be known, was appointed one of James Connolly’s “ghosts” – should anything happened to him, she would take his position in the fighting. On Holy Thursday, she took a green bedspread off a bed, stretched it on the floor and painted, in gold, the words, “The Irish Republic.” (It is said that her ubiquitous and by all accounts, annoying dog Poppet, chewed a piece of the flag, making it somewhat raggedy.) On the morning of Easter Monday, she marched through gas-lit Dublin streets leading a column of the Citizen Army, on her way to St. Stephen’s Green, where she was second in command. Madame was ready for war: she wore her dark green uniform, a slouch hat, and carried a pistol and a rifle. A cartridge belt hung around her neck. She fired the first round at the Green and word soon spread of her fearlessness. If she wasn’t shooting, she was nursing and even recruiting: when women from Cumann na mBan showed up, looking to fight, Madame quickly armed them. Sniper fire made the position at the Green impossible, forcing the troops to retreat to the Royal College of Surgeons. Once there, she shot the lock off the front door and resumed the fight. Earlier, at the G.P.O., Pearse had read, to some jeers, the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. After he finished, the Irish tricolor was raised and the crowd went silent. Some time later came the Countess’s flag, the “Irish Republic” flag which, despite its humble origins, also flew proudly. But, by April 30, it was all over, Pearse had declared a general surrender. Reluctantly, Madame kissed her gun and turned it over to the arresting officer who, in a typical twist
of inbred Irish politics, just happened to be one of her cousins. Taken to Kilmainham Gaol, she was in her cell when she heard the firing squad execute Connolly, inspiring her to wrote a beautiful poem in his honor. From this profound experience, she decided to convert to Catholicism. At her court-martial, Madame was defiant, taunting the court, “At least Ireland was free for a week!” Overjoyed at being condemned to death, she was soon outraged when her sentence was reduced to penal servitude – “I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me.” The British government, fearing a cult would grow around her, sent Madame to London’s Aylsebury Prison where she was denied the status of political prisoner. Jailed with thieves, prostitutes and infanticides, she was assigned to scrub the kitchen floors, a task made more odious by wardens throwing dirt over floors she had just cleaned. Refusing to be defeated, she took the threads from the cleaning rags and proceeded to create beautiful embroidery. She was released in the general amnesty of 1917 but two years later sentenced again, this time for sedition. While in Britain’s Holloway Prison, she ran for a seat in Parliament. The Irishwoman with the Polish name won and became the first woman elected to the British Parliament. In accordance with Sinn Féin, Madame refused to take an oath of allegiance to the King and when the other Irish M.P.s voted to form the Dáil Éireann she cast her vote as fé ghlas ag Gallaibh (“imprisoned abroad”). Released in 1919, she became the Minister of Labor in the first Dáil Éireann, one of only two woman in the world who sat in a government cabinet. (The other was in the Soviet Union.) She gave away all her possessions to the poor of Dublin and in 1927, penniless, she lay dying in a charity ward. Her husband, who had long been living abroad, came to say goodbye. Before she died she told him she was the happiest she had ever been in her life. Countess Constance Georgine Gore-Booth IA Markievicz was 59 years old.
TOP LEFT: Dublin, 1922 – Constance and her “fixie.” She earned the nickname “Velo” (“cyclist” in French) as it was her preferred means of transportation. TOP RIGHT: Markievicz is escorted by British troops following the surrender of the College of Surgeons in 1916.
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Women of the
Irish women played a key role during Easter week 1916 but it’s largely been forgotten. By Mary Pat Kelly
ádraig Pearse stands on the steps of the G.P.O. on Easter Monday, 1916, the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in his hands. “Irish men and Irish women,” he begins. Wait. What? Irish women? Can it be true that women are finally being addressed as equals in a Declaration of Independence? Yes. Pearse declares that the new Republic of Ireland “guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens.” And in case there’s any confusion about that, the Proclamation specifies that the national government, guaranteeing these rights, will be “elected by the suffragists of all her men and women.” Fighting words at a time when, in both Britain and the U.S., women demonstrating for the right to vote were being run down by police horses, beaten, and jailed. So, why is this manifesto in its commitment to women’s equality so ahead of its time? Because Pearse and the other leaders knew that no revolution in history ever depended so heavily on women. Like their sisters the world over, in 1900 Irish women were generally excluded from public and political life, but Maud Gonne set out to change that. Asked to address the all male Celtic Literary 62 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
Society in 1900, she posed the question: “Is Mother Ireland strong enough to go into battle with one hand tied behind her back?” She told the men gathered of her intention to form a women’s group and asked them to tell their “sisters and sweethearts.” They did. The name of the new organization was Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland), and 29 women attended that first meeting. Their aim was “the complete independence of Ireland.” Inghinidhe na hÉireann was the first Irish revolutionary group to work openly in defiance of the British government by holding public meetings. They organized Irish language and history classes and school dinners for the children of poverty-stricken families. They also accosted British Army recruiting officers on O’Connell Street, tried to dissuade Irish men from enlisting, and discouraged Irish women from dating English solders. Gonne, who was of Anglo-Irish stock, had been won over to the nationalist side when she witnessed evictions during the Land Wars. She began agitating for home rule, and in 1898, using the centenary of the 1798 rebellion to fan the flames of revolt, she traveled the dark lanes into bleak villages to rouse the dispirited Irish. Her companions were Ethna Carbery, a journalist and poet who wrote the rebel song, “Roddy McCorley,” and taught it to the crowds, and
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Alice Milligan, a nationalist who had founded branches of the Irish Women's Association in Belfast and other places. In her memoir, Gonne wrote, “I have always hated war and am by nature and philosophy a pacifist, but it is the English who are forcing war on us, and the first principle of war is to kill the enemy.” The Gore-Booth sisters, Constance and Eva, born into Ireland’s Protestant gentry, were also shaken out of the aristocratic lifestyle by the needs of the disenfranchised peasantry. Constance, as Minister for Labour in the Irish Government, became the first woman to hold such a post in Europe. But it’s as a commander of the combat unit at St. Stephen’s Green that she captures our imagination, dressed in her uniform of the Irish Citizens Army, pistol in hand. Let us also name those other women elected to the Dáil in 1921 at a time when the British General McCready proposed arresting all the T.D.s and shooting them. Kathleen Daly Clarke, who operated a successful business in Brooklyn until she and her husband, Tom, returned to Ireland to take part in the struggle. Both he and her brother were executed in 1916. Mary MacSwiney was a Cambridge graduate, whose brother Terence MacSwiney died on hunger strike. Kathleen O’Callaghan, a successful businesswoman, saw her husband, the Mayor of Limerick, shot dead in their hallway. Ada English was one of the first women psychiatrists in Europe. And then there was Margaret Brady Pearse – a native Irish
speaker, it was she and her Aunt Margaret who connected Pádraig Pearse to his Irish heritage. And let’s not forget Molly Osgood Childers of Boston, the wife of Erskine Childers, who managed to be both a British Naval Officer and an Irish revolutionary. Though crippled in a childhood accident, Molly strapped herself into the Asgard, the yacht that had been a wedding present from her father, and sailed a shipment of 900 rifles, complete with ammunition, through a British Naval blockade to deliver them to the Irish volunteers at Howth in 1914 – arms that went on to be used in the Rising. Molly was joined onboard by her friend Mary Spring Rice, who like the Gore-Booths, was a member of an aristocratic English family. Her brother was the British Ambassador to the U.S. But, while the role played by Gonne, Childers, and the Gore-Booth sisters in the rebellion is well known, it’s to the a brave, unassuming cadre of “ordinary,” but extraordinary, Irish rebel women – women who have been almost totally overlooked in the history of the struggles – that we owe a great debt of gratitude for their part in Easter Week. Cumann na mBan (the Irish Women’s Council) had an active part in the Rising. Formed in Dublin in 1914 to aid the Irish Volunteers, branches quickly spread out around the country and eventually absorbed Inghinidhe na hÉireann. The women of the Irish Citizen Army, formed by James Connolly following the Lockout strike of 1913, also took part. When the first shots of the Easter Rising were fired at Dublin Castle, Helena Molony was there with a party of nine girls from the Citizen Army. Under the command of John Connolly, they took over City Hall. Women were invaluable in gathering intelligence, transporting arms, and nursing wounded
FAR LEFT: Mary Spring Rice and Molly Childers on board the Asgard holding arms from Germany which were successfully landed in Howth Harbour, July 26, 1914. CENTER: Margaret Skinner who served as a scout, a courier, and a sniper during the Rising. Shot and wounded, she was refused a military pension on the basis that she was a woman. ABOVE: Elizabeth O’Farrell, who nursed the wounded in the G.P.O. and was chosen by Pádraig Pearse to deliver the notice of intent to surrender to the British authorities.
FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 63
M ARY PAT K ELLY M ARY PAT K ELLY T OUR.COM for tour details
IT’S 1903. Nora Kelly, twenty-four, is talented, outspoken, progressive, and climbing the ladder of opportunity, until she falls for an attractive but dangerous man who sends her running back to Paris. There she stumbles into the centuries-old Collège des Irlandais and meets a good-looking scholar, an unconventional priest, and Ireland’s revolutionary women who challenge Nora to honor her Irish blood and join the struggle to free Ireland.
“Of Irish Blood is a riveting novel that brings the heroines of the Irish Revolution to vivid life…a great read and a wonderful addition to every Irish-American’s library.” —PATRICIA HARTY, Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Irish America Magazine
“Captures the drama, the turmoil, and the excitement of the complex history of Irish and Irish Americans in the early twentieth century...and illuminates the arduous task of finding one’s true self in the heart of a whirlwind.” —MARY GORDON, award-winning author of The Company of Women
“Kelly is a wonderful, creative, intelligent writer who’s endowed with a sense of humor.” —MALACHY MCCOURT, New York Times bestselling author of A Monk Swimming
“A passionately told tale of romance and revolution...Irresistable.” —PETER QUINN, Winner of the American Book Award for Banished Children of Eve
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men, and were present in all the rebel strongholds in Dublin during the Rising, except for one. Éamon de Valera was in command of Boland’s Mill and he would not allow women to take part in the action. Volunteer Sighle Bean Uí Donnachadh, later commented that “De Valera refused to have Cumann na mBan girls in the posts. The result, I believe, was that the garrison there did not stand up to the siege as well as other posts.” Women were among the last to leave the G.P.O.. Rose McNamara who led the contingent away later explained: “We were not going to leave the men we were with all the week to their fate; we decided to go along with them and be with them to the end, whatever our fate might be.” One woman in the GPO was Elizabeth O’Farrell. She escaped to a safe house with a wounded James Connolly on a stretcher and was later asked to deliver the surrender note to the British forces. She recalled the event thus: “I left the house with a verbal message from Commandant Pearse to the commander of the British forces to the effect that he wished to speak with him. I waved a small white flag that I carried and the military ceased firing.” The next day, O’Farrell stood at Pearse’s side as he surrendered. Seventy-seven women were taken prisoner after the Rising and spent time in Kilmainham Gaol where the conditions were appalling. From 1916 through 1923, during the War of Independence and the Civil War, 600 Irish women involved in the fighting were incarcerated. Yet, their struggle went largely unrecognized, and underappreciated. In photographs of Pearse’s surrender, O’Farrell was airbrushed out, only her feet can be seen. It was a harbinger of things to come. When the Irish Army military Archives were released in 2014, it was revealed that over 200 members of Cumann na mBan had applied for pensions based on their military service during the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence. Some of them like Margaret Skinner, who acted as a courier, a scout, and a sniper, were wounded multiple times. All were refused pensions solely on the basis that they were not male. Some, including Skinner, persisted, and in the late 1930s received pensions. Most did not. De Valera, who emerged as the leader of the new Irish state, aligned himself with the Catholic Church and the 1937 Constitution, of which he was the chief
TOP TO BOTTOM: Cumann na mBan women at Cathal Brugha’s funeral. Mary MacSwiney is on the far right. Alice Milligan, poet and writer, who was active in the Gaelic League. Ethna Carbery who wrote “Roddy McCorley.”
architect, reflected this special relationship, with its reference that women “not be obliged to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.” Or, as Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid put it, “Nothing will change in law and fact of nature that woman’s natural sphere is the home.” These changes in the constitution enabled discrimination against women in the coming years, and up until the late 1970s, women in teaching and the civil service were obliged to resign from their positions when they married. But as women became more active in the workforce they caused some of the old mores to shift. This was reflected in the 1990 election of Mary Robinson as President of Ireland – the first female to hold the office. Another woman, Mary McAleese would follow Robinson’s reign. Women in Northern Ireland have also made strides in recent times. Arlene Foster just become First Minister, the first female to hold the position. Meanwhile in New York, two of Ireland’s leading women were center stage at the kickoff of the 1916 centenary commemorations, Anne Anderson, Ireland’s first female ambassador to the U.S., and New York’s Irish Consul General, Barbara Jones. In another groundbreaking event in Irish America this coming March, Ambassador Anderson will be the first woman keynote speaker at the annual Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner in Philadelphia. The architects of the 1916 Proclamation who gave Irish women “equal citizenship, equal rights and equal opportunities,” would be pleased. IA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 65
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Eoin MacNeill tried to stop the Rising, but there would have been no Rising without him. Maureen Murphy writes that it’s time to reevaluate the role of this true Irish patriot.
TOP: Eoin MacNeill. RIGHT: MacNeill’s Irish Volunteer order to call off the Rising that ran April 21, 1916.
The Man Who Cried
hen it comes to the Easter Rising, Eoin MacNeill (1867 – 1945) is generally dismissed as the man who cancelled the mobilization of the Irish Volunteers for Easter Sunday 1916, a mobilization that masked the start of the Rising planned by members of the clandestine Irish Republican Brotherhood who rose to leadership positions in the Volunteers. While there is debate about the consequences of MacNeill’s countermanding order, there is no question that there would not have been a Rising without MacNeill. and the two nationalist organizations he founded: the Gaelic League and the Irish Volunteers. As a boy in the Glens of Antrim, MacNeill heard a few words of Irish from an old family nurse, but he did not take up the serious study of the language until he was in his mid-twenties working as a clerk in the Accountant General’s office in Dublin. In 1890, while studying Old Irish with Edmond Hogan, S.J., he began Modern Irish with the meager resources were available at the time. He quickly concluded that best chance to learn Irish as a spoken language was to go to the Gaeltacht and learn the language from native speakers. An introduction to Father Eugene O’Growney (1863 – 1899), Professor of Irish at Maynooth College, was the beginning of a friendship that would last for the rest of O’Growney’s brief life. O’Growney directed MacNeill to the Inishmaan home of Paidín and Brighid MacDonnchadha, who had hosted continental Celtic scholars and would later welcome John Millington Synge. While learning Irish and taking part in local events
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on Inishmaan, Mac Neill learned that the bitterness over the Parnell debacle had even reached the Aran Islands. Years later, in a 1942 radio talk, MacNeill spoke of the opportunity when the crisis split the Irish Parliamentary Party over its chairman Charles Stewart Parnell (1846 – 1891), having been named the correspondent in a divorce proceedings was denounced from the altar. The Parnell debacle provided an opportunity for the Gaelic League to replace political nationalism with cultural nationalism. While Douglas Hyde (1860 – 1949), first President of the Irish Free State, is often given credit for the founding of the Gaelic League based on his 1892 speech “On the Necessity for the De-Anglicizing the Irish People,” both O’Growney and MacNeill had written essays that anticipated Hyde: O’Growney’s “The National Language” (1890) and MacNeill’s “Why and How the Irish Language is to be Preserved” (1891). MacNeill followed his essay with “A Plea and a Plan For the Extension of the Movement to Preserve and Spread the Gaelic Language in Ireland” (March 1892), and he circulated a notice to those he thought might be interested in attending a meeting on July 31, 1893, to discuss the formation of the Irish language organization that he envisaged. Hyde was elected President of the League while MacNeill took on the more demanding office as Secretary and was, for the first ten years of the League, its indefatigable organizer, propagandist, and editor of the League paper An Claidheamh Soluis. It has become an historical commonplace to call the Gaelic League a social revolution. Sean O’Casey dismissed the League as a respectable, middle-class, Catholic Gaelic organization in Drums Under the Window; however, it was not so narrow. A shared interest in the Irish language crossed class, gender, and religious lines and the League’s social programs and summer schools brought language enthusiasts together. In fact, the League was twentieth century
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Ireland’s first adult education movement. Believing as he did that Irish nationality was based on its native language, MacNeill believed that the Irish language would result eventually in Irish independence. The language movement that was especially attractive to nationalists like Pádraig Pearse (1879 – 1916), who met MacNeill through the Gaelic League and became the longest serving early editor of the League paper (1903 – 1910). MacNeill’s work for the Gaelic League led to his founding the Irish Volunteers in 1913, two years after Unionists in Northern Ireland founded the Ulster Volunteers whose purpose was to resist Irish Home Rule. MacNeill responded to the Ulster Volunteers by saying that “Unionists as well as nationalist are determined to have their own way in Ireland.” His article “The North Began,” published in An Claidheamh Soluis on November 1, 1913, proposed that a nationalist volunteer force to be founded all through the country. The I.R.B. or physical force nationalists urged MacNeill to establish such an organization, and the Irish Volunteers were launched at the Rotunda Rink (now the Ambassador Theatre) on November 23, 1913, two days after the founding of James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army. Volunteers signed a pledge promising to “secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland without distinction of creed, class or politics.” About 10,000 Irishmen joined the Volunteers by the end of the first year. A Volunteer triumph occurred when a successful delivery of 1,500 German rifles arrived at Howth and was distributed to the Irish Volunteers on July 26, 1914 just five days before World War I began on August 1st. Almost three weeks later, John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, spoke to East Wicklow Volunteers at Woodenbridge on September 20th. He called on the Irish Volunteers to enlarge their mission from that of an Irish defense force to a force that would go “wherever the firing line extends, in defense of right, of freedom and of religion on this war.” It was, in fact, a call to the Irish Volunteers to enlist in the British Army. The result was a split within the Volunteer forces, with the majority of Irish Volunteers supporting Redmond’s National Volunteers, and a minority remaining with MacNeill in the Irish Volunteers. Invoking the old saying that “England’s misfortune is Ireland’s opportunity,” the I.R.B. members who controlled the military council of the Irish Volunteers began to plan
for a rebellion while the British were fighting in Europe. It is probable that plans for an Easter Sunday, 1916, rebellion were in place before the end of 1915. The military council neither consulted nor informed MacNeill about their plans. MacNeill, who was critical of the pagan heroism of the cult of Cúchulainn that obsessed Pearse, saw the Volunteers as a civil defense organization that would be called up were there an invasion of the island or were the British to enforce conscription. Pearse and his militant colleagues saw the Rising as an opportunity to inspire Irish people with their heroic blood sacrifice suffered in a Rising that had no chance of succeeding. On Holy Thursday, when MacNeill learned that the plans for an Easter Sunday mobilization would be the start of a Rising, he told Pearse he would do everything short of ringing up Dublin Castle to stop what he believed would be a senseless and doomed coup d’état. The militants counter with two arguments in favor of going ahead with the Rising. The first was a Dublin Castle “document,” probably the work of Joseph Plunkett, purporting to be a list of nationalists, including MacNeill, who the British planned to arrest. Such a plan would be a just cause for calling out the Volunteers. In addition to the Castle “document,” the militants told MacNeill that a shipment of German arms organized by Roger Casement was heading for Kerry. (The British, who had broken the German code, intercepted the attempt to deliver the weapons.) When MacNeill learned that the Castle “document” was bogus and that the arms had
been scuttled and Casement arrested, he sent a countermanding order for the Easter Sunday mobilization to be printed in the Sunday Independent and sent messengers throughout the country to advise the Volunteers of the cancellation. As Professor of Early Irish History, MacNeill was committed to an historiography based on primary sources and was distrustful of romantic nationalism; his countermanding order was an attempt to prevent a romantic revolution that had no chance of success. There was no mobilization on Easter Sunday; however, the militants decided to go ahead with the Rising on Easter Monday. MacNeill did not go out in 1916, but he was arrested with the leaders, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Released in general amnesty of 1917, MacNeill and members of his family were active in the War of Independence. He was elected as a Sinn Féin deputy for Derry. He was sent to prison again from November 1920 to June 1921. As speaker of the 2nd Dáil, he chaired the Treaty debates, and when the Republicans rejecting the Treaty led to Ireland’s civil war, MacNeill’s second son Brian joined the Republican side and was killed on the slope of Ben Bulben in October 1922. MacNeill served as Minister for Education in the first Free State government and was a reluctant member of the Boundary Commission. When the results of the Commission determined that the boundary would remain unchanged, MacNeill resigned from the Commission and from the government, returning, with some relief, to academic life. He was the founding chair of the Irish Manuscript Commission and chaired all of the country’s scholarly organizations. As a scholar, MacNeill is acknowledged to have been the founder of modern study of Irish history. The historian Francis John Byrne has described MacNeill as “having dragged Celtic Ireland practically single-handed from the antiquarian mists into to the light of history.” When he visited the United States in 1930, he encouraged American universities to study Irish history and language informed by those same primary sources. It was not until the 1960s, when F.X. Martin published MacNeill’s memorandum about 1916, that a reassessment of his role began. As Irish and Irish American communities observe the centenary of the Rising, questions of legitimacy and necessity are inevitable. Central to these considerations will be a re-evaluation of the role of patriot, historian, and Gaelic Leaguer IA Eoin MacNeill. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 67
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Hand in Hand for
American Workers and Irish Rebels The trade union movement in America played a major role in Ireland’s struggle for freedom. But Irish rebels also played a significant role in building the American trade union movement, writes Terry O’Sullivan.
he upcoming centennial of the Easter Rising carries a special meaning for proud Irish Americans, and especially for those, like me, who work in the American trade union movement. That’s because Irish Americans view Ireland’s cause as our cause. And that’s not just because we’re Irish. And it’s not just because we share the same values as Irish republicans. It’s because, for more than 150 years, Irish Americans have played critical roles in the ongoing struggle for a free, united, and independent Ireland. For decades, Irish Americans have raised money, smuggled arms, and traveled back to their ancestral homeland to support the cause of Irish independence. And the relationship hasn’t been one sided. From the earliest days of the American trade union movement, our Irish American labor leaders have borrowed ideas and used tactics they learned from the Irish republican movement. It’s always been a symbiotic relationship: American trade union leaders spent time in Ireland, Irish republican leaders spent time in America, and both campaign and organize for dignity and justice. The cross-pollination between the American trade union movement, the Irish labor movement, and the Irish republican movement has been so extensive that it is hard to imagine any one of the three without the others. When James Connolly, union leader and Irish revolutionary, wrote that, “the cause of labor is the cause of Ireland; the cause of Ireland is the cause of labor,” he wasn’t being rhetorical; he was stating facts. From the earliest stirrings of land reform, from rent strikes and land agent boycotts to the Dublin Lockout of 1913, the struggles of working
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people, and the struggles of Ireland, have been one and the same. Few other revolutions in human history have been so intertwined with, and have owed so much to trade unions, as the Irish Rising. While our Irish brothers and sisters celebrate the wellknown connections between Irish Labor Unions and the Irish Revolution, we in America celebrate the equally important, but lesser-known, connections between American Unions and the Irish Revolution. The United States became a destination of choice for Irish immigrants because it promised religious liberty and social mobility. From the middle of the 19th century on, it became home to one of the largest Irish communities outside of Ireland. It also became one of the chief destinations for Irish Republicans fleeing from, or exiled by, the British colonial authorities. But, even as Irish immigrants relocated their families, possessions, and lives to these shores, their hearts and souls often remained in the Irish counties where they had been born. They passed this love of country and community on to their children and grandchildren, and created a strong emotional and spiritual bond to their ancestral homes. (In my own case, while I deeply love the country of my birth, and am proud to be an American, I have always also considered myself a Kerryman, because my grandfather came from there). Such powerful bonds to their homeland spurred Irish-Americans to remain directly involved in the ongoing struggle for Irish independence throughout their lives. And, because so many Irish-Americans worked in blue-collar occupations, and were active in trade unions, American labor organizations became important conduits for Irish-American support
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ABOVE: Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, at a U.S. and Irish Trade Union event at the Mansion House in Dublin, organized by Sinn Féin to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Lockout strike.
PHOTO: CIRCA 1910 (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
RIGHT: Terence V. Powderly (1849-1924) who served as a labor union leader of the Knights of Labor and later as Chief Information Officer for the U.S. Bureau of Information from 1907 to 1921.
na Gael funneled money to rebels and, from the 1880s on, smuggled guns to equip their fledgling armies. Many of the weapons used by Connolly’s Citizen Army (the armed wing of the Irish labor movement formed during the Dublin transit strike of 1913 by Connolly, James Larkin, and Jack White) had been paid for and kitted out by Irish-Americans. Throughout the 1880s, as the issue of land reform heated up in Ireland, Irish-American labor leader Terence Powderly and his Knights of Labor raised money from Irish workers in the U.S. to support the oppressed peasants in Ireland. Powderly also brought Irish leaders, land reformers, and Home Rule politicians, including Charles Stuart Parnell, Michael Davitt, and John Dillon, to the U.S. to promote the cause of Irish independence. A critically important figure in the history of the American trade union movement, Powderly transformed the small, secretive Knights of Labor into one of the largest, most visible, and most powerful labor organizations in late 19th century America. When Irish Republican leader John Devoy was exiled to the U.S. in the 1870s, following his role in the rebellion of 1867, he joined the recently established Irish Republican organization, Clan na Gael, and was soon elected Chairman of its Executive Board. Under his leadership, Clan na Gael became one of the leading Irish republican organizations in the U.S., and one of the premier organizations raising money for activists in Ireland. Devoy allied Clan na Gael with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and began sending funds raised by Irish American workers to its membership in Ireland. Clan na Gael member, and multi-term President of the group, John Kenny, also exiled from Ireland, used the cover of business and personal trips to smuggle funds, intelligence, and supplies to the I.R.B. By 1916, Clan na Gael was the largest single source of funds for both the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence. As events unfolded on Easter Sunday 1916 in Dublin, it was Devoy who read the Declaration of the Irish Republic to a large gathering of Irish workers in New York City. Devoy would later declare that, “without financial contributions from U.S. labor unions, there would have been no uprising in Ireland.” The influence of long practiced political activism traveled west across the Atlantic, too, as Irish immigrants responded to the challenges they faced
for the fight back home. It’s estimated that between 1850 and 1900 Irish workers sent $260 million back to Ireland to support their families, as well as antiBritish activists. Organizations such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Knights of Labor, and Clan
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PHOTO: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
in their new home. Our immigrant ancestors had hoped to find a refuge from famine, religious persecution, bigotry, and discrimination in America. But, when they arrived here, they discovered there was a gap between promise and reality, and they encountered discrimination and mistreatment similar to what they had suffered at the hands of land agents, absentee landlords, and British occupiers back home. So, just as they had banded together to form the Land League in Ireland, they banded together in America to form some of the country’s very first labor organizations. Labor leaders, such as Terence Powderly, the son of Irish immigrants, and Mary Harris, “Mother,” Jones, who had immigrated to the U.S. as a child, brought to America’s mines, factories, and construction sites the same passion for justice and the same combative spirit that characterized the struggle for a free and united Ireland. Irish immigrants were among the founders and early leaders of my own union, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (L.I.U.N.A.), then known as the International Hod Carriers’ and Building Laborers’ Union. From the moment the first wave of Irish immigrants arrived on American shores, they began standing up for each other, and by doing so, built the foundations of the local trade union movement. And just as their brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers had fought to break the chains of British domination in Ireland, so Irish American labor leaders fought to break the chains of virtual slavery here in the States. These Irish American working class warriors also brought with them many of the tactics they had used successfully to fight British rule in Ireland. They formed secret societies, such as the Molly Maguires, 70 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
the activist Irish coalminers in Pennsylvania, to wage an underground war against exploitive and abusive owners and employers. To put pressure on business they used boycotts – a tactic that was first employed in Ireland against the despised British land agent, Charles Boycott, and from whom it takes its name. It was also an enduring belief in the power of solidarity that Powderly and other IrishAmerican union leaders brought with them from home, most likely influenced their decision to organize workers across craft lines, without regard to race or ethnicity. One hundred years later, the connections between Ireland and Irish Americans in the labor movement are stronger than ever, and have never been more important as the peace process continues to evolve. American and Irish union leaders face many of the same challenges: attacks on collective bargaining; austerity policies that decimate working families and hinder economic growth; continued assaults on trade unions and working people. Even as an ocean divides us, we are bound together by common values that are as old as Ireland’s struggle for freedom and independence: dignity, justice, equality, and self-determination. In the coming years, let’s continue to be inspired by the lives and legacies of Jim Larkin, James Connolly, Constance Markievicz, Terence Powderly, Mother Jones, John Devoy, and the many other brave men and women who fought, sacrificed, and laid down their lives in the cause of labor and the cause of Ireland. And let’s pledge to one another, in Ireland, in the U.S., and around the world, that we will never back down, never back up, and never, ever, surrender in the ongoing fight for workers’ rights, civil rights, and human rights. IA
August 4, 1916: From left: Irish American labor leaders Timothy Healy, William B. Fitzgerald, William D. Mahon, Hugh Frayne (general organizer in New York for the American Federation of Labor), and Louis Fridiger. Probably taken during the streetcar strike in New York City, which took place in July and August of 1916. Fitzgerald, Mahon, and Fridiger represented the Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America.
Terence O’Sullivan is general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
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Irish Freedom’s Home from Home New York:
PHOTO: DE VALERA PAPERS, UCD ARCHIVES).
When Irish exiles needed a refuge, they swarmed to New York and established a hotbed of anti-British sentiment and activity that fed the flames of Irish freedom. By Dermot McEvoy
ABOVE: Left to right: Harry Boland, Liam Mellows, Éamon De Valera, John Devoy (seated), Patrick McCartan, and Diarmuid Lynch at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, June 1919. TOP RIGHT: John O'Mahony,1867.
he Great Famine in the 1840s forced millions of Irish out of Ireland, initially flooding the big cities of the east coast of America, especially New York and Boston. New York became a popular target for settlement because it already had an Irish population and a strong leader in Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes, a man who stood up for his people against threats from the bigoted nativists, such as the Know-Nothings. The refugees from Ireland came for food and jobs, but they never forgot their homeland. And ironically, by pushing the Irish out of Ireland, to where they could better muster support for revolution, the British guaranteed that in less than seventy-five years, they’d be pushed out of what is now the Republic of Ireland. From the mid-19th century until Ireland finally staked out its independence, Irish American rebel leaders in New York played a major role in the country’s march to freedom. They raised money, they shipped guns, and they provided a home away from home for any rebel in need of safe harbor or support. The road to Easter Week began in earnest for
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New York’s Irish American community in 1859, when John O’Mahony, an exiled veteran of the Young Ireland movement, started the Fenian Brotherhood. This organization was inspired by the Irish Republican Brotherhood – the secret organization that aimed to free Ireland by physical force – that James Stephens had founded in Ireland the previous year. Once the Brotherhood was established, New York became a hotbed of anti-British activity, and it would continue to be one through to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.
The Fenian Brotherhood
The American Civil War turned out to be a crucible for the rebels. New York’s Irish fought for the Union in the Civil War, most famously in the “Fighting” 69th Infantry Regiment, organized by refugees of the failed Young Ireland insurrection of 1848. O’Mahony also organized a regiment of the New York National Guard, the 99th, composed entirely of Fenians. The Civil War proved a tough training ground for these Fenians, but they put what they learned to use, returning to Ireland to fight in the Rising of 1867.
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The German Connection
PHOTO: DE VALERA PAPERS, UCD ARCHIVES).
Unfortunately, informers betrayed them, and many of them were arrested as soon as they showed up to fight back home.
Devoy Rules from New York
After the ’67 rebellion failed, the British imprisoned many Fenians, among them John Devoy. Upon his release, he made his way to New York in 1871, along with Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and three others who became know as the “Cuba Five,” because they had sailed from Ireland on board the ship Cuba. Devoy became active in Clan na Gael, the successor to the Fenian Brotherhood, and continued his anti-British activities from his New York base. In 1876, he planned a successful escape for six Fenian prisoners from a Western Australia penal colony on board the ship Catalpa. Devoy said the success of the mission – which at one moment had the Catalpa hoisting the Stars and Stripes to escape a British warship – was due to “a combination of Irish skill and pluck and Yankee grit.” After it, Devoy was able to attract prominent Irish rebels to New York, and following years of activism, Pádraig Pearse dubbed him, “The greatest of the Fenians.”
Tom Clarke, a True New Yorker
Probably the most important rebel to arrive in New York during this time was Thomas Clarke, who immigrated there in the early 1880s. He became an American citizen in Brooklyn in 1883, and would become the only American citizen executed by the British in 1916. He left New York in 1883 to take part in an illconceived campaign to bomb London Bridge and subsequently spent fifteen years in British prisons. When he was released, he returned to New York and struck up a life-long friendship with Devoy – one that would play a vital part in the coming rebellion – and
As World War I loomed, the U.S. was wracked by political, ethnic, and religious tension. Most Americans hoped to remain neutral, but the Irish in the U.S. were not shy about whom to root for. “The German guns will be the call of Ireland to her scattered sons,” Roger Casement wrote in his tract, “The Crime Against Ireland and How the War May Right It.” “Let Irishmen in America stand ready, armed, keen, and alert.” When German spies flooded the States, they looked in New York’s docks to find allies. One German spy noted that, “many of the stevedores were Irish, and when he heard them openly snarling about having to load a ship flying the Union Jack [this] was a visceral hatred he would exploit,” historian Howard Blum writes in Dark Invasion, about Germany’s secret war in the U.S. Being co-opted to help German spies put Irish Americans at odds with the mainstream of U.S. society, which – though technically neutral on the war question – generally favored the British with whom the U.S. had a valuable business relationship. And while Irish American wartime sympathies may have been ignored at first, the Fenians’ reliance on Germany while plotting the Rising would eventually provoke hostility, harsh words from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and even charges of treason by U.S. authorities.
Planning the Rising
Getting German support was an important issue for John Devoy, who, according to Terry Golway in his biography, Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America’s Fight for Ireland’s Freedom, spent much of the “winter of 1914 and the whole of 1915 ... in constant touch with the German consulate on Wall Street.” Roger Casement arrived in New York City in July 1914, just weeks after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo plunged Europe into the chaos and carnage of World War I. “Casement had … assessed the impact of conflict in Europe, [and] deliberated on its potential effect regarding Irish independence and the role of Irish Americans in the war,” writes Ross J. Wilson in New York and the First World War. “The machinations of Casement and Devoy in New York placed the city directly into the struggles that were taking place in Europe. Indeed, Casement actively sought the support – financial, moral, and physical – of New York’s Irish American residents in the struggle for freedom against the British Empire.” Late in 1915, Devoy also hosted Joseph Plunkett, one of the Easter Rising leaders, in New York, where they planned a meeting with German military officials. At the same time, Devoy was also meeting influential Irish Americans, including lawyer Jeremiah O’Leary, a founding member of the American Truth Society, a group of “Irish and German emigres,” who, according to Wilson’s account, wanted to “disrupt any Anglo-American alliance” and “expose the machinations of Britain towards the United States.” Flexing its muscle, The American Truth Society publicly slammed the anglophile Woodrow Wilson, who disdained what he called “hyphenated Americans.” “I would feel deeply mortified to have you or anybody like you vote for me,” President Wilson thundered back at O’Leary. “Since you have access to many disloyal Americans and I have not, I will ask you to convey this message to them.”
It was in such a heated atmosphere that in February 1916, Devoy was given the proposed time of the Rising, and told in a coded message, “We must have your arms and munitions in Limerick between Good Continued on page 75
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TOP LEFT: A ten dollar 1866 Fenian bond sold in America following the Civil War to be collected from the Treasury of the Irish Republic upon the “acknowledgement of the Independence of the Irish Nation.” ABOVE: Detail of the current plaque on the site of Tom Clarke’s former shop. CENTER: Roger Casement (left) with John Devoy in New York, 1914 RIGHT: Poster advertising a farewell dinner for James Connolly at Cavanagh’s Restaurant in New York in 1910.
he helped Devoy start his newspaper, The Gaelic American. In 1901, Clarke married Kathleen Daly in New York. John MacBride – another 1916 martyr – was best man, and Devoy was a member of the wedding party. The newlyweds were true New Yorkers, living in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and later on Long Island where they ran a farm. “New York was as new and interesting to me as anywhere else in America,” Kathleen wrote in her autobiography, Revolutionary Woman. Then, in 1907, with hopes that an imminent war between Britain and Germany would give Irish rebels better circumstances in which to stage a rebellion, the Clarkes moved to Dublin, where Tom opened a tobacconist shop on the corner of Parnell and Sackville (O’Connell) Streets, under the shadow of the Parnell Monument. The store became a rebel meeting place, where every young Irish revolutionary of the day would come to discuss revolution, among them, Seán MacDiarmada, Pearse, Joseph Mary Plunkett, and even the young Michael Collins.
John Kenny’s Fenian Ram
John Kenny, from County Kildare, was another Irish expatriate who came into Devoy’s sphere of influence in New York. Kenny became a member of Clan na Gael and served as the organization’s president on several occasions. A brilliant businessman, Kenny was instrumental in the Catalpa rescue, and later financed one of the first attack submarine prototypes, John Holland’s Fenian Ram. The vessel is now housed at the Patterson Museum in New Jersey, and is probably the only submarine – not yellow – to have had a song written about it, The Wolfe Tones’ “The Great Fenian Ram.” Kenny, who remained active in the Land League,
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swore Tom Clarke into Clan na Gael and was responsible for choosing him for a “special mission” in England. This turned out to be a bomb attack on London Bridge, but Clarke was caught and did time. Years later, when Clarke resigned from The Gaelic American, Kenny took over as business manager. When W.W.I. broke out, Kenny traveled to Europe, to enlist Germany’s support for Ireland’s fight for freedom and, in the two years leading up to 1916, he couriered money between New York and Dublin for the leaders of the Rising. He died in New York in 1924.
The Fenian Odd Couple
In the years just prior to the Easter Rising, many prominent rebels passed through New York and Devoy made key friendships with the men who would soon start the revolution. One of them, James Connolly, lived in the New York area from 1903 to 1910, and became a full-time organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”). One his return to Ireland, he succeeded Jim Larkin as head of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in Dublin. Pádraig Pearse came in March 1914 and visited Devoy at his newspaper office on William Street. While in New York, he attended a Robert Emmet commemoration in Brooklyn. Using words that proved prophetic, he told those gathered, “We owe to our country all fealty and she asks always for our service; and there are times when she asks for us not ordinary but some supreme service.” Another visitor to New York was Sir Roger Casement, and if ever there was ever a Fenian odd couple, it was Devoy and Casement. After he had become disenchanted with British rule in Ireland, Casement was keen to join the nationalist movement and wrote anonymous articles for Joseph Mary Plunkett’s magazine, The Irish Review. Even
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so, Tom Clarke and the Fenian hierarchy in Dublin viewed Casement with suspicion since he was a knighted Protestant. “Casement had come into things national and Tom knew very little about him,” Kathleen Clarke, Tom’s widow, recalls in her autobiography, Revolutionary Woman. “Naturally, he had no cause to place much confidence in him; and the fact that he had been knighted by England in recognition of services rendered made Tom suspicious of him. Casement was not long enough in nationalist things in this country to prove his genuineness.” Casement had plans – like Kenny – to bring Germany to Ireland’s aid and traveled to New York to share his plans with Devoy in the hopes of a better reception that he’d got from Clarke. But Devoy was skeptical and the relationship never prospered. “John Devoy simply hated him,” Joseph Plunkett’s sister Geraldine wrote in her autobiography, All in the Blood. Oddly enough, in Devoy’s own autobiography, Recollections of an Irish Rebel, he displays a fondness for Casement, something one would not expect from the tough old Fenian jailbird. “He was,” writes Devoy, “withal one of the most sincere and single-minded of Ireland’s patriot sons with whom it was my great privilege to be associated…the soul of honor.” Although he had his own doubts about Casement’s plans, Devoy introduced him to his German contacts, gave him a large amount of money, and packed him off to Europe to buy guns. That journey would end in disaster when the Aud, with a cargo of German guns on board, was intercepted by the British navy off the Kerry coast, and scuttled by the crew.
Friday and Easter Sunday. We expect German help immediately after beginning action.” A month later, at the third Irish Race Convention in New York City, Devoy formed The Friends of Irish Freedom to build support, but even as events were about to explode, grew suspicious he was under government surveillance. He was right – he was – and in April 1915 he was served with a subpoena at his newspaper, The Gaelic American, to appear before a grand jury investigating pro-German activities in the U.S. At the same time, Irish rebels and Germans were running guns from Germany and the U.S. to Ireland. They loaded twenty thousand rifles, and a million rounds of ammunition, onto the Aud, and set sail from Lubeck, Germany. British authorities spotted the vessel and, after the crew failed to evade a British gunship, they scuttled the ship rather than allow the collusion by American, Irish, and German citizens to be exposed. The day after the Rising began, The New York Times reported only on the arrest of Roger Casement. (He had arrived by German U-Boat and having been put ashore on Banna Strand in County Kerry in the early hours of April 21, was soon captured.) On Wednesday, April 26, a threecolumn, front-page report noted that, “Troops Crush Revolt in Dublin; Take Post Office Seized by Rioters; Many Killed in Street Fighting.” The Times, and the majority of the U.S. mainstream media, took a pro-British angle on the news coming out of Dublin, with the The New York Herald, for instance, characterizing the rebels as “Pro-German propagandists.” Devoy wrote impassioned defenses of the rebellion in The Gaelic American, and, on April 30, a subdued rally was held in support of the rebels and what was by then considered a failed insurrection at the Cohan Theater in Manhattan. In the weeks that followed however, attitudes changed. First came news that Britain had executed Pádraig Pearse, Tom Clarke, and Thomas McDonough, and the swiftness of that retaliation shocked the world. Newspaper editorials protested the action. Then, days after James Connolly was executed on May 12, more than 20,000 people gathered in and around Carnegie Hall in a massive act of protest.
The War, the Legacy
The U.S. entered the war fighting alongside the British in 1917, and that led to a crackdown at home on what were considered “radical opinions,” and the Irish in America became prominent targets. Newspapers and magazines, including Devoy’s Gaelic American, as well as the Jesuit journal of opinion, America, were banned. Many Irish American nationalists were accused of treason – some even indicted – based on their alleged dealings with the enemy, Germany. Despite the persecution, the bonds between Ireland and America remained strong. In February 1919, with the world war finally over, another Irish Race convention was held in Philadelphia and the highlight was a speech by James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore in which he declared, “All Americans should stand as one, for Ireland’s inalienable right of selfdetermination.” And Americans did: Even President Wilson, who, despite his skirmishes with the American Irish, began to call for the liberation of small nations from colonial powers. Americans were there, too, to greet Éamon de Valera when he arrived in New York in June 1919 to secure American recognition for an Irish Republic and to raise funds from the Irish-American community. De Valera spent the following 18 months in the U.S. giving speeches to as many as 60,000 people in some of America’s largest venues, including Madison Square Garden and Fenway Park. Ireland was a fledgling nation, and de Valera might have been needed at home to lead, but America, which had supported the cause of Irish freedom through thick and thin, simply could not be ignored. – By Tom Deignan
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try in the midst of a revolution was to get support for establishing Ireland as a republic and to raise money for the emerging nation. At first, Devoy and de Valera got on famously. Devoy even went so far as to comment that he was “the best leader that Ireland has had for a century.” But things went downhill quickly. Devoy and de Valera famously butted heads on how a loan for Ireland would be raised. De Valera had formed his own fundraising organization, The American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic, going over Devoy’s head and causing a split in Irish America. By August 1920, Devoy was calling de Valera “the most malignant man in all Irish history!” Relations between Devoy and de Valera became so toxic that Devoy began referring to Michael Collins in The Gaelic American as “the recognized leader of the fighting men of Ireland.” In his biography of Devoy, Irish Rebel: John Devoy and ABOVE: Pádraig Pearse speaking at a public meeting of the Irish Volunteers at Dolphin’s Barn in Dublin, August 30, 1915. RIGHT: O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, with Pádraig Pearse (standing to the right of the priest, his hat in front of him), John MacBride (to the right of Pearse), and Tom Clarke (three to the right of MacBride, in profile).
O’Donovan Rossa: “Send Him Home”
On June 29, 1915, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, the old Fenian, died on Staten Island. Legend has it that Devoy wired Clarke in Dublin, “Rossa dead. What should I do?” Clarke replied: “Dig him up and send him home!” There, in what was to be one of the great shows of nationalistic theatre, Clarke paraded the body around Dublin, arranged for him to lie in state at City Hall, and gave him a funeral mass at the city’s Pro Cathedral. (Devoy said: “No matter how the Irish treat a leader when living – and the treatment is often very bad – they never fail to give him decent burial”). Thousands followed Rossa’s coffin to Glasnevin Cemetery, where, on August 1, Pearse gave his famous graveside oration, “…the fools, the fools, the fools! – They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” Rossa’s funeral was the unofficial launch to what would become the Easter Rising eight months later.
Éamon de Valera Hits New York
In one of the most bizarre moves in Irish revolutionary history, Éamon de Valera left Dublin in May 1919 for an almost two-year-long speaking tour of America. He arrived in New York in June and was fêted by Devoy and his friends at the old Waldorf Astoria Hotel on 34th Street (now the site of the Empire State Building). De Valera’s rationale for leaving his coun76 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
America’s Fight for Ireland’s Freedom, Terry Golway notes that, “Devoy would later write that had it been up to him, he’d have had de Valera shot rather than waste the government’s time and money with a mere prison sentence.” Coincidentally, one month and two days after Collins’ men shot up the British Secret Service in Dublin, de Valera left New York for home. Did he think perhaps the tide of the war had turned in favor of the rebels – and that they would need him to make peace? If that was his motivation, then the narcissism that Devoy had despised in de Valera was fully in evidence. And given Devoy’s antipathy to the future president of the Republic, he would have let everyone in the Irish American rebel community know. And who would begrudge “the greatest of the Fenians” his opinion, given that he had rallied this New York rearguard, for so long and IA so well in the cause of freedom.
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Irish Rising and the
The battle for the hearts and minds of the Boston Irish took a sharp turn in the aftermath of the 1916 Irish Rising. By Michael Quinlin
CENTER: Carrying banners urging the abrogation of all treaties with England until the Irish Republic was recognized, a delegation of women from Boston, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington marched past the White House and on to the Capitol on April 1, 1920. They were led by Mrs. Gertrude Corless wife of the noted actor Thomas K. Corless. The Capitol police force was kept busy to keep them from entering the capitol with their banners.
rior to the 1916 Rising, Boston’s Irish community had maintained some equilibrium between those who favored constitutional methods of Home Rule, and those for physical force and agitation. And within this spectrum were viewpoints about socialism and worker’s rights, women’s suffrage, Celtic mythology, and cultural revivals as antidotes for Ireland’s woes. In Boston, dozens of Irish organizations and political activists were on hand to support every perspective. You had the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Clan-na-Gael tending toward physical force, and the United Irish League of America and Charitable Irish Society urging moderation. Many of the two dozen county clubs were actively involved in both. In Charlestown, the Charles Stewart Parnell Literary Club kept the Home Rule leader’s memory alive, and the John Boyle O’Reilly Club had active branches from Boston to Springfield. The newly formed Friends of Irish Freedom opened a Boston branch on April 19, just a week before the Irish Rising. And you had a colorful cast of characters such as James Michael Curley, the audacious, outrageous Mayor of Boston who hammered away at England’s rule of Ireland while also gloating at the demise of Boston Brahmins who had kept the Irish down for so long. Former mayor John F. Fitzgerald, grandfather to President John F. Kennedy remained influential through his weekly Catholic newspaper, The Republic. You had William Cardinal O’Connell, an ambitious first generation Irish American described by historian James M. O’Toole as a militant Catholic. And dozens of Irish-American orators and organizers stood ready to engage in the propaganda battle for defining what was right for Ireland. But the equilibrium began to shift with the onset of World War I in 1914, and Bostonians who cared about Ireland’s wellbeing had become increasingly concerned. Ireland’s Home Rule movement was put on hold as the British fought a bloody war with the Germans. Irish men and boys were being recruited to fight and die in trenches on the continent. War taxes were being levied amidst high unemployment and poverty. Draconian laws such as the Defense of the Realm Act allowed authorities to deport or imprison Irish men and women on unproven charges and to suppress newspapers from criticizing the English government.
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When the Irish Rising was initially reported in local newspapers in New England, official versions of the “mob disturbance” were disseminated to the American press from Dublin Castle and from London, raising the antennae of the Boston Irish. The Boston Globe printed the “official communication” from Dublin shortly after the uprising began. “In the course of the day soldiers arrived from the Curragh and the situation is now well in hand,” the statement read. In other words, this was merely another Irish disturbance that English authorities put down. The Republic newspaper issued an editorial titled, “Mischievous Work of the Sinn-Féiners in Dublin, Ireland,” calling it “an act of folly and political lunacy.” On April 29, the Globe ran the official statement of John E. Redmond, who called the Rising an “insane movement” that would return Ireland to “another long night of slavery, incalculable suffering and weary, uncertain struggling.” The Boston chapter of the United Irish League of America fired off a cablegram to Redmond, writing, “No doubt of Irish sentiment in Boston. Ardently supports you and the party.” But support for Redmond’s constitutional nationalism was quickly eroding in Boston as other news became available. On May 1, the Globe printed the Proclamation in full, providing rationale and context for the rebellion. The Globe ran a mixed-message
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LEFT: James Michael Curley, the popular Irish American mayor of Boston, who hammered away at England’s rule of Ireland. Circa 1917. PHOTOS: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.
PHOTO LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.
from writer George Bernard Shaw, who described the Rising as “silly, ignorant, wrong-headed, but honorable, brave and republican.” The Boston Irish community didn’t need Mr. Shaw, or the United Irish League for that matter, to shape its views of the Rising. The sound and fury of Boston’s Irish diaspora had already reached a high pitch as news spread through the sprawling Irish community via local Hibernian Halls and through the Irish American newspapers such as the Gaelic American and Irish World. The response was electric. Indignation meetings of 20,000 people were quickly convened on Boston Common and thousands gathered in outlying cities like Lawrence and Lowell, Fall River and New Bedford, North Attleboro and Brockton, Worcester and Chicopee, and Springfield, Holyoke and Pittsfield. In May, when the leaders of the rebellion were executed, the fury reached a new level. In Springfield, 4,000 people held a mass protest and heard inflamed rhetoric from former Boston congressman Joseph O’Connell, Dr. John F. Kelly of Pittsfield, and Judge Cornelius Collins of New Jersey. On May 14, the Friends of Irish Freedom convened at the sacred Tremont Temple in downtown Boston, where Mayor Curley presided over 5,000 fervent followers, with another 4,000 spilling into Boston Common. Speaker after speaker denounced the English mishandling of the rebellion, and whenever the word Germany was mentioned, a cheer
BELOW: David I. Walsh, who in 1914 became the first Catholic elected as governor of Massachusetts, cautioned his Irish constituents “ remember to be Americans first.”
went up from the crowd. At the Boston Gaelic School rally on Washington Street, the pulpit was draped with an Irish flag, and a white banner of mourning with the word “Vengeance” written in big black letters. “No Irishman with red blood in his veins will rest content until England has been destroyed,” shouted speaker Matthew Cummings. It turns out that many Bostonians knew several key players in the Irish Rising. James Connolly spoke in Faneuil Hall in September, 1902, discussing Irish socialism and worker’s rights, and returned several times before his death, living for a few months in Roxbury’s Mission Hill district. Union leader James Larkin spoke at Tremont Temple in February 1915, and was recalled by the Globe as “more of a poet and an idealist than a red-handed agitator.” Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, a militant pacifist who was murdered by a British soldier in the early days of the uprising, visited Boston and Worcester in 1915, espousing women’s rights, vegetarianism, and Irish independence. In Boston, no Irish leader suffered a greater reversal of fortune than John Redmond, the Wexford-born British Parliamentarian who had devoted his life to the Home Rule cause. When he first visited Boston in 1884 as a 28-year-old wunderkind, John Boyle O’Reilly himself introduced Redmond to 5,000 people jammed into the Boston Theatre and compared him to Parnell. The cheering lasted several minutes before Redmond was able to speak. But after the 1916 Irish Rising, Redmond was denounced as a traitor and as a recruiting sergeant for the British Army. Audiences hissed when his name was mentioned, and he became the whipping post for FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 79
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all the perceived wrongs of Ireland. At a rally in Pittsfield, Justice Daniel Cohalan said, “Can one imagine a more contemptible figure than Redmond? Lost to all sense of decency, he alone has been acting as the chief recruiting sergeant for England in Ireland, but now in the hour of crisis he calls upon his deluded followers to take part with England’s gunmen in shooting down their fellow countrymen who are fighting for freedom.”
Who Fears to Speak of Easter Week?
In the months after the Rising, Boston became a hotbed for a pitched public relations battle – some would call it a propaganda war – for the hearts and minds of the American public. The United Irish League remained a notable local Redmond supporter, but even it had to condemn the English for their “deplorable mishandling of the participants of the revolt.” The U.I.L. was joined by an odd mishmash of pundits condemning the revolt. There was Shane Leslie, described by the Globe as “a brilliant Irish journalist” who chimed in while vacationing in Vermont, “The best advice I can give Irish Americans in the present crisis is to back Redmond, as they would back Ireland itself.” There was L.G. Redmond-Howard, nephew of
ABOVE: In July 1916, Nora Connolly, daughter of executed leader James Connolly, arrived in Boston to tell her father’s side of the story. James Connolly and his family had lived for a few months in Roxbury’s Mission Hill district during his time working as a union man in the U.S. RIGHT: Hanna SheehySkeffington (widow of Francis Skeffington, a pacifist who was executed by the British Army during the Rising) arrived in Boston with her son Owen several months after the Rising. She spoke at Faneuil Hall before an overflowing crowd. TOP RIGHT: Irish republican leader Eamon de Valera speaking at a packed Fenway Park in Boston in 1919.
and gave them money.” Contrast these law and order supporters with proponents of the rebellion, like Mayor Curley and former Congressman Joseph O’Connell, along with respected leaders of major Irish organizations. When the A.O.H. held its National Convention in Boston that July, leaders sent an angry cablegram to British Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, denouncing the execution of the rebels. The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed a free concert for Clan na Gael in June to raise funds for widows and orphans. The 50-person orchestra opened the concert with Beethoven’s march, “Dead Heroes.” Captain Henry C. Hathaway attended the New Bedford rally and lent his support for the rebellion. He helped rescue John Boyle O’Reilly from the prison camp in Freemantle, Australia, and later hatched a plan to free Fenian prisoners in 1875. And you had the women of Ireland. In July 1916, Nora Connolly, daughter of executed leader James Connolly, arrived in Boston to tell her father’s side of the story. The smitten Globe reporter, M.E. Hennessy wrote, “She is a sweet little woman of 23, but she doesn’t look over 18. Dressed in black, wearing a large felt picture hat, this little Irish girl tells the story of the uprising and her part in the stirring events with the modesty of a school girl. Miss Connolly is a pronounced brunette. Her features are small, but finely chiseled. She is a charming conversationalist and tells her story in a way that grips the heart strings.” Connolly was sturdier than described. She said that Irish people “don’t fear to speak of Easter week. They sing it loud and shout it defiantly at the English soldiers and are willing to take the consequences.” She then recited this Brendan Behan verse to the reporter: Who fears to speak of Easter week, Who dares its fate deplore The red-gold flame of Ireland’s shame Confronts the world once more.
John Redmond, who was in town to peddle his new book, Six Days of the Irish Republic, a first-hand account of the Rising. The Globe gave him a full page of coverage. The quirkiest critic was Rev. Dr. William Harman van Allen, an obscure minister who dabbled in family research at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Preaching from the pulpit of the Church of the Advent in Back Bay, Allen said the real criminals were “the American citizens who across 3,000 miles, poured their poison into the hearts and ears and minds of these poor young men
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Before heading down to New Bedford and New York, Connolly “called on Mayor Curley to pay her respects,” wrote Hennessy. “After a brief chat with the young lady, the Mayor handed her a substantial purse of money, the gift of a few Friends of Irish Freedom, as the Mayor put it.” A few months later, Mrs. F. Sheehy-Skeffington and her seven-year-old son Owen arrived in Boston, where she spoke at Faneuil Hall before an overflow crowd. She described how her pacifist husband Francis was murdered by an English soldier during the Rising, and how the English had tried to cover it up. For this trip, authorities threatened to reject her passport unless she agreed “not to talk about the war or conditions in Ireland.” Instead, she and her son smuggled aboard a steamer headed for Boston. Now she was warning of another massacre in Ireland by the English. Meanwhile, money had begun to flow from Boston to Dublin. In June, the Irish Relief Fund raised $2,330 in one night, with Mayor Curley kicking in $100, at
Boston Symphony Hall. In July, the National Volunteers of Ireland held a fundraiser in Roxbury. A letter was read from Eoin MacNeill, chairman of the provisional committee in Dublin, stating that “arms were badly needed, and asking the Irish here to do their best to meet the want.” Also in July, Friends of Irish Freedom leader Joseph Smith of Lowell traveled to Ireland with $100,000 raised for the benefit of widows and orphans. He was detained in Liverpool and prevented from entering Ireland. By August, the Irish Relief Fund had raised over 100,000 pounds, “a sum greater than that which Parnell collected in 1879 – 80 for the Irish famine,” noted the Republic. Rather than pacifying the Irish Diaspora, the actions of the English instead revitalized it.
lmost a year after the Irish Rising, the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, and Boston’s focus quickly shifted to the war effort. Finally, here was something all Boston Irish could agree upon: “We are Irish Americans, but Americans first and last.” David I. Walsh, elected as the first Catholic Governor of Massachusetts in 1914, put it best when he said, “Let every man of Irish blood face his duty as
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an American citizen in passing judgment on national and international questions. Let us remember to be Americans first.” That perspective lasted throughout the war, and when WWI officially ended on November 11, 1918, the Boston Irish turned their attention back to Ireland. The war to end all wars had vowed to “protect the rights and liberties of small nations,” and the Boston Irish wanted to make sure that IA promise was kept.
ABOVE: John Boyle O’Reilly (1844 – 1890) who after taking part in the Fenian Rising of 1867 had been transported to Australia. He escaped and settled in Boston, where he became a prominent writer and spokesperson for the Irish community through his editorship of the Boston newspaper The Pilot.
Irish Rising Events in Massachusetts n FEBRUARY 22
Easter Rising of 1916 Lecture by U.S. Congressman Richard E. Neal Gasson Hall, Boston College
n FEBRUARY 27 Culture & Society in Ireland, 1916: Contexts for the Arts & Crafts Movement Lecture by Fintan O’Toole McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College n MARCH 1 – 31
• Exhibit – ‘Of Terrible and Splendid Things: A Commemoration of the Easter Rising of 1916’ Borgia Gallery, Elms College, Chicopee • Lawrence Irish Heritage Month, includes exhibits, lectures and music on 1916
Lawrence Heritage State Park, Lawrence n MARCH 6
• Film – Mise Éire – the 1916 Rising A special screening and discussion hosted by the Amherst Irish Association Unitarian Universalist Church, Amherst • Massachusetts’ Role in the Easter Uprising Irish Heritage Month in Lawrence Lecture by Michael Quinlin Lawrence Heritage State Park, Lawrence
n MARCH 10 – 13
Irish Film Festival Boston A retrospective of what it means to be Irish one century after the Easter Rising Somerville Theatre, Somerville
n MARCH 15 Easter Rising Commemoration Sponsored by Ladies AOH of Hampshire Counties Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke
n APRIL 2 Eire Society Gold Medal Award Dinner Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, is this year’s winner and keynote speaker Omni Parker House, Boston
n MARCH 18 – 20 International Conference Easter 1916: ‘A Terrible Beauty is Born’ Speakers include Colm Tóibín, Alvin Jackson, Emily Bloom, Roisín Higgins and Keith Jeffrey Devlin Hall, Boston College
n APRIL 9 James Joyce and the Easter Rising Connolly House, Boston College Speakers include Clair Willis, Joe Valente, Mike Cronin and Richard Kearney
n MARCH 28 Music - Easter Rising Commemorative Concert Gasson Hall, Boston College Featuring Charlie Lennon, Regina Delaney, Séamus Connolly
n MAY 22 Official Opening of 1916 Garden of Remembrance Forest Park, Springfield
For ongoing information on events and resources, visit IrishMassachusetts.com/1916 rising.php
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The Spy in the
Castle David Neligan, a member of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, acted as a valuable agent for Michael Collins by passing on vital information during the Irish War of Independence (1919–21). He subsequently became Director of Intelligence for the Irish Army after the Irish Civil War (1922–23). By Megan Smolenyak
I’m sheepish to admit that I only came to learn of David Neligan through self-interest. Chasing transAtlantic cousins in my genealogical quest some years ago, I reached out to renowned heart surgeon and medical pioneer, Maurice Neligan, about our Neligan lines that both led back to the village of Duagh in Co. Kerry. Dr. Neligan was kind enough to swap emails with me and it was he who suggested I read The Spy in the Castle, a book written by and about his uncle, David Neligan. The castle referred in the title is Dublin Castle, which was the United Kingdom’s administrative headquarters and the heart of British espionage in Ireland until 1922. You probably haven’t heard of David Neligan, but there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with his derring-do. If you’ve ever watched the epic biopic Michael Collins, starring Liam Neeson (whose son, Micheál Neeson, is slated to take on the same role in the upcoming film, The Rising), you may recall a double-agent, Ned Broy, who was portrayed by Stephen Rea. Eamonn “Ned” Broy was real enough, but in the interest of simplifying the story of the Irish War of Independence for audiences around the globe, director and screenwriter, Neil Jordan, took some liberties – one of which was distilling the activities of
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several spies (Broy, Neligan, James McNamara, and Joe Kavanagh) into the life of this one character. So some of what happens to “Broy” in the film was actually Neligan’s experience, and some of what he accomplished is left out. Still, when you consider that between 1918 and 1923, Neligan alone served as a policeman with the Dublin Metropolitan Police, a G-Man (a member of the wing of the police department’s G Division devoted to political subversive movements), a Volunteer, an I.R.A. Intelligence Officer, a British Secret Service agent (startling even Collins with his audacity in securing this position in early 1921), a National Army Intelligence Officer, and founded An Garda Síochána (the Irish Police), there’s ample reason for streamlining people and events when trying to convey the whole of the saga. And that’s part of what makes Neligan’s story so compelling.
Aught Actuated by Malice
Written in his later, more mellow and introspective years (he was nearing 70 when it was published), The Spy in the Castle gives the reader a backstage pass to dramatic events many thought they knew so well, but in a voice gently tinged with regret. I was
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ABOVE: David Neligan with his parents and siblings in the 1901 census (one brother had died in infancy). LEFT: David Neligan in 1923. BELOW: The poster for the movie Michael Collins, starring Liam Neeson.
intrigued as soon as I read the opening words: “This is the story of my service with Michael Collins at the time of the Black and Tans. Everything set down is true, nothing has been exaggerated nor aught actuated by malice. To protect innocent people, I have transposed some names and incidents without damaging the truth. Descendants of some persons mentioned live and I have no desire to embarrass them or cause them pain.” Neligan was born in Templeglantine, Co. Limerick, in 1899, to a pair of school teachers. He spends several chapters reminiscing about his countryside childhood as the youngest of eight, and takes time to share antics or favorite turns of phrase of long-passed locals, which makes it harder to reconcile this grandfatherly quality with the matter-offact tone taken as he later succinctly records the deaths of so many he knew personally. Even so, twinges of conscience emerge about a few individuals whom he had respected but deceived, or worse yet, were essentially collateral damage. Policing was a well-trodden path for rural young men at the time who sported a bit of ambition. It’s what brought him to Dublin, but beyond that, his slipping into a revolutionary role seems almost accidental. Raised on a diet of fictional spies like James Bond and Jason Bourne, one can’t help but marvel at how ordinary Neligan was. And yet, in real life – in genuine espionage – isn’t
that what makes an extraordinary spy? He was so nondescript that he passed the entire Irish War of Independence undetected by the British, even while working in the midst of their intelligence operations and routinely meeting Collins – a man for whom he never lost his immense admiration. Indeed, it seems that his total belief in Collins was the source of most of his motivation, conviction, and courage. To impart a flavor of Neligan, I have his book and want to share a number of quotes and excerpts. While I could recount everything myself, doing so would diminish these vignettes, as his way of telling the tale is one of the best and most revealing aspects of his story.
The Spy Who Almost Wasn’t
One of Neligan’s more striking anecdotes is how he came to work with Collins in the first place. Those who have seen the Jordan movie may remember a scene where Collins, fresh out of prison and picked up at a train station by associates, asks how the GMen who were waiting for him knew he was coming. He’s told, “They know what we eat for breakfast.” To which he responds, “There’s only one way to beat them then. Find out what they eat for breakfast.” In short, he aimed to outwit the British at their own game, and using what he learned, he put the fear in would-be traitors by killing known collaborators and dried up the pool of potential informants used by the British. To do this, Collins was interested in a wide range of sources, but especially those in a position to serve as double agents. Neligan had become a G-Man in the autumn of 1919. As he explains, “I applied and was accepted. This was due to no merit on my part as the shootings had made this service unpopular with the general run of the force. In peace times it was difficult to get in but now the opposite was the case. The Castle was faced with a tough situation. Never before had such a determined and lethal attack been made on the British intelligence forces nor one directed with such ruthless efficiency.” The following year, he approached Paddy Sheehan (a man with whom he had hometown connections), who was on the Dáil staff, and sometimes served as private secretary to Éamon de Valera, to offer his services. According to Neligan, “Sheehan promised to enquire, returned and advised me to resign,” which he did in May of 1920. But shortly thereafter, “A man named Tim Kennedy… told me that Collins wanted to see me, and he wanted me to go back to the G Division to work for him…I suggested to Kennedy that he should arrange for a few threatening letters to FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 83
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The Spy in the
be sent to me at home in Limerick, ordering me to clear out, and I could show them to the Castle people. These duly arrived. Curiously enough they were the only samples I’ve ever received, though sending them is a pastime in Ireland. It appeared that Sheehan, who belonged then to the political wing of Sinn Féin, had not realized the implications of my offer. Collins was annoyed that he had not been told.” It was soon after this that he first met Collins in Dublin: “A tall, handsome man of about thirty who was alone arose from his chair and greeted us... He was about six feet tall. Sturdily built, athletic, broad-shouldered, with a winning smile, a ready laugh and cheerful manner. He had a trick of turning his head swiftly and then the resolute line of his jaw showed. He was a friendly man with the fortunate manners of putting one at ease. He was dressed in an illfitting tweed suit which had cycling clips on the pants… Shaking my hand with a firm grip, he said: ‘I know you and your
ABOVE: Neligan in his later years. RIGHT: A note showing Neligan’s handwring reads: To dear Sadie and Larry with affectionate regards from the Author D Neligan. March 1973.
brothers are all right (i.e. friendly to the revolution) – it is too bad about Moss’s death (note: he was referring to David’s brother, Maurice, who had recently died in a motorcycle accident). You shouldn’t have been let resign – there was a misunderstanding. I want you to go back to the castle to work for us.’” Neligan was reluctant, but allowed himself to be persuaded by Collins when he said, “Listen, Dave, we have plenty of men for columns, but on the other hand no one can fill your place in the castle, for they trust you and we trust you.” Equipped with the menacing letters he had requested, Neligan was able to get back into the G Division and was soon passing critical intelligence to Collins. It was Neligan, for instance, who told Collins about Alan Bell who was investigating how 84 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
the revolutionaries were funding their operations. The moment he did so, Bell’s days were numbered.
Collins and the Humble Folk
A theme Neligan often returns to in his book is Collins and his connection with the Irish people. He refers to his “great personal magnetism and generosity,” saying that, “If anyone were ill, depressed or lonely, one person never forgot: Michael Collins… At Christmas time he had Joe O’Reilly run off his feet buying presents for everyone. He gave me a silver cigarette case wrapped in tissue papers. Others got tobacco, cuff-links or some other little gift. In the middle of his myriad tasks, he did not forget these little touches which endeared him to all.” Neligan also mentions the contributions of specific, under-the-radar individuals who took significant risks, such as the fellow who hosted the weekly sessions Collins had with his double agents: “Broy, McNamara and myself used to meet Collins once a week in the house of Tommy Gay, 8 Haddon Road, Clontarf. This was a quiet, suburban place, several miles from the city. Gay, a tiny Dublin man, with bronchial trouble which made his life a burden, was librarian in Capel Street Municipal Library. Like nearly all the dramatis personae of the revolution, he led a double life; a bookworm openly and also, secretly, a confidential courier for Collins. He was so unobtrusive that neither the library nor his home ever came under suspicion. He and his charming wife were the soul of discretion. Such people were a Godsend to Collins.” Neligan makes it clear that people like the Gays were key to the revolution: “Waiters, hotel porters, and other humble folk knew Collins, Tobin, Cullen, and other leaders. They never breathed a word whereas they could have commanded a fortune by betraying them. No monument exists to such people. They are never mentioned. History ignores them. They got no pensions, no medals, and no thanks. To my mind they are the most deserving of praise, who by their loyalty and devotion defeated every effort of the enemy. The sort of guerilla struggle that went on in Ireland depends, of course, on the active support of the populace. Where this is not forthcoming, defeat for the weaker side is inevitable.”
As one might expect of anyone who was a double agent, Neligan has a number of colorful episodes to share – often a blend of enlightening, scary, and
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humorous. For example, he details one of the close encounters Collins sporadically had with the British – this one shortly after he and the G-men had finished one of their meetings at Gay’s house. Though Collins generally traveled by bike, he had a tight schedule that night, so a taxi driven by a trusted friend arrived to pick him up, and Collins offered the others a ride back into Dublin. They had only gone about half a mile when, “We were held up by a squad of Tommies across the road. Collins jumped out, suspecting a trap, but we persuaded him to come back in. An English officer came over and asked us who we were. We answered that we were detectives looking for Collins. He said, ‘By Jove, that explains it! Those blighters were waiting for you. They’ve just thrown a bomb at us! If I were you, I’d go back and return some other way.’” And then there was the time that Neligan was struck by the strangeness of his guarding the Dáil: “The proscribed Dáil or Sinn Féin Parliament, most of whose members were ‘on the run’, was to hold a clandestine meeting in Dublin… Collins asked me to keep a sharp look-out against Castle agents in the vicinity of the meeting… The session lasted two or three days. So I took leave for that period and spent each day patrolling in the vicinity, but saw no suspicious touts about. Truly, truth is stranger than fiction! Here was I, a member of the Castle political police, keeping watch over the rebel parliament, at the behest of Michael Collins, the most hunted man in Ireland… This Dáil which I protected, contained men who afterwards persecuted me and made my life a misery. Such are the turns of fortune’s wheel.” Yet another instance concerns what actually happened to Ned Broy. He was captured as seen in the film, but not killed (the true Broy living until 1972). Neligan tells how his life was saved: “It was freely rumoured that Broy was to be executed. In the temper of the enemy at the time, it was a distinct possibility. McNamara and I met Collins in Gay’s house… He (Collins) told us he would organize his rescue; the odds meant nothing to him; he revelled in forlorn hopes. … Knowing what his reaction to Broy’s arrest would be, I had been … sizing up the possibilities.” Neligan spelled out the specifics and concluded with, “Anyone who shows his nose near that place will be chatting with his forebears in seconds.” Collins horrified, asked, “What’ll we do so?” McNamara and Neligan recommended intimidating the man most likely to be assigned to prosecute Broy. They knew him to be the impressionable sort so, “We told Collins to have it conveyed to him that if he went on with the case, the best thing he could do was to pick out a nice shady spot for himself in Mount Jerome Cemetery (coincidentally, where Neligan would eventually be buried in 1983)… Collins was delighted. ‘By God,’ he said, ‘I’ll go up there tonight!’ This meant a ride on the old bicycle
of at least ten miles and he cleared off at once.” Neligan further relates that the message was delivered and the recipient cleverly protected himself by informing his superior that both of their lives were at risk. Soon after, the materials that could have been used against Broy were conveniently burned.
Regrets, I’ve Had a Few . . .
In May 1921, Neligan proposed to Collins that he join the British secret service. Collins didn’t initially believe it would be possible, but was excited at the prospect. “Begod,” he said, “if you did it would be wonderful.” Using a cover story that he was fed up with being harassed by Sinn Féiners and that he simply needed more money, Neligan was able to get in. In this capacity, he continued to serve Collins while working with the British secret service. And for reasons he never learned, he was even sent to England during treaty negotiations so that he happened to trip across Collins the very day the “Shinners” were celebrating signing the treaty on the way home. According the Neligan, on that occasion, “Tobin said, ‘We’ll have to face our die-hards now,’ the first time I’d heard the expression used in Irish politics. We were to hear it often enough afterwards!” In that remark are the seeds of his later wistfulness. Though the book ends before his controversial career as Director of Intelligence for the National Army during the Irish Civil War and Head of Special Branch of the Garda Síochána, he laments that, “A wonderful spirit of comradeship existed in those terrible days, but sorry I am to say that it did not survive the Truce. Instead we had selfishness, jealousy, and a large number of swollen heads. It is quite true, of course, that the character of some of our best men did not deteriorate, but those who were meant by nature to be small showed their true form; they could not stand success, which to some is more damaging than failure.” Lest there be any lingering doubt about Neligan’s frame of mind in his later years, he concluded, “If anyone asked me was it worth while; would I go through it again: I should answer No. Certainly I do not regret, and shall always look back with affection on my friendship with Michael Collins whose terrific ability and dynamic energy ended so pitiably with a bullet through the head on the side of the road… It was well said: Revolution devours her IA own children.”
ABOVE: The cover of Neligan’s book, The Spy in The Castle.
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Rebellion in the
Age of Cable News
By Marion R. Casey 86 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
n April 1916, the front pages of America’s newspapers were dominated by headlines about the war on Europe’s western front, where the German and French armies were battling at Verdun, and by reports of German American opposition to President Wilson’s re-election campaign. Then, on Tuesday morning, the 25th, came news of the capture of a German ship that had tried to land arms on Ireland’s west coast, and the arrest of Sir Roger Casement, a retired diplomat. “Daring Invasion of Ireland by Germans Fails,” screamed the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. Partisan passions about World War I were running high in the United States, and pro-British papers
PHOTO: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Today world news is immediate but 100 years ago transmission depended on telegraph cables under the Atlantic ocean that were subject to wartime and censorship conditions.
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PHOTO: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
like The New York Times were quick to circulate the “official” announcement calling Casement “mentally unbalanced,” and the Irish news nothing more than a “madcap adventure.” The afternoon and evening papers that same day brought the first word of unrest in Dublin: a statement released by Augustine Birrell, the Chief Secretary for Ireland. This was rapidly distributed by the newswires and picked up as far west as San Diego. The Easter Rising was called “a grave disturbance” initiated by “rioters” that “was now well in hand.” The Brooklyn Eagle quoted Matthew Keating, the Irish member of Parliament for South Kilkenny, who called it “an act of folly by political lunatics – old disgruntled cranks and young Sinn Féiners.” When the Irish writer Mary Colum (who moved to New York in 1914 with her husband, the poet Padraic Colum) opened her newspaper over breakfast in a New York City boardinghouse on the 26th, she “saw that what we knew was going to happen had happened – the Irish once more had taken up arms in a fight for independence; the leaders had seized government buildings and railway stations; the fight was on, the fight Pearse and others had so often spoken of, similar to those our ancestors had vainly engaged in…Tremblingly I looked up; everyone seemed to be talking of the happening.” Only a handful of Irish Americans had known of the secret plans for insurrection. One of them was John Devoy. A republican legend in his own time, and considered one of Britain’s most dangerous enemies, the 74-year-old Devoy was the editor of the weekly Gaelic American. It had a national circulation of 28,000 and had all but announced the Rising in its March 11th edition. The annual Emmet commemoration, it intimated, “may be the last of its kind that will be celebrated by the Irish people of New York before the patriot’s epitaph is written. Before March, 1917, the British Empire may have gone the way of Assyria, Greece and Rome.” On Easter Sunday 1916, Devoy received a cipher cablegram sent the previous evening from Valentia, Co. Kerry, to “a certain Irishman in New York.” It was the pre-arranged signal that the Rising was about to start. But when there was no news of it in the city papers on the morning of April 24th, Devoy sent an anonymous message to the United Press wire service announcing that a revolution had broken out in Ireland. “The scarcity of cable news from London,” it said, “makes it probable that the insurgents have achieved some success which the Censor wants to conceal.” Devoy suspected that all news sourced from Westminster or Reuters that Easter week was intended “to hide the truth and minimize the extent of the revolt.” On the 28th, Jeremiah O’Leary of the American Truth Society leaked key details to the Associated Press to balance stories datelined London: there were 10,000 rebels and $100,000 had been contributed by Irish Americans towards the Rising. When the next issue of the Gaelic American was published on April 29th, Devoy showed that he
could play the propaganda game as well as Birrell: “Ireland is fighting gallantly for her independence… skillfully and silently, on Saturday night or Sunday, the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army of Dublin moved to their appointed places without arousing the faintest suspicion on the part of Dublin Castle or Military Headquarters at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham.” Although Devoy didn’t yet know that the Rising had been postponed until Monday, he confidently declared, “The Irish Volunteers have struck a blow that has echoed round the world and produced a situation that will exert a considerable influence on the result of the war.” The Irish World reported the facts as they stood at press time: twelve lives had been lost in 24 hours of fighting, and the insurgents held four to five positions in Dublin. Except for this brief article on page one with the headline “IRELAND IS IN ARMS,” the Irish World continued its usual weekly coverage of developments of interest to Irish Americans. But its editor gave a revealing statement to the New York Herald Tribune: “I can’t see how any Irishman can help rejoicing that the insurrection is under way or can help hoping for its success.” Many of the large circulation dailies favored the Allies. They saw the Rising as high treason and Casement as nothing less than a traitor in a time of national emergency. Although officially neutral, the
TOP: The front page of The Gaelic American which was edited and published by John Devoy. ABOVE: The NY World printing room with a Linotype machine. OPPOSITE PAGE: Old newspaper boy of 25 years on the streets of St. Louis, Missouri.
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TOP: Mary Colum, an Irish literary critic and author who moved to New York in 1914, recalled seeing the headlines of the newspapers reporting on the executions of the leaders of the Rising as she exited the subway at Grand Central Station.
“Pearse was a prisoner of war and should have been treated as such…like Washington, [he] represented a people throwing off the yoke of England.”
– Robert Ford of the Irish World
United States’ economy was benefiting from immense munitions sales to Great Britain, and President Wilson urged American preparedness for war. Paranoia increased about anyone perceived to be less than 100% American. In this context, the mass meeting called in the name of the United Irish Societies of America at New York’s George M. Cohan Theatre on April 30th was particularly troubling. Three thousand people crammed inside to express sympathy for Ireland, while the police estimated that 15,000 jostled outside. The New York Times, which covered Easter Week and its aftermath for 14 consecutive days, reported that the crowd gathered to “voice their approval of the present uprising in Ireland, to sing the songs of Germany as well as Ireland, to denounce John Redmond as a traitor, to cheer a reference to the sinking of the ‘munitions ship Lusitania,’ to pass a resolution urging the recognition of the belligerency of Ireland and the linking of the Emerald Isle to the Teutonic powers as a military ally, and to compare Sir Roger Casement to George Washington.” Undercurrents of disapproval regarding the Rising were not unique to the Times. Opinions on the course of the war in Europe prompted reactions like that of John Quinn, a New York lawyer and supporter of Home Rule who said, “I have been disgusted and depressed by the horrible fiasco in Ireland…the whole thing was sheer lunacy.” Weighing the realistic probabilities of success, John Devoy calmly predicted at the Cohan Theatre that “no matter how many leaders are shot or hanged new men will spring up and take their places and the fight will be fought to a finish. The effect on the Irish race abroad is already splendid.” He did not know, as he spoke in New York on Sunday, that the leaders in Dublin had conceded their fight the day before. By that time the wire services had correspondents on the ground in Dublin and the first descriptions of the extensive destruction there appeared. News of Pádraig Pearse’s surrender was not reported in American newspapers until Monday, May 1st, along with the first accounts that an Irish Republic had been declared. The Springfield Daily News in Massachusetts described how dramatically Pearse came down the steps of the General Post Office on the 24th, “attired in some fantastic uniform with golden tassels and sword,” to read the Proclamation from the center of the tramlines in Sackville Street. The Atlanta Constitution printed its text in full. The speed with which updates were being published inevitably led to some mistakes. The Washington Post suspected that radical labor leader Jim Larkin was “one of the ringleaders” of the rebellion. Five days after, Larkin, reached by telephone at his Chicago home on the 29th, told the New York Times, “I have nothing to say on the Irish situation.” The daily papers got word of the executions first. “On a May morning, a fair sunny day, as I got off the subway at Grand Central,” Mary Colum remembered
88 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
about May 4th, “I saw the headlines of the early afternoon papers. Pearse, MacDonagh, and Clarke executed. I must have sat for long in the waiting room in a dream or a semicoma, for when I looked at the station clock it was late in the afternoon … Day by day the roll of the executed continued, a few each day… The names of the leaders stared out at us from the paper, the young men I had worked with, had danced with, had read poetry with…” The United Irish League chapter in New York cabled John Redmond, the senior Irish politician in Parliament, “Irish in America, contrasting execution of Dublin leaders with treatment in Ulster and South Africa, are revolted by this sign of reversion to savage repression.” Robert Ford of the Irish World issued a statement to the press that was widely reproduced: “Pearse was a prisoner of war and should have been treated as such…like Washington, [he] represented a people throwing off the yoke of England.” Revulsion at the turn of events even prompted a New York Times editorial on May 5th that said Britain’s biggest mistake was not shooting Birrell, who had resigned the day before. The next edition of both Irish American papers hit newsstands on May 6th. The Irish World firmly fixed the 1916 uprising in the republican canon under the headline, “The Young Men Who Are Sacrificing Their Lives Today on the Altar of Their Country Will Go Into the Irish Nation’s Valhalla Along with Wolfe Tone, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Robert Emmet, Allen, Larkin, O’Brien, and the Other Patriots Who on Rack and Gibbet Have Died That Irish Nationality Might Live.” The Gaelic American remained optimistic. “FIERCEST BATTLE EVER FOUGHT IN IRELAND ENDS IN TEMPORARY DEFEAT…GERMAN HELP WILL COME LATER AND BRING FINAL VICTORY,” declared a long subhead. Devoy reminded readers of the number of Irish who were at that very moment facing death on European battlegrounds: “The renegades and fools who talk of the terrible sacrifice of life in Dublin which has brought the renovation of Ireland’s military credit are quite satisfied with the rivers of Irish blood shed for England without a single benefit for Ireland.” In a news world so completely dependent upon transatlantic cables, the decision by Pearse and his team to occupy the G.P.O., the center of communications in Ireland, and cut its telegraph wires was not only strategic but allowed them to seize the public relations advantage. Likewise, Irish American leaders knew the value of publicity and within a fortnight of the Easter Rising there were sympathetic demonstrations all over the United States that were reported in local print media. Outraged by the executions of fifteen men and the imprisonment of hundreds of Irish nationalists in Wales, membership in the new Friends of Irish Freedom soared. For the rest of the war, Irish Americans strategically deployed the rhetoric of “small nations” and “selfdetermination” to connect the settlement of WWI with freedom for Ireland. American journalists, editors, and publishers would not be allowed to IA forget the Irish Republic of 1916.
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A Guided Tour
Take a journey around Dublin to relive the events and see the locations of the Easter 1916 Rising. By Sharon Ní Chonchúir hat could be better than having your own local expert on hand to answer your every question when you’re on holiday? That’s what I thought when I joined 27 tourists from all over the world for a special CIE tour of Dublin, a tour that follows Ireland’s road to freedom. “This tour ties in with the hundredth anniversary of the 1916 Rising, and what I’ll try to do is tell the story of the Ireland and Dublin of that time,” says our tour guide Frank Foster. “All you have to do is stop me if I talk or walk too fast!” Joining Frank’s tour means that my fellow tourists and I avoid most of the hassle that ordinarily comes with organizing an excursion. He and his driver pick us up at our hotel in a comfortable bus and drive us to the city center. Frank tells us the background to the 1916 Rising as we travel along the River Liffey. This is ideal for those who don’t know much about Irish history or who need a refresher course in the main events. “That’s where the Irish parliament was located prior to the Act of Union in 1800,” Frank says as we pass by the Bank of Ireland on College Green. 90 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
“From that moment on, Ireland was ruled directly from England but almost immediately, politicians such as Charles Stewart Parnell and John Redmond began to campaign for home rule so what we could govern ourselves.” He continues with a history of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the secret society that was formed in 1858 with the aim of achieving Irish independence by force and their American sister society, the Fenian Brotherhood (later to be known as Clan na Gael), whose main purpose was to raise funds. He also talks of the Irish Volunteers, a military group set up in response to the establishment of the Ulster Volunteers, who formed in opposition to home rule in Ireland. “The I.R.B. infiltrated the Irish Volunteers, which meant you had those who supported Home Rule and hard core rebels in the same group,” says Frank. “There were two agendas, but one was hidden.” By the time Frank finished telling us the background to the Rising, the bus had pulled up outside Liberty Hall, one of the tallest buildings on the Liffey. “This was the headquarters of the Irish Citizen Army, a group set up to protect striking workers that was headed by James Connolly,” explains Frank. “The Irish Citizen Army took part in the Rising and it was here that they and the Irish
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Volunteers gathered on the morning of Easter Monday, 1916.” The Proclamation of the Republic was printed in Liberty Hall, too. Of the 2500 copies printed, only 40 remain. “You’d make a pretty penny if you had an original today,” laughs Frank. He also informs us that Liberty Hall’s location on the river made it one of the first targets for attack by the British. It was reduced to rubble by the gunship, the S.S. Helga. “When the building that stands today was built in the 1950s, it was built sixteen stories high,” says Frank. “There was one story for each of the executed leaders of the Rising.” We begin our walk through Dublin’s city center from Liberty Hall. We march, just as the rebels did on that fateful Monday morning, to the General Post Office. “The rebels took over the Four Courts, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, the Royal College of Surgeons, Boland’s Mill, and the G.P.O.,” says Frank. “These were points that conFAR LEFT: The Ha’penny trolled entry to the city, Bridge where the toll and the G.P.O. was the collector stayed in place center of communicaduring the Rising tions.” demanding the half penny toll from rebels Frank points out sites as they crossed over. of interest as we walk in. TOP: Liberty Hall. The There’s the memorial to original building, a union hall, served as the James Connolly at headquarters of the Beresford Place. There’s Irish Citizen Army. It the Abbey Theatre. was completely leveled “A play of Yeats’s, by British artillery during the Rising. Cathleen Ní Houlihan, BELOW: Glasnevin was showing here durCemetery, where many ing Easter Week and it of those who took part in the Rising are buried. was very nationalistic,” he says. “After the Rising, Yeats asked if his play had sent young men out to die for Ireland.” “And here is Wynn’s Hotel,” he says, a little further down the road. “Cumann na mBan was founded here. They were the women’s ancillary group of the Irish Volunteers and played an important part in the Rising. We should remember that people like James Connolly were feminists. They wanted women to have the same rights as men.” Soon, we’re on O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare and the heart of the 1916 Rising. We enter the G.P.O. and Frank tells us that a museum is currently being built just off what is still a functioning post office. It is due to open in February, just in time for the 1916 commemorations. Future tours will visit the soon-to-be-opened museum but because it’s not yet open, we make do with Frank telling the story of what happened here in 1916. “The first thing the rebels did was secure the building and knock out all its windows so they could defend it,” he says. “Then Pádraig Pearse read the Proclamation of the Republic on the steps outFEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 91
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side.” He didn’t get a rousing reception. Most people didn’t understand what was going on. However, by the time the British had sent over military reinforcements a few days later, people realized exactly what was happening. This is not to say that they supported the rebels. Martial law had been declared in the city and much of the center had been shelled and leveled. “Look here,” says Frank, pointing out a bullet hole in the G.P.O.’s exterior. “That’s from 1916.” In fact, if you cast your eye down O’Connell Street, counting just how many modern buildings there are, you quickly realize just how much was shelled and lost. The city center was devastated and most people were furious the rebels had brought about such destruction. As we walk towards Parnell Square, Frank recounts how the rebels eventually had to retreat from the G.P.O. to a small building on Moore Street. “It was from there that Pearse saw three civilians bearing white flags being shot,” says Frank. “That was when he knew he had to surrender.” But that was not the end of the story, nor is it the end of our tour. Frank points to the Gresham Hotel, which became the place of surrender for rebels from points all over the city. He tells of how the citizens of Dublin jeered at the rebels, because they were so angry with them. He also describes the executions of the rebel leaders, which took place after the Rising and how thousands were sent to prison camps abroad, including many who had played no part in the event. “All of that changed people’s opinion of the rebels,” says Frank. “They were jeered at in the immediate aftermath of the Rising, but when those prisoners returned home, they did so to a heroes’ welcome. People were now on the rebels’ side and Ireland had started on the road to independence.” The CIE tour follows this road far beyond Dublin’s city center. It continues to Kilmainham Gaol where the rebels were imprisoned and shot. An austere and imposing prison building, this jail represented the end point for many of Ireland’s rebel leaders. In fact, in the time from when it was opened in 1796 to when it was decommissioned in 92 IRISH AMERICA FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016
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OPPOSITE PAGE CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: The General Post Office after the Rising, and how it looks today. The burial spot of the Leaders of the Rising, in the yard of Arbour Hill prison. The memorial was designed by G. McNicholl. The Proclamation of 1916 is inscribed on the wall in both Irish and English.
ABOVE: The James Connolly Memorial. RIGHT: Kilmainham Gaol where the leaders of the Rising were imprisoned. BELOW: The yard where they were executed. BOTTOM: Wynn’s Hotel where in 1913 a number of women gathered to form an organization to work in conjunction with the Irish Volunteers. That organization became known as Cumann na mBan.
1924, every significant Irish nationalist was held here (with the notable exceptions of Daniel O’Connell and Michael Collins). The men who fought in uprisings in 1798, 1803, and 1867 were imprisoned here and so were the leaders of the 1916 Rising. As a result, Kilmainham is suffused with the spirit of struggle for Irish freedom. The tour takes us through the entire prison complex. We are taken into one of the cells where the prisoners were held; cold, damp, and dark places that embody despair. We are taken into the stone breakers’ yard where between the 3rd and the 12th of May, 1916, the rebels – Pearse, Clarke, MacDonagh, Plunkett, Daly, Hanrahan, Willie Pearse, MacBride, Ceannt, Malin, Heuston, Colbert, MacDiarmada, and Connolly – were all systematically shot. We visit the exhibition, which details the history of the prison and contains mementos left behind by the rebels. One example is Thomas Clarke’s final letter to his wife, which contained a message for all of Ireland. “I and my fellow signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for freedom,” he writes. “The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief we die happy.” These words have a special resonance in this eerie building and at the end of a day spent walking in the 1916 rebels’ footsteps. They also marked the end of my time touring with CIE, although the 27 others were to spend nine further days exploring Dublin and Ireland as part of the full tour package. Their journey was to take them to Arbor Hill and Glasnevin Cemetery, where many of those who took part in the Rising are buried, and the Pearse Museum, which is located in the former home of Pádraig Pearse, the leader of the Rising. The CIE tour takes tourists to places outside Dublin, including the site where Michael Collins was shot during the Irish Civil War, and Banna Strand, where Roger Casement was arrested trying to land arms in the days before the 1916 Rising. CIE tourists see other historic and scenic spots too. There’s the medieval rock of Cashel and Blarney Castle where they would kiss the famous “stone of eloquence.” The tour also takes in the spectacular Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, and the Giant’s Causeway, not to mention guided tours of Cork, Galway, Waterford, Athlone, Drogheda, Belfast, and Derry. Guests are driven to each stage of this journey on a luxury coach. Their hotels and meals are organized for them. And they have a local guide like Frank to give them all the insight they needed as they travel. What a real holiday! IA For more information about these guided tours, see cietours.com. FEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 93
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1916 PORTRAITS I
Unheralded men and women became leaders in the crucible of 1916. A new book by the Royal Irish Academy offers portraits and biographies of those involved in the Rising.
rish people are raised on stories of 1916. We’re told of Pádraig Pearse reading the Proclamation of the Republic from the steps of Dublin’s G.P.O., James Connolly facing a firing squad strapped to a chair, and Joseph Plunkett marrying his sweetheart hours before his execution. A new book from the Royal Irish Society offers us a fresh perspective. 1916: Portraits and Lives features the biographies of 42 people who were involved in the Rising. They include the leaders, those who were executed, four who were killed in action, one who was murdered, nine women, three nationalists who opposed the Rising, and six members of the British administration. Written by eminent historians Lawrence William White and James Quinn, with superb black and white
By Sharon Ní Chonchúir
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drawings by David Rooney, the book brings the Ireland of 1916 to life and introduces many surprising new facts. The first portrait is of Augustine Birrell, Chief Secretary of Ireland at the time. His surprise is that far from representing the tyranny of British rule, he supported Home Rule for Ireland. Roger Casement comes across as volatile; so much so that the editor, who discusses him in this book, suspects he had bipolar disorder. The biography of Éamonn Ceannt notes that his brother William fought with the British Army in France while Éamonn fought against them in Ireland. Such divided loyalties in one family show how complicated the country was in 1916. Tom Clarke was the man who linked the rebels of 1916 to the Fenians of old. Released from prison
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after serving time for a bombing campaign in England, he set up a newsagent’s shop in Dublin as a front for his activity in revitalizing the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.). He inspired the younger rebels to violent revolution. “During the Rising, those who observed him commented on how happy he looked; the insurrection being for him the culmination of a decade’s work and a life’s ambition,” writes his biographer, James Quinn. Bulmer Hobson was on the wrong side of history. A committed nationalist, he was involved in everything from the G.A.A. to the I.R.B. but he wasn’t an extremist. As a result, he wasn’t party to plans for the Rising until it was imminent. Because he thought the rebellion was hopeless, he did his best to prevent it from happening. He was punished for this by being excluded from Irish politics forever after, barred from political meetings and ostracized by former friends. Michael J. O’Rahilly was another activist who opposed the Rising. He was involved with the Irish Volunteers from the start and pushed for rebellion at the outbreak of WWI. He tried to contact Germany to get support but, when this failed, he sided with Hobson, backing a defensive strategy, rather than a pre-emptive rising. When he saw the Rising taking place on Easter Monday, he felt he had a moral duty to stand with men he had trained. He said, “I helped wind up the clock so I might as well hear it strike.” He fought in the G.P.O. and was wounded charging a barricade on Moore Street. He bled to death in a laneway. Constance Markievicz is perhaps the most glamorous of the rebels. She was born into an aristocratic family, but her interests weren’t those of a typical young lady. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, organized soup kitchens in Dublin’s slums, and believed in the need for armed rebellion against
British rule in Ireland. Constance’s role in the action – second-in-command in St. Stephen’s Green – meant she was initially sentenced to death. Her sentence was commuted because she was a woman. Her life after prison was erratic. She spent the War of Independence on the run and took the anti-treaty side in the civil war. She won a seat as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the 1927 election, but her hard life meant her health failed her. She died a pauper in hospital later that year. The fates of Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grenan are less disheartening. Childhood friends, they did everything together. They served under James Connolly in the G.P.O., performed courier duties all over the city, and delivered ammunition by hiding it under their skirts. Pearse chose Elizabeth to discuss the terms of surrender with the British on April 29th, fearing that a man given this task would be shot. Elizabeth approached the barricades waving a white flag and was taken to Brigadier Lowe. Later that day, she accompanied Pearse when he surrender to Lowe in person, and can be glimpsed in press photos taken of the occasion. Elizabeth and Julia lived together after the Rising and remained active in nationalist politics. John Maxwell was the British officer who restored order in Dublin. He had been recalled from Egypt shortly before the Rising broke out and his availability appears to have been the main reason he was selected for the task. “That he – a mid-ranking general of no great reputation, was selected to go to Dublin reflects how comparatively low down Ireland was in the scale of British political priorities in 1916,” writes his biographer, Keith Jeffery. Because of the book’s alphabetical order, 231 pages go by before we arrive at Pádraig Pearse, the pre-eminent figure of the Rising. His biographer in this book, J.J. Lee, counters the idea of Pearse exalting sacrificial bloodshed. He believes Pearse hoped for success, not failure. “It’s easy to forget that neither Pearse nor anyone else planned the actual rising that occurred,” says J.J. Lee. “It was the rising no one planned.” The Rising was supposed to take place nationwide on Easter Sunday, and with ten times as many Volunteers as turned out on the day.
Clockwise from far left: Michael J. O’Rahilly, Constance Markievicz, Elizabeth O’Farrell, Bulmer Hobson, and Tom Clarke.
Drawings by David Rooney.
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Below: Joseph Mary Plunkett Bottom: Printing the Proclamation.
The next biography is that of William Pearse. He was devoted to his older brother Pádraig and followed him in everything he did. This included fighting in the G.P.O. on Easter Monday. William played a minor role in the Rising and when he was executed in its aftermath, there was a huge public outcry. His death discredited the executions in the eyes of many moderates. Joseph Mary Plunkett was a sickly man but a military mastermind. His initial plan was for a rising in Dublin and the west, coordinated with a German invasion up the Shannon. When this was rejected by the Germans, it was he who came up with the strategy of occupying key city center buildings instead. John Redmond merits a long entry in this book. He became an M.P. for the Irish Parliamentary Party at the age of 24 and dedicated his life to winning Home Rule for Ireland. He almost succeeded when the third Home Rule bill was passed in 1912. The bill was expected to become law in the summer of 1914, and
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Redmond hoped to have won the Ulster Unionists over to the idea by that time. His hopes were dashed when the Ulster Volunteers were formed in 1912 and the Irish Volunteers in 1913. Both groups began to import arms and civil war might have erupted were it not for the outbreak of WWI. Redmond was caught entirely unawares by the Rising and saw it as an assault on all he stood for. He died following an operation for gallstones in March 1918. His party died a political death soon afterwards when Sinn Féin won 73 seats to their six in the general election. Men, women, moderates, extremists, socialists, feminists, and many more are given voice in this insightful book. It’s a beautiful book too, with black and white illustrations of each profiled individual by the artist David Rooney. By telling the stories of 42 remarkable people associated with 1916, this book expands on all those stories we’ve been told in the past. It adds to our understanding of the Ireland of 100 years ago and of those who played a part in the rising that eventually IA led to its independence. 1916: PORTRAITS AND LIVES Edited by James Quinn and Lawrence William White and illustrated by David Rooney. It retails for €30 and is available for purchase here: https://www.ria.ie/1916-portraits-and-lives
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Three of the men who signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic had published poetry before the Rising. But many more revolutionaries who participated were writers, scholars, and artists, including several notable women. Historian Christine Kinealy investigates their work.
I am come of the seed of the people, the people that sorrow; Who have no treasure but hope, No riches laid up but a memory of an ancient glory […] And I say to my people’s masters: Beware. Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people Who shall take what ye would not give. Did ye think to conquer the people, or that law is stronger than life, And than men’s desire to be free? We will try it out with you, Ye that have harried and held, Ye that have bullied and bribed. Tyrants… hypocrites… liars!
– “The Rebel” by P. H. Pearse
At the time of the Easter Rising in Dublin, Padraic Colum, a noted poet and Irish nationalist, was in New York. His response to reading the highly-censored news of its failure was to refer to the Rising as “a poet’s revolution.” This description was reinforced by a lead article in The New York Times of May 7, under the headline, “Poets Marched in the Van of the Irish Revolution.” At this stage, Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, Thomas Clarke, and Thomas MacDonagh had already been executed. Three of the men who signed the Proclamation in 1916, Pearse, MacDonagh, and Plunkett, were published poets, while many of their supporters were also writers – of plays, songs and ballads, albeit of mixed quality. Only weeks before his own execution, Pearse had joked that one of the outcomes of a rebellion could be to “rid Ireland of three bad poets!” Significantly, many who survived the Rising wrote poetic tributes to those who had lost their lives. The combining of poetry with politics, of cultural nationalism with radical activism, was not new in Ireland. It had been evident during the 1848 uprising led by Young Ireland. During the late 19th century cultural revival, poetry had also played a crucial role in the ideological struggle to win the hearts and souls of Irish people in the search for an Irish identity and the struggle for independence. In addition to the 16 men who were executed in 1916, an estimated 64 insurgents had been killed during the Rising. Michael O’Rahilly was one of them. Known as The O’Rahilly, Michael was a republican
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and founding member of the Irish Volunteers. In 1911, he had organized a protest against the visit of King George V to Dublin. Amongst other things, he had arranged for a banner to be erected in Grafton Street, in the centre of the city, making it clear that the royal visitor was not welcome. The banner was removed by the police. The O’Rahilly also penned the following for the occasion: Thou are not conquered yet, dear land, Thy spirit still is free. Though long the Saxon’s ruthless hand, Has triumphed over thee. Though oft obscured by clouds of woe, The sun has never set, Twill blaze again in golden glow, Thou art not conquered yet […] Through ages long of war and strife, Of rapine and of woe, We fought the bitter fight of life, Against the Saxon foe, Our fairst hopes to break thy chains, Have died in vain regret, But still the glorious truth remains, Though art not conquered yet.
Thou art not conquered yet, dear land, Thy sons must not forget, The day will be when all can see, Thou art not conquered yet
Countess Markievicz, who participated in the protest, described the poem as “haunting and beautiful, and just put into words what we all felt.” Although opposed to the Rising, believing that it could only end in defeat, The O’Rahilly joined his friends and colleagues in Liberty Hall, famously saying, “Well, I’ve helped to wind up the clock – I might as well hear it strike!” The O’Rahilly fought in the G.P.O. until Friday, when he volunteered to lead a party to what is now Parnell Street. He was shot in Moore Street. Before he died, he wrote to his wife: “Written after I was shot. Darling Nancy I was shot leading a rush up Moore Street and took refuge in a doorway. While I was there I heard the men pointing out where I was and made a bolt for the laneway I am in now. I got more [than] one bullet I think. Tons and tons of love dearie to you and the boys and to
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Nell and Anna. It was a good fight anyhow. Please deliver this to Nannie O’Rahilly, 40 Herbert Park, Dublin. Goodbye Darling.” Women participated in the Easter Rising in many roles, with at least 77 being arrested following the surrender. The most famous female participant was Countess Constance Markievicz, who was initially sentenced to death, although this was reprieved. While in prison, she occupied her time by writing poetry and drawing. She was dismissive of her own poetic ability, describing her writings as “jingles,” and telling her sister, Eva, who was herself a talented poet: “I am now going to lapse into verse. I want you to criticize. Tell me something about metre and what to aim at. I am quite humble and I know I am not a poet, but I do love trying.” When Constance heard of the execution of beloved friend and political mentor, James Connolly, she responded in verse: You died for your country, my Hero-love In the first grey dawn of spring; On your lips was a prayer to God above That your death will have helped to bring Freedom and peace to the land you love, Love above everything.
At the end of 1917, Constance was still writing poetry, her writings suggesting that the events of 1916 still haunted her, and that she remained politically unrepentant. The following untitled poem by Markievicz celebrates the Rising, while looking forward to the next attempt to win Irish independence: They murdered our men in the grisly dawn, In unhallowed graves they lie, And we proudly honour our martyred dead As we raise the triumphant cry:
God save Ireland, so small and great, With her armies of martyred dead, Fighting and praying the great hosts march, We following in their tread […] And the prayer goes up from our martyred dead, And we echo it here today; For the army , where dead and living unite, No English force can stay. God save Ireland, although we, too, Must fight and suffer and fall, The Republican Army is ready today To march at the battle call.
ABOVE: Countess Markievicz, c. 1900. TOP LEFT: Michael O’Rahilly, known as “The O’Rahilly,” in military uniform in 1915.
Both Constance and her sister, Eva, were themselves later memorialized as young women in a poem by W.B. Yeats, written in 1927: “Two girls in silk kimonos, both / Beautiful, one a gazelle.” Dora Sigerson Shorter was a poet and sculptor who had been at the center of the Irish literary revival of the late nineteenth century. Both her parents had been writers, and guests at their Dublin home had included W.B. Yeats. Following her marriage in 1896, she resided in London. Dora died prematurely in 1918 (she was 51). Her collection The Tricolour: Poems of the Irish Revolution, was published posthumously in 1919. In it, the editor’s note recorded: “The publication of this book is a sacred obligation to one who broke her heart over Ireland. Dora SigerFEBRUARY / MARCH 2016 IRISH AMERICA 99
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ABOVE: Dora Sigerson. TOP RIGHT: W.B. Yeats, whose poem “Easter, 1916” is among the best-known poems about the Rising.
son, in her last few weeks of life, knowing full well that she was dying, designed every detail of this little volume … Any sale that may arise from the sale of the book will be devoted, as are the copyrights of the author, to a monument which she herself sculptured with a view to its erection over the graves of the ‘Sixteen Dead Men’ when circumstances places their ashes in Glasnevin.” Like many other nationalist writers, Dora believed that a rebirth would come from the deaths of the 16 men executed. In “Sixteen Dead Men” she writes: Hark! in the still night. Who goes there? “Fifteen dead men” Why do they wait? “Hasten, comrade, death is so fair” Now comes their Captain through the dim gate […] Sixteen dead men! Shall they return? “Yea, they shall come again, breath of our breath. They on our nation’s hearth made old fires burn. Guard her unconquered soul, strong in their death.
Dora and her husband, together with Yeats, Arthur Conan Doyle, and George Bernard Shaw, campaigned for Sir Roger Casement’s death sentence to be overturned. They were unsuccessful and Casement was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on August 3, 1916 at the age of 51. Dora’s poem “The Choice” was written in his memory: This Consul Casement—he who heard the cry Of stricken people—and who in his fight To lift the torture load from broken men, And shield sad women from eternal night, Went through lone, hot, and fevered foreign lands […]
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What did he hear upon red shaken earth, Where little nations struggle and expire? Some banshee cry upon the hot wind thrills! And Roger Casement—he who freed the slave, Made sad babes smile and tortured women hope, Flung all aside, King’s honours and great years, To take for finis here a hempen rope, And banshee cries upon far Irish hills.
The most famous poem to come out of the Rising was penned by W.B. Yeats, who had neither approved nor participated in the Rising, and was in England when it took place. Yeats personally knew many of the participants, giving the poem its sense of intimacy (and he famously bore a personal grudge towards one of them, John McBride, who had married and divorced Maud Gonne with whom Yeats was in love, calling him a “drunken, vainglorious lout” in the poem). Like many Irish people, even from a distance, Yeats felt deeply moved by the speed and ruthlessness of the court martials and executions. Yeats’s poem, “Easter, 1916,” has inevitably received much attention and has even been described as one of the most powerful poems of the twentieth century. The poem is also a reminder of Yeats’s political ambivalence, summed up in the refrain that, “A terrible beauty is born.” While touring the United States in 1882, Oscar Wilde, when encouraged to speak about Ireland and her relationship with Britain responded: “The Saxon took our lands from us and left them desolate. We took their language and added new beauties to it.” Not all of the poetry written in or about Easter 1916 is beautiful, nonetheless, it is a powerful and largely forgotten legacy of the men and women who were IA witnesses to it.
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last word |
The United Irishmen
American Legacy When the rebellion of 1798 failed, many of The United Irishmen, including Thomas Addis Emmet, came to the United States where their influence was enormous. By Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
ou may well wonder why a historian of the United States should presume to write about the United Irishmen of 1798. There are two reasons: one personal, the other historical. The personal reason is that I had the great good luck to marry an Emmet in the direct line of descent from the Thomas Addis Emmet – an act that has improved me as much as it has enlivened and enriched my life. Also, growing up in Massachusetts, I was plunged from an early age into Irish-American ways, forming lifelong friendships with Edwin O’Connor of The Last Hurrah, with Frances Sweeney of the Irish-American Defense Committee, with Monsignor Frank Lally of the Boston Pilot, with Tip O’Neill, and with a family named Kennedy. The historical reason is that the fate of the United Irishmen of 1798 has, from the start, been entangled with the fate of the United States of America. For it was the American Revolution that first inspired the United Irishmen in their bid for Irish independence. As John Caldwell, a Presbyterian radical from County Antrim (let us not forget that many of the United Irishmen, including the Emmets, were Protestants), later recalled it, “On the news of the battle of Bunker Hill, my nurse Ann Orr led me to the top of a mount on a midsummer eve, where the young and the aged were assembled before a blazing bonfire to celebrate what they considered the triumph of America over British despotism.” When John Paul Jones, the dashing American naval commander, sailed his sloop Ranger into Belfast harbor in 1778, he was unopposed and applauded. When the British government, losing the war in America and fearing trouble in Ireland, made the
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concession in 1782 of an Irish Parliament, one Irishman said, “It was on the plains of America that Ireland obtained her freedom.” The Irish patriot Henry Grattan declared, “The American war was the Irish harvest.” Grattan’s “revolution of 1782” turned out to be a false dawn. In the next decade the United Irishmen, additionally inspired by the French Revolution, arose to carry forward the struggle. When forced underground, the United Irishmen developed a catechism by which members could recognize one another. It went like this: “What have you got in your hand? – A green bough. – Where did it first grow? – In America. – Where did it bud? – In France. – Where are you going to plant it? – In the crown of Great Britain.” Wolfe Tone, after his capture and condemnation by the English, said (in his speech from the dock), “In the glorious race of patriotism, I have pursued the path chalked out by Washington in America.” Thomas Addis Emmet was in the center of all this, and his younger brother Robert became the historic martyr to the cause, when he was hanged by the British in 1803. The United Irishmen had, it must be confessed, their own internal fights. “The Irish are a fair people,” as Dr. Johnson said, “they never speak well of one another.” Or, as George Mitchell once put it, “An Irishman will go a hundred miles out of his way to receive an insult.” The feud between Thomas Addis Emmet and Arthur O’Connor came close to turning the United Irishmen into the Disunited Irishmen. William Drennan, who wrote the original United Irishmen prospectus, described Thomas Addis Emmet as “possessing more eloquence than energy, more caution than action.” But it is not at all clear that Emmet was wrong in doing his best to restrain the firebrands. Emmet rightly understood that democracy is at bottom an educational process. The great need, he thought, was to instill democratic values in the citizenry in order, as he put it, to “make every man a politician.” In his study of the rebellion of 1798, The Year of Liberty, Thomas Pekenham concludes that Thomas Addis Emmet was “undoubtedly the most talented and level-headed of all the United Irishmen.” After the collapse of the rebellion and the arrest of
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its leaders, Emmet and others were put in British jails. Discharged from imprisonment on the understanding that he would go into permanent exile, Emmet decided in 1804 to take his chances on the other side of the Atlantic. This had not been his first thought. Asked in 1798 where he would seek refuge, Emmet replied, “Decidedly not America.” But that was the America of the Federalists, the party that had just passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. These laws appeared to be aimed directly at people like Thomas Addis Emmet, well known as an alien with a fine reputation for sedition. The election in 1800 of Thomas Jefferson as president portended a different United States. Thomas Addis’s mother wrote him, “Ever since Jefferson has been chosen, I have expected that in America you would reside.” Three days after Emmet disembarked in New York, he applied for naturalization papers. Qualified to practice both medicine and law, he decided on a legal career and rapidly rose to the top of the New York bar. A short eight years after his arrival, he was appointed Attorney General of the state of New York. In private practice, Emmet argued important cases before the Supreme Court, notably against the great Daniel Webster in the famous 1824 case of Gibbons v. Ogden. Here Emmet did his eloquent best to preserve Robert Fulton’s state-chartered monopoly of steamboat traffic in New York waters, but lost to Daniel Webster’s – and Chief Justice John Marshall’s – expansive reading of the federal commerce power. An admirer of Thomas Jefferson, Emmet was often engaged in party battles with the Federalists. His Federalist opponents comparing him to a snake, called him “Thomas Adder Emmet.” His first case in an American court was a defense of a fugitive slave, and he remained active in the anti-slavery cause. But he did not have an altogether immaculate liberal record. When it came to wage slavery, he sided with the employers. In a case involving journeymen shoemakers organizing for higher wages, Emmet argued that they had no right to form a union. In a letter to a friend in Ireland, he complained of what he called “the most crying grievance of America, the badness of servants, of which, and the enormity of wages, you can scarcely form an idea.” His pamphlet of 1816, “Hints to Immigrants,” urged newcomers to behave properly and seek respectability.
Emmet was known for having the most “sarcastic humor” of the American bar. Justice Story called him “the favorite counselor of New York.” David A. Wilson, the historian of the United Irishmen in the United States, wrote that Thomas Addis Emmet “became the most respected Irish American of his generation.” If the United Irishmen owed something to the United States, the United States owed a great deal to the United Irishmen. More than 2,000 United Irishmen settled in the United States. Emmet; the physician William James MacNeven; Edward Hudson, a pioneer in dental surgery; the lawyer William Sampson; the mathematician Robert Adrain; the horticulturist Bernard McMahon; the architect John Neilson; and the journalist John Daly Burk all left their mark on the infant republic. The United Irishmen brought more than individual accomplishments. They brought a passionate commitment to a non-sectarian democratic republic based on personal freedom and social justice. They called for a broader political franchise, liberalized naturalization laws, freedom of worship, and reform of the legal system. They also brought political talents and skills that energized the embryonic American democracy. As David Wilson wrote, they “made Irishness synonymous with radical republicanism.” A Federalist congressman from Pennsylvania observed, after traveling around the stale during the election of 1800, “I have seen many, very many Irishmen, and with a very few exceptions, they are United Irishmen, Free Masons, and the most God-provoking Democrats on this side of Hell.” United Irishmen helped lay the foundation for the election in 1828 of the first Irish president, Andrew Jackson, whose parents came from Carrickfergus in County Antrim. (I would like to think that descendants of the United Irishmen, as the progeny of notorious rebels and revolutionaries, have remained faithful to the radical politics of their ancestors.) It was two centuries from the defeat of the United Irishmen in 1798 to the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The accord – that promises at last to end years of insensate violence and prepare the way for an Ireland united, if not in sovereignty, at least in cooperation, religious tolerance and peace – is very much line with the principles of 1798. IA
LEFT: Grave of Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. The cross was sculpted by James and Willie Pearse, father and brother of Patrick Pearse. OPENING PAGE: Dr. Addis Emmet.
Postscript: Thomas Addis Emmet died in 1827 and was buried in St Mark’s-inthe-Bowery Churchyard in the East Village, New York City. His grandson, Dr Thomas Addis Emmet, a prominent doctor and Irish American activist, had him reburied in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, the final resting place of many of Ireland’s patriots. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., a historian and social critic, was a special assistant to President Kennedy. Married to Alexandra Emmett, he specialized in 20th century American liberalism and authored, among other works, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House. This article originally appeared in the April / May 1999 issue of Irish America. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. died in 2007.
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review of books | recently published books Irish Hunger and Migration: Myth, Memory and Memorialization Edited by Patrick Fitzgerald, Christine Kinealy, and Gerard Moran
he biennial Ulster-American Heritage Symposium, which explores Ulster’s connections with the United States, celebrated its 20th anniversary at two venues in 2014: Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and the University of Georgia in Athens. Since 1976, venues have alternated between sites in Ulster and North America. The 2014 U.A.H.S. also marked 20 years since the sesquicentennial of the Great Hunger. Over the past two decades, Famine scholarship has incorporated new perspectives and disciplines, including migration studies, that have reinterpreted one of history’s, and Ireland’s, great tragedies. This year, Quinnipiac University, home of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute and Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, published the proceedings from both 2014 conferences. This book, the third such publication of U.A.H.S. proceedings, gathers the work of 14 experts in the fields of famine, migration studies, and memory studies. The contributors to this volume are Marguérite Corporaal, Patrick Fitzgerald, David Gleeson, Christine Kinealy, Jason King, Brian Lambkin, Mark McGowan, Gerard Moran, Kay Muhr, Maureen Murphy, Andrew Newby, Nini Rodgers, Catherine Shannon, and Damian Shiels. This collection of essays presents some of the findings of recent scholarship and considers the Great Hunger in an international and interdisciplinary context. These studies examine aspects of famine and migration in a broad chronological and geographical framework. They also address the process of memorialization, notably the roles of memory and myth. The result is testament to the importance of the ongoing examination of the bonds between Ulster and America. Irish Hunger and Migration: Myth, Memory and Memorialization is edited by Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald (Mellon Centre for Migration Studies), Professor Christine Kinealy (Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University) and Dr. Gerard Moran (European School, Lacken, Brussels).
– Turlough McConnell (Quinnipiac University Press / 198p / $35)
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At Home in the Revolution: What Women Said and Did in 1916 By Lucy McDiarmid
ucy McDiarmid’s contribution to the study of the Easter Rising in its centenary year has been five years in the making, and it’s paid off. An American academic, McDiarmid focuses her keen scholarly tools on unique, alternate, and colorful moments in history that typify larger claims about cultural politics. At Home in the Revolution, her most recent work towards this aim, at its broadest, is a study of changing gender norms at the time of the Rising. But more excitingly, it does this through a rigorous study of women’s words, ideas, and actions at the time that spans class, levels of political involvement, and political leanings – she gives a voice and a platform to just about every woman who wrote something about the Rising as it was happening, from the famous like Kathleen Clarke and Countess Markievicz to working class wives who kept diaries. To do this, she uses diaries, letters, eyewitness statements, military pension applications, and autobiographies written by loyalists, nationalists, suffragists, women who fought at the G.P.O., and women who didn’t leave their home and wrote of tennis season beginning with the same interest as they documented news of James Connolly being shot. That means that this account of the Rising necessarily focuses on alternate stories of the Rising, often in minute detail (e.g. using bayonets as cooking utensils), delivered from unique and previously un-studied perspectives, giving McDiarmid the first opportunity to generalize the significance of these accounts that other historians have ignored. It is the skill and incisiveness with which she does this that gives the book its force. As a study of women in 1916, the book is both situated within and outside of the discourse of feminism. To apply contemporary notions of the term to these women’s writings would be anachronistic, and yet not to situate their accounts within the context of gender (as in contemporaneous questions of unmarried women dressing a man’s wounds around his genitals) would elide the fact that these are stories of Irish women and men negotiating space at a time, as McDiarmid writes, “in which gender roles are uncertain.” The book is at once a political study of shifting gender relations as well as a thoroughly researched, vivid, emotional, and often comic look at forgotten stories of the Rising that will entertain as much as it will enlighten.
– Adam Farley (Royal Irish Academy / 300p / €25)
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John Hume: Irish Peacemaker
Edited by Séan Farren and Denis Haughey
ohn Hume was inarguably one of the greatest Irish peacemakers and politicians of the late twentieth century. If this point has not already been made clear by his political career or the fact that he is the only person to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Gandhi Peace Prize, and the Martin Luther King Award, then this new book about Hume’s life and legacy as a peacemaking politician should. Edited by Hume’s colleagues from the Northern Irish nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, John Hume: Irish Peacemaker brings together a number of chapters written not only by noted political scholars, but also by the people who worked and lived alongside him, as well as offering a forward by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Together they detail the various phases of his admirable life. To mention just a smattering of remarkable achievements discussed in this book, the reader is offered well contextualized insights into the beginnings of his career in the 1960s in the credit union movement, and carries on through his role as a civil rights campaigner and an S.D.L.P. politician, to his famous initiatives with Gerry Adams that culminated in the creation of the Good Friday Agreement. The inside view afforded by the authors’ expertise and first-hand experience has its merits, especially for those who seek a volume on Hume that provides accounts rich in detail and intertwined with personal narrative. However, it can make for dense reading at times, demanding more than a casual riffle from the reader. Although a book like this – written and edited by the peers of a still living and much celebrated leader – runs the risk of sycophancy, its analysis manages to emerge on the side of objectivity while still providing the sound reasons for the celebration of Hume’s dedication to creating a just society and finding a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.
– R. Bryan Willits (Four Courts / 240p / $35)
Young Ireland and the Writing of Irish History
By James Quinn
ames Quinn’s refreshingly impartial Young Ireland and the Writing of Irish History shines a much needed lens on the legacy and impact of the Young Irelanders of the 1840s. Straightforward and unpretentious – a rarity for academic history books – Quinn unravels the early beginnings of The Nation newspaper and its charismatic and passionate staff, headed by Thomas Davis, Charles Gavan Duffy, and John Blake Dillon. It quietly went from a campaign for repeal that coalesced nicely with Daniel O’Connell’s nationalistic campaign to quickly become a popular source for Irish education, ballads, and most importantly, history. The Nation tapped into the widespread romanticism of the time. Taking as inspiration the German Romantics, they sought to make the past alive again, imbuing Irish history with heroic tales of grandeur and resurrecting past giants like Theobald Wolfe Tone and Hugh O’Neill. As Quinn explains, history became a source of pride and nationalism, which many Young Irelanders saw as needing release from the shackles of imperialist British ideology that portrayed Ireland as a defeated country. Quinn, however, is quick to balance his assessment of Young Ireland referencing their propagandist and polemical language mixed with their weak historical research, noting, “The Nation’s writers considered it more important that historical works be lively and inspiring rather than comprehensively researched.” Comprehensive research is one thing clearly on display throughout Young Ireland. While biographical sketches of the main players are provided in the notes, Quinn does a remarkable job of recreating Thomas Davis, arguably the heart and soul of The Nation. Davis is perhaps the most widely quoted, but one does wish that other players were brought to the table. Duffy and John Mitchel play greater roles after Davis’s death, but there is a lack of examples from other contributors, particularly women who played an equally important role in The Nation’s success. Quinn does reference the role of women, albeit briefly, describing the verses of Ellen Downing, Mary Patrick, and Jane Elgee (mother of Oscar Wilde), writing, “the pithy and emotional nature of verse was regarded as more fitting to women than the laborious task of writing history.” Much of this may have been owing to the relative conservativeness of many of the Young Ireland leaders. While slim in parts and repetitive in others, Quinn’s history gives a much-needed boost to Young Ireland historiography, a portion of which features remarkably in the concluding chapters. Quinn does a brilliant job of uncovering the legacy Young Ireland left behind and the influence that leaders like Davis, Duffy, and Mitchel had on later generations of writers, like W.B. Yeats, Arthur Griffith, and Pádraig Pearse. In the end, Quinn proves that, while largely forgotten today, the historical and cultural impact of Young Ireland shaped the future and memory of Irish nationalism.
– Matthew Skwiat (UCD Press / 236p / €30)
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photo album | Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa
Rossa Cole (left) and his brother William Rossa Cole, are making a documentary film about their great-grandfather, the Irish Fenian leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.
rowing up in New York City, there was always a formal photographic portrait of our greatgrandfather Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa on the wall of our apartment. In this photo, Rossa looks dignified, dressed in a 19th-century suit and broad-rimmed hat, his clear eyes giving the impression of strength, clarity and determination. Next to it hung an illustration from the cover of the 19thcentury American satirical magazine Puck, one of many depicting Rossa in an unflattering light, as an angry old man on the fringes, nearly a lunatic. These images together, though so different, always conveyed to us the fact that this great grandfather of ours did something. Our father, William Rossa Cole, was born on Staten Island, New York where the O’Donovan Rossas eventually chose to settle after his forced exile from his homeland in 1871. Our father loved Ireland. He loved the song, the writing and the craic, and when he would hear a brogue or visit Eire, which we did a number of times together, his face would light up. He had the “clear blue eyes” of Rossa but he was not a political man and, while Rossa was kept on in our names and honored, we didn’t get lectures on Irish history and politics. Besides knowledge of his brutal time in English prisons, his huge funeral on August 1st, 1915 and the famous oration by Pádraig Pearse over his grave (“The fools, the fools, the fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead . . .”) we didn’t know too much about the life of Rossa. Our father died in 2000 and I inherited a trove of O’Donovan Rossa’s material that had come down through my grandmother Margaret, O’Donovan Rossa’s youngest daughter. Once in a while I would poke around in the boxes and the bronze-tipped cane that was given to Rossa by an American Fenian group in 1886 hung above the door of my daughter’s
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room. At some point, perhaps five years ago, my brother Rossa told me he saw on Wikipedia that O’Donovan Rossa, after his exile to New York, had waged a dynamite campaign on English soil and was nicknamed “O’Dynamite Rossa” by the press of the time. I was surprised, as that significant part of Rossa’s life was something that, from what I can recall, our family did not talk about. As a longtime documentary filmmaker, though, it peaked my interest about Rossa and his life even more. Starting with a donation at the beginning of 2015, I embarked on the journey to make a film about Rossa, his incredible wife Mary Jane – our great grandmother – and their relevance in Ireland and the world today. It has been an experience that has taken me and my brother from Belfast and Tyrone to Dublin and, of course, all over West Cork as commemorations specifically about Rossa occurred in Ireland and in New York throughout the summer of 2015. These events culminated August 1, where the first state event of the 1916 centenary commemoration program took place at Glasnevin and Sinn Féin recreated the funeral procession in period costume. I have captured all of this on film, framing Rossa’s story in the personal journey of discovery about what Rossa’s life meant then and means now. (I am currently fundraising and starting to edit the film.) While Rossa is known largely through Pearse’s famous oration, it has been great to see over the last year a renewed interest in Rossa’s colorful, controversial and consistent life. Above all he loved Ireland and strove for something that should be a basic human right: freedom and justice for all people no matter race, creed, religion, or nationality. Being a relative is simply something you are born into. But it is what you do with that role that is important; how you carry the stories and the name onto future generations. Our grandmother wrote about her father and our father wrote about his grandfather. Both had strong connections to Ireland. Now my brother and I are doing the same only in a different medium. Both the formal portrait and the Puck cover will remain on our walls. And we think our children will put them on theirs as well. – William Rossa Cole Visit www.rossafilm.com for more information and trailers about the film project, Rossa Irish Rebel, or contact Rossa Cole at email@example.com.
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