Liverpool Postgraduate Journal of Irish Studies
Acknowledgements Enormous gratitude to our editors Claire Alexandra Greene, Lucy Kilbane, Emily Smith, Katherine Parke and Daisy Rose Birkenhead. Special thanks must be afforded to the Journal Reader, Associate Professor Richard Barlow of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. We also acknowledge the efforts of all those that have contributed work to the Journal, without whom it would not be possible. Thanks also to the University of Liverpool Institute of Irish Studies, particularly to Dr. Niall Carson, who has been a great help in the preparation and publication of this Journal. Thanks for reading, The General Editors Rebecca Boast and Dr. Seamus May.
Cover image Ă&#x201C; Dr. Sean Hewitt
Table of Contents ‘Booms of bombs and heavy rethudders’: The Weapons at Finnegans Wake By Dr Donal Manning ............................................................................................. pp. 2-17 Na Buachaillí Bána or the Bougheleen Bawins: Munster Whiteboys – Language, Literacy and Orality, 1761 to 1776 By Cathrine Wignall ............................................................................................... pp. 18-35 Justice for Robert? The Murder of Robert McCartney and Public Discourse in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement By Eamonn McNamara .......................................................................................... pp. 36-54 Real/Unreal: The Crisis of the Adolescent in John McGahern’s The Dark By Martin Keaveney ............................................................................................... pp. 55-83 ‘There is nothing so shocking as madness.’ Rationalising the Limerick District Lunatic Asylum, 1772-1827 By Triona Waters .................................................................................................... pp. 74-93
‘Booms of bombs and heavy rethudders’: the weapons at Finnegans Wake By Dr Donal Manning Abstract This paper reviews James Joyce’s use of the imagery of weapons and ammunition as a medium with which to elaborate the themes of Finnegans Wake. These themes include his survey of Irish and global history, Vico’s concept of the cyclical recurrence of history, the comic subversion of man’s tendency to relish in, and glorify, violence, and Joyce’s deprecation of sectarian conflict. He personifies weapons to emphasise the intimate association between men and arms. Joyce famously uses language and writing as tools to subvert authoritative discourse, and to offer the possibility of alternative perspectives. Joyce reinforces the impact of this strategy by drawing analogy between weapons, and writing and language. Keywords: James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, Weapons, Arms
Introduction Arma virumque cano (Arms and the man I sing)1 In Book II.4 of Finnegans Wake, a chapter which epitomizes Joyce’s treatment of global and Irish history, he adapts the famous beginning of Virgil’s Aeneid: ‘present and absent and past and present and perfect arma virumque romano’.2 The image, of soldiers parading with their guns for inspection, exemplifies a strategy of Joyce’s which has received little attention: his deployment of weapons, warships and ammunition to develop his themes. These themes extend beyond the subject of warfare to include the development of arms as metaphor for human progress, the notions of machismo and violence as essentially ridiculous, the cyclical nature of history, and comic undermining of military and political authority. The objectives of this paper are to analyse Joyce’s use of weapons (particularly but not exclusively in the Irish context) for these purposes. The first chapter of the Wake introduces weaponry and violence among its themes: Where the Baddelaries partisans are still out to mathmaster Malachus Micgranes and the Verdons catapelting the camibalistics out of the Whoyteboyce of Hoodie Head. Assiegates and boomeringstroms (04.03-6) This passage offers a profusion of historic weaponry and artillery: the ‘badelaire’, the ‘malchus’ and the ‘verdun’ are types of sword. The ‘partisan’ belongs to the class of staff weapons which includes the ‘pike’. It is probably named after the French and Italian partisans who employed it between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries.3 Joyce would have been attracted by the several meanings of the term, and by the personification of the weapon. Indeed, most of the weapons here are depicted as
Virgil, The Aeneid, trans. by Robert Fagles (London: Penguin, 2006), p. 47. James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, introduction by Seamus Deane (London: Penguin, 1992, p.389, lines 1819. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text thus: 389.18-19. 3 Paul Martin, Armour and Weapons (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1967), p. 229. 2
people, or groups, with agency. The ‘assegai’ is a lance, and the ‘catapult’ and ‘ballista’ are siege engines that were used to hurl devices and weapons.4 The compound word ‘camibalistics’ suggests cannonballs, and Joyce completes the list by linking the boomerang with the maelstrom of conflict.5 Along with the partisans, he evokes the image of renegade fighters by reference to the Whiteboys, the eighteenthcentury Irish land agitators. The word ‘Verdon’ bears even more significance: by suggesting Verdun, it anticipates the survey of global battles in this chapter, and it also refers to the Vernon family, who reportedly hold the sword used by Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf: ‘as true as the Vernons have Brian’s sword’ (498.25-6). In a nod to ancient weaponry, Earwicker, the Wake’s ‘Everyman’, recalls the heroes of Irish myth by appearing in Book III as ‘MacSmashall Swingy of the Cattleaxes’ (516.05). This refers to Mac Suibhne na dTuath Toraighe (MacSweeney of the Tory districts), also called MacSweeney of the Battleaxes.6 Joyce’s conversion of the weapon to ‘cattleaxes’ recalls the cattle raids that were among the staples of Irish myth, most famously the Táin Bó Cuailgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). In a few words, therefore, Joyce elaborates several of the themes of the Wake: he links myth and early history, and he subverts violence by making the fearsome MacSweeney sound silly. He also mocks the tendency of the scribes of myth, including the Gaelic Revivalists, to assign portentous names to their heroes, such as ‘Niall of the Nine Hostages’, and ‘Lugh of the Long Arm’, and to relish in their violence. Used by the rebels during the 1778 rebellion, the pike is probably the weapon etched most deeply in Irish cultural memory. This part reflects its symbolic importance as the ‘poor man’s’ weapon set against the might of the British. Its early
Philip Cleator, Weapons of War (London: Robert Hale, 1967), p. 87. Roland McHugh, Annotations to Finnegans Wake, 4th edn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), p. 4. 6 Brendan O’ Hehir, A Gaelic Lexicon for Finnegans Wake (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967), p. 274. 5
appearances in the Wake are linked with Earwicker and Finn MacCoul, his mythical alter ego. The account of how Earwicker acquired his cognomen acknowledges his skills as a constructor of buildings and roads: ‘we have for surtrusty bailiwick a turnpiker who is by turns a pikebailer no seldomer than an earwigger’ (31.26-8). Finn’s biography, likewise, includes the description: ‘took weapon in the province of the pike and let fling his line on Eelwick; moves in vicous cycles yet remews the same’ (134.1517). The piscine references recall Finn’s acquisition of eternal knowledge by tasting the flesh of the salmon of knowledge.7 The latter clause evokes concisely Vico’s notion of cyclical history, which Joyce used as a framework for the Wake: as we shall see, the phrase ‘the same anew’ is a recurring motif in the text. Weapons are not only used for military purposes, but also as instruments of civil authority and demonstrations of strength. The eviction of destitute cottier tenant families was a feature of the Great Famine of 1845-9, and of its aftermath. Whether by accident or design, the disaster provided an opportunity for landowners to clear the land of smallholders in the drive for changing the basis of agriculture from tillage to pasture. This drive entailed the destruction of the emptied dwellings: the roofs were removed and the properties set on fire. In acknowledgement of their favoured tool, the agents of this destruction, often with constabulary or soldiers in attendance, became known as the ‘crowbar brigade’.8 The notorious implement was a weapon in all but name, and Joyce recalls it, and its association with a police presence, during the trial of ‘Festy King’: ‘it was attempted by the crown (P. C. Robort) to show that King, elois Crowbar … impersonating a climbing boy’ (86.06-8). The extended passage contains further plays on the word crowbar. Since ‘Robert’ was slang for a policeman,
James MacKillop, Myths and Legends of the Celts (London: Penguin, 2005), p. 225.
James S. Donnelly Jr., The Great Irish Potato Famine (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2001), pp. 114-5.
and ‘climbing boy’ a term for a young Victorian chimneysweep, the association with eviction, de-roofing and house-burning is reinforced.9 Joyce refers to many personalities of the late nineteenth century, a period characterised by land agitation and political turmoil. In the face of increasing unrest in the 1880s, W. E. Forster, the chief secretary for Ireland, sanctioned a large order of buckshot cartridges for use by the police. He is remembered by the nickname ‘Buckshot Forster’, and he lives on in the Wake.10 Finn’s biography includes the alliterative and graphic ‘boon when with benches billeted, bann if buckshotbackshattered’ (137.13-14). William Ewart Gladstone, who played a major role in promoting Home Rule, and in the ultimate demise of Charles Stewart Parnell, also comes in for teasing. Joyce plays on his soubriquet, ‘The Grand Old Man’, repeatedly in the text. As Shaun departs in Book III, he exclaims: ‘Let me flee fiacckles, says the grand old manoark’ (468.29-30). This is one of several instances in which Joyce personifies the gunboat. The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly, for example, recalls the arrival of the invader: Sweet bad luck on the waves washed to our island The hooker of that hammerfast viking And Gall’s curse on the day when Eblana bay Saw his black and tan man-o’-war (46.13-16) Here, Joyce dolefully combines the Viking approach to Dublin with the ‘Black and Tans’, the notorious British army irregulars of the Anglo-Irish War. More humorously, he mocks the blatantly masculine characterisation of the gunboats during Shaun’s sermon: ‘While there’s men-o’war on the say there’ll be loves-o’women on the do’ (436.13-14). Men represent war, and are not only ‘on the sea’, but also full of talk. Women, in contrast, represent peace and get on with doing things. This extract recalls
McHugh, p. 86. Thomas Bartlett, Ireland: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 323.
the ‘Penelope’ episode of Ulysses, in which Molly bemoans ostentatious military displays and the senseless loss of young mens’ lives in war, a theme which Joyce develops in the Wake through Anna Livia, Earwicker’s wife. Increasing tension between loyalists and nationalists in fin de siècle Ireland led to the establishment of organised, drilled groups, including the Ulster Volunteers and their counterparts, the Irish Volunteers. Attempts to arm these groups involved gunrunning activities. Perhaps the most flagrant, and successful, attempt took place in 1914 at Larne, Co. Antrim and other Ulster ports, when loyalists imported thousands of German rifles (including Mausers) and 3,000,000 rounds of ammunition.11 They met no opposition from the authorities. While Larne does not appear specifically in the Wake, there are pointers to gun-running, for example in a passage during the interrogation of Earwicker by the four old men: Guns. Keep backwards, please, because there was no good to gundy running up again. Guns … Guns. Saying never underrupt greatgrandgosterfosters! Guns. And whatever one did they said, the fourlings, that on no accounts you were not to. Guns (368.01-6). A few months after Larne, nationalists attempted to smuggle a small consignment of Mauser rifles into the iconic Wakean village of Howth. In distinct contrast to Larne, the police disarmed the Howth gun-runners, and in the ensuing unrest in Dublin, British soldiers killed three civilians. The incident was followed by increased recruitment to the Irish Volunteers.12 Joyce refers to this escapade in an analysis of the Wake’s famous letter: We can recall, with voluntears, the froggy jew, and sweeter far ‘twere now westhinks in Dumbil’s fair city ere one more year is o’er … When from down swords the sea merged the oldowth guns (116.1216)
A. T. Q. Stewart, The Ulster Crisis: Resistance to Home Rule 1912-1914 (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1967), pp. 196-212. 12 Fearghall McGarry, The Rising. Ireland: Easter 1916 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 76-7.
The nationalist revolutionary ambience is established with play on the title of the 1916 ballad, ‘The Foggy Dew’, and on its first line: ‘As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I’.13 Swords is a seaside village near Howth. Its name offers an example of Joyce’s exploitation of Irish place-names which have military or violent connotations. Joyce later recalls the guns imported by the opposing forces: the pub scene records that the ‘Mullinguard minstrelsers’ had been ‘cutattrapped by the mausers’ (371.34-372.02). The latter portmanteau word vividly suggests men being ambushed or trapped, and cut down by the lethal efficiency of modern weapons. The episode devoted to the biography of Shem contains a graphic depiction of more twentieth-century violence: Now it is notoriously known how on that surprisingly bludgeony Unity Sunday, when the grand germogall allstar bout was harrily the rage … the marshalaisy and Irish eyes of welcome were smiling daggers down their backs, when the roth, vice and blause met the noir, blank and rogues and the grim white and cold bet the black fighting tans, categorically unimperatived by the maxims (176.19-25) Here, Joyce conflates the Great War and the Anglo-Irish War. The ‘germogall allstar bout’, along with the French and the old German tricolours (red, white and blue, and black, white and red respectively) indicates the former, while the Irish tricolour is set against the aforementioned Black and Tans. The respective flags are personified and given negative human traits (vice and roguery). Joyce captures the brutality of the War of Independence by parodying the title of the sentimental song, ‘When Irish eyes are smiling’, and linking it ironically with the knife in the back. The aura of violence is reinforced by the recognition that ‘bludgeony … Sunday’ refers to the notorious ‘Bloody Sunday’. In November 1920, British soldiers entered Croke Park during a Gaelic football match and shot dead twelve people, including one of the players. This
Chieftains, <https://genius.com/The-chieftains-the-foggy-dew-lyrics> [accessed 30 June 2019].
atrocity was in reprisal for the killings, by Michael Collins’s team, of eleven suspected British intelligence agents that morning.14 Joyce reinforces this association by mentioning ‘all the kules in Kroukaparka’ two pages later: the neologism, ‘kule’, plays on ‘cúl’, the Irish for ‘goal’ in Gaelic games (178.32-3). Joyce began to write Finnegans Wake in 1923, shortly after the global and the Irish wars had ended. By treating them together, and by mingling the various tricolours, Joyce implies that war is the same regardless of the theatre or scale, and he excoriates the symbols of nationality that drive this violence. The phrase at the end of this extract is deceptively innocuous. The maxim, invented in the 1880s and named after its inventor, Hiram S. Maxim, represented ‘progress’ in the development of guns, as it was the first fully automatic machine gun.15 A maxim, however, is also a moral rule, a term used particularly by the great German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. The Categorical Imperative is the name famously applied to Kant’s universal maxim dictating that rationality is the foundation of morality. Categorical imperatives are informed by reason, and as such are applicable to all rational agents.16 Joyce’s characteristic strategy of employing the multiple meanings of words to conflate the giant of Enlightenment moral philosophy with one of the modern agents of mass killing could hardly be more effective. The theme of ridiculing violence is developed in Shem’s chapter, in which Joyce characteristically introduces an autobiographical element: he got the charm of his optical life when he found himself (hic sunt lennones!) at pointblank range blinking down the barrel of an irregular revolver of the bulldog with a purpose pattern, handled by an unknown quarreller who, supposedly, had been told off to shade
Paul Bew, Ireland: The Politics of Enmity 1789-2006 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 408-
Cleator, pp. 158-9. Russ Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics, 3rd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 167-8.
and shoot shy Shem should the shit show his shiny shnout out awhile … by six or a dozen of the gayboys (179.01-8) The suggested Irish violence is internecine and sectarian: the anti-Treaty forces in the civil war of 1922-23 were known as ‘irregulars’, and ‘bulldog’ is slang for ‘pistol’.17 In 1922, Joyce’s wife, Nora, visited Galway with their children. They left during an outbreak of fighting between Free State and Republican troops, but en route to Dublin Nora and Lucia had to lie on the floor of the train to avoid crossfire.18 Joyce was convinced that he was the intended target, and this is reflected in the above passage, when he suggests that Shem, his alter ego, is targeted. He extends the theme of internecine conflict by citing the anything but gay Peep O’ Day Boys, the Protestant agitators who conducted anti-Catholic violence in eighteenth-century Ulster. The Latin phrase is a parody of the cartographic aphorism, ‘hic sunt leones’ (‘here are lions’). In 1931, Michael Lennon, a Dublin judge and an old friend, wrote an article in the Catholic World attacking Joyce and his family. The writer used Lennon’s betrayal, along with Nora’s experience in Galway, as reasons for never returning to Ireland. He wrote to a friend: ‘Hic sunt Lennones’.19 Joyce links the local with the global: the bearer of the gun, clearly the Unknown Warrior, once again recalls the Great War, and Wellington’s rallying cry is parodied and directed to the loyalist secret society. As well as assigning gun-related soubriquets to specific characters, weapons (as we have seen in the case of the maxim) are further personified by being named after their designers or manufacturers. Several examples appear in the ‘Butt and Taff’ episode: ‘send us victorias with nowells and brownings’ (350.36-351.01), and ‘before he could tell pullyirragun to parrylewis, I shuttm’ (352.14). John H. Browning designed a machine gun capable of firing four hundred rounds per minute, and
McHugh, p. 179. Richard Ellmann, James Joyce rev edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 534-5. 19 Ibid., pp. 642, 704. 18
Colonel I. Lewis bettered that: at seven hundred and fifty rounds per minute, his gun almost doubled the capacity of the browning. Not surprisingly, the machine gun ‘quickly showed itself to be the most effective death-dealing instrument yet devised by man’, responsible for the deaths of millions in the two world wars.20 One of the most striking examples of Joyce’s exploitation of the sounds of words is his employment of variations on ‘piff paff’ to indicate the spatter of bullets hitting their targets. Joyce borrows this motif from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera, ‘Les Huguenots’. This is set against the St. Bartholomew Day massacre of 1572, during which thousands of Huguenots were trapped in Paris and slaughtered.21 In the opera, the Huguenot, Marcel, sings an anti-Catholic aria: an old Huguenot song against the snares of Rome … it is our battle song; you heard it at Rochelle, for there ‘twas sung, ‘mid the din of drums and trumpets; with a full accompaniment – piff paff, piff, paff – bullets from our ranks22 Several examples of the motif carry connotations of sectarianism. Anna’s list of gifts includes ‘a puffpuff for pudge Craig’ (210.14). As well as a cigar, this suggests a bullet or two for James Craig, the Ulster loyalist and father of the new Northern Ireland. The martial ‘Butt and Taff’ episode links the motif with the aforementioned Peep O’ Day Boys: ‘the puff and pompom of Powther and Pall … Pleace to notnoys speech above your dreadths, please to doughboys’ (349.24-7). ‘Powther and Pall’ suggest the saints as well as ‘powder and ball’.23 The ambience of sectarian violence is further developed when Butt invokes the Huguenots: to go and leave us on the crimsend daun to shellalite … (scene as signed, Slobabogue) feeding and sleeping on the huguenottes … and
Cleator, pp. 159-60. Sylvia England, The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew (London: John Long, 1938), pp. 42-6 16 Giacomo Meyerbeer, ‘Les Huguenots’, 8 <https://archive.org/details/huguenotsgliugon00meyeuoft> [accessed 6 January 2017].
McHugh, p. 349.
raiding revolations all over the allbegeneses (sand us and saint us and sound as a gun) (350.28-33) This passage is imbued with imagery of violence, explosives and gunfire. While McHugh notes that ‘slava bogu’ is Russian for ‘glory to God’, ‘Slobabogue’ also indicates Scullabogue.24 This hamlet in Co. Wexford was the scene of an atrocity during the 1798 rebellion. Around two hundred local Protestant workers and their families were detained by Catholic rebels during the siege of nearby New Ross. After the rebels were defeated, they killed their captives: some were burned in a barn, and some were shot or piked to death.25 Scullabogue was as counterproductive as it was brutal: the atrocity was instrumental in the estrangement of Catholic and Presbyterian rebels, and is recalled to this day in loyalist and Protestant lore. This brief passage bears even further significance: the ‘allbegeneses’ are the Albigensians: a sect of heretics in the Languedoc region of France, who were persecuted in the thirteenth century at the instigation of Pope Innocent III.26 The campaign was so brutal that it is sometimes called the ‘Albigensian crusade’. In one succinct passage, thus, Joyce cites three sectarian atrocities committed by Catholics in Ireland and France. As such, he offers a counter to the Irish nationalist narrative of victimhood: Catholics have been the perpetrators, as well as the victims, of religious violence. The combination of religion and violence that characterises this passage continues to the final exclamation in parentheses: it includes parody of the Sanctus of the Mass as well as the sound of gunfire. Joyce frequently employs mockery of male sexuality as a strategy for the subversion of military and political authority, and Wellington is often the victim. His monument stands, so to speak, for the erection of the recumbent Earwicker, and it is
Ibid., p. 350. Tom Dunn, Rebellions: Memoir, Memory and 1798 (Dublin: Lilliput, 2004), pp. 249-64. 26 Paul Alphandery, ‘Albigenses’, in Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th edn, 1 (1910), pp. 505-6. 25
mocked in the tour of the ‘Museyroom’: ‘This is big Willingdone mormorial tallowscoop … Sexcaliber hrosspower’ (08.34-6). As well as invoking the Arthurian sword, ‘calibre’ can be interpreted to signify the dimensions of any of several possible erections. Such mockery and innuendo are often mediated through Earwicker, along with weaponry. For example, Earwicker’s activities in the Phoenix Park (near the Wellington monument) are embellished with insinuations of sexual indiscretion, involving both men and young girls. His encounter with the cad, for example, contains a description of ‘an illstarred beachbusker … on the verge of self-abyss … somehow or other in the nation getting a hold of some chap’s parabellum’ (40. 21-8). The analysis of Earwicker’s encounter in the park with the two girls is equally suggestive: ‘It would be skarlet shame to jailahim in lockup … what matter what merrytricks went off with his revulverher in connections with him being a norphan and enjoining such wicked illth’ (60. 04-8). From the start of the text, Joyce mocks global and national violence in like manner: on the first page, the Peninsular War is belittled as the ‘penisolate war’ (03.06). The Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage become the ‘penic walls’ (156.03), and in the history section of the ‘children’s lessons’ episode, internecine conflict in Ireland is equated sarcastically with these ancient imperial wars. The phrase, ‘Hireling’s puny wars’ (270.30-31), is accompanied by a teasing portrayal of the four provinces (‘Ulstria, Monastir, Leninstar and Connecticut’) and several of their respective chieftains (left hand notes, pp. 270-1). By depicting Ireland as a hireling, Joyce reminds us that many of its conflicts and allegiances, particularly in the mediaeval and early modern period, were driven more by mercenary self-interest than by patriotism. Joyce repeatedly links the imagery of guns with that of writing. Finn’s biography, for example, contains ‘real detonation but false report’ (129.15), and
Shem’s life story includes the onomatopoeic ‘tarabooming great blunderguns’ about his father (173.21-2). One of the last appearances of Wellington’s much-abused monument is as a manuscript: ‘vellumtomes muniment’ (595.22). Finally, the playful conflation of the ‘nowells with brownings’, noted above, links the weapons with the motif involving the Dublin stationers and publishers, Browne and Nolan. Since Joyce uses this motif to highlight the Brunonian correspondence of opposites, he intends to treat the weapons of warfare and those of language in the same way. Joyce cites Frank (‘Ghazi’) Power, a nineteenth-century Dublin ‘character’ in a concentrated passage during the account of Earwicker’s fall. This passage links many Wakean themes and preoccupations: the doomed but always ventriloquent Agitator … the ghazi, power of his sword … his manslayer’s gunwielder protended towards that overgrown leadpencil which was soon, monumentally at least, to rise as Molyvdokondylon to, to be his mausoleum … O’dan stod tillsteyne at meises (56.05-14) This passage sets two nineteenth-century giants in opposition: Daniel O’Connell (the ‘Agitator’ is the ‘Liberator’) and his compatriot, the Duke of Wellington, who initially opposed Catholic emancipation. The Iron Duke’s rather phallic memorial in the Phoenix Park was dubbed an ‘overgrown milestone’, and O’Connell is commemorated with a mausoleum in Glasnevin cemetery, and later by his own statue in central Dublin. The neologism, ‘Molyvdokondylon’, plays on ‘molybdokondylon’, the Greek for lead pencil. Read aloud, the word can be interpreted to contain ‘D O’Connell’. The Liberator, like the Iron Duke, will have his lead pencil. Some of the phallic imagery is explicit (‘His manslayer’s gunwielder’), and some is more suggestive: the Steyne was a monument erected in Dublin by the Vikings, and that ‘meisjes’ is Dutch for ‘girls’.27 The famously fecund O’Connell, thus, stands erect
McHugh, p. 56.
toward the girls, in a passage where weaponry is linked unmistakeably with virile posturing. By the conjunction of ‘lead’ and ‘pencil’, Joyce draws further analogy between weapons and implements of writing: lead provides the medium both for bullets and for writing. Frank Power provides a further strand to the development of the analogy. Power was born in Dublin in 1858, and he had a reputation in Ireland for exaggeration and self-promotion. He worked in 1877 as a journalist in the Russo-Turkish war, signing his pieces ‘The Ghazi’. In 1883, he began to cover the Sudanese revolt, and he befriended General Gordon in Khartoum. Ironically, perhaps because of his reputation, his dispatches to London from Khartoum reporting the increasingly desperate situation were not taken seriously. Power was killed a few months before Gordon.28 The phrase in the above passage, ‘the ghazi, power of his sword’, invokes the proverb concerning the might of the pen. The ‘children’s lessons’ episode poses the questions ‘Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword?’ (306.19-20). Joyce sees language, both spoken and written, as an essential part of his armoury, and the pen is his weapon. One of the most prominent themes of the Wake is the potential for language to mislead as well as to inform, and Joyce would have appreciated Power’s career as a Dublin chancer and adventurer, and the irony that, in the end, his deadly serious reports and pleas for help were interpreted as crying wolf. By his repeated variations on the aphorism, ‘Teems of times and happy returns. The seim anew’, Joyce articulates Vico’s notion of the cyclical recurrence of history (215.22-3). Indeed, he reinforces this example by portraying the philosopher going around in circles: ‘Ordovico or viricordo’ (215.23). In Book III, which represents Vico’s human era, and as such is suffused with conflict, an onomatopoeic variation of the
Bridget Hourican, ‘Power, Frank le Poer’ in Dictionary of Irish Biography, 8 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 254-6.
motif provides part of the title for this essay: ‘Booms of bombs and heavy rethudders? This aim to you … Your troppers are so unrelieved because his troopers were in difficulties’ (510.01-5). The first exclamations are self-explanatory, and highlight the recurrence of violence, which extended in Joyce’s lifetime to the rise of Nazism. The last phrase indicates Joyce’s other shared interest with Vico, that of the development of language. It parodies Michelet’s remark about Vico’s theory of language: ‘Tropes emerged simply from the difficulty of self-expression’.29 For Joyce, ‘teems of times’ become ‘booms of bombs’, and tropes become troops. Language is Joyce’s armamentarium, and tropes are among his weapons. He uses, through the voice of Butt, one of the archetypal soldiers, the language of battlefields ancient and modern to bemoan the recurrence of wars: ‘by the veereyed lights of the stormtrooping clouds and in the sheenflare of the battleaxes of the heroim and mid the shieldfails awail of the bitteraccents of the sorafin’ (344.23-5). Here the ancient implements of the heavenly host (the cherubim and seraphim) are mingled with billets, bullets, and the Very lights used to illuminate twentieth-century battlefields.30 But the most dramatic image is that of the storm gathering over Europe in the 1930s, along with Hitler’s stormtroopers. Joyce was well aware of the threat of Nazism, and in the Wake he mocks its tenets repeatedly.31 Finnegans Wake is not the first work in which Joyce uses weaponry as a symbol of verbal jousting. In the ‘Scylla and Charybdis’ episode of Ulysses, as Stephen prepares to demonstrate his erudition and to put the Revivalists in the Library in their place, he says to himself: ‘Unsheathe your dagger definitions’.32 Tim Conley refers tellingly to Joyce’s armamentarium of linguistic devices, including his repertoire of
McHugh, p. 510. Ibid., p. 344. 31 Len Platt, Joyce, Race and Finnegans Wake (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 153-5. 32 Joyce (1986), p. 153. 30
portmanteau words, neologisms and onomatopoeia, as an ‘arsenal’.33
summarises the subversive project of his writing in militant terms in his autobiographical portrayal of Shem (‘the Penman’): ‘if reams stood to reason and his lankalivline lasted he would wipe alley english spooker, multaphoniaksically spuking, off the face of the erse’ (178.05-7). Shem intends to wipe English off the face of the earth (metaphorically speaking). The medium of his assault will not be ‘erse’ (the Irish language), but his own language innovations. His speech is polyphonic (‘multiphonic’), and as such it rejects a solitary authoritative discourse. The multiple meanings and possible interpretations of his words and phrases embrace multiple voices. His inkbottle is an ‘inkbattle’ (176.31), and his brother, Shaun equates him with Inkerman, one of the great battles of the Crimean War: ‘Words taken in triumph … from the sufferant pen of our jocosus inkerman militant of the reed behind the ear’ (433.07-9). Our ‘inkerman’ may be jocose, but Joyce habitually employs humour with the most serious intent. This essay shows how he uses the imagery of weaponry to ridicule and undermine the powerful. He personifies guns and ammunition to draw attention to man’s intimate association with weapons. Guns and swords are arms in more than one sense: they have become virtually human appendages, instruments of military and sexual conquest. Joyce also uses them to portray and bemoan sectarian violence. Guns and their accoutrements are not the only tools that Joyce uses to elaborate the themes of Finnegans Wake. However, their use is particularly effective given his hatred of violence, and of political, military and religious hegemony. Finally, Joyce’s portrayal of language and writing as his own weaponry offers the possibility of resistance
Tim Conley, ‘Language and languages’, in James Joyce in Context, ed. by John McCourt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 311.
Na BuachaillĂ BĂĄna or the Bougheleen Bawins: Munster Whiteboys â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Language, Literacy and Orality, 1761 to 1776 By Cathrine Wignall Abstract From 1761, recurring until 1776, the Irish province of Munster witnessed widespread agrarian disturbances at the hands of a secret oath-bound society, known as the Whiteboys. Drawn overwhelmingly from a low-status Irish speaking Catholic population much of the research into Whiteboyism has concentrated on the various economic and political factors that motivated the agrarian protest of an illiterate peasantry in this period. However, the cultural context of the rural Irish Gaelic society in which the Whiteboys operated, along with issues concerning language, literacy and orality, have been significantly overlooked in the existing literature. Moreover, the historiography regarding literacy levels amongst the Catholic Munster peasantry in the late eighteenth-century, suggests that they were low, and illiteracy was commonplace. Yet, literacy in this period was measured in terms of reading and writing ability in English and has perhaps overlooked the fact that the majority of Whiteboys were Irish speakers. Indeed, the issue of language is worthy of greater consideration since the eighteenth-century was a period of language transition in Ireland. To that end, this article will examine themes of language, literacy and orality regarding the early Whiteboy movements to assess the cultural context in which the movement existed and perhaps add to our understanding of agrarian protest in late eighteenth-century Munster. Keywords: Whiteboys; orality, language, literacy, language transition, agrarian protest; bilingualism 18
Introduction On 20 April 1762, an extract of a letter was published in the pages of the Leeds Intelligencer written by a gentleman from Youghal, County Cork to his son in London. The letter detailed the rise of a ‘set of miscreants’ across the counties of Limerick, Cork, Waterford and Tipperary in the Irish province of Munster. The name of these ‘miscreants’ being the ‘Bougheleen Bawins’ noted the gentlemen, otherwise known as the Whiteboys.1 He then described various incidents, including one which occurred ‘opposite the back window of his parlour’ a month earlier on 22 March, wherein ditches were levelled, and large fires were lit whilst a grave was dug beneath gallows, before threatening letters were delivered to several inhabitants in the town.2 This early example of Whiteboy protest illustrates many of the common actions undertaken by the movement, such as arson, the levelling of land along with tactics of intimidation in the dug grave and gallows, and perhaps most notably, the use of the threatening notice or letter. However, one point of interest in this witness account is the use of the name Bougheleen Bawins when describing the Whiteboys. As this term was clearly a Hiberno-English variant of Na Buachaillí Bána (the Irish term for Whiteboys), it could be argued that this indicated a level of interaction between the Irish and English language in Irish society. Indeed, Munster in the eighteenth-century was a period where a noticeable language shift began, one which would continue to gain momentum throughout the nineteenth century.
According to Niall Ó Ciosáin,
Ireland, by the end of the nineteenth-century witnessed ‘one of the most rapid and total language shifts in modern European history’.3 Therefore, the agrarian protest of the Whiteboys occurred during a period of language transition, which in turn possibly
This account by the gentleman from Youghal was syndicated across the regional and national press in Ireland and Britain and has been frequently cited by Lecky, Froude and Cornewall Lewis amongst others, however, the report cited here is; Leeds Intelligencer, 20 April 1762. 2 Leeds Intelligencer, 20 April 1762. 3 Niall Ó Ciosáin, Print and Popular Culture in Ireland, 1750-1850 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997), p.6.
necessitated increased levels of bilingualism for many Irish speakers. Considering that many Munster Whiteboys would have been Irish speakers with a cultural background rooted in an Irish oral tradition, the factors of language, literacy and orality have been significantly neglected in the historiography regarding Whiteboyism. That cultural context potentially influenced and informed agrarian protest during this period and the objective of this article is to assess that influence and argue that it is worthy of greater consideration. Previous research on the Munster Whiteboy movements of the eighteenth-century has largely concentrated on the economic and political factors that precipitated agrarian protest in this period. Michael Beames described the movement as one whose aims were to ‘defend peasant interests’ by attempting to ‘exert control’ over charges such as tithes, rents and clergy dues.4 Moreover, the issue of land enclosure has been invariably highlighted by historians as a major contributory factor of Whiteboy agitation. James Donnelly commented that the movement was preoccupied with increased land enclosure, tithes and rents and added that this provided a ‘sure sign’ that ‘adherents’ emanated from the ‘land-poor and landless’ in Irish society.5 This ‘land-poor’ and low-status section of society were in the main the section whose primary vernacular language was Irish.6 In addition, the Irish language, according to Mac Giolla Chríost, was ‘regarded as a significant indicator of socio-economic identity’ from the early eighteenth-century and as such, was viewed as disconnected with modernity.7 This would suggest that the Irish language in this period became synonymous of a low-status position in Irish society, a position opposed to
Michael Beames, Peasants and Power: The Whiteboy Movements and their Control in Pre-Famine Ireland (Brighton: Harvester, 1983), pp. 28-29. 5 James S. Donnelly, ‘Irish Agrarian Rebellion: The Whiteboys of 1769-76’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 83C (1983), 293-331 (294). 6 James Kelly and Ciarán Mac Murchaidh, eds., Irish and English: Essays on the Linguistic and Cultural Frontier 1600-1900 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012), p.36. 7 Diarmait Mac Giolla Chríost, The Irish Language in Ireland: From Goídel to Globalisation (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005), p. 84.
modernisation and to an extent, progress. Considering that the majority of Whiteboys were drawn from a low-status Irish speaking population, this implies that language perhaps intertwined with societal position as a marker of community identity. It is the contention of this article that language was one of the key factors in the cultural context of eighteenth-century Munster, potentially serving to reinforce the idea of community and identity for the peasant population of the region. That idea of community and identity from a linguistic perspective may be strengthened by overlooking differences within a designated group, or in turn a linguistic commonality can heighten differences outside that group.8 Although language is not the singular marker of community identity, it can be argued class and a shared purpose are equally important to any communal feeling. David Dickson highlighted the ‘huge communal participation’ required in the act of levelling walls and ditches over the course of a day or night.9 According to Beames, the collective action of the Whiteboys was strengthened by the pursuit of ‘common objectives’ and the movement was, in essence, the ‘organised expression of a particular social class’.10 The concept of class, along with regional affiliation, were significant aspects which arguably informed both the membership of secret societies and the operational methods of the movement. To that end, Donnelly commented that the taking of oaths was of ‘symbolic importance’ and helped to ‘preserve a strong regional movement’.11 Furthermore, Thomas Power viewed oath-taking as essential to group ‘discipline and cohesion’ whilst secrecy was crucial to achieving the designated objectives of protest.12 Michael Huggins however argues that the ‘blanket use of secret societies’ is
Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall, ‘Language and Identity’, in Alessandro Duranti, ed., A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), p.371. 9 David Dickson, ‘Novel spectacle? The Birth of the Whiteboys, 1761-2’, in D.W. Hayton and Andrew R. Holmes, eds., Ourselves Alone? Religion, Society and Politics in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Ireland: Essays presented to S.J. Connolly (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2016), p.67. 10 Beames, p.62. 11 James S. Donnelly, ‘The Whiteboy Movement 1761-5’, Irish Historical Studies, 21, 81 (1978), (27, 54). 12 Thomas P. Power, ‘Land, politics and society in eighteenth century Tipperary’, PhD Thesis, Trinity College Dublin (1987), p.264.
problematic as it attempts to locate ‘popular protest’ into a ‘template provided by the Defenders and United Irishmen’ and consequently, fit agrarian agitation into a ‘confessional or national mould’.13 Marc Mulholland nonetheless states that the activity of Whiteboys ‘always had a certain political content’ one that was to a degree, ‘proto-nationalist’.14 Clearly, both Huggins and Mulholland are referring to later nineteenth-century manifestations of Whiteboyism, although the shaping of agrarian protest to conform to a nationalist narrative holds a certain relevance regarding the early Whiteboy movements. Indeed, there is an argument that the issues of language, literacy and orality in an Irish cultural context perhaps became interwoven with a nationalist discourse. Language in the eighteenth-century, according to Ó Ciosáin, represented the ‘great cultural divide’ in Irish society.15 Considering the economic grievances that the early Whiteboy movements sought to redress, it was possible that a linguistic division added to any identified economic division. Moreover, Jean Debernardi asserted that if language ‘provides the foundation of a shared cultural identity’ it can result in the ‘reproduction of social difference’.16 That sense of social difference and division was highlighted by Vincent Morley who defined Whiteboy protest as evidence of an ‘alienated population goaded into action by economic distress’.17 By using Irish language sources, Morley’s text, The Popular Mind in Eighteenth-Century Ireland has considerably expanded on Daniel Corkery’s seminal 1924 work, The Hidden Ireland. This work by Corkery focused on Gaelic culture in eighteenth-century Munster and
Michael Huggins, ‘Whiteboys and Ribbonmen: What’s in a Name?’, in Kyle Hughes and Donald MacRalid, eds., Crime, Violence, and the Irish in the Nineteenth Century, (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press,2017), p.22. 14 Marc Mullholland, ‘Political Violence’, in Richard Bourke and Ian McBride, eds., The Princeton History of Modern Ireland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), p.385. 15 Ó Ciosáin, p.6. 16 Jean DeBernardi, ‘Social aspects of language use’, in Tim Ingold, ed., Companion Encyclopaedia of Anthropology, (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), p.861. 17 Vincent Morley, The Popular Mind in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press, 2017), p. 225.
addressed what Corkery viewed as an Anglo-Irish imbalance in the historical interpretation of the period. Corkery’s work has proved contentious for many historians due to what is perceived as an overtly nationalist interpretation of events. Aidan Doyle argues that Corkery presents the idea that the English speaking and Irish speaking worlds ‘existed in virtual isolation’ from each other in eighteenth-century Munster, thus indicating that bilingualism was uncommon at this time.18 Furthermore, Lesa Ní Mhunghaile pointed out that amongst the Irish speaking population, bilingualism increased as the century progressed, most notably within a growing Catholic middle-class.19 Indeed, whether that growing bilingualism extended to the low-status population is important if we are to locate the Munster peasantry in a period of language transition. For Corkery, Whiteboy agitation resulted from an Anglo-Irish oppression of Gaelic culture and language entwined with overwhelming poverty and consequently, in the 1760s, these ‘sufferings had come to a head and broken out’.20 Huggins stresses the ‘willingness’ of historians to ‘move beyond’ this narrative ‘of oppressed Gaelic peasants and rapacious Saxon landlords.’21 The notion of the ‘oppressed Gael’ versus the ‘Saxon landlord’ offers a simplistic interpretation of the tenant and landlord relationship in this period and overlooks the social mobility of middle-class Catholics. Moreover, according to Kevin Whelan the late eighteenthcentury saw a ‘yawning chasm’ develop which widened the gap between ‘rich and poor Catholics’.22 It could be argued that this gap contributed to a sense of alienation for the low-status Catholic population and informed Whiteboy grievances. It is
Aidan Doyle, A History of the Irish Language: From Norman Invasion to Independence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 85. 19 Lesa Ní Mhunghaile, ‘Bilingualism, print culture in Irish and the Public Sphere, 1700-c 1800’, in Kelly and Mac Murchaidh, eds., Irish and English, p.221. 20 Daniel Corkery, The Hidden Ireland (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1967), p. 32. 21 Huggins, p.21. 22 Kevin Whelan, The Tree of Liberty: Radicalism, Catholicism and the Construction of Irish Identity 17601830 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1996), p. 26.
therefore logical to infer many recipients of threatening letters from Whiteboy societies perhaps belonged to an Irish speaking Catholic middle-class. ‘sent threatening and incendiary letters to several persons.’23 The threatening notice or letter was a key tactic used by Whiteboys, as a method of intimidation and provided an effective medium to state their demands. Notices were either sent to an individual as a specific, targeted threat, or posted up in a public place to make the warning known to the wider community.24 According to Maurice Bric, the public notice ensured that ‘unity and security’ were ‘maintained’ so community compliance or community support could be elicited.25 Patrick O’Sullivan stated that the notices asserted and authenticated ‘the moral world’ of the peasantry and consequently, its ‘authority’.26 In addition, Terence Dunne viewed the notices as an appropriated ‘display of power’ symbolically taken from the ruling-class’. The fact that Whiteboys often replaced official declarations with their own notices was highlighted by David Featherstone and supports this idea of appropriating authority.27 However, theirs was an alternative authority, an oppositional law to the law of state, transcribed and administered by the Whiteboy movement. For Roy Foster, the ‘proclamations’ of the Whiteboys ‘parodied legal documents’ whilst the language of the movements was ‘potentially political’.28 Nonetheless, any failure to comply with this alternate legality or political intent would invariably result in definite consequences. Customarily, the act of non-compliance prompted a night-time
This quote is taken from the preamble of the Tumultuous Risings Act of 1775. The Act stated ‘and have also sent threatening and incendiary letters to several persons to the great terror of his Majesty’s peaceable subjects’; An Act to Prevent for the Future Tumultuous Risings of Persons within this Kingdom, 5 Geo III c.8, The Statutes at Large Passed in the Parliament in Ireland (Dublin: 1763-1801), p.2. 24 Beames, p.75. 25 Maurice J. Bric, ‘Priests, Parsons and Politics: The Rightboy Protest in County Cork, 1785-1788’, in C.H.E. Philpin, ed., Nationalism and Popular Protest in Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p.175. 26 Patrick O’Sullivan, ‘A Literary Difficulty in Explaining Ireland: Tom Moore and Captain Rock 1824’, in Sheridan Gilley and Roger Swift, eds., The Irish in Britain 1815-1939 (London: Pinter, 1989), p.268. 27 David John Featherstone, ‘Spatiality, political identities and the environmentalisation of the poor’ PhD Thesis, The Open University (2002), p.59. 28 Roy F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (London: Penguin, 1988), p. 224.
visit where homes may be set alight, livestock could be maimed, or individuals might be dragged from their beds, sometimes stripped and beaten or else tortured and mutilated, and occasionally in this period, killed. Lecky commented that ‘scarcely anyone dared to resist’ the oppositional law of the Whiteboys, due in no small part, to the ‘most savage menaces’ expressed in their threatening notices.29 Yet, the fact that those ‘savage menaces’ were consistently articulated in English rather than Irish is perhaps revealing and indicative of the language transition taking place in eighteenthcentury Ireland. In a phase of language transition there is essentially a ‘bilingual repertoire’, according to Paul B. Garret.30 This ‘repertoire’ creates an interactive relationship with the second language, with the focus being on the social and political benefits in the acquisition and use of both languages.31 It could be argued that the Whiteboy movements recognised there was a political and social advantage to transcribing their demands in English. Furthermore, the eloquence of some Whiteboy notices, to an extent, demonstrated that the movement was not an unintelligent, disorderly mob, but an organised group who could effectively communicate their aims. This extract from a 1762 letter in County Tipperary is perhaps evidence of that communicative ability. The letter warns its recipient, ‘not to raise again either walls or ditches in the place of those we destroy, nor even to inquire about the destroyers of them. If they do, their cattle shall be houghed and their sheep laid open in the fields. Gentlemen, we beg you will consider the case of the poor nowadays. You that live on the fat of the land consider poor creatures whom you harass without means of proper subsistence’. 32
W.E.H. Lecky, A History of Ireland in the Eighteenth-Century Vol.II (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1913), p. 25. 30 Paul B. Garret, ‘Language Contact and Contact Languages’, in Duranti, ed., Companion to Linguistic Anthropology, p.55. 31 Garret, p.55 32 ‘Whiteboy Letter’ (1762), cited in J.A. Froude, The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, Vol.II (New York: Scribner, Armstrong and Co., 1874), p.25.
As the majority of Whiteboys emanated from a section in society perceived as an illiterate peasantry, the articulate and coherent content of this letter is noteworthy, particularly when considering the possibility that it was written in a second language. English was a second language for many Whiteboys, illustrated by a report in the Freemans Journal in August 1775 which detailed an assault in Clonmel, County Tipperary. The newspaper recorded that this attack was unusual as it was orchestrated by a Whiteboy party who were ‘… far above the lower order of people, were decently dressed, and spoke the English language very well’.33 The phrase ‘spoke the English language well’ is revealing, suggesting that not only was it uncommon for Whiteboys to speak the English language, but that it was surprising to speak it ‘well’. However, if Irish was the language of Munster Whiteboyism this perhaps raises questions about the proficient literacy often displayed in Whiteboy notices, especially considering the oral tradition of the Irish language. James Donnelly highlighted the prominence of Hedge schoolmasters in the Whiteboy movements as both ‘organisers and penmen of secret societies.’34 In addition, Lecky viewed the leaders of Whiteboy societies as ‘evidently men of some education and of no small organising ability.’35 According to Antonia McManus, the participation of Hedge schoolmasters in the movement was ‘clear for all to see’ due to the ‘convictions obtained against a small number of them.’36 Indeed, there were several instances of schoolmasters found guilty for involvement in Whiteboyism in this period, as illustrated by the 1763 case of Captain Fearnot at Clonmel Assizes, County Tipperary. On May 30, 1763 as reported in the Dublin Courier, John Fogerty alias Captain Fearnot was ‘capitally convicted of
Freemans Journal, 1-3 August 1775. Donnelly, ‘The Whiteboy Movement’ (40). 35 Lecky, pp.20, 21. 36 Antonia McManus, The Irish Hedge School and Its Books, 1695-1831 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004), p. 32. 34
high treason and rebellion against his Majesty in levelling walls and ditches.’37 The article further added that, ‘Captain Fearnot was some time since by profession a schoolmaster. He received his sentence with great indifference and composure, and from his hardened conduct between the court and the gaol, seemed to merit the very character given of him.’38 The fact that his profession as a schoolmaster was deemed worthy of mention arguably implies that it was not the norm for men of education to be convicted of Whiteboyism. If schoolmasters were as prominent in the movement as previously suggested, this would have resulted in a far greater number of convictions compared to a handful of recorded cases. Therefore the notion that Hedge schoolmasters were prominent in Whiteboy societies is problematic, as the evidence fails to support this theory. Consequently, the argument that the Whiteboy movements operated within a bilingual repertoire in an environment of language transition seems highly probable. Yet, accurately assessing language factors and bilingualism in this period is difficult to ascertain with any certainty. ‘A sufficient cloak for the expression of seditious sentiments.’ The language shift that began in the eighteenth-century noticeably continued to progress across Ireland throughout the nineteenth century. As English established its place as the language of state, commerce and power, the Irish language was increasingly viewed as a somewhat vulgar and backwards tongue. That perceived vulgarity was mentioned by Thomas Croften Croker in his Researches in the South of Ireland, he remarked upon, ‘The Irish language being a sufficient cloak for the expression of seditious sentiments; few, if any, of the gentry being acquainted with it, as they consider it too vulgar and inelegant to form a part of their studies.’39
Dublin Courier, 3-6 June 1763. Dublin Courier, 3-6 June 1763. 39 Thomas Croften Croker, Researches in the South of Ireland: Illustrative of the Scenery, Architectural Remains, and the Manner and Superstitions of the Peasantry (London: John Murray, 1824), p. 182. 38
The lack of familiarity with the Irish language on the part of the gentry and the elite in Irish society, to an extent, secured the connection between the English language and social mobility. In addition to English being the language of social mobility, English became the language of the market, which according to Kevin Keegan, required a level of understanding for cottiers and small farmers, ‘in order to ensure continued subsistence.’40 Moreover, Nicholas M. Wolf highlighted that the ‘presence of monoglot English speakers’ within Irish language communities had become ‘a fact of life’ by the eighteenth-century.41 Considering that the Whiteboy movements operated within this environment of language transition, it could be argued their methods symbolised a conflicted cultural representation that assertively utilised English to communicate their aims to a bilingual audience. According to Bucholtz and Hall, the act of ‘resisting’ or ‘subverting’ the ‘existing linguistic and social norms’ can contribute to a sense of identity for a language community via the agency gained by ‘creatively responding’ to ‘social constraints they cannot disregard or dismantle.’42 Therefore, as English represented the language of the State it possibly presented linguistic social constraints unable to be either disregarded or dismantled which the Whiteboy movements understood and responded by using English when necessary. Those linguistic constraints are worthy of consideration in the cultural context of eighteenth-century Munster as a shared language heritage may have reinforced both a sense of community and a sense of identity for many Whiteboy members. However, the issue of language use within the Munster population is difficult to comprehensively assess in this period due to the lack of accurate data.
Kevin Keegan, ‘The Linguistic Geography of the Contact Zone: The Complementarity of Orality and Literacy in Colonial Ireland’, Historical Geography, 41 (2013), 80-93 (91). 41 Nicholas M. Wolf, An Irish-Speaking Island: State, Religion, Community, and the Linguistic Landscape in Ireland, 1770-1870 (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), p. 99. 42 Bucholtz and Hall, p.373.
The lack of reliable statistics regarding language use and language transition in the eighteenth-century has necessitated the use of later nineteenth-century sources and figures to essentially calculate backwards to the earlier period. To that end, a comprehensive study by E. G Ravenstein who in 1879 collected data on Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Manx and Irish speakers across the geographical British Isles provided useful data in relation to 1851 and 1871 on numbers of Irish speakers across Ireland.43 Consequently, Ravenstein’s data presents numerical evidence for the amounts of Irish speakers across the province of Munster in 1851. Indeed, the percentages for each county were; County Clare, 76.4%, County Cork, 63.9%, County Kerry, 70.1%, County Limerick, 56.7%, County Tipperary, 65.8% and County Waterford, 69.9%. As a result, the average number of Irish speakers across Munster amounts to 66.5%, in contrast to 33.5% who are English speakers.44 These figures reveal that by the mid-nineteenth century, Irish remained in significant use across the counties of Munster. Regarding the eighteenth-century, data on Irish speakers was produced by Garret FitzGerald in 1984 by utilising Ravenstein’s work along with census records to estimate backwards to 1771.45 This data provides a significantly accurate estimation, yet, it is not an infallible one. FitzGerald’s study revealed that for the year 1771, across Munster, the number of Irish speakers were estimated as; County Clare, 92%, County Cork, 84%, County Kerry, 93%, County Limerick, 76%, County, Tipperary, 51% and County Waterford, 86% resulting in an 80% average for the province compared to 20% English speakers.46 Clearly, a pattern of language transition was beginning to influence the population of Munster both culturally and most probably socially from the late
E.G. Ravenstein, ‘On the Celtic Languages in the British Isles: A Statistical Survey’, Journal of the Statistical Society of London, 42, 3 (1879), 579-643. 44 Ravenstein (581). 45 Garret FitzGerald, ‘Estimates for Baronies of Minimum Level of Irish Speaking Amongst Sucessive Decennial Cohorts: 1771-1781 to 1861-1871’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archaeology, Culture, History, Literature, Vol.84C (1984), 117-155. 46 FitzGerald (127).
eighteenth-century. These figures reveal that the counties with an increasing language shift, namely; Tipperary, Limerick, Cork and Waterford were the counties with the greatest number of Whiteboy disturbances. Interestingly, the figures for Counties Tipperary and Limerick (both known hotbeds of Whiteboy activity), show almost a 50/50 split in language use in Tipperary, whilst the divide for Limerick reveals 76% Irish speakers to 24% English. This data suggests that the Whiteboy movements existed in an environment of increased bilingualism albeit one in which the Irish language remained to a large extent, prevalent across the population. As a result, the speech communities from which the majority of Whiteboys emanated were highly likely to be Irish speaking and perhaps had a significant influence on the character, identity and motivation of the movements.
‘le huaill’s le háthas na mBuachaillí Bána’ 47 The idea of a speech community has relevance regarding the low-status Irish speaking section of society involved in Whiteboyism in eighteenth-century Munster. Marcyliena Morgan defined a speech community as, ‘central to the understanding of human language and meaning-making because it is the product of prolonged interaction among those who operate within shared belief and value systems regarding their own culture, society and history as well as their communication with others.’48 Applying Morgan’s definition, to an extent, resonates with the Whiteboy movements where a shared belief and value system along with cultural, societal and historical factors potentially motivated protest, whereas cultural commonality arguably sustained collectivity and informed identity. Moreover, according to Wolf, as
The lyric, ‘le huaill’s le háthas na mBuachaillí Bána’ [from the halloos and delight of the Whiteboys], is from ‘Eigean na mBuachaillí Bána [the Whiteboys’ obligation]. This song according to Vincent Morley dated around 1766 and is taken from a copy made by Waterford publisher, John O’Daly (1800-78); see Morley, p.223. 48 Marcyliena Morgan, ‘Speech Community’, in Duranti, ed., A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology, p.3.
language shift continued and bilingualism increased for Irish speaking communities, the language ‘retained such a revered status as the language of insiders.’49 However, in terms of an Irish speech community that sense of collective identity and insider status is perhaps reinforced when oral tradition is taken into consideration. Walter Ong described Ireland as ‘a country in which every region preserves massive residual orality.’50 Indeed, Irish Gaelic society was rooted in orality, a society informed by oral culture, wherein knowledge and folk traditions were transmitted verbally, through story, song and poetry as opposed to communicated through textual record. Hana F. Khasawneh observed that the Irish oral tradition was ‘classified as a sub-tradition that encompasses inferiority rejected by the literate class.’51 The growth of a literate class in this period occurred in parallel to an increased print and publishing culture, matched by the popularity and influence of regional and national newspapers.52 In addition, despite Ireland having a substantial heritage of early vernacular literature dating at least to the sixth century, literary print culture in the eighteenth-century was predominately an English language construct.53 It could be argued that an oral tradition which existed outside the domain of printed literature represented a conflicted cultural relationship between the traditional and the modern. To that end, Keegan contended that the language of print, ‘… symbolises civilisation and improvement. Lore and the past become the preserve of old folks, wondrous in their way, but lacking the practical virtues of modern use.’54 Therefore, literacy in Irish society became synonymous with progress as put succinctly by Angela Bourke, ‘Literacy had become the essential key, to participation
Wolf, 61. Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London: Routledge, 1982), p. 69. 51 Hana F. Khasawneh, ‘The Irish Oral Tradition and Print Culture’, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 103, 409, Changing Ireland (2014), 81-91 (85). 52 Foster, 239. 53 Jane Stevenson, ‘The Beginnings of Literacy in Ireland’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Archaeology, Culture, History, Literature, 89C (1989), 127-165 (127). 54 Keegan (85). 50
in the modern world.’55 However, although Irish oral tradition provided Irish speech communities with an alternative transmission of culture and knowledge, that cultural tradition did not exist in isolation due to the evident bilingualism within the Whiteboy movement. The production of threatening notices in English suggests that bilingual Whiteboys with articulate language and literacy skills could bridge the language divide between monoglot members via interpretation and translation. Yet, regarding the Whiteboys, the concept of literacy remains problematic, as the measure of literacy in this period was concerned with reading and writing ability in English. Arguably, are literacy levels entirely relevant for a society whose cultural heritage was one of orality? Although calculating the numbers of Irish speakers is difficult to accurately ascertain in eighteenth-century Ireland, the accepted consensus is that literacy levels in the main, increased in this period.56 However, that measurement of literacy refers to literacy in English which according to Louis Cullen saw an ‘explosive growth’ in ‘demand’ due to the ‘prestige of written above oral culture.’57 Helen O’Connell commented that the ‘rationality of the English language discourse’ was asserted as opposite to the ‘orality and illiteracy’ of Irish.’58 Therefore, by locating the rationality of English as ‘other’ to the Irish orality and illiteracy, to an extent delegitimises the agrarian protest of the Whiteboys to an irrational, riotous disorder of an uneducated peasantry. Moreover, Doyle highlighted that literacy in Irish was limited to a ‘tiny group’ capable of creating written texts and added ‘there was never any likelihood that the Irish-speaking masses would become literate in their own language.’59 Yet,
Angela Bourke, The Burning of Bridget Cleary (London: Pimlico, 2006), p. 24. Toby Barnard, ‘What did Irish People Read in the Eighteenth-Century?’, History Ireland, 25, 6 (2017), 22-25 (25). 57 Louis M. Cullen, The Emergence of Modern Ireland (London: Batsford, 1981), p. 132. 58 Helen O’Connell, Ireland and the Fiction of Improvement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 160. 59 Aidan Doyle, ‘The ‘decline’ of the Irish Language in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: A New Interpretation’, available at 56
Morley observed the ‘diverse backgrounds’ of this limited group who created eighteenth-century Irish texts as ‘farmers, priests, publicans and craftsmen’ and most commonly, schoolmasters.’60 This broad grouping of the literate Irish places them within Irish speaking communities, albeit perhaps more the middling sort than the low-status cottier and labourer class associated with Whiteboyism. In addition, Julie Henigan pointed out the ‘continuous interaction’ in the Irish oral tradition ‘between the vernacular and “high” cultural spheres.’61 Likewise, Vito Carrassi identified the overlapping nature of the vernacular with written literature, stating, ‘The oral tradition emerges, spreads and changes within contexts blending the oral and the written words, as well as literate, semi-illiterate and illiterate people.’62 Those various states of literacy are significant to the cultural context of the early Whiteboy movements as they challenge the notion that Whiteboy members were a homogenous illiterate grouping. Furthermore, acknowledging the complexities of the Irish oral tradition which would have for many Whiteboys represented a shared background arguably suggests that language, literacy and orality were key factors that informed identity and reinforced the idea of community. Indeed, Niall Ó Ciosáin recognised that the process of measuring literacy was highly problematic, he described that process as, ‘Societies or groups can be characterised as ‘oral’, ‘literate’ or perhaps in a phase of ‘partial literacy’, or ‘restricted literacy’. The two are not of course entirely distinct, and by and large the social phenomenon is the sum of the individual skills. But they are not identical either: groups can be literate as a collective, and participate in written culture, even when not all members, or even a majority, are literate as individuals. 63
www.online.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/doi/pdf/10.3828/studia.41.165. [Accessed 18 January, 2019], p.174. 60 Morley, 6. 61 Julie Henigan, Literacy and Orality in Eighteenth-Century Irish Song: Poetry and Song in the Age of Revolution, No.2 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2012), p. 1. 62 Vito Carrassi, ‘Between Folk and Lore: Performing, Textualising and (mis)Interpreting the Irish Oral Tradition’, Estudios Irlandeses, Special Issue, 12, 2 (2017), 32-46 (36). 63 Niall Ó Ciosáin, ‘Varieties of Literacy in Nineteenth-Century Ireland: Gender, Religion and Language’, in Rebecca Anne Barr, Sarah Anne Buckley and Muireann O’Cinneide, eds., Literacy, Language and Reading in Nineteenth Century Ireland (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2019), p.15.
To that end, it is entirely possible that Whiteboy societies were literate as a collective which would explain the articulate ability expressed in many threatening notices. Furthermore, if the possibility of a group literacy of varying levels is considered in terms of language transition, a different interpretation of the early Munster Whiteboys who adapted and adjusted to the ongoing language shift in this period is offered. The fact that their collective literacy was employed in what was for many a second language is important from a cultural perspective and perhaps contributes to a greater understanding of the movement. Conclusion The agrarian protest of the Munster Whiteboys in eighteenth-century Ireland has invariably been examined from a political and economic perspective. Yet, the cultural context regarding language, literacy and orality have been largely overlooked regarding the movement. The fact that the majority of Whiteboy members emanated from an Irish speech community would most likely have influenced any formative collective identity shared by agrarian secret societies and perhaps facilitated support from the Munster peasantry. Moreover, the language transition that was under way in this period contributed to an increased bilingualism which enabled the movement to effectively interact and essentially subvert that language shift to achieve their aims. Therefore, the practice of producing threatening notices in what was for many a second language, to an extent symbolised a conflicted cultural representation demonstrated via strategies of protest. Language served both as a unifying factor and a dividing factor that potentially informed identity both culturally and socially. That sense of identity was arguably derived from a shared background related to language and Irish oral tradition. However, orality in this period was often perceived in opposition to a growth of literacy in English. Added to that is the problematic issue of
accurately assessing literacy levels in a section of the population whose first language was Irish. Therefore, the frequently accepted consensus that many Whiteboys were illiterate is contentious and ignores the importance of Irish speech communities in that assertion. The concept of a collective literacy, inclusive of various levels of Irish and English within Whiteboy societies appears highly probable and explains the eloquent communication displayed in numerous Whiteboy notices. It could be argued that collective action and participation in agrarian protest were influenced by identity and community. In turn, that sense of identity ensured the cohesion and effectiveness of Whiteboyism as a widespread rural redresser movement. Ultimately, whether defined as Na BuachaillĂ BĂĄna, or the Bougheleen Bawins or indeed, the Whiteboys, the bilingual aspects of the movement were crucial to their ability to organise within the parameters of language, literacy and orality in which they existed.
Cathrine Wignall University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK.64
Justice for Robert? The Murder of Robert McCartney and Public Discourse in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement By Eamonn McNamara Abstract The 1998 Belfast or Good Friday Agreement (GFA) offered the chance to end thirty years of conflict in Northern Ireland known as ‘the Troubles.’ Despite these hopes, dozens of people across Northern Ireland died in paramilitary-related deaths in the years after the Agreement. Robert McCartney was one such victim. McCartney was a nationalist from the Short Strand area of east Belfast. He was murdered by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) on 31 January 2005. While the killing was neither planned nor authorised by PIRA leadership, it led to widespread condemnation of the PIRA and its seeming lack of commitment to the ‘peace process.’ McCartney’s sisters and fiancée began a campaign to bring Robert’s killers to justice, after dozens of potential witnesses to the murder failed to come forward to police. The family’s campaign led them to Dublin, London and Washington, where they met United States President George W. Bush in March 2005. The Agreement had, indirectly, empowered the McCartney family - exemplars of the new prominence of personalised trauma - to demand justice from Robert’s killers. This article examines some of the contours of this case, such as the PIRA’s out-of-touch responses to the murder which sounded as if they believed the GFA had never happened. It also draws out the comparison with Raymond McCord Sr, a 44-year-old unionist whose son had been murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, to illustrate the unequal nature of media coverage, political support and justice after the GFA.
Keywords: Good Friday Agreement, IRA, Republicanism, Northern Ireland, The Troubles, Politics
Introduction Robert McCartney died at 8:10 am on 31 January 2005 in the intensive care unit of Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital. McCartney had been stabbed the previous night outside Belfast’s Magennis’ Bar after a fight by men who were widely alleged to be members of the PIRA.1 Unlike many other paramilitary murders after the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement (GFA), the suspected involvement of Sinn Féin members meant that McCartney’s death attracted huge domestic and international attention as well as having a direct political impact on Sinn Féin, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and the peace process more generally. The impact of the murder was accentuated by the McCartney family’s justice campaign led by Robert’s sisters Catherine, Paula, Claire, Donna, Gemma, and his fiancé Bridgeen Hagans.2 McCartney’s murder ignited a public dialogue between paramilitaries, politicians and the public over the meaning of ‘justice’ after the GFA. How were paramilitaries meant to respond to murders after the GFA? Why did McCartney’s murder, just one of dozens of paramilitary murders committed after the Agreement, inspire such strong national and international interest? To answer these questions, this paper explores aspects of this case: the McCartney family’s public dialogue with the PIRA and the contrast between the public response to the McCartney family campaign and other victims’ groups. I argue that the McCartney family’s campaign was not only a case of good media management and public popularity, it was facilitated by the discursive space created by the GFA, a space in which paramilitaries could be publicly challenged in ways not possible before the Agreement. Equally, however, the McCartney family’s justice campaign also demonstrated the limits of the ‘justice’ 1
Ashleigh Wallace and Jonathan McCambridge, ‘Two men quizzed over murder of Short Strand dad’, Belfast Telegraph, 1 February 2005 <http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/imported/ two-men-quizzedover-murder-of-short-strand-dad-28219493.html> [accessed 10 October 2016]. 2 Catherine, Paula, Claire, Donna, Gemma McCartney and Bridgeen Hagans are usually collectively referred to as the ‘McCartney Sisters’. In this chapter, I use the term ‘McCartney family’ to include Bridgeen’s contributions to the family’s justice campaign.
promised by the Agreement. The shifts in public discourse created by the GFA empowered some victims and victims’ groups after the Agreement in ways not possible during the Troubles. Others were not so lucky.
Paramilitary power before the Agreement The GFA facilitated changes in public discourse in Northern Ireland. The extent of discursive changes in Northern Ireland since the GFA were demonstrated by the direct dialogue between the McCartney family and the PIRA. The case exposed that paramilitaries did not have the military or the discursive power that they did in 1998 and during the Troubles. Although paramilitaries constituted a very small proportion of Northern Ireland’s population, they were a powerful player in Northern Ireland’s public discourse. Groups such as the PIRA released highly publicised statements – ceasefires, threats, warnings and other publications – which were listened to by governments and spread through the media. Paramilitaries enforced a discursive silence around violence by murdering civilians, in particular suspected informers and by intimidating witnesses, suppressing recognition of their experiences and facilitating a culture of silence around victims.3 This is especially noteworthy in cases like the 1972 murder of Jean McConville.4 Cultural historian Aileen Blaney has described paramilitary organisations throughout the Troubles as commanding a s‘greater degree of media visibility than the victims of violence – deceased, injured
Maria Beville and Sara Dybris McQuaid, ‘Speaking of Silence: Comments from an Irish Studies Perspective’, Nordic Irish Studies, 11.2 (2012), 1-20 (pp. 11-12) <https://dspace.mic.ul.ie/bitstream/handle/10395/1770/Beville%2c%20M.%20%26%20Dybris%20 McQuaid%2c%20S.%282012%29%2c%27Speaking%20of%20Silence%3a%20Comments%20from%20an %20Irish%20Studies%20Perspective%27%28Journal%20Article%29PDF?sequence=2&isAllowed=y>; Hastings Donnan and Kirk Simpson, ‘Silence and Violence among Northern Ireland Border Protestants’, Ethnos, 72.1 (March 2007), 5-28 (p. 12) <https://doiorg.virtual.anu.edu.au/10.1080/00141840701219494>. 4 Patrick Radden Keefe, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (London: HarperCollins, 2018).
and bereaved’.5 As in other societies embroiled in conflict, victims throughout the Troubles were not all literally ‘silent,’ although many may have practiced ‘keeping silent in the hope that the problem will at best disappear, or at worst not deteriorate further’.6 One reason for this, as Hastings Donnan and Kirk Simpson have noted, was the need to ‘keep your head down’ as the ‘fear of violent threat and intimidation that marked the Troubles’ made silence ‘a strategic necessity to avoid attack’.7 This feeling was not universal. Some victims’ groups gained prominence, especially relatives of those killed in the Bloody Sunday Massacre in 1972 and the non-sectarian ‘Community of Peace People’ in the 1970s. Newspaper accounts of victims’ ‘stories’ and published collections of testimonies could break through an oppressive culture of silence on issues that deeply polarised society.8 Nevertheless, many victims felt forgotten. The GFA did not suddenly allow these previously silenced victims to speak openly about their experiences to a miraculously engaged and attentive audience. Indeed, some victims actually felt silenced by the GFA’s focus on forgiveness and reconciliation, which seemed to override their deep and enduring suffering.9 However, as Donnan and Simpson have argued in relation to Protestants in Northern Ireland’s border region, the GFA ‘has created the conditions in which it is safer and more acceptable’ to speak about experiences of violence, and ‘encouraged people to come forward and tell their stories’.10 While encouraging victims to ‘come forward
Aileen Blaney, ‘Visible victims and the politics of suffering in Omagh’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 12.4 (2009), 415-429 (p. 415) <https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549409342510>. 6 Mike Morrissey and Marie Smyth, Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement: Victims, Grievance and Blame (London: Pluto Press, 2002), p. 61. 7 Donnan and Simpson, ‘Silence and Violence among Border Protestants’, p. 12. 8 Peter Taylor, Families at War: Voices from the Troubles (London: BBC Books, 1989); Tony Parker, May the Lord in His mercy be kind to Belfast (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993). 9 Nicole R. McClure, ‘Injured Bodies, Silenced Voices: Reclaiming Personal Trauma and the Narration of Pain in Northern Ireland’, Peace & Change, 40.4 (October 2015), 497-516 (p. 499) <https://doi.org/10.1111/pech.12145>; Graham Dawson, Making Peace with the Past? Memory, Trauma and the Irish Troubles (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), pp. 53-54. 10 Donnan and Simpson, ‘Silence and Violence among Border Protestants’, p. 15.
and tell their stories’, the GFA did not instantly disempower paramilitary groups from a place in this discussion. It did, however, require them to significantly recast the ways in which they justified their roles and the place of violence within them. Northern Ireland’s post-GFA public discourse was, I argue, characterised by a significant revision in the relative power of groups in shaping the terms in which both the future and the past of their society might be represented. The McCartney family’s campaign was in some ways extremely fortuitous. The family’s status as long-time residents of the republican Short Strand guaranteed their republican credentials, while no links within the intermediate family to republican violence allowed them to gain support from the British press and Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland. Their decision to focus on one key issue: the murder of their brother, rather than the many other issues common to victims’ groups such as state collusion or paramilitary decommissioning, allowed them to maintain a sharp focus and not have their campaign hijacked by activists with connected but different motives. The family also used their status as women, and their traditional role as peacemakers, to strengthen their campaign, as they aired personal grief and emotion in the political arena.11 They went from ‘ordinary’ women in the Short Strand to meeting with senior British and Irish leaders and, eventually, the President of the United States. While benefiting from the immense pressure on republicans in 2005 to decommission their arsenal, the McCartney family’s campaign also revealed the extent to which paramilitaries had forfeited their discursive powers of intimidation, tampering and silencing when confronted with a family dedicated to achieving justice for their brother. P O’Neill Weighs In: The McCartney family debates the Provos
Fidelma Ashe, ‘The McCartney Sisters’ Search for Justice: Gender and Political protest in Northern Ireland’, POLITICS, 26.3 (2006), 161-167 (p. 163) <https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9256.2006.00264.x>.
In response to the lack of progress in convicting their brother’s killers, the McCartney family accepted an invitation to the United States in order to bring their case to influential American lawmakers. It was hoped that such agents might have been able to lever change through external influence. The speed with which the family arrived was astonishing – less than fifty days had passed since Robert’s death on 31 January 2005 to the McCartney’s reception with US President George W. Bush at the White House on 17 March. Throughout their campaign, the McCartney family also walked an important line
between remaining republicans, while disavowing republican violence and remaining apolitical, both necessary for their public persona. When invited to Sinn Féin’s 2005 Ard Fheis, the family remained seated while they received a standing ovation, allowing them to maintain their symbolic connection to republicanism while protesting against the PIRA and Sinn Féin’s lack of concrete support.12 In an interview with the London Times, Paula McCartney noted that ‘in my opinion the IRA men of those days were more honourable than they are now […] a lot of it’s to do with a different calibre of people, abuse of power, idle hands and psychopathic tendencies’.13 The implication of this statement was that PIRA violence in the Troubles was legitimised by the circumstances of the time, particularly in defending the Short Strand, but that those conditions had now changed. Drawing this distinction was crucial to the family’s status as true ‘republicans’ from the Short Strand, while also allowing them to criticise McCartney’s murderers and Sinn Féin’s ambivalent support. The McCartney family mobilised a particular construction of innocence by incorporating Robert’s children into the campaign in order to pressure witnesses to come forward. One anecdote repeated in numerous newspapers mentioned Bridgeen’s difficulty in telling Robert’s children, Brandon and Conlaed, that their
McCartney, Walls of Silence, pp. 120-121. David Sharrock, ‘“We did not plan to damage the IRA - the killers did that”’, Times, 2 March 2005, p. 30.
father been killed.14 A Guardian article recounted Paula McCartney’s assertion that four-year-old Conlaed was ‘already seeing a child psychiatrist,” and that neither child could “be exposed to any more trauma’.15 The choice to reveal this information was both an honest and calculated move, in order to draw attention to the extremely difficult task of informing children that their father had died. Sociologist Fidelma Ashe points out that the ‘women were framed not only as sisters but as mothers’, giving them a greater moral authority to pursue justice.16 This story, along with including the children in press photographs, was another public weapon that the family used against the PIRA. The McCartney case also drew on the GFA’s use of children as symbols of innocence and the future – if the GFA promised a better future for a new generation, what about Robert McCartney’s children? The magnitude of the threat that the McCartney family posted to the PIRA can be seen in the numerous statements the organisation released through the pseudonym ‘P O’Neill’ speaking from the ‘Irish Republican Publicity Bureau’ in Dublin following McCartney’s murder.17 The first statement was released on 16 February, two weeks after the murder and read simply: the IRA was not involved in the brutal killing of Robert McCartney. It has been reported that people are being intimidated or prevented from assisting the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice. We wish to make it absolutely clear that no one should hinder or impede the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice. Anyone who can help the family in this should do so. Those who were involved must take responsibility for their own actions which run contrary to republican ideals.18 14
Ashleigh Wallace, ‘Robert “was an innocent bystander”’, Belfast Telegraph, 3 February 2005 <http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/imported/robert-was-an-innocent-bystander-28245335.html> [accessed 10 January 2017]; Mary Fitzgerald, ‘Robert McCartney: the family man’, Belfast Telegraph, 5 March 2005 <http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/imported/robert-mccartney-the-family-man28245287.html> [accessed January 10, 2017]. 15 Angelique Chrisafis, ‘McCartney fiancee forced to leave home’, Guardian, 7 July 2005, p. 13. 16 Ashe, ‘McCartney Sisters’ Search for Justice’, p. 164. 17 Anthony McIntyre, Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), p. 319. 18 ‘Irish Republican Army (IRA) statement about the killing of Robert McCartney, (16 February 2005)’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/ira/ira160205.htm> [accessed 18 October 2016].
The PIRA’s second statement clarified their version of events in which it claimed ‘Brendan Devine, Robert McCartney and another man ended up in Market Street. It is the view of our investigation that these men were leaving the scene’ and that they were ‘followed into Market Street where Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine were attacked and stabbed’, and finally ‘both men were stabbed by the same man. Robert McCartney died a short time later in hospital’.19 However, the third statement, which examined in greater detail the events of the night, mentioned that the: IRA representatives detailed the outcome of the internal disciplinary proceedings thus far, and stated in clear terms that the IRA was prepared to shoot the people directly involved in the killing of Robert McCartney. The McCartney family raised their concerns with the IRA representatives. These included: Firstly, the family made it clear that they did not want physical action taken against those involved. They stated that they wanted those individuals to give a full account of their actions in court. Secondly, they raised concerns about the intimidation of witnesses.20 The offer to kill those involved in McCartney’s murder, nonchalantly added within a large statement about a meeting with the family, was met with ridicule and anger by most newspapers in Northern Ireland.21 The entire political spectrum in Northern Ireland (including republicans) condemned the offer.22 While all major politicians and newspapers across Northern Ireland condemned the murder, only the republican Balrog blog offered a defence of the PIRA’s offer to murder McCartney’s killers, asking ‘most people will find this disgraceful but people have been demanding that the IRA
‘Irish Republican Army (IRA) second statement about the killing of Robert McCartney’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/ira/ira250205.htm> [accessed 16 October 2016]. 20 ‘Irish Republican Army (IRA) third statement about the killing of Robert McCartney, (8 March 2005)’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/ira/ira080305.htm> [accessed 16 October 2016]. 21 David McKittrick, ‘IRA offered to shoot killers of McCartney’, Belfast Telegraph, 9 March 2005 <http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/imported/ira-offered-to-shoot-killers-of-mccartney28217436.html> [accessed 8 December 2016]; Stephen Dempster, ‘MPs to hit Sinn Fein coffers with £400k sanction’, Belfast News Letter, 10 March 2005, p. 8; Newton Emerson, ‘Law onto themselves’, Irish News, 12 March 2005, p. 16. 22 ‘Orde says IRA offer ‘was to kill’’ < http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4331819.stm > [accessed 12 January 2017].
do more for weeks now, so what more do people realistically want the IRA to do?’23. This was the extent of the public’s support for the PIRA. The statements appeared to be at best a public relations misstep by the PIRA, confirming the organisation’s criminal nature and its vigilante mentality. It also made it difficult to argue that the PIRA was suddenly incapable of murder, violence, or that it had renounced paramilitary methods since the GFA. The media’s response to the PIRA was swift. The Sun asked simply ‘are we supposed to slap them on the backs for this unexpected show of public-spiritedness? […] the IRA’s thugs do not rule this part of the United Kingdom. The law does’.24 The Irish News said that the offer showed ‘just how out of touch it is’ and ‘Mr McCartney’s death was down to the same killing machine which […] still sees violence as the answer’.25 The newspaper also reported that the ‘murder of Robert McCartney was horrific and his family are to be praised for pursuing justice, not revenge. The IRA offer to shoot the murderers of Mr McCartney beggars belief’.26 The overwhelming tone of the media’s responses from across the political spectrum, and letters to the editor from the public, was indignation that the PIRA would offer to murder someone and reflects a change in attitude towards paramilitary violence since the GFA. Neither unionists nor nationalists deemed paramilitary murder to be excusable by the PIRA conducting ‘internal housekeeping’. Paramilitary violence may have never been ‘legitimate’, but violence against civilians after the Agreement was viewed as particularly gratuitous. Under increasing public pressure, the PIRA continued to defend its response to the McCartney murder in the months after the killing. The case was mentioned again in
‘IRA Offer’ <http://gaskinbalrog.blogspot.com.au/2005/03/ira-offer.html> [accessed 10 January 2017]. 24 ‘Killers’ spin’, Sun, 9 March 2005, p. 8. 25 Andy Wood, ‘The Friday Column – Not only are IRA tactics crazy, they are old news’, Irish News, 11 March 2005, p. 2. 26 Tom Kelly, ‘Opinion – Doublespeak’s day is done, to put it bluntly’, Irish News, 14 March 2005, p. 10.
the PIRA’s 2005 Easter statement, describing the murder as ‘wrong, it was murder, it was a crime. But it was not carried out by the IRA, nor was it carried out on behalf of the IRA’ and that the ‘IRA moved quickly to deal with those involved. We have tried to assist in whatever way we can’.27 The statement ends with a republican claim of victimhood at the hands of the media, stating that ‘unfortunately, it would appear that no matter what we do it will never be enough for some’.28 Like Gerry Adams’ eventual statement denying that those involved in the murder ‘acted as a republican or on behalf of republicans’, the PIRA’s Easter statement denying that the murder was ‘carried out on behalf of the IRA’ does not deny that PIRA members were personally involved in the murder.29 On 20 July 2005, the PIRA issued its ‘Statement on the Ending of the Armed Campaign’. In this statement, the PIRA pledged that ‘all IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means’.30 The organisation confirmed its desire to support the ‘full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement’ along with the ‘goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation’.31 The organisation confirmed on 26 September that all arms had been put beyond use.32 There were numerous factors leading to the PIRA’s decision to decommission at this time, but the enormous media attention from the McCartney family certainly played a strong role, as unlike other victims’ groups, they were able to challenge the PIRA
‘Irish Republican Army (IRA) Easter Statement, 23 March 2005’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/ira/ira230305.htm> [accessed 17 October 2016]. 28 Ibid. 29 ‘Adams in appeal to catch killers’ <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4263359.stm> [accessed 23 December 2016]. 30 ‘Irish Republican Army (IRA) Statement on the Ending of the Armed Campaign, (28 July 2005)’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/ira/ira280705.htm> [accessed 17 October 2016]. 31 Ibid. 32 ‘Irish Republican Army (IRA) Statement on Putting Arms Beyond Use, (26 September 2005)’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/ira/ira260905.htm> [accessed 17 October 2016].
from within the republican community and threaten Sinn Féin’s political strength in the nationalist community and its funding from the United States. The PIRA’s numerous statements about the McCartney murder facilitated an unprecedented conversation between the PIRA, the public and the McCartney family. A key issue of victims’ groups was the lack of accountability for paramilitaries; they could murder, maim and injure without having to explain or defend their actions. Now, the PIRA was going to great lengths to explain the murder of one of the over 2000 people who had died as a result of republican violence since the Troubles began. The PIRA appeared to be issuing statements defensively, responding to the family’s requests and never quite getting ahead of a bad news story. Discursive power seemed to have shifted to the McCartney family who, far from being ‘silenced victims’, gave some 800 interviews in the two years after Robert’s death. The family was supported by a range of political figures including the Republic of Ireland’s Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and unionist leaders like the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politician James ‘Jim’ Allister, who went so far as to name suspects in McCartney’s murder to the European Parliament.33 This broad alliance was facilitated by the GFA, which specifically aimed to create better relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic, and would have been unthinkable during the Troubles.34 The McCartney family were not suddenly empowered by the GFA to speak out against the PIRA, but their exchange with the organisation in the media certainly indicates that one of the organisation’s key powers – silencing victims of its violence and their families – had been seriously weakened since the Agreement. Equally, the McCartney family’s dialogue showed that victims of violence, many of whom had felt
‘Monday, 9 May 2005 – Strasbourg, Justice for the McCartney Family’ <http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+CRE+20050509+ITEM014+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN> [accessed 29 April 2019]. 34 ‘The Agreement: Agreement reached in the multi-party negotiations (10 April 1998)’ <https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/events/peace/docs/agreement.htm> [accessed 17 April 2019].
ignored, forgotten or silenced by paramilitaries and politicians throughout the Troubles, had gained significant discursive power since the Agreement. Crucially, the PIRA had been challenged by a family entrenched in the republican enclave of the Short Strand, a feat that would have been close to unimaginable, and certainly more dangerous, before the Agreement. The McCartney Family as a Rallying Point for Victims The special attention directed towards the McCartney case in 2005 opened discussion about who the ‘true’ victims of the conflict were, and why of the dozens of paramilitary murders since the GFA, McCartney’s murder received such attention. The wider consideration of ‘true’ victimhood in Northern Ireland was hotly contested after the GFA. Each political party differed in who it categorised as victims of the conflict. The DUP explicitly excluded members of paramilitary organisations, the Social and Democratic Labour Party (SDLP) had a more inclusive definition, while Sinn Féin included people convicted of crimes during the Troubles.35 Between the publication of Bloomfield’s ‘We Will Remember Them’ report in 1998 and the ‘Eames– Bradley Report’ in 2008, numerous ‘victims’, ‘survivors’ and ‘injured’ groups came into existence, formed around common experiences of pre and post-GFA violence.36 A draft Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN) report lists over 100 groups dedicated to victims, survivors and the injured in 2008, although some of these are now defunct.37 Groups such as the Pat Finucane Centre, focus on nationalist victims of collusion, while Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) caters to unionist
‘A Voice for Victims: The Democratic Unionist Party’s Policy on Innocent Victims of Terrorism’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/politics/docs/dup/dup03victims.pdf> [accessed 22 December 2016], p. 5; ‘Who are the victims? Debates, concepts and contestation in 'post-conflict' Northern Ireland’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/victims/introduction/smcd07whoarethevictims.html> [accessed 22 December 2016]. 36 This inquiry was compiled by Church of Ireland Archbishop Robin Eames and Dennis Bradley, a PSNI officer and former Catholic priest. 37 ‘[DRAFT PAGE] 'Remembering': Victims, Survivors and Commemoration List of, and information about, groups providing support to victims and survivors of the Conflict in Northern Ireland’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/victims/groups/victimgroups.html#cross> [accessed 30 April 2019].
victims of republican violence in South Armagh. FAIR’s first website post from 2004 stated its aim to ‘help us regain our lost dignity and get our message out’ including the ‘ethnic cleansing and genocide that has taken place’ in South Armagh.38 While not all groups were as directly politicised as this, the issue of how to deal with ‘victims’ in Northern Ireland was a fractious and important one after the GFA, with virtually all definitions of victimhood being politically contested.39 The murder of Robert McCartney not only brought about discussion concerning victimhood, it led to the McCartney family entering into contact with relatives of other victims of paramilitary violence. The families of loyalist victims Raymond McCord Jr, David McIlwaine and Craig McCausland were in contact with the McCartney family, as were the relatives of other PIRA victims: Lisa Dorrian, Jerry McCabe, James McGinley and Matthew Burns. James McGinley’s case, in Derry, had similar circumstances to the McCartney family, especially suspected witness intimidation by republican paramilitaries.40 The family also used the inspiration of the Omagh Support and Self Help Group (OSSHG) civil case and expressed their view that a civil rather than criminal case could be one avenue of achieving justice.41 Michael Gallagher, a leader of the Omagh bombing justice campaign, stated ‘Gerry Adams seems to have had a change of heart over the Robert McCartney murder’ and asked whether or not he was ‘willing to treat the Omagh families on an equal basis?’42 There is some evidence in this case study of mutually beneficial relationships between victims’ 38
‘William Frazer – Member of: Families Acting for Innocent Relatives’ <http://victims.org.uk/main.html> [accessed 10 January 2017]; ‘The Future’ <http://victims.org.uk/future.html> [accessed 10 January 2017]. 39 John D. Brewer and Bernadette C. Hayes, ‘Victimhood Status and Public Attitudes Towards Postconflict Agreements: Northern Ireland as a Case Study’, Political Studies, 61.2 (2013), 422-461 (p. 444) <https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2012.00973.x>; Stephen Hopkins, ‘Sinn Féin, the Past and Political Strategy: The Provisional Irish Republican Movement and the Politics of ‘Reconciliation’’, Irish Political Studies, 30.1 (2015), 79-97 (p. 82) <10.1080/07907184.2014.942293>. 40 Angelique Chrisafis, ‘IRA facing popular revolt as two more families join campaign’, Guardian, 5 March 2005 <https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/mar/05/northernireland. northernireland> [accessed 8 December 2016]. 41 ‘McCartneys may pursue civil action’, Belfast News Letter, 28 March 2005, p. 1. 42 ‘Omagh relatives challenge Sinn Fein to back their fight for justice’, Belfast News Letter, 7 March 2005, p. 6.
groups, as they used the successes (or failures) of other groups as examples, and, criticised political favouritism towards one group or another. The Belfast News Letter also used the interest surrounding McCartney’s murder to remind readers of the Protestant sense of victimhood created by the PIRA. One letter asked if Martin McGuinness, the PIRA commander turned Sinn Féin politician, would condemn the: Brutal murders carried out by IRA “volunteers” at such places as La Mon House Hotel, Kingsmill and Enniskillen? Perhaps these murders don’t count, as the victims were innocent Protestants, whereas Mr McCartney was a Roman Catholic living in a strong republican area and could cost Sinn Fein/IRA votes at the next election.43 Writing for the Belfast Telegraph, journalist Lindy McDowell asked ‘if the IRA is going to eject members for complicity in brutal murder, we’re talking thousands … surely the families of their victims also deserve justice? Surely those criminals should be given up to face justice too?’44 These comments indicated public awareness of Sinn Féin’s precarious position in responding to the McCartney murder and resentment over the disproportionate attention given to the murder of Robert McCartney. Having rejected multiple offers for a film to be produced about their story, Catherine McCartney decided to write about her experiences in a 2007 book entitled Walls of Silence, a far cry from the lack of attention received by other victims of the PIRA.45
The Murder of Raymond McCord Jr
Letter to the editor, Belfast News Letter, 10 March 2005, p. 22. Lindy McDowell, ‘Stench of blood finally putting people off Sinn Fein sales pitch’, Belfast Telegraph, 3 March 2005 <http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/imported/stench-of-blood-finally-puttingpeople-off-sinn-fein-sales-pitch-28246041.html> [accessed 10 October 10, 2016]. 45 ‘Bloody Sunday film-maker to make drama on McCartneys – Irish News Online’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/victims/docs/ newspapers/irish_news/canning_in_160108.pdf > [accessed 10 January 2017]. 44
Cases of unionists calling upon nationalist politicians for support in the reverse circumstances as the McCartney family also occurred. For example, the family of David McIlwaine met with the SDLP in March 2005 in order to pressure the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) into releasing information about McIlwaine’s murder.46 Raymond McCord Sr, whose son Raymond Jr was killed by the UVF in 1997, used Adams’ call for McCartney’s killers to come forward in order to pressure loyalist politician David Ervine into compelling the UVF to release the names of his son’s killers. McCord’s plea was reported in the Belfast News Letter in which he stated his intent to ‘put pressure on the UVF, like the McCartney sisters are doing on the IRA, to make them reveal the murderers who have not been caught’.47 Sociologist Catherine Gallaher has noted that, unlike the McCartney case, the families of Raymond McCord Jr and Andrew Robb, both murdered by the UVF before the GFA, attracted only a fraction of the attention of the McCartney case and lacklustre support from unionist politicians.48 McCord’s case functions as a worthwhile comparison to the McCartney’s justice campaign. His campaign was neither as popular nor as lauded as that of the McCartney family and in part this was due to a comparative lack of media attention towards the case and the discursive changes that the Agreement had enabled. While unionist politicians supported the McCartney family, republicans supported McCord as he rallied against collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries. Just as issues surrounding paramilitary decommissioning drew unionists to support the McCartney family, McCord’s belief that collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries played a part in his son’s death led republicans to support his cause. Collusion has recently been explored by Anne
Chris Thorton, ‘UVF must also bow to people power, says father of victim’, Belfast Telegraph, 3 March 2005 <http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/imported/uvf-must-also-bow-to-people-powersays-father-of-victim-28217399.html> [accessed 12 March 2017]. 47 Gemma Murray, ‘McCartney sisters hope to meet Bush’, Belfast News Letter, 8 March 2005, p. 2. 48 Carolyn Gallaher, After the Peace: Loyalist Paramilitaries in Post-Accord Northern Ireland (Ithaca ; London: Cornell University Press, 2007), pp. 199-200.
Cadwallader, working for the Pat Finucane Centre, in her 2013 work Lethal Allies and in Ian Cobain’s 2016 book The History Thieves.49 McCord tapped into the long-standing republican claim that security forces colluded with loyalist paramilitaries, who targeted both the PIRA and nationalist civilians. Nuala O’Loan, Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman, confirmed the presence of collusion between state forces and loyalist paramilitaries in relation to McCord Jr’s death in a 2007 statement.50 McCord published his own account of his justice campaign, Justice for Raymond which was released in 2008, and was, like Catherine McCartney’s Walls of Silence, published through the Dublin-based Gill & Macmillan press. A passage in McCord’s book illustrates the similarities between McCord and the McCartney family’s campaign: ‘with the help of the media over the past ten years, my family and I have achieved our goal of exposing collusion and killers getting away with murder’.51 However, McCord’s focus on collusion isolated his campaign from wider unionist support, as many unionist politicians had, as Catherine Gallaher has noted, a ‘desire to avoid the topic of collusion, which is certain political quicksand’.52 McCord alienated potential unionist political support even further by running as a candidate in the 2003 and 2007 Assembly elections.53 Both the McCartney family and McCord navigated the treacherous waters of Northern Irish politics using different tactics. The family wanted to maintain their status as ‘republicans’ while pressuring Sinn Féin, although the family eventually left the Short Strand due to safety concerns.54 Similarly, McCord wore his father’s Orange sash while
Anne Cadwallader, Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland (Cork: Mercier, 2013); Ian Cobain, The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation (London: Portobello, 2016). 50 ‘Public Statement by Mrs Nuala O'Loan on her investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Raymond McCord Junior and related matters, (Operation Ballast), (22 January 2007)’ <http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/police/ombudsman/poni220107.htm> [accessed January 15, 2017]. 51 Raymond McCord, Justice For Raymond (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2008), 95. 52 Gallaher, After the Peace, p. 200. 53 McCord, Justice for Raymond, pp. 202-205. 54 ‘Sister moves house after killing’ <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4364882.stm> [accessed 21 March 2017].
addressing Sinn Féin’s 2008 Ard Fheis in order to reassert his personal unionism - while appealing for republican support for his justice campaign. However, his story was never as prominent as the narrative surrounding the McCartney family for a number of reasons. Practically, the only group McCord could exert pressure on were loyalist paramilitaries and loyalist politicians, the latter of which had little political power (compared to Sinn Féin) after the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended in 2002. McCord Jr’s status as a UVF member and McCord Sr’s troubled history with the Ulster Defence Association meant that neither McCord could be portrayed as an ‘innocent victim’ of paramilitary violence, unlike Robert McCartney.55 Most significantly, McCord Jr’s 1997 murder occurred before the GFA, and as with many other victims of violence around this time, his story does not fit with public discourse surrounding paramilitary violence, delegitimised after the GFA. Had McCord’s killer been successfully convicted in 1997, they would likely have been released by the year 2000 under the terms of the Agreement. Conversely, strict anti-terror legislation following the Omagh bombing in 1998 meant that McCartney’s killers, if caught, faced very harsh sentences.56 The public and political support was therefore weighed strongly towards the McCartney family, as the PIRA had murdered their brother after paramilitary violence had been irreparably delegitimised by the GFA. Interviewed in 2016, McCord stated that he was, like the McCartney family, committed to seeing the ‘people that murdered my son standing in a dock’.57 McCord’s case demonstrates that while some victims of paramilitary violence gained discursive power after the GFA, this was far from evenly distributed, favouring
McCord, Justice for Raymond, p. 25. Clive Walker, ‘The Bombs in Omagh and Their Aftermath: The Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998’, The Modern Law Review, 62.6 (November 1999), 879-902 (pp. 881-892) <https://www.jstor.org/stable/1097161>. 57 ‘Raymond McCord: ‘I’m a dad looking for justice and I'm never going to stop’’, Belfast Telegraph, 7 March 2016 <http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/raymond-mccord-im-adad-looking-for-justice-and-im-never-going-to-stop-34516023.html> [accessed 15 January 2017]. 56
victims and their families without paramilitary connections and murders that occurred after the Agreement. The very specific features of Northern Irish politics in 2005 including PIRA decommissioning, the rise of the Sinn Féin as the largest Nationalist party and continued suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly allowed the McCartney family to put pressure on republicans and the PIRA. Especially horrific atrocities like Omagh and infamous murder victims such as Robert McCartney dominated the public’s interest in victims, often obscuring or ignoring others whose deaths were not as memorable or politically relevant.
Conclusion The media’s focus on the McCartney case faded as the DUP and Sinn Féin entered government together in 2007. Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff, noted in his memoirs that the ‘combination of the Northern Bank robbery and the McCartney murder meant republicans had no choice but to dissolve the IRA unilaterally if they wanted to pursue a political future’ and that the ‘McCartney killing was a bigger crisis for the IRA than the bank robbery because it affected their base’.58 Indeed, the murder may have been a useful opportunity for Gerry Adams, as according to political scientist Jonathan Tonge, Adams already wanted the PIRA to end the armed struggle.59 Sinn Féin’s response to McCartney’s murder also led to fewer votes for the party than expected in local elections in 2005, although the party gained seats at the Westminster election on 5 May 2005.60 Nevertheless, the small political dent created
Jonathan Powell, Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland (London: The Bodley Head, 2008), p. 267. 59 Jonathan Tonge, Northern Ireland: Conflict and Change (Cambridge: Polity, 2006), pp. 196-199. Routledge ebook. 60 Paul Dixon, Northern Ireland: The Politics of War and Peace, 2nd edn (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 307-308.
for Sinn Féin was not as noteworthy as the discursive changes exposed by the McCartney family’s campaign for justice. An absolute fearlessness in questioning the power of paramilitaries served as an inspiration for other victims’ groups and resulted in the family winning numerous accolades, even inspiring a 2011 Catalan language book entitled Les germanes Young or ‘Young Sisters’ with the bi-line, a ‘fictional story based on the murder of Robert McCartney’ and the ‘fight for the truth of the five sisters’.61 The McCartney justice campaign demonstrated both the practical impacts of the GFA and the discursive changes that it facilitated. Practically, the improved relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom, bolstered by strong ties with the United States (all cemented by the Agreement) allowed the McCartney family to use these connections to their advantage. Although the McCartney family’s campaign did not result in criminal convictions for key suspects, it facilitated a wider discussion within the contested public discourse surrounding justice, peace and victimhood after the GFA. The public reactions to the McCartney family’s justice campaign signalled that since the Agreement significant power in Northern Ireland’s public discourse had shifted away from paramilitaries and towards victims of their violence. Eamonn McNamara Australian National University, Canberra Eamonn.McNamara@anu.edu.au
Pili Garcia and Jesús Martínez, Les germanes Young (Barcelona: Ediciones Carena, 2011).
Real/Unreal: The Crisis of the Adolescent in John McGahern’s The Dark By Martin Keaveney Abstract Through the existential crisis of the adolescent in John McGahern’s novel The Dark, the elements of the ‘Unreal’: the idealised fantastical life; and the ‘Real’: the actualised life are established within McGahern’s particular strategies of narrative and stylisation.1 Once young Mahoney escapes the claustrophobic family home of the early chapters, the wider backdrops of the church, school and university are found to be similarly repressive and unsatisfactory. Despite the boy’s academic success, he abandons his university course for what is framed as an unsatisfying clerkship. Young Mahoney’s total movement of ‘Unreal’ to ‘Real’ is ultimately impossible, and his existential outlook determines his realisation that the ‘Unreal’ is the only way to navigate adulthood and the ‘Real’. This is formalised as the boy ultimately turns to his father for his direction. Young Mahoney finds ‘Independence’ via ‘Dependence’; he finds the ‘Real’ in the ‘Unreal.’
Key Words: John McGahern, The Dark, Adolescent, Unreal, Real, Narrative, Style
John McGahern, The Dark (London: Faber and Faber, 1965).
Introduction John McGahern’s early novel The Dark marries the visceral descriptions of isolated country life with a transcendental ideology which communicates both the ‘Unreal’: the ideal life and the fantasies which this view on the world encourages; and the ‘Real’: the actualised life and the characters and settings therein. Eamon Grennan describes this dynamic as ‘a provisional link between the world of the flesh and that of what we have to call the spirit.’1
Denis Sampson has pointed out ‘The Dark is less a
bildungsroman, or a portrait of the artist as a young man, than an existential study of a consciousness in an indeterminate state'.2 Through analysis of McGahern’s narrative sequencing and stylisation of the latter parts of the novel, this ‘existential study’ reading is further developed and isolates Grennan’s link of spirit and flesh. These aspects of the ‘Real’ and the ‘Unreal’ are determined by their depictions of the practicalities of everyday life and, the transcendental consciousness which young Mahoney meditates on constantly, an element of his character which becomes increasingly intense. The effect depicts the destruction of childhood delusion by delivering the narrative from the claustrophobic opening seven chapters to the wider and more exposed final two-thirds of the novel, ironically forcing the boy to join the other characters in adopting the ‘Unreal’ to survive the ‘Real.’ As the claustrophobia of Mahoney's farm dissolves in Chapter 8, the boy experiences the ‘Unreal’ ‘Joy’ of absolution from his sins as he leaves the confessional. However, this ‘Joy’ is quickly obliterated by ‘Real’ material concerns for the future. The narrative then moves to Father Gerald's house, where the boy is forced to confront the ‘Unreal’ and ‘Real’ elements of the world. The ideals of ‘Truth’ and ‘Justice’ are
Eamon Grennan, ‘“Only What Happens”: Mulling over McGahern’. Irish University Review. (35.1, (Spring-Summer 2005, 13-27), p.25. 2 Denis Sampson, Outstaring Nature’s Eye – The Fiction of John McGahern. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1993), p.63.
contrasted by Father Gerald with the reality of ‘committees.’3 The ‘Unreal’ meditations on style soon follow, juxtaposed with the ‘Real’ descriptions of this as ‘rubbish.’4 In the section, young Mahoney concludes he will never deliver on his ‘Unreal’ promise to say mass for his mother. Near the close of the novel, the boy observes that the need for spiritual fulfilment may come from a ‘real authority’; this is an ironic nomenclature.5 This reference relates to an awareness gained from the ‘Real’ world obliterating his childhood fantasies. Ultimately, through the eradication of ‘Joy’, and failed escapes to both realms of fantasy and materialism, this ‘Real’ world is also ‘Unreal’, depicted by the hypocrisies of the characters and situations. As the novel ends, the ‘Real’ escape to the E.S.B. emerges when the university experiment fails. However, through the failure of the church, school and university, the boy discovers that the ‘real authority’ can only be found through the ‘Unreal.’ To develop Grennan’s link further, this represents the spiritualisation of the flesh, hence young Mahoney’s retreat to the counsel of his father and his implied admission that he will need ‘direction’ for the future in the final chapters. ‘Joy’ is not easy to apply to the narrative of The Dark. It is described, in perhaps a Beckettian aside, as ‘[T]he unnameable heaven.’6 Potential joyous occasions, such as the fishing expedition or the exceptional results gained in the Leaving Cert, remain strained. Happiness does not happen, and withdrawal of ‘Joy’ is clear as the boy leaves the confessional at the beginning of Chapter 8. The absolution of his sins is a strictly private affair, another ‘dream’, like the scenes with his mother. Sampson notes the boy’s capacity for fantasy: ‘It is as if the author wants to indicate that the boy’s dream
John McGahern, The Dark, p.100. John McGahern, The Dark, p.114, 146. 5 John McGahern, The Dark, p.118. 6 John McGahern, The Dark, p.25. This relates to the third in Samuel Beckett’s trilogy: Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable (London: Calder & Boyars, 1960). 4
of separating his own consciousness from the father’s shadow is a vain and selfindulgent fantasy, that his desire to escape his fate is an understandable but unrealizable yearning.’7 Young Mahoney's attempt to separate his worldview from that of his father is ‘vain' and ‘self-indulgent', his need to escape ‘understandable' but ‘unrealizable.' Escape is ‘Unreal’; the boy can only attempt it by living in his private world. Stylistically, ‘Joy’ is quantified as something to be utilised rather than analysed; it is not meditated on but manipulated for social transaction. Mahoney calls the post-confessional experience a ‘great feeling', yet instead of reciprocating, young Mahoney is said to ‘loath' the words.8 His ‘own joy' is fragile, in the same way the adolescent experience is one of vulnerability, and he doesn't want it ‘confused in the generality of another's confession'.9 His lack of social skills is already beginning to emerge, and it will be fully explored in latter chapters, through his dealings with O'Donnell in Chapter 28, where he is ‘fearful of betraying [his] ignorance'.10 His ongoing difficulty in communicating with Mahoney is narrated by the contamination of his private ‘Joy’ by someone with whom ‘[T]here had never been understanding or anything.'11 The adolescent is alone, even with his father, in this ideal spiritual world of a church after confession. ‘Joy' is in fact converted to ‘hate' as Mahoney makes ‘every advance or contact'.12 The ‘Joy’ is fleeting and too fragile to be satisfactory, just like the short-lived presence of the mother in the boy's life. The emergence from his father's shadow, stylised through the shoulder that was ‘almost tall as his own',13 is determined by his confusion at the hatred he feels in the face of being ‘commanded to love.'14 The ‘Joy' of the post-confessional is found to
Denis Sampson, Outstaring Nature’s Eye – The Fiction of John McGahern, p.67. John McGahern, The Dark, p.44. 9 John McGahern, The Dark, p.44. 10 John McGahern, The Dark, p.169. 11 John McGahern, The Dark, p.44. 12 John McGahern, The Dark, p.45. 13 John McGahern, The Dark, p.46. 14 John McGahern, The Dark, pp.44-45. 8
be unsuited to the ‘real world'. It is devoid of genuine, long-lasting contentment or growth. Its superficiality is illuminated by the ease with which Mahoney's touch destroys it. The boy is immediately plunged into despair, and he has no outlet to vent his fury, other than to ignore his father in a calculated humiliation as Mahoney talks outside. The failure of the confessional in Chapter 8 is contrasted by the idealised X version where it is narrated as being successful: ‘[I]n some measure Francie and his father walked in the joy of this beginning.’15 Here, the ‘Joy’ is present for the whole scene, but it will be truncated by McGahern in The Dark, as the pair leave the church. Mahoney moves quickly to the materialisation of the boy’s future: ‘”Have you ever decided what you’ll be when you grow up?”’16 Mahoney cannot absorb the ‘great feeling’ any longer than his son, directing their conversation into the boy’s future as soon as possible, progressing from the ‘Unreal’ of post-confessional ‘Joy’ to the ‘Real’ of the material future.17 ‘Joy’ and material is a false partnership, one that cannot mix, like father and son in the novel, exemplified through the way their blood was artificially joined by a flea in Chapter 3. The boy responds passively to the father’s questions: ‘“It depends on the exams mostly. Whatever I get. There’s not much use in thinking.”’18 This irony demonstrates where the boy realises the parameters of adult life. He becomes aware of the need to use the ‘Unreal’ within the ‘Real’. Mahoney becomes childishly tired of this thread of discussion and ironically returns the conversation to the ‘Unreal’, imagining his son as a priest. The spiritual world is managed on Mahoney’s megalomaniacal terms. The ‘spirit’ does not direct son or father here. Both have received absolution for their sins from the priest, and
John McGahern, ‘Episodes from a Novel’ (Ed. David Wright), An Anthology from X (Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 1988). 16 John McGahern, The Dark, p.45. 17 John McGahern, The Dark, p.44. 18 John McGahern, The Dark, p.45.
ideally ‘go free in God’s name’, but as McGahern engineers it, neither can embrace the world on these conditions.19 From the claustrophobia of the house, the bedroom and the confessional, to the boy and father’s staged exchange, the reader is directed toward the themes of the remainder of the novel, a triangulation of forces: church, education and convention. ‘Joy’ is for the boy a private emotion: any happiness he feels throughout the novel is within himself unless it is through ribaldry with his sisters.20 The intrusion of Mahoney into private contentment suggests an unauthorised ‘filling' of the sacred emptiness of the boy's silent reflection. The boy craves the void, clear from the babble of the house and demands of his mind, hence his regular ‘refuge' in the outdoor lavatory.21 Young Mahoney is temporarily freed from his constant guilt after the absolution of the confessional, and when Mahoney interrupts this, the discomfort is rendered into guilt as the boy turns pain onto himself. He recalls he is ‘supposed to love everyone.'22 The need to love harangues him as causing guilt rather than ‘Joy.’ This paradox suggests young Mahoney’s confusion: in the absence of direction, he is narratively positioned as lost between a delusional father and an absent mother. Within this void, he becomes terrified of the future. The ‘Unreality’ of ‘Joy’ is destroyed by the ‘Reality’ of the material future. The crisis in Chapter 8 drives the boy from ‘Joy’ to another ‘Unreality’, namely, fantasy, and he is not alone in this indulgence. The ‘Unreal’ is now portrayed by Mahoney, whose previous doctrines of ‘Reality’ are swept away in the short but absurd discussion father and son have after they leave the church. Young Mahoney is probed by his father on his plans, a conversation which develops into one of bizarre
John McGahern, The Dark, p.25. John McGahern, The Dark, p.28. 21 John McGahern, The Dark, p.10, 38. 22 John McGahern, The Dark, p.43. 20
imagination. During this, Mahoney’s voice is described as ‘gentle enough for once.’23 The boy feels a ‘temptation to be easy, not to keep him always outside.’24 Despite his initial ‘Joy’ after leaving the confession, he still craves ‘to confide.’25 He is primed to engage with his father here; ‘the world’ on his own, he notes, is a ‘cold place.’26 The boy admits his consideration of the priesthood: ‘I often think I might, if I could be good enough’.27 Mahoney pounces on this immediately, constructing a clearly realised dream:
“You’d be all reared then and I could sell the old land and come and live with you. I could open the door for those calling and find out what they wanted and not have them annoying you about everything. I could fool around the garden, and the bit of orchard at the back. We could bring the old tarred boat and go fishing in the summer.”28
Once the boy encourages a vision of himself as a priest, Mahoney becomes uncontrollably excited, breathlessly propelling himself out of the current moment. His voice becomes untypically gentle. The boy also wishes to reciprocate in this fantasy; the cold world he lives in could be improved by joining his father in the dream. However, its ‘Unreality’ is soon evident. Mahoney completes his movement from ‘husband’ and ‘father’ to ‘son’ and ‘wife’ by making the outrageous suggestion he could be the boy’s housekeeper: a servile assistant; a contrast to his dictatorial presence in the early chapters.
John McGahern, The Dark, p.45. John McGahern, The Dark, p.45. 25 John McGahern, The Dark, p.45. 26 John McGahern, The Dark p.45. 27 John McGahern, The Dark, p.45. 28 John McGahern, The Dark, pp.45-46. 24
Chapter 8 crystallises the contradictions and ironies of The Dark. Mahoney criticises the priest after he leaves in Chapter 4, yet he dreams of his son joining the church in Chapter 8. Mahoney's softening toward a vocation is indicative of his ego: the pleasure he would take in his son's powerful future position in society. The loss of his son as the natural inheritor of the farm is compensated for by the vision of young Mahoney donning the alb of the priest. Now Mahoney imagines he will eventually abandon his farm, his tunnel vision identifying his future role as the boy's housekeeper. But while this is only a service position, Mahoney paradoxically adds elements of some power in turning away parishioners. Mahoney is still hungry for control and even begins to erode the role of the priest in his dream. He moves from the servile ‘John’ to the ‘old harridan’ version of housekeepers and finds a way to imagine his importance, massaging his ego as he places himself as keeper of his son's house, replicating the role he has attempted on the farm. It is the likely advancement of Mahoney's position which constitutes the sole interest he has in his son’s future. The ‘Unreal’ parenting critiqued through the narrative strategy of Chapter 8 crystallises a dysfunctional adult version of the natural delusions of childhood. The boy eventually responds to Mahoney's imaginings in a lifeless way: ‘“We would. We'd have good times.”’29 The boy cannot voice his emergent ‘Real’ concerns; his thoughts are drowned out by Mahoney's incessant ‘Unreal’ fantasising. Eventually, Mahoney returns to the moment: ‘“What do you think the chances are that you'll go on?”’30 The boy is non-committal: ‘“I don't know. It's too hard to know. It depends on too many things”’.31 McGahern stylises this sentence by echoing the verb ‘to know' in the ironic absence of knowledge. The emptiness of the page after this line, without explicit closure of the exchange, suggests Mahoney's retreat to fantasy and
John McGahern, The Dark, p.46. John McGahern, The Dark, p.46. 31 John McGahern, The Dark, p.46. 30
his utter failure to adapt to the world following his wife's death, much less prepare his son for the demands of adult life. The boy will not engage in Mahoney’s projections. The fantasy has been exposed for what it is: the ‘Unreal’. Mahoney grows ‘aware of his own voice’ and stops talking.32 After the ‘eagerness’ has left his walk, he is ‘left seem foolish to himself, and broken.’33 Mahoney’s broken fantasy of the ‘Unreal’ is now reflected toward himself. He is as broken as those brass bells which reflected the moon at the end of the bed in Chapter 3, noted during a period when he was at his most dominant. McGahern’s skill as a narrator of mirroring events is demonstrated when this ‘Unreal’ vision is reanimated in a ‘Real’ memory later. Father Gerald tells the boy he was ‘driven crazy’ by an ‘old harridan of a priest’s housekeeper who was trying at the time to run me and the parish as well as the house,’34 and again, when the boy meets the priest’s replacement ‘John’; whose character is even more wooden than young Mahoney.35 The ‘foolish’ framing of Mahoney in Chapter 8 defines his flaws as a father.36 The boy cannot confide in him in this situation, remaining in the ‘cold place’ of the ‘Real’ world. The parameters of Mahoney’s ‘Reality’ are unstable and crumbling, as the walls of security will collapse for the boy in the remainder of The Dark. This is Mahoney’s dream, but there is no response: ‘He’d be given nothing. The dream was not the other’s dream. Perhaps too much had happened or lives were never meant to meet.’37 In an extraordinary comment given from the boy’s perspective, his lack of connection with his father is such that he muses he may have been better never to have even met him, that he is baffled they are related. Nevertheless, their commonality
John McGahern, The Dark, p.46. John McGahern, The Dark, p.46. 34 John McGahern, The Dark, p.64. 35 John McGahern, The Dark, pp.86-87. 36 John McGahern, The Dark, p.46. 37 John McGahern, The Dark, p.46. 33
lies in this bafflement: as the father does not understand the boy, the boy is devoid of understanding the world. This crisis of humanity and the desperation of not being understood is isolated by McGahern through Luigi Pirandello, from whom he quotes:
“But don’t you see the whole trouble lies here in words, words. Each one of us has within him a whole world of things, each one of us his own special world. And how can we ever come to an understanding if I put in the words I utter the sense and value of things as I see them; while you who listen to me must inevitably translate them according to the conception of things each one of you has within himself. We think we understand each other, but we never really do.”38
While McGahern uses the quote to ‘show the awareness and the presence of the older language in our literature in English' in his essay ‘What is My Language?', it is telling in its selection by the writer when projected against this confusion of young Mahoney and his father.39 Neither understands the other. According to the father character in Pirandello's play Six Characters in Search of An Author, this is true of all humans and suggests the source of much of the existential anguish in the adolescent, further hampered by the amplified misunderstanding of his parent. McGahern's psyche as he composed this novel, is identified by Sampson as demonstrating ‘his bitterness, his disillusionment with teaching, his wish to travel, his loneliness’, and some of these aspects are present in young Mahoney, with the teaching being replaced by disillusionment with his father’s lack of understanding.40
Luigi Pirandello quoted in: John McGahern (Ed. Van Der Ziel, Stanley), ‘What is My Language’, Love of The World (London: Faber & Faber, 2009), p.261. [First published in New Readings of Old Masters (Ed. Massoud, Mary), (Cairo: Macmillan, 2004), pp.205-19.] 39 John McGahern ‘What is My Language’, Love of The World, p.261. 40 Sampson, Denis. Young John McGahern – Becoming a Novelist, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p.65.
Chapter 9 opens with rich naturalism, in contrast to Chapter 1’s plunging directly into action, suggesting the boy's hesitant growth and his future in deliberate poetic metaphor:
The line of black cattle trailed all that winter round the fields in search of grass, only small patches in the shelter; always a funeral of little winter birds in their wake in the hope that the rocking hooves would loosen the frozen earth down to the worms.41
This is indicative of the boy’s attempt to escape the ‘Unreal’ and his future need to use the ‘Unreal’ to cope in the adult world. There will be a line of: ‘black', a ‘search', a ‘funeral', a ‘wake', all relating to the boy's existential craving for answers, in the same way the cattle crave grass all winter in the patchy field. As the winter birds hope for worms, young Mahoney follows the ‘black' of the church after the ‘funeral' of his childhood. The workmanlike ‘rocking' of the hooves denote masturbation: the hidden worms wrestling underneath the frozen surface are reflective of his urges, which struggle beneath the rigid, lifeless character he presents to the world. After Mahoney has self-humiliated, Father Gerald will become the father figure of the novel. His calling in Chapter 9 to collect Joan is a narrative pretext for another, more serious discussion on the boy joining the church: “Do you still think of the priesthood?” “Yes Father, if I could be good enough.”42 The boy doubts he would be ‘good enough': an odd turn of phrase which implies the priest as being more ‘good' than everyone else. Yet his qualities are a minor issue as the priest soon explains. The priest notes the very 'pull' which Mahoney 41 42
John McGahern, The Dark, p.47. John McGahern, The Dark, p.48.
isolated earlier as the currency of success rather than exams: '"Doors open under the right pressures. We are cousins. And if we cannot help our own who can we help!’"43 Success is quantified here in McGahern's work as having less to do with the presence of talent, than with the presence of political power in its many forms. In the ‘Real’ world, the ‘Unreality’ of political machinations are implied. This conversation prologues the boy's visit to the priest's house the following year, where he will serve Mass, observe the business of the parochial house, and prepare to become a priest. The reaction from Father Gerald when he learns about Ryan’s sexual abuse of Joan is far from satisfactory for the boy, amplified as the job came from the priest’s recommendation. In an arrangement of scintillating narratological power, Father Gerald’s priority is limiting public awareness, not confronting Ryan. The very figure the boy put his trust in is found to be devoid of the expected high morality. The ‘Real’ world defers to the ‘Unreal’ in the form of hypocrisy. At the end of Chapter 14, the boy begins to crave home: ‘At least in your own house there was life, no matter what else'.44 The abuse of Joan by the shopkeeper Ryan is used as an opportunity for young Mahoney to abandon his visit to Father Gerald's and decide to also give up on the vocation. It does not interest him anymore, stylistically portrayed by his vision of the parochial house: ‘This utter sense of decrepitude and dust over the house – the clocks, the bulldogs, the mahogany case of books, the black leather armchairs; the unlived in room.’45 The lifeless space contains a number of clocks, contrasting the singular green one in Mahoney’s bedroom in Chapter 3, the many black leather armchairs also reanimating the sole leather seat of Chapter 1’s humiliation. As exemplified by Marcel Proust, one of McGahern’s
John McGahern, The Dark, p.49. John McGahern, The Dark, p.88. 45 John McGahern, The Dark, p.88. 44
favoured authors, the novel directs young Mahoney to crave the ‘Unreal’ recapture of lost time.46 The furnishings of Father Gerald’s house magnify it beyond the farm the boy has left, this space is even worse than home, increasing the antipathy the boy feels for the church. Father Gerald ultimately admits in strict confidence the blatant ‘Unreal’ hypocrisy of the adult ‘Real’ world. The priest tells young Mahoney ‘If you are a good priest you have to walk a dangerous plank between committees on one hand and Truth or Justice on the other. I often don’t know. I often don’t know’47 in what Paul Devine describes as an ‘extraordinary confession.’48 The priest’s spiritual awakening of sorts in his honest itemisation of the conflict between the ‘Unreality’ of ‘Truth and Justice’ and the ‘Reality’ of ‘committees’ foreshadows Mahoney’s about-turn at the end of the novel. The boy returns to Mahoney shortly afterwards. The vocation abandoned, young Mahoney applies himself resolutely to education in ‘One long grind of study.’49 He brings his books to the bedroom and finds the work soothes him, absenting himself from his thoughts: ‘The only way to get release was to work.’50 Yet, his existential conundrums are never far away: ‘Death was all that mattered, it gave quickness that was one accent you’d never lose.’51 In contrast, ‘Life was the attraction, every instinct straining its way, and it was whether to be blind and follow and work was a way out.’52 Life then is qualified as a ‘blindness’, an ignorance, while death embraces ‘quickness’. The only way to survive in the ‘Real’ world is to ignore the ‘Realities’ of ‘death’ and adopt the hypocrisy of the ‘Unreal.’ The boy’s application to his work is the sole route to escape these thoughts. This too,
Declan Kiberd, ‘Introduction’, Love of The World, p.xix. John McGahern, The Dark, p.100. 48 Paul Devine, ‘Style and Structure in John McGahern's The Dark’, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, 29.1 (1979), 49-48 (p.51). 49 John McGahern, The Dark, p.110. 50 John McGahern, The Dark, p.113. 51 John McGahern, The Dark, p.113. 52 John McGahern, The Dark, p.113. 47
becomes a disappointing experience. He works through ‘nights of slavery’, noting that most of what he learns is ‘useless rubbish.’53 The formal educational institution is critiqued here, with the absence of ‘Real’ logic in the energies of ‘Real’ learning. The process does not provide him with ‘Joy’, achievement or contentment; it is simply another escape from Mahoney and the farm. The conflict in the house has diminished, with the exception of a comical argument about the offering of prayers for the boy’s studies, contextualised within existential anguish. After the boy has strenuously denied the validity of prayers dedicated to his exams, Mahoney is appalled. He concludes a furious retort with: “Such rubbish,” he went on complaining. “And in front of the children too. Puffed up and crazy, it’d choke you to live same as other people, wouldn’t it? You don’t even need God now? You wouldn’t ever have to do such a mean thing as clean your arse, would you, these days? Maybe it's up in the sky you spend your time these days, having conversations with God, and not down here with the likes of us. And I reared you and let you to school for that. As if there could be luck in a house with the likes of you in it.”54 Within this cirque soliloquy, Mahoney is infuriated at the boy’s choice of the ‘Unreal’ conversations with God. He notes his son ignoring the ‘mean thing’ of ‘Reality’, involving such activities as ‘clean[ing] [his] arse’. To choose ‘Real’ would ‘choke’ the boy, perhaps in the way it ‘choke[s]’ his father. While the scene of Chapter 20 can be read as farcical, it also hybridises the overall narrative style of the last twothirds of the novel, in its encapsulation of the boy’s choice of education over the church and the farm, which is implied to have the consequence of existential fear in the dysfunctional, guideless adolescent.
John McGahern, The Dark, p.146. John McGahern, The Dark, p.130.
Young Mahoney succeeds in winning the scholarship to university, but as after the confession of Chapter 8, the ‘Joy’ is short-lived. The boy is greatly embarrassed by his father’s insistence on drawing attention to the success to everyone they meet while having a celebratory dinner in the Royal Hotel, a feast at which the two sisters are significantly not present. The priority for Mahoney is paradoxically the ‘Unreal’ social signposting of his son’s brilliance, rather than a ‘Real’ unified family celebration. When young Mahoney reaches university, he is still isolated; his association with the student O’Donnell is limited; the girls he craves are ‘unattainable.’55 Education does not satisfy him any more than the church. His agony is crowned by being ejected out of a physics class, from a lecture which is focused on physical ‘Realities’, for the rare event of smiling. He immediately telegrams his father, indicating a desire to take the clerkship with the E.S.B. He adopts the hypocritical choice of a job which he does not want but will stop him thinking. To facilitate his ‘Real’ choice, the boy explicitly refers to his manipulation of ‘Unreal’ language as he explains his motives for the decision to his father: ‘“With the E.S.B., I’d be earning money straight away,” you’d learned long ago the kind of reasons to present, no use giving your own reasons, but reasons closest to where it touched Mahoney’.56 The boy has ultimately turned to the ‘Unreal’ within the ‘Real’. Mahoney’s return to the action in Chapter 30 and his response to the boy’s desire to abandon university for the E.S.B. is marked by unexpected sageness: ‘“[O]nly fools rush rashly.”’57 Mahoney has found the patience in life that at the outset of The Dark he could find only in a card game. This rationality would have been inconceivable and ‘Unreal’ in the first seven chapters. At this point, Mahoney extends the family support the boy has craved through the novel. Despite the boy’s rhetoric,
John McGahern, The Dark, p.177. John McGahern, The Dark, p.184. 57 John McGahern, The Dark, p.183. 56
his father appears to be no longer as hungry materially: ‘“We’ll have to take everything into consideration”’.58 After Mahoney seeks counsel from some restaurant customers who, by majority, support the ‘Real’ choice of the E.S.B., the pair again share a bed. In these final scenes, Mahoney returns to religion for an answer to the quandary: ‘“[T]he best thing we could do is get a priest’s advice”’.59 Mahoney is ‘Unreally’ attracted to the Franciscans’ ‘gentle manner’.60 They meet the Dean who reasons out the boy’s thoughts: ” You’re afraid of failing?” “I am, Father” “You’d not have to worry about that in the E.S.B,” […]. “No, I’d not have to worry.”61 Young Mahoney cannot make the final decision but is forced into a choice, engineered by the Dean and quantified by the minimisation of worry. This recalls Mahoney’s final advice before the Leaving Cert: ‘” Don’t worry, not to worry is the important thing”’.62 After the boy meditates on a ‘real authority’, he realises only a spiritual solution will fill the void which has dogged him in The Dark.63 In other words, despite his choice of the E.S.B., his late meditative monologue suggests he finds the answer to the ‘Real’ in the ‘Unreal’. His father summarises all the calamities that have passed, by referring to Mrs Mahoney for the first time in open dialogue: “It might have been better if your mother had to live. A father doesn’t know much in a house. But you know that no matter what happened your
John McGahern, The Dark, p.184. John McGahern, The Dark, p.185. 60 John McGahern, The Dark, p.185. 61 John McGahern, The Dark, p.187. 62 John McGahern, The Dark, p.140. 63 John McGahern, The Dark, p.188. 59
father loves you. And that no matter what happens in the future he’ll love you still.” “And I’ll always love you too. You know that.” “I do.”64 In an ‘Unreal’ turn of phrase, Mahoney appears to doubt whether it would have been better if his wife ‘had to live’, which also relates to the prevalent existential thinking about the difficulty of living. The scene concludes with a matrimonial ‘I do’ echoed from Chapter 3. The spiritual unification of the pair is complete, absent of relation to farm, church or education. Despite the apparent victory of the ‘Real’, father and son are finally joined in ‘love’ through the ‘Unreal’. Eventually young Mahoney concedes the ‘Unreal’, temporarily abandoned after he walks from the confessional in Chapter 8, is essential to get through the ‘Real’. Sampson writes that for McGahern the solution was in his reading: The increasing knowledge of a distinct selfhood appears to reflect a stage of questioning in adolescence, although when McGahern speaks of discarding received understanding or “tenets” (a word that appears to be shorthand for religious beliefs), he does not introduce any sense of intellectual or emotional crisis. Rather, this stage of “recognition and discovery” is linked to joy, as if the imaginative pleasure of reading and intellectual enlargement are continuous, as if for him the “adventure” of learning and knowledge expanded awareness in a way that he welcomed and was not disruptive or alienating in its erosion of given truths.65 For McGahern, the developing ‘questioning’, which emerged in adolescence and resulted in his abandonment of the beliefs of Catholicism, was ‘joyous’, because McGahern found refuge in the ‘imaginative pleasure of reading and intellectual 64 65
John McGahern, The Dark, p.191. Denis Sampson, Young John McGahern – Becoming a Novelist, pp.15-16.
enlargement.’ Its ‘erosion of given truths’ is not ‘disruptive’. This argues that McGahern successfully engaged in the ‘Unreal’ to navigate the ‘Real’. McGahern exchanged the ‘Unreality’ of spirituality for the ‘Unreality’ in the act of reading fiction. The use of reading for McGahern as a method to cope is not available to the boy. If there is a notable flaw in The Dark, it is the narrative framing of John McGahern in the world of young Mahoney and the merciless withdrawing of the one, ‘Unreal’, bright ‘light’ of ‘reading’, which sustained the author in his ‘Real’ life. This may be the reason critics such as John Cronin, F.C. Molloy and Michael J. Toolan have been highly critical of the novel’s conclusion, contrary as it is to the Bildungsroman finale.66 As the boy does not have McGahern’s reading to sustain his intellectual ponderings, he does not ‘come of age.’ Instead, he succumbs to the ‘Real/Unreal’ life of an E.S.B. clerkship. Sampson’s use of the word ‘Joy’ in his analysis of McGahern’s early reading is telling, as it is something the boy finds so briefly in Chapter 8. The novel treats this absence of ‘Joy’, which translates to ‘Unreal’ in McGahern’s ‘Real’ world. As the fantasy of childhood is destroyed, the boy finds hypocrisies in the church and empty success in education, until ultimately concluding that one day he would find a ‘[R]eal authority’.67 It is through this hope the boy will navigate adulthood. There is every sense he will not be content in following the path of convention in the E.S.B, but it is the only route open to him through the ‘Real/Unreal’ world that is presented in The Dark. Whether or not the E.S.B. will be a success, the boy, in a modification of the Bildungsroman format, acknowledges the need for his father’s direction. Young Mahoney finds ‘independence’ through ‘dependence’: he finds the ‘Real’ in the ‘Unreal’.
Denis Sampson, Outstaring Nature’s Eye – The Fiction of John McGahern, p.62-63. John McGahern, The Dark, p.188.
‘There is nothing so shocking as madness.’ Rationalising the Limerick District Lunatic Asylum, 1772-1827 By Triona Waters Abstract Finnane contends that ‘two of the most forceful arguments for a system of lunatic asylums turned on the crucial issue of separation and classification.’1 The foundation of these arguments can be found in the history of Limerick’s House of Industry regarding its practices in dealing with the local pauper insane. Preceding the establishment of Limerick District Lunatic Asylum, this institution was directed in serving the local pauper suffering from insanity during the closing decades of the 1700s. In an age where efficient lunatic treatments and housing practices were almost non-existent in south-west Ireland, as was the case nationally, reports of ‘inhumane’ methods of confinement directed at lunatics here were routine. The present article investigates how these practices at Limerick’s Poor House prompted an age of political conflict and legislative demand for lunacy reform throughout Ireland where the subject of segregation was brought to the fore. Tracking these developments in turn reveals key figures associated with this endeavour, including the political pressure exercised by Limerickman Thomas Spring-Rice, MP alongside his associates on the House of Commons’ 1817 Select Committee. Using Limerick as a microstudy whilst making references to developments of lunacy reform in Ireland’s capital, this article draws on the closing decades of the eighteenth century as an age of utmost uncertainty in dealing with persons suffering from mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities, but identifies the opening of the nineteenth century south-west Ireland as an age of hope with the establishment of Limerick District Lunatic Asylum.
Mark Finnane, Insanity and the insane in post-famine Ireland (London: Croom Helm, 1981), p. 27.
Keywords: Ireland, Pauper Insanity, Custodial Care, Limerick, Eighteenth-Century, Lunacy, Moral Care Introduction Resting on a variety of factors, nineteenth century Ireland boasts an important history within the narrative of lunacy reform. During this period, the island of Ireland witnessed a medical reformation in mental health care comprising intense political activism and legislative advancements that subsequently saw the establishment of a vast and very expensive district lunatic asylum system. Not only was this system unique to the island, Ireland actually became the first country in the western world with a system of public asylums2 where the ‘poor comprised the largest patient group’.3 However, the period in question represents an intensely tumultuous age that saw many groups in Irish society require institutional relief. Kelly deems this overreliance as an ‘insatiable hunger’.4 A prime example of this is the unprecedented demand made on lunatic asylums from families. As remedy, the constant expansion of asylums resulted in there being one in nearly all thirty-two counties of the country by the closing decades of the 1900s. The twenty-two district asylums established between 1825 (Armagh) and 1872 came with an estimated cost of £1,140,000 with the final district asylum under this new system opening in 1899 (Antrim).5 On the surface, this occurrence is a prime example of Michel Foucault’s ‘great confinement’ philosophy, in that the vast creation of receptacles fit for incarceration was society’s response to dealing with the mentally ill.6 Indeed, as Cox has suggested, the passing of the 1838 Dangerous Lunatic Act and its 1867 amendment suitably
Markus Reuber, ‘Moral management and the “unseen eye”: Public lunatic asylums in Ireland, 1800 – 1845’ in Elizabeth Malcolm, Greta Jones (eds), Medicine, disease and the State in Ireland, 1650-1940, (Cork, 1999), p. 208. 3 Catherine Cox, Negotiating Insanity in the southeast of Ireland, 1820-1900 (Manchester, 2012), p. 20. 4 Brendan Kelly, Hearing Voices: The History of Psychiatry in Ireland (Dublin, 2016), p. 4. 5 Finnane, Insanity and the insane p. 33. 6 Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (London, 2001).
supports the Foucauldian characterisation of social control.7 However, as established within recent asylum scholarship, the histories of these institutions throughout Great Britain and Ireland have proven much more complex where micro-studies of individual asylums and their surrounding districts produce alternative realities. The history of Limerick Asylum is no different. Their existence was irrefutably revolutionary for the period in question in the context of lunacy reform, and for individuals such as Ellen O’Brien.8 Ellen O’Brien was committed into Limerick District Lunatic Asylum on Tuesday, 16 July 1901 for attempting suicide, under the 1838 Dangerous Lunatic Act.9 Her husband, Patrick, was a farmer from Caharnagh, Kilcoleman and reported that she had ‘strayed away’ from their home the previous May. She was subsequently taken to Limerick Workhouse hospital but on return, he noted that she did not seem herself, defining her manner as ‘odd.’ He told how he ‘watched her as far as he could… and saw she was insane.’ Ellen was not sleeping at night and had hinted at ‘doing away with herself.’ Her suicidal tendencies were revealed when she was found by her children vomiting on Monday, 8 July telling them she ‘had the job done’. Later in the inquiry, Ellen’s son and daughter told how their mother had poisoned herself with corrosive sublimate as an empty packet was found in her bedroom. Patrick admitted that he used the substance for cutting calves. It was believed she digested four pence worth which was enough to have ‘killed several people.’ At first, Ellen warned her children not to tell their father, so her son hid the empty sachet in a box and placed it under the bed clothes of his own bed. Although her daughter was ‘afraid’, she eventually confided in her father on Friday, 12 July. Dr Nolan of Shanagolden was subsequently called, to whom Ellen admitted her intentions. Although very weak, Ellen spoke of her previous attempts at suicide
Catherine Cox, ‘Managing Insanity: Carlow Lunatic Asylum, 1832-1922’ (Unpublished PhD Thesis: University College Dublin, 2004), p.1. 8 Ellen O’Brien is not anonymised in this article as her case was published in one of Limerick’s regional newspapers, Limerick Chronicle. See - Limerick Chronicle, 27 July 1901. 9 The Criminal Lunatics (Ireland) Act 1838 (1 & 2 Vict. c. 27) was passed on 11 June 1838 that saw the detention of a person if found of an unsound mind and a danger to him/her self or others.
and revealed that she tried to drown herself two days prior the poisoning but ‘could not get enough of water in a stream on the farm’. It was noted that her clothes were found damp in the kitchen. On 15 July, Patrick spoke to Sergeant Farrell about his wife’s suicide attempts adding he believed she was suffering from ‘religious mania.’ Ellen’s stepdaughter added that ‘was always talking about religion’. On 16 July, one of Ellen’s children met with Dr Nolan and reported how her mother had said if ‘she was not put under restraint, she would do away with herself.’ She was admitted to Limerick Asylum later that day. On admission, Nurse Ellen Hannan noted how the new patient was very weak, very quiet and ‘scarcely able to stand.’ Ordered to bed rest by the asylum’s Assistant Medical Superintendent Dr Coffey, Ellen was then given beef tea which she vomited immediately. She told Nurse Hannan that she had taken the corrosive sublimate for a pain in her shoulder. Despite every effort being ‘made to give her nourishment’, Ellen died two days after admission on Thursday, 18 July 1901. Attempted suicide was not noted as her cause of death. Rather, it was recorded that she died of exhaustion, due to acute inflammation of the stomach and bowels. However, when her case was published in the Limerick Chronicle detailing a ‘sad death of an insane person’, it was reported that she had been suffering from acute melancholia.10 An inquest was held the day after she died, with a note stating that she had suffered from mercurial poisoning.11 The above case is instructive on many levels. As well as revealing the nineteenth century rural Irish family as an agency to institutional admission, it suggests the O’Brien’s knowledge of classifications that were in use at that time in determining insanity. It also shows the need for the local lunatic asylum as Ellen, herself, allegedly requested care. However, before we attempt to understand how institutions such as lunatic asylums were used by a local community, and individuals like Ellen, we must ascertain how they came to be and why they
Limerick Chronicle, 27 July 1901 Report of the Limerick District Lunatic Asylum for the financial year ended 31 March 1902 and the statistical year ended 31 December 1901, table xv. P. 25.
were needed in the first instance.12 The answer to this can be found in the closing decades of eighteenth-century Limerick.
Finnane contends that ‘two of the most forceful arguments for a system of lunatic asylums turned on the crucial issue of separation and classification.’13 The foundation of these arguments can indeed be found in the history of Limerick’s House of Industry regarding its practices in dealing with the local pauper insane. Preceding the establishment of Limerick Asylum, this institution was directed in serving the local pauper suffering from insanity during the closing decades of the 1700s. In an age where efficient lunatic treatments and housing practices were almost non-existent in south-west Ireland, as was the case nationally, reports of ‘inhumane’ methods of confinement directed at lunatics here were routine.14 The present article investigates how these practices at Limerick’s Poor House prompted an age of political conflict and legislative demand for lunacy reform throughout Ireland where the subject of segregation was brought to the fore. Tracking these developments in turn reveals key figures associated with this endeavour, including the political pressure exercised by Limerickman Thomas Spring-Rice, MP alongside his associates on the House of Commons’ 1817 Select Committee. Drawing on the House of Commons’ Parliamentary papers including Spring-Rice’s
As determined by Write and Saucier, and sharing the approach of Walsh and Cox in addressing asylum histories individually, it is important to examine the broader narrative concerning the surrounding community as doing so puts the larger ‘network’ of incarcerated insanity on display. David Write, Renée Saucier, ‘Madness in the archives: anonymity, ethics and mental health history research’ in Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, 2 (2012), p. 69. Cox’s ‘Negotiating Insanity’ has demonstrated a strong networking relationship between the public institutions in Carlow District which include the asylum, the workhouse and local medical dispensaries. Walsh finds this to be very much the same for Ballinasloe town in the west of Ireland as Connaught District Lunatic Asylum had historical links with the Ballinasloe Workhouse in housing the local insane pauper. See Cox, Negotiating insanity; Oonagh Walsh, ‘Tales from the Big House: the Connaught District Lunatic Asylum in the late nineteenth century’ in History Ireland, Issue 6 (November/December 2005), Vol., 13. 13 Finnane, Insanity and the Insane p. 27. 14 Inspector General of Prisons in Ireland, Reverend Foster Archer toured Ireland for over three months in 1801 logging his observations in a book titled ‘Observations on a tour made through Leinster, Munster and Connaught’. These papers are now preserved amongst the Hardwicke papers (Additional MMS. 35920) in the British Museum. Patrick B. Lysaght transcribed the pages concerning his travels to Limerick City and County where Archer offered his remarks on what he witnessed in the Limerick House of Industry: Patrick B. Lysaght, ‘The Reverend Foster Archer’s visit to Limerick and Clare, 1801’ in North Munster Antiquarian Journal Vol., 18, 1976, p. 52.
testimonies, who at this time was governor of Limerick House of Industry and later life governor of Limerick District Lunatic Asylum, the first section of this article addresses the conditions and provisions for the lunatic poor within Limerick’s Poor House. The next section reveals how legislation was designed in the closing decades of the eighteenth century to isolate pauper lunatics from the general inmate population within public institutions but demonstrates how futile these efforts were due to overcrowding. The latter part of this article therefore sees the result of the Select Committee’s indefatigable drive by introducing the Limerick District Lunatic Asylum. By considering the movement of curable lunatics from Limerick House of Industry to the new asylum, the theory behind and the application of moral practices in southwest Ireland are also put on display. Overall, using Limerick as a microstudy whilst making references to developments of lunacy reform in Ireland’s capital, this article draws on the closing decades of the eighteenth century as an age of utmost uncertainty in dealing with persons suffering from mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities who were confined within Limerick’s custodial setting. However, it identifies the opening of the nineteenth century as an age of hope within the context of Ireland’s institutional practices. In line with the moral treatment regimens emerging in Europe, it was believed that these new lunatic asylums could cure those select few suffering from their ailments, who in turn would be discharged as goodstanding members of society, subsequently relieving the demand of custodial provision on the island. However, this reality was not to be due to an overwhelming and unprecedented rise in cases like Ellen’s frequent the revolving doors of the new asylums. Background The Irish population expanded from 2.5 million in the second half of the eighteenth century to an estimated 5 million by 1800.15 With a continuously rising population, destitution spread,
Jennifer Brown, ‘The legal powers to detain the Mentally Ill in Ireland: Medicalism or Legalism?’ (Unpublished PhD thesis, Dublin City University, 2015), p. 18.
with work ‘scarce and becoming scarcer’ and destitution described as the ‘common lot.’16 Political thought was not ‘directed towards the responsibility for people within Ireland’ so the desolate poor were barely a concern, let alone the insane.17 Previous years saw responsibility for the insane kin rest legislatively on families under Brehon and Early Irish law where it was not uncommon for the family Gealt from a household of inferior means to be chained up at home, or placed into a makeshift pit or cage:18 There is nothing so shocking as madness in the cabin of the peasant, where the man is out labouring in the fields for his bread, and the care of the woman of the house is scarcely sufficient for the attendance on the children. When a strong young man or woman gets the complaint, the only way they have to manage is by making a hole in the floor of the cabin not high enough for the person to stand up in, with a crib over it to prevent his getting up, the hole is about five feet deep, and they give the wretched being his food there, and there he generally dies. Of all human calamity, I know of none equal to this, in the country parts of Ireland which I am acquainted with. 19
This practice of detaining family members continued for years to follow. Frenchman Marquis De Latocnaye documented during his travels throughout Ireland in the 1790s that a farmer in Limerick imprisoned his demented wife within the ‘vault’ of a dilapidated castle neighbouring their home: ‘he secured her with a chain to a heavy harrow to keep her secure. She succeeded in escaping and climbed up some ninety feet to the top of the ruin, where she remained, eluding capture.’ De Latocnaye also noted that ‘one of the most painful spectacles to be seen in nearly
Joseph Robins, Fools and mad: A history of the insane in Ireland (Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 1986), p. 66. 17 Brown, ‘The Legal Powers to detain the Mentally Ill in Ireland’, p. 18. 18 ibid., p. 17. 19 Joseph Reynolds, Grangegorman: Psychiatric care in Dublin since 1815 (Dublin: Institute of Public Administration in association with Eastern Health Board, 1992), p. 26.
all the principal towns of Ireland is the number of weak-minded persons in the streets.’20 In combatting such destitution, various public institutions were erected throughout the eighteenth century, the histories of which demonstrate the inability of providing effective care for pauper lunatics. Indeed, sharing the sentiments of Cox, many existed to simply be a product of ‘philanthropic impulse’ erected in harmony with societal ‘anxieties’ concerning ‘the spread of contagious diseases, especially among the poor.’21 Examples of this include the trend found in erecting Houses of Industry under the 1772 Badging the Poor Act.22
Limerick House of Industry …the House of Industry, where an inhuman practice prevails of putting chains and heavy logs on vagrants, sick and well, industrious and idle, orderly or riotous. I had those chains removed from the diseased and the industrious and well behaved. This…practice of chaining human creatures is very reprehensible. It covers an oppressive system of making the wretched beings pay the Beadle for taking them off.23
Limerick city was selected under the 1772 Act to play host to a House of Industry, being the first to establish a poor law corporation in the country.24 The sources from this institution are unique and valuable in the assessment of lunatic provision during the closing decades of the eighteenth century, as the admission book is the only one to have survived out of the twelve Houses of Industry.25 Land was acquired on the North Strand across the river Shannon which
Marquis de Latocnaye, A French man’s walk in Ireland (Brunswick, 1798) pp 63-4. Catherine Cox, ‘Health and welfare, 1750 – 2000’ in The Cambridge social history of modern medicine, eds. by Eugenio F. Biagini, Mary E. Daly (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 261-281 (p. 262). 22 An Act for Badging the Poor, 1772 (11 & 12 Geo. 111. C. 30). 23 Lysaght, ‘The Reverend Foster Archer’s visit’ p. 52. 24 See - David Fleming, John Logan (eds.)., Pauper Limerick, The Register of the Limerick House of Industry 1774–93 (Irish Manuscript Commission: 2011). This source describes the 2,747 inmates who were admitted into the House between 1774 and 1793, detailing their age, sex, place of origin, religion, medical conditions, admission and discharge details and other. The subjects are largely from the counties of Limerick, Clare, Tipperary and Cork. 25 David Fleming and John Logan (eds), ‘Pauper Limerick, The register of the Limerick House of Industry, 17741793’ (Dublin, 2011); The Irish Manuscripts Commission, p. xiii. 21
had been presented ‘with a benevolent heart and a liberal hand’ by Protestant Bishop William Gore. Two years after the acquisition of its land, the building commenced on 10 March 1774 when Mayor Joseph Johns laid the first stone.26 Rev. Dean Hoare designed the establishment and employed Lant. Hill Esq. as its first superintendent. There were sixteen large rooms in total and eleven windows were counted in the second story to help with ventilation. An infirmary was erected at the bottom of the garden behind the house.27 James Ferrer’s 1787 History of Limerick told of the benefits of this establishment: Human wisdom could not devise an institution of more general utility. It was the wholesome design of the legislature, that its happy effects should pervade the whole kingdom; and what could be better conceived, that to support the aged and the feeble poor, to save helpless infants from perishing, to take care of lunatics, and prevent them from being a burden to their families, and to make the sturdy vagrant useful to society by his labour?28
Largely funded by the grand juries, it was also levied on the public and survived off donations from various philanthropists around Ireland. Twenty pound was to be given by anyone who wanted to be a governor and subscribers were expected to give three pound annually.29 These donations were encouraged by Ferrer who stated that ‘every man and every set of men should unite in supporting the county Poor Houses, as they are founded on a wise and rational plan, which if well attended to by men in power, no complaining will be heard in our streets.’30 However, despite the regular funding for this institution, and similar to other custodial establishments of its time, Limerick’s Poor House struggled with overcrowding and the spread
James Ferrer, The History of Limerick: Ecclesiastical, Civil and Military, from the earliest records to the year 1787 (Limerick, 1787), p. 224. 27 Paddy Lysaght, ‘The House of Industry’ in Old Limerick Journal Vol. 4, September 1980, 20-22 (p. 20). 28 Ferrer, The History of Limerick, p. 224. 29 ibid.,. p. 225. 30 ibid., p. 225.
of disease. Between 1774 and 1787, 1,732 poor persons had been admitted, 259 of those were old and infirm and died in-house. By 1787, there were eighty-eight inmates; forty-one were aged and infirm; thirty-five were poor, but able to work; and twelve were documented as ‘lunatik’. There were 225 inmates in total by 1804 with seventy-seven being children.31 Although thus identified as an asylum for paupers/vagrants, a nursery school for deserted children, a lock hospital, and a retreat for lunatics, another of its functions was to help ‘young females who for want of employment might become the victims of profligacy and vice’.32 However, it was recorded that female inmates were sexually exploited by ‘those responsible for their care’ and this ‘most atrocious profligacy’ had ‘spread to the lunatic department.’33 When this practice was revealed, the keeper was dismissed, and was replaced by male and female attendants loaned by prominent physician, Dr Halloran of Eglinton Lunatic Asylum in Cork.34
During this time, a new piece of legislation had been enacted which proved significant in the plight of the pauper lunatic in Ireland. The 1787 Regulations of the Gaols Act saw Irish lunatics become a class of their own, warranting separate accommodations for the lunatic poor in the custodial setting.35 From what was known of madness at the time, there was a ‘pressure for diagnostic classification’ where a series of lunatic departments were subsequently constructed at the Dublin (1776), Limerick (1777) and Cork (1788) Houses of Industry.36 The sanctioning of these departments resulted in the condition of lunatics be made the object of inspection via
Fleming, Logan (eds), Pauper Limerick, The register p. xiii. Lysaght, ‘The House of Industry’, p. 20. 33 Report of the Select Committee on the Lunatic Poor in Ireland, with Evidence. Evidence, p. 14, given on 7/6/1817. HC 1817 (43) Viii, 33. 34 Arthur Williamson, ‘The Beginnings of State Care for the Mentally Ill in Ireland’ in Gender and Medicine in Ireland, 1700 – 1950 ed. by Margaret H. Preston and Margaret O’hOgartaigh (New York, Syracuse University Press, 2012), pp 281-290 (p. 284). 35 An Act for the Regulation of gaols 1787 (27 Geo. 111. C. 39). 36 Markus Reuber, ‘Moral management and the “unseen eye”: Public lunatic asylums in Ireland, 1800 – 1845’ in Medicine, disease and the State in Ireland, 1650-1940, eds. by Elizabeth Malcolm, Greta Jones (Cork: Cork University Press, 1999), p. 209. 32
the creation of an Inspector-General of Prisons position: ‘Thus began a lengthy period during which the insane were seen anew as a class requiring separate accommodation and regulations’.37 Funded by a two-hundred-pound donation from Dr E. Smythe of Dublin, thirteen lunatic cells were subsequently erected at Limerick House of Industry where lunatic inmates were to be segregated from the general pauper population. Fourteen lunatics were recorded here in 1804 but admissions consistently rose to where there were forty-eight lunatics in-house by 1817.38 Therefore, although mild efforts of segregation were evident, the demand for the admission of lunatics and idiots had greatly exceeded ‘the accommodation or funds provided for their support.’39 As a result, many lunatics were placed into the sick ward with the general paupers and ‘medical supervision was almost non-existent’ so the abuse of the inmates was reportedly ‘routine’.40 The House of Commons’ 1806 Select Committee’s report indicated the struggles met serving the local lunatic pauper at Limerick House of Industry. Compared to other Houses such as Dublin, Cork and Waterford, Limerick was considered ‘particularly brutal’ where ‘mentally ill persons were kept naked, chained, handcuffed and exposed to the elements.’41 Indeed, J. Carr’s travel log book told of horrors he met during his visit in 1805:
Under the roof of this house, I saw madmen stark naked girded only by their irons, standing in the rain, in an open court… whilst several idiots, squatted in corners, half naked, half famished, pale and hallow-eyed, with a ghastly grin, bent a vacant star upon the loathsome scene, and consummated its horror. Fronting this ward, across a yard, in a
Finnane, Insanity and the insane pp 21-22. Report from the select committee on the lunatic poor in Ireland H.C. 1817, appendix no. 2. 39 W. Cooke Taylor, ‘State of the lunatic poor in Ireland’ Journal of the statistical society of London Vol. 6, No. 4 (December 1843), p. 311. 40 Judith Hill, ‘Barracks, asylum and model school, public architecture in Limerick from the late-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century’ in Limerick, history and society, interdisciplinary essays on the history of an Irish county eds. by Liam Irwin, Gearoid O’Tuathaigh, (Dublin: Geography Publications, 2009), p. 288. 41 Kelly, Hearing Voices, p. 35. 38
large room, nearly thirty feet long, a raving maniac, instead of being strapped to his bed, was handcuffed to a stone of 300lbs weight, which with the most horrible yells, by a convulsive effort of strength, he dragged from one end of the room to the other, constantly exposed to the exasperating view and conversation of those who were in the yard. I have been well informed that large sums of money have been raised in every county for the erection of mad-houses: how has this money been applied?42
When these ‘lunatic wards’ were in operation, they soon became a hindrance rather than a remedy as it was reports that lunatic inmates ‘caused chaos and demoralisation’, thus interfering with the daily schedule and ‘discipline’ of these establishments.43 This was much the same for Dublin’s House of Industry where conditions were considered to be ‘as defective as can possibly be imagined.’44 According to John Leslie Foster, later to be a governor of Richmond Lunatic Asylum: I have seen three, I think, certainly two lunatics in one bed in the House of Industry. I have seen, I think, no fewer than fifty or sixty persons in one room, of which I believe the majority were insane, and the rest mere paupers not afflicted with insanity. I have seen in the same room a lunatic chained to a bed, the other half of which was occupied by a sane pauper, and the room so occupied by beds there was scarcely space to move in it…45
Attempts of dealing with the mentally ill within Houses of Industry exposed how madness was an aspect of Irish society that proved tremendously challenging to serve in the eighteenth
J. Carr, The Stranger in Ireland, or, A tour in the southern and western parts of that country, in the year 1805 (Philadelphia: T and G Palmer, 1806), p. 200. 43 Brown, ‘The legal powers’, p. 19. 44 Kelly, Hearing Voices p. 40. 45 Select Committee on the Lunatic Poor in Ireland, Report from the Select Committee on the Lunatic Poor in Ireland with Minutes of Evidence taken before the committee and an appendix, p. 9.
century. By the turn of the century, many public institutions ‘contained disturbingly large numbers of persons with mental disorder or intellectual disability.’46 Provision for this ‘distressed class’ was regarded as ‘wholly inadequate’ by 1804.47
The 1817 Select Committee: The newly elected Select Committee of 1817 comprised Spring-Rice, as previously stated, as well as Sir John Foster, governor of Richmond Lunatic Asylum and Sir John Newport of Waterford.48 With time, their indefatigable drive saw success in their political demand to improve lunatic treatment provisions and it was the reports taken from the Limerick House of Industry that helped ensure the outcome of the Irish poor insane become prioritised. Whilst governing Limerick House of Industry, Spring-Rice testified in this campaign that provisions for lunatics were ‘unfit for dogs’ as many of the dead were left to ‘lay for days without being removed’.49 He argued lunatics often lost the ‘use of limbs because of the cold’50 due to the extreme methods of restraint which consisted of ‘passing their hands under their knees, fastening them with manacles, fastening both about their ankles, and passing a chain over all, and then fastening them to a bed.’51 With restraint becoming one of the leading characteristics of the moral care debates emerging during this period, the prospect of freeing the insane from neglect, maltreatment, chains and starvation was considered revolutionary. ‘Inveterate reformer’52 Phillipe Pinel’s (1745-1826) adoption of such practices received celebration when he dramatically struck the chains binding Parisian lunatic women at the Salpêtrière Hospital in
Kelly, Hearing Voices, p. 35. W. Cooke Taylor, ‘State of the lunatic poor’, p. 311. 48 Cox, ‘Managing insanity’ p. 17. 49 Report of the Select Committee on the Lunatic Poor in Ireland, with Evidence. Evidence, p. 14, given on 7/6/1817. HC 1817 (43) Viii, 33. 50 Judith Hill, ‘Barracks, asylum and model school, public architecture in Limerick’, p. 288. 51 Report of the Select Committee on the Lunatic Poor in Ireland, p. 14. 52 Kelly, Hearing Voices, p. 33. 47
1800.53 Trending alongside practices implemented at the Quaker York Retreat, the endeavours of the Select Committee and other lunacy reformers ‘laboured hard to translate their ideals into reality’ where they ‘tried to provide detailed blueprints of how an asylum should be organized and what its principal features’ should possess.54 Parallel to Pinel’s arguments on how an ‘asylum community’ could allow patients to ‘be liberated of their pathological ideas,’55 the Select Committee measured that: …effectual relief will be found in the formation of district asylums, exclusively appropriated to the reception of the insane. They can have no doubt that the successful treatment of the patients depends more on the adoption of a regular system of moral treatment, than upon casual medical prescription.56
Kelly’s Hearing Voices deems the Select Committee’s efforts as ‘compelling’ – efforts that were an essential prerequisite for legislative and proactive change to occur.57 The 1817 Asylums for Lunatic Poor (Ireland) Act58 was subsequently passed and although progress was slow, further reform ensued with the enactment of the Lunacy (Ireland) Act 1821. Spring-Rice drafted a bill giving power to the Lord Lieutenant in directing the ‘erection of whatever number of asylums he thought appropriate along the lines recommended by the committee.’59 And so, ordered were such on 14 October 182060 that Ireland became witness to its first system of effectual relief established solely for those suffering from mental illnesses. The Lord
Kathleen Jones, Asylums and After: A revised history of the Mental Health Services from the early eighteenth century to the 1990s (Athlone: The Athlone Press, 1993), p. 32. 54 Andrew T. Scull, Museums of Madness: The social organization of insanity in nineteenth century England, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979), p. 102. 55 Reuber, ‘Moral management and the “unseen eye”: Public lunatic asylums in Ireland’, p. 212. 56 Select Committee on the Lunatic Poor in Ireland, Report from the Select Committee on the Lunatic Poor in Ireland with Minutes of Evidence take before the commit and an Appendix (London: House of Commons, 1817), p. 4. Referenced in Kelly, Hearing Voices pp 39 -40. 57 Kelly, Hearing Voices, pp 39-43. 58 Prior Asylums, mental health care and the Irish, p. xxii. 59 Robins, Fools and mad, p. 66. 60 Arthur P. Wellington, ‘Armagh district lunatic asylum, the first phase’ Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society, Vol. 8, No. 1 (1975/1976), p. 111.
Lieutenant was to appoint governors that would locally direct the running of these asylums, whilst the Commissioners for General Control and Correspondence were specially employed to oversee the planning and construction of. Supporting the funding from central government sources, the grand juries were additionally authorised to raise funds.61 Limerick was selected as the site for the second asylum.
Limerick District Lunatic Asylum: We have this day visited the Limerick District Lunatic Asylum… and have been enabled to see every portion of this vast and admirably constructed establishment… There are very many peculiar cases in the asylum, embracing nearly every variety and phase of insanity, and each and all demanding increasing … attention. The existence of such an institution is a proof of the arrangement of civilization, in the inquiry of science, and a triumph of humanity in its crumbling characteristics.62
In 1821, land was acquired next to the Limerick City and County Gaol on the old Cork road, now Mulgrave Street in Limerick city for the construction of St. Joseph’s Psychiatric Hospital, formerly known as at Limerick District Lunatic Asylum. On 14 May, Stephan Edward Rice, Esq., laid the first stone of the new panoptic-design based central building in proxy of his son, Thomas Spring-Rice with an audience consisting of the newly appointed asylum governors and local gentry. Costing £27, 335 including all furnishings, and under the designs of Francis Johnston and William Murray, the asylum was officially erected in 1826. The designs chosen, like many of its time employed the panoptic design – a central ‘x’ shape placed in the middle
Robins, Fools and mad, p. 66. St. Joseph’s Psychiatric Hospital, Limerick (hereafter JPH), Limerick District Lunatic Asylum (hereafter LDLA), Annual Inspections and Visiting Committee Reports, 5 August 1860, P98/2/1. This statement was written into the Visitor Report book of the Limerick District Lunatic Asylum on 5 August 1860 by Irish Journalist and Historian Maurice Lenihan.
of the central building allowing for total surveillance – a theory adopted under the ‘therapeutic arsenal’ of the moral management regime.63 The 1821 Limerick City and County Gaol, neighbouring the asylum also utilised this concept. Renowned architect James Bevans of the York Retreat and Board of Works architect Francis Johnston were both commissioned to create designs but Johnson won the contract for having cheaper estimations. Nonetheless, he was encouraged to incorporate some of Bevan’s sketches. The first board meeting was held on 18 February 1822 and it was agreed on 22 January 1827 that the asylum was ready for the reception of patients, although one female ‘poor object’ who had been had been ‘suddenly seized… with indisposition’ was admitted a few weeks prior due to being ‘destitute of friends and money’.64 For the first time in the history of incarcerated insanity in the south-west of Ireland, patients of Limerick Asylum were to be housed via their psychological disorder and sex. After being approved by Dublin Castle, five hundred admission forms were given to the newly appointed moral manager John Jackson for distribution.65 Advertisements were subsequently sent to local newspapers establishing its leading function with spaces for 150 patients: ...afford accommodation for poor objects, male and female, from the counties of Limerick, Clare and Kerry as well as from the City and Liberties of Limerick... It is right to state, that this institution is not authorised to receive idiots or epileptic patients.66
Administrative guidelines for the governors were adopted from the Richmond and Armagh District Lunatic Asylums. Just a few months shy of the official opening in October 1826, the guidelines directed Manager Jackson to visit ‘with as little delay as possible’ the neighbouring
Reuber, ‘Moral management and the “unseen eye”, p. 219. JPH, LDLA, Minute book, 8 January 1827. 65 JPH, LDLA, Minute book, 22 January 1827. 66 Limerick Chronicle, 22 January 1827. 64
institutions in order to create a count of those ‘likely to receive admission’.67 On 17 October, Jackson was accompanied by Doctor Castles, the Physician to the House of Industry, and together they found sixteen lunatics in the Ennis House of Industry but only considered twelve eligible for admission. Seventy lunatics were counted at Limerick House of Industry but only nineteen were accepted for transfer into the new asylum. On 27 October, Jackson then visited the Tralee House of Industry with Rev. R. Conway Hurly (Inspector of Gaols) and found eight out of ten lunatics eligible for admission. Those considered ineligible were almost exclusively idiots and epileptic patients with some convalescent persons found at Limerick’s House of Industry. Sources also suggested that some cases who were lunatic and curable were also deemed ineligible as they were found to be severely malnourished and the potential for them to survive was highly unlikely. All visits to other institutions had ceased by 1 November 1826.68 For the first time in the history of incarcerated insanity in the south-west of Ireland, patients of Limerick Asylum were to be segregated according to their psychological disorder and sex. Figure 1.1: Proportion between sexes of those deemed lunatic and curable transferred from Limerick, Ennis and Tralee Houses of Industry to Limerick District Lunatic Asylum: District
County and City of Limerick
County of Clare (Ennis House of Industry)
County of Kerry (Tralee House of Industry)
Source: JPH, LDLA, Minute book, 1 November 1826.69
JPH, LDLA, Minute book, 13 October 1826. JPH, LDLA, Minute book, 1 November 1826. 69 JPH, LDLA, Minute book, 1 November 1826. 68
The exclusive transfer of curable lunatics from the Houses of Industry into the new asylum represents the insistence of the governors that the institution accept, house and treat those entirely curable. On arrival, each patient was allotted a four-digit number that became their identifier for the remainder of their stay at Limerick Asylum. As documented within many health care histories, practice proved different from policy and incurable patients were soon too, to meet the revolving doors of this asylum – a practice that was to prove detrimental to not just this asylum but the system as a whole.70 These patients quickly formed the ‘core of lifelong asylum inmates’.71 Despite the issues met with curable versus incurable patient admissions very soon after opening, it is evident that some of the original intentions catalysed by moral treatment theories survived as practice for some time at Limerick asylum. As methods of restraint within the Limerick House of Industry proved ineffective and destructive to the intentions of moral treatment practices, the governors of Limerick Asylum were wary and reluctant to practice it, and when used, it was noted arguably for preventative purposes concerning self-injury. Such attitudes were to remain throughout the nineteenth century. Inspector of Lunatic Asylums, Francis White, visited Limerick Asylum on 17 January 1848 and reported that ‘there was but one under bodily restraint which was of a mild nature that of leather gloves strapped to the sleeves of the waistcoat, to prevent him from tearing and destroying his clothes.’72 On 31 December 1870, there were two females recorded being ‘under restraint of a mild character.’73 Out of 420 patients in-house on 13 May 1873, only one patient was found restrained which was reportedly ‘very modified…as a protection from …injury.’74 70
Quoting Kelly, early asylum care in Ireland commenced ‘with noble intentions, followed by enthusiasm, and then difficulty sustaining the enthusiasm and standards so clearly required for care for the mentally ill.’ Kelly, Hearing Voices p. 25. 71 Oonagh Walsh, ‘The Designs of Providence: Race, Religion and Irish Insanity,’ in Joseph Melling, Bill Forsythe (eds.), Insanity, Institutions and Society 1800-1914: A social history of madness in comparative perspective (London, 1999), pp 223-242 (p.225). 72 JPH, LDLA, Visitors Report book, 17 January 1848. 73 JPH, LDLA, Visitors Report book, 31 December 1870. 74 JPH, LDLA, Visitors Report book, 13 May 1873.
Conclusion: The quest to create the asylum setting for the Irish mentally ill was evidently a slow and tedious process. The general and lunatic pauper populations were subject to rampant destitution in eighteenth century Ireland. Though some endeavours were made in Dublin city to serve the pauper insane in the earlier decades, Ireland proved itself as inept in dealing with and understanding insanity for the most part. The delayed response in caring for these persons ensured that madness was a feature of Irish society that struggled to find placement within eighteenth century custodial care. As private facilities were largely inaccessible to the pauper lunatic, the two pieces of legislation enacted in the closing decades of the 1800s instigated a fresh response for the Irish mentally ill. This in turn prompted the topic of segregation within public houses as subject for debate. However, as these new lunatic compartments within Houses of Industry were considered a hindrance rather than a remedy, the poorly implemented practices of lunatic segregation both in the capital and in regional centres like Limerick represented the continuing gap between policy and practice. Still, despite these failings, the 1772 Badging the Poor Act and the 1787 Regulation of Gaols Act were to irrefutably act as catalyst in the development of lunatic segregation as it is here that Irish lunatics earned their own status. The sanctioning of lunatic-focused departments saw the condition of the pauper insane be prioritised. The ensuing years witnessed an age of political conflict, legislative advancement, and an emerging demand for lunacy reform in Irish society. The establishment of the 1805 and 1817 Select Committees saw the urgency in establishing separate institutions for their care.75 These developments made it increasingly clear that Ireland, at the turn of the nineteenth century, saw ‘destitution and mental illness’
Reuber, ‘Moral management’ p. 208.
intertwined as ‘twin problems [that] needed to be addressed both urgently and systematically.’76 Examining the petition for a segregated institution that would permit the use of moral treatments reveals how transnational thinking seeped into Irish regional practices. Although the period under review represents an intensely tumultuous history within the Irish context, both politically and economically, the condemning of the ‘inhumane’ approaches to care for pauper lunatics at Limerick House of Industry reveal a shift in attitude surrounding the mentally ill during this time.77 The reluctance to restrain patients at Limerick District Lunatic Asylum equally demonstrate a desire by those governing to succeed in its original intentions of applying the moral treatment regime. By 1843, 1,594 patients were provided with ‘moral’ care at the asylum. 867 (54%) were discharged with the remainder either deceased or still receiving care. Though, there were many cases like Ellen O’Brien’s who suggested a sense of ‘need’ for Limerick Asylum, there were many cases that reveal that its use was much more complex. Indeed, not all the 867 individuals who were released were deemed cured. Nonetheless, for its time, and sharing the ‘remarkable growth… in the number and size of lunatic asylums’ with the Anglo-American and western worlds, south-west Ireland at the turn of the nineteenth century was witness to what was measured as progressive change in lunatic-treatment provision, both legislatively and practically.78 Triona Waters Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick
Kelly, Hearing Voices p. 36. Lysaght, ‘The Reverend Foster Archer’s visit’ p. 52. 78 Cox, Negotiating Insanity, p. 6. 77