An Appreciation of Det. Steven McDonald

Steven McDonald reviewing the 1990 Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day Parade, accompanied by Jack Irwin, Mike Moran and Dominick Kiernan.

Nearly three decades ago, I marched in the Second Annual Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which took place on the bitterly cold Sunday afternoon of March 4, 1990, but the hearts of the marchers and spectators were warmed that day by the chance to honor a true American Irish hero, Police Officer Steven McDonald.

A resident of Malverne, Long Island, McDonald was permanently paralyzed as the result of a vicious shooting while questioning three thieves in Central Park.  His injuries left him confined to a wheel chair and constantly attached to a respirator in order to sustain his life.  At the time of the shooting, Steven’s wife, Patti was expecting their son, Conor, who is now a Detective with the NYPD.

The Honorary Grand Marshal that year was Irish republican activist and political prisoner Joe Doherty, who was in the middle of a nine year long battle to avoid deportation. Joe was strongly supported by Detective McDonald and many members and friends of the Irish American community. This writer has heard all manner of speeches and presentations on Irish issues on both sides of the Atlantic, but the most powerful and heartfelt I recall was a wonderful address given by Steven McDonald at a rally in support of Joe held at Foley Square in Manhattan.  Steven is a fixture to this day at many Irish American events and commemorations.

Newspaper accounts of the 1990 Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Glen Cove Mayor Don DeRiggi with Steven McDonald and Glen Cove Police Officers Pat Wright and Steve Vetrone.

Remaining with the NYPD and eventually being promoted to the rank of Detective, McDonald has become a beloved icon, especially among his fellow Irish Catholic New Yorkers, because of his tireless preaching of the Christian message of peace and forgiveness, which he even extended to the assailant who so grievously wounded him.

Steven McDonald and Mychal Judge on one of their peace missions to Ireland.

Steven announced his forgiveness of his attacker at at Conor’s Baptism.  As he explains:  “I wanted to free myself of all the negative, destructive emotions that this act of violence awoke in me – the anger, the bitterness, the hatred. I needed to free myself of those so I could be free to love my wife and our child and those around us.”

When asked why he forgave, Steven answers:  “I often tell people that the only thing worse than a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart. Such an attitude would have extended my tragic injury into my soul, hurting my wife, son, and others even more. It is bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.

Another of our local heroes, the beloved Fr. Mychal Judge, the first recorded fatality at the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center, became Steven’s spiritual adviser and a fast friend of the McDonald family.  Steven and Mychal led three peace missions to Ireland to bolster the peace process in its early days and Steven continues to preach peace and reconciliation there and elsewhere.

Pope John Paul II praying with Patti McDonald and Fr. Mychal Judge in Rome.

Patti and Steven McDonald entering St. Patrick’s Parish Hall, March 4, 1990

Steven has been tireless in repeating his message of hope, especially at the hundreds of schools he has visited, and to young police officers he meets with and encourages on a regular basis.  A few days before Christmas, he held a televised meeting with officers at at an NYPD station house and repeated his message of peace, reconciliation and suicide prevention.  He mentioned that when he was hot thirty years early, doctors had not expected him to live more than five years.

Steven McDonald leading the Second Annual Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day Parade, March 4, 1990.

In his talk, Steven attributed his survival to the skill of his doctors and his eschewal of hatred.  Conor stood by his side and echoed him, stating that hate would otherwise “have have eaten him alive” and that he would have been long dead had that happened. Steven finished by stating, “We will give you everything. I hope I have demonstrated that.”

Before the same Christmas season had ended, Steven was felled by a massive coronary.  He died soon thereafter, on January 10, 2017.

 

Steven McDonald, Gerry Adams and Rita O’Hare at Calvary Cemetery, Queens, in September, 2015 for the O’Donovan Rossa Commemoration.

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Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2014

Traditional Irish Pipers marching in the Glen Cove St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Traditional Irish Pipers marching in the Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The 26th Annual Glen Cove St Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 1 p.m.

The Parade has taken place annually since 1989.  It has grown to be the largest annual parade in Glen Cove and a joyous celebration that is eagerly awaited each Spring by all residents of the North Shore and the entire Irish community of Long Island.

The 26th Annual Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Sunday, March 23, 2014.

St. Patrick’s Day in Glen Cove this year will be even more special than usual because it will mark the  25th Anniversary of the Parade, which was first held in 1989.  During that time the Parade, always a dazzling event, has grown to be the premier St. Patrick’s Day celebration on the North Shore and the largest annual parade in Glen Cove.

This year’s Grand Marshal is renowned Irish activist and Long Island community journalist, John O’Connell, who will be accompanied by Aides to the Grand Marshal Anne Kelly, Ryan Doherty, Mike Byrne and Mary Jo Walsh.

The Parade begins to form up at 12 noon in the area of the Finley Middle School on Forest Avenue.  It steps off at 1pm, following the usual route through downtown Glen Cove to St. Patrick’s Church.  There is very ample parking in the municipal garages and at the end of the parade route.

The heart of the parade, as always, will be its exciting mix of marching groups, including many bands of Irish pipers and other marching bands.  Further color will be added to the festivities by vintage cars, costumed performers, face painters, fire and police units and much more.  The parade is a true community celebration of the coming of Spring with many of our areas’ ethnic organizations, often in costume, taking part.  Come, join the fun!

For more information, please visit the parade website at www.glencoveirishparade.org or call 516-782-7494.

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About Mike Moran

Mike Moran with members Charlie Phillips and Jim McCabe, leading the 1990 parade.

Mike Moran with members Charlie Phillips and Jim McCabe, leading the 1990 parade.

Michael J. Moran was born in Co. Carlow, Ireland, on March 22, 1930.  Mike emigrated to the U.S., settling in Sea Cliff, where he was employed for many years as a chauffeur for the Village of Sea Cliff Sanitation Department.

He was first inducted into Division 8 on March 28, 1957.  Mike went on to become a model of what a true Hibernian is, serving for six years as Division President, as chairman for Project Children and of the Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day parade and in many other positions.  On the County level, Mike served as Treasurer, Financial Secretary, Marshall and Co-chair of the annual Ladies Communion Breakfast.

In recognition of his service to the Order Mike received the high honor of being named Aide to the Grand Marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

A special committee had been formed early in 1987 to address an oft-expressed desire by the membership that Division 8 follow the tradition set by many other Divisions of naming them selves after persons of high regard as a tribute to those persons and an inspiration an example of true Hibernianism to present and future members.

On April 14, 1997 that Committee submitted its report to the President, recommending that Division 8 “bear the name of our beloved Brother Hibernian, Michael J. Moran, and hereafter be known as the ‘Mike Moran Division, Glen Cove, New York”. The report went on to say:  “This recommendation is made with keen awareness that the Division has no greater honor to bestow, and will never again be empowered to extend such an honor – but no Hibernian has contributed more to the Division than Mike Moran.  His contributions have been countless, selfless and honorable, always given cheerfully, with unfailing dignity and charm – the hallmark of a great Irishman.

The Division was slated to vote on the Committee’s recommendation at its monthly meeting in May.  Mike died on April 29, 1997 at the age of 67.  He had been advised before his death that the Division was to be named in his honor.    That honor was bestowed posthumously, and by unanimous acclamation of the Division members, on May 8, 1997.   The new Division banner bearing Mike’s name was dedicated on December 17, 1997 in a ceremony held at the Swan Club, in the presence of Mike’s wife, Mary, and his daughters, Maureen Basdavanos, Theresa Pierce and Anne Gentile.

The following is an account of Mike’s funeral from the North Shore Hibernian:

We were all deeply saddened by the death of Brother Mike Moran on April 29, 1997.  Our brothers and their families followed Mike’s fine example of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity by attending the Hibernian wake service and his Funeral Mass in great numbers, ad did our Hibernian brothers and sisters from all over Long Island.

 

Mike was eulogized by County Board President Ed Friel and Division President Robert Lynch and our Chaplain Msgr. McCann led the prayer service.  The Funeral Mass at Mikes’ parish church, St. Boniface Martyr, Sea Cliff was concelebrated by Msgr. McCann and Fr. Michael Torpey, pastor of St. Boniface.  Mike’s coffin, draped in the Irish tricolor, was led into the church by a lone piper and accompanied by an honor guard of twenty five of his brother Hibernians.  Mike’s best friend, Charlie Phillips, acted as lead pallbearer.

A moving graveside ceremony was conducted at Locust Valley Cemetery where a lone piper,  Robert Lynch, played a lament over Mike’s grave while a color guard with the Division’s banner and colors stood to attention.  The honor guard held the outstretched tricolor over Mike’s coffin in the pouring rain during this final farewell.

Below you will find some newspaper articles which appeared after Mike Moran’s death:

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History of the AOH

In the Beginning
The Protestant Reformation that swept Europe in the 16th century was marked by Royal intrigues over control of the Roman Church’s wealth, and conflicts over which religion could be practiced. Violence erupted in many countries. Elizabeth I declared the Church of England to be the State religion, and considered Ireland part of her state. Most Irish did not agree. The Papacy launched a counter-reformation and Ireland became a battlefield between the two forces as the Irish, who embraced the Church introduced by St. Patrick, became the target of a campaign to reduce Rome’s power by converting the masses to Protestantism. The persistence with which the Irish clung to their religion drove the English to extremes in repression. Penal laws disenfranchised Irish Catholics from the political, social, and economic life of their own country, and with their religion outlawed and their clergy on the run, they became an underground society practicing their religion in secret.

Not surprisingly, secret societies were formed to protect the values under attack. In various locales, groups with names like Whiteboys, Ribbonmen, and Defenders were identified with attacks on landlords, but each society included in its avowed purpose the protection of the Roman Church and its clergy. As time and government prevailed, some societies were suppressed, but most reorganized under a new name for the same purpose – defense of faith and homeland. History provides us with the names of many of these organizations, and even limited details of some. We know, for example, that the motto of the Defenders in 1565 was Friendship, Unity, and True Christian Charity, but the secret manner in which these societies operated left few records for modern analysts. As a result, a true history of their times may never be written.

Secret Societies Exported
What history does tell us however, is that continued oppression and periodic crop failures forced many Irish to flee to other lands for survival. The inclination toward secret societies which had developed in Ireland by now became an Irish defense mechanism, especially among those emigrants committed to the ethnic slums of the lands to which they fled. Initially formed as fraternal associations to promote the welfare of its members and families, like the Hibernian Sick and Funeral Society in England, they soon found a militant dimension necessary to protect their church and clergy and defend members from bigoted opposition. In early nineteenth century America, the Ancient Order of Hibernians with its motto Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity became the most recent link in the evolution of those ancient societies. Organized with the same intention of defending Gaelic values under attack, it can claim continuity of purpose and motto unbroken back to the Defenders of 1565. The need for a defensive society in America was the same as it was in Ireland.

Colonial America was an extension of England in language, customs and traditions and though American historians claim religious freedom back to William Penn’s Pennsylvania, John Locke’s Carolina, Roger Williams’ Rhode Island, and many others, this freedom did not include Catholics. These were still English colonies and though the English were willing to accept other Protestant sects, they discriminated against Catholics because of a biased belief that Catholics owed their allegiance to a foreign prince – the Pope. By 1700, New York’s Catholic population was almost stamped out by drastic penal laws. Then came the Revolution, and in spite of the large number of Catholics who supported Washington, the spirit of the leading colonists was still intensely anti-Catholic. The first flag raised by the Sons of Liberty in New York was inscribed No Popery. Not much changed after independence either. At the Constitutional Convention in 1777, a strong anti-Catholic faction was led by John Jay, soon to be first Chief Justice of the United States, who denied civil rights to Catholics until they swore an oath renouncing the authority of the Pope. Thereafter, Catholics remained barred from public office unless they took that Test Oath. This was the America to which a steady flow of Irish Catholics emigrated after the failed rising of 1798 in Ireland.

The Early Irish in America
As the Irish population grew, anti-Catholic forces celebrated Pope Day, and carried straw effigies of St. Patrick on March 17 which were desecrated to taunt the Irish. The new Irish were quick to defend their honor; their reaction was swift, and violence was a normal result. The influence of the growing Irish population finally forced the city to ban such effigies in 1802. Then, in 1806, Francis Cooper became the first Catholic elected to the New York Assembly; he was told he would have to take the Test Oath. A petition signed by the parishioners of St. Peter’s – the city’s only Catholic parish – complained that the oath denied Catholics the opportunity of discharging their civic duties, and again, the large number of signatures prompted State Senator and city Mayor De Witt Clinton to sponsor a bill that abolished the Test Oath. But some forces were not happy, and a few months later, an anti-Catholic mob attacked St. Peter’s Church. They were held off by members of the Irish community who formed a guard around the building, but the confrontation sparked two days of rioting

Anti-Catholic bigotry, cloaked in the guise of American patriotism, emerged in a nativist prejudice against immigrants –– especially the Irish, who began arriving in large numbers. A period of extreme intolerance was launched in the early 1800s that began with social segregation, resulted in discrimination in hiring, and reached its climax in the formation of nativist gangs such as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, the True Blue Americans and others bent on violence against the Irish Catholic immigrant population. These gangs would coalesce in 1854 into the American Party or ‘Know Nothings’. Reminiscent of the penal laws, they sought legislation against the immigrant population who, it was stated, diluted American principles. The growing number of Irish, fleeing conditions in their native land, had become a focus of that prejudice. They were driven to the most difficult and demanding forms of labor where even minimal safety and welfare standards were ignored. In Ireland, the bias of their colonial masters made it necessary to guard their activities from public scrutiny; in America the prejudice from nativists and abusive employers made similar secrecy necessary. Gradually, they came together in the same type of secret societies that had protected them in Ireland.

Nativist prejudice grew from intolerance to violence. St. Mary’s RC Church in New York was burned to the ground in 1831; in 1832, 57 Irish railroad workers suffering from Cholera near Malvern, Pennsylvania were refused medical attention, died and were dumped in an unmarked mass grave; in 1834, the Ursaline Convent in Massachusetts was burned down; while in 1834 and 35, nativist gangs attacked the Irish neighborhood of Five Points in New York resulting in several major street brawls that lasted for days.

The AOH is Born
Then, in 1836, according to The Miner’s Journal, a newspaper in Pennsylvania’s Schuykill County anthracite coalfield region, and other newspapers, journals and verified sources of information, we have learned that a contingent of miners from a local group called the Hibernian Benevolent Society traveled to New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade. While there they met with a group of New York Activists from the St. Patrick’s Fraternal Society. The subject of the meeting is not recorded, but since nativist activity was becoming a national threat, it is not difficult to imagine the Irish seeking to coalesce several societies into one major defensive organization. Thus was born The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). In several versions of the their own history, written and expanded over its lifetime, reference is made to the founding of its first Division at New York’’s St James Church on May 4, 1836 –– less than two months after the historic meeting of the New York and Pennsylvania activists. Coincidentally, another Division was formed at the same time in the coal-fields of Pennsylvania. Local tradition notes that one Jeremiah Reilly of Cass Township, Hecksherville, Schuylkill County, PA started the first AOH division there, but no records have been found to authenticate this.

Know nothing activities spread across the country. In 1854, construction of the Washington Monument was halted when nativists stole and destroyed a granite block donated to the project by Pope Pius IX since they would tolerate no Catholic stone in that icon to America’’s first president. The following year, a nativist attack on an Irish neighborhood in Louisville, KY caused 22 deaths and considerable arson and looting. Although the secrecy surrounding the early operation of the AOH makes their origins and their reaction to such attacks difficult to define, it is not unlikely that those who had been members of secret societies in Ireland and England called on their collective experience, and banded together in this new land for the same or similar defensive purposes and dispensed home-grown justice. Soon, other societies like the Hibernian Friendship Society in Arlington Virginia, founded in 1831, joined the growing union of Irish societies that became known as the Ancient Order of Hibernians. As nativist bigotry spread across America, so too did the AOH. True to their purpose, they provided social welfare benefits to members and stood guard to defend Church property. After their formation, actual attacks were few and far between, but the long, cold, and lonely nights of vigil were many. At about this time, a society in Ireland adopted the name Ancient Order of Hibernians and the organization now had Irish links.

As the heroism of the Irish Brigade and other Irish units in the American Civil War had America cheering for the exploits of the sons of Erin in American uniform, the honesty, devotion, and natural charm of the Irish girls, who had found employment as domestic help, were winning admirers on the home front. The natural result of this new regard was a decrease in prejudice against the Irish, and the Know Nothing movement, recognized for the bigoted group it was, faded away. It would emerge again in organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, and other groups dedicated to ethnic hatred and anti-Catholic propaganda, but never again would America politically support a national army of zealots. The AOH, on the other hand, grew stronger. It followed Irish immigrants as they worked their way across the country.

The Early AOH
The early AOH in America remained a defensive, yet secret, society, and while little is known of its specific activities, it is known that it assisted Irish immigrants in obtaining jobs and social services. Membership was well-guarded and restricted to Irish-born. Even minutes books used member numbers instead of names to protect identities. The first national conventions of the Order were held in New York, but as the Order grew, other jurisdictions began seeking the honor, with Boston becoming the site of the first non-NY gathering. Other controversial issues of the early Order included opening membership to Irish Americans so that American-born sons of immigrants could join and the right of the AOH in Ireland to speak for the Order when they were still dominated by the Crown. At the same time, the militant Fenian Brotherhood began to infiltrate the AOH and run their people for top AOH offices. In the midst of all these issues the AOH split!

In 1883, the Land League called for a Philadelphia convention of all the Irish organizations in America to support Charles Stewart Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party in their fight for Home Rule. The Irish AOH endorsed Home Rule and Alexander Sullivan, a former member of AOH Div 8, Chicago, who had been suspended for non-payment of dues, aspired to Presidency of the new American branch of the Land League. Sullivan conspired with Henry Sheridan of Div 8, to have the Division financial secretary give him credentials as the Division representative to the convention instead of an officer named O’Malley, who had been elected by the membership. Sullivan was nominated for President of the American Land League, and Andy Brown, County delegate from St Louis, seconded the nomination guaranteeing a subscription of $60,000. if Sullivan were elected. Sullivan was elected. When asked where the money would come from, Brown replied,“from the AOH”. Sullivan went to AOH National Delegate (President) Jeremiah Crowley, asking that an assessment be levied on every member to honor the pledge he made at the Convention. The assessment was so ordered with no regard for the feelings of the members – many of whom vehemently objected to the Irish AOH position.

Division of the Order
Meanwhile, many of the rank and file of the American AOH refused to communicate further with Crowley, and appointed Francis Kiernan as National Delegate until the next National Convention in Cleveland on May 16, 1884. At that convention, Crowley appeared and, after a bitter credentials battle, was seated. At the end of a stormy convention, Henry Sheridan of Chicago, Sullivan’s co-conspirator was elected National Delegate by a slim majority, and Crowley was made Chairman of National Directory. Three months later, a notice in the New York Times announced that another National Convention of the Order had been held on August 13 in New York City during which the members of the National Board, who were elected in Cleveland, were tried and expelled on charges of conspiring to introduce Irish National Politics into the American Order and merge it with the fragmented Fenian Brotherhood. John Nolan (formerly of the Irish AOH) was elected National Delegate.

On August 26, the `expelled’ Board sent a circular to all Divisions reporting, “a conspiracy has been unearthed in New York which has been in secret operation for 18 months, headed by Hugh Murray of New York County and aided by one Mr Nolan, ex-member of the Irish AOH.” They accused the `conspirators’ of holding a mock convention, electing officers, and seceding from the organization. They also revealed that they had come to New York to determine the state of affairs, and learned that before the Cleveland Convention had even met, the New Yorkers had raised $800. and sent Mr Nolan to Ireland with a message to the Irish AOH that he would be elected National Delegate for America if the Irish AOH would support them as the legal AOH. The circular reported that the Irish order agreed, and, by that agreement, had conspired with the `New York traitors’ and thereby demonstrated that they were “unfit to preside at the head of an organization of the magnitude of ours”. The Cleveland Board therefore announced that they had severed all links with the group that they had once “looked to as a faithful friend and father” adding, for good measure, that they were a drain on the Order in America, intellectually a disgrace, and had sacrificed the whole organization for a few New York favorites. It was signed by the Cleveland National Board including Henry Sheridan, National Delegate and Jeremiah Crowley, Chairman.

Law suits followed by both sides over Division and County property and the right to use the name `Ancient Order of Hibernians’. There were now two organizations in America: one took the name of the AOH, Board of Erin, and the other the AOH in America. American branch also changed the title of National Delegate to National President. Some of the Board of Erin members in Ireland continued to send correspondence and merchandise to the Board of Erin in America, while others recognized only the AOH in America. In 1886, National President Nolan of the American Board of Erin traveled to the Board of Erin Convention in Ireland to stop them from communicating with the AOH in America. He charged that some of the Board of Erin members had continued their support for the American faction, and the animosity which had split the Order in America was thereby exported to Ireland and they too split with expulsions and law suits resulting.

American Reconciliation
Thus did politics, personal greed, and petty jealousy bring to a shameful and disgraceful state, one of the noblest of the ancient Orders of Ireland. It would be many years, filled with accusations, lies, and treachery before saner heads prevailed and the two factions in America were brought to true brotherhood through the intervention of Antrim-born Bishop James McFaul of Trenton, NJ.  At an AOH national convention in Trenton, Bishop McFaul encouraged the warring factions of the AOH to come together and charter a merger. The American Branch, represented by its President, P.J. O’Connor of Savannah, GA and the Board of Erin Branch, represented by its National Delegate, Rev. E.S. Phillips of the diocese of Scranton agreed and the Board of Erin Branch was re-absorbed into the American Branch in July, 1898.

The sad part is that the bond between the American and Irish branches of this noble order were never officially reconciled. The intervening years have dimmed the recollection of the dispute, but the memory that one existed was never truly forgotten.

Years later, the apolitical and religious posture of the Irish organization dictated their decision to support Parnell’s struggle for an independent Ireland through Parliamentary reform and they became champions of Home Rule in Ireland. The appearance in the early 1900’s of a more militant faction never swayed the AOH Board of Erin from that commitment, and they were often criticized for not being outspoken disciples of the revolutionary action proposed by the heroes of Easter Week. They remained true to their principles, and gave neither support nor opposition to the militants during the 1916 insurrection, the War of Independence, and the Civil War that followed. This again strained relations with the American AOH who supported the militants although AOH divisions in Ireland who remained affiliated with the American Board did take part in the rising.

For years, the two Boards remained as distant cousins who never spoke. Few remembered, or even knew, the old animosities, and fewer still held grudges against the branch of the Order across blue highway home, yet the breach remained – in spite of the fact that the AOH in America proudly pointed to their Irish heritage and the fact that the Irish organization had a litany of proud accomplishments and opposition to the Crown.

International Reconciliation
Then, in 1981, Jack Connolly, President of the AOH in America, stopped into an AOH hall in Ireland. His historic gesture, opened dialogue between the two branches of the Order, and resulted in the visit of a group of Belfast Hibernians to Boston and New York to march in their St Patrick’s Day parades. Hospitality was provided to visiting Hibernian officials during the next few administrations, but little of significance occurred until 1992 when Board of Erin Secretary Frank Kieran visited America. Hibernian hospitality was extended by the American Board and, in conversations held during that visit, it was proposed that the two branches consider a joint project. At the 1994 American National Convention in Louisville Kentucky, it was announced that the joint project would be a memorial to the victims of the Great Hunger to be erected in Ireland in 1995.

On August 20 1995, the dream came true as the American and Irish National Boards gathered in Ennistymon, Co. Clare to dedicate that memorial. In unveiling the memorial, Dail Eireann’s Minister of State, Donal Carey, noted that this was the first national monument in all of Ireland to the victims of the Great Hunger, and it took the AOH to do it. It was a proud moment for the AOH, and a visible indication of what unity can achieve. More significant, but less publicized was an event that took place days earlier on August 12, just after the American Board had arrived in Ireland. It was the first joint meeting in history between the AOH National Boards of America, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. That meeting opened a new chapter in Hibernian history, which was confirmed by the hospitality extended in Hibernian Halls in Counties Louth, Down, Antrim, and Derry where the American Board was hosted and celebrated. The American Order also marched in solidarity with Board of Erin AOH in Co Derry in commemoration of the Feast of the Assumption and later, Bloody Sunday. As a result of those historic gatherings and marches, the prejudice of the past has been buried, and the AOH now stands, not only as the oldest Catholic Lay organization in America, but as the largest Irish Catholic society in the world with Divisions across the United States, and close ties with the AOH in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.

The AOH in America Today
In America, the Division is the basic unit of the Order. Divisions are combined into County Boards, which are in turn governed by State Boards, and an overall National Board elected every two years. Annual dances, concerts, and parades sponsored at all levels of the Order raise millions for charity while providing a showcase for the positive contributions the Irish have made in every walk of American life. Divisions and Hibernian Halls across the country have traditionally provided a welcome for new immigrants. Here, the unique art, dance, music, and other interests of the Irish are fostered and preserved, making the AOH a home away from home for many. They are at the forefront of support for issues concerning the Irish such as Immigration Reform, MacBride Legislation, and the Right to Life. They serve their Church well, yet, they never forget their ancestral homeland, and can always be found lobbying, praying, and working for the total independence of a united 32-county Ireland –– as their constitution avows: “by all means constitutional and lawful”.

The initials AOH may tell the story best. Those who say it means Add One Hour are describing the easygoing, no rush attitude of many of its members, while America’s Only Hope has been used to define the loyalty of the Irish to the principles of their adopted land. In any case, its members are best described by the statement, To be Irish is a Blessing, To be a Hibernian is an Honor.

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THE 1798 REBELLION IN IRELAND

memorial17981. Background to the rebellion

The last decade of the 1700s was a most important time in Irish history. Republicanism and
Loyalism both found real identity, the Orange Order and Maynooth College were both
founded as the century ended with the rebellion in Ireland and the subsequent Act of Union.
The repercussions of these events define Irish history even up to the modern day.

The rebels were very influenced by the effects of uprisings in America, France and Australia.
They seized the opportunity to try to create a society not based on religion but based on
democratic principles and freedom of expression. This policy was to prove popular with Irish
people of different creeds who all wanted the same thing, freedom from English rule.

This philosophy was to provide a means whereby counter-revolutionaries could try to
disrupt the organisation by inciting sectarian hatreds and fears within the movement.

Protestant ascendancy

The social and political systems in Ireland in the 1790s was such that the vast majority of
the population of over 5 million people were excluded. Only the ruling Protestant class,
comprising of about 10% of the population, were entitled to vote or to sit in parliament. The
vast majority of the land in Ireland was owned by Church of Ireland emigrants from
England. Ireland was independent in theory but in practice it was ruled by the English
parliament who severely restricted the growth of the Irish economy. The presbyterian class
were also excluded and many emigrated to America to seek out a more favourable situation.

The effects of worldwide revolution

It is not surprising, therefore, that when the American colonists revolted against British
government in the 1770s, they found a sympathetic ear amongst their kin in Ireland. In
1778 France, Britain’s traditional enemy, entered the war on the American side, thus
threatening Ireland with invasion. The British government was caught without an army to
defend Ireland, since its regular troops had been sent to America, nor the revenue to raise
an alternative, due to the economic dislocation caused by the war. An Irish Protestant army,
the Volunteers, was raised to fill the breach, financed locally. Unfortunately for government
it became the focus for various grievances, both political and economic. A convention of
Ulster Volunteers (predominantly Presbyterian) at Dungannon in 1782 demanded
parliamentary reform (a broadening of the franchise and the abolition of ‘rotten’ boroughs)
and Catholic emancipation (the abolition of remaining anti-Catholic laws). However a
national Volunteer convention the following year split on the Catholic question and
Volunteering declined thereafter.

The United Irishmen and the Catholic Convention

The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 with its ideals of liberty, equality and
fraternity provided fresh impetus to the reform movement in Ireland. In the autumn of 1791
Societies of United Irishmen were founded in Belfast and Dublin with the twin aims of
parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. The leading ideologue was Theobald Wolfe
Tone, a Church of Ireland lawyer from Dublin, who, having witnessed the disarray of the
Volunteers on the Catholic question years earlier, was determined to forge a united reform
movement of the various denominations. In addition he increasingly focused critical
attention on the cornerstone of the existing Irish political system, ‘the connection with
England’, although his evolution into fully fledged separatist and republican was to take a
while longer. He found willing allies amongst the middle class leaders of the Catholic
Committee who had recently displaced their more conservative land-owning predecessors.
Determined to push more aggressively for concessions from government the new Catholic
Committee appointed Tone as their secretary and over the course of 1792 mobilised for a
‘Catholic Convention’ held in the Tailors’ Hall, Dublin in December. The Convention
presented its demands directly to the London government, over the head of the implacably
hostile Dublin administration. The London government, anxious to maintain the loyalty of
the Catholic majority in the face of the impending war with revolutionary France, conceded
almost all of the demands, except the right of Catholics to sit in parliament.

Popular politics and Defenderism

The Catholic Convention had a politicising effect out of all proportion to the 233 delegates
who directly participated. The delegates were elected in a series of meetings that reached
down to parish level involving broad sections of the people in political activity for the first
time. At the same time the country was awash with a deluge of political pamphlets. In
particular the campaign politicised and broadened the horizons of the Defenders. This
shadowy organisation first made its appearance in County Armagh in the late 1780s as a
defence against the arms raids on Catholics of the ‘Peep o’ Day Boys’, forerunners of the
Orange Order, who, as a symbol of Protestant supremacy, were anxious to maintain the ban
on Catholics bearing arms. By 1792/93 Defenderism had spread throughout south Ulster
and north Leinster (it had even penetrated into Dublin City), and its propaganda had
become more articulate and socially radical in tone. Throughout this period Tone, Samuel
Neilson, Thomas Russell, and other radical United Irishmen, established contact with them
which was to provide the basis for a mass-based revolutionary United Irish organisation
later in the decade.

Loyalist reaction

Meanwhile the upholders of the status quo in Ireland were not idle in the face of these
challenges. Along with the carrot of concessions to Catholics went the stick of repression:
the gunpowder act which placed restrictions on firearms; the militia act, which envisaged a
largely Catholic rank-and-file home defence force officered by Protestants, and which
provoked widespread disturbances; and the convention act, which outlawed any repeat of
December 1792’s ‘Back Lane parliament’. The latter in particular stymied United Irish plans
for a repeat of that success on the issue of parliamentary reform. An Ulster convention,
dominated by United Irishmen, demanding parliamentary reform met at Dungannon in
February 1793 just before the convention act was passed. The Dublin Society of United
Irishmen was dispersed in May 1794, a fate shared by like-minded reform movements in
England and Scotland. In the circumstances of Britain’s war with revolutionary France
demands for reform were equated with subversion. The war acted as a pressure-cooker
polarising the situation even further and Ireland became a crucial theatre in this wider
ideological struggle. At grassroots level the struggle was joined by the Defenders who
became increasingly bold in their actions. As law-and-order deteriorated in the countryside
government repression intensified, culminating in commander-in-chief Carhampton’s brutal
campaign against the Defenders in 1795. Liberal Protestant opinion was outraged at the
scale of the illegalities many suspected Defenders were transported without a trial. The
government response was the insurrection act which retroactively enshrined Carhampton’s
activities in law.

The Orange Order and the founding of Maynooth

Sectarian hostilities flared up anew in County Armagh, culminating in the expulsion of
thousands of Catholics and in the foundation of the Orange Order, dedicated to the
maintenance of Protestant ascendancy. Under landlord and government sponsorship it
spread rapidly over the following years providing the government with a mass-based
counter-revolutionary alternative to the United Irishmen. A more subtle variation of the
overall counter-revolutionary strategy was the foundation of a Catholic seminary at
Maynooth. Catholic seminarians would no longer be obliged to get educated in France where
many of them had developed an enthusiasm for the revolution. Thus the government
cultivated the support of a Catholic hierarchy itself fearful of the spread of ‘French
principles’.

The recall of Fitzwilliam

Early in 1795 the arrival of Fitzwilliam as lord lieutenant had raised Catholic hopes only for
Those hopes to be dashed by his sudden recall having over-stepped his brief. His successor
Camden reinstated the policy of defending Protestant Ascendancy at all costs. The United
Irishmen, meanwhile, had continued to meet clandestinely under various guises. The recall
of Fitzwilliam removed whatever lingering hope they may have entertained for constitutional
reform. The Catholic Committee dissolved itself (on the basis that ‘there was no longer a
Catholic question only a national question’); a new constitution was drawn up for a single
mass-based revolutionary United Irish organisation; and Tone was dispatched to France (via
America) to solicit military aid for an armed revolution.

Bantry Bay and the ‘dragooning of Ulster’

By the end of 1796 Tone’s mission had borne fruit in the form of the dispatch of 16,000
French troops under General Hoche to Bantry Bay. Bad weather and bad French
seamanship, however, prevented the landing of the force which in all probability could have
liberated the country. Within Ireland, meanwhile, the United Irishmen had build a
formidable underground network, especially in Ulster where they claimed 100,000 armed
and organised men. While they waited confidently for another French invasion attempt,
government forces went on the offensive. Throughout the spring and summer of 1797 the
army under General Lake, augmented by the Orange Order, was let loose on the people of
Ulster. The ‘dragooning of Ulster’ effectively disarmed and crippled United Irish organisation,
especially in the middle and south of the province.

2. The rebellion

The United Irishmen go-it-alone

By the winter of 1797/98, with hopes of a renewed French attempt fading, the United
Irishmen were forced to adopt a go-it-alone military strategy focused on Dublin. Their
organisation was strengthened in and around the capital and it also expanded in south
Leinster. The planned insurrection was to have been a three-phased affair: the seizure of
strategic positions within Dublin city; co-ordinated with the establishment of a crescent of
positions outside in north County Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow; and backed up by the
engagement of government forces in the counties beyond to prevent reinforcement.
Disaster struck on 12 March 1798 with the arrest of most of the Leinster leadership. Further
arrests on the very eve of the rising in May effectively decapitated the movement. The
seizure of Dublin from within was aborted; as they waited for orders that never came,
United Irish positions outside the city succumbed one by one; of the counties beyond, only
in Wexford did the United Irishmen meet with success. A fortnight later (7-9 June), despite
the mauling at the hands of Lake’s forces the year before, the United Irishmen of Antrim
and Down managed to rise up but they too were quickly defeated.

Wexford

The Wexford insurgents met with a string of early successes but were ultimately prevented
from spreading the insurrection beyond their own county by defeats at New Ross (5 June)
and Arklow (9 June). Massive government forces began to move in for the decisive military
showdown at Vinegar Hill, outside Enniscorthy (21 June). Although the insurgents suffered
defeat, the bulk of their forces escaped encirclement and carried on the struggle for another
month, one group in the Wicklow mountains and the other in a ‘long march’ into the
midlands before being worn down and forced to surrender. A month later (22 August) over
a thousand French troops under General Humbert landed at Killala, County Mayo, but it was
too little too late. Despite some initial successes, including a spectacular victory at
Castlebar, Humbert and the United Irishmen who flocked to his standard were defeated at
Ballinamuck, County Longford (8 October). The insurrection of 1798 was over.

3. Effects of the Rebellion

The defeat of the United Irishmen also signalled the end of Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland
as the Act of Union of 1800 abolished the parliament in College Green and moved all
authority back to the parliament in London.

Some United Irishmen welcomed this development as the first step on the road to
parliamentary reform as did many of the Catholic peasantry who envisaged their election in
the English parliament. Catholic Emancipation followed in 1929 by which time the context
had changed from being a wholly national issue to being a Catholic issue.

The United Irishmen ideals of a non-sectarian democracy became obscured by the politics of
the ballot box based on religion. The rebellion of 1798 heightened the awareness to the
Catholic peasantry of the situation that they were in and showed them that there may be
alternatives to be won.

Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Famine, Parnell, Davitt and the land reform movements, all did
the same thing as the majority of people in Ireland demanded more and more freedom and
privilege.

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THE GREAT FAMINE IN IRELAND, 1845-1849

famine1. BACKGROUND TO THE GREAT FAMINE

AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES

The potato was the principal source of nutrition for the vast majority of the
poorer classes because this crop produced more food per acre than wheat and
could also be used to generate income. The practice of Conacre/Land Division
meant that peasants needed to produce the biggest crop possible. The most
variety of potato was the ‘Aran Banner’ which, whilst producing high yields also
was very susceptible to Blight.

Many farmers had a few animals; the pig, easily fed on left-overs and requiring
little space, was quite common. In many cases , however, other crops and
animals were used to pay the rent and were never regarded as food

SOCIAL CONDITIONS

At the start of the famine over one half of the population of the country lived in
small 1 roomed dwellings. Little or no furniture and animals would be
accommodated with the occupants of the. The other half would live in 2 storey
houses or mansions – landlords or wealthy tenants – mostly found along the East
and the South Coast. Two thirds of the population were involved in agriculture.

The arrival of the month of June indicated the start of the hungry or meal months
in rural Ireland as old potatoes were not dug until August. People simply had
nothing to eat or at best could manage a meal of porridge. Hunger was
commonplace and small scale famines were therefore not unknown.

DEPENDENCE ON THE POTATO

The potato became the staple diet of much of the country during the early 1800s
as it was ideally suited to the Irish climate, could be grown even in poor soils,
gave a high return per acre and a single acre could support a family of 5 – 6
people.

By 1945, it is estimated that about one third of the entire population was totally
dependent on the potato, and in poor regions, like Mayo, it was the only food
eaten by up to nine – tenths of the population.

LAISSEZ – FAIRE

The policy of ‘Laisse Faire’ (meaning to leave alone) meant that Governments did
not interfere in business markets or the economy in general. This policy was
disastrous when famine struck as it meant that there was no way of quickly
rectifying the crisis. Scarce food became costly and the poor simply starved

OVER-POPULATION

While the population of Europe rose throughout the 19th Century, population
growth in Ireland was particularly dramatic. In 1800, the population was about 5
million. By 1841, it had risen to over 8 million according to the census of that
year. This growth can be explained by the fact that people married early in life
and they tended to have large families.
Unlike Britain, Ireland lacked major industrial centres. Jobs were scarce and there
was little point in trying to save up by waiting to get married. a part of the family
farm on which to grow food and a house built with stones and ‘mud kneaded with
straw’ was the most any married couple could hope for. Early marriages were
followed by large families – children were seen by parents as insurance against
starvation in their old age. As a result subdivision and holdings were gradually
reduced to tiny plots.

2. THE FAMINE YEARS

In the early summer of 1845, on the 11th September of that year a disease,
referred to as blight was noted to have attacked the crop in some areas. In that
year, one – third of the entire crop was destroyed. In 1846, the crop was a total
failure. This report came from a Galway priest.

“As to the potatoes, they are gone – clean gone. If travelling by night, you would
know when a potato field was near by the smell. The fields present a space of
withered black stalks”.

Though 1847 was free from blight, few seed potatoes had been planted, and so
the famine continued. Yet the country was producing plenty of food. As the Irish
politician, Charles Duffy wrote: “Ships continue to leave the country, loaded with
grain and meat”.

As food was scarce people would eat anything such as nettles, berries, roots,
wildlife, animals, dogs and cats in order to survive.

In the mid 1840’s, Bishop Loras of Dubuque, Iowa, visited Ireland. He was so
appalled by the conditions that he found there that he submitted a letter to the
London Tablet. Here is a portion of that letter:

I assure you, dear sir, the scene of poverty and misery in some quarters was
wonderful (that is, awful), and I am told that it is still worse in other counties. I
saw many poor cottages covered with straw, half buried in the ground, and
occupied by poor Catholic tenants, who cultivate in the sweat of their brow small
fields divided by poor green hedges or half-tumbled walls.

The manner in which many were clothed was a sure indication of great poverty
and unavoidable sufferings. At every station, at least in towns, the stage was
surrounded by whole families of beggars, who, by their pressing demands, would
elicit charity from the most hardened heart. Many of those cottages were
crumbling in ruins and abandoned by their tenants, who had emigrated to some
more hospitable shore. As I was traveling along I saw occasionally some of those
extensive and princely estates occupied by rich English lords, whose dwellings
and parks are surrounded by old lofty walls and shaded by quite annuated trees.
The contrast between great opulence and extreme poverty was truly appalling,
and one is at a loss to understand how this state of things can be tolerated in this
age of light and philanthropy.

Another contrast I cannot help noticing. As soon as I crossed the Channel from
Dublin to Holyhead, In England, I perceived great change for the better in the
face of the country, and in the look of the people; so much so, that one could
hardly believe that Ireland and England were both under the same laws, and
protected by the same government; and more than that, the poor Irish are either
incarcerated or transported, whenever they make any attempt to better their
truly miserable condition.

DEATH, DISEASE AND STARVATION

Subsistence-level Irish farmers found their food stores rotting in their cellars, the
crops they relied on to pay the rent to their British and Protestant landlords
destroyed. Peasants who ate the rotten produce sickened and entire villages were
consumed with cholera and typhus. Parish priests desperate to provide for their
congregations were forced to forsake buying coffins in order to feed starving
families, with the dead going unburied or buried only in the clothes they wore
when they died.

The potato crop of 1845 was destroyed by a fungus, Phytophthora infestans,
commonly known as Blight, which had spread from North America to Europe. By
the early autumn of 1845 it was clear that famine was imminent in Ireland, but
British government reaction was slow and incapable of responding to the
magnitude of the crisis.

WORKHOUSES

Landlords evicted hundreds of thousands of peasants, who then crowded into
disease-infested workhouses. Other landlords paid for their tenants to emigrate,
sending hundreds of thousands of Irish to America and other English-speaking
countries. In many cases, these ships reached port only after losing a third of
their passengers to disease, hunger and other causes.

Conditions in the workhouses were desperate and often the only way to get food
was to fight for it, leading to misery, violence and even more despondency.

Diseases in the workhouses were common and included Typhus, Relapsing Fever.
Dysentry, Bacillary Dysentry. Scurvy and Asiatic Cholera. There was little in the
way of medical care for the victims.

THE COFFIN SHIPS

The condition of the ships in which tens of thousands of people emigrated were
appalling as many middle-men used sub-standard vessels and carried too many
people, with a view to making a quick profit. On one of these coffin ships, of the
348 passengers, 117 died at sea; on another, going to Canada, 158 died of a
total of 476 passengers.

RELIEF

During the winter of 1845-1846 Peel’s government spent £100,000 on American
maize which was sold to the destitute. The Irish called the maize ‘Peel’s
brimstone’. Eventually the government also initiated relief schemes such as
canal-building and road building to provide employment. The workers were paid
at the end of the week and often men had died of starvation before their wages
arrived. Even worse, many of the schemes were of little used: men filled in
valleys and flattened hills just so the government could justify the cash
payments. The Irish crisis was used as an excuse by Peel in order for him to the
repeal the Corn Laws in 1846, but their removal brought Ireland little benefit. The
major problem was not that there was no food in Ireland – there was plenty of
wheat, meat and dairy produce, much of which was being exported to England –
but that the Irish peasants had no money with which to buy the food. The repeal
of the Corn Laws had no effect on Ireland because however cheap grain was,
without money the Irish peasants could not buy it.

In 1846 the major disaster began. This was due to number of factors. In 1845 the
crop only partially failed. It totally failed in 1846. Peel’s government was defeated
in England and Lord John Russell became Prime Minister of a Conservative
Government. He had a different attitude to that of Peel:

“It must be quite clear that we cannot feed the people…
We can at best keep down prices.”

The starving people had no money however to buy food at any price, so keeping
the prices down was useless. The Assistant Secretary of Ireland at this time was
Charles Trevelyan, who believed in laissez faire, the policy of ‘leaving well alone’.
To give anything to the people for nothing would, he said, result in

“Having the country on us for an indefinite number of years.”

He stopped the public works and sent back a boat load of Indian Corn which had
arrived from the U.S.A. The death toll steadily mounted, due to starvation and to
the spread of typhus and cholera. Thousands flocked to the overcrowded
workhouses and into towns – spreading disease and causing more deaths.

In September 1847 Russell’s government ended what little relief it had made
available and demanded that the Poor Law rate be collected before any further
money be made available by the Treasury. The collection of these rates in a
period of considerable hardship was accompanied by widespread unrest and
violence. Some 16,000 extra troops were sent to Ireland and troubled parts of
the country were put under martial law. The potato crop failed once more in
1848, and this was accompanied by Asiatic cholera.

In 1847 the Government realised that their policies were not working and made
money available for loan and established soup kitchens. Russell’s Government
ended what little relief it had made available in late 1847 and demanded that the
Poor Law rate, a tax on property to fund relief in Ireland, be collected before any
further money be made available by the Treasury. The collection of these taxes in
a period of considerable hardship was predictably accompanied by widespread
unrest and violence. Some 16,000 extra troops were sent to Ireland and troubled
parts of the country were put under martial law.

Government efforts were also helped by some local landlords who lowered rents
and distributed clothes and food to their tenants. As a result, many landlords
went bankrupt. The Quakers (The Society of Friends) also did much to help.

3. EFFECTS OF THE GREAT FAMINE

THE DEAD & CULTURAL CHANGES

The Irish Famine of 1846-50 took as many as one million lives from hunger and
disease, and changed the social and cultural structure of Ireland in a number of
profound ways.

The Irish language, which was already in decline, suffered a near fatal blow from
the Famine, since it was the more remote areas which still used Irish that were
most affected by the famine.

Land holdings became larger, as the tendency to subdivide the family farm
declined. From now on, the farm was given to one son and the others often had
little choice but to emigrate. The Famine also changed centuries-old agricultural
practices, hastening the end of the division of family estates into tiny lots capable
of sustaining life only with a potato crop.

The famine affected the poorest classes – the cottiers and labourers – most of all,
the cottier class being almost wiped out.

EMIGRATION

It is estimated that at least one million people died from starvation and its
attendant diseases, whilst a further 1 million emigrated during the famine years.
The population of the island dropped from over 8 million in 1845 to about 6
million in 1850. By 1900, over 4 million had left Ireland and emigration continued
well into the 1950’s – averaging 60, 000 a year. Early marriages almost
disappeared and a decline in the birth rate resulted.

NATIONALISM

The millions who left Ireland on the emigrant ships took with them a hatred of
England and English rule that has survived to the present day. Suddenly, Irish
people realised that they had to take control of their own affairs. England had
failed in its obligations to the people that it ruled and a new generation of rebels
and agitators were born. Parnell and Davitt fought for and achieved land reforms.
The Gaelic Athletic Association was formed to promote a greater sense of Irish
identity. Rebels such as Padraig Pearse were expounding the need for national
independence from England. The 1916 Easter Rising and the subsequent War of
Independence, Civil War and ultimate Independence have roots in the Great
Famine and the 1798 Rising by the United Irishmen that proceeded it.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE LANDLORD SYSTEM

The Landlord class was ruined by the famine. The Government introduced the
Encumbered Estates Act in 1849, making it easier for landlords to sell off their
land. The land acts later in the century fought for by Parnell and Davitt finally put
paid to this hated system of authority in rural Ireland.

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THE EASTER RISING IN IRELAND, 1916

gpo19161. BACKGROUND TO THE RISING

THE IRISH REPUBLICAN BROTHERHOOD (IRB)

One of the main and lasting effects of the Great Famine of 1845-47 was
emigration. The ‘Coffin Ships’ carried tens of thousands of the poorest Irish
people who fled Ireland to avoid starvation. They created a new Irish nation
within America whilst remembering the injustice of the English occupation of their
homeland as well as harboring a deeply felt hatred of landlords and evictions.

A Clann na Gael source estimated that there were over one and one half million
people of Irish birth in America towards the end of the nineteenth century. These
people supported the republican cause by giving money, weapons and,
significantly, a propaganda machine which has continued to this day.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was formed in a Dublin timber-yard on Saint
Patricks Day in 1858. James Stephans was assisted by Thomas Clarke Luby,
James Denieefe, Garret O Shaugheynessy and Peter Langan.

Joe Denieefe brought financial support back from America. He had left Ireland
after the Ballingarry defeat in 1848. James Stephens , Michael Doheny and the
John O’Mahony fought in Ballingarry in 1848. Stephens was injured but still
manage to escape to Paris where he familiarised himself with the revolutionary
tactics of that country. He came back to Ireland to try to establish an
underground organisation to remove the English from Ireland.

Denieefe and Luby traveled the country extensively and organised military groups
called ‘circles’. They formed oathbound secret societies of loyal patriots. Popular
opinion did not support the revolutionary ideals of the IRB nor did the Church
whop were strongly opposed. The mainstream support came from the poorer
classes who, despite their poverty, were often highly idealistic.

At the time of the 1867 rising the membership of the IRB was estimated at over
80,000.

INFORMERS

Informers such as Corydon and Magle did untold damage to the IRB by betraying
their oath and giving information to the English.

The Fenian movement split in America in 1865. John O’Mahony took over from
the Stephans. O’Mahony was later himself to be deposed when his hesitation in
calling an insurrection dissatisfied the soldiers he commanded (many of which
were veterans of the American Civil War). Colonel Thomas J. Kelly,
was appointed Chief of Staff of the IRB in 1867 and departed for Ireland.

A rising was planned for February 1867. Chester Castle in England was to be
attacked and simultaneous raids in Ireland were to be carried out. The English
knew in advance however as the informer, Corydon, kept them informed.

The news had not filtered through to the Fenians in Ireland and sporadic battles
took place in Kerry and Dublin.

THE MANCHESTER MARTYRS

The IRB was reorganised in Manchester in July of 1867 and a supreme council
elected. Colonel Kelly and Jim Deasy were captured by the English and then
rescued by the Fenians in a daring raid in which a police officer was killed. Allen,
Larkin and O’Brien were hanged for their complicity in the events and they
became known as ‘The Manchester Martyrs’.

These mass funerals and events with the Land League focused the minds of the
popular masses on the injustice of English rule in Ireland.

CLAN NA GAEL

The IRB delegates in Manchester broke away from the feuding factions of
Fenianism in America and supported Clan na Gael who were founded there in
June of 1867. The objectives of Clann na Gael was to secure an independent
Ireland and to assist the IRB in achieving this aim. John Devoy was the mainstay
behind the Clan.

Devoy became involved in the ‘New Departure’ and assisted Davitt and Parnell in
their fight against the landlords. Independence remained his main aim however
as he felt that the Land League was not militant enough to remove the landlords.

Devoy, assisted by Doctor Pat McCartan, founded a newspaper, ‘The Gaelic
American’.

Doctor Pat McCartan transferred from Clan na Gael to the newly formed
‘Dungannon Clubs’, a separatist organisation which was denounced by the
Church.

Tom Clarke became a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB in 1909 and
helped form the revolutionary paper ‘Irish Freedom’. He became the link with
Clan na Gael in America.

In 1912 the IRB sent Sean MacDiarmada as a delegate to the Clan convention
and he succeeded in securing the enormous sum of $20,000 for the IRB at home.

IRISH VOLUNTEERS

In November 1913 the Irish Volunteers were formed in Dublin and 4,000 enrolled
on that first night. In 1914 Padraig Pearse went to America to raise funds to save
his Gaelic school, St. Enda’s. This was achieved and Pearse turned his attention to
revolutionary matters.

On his return from America he sought 1,000 rifles from McGarrity. He as assisted
by Seán Mac Diarmada, Eamonn Ceannt and Seán Fitzgibbon. Pearse was
convinced that the revolutionary force in Ireland had never been better organised
or equipped. His speech in 1914 reflected this:-

” It is my matured conviction that, given arms, the Volunteers who have
adhered to us as against Redmond may be depended upon to act
vigorously, courageously, promptly, and unitedly if the opportunity comes.
We are at the moment in an immensely stronger position than ever
before. The whole body of Volunteers that has supported our stand against
recruiting may be looked upon as a separatist body. In other words, the
separatist organisation has been multiplied by a hundred.

In Dublin, we have some 2,500 admirably disciplined, drilled, intelligent,
and partly armed men. Nationalist Ireland has never before had such an
asset. Our main strength is in Dublin, but large minorities support us
everywhere, especially in the towns and in the extreme South and West.
We expect to have 150 companies, representing 10,000 to 15,000 men,
represented by delegates at next Sunday’s Convention.

This small, compact, perfectly disciplined, determined separatist force is
infinitely more valuable than the unwieldy, loosely-held together mixum-
gatherum force we had before the split. The Volunteers we have with us
now may be relied upon to the death, and we are daily perfecting their
fighting effectiveness and mobilisation power. It seems a big thing to say,
but I do honestly believe that, with arms for these men, we shall be ready
to act with tremendous effect if the war brings us the moment.

The spirit of our Dublin men is wonderful. They would rise tomorrow if we
gave the word. A meeting of Dublin officers the other night was as
exhilarating as a draught of wine.

We gain daily in the country as Redmond’s treachery or imbecility
becomes more manifest. The recruiting campaign has failed utterly, and
already he is a discredited politician.”

THE GAELIC LEAGUE AND THE GAA

The IRB were influential in many cultural and national organisations. Most of the
leaders like Pearse, Plunket and McDonagh were fluent Irish speakers and were
members of the Gaelic League. The Gaelic Athletic Association (the GAA) was
formed by Cusack in November 1884.

THE GREAT WAR 1914-18

At the outbreak of the first world war, Redmond urged the Irish Volunteers to join
in the fight against the oppressors of small nations (Germany). 170,000 of the
Volunteers supported Redmond whilst 11,000 supported Pearse.

Tom Clarke urged the Supreme Council of the IRB that a rising must happen
before the end of the war, especially as the Irish Home Rule bill had been
suspended at the outbreak of the war. Pearse, Plunket and Ceannt drafted the
first military plans.

ROGER CASEMENT

Prior to the rising and thanks to Hobson, Casement and Childers, guns were
landed at Howth and Wicklow. Casement went to Germany where he published
the Irish cause in German newspapers. His efforts to secure weapons were dealt
a severe blow when he and the weapons they were attempting to smuggle into
the country were captured on Banna Strand.

Casement, an English subject, was eventually convicted of treason and hanged.

PLANS FOR THE RISING

Thomas Clarke was the main instigator of the rising, supported by Pearse, Seán
Mac Diarmada, Eamonn Ceant and Seán T. O Ceallaigh who went to America for
further assistance. Thomas McDonagh, Joseph Plunket and James Connolly. were
later brought on to the Supreme Council.

During all this activity Eoin McNeill was unaware of the secret body that was
organising the rising. Few penetrated the IRB as they prepared for the rising.

James Connolly used his paper ‘The Workers’ Republic’ to call for an armed revolt.
He used the Citizens Army to protect the paper.

The Irish Volunteers were holding recruiting meetings throughout Ireland and
training enthusiastically. They awaited the signal to act as the rising had been set
for Easter Saturday, 22nd of April, 1916.

Setbacks to the plan included the capture of Casement and the weapons, the
capture of Austin Stack, commandant of the Kerry Brigade and the discovery of
the plans for an uprising following a raid on German officials in New York.

The Supreme Council decided unanimously decided to proceed with the uprising
despite the fact that they knew it had little chance of success. It was decided to
strike on Easter Monday. In spite of the order from McNeill not to revolt, over
2,000 soldiers made a strike for freedom.

2. THE INSURRECTION

On Easter Monday, 24th April, 1916 the GPO was occupied by the revolutionary
forces. Pearse read the Proclamation of the Republic to a bemused gathering:

POBLACHT NA H EIREANN
THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT
OF THE
IRISH REPUBLIC
TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations
from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us,
summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary
organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military
organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently
perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal
itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in
America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own
strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to
the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The
long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not
extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction
of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right
to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the last three hundred
years they have asserted it to arms. Standing on that fundamental right and
again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish
Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives
of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its
exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every
Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty,
equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to
pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all of its parts,
cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences
carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority from the
majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a
permanent National, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by
the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby
constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for
the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High
God. Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who
serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, in humanity, or rapine. In this
supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the
readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself
worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on Behalf of the Provisional Government.

Thomas J. Clarke,
Sean Mac Diarmada,
Thomas MacDonagh,
P. H. Pearse,
Eamonn Ceannt,
James Connolly,
Joseph Plunkett

The Volunteers seized and fortified six positions In Dublin city: the GPO, the Four
Courts, Boland’s Mill, St. Stephen’s Green, Jacobs Factory and the South Dublin
Union. Attempts to seize Dublin Castle and Trinity College failed. This latter
failure severely restricted the Volunteers mans of communicating with each other.

The failure of the country to rise made it impossible to prevent the arrival of
English reinforcements. By Wednesady the revolutionaries were outnumbered by
20 to 1. The English secured a cordon about the city and closed in. They
concentrated their attack on the GPO whilst none of the other strongholds came
under the same sort of concentrated bombardment.

A gun-ship, the Helga, arrived in Dublin and field-guns were mounted on Trinity
College. The effect of the continuous shelling of O’Connell St. virtually destroyed
it and the surrounding areas. By Friday the GPO was engulfed in flames and
Pearse gave the order to surrender. 450 people, many of whom were civilians,
were dead with over 2500 wounded. The city was in ruins with the damage
estimated at a massive 2 Million pounds.

Over 3,500 people were subsequently arrested country-wide (including DeVelera
and Collins), although 1,500 were freed after questioning. 1,841 of these were
interned without trial in England, and 171 were tried by secret court martial
resulting in 170 convictions. 90 were sentenced to death but 75 of these
sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. The seven signatories of the
proclamation of independence (Pearse, Connolly, Clarke, MacDonagh,
MacDermott, Plunkett, and Ceannt) were all executed to the outrage of the Irish
public who had now begun to revise their opinion of the insurgents to that of a
heroic nature.

3. EFFECTS OF THE REBELLION

The rising was critical in terms of the overall fight for an Irish Republic.

For the first time the masses of the country wanted an end to English rule.
Nationalism swept the country especially as the details of the secret executions
became known.

National attention was brought to the Irish cause and to the oppressive ways in
which the English ruled the country.

These realisations were in all probability the main aim of the insurgents. The War
of Independence which followed in 1919, the subsequent Civil War of 1922, the
formation of the Irish Free State in 1923 and the declaration by Costello of an
Irish Republic can all be traced back to the events of Easter week, 1916.

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