Current Affairs History Politics

Irish History Meets Dan Brown

Proclamation of the Irish Republic Dublin Ireland 24th April 1916
A copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic being read by Dr. Edward McWeeney, Dublin, Ireland, 24th April 1916

Do journalists in Ireland even bother to investigate the background to stories any more or are certain reports just used to pad out the spaces between advertisements? From an article in yesterday’s Irish Independent newspaper on a “controversy” bubbling away on the Dan Brown fringe of Irish history and current affairs:

“A ROW has erupted between Dublin’s Lord Mayor and the president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood over a refusal to let the organisation use the Mansion House for the first time in decades.

Every year the organisation has held a ceremony in the Mansion House in Dublin for the “Turning of the Sovereign Seal” of Dail Eireann.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was a secret oath-bound fraternal organisation dedicated to the establishment of an “independent democratic republic” in Ireland between 1858 and 1924.

It still has a presence, particularly in the ceremonial role of turning the seal each January, and its president, Billy McGuire, is described as “Keeper of the Sovereign Seal”.

The tradition has been passed down from generation to generation of the McGuires. Mr McGuire, of Askeaton, Co Limerick, performs the duty first carried out by his ancestor, Tom, in 1919.

But Mr McGuire says he is “shocked and very upset” that Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn has refused permission to use the Mansion House for the ceremony.

Mr McGuire has, in turn, accused the Lord Mayor and Dublin City Council of also trying to “airbrush” his organisation from the centenary 1916 celebrations.”

Or perhaps Dublin City Council has finally woken up and recognised the “Turning of the Seal” ceremony for the spurious nonsense that it is? Let me be explicitly clear. The Irish Republican Brotherhood or IRB ceased to exist as a formal organisation sometime in the mid to late 1920s. Most of its members on the Pro-Treaty side regarded their membership as irrelevant following the organisation’s disintegration during the Civil War or found a new means for clandestine fraternity (notably within the influential Order of the Knights of Saint Columbanus). Meanwhile on the Anti-Treaty side the Irish Republican Army subsumed into itself the role of the IRB along with much of its network of still willing activists and contacts. Despite claims or rumours to the contrary there is no grouping in existence at the moment that is a lineal descendant of the original Irish Republican Brotherhood and there is certainly no hereditary President of the Supreme Council.

Now if you want to talk about the IRB’s Fenian sister organisation, Clann na nGael, well that is another matter…

3 comments on “Irish History Meets Dan Brown

  1. “Do journalists in Ireland even bother to investigate the background to stories any more or are certain reports just used to pad out the spaces between advertisements?” No need to quantify that question by asking if it’s Irish journalists who bother gathering background for stories. As the old saying goes, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”


    • I know, you are probably right. And I am probably being unfair. However silly stories like that do annoy. The fringe of politics is full of cranks but there is no need to indulge them. I feel it debases the real stuff and real cultural events or artefacts that are worth preserving or celebrating.


      • No, actually I don’t think there’s anything unfair about calling out those who play fast and loose with the truth. Journalists who fail to do basic background checks on potentially controversial subjects needlessly stir up emotions rather than setting the record straight, as should be their goal.

        It’s good you call them on it when it happens. If it happens enough, maybe somebody will get embarrassed and decide to think twice before putting forth this kind of foolishness.


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