John Redmond, From Gun-Running To Civil War

John Redmond MP presents a regimental flag to a unit of the Irish National Volunteers, the paramilitary wing of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, April 1915
John Redmond MP presents a regimental flag to a unit of the Irish National Volunteers, the paramilitary wing of the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, April 1915

In recent years the historical figure of John Redmond MP, the head of the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) and self-declared “leader of Nationalist Ireland” during the early stages of the 1916-23 revolution, has been elevated to the status of a contra-republican icon by the neo-unionist tendency of Irish journalism and politics. In the run-up to the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising all sorts of risible claims have been offered about the Wexford-born politician, notably by perennial British apologist John Bruton (one-time Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader). These have served to boost Redmond’s newly contrived image as a sort of pheasant-hunting Gandhi, a pacifist politician with a ballot box in one hand and ivory-topped cane in the other. As we have seen here on ASF these counterfactual conceits quickly fall asunder when compared to the known historical record of the period. During the most important decade of his career John Redmond proved himself every bit as ruthless in the use of violence or the threat of violence to serve the needs of his party and his class as any of his opponents.

In June 1914 he and his cohorts effectively stage-managed a coup within the Irish Volunteers or IV, an independent paramilitary force created in late November of 1913 to pressure Britain into proceeding with legislation on so-called “home rule” or regional autonomy for Ireland within the UK. The IV itself was a direct counter to the formation in January of 1913 of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a paramilitary grouping from within the British unionist minority in the country, principally in the north-eastern counties of Ulster, which violently opposed self-government in Ireland of any kind. While Redmond had initially dismissed the IV movement by the early summer he had realised his tactical error as their numbers and influence soared, and he was determined to rectify the mistake. Within weeks of seizing part-control of the IV organisation the then Waterford MP had secured key positions throughout the movement for his supporters while squeezing out his political rivals and opponents. Unsurprisingly many of those were republicans, especially those allied to the revolutionary Irish Republican Brotherhood whose aim of a sovereign and independent nation-state of Ireland ran contrary to the IPP’s own objectives of limited autonomy for the country as part of the so-called “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” (while some of his MPs favoured “dominion status” outside the UK but inside the British Empire John Redmond, a committed Anglo-Irish imperialist, strongly opposed full Irish independence).

It was during July and August that Redmond – from his stately residence in London – conspired with others to import weapons from the Continent to Ireland to equip those IV units he considered loyal to himself and the IPP. Since he was already making overtures to the imperial government suggesting that the Irish Volunteers could act as a defensive force to free up military garrisons in Ireland for the recently erupted conflict in Europe it cannot have been to wage an armed campaign to ensure self-governance in the country. The UK had declared war on Germany at the start of August 1914 and many of the MPs of the Irish Parliamentary Party had proved themselves the equal of their English (and Irish unionist) counterparts in their jingoistic support of the declaration. John Redmond was particularly effusive in encouraging Irish participation in the British war effort through speeches at Westminster and during his rare forays back to Dublin or his constituency in the south-east. Nor was it to seek a confrontation with the violent separatist forces of the unionist minority in the north-east who now opposed any form of home rule that did not include the partition of Ireland and the creation of an ethno-religious state in the entirety of the province of Ulster (a demand Redmond effectively surrendered to between July and September of 1914, following April’s very public importation from Germany of tons of munitions by the UVF, with the acknowledged connivance of some in the British military and government).

It seems instead that a more likely objective was to ensure that the “Redmondite” faction of the Irish Volunteers was appropriately equipped so that any post-Great War negotiations with the British state (the European conflict being widely expected to last mere months) or confrontations with “dissident” nationalists at home, especially those of the republican strand, could be successfully dealt with. Indeed it may well have been in John Redmond’s mind that if the UK allowed the Volunteers to act as a “home garrison” he would need a fully armed force to suppress any active opposition domestically. Which suggests that if a form of home rule was implemented that did not meet with universal support in Ireland those who dissented would have faced a militia formed of former IV units controlled by an IPP devolved government in Dublin.

Conor Mulvagh of University College Dublin examines some of this over on the History Hub starting with an:

“…extremely important letter sent from John Redmond, chairman of the Irish Parliamentary Party and leader of nationalist Ireland to his trusted agent, Tom Kettle, who was then travelling between England and Belgium attempting to procure arms for the Irish Volunteers.

What this month’s document does, more so than arguably any other surviving letter in John Redmond’s hand, is to put his fingerprints on gun-running and to reveal a less often discussed side to his legacy, one that is highly significant and pivotal to understanding the wider politics of Ireland and beyond in the late-summer of 1914.

…to fully understand John Redmond, the darker, more opportunistic, and even more Machiavellian aspects of his legacy must be encountered and grappled with. Historians must ask: why is it that, during 1914, John Redmond descended from the moral high ground and emulated Edward Carson, first in taking control of a private paramilitary army, secondly in participating in arming that army, and finally in moving towards the use, or threat of, violence at home and abroad in the fulfilment of policy objectives?”

The letter itself reads:

“T.M. Kettle Esq.

My dear Kettle,

I congratulate you on the success of your efforts to obtain the rifles.

Please store them all at the North Wall in my name with instructions to deliver them only to my written order.

Very truly yours,

J.E. Redmond

25 Aug. 1914”

Eventually over twenty tons of munitions were smuggled to Ireland and into the hands of Redmondite wing of the Irish Volunteers. The majority of these armaments were retained by that faction when it split from the IV in late September 1914 and John Redmond established himself as the commander-in-chief of his own private army, the Irish National Volunteers or INV, which functioned as the military wing of the Irish Parliamentary Party. A few of those weapons were to see action during the War of Independence, some seized by the Irish Republican Army (Irish Volunteers) and used against the British Occupation Forces (including weapons taken from the INV’s 1914 arms dump in the North Wall). Others were used by the supporters of the IPP, former or serving members of the INV and pro-IPP Ancient Order of Hibernians, to attack the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Féin during the tumultuous years of 1916-23.

 

The divisions of September 1914 and the events leading up to them are also examined on History Hub, including the statement announcing the ejection of the Redmondite faction from the Irish Volunteers. Below is my transcription of that document which is remarkable for the number of now well-known revolutionary names and the list of demands which anticipated in some ways the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic two years later:

“41 Kildare Street,

Dublin,

Thursday, 24th September, 1914.

TO THE IRISH VOLUNTEERS

Ten months ago the Provisional Committee commenced the Irish Volunteer movement with the sole purpose of securing and defending the Rights and Liberties of the Irish people. The movement on these lines, though thwarted and opposed for a time, obtained the support of the Irish Nation. When the Volunteer movement had become the main factor in the National position, Mr. Redmond decided to acknowledge it and to endeavour to bring it under his control.

Three months ago he put forward the claim to send twenty-five nominees to the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers. He threatened, if the claim was not conceded, to proceed to the dismemberment of the Irish Volunteer organisation.

It is clear that this proposal to throw the country into turmoil and destroy the chances of a Home Rule measure in the near future must have been forced upon Mr. Redmond. Already, ignoring the Irish Volunteers as a factor in the National position, Mr. Redmond had consented to the dismemberment of Ireland which could be made permanent by the same agencies that forced him to accept it as temporary. He was now prepared to risk another disruption and the wreck of the cause entrusted him.

The Provisional Committee, while recognising that the responsibility in that case would be altogether Mr. Redmond’s, decided to risk the lesser evil and to admit his nominees to sit and act on the Committee. The Committee made no representations as to the persons nominated, and when the nominations were received, the Committee raised no questions as to how far Mr. Redmond had fulfilled his public undertaking to nominate “representative men from different parts of the country”. Mr. Redmond’s nominees were admitted purely and simply as his nominees and without co-option.

Mr. Redmond address to a body of Volunteers on last Sunday, has now announced for the Irish Volunteers a policy and programme fundamentally at variance with their own published and accepted aims and pledges, but which his nominees are, of course, identified. He has declared it to be the duty of the Irish Volunteers to take foreign service under a government which is not Irish. He has made this announcement without consulting the Provisional Committee, the Volunteers themselves, or the people of Ireland to whose service alone they are devoted.

Having thus disregarded the Irish Volunteers and their solemn engagements, Mr. Redmond is no longer entitled, through his nominees, to any place in the administration and guidance of the Irish Volunteer Organisation. Those who, by virtue of Mr. Redmond’s nomination, have heretofore been admitted to act on the Provisional Committee, accordingly cease henceforth to belong to that body, and from this date until the holding of an Irish Volunteer Convention the Provisional Committee consists of those only whom it compromised before the admission of Mr. Redmond’s nominees.

At the next meeting of the Provisional Committee we shall propose:-

  1. To call a Convention of the Irish Volunteers for Wednesday, 25th November, 1914, the anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers in Dublin.
  1. To re-affirm without qualification the Manifesto proposed and accepted at the inaugural meeting.
  1. To oppose any diminution of the measure of Irish self-government which now exists as a Statute on paper and which would not now have reached that stage but for the Irish Volunteers.
  1. To repudiate any undertaking, by whomsoever given, to consent to the legislative dismemberment of Ireland; and to protest against the attitude of the present Government, who under the pretence that “Ulster cannot be coerced”, avow themselves to coerce the Nationalists of Ulster.
  1. To declare that Ireland cannot, with honour or safety, take part in foreign quarrels otherwise than through the free action of a National Government of her own; and to repudiate the claim of any man to offer up the blood and lives of the sons of Irishmen and Irishwomen to the service of the British empire, while no National Government which could speak and act for the people of Ireland is allowed to exist.
  1. To demand that the present system of governing Ireland through Dublin Castle and the British military power, a system responsible for the recent outrages in Dublin, be abolished without delay, and that a National Government be forthwith established in its place.

The signatories of this Statement are the great majority of the members of the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers, apart from the nominees of Mr. Redmond who are no longer members of the Committee. We regret the absence of Sir Roger Casement in America prevents him from being a signatory with us.

(SIGNED) :-  Eoin Mac Néill,

Chairman – Provisional Committee.

Ó Rathaille,

Treasurer – Provisional Committee.

Thomas McDonagh,

Joseph Plunkett,

Piaras Béaslaí,

Michael J. Judge,

Pete Paul Macken, Ex-Ald.

Seán Mac Giobúin,

P. H. Pearse,

Pádraic Ó Riain,

Bulmer Hobson,

Éamonn Martin,

Conchúir Ó Colbáird,

Éamonn Ceannt,

Séamas Ó Conchúir,

Liam Mellows,

Colm Ó Lochlainn,

Liam Ó Cógáin,

Peter White”

The Roman Catholic hierarchy with John Redmond MP, the leader of the Irish Nationalist establishment, 1912
A foreshadowing of independent Ireland: the Roman Catholic hierarchy with John Redmond MP, the leader of the Irish Nationalist establishment, 1912

The struggle to control the leadership of the Irish Volunteers during 1914 was in many ways the first great contest of the 20th century between two competing – if related – political philosophies in Ireland. On one side was the entrenched Irish Nationalist establishment represented by the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Roman Catholic Church, the burgeoning business elites and the Anglo-Irish or Anglicised Irish Catholic and Protestant faux gentry, of which John Redmond was a stereotypical example. This strand of Irish life had long made its peace with British colonial rule and indeed prospered from it. While many believed in some form of “home rule” few desired to see genuine independence for Ireland, or indeed an expansion of the voting franchise to the general adult population. Redmond, the hawkishly conservative patrician, was not alone in fearing the consequences of giving votes to women or men heretofore disqualified because of age or property-rights.

Threatening to drown the old order was the rising tide of Irish Republican opposition, aspirant working- and middle-class men and women no longer willing to leave their futures to the management of others. Where some saw the “Leader of Nationalist Ireland” others saw a grey-haired buffoon, an absentee politician more familiar with the mansions and clubs of London than the tenements of Dublin or huts of Conamara. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that the 1914 “civil war” between Nationalists and Republicans was in many ways simply a dry run for the internecine conflict that was to follow in 1922-23, and between those self-same forces in Irish society.

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15 comments

  1. You reference your own article to claim that “John Redmond, a committed Anglo-Irish imperialist, strongly opposed full Irish independence.” Have you any specific evidence to support the claim that he actually “opposed full Irish Independence?”

    Also, todays champions of Home Rule and Redmond’s achievements such as Bruton haven’t claimed (from what I’ve read) that Redmond was “a pheasant-hunting Gandhi, a pacifist politician with a ballot box in one hand and ivory-topped cane in the other.” You have. They have simply said that waiting for Home Rule offered us an alternative to what happened. That’s true. We wont ever know how or if that alternative would have worked.

    Your articles are at their weakest when you get hysterical over people playing “what if”…. You turn into a spinmaster, quite akin to the ones you so often rightly highlight.

    Best regards

    Diarmuid

    1. John Redmond, Westminster and other speeches:

      “I challenge anyone in this House to quote a statement of mine… that so long as we remain partners in the Empire at all, and so long as the Act of Union remains unrepealed, the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is to be or can be abrogated.”

      “To talk about Ireland separating from the Empire is the most utter nonsense. We are not asking for separation… Separation is impossible; if it were not impossible, it is undesirable.”

      “…from 1873 down to this moment, the federal arrangement has been the basis of the Home Rule movement. I may say, in passing, that Mr. Parnell came into this House as a supporter with Mr. Butt of that federal arrangement and basis, and the most remarkable published correspondence between Mr. Parnell and the late Mr. Cecil Rhodes on the question of the retention of the Irish Members in this House after Home Rule shows clearly that Mr. Parnell was absolutely in favour of a settlement on a federal basis.

      I would like to recall the fact that I, myself, in 1886, when discussing Mr. Gladstone’s proposal in this House for the total exclusion of the Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament, took exception to it, and stated that I could not support it. If it were to be regarded as a permanent arrangement shutting out the possibility of a federal system for the whole of the United Kingdom, and it seems to me that the inclusion of forty-two Irish Members in this Parliament after the present Home Rule Bill is passed, with full powers over British as well as Imperial affairs, is an anomaly — an anomaly that can only be tolerated until a complete system of federalism is set up. Thus the House will see, as far as I am personally concerned, I am in full sympathy with federalism, and with federalism as the ultimate solution of this question.”

      “I will be perfectly frank on this matter. There always has been, and there is to-day, a certain section of Irishmen who would like to see separation from this country. They are a small, a very small section. They were once a very large section. They are a very small section, but the men who hold, these views at this moment only desire separation as an alternative to the present system, and if you change the present system and give into the hands of Irishmen the management of purely Irish affairs, even that small feeling in favour of separation will disappear; and if it survives at all, I would like to know how under those circumstances it could be stronger or more powerful for mischief than at the present moment.”

      “If you look at the performances at the front from another point of view, and look at the casualty hsts and see how whole regiments of Irish troops have been almost wiped out, I do not think any man will be found in this country to deny that Ireland is doing her duty. [Cheers.] But, after all, we make no boast of it. It is nothing to be wondered at. It is all in keeping with the history and traditions of our race. [Cheers.] If Ireland had held back in this war she would have belied her whole history. How the calculations of the Kaiser have been falsified! He expected to meet a divided Empire. [Laughter.] It is easy to laugh. Ten years ago he might have done so. He expected revolt and disaffection in South Africa. He expected revolt and disaffection in Ireland, and in Egypt, and in India. But he forgot the march of events and the march of ideas in this country. He forgot the march of education and enlightenment in this country. He forgot that the rule of the people has been substituted for the rule of the ascendancy classes. And he forgot that the rule of the English democracy has united this Empire upon a firm and sure foundation of liberty. Principles of freedom have turned South Africa into a loyal, because self-governing, country. The principle of freedom has made Canada and Australia and New Zealand loyal, because they are self-governing. The same thing has happened in Ireland. [Cheers.]

      We Irishmen feel that to-day, at last, we have entered on terms of equality into the Empire, and we say we will defend that Empire with loyalty and devotion. [Cheers.] For the first time in the history of the British Empire, we can feel in our very souls that in fighting for the Empire we are fighting for Ireland. [Cheers.] My own belief is that every Irish soldier who gives his life on the battlefields of Flanders dies for Ireland, for her liberty and her prosperity, as truly as did any of the heroes and martyrs of our race in the past. [Cheers.] It was a blessed day when the democracy of Britain trusted Ireland. That trust has done what force could never do. That trust has done what centuries of coercion failed to accomplish. It has bound two nations together in a unity of common interests and common rights and common liberties, and it has given to us for a watchword for the future the old classic motto, Imperium et libertas — Empire and liberty. [Cheers.]”

      “What, I ask you, will be the record now that the sentiment of the whole Irish people undoubtedly is with you in this War? And what material it is! I have been moved, and I dare say every man in this House has been moved, by some of the war stories that have come back from the seat of war. There is the story of the Munster Fusiliers, who stood by their guns all day, and in the end dragged them back to their lines themselves. There was, too, the story in yesterday’s papers from the lips of the wounded French soldiers, who described how the Irish Guards charged with the bayonet three regiments of German Cavalry. As the wounded French soldier said, they charged singing “a strange song that I have never heard before.” The newspaper man asked the wounded soldier what were the words, and the answer was, “I cannot tell you what the words were, but it was something about God saving Ireland.” I saw these men marching through London on their way to the station. They marched here past this building singing “God save Ireland.”

      It is unnecessary for me to tell this House of the magnificent material that the country has at its disposal in the Irish soldier, and the sneers that we have heard are a little too hard on us. The “Times,” in an article to-day, says:— Nationalist Ireland still disowns her gallant soldiers, flaunts placards against enlistment, and preaches sedition in her newspapers. That is a cruel libel on Ireland. The men who are circulating hand-bills against enlistment—the men who are publishing little wretched rags once a week or once a month—which none of us ever see—who are sending them by some mysterious agency through the post in this country, and day by day to Members—these are the little group of men who never belonged to the National Constitutional party at all, but who have been all through, and are to-day, our bitterest enemies.

      I say that the manhood of Ireland will spring to your aid in this War. Speaking personally for myself, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that on hundreds of platforms in this country during the last few years I have publicly promised, not only for myself, but in the name of my country, that when the rights of Ireland were admitted by the democracy of England, that Ireland would become the strongest arm in the defence of the Empire. The test has come sooner than I, or anyone, expected. I tell the Prime Minister that that test will be honourably met. I say for myself, that I would fed myself personally dishonoured if I did not say to my fellow countrymen, as I say today to them here, and as I will say from the public platform when I go back to Ireland, that it is their duty, and should be their honour, to take their place in the firing line in this contest.”

      etc. etc. etc.

  2. I read a piece in the Saturday supplement of the Daily Telegraph last week in which dreary arch-revisionist mouthpiece Colm Toibin recalled a visit he paid to Sudan in the 1980s, during which, he claimed, he was humiliated by the locals in “revenge” for a victory of “some wonderful British general – Kitchener I think” (Toibin’s exact words). That surely gives an insight into the real masochistic forelock tugging mentality of the likes of Toibin and those whose line he parrots – Dudley Edwards, Harris etc. By the same token a couple of years ago I saw the co-writer of Father Ted on the BBC satire show “Have I Got News For You” in which he referred to the British Armed Forces as “we” “us” and “our”. Linehan’s mother of course presented another forelock-tugging RTE programme on the eve of Elizabeth Windsor’s visit to Ireland, which waxed lyrical about the Irish people’s alleged great love for British royalty. The former Labour Party politician Justin Keating once made a speech in the Dail in which he spoke of the many “sleepers” the British had left behind in positions of power and influence in Ireland – something Irish republicans really should pay much attention to. To paraphrase Mr Adams, these British “sleepers” never went away you know – as even a cursory glance at the Sunday Indo or “Irish” Daily Mail will confirm within minutes.

    1. “They were clearly getting revenge for the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, which was when some wonderful British general, Herbert Kitchener I think, defeated the army of Abdullah al-Taashi. I wasn’t involved, but I think they cut his head off or did something appalling to him.”

      Not half as appalling as what the British did before hand and what they did afterwords. But then that was just the “natives”. What a disgusting specimen of that special kind of “Irishness” Tóibín truly is.

      1. God, what a wonderfully tolerant bunch Irish republicans are. If you actually read Toibin’s piece it is clearly a rather clumsy attempt at humour. Also as a novelist rather than a historian, I am not sure how he could be described as a “revisionist”. Or is “revisionist” these days just a nationalist word for “someone whose views I disapprove of and do not wish to see expressed.” ?

        1. So clumsy that the humour was almost entirely absent.

          From a previous Tóibín outing in the Daily Telegraph:

          “During the Queen’s historic visit to the Republic of Ireland last year, Tóibín was given the job of introducing her to 10 writers and editors. “The level of her politeness was great. Before her visit I was consulted by the British Embassy about what [the visit] would mean and what it should look like. It was interesting to sit with them and say, ‘Look, there is no downside in this. This is as good as the British are going to get. Her visit is not a problem, it is a solution.’

          Was he comfortable with her decision to bow her head at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance, given that it is dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom”, in other words the IRA?

          “We are embarrassed about that place here. It is ugly because it is used to commemorate people of violence. We came to like the garden less than the people in England did because it had more potential to destabilise our society than yours. You don’t have a problem with having members of Sinn Féin in your parliament. We do.”

          If you dislike “revisionist” how about “neo-unionist”? Or “British apologist”? Or “man uncomfortable with democracy when the people vote for parties that might upset or irk the British”? The latter is a bit of a mouthful but it pretty much covers all the bases.

          Almost the entire media establishment in Ireland, from print to electronic, is made up of Tóibíns and has been for my entire life. I think a little kick-back against the suffocating orthodoxy of the British apologists is not entirely out of order for people of my generation.

          1. “Almost the entire media establishment in Ireland, from print to electronic, is made up of Tóibíns and has been for my entire life.”

            Er, like Tim Pat Coogan? Or Vincent Browne? Or Nell McCafferty? Or Mary Holland? Or John Waters? Or Desmond Fennell? Or Fintan O’Toole? Or Eamon McCann? Yup, West Brits to a man. The Orthodoxy is well and truly stifling.

            1. I did say “almost”, which is why you can name a handful of names, though who are the Tim Pat Coogans, Nell McCaffertys and Mary Hollands of the last decade? Tim Pat ceased having any major press input in the early 1990s, Nell McCafferty in the early-2000s and hardly at all since 2010, and the late great Mary Holland was pushed out in the late-1990s and left us in 2004.

              Waters, O’Toole and Fennell are hardly at the forefront of Republican-leaning journalism, as varied as their ideas are.

              If you are blind and deaf to the group-think of the Irish media perhaps it is because they write and speak the language you wish to see and hear?

              Whether you like it or not the folk who have “held the line” against “subversives” like myself are the cultural and social establishment in Ireland, the accepted, self-selecting orthodoxy, and have been for decades. From well before I was born.

              Harris and co. may once have fancied themselves as rebels but those days are but a distant memory. For my generation they are the ones who wish to restrict us in out thinking and freedom as much as they claim they were restricted by those who came before them.

              1. My grandfather and my three late uncles were Garda officers who, I am proud to say, held the line against the subversives in a rather more robust manner than effeminate literary types. One of my uncles was among the officers who shot up the gang attempting to kidnap Galen Weston in 83: didn’t kill any of em unfortunately.

                I well remember the campaign of murder, intimidation, kidnapping and robbery which did so much to destabilise the Irish republic and its economy in the eighties: all the European industrialists saying to themselves: let’s invest in Ireland, so we can get kidnapped and murdered.

                Back in my student days, I was staying with him and his wife the day Frank Hand was murdered in Dublin in 84. I well remember the hatred and righteous anger the Garda had towards the Provos. I just wonder how any policeman, civil servant, judge or soldier who has sworn to uphold the constitution of the Irish Republic could ever contemplate taking orders from a Sinn Fein Minister. I hope I never see it. As one Garda acquaint said to me a year or two back: “Can you imagine Aengus O’Snoddaigh as Justice Minister? I’d sooner take orders from his… [ASF: needlessly abusive reference to Ó Snodaigh’s wife deleted. John, behave yourself].”

              2. well, personally I think, if the cap fits….a charming lady. I take it you have heard of her behaviour, attacking two garda officers who were attending a heart attack victim?

              3. I come from what is euphemistically known as a “Garda family” on my mother’s side and I think attitudes towards the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army during the 1970s to early ‘90s were far more ambiguous than you might have been led to believe, to say the least. My father’s family were all Óglaigh na hÉireann (Defence Forces Ireland) and again, that same mix of attitudes existed.

                The single greatest impediment to the establishment of a stable and successful economy in Ireland was/is the partition of our island nation and the continued British Occupation following the retreat to its north-eastern redoubt. No British Occupation no “campaign of murder, intimidation, kidnapping and robbery”. It really is as simple as that.

                Much the same stuff was said in the early 1930s when Fianna Fáil took power. And in reverse in the 1940s when a Fine Gael coalition took power again. It will happen, eventually. That’s politics.

                I know about the 2005 incident in relation to Aisling Ní Dhálaigh. A breach of the peace and fine relating to drunkenness outside a nightclub. Other charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. That doesn’t excuse your language. You can make your points in a more circumspect manner than that.

  3. Whether we agree with Toibin, Lenihen, Harris or whoever, they are entitled to feel and sympathise as they may, be it unionist or not. The logic of siding with the colonists i do question.
    And if Redmond was anti-independence, then it was certainly a viewpoint that sat easily with most of the voting population of his era. Perhaps this was a calculated viewpoint by Redmond given that he knew that full independence wouldn’t be achieved without costly bloodshed and that even with bloodshed, the ulster issue would still be virtually impossible to satisfy. War would and did destroy trade and hence Home rule would have been a step in the right direction if we follow this logic. Finally Redmond alone spouting wasn’t enough on its own to incite Irishmen to fight in ww1. The atmosphere and overall culture in the country clearly leaned this way.
    1916 changed everything.

    1. I think Harris, et al don’t have to worry too much about the odd rhetorical challenge from an obscure corner of the internet (though Harris did go off on a half-hearted crusade against cyberfenians until he got bored and found some other windmills to tilt at). So I wouldn’t worry over-much about me or anyone else challenging their opinions. They are Ireland’s tenured elite.

      Given how restricted the vote was in the late 19th century and at the start of the 20th we cannot know for certain how popular Redmond’s or the IPP’s position was on limited self-government. What we do know is what happened when the franchise was extended to a far larger group of the population (effectively quadrupled), including working-class, lower middle-class and female voters: the IPP was humiliated at the polls. The Rising had a bearing on that, as did the conscription crisis, etc. but the 1918 general election took place after the Armistice. The IPP should have expected some post-conflict boost. It received none.

      I think you underplay the influence and control of the IPP in Irish society in the years leading up to 1914-18. Think Fianna Fáil 1930s-90s but multiply by a factor of ten. One was either a Unionist or an IPP and society reflected that factionalism and importance of loyalties.

      Many, many tens of thousands of Irishmen joined the British Forces because of poverty, etc. during WWI. However many thousands also joined because of the arguments, cajoling, bullying and hectoring of Redmond and co.

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