Category Archives: Republicanism pre-1900

Seán Cronin on The Untold Story of The Clan na Gael (1992 talk, New York)

Seán Cronin was originally an officer in the Free State army, who subsequently joined the IRA and became chief-of-staff planning and overseeing Operation Harvest (1956-62).  Later he lived in the USA and became US correspondent for the Irish Times.  He is the author of several books too, most famously Irish Nationalism: a history of its roots and ideology (Dublin, Academy Press, 1980).  Here he is in New York, 1992, speaking on Clan na Gael, the Fenian organisation in the United States in the 1800s and 1900s.

Connolly’s ‘Labour in Irish History’: study/discussion group

A study/discussion group based on Connolly’s Labour in Irish History started a couple of weeks ago.  With the lockdown across Ireland (and in other countries where socialist-republicans and supporters reside) many of us will have more time than we usually do for study, theory, political discussion, so let’s make use of it.

The studies have been initiated by Eirigi general-secretary Mickey Moran, but are open to any socialist-republican-minded people.  They take place on zoom and are very easy to access.  You can contact Mickey directly or, if you are shy, email me and I’ll put him onto you.  He’s: eirigigeneralsecretary@gmail.com

The sessions take place on Wednesday nights at 8.30 (Irish time, and British time).  If you’re elsewhere you will need to check what time that is wherever you are.

Last week we delved into two chapters where our political tradition begins to emerge, looking at the democratic and internationalist ideas of the United Irish movement of Wolfe Tone and at Emmet’s movement and the manifesto of the 1803 rebellion, which, if anything, was even more radical – for instance Emmet’s rebellion wanted to confiscate and nationalise Church property.

It was my privilege to do the introduction.

The next 2 chapters will be introduced by Fiona, as the sessions begin to move on from the great revolutionary democracy of the United Irishmen and Emmet, pre-runners of socialism, to the emergence of a more explicitly socialist politics in Ireland.  These chapters are:

Chapter 10 – The First Irish Socialist – A forerunner of Marx; this looks at the views and work of William Thompson in the late 1820s and early 1830s
Chapter 11 – An Irish Utopia; this looks at the Ralahine commune in Co. Clare in the 1830s

Anyone who doesn’t have a copy of the pamphlet/book can read it on the Marxist Internet Archive, here.

Liam Mellows’ Dail speech against the Treaty, January 4, 1922

I have very little to say on this subject that is before us, because I stand definitely against this so-called Treaty and the arguments in favour of acceptance— of compromise, of departing from the straight road, of going off the path, and the only path that I believe this country can travel to its freedom. These arguments are always so many, at all times and with all causes, while the arguments in favour of doing the right and straight thing are so few, because they are so plain. That is why I say I have very little to say.

Negotiating did not connote compromise

An effort has been made here from time to time by speakers who are in favour of this Treaty, to show that everybody here in this Dáil was prepared mentally or otherwise to compromise on this point, during the last few months. I wish, anyway, as one person, to state that is not so. I am speaking for myself now on this, and I state certainly that consciously or unconsciously, I did not agree to any form of compromise. We were told that when the negotiations took place we were compromised. We have been told that since this Dáil meeting. This is not so, because negotiations do not connote compromise.

Entering into negotiations with the British Government did not in the least presuppose that you were going to give away your case for independence. When the British Government, following upon the Truce, offered, as it did, to discuss this whole case of Ireland, Ireland had no option but to enter into such a discussion. To refuse to have done so would have been the worse thing for the Irish case, and would have put Ireland very wrong in the eyes of the world. There was no surrender involved in entering into such a discussion; and when the plenipotentiaries went on their journey to England they went, not as the plenipotentiaries of a Republican Party in Ireland, not as the envoys of any political creed in this country, but they went as the Envoys Plenipotentiary of the Irish Republican Government, and, as such, they had no power to do anything that would surrender the Irish Republic of which they were plenipotentiaries.

No mandate

They were sent there to make, if they could, a treaty of settlement—personally I doubt if it could be done—but they were not sent to bring about what I can only call a surrender. I am not placing the plenipotentiaries in the dock by stating this, but I am stating what are plain facts. It is no reflection on them to state these things. In item 3 of the instructions given to the plenipotentiaries it is stated: “It is also understood that the complete text of the draft Treaty about to be signed will be similarly submitted to Dublin and a reply awaited.” The Dáil had no chance of discussing this Treaty as it should be discussed because the ground was cut from under the feet of the Dáil with the publication of this Treaty to the world before the Dáil had a chance of discussing it. The delegates, I repeat, had no power to sign away the rights of Ireland and the Irish Republic.

They had no mandate to sign away the independence of this country as this Treaty does.

They had no power to agree to anything inconsistent with the existence of the Republic.

Now either the Republic exists or Read the rest of this entry

“Our choice lay in submitting to foreign lawlessness or resisting it, and we did not hesitate to choose” – Roger Casement on trial for his life

In his 1914 book The Crime Against Ireland and How the War May Right it, Sir Roger Casement wrote, “Sedition (is) the natural garment for an Irishman to wear”.  Casement wore it well. 

A participant in the preparations for the 1916 Easter Rising, Casement landed at Banna Strand (northwest of Tralee) in Co. Kerry on board a ship from Germany with a large consignment of weaponry for the rebels.  However the rendezvous did not take place and Casement was captured on April 21, 1916.  He was subsequently held in Pentonville Prison in London, tried in London over four days in May, and hung for treason on August 3.  At his trial, he made a speech from the dock; he had written the body of it while in prison.  Below is the text.  I have broken up some paragraphs which were huge in the original.

This text is longer than that often found on the internet.  I had to type up additional chunks of text from where I found this – I have it taken it from The Great Prisoners: the first anthology of literature written in prison, selected and edited by Isidore Abramavotich, New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1946.  Abramovitch lists the range of his Casement sources on p869.

I have added subheads to break up the text.

 

Roger Casement:

My Lord Chief Justice, as I wish to reach a much wider audience than I see before me here, I intend to read all that I propose to say. What I shall read now is something I wrote more than twenty days ago. I may say, my lord, at once, that I protest against the jurisdiction of this Court in my case on this charge, and the argument that I am now going to read is addressed not to this Court, but to my own countrymen.

There is an objection, possibly not good in law, but surely good on moral grounds, against the application to me here of this old English statute, 565 years old, that seeks to deprive an Irishman to-day of life and honour, not for “adhering to the King’s enemies”, but for adhering to his own people.

When this statute was passed, in 1351, what was the state of men’s minds on the question of a far higher allegiance – that of a man to God and His kingdom?  The law of that day did not permit a man to forsake his church or deny his God save with his life.  The ‘heretic’ then had the same doom as the ‘traitor’.

Today a man may forswear God had His heavenly kingdom without fear of penalty, all earlier statutes having gone the way of Nero’s edicts against the Christians, but that Constitutional phantom, ‘The King’, can still dig up from the dungeons and torture chambers of the Dark Ages a law that takes a life and limb for an exercise of conscience.

If true religion rests on love, it is equally true that loyalty rests on love.  The law I am charged under has no parentage in love and claims the allegiance of to-day on the ignorance and blindness of the past.

I am being tried, in truth, not by my peers of the live present, but by the peers of the dead past; not by the civilisation of the twentieth century, but by the brutality of the fourteenth; not even by a statute framed in the language of an enemy land – so antiquated is the law that must be sought to-day to slay an Irishman, whose offence is that he puts Ireland first.

The Government of Ireland by England. . . can evoke no loyalty

Loyalty is a sentiment, not a law.  It rests on love, not on restraint.  The Government of Ireland by England rests on restraint and not on law; and since it demands no love it can evoke no loyalty.

But this statute is more absurd even than it is antiquated; and if it is potent to hang one Irishman, it is still more potent to gibbet all Englishmen.

Edward III was King not only of the realm of England, but also of the realm of France, and he was not King of Ireland.  Yet his dead hand to-day may pull the noose around the Irishman’s neck whose Sovereign he was not, but it can strain no strand around the Frenchman’s throat whose Sovereign he was.

For centuries the successors of Edward III claimed to be Kings of France, and quartered the arms of France on their royal shield down to the Union with Ireland on 1st January, 1801.  Throughout these hundreds of years these “Kings of France” were constantly at war with their realm of France and their French subjects, who should have gone from birth to death with an obvious fear of treason before their eyes.  But did they?  Did the “Kings of France” resident here at Windsor or in the Tower of London, hang, draw and quarter as a traitor every Frenchman for 400 years who fell into their hands with arms in his hand?  On the contrary, they received embassies of these traitors, presents from these traitors, even knighthood itself at the hands of these traitors, feasted with them, tilted with them, fought with them – but did not assassinate them by law.  Judicial assassination today is reserved  only for one race of the King’s subjects, for Irishmen; for those who cannot forget their allegiance to the realm of Ireland.

Slide by Robert Ehrlich

The Kings of England as such had no rights in Ireland up to the time of Henry VIII, save such as reasted on compact and mutual obligation entered between them and certain princes, chiefs and lords of Ireland.  This form of legal right, such as it was, gave no King of England lawful power to impeach an Irishman for high treason under this statute of King Edward III of England until an Irish Act, known as Poyning’s Law, the 10th of Henry VII, was passed in 1494 at Drogheda, by the Parliament of the Pale in Ireland, and enacted as law in that part of Ireland.  But if by Poyning’s Law an Irishman of the Pale could be indicted for high treason under this Act, he could be indicted only in one way and before one tribunal – by the laws of the realm in Ireland and in Ireland.

The very law of Poyning’s, which, I believe, applies this statute of Edward III to Ireland, enacted also for the Irishman’s defence, “All those laws by which England claims her liberty”.  And what is the fundamental charter of an Englishman’s liberty?  That he shall be tried by his peers.

“Not a jury of my peers”

With all respect I assert this Court is to me, an Irishman, not a jury of my peers to try me in this Read the rest of this entry

“They or we must quit this island” – Fintan Lalor on the landlord class (June 1848)

From the republican newspaper The Irish Felon, June 24, 1848.  This appeared in the original as one paragraph, but I have broken it up into several paras to assist 21st century readers.

Although written 170 years ago as a condemnation of the main property-owning class in Ireland then (the landlords) it sounds very modern, like a condemnation of the main property-owning class in Ireland today (the capitalists).  It is not hard to see why Connolly – and Pearse – admired Lalor so much.  The article represents a step forward in republican political thinking from the time of Tone and Emmet, as over four decades of class development and conflict had taken place and Ireland was in the midst of the horrors of a massive famine created by the capitalist property system.

The bit about “strangers” is also apt as a description of the Dublin4 and WestBrit set of today.

by James Fintan Lalor

They or we must quit this island

They or we must quit this island.  It is a people to be saved or lost; it is the island to be kept or surrendered.  They have served us with a general writ of ejectment.  Wherefore I say, let them get a notice to quit at once; or we shall oust possession under the law of nature.

There are men who claim protection for them, and for all their tyrannous rights and powers, being “as one class of the Irish people”.  I deny the claim.  They form no class of the Irish people, or any other people.  Strangers they are in this land they call theirs – strangers here and strangers Read the rest of this entry

Christy Moore unveils Frank Conroy plaque

 

by Mick Healy

On Saturday 22nd June, Christy Moore unveiled a plaque to socialist republican Frank Conroy, a Kildare man killed in 1936 while fighting with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. The plaque, presented to the Kilcullen Heritage Centre by the Friends International Brigades Ireland, is a twin of a plaque presented to the town council of Lopera in Spain in April 2016.

Over a hundred people packed into the Kilcullen Centre to hear historian James Durney speak on the life of Conroy who was born on 25 February 1914, in Kilcullen.  Christy sang his song “Viva La Quinte Brigada” and was joined on stage by the local Kilcullen Choir to give a most incredible performance of “Ride On” and “Nancy Spain”.

On 16 December 2012, the Frank Conroy Committee held their first commemoration to this young Irish revolutionary who had conveniently been airbrushed from history by the establishment.  Nevertheless, Frank is now as well known in the county as Kildare-born Fenian John Devoy.

Markievicz letters: a new, expanded edition

The first edition of Constance Markievicz’s prison letters was put together by Esther Roper, the partner of Markievicz’s sister Eva Gore-Booth, to whom many of the letters were addressed.  The editon was published by Longman Paul in 1934.  Roper, with help from Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, one of the executors of Markievicz’s will and  longtime friend and fellow activist, wrote a substantial biographical essay for the book.

Over 50 years later Amanda Sebestyen worked on a new edition and wrote her own introduction.  This edition was brought out by the feminist publisher, Virago, in 1987.

Thirty-one years later (last year, 2018) Lindie Naughton, the author of a new recent biography – Markievicz: a most outrageous rebel (Dublin, Merrion Press, 2016) – has put together a new edition.  This edition returns the letters to their original form.  (Lindie notes, “Consulting the originals in the National Library of Ireland makes it obvious that the published versions of the prison letters skirted around some sensitive issues and blanked out the names of people who quite possibly were still alive at the time of the original publication.”)

The prison letters come from her various stints in jail: May 1916-July 1917 in Mountjoy (Dublin) and Aylesbury (Buckinghamshire); June 1918-March 1919 in Holloway; June-October 1919 in Cork; September 1920-July 1921 in Mountjoy; and November-December 1923 in the North Dublin Union.

Moreover, this edition adds a bunch of letters that haven’t appeared in print before.  These include letters to Read the rest of this entry

“My object is to repeal the conquest – not any part or portion, but the whole and entire conquest of seven hundred years”: Fintan Lalor, 1847

A letter from Lalor to John Mitchel on the landlords, repealing the Union and repealing the Conquest.  Lalor subsequently shifted from the views here, becoming totally opposed to the landlords as a class.  (See “They or we must quit this island: Fintan Lalor on the landlord class, June 24, 1848”; I will have this up on the blog by the end of this month.)  The piece below originally appeared as a single, long paragraph; I have broken it up into shorter paragraphs.

From Sir C. G. Duffy’s Four Years of Irish History: 1845-1849, London, Paris & New York, Cassell, Petter, Galpin, 1883.

I know the Confederation and you by speeches and writing only.  But men may speak and write forcibly and yet act very feebly, and be very competent to criticize, yet utterly incompetent to construct.  Ireland’s greatest and last opportunity was in your hands – a revolution that would have put your own names in the blaze of the sun for ever was in your hands; you have flung it away as the cock flung the diamond, useless to him as the crisis was to you. Vain to him the flash of the gem which he could not polish; vain to you were the lightnings of heaven and the meteors of earth, which you could or would not kindle and guide.

You appear to be under mistakes as to my objects which I cannot permit you to retain.  I have nothing to do with the landlord and tenant question, as understood.  The question of the tenure by which the actual cultivator of the soil should hold his land is one for an Irish Parliament.  My object is to repeal the conquest – not any part or portion, but the whole and entire conquest of seven hundred years – a thing much more easily done than to repeal the Union.

That the absolute (allodial) ownership of the lands of Ireland is vested of right in the Read the rest of this entry

Fintan Lalor on Repeal, land ownership, insurrection and saving the Irish masses in the Famine

Lalor argued that only a social revolution could save Ireland from the destruction wrought by the landlords and British state through the Famine

The following article appeared in The Irish Felon, July 1848.  It was titled “To the Irish Confederate and Repeal Clubs”.  The sentences in brackets were Lalor’s introduction to the piece.  In this lengthy feature Lalor criticises the Young Ireland movement for the partial nature of its break with Daniel O’Connell and his Repeal Association; argues that the goal of the struggle has to be a social revolution and not simply repeal of the 1801 Act of Union; outlines different forms of insurrection; identifies the landlord class as a garrison class; notes the socio-economic impact of Famine on Irish society; and how a plan of action is needed to fight immediately to save the country from ruin.

I must admit I was sorely tempted to break up the more massive paragraphs!  However, I decided to resist the temptation.  

by James Fintan Lalor

[The paper that follows was written in the last week of January, 1847 – just one year and five months ago and was forwarded to one of the leading members of the Confederation for private circulation among the council of that body. I now address it to you just as it was written.]

I see no reason to prevent me mentioning that, in about a month from the date and delivery of my paper, I received a letter from John Mitchel stating that, on perusal and consideration of its contents, he had fully adopted my views, and that he meant to act on them so soon as occasion should fit and serve.                                                                                                                                  – January 25, 1847

My sole wish or attention is to suggest. Any attempt to convert or convince would be useless. Individuals are never converted; they must convert themselves. Men are moved only in masses; and it is easier to convert a million of men than a single man. But neither is the attempt necessary. To you, or any of those whom this paper is intended, the end of the clue-line is enough. You will be able, if you choose, to follow it out yourself. To lead you on, link by link, would be needless and absurd.

To anyone who considers their speeches, resolutions, and proceedings, it will, I think, appear manifest and marked, as it does to me, that the “seceders” have gone into organized action upon mere vague impulse and general feeling; with their objects undefined, their principles unsettled, their course unmarked; without any determinate plan, or, consequently, any fixed purpose – for no purpose can long remain fixed, but must be ever veering and wavering, without a plan to guide, control, and sustain it; and a purpose without a plan to confine and confirm it, is no purpose at all. Such a plan, too, is wanting as a warrant and guarantee to yourselves and to others that your object is feasible and your means adequate ; that you have gauged your enterprise and measured your means; and that the work you call on us to do will not be wasted. There are few worse things, even in the ethics or economy of private life, than labour misdirected; but what should be said of those who would, for want of a full and exact survey and calculation, mislead and exhaust the labour and means and strength of a people? It is not Read the rest of this entry

“(T)he clearest exposition of the doctrine of revolution, social and political”: Connolly on Fintan Lalor

James Fintan Lalor, 1807-1849

The piece below is taken from chapter 14 (“Socialist Teaching of the Young Irelanders: Thinkers and Workers”) of James Connolly’s Labour in Irish History (1910).  I’ve broken up very big paragraphs.

. . . But the palm of honour for the clearest exposition of the doctrine of revolution, social and political, must be given to James Fintan Lalor, of Tenakill, Queen’s County. Lalor, unfortunately, suffered from a slight physical disability, which incapacitated him from attaining to any leadership other than intellectual, a fact that, in such a time and amidst such a people, was fatal to his immediate influence. Yet in his writings, as we study them to-day, we find principles of action and of society which have within them not only the best plan of campaign suited for the needs of a country seeking its freedom through insurrection against a dominant nation, but also held the seeds of the more perfect social peace of the future.

All his writings at this period are so illuminating that we find it difficult to select from the mass any particular passages which more deserve reproduction than others. But as an indication of the line of argument pursued by this peerless thinker, and as a welcome contrast to the paralysing respect, nay, reverence, for landlordism evidenced by Smith O’Brien and his worshippers, perhaps the following passages will serve. In Read the rest of this entry