In a March 4, 2008, announcement, the Rev. Ian Paisley signals the end of an era by announcing he will retire as First Minister of Northern Ireland. He also confirms he is stepping down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the party he founded in the early 1970s. The news represents a huge moment in the politics and recent history of Northern Ireland, removing from the scene as it does one of its most striking figures.
The 81-year-old announces he will quit both posts following an international investment conference in Belfast in May 2008 but will remain as an MP and Assembly member.
“I came to this decision a few weeks ago when I was thinking very much about the conference and what was going come after the conference,” Paisley tells Ulster Television. “I thought that it is a marker, a very big marker and it would be a very appropriate time for me to bow out.”
Paisley denies he is leaving in part over allegations that his son, Ian Paisley Jr., lobbied Downing Street on behalf of a wealthy party member. He says his son has been “wrongly accused.” He is also weakened over defeat in a recent by-election – an indication that a section of the DUP’s electorate is uneasy about his historic decision to share power with Sinn Féin.
Significantly, Paisley does not back any contender in the DUP leadership contest to succeed him. “This is not the Church of Rome. I have no right to say who will succeed me. I will not be like Putin in Russia saying to the president – ‘this is the way you have to go.’ When I make a break it will be [a] break.”
Paisley defends his decision to enter into government with Sinn Féin. “It was the right thing to do because it was the only thing to do to save us from a united Ireland. We were threatened that we would be more Irish in our rulership, that there would be more Dublin say in government. That was what the British government threatened. We managed to put that to a rest.”
“We have laid to rest that and republicans have come to see that they have to put up with Paisley and his clan. We took what was meant for our destruction and turned it into our salvation.”
Speaking from Dubai the previous night, the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, says, “It wasn’t unexpected. It was the right decision to go into sharing power with Sinn Féin which changed the politics of Ireland forever.”
The Sinn Féin MP describes Paisley as “courageous” for agreeing to enter into the power-sharing government. “We have had a positive and constructive working relationship,” McGuinness said.
Paisley’s fiercest critic within unionism, the ex-DUP MEP, Jim Allister, claims opposition to his power-sharing with Sinn Féin and his relationship with McGuinness means that Paisley “jumped before he was pushed.”
Allister’s new party, Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV), split the DUP vote in a by-election in February 2008 and cost the party a council seat in County Down. It was Paisley’s first electoral test since he agreed to share power with Sinn Féin following the St. Andrews Agreement at the end of 2006.
Although Healyism is strong in CatholicUlster, Devlin aligns himself with the faction led by John Dillon and, from 1899, with the United Irish League (UIL), founded by William O’Brien. From the late 1890s this brings Devlin into conflict with the Belfast Catholic Association of Dr. Henry Henry, bishop of Down and Connor (1895–1908). This organisation, though sometimes regarded as Healyite, is essentially based on the view that mass nationalist political mobilisation in Belfast can only bring trouble and ostracism, and that Catholic interests are best represented by allowing a small group of lay and clerical notables to broker concessions from the unionist majority. After a series of local election contests in Catholic wards and controversies between the pro-Devlin weekly Northern Star and the clerically controlled The Irish News, Devlin succeeds in marginalising the politically maladroit Henry by 1905. In the process, however, he takes on some of the qualities of his “Catholic establishment” opponents. At the same time, he moves onto the national political stage.
Returned unopposed for North Kilkenny (1902–06), Devlin is appointed secretary of the United Irish League of Great Britain in 1903, and of the parent body in Dublin in 1904. A speaking tour of the United States in 1902–03 convinces him of the organisational potential of Catholic fraternal organisations, and in 1905 he takes over the presidency of the Board of Erin faction of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), a specifically Catholic body which he proceeds to develop as an organisational arm of the Nationalist Party. Under his tutelage the AOH expands from 10,000 members in 1905 to 60,000 in 1909, despite opposition from some Catholic bishops who distrust it because of its close affiliation to Dillonism, its secrecy, and its habit of staging dances and other entertainments without paying what they regard as due deference to local priests. His AOH also faces opposition from a rival separatist body, the Irish-American Alliance AOH. Though far less numerous, this group is able to draw on the support of separatists within the American AOH and hinder Devlin’s attempts to mobilise the American organisation in his support. The AOH expands further after 1910, and is strengthened by becoming an approved society under the National Insurance Act 1911.
Belfast is where Devlin’s political career begins and where it ends. Organisational skill contributes substantially to his hold on the largely working-class seat of Belfast West, which he wins in 1906 on a platform that seeks to transcend religious boundaries by combining labour issues with the home rule demand. A lifelong bachelor, though short in stature, he is apparently highly attractive to women, and takes a special interest in their problems, no doubt mindful of the influence they might have on the political behaviour of their spouses. He founds a holiday home for working-class women. When the scholar Betty Messenger interviews former Belfast linen workers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, she is startled to discover the extent to which Devlin is remembered as a champion of the workers decades after his death. This image persists among Protestant workers as well as Catholics, and he is generally credited with various ameliorations of workplace conditions even when he had not been responsible for them.
Possessed of great oratorical skills and even greater organisational ability, Devlin effectively becomes the key organiser of the Nationalist Party from the early years of the twentieth century, relieving the party leader, John Redmond, of a great deal of the administrative burden of party affairs, and becoming well known abroad through fund-raising trips, especially in North America. His personal geniality makes him a great favourite at Westminster, and Irish socialists are dismayed at the willingness of British Labour Party MPs to accept him as an authentic Labour representative. Several MPs elected after 1906 can be identified as his protégés, and groups of Hibernian strong-arm men uphold the party leadership in such contests as the 1907 North Leitrimby-election and the 1909 “baton convention” which witnesses the final departure of William O’Brien and his supporters from the UIL. He is the only post-Parnellite MP to be admitted to the tight leadership group around Redmond. In 1913 he is a leading organiser of the National Volunteers.
When William O’Brien embarks on his personal initiative to deal with the Ulster problem through conciliation in the early Edwardian period, he finds a stern critic in Devlin and in turn demonises the “Molly Maguires” as sectarian corruptionists. Personally non-sectarian, Devlin, like other party leaders, endorses the shibboleth that home rule will prove a panacea for Ireland’s problems, including Ulster, and uses his credentials as a labour representative to dismiss popular unionism as a mere product of elite manipulation. In a period when the Vatican‘s Ne Temere decree on religiously mixed marriages is heightening Protestant fears about the “tyranny” of Rome, he seems to be oblivious to how his integration of Hibernianism and nationalism is exacerbating that problem. As the third home rule bill passes through Parliament and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) mobilises, he encourages the Irish party leaders in the view that the Ulster unionist campaign is a gigantic bluff, dismissing contrary opinions even when held by other nationalist MPs. During these years the AOH clashes with the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) during the Dublin lock-out, and from late 1913 the AOH spearheads the Redmondite attempt to take over and dominate the Irish Volunteers.
Devlin endorses Redmond’s support for the British war effort and engages in extensive recruiting activity. He seems to be motivated, at least in part, by the belief that after the war nationalist ex-soldiers can be used to overawe the Ulster unionists by the threat of force. According to Stephen Gwynn, Devlin wishes to apply for an officer’s commission but is asked not to do so by Redmond on the grounds that the party needs his organisational skills.
Devlin’s career is decisively shaped by his decision to use his influence to persuade northern nationalists to accept temporary partition, in fulfilment of the flawed agreement arrived at between David Lloyd George, Sir Edward Carson, and Redmond in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. He later claims he has been decisively influenced by the prospect that under this agreement the excluded area would be governed directly from Westminster, rather than by a local, Orange-dominated parliament. He forces the agreement through a Belfast-based convention despite protests from west Ulster nationalists, but the proposal collapses after it transpires that Lloyd George has made incompatible commitments to nationalists and unionists. Northern nationalism immediately splits between west and south Ulster dissidents and Devlin’s loyalists predominant in Belfast and east Ulster, and the next year sees massive secessions of AOH members outside Ulster to Sinn Féin. Although he retains a core of loyal supporters, he is reduced from a national to a sectional leader. As a member of the Irish convention (1917–18) he sides with Bishop Patrick O’Donnell against Redmond on the issue of seeking a compromise settlement with southern unionists on the basis of home rule without fiscal autonomy. He is offered the leadership of the Nationalist Party on Redmond’s death in 1918, but concedes the honour to his long-standing mentor, John Dillon.
Devlin holds Belfast West until 1918, and easily sweeps aside an attempt by Éamon de Valera to displace him from the Falls division of Belfast at the general election of that year, though the electoral decimation of the Nationalist Party elsewhere leaves him leading a rump of only seven MPs. In the ensuing parliament he is an outspoken critic of government policy towards Ireland and highlights sectarian violence against northern nationalists. Clearly discouraged and with boundary changes militating against retention of the Falls seat, he unsuccessfully contests the Liverpool Exchange constituency as an Independent Labour candidate in 1922. Elected for Antrim and Belfast West to the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1921, he eventually takes his seat in 1925, holding it until 1929, when he combines representation for Belfast Central with that for Fermanagh and South Tyrone at Westminster.
Only after the boundary commission ends the border nationalists’ hopes of speedy incorporation in the Irish Free State is Devlin able to assert leadership of northern nationalism as a whole on the basis of attendance at the northern parliament. Even then he is considerably handicapped by recriminations over the events of 1916–25. He embarks on his last significant political campaign in 1928, when he seeks to unite minority politics through the agency of the National League of the North (NLN). The initiative, emphasising social reform, is unsuccessful. His own political baggage is a hindrance to the unity of the factions that minority politics had thrown up over the previous ten years, while the minority community itself is politically demoralised by the fate that has overtaken it, and the unionist government shows itself unwilling to make concession to him. The project, moreover, coincides with the onset of the gastric illness, exacerbated by heavy smoking, that takes his life on January 18, 1934. For some time before his death he ceases to attend the Northern Ireland parliament.
Devlin’s political career is one of great promise only partially fulfilled, its ultimate realisation undermined firstly by the fallout from the Easter Rising that destroyed the vehicle of his political ambitions, and secondly by the sequence of events that led to the creation of a constitutional entity so constructed that all nationalist politicians, regardless of talent, were effectively denied a route to power. Only at his death does the unionist regime adequately acknowledge his political stature. His funeral is attended by at least three Northern Ireland cabinet ministers, together with representatives of the government of the Irish Free State. Northern nationalism never again produces a leader of his ability in the Stormont era. His ability to use Westminster to promote the interests of Ulster nationalists is comparable to John Hume‘s use of Europe for the same purpose from the mid 1970s. After his death the nationalist party in Belfast grows increasingly reliant on middle-class leadership and is eventually displaced by nationalist labour splinter groups, some of whose prominent activists, such as Harry Diamond, had begun their careers as election workers for Devlin.
McCarthy is educated in Cork. He begins his career as a journalist at the age of 18 in Cork. From 1853 to 1859 he is in Liverpool, on the staff of the Northern Daily Times. In March 1855, he marries Charlotte Ailman. In 1860 he moves to London, as parliamentary reporter to the Morning Star, of which he becomes editor in 1864. He gives up his post in 1868 and, following a lecturing tour in the United States, joins the staff of The Daily News as leader-writer in 1870. In this capacity he becomes one of the most useful and respected upholders of the liberal politics of the time. He lectures again in America in 1870–71 and in 1886–87.
At the 1886 United Kingdom general election, McCarthy is returned unopposed in North Longford, but also stands in Londonderry City, where he is declared the loser to the Irish Unionist Alliance candidate by the narrow margin of 1778 votes to 1781. However, the result is later overturned on petition and McCarthy opts to sit for Londonderry City. During the divorce controversy surrounding Charles Stewart Parnell in November 1890, the British Prime MinisterWilliam Ewart Gladstone expresses a warning, given to McCarthy as intermediary, that if Parnell retains leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party, it will mean the loss of the next election, the end of their alliance and Home Rule. When the annual party leadership election meeting is called later that month, the threat is somehow not conveyed to the members, who re-elect Parnell leader of the Party.
After a further historical meeting of the Irish Party MPs in early December, Parnell refuses to retire and the Party divides. McCarthy becomes chairman of the Anti-Parnellite group, the Irish National Federation, for a year in 1891–92. His nationalism is of a temperate and orderly kind, and though his personal distinction singles him out for the chairmanship during the party dissensions of this period, he is in no active sense the political leader.
It is claimed that McCarthy’s true vocation is literature. His earliest publications are novels, some of which, such as A Fair Saxon (1873), Dear Lady Disdain (1875), Miss Misanthrope (1878), and Donna Quixote (1879), attain considerable popularity. His most important work is his History of Our Own Times, which treats of the period between Queen Victoria‘s accession and her Diamond Jubilee. He begins a History of the Four Georges (1884–1901) and the latter half is written by his son, Justin Huntly McCarthy.
O’Riordan joins the Communist Party of Ireland in 1935 while still in the IRA and works on the communist newspaper The Irish Workers’ Voice. In 1937, following the urgings of Peadar O’Donnell, several hundred Irishmen, mostly IRA or ex-IRA men, go to fight for the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War with the XVth International Brigade. They are motivated in part by enmity towards the 800 or so Blueshirts, led by Eoin O’Duffy who go to Spain to fight on the “nationalist” side in the Irish Brigade. He accompanies a party led by Frank Ryan. In the Republic’s final offensive of July 25, 1938, he carries the flag of Catalonia across the River Ebro. On August 1, he is severely injured by shrapnel on the Ebro front. He is repatriated to Ireland the following month, after the International Brigades are disbanded.
In 1938 O’Riordan is offered an Irish Army commission by the Irish Free State but chooses instead to train IRA units in Cork. As a result of his IRA activities during World War II, or the Emergency as it is known in neutral Ireland, he is interned in the Curragh internment camp from 1939 until 1943 where he is Officer Commanding of the Cork Hut and partakes in Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Gaelic League classes as well as publishing Splannc (Irish for “Spark,” named after Vladimir Lenin‘s newspaper).
In 1944 O’Riordan is founding secretary of the Liam Mellows Branch of the Labour Party and in 1945 is a founding secretary of the Cork Socialist Party, whose other notable members include Derry Kelleher, Kevin Neville and Máire Keohane-Sheehan.
In all O’Riordan runs for election five times, campaigning throughout for the establishment of a socialist republic in Ireland but given Ireland’s Catholic conservatism and fear of communism, he does so without success. He does, however, receive playwright Sean O’Casey‘s endorsement in 1951.
O’Riordan’s participation in the Spanish Civil War is always an important part of his political identity. In 1966 he attends the International Brigades’ Reunion in Berlin and is instrumental in having Frank Ryan’s remains repatriated from Germany to Ireland in 1979.
O’Riordan is a member of the Irish Chile Solidarity Committee and attends the 1st Party Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in 1984. He also campaigns on behalf of the Birmingham Six and attends their Appeal trial in 1990. He serves as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland (1970–83) and as National Chairman of the party (1983–88). He publishes many articles under the auspices of the CPI.
O’Riordan’s last major public outing comes in 2005 at the re-dedication of the memorial outside Dublin’s Liberty Hall to the Irish veterans of the Spanish Civil War. He and other veterans are received by President of IrelandMary McAleese. He is also presented with Cuba’s Medal of Friendship by the Cuban Consul Teresita Trujillo to Ireland on behalf of Cuban President Fidel Castro.
In 1969, according to Soviet dissident Vasili Mitrokhin, O’Riordan is approached by IRA leaders Cathal Goulding and Seamus Costello with a view to obtaining guns from the Soviet KGB to defend Irish republican areas of Belfast during the communal violence that marks the outbreak of the Troubles. Mitrokhin alleges that O’Riordan then contacts the Kremlin, but the consignment of arms does not reach Ireland until 1972. The operation is known as Operation Splash. The IRA splits in the meantime between the Provisional IRA and the Official IRA and it is the latter faction who receives the Soviet arms. Mitrokhin’s allegations are repeated in Boris Yeltsin‘s autobiography.
O’Riordan’s book, Connolly Column – The Story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic 1936–1939, is published in 1979 and deals with the Irish volunteers of the International Brigade who fought in support of the Spanish Republic against Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). An updated version of the book is reprinted in 2005 and is launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr. Michael Conaghan at a book launch at SIPTU headquarters, Liberty Hall. The book is the inspiration for Irish singer-songwriter Christy Moore‘s famous song “Viva la Quinta Brigada.”
In 1991, O’Riordan’s wife dies at the age of 81 at their home. He continues to live in their family home before moving to Glasnevin in 2000 to be close to his son Manus who lives nearby. He lives there until falling ill in November 2005 and is taken to the Mater Hospital. His health rapidly deteriorates and he quickly develops Alzheimer’s disease. Soon afterwards he is moved to St. Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park where he spends the final few months of his life, before his death at the age of 88 on May 18, 2006.
O’Riordan’s funeral at Glasnevin Crematorium is attended by over a thousand mourners. Following a wake the previous night at Finglas Road, hundreds turn up outside the house of his son Manus and traffic grounds to a halt as family, friends and comrades – many of whom are waving the red flag of the Communist Party of Ireland – escort O’Riordan to Glasnevin Cemetery. A secular ceremony takes place led by Manus O’Riordan, Head of Research at SIPTU, with contributions from O’Riordan’s family, Communist Party general secretary Eugene McCartan and IBMT representative Pauline Frasier.
Darrell Edmund Figgis, Irish writer, Sinn Féin activist and independent parliamentarian in the Irish Free State, dies in London on October 27, 1925. The little that has been written about him has attempted to highlight how thoroughly his memory and works have been excised from Irish popular culture.
Figgis is born at Glen na Smoil, Palmerstown Park, Rathmines in Dublin, on September 17, 1882, the son of Arthur William Figges, tea merchant, and Mary Anne Deane. While still an infant, his family emigrates to Calcutta, India. There his father works as an agent in the tea business, founding A. W. Figgis & Co. They return when he is ten years of age, though his father continues to spend much of his time in India. As a young man he works in London at the tea brokerage owned by his uncle and it is at this time that he begins to develop his interest in literature and literary criticism.
In 1910 Figgis, with the help of G. K. Chesterton, who wrote the introduction to his first book of verse, joins the Dent publishing company. He moves to Achill Island in 1913 to write, learn the Irish language and gain an appreciation of Irish culture, as perceived by many of his contemporaries to uniquely exist on the western seaboard. On his detention following the 1916 Easter Rising, he and the publishing house parted company. Subsequently, he establishes his own firm in which he republishes the works of William Carleton and others.
Figgis joins the Irish Volunteers in Dublin in 1913 and organises the original Battalion of Volunteers in Achill, where he had built a house. While in London, he is contacted by The O’Rahilly, who acquaints him with the arms dealers who had supplied the Ulster Volunteers. In this way he becomes part of the London group that discusses the financing and supply of German rifles for the Volunteers. He travels with Erskine Childers, initially to Belgium and from there to Germany, to make the purchase of the army surplusMauser rifles. He then charters the tug Gladiator, from which the arms are transferred at sea to the Childers’ yacht Asgard and Conor O’Brien‘s Kelpie.
At this time the Royal Navy is patrolling the Irish Sea in anticipation of imminent war with Germany, and Figgis is tasked with taking a motor boat to Lambay Island to signal to the Asgard the all-clear. By his own account, he is unable to persuade the skipper of the pilot vessel to put to sea as one of the worst storms in many years is raging. Due to luck and the skill of the crews, the three over-laden yachts arrive at their destinations. Figgis, accompanied by Seán McGarry, watch Asgard helplessly from Howth pier until Erskine decides to take a calculated risk and sails into the harbour. Against the odds, the conspiracy to buy rifles in Germany and land them safely in Ireland has succeeded. A large party of Volunteers, on their way to Dublin with rifles and ammunition is confronted by a detachment of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and Dublin Metropolitan Police. With their route blocked, Figgis and Thomas MacDonagh engage the officers in an attempt to distract them.
Although Figgis does not participate in the 1916 Easter Rising, he is arrested and interned by the British authorities between 1916 and 1917 in Reading Gaol. After his release, he returns to Ireland. At the 1917 Sinn Féin Ardfheis he and Austin Stack are elected Honorary Secretaries of the party. The conference sees Éamon de Valera replace Arthur Griffith as President of the party. Shortly after, Figgis is one of four recently released internees who travels to the South Longford constituency to campaign for Joseph McGuinness in the by-election caused by the death of John Phillips. The overwhelming victory of the Sinn Féin candidate over the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) nominee marks the beginning of the eclipse of the latter party by the former party. In May 1918, Figgis is arrested for his alleged part in the spurious German Plot a second time and again deported to England. In 1918, he becomes editor of the newspaper The Republic.
From September 1919 to 1921 Figgis heads the Commission of Inquiry into the Resources and Industries of Ireland. At this time a serious rift between Figgis and Michael Collins, then Minister for Finance, becomes a matter of public record. This close attention of Collins will pursue Figgis in his later activities on the Constitution Committee. While he is participating in a Dáil Court at Carrick-on-Shannon, the proceedings are interrupted by a British Army raid. An officer named Captain Cyril Crawford summarily condemns Figgis and Peadar Kearney to be hanged. He orders rope for the purpose, but another officer intervenes and Keaney and Figgis are set free.
Figgis supports the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He is extremely critical of the Collins/De Valera Pact for the June 1922 Irish general election which is an attempt to avoid a split in the Sinn Féin party and, more importantly, in the Irish Republican Army (IRA). On May 25, 1922 he attends a meeting of the executive council of the Farmers’ Union and representatives, of business interests, and encourages them to put forward candidates in constituencies where anti-Treaty candidates might otherwise head the poll. As he is a member of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle National Executive at the time, he is expelled from the party.
Soon after the signing of the Treaty, the necessity of quickly drafting a constitution for the proposed Free State becomes apparent. It is intended by Arthur Griffith that Figgis will chair the Constitution Committee, but this proposal is vetoed by Collins who nominates himself for the position specifically to minimise Figgis’ influence. The animosity between Collins and Figgis remained an undercurrent of the project. In the end, Collins decides the job should go to Captain David Robinson but this did nothing to heal rift between Figgis and James G. Douglas.
In December 1923, it is decided that a committee be established to investigate the means by which a public radio broadcasting service should be operated in the Free State. A central issue of contention is whether the service should be run and controlled directly by the State or operated commercially by an Irish Broadcasting Company. The latter option, it is suggested, would follow the model adopted in the UK by the establishment of the BBC. Figgis is co-opted onto the committee, and this decision leads to a series of allegations resulting in the new State’s first corruption scandal of which Figgis himself is the focus. The allegations result in his resignation from the Broadcasting committee and the launching of a second enquiry. He strenuously denies any impropriety.
On November 18, 1924, Figgis’s wife Millie commits suicide in the back of a taxi in Rathfarnham using a Webley revolver given to them by Collins following the 1922 assault. A year later, his new love, a 21-year-old Catholic woman named Rita North, dies due to complications when a doctor tries to surgically remove an already dead child. The court, after investigating her death, determines that she died due to peritonitis, an inflammation in the lining of the abdominal cavity. The public, however, jumps to the conclusion that she died in a failed illegal abortion.
Figgis himself commits suicide in a London boarding house in Granville Street on October 27, 1925, just a week after giving evidence at North’s inquest. He had been staying at the Royal Automobile Club until the day before his death, as is usual when he visits London. A small group of mourners comprising close family and friends attend his interment at the Hampstead Cemetery in West Hampstead, London.
Martin first meets John Mitchel while attending Dr. Henderson’s private school in Newry. He receives an Arts degree at Trinity College Dublin in 1832 and proceeds to study medicine, but has to abandon this in 1835 when his uncle dies and he has to return to manage the family landholding.
In 1847 Martin is moved by the Great Famine to join Mitchel in the Repeal Association but subsequently leaves it with Mitchel. He contributes to Mitchel’s journal, United Irishman, and then following Mitchel’s arrest on May 27, 1848, he continues with his own anti-British journal, The Irish Felon, and establishes “The Felon Club.” This leads to a warrant for his arrest, and he turns himself in on July 8, 1848. He is sentenced on August 18, 1848 to ten years transportation to Van Diemen’s Land.
Martin arrives on the Elphinstone with Kevin Izod O’Doherty in Hobart, Tasmania, in November 1849. He accepts a “ticket of leave” which allows him to live in relative freedom at Bothwell, provided he promises not to escape.
While in Tasmania, Martin continues to meet in secret with his fellow exiles Kevin Izod O’Doherty, Thomas Francis Meagher, William Smith O’Brien, and John Mitchel. He and Mitchel live together before the arrival of Mitchel’s wife, Jenny. He chooses not to join Mitchel when Mitchel revokes his ticket of leave and escapes. Instead he remains in Tasmania until he is granted a “conditional pardon” in 1854. This allows him to leave for Paris, and he returns to Ireland on being granted a full pardon in 1856.
On return to Ireland Martin becomes a national organiser for the Tenant Right League. He begins to write for The Nation in 1860. He forms the National League with others in January 1864 – it is mainly an educational organisation but Fenians disrupt its meetings. He remains in contact with Mitchel in Paris through 1866. He opposes the Fenians’ support of armed violence, yet, together with Alexander Martin Sullivan in December 1867, he heads the symbolic funeral march honouring the Manchester Martyrs as it follows the MacManus route to Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. He is briefly arrested for these activities but the charges are dropped.
Martin is in the United States in December 1869 when he is nominated by Isaac Butt and his nationalists as the Irish nationalist Home Rule candidate to oppose Reginald Greville-Nugent, who is supported by the Catholic clergy, in the Longfordby-election. Greville-Nugent initially wins the vote but the result is nullified by Judge Fitzgerald on the grounds that voters had been illegally influenced in the non-secret voting process. In the May 1870 re-run, Butt’s second candidate, Edward Robert King-Harman, like Martin a Protestant landlord, is also defeated, but this time legally.
Contradictions and factionalism are symptomatic of the struggle for influence and leadership at the time between the waning Church of Ireland and the rising Irish Catholic Church. Hence a secular Protestant land-owning, non-violent elite reformist nationalist who desires Home Rule like Martin, can find himself both sympathetic to and at odds with a militant organisation like the Fenians with their Jacobin– and American-influenced ideas of revolutionary republicanism and different social roots. Until Charles Stewart Parnell, the Isaac Butt-originated Home Rule forces could not obtain the support of the Catholic Church under the anti-Fenian CardinalPaul Cullen or manage to achieve more than short-term tactical alliances with Fenians, leading to a split and uncoordinated opposition to British rule. Protestants such as Martin and John Mitchel, with their early political roots in Young Ireland, are, whatever their political ideals, not part of the majority Catholic mainstream, which consists largely of tenants rather than landlords.
In the January 1871 by-election, Martin is elected by a margin of 2–1 to the seat of Meath in the British parliament as the first Home Rule MP, representing first Isaac Butt’s Home Government Association and from November 1873 the Home Rule League. This is unusual for a Protestant in a Catholic constituency, and is a measure of the popular esteem Martin is held in. He retains his seat in the 1874 United Kingdom general election as one of 60 Home Rule members. He is commonly known as “Honest John Martin.” In parliament he speaks strongly for Home Rule for Ireland and opposes Coercion Bills.
Martin dies in Newry, County Down, on March 29, 1875, homeless and in relative poverty, having forgiven tenant fees during preceding years of inflation and low farm prices. His parliamentary seat of County Meath is taken up by Charles Stewart Parnell.
Martin marries Henrietta Mitchel, the youngest sister of John Mitchel, on November 25, 1868, after twenty years of courtship. She shares her husband’s politics, and after his death campaigns for home rule believing this to be a continuation of the Young Ireland mandate. After the split in the party, she sides with Charles Stewart Parnell. She dies at her home in Dublin on July 11, 1913, and is buried in Newry.
Webb is interested in literature and history and begins to write A Compendium of Irish Biography. In 1865, he begins to take a more active interest in Irish politics. He is inspired by the Fenians, although he believes in non-violence and the Fenians of that time believe that Ireland can only gain independence through an armed revolution. He is first elected to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on February 24, 1890, when he wins a by-election for the West Waterford constituency. He is again returned for West Waterford in the 1892 United Kingdom general election, this time as an anti-Parnellite MP. In December 1883, he resigns from the position of Land League treasurer, complaining of Parnell’s “autocratic management of funds.”
Webb’s family takes an interest in the welfare of British colonies and are outspoken opponents of the opium traffic into China. He is a close friend of Dadabhai Naoroji, a key member of the Indian National Congress, who is also a friend of other Irish nationalists including Michael Davitt and Frank Hugh O’Donnell. Naoroji is elected, as a member of the Liberal Party, in 1892, the year of the Liberal landslide to the Finsbury Central Westminster seat. While O’Donnell attempts to involve Naoroji in Irish politics, Webb is invited by Naoroji to preside over the Indian National Congress in 1894.
Webb is a supporter of Anti-Caste, Britain’s first anti-racism journal which fellow Quaker activist Catherine Impey founds in 1888. He is able to rally subscribers and activists for the journal around the world. For example, although he is not a regular subscriber, he and Dadabhai Naoroji co-sign a letter with others to request support for a new association, The Society for the Furtherance of Human Brotherhood.
Traynor is born into a strongly nationalist family in Dublin. He is educated by the Christian Brothers. In 1899, he is apprenticed to John Long, a famous wood-carver. As a young man he is a noted footballer and tours Europe as a goalkeeper with Belfast Celtic F.C. whom he plays with from 1910 to 1912. He rejects claims soccer is a foreign sport calling it “a Celtic game, pure and simple, having its roots in the Highlands of Scotland.”
When the Irish Civil War breaks out in June 1922, Traynor takes the Anti-Treaty IRA side. The Dublin Brigade is split, however, with many of its members following Michael Collins in taking the pro-Treaty side. During the Battle of Dublin he is in charge of the Barry’s Hotel garrison, before making their escape. He organises guerilla activity in south Dublin and County Wicklow, before being captured by Free State troops in September. He is then imprisoned for the remainder of the war.
In 1936, Traynor is first appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. In September 1939, he is appointed Minister for Defence and holds the portfolio to February 1948. In 1948, he becomes President of the Football Association of Ireland, a position he holds until his death. He serves as Minister for Defence in several Fianna Fáil governments and as Minister for Justice, where he is undermined by his junior minister, and later Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, before he retires in 1961.
Traynor dies in Dublin at the age of 77 on December 15, 1963. He has a road named in his memory, running from the Malahide Road through Coolock to Santry in Dublin’s northern suburbs.
(Pictured: Minister for Defence Oscar Traynor at his desk, June 1940)
Mitchel is born in Camnish, near Dungiven, County Derry on November 3, 1815, the son of a Presbyterian minister. At the age of four, he is sent to a classical school, run by an old minister named Moor, nicknamed “Gospel Moor” by the students. He reads books from a very early age. When a little over five years old, he is introduced to Latin grammar by his teacher and makes quick progress. In 1830, not yet 15 years old, he enters Trinity College, Dublin and obtains a law degree in 1834. In the spring of 1836 he meets Jane Verner, the only daughter of Captain James Verner. Though both families are opposed to the relationship, they become engaged in the autumn and are married on February 3, 1837 by the Rev. David Babington in Drumcree Church, the parish church of Drumcree.
In May 1848, the British tire of Mitchel’s open defiance. Ever the legal innovators in Ireland, they invent a crime especially for the Young Irelanders – felony-treason. They arrest him for violating this new law and close down his paper. A rigged jury convicts him, and he is deported first to Bermuda and then to Australia. However, in June 1853, he escapes to the United States.
In 1874, the British allow Mitchel to return to Ireland and in 1875 he is elected in a by-election to be a member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom representing the Tipperary constituency. However his election is invalidated on the grounds that he is a convicted felon. He contests the seat again in the resulting by-election and is again elected, this time with an increased vote.
Unfortunately, Mitchel, one of the staunchest enemies to English rule of Ireland in history, dies eight days later in Newry on March 20, 1875, and is buried there. Thirty-eight years later, his grandson, John Purroy Mitchel, is elected Mayor of New York City.
Born on January 29, 1932, in Clara, County Offaly, Cowen is the son of Christy Cowen, a cattle dealer and a Fianna Fáil member who served as a member of Offaly County Council from 1932 until his death in 1967. He is educated at Clara National School and subsequently attends TullamoreCBS. After completion of his secondary schooling he works in the family business which includes a public house and a butcher shop. He later becomes an auctioneer.
Cowen first becomes involved in politics in 1967, when he is co-opted onto Offaly County Council, following the death of his father. Later that year he heads the poll in the Tullamore area and retains his seat until his death.
A period of political instability follows with three general elections being held throughout 1981 and 1982. Cowen retains his seat in all of these elections. In March 1982, he is finally promoted to junior ministerial level, when he is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture with special responsibility for disadvantaged areas. He holds that position until December of the same year, when Fianna Fáil loses power.
While attending a meeting of Offaly County Council in January 1984, Cowen is taken ill. He is taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin where he dies several days later on January 24, 1984. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and three sons. The consequent by-election for his seat in the 24th Dáil, is won by his second son, Brian, who goes on to serve as Taoiseach from 2008 to 2011. In 2011, Cowen’s youngest son, Barry, is elected to the seat previously held by his father and brother, having previously been an Offaly County Councillor for the Tullamore electoral area.