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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Eoin O’Duffy, Political Activist & Police Commissioner

Eoin O’Duffy, Irish political activist, soldier, police commissioner and organizer of the infamous Blueshirts, is born in Castleblayney, County Monaghan, on October 20, 1892.

O’Duffy does an apprenticeship as an engineer in Wexford before working as an engineer and architect in Monaghan. In 1919 he becomes an auctioneer. He is a leading member of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ulster in the 1910s. In 1912 he is appointed secretary of the Ulster provincial council. He is also a member of Harps’ Gaelic Football Club.

O’Duffy joins the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1917 and is the leader of the Monaghan Brigade of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence and in this capacity becomes Chief of Staff of the IRA in 1922. He is one of the Irish activists who along with Michael Collins accepts the Anglo-Irish Treaty and fights as a general in the Irish Civil War on the pro-Treaty side.

Professionally, O’Duffy becomes the second Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, the police force of the new Irish Free State, after the Civic Guard Mutiny and the subsequent resignation of Michael Staines. He holds this post until 1933, when he is dismissed by Éamon de Valera. In his political life O’Duffy is an early member of Sinn Féin, founded by Arthur Griffith. He is elected as a Teachta Dála (TD) for his home county of Monaghan during the 1921 election.

After a split in 1923 he becomes associated with Cumann na nGaedheal and becomes head of a veterans group then known as the Army Comrades Association. O’Duffy changes its name to “National Guard” and begins to stage fascist-style rallies and adopts a fascist salute. Its members begin to wear blue uniform shirts and become known as the Blueshirts. When government opposition groups form Fine Gael in September 1933, he becomes its first president, reaching the apex of his political power.

Subsequently, the government bans O’Duffy’s National Guard, as well as the group he creates to replace it, the Young Ireland Association, which he in turn replaces with the League of Youth, but their blue shirts indicate its continued fascist ideology. Fine Gael’s other leaders soon tire of his inflammatory rhetoric and the frequent violent behavior of the Blueshirts, but are still surprised when their opposition causes him to resign his party leadership in September 1934. He is then ousted as leader of the Blueshirts as well, but does retain a small loyal following.

An anti-communist, O’Duffy is attracted to the various authoritarian nationalist movements on the Continent. In 1936, he raises the Irish Brigade to fight for Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War as an act of Catholic solidarity and is inspired by Benito Mussolini‘s Italy to found the National Corporate Party. He offers to Nazi Germany the prospect of raising an Irish Brigade to fight in Operation Barbarossa during World War II on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, but this is not taken up.

Eoin O’Duffy takes no further part in Irish politics and dies in Dublin on November 30, 1944. In spite of his later politics, he is given a state funeral for his earlier contributions to the Irish government. He is buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.

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Birth of Bartholomew “Batt” O’Connor

Bartholomew “Batt” O’Connor, Cumann na nGaedheal and Fine Gael politician, is born in Brosna, County Kerry, on July 4, 1870. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin County from 1924 to 1935.

At seventeen O’Connor leaves school to become a stonemason. In October 1893, at the age of 23, he goes to Boston, where he stays five years. On his return to Ireland, he moves to Dublin, where he soon establishes himself as a “speculative builder” constructing houses in Anglesea Road, Dolphin’s Barn, Eglington Road, Brendan Road, and Donnybrook.

O’Connor joins the Gaelic League in 1900, through which he comes into contact with many of the future leaders of the Independence movement, including Tom Clarke and Seán Mac Diarmada. He is sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in 1909 and enrolls in the Irish Volunteers in 1913, the same night as Éamon de Valera.

While not directly involved during the Easter Rising, O’Connor is recognised and arrested on his return to Dublin and sent to Kilmainham Gaol, then to Richmond Barracks, Wandsworth Prison, and finally to Frongoch internment camp, in North Wales.

On his release in September 1916, O’Connor re-establishes his business and takes up his political activities. He reconnects with members of the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League at 46 Parnell Square, and takes part in the re-organising of the fragmented IRB. He canvasses for by-elections in Kilkenny and Armagh on behalf of Sinn Féin candidates W. T. Cosgrave and Patrick McCartan.

O’Connor is involved with the revolutionary Sinn Féin party during the time of the First Dáil, handling money and hiding documents for Michael Collins. He purchases 76 Harcourt Street for Michael Collins, following a raid on the Sinn Féin Office at No. 6. There he installs a secret recess for private papers and means of escape through the skylight. When the recess escapes discovery following a raid, he goes on to construct hiding places in many of the other houses used by the movement. He is one of the shareholders of the National Land Bank which is set up in March 1920 at 68 Lower Leeson Street.

O’Connor plays a role in the “National Loan,” raised by Collins to fund the fledgling Dáil Éireann. The loan, which had been declared illegal, is lodged in the individual bank accounts of the trustees. The gold is kept under the floor of O’Connor’s house until 1922.

O’Connor takes the pro-Treaty side during the subsequent split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He is an unsuccessful candidate for Dáil Éireann at the 1923 general election, in the Dublin County constituency.

After the death in November 1923 of Cumann na nGaedheal TD Michael Derham, O’Connor is the Cumann na nGaedheal candidate at the Dublin County by-election on March 19, 1924, when he is elected to the 4th Dáil ahead of Seán MacEntee. He retains his seat at the next four general elections, joining Fine Gael when Cumann na nGaedheal merges in 1933 with the National Centre Party and the Blueshirts. He serves as a Trustee of Cumann na nGaedheal.

After his death on February 7, 1935, the 1935 Dublin County by-election is won by Cecil Lavery of Fine Gael.


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First Edition of the “Irish Independent” Printed

irish-independent-first-issueThe first edition of the Irish Independent, flagship publication of Independent News & Media (INM) and Ireland’s largest-selling daily newspaper, is printed on January 2, 1905.

The Irish Independent is formed in 1905 as the direct successor to the Daily Irish Independent, an 1890s pro-Parnellite newspaper, and is launched by William Martin Murphy, a controversial Irish nationalist businessman, staunch anti-Parnellite and fellow townsman of Charles Stewart Parnell‘s most venomous opponent, Bantry’s Timothy Michael Healy.

During the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913, in which Murphy is the leading figure among the employers, the Irish Independent vigorously sides with its owner’s interests, publishing news reports and opinion pieces hostile to the strikers, expressing confidence in the unions’ defeat and launching personal attacks on the leader of the strikers, James Larkin. The Irish Independent describes the 1916 Easter Rising as “insane and criminal” and famously calls for the shooting of its leaders. In December 1919, during the Irish War of Independence, a group of twenty Irish Republican Army (IRA) men destroy the printing works of the paper, angered at its criticism of the IRA’s attacks on members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and British government officials. In 1924, the traditional nationalist newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal, merges with the Irish Independent. Until October 1986 the paper’s masthead over the editorial contains the words “incorporating the Freeman’s Journal.”

For most of its history, the Irish Independent is seen as a nationalist, Catholic, anti-Communist, newspaper which gives its political allegiance to the Pro-Treaty party Cumann na nGaedheal and later its successor party, Fine Gael. During the Spanish Civil War, the Irish Independent‘s coverage is strongly pro-Franco and the paper criticizes the De Valera government for not intervening on behalf of the Spanish Nationalists.

In the 1970s, the Irish Independent is taken over by former Heinz chairman Tony O’Reilly. Under his leadership, it becomes a more populist, market liberal newspaper — populist on social issues but economically right-wing. By the mid-nineties its allegiance to Fine Gael has ended. In the 1997 general election, it endorses Fianna Fáil under a front page editorial entitled “It’s Payback Time.” While it suggests its headline refers to the fact that the election offers a chance to “pay back” politicians for their failings, its opponents suggest that the “payback” actually refers to its chance to get revenge for the refusal of the Rainbow Coalition to award the company a mobile phone licence.

In late 2004, Independent Newspapers moves from their traditional home in Middle Abbey Street to a new office, “Independent House” in Talbot Street, with the printing facilities already relocated to the Citywest business park near Tallaght.

On September 27, 2005, a fortnight after the paper publishes its centenary edition, it is announced that editor Vinnie Doyle will step down after 24 years in the position. He is replaced by Gerry O’Regan, who has until then been editor of the Irish Independent‘s sister paper, the Evening Herald. The newspaper’s previous editor Stephen Rae is also formerly editor of the Evening Herald and is appointed editor in September 2012. Fionnan Sheahan is appointed editor in January 2015.

In January 2008, at the same time as completing the purchase of Today FM, Ireland’s last national radio station independent of Denis O’Brien and state broadcaster RTÉ, O’Brien increases his INM shareholding to become the company’s second-largest shareholder behind Tony O’Reilly. In May 2008, O’Brien ousts O’Reilly and acquires a majority shareholding. Traditionally a broadsheet newspaper, it introduces an additional compact size in 2004 and in December 2012, following O’Brien’s takeover, it is announced that the newspaper will become compact only.

(Pictured: the first edition of the Irish Independent)


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Establishment of the Irish Free State

free-state-executive-councilThe Irish Free State (Irish: Saorstát Éireann), an independent state established under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921, comes into being on December 6, 1922. The treaty ends the three-year Irish War of Independence between the forces of the self-proclaimed Irish Republic, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and British Crown forces.

The Free State is established as a Dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations. For one day, it encompasses all thirty-two counties of Ireland. Northern Ireland, which is comprised of the six northernmost counties, exercises its right under the Treaty to opt out of the new state on December 7.

The Free State government consists of the Governor-General, the representative of the king, and the Executive Council, which replaces both the revolutionary Dáil Government and the Provisional Government set up under the Treaty. W. T. Cosgrave, who had led both of these governments since August 1922, becomes the first President of the Executive Council. The legislature consists of Dáil Éireann, the lower house, and Seanad Éireann, also known as the Senate. Members of the Dáil are required to take an Oath of Allegiance, swearing fidelity to the king. The oath is a key issue for opponents of the Treaty, who refuse to take the oath and therefore do not take their seats. Pro-Treaty members, who form Cumann na nGaedheal in 1923, hold an effective majority in the Dáil from 1922 to 1927, and thereafter rule as a minority government until 1932.

In the first months of the Free State, the Irish Civil War is waged between the newly established National Army and the anti-Treaty IRA, who refuse to recognise the state. The Civil War ends in victory for the government forces, with the anti-Treaty forces dumping its arms in May 1923. The anti-Treaty political party, Sinn Féin, refuses to take its seats in the Dáil, leaving the relatively small Labour Party as the only opposition party. In 1926, when Sinn Féin president Éamon de Valera fails to have this policy reversed, he resigns from Sinn Féin and founds Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil enters the Dáil following the 1927 general election, and enters government after the Irish general election of 1932, when it becomes the largest party.

De Valera abolishes the Oath of Allegiance and embarks on an economic war with Britain. In 1937 he drafts a new constitution, which is passed by a referendum in July of that year. The Free State comes to an end with the coming into force of the new constitution on December 29, 1937. Under the new constitution the Irish state is named Ireland.

(Pictured: The Executive Council of the Irish Free State, October 1928)


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The 1932 Irish General Election

1932-general-electionAn Irish general election is held on February 16, 1932, just over two weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil on January 29. The general election takes place in 30 parliamentary constituencies throughout the Irish Free State for 153 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann. The 1932 general election is one of the most important general elections held in Ireland in the 20th Century, resulting in the formation of the first Fianna Fáil government. Fianna Fáil becomes the largest party and would continue to be the largest party in Dáil Éireann and at every general election until 2011.

Cumann na nGaedheal fights the general election on its record of providing ten years of stable government. The party brings stability following the chaos of the Irish Civil War and provides honest government. However, by 1932 support of the government is wearing thin, particularly since the party has no solution to the collapse in trade which follows the depression of the early 1930s. Instead of offering new policies the party believes that its record in government will be enough to retain power. Cumann na nGaedheal also employs “red scare” tactics, describing Fianna Fáil as communists and likening Éamon de Valera to Joseph Stalin.

In comparison, Fianna Fáil has an elaborate election programme designed to appeal to a wide section of the electorate. It plays down its republicanism to avoid alarm but provides very popular social and economic policies. The party promises to free Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners, abolish the Oath of allegiance, and reduce the powers of the Governor-General and the Senate. It also promises the introduction of protectionist policies, industrial development, self-sufficiency, and improvements in housing and social security benefits.

The election campaign between the two ideologically opposed parties is reasonably peaceful. However, during the campaign the government prosecutes de Valera’s newly established newspaper, The Irish Press. The editor is also brought before a military tribunal. This is seen by many as a major blunder and a serious infringement on the belief of freedom of speech. The “red scare” tactics also seemed to backfire on the government, who seem to have little else to offer the electorate.

When the results are known Fianna Fáil is still 5 seats short of an overall majority but looks like the only party capable of forming a government. Discussions get underway immediately after the election and an agreement is reached in which the Labour Party would support Fianna Fáil. The party now has the necessary votes to form a minority government.

On March 9, 1932, the first change of government in the Irish Free State takes place. Similar to when the party first enters the Dáil in 1927, a number of Fianna Fáil Teachtaí Dála (TDs) have guns in their pockets. However, the feared coup d’état does not take place. W. T. Cosgrave is determined to adhere to the principles of democracy that he has practised while in government. Likewise, the army, Garda Síochána, and the civil service all accept the change of government, despite the fact that they will now be taking orders from men who had been their enemies less than ten years previously. After a brief and uneventful meeting in the Dáil chamber, Éamon de Valera is appointed President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State by the Governor-General, James McNeill, who has come to Leinster House to make the appointment rather than require de Valera travel to the Viceregal Lodge, formerly a symbol of British rule. Fianna Fáil, the party most closely identified with opposing the existence of the state ten years earlier, is now the party of government. The 1932 general election is the beginning of a sixteen-year period in government for Fianna Fáil.