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


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Michael Collins Made President of the IRB

michael-collinsMichael Collins, who is also a leader in the Irish Republican Army, is made president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) on June 28, 1919.

At the start of the 20th century, the IRB is a stagnating organisation, concerned more with Dublin municipal politics than the establishment of a republic. A younger generation of Ulster republicans aim to change this and, in 1905, Denis McCullough and Bulmer Hobson found the Dungannon Clubs, whose purpose is to discourage enlistment into the British Army and encourage enlistment into the IRB.

In 1909, Michael Collins is introduced to the brotherhood by Sam Maguire. By 1914, the Supreme Council is largely purged of its older, tired leadership, and is dominated by enthusiastic men such as Hobson, McCullough, Patrick McCartan, John MacBride, Seán Mac Diarmada, and Tom Clarke. The latter two are to become the primary instigators of the Easter Rising in 1916.

Following the Rising some republicans, notably Éamon de Valera and Cathal Brugha, leave the organization as they view it as no longer necessary since the Irish Volunteers now perform its function. The IRB, during the War of Independence (1919-1921), is under the control of Michael Collins, who initially is secretary and subsequently, on June 28, 1919, is made president of the Supreme Council.

When the Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed on December 6, 1921, it is debated by the Supreme Council, which votes to accept it by an 11-4 vote. Those who oppose the Treaty include former leader Harry Boland, Austin Stack, and Liam Lynch. Anti-Treaty republicans like Ernie O’Malley, who fought during the Civil War against the Treaty, see the IRB as being used to undermine the Irish Republic.

The IRB becomes quiescent during the Irish Civil War, which ends in May 1923, but it emerges again later that year as a faction within the National Army. It supports Minister for Defence Richard Mulcahy against the “Old IRA,” which fights against the recruitment of ex-British Army personnel and the demobilization of old IRA men. This comes to a head with the Army Mutiny of 1924, in the wake of which Mulcahy resigns and other IRB members of the army are dismissed by acting President of the Executive Council Kevin O’Higgins. The IRB subsequently dissolves itself, although it is not known whether a formal decision is made or it simply ceases to function.


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Birth of Thomas James Clarke, Irish Revolutionary Leader

thomas-james-clarkeThomas James “Tom” Clarke, Irish republican revolutionary leader and arguably the person most responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising, is born to Irish parents on March 11, 1858 at Hurst Castle, Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, England opposite the Isle of Wight. Clarke’s father, a sergeant in the British Army, is transferred to Dungannon, County Tyrone, in 1865 and it is there that Tom grows up.

In 1878, following the visit to Dungannon of John Daly, Clarke joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and soon becomes head of the local IRB circle. In August, in retaliation to the killing of a man by a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), Clarke and other IRB members attack some RIC men in Irish Street but are driven back. Fearing arrest, Clarke flees to the United States.

In 1883, Clarke is sent to London to blow up London Bridge as part of the Fenian dynamite campaign advocated by Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. He is arrested along with three others and tried and sentenced to penal servitude for life on May 28, 1883 at London’s Old Bailey. He subsequently serves 15 years in Pentonville and other British prisons. In 1896, a series of public meetings in Ireland call for the release of Clarke and the other four remaining Fenian prisoners.

Following his release in 1898, Clarke moves to Brooklyn, New York where he marries Kathleen Daly, 21 years his junior and niece of John Daly. Clarke works for the Clan na Gael under John Devoy. In 1906, the couple moves to a 30-acre farm in Manorville, New York and purchases another 30 acres in 1907 shortly before returning to Ireland.

In Ireland, Clarke opens a tobacconist shop in Dublin and immerses himself in the IRB which is undergoing a substantial rejuvenation under the guidance of younger men such as Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough.

Clarke takes a keen interest when the Irish Volunteers are formed in 1913 but takes no part in the organisation feeling that his criminal record would lend discredit to the Volunteers. With several IRB members taking important roles in the Volunteers, it becomes clear that the IRB will have substantial to total control of the Volunteers. This proves largely to be the case until John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, demands the Provisional Committee accept 25 additional members of the Party’s choosing, giving IPP loyalists a majority stake. Though most of the hard-liners stand against this, Redmond’s decree is accepted, partially due to the support given by Bulmer Hobson. Clarke never forgives him for what he considers a treasonous act.

Following Clarke’s falling out with Hobson, Sean MacDermott and Clarke become almost inseparable. In 1915, Clarke and MacDermott establish the Military Committee of the IRB to plan what later becomes the Easter Rising. The members are Patrick PearseÉamonn Ceannt, and Joseph Plunkett, with Clarke and MacDermott adding themselves shortly thereafter. When Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa dies in 1915, Clarke uses his funeral to mobilise the Volunteers and heighten expectation of imminent action. When an agreement was reached with James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army in January 1916, Connolly is added to the committee. Thomas MacDonagh is added at the last minute in April. These seven men are the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic, with Clarke as the first signatory.

Clarke is stationed at headquarters in the General Post Office during the events of Easter Week of 1916, where rebel forces are largely composed of Irish Citizen Army members under the command of Connolly. Though he holds no formal military rank, Clarke is recognised by the garrison as one of the commanders and is active throughout the week in the direction of the fight. Following their surrender on April 29, Clarke is held in Kilmainham Gaol until his execution by firing squad on May 3 at the age of 59. He is the second person to be executed following Patrick Pearse.

Before his execution, Clarke asks his wife to give this message to the Irish People:

“I and my fellow signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for Irish freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief, we die happy.”


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Birth of Irish Revolutionary Leader Seán Mac Diarmada

sean-mac-diarmadaSeán Mac Diarmada, Irish political activist and revolutionary leader also known as Seán MacDermott, is born in Corranmore, near Kiltyclogher in County Leitrim on February 28, 1883. He is one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 and a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Mac Diarmada is educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. He moves to Dublin in 1908, by which time he already has a long involvement in several Irish separatist and cultural organisations, including Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Gaelic League. He is soon promoted to the Supreme Council of the IRB and is eventually elected secretary.

In 1910, he becomes manager of the radical newspaper Irish Freedom, which he founds along with Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough. He also becomes a national organiser for the IRB and is taken under the wing of veteran Fenian Tom Clarke and the two become nearly inseparable. Shortly afterward, Mac Diarmada is stricken with polio and is forced to walk with a cane.

In November 1913, Mac Diarmada is one of the original members of the Irish Volunteers and continues to work to bring the organisation under IRB control. Mac Diarmada is arrested in Tuam, County Galway, in May 1915 under the Defense of the Realm Act for giving a speech against enlisting into the British Army.

Following his release in September 1915, Mac Diarmada joins the secret Military Committee of the IRB, which is responsible for planning the rising.

Due to his disability, Mac Diarmada has little participation in the fighting of Easter week, but is stationed at the headquarters in the General Post Office (GPO), as one of the Provisional Republican Government. Following the surrender on April 29, 1916, he nearly escapes execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners but is eventually identified by Daniel Hoey of G Division. Following a May 9 court-martial, Mac Diarmada, at the age of 33, is executed by firing squad. Before his execution, Mac Diarmada writes, “I feel happiness the like of which I have never experienced. I die that the Irish nation might live!”

In September 1919, Hoey is shot dead by Michael Collins’s Squad. Likewise, the British Officer who ordered Mac Diarmada to be shot rather than imprisoned, is also killed in Cork on Collins’s order during the Irish War of Independence.

Seán MacDermott Street in Dublin, Mac Diarmada rail station in Sligo, and Páirc Sheáin Mhic Dhiarmada, the Gaelic Athletic Association stadium in Carrick-on-Shannon are named in his honour. Sean MacDermott tower in Ballymun, demolished in 2005, was also named after him. In his hometown of Kiltyclogher a statue enscribed with his final written words is erected in the village centre and his childhood home has become a National Monument.

Mac Diarmada will be portrayed by actor Colin Morgan in the 2016 Irish historical biopic drama film, The Rising, written by Kevin McCann and Colin Broderick.