Boland is the son of Irish Republican Brotherhood member James Boland and Kate Woods. He was active in GAA circles in early life, and referees the 1914 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final. He joins the IRB at the same time as his older brother Gerald in 1904, following in the footsteps of his father, uncle and probably grandfather. He is educated at the Synge Street CBS, but hads a personality clash with one of the brothers so he refuses to carry on his attendance at the school. He then goes to De la Salle College, County Laois, as a novice.
In the 1922 Irish general election, Boland is re-elected to the Dáil representing Mayo South–Roscommon South. Six weeks later, on July 31, he is shot by soldiers of the National Army when they attempt to arrest him at the Skerries Grand Hotel. Two officers enter his room and, although unarmed, he is shot and mortally wounded during a struggle.
Boland’s death affects Collins and possibly spurs him toward peace negotiations with Éamon de Valera.
Boland’s brother, Gerald Boland, is a prominent member of Fianna Fáil and later serves as Minister for Justice. His nephew, Kevin Boland, serves as a Minister until he resigns in solidarity with the two ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, who are sacked from the government in May 1970 during the Arms Crisis. Kevin Boland’s resignation from Fianna Fáil and the subsequent loss of his seat marks the end of an era for the Boland political dynasty.
In the 1991 TV movie The Treaty, Boland is portrayed by Malcolm Douglas. In the 1996 film Michael Collins, he is portrayed by American actor Aidan Quinn. The film is criticised for fictionalising both Boland’s death and Collins’ life.
Founded in 1970 from the New Ulster Movement, the Alliance Party originally represents moderate and non-sectarian unionism. However, over time, particularly in the 1990s, it moves towards neutrality on the Union, and has come to represent wider liberal and non-sectarian concerns. It supports the Good Friday Agreement but maintains a desire for the reform of the political system toward a non-sectarian future. In the Northern Ireland Assembly, it is designated as neither unionist nor Irish nationalist, but “Other.”
Pigott is born in Ratoath, County Meath, in 1835, the son of George Pigott of Ratoath, and his wife, a woman from Roscommon. As a young man he supports Irish nationalism and works on the publications The Nation and The Tablet before acting as manager of The Irishman, a newspaper founded by Denis Holland. James O’Connor later claims Pigott embezzled funds from The Irishman and covered his tracks by not keeping written records. He also works for the Irish National Land League, departing in 1883 after accusing its treasurer, Mr. Fagan, of being unable to account for £100,000 (equivalent to £10,700,000 in 2021) of its funds and for keeping inadequate records. Nothing is done about his accusation, and he turns against the League, which is allied to the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) led by the League’s president, Charles Stewart Parnell.
In 1879 Pigott is proprietor of three newspapers, which he soon sells to the League. Hitherto a zealous nationalist, from 1884 onwards he vilifies his former associates and sells information to their political opponents. In an effort to destroy Parnell’s career, he forges several letters which purport that Parnell had supported the perpetrators of the Phoenix Park murders of 1882.
The Times purchases Pigott’s forgeries for £1,780 (equivalent to £211,000 in 2021) and publishes the most damning letter on April 18, 1887. Parnell immediately denounces it as “a villainous and barefaced forgery.” In February 1889, the Parnell Commission vindicates him by proving that the letters are fake. They included misspellings (specifically ‘hesitency [sic]’) which Pigott had written elsewhere. A libel action instituted by Parnell also vindicates him, and his parliamentary career survives the Pigott accusations.
The Commission eventually produces thirty-seven volumes of evidence, covering not just the forgeries but also the surrounding violence that follows from the Plan of Campaign.
After admitting his forgeries to Henry Labouchère, Pigott flees to Spain and apparently shoots himself on March 1, 1889, in a hotel room in Madrid, a city in which O’Shea has a network of connections, and Pigott himself apparently has none. Parnell then sues The Times for libel, and the newspaper pays him £5,000 (equivalent to £588,000 in 2021) in an out-of-court settlement, as well as considerably more in legal fees. When Parnell next enters the House of Commons, he receives a hero’s reception from his fellow Members of Parliament.
(Pictured: Pigott as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, March 1889)
Christian is considered one of the best Irish lawyers of his time, but as a judge, he regularly courts controversy. His bitter and sarcastic temper and open contempt for most of his colleagues leads to frequent clashes both in Court and in the Press. Though he is rebuked for misconduct several times by the House of Commons, no serious thought seems to be given to removing him from office.
Christian’s early years at the Bar are not successful, and he admits to being near to despair at times about his prospects. His practice lays in the Court of Chancery (Ireland). Chancery procedures are extremely complex and he finds them at first almost unintelligible. Gradually he masters the intricacies of Chancery practice and becomes a leader of the Bar, taking silk in 1841. It is said that his expertise in Chancery procedures leaves even the Lord Chancellor himself quite unable to argue with him.
Christian is appointed Law Adviser to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, an influential post which involves assisting the Attorney General and Solicitor General in advising the Crown in 1850, but resigns after only a few months, on the ground that it interferes with his private practice. He is appointed Third Sergeant later the same year but resigns in 1855, allegedly because he is disappointed at not receiving further promotion. Promotion does in time come his way. He is appointed Solicitor General the following year and a judge of the Court of Common Pleas in 1858. He is unusual in having no strong political loyalty. It is said that his political allegiance is known only to himself.
As a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Christian gets on well with his colleagues, and any dissenting judgements he writes are short and courteous. It is after his appointment as a Lord Justice of Appeal in Chancery in 1867 that his behaviour begins to attract unfavourable comment, as he goes out of his way to court controversy on a wide variety of topics.
Christian develops a deep contempt for the Irish Reports, castigating them in open Court as “nonsense,” “worthless rubbish” and “disjointed twaddle.” All attempts by colleagues to get him to moderate his language fail. He threatens to refuse to let his judgements be reported, and in his last years, his relations with the law reporters are so bad that they simply publish their uncorrected notes of his decisions rather than sending them to the judge for revision.
In 1867 a new office of Vice-Chancellor for Ireland is created. It is filled throughout its existence by one man, Hedges Eyre Chatterton, who retires in 1904. Despite his length of service, he is not considered a judge of the first rank, and Christian evidently combines feelings of professional contempt with a personal dislike for him. Christian usually votes on appeals to overturn his judgments, and frequently adds personal attacks on Chatterton, despite protests from his colleagues. The feud between the two judges reaches the Press in 1870 when The Irish Times, without naming them, quotes one judge’s opinion that another is “lazy, stupid, conceited and dogmatic.” Although Christian denies it, it is universally believed that he is the author of the remarks, which are aimed at Chatterton. Chatterton is fortunate in enjoying the support of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Thomas O’Hagan, 1st Baron O’Hagan, who is also on bad terms with Christian.
Christian had worked well with Abraham Brewster, O’Hagan’s predecessor, whom he respected. For O’Hagan on the other hand, he feels the same dislike and contempt which he felt for Chatterton. Although they served together in the Court of Common Pleas without any obvious conflict, Christian considers O’Hagan’s appointment as Lord Chancellor to be a purely political act, and that he is unfit to be either head of the judiciary or an appeal judge in Chancery. He also complains of what he sees as O’Hagan’s laziness, which puts an extra burden on him. During O’Hagan’s first term as Chancellor, Christian subjects him to constant criticism. Unwisely he does not confine these attacks to the Courtroom but publishes numerous pamphlets, which is widely seen as improper conduct in a judge. When O’Hagan becomes Chancellor for the second time, a friend congratulates him on escaping from “the misnamed Christian” who had retired two years earlier.
It is probably Christian’s feud with O’Hagan which leads to his extraordinary decision to publicly attack the House of Lords for reversing, by a majority including O’Hagan, his judgment in O’Rorke v Bolingbroke. In a letter to The Times in 1877, whose content has been described as “astounding,” he questions the Law Lords knowledge of equity. While he singles out Lord Blackburn for criticism, it is likely that he also intends to harm O’Hagan’s reputation.
A major source of contention between Christian and O’Hagan is the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act 1870, which O’Hagan steers through Parliament. The Act provides for compensation for tenants in the event of eviction. Christian, though he is not a landowner and is not as a rule much interested in politics, objects strongly to the policy of the Act, which he believes to be most unjust to landlords. His attacks from the Bench on the Act lead to serious rebukes both from the House of Commons and from the Press, which comment on the impropriety of a judge attacking an Act of Parliament, which it is his duty to enforce.
O’Hagan’s retirement does nothing to lessen Christian’s ill-temper. Other judges come in for attack, including Lord Chief Justice of IrelandJames Whiteside, whom he accuses of speaking constantly on matters of which he is ignorant. In his later years, he seems to be a lonely and isolated figure. His vigorous opposition to the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act 1877 is entirely unsuccessful. A feeling of isolation may partly explain his decision to retire, though certainly his increasing deafness also plays a part.
V.T.H. Delaney praises Christian as a great master of equity, a man of great learning and a judge with a great desire to see justice done, but he does not deny that Christian loved controversy. Even his supporters spoke of “arrows too sharply pointed.” Critics spoke of his “spirit of personal sarcasm, cold, keen and cynical.” No doubt Christian was genuinely concerned to uphold high standards of judicial conduct, but as Daire Hogan points out, his own conduct struck most observers as far more improper than anything he complained of in others.
Spring Rice first stands for election in Limerick City in 1818 but is defeated by the Tory incumbent, John Vereker, by 300 votes. He wins the seat in 1820 and enters the House of Commons. He positions himself as a moderate unionist reformer who opposes the radical nationalist politics of Daniel O’Connell, and becomes known for his expertise on Irish and economic affairs. In 1824 he leads the committee which establishes the Ordnance Survey in Ireland.
The Whig government falls in November 1834, after which Spring Rice attempts to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons in early 1835. When the Whigs return to power under Melbourne in April 1835, he is made Chancellor of the Exchequer. As Chancellor, he has to deal with crop failures, a depression and rebellion in North America, all of which create large deficits and put considerable strain on the government. His Church Rate Bill of 1837 is quickly abandoned and his attempt to revise the charter of the Bank of Ireland ends in humiliation. Unhappy as Chancellor, he again tries to be elected as Speaker, but fails. He is a dogmatic figure, described by Lord Melbourne as “too much given to details and possessed of no broad views.” Upon his departure from office in 1839, he has become a scapegoat for the government’s many problems. That same year he is raised to the peerage as Baron Monteagle of Brandon, in the County of Kerry, a title intended earlier for his ancestor Sir Stephen Rice. He is also Comptroller General of the Exchequer from 1835 to 1865, despite Lord Howick‘s initial opposition to the maintenance of the office. He differs from the government regarding the exchequer control over the treasury, and the abolition of the old exchequer is already determined upon when he dies.
From 1839 Spring Rice largely retires from public life, although he occasionally speaks in the House of Lords on matters generally relating to government finance and Ireland. He vehemently opposes John Russell, 1st Earl Russell‘s policy regarding the Irish famine, giving a speech in the Lords in which he says the government had “degraded our people, and you, English, now shrink from your responsibilities.”
Spring Rice is well regarded in Limerick, where he is seen as a compassionate landlord and a good politician. An advocate of traditional Whiggism, he strongly believes in ensuring society is protected from conflict between the upper and lower classes. Although a pious Anglican, his support for Catholic emancipation wins him the favour of many Irishmen, most of whom are Roman Catholic. He leads the campaign for better county government in Ireland at a time when many Irish nationalists are indifferent to the cause. During the Great Famine of the 1840s, he responds to the plight of his tenants with benevolence. The ameliorative measures he implements on his estates almost bankrupts the family and only the dowry from his second marriage saves his financial situation. A monument in honour of him still stands in the People’s Park in Limerick.
Even so, Spring Rice’s reputation in Ireland is not entirely favourable. In a book regarding assisted emigration from Ireland, a process in which a landlord pays for their tenants’ passage to the United States or Australia, Moran suggests that Spring Rice was engaged in the practice. In 1838, he is recorded as having “helped” a boat load of his tenants depart for North America, thereby allowing himself the use of their land. However, he is also recorded as being in support of state-assisted emigration across the British Isles, suggesting that his motivation is not necessarily selfish.
On February 1, 1998, up to 40,000 people march from the nationalistCreggan estate to the Bogside area of Derry to commemorate the 26th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and to remember the 14 people who died after paratroopers opened fire during disturbances 26 years earlier. Organisers say it is one of the biggest Bloody Sunday marches to date.
Jean Heggarty, whose brother Kevin was among those killed on January 31, 1972, pays tribute to the families’ quest for truth. “The families have never doubted the truth would survive. Due to their determination 26 years later, Tony Blair stated in the House of Commons that he would establish the truth,” she says.
John Kelly, whose brother Michael was killed, says, “The families have had a long struggle but what Tony Blair has said has really surprised us. I think we are in a more jovial mood after that announcement.”
McGuinness includes in his remarks General Sir Robert Ford, who was Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland at the time of the killings. “I think the role of General Ford in particular is going to come under the microscope,” he says. “If people such as General Ford are found to be complicit in the killings then I think they should be subjected to proceedings in the courts. The implications of all that are enormous for the British establishment.”
In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, General Ford told the BBC that his men had returned only three shots after having between 10 and 20 rounds fired at them.
(From: “Special Report: Remembering Bloody Sunday,” BBC News, news.bbc.co.uk, February 1, 1998 | Pictured: In driving rain, relatives lay wreaths at the Bloody Sunday memorial)
Carey enters the bookselling and printing business in 1775 and, at the age of seventeen, publishes a pamphlet criticizing dueling. He follows this with a work criticizing the severity of the Irish penal code, and another criticizing Parliament. As a result, the British House of Commons threatens him with prosecution. In 1781 he flees to Paris as a political refugee. There he meets Benjamin Franklin, the ambassador representing the American Revolutionary forces, which achieves independence that year. Franklin takes Carey to work in his printing office.
Carey works for Franklin for a year before returning to Ireland, where he edits two Irish nationalist newspapers, the Freeman’s Journal and The Volunteer’s Journal. He gains passage on a ship to emigrate to the newly independent United States in September 1784.
Upon Carey’s arrival in Philadelphia, he finds that Franklin has recommended him to Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who gives him a $400 check to establish himself. He uses this money to set up a new publishing business and a book shop. He founds The Pennsylvania Herald (1785), Columbian Magazine (1786), and The American Museum (1787). None of these ventures proves very profitable. The American Museum is the first American periodical to treat American culture as rich and original, instead of a poor imitation of Great Britain’s. He prints the first American version of the Douay–Rheims Bible in 48 weekly installments, this Roman Catholic edition popularly known as the Carey Bible. It is the first Roman Catholic version of the Bible printed in the United States. He also prints numerous editions of the King James Version, fundamental to English-speaking peoples.
Carey frequently writes articles on various social topics, including events during the 1793 Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic, which proves a crisis for the city. He reports on debates in the state legislature as well as providing political commentary in his essays. He is a Catholic and a founding member of the American Sunday-School Society, along with Quaker merchant Thomas P. Cope, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Episcopal bishop William White.
In 1822 Carey publishes Essays on Political Economy; or, The Most Certain Means of Promoting the Wealth, Power, Resources, and Happiness of Nations, Applied Particularly to the United States. This is one of the first treatises favoring Alexander Hamilton‘s protectionist economic policy.
During Carey’s lifetime, the publishing firm evolves to M. Carey & Son (1817–21), M. Carey & Sons (1821–24), and then to Carey & Lea (1824). He retires in 1825, leaving the publishing business to his son, Henry Charles Carey and son-in-law Isaac Lea. Lea and Henry Carey make the business economically successful and, for a time, it is one of the most prominent publishers in the country.
Upon arriving in America, Carey quickly develops political connections in the developing country. One of his most important supporters is John Adams, still a leading figure of the Federalist Party at the time. His passionate support for the establishment of an American Navy contributes significantly to his alliance with the Federalists.
Throughout his political career in America, Carey supports the development and maintenance of American naval strength, even after joining Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans in 1796. His political realignment occurs shortly before the American ratification of the Jay Treaty, primarily intended to ensure peace with Britain, while distancing America from France. His publishing in America channels his energy toward productive political objectives. His published works are credited with swaying public opinion toward the establishment of a powerful American navy.
Carey’s book Naval History of the United States, is meant to influence the public. Its conspicuous omission of naval activity during the American Quasi-War with France shows his political intentions. It helps direct political energy against the British, with which the U.S. is at war at the time of the book’s publication on May 6, 1813.
Focus on the British, known around the world for their naval power, makes an influential case for extending the reach of the American navy. Along with his publication of Naval History, Carey writes Olive Branch, published in 1814. He tries to eliminate competition between the two American political parties to create unity during the War of 1812. To many people, these efforts, and his early relationship with Franklin, make him the logical choice as Franklin’s political successor. Scholars believe that he contributed significantly by his books and publications to the establishment of the United States Whig Party.
Carey is elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in 1815. A significant portion of his business papers, as well as a very large number of original copies of works printed and/or published by him reside in the collections of the AAS.
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’Donnell is born in an army barracks in Devon, England, where his father, Sergeant Bernard MacDonald, is stationed. His mother, Mary Kain, is a native of Ballybane, close to Galway city. He is educated at the Erasmus Smith School in Galway, Coláiste Iognáid (the “Jes”), and later enrolls in Queen’s College Galway, where he studies English literature, history and political economy. While a student at the college, he acquires a considerable reputation as an orator, and is a frequent contributor to meetings of the college’s Literary and Debating Society, of which he becomes vice-auditor for the 1864–65 session.
Even in his student days, O’Donnell seems to be quick to voice his opinions, and revells in controversy. In November 1866, addressing the Literary and Debating Society on the question “Was the character of Warren Hastings as Governor-General of India praiseworthy?,” he causes uproar by denouncing “the principle and the system which have lain at the root of the international and intercolonial policy of England, from the days when Elizabeth, the Infamous, chartered for profit two of the first ships which opened the African slave trade.” His remarks cause the chairman of the meeting, Professor Thomas Moffett, to prevent him from continuing his speech, stating that “such an epithet ought not to be applied to any predecessor of our present gracious Queen.” O’Donnell regards such action as an unwarranted restriction on his freedom of speech, and in a letter published in the local press gives an early example of his high-flown literary style:
“I hold that Debating Societies are the nurseries of independent thought, and the training schools of sober criticism. I believe in the power and impartiality of an enlightened studenthood … I have followed the mind of Austin. I have sat at the feet of Cairnes. I have drunk of the philosophy of Mill. I claim for Judicial Science, for Economic Science, for the Philosophy of History, a place in the discussions of our society, I pity and I scorn the formidable confederacy of fools who dare not call a spade a spade.”
This incident, combined with the reluctance of the society to prevent O’Donnell from addressing its meetings, eventually leads to the suspension of the society from the Queen’s College and its temporary migration to rooms in the city of Galway.
O’Donnell graduates from the Queen’s College with an M.A. degree in 1868, winning several gold medals for his academic performance. By this stage, he has begun to style himself ‘Frank Hugh O’Donnell,’ believing himself to be a descendant of Hugh O’Donnell, 2nd Earl of Tyrconnell.
Leaving Galway, O’Donnell moves to London, where he embarks on a career in journalism, following his college contemporary T. P. O’Connor. O’Connor’s knowledge of modern European languages has helped him to establish himself as a correspondent on European affairs, and he assists O’Donnell in developing a similar reputation. He spends a brief period on the staff of The Morning Post.
In the 1874 United Kingdom general election, O’Donnell is elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Galway Borough, but is unseated by the courts in what appears to be a politically inspired judgment which uses certain unsavoury campaigning tactics in which O’Donnell had indulged as its basis. He is succeeded in the seat by his election agent, Dr. Michael Francis Ward, who is himself succeeded in 1880 by T. P. O’Connor in an unusual succession, all three having been either auditor or vice-auditor of the Queen’s College Literary and Debating Society in the same era.
In 1875, O’Donnell is a founding member of the Constitutional Society of India, a group promoting political autonomy for India. In 1877, he secures a more permanent election to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom as MP for Dungarvan. He holds the seat until 1885, when the constituency is abolished. He strikes a colourful and controversial figure in parliament and becomes renowned for his declamatory speech-making. He is a prominent obstructionist and claims credit for inventing the tactic of obstructionism which is to yield such results for the Home Rule League under Charles Stewart Parnell. Indeed, he sees himself as a natural leader and becomes disillusioned when Parnell is selected in May 1880 to succeed William Shaw as leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He calls the British ‘Imperial pirates’ and inaugurates the Constitutional Society of India. Its aim is Home Rule for India, “Mr. O’Donnell’s grand passion in politics was a confederation of all the discontented races of the Empire under the lead of the Irish party. He once brought down some scores of dusky students of all the races and creeds of Hindustan to the House of Commons.”
Parnell refuses to let O’Donnell be nominated in 1885. He leaves the Irish Parliamentary Party and conventional politics, but not its general aims of promoting home rule and tenant farmers’ rights. His last and perhaps most important contribution to the fortunes of the party is the libel case he launches against The Times in 1888 over the series “Parnellism and Crime.” Though the case is lost, it results in the establishment of the Parnell Commission which exonerates Parnell from condoning the Phoenix Park Murders, and exposes the Pigott Forgeries.
In his later years O’Donnell begins investigating misconduct by both the British Civil Service and the Roman Catholic church in Ireland. His Paraguay on Shannon (1908) is an amusing but serious critique of unethical practices by the Catholic clergy in local politics, education, and their involvement in the Congested Districts Board for Ireland that is financed by Parliament in order to improve the depressed economy of western Ireland. Parliament believes that by improving the living standards of the Irish peasant class, they can “kill Home Rule with kindness.”
After careful investigation, O’Donnell accuses members of the Catholic clergy of illegally diverting Government money earmarked for economic development into new Cathedrals, parish churches, and other ecclesiastical building projects. He argues that the British Government needs to provide better oversight of how the Congested Districts Board’s funds are being used. He believes that “in Ireland material ruin has accompanied clerical despotism.” His hostility to the Church draws the ire of Catholic historians who systematically undermine his credibility.
Three years later, O’Brien withdraws the Young Irelanders from the association. In January 1847, with Thomas Francis Meagher, he founds the Irish Confederation, although he continues to preach reconciliation until O’Connell’s death in May 1847. He is active in seeking relief from the hardships of the famine. In March 1848, he speaks out in favour of a National Guard and tries to incite a national rebellion. He is tried for sedition on May 15, 1848 but is not convicted.
On July 29, 1848, O’Brien and other Young Irelanders lead landlords and tenants in a rising in three counties, with an almost bloodless battle against police at Ballingarry, County Tipperary. In O’Brien’s subsequent trial, the jury finds him guilty of high treason. He is sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Petitions for clemency are signed by 70,000 people in Ireland and 10,000 people in England. In Dublin on June 5, 1849, the sentences of O’Brien and other members of the Irish Confederation are commuted to transportation for life to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania in present-day Australia).
O’Brien attempts to escape from Maria Island off Tasmania, but is betrayed by the captain of the schooner hired for the escape. He is sent to Port Arthur where he meets up with John Mitchel.
O’Brien is a founding member of the Ossianic Society, which is founded in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day 1853, whose aim is to further the interests of the Irish language and to publish and translate literature relating to the Fianna. He writes to his son Edward from Van Diemen’s Land, urging him to learn the Irish language. He himself studies the language and uses an Irish-language Bible, and presents to the Royal Irish Academy Irish-language manuscripts he has collected.
In 1854, after five years in Tasmania, O’Brien is released on the condition he never returns to Ireland. He settles in Brussels. In May 1856, he is granted an unconditional pardon and returns to Ireland that July. He contributes to The Nation newspaper, but plays no further part in politics.
In 1864 he visits England and Wales, with the view of rallying his failing health, but no improvement takes place and he dies in Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales on June 18, 1864.