seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of John Martin Hayes, Priest & Founder of Muintir na Tíre

John Martin Hayes, Irish Catholic priest and the founder of Muintir na Tíre, a national rural community development organisation, is born on November 11, 1887, in an Irish National Land League hut at Murroe, County Limerick.

Hayes is born into a family languishing in poverty. One of ten siblings, seven of Hayes’ brothers and sisters die of malnutrition and disease over a twelve-year period. The family had been evicted from Lord Cloncurry‘s estate in 1872 for non-payment of rent, forcing them into destitution. The family returns to the estate in 1894.

Hayes is educated by the Jesuits at Crescent College, Limerick and thereafter studies for the priesthood in St. Patrick’s College, Thurles. In 1907 he goes to the Irish College in Paris where he is ordained in 1913. He enjoys this time in France greatly, a period highlighted by the beatification of Saint Joan of Arc in 1909. From 1915 to 1924 he works in Liverpool before returning to Ireland to serve as curate in Castleiney and later in Tipperary Town. Previous to 1916, he is a supporter of the Irish Volunteers, and his brother Mick becomes a leading member of the Limerick Irish Republican Army, however, he effectively misses the Irish revolutionary period as he is sent to work in Liverpool between 1915 and 1924.

During the 1920s Hayes becomes an admirer of Benito Mussolini, with whom he is granted an audience during a visit to Rome in 1930. He is intrigued by corporatism and comes to believe it can uplift rural communities. Similarly, he is influenced by continental movements such as the Belgian Boerenbond league, which encourages rural inhabitants to form cooperatives.

Hayes comes to national prominence with the foundation of Muintir na Tíre in 1931, a rural development organisation which has core principles of neighbourliness, self-help and self-sufficiency. It is to act as a rural self-help group based on collective parish organisation with a strong emphasis on the teaching of the papal encyclicals Rerum novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo anno (1931). He is successfully able to draw on the power of the media, Irish newspapers and radio, to promote Muintir na Tíre and quickly becomes a figure of national prominence in doing so. In promoting and developing Muintir na Tíre Hayes resists calls in some quarters to limit the membership to Catholics, remarking “this country is becoming so Catholic it forgets to be Christian.” Nonetheless, under his leadership, there is eventually an overlap in membership between Muintir na Tíre and the Catholic fraternal organisation the Knights of Saint Columbanus.

Hayes is appointed parish priest of Bansha and Kilmoyler in County Tipperary in 1946. Due largely to his endeavours, a factory, Bansha Rural Industries, is started and enjoys some success producing preserves for the Irish home market. Bansha is to the forefront in developing many Muintir na Tíre initiatives and for a time in the 1950s enjoys the soubriquet of The Model Parish.

A lifelong teetotaller, a highlight of Hayes’ career is his address to the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association in Croke Park in June 1949 to celebrate their 50th year of operation. The event is the largest Catholic gathering in Dublin since the Eucharistic Congress of 1932.

Hayes spearheads many initiatives including rural electrification, the “Parish Plan for Agriculture,” and the setting up of small industry in rural areas in an attempt to stop emigration. He is later made a canon of his cathedral chapter.

Hayes dies on January 30, 1957 in a Tipperary nursing home following a minor operation. His funeral in Bansha is a national occasion, attended by leaders of Church and State. His grave is at the rear of the Church of the Annunciation, Bansha. He is later commemorated on an Irish postage stamp.


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Michael Collins Letter Fetches Record Price at Auction

On February 21, 2003, a letter signed by Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins, written in 1922 upon his return from London, fetches a record price of €28,000 at an auction at James Adam & Sons Ltd. on Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green. Estimated to fetch up to €8,000.00, despite fierce bidding by the National Library of Ireland, the letter is purchased by singer Enya’s manager, Mickey Ryan, who says he wants the letter to remain in Ireland.

The letter is a three-page document sent by Collins to prominent Derry republican Louis J. Walsh in 1922, telling him about his opposition to the Northern Ireland border. Replying to a letter from Walsh, he outlines his position regarding negotiations with Winston Churchill and unionist leader James Craig.

The letter is written after Collins returns to Dublin from a meeting in London with Churchill and Craig. He states in the letter that Craig’s stance on partition is seen as “an unreasonable one and not ours.”

“All the British statesmen are agreed that it was most disastrous on Craig’s part to talk about agreeing to nothing less than the six county area,” Collins writes.

Collins expresses his belief that ties would increase between leaders in the north and south, leading to a united Ireland in the long term. He tells Walsh that he is “no lover of partition, no matter what form it appears,” and that any form of partition is “distasteful” to him. “It would be far better to fix our minds for a time on a united Ireland, for this course will not leave minorities which would be impossible to govern,” he writes. He also says he hopes that one day a multi-denominational party might be formed in the north east, developing links with the Free State and destabilising the northern administration.


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Bloody Sunday (1920)

More than 30 people are killed or fatally wounded in a day of violence in Dublin on November 21, 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. It goes down in Irish history as the first “Bloody Sunday,” though unfortunately not the last.

Through the centuries the British have crushed Irish revolutionary movements through the use of spies and informers. Michael Collins, Minister for Finance of the Irish Republic, head of the secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood and Irish Republican Army (IRA) Chief of Intelligence, is in the process of beating the British at their own game. The day begins in the early morning hours with an IRA operation, organised by Collins, to assassinate members of the “Cairo Gang” – a team of undercover British intelligence agents working and living in Dublin. IRA members go to a number of addresses and kill or fatally wounded 16 men, mostly British Army intelligence officers. Five other men are wounded.

When word of the success of the operation gets back to Collins, knowing the caliber of the men in England‘s infamous “Black and Tan” force, he sends a message to the Gaelic Athletic Association, telling them to cancel that day’s Gaelic football match between Dublin and Tipperary. However, it is too late and the match goes on.

Later that afternoon, lashing out blindly, the Black and Tans surround Croke Park during the match and move in. Their supposed purpose is to attempt to capture members of Sinn Féin who might be in the crowd, but they soon open fire indiscriminately on the players and spectators. They kill or fatally wound fourteen civilians and wound at least sixty others before members of the Auxiliary Division, another brutal force created to crush the Irish insurrection, finally manages to get them to cease-fire.

That evening, two Irish republicans and members of Collins’ squad, Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, who had helped plan the earlier assassinations, along with a third man, a civilian named Conor Clune, who happened to be caught with the others, are beaten and shot dead in Dublin Castle by their captors, who claim they were killed during an escape attempt.

Overall, Bloody Sunday is considered a victory for the IRA, as Collins’s operation severely damages British intelligence, while the later reprisals do no real harm to the guerrillas but increase support for the IRA at home and abroad.

(Pictured: The headline of the Dublin Evening Herald reads ‘Latest Stories about Irish Tragedies’, 22nd November 1920. The newspaper reports on the massacre at a Croke Park football match, shootings in Dublin, and the discovery of a priest’s corpse in a Galway bog. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


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Éamon de Valera Elected 3rd President of Ireland

president-eamon-de-valeraThe 1959 Irish presidential election is held on June 17, 1959. Éamon de Valera, then Taoiseach, is elected as President of Ireland. A referendum proposed by de Valera to replace the electoral system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote with first-past-the-post voting which is held on the same day is defeated by 48.2% to 52.8%.

Under Article 12 of the Constitution of Ireland, a candidate for president may be nominated by:

  • at least twenty of the then 207 serving members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, or
  • at least four of 31 councils of the administrative counties, including county boroughs, or
  • themselves, in the case of a former or retiring president.

Outgoing president Seán T. O’Kelly had served two terms, and is ineligible to serve again. On April 27, the Minister for Local Government, Neal Blaney, signs the ministerial order opening nominations, with noon on May 19 as the deadline for nominations, and June 17 set as the date for a contest. All Irish citizens on the Dáil electoral register are eligible to vote.

De Valera who had served as President of Dáil Éireann and President of the Irish Republic from 1919 to 1922 during the Irish revolutionary period, as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State from 1932 to 1937, and as Taoiseach from 1937 to 1948, from 1951 to 1954, and again from 1957 until his election as president, is nominated by Fianna Fáil on May 12. He had served as Fianna Fáil’s leader since its foundation in 1926.

Seán Mac Eoin, a Fine Gael TD who had been the party’s candidate in the 1945 Irish presidential election, is nominated again by the party on May 15.

Patrick McCartan, who had also been a candidate in the 1945 election and had served as a senator for Clann na Poblachta from 1948 to 1951, is nominated by two county councils only, short of the four required for nomination. Eoin O’Mahony also seeks and fails to secure a nomination by county councils.

De Valera wins the popular vote with 538,003 votes (56.3%) to Mac Eoin’s 417,536 votes (43.7%).

Éamon de Valera is inaugurated as the third President of Ireland on June 25, 1959.


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Palmerstown House Burned by the IRA

palmerstown-housePalmerstown House in Johnstown, County Kildare, the home of Dermot Bourke, 7th Earl of Mayo, is burned and destroyed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on January 29, 1923.

The destruction of country houses in Ireland is a phenomenon of the Irish revolutionary period (1919–1923), which sees at least 275 country houses deliberately burned down, blown up, or otherwise destroyed by the Irish Republican Army.

The vast majority of the houses, known in Ireland as Big Houses, belong to the Anglo-Irish aristocracy of the Protestant Ascendancy. The houses of some Roman Catholic unionists, suspected informers, and members or supporters of the new Irish Free State government are also targeted. Although the practice by the IRA of destroying country houses begins in the Irish War of Independence, most of the buildings are destroyed during the Irish Civil War (1922–23).

Attacks are planned and organised, and generally focused on Irish peers who have sat in the House of Lords, members of the Senate of the Irish Free State and former Irish Unionist Party politicians. The assault on the “Big Houses” is part of a wider campaign against Free State supporters as a reprisal for the executions policy of the Government.

At least 76 country houses are destroyed in the War of Independence as thirty “Big Houses” are burned in 1920 and another 46 in the first half of 1921, mostly in the conflict’s Munster heartland which includes counties Cork, Kerry, Tipperary, Clare and Limerick. It is believed that 199 country houses are destroyed during the Irish Civil War. Some houses are destroyed in the fighting of the early months of the war, but the campaign against them begins in earnest in late 1922.

In most cases, no one is injured during the destruction of the house. It is recorded that in several cases, members of the IRA help the targeted family to remove their possessions from the house before it is destroyed. When Dermot Bourke’s house is attacked on January 29, 1923, he describes the IRA guerrillas as being “excessively polite” and apologetic. Nonetheless, there are incidents of violence and deaths in such attacks. The Church of Ireland Gazette records numerous instances of Unionists and Loyalists being shot, burned out or otherwise forced from their homes during the early 1920s.

Today, most of the targeted buildings are in ruins or have been demolished. Some have been restored by their owners, albeit often smaller in size, or have been rebuilt and are now used for other purposes.