seamus dubhghaill

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


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Formation of the Irish Citizen Army

The Irish Citizen Army (ICA) is formed on November 23, 1913, at the height of the Dublin Lockout. Its purpose is to enable the locked-out men to defend themselves in clashes with the Dublin Metropolitan Police and to counteract the demoralizing effects of unemployment by providing discipline, cohesion and purpose. The idea of forming a force apparently is first formally proposed in 1913 by Captain James Robert “Jack” White, an ex-army officer from County Antrim, who had been educated at Winchester College and Royal Military College, Sandhurst. During a speech in August, James Larkin had already suggested that the workers form a force. He publicly repeats this instruction on November 13. James Connolly likewise urges the men to train “as they are doing in Ulster.” Two weeks later drilling begins. According to the ICA constitution, its members are to “work for an Irish republic and for the emancipation of labour.” Larkin is anxious that those who enlist should not only espouse these principles but also be members of unions recognised by the Irish Trades Union Congress.

Despite competition from the Irish Volunteers, which launches on November 25, 1913, ICA membership quickly surpasses 1,000. However, after the dispute is over in January 1914 and the men return to work, the “army” all but disappears. But it is Connolly above all who, after his appointment as its commandant and as leader of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, rescues it from terminal decline and welds it into a potent force and potential weapon for his own use. He determines its structure, vets its officers and imposes a rigid discipline. He also demands an ideological commitment to revolution and the goal of an independent Irish socialist republic. The force’s guiding principle is that “the ownership of Ireland, moral and material, is vested by right in the people of Ireland.” Its membership remains small but it is otherwise superior to the much larger Irish Volunteers in its unity of purpose, lack of factional and ideological division and in the quality of its training.

After the outbreak of World War I, Connolly has become increasingly committed to fomenting an insurrection in Ireland. This is reflected in his military preparations with the ICA. He uses its headquarters, Liberty Hall, as his base. Fearing he might act on his own, and recognising the merits of collaboration, the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council informs him of their own clandestine plans for a rising and an agreement is reached.

During Easter week of 1916, 219 ICA men fight alongside over 1,300 from the Irish Volunteers. As the appointed leader of both forces in Dublin, Connolly skillfully ensures that the ideological and social divisions and personality clashes, which have hitherto blighted their relationship, are largely overcome. ICA forces are mainly concentrated at the General Post Office (GPO), the College of Surgeons and Dublin’s City Hall. They win volunteer admiration for their professionalism, dedication, and ruthlessness. Two of their leaders are subsequently executed – Connolly and Michael Mallin, the ICA Chief of Staff. Constance Markievicz, Mallin`s second-in command, is reprieved. Others are imprisoned or interned. The ICA is not revived after the insurrection. The new leadership of the ITGWU focuses instead on building up the union, safeguarding members’ wages and improving working conditions.


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Executions of Èamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Seán Heuston, & Con Colbert

colbert-ceannt-mallin-heustonIrish patriots Èamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Seán Heuston, and Cornelius “Con” Colbert are executed by firing squad in the Stonebreakers Yard at Kilmainham Gaol on May 8, 1916, as the executions following the 1916 Easter Rising continue.

Éamonn Ceannt, one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, is born in Ballymoe, Glenamaddy in County Galway in 1881. Prior to the Rising, Ceannt is an employee of the Dublin Corporation. He is a co-founder of the Irish Volunteers, partaking in the successful Howth gun-running operation of 1914. His involvement in republican activities is complemented by his interest in Irish culture, specifically Irish language and history, although he is also an accomplished uilleann piper. Ceannt is appointed Director of Communications of the Provisional Government and is Commandant of the Fourth Battalion of the Irish Volunteers, who are stationed at the South Dublin Union, now the site of St. James’ Hospital. Ceannt has about 100 men with him, including his second-in-command Cathal Brugha, and W.T. Cosgrave who goes on later to become Taoiseach. Ceannt and his men at the South Dublin Union take part in some of the fiercest fighting in the rebellion and hold out against far superior numbers of British troops.

Michael Mallin, a silk weaver by trade, is born in Dublin on December 1, 1874. Mallin is the Chief of Staff of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), second in command only to James Connolly. He trains and drills the ICA, and is the Commandant of the St. Stephen’s Green Royal College of Surgeons garrison during the Rising. Countess Markievicz is his second in command. This location sees less action than some of the other sites chosen by the rebels because the British concentrate their efforts on the most strategically important targets such as the General Post Office (GPO) and Four Courts. Mallin surrenders on April 30.

Seán Heuston, born in Dublin on February 21, 1891, is responsible for the organisation of Fianna Éireann in Limerick. Along with Con Colbert, Heuston is involved in the education of the schoolboys at Scoil Éanna, organising drill and musketry exercises. Heuston is the Officer Commanding of the Volunteers in the Mendicity Institution on the south side of Dublin. With 26 Volunteers under his command, they hold their position for two days. With his position becoming untenable against considerable numbers, and the building almost completely surrounded, Heuston sends a dispatch to Connolly informing him of their position. It is soon after sending this dispatch that Heuston decides to surrender. Heuston Railway Station in Dublin is named after him.

Con Colbert is born on October 19, 1888, at Monalena in Limerick, and is one of the younger generation of Irish republicans who take part in the Easter Rising. Prior to the Easter Rising he is an active member of the republican movement. He is one of the founding members of Fianna Éireann. A dedicated pioneer, Colbert is known not to drink or smoke. During the Rising, Colbert is the commander of a group of Volunteers stationed at Watkin’s Brewery on Ardee Street, and later at Jameson’s Distillery on Marrowbone Lane. They hold their position until receiving the order to surrender from Patrick Pearse.


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The Beginning of the 1916 Easter Rising

proclamation-of-independenceThe Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion, begins in Dublin 100 years ago today and lasts for six days. The Rising, organised by seven members of the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, is launched to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom is heavily engaged in World War I. It is the most significant uprising in Ireland since the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period.

Shortly before midday, members of the Irish Volunteers, led by schoolmaster and Irish language activist Patrick Pearse and joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly and 200 women of Cumann na mBan, seize key locations in Dublin and proclaim an Irish Republic. The rebels’ plan is to hold Dublin city centre, a large, oval-shaped area bounded by the Grand Canal to the south and the Royal Canal to the north, with the River Liffey running through the middle.

The rebels march to the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare, and occupy the building and hoist two republican flags. Pearse stands outside and reads the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Elsewhere in Dublin, some of the headquarters battalion under Michael Mallin occupy St. Stephen’s Green, where they dig trenches and barricade the surrounding roads. The 1st battalion, under Edward “Ned” Daly, occupy the Four Courts and surrounding buildings, while a company under Seán Heuston occupies the Mendicity Institution across the River Liffey from the Four Courts. The 2nd battalion, under Thomas MacDonagh, occupies Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. The 3rd battalion, under Éamon de Valera, occupy Boland’s Mill and surrounding buildings. The 4th battalion, under Éamonn Ceannt, occupy the South Dublin Union and the distillery on Marrowbone Lane. From each of these garrisons, small units of rebels establish outposts in the surrounding area.

There are isolated actions in other parts of Ireland, with attacks on the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks at Ashbourne, County Meath and in County Galway, and the seizure of the town of Enniscorthy, County Wexford. Due to a last-minute countermand issued on Saturday, April 22, by Volunteer leader Eoin MacNeill, the number of rebels who mobilise is much lower than expected.

The British Army brings in thousands of reinforcements as well as artillery and a gunboat. There is fierce street fighting on the routes into the city centre, where the rebels put up stiff resistance, slowing the British advance and inflicting heavy casualties. Elsewhere in Dublin, the fighting mainly consists of sniping and long-range gun battles. The main rebel positions are gradually surrounded and bombarded with artillery.

With much greater numbers and heavier weapons, the British Army suppresses the Rising, and Pearse agrees to an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29. Almost 500 people are killed during Easter Week. About 54% are civilians, 30% are British military and police, and 16% are Irish rebels. More than 2,600 are wounded. Many of the civilians are killed as a result of the British using artillery and heavy machine guns, or mistaking civilians for rebels. Others are caught in the crossfire in a crowded city. The shelling and the fires leave parts of inner city Dublin in ruins.

After the surrender the country remains under martial law. About 3,500 people are taken prisoner by the British, many of whom have played no part in the Rising, with 1,800 of them being sent to internment camps or prisons in Britain. Most of the leaders of the Rising are executed following courts-martial. The Rising brings physical force republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics, which for nearly 50 years has been dominated by constitutional nationalism. It, and the British reaction to it, leads to increased popular support for Irish independence. In December 1918, republicans, represented by the reconstituted Sinn Féin party, win a landslide victory in the general election to the British Parliament. They do not take their seats, but instead convene the First Dáil and declare the independence of the Irish Republic, which ultimately leads to the Irish War of Independence.


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Birth of Constance Georgine Gore-Booth (Countess Markievicz)

countess-markieviczConstance Georgine Gore-Booth is born on February 4, 1868 at Buckingham Gate, London, the eldest daughter of Arctic explorer and philanthropist Sir Henry Gore-Booth and Georgina May Hill.

The Gore-Booths are known as model landlords in  County Sligo as they provide free food for the tenants on their estate. Perhaps being raised in this atmosphere of concern for the common man has something to do with the way Constance and her younger sister, Eva, conduct their later lives.

Gore-Booth decides to train as a painter and, in 1892, she enters the Slade School of Art in London because, at the time, only one art school in Dublin accepts female students. While in school in London Gore-Booth first becomes politically active and joins the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

She later moves to Paris and enrolls at the prestigious Académie Julian where she meets her future husband, Count Casimir Markievicz. They are married in London on September 29, 1900 making her Countess Markievicz. The Markieviczes relocate to Dublin in 1903 and move in artistic and literary circles, with Constance being instrumental in founding the United Artists Club.

In 1908, Markievicz becomes actively involved in nationalist politics in Ireland and joins Sinn Féin and Inghinidhe na hÉireann (Daughters of Ireland), a revolutionary women’s movement founded by Maud Gonne. In the same year, Markievicz plays a dramatic role in the women’s suffrage campaigners’ tactic of opposing Winston Churchill‘s election to Parliament during the Manchester North West by-election. Churchill ultimately loses the election to Conservative candidate William Joynson-Hicks.

In 1909, Markievicz founds Fianna Éireann, a para-military nationalist scouts organisation that instructs teenage boys and girls in the use of firearms. Patrick Pearse says that the creation of Fianna Éireann is as important as the creation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913. She is jailed for the first time in 1911 for speaking at an Irish Republican Brotherhood demonstration organised to protest against George V’s visit to Ireland.

Markievicz joins James Connolly‘s socialist Irish Citizen Army, a small volunteer force formed in response to the lock-out of 1913, to defend the demonstrating workers from the police. During the Howth gun-running on July 26, 1914, Irish Citizen Army members led by Markievicz, and including Thomas MacDonagh, Bulmer Hobson, Douglas Hyde and Darrell Figgis, unload arms from Erskine Childers‘ yacht Asgard in Howth harbour with hand carts and wheelbarrows.

As a member of the Irish Citizen Army, Markievicz takes part in the 1916 Easter Rising. Under Michael Mallin and Christopher Poole, she supervises the erection of barricades as the Rising begins and is in the middle of the fighting all around Stephen’s Green. Mallin and Poole and their men and women, including Markievicz, hold out for six days, ending the engagement when the British bring them a copy of Patrick Pearse’s surrender order.

They are taken to Dublin Castle and Markievicz is transported to Kilmainham Gaol, where she is the only one of 70 women prisoners who is put into solitary confinement. At her court martial on May 4, 1916, Markievicz is sentenced to death, but General Maxwell commutes this to life in prison on “account of the prisoner’s sex.” It is widely reported that she tells the court, “I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me.” Markievicz is transferred to Mountjoy Prison and then to Aylesbury Prison in England in July 1916. She is released from prison in 1917, along with others involved in the Rising.

In the 1918 general election, Markievicz is elected for the constituency of Dublin St Patrick’s, making her the first woman elected to the British House of Commons. However, in line with Sinn Féin abstentionist policy, she does not take her seat in the House of Commons. She is re-elected to the Second Dáil in the elections of 1921. Markievicz serves as Minister for Labour from April 1919 to January 1922, holding cabinet rank from April to August 1919, becoming both the first Irish female Cabinet Minister and only the second female government minister in Europe.

Markievicz leaves government in January 1922 along with Éamon de Valera and others in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty. She fights actively for the Republican cause in the Irish Civil War. She is returned in the 1923 general election for the Dublin South constituency but again, in common with other Republican candidates, she does not take her seat.

She joins Fianna Fáil on its foundation in 1926, chairing the inaugural meeting of the new party in La Scala Theatre. In the June 1927 general election, she is re-elected to the 5th Dáil as a candidate for the new Fianna Fáil party, which is pledged to return to Dáil Éireann.

Before she can take up her seat, Markievicz dies at the age of 59 on July 15, 1927, in a public ward “among the poor where she wanted to be” of complications related to appendicitis. One of the doctors attending her is her revolutionary colleague, Kathleen Lynn. Also at her bedside are Casimir and Stanislas Markievicz, Éamon de Valera, and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington. Refused a state funeral by the Free State government, Markievicz is buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, and de Valera gives the funeral oration.