Catching up with modern Ireland: May

Irish voters overturned a 35-year-old constitutional abortion ban by a decisive two thirds margin. More about that at the bottom of this post. First, a quick look at some other Irish news in May, from both sides of the Atlantic:

Let me make it plain: the departure from the EU of our nearest neighbour is not a good thing for Ireland. This development generates unwelcome challenges and uncertainties for us. It deprives Ireland of an influential, like-minded country around the EU negotiating table. It complicates our bilateral relations with Britain at a time when we continue to need to work closely together as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement so as to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. 

  • Researchers in universities across Ireland are embarking on an effort to help Irish bees survive and thrive. Their work grows from the 2015 All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.
  • Solas Nua, the Washington, D.C.-based Irish arts group, staged “The Frederick Douglass Project” over several weeks. The “project” is  actually two short plays about Douglass’ 1845 lecture tour of Britain and Ireland – D.C.-based Psalmayene 24’s An Eloquent Fugitive Slave Flees to Ireland, which deals with Douglass’s life before his eastward journey across the Atlantic, and Dublin-based Deirdre Kinahan’s Wild Notes, which explores his arrival. As The Irish Times reported:

The aim of the production is to highlight this critically-important time in Douglass’s life to an American audience. “This is about exploring the parallels of the Irish and African-American experience – Douglass arrived in Ireland during the Famine – but it is also about what happens when two worlds meet and the perceptions and misperceptions that both sides hold,” said Rex Daugherty, the show’s artistic director.

My wife and I enjoyed the production. I think it would do well in Ireland, where there is probably more awareness of Douglass’ 1845 visit than in America. The themes of human subjugation are universal, as made more clear in Kinahan’s play.

Is Catholic Ireland dead and gone? Probably not

The most predictable commentary about the 25 May abortion referendum has focused on the diminished role of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Some examples:

The New York Times headlined the referendum result as a “Rebuke to Catholic Conservatism.” A follow up story described Ireland as “a country that is clearly part of Europe’s secular sprint out of the Roman Catholic fold” and noted Pope Francis’ focus on the Southern Hemisphere. But an opinion piece by Eamon Maher, co-editor of the 2017 title Tracing the Cultural Legacy of Irish Catholicism: From Galway to Cloyne and Beyond, offered more nuisance:

The importance of Friday’s vote as a blow to the institutional Catholic Church should not be understated.  … But if it’s clear that the institution of the church no longer commands the moral authority or the loyalty in Ireland that it once did, the end of Catholic Ireland, too, is an overstatement. Ireland remains defined by its relationship with Catholicism, because it has yet to develop another way to be.

Patsy McGarry, the religious affairs correspondent at The Irish Times since 1997, added some historical perspective in his column, which described as “out of kilter” those observations that the referendum outcome represents the end of Catholic Ireland:

More accurately, what it illustrated was an end to a particular model of clerically dominated Catholic Church in Ireland. … What we are witnessing is the disappearance of what might be described as “the church that Paul built,” a reference to Cardinal Paul Cullen. Archbishop of Dublin from 1852, he “Romanised” the church, centralized its structures, and introduced processions and devotions from Europe. He laid the foundations for an Irish Catholic Church which became a powerful alternative institution in the late 19th century so that by independence in 1922 it was more powerful than the new state itself, particularly in education and healthcare. It dominated Ireland through most of the 20th century. [That institution may be gone, but with] 78.3 per cent of Irish people still identified as Catholic … reports of the death of Catholicism in Ireland are, to borrow from Mark Twain, “greatly exaggerated.”

Finally, some voices from the Irish Catholic Church itself, as reported in Crux:

Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said the referendum result “confirms that we are living in a new time and a changed culture for Ireland. For the Church it is indeed a missionary time, a time for new evangelization.”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin added, “The Irish Church after the Referendum must renew its commitment to support life. … Reshaping the Church of tomorrow must be marked by a radical rediscovery of its roots.”

There will more about this issue in the run up to Pope Francis’ scheduled August visit to Dublin for the World Meeting of Families.

 

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Ulster booster

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“To dream of establishing the independence of Ireland against the will of Ulster appears to me to be little short of madness.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert concluded his travels in Ireland with a trip to Belfast. The late June visit on “the very eve of the battle month of the Boyne” confirmed his establishment sympathies as he reported on the thorniest problem of the “Irish Question” — the pro-union Protestants of Ulster.

“In this part of Ireland,” he wrote, “the fate of the island has been more than once settled by the arbitrament of arms; and if Parliamentary England throws up the sponge in the wrestle with the [Land] League, it is probably enough that the old story will come to be told over again here. … There are good reasons in the physical geography of the British Islands for this controlling interest of Ulster over the affairs of Ireland, which it seems to me a serious mistake to overlook. … [I]t is hard to see how, even with the consent of Ulster, the independence of Ireland could be maintained against the interest and the will of Scotland, as it is easy to see why Leinster, Munster, and Connaught have been so difficult of control and assimilation by England.”

Hurlbert stated his purpose for the trip was to interview “some of the representative men of this great Protestant stronghold.” He met a “kindly, intelligent Ulsterman” who worried that if England approved Home Rule for Ireland it would rob him and other others of their property rights and leave them “trampled underfoot by the most worthless vagabonds in our own island … [and] a war against the Protestants and all the decent people there are among the Catholics.”

Hanna

As mentioned in an earlier post about the Papal decree against the agrarian agitation, Hurlbert also visited Rev. Dr. “Roaring” Hugh Hanna, a Presbyterian clergyman and staunch unionist. “Like most Ulstermen I have met, he has a firm faith, not only in the power of the Protestant North to protect itself, but in its determination to protect itself against the consequences which the northern Protestants believe must inevitably follow any attempt to establish an Irish nationality. … He … firmly believes that an Irish Parliament in Dublin would now mean civil war in Ireland.”

Kane

Rev. Dr. Richard Rutledge Kane, the “Grand Master of the Orangemen in Belfast,” predicted the upcoming 12th of July demonstrations would be “on a greater scale and more imposing than ever.” He told Hurlbert that Northern Protestants “were never so determined as they are now not to tolerate anything remotely looking to the constitution of a separate and separatist Government in Dublin.”

These views foreshadowed the opposition to Home Rule efforts in 1893, 1914, and 1920, the last of which resulted in the partition of Northern Ireland. (Six counties remain tied to Great Britain, while three counties of the province of Ulster are part of the Republic of Ireland.) The threatened “civil war” never erupted along the North versus South front anticipated or implied by these comments, but instead manifested itself in the sectarian “troubles” of the last third of the 20th century.

The final passage of Hurlbert’s travel journal (followed by an Epilogue and Appendix) ended on this note of Ulster boosterism and bias toward the Protestant unionists over Catholic nationalists:

With such resources as its wealth and industry, better educated, better equipped, and holding a practically impregnable position in the North of Ireland, with Scotland and the sea at its back, Ulster is very much stronger relative to the rest of Ireland than La Vendée was relative to the rest of the French Republic in the last century. In a struggle for independence against the rest of Ireland it would have nothing to fear from the United States … [W]hile the chief contributions, so far, of America to Southern Ireland have been alms and agitation, the chief contribution of Scotland to Northern Ireland have been skilled agriculture and successful activity. It is surely not without meaning that the only steamers of Irish build which now traverse the Atlantic come from the dockyards, not of Galway nor of Cork, the natural gateways of Ireland to the west, but of Belfast, the natural gateway to the north.

This early 20th century anti-Home Rule postcard reflects the geography and the views expressed by Hurlbert and the unionists he interviewed in Belfast in 1888. The northwest and north central (upper left and middle protrusion) sections of Ulster shown in orange did not become part of Northern Ireland. From National Museums Northern Ireland collection.

NOTES: From pages 404-416 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: Beautiful Belfast

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Irish voters repeals abortion amendment

Irish voters have overwhelmingly overturned a 35-year-old constitutional ban on abortion.

The margin was 66.4 percent to 33.6 percent. Only one constituency, Donegal, voted to retain the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal value to the life of the mother and her unborn child.

Turnout was just over 64 percent. The government is expected to quickly pass legislation to allow the procedure. Coverage by The Irish Times begins here.

The margin is nearly 5 percentage points higher than three years ago when the Republic approved same-sex marriage. The vote is viewed as another rebuke to the Catholic Church in particular and conservative values in general. It comes as other parts of the world, including America, seem to be turning more to the right.

I’m traveling now, but will return to this issue shortly with more analysis of the referendum.

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Irish America

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“…The most important support given by the Irish in America to the Nationalists is solicited by their agents on the express ground that they are really laboring to establish an Irish Republic … .”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert made numerous references to the Irish in America throughout his book, often associating the entire cohort with its most radical and violent separatist elements. He also challenged more conventional political action.

This passage is from his Prologue:

It is undoubtedly the opinion of every Irish American who possesses any real influence with the people of his race in my country, that the rights and liberties of Ireland can only be effectually secured by a complete political separation from Great Britain. Nor can the right of Irish American citizens, holding this opinion, to express their sympathy with Irishmen striving in Ireland to bring about such a result … be questioned. … But for all American citizens of whatever race, the expression of such sympathies ceases to be legitimate when it assumes the shape of action transcending the limits set by local or by international law. It is of the essence of American constitutionalism that one community shall not lay hands upon the domestic affairs of another; and it is an undeniable fact that they sympathy of the great body of American people with Irish efforts for self-government has been diminished, not increased, since 1848, by the gradual transfer of head-quarters and machinery of those efforts from Ireland to the United States. … It is not in accordance with the American doctrine of ‘Home Rule’ that ‘Home Rule’ of any sort for Ireland should be organized in New York or in Chicago by expatriated Irishmen.

Davitt

Hurlbert was a Harvard undergraduate when waves of Famine immigrants arrived in America and the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848 was suppressed in Ireland. His newspaper career spanned the rise of the anti-Catholic and anti-Irish Know Nothing Party, the New York arrival of the Cuba Five, and the 1880 American tours of Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell.

As the two nationalists gave their speeches that year, an estimated 1.85 million Irish-born people lived in the United States, with another 3.24 million born in America to Irish parents, a total of just over 10 percent of the population. Another 655,000 Irish immigrants arrived during the 1880s.

Parnell

“The Irish were firmly enmeshed in American political, social and economic life,” historian Ely M. Janis wrote. “Irish America was coming of age in the 1880s, and Parnell’s visit both coincided with and consolidated the growing assertiveness of Irish Americans.”

In addition to Parnell and Davitt’s travels in America, Hurlbert also mentioned events such as the 1880 Irish Race Convention in Philadelphia and 1886 Irish National Convention in Chicago, addressed by John Redmond. Prime Minister William Gladstone’s 1886 Home Rule bill, he wrote, “was simply intoxicating” to Irish America.

Hurlbert devoted attention early in the book to the relationship between Davitt and the socialist land views and activities of Henry George and Rev. Dr. Edward McGlynn. He made only a single reference each to Patrick Ford, “the most influential leader of the American Irish”; O’Donovan Rossa, “wielding all the terrors of dynamite from beyond the Atlantic”; and John Devoy, who with Davitt in 1878 outlined the “scheme for overthrowing British rule in Ireland by revolutionizing the ownership of land.”

Hurlbert did little to distinguish the competing strands of Irish nationalism in America or Ireland. Instead, he focused on its most radical elements, as expressed in this passage from the Appendix.

The relation of Mr. Parnell and his Parliamentary associates to what is called the extreme and “criminal” section of the Irish American Revolutionary Party can only be understood by those who understand that it is the ultimate object of this party not to effect reforms in the administration of Ireland as an integral part of the British Empire, but to sever absolutely the political connection between Ireland and the British Empire. … If Mr. Parnell and his Parliamentary associates were to declare in unequivocal terms their absolute loyalty to the British Crown, they might or might not retain their hold on Mr. Davitt and upon their constituents in Ireland, but they would certainly put themselves beyond the pale of support by the great Irish American organizations. Nor do I believe they could retain the confidence of those organizations if it were supposed that they really regarded the most extreme and violent of the Irish Revolutionists, the “Invincibles” and the “dynamiters” as “criminals,” in the sense in which the Invincible and the dynamiters are so regarded by the rest of the civilized world.

Irish population in the United States, 1880. Hewes, Fletcher W, and Henry Gannett. Scribner’s statistical atlas of the United States, showing by graphic methods their present condition and their political, social and industrial development. [New York, C. Scribner’s sons, 1883] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

NOTES: From pages x (Ford, in Preface), 2-3 (Prologue), 14 (Devoy), 386 (Rossa), 432-433 (Appendix), and 466 (Top quote), of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Pages 9 and 37 of A Greater Ireland: The Land League and Transatlantic Nationalism in Gilded Age America, by Ely M. Janis, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 2015.

NEXT: Ulster booster

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

As abortion referendum nears, Ireland seems divided

Republic of Ireland voters head to the polls Friday, 25 May, for a referendum to decide whether to repeal or retain the anti-abortion Eighth Amendment in the country’s constitution, which gives equal value to the life of the fetus and the woman.

Early polling showed the repeal side favored to prevail, but the margin has narrowed in recent weeks, and anything is possible in the final days of the campaign on such an emotionally charged issue.

Here’s a short roundup of news and commentary as of 20 May, starting with a background piece:

History lesson: What happened during the 1983 abortion referendum?

An extremely strong campaign had emerged early in the 1980s to lobby the government to introduce a ‘Pro-Life amendment’. The move came in the wake of the Roe versus Wade verdict in the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed for the introduction of less restrictive regimes. There was genuine fear in Ireland that the courts could do something similar here unless a Constitutional provision prohibiting abortion was introduced. … [The Eighth Amendment] passed on 7 September 1983 with a 67 percent majority. It was signed into law just one month later.

From TheJournal.ie

As polls narrow before the [2018] abortion vote, is rural Ireland setting up a Brexit moment?

The polls have narrowed so much that a result once nearly taken for granted now hangs in the balance; the media are under fierce attack for bias; and questions are swirling about foreign influence and online ads. … The long shadow of two recent surprise election results – the Brexit referendum across the Irish sea, and Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential poll – is hanging over Irish voters. … The final result is expected to hinge on the one in five voters still undecided.

Emma Graham-Harrison, The Guardian

‘Dark ads’ cast a shadow over Ireland’s referendum on abortion

Attempts by Facebook and Google to tackle ‘dark ads’ and foreign interference in the run-up to Ireland’s referendum on abortion haven’t been entirely successful, according to an online transparency group.

From CNN

The Irish Exception

[Repealing the amendment] would put an end to an all-but-unique experiment in Western public policy: an attempt to combine explicitly pro-life laws and generally pro-family policy making with a liberalized modern economy and the encouragement of female independence and advancement.

Ross Douthat, The New York Times

Irish abortion referendum: Abortions could be offered to NI women

Women from Northern Ireland could cross the border to have an abortion if there is a yes vote in the upcoming referendum. … Abortions are only allowed in Northern Ireland if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health. Rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not circumstances in which they can be performed legally. Currently women from Northern Ireland can travel to England to have a free NHS abortion after charges were abolished in June 2017.

From the BBC

Legalizing abortion would betray Ireland’s future

In Ireland, one might suspect that on a sociopolitical level this referendum is further evidence of a longer-term reaction against the Catholic Church, whose decline in authority and influence in Ireland has been paralleled by referendums in 1995 that legalized divorce and in 2015 that legalized same-sex marriage. If so, there will be no small irony involved: that the Catholic Church’s support for the Eighth Amendment will hurt the amendment’s chances in Ireland.

The Editors, America, the Jesuit Review

One way or the other, the referendum will change Irish politics

If it is a No vote … the consequences for Leo Varadkar’s Government will be calamitous. This shaky and unsure coalition is almost certainly in its last year – actually probably its last six months – … and a defeat on Friday would be sufficiently destabilizing to bring the end closer, and maybe much closer. It is hard to see how the Government could muster the political capital to do anything after such a devastating defeat. … [A Yes vote] will reinforce the image of Varadkar as a young, liberal, progressive leader – and crucially as one who wins elections … [and] would carry the Government through the forthcoming Brexit travails and into the autumn budget.

Pat Leahy, The Irish Times

Which side will prevail in Ireland’s abortion referendum? Image from the BBC.com

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Dinner guests

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“We were five at table … “
–William Henry Hurlbert

Rolleston

In late June 1888, Hurlbert sat down for dinner with four other men who made their mark on Irish history to greater and lesser degrees. T. W. Rolleston, a writer and editor whom Hurlbert described as “an uncompromising Protestant Home Ruler,” hosted the evening meal at his home in Delgany, County Wicklow.

Also gathered around the table:

  • John O’Leary, the “Fenian patriot … whose name is held in honor for his courage and his honesty for all who know anything of the story of Ireland in our times,” according to the American.

    Sigerson

  • Dr. George Sigerson, a physician, scientist, supporter of the Irish literary revival, and “an authority on the complicated question of Irish Land Tenures,” Hurlbert wrote.
  • John F. Taylor, “a leading barrister of Dublin, an ally on the Land Question of Mr. Davitt, and an outspoken Repealer of the Union of 1800,” as well as a journalist and friend of Alice Stopford Green.

Hurlbert admitted that he “had long wished to meet” O’Leary, especially since 1886, when the Fenian sent him “one of the most thoughtful and well-considered papers I have ever read on the possibilities and impossibilities of Home Rule for Ireland.”

The American devoted several pages to O’Leary’s biography, from his Tipperary birth to his early nationalist activity with the Young Ireland movement at Trinity College Dublin in the “battle summer, 1848,” and his 1865 arrest and trial for treason felony.

O’Leary

O’Leary’s speech from the dock “made a profound impression upon the public mind in America,” Hurlbert wrote. “It was the speech not of a conspirator, but of a patriot.” The convicted Fenian spent five years in an English prison and 15 years exiled in Paris and America.

Of the contemporary agrarian agitation, Hurlbert reported that O’Leary “has so far preserved an attitude of neutrality.” Later accounts suggest O’Leary was more hostile to the Land League and its activities.

Historian Owen McGee noted that O’Leary made clear that he opposed the Irish Republican Brotherhood becoming directly, or indirectly, engaged in agrarian violence. If so, “he would immediately resign from the [IRB] movement in protest; an action, it might be noted, that he never felt it necessary to take.”

O’Leary, while still exiled, met with Charles Stewart Parnell as the Land  War was getting started in 1879, but he balked at becoming engaged in the effort. He generally frowned on the constitutional nationalist efforts of Parnell and other Irish M.P.s to secure Home Rule.

At the dinner, Hurlbert quoted O’Leary as saying:

What certain Parnellites object to in Mr. Rolleston, and in Mr. Taylor, and in me, is that we can’t go out gathering grapes of thorns or figs of thistles. Some of them expect to found an Irish republic on robbery, and to administer it by falsehood. We don’t.”

Hurlbert

The passage appeared on page 291 of Vol. 2 of Ireland Under Coercion. In the later consolidated edition of the book, page 389, the three identifying pronouns were removed from the quote and the attribution changed to “one of the [dinner] company.” This was due to O’Leary’s complaint to Hurlbert in a 9 September 1888, letter, included in the appendix of the consolidated edition.

“I am giving more bother about what you make me say in your book than the thing is probably worth,” O’Leary wrote. He continued:

Most certainly I do not expect to found anything on robbery, or administer anything by falsehood, but I do not in the least believe that the National League [Parnellites] either expects or desires to found an Irish republic at all! Neither do I believe that the Leaguers will long retain the admiration of such small measure of Home Rule, as I now believe we are going to get. My fault with the present people is not that they are looking, or mean to look, for too much, but that they may be induced … to be content with too little.

Home Rule never happened in Parnell’s or O’Leary’s lifetimes, which ended in 1891 and 1907, respectively. A year after the dinner party, O’Leary’s “means were considerably reduced by the fall in the value of his houses in Tipperary, brought about by the Plan of Campaign movement—which he never ceased to condemn,” The Times of London said in its obituary.

As for Rolleston, he edited Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland in 1888, including his contribution of a poem about O’Leary. Hurlbert wrote about the collection in his book.

Rolleston soon moved to Killiney, closer to Dublin city, where he “was part of almost every vital ‘happening’ of the literary and cultural revival scene,” the Independent reported in a 2016 story. But he “was written out of popular Irish history because his views piqued the nationalist rump of the literati.”

Rolleston’s former house in Killiney, Co Dublin.

NOTES: From pages 383-390, and 466-67 (Appendix) of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American.  … “He would immediately resign…” From page 79-80 of The IRB: The Irish Republican Brotherhood from the Land League to Sinn Fein, by Owen McGee, Four Couts Press, Dublin, 2005.  … “His means were reduced…” from The Times‘ of London obituary of O’Leary, 18 March, 1907, page 6.

NEXT: Irish America

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Uncrowned king

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“Mr. Parnell and the National League are really nothing but the mask of Mr. Davitt and the Land League.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Parnell

Hurlbert disagreed Michael Davitt’s agrarian agitation, but he respected the activist, whom he interviewed. The American reporter had nothing but contempt for Charles Steward Parnell, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, whom he had observed for a decade, but does not appear to have met.

Davitt and Parnell were each involved in the Irish National Land League, which was was outlawed in 1882 and replaced by the similarly-named Irish National League. To Hurlbert, Davitt was more authentic and reasonable, while Parnell had “one voice for New York and Cincinnati, and another for Westminster.”

This should not have surprised Hurlbert. Political leaders frequently vary their messages for foreign and domestic consumption, and often carefully calculate their rhetoric even within constituencies.

Hurlbert was editor of the New York World when Parnell arrived in the city on New Year’s Day, 1880, as the Land War heated in Ireland. Over the next three months, Parnell made a 62-city tour of the United States and Canada that raised over $300,000 in tenant relief. It was considered so successful that supporter Timothy Healy proclaimed Parnell the “uncrowned king” of Ireland as they sailed home. The nickname held.

In his 1888 book, Hurlbert tried to recast Parnell’s visit. He suggested the M.P.’s first U.S. interview “made on the whole an unfavorable impression in America.” Further, it was only because Davitt  and leaders of Irish organizations in America “came to the rescue” that Parnell achieved any success, including his “off day” visit to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Reception display

“His tour, however, on the whole, harmed more than it helped the new Irish movement on my side of the Atlantic,” Hurlbert wrote.

Ely M. Janis has noted Parnell’s visit “especially rankled several important American newspaper editors,” though the historian did not name Hurlbert. “Several commentators noted Parnell’s subdued style in public meetings and believed him unable to stir Irish Americans to action,” Janis continued, but his rhetorical skills improved during the tour and he helped make the Land League a success in the years to come as he emerged “as the dominant Irish leader of his generation.”

Daniel Crofts, Hurlbert’s biographer, wrote that his subject “failed to recognize the astuteness of the great Irish leader or to recognize Parnell’s claim on the Irish heart.” Hurlbert saw Parnell and Henry George “as dangerous subversives who stood ready to undermine both property and political order.”

Curiously, Hurlbert never mentioned the “Parnellism and Crime” series published by The Times of London a year before his trip to Ireland. The series implicated Parnell in the Phoenix Park murders of 1882. As he traveled during the first half of 1888, momentum was building for a special commission to investigate the Times‘ report, which Parnell and his supporters claimed was based on a forged letters.

The commission was established in August 1888, a month before Hurlbert wrote the preface for Ireland Under Coercion. His views, dated 21 September 1888, predicted “an imminent rupture between the Parnellite party and the two wings–Agrarian and Fenian–of the real Revolutionary movement in Ireland.”

Parnell was vindicated in 1889 by the special commission, which exposed the forged letters. He enjoyed a brief period of triumph. But the Parnellite party splintered the following year when the leader became embroiled in a famous divorce case. Personal behavior, not political tactics, caused his downfall.

Parnell died at the end of 1891, age 45.

Parnell’s grave at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, July 2016.

NOTES: From pages 161 (top quote), 39, 18 and xi of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanPages 186 and 191 of  A secession crisis enigma : William Henry Hurlbert and “The diary of a public man, by Daniel W. Crofts, LSU Press, 2010. Also, “Anointing the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland”: Charles Stewart Parnell’s 1880 American Tour and the Creation of a Transatlantic Land League Movement,” by Ely M. Janis, in German Historical Institute Bulletin Supplement 5, 2008.

NEXT: Dinner guests

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Nationalist poetry

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“I have to-day been looking through a small and beautifully-printed volume of poems just issued here.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In Dublin, Hurlbert picked up a copy of Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland. It was dedicated to Irish separatist John O’Leary and the Young Ireland Societies. Hurlbert noted “the spirit of all the poems it contains is the spirit of [the Young Ireland rebellion of 18]48, or of that earlier Ireland of Robert Emmett.

In 1888, O’Leary had only been back in Ireland a few years following a five-year imprisonment in England and 15-year exile in Paris and America that resulted from his conviction for treason. The new book’s dedication poem, “To John O’Leary,” included the stanzas:

Because you loved the nobler part / Of Erin; so we bring you here

Words such as once the nation’s heart / On patriot lips rejoiced to hear.

O’Leary

Scholar John Turpin attributed the poem, which is unsigned in the book, to William Butler Yeats. According to Susan O’Keeffe, director of the Yeats Society Sligo, it was written by T.W. Rolleston, who edited Poems and Ballads.

There is no dispute that O’Leary influenced Yeats. They met in 1885, when O’Leary was 55 and Yeats was 20. It was a year before the failure of the first Home Rule bill and the widening of the Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist divide in Ireland. As historian Owen McGee wrote in a History Ireland piece:

O’Leary maintained a lifelong conviction that a non-confessional Irish nationalist political élite could emerge, even when this possibility had seemingly evaporated after 1886. His tenacious hold on this belief, which Yeats found inspiring and essentially inherited, virtually defined ‘Romantic Ireland’ to the young poet, for whom O’Leary acted as a patron.

O’Leary died in 1907. Six years later, in his poem “September 1913” at the start of Ireland’s revolutionary period, Yeats penned the memorable stanza:

Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yeats

Four poems in the 1888 collection are signed by Yeats: “The Stolen Child” , 1886, which Hurlbert described as “an exquisite ballad” ; “The Meditation of the Old Fisherman” , 1886; “The Madness of King Goll” ,1887; and “Love Song” , year unknown.

Hurlbert also commented on the poem, “Marching Song of the Gaelic Athletes,” attributed to An Craoibhín Aoibhinn (translated from Irish as, The Pleasant Little Branch), the pseudonym of Irish nationalist Douglas Hyde. It became the anthem of the Gaelic Athletic Association, or GAA, which was founded in 1884.

“These Athletes are numbered now, I am assured, not by thousands, but by myriads, and their organization covers all parts of Ireland,” Hurlbert wrote. “It the spirit of [18]48 and of [the Rebellion of 17]98 is really moving among them, I should say they are likely to be at least as troublesome in the end to the ‘uncrowned king’ as to the Crowned Queen of Ireland.”

Parnell

The uncrowned king was a reference to nationalist M.P. Charles Stewart Parnell. Hurlbert seemed to imply that the GAA and other Irish republicans would overwhelm Parnell’s second attempt at securing constitutional Home Rule. (More about Hurlbert’s views of Parnell in the next post.)

The 33 poems collected in the 80-page Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland were published by M. H. Gill and Son of Dublin. Hurlbert described the firm as “Nationalist publishers … who have the courage of their convictions, since their books bear the imprint of O’Connell, and not Sackville Street.”

Four years earlier, “in a rash of apparent nationalism,” Dublin Corporation opted to rename the street after Daniel O’Connell, the early 19th centurty “Liberator” of Catholic Ireland. Some unionist residents challenged the effort in court, preferring to remember the former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The street name wasn’t officially changed until after independence in the early 20th century.

Inside title page of the digitized copy of the book, linked at top.

NOTES: From pages 391-392 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Other sources are linked. UPDATE: This post was updated on 13 May 2018, to include information about the O’Leary poem from the Yeats Society Sligo.

NEXT: Uncrowned king

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Bank deposits

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“It is a curious fact which I learned to-day from the Registrar-General, that the deposits in the Post Office Savings Banks have never diminished in Ireland since these banks were established.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert made numerous references to how deposits at local Post Office Savings Banks grew from 1880, the start of the Land War, to 1887, the first full year of the Plan of Campaign. He included a table of the deposits at a dozen branches in places he visited. The aggregate increase was 20,329 pounds, or almost 60 percent, over the seven-year period.

“The Post Office Savings Banks represent the smaller depositors, and command special confidence among them even in the disturbed districts,” Hurlbert wrote. “Yet in all these places the Plan of Campaign has been evoked ‘because the people were penniless and could not pay their debts!’ ”

Ireland’s first Post Office Savings Banks opened in 1862. As with the forerunner Trustee Savings Banks, these institutions were “partners in a great national movement designed to encourage the people to save, the emphasis being to save for a rainy day–sickness, unemployment,old age, etc.,” Richard Barry wrote in his 1956 article, “Savings in Ireland.” The increased deposits noted by Hurlbert could have been driven by savers other than tenant farmers withholding their rents.

Hurlbert met the manager of the Portumna Branch of the Hibernian Bank, who told him “there was no doubt that the deposits in the bank had increased considerably since the adoption of the Plan of Campaign [on a nearby estate]. Money was paid into the bank continually by persons who wished the fact of their payments kept secret …”

The bank manager said in some cases tenants allowed their agent to seize their stock and sell it to pay the rent. This allowed them to remain on the landlord’s property, and also avoid having to paying into the Plan fund.

Other farmers were victims of usury. To borrow small sums of money, they were required to have two securities, “one of them a substantial man good for the debt,” Hurlbert reported. These lenders had to be “treated” by the borrower with “a weekly sum for the countenance they have given him, which not seldom amounts … to 100 percent on the original loan.”

Five years after Hurlbert left Ireland, a second Home Rule bill was introduced in Parliament. One of the provisions of the legislation, which eventually failed, called for all bank business to be transferred to the proposed Irish government controlled by a new Irish legislature.

“For the first time in the history of the Post Office Savings Bank a decrease took place in Irish deposits, instead of the unbroken record of increasing deposits,” Irish Unionist M.P. Authur Warren Samuels wrote in his 1912 book on Home Rule finance, published during the third attempt at Home Rule. He described the 1893 deposits decline as “a striking instance of the distrust of Home Rule entertained by the small shopkeepers, farmers, domestic servants and artisans in Ireland.”

Though the deposit flow was the opposite of what he observed in 1888, Hurlbert, the anti-Irish nationalist, probably would have been smugly used the outcome to make his point.

NOTES: From pages 203, 238, 274, 328, 382, and 462-463 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Page 45 of “Savings in Ireland” by Richard Barry, in University Review, Autumn 1956, via JSTOR. … Pages 170-171, Home Rule finance: an examination of the financial bearings of the Government of Ireland Bill, 1912, by Authur Warren Samuels, 1912, via Internet Archive.

NEXT: Nationalist poetry

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: On Moonlighters

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“The ‘Moonlighters’ of 1888 lineally represent, if they do not simply reproduce, the ‘Whiteboys’ of 1760.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert was correct. The Whiteboys and Ribbonmen of the 18th century were forerunners of the late 19th century Moonlighters; shadowy, violent groups that struck against landlords and other establishment interests on behalf of Ireland’s rural poor and powerless. Hurlbert also quoted a land agent who referenced the Terry Alts, active in County Clare during the late 1820s, as “the Moonlighters of that day.”

These secret organizations also terrorized their own people, as was true among late 20th century republican and loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. Even today, 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement ended hostilities between the two sides, these groups “show no intention of loosening their grip of fear on the communities where they operate.”

From the 1879 start of the Land War, the Moonlighter moniker was applied to typically nocturnal raiders on farmers who threatened the agrarian agitation, either by paying their rent or leasing the land of an evicted tenant. Moonlighters intimidated people who were being boycotted for related reasons, and they settled family feuds and other local grudges. Their tactics included threatening letters and public notices; maiming animals, setting fires and other property damage; as well as assaults and murder.

“Moonlighters were reported as being organized as ‘bands’ or ‘companies,’ each under a captain,” historian Marc Mulholland wrote in a 2016 essay. “Their depredations were concentrated in the impoverished and rural west of Ireland.”

Hurlbert quoted an unnamed priest from the region, “a Nationalist,” who described the western counties of Clare and Kerry as “a solitary plague-spot where dwell the disgraceful and degraded Moonlighters … these insensate pests of society.” The priest’s letter to Hurlbert was written days after the Lixnaw murder of boycotted farmer James Fitzmaurice. Like many government officials, Hurlbert framed the crime as evidence of an “open alliance” between nationalist politicians and agrarian activists, and “the criminal classes in certain parts of Ireland.”

In another passage, Hurlbert wondered “why so many [agrarian] crimes are committed with virtual impunity?” He cited “two sufficient reasons” in answer to his own question: witnesses refused to testify, or tell the truth if they did; and juries “in nine cases out of 10” would not do their duty to convict the guilty.

To help overcome local intimidation and secure prosecutions, Hurlbert noted the trials of some accused Moonlighters were transferred from Kerry and Clare to Wicklow, 200 miles away on Ireland’s east coast. This is what happened in the case of two men charged, convicted and executed for the Fitzmaurice murder. Hurlbert did not report this outcome, which occurred within three months of the crime, and well before he published the book.

His west of Ireland letter writer excepted, Hurlbert complained that too many priests in the country were “not only disposed to wink and condone” the Moonlighters’ activities, “but openly to cooperate with them under the pretext of a ‘national’ movement.” This was “intolerable” for the church, he wrote, “and dangerous to the cause of Irish autonomy.”

An 1886 issue in the Illustrated London News.

NOTES: From pages 127, 183, 208-212, 268, 445-447, and 459 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American.  Marc Mulholland, “Political Violence” in The Princeton History of Modern Ireland, edited by Richard Bourke and Ian McBride, Princeton (N.J.) University Press, 2016, page 388.

NEXT: Bank deposits

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan