A ‘quiet day’ in Ireland’s civil war, 1923

Irish Free State representatives and anti-Free State republicans early in January 1923 confronted each other over control of $2.5 million of bond funds raised in the United States. As the showdown unfolded at the the Irish consulate in New York City, some U.S. newspapers suggested the Irish civil war had to come to America. The “Battle of Nassau Street”[1]”Irish Picketing Hylan, Riot Call  From Consulate”, Daily News (New York City), Jan. 3, 1923. ended without violence after three days, but wrangling over the bonds continued until the 1930s.

In Ireland, the real civil war raged into its seventh month. U.S. papers detailed political efforts to resolve the internecine conflict and brief stories about episodes of violence. Denis O’Connell, an Irish-born correspondent for the Heart-owned Universal Service news wire, filed a Jan. 27, 1923, dispatch that attempted to give American readers a more comprehensive view of the suffering in Ireland, even on “quiet” days when there wasn’t “big news.” He described the shooting deaths and injuries to dozens of people, plus bombings, postal holdups, and railroad vandalism, with just a sentence or two devoted to each episode. O’Connell gave particular attention to the women “irregulars” fighting against the Free State government:

The soldiers do not search women in Dublin. Women frequently have thrown bombs in Dublin and used revolvers with deadly effect. Women have been caught in the mountains and wayside dugouts, shouldering rifles and sharing with the men all the hardships and exposure.

Partial clipping from the Jan. 28, 1923, issue of the Buffalo (N.Y.) Courier shows the top portion of the story’s two columns. This is not the full story.

O’Connell, a native of Cork city, was educated at the local Christian Brothers schools and began his career at the Cork Free Press. His coverage of the 1913 Dublin lockout caught the attention of the Heart-owned International News Service, which hired him as a London-based correspondent.[2]”Mr. Denis O’Connell” obituary, The Irish Press, May 18, 1949. The forename of his byline frequently appeared as “Daniel,” the same as Ireland’s 19th century “Liberator.” It’s unclear whether this was a pseudonym or garbled in the cable transmission. The byline appears both ways in multiple U.S. papers throughout the Irish revolutionary period.

O’Connell interviewed Éamon de Valera at his home in Dublin shortly after the Jan. 7, 1922, Anglo-Irish Treaty vote: ” ‘I am giving you the first authorized statement I have given to any press man since the beginning of the negotiations,’ said the Sinn Fein chieftain as he paced the floor. De Valera spoke carefully, slowly weighing every word before he uttered it.”[3]”New Regime Begins Rule For Ireland”, Oakland Tribune, Jan. 16, 1922; and “Mr. De Valera Interviewed”, Irish Examiner, Jan. 17, 1922.

Universal Service, which belonged to the Hearst empire in 1923, merged with International News in 1937. Other Irish and English journalists, based in Ireland and in England, worked for U.S. newspapers and wire services during the revolutionary period. O’Connell later became a correspondent for the Daily Express in Cork. He died in London in 1949.

References

References
1 ”Irish Picketing Hylan, Riot Call  From Consulate”, Daily News (New York City), Jan. 3, 1923.
2 ”Mr. Denis O’Connell” obituary, The Irish Press, May 18, 1949.
3 ”New Regime Begins Rule For Ireland”, Oakland Tribune, Jan. 16, 1922; and “Mr. De Valera Interviewed”, Irish Examiner, Jan. 17, 1922.

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