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About admin

I am a proud Irish-American journalist living in metro Washington, D.C. In 1997 I claimed Irish citizenship through my maternal grandparents from Lahardane townland (Ballybunion) and Kilelton townland (Ballylongford) in north County Kerry. I have made five trips to Ireland since 2000, exploring most of the island, including the partitioned north. I have published numerous articles about Ireland in newspapers, magazines and websites, including my online blog. I received a Journalism Fellowship from the German Marshall Fund of the United States that paid for a month-long reporting trip to Ireland in 2001. I generally support the reunification of the island of Ireland for reasons of historical and geographic integrity. I recognize there are vast differences in the religious, social and political traditions of north and south, just as I realize there are differences between native Irish and Irish Americans.

W.B. Yeats arrives in New York, January 1920

Irish poet William Butler Yeats sailed into New York City on Jan. 24, 1920, for what was his fourth of five lifetime visits to America. The other tours were in 1903/4, 1911, 1914, and 1932/33. Cumulatively, he spent more than a year in the United States.

“Spurred no doubt by the strength of patriotic sentiment he encountered among Irish Americans, he made some of his most overtly nationalistic pronouncements while he was in America,” according to the Embassy of Ireland, USA. “By the time Yeats returned to the United States in 1920 everything in Ireland had, as he put it in Easter 1916  ‘changed utterly’ and the country was in the throes of a war of independence. The Easter Rising had revived Yeats’s interest in Irish affairs and encouraged him to move back to Ireland from London where he had lived for most of the previous three decades.” 

Clipping from the Daily News (New York, N.Y.), Jan. 27, 1920, page 10.

Yeats’ 1920 U.S. tour began a year after the first Dáil Éireann was established in Dublin, seven months after stowaway Éamon de Valera arrived in New York; and a week after the Irish bond drive was launched in America. It was Yeats first American visit with his wife, Georgie Hyde-Lees, whom he’d married in 1917.

He “looked every bit the idealist and dreamer he is said to be, with his unruly hair pushed back from his well-shaped brow and a flowing tie setting off the English tweed suit he wore,” The New York Times reported.1 The newspaper quoted him:

Ireland is now a country of oppression. While there is much talk of freedom, there is little to be had. Because of the great political battles now being waged one must guard his speech and even the mail is not allowed to pass untouched. It is quite [clear] something must be done in Ireland. A settlement will be difficult because of many factors, but a settlement there must be.

Of course, at the present time the Sinn Feiners are in the majority, and will remain so until something is offered, but the Dominion Government, which wants the largest possible measure of home rule, is also very powerful. I do not think that Ulster should be coerced any more than the remainder of the country. There should be some way to permit both to work out their destiny.

Personally, I am an Irish Nationalist, and believe that the present unrest will settle as soon as there is some form of self-government.

See more of my series: American Reporting of Irish Independence.

1920 Irish bond drive, U.S. state chairmen list

Ireland’s breakaway government, Dáil Éireann, in 1920 began to raise money in America through the sale of small denomination bond certificates. Éamon de Valera launched the effort Jan. 17 in New York City with great fanfare. The kickoff “Irish Loan Week” continued through Jan. 26.

As Robin Adams writes on the Century Ireland blog:

This was a period of intense canvassing, with promotional events in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Widening its geographical footprint, the drive was then launched around the country at public meetings. The initial focus of each state was the large cities, with the less populated areas to follow. The meetings were addressed by prominent local personalities, but as ‘President of the Irish Republic’ de Valera was the main attraction.

The American Commission on Irish Independence (ICII) helped to organize the bond drive across the country. This was the non-U.S. government delegation of three prominent Irish Americans that in 1919 visited Ireland and lobbied on its behalf at the Paris peace conference. ICII Chairman Frank P. Walsh of Kansas City, a national vice chairman of the Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF), directed a roster of state chairmen selected to coordinate central committees representing geographic areas, rather than smaller communities or individual organizations. 1

“A multitude of meetings throughout the country are being planned by the state chairmen and the committees working under their direction … and I am sure that the educational benefit of the drive to the American people will be as great as the satisfaction all lovers of liberty will get from knowing that they have worked in the Cause of Liberty in Ireland,” Walsh said.2

Historian Francis M. Carroll writes:

These leaders and their staffs were to utilize the manpower of local Irish groups, such as the Friends, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish Progressive League, the Knights of Columbus, and others, to do the canvassing and selling. If a separate sales force were needed it could be created when and where appropriate. … Handbooks, promotional literature, and letters of advice poured out of the New York headquarters to inform and guide the organizers across the country.”3

The list of 40 state chairmen below comes from The Irish Standard, Minneapolis, Minn.4 No information is provided in the paper for nine states left blank5; smudged, unreadable letters or numbers are represented by ?. I’ve added details about many of the chairman from newspaper stories and the 1920 U.S. Census. Readers are encouraged to provide additional information.

Like Walsh, six other chairmen were FOIF national officers from the February 1919 Irish Race Convention in Philadelphia. Later in the year, several became state directors of the rival, pro-de Valera American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic. At least six of the chairmen were Irish immigrants; others were first-generation Irish Americans. Their work as lawyers and judges, physicians, bankers, and merchants demonstrates ascendant Irish middle class 70 years after Famine immigration.

  • Alabama: Frank J. Thompson, 65 St. Francis St., Mobile. Real estate salesman publicly defended de Valera against calls for his deportation from the state’s governor.6
  • Arizona:
  • Arkansas: James E. Gray, Gans Building, Little Rock
  • California: Judge Bernard J. Flood,  City Hall, San Francisco. State Superior Court jurist.
  • Colorado:
  • Connecticut: John J. Splain, Bijou Theatre, New Haven. Theatre manager; both parents born in Ireland.7. FOIF national vice president.8
  • Delaware: John F. Malloy, 1402 Ford Building, Wilmington. Lawyer and city official.
  • District of Columbia: William M. Phelan, Washington Savings Bank. Born in Ireland about 1862; emigration year unknown; naturalized U.S. citizen in 1895.9 As the bank’s president, in December 1920 he also served as treasure of a fund-raising committee for a parade to honor Muriel MacSwiney, widow of the late Lord Mayor of Cork, who visited Washington to testify before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. He also received subscriptions to assist the stricken town of Mallow, County Cork, after a British raid.10
  • Florida:
  • Georgia: E.J. O’Connor, 1320 Green St., Augusta
  • Idaho: J.J. McCue, Idaho Building, Boise City. Lawyer, father born in Ireland.[1920 U.S. Census, Boise, Ada, Idaho; Roll: T625_287; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 20.[/note]
  • Illinois: Richard W. Wolfe, 5344 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Real estate proprietor; born in Ireland; emigration and naturalization unknown.11 FOIF national trustee.12
  • Indiana: Judge James E. Deery, 312 Law Building, Indianapolis
  • Iowa: Dr. William P. Slattery, 9th & Locust Sts. Dubuque. Physician; born in Ireland; emigrated in 1886; naturalization unknown.13
  • Kansas: Judge Michael J. Manning, 1708 Central Ave., Kansas City. Hardware store merchant; both parents born in Ireland.[1920 U.S. Census, Kansas City Ward 5, Wyandotte, Kansas; Roll: T625_556; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 185.[/note]
  • Kentucky: Thomas F. Maguire, Louisville. Dry good merchant; both parents born in Ireland.14
  • Louisiana: A.G. Williams, Maison Blanche Building, New Orleans
  • Maine:
  • Maryland: M.P. Kehoe, Equitable Building, Baltimore. Lawyer; born in Ireland; emigrated in 1898; naturalized in 1905.15 Vice president of the Celtic Club, 1916; President of the Shamrock Club, 1918. 16
  • Massachusetts: John F. Harrington, 66 High St., Worcester. Railroad station freight handler and union member; both parents born in Ireland.[1920 U.S. Census, Leominster Ward 2, Worcester, Massachusetts; Roll: T625_747; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 335, and multiple mentions in the Fitchburg (Mass) Sentinel, 1915-1925.[/note]
  • Michigan: Patrick J. Murphy, Buhl Block, Detroit. Lawyer; born in Ireland; emigrated 1870.[1920 U.S. Census, Detroit Ward 1, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_803; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 38.[/note] FOIF national trustee.17
  • Minnesota: Edward T. Foley, Gilfillan Block, St. Paul. Railroad contractor.18
  • Mississippi: William Vollor, First National Bank Building, Vicksburg. Lawyer. “I am gratified, indeed, that there are so few people here in Vicksburg who cannot appreciate the right that Ireland claims for liberty and nationhood. … opposition here only adds to the generous response that our good people gave to President de Valera’s appeal for justice for the oppressed people of Ireland.”19
  • Missouri: A.J. Donnelly, 3846 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis
  • Montana: James E. Murray, 35 N. Main St., Butte. Laywer. FOIF national trustee.20 In November 1920, was named state director of the pro-de Valera American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic.21.
  • Nebraska: Col. P.S. Heafey, 2611 Farnum St., Omaha
  • Nevada:
  • New Hampshire: James J. Griffin, 789 Beach St., Manchester. Grocery merchant; both parents born in Ireland.22
  • New Jersey:
  • New Mexico:
  • New York: William Bourke Cockran, 100 Broadway, New York City. Lawyer and former U.S. Congressman; chief of Tammany Hall, the Democratic party machine in New York.23
  • North Carolina: Dr. John S. Clifford, 609 Commercial Bank Building, Charlotte. In November 1920, was named state director of the pro-de Valera American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic.24.
  • North Dakota: Hon. John Carmody, 5 Huntington Block, Fargo
  • Ohio: M.P. Mooney, Society Savings Bank, Cleveland. Lawyer and member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.25.
  • Oklahoma: Arthur P. Sweeney, 204 Robinson Building, Tulsa
  • Oregon: Dr. Andrew W. Smith, Medical Building, Portland
  • Pennsylvania: Hon. Eugene C. Bonniwell, 690 City Hall, Philadelphia. Municipal Court judge had been Democratic Party nominee for governor in 1918; member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.26 See note for list of Pennsylvania county chairmen.27
  • Rhode Island: Hon. Cornelius C. Moore, ???? Thompson St., Newport. FOID national trustee.28
  • South Carolina: Hon. John P. Grace, 45 Broad St. Charleston. FOIF national vice president.29
  • South Dakota:
  • Tennessee: Edward F. Walsh, 600 Market St., Knoxville. In November 1920, was named state director of the pro-de Valera American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic.30.
  • Texas:
  • Utah: Thomas Maginnis, Eecles Building, Ogden. Lawyer.
  • Vermont: Dr. John V. Derven, Putney
  • Virginia: Daniel G. O’Flaherty, 11??? Mutual Building, Richmond
  • Washington: G.P. Gleason, 2nd & Madison Sts., Seattle
  • West Virginia: Timothy S. Scanlon, Huntington. City official and state roads commissioner; Catholic.31
  • Wisconsin: Joseph P. Callan, 10?0 First National Bank Building, Milwaukee. Lawyer; born in Ireland; emigrated 1895; naturalized in 1900.32 FOIF national trustee.33
  • Wyoming: Michael Purcell, Casper

At the end of January 1920, the Standard reported:

The work of organization is farther advanced in some States than in others … As might have been expected, the most rapid progress has been made in those States where there have been numerous meetings during the past year, where there has  been plentiful publicity, and where the various societies friendly to the Irish cause have been active. In such places it was only necessary to name a campaign period and the campaign organization required produced itself with surprising speed. It did not take long to learn, however, that this desirable condition does not exist in the same degree of perfection in every State … Probably the most forward in the matters of preparation are the areas around New York and Philadelphia [which] contain more people of Irish descent than are found in many Southern or Western States combined.34

The bond drive opened with a public target of $10 million and private expectation of $5 million. Just over $5.1 million was collected. More in future posts of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

Famine remembrance exhibit returning to Dublin in April

The Irish Famine Exhibition is returning to the Stephens Green Shopping Centre in Dublin. It was initially curated in 2017 by historian Gerard McCarthy, a native of West Cork.

McCarthy says the Famine is a neglected subject in Ireland. “There are no dedicated exhibitions on the subject in our National State Funded Museums and there is rarely a mention of it in Ireland’s National Media,” he wrote in an email.

McCarthy hopes that his exhibition will contribute to keeping the story alive in the minds of Irish people and also educate tourists who have little or no knowledge of the subject. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the start of the Famine in 1845.

The exhibition is open from April 6 to September 25. It includes original artifacts from the period, such as the cast-iron pot below used to make soup, “perhaps the ultimate famine memorial,” according to the exhibit.

I’ve contributed two of my previously published Famine-related stories to the blog section of the exhibition website: www.theirishpotatofamine.com. One story, published in the U.S. National Archives’ Prologue magazine, is about famine-era children born at sea on their way to America; the other, for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is about period correspondence with a Pennsylvania priest.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum to remain open

A flurry of news coverage this time last year, some that I linked to from this blog, reported the potential 2020 closure of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in Hamden, Connecticut. A new administration at Quinnipiac University  supposedly was going to withdraw funding for the museum, the labor of love of president emeritus Dr. John Lahey.

There is no information about this posted on the museum website. In a recent call to the museum, I was told there are no plans or deadlines to close the museum, which continues to receive funding from the university. The museum is striving to become more self-sufficient. The 2019 media coverage was “blown out of proportion,” the museum representative said.

The media does hype matters, and gets things flat wrong, but I’m also skeptical of those who want to dismiss or blame press. Keep an eye on this.

The museum, and the related Lender Family Special Collection Room at the Arnold Bernhard Library on the university campus, are both great resources and worth the visit to central Connecticut, about a two-hour drive from Boston or New York City.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University.

Ireland sets national election for Feb. 8

Voters in the Republic of Ireland will go to the polls Feb. 8 to elect a new national government, four years since the last election. The Jan. 14 election announcement arrived days after the restoration of the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly. The polling date is a week after the Brexit deadline.

Economic concerns about trade and other elements of the U.K.’s exit from Europe are expected to be a major focus. Housing, health care, and the environment are others. As The Irish Times editorial page reminds: “One other certainty – if past experience is any guide – is that unexpected twists and turns will emerge between now and polling day.”

The less than 30-day-long Irish election campaign will concluded five days after the Iowa caucus, the opening voting of the insufferably long U.S. presidential contest, which began last year and will not end until November.

American interest and influence in Irish political affairs are clearly much different today than during the revolutionary period of a century ago. But the economic connections are much stronger. According to the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland: More than 100,000 people are employed by over 700 U.S. firms operating in Ireland. U.S. investment accounts for about two-thirds of foreign direct investment in Ireland.

Cancellation of police force remembrance stirs debate

The Irish government has cancelled plans to recognize British police forces–many of them born in Ireland–who fought against pro-independence rebels a century ago. The commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), was set for Jan. 17 at Dublin Castle, former seat of British administration in Ireland and now a historical site used for state events.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s center-right government noted that not only were many members of the police forces Irish, but also some were sympathetic to the cause of independence. Others suggested the ceremony was part an effort to understand pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland, which remains part of the United Kingdom and is now convulsed by Brexit.

Opposition party members and the mayors of several Irish cities said they would boycott the event. One suggested that no other state would commemorate those who facilitated the suppression of national freedom, especially the brutalities of the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans, the RIC’s special reserve and paramilitary units.

Commemorating Ireland’s bloody War of Independence (1919-1921) “will prove delicate for the Irish state for many reasons,” John Dorney, editor of The Irish Story, writes in The perils of reconciliation. “One being the potentially antagonistic result of evoking the political violence of the era. But another is that the suggestion that the commemoration of such a bloody and polarizing time can be about ‘reconciliation’, like the 2016 commemoration of the Easter Rising, is probably wishful thinking.”

At The Irish Times, columnist Fintan O’Toole wonders, Why do we fear the ghosts of dead policemen?:

Is it obscene merely to remember such men? Must there be a hierarchy of victims in which they remain, not just at the bottom but even lower down, in the underground darkness of oblivion?

We have, supposedly, been trying to rise above such mentalities, to accept that history, when it turns violent, sweeps all sorts of human lives into the gutter. A society that has moved beyond violence does not leave them there.

Dorney, however, concludes that “value-free commemorations” of the War of Independence, partition of the island, and Civil War (1922-1923) “in general are not possible. It is not ‘mature’ to impose a false consensus but rather to understand the political differences that led to bloody strife in Ireland 100 years ago and how they shaped the Ireland of today.”

Historian Diarmaid Ferriter suggested “an academic event – a conference or seminar – that would look at the issue of policing in Ireland during the revolutionary period” was more appropriate than a state commemoration.

Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) inspection.

Deal Announced to Restore Northern Ireland Assembly

UPDATES (Newest at top)

  • Reports indicate all parties are now on board. The government appears ready to reopen midday Jan. 11. [I’ll have a new post as details–and opinions–become more clear.]
  • Sinn Féin has announced it will accept the deal and rejoin the power-sharing government at Stormont. The DUP has given tentative support. The Northern Assembly’s smaller parties – the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance – are still holding internal discussions, the BBC reports.
  • The Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, trade union and industry groups are urging Northern politicians to accept the deal.
  • Northern Ireland is facing a fierce story amid the political drama.

ORIGINAL POST

The Irish and British governments late Jan. 9 announced a deal to restore the three-year-dormant Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly. Northern political parties are expected to meet Friday, Jan. 10, to approval the proposal, called “New Decade, New Approach.”

Irish Tánaiste and British Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Northern Secretary Julian Smith said the framework will transform public services and restore public confidence in the devolved government, with gives Northern Ireland a measure of autonomy from London, and also provides cross-border initiatives with Dublin.

The two government officials said reforms to the health service, education and justice will be prioritized, along with improvements in transparency and accountability, and in how civil servants, ministers, and special advisers conduct themselves. Their statements and key elements of the draft agreement can be found in this Irish government release.

The Assembly was shuttered in January 2017 after Sinn Féin‘s Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister to protest the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) handling of a botched renewable energy scheme. Then, citing health problems, Martin announced he would not run in the elections triggered by the closure. He died two months later. Sinn Féin and DUP have been at loggerheads ever since.

Historian Catherine M. Burns on 1920 Women’s Pickets

I connected last month with America historian Catherine M. Burns via Twitter (@cmburns21) as I published my Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland series. Burns has written about the April 1920 women pickets joined by Russell, both in her dissertation, “American Identity and the Transatlantic Irish Nationalist Movement, 1912-1925” (cited in my series), and in her chapter on Kathleen O’Brennan in The Irish in the Atlantic World

Burns holds a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The New York Irish History Roundtable recognized her dissertation research with its award for distinguished graduate work on the history of the Irish in New York City. Her articles on Irish-American courtship and the Irish Home Rule movement in New York City have appeared in the journal New Hibernia Review. She has also written about Irish-American theater and the 1922 fight for control of the Irish consulate for Gotham, for the scholarly blog of the Gotham Center for New York City History. We conducted this question-and-answer via email.

***

What is the background of the 1920 women’s pickets on behalf of Irish independence?

BURNS: Dr. William J. Maloney, an advocate for U.S. recognition of the Irish Republic, orchestrated the picketing in Washington, D.C. that began on April 2, 1920. The women he organized are often called the American Women Pickets for the Enforcement of America’s War Aims, but that’s not right. I found that women with more radical outlooks later formed that group in New York City.

Maloney envisioned the picketing as a short-term publicity opportunity and deliberately selected young, pretty women who could easily get their photographs in newspapers. He thought the pickets would spend a few days in Washington protesting outside the British Embassy before the Easter holiday. They would call on the British government to pay back war loans owed to the United States rather than funding warfare in Ireland. All the while, the women would pose for newspaper photographers who would, in turn, spread their images and the Irish republican message across the country.

Maloney was surprised when 10 pickets were arrested on the Monday after Easter and faced a federal grand jury. The arrests effectively ended his involvement. Women bolder than Maloney took over the picketing, extended it, and turned it into something more in line with the media stunts of militant women suffragists. Two days after the arrests, Mollie Carroll, a young actress previously paid to picket by Maloney, generated newspaper copy all over the United States by flying an airplane over Washington and dropping pro-republican handbills over the city.

How was the media coverage? What was the reaction from the Irish and Irish America?

BURNS: Prior to the arrests newspaper coverage was relatively even-handed although suspicious of the women because picketing was associated with militant women suffragists. [The 19th amendment granting women the right to vote was passed Aug. 19, 1920.] Several newspapers throughout the country published photographs of a regal and somberlooking Mary Manning Walsh, co-leader of the picketing, carrying a sign reading: “England: American women condemn your reign of terror in the Irish Republic.” Maloney had hoped the picketing would brand Walsh as the face of women’s support for the Irish Republic in the United States. This did not come to pass, but Walsh did succeed in drawing the kind of attention Maloney envisioned. After police took pickets into custody, newspapers tended to portray the women as somewhat dangerous. Headlines describing Mollie Carroll’s airplane leafleting as a “bombingof the British Embassy served to imply that the violence of the Irish War for Independence had come to the United States.

Capt. Robert Emmet Doyle and Mary Manning Walsh, 1920.

Daniel Cohalan, the leader of the Friends of Irish Freedom, was also suspicious of Maloney and the pickets. He and his associates gathered intelligence on them, eager to see if they were being directed by Sinn Féin. The Friends advocated for Irish self-determination but stopped short of demanding that the United States risk its relationship with London by recognizing the Irish Republic. Maloney and the pickets rejected this view. Some newspapers, including the Washington Post, stated that the Friends were behind the pickets. Such reporting dismayed Cohalan.

In addition to Ruth Russell, who were the other journalists in the crowd?

BURNS: The Easter 1920 picketing venture was designed to appear in newspapers and female journalists and recognizable women with media connections helped to generate the publicity that Maloney and the pickets desired.

Hammon Lake County Times, April 13, 1920.

Picket Honor Walsh of Philadelphia made her living as a journalist and editor with the Catholic Standard and Times. Constance Todd, a magazine writer married to a Washington newspaper correspondent, was on picket duty. So too was Rosa Hanna, wife of the socialist journalist Paul Hanna. He penned sympathetic reports on the protest for the New York Call. Pickets Theresa Russell and Matilda Gardner were both prominent woman suffragists, but they, too, had close family ties to journalists and newspapers. Gardner’s father was the editor of the Chicago Tribune.

I think journalism is key to understanding the involvement of Kathleen O’Brennan and Gertrude Corless in the picketing. O’Brennan was an Irish journalist and her family played an important role in the revolutionary movement in Ireland. She relayed select information about the pickets to reporters, emphasizing their Protestant faiths and long family lineages in the United States in order to claim that people outside of Irish circles supported the Irish Republic. Gertrude Corless—who shared a Washington hotel room with Ruth Russellserved as the pickets’ co-leader and public spokesperson. Notably, she had ties to the Hearst newspapers. In 1920, the Hearst newspapers backed Irish envoy Harry Boland’s scheme to generate anti-British sentiments in the United States. Corless was the private secretary of an editorial writer who penned pro-republican editorials for Hearst newspapers. As picket co-leader, Corless directed the production of such propaganda.

New year, election year(s): 20-60-20

Happy New Year! In 2020, I’ll continue to build on my American Reporting of Irish Independence centenary series, which focuses on how key people and events in the Irish revolutionary period were covered by U.S. mainstream papers and the Irish-American press. This year’s work will include the 1920 Irish bond drive in America, creation of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland, and escalating violence in Ireland. (See the 1920 Chicago Daily News movie poster below.)

“The year 1920 may see the Republic of Ireland officially recognized by the United States, and then final victory after 750 years,” Éamon de Valera said in a new year’s telegram message to the people of Ireland from New York City.1 He remained in America until December 1920.

This year also sets up well to explore historic and contemporary electoral politics on both sides of the Atlantic, as expressed in the numbers: 20-60-20, meaning:

  • 1920: In the first U.S. presidential election after the Great War, de Valera tried to influence the Democratic and Republican party conventions. U.S. Republican Warren G. Harding campaigned on a “return to normalcy”; that is, recapturing way of life before Word War I and the administration of the outgoing Woodrow Wilson, widely detested by Irish American voters for his deference to Britain. How did coverage of the war in Ireland and the Irish in America impact the U.S. election 100 years ago?
  • 1960: This is the 60th anniversary of the 1960 U.S. presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, the second Irish-American-Catholic nominated by a major party. (Al Smith was first in 1928.) JFK’s victory was an historic and symbolic moment for Irish influence in American politics. Read his Jan. 2, 1960, campaign announcement speech.
  • 2020: By coincidence, there are also national elections this year in Ireland and America, as Leo Varadkar and Donald Trump seek re-election. We’re sure to hear about a “return to normalcy” in the latter race; and Ireland’s preparations for the “new normal” of the post-Brexit border in the former contest. What role will the Irish in America, or Americans in Ireland, have in each of these elections?

As always, I welcome reader comments, suggestions, and offers for guest posts about Irish history and contemporary issues. Best wishes for 2020.

December 1920 newspaper advert for the “motion picture scoop” Ireland in Revolt.

Best of the Blog, 2019

Welcome to my seventh annual Best of the Blog–BOB. As always, I want to thank regular readers and new visitors for their support, including social media shares. Special thanks to my wife, Angie Drobnic Holan: editor, webmaster … my dear companion.

Back to Ireland …  

Inisheer, August 2019.

This year I made my ninth and tenth trips to the island of Ireland, traveling both times to the Republic and Northern Ireland. I’m starting this year’s BOB with a sampling of highlights from these 10 trips in just under 20 years:

May 2000: Pilgrimage to the Lahardane (Ballybunion) and Killelton (Ballylongford) townlands, North Kerry, birthplaces of my maternal grandfather and grandmother, respectively; and walked the Cobh waterfront where they emigrated in the early 20th century.

September/October 2001: Climbed Croagh Patrick … Interviewed surviving family at the Bloody Sunday Trust/Museum and watched testimony in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry at the Guild Hall, Derry. (Journalism fellowship from the German Marshall Fund.)

August 2007: (With Angie) Enchanted by the monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise (Offaly) and Glendalough (Wicklow). … Attended first play at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin: The Big House, by Lennox Robinson.

February 2009: Researched historic newspapers and census records at the National Library of Ireland and The National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, before they were digitized and made available online.

May/June 2012: (With Angie) Attended the Listowel Writers’ Week and heard Paul Durcan recite his poem “On the First Day of June” … on June 1, 2012 … at the Listowel Arms Hotel, the River Feale framed by the window at his back. … Strolled the Kinsale to Charles Fort (Cork) coastal walk, stopping for a lovely outdoor lunch.

July 2016: Toured the Falls/Shankill neighborhoods of Belfast by Black Taxi … Visited Titanic Belfast EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum … and Glasnevin Cemetary (Part 1Part 2), the last two in Dublin.

February 2018: Researched at the Michael Davitt Museum and grave (Straide, County Mayo); and read Davitt’s papers at Trinity College Dublin. (Part 1 & Part 2).

November 2018: Walked a muddy, cow-crowded road to reach Killone Abbey (Clare), following the footsteps of American journalist William Henry Hurlbert, who wrote of visiting the site in 1888.

July/August 2019: (With Angie) Cycled the Great Western Greenway from Achill Island to Westport (Mayo). … Hiked the circumference of Inisheer (Aran Islands, Galway) on my 60th birthday, and viewed the Cliff of Moher, which I had visited on my 2000 trip, from the sea.

November 2019: Presented my research about American journalist Ruth Russell’s 1919 travels to Ireland at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University Belfast for the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland annual conference.

Here are 2019 photo essays from both sides of the border:

From an evening walk on Inisheer, August 2019.

A few more photo essays from Irish America:

Before morning Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Church, Chicago, March 2019.

1919, Revisited … 

This year I enjoyed exploring U.S. mainstream and Irish-American newspaper coverage of 1919 events in Irish history. Find all 32 stand-alone posts, plus the five-part monograph, Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland, at my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

Other history highlights … 

… and guest posts

I am always grateful to the contributions of guest bloggers. This year:

The Antrim coast, July 2019.

Other news of note:

RIP Lyra McKee, journalist killed in Derry on April 19. She was 29, the same age as Ruth Russell when the American reporter arrived in Ireland in 1919. … U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi–first, second, and third in succession of power in the American government–each visited Ireland in 2019. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. … Republic of Ireland golfer Shane Lowry won the British Open at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland, the first time since 1951 the Open has been held on the island of Ireland. … American businessman Edward F. Crawford became the new U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. …Abortion and same-sex marriage were decriminalized in Northern Ireland, in part due to the dormant Northern Ireland Assembly. … See more at my monthly roundups from 2019 and previous years of Best of the Blog.

Libraries and Archives

Special thanks for the in-person help I received at these institutions in 2019:

  • Catholic University of America, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, and Mullen Library, Washington, D.C.
  • Georgetown University, Lauinger Library, Washington, D.C.
  • Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  • Arlington Public Library, Central Library, Arlington, Va., and the numerous libraries that made books available through the Interlibrary Loan program.
  • University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center, Pittsburgh
  • Heinz History Center, Detre Library & Archives, Pittsburgh
  • The Archives of the Sister of Charity of Seton Hill, Greensburg, Pa.
  • The Newberry, Chicago
  • Chicago Public Library, Herald Washington Library Center, Chicago
  • Queens University Belfast, McClay Library Special Collections, Belfast

And digital assistance from these institutions:

  • University College Dublin, Papers of Éamon de Valera (1882–1975), (Thanks again John Dorney of The Irish Story.)
  • National Library of Ireland, Patrick McCartan Papers (1912-1938)
  • University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center
  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, (Newspaper Collection), Springfield, Ill.
  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main, Pennsylvania Dept. Collections
  • Villanova University, Falvey Memorial Library, Joseph McGarrity Collection, Philadelphia
  • University of Kentucky, Margaret King Library, Louisville
  • University of Louisville, Ekstrom Library
  • Louisville Free Public Library
  • The Filson Historical Society, Louisville
  • Library of Congress, Chronicling America
  • Newspapers.com
  • Irish Newspaper Archives

Thanks again to all the librarians, archivists, and readers. Keep visiting this “journalist’s blog dedicated to Irish and Irish-American history and contemporary issues.”

1919 Revisited: American reporting of Irish independence

This year I explored 1919 U.S. mainstream and Irish-American newspaper coverage of events in the struggled for Irish freedom. I produced 32 stand-alone posts for my American Reporting of Irish Independence series about developments on both sides of the Atlantic, including:

  • Dáil Éireann, revolutionary parliament of the Irish Republic
  • Irish Race Convention
  • American Commission on Irish Independence
  • Éamon de Valera’s tour of America
  • News reporting and opinion pieces for and against the Irish cause

Many of my posts are focused on three Irish-American weeklies: The Irish Press, a short-lived (1918-1922) Philadelphia paper with direct political and financial ties to revolutionary Ireland; the Kentucky Irish American, published from 1898 to 1968 in Louisville; and The Irish Standard, circulated from 1886 to 1920 in Minneapolis, Minn. Since all three papers are digitized, my posts are laced with links to the original pages. The Irish American and Standard offered more moderate coverage of Ireland’s cause than the Press, reflecting a more conservative Irish America in the heartland, rather than the more activist immigrant pockets of the East Coast.

Ruth Russell’s 1919 passport photo.

I also produced a five-part monograph, Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland, about a young Chicago Daily News correspondent who reported from the early months of the revolution. Upon her return to America, Russell wrote a book about her experience, protested against British rule in Ireland; and testified before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland.

“They were extremely cool-headed and intelligent,” Russell said of the Sinn Féin leaders. “[They were] the most brilliant crowd of people that I have met in my life, and as a newspaper person I have mixed in at a good many gatherings.”1

Here’s the full series:

Thanks to the American Journalism Historians Association and the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland for the opportunity to present my research at conferences in Dallas and Belfast, respectively.

Presenting at the NPHFI conference, Queens University Belfast, November 2019.