Author Archives: Mark Holan

About Mark Holan

I am an Irish-American journalist living in Washington, D.C. I obtained Irish citizenship in 1997 through my immigrant grandparents from County Kerry. I have traveled to Ireland a dozen times and explored most of the island, including the partitioned north. I have written nearly 1,000 posts for this blog since 2012 in addition to freelance work for popular and academic publications.

American Commission’s 1920 Irish independence reading list

The American Commission on Irish Independence emerged from the February 1919 Irish Race Convention in Philadelphia. Frank P. Walsh, a former Wilson administration labor lawyer, chaired the activist group’s three-member delegation to the Paris peace conference later that spring to lobby for Ireland. Then, the trio made an outspoken and controversial stop in Ireland. By January 1920, Walsh was at work promoting the Irish bond drive in America.

Frank P. Walsh

On Jan. 29, 1920, Walsh wrote to Monsignor John Hagan, rector of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome and a supporter of the Irish republican cause, as detailed in an earlier post. The short letter itemized a list of pro-Irish reading material (propaganda, some would say) that Walsh had mailed separately from New York City to Rome. He asked Hagan to acknowledge once he received the material.

Below, the original language of the list on American Commission stationary (441 Fifth Avenue, a block from the New York Public Library) is reproduced in bold. It is linked where possible to the named publications. I’ve also added further background and context.


  • 1 copy of George Creel’s Ireland’s Fight for FreedomCreel (1876-1953) gave up his career as an investigative journalist and editor to head the Committee on Public Information, the Wilson administration propaganda agency during the First World War. Wilson sent Creel to Ireland in February 1919 after Sinn Féin candidates elected to the British Parliament in December 1918 instead convened as Dáil Éireann in Dublin. Walsh wrote a promotional blub for the book, which was published in July 1919. “No clearer, finer presentation of the Irish cause was every framed,” he wrote. [1]“What George Creel Found In Ireland”, advert, New York Tribune, Aug. 9, 1919. As Wilson balked at helping Ireland, Creel became “one of the more unlikely Irish apologist,” historian Francis M. Carroll has written.[2]Francis M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question, 1910-23 : a study in opinion and policy, Dublin : New York, Gill and Macmillan ; St. Martin’s Press, 1978, p. 144.
  • 1 copy of O’Brien’s The Hidden Phase In American History. Michael J. O’Brien (1870-1960) was the chief historian at the American Irish Historical Society in New York City. This book, like most of his work, details Irish contributions to the American revolution.
  • 2 copies of Maloney’s Irish Issue. William J. M. A. Maloney (1882-1952) was born in Scotland to Irish parents. He became a medical doctor and served as a captain in the British Army during the First World War. Afterward, he was a New York-based activist for the Irish cause. This publication is a bound collection of five articles Maloney wrote for the Jesuit-published America magazine in October and November 1918.
  • 1 colored map of Ireland. It would be interesting to know whether Walsh or others added any notations beyond the standard geographic representations. In particular, were there any suggestions of to the coming partition of Ireland? The 1920 map below is illustrative, not necessarily what was sent to Hagan.
  • 10 copies of Foundation Of The Irish Republic Eamon de Valera (1882-1975) wrote this booklet to memorialize Sinn Féin’s success in the December 1918 U.K. general election. It was published in 1919 as de Valera began his 18-month tour of the United States.   
  • 10 handbooks. It is unclear whether these handbooks were all the same title, or a variety. They might have come from the Benjamin Franklin Bureau in Chicago, which produced Irish Issue and other pro-Irish pamphlets.


Though not included on this list, Walsh also wrote a promotional blurb for Chicago journalist Ruth Russell’s 1920 book, What’s the Matter with Ireland?, which he described as “a most valuable contribution to the literature of Ireland.”[3]Advertisement in The (Brooklyn, NY) Tablet, Aug. 28, 1920, 5, The Nation, March 23, 1921, 441. Walsh and Russell had met when she covered the American Commission’s spring 1919 arrival in Dublin.

Walsh concluded his letter to Hagan: “We trust you will be able to use these to good advantage.”

1920 C. S. Hammond & Company map of pre-partition Ireland.


1 “What George Creel Found In Ireland”, advert, New York Tribune, Aug. 9, 1919.
2 Francis M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question, 1910-23 : a study in opinion and policy, Dublin : New York, Gill and Macmillan ; St. Martin’s Press, 1978, p. 144.
3 Advertisement in The (Brooklyn, NY) Tablet, Aug. 28, 1920, 5, The Nation, March 23, 1921, 441.

Irish local and E.U. election outcomes offer surprises

Pressure continues building from within the coalition government to hold a national general election in the Republic of Ireland before the end of the year, perhaps Oct. 18 or Oct. 25. That brings this coverage of the local and E.U. election full circle (see original post at bottom). Remember, U.K. (Northern Ireland) elections are July 5. Happy Bloomsday and Father’s Day. MH

UPDATE 5: Counting completed

After a week of counting under Ireland’s proportional representation system, June 7 election totals are now complete. Among 14 European Union seats, Fianna Fáil doubled its previous total to four; Fianna Gael also has four seats, one fewer than before the election; Sinn Féin doubled from one to two seats; Labor took one seat and independent candidates claimed three. 

UPDATE 4: Local seat totals & turnout

With a 49 percent election turnout, the tally of 949 county and urban district seats shows:

  • Fianna Fáil, 248
  • Fianna Gael, 245
  • Independents, 227
  • Four small party total, 127
  • Sinn Féin, 102

Only 6 of 14 European Union seats had been resolved as of June 13.

UPDATE 3: Call him Mayor Moran

Independent candidate John Moran has emerged as Ireland’s first directly-elected mayor in his native city of Limerick. Mayors are normally elected by local councilors and for one-year terms. “If the new position proves a success, if Moran makes it a success over the next five years, it could well trigger similar elections in other local authority areas and potentially the biggest shake-up in local government in decades, the Irish Times reports. The story details Moran’s high-profile background, including work as a lawyer and investment banker in the U.S.

UPDATE 2: Time to undo Mary Lou?

Media speculation over whether Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald can survive her party’s poor election result is gathering pace, even as local and E.U. counting continues Tuesday morning (U.S. time):

“If Sinn Féin strategists were hoping to conduct their 2024 election postmortem in private, they might be seriously disappointed. The party is struggling to contain the fallout from the local and European elections and, for the first time, McDonald’s leadership is on the table as an item for discussion.” — Irish Times

“(McDonald) adopted an open borders policy which would allow mass immigration into Ireland. (Her) attempts to become respectable with the overwhelmingly liberal and middle-class Dublin mediocracy quite simply blew up in her face, as rising non-EU immigration has come to dominate the political agenda.” The Spectator

The unexpected level of lost support has cast doubt on the leadership of McDonald and her longtime status as a prime minister-in-waiting. Their fall from public favor has left Sinn Féin activists stunned, demoralized and speculating over whether the party needs a new leader in time for a general election that must happen by March.”

UPDATE 1: Uncoupled doubleness

” … The modern Sinn Féin on the one hand drew on the same kind of ethnonationalist identity politics that now fuel the far right across Europe, the United States and elsewhere. Yet on the other, it thought of itself as a progressive socialist party, committed to equality and inclusion. … This doubleness created a kind of ambivalence that was very useful in a society experiencing a very rapid transition from monoculture to multiculture. … And for about a quarter of a century, this accidental mechanism was extremely effective. … What we’ve now seen in the election numbers are the first effects of (an) uncoupling: a shrinking of Sinn Féin’s vote and the emergence of the far right as a potentially viable political force.” — Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times.


June 7 local and European Union election results in the Republic of Ireland have prompted fresh calls for a national government contest before the March 2025 deadline. Taoiseach Simon Harris has doubled down on his earlier commitment to have the existing coalition government run its full five-year course until spring. Harris, of Fine Gael, became the Irish leader in early April after the unexpected resignation of Leo Varadkar.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the main coalition partners, have done better than expected in the local elections, each polling about 23 percent. Independent and small party candidate surged to just over 28 percent of the vote at the expense of Sinn Féin, which fell shy of 12 percent. As of early June 10, U.S. East Coast time, 829 of 849 city and county council seats had been decided.

The outcome in Ireland’s 14 European Parliament races is still developing. Far-right candidates in other E.U. member nations have made gains, but the centrist governing coalition in Brussels is expected to hold.

Regardless of what Harris says, Irish political observers expect snap election will take place before the year-end holidays. Why should Ireland miss the “year of elections,” as at least 64 countries (plus the E.U. assembly) decide the representation of about half the world’s population. French President Emmanuel Macron Sunday was forced to call an election for later this month after his centrist alliance was roughed up by the right in his country’s E.U. ballot.

Sixty-two percent of respondents to an online poll at website favored holding the Irish national election before the end of this year. Disclosure: I participated in the poll on June 9 in order to see the result and take the screen grab shown here.

Regardless of when the election is scheduled in the next nine months, voters in the Republic will follow the electorate in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The national election there is set for July 4, with the Tory government predicted to fall to the British Labor Party.

A total of 136 candidates are running in Northern Ireland, nearly three dozen more than the last election five years ago. The more moderate Alliance and the Social Democrat and Labor Party (SDLP) are contesting all 18 constituencies, while the pro-reunification Sinn Féin and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are each skipping a few races, according to the BBC.

The DUP were knocked off stride in March, when leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson resigned after being charged with sex crimes. He is not seeking re-election in his Lagan Valley constituency. The DUP had already lost top billing to Sinn Féin in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly.

On recognition & partition: Ireland, Israel, & Palestine

Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestinian statehood has gravely disrupted diplomatic relations between Ireland and Israel. The latter condemned the gesture as “a reward for terrorism” perpetrated by Hamas in October and withdrew its ambassador from Dublin.

On May 22, Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris said:

“On the 21st of January 1919 Ireland asked the world to recognize our right to be an independent State. Our ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ was a plea for international recognition of our independence, emphasizing our distinct national identity, our historical struggle, and our right to self-determination and justice. Today we use the same language to support the recognition of Palestine as a State.” Read his full statement, which also condemns the Hamas attack and supports the Israeli state.

The recognition has generated a new round of media stories about why the Irish identify so strongly with the Palestinians. Such reports began long before the civilian death toll in Gaza from Israeli military strikes surpassed the number of victims from the Hamas incursion into Israel.

Palestinian flag

Fourteen months before that attack, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab wrote a piece headlined “Comparing the Palestinian and Irish-Catholic Struggles.” In each case, he wrote, “a powerful force oppressed local indigenous populations in a clearly racist and paternalistic fashion.” He also details their differences with today’s Northern Ireland.

Kuttab noted that U.S. President Joe Biden, during a July 2022 speech in East Jerusalem, compared the Irish-Catholic struggle against Great Britain to the Palestinians against Israel. But the journalist questioned whether Biden, a strong supporter of Israel, is capable of “real and actionable policies related to Israel and the Palestinians.” The Biden administration has criticized Ireland’s recognition of Palestine, which was joined by Spain and Norway. But Ireland enjoys far more attention and goodwill from the U.S. government than the other two European nations.

In late May, a headline in the Jesuit magazine, America, declared, “Ireland recognizes Palestinian statehood: Why many Irish people resonate with the conflict in Palestine.”

Notice for Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign protest against U.S. weapons to Israel being shipped through Ireland. The bill has been delayed.

The piece quotes an Irish documentary filmmaker who says the Irish have a deep cultural memory of British rule and know what being colonized by a stronger neighbor is like more than most nations. The filmmaker has documented the efforts of peace activists to prevent the U.S. military from using Shannon airport in the west of Ireland as a refueling stopover for its Middle East adventurism, including arms shipments to Israel.

Catherine Connolly, an independent member of the Irish parliament, raised the Shannon issue in a May 23 interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Connolly rejected the suggestion that Ireland’s recognition of Palestine is a prize for terrorism. “This is a step for peace,” she said.

Partition plans

The sectarian and territorial conflicts between the Palestinians and the Israelis parallel those between nationalists and unionists, Catholics and Protestants, in the north of Ireland, as detailed by M.C. Rast at History Today.

Ireland and Palestine: United by Partition?” recounts how British officials in late 1930s planned to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states in much the same way they had divided Ireland along sectarian lines nearly two decades earlier. A British report suggested “the gulf between Arabs and Jews in Palestine is wider than that which separates Northern Ireland from the Irish Free State.”

Rast also quotes Dublin’s Irish Independent newspaper as saying: “Partition is the Englishman’s favorite way out of a difficulty. But it is in itself a confession of failure.”

Economic impact

The economic impact of Ireland’s recognition of Palestine is beginning to take shape. Israel’s national airlines announced it will not renew direct flights to Dublin, which were only launched last year. Irish officials have said its €15 billion sovereign investment fund would divest from six Israeli companies, the Irish Times reported.

Israeli flag

Israel’s trade deficit with Ireland was €4 billion in 2022. Israeli imports totaled €5 billion, seventh largest among trading partners, but less than a quarter of the U.K.-leading €29 billion and U.S. second-place €22 billion.

Just under 600 Israelis lived in Ireland in 2022, according to the Central Statistics Office. The same census return does not indicate the number of Palestinians, while 2016 data showed fewer than 200 Palestinians. There were fewer than 3,000 Jews living in Ireland in 2016 compared to more than 63,000 Muslims. These figures do not include Northern Ireland.

For more on how activists in Ireland are responding to the recognition, visit the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Ireland Israel Alliance.

Dev’s last visit ‘home’ to USA; Ireland’s ‘cruel partition’

Irish President Éamon de Valera made a state visit to the United States in May 1964 that bookended U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s trip to Ireland 11 months earlier. Kennedy was 46 when he set foot on Irish soil for the fifth time, the first time as U.S. leader. He was assassinated five months later in Dallas. De Valera was 81 when he made his sixth journey to America, his second U.S. trip in six months. He died in 1975, aged 92.

“This is the country of your birth, Mr. President. This will always be your home,” U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson reminded de Valera during a welcome ceremony on the South Portico of the White House. “You belong to us, Mr. President, just as in a very special way John F. Kennedy belonged to you.”

De Valera was born in New York City in October 1882. Two years later, following his father’s death, an uncle escorted him to Ireland, where he was raised by his mother’s family in County Limerick. His return trips to America included:

  • June 1919-December 1920, as Ireland’s revolutionary “president.”
  • December 1927-February 1928, as opposition leader to raise money for his newspaper.
  • December 1929-May 1930, again to raise money for The Irish Press.
  • March 1948, part of his anti-partition tour.
  • November 1963, for Kennedy’s funeral.
  • May 1964, official state visit.

See three related lists at bottom of post.

Johnson gifted de Valera with a copy of journalist William V. Shannon’s new book, The American Irish. In what must rank among the most ill-timed releases in publishing history, the book’s concluding chapter about Kennedy had been published and distributed just before the assassination.[1]“Always Welcome To U.S.: Johnson’s Warm Greeting To De Valera”, The Cork Examiner, May 28, 1964. Also mentioned in The Irish Press and The Irish Independent.

Shannon, a Washington correspondent for the New York Post, wrote that Kennedy’s “winning of the presidency culminated and consolidated more than a century of Irish political activity.” It wiped away the bitterness and disappointment of Al Smith’s 1928 defeat as the first Irish American Catholic presidential nominee and “removed any lingering sense of social inferiority and insecurity” from Famine immigrants and their offspring, too long caricatured as ditch-diggers and domestics.

If de Valera read the book, or just checked the index, he would have seen that he was not included in this story of the Irish in America. Ireland’s early twentieth century revolutionary period is barely mentioned. Shannon later became U.S. ambassador to Ireland during the Carter administration, two years after de Valera’s death.

There were plenty of press compliments for de Valera. Syndicated columnist Max Freedman declared him “one of the supreme figures of our age. … invulnerable to criticism, implacable in defeat, imperturbable in victory, and immortal in the perspectives of history.”[2]”De Valera Holds High Place In History’, The Salt Lake (Utah) Tribune, May 25, 1964. Freedman was a Canadian journalist.

‘First’ ladies man: Éamon de Valera greeted Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of the slain president, during his May 1964 visit, above. They had written to each other since the assassination. Dev also escorted Lady Bird Johnson to a state dinner, below. President Johnson is to his left.

In 1964, De Valera delivered a 20-minute address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress. An Irish radio broadcaster observed that members of the U.S. House and Senate, hardly known for their youth, seemed incredulous to hear the octogenarian recall his 1919 visit. De Valera spoke without written remarks or a teleprompter.

“I would like to confess freely that this is an outstanding day of my own life,” he told the assembly. “To see recognized as I have the rights of the Irish people and the independence of the Irish people in a way that was not at all possible 45 years ago. I have longed to come back and say this too you.”

But de Valera lamented the “cruel partition” of the island, in place since 1920. He mused that a future Irish leader would “joyfully announce that our severed county has been reunited” and that all enmity between the British and Irish people has been removed. Listen to the full speech.

Anglo-Irish relations are not as bad today as during the Troubles, which began soon after de Valera’s speech to Congress. But 60 years later the border remains in place. Now, the partition debate is further complicated by Brexit and immigration disputes.

JFK’s visits to Ireland:[3]This chart has been revised since the original post. There is conflicting information about JFK’s stops in Ireland, with one source suggesting he made six visits.

  • 1939, a brief stopover at Foynes.
  • 1945, after his service in World War II, and interviewed de Valera for the New York Journal-American.
  • 1947, visited his sister Kathleen, who was staying at Lismore Castle.
  • 1955, as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, and met with Irish T.D. Liam Cosgrave.
  • June 1963, as president on an official state visit.

Irish leaders who addressed the U.S. Congress:

  • Feb. 2, 1880, Charles Stewart Parnell, Member of Parliament, (U.S. House)
  • Jan. 25, 1928, William T. Cosgrave, President of Executive Council, (U.S. House)
  • March 15, 1956, John A. Costello, Prime Minister, (U.S. Senate)
  • March 18, 1959, John T. O’Kelly, President, (Joint session)
  • May 28, 1964, Éamon de Valera, President, (Joint session)
  • Jan. 28, 1976, Liam Cosgrave, Prime Minister, (Joint session)
  • March 15, 1984, Dr. Garrett FitzGerald, Prime Minister, (Joint session)
  • Sept. 11, 1996, John Bruton, Prime Minister, (Joint session)
  • April 30, 2008, Bertie Ahearn, Prime Minister, (Joint session)

U.S. leaders who addressed the Irish Oireachtas:

  • May 9, 1919, Frank Walsh, Edward Dunne, and Michael Ryan as the American Commission on Irish Independence, (1st Dáil). The commission was the creation of Irish activists in America, not a body of the U.S. government. The three commissioners were not elected.
  • June 28, 1963, John F. Kennedy, President, (Joint session)
  • June 4, 1984, Ronald Reagan, President, (Joint session)
  • Dec. 1, 1995, Bill Clinton, President, (Joint session)
  • April 13, 2023, Joe Biden, President, (Joint session)

Of course, other Irish leaders have visited America, notably at St. Patrick’s Day, and other American presidents have visited Ireland, without addressing the welcoming country’s national legislature.


1 “Always Welcome To U.S.: Johnson’s Warm Greeting To De Valera”, The Cork Examiner, May 28, 1964. Also mentioned in The Irish Press and The Irish Independent.
2 ”De Valera Holds High Place In History’, The Salt Lake (Utah) Tribune, May 25, 1964. Freedman was a Canadian journalist.
3 This chart has been revised since the original post. There is conflicting information about JFK’s stops in Ireland, with one source suggesting he made six visits.

U.S. opinion on Ireland, 1919: the view from Rome

Msgr. John Hagan

Monsignor John Hagan became rector of the Pontifical Irish College in Rome during the Irish War of Independence. The County Wicklow native, who had been vice-rector of the Catholic seminary since 1904, succeeded Michael O’Riordan in late 1919. Both priests were staunch Irish nationalists. Hagan was in close contact with Irish separatists and used the May 1920 beatification of Oliver Plunkett (1625-1681) as a propaganda coup that became known as “Sinn Féin Week in Rome.”

In summer 1919, shortly before O’Riordan’s death, Hagan drafted an article for Vatican officials that sketched his views on Irish affairs abroad since the end of the First World War. Below are excerpts on how public support for Ireland in the United States was unleashed after the November 1918 armistice. It is unclear whether any of Hagan’s material was ever published. Reader beware: the monsignor wrote sprawling sentences.

Till the signing of the armistice, and indeed for some months after, it could with truth be asserted that outside Ireland there was no such thing as an Irish question, or if there was anything in the shape of feeling on the matter it was one of hostility or indifference or coolness. … Even in the United States where the program of Irish independence had always reckoned millions of supporters, sympathy had been dimmed considerably after the (spring 1917) intervention of that country in the European arena; and naturally enough English propaganda had left no stone unturned to foster feelings of hostility or indifference, partly by the old methods of defamation, partly by periodic discoveries or inventions of alleged German plots, and partly by making it appear that as far as England was concerned there was no difficulty in the way of a solution of the Irish question and that if any difficulty existed it was due to the failure of the Irish themselves to formulate anything in the shape of a substantial claim supported by practical unanimity. …

(In the United States) public expression of opinion could be cooled by the ardor of war, and could be retarded or perverted by English control of the ocean cables, and could be rendered impossible by an iron discipline imposed on the country by President (Woodrow) Wilson and an army of English propagandists, but only as long as hostilities lasted. The moment hostilities ceased the previous attitude of indifference or aloofness gave way as if by magic to an outburst of enthusiasm and to a loud-voiced demand that to Ireland first of all should be applied the principles in defense of which the President had led his country into war. As early as December (1918) the country was ablaze; and a series of meetings, culminating in a huge gathering of the Friends of Irish Freedom at Philadelphia, brought the United States into line and led to an active program which has admittedly brought Ireland out of the purlieus of a simple question of English domestic policy into the forefront of international considerations affecting the immediate outlook and the future good understanding that has to be arrived at if England is to face the financial and commercial burthens arising out of the five years’ struggle that is just drawing to a close.

In the 10-page typescript, Hagan also described the activities of the American Commission on Irish Independence; Bishop Michael Gallagher of Detroit’s outspoken view on the Irish question (quoted extensively); and Eamon de Valera’s then month-old tour of the United States, including his July 13, 1919, address in Chicago (also quoted extensively). Hagan’s papers have been digitized by Georgetown University. I’ll have more about this valuable source in a future post.

In 1926 Hagan moved the Irish College at the Church of St Agata dei Goti to its present site on the Via dei S.S. Quattro. Photo from my April 2024 visit. (I got inside the gate.)

A guide to celebrated, touristy Killarney in 1865

One of my sisters, an inveterate antique store browser, occasionally sends me 19th and early 20th century books that she discovers during her explorations. Her most recent gift is a copy of Black’s Guide to Killarney and the South of Ireland, from 1865.

The 1865 edition.

Nineteenth century travel guide books developed with a simultaneous expansion of the tourist industry. Victorian era travelers were looking for sublime encounters with nature and ancient history. Comprehensive guides replaced the earlier travel narratives of individuals or groups who described only their specific journeys. The new books had “a more streamlined look, with well-indexed sections that made it easy to flip to a certain area of interest and a more compact shape.”[1]See “Guidebooks and the Tourist Industry” in Villanova University’s “Rambles, Sketches, Tours, Travellers & Tourism in Ireland.

Black’s Guides were published by the Adam and Charles Black firm of Edinburgh, Scotland  (later London) from 1839 to 1919. They competed in the British Isles with similar series from Baedeker’s, Ward Lock, and Francis Guy’s. These guides are a great resource for historians.

The gifted 1865 edition of Black’s Guide to Killarney circulated 15 years after the devastation of the Great Famine. Work was just beginning to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable from Valentia Island, Kerry, about 45 miles west of Killarney. The U.S. Civil War ended after claiming the lives of many Irish immigrant soldiers. Suppression of the Irish People newspaper began a nationalist agitation that two years later resulted in the failed Fenian Rising.

The guide opens with a 21-page summary of “interesting objects” to view from either side of three Great Southern and Western Railroad routes through the region. Key mile markers are provided on the lines from Dublin to Cork, through Kildare, Queen’s County (renamed Laois in 1922), Tipperary, County Limerick, and County Cork; from Kildare to Waterford, through Carlow and Kilkenny; and from Limerick Junction to Tipperary, Clonmel, Carrick-On-Suir, and Waterford. The next 86 pages contain more detailed descriptions of these natural and built landmarks. The last 32 pages is a “Catalogue of Books,” which sells additional guides, maps, and atlases, as well as the 21-volume Encyclopedia Britannica and a collection of Sir Walter Scott’s works. The Killarney book also features a foldout “Chart of the Lakes of Killarney and Surrounding Country” (below), two-page “Plan of Cork” city, and an illustration of the Killarney lakes (below).

Lakes of Killarney illustration in 1865 Black’s Guide of the region.

Similar view from my March 2023 visit.

Regional map from the 1865 guide. (The right edge has been cropped out due to tears.)

Of Killarney’s natural landmarks, Black’s stated:

From the over-strained laudation, and the multitude of paintings and engravings that have been produced of these justly celebrated lakes, the tourist is apt to form too high an estimate of their beauty. There can be do doubt, however, that the rocks that bound the shores of Muckross and the Lower Lake, with their harmonious tints and luxuriant decoration of foliage, stand unrivaled, both in form and coloring; and the character of the mountains is as grand and varied as the lakes in which they reflect their rugged summits.

A framed photo of my wife standing on the same rocky shores of Muckross graces a corner of my writing desk, herself looking even more lovely than the surrounding scenery. But Black’s was less charitable about Killarney’s built environment and denizens, which it described as “certainly not the cleanest town in the world, and it has the misfortune to be filled with beggars, touters, guides and other annoyances.” German journalist Richard Arnold Bermann made similar observations during his 1913 visit.[2]See my post, “Welcoming American tourists to Ireland, 1913-2021.” As if dirt and mendicants were absent in London and other destinations.

In 1865, Black’s also offered a comprehensive, island-wide guide to Ireland, and three other regional titles:

  • Belfast and Giant’s Causeway
  • Dublin
  • Galway, Connemara, and the Shannon

Several editions of these books from the 1870s to 1912 have been digitized by HathiTrust. Antique book sellers offer Black’s guides in very good condition at prices approaching $100; while print-on-demand copies are available for much less. Other guide series are also available.

Years ago one of my Irish relations spoke a memorable line that my wife and I still quote in our travel-related discussions: “Why would you want to be anywhere in the world but Killarney in May?”


1 See “Guidebooks and the Tourist Industry” in Villanova University’s “Rambles, Sketches, Tours, Travellers & Tourism in Ireland.
2 See my post, “Welcoming American tourists to Ireland, 1913-2021.”

Visit to Old St. Patrick’s in New York City

Over the years I’ve visited more than two dozen St. Patrick’s churches in four countries, as detailed in this special section. But one historic church eluded me until earlier this month, when I finally stepped inside the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Lower Manhattan.

As the first church in the United States dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint, it was the original cathedral of the Diocese of New York. The cornerstone was laid in 1809, and the completed church was consecrated in 1815. St. Pat’s became a target of the Know Nothings and other anti-Catholic and nativist movements. Damage from an 1866 fire was repaired two years later. By then, however, construction had begun on the larger and now more familiar St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Read more history of the first St. Patrick’s.

My wife and I attended the midday Mass at Old St. Pat’s during our recent visit. Here are a few photos:

The orange and yellow umbraculum at left signals the church’s 2010 designation as a basilica.

View from about three quarters back.

Front entrance is on Mott Street between Houston and Prince.

Mural on nearby building shows view down Mott Street with the church on the left, behind the trees. Empire State Building seen in the background at right edge of the green canopy.

On war reporting and trauma, then and now

PERUGIA, Italy–At the International Journalism Festival, the psychological toll of war reporting vies for attention with the role of fact checking in this record “Year Elections” and the fast-developing impacts of artificial intelligence. A few presentations here on conflict coverage provided contemporary perspectives on my work about early 20th century American journalists in revolutionary Ireland.

BBC journalist and author Fergal Keane, born in London and raised in Ireland, spoke about his latest book, The Madness: A Memoir of War, Fear, and PTSD. As described by the Guardian, “The book traces a line back through the alcoholism that killed his father to his ‘family history of hunger and war’ in Ireland: the famine of the 19th century and then the bloody fight for independence. His grandmother received an injured veteran’s pension for her role in a conflict as brutal as those Keane went on to cover.[1]Emma Graham-Harrison, “The Madness by Fergal Keane review–the BBC correspondent on conflict, fear and PTSD, The Guardian, Nov. 17, 2022.

At #IJF24, Keane described his decades of war coverage as the manifestation of an addictive personality. “There’s never such a feeling of being alive in places with such a close presence of death,” he said. And unlike other addictions, this one came with more praise and awards the longer he continued; unlike the alcoholic or drug addict who engenders growing disgust and disdain with each episode of bad behavior.

“A big war is the biggest story in the world,” Keane said. “It’s natural for a journalist to want to be there.”

Fergal Keane and BBC colleague Richard Colebourn seated opposite their images on the screen at the International Journalism Festival, Perugia, Italy, on April 19.

But by January 2020, recently named the BBC’s Africa chief, Keane experienced three breakdowns and landed in a locked psyche ward. “You don’t’ notice that your (mental) defenses have crumbled,” he said.

Writing The Madness became part of his “reckoning,” Keane said. He quoted the poet Robert Lowell, “Why not say what happened.”[2]Epilogue” from Day by Day, 1977. That’s also natural for journalists.

In his 2017 book Wounds: A Memoir of War and Love, Keane detailed how his grandmother, Hannah Purtill, her brother, Mick, and his friend Con Brosnan, in North Kerry took up arms against the British Army. The trauma she suffered manifest itself as depression he observed as a boy in the 1960s. Keane also described the revolutionary period as “a heroic myth.”

Not every war correspondent gets PTSD, Keane noted. He also was sympathetic to journalists, especially freelancers, who do not have access to the same high-level mental health care that he accessed through as a BBC employee. Keane praised the younger generation of correspondents as being more “emotionally literate” about such care, and he scoffed at the notion there was ever a “golden age” of war reporters.

At another #IJF24 war coverage panel, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen, a veteran of 20 conflict zones, said he doesn’t care for the phrase war reporter. “I prefer journalist,” he said. “You are there to be accurate, fair, and empathetic. You are there to work out the truth.”

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said domestic journalists in conflict zones, including the so-called “fixers” who assist visiting correspondents, usually have the toughest challenges during a war. “You are reporting on your family and friends, and you can’t go home.” She said social media reporting has made these domestic reporters more visible targets to hostile regimes or insurgents.

From left to right, Jeremy Bowen of the BBC; moderator Janie DiGiovanni of The Reckoning Project; photographer Ron Haviv; and Jodie Ginsberg of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Image on the screen is Haviv’s work from Bosnia.


1 Emma Graham-Harrison, “The Madness by Fergal Keane review–the BBC correspondent on conflict, fear and PTSD, The Guardian, Nov. 17, 2022.
2 Epilogue” from Day by Day, 1977.

Subscription appeals for Irish newspapers, part 2

The Joseph P. Tumulty papers at the Library of Congress contain a folder labeled “Support for Ireland.” Among other items it contains subscription solicitations for two newspapers: The Irish Statesman and The Irish Press. Details about the Statesman found in part 1 of this post .

Discussion of the 1930 solicitation letter for the Irish Press, below, must note this newspaper was the Dublin daily published from September 1931 until May 1995; not the same-name weekly published in Philadelphia from March 1918 until May 1922. Irish republican leader Éamon de Valera was the driving force behind the Irish paper, which he tried to finance with funds from the 1920 Irish bond drive in America. The bond was promoted by the earlier Irish Press, which had direct ties to Sinn Féin separatists fighting to establish the Irish Republic. The Philly weekly sided with de Valera, then touring the United States, in the bitter split among Irish republicans in America.

Once the 1921 treaty with the United Kingdom was accepted, the new Irish Free State filed a lawsuit to collect $6 million in bond funds still held in America. De Valera and other Irish republicans counter sued for the money. The matter dragged through U.S. courts until 1927. Finally, the New York Supreme Court ruled the money should be returned to the original bond subscribers. That’s when de Valera began his effort to encourage the bond holders to sign over their returns to help him launch the new Irish Press.

The main appeal of the enterprise, as seen in the letter above, was to free Ireland from the “mental bondage” of British newspapers. But the paper also would become a powerful tool for de Valera’s political ambitions. U.S. journalist, author, and social activist Charles Edward Russell chaired the American committee assisting De Valera’s effort. Another committee member, Chicago lawyer John F. Finerty, had litigated the bond case on behalf of the Irish leader and active in the de Valera-created American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic.

Another ally, Joseph McGarrity, who published the first Irish Press, suggested that De Valera try to interest newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in establishing a new paper in Ireland, according to David McCullagh. “A Hearst newspaper would be sympathetic to de Valera’s politics–but it would be out of his control. No more was heard of the idea.”[1]David McCullagh, De Valera, Vol. 1, Rise 1882-1932.[Dublin: Gill Books, 2017.] 397.

The Pittsburgh Press, Feb. 22, 1930.

The newspaper effort brought De Valera back to America several times between 1927 and 1930. He visited numerous big city papers to inspect press equipment and develop a roster of potential editors. But his main mission, McCullagh says, was to learn how to keep both financial and editorial control of the newspaper that finally debuted in 1931.

The story of the Irish Press American Corporation, incorporated in Delaware, and the parent company in Dublin, is long and convoluted. The effort was hampered by the crash of the U.S. economy, the Great Depression. Details of how many shares were turned over, and how much money was raised, are disputed. “However, it is safe to conclude that the fundraising operation in the United States fell short of the total set for it,” David Robbins wrote in his 2006 thesis.[2]David Robbins, “The Irish Press, 1919-1948, Origins and Issues.” MA in Communications theses, Dublin City University, June 2006.

It is unclear in Tumulty’s papers at the Library of Congress whether he ever subscribed to the Irish Statesman or the Irish Press. The subscription return forms are blank, but could be a additional copy of forms that he completed and returned.


1 David McCullagh, De Valera, Vol. 1, Rise 1882-1932.[Dublin: Gill Books, 2017.] 397.
2 David Robbins, “The Irish Press, 1919-1948, Origins and Issues.” MA in Communications theses, Dublin City University, June 2006.

Subscription appeals for two Irish newspapers, part 1

I’ve been reviewing the Joseph P. Tumulty papers at the Library of Congress, mostly correspondence from his work as secretary (chief of staff) to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. I also viewed a post-White House folder labeled “Support for Ireland.” Among other items, it contained subscription solicitations for two newspapers: The Irish Statesman and The Irish Press. Details of the former begin below the image. I’ll write a separate post about the latter.

Note the incorporation of the Irish Statesman with the previously established Irish Homestead. Sir Horace Plunkett founded the latter agricultural journal in 1895. Poet and painter George William Russell, known as AE, joined the effort, first as a contributor, later as editor until the Homestead folded in 1918. Plunkett also published an earlier iteration of the Statesman in 1919-1920 as the official organ of his Irish Dominion League, which favored keeping Ireland within the British Empire rather than a separate southern state and partitioned north.

Plunkett remained a director and contributor to the new Statesman, with Russell named as the editor. The weekly’s editorial philosophy considered the Irish in Ireland as one people, regardless of the 1921 partition. The “15th September” referenced in the brochure was the journal’s first issue in 1923. The brochure also boasted the Statesman‘s roster of contributors:

A subscription to the Statesman cost $4 annually, or 10 cents per copy, in America. The journal’s debut received limited attention in the U.S. press. In Wisconsin, a Capital Times editorial praised the its efforts to find “a just balance between the interests of rural and urban communities” to be “worth emulating” in the American Middle West.[1]”The Irish-Statesman And Our Farmer-Labor Problem”, The Capital Times, Madison, Wisc., Oct. 12, 1923. The 1920 U.S. Census had revealed for the first time that more Americans lived in cities than rural areas. In heartland states like Wisconsin, the fledgling Farmer-Labor Party attempted to make common cause among agricultural and industrial workers who had suffered in the First World War economy.

In Miami, Florida, hardly a hub of Irish America, the Herald praised Russell, insisting his talents ensured the new paper would be “read all over Europe and America,” according to the unbylined op-ed. “It has the same power that any small country paper has anywhere in America, but he has made it the voice of a race and of a chaotically struggling people, which is of tremendous significance.”[2]No headline, A8 editorial page, The Miami Herald, Oct. 28, 1923.

Back in Ireland, the outlook of the Taum Herald (County Galway) was less optimistic. “Being thoughtful, giving food for reflection, it is not likely we fear, to be too popular in a community where so little serious thinking is being done, and it is because we know and appreciate its good qualities and merits that we dread its ultimate success.”[3]No headline, page 2, The Taum Herald, Sept. 29, 1923. The Statesman lasted for only seven years.

“The paper bids farewell to its readers’ because—and only because—the people in Ireland who are prepared to back their opinion of its merit with a weekly payment of threepence, are not sufficiently numerous to give reasonable hope of its becoming even approximately self-supporting,” Plunkett wrote when the journal folded April 12, 1930. The weekly “finally succumbed to the apathy of the Irish reading public,” professor of Irish literature Frank Shovlin later concluded.[4]Frank Shovlin, “The Irish Statesman, 1923-1930” in The Irish Literary Periodical 1923–1958, [Kiribati: Clarendon Press, 2003].

The 1923-1930 run of the Statesman is available at the Library of Congress. The National Library of Ireland holds numerous resources related to the paper, including Edward Doyle Smith’s 1966 Survey And Index of the Statesman, with an extensive discussion about Russell.

NEXT: The Irish Press


1 ”The Irish-Statesman And Our Farmer-Labor Problem”, The Capital Times, Madison, Wisc., Oct. 12, 1923.
2 No headline, A8 editorial page, The Miami Herald, Oct. 28, 1923.
3 No headline, page 2, The Taum Herald, Sept. 29, 1923.
4 Frank Shovlin, “The Irish Statesman, 1923-1930” in The Irish Literary Periodical 1923–1958, [Kiribati: Clarendon Press, 2003].