The “Irish Papers” collection at Boston Public Library contains letters, documents, pamphlets, and other material related to the Irish War of Independence and Civil War, 1919-1923. I recently reviewed portions of the collection related to press activity in Ireland during the period as part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series and book project. MH
The Irish Bulletin debuted in November 1919 as the official organ of the provisional Irish Republic. Its original press run of less than 50 copies grew to about 1,200 over two years.See Bureau of Military History Witness Statement of Kathleen Napoli-McKenna, who worked at the Bulletin, p. 5. Readers included political insiders on both sides of the Irish Sea, the continent, and across the Atlantic, including American and other foreign journalists.
The Bulletin operated underground for most of its exitance. It effectively countered British propaganda and helped make the Irish republican case before the world. British operatives raided the Bulletin’s Dublin offices in March 1921 and soon published a forged edition, which fooled few readers. After the July 1921 truce, the Bulletin emerged from the shadows as Irish and British representatives began to negotiate a treaty settlement.
On Nov. 25, 1921, the Bulletin “manager” mailed a circular to known recipients from Mansion House, Dublin, likely working from the publication’s daily and weekly lists of names and addresses as of late July 1921.Held by Bureau of the Military History, Dublin. Reference Code BMH-CD-006-09-16(k) and Reference Code BMH-CD-006-09-16(l), respectively. The circular stated:
The circumstances of the situation in Ireland have hitherto prevented direct communications between the readers of the IRISH BULLETIN and those responsible for its publication. This difficulty does not at present exist, and if recipients wish to communicate with the publishers they can do so (via Mansion House). We shall be glad to hear from those who receive the BULLETIN as to change of address, non-receipt, etc. … If no such acknowledgement reaches (the manager) he will discontinue sending the BULLETIN to that address.
A follow up circular mailed Dec. 12, 1921, said, “We have had no acknowledgement from you … (and) would be glad if you will let us know whether the copies of the BULLETIN sent you have arrived.”
The “Irish Papers” collection contains 216 replies, most of them on the bottom of either the first or second circular. John Steele, the Chicago Tribune‘s London correspondent, replied to the first notice with “many thanks for the Bulletin which is being received regularly.” He often referenced the Bulletin in his dispatches to America, but the Dec. 7, 1921, story clipped here appears to be the last time. Steele and American journalist Carl Ackerman, also on the Bulletin’s daily recipients list, in 1920 and 1921 shuttled between Irish and British officials to assist negotiations leading to the treaty.
Other Americans on the Bulletin’s daily mailing list included:
- The American Consul’s office, Dublin
- Clemens J. France, leader of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Dublin
- Associated Press of America, London
- P.J. Kelly, Irish-born correspondent of the New York World, Dublin
- John H. McHugh Stuart, New York Herald, London
- Webb Miller, United Press, London
- E.C. Reeves, International News Service, London
- Frank P. Walsh, a member of the American Commission on Irish Independence that visited Ireland in May 1919, and other activities, New York
American recipients on the Bulletin’s weekly mailing list included the Irish Diplomatic Mission, Washington, D.C.; Notre Dame University library, Indiana; and nearly 50 chapters of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR), which splintered from the Friends of Irish Freedom in late 1920 to support Éamon de Valera. Almost 100 newspapers and magazines are on the list, most of them Catholic weeklies. The list included secular Irish papers such as The Irish News and Chicago Citizen; The Irish Press, Philadelphia, The Irish Standard, Minneapolis; The Irish World and American Industrial Liberator, New York City; the Kentucky Irish American, Louisville; and a few labor organs. Mainstream press included The Nation magazine, which backed the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland in late 1920 and early 1921; and The New York Times, hardly a supporter of Irish independence at any time.
The Pennsylvania state chapter of the AARIR, based in Philadelphia, and the Catholic Sentinel of Portland, Oregon, nearly 7,500 miles from Dublin, are among the American groups that replied to the circular, as contained in the Boston archive.
English author G. K. Chesterton, who wrote a book and newspaper columns in favor of Irish independence, also sent a hand-written note to the Bulletin, apparently after reading the second notice:
“I hope you will forgive both delay & haste, as I am in a domestic rush. I certainly supposed I had read all of the issues of the Bulletin sent to me, with great interest and admiration for the ability and sincerity with which your case is argued; but it is clear that I missed the one you mention, or I should have sent the acknowledgement before. Yours very truly,”
The Bulletin ceased publication on Dec. 11, 1921, after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London, as referenced in Steele’s story above. The timing of the paper’s closure suggests some miscommunication among the editorial staff and other treaty supporters, or possibly disappointment with the subscriber notification response.
“With the coming of the Truce “The Irish Bulletin” on which I had the honour to work, had successfully completed its mission,” Kathleen Napoli-McKenna says in her Bureau of Military History Witness Statement, linked in Note 1. (She seems to mean the treaty.) “I recall the days of my work on the Bulletin with a deep sense of nostalgic happiness.”
Subsequent iterations of the Bulletin were published by anti-treaty forces through spring 1923.
See earlier posts on the 100th anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty:
(This post was updated Dec. 13, 2022.)