Tag Archives: Decade of Centenaries

U.S. press opinions on end of the Irish Civil War

In May 1923, U.S. newspaper editorial pages assessed Ireland’s 11-month-old civil war as Éamon de Valera and recalcitrant republicans took the final halting steps toward ending their insurgency against the Irish Free State. “Strong hope that peace nears in Ireland is voiced by American editors,” began an “editorial digest” from more than a dozen dailies. (Clicking the image will enlarge it in most browsers.) Below it are opinions from three other papers after the IRA’s May 24 order to “dump arms,” officially ending the hostilities.

Periodic violence and political turmoil continued to trouble Ireland, but the revolutionary period that began in 1912 with the arming of Ulster and Nationalist volunteers had finally ended. As important, the civil war permanently shifted Irish American attention from the politics of the old country to assimilation in their adopted country, though affection remained for the homeland.

From the Evening Star, Washington, D.C., May 8, 1923.

The Buffalo (N.Y.) Enquirer compared the situation in Ireland to the U.S. Civil War, which ended nearly 60 years earlier.

If de Valera is seeking an example for the future he may find it in America where all are friends of Ireland. Our own civil war was fought with all the bitterness of Ireland’s civil war: but when the Confederacy laid down its arms, it did so with no thought of taking up arms again after a period of recouperation. It kept alive no purpose to take up arms again. To that noble action this country owes its present peace, unity, prosperity, and greatness. It will serve Ireland as magnificently as it has served the United States.[1]”Peace In Ireland”, The Buffalo Enquirer, May 31, 1923.

The Birmingham (Ala.) News, which encouraged anti-Catholic and nativist opposition to de Valera’s April 1920 visit to the city, remained hostile to the republican leader:

Lack of common sense has been de Valera’s besetting sin–or was it ambition? … For de Valera’s ambition or idealism or lack of common sense the greensward of Ireland has been drenched in the blood of Irishmen–and women–shed by other Irishmen. … It is well that Mr. de Valera has finally admitted that he cannot impose his will upon the majority of the Irish–but at what ghastly price has he become convinced! The wraiths of the unnecessary dead should attend him always; the sorrows of mothers who have lost their sons–at his command; the wailings of helpless children who are so by his devotion to his ambition in the fade of the majority; the moans of the widows–made so at his behest–should ring in his ears as the tolling of some ceaseless, solemn knell.[2]”De Valera At Last Bows To Inevitable; He Orders A Cessation of Hostilities”, The Birmingham News, May 31, 1923.

While heartened that de Valera and Irish republicans had finally decided to stop fighting, the Decatur (Ill.) Herald noted other roadblocks remained for Ireland’s path forward:

The chaos brought by the Republicans afforded exactly the opportunity desired by the Communists, including large groups of strongly organized workers. The Communists will scarcely cease their activities because the Republicans have decided to become good citizens. Finally, of course, there is Ulster, a problem as relentless and troublesome as ever. If the Free State does succeed in overcoming all of the difficulties thrown in its way … it will be entitled to credit for a remarkable achievement. It is not yet time for the expression of unreserved optimism.[3]”It Comes Late”, Decatur (Ill.) Herald, May 30, 1923.

See my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.


1 ”Peace In Ireland”, The Buffalo Enquirer, May 31, 1923.
2 ”De Valera At Last Bows To Inevitable; He Orders A Cessation of Hostilities”, The Birmingham News, May 31, 1923.
3 ”It Comes Late”, Decatur (Ill.) Herald, May 30, 1923.

Ten Irish stories to watch in 2023

Happy New Year. Here are 10 stories to watch in 2023 in Ireland and Irish America:

  1. The 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is in April. Queens University Belfast plans to recognize the milestone, which certainly will draw American participation.
  2. Ongoing negotiations over the Brexit trade “protocol” between Northern Ireland, other parts of Great Britain, and the Republic of Ireland, remains a contentious issue that threatens peace in the province. Yea, it’s confusing. Here’s an explainer from the BBC.
  3. Resolving the protocol also is key to restoring the Northern Ireland Assembly, which the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has blocked from operating since losing the majority to Sinn Féin in the May 2022 election. A new election is expected this spring.
  4. In addition to fixing the protocol and holding the election, the May coronation of King Charles III could have some impact on relations between unionists and nationalists in the North, if only symbolically. For perspective, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation occurred 15 years before the start of the Troubles. Charles has already signaled his impatience with the DUP’s tactics.
  5. May also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Irish Civil War in what was then called the Irish Free State. This will be the conclusion of the 12-year-long “Decade of Centenaries,” which began in 2012 with remembrances of the introduction of the third home rule bill and signing of the Ulster Covenant. It has included the centenary of World War I, the 1916 Easter Rising, and the Irish War of Independence.
  6. U.S. President Joe Biden appears likely to travel to Ireland this year. His last visit was 2016 as vice president. In December, Biden named former U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, as special envoy to Northern Ireland to focus on economic development and investment opportunities.
  7. Irish tourism reached 73 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022, but industry officials are bracing for only single-digit growth or a potential decline in 2023. Full recovery to 2019 levels is not expected until 2026, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation said.
  8. Met Éireann, the Irish weather service, says 2022 was the warmest year in Ireland’s history and the 12th consecutive year of above-normal temperatures. Climate change will continue to impact daily life, the economy, and politics on both sides of the border.
  9. Interim measures were announced last fall to sort out financial troubles at the American Irish Historical Society and Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, in New York City and Connecticut, respectively. It’s worth keeping an eye on these important organizations to be sure both are fully restored.
  10. Finally, here’s something that will not happen on the island of Ireland in 2023: a reunification referendum. See the “North and South” package of polling and stories from The Irish Times.

Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry.                                                                                                          Kevin Griffin via Fáilte Ireland.

Who controls historical commemoration?

The Irish Story, a great website, currently features an opinion piece by Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc that raises thought-provoking questions about how history is remembered and celebrated. At issue are plans to redevelop a memorial of the 1920 Kilmichael Ambush site in Cork so that it commemorates both sides in this key battle in the Irish War of Independence.

The idea of developing Kilmichael into a heritage site and tourist attraction has been widely welcomed. However the idea that this development will include a formal commemoration of the [Royal Irish Constabulary] Auxiliaries has met with strong opposition. This controversy has arisen at the beginning of the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and raises important questions about the nature and politics of commemoration and who and what we commemorate.

The piece is worth the read and is beginning to attract an interesting string of comments. This isn’t the first time such issues have been raised in Ireland, and it surely will not be the last.

Kilmichael Ambush Memorial in Cork

Kilmichael Ambush Memorial in Cork