Tag Archives: Eamon De Valera

Recalling the 1922 kidnapping of Dublin press correspondent

This post is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series. I am developing this content and new research into a book. MH

***

American journalist Hayden Talbot returned to Ireland a decade after he published a newspaper serial and instant biography of Michael Collins. Talbot had conducted several interviews with the Irish leader shortly before he was killed in an August 1922 ambush. In a 1932 magazine piece, the journalist recalled working in Ireland on the eve of civil war:

The Dublin of 1922 was not a salubrious place for alien journalists. The fact that there were 112 of us ‘covering’ the first meeting of the Dail helped, however. Only one pressman, in fact, suffered. He was kidnapped and held prisoner for several days. But we were all suspect. Dublin was substantially an armed camp. You were either for ‘Mick’ Collins or for de Valera. The fact that we alien reporters—for the most part—didn’t know a thing about either man (and cared less) was incomprehensible to the man in the street in Dublin.[1]Hayden Talbot, “Dublin Isn’t Troublin”, Answers ; London  Vol. 88, Iss. 25,  (May 7, 1932): 12

A. B. Kay’s photo appeared in the New York Daily News on Jan. 28, 1922, weeks after his safe return.

There are several aspects of Talbot’s comments, and others in the piece, that are ripe for exploration. For this post, I want to focus on the kidnapped pressman. His name was A. B. Kay, a correspondent for the Times of London. His Jan. 5, 1922, abduction came as Dáil Éireann reacted to criticism from the Dublin-based Freeman’s Journal, which grew into a larger debate about press freedom in Ireland. Days later the Dáil narrowly approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which prompted the resignation of President Éamon de Valera.

Because of those subsequent events, Kay’s kidnapping and quick release were soon forgotten. But it was front-page news for a day in large U.S. dailies such as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, which published reports from their representatives among the 112 Dublin correspondents. Smaller papers across the country relied on an Associated Press dispatch, which reported Kay was getting a bite to eat with other newsmen in a Dublin grocery when he was abducted at gunpoint. He had recently reported that some members of the republican army were turning in favor of ratifying the treaty. This led to threats of being “put in a vault with corpses and a candle.”[2]”London Times Man Kidnapped By Sinn Fein”, Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, Jan. 5, 1922, and other papers.

Dozens of the foreign correspondents in Dublin met to formulate a protest against the kidnapping, including a boycott of further coverage of the Dáil’s treaty debates. “The American and Irish correspondents joined the English newspaper men in signing the protest,” AP reported.[3]Ibid. Given the magnitude of the treaty vote and de Valera’s resignation, the proposed boycott never would have withstood the pressure to report.

And the kidnapping became secondary as anti-treaty members of the Dáil vented about unfavorable coverage in the Freeman’s Journal. In an editorial headlined “Vanity of Vanities,” the paper blasted de Valera for his “criminal attempt to divide the nation in the crisis of its fate,” among other criticisms.[4]”Vanity of Vanities”, Freeman’s Journal, Jan. 5, 1922. Mary MacSwiney wanted the Freeman’s reporter barred from the chamber. Sean Milroy argued against evictions of the press–or even representatives of Dublin Castle: “I think we are not afraid to hear the worst or the best that they can say.”

  • The full debate can be read from where the assembly resumes at 8.35 p.m.

Only a few days earlier, the anti-treatyites had launched the first issue of Poblacht na h-Éireann (The Republic of Ireland) newspaper in response to the overwhelmingly pro-treaty views of Ireland’s urban and provincial press, not just the Freeman’s Journal. In March, so-called “irregular” republican forces threatened the Freeman’s staff at gunpoint, smashed the presses with sledgehammers, and set fire to the building. 

As University College Cork’s Donal Ó Drisceoil has noted:

This reflected poorly on the democratic claims and general reputation of republicans at a time when they were engaged in what was partly a struggle to win over public opinion, including that of the diaspora, especially Irish-America, and was also largely counter-productive. It allowed their opponents to draw parallels with British attacks on and suppressions of Irish newspapers in the recent past; to characterize anti-Treatyites as lawless, thuggish and potentially dictatorial; and to cast themselves as a democratic bulwark against ‘anarchy’, representative of a majority and champions of the liberty of the press (which, conveniently, happened to be overwhelmingly pro-Treaty).[5]Press, Propaganda and the Treaty split“, RTÉ’s Atlas of the Irish Revolution, June 15, 2022.

 

References

References
1 Hayden Talbot, “Dublin Isn’t Troublin”, Answers ; London  Vol. 88, Iss. 25,  (May 7, 1932): 12
2 ”London Times Man Kidnapped By Sinn Fein”, Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, Jan. 5, 1922, and other papers.
3 Ibid.
4 ”Vanity of Vanities”, Freeman’s Journal, Jan. 5, 1922.
5 Press, Propaganda and the Treaty split“, RTÉ’s Atlas of the Irish Revolution, June 15, 2022.
6 ”Writer Describes Irish Kidnapping”, The Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), Jan. 7, 1922.
7 Ó Drisceoil, “Press, propaganda…”

American editorials on June 1922 Irish elections

From The New York Times, front page, June 19, 1922

Five months after the separatist Sinn Féin party narrowly approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty to end the war with Britain, rank and file voters in the partitioned 26 counties of southern Ireland went to the polls on June 16, 1922.  The Irish Free State’s first general election was complicated by a pact between the pro-treaty faction of Michael Collins and the anti-treaty side of Éamon de Valera. The deal provided incumbent Sinn Féin members would not oppose each other. The publication of a draft constitution a day before the vote caused additional confusion.

It took days to finalize the results under the single transferrable vote system. There were allegations of voter intimidation and ballot irregularities. (Sound familiar?) At last it became clear that the pro-treaty Sinn Féin and candidates from like-minded independents and smaller parties prevailed with the support of three quarters of the electorate.

Below are six editorial views on the election from the U.S. mainstream, Irish American, and Catholic press. The opinions range from seeing the results as a clear mandate for the pro-treaty faction to just another sign of uncertainty and division in the fledgling nation. The editorials were overly optimistic, considering the Irish Civil War erupted before the end of June 1922.

“…the best indication of the defeat of the de Valera forces comes in the vigorous complaints uttered by their representative newspapers. … It would appear that the Irish settlement moves on from crisis to crisis, but those who are closely watching events are convinced that each crisis brings a satisfactory close to the rebellion nearer.”–“The Irish Elections”, Brooklyn (New York) Daily Times, June 19, 1922

“The election has served to strengthen the group which favors acceptance of the treaty. Moderates are usually in the majority everywhere. It becomes clearer that Ireland is no exception to the general rule which makes people prefer a peaceable settlement.”–“The Treaty Stronger”, The Boston Globe, June 21, 1922

“Not more clearly or emphatically could the Irish people have manifested their disapproval of lawless violence, or have voiced their desire for peace than they have now done. They have declared for the treaty and for the Free State in a manner which admits of no misunderstanding, and the malcontents will have no excuse for refusing to abide by the verdict they have rendered.”–“Irish Vote A Pro-Treaty Landslide”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 22, 1922

“The elections in Ireland have given the Free State a large majority, but the result is by no means conclusive. … the best that can be said of the election is that it gives an opportunity to create a temporary working Government in Ireland that, if sanity prevails, may tide over the present internal crisis and enable Southern Ireland to present a united front to England and to Northeast Ulster. … Ireland, as the result of the elections, has been given a respite, and a respite only.”–“Irish Elections Not Decisive”, The Gaelic American (New York), July 1, 1922

“With patience and skill Griffith, Collins and their colleagues brought about working arrangements with the Republicans and with the British. Their tactics have shown a complete realization of the problems of compromise, and a supreme confidence in the ability of Ireland to work out those problems to the ultimate ends of unity and self-determination. They have been justified to the extent that at the election just held a decisive majority of their fellow countrymen of Southern Ireland have voted with them to accept the treaty. The opportunity to test the treaty as a practical working arrangement has been achieved; the final test of the faith of those who have steadily believed in Ireland is at hand. … Will mutual forbearance, understanding and cooperation … go down before a storm of popular fury? We cannot think it.”–“Ireland: A Faith On Trial“, The New Republic, July 5, 1922 

“While the various factions of American citizens of Irish lineage were presuming to dictate to the people of Ireland what kind of a government should be established in the Emerald Isle, The Catholic Telegraph held consistently to the opinion that this vitally important matter should be left to the decision of those personally and immediately concerned, namely, the inhabitants of Ireland. We were convinced that this was the only proper way to conform to the principle of the self-determination of peoples. We felt that, if there were family differences “at home,” there was enough intelligence, patriotism, justice and charity among the sons and daughters of Mother Erin’s household to compose them satisfactorily. The political sea has not been without its storms, but brave and keen Irish statesmen have been steering their vessel to the secure harbor of national freedom. The Anglo-Irish Treaty has been approved by an overwhelming majority of the people: and the charter of the Irish Free State is now being drawn.”–“Voice Of Irish People”, The Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati, Ohio), July 13, 1922

See my full American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

On ‘The Irish Press’, ‘Celtic Outlook’, and Villanova digital

A May 6, 1922, editorial page notice in The Irish Press informed “friends and subscribers” the Philadelphia weekly was suspending publication “after having withstood heavy financial loss for the past four years.”[1]Notice To Our Friends And Subscribers“, The Irish Press, May 6, 1922.

Joseph McGarrity

Tyrone-born Joseph McGarrity, who became wealthy in liquor wholesaling and real estate, launched the paper in March 1918 as the U.S. Post Office, “yielding to British diplomatic pressure,” banned the New York-based Irish World and Gaelic American from the mail due to war-related suspicions of espionage.[2]Dennis Clark, The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1973, pgs. 151-52.

The Irish Press will be an Irish Ireland journal, and its support will be given to all movements having for their object the national regeneration of Ireland,” the paper’s first editorial stated. “It will support everything that deserves support and will criticize everything that deserves criticism.”[3]The Irish Press, An Irish National Newspaper and ReviewThe Irish Press, March 23, 1918.

Circulating his paper in New York was more than a business opportunity for McGarrity. His move signaled forthcoming division inside the U.S.-based Clan na Gael and Friends of Irish Freedom. In particular, the Irish Press competed with John Devoy’s Gaelic American “as the voice of the militant exiles.”[4]Terry Golway, Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America’s Fight for Ireland’s Freedom, St. Martin Press, New York, 1998. p. 261.

Patrick McCartan edited the Irish Press from its launch through the Sept. 11, 1920, issue. He and McGarrity were staunch supporters of Éamon de Valera. The newspaper published de Valera’s bylined pieces about Ireland during his June 1919 through December 1920 U.S. tour.

Unsurprisingly, Devoy celebrated his competitor’s fate. “Joe McGarrity’s Irish Press has gone to Davey Jones’s locker,” began the Gaelic American’s editorial. After five paragraphs of re-hashing old grievances with the rival publisher and arch enemy de Valera, Devoy concluded:

The Irish Press has been a wasp in the Irish beehive, and its death is a distinct gain. It is only one more evidence of the disintegration of De Valera’s Split, which will soon be only an evil memory.[5]Exit The ‘Irish Press’ “, The Gaelic American, May 13, 1922.

Name plate from first issue.

This later proved incorrect. Three years after Devoy’s 1928 death, De Valera launched The Irish Press daily in Dublin. A year later, he regained power as taoiseach, or prime minister, of Ireland. He dominated Irish politics for most of the 20th century. His newspaper folded in 1995.

Celtic Outlook

In its last issue, as it began doing in December 1921, the Irish Press reminded readers to watch for a new quarterly magazine, The Celtic Outlook, “devoted to Irish art, science, and literature.” Earlier notices promised “the first number will be issued at St. Patrick’s Day 1922.” The last issue said the magazine was “now in the hands of the printer.”[6]The Celtic Outlook” advertisement, separate from the editorial page notice, The Irish Press, May 6, 1922. The first issue finally published later that summer.

The Catholic Standard and Times, Philadelphia’s diocesan weekly, in August 1922 reported the magazine’s first issue included these contributions:

  • “Story of the Irish Music Revival” by Carl G. Hardebeck
  • “Pages of Irish History” by George Sigerson
  • “Ballad of Twenty-one” and “Irreconcilables” by Garrett O’Driscoll
  • “Dramatic Ideas In Ireland” by Peter McBrian
  • “Animal World In Ireland” by Douglas Hyde
  • “Egan O’Rahilly” by Daniel Corkery
  • “Ulster and America” by Francis Joseph Bigger
  • “Labor and the Republic” by Aodh de Blacam (Harold Saunders Blackham)

The Standard and Times reviewer wished the new journal “a long and inspiring career.”[7]”Busybody’s Corner” column, The Catholic Standard and Times, Aug. 19, 1922. How long The Celtic Outlook survived is unclear. Such publications are notorious for short runs. Digital newspaper databases of Philadelphia’s secular dailies do not return mentions of the magazine.

I welcome any information from readers who know more about this publication.

Thanks Villanova

Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library digital archives makes available the full four-year run of the Irish Press, March 23, 1918 to May 6, 1922; the Gaelic American from 1903 to 1924 (some issues are missing); and select issues of the Catholic Standard and Times, 1913 to 1922, with ongoing digitization.

The Joseph McGarrity Collection contains personal papers, books, photos, and ephemera. The university’s Digital Library contains many other resources.

The Villanova digital collections have been (and will remain) a valuable resource to my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, now more than 100 posts about the revolutionary period from the December 1918 elections forward. Digital archives such as this are regularly adding new content and have become an increasingly important research tool. This would have been true without COVID-19; it has come into even sharper focus because of the pandemic.

I am especially grateful for the newspaper collections. Rare is the time I review an issue looking for a specific item that I do not see something else of interest. I am grateful to the writers, editors, and others who originally produced these papers, and for institutions such as Villanova University for making the content so easily accessible today. Thank you.

References

References
1 Notice To Our Friends And Subscribers“, The Irish Press, May 6, 1922.
2 Dennis Clark, The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1973, pgs. 151-52.
3 The Irish Press, An Irish National Newspaper and ReviewThe Irish Press, March 23, 1918.
4 Terry Golway, Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America’s Fight for Ireland’s Freedom, St. Martin Press, New York, 1998. p. 261.
5 Exit The ‘Irish Press’ “, The Gaelic American, May 13, 1922.
6 The Celtic Outlook” advertisement, separate from the editorial page notice, The Irish Press, May 6, 1922.
7 ”Busybody’s Corner” column, The Catholic Standard and Times, Aug. 19, 1922.

The colorization of old Ireland

Life happens in color, but photographic documentation of it once occurred primarily in black and white. The limits of 19th and early 20th century monochrome technology prompted the simultaneous development of colorization techniques, which were applied to the original images of people, places, and events. Hand-tinted photochromes of Irish landscapes, an early tourism marketing tool, are a good example.

Advances in digital technology over the past few decades have enhanced and expanded the colorization of historic black and white photos and films, sparking debates about the manipulation of the original source material. Irish historian Diarmaid Ferriter wrote:

Whether colorizers spend minutes or hours working on a photo, there is an element of guesswork and computer programs and historical context can be uncomfortable bedfellows. The pictures that were taken at any moment in time were the pictures as the takers saw them; what those working with a 19th-century camera saw, in color, can be far from the same as what a colorized photograph becomes in the 21st century.[1]Colourisation undermines the essence of old photos“, The Irish Times, Oct. 29, 2021.

Children in Feothanach, Co. Kerry, 1946, from the National Folklore Collection.

These debate are unlikely to be settled soon, and I will not attempt to resolve them here. Engineer John Breslin and historian Sarah-Anne Buckley, who have collaborated on the books Old Ireland In Colour (2020) and Old Ireland in Colour 2 (2021)[2]Offered and provided to me by a representative of publisher Merrion Press, County Kildare. view their efforts “as part of the democratization of history, a tool to develop empathy and a connection with the past while the original photograph remains intact  … drawing attention to the existing collections as opposed to replacing them in any way.”[3]”Introduction” of Vol. 2 (‘democratization’) and Vol. 1 (‘drawing attention’).

The two Old Ireland volumes contain nearly 330 images, which range from just before the Great Famine to the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The photos are arranged in broad categories “driven by public interest in the history of Ireland and the Irish–particularly the history of the Irish revolution, social and cultural history, gender history, the history of the Irish abroad, and images of Ireland’s beautiful landscapes and streetcapes,” the authors write.

Irish Travellers at Loughrea, Co. Galway, 1954. National Library of Ireland Collection. This image appears in Vol. 1.

Many of the black and white originals will be familiar to even casual students of Irish history: the General Post Office, Dublin, after the 1916 Rising; rifle-carrying anti-Treaty IRA men striding down Grafton Street in trench coats and fedoras; the battering ram brigades of Land War evictions; the RMS Titanic leaving Belfast; and famous figures such as ‘Jack’ Alcock and ‘Teddie’ Brown, Edward Carson, Michael Collins, James Connolly, Tom Crean, Éamon de Valera, John Devoy, Maud Gonne, Lady Gregory, ‘Mother’ Jones, James Joyce, John F. Kennedy, ‘Jim’ Larkin, Terence MacSwiney, Constance Markievicz, Charles Stewart Parnell, Peig Sayers, Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Yeats.

In an example of how easily errors are introduced to any historic work, the famous photo of de Valera and Devoy, joined by John W. Goff and Judge Daniel F. Cohalan at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, is incorrectly dated to March 1919 in Vol. 1. But Dev was still on the run from his month-earlier escape from Lincoln Prison. This hotel photo was taken in June 1919, within days of Dev’s arrival in America. Old Ireland sources the photo to the Library of Congress, which uses the incorrect date from Flickr Commons.

Colorization gives Dev a green tie, the neckware of the other three are hues of purple. Their suits remain dark and gray.

For me, the real magic of the Old Ireland books are the unfamiliar images of everyday Irish life, either populated by non-newsmakers, such as market scenes, or focused on the country’s natural beauty. I will not list favorites here, since I can’t reproduce them. The images invite viewers to linger and notice the details: shoeless children, absent power lines and automobiles, minimal commercial signage, the harmonious cohabitation of people and animals.

It’s worth remembering here that the French women Marguerite Mespoulet and Madeleine Mignon created the first color photographs of Ireland in May/June 1913. Their 73 autochromes suggest the Old Ireland collaborators have faithfully, if not flawlessly, recreated what century-ago photographers viewed in their cameras and captured in black and white.

Old Ireland in Colour are lovely gift books. If there is a Vol. 3, I’d love to see colorized images of Kerry’s famous Lartigue monorail, from the Lawrence Collection, National Library of Ireland, such as below. Buckley provides enough details to inspire further historical exploration … or a trip to Ireland. Because the true colors of Ireland are best seen in person.

The Lartigue monorail in Kerry opened on Leap Year Day in 1888. The line closed in 1924.

References

References
1 Colourisation undermines the essence of old photos“, The Irish Times, Oct. 29, 2021.
2 Offered and provided to me by a representative of publisher Merrion Press, County Kildare.
3 ”Introduction” of Vol. 2 (‘democratization’) and Vol. 1 (‘drawing attention’).

U.S. press reactions to sledging of ‘The Freeman’s Journal’

Top portion of the one-page Freeman’s Journal handbill of March 30, 1922. More text below.

Shortly past midnight March 30, 1922, dozens of Irish republicans opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty burst into the Freeman’s Journal newspaper offices in Dublin. They threatened the staff at gunpoint, smashed the presses with sledgehammers, and set fire to the building. Their attack was driven by the Freeman’s “accurate, but uncomplimentary information” about the inner workings of the republican movement, including a supposedly secret convention a few days earlier.[1]Horgan, John, Irish Media: A Critical History Since 1922. Rutledge, London 2001, p. 9.

Producing the usual broadsheet later that day became impossible. But the Freeman’s staff published a one-page handbill, which was pasted to poles and walls across the city. It declared:

The Freeman’s Journal does not appear in its usual form this morning. BUT IT APPEARS. … And it will continue to say what it chooses. It will expose tyranny in whatever garb it shows itself. Whether the khaki of the British or the homespun on the mutineers (anti-treaty Irish republicans). … The paper that has fought for Irish liberty so long will not be silenced.[2]”Suppressed Again”, The Freeman’s Journal, March 30, 1922, as reproduced in facsimile on a photo page of The Standard Union, Brooklyn, New York, April 11, 1922, and in the … Continue reading

The Freeman’s support of the treaty, ratified in January, was generally regarded as “unduly partisan,” notes Dublin historian Felix M. Larkin, who has written extensively about the newspaper. “It included intemperate editorials, the suppression of anti-treaty manifestos and speeches, and a notably malevolent treatment of Erskine Childers,” an ally of republican leader Éamon de Valera.[3]Larkin, Felix M., ” ‘A Great Daily Organ’: The Freeman’s Journal” in Living With History: Occasional Writings, Kingdom Books, Ireland, 2021, p. 12. Original article … Continue reading Childers would be executed by Irish Free State authorities later in 1922.

Simultaneously, “de Valera’s tone became if anything more bellicose,” with numerous “inflammatory utterances,” during the interregnum between the treaty vote and republican occupation of the Four Courts in April 1922, biographer David McCullagh has written. A few weeks before the attack on the Freeman’s Journal, de Valera told republican supporters at Killarney they would have “to march over the dead bodies of their own brothers” and “wade through Irish blood.”[4]McCullagh, David, De Valera, Rise, 1882-1932, Gill Books, New York, 2017, p. 276 (“bellicose”) and p. 273 (“blood”).

The Freeman’s Journal was suppressed by the British military during the 1919-1921 war, and its editor and proprietors were imprisoned. It was among many Irish papers stopped from publishing–usually only for a few days–under the Defense of the Realm Act, which Irish republicans skillfully exploited in their domestic and international propaganda against British rule.

“Being a newspaper editor in Ireland is a ticklish job,” the New York Globe’s Harry F. Guest told American readers in his early 1920 reporting from the country. “If you publish something which offends Dublin Castle, the police or military raids your offices and carry away vital parts of the presses. If you criticize Sinn Féin too severely, your office is likely to be stormed and the presses smashed.”[5]”British suppression of Irish newspaper raised big storm of protest” , The New York Globe, March 24, 1920, and syndicated to other U.S. newspapers.

The Freeman’s Journal produced another one-page handbill on March 31, then published a seven-page booklet on Gestetner machines from April 1-21. Republicans terrorized newsagents in counties Sligo and Mayo into refusing to sell the paper. They also intercepted mail trains and burned copies of the newspaper destined for other parts of the country.[6]Horgan, Irish Media, p. 9-10.

U.S. press reactions

From front page of the New York Times, March 30, 1922.

Like most events in revolutionary Ireland, the attack on the Freeman’s Journal received considerable attention in the American press. U.S. big city dailies featured same-day news coverage, often starting from the front page, including the example at right in The New York Times.

Several papers also weighed in on their editorial pages, such as the Joseph Pulitzer-established Evening World in New York City:

Some American advocates of freedom for Ireland may not be convinced that the Free State Government under Collins and Griffith is the best possible. But after the disgraceful wrecking of the plant of the Freeman’s Journal in Dublin, can anyone doubt that the Irish Republican Army movement is wrong, dead wrong, unqualifiedly and absolutely wrong? … Raiding and smashing the Freeman’s Journal is a confession of moral bankruptcy by the de Valera forces. It is a confession that their case can not stand the light of day. It is a denial of the cause of freedom to which a free press is essential.[7]”They Condemn Their Cause”, The Evening World (New York City), March 31, 1922.

And this wasn’t the Evening World’s last word on the matter. After a letter to the editor writer suggested the Freeman’s “was always a British paper,” the New York daily snapped back in a second editorial that such a view “shows how a minority of the Irish have become so poisoned by hate that they no longer reason … they are not moved by desire for freedom for Ireland. Hate of England is the motive in their conduct. They are insane, driven mad by a mania.”[8]”What Helps Keep Ireland In Turmoil”, The Evening World (New York City), April 5, 1922.

Irish American press reactions to the attack on the Freeman’s reflected the division in Ireland.

The anti-treaty Irish Press of Philadelphia published a front page news story and inside editorial about the attack. Like the Evening World’s letter writer, the opinion piece described the Freeman’s Dublin offices as “the nursery ground of the shoneen (an Irish person who imitates or aspires to the English upper class) and the place hunter.” The vandalism, the editorial said, “for a time at least removes one of the bulwarks of British rule in Ireland.”[9]The Freeman’s Journal“, The Irish Press, April 8, 1922.

The pro-treaty Gaelic American of New York used the Freeman’s misfortunes for another round of recriminations in the feud between its publisher, longtime Irish nationalist John Devoy, and de Valera, whom it described as “would-be dictator” and “Infallible Political Pope, whose every utterance (not simply those issued ex-Cathedra) must be above criticism.” The piece re-litigated a series of grievances against de Valera from his June 1919-December 1920 tour of America, including a break in at the Gaelic American’s offices.[10]Mimeographed ‘Freeman’s Journal’ Appears in Dublin“, The Gaelic American, April 22, 1922.

Publishing again … briefly

The regular Freeman’s reappeared on April 22. The front page featured an advertisement for newspaper composing machines such as those “the sledgers” had smashed three weeks earlier. “This Journal is now Equipped with A Battery of 10 Intertypes,” it declared. Among the stories about how the paper had recovered from the attack was a roundup headlined, “What Americans Think.” It included the editorial from the Evening World as well as the Chicago Tribune.

“With hindsight, many anti-treatyites came to recognize that it had been a bad mistake to attempt to suppress the Freeman,” Larkin has written. “The effect of that and other similar occurrences was to associate the anti-treaty side with military dictatorship and censorship – to give the impression that, as the prominent republican Todd Andrews later wrote, people ‘were liable to be pushed around at the whim of young IRA commanders’.”[11]”The Press In Time Of Strife”, Larkin’s letter to the editor, The Irish Times, Nov. 24, 2014.

Alas, The Freeman’s Journal  folded on Dec. 19, 1924, due to internal business troubles, ending a 161-year run. The assets and title were eventually bought by the Irish Independent. The pro-de Valera Irish Press of Philadelphia folded on May 6, 1922, after 50 months of weekly publication. De Valera started his own Dublin daily of the same title in 1931. The Gaelic American survived Devoy’s death in 1929. The New York weekly ceased publication in 1951.

***

See more stories in my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.

References

References
1 Horgan, John, Irish Media: A Critical History Since 1922. Rutledge, London 2001, p. 9.
2 ”Suppressed Again”, The Freeman’s Journal, March 30, 1922, as reproduced in facsimile on a photo page of The Standard Union, Brooklyn, New York, April 11, 1922, and in the Freemans’s Journal, April 22, 1922.
3 Larkin, Felix M., ” ‘A Great Daily Organ’: The Freeman’s Journal” in Living With History: Occasional Writings, Kingdom Books, Ireland, 2021, p. 12. Original article published in History Ireland, Vol. 14, No. 2, May/June 2006. See also his Oct. 26, 2019, guest post on this site, “The Slow Death of the Freeman’s Journal.”
4 McCullagh, David, De Valera, Rise, 1882-1932, Gill Books, New York, 2017, p. 276 (“bellicose”) and p. 273 (“blood”).
5 ”British suppression of Irish newspaper raised big storm of protest” , The New York Globe, March 24, 1920, and syndicated to other U.S. newspapers.
6 Horgan, Irish Media, p. 9-10.
7 ”They Condemn Their Cause”, The Evening World (New York City), March 31, 1922.
8 ”What Helps Keep Ireland In Turmoil”, The Evening World (New York City), April 5, 1922.
9 The Freeman’s Journal“, The Irish Press, April 8, 1922.
10 Mimeographed ‘Freeman’s Journal’ Appears in Dublin“, The Gaelic American, April 22, 1922.
11 ”The Press In Time Of Strife”, Larkin’s letter to the editor, The Irish Times, Nov. 24, 2014.

St. Patrick’s Day, 1919-1922, in four quotes

War and other strife in Ireland drew special attention in America at St. Patrick’s Day from two months after the first Dáil Éireann in January 1919, to two months after approval of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922. The four quotes below reflect developments on March 17 over this period. They are taken from my American Reporting of Irish Independence archive .

St. Patrick’s Day in America, 1919: “Irish freedom was demanded, and the league of nations, as proposed at present, was condemned at a mass meeting last night at Liberty Hut under the auspices of the United Irish Societies of the District that was the climax of the National Capital’s celebration of St. Patrick’s day.” — The Washington Post

St. Patrick’s Day in America, 1920: Politics and poetry: “Those of our race who are citizens of this mighty land of America, whose thoughts will help to mould the policy of the leader among Nations–how much the world looks to you this St. Patrick’s Day–hopes in you–trusts in you.” —Sinn Féin leader Éamon de Valera, then touring America, in a message widely quoted in U.S. newspapers. Denis Aloysius McCarthy also released a poem that emphasized the historic connections between Ireland and America.

St. Patrick’s Day, 1921: ‘A Summons to Service’: “Day after day you read with fainting heart the desolation that is gripping Ireland. You know that what you read is but half the story. … This is not an ‘appeal.’ It is rather a summons to Americans to join wholeheartedly in an enterprise of mercy.” — From A Summons to Service from the Women and Children of Ireland, the 16-page booklet used by the American Committee for Relief in Ireland to support its humanitarian fundraising drive.

Dual delegations at St. Patrick’s Day, 1922: “The growing disunity among the nationalist leaders in Ireland was dramatically revealed to the Irish in America in the form of two rival delegations sent to the United States on behalf of their respective factions.” — Historian Francis M. Carroll. Civil war in Ireland began three months later and would not conclude until shortly after St. Patrick’s Day 1923.

‘The Republic of Ireland is dead; long live … ‘

John Steele’s Jan. 8, 1922, Chicago Tribune story. Front page banner below.

“The Republic of Ireland is dead; long live the Irish Free State,” declared Chicago Tribune correspondent John Steele in the opening sentence of his story about Dáil Éireann‘s narrow and bitter vote to ratify the Anglo-Irish Treaty.[1]”Ireland Votes Peace, De Valera Loses, 64 To 57, In Long Battle” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922, and syndicated to other U.S. papers. The Irish-American journalist also promoted his role in reaching the Jan. 7, 1922, vote and later claimed that pro-treaty leader Arthur Griffith described the outcome as “better to be an equal partner in a big concern than to keep a little sweet shop in a back street.”[2]”Tribune Writer Go-Between In 1920 Pact Talks”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949.

Steele’s news lead echoed the treaty debate speech of Dáil member Patrick McCartan three weeks earlier. He uttered the “is dead” formulation seven times within a few minutes:

The Republic of which President (Éamon) de Valera was president is dead. … I submit it is dead, and that the men who signed the (treaty) document opposite Englishmen wrote its epitaph in London. It is dead naturally because it depended on the unity of the Irish people … the Cabinet … (and) this Dáil. … Internationally the Republic is dead. We were looking for recognition of the republic in foreign countries. Michael Collins said we were not recognized in the United States. That is true. … You cannot go to the secretary of state of any foreign government and ask him to recognize the Republic of Ireland, because I submit it is dead …  as a political factor the Republic is dead. … We were an inspiration to the patriots of India and the patriots of Egypt. Today we give heart to the compromisers in India and Egypt as well as the compromisers in Ireland. I say, therefore, the Republic of Ireland is dead.[3]Dáil Éireann debate, Dec. 20, 1921, Vol. T No. 7.

As a separatist promoting the Irish cause in America, McCartan edited The Irish Press in Philadelphia from its first issue in March 1918 through September 1920. The pro-de Valera weekly battled John Devoy’s New York City-based Gaelic American over control of American grassroots financial support for the Dáil and the U.S. government’s Ireland policies. Four days after McCartan’s debate speech in Dublin, and without naming its former editor, the Irish Press editorialized that the Irish Republic “is neither dead nor dying.” The paper continued:

The spirit that created it, like itself, is immortal. The temporary subversion of its name, or of its ideals, resembles a swiftly moving cloud that for an instant dims the penetrating waves of the sun or the light of the moon. Let no one say the Republic of Ireland is dead. It lives and will live on, in glory and splendor, when its enemies are dead and forgotten. … The Republic of Ireland is in God’s keeping.[4]Words That Saved Ireland After 1916“, The Irish Press (Philadelphia), Dec. 24, 1921.

Whether plagiarism or paraphrase of the popular proclamation, Steele’s January 1922 ratification story did not identify McCartan’s words or his vote for the treaty. The reporter had quoted McCartan in late December 1921 coverage of the debates. Steele described the sessions as “a battle between the living and the dead.” He continued:

The dead were represented by old men and widows and the living by young men who have fought in the battle for Ireland’s independence and survived. The living are all in favor of ratification and the dead against it. So far I have seen nothing to induce me to change my opinion that the living will win.[5]”Dead Arrayed Against Living On Irish Treaty”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 21, 1921.

The epanalepsis, “The king is dead, long live the king,” is said to have originated from the French, Le roi est mort, vive le roi!, upon the accession of Charles VII after the death of his father Charles VI in 1422.[6]From Wikipedia entry last updated Nov. 17, 2021. A king was never proposed for the Irish republic; the Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy.

“Long live the Irish Free State, and three cheers for a speedy establishment of an independent Irish Republic,” a New York City union organ declared shortly after the Dec. 6, 1921, treaty announcement.[7]”The Irish Free State”, The Headgear Worker, Dec. 9, 1921, Vol. 6, No. 23. The Baltimore Sun repeated “Long live the Irish Republic” in an editorial that applauded the Dáil vote. The daily also noted that the Irish faced the challenge of disproving enemies and detractors who charged, prophetically: “The minute they stop fighting outsiders they will begin fighting among themselves.”[8]”A Right Decision”, The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 8, 1922.

Promoting Steele

John Steele in Dec. 7, 1921, Chicago Tribune photo.

For the Chicago Tribune and other papers that subscribed to its foreign news service, the treaty ratification was another opportunity to promote Steele’s role in brokering 1920 secret talks between Sinn Féin leaders and British government officials. The Tribune boasted: “Mr. Steele in his dispatches always insisted that actual peace was coming. … his accomplishments in aiding the contracting parties to common ground ranks high in the newspaper’s achievement.[9]”Tribune Man Aided in Finding Way To Anglo-Irish Peace”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922. This work was done through Patrick Moylett, a Galway businessman and associate of Griffith, according to accounts by Steele and Moyett.[10]”Humble Galway Grocer Brings Peace To Irish, Steele of Tribune Took Him to British Officials”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 9, 1921, and Steele’s unfinished memoir, published in … Continue reading

In a chapter of an unfinished memoir published in 1949, Steele quoted Griffith, who died in August 1922, as saying:

You always replied to my demands for a separate republic that we would never get it but that we could and would get dominion status within the British empire. Every other correspondent from abroad whom I talked to pretended to sympathize with me and assure me we would win full freedom and separation. I knew that contact had to be made with the British thru a neutral, and that the most available neutral would be a newspaper correspondent of international standing who was on good terms with both sides. You were obviously the man I wanted.

The Belfast-born Steele emigrated to America in 1887, age 17. According to information Steele provided for biographical publication, he was “educated privately and in newspaper offices.” He joined the New York Herald staff in 1890, followed by turns as a reporter and editor at three other papers in the city. He became managing editor of a London-based syndicate during World War I, then took charge of the Chicago Tribune‘s London bureau in 1919, where he remained until 1935.[11]”John S. Steele, Retired Tribune Writer, Is Dead”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1947, and 1900 U.S. Census, Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0543; FH … Continue reading

Steele wasn’t the only American correspondent in Ireland to mix public journalism and private diplomacy. Carl Ackerman of the Philadelphia Public Ledger also shuttled messages and documents between the two sides. Other journalists stepped beyond their newspaper roles. Ruth Russell of the Chicago Daily News and Kilkenny native Francis Hackett of the New York World gave pro-Ireland testimony to the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. Author Samuel Duff McCoy parlayed his work with the American Committee for Relief in Ireland into a 1922 newspaper series.

Newspaper journalism was highly competitive in the 1920s, with exaggerations and claims of “scoops” a regular part of the business, just like on today’s faster-moving digital platforms. Historians have suggested that Steele and Moylett amplified their roles; that Michael Collins and other Irish republicans described the backchannel arrangement as a “fiasco” and viewed Steele as being out for a story and a tool of Lloyd George; and that Griffith was concerned about the appearance of settling for less than a republic, while the January 1922 post-ratification quote Steele attributed to him (second sentence of this post) cannot be independently verified.[12]See: “Unsettled Island: Irish Nationalism, Unionism, and British Imperialism in the Shaping of Irish Independence, 1909-1922”. Thesis by Michael Christopher Ras, Concordia University … Continue reading

In the memoir chapter published two years after his death, Steele recalled:

To every reporter at some time of his career there comes the high spot. … My high spot was … the opportunity and great good fortune to play a part in the settlement of the age old quarrel between Ireland and England which led to the establishment of the Irish Free State. … I never lost affection for the land of my birth. Moreover, wherever the English language is spoken, Ireland is news and Ireland’s struggle for freedom was big news.

This Aug. 3, 1922, advertisement in the Washington Herald promoted Steele’s work in Ireland. Steele’s Ireland work also appeared in the (Memphis, Tenn.) Commercial Appeal, Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) Sun, and other papers. (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos in digital scan.)

After ratification

Three years after the treaty ratification, in June 1925, de Valera addressed the Wolfe Tone commemoration at the Irish patriot’s grave in Bodenstown, County Kildare, a regular rally for Irish republicans. De Valera said:

By your presence you proclaim your undiminished attachment to the ideals of Tone, and your unaltered devotion to the cause for which he gave his life. It is your answer to those who would have it believed that the Republic of Ireland is dead and its cause abandoned.[13]Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern quoting de Valera at Oct. 16, 2005, Tone commemoration, via CAIN Web Service, Ulster University.

Less than a year later De Valera established the Fianna Fáil party, which abandoned Sinn Féin abstentionism and in 1932 won elected power in the Dáil. Republican aspirations were finally realized on April 18, 1949, with the full establishment of the 26-county representative state. That day, the Chicago Tribune published the “never been told full story” of Steel’s memoir, including the quotes attributed to Griffith, by then 27 years dead.

In his 1952 Bureau of Military History statement, Moylett said that he had promised Steele exclusive U.S. rights to his own experience in revolutionary Ireland. “But, as I have been disillusioned over the way things have been conducted in this country during and since 1922, I have no wish to publish it.”

Nevertheless, the Irish Free State was dead. Long live the Republic of Ireland.

References

References
1 ”Ireland Votes Peace, De Valera Loses, 64 To 57, In Long Battle” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922, and syndicated to other U.S. papers.
2 ”Tribune Writer Go-Between In 1920 Pact Talks”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949.
3 Dáil Éireann debate, Dec. 20, 1921, Vol. T No. 7.
4 Words That Saved Ireland After 1916“, The Irish Press (Philadelphia), Dec. 24, 1921.
5 ”Dead Arrayed Against Living On Irish Treaty”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 21, 1921.
6 From Wikipedia entry last updated Nov. 17, 2021.
7 ”The Irish Free State”, The Headgear Worker, Dec. 9, 1921, Vol. 6, No. 23.
8 ”A Right Decision”, The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 8, 1922.
9 ”Tribune Man Aided in Finding Way To Anglo-Irish Peace”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922.
10 ”Humble Galway Grocer Brings Peace To Irish, Steele of Tribune Took Him to British Officials”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 9, 1921, and Steele’s unfinished memoir, published in “Go-Between”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949. Patrick Moylett, Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 767, Dec. 16, 1952. Page 50.
11 ”John S. Steele, Retired Tribune Writer, Is Dead”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1947, and 1900 U.S. Census, Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0543; FH microfilm: 1241105.
12 See: “Unsettled Island: Irish Nationalism, Unionism, and British Imperialism in the Shaping of Irish Independence, 1909-1922”. Thesis by Michael Christopher Ras, Concordia University Montreal, Quebec, Canada, January 2017, Collins quote: NLI, Art Ó Briain Papers, Ms. 8426/7, Michael Collins to Art Ó Briain, 15 December 1920; NLI, Art Ó Briain, Ms. 8430/12, Michael Collins to Art Ó Briain, Jan. 4, 1921. Also: We Bled Together: Michael Collins, The Squad and The Dublin Brigade, Dominic Price, Collins Press, 2017.
13 Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern quoting de Valera at Oct. 16, 2005, Tone commemoration, via CAIN Web Service, Ulster University.

Irish-American press reactions to Anglo-Irish Treaty

Mainstream U.S. newspaper support for the Anglo-Irish Treaty remained generally consistent from the accord’s Dec. 6, 1921, announcement through its Jan. 7, 1922, ratification by Dáil Éireann in Dublin. Irish-American press reactions were more volatile over the same month, especially the flip-flops of the Gaelic American and the Irish Press.

Against, then for the treaty.

The Dec. 10 issue of the New York City-based Gaelic American contained only early wire service accounts about the agreement and no editorial statements. A week later, the paper published the full text of the treaty and offered a sampling of opinions for and against the deal. The weekly displayed its opinion in the headline “Irish-American Views on the Surrender” and description of “the misnamed Irish Free State.”[1]Irish-American Views on the Surrender“, The Gaelic American, Dec. 17, 1921.

John Devoy

Editor John Devoy based his paper’s editorial stance on the assumption that Irish leader Éamon de Valera supported the treaty. Their relationship had ruptured near the end of de Valera’s 1919-1920 American tour over the best way to leverage U.S. political muscle and grassroots fundraising to support Ireland. Davis notes, “… when it was clear de Valera in fact opposed the treaty … (the Devoy-affiliated Friends of Irish Freedom) began to change its tune. The Gaelic American began to support the Free State and the Dáil majority that voted in favor of the treaty.” Devoy wrote to Michael Collins that he was in favor of giving the new arrangement ‘a chance to do what it can for Ireland.'”[2]Davis, Troy D. “Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, vol. 18, no. 2, University of St. Thomas (Center for Irish … Continue reading

Joseph McGarrity

In Philadelphia, the Irish Press criticized “fair weather friends” and “eleventh hour admirers” who had failed to support Ireland earlier in the war. The weekly ignored the divisions within republican ranks, which Publisher Joseph McGarrity helped widened through his paper’s support for de Valera. In the opinion roundup mentioned above, the Gaelic American said McGarrity “of course comes out in favor of the compromise. It was to make compromise certain that he helped to make the split.”

The first post-treaty editorial in the Irish Press said: “Regardless of the exact form that Irish Independence may finally assume, it can be accepted as an unquestioned fact that the battle is won, and that Irish energy can soon be diverted to other channels than those of war.”[3]The Ireland To Come“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921. A week later, the editorial page said, “The fact that President de Valera has refused his approval of the treaty … must be taken as sufficient evidence that the minimum demands of Ireland have not been secured. … (If he and others) feel that Ireland’s nationhood is in the slightest danger of being sacrificed they have a perfect right to give expression to their feelings before the final word is said.”[4]Peace Or A Sword–Which?“, The Irish Press, Dec. 17, 1921.

For, then against the treaty.

The Irish World of New York “rejected the treaty from the first; the paper bitterly denounced it, calling it the treaty of surrender,” Carroll has noted.[5]Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, New York University Press, New York, 2021, p. 147. Even after the Dáil‘s January ratification, the paper remained the organ “for the republican position in the United States and started a slanderous campaign against the supporters of the treaty and the Irish Free State.”[6]The Irish World archive is not available online.

Seven hundred miles southwest of these East Coast hotspots of Irish activism, the Kentucky Irish American reflected a simpler, perhaps naïve, rank-and-file view of the treaty. It’s first editorial reflected general relief:

Throughout the world there is rejoicing that a treaty has been signed by the Sinn Fein and the British cabinet which grants freedom to Ireland and raises her to the status of a Free State. … For over seven hundred years the Irish nation has struggled and waited for this day, which will bring peace and happiness to Ireland and England. For both this will bring a happy Christmas, and in their prayers of thanksgiving to the God of peace none will be more earnest or fervent than the sons and daughters and friends of Ireland in Louisville and Kentucky. For all it means a new and better era.[7]Freedom For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 10, 1921.

William M. Higgins

William M. Higgins, the paper’s publisher and a member of the delegation that welcomed de Valera to Louisville in October 1919, was among the state and local officials who signed a cable of support to Collins, Arthur Griffith, and other members of the Dáil. Other supporters included Kentucky Gov. Edwin P. Morrow and Louisville Mayor Huston Quin, both Republicans.[8]”Ireland”, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.

In a following editorial, the Irish American editorial page said:

…however much [the treaty] may fall short of what we would wish, we must still concede that the victory won has been a great victory, particularly when we consider the tremendous odds against which the Irish have had to contend. … It is those who have borne the heat and burden of the day of strife–those who risked all and dared all for their country–who only have the right to say what terms of peace will be acceptable. … We on this side of the Atlantic, who have experienced none of the savage warfare which England waged on Ireland, have no right to disprove of those terms, however much we may dislike them.[9]Victory For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.

“The sons and daughters and friends of Ireland in Louisville and Kentucky” generally supported the treaty.

Other Irish papers in circulation at the time but not available for immediate review include the Irish News and Chicago Citizen, Illinois; National Hibernian (monthly), Indianapolis, Ind.; and the Sinn Feiner in New York. Irish papers that ceased publishing since the 1919 start of the war included: the Leader (Irish Catholic), San Francisco, Calif.; Irish Voice, Chicago, Ill.; Irish Standard, Minneapolis, Minn.; Irish Vindicator, Cleveland, Ohio; and Irish Pennsylvanian, Pittsburgh, Pa.[10]Based on 1919 and 1922 editions of the N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual & Directory, “A Catalogue of American Newspapers”, Philadelphia, Pa.

Published its last issue June 19, 1920.

References

References
1 Irish-American Views on the Surrender“, The Gaelic American, Dec. 17, 1921.
2 Davis, Troy D. “Irish Americans and the Treaty: The View from the Irish Free State.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, vol. 18, no. 2, University of St. Thomas (Center for Irish Studies), 2014, pp. 84–96.
3 The Ireland To Come“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921.
4 Peace Or A Sword–Which?“, The Irish Press, Dec. 17, 1921.
5 Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, New York University Press, New York, 2021, p. 147.
6 The Irish World archive is not available online.
7 Freedom For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 10, 1921.
8 ”Ireland”, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.
9 Victory For Ireland“, Kentucky (Louisville) Irish American, Dec. 17, 1921.
10 Based on 1919 and 1922 editions of the N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual & Directory, “A Catalogue of American Newspapers”, Philadelphia, Pa.

A Journey In Ireland, 1921, Revisited: Ulster attitude

Novelist and journalist Wilfrid Ewart traveled through Ireland from mid-April to early May 1921. His dispatches for London newspapers were later collected and revised in the book, ‘A Journey in Ireland, 1921.’ Previous installments of this centenary series are collected at American Reporting of Irish Independence.

***

In their “Introduction” to the 2009 UCD Press edition of Journey, Paul Bew and Patrick Maume devote considerable attention to Ewart’s time in what today is Northern Ireland. They note the author’s reference to his September 1913 visit to an Ulster Volunteer Force rally in Newry. It is unclear, they comment, whether Ewart, then 21, “was there for political sympathy, personal connection with the participants, or journalistic curiosity, though he speaks of ‘marching with the Covenanters’ which implies a certain degree of participation.”[1]“Introduction”, Journey, UCD Press edition, 2009, pp.xii-xiii. A year earlier, unionists signed the Ulster Covenant to protest Ireland leaving the United Kingdom under home rule, as proposed at the time.

Ewart’s material from his 1921 visit to Belfast, Bew/Maume continue, “is perhaps the most fascinating in the book,” and they provide considerable analysis of the events he covers.[2]Ibid, p. xvii. The author arrives in the northeast portion of Ireland as Ulster Unionist chief James Craig meets with Sinn Féin leader Eamon de Valera, and three weeks before the first general election of the new Northern Ireland parliament.

“All Befast was talking of the Craig-de Valera meeting, girding itself with an illusive expectancy, girding sometimes at its own leader [Craig], tending to lose sight of the major question in the momentary issue,” Ewart writes.[3]Journey, p. 156.

This meeting and the outcome of the election are well documented. More striking 100 years later is the unchanged and unmistakable political and cultural attitude of the region Ewart describes in Journey. It is personified by Sir Dawson Bates, then secretary of the Irish Unionist Alliance, “a downright hardheaded zealot, with a clear-cut horizon and no sentiment to spare,” Ewart says. “He speaks and looks and thinks and is–Belfast.”

At the Orange hall rally Ewart attends in East Belfast, Bates bellows:

We don’t want a United Ireland, we want a United Kingdom. … Some people hope that Ulster is going to make a mess of things. Failure means handing our bodies and souls over to Sinn Féin and the Roman Catholic Church. We’ve had enough of Dublin in the past. If we can crush Sinn Féin at the forthcoming elections, there’s a bright future for Ulster.[4]Journey, p.152-153.

A month later, Bates became Northern Ireland’s first minister for home affairs, a post he held for nearly 22 years. “His conspicuous distrust of the nationalist minority frustrated initial attempts to secure its cooperation, helped to minimize its power in local government, and encouraged an overtly discriminatory administrative style,” the Dictionary of Irish Biography says.[5]See Bates, Sir (Richard) Dawson, by Richard Hawkins, Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Northern Ireland Cabinet, 1921. Sir Dawson Bates at left, James Craig third from left. Others, l. to r, are Marquess of Londonderry, Hugh McDowell Pollock, E. M. Archdale, and J. M. Andrews. Ewart interviewed Pollock, who was finance minister.

Ewart also interviews finance minister-designated Hugh McDowell Pollock,  whom he characterizes as uncompromising and inflexible, a man who “can hardly be described as concessionable.” Pollock proclaims, “English people are stupid” because they fail to see that Ulster is “the only bulwark between them and the complete dissolution of the British Empire.” The people of southern Ireland, he says, are “full of sentimental ideas about nationalism.”[6]Journey, pp. 235-237. Also cited by Maurice Walsh, Bitter Freedom: Ireland in the Revolutionary World. W. W. Norton & Co., New York,  2015, pp. 306-307.

Bew/Maume detail how Ewart selectively reports “his vision of Ulster Unionist intransigence” by excluding moderate portions of the Craig speech he attends. They suggest Ewart was “more at home with the wistful and fearful Southern Unionists” who were willing to accept some form of Dominion status than the “more confident and intransigent” Ulstermen.[7]“Introduction”, p. xviii, and p. xiv.

The attitude expressed by Bates and Pollock prevailed in the region from the 1912 Ulster Covenant through the sectarian Troubles of the late 20th century, when it was personified by Ian Paisley. True, Paisley moderated his views after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, even developed an unlikely partnership with Irish republican Martin McGuinness. Echoes of Bates and Pollock reverberate in current outcries over Brexit’s impact on the region and increased talk of a united Ireland. More hard-line rhetoric is likely to be heard in the months ahead as the Democratic Unionist Party’s replaces resigned leader Arlene Foster.  

The next post in this series will catalog more of Ewart’s interview quotes from Belfast and other parts of Ireland on the two key subjects: the island’s 1921 partition, and the Easter Rising that preceded it in 1916.

Curious errors

In his chapters about Northern Ireland, Ewart’s book contains two historical errors: 

Cecil Doughty image of the 1882 Phoenix Park murders.

He suggests the first deaths of the Irish War of Independence, the Jan. 21, 1919, ambush of RIC officers James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell at Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary, shared an anniversary date with the murders of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Henry Burke in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.[8]Journey, p. 143.

This is incorrect. The Dublin killings occurred nearly 40 years early, on May 6, 1882, during Ireland’s Land War period. 

A few pages later, Ewart quotes an unnamed “high official” in Belfast who criticizes de Valera, citing the quote: “If the Unionists do not come in on our side they will have to go under.” Ewart, in parentheses, attributes the comment to a July 5, 1919, speech at Killaloe, County Clare.

This place and date are correct, but the year was 1917, as de Valera campaigned in a special by-election for the seat opened by the death of Irish Parliamentary Party incumbent Willie Redmond. The Sinn Féin candidate won in a landslide five days later. Two years later, De Valera was in the early weeks of his 18-month tour of America to raise money and political support of the Irish republic.

As with most fact errors–and I have made my share–it is not so remarkable that mistakes were made in the first place, but that they survived the copy editing of other readers before publication.

NEXT: Rising & Partition

References

References
1 “Introduction”, Journey, UCD Press edition, 2009, pp.xii-xiii.
2 Ibid, p. xvii.
3 Journey, p. 156.
4 Journey, p.152-153.
5 See Bates, Sir (Richard) Dawson, by Richard Hawkins, Dictionary of Irish Biography.
6 Journey, pp. 235-237. Also cited by Maurice Walsh, Bitter Freedom: Ireland in the Revolutionary World. W. W. Norton & Co., New York,  2015, pp. 306-307.
7 “Introduction”, p. xviii, and p. xiv.
8 Journey, p. 143.

U.S.-Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day, updated

U.S President Joe Biden this week issued the annual proclamation to declare March as Irish-American Heritage Month. “As I said when I visited Dublin in 2016, our nations have always shared a deep spark — linked in memory and imagination, joined by our histories and our futures,” he says. Due to lingering concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, however, this year’s St. Patrick’s Day meeting in Washington, D.C. between U.S. and Irish leaders will be a virtual affair, The Irish Times reports.

In 2016 I wrote a five-part series on U.S.- Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day leading up to the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. I explored 1916 and 25 year increments afterward: 1941, 1966, and 1991, plus a post about St. Patrick’s Day 1976, the year of the American bicentennial. Here are short descriptions of the series with links to the original posts:

Part 1: St. Patrick’s Day 1916 arrived in the second year of the Great War and a month before the Easter Rising. President Woodrow Wilson wore “a bright green necktie and a little shamrock fresh from the ‘ould sod,’ a present from  John Redmond, the Irish nationalist leader,” The Washington Post reported.

Iconic image of the General Post Office in Dublin after the 1916 Easter Rising.

Part 2: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not recognize St. Patrick’s Day 1941 with any Irish guests or events. As war raged in Europe, Irish leader Éamon de Valera said in a radio address broadcast on both side of the Atlantic: “A small country like ours that had for centuries resisted imperial absorption, and that still wished to preserve its separate national identity, was bound to choose the course of neutrality in this war.”

Part 3: In 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Rising, President Lyndon B. Johnson welcomed Ambassador of Ireland H.E. William Fay and Mrs. Fay to the Oval Office. The official record says Johnson was presented with “fresh shamrocks [redacted] flown in from Ireland.” It appears that two words are blacked out between “shamrocks” and “flown.” My guess: “and whiskey.”

Part 4: On St. Patrick’s Day 1976, President Gerald Ford expressed “the appreciation of the American people to the people of Ireland” for their participation in the founding and growth of the United States. He welcomed Taoiseach Liam M. Cosgrave. They also talked about The Troubles.

Liam Cosgrave pins a shamrock to the lapel of Gerald Ford in 1976.

Part 5: St. Patrick’s Day 1991 came some 20 years into the Troubles, and the Irish Republic was taking a cautious approach to the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Rising. “Officials say at a time when talks are soon to open over the future of Northern Ireland, they do not want to be seen celebrating an event that could be exploited by the outlawed Irish Republican Army as justification for its own violent campaign to oust British rule from the province,” The Washington Post reported.

Shortly after St. Patrick’s Day, 2016, President Barack Obama described Ireland’s 1916 Proclamation as “a vision statement 100 years ago, and it would be a visionary statement today. It’s a universal value, like the ones in America’s own founding documents, that compels us to continually look forward; that gives us the chance to change; that dares us, American and Irish alike, to keep toiling towards our better selves.”