Tag Archives: Eamon De Valera

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.

References

References
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.)

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.

References

References
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.

Why G.B. Shaw, feminists denounced 1937 ‘Eire’ constitution

Voters in the Republic of Ireland on March 8 will decide two proposed changes to the State’s 87-year-old Constitution. Both amendments are related to family life. The first will replace the clause describing women’s place as “within the home” with a new government commitment to value the work of all family care givers. The second will broaden the definition of the family to include all households with “durable relationships,” including the roughly one third of couples with children born out of wedlock.[1]See the current and proposed language.

In 1937, Irish leader Éamon de Valera proposed to update the 1922 Constitution that founded the Irish Free State, which he had opposed because it fell short of republican goals. His revised Constitution asserted full sovereignty for the 26 counties, which were renamed Eire, the Irish word for Ireland. As it widened the separation from Britain, Dev’s draft gave deference to the Catholic Church, confirming the longtime “Rome rule” suspicions of many Irish Protestants.

Since then, Ireland has dramatically modernized and secularized, especially in the past quarter century. Several amendments to the Constitution have removed language about the “special” role of the Church and penalties for blasphemy; while others have legalized divorce, same-sex marriage, and abortion. And the 1937 language about the role of women has received increased attention.

Shaw in 1936.

This section also drew criticism at the time of its introduction, notably from Anglo-Irish author and playwright George Bernard Shaw. He complained “its attitude toward women is simply going back ages,” adding the passage was “worse than ridiculous.”[2]”G.B.S. Says De Valera Has Fascist Aims In ‘Eire'”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 2, 1937. Shaw continued:

De Valera’s new constitution, reactionary in its attitude toward women, is just another example of the world’s despair and revolt against democratic and parliamentary institutions which do nothing but talk, talk and get no action.  … It’s true that the work of women in the home is extremely important, and so, for that matter, is the work of men who maintain the home. But that is not sufficient reason for writing into the constitution that men should never be anything but breadwinners, and women nothing but home-workers. … Although the constitution generally appears to be modeled after that of the United States, it has a dash of Fascism in the provisions relating to women and marriage.

Two weeks after Shaw’s telephone interview with a Universal Service correspondent, Dáil Éireann TD Patrick McGilligan (Fine Gael-Dublin North-West) raised the celebrity’s author’s comments during a debate about the Constitution. This prompted a laugh from de Valera.

“He talks through his hat sometimes,” de Valera (Fianna Fáil-Clare), president of the Dáil’s executive council, said of Shaw.[3]See Dáil Éireann debate, May 13, 1937, Vol. 67, No. 3.

Then 54, de Valera was the New York City-born son of an Irish immigrant mother who relinquished the care of her two-year-old toddler to relatives in Ireland. Shaw, then 80, was born in Dublin but moved to London at age 19 and remained in England for the rest of his life. The two famous Irishmen shared a frequently antagonistic but generally good-humored relationship, as revealed in public spats and private correspondence before and after 1937.[4]Bernard Shaw. “Two Unpublished Letters To Eamon De Valera: With an Introduction by Brad Kent.” Shaw, vol. 30, 2010, pp. 27–35. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.5325/shaw.30.1.0027. In 1945, Shaw famously defended de Valera for offering condolences to the German minister in Dublin upon hearing of Hitler’s death. The playwright, in a letter to The Times, London, described the politician as “a champion of the Christian chivalry we are all pretending to admire. Let us recognize a noble heart even if we must sometimes question its worldly wisdom.’’

Feminist criticism

The Dáil approved de Valera’s draft Constitution in mid-June 1937 by a vote of 62 to 48. De Valera placed it on the ballot of the national elections set for a few weeks later for ratification.

De Valera in 1937.

In addition to Shaw, “a minority of vocal activists” opposed the clause about women in the home.[5]Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation Of Ireland. [New York: The Overlook Press, 2005] 421. They included feminists such as Louie Bennett, Hannah Sheehy-Skiffington, and Kathleen Clarke, widow of 1916 Rising martyr Tom Clarke. Mary Hayden of University College, Dublin, and the Women’s Graduate Association, also protested.[6]Thomas Bartlett, Ireland: A History. [Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010] 450.

Irish journalist R.M. O’Hanrahan, in a pre-plebiscite analysis distributed by the North American Newspaper Alliance, noted these college and university educated women were “up in arms” about the language that referenced their gender. While these women advised a “no” vote on the Constitution, “the effect of this vote cannot be very marked as the time for organizing opposition meetings is rather short,” O’Hanrahan predicted.[7]“Women In Irish Election”, The Boston Globe, June 28, 1937.

He was proven correct. Historian Thomas Bartlett has observed, “in the crucial areas of paternalist control they failed to make any impression. It is clear that many women and mothers agreed with de Valera’s construction of their role” because the Constitution won approval with 56.5 percent in favor to 43.5 percent against. Subsequent protests by feminists in 1938 and 1943 failed to remove the offending language.[8]Bartlett, Ireland, 450.

But the Constitution’s passage was “not very convincing,” de Valera biographer David McCullagh has argued. The leader’s claim that a majority of the Irish people supported his update was “an implicitly partitionist reading,” since nobody in the six counties of Northern Ireland could vote. Observers then and now agree they would have rejected it and changed the outcome. Just over 1.3 million people cast ballots in the referendum, nearly 76 percent of registered voters, but only 38.5 percent of the total electorate voted in favor.[9]David McCullagh, De Valera (Vol. II), Rule, 1932-1975. [Dublin: Gill Books, 2018] 134.

The revised Constitution took effect at the end of 1937. “It is there now and it is better that people should get to like it the more they study it,” de Valera said.[10]Ibid. In fact, the longer the Irish people have lived under the Constitution, the less they have liked it.

References

References
1 See the current and proposed language.
2 ”G.B.S. Says De Valera Has Fascist Aims In ‘Eire'”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 2, 1937.
3 See Dáil Éireann debate, May 13, 1937, Vol. 67, No. 3.
4 Bernard Shaw. “Two Unpublished Letters To Eamon De Valera: With an Introduction by Brad Kent.” Shaw, vol. 30, 2010, pp. 27–35. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.5325/shaw.30.1.0027.
5 Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation Of Ireland. [New York: The Overlook Press, 2005] 421.
6 Thomas Bartlett, Ireland: A History. [Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010] 450.
7 “Women In Irish Election”, The Boston Globe, June 28, 1937.
8 Bartlett, Ireland, 450.
9 David McCullagh, De Valera (Vol. II), Rule, 1932-1975. [Dublin: Gill Books, 2018] 134.
10 Ibid.

The Anglo-American journalist who agitated the Irish

This post continues my exploration of American Reporting of Irish IndependenceMH ©2024

English-born journalist Cyril Herbert Bretherton wrote some of the most anti-Irish stories in the American press during 1920-1921. That he was a naturalized U.S. citizen hardly mattered to Irish nationalists on either side of the Atlantic. They accused him of being a liar, a spy, and a propagandist. Bretherton’s reporting probably reduced American fundraising for humanitarian relief in Ireland. His work at least partially offset pro-independence Irish writers such as Francis Hackett, also a naturalized U.S. citizen, who supported their homeland through books and mass circulation newspaper and magazine articles in America.

Bretherton remained unreconstructed after the creation of the 26-county Irish Free State, predecessor of today’s Republic of Ireland. “I am convinced, after studying the Irish carefully, both in their native land and in America, for a number of years, that they are quite incapable of governing themselves now, and I conclude from that that they never were capable of doing so,” he wrote in a 1925 memoir.[1]Cyril Herbert Bretherton, The Real Ireland (London: A. & C. Black, LTD, 1925), p. 4.

C. H. Bretherton in 1921 U.S. passport photo.

Bretherton emigrated to America in 1906 at the age of twenty-eight after earning a law degree. In California, he joined the bar, worked as a journalist, and secured his new citizenship. But Bretherton returned to his native country at the start of the First World War. He enlisted in the military and was stationed in Dublin.[2]Pauric J. Dempsey, “Bretherton, Cyril Herbert Emmanuel”, in online Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009; and The National Archives in Washington, DC; Washington, Dc; (Roll 20) Petitions … Continue reading

Bretherton contributed to U.S. newspapers during the Great War. “One seems to step from the pier at New York directly into the war zone,” he wrote of German submarine danger in March 1916, a year before America entered the war.[3]”Story Of England’s Dummy Fleet Told To Herald Correspondent By Participant”, The Washington (D.C.) Herald, March 19, 1916. He became a correspondent for the unionist-leaning Irish Times in Dublin and the conservative Morning Post in London. In early 1920 he joined the upstart foreign news service of the Philadelphia Public Ledger at a salary of about $75 a month.[4]Bretherton was paid £20 per month, according to “Present Salary Schedule” in Carl Ackerman Papers, Library of Congress. The document is undated. Conversion uses 1920 rate of $3.66 per £1, … Continue reading

It was in this role that his coverage of the Irish war attracted attention.

Sinn Fein ‘schism’

In a September 1920 story for the Public Ledger and its affiliated papers, Bretherton suggested a “schism in Sinn Fein” was “becoming more evident.”[5]“Republican Army In Ireland Sole Barrier To Peace”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 3, 1920, and other papers. On the one side were “moderates … convinced that Ireland can get the substance of freedom within the empire for the asking and should not throw it away for a shadow of republican independence to which Great Britain will never agree.” Leaders of this view, according to his story, included Sinn Féin founder Arthur Griffith and Éamon de Valera, then in America to raise money and lobby for U.S. political support for the Irish republic.

On the other side were the “extremists,” Bretherton reported. They included the “strong man” Michael Collins, who believed “an independent republic can and will in the near future be realized.” Anyone who accepted to anything less, Bretherton wrote, was considered “a traitor to the cause.”

Bretherton did not attribute these views to named sources within Sinn Féin, the British government, or elsewhere. His reporting certainly was influenced by his boss, Carl Ackerman, London bureau chief of the Public Ledger’s foreign news service. Ackerman suggested the split within Sinn Féin at least two months earlier.

During their July 1920 interview, Griffith told Ackerman more than once that he would refuse to accept any peace deal that did not result in an Irish republic. Yet Ackerman insisted in the same story, “I believe Sinn Fein would give up this demand and accept a liberal form of home rule.”[6]From the second story of Ackerman’s four-part series: Part 1, “Hour for Mediation in Ireland at Hand; Ackerman Thinks America Could Act”, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 7, 1920; … Continue reading In another story a few days later Ackerman reported on the “general belief in England that moderate Sinn Feiners do not have the power to control the Sinn Fein organization.”[7]“Both Sides In British-Irish War Await Move For Mediation”, The (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune, July 10, 1920, and other papers. This is the fourth story of Ackerman’s four-part series.

Carl Ackerman in 1920.

British spy chief Sir Basil Thompson, who had become a key source to Ackerman, encouraged this view. At the time the two men were privately discussing whether former Wilson administration advisor Edward House could mediate a peace deal between Sinn Féin and the British government. House had recently joined the Public Ledger payroll as a foreign affairs expert. Ackerman dangled the possibility of an American mediator–left unnamed–in his July 1920 reporting from Ireland. He quoted Griffith as saying Sinn Féin would “very seriously consider” such an intermediary.

Ackerman privately told Sinn Féin propaganda chief Desmond FitzGerld that British authorities were concerned the moderate wing didn’t have full control of the Irish republican party. And that could jeopardize the proposed mediation by House.

FitzGerald asked Ackerman what it would take to prove there was no division.

“If you, Griffiths, and other moderates remain alive two weeks after talking peace everyone will be convinced you control Sinn Fein. If you are all dead by that time it won’t matter,” Ackerman replied, according to his diary.[8]“London Notes”, Ackerman’s dairy, July 15, 1920, in Ackerman papers.

A month later, FitzGerald helped Ackerman obtain an interview with Collins. The Public Ledger promoted it as the first interview with the man who had eluded British authorities for two years. Ackerman’s story made a splash in the American press. But Collins’ comments underlined Sinn Féin’s hardline stance and effectively scuttled the proposal for House to mediate.

Sinn Fein will not compromise, will not negotiate, excepting as a republican government. Moreover, there will be no secret negotiation, no dealing with semi-official individuals. … Talk of dominion home rule is not promoted by England with a view to granting it to us, but merely with the view to getting rid of the republican movement.[9]“Irish Never Will Accept Premier’s Terms—Collins”, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 26, 1920.

When Bretherton’s story about a split within Sinn Féin appeared a week after the Collins interview, it raised questions of whether Griffith and others had softened or compromised their republican views. This would have been a significant development.

The pro-Irish Gaelic American republished Bretherton’s story, just as it had done a week earlier with Ackerman’s interview of Collins. “Unconfirmed Report Of Differences” the New York City weekly headlined at the top of its front page. An editor’s introduction described Bretherton as “unknown in Irish circles” and noted that he did not provide direct quotes from either Collins or Griffith. The paper cautioned readers that it reproduced his story “with reserve.”[10]“Unconfirmed Report Of Difference” The Gaelic American, Sept. 11, 1920.

Negative reactions followed swiftly. One “indignant reader” wrote a letter to the Gaelic American that not only pointed out Bretherton’s English birth, but also accused him of being “a known liar and British spy.” The letter writer insisted: “His article is entirely manufactured. There is no Sinn Fein split.”[11]“Bretherton Is English”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 18, 1920.

Sinn Féin also reacted to the story. Griffith denounced it as “obvious English propaganda.” In two letters to the Gaelic American, Collins wrote that “talk of differences is an old policy with England. It is only to be expect at this time, when the situation becomes more and more difficult for her, shames her more and more before decent people, that she will leave nothing undone to break up the splendid solidarity of the Irish nation.”[12]“Letter Of Complaint From Michael Collins”, The Gaelic American, Nov. 6, 1920; and copy of letter on Dail Eireann stationary, Sept. 30, 1920, in Ackerman papers.

Collins demanded that John Devoy, the paper’s editor and longtime proponent of Irish independence, apologize to de Valera. Devoy and de Valera had publicly argued all summer about the best way to secure U.S. government support for Ireland. The Irish Press, which staunchly supported the visiting de Valera, also published the two Collins letters to embarrass Devoy.[13]“Gaelic American Editor Rebuked; Told To Apologize To President”, The Irish Press, Nov. 6, 1920. The Philadelphia-based weekly, which had feuded with Devoy since its launch 1918, accused him of “veiled approval” of the “purely English propaganda.”

The episode stoked division among the Irish in America, and between them and the Irish in Ireland. This would only grow worse.

Bretherton and the Public Ledger published a non-retraction retraction to Sinn Féin’s repudiation of a split. “These denials may well be accepted at their face value and as the last word on the subject, for in a case of this kind direct testimony of the parties concerned must always outweigh evidence that, however convincing, is merely circumstantial,” Bretherton wrote.[14]“Sinn Feiners Use Old Punishments”, The Norfolk (Va.) Ledger-Dispatch, Oct. 14, 1920.

But Bretherton’s story of a Sinn Féin split was proved prescient a little over a year later as the party and the British government agreed to a peace treaty. Collins, who emerged from hiding to help negotiate the accord, took the moderate position of supporting the treaty. De Valera became the “extremist” who refused to accept the treaty because it fell short of a republic, setting the stage for the Irish Civil War of 1922-1923.

Collins “should have kept up the role of Unknown Assassin,” Bretherton wrote in his 1925 memoir, three years after the IRA leader was killed in an ambush. “Instead of doing that he allowed himself to be inveigled into writing to an American paper, denouncing a highly plausible story—concocted, perhaps, with the express purpose of ‘drawing’ him—of how he and Arthur Griffith were at loggerheads. A man who writes letters to the papers can never be mysterious or terrible.”[15]Bretherton, The Real Ireland, p. 23.

American delegation for Irish relief

The mid-December 1920 burning of Cork city by British troops prompted Irish activists in the United States to launch the American Committee for Relief in Ireland. Its goal was to raise $10 million in aid for victims of the war, regardless of whether they were nationalists or unionists, Catholic or Protestant. The committee also intended to use the effort to keep public attention on Ireland as U.S. president-elect Warren G. Harding succeeded Woodrow Wilson, who refused to recognize the Irish republic. The relief committee planned to launch of its nationwide fundraising appeal on St. Patrick’s Day 1921.

An eight-member committee delegation steamed to Ireland in advance to assess conditions and needs. Clemens J. France, a Seattle labor lawyer who had just lost a campaign for U.S. Senate in Washington state, headed the group. Author and journalist Samuel Duff McCoy of New York City served as the delegation’s secretary and chief writer. The other six members were agricultural and economic experts who belonged to the American Friends Services Committee; a Quaker humanitarian organization. Their affiliation was said to give the delegation a neutral perspective.

The delegation was only in Dublin for a few days when Bretherton produced a four-part series for the Irish Times titled, “Irish Distress and its Relief.”[16]Bretherton’s series in the Irish Times: Part 1, “The American Committee, Its Works And Aims”, Feb. 17, 1921; Part 2, “Nature Of The Problem, Suggestions To American Committee”, Feb. 18, … Continue reading The articles not only sought to minimize the need for American charity, but also criticized those involved in the effort. While the visiting delegation claimed to be non-political and non-partisan, Bretherton noted, “neutrality is a narrow plank on which to walk through the morass of Irish political strife.”[17]Ibid, from Part 1.

The Public Ledger distributed edited versions of Bretherton’s series to its more than two dozen member newspapers.[18]Public Ledger “Foreign Service Subscribers to Date, Jan. 1, 1921” in Spurgeon, John J., 1921, in Ackerman papers. In addition to the flagship paper in Philadelphia, other titles included … Continue reading “Isolated cases of hardship, due to reprisals and burnings, certainly exist,” Bretherton wrote. “Probably there are not 20 such cases all told and the Irish themselves, if they choose, can take care of 20,000 such cases and still have money to spare.”[19]“No Pre-War Poverty In Ireland Today; Has Six Fat Years”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Feb. 23, 1921.

Bretherton was not the first journalist to minimize poverty in Ireland. For several years American correspondents had described the country as untouched by the ravages of the First World War, as compared to England and the continent. But Bretherton’s descriptions now threatened to undermine the relief committee’s fundraising campaign.

He accused the delegation of sending “lurid tales of Irish distress” to America. He disputed its report that 200,000 civilians were “in dire need” and insisted that “there are not in all Ireland 500 people in that condition.” Likewise, he said property damage in Ireland, estimated at $300 million by the committee delegation, “does not amount to one-tenth that sum.”[20]“Britain May Order U.S. Commission To Leave Ireland”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, March 2, 1921.

France, the delegation leader, quickly cabled the relief committee’s New York City headquarters with a statement for release to U.S. newspapers. France charged that Bretherton “has deliberately ignored facts which any unbiased journalist can obtain and which are known to Crown authorities.” France also said that Bretherton’s series in the Irish Times “obviously sought to persuade our unit that no relief need exists in Ireland, and since he failed in this absurd attempt he is apparently attempting to influence opinion in America.”[21]“Says Bretherton Misstated Facts”, The Boston Globe, March 10, 1921.

Unsurprisingly, the hyper-partisan News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom agreed. The Washington, D.C.-based weekly blasted Bretherton for “industriously cabling” British propaganda to U.S. newspapers. It continued:

It is obviously to the advantage of the English government to make it appear to Americans that the need for relief in Ireland is small or non-existent. … Fortunately these isolated bits of fiction which have appeared in the American press are easily identified and refuted.”[22]News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom National Bureau of Information, no headline, p. 7, March 19, 1921.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 2, 1921.

Bretherton also reported that the eight-member delegation risked being booted out of Ireland by the British government because it “placed itself unreservedly in the hands of Sinn Fein.” The relief funds, he alleged, “will go to the support of families of fighting Sinn Feiners interned or in jail or to rebuild houses burned by the Crown forces because their owners participated actively or passively in attacks on them.”[23]“Britain May Order”, Daily Eagle, March 2, 1921.

Two weeks later Ackerman reported the American delegation would be allowed to stay in Ireland. He backstopped Bretherton by name in the story, revealing British authorities had not reached their decision until after his colleague’s story was sent to America. In other words, Bretherton’s story was accurate when it was published.[24]“Americans Asked To Avoid White Cross”, Norfolk (Virginia) Ledger-Dispatch, March 16, 1921. Ackerman also reported the American delegation was told to avoid contact with the Bretherton suggested Sinn Féin-affiliated Irish White Cross.

“You have cleared up the Irish relief dispute quite satisfactorily,” John J. Spurgeon, the Public Ledger’s Philadelphia-based editor, wrote to Ackerman. Spurgeon warned, however, that Bretherton “must not give even a suspicion of leaning to one side. There is a pretty general feeling over here (in America) among the Irish that he is exceedingly pro-British and anti-Irish and I don’t want them to have anything to point to.”[25]John J. Spurgeon to Carl Ackerman, March 18, 1921, in Ackerman papers.

But Bretherton’s reporting had already cast doubt on the Irish relief effort. An Indiana newspaper editorial suggested:

Americans are entitled to the exact truth, as far as it can be obtained, in order that they may base their gifts on facts rather than rhetoric. It is known that throughout the war Ireland was one of the most prosperous countries in the world. The conditions (now) may be worse than Mr. Bretherton reports, and yet much less bad than we have been asked to believe. The disparity between the two estimates is such as to suggest the great need for a careful, nonpartisan and unbiased inquiry. The American people will insist, also, that what they give be used for the relief of all sufferers and not simply those of the Sinn Fein persuasion.[26]“News From Ireland”, The Indianapolis (Indiana) News, March 7, 1921, and other papers.

Others also questioned the need for American relief in Ireland. Protestant preachers in Pittsburgh passed resolutions and paid for newspaper advertising that disclaimed the relief campaign.[27]See my post “The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland“, Aug. 18, 2021. The Relief Committee collected $5 million—half its original goal—by the time fundraising ended later that summer. France, the delegation head, remained in Ireland after the other members returned home and the American committee continued to distribute money through the Irish White Cross.

Criticized, threatened & sacked

Bretherton’s reporting about the American relief delegation came as Spurgeon complained about the year-old foreign news service. The editor sent several early 1921 letters to Ackerman that detailed his criticisms, including too much document-based political and economic coverage and not enough human-interest features. Like other U.S. newspaper editors, Spurgeon also worried that his overseas staff failed to discriminate between “what to mail and what the cable,” the latter a steep expense to the business.[28]John J. Spurgeon to Carl Ackerman, Feb. 3, 1921, in Ackerman papers.

Of Bretherton, Spurgeon wrote:

Almost daily he has cabled brief articles about ambushes, murders, fires, uprisings, and the actual daily happenings in every part of Ireland. Almost without exception these have been covered by the Associated Press. Result—duplication of effort and unnecessary expense.[29]Ibid.

Ackerman replied that Bretherton had no way of knowing what stories the Associated Press was sending to America. But he assured Spurgeon that the correspondent would “stop sending what you describe as small crime stories and devote himself more to the larger aspects of the Irish situation.”[30]Carl Ackerman to John J. Spurgeon, Feb. 28, 1921, in Ackerman papers.

Spurgeon’s complaints might have prompted Bretherton’s work on the American relief delegation. Yet the correspondent continued to file stories about some of the same daily developments as the wire service. Bretherton’s story about the sensational Kilmainham jail escape of Frank Teeling, one of the IRA’s “Bloody Sunday” assassins, caught the attention of the Gaelic American. Still smarting from the “split” story five months earlier, the paper attacked Bretherton as “a notorious enemy of Sinn Fein who has previously sent fakes to America.”[31]“Was Teeling Rescued Or Murdered By Black And Tans”, The Gaelic American, Feb. 26, 1921.

Physical threats to Bretherton also emerged. In April 1921 Ackerman obtained a second secret interview with Collins, mysteriously datelined from “somewhere in Ireland.”[32]“Chief Of Irish Army Declares Fight To Go On”, The Des Moines (Iowa) Register, April 3, 1921. Ackerman reported that Collins told him American correspondents “could have their own opinions and express themselves freely.” But the IRA commander objected to Bretherton’s story that accused Sinn Féin of murdering three Irish lord mayors: Thomas McCurtain of Cork city in March 1920, and George Clancy and Michael O’Callaghan of Limerick city in March 1921. Collins blamed the slayings on the British military.

Privately, Ackerman told Spurgeon: “Collins said that we need have no fear that as far as he and the leaders were concerned nothing would ever happen to Bretherton. He added, however, that the feeling against Bretherton was high in Cork and Limerick and that he never knew when someone who had a grievance might take it upon himself to harm Bretherton.” Ackerman also wrote that that he told Collins “there would be ‘hell to pay'” if any harm came to an American correspondent and the Public Ledger would not withdraw Bretherton from Ireland “because some members of Sinn Fein did not like what he wrote.”[33]Carl Ackerman to John J. Spurgeon, April 4, 1921, in Ackerman papers.

But Ackerman was lying to Collins and probably boasting to Spurgeon. A few weeks before his interview with Collins, Ackerman accompanied Bretherton to the U.S. consulate office in Dublin to help renew the correspondent’s American passport.[34]National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 1570; Volume #: Roll 1570 – … Continue reading Then Ackerman sent Bretherton to the Baltics on assignment. He informed Spurgeon of his decision.

Ackerman’s April 4, 1921, letter about Sinn Fein threats to Bretherton. Ackerman papers, Library of Congress.

“I think it was wise to take Bretherton away from Ireland, as despite the fact that I think he was quite warranted in what he said about the American relief crowd, nevertheless, he was a constant thorn in the flesh to the Sinn Feiners in this country,” Spurgeon replied to Ackerman.[35]John J. Spurgeon to Carl Ackerman, March 29, 1921, in Ackerman papers.

U.S Consul Frederick T. F. Dumont, who signed Bretherton’s passport, also reported the episode to his State Department superiors in Washington. The correspondent “was compelled to leave Ireland … because he had aroused the enmity of Michael Collins and of the Sinn Fein press in Ireland by daring to take any other than the Sinn Fein view in his letters and telegrams to his newspaper,” Dumont wrote. He also suggested the Public Ledger was being threatened in America with reader and advertising boycotts unless it eliminated such coverage.[36]Frederick T. F. Dumont to U.S. State Department, April 23, 1921, in “Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Great Britain, 1910-1929, Ireland – (Irish Free State, … Continue reading

Ackerman and Spurgeon continued to argue about the foreign news service into the summer. By August, Ackerman returned to America for a face-to-face meetings, which resulted in his resignation. Bretherton was sacked soon after.

Ackerman and Bretherton corresponded across the Atlantic at least until the end of 1921, according to Ackerman’s papers at the Library of Congress. Bretherton asked his former boss to recommend an American publisher who might be interested “in a small book about Ireland.”[37]C.H. Bretherton to Carl Ackerman, Nov. 14, 1921, in Ackerman papers. It is unclear whether Ackerman ever replied or helped. Bretherton’s memoir, The Real Ireland, didn’t appear until four years later from a London publisher. He never mentions Ackerman or the Public Ledger in the book, which was soon suppressed in a libel suit unrelated to his American correspondence.

Bretherton continued to work for Irish and British papers and wrote several other books. He married an Irish woman and is said to have been a devout Roman Catholic. He died in 1939, aged 60, in his native England.[38]Dempsey, “Bretherton, C. H. (Cyril Herbert)”, in online Dictionary of Irish Biography.

References

References
1 Cyril Herbert Bretherton, The Real Ireland (London: A. & C. Black, LTD, 1925), p. 4.
2 Pauric J. Dempsey, “Bretherton, Cyril Herbert Emmanuel”, in online Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009; and The National Archives in Washington, DC; Washington, Dc; (Roll 20) Petitions For Naturalization 1815-2233; Record Group Title: National Archives Gift Collection; Record Group Number: 200; and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 1570; Volume #: Roll 1570 – Certificates: 20250-20625, 16 Apr 1921-16 Apr 1921.
3 ”Story Of England’s Dummy Fleet Told To Herald Correspondent By Participant”, The Washington (D.C.) Herald, March 19, 1916.
4 Bretherton was paid £20 per month, according to “Present Salary Schedule” in Carl Ackerman Papers, Library of Congress. The document is undated. Conversion uses 1920 rate of $3.66 per £1, according to Lawrence H. Officer, “Dollar-Pound Exchange Rate From 1791,” MeasuringWorth.com, 2023.
5 “Republican Army In Ireland Sole Barrier To Peace”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sept. 3, 1920, and other papers.
6 From the second story of Ackerman’s four-part series: Part 1, “Hour for Mediation in Ireland at Hand; Ackerman Thinks America Could Act”, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 7, 1920; Part 2, “Sinn Fein Leaders Willing To Let United States Be Jury”, The (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune, July 8, 1920; Part 3, “Plunkett Blames British Blunders for Irish Strife”, The (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune, July 9, 1920; and Part 4, “Irish Mediation Lacks Leader Only, Says Ackerman, Pointing To Factors For and Against it”, The Washington Herald, July 10, 1920. Each part numbered in different papers, but some editing might have varied.
7 “Both Sides In British-Irish War Await Move For Mediation”, The (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune, July 10, 1920, and other papers. This is the fourth story of Ackerman’s four-part series.
8 “London Notes”, Ackerman’s dairy, July 15, 1920, in Ackerman papers.
9 “Irish Never Will Accept Premier’s Terms—Collins”, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 26, 1920.
10 “Unconfirmed Report Of Difference” The Gaelic American, Sept. 11, 1920.
11 “Bretherton Is English”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 18, 1920.
12 “Letter Of Complaint From Michael Collins”, The Gaelic American, Nov. 6, 1920; and copy of letter on Dail Eireann stationary, Sept. 30, 1920, in Ackerman papers.
13 “Gaelic American Editor Rebuked; Told To Apologize To President”, The Irish Press, Nov. 6, 1920.
14 “Sinn Feiners Use Old Punishments”, The Norfolk (Va.) Ledger-Dispatch, Oct. 14, 1920.
15 Bretherton, The Real Ireland, p. 23.
16 Bretherton’s series in the Irish Times: Part 1, “The American Committee, Its Works And Aims”, Feb. 17, 1921; Part 2, “Nature Of The Problem, Suggestions To American Committee”, Feb. 18, 1921; Part 3, “Causes of Unemployment, The Ex-Servicemen”, Feb. 21, 1921; and Part 4, “Promiscuous Charity, Reconstruction Schemes”, Feb. 25, 1921.
17 Ibid, from Part 1.
18 Public Ledger “Foreign Service Subscribers to Date, Jan. 1, 1921” in Spurgeon, John J., 1921, in Ackerman papers. In addition to the flagship paper in Philadelphia, other titles included the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Washington (D.C.) HeraldDes Moines (Iowa) RegisterMinneapolis (Minnesota) Tribune, and St. Louis Star.
19 “No Pre-War Poverty In Ireland Today; Has Six Fat Years”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Feb. 23, 1921.
20 “Britain May Order U.S. Commission To Leave Ireland”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, March 2, 1921.
21 “Says Bretherton Misstated Facts”, The Boston Globe, March 10, 1921.
22 News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom National Bureau of Information, no headline, p. 7, March 19, 1921.
23 “Britain May Order”, Daily Eagle, March 2, 1921.
24 “Americans Asked To Avoid White Cross”, Norfolk (Virginia) Ledger-Dispatch, March 16, 1921.
25 John J. Spurgeon to Carl Ackerman, March 18, 1921, in Ackerman papers.
26 “News From Ireland”, The Indianapolis (Indiana) News, March 7, 1921, and other papers.
27 See my post “The Pittsburgh fight over 1921 relief to Ireland“, Aug. 18, 2021.
28 John J. Spurgeon to Carl Ackerman, Feb. 3, 1921, in Ackerman papers.
29 Ibid.
30 Carl Ackerman to John J. Spurgeon, Feb. 28, 1921, in Ackerman papers.
31 “Was Teeling Rescued Or Murdered By Black And Tans”, The Gaelic American, Feb. 26, 1921.
32 “Chief Of Irish Army Declares Fight To Go On”, The Des Moines (Iowa) Register, April 3, 1921.
33 Carl Ackerman to John J. Spurgeon, April 4, 1921, in Ackerman papers.
34 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 1570; Volume #: Roll 1570 – Certificates: 20250-20625, 16 Apr 1921-16 Apr 1921.
35 John J. Spurgeon to Carl Ackerman, March 29, 1921, in Ackerman papers.
36 Frederick T. F. Dumont to U.S. State Department, April 23, 1921, in “Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Great Britain, 1910-1929, Ireland – (Irish Free State, Eire) Political Affairs, general 841d.00, Roll 218.” Microfilm reviewed at Harvard University, 2022.
37 C.H. Bretherton to Carl Ackerman, Nov. 14, 1921, in Ackerman papers.
38 Dempsey, “Bretherton, C. H. (Cyril Herbert)”, in online Dictionary of Irish Biography.

De Valera’s arrest and the Irish election, August 1923

U.S. press attention to Ireland waned after the country’s year-long civil war ended in May 1923. Americans focused on domestic politics, including the Aug. 2 heart attack death of President Warren G. Harding and transfer of power to Calvin Coolidge. But American newspapers revived their coverage of Ireland with the Aug. 15 arrest of republican leader Éamon de Valera two weeks before the country’s first general election of the post-revolutionary period.

De Valera had been in hiding for months, but he continued to promote the republican cause. In mid-July 1923 he issued a statement that was widely reported in U.S. papers, in part for the drama that it had been smuggled from Ireland to France by airplane. The statement was delivered to Webb Miller, European correspondent of United Press. The Michigan native, then 32, began his career as a criminal courts reporter at the Chicago American. As a freelance correspondent in 1916 he followed U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. That reporting led to Miller’s job with United Press, which assigned him to Europe as America entered World War I.[1]Webb Miller, I Found No Peace, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936); and “Webb Miller” in Robert B. Downs and Jane B. Downs, Journalists of the United States: Biographical Sketches of Print and … Continue reading He reported periodically from Ireland, including several dispatches during the 1918 conscription crisis.

Miller’s story noted that de Valera was wanted for arrest by the Irish Free State government he opposed. The exiled leader’s statement predicted “the full strength of the republicans will not appear in the coming elections” in late August. [2]”De Valera Sends Statement Into Paris By Plane”, Stockton (Calif.) Record, July 17, 1923, shown in this post, and other papers.

De Valera also complained about the Free State government’s suppression of the press, the same tactic the British had used against republicans earlier in the revolutionary period. And he thanked Americans for their financial support of the republican cause and assured the money was “applied strictly to the purposes for which they were subscribed.”

The Gaelic American, edited by de Valera’s arch antagonist John Devoy, described the statement as a “cheap publicity stunt.” It ridiculed the strategy of “clinging to the old mystery game” by delivering the text in “his phantom airplane.” The real reason for de Valera’s statement, the Gaelic American insisted, was to encourage the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) to send money across the Atlantic for the upcoming election. De Valera created the AARIR in the late 1920 split with the Devoy-backed Friends of Irish Freedom.[3]”De Valera Drops His ‘Idealism;’ Politician Now”, The Gaelic American, July 28, 1923. The two men also took opposite sides on whether to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921.

Dev’s arrest

Free State troops arrested de Valera a month later, minutes after he began speaking on a campaign platform in Ennis, County Clare. The Associated Press described the “sensational circumstances” in a dispatch that made the front pages of many American newspapers later the same day.[4]”De Valera Made Prisoner By Free Staters At Ennis”, The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Aug. 15, 1923, and other papers. In some papers the AP story was a brief among other foreign and domestic news, in others the arrest grabbed the top headline:

Eamon de Valera’s arrest in Ennis was the same day top story in Butte, Montana, a mining town with a significant Irish population that he visited in July 1919, during his 18-month American tour. (Image is above the fold only, not the full front page.)

The Gaelic American missed the arrest in its edition of three days later, an example of how the more robust financial resources and access to syndicated cable networks gave the daily papers an advantage over smaller weeklies. A front page story in the Devoy paper noted that de Valera was expected to resurface at the Aug. 15 campaign event in Ennis. In its next issue a week later, the Gaelic American declared “De Valera Is Laid By The Heels At Last” across the top of the front page. And maintaining its frequent role of media watchdog, the story noted:

There are several versions of the event, but all agree in the main details, and each contains a record of some incidents not contained in the others. The Associated Press report is the fullest, but the (New York) Times and the (Hearst-owned New York) American supply many interesting details. The main difference between the various reports is whether de Valera fainted when Free State troops fired a blank volley over the heads of those on the platform” … while other versions say he threw himself down or was knocked down by others. “In either case the picture which his friends have drawn of the cool, calm, self-controlled man who faces danger with an iron nerve disappeared forever.[5]De Valera Is Laid By The Heels At Last“, The Gaelic American, Aug. 25, 1923.

About a month after the arrest, another version of the event was reported in the Boston Globe by Chester A. Arthur, Jr., grandson of the late 19th century U.S. president, who attended the Ennis rally with his wife. As Free State troops opened fire, “all the men and women near (de Valera) flung themselves upon him and he is born down, obviously against his will,” Arthur wrote.[6]”Bullets Flew When De Valera Was Taken”, The Boston Globe, Sept. 14, 1923.

Jones interview

A week before his arrest de Valera gave an in-person interview to Dr. Edward Dewitt Jones, Texas-born pastor of the Central Christian Church in Detroit and a prolific writer, including five books. Jones reported the interview process began with the usual exchange of written questions and replies delivered through de Valera’s trusted messengers. Their meeting was arranged, Jones continued, with the benefit of a letter of introduction he held from “a distinguished Irish American.” Jones did not name this person in his story, but it quite possibly was Henry Ford. The automobile tycoon had opened a tractor factory near Cork city in 1919 and met privately with de Valera that October, during the Irish leader’s American tour. Jones interviewed Ford for a syndicated newspaper story before leaving for Ireland in July 1920.

The preacher wrote that he asked the automaker if he had any advice for the people of Ireland.

“Sure. Tell them to lay down the shillalah (sic, shillelagh) and take up the saw,” Ford replied.[7]”Ford Says Prohibition Is But Smoke Screen Of Crafty Politicians”, The Scranton (Pa.) Times, July 21, 1923.

Jones detailed the elaborate precautions he was required to take enroute to meeting “the Irish pimpernel.”[8]”De Valera, Disguised By Beard, Lived Safely In Heart of Dublin”, The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1923, and other papers. This included switching taxies and cars that drove circuitous routes through Dublin and its suburbs. Though Jones does not mention being blindfolded, the drama is similar to what other American reporters experienced to interview de Valera in early 1919, after his escape from Lincoln prison.[9]See my 2019 piece, March 1919: First interviews with escapee Éamon de Valera.

The Chicago Tribune published this photo of de Valera’s arrest on Aug. 26, 1923, 11 days after the event. It claims to be the only image of the arrest.

When they came face-to-face, De Valera sported “a heavy brown beard” that “made him look like a Frenchman,” Jones reported, then added the whiskers were shaved by the time he was arrested eight days later. The American, who was 46, described the 41-year-old de Valera as appearing older than he expected, yet “courteous, conciliatory in speech, stubborn in his opinions, spirited even in eclipse, but not embittered.” De Valera’s message to Jones mirrored the statement he sent to Miller: the 1922 election that upheld the Irish Free State was unfair, and the upcoming contest would be, too.

The North American Newspaper Alliance distributed the interview. The alliance had been created a year earlier by more than four dozen papers in the United States and Canada, led by the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Among the papers that used the de Valera interview, most appear to have published it on Aug. 28, the day after the Irish election.

General election

Many anti-treaty republicans, including de Valera, from the losing side of the civil war remained imprisoned during the election campaign. Most were committed to not participate in the legislature, even if elected. Cumann na nGaedheal, successor party of the pro-treaty wing of Sinn Féin, won the election and went on to form the government.

The Associated Press cited “Dublin correspondents of the London newspapers” as the source of its descriptions of “slow and steady” turnout in the capital while “reports from the provinces indicate the day passed peacefully.”[10]”Sixty Percent Of Irish Vote In Free State Elections”, The Buffalo (NY) Evening Times, Aug. 28,1923, and other papers. The wire story included that republican Countess Markievicz had been pelted with an egg at Rathmines, while in Waterford four brass bands representing competing political parties played over each other in an “old time election day amusement.” Markievicz and de Valera prevailed in their races. “A remarkable feature of the elections is the absence of the influence of Jim Larkin, a radical labor leader,” wrote Hugh Curran of the Dublin-based Irish Times, also a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune‘s Foreign News Service.[11]”Erin Peaceful As Vote Is Taken; Ballot Is Heavy”, Chicago Tribune, Aug. 28, 1923. Larkin, a socialist and communist agitator, had returned to Ireland earlier in the year after being released from the New York prison where he was sentenced on conviction of criminal anarchy.

“The fact that about 60 percent of the eligible voters went to the polls shows an interest which compares favorably with that evinced in American elections,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle editorialized.[12]”A Peaceful Election In Ireland”, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 29, 1923.. “On the whole, the election bodes nothing but good for the Irish people.”

The Gaelic American cited election coverage from Denis O’Connell, an Irish-born correspondent for the Heart-owned Universal Service news wire, and the Associated Press, in its issue five days after the election.[13]”‘Model Election,’ Is The Verdict On Contest In Ireland”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 1, 1923. The paper provided more comprehensive coverage the following week. It concluded:

Notwithstanding, in view of the fact that on its shoulders fell the heavy burden of restoring order to a country reduced to a state of anarchy by the de Valera tactics, the result, taking it all in all, is a sweeping victory for government by sanity, and the fact, in contradiction to de Valera’s protest that the election would not be a free election, that there was complete freedom on the part of every voter … coupled with the order that prevailed at the polls, is a happy augur for the future.[14]”Griffith And Collins Vindicated By Result Of Election In Ireland”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 8, 1923.

Stephen Gwynn

The Gaelic American also recommended and reprinted election coverage from Irish journalist Stephen Gwynn, which appeared in the New York Times. A Protestant nationalist, Gwynn had represented Galway city in the British Parliament as a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1906 to 1918. He supported John Redmond’s call for the Irish Volunteers to support the British and Allied military effort in the Great War, where he served as a captain.

Gwynn’s Sept. 2, 1923, story is linked from its headline, “Irish Vote Assures Stable Government.”

The De Valera papers at University College Dublin contain more than 50 pages of statements that he issued to foreign correspondents, or content they sent to him for approval prior to publication, during this period. The collection includes statements issued to Miller, Jones, and Joe Toye of The Boston Herald-Traveller.[15]Eamon de Valera Papers, P150. See 22. REORGANISATION OF SINN FÉIN, PEACE MOVES AND CEASEFIRE, November 1922 – August 1923, Box 1790, p. 660

References

References
1 Webb Miller, I Found No Peace, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936); and “Webb Miller” in Robert B. Downs and Jane B. Downs, Journalists of the United States: Biographical Sketches of Print and Broadcast New Shapers from the Late 17th Century to the Present, (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1991.), p 239.
2 ”De Valera Sends Statement Into Paris By Plane”, Stockton (Calif.) Record, July 17, 1923, shown in this post, and other papers.
3 ”De Valera Drops His ‘Idealism;’ Politician Now”, The Gaelic American, July 28, 1923.
4 ”De Valera Made Prisoner By Free Staters At Ennis”, The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Aug. 15, 1923, and other papers.
5 De Valera Is Laid By The Heels At Last“, The Gaelic American, Aug. 25, 1923.
6 ”Bullets Flew When De Valera Was Taken”, The Boston Globe, Sept. 14, 1923.
7 ”Ford Says Prohibition Is But Smoke Screen Of Crafty Politicians”, The Scranton (Pa.) Times, July 21, 1923.
8 ”De Valera, Disguised By Beard, Lived Safely In Heart of Dublin”, The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1923, and other papers.
9 See my 2019 piece, March 1919: First interviews with escapee Éamon de Valera.
10 ”Sixty Percent Of Irish Vote In Free State Elections”, The Buffalo (NY) Evening Times, Aug. 28,1923, and other papers.
11 ”Erin Peaceful As Vote Is Taken; Ballot Is Heavy”, Chicago Tribune, Aug. 28, 1923.
12 ”A Peaceful Election In Ireland”, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 29, 1923.
13 ”‘Model Election,’ Is The Verdict On Contest In Ireland”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 1, 1923.
14 ”Griffith And Collins Vindicated By Result Of Election In Ireland”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 8, 1923.
15 Eamon de Valera Papers, P150. See 22. REORGANISATION OF SINN FÉIN, PEACE MOVES AND CEASEFIRE, November 1922 – August 1923, Box 1790, p. 660

U.S. press on Harry Boland’s ‘race vendetta’ remark

Irish Republican and Sinn Fein politician Harry Boland in 1919. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Irish separatist Harry Boland urged a “race vendetta” against the British empire during a Jan. 6, 1921, speech at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The U.S. press jumped on his comment, reported in several variations, as highlighted:

  • “If England does not stop its campaign of murder in Ireland we will preach a race vendetta among the millions of Irish throughout the world and take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”–New York Times[1]“Boland Threatens World Vendetta”, New York Times, Jan. 7, 1921.
  • “If England does not stop her campaign of murder in Ireland we will preach a race vendetta all over the world, and when an Irishman is killed we will demand an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”–New York Herald[2]“Irish In America Are Called Upon To Fight Britain”, New York Herald, Jan. 8, 1921
  • “I say as calmly and deliberately as I can, that if Britain does not stop her campaign of murder in Ireland, then we will preach to our millions scattered all over the world, a race vendetta, and demand an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The Irish Times, Philadelphia[3]“No Cause To Question Faith Of Ireland’s Leaders, Says Boland” The Irish Times, Jan. 15, 1921. The pro-Irish independence weekly reported the quote as what appears to be the full text of the … Continue reading

Some papers simply quoted the phrase “race vendetta” in the headlines or body of their story, then used other direct quotes from the speech. Either way, Boland’s remark added to the swirl of Irish news in the American press at the start of 1921:

  • Lord Mayor of Cork Donal O’Callaghan on Jan. 4 arrived as a stowaway aboard a commercial ship at Newport News, Virginia. He became the subject of a deportation debate as U.S. officials also renewed their attention on Boland’s status in the country without a passport.
  • The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland continued its hearings on allegations of British atrocities in the two-year-old Anglo-Irish War. The American Committee for Relief in Ireland launched a separate effort to raise money for civilian victims of the war.
  • The upstart American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) and the established Friends of Irish Freedom publicly feuded over the best way for the Irish in America to secure U.S. government recognition of the Irish republic.

One of the first complaints about Boland’s broadside came from Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of The Nation magazine and a key supporter of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. Villard addressed a letter to Boland, which the writer released to the press, to “protest most vigorously” the race vendetta comments “if they are correctly reported in the press.”[4]Villard to Boland, Jan. 7, 1921, Oswald Garrison Villard Papers, 1872-1949 (MS Am 1323). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

The top of Villard’s letter to Boland. (Harvard)

Villard quoted Boland as calling for “a race vendetta in America” on behalf of the Irish cause. His letter continued:

…any suggestion that the (Irish) struggle be transferred to this side of the ocean will be resented throughout this country by all right-thinking Americans. The one hope of winning large numbers of Americans to the Irish cause is first to prove the justice of it, and second, to refrain from any acts of violence either in Ireland or here. … If any considerable number of our citizens of Irish birth and sympathies should act upon your advice and start a vendetta in this country against things or persons English over here, a justified wave of resentment would sweep from one side of the nation to the other and make it impossible for the Irish cause to obtain further hearing. Do not make any mistake; American interest in self-determination for Ireland does not imply hostility to England.[5]Ibid.

The New York Tribune editorialized that Boland’s “ravings” should not to be taken seriously and were just another example of Ireland being “attacked from the rear by fool friends.”[6]“The Boland Vendetta”, New York Tribune, Jan. 8, 1921 The paper suggested “a committee of friends of Ireland might attend him on his tours as a guard, ready to yank him to his seat when signs come that his temperament is about to boil over.”

The New York Times, regularly critical of the Irish cause and dubious of the American Commission, praised Villard for drawing a “broad and clear” line against “Bolandism or Bolandery or whatever that incitement to violence may be called.”[7]“Topics of the Times: Mr. Villard Sounds A Warning”, New York Times, Jan. 10, 1921. The Times suggested that the “right-thinking Americans” described by Villard “are well aware that England will not grant complete independence to Ireland” for the same reasons the U.S. government would not grant sovereignty to Long Island, New York, “no matter how fiercely they might demand it.”

A third editorial, which was syndicated nationwide, noted Villard’s “friendliness to the Irish cause cannot be questioned” and praised his letter as “good advice … administered with rare effectiveness.” The editorial “hoped that Irish leaders who, perhaps unwittingly, have been offending against American traditions and interests, and thereby hurting their own cause, will be more circumspect hereafter.”[8]“Advice To A Propagandist”, Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York, Jan. 15, 1921, and other papers.

But the harshest editorial criticism came from John Devoy, editor of The Gaelic American, who regularly sparred with Boland and his boss, Irish President Eamon de Valera. The pair had created the AARIR only weeks before Boland’s Garden speech, shortly before de Valera returned to Ireland. The strategy of confrontation with Devoy and the Friends of Irish Freedom was de Valera’s, but Boland was largely responsible for its execution, according to Boland biographer David Fitzpatrick. While this alienated many old supporters of the Irish cause in America, it also mobilized hundreds of thousands of Americans, including those without Irish heritage, behind the demand for self-determination.[9]David Fitzpatrick, Boland, Henry James (“Harry”) in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009.

 

Devoy reported Boland’s controversial comment as: “If Britain does not stop her campaign of murder we will start a race vendetta, take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and I tell you again that you should tear down everything English in America if this does not stop.”[10]“Boland Makes An Idiotic Speech”, The Gaelic American, Jan. 15, 1921. Devoy acknowledged that Boland described himself as speaking “calmly,” but the editorialist insisted the speaker “was very much heated up” and “shouted” his remarks. Devoy continued:

The restraining hand of de Valera has been withdrawn, and Boland is free to wag his tongue and make a fool of himself. Men who really contemplate vendettas and exacting ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth’ don’t swagger about it on public platforms and enable the enemy to take precautions and get evidence to secure convictions. Someone close to Boland ought to take Daniel O’Connell’s saying to heart when he was interrupted by a fool at a public meeting: ‘Will someone stuff a wisp of hay in that calf’s mouth.’”[11]The “wisp of hay” comment found in Michael MacDonagh, The Life of Daniel O’Connell, (London: Cassell and Company Limited, 1903), p. 320.

Boland acknowledged to his diary that he had been in “bad form” and “made an error” in the speech, which brought a “full blast” from the press. He told de Valera that he had “let my heart run away with my head.” Boland attempted to walk back his remark over the next few months, even as he insisted that he was “sadly misquoted.” Others urged him to let the matter rest.[12]David Fitzpatrick, Harry Boland’s Irish Revolution, 1887-1922. (Cork: Cork University Press, 2003), p. 195.

Over the next year Boland returned briefly to Ireland, came back to United States, then went back to Ireland again. He was shot while fighting against government forces during the Irish Civil War and died Aug. 1, 1922, age 35.

References

References
1 “Boland Threatens World Vendetta”, New York Times, Jan. 7, 1921.
2 “Irish In America Are Called Upon To Fight Britain”, New York Herald, Jan. 8, 1921
3 “No Cause To Question Faith Of Ireland’s Leaders, Says Boland” The Irish Times, Jan. 15, 1921. The pro-Irish independence weekly reported the quote as what appears to be the full text of the speech, but is not identified as such.
4 Villard to Boland, Jan. 7, 1921, Oswald Garrison Villard Papers, 1872-1949 (MS Am 1323). Houghton Library, Harvard University.
5 Ibid.
6 “The Boland Vendetta”, New York Tribune, Jan. 8, 1921
7 “Topics of the Times: Mr. Villard Sounds A Warning”, New York Times, Jan. 10, 1921.
8 “Advice To A Propagandist”, Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York, Jan. 15, 1921, and other papers.
9 David Fitzpatrick, Boland, Henry James (“Harry”) in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009.
10 “Boland Makes An Idiotic Speech”, The Gaelic American, Jan. 15, 1921.
11 The “wisp of hay” comment found in Michael MacDonagh, The Life of Daniel O’Connell, (London: Cassell and Company Limited, 1903), p. 320.
12 David Fitzpatrick, Harry Boland’s Irish Revolution, 1887-1922. (Cork: Cork University Press, 2003), p. 195.

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.

References

References
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.

The D.C. death of an Irish ‘stormy petrel’, April 1923

Laurence Ginnell, Library of Congress photo

By mid-April 1923 the Irish Free State army regularly routed anti-government forces. Liam Lynch, the IRA’s chief of staff, was killed on April 10; Austin Stack, his deputy, was captured a few days later. Talk of a ceasefire and the end of Ireland’s 10-month-old civil war was in the air, and in the press.

But the death by natural causes of Irish politician Laurence Ginnell[1]See Dictionary of Irish Biography entry. in a Washington, D.C. hotel room also contributed to the demoralization of the “irregulars.” Since August 1922, the 71-year-old served as envoy to the United States for Éamon de Valera’s unrecognized Irish republic. Ginnell had no real diplomatic status, and his stature was diminished after a failed attempt to take control of the Free State’s consulate office in New York City.

“He was in apparent good health earlier today, and when a hotel attendant called to deliver a message said he would attend to it later. On going back he was found dead,” the Evening Star reported on page 13.[2]”Irish Republican Leader Dies Here”, Evening Star, Washington, D.C., April 17, 1923. Historians have suggested Ginnell’s health suffered from the cumulative impacts of several imprisonments earlier in his life.

Ginnell died at D.C.’s Hotel Lafayette, about two miles west of the U.S. Capitol. Three Aprils earlier a dinner honoring de Valera, then on his 18-month tour of America, was staged in the hotel’s ballroom. From November 1920 through January 1921 the Lafayette became headquarters of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland, a non-U.S. government body created by pro-Irish interests to generate publicity and political support for the declared Irish republic. Ginnell’s combative and argumentative nature emerged at the outset of his Dec. 15, 1920, testimony before the commission, :

I cannot go into this thing unless I am allowed to state the conditions. The evidence I have to give you is at your disposal only on the condition that it is not to be made use of in any recommendations regarding Ireland. We in Ireland have settled our own government on the basis of your President’s own statements. We have applied the right of self-determination to our own country. Indeed, I will not go behind the present status of the Republican Government in Ireland today. Indeed, I will not give any evidence whatever unless I am assured that no effort will be made to go behind the Irish Republican Government, the only constitutional government in Ireland today. And to attempt to discuss the right of Ireland to her independence is to attempt to re-establish the English Government where she has lost all power and respect whatsoever. If I get the assurance that that is not your intention, then I will sit down and begin my evidence immediately.[3]See Ginnell’s full testimony, pages 462-505.

The Washington Herald described Ginnell as “one of Sinn Fein’s most militant spirits” upon his arrival in the city earlier in 1920.[4]”Notes By A Washington Observer”, The Washington Herald, July 29, 1920. In coverage of his 1923 death, the American, Irish, and British press noted Ginnell’s unique status of having been elected as an Irish Parliamentary Party member in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, and as a Sinn Féin republican in Dáil Éireann. The irascible Ginnell held the distinction of being ejected from both legislative bodies.

Following his 1920 American Commission appearance, Ginnell represented the Irish republic in South America. His telegramed vote against the Anglo-Irish Treaty was not accepted, but he became, at de Valera’s request, the only opposition member to sit in the Dáil. It was because of his relationship with de Valera that John Devoy’s Gaelic American offered a critical, if respectful, assessment of Ginnell’s career.[5]See “Ginnell, De Valera’s Envoy in America, Dies Suddenly“, The Gaelic American, April 28, 1923.

Ginnell entered politics during the Plan of Campaign agitation of the Irish Land War in the late 1880s, “the stormy petrel of Parnellite politics,” according to press accounts. He was the co-founder of the Irish Literary Society (1892) and the author of several books, including The brehon laws: a legal guide (1894), The doubtful grant of Ireland by Pope Adrian IV to King Henry II (1899), and Land and liberty (1908) .[6]DIB, linked in Note 1.

Hotel Lafayette in Washington D.C., between 1910 and 1926. Library of Congress photo.

The first of three funeral Masses for Ginnell was held at D.C.’s St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, 40 years later the site of slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s service. Ginnell’s body was then conveyed to New York City, where another Mass occurred at the Carmelite Catholic church on East 28th Street.

During the Irish revolutionary period, the Manhattan church’s friars sheltered Irish revolutionaries on the run from British authorities, including de Valera. They also stashed part of a cache of 600 Thompson submachine guns, wrapped in burlap sacks and bound for Ireland during the war.[7]”The End of an Era at Bellevue and a Nearby Church”, The New York Times, June 27, 2007.

In a telegram to Alice Ginnell (née King), de Valera described his departed colleague as “one of the most indefatigable workers for Ireland.”[8]”Delegations From Many States At Ginnell Funeral”, Buffalo Morning Express, April 21, 1923. But only a week earlier de Valera effectively removed Ginnell from Irish activities in America, “an unfortunate and sad end to a long career.”[9]Dr. Paul Hughes, a Mullingar-based journalist and historian, in the “Laurence Ginnell–Part 2: from Ireland to America” podcast from the Westmeath County Council Decade of Centenaries, … Continue reading

Finally, the widow accompanied her husband’s body back to Ireland, contrary to an incorrect press report that Ginnell was buried in New York. Major Michael A Kelly, veteran of the Irish American 69th New York Infantry Regiment, represented De Valera at the May 1, 1923, service at the Carmelite church on Whitefriars Street, Dublin. Interment followed in Ginnell’s native Delvin, County Westmeath.

The Irish Civil War ended before the month concluded.

References

References
1 See Dictionary of Irish Biography entry.
2 ”Irish Republican Leader Dies Here”, Evening Star, Washington, D.C., April 17, 1923.
3 See Ginnell’s full testimony, pages 462-505.
4 ”Notes By A Washington Observer”, The Washington Herald, July 29, 1920.
5 See “Ginnell, De Valera’s Envoy in America, Dies Suddenly“, The Gaelic American, April 28, 1923.
6 DIB, linked in Note 1.
7 ”The End of an Era at Bellevue and a Nearby Church”, The New York Times, June 27, 2007.
8 ”Delegations From Many States At Ginnell Funeral”, Buffalo Morning Express, April 21, 1923.
9 Dr. Paul Hughes, a Mullingar-based journalist and historian, in the “Laurence Ginnell–Part 2: from Ireland to America” podcast from the Westmeath County Council Decade of Centenaries, Jan. 24, 2022.