Tag Archives: Lloyd George

An American reporter in 1920 Ireland: ‘Dora’

Harry F. Guest

American journalist Harry F. Guest of the New York Globe spent January and February 1920 reporting from revolutionary Ireland. Upon his return to America, he wrote two dozen stories based on his interviews and observations, which were syndicated to U.S. and Canadian newspapers through May 1920. See earlier posts in this series and other stories about American reporting of Irish independence at the linked project landing page. Reader input is welcomed, including photos or links to relevant source material. MH

***

‘Dora’ Gives Sweeping Powers To British Rulers in Ireland1

In the seventh story of his Irish series, Guest turned from Sinn Féin outrages to the power of the British state. He detailed the Defense of the Realm Act, known as “Dora”, which gave the military “virtually no limit to the restrictions” it could place on civilians throughout the British Empire. “With the exception of India, it is in Ireland that the most severe regulations of the measure are at present in effect,” Guest told his U.S. and Canadian readers.

Under Dora, the military could and did forcibly enter private homes, “day or night, under the flimsiest kind of pretext,” Guest wrote. “No one is exempt.” As an example, he reported the Feb. 10, 1920, raid on the home of John J. Farrell, former Lord Mayor of Dublin (1911-12), who lived at 9 Iona Drive, Drumcondra, on the city’s North Side. As managing director of the Irish Kinematography Co. Ltd., Farrell helped develop Dublin’s early 20th century movie business.2

“His sympathies are with the Sinn Féin movement, but he has not taken a conspicuous part in their activities,” Guest wrote of Farrell, who is the first source named and quoted in the reporter’s series.3 Farrell said:

I do not mind this sort of business so much myself, but I sympathize with people whose delicate health might suffer from the shock. As a citizen, and one who pays a very large amount in taxes, I must voice my protest against the cruelty, the idiocy of the caricature of government. Is Ireland governed by a madman or a fool?

In addition to raiding private homes, Guest reported the military also boarded American commercial vessels in Irish ports to remove weapons from the crews. These arms were returned at departure. Guest also wrote:

To criticize the English government or talk of the ‘Irish republic,’ ‘Dáil Éireann,’ ‘Sinn Féin,’ the Gaelic League, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann ma mBan is forbidden as seditious. If some of the radicals who now make street orations in New York, or Chicago, or St. Louis, or any of our other American cities would go to Ireland and attempt to attack the English government as they attack our government here [in America], they would be arrested immediately.”

He cited these statistics–unsourced, but presumably from the government–from Nov. 10 to Dec. 20, 1919:

  • Private houses raided, 752
  • Arrests for political offenses, 162
  • Meetings disbursed, 27
  • Deported without trial, 4

Five months after Guest’s story was published, in August 1920, the British state passed the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act to extend and bolster Dora. By year’s end, martial law was declared in several of Ireland’s more troubled counties.

Irish Industrial Commission Handicapped By British Orders4

Guest described the Commission of Inquiry into the Resources and Industries of Ireland, established a year earlier by Sinn Féin to conduct hearings and collect data about the Irish economy. It was part of the first Dáil Éireann.

Figgis, 1924

Guest visited the commission’s office on Lower Sackville Street, “two floors above the suite of the American Counsel.” He mentioned Darrell Figgis was the commission secretary, but did not quote the Sinn Féin activist and writer. The commission held public hearings in Dublin for three week, Guest noted, but was suppressed by the military from meeting in Cork city. He wrote:

This commission is one of the hardest nuts which Sinn Féin has given Dublin Castle to crack. It is a nonpartisan body and any discussion of or reference to Irish politics is positively forbidden at its meetings. Its members–not all of whom have accepted appointments, however–included Sinn Féinners, Unionists, Nationalist, Constitutionalists, and Independents.

Elaborate System of Spies Keeps Sinn Féin Informed of Dublin Castle’s Plans5

In this installment, Guest’s described how Sinn Féin leveraged the words of world leaders to their make their case for an Irish republic. He wrote:

The more I talked with thinking people in Ireland the more I was impressed with the fact that Sinn Féin is to a large degree an opportunistic party, and that it was the world war which had furnished the opportunity which enabled it to implant its doctrines so firmly in the fertile minds of the Irish people. … I do not recall one of them who did not attribute some part of the hold that Sinn Féin has upon the popular imagination to the utterances of American and British statesmen during and following the war. The words of President Wilson, Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Herbert Asquith, Winston Churchill, Lord Gray and others regarding the rights of small nations and nationalities to self-determination were eagerly grasped by the Sinn Féin propagandists as applying to Ireland and given wide publicity in the party’s literature.

NEXT: Organized Labor Playing Big Part in Ireland’s Life

Ill-fated Irish Convention opened 100 years ago

Delegates to the Irish Convention outside Trinity College Dublin in July 1917.

A British government-backed convention to resolve “the Irish question” opened 25 July 1917, in Dublin. Delegates met through March 1918 as World War I continued to rage on the continent.

Sometimes called “Lloyd George’s Irish Convention,” after the British prime minister, it “was marked by his characteristic defects as a statesman,” County Cork’s William O’Brien wrote in his 1923 history, The Irish Revolution. “It was improvised, it was uncandid, and it was open to be changed into something quite different at a moment’s notice.”

And It failed.

I wanted to read U.S. newspaper coverage of the convention opening, especially in Pittsburgh. My maternal grandparents and other relations from Kerry arrived in the city shortly before the 1916 Easter Rising. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offered this 26 July, 1917, editorial assessment:

There will be no disappointment if the Irish Convention which opened in Dublin yesterday to try to formulate a Home Rule plan fails of agreement, for there is no hope that anything like a conclusion acceptable to all can be reached. … If [politicians of opposing views] can meet once and part without having engaged in a fist fight and widening the breach between the factions … they can meet again. And the oftener they meet … the better chance there is that there eventually will be a meeting of the minds leading to concessions, compromise and a willingness to give a trial to some scheme of self-government that will put an end to the factional fight of centuries’ duration.

The convention’s effort to deliver Home Rule, which had been promised just before the war began in 1914, was derailed in spring 1918, as London linked the deal to enforced conscription in Ireland. (Many Irishmen voluntarily served in the British military.) The death blow came after the war, as U.S. President Woodrow Wilson abandoned the Irish at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The Irish War of Independence began soon after.

The 4-minute video below contains soundbites from several speakers at a Trinity College Dublin centenary symposium about the convention. In addition to their various historical points, it’s worth listening to the diversity of Irish accents.