Ruth Russell in revolutionary Ireland talk coming March 7

Thank you Irish Railroad Workers Museum. Angie & I enjoyed giving the presentation. Thanks to all who attended and asked great questions. MH

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I am presenting “What’s the matter with Ireland?” at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 7, at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in Baltimore. The free talk is based on my research and writing about journalist Ruth Russell, who reported from revolutionary Ireland in 1919, then became active in the Irish cause in America.

Please register in advance. The museum is located at 918 Lemon St., a group of five alley houses where many Irish immigrants lived from the mid-19th century. It is near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Ruth Russell in 1919

Russell worked for the Chicago Daily News, then a leading U.S. provider of foreign news. Her reporting from Ireland was syndicated across America, including the Baltimore Sun. What’s the matter with Ireland? was the title of her 1920 book based on that reporting.

I presented my research at 2019 annual conferences of the American Journalism Historians Association and the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland. Here is my five-part monograph:

My wife Angie Drobnic Holan, PolitiFact.com editor-in-chief, will join me to read selections of Russell’s work. We also will recreate portions of Russell’s December 1920 testimony before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland.

The Irish Railroad Workers Museum and Shrine at 918 Lemon St. in Baltimore.

Irishman leading global caronavirus response

The first case of the Covid-19 coronavirus has been confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, The Journal.ie reports. One case of caronavirus was confirmed in late February in Northern Ireland.

Irishman Michael J. Ryan is a leading figure in the global effort to fight the threat in his role as executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program. He appears frequently in media reports.

“This is a reality check for every government on the planet,” The New York Times quoted Ryan on Feb. 28. “Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way.”

Michael J. Ryan

Ryan completed his medical training at the National University of Ireland, Galway; a Master’s in Public Health at University College Dublin; and specialist training in communicable disease control at the Health Protection Agency in London and the European Program for Intervention Epidemiology Training, according to his WHO biography.

Ryan is from Curry, on the Sligo/Mayo border, according to The Irish Times:

… he developed his taste for travel from devouring his grandmother’s copies of National Geographic. He trained as a trauma surgeon but switched to public health after suffering a life-altering back injury during the first Iraq war in 1990. That led to training in communicable diseases and a full-time post in the WHO, when he ended up as a troubleshooter in some of the most hostile environments in the world.

Catching up with modern Ireland: February

Sinn Féin topped the Feb. 8 Irish general election poll, but the Republic’s political parties have yet to agree to a governing coalition. The longer the debate drags, the increased likelihood of a new election, which some analysts say could benefit Sinn Féin. … Other February news:

  • One case of caronavirus was confirmed in Northern Ireland late in the month.
  • This island of Ireland was pummeled by three named storms: Dennis, Ciara, and Jorge.
  • An abandoned cargo vessel, or “ghost ship” washed up near the village of village Ballycotton, County Cork, during Storm Dennis. The Alta appears to have been adrift without crew since September 2018, The New York Times reported.

The Alta, near Cork. Michael Mac Sweeney

  • Julian Smith was sacked as Northern Ireland Secretary as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle. The move came less the a month after he helped restore the North’s power-sharing executive after a three-year impasse.
  • Too popular? USA Today‘s “need to know” travel piece reported that Ireland is “filled with cultural and historic wonders … and lately with lots of tourists, too. And at many of its top sights, reservations are now either required or highly recommended.”
  • Not your grandparents’ Ireland: One of Dublin’s largest Catholic churches will be demolished and replaced with a new building one tenth in size. … Two women celebrated Northern Ireland’s first same-sex marriage.
  • Elizabeth Cullinan, who wrote about Irish-American identity, veering away from the male tradition of “ward bosses and henchmen, larger-than-life political fixers, tavern social life and father-son relationships,” died at 86.

Finally, this February includes Leap Year Day, which marks the 132nd anniversary of the opening of the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway in 1888 … or the 33rd anniversary by the quadrennial date.

The monorail was also known as the Lartigue, after its French inventor, Charles Lartigue. It operated between Listowel and Ballybunion in North Kerry until 1924.

From my archives:

Watch a 2.5-minute video of archival film footage, “Along the Line“.

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

 

 

Did JFK want to ‘get even’ for Boston’s anti-Irish Catholic bias?

In February 1960, a month after John F. Kennedy announced for the U.S. presidency, a syndicated newspaper columnist suggested the campaign was prompted by his family’s desire to “get even” for decades of prejudice against them.

“Get even … is a hard phrase to explain,” Edwin A. Lahey, chief correspondent for Knight Newspapers, wrote in a dispatch from the campaign trail in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He continued:

But basically it means that any ambitious man from Boston with Irish forebears needs spiritual compensation for the humiliating experiences of his grandparents, who suffered social ostracism and economic discrimination at the hands of the Boston Brahmins.  … Unless you have an Irish Catholic background, and have seen the Boston mind in operation, you cannot understand the full nuances of the phrase which describes a Boston Irishman’s success and distinction as a means of ‘getting even.’

Lahey was no slapdash columnist. In 1939, he joined the inaugural class of the Neiman Fellows at Harvard University. He became Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Daily News, then moved over to a similar post with the Knight chain.1

Lahey based the “get even” notion in his column on a just-published book, The Remarkable Kennedys, by Boston journalist Joe McCarthy. The 190-page work is a profile of the family, especially the candidate and his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., a business tycoon and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom just before World War II. McCarthy wrote:

Where does the Kennedy drive come from? Most probably it stems originally from the chafing, frustrating atmosphere of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic prejudice in Boston fifty years ago that made the young Joe Kennedy determined to push himself and his children to a place at the top of the world where they would not have to take a back seat to anybody.2

McCarthy (1916-1980) was born to 1890s Irish immigrant parents3 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the Charles River from Boston, a year before JFK’s birth. After graduating from Boston College, McCarthy began a newspaper reporting and magazine editing career that included producing an overview of Ireland for Time-Life.4 

Book advert in The Boston Globe, Feb. 28, 1960.

A profile of McCarthy based on the release of The Remarkable Kennedys colorfully described him as “a tall, slightly stooped, gray-haired man in his middle 40’s” who “lumbered” across the room and “slowly rummaged through a tiny pile of rumpled newspapers, envelopes and magazines he had stuffed under his weather-beaten trenchcoat thrown carelessly over the back of a chair.”5

In the book, McCarthy quoted Joe Kennedy as saying he moved his young family from Boston proper to suburban Brookline (where JFK was born) and other homes in New York, Cape Cod, and Florida, because “it was no place to bring up Irish Catholic children. I didn’t want them to go through what I had to go through.”6

There are numerous similar passages, such as this one in McCarthy’s voice:

Resentment probably burned hotter in Joe Kennedy than in most of the Boston Irish of his generation because he associated more closely with the Yankee Brahmins than did most Irish of his time. Consequently, he was more exposed to slurs, more aware from first-hand experience of the cool condescension with which Beacon Hill looked down on people of his religion and racial background.7

The Kennedy family’s Irish-Catholic heritage and their national ambitions were well documented before 1960, including beyond Boston and Massachusetts political circles. But JFK’s run for the White House and the political journalism of Lahey and McCarthy magnified the anti-Irish Catholic narrative.

The Lahey column swept across the country: The Miami Herald, Feb. 12; The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, Feb. 18; Detroit Free Press, Feb. 18; Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times, Feb. 19; The Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, Feb. 19; Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, N.Y.), Feb. 21; Oakland (California) Tribune, Feb. 24; The Herald-News (Passaic, N.J.), Feb. 25; and likely many others that did not appear in my searches of digital newspaper archives. McCarthy’s book was serialized in many newspapers later that autumn, publishing just before Election Day.

In a book review, The New York Times also noted that “Kennedy, père, second generation descendant of Irish Catholic immigrants, suffered all the slights and indignities Brahmin Boston could contrive for its despised minorities in the decades around the turn of the [20th] century.”8

Kennedy’s Catholicism remained a larger campaign issue than his Irish roots, since prejudice against the religion was hardly confined to Boston’s elites. In November, “Kennedy’s victory not only broke through the age-old American bigotry against Catholics, but it also overcame the prejudice against the Irish.”9

Sixty years later, what is probably most remembered from McCarthy’s book is the prophetic quote that he obtained from JFK: “Just as I went into politics because [older brother] Joe died, if anything happened to me tomorrow, my brother Bobby would run for my seat in the Senate. And if Bobby died, Teddy would take over for him.”10

Previous posts on JFK:

Language, Law, and the Maamtrasna Murders

Myles Joyce declared he was innocent of the August 1882 murders of five neighbors in rural Maamtrasna, County Galway. “I had no dealing with it, no more than the person who was never born,” he said.

Joyce, in his 40s, spoke Irish. The crown prosecutors and judge in the Dublin courtroom where he was tried for the crime spoke English. Joyce was denied a translator until he was found guilty and sentenced. He was hanged in December 1882.

Margaret Kelleher at Georgetown.

Margaret Kelleher, chair of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama at University College Dublin, authored the 2018 book about the case, The Maamtrasna Murders: Language, Life, and Death in Nineteenth-Century. In a Feb. 19 talk at Georgetown University’s Global Irish Studies program, she acknowledged becoming aware of her own tendency to say Joyce spoke “only Irish”, instead of “Irish only,” a vestige of how the language was diminish by the official English of the ruling British state. Joyce was among just over 64,000 monoglot Irish speakers in a population of 5.1 million.

In April 2018, Irish President Michael D. Higgins granted a posthumous pardon to Joyce, concluding “the case was unsafe according the standards of the time.” Debate continues as to whether the British state that administering the 19th century court system that failed Joyce should take the same action. The bigger question, however, is whether such miscarriages of justice can be avoided today.

Kelleher reprised these thoughts from her 2018 piece in The Irish Times:

In contemporary Ireland, the arrival of new immigrants from a more diverse range of backgrounds than heretofore necessitates a significant expansion of translation and interpretation services in the judicial system; yet these needs are poorly addressed, where recognized, at service or policy level. … Our contemporary moment is one in which large-scale mobility (forced or voluntary) is occurring within a seemingly globalized society but individual migrants can find poor accommodation from judicial systems and legal processes.

I look forward to reading the book, now being published in North America by University of Chicago Press Books.

Ongoing analysis of Ireland’s 2020 elections

An overgrown canal bridge along the Boyne River, County Meath, July 2019

The ballots in Ireland’s Feb. 8 national election have been cast and counted. We’ve learned of Sinn Féin’s historic showing. Now, “tortuous coalition negotiations in the coming weeks will determine who, if anyone, can command enough support to lead the next government,” The New York Times reports. A new election might be needed. … The analysis below is mostly from outside of Ireland. I’ll refresh with newer articles at top until developments date these pieces. Email subscribers should visit the website to see the updates. MH

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What Happens Next in Ireland, Time, Feb. 14

For nearly a century, the center-right parties of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have had their way when it comes to forming governments, and both have refused to work with Sinn Féin in the past given their historic links to violence. That made sense when Sinn Féin was polling in the single digits and politically toxic, but a lot harder when they are the single-most popular party in the country.

Like many other advanced democracies of late, Ireland is now forced to confront the reality that its old political system—dominated by two main parties—is finished. That has serious implications for Ireland going forward, while at the same time adding yet another data point for the continued momentum of anti-establishment politics across Western democracies. Another reason Irish elections matter is that compared to other European countries seeing an upsurge of anti-establishment sentiment, Ireland’s economy was actually doing quite well.

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What do Ireland’s election results mean for the North?, Esquire, Feb. 14

The looming question, of course, is what will happen to the status of Northern Ireland, which has been in flux since the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. … I remain convinced that it would be god’s own craic if the British government manages to bungle its way into creating a 32-county Irish Republic.

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Did Ireland Go Populist-Nationalist? (In its own way, yes.), National Review, Feb. 14

Some Irish commentators … have been overanxious to deny the “populist” label that outsiders have attached to Sinn Féin. For many in Ireland, populist is not a synonym for a “bad guy” who is against the EU, doesn’t like immigration, or is generally right-wing.

Ireland has often flattered itself as immune to continental populism because it has, in the living memory of older voters, experienced the reign of a conservative, nationalist, and deeply Catholic government that sought to protect rural ways of life and make the economy a tool of foreign policy and statecraft.

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Irish Voters Cast Off Relic of Entrenched 2-Party System, The New York Times, Feb. 12

In recent years, successive public votes in Ireland to legalize same-sex marriage and repeal an abortion ban have pulled many young and dissatisfied people into politics, giving voters a chance to shake up traditions that were once rigidly enforced by the Roman Catholic Church. Their next target was Ireland’s ossified political hierarchy.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum conceded that the vote for Sinn Féin reflected the desire of a huge cohort of voters — young and old, urban and rural, working-class and middle-class — for new alternatives in a system that had long stamped them out.

Reprising three stories for St. Valentine’s Day

It’s time for a break from the Irish elections. The first of the three previously publish stories below is focused on Ireland’s direct connection to St. Valentine. The Feb. 14 date in the other two stories is a coincidental element, but I hope you enjoy reading them all the same. MH

Statue and crypt of St. Valentine at Whitefriar Street Church, Dublin.

St. Valentine rests at Carmelite church in Dublin: The third century saint’s mortal remains are a popular attraction. Watch a 2-minute video, and link to more history from the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar Street.

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Reporter’s 19th century visit to Ireland’s National Gallery: On Valentine’s Day 1888, American journalist William Henry Hurlbert toured the Dublin collection with Gallery Director Henry Edward Doyle. From my Ireland Under Coercion: Revisited series.

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An Irish-American’s most perilous summer, 1918: Kerryman John Ware immigrated to Pittsburgh in 1910; shipped to France as a U.S. soldier in 1917; and was finally released from the military on Valentine’s Day, 1919. From my Pittsburgh Irish series.

The U.S. press on Sinn Féin election wins, 1918 and 2020

Ireland’s Feb. 8 national election has produced the unexpected result of Sinn Féin out-polling two mainstream center-right parties. As CNN reports:

The votes are still being counted but this left-wing, Irish nationalist party has pulled off a major political upset, breaking a century of dominance by establishment heavyweight parties (Fine Gael and Fianna Fail) and changing the political landscape of Ireland likely forever.

Dublin historian John Dorney, chief editor of The Irish Story, wrote on Twitter that some people (including Gerry Adams) are drawing comparisons to Sinn Féin‘s historic 1918 election shocker, when it swept aside the previously dominant Irish Parliamentary Party. By coincidence, both votes were held on Saturdays. Dorney cautioned, “It’s not really a good comparison.”

For perspective, Dorney reposted his centenary story about the 1918 election. “From this election comes the roots of the modern Irish state, but also of modern Irish Republicanism and its claim for a mandate for the full independence of all Ireland.”

Here are my own 100th anniversary posts about:

Here is more 2020 American press coverage of the latest Sinn Féin win:

From The New York Times:

Sinn Féin, a leftist party long ostracized from Irish politics over its ties to sectarian violence, won the popular vote and seized its largest-ever share of parliamentary seats in the country’s national elections … . The vote loosened a 90-year stranglehold on power by two center-right parties in Ireland and put Sinn Féin on the doorstep of joining a coalition government, a remarkable rebuke to a political establishment that tried to paint it as aberrant and unelectable throughout the campaign.

From National Public Radio:

Despite the peace [in the North], bad memories linger on both sides of the border, and Sinn Féin continues to carry the baggage of its historical association with the IRA. … Hence the reluctance of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail leaders to even work with the party … But among voters, it appears that baggage has become lighter with time.

From The Washington Post:

Sinn Féin is rooted in the cause of Irish unity. … With the armed conflict in Northern Ireland largely over, it’s grown into a broadly center left party, contesting elections north and south of the border on a platform of tackling austerity and taxing the wealthy.

From NBC News:

Those who lived through “the Troubles” … will never forgive Sinn Féin for their historic link with the IRA, while the younger generation simply don’t have the same associations. The question now is whether Sinn Féin will turn out to be the party the older generation is so afraid of, or the party into which young people have put all their hopes.

From Bloomberg:

Irish stocks dropped as investors digested Sinn Féin’s potential influence on policy. … Betting odds suggest a coalition between Fianna Fail, Sinn Féin and the Green Party remains the most likely outcome.

3-way tie predicted in Irish elections as counting continues

UPDATE:

Sinn Féin candidates have swept to a spectacular general election victory with nearly 25 percent of first round votes, “reshaping Ireland’s political landscape as party leaders begin to turn their attention to how the next government might be formed,” The Irish Times reports.

ORIGINAL POST:

Exit polling in Ireland indicates Feb. 8 polling will result in an unprecedented three-way tie between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, and Sinn Féin.  Ballot counting was underway Sunday, Feb. 9.

“It may be many days before we know fully what Saturday’s vote means in terms of the allocation of Dáil seats and many weeks before we know what that in turn means for the formation of a viable government,” says Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole. “But this we know and know full well: that old system is finished and it is not coming back any time soon. This is not just a change election – it has changed Irish elections themselves for the foreseeable future.”

I will monitor the outcome and publish a more detailed post soon.

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Ruth Russell Talk is March 7 in Baltimore

I’m giving a talk about American journalist Ruth Russell’s 1919 reporting trip to revolutionary Ireland on Saturday, March 7, at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in Baltimore.

The talk is based on my five-part monograph about Russell’s life. I presented this research at the 2019 annual conferences of the American Journalism Historians Association, in Dallas, and the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland, in Belfast.

Register for the free event, which begins at 11 a.m. The museum is located at 918 Lemon St., near downtown Baltimore. Here’s my earlier post about the museum, which is worth visiting anytime.

The Irish Railroad Workers Museum and Shrine at 918 Lemon St. in Baltimore.

Election week countdown in Ireland

The Republic of Ireland holds a general election Saturday, Feb. 8. Voters will decide 159 seats in the Dáil Éireann, or parliament, including a leader of the government, the taoiseach, or prime minister. Leo Varadkar, the leader since 2017, is seeking reelection. Members are elected by single transferable vote (STV) system from 39 constituencies, each returning from three to five members. … Major issues include how to handle the post-Brexit border with Northern Ireland and trade relations with Britain. Domestic issues include health care and housing shortages. … Below, I’m posting a selection of coverage up to election day, with the most recent stories at the top. I’ll publish a new post once the outcome is clear.

The weekly countdown is now closed. MH

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Saturday, Feb. 8:

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. About 3.5 million people are eligible to vote at 6,500 polling stations in 39 constituencies. Heavy rain and gusting winds are expected across the island, especially in the west.

Friday, Feb. 7:

Thursday, Feb. 6:

Wednesday, Feb. 5:

Tuesday, Feb. 4:

Monday, Feb. 3:

Sunday, Feb. 2: