‘Fighting’ Father O’Flanagan’s anti-treaty visit to Pittsburgh

Three Anglo-Irish Treaty supporters from Ireland visited Pittsburgh in early May 1922 to make the case for the agreement, as detailed in a guest post by Dr. Anne Good Forrestal, granddaughter of one of the delegates. An anti-treaty delegation headlined by Rev. Michael O’Flanagan arrived in the city at the end of the month.

‘Fighting’ Father O’Flanagan

“The so-called Irish Free State treaty is not a treaty for it does not establish a free State,” Rev. O’Flanagan said upon his arrival. “It will not be acceptable to the Irish people and it positively will not establish peace between Ireland and Great Britain, as English rulers think,” [1]” ‘Fighting Priest’ Here From Ireland; To Speak in Lyceum”,  Pittsburgh Daily Dispatch, May 28, 1922.

Rev. O’Flanagan, of County Roscommon, was no stranger to America. He toured the country almost continuously between 1906 and 1910. On return to Ireland, he became active with Sinn Féin from 1911 through the Easter Rising and War of Independence. In November 1921, the party sent him to North America on a fund-raising tour. He remained away from Ireland until April 1925.[2]O’Flanagan, Michael” by Patrick Maume, Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.

The Pittsburgh chapter of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) hosted Rev. O’Flanagan and writer Peter Golden. Éamon de Valera established the national group in November 1920 in the split with the Friends of Irish Freedom. The association’s publicity material for Rev. O’Flanagan’s visit explained his nickname as “the fighting priest”:

While Father O’Flanagan never carried a gun or a sword, and never led a company of the Irish Republican Army, the fact that he was actually under fire on several occasions when attempts were made on his life and his courage in carrying on his work for the Republic in the most dangerous sections and periods won for him his title.  … His visit to Pittsburgh will form part of a tour embracing the entire country during which his fiery oratory has inspired crowded houses in all the principal cities.[3]From John B. Collins Papers, 1913-1976 AIS.1977.17, University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic, 1921-1932, Box … Continue reading

The publicity material was mailed to Sarah Moffit, 45, an 1895 Irish immigrant and member of the Pittsburgh AARIR chapter. Her husband, 12 years older, was an 1883 Irish immigrant who worked as a gas company pipe fitter, according to the 1920 U.S. Census. The couple were joined by three step children, a nephew, and two “roomers” at the same address seen in the letter below.[4]1920 U.S. Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 22, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1524; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 673.

In a reflection of the city’s Irish community at the time, six of the 50 people shown on the same census sheet for the city’s North Side neighborhood were born in Ireland, while 10 others born in America had at least one Irish immigrant parent. Pittsburgh’s 14,000 native Irish in 1920, down from 19,000 in 1910, was 2.4 percent of the city population.

Moffit and the AARIR secured advance newspaper publicity about Rev. O’Flanagan’s visit, but the local press did not cover his speech; the last significant Irish event in the city before the civil war erupted in June 1922. The AARIR chapter remained active until at least 1925, according to contemporary newspaper reports.  

Cover letter for publicity material related to anti-Treaty visit to Pittsburgh. John B. Collins Papers, University of Pittsburgh.

References

References
1 ” ‘Fighting Priest’ Here From Ireland; To Speak in Lyceum”,  Pittsburgh Daily Dispatch, May 28, 1922.
2 O’Flanagan, Michael” by Patrick Maume, Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.
3 From John B. Collins Papers, 1913-1976 AIS.1977.17, University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic, 1921-1932, Box 1 Folder 5. Digital scans of 16 pages relating to O’Flanagan’s May 1922 Pittsburgh visit, including cited newspaper quote, provided March 30, 2022.
4 1920 U.S. Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 22, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1524; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 673.

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

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

Joseph McGarrity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name plate from first issue.

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

Celtic Outlook

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Villanova

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

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

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

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

References

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

Deciphering Ewart’s 1921 ‘Journey in Ireland’ diary

Journalist and author Wilfrid Ewart traveled through revolutionary Ireland from mid-April to early May 1921. He kept a notebook and wrote articles for several London newspapers, published from a week after his May 10 departure from Belfast through mid- June. His material was later expanded in the book, A Journey in Ireland, 1921.

Wilfrid Ewart

Ewart’s 140-page handwritten notebook of his 22-day Ireland journey is held at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Charles E. Young Research Library. The collection also includes corrected typescripts, clippings of Ewart’s newspaper work, and several letters to the editor that disagreed with his reporting. I sought this material in early 2021, before I published my 10-part centenary series about Ewart’s trip, found below. The archive material was delayed by the COVID pandemic, but has now been provided by UCLA. Thank you.

Ewart’s notebook appears to have been written in pencil, as far as I can tell from the digital scan. Portions of the text are so faded that they are impossible to read. In his published book, Ewart referenced “the hieroglyphics in my notebook.” He said interview conversations “were taken down, in some cases literally as they were spoken, in others salient features or the sense of them were noted immediately afterwards.[1]Ewart, Wilfrid, A Journey In Ireland, 1921. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, April 1922, p. 128 and ix.

Here are his opening entries, as best I can decipher them:

IRELAND

April 18th Powers’ (Royal) Hotel[2]47 Kildare Steet, corner of Nassau Street, near Trinity College Dublin and the National Gallery of Ireland. Thom’s 1921 Great Britain and Ireland Trades Directory, p. 2254.—Bomb known at corner of Grafton Street during dinner (7:15). Nobody disturbed. Fine evening. Crowded in streets. Took tram from Baggot St. to Pembroke & back to Nelson’s Pillar … [unreadable] … It’s a long, long road and other  … [unreadable] … moonlit silence, a shot ringing out.

Interesting discussion with American journalist, Irish journalist, student. Education is the [unreadable] of Ireland.

April 19th—Sunny, cold wind. Sat in Phoenix Park. “Vote for Sinn Fein” – De Valera expects Dublin to do its duty chalked up on wall in Philsborough Road. Small boys shout of ‘Up the Rebels!’ Dinner at Jammet’s

Ewart’s dispatches in The Times of London appeared as “From a Correspondent”,  while two other papers gave him a byline. He produced at least eight newspaper stories, as indexed in the UCLA archive:

  • The Westminster Gazette: “Talks With Sinn Fein”,  June 10, 1921.
  • The Times: “Life in Dublin”, May 17, 1921; “Life in Cork”, May 18, 1921; “Life in Mallow”, May 19, 1921; “In Rebel Hands”, May 20, 1921; and “On the Road to Ulster”, May 23, 1921.
  • The Sunday Times: “A Student in Ireland, I”, June 5, 1921, and “A Student in Ireland, II”, June 19, 1921.

Here is my 2021 series:

See my full American reporting of Irish independence series.

References

References
1 Ewart, Wilfrid, A Journey In Ireland, 1921. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, April 1922, p. 128 and ix.
2 47 Kildare Steet, corner of Nassau Street, near Trinity College Dublin and the National Gallery of Ireland. Thom’s 1921 Great Britain and Ireland Trades Directory, p. 2254.

Guest post: Pro-Treaty delegation in Pittsburgh, May 1922

Dr. Anne Good Forrestal is a former lecturer in Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. Her 2021 historical novel, ‘Fierce Tears, Frail Deeds’, is based on the experiences of her grandparents, Seán and Delia MacCaoilte, in the first half of 1922; between the January Dáil Éireann vote to ratify the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and the June outbreak of the Irish Civil War. MacCaoilte was part of the pro-Treaty delegation that visited America that spring, including a stop in Pittsburgh. This story is based on one of his actual letters from the city. Dr. Forrestal’s novel is available from seaweedmillpress.com.

***

Seán’s photo in the Boston Globe, April 3, 1922.

One hundred years ago, Seán MacCaoilte, Sinn Féin leader on the Dublin Corporation (or city council) visited Pittsburgh as part of the delegation sent by Michael Collins to argue the case for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in America. Seán was joined by Dáil Éireann member Piaras Beaslai, and James O’Meara, a prominent businessman.

The mission had been urgently organized in response to concerns expressed by John Devoy, head of the Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF) and editor of the Gaelic American newspaper. Devoy, who reluctantly supported the Treaty, warned the Provisional Government in Dublin of the consternation produced among Irish Americans by press rumors of possible civil war in Ireland. The mission’s task was to convince America that the Dáil’s ratification of the Treaty had been the correct decision in the prevailing circumstances. In Ireland, Treaty supporters and opponents prepared to face Irish voters in a critical election set for June. Both Seán and Beaslai were due to stand for Sinn Féin in the election.

The trio arrived in New York in mid-March, having crossed the Atlantic on the same ship as a rival delegation opposed to the Treaty. That evidence of disunity and rancor within the formerly united Sinn Féin movement caused dismay and even derision in America.[1]

The pro-Treaty mission began with private meetings in New York City and then proceeded to Boston. The delegation visited dozens of American cities and towns over subsequent weeks and reached Pittsburgh on May 6, near the end of their tour. Pittsburgh press reports noted the arrival of the “three distinguished Irishmen.”[2]

While in Pittsburgh, Seán, 37, wrote to his wife, Delia, who remained in Dublin with their four, soon to be five, children. His letter describes the delegation’s work and comments on his impressions of Pittsburgh itself. The letter, written on stationary from the William Penn Hotel[3], is held in a private collection of Seán’s surviving papers at the National Archives in Dublin.

Top portion of the first page of Sean’s letter to his wife.

Irish Pittsburgh’s views on Treaty

From Pittsburgh, Seán’s letter offered an optimistic assessment of the delegation’s work. He was convinced the trio could return to Ireland as planned on May 16, since, in his view, their job was largely done. He wrote:

We hear here that the A.A.R.I.R.[4] has gone to pieces. They had the best Council in the States in Pittsburgh but as usual it depended on the work of a few persons. Tomorrow a Miss (Margaret) McQuaide the vital force in the Council lunches with us and we are told is altogether with us.

The meetings in Pittsburgh bolstered his view that Irish America was now with Collins and the Provisional Government. Any anti-Treaty efforts to convey a different impression were, in Seán’s view, deceptive and dishonest.  He continued:

We have heard no reports yet from the Washington (D.C.) Convention (of the A.A.R.I.R.). It will, we understand, be a sorry affair in comparison with previous conventions …the great majority of the members have already fallen away considering the work for which it was started done. It will be sought to represent their actions however as the actions of the old-time association though the membership has fallen by 80 or 90%. Many of the States have dissolved automatically through non-renewal of membership subscriptions and will not of course be represented at the Convention.

Subsequent developments confirmed Seán’s assessment. Newspapers in Ireland reported several cables sent to Collins declared that most Irish American organizations backed the Provisional Government. “Supporters of Irish cause in Pittsburgh desire an early decision of the Irish people on the treaty, and depreciate intimidation,” said one letter signed by Margaret McQuade and others.[5]

Ideas for the new Ireland

Seán was a forward-thinking young man with a growing family, whose prospects he hoped would be improved by independence. On Dublin Corporation, he represented a deprived area of the city and was especially interested in a new public housing program. For these reasons he regularly punctuated his political comments with descriptions of what he was learning about America and what lessons he drew for improving the lives of the Irish people. In Pittsburgh, his thoughts were focused on possible new industrialization in the Free State.

Seán was interested in potential employment opportunities for Irish working people in industries that might be established or expanded through American investment. In April, the delegation had visited the Ford Motor Company headquarters in Michigan. They heard about plans for the Ford plant in Cork, which opened a few years earlier. Ford employed almost 2,000 Irish workers from hitherto impoverished parts of the city, where the British military had notoriously attacked civilians and burned buildings in December 1920.

However, as Seán was driven around Pittsburgh, he reflected on the somewhat worrying impact of the city’s large-scale industry. He wrote to Delia:

We have had a ride around Pittsburgh today in a car owned by a Mr. Collette. The centre of the town is a maze of great Chimney stacks. The mills are not all working yet and so the air is somewhat cleaner than usual. This is a great iron and steel manufacturing centre. Here is where the Ohio river starts from the confluence of two others. The mills extend for miles down the river and in themselves are a tribute to the value of waterpower for manufacturing industry.

Pittsburgh in 1916, six years before the delegation visit.

As a man who had been raised in a quiet rural area of Co. Offaly, Seán also had concerns about the negative impact of such industrialization, which he could see in Pittsburgh: “I’m afraid however I should not like to see the beautiful valleys of Ireland filled with such huge smoke-belching stacks as crowd this erstwhile beautiful valley of the Ohio.”[6]

After Pittsburgh

This was not Seán’s final reflection about Pittsburgh. When the delegation reached Washington, D.C, his thoughts turned back to the Pennsylvania city, to the pros and cons of large-scale industrialization for Ireland. His view was characteristically practical and pragmatic. He wrote again to Delia:

Washington is certainly a beautiful place. It has all the airs and dignity of a capital. After Pittsburgh it is a restful experience to drift in here. But I suppose only for places like Pittsburgh you would scarcely have Washington!

Seán returned to Ireland a few weeks later. But his health deteriorated that summer, having already been weakened from months in prison during 1920 and 1921, stress from the American tour, witnessing horrors of the civil war, and grief over the August 1922 assassination of Collins. Seán died a month later.

[1]  See Dual delegations at St. Patrick’s Day, 1922.

[2] “Irish Free State Chiefs Ask America To Be Neutral”, Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 8, 1922. Local coverage named James M. Sullivan, an attorney, not O’Meara, as the third member of the delegation. Sullivan is also referenced in articles from Ohio and Kentucky, immediately before the trio arrived in Pittsburgh.

[3] The William Penn Hotel, still operating in the city center, opened in March 1916, a month before the Easter Rising in Dublin. Other Irish visitors of the period included Eamon De Valera in October 1919 and James G. Douglas of the Irish White Cross in November 1921.

[4] American Association for the Recognition of an Irish Republic, created by Eamon de Valera in late 1920 and anti-Treaty rivals of Devoy and the FOIF.

[5] “Let The People Decide”, Freeman’s Journal, May 11, 1922, and “Cablegrams to Irish Leaders”, Irish Independent, May 11, 1922.

[6] Irish language scholar Douglas Hyde described Pittsburgh as “the dirtiest and blackest city in America” during his January 1906 visit. See When Irish Was Spoken in Pittsburgh.

Sinn Féin wins historic vote in Northern Ireland

UPDATE 3, May 7:

Sinn Féin has secured an historic election win in Northern Ireland, the first time an Irish republican party has topped the vote since the 1921 partition of the six counties. With 88 of 90 seats decided, the nationalists have held the 27-seat total of the 2017 election, while the unionist DUP has dropped to three seats to 25. The moderate, non-sectarian Alliance Party has finished third with 17 seats, more than double the eight members elected in the last election.

“This was a significantly and symbolically damaging (outcome) for unionism,” The Irish Times says.

While Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said a border referendum on a united Ireland is possible in five years, the first order of business will be establishing the power-sharing Executive, which the DUP collapsed earlier this year in protest against Brexit-related trade restrictions. The party has vowed not to re-enter government until its concerns are met.

***

A second story line is emerging in the election: the centrist, non-sectarian Alliance Party has doubled its vote total since the 2017 poll to 16 seats as Sinn Féin remains on pace to win the most seats. As of midday Saturday (U.S. Eastern), 77 of 90 races had been decided.

“The rise of the nonaligned middle ground, signaled clearly in a breakthrough result for the Alliance may prove to be the most significant aspect of the elections,” Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy writes as the vote is still counted. “Perhaps the most important long-term implication of the results is the accelerating emergence of the third pillar of Northern Irish politics and society: the ‘neithers’, neither tribally orange nor green, identifying not as unionist nor nationalist, not British nor Irish but Northern Irish.”

UPDATE 2, May 6:

“Sinn Féin has topped the first preference vote with a 29 percent share and is on course to become the largest party at Stormont while the DUP received 21.3 percent share of the first preference vote – a drop of 7 percent since the last Assembly election in 2017,” the Belfast Telegraph reports. The nationalist party added 1.1 percent to its total. The centrist Alliance Party gained 4.5 percent first preference votes, while the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice, which split off from the DUP in 2007, surged 5.1 percent.

The Irish Times says the DUP, which was the largest party in the last Assembly with 28 seats, is in danger of dropping two or more seats. Sinn Féin is likely to at least hold the 27 seats it won in 2017 and therefore in position as the party leader in the North. A pickup of additional seats would make even more headlines.

***

Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill, the nationalist party’s Northern Ireland leader, and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, have each been re-elected. The pair are key figures in whatever happens in the Northern Ireland Assembly once the full election results become clear.

The early vote tally as of midday in the Eastern United States was Sinn Féin, 10; DUP, 2; Alliance 2; and UUP, 1. That leaves 75 seat to still be decided. The final outcome is not expected until May 7.

UPDATE 1, May 5:

Voting has ended in the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. Counting begins Friday morning, May 6, at centers in Belfast, Jordanstown, and Magherafelt. The first results are expected by late morning U.S. Eastern time.

Officials have given a preliminary turnout estimate of 54 percent. The official final turnout figure in the 2017 Assembly election was 64 percent.

ORIGINAL POST, May 5:

The Belfast Telegraph reported that the major political party leaders voted early in day: Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill in Clonoe; Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in Dromore; Ulster Unionist Party’s (UUP) Doug Beattie in Portadown; Alliance’s Naomi Long in East Belfast; Social Democratic and Labor Party’s (SDLP) Colum Eastwood in Derry, and Traditional Unionist Voice’s (TUV) Jim Allister in Kells.

The Assembly uses the single transferable vote system, which ranks candidates by preference. Five representatives are elected in each of 18 constituencies across the six counties for a total of 90 members of the legislative assembly (MLAs). A total of 239 candidates are running, including a record 87 women.

Sinn Féin is fielding 34 candidates, followed by the DUP with 30. UUP has 27, Alliance, 24; SDLP, 22; TUV, 19; the Green Party, 18; and People Before Profit, 12.

In 2017, DUP won 28 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, one more than Sinn Féin’s 27 MLAs. The SDLP won 12 seats, UUP picked up 10, Alliance had eight, the Green Party two seats, and People Before Profit and the TUV had one MLA each.

Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly building in Belfast.

Northern Ireland readies for Assembly elections

Northern Ireland could turn nationalist for the first time since the island’s 1921 partition as voters May 5 select 90 representatives to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The six-county appendage of Great Britain has historically been governed by its pro-union, predominantly Protestant majority, with Catholics generally favoring the island’s political reunification. Now, a potent mix of economic and social issues and changing demographics rival the “perennial preoccupation with orange versus green,” The Irish Times has said, while also conceding that “unionism versus nationalism retains its drama.”

One potential outcome: the nationalist Sinn Féin party win the most seats, as polling indicates, but a bloc of multiple unionist parties block it from taking the first minister leadership post. That could cause a stalemate that prevents a new Assembly from being seated.

Below are links to some pre-election guides and background sources. I’ll aggregate coverage as the results become clear by the May 7-8 weekend and beyond. MH

Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly building in Belfast.

The colorization of old Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

Another unlucky episode for Lucky Charms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week said it is investigating reports that thousands of people have become ill after eating Lucky Charms, the sugary toasted oat cereal flecked with colorful marshmallow pieces and marketed by product mascot “Lucky the Leprechaun” as “magically delicious.”

Lucky tbe Leprechaun

More than 4,500 people have submitted reports to iwaspoisoned.com website, where consumers post about illnesses that they suspect are related to food products. The F.D.A. said it has received more than 100 submissions related to Lucky Charms through its own reporting system. Alleged symptoms include bouts of diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting after consumption.

So, are the cereal company ingredients gastronomically malicious, or are these online complaints materially suspicious? We’ll have to wait to find out. But this isn’t the first time that Lucky the Leprechaun has been cast in unflattering light.

James Edward O’Keefe began his career as a right-wing political activist and provocateur as a Rutgers University student who complained that Lucky Charms were offensive to Irish Americans. O’Keefe later founded Project Veritas, which uses hidden videos and deceptive editing to attack and mock mainstream media and liberal groups. The Lucky Charms video is easy to find, for those inclined, but I’m not going to link to it.

Last year, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield, in an on-air complaint about Kellogg’s new “Together with Pride” cereal pitched to the LGBTQ community, commented: “I think General Mills has a gay leprechaun, right?…He wears high heels shoes, prances around in tights – leads me to believe, probably, that little Lucky Charm leprechaun might be gay.”

And in a review of the Netflix series “Cooking with Paris” (Hilton), Ed Power of the The Irish Times noted:

The action opens with Hilton in a Los Angeles supermarket, eyeballing a leprechaun. She is holding a box of Lucky Charms, the popular cereal and hate crime against Irish people.

But a three-year-old Reddit post that asked, “How do people in Ireland feel about Luck Charms cereal?” elicited only five replies. The verdict: ambivalence.

Nearly 60 years old

Lucky Charms debuted in 1964 with its signature “green clovers, pink hearts, orange stars and yellow moons” marshmallow pieces, according to General Mills’ online product history, dated March 17, 2014, no less, the 50th anniversary. The Lucky character has had several makeovers, but is consistently green-clad with a four-leaf clover sprig in his top hat atop red hair and big buckle shoes. There’s not likely any confusion with St. Patrick holding up a shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity. Lucky was briefly replaced in 1975 by “Waldo the Wizard”.

The General Mills website says nothing of the somewhat endogenous-looking Lucky’s gender, sexual orientation, or nationality. There’s not a word about Ireland or the Irish in the writeup. According to Wikipedia, early television advertising for the cereal was “accompanied by a light instrumental ‘Irish’ tune.” No word, either, on any familial relation to the Notre Dame University “Fighting Irish” mascot, which dates to 1927.

The Lucky Charms cereal box says the magic clovers “turn milk green.” That sure would make me sick.

Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920. Part 2

Rev. James H. Cotter and Francis Hackett were unique among American journalists covering the Anglo-Irish War. Both were Irish immigrants who became naturalized U.S. citizens, then made separate but overlapping summer 1920 trips back home. Each man detailed the atrocities they witnessed in Ireland for U.S. publications in October 1920. A month later, both testified about their experiences before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. This post is about Hackett. See Part 1 about Rev. Cotter.

‘America’s moral interest’ in Ireland

Hackett was probably a better known journalist than Rev. Cotter at the time, as described further below, and in subsequent scholarship of the revolutionary period. Maurice Walsh devotes a chapter to Hackett and Philadelphia Public Ledger correspondent Carl Ackerman.[1]Walsh, Maurice, The News From Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008. Other historians have cited Hackett’s work, but I have not yet found any similar references to Rev. Cotter

Hackett in 1935. Library of Congress.

Hackett emigrated from Kilkenny in 1900, age 18. He started his career as a beat reporter in Chicago, but later admitted he wasn’t cut out for the job. He shifted to writing editorials and literary criticism. By 1920 he was associate editor at The New Republic magazine.

Hackett visited Ireland in 1912/13 to care for his aging father.[2]Evidence on Conditions in Ireland, Testimony of Francis Hackett, Nov. 19, 1920, pp. 137-174. His stay resulted in Ireland: A Study In Nationalism, published in 1918. In the preface to the third edition, published six months after the establishment of Dáil Éireann and start of the Irish  war, Hackett wrote:

So long as Britain holds an unwilling Ireland, her hands are unclean, and Ireland must continue to appeal to the society of nations against her. What, in the name of democracy, has Britain to gain? The whole import of this book is the crime that Britain has committed against democracy in denying self-determination to Ireland. That, with all its economic implications, is the substance of my argument. The situation is the kind of situation that confronted the founders of the United States. The proper answer in that case was the American Republic. And the proper answer in this case is–the Irish Republic.[3]Hackett, Francis, Ireland: A Study In Nationalism, B.W. Huebsch, New York, 1919, p. xx.

In spring 1920, shortly before returning to Ireland, Hackett used the appointment of Sir Auckland Geddes as the new British ambassador to the United States to re-emphasize President Woodrow Wilson’s ideal of “self-determination” for small nations. Hackett wrote:

America has a moral interest in the agonizing struggle of any small nation striving against a more powerful nation … according to the ideas of internationalism that we preached during the war. … The Irish recognize just as well as Sir Auckland Geddes that America is the court of last resort. If America does “stand aside,” as England begs it to do , it is really taking sides against the principles of the recent war or any serious application of those principles to England.[4]Hands Off Ireland?“, The New Republic, April 28, 1920, p. 283-284.

Hackett wrote three Ireland pieces for the New Republic between his return to America and testimony to the American Commission:

  • Oct. 13, The Impasse In Ireland: “What is the practical outlook for Ireland? After a six weeks’ investigation it is rash to make an answer, but it is important in venturing any answer to recognize the conversion of seventy-five percent of Ireland to Sinn Fein.”
  • Oct. 20, A Sinn Fein Court: A novel-like treatment of the rival justice system established “in an act both of usurpation and propaganda,” Walsh says in his analysis of this piece.
  • Nov. 3, Books and Things: A reflection on the hunger strike death of Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney in a London prison nine days earlier based on a revisit of Sir John Pope Hennessy’s 1883 book, Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland.

Walsh notes:

Aside from their undisguised partisanship, Hackett’s articles on Ireland for the New Republic are clearly literary. His declared purpose not only to collect facts but to interpret them, his treatment of people and events through a series of novelistic scenes and the revelation of his political convictions in argument show that he had no intention of being bound by the standard rules of mainstream American journalism. The fact that he was writing for an intellectual magazine and not a mass-circulation newspaper only partially accounts for his suppressed disdain for conventional reportage.[5]Walsh, News, p.133-34.

Hackett did write a six-part series for the New York World, which syndicated the work to other U.S. dailies in early October 1920, before his American Commission testimony.[6]As published in the Boston Post: “Erin Abused Says Editor”, Oct. 3, 1920, 1 of 6; “Tax Secured By Sinn Fein”, Oct. 4, 1920, 2 of 6;”Erin Prosperous Writes … Continue reading The series introduction identified Hackett’s “just concluded visit” to Ireland, his Kilkenny heritage, role at the New Republic, and 1918 Study in Nationalism book. It also said:

This brilliant writer is a strong Sinn Fein partisan, and his point of view may be summarized in a sentence which appears in his first article. Mr. Hackett writes: ‘In this duel, in which my own sympathies are on the side of the republic, there is no doubt whatever that the superior morale is the morale of the Sinn Fein, that it is the British who are vindictive, lawless and demoralized.'[7]”Abused”, Boston Post, Oct. 3, 1920.

Hackett returned to the theme of morale, and his previous trip home, in his third installment:

A great change has taken place in the morale of the Irish people since I last visited here in 1913. … The pre-war Ireland is gone, never to return. The people now ‘have a heart in them.’ Their feelings and purposes are realized and organized now as never before in their history.[8]”Prosperous”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920.

Promotion for Hackett’s six part series, New York Times, Oct. 2, 1920.

The News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, a partisan monitor of press coverage of Ireland, praised Hackett’s work for the World, not the New Republic, as an “extremely intelligent series of articles on the present situation in Ireland.” The weekly described him as “a veracious American journalist” whose “personal observations in Ireland” contradicted pro-British accounts of the war and “aroused many thinking Americans.” Rev. Cotter received no such attention from the News Letter. [9]News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, p. 4, Nov. 27, p. 4., and Nov. 13, p. 2.

Two years later, Hackett published The Story of the Irish Nation, a history. He thanked Herbert Bayard Swope, editor of the World, for his “superb confidence” to encourage the project. The author said the editor gave him “courage to attempt even this popular story.” Among dozens of sources, Hackett cited the American Commission’s report in his bibliography. He died in 1962.

References

References
1 Walsh, Maurice, The News From Ireland: Foreign Correspondents and the Irish Revolution. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2008.
2 Evidence on Conditions in Ireland, Testimony of Francis Hackett, Nov. 19, 1920, pp. 137-174.
3 Hackett, Francis, Ireland: A Study In Nationalism, B.W. Huebsch, New York, 1919, p. xx.
4 Hands Off Ireland?“, The New Republic, April 28, 1920, p. 283-284.
5 Walsh, News, p.133-34.
6 As published in the Boston Post: “Erin Abused Says Editor”, Oct. 3, 1920, 1 of 6; “Tax Secured By Sinn Fein”, Oct. 4, 1920, 2 of 6;”Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Oct. 5, 1920, 3 of 6.; “Union Deadliest Thing In Ireland”, Oct. 6 ,1920, 4 of 6; “Hackett Scores Racial Hatreds”, Oct. 7, 1920, 5 of 6; and “Home Rule Not Ready For Erin”, Oct. 8, 1920, 6 of 6.
7 ”Abused”, Boston Post, Oct. 3, 1920.
8 ”Prosperous”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920.
9 News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Washington, D.C., Oct. 16, p. 4, Nov. 27, p. 4., and Nov. 13, p. 2.

Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920. Part 1

The Anglo-Irish War, 1919-1921, received regular attention in U.S. newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and books. Journalists based in Ireland and visiting correspondents provided daily coverage, which ranged from straight news to opinion pieces, including propaganda from both sides of the conflict and both sides of the Atlantic.

Rev. James H. Cotter and Francis Hackett were unique among the American press who contributed to this body of work. Both men were born in 19th century Ireland, emigrated separately in their teens, and became naturalized U.S. citizens. In 1920, they made separate but overlapping late July through late September trips to Ireland to visit family and report on the war.

Rev. Cotter, 63, and Hackett, 37, each detailed the atrocities they witnessed in Ireland for U.S. publications in October 1920. A month later, both testified about their experiences before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. It is likely, but unclear, if their day-apart appearances at the Washington, D.C., hearings were prompted by their published work. Only one other journalist was among the three dozen American, Irish, and British witnesses called before the Commission from November 1920 through January 1921. Ruth Russell reported from Ireland in spring 1919 for the Chicago Daily News, then retold her experiences in magazine articles and a book published earlier in 1920.

Rev. Cotter and Hackett were hardly America’s first Irish immigrant journalists. Others included Jerome Collins, John F. Finerty, Patrick Ford, John Boyle O’Reilly, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, and Margaret Sullivan. During the Irish war, immigrants John Devoy owned and edited the Gaelic American, New York City, and Joseph McGarrity published the Irish Press, Philadelphia. What sets Hackett and Rev. Cotter apart is their summer 1920 travel to Ireland and American Commission testimony. It is unknown whether they read each other’s work or met in Washington that November.

‘Anxious to see conditions there’

Rev. Cotter emigrated from Tipperary in 1872, age 15, and was ordained at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland, in 1881. He became a Shakespeare scholar, author, and public speaker in addition to his priestly duties. Rev. Cotter served as editor-in-chief of the Catholic Union and Times in Buffalo, N.Y., and was a founder of the Catholic Press Association. He wrote for Donahoe’s Magazine, a Catholic-oriented general interest monthly, and later became an editor at The Columbiad, organ of the Knights of Columbus.[1]Evidence on Conditions in Ireland, The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland, Official Report, May 1921. Testimony of Rev. James H. Cotter, Nov. 18, 1920, pp. 75-91; “125th Anniversary … Continue reading

Rev. Cotter, 1913 newspaper image.

The priest was “proudly conscious of the character of Tipperary in everything which makes life estimable,” as he wrote in a 1915 column about the popular war song, “It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary.” He criticized the lyrics as “another instance of Albion’s [Great Britain’s] trickery to make Erin ridiculous.”

In the same column, Rev. Cotter revealed his Irish nationalist views by praising 19th century figures such as novelist and IRB man Charles Kickham; Young Islander William Smith O’Brien, “the lion-hearted”; and “the uniquely glorious” Robert Emmett of the 1798 and 1803 risings. “Let Ireland make the way to Tipperary short,” Rev. Cotter wrote, “by keeping her brave sons at at home for her great purpose and not permit them to go ways that they may never tread again. … God bless Tipperary! and control for her own destiny the fighting blood of her brave sons!”[2]”Tipperary”, The Catholic Tribune (St. Joseph, Missouri), Feb. 27, 1915, as cited from the Columbiad.

On Nov. 18, 1920, Rev. Cotter told the American Commission his return home was his first in 23 years. “I went to visit Ireland because I was anxious to see for myself the conditions there,” he said.[3]Evidence, Cotter testimony, p. 75.; Year: 1930; Census Place: Upper, Lawrence, Ohio; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0021; FHL microfilm: 2341561; and Find a Grave database and images, memorial … Continue reading Shortly after his return to America, Rev. Cotter gave an interview to the New York American, which most likely was a written statement handed to the daily. The the weekly Gaelic American, New York, and the Kentucky Irish American, Louisville, soon republished the story. The priest said:

I personally saw many British atrocities and was fresh on the scene after others, and talked to the people. I made it a point to talk specially to Protestants. … I found that Protestants and Catholics alike are united in their firmness for Irish freedom. …

One murder was committed before my very eyes [at Galway.] … I was in Dublin the night [Sept. 23, Sinn Féin County Councillor] Jack Lynch was foully murdered at his room at the Exchange Hotel … I was in Limerick when a bomb was exploded in the next square and in Millstreet, Bantry and Cork when the nights were made hideous by armed ruffianism having all its own way.

Rev. Cotter also traveled to Brixton Prison in London to see Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney, then on hunger strike. The priest said he was denied access, but met outside the walls with Anna and Mary MacSwiney, the prisoner’s sisters. Rev. Cotter said the family used a camera that belonged to his niece to take a photo, which showed the hunger striker’s “terrible emaciation. The teeth protrude, the temples are hollow, the eyes sunken, but for all that the mighty majesty of the man suffuses a holy calm over his face.”[4]Press accounts are dated Sept. 24, or just before Rev. Cotter sailed back to America. McSwiney died Oct. 25, 1920, age 41.

Oct. 23, 1920, headline over Rev. Cotter’s story in the Kentucky Irish American.

Rev. Cotter’s published account did not include his Sept. 10 visit to the Galway Express newspaper offices the morning after a military raid. “The owner of the paper was picking up pieces of broken type off the floor,” he told the American Commission. “They gathered together enough to print a paper on a sheet about the size of that (indicating a sheet of business letter size), and in big block letters on the top of the sheet was ‘Keep Cool,’ which is really the philosophy of the passiveness that Ireland is practicing right now.”[5]The New Haven, Conn.-based staff of the Knights of Columbia’s Columbia magazine, 1921 successor title of Columbiad, told me there were no articles by Rev. Cotter in the October, November, and … Continue reading

In 1929, Rev. Cotter published Tipperary, which sprang from his 1915 column. He later worked as an associate editor and contributor to the The Irish World, New York, including a 1936 collection of his columns: Ireland: Travel Tabloids. I welcome information on locating a copy of either of these books, or more about Rev. Cotter. The priest died in 1947.

Next: Francis Hackett on ‘America’s moral interest’ in Ireland

References

References
1 Evidence on Conditions in Ireland, The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland, Official Report, May 1921. Testimony of Rev. James H. Cotter, Nov. 18, 1920, pp. 75-91; “125th Anniversary of St. Lawrence O’Toole Church, Ironton, Ohio, 1852-1977”, a church-produced history, p. 17; and assorted period newspaper articles.
2 ”Tipperary”, The Catholic Tribune (St. Joseph, Missouri), Feb. 27, 1915, as cited from the Columbiad.
3 Evidence, Cotter testimony, p. 75.; Year: 1930; Census Place: Upper, Lawrence, Ohio; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0021; FHL microfilm: 2341561; and Find a Grave database and images, memorial page for James H Cotter (19 Aug 1857–9 Dec 1947), Find a Grave Memorial ID 99674115, citing Sacred Heart Cemetery, Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by CalamariGirl.
4 Press accounts are dated Sept. 24, or just before Rev. Cotter sailed back to America. McSwiney died Oct. 25, 1920, age 41.
5 The New Haven, Conn.-based staff of the Knights of Columbia’s Columbia magazine, 1921 successor title of Columbiad, told me there were no articles by Rev. Cotter in the October, November, and December 1920 issues. A more extensive review of the archive was not immediately possible.