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The Fenian Ideal and Irish Nationalism, 1882-1916

The Fenian Ideal and Irish Nationalism, 1882-1916

M. J. Kelly
Volume: 4
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    The Fenian Ideal and Irish Nationalism, 1882-1916
    Book Description:

    This book analyses Fenian influences on Irish nationalism between the Phoenix Park murders of 1882 and the Easter Rising of 1916. It challenges the convention that Irish separatist politics before the First World War were marginal and irrelevant, showing instead that clear boundaries between home rule and separatist nationalism did not exist. Kelly examines how leading home rule MPs argued that Parnellism was Fenianism by other means, and how Fenian politics were influenced by Irish cultural nationalism, which reinforced separatist orthodoxies, serving to clarify the ideological distance between Fenians and home rulers. It discusses how early Sinn Fein gave voice to these new orthodoxies, and concludes by examining the ideological complexities of the Irish Volunteers, and exploring Irish politics between 1914 and 1916. Dr MATTHEW KELLY is British Academy Research Fellow and Lecturer in Modern British History at Hertford College, University of Oxford.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-465-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction: Mr Casey’s tears
    (pp. 1-14)

    Fenianism was the name, sometimes celebrated sometimes excoriated, given to the Irish revolutionary and republican movement active in Ireland and Britain from the late 1850s through to the First World War. It had sister organisations in the U.S.A. and elsewhere, the most important being the Irish-American Clan na Gael which bankrolled the organisation. Fenianism was organised through the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.), under the leadership of the Supreme Council, and hierarchically structured around circles under the direction of a series of county centres. The Supreme Council consisted of a representative of each of the four provinces of Ireland, as well...

  6. 1 Dublin Fenianism in the 1880s: ‘The Irish culture of the future’?
    (pp. 15-40)

    Historians have largely neglected the activities of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the 1880s, tending to focus on the two great flash-points of 1867 and 1916. R. V. Comerford, when concluding his brilliantly iconoclastic The Fenians in Context, dismissed Dublin Fenianism in 1882, claiming it had ‘deteriorated into a miscellany of purposeless gangs’.¹ John Newsinger’s critique of Comerford offers a cursory and Marxisant reading of Fenianism in the years following the excitement of 1867.² Even P. S. O’Hegarty, ever the advocate of the centrality of the I.R.B. in pre-1922 Irish politics, was muted on the subject of the 1880s. Writing...

  7. 2 Parnell and the Fenians: Structuring the split
    (pp. 41-70)

    Accustomed as many historians are to diminishing the impact of the individual on the broader process of historical change, the course of the Parnell split appears to defy expectations. The actions of a single individual of tremendous prestige and influence shattered a political consensus carefully established over a decade of intense political organisation and party discipline. The home rule party was centrally controlled and disciplined to an extent unique to late nineteenth-century British politics. Parnell was the undisputed leader of the party and, for many, the primary cause of its political success: he appeared to be indispensable. For F. S....

  8. 3 ‘Parnell’s Old Brigade’: The Redmondite–Fenian nexus in the 1890s
    (pp. 71-95)

    On 13 October 1896 P. J. O’Keeffe, member of the Kilkenny corporation, held a meeting at which 300 people gathered with lighted torches and two bands. Having denounced and burnt an effigy of the mayor, Major O’Leary, the gathering processed to the town hall. Asserting his right to enter as a member of the corporation, O’Keeffe with his crowd forced an entry to the town hall and ensured a resolution was passed condemning the mayor. With this done the crowd dispersed. Two days later an ordinary meeting of the corporation broke up in confusion when O’Keeffe refused to give up...

  9. 4 Literary Fenianism and Fenian faction: ‘In the past of a nation lives the protection of its future and the advancement of its present’
    (pp. 96-129)

    It has become a truism in Irish history that the death of Parnell marked a watershed. Yeats gave the most famous and most frequently quoted expression to this insight in his 1923 Nobel lecture:

    The modern literature of Ireland, and indeed all that stir of thought that prepared for the Anglo-Irish war, began when Parnell fell from power in 1891. A disillusioned and embittered Ireland turned from parliamentary politics; an event was conceived; and the race began, as I think, to be troubled by that event’s long gestation.²

    Yeats shared this historicising mindset with many of his contemporaries and it...

  10. 5 The end of Parnellism and the ideological dilemmas of Sinn Féin
    (pp. 130-178)

    Apocalyptic bloodlusts in expectation of the redrawing of the political map of Europe were two-a-penny at the turn of the twentieth century. As British politicians debated the best way to manage the empire – simultaneously near the peak of its territorial expansion and under pressure from ambitious European powers – the New Imperialists conceived of these rivalries as a pseudo-Darwinian struggle for the survival.¹ Spurred on by the Boer War, Irish political debate was infected with this discourse, the moth-balled adage ‘England’s difficulty, Ireland’s opportunity’ emerging freshly laundered for the new century. ‘Clovis’, writing in the United Irishman, prophesied a struggle of...

  11. 6 Fenian orthodoxies and volunteering, 1910–14: ‘Not coming believe volunteers will kill home rule’
    (pp. 179-236)

    Travelling from Philadelphia to Pomeroy, County Tyrone, in September 1905, Patrick McCartan jotted down his impressions in a letter to Joseph McGarrity.² This commenced a lengthy correspondence that ensured the Clan na Gael leader was kept up to date with the progress of advanced nationalism and Fenianism. The familiarity with which McCartan wrote suggested close friendship and something of the relationship between mentor and protégé. McCartan was McGarrity’s man in Ireland, providing a record of events that cut through the obfuscation of nationalist propaganda to reveal the manoeuvrings of separatist factions beneath. This opening letter revealed all the impetuous ebullience...

  12. Epilogue: Fenian song and economic history
    (pp. 237-258)

    So wrote John O’Leary to F. J. Bigger in May 1915. Not a voice from the grave but, according to his headed notepaper, the ‘Baker, Confectioner and Grocer, Stationer and Newsagent’ of Graignamanagh, Co. Kilkenny. He supplied, from his ‘General Fancy Warehouse’, earthenware, wickerware, china, and glass. He was also an artist, was active in the Catholic Truth Society, and his letters touched on the ecclesiastical antiquities of Counties Carlow and Kilkenny. Bigger had commissioned a painting of mass being held at St Mullins in the penal times. Conscious of the ironies of his own days, O’Leary observed that near...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-274)
  14. Index
    (pp. 275-286)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 287-287)