This Week in the History of the Irish: May 17 - May 23

Gael-Linn photo
Young men holding up the Anti-Conscription pledge,. The pledge reads: "Denying the right of the British Government to enforce compulsory service in this country, we pledge ourselves solemnly to one another to resist Conscription by the most effective means at our disposal."


DOMHNAIGH -- On May 17-18, 1918, the British government began arresting all the leaders of Sinn Fein that it could round-up. Britain desperately wanted to impose conscription on the Irish to replace its tremendous losses in the trenches of Europe; Sinn Fein was adamantly opposed to more Irishmen being used as cannon fodder in service to their oppressors. The British answer to this resistance was the one that had used so often before in Ireland: coercion. De Valera, Griffith, Constance Markiewicz and other many other leaders were all eventually imprisoned. The British cover for these arrests was a bogus 'German Plot,' which has since been thoroughly discredited. The British would live to regret one man who slipped through their fingers that spring; Michael Collins would use the months he might have spent in an English prison assembling an intelligence organization that would soon make the 'Empira' squeal.


The arrest and mortal wounding of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who stands to the left.

MÁIRT -- On May 19, 1798, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, military leader of the United Irishmen, was captured by the British in Dublin. From one of the most distinguished families in Ireland, a descendant of 'Silken Thomas' Fitzgerald, who was executed by the British in 1537, and brother of the Duke of Leinster, Lord Edward had served in the British army against the American colonists during the American Revolution. He spent time in Paris after the war, where one of his companions was American political theorist Thomas Paine. There Fitzgerald acquired his republican ideals. He had escaped capture in March when many of the United Irish leaders had been arrested, but a spy had betrayed his hiding place on Thomas Street. Lord Edward fiercely resisted arrest, stabbing to death one of his captors, but another shot him, and he died of his wounds 16 days later.

DEARDAOIN -- On May 21, 1745, Count Daniel O'Connell, the uncle of the 'Liberator,' and an officer in the Irish Brigade of France, was born in Derrynane, Co. Kerry. Young Daniel became a cadet with the French army in 1761. He served in Clare's Regiment of the Irish Brigade, eventually rising through the ranks to become colonel of the regiment. O'Connell was made a count in 1788 and was an opponent of the French Revolution. That opposition would lead him to organize an Irish unit for the British army. This scheme was short-lived and the unit soon disbanded. Count O'Connell returned to France and the French army when the Bourbons were restored to the throne after the defeat of Napoleon. O'Connell left the French army after the revolution of 1830 and retired. Count Daniel O'Connell, the last colonel of the Irish Brigade, died at his chateau near Blois in 1833.


From "In the Felon's Track"
Michael Doheny, Irish rebel


AOINE -- On May 22, 1805, Young Irelander Michael Doheny was born in Fethard, Co. Tipperary. Doheny joined O'Connell's Repeal Association in the 1830s and wrote for the Young Irelanders' publication, The Nation, under the name Eiranach. He fled to the United States in 1848, along with James Stephens, after the failure of the Young Irelander's uprising. In the United States, Doheny helped found two famous Irish organizations: the 69th New York militia and the Fenian Brotherhood. Doheny wrote a well-known account of the '48 Rising, "In the Felon's Track," which was published in 1867. He did not live to see it published, however. After seeing Ireland one more time, when he accompanied the body of Terence MacManus home for burial in Dublin, Doheny returned to New York City, where he died suddenly in April 1862. Michael Doheny was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery in the city's borough of Queens.

VOICES

'You may as well declare war on Ireland and be done with it. And it will be a futile war. It will take three English army corps to get one Irish corps out of the country. And in the process you will destroy the Irish Parliamentary Party. You are driving millions of the best men of our race to turn their eyes from this Parliament forever.'

         -- An Irish member of Parliament on the "Man-Power" bill, which called for conscription in Ireland

Arthur Griffith

'So long as the sanguine heart that carried Michael Doheny undaunted along the Felon's Tracks beats in the breast of his country, the Irish Nation will be indestructible.'
       -- Sinn Fein founder Arthur Griffith.

'What a noble fellow. Of the first family of Ireland, with an easy fortune, a beautiful wife, a family of lovely children, the certainty of a splendid appointment under the government, if he would condescend to support their measures; he has devoted himself wholly to the emancipation of his country.'
         -- United Irish commander Theobald Wolfe Tone commenting on Lord Edward Fitzgerald in his diary

                      BIRTHS

May -- Bealtaine

21, 1745 - Count Daniel O'Connell (Soldier, uncle of the "Liberator" - Derrynane, Co. Kerry.)
22, 1805 - Michael Doheny (One of the founders of the 69th New York - Fenian - Fethard, Co. Tipperary.)
22, 1859 - Arthur Conan Doyle (Author of Sherlock Holmes books, born of Irish immigrant parents in Edinburgh, Scotland.)
22, 1870 - Eva Gore-Booth (Poet - Trade Unionist- Feminist - Lissadell, Co Sligo.)
24 1877 - Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington (Suffragist, socialist, republican - Kanturk, Co. Cork)
25, 1896 -William Cochran-Patrick (WWI Ace, 21 kills - Ireland.)
25, 1898 - Gene Tunney (Heavyweight boxing champion - New York City.)

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS

17, 1880 - Charles Stewart Parnell elected Chairmen of Irish Parlimentary Party.
17-18, 1917 - Sinn Fein leaders arrested, charged in bogus "German plot."
17, 1974 - Loyalist militia car bombs kill 31 in Dublin and Monaghan
18, 1825 - House of Lords rejects Catholic Emancipation Bill.
19, 1797 - Presses of Belfast Northern Star (United Irishmen) broken up by Monaghan militia.
19, 1798 - Lord Edward Fitzgerald, United Irish leader, shot while being apprehended. (He died on June 4.)
19, 1870 - Isaac Butt founds Home Rule movement; first public meeting of Home Government Association.
19, 1993 - Former Light-Heavyweight Champ of the World Billy Conn dies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
20, 1836 - Irish Constabulary established (Later named Royal Irish Constabulary).
21, 1800 - Bill for Union introduced in Irish Parliament.
21, 1981 - Patsy O'Hara dies on hunger strike.
21, 1981 - Raymond McCreesh dies on hunger strike.
23, 1706 - Irish Brigade of France fights at the battle of Ramillies.
23, 1723 - Charles O'Brien, 5th Viscount Clare, soldier in the Irish Brigade of France, is killed at Ramilles.
23, 1794 - United Irishmen suppressed. Dublin United Irish Society's premises at Tailors Hall raided.
23-4, 1798 - United Irish rebellion begins in Leinster.

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Tags: History of Ireland, Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day

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