On the 30th January 1881 – 138 years ago on this date – Charles Stewart Parnell’s sisters, Anna and Fanny, put the final touches to a new organisation which they officially launched the following day : they established a ‘Ladies Land League’ which, at its full strength, consisted of about five hundred branches and didn’t always see eye-to-eye with its ‘parent’ organisation, the ‘Irish National Land League’.

In its short existence, it provided assistance to about 3,000 people who had been evicted from their rented land holdings) to assist and/or take over land agitation issues, as it seemed certain that the ‘parent’ body was going to be outlawed by the British and, sure enough, the British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, introduced and enforced a ‘Crimes Act’ that same year, 1881 (better known as the ‘Coercion/Protection of Person and Property Act’) which made it illegal to assemble in relation to certain issues and an offence to conspire against the payment of rents ‘owed’ which, ironically, was a piece of legislation condemned by the same catholic church which condemned the ‘Irish National Land League’ because that Act introduced permanent legislation and did not have to be renewed on each political term.

And that same church also condemned the ‘Ladies Land League’ to the extent that Archbishop McCabe of Dublin instructed priests loyal to him “..not to tolerate in your societies (diocese) the woman who so far disavows her birthright of modesty as to parade herself before the public gaze in a character so unworthy of a Child of Mary…” – the best that can be said about that is that that church’s ‘consistency’ hasn’t changed much over the years, and that it wasn’t only a religious institution which made an issue out of women being politicised – ‘In the year in which the Ladies’ Land League was formed, Ireland was first mentioned in the 15 January 1881 issue of the ‘Englishwoman’s Review’. Tellingly, this was a report headed ‘Women Landowners in Ireland’ (and) there was also a small report of a ‘Catholic Charitable Association’ being formed ‘by a number of Irish ladies for aiding the families
of poor or evicted tenants’.

The addition of the phrase “It is distinctly understood that the society shall take no part whatever in political agitation..” reveals the disapproval felt by the journal for those engaged in that agitation *. The formation of the Ladies’ Land League was then noted : ‘In anticipation of Government action against local branches of the Irish National Land League, arrangements are being made for the establishment of a Ladies’ Land League throughout Ireland. Such a movement has already been organised in America, where Mrs Parnell, the mother of the Member for Cork, is the President, and Miss Fanny Parnell and Mr John Stewart, the sister and brother of Mr Parnell, MP, are acting as organisers. The Irish movement will be led by the wives of the local leaders of the existing league, and will devote themselves to the collection of funds…’ ** (from here).

* / ** – That periodical was assembled and edited by, and for, middle-class women of the day (late 19th/early 20th century) and, while it did cover and promote economic independence for women, occupation outside of the home for women, the need for better educational facilities for women to enable and encourage women to seek employment in ‘the male professions’ ie politics and medicine, it was truly of its day in that it was felt to be a bridge-too-far to call for women to take to the streets for the right to be more than ‘just’ fund-raisers. In short, the authors were, in effect, confining themselves to be further confined.

In October 1881, Westminster proscribed the ‘Irish National Land League’ and imprisoned its leadership, but the gap was ably filled by the ‘Ladies Land League’ until it was acrimoniously dissolved on the 10th August 1882, 19 months after it was formed.


An edited version of this speech was published in ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper in October 1954. This is the speech in full ; on the 13th March, 1920, Terence MacSwiney (pictured) was unanimously elected as the ‘Lord Mayor of Cork’ by that city’s Corporation. He donated his salary for the position to an outside organisation and received no salary for the other position he held at that time – Brigadier of the No. 1 Brigade, Cork IRA.

“But it is conceivable that they, our enemies, could interrupt our course for a time ; then it becomes a question simply of trust in God and endurance. Those whose faith is strong will endure to the end and triumph. The shining hope of our time is that the great majority of our people are now strong in that faith. To you, gentlemen of the minority here, I would address a word. I ask you again to take courage and hope. To me it seems — and I don’t say it to hurt you — that you have a lively faith in the power of the devil, and but little faith in God.

But God is over us and in His divine intervention we have perfect trust. Anyone surveying the events in Ireland for the past five years must see that it is approaching a miracle how our country has been preserved. God has permitted this to be, to try our spirits, to prove us worthy of a noble line, to prepare us for a great and noble destiny. You amongst us who have yet no vision of the future have been led astray by false prophets. The liberty for which we today strive is a sacred thing, inseparably entwined as body and soul with that spiritual liberty for which the saviour of men died, and which is the inspiration and foundation of all just government. Because it is sacred, and death for it is akin to the sacrifice on Calvary, following far off but constant to that divine example, in every generation our best and bravest have died.

Sometimes in our grief we cry out foolish and unthinking words : ‘the sacrifice is too great’. But it is because they were our best and bravest that they had to die. No lesser sacrifice could save us. Because of it our struggle is holy, our battle is sanctified by their blood, and our victory is assured by their martyrdom. We, taking up the work they left incomplete, confident in God, offer in turn sacrifice from ourselves. It is not we who take innocent blood but we offer it, sustained by the example of our immortal dead and that divine example which inspires us all for the redemption of our country. Facing our enemies we must declare our attitude simply. We ask for no mercy, and we will make no compromise. But to the Divine Author of mercy we appeal for strength to sustain us, whatever the persecution, that we may bring our people victory in the end. The civilised world dare not continue to look on indifferent. But if the rulers of earth fail us we have yet sure succour in the Ruler of Heaven ; and though to some impatient hearts His judgements seem slow, they never fail, and when they fall they are overwhelming and final.”

(END of ‘We Ask For No Mercy And We Will Make No Compromise’. Next – ‘Traitors To The Crown’, from ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, January 1955.)


Born in 1846, on the 30th January – 174 years ago today – Katharine Wood (pictured) matured into an unwitting femme fatale, said to be practically solely responsible for ‘the most notorious scandal of the late Victorian Age’ – the downfall of Charles Stewart Parnell and the split which followed in the ‘Home Rule Movement’ –

‘Kitty’ was a name she would have hated, as it was slang for a woman of loose morals. In fact, she only loved two men in her life and married both of them, though the marriage to Parnell was to prove tragically short-lived as he died in her arms after a few brief months of happiness. She was born Katharine Wood in 1845, and was known as Kate to her family. Her father was a baronet, a member of the British aristocracy and her brother a Field Marshall, although their grandfather had started life as an apprentice and was a self-made man.

The Woods were closely linked with the Gladstone family and Katharine often acted as a go-between with William Gladstone when Parnell was trying to persuade the British government to grant Ireland independence. She had married William O’Shea at the age of twenty-one, not long after the death of her father, and the marriage had produced a son and two daughters. O’Shea neglected his wife and pursued his own pleasures while she was often left to bring up the children alone, while also looking after her elderly aunt. She played the part of a dutiful wife, however, and hosted dinner parties to help her husband’s career. Parnell, an important figure in Irish politics, was always invited, always accepted and yet never showed up.

Annoyed and perplexed by these apparent snubs she went to confront him in person at his office in Westminster in July 1880. The effect was immediate ; “This man is wonderful and different,” she was to write later. Parnell was a bachelor who had once loved and been rejected, and never took an interest in women again until he met Katharine. It was a suicidal love as she was married to a fellow Irish MP and was a respectable wife and mother. The power of the attraction between the two, however, was impossible to resist and before long they were living together in her home in Eltham in the suburbs of London. They had an illicit ‘honeymoon’ in Brighton and Katharine was to bear three children to Parnell while still married to O’Shea, the first of whom died soon after being born. It is even thought that she bore Parnell a son who could take his name after they finally married, although this child was stillborn. O’Shea knew of the relationship but turned a blind eye to it. Then the Aunt died and left Katharine a large inheritance and he decided to divorce his wife and shame Parnell publicly. The ensuing scandal ruined Parnell’s career and his health.

His traditional supporters in Catholic Ireland turned away from him when they learned he had been living with a married woman even though he and his beloved Katharine became man and wife after they married at Steyning register office in Sussex, the county where they made their home. In an attempt to revive his flagging fortunes, Parnell went to Ireland and spoke at a public meeting in County Galway. He was caught in a thunderstorm and developed a chill from which he never recovered. Seriously ill, he returned to be with Katharine and died soon afterwards. They had been married for only four months. It is estimated that half a million people lined the streets of Dublin to pay their respects to Parnell as his coffin was taken to Glasnevin cemetery to be buried near Daniel O’Connell. Later Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins were also laid to rest nearby. On the granite stone above his grave lies just one word – ‘Parnell’, enough to identify Ireland’s flawed hero whose dream of a free and united country at peace with Britain was destroyed by his love for a married woman.

And what happened to Kitty, as the world now knew her? It was all too much for her and she lived out her days quietly in Sussex. She never married or fell in love again but looked after her children and died at the age of seventy-five. When she was buried, only her immediate family came to the funeral and on her grave monument were the names of both her husbands with that of Parnell, the great love of her life, above that of O’Shea who gave her the name she is known by. There is no sign of ‘Kitty’, however. By the gravestone is a plaque placed by the Parnell Society with Parnell’s promise to her: “I will give my life to Ireland, but to you I give my love…” (from here.)

Katharine Wood died on the 5th February 1921, at 75 years of age, in Littlehampton in Sussex, England, and is buried there.

‘SAVINGS LAW SHOULD BE CHANGED’ : a letter sent to ‘The Irish Times’ newspaper by a Dr. Lucey.

From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

“No other country in the world, as far as I am aware, hands over its savings in this way to a foreign country. Why should we keep on doing this? How can we employ our people at home, if we send their savings to be spent abroad?”

Dr Lucey added that local savings should as far as possible be spent locally, not abroad or even for general national (sic) purposes. Last year, the ‘Cork Savings Bank’ handed over £309,000 of Cork money to the (State) Minister of Finance. The ‘Post Office Savings Bank’ in Cork sent him most likely much more. Why was this money – Cork’s money – not handed over to the Corporation in Cork for housing? Were the Corporation to get this money at the rate the Minister got it there would be a saving of 2% in the interest rates on housing loans, and the rent of a £1,500 house would be 12 shillings less in consequence.

(END of ‘Savings Law Should Be Changed’. Next – ‘Treason Felony’, from ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, December 1954.)


‘Edward Martyn, playwright, co-founder of Irish Literary Theatre, and Sinn Féin president, is born in Tulira, Co. Galway.

Martyn was descended from Richard Óge Martyn (c.1604 – 1648), a leading Irish Confederate, and Oliver Óge Martyn (c.1630 – c.1709), a Jacobite who fought in the Williamite War in Ireland. Yet by his lifetime, the family were unionists. Martyn’s outlook began to change in the 1880’s after studying Irish history, as well as living through the events of the Irish Land War. He came out as an Irish republican when he famously refused to allow “God Save The Queen” to be sung after a dinner party at Tullira. By this stage he was involved with the political work of Maude Gonne and Arthur Griffith, and was a vocal opponent of the visit of Queen Victoria to Ireland in 1897.

He also protested the visit by Edward VII in 1903, this time as chairman of the People’s Protection Committee. He was the first president of Sinn Féin from 1905 to 1908 (the party only taking that name in the latter year) (but) in 1908 he resigned from the party and politics in general to concentrate on writing and his other activities. He became close friends with Griffith, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Mary Plunkett and Patrick Pearse, and deeply mourned their executions in the aftermath of the Easter Rising. A parish hall and church that he founded at Labane, near Tullira, were burned by the Black and Tans. He supported * the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921…’ (from here.)

( * – indeed, a close friend of his, Isabella Augusta Persse [‘Lady’ Gregory] stated, after one of her visits to him [on the 14th January 1922] that he declared to her that “he is all for the Treaty..”)


After a peaceful Civil Rights march on January 30th, 1972 – 47 years ago on this date – from Creggan to Free Derry Corner, units of the British army Parachute Regiment opened fire with automatic rifles and shot dead 13 unarmed civilians, injuring many more, one of whom died later. It was later revealed that some days prior to the massacre, the British soldiers involved had been briefed to “shoot to kill” at the march.

“This Sunday became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ and bloody it was. It was quite unnecessary. It strikes me that the (British) army ran amok that day and shot without thinking of what they were doing. They were shooting innocent people. They may have been taking part in a parade which was banned, but that did not justify the troops coming in and firing live rounds indiscriminately. I would say without reservations that it was sheer unadulterated murder. It was murder, gentlemen” – the words of British Major Hubert O’Neill, Derry City Coroner, at the conclusion of the inquests on the 13 people killed by the British Army on that day.

The British Army are still in Ireland and Westminster continues to claim jurisdictional control over six Irish counties – the potential for another ‘Bloody Sunday’ still exists. That threat can only be removed when Westminster removes itself from Ireland, politically and militarily.


From ‘Magill’ magazine, February 1998.

When it comes to comment on garda performance, I am a bit sceptical, but understanding, of most security correspondents. The fact is that the Garda Síochana have emerged from a difficult period in their impressive history – damage has been done by the bitter and prolonged internal dispute about who speaks for rank-and-file gardaí.

The image of Gardaí importing ‘security’ to protect themselves from other gardaí* has lodged in the public memory. At one stage it seemed to many people that the response of certain personnel in the ‘Garda Representative Association’ was overtly political, with a large ‘P’. Happily, that dispute seems to be about to finally resolve itself.

The emergence as lead advocate for the new combined representative organisation of some of the common-sense spokesmen who fronted the breakaway federation would greatly help the process of restoring public confidence. The gardaí themselves are clearly sensitive to, if not bitter about, criticism of their own performances… ( *…or to assist them in evictions ordered by banks) (MORE LATER.)

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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