ST. PATRICKS DAY 1858 AND THE IRISH STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM.

Joseph Denieffe (pictured), one of the founders of the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’.

Born in Kilkenny City in 1833, Joseph Denieffe grew up to become a tailor by trade ; still in his early teens, he witnessed Daniel O’Connell’s campaign for the ‘Repeal of the Act of Union’ and would have been just ten years young when approximately one million people assembled at what was known in its day as a “Monster Meeting” at the Royal Hill of Tara in County Meath on 15th August 1843.


The young Joseph Denieffe would have heard, on that day, the speech delivered to that vast crowd by Daniel O’Connell, who stated – “We are at Tara of the Kings – the spot from which emanated the social power, the legal authority, the right to dominion over the furthest extremes of the land. The strength and majority of the national movement was never exhibited so imposingly as at this great meeting. The numbers exceed any that ever before congregated in Ireland in peace or war. It is a sight not grand alone but appalling – not exciting merely pride but fear. Step by step we are approaching the great goal of Repeal of the Union, but it is at length with the strides of a giant.”


Imagine the scene as a ten-years-young child must have seen it : shoulder-to-shoulder with people packed together as far as a child could see ; one-million people, defiantly cheering and clapping at a lone figure on a wooden platform as he shook his fist and shouted rebelliously in the direction of Westminster.


It was a day that was to have a life-long effect on young Joseph Denieffe, and thousands of other young boys and girls, and men and women. When he was twelve years young, Joseph Denieffe would have witnessed the attempted genocide of his people (1845 – 1849) when an estimated one million people died on the land and another one million people emigrated in ‘coffin ships’. He would have noticed how Daniel O’Connell and the other career politicians did not suffer, how the Church leaders would bless the dead and pray for the dying before retiring to their big house for a meal, after which they would sleep contently in a warm bed. And a million people died around them.


Others noticed that injustice, too. William Smith O’Brien, a follower of Daniel O’Connell’s, was one of the many who had grown impatient ; he helped to establish the ‘Young Ireland’ group, with the intention of organising an armed rising against the British. Joseph Denieffe joined the ‘Young Ireland’ group in 1847 (the year of its formation) – he was fourteen years young. He worked with William Smith O’Brien (who, as an ‘English Gentleman’, was an unusual Irish rebel – he had been educated at Harrow, had a fine English accent and actually sat in Westminster Parliament for a good few years!) and others for the following four years when, at eighteen years of age (in 1851), the economics of the day dictated emigration.

He ended up in New York, and contacted a number of Irish Fenians in that city, including John O’Mahony and Michael Doheny. When he was twenty-two years young in 1855, he assisted in the establishment of an Irish Republican group in America – the ‘Emmet Monument Association’ – which sought to raise an army to force England out of Ireland. The ‘Emmet Monument Association’ decided to send Joseph Denieffe back to Ireland to organise a branch of the ‘Emmet Monument Association’ there ; by 1856, a small, active branch of the Association was up and running in County Kilkenny.


Its membership included such well-known Irish rebels as Thomas Clark Luby, Peter Langan and Philip Grey. On hearing of the establishment of the ‘Emmet Monument Association’ in Ireland and America, another Irish rebel, James Stephens, returned to Ireland.


James Stephens had taken part in military action against the British in 1848, with William Smith O’Brien, in the town of Ballingarry in Tipperary, and had fled to Paris to escape an English jail sentence, or worse. He returned to Ireland and, by 1857, had set-up a branch of the Emmet Monument Association in Dublin. The leadership of the Emmet Monument Association in America, John O’Mahony and Michael Doheny, then sent one of their most trusted men – Owen Considine – to Ireland to assist in organising a fighting-force in the country.


In December 1857 , Joseph Denieffe returned to America on a fund-raising mission ; he stayed there until about March in 1858 and , having raised eighty pounds – a good sum of money in those days – he came back to Ireland. On St Patricks Day that year (17th March, 1858 – 163 years ago, on this date) , Joseph Denieffe made his next move.

Joseph Denieffe, Thomas Clark Luby (pictured) and James Stephens met, as arranged, on St. Patricks Day in 1858 ; the three Irish rebels then founded the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’, a military organisation whose aim was to overthrow British mis-rule in Ireland. The oath taken by members stated – ‘I…do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will do my utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to make Ireland an independent Democratic Republic ; that I will yield implicit obedience, in all things not contrary to the law of God, to the commands of my superior officers ; and that I shall preserve inviolable secrecy regarding all the transactions of this secret society that may be confided in me. So help me God! Amen.’



The following day, Joseph Denieffe returned to America to continue his fund-raising activities – but political trouble was brewing in America, too. Talk, and fear, of a civil war was everywhere. To make matters worse for Joseph Denieffe’s fund-raising efforts, James Stephens and John O’Mahony had fallen-out over the direction that armed resistence to the English was going. America was now home to literally millions of Irish men and women who had been forced to leave Ireland because of British interference and the so-called ‘Great Hunger’ yet, as far as James Stephens was concerned, John O’Mahony and the American leadership had failed to harness the support amongst the Irish for an armed campaign against the British.


James Stephens accused John O’Mahony and his people in America of being “..Irish tinsel patriots (who make) speeches of bayonets, gala days and jolly nights, banners and sashes, bunkum and filibustering, responding in glowing language to glowing toasts on Irish National Independence over beakers of fizzling champagne…” . It was in the middle of the above turmoil that Joseph Denieffe found himself in America in the early 1860’s .


Fund-raising in those circumstances was not possible, but he stayed in that country, perhaps hoping that, when things settled down, he could organise his business.


Joseph Denieffe never ‘lost the faith’; he was now living in Chicago and was in his early thirtys. He continued his work for Irish freedom, even though the immediate momentum had been lost. He stayed in America, spreading the word and building contacts for the Irish Republican cause. In 1904, at seventy-one years of age, he wrote a number of articles for the New York newspaper, ‘The Gael’ ; those articles were later published as a book, entitled ‘A Personal Narrative of the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood’ (link here) , and is a fantastic read for those interested in the history of the on-going struggle for full Irish freedom.


At 77 years of age, Joseph Denieffe died in Chicago, on 20th April, 1910. He gave sixty-three years of his life to the Irish cause, working for the most part either in the background or underground, never seeking the limelight. He is not as well-known as he should be but, like all true Irish republicans, his objective was to promote and further the Irish cause, not himself.

“This land of mine, the old man said,

will be alive when we are dead.

My fathers words still ring divine –

“God Bless this lovely land of mine.”





‘THE TWO-NATIONS THEORY…’


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.




The Belfast Parliament is held to be at once the result and the evidence of the separate national consciousness of the Six Counties.


The differences of race, religion and character inevitably led to a separate parliament ; the separate parliament is in itself conclusive proof of a distinct national consciousness. So the argument runs, resting on nothing more substantial than mere exparte assertions unsupported by any real evidence.


Those who use the argument rely on the ignorance of outsiders for its acceptance but, in their own innermost hearts, they know it to be unsound. The Belfast Parliament did not come into existence, as ‘National Parliaments’ have always done, in response to forces persistently demanding expression in that parliament.


In fact, it came into existence at a time when the ‘right’ of Great Britain to legislate for Ireland was being contested by the vast majority of the Irish people, including 450,000 now unwillingly held within the jurisdiction of the Belfast Parliament… (MORE LATER.)




ON THIS DATE (17TH MARCH) 98 YEARS AGO – DUBLIN, 1923 : IRA INSTRUCTION RE ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS.

An international boxing match between two well known pugilists, Louis Mbarick Fall (…aka ‘The Battling Siki’) and Clare man Mike McTigue went ahead in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day, 1923, in the La Scala Theatre, despite the fact that the IRA had instructed that all such entertainment features be postponed, as a mark of respect for those butchered in County Kerry by the Free Staters during what became known as ‘the terror month’


‘With the political situation still white-hot, the Republicans became determined to ensure that the bout never took place. On the morning of the fight, McTigue received a death threat at his Spa Hotel in Lucan stating he would be hung if he entered the ring. In response to the threat, the government (Dublin administration) sent a fleet of armoured cars to Lucan, putting McTigue under armed guard until he was in the ring. Battling Siki, who had been very curious about the damage caused by the civil war was also afforded an armed escort from the Claremont Hotel.


Later in the day, a bomb was placed in a trash can on O’Connell Street (the scene for most of the fighting during the Easter Rising) in Dublin city centre just adjacent to the La Scala Theatre, where the fight would take place. The bomb did not detonate, and it is believed the would-be bomber may have taken the detonation cord out of the device…the Republicans, knowing that they couldn’t get close enough, decided to lay a mine over the electric cables that they thought fed the La Scala.


The bomb went off at the back of the Pillar Picture House a few hundred yards from the La Scala (and) the explosion caused two large doors into the theatre to cave in while the lights remained on — the bombers had located the wrong cables…’ (from here.)


The Irish boxer eventually won, on points, after a staggering 20 rounds (!) and Siki returned to America, feeling disgraced and angry with himself. He hit the bottle and made a name for himself in Hell’s Kitchen, in New York, where he lived for a few years, but it wasn’t a good name – the drink led to him being stabbed in a pub fight and being repeatedly jailed for his drunken behaviour.


Two years after his Irish fight he used a knife on a cop and proceedings were enacted to deport him back to his home country of Senegal but, before that case was settled he was shot to death on a New York street.


From street violence in Dublin to street violence in New York ; a troubled man who was his own worse enemy.




NO RIGHT OF APPEAL…



Why the media consensus on a broad range of issues is increasingly disturbing.

By John Drennan.


From ‘Magill’ Annual, 2002.



Not to worry ; the ‘Irish Locomotive Drivers Association’ (ILDA) were starved back to work. ‘Social Partnership’ and the State-sponsored wing of Irish trade-unionism had been preserved.

It was time to return to writing about the key issues of the day, such as how the young gentleman around town was now wealthy enough to be able to afford a Burberry jacket. On one level there was nothing unique about the ILDA furore ; Irish journalism has always been susceptible to the vice of consensus. It may well have been the Freudian version of the ‘disunited State’ of the territory, a way to recover from the psychic wound of the Six Counties, but in times of crisis we could depend on our patriotic commentators to fully support cuts in housing, hospitals and education, and to rubbish any foolish notions about huge levels of tax evasion –


Ansbacher, Ma’am? Never heard of it. And sorry to hear about your husband’s cancer. Those hospital closures are terrible of course. Must look into it sometime…”


It is true that Irish journalism was not always so tame. In the time of the last real economic depression, the ‘national unity’ school of journalism was in well-deserved decline as a few outstanding vocational journalists went about the tasks of mocking the powerful and digging out the odd grubby fact about house extensions… (MORE LATER.)




ON THIS DATE (17TH MARCH) 46 YEARS AGO : IRA PRISONER SHOT DEAD BY FREE STATE ARMY GUNMAN.

IRA prisoner Tom Smith (pictured), a Dublin man, was shot dead by a Free State Army gunman during an escape attempt by IRA prisoners in Portlaoise Prison, County Laois, on St Patrick’s Day, 1975.


Tom was active with the IRA’s Dublin Brigade and was one of about 20 republican prisoners who attempted to escape from their State jailers on that St Patrick’s Day in 1975.


A door in the recreation/’cinema’ hall was blown off its hinges and a selected group of prisoners sprinted into the prison yard, at a time which had been pre-arranged with their comrades on the outside ; the Staters opened fire, hitting him in the head.


‘DUBLIN, March 17 — The I.R.A. Provisionals chose St. Patrick’s day for an attempted mass breakout from Portlaoise jail, where more than 100 Irish Republican Army prisoners are held. The bid failed. One prisoner was shot dead, two were seriously wounded and several policemen were injured. Gunmen outside the jail engaged soldiers and policemen for several hours in what was probably the largest operation the Provisionals have attempted in the republic since the present troubles began in 1969.


The escape attempt started at nightfall when a chain was thrown over power lines carrying electricity into the jail. This blacked out the town of Portlaoise and much of the prison, but emergency power kept the perimeter lights on. A truck said to be loaded with explosives was driven into the fence beside the prison gates. An explosion inside the jail followed. Several prisoner’s were then shot, apparently while trying to escape…’ (from here.)


Some other such escape attempts can be read here and, indeed, the lesson that should be learned, by Westminster and Leinster House is that – as long as there are republican prisoners – more stories of escapes and escape attempts will hopefully be read about in the future.




‘OUR STEWARDSHIP…’

From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, March, 1955.


A beginning had been made, if only it could be a success! They needed it, this way of getting to the people of Ireland, this way of giving to a growing generation of youth who had no way of knowing the gospel of Tone and Pearse, a knowledge that they hoped – that they knew – would kindle in them pride in their country and race.


At the end of 1954, the Stormont Government banned ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper ; so great was its success that the Government of Queen Elizabeth in Ireland considered it too dangerous a diet for the people under its jurisdiction. As the Irish Republican Army grew strong and proceeded to carry out operations against the enemy in this country the people bought ‘The United Irishman’ for the honest and truthful reports.


When Sinn Féin wanted to state its case to the Irish people without having its statements twisted out of recognition by an editor with a printing axe to grind, it was only in ‘The United Irishman’ they could state it… (MORE LATER.)




LÁ FHÉILE PÁDRAIG SONA DAOIBH! (‘Happy St. Patricks Day!’)

Enjoy your day – ye are all Irish for this day, but some of us are blessed and will still be Irish tomorrow!

Happy Wednesday, readers – if we get home in one piece tonight, or tomorrow (or whenever..!) then we won’t be contacting ya for bail money!


‘Cause, Covid Level 5 restrictions or not, myself and the Girl Gang have arrangements made for a get-together and, among other things, we’re gonna test the theory that alcohol makes ya immune from the virus and from that other social destroyer – common sense! Incidentally – for the day that’s in it – St Patrick’s Day was celebrated in New York City for the first time, in 1762, at the ‘Crown and Thistle Tavern’. Next time we’re in that glorious city, we’ll pop in and see if the party is still going on. If not, we’ll re-start it!


Thanks for dropping in, have a ball. We intend to!


Sharon.





About 11sixtynine

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