ON THIS DATE (7TH SEPTEMBER) 199 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A RADICAL ‘FEVER DOCTOR’.
On the 7th September 1823 – 199 years ago on this date – William Izod Doherty and his wife, Anne (nee McEvoy) and their then family of one son and two daughters, welcomed the addition to their family of a baby boy, Kevin, into their Dublin home.
He received his education in Dr Wall’s school in Hume Street, in Dublin, took an interest in medicine and, at about 19 years of age, he studied with the ‘Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland’ (RCSI).
He was in his mid-twenties when he lived through and experienced the attempted genocide of his people and worked as a surgical assistant at the fever hospital in the County of Dublin Infirmary to try and ease the burden of his people.
His friend, Richard D’alton Williams, who was a member of the ‘Young Ireland’ Movement, also put his medical training to good use during ‘The Great Hunger’ of the so-called ‘Famine’ by helping to ease the suffering of hundreds of cholera victims ; he was a hardened opponent of British misrule in Ireland and had joined the ‘Irish Confederation’ group, which was founded in January 1847 by William Smith O’Brien and other ‘Young Irelanders’ who had disagreed with Daniel O’Connell’s ‘Repeal Association’.
Kevin Izod O’Doherty and Richard D’alton Williams were the driving forces behind a short-lived newspaper called ‘The Irish Tribune’, the first issue of which was published on the 10th June, 1848. But only five issues of the weekly newspaper made it on to the streets before it was suppressed by the British in early July that year and its republican content gave Westminster the pretence to arrest Williams and Kevin Izod O’Doherty (who was ‘arrested’ on the 10th July 1848).
Both men were charged under the ‘Treason-Felony Act’ with “intent to depose the queen and levying war” and imprisoned in Newgate Prison. A famous barrister of the time, Samuel Ferguson, defended both men in a trial (which was held in Green Street Courthouse in Dublin) which lasted five months and caused great embarrassment to the British –
– one of the “inflammatory articles” that was used against him as ‘evidence of his treason felony’ was a piece he wrote entitled ‘Our Harvest Prospects’, in which he wrote that if any attempt was made to ship more Irish livestock and grain abroad “…the strong men of this land will gladden our eyes by saving the coming harvest and easing their longing thirst deep, deep in the blood of the English foe..”
Eventually, in November 1848, Williams and O’Doherty were acquitted.
Throughout his 81 years on this earth, Kevin Izod O’Doherty fought against an unjust political system as a politician, a medical doctor and an author. He was in his mid-70’s when his already weakened eyesight finally gave out on him and he was placed in further distraught by the deaths of his four sons and two of his three daughters.
‘So much for love — two spirits rare, conjoined, —
Emancipators, aye, — glory forgone!
Life’s sweets by sullen grief too oft purloin’d!
Far distant tracks and strange, to journey on!’
(Thomas Southern MacBride.)
He died on the 15th July, 1905, at his home in Torwood, Brisbane, in Australia, and is buried at nearby Toowong cemetery, where a monument is erected in his honour by the ‘Queensland Irish Association’ :
To The Memory Of KEVIN IZOD O’DOHERTY
The Irish Patriot.
Died 15th July 1905, Aged 81 Years
Whose Name Will Live In Irish History
And Whose Memory Ever Remains
En-Shrined In Irish Hearts At Home And Abroad.
Also His Gifted Wife “EVA of the NATION” Died 22nd May 1910, Aged 80 Years.
Requiescant In Pace.
This Monument Is Erected By Admirers Of The Late Doctor O`Doherty And His Wife, As A Mark Of Appreciation Of Their Un-Sullied Patriotism And Exalted Devotion To The Cause Of Irish Freedom.’
‘TOMÁS MacCURTAIN COMMEMORATION…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, April 1955.
In his oration, Domhnall O Cathain said –
“Are they afraid that they might have to admit that they have stepped down from the migher plane ; that they have stepped down from the pedestal they occupied as the personification of the Republic to a lower plane that has wavered in name from the Free State to ‘Éire’ and now the ‘Republic of Ireland’. To a plane that rejoices when a foreign nation after much deliberation and confusion decides to call it ‘Ireland’.
Woe and pain, pain and woe are my lot both night and morn. Poor Ireland! The Ireland that mothered proud sons like noble MacCurtain.
The world after weighty deliberation doesn’t know what to call her. Her once proud sons (sic – and daughters) decide to call her the ‘Republic of Ireland’ to save themselves embarrassment on constitutional fine points. Her fattest progeny won’t turn out to honour her martyred sons (sic- and daughters).
Because, unfortunately, it seems that the big bulk of MacCurtain’s comrades have abandoned the hard and narrow path of freedom…”
ON THIS DATE (7TH SEPTEMBER) 74 YEARS AGO : FREE STATER DECLARES FREE STATE “A REPUBLIC”!
In September, 1948, the then Free State ‘Taoiseach’, Fine Gael’s John A. Costello (pictured) was in Canada on ‘official business’ (ie on behalf of the State) as a guest of the ‘Canadian Bar Association’.
Mr. Costello was not known as a ‘party animal’ and was apparently not one to overindulge in regards to having a few pints (!), nor was he known to have a ‘short fuse’ in relation to how he dealt/worked with people, but his actions on that ‘business trip’ led to rumours that, on that occasion, he was a bit ‘giddy’ and perhaps not as prepared as he usually was to ‘suffer fools gladly’ (…we’re being very diplomatic, ain’t we..!!).
He was a barrister and nailed his political colours to the mast during the counter-revolution in this country when he was employed by the Staters as one of the main legal advisors to the Leinster House institution and proved himself worthy enough to be appointed as the State ‘Attorney General’ (1926-1932) and State ‘Taoiseach’ twice, from 1948 to 1951 and from 1954 to 1957. A ‘safe pair’ of hands for a (basterised) ‘country’ (as the Staters described it) that was still concerned about how proper countries would view its ‘legitimacy’.
And, actually, it was that concern that tripped Mr Costello up on his Canadian adventure!
He was at a ‘Canadian Bar Association’-organised State Dinner and was delighted to be allowed to sit beside Canadian Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King and was, we presume, equally honoured that the Governor General of Canada at the time, Lord Harold Alexander, was at the same function. Mr Costello and ‘his people’ had arranged beforehand with the organisers that a toast to the ‘President of Ireland’ would be called to accompany a toast to the King of England, and both toasts were printed on the official programme for the function.
The Irish toast would have been interpreted (by Mr Costello and ‘his people’ and, they hoped, by others) as an indication by Canada that it recognised that the new ‘country’ was now a separate entity from the ‘British Commonwealth’, thus enhancing the ‘legal standing of Ireland’ on the world stage.
Before any toast was called for, Mr Costello delivered a speech in which he referenced the Free State’s ‘External Relations Act’ and how said Act was seen by ‘the Irish Government’ (ie the Staters in Leinster House) as containing many “inaccuracies and infirmities”, insinuating that he and his fellow career politicians in Leinster House were not altogether happy with it but then, in typical duplicitous political-speak, while sitting firmly on the fence as he flew this particular political kite, he suggested that it might be in the best interest of all concerned not to enquire too legalistically into the nature of Ireland’s (sic) association with the ‘British Commonwealth’!
He was attempting to lay the groundwork for a discussion on that particular Act while, he hoped, distancing himself from doing so at the same time!
The Governor General of Canada at the time, Lord Harold Alexander, who was sitting at the same table as Mr Costello and heard his speech, was an ex-British General (and a unionist supporter) who was said to be a rather inept military man who gained medals because of connections rather than military actions, then took the floor and called for a toast to the King of England but never called for the agreed toast to the ‘President of Ireland’.
And to make matters worse, ‘Lord Harold’ had used his silver replica statue of the ‘Roaring Meg’ canon, which was used by the British in their on-going ‘peace keeping’ duties in Ireland (in Derry) as the centre piece display on their table. Mr Costello was not pleased, to put it mildly.
On the 7th September 1948 – 74 years ago on this date – Mr Costello held a press conference in the Railway Committee Room of the Ottawa parliament buildings and, out of the blue, announced that the ‘Irish Government’ (sic) were leaving the British ‘Commonwealth’ and were repealing the ‘Executive Authority (External Relations Act) 1936’ in order ‘to declare Ireland (sic) a Republic’.
This was described as a ‘momentous decision’ by the media and news of it reached the Dublin political ruling class within hours ; it was greeted with puzzlement, as there was no indication within Leinster House that such a decision was about to be announced, or even that it had been discussed and/or agreed on!
When Mr Costello and his team arrived home the ‘rumour’ circulated that he had made his “we’re a Republic!” claim in Canada on a whim, as a result of a personal insult, and it was mentioned again that he might have had too much to drink at the time which, as stated, was unlikely, as he wasn’t known to be a drinker.
However, he introduced a Bill in Leinster House on the ‘Republic’ issue, stating that same “…was not conceived nor is it brought into this House in a mood of flamboyant patriotism or aggressive nationalism, nor in a spirit of irresponsible isolationism..”
That Bill was passed and, on the 1st January, 1949, ‘the Republic of Ireland (sic) came into being’ (according to Leinster House, that is) and, on the 18th April, 1949, the Free State Republic (!) left the British Commonwealth, although some career politicians in Leinster House wouldn’t altogether object to re-joining that colonial institution.
John A. Costello died at 84 years of age on the 5th January, 1976, in Ranelagh, Dublin, and is buried in Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin.
The (32-County) socialist Republic has yet to be established.
ON THIS DATE (7TH SEPTEMBER) 112 YEARS AGO : IRISH ‘INVINCIBLE’ DIES IN POVERTY.
6th May, 1882 – the scene of the executions in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, pictured, of two top British officials, ‘Lord’ Frederick Cavendish, and his under secretary, Thomas Henry Burke, by members of ‘The Invincibles’.
The killings were condemned by both the Irish establishment and the churches ; indeed, Charles Stewart Parnell publicly condemned the killings, but he was implicated in same by letters published in ‘The Times’ newspaper, allegedly written by him. The letters expressed sympathies with the killers and suggested his public condemnation of them had been insincere.
Parnell denied he had written the letters and they were subsequently proven to be forgeries, penned by Richard Pigott, a journalist who had a long-standing grudge against Parnell. After he had cleared his name, Parnell received a standing ovation from his fellow MPs on his first return to the House of Commons, a ‘Welcome Back’, if you like, for one of their own.
However – months went by and no arrests were made. Then, in one day, twenty-six men (all members of ‘The Invincibles’) were arrested and charged with the ‘Phoenix Park murders’. The men soon realised that this was no ‘desperate face-saving’ expedition by the British ; one of the top members of the organisation, James Carey, had turned informer and his brother, Peter, also told the British all he knew about the group.
The other jarvey (cab-driver), Michael Kavanagh, also agreed to inform on the ‘Invincibles’. Between May and December 1883, fourteen ‘Invincibles’ passed through Green Street Courthouse – five of them were hanged – some of them not ‘properly’ so – they were then decapitated and their remains were ‘gifted’ to be used for ‘medical science’ purposes. One of those spared the death penalty but who was sentenced to life imprisonment instead was James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris (pictured), who was arrested on the evidence given by the other driver, Michael Kavanagh.
When he was first arrested, the British offered Fitzharris a deal if he, too, would turn informer, but he refused. His ‘trial’ actually ended with him being acquitted by the jury but the judge then halted proceedings and ordered that he be re-arrested ; he was then charged with being an ‘accomplice’ in the deed, found guilty, and sentenced to life.
During both of his ‘trials’, ‘Skin-the-Goat’ made a mockery of the proceedings and refused to recognise the so-called ‘authority’ of the British to carry-out such functions in Ireland.
James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris was fifty years of age when he began his life sentence – he was sixty-five when he got out of (Portlaoise) Prison, and things had changed ; his comrades were either dead or had moved away and, to the eternal shame of the Republican Movement, it turned its back on the man.
He had no job and no-where to live, he knew no-one and no-one wanted to know him. His choice now was to live on the street or sign himself into the workhouse – he chose the latter, and survived for the next twelve years as a pauper, between the gutter and the workhouse. He died in 1910 (on 7th September – 112 years ago on this date) aged seventy-seven. He was jobless, homeless and friendless when he died, alone, in the South Dublin Union Workhouse in James Street, Dublin.
James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris was twenty-five years young when he joined the Movement in 1858 and stayed true to his republican principles for fifty-two years, until he died. He had a hard life, in hard times, but he came through it and never recanted his actions or his beliefs. And, to his credit, he was working for a noble cause, unlike the two British agents/officials he encountered in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, on the 6th May, 1882, and unlike the informers and the politicians he encountered along the way.
Ulster loyalism displayed its most belligerent face this year as violence at Belfast’s Holy Cross School made international headlines.
But away from the spotlight, working-class Protestant communities are themselves divided, dispirited and slipping into crisis.
By Niall Stanage.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, Annual 2002.
Seán Mag Uidhir puts it more baldly ; “Politics is on the retreat within the UDA and the UDP. The political elements don’t carry any clout with the people who matter – the guys in the UDA and UFF who have the guns. Good people who led the UDP forward, like Gary McMichael and Davy Adams, just don’t have the muscle of a Johnny Adair.”
He also believes that the PUP has little chance of swelling its political base. Hemmed in by factors like the wider unionist community’s distaste for those with a history of paramilitary activity (“not a big vote catcher in the Bible Belt”, Mag Uidhir notes) and relentless DUP efforts to eliminate their electoral support, the party is left with little room for manoeuvre.
In addition, the loyalist paramilitaries have a well-known capacity for turning in upon themselves with murderous intensity, further hastening their community’s apparent slide towards chaos. Some observers believe that the UDA’s involvement in recent violence in North Belfast has been partly motivated by a desire to claw back credibility lost during last year’s disastrous Shankill Road feud…
ON THIS DATE (7TH SEPTEMBER) 327 YEARS AGO : PENAL LAW RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED.
We Irish were once even better known for our arts and crafts products than we are today, and our work with bronze, silver and gold opened-up a world-wide market for us, but that success was a double-edged sword.
British traders considered such success to be a threat to their trading profits and lobbied their government to make it illegal for the Irish to export any industrial product unless it was shipped through an English port, with an English permit after paying English fees and, in 1494, that new ‘law’ was introduced but, as it was hard to actually physically enforce it, ‘unofficial piracy’ became the ‘solution’ – British traders used armed vessels to attack and plunder trading ships that had left Irish shores.
In 1571, Britain’s ‘Queen’ Elizabeth ordered that no cloth or materials made in Ireland could be exported, even to England, except by English men in Ireland. The act was amended in 1663 to prohibit the use of all foreign-going ships, except those that were built in England, mastered and three-fourths manned by English sailors, and cleared from English ports. The return cargoes had to be unloaded in England. Ireland’s shipbuilding industry was thus destroyed and her trade with the Continent wiped out.
In 1695 – no doubt encouraged by the success of their sea piracy against the Irish – the British political Establishment decided to use similar tactics of piracy and savagery on dry land, in Ireland : on the 7th September 1695 – 327 years ago on this date – ‘Popery Laws’ (Penal Laws) were passed which not only restricted the rights of Catholics to have an education, to bear arms, or to possess a horse worth more than five pounds, but also curtailed the civil, religious, and economic rights of Catholics in Ireland. It would now be ‘illegal’ for a Catholic to marry a Protestant or inherit any land from a Protestant or buy land from them.
Catholics were not now ‘permitted’ to carry a weapon, to become a school teacher, to practice law, vote in parliamentary elections, hold public office, practice their religion or hold a commission in the army or navy.
One particularly devastating ‘law’ forced Catholic land owners to divide their estates among all their sons (in contrast to the preferred practice of handing most or all of the land to the eldest) unless they converted to the Church of Ireland. This left them with a choice between two evils : abandon their Catholic faith in order to save their holdings, or allow them to be successively subdivided into oblivion. Smaller holdings forced Irish ‘peasants’ to turn to a high yield crop for the bulk of their daily diet : the potato.
And so it transpired that we had ‘all our eggs in one basket’ (no pun intended), with devastating results…
‘SINN FÉIN VICTORY.’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.
Two Prisoner Candidates Elected To Thirty-Two County Parliament.
Northern Republicans On Road To Freedom.
Thursday, May 26, 1955, is a landmark in Irish history. A new chapter has been opened. The total vote cast for Sinn Féin candidates, great though it was, is of secondary importance to the new spirit of co-operation and voluntary service to Ireland that has spread throughout the country.
We are proud of the response made by the republicans in the North to Ireland’s call for freedom and unity. After years of betrayal and confusion – in spite of enemy tactics to disrupt and ‘friendly’ efforts to discourage – the republicans of the North have proved that the courage and idealism of the O’Neills and the O’Donnells live on.
The election is a phase in the Sinn Féin campaign to organise all Irishmen (sic) into one united people to end forever British occupation and influence in Ireland, to restore to the Irish people their fundamental right to govern themselves and to develop the resources of Ireland for the happiness and prosperity of the Irish people…
Thanks for the visit, and for reading!
Sharon and the team.