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Lost Dreams

Series of paintings by

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

The following series of paintings consists of portraits of Irish radical / revolutionary leaders covering the last 300 years. This year is the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising leading many to discuss the implications of the 100th anniversary in 2016. It is an interesting coincidence that the year 2016 will also be the 400th anniversary of the death of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. In terms of the struggle against colonialism the year 1616 marked the end of the beginning with the Flight of the Earls while the Easter Rising marked the beginning of the end.

The idea of this series is to explore Irish history in visual way, to re-present well-known Irish figures not as strict historical paintings but more of a modern interpretation of their lives and their times. There are notable exceptions, such as Daniel O'Connell who was essentially a monarchist and very much looked after his class interests. O'Connell 'cherished a romantic attachment for his "darling little Queen" (Victoria)' and when he took his seat as a supporter of the Whig Government in the House of Commons 'voted against a proposal to shorten the hours of child labour in factories' in 1838. [See P. Berresford, Ellis, A History of the Irish Working Class. London, Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1972, pps 100 and 104/5]. Thus the following series concentrates on those leaders who were revolutionary and progressive and who were concerned for the ordinary people of Ireland.

One artist who very successfully painted the history of the people of his country was the Mexican artist Diego Rivera who made many murals and paintings covering social and political issues of his time. The following work is an attempt to put forward and remind Irish people of their radical history in a similar way.


Hugh O Neill (c1540-1616)

Aodh Mór Ó Néill (anglicised as Hugh O'Neill), (c. 1540 - July 20, 1616), was an Irish chieftain of the late 16th century, who became 2nd Earl of Tyrone (known as the Great Earl). O'Neill's career was played out against the background of the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland, and he is best known for leading the resistance during the Nine Years War (Ireland), the strongest threat to English authority in Ireland since the Anglo-Norman conquest in 1172.

In 1598, a cessation of hostilities was arranged and a formal pardon granted to O'Neill by Elizabeth. Within two months he was again in the field, and on August 14 he destroyed an English army at the battle of the Yellow Ford on the Blackwater river, in which engagement Henry Bagenal was killed; it was the greatest of all setbacks to English arms in Ireland. If the earl had been capable of driving home his advantage, he might have successfully upset English power in country, as discontent had broken out in every part - and especially in the south, where James Fitzthomas Fitzgerald was asserting his claim to the earldom of Desmond. In reality, O'Neill required foreign intervention and, despite his growing reputation in Europe as a commander in the field, this was not yet forthcoming.

The Flight of the Earls, one of the most celebrated episodes in Irish history, occurred on September 14, 1607, when O'Neill and O'Donnell embarked at midnight at Rathmullen on Lough Swilly, with their wives, families and retainers, numbering ninety-nine persons, on a voyage for Spain. Driven by contrary winds to the east, the refugees took shelter in the Seine estuary and passed the winter in the Netherlands. In April 1608, they proceeded to Rome, where they were welcomed and hospitably entertained by Pope Paul V. O'Donnell died there the same year.

In 1613 O'Neill was outlawed and attainted by the Irish parliament; he died in Rome on the 20th of July 1616. Throughout his nine-year exile he was active in plotting a return to Ireland, toying variously both with schemes to oust English authority outright and with proposed offers of pardon from London.



Eoghan Rua O Neill (c1590-1649)

Eoghan Rua Ó Néill, anglicised as Owen Roe O'Neill (c. 1590–1649) ("Red Owen"), was one of the most celebrated of the O'Neill family of Ireland. As a young man, left Ireland in the Flight of the Earls to escape the English conquest of his native Ulster. After 40 years abroad, and having served with distinction for many years in the Spanish army, most recently in Flanders, he returned to Ireland to aid the Irish Rebellion of 1641. The subsequent war is known as the Irish Confederate Wars, part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Because of his military experience, O'Neill was recognised on his return to Ireland, at Doe Castle in Donegal (end of July 1642), as the leading representative of the O'Neills and head of the Ulster Irish. Owen Roe professed to be acting in the interest of Charles I; but his real aim was the complete Independence of Ireland as a Roman Catholic country, while the Old English Catholics represented by the council desired to secure religious liberty and an Irish constitution under the crown of England. More conceretely, O'Neill wanted the Plantation of Ulster overturned and the recovery of the O'Neill clan's ancestral lands.

Although Owen Roe O'Neill possessed the qualities of a general, the struggle dragged on inconclusively for three or four years. In 1646 O'Neill, furnished with supplies by the Papal Nuncio, Rinuccini, attacked the Scottish Covenanter army under Major-General Robert Monro, who had landed in Ireland in April 1642. On 5 June 1646 O'Neill utterly routed Monro at the Battle of Benburb, on the Blackwater.

In March 1646 a treaty was signed between Ormonde and the Catholics, which would have committed the Catholics to sending troops to aid the Royalist cause in the English Civil War. The peace terms however, were rejected by am majority of the Irish Catholic military and the Catholic clergy including the Nuncio, Rinuccini. O'Neill led his Ulster army, along with Thomas Preston's Leinster army, in a failed attempt to take Dublin from Ormonde. However, the Irish Confederates suffered heavy military defeats the following year at the hands of Parliamentarian forces in Ireland at Dungans Hill and Knocknanauss, leading to a moderation of their demands and a new peace deal with the Royalists. This time O'Neill was alone among the Irish generals in rejecting the peace deal and found himself isolated by the departure of the papal nuncio from Ireland in February 1649.

So alienated was O'Neill by the terms of the peace the Confederates had made with Ormonde that he refused to join the Catholic/Royalist coalition and in 1648 his Ulster army fought with other Irish Catholic armies. He made overtures for alliance to Monck, who was in command of the parliamentarians in the north, to obtain supplies for his forces, and at one stage even tried to make a separate treaty with the English Parliament against the Royalists in Ireland. Failing to obtain any better terms from them, he turned once more to Ormonde and the Catholic confederates, with whom he prepared to co-operate more earnestly when Cromwell's arrival in Ireland in August 1649 brought the Catholic party face to face with serious danger.

Before, however, anything was accomplished by this combination, Owen Roe died on 6 November 1649. the traditional Irish belief was that he was poisoned by the English, but it is now thought more likely that he died of disease.



Wolfe Tone (1763-1798)

Theobald Wolfe Tone was a son of Peter Tone, a coachmaker, and Margaret Lamport Tone; he was born on St. Bride's Street, just behind Dublin Castle. Though entered as a student at Trinity College, Dublin, Tone gave little attention to study, his inclination being for a military career; but after eloping with Matilda (or Mathilda) Witherington,  he took his degree in 1786, and read law in London at the Middle Temple and afterwards in Dublin, being called to the Irish bar in 1789. In October 1791 Tone  founded, in conjunction with Thomas Russell (1767-1803), Napper Tandy and others, the Society of the United Irishmen. The original purpose of this society was no more than the formation of a political union between Roman Catholics and Protestants, with a view to obtaining a liberal measure of parliamentary reform. In 1794 the United Irishmen, persuaded that their scheme of universal suffrage and equal electoral districts was not likely to be accepted by any party in the Irish parliament, began to found their hopes on a French invasion.

When the rebellion broke out in Ireland in 1798 Tone urged the Directory to send effective assistance to the Irish rebels, all that could be promised was a number of small raids to descend simultaneously on different points of the Irish coast. Wolfe Tone took part in one of the raids, under Admiral Bompard, with General Hardy in command of a force of about 3000 men, which encountered an English squadron near Lough Swilly on October 12, 1798. Tone, who was on board, refused Bompard's offer of escape in a frigate before the action, and was taken prisoner when the Hoche was forced to surrender. When the prisoners were landed a fortnight later, Sir George Hill recognized Tone in the French adjutant-general's uniform. At his trial by court-martial in Dublin, Tone made a speech avowing his determined hostility to England and his intention "by fair and open war to procure the separation of the Two countries," and pleading in virtue of his status as a French officer to die by the musket instead of the rope. He was, however, sentenced to be hanged on November 12, 1798, but he cut his throat with a penknife to cheat the noose, and died of the wound several days later at the age of 35 in Provost's Prison, Dublin, not far from where he was born.



Arthur O'Connor (1765-1852)

Arthur O'Connor was born County Offaly. In 1791 he became a Member of the Irish Parliament for Philipstown and supported the Catholic Bill of 1795. Under the influence of Lord Edward Fitzgerald O'Connor joined the Society of United Irishmen and became one its most radical members. In 1797 he published To the Free Electors of the County of Antrim for which he was arrested and charged with High Treason. O'Connor won his case and travelled to France to solicit aid for a rebellion in Ireland.

He became a general in Napoleon's army and married Elisa de Condorcet (in 1807), daughter of the French philosopher and statesman, the Marquis de Condorcet. He was known as General Condorcet O Connor of the French Service. His wife was a niece of the Marshal de Grouchy who commanded an abortive invasion of Ireland between 1796 and 1797.

In February, 1798 O'Connor [under the alias Colonel Morris], James O'Coigley and several others, was arrested and charged with High Treason in Margate, England on route to France. O'Connor pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to rebel and in May, 1798 he was acquitted but was immediately re-arrested on another High Treason charge. O'Connor was taken to London and from there to Dublin where he was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol in solitary confinement. Again O'Connor won his case and subsequently published A Letter to Lord Castlereagh and The State of Ireland (both 1798) before journeying to France where he tried in vain to rally support for another insurrection in Ireland. A prolific writer, most of his life after retiring from the army was devoted to literary work. He published many pamphlets on social and political subjects, and he helped to edit the works of Condorcet in 12 volumes (Paris, 1847-1849). He died at his château in Bignon on 25th April, 1852. Several of his direct descendants have been officers in the French army up to recent times.
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Robert Emmet (1780-1803)

Emmet was born in Sam's Cross, near Clonakilty in West Cork in 1780. His education at Trinity College, Dublin was cut short when he joined the patriotic society, the United Irishmen. At first, this group campaigned for parliamentary reform and an end to religious discrimination against Catholics (though Emmet and many United Irishmen were Protestants). However, when the United Irishmen were banned in 1791, the organisation changed into an underground military body, preparing for insurrection with the aid of Revolutionary France. When European conflict was renewed in May 1803 Emmet and other revolutionaries returned to Ireland to head a rebellion. The uprising began prematurely on July 23, 1803 in Dublin but did not get much further than an failed attempt to take Dublin Castle which collapsed into general rioting, during which the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland was murdered in his carriage. Emmet fled into hiding but was captured on 25 August, near Harold's Cross. He was tried for treason on 19 September, and on 20 September he was executed by hanging and beheading in Dublin.


James Fintan Lalor (1807-1849)

James Fintan Lalor was born in Tonakill, County Laois. Lalor was educated at Carlow Law College and became a chemist's apprentice in Portlaoise. He joined the Repeal Association but was expelled for siding with the militant Young Ireland faction.  In 1846 Lalor helped found the Irish Confederation and attempted to form a Tenant Rights Association in his native Laois. He wrote extensively for The Nation and The Irish Tribune in which he proclaimed 'the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland'.

When John Mitchel was arrested in 1848 Lalor helped John Martin found the Irish Felon before partaking in the June, 1848 Rising at Clonakilty near Thurles, County Tipperary after which Lalor was arrested, tried on a charge of Treason-Felony and imprisoned in Nenagh Gaol. Lalor was released in August, 1848 due to his increasing ill-health and on September 16th, 1849 he, together with Thomas Clarke Luby and John O'Leary, lead a Rising in Counties Tipperary and Waterford during which Lalor lead the attack on Cappoquin RIC Barracks. Lalor was arrested and died of bronchitis in a Dublin prison on December 27th, 1849. His funeral was attended by over 25,000 people.



John Mitchel (1815-1875)

Mitchel was born in Camnish, near Dungiven, County Londonderry, a son of John Mitchel, a radical Presbyterian minister with strong Unitarian sympathies, and his wife Mary Haslet. Mitchel was educated in Newry and Trinity College, Dublin. After a period as a bank clerk he began working as a solicitor in Banbridge in County Down in 1840. In 1845 he abandoned law to join the staff of the nationalist newspaper The Nation.

Mitchel's radicalism was too extreme for the newspaper and led to the prosecution of the paper's editor, Charles Gavan Duffy for seditious libel. In 1848 Mitchel set up his own newspaper, the United Irishman, where he called for rebellion against British rule in Ireland and criticised British mismanagement of the Irish Potato Famine. Mitchel's calls led to a charge of sedition. He was convicted under the emergency powers provisions of the recently enacted Treasury Felony Act and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land. It was during this period he wrote his famed Jail Journal. Mitchel escaped from the colony in 1853 and established the radical Irish nationalist newspaper The Citizen in New York, as an expression of radical Irish-American anti-British opinion. Mitchel returned to Ireland where in 1875 he was elected in a by-election to be an MP in the British parliament representing the Tipperary constituency. However his election was invalidated on the grounds that he was a convicted felon. He contested the seat again in the resulting by-election, again being elected, this time with an increased vote. However his sudden death avoided a constitutional crisis, with his opponent being returned unopposed in the third by-election.



Thomas Davis (1814-1845)

Thomas Davis was born in the town of Mallow in the county of Cork. He studied in Trinity College, Dublin, and received an Arts degree, precursory to his being called to the Irish Bar in 1838. He established The Nation newspaper with Charles Gavan Duffy and John Blake Dillon. He dedicated his life to Irish nationalism. He himself was a Protestant, but preached peace between Catholics and Protestants. To Davis, it was not blood that made you Irish, but the willingness to be part of the Irish nation. He wrote some stirring nationalistic ballads, originally contributed to The Nation, and afterwards republished as Spirit of the Nation, as well as a memoir of Curran, the Irish lawyer and orator, prefixed to an edition of his speeches; and he had formed many literary plans which were brought to naught by his death, from tuberculosis, in 1845 at the age of 30.



Charles Gavin Duffy (1816-1903)

Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, KBE, KCMG (12 April 1816 - 9 February 1903) Irish nationalist and Australian colonial politician, was the 8th Premier of Victoria and one of the most colourful figures in Victorian political history. Duffy was born in Dublin Street, Monaghan Town, County Monaghan, Ireland, the son of a Catholic shopkeeper. He was educated at St Malachy's College in Belfast and admitted to the Irish bar in 1845. In 1842 he married Emily McLaughlin, with whom he had one son. Emily died in 1845. He married Susan Hughes in 1846, with whom he had six children. Duffy became a leading figure in Irish literary circles. He edited Ballad Poetry of Ireland (1843) and other works on Irish literature.

Duffy was active in Irish Nationalist politics and was one of the leaders of the Young Ireland group, and a founder of the The Nation newspaper. He and Thomas Davis organised mass meetings across Ireland to demand the repeal of the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland. As a result of his activities he was arrested and convicted of seditious conspiracy in 1844, but was released after an appeal to the House of Lords. In 1852 Duffy was elected to the House of Commons for New Ross. In 1856, despairing of the prospects for Irish independence, he resigned from the House of Commons and emigrated with his family to Australia. After being feted in Sydney and Melbourne Duffy settled in Victoria. In early colonial Victoria, Duffy, with his political and literary reputation, was an exotic and romantic figure, particularly for the colony's large Irish community. For this reason he was feared and hated by many in the English and Scottish Protestant establishment, especially when he indicated his intention of entering Victorian politics.

A public appeal was held to enable him to buy the freehold property necessary to stand for the colonial parliament. He was immediately elected to the Legislative Assembly for Villiers and Heytesbury in the Western District. He later sat for Dalhousie and for North Gippsland. Duffy was Commissioner for Public Works in 1857, and was President of the Board of Land and Works and Commissioner for Crown Lands and Survey in the first two governments of John O'Shanassy from 1858 - 1859, and from 1861 - 1863. Like other radicals, he regarded unlocking the colony's lands from the grip of the squatter class as his main priority, but his 1862 lands bill was amended into ineffectiveness by the Legislative Council. The historian Don Garden writes: "Unfortunately Duffy's dreams were on a higher plane than his practical skills as a legislator and the morals of those opposed to him." In 1871 Duffy led the opposition to Premier James McCulloch's plan to introduce a land tax, on the grounds that it unfairly penalised small farmers. When McCulloch's government was defeated on this issue, Duffy became Premier and Chief Secretary (June 1871 to June 1872). Victoria's finances were in a poor state and he was forced to introduce a tariff bill to provide government revenue, despite his adherance to British free trade principles.

An Irish Catholic Premier was very unpopular with the Protestant majority in the colony, and Duffy was accused of favouring Catholics in government appointments. in June 1872 his government was defeated in the Assembly on a confidence motion allegedly motivated by sectarianism. He resigned the leadership of the liberal party to Graham Berry. When Berry became Premier in 1877 he made Duffy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, a post he held without much enthusiasm until 1880, when he quit politics and retired to the south of France. He was knighted in 1873 and made KCMG in 1877. He married for a third time in Paris in 1881, to Louise Hall, and had four more children in his 70s. One of his sons, John Gavan Duffy, was a Victorian politician between 1874 and 1904. Another, Frank Gavan Duffy, was Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia 1931 - 1935. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy died in Nice in 1903, aged 86.


Michael Davitt (1846-1906)

Michael Davitt was born in Straide, County Mayo, Ireland, at the height of the Great Famine, the second of five children born to Martin and Sabina Davitt. When he was 6 years old his family was evicted from their home in Straide. In 1865, he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the organization in Ireland of the Fenians; two years later he left off mill work to devote himself full time to the IRB, as organising secretary in Northern England and Scotland. In 1870 he was arrested in London while awaiting a delivery of arms, convicted of a felony, and sentenced to 15 years in Dartmoor Prison. On 16 August 1879, the Land League of Mayo was formally founded in Castlebar, with the active support of Charles Stewart Parnell. On October 21 it was superseded by the national Land League, of which Parnell was made President and Davitt was one of the secretaries. This united practically all the different strands of land agitation and tenant rights movements under a single umbrella and, from then until 1882, the "Land War" in search of the "Three Fs" (i.e. Fair Rent, Fixity of Tenure and Free Sale) was fought in earnest.

One of the actions taken by the Land League during this period was the campaign of ostracism against the land agent Captain Charles Boycott in the autumn of 1880. This incident led to Boycott abandoning Ireland in December and caused the word boycott to be coined.

In 1881 Davitt was again imprisoned for his outspoken speeches, later released and arrested yet again in 1883. Upon his release in 1882, he campaigned for land nationalisation and an alliance between the British working class, Irish labourers and tenant farmers. In 1882 he was elected Member of Parliament for County Meath but was disqualified from taking his seat as he was in prison at the time. He was subsequently elected for West Mayo in 1895.



Thomas Clarke (1857-1916)

Thomas James Clarke (March 11, 1857 - May 3, 1916) was born in 1857 on the Isle of Wight, though his family soon moved to Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland. At the age of 18 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in 1883 he was sent to London to blow up London Bridge as part of the dynamiting campaign advocated by Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, one of the IRB leaders exiled in the United States. Clarke was quickly captured and subsequently served 15 years in Pentonville Prison. Following his release in 1898 he married Kathleen Daly (21 years his junior), whose uncle, John, he had met in prison. Together they emigrated to America, where Clarke worked for the Clan na Gael under John Devoy. In 1907 he returned to Ireland where he opened a tobacco shop in Dublin and immersed himself in the IRB which was undergoing a substantial rejuvenation under the guidance of younger men such as Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough.

In 1915 Clarke and MacDermott established the Military Committee of the IRB to plan what later became the Easter Rising. The members were Pearse, Ceannt, and Joseph Plunkett, with Clarke and MacDermott adding themselves shortly thereafter. When an agreement was reached with James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army in January, 1916, Connolly was also included on the committee, with Thomas MacDonagh added at the last minute in April. Clarke was stationed in the headquarters at the General Post Office at Dublin during the events of Easter Week, where command of the rebel forces was largely under Connolly. Following the surrender on April 29, Clarke was held in Kilmainham Jail until his execution by firing squad on May 3rd at the age of 59. He was the second person to be executed, following Patrick Pearse.



James Connolly (1868-1916)

James Connolly (June 5, 1868 - May 12, 1916) was a Scottish Irish socialist leader. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland to Irish emigrant parents. He left school for working life at the age of 11, but despite this he would become one of the leading left-wing theorists of his day. Though proud of his Irish background he was also took a role in Scottish politics.

He is believed to have joined the British Army at the age of 14, and was stationed in Dublin where he would later meet his wife.

By 1892, he was an important figure in the Scottish Socialist Federation, acting as its secretary from 1895, but by 1896 he had left the army and established his Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP). While active as a socialist in Great Britain Connolly was among the founders of the Socialist Labour Party which split from the Social Democratic Federation in 1903. He was right hand man to James Larkin in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913, in response to the Lockout, he founded the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), an armed and well-trained body of labour men whose aim was to defend workers and strikers, particularly from the frequent brutality of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Though they only numbered about 250 at most, their goal soon became the establishment of an independent and socialist Irish nation.

Connolly stood aloof from the leadership of the Irish Volunteers. He considered them too bourgeois and unconcerned with Ireland's economic independence. In 1916 thinking they were merely posturing, and unwilling to take decisive action against Britain, he attempted to goad them into action by threatening to send his small body against the British Empire alone, if necessary. This alarmed the members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who had already infiltrated the Volunteers and had plans for an insurrection that very year. In order to talk Connolly out of any such rash action, the IRB leaders, including Tom Clarke and Patrick Pearse, met with Connolly to see if an agreement could be reached. It has been said that he was kidnapped by them, but this has been denied of late, and must at some point come down to a matter of semantics. As it was, he disappeared for three days without telling anyone where he had been. During the meeting the IRB and the ICA agreed to act together at Easter of that year.

When the Easter Rising occurred on April 24, 1916, Connolly was Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, and as the Dublin brigade had the most substantial role in the rising, he was de facto Commander in Chief. Following the surrender he was executed by the British for his role, although he was so badly injured in the fighting that he was unable to stand for his execution, and was therefore shot in a chair.



Patrick Pearse (1879-1916)

Patrick Henry Pearse was born in Dublin. His father, a Catholic convert, was from a Cornish nonconformist family and an artisan/stonemason, who held moderate home rule views and his mother, Margaret, was from an Irish-speaking family in County Meath. The Irish-speaking influence of his aunt Margaret instilled in him an early love for the Irish language. In 1896, at the age of only sixteen, he joined the Gaelic League (Conradh na nGaeilge), and in 1903 at the age of 23, he became editor of its newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis ("The Sword of Light").

Pearse's earlier heroes were the ancient Gaelic folk heroes such as Cuchulainn, though in his 30s he began to take a strong interest in the leaders of past republican movements, such as Theobald Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet, both, ironically, Protestant skeptics. As a cultural nationalist educated by the nationalist, decidedly anti-British Irish Christian Brothers, like his younger brother Willie, Pearse believed that language was intrinsic to the identity of a nation. The Irish school system, he believed, raised Ireland's youth to be good Englishmen or obedient Irishmen, and an alternative was needed. Thus for him and other language revivalists, saving the Irish language from extinction was a cultural priority of the utmost importance. The key to saving the language, he felt, would be a sympathetic education system. To show the way, he started his own bilingual school, St. Enda's School (Scoil Éanna) in Ranelagh, County Dublin, in 1908. Here, the pupils were taught in both the Irish and English languages. With the aid of Thomas MacDonagh, Pearse's younger brother Willie Pearse and other (often transient) academics, it soon proved a successful experiment. He did all he planned, and even brought students on fieldtrips to the Gaeltacht in the west of Ireland. Pearse's restless idealism led him in search of an even more idyllic home for his school. He found it in the Hermitage, Rathfarnham, where he moved St. Enda's in 1910.

Early in 1914, Pearse became a member of the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood, an organisation dedicated to the overthrow of British rule in Ireland and its replacement with a Republic. Pearse was then one of many people who were members of both the IRB and the Volunteers. When he became the Volunteers' Director of Military Organisation in 1914 he was the highest ranking Volunteer in the IRB membership, and instrumental in the latter's commandeering of the Volunteers for the purpose of rebellion. By 1915 he was on the IRB's Supreme Council, and its secret Military Committee, the core group that began planning for a rising while the Great War raged on the European mainland.

When eventually the Easter Rising did erupt on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, having been delayed by one day due to fears that the plot had been uncovered, it was Pearse, as President, who proclaimed a Republic from the steps of the General Post Office, headquarters of the insurgents, to a bemused crowd. When, after several days fighting, it became apparent that victory was impossible, he surrendered, along with most of the other leaders. Pearse and fourteen other leaders, including his brother Willie, were court-martialled and executed by firing squad. Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh and Pearse himself were the first of the rebels to be executed, on the morning of 3 May 1916. Pearse was 36 years old at the time of his death.


Eamonn Ceannt (1881-1916)

Éamonn Ceannt was born Edward Thomas Kent in Glenamaddy, Ballymore, County Galway, one of seven children. His father, ironically, was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. When he retired in 1892, he moved his family to Dublin. It was there that young Edward became interested in the Irish Ireland movement. He joined the Gaelic League, adopting the Irish version of his name (Éamonn), and becoming a master of the uilleann pipes, even putting on a performance for Pope Pius X. He was employed as an accountant for the Dublin Corporation.

Sometime around 1913 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and later was one of the founding members of the Irish Volunteers. As such he was important in the planning of the Easter Rising of 1916, being one of the original members of the Military Committee and thus one of the seven signatories of the Easter Proclamation. He was made commandant of the 4th Battalion of the Volunteers, and during the Rising was stationed at the South Dublin Union, with more than a hundred men under his command, notably his second-in-command Cathal Brugha, and W.T. Cosgrave. His unit saw intense fighting at times during the week, but surrendered when ordered to do so by his superior officer Patrick Pearse. Ceannt was held in Kilmainham Jail until his execution by firing squad on 8 May 1916, aged 34.


Sean Mac Diarmada (1884-1916)

Seán MacDermott was born John MacDermott in County Leitrim, where he was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. Later in life he adopted the Irish form of his name: Seán MacDiarmada. In 1908 he moved to Dublin, by which time he already had a long involvement in several Irish separatist organizations and cultural, including Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the Gaelic League. He was soon promoted to the Supreme Council of the IRB and eventually elected secretary. In 1910 he became manager of the radical newspaper "Irish Freedom", which he founded along with Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough. He also became a national organizer for the IRB, and was taken under the wing of veteran Fenian Tom Clarke. Indeed over the year the two became nearly inseparable. Shortly thereafter MacDermott was stricken with polio and forced to walk with a cane.

In November 1913 MacDermott was one of the original members of the Irish Volunteers, and continued to work effortlessly to bring that organization under IRB control. In May 1915 MacDermott was arrested in Tuam, County Galway, under the Defense of the Realm Act for giving a speech against enlisting into the British Army. He was released in September, where upon he joined the secret Military Committee of the IRB, which was responsible for planning the rising. Indeed it was MacDermott and Clarke who were most responsible for it. Being somewhat crippled, MacDermott took little part in the fighting of Easter week, but was stationed at the headquarters in the General Post Office. Following the surrender, he nearly escaped execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners, but was eventually recognized and summarily executed by firing squad on May 12 at the age of 33.


Joseph Plunkett (1887-1916)

Joseph Mary Plunkett (21 November 1887 - 4 May 1916) was an Irish nationalist, poet, and leader of the Easter Rising in 1916. His father, George Noble Plunkett, was a papal count and curator of the National Museum, although his father's cousin, a Protestant named Horace Plunkett was a Unionist who sought to reconcile both sides, but instead witnessed his own home burned down during the Anglo-Irish War. At a young age Plunkett was stricken with tuberculosis, and spent part of his youth in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and north Africa. He studied at the Jesuit College, Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire, and acquired some military knowledge from the Officers' Training Corps there. Throughout his life, Joseph Plunkett took an active interest in Irish heritage and the Irish language. He joined that Gaelic League, and took on as a tutor Thomas MacDonagh, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. The two were both poets with an interest in theater, and both were early members of the Irish Volunteers, joining their provisional committee.  Sometime in 1915 Joseph Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and soon after was sent to Germany to meet with Roger Casement who was negotiating with the German government on behalf of Ireland. Plunkett successfully got a promise of a German arms shipment to coincide with the rising.

Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the rising, and it was largely his plan that was followed. As such he may be held partially responsible for the military disaster that ensued, though one should realize that in the circumstances any plan was bound to fail. Shortly before the rising was to begin, Plunkett was hospitalized following a turn for the worse in his health. He had an operation on his neck glands days before Easter and had to struggle out of bed to take part in what was to follow. Still bandaged, he took his place in the General Post Office with several other of the rising's leaders such as Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke, though his health prevented him from being terribly active. His energetic aide de camp was Michael Collins. Following the surrender Plunkett was held in Kilmainham Gaol, and faced a court martial. Hours before his execution by firing squad at the age of 28, he was married in the prison chapel to his sweetheart Grace Gifford, a Protestant convert to Catholicism, whose sister, Muriel, had years before also converted and married his best friend Thomas MacDonagh, who was also executed for his role in the Easter Rising.


Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916)

MacDonagh was born in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary. Throughout his life he had a keen interest in Irish heritage and the Irish language. He moved to Dublin where he joined the Gaelic League, soon establishing strong friendships with such men as Eoin MacNeill and Patrick Pearse. His friendship with Pearse and his love of Irish led him to join the staff of Pearse's bilingual St. Enda's School upon its establishment in 1908, taking the role of teacher and Assistant Headmaster. Though MacDonagh was essential to the school's early success, he soon moved on to take the position of lecturer in English at the National University. MacDonagh remained devoted to the Irish language, and in 1910 he became tutor to a younger member of the Gaelic League, Joseph Plunkett. The two were both poets with an interest in the Irish Theatre, and formed a lifelong friendship. In 1912 he married Muriel Gifford, a Protestant who converted to Catholicism; their son, Donagh, was born later that year.

In 1913 both MacDonagh and Plunkett attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers and were placed on its Provisional Committee. He was later appointed commandant of Dublin's 2nd battalion, and eventually made commandant of the entire Dublin Brigade. Though originally more of a constitutionalist, through his dealings with men such as Pearse, Plunkett, and Sean MacDermott, MacDonagh developed stronger republican beliefs, joining the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), probably during the summer of 1915. Around this time Tom Clarke asked him to plan the grandiose funeral of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, which was a resounding propaganda success. Though credited as one of the Easter Rising's seven leaders, MacDonagh was a late addition to that group. He didn't join the secret Military Council that planned the rising until April 1916, weeks before the rising took place. The reason for his admittance at such a late date is uncertain.

Still a relative newcomer to the IRB, men such as Clarke may have been hesitant to elevate him to such a high position too soon, which begs the question; why admit him at all? His close ties to Pearse and Plunkett may have been the cause, as well as his position as commandant of the Dublin Brigade (though his position as such would later be superseded by James Connolly as commandant-general of the Dublin division). Nevertheless, MacDonagh was a signatory of the Easter Proclamation. During the rising, MacDonagh's battalion was stationed at the massive complex of Jacob's Biscuit Factory. On the way to this destination the battalion encountered the veteran Fenian, John MacBride, who on the spot joined the battalion as second-in-command, and in fact took over much of the command throughout Easter Week, although he had had no prior knowledge and was in the area by accident. As it was, despite MacDonagh's rank and the fact that he commanded one of the strongest battalions, they saw little fighting, as the British Army easily circumvented the factory as they established positions in central Dublin. MacDonagh received the order to surrender on April 30, though his entire battalion was fully prepared to continue the engagement. Following the surrender, MacDonagh was court martialled, and executed by firing squad on 3 May 1916, aged 38.



James Larkin (1876-1947)

James (Big Jim) Larkin (1874-1947), an Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, was born in Liverpool, England on 28 January 1874, of Irish parents. Growing up in poverty, he had little formal education and began working in a variety of jobs while still a child before becoming a full-time trade union organiser in 1905. He moved to Ireland in 1907, where he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, the Irish Labour Party, and later the Workers' Union of Ireland. In early 1913 Larkin achieved some notable successes in industrial disputes in Dublin, making frequent recourse to sympathetic strikes and blacking of goods. Two major employers remained non-union firms and a target of Larkin's organising ambitions: Guinness and the Dublin United Tramway Company. Guinness staff were well-paid and enjoyed generous benefits from a paternalistic management, and as a result they showed little interest in trade unions. This was far from the case on the tramways. The chairman of the Dublin United Tramway Company, industrialist and newspaper proprietor William Martin Murphy, was determined not to allow the ITGWU to unionise his workforce. On 15 August he dismissed forty workers he suspected of ITGWU membership, followed by another 300 over the next week. On 26 August the tramway workers officially went on strike. Led by Murphy, over four hundred of the city's employers retaliated by requiring their workers to sign a pledge not to be a member of the ITGWU and not to engage in sympathetic strikes.

The resulting industrial dispute was the most severe in Ireland's history. Employers in Dublin engaged in a lockout of their workers when the latter refused to sign the pledge, employing blackleg labour from Britain and elsewhere in Ireland. Dublin's workers, amongst the poorest in the then United Kingdom, were forced to survive on generous but inadequate donations from the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) and other sources in Ireland, distributed by the ITGWU. For seven months the lockout affected tens of thousands of Dublin's workers and employers, with Larkin portrayed as the villain by Murphy's three main newspapers, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent and the Evening Herald. Other leaders in the ITGWU at the time were James Connolly and William X. O'Brien, while influential figures such as Pádraig Pearse, Countess Markievicz and William Butler Yeats supported the workers in the generally anti-Larkin media. The lockout eventually concluded in early (1914) when the calls for a sympathetic strike in Britain from Larkin and Connolly were rejected by the British TUC. Although the actions of the ITGWU and the smaller UBLU were unsuccessful in achieving substantially better pay and conditions for the workers, they marked a watershed in Irish labour history. The principle of union action and workers' solidarity had been firmly established. Perhaps even more importantly, Larkin's rhetoric, condemning poverty and injustice and calling for the oppressed to stand up for themselves, made a lasting impression.

In September 1923 Larkin formed the Irish Worker League (IWL), which was soon afterwards recognised by the Communist International (the Comintern) as the Irish section of the world communist movement. In 1924 Larkin attended the Comintern congress and was elected to its executive committee. However, the League was not organised as a political party, never held a general congress and never succeeded in being politically effective. Its most prominent activity in its first year was to raise funds for republican civil war prisoners. In the September 1927 general election, Larkin ran in North Dublin and was elected. This was to be the only time that a self-proclaimed communist was elected to Dáil Éireann. However, as a result of a libel award against him won by William O'Brien, which he had refused to pay, he was an undischarged bankrupt and could not take up his seat.

Larkin was unsuccessful in his attempts in the following years to gain a position as a commercial agent in Ireland for the Soviet Union, and this may have contributed to his disenchantment with the communist cause. The Soviets, for their part, were increasingly impatient with his ineffective leadership. From the early 1930s Larkin drew away from the Soviet Union. While in the 1932 general election he stood without success as a communist, in 1933 and subsequently he ran as "Independent Labour". During this period he also engaged in a rapprochement with the Catholic Church. In 1936 he regained his seat on Dublin Corporation. He then regained his Dáil seat in the 1937 general election but lost it again the following year. James Larkin died in his sleep on 30 January 1947. His funeral mass was celebrated by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, and thousands lined the streets of the city as the hearse passed to Glasnevin Cemetery.


Countess Markiewicz (1868-1927)

Born Constance Georgine Gore-Booth, the elder daughter of baronet and explorer, Sir Henry Gore-Booth, she lived as a child at the Anglo-Irish family's ancestral home, Lissadell House in County Sligo in western Ireland. She joined James Connolly's Irish Citizen Army (ICA), and, though a member of the landed gentry, she devoted herself to the cause of socialism. As a member of the ICA she took part in the 1916 Easter Rising, shooting a British sniper at one point, and was sentenced to death by the British government. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment due to her gender, and she was released under the amnesty of 1917. In the December 1918 General Election, Markiewicz was elected for the constituency of Dublin St Patrick's as one of 73 Sinn Féin MPs. This made her the first woman elected to the British House of Commons. However, in line with Sinn Féin policy, she refused to take her seat.



Roger Casement (1864-1916)

Casement was born in Sandycove, near Dublin to a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother, who died when he was a baby. By the time he was ten, his father was also dead, and he was afterwards raised by Protestant paternal relatives in Ulster. Casement went to Africa for the first time in 1883, at the age of only nineteen, working in Congo Free State for several companies and for King Léopold II of Belgium's Association Internationale Africaine. While in Congo, he also met the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley during the latter's Emin Pasha Relief Expedition and became acquainted with the young Joseph Conrad, who was a sailor but not yet a published writer. In 1892 Roger Casement left Congo to join the Colonial Office in Nigeria. In 1895 he became consul at Lourenço Marques (now Maputo).

By 1900 he was back in Congo, at Matadi, and founded the first British consular post in that country. In his dispatches to the Foreign Office he denounced the mistreatment of indigenous people and the catastrophic consequences of the forced labour system. In 1903, after the House of Commons, pressed by humanitarian activists, passed a resolution about Congo, Casement was charged to make an inquiry into the situation in the country. The result of his enquiry was his famous Congo Report.

Casement resigned from colonial service in 1912. The following year, he joined the Irish Volunteers, and became a close friend of the organisation's chief of staff Eoin MacNeill. When the First World War broke out in 1914, he attempted to secure German aid for Irish independence, sailing for Germany via America. The Germans, who were sceptical of Casement but nonetheless aware of the military advantage they could gain from an uprising in Ireland, offered the Irish 20,000 guns, 10 machine guns and accompanying ammunition, a fraction of the amount of weaponry Casement had hoped for.

The German weapons never reached Ireland. The ship in which they were travelling, a German cargo vessel, the Libau, was intercepted, even though it had been thoroughly disguised as a Norwegian vessel, Aud Norge. Casement left Germany in a submarine, the U-19, shortly after the Aud sailed. Believing that the Germans were toying with him from the start, and purposely providing inadequate aid that would doom a rising to failure, he decided he had to reach Ireland before the shipment of arms, and convince Eoin MacNeill (who he believed was still in control) to cancel the rising. In the early hours of April 21, 1916, two days before the rising was scheduled to begin, Casement was put ashore at Banna Strand in County Kerry. Too weak to travel (he was ill), he was discovered and subsequently arrested on charges of treason, sabotage and espionage against the Crown. Following a highly publicized trial, he was stripped of his knighthood. After an unsuccessful appeal against the death sentence, he was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on 3 August 1916, at the age of 51.


Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington (1877-1946)

Hanna Sheehy (May 27, 1877 — April 20, 1946) was born in Kanturk, County Cork, a daughter of David Sheehy, Irish Parliamentary Party Westminster MP, who was also, intriguingly, the brother of Father Eugene Sheehy, a priest who educated Eamon de Valera in Limerick. Hanna Sheehy (or Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, as she was known after marrying Francis Sheehy-Skeffington) is remembered as an Irish feminist who, along with her husband and James Cousins founded the Irish Women's Franchise League in 1908 with the aim of obtain women's voting rights. Sheehy was also a founding member of the Irish Women's Workers' Union as well as an author whose works deeply opposed British imperialism in Ireland. Sheehy was educated at the Royal University in Dublin where she received a Master of Arts Degree. Sheehy married in this period, becoming Sheehy-Skeffington and in 1908 founded the Irish Women's Franchise League, a group aiming for women's voting rights. She lost her teaching job in 1913 when she was arrested and put in prison for three months after throwing stones at Dublin Castle. Whilst in jail she started a hunger strike but was released under the Prisoner's Temporary Discharge of Ill Health Act and was soon rearrested. Sheehy's father, David Sheehy, former Irish Parliamentary Party MP, remained loyal to the British government throughout her numerous imprisonments, which caused a rift between him and his daughter.

In 1916 Sheehy's husband, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, was shot dead during the Easter Rising on the orders of a British army officer, Colonel Bowen-Colthurst. Bowen-Colthurst was sent temporarily to a Canadian hospital after being adjudged insane in the aftermath of the Rising, but he was released with a pension to settle in Canada. Sheehy refused any kind of compensation for her husband's death, and soon afterwards she travelled to the United States to publicise the political situation in Ireland. She published British Militarism as I have known it which was banned in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until after the First World War. Upon her return to Britain she was once again imprisoned, this time in Holloway prison. After being released Sheehy supported the anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War. During the 1930s she was assistant editor of An Phoblacht, a Sinn Féin newspaper. During this period she was arrested once more for breaking the Northern Ireland Exclusion Order.


Frank Ryan (1902-1944)

Frank Ryan attended University College Dublin where he was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) training corps, but left before graduating in order to join the IRA's East Limerick Brigade in 1922. He fought on the Republican side in the Irish Civil War, and was wounded and interned. In 1933, Ryan, along with George Gilmore and Peadar O'Donnell, proposed the establishment of a new left-republican organisation to be called the Republican Congress. This would form the basis of a mass revolutionary movement appealing to the working class and small farmers. In late 1936 Frank Ryan travelled to Spain with about 80 men he had succeeded in recruiting to fight in the International Brigades on the Republican side. He fought in a number of engagements until he was seriously wounded in March 1937, and returned to Ireland to recover. He took advantage of the opportunity of his return to launch another left-republican newspaper, entitled The Irish Democrat. On his return to Spain, he again served in the war until he was captured by Nationalist forces in March 1938. He was court-martialled and sentenced to death. In July 1940 the Abwehr arranged for his "escape", effectively abducting him and taking him to Berlin, since they considered that a prominent Irish republican might be useful. The short remainder of Frank Ryan's life was spent in Germany, marked by ill-health. In January 1943 he suffered a stroke, and died in June 1944.



Máirtín Ó Cadhain

Máirtín Ó Cadhain (1906 - 1970) was one of the most important Irish language writers of the twentieth century.

Born in Connemara, he studied to be a teacher, but due to his difficulties with priests and other authority figures, as well as his social and political commitment, this career turned out to be abortive. In the nineteen thirties, he participated in the land campaign of the native speakers, which led to the establishment of the Ráth Cairn neo-Gaeltacht in County Meath. Subsequently, he was arrested and interned during the Emergency years on the Curragh internment camp in County Kildare, due to his involvement in the illegal activities of the Irish Republican Army.

Ó Cadhain's politics were the usual Irish nationalist mix of vague socialism and social radicalism tempered with a rhetorical anti-clericalism. However, in his writings concerning the future of the Irish language he was rather practical about the position of the Church as a social and societal institution, craving rather for a wholehearted commitment to the language cause even among Catholic churchmen: as the Church was there anyway, it would be better that it be a Church happy to address the believers in the national idiom.

As a writer, Ó Cadhain is universally acknowledged to be a pioneer of Irish-language modernism. His Irish was the dialect of Connemara - indeed, he is often accused of an unnecessarily dialectal usage in grammar and orthography even in contexts where realistic depiction of Connemara dialect was not called for - but he was happy to cannibalise other dialects, classical literature and even Scots Gaelic for the sake of linguistic and stylistic enrichment of his own writings. Consequently, much of what he wrote is reputedly hard to read for a non-native speaker.

He was a prolific writer of short stories. His collections of short stories include Cois Caoláire, An Braon Broghach, Idir Shúgradh agus Dháiríre, An tSraith Dhá Tógáil, An tSraith Tógtha and An tSraith ar Lár. He also wrote three novels, of which only Cré na Cille was published during his lifetime. The other two, Athnuachan and Barbed Wire, appeared in print only recently. The first two are more or less absurd depictions of Gaeltacht life; the third one is a linguistic experiment on a par with James Joyce's Ulysses. He also wrote several political or linguo-political pamphlets. His political views can most easily be discerned in a small book about the development of Irish nationalism and radicalism since Theobald Wolfe Tone, Tone Inné agus Inniu; and in the beginning of the sixties, he wrote - partly in Irish, partly in English - a comprehensive survey of the social status and actual use of the language in the west of Ireland, published as An Ghaeilge Bheo - Destined to Pass. Due to Máirtín Ó Cadhain's character as Gaelic Ireland's most important writer and littérateur engagé with frequent difficulties to get his work edited, new Ó Cadhain titles of hitherto unpublished writings have appeared at least every two years since the publication of Athnuachan in the mid-nineties. More is probably still forthcoming.

Máirtín Ó Cadhain was born and educated in Connemara, County Galway where he became a school-teacher. In the 1930's he joined the IRA and lost his teaching post because a local Catholic Bishop objected to Ó Cadhain's republicanism. He became an IRA Recruiting Officer in Dublin and is said to have recruited Brendan Behan among others. In 1938 Ó Cadhain was appointed to the IRA Army Council and published his first collection of short stories Idir Shúgradh agus Dáiríre in 1939. Ó Cadhain was interned in the Curragh Internment Camp from 1940-1945 during which time he taught Irish and Welsh to his fellow internees, including Michael O'Riordan and Liam Brady.
In 1948 Ó Cadhain published An Braon Broghach and in 1949, what many consider to be the greatest novel published in Irish in the 20th century, Cré na Cille. In the same year Ó Cadhain became a translator for the Oireachtas, translating European literary classics into Irish.

In 1952 Ó Cadhain published Cois Caoláire and in 1956 he joined the staff of the Department of Modern Irish at TCD. Throughout the 1950's and 1960's Ó Cadhain retained his interest in politics and was a member of Wolfe Tone Society and supported the first Republican Club in TCD. In 1967 Ó Cadhain published An tSraith an Lár and in 1969 he was appointed Professor of Modern Irish at TCD. Ó Cadhain published An tSraith Dá Tógáil and was created a Fellow of TCD shortly before his death in 1970. His Selected Poems was published posthumously in 1984.