Mary O’Dwyer (née Breen) was not a typical Irish Republican woman. She did not have the support of a politically powerful family, in fact they actively discouraged her from joining any political group. She defied them, her parish priest, and others when she began canvassing in County Tipperary for Sinn Fein at age sixteen. Two years later, Mary joined (and eventually commanded) her local branch of Cumann na mBan.
On this day in Irish history, Jennie Wyse Power passed away in Dublin. Prior to her death was a mother of four, a restaurant owner, a senator, a rebel, a suffragist, the first president of Cumann na mBan, and a founding member of both Cumann na Saoirse and Sinn Fein.
For more about this super capable woman and her full and crazy life, please click here.
Easter is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to Irish Republicans it is a high holy day that has very little to do with religion. It is a day to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916, to mourn those who have been lost during the struggle for Irish freedom, and it is a reminder that the fight for a unified Ireland is unfinished.
Humans are animals. It’s not something we like to admit, but it is true. Our animalistic instincts come out when we are hurting and angry, when we need to protect ourselves or our loved ones, or when we are desperate and afraid. Over time we learn to control them, not letting that dark side rear its ugly head just because our toy was taken away at the playground and if we’re lucky that animal fades into the background of our minds, never needing to come out.
When James Martin Pacelli McGuinness was growing up in Derry a lot was wrong in his world. The boy who would come to be known as Martin was partially named after a pope in a society that was violently sectarian and discriminatory against Catholic communities like his. He saw things most of us thankfully never will. War raged in the streets as he grew up. He witnessed friends being mowed down by soldiers without consequence. He saw authorities break the law over and over without punishment. That animal inside him grew and raged, like many others in the region and Martin found his way into the Irish Republican Army at a relatively young age. He stayed for a heavily disputed amount of time. Let’s just call it many years.
The world lost a giant a few moments ago. Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was a warrior, a peacemaker, and so much more. It’s not shocking news, but it is devastating. It is safe to say that without Martin McGuinness, the IRA ceasefire(s) and the Good Friday Agreement would probably have never happened. He is remembered by some as a modern Michael Collins and any Irish historian would probably agree that there’s a good deal of truth in that comparison.
McGuinness shaped politics in the North for decades and this evening the region lost much more than a single man. My thoughts and condolences go out to his friends and family and I hope that they can find the comfort they need in the days to come. My candles are lit and there is nothing else I can say at the moment as I try to form my own thoughts into words and to process the passing of such a vital and important person in modern Irish history.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam
Sheena Campbell was an enthusiastic and dedicated woman, who was born on this day in 1962. She was a young Irish Republican whose groundbreaking ideas energized and won an important election for Sinn Fein in 1990. Those same ideas, called the torrent strategy, have shaped the foundations of every Sinn Fein campaign since. Ms. Campbell would probably be very proud of this achievement had she not been killed in 1992, just two years after reorganizing the way Sinn Fein prepared for elections.
The English government could never really figure out how to deal with Sinn Fein or its increasing popularity after the Easter Rising of 1916. They blamed the insurrection on the “Shinners” even though the burgeoning political party had little to do with the battle and they were surprised when much of the Irish population flocked to the organization after the government executed all the leaders of the Rising. They tried to downplay Sinn Fein’s popularity and remove its influence on many occasions, but most of the time whatever they tried had the opposite result. The same was true when the government decided to arrest nearly every leading ‘Shinner’ in Ireland ninety-eight years ago today.
In 1918 it was nearly impossible to get the Catholic church, politicians, working class citizens, labor unions, suffragettes, Unionists, and Irish Nationalists to join together for anything. Ireland was still reeling and recovering from the Easter Rising of 1916, which most of these groups were still arguing over (as they are still doing today), but there was one proposal that unified them all – the Home Rule/Conscription law. Continue reading
On this day, March 26th, in 2007, a historic meeting was made in the North of Ireland. Ian Paisley, an avid Protestant firebrand known for his “Never” phrases sat down with the other side of his coin, Gerry Adams, who led (and leads) Sinn Féin. The two men hammered out an agreement at Stormont that promised to form a power-sharing partnership by May 8th of that year. For the first time, the ideological opposites were able to come together and reach an agreement that was mostly fair for most of their constituents . Both Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Former British prime minister Tony Blair hail this first meeting and agreement as “a reconciliatory and transforming moment in British-Irish history.”
The New Yorker has just published a surprisingly in-depth article on Jean McConville and Irish history in the North – just in time to take advantage of the 15 minutes that most Americans devote annually to Ireland around St. Patrick’s Day. It’s brilliant timing and the article is very well done, even if it does rehash a lot of old information and it is certainly another strike at Gerry Adams and his past. It is clear yet again that this case will continue to haunt those who may be involved in it. No matter what side of the spectrum politically that you may fall on, this case was undeniably brutal. A single mother of ten, Jean McConville, was dragged out of her home at Divis Flats in front of her children, and wasn’t seen again until her body was discovered decades later. She is one of the “Disappeared” – people who were murdered by the Irish Republican Army whose bodies were never supposed to be discovered. Her story is the albatross around Gerry Adams’ neck and one that will never disappear again.