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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Working within British 'law' with a vow NOT to use force against the British:


Sharon O'Sullibhan • 1169 and Counting, August 2004

Ireland 1843 - 45 years after the 'United Irishmen' Rising, 5 years before the 'Young Irelanders' were to rise up in arms against British mis-rule, and 15 years before the Irish Republican Brotherhood was founded (on Saint Patricks Day, 1858).

The population of Ireland was in decline - 'famine' struck again and approximately 2 million people were to leave the island; one million people emigrated and the same number died. A Mr. Stephen de Vere was an eye-witness on one of the emigrant ships -

"Before the emigrant has been a week at sea, he is an altered man. How can it be otherwise? Hundreds of poor people, men, women and children, of all ages, from the drivelling idiot of ninty to the babe just born, huddled together, without light, without air, wallowing in filth and breathing a foetid atmosphere, sick in body, dispirited in heart. The fevered patients lying between the sound in sleeping places so narrow as almost to deny them a change of position. . . . by their agonised ravings disturbing those around them.

Living without food or medicine except as administered by the hand of casual charity, dying without spiritual consolation and buried in the deep without the rites of the Church."

Thus did one million Irish people 'live' on board the emigrant ships. . . . . . .

Ireland 1843 - 'famine' and emigration; one million Irish people put on board emigrant ships - from 90 years of age to babe's in arms - no food or medicine, no light, no air, no room. Thrown overboard when death took them. . . . . . .

It was around this time that a Mr. Nicholas Cummins, a Cork Magistrate, found himself in the village of Skibbereen, in Cork. The account of what he witnessed was published in 'The Times' newspaper -

"I shall state simply what what I saw there. On reaching the spot I was surprised to find the wretched hamlet apparently deserted. I entered some of the hovels to ascertain the cause, and the scenes which presented themselves were such as no tongue or pen can convey the slightest idea of. In the first hovel, six famished and ghastly skeletons, to all appearances dead, were huddled in a corner on some filthy straw, their sole covering which seemed a ragged horsecloth, their wretched legs hanging about, naked above the knees.

I approached with horror, and found by a low moaning they were alive - they were in fever, four children, a woman and what had once been a man. It is impossible to go through the detail: suffice it to say that, in a few minutes, I was surrounded by at least 200 such phantoms, such frightful spectres as no words can describe, either from famine or from fever. Their demoniac yells are still ringing in my ears, and their horrible images are fixed upon my brain. My heart sickens at the recital, but I must go on. . .

The same morning the police opened a house on the adjoining lands, which was observed shut for many days, and two dead corpses were found, lying upon the mud floor, half devoured by rats. A mother, herself in a fever, was seen the same day to drag the corpse of her child, a girl about twelve, perfectly naked, and leave it half covered with stones. In another house, within five hundred yards of the cavalry station at Skibbereen, the dispensary doctor found seven wretches lying unable to move, under the same cloak. One had been dead for many hours, but the others were unable to move either themselves or the corpse. . . . . . . "

But even still, some tried to fight back. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . the rats were feasting on dead Irish people, dying mothers using the last of their strength to try and bury their children, weak and dying people trapped under the weight of dead family members who had died while trying to keep their children warm. But some tried to organise resistance. . . . . . .

. . . the 'Repeal Association', led by Daniel O'Connell in the early 1840's was one of the largest mass movements in Europe at the time; it had its 'roots' in the 'Catholic Association' which, between 1823 and 1829, led by O'Connell, and supported by the Catholic Hierarchy, organised the vast majority of the population into a political body seeking emancipation - for at least six years (1823-1829) the campaign was relentless; civil unrest in Ireland and prolonged agitation in England itself concerning the issue.

The British Prime Minster, 'Sir' Robert Peel, relented in 1829, and Catholic Emancipation was passed at Westminster. Daniel O 'Connell was a 'God'; to the Irish, he could do no wrong, and he continued to press the British for more 'reforms' of the system.

. . . but, to the British, O'Connell was becoming more of a troublesome 'thorn in the side'. . . . . . .

. . . . . . in 1829, the British relented on the issue of Catholic Emancipation following a six-year campaign led by Daniel O'Connell, amongst others, in the 'Catholic Association' organisation. To the Irish, O'Connell was a hero; to the Brits, he was becoming troublesome. . . . . . .

On April 15th, 1840, Daniel O'Connell launched the 'Loyal National Repeal Association' (as it called itself from 1841 onwards - at its inception it was simply known as 'The Repeal Association': O'Connell was back-tracking with the name-change, all but apologising to the Brits for asking them to 'tweak' the system a little more in favour of the Irish.)

Daniel O'Connell made it clear that it was his desire that Ireland should remain under the British 'Monarchy' - saying, if you like, '. . . stay if you want, just treat us better. ' The only force to be used, he stated, was "moral force"; but even this was too much of a demand for Westminster - 'Sir' Robert Peel (Brit PM) replied that to 'grant' O'Connell his way "would not merely mean the repeal of an Act of (British) Parliament, but dismemberment of a great Empire. Deprecating as I do all war but above all, civil war, yet there is no alternative which I do not think preferable to the dismemberment of Empire."

A group within the 'Repeal Association' (or 'The Loyal National Repeal Association', as O'Connell insisted it be known as) supported Daniel O'Connell in his endeavours but were not convinced that "moral force" alone would win the day; they were the 'Young Irelanders', and they viewed their leader "with a mixture of affection and impatience. . . . . . . "

. . . . . . . 'The Young Irelanders', a group within the Daniel O'Connell - led 'Loyal National Repeal Association', were not convinced that " moral force" alone would win the day against the Brits. . . . . . .

In 1842, 'The Young Irelanders' established a newspaper called 'The Nation', in which they supported the objectives of the 'Repeal' Movement. The newspaper, under the control of 26 years-young Charles Gavan Duffy, supported Daniel O'Connell in his quest to publicise the 'Repeal' Movement, and helped to organise and promote outdoor meetings (known as 'Monster Meetings') at which the objectives of the 'Repeal' Movement could be advanced.

The year 1843 was promoted as 'The Year of Repeal', and Daniel O'Connell took his message to the people; in Mullingar, County Westmeath, he addressed a crowd of approximately 150,000 people. The British 'authorities' were watching these developments with interest and, while no doubt regarding the 'Loyal' Daniel O'Connell as no more than a 'rebel pet', were presumably more worried by the fact that the huge crowds he drew would be susceptible to the less 'loyal' message coming from 'The Young Irelanders'.

After the Mullingar 'Monster Meeting', which was viewed as a tremendous success by the organisers, 'The Nation' newspaper helped to publicise another such meeting - this time in Mallow, County Cork: 400,000 people turned up - the Brits were uneasy. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . huge outdoor meetings, known as 'Monster Meetings', were held throughout the country to promote Daniel O'Connell and the 'Loyal National Repeal Association'; 150,000 people in Mullingar, County Westmeath, 400,000 people in Mallow in County Cork - the Brits were getting worried with the level of support. . . . . . .

A third 'Monster Meeting' was held in Lismore, County Waterford - again, a crowd estimated at 400,000 people attended. At each meeting, the 'Young Irelanders' were recruiting, having made their position clear in the pages of their newspaper, 'The Nation', in leaflets, and by word of mouth - ie ' we get back whatever we can by O'Connell's methods, but will not confine ourselves to those methods alone. . . '

The British were perplexed at what to do regarding the 'Monster Meetings' - were they a 'safety valve' at which the 'agitators/rebels' could let off steam in a more-or-less harmless fashion, or were they a possible recruiting exercise at which the more militant element could 'plot and plan'?

However, after the 15th August 1843, the Brits decided to take action; for it was on that date that between 800,000 and one million people gathered on the Hill of Tara in County Meath for a 'Monster Meeting'. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . on 15th August 1843, another one of the 'Repeal' Movements' 'Monster Meetings' was held - this time on the Hill of Tara, in County Meath; the Brits, already worried at the level of support for these meetings, made their move. . . . . . .

The 'Young Irelanders' newspaper, 'The Nation', put the figure for those in attendance at the Hill of Tara 'Monster Meeting' at three-quarters of a million people "without fear of exaggeration"; Daniel O'Connell himself claimed it was at least one-and-a-half million people, while another newspaper of the day ('The Times'?) reported -

"The whole district was covered with men. The population within a days march began to arrive on foot shortly after daybreak and continued to arrive, on all sides and by every available approach, 'till noon. It was impossible from any one point to see the entire meeting. The number is supposed to have reached between 500,000 and 700,000 persons."

Other reports stated that O'Connell's marshals were on horseback, that the crowds arrived on foot and in carriages, banners were present, as were bands and groups in "historic fancy dress". Indeed, archaeologists have found human bones on the site, some of which are said to be 4,000 years old, and traces of wooden platforms, bits of clay pipes and, of course (!), whiskey bottles, dating back to the mid-19th Century. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . the 'Monster Meeting' held on 15th August 1843 (161 years ago, almost to the date) on the Hill of Tara was the biggest since they began; approximately one million people attended. . . . . . .

. . . . On that day in Irish history, Daniel O'Connell addressed a sea of people -

"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."

Again, it must be stressed that Daniel O'Connell would use only "moral force" to achieve what he termed ". . . Repeal of the Union " and, even then, favoured the island of Ireland remaining as a unit governed by the British 'Monarchy' - a 'new' coat of varnish on rotten timber. O'Connell could 'talk the talk. . . ' but. . . . . . .

However - the 'Monster Meetings' were a great success; even if the Brits did'nt think so. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . Daniel O'Connell's speech on the 15th August 1843 on the Hill of Tara in County Meath was heard by approximately one million people. The British 'authorities' were listening, too, but they didn't like it. . . . . . .

The 'Monster Meetings' were a great success - despite all the "misfortunes" (as the Brits would have it) that the Irish people were suffering in their daily lives; the desire, the demand, for a British withdrawal had not gone away. And, as stated here a few paragraphs back, after the Tara 'Monster Meeting' (15th August 1843) the Brits decided it just wasn't cricket: enough was enough.

A 'Monster Meeting' planned for Clontarf, in Dublin, which was to take place on Sunday, 8th October, 1843, was banned by the Brits on Saturday, 7th October 1843 - the day before the event was due to take place; Daniel O'Connell and others in the leadership of 'The Loyal National Repeal Association' quickly lodged a complaint. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . the British 'authorities' were worried about the level of support for the 'Monster Meetings'; on Saturday, 7th October 1843, they banned one such meeting which was due to take place the following day in Clontarf, Dublin. . . . . .

Daniel O'Connell protested at the banning, as did his colleagues in the leadership of the 'Loyal National Repeal Association' - they were later to be arrested by the Brits and sentenced to a year in prison for 'conspiracy', but this judgement was then reversed in the British House of Lords.

When, on that Saturday, the 7th of October 1843, O'Connell noticed that posters were being put-up in Dublin by the British 'authorities' stating that the following days meeting had been banned, he backed down; in this scribblers opinion he should have 'stuck to his guns' and ignored the British 'writ' - he should have went ahead with the Clontarf 'Monster Meeting' therby 'putting it up' to the Brits.

But. . . "moral force only" won the day; O'Connell issued his own poster that same day (ie Saturday 7th October 1843) as well as spreading the word through the 'grapevine' that the meeting was cancelled. That poster makes for interesting reading. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . with only 24 hours notice, the British had banned the 'Monster Meeting' planned for Sunday 8th October 1843, in Clontarf, Dublin. Daniel O'Connell backed down, and issued the following poster in reply to the British banning. . . . . . .


WHEREAS there has appeared, under the Signatures of " E. B. SUGDEN, C. DONOUGHMORE, ELIOT F BLACKBURN, E. BLAKENEY, FRED SHAW, T. B. C. SMITH, " a paper being, or purporting to be, a PROCLAMATION, drawn up in very loose and inaccurate terms, and manifestly misrepresenting known facts; the objects of which appear to be, to prevent the PUBLIC MEETING, intended to be held TO-MORROW, the 8th instant, at CLONTARF, TO PETITION PARLIAMENT for the REPEAL of the baleful and destructive measure of the LEGISLATIVE UNION.

AND WHEREAS, such Proclamation has not appeared until LATE IN THE AFTERNOON OF THIS SATURDAY, THE 7th, so that it is utterly impossible that the knowledge of its existence could be communicated in the usual Official Channels, or by the Post, in time to have its contents known to the Persons intending to meet at CLONTARF, for the purpose of Petitioning, as aforesaid, whereby ill-disposed Persons may have an opportunity, under cover of said Proclamation, to provoke Breaches of the Peace, or to commit Violence on Persons intending to proceed peaceably and legally to the said Meeting.

WE, therefore, the COMMITTEE of the LOYAL NATIONAL REPEAL ASSOCIATION, do most earnestly request and entreat, that all well-disposed persons will, IMMEDIATELY on receiving this intimation, repair to their own dwellings, and not place themselves in peril of any collision, or of receiving any ill-treatment whatsoever. And we do further inform all such persons, that without yielding in any thing to the unfounded allegations in said alleged Proclamation, we deem it prudent and wise, and above all things humane, to declare that said



T. M. RAY, Secretary.

3 O 'CLOCK P. M.

RESOLVED - That the above Cautionary Notice be immediately transmitted by Express to the Very Reverend and Reverend Gentlemen who signed the Requisition for the CLONTARF MEETING, and to all adjacent Districts, SO AS TO PREVENT the influx of Persons coming to the intended Meeting.


Browne, Printer, 36 Nassau Street.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

14 August 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

At One with the West Belfast MP
Kathleen O Halloran

Disbanding the Provos
Tommy McKearney

Lessons from the Ceasefire
Mick Hall

Jobs for the Boys
George Young

Working Withing British 'Law' With A Vow NOT to Use Force Against the British
Sharon O'Sullibhan

Conditions for Irish POWs Today
Deirdre Fennessy

The Faithful...
Liam O Comain

Globalised Indifference
Anthony McIntyre

No Human Being is Illegal!
Sean Matthews

8 August 2004

An Ireland of Equals!
Kathleen O Halloran

A Socialist in West Belfast
Anthony McIntyre

A Living Tapestry of Tongues
Sean Fleming

Paranoia is Healthy: Michael O'Connell's Right Wing Ireland?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

'The Labor of Reading'
Liam O Ruairc

Seamus Costello, Joe McCann and myself. . .
Liam O Comain

Anti-Semitism at the World Social Forum?
Cecilie Surasky



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