Irish, Catholic and Scouse: The History of the Liverpool-Irish, 1800-1939

By John Belchem | Go to book overview
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11
The Liverpool-Irish
and the Irish Revolution

THE COMPLEX SUCCESSION of events in Ireland between 1916 and 1923, conveniently condensed by Peter Hart into the single heading of 'revolution'—a rising, an election, a war of independence (with various alternate names), a truce, a treaty, another election and then a civil war —elicited a bewildering array of responses in Irish Liverpool.1 The various forms of expatriate nationalist activity and expression were all apparent in accentuated form, reinvigorated and fused in a 'revolutionary' compound of competing, occasionally complementary, elements. Having played a relatively minor participatory role in the Easter Rising, the Liverpool-Irish revolutionary underground came to the fore in the Irish wars, drawing upon lengthy experience, stretching back beyond Fenian times, of gun-running, rescue and refuge, simultaneous and diversionary activity. Separatist republican forms of politics, previously overshadowed by repeal and Home Rule formulations, gained new purchase through the Irish Self-Determination League and its first national president, the former Harfordite P.J. Kelly. Co-ordinated and energised by the Council of Irish Societies, there was a resurgence of cultural nationalism with aims and aspirations beyond the ethnic purity and stultifying censorship of the Edwardian years. Thus, there was over-arching cover for underground and other forms of 'revolutionary' activism, including a significant female contribution through the Cumann na mBan. Throughout all this, however, T.P. O'Connor and the INP, seemingly relics of the pre-revolutionary past, consolidated their electoral hold, but with little prospect either of extending their resonance beyond the Liverpool-Irish enclave or of long-term political survival once the 'revolution' in Ireland had run its course.

1 Peter Hart, The I.R.A. at War 1916-1923, Oxford, 2003, pp.3-29.

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