Irish Political Offenders, 1848-1922: Theatres of War

Irish Political Offenders, 1848-1922: Theatres of War

Irish Political Offenders, 1848-1922: Theatres of War

Irish Political Offenders, 1848-1922: Theatres of War

Synopsis

This is the most wide-ranging study ever published of political violence and the punishment of Irish political offenders from 1848 to the founding of the Irish Free State in 1922. Those who chose violence to advance their Irish nationalist beliefs ranged from gentlemen revolutionaries to those who openly embraced terrorism or even full-scale guerilla war.Se¿¿n McConville provides a comprehensive survey of Irish revolutionary struggle, matching chapters on punishment of offenders with descriptions and analysis of their campaigns. Government's response to political violence was determined by a number of factors, including not only the nature of the offences but also interest and support from the United States and Australia, as well as current objectives of Irish policy.

Excerpt

This book is about Irish political violence - promoted, plotted and carried out - and the imprisonment in England of successive generations of rebels. The story starts in 1848 with a great deal of noise and fury and the slightest kind of insurrection. It ends with the years of intense guerrilla war, terrorism and counter-terror, which were the hard birth of the Irish Free State. Young Ireland is the starting point since this was the first uprising to follow Catholic Emancipation (1829) and the Reform Act of 1832. These transformed politics at Westminster and in Ireland, in turn conditioning the response to rebellion. The establishment of the modern Irish state and the consequent amnesties and releases make 1922 an obvious finishing date.

The narrative extends to Australia, since three batches of Irish political offenders were despatched there: the Young Irelanders and some of their followers in 1849 to 1850, and the sixty-two Fenians who in September 1867 sailed on the Hougoumont, the last convict ship. Transportation, with its supporting prisons and penal stations in Australia, was conducted under the authority of imperial government, with policy determined by the Colonial and Home Offices in London. The account on occasion also includes happenings in Irish prisons, since these led to the removal of inmates to England. These instances apart, I do not consider imprisonment in Ireland. The substantial local element in the administration of Irish prisons, and the general political climate of the country, obliged and allowed them to operate in ways which differed quite considerably from their English counterparts. Political imprisonment in Ireland deserves its own volume.

This study deals in detail with political imprisonment over some three-quarters of a century and is very much a tale of two cities, Dublin and London. Here the word-spinning revolutionary, the insurrectionist, rebel, guerrilla and terrorist; there the politician, official, administrator and journalist. The only way to enter such different worlds, and to understand them in relation to each other, is to sift through those private words, letters and documents intended always to be kept within the camp. Officials are rather better at preserving their records than revolutionists, but a surprisingly large number of the latter's documents, letters and memoirs have survived: the ordinary man or woman

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