Sunday, 19 October 2014

Biography of Eamon de Valera - from 1916 rising to President of Ireland

The following excerpt is taken from a biography of Eamon De Valera on Wikipedia:

De Valera under prisoners’ escort 1916
Easter Rising

On 24 April 1916 the Easter Rising began. De Valera's forces occupied Boland's Mill, Grand Canal Street in Dublin, his chief task being to cover the southeastern approaches to the city. After a week of fighting the order came from Patrick Pearse to surrender. De Valera was court-martialed, convicted, and sentenced to death, but the sentence was immediately commuted to penal servitude for life. It has been argued that he was saved by four facts. First, he was one of the last to surrender and he was held in a different prison from other leaders, thus his execution was delayed by practicalities. Second, the US Consulate in Dublin made representations before his trial (i.e., was he actually a United States citizen and if so, how would the United States react to the execution of one of its citizens?) while the full legal situation was clarified.

The fact that the UK was trying to bring the USA into the war in Europe at the time made the situation even more delicate, though this did not prevent the execution of Tom Clarke who had been a US citizen since 1905. Third, when Lt-Gen Sir John Maxwell reviewed his case he said, "Who is he? I haven't heard of him before. I wonder would he be likely to make trouble in the future?"

On being told that de Valera was unimportant he commuted the court-martial's death sentence to life imprisonment. De Valera had no Fenian family or personal background and his MI5 file in 1916 was very slim, only detailing his open membership in the Irish Volunteers. Fourth, by the time de Valera was court-martialed on 8 May, political pressure was being brought to bear on Maxwell to halt the executions; Maxwell had already told the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith that only two more were to be  executed, Seán Mac Diarmada and James Connolly, although they were court-martialed the day after de Valera. His late trial, representations made by the American Consulate, his lack of Fenian background and political pressure all combined to save his life, though had he been tried a week earlier he would probably have been shot.

After imprisonment in Dartmoor, Maidstone and Lewes prisons, de Valera and his comrades were released under an amnesty in June 1917. On 10 July 1917 he was elected member of the House of Commons for East Clare (the constituency which he represented until 1959) in a by-election caused by the death of the previous incumbent Willie Redmond, brother of the Irish Party Leader John Redmond who had died fighting in World War I. In the 1918 general election he was elected both for that seat and Mayo East.

In 1917 he was elected president of Sinn Féin, the party which had been blamed incorrectly for provoking the Easter Rising. This party became the political vehicle through which the survivors of the Easter Rising channeled their republican ethos and objectives. The previous president of Sinn Féin, Arthur Griffith, had championed an Anglo-Irish dual-monarchy based on the Austro-Hungarian model, with independent legislatures for both Ireland and Britain. This solution would, mutatis mutandis, emulate the situation following the Constitution of 1782 under Henry Grattan, until Ireland was legislatively subsumed into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.

President of Dáil Éireann

Sinn Féin won a huge majority in the 1918 general election, largely thanks to the British executions of the 1916 leaders, the threat of conscription with the Conscription Crisis of 1918 and the first past the post ballot. They won 73 out of 105 Irish seats, with about 47% of votes cast. 25 seats were uncontested. On 21 January 1919, 27 Sinn Féin MPs (the rest were imprisoned or impaired), calling themselves Teachtaí Dála (TDs), assembled in the Mansion House in Dublin and formed an Irish parliament, known as Dáil Éireann (translatable into English as the Assembly of Ireland). A ministry or Aireacht was formed, under the leadership of the Príomh Aire (also called President of Dáil Éireann) Cathal Brugha.

De Valera had been re-arrested in May 1918 and imprisoned and so could not attend the January session of the Dáil. He escaped from Lincoln Gaol, England in February 1919. As a result he replaced Brugha as Príomh Aire in the April session of Dáil Éireann.

In the hope of securing international recognition, Seán T. O'Kelly was sent as envoy to Paris to present the Irish case to the Peace Conference convened by the great powers at the end of World War I. When it became clear by May 1919 that this mission could not succeed, de  Valera decided to visit the United States. The mission had three objectives: to ask for official recognition of the Irish Republic, to float a loan to finance the work of the Government (and by extension, the Irish Republican Army), and to secure the support of the American people for the republic. His visit lasted from June 1919 to December 1920 and had mixed success. One negative outcome was the splitting of the Irish-American organisations into pro- and anti-de Valera factions. He met the young Harvard-educated leader from Puerto Rico, Pedro Albizu Campos, and forged a lasting and useful alliance with him.

De Valera managed to raise $5,500,000 from American supporters, an amount that far exceeded the hopes of the Dáil. Of this, $500,000 was devoted to the American presidential campaign in 1920 which helped him gain wider public support there. In 1921 it was said that $1,466,000 had already been spent, and it is unclear when the net balance arrived in Ireland. Recognition was not forthcoming in the international sphere. He also had difficulties with various Irish-American leaders, such as John Devoy and Judge Daniel F. Cohalan, who resented the dominant position he established, preferring to  retain their control over Irish  affairs in the United States.

Meanwhile in Ireland, conflict between the British authorities and the Dáil (which the British declared illegal in September 1919) escalated into the Irish War of Independence. De           Valera left day-to-day government, during his eighteen-month absence in America, to Michael Collins, his 29-year-old Minister for Finance. De Valera and Collins would later become opponents during the Irish Civil War.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

De Valera’s escape from Lincoln Prison

An online account of the escape from Lincoln Prison can be found under ‘Eamon de Valera’s escape from Lincoln Prison’ Lincolnshire Past & Present:

Michael Collins

'   On the 3rd of February 1919 Éamon de Valera (1882-1975), arguably the most famous and influential Irish statesman of modern times, along with two colleagues, Seàn McGarry and Seàn Milroy, made a dramatic escape from Lincoln Prison. Few locals know the dramatic story; it sounds like a Hollywood movie script, though at times it is more Keystone Cops than James Bond.

Despite being the only country with which the United Kingdom shares a land border, few British people have heard of Éamon de Valera, even though he dominated twentieth-century Irish politics. After the failed Easter Uprising he and Michael Collins led the IRA in the struggle for independence. De Valera founded Fianna Fàil, the political party which dominated   twentieth-century Irish politics, and he himself was head of the Irish government for over two decades (1932-48, 1951-4 and 1957-9) and was President of Ireland from 1959 to 1973. During Easter Week 1916, Irish republicans organised an uprising in Dublin; it was soon crushed and the British authorities, shocked at what they saw as a treacherous stab in the back when so many young men were at that moment laying down their lives on the Western front, unwisely decided to execute the leaders. This rather brutal summary justice backfired making the rebels far more popular in Ireland, especially de Valera, who, thanks to having a US citizenship, escaped with just a short jail sentence. In an attempt to discredit the IRA, the British authorities fabricated evidence of a plot between the Irish and the Germans and, on the 17th of May 1918, arrested de Valera while he was on his way home. Michael Collins (the director of IRA intelligence) had warned him and other leading Irish nationalists the British authorities were intending to round them up, but Éamon de Valera, like most of the rest, ignored the advice not realising quite how sophisticated Collins’ intelligence network had become.

 The following day the British shipped de Valera and 72 of his comrades to Holyhead; some went to Usk Prison while others, including de Valera, spent a week in Gloucester before journeying to Lincoln Prison on Greetwell Road. It soon became apparent the authorities had fabricated the evidence for the plot and in December 1918 the political wing of the IRA, Sinn Féin, won almost every Irish seat outside the loyalist strongholds in Ulster. With the war over de Valera wanted to put the case for Irish independence to the post-war peace conference in Paris; he feared the British would release the Irish nationalists only after the signing of the treaty. If he could escape, it would humiliate his enemies and put Ireland on the international political agenda.

De Valera needed an escape plan and an opportunity soon arose. The prisoners noticed a door in the exercise yards that lead to the outside; if they could get a key they could escape. He served as the alter server in the prison’s chapel and this allowed him to make an impression of the Chaplain’s key into a hot bar of soap. Seàn Milroy drew a cartoon of a drunken man trying to get a large key into a tiny lock and sent it to an accomplice outside. The censor thought it a harmless joke and did not realise the key in the picture was the exact shape of a prison key, unfortunately, neither did the accomplice! A couple of coded messages later the IRA realised the significance of the message and they cut a key, baked it into a cake and delivered it to the prisoners. The prison authorities incredibly allowed the delivery of the cake, but the prisoners found the key did not fit the locks. Another cartoon was sent (this time the key was disguised in an ornate Celtic design), another cake baked, but again the key did not fit. Either the soap had shrunk when it cooled or the Chaplain’s key was not a master key. The final cake contained a blank key and a set of files; another Irish prisoner, Paddy de Loughrey, took apart a prison lock and made a master key.

Eamon de Valera addressing the crowds after

he became president

On the 21st of January three Irish prisoners escaped from Usk, de Valera was desperate to emulate them. Outside the prison, Michael Collins was planning to whisk the escapees away in taxis. One of his agents, Frank Kelly had scouted out the land round the prison and frequented the pubs of Lincoln picking up intelligence.

At about 7.40 pm on the 3rd of February, the three escapees left their cells using their key and made their way to the exercise yard without being noticed. Meanwhile outside Frank Kelly had become lost in the dark, but Michael Collins and an associate, Harry Boland, managed to locate the door and flashed a torch signal to those inside. Collins had a key made using the designs sent by Milroy, but the key broke in the lock. It seemed their luck had failed, but de Valera coolly inserted his key from the other side, pushed out the broken key and unlocked the door. Outside, courting convalescing soldiers from the nearby hospital and their lady friends frequented the local area; rather than proving a danger, it meant the Irishmen could mingle with equally furtive nighthawks without arousing suspicion. They strolled down Wragby Road to the Adam and Eve pub where a taxi driver, unaware of who his passengers were, awaited them. Collins and Boland caught a train to London from St Mark’s while the rest drove to Worksop where another innocent taxi driver drove them to Sheffield. Here an accomplice with a car drove them to safe houses in Manchester.

On the 8th of March the British had released the rest of the German Plot prisoners and de Valera was able to return to a hero’s welcome in   Dublin. By June Éamon de Valera was in America addressing the public and meeting politicians much to the embarrassment of the British. At 9.30 of the evening of the escape, the prison authorities discovered the empty cells, but as the escapers had relocked every door behind them they were baffled. Ports were alerted and as de Valera was an elected MP, the security at Westminster was warned to be on the lookout. The papers reported the prisoner’s mail was under strict censorship so were baffled how they communicated with outside accomplices. The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported a mysterious car seen at Langworth railway crossing and a prison sock was found on Queensway, but with hindsight neither was connected with the escape.

It was not until three weeks later that a full account of the daring escape emerged when an Irish delegate at the peace conference boasted to the press what really had occurred that night. However, as the IRA did not wish to give away details of the IRA intelligence network, this initial account was full of red herrings. The Irish claimed to have sent cars full of known republicans careering round Lincolnshire to divert the police. They also claimed to have an agent obtain an allotment near the prison; he then attracted de Valera’s attention by singing an Irish rebel song. The prisoners subsequently threw an impression of a key over the wall and the agent later threw a cut key back. Within a few days, an enterprising journalist from the New York Times interviewed members of Lincoln’s allotment association: the allotments were too far from the prison to allow such communication and none of the members had any Irish connections. The police were equally baffled by talk of diversionary cars; the story was obviously false. It wasn’t until 1926, when de Valera renounced armed struggle as a method of gaining Irish freedom and split with the IRA, could he freely recount the true story of how he ended up catching a taxi to freedom from the Adam and Eve.  ' 

The following excerpt is from an article titled Manchester’s Radical History by Michael Herbert, author of The Wearing of the Green: A Political History of the Irish in Manchester (2000) describe how IRA members in Manchester helped to facilitate the escape of Eamon De Valera from Lincoln Gaol in February 1919. 

'   The leader of the IRA in Manchester between 1919 and 1921, Paddy O’Donoghue, was a native of Barraduff, Killarney who ran a grocers shop on Lloyd Street, Greenheys. Before the War of Independence he was best known as the organiser of the annual Irish concert at the Free Trade Hall but he was also intimately involved in the Republican movement in Manchester. O’Donoghue was a close friend of Michael Collins, who had been his best man when Paddy married Violet Gore. Collins apparently brought him into his intelligence and arms-smuggling network in England as early as 1917.

In February 1919 O’Donoghue played a key role in the escape of Eamon De Valera from Lincoln Jail. De Valera was very anxious to get out of jail and go to the United States to present the Irish case for self-determination. A devout Catholic, he served at Mass with the prison chaplain and managed to get an impression in the wax of a candle of the master key. The design was copied onto a Christmas card by Sean Milroy and sent to Sean McGarry’s wife in Ireland but she failed to realise the significance of the design. The three prisoners then wrote to Paddy O’Donoghue in Irish and he contacted Collins immediately. A key was then cut to the design and smuggled into the jail in a cake but it did not fit the lock. A further card with the key design was sent to O’Donoghue with the words “Eocair na Saoirse” (The Key To Freedom”). O’Donoghue had another key cut in Manchester and sent it in but once again it failed to work. Collins now came to England to personally take charge of the operation.

A further key was made inside the jail and on 3rd February, by prior arrangement, three prisoners made their way to the front door of the jail where Michael Collins and his close friend Harry Boland were waiting along with Frank Kelly. Disaster seemed to have struck when Collins’ key broke as he put it in the lock. Fortunately De Valera was able to push the broken key out with his own copy and open the door. The three prisoners made their way to where O’Donoghue was waiting with transport.

Collins and Boland went to London and then back to Dublin. The others journeyed back to Manchester by way of Sheffield. Milroy and McGarry were hidden by leading Manchester IRA commander Liam MacMahon in his own house, while De Valera stayed with a local priest, Father Charles O’Mahony. The police were looking for De Valera, of course, and MacMahon was warned by Thomas Walsh, a sympathetic detective in the Manchester force, that they were getting close. On 18th February, dressed as a priest and escorted by two young Irish women, De Valera travelled back to Dublin. At the beginning of June he went to the United States.  '

Harry Boland, Liam Mellows, Eamon De Valera, John Devoy (seated) , Patrick McCartan and Diarmuid Lynch. New York City June 1919



The New York Carmelites and the Irish Freedom Movement

In his online paper Always Faithful The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement Alfred Isacsson, O. Carm. provides more detailed information about the relationship between the Manhattan Carmelites and Irish republicans with some specific references to De Valera’s escape there in 1919 and his close relationship with Lawrence Flanagan, described as a confidant to De Valera and “perhaps the most underrated of the Carmelite supporters of the Irish Freedom Movement”:   

De Valera in the USA in 1920
'   When Eamon De Valera came to New York after he escaped from Lincoln Prison, he came to the Carmelite priory to spend the night before his first public appearance. Hugh Devlin added the information that John Devoy and Daniel Cohalan both came to the 29th Street Priory to see De Valera before he made his first public appearance at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. These two later returned and accompanied by Dermot Lynch, Dick Dalton and Charles Rice brought De Valera to this first appearance in the United States.

Besides De Valera, those staying at the Carmelite priory or closely associated with the Carmelites were Liam Pedlar, Harry Boland, Sean Nunan, Liam Mellows, Pat Fleming, Mary and Mrs. MacSwiney, Lord Mayor Donal O’Callaghan and T. P. O’Connor. It is interesting that the first four names in this list are persons usually named as involved in the procurement and shipment of arms to Ireland.

“Griffith, Collins and O’Connor used Priory as a place where leaders could be found and messages delivered.” This is a quote from these records.

O’Callaghan placed a letter in the Irish Echo (August 28, 1943) asking for information about Peter Elias Magennis, Denis O’Connor and the Carmelites’ role in the Irish Freedom Movement. It seems this did not produce any new material.

De Valera with Harry Boland in New York 1920
He also wrote to those associated with the Carmelites and obtained their recollections of the Carmelites’ activities. In 1941, Robert Brennan, the Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Irish Legation in Washington, attributed the reorganization of the Movement after 1916 in a great part to Peter Elias Magennis. He pointed out Denis Berchmans Devlin of Whitefriars Street, Dublin, as one of the greatest supporters and the confidant and friend of every leader from 1916 on. Brennan also told of how Terenure College, Dublin, was at one time or another a shelter for most of the leaders. Thomas Hurton, a Philadelphia priest active in the Movement, replied that the 28th Street church and “rectory” were the soul of the post 1916 Movement.

Seamus MacDermott, brother of Sean executed after the 1916 Rising, answered O’Callaghan’s request by stating the Peter Elias Magennis was a member of the Geraldines Club of New York City. He recalled that he joined in 1917 or 1918 and was a member for three or four years. Dorothy Godfrey answered with praise for Magennis and O’Connor and recalled how Mrs.Skeffington went to Fifth Avenue - possibly the American Irish Historical Society - when Liam Mellows was executed. She felt frozen out and then went to the Carmelite priory where Denis O’Connor served her tea and had a long chat. 

Connie Neenan, long active in the Movement, told of Magennis returning to the United States from Rome in the 1928-30 period and bringing from Ireland messages for himself and Joseph McGarrity. Neenan received the messages in the Bronx - probably at Saint Simon Stock Priory - and delivered them to McGarrity. Neenan also cautioned O’Callaghan that the work of the Clan na Gael and of “the people at home” was never put on paper and that this was a strict policy.

Sean Nunan, then Counsellor to the Irish Legation in Washington, wrote of his stay in the United States from January, 1919 to December, 1921 when he was secretary to Eamon De Valera and the Registrar of the Irish Republic Bond Drive. He said all involved in the Movement were welcome at the Carmelite priory which was also a centre where they could get in touch with colleagues and it was a kind of post office where messages could be left and received. He cited himself as an example of their hospitality. When he jumped ship in New York to join Harry Boland, Nunan went to the priory and slept there that night. After naming the individual Carmelites, he wrote they always had the door “on the latch.”

Plans for the Bond Drive and the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic were made a the priory. Methods for combating the Black and Tans were put into operation from the priory.

Another person Donal O’Callaghan contacted was Norman Thomas, the perennial Socialist Party’s presidential candidate. He saw the Black and Tans as inviting war with Great Britain and called them a reproach to our common humanity. He said he spoke in this manner at meetings Magennis presided over and at other gatherings that Magennis was present at. Thomas called his brief acquaintance with Magennis “one of the delightful memories of my life.” He went on to write, “I conceived for him the highest admiration as a man, a Priest and an advocate of a good cause. He had courage, humour, devotion and power.

Fenian rebel John Devoy was exiled to the US in 1871.
A  journalist for the New York Herald he was 
active in Clan na Gael, the most important Irish republican
organisation in the United States and Ireland.
We have put together here in one place the oral and written traditions gathered by Donal O’Callaghan to show the importance of his efforts to preserve the record of the Carmelites’ involvement with the Irish Freedom Movement. Without his work, we would be at a loss not only of much of the information we have but also for the many leads to other material that his work has furnished.

The Clan na Gael was founded on Hester Street, New York City, on June 20, 1867 by Jerome J. Collins who was originally from Dunmanway, County Cork. Collins had planned to free Fenian prisoners in London but when his plans became known he fled to the United States. Shortly after he founded the Clan, Collins went on an Arctic expedition in which he perished. In the period from the late 1880's to the turn of the century, the Clan had problems. John Devoy solved them, reunited the Clan and re-established relationships with the Irish Republican Brotherhood by means of a seven man Joint Revolutionary Directory. The Clan was from then a secret organization financed by the Supreme Council of the IRB. By 1916, the Clan had come to the position that the independence of Ireland could only be secured by force. This is the same position that Elias Magennis came to and explains why Donald O’Callaghan was so interested in Magennis’ membership in both the Clan and the IRB.   '

Dramatis Personae

Bellevue  Hospital was served by Carmelite
chaplains from Our Lady of the Scapular
The following extracts are from the online research paper, Always Faithful The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement by Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm. This chapter is titled Dramatis Personae (persons of the drama):

'    When we speak of Carmelite involvement in the Irish Freedom Movement, we are referring to the Carmelite houses that became in 1931 the New York Province of Saint Elias and mainly to the superiors. In those days, there was an authority structure that was inviolate. Elevation by election or appointment to the position of superior made one newsworthy and quotable. A certain amount of prestige came with the office and this added to the attractiveness and credibility of the superiors as speakers. They, too, were the schedule makers and could make themselves available for speaking engagements.

It is not until the early 1930's that the first native vocations in the province were ordained priests. Generally speaking, the majority of priests came from Ireland until the start of World War II. Besides the Carmelites that were not Irish born, a few of the Irish born were not in support of the Irish Freedom Movement. One such was Edward Southwell, who came from Kildare. He was not supportive probably because the presence of British troops at the Curragh Camp near his home influenced his political persuasion. Another factor may have been the fact that Southwell’s family operated a grocery store in Kildare that surely relied on at least some British patronage.

Subjects had little or no outlet for their opinion or positions on issues. There are hints of disagreement between superiors and subjects on various issues but because of the authority invested in them, the superiors’ positions on Irish issues were taken as the Carmelite positions.

The greatest time of Irish activity in the Carmelite parish of Our Lady of the Scapular at 28th Street and First Avenue was from 1916 to 1924. During this period Denis O’Connor, Gerard O’Farrell, Christopher Slattery, Lawrence D. Flanagan, Hugh Devlin and Dominic Hastings were in the main the Carmelites stationed in the parish and also serving Bellevue Hospital.

Wolf Tone and Daniel O’Connell were the parents of the two strains of Irish nationalism that survived to this period. O’Connell sought to achieve independence through parliamentary procedures, elections and alliances. Tone sought to achieve separation from England by the force of arms. The Carmelites’ nationalism was that of Tone embracing the use of force.

Though many Carmelites were involved in the Irish Freedom Movement, there are some whose importance demands the presentation of some background material.

Gerard William O’Farrell was born in Dublin, April 1, 1885. Educated at the National University when it was a centre of Irish nationalism, he was ordained June 6, 1914. After a year in Dublin, he came to the 28th Street parish in 1915 and specialized in conducting parish missions. On a number of occasions, he expressed his regret at not being able, because of his priestly duties, to contribute more to the cause of Irish freedom. Irish literature was his specialty and he often lectured on Irish literary figures.

O’Farrell carefully studied Padraic Pearse and from a series of lectures on him published An Appreciation of Padraic H. Pearse, first President of the Irish Republic. He dedicated the publication to Peter Elias Magennis with the inscription, “As a token of a life-long esteem and as an appreciation of his untiring efforts in the cause of Ireland, this essay is affectionately dedicated.” O’Farrell also expressed thanks to Liam Mellows for suggestions and the reading of the proofs.

When the Carmelites opened the new parish of St. Simon Stock in the Bronx in 1919, Gerard O’Farrell became the first pastor. In the five years he served in this capacity, he built a church, priory and school. In 1924, he succeeded Denis O’Connor as the major superior, Commissary General, of the five foundations that would become a province in the Carmelite Order in 1931.

In early 1926, Gerard O’Farrell began to experience problems with his kidneys apparently from their cessation of operation due to stones. After postponing any treatment until after the dedication of the St. Simon Stock facilities by Patrick Cardinal Hayes, O’Farrell entered St. Vincent’s Hospital for an operation. After the surgery, he died June 15, 1926 from  either septicaemia or the failure of the operation to correct the kidneys’ malfunction. '

Ship’s manifest of 22 July 1917 records 49 year old Rev. Peter Elias Magennis (number 17 on the list) arriving in New York from Ireland on the S.S. Philadelphia. He gives his next of kin in Ireland as his friend Rev. John McGarrety of Terenure College, Dublin and his destination in New York is 338 East 29th Street.