Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Political Violence in Cork, 1910: The Context

The re-emergence of politically-induced and politically-motivated violence in Cork city and county was partially due to the foundation of a new political movement out of the remnants of a defunct one. The All-for-Ireland League (AFIL) was, for all intents and purposes, founded at Kanturk in March 1909. Growing out of the heretofore moribund strucutres of the United Irish League (UIL) in the majority of the county, the AFIL quickly became established in the constituencies of Cork City, Cork North, Mid Cork, Cork West and Cork South East. Only strong opposition from the Bishops of Ross and Cloyne prevented it from gaining a firm foothold in the county as a whole.
The AFIL set itself up as a real challenger to the hegemony previously enjoyed by the Irish Parliamentary Party-UIL (herefater known as the Party). Its membership, insofar as can be determined from as yet scanty evidence, was composed mainly of lower-class members of the nationalist community, and members of the Irish Land and Labour Association (ILLA) who followed its ex-joint chairman, Mid-Cork MP DD Sheehan. There was therefore still a significant gap between the leadership of the AFIL and its grassroots members. O'Brien, in particular, was painted by party newspapers such as the Freeman's Journal as the wealthy madman behind a splinter group of dangerous malcontents.
These malcontents served a clear warning to the greater Party hegemony by taking 6 of the 8 Parliamentary seats available in the city and county in the general election of January 1910 (for an extended treatment of the election see earlier posts below). What is most notable about the campaigns is the amount of open violence associated with them. Almost every Party rally in a location considered a stronghold of the AFIL was beset with fighting, hurling of missiles, and, in some cases, use of small arms such as revolvers.
While in many other cases of electoral violence the fighting was confined to before and during polling, the violent waves unleashed during the January general election did not dissipate as quickly as some (mainly within the upper echelons of the Royal Irish Constabulary Inspectorate in the county) had hoped. For the four months after the general election incidents of violent behaviour motivated by political rivalries were noted in the police reports. Among these were:
  1. The shooting of James Sweeney, Newmarket, in the hand and leg by Ben Quinlan at Newmarket on January 25th. Sweeney, allegedly inebriated, had been cheering for O'Brien in front of Quinlan's house at the time of the shooting.
  2. Florence Sullivan of Kanturk was assaulted in Newmarket on Februrary 12th. Although Sullivan was a caretaker of an evicted farm in the Kanturk district, the motive for this assault may be thought of as semi-political, as the new AFIL MP for North Cork Patrick Guiney held a rally condemning his actions outside his house the following day.
  3. Patrick Emperor of Newmarket had his house broken into on April 10th by a party of 8 to 10 men who stole his gun and rode away cheering for Guiney.
  4. On May 1st the Lowermore Fire and Drum Band were fired upon as they passed near the house of Denis Callaghan in the Newmarket District. Callaghan and Philip Walsh, who was chairman of the Newmarket ILLA branch, were "on very bad terms". Four members of the band, which numbered about 25, were hit with grains of shot but were not seriously injured. This may be seen as a case of reaction to intesne provocation, as some members of the band had fired revolver shots in the direction of Callaghan's house earlier in the day.

All this may be seen as providing a context for what was to come.

No comments: