The History Show Sunday 2 February 2014
The History Show
Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past
Centenary of Irish Volunteer Newspaper
Roger Casement issued a rousing plea in the first issue of The Irish Volunteer newspaper which was launched one hundred years ago this week. He was calling for volunteers to compete in the 1916 Olympics as Irishmen in their own right.
The Games which were planned for Berlin, of course, never did take place.
The Irish Volunteer which was first printed on the 7th of February 1914, marked an important milestone in the history of radical newspapers and military movements in this country. UCD historian, Conor Mulvagh joined Myles to discuss its objectives and impact.
The Irish Volunteer [newspaper]
By Conor Mulvagh
[Centenary of the first issue’s publication is 7 Feb. 2014]
Origins and personalities
The idea of publishing a newspaper for the Irish Volunteers was mooted to its provisional committee in January of 1914 by William Sears, editor and one of the directors of the Enniscorthy Echo, an advanced nationalist paper with Sinn Féin links going back to 1907/8. The idea was accepted and a member of the Echo’s staff, Laurence de Lacy, was appointed editor of the Irish Volunteer. Virginia Glandon notes that all proofs of the paper were submitted to the provisional committee of the Irish Volunteers – namely: Eoin MacNeill, L.J. Kettle, John Gore, and The O’Rahilly – in Dublin for approval. It should be noted that, in one of his many statements to the Bureau of Military History, Bulmer Hobson identifies Laurence de Lacy as having been a member of the IRB in this period. As such, de Lacy’s editorship of the Irish Volunteer constitutes a further dimension to the IRB’s infiltration of the Irish Volunteer movement in its early history. The paper became an important arm of propaganda, training, and communication for the growing Irish Volunteer movement in during 1914 and beyond.
Writing and printing the Irish Volunteer
The paper ran as a commercial entity and the first issue appeared on Saturday, 7 February 1914. It ran in this form until November of 1914.
The Irish Volunteer sided with Eoin MacNeill when the movement split in September 1914 over the question of participation in the war effort and enlistment in the British Army.
The relative unpopularity of Eoin MacNeill’s faction after the split and the emergence of a rival Redmondite publication, the National Volunteer, in October, were two key factors in the Enniscorthy Echo’s decision to cease publication of the Irish Volunteer.
This highlights that, above all else, the Irish Volunteer was a commercial publication, and decisions on its viability and continuance under the direction of the Enniscorthy Echo umbrella rested more on commercial than political considerations.
In addition, wartime censorship arguably played a part in reducing the profitability of the paper. Titles such as the Enniscorthy Echo and the Irish Volunteer came in for direct mention as ‘extreme’ newspapers in the report of the Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary in September 1914 and in this climate they struggled to get their message out to the more advanced nationalist and republican sections of the reading public.
By virtue of being a specialist newspaper targeted at members of a private paramilitary organisation, the Irish Volunteer, its offshoots and successors, are a very rare and particularly important subset of Irish political newspapers from the revolutionary decade.
The function of the Irish Volunteer was not merely news or propaganda as was the case with other publications. It had a role in training the force and delivering messages and orders from headquarters to the battalions and companies nationwide.
The centenary of the first issue of the Irish Volunteer going to print on 7 February 1914 is an important milestone in the history of radical Irish newspapers and in the deteriorating situation and militarising trajectory in Irish society in 1914 that would bring the island to the brink of civil war on the eve of the First World War.
As a mobilising force in keeping Eoin MacNeill’s volunteers united and active after the vast majority of the movement sided with John Redmond’s policy of supporting the war effort in September of 1914, the Irish Volunteer played a leading role in preserving the movement that was the backbone of the rebellion in April of 1916.
Century Ireland will have a digitized version of the first edition of the Irish Volunteer from the 7th of February
Click here for Century Ireland
Is Countess Markievicz an Overrated Icon of Irish History?
In the midst of the men of 1916 was the woman of 1916, Countess Markievicz – also known as Constance Gore Booth. Although dozens of women were involved in the Rising in one capacity or another, the image of the Countess in her uniform dominates our awareness of the female contribution to that pivotal event.
She would go on to become the first woman elected to the House of Commons and was an active participant in the War of Independence as the country’s first female government Minister – the second was Maire Geoghegan Quinn in 1979!
We began our series of examinations of some of the icons of recent Irish history with Markievicz – who to this day, remains a controversial figure. For every fervent admirer she has an equally enthusiastic detractor.
Eoin Sweeney took to the streets to gauge public views on the Countess and to find out how much people actually know about her.
Our studio guests came from quite different perspectives on the Countess. They were historian, Shane MacThomais of Glasnevin Cemetery – where the countess is buried. And Ann Matthews, author of Renegades: Irish Republican Women 1900-1922 .
Did she feed the families of the strikers or was she just someone who liked to give them impression that she was ‘down with the striking classes’?
Did she become a motive force in the Irish Citizens Army or was she just a peripheral figure?
Ann Matthews has described the female equivalent of the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, as being ‘led by a group of well off women who could pay nannies to mind their children and homes while they got involved 1916 and beyond’ – was the Countess in that category, albeit a member of the ICA?
Was she more socially radical than the membership of Cumann na mBan?
She was second-in-command to Michael Mallin in the ICA unit tasked with holding the area around Stephen’s Green – would she have had a part in the disastrous decision to dig trenches in the Green, thus exposing the command to snipers shooting from the many tall buildings around the Green?
What is the truth of her court-martial – did she insist on being shot or plead that ‘you can’t shoot me I’m a woman’ ?
Did the intransigence of Republican women like Markievicz make it more difficult for Irish women to succeed in politics after the revolutionary period?
Did she die of TB contracted while doing charity work or of complications related to appendicitis?
You have to give Countess Markievicz full marks for style – apparently she attended her first meeting of Maud Gonne’s Inini na hEireann – the Daughters of Ireland – wearing a satin ball gown and diamond tiara. She’d just come from a function in Dublin Castle.
The 1974 Kenny Report - A Missed Opportunity?
On the 4oth anniversary of the publication of the Kenny Report, historian Niall Curran joined Myles to discuss how it proposed to tackle the soaring price of development land.
The background to this is that between 1963 and 1971, land values rose by 530% in the Dublin area. If Kenny's recommendations had been implemented, might we have avoided the Celtic Tiger property boom?
The Kenny Report - An opportunity missed to control the price of building land
by Niall Curran
Recent reports of a 15 per cent annual price rise in the average price of a house in Dublin have sparked fears of a new bubble in the housing market. Debate about the reasons for this price rise have focused on the limited numbers of houses for sale and how developers are leaving potential building land idle to create a scarcity which increases its value.
Forty years ago in January 1974, a similar debate occupied the nation, when the coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour published the Kenny Report. Its official title was the Report of the Committee on the Price of Building Land but it became known as the Kenny Report in honour of the committee's chairman, Justice John Kenny, an expert in constitutional law.
The committee was established in January 1971 by Bobby Molloy, the Minister for Local Government, to consider ways to tackle the problem of expensive building land which in the Dublin area had risen in price by 530 per cent between 1963 and 1971 compared to an increase in the Consumer Price Index of only 64 per cent. An editorial published in the Irish Independent at the time summed up feelings on the issue when it said "the price of building land has become such a public issue that people regard it as having moral significance"
The committee considered twelve possible schemes to control the price of development land and, after three years of careful deliberation on the legislative and constitutional implications of each, recommended the adoption of a 'designated area scheme' that would authorise local authorities to designate areas of potential development land which they could purchase at existing use price (usually agricultural value) plus a premium of 25 per cent. After purchase, the local authority could then lease the land when needed for private development.
Its recommendations were ignored, breaking an election promise "that speculation will be in ended in order to lower the cost of homes" included in the Fine Gael and Labour joint election manifesto of 1973.
Despite Justice Kenny's expertise and the committee's careful consideration of the legislative and constitutional changes necessary to implement the 'designated area scheme', it is often claimed that the Fine Gael and Labour coalition government's failure to implement the scheme was because it was unconstitutional.
This reasoning was never tested because it required the 'designated area scheme' to be adopted as legislation and then referred to the Supreme Court for assessment. James Tully, the new Minister for Local Government, told the press on the report's publication in January 1974 that this legislation would be introduced by the end of the year but his commitment was not honoured and the Kenny Report was quietly forgotten.
The government's failure to adopt the Kenny report's recommendations was likely due to the resistance of the vested interests in the construction industry such as the Construction Industry Federation, The Law Society and leading estate agents. Their opposition was principally based upon the disruption the new scheme would cause to the development land market which the Law Society claimed would "undoubtedly cause hardship to individuals and a limitation in the amount of building land becoming available". Their failure to outline the identity of these "individuals" suggests that it related to landowners rather than the ordinary house buyer whom the recommendations of the Kenny Report hoped to benefit by reducing the price of building land and the subsequent cost of houses.
The timing of its publication was also a factor as a few months before the report's publication, in October 1973, the oil crisis erupted, quadrupling the price of oil leading to a doubling of interest rates in the later half of 1973 and rampant inflation which slowed the economy and created a liquidity crisis that weakened the construction industry. But the housing market recovered quickly and by mid-1976 house prices surpassed the previous peak point that occurred before the oil crisis in October 1973.
Its publication also coincided with the introduction of capital taxation in Ireland for the first time. This was a long-held Labour policy but was unpopular with many within Fine Gael. Profits earned on land deals were now liable for capital gains tax when previously they incurred none. Introduction of the tax was opposed by the construction industry but it was introduced in 1975 and prompted much speculation that the burying of the Kenny Report was a political decision to appease the construction industry.
The recent criticisms of Fianna Fáil for overseeing spiralling land prices during the recent boom, although valid, must be considered in the context that forty years ago, Fine Gael and Labour had the opportunity to introduce a method to control the price of development land but ultimately lacked the courage to face down vested interests and implement a new land policy that may have assuaged the greatest excesses of the Celtic Tiger era.
The Falklands/Malvinas War of 1982
TCD/UCD Centres for War Studies will co-present a workshop on Tuesday 6 February 2014 to be hosted at TCD at 14:30.
The Falklands/Malvinas War of 1982: Politics and Experiences
Neill/Hoey Lecture Theatre in the Trinity Long Room Hub
Click here for speakers and paper titles
Coming up on next week's programme......
Next Sunday, we get in gear for St. Valentine’s Day, as our Book Club discusses one of history's most fascinating love stories.
Napoleon and Josephine – An Improbable Marriage by Evangeline Bruce (Phoenix Giant)
Carefully researched by an authority on French history, this book provides a dual portrait of two intriguing, flamboyant figures illuminates their personal lives, the social and cultural context in which they lived, and the reversal of roles in their marriage.
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About The Show
Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past.
We want to help explain ourselves to ourselves. We will search out fresh angles on familiar topics, seek out the unfamiliar and will not shy away from bizarre or controversial issues. Our ultimate goal is to make The History Show the primary port of call for those with an intense or even a modest interest in the subject. We want to entice the casual and the curious to join us in celebrating the past.
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Join us on Sundays from 6.05pm for The History Show with Myles Dungan on RTÉ Radio 1.