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Gaelic League has been turned into a ‘political machine’
HQ of the Belfast Branch (An Craobh Ruadh) of Connradh na Gaedhilge Photo: 'An Craobh Ruadh' (1913). Digital Library@Villanova University

Gaelic League has been turned into a ‘political machine’

Armagh, 17 September 1917 - The Gaelic League has been turned into a ‘political machine’, according to Cardinal Logue.

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland made his charge in the course of a letter to the Drogheda centre of the Leinster College of Ireland, which, he said, offered the only hope that anything effective might be achieved on behalf of the Irish language. The Gaelic League, in contrast, had become too involved in politics and for that reason the cardinal feared that it ‘will prove barren so far as promoting the revival of Irish is concerned’.

Police report on meeting of the Belfast Branch of the Gaelic League, which shows the close links between the League and radical political elements. It notes: 'The attendance included all the local Sinn Féin and Irish Volunteer suspects, some of whom acted as stewards and doorkeepers at and in the hall.' Click image to enlarge. (Image: National Archives, UK)

The Freeman’s Journal has stated that, in making his intervention, Logue is just saying what many knew for a long time and the Gaelic League had been changing to a political body since Sinn Féiner Eoin MacNeill took over as president. The paper concluded: the Gaelic League has become, in effect, the ‘property of Sinn Féin’.

It is clear that this is a view that is increasingly shared. For instance, in Cork in recent weeks, Canon O’Brien declined an invitation from the Secretary of the Gaelic League in Fermoy because he believed the organisation had been politicised.

‘I hold’, Canon O’Brien remarked in a letter published in the Irish Independent, that ‘the Gaelic League has become a political society with the advancement of Irish as one of its objects, whereas Father O’Growney fashioned it as a language society with the advancement of Irish as its only object’.

This is not the first time the League has been accused of being too political. In fact, it is thought that this was one of the primary reasons that Douglas Hyde stepped down as president in 1915, although at the time, he claimed his decision was due to ill health.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.