Saturday, March 31, 2007

Irish War of Independence

The War of Independence was the guerilla campaign fought against the British government in Ireland by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) which was under the auspices of the First Dail, the Irish Parliament that was created in 1918 by the majority of the Irish MPs. The war began in January of 1919 and officially ended with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921. However, the actual fighting in the war ended in July 1921 with a truce between the IRA and the British.

The origins of the Irish War of Independence can be traced to the 1916 Easter Rising when the first blow for a free Ireland was struck by idealistic patriots who were inspired by Ireland’s past attempts of rebellion, beginning in the 1600s. The Easter Rising lasted a week before being brutally put down by the British. At the end of the week, the rebel leaders were not viewed favorably by the majority of the Irish since many of Dublin’s poor lost their homes in the fighting. However, that opinion changed when the British executed the leaders of the rising within three weeks of the surrender.

Once those who had been imprisoned for their part in the Easter Rising were released, including Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera, it was time for Sinn Fein (Ireland’s nationalist political party) to run in the 1918 parliamentary election in London. Sinn Fein received eighty percent of the Irish vote, clearly the majority of the Irish people wanted an Ireland that was free of Britain and declared themselves as the First Dail and ratified the 1916 Proclamation of Independence which had called for the removal of all British troops in Ireland.

Support grew among the American Irish as opinion turned in favor of the rebel martyrs. Irish-American money poured into Sinn Fein’s coffers, which enabled the freedom fighters to purchase guns and ammunition for the coming war. The IRA was created by the Dail in order to wage war against British rule in Ireland. On January 21, 1919, two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) were killed by volunteer members of the IRA under the command of Dan Breen in Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary. The purpose in killing the RIC members was to take a shipment of gelignite for use in IRA explosives. As a result, the British declared martial law in Tipperary three days later.

Under the leadership of Michael Collins, the IRA and its flying columns which were designed to attack by surprise and then disappear without a trace following an attack on British forces. It was Collins and his network of spies who infiltrated Dublin Castle, RIC, and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and provided the IRA with information on who to attack and where. During the first year of the war, Collins’s squad of hand picked men eliminated many of DMP’s detectives known as the “G men.” In addition to the squad, the IRA had close to 15,000 volunteers to attack the British in these sneak attacks developed by Collins.
The attacks provided the IRA with arms, money, and the ability to take out key members of British colonial administration in Ireland. Violence continued to increase until it became widespread in 1920. This was when the IRA began to take out fellow Irish for spying for the British. One such example was the killing of one such spy in County Limerick in March 1920. Government property such as empty RIC barracks and tax offices were burned to the ground as well. The culmination of the violence came about on November 21, 1920 where Collins’s squad eliminated nineteen British Army intelligence officers who were posing as civilians in the various homes and hotels in Dublin.

This day became known as “Bloody Sunday” and provoked the British into a brutal response. Later, that same day, the British security forces fired on a crowd of people watching a football match in Dublin, killing twelve people. The British government in London recruited an auxiliary force of 10,000 men known as the “Black and Tans.” This force had been hardened by warfare in Europe, were ignorant of Ireland and received little training. They were under the nominal control of the RIC, but were left to their own devices for the most part. The Black and Tans destroyed villages, towns and cities, left homes in ruin, destroyed parts of Irish industry, and left thousands of Irish without jobs or homes. The auxiliaries also carried out reprisals against IRA attacks by destroying the property of those suspected of being involved in the IRA.

By the end of 1921, the IRA was running out of ammunition and the British called for peace talks since they were being defeated at every turn by the IRA. This was the time that De Valera had returned to Ireland from his tour in America. Although De Valera was the President of the Irish Republic at the time, it was the IRA and Collin’s leadership who brought the British to an impasse. De Valera knew that the chances of a thirty-two county republic were slim since the Protestants in the Northeast part of Ireland had formed their own militias during World War I and vowed to fight to remain a part of the British empire. So, he sent Collins, Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein, and Cathal Brugha to London in order to negotiate the peace treaty. Collins fought hard for Ireland at the negotiations but Britain would not give up Northeastern Ireland. The British threatened Collins with all out warfare which would include aerial bombing of Irish cities, but he knew that it was time to stop fighting and to rebuild Ireland. Collins stated that the treaty “gives us freedom, not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire and develop to, but the freedom to achieve it.” (Coogan, 300) He viewed the treaty as a stepping-stone for a united thirty-two county republic, but for now Ireland would have to make do with a twenty-six county republic.

End Notes
1. Tim Pat Coogan, Michael Collins (London: Arrow Books, 1990).

Friday, March 30, 2007

Brief History on the Ancient Order of Hibernians

The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) is one of the oldest Irish organizations in the United States. The AOH has played an important role for Irish Americans culturally, historically, politically and socially. It was founded in 1836 at the Saint James Church in New York City as a Catholic lay organization for people born in Ireland and later, to people born of Irish descent in the United States. The roots of the AOH stretched back to Ireland where the precursor of the American AOH was founded in the year of 1565 to defend Catholic Ireland against Protestant Britain. The American AOH’s motto of “friendship, unity, and Christian charity” was based on that of the original Ancient Order of Hibernians in Ireland. The AOH was brought to New York by Irish immigrants in response to the rise of the Order of the Star Spangled Banner or the Native American Party’s (Know Nothings) bigotry against the Irish. To try and halt the Know Nothings attacks on both Irish people and Church property, the AOH served as guards in order to defend Church property from attack.

Most early AOH activities remain unknown as the society was founded upon the basis of secrecy. In addition to defending Church property, the organization assisted Irish immigrants financially who came to the United States as members of the Order back in Ireland, and provided networks which facilitated employment and upward mobility for their members. The AOH was also instrumental in preserving Irish culture and traditions in America. As the Know Nothing movement dissipated after the American Civil War, the AOH shifted its focus from defending property to “charitable activities in support of the church’s missions, community service, and the promotion of preservation of their Irish cultural heritage in America.” (AOH website) Organizations such as the AOH did not hinder assimilation into America, but felt “the development of an ethnic identity expressed through a rich institutional and associational life was the primary means through which the Irish assimilated.” (Kenny, 148-149) Between the years of 1856 and 1921, over three million Irish immigrated to the United States, increasing membership in the AOH. However, controversy over membership in the AOH developed. In 1884, the AOH debated over whether or not American born Irish could be admitted as members. Members of the AOH decided that American born Irish could be admitted to the order in addition to those who were born in Ireland. This decision ensured that AOH membership would remain strong after the Irish born members died and their American born children could carry on the traditions and work of the AOH.

The Order is organized at the local, state, and national levels. Divisions make up the local area, while County and State boards oversee the work of the Order for that state and all are governed by a National Board which is elected every two years. Although the National Board provides direction for the organization overall, it is up to each individual state and its divisions to determine what activities that the organization will focus upon. Each division decides what activities they will purse amongst the four goals of the AOH.
The first goal is for Ireland to be united as a thirty-two county republic. The AOH has played an important role in promoting the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. They began to collaborate with other Irish-American groups such as the Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC). Divisions provided opportunities to learn about the issues in the north so that they can find ways to get involved in the process. Some examples of this are the speakers forum which brings in speakers to help divisions understand Irish political issues such as Jim Gallagher of the IAUC and the teachers from the Holy Cross School in Belfast.

The second goal is protecting and defending their Catholic faith. During the years that nativism was a force in American politics, the AOH had to address specific nativist threats and defend their churches from attack in cities such as Boston and New York. In other states, such as Ohio, the organization had to address claims about not being loyal Americans. They fought back such claims by focusing on a campaign to honor Irish-Americans who had fought for America’s freedom during the Revolutionary War. They also had to contend with defamation where the Irish were perceived as drunken troublemakers. The AOH has been successful in proving their loyalty to America and took on defamation that is still present in today’s society. However, there is still work to be done on the defamation front that needs to be addressed, such as the continued perception of Irish as “drunks.”

The third goal of the AOH is to preserve and promote Irish culture. Throughout the history of the organization, Hibernians have promoted and preserved Irish culture not only for its own members, but also for the communities in which live in as well. Irish history, music, literature, step-dancing, and historic preservation are brought to the local communities by the divisions in order to illustrate the importance of preserving and promoting Irish culture so that future Irish-Americans may have the chance to learn of their own unique cultural heritage as well. The organization builds upon the past, present, and future of Irish culture in order to foster the ideals and perpetuate the history and traditions of the Irish people [and] to promote Irish culture.” (AOH Constitution preamble)

The final goal is for divisions to embrace the AOH’s motto of “friendship, unity and Christian charity” by encouraging divisions to help out their local communities. In the beginning, the AOH provided Irish immigrants with financial assistance who were AOH members in good standing from the Irish Order. Local divisions assisted immigrants with obtaining jobs and social services as well. While Irish immigration to the United States is longer the major charitable cause of the AOH, divisions now focus on dealing with various Catholic action issues and by supporting their local communities in a variety of ways such as Habitat for Humanity builds, Red Cross blood drives, visiting the sick, conducting fundraising drives for charities, taking up donations for food banks, and other charitable activities within a division’s community. National Catholic action initiatives in which local divisions take part are projects such as religious vocations, pro-life and hunger in America issues. At times, it can be a struggle for members to become involved in contentious issues such as abortion while others such as hunger are more easily defined and easier to be involved with.

The AOH helped Irish immigrants to adjust to life in America through employment and housing while keeping the cultural traditions of Ireland alive in the hearts of their members. In the twenty-first century, the organization has helped Irish-Americans to go beyond the green beer aspect of their Irish heritage and to use the organization as an eye-opener to that heritage that gives Irish-Americans a unique identity. Many aspects of Irish culture, such as music, dance, literature, and history have exposed Americans to the culture of Ireland in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. As membership continues to increase and as new divisions form throughout the United States, the link between Ireland and the United States will continue to remain strong not only in the present, but the future as well.

Kevin Kenny, The American Irish: A History (London: Pearson Education Limited, 2000), 148-149.
Ancient Order of Hibernians Constitution Preamble (c. 2000), Uncatalogued materials, Ward M. Canaday Center, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I have a real job

Many people, especially some members of my family do not believe that I have a real job. They believe that being a graduate student is not productive and that I am not a contributing member of the society because I do not have a real job. I can see why some would come to this conclusion because they do not understand the work that I do as a graduate student and the fact that I do not have a set schedule with defined hours of when I begin and end my work.

I would like to challenge that perception that some people may have. My job as a graduate student is year round. I do not have any defined work hours, as my work never stops. Since I am working on my doctorate in history, I will have three rounds of exams to take in addition to my foreign language requirement and my dissertation. The best time to study for these exams is during the summer break when I am not taking classes. The first exam that I will have to take are my comprehensives. Comprehensives are two eight hour days of answering questions that cover Modern European history from 1600 to present day. I will be tested on the facts and the various schools of historical interpretation on topics such as Absolutism, French Revolution, Congress of Vienna, Liberalism, Nationalism, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. Each answer has to include the facts, the names of historians and their works. This is not an easy task to remember and requires a lot of hard work and time on my part to master.

In addition to preparing for my doctoral exams, I take a full load of classes and either teach my own independent course or assist a professor with one of their classes. Last semester I assisted a professor with a class of 275 students with 3 graduate assistants. When this class had either essay exams or papers to grade in addition to weekly online discussions over course material, it consumes a lot of my time. But the time is well worth it as it contributes to my development to be both a good teacher and historian.

Some of the members of my family do not understand about job searches and academia. Some people believe that it will be extremely easy for me to get a job teaching history at the University of Toledo or other local colleges when I graduate. They do not understand that in reality, it does not work that way. I will have to go wherever a job is offered, whether it be in another country or in other states in this country. The academic job market is extremely competitive with a plethora of PhDs and few jobs. I am optimistic that if I market myself as a historian of the world who can teach a wide array of courses at a small liberal arts college or community college, that I will be ultimately successful in my quest.

I am not going to school to further delay being in the real world. I am earning a degree because I desire a career as both a historian and teacher. I am a contributing member of society who receives a paycheck for my work as a graduate student. I also work a non academic job in the summer in order to help make ends meet since I do not get paid for my academic job during the summer.

This was my first post. Thanks for reading.