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IRA Emigration and the Social Outcomes of the Civil War

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Abstract

In July 1923, roughly two months after the IRA abandoned its armed campaign against the Free State, Éamon de Valera issued a defiant statement on behalf of the anti-treaty cause. ‘There will be no “Wild Geese”… this time’, he vowed. ‘The soldiers of the Republic have been ordered to live and die in Ireland, and they will obey. Living or dead, we mean to establish the right of Irish Republicans to live and work openly for the complete liberation of our country.’1 By referencing ‘Wild Geese’ — the folk term for Jacobite soldiers exiled from Ireland after their defeat in the Williamite War — de Valera was telegraphing a deeper historical truth that was on many people’s minds in the aftermath of the civil war.2 Well-versed in Irish history, the ‘revolutionary generation’ knew that failed nationalist risings tended to produce ‘mini-diasporas’ of exiles.3 Along with the ‘Wild Geese’, there had been the earlier ‘Flight of the Earls’, thousands of United Irishmen who fled government repression in the 1790s, the scattered remnants of the ‘Young Ireland’ Rising of 1848, and a stream of Fenian émigrés in the post-Famine period.

Keywords

Social Outcome Foreign Reserve Inspection Report Wild Goose Republican Movement 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Others who have likened the republican exodus to the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’ include Ernie O’Malley (2012 edn) The Singing Flame (Cork), p. 358Google Scholar
  2. and Liam Deasy (1998 edn) Brother against Brother (Dublin), pp. 30–1.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The term ‘revolutionary generation’ comes from F. S. L. Lyons (1979) Culture and Anarchy in Ireland 1890–1939 (Oxford), Chapter 4 passim.Google Scholar
  4. I borrow the phrase ‘mini-diaspora’ from C. S. Andrews (1982) Man of No Property: an Autobiography (Volume Two) (Cork), p. 14.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Frank O’Connor (1961) An Only Child (New York), p. 271.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    The TWU’s interwar leader was civil war veteran Mike Quill. See Brian Hanley (2009) ‘Irish Republicans in Interwar New York’, Irish Journal of American Studies, Vol. 1 (June), available online at <http://www.ijasonline.com/BRIAN-HANLEY.html>; Shirley Quill (1985) Mike Quill, Himself: a Memoir (Greenwich, CT);Google Scholar
  7. and L. H. Whittemore (1968) The Man Who Ran the Subway: the Story of Mike Quill (New York).Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Máire Comerford in Uinseann Mac Eoin (1980) Survivors (Dublin), p. 52; Andrews, Man of No Property, p. 14.Google Scholar
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  10. 7.
    Brian Hanley (2002) The IRA 1926–1936 (Dublin) and ‘Irish Republicans in Inter-War New York’.Google Scholar
  11. Gavin Wilk (2012) ‘Displaced Allegiance: Militant Irish Republican Activism in the U.S., 1923–39’, PhD thesis (NUI Limerick).Google Scholar
  12. 8.
    Kerby Miller (1985) Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (New York), pp. 453, 555. Italics added.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    Matthew J. O’Brien (2001) ‘Irishness in Great Britain and the U.S.: Transatlantic and Cross-Channel Migration Networks and Irish Ethnicity, 1920–1990’, PhD thesis (Madison, Wisconsin), p. 3.Google Scholar
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    Peter Hart (2003) ‘The Protestant Experience of Revolution in Southern Ireland’ in The IRA at War 1916–1923 (Oxford), pp. 223–40;Google Scholar
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  26. Kevin Kenny (2000) The American Irish: a History (Harlow, England), pp. 97, 131.Google Scholar
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    See for example, Tom Garvin (1996) 1922: The Birth of Irish Democracy (Dublin), pp. 21–2; Fitzpatrick, Irish Emigration 1801–1921, p. 41; Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, p. 199; Diarmaid Ferriter, The Transformation of Ireland, 1900–2000 (London), p. 472;Google Scholar
  28. and Enda Delaney (2002) Irish Emigration Since 1921 (Dublin), p. 43.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, John Mitchel (Patrick Maume, ed.) (2005 edn) The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps) (Dublin). Fitzpatrick, Irish Emigration1801–1921, p. 16.Google Scholar
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    Tom Garvin (2005 edn) Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland 1858–1928 (Dublin), p. 72.Google Scholar
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  32. 18.
    Table 1.1 in Delaney, Demography, State and Society, p. 22. Although lower than in the late nineteenth century, emigration from the 26 counties was averaging 26,000 per year between 1911 and 1926, David Johnson (1985) The Interwar Economy in Ireland (Dublin), p. 37.Google Scholar
  33. 20.
    In a well-known comment during a 1920 interview with France’s Le Journal, the Irish Lord Lieutenant Field-Marshal Lord French explicitly blamed Ireland’s political unrest on the fact that 100,000–200,000 young men who ordinarily would have emigrated had been unable to do so, Dorothy Macardle (1968 edn) The Irish Republic (London), p. 308. See also Kissane, Explaining Irish Democracy, p. 11.Google Scholar
  34. 21.
    Peter Hart (1997) ‘The Geography of Revolution in Ireland 1917–1923’, Past and Present, Vol. 155, No. 1, 142–76, argued that British Army recruitment effectively took up the surplus. For both County Clare and Ireland as a whole, Fitzpatrick would appear to agree, Politics and Irish Life, p. 199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. For a convincing rebuttal of Hart’s argument, however, see Marie Coleman (2003) County Longford and the Irish Revolution, 1910–1923 (Dublin), pp. 173–5.Google Scholar
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  37. and Michael Hopkinson (2002) The Irish War of Independence (Dublin), p. 20.Google Scholar
  38. 22.
    According to Arthur Mitchell, from a mere 3000 emigrants in 1919, Irish emigration (to the US and Britain combined) reached 30,000 in 1920, Arthur Mitchell (1995) Revolutionary Government in Ireland: Dáil Éireann 1919–22 (Dublin), p. 240.Google Scholar
  39. 23.
    Michael Hopkinson (2004 edn) Green against Green: the Irish Civil War (Dublin), p. 10.Google Scholar
  40. 26.
    Report on Kerry IRA’s efforts to prevent local men of military age from leaving the country, An tÓglach, 15 July 1920. On Sinn Féin emigration policy more generally see Mitchell, Revolutionary Government in Ireland, pp. 240–1; Joost Augusteijn (1996) From Public Defiance to Guerrilla Warfare: the Experience of Ordinary Volunteers in the Irish War of Independence 1916–1921 (Dublin), pp. 299–300;Google Scholar
  41. M. G. Valiulis (1992) Portrait of a Revolutionary: General Richard Mulcahy and the Founding of the Irish State (Dublin), pp. 63–4, 91; and Hart, The IRA at War 1916–1923, pp. 154–5.Google Scholar
  42. 30.
    See for example, David Fitzpatrick (1998) The Two Irelands 1912–1939 (Oxford), pp. 214–15; Ferriter, The Transformation of Ireland, p. 330;Google Scholar
  43. and John A. Murphy (1975) Ireland in the Twentieth Century (Dublin), p. 153.Google Scholar
  44. 31.
    Hopkinson, ‘Civil War and Aftermath, 1922–4’ in Hill (ed.), N.H.I., Vol. VII, p. 55; Kenny, The American Irish, p. 199; Robert Kee (2000 omnibus edn) The Green Flag: a History of Irish Nationalism (London), p. 749;Google Scholar
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  47. 32.
    Kissane, Explaining Irish Democracy, p. 11; Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, p. 453; Francis Blake (1986) The Irish Civil War 1922–1923 and What It Still Means for the Irish People (London), p. 63; Macardle, The Irish Republic, p. 805.Google Scholar
  48. 36.
    On the initial Canadian destination of many Volunteers see March 1924 Army Intelligence report for Kerry, MS 175, Military Archives; and West Limerick Brigade member’s 1941 pension application, Ms. 27.606(2), NLI. Seamus O’Connor (1987 edn) Tomorrow Was Another Day: Irreverent Memories of an Irish Rebel Schoolmaster (Dun Laoire, Co. Dublin), p. 121.Google Scholar
  49. 38.
    Dudley Baines (1991) Emigration from Europe 1815–1930 (London), pp. 58, 71.Google Scholar
  50. 40.
    C. L. Bankston et al. (eds) (2006) Immigration in U.S. History (Pasadena), p. 347.Google Scholar
  51. 41.
    Francesco Cordasco (ed.) (1990) Dictionary of American Immigration History (Metuchen, New Jersey), p. 372–3, 384–5, 397–8.Google Scholar
  52. 42.
    James Ciment (ed.) (2001) Encyclopedia of American Immigration (Armonk, NY), p. 15.Google Scholar
  53. 44.
    Michael Doorley (2005) Irish-American Diaspora Nationalism: the Friends of Irish Freedom, 1916–1935 (Dublin), p. 154. On Irish-American reactions to quota adjustments see press extracts and commentary in P69/37(235), Twomey Papers, UCDA.Google Scholar
  54. 47.
    M. E. Daly (2006) The Slow Failure: Population Decline and Independent Ireland, 1920–1973 (Madison, WI), pp. 140–1.Google Scholar
  55. 54.
    Jeremiah Murphy (1998) When Youth Was Mine: a Memoir of Kerry, 1902–1925 (Dublin), pp. 282–3, 301; Seamus O’Connor, Tomorrow Was Another Day, p. 118, 121.Google Scholar
  56. 64.
    On prison officials’ encouragement of this, see J. Campbell (E. Ní Chuilleanáin, ed.) (2001) ‘As I Was Among the Captives’: Joseph Campbell’s Prison Diary, 1922–1923 (Cork), p. 115.Google Scholar
  57. 122.
    C. Lawlor (ed.) (2005) Seán MacBride: That Day’s Struggle: a Memoir 1904–1951 (Blackrock, Dublin), p. 105.Google Scholar
  58. 127.
    Gavin Wilk (2014) ‘“No Hope for Him Unless He Can Be Got Out of the Country”: Disabled Irish Republicans in America, 1922–1935’, New Hibernia Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, 106–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 128.
    Richard English (1998) Ernie O’Malley: IRA Intellectual (Oxford), p. 27. See also MacBride’s recollection of O’Malley in Paris, Lawlor (ed.), Seán MacBride, pp. 100–1.Google Scholar
  60. 134.
    2 June 1925 RE: ‘Migratory Labour’, P69/37(47); Adjutant General to Army Units RE: ‘Employment in France’, 20 July 1925, P69/37(2–5), all Twomey Papers, UCDA. Also see Peter Pyne (1969) ‘The Third Sinn Féin Party: 1923–1926, Part I’, The Economic and Social Review, Vol. 1, No. 1, 38.Google Scholar
  61. 135.
    Kee, The Green Flag, p. 749; Murphy, When Youth Was Mine, p. 315. A degree of post-revolutionary disenchantment existed throughout southern Irish society. See Andrews, Man of No Property, p. 2; Charles Bewley (1989) Memoirs of a Wild Goose (Dublin), p. 88.Google Scholar
  62. 149.
    Fitzpatrick, Irish Emigration 1801–1921, p. 9. For a contemporary perspective see Denis Gwynn (1928) The Irish Free State, 1922–1927 (London), p. 35.Google Scholar
  63. 155.
    On the social background of the average emigrant see Delaney, Demography, State, and Society, p. 49, and Delaney, Irish Emigration Since 1921, p. 14; and Peter Pyne (1970) ‘The Third Sinn Féin Party: 1923–1926, Part II’, The Economic and Social Review, I, No. 2, 245.Google Scholar
  64. 159.
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  65. Michael McInerney (1974) Peadar O’Donnell: Irish Social Rebel (Dublin), p. 104.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gavin Maxwell Foster 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Concordia UniversityCanada

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