IRA Emigration and the Social Outcomes of the Civil War



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.


Social Outcome Foreign Reserve Inspection Report Wild Goose Republican Movement 
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    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
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Copyright information

© Gavin Maxwell Foster 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Concordia UniversityCanada

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