Belfast Fenian leader, William Harbinson

In July 1867 Belfast IRB leader William Harbinson was brought up on charges of treason felony. He died in Belfast prison in September 1867 before he was brought to trial. While his name was given to the original republican plot in Milltown and his funeral was attended by over 40,000 people (in defiance of opposition from the Catholic clergy), I suspect relatively few people have heard of him.

Photograph of William Harbinson from 1867. In an attempt to build intelligence on the IRB, the authorities photographed arrested leaders, which was very innovative for the time. The photograph of William Harbinson was first reproduced by Joe Graham in Rushlight.

The Irish Republican Brotherhood was founded in 1858 to establish Ireland as an independent democratic republic. In the United States, there was a parallel American organisation, known as the Fenian Brotherhood which tended to give its name (Fenians) to the wider movement. The outbreak of the American Civil War stalled the development of the Fenians. The support given by the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, Orange Order and the wealthy to the confederacy and slave owners energised the IRB in Ireland, inspiring the likes of Frank Roney, from Carrickhill, to be sworn into the IRB by 1862. Roney was to be the first Belfast and Ulster Head Centre. Like Robert Johnston, who was to replace Roney on the Supreme Council of the IRB by the start of the 1870s, Roney met and knew some United Irishmen who had been active in 1798 (Johnston was 99 when he died in 1937).

At local level, the IRB was formed into units of ten volunteers, whose leader was called a ‘centre’. At county or district level (referred to as a ‘Circle’), a ‘Head Centre’ was elected by a convention of the centres.  The organisation was governed by an eleven member Supreme Council, seven electoral divisions (four provinces of Ireland, Scotland, North and South England) each returned a member at a convention at which a divisional committee of five was also elected. While the IRB was a clandestine organisation, its Supreme Council met in Dublin and some records of its meetings survive (see here).

Some modern historians dispute the scale and nature of the IRB in Belfast, but contemporaries like Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and John Devoy were complimentary of the work done in Belfast. The authorities also seemed similarly impressed as, when arrests began, the proportion of suspects detained in Belfast was on a par with other centres of IRB activity like Dublin, Cork and Tipperary.

[You can read more about the IRB in Belfast in an article on Frank Roney published by Kerby Miller and Breandán MacSuibhne in the journal Eire-Ireland last year, or in Catherine Hirsts’ 2002 book ‘Religion, Politics, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Belfast: The Pound and Sandy Row’.]

In Belfast, the IRB had revealed itself in response to Orange Order violence in August 1864. It recruited many soldiers, including William Harbinson, a staff sergeant in the Antrim Rifles who had access to the arsenal of weapons held in the barracks in Belfast. Soldiers also drilled and trained other IRB volunteers in Belfast. This allowed the IRB to prepare for an insurrection. After the American Civil War ended in 1865, it actively recruited veterans and collected weapons, intending they also be available for any uprising in Ireland.

William Harbinson was born in Ballinderry in 1832 (in 1867 his age is mistakenly given in newspaper accounts as 41 or 44). His father, John Harbinson, may be the same one who is recorded living in Portmore in Griffiths Valuation in the 1850s. He was underage when he joined the 39th Foot Regiment in Liverpool, undoubtedly fleeing the famine, in February 1847. Ballinderry lost a sixth of its population during the famine. The Northern Whig had referred to the famine, in the previous month, as ‘the present favourable crisis … for conveying the light of the Gospels to the darkened minds of the Roman Catholic peasantry’. After a slump in the linen industry, as well as potato blight impacting on Antrim in late 1846, January 1847 had saw overt attempts to Catholics to convert to Protestantism in return for famine relief. The rate of fatalities during the famine rapidly increased in 1847 year. Exposure to the famine may have left its mark on Harbinson, as he was discharged from the army as unfit for service, due to ill health, in May 1852, from when he was pensioned until July 1853.

At the time of his marriage to Catherine McClenaghan in St Patrick’s, Donegall Street, in April 1857, he was working as a labourer and living in Wesley Place, while Catherine was living in Inkerman Terrace, both close to what is now Shaftesbury Square. William and Catherine appear to have had one child, a son, William John, who was born in October 1859 but died young (he was baptised in St Malachys, suggesting they were still living close to the Markets). His brother Philip, who also to be prominent in the IRB, moved to North Queen Street.

William returned to the army serving in a local militia regiment, the Antrim Rifles, where he rose to the rank of colour sergeant. In 1864, the Belfast Morning News reported that he was presented by a valuable gold watch and chain by the non-commissioned officers and privates of K Company of the Antrim Rifles, in John Edgars bar in John Street on Thursday 11th August. Oddly, that episode occurred during the bloody riots that began on the evening of the previous Monday, with the Pound, and John Street, at the epi-centre of the violence. That was the same year Harbinson was recruited into the IRB.

By late 1865, the British government closed down The Irish People, the IRB newspaper founded in Dublin in 1863, and arrested staff including Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. A few months later, it suspended Habeas Corpus to legalise the arrest and detention without trial of suspected IRB members and sympathisers (a process that would later be more familiar to people as ‘internment’). In early 1866, it began to utilise those powers to stage a number of arrests in Belfast, beginning with Michael McGonigal on the 19th February, the next day Frank Roney (apparently using the surname O’Neill) was arrested at a pub at the junction of Peter’s Hill and the Old Lodge Road owned by Gordon O’Neill. Others arrested that day included John O’Rorke, a pensioner with a wooden leg who had a barbers shop in Millfield, Patrick Hassan (of the 83th New York Irish Volunteers) and Harbinson.

Roney and Harbinson were imprisoned in Crumlin Road and Mountjoy, although both were eventually regain their freedom due to public pressure for the general release of republican prisoners and letters of support from their family and prominent individuals. Harbinson was released in September and Roney in November.

Harbinson appears to have taken over as Head Centre in Belfast. Roney remained on the Supreme Council, travelling to Paris and London on IRB business. Early in 1867, Harbinson also travelled to London. It was later alleged by an informer, John Massey, that Harbinson represented Ulster at a meeting of the Supreme Council in February 1867 (see The Nation, 7th December 1867).

On Thursday 7th March, Harbinson was arrested at his house in Pinkertons Row, just off North Queen Street. The police had been watching the house the previous night and raided the house immediately once Harbinson’s wife, Catherine, had opened the window shutters at 7 am on the Thursday morning. Harbinson was still in bed and another IRB volunteer, John Murray, was found in the kitchen of the house. Harbinson was held by the police while Murray was taken to Banbridge.

It was alleged in the press (from  Monday 11th March – see likes of The Examiner) that Harbinson had taken over as Belfast Head Centre from Roney. The newspapers claimed there were six Centres in Belfast who had all observed the security protocols meaning that it had been difficult to penetrate the IRB with informers. This bit of information was possibly a cover for John Murray, who had been arrested on 14th February, remanded, then released. Murray was to give evidence against Harbinson and others at a remand hearing in court in mid-July.

After his arrest Harbinson was held under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act in Crumlin Road then sent to Mountjoy. He was returned to Crumlin Road on 24th May, presumably with the intention of bringing charges against him and other IRB leaders that had been arrested in Belfast including the likes of his brother Philip and Francis Rea.

William Harbinson was brought to court for an ‘investigation’ along with Edward Gilmore, Patrick Keith and Richard Lavery on 13th July. By the end of the month, a treason felony charge was brought against Harbinson in front of a Grand Jury which found that he would have to stand trial. The trial was to take place at the Spring Assizes in March 1868. In prison, Harbinson and the other interned IRB suspects were able to have their food brought in to them rather than eat the prison diet. They also were not forced to do prison work and were permitted frequent exercise, association, books and tobacco (this is what would later be classed as political status).

On the night of Monday 9th September, William Harbinson was found dead in his cell in Crumlin Road during the 9 o’clock check by staff. An attempt to hold an inquest the next day was delayed until his brother Philip (who was also imprisoned) and father-in-law, Edward McClenaghan, could attend.

At the inquest, the prison governor’s evidence stated that he always thought Harbinson was of ‘delicate’ appearance, although neither he, Catherine Harbinson nor his lawyer had made any complaint about his health. The inquest heard from prison staff that he had been outside exercising for around four hours that day and returned to his cell at either two o’clock or four o’clock and was last reported at quarter to six as sitting reading on his bed. When found, he was lying undressed on the floor as if he had fallen out of bed, although staff reported that there were no marks on his body. The inquest found he had died of disease of the heart and it was officially recorded as the bursting of aneurism aorta and he had been delicate a considerable time. This may have been the same condition which had led to his discharge from the army in 1852 and may have had its roots in damage done to his health by the famine.

While the Catholic hierarchy had been trying to counteract the rise of the IRB, it found it impossible to limit Harbinson’s funeral. On Sunday 15th September, round 40,000 people are believed to have either watched or taken part in the procession, which began in North Queen Street and carried the remains to Laloo, in Ballinderry. It travelled via Donegall Street, Bridge Street, High Street, Castle Place and the Pound to the Falls Road. The original republican memorial erected in Milltown in 1912 was named the Harbinson Plot in his honour.

Harbinson’s funeral was to be the largest republican event held in Belfast until Bobby Sands funeral in 1981.

You can read more accounts of the funeral and Harbinson on Joe Graham’s Rushlight webpages.

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Another year, another anniversary: the Fenians

Another year, another anniversary.

This year sees the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of an Irish Republic by a provisional government of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, popularly known as the Fenians. It also marks the 150th anniversary of the execution of the Manchester Martyrs, which was to attain great significance among republicans until 1916 and who are commemorated in the song ‘God Save Ireland’.

The Manchester Martyrs of 1867


Here is the text of the ‘Fenians’ 1867 proclamation (very much the model for that of 1916):

Irish Republic Proclamation

The Irish People to the World

We have suffered centuries of outrage, enforced poverty, and bitter misery. Our rights and liberties have been trampled on by an alien aristocracy, who treating us as foes, usurped our lands, and drew away from our unfortunate country all material riches. The real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living, and the political rights denied to them at home, while our men of thought and action were condemned to loss of life and liberty. But we never lost the memory and hope of a national existence. We appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers. Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt. Our appeals to arms were always unsuccessful.
Today, having no honourable alternative left, we again appeal to force as our last resource. We accept the conditions of appeal, manfully deeming it better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existence of utter serfdom.
All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.
We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Republic based on universal suffrage, which shall secure to all the intrinsic value of their labour.
The soil of Ireland, at present in the possession of an oligarchy, belongs to us, the Irish people, and to us it must be restored.
We declare, also, in favour of absolute liberty of conscience, and complete separation of Church and State.
We appeal to the Highest Tribunal for evidence of the justness of our cause. History bears testimony to the integrity of our sufferings, and we declare, in the face of our brethren, that we intend no war against the people of England – our war is against the aristocratic locusts, whether English or Irish, who have eaten the verdure of our fields – against the aristocratic leeches who drain alike our fields and theirs.
Republicans of the entire world, our cause is your cause. Our enemy is your enemy. Let your hearts be with us. As for you, workmen of England, it is not only your hearts we wish, but your arms. Remember the starvation and degradation brought to your firesides by the oppression of labour. Remember the past, look well to the future, and avenge yourselves by giving liberty to your children in the coming struggle for human liberty.
Herewith we proclaim the Irish Republic.
THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT

Bridging the 1916 and 1867 anniversaries: #HomeSweetHome and #ApolloHouse

Next year brings yet another anniversary, the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of an Irish Republic by a provisional government of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, popularly known as the Fenians. It seems somewhat appropriate given the failure to deliver on the aspirations of their 1867 proclamation, or that of 1916, that the two anniversaries are bridged by citizens occupying a state owned building in the cause of providing basic shelter and food for those less well off, while the state itself seeks to evict its own citizens and force them out to sleep in the open in December.

Three quotes from the 1867 proclamation are worth reflecting on:

We appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers. Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt.

…and (apologies for the gendered language)…

All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.

…and finally:

Remember the starvation and degradation brought to your firesides by the oppression of labour. Remember the past, look well to the future, and avenge yourselves by giving liberty to your children in the coming struggle for human liberty.

Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt.” The irony of this phrase is that those sneers and contempt were from the British Empire of 1867, not an ‘Irish’ government and establishment in 2016. 

You can read the full proclamation here:
Irish Republic Proclamation

The Irish People to the World
We have suffered centuries of outrage, enforced poverty, and bitter misery. Our rights and liberties have been trampled on by an alien aristocracy, who treating us as foes, usurped our lands, and drew away from our unfortunate country all material riches. The real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living, and the political rights denied to them at home, while our men of thought and action were condemned to loss of life and liberty. But we never lost the memory and hope of a national existence. We appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers. Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt. Our appeals to arms were always unsuccessful.

Today, having no honourable alternative left, we again appeal to force as our last resource. We accept the conditions of appeal, manfully deeming it better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existence of utter serfdom.

All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.

We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Republic based on universal suffrage, which shall secure to all the intrinsic value of their labour.

The soil of Ireland, at present in the possession of an oligarchy, belongs to us, the Irish people, and to us it must be restored.

We declare, also, in favour of absolute liberty of conscience, and complete separation of Church and State.

We appeal to the Highest Tribunal for evidence of the justness of our cause. History bears testimony to the integrity of our sufferings, and we declare, in the face of our brethren, that we intend no war against the people of England – our war is against the aristocratic locusts, whether English or Irish, who have eaten the verdure of our fields – against the aristocratic leeches who drain alike our fields and theirs.

Republicans of the entire world, our cause is your cause. Our enemy is your enemy. Let your hearts be with us. As for you, workmen of England, it is not only your hearts we wish, but your arms. Remember the starvation and degradation brought to your firesides by the oppression of labour. Remember the past, look well to the future, and avenge yourselves by giving liberty to your children in the coming struggle for human liberty.

Herewith we proclaim the Irish Republic.

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT

Proclamations of an Irish Republic, 1803, 1867, 1916

The proclamation issued in 1916 wasn’t the first of its kind to be issued in Ireland. At least two other proclamations were direct precursors of the 1916 proclamation, the first issued in 1803, the second in 1867.

On 23rd July 1803, the last official communication from the Society of Irishmen was printed in Dublin. Some 10,000 copies were made and Robert Emmet himself read some of it in Thomas Street before his rebellion. Only a small number of copies made their way into the hands of the public.

In 1798, John Sheares had written a text for a proclamation that was to be issued if the United Irishmen were successful in Dublin, it read:

IRISHMEN ! Your country is free, and you are about to be avenged. That vile government, which has so long and so cruelly oppressed you, is no more! Some of its most atrocious monsters have already paid the forfeit of their lives, and the rest are in our hands. The national flag — the sacred green, is at this moment flying over the ruins of despotism; and that Capital, which a few years past had witnessed the debauchery, the plots and crimes of your tyrants, is now the citadel of triumphant Patriotism and Virtue! Arise, then, United Sons of Ireland , arise like a great and powerful nation, determined to live free or die! Arm yourselves by every means in your power, and rush like lions on your foes. Consider that for every enemy you disarm, you arm a friend, and thus become doubly powerful. In the cause of liberty inaction is cowardice, and the coward shall forfeit the property he has not the courage to protect. Let his arms be secured and transferred to those gallant spirits who want and shall use m them. Yes, Irishmen , we swear by that Eternal Justice, in whose cause you fight, that the brave Patriot who survives the present glorious struggle, and the family of him who has fallen, or shall hereafter fall in it, shall receive from the hands of a grateful nation an ample recompense out of that property which the crimes of our enemies have forfeited into its hands, and his name shall be inscribed on the great national record of Irish Revolution, as a glorious example to all posterity ; but we likewise swear to punish robbers with death and infamy. We also swear never to sheath the sword until every being in the country is restored to those equal rights which the God of Nature has given to all men, until an order of things shall be established in which no superiority shall be acknowledged among the citizens of Erin, but that of virtue and talent.

Rouse, all the energies of your souls ; call forth all the merit and abilities which a vicious government consigned to obscurity, and under the conduct of your leaders, march with a heady step to victory. heed not the glare of a hired soldiery or aristocratic yeomanry ; they cannot stand the vigorous shock of freemen ; their trappings and their arms will soon be yours ; and the detested government of England, to which we vow eternal hatred, shall learn that the treasures it exhausts on its accoutred slaves for the purpose of butchering Irishmen, shall but further enable us to turn their swords on its devoted head.

Many of the military feel the love of liberty glow within their breasts, and have already joined the National standard.

Receive with open arms such as shall follow so glorious an example ; they can render signal service to the cause of freedom, and shall be rewarded according to their desserts. But for the wretch who turns his sword against his native country, let the national vengeance be visited on him — let him find no quarter.

Attack them in every direction by day and by night. Avail yourselves of the natural advantages of your country, which are innumerable, and with which you are better acquainted than they. Where you cannot oppose them in full force, constantly harass their rere and flanks, cut off their provisions and magazines, and prevent them as much as possible from uniting their forces. Let whatever moment you cannot devote to fighting for your country be passed in learning to fight for it, or preparing the means of war, for war, war alone must occupy every mind and every hand, until its long oppressed soil be purged of all its enemies.

Vengeance, Irishmen! vengeance on your oppressors ! Remember what thousands of your dearest friends have perished by their merciless orders : — Remember their burnings, their rackings, their torturings, their military massacre, and their legal murders, — Remember ORR

The 1798 text never got to be issued as a proclamation, though and was instead used in the case against Sheares (thanks to Gina McGinley for the link). That 1803 proclamation was much longer than the one that was issued by the Fenians on 5th March 1867. Theirs was delivered to various newspapers and the text was carried by The Times in London (the printed original apparently had the Fenian harp logo on the top).

The 1867 proclamation is much closer to the better known 1916 proclamation in length and tone and is the model on which the 1916 proclamation is based. Whereas the 1867 proclamation specifically speaks to the world, that in 1916 speaks to the Irish people. Similarly, the 1867 document was signed by ‘The Provisional Government’, the 1916 document was merely signed ‘on behalf of the Provisional Government’. The 1867 and 1916 parallels are by no means accidental, as both emerged from the Irish Republican Brotherhood movement.

You can compare the text of the 1867 and 1916 proclamations side-by-side by clicking the image below.

1867 and 1916

Some images and full texts of each of the proclamations are included below, along with a footnote of one issued by the IRA Army Executive on 28th June 1922.

1803

emmetproclamation

The Provisional Government To The People of Ireland

You are now called on to shew to the world that you are competent to take your place among nations, that you have a right to claim their recognizance of you, as an independent country, by the only satisfactory proof you can furnish of your capability of maintaining your independence, your wresting it from England with your own hands.
In the development of this system, which has been organized within the last eight months, at the close of internal defeat and without the hope of foreign assistance; which has been conducted with a tranquility, mistaken for obedience; which neither the failure of a similar attempt in England has retarded, nor the renewal of hostilities has accelerated; in the development of this system you will show to the people of England, that there is a spirit of perseverance in this country, beyond their power to calculate or to repress; you will show to them that as long as they think to hold unjust dominion over Ireland, under no change of circumstances can they count on its obedience; under no aspect of affairs can they judge of its intentions; you will show to them that the question which it now behoves them to take into serious and instant consideration, is not, whether they will resist a separation, which it is our fixed determination to effect, but whether or not, they will drive us beyond separation; whether they will by a sanguinary resistance create a deadly national antipathy between the two countries, or whether they will take the only means still left, of driving such a sentiment from our minds, a prompt, manly, and sagacious acquiescence, in our just and unalterable determination.
If the secrecy with which the present effort has been conducted, shall have led our enemies to suppose that its extent must have been partial, a few days will undeceive them. That confidence, which was once lost, by trusting to external support, and suffering our own means to be gradually undermined, has been again restored. We have been mutually pledged to each other, to look only to our own strength, and that the first introduction of a system of terror, the first attempt to execute an individual in one county, should be the signal of insurrection in all. We have now, without the loss of a man, with our means of communication untouched, brought our plans to the moment when they are ripe for execution, and in the promptitude with which nineteen counties will come forward at once to execute them, it will be found that neither confidence nor communication are wanting to the people of Ireland.
In calling on our countrymen to come forward, we feel ourselves bound, at the same time, to justify our claim to their confidence by a precise declaration of our views. We therefore solemnly declare, that our object is to establish a free and independent republic in Ireland: that the pursuit of this object we will relinquish only with our lives: that we will never, unless at the express call of our country, abandon our post, until the acknowledgment of its independence is obtained from England; and that we will enter into no negotiation (but for exchange of prisoners) with the government of that country while a British army remains in Ireland. Such is the declaration which we call on the people of Ireland to support – And we call first on that part of Ireland which was once paralysed by the want of intelligence, to shew that to that cause only was its inaction to be attributed; on that part of Ireland which was once foremost, by its fortitude in suffering; on that part of Ireland which once offered to take the salvation of the country on itself; on that part of Ireland where the flame of liberty first glowed; we call upon the NORTH to stand up and shake off their Slumber and their oppression.
Men Of Leinster, Stand To Your Arms
To the courage which you have already displayed, is your country indebted for the confidence which it now feels in its own strength, and for the dismay with which our enemies will be overwhelmed when they shall find this effort to be universal. But men of Leinster, you owe more to your country than the having animated it by your past example; you owe more to your own courage, than the having obtained, by it a protection. If six years ago, when you rose without arms, without plan, without co-operation, with more troops against you alone, than are now in the country at large; you were able to remain for six weeks in open defiance of the government, and within a few miles of the capital what will you not now effect, with that capital, and every other part of Ireland ready to support you? But it is not on this head that we have need to address you. No we now speak to you, and through you, to the rest of Ireland, on a subject, dear to us even as the success of our country, – its honour. You are accused by your enemies of having violated that honour; excesses which they themselves had in their fullest extent provoked, but which they have grossly exaggerated, have been attributed to you. The opportunity of vindicating yourselves by actions, is now for the first time before you; and we call upon you to give the lie to such assertions, by carefully avoiding every appearance of plunder, intoxication, or revenge; recollecting that you lost Ireland before, not from want of courage, but from not having that courage rightly directed by discipline. But we trust that your past sufferings, have taught you experience, and that you will respect the declaration which we now make and which we are determined by every means in our power to enforce.

The nation alone possesses the right of punishing individuals, and whosoever shall put another person to death, except in battle, without a fair trial by his country, is guilty of murder. The intention of the provisional government of Ireland, is to claim from the English government, such Irishmen as have been sold or transported, by it for their attachment to freedom; and for this purpose, it will retain as hostages for their safe return, such adherents of that government as shall fall into its hands. It therefore calls upon the people to respect those hostages, and to recollect that in spilling their blood, they would leave their own countrymen in the hands of their enemies.
The intention of the provisional government, is to resign its functions, as soon as the nation shall have chosen its delegates, but in the mean time, it is determined to enforce the regulations hereunto subjoined; – It in consequence takes the property of the country under its protection, and will punish with the utmost rigour any person who shall violate that property, and thereby injure the present resources and the future prosperity of Ireland.
Whoever refuses to march to whatever part of the country he is ordered, is guilty of disobedience to the government, which alone is competent to decide in what place his services are necessary, and which desires him to recollect, that in whatever part of Ireland he is fighting, he is still fighting for its freedom.
Whoever presumes by acts or otherwise to give countenance to the calumny propagated by our enemies, that this is a religious contest, is guilty of the grievous crime of belying the motives of his country. Religious disqualification is but one of the many grievances of which Ireland has to complain. Our intention is to remove not that only, but every other oppression under which we labour. We fight, that all of us may have our country, and that done – each of us shall have his religion.
We are aware of the apprehensions which you have expressed, that in quitting your own counties, you leave your wives and children, in the hands of your enemies; but on this head have no uneasiness. If there are still men base enough to persecute those, who are unable to resist, shew them by your victories that we have the power to punish, and by your obedience, that we have the power to protect, and we pledge ourselves to you, that these men shall be made to feel, that the safety of every thing they hold dear, depends on the conduct they observe to you. Go forth then with confidence, conquer the foreign enemies of your country, and leave to us the care of preserving its internal tranquillity; recollect that not only the victory, but also the honour of your country, is placed in your hands; give up your private resentments, and shew to the world, that the Irish, are not only a brave, but also a generous and forgiving people.
Men Of Munster and Connaught
You have your instructions, we trust that you will execute them. The example of the rest of your countrymen is now before you; your own strength is unbroken;-five months ago you were eager to act without any other assistance. We now call upon you to shew, what you then declared you only wanted the opportunity of proving, that you possess the same love of liberty and the same courage with which the rest of your countrymen are animated.
We now turn to that portion of our countrymen whose prejudices we had rather overcome by a frank declaration of our intentions, than conquer their persons in the field; and in making this declaration, we do not wish to dwell on events, which, however, they may bring tenfold odium on their authors, must still tend to keep alive in the minds both of the instruments and victims of them, a spirit of animosity which it is our wish to destroy. We will therefore enter into no detail of the atrocities and oppression which Ireland has laboured under during its connexion with England; but we justify our determination to separate from that country on the broad historical statement, that during six hundred years she has been unable to conciliate the affections of the people of Ireland; that during that time, five rebellions were entered into, to shake off the yoke; that she has been obliged to resort to a system of unprecedented torture in her defence; that she has broken every tie of voluntary connexion by taking even the name of independence from Ireland, through the intervention of a parliament notoriously bribed, and not representing the will of the people; that in her vindication of this measure she has herself given the justification of the views of the United Irishmen, by declaring in the words of her ministers,
 ” That Ireland never had, and never could enjoy under the then circumstances the benefit of British connexion; that it necessarily must happen when one country is connected with another, that the interests of the lesser will be borne down by those of the greater. That England has supported and encouraged the English colonists in their oppression towards the natives of Ireland; that Ireland had been left in a state of ignorance, rudeness and barbarism, worse in its effects, and more degrading in its nature, than that in which it was found six centuries before.” 
Now to what cause are these things to be attributed? Did the cause of the almighty keep alive a spirit of obstinacy in the minds of the Irish people for six hundred years?
Did the doctrines of the French revolution produce five rebellions? Could the misrepresentations of ambitious and designing men drive from the mind of a whole people, the recollection of defeat, and raise the infant from the cradle, with the same feelings with which his father sunk into the grave? Will this gross avowal which our enemies have made of their own views, remove none of the calumny that has been thrown upon ours? Will none of the credit [which] has been lavished on them, be transferred to the solemn declaration which we now make in the face of god and our country. We war not against property – We war against no religious sect – We war not against past opinions or prejudices – We war against English dominion. We will not however deny, that there are some men, who, not because they have supported the government of our oppressors, but because they have violated the common laws of morality, which exist alike under all or under no government; have put it beyond our power to give to them the protection of a government. We will not hazard the influence we may have with the people, and the power it may give us of preventing the excesses of revolution, by undertaking to place in tranquillity the man who has been guilty of torture, free quarters, rape and murder, by the side of the sufferer or their relations; but in the frankness with which we warn these men of their danger, let those who do not feel that they have passed this boundary of mediation, count on their safety.
We had hoped for the sake of our enemies to have taken them by surprize, and to have committed the cause of our country before they could have time to commit themselves against it, but though we have not altogether been able to succeed, we are yet rejoiced to find that they have not come forward with promptitude on the side of those who have deceived them, and we now call on them before it is yet too late, not to commit themselves further against a people they are unable to resist, and in support of a government, which, by their own declaration has forfeited its claim to their allegiance.
To that government in whose hands, though not the issue, at least the features with which the present contest is to be marked, and placed, we now turn. How is it to be decided? is open and honourable force alone to be resorted to, or is it your intention to employ those laws which custom has placed in your hands, and to force us to employ the law of retaliation in our defence?
Of the inefficacy of a system of terror, in preventing the people of Ireland from coming forward to assert their freedom, you have already had experience. Of the effect which such a system will have on our minds in case of success, we have already forewarned you – We now address to you another consideration – If in the question which is now to receive a solemn and we trust final decision, if we have been deceived reflection would point out that conduct should be resorted to, which was the best calculated to produce conviction on our minds. What would that conduct be? It would be to shew to us that the difference of strength between the two countries [is such], as to render it unnecessary for you to bring out all your force; to shew to us that you have something in reserve wherewith to crush hereafter, not only a greater exertion on the part of the people, but a greater exertion, rendered still greater by foreign assistance: It would be to shew to us that what we have vainly supported to be a prosperity growing beyond your grasp, is only a partial exuberance requiring but the pressure of your hand to reduce it into form. But for your own sake do not resort to a system, which while it increased the acrimony of our minds would leave us under the melancholy delusion that we had been forced to yield, not to the sound and temperate exertions of superior strength, but to the frantick struggles of weakness, concealing itself under desperation. Consider also that the distinction of rebel and enemy is of a very fluctuating nature; that during the course of your own experience you have already been obliged to lay it aside; that should you be forced to abandon it towards Ireland you cannot hope to do so as tranquilly as you have done towards America, for in the exasperated state to which you have raised the minds of the Irish people; a people whom you profess to have left in a state of barbarism and ignorance, with what confidence can you say to that people ” while the advantage of cruelty lay upon our side, we slaughtered you without mercy, but the measure of our own blood is beginning to preponderate, it is no longer our interest that this bloody system should continue, shew us then, that forbearance which we never taught you by precept or example, lay aside your resentments, give quarter to us, and let us mutually forget, that we never gave quarter to you.” Cease then we entreat you uselessly to violate humanity by resorting to a system inefficacious as an instrument of terror, inefficacious as a mode of defence, inefficacious as a mode of conviction, ruinous to the future relations of the two countries in case of our success, and destructive of those instruments of defence which you will then find it doubly necessary to have preserved unimpaired. But if your determination be otherwise, hear ours. We will not imitate you in cruelty; we will put no man to death in cold blood, the prisoners which firstfall into our hands shall be treated with the respect due to the unfortunate; but if the life of a single Irish solder is taken after the battle is over, the orders thence forth to be issued to the Irish army are neither to give or take quarter. Countrymen if a cruel necessity forces us to retaliate, we will bury our resentments in the field of battle, if we are to fall, we will fall where we fight for our country – Fully impressed with this determination, of the necessity of adhering to which past experience has but too fatally convinced us; fully impressed with the justice of our cause which we now put to issue. We make our last and solemn appeal to the sword and to Heaven; and as the cause of Ireland deserves to prosper, may God give it Victory.
Conformably to the above proclamation, the Provisional Government of Ireland, decree that as follows.
1. From the date and promulgation hereof, tithes are for ever abolished, and church lands are the property of the nation.
2. From the same date, all transfers of landed property are prohibited, each person, holding what he now possesses, on paying his rent until the national government is established, the national will declared, and the courts of justice organized.
3. From the same date, all transfer of Bonds, debentures, and all public securities, are in like manner and form forbidden, and declared void, for the same time, and for the same reasons.
4. The Irish generals commanding districts shall seize such of the partizans of England as may serve for hostages, and shall apprize the English commander opposed to them, that a strict retaliation shall take place if any outrages contrary to the laws of war shall be committed by the troops under his command, or by the partizans of England in the district which he occupies.
5. That the Irish generals are to treat (except where retaliation makes it necessary) the English troops who may fall into their hands, or such Irish as serve in the regular forces of England, and who shall have acted conformably to the laws of war, as prisoners of war; but all Irish militia, yeoman, or volunteer corps, or bodies of Irish, or individuals, who fourteen days from the promulgation and date hereof, shall be found in arms, shall be considered as rebels, committed for trial, and their properties confiscated.
6. The generals are to assemble court-martials, who are to be sworn to administer justice; who are not to condemn without sufficient evidence, and before whom all military offenders are to be sent instantly for trial.
7. No man is to suffer death by their sentence, except for mutiny; the sentences of such others as are judged worthy of death, shall not be put in execution until the provisional government declares its will, nor are court-martials on any pretext to sentence, nor is any officer to suffer the punishment of flogging, or any species of torture, to be inflicted.
8. The generals are to enforce the strictest discipline, and to send offenders immediately before court-martials, and are enjoined to chase away from the Irish armies all such as shall disgrace themselves by being drunk in presence of the enemy.
9. The generals are to apprize their respective armies, that all military stores, arms, or ammunition, belonging to the English government, be the property of the captors and the value is to divided equally without respect of rank between them, except that the widows, orphans, parents, or other heirs of such as gloriously fall in the attack, shall be entitled to a double share.
10. As the English nation has made war on Ireland, all English property in ships or otherwise, is subject to the same rule, and all transfer of them is forbidden and declared void, in like manner as is expressed in No.2 and 3.
11. The generals of the different districts are hereby empowered to confer rank up to colonels inclusive, on such as they conceive to merit it from the nation, but are not to make more colonels than one for fifteen hundred men, nor more Lieutenant-Colonels than one for every thousand men.
12. The generals shall seize on all sums of public money in the custom-houses in their districts, orin the hands of the different collectors, county treasurers, or other revenue officers, whom they shall render responsible for the sums in their hands. The generals shall pass receipts for the amount, and account to the provisional government for the expenditure.
13. When the people elect their officers up to the colonels, the general is bound to confirm it – no officer can be broke but by sentence of a court-martial.
14. The generals shall correspond with the provisional government, to whom they shall give details of all their operations, they are to correspond with the neighbouring generals to whom they are to transmit all necessary intelligence, and to co-operate with them.
15. The generals commanding in each county shall as soon as it is cleared of the enemy, assemble the county committee, who shall be elected conformably to the constitution of United Irishmen, all the requisitions necessary for the army shall be made in writing by the generals to the committee, who are hereby empowered and enjoined to pass their receipts for each article to the owners, to the end that they may receive their full value from the nation.
16. The county committee is charged with the civil direction of the county, the care of the national property, and the preservation of order and justice in the county; for which purpose the county committees are to appoint a high-sheriff, and one or more sub-sheriffs to execute their orders, a sufficient number of justices of the peace for the county, a high and a sufficient number of petty constables in each barony, who are respectively charged with the duties now performed by these magistrates.
17. The county of Cork on account of its extent, is to be divided conformably to the boundaries for raising the militia into the counties of north and south Cork, for each of which a county constable, high-sheriff and all magistrates above directed are to be appointed.
18. The county committee are hereby empowered and enjoined to issue warrants to apprehend such persons as it shall appear, on sufficient evidence perpetrated murder, torture, or other breaches of the acknowledged laws of war and morality on the people, to the end that they may be tried for those offences, so soon as the competent courts of justice are established by the nation.
19. The county committee shall cause the sheriff or his officers to seize on all the personal and real property of such persons, to put seals on their effects, to appoint proper persons to preserve all such property until the national courts of justice shall have decided on the fate of the proprietors.
20. The county committee shall act in like manner, with all state and church lands, parochial estates, and all public lands and edifices.
21. The county committee shall in the interim receive all the rents and debts of such persons and estates, and shall give receipts for the same, shall transmit to the provisional government an exact account of their value, extent and amount, and receive the directions of the provisional government thereon.
22. They shall appoint some proper house in the counties where the sheriff is permanently to reside, and where the county committee shall assemble, they shall cause all the records and papers of the county to be there transferred, arranged, and kept, and the orders of government are there to be transmitted and received.
23. The county committee is hereby empowered to pay out of these effects, or by assessment, reasonable salaries for themselves, the sheriff, justices and other magistrates whom they shall appoint.
24. They shall keep a written journal of all their proceedings signed each day by the members of the committee, or a sufficient number of them for the inspection of government.
25. The county committee shall correspond with government on all the subjects with which they are charged, and transmit to the general of the district such information as they may conceive useful to the public.
26. The county committee shall take care that the state prisoners, however great their offences, shall be treated with humanity, and allow them a sufficient support to the end that all the world may know, that the Irish nation is not actuated by the spirit of revenge, but of justice.
27. The provisional government wishing to commit as soon as possible the sovereign authority to the people, direct that each county and city shall elect agreeably to the constitution of United Irishmen, representatives to meet in Dublin, to whom the moment they assemble the provisional government will resign its functions; and without presuming to dictate to the people, they beg to suggest, that for the important purpose to which these electors are called, integrity of character should be the first object.
28. The number of representatives being arbitrary, the provisional government have adopted that of the late house of commons, three hundred, and according to the best return of the population of the cities and counties the following numbers are to be returned from each:-Antrim 13 – Armagh 9 -Belfast town 1 – Carlow 3 -Cavan 7 -Clare 8 Cork county, north 14 -Cork co. south 14 -Cork city 6 -Donegal 10 -Down 6 -Drogheda 1 -Dublin county 4 -Dublin city 14 -Fermanagh 5 -Galway 10 -Kerry 9 -Kildare 4 -Kilkenny 7 -Kings county 6 -Leitrim 5 -Limerick county 10 -Limerick city 3 -Londonderry 9 -Longford 4 -Louth 4 -Mayo 12 -Meath 9 -Monaghan 9 -Queen’s county 6 -Roscommon 8 -Sligo 6 -Tipperary 13 -Tyrone 14 -Waterford county 6 -Waterford city 2 -Westmeath 5 -Wexford 9 -Wicklow 5
29. In the cities the same sort of regulations as in the counties shall be adopted; the city committee shall appoint one or more sheriffs as they think proper, and shall take possession of all the public and corporation properties in their jurisdiction in like manner as is directed for counties.
30. The provisional government strictly exhort and enjoin all magistrates, officers, civil and military, and the whole of the nation, to cause the laws of Morality to be enforced and respected, and to execute as far as in them lies justice with mercy, by whcih [sic] alone liberty can be established, and the blessings of divine providence secured.

1867

The Irish People to the World

We have suffered centuries of outrage, enforced poverty, and bitter misery. Our rights and liberties have been trampled on by an alien aristocracy, who treating us as foes, usurped our lands, and drew away from our unfortunate country all material riches. The real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living, and the political rights denied to them at home, while our men of thought and action were condemned to loss of life and liberty. But we never lost the memory and hope of a national existence. We appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers. Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt. Our appeals to arms were always unsuccessful.

Today, having no honourable alternative left, we again appeal to force as our last resource. We accept the conditions of appeal, manfully deeming it better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existence of utter serfdom.

All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.

We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Republic based on universal suffrage, which shall secure to all the intrinsic value of their labour.

The soil of Ireland, at present in the possession of an oligarchy, belongs to us, the Irish people, and to us it must be restored.

We declare, also, in favour of absolute liberty of conscience, and complete separation of Church and State.

We appeal to the Highest Tribunal for evidence of the justness of our cause. History bears testimony to the integrity of our sufferings, and we declare, in the face of our brethren, that we intend no war against the people of England – our war is against the aristocratic locusts, whether English or Irish, who have eaten the verdure of our fields – against the aristocratic leeches who drain alike our fields and theirs.

Republicans of the entire world, our cause is your cause. Our enemy is your enemy. Let your hearts be with us. As for you, workmen of England, it is not only your hearts we wish, but your arms. Remember the starvation and degradation brought to your firesides by the oppression of labour. Remember the past, look well to the future, and avenge yourselves by giving liberty to your children in the coming struggle for human liberty.

Herewith we proclaim the Irish Republic.

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT

1916

POBLACHT NA hÉIREANN

The Provisional Government of The Irish Republic To The People Of Ireland

Irishmen and Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government:

THOMAS J. CLARKE, SEAN Mac DIARMADA, THOMAS MacDONAGH, P. H. PEARSE, EAMONN CEANNT, JAMES CONNOLLY, JOSEPH PLUNKETT

And a footnote: Proclamation by Óglaigh na hÉireann, 28th June 1922

1922irapoclamation

Proclamation.

Fellow Citizens of The Irish Republic

The fateful hour has come. At the dictation of our hereditary enemy our rightful cause is being treacherously assailed by recreant Irishmen. The crash of arms and the boom of artillery reverberate in this supreme test of the Nation’s destiny. Gallant soldiers of the Irish Republic stand vigorously firm in its defence and worthily uphold their noblest traditions. The sacred spirit of the Illustrious dead are with us in this great struggle, “Death before Dishonour” being an unchanging principle of our national faith as it was of theirs, still inspire to emulate their glorious effort. We, therefore, appeal to all citizens who have withstood unflinchingly the oppression of the enemy during the past six years to rally to the support of the Republic and recognise that the resistance now being offered is but the continuance of the struggle that was suspended by the truce with the British. We especially appeal to our former comrades of the Irish Republic to return to that allegiance and thus guard the Nation’s honour from the infamous stigma that her sons aided her foes in retaining a hateful domination over her. Confident of victory and maintaining Ireland’s independence, this appeal is issued by the Army Executive on behalf of the Irish Republican Army.

(SIGNED)
Comdt. Gen. Liam Mellows, Comdt. Gen. Rory O’Connor, Comdt. Gen. Joseph McKelvey, Comdt. Gen. Earnan O’Maille, Comdt. Gen. Seamus Robinson, Comdt. Gen. Séan Moylan, Comdt. Gen.   Michael Kilroy,   Comdt. Gen. Frank Barrett,     Comdt. Gen. Thomas Derrig,  Comdt. T. Barry, Col. Comdt. F. O Faolain, Brig. Gen J. O’Connor, Comdt. O Rutiless, Gen. Liam Lynch,   Comdt. Gen. Liam Deasy, Col. Comdt. Peadar O’Donnell.