Hanging John Redmond

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It must be nice to be hung in Leinster House.  It’s a signal honour, telling the world that you are someone that Ireland respects, and that you’re a model for future generations. Is that over-egging it? I don’t think so. We don’t hang portraits in Leinster House of those we don’t revere.  And that’s why portraits of Isaac Butt, John Redmond and John Dillon are going  to hang alongside Charles Stewart Parnell.  The decision was taken by a committee which included Maurice Manning and Martin Mansergh. It seems they figured that the hanging of these men would be appropriate in the decade of centenaries.

So what name jumps out at you? Well, apart from that of Maurice Manning,who was my affable contemporary at UCD  and wore desert boots, the name that hits me between the eyes is John Redmond. I have no doubt Redmond was a sincere man. A hard-working man. A man loved and respected by many. A man who believed he was doing the right thing in urging  tens of thousands of young Irishmen to take part in an imperial war and die miserable deaths amid mud and barbed wire for…well, for Home Rule of course. Or as one letter-writer in today’s Irish Times described it, quoting Roger Casement: “ A promissory note payable after death”.  (Although shouldn’t that be “non-payable”? Britain got the Irish corpses; Ireland got yet another rubber cheque.)

Why do you suppose the portrait of Redmond and the other two are being put up in Leinster House now?  Because Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are faced with a terrible dilemma. They’ve spent the last forty years and more condemning republican violence in the north. Fair enough. There are people who take the position that political violence achieves nothing; History, that brutal teacher,  tells us the reverse. But Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are now faced on the one hand with continuing to praise those who sought Irish independence through peaceful means, while at the same time commemorating, honouring, even celebrating the sacrifice of the men who went into the GPO in 1916. Whatever else they may have been, the GPO men clearly  rejected constitutional efforts for achieving Irish independence.

That background creaking and groaning  you hear are the two traditional parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, trying to maintain their abhorrence of political violence while at the same time honouring it. As Ringo Starr once put it so eloquently if ungrammatically: “You know it don’t come easy”.

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22 Responses to Hanging John Redmond

  1. billy August 13, 2015 at 9:48 am #

    well this circle of political violence achieved nothing,nor will the gfa.anyway ime off for a spot of fishing on this lovely day,maybe ile catch one worthy of putting its photo on the wall,

  2. Perkin Warbeck August 13, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    Could Maurice Manning and Martin Mansergh be described, Esteemed Blogmeister, as the Cole and Kaye of Weshtminister?

    The latter two, Nat King and Stubby, to give them their first names also immortalised a hanging in their time:
    ‘ It’s a hanging day in Wolfe City, Wyoming
    Wolf City, Wyoming, 1894;
    They’re gonna drop Cat Ballou
    Through the gallows floor’.

    One pictures them now, M.Manning. and M.Mansergh., togged out in their derby hats and silk waistcoats and they to be alternatively pulling first the plink and then the plonk from their banjos. Indeed, M. Mansergh could well be practising his banjo hold on his trusty tennis bat at this very moment in t., going forward.

    Reason for this is because Perkie has a vivid recollection of once sidling up to the Tipperary landowner with the far away accent during the Eighties when he (M. Mansergh) was the political advisor of the Prime Minister of the time: C.J.H., (for it was he !) noted Republican. It was at some publicly funded bash or other in Dublin Castle for us, the usual select bashful few.

    It was the decade when a fellow parishioner of M. Mansergh a Nicky English (by name rather than by accent) was in his majestic pomp on the Premier County hurling team, And Perkie’s inner hack was keen to get the local lowdown from the neighbour.

    Alas, the Tipperary landowner was unaware of this English chappie’s existence.

    – Lawn tennis would be one’s sport, old boy.

    As there are three Home Rulers due to be hung one supposes the forthcoming ceremony is being codenamed ‘The Hanging Three’. Till one realises they will form part of a quartet, joining the already suspended C. S. Parnell. And as the portrait of Isaac Butt is a charcoal drawing a new dimension might well be added to the old meaning of ‘h., drawn and quartered’.

    Unlike Parnell, Butt did not come equipped, oddly enough, with a middle initial. as was the norm of the time.This has always struck one as being something of a pity.Say, for conversation’s sake, Butt had been given as a middle name, Fairfax, Fawcett or even Fauntleroy itself, we could have been faced with a I.F. Butt.

    But of course that is a combination for which more than just Ulster says a resounding; NO ! Mind you it must have been a near thing as Butt was born on the banks of the Finn. He could have been called Isaac Finn Butt: Perchance, that might have been a , erm, bridge too far.

    There was something historically inevitable however about the venue chosen in Ballybofey in 1972, For the founding of a rival party to CJH’s (see above) by the Blaney Boys: Independent Fianna Faill (IFF) and the Butt Hall, respectively. Surprisingly, the Donegal Demorcrat missed a headline at the time: Butt says yes to IFF !

    Something inevitable too about Butt taking his place beside his fellow swinger, Parnell. Old Iasac, seemingly, was a bit of a lad, by all accounts in his day, or indeed,night. Ladies of an irate nature were known to heckle meetings he was in the process of addressing, and they to be holding children he had (already) fathered.

    It is not recorded whether Butt was primarily a bust or a bottom man. Though the odds would appear to favour the latter.

    Perhaps, more aporpos, in the context of (gulp) S.Collins’ piece of surprising puffery in The Unionist Times, was his view on Home Rule. Not so much with regard to Home Rule nearer home but rather in the far away Himalayas..

    In December 1878 when Westminister was recalled to debate the War in Afghanistan old Isaac considered this discussion too important for the British Empah to be interrupted by obstructionism and publicly warned the Irish members to refrain from this tactic.

    Whatever can all this mean?

    Perhaps, a newshound might bark some light on the darkness of this Afghan conundrum.

    • Jude Collins August 13, 2015 at 11:38 am #

      I won’t say you’re a model for contributors, Perkin, for the good reason that attempts to model oneself on you must inevitably result in abject and undignified failure…

      • Perkin Warbeck August 13, 2015 at 6:52 pm #


        As long as you are prepared to tee up the dimpled Dunlop one is happy to take out the old Big Bertha and whack away.

        And one is particularly thankful, A Mhaistir Ionuin Blog, for your indulgence when one fails to hit the ball down the hey-diddle-diddle. More often than not taking the scenic route, via the high grass, the shrubbery, the bunkers, the pines and the car park. Not always out of choice.

        Sometimes one even manages to hole out in single figures.

        Terrific tour you’ve assembled there, o Blazered One. Great to be part of it.

        Beir bua.

  3. Am Ghobsmacht August 13, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    A bit harsh if you don’t mind my saying Dr C.

    You (and indeed many others reading this site) are of working class northern Catholic nationalist stock who have lived in a time that has seen two world wars, a rebellion and one (or two) Irish civil wars elapse since then.

    That doesn’t even cover the periods of theocracy or aristocratic decapitation in Ireland.

    Redmond came out with his ideas and methods knowing how the upper class of the empire ‘worked’.

    He was upper class himself.

    It was also a period where the leader of Sinn Fein advocated a dual monarchy approach to governance, a stark contrast to modern SF.

    Things were different.
    Ergo means were different.
    Ireland WAS part of the UK, no matter how much this irks modern nationalists.
    Ireland back then was more like Kubrick’s (Thackery’s) Barry Lyndon than now.

    I had an a-hole of a landlord from Cork.
    But had he been attacked I would have defended him, probably to feather my nest rather than altruism, but, I would (hopefully) have done it.

    It’s a strategy.

    It would have been ruined if in the middle of said hypothetical fight my hyperactive brother had come out and started kicking my landlord in the shins citing all previous complaints about our tenancy,

    Redmond’s strategy might have worked had it been given the chance (which it wasn’t, the Easter Rising was the final nail in the coffin IF people would listen to Protestant folk lore).

    Irish nationalism back then, like now, did all the wrong (but arguably ‘romantic’) things.

    As for comparing the violence of the GPO rebels to ‘other’ armed groups, from what I gather the Easter rebels were pretty sure they were marching to death.
    The Provos sought to distance themselves from death as much as possible hence car bombs, Quality Street tin bombs, hostage taking, firing squads, geriatricide, mortars…. (hunger strikes notwithstanding)

    Sorry Dr C, I understand your ideological premise and the hypocrisy that might be unmasked because of it but there are stark differences.

    • Jude Collins August 13, 2015 at 11:34 am #

      Thank you, AG, for your customary civilized and intelligent contribution. Much though I disagree with it, I think you’re a model for worthwhile debate. (Take a bow before I change my mind..). Redmond’s strategy might have worked if Britain hadn’t caved in to north-eastern unionist demands – they wanted the whole island, they got the six counties. You could argue that 1916 and the GPO scuppered Redmond’s plans but you couldn’t argue that Redmond sent young men to die on the back of a promise he should have known would not be fulfilled. That’s a lot of blood to have on your hands. As to the 1916 people knowing they were going to die – well, yes and no. Some like Pearse saw it as a blood sacrifice (not uncommon at the time, despite claims to the contrary), others saw it as a fight against overwhelming odds but had no intention of putting themselves in the path of a bullet if possible. (Interestingly, when I interviewed Ian Paisley Jr for ‘Whose Past Is It Anyway?’, he expressed some limited admiration for James Connolly but none for Pearse: “He was a madman! He fought to lose. If you’re going to fight, you fight to win! Except you’re mad”. ) No, the core connection between Pearse and Co and the republicans here during the 1970s and 80s is that both had a go at breaking the union with Britain by violent means. There’s no dodging that. Unfortunately, Enda and Co have to commemorate/celebrate the founding of the state through these violent actions (including the Tan war) while at the same time arguing that the violence in the north was a totally different kettle of bullets. A painful contortion, that one.

  4. Séamus Ó Néill August 13, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    Methinks Billy is a little embittered about something , but if he is of the opinion that we should not have made peace when we did ,as a tiny minority of republicans do , then I would like him to explain his reasoning…however I digress . Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are most certainly in a perplexing quandary and its self made ! From the formation of their “Free State” they continually ignored 1/4 of the Irish people ,they continually fed into the mindset that we were not just as Irish as them and encouraged that attitude. Perhaps if they had have been as interested in the festering sore a few miles away as they were in brown envelopes and hospitality tents they would have seen the rise of Sinn Féin and the threat to their status quo . Do they try and ignore that their own political parties emerged from a violence ….no less reprehensible than that which they continually castigate us for. Much as their revisionism would like to down-play or quietly ignore 1916 it is there staring them in the face and its not going away. Their first pathetic attempt at a commemoration was buried in recoiled embarrassment and it can’t get much better for them. If by unveiling a Redmond portrait you are trying to imply constitutional nationalism is superior then you have to ignore tens of thousands killed for British imperialism and your own existence…a multitude of options…..NOT

    • billy August 13, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

      a little embittered about something,what would make you think that,i was just pointing out the political failure of the last thirty yrs and the gfa being unable to deliver anything,you seem to be of the opinion anybody doesnt agree the sf line their anti peace or maybe ime picking you up wrong,

  5. Iolar August 13, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    The last straw

    Annihilation, now that is a fine class of a word to end a sentence. Mr Redmond did not countenance the annihilation of thousands of Irish men, in the war to end all wars, when he said,

    “The interests of Ireland—of the whole of Ireland—are at stake in this war. This war is undertaken in the defence of the highest principles of religion and morality and right, and it would be a disgrace for ever to our country and a reproach to her manhood and a denial of the lessons of her history if young Ireland confined their efforts to remaining at home to defend the shores of Ireland from an unlikely invasion…”

    Radio 4 featured a mélange of items in succession today, starting with fortunes amassed during the slave trade and moved swiftly on to the plight of the thousands of refugees who are landing daily in Kos, many fleeing from annihilation in Syria. It sounded as if someone was asleep in the Beeb. It would appear that Jack Straw has more time on his hands or possibly has just tired of attempting to rename streets in Iran. Taking his cue from Tony Blair, he warned the electorate that if Mr Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour Party, it will mean rout, possibly annihilation for the party.

    All is not lost, however, on the Emerald Isle. Mr Lenihan will return from Russia with love to serve the people in their hour of need. “We have got to move on…” he told us. “Sinn Féin/IRA violence is a thing of the past…” (TV3 11.8.15). There was no mention of state collusion with loyalist murder gangs or the legacy of the Civil War in Ireland.

    Moving swiftly on, is there a chance that we will hear the dulcet tones of a commentator utter the words to the electorate,

    “You have been framed.”

    following the election in 2016.

  6. TheHist August 13, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    It seems Leinster House must be out of ideas when John Redmond and his contemporaries are adorning walls. Suppose, as a constitutional Nationalist, against the Easter Rebellion and ideals of militant republicanism, I can see why the Southern Government would revere him! For what? What did Redmond achieve? Quick answer is nothing!

    Some may say he brought Ireland close to Home Rule? Did he really? Redmond, like Parnell before him became a puppet for the Liberal Party who were that power hungry, deciding to align with the Irish as they needed their MP’s support due to a hung Parliament. Were Liberal offers of Home Rule sincere? Well, lets take the 3rd Home Rule Bill – Asquith and his governments handling of the affair illustrates they were more afraid of Unionist resistance, than that of the will of the majority of people on the island! Home Rule in essence was a carrot on a stick, that Redmond could only hope to get, yet couldnt.

    By 1914 Redmond had in essence accepted the partition of Ireland, damaging his “credibility in Ireland”. The principle of Partition had now been introduced into Irish politics as a reality! After the suspension of Home Rule, the famous speech of Woodenbridge, submitting Irishmen to the British War effort was a mistake … “go where the firing lines extend.” Well, History illustrates that these lives that were sacrificed by Redmond didn’t achieve Home Rule, 35,000 lives lost! Redmond and the IPP according to Russell Rees had been ‘left in limbo’ by decision to suspend HR due to war. The IPP had no clear programme of action other than its support for an increasingly unpopular war. They had no means of bringing HR about until war over – Redmond was powerless, he in effect showed no political influence, instead played follow the leader, after Asquith! The British War office in granting divisional status to the 36th Ulster Division refused to grant similar status to Irish Regiments – Redmond accepted this! Redmond offered an influential place in a war time coalition, refused this position – could he have used this position to push for more concessions on Home Rule?

    Redmond was undoubtedly the major casualty of Asquith’s indecisiveness and the Unionists who used non-constitutional tactics were the ones who succeeded. He failed to grasp the significance and effectiveness of Unionist extra parliamentary tactics and remained over-focused on the numbers game at Westminster. Redmond trusted Asquith to fulfil his promises, and when he failed to deliver, Redmond was the man who had to concede to Carson. He also failed to recognise the conditional nature of Liberal support for the Home Rule cause, and seems to have been taken by surprise at how quickly the Liberals moved towards compromise over Ulster. Ultimately, Redmond and the IPP were too complacent, too wedded to peaceful parliamentary means to grasp how the political situation was changing in the charged atmosphere of 1912-14.

    Even his attitude to the Easter Rebellion – a man out of touch will his people in the aftermath! Condemning the actions of participants when the sea change of public opinion was in full swing – to lead to the oblivion of his beloved IPP at the hands of Sinn Fein by 1918!

    In the word of FSL Lyons, John Redmond was ‘a man who knew the extremes of success and failure, and whose career was to end in tragedy’. “Tragedy” … but sure stick a portrait on the wall of Leinster House to commemorate this failed politician … I support the view of Stephen Collins in John Redmond: Discarded Leader “John Redmond died a political failure and a broken man … with his memory being systematically buried” Where it should remain!

  7. ANOTHER JUDE August 13, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    The men who died in France would have been better of fighting at the GPO, however a lot of them joined the British army because they were paid a wage, a wage they could send home to their family. It was not some sort of devotion to Britain that compelled them to take part in the futility of the first world war, it was economic need. The treason of the UVF was rewarded with the granting of their own little caliphate, a sectarian head count that resulted in the bastard child that is/was the sick counties. The leaders of the Easter rising were executed, how many Unionists were killed for their treason, none. They were rewarded with a spanking new parliament. Who says violence doesn`t pay? Not Craig and not Carson.

  8. michael c August 13, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    As someone who canvasses in elections ,I still come across the name “John Redmond” occasionlly on the electoral register.It is a handle to be found on elderly members of die hard Hibernian families who are SDLP to the core.Needless to say these houses never feature when Francie Molloy’s whopping majority is being estimated!

  9. Ryan August 13, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    I’m sorry to say I don’t know too much about John Redmond only small sketches I gathered from this blog and its contributors but to me John and his party seems like the SDLP of his day. Watered down Irish nationalism. Opposed to any violence against the British state but jumping up and down in support of sending young Irish men to their deaths in WW1 on the false promise of “Home Rule”, not even the full independence of their country was promised. How dare the Irish people demand their basic democratic rights and independence of their country, the cheek of them….

    Putting Redmond’s portrait up now, on the eve of the 1916 celebrations, is very strange. I may be wrong and I’m open to be corrected here but didn’t Redmond demand the execution of the leaders of 1916? So why put up a portrait of Redmond in a Parliament founded by men that Redmond wanted executed?….

    Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are trying to ride two horses when it comes to the 1916 celebrations. They cant honour the men/women of 1916 and then say the PIRA was wrong during the troubles. That would be deeply hypocritical and they both will look like the DUP and no one in their right mind wants to look like the DUP.

    Maybe Fianna Fail and Fine Gael should just leave the 1916 celebrations to Sinn Fein? After all, wasn’t it Sinn Fein that planned the 1916 Easter Rising in the first place? But, of course, petty party politics is at the core of the 1916 celebrations here when it comes to FF/FG, they cant have Sinn Fein getting all the limelight and, most importantly, the votes. We are also on the eve of a general election too, you know…..

    • Ciaran Mc August 13, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

      Ryan, theEaster Rebellion had nothing to do with SF – SF had no direct part and their leader at the time, Arthur Griffith was not supportive off it – although heserved time in Reading Jail for alleged involvement. The Easter Rebellion was Orgnaised secretly by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and included the IVF and Connolly’s ICA.

      SF benfitted immensely from the Rising as the British wrongly called it “the SF rebellion” in the media – in effect, giving legitimacy to SF’s rise – the a British used the term “Sinn Feiners” to describe anyone with advanced nationalistic sentiments and tenancies – how wrong were they and lazy to use a one size fit all mentality – SF weren’t even a Republican Party until 1917, when their constitution was changed and De Valera took over the leadership of the party. This coincidenced with Nationalist Ireland turning their back on the Home Rule politics of the Irish party under Redmond and seeking national self determination – a republic!

      The only party still in existence today that was around in 1916 was SF (and potentially Labour) although some people carry the argument that the SF of today are a different organisation. I wrote an article previously for Jude’s Blog on SF’s direct linkage to the Easter Rebellion http://www.judecollins.com/2015/02/1916-relatives-everyone-else-shun-eoghan-harris-ciaran-mcl/

      • Ryan August 14, 2015 at 12:33 am #

        That’s where I must have got confused Ciaran that SF had involvement in the Easter Rising due to British propaganda of the time, forgive my ignorance.

        I’m ashamed to say I don’t know as much about Irish history around the time of the Rising as I would like. I feel even more ashamed because my own great, great grandfather on my fathers side was a volunteer in the Rising (he survived) and his name is listed so. (I know many republicans have claimed that their family were in involved in the Rising but I’m proud to say that I’m genuine on this and have actual proof).

        I must start reading up on the Rising in more detail, I’d be grateful for any suggestions on good books that I should buy.

        • TheHist August 14, 2015 at 8:57 am #


          Fantastic personal History – hope you’ve done the family research there – fascinating stuff!

          There is a plethora of books and material on the Rising and that period of time. Perhaps the best thing to do is start with a general History of the period. The best I have came across are:
          – Marie Coleman’s The Irish Revolution, 1916-1923 (Seminar Studies In History) a good starter or
          – Diarmaid Ferriter’s A Nation and not a Rabble: The Irish Revolution 1913-23 (bit more academic)

          A general History will put everything into perspective as all events are linked.

          Specific to the Rising – fantastic documentary on YouTube called Seachtar Na Casca – insight into the leaders of the Rising or Kees History of Ireland. Maxwell:The Man who lost Ireland is another great documentary examining to role of General Maxwell and the executions.

          Best books specific to the Rising I have read is
          – The Easter Rising by Michael Foy And Brian Barton or
          – Ferghal McGarry’s The Easter Rising 1916

          Hope this is helpful – C

          • Jude Collins August 14, 2015 at 10:48 am #

            Splendid bibliography – worth us all having a look at. Go raibh cead maith agat, TH…

          • DanQ August 14, 2015 at 10:50 pm #

            ‘Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion’ and ‘The Republic: the Fight for Irish Independence 1918-1923’ by Charles Townshend offer very detailed accounts of the revolutionary period.
            Ronan Fanning’s ‘Fatal Path: British government and Irish revolution 1910–22’ is a brilliant insight into what was going on behind the scenes in Westminster at the time.
            There are also some good online history sources like
            Century Ireland http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/
            The Irish Story http://www.theirishstory.com/ and
            Centuries Timeline http://centenariestimeline.com/

  10. RJC August 13, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

    History is a funny old thing. A ‘progressive’ Orangeman recently told me that John Redmond was in fact the father of the Free State. Or the midwife or something. I forget.

    Republicanism would do well to remember that Unionism is still alive and well in the Republic of Ireland. It’s been said before, but I’l say it again –

    ‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.’

    There’s a reason that the Irish Establishment never talk about collusion. Sinn Féin now represent a serious electoral threat to Fine Gael. Best claim Redmond as one of our own, eh? Sure those Nordies are nothing but a bunch of rabble rousing ne’er do wells anyway.

  11. RJC August 14, 2015 at 12:59 am #

    And, y’know…if anybody reads this stuff –


    This is also relevant. As Owen Hatherey says – ‘Basically: if Klaus Barbie’s son was allowed to legislate all German history and mostly ppl decided that was ok’ – it’s all relevant to Ireland. Histoire de la longue durée and all that.

  12. Séamus Ó Néill August 14, 2015 at 7:01 am #

    Billy ,I’m the first to admit that the GFA has not lived up to our expectations but it’s extremely difficult to make peace with someone who continually sneers at you and treats you as a lesser being.No reasonable person wishes a return to war but Unionism seems to yearn for the ” Glory Days ” of imperial “paddy-whacking” …..not a “taig” about the place. They are the epitome of extreme hypocrisy continually exhibiting ” Ostrich syndrome ” but I hope they awaken from their self -inflicted trance soon and enter the 21st century. The GFA is the only show in town at the moment but should it collapse there is no returning to the apartheid past.