Daniel Desmond Sheehan

by Daniel Desmond Sheehan

 

When Mr O'Brien retired in 1903 the majority of the members of the Party scarcely knew what to make of it, and I have to confess myself among those who were lost in wonder and amazement at the suddenness of the event and the reasons that caused it. This knowledge came later, but until I got to a comprehension of the entire facts I refused to mix myself up with either side. When, however, Mr O'Brien returned to public life in 1904, I saw my way clear to associate myself with his policy and to give it such humble and independent support as I could.

The writer of this work first saw the light on a modest farmstead in the parish of Droumtariffe, North Cork. He came of a stock long settled there, whose roots were firmly fixed in the soil, whose love of motherland was passionate and intense, and who were ready "in other times," when Fenianism won true hearts and daring spirits to its side, to risk their all in yet one more desperate battle for "the old cause." His father was a Fenian, and so was every relative of his, even unto the womenfolk.

It may be said that whilst all these things were going on in Ireland and the Party marching with steady purpose to its irretrievable doom, the British people were in the most profound state of ignorance as to what was actually happening. And the same may be said of the Irish in America, Australia, and all the other distant lands to which the missionary Celts have betaken themselves. They were all fed with the same newspaper pap. The various London Correspondents took their cue from Mr T.P. O'Connor and the Freeman.

There are some who would dispute the greatness of Parnell - who would deny him the stature and the dignity of a leader of men. There are others who would aver that Parnell was made by his lieutenants - that he owed all his success in the political arena to their ability and fighting qualities and that he was essentially a man of mediocre talents himself.

The Party manipulators had now got their stranglehold on the country. The people, where they were not chloroformed into insensibility, were doped into a state of corrupt acquiescence. All power was in the hands of the Party. The orthodox daily Press was wholly on their side. The British public and the English newspaper writers were impressed only, as always, by the big battalions. The Irish Party had numbers, and numbers count in Parliament as nothing else does. Whatever information went through to the American Press passed through tainted sources.

In the cabin, in the shieling, in the home of the "fattest" farmer, as well as around the open hearth of the most lowly peasant, in town and country, wherever there were hearts that hoped for Irish liberty and that throbbed to the martial music of "the old cause," the name of Parnell was revered with a devotion such as was scarcely ever rendered to any leader who had gone before him. A halo of romance had woven itself around his figure and all the poetry and passion of the mystic Celtic spirit went forth to him in the homage of a great loyalty and regard.

Mr O'Brien went abroad in March 1909, leaving his friends in membership of the Irish Party. His last injunction to us was that we should do nothing unnecessarily to draw down the wrath of "the bosses" upon us and to work as well as we might in the circumstances conscientiously for the Irish cause. I had some reputation, whether deserved or otherwise, as a successful organiser, and I wrote to Mr Redmond offering my services to re-establish the United Irish League in my own constituency or in any other place where it was practically moribund.

There is no Irishman who can study the incidents leading up to Parnell's downfall and the wretched controversies connected with it without feelings of shame that such a needless sacrifice of greatness should have been made.

It boots not to dwell at any great length on the contests that followed. Suffice it to say that Irish manhood and Irish honesty magnificently asserted itself against the audacious and unscrupulous tactics of the Party plotters. Mr O'Brien, by a destiny there was no resisting, was forced into the fight in Cork City and emerged victoriously from the ordeal, as well as winning also in North-East Cork.

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