1916: a Catholic revolt against Redmondite elite?

Paul Bew argues that Mary McAleese’s speech in Cork recently was a retrospective explusion of John Redmond from the Irish body politic. He goes on to tackle the President on her critical mention of that former haven of the Anglo Irish elite, the Kildare Street Club:

Harvard University Press has just republished Gustave de Beaumont’s celebrated and highly sympathetic 19th-century text Ireland – Social, Political and Religious. As early as 1863, de Beaumont is able to point out that eight of the 12 High Court judges in Ireland were Catholic.

It is true that even in 1916 there were pockets of anti-Catholic discrimination in Dublin but the fact remains that the peculiarity of the Rising lies in the fact that it is a largely Catholic revolution, one of whose principal targets was the Catholics who had already gone through the glass ceiling.

John Redmond, for example, who had turned down a position in the British cabinet; those dozens of UCD doctors who served in the British army and were highly decorated in the first World War; those Catholic officials who worked at the apex of British administration in Ireland. These were the people who were about to inherit the political leadership of a home rule Ireland, and these were the people who were knocked out of place by the insurgents.

Inevitably the insurgents had to gain popular appeal by intensifying the sense of religious and historical grievance, the reasons for which are outlined in de Beaumont’s book. The Redmondite elite, on the other hand, believed that the moment was coming which would allow a genuine reconciliation between Ireland and Britain and Protestant and Catholic.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty