Home Rule Journalists and Patriotism
An Object Lesson
(13 August 1898)
Workers’ Republic, 13 August 1898.
Reprinted in Red Banner, No.12.
Transcribed by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Most Irishmen who remember the early days of the Land League movement in this country will also remember how the present Home Rule politicians, then pushing their way into public life, contrived to ‘rig’ the Irish newspaper press and use it as an advertising agency in their own behalf. The middle-class adventurers who now style themselves our ‘National leaders’ were confronted with a problem which may be stated thus: Given an oppressed people, an alien government and an insolent aristocracy, how best out of their mutual conflicts to evolve fame and fortune. From the Government not much could be expected. Secure in its position, it cared not for the hungry hordes of office-seekers and civil service aspirants with which our Irish middle-class besiege the Government buildings at every examination: it knew the exact value of the patriotism of the middle-class Nationalist newspaper, which denounces the ‘Sacsanach’ rule, and, at the same time, devotes whole columns of its space to explaining for the benefit of its readers how they may best sell themselves into the service of the Sacsanach, whether in the Army, Navy, Constabulary or Civil Service. Still less could be hoped for from the landlord class, the enemy’s garrison in Ireland. But there remained the people, the enthusiastic hot-headed, warm-hearted, patriotic people. And accordingly our patriot politicians, save the mark, set themselves to the task of gulling, cajoling and bewildering the people of Ireland in a manner absolutely unique in the history of any country. The method was simple. Our newspapers are not what their name would imply, merely chroniclers of news, they are, in Ireland at least, primarily political weapons in the hands of political parties. Accordingly the Irish public which delights to take its opinions from newspapers had its opinions on our ‘leaders’ formed somewhat in this manner:– Tim Healy, being appointed London letter-writer to a Dublin weekly, would, in the course of his letter, refer in terms of glowing admiration to the “matchless eloquence and statesmanlike speeches” of Mr Sexton; Mr Sexton, who wrote as lobby correspondent to another paper, in his turn could scarcely find terms eulogistic enough to describe the “brilliant sarcasm and legal acumen” of Tim Healy; Mr Harrington from the scene of the land war would, through the columns of the press, and like the others always under the cloak of anonymity, inform the tenants that the world was lost in admiration of Mr Redmond, and Mr Redmond would repay the compliment by half a column of gush over the “organising genius” of Tim Harrington; John Dillon would conclude his speeches by a quotation from the over-praised doggerel of T.D. Sullivan, and William O’Brien never lost a chance at home or abroad of calling Heaven to witness the love and esteem he cherished “from the depths of his heart” for the many high qualities of Mr T.P. O’Connor. 
How well the dodge worked the world knows. The Irish people worshipped those men with an enthusiastic self-sacrificing devotion. The Irish race at home and abroad poured in its hard-earned wealth to sustain those men in the fight, accepting them at their own estimation and bowing down before them, even when we saw some of them in prison making more clamour over the loss of their trousers than the United Irishmen or the Manchester Martyrs had evoked over the loss of their lives. But in due time the bubble burst. The Parnell crisis, and all the stormy scenes and base betrayals that accompanied it, showed us of what pitiful material our vaunted demigods were composed.  Every effort now being made, or likely to be made, to rehabilitate those men in public esteem must be regarded with contempt by every right-minded Irishman. We have been permitted to look behind the scenes of politics for a brief moment while the actors quarrelled in front, and they who have once seen the mechanism of the stage will never again be frightened by its thunder.
And if the discredited journalists who trafficked on our credulity in the past can no longer command our respect what of the journalistic staff who man our papers today? Their patriotism and also their honesty can be gauged from the following incident which was recorded in all our Dublin daily papers at the time absolutely without comment. We extract from the Freeman’s Journal.
IRISH INSTITUTE OF JOURNALISTS
The annual dinner in connection with the annual general meeting of the Irish Association District Institute of Journalists was held on Saturday evening in the Grand Hotel, Malahide. In the evening at 6.30 over sixty members and guests sat down to dinner in the spacious supper room.
Mr J.P. Hayden MP (chairman) presided. To his right sat the Right Hon. the Lord Mayor, Mr W.C. Mills, chairman of the Dublin District; to his left Mr Geo. McSweeney BL, ex-chairman, and Mr Thos. Kennedy BL, Lord Mayor’s secretary. Those present included Mr F.J. Allan, C. Ryan, J.B. Hall, J. Sherlock BA; M.F. McGrenahan BL; W.F. Dennehy, J.P. Gaynor BL; John Magrath, M.P. Ryle, T.R. Harrington, E. Tuohy, Cork; W. Barrett, do.; J. Geary, do.; James Murray, J. Wyse Power, Edward Byrne FJI; M.J. Cosgrave, R. O’Dwyer, C. Lehane, A.J. Conway, V.D. Hughes, P.J. Meade, P.J. Hooper, M.A. Casey, Drogheda; R. Donovan, J. Linehan BL; J. Jameson, R.J. O’Mulrennin MA; T. Fitzpatrick, F.C. Wallis Healy, L. Dennehy, solicitor; W.M. Seaver, M. Wheeler, William Stewart, H. McWeeney, P. Delany, P.J. Griffith, V. Kilbride, solicitor; G. Sherlock, T.D. Fitzgerald, J. McNerney, J.W. Bacon, T.J. Condon MP; R.M. Peter, Lionel Johnson, J. Mooney, W. Clarke, hon. sec., Dublin District; E.H. Kearney BL; Frank Manley, Edwin Hamilton MA; Dr Joze, John O’Connell, T. O’Connor, W.W. O’Mahony (Naas), M. Code (Wexford), P.F. Keenan (Enniscorthy).
The vice-chairs were occupied by Mr J.B. Hall and Mr T.R. Harrington.
Our readers will please perceive that from this list of names it appears that every newspaper in Dublin was there represented – Dillonite, Healyite, Parnellite, they are all there. All the men who write the furiously patriotic leading articles, all the literary guides of politics, all the men who in season and out of season are protesting their love for Ireland, their hatred of tyranny, their unquenchable determination to follow in the footsteps of Tone and Emmet. Well, these hot-headed, high-minded patriots (sic) met together and at a purely social, non-political function, where they were in an overwhelming majority, they commenced proceedings by drinking a toast, to what, think ye? To our martyred dead, no; to our motherland, no; to Freedom’s cause, no; perhaps to the 1,225,000 persons who died of famine in the present reign in Ireland, no. But to
Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen.
The sovereign under whose rule those countrymen and women of ours were starved to death, in a land as fertile as any in Europe, in obedience to a hellish system of political economy, and in accordance with the deliberate government policy sanctioned and approved of by Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen.
The very next Sunday most of those journalistic patriots were at the demonstration in Bodenstown , the greatest rebels of us all (mar dhea) and outvying each other in enthusiastic cheers for the great republican of ’98, protesting their admiration for his inflexible purpose and democratic virtues, even while the liquor they had consumed in drinking the ‘loyal’ toast had scarcely died out in their veins. And the day after the Wolfe Tone demonstration all our Dublin daily papers in the Home Rule interest contained long editorials written by these same versatile gentlemen, complimenting the Irish people for their fidelity to the cause of freedom. Could arrant knavery and hypocrisy go further?
Irish political history, written by such men as these, has represented our middle-class Home Rulers and their journalistic allies as the high-minded apostles of a distressed people; future history will more correctly stigmatise them as the most unscrupulous political charlatans who ever imposed upon a confiding race.
Before leaving this unsavoury subject we would like to ask a civil question. In the list of names given as being present at the loyal function spoken of, we see the name of Mr F.J. Allan. Mr Allan is manager of the Independent, is a member of the ’98 Executive, is reputed to be an advanced nationalist. If he was present at the banquet, why did he not protest? If he was not present, why did he not repudiate the name of those who used his name in that connection? Was it because he did not like to expose the lily-livered hypocrites who call themselves nationalist journalists? Or is he himself as great a hypocrite as any? Mr F.J. Allan is an official of the Irish Institute of Journalists who gave this dinner – Treasurer in fact – and as such directly responsible for this loyal toast. Let him answer.  And let him and all others take notice that there is now entered into the journalistic world of Ireland a new force in the shape of a newspaper pledged to carry out the revolutionary principles of the United Irishmen, in accordance with the changed economical and political development of the time.  In accordance with that pledge, which we here make to our readers, there devolves upon our shoulders the duty, which we accept with pleasure, of relentlessly exposing to the public gaze and trampling into the mire to which they belong all the horde of middle-class tricksters and political wirepullers who have so long emasculated and weakened our political faith. Let those “hirelings of England in the green livery of our country” take notice.
1. Healy, Thomas Sexton, Harrington, John Redmond, Dillon, O’Brien and O’Connor were Home Rule MPs. T.D. Sullivan was author of God Save Ireland and other nationalist verses.
2. After Charles Stewart Parnell’s relationship with a married woman was exposed in 1890, the Home Rule party turned against him and split into warring factions.
3. Called by the ’98 Executive to commemorate the centenary of the United Irish rising.
4. In the July 1, 1899 issue of The Workers’ Republic (after Connolly had accused him of acquiescing in another royal toast) Allan claimed that he had left the room when the toast was announced. Connolly replied that his explanation resolved nothing.
5. This was the first issue of The Workers’ Republic.
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