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Reference code: IE UCDA P21
Title:Letters concerning Irish Republican Brotherhood
Dates: 1921–24
Level of description: Item
Extent: 20pp
Biographical History  

The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) grew out of the Fenian movement which was founded in the 1850s by James Stephens in Ireland and John O'Mahony in New York. Although the two organisations were separate, the movement as a whole was known as Fenianism. In the beginning, the Irish organisation was called the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, but this was eventually changed to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Their watchword was 'Soon or Never' and their aim was to overthrow British rule in Ireland and to create an Irish Republic. The organisation was denounced by the Catholic Church and was even denounced by Pope Pious IX in 1869. It was reorganised in 1873, following a failed rising in 1867, with a new tenet which was that the Irish people would decide the hour to inaugurate war against England. Many Fenians, however, preferred action through agrarian agitation and the republican tradition was overshadowed for some time. In 1898, with the United Irishmen celebrations, the IRB recovered some of the support it had lost, and further gained momentum after the arrival in Ireland in 1907 of Thomas J. Clarke, a committed revolutionary who had spent 15 years in English jails. The Easter Rising of 1916 was organised by the Supreme Council of the IRB, and following the collapse of the Rising, Michael Collins reorganised the IRB once again. By 1918 there were 350 IRB circles with a total membership of 3,000. During the War of Independence, however, the organisation decreased in authority as the IRA gained more prominence. Even when membership overlapped, IRB membership ranked second to the officer's loyalty to the Dil. The Supreme Council was also in favour of the Treaty and was suspected of using its influence to win support. During the Civil War, the IRB spilt, and members of a new splinter group, the Irish Republican Army Organisation, working within the Free State Army, caused a failed Army Mutiny in 1924. This effectively meant the end for the IRB and it was disbanded later that year.

Scope and Content 

Eight copy letters concerning the Irish Republican Brotherhood, written by Liam Lynch, Liam Deasy and Florrie O'Donoghue, referring to disagreements with the Supreme Council on the Treaty, the need for a new republican party, and the disbandment of reorganisation of the IRB. Includes copy minutes of meeting of county centres.

Access:Available by appointment to holders of a UCDA  reader's ticket.


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