Seamus Breathnach’s Irish-criminology.com examines Irish society through its norm-creating as well as its norm-breaking agencies. These include the Church controls of Ireland’s State -- its Schools, Law, Police, Courts, Prisons, Media and much more...

 

4.) Crime and punishment in 18th century Ireland

 

Sean, Sile and Seamus

1. Mercantilist Leavings

     a. Regicide      b. Jacobites and the Scottish Union      c. Class, Crimes, Punishments And the ‘Work Ethic’ d. Developing the Criminal Justice System

2. Ireland, Rural and Urban

     a. Rural      b. Urban      c. A Useful Collection

3.Defenders and Dissenters

     a. Wolfe Tone And 1798


1.Mercantilist Leavings

Sile: On this Webpage, the intention is to describe the century under three broad headings: 1. Mercantilist Leavings, 2 Ireland, Rural and Urban and 3. Defenders and Dissenters. These three areas are loosely devised to frame our commentary concerning the passage of power from Prince to Parliament. The passage is more correctly from a Christian Prince to a Christian Parliament, first, to Parliament’s establishment and, then, to Parliament’s organization. Through its fundamentally Christian values and their received wisdoms, Mercantilism divides Europe on the outside on Christian lines, while on the inside, its war-like corollary, the Christian ‘work ethic’ mediates its values through the confessional as well as through the phenomena of crime and punishment.

Seamus: Let’s not bite off more than we can chew.

Sile: Look who’s talking? Admit it – didn’t you start this monster for a Website in media res, and we have to finish it?

Seamus: What’s this in media res? Do you think I began this Website without having thought it through to the end? What? Spontaneously, like?

Sile: YES: WE BELIEVE YOU BEGAN IT SPONTANEOUSLY!

Sean: YES: WE BELIEVE YOU BEGAN IT SPONTANEOUSLY!

Seamus: Well, you might be wrong?

Sile: NO WAY!

Sean: NO WAY!

Seamus: Well, if that’s what you think, so be it. At least let’s finish this Webpage.

Sean: Before proceeding further I need to get some things into some focus. To do that I hope you don’t mind but I need to summarize some of the things that have been said on this Website. In (2.b) The Criminological History of Ireland, you propounded a new theory of Irish history in which Power, you claimed, passed from the people to the Pope, in the first instance, and then it passed from the Pope to the Prince and then from the Prince to Parliament. This constituted three of the four paradigmatic shifts in power underpinning European history. The fourth shift was the passage of power from Parliament back to the People, which may be occurring in our own time, but, of course, to a totally different type of people (both racially as well as from a sociologically conscious point of view) to those in whom power originated. You also claimed that the European paradigm is not the Irish one, that the Irish were more in Europe that of it, and that in fact the Irish never really moved from the first paradigmatic movement and were never really able to rise to the second historical stage proper, but that the second stage and all other stages were done ‘darkly’, through the glass of European and the filter Anglo-Roman arrangements, as it were? Do you still feel that this is the case?

Seamus: Of course.

Sean: Crime and punishment in the eighteenth century, therefore, will necessarily reflect through that glass the third phase of history that is the passage of power from Prince to Parliament. Before examining such a purported configuration, I take it that we are still arguing within the context of the ongoing Christian conquest? How should we conceive of that?

Seamus: Yes, but let us not restrict our discourse too rigidly. Generally speaking, between 1600 and 1800 the form of antagonisms consistent with the furtherance of the Christian Conquest was known in Europe as Mercantilism-come-Capitalism. Most of the governing states of western Europe were heavily influenced by its orientation, which was an assortment of policies and measures designed to keep the nation state prosperous, Christian and through trade abroad, manufacture at home, and the collection of precious metals – mostly gold -- economically independent (Bullionism).

Sean: Accepting that, where do we go from here?

a. Regicide

Seamus: Let us look back for a moment. I think we can agree that the Christian conquest has by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries come a long way from the fraudulent Empire of the Patriarch Sylvester, just as Ireland has come a long way, in time at least, from the fraudulent claim of Laudabiliter. Moreover, Christianity now divides the new nation states as it divided countries under the Papacy. In the sixteenth century it was the British versus the Spanish, and Elizabeth sent the armada packing, even onto the shipwrecked coast of Western Ireland. And the British and the French was a permanent Christian feature of hate. Sooner rather than later the Irish Catholic and the English Protestant would be formed in the same forge. The European Reformation, therefore, will divide Europe into a North and a South, and these polarities enter the Irish political scene alternatively as war, as Martyrology and as crime. Consider the following points:

     1. The execution of Charles I on January 30 1649 by Cromwell and the English parliamentarians marked the end of monarchy and the passage of monarchical powers in England to parliament. Some three weeks before hand, on January 4, the House of Commons more or less stated this fait accompli. The Commons declared, inter alia, 'that the people, are, under God, the original of all just power...”

     2. Charles’ connivance through his Catholic wife with the Papacy, and the Papacy’s connivance with the RC Church in Ireland (not to mention Charles’ own efforts) put the Reformation (the Christian Conquest) in issue and, yet again, the Irish were being used by both Pope and Prince to take a line that was most inimical to their own interests. I do not just mean that they ran the risk of incurring the wrath of Cromwell, but that they, by Catholic persuasion, would fight for an English king, when by the same persuasion they wouldn’t fight for a Gaelic one six centuries earlier. Where the ‘Irish’ were obviously owned completely by the RC Church, the English were self-determined, and had the strength, to break away from the Prince in the same way as the Prince had broken away from the Pope. What could be clearer? The real issue between the Irish and the English is this: the former had – and have -- a deep-set religious fixation from which they cannot be rescued, the latter had a sense of history. In other words, while the Irish had an image of themselves that was defined for them by the Holy Romans, and never had a real discourse amongst themselves, the English through their earlier experience of the real Romans always had a discourse with themselves, defined their own image, and were able to say ‘no’ to Rome and the Papacy when it didn’t suit their requirements. And that’s a kind of difference that you can’t learn in a day, in a week, or a thousand years, and certainly not from the imitation of others or the mere use of words. That’s the kind of thing a society as a society enriches itself with – a thing that arises out of a continuous conscious social experience and reflection on self. A sense of history, in other words!

     3. To have defeated the King on the field, then to purge Parliament and the King’s aids, and then to put him on his trial, and then to chop his head off – here was an unforgettable England. Here was greatness even beyond the genius of Miltonic rhythm. Here was a country beyond compare! Here was your fist and second Eden. Power was here wrenched, forged and caste, not for self but for the common man. If you ask Irishmen, who unanimously have grown up to hate Oliver Cromwell, what do they think of Parliament, they will invariably tell you of its marvels. But if you ask them how, without the determination of Oliver Cromwell, it could conceivable have come about, they are struck dumb.

Sean: And why do you think that is? The cruelty of Oliver Cromwell would strike anyone dumb, not just Irish men, but quite a few English men as well.

Seamus: Why they are struck dumb is because they have never moved away from the conception of an overall power in the person of the Pope – and no matter what he did, it didn’t matter. He was far away, he was never thought of as a politician, and even if the Catholic Church never allowed democracy to enter its theocratic ranks, the Irish never cared, never analyzed, and were never concerned with it. This, unfortunately, is very much part of the problem with Catholicism and with Ireland. What most Irish men should have asked themselves long ago was: where do they imagine Parliament came from? Who invented it? And who, indeed, carried it socially through such resistance, that they could borrow rather than make it for themselves. That, in effect, they could pretend, as with English soccer, that they stole it from some passing stork or other. It never would dawn on Irish men to think that if they resisted the Catholic Church and had to forge democracy out of their relationship with the Pope, that they, too, in the process would have to change, that they would have to adopt different personalities, and that, in effect, they would become something new – and that something might well be Protestants!

Sile: But you still speak within Christianity. Protestantism is merely a different type of Catholicism.

Seamus: Now that’s a peculiar way of putting it, or, maybe, it is no more than we have already said about the avant-garde and the rear garde of Christianity.

Sile: Well, as a point of interest, where do you think the moral conviction of which you speak came from? How did the Puritans manage to draw upon such messianic drive to take out their King and lop off his head, if not from the very Christian conquest, which you castigate?

Seamus: You can say it was Christian, if you like, but you may wind up saying that any attempt to reach a higher social or personal form, or to cling to virtue, springs from Christianity. It doesn’t. Aristotle knew all about reaching a higher form, long before the Christians dreamed of harnessing to their own arsenal. And the old pagan Irish knew about virtue. Did you ever hear Stanihurst on their widespread practice of Fostering (otherwise called Gossipred or Compaternity)?

` You cannot (says he) find one instance of Perfidy, Deceit, or Treachery among them; nay, they are ready to expose themselves to all manner of Dangers for the safety of those who sucked their Mother’s Milk; you may beat them to a mummy, you may put them upon the Rack, you may burn them on a Grid-Iron, you may expose them to the most exquisite tortures that the cruellest Tyrant can invent, yet you will never remove the innate Fidelity which is Grafted in them; you will never induce them to betray their duty`

Sean: I bet he knew all about the rack!

Seamus: Well, Stanihurst was a monk himself. It seems that the middle ages had nothing but monks. Anyway, the above quotation comes from James Ware’s The History And Antiquities of Ireland (translated by Walter Harris Esq.). And it is perfectly wrong to thing of Christianity as the font of all goodness. If Nietzsche had his way, he would banish it from the face of the earth. We need not get so dramatic. It is sufficient if we understand that Christianity takes the human condition and appropriates it to its own mission. Human goodness was there long before there was Christianity, so we need not ring our hands and think that the world of all human value and warmth will crumble because there are no Christians any more. There will always be humans, and they will make their own morality.

In any event, my point about the Christian conquest is its capacity to divide and continue to divide. I never said it wasn’t a powerful and lethal coercive force, maybe an unstoppable one! It is all these things. And Max Weber was perfectly correct when he identified the constant struggle for beliefs and convictions, for the hearts and minds, as it was a kind of warfare. If you aren’t a Christian, however, then the forceful spread of Christianity is more like a rampaging monster than an enlightening religion; behind which is perhaps the most aggressive and coercive propaganda since time began. One thinks more of Tyrannous Rex than of T.S.Elliot’s ‘unoffending feet.’ Not too long ago, before the Americans got started, the RC Church organized its allies (the Irish, the Spanish, the Australians) to direct their considerable attention on East Timor. Was this a replay of John Paul 11 and Ronnie Reagan organizing the downfall of Communist Russia, by bringing it to its starving knees, and, together with Blair, Ahern and Bush, making great inroads into the Muslim hinterland?

Sean: While the Christian Church claims to be peaceful, its record is quite the opposite. Only the Church would deny that – and even when they do deny it, they hardly do so with any conviction any more. Its like their religious spiel. They never really talk religiously, but always economically, lawyeristically, about rights here and rights there –never as a concerned religion might speak. But that detracts from our current discussion. If I understand you correctly, you feel that one of the central Irish questions respecting the Irish Protestants is: how could the Republic of Ireland ever develop a democratic system, or a legal system or an administrative system, if they hadn’t borrowed them straight from the Protestants? You’re saying it was nowhere present in the Holy Roman set up, which still wavers between the confessional and the polite inquisition, not just on women and sexuality, but in a totalitarian grip on everything administrative, including the political parties, the Bar/Bench/Civil Service ensemble?

Seamus: Now, you’ve got it. And the eighteenth century is when progressive men forge ahead with a new kind of freedom, despite the drawback of the Catholic Church. It is as if Christianity has had its own civil war and the avant-garde is comprised of the reformed churches and the rear garde still hangs on to a medieval type of belief. The Irish and the English, already split over former things, are now retrenching on this ongoing issue as well.

b. Jacobites and the Scottish Union

Sean: Before moving on to an Irish configuration, is there not a comparison to be made with the eighteenth century state of Scottish nationalism?

Seamus: There surely is. The Act of Union of 1707 uniting Scotland and England was designed, inter alia, to secure a Hanoverian succession to the throne after the reign of Queen Anne. For at least three decades after the Union there was no visible improvement to the lower orders, and while there was some resistance to the Jacobite cause, between the famines and the taxes the majority probably were against the Union. The Stuarts line became associated with Catholicism and however commendable this was in Ireland; it was by the same token anathema to the Scottish Kirk.

The Royal Navy and bad weather put paid to any hopes of a successful French landing. In 1714 Queen Anne died, the Union prevailed, and George 1 of Hanover succeeded to the throne. This succession created its own resistance and the Jacobite Rising o f 1715, led by John Erskine, and an army of support drawn mostly from north-east and the Highlands, in other words Episcopalians favorable to the Stuart line. With a two-to-one majority the Jacobites mismanaged the war-effort and the Hanoverians, now supported by some 6000 Dutch troops, put King James VIII’s twoto-one majority to flight. (Was this a foretaste of things to come in Ireland!)?

In 1745 Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie, yet again sought intervention from the French to breach the Union. But the French saw no merit in it, so the patriotic Prince decided to go it alone. Again he looked to the Episcopalian northeast as well as the Highlands, and the response was exhilarating. The Jacobites soon took Edinburgh and advanced south to Derby, but disappointed by their expectation of the French, he decided to go it alone.

Initially it was a startling success, once again drawing most of its support from the northeast and the Highland clans. With no sign of French support, the army fell back and backs until near Inverness in 1746 the sound and slaughter of Culloden Moor entered the Scottish lexicon with an irremediable echo. Culloden, like Kinsale, sounded the death knell of a Gaelic way of life! The Union was saved yet again – to the relief of the Lowland Presbyterians, who contrast remarkably with the Irish Presbyterians a half century later.

Sean: Apt though it is to remember Culloden with a stave or two, there are few poems that I find suitable.

Sile: Which means he doesn’t find any suitable.

Seamus: Why not?

Sean: Well, if you look at the ones by Andrew Laing and Robbie Burns, maybe like me you will dislike the first for its suggested 6/8 rhythm and the second because of Burn’s surrender to the female aspect of the defeat.

Sile: What’s wrong with that?

Sean: I just find it unsuitable to the devastation that I consider Culloden represented. It was every bit as bad as the take-over of Irish life by the Parish Priest.

Seamus: What about Hugh McPherson. Maybe he has something appropriate or one of the Gaelic poets?

Sean: Let’s leave it. All the Gaelic poets seem to do is lament some religious object or other, some bishop’s passing or some Biblical non-event. The trouble with the Gaelic poets is their utter boredom. It was Burns who rescued the Scottish poets from such a national depression as the Irish suffered. -- Can we move on to some engagement with Irish criminology?

Sile: We haven’t left criminology, have we?

Seamus: Surely, but bear the execution of Charles 1 in mind when we come to mention that of Damiens, the regicide. Also bear in mind that the Catholic persuasion of the Irish to halt the Roundheads was an attempt to thwart not just the effects of the Reformation, but the development of Parliament and an English Republic as well. In some ways it also constituted a move – like Jacobinism -- back to government by Pope rather than forward to government by Prince, foolish Prince, no doubt, but a secular one nevertheless. You might also remember that the Irish Catholic rising of 1641 was orchestrated on Charles 1’ s behalf, that it was inspired by the Holy Roman interest, that it was to some extent even subversive of everyone’s interests except the Pope’s, and the ensuing tensions in Ireland were attributable to such subversion. Every Irish man, I believe, has to make up his mind as to the progressive nature of the Reformation and the progressive nature of Cromwellian Parliamentarianism. If there is another answer to these questions, I have never heard them, certainly not in Ireland.

Sean: Why is it necessary for every Irish man to answer to this question?

Sile: Because it is central to Irish life, silly.

Seamus: Because those who appreciate secular democracy or Parliamentary – even of the variety that George Bush considers eternally fixed as it came over in the Mayflower – have to explain to themselves how it could possibly have come about had power never passed from the Prince to Parliament? The Americans imagine it to be a one off and that it had no prior existence and cannot have a future progression. That is why America still cannot understand what either democracy is or what Communism was. And it is this that they have in common with the Irish – a fervent ignorance of history. But for the Irish it might mean that they not only discover the fixed mould into which Catholicism has poured them for all eternity, but that there was an older civilization on the Island that wasn’t ‘Irish’ – but that was Gaelic and that they existed long before the Jews were ever colonized by the Romans.

Sean: You also mentioned before that at or around this period – with the passage of power from Prince to Parliament in British terms -- that the RC Church exploited Irish weakness to the full.

Seamus: You must remember that it was only in the 17th century, with the flight of the Chieftains and the decline of the Irish language, that one could say that English control over Irish life (as with Roman Catholic control) was absolute; for it was only with the removal by the British of the native chiefs, especially after Kinsale in 1603 that the way was clear for the Catholic clergy to occupy their place. The Parish Priests are a little like Cuckoo; they inhabit nests they never made nor sired. Yet they get everyone to call them ‘Father’. Just as the British placed their man (the Sheriff) in every significant conurbation, so, too, the Holy Romans placed their main man (the Parish Priest) smack where the Irish Chieftain used to sit. This was the ordinary logic of the double imperial conquest: and it was the sheer persistent genius of the Holy Romans to convince the Irish that there was only one conquest, English, and that it was totally evil Being more connected to Rome and less connected to the people, the Parish Priest was well placed to run Ireland as if he was a homegrown native. He organized around the Sheriff (and retained control over the births, the marriages and deaths departments). Now he could control Irish knowledge, Irish ignorance, and through them fashion reproduction, fertility, sexual and social and political behavior as he pleased. There was nothing he could not touch or control, nothing too big, too small or too remote. For long periods this control was riveted to Irish culture such that Irish and Roman resistance to the overlord was seen as the same thing. And this was easy when we think of the events of the seventeenth century. In the Battle of the Boyne (1690), when the Protestant King of Orange, William 111, defeated the Catholic King James 11 and his French supporters an era of Protestant supremacy took over. The old rivalry between France and England, so much a factor in the history of the British Isles, will reassert itself again at the end of the century, but this time with respect to Presbyterian Ireland. In the meantime Protestantism is in the ascendant, especially after the Catholic revolt of 1641, which yet again legitimated the harsh treatment Irish people were to suffer as a result of the ambitions of the Roman Church.

By the eighteenth century, then, the Holy Roman Empire was well and truly split like the Cartesian cogito into a European divide of Nation States. What increasingly distinguished the Northern Protestant states and the Southern Catholic ones was the ‘Work Ethic’. This was the new civil method of distinguishing those nations that gathered respectively around the polarity of Catholicism and Protestantism. Within this dichotomy, of course, was the further dichotomizing fact of the division of labour, the production of wealth, and the intensifying consciousness of these differences as moral phenomena that needed redress – class-consciousness! By the end of the century this consciousness is to shatter Europe with particular resonance in Britain, France and Ireland. How we interpret these phenomena is of particular interest to the history of the eighteenth century, and while we cannot cover all the relevant issues, the following, we claim, is of essential interest to Irish criminology. Sean: In criminological terms how would you describe the passing of power from Pope to Prince?

Sile: I know that when you say ‘Prince’ you mean to import the female term ‘Princess’, as well. But might I mention the enormous contribution of Elizabeth to the Protestant cause.

Seamus: I suppose the best way to describe it is in the terms of how contemporaries theorized it. Whatever else the philosophes believed; few of them denied the enlightenment of monarchical government. With the realization of the nation State, power passed abruptly as well as gradually from the Pope to the Prince and for a while the Prince occupied a place not too distant from the former Pope. This, of course, meant, inter alia, that to use his power most efficiently, it had to be brought into the narrow reach of the Absolute Monarch and his Curia Regis, which is what happened during the reigns of Louis XIV, Joseph II and Maria Theresa of Austria, and Catherine the Great of Russia. And whether the legitimation for such absolute authority sprung from ‘divine right’ or a social contract based on enlightened service to the state or to the people if of little real consequence, save and in so far as the ‘divine right ‘and the ‘social contract’ were ways of configuring crimes and punishments as diverse as the ‘ lettre de cachet’, the occasional shenanigans of ‘Star Chamber’, and the more frequent pitch-capping of some croppy or other.

c. Class, Crimes, Punishments And the ‘Work Ethic’

Seamus: The class hierarchy of crimes-and-punishments arises by virtue of the fact that what was a more stratified society is now hardened around class-boundaries, which makes criminological issues more simple in some respects than hitherto – a fact that will be recognized at the end of the century by the class antagonisms of the French Revolutionaries.

In Ireland, where the French influence was popular if differential as between Catholics and Presbyterians, the circumstances (according to the author of this Website) could not be more inimical to a ‘ class’-based revolution. And however much criminal and penal reforms are compared or seen in parallel with mainland Britain, because of the overriding significance of the hegemony of religious divisions, they have to be understood accordingly.

Sean: Nevertheless, the influence of the Americans, the French Revolution and the particular work of Thomas Paine, did have an impact.

Sile: Of course they did. But that does not explain why Ireland was any different than the French in raising a revolution?

Seamus: But it does; for we must understand that the resonance of the revolution – just as the act of Regicide resonates in the antagonisms of those who have a King -- sounded more amongst those societies which had moved from a simply stratified society to a class-bound one. For only here was the ancien regime recognized as a class and only through that could the working class recognize itself as such as well. Those societies that were simply stratified cannot see these things and are thus unconscious and empty imitators, mothers of borrowed ideas who never experience the social compulsion of their predicament. Anyway, how do you say that power passed into the new arrangements of the Nation State?

Sile: But when English executed Charles 1, there was no revolution, as there was in France a century later.

Seamus: Yes-and-no. ‘Yes’, there was a Revolution. It ran through the warp and weft of English society, centering not just on Parliament but also on the religious allegiance of the Monarchy and the need for the new religion. And ‘no’ – there was no Revolution, because a Parliamentary revolution, rather than one expressed in terms of class, was not considered a revolution a hundred years earlier.

Sean: So, what changes do you say were revolutionary?

Seamus: The ordinary changes, which we in Ireland take for granted – until, that is we make comparisons. These were once revolutionary. Where we talk about change, but never did it, it was they, the British, the Puritans who did the actual changing, yet we fail to appreciate that fact. Without them no Parliament was possible. Beginning with the Nation State, Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal, for example, entered a new alignment under the King. The Irish, by comparison, have no such arrangement and are thereby fed by ethical notions outside their culture that are not generated by them. More generally, what had been Offences Against The Faith in earlier centuries under the Papacy had eventually materialized in the new Church/State-nation as Offences Against the State. Again, an Irish comparison here is open to speculation and while the more affluent amongst the Irish will attempt to laugh, even today, in the twenty first century, would they dare laugh at the notion of ‘Moving Statutes’ or the blessed bones of ‘St Theresa’. Notable in secular England was the transmutations from Heresy, Witchcraft, and Blasphemy to Treason, Regicide, corruption of the blood, and Scandalum Magnatum. The laws of Libel were designed to curtail accusations against structurally positioned VIPs as well as to protect the middle-class distribution of the powerful in the service of the State, under which the appropriation of criminal matter was processed by the State’s new priesthood, the lawyers.  Solicitors and Barristers operated under the State in much the same manner as the Dominicans and Franciscans had operated under the Papacy; the only difference between the priest and the lawyer being that the priest flattered himself that he mediated the ways of God to his flock and the lawyer flattered himself that he mediated the laws of the land to the citizen. In the Irish Republic these distinctions are sometimes wasted or non-existent.

And since the ‘work ethic’ was of central value to the mercantilist and capitalist state the new crimes tried to force the division of labour as well as criminalise the recalcitrant. In this regard, there was an Urban as well as a Rural aspect. The urban landscape ranged from the Palaces and Castles to the Rookeries, the dens of pickpockets. Crimes like vagrancy, vagabondage, and loitering, etc. became the crimes of the lower orders, the men of no property, across new Europe, whereas on the rural side, there was an intensification of crimes against poaching the estates of the rich. Capital offences against poacher proliferated, just as in the cities they proliferated against burglars and housebreakers. This contrasted the manorial wealth of the countryside with the manorial poverty of its discarded retainers who were now eking out a living as artisans in the trade guilds in the towns and villages, anticipating no doubt the advent and growth of the coal mine and the factory.

In a way the eighteenth century, when criminal justice was a personal matter, gave birth to what we call the Criminal Justice System. First of all, differences were settled by war (like the religious wars) and then by the wars between the Nation States (France versus England, England versus Spinet) and, also, the civil wars, which defined the new states. In a way the process was one in which the ecclesiastical courts gave way to the courts martial, which eventually gave way to the judicial system of justice. In establishing the judicial system, the birth of the Police, the growth of capital sentences (very frequent at first), the reform of the courts, the development of the new priesthood of lawyers around the state, and the prisons and reform institutions. All these recidivist-ridden institutions are defined for the first time in a modern sense in the eighteenth century, and in most respects Dublin followed London. If anything Protestant Ireland listened to the reformers like Howard, more than other British cities. In Sir James Fitzpatrick M.D. they found their own reformer – and there was much to reform. Dublin Newgate, while never as promiscuous as London Newgate, was run on the same lines. So, too, the Black Dog prison captured by Gilbert (History of Dublin) and in this and other respects (such as the Police) Ireland – as with Northern Ireland today – to some extent became an arena of experiment as well as innovation.

Sean: What then about punishments? Weren’t they scaled to meet the crimes?

Seamus: And if there was a class hierarchy of crimes, there had also to be a corresponding class hierarchy of punishments. Again the first and most ferocious of these had to do with killing the King. What had hitherto been anathema under the Popes and, indeed, damnation, was now personified in the killing of the monarch. Here the punishment for Regicide still clung to its medieval roots, the very tortures and terrors that Beccaria was trying to reform (Of Crimes And Punishments.). Foucault (Discipline and Punish), in his famous account of Damiens, the Regicide, he recounts how on March 2 1757, when taken to the Place de Grave and placed on a scaffold, his

“Flesh is torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and calves with red-hot pincers, his right hand, holding the knife with which he committed the said parricide, molten lead, boiling oil, burning resin, wax and sulphur melted together and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the winds'

It took renewed efforts before the tugging horses finally quartered Damiens’s bodily parts; the horrors recounted by Foucault were operated under the overview of a Christian iconography.

Sean: What then about the working classes or the lower order, if you will? Surely they were very much affected by these changes?

And amongst the lower orders, the Northern and Southern European aspects were easily distinguished; for they were marked by a proliferation of new punishments, not just extending the prevalence of capital offences, but the alteration of punishments from the use of the Galley sentence in Southern Europe to the use of the Bridewell/Zuchthaus in the North. Hand in hand with the work ethic was the Workhouse and the House of Correction, not to mention the growing use of schools, ordinary and special, and including the development of schools to service the ships and the trades to service the factories.

The whole history of Transportation was intended to put people to work in the colonies, especially vagrants and ‘sturdy beggars’, and later on the reformists turned the same Christian zeal on the Reformatory Schools and Borstals, which echoed the same or similar felt needs.

Concurrent with Transportation and the Hulks was a raft of reforms that led to the obvious need of the penitentiary. Many writers have compared the functions of the prisons with those of the factory, and the introduction in the nineteenth century of the refinements of ‘Penal Servitude’ and ‘Hard Labour’ hardly belie that view.

But perhaps the most enduring classic for linking the changing forms of crimes-andpunishments with the vicissitudes of the work ethic over the Mercantilist era is Rusche and Kirkheimer’s Punishment and Social Structure. Others have pointed out that the control of labour was only one aspect of several other functions accompanying penal changes – amongst which were the humanitarian substitution of transportation for the death penalty, the reformation ‘by industry and good works’ of the deviant, and the social rehabilitation of the criminal, especially after the 1895 Gladstone Committee’s recommendations on Prisons.

Prison architecture, like the Galley ships, also reflected the ‘work ethic’ as it was carried to the common criminal. There are several works which work this area such as Jeremy Bentham on Panopticon, or, indeed, Foucault (Discipline and Punish) on Bentham’s Panopticon or Michael Ignatieff’s A Just Measure Of Pain, or Robert Evans -- The Fabrication of Virtue (English prison architecture, 1750—1840 (Cambridge University Press1982). All of these and others besides constitute a rich literature on prison history extending from the eighteenth century onwards.

d. Developing the Criminal Justice System

Proportionate changes in the administration of the Criminal Justice System required a new civil service. The new state was to be served by a growing swell in the number of lawyers, who like a new priesthood tended to the religious and secular needs of the new State

The Reformation state in England placed the Lords Spiritual and the Lords Temporal

under the Monarch. Now all were about to become the servants of Parliament. Things spiritual in the Southern European states were served unilaterally by the RC Church while, at the same time, secular matters were catered for in some parallel fashion by Parliament. The consequences of these respective systems, not to mention the tensions between them, has never been fully examined or resolved, the RC Church under Pope Benedict XVI (2005) still planning and plotting a take-over of spiritual hegemony. Of course in the new ‘Catholic States’ the RC Church behaved in precisely the same manner as it had under the Holy Roman Empire when Popes and the Papal Curia lorded it over the pre-Reformation monarchies and civil governments. It might be recalled that the Spanish Inquisition did not go away until 1808. Think of the advancement of Fascism, not just as emerging from Spain in the twentieth century under the RC Church and their main man, Franco, but also as a continuing effort of the Christian Conquest renewing itself under new circumstances (and lasting, indeed, into the late John Paul’s relationship with Reagan and the Christian return of George Bush.). And now the open continuation of Fascism is present in the new Pope, Ratzinger having been a member of the Hitler-jugend and having been indoctrinated at an early stage by all those Hitler-jugend songs. I don’t mean to imply that one is responsible for the culture one is born into, but that’s a different matter when, given the track-record of Ratzinger as Cardinal, we are left with a word in which a piece of rubber can save a man’s life in Uganda and the voice of science and the social scientists is stilled in the face of the myths of religion. No one will condemn outright the stance of the Papacy in respect of the polite slaughter it creates. I am not talking about died-in-the-wool countries like Ireland, the Philippines, Poland and East Timor – I am talking about thinking countries other than them. The Vatican organizes catholic countries just as East Timor was through the mediation of Catholic Ireland, America and Australia. The State is really a front for the old Church, just as a Catholic University is a contradiction in terms. What is not generally known, except by critically-minded persons brought up in Catholic countries, is that neither the inquisition nor the overweening Papacy went away, they just adjourned to the respective houses of Parliament, to the school-rooms, the hospitals, the birthsmarriages- and deaths departments, the child-care and poverty departments, and, of course, the international department of Foreign Affairs, the great forum for RC theatre. And if one is still looking for the Inquisition’s old screwdrivers and forceps, one is more apt to find them, as we shall see anon, in the children’s’ bedrooms and in their schools.

Sean: It should not be forgotten that the eighteenth century is the age of classical music, and it is hard to think of it without hearing a Mozartian or a Handelian flourish. The dismal economists like Adam Smith, and Bentham seem less lugubrious when compared to the men of letters like Swift, Molyneaux, Malthus, Johnson (Samuel), not to mention De Sade, Voltaire and Baudelaire, historians like Gibbons, Lecky and Gilbert, reformers like Beccaria, Romilly, Howard and the Irish ‘Howard ‘, Fitzpatrick, not to mention the philosophers George Berkeley, David Hume, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, etc., etc., etc. The list is endless and the concerns equally so. Our job is to boil everything down to some cabbage-like concepts that we can hang on to. It would be much easier if we could listen to Don Giovanni or, more pertinently, The Magic Flute, and just hear the eighteenth century rather than try to conceive of it through endless texts.

Sile: As if things were so simple. In any event I would have preferred Cosi Fan Tutti. Or better still, let’s sit and just look at Ryan O’ Neill in Barry Lyndon. That’ll give us a whiff of the electricity-less eighteenth century. And on the reformer front I prefer names like Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelly, and later on Elizabeth Fry, and two lesser known seventeenth century Quakers, Elizabeth Fletcher and Elizabeth Smith, who introduced the Irish to the precepts of Quakerism, for which offence, unlike the fate of St. Patrick, they found themselves confined to Dublin’s Newgate by the Lord Mayor.

Sean: I’m sorry to interrupt you two but our interest here is to review society through the criminal institutions or, alternatively, to view the criminal institutions through society, not through the prevalence of Operas….

Seamus: Nevertheless an Opera like The Magic Flute, which in our time has lost most of its political significance, gives us Mozart’s quite preference for the Masons of his day over the contemporary Catholic forces of reaction, whether they were found in excoriating Papal Bulls or in the pinching personality of Bishop Colorado, his patron.

Sile: It is often forgotten that the inspiration of both Cromwell and the author of The Magic Flute are laden with Christian iconography, no less, one might add, than were John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders. The point I am making is that the values of the Christian conquest, having been internalized, are then ‘Protestantised’ or ‘Psychologised’ to suit the new political arrangements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In a way the Ten Commandments are individuated in the same manner as ‘possessive individualism’ is induced and becomes part of the adoptive social skills by which the new materialism of the age is assimilated. Unsurprisingly, therefore, in medicine, as in law, as in religion, the secular bias, following the Judeo/Christian bias against the female, unfolds and scaffolds the new secular priesthood as exclusively male.

The criminal Bar, especially during the century after 1750, emerged in its present priestly form and almost paralleled with the development of capitalism.

Gradually, the notions of ‘felony’, ‘adversarial procedure’, ‘legal representation’, and the rise of ‘advocacy’, were stealthily defined and brought into play as presenting a two-sided, binary notion of truth. More particularly, it was through the combat-comecompetition, at first exhibited in the political parties -- the same as emerged from the class struggles in the late century – and thence into the cliques who represented them in court, that truth, parliamentary truth or legal justice, was attained. The adversarial aspects of procedure grew more popular and the criminal Bar became part of the mosaic of what people had come to call ‘the criminal justice system.’ Thereafter the codes of criminal law particularised the necessity of a professional criminal bar, which throughout the century developed distinction after distinction respecting the moral and professional status of the criminal lawyer. In the work of Allyson N. May (The Bar and the Old Bailey, 1750-1850, the University of North Carolina Press)

Sean: And added to these changes were the introduction of the Police, a detective force, and an array of prison reforms all of which items are detailed elsewhere.

2. Ireland, Rural and Urban Crimes

Sean: What about Irish crime at this time? I know that while all the above phenomena resonated in Irish developments throughout the eighteenth century, there is, as always, a particular Irish dimension, isn’t there?

Seamus: Yes, but what do you mean by the Irish dimension?


Sean: I mean that European developments are felt in Ireland; but that Irish social arrangements are quite different than those applying to Europe. I mean that in many respects Ireland was never of Europe, merely in it.

Sile: What do you mean by that?


Sean: I mean precisely what I say: And if it is true that Ireland has no history, as has been claimed so often on this Website, then it explains much of what I mean. I also mean that the Irish social arrangements between Church and State – now between Catholic Church and Catholic State in the South -- go back to the initial as well as the continuing tensions created, as you said, by the Christian Conquest. I am also saying that the original tensions – that is between the two sovereign powers – the Church and the State, is lost in Ireland, where the Church is sovereign, and is under attack in Europe, where the Church lays constant siege – and will do so even more under Ratzinger. The Papal Curia governs the only remaining European Empire and no single country can match it. Ireland is – and has been, since 1922 – a Vatican satellite, no more!

Sile: I understand what you are saying. I just feel that it is hard to imagine that these tensions do not seem to have altered since their inception and yet they still operate subterraneously within the European historical framework.


Sean: Well, maybe the ‘Irish dimension’ really means the state of the dialectic between the Holy Roman/Irish interest and the Protestant/British interest in Ireland has entered a new dimension. This time it is not for the Protestants to preach; it if for the Catholics to rebel. And under Ratzinger the Church may well disintegrate in its attempt at world conquest.

Seamus: If that’s the case, then Irish culture has a role to play – this time a role that is not defined by the Pulpit, but one that grows out of a thinking, reflecting, give-meback- my-power type of people. In any event, here we are again, talking about Irish criminology and being dragged back into Church’s concerns, the identity of the Irish Church and State being too great for us to skirt. Maybe that’s what the ‘Irish dimension’ will come to mean – a breaking away or a redefining of things. Usually, when people speak about it, they hide it under phrases about ‘Irish culture’, ‘Irish peculiarities’, and ‘Irish character.’ These all fudge the analysis. By ‘Irish’ is meant a cultivated Christian space in Irish intellectual and administrative life that results primarily from the eradication and forgotten existence of the indigenous Gaelic people and the occupation of that space by the Christian conquistadores. This is precisely what ‘Irish’ means, and during my lifetime I have never known it to mean anything else. The ‘Irish’ are the Christian conquerors, regardless of the efforts made by the Catholic ‘ Irish’ to persuade themselves and everyone else that the Protestants are a bit more Anglo-Irish than they, who, as Catholics, are somehow more native, more authentic, and therefore less predatory.

Sile: For me Ireland in the eighteenth century is one of sadness and schizophrenia. We know that the use of the English language is rising as the widespread use of Gaelic is declining. The anvil, upon which the past and the future are forged, lies between the backward look and the vision forward, and both are as blurred as it is possible to get.

Sean: For me the eighteenth century is the age of classical music, and it is hard to think of it without hearing a Mozartian or a Handelian flourish. The dismal economists like Adam Smith, and Bentham were positively jovial when compared to men of letters like Swift, Molyneaux, Malthus, Johnson (Samuel), reformers like Beccaria, Romilly, Howard and the Irish ‘Howard ‘, Fitzpatrick. Utilitarianism or the Social Contract Theory is every bit as applicable in Presbyterian Ireland as elsewhere. I know you have made the case that the rebellion was an Irish bourgeois event. But before we look at the details in Wolfe Tone’s thinking, could you outline something of the crimes and punishments that we are talking about?


a. Rural Crimes:

Seamus: Without going down an egoistic or a sentimental road might I say that for me it meant 600 Carlovians (Catholics) being slaughtered by a Protestant garrison and having their bodies dumped in a Croppy Hole in ’98 Street, Graiguecullen, where my father lived during the war years? And there is hardly one account that explains it, including the account of Michael Farrell who lived through it. In some ways, he remains uncomfortably neutral. He was a reasonably well off saddler journeyman, who knew the poor and the rich in the town. He joined the United Irishmen, but at a certain juncture found them ridiculous. They were meant to be secret, for example, but they all got their hair ‘cropped’ so that they would be known to themselves. They didn’t seem to realise that it was futile to think that you were a secret body, when you stood out with a cropped head for one and all to see. Farrell felt that they were naïve, ill equipped and somewhat off the wall. I think he stops short of calling them ridiculous. Anyway he counsels against war in the condition they are in. And he does it so convincingly that it throws suspicion on himself. For even tough he and his friends were arrested and tortured he survives where others were hanged and writes his memoirs long after the events. Apart from his account, there is the Father Mac Sweeney’s account. This is not a contemporary account, and if one were to believe Mac Sweeney, one would imagine that the essentially Presbyterian uprising was begun in St Patrick’s college and was waged only by holy Irish Catholics who either had a priest in the family or adopted some family who had. Then there is Ryan’s History of Carlow. In it we find the Orange account, and it claims quite straightforwardly that the Priests had been egging the Catholic Irish on throughout the 1790s and that they more or less incited that part of it that applies to the Catholics.

Sean: So, we have an irreconcilable position again, straddling as usual the Christian Conquest.

Sile: Carlovians, like the men of Wexford and elsewhere -- and the men of Belfast today -- went out to kill themselves. Why? Just because they initially differed with each other as Christians. It is thanks, therefore, to Christianity that Irish people kill each other still.

Sean: Can we not get away from this most morbid subject? Why can’t we admit it – we don’t even constitute a Goddamn society! We are some kind of herd or horde of Christians. In any event, what about the other forms of crime and punishment besides being a Christian and getting pitch-capped for it by your nearest and dearest neighbours.

Seamus: Perhaps if we list some of the most popular crimes and punishments of the eighteenth century, we would get something like the following list.

     Treason                  Hanging +

     Poaching

     Murder

     Robbery

     Highway Robbery

     Housebreaking

     Burglary

     Piracy

                                  Galley Slavery

                                  The Hulks

                                  Transportation

                                  The Penitentiary

     Vagrancy.

     Vagabondage          The Bridewell/ Workhouse

     Abduction

     Child Murder

     Oath-taking

     Seizing Arms

     Coinage                  Felons Gaols

     Offences                 Debtors Prisons

     Embezzlement         Whipping and Pillory

     Juvenile Crime         Houses of Correction

The above list is neither exhaustive nor meant to be. Crimes like Duelling and Houghing and Rioting, as we shall see, crimes that arise out of the differences that exist between rural and urban living.

Perhaps the most widespread crime was one of simple vagabondage, the hordes of medieval retainers looking for somewhere to stay and somewhere to work. The increase in capital punishments also attended both the spread of boroughs and houses as well as the increase in housebreaking, burglary and larceny offences.

The wider use of money became associated with coinage offences, and was capitally dealt with.

Poaching was a most serious offence involving in England the King’s deer. By derivation it became serious amongst the Gentry in Ireland also.

Hanging, of course, was a universal punishment, extending from Treason, where it attracted elaborate augmentations, to simple larceny, the prevalence of which secured several hangings in the burgeoning towns and villages of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Reform were minimalist and gradual and it was only after great efforts at were made at the end of the eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth century, that eventually it was used more for the sole crime of murder in most cases – but even this simple equation was distorted in favour of embassies, judges and policemen and government officials right up to the abandonment of capital punishment as a means of social control.

Rural crimes were very much agrarian and even religious in nature.

What with the dissolution of the monasteries the agricultural change from tillage to pasturage and the enclosure movements of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the demand for new labour and the structural unemployment of old labour gave way to unemployed vagabonds and vagrants -- hordes of dislocated, disconnected and unwanted people

At the same time the widespread use of wool, iron and coal, opened up overseas markets and the routes to India and America, which, by 1776, had its civil war and was closing off the intake of convict labour.

And while much has been written about the secret societies, the Shanavests, Philibeens, Drins, Reaskawallahs, and other Faction Fighters, their precise location in Irish life has not been convincingly made. Some have said that they were a response to the enclosures of land and that the secret societies went out at night to maim cattle and break down ditches – a society of levellers. Others have associated them with the phenomenon of Faction Fighting – a spontaneous outbreak of cultural or tribal exultation that necessarily spent itself in beating the bejasus out of each other across tribal animosities. This also has some merit. But whatever the case – and we would prefer to leave such a large question to a more detailed study – we cannot deny that the most foregoing of the secret societies formed around the Defenders and the Peep-O’Day-Boys, these being the more serious minded and the more purposeful of the secret societies.

Before proceeding further with these, we might mention some forms of Urban Crime in the eighteenth century. Apart from the trade and gown riots, Dublin was given much to Urban crime.

b. Urban Crimes:

Urban crimes in the metropolis at this time included such offenders as ‘Chalkers’, ‘Houghers’, Weavers and Butchers, Liberty Boys, Ormond Boys, `’Bucks’, ‘Bloods’, and `Pinkindindies`,

Serried groups of gentlemen as well as gangs of tradesmen and Trinity College students committed most of these crimes. And while there are several authorities that mention their exploits, few deal with these criminals at length. Samuel A. Ossory Fitzpatrick. for example, recalled that while the streets were full of mendicants by day,

‘As soon as the shades of evening fell the dangers from footpads and highwaymen were infinitely more serious. For instance, we read: ' A few nights since Mr. Hume was attacked by two footpads in Merrion Street, and robbed of two guineas and his watch. They warned him to behave quietly, and give up what he had about him; for if he made any resistance, they would cut him without mercy.' (Town and Country Weekly Magazine, 19th January 1786.)’

That no lack of severity on the part of the authorities can be held accountable for this prevalence of robberies with violence may be inferred from the following account of an execution at Kilmainham. (The ancient Danish place of execution was Gallows Hills, east of St. Stephen’s Green and south of Lower Baggot Street. A gallows still stood near St. Stephen's Green in 1786, and here the four pirates mentioned shortly, were hanged) 'The execution of five footpads on Saturday last' (25th June 1785) 'was, by an accident, rendered distressing to every person capable of feeling for the misfortunes of their fellow 20 creatures. In about a minute after the five unhappy criminals were turned off; the temporary gallows fell down, and on its re-erection, it was found necessary to suffer three of the unhappy wretches to remain half-strangled on the ground until the other two underwent the sentence of the law, when they in their turn were tied up and executed.' This extract is a good example of the sentimentalism iii such matters which characterized the period.

Three more executions were carried out at the same place on 26th January 1786. The presence of so much wealth in Dublin, while so many of its inhabitants were destitute, must be held accountable for much of this crime, as we find it noted' in Twiss’s tour that 'footpads, robberies, and highwaymen are seldom heard of except in the vicinity of Dublin.'

In the city, however, scarcely a week seems to have passed in which some burglary or robbery with violence is not chronicled. Such being the condition of the streets, we need scarcely wonder that the roads in the neighborhood of the city were infested with highwaymen. In a number of the same weekly paper we read: 'The lads of the road were rather unfortunate on Sunday last, and that too on a cruise in which they expected to levy considerable contributions (Donnybrook Road at fair-time), for between the hours of nine and ten, six of them having' stopped a capriole (sic) near Cold blow Lane and called on the gentlemen therein to deliver their money, one of the gentlemen instantly presenting a musket at them they made a precipitate retreat. Their next attack was on a coach, in which unfortunately for them were four Independent Dublin Volunteers, full armed, two of whom, as soon as one of the robbers presented a pistol at the window, jumped out at the other, and after knocking the villains down with the butts of their firelocks, seized them, notwithstanding a desperate resistance, and brought them to town, where after securing five of them for the night, they had them next morning brought before the sitting magistrate, at the Tholsel, and committed to take their trial.'

Indeed, gentlemen belonging to the volunteers often took upon themselves to patrol the streets at night, and thus men of rank might be found discharging the duties now committed to the capable charge of the Metropolitan Police.

But crime was not limited to robberies or ‘coiners’. In March 1766 four pirates, captured near Dungannon Fort, Waterford, were hanged in St. Stephen's Green, and their bodies suspended in chains on the south wall and afterwards removed to the Muglins, a cluster of small rocks near Dalkey Island.

The dangers of the streets, said Fitzpatrick,

were further added to by the conduct of the 'Bucks' and 'Bloods,' young men of fashion, who founded the notorious 'Hell Fire Club,’ the remains of whose clubhouse still form a landmark on the summit of one of the Dublin mountains. They are said to have set fire to the apartment in which they met, and ‘endured the flames with incredible obstinacy … in derision … of the threatened torments of a future state.' (Ireland Sixty Years Ago, Dublin, 1851, p.18.)

The conduct of these 'Bloods' may be gauged by the following extract from a contemporary newspaper: 'Three Bloods passing through High Street amused themselves by breaking windows, and on one of the inhabitants complaining of their ill-conduct, they pursued him into his shop, struck him violently, and had the brutality to give his wife a dreadful blow in the face. Two of them were soon obliged to retreat and leave their companion behind, who was lodged in the Black Dog Prison' (Formerly Browne's Castle (Mayor in 1614), converted into an inn, known, from its sign of a talbot or hound, as the Black Dog, and early in the 18th century used as the Marshalsea Prison.)

Many of these ' Bloods' were known as 'sweaters ' and 'pinkindindies'; the former practiced 'sweating,' that is, forcing persons to deliver up their arms; the latter cut off. A small portion from the ends of their scabbards, suffering the naked point of the sword to project; with these they prodded or 'pinked' those unoffending passers-by on whom they thought fit to bestow their attentions.

The outrages of these ruffians led to a universal demand for the re-enactment of the 'Chalking Acts.' These Acts imposed extreme penalties on those offenders known as 'Chalkers,' who mangled and disfigured persons 'merely with the wanton and wicked intent to disable and disfigure them.' That these provisions were especially directed against young men of the better class is evident from the provision that the offence shall not corrupt the offender's blood, or entail the forfeiture of his property to the prejudice of his wife or relatives.

The practice of wearing swords, then universal with men of rank and fashion, fostered the spirit of aggressive outrage on the peaceable citizens, and is also accountable for the prevalence of dueling, in which the most eminent members of the Bar and Senate commonly engaged. Fitzgibbon, the Attorney General, afterwards Lord Chancellor and Earl of Clare, fought with Curran, afterwards Master of the Rolls. Scott, afterwards Lord Chief-Justice of the King’s Bench and Earl of Clonmel, had a duel with Lord Tyrawly on a quarrel about his wife, and afterwards met the Earl of Llandaff in an affair concerning his sister.

Duels, if we are to believe Jonah Barrington in his Personal Sketches, were quite frequent, perhaps more so among the legal profession, when the talk stopped and the action began. Much of it occurred within reach of Trinity College. The Hon. Hely Hutchinson, for example, when Provost, had occasion to fight a duel with a Master in Chancery.

According to one estimate some 300 ‘notable’ duels were fought during the last two decades of the 18th century, fuelled no doubt by no little alcohol consumed by Dublin’s ‘drinking classes.’ According to Petty Winetavern Street, with a population of 4,000 families in the reign of Charles 11, contained 1,180 alehouses and 91 public brew-houses – a veritable Joycean maze!

Moreover, according to John Edward Walsh in Chapter 1 of his Ireland 60 Years Ago Dueling, Houghing and Rioting were more of a sport than a crime. In his description of the Town and Gown Riots, the Liberty Boys attacked the Ormond Boys as a matter of habit…

It was a time when the ‘industrious classes’ or tradesmen, or even professional or businesspersons, were regarded by the upper orders as a necessary evil.

According to Walsh, the ‘one most singular pursuit in which the highest and lowest seemed alike to participate with an astonishing relish, viz., fighting, which all classes in Ireland appear to have enjoyed with a keenness now hardly credible even to a native of Kentucky.’

Among the lower orders, a feud and deadly hostility had grown up between the Liberty boys, or tailors and weavers of the Coombe, and the Ormond boys, or butchers who lived in Ormond-market on Ormond quay, which caused frequent conflicts; and it is now a matter of history that the streets and particularly the quays and bridges were impassable in consequence of the battles of these parties The weavers, descending from the upper regions beyond Thomas street, poured down on their opponents below; they were opposed by the butchers, and a contest commenced on the quays which extended from Essex to Island-bridge. The shops were closed; all business suspended; the sober and peaceable compelled to keep their houses; and those whose occasions led them through the streets where the belligerents were engaged, were stopped, while the war of stones and other missiles was carried on across the river, and the bridges were taken and retaken by the hostile parties.

It will hardly be believed that for whole days the intercourse of the city was interrupted by the feuds of these factions. The few miserable watchmen, inefficient for any purpose of protection, looked on in terror, and thought them selves well acquitted of their duty if they escaped from stick and stone. A friend of ours has told us that he has gone down to Essex (now Grattan) bridge, when he had been informed that one of those battles was raging, and stood quietly on the battlements for a whole day looking at the combat, in which above 1,000 men were engaged. At one time, the Ormond boys drove those of the Liberty up to Thomas-street, where, rallying, they repulsed their assailants, and drove them back as far as the Broadstone, while the bridges and quays were strewed with the maimed and wounded. On May 11, 1790, one of those frightful riots raged for an entire Saturday on Ormond-quay, the contending parties struggling for the mastery of the bridge; and nightfall having separated them before the victory was decided, the battle was renewed on the Monday following. It was reported of Alderman Emerson, when Lord Mayor, [In 1776] on one of those occasions that he declined to interfere when applied to, asserting, "it was as much as his life was worth to go among them."

These feuds terminated sometimes in frightful excesses. The butchers used their knives, not to stab their opponents, but for a purpose then common in the barbarous state of Irish society, to hough or cut the tendon of the leg, thereby rendering the person incurably lame for life. On one occasion, after a defeat of the Ormond boys, those of the Liberty retaliated in a manner still more barbarous and revolting. They dragged the persons they seized to their market, and, dislodging the meat they found there, hooked the men by the jaws, and retired, leaving the butchers hanging on their own stalls.

Perhaps one should not forget that the eighteenth century notion of a ‘gentleman’ was perfectly aristocratic. Consequently, no association with the lower orders was desirable. It was only when the sons of gentlemen were young, in their student days, that the association with either commercial or criminal types as well as butchers and coal-porters became possible. Much was expected, therefore, of the Trinity College undergraduate.

The students of Trinity College were particularly prone to join in the affrays between the belligerents, and generally united their forces to those of the Liberty boys against the butchers. On one occasion several of them were seized by the latter, and, to the great terror of their friends, it was reported they were hanged up in the stalls, in retaliation for the cruelty of the weavers. The authorities at length collected a party of watchmen sufficiently strong, and they proceeded to Ormond-market; there they saw a frightful spectacle - a number of college lads in their gowns and caps hanging to the hooks. On examination however it was found that the butchers, pitying their youth and respecting their rank, had only hung them by the waistbands of their breeches, where they remained as helpless, indeed, as if the neck suspended them.

The gownsmen were then a formidable body, and, from a strong esprit de corps, were ready, on short notice, to issue forth in a mass to avenge any insult offered to an individual of their party who complained of it. They converted the keys of their rooms into formidable weapons. They procured them as large and heavy as possible, and slinging them in the sleeves or tails of their gowns, or pockethandkerchiefs, gave with them mortal blows. Even the fellows participated in this esprit de corps. The interior of the college was considered a sanctuary for debtors; and woe to the unfortunate bailiff who violated its precincts. There stood, at that time, a wooden pump in the centre of the frontcourt to which delinquents in this way were dragged the moment they were detected, and all but smothered. One of the then fellows, Dr. Wilder, [Rev. Theaker Wilder, a good mathematical scholar was tutor to Oliver Goldsmith. He was elected Fellow in 1744; and died in 1777:] was a man of very eccentric habits, and possessed little of the gravity and decorum that distinguish the exemplary fellows of Trinity at the present day. He once met a young lady in one of the crossings, where she could not pass him without walking in the mud He stopped opposite her; and, gazing for a moment on her face he laid his hands on each side and kissed her. He then nodded familiarly at the astonished and offended girl and saying, "Take that, miss, for being so handsome" stepped out of the way and let her pass. He was going through the college courts on one occasion when a bailiff was under discipline; he pretended to interfere for the man and called out -"Gentlemen, gentlemen, for the love of God, don t be so cruel as to nail his ears to the pump." The hint was immediately taken; a hammer and nail were sent for, and an ear was fastened with a ten-penny nail; the lads dispersed, and the wretched man remained for a considerable time bleeding, and shrieking with pain, before he was released.

The frequency of such violent riots emphasized the absence of a police force for the city and country at large. In their absence the Volunteers deputized to patrol the streets of Dublin at night and to perform the duties of watchmen. During the day, however, there was no such presence. Nevertheless, in 1723 the first appointment of a permanent night watch was made and an act deputizing "honest men and good Protestants" to the various parishes. The need for a civic magistracy was also apparent, especially after the mob-murder of Lord Kilwarden in 1803.

Another spur to a regular magistracy, a police force, and a detective force, was the unbounded bravado of the gentrified metropolitans:

Among the gentry of the period was a class called "Bucks," whose sole enjoyment and the business of whose life seemed to consist in eccentricity and violence. Many of their names have come down to us. "Buck English," "Buck Sheehy," and various others, have left behind them traditionary anecdotes so repugnant to the conduct that marks the character of a gentleman of the present day, that we hardly believe they could have pretensions to be considered as belonging to the same class of society. These propensities were not confined to individuals, but extended through whole families. There was an instance in which one brother of a well-known race shot his friend, and another stabbed his coachman. They were distinguished by the appellatives of "Killkelly" and "Killcoachy." At the same time, there were three noblemen, brothers, so notorious for their outrages, that they acquired singular names, as indicative of their characters. The first was the terror of every one who met him in public places - the second was seldom out of prison - and the third was lame, yet no whit disabled from his buckish achievements; they were universally known by the names of "Hellgate," "Newgate," and "Cripplegate."

Some of the "Bucks" associated together under the name of the "Hell-fire Club;" and, among other infernal proceedings, it is reported that they set fire to fire to the apartment in which they met, and endured the flames with incredible obstinacy, till they were forced out of the house; in derision, as they asserted, of the threatened torments of a future state. On other occasions, in mockery of religion, they administered to one another the sacred rites of the Church in a manner too indecent for description. Others met under the appellation of "Mohawk," "Hawkabite," "Cherokee," and other Indian tribes, then noted for their cruelty and ferocity; and their actions would not disgrace their savage archetypes. Others were known by the sobriquet of "Sweaters and Pinkindindies." It was their practice to cut off a small portion of the scabbards of the swords which every one then wore, and prick or "pink" the persons with whom they quarreled with the naked points, which were sufficiently protruded to inflict considerable pain, but not sufficient to cause death. When this was intended, a greater length of the blade was uncovered. Barbers at that time were essential persons to "Bucks" going to parties, as no man could then appear without his hair elaborately dressed and powdered. The disappointment of a barber was therefore a sentence of exclusion from a dinner, Supper party, or ball, where a fashionable man might as well appear without his head as without powder and pomatum. When any unfortunate friseur disappointed, he was the particular object of their rage; and more than one was, it is said, put to death by the long points, as a just punishment for his delinquency.

There was at that time a celebrated coffeehouse, called "Lucas's," where the Royal Exchange now stands. This was frequented by the fashionable, who assumed an intolerable degree of insolence over all of less rank who frequented it. Here a Buck used to strut up and down with a long train to his morning gown; and if any person, in walking across the room, happened accidentally to tread upon it, his sword was drawn, and the man punished on the spot for his supposed insolence. On one occasion - an old gentleman who witnessed the transaction informed us - a plain man, of a genteel appearance, crossed the room for a newspaper, as one of the Bucks of the day was passing, and touched the prohibited train accidentally with his foot. The sword of the owner was instantly out and, as every one then carried a sword, the offending man also drew his, a small tuck, which he carried as an appendage to dress, without at all intending or knowing how to use it. Pressed upon by his ferocious antagonist, he was driven back to the wall, to which the Buck was about to pin him. As the latter drew back for the lounge, his terrified opponent, in an impulse of selfpreservation, sprang within his point, and without aim or design pierced him through the body. The Buck was notorious for his skill in fencing, and had killed or wounded several adversaries. This opportune check was as salutary in its effects at the coffee house as the punishment of Kelly was at the theatre.

On the 29th of July 1784, six Bucks were return mg home; alter dining with the Attorney-General Fitzgibbon. As they passed the house of a publican named [Flattery on Ormond quay they determined to amuse themselves by "sweating," i. e., making him give up all fire-arms. They entered the house, and began the entertainment by "pinking” the waiter. Mrs. Flattery, presuming on the protection that would be afforded by her sex, came down to pacify them, but one of the party, more heated with wine than the rest, assaulted and began to take indecent liberties with her. Her husband, who had at first kept himself concealed, in the hope that his tormentors could be got quietly out of the house roused by the insult to his wife, rushed out and knocked the assailant down. The Bucks drew their swords. Flattery armed himself with a gun, and aided by the people of the house and some who came to his assistance from the street, succeeded in driving them out on the quay. The Bucks, who happened to hold high military rank, unfortunately met with some soldiers, whom they ordered to follow them and returned to Flattery’s house, vowing vengeance on all the inmates. A message had been sent to the Sheriff, Smith, to come and keep the peace. But he was able to collect only five men at the main guard, and when they reached the scene of the riot, it was so violent that their assistance was quite useless. The "spree" would probably have ended in the total sacking of Flattery's house, only for the accidental arrival of some gentlemen dispersing from a Volunteer meeting who willingly assisted the Sheriff. The Bucks however escaped being arrested. One of them was a noble lord, two were colonels in the army, and the others of high rank and aides-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant the Duke of Rutland. The latter interested himself on their behalf; and such was the influence of their rank, that the matter was hushed up, and the gentlemen engaged in this atrocious outrage, though all well known, escaped unpunished.

The legislature in the last quarter of the eighteenth century was quite busy, not only with the prison reforms spelled out by Howard, the trials of Defenders, and after ’98, the trials of the Rebels, but with the more civil legislation against urban criminals like ‘Chalkers’ and ‘Houghers’.

From 1773 to 1783 several acts were passed, enacting the most extreme penalties for the punishment of offenders called "Chalkers." These acts recite that profligate and ill disposed persons were in the habit of mangling others "merely with the wanton and wicked intent to disable and disfigure them." They seem as appropriate to the gentlemanly brutalities of Bucks and Pinkindindies as to the feats of their rivals, the weavers and butchers, and there is an exception in the punishment, which seems adapted more particularly for the former, viz., that while the punishment for "chalking" is made in the highest degree severe, it is provided that the offence shall not corrupt the offender's blood, or cause a forfeiture of his property to the prejudice of his wife or relatives.

In 1783 the brutal custom of houghing (a favorite practice, as we mentioned before, with the Dublin butchers in their feuds) occasioned another statute, for the more effectual discovery and prosecution of offenders called "Houghers." This latter act had the curious effect of increasing the evil it was intended to check. It adopted the clumsy contrivance of pensioning the victim of the hougher for life on the district where the offence was committed, unless the offender was convicted. It appears from the act that the military were the class against whom the practice of houghing was most in vogue, and when soldiers became unwilling to continue in the army, either from being employed against their political prejudices, from being entrapped as recruits, or from any other reason, they used secretly to hough themselves, and, as the conviction of the offender was then impossible, they thus obtained a pension for life.

c. A Useful Collection

For a useful online collection of well-known books containing data about the history of Dublin and which is laced with interesting criminological concerns, see Eiretek at: http://www.chapters.eiretek.org/linkster/linkster.php


Chapters of Dublin History

Online Books

History of Dublin Books

A History of the City of Dublin - J. T. Gilbert's groundbreaking work. Vol. 1 (1854).

A History of the County Dublin. - The ultimate reference book on suburban Dublin in six volumes. (pub. 1902-1920)

An Historical Guide to Dublin - A detailed guide for tourists. Published in 1825.

Annals of the Irish Parliaments. (1895) - Odd little volume concerning Ireland's Parliaments up to 1800.

Buck Whaley's Memoirs - Buck's account of his life, gambling losses and travels (1797). First published in 1906.

D'Alton's Dublin - City and County, north and south (1838)

Dublin Street Names: Dated and Explained - By C. T. M'Cready (1892)

Dublin: A Historical and Topographical Account. - Central Dublin in detail. (pub. 1907)

Dublin: Sketch Development Plan. - Published by the Corporation in 1941 this gives an idea of how the city could have developed.

English As We Speak It In Ireland - By P. W. Joyce.

History and Antiquities of Dublin. - The first major history of the city. (1766)

History of the Dublin Catholic Cemeteries. - Where the bodies are buried! (pub. 1900)

Ireland 60 Years Ago. - Ireland and Dublin at the end of the 18th century. It's great fun.

Irish Varieties (1878) - A selection of pieces about Dalkey, Bulloch and Kingstown.

Letters and Leaders of My Day. - From Parnell to Independence. Tim Healy tells it like he thinks he saw it!

Life In Old Dublin - Quirky account by James Collins of life in the Cook Street area. (1913)

Lives of the Lord Chancellors. Vol. I.

Lucania - The Rev. Donegan on Lucan (1902).

Mecredy's Guide to the City. (1905) - A guide for tourists, which is still useful today. Large file.

Memorable Dublin Houses - Where the rich and famous lived in old Dublin. By Wilmot Harrison. (pub. 1890)

Neighbourhood of Dublin. - Classic volume covering the outer suburbs in 43 chapters (Third and enlarged edition, 1920).

North Dublin - The north city and suburbs by Dillon Cosgrove. (pub. 1909)

Personal Sketches by Sir Jonah Barrington. - The old rogue, in exile in France, looks back on a busy life. (1827)

Picturesque Dublin Old and New - A heady mix of history and gossip by Frances Gerard. (pub. 1898)

Recollections of Dublin Castle & Society. - Anonymous volume from 1902.

Recollections of Lord Cloncurry - Ireland before and after the Union.

Seventy Years of Irish Life - W. R. le Fanu recalls Ireland in the past. (pub. 1893

Short Histories of Dublin Parishes - A selection of parishes by the Most Rev. M. Donnelly, D.D.

Sir Charles Cameron Remembers - Anecdotes and memories of a Freeman of Dublin. (1913)

THE COCK AND ANCHOR - Chronicle of Old Dublin City in Three Volumes.

The Hill of Howth Trams - Jim Kilroy's stories and illustrations.

The History of Tallaght - By William Domville Handcock M.A. (1899)

The Irish Sketch Book (1842) - William Make peace Thackeray details his Irish visit.

The Sham Squire and the Informers of 1798 - Lord Edward's Revolt, patriots and traitors.

The Story of Dublin - Fine introduction to the centre of Dublin by D. A. Chart. (pub. 1907)

Walking Ireland - A Frenchman's Walks Through Ireland. (1796/7)


3. Defenders and Dissenters

Seamus: We have already defined what we mean by Mercantilism as a prelude to Capitalism. What Mercantilism/Capitalism meant in Ireland, where the religious question was uppermost and the new materialism of the nation state was mostly seen through that religious divide, in no way compares to any other European experience. This is precisely where notions of ‘class’ in a Marxist sense are untenable in an Irish context. This can be seen somewhat in the alignment of powers to fight, not significantly over class (even if presented as such by Wolfe Tone), but, more significantly, over the pre-existing right of possession of Parliament and Parliament’s right to organise and regulate of the people For most of the century religions remained antagonistically at arms length. These antagonisms ran parallel with the establishment of the Church of England as a State Church, the very visible incarnation of the Reformation. This and the flourishing of the Masonic (old Templar) Lodges, as well as the Papal encyclicals condemning them, were of primary concern to the Catholic mind, and class, in the absence of a well-defined and proactive working class, could never enter the calculus of such a burning intellectual arena. The reaction to this and other Parliamentary phenomena, whether inspired by the priests or not, was the formation of Secret Societies. So, on the one hand, we have the outer religious aggression as to who possesses the power of Parliament in Britain and in Ireland and the inner consequences of this struggle as the development of Defenders and the Peep-O’-Day-Boys, the one being Catholic and out of possession and the other being Protestant and in possession.

This being the case, crime and punishment is pursued as outlined above but exacerbated by the religious-come-political arrangements.

Sean: How then – or why – do the Defenders and the Dissenters ever manage to get together in 1798?


Seamus: Well, that they ever did actually get together should not be taken for granted. Wolfe Tone’s words and aspirations on the subject are quite a valuable contribution to Irish life. Like Parnell after him, Wolfe Tone adds greatly to the possibility of creating an Irish history. Remember that without James Joyce there would be no continuity in the significance of the Parnellite split, and without Sinn Fein there would be no memory of the significance of Wolfe Tone’s social analysis. Religious societies, especially the RC religion despises history, especially when the people get their mitts on it before the Church can ‘inform’ them of its ‘ significance’. That is also, by the way, why most Irish Catholics have never heard of either the Donation of Constantine or Laudabiliter. Ireland and the Irish are a kind of Roman secret…so Shhhhhhhhh!

Sile: Wolfe Tone, like Pearse, is really the most noble of Irish men?

Sean: Yes, but derided in a religious society where the sacrifices are more supernatural.

Sile: Well, I don’t think they are derided, more forgotten about than anything else or irrelevant, somehow. And I think that if Joyce and his father did not perpetuate the memory of Parnell by a direct confrontation with the RC Church, that Parnell would be forgotten in his historical sense.

Sean: But that’s my point. Without a history, that’s what we get – a museum full of past heroes, but whose heroism and the issues they fought for abandoned or side-lined or made irrelevant by an engulphing religious mythology which keeps them in mothballs. Failing that Sinn Fein/IRA continue the words but keep shooting the wrong enemy.

Seamus: Whenever your two are finished, can I continue?

Sile: Yes, Oh Master!

Sean: Yes, Oh Master!

Seamus: We are in agreement, then, that Wolfe Tone’s words are noble, inspiring and historically significant, and ought to be studied for their social content and therefore their ethical value. Otherwise we might initially ask with the same amazement, as you imply in your question: Could anything be more absurd than the unification of the Defenders, who were essentially a secret society, and the Presbyterian Dissenters, who, with the Quakers, were the most public of dissenting religious voices. What configuration of crimes-and-punishments could have possibly brought two such disparate voices together? Whatever else the Catholic Church was, it was never either a “reforming” voice or a “dissenting” one. If anything, it was as hostile to all Dissenters as it was to all heresies. In other words, it wanted to go back in time, not forward with change. Moreover, if there is one thing in this equation that is more likely to be true than any other, it is the likelihood that the Defenders -- however hostile they may occasionally appear to this or that parish priest --were, as ever, under the thumb of their religious leaders; for there never was in Catholic Ireland a force that actually stood up to the pulpit. Never. So, why would the Defenders have been any different? So, in the bigger equation, then, how could we expect the Defender-Catholic societies, if allowed, join with Dissenters?

Elsewhere we showed how the Christian Conquest spawned an animosity between France and England that was to last, not just for the 100 years war, when the Papacy leant heavily to the French, but for centuries. More particularly we pointed out how this antagonism found its way into Scottish ambitions to create their own independent nation state. Here, in the United Irishmen, we see again its influence on the Post- Reformation Irish, using it to get out from under the imperialist gearings and exigencies of the Christian conquest, and to release the Catholics from its burden…As Wolfe Tone somewhere says, he wishes to raise Catholics to the level of citizenship. And this gives us a picture of Catholic consciousness in the late eighteenth century, which, one suspect was not dissimilar to what it was in the fourteenth century under the Anglici and Norman Bishops and Knights alike.

Sean: That’s all well and good, but what you say implies yet again -- One, that you believe intrinsically in some kind of progress, which applies with latches to the Celts in Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and, Two, that all progress comes first out of England. Is that a fair criticism?

Seamus: Well, if you substitute Europe first and then England, then yes. I think it is a fair observation. But you are not arguing that there is something meritorious in going back to the medieval superstitions and production and punishment of the Penitentials - - are you? Or, indeed, that we patch a foolish friendship between the Avignon Popes and the Angevin Kings such that England and France will never have a difference again?

Sean: No. This would truly be make-belief. But this still leaves us with the inchoate drive – forward? Is this impulse to develop out from the big bang a necessity that we cannot curtail or reverse? Moreover, when Defender and Dissenter flirt with each other, is it Unity or Utopia? And what precise mechanism brought it about? For you have to admit that something happens in the 1790s to change the civil-war dimension of what you call the Christian conquest in Ireland? Surely, some credit is due to the Presbyterians in their refusal to remain as either patsies of the Established Church or straight-jacketed in their fixed historical role within the conquest– a conquest that is written in the total and savage confiscation of Irish land, the ensuing clearances and plantations?

Seamus: Of course something happens and we will deal with the patriotism of the Presbyterians anon. I just want you to pause and remember that you are no longer talking about the Gaelic past, the ‘Os’ and the ‘Macs’, who have by this time lost all. And yet this century is the most painful of all for them. Clever as Swift and Molyneaux were, patriotic as they were, there was nothing in them of the lost civilization that still had the capacity to make other Irishmen less than whole. The divided self is acutely present in the psyche of eighteenth century native Irishmen. Oh! They still would have clung to the renegade Roman Church, but their loss was the loss of Gaelic Ireland or at least the Hidden Ireland of Daniel Corkery, in which he idealizes the Sassanaigh that were ‘more Irish than the Irish themselves.’ Of course this was never really the case, except for brief interbella, and for some genuine periods that inevitably facilitated the total move towards English as the essential Christian Conquest that was to move the Americas and the colonies. In this sense the big houses accommodated the Dermot Mac Murrough Syndrome in that, like the ancient Anglici, they looked up to England (because England looked down on them and it was from England that they drew their status and power), while they were looked up to by the native Catholic Irish, whose pagan ancestors they transplanted. What was hidden in Ireland was the two-faced betrayal of the Catholic Church, the common currency of England in Ireland. With the pagan Irish, as with the pagan Saxon, there was war and there was conquest. This they knew. With the Catholic Church, there was just betrayal, betrayal, and betrayal. Sean: But over the long period of Anglicization (as with Americanization in the twentieth century) there had to be periods where both the planted stock and the ‘cloi isteach’- foreigners had to come to some terms with the Gaelic natives?

Seamus: So you would think, wouldn’t you? Well, apart from the dialectical vacillation towards destruction, as it was with Inca, Aztec, Australian and American  native, what accommodation did they come to if that civilization is utterly destroyed by ignorant, imperialist Christians on all sides? Tell me what accommodation the Catholic Church came to with pagan Ireland? Do Tell? Tell me now, with the benefit of hindsight, how much St. Patrick and the Patrician Roman horde loved Ireland the Irish pagans. How many Gaelic-speaking Irish did he really burn? Tell me: who robbed and plundered most in Ireland, the Anglici-Romans, the Christian-Normans, the Protestant British – all of whom took in the name of a Christian God, but who also took Vi Pulsa, in the field, or by virtue of a Grant from Adrian IV? Which of these are worse than the Catholic betrayal from the 4th century to the present day? Which of these not only takes land, but the womb of the pagan native and the fertility of the extended and, then, the Holy family? The Popes not only sold Ireland into slavery, introduced Ireland to its captors, provided guidelines for its prolonged captivity and turned the whole island, first into an incubator for the Holy Roman Empire, and latterly into an administrative and educational base as well as discrete satellite for the execution of international Vatican policies and stratagems? Ireland used to be the Papacy’s fertility farm for the Empire. With the growth of Australia and America and the end of the fertility conquest, it now finds its use for Ireland as the best means of penetrating Anglo-America. Like Microsoft and Dell, it is here for the Lolly and for the same reason as it in East Timor or the same reason as the Americans in a century’s time will be in Afghanistan. “People of Ireland, I love you!”

Sean: In the absence of any informed historical sense, I suppose the eighteenth century Irish could not comprehend the depth of their psychic divisions. Maybe it was a mercy!

Seamus: One thing Freud has taught us is that no such bountiful mercy emanates from nature. While Swift was doing great things by savagely attacking the adulteration of coin, and the social arrangements in which it would be better to eat the Irish children rather than rear them, etc, there were other Irishmen who were split between the past and the future. They couldn’t let go of their past, and they hadn’t the wherewithal to face the future. They were then, as some of them are now, sick. And the conditions for their nausea is the same as the conditions for crime and violence; for they underpin in some precise way the socially constant antagonisms that lead both to uprisings, rebellions and assassinations (down to the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland), as well as to a common disrespect for the institutions of law and order (currently in both Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland). The Catholic Church in its simple totalitarianism even controlled and used the anger that they had created in the people to their own imperialist ends. They channeled the Defender-movement into a ‘Catholic’ Emancipation movement, and after the Emmet rising in 1803, when the patriotic Protestants were pushed aside; they take on the garb of national protagonists, negotiating at every turn for the Catholic national Irish. The trouble with the Irish Catholic was always the fact that he was so overwhelmed by his clergy that he could never really distinguish between the international Roman interest and the purely Irish interest. Indeed, to the Irish Catholic, there is no secular or Irish interest that isn’t Holy Roman. When the RC Church, in the name of ordinary Irish men betrayed the Presbyterians and sold them out for concessions, no Catholic was really outraged at it. And if it weren’t for James Joyce and his father, the betrayal of Parnell would also go unnoticed as Irish ‘history’. In a way Joyce, by universalizing his father penury under the Holy Romans, and Parnell’s betrayal, begins some sense of real Irish history – a beginning that has perhaps had more meaning for international students of Joyce than for the natives; for whatever historical or collective consciousness there is among the Irish, it has never revealed itself to me outside the concern for Norman Castles, medieval mausoleums to dead bishops, priestly bravado abroad and, of course, Jackie Charleton stories. The same Church could kill the comedian Dermot Morgan or drive Tommy Tiernan, another comedian, into exile -- all because they laughed at the RC Church -- and the Irish couldn’t give a cabaiste. In a way, what the Presbyterians and Parnell proved was that the Irish could not govern themselves without Vatican and Holy Roman aid. But why, one might ask, did they betray the Presbyterians and accept the shilling and the Act of Union and betray Parnell ninety years later? Why? Because it was their show. Ireland is only allowed to be a Catholic show. Even down to the twenty first century attack on the comedians who have to leave Ireland for laughing at the Church, the show has to be Catholic, in the midst of Opus Dei, the hidden Legionnaires, and those horrid unhealthy nuns and Jesuit priests.

Sean: I wish you would formulate what you are saying, so that I can appreciate it in terms of historical development or, indeed, as a criminology.

Seamus: I shall say it again. The splay of dominant Irish personalities is small and is ever dictated by the historical traumas suffered. By the eighteenth century many natives differed with planter stock, which, however Irish they were, were nevertheless quite different in orientation. And what began before Norman times was still in the ascendant, such that the differences between them, their proclivities to look back as well as their capacity (or incapacity) to forge forward, increasingly marked their disposition to embrace on-coming capitalism. In other words, the worlds between the Christian Irish grew apart rather than concurred in any unifying force. Christianity was – and is – a failure in Ireland. Now, that does not mean that they will read this and decide to hold meetings to prove that Christianity is not a failure in Ireland! Or, better still; prove that Christianity could not be a failure anywhere. Such is our character that the necessity to make postcard pictures of Christianity will rank more importantly than any rational and authentic analysis of ourselves!

Sean: God, you do despise the Irish character!

Seamus: No comment!

Sean: And do you set the patriotic Presbyterian effort at naught as well?

a. Wolfe Tone And 1798

Seamus: I have to admit that I do not understand 1798. Nothing I have ever read about it leaves me with any cohesive appreciation of what or why or how it happened. Why, for example, did the people gather so naively, so unpreparedly, to do battle, and why was it put down with such ruthless savagery? It appears to me that nothing that was ever written -- apart, perhaps, from Wolfe Tone’s First Memorial to the French -- has anything like an intellectually compelling or informative argument concerning the rebellion.

Sean: Not even RB McDowell’s: Ireland in an age of Imperialism and Revolution?

Seamus: No

Sean: Or

Seamus: No.

Sean: Right! Well let us revert to Wolfe Tone. Personally, I think he is quite clear about the objectives of the rebellion, who’s who in it, and why it has to be undertaken with French help. And if he mentions American democracy there is no doubt that his main inspiration is French.

Now if we analyze what he says, we arrive at the following propositions:

1. France and England are irreconcilable, and

“Since the French Revolution … neither can be said to be in security while the other is in existence.”

2. The current war has profited both countries:

The war, hitherto, however glorious to France, has not been unprofitable to England; her fleets were never more formidable, and, in the true spirit of trade, she will console herself for the disgrace of her armies by land, in the acquisition of wealth, and commerce, and power, by sea; but these very acquisitions render it, if possible, incumbent, not merely on France, but on all Europe, to endeavor to reduce her within due limits, and to prevent that enormous accumulation of wealth, which the undisturbed possession of the commerce of the whole world would give her; and this reduction of her power, can be alone, as I presume, accomplished, with certainty and effect, by separating Ireland from Great Britain.

3. The way to reduce England’s wealth is to liberate the Irish upon whom England too conveniently depends:

The French Government cannot but be well informed of the immense resources, especially in a military point of view, which England draws from Ireland. It is with the beef and the pork, the butter, the tallow, the hides, and various other articles of the first necessity, which Ireland supplies, that she victuals and equips her navy, and, in a great degree, supports her people and garrisons in the West Indies. It is with the poor and hardy natives of Ireland that she mans her fleets and fills the ranks of her army. From the commencement of the present war to the month of June 1795, not less than 200,000 men were raised in Ireland, of whom 80,000 were for the navy alone. It is a fact undeniable, though carefully concealed in England, that Irishmen man TWO THIRDS of the British navy; a circumstance, which, if stood alone, should be sufficient to determine the French Government to wrest, if possible, so powerful a weapon from the hands of her implacable enemy. I shall not dwell longer on the necessity of the measure, which I shall propose, but will endeavor to show how it may best be executed, and on what grounds it is that I rest my confidence of success, if the attempt were but once made.

Any difficulties so far?

Seamus: No, no. My problem is not so much with these facts as the interpretation of how these facts are helpful in bringing about the rebellion.

Sean: Well, allow me to continue…

Seamus: Please do.

Sean: To illustrate his plan for rebellion, after which an independent Irish Republic, like that of France, might obtain, Wolfe Tone goes into the social make-up of contemporary Ireland. Of the four-and-a-half million people populating the island, he distinguishes three different religious sects: The Protestants,‘ whose religion is the dominant one’, and is kept so by law and cunning, even if there are but 450,000 of them, or one tenth of the whole. Secondly, and in the middle of the pile, come the Dissenters or Presbyterians, who double that number and are 900,000 strong, and accordingly constitute one fifth of the population. The remainder, some 3.1 million are comprised of Catholics. Wolfe Tone equates the Catholics with being‘ native’, he equates the Protestant or Church of Ireland as being British (‘ almost entirely the descendants of English men’), and he thinks of the Dissenting Presbyterians as being wedged between the top and the bottom, the foreign and the native, and are operatively used both by the top and by the British to maintain the status quo, thereby depriving the native Catholics of any social mobility as well as cementing the landconfiscations and plantations of previous centuries and generations in the hands of the well-off minority. For Wolfe Tone, the Protestant minority is undoubtedly the enemy. Through past plunder and confiscation, they have successfully amassed great wealth and power. Indeed, through the use of the law, they have ‘ almost the whole landed property of the country in their hands.’ These were the same laws that operated to ‘ degrade and destroy the Catholics, the natives of the country.’

Seamus: Perhaps it is an unworthy point, but Wolfe Tone makes no mention either of Gaelic culture, and its entire destruction, or the religious confiscations of Gaelic land. Neither does he refer at all the Donation of Constantine or to Laudabiliter.

Sean: Maybe so. So what?

Seamus: Well, if these notions do not enter either his vocabulary or his consideration of Irish history, in a way, his sense of history is also one of British secularism. In other words, he sees Irish history, as a sympathetic British historian would, beginning with a shared notion of the Christian and Norman Conquest whose presuppositions one need not mention, much less penetrate?

Sean: I suppose so. He mentions that in 1650 alone

‘ The people of three entire provinces were driven by Cromwell into the fourth, and their property divided amongst his officers and soldiers, whose descendants enjoy it at this day.’

He also draws our attention to the fact that

In 1688, when James II was finally defeated in Ireland, the spirit of the Irish people was completely broken, and the last remnant of their property torn from them and divided amongst the conquerors. By these means, the proprietors of estates in Ireland, feeling the weakness of their titles to property thus acquired, and seeing themselves, as it were, a colony of strangers, forming not above one tenth part of the population, have always looked to England for protection and support; they have, therefore, been ever ready to sacrifice the interests of their own country to her ambition and avarice, and to their own security. England, in return, has rewarded them for this sacrifice, by distributing among them all the offices and appointments in the church, the army, the law, the revenue, and every department of the State, to the utter exclusion of the two other sects, and more especially of the Catholics. By these means, the Protestants, who constitute the aristocracy of Ireland, have in their hands all the force of the Government; they have at least five sixths of the landed property; they are devoted implicitly to the connection with England, which they consider as essential to the secure possession of their estates; they dread and abhor the principles of the French Revolution, and, in case of any attempt to emancipate Ireland, I should calculate on all the opposition which it might be in their power to give.

Fighting talk! But when it comes to the Dissenters, all is different:

But it is very different with regard to the Dissenters, who occupy the province of Ulster, of which they form, at present, the majority. They have among them but few great landed proprietors; they are mostly engaged in trade and manufactures, especially the linen, which is the staple commodity of Ireland, and is almost exclusively in their hands. From their first establishment, in 1620, until very lately, there existed a continual animosity between them and the Catholic natives of the country, grounded on the natural dislike between the old inhabitants and strangers, and fortified still more by the irreconcilable difference between the genius of the religions of Calvinism and Popery, and diligently cultivated and fomented by the Protestant aristocracy, the partisans of England, who saw in the feuds and dissensions of the other two sects, their own protection and security.

Among the innumerable blessings procured to mankind by the French Revolution, arose the circumstance which I am about to mention, and to which I do most earnestly entreat the particular attention of the French Government, as it is, in fact, the point on which the emancipation of Ireland may eventually turn.

It is at this point that we arrive at what inspires Wolfe Tone and his comrades:

The Dissenters are, from the genius of their religion, and the spirit of inquiry which it produces, sincere and enlightened Republicans; they have ever, in a degree, opposed the usurpations of England, whose protection, as well from their numbers and spirit, as the nature of their property, they did not, like the Protestant aristocracy, feel necessary for their existence. Still, however, in all the civil wars of Ireland, they ranged themselves under the standard of England, and were the most formidable enemies to the Catholic natives, whom they detested as Papists, and despised as slaves. These bad feelings were, for obvious reasons, diligently fomented by the Protestant and English party. At length, in the year 1790, the French Revolution produced a powerful revulsion in the minds of the most enlightened men amongst them. They saw that, whilst they thought they were the masters of the Catholics, they were, in fact, but their jailers, and that, instead of enjoying liberty in their own country, they served but as a garrison to keep it in subjection to England; the establishment of unbounded liberty of conscience in France had mitigated their horror of Popery; one hundred and ten years of peace had worn away very much of the old animosity which former wars had raised and fomented. Eager to emulate the glorious example of France, they saw at once that the only guide to liberty was justice, and that they neither deserved nor could obtain independence, whilst their Catholic brethren, as they then, for the first time, called them, remained in slavery and oppression. Impressed with these sentiments of liberality and wisdom, they sought out the leaders of the Catholics, whose cause and whose suffering were, in a manner, forgotten; the Catholics caught with eagerness at the slightest appearance of alliance and support from a quarter, whose opposition they had ever experienced to be so formidable, and once more, after lying prostrate for above 100 years, appeared on the political theatre of their country. Nothing could exceed the alarm, the terror, and confusion, which this most unexpected coalition produced in the breasts of the English Government, and their partisans, the Protestant aristocracy of Ireland. Every art, every stratagem, was used to break the new alliance, and revive the ancient animosities and feuds between the Dissenters and Catholics. Happily such abominable attempts proved fruitless. The leaders on both sides, saw that as they had but one common country, they had but one common interest; that while they were mutually contending and ready to sacrifice each other, England profited of their folly, to enslave both; and that it was only by a cordial union, and affectionate cooperation, that they could assert their common liberty, and establish the independence of Ireland. They, therefore, resisted and overcame every effort to disunite them, and, in this manner, has a spirit of union and regard succeeded to 250 years of civil discord; a revolution in the political morality of the nation of the most extreme importance, and from which, under the powerful auspices of the French Republic, I hope and trust her independence and liberty will arise.

Indeed, Wolfe Tone leaves us in no doubt as to the new situation, and , if there is any doubt remaining, then the following short passage emphatically clears it up.

I beg leave again to call the attention of the French Government, to this fact of the national union; which, from my knowledge of the situation of Ireland, I affirm to be of importance, equal to all the rest. Catholics and Dissenters, the two great sects, whose mutual animosities have been the radical weakness of their country, are at length reconciled, and the arms which have so often imbrued in the blood of each other, are ready, for the first time, to be turned in concert against the common enemy.

Now, I ask you, can anything be clearer? Wolfe Tone is looking at Ireland in terms of class, just as the French revolutionaries were doing. .

Seamus: Yes, but that’s my point. The Irish are not French. Neither is Irish history French history, and it would be a grave mistake to think so. What Wolfe Tone was doing was high minded and noble; but it was not the reality of the Irish situation.

Sean: To me that just sounds like unbridled and unfounded skepticism. Perhaps you would be so good as to explain what you mean?

Seamus: Perhaps you might consider how hostile the French Revolution was to Christianity. Though erratic at times, the revolutionaries abolished church fees in August 1789, and while the Declaration of the Rights of Man tolerated religious opinions, a decree in November 1789 declared all church property at the disposal of the nation. And whereas French bishops were ancien regime at birth, and were utterly intolerant (especially of Huguenots), Irish bishops, being more likely of peasant or tenant farmer stock, were even more conservative, and were in any event biddable through the British lobby in Rome. Moreover, the Inquisition was as cruel in France as it was in Spain, which cruel views of the RC Church, one might add, are almost unknown amongst Irish Catholics. Finally, the French had philosophes; the Irish never had anything but stick-in-the-intellectual-mud Parish Priests recruited from tenantfarmer stock and about as broad-minded as a fishes’ tit. At least the French Philosophes were familiar with Deism, Agnosticism or Atheism, and were capable and disposed to stand up and attack the church. The Irish regarded these isms as heresies and were incapable of criticizing the Roman Church. One has to have a certain independence of mind either to chop a King’s head off or to sustain an argument in public against the bishop or the parish priest. In Ireland the only people amongst the Catholics to question Catholicism were women like Biddy Early. I defy you to find critical Catholics between the burning of Adam Dubh O Tuathaill in the Middle Ages to the banishment of either James Joyce or Dermot Morgan in the twentieth century. You won’t find more than a half dozen. Wolfe Tone, being Presbyterian, never envisaged any of these differences between the aristocratic French philosophes and the peasant Irish Catholics, and they proved to be more important than he imagined. Instead of looking at Ireland through Fleur-de-lis class binoculars, perhaps he should have looked at it through the vibrant separations caused by religion and the spoils of the Christian conquest. When he came to describe the condition of the eighteenth century Catholics, who, he again reminds us, ‘are the Irish properly so called’, he wrote:

The various confiscations, produced by the wars of five centuries, and the silent operation of the laws for 150 years, have stripped the Catholics of almost all property in land; the great bulk of them are in the lowest degree of misery and want, hewers of wood and drawers of water; bread they seldom taste, meat never, save once in the year; they live in wretched hovels, they labour incessantly, and their landlords, the Protestant aristocracy, have so calculated, that the utmost they can gain, by this continual toil, will barely suffice to pay the rent, at which these petty despots assess their wretched habitations; their food, the whole year round, is potatoes, their drink, sometimes milk, more frequently water; those of them who attempt to cultivate a spot of ground as farmers, are forced, in addition to a heavy rent, to pay tithes to the Priests of the Protestant religion, which they neither profess, nor believe; their own Priests fleece them. Such is the condition of the peasantry of Ireland, above 3,000,000 of people. But though there be little property in land, there is a considerable share of the commerce of Ireland in the hands of the Catholic body; their merchants are highly respectable, and well informed; they are perfectly sensible, as well of their own situation, as that of their country. It is of these men, with a few of the Catholic gentry, whose property escaped the fangs of the English invaders, that their General Committee, of which I shall have occasion to speak by-and-by, is composed, and it is with their leaders that the union with the Dissenters, so infinitely important to Ireland, and, if rightly understood, to France also, has been formed.

It seems to me that Wolfe Tone fails to see the stirrings of stratification within Catholicism which, if it was writ large – or allowed to develop as it has, say, since Ireland joined the EEC/EU – would eventually constitute a real (but still embryonic) class system within Catholicism rather than relying upon an assumed homogeneity within a repressed Catholicism that was always priest-dominated.

Sean: For good or ill, he believed that Presbyterian and Catholic could be united and a New Ireland would appear. Surely you do not disagree with his factual analysis of Ireland at that time? To recapitulate his understanding yet again:

I have now stated the respective situation, strength and views, of the parties of Ireland; that is to say: First. The Protestants, 450,000; comprising the great body of the aristocracy, which supports and is supported by England. Their strength is entirely artificial, composed of the power and influence, which the patronage of Government gives them. They have in their hands all appointments in every Department, in the church, the army, the revenue,  the navy, the law, and a great proportion of the landed property of the country, acquired and maintained as has been stated; but it cannot escape the penetration of the French Government that all their apparent power is purely fictitious; the strength they derive from Government results solely from opinion; the instant that prop is withdrawn, the edifice tumbles into ruins; the strength of property acquired like theirs by the sword, continues no longer than the sword can defend it, and, numerically, the Protestants are but one tenth of the people.

Second. The Dissenters, 900,000, who form a large and respectable portion of the middle ranks of the community. These are the class of men best informed in Ireland; they constituted the bulk of what we called the volunteer army in 1782, during the last war, which extorted large concessions from England, and would have completely established their liberty, had they been then, as they are now, united with their Catholic brethren. They are all, to a man, sincere Republicans, and devoted with enthusiasm to the cause of liberty and France; they would make perhaps the best soldiers in Ireland, and are already in a considerable degree trained to arms.

Third. The Catholics, 3,150,000. These are the Irish, properly so called, trained from their infancy in an hereditary hatred and abhorrence of the English name, which conveys to them no ideas but those of blood and pillage and persecution. This class is strong in numbers, and in misery, which makes men bold; they are used to every species of hardship; they can live on little; they are easily clothed; they are bold and active; they are prepared for any change, for they feel that no change can make their situation worse. For these five-year, they have fixed their eyes most earnestly on France, whom they look upon, with great justice, as fighting their battles, as well as those of all mankind who are oppressed. Of this class, I will stake my head, there are five hundred thousand men, who would fly to the standard of the Republic, if they saw it once displayed in the cause of liberty and their country.

Seamus: I have no problem with this factual description of things. I am just a little amazed that the same people, who traditionally hated each other, should now find his strategy so acceptable – and in such large numbers! And what of the priests? The Bishops? Did he really think that the Bishops would let his high mindedness attract and lure away their flock into a Presbyterian Republic? The RC Church was going to save the Irish people, as it had so often done, from themselves. Maybe at this early stage they had a Free State in mind, a Catholic Free State. But first they had to grow up to the huge notion of Catholic Emancipation. Freedom is not a thing to be thrust upon people without an informed conscience – is it?

Sean: What are you saying? Are you saying that Wolfe Tone’s schema was not practicable?

Seamus: Before answering that, could you read for me the manifesto, which in Wolfe Tone’s opinion, ought to have been read and distributed on the first landing of the French? You will find it in his Second Memorial, delivered to the French government, on February 1796

Sean: Yes; he admitted that a lot would depend on the reception of the manifesto. He says:

Two Memorials on the present state of Ireland, delivered to the French Government, February 1796.

I conceive the declaration of the object and intentions of the Republic should contain, among others, the following topics:

1. An absolute disavowal of all idea of conquest, and a statement that the French came as friends and brothers, with no other view than to assist the people in throwing off the yoke of England.

2. A declaration of perfect security and protection to the free exercise of all religions, without distinction or preference, and the perpetual abolition of all ascendancy, or connection, between church and state.

3. A declaration of perfect security and protection of persons and property, to all who should demean themselves as good citizens, and friends to the liberty of their country, with strong denunciations against those who should support or countenance the cause of British tyranny and usurpation.

4. An invitation to the people to join the Republican standard, and a promise to recommend to the future Legislature of their country every individual who should distinguish himself by his courage, zeal, and ability.

5. An invitation to the people immediately to organize themselves, and form a national convention, for the purpose of framing a Government, and of administering the affairs of Ireland, until such Government could be framed and put in activity.

(http://homepages.iol.ie/~fagann /1798/tone6.htm)

Seamus: Now, do you imagine that the RC Church would agree to such a Republic? Especially in terms of items 1 and 2, where ‘all idea of conquest’ would disappear and that ‘without distinction or preference’ the majority church would content itself as any other?

And even if you got over these two objections, knowing the RC Church as you do, do you further think that it would countenance in this religiously egalitarian context the separation of Church and State?

Not even the Anabaptists, who first proposed the separation of Church and State centuries earlier were allowed by the RC Church to get away with it. Why do you think that Wolfe Tone and the Presbyterians would have succeeded, where the Catholics themselves since 1922 have never dreamed of such a thing? Indeed, they gave the RC Church a ‘Special’ place in the 1937 version of Bunreacht Na h-Eireann (and managed to earn them another special mention in the Constitution of East Timor). Even if the Government of the Republic of Ireland ever dreamed of separating church from state, the RC Church would cut off their non-existing goolies. The Irish Republic can’t even get rid of the Angelus bell, which summons them in Pavlovian fashion to pay homage over the airways.

As I see it, you have a lot of serious questions to ask before you surrender to the highmindedness of Wolfe Tone.

The Irish don’t even have a Separation of Powers –and all they had to do with that was borrow it from the English.

Sean: They did borrow it from the English –

Seamus: The bad Protestant English?

Sean: All right, the bad Protestant English, but the Separation of Powers is inscribed in Bunreacht Na h-Eireann. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that. So, why are you denying it?

Seamus: I’m not denying that there are words in the Irish Constitution that envisage the notion that the Executive should be separated from the Legislative and separated from the Judiciary. Writing words down on paper is simple – but sometimes, that is all they are – words on paper!

Sean: What do you mean?

Seamus: What I am saying is this. If Opus Dei doesn’t like your jokes on RTE, then they will just get rid of you – cut your contract – and that’s the end of you. And why would they dislike you, especially if like Dermot Morgan (or Tommy Tiernan or Dave Allen) you make the Irish people laugh for the first time in Irish history at the pomposity of their own parish priests, then the Opus have a lot to say about it. In secret these awful ugly people just cut your goolies and you have no redress whatsoever.

Sean: You could go to court? And assert your rights there?

Seamus: You still don’t get it, do you? Is there anything worse than trying to have a discourse with someone who doesn’t know an iota of where he lives or whom he lives with!

Sean: Why couldn’t one sue? Everyone does it everyday and they get their damages or whatever they require to set things right?

Seamus: Not everything is of sufficient importance to warrant the attention of the Holy Office. But where their attention is focused, they can touch anything or anyone in the state. In Maynooth we know that no one is allowed to think. So, if someone wants to speculate outside the religious sheep-run, they are banished as heretics. We accept it, because that’s the way of societies that boast of Infallibility. They reason that for them nothing changes, but they never quite admit that they never change anything, and that is why ‘nothing changes.’ Outside of Maynooth the same atavistic morons operate on secular life. To talk about a Catholic University is simply a contradiction in terms. But whatever they want to call them, say someone breaks out one weekend and actually disagrees with the Papal Policy of killing millions in Uganda by withholding from them a piece of rubber, then the Opus go into overdrive. Essentially they do the same to him as they did to Dermot Morgan. The sack him on some pretext or other. I know their lawyers. It’s not so much that they are clever – rather that the Judges love listening to them.

Sean: But the Minister for Education. Isn’t he the first line of defense in an educational contract?

Seamus: Right you are. But would you really like to depend on Dr. Michael Woods, the ‘good Catholic’, or Mary Hanafin, whose father saved you and me and the Irish nation from divorce?

Sean: Surely they wouldn’t play about with someone’s livelihood like that?

Seamus: Oh, no!

Sean: I know what you’re saying; you’re saying that Catholicism has everything and everyone corrupted. There is no one who is above or outside Catholic consciousness and therefore everyone is paralysed to act against it.

Sile: It would certainly explain the spate of corrupt institutions and their personnel in Church and State and everything between them.

Sean: So, when the Minister for Education decides to sack someone in the schools, or through the independent and powerful and secret resources of Opus Dei, turns a blind eye – indeed, actively promotes them to all the prestigious and call-in posts in the colleges, there is nothing anyone can do about it really. So, say, someone says something which is inimical to the Propagation of the Faith, or who just objects to how the bishops muscled in on the whole management of clerical pedophilia, or who just objects to Irish people paying taxes for such pedophiles – if Opus Dei wants them sacked, isolated, silenced, made berufsverboten, or destroyed, then the Minister just does it. And if they are comedians on RTE, then the same applies. They just pull the plug, because they own all the plugs. And the Judges and the Lawyers will assist in this enterprise, if Opus wants it enough?

Seamus: In pre-Reformation societies (like Poland, the Philippines, East Timor and the Republic of Ireland), there are two systems of law, canon law and common law. This is so for all ‘religious’ societies. Now you thought you knew which governed the prosecution of criminous clerks, or you may have thought that there was only one system of law, because everyone everywhere says that there is only one system of law.

Sean: Well, there is only one system of Law in the Republic of Ireland.

Seamus: Yes – it’s called Canon Law!

Sean: No, I can’t accept that.

Seamus: You probably don’t accept that there is no such thing as a Republic and that Ireland is a religious society. Neither can other people, not even after examining the case of clerical pedophilia.

Sean: I can’t explain that case. Maybe it was a once off. And maybe it only applied to criminal law. What you said about a comedian being sacked from RTE for laughing at the church – that’s not true.

Seamus: Well, why then do all the Irish comedians perform in England? Why do they all tell anti-RC jokes and, by the same token, they cannot do so here? Does any of that mean anything to you?

Sean: If there is no Separation of Powers, then no one is safe. The Minister, his cronies, and his departmental officials can do anything they choose, and the Judges will protect them in all but insignificant cases. Is there no law worth talking about in Ireland, then?

Seamus: Why do you think Judges are given wide discretionary powers that attach to their persons? So that they can administer law personally, prejudiciously, and peremptorily. A Judge is not a neutral filament through which all matters are imbibed equally or with an equal outcome. Judges are there essentially to take sides; that is their job. And unless one pleads that the do things ex debito justitia, they’re apt to go their merry way. As a matter of fact they go their discretionary way anyway.

Sean: And can reach them?

Seamus: Opus Dei made them.

Sean: All of them? >

Seamus: No. I don’t think Opus Dei made them all, but enough of them. And that is not to say that there isn’t a ‘nice’ Opus Dei judge. I know one, but only one.

Sean: You’re saying that Opus Dei is so powerful that it can at will reach across party politics, educational institutions, High Court judges, solicitors, barristers, police, civil servants, and violate people’s constitutional rights with impunity? And you were a practicing barrister for over twenty years?

Seamus: Yes and Yes.

Sean: To judge is The Crowning Privilege! Surely a judge would not interfere with the course of justice.

Seamus: Yes, he would! They already did so in well-known cases.

Sean: And not on the facts submitted in court?

Seamus: Yes.

Sean: You know such? Positively?

Seamus: I am satisfied I have seen such.

Sean: Then that is a violence that deserves –

Seamus: Deserves what?

Sean: To be met with Violence!

Sile: To be met with Violence!

Seamus: And neither of you have ever seen church violence?

Sean: There is no need to go back on that again. The schools were full of violence, the Bible and the Christian way is violent. I accept that the Christian Church is riddled with violence. I just don’t know that they kill people deliberately, even if they do beat the crap out of them.

Sile: Well, I saw this young fellow who claimed to be a member of Opus Dei. A young college type talking through his ass. ‘You don’t think that we go around killing people, do you?’ he said rhetorically. And I thought: what a prick, if I ever saw one. He was in his twenties and was probably never out of Spain, and he thinks he knows everything that happens around the world in Opus Dei. Of course he was never questioned about the Pope’s policy on women or on the consequences which his nonsense has on those believers in Africa who could be saved, if it wasn’t for him, with a piece of rubber. The Pope was allowed to go on and on, while people were dying like flies, and there was no one, scientist or otherwise, to stand up and say: ‘you idiotic Pope; You murderer of poor and weak people! You and your stupid hang-ups have condemned thousands and thousands of people to die. ‘

Sean: He has to be led by dogma!

Sile: Please don’t say such stupid things to me.

Sean: That came out wrong. I am not defending him. I was just saying that he is a man of dogma.

Sile: Does that mean that he is the same as the mid-nineteenth century British who watched the Irish starve to death, with all the barns stuffed with food? Is that what that means? Another stuffed duck laden with more power than he knows what to do with? Who gave him such power?

Sean: Let’s move on. How do you claim that the Opus need not shoot someone to destroy them?

Seamus: If you have overall power, there are simple ways of destroying people. If I can reach into a Bank and find out the details of your account; if I can reach into a Garda Station and have you stopped, questioned, arrested and charged; if I can reach into your class-room and mark your success or failure – I can get you to do all kinds of things as well as glean an awful lot of information on other unsuspecting people. The Parish Priest not only knows a lot, but he has many tentacles, and many debtors.

Sean: I’m sure that there are many people with a lot of power, but how can you destroy someone with it short of killing them, or fixing them up in court?

Seamus: By discrediting the person involved. Or, if it is a bad Judge or a Minister we are talking about, these people have wide and powerful relations and offices that they can and do use all the time. It is the work of Opus Dei in promoting such persons to use their offices as their own. And if through the Opus, a guard gives certain evidence or fails to do so, or a bank official gives information to someone requiring it, or a Judge delays a trial, or say, he gets counsel to do so, or through the judge or again or through Opus Dei, colleagues decide to do each other favors. You have heard of Judges being sacked for such matters, haven’t you? And with such cases, there is no one directly to blame. It’s the system. I think it is often forgotten that Judges have enormous ‘discretionary’ powers. That is, they reside in the Judge personally. I know that perhaps in some cases they should not be given such powers, but they enjoy them at the moment – and there is no one going to tell me that they are above pleasing the herd.

Sean: `I find this topic most unsavory and such people playing enormously with violence. No can I get back to talking about 1798?

Seamus: Only if we understand that Irish society properly understood couldn’t organically, genetically, is not allowed to separate Church from State. It’s like asking the Irish to grow up – and out of religion. How could they do it? And more to our purposes, how could they have done it two centuries ago? At least now they are making their middle class and have some self-confidence in their sails. In 1798 they were superstitious, racked with poverty and privation, priest ridden and incapable of discernment of this order.

Sean: Maybe the Defenders of 1798 were made of better stuff than you give them credit for.

Seamus: Maybe you’re right. I certainly don’t pretend to understand it all. If, for example, we look at those Irish Protestants who put down the Rebellion. In some ways we can at least see from Wolfe Tone’s account why the repression was so ruthless. The situation in which Presbyterians were willing to join forces with Catholics was indeed revolutionary. The problem, of course, was whether the Catholics wanted to be joined or not. I don’t mean your foot soldier, but if there is one thing that is unshakeable about the Irish Catholic, it was his bovine adherence to the religious ministrations of his priests. I suspect that this obsession is hard to understand, and without understanding the historical forces behind it, it is incomprehensible. In short the RC Church helped to destroy the Gaelic race. On a religious pretext they even organized the Christian and Norman conquests, particularly through Canterbury. So, in a sense they used the greater strength of Roman and Norman to quieten the Gael. But after the Reformation, when the British sought their own independence from the Holy Roman Empire, the Catholic Church in Ireland changed sides. It did a volte-face and made out forever after that it was culturally at one with the pagan Gael whom they originally hated. They also made out that they loathed the heretic English, whom they had always supported. But since Gaelic civilization was at the time of the Reformation well and truly destroyed, the Church made out that it had always loved the dead culture the pagans gave birth to and hated the Norman culture that gave them power in Ireland. The Gaels were so superstitions and impressionable that the RC Church, then and now, could tell them anything whatsoever; for what happened in the middle ages was happening again in the eighteenth century, would happen again throughout every engagement in the nineteenth century, and is all too present in Northern Ireland today. Ask yourself again, who stopped the hunger strikers? Who conferred honors on Margaret Thatcher? Who always spoke for the Irish and who always – always – betrayed their interests? The RC Church could do this. After the flight of the Earls – or more particularly after using the English to weed out all Gaelic and Irish leadership from Adam Dubh O Tuathail to James Joyce – the Parish Priest assumed the role of Irish Chieftain or Patria Potestas and the people could do nothing without his consent and his connivance. These chieftains were those, who would naturally, as in Scotland and elsewhere, have dominated that upper echelon now occupied and confiscated by the parish priests. How could there be a separation of Church and State amongst Catholics if the Bishops didn’t want it? Do you not remember what they did to the uncrowned king of Ireland, when all he wanted to do was marry the woman he loved?

Sean: I know what you are saying is intelligent and insightful. But I want to go with my feelings. I love Wolfe Tone, just as I love the memory of Parnell. And I know you do, too. But I feel that Irishmen at that time might have listened to Wolfe Tone rather than to their priests and bishops.

Sile: I understand that. Of course, you could have applied those same sentiments to Parnell, James Joyce and Dermot Morgan, but it would not have altered the result of their destruction at the hands of the RC Church. The question of who governs Ireland and the Irish people is one that cannot be answered by wishful thinking. It is too serious to be prayed over or left in the land of make-belief – which is where it has remained for far too long. The only comfort, it seems to me, that Irish men can take from the reality of their captivity is that when you are not the author of the mess you are presented with, maybe you can’t resolve it. Ireland, in many ways, by virtue of incompetent-conquests, religious and lay otherworldliness, is the receiver of an imperial mess – and not being the authors of it, the Irish are hardly likely to comprehend it, much less cure it.

Seamus: I don’t know whether that is of any comfort to anyone. What you prescribe is even more debilitating than the condition you wish to relieve. When something is wrong, you do something about it. When someone does wrong, I am afraid you have to oppose him or her, in an active way.

Sile: But is that not where the paralysis of religion lies?

Sean: How do you mean?

Sile: I watched the death of Pope Paul 11 and the installation of Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. Let me tell you what I saw. I saw all these awful men gathered in frocks, which, despite their color, would frighten children. Talk about Joseph and his Technicolor dream coat! All these men and not a woman amongst them. Do they know that they all came from woman at all? Now these men have such massive power across the world that I can hardly imagine it. Here they all gather in the Vatican – hundreds of cardinals and thousands of priests, and not a child in the house to be washed amongst them all, nor a woman to be served. The Vatican must be the most anti-woman and anti-child place in the world. You can skit the King of England all you like, he is a very human human – and that is important to me. Here we have some kind of dreadful perversion of human nature. They do all this splendor-stuff in the name of a child who was born in a stable at Bethlehem two thousand years ago. My ass! The Vatican is on its own very perverse power trip. But that’s not all. I have in my hand a rubber contraceptive and I can with this piece of technology rescue a man and his wife from the fear of aids, and all these men – una voce – will not let me administer it to him. They are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands, maybe millions, because the Mediterranean myth was never able to come to terms with this world. And what hurts me more than anything else is both the silence and the manner of its maintenance. All the scientists in the world, the technologists, the sociologists and social scientists, the ordinary garage workers, the feminists and ordinary women and men of the world – none of them will condemn this Pope for such slaughter. None of them will campaign against him for it. If there are deaths on the roads, everyone condemns it and plans to avoid them. But not this Pope-sanctioned slaughter. Where is the common sense in the world fled? Where is free speech and righteous action? I know people in jobs are afraid of the Catholic Church and especially the dogs over which Ratzinger was chief Inquisitor, Opus Dei and the crew over the Propagation of the Faith. I know in Ireland how many people are positively afraid of the RC Church – and all with good reason – but we are talking about some kind of insanity before our eyes, where people are dying like flies and we can save them! We are, incidentally, talking about the Santa Claus effect in epistemology, the ‘moving statute’ phenomenon, which implies that no matter how we know something with either our senses or our intellect, we still don’t quite know it enough to act upon it. We are paralysed by the superstition in religion. Will the contraceptives really, really, help people against aids? Maybe the Pope is right…etc

Sean: I think I know what you mean. It is a kind of two thousand year old paralysis. Dead wood that still weighs upon your mind out of the undue respect you have been taught to give religion.

Sile: My other point is this – and it is somehow at one with the first epistemological point about never been sure of being sure. The enormity of Holy Roman power nobody knows or can calculate. It is simply unfathomable. And all the leaders of the world assemble because if they didn’t, they might be in trouble at home. Now they are the last to raise a hand or an eyebrow at his Holiness’s slaughter of the innocents in Uganda or his dislike of women. By the way, did many of them bring their wives to Rome, and did they hide them away from the CURIA? It is really up to women to do their own Rebellion, instead of looking on like nuns and putting flowers on the altar. I do wish they would stir themselves; they are, sometimes, so bovine in the presence of such injustice. The married ones will take it out on their husbands all right, but when it comes to the goddamn camera or the institutions, they support all the most reactionary causes.

Sean: Is that your point?

Sile: Sorry. It is not my point. My point is this. Given all that power vested in whom? In this Pharaoh. That’s what the Popes are, Pharaohs. They want to be inaugurated and buries like Pharaohs, and to justify it they go through such rigmarole. Having lived as the most powerful men in the world, the CURIA (the cabinet-come- civil service) puts him in a wooden coffin, and this last-minute gesture is meant to signify that he lived his life simply, that he never wanted worldly goods, forgetting, of course, that the sequels on his last dress was enough to buy drinks on the house. So, for the purposes of the faithful, they go through this patently absurd Santa-Claus act. And then the incumbent, having whipped the world for ages as high Inquisitor, comes on to tell us as an old man, that he is humble, bla, bla, bla.

Sean: Is that your point?

Seamus: Is that your point?

Sile: No. My point is this: how can the world and the media over such a long period personalize such enormous power? It’s like talking about George Bush for a fortnight by reference only to his looks, the last time he ate, the last time he visited Berlin, the name of his dog, the color of his tie – without ever asking him what his policies were on Afghanistan, and how much money Chaney and his old man got out of the oil fields. Can someone tell me how people in the media can do this? Are they specially chosen to do it? I know one guy on RTE. He was a reporter and all of a sudden he is being interviewed about the Pope. And he is sat there literally pontificating about ‘our’ Pope as if he played football with him all his life. He is talking about his good friend and it has transformed him from mere carrier of reported speech to lawgiver, colorful confidant, as well as mediator of the Mosaic Law. Seamus: We haven’t really left the religious wars, have we? We have an enfant terrible in George Bush, the leader of the secular world, and now in Pope Benedict XVI, we have another enfant terrible, the leader of the Catholic World. And which is greater? We know Bush is no match, because, as a believer, he is more apt to accept the predominance of the religious over the secular spheres. Wasn’t it precisely this upon which the Christians and their bishops threw in their lot with Bush and spurned Carey, who quite forthrightly said that his religious beliefs would be secondary to his governmental principles.

Sean: Not quite! The bishops threw in their lot with Bush because of the abortionissue, or ostensibly so. Maybe, as you say, the predominance of the religious (or spatial) over the temporal, was the real issue, and they hid it under the abortion issue. And given how the RC Church bargained abortion away to get in McDowell and the last Fianna Fail government, I can see that you could quite possibly be right.

Sile: Maybe so. But, for my money, I think that the American bishops just wanted to chastise Massachusetts, especially the Massachusetts Irish, for confronting them, there Opus Judges and Bishop Low. So, they gave them George Bush for another term. In any event the RC Church, despite Ratzinger’s muted opposition to Afghanistan, really wanted the incursion into Muslim territory. Wasn’t that why Ratzinger started the East Timor strike? As a prelude, so to speak…And wasn’t it Ratzinger – and not Paul 11 – who ran the show, including his theatrical appearances at the Paul 11’s coffin and his own well orchestrated subsequent election. A fore-gone-conclusion if there ever was one!

Sean: Can we return to the ’98 rebellion and compare the notions of freedom then prevalent.

Sile: You might also ask what would have happened to the 450,000 land-owning Protestants if the uprising had succeeded?

Sean: Good question. I’m not sure. I suppose their lands would have to be confiscated and re-granted, or, like the Protestants under the Free State, or in Northern Ireland, they’ d emigrate rather than live under the Angelus bells of Catholicism.

Seamus: And where would they go? And what if they resisted? You must remember that while they put down the ‘98 rebellion most savagely, they were themselves against the Act of Union that followed. It was only with later developments that they were driven to concede to the union with Britain. You might also remember what happened in the nineteenth century with the Catholics.

Sean: What?

Seamus: Well, the high-mindedness of the Dissenters was absent from the RC Church’s concern with ‘Catholic Emancipation.’ It seems to me that ‘freedom’ or ‘emancipation’ for the Catholic was never about personal freedom, like whether to get divorced or not, or whether to use a contraceptive or not, or choices of this very personal type. On the contrary, it was mainly and only concerned with giving the organized church more powers than it already had – powers that invariably went towards denying the individual those personal rights and freedoms. So, the nineteenth century, unlike the legacy of the Dissenters, was one of Catholic this and Catholic that. And while it was disguised under the general rubric of being about ‘freedom’, it was really about its opposite – that is, emancipation (Catholic) from the Protestant state in order to deny Catholics the freedoms envisaged by the Protestant state. Moreover, in the Act of Union land was liberally doled out to those ‘old English’ Catholics who preferred to get fat rather than fight side by side with either the Defenders or the Dissenters. Do you think that Catholic Ireland since 1922 is to be admired?

Sean: Of course, in your estimation 1800 constituted the Second Act of Union. Perhaps it is opportune for you to mention this aspect again.

Seamus: The First Act of Union occurred politically and legally in circa. 1156, when Pope Adrian IV promulgated the Bull Laudabiliter, more or less granting Ireland to Henry 11 and thereby creating a union between Ireland and Cambro-Briton. As we have already noted this document was only controversial because its promulgation was at various times denied. Who could admit to the shame of such treachery? But, you see, the Papacy always satisfied itself about securing its own power, part of which was its ability under Christianity to convince people that their – the peoples’ -- interests and that of the Pope’s were one and the same thing. Now, this is one neat trick and while there are many places in Christianity that are representative of the success of that identity, few have remained as enduring as Ireland. The reverse of this proposition also remains true: that is, that while there have been many places, which have been betrayed by this Papal, representation, few have been so enduring as the Irish betrayal. That’s why one only hears of the Act of Union of 1800 and not of the first Act of Union of 1156. And yet they are the same act and the same union; for it is the Catholic card that eventually puts the Presbyterian patriots – not to mention the mass of dead Catholics – in their place. Let me quote the following:

“The new viceroy, Lord Camden, was instructed to conciliate the Catholic bishops by setting up a Catholic college for the training of Irish priests; this was done by the establishment of Maynooth College. But he was to set his face against all Parliamentary reform and all Catholic concessions. …he stirred up but too successfully the dying embers of sectarian hate, with the result that the Ulster factions, the Protestant "Peep-of-Day Boys" and the Catholic "Defenders", became embittered with a change of names. The latter, turning to republican and revolutionary ways, joined the United Irish Society; the former became merged in the recently formed Orange Society, taking its name from William of Orange and having Protestant ascendancy and hatred of Catholicism as its battle cries. Extending from Ulster, these rival societies brought into the other provinces the curse of sectarian strife. Instead of putting down both, the Government took sides with the Orangemen; and, while their lawless acts were condoned, the Catholics were hunted down. An Arms' Act, an Insurrection Act, an Indemnity Act, a suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act placed them outside the pale of law. An undisciplined soldiery, recruited from the Orange lodges, were than let loose among them. Martial law, free quarters, flogging, picketing, half-hanging, destruction of Catholic property and life, outrages on women followed, until at last Catholic blood was turned into flame. Then Wexford rose.

Looking back, it now seems certain that, had Hoche landed at Bantry in 1796, had even a small force landed at Wexford in 1798, or a few other counties displayed the heroism of Wexford, English power in Ireland would, temporarily at least, have been destroyed. But one county could not fight the British Empire, and the rebellion was soon quenched in blood.

Camden's place was then given to Lord Cornwallis, who came to Ireland for the express purpose of carrying a Legislative Union…. And then began one of the most shameful chapters in Irish history. Even the corrupt Irish Parliament was reluctant to vote away its existence, and in 1799 the opposition was too strong for Castlereagh. But Pitt directed him to persevere, and the great struggle went on.

On one side were eloquence and debating power, patriotism, and public virtue, Grattan, Plunket, and Bushe, Foster, Fitzgerald, Ponsonby, and Moore, a truly formidable combination.

On the other side did Castlereagh operate upon the baser elements of in Parliament, the needy, the spendthrift, the meanly ambitious, with the whole resources of the British Empire at his command. The pensioners and placemen who voted against him at once lost their places and pensions, the military officer was refused promotion, and the magistrate was turned off the bench. And while anti-Unionists were unsparingly punished, the Unionists got lavish rewards. The impecunious got well-paid sinecures; the brief less barrister was made a judge or a commissioner; the rich man, ambitious of social distinction, got a peerage, and places and pensions for his friends; and the owners of rotten boroughs to large sums for their interests.

The Catholics were promised emancipation in a united Parliament, and in consequence many bishops, some clergy, and a few of the laity supported the Union, not grudging to end an assembly so bigoted and corrupt as the Irish Parliament. By these means Castlereagh triumphed, and in 1801 the United Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland opened its doors.”

Sean: Whom are you quoting here? Or rather from what are you quoting?

Seamus: The Catholic Encyclopaedia. It’s a pity no one told Wolfe Tone about the pliability of the Catholic Church’s interest in Irish freedom. The scandal is to have to listen to someone who somehow manages to identify the RC Church’s interest with the spendthrift blood of Wexford or, for that matter, those Belfast patriots.

Sean: One final question. Wolfe Tone wanted an Independent Irish Republic that would tolerate the rights of ‘Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter’ equally. How would you explain the adoption of this phrase by Sinn Fein/IRA?

Seamus: What a marvelous question! ‘ Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter’ is a phrase, which, you must admit, is more suited as a war cry of the Protestant Reformation than of any Irish Republican Army devoted to Catholicism One thing the universal church is not so universal about is sharing power. One thing it and its adherents are excellent at is the empty, thoughtless, I’ll-say-it-to-please-you words. The early religious reformers were the real army of liberation; for they loved the concepts that go with words, not just the words -- and they loved them with personal conviction. If the Sinn Fein/IRA wanted to change anything, they, too, should learn how first to arrive at a change of heart. And for this they might read James Joyce – if they can get an unbanned copy! Or if they really believe in these words by Wolfe Tone then it’s not Protestants they have a quarrel with. They obviously need to readjust their sights before they fire – lest they shoot their friends and not their foes. Unfortunately, they have been shooting the wrong enemy for over a thousand years. as Adam Dubh O Tuathail knew only too well. Who was Adam Dubh O Tuathail? Ah, well…

 

 
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