Sunday, 28 December 2014

Eire Nua or Creepy DevoMax

One of my favourite memories from my childhood, was watching Galway, win a three in a row All Ireland football Final, only to be matched by winning the hurling final, years later, and that famous subsequent speech as Gaeilge. Of course a lot of young fella's these days watch Liverpool and the like, instead. But the stuff of my childhood was unpaid and striaght from the heart like a good song or that Gaelic rendition of the West's Awake after the hurling final. Of course Kerry went one better a few times, and produces greats like the legendary Mick O'Connel. I also watched a great team, in the two in a row of Down from the north. These were warriors indeed. Unfortunately we used to come across dirty teams, like the Dubs in football. Cork and Tipperary had dirty hurlers too, who sometimes played the man not the ball. Now for peace sake, I won't say much more about all of this but the main point is that the greats knew how to play the ball, not the man.

Many times, I have wished that politics, particularly Irish politics, it could be the same, but the reality is, that it is not that way and never has been. I have always tried to avoid baroom republicans and secret chatrooms, where a couple of loose words, have led to more than just character assasination. Where the person attacked, is in no position to defend themselves. All traditional Republicnas, that have impressed me, from the past, up to the present day, have one common characteristic. They are fairminded people. Indeed I would suggest, that it is this very characteristic, that made them revolutionaries in the first place. So over the last number of years, the trend within professed Irish republicans, of engaging in censorship, dialectic secrecy has quite frankly shocked me. Censorship is the antithesis of Freedom and Republicanism. Indeed the birthplace of Republicanism in the French Revolution, was largely fired by the right to freedom of speech, that ushered in the Age of the Enlightenment in Europe, there is no doubt about that. Sadly there have many revisionists on this matter in Ireland since 1916, that have included the fascist blueshirts, DeValera and currently Brit Sinn Fein.

"Freedom of speech is the great bulwark of liberty; they prosper and die together: And it is the terror of traitors and oppressors, and a barrier against them."- Cato's Letter No. 15 Of Freedom of Speech, (See velow). That the same is inseparable from publick Liberty. One of the most notable Censors, who called themselves Irish republican before Adams was DeValera. Both he and the blueshirts, enaged in draconian censorship which has continued to keep Ireland, in the political dark ages, up to the present day. The two main arguments on both sides were. "No Free Speech to Traitors," and it being a source of divsion. Failing of course to address the question of how the public, can decide, who precisiely are the traitors and, what precisely are the sources of division. The Dialectice of Materialism recognizes these realities of opposites and attempts to resolve them in uncensored, transparent, public, debate. This of course was short cicruited by both Stalin in Russia and Hitler, with regard to National Socialism in Germany, resulting in pogrome that murdered tens of millions of their own citizens. Enlightenment forbid, such a fate, would ever again befall Ireland. We truly are as sick as our secrets in Ireland, as result of the DeValera/Blueshirt/Orange Order legacy. We cannot credibly, campaign against the current draconian state censorship of genuine political debate, if we are to any extent, engaged in it ourselves.

This current shift to the right In Irish republicanism, came first to my attention, with the books and journals of the Pensive Quill, who when I proceeded to try debate it in an open, public and transparent manner, immediately ran for cover, employing censorship. Aside from the pervasive censorship of Brit Sinn Fein, whose agents have worked ceaselessly, to  have me banned from Facebook and all Irish discourse, my latest experience of it, was by Sean Bresnihan of the 1916 Societies. Can you imagine what the 1916 Martyr's reaction would be, to their sacrifices and proclamation, being used as a basis for censorship. I simply cannot get my head around, either a Freedom activist or fighter, embracing censorship? How can republicans campaign against State censorship, if the they are engaged in wholesale censorship themselves, without being of the Fascist or Stalinist variety? I try as best I can to engage in Politics of the sober variety, i.e., Principles before Personalities, rather than the DeValera. Adams, republican careerist, dictatorial, revisionism, but when I am under aattack, I have a responsibilty to defend myself, as I was forced to do in my enagement with Mr Bresnihan, recently.

It started off polite enough and was essentially about Eire Nua versus his 1916 Society argument for the British concept of DevoMax, which is not remotely Republican. I was confusesd from the outset, about this proliferation of 1916 Societes starting in Tyrome, that semed to me, to be cultivating even further division of the Republican Movement in Ireland. I was also alarmed with their connections to Fascism. Other than Gerry Adam's ridicolous claim, particularly in the light of his subsequent appeasement, to the Orange Order in Stormont, that Eire Nua was a sop to the Unionists, I have never seen or heard a decent argument, against this document. Bresnihan's first argument was that it came from the backwoods of Connemara, before I duly informed him, that there are no woods in Connemara. He then proceeded to state that his 1916 Society, British DevoMax concept was better. When I tried to tease out, exactly what precisely, was his difficulty with Eire Nua, he had nothing to offer, other than when cornered, the most foul, four-lettered abuse, I have ever witnessed. Now perhaps he was using his laptop at the time, while in a pub, with his drinking buddy the Xpensive Quill, but it surely was fascist, to say the least.

 All of this, really is important, only in the context of fascist censorship, in that it begs the question, are these mushrooming societies, Ireland's future blueshirts? Are they the next form of Adam's wannabe's? Are they another attempt at the "Death of Irish Republicanism" from his buddy's ihfamous books? Or are theyjust another legacy of the tradition of Tyrone's Secret Societies, like the Oakboys, Ribboonmen, Apprentice boys, Whiteboys, Oakboys, Steelboys, Rightboys, Peep O�Day Boys and Defenders. Because this is surely important, especially in light of upcoming 1916 Commemorations and the failure of the long dirty war based on secrecy. I humbly suggest and I could be wrong, they are neither doing Irish Republicanism or Ireland's people any favours whatsoever, quite the reverse. The politics of fear and secret societies, holds no future for Ireland. We have given them our best shot and suffered enough. We have a better way already. It is Eire Nua, it is a document of engagement and consent, not fear. It was forged by republicans, who survived the fascist pogroms of the Blueshirt and Orange scum states. It was formulated by the O'Bradaigh and Daithi O'Connaill, in the Gaeltacht areas of Donegal, Mr Bresnihan, as any traditional Irish Republican will tell you.

In the early eighties, a few years after the sacrifices of the the ten dead Hunger Stikers, I stood in Bodenstown churchyard and witenessed the address of Gerry Adams. He rambled on about the refinement of Republican Principles, which eventually evolved into revisionism and then into snivelling reformism. It won't surprise me, if he ever consumates his power lust, when it evolves even further, into the same fascism as the Blueshirts. As Chairperson of Newry Sinn fein, I clearly  saw the writing on the wall that day and I knew from personal experience, of how fascist Sinn Fein operates on secret censorship from within, that I had only one course of action possible remaining to change events. As result I volunteered for the third time in my life, for active service. There was an ensuing argument within the churchyard, witnessed by other Republicans. As a result on the way home to Newry, I was approached by two senior republicans from South Armagh, with regard to which I trusted, Ruairi O'Bradaigh or Gerry Adams. My unequivocal  answer was Ruairi O'Bradaigh. It took a liitle time after, for me to extract myself, as honourably as was possible, under the circumatnces, from the entrapment of Brit Sinn fein in Newry. I was prepared to take a bullet, rather than betray the people of no property around me in Newry. Most republicans who gave their lives in the recent troubles, did so for the principles, enshrined in the Irish Proclamation and the concepts of Eire Nua. Before you Mr Bresnihan or any of your colleagues, propose a credible alternative or start refining it, you better explain clearly and precisely, what exactly are your specific problems with this document, in an open transparent manner, without hiding behind your beloved censorship. I regret Mr Bresnihan that you, have not yet earned sufficent respect, to elaborate any further, without compromising other republicans, who are currently interned in Maghaberry today.

An Phoblacht Abu ! beir bua !


P.S. If anyone agrees with the sentiments expressed bere, please share in your respective groups on Facebook, in  all of which I am currently censored, if you disagree, I hope one day, to find a non secret, uncensored, transparent forum, which does not engage in censorship.

 Ath Bhlian Faoi Mhaise Diabh

1798 Ireland


From The men of no property, Irish Radicals and Popular Politics in the Late Eighteenth Century, by Jim Smyth, 1992.

Shortly after Earl Fitzwilliam took up office as lord lieutenant in 1795, he was shocked to discover that the Defenders, a militant Catholic secret society, were appearing every night in arms in County Meath. He had never, he remarked, heard of such a thing in Northamptonshire. His exasperation now seems almost comic, his ignorance of Irish realities lamentable. Yet the contrast between Meath and Northamptonshire is an instructive one. Although eighteenth-century England (and Scotland) witnessed their share of agrarian unrest, food riots and political agitation, they furnish no example of lower-class secret societies engaged in sustained, systematic campaigns of violence and intimidation. It is a significant contrast too, because, as Charles Tilly has pointed out, �the nature of a society�s collective violence speaks volumes about that society�. Whatever it might say to us, the persistence of collective violence in eighteenth-century Ireland certainly raises questions about the image and structures of that society. An examination of the forms of popular protest should therefore provide insights into the general political and social history of the period. More directly, some understandings of these forms is essential background to any discussion of popular politics in the 1790s, particularly to any discussion of Defenderism � the prime expression of lower-class disaffection during that decade.


An account of the secret societies could begin with the Elizabethan �woodkerne�, with the Tories and Rapparees at the Restoration period and the early eighteenth century, or with the Connaught Houghers of 1711-13. This account takes a more conventional starting-point: 1761 and the appearance of the Whiteboys. Indeed some historians, notably George Cornewall Lewis in the nineteenth century and Michael Beames today, have perceived so many recurring patterns of behaviour among the multitude of rural popular protest movements in pre-famine Ireland 9c. 1760 or 1780 to 1845) that they use the generic term �Whiteboyism� to cover them all. Whiteboyism, according to this thesis, was southern and agrarian, while the Defenders (and their successors, the Ribbonmen) are seen as northern-based, sectarian and quasi-political. The distinction is valid, but it has been drawn too sharply. Each secret society had unique characteristics and specific origins. Defenderismwas special. But the similarities between it and its southern cousins are at least as important as the differences. The Whiteboys provide an appropriate starting-point for the purposes of this discussion because the Defenders of the 1790s tapped into the Whiteboy tradition. The Whiteboy shaped a popular culture of protest which evolved modes of organisation, techniques of direct action and, most importantly perhaps, a communal ambivalence towards the law and civil authority, upon which the Defenders drew. Thomas Crofton Croker recognised the formative political potential of agrarian unrest when he observed of the 1798 rebellion that �two generations of the peasantry had been trained up to become actors in this event�. Croker referred to the Whiteboys, Oakboys, Steelboys, Rightboys, Peep O�Day Boys and Defenders. But he overstated their impact upon popular consciousness. He assumed too direct a relationship between the history of agrarian disturbances and the rebellion. Nevertheless two generations� cumulative experience of organised illegality and violent did condition the mass politics of the 1790s.
The styles of protest action which stretched into the 1790s and the first half of the nineteenth century originated with the Whiteboys, in Tipperary in 1761. The name derived from their practice of wearing coarse white linen overshirts, and the movement grew out of local resistance to the enclosure of common land. With the suspension of the resistance to the enclosure of common land. With the suspension of the restrictive cattle acts in 1758-59 and rising demand in Europe, investment in pasture became more profitable. Landlords re-let to graziers who in turn curtailed traditional access to commons by smaller tenants. The Whiteboys attempted to defend these customary rights by tearing down � or �levelling� � fences, hedges and walls, by fillings in ditches and digging up pasture, and by maiming or �houghing� cattle. As the movement spread into most of the rest of Munster its programme widened. The primary grievance was the payment of tithes to the established church. The tithe was usually paid in kind � corn or potatoes � and, after 1735, pasture was exempt. These exactions were inflated, moreover, by the machinery of collection: a corps of tithe-proctors and farmers which administered the system on behalf of the clergy, at a price. Such �middlemen� were a constant Whiteboy target. The Whiteboys also tried to regulate conacre rents, by unilaterally and publicly setting �fair� rates, and by punishing those tenants who dared pay more. Between 1761 and 1765 Whiteboys were active in counties Waterford � where five of them were hanged in 1762 � Cork, Limerick and Kilkenny. The scale of the outbreak is indicated by the introduction of the introduction of the Whiteboy act in 1765. The key provision of the act made the administration of oaths by threat of violence a capital offence. This went to the heart of the problem. Oaths binding members to secrecy was the defining characteristic of Whiteboyism.
Although the Whiteboys sometimes turned out in contingents of 500 or more, some mounted on horseback, others marching in military array, the scale of violence was limited. Even so, the disturbances were labelled an �insurrection�. Insofar as he was rejecting contemporary allegations � repeated, predictably, by Sir Richard Musgrave 40 years later � of French intrigue and popish conspiracy, Lecky correctly depicted the movement as �unpolitical and unsectarian�. Since the Whiteboys drew their members and support from lower-class Catholics, and since most of the bigger landlords and the established church were Protestant, allegations of sectarian motives were almost inevitable. These charges, made against the background of the Seven Years War (1756-63), betrayed fears of French invasion. Local Protestant paranoia ensured that the agitation of social and economic questions was quickly sucked into the political arena. In Tipperary gentry reaction to the Whiteboy troubles was sharpened by a bitterly contested county election in which the successful candidate, Thomas Matthew, a member of a convert family, had been stigmatised as a representative of the �Catholic interest�. The local detail is crucial because the Dublin government at this time disregarded reports of the Whiteboys as papist insurgents. It is in the area of local or regional politics, for example, that the explanation lies for the trial and execution of the Clogheen parish priest, Nicholas Sheehy. Sheehy had �probably [been] mixed up� in the disturbances in Tipperary, but it seems clear that he was the victim of sectarian animus and judicial murder.
Two years after the Munster unrest erupted a brief tumultuous spasm of popular agitation burst out in mid and south Ulster. The Oakboys or Hearts of Oak � a reference to the sprigs of oak which these agrarian rebels wore on their hats � first appeared in 1763 in north Armagh. On this occasion the main grievance was an increase in county cess (or tax) for road-building. As with the Whiteboys, the movement quickly spread. Oakboy incidents were reported in counties Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Cavan. Again the payment of tithes was opposed. The movement differed from other protest movements in the period, however, in the openness of its tactics. Mobilising at the signal of blowing horns, the Hearts of Oak marched with military precision, to the accompaniment of fife and drum.
�Visits� were paid to local gentlemen and Episcopalian clerics, who were then compelled to make public pledges to reduce the rate of cess and tithe. Large detachments of troops were sent to the region and after a number of skirmishes, in which all the causalities � 15 killed and one capital conviction � were on the Oakboy side, the movement collapsed. The next Ulster-based popular movement was the Hearts of Steel or Steelboys. The Steelboy disturbances, which ran from 1769 to 1772, were triggered by the re-letting, at higher rates, of farms on the great south Antrim estate of the marquess of Donegall. Increased rents, some evictions and local taxation � cess � were the principal sources of the disorders, which focused on Antrim and Down but also infected the adjoining areas of Armagh, Derry and Tyrone. The Steelboys used threatening letters and nocturnal raids to pursue their objectives. The parallels with the Whiteboys are obvious.
In fact, the unrest in Ulster coincided with the re-emergence of the Whiteboys in the south. This second agitation lasted from 1769 to 1776. Carlow, Queen�s County and Kildare. Among the targets now were those Catholic clergy who condemned Whiteboy outrages from the pulpit. Pastoral letters and the ultimate ecclesiastical sanction, excommunication, were ignored. Anti-clericalism of a sort was an even more pronounced element in the Rightboy movement of 1785-88. Named after the fictitious �Captain Right� who set the rate of tithe by public notice, the agitation began in County Cork, then fanned out through the rest of Munster and into south Leinster. The early stages of the Rightboy troubles provide a striking example of how �agrarian� movements could intersect with politics. John Fitzgibbon referred to the �independent gentlemen . . . who set them in motion�, an allusion to Sir John Conway Colthurst and other �independent gentry� who had clashed with Lord Shannon and his allies in the established church during the 1783 election. By colluding with the Catholic lower classes in Cork these �gentlemen Rightboys� succeeded in embarrassing Shannon and vented their own hostility to tithes. The gentry resented tithes, reasoning that money in the pockets of the Anglican clergy was money out of theirs. As the Rightboy campaign widened and they began to direct their attacks against cess, hearth tax, high rents and so on, gentry involvement faded. Catholic Church fees � for baptisms, marriages, funerals and the twice-yearly dues payable at Easter and Christmas � were rising during the 1780s and were regarded by the Rightboys as yet another unjust exaction. However, the priests escaped comparatively unscathed. While the Rightboy campaign had essentially run its course by 1788, the clandestine structure remained in place, reactivating, for example, in 1791, when tithe-proctors were visited by �Capt Right�s light dragoons, well mounted and armed�. Attempts were made to regulate wage rates and houses were raided for arms. As Protestants alone were entitled to bear arms, this �disarming of the Protestants� provoked the usual fulmination�s about Catholic plots. Such �insinuations;, as he called them, were rejected by the county high sheriff, (borough) MP, and future United Irishman, Arthur O�Connor. With the national catholic revival under way the local accusations were more politically pointed than ever, and the Catholic Committee in Dublin publicly welcomed O�Connor�s intervention.


What �volumes�, in Tilly�s sense, does the collective violence of the secret societies speak about the nature of eighteenth-century Irish society? What needs to be explained is the pervasiveness and persistence of organised agrarian protest: the secret societies proved remarkably durable. How, in the end, do we account for the contrast between the disturbed condition of, say, Tipperary, and the comparative social tranquillity of Northamptonshire, or for that matter, Midlothian? At least two caveats should be entered immediately. Firstly, as Sean Connolly has suggested, the comparison is perhaps a misleading one. Although historians and commentators have understandably sought parallels and drawn contrasts with Ireland�s nearest neighbour, a more legitimate standard of comparison may be offered by contemporary Europe. Viewed in this light it is the exceptional character of English stability, not the distinctive nature of Irish collective violence, which stands out most strongly. Secondly, the extent of English public order should not be exaggerated. The systematic poaching in Windsor forest which led to the Black Act in 1723, or the Sussex smugglers� war of the 1740s, remind us that England was not immune from organised or structured social violence. Nor did it escape �ordinary� crime. According to Lecky, in the early eighteenth century �the neighbourhood of London swarmed with highwaymen, and many parts of England were constantly infected by bands which hardly differed from the Irish raparees�. Nevertheless, the increasing effectiveness of the modernising English State had largely quelled the banditry of highwaymen and smugglers by about the 1750s. Thereafter, urban and food riots became the characteristic form of public violence.
Ireland had a different experience. The peculiarities of the Irish, which seemed obvious to numerous contemporary commentators, are somewhat cautiously acknowledged by historians. The historian has good reason to be sceptical. The evidence of commentators � foreign travellers, for example � is impressionistic. Moreover, in Ireland a great deal of evidence of this sort is tainted by authors� prejudices. Many of these social commentaries were written in the early nineteenth century, not as cool sociological surveys but as moral-reformist tracts. Some, like Robert Bell, pressed their case for social or educational reform by painting lurid sketches of a volatile, unregenerate peasantry. Others, like Edward Wakefield or Thomas Crofton Croker exhibit a kind of exasperated anthropological curiosity. Significantly, their observations were advanced not long after the trauma of the 1798 rebellion. Thus when Wakefield writes of the �disposition to revolt, which form[s] so conspicuous a feature of the character of the Catholics in Ireland�, it can be assumed that this judgement was coloured by his own memories of actual rebellion. Finally, these commentators casually resorted to racial and religious stereotypes which are now totally devoid of analytic credibility. Wakefield�s description of the Irish as �a people ardent in their pursuits, accustomed to act without foresight, and to determine without reflection� tells us much more about Wakefield and the tradition � which stretches back through Edmund Spenser to Giraldaus Cambrensis and looks forward to the Victorians � in which he wrote, than it does about the �Irish�, Catholic, peasant, or otherwise. Such confident summaries of the �national character� are about as conceptually valuable as ATQ Stewart�s wry suggestion that �the Irish have been made violent by some noxious element in the potato�.
It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss the evidence of social commentary in its entirety. It is difficult to believe that this voluminous literature and the remarkable unanimity of opinion and perception which it reveals, rested on nothing more solid than the fantasies, prejudices and moralism of hostile witnesses. The zeal and presuppositions of the reformers did undoubtedly distort their accounts, but these men were witnesses, and they did, at some level, describe social realities. In short, the fact that so many observers noted the lawlessness or disaffection of the Irish lower classes provides some grounds for supposing that this was so. As we have seen their perception is partly explained by post-rebellion jitteryness. On the other hand, similar perceptions can be identified before the rebellion. In 1796 John Fitzgibbon, earl of Clare, referred to � the natural disaffection of the Irish�, while in the more peaceful 1770s Young was struck by �a general contempt for law and order�.
The recurrence of words like �natural�, �rooted� and �hereditary disaffection� imply the existence of a popularmentalité inherent in the structures or history of Irish society. Again, to contemporaries this seemed obvious. In the late 1790s the chief secretary, Thomas Pelham, ascribed popular support for the United Irishmen to �the religious distinctions which will always make the lower classes of the people more open to seduction than the same class of men in other countries�. Wakefield attributed the rebellious character of Irish Catholics to �the low and degraded state in which they have been kept�, or in other words, to the penal laws. Presumably this is what Lecky had in mind too, when he wrote that Catholics had �been educated through long generations of oppression into an inveterate hostility to the law, and were taught to look for redress in illegal violence or secret combination�. Ireland was divided along religious, �racial�, cultural and linguistic lines, and these divisions, entrenched in folk memory and perpetuated by the country�s legal, political and institutional structures, effectively prevented the evolution of a more integrated, deferential and stable society.
The contrast with Scotland is illuminating. This was a more homogenous society in which, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, �specifically agrarian discontent [was] . . . notable by its absence�. Compared wit Ireland, Scotland enjoyed social �tranquillity�. TM Devine sees part of the explanation for these contrasting experiences in the different levels of social control. As an �hereditary elite� the Scottish landed class exercised �inherited authority�. Ireland�s landed class was of more recent vintage, and Ireland, as Cullen points out, was �above all . . . a colonial society. Settlers were resented more than landowners�. Of course, in the eighteenth century the distinction between �settlers� and �landowners� could be next to non-existent. The Scottish landed elite also commanded the �vertical loyalty� of its tenantry by virtue of their shared Protestantism. Religion and history reinforced deference and elite hegemony. In Ireland, religion and history undermined those ideological scaffolds of social control. And if religion � and this might equally be applied the Presbyterian Steelboys � separated the Irish lower classes from the (predominantly Anglican) landed class, it at the same time helped to forge a common sense of identity � a lower-class solidarity which facilitated organised protest.
There were, then, what may in the broadest sense be termed cultural determinants of the oft noted Irish �disposition� to lawlessness or open disaffection. However, most modern historians, although they are usually prepared to incorporate a cultural dimension in their arguments, analyse the causes of rural disorder primarily by reference to economic change. For example, after summarising the different cultural bases of social control in Ireland and Scotland, Devine goes on explicitly to discount �the popular myth of an historic struggle between Catholic peasant on the one hand and an alien class on the other� as an adequate explanation for the high incidence of agrarian unrest in Ireland. Ultimately he relates unrest to changes in the rural economy. Similarly, Connolly states that every major outbreak of agrarian protest from 1760 on was �linked in each case to major shifts in agricultural circumstances, most commonly a deterioration in market conditions�.
The advantage of such approaches over the �unregenerate peasantry� school of analysis is that economic changes, whether rising prices or enclosures, are more precise and measurable categories than shared �dispositions�. The problem with such approaches is that although they may often � though not always � explain the origins of rural protest, they cannot account for the peculiar forms these protest movements then took: the secret societies. Economic change occurs in society. It affects men; men with values, expectations, ideas and aspirations. And it is these shared assumptions and beliefs, variously conceptualised as the �moral economy�, �popular culture� or collective �mentalité�, which condition popular responses to economic change.
The pervasiveness and durability of the secret societies reflects and relied upon a popular mentalité not unlike that decried by Fitzgibbon or Wakefield. It is axiomatic that the �social bandit� or insurgent cannot long survive without the active support of some, and the tacit consent of the majority, of the community within which they operate. To lower-class Catholics the Whiteboys came from �us�, while the tithe-proctors, landlords and magistrates belonged to �them�. In this respect, it has been observed, the recurrence of the word �boys� in the names of so many societies was not accidental. The expression �the boys�, which is still used in reference to the IRA, implies a certain tacit approval. �Us� and �them� attitudes were embedded in the Irish �peasant�s� notorious disregard for the rule of law. This phenomenon found expression in a number of ways. One striking manifestation of contempt for authority was the �rogues and rapparees� genre of popular literature. The classic text of Irish social banditry, which went through numerous cheap editions during the eighteenth century, is Cosgrove�s A Genuine History of the Lives and Actions of the Most Notorious Irish Highwaymen, Tories and RappareesThe social bandit, familiar to several peasant societies, has been depicted as a Robin Hood-style figure, usually of gentlemanly birth, launched onto his outlaw career as the victim of official injustice. These colourful characters may have been robbers, but they were invariably friends to the poor. Criminals in the of the law, they were often folk heroes in public opinion. Cosgrove�s case-studies fit this pattern. One of these, Redmond O�Hanlon, was the �son of a reputable gentleman� who �frequently [gave] share of what he got from the rich to relieve the poor�. Significantly, he �had a much greater antipathy to the English than to the Scotch or Irish�. That is to say he preyed on Anglican settlers but left local Presbyterians and Catholics unmolested. Significantly too, O�Hanlon operated with a band of �50 effective men� in south Armagh, an area plagued by Tory activity well into the eighteenth century. The Tories were dispossessed Catholics who carried on a guerrilla campaign against the settlers, whose effect in legitimising popular violence Lecky considered inestimable. It seems likely that books such as Cosgrove�s Genuine History, hawked around the country by peddlers and used by hedge schoolmasters, complemented a vibrant oral tradition or folk memory, endorsing and celebrating Tory resistance to confiscation. According to Michael Davitt, the Tory heroes, recalled in song and legend, perpetuated a popular belief �that Cromwell�s clan would one day loose again the lordship of the land�. Thus the Irish social bandit tended to be more politicised than his European counterparts. One pamphleteer, writing from the vantage point of the early nineteenth century, though the effect of �raparee literature� pernicious in the extreme, claiming that �the transition from theory to practice was but short�. However, a modern writer who argues that the genre was more a symptom than a cause of lawlessness, is undoubtedly closer to the truth. In either case the popularity of the genre suggests the prevalence of attitudes sympathetic to banditti such as the Whiteboys.
Closely related to Tory folklore was the hold which Jacobitism retained on the popular imagination. There were, or course, no Jacobite risings in Ireland in 1715 or 1745, and by the 1750s Jacobitism had vanished as a realistic political option. Nevertheless, the imagery and symbolism of Jacobitism persisted. The first Whiteboys sported white cockades and marched to Jacobite tunes. Remarkably, as late as the 1790s, a renegade Defender claimed that some of his erstwhile comrades were attached to �the old family of Stuart�s�. This claim is unlikely but intriguing. The long survival of a, necessarily covert, popular allegiance to the Jacobite cause, and a Jacobite dimension to the rediscovered Tory �party� before the 1750s, is now persuasively argued by a number of English historians. Regrettably, as one of these scholars has noted, the history of Irish Jacobitism after 1714, is still �almost terra incognita�. However, one area of this uncharted territory has been partially explored: the politics of the aisling (or vision) poetry of deliverance in Gaelic Munster. Cullen insists that the Jacobite aspirations expressed by the aisling had little direct political consequence, but concedes that the poetry �suggests alienation and may even have helped to keep a feeling of alienation alive�. Like Tory folklore, lingering Jacobite sentiment served as a reminder of dispossessio


From The men of no property, Irish Radicals and Popular Politics in the Late Eighteenth Century, by Jim Smyth, 1992.

A current of muted disaffection ran through popular beliefs, although its strength and significance are hard to evaluate because it did not translate into active political discontent. �The general contempt for law and order� noted by Young, usually manifested itself in other, less dangerous ways, illicit distilling for example. Whereas by 1760 the social bandit had already passed into the realm of popular mythology, those other outlaws, the illegal poteen or whiskey makers, were very much a part of everyday reality. Indeed the golden age of illicit distilling roughly coincides with the Whiteboy era. Whiskey emerged as a commercial product around the mid-eighteenth century and peaked in terms of commercial activity in rural Ireland about 1800. Government policy, designed to regulate the liquor trade, inadvertently encouraged the proliferation of unlicensed stills. From 1779, in an attempt to make the revenue officers� task more manageable, the number of stills were officially limited to those with a capacity of 200 or more gallons. After 1785 the excise duty on spirits rose steeply. In practice these measures promoted a thriving unlicensed cottage industry. The colourful image of the poteen maker ought not obscure the fact that this was an important and widespread economic enterprise, particularly in the west and in south Ulster. For instance, between 1802 and 1806, 13,439 unlicensed stills were seized. How many continued to function? Illicit distilling was normally carried on in remote and defensible woodlands and glens. �Ferocious� �gangs of 60 or 80 men� operated, posting look-outs and employing elaborate early warning systems, using horns and torches to signal the approach of the �revenue�. During the 1780s detachments of cavalry were �stationed all over the country for no other purpose than that of still hunting�. The intractability of the unlicensed trade in the face of such official determination to extirpate it provides a spectacular demonstration of how impervious to the writ of law the common people could be. And the retailers of spirits were no more respecters of the law than the manufacturers. Unlicensed taverns seem to have been as numerous as unlicensed stills. Again, evasion of the �revenue� was not merely condoned by the drinking public, but �considered . . . most meritorious�.
The distiller�s ability to function depended upon a conspiracy of silence in the community he served. The position of the poteen maker as a law-breaker endorsed by the community parallels that of the secret society. In fact the activities of the two sometimes merged. Perhaps the single most violent Defender incident during the 1790s � the murder of 11 policemen near the village of Drumsna, Count Leitrim, in April 1795 � was sparked off by a raid on an illegal still. Two years later the seizure of another still, near Ballybay in County Monaghan, precipitated serious clashes in which 15 local people and six soldiers were reported killed.
Illicit distillers functioned with impunity and the social bandit was celebrated in popular tradition. The collective mentalitéthus revealed facilitated the operation of secret societies. In 1796, for instance, a newspaper attributed �various robberies and burglaries� in the countryside to felons, to whom the common people, assuming that they were �connected with Defenderism . . . readily allowed asylum�. However, while the mentalité facilitated organised, illegal protest, it could not cause or activate it. An historically-rooted popular alienation from �legitimate� authority merely helps account for the resilience of the secret societies. It cannot explain how, or why, they came into being. The best answers to those questions are the answers which, by their actions, the societies gave themselves. These were protest movements, actuated by immediate concrete grievances like tithes, high rents, and the erosion of customary rights. The first Whiteboy movement arose as a response to the enclosure of commons. The Steelboys reacted against new high rents, new leases and evictions. Significantly, before the Defenders, none of these movements challenged the system of land ownership, or sought to abolish rents or tithes. Rather they agitated for a reduction of those exactions to levels sanctioned by custom as �fair�. Moreover, the scale of violence against people � as distinct from property � was comparatively modest. According to one count, in 30 years of agrarian unrest only 50 or so people were killed. The Whiteboys sought to regulate the local economy. Whiteboyism was informed by a vision of social justice � Thompson�s �moral economy� � was not social revolution. Pre-famine agrarian protest movements were what social scientists call �reactive�. Their motives were conservative, or backward-looking, their aims limited, their tactics pragmatic.
The conventions, patterns and purposes of direct action were thus clearly defined and adherence to those conventions required effective organisation, underpinned by a popular ideology. The rhetoric of justice, fairness and customary right expressed an alternative legitimacy to the laws of courts and magistrates. In their self-perception, and in the perception of the communities, from which they sprang, Whiteboyism enforced a rough popular or �natural� justice.
Oath-taking � a defining characteristic of the secret societies � had a parallel self-legitimising function. Oaths were pioneered by the Whiteboys in the 1760s, and this is one reason why they provide a logical starting point (and a generic label) for any discussion of these movements. The first Whiteboy oaths instructed members �to be true and faithful to each other�. They were also enjoined �not to drink any liquor whatsoever whilst on duty�. Oaths, when obeyed, gave the perpetrators of �outrages� security against detection and punishment, and offered the societies a sense of cohesion, solidarity and mystique. By laying down stiff penalties, including transportation and execution, for taking and administering oaths, the various Whiteboy acts and the Insurrection Act of 1796, acknowledged the centrality of this practice for illegal organisations. It is difficult, however, to assess how effective oaths actually were. William Farell of Carlow recalled that after they had taken the United Irishmen�s oath, � the people were as merry as crickets, for every man that joined its as soon as he got the signs and passwords, thought there was some magic in it that would make them happy the rest of the day�. The United Irishman, James Hope, was more sceptical, and more succinct. �Oaths,� he observed, will �never bind rogues�. Certainly, the casual manner in which William Carelton was sworn into the Ribbonmen in 1813 � almost without his realising it was happening! -- illustrates how not everyone considered oaths solemnly binding.
If oaths did not always guarantee secrecy or the commitment of the initiate, they did represent an attempt to impose rules of conduct upon a society�s members. The Whiteboys acted according to self-defined standards. A sense of legitimacy, distinct and opposed to civil authority, is evident also in the use of military terminology: The Steelboys �Captain Justice� and Captain Firebrand�, for example. Finally, the fairly strict conventions governing violence suggest conformity to an unwritten code. In fact, as the low levels of personal violence indicates, more reliance was placed on the threat of force � the threatening letter, or public notice, usually given specious authority by the signature of some mythical �captain� � than force itself.
Collective violence and intimidation were more readily accepted in a pre-democratic age. What were the alternatives? Peaceful forms of protest � appeals to the courts, political pressure or civil disobedience initiated by the lower classed � are all products of later, more sophisticated societies. Although some Defender lodges later operated an economic boycott, intimidation, personal violence or attacks on property were the most common and effective means of redressing grievances. Up to a point the authorities expected, indeed tacitly licenced, food riots and other types of direct action. Up to a point also � the point at which the military had to be called in aid of the civil power � the authorities proved unable to control rural protest. As local, unpaid amateurs, magistrates were as vulnerable as anyone to intimidation, and in every outbreak of unrest after 1760 the magistrates faced accusations of �supineness�. Nor could the authorities expect protesters to be squeamish in their methods. As Thomas Paine observed, �it is over the lowest class of mankind that government by terror is intended to operate, and its is on them that it operates to the worst effect. They have sense enough to feel they are the objects aimed at, and they inflict in their turn the examples of terror that have been instructed to practice.
The Defenders, and after them the Ribbonmen, diverged from Whiteboy patterns. Defenderism was �proactive� and �associational�, as in the maelstrom of the 1790s it developed revolutionary aspirations. But just as the Defenders shared tactics and organisational forms with the Whiteboys, so they shared many Whiteboy concerns. Politics and sectarianism did not replace traditional socio-economic grievances: they fused with, the precedence of each varying from place to place. The behaviour of a group of Meath Defenders, �or as they now call[ed] themselves, regulators,� who in 1796, �frequent[ed] each fair, market and ale house threatening to knock out the brains of every Protestant, and to regulate the price of labour, rent of land and value of provisions,� illustrates how agrarianism and politics could merge. It is that combination of assertive anti-Protestantism (and of the crude nationalism or republicanism which often lay behind it) and standard Whiteboy objectives which gave Defender ideology its peculiar adaptability and appeal during the 1790s. It was a revolutionary movement certainly, but it carried within it 30 years experience of agrarian unrest. A Whiteboy leader in the 1760s was known as �Captain Fearnot�; the Meath Defenders in 1797 were led by a �Captain Fearnought�. There were even some continuities in personnel. A prominent rebel in south Antrim in 1798 was identified as a former Steelboy captain. The popular movements of the 1790s, the Defenders and the clandestine, militarised United Irishmen, continued the Whiteboy tradition as they were politicising it.


Before turning to a detailed investigation of the origins of Defenderism it will be illuminating to look briefly as an eighteenth-century secret society of another kind: the free masons. The oaths and catechisms employed by the Defenders were more elaborate and esoteric than those of the Whiteboys and suggest a strong Masonic influence. The craft, moreover, served as a model for other political secret societies. Dr William Drennan proposed that the United Irishmen ( as they were to become) should have �much of the secrecy, and somewhat of the ceremonial attached to freemasonry�. While masonry was in one sense secret � members were oath-bound never to divulge anything concerning the craft�s ritual or business � it was not clandestine. Nor was t socially exclusive. Lowly servants might be members, and in the 1790s some lodges engaged in �thumping matches� with United Irishmen, defenders and Orangemen, a recreation which places them all squarely in the same faction-fighting social milieu. The sheer number of lodges, particularly in Ulster, points to the popular character of masonry in this period. Figures available for 1804 list 104 lodges in County Antrim, 92 in Tyrone and another 151 in Armagh, Derry and Down. In spite of papal bulls excommunicating masons in 1738 and 1751, the official historians of the craft claim that the majority of its members were Catholic. It can therefore be assumed that many ordinary people had first-hand experience, or had at least come into contact with, freemasonry, and were aware of its powerful mystique. Public visibility may account for its influence. There were, for example, Masonic Volunteer corps, bedecked in Masonic regalia, in Tyrone, Louth and Dublin. A Volunteer funeral at Loughgall in 1784 � the year, and the place, north Armagh, where the Defenders originated � was attended by �23 bodies of free masons, in regular procession in number 300�. Although specific and direct �influences� are often impossible to trace, the Masonic complexion of Defenderism is undeniable. The passwords and secret hand signals, the biblical language and deliberate mystification of the tests, oaths and catechisms, the use of the terms �lodge� and �brother� and, in at least one case, �Grand Master�, all suggest the Defenders� debt to masonry.
According to a contemporary account the first Defender lodges were formed after a brawl near the village of Markethill in Armagh in 1784. These lodges resembled other pre-famine factions which engaged in pre-arranged, ritualised �challenges� or fights, at fairs and markets. Initially, the political and religious elements in the rivalry were muted. Catholics and Protestants mingled in both the Nappach and the Bawn �fleets�, as they were called. However, in the 1780s, the unique social, economic and demographic structure and denominational geography of the county ensured that the contest soon underwent �a thorough reformation from a drunken war to a religious one�.
In fact, the precise chronology of events leading to the formation of the Defenders and their rivals, the Peep O�Day Boys, is in some doubt. Although the account cited above pinpoints their origins in the quite specific circumstances of 1784, Young mentions Peep O�Day Boys in the area in the late 1770s. The Markethill affray, in other words, should not be blown out of proportion. The incident, minor in itself, only triggered such repercussions because it occurred in the already unstable conditions of late-eighteenth-century Armagh.
Armagh was the most densely populated county in Ireland, and the most complex. Each of the three major religions was represented in roughly equal proportions. Anglicans of English settler stock were concentrated in the north, Presbyterians of Scottish origin in the middle and the indigenous Irish, often Gaelic-speaking, Catholics in the south of the county. As the use of the Irish language demonstrates, time, intermarriage and acculturation had not obliterated racial distinctions. Racial differences buttressed differences of religions. Presbyterians were commonly referred to by the Defenders as �Scotch�. Linguistic, religious and racial diversity created, to use Cullen�s phrase, �cultural frontiers�, lines of tensions where Catholic Irish met Protestant settler. Cultural frontiers criss-crossed Armagh: sectarian animosities could quickly surface. These animosities were exacerbated by population pressure and, paradoxically, by the prosperity of the county.
The population explosion which was affecting the whole rural economy was particularly acute in Armagh. Competition for land became stiffer. As new leases came on to the market Catholics began to outbid their Protestant neighbours. It has been argued that the theory, most clearly formulated by Hereward Senior, that land competition fuelled sectarian rivalries, overstates the importance of land in a proto-industrial economy, (of which Armagh at this time provides a classic example). Nevertheless there is contemporary evidence to support the view that the granting of long leases to Catholics, made possible by the repeal of some property-related penal legislation in the 1770s and 1782, aroused Protestant resentment. For example, although the Steelboy troubles were supposedly free of sectarian rancour, one of their declarations announced that they were all �Protestants or Protestant Dissenters�, and one complained of �lands given to papists, who will pay any rent�.
The acquisition of property was one aspect of rising Catholic prosperity, participation in the linen trade another. Irish domestic textile production was most intense within the so-called �linen triangle� of north Armagh and west Down. This zone accounted for 15,000,000 of an average 49,000,000 yards of linen manufactured in Ireland in the mid-1780s. �Between 16,000 and 20,000 weavers� worked in County Armagh alone. Not surprisingly, the Peep O�Day Boys � the name refers to the tactic of raiding at dawn � were nearly all �journeymen weavers�. So, presumably, were their neighbours and rivals, the Defenders. On their earliest excursions to seize arms from local Catholics the Peep O�Day raiders were instructed to �cut the webs in the looms� belonging to their victims. Some of the most substantial linen merchants and manufacturers such as Bernard Coile in Lurgan, the Lisburn Teelings and the Armagh Coiglys, were Catholic. All were targets for Orange mobs or official persecution after 1795. Catholic wealth and property was easily construed as a threat to Protestant Ascendancy.
The Armagh troubles, comprising about 100 separate incidents between 1784 and 1791, have been attributed to a break-down of social control. According to Professor Miller the linen boom and the consequent changes in Armagh�s economy produced a stratum of young, independent wage earners. As the financial importance of land relative to income accruing from weaving, spinning and bleaching, declined, generational and social discipline based on land and its inheritance collapsed. Miller presents an intriguing, closely-argued and well-documented thesis. Certainly the rapid economic changes are not in doubt. At the Lurgan linen market �nothing but ready money was taken�, and Armagh at the time was described as a �hotbed of cash�. As an explanation, however, it is insufficient. The emphasis is misplaced. The main motor of the disturbances was political.
Some penal legislation had been repealed in 1771, 1778 and 1782, and by the early 1780s sections of the Volunteer-reform movement had placed the Catholic question on the political agenda. It was a fiercely divisive issue. The Volunteer commander-in-chief, leading Whig and Armagh grandee, Lord Charlemont, himself opposed concessions to the Catholics. Some of the more politically advanced Volunteer corps nonetheless actually recruited Catholics and � in contravention of the penal laws � armed them. Another reported source of firearms, which seem in any event to have been readily available, was Lord Gosford. Gosford, �tired of having his orchards robbed, placed armed men to guard them. These happened to be Catholics. This was immediately laid hold of�. By seizing Catholic-owned firearms the Peep O�Day Boys unilaterally enforced the penal laws. Arms raids re-asserted Protestant Ascendancy. From the outset of the disturbances, right up to the mass expulsions of Catholics in 1795-6, the magistrates were accused not merely of �supineness�, but of complicity with the Peep O�Day Boys and Orangemen. If the Peep O�Day Boys are seen as a political phenomenon rather than a law and order problem, then the reason for the partiality of the wholly Protestant magistracy becomes clear. The leniency of the county assizes towards alleged Peep O�Day offenders strengthened local suspicions of official bias and signalled to Catholics that little protection could be expected from the civil authorities. The name Defender (the first lodge was founded at Bunkerhill near Armagh City) signifies the self-protecting vigilante role which the movement initially saw itself as fulfilling. The formation of secret societies was also virtually a reflex action. Some of the captains of the fleets had been veterans of the Oakboy and Steelboy episodes.
A minor vendetta, punctuated by a few more serious clashes, continued for the rest of the decade. A marked escalation occurred in 1787, when two troops of dragoons had to be stationed in Armagh City. On May 1, 1788, the Defenders publicly paraded from Blackwaterstown to Moy, and the rumour spread of an intended attack upon the barracks at Charlemont. Their new assertiveness received an instant reply with the establishment of new, aggressively Protestant, Volunteer corps at Benburb, County Tyrone, Tandragee and Armagh. ON November 21 the Benburb company, accused by local Catholics of being nothing more than a �pack of Peep O�Day Boys�, was attacked by defenders. Two of the attackers were killed. As a sequel the funerals of the two dead men were �attended by immense multitudes of Catholics from many miles around� and a week later a large, heavily armed force of Defenders attempted to �apprehend and take� two Benburb Volunteers at the bleach green where they worked.
The tensions which these incidents vented were sharpened by a mutual economic boycott and by rumours of planned massacres. A contemporary pamphleteer accused a �set of vipers�, including a �divine�, of �poisoning the minds of the unwary peasants with the dregs of the 41 rebellion�. In Ireland the fear of massacres was activated by political crises and during the 1790s Catholic belief in the existence of an Orange �extermination oath�, played a considerable part in the genesis of the rebellion. These fears were prefigured in the 1780s when local communities posted precautionary sentinels after dark.
By 1789 the focus of unrest had shifted to the south of the county and beyond, into south Down, north Louth and Monaghan. Already the new lodges were numbered, suggesting that Defenderism had at this stage a federal structure, if not yet a centralised, regional leadership. South Armagh�s environment was particularly suitable for Defender-style organisations. Almost bereft of a resident gentry to police, its terrain rocky and barren, the bandit could move with ease through the countryside and among the overwhelmingly Catholic, Gaelic-speaking population. Citing the standard index for lawlessness, more than one observer called attention to the widespread �private distilling and selling of whiskey� in the area. It is against this background that one of the most horrific episodes in the whole ugly catalogue of sectarian strife � the murder of a Protestant schoolmaster at Forkhill in January, 1791 � should be understood.
At the beginning of 1787 a Forkhill landowner, Richard Jackson, died, leaving 3,000 acres to be �colonised by Protestants�. Some Catholic �squatters� were subsequently evicted from waste land on the estate. The will also provided for the free education of local children, and four schoolmasters were appointed. This improvement scheme was administered by Lord Charlemont�s corespondent, the Rev Edward Hudson. But one man�s improvement is another man�s intrusion, and at one point Hudson�s horse was shot from under him. It was Hudson too, who reported that the defenders controlled �a great expanse of country to the south and east of Forkhill . . . [and] could assemble almost in an instant on signals given by whistle�. This well-drilled group was spurred to action by the appointment of a Protestant schoolmaster, Alexander Barclay, in place of a teacher prepared to give Catholic instruction in the Irish language. They were also provoked by the alleged involvement of Barclay�s brother-in-law in an attack upon Forkhill�s parish priest at the end of 1790. A month later a group of 50 or 60 Defenders struck. Barclay�s tongue was torn out and his fingers cut off. His wife and brother-in-law were mutilated. Their grisly work complete, the assailants held a torch-lit procession through the district. It was afterwards claimed that Barclay had been killed to prevent him appearing as a witness against some Defenders. This episode had a profound impact on Protestant opinion and inflamed the bitter opposition to Catholic relief which followed.
By the close of 1791 the Defenders were still a localised movement centred in Armagh and the adjoining areas of Down, Louth and Monaghan. After the Forkhill murders sectarian feuding had continued much as before. Two Defenders were killed during a riot at the Forkhill fair in August and in November Protestants came under attack at a fair in Monaghan. Viewed from Dublin Castle, the Defender troubles at this point probably looked like a sectarian variant of the by now familiar Whiteboy-style disturbances. They presented, it seemed, merely a law and order problem of manageable proportions. By the beginning of 1793, however, the scale of violence had escalated dramatically. Defenders were active in Meath and Cavan and were viewed by many Protestants as an instrument of the Catholic Committee. Lord Hillsborough called the committee and the Defenders, �Dublin papists and country papists�. His suspicions were shared by the government. �As yet we are not at the bottom of the plot,� wrote Under-Secretary Cooke, in February, 1793, �which certainly is connected with the levelling factions of all parties and formed part of the plan which would have taken place if the Catholics had not been gratified�. How, during the course of 1792, had the defenders broken out of their parochial confines and become entangled in national politics?
Conspiracy theories, such as that advanced by Cooke, proved seductive because they offered simple explanations for discontent, attributed it to identifiable human agents. It is always tempting to dismiss such theories as paranoid and simplistic. Nevertheless historians would be negligent if, in their pursuit of more complex and convincing �underlying causes�, they automatically ruled out the possibility of actual conspirators. It is unlikely that the Defenders were being manipulated by some sinister coterie of Dublin merchants, but the contacts, the collusion, between the Defenders and the Catholic Committee remains intriguing. Equally important was the indirect effect upon Defenderism of the massive mobilisation and proselytising of the lower classes conducted by the committee. As the lord lieutenant, Westmoreland, informed his superiors in London, �the precise points which are selected [by the Catholic Committee] as the great objects . . . are particularly calculated to strike the popular mind�. Simultaneously, as Plowden suggests, when the Paineite �democratic rage� began to grip Ireland in the last months of 1791, the �several seditious and inflammatory papers published in Dublin, and dispersed through the country seemed to have countenanced and encouraged the defenders in their proceedings�.
Such extraneous influences had an impact, but Defenderism also had a logic and momentum of its own. Most likely some principle of contagion operated: one parish being infect by, or copying the next. Moreover, the spread of Defenderism exhibited a definite pattern, a pattern which corresponded with the sectarian geography of the region. For over 100 years small numbers of Ulster Presbyterians had been moving into north Leinster and north Connaught. In the 1740s the process began to accelerate as these generally more skilled people followed the linen industry which was expanding in the same direction. This was a potentially explosive process because, in a colonial society, �settlers were resented more than landowners�. Cullen�s insight appears to be borne out by the distribution of Defender flashpoints. In Louth �a strong pocket of Protestant settlement had been created around Dundalk�, while Collon (the Speaker, John Foster�s seat) was �perhaps the most Protestant parish in the county�. In north Meath and � the adjacent parts of Cavan, there reside[d] numerous tribes of Presbyterians, called by the common name Scotch�, the object of �hereditary animosity�. The grim logic of this cycle of ever-widening inter-communal conflict was given added impetus by the popular excitement generated by the Catholic agitation. Rising expectations and the extravagant benefits anticipated in the wake of emancipation fuelled a premature Catholic triumphalism. Local sectarian quarrels were infused with an almost millenarian zest. �Spirits were high in expectation of the change. Treasonable songs, scurrilously abusive of the Protestant religion were publicly sung by drinkers in tipling houses and ballad-singers in the streets. A ferment prevailed which seemed to announce an approaching insurrection . . .� There was no insurrection in 1792, but the rumours of impending civil war did stimulate and condition the new �political� Defenderism.

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