Dublin Fenianism in the 1880s: 'The Irish Culture of the Future'?

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This article examines the activities of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Dublin during the 1880s. It explores the organization's weakness and the attempts of elements within the IRB to rejuvenate the tradition through the nurturing of a Fenian-inspired cultural nationalism. Much of the focus falls upon the Young Ireland Society (YIS), which came under IRB control in 1883, prior to the Fenian takeover of the Gaelic Athletic Association. With the growing prominence of the YIS, the home rule establishment attempted to bring the organization within its sphere of influence. For Parnellite MPs, especially those with latent Fenian sympathies, such as William O'Brien, the public meetings of the YIS provided a substantial Dublin forum. After 1885 the YIS increasingly came under the control of the Fenians and fellow-travellers led by John O'Leary who favoured coexistence with the constitutionalists. This split the society between those loyal to the traditional precepts of an oath-bound revolutionary organization and those who recognized that Fenian ideals, reconceived, retained much potency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-750
JournalThe Historical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2000


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