WINTER 2016-2017 / VOL. 16 ISSUE 1
Books

Anthony Russell Writes of Tragedy and Redemption of Civil War Era

By Martin Russell
Irish American Post book editor 

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Anthony G. Russell’s compelling story of John Mitchel and Jenny Verner, two remarkable Irish nationalists, is also a hard look at flawed character, hardheadedness and an era’s tragedy. The gripping tale is found on the pages of Between Two Flags: John Mitchel & Jenny Verner (Irish Academic Press, ISBN: 9781785370007) 

Russell approached Merrion Press, the history division of Irish Academic Press, saying he had a story unrivaled in life or fiction." 

"Thankfully, they agreed," he said. At any rate, Russell emphasized he thoroughly enjoyed writing Between two Flags, a story he knew about since childhood. 

Author Russell was born in Newry, the fourth child in a family of six numbering three boys and three girls. His dad father was a teacher, his mother a housewife. For an interesting twist, the family lived beside the house Jenny Verner eloped from. As a youngster, Russell even played in her garden. In his teens, the Russells moved to Dromalane, close to John Mitchel's boyhood home and the house where he died. 

Russell currently lives in Newry, with his wife Diane, the daughter of a bookmaker. The couple have three grown daughters: Julie, Hannah and Eve He graduated from Queen's University Belfast and practiced as a high school teacher before working with Tesco as an education adviser and then joining on-line education expert Prof. Stephen Heppell with his research project, Ultralab, in Anglia Ruskin University campuses in eastern England. 

He retired from Anglia Ruskin where he was involved in a range of professional development programs in Britain, Europe and Asia. During his time with Anglia, Russell also worked with Dundalk Institute of Technology and Ulster University studying the evolution of landscape and its impact on human decision-making, especially examining aspects of living in borderlands. This led him into Global Border Studies and the provision of higher education in refugee camps along the Thai-Mayanmar border.

Russell’s pedagogic specialty is historical geography, the study of the geographies of the past and how they influence the present. In his case, he concentrated on landlordism and the landscapes of the Great Irish Famine. 

"Being the son of a teacher, from a home where learning was highly valued, I was always going to be in education," Russell recalled. "As a boy, I loved walking the hills with my father who told me stories, explained the landscape and asked questions of those he met on the roads. I was becoming a geographer."

For Russell, growing up with the story of John Mitchel and Jenny Verner was an amazing attraction. "As a teacher, I was aware of the power of a good story. Later, when I became involved in various cross-community projects, I realized, that when leader of the 'Rebels and Loyalists' project, t how the incredible romance of John and Jenny could be used as a vehicle for better understanding who we are," he says, adding that "I firmly believe that we kill each other on myths. But that history, what actually happened, what people really said and did, will help free us from our prejudice." 

In his research for Flags, Russell closely looked at the characters’ personalities, creativity and desires. For him, John Mitchel was a handsome and personally charming rebel. 

"He rebelled within his family and within every organization he was connected with, including Young Ireland and the Fenians. He was driven by a hatred of the British establishment but he was also a very conservative character who hated change and had no time for the Rights of Man, Russell said. "He saw journalism as a way of speaking to and educating the nation and was so successful he had to be silenced." 

According to Russell, Mitchel had a classical view of society. For this "rebel," society was divided into slaves, plebeians and patricians. "He was patrician and as a good patrician, he sought better conditions for slaves and plebeians but they would not become his equal," Russell emphasizes.

"Perhaps the main trait in character was his stoicism. He accepted life's awful misfortunes, many of his own making, without complaint," he went on. 

Russell described Jenny Verner as the beautiful daughter of a landed and later a titled family. Well-educated, she was tolerant of ethnic diversity. Although born into a Protestant family, she had no difficulty with her daughters' conversions to Catholicism. 

"She was brave. She organized and undertook global journeys over oceans and through jungles. She was adaptable and, in exile in Tasmania, took to farming with zeal," says Flag’s author.

As the Confederacy fell, she endured in life what Scarlett O'Hara endured in fiction, Russell points out, with its pluses and minuses. "She was intensely loyal to friends. Like her husband she was a republican revolutionary and supported physical violence."

Verner also had a classical view of society, Russell says, explaining that she was abhorred when Irish-born nationalist and Civil War general Thomas Francis Meagher married what was considered an unrefined girl. Verber also enthusiastically supported slavery, believing it was good for both master and slave. Ironically, neither she nor John had slaves, and they did not materially benefit from slavery, Russell asserts

Shaped by their times and circumstances, John Mitchel inherited his father's rebellious tendencies (The Rev. Mitchel led a schism in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) but he took them to the extreme. He loved all things Irish and, as was common at the time. His father's Presbyterian home was proudly Irish, at least before the Home Rule bills. 

The destitution, poverty and injustice that young lawyer Mitchel, experienced in the landscape of Co. Down, even before the Famine, fueled his anger with Britain. 

Verner’s experience before meeting Mitchel was with an Ascendancy family and in a private school. "One assumes she was strongly influenced by the charm and ideas of her older suitor. However, as revealed in her actions and letters, she was convinced rebellion was justified, first in Ireland and later in the States," indicated Russell 

As he bluntly put it, "Both Mitchels were of their class. They both displayed snobbery." 

There are questions whether or not Mitchel would have been a success without his devoted wife's support and encouragement. In Russell’s mind, that is a real "what if "question. "As such, the answer can only be speculative," said Russell. 

"I think he would have been a rebel, but a rebel without a magnificent, almost incredible story. She was totally supportive of his extreme thought and actions. She was loyal. He loved her. They were a great partnership," agrees Russell. He points out that Verner ran the blockade to the Confederacy without her husband’s knowledge and much of her courage was independently displayed. "I think, as Mitchel physically weakened, Jenny's decision-making became more important," he speculated. 

It’s not every one knows this story, but Russell’s book is the most recent and the first to deal with the Mitchels as a political couple. Even in Newry, very few persons knew much of them. In the city, he was vaguely associated with Republicanism. Despite being a major national and international figure; one admired by Pearse and de Valera, he is the forgotten hero, laments Russell, who adds that not much is known about him in the rest of Ireland either.

Russell thought that his main character would be distressed by his portrayal in Between Two Flags. Mitchel was socially charming but was insulting to opponents and quick to threaten satisfaction both by the gun and in court. In Knoxville, he broke his cane over a rival editor, Russell continues. "Yet he was easy to get to know because he wrote as he thought, and he wrote a lot."

"Today, he would not understand why his advocacy of slavery was at the extremity of political thought. Although I think I have, from a 21st century perspective, done him justice if I met him, I would need to duck, learn how to use a gun and have a good lawyer on standby," Russell said, tongue-in-cheek.

As Russell wrote, Mitchel's position on slavery is a shock to many republicans. But for those who know of his love of a Classical world of patricians, plebeians and slaves, it was not a shock. He made no secret of his support for slavery. 

"However, given his Classical world view, I do not think there is a paradox between his support of the Irish peasant and his support of slavery. The slave was a slave who deserved 'good' treatment but he would remain a slave. The peasant was a peasant because that was what he was. He certainly deserved better land tenure but he would remain a peasant," Russell went on. In his mind, Mitchel did not believe in social progress.

However, Mitchel would be appalled that anyone would not consider him a principled gentleman. He held his beliefs passionately and honorably. He was always happy to be an outsider and did not care that he might be a minority of one. Yes, he was an honorable man, but a flawed man, says Russell. 

The book was a labor of love for Russell. The project took six years, including the research, much of which was done for the exhibition associated with the "Rebels and Loyalists" cross-community project. The main challenge was gathering material from a variety of sources in three continents. Online contact made this much easier, Russell recalled happily.

This book is exciting because it tells a controversial Irish American love story, one unrivaled in both life and fiction, as Russell indicated to his publisher. Scarlett O'Hara in a fictional Atlanta was a wimp compared to the flesh and blood Jenny Verner in a very real Richmond, Russell asserted. "At the start of every presentation, I always challenge my audiences across Ulster by telling them they will never hear a better love story. By the end, to date, they have always agreed!" 

Russell wrote in a variety of places, including the Irish National Library in Dublin. "My house is in a beautiful valley with a wonderful view of the hills of South Armagh, but I especially like writing in welcoming cafes, especially Snaubs Cafe on Monaghan Street and the Shelbourne bakery," he related in Newry. His home office was a mix of piling and filing. " I am probably an aspiring 'filer' but both in my study, and even online, not a very successful one," he admitted. "I can sit and work/write for hours. I love walking and often take to the roads and hills, both for a break and to reflect."

Upon completion of the manuscript, Russell’s family took him out to dinner in the D'Arcy McGee restaurant in Carlingford. "McGee showered me with small thoughtful, relevant presents when Merrion decided to publish," Russell laughed. Then there was a major launch with over 200 people hosted by John Mitchel's father's modern Presbyterian congregation. 

"I have been from Cork to Derry speaking about the book and setting up an exhibition on Mitchel, including one in Spike Island, Cork, where Mitchel was imprisoned," said Russell of his most recent endeavors.

The National Famine Commemoration Conference, which historically crossed the Irish border, was held in Mitchel's hometown of Newry in 2015. Russell lobbied for six years to have the program held there to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mitchel’s birth. Subsequently, the conference, a key part of the National Famine Commemoration, was entitled "John Mitchel: The Legacy of the Great Irish Famine." 

However, even celebrating history can be contentious. "I had to overcome heated objections from the local Newry Mourne and Down District Council to have it accepted. Mitchel is controversial!" Russell exclaimed.

That didn’t deterred him from pursuing the Mitchel/Verner life tale.
His next exhibition under development is called "The Love Story of John Mitchel and Jenny Verner" for showings in both Cork and Derry.

Continuing his quest to learn more about his two favorite historical personalities, Russell’s next book will be as editor and contributor to John Mitchel: The Legacy of the Great Famine. The text involved contributions from more than 20 leading academics and writers on the Famine. His portion looks at what he has entitled, "The Great Famine in Two Ulsters."

Through his work and research, Russell became friendly with a range of writers on Irish history and politics, including notables such as Prof. David Wilson, Dr. James Quinn, Tim Pat Coogan, Dr. Paddy Fitzgerald and professors Christine Kineally and Willie Nolan. "Through conferences, summer schools and exchanges of ideas, historical research and writing is a very sociable activity," he chuckled. 

For Russell, 2015 was a good year, having Between Two Flags published. and with the National Museum of Canada. " brought to Ireland the gun that killed Thomas D'Arcy McGee, calling the weapon the Canadian equivalent of the rifle that killed (President John F.) Kennedy. Russell also created the permanent exhibition, "Thomas D'Arcy McGee: Irish Rebel - Canadian Patriot." 

In addition, Russell was the prime mover in taking the National Famine Commemoration across the border for the first time, being co-director of the National Famine Commemoration Conference. He visited the grave of Martin Luther King two days before he led the commemoration for the 200th anniversary of Mitchel's birth at his graveside. 

There are many lessons about life that readers should take away from this story about Mitchel and Verner. Mitchel’s life, and sadly the lives of his wife and children, was dominated by his hatred of the British establishment. His love of the classical world left him with a focused inert view of society. In arguments he had great difficulty separating the person from the opinion. John Mitchel was a zealot and today zealots are still doing harm, Russell concluded. 
 




John Mitchel - The Flawed Hero
History Ireland , January, 2016
reprinted with permission

By Anthony Russell

November third 2015 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Mitchel, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He was acclaimed by Pearse who declared Jail Journal to be 'the last of the four gospels of the new testament of Irish nationality the last and the fieriest and the most sublime' De Valera revered Mitchel and in 1943 when he imagined Ireland as 'the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit ' he too was delving into Jail Journal for his inspiration. Inflamed by the suffering he witnessed on a trip to Galway, it was Mitchel, more than any other writer or politician, who shaped the nationalist perception of the Great Famine. He wrote:

"I could see, in front of the cottages, little children leaning against a fence when the sun shone out for they could not stand, their limbs fleshless, their bodies half-naked, their faces bloated yet wrinkled, and of a pale, greenish hue…I saw Trevelyan's claw in the vitals of those children: his red tape would draw them to death: in his Government laboratory he had prepared for them the typhus poison."

Responding to such writing, Dublin simmered, angry and ready for rebellion. Fearful of Mitchel's power, London's Punch magazine emphasized Mitchel's international standing by portraying him as an Irish Monkey challenging the Great British Lion. The Times thundered against him. When John Mitchel produced his own republican Newspaper, the United Irishman, it sold out. In order to silence Mitchel, to rob him of his heroic status, his possible martyrdom, the British Government passed the 1848 Treason Felony Act, which sought to treat treason as a common crime. Mitchel was arrested, tried and transported. 

When Mitchel escaped from Van Diemen's Land, tens of thousands of people welcomed him to San Francisco. Likewise in 1854 when he arrived in New York there were torch lit processions with both the city and state honors. After the American Civil War the Fenians offered him the leadership of that movement and when he visited the Irish College in Paris it was to the applause and a standing ovation from both staff and students. 

He died in 1875 as a republican abstentionist M.P. and every major newspaper in Ireland, Britain and the USA noted his passing. Catholic clergymen led his cortege to the Presbyterian graveyard. The Freemans Journal observed. 'A remarkable man has been removed from the stage of Irish politics…The brave man struggling with the storms of fate lived long enough for consolation if not for success.' The unionist Irish Times declared that John Mitchel 'descended into the grave without bringing the shadow of a stain on the fair name of his ancestors.' Some obituaries were critical but all acknowledged his courage and devotion to Ireland. John Mitchel in life, and after, was regarded as a major national and international figure, with a status similar to that of Wolfe Tone. He rejected sectarianism, tried to engage the northern Presbyterians in the Repeal Movement and freely accepted his daughters' conversions to Catholicism. When the new, fragile Irish state uncritically accepted its heroic origins John Mitchel was personally and politically revered. Until the 1960s, the name of John Mitchel was spoken in admiration on the streets of his hometown and across nationalist Ireland. Football clubs were called after him. His lifelong romance with Jenny Verner, which involved war, tragedy and travel over three continents, is unrivaled in life or fiction. 

Yet very few in Ireland will acknowledge his 200th birthday. In September, 2015, the National Famine Commemoration crossed the border for the first time. It was an event of historical significance; held in Newry, the place where John Mitchel was reared, and where he is buried. Indeed the theme of the International Famine Conference, held as part of the National Famine Commemoration, was 'John Mitchel: The Legacy of the Great Famine,' however the conference organizers had to overcome strong objections from local council officials who thought Mitchel's name should not be associated with the event. Mitchel once regarded as a great nationalist and republican hero has, for some, become an embarrassment; the forgotten man in this decade of commemorations.

n contrast, in March 1965, to commemorate both the 150th anniversary of Mitchel's birth and the approaching 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rebellion the nationalist citizens of Newry proudly erected a statue to John Mitchel. Yet even as Mitchel was being placed on a pedestal Sean Lemass was dismantling De Valera's 'dreary paradise' and helping to erode Mitchel's status as an apostle of Irish Republicanism. From the mid-twentieth century, with a growing economic confidence, with membership of the E.C.C., with a more cordial and productive relationship with Britain and a greater measure of political stability in the north, John Mitchel suffered from a revision of his own and the State's heroic narrative. A truncated republic, minus six counties, embracing change and welcoming investment, even from Britain, was not an Ireland Mitchel would have been comfortable with. 

As the Northern Ireland peace process progressed, as republican Ireland sought an accommodation with Britain, increasingly, nationalist Ireland became unsettled by Mitchel's singular physical force solution, by his hatred of Britain. Politically and economically Mitchel's Irish pater familias who 'aspired to no lot but labor in his own land…never troubling his mind about the progress of the species not knowing in the least what that phrase means' was becoming an irrelevance. People no longer saw contentment in stagnation. 

John Mitchel was no Wolfe Tone. He rejected the Enlightenment. In a speech to the University of Virginia in 1854 he had claimed there was no such thing as progress and other than seeking humane treatment for the lowly, which might include flogging, his ferocious political pen had little interest in the Rights of Man. Yet being out of synch with progress is not sufficient explanation for very few wishing to mark the 200th anniversary of Mitchel's birth.

John Mitchel supported not only slavery, but also, the reopening of the African slave trade. He made many public pronouncements of his support for slavery but in a private letter to Mary Thompson of Ravensdale, outside Dundalk, he approached the question, which puzzles modern Ireland. How could the champion of the Irish peasant during the Great Famine support slavery for the black man? He wrote:

'Be perfectly assured as I am that you (and the majority of the civilized 19th Century world) are altogether wrong on the whole question, and I absolutely right on it…and when any of your taunting friends ask you (as you say they do) "What do you think of Ireland's emancipation now? Would you like an Irish Republic with an accompaniment of slave plantations?" - just answer quite simply - Yes, very much. At least I would answer so.' 

From the early to mid-20th century, this was not sufficient reason for nationalist Ireland to reject John Mitchel. Arthur Griffith, in his 1914 preface to Jail Journal wrote. 'Even his views on negro-slavery have been deprecatingly excused, as if excuse were needed for an Irish Nationalist declining to hold he negro his peer in right'. He continued, 'When the Irish Nation needs explanation or apology for John Mitchel the Irish Nation will need its shroud.' Now in the 21st Century, with the Confederate Battle Flag being lowered in disgrace in the southern states, with President Obama in the White House, belatedly, the dark stain of his prejudice is seeping through the legacy of John Mitchel, obscuring his influence on the birth and early development of the Irish State. 

The apparent contradiction, to the modern mind, of John Mitchel writing passionately in support of both the Irish peasantry and slavery is, perhaps, due to John Mitchel's admiration of classical Greece and Rome and a society of patricians, plebeians, and slaves. On board ship and sailing into exile, John Mitchel not only enjoyed the comforts of a gentlemanly (Patrician) status, drinking the Captain's best wine, but he also despised 'the brutal obscenity and stupid blasphemy' of his fellow convicts. He did not wish to be 'buried in their unblessed company.' For John Mitchel society was inert. The peasant was a peasant who deserved better land tenure but he would remain a peasant. The slave deserved humane treatment (which might include the lash) but he would remain a slave. When, in desperation as the war ended the Confederate Congress suggested arming the slave Mitchel was appalled. He wrote:

'If it be true that the state of slavery keeps these people depressed below the condition to which they could develop their nature their intelligence, and their capacity for enjoyment, and what we call "progress," then every hour of their bondage for generations is a black stain on the white race'. 

Given that he had lost two sons fighting for the Confederate lost cause, 18-year-old Willie at Gettysburg and 26-year-old Captain John C. Mitchel as commander of Fort Sumter, John Mitchel could not accept that the slave was capable of fighting in a disciplined army. The slave was a slave because he was not capable of being free. 

John Mitchel was a remarkable man, a remarkably flawed man. His views on slavery mean that he is the forgotten hero Irish Nationalism. The 200th anniversary of his birth will go almost unmarked, yet in his day he was a national and international figure, admired by friend and feared by foe. His writing and actions were commented upon over three continents. He stoically accepted his exile and suffering of his family for the cause of Ireland. 

In 1848, it was Mitchel who declared that he hoped to see the tricolor 'as our national banner, over a forest of Irish pikes…'. In the 19th Century, with first Young Ireland and then with the Fenians, he was a much more significant figure than Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa. Both Pearse and De Valera greatly admired him; yet no political party is rushing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. 

Mitchel's wish that the tricolor should become the national banner of Ireland was fulfilled from 1916; but it is another flag, the Confederate battle flag that shrouded two of his sons; a flag that divided people according to race, that has defined his legacy. 
 




Gen. de Chastelain Attends Pearse Trial Play

By Martin Russell
Irish American Post book editor
 

The Trial of P. H. Pearse in the Court of History by Anthony Russell was staged at Jan. 19 in Dundalk Gaol and Jan. 20 at Holywell Trust, Derry. The charge is that he committed treason against the people of Ireland, by leading a violent rising. In Russell’s historical and political fantasy, Darcy McGee, former 1848 rebel and Canadian Loyalist, is prosecutor. In the production, John Mitchel, a Young Irelander and reluctant Fenian, defends Pearse. The audience acted as jury.

The play has been performed in East Belfast with Pearse found guilty and in Dublin, Newry, Winnipeg, Montreal and Ottawa where the fiery politician was found not guilty.

Gen. John de Chastelain attended the final Canadian performance in Ottawa and contributed to the ‘jury room’ post-discussion on whether Pearse was guilty. Being a diplomat, the general did not reveal how he voted. Mark O’Neill, CEO of the Canadian Museum of History, also enjoyed the cut and thrust between McGee, Pearse and Mitchel but he too did not say how he voted.

De Chastelain is a retired Canadian military noteable and diplomat who headed the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, the body responsible for ensuring the ongoing decommissioning of arms by paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. In 1993, he was appointed Canada’s ambassador to the United States, coming out of retirement to take on the decommissioning job. 

The Trial of P. H. Pearse in the Court of History was commissioned by the D’Arcy McGee Foundation whose project manager Tommy Fegan organized its Canadian tour. In the courtroom drama, Pearse, played by Mark Hughes, is prosecuted by Thomas D’Arcy McGee (portrayed by Paddy McGennity) and defended by John Mitchel (Donal O’Hanlon). Pearse’s mother (Diane Russell) is also called from the grave to defend her son. The play, with balanced arguments and rolling language, examines the role of violence in Irish politics. The production was directed by Donal O’Hanlon and Gerry O’Connor provided the music.
 

Extract from The Trial of P. H. Pearse in the Court of History
© Anthony Russell
 

Judge Cronos
Padraic Henry Pearse, you are brought before this Court of History to answer the charge that in April, 1916, you committed treason against the people of Ireland by ignoring their democratic will and leading a violent rising. 

Do you recognize the authority of this Court and this jury of your peers, the good people of…to try you as charged?

Pearse
Your Honour, given that my previous appearance was in an obscenely and hastily convened court martial before General Blackader I relish the opportunity to stand trial before the free people of …; to have the defense lawyer I was denied by the British. 

Judge Cronos
Do you swear to answer the questions, which Mr. McGee will put and to give a truthful account of your actions?

Pearse
I do Your Honour

Judge Cronos
Before you plead you have the right to select a defense lawyer. Whom do you choose?

Pearse 
I choose the writer of the last of the four gospels of the new testament of Irish nationality. The last and the fieriest and the most sublime.' I choose John Mitchel; a man who recognized the demoralizing nature of constitutional politics; a man who rejected the moral force of Daniel O'Connell as I rejected the evil and bankrupt policies of John Redmond; a man who believed, as I do, that war is the crucible in which citizens and nations are formed - and perhaps most significantly a man who recognized that materialism corrupts the soul of a nation. 

John Mitchel, dressed more flamboyantly, more colorfully than McGee, but still appropriate to his time, enters; papers in hand, and proudly takes his place standing in the court. 

Judge Cronos 
John Mitchel, are you qualified to, and if so will you, defend General Padraic Pearse? 
 

Mitchel
M'Lord, on 3 June 1839 I qualified as a solicitor and formed a practice with Samuel Fraser of Newry. I spent six years defending and protecting the rights of tenant farmers in Co. Down. Like Mr. McGee, I rebelled in 1848. But unlike Mr. McGee, I stood trial before a packed jury and was deported in chains to Van Diemen's Land. I escaped to the USA, supported the Confederacy in the Civil War and returned to die in Ireland an unrepentant physical force Irish Republican. 

McGee stands to speak

McGee
Mitchel do not gloss over that you dined at the Captain's table, shared his best wine, farmed 200 acres in Australia, despised the 'brutal obscenity' of the ordinary Irish felon, supported the evil institution of slavery and died a British M.P.

Mitchel
McGee your British colonial law degree was not wasted but I am not on trial. I, unlike you, did not betray the cause of Ireland.

Judge Cronos
Neither you nor Mr. McGee are on trial. I await your answer Mr. Mitchel. Will you defend General Pearse? 

Mc Gee sits

Mitchel
M'Lord, I willingly agree to defend General Commandant Pearse because in so doing I pay tribute to a man who succeeded where both Wolfe Tone and I, John Mitchel, failed. 

In 1798, Tone "botched the birth" of the republic. In 1848, my efforts ended in ‘a poor extemporized abortion of a rising in Tipperary," but not so this man standing unbowed before us. 

In 1916, he heard the "measured tramp of ten thousand marching men" and rose against the odious British Empire. At first, his rebellion too looked unlikely to survive its courageous birth - (Pause) then enter that most unlikely midwife to revolution, the butcher General Sir John Maxwell who wickedly wielded his caesarian sword and through execution after execution bloodily saved Padraic Pearse's fetal republic. 

Judge Cronos
General Pearse, Mr. Mitchel has already begun to defend you. If words were bullets, strained metaphors cannon, he would drive all before him. How say you? Do you plead guilty or not guilty to the charge of treason against the People of Ireland?

Pearse
Your Honour, on 2 May 1916 in Richmond Barracks, in secret, in front of General Blackadder, I willingly forfeited my life to British Law because I had taken up arms against their Empire. I did not deny it then. I do not deny it now. 

However, I took up arms against Britain and for Ireland. I could not and did not commit treason against the Irish people, my people. They are the people of Cuchulainn, whose heroic and sacrificial blood seeped selflessly into the soil of County Louth. I plead not guilty. 

Judge Cronos
Your plea is noted. I ask Mr. D'Arcy McGee to make his opening statement

Mitchel sits - Pearse sits in profile - Mc Gee stands

McGee
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I have been sitting quietly listening to the deluded. To those who selfishly look into their hearts and see Ireland as nothing more than an extension of their own inadequacy. These are people who hero worship ghosts from a time that never was. Cuchulainn is a myth as relevant as the giant Finn Mc Cool

And even if General Commandant Pearse's Cuchulain ever did exist what great principle did he die for? He did not die that the children of Ulster might eat, be housed, be educated and be free from tyranny. He died for a bull - a brown bull - an apt metaphor. In his admiration for the mythical Hound of Ulster General Commandant Padraic Pearse unleashed the dogs of a dirty war, for there is no other type, onto the streets of Dublin. 

Even if Cuchulain did exist does the legend not tell us that he defended Ulster against the men of Ireland? Perhaps this is why General Commandant Pearse, and his Scottish Marxist friend James Connolly, ignored Ulster and dishonestly excluded it from their plans for a rising? Perhaps they were recognizing a partition of Ireland as old as Cuchulain? 

Members of the Jury, General Commandant Pearse's childish view of Irish history would be laughable if 485 people, nearly half of them civilians, 40 of them children, had not been sacrificed for a myth. 

Let us call this rising for what it was. It was not a rising on behalf of the Irish people. It was not even a National Volunteer rising. It was a Fenian rising as ludicrous, as undemocratic, as their 1866 Ruritanian invasion of Canada and their 1867 'teacup' flight from a few policemen in Tallaght. That old English (English is emphasized) Fenian Thomas Clarke was General Commandant Pearse's puppet master. He exploited Pearse's quasi-militaristic vanity and his skewed, naive view of Irish history. 

This was a rising based on myth and executed by a small secret cell of retro-Fenians within the National Volunteers, even within the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who, through lies and deceit, drew a few hundred misguided, ill informed, amateur soldiers onto the streets of Dublin with disastrous consequences for the people of Ireland. 

During the course of this trial, I will therefore establish that:

1. General Commandant Padraic Pearse, unable to distinguish between myth and history, in playing out his own grotesque heroic fantasies did cause the unnecessary and cruel deaths of Irish men, women and children;

2. The Irish Republican Brotherhood, did as a small clandestine cell, of which General Commandant Pearse was a member, usurp the democratically expressed will of the Irish people.

In short, I will establish that General Commandant Padraic Pearse is guilty of treason against the people of Ireland. 
 
 


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