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:
Russell approached Merrion Press, the history
division of Irish Academic Press, saying he had a story unrivaled in life
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.
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
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
"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
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,"
"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
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
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
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
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
That didn’t deterred him from pursuing the Mitchel/Verner
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
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
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
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.
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
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
© Anthony Russell
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
Do you recognize the authority of this Court and this jury of your peers,
the good people of…to try you as charged?
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.
Do you swear to answer the questions, which Mr. McGee will put and
to give a truthful account of your actions?
I do Your Honour
Before you plead you have the right to select a defense lawyer. Whom
do you choose?
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.
John Mitchel, are you qualified to, and if so will you, defend General
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
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.
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.
Neither you nor Mr. McGee are on trial. I await your answer Mr. Mitchel.
Will you defend General Pearse?
Mc Gee sits
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.
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?
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.
Your plea is noted. I ask Mr. D'Arcy McGee to make his opening statement
Mitchel sits - Pearse sits in profile - Mc Gee stands
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.