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The end of WWI on 11 November, 1918 was followed by a general election in December. Ireland at the time was still suffering from post-1916 animosity and restrictions by the British government. The death of one of the many interned Volunteers, Richard Coleman, on 9 December was alleged by Sinn Féin to be indicative of the mistreatment of prisoners. Coleman’s funeral procession through Dublin bought that Republican party valuable support in the coming election. Of the 105 Parliamentary seats contested in Ireland, Sinn Fein won 73, Unionists won 26 and the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) won 6. The IPP, which had dominated Irish politics for years, was broken and Sinn Fein grew under the leadership of Eamon deValera and its military wing grew under Michael Collins. In the Island-wide national plebiscite, 74.7% of the people had voted for independence. Home Rule for Ireland within the British Empire was no longer an option; the patriots of 1916 had seen to that! The Irish were now demanding the old dream of a Republic.

Although they had been elected to sit in Westminster, when that Parliament met in January 1919, the newly-elected Sinn Féin MPs were absent. They refused to recognize Westminster, calling it the Parliament of their oppressor and instead they established an independent legislature of their own. They called it Dáil Éireann (Assembly of Ireland) and it was at the Mansion House in Dublin where they defiantly chose to meet! The first meeting of Dáil Éireann took place on 21 January 1919 under the Chairmanship of Cathal Brugha. A new constitution restated the goal of 1916 and established a 5-man executive with Priomh Aire(Prime Minister or President) of Dáil Éireann and four Secretaries. Brugha assumed the Presidency temporarily as deValera was still in prison, Eoin MacNeill became Secretary of Finance, Michael Collins became Minister of Home affairs, Count Plunkett became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Dick Mulcahy became Minister of Defense.

The first meeting of the new Dáil coincided with an unauthorized ambush of a gelignite transport by nine members of the Irish Volunteers’ Third Tipperary Brigade under Sean Tracey and Dan Breen at Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary. During the confrontation, two Royal Irish Constabulary (British police) were shot dead. The action signaled the start of the War of Independence.

The members of Sinn Fein’s military wing had decided that they had waited long enough for an acceptable version of the promised Home Rule bill to be implemented and now that the British had altered it to partition Ireland, they knew it would never come. It was time to bring the quest to another level. They hoped that force would compel the British to grant full Independence rather than the altered version of Home Rule.

In 1919, they officially took the title by which they had been popularly referred to all along: the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and started a new phase of Irish history.


Were there Irish slaves?

The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.

Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.

From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland's population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children. Britain's solution was to auction them off as well.

During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.

Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: Slaves. They'll come up with terms like "Indentured Servants" to describe what occurred to the Irish. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle.

As an example, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.

African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African.

The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master's free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.

In time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in many cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: The settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new "mulatto" slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves.

This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed "forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale." In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.

England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia.

There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.

There is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as the Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry.

In 1839, Britain finally decided on it's own to end it's participation in Satan's highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded THIS chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.

But, if anyone, black or white, believes that slavery was only an African experience, then they've got it completely wrong.

Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories. But, where are our public (and PRIVATE) schools???? Where are the history books? Why is it so seldom discussed?

Do the memories of hundreds of thousands of Irish victims merit more than a mention from an unknown writer? Or is their story to be one that their English pirates intended: To (unlike the African book) have the Irish story utterly and completely disappear as if it never happened.

None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.