—It is unfortunate that Myles Dungan chose to mar his interestingpiece (HI 17.5, Sept./Oct. 2009) on the efforts of William O’Shea tomaintain his political support in the constituency of Clare in the1880s by peppering his article with derogatory references to theFenians and other resistance movements in the county at the time.Nationalists and republicans are described as ‘extreme’, and there iseven a reference to ‘Fenian warlords’. O’Shea, who was an example tohis fellow MPs in visiting some of the many who had been arrested forresistance to British land policy and to British rule itself, isdescribed as an ‘inveterate prison visitor’ and his dealings with theresistance movement in his constituency as ‘murky’.
Mr Dungan builds his case against the individuals he names by quoting‘a special resident magistrate’, police files, the RIC county inspectorand a local inspector. The Clune brothers of Scariff, we are told,‘were believed’ to have carried out a litany of acts and ‘weresuspected’ of others, yet apparently not even the corrupt colonialcourts could find these men guilty and they were released ‘with greatreluctance’. Indeed. Three members of the platform party at a rally‘were, according to police files, probable Fenians’. What exactly is aprobable Fenian?
Your excellent commemorative issue on the Fenians (HI 16.6, Nov./Dec.2008) showed the movement, despite the activities of a myriad ofinformers, to have been a modern progressive organisation determined toend the British occupation. The description constructed by Mr Dunganwould be more in keeping with the report book of a colonial policemanwho, when not busy evicting families from their homes and otherwiseterrorising the population, would feel the need to convince hisemployers that he was keeping a very close eye on desperate men.