The Irish Bulletin

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2020), Letters, Volume 28

Sir,—It is amazing to see any reference to the Irish Bulletin in this ‘decade of centenaries’, despite its being probably the most important source of contemporary information for the years 1919–1921. Consequently, may I commend Joseph E.A. Connell (HI 28.3, May/June 2020) for mentioning it in his piece on the Listowel RIC mutiny?

It was published from July 1919 to December 1921 by Dáil Éireann, the parliament of the republic established by the most impressive act of national self-determination, at the polls, as the victors of the Great War professed their adherence to that principle. It published extracts that had passed the British censors in Ireland and Britain from publications circulating in both islands, together with reports emanating from Dáil departments.

Edward MacLysaght’s mother borrowed a few copies of the Bulletin to travel from Clare to Limerick by train. British military boarded the train at Limerick Junction and found the papers, and she was sentenced to two weeks’ imprisonment by court martial, or a fine of £20. To her chagrin, her husband, arriving back from a business trip to Australia, paid the fine, despite her protests.

The Irish Bulletin was used by MPs such as William Wedgwood Benn and Commander Kenworthy to question ministers in London’s House of Commons, and to throw light on the dark doings of Crown forces in Ireland. Wedgwood Benn and Commander Kenworthy had distinguished themselves in the Great War, as had Erskine Childers, one of the brilliant team involved in the preparation of the Bulletin. Notable among them were:

(a) Robert Brennan, later a director of the Irish Press and Irish ambassador in Washington, whose memoir, Allegiance, combines serious purpose and hilarious anecdotes.

(b) Frank Gallagher, who had been editor of the Cork Free Press, organ of the All For Ireland League (AFIL), which had broken from John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) in 1910. The AFIL dissolved in 1918 and threw in its lot with Sinn Féin. Gallagher became editor of the Irish Press in 1931. His memoir The Four Glorious Years, written under the pen name David Hogan, was published at Christmas 1953, and I used a book token to get an autographed copy. Its chapter on the Irish Bulletin inspired me at the time and ever since.

(c) Desmond Fitzgerald, who served as a director of publicity for Dáil Éireann, had been a poet, fought in the GPO in 1916 and was father of the future taoiseach, Garrett.

(d) Lawrence Ginnell, a barrister and former IPP MP at Westminster. He was expelled from the IPP in 1909 but held his seat as an independent. He was the only MP from an Irish constituency for women’s suffrage. In 1918 he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a member for Sinn Féin, which had called for women’s suffrage from its inception in 1905.

Posterity need not be deprived of the gateway into authentic history provided by the Irish Bulletin, for since 2012 the Aubane Historical Society has been producing full reprints of it, and has already published four volumes.—Yours etc.,



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