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Letter from Ireland – 1864

Freeman’s Journal 17th February, 1864 p5. (abridged)

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Photo: EO’D

I have said at the beginning of this letter that Ireland is not much changed. I must correct that assertion. Emigration is making fearful changes in the country. One does not notice its effects in the large towns, but in country villages they are quite appreciable. I have been to villages that I remember populous, thriving and comfortable – ten years have made in them a fearful change. I passed through several in the West and East, where no sound awoke the solemn stillness of the deserted street but the footfall of my horse. It was as if some fearful pest had swept through each house, taking off all the inhabitants and left nothing but ruined homesteads to tell the tale.

They have a good deal of discussion here respecting the proper site for the O’Connell monument and a good deal of bickering goes on in the Committee. I fear it will not be what it was expected – a magnificent monument worthy of the man, but a simple statue by Mr Foley. They, I mean the nationalist party here, wished it to be in reality a grand monument, so that if placed in Sackville street it would overtop the English admiral and lover of lady Hamilton. It has dwindled to a statue now, or a group, and I believe it will be placed in Sackville Street, though there are certainly many other sites in Dublin where it would be much better and not liable to the same objections. But I understand that there are a great deal of the Cawtholic and English element, and where that is the case there is nothing good to be expected.

There is another body here of nationalists – the Brotherhood of St. Patrick – that is becoming more powerful day by day. There was a good deal of discussion respecting their society some time ago, whether it were a secret and illegal society or not, and the Archbishop of Dublin, and the Bishop of Kerry denounced the Brotherhood which defended itself very ably in the columns of the United Irishman and Galway American and Irish Liberator, published its rules and clearly showed that there was no secret in it. I know now whether for good or evil but there is growing up a spirit among the people of independence in political matters. Independence, I mean, of spiritual direction in matters political. Several have said to me “We have had enough of clerical guidance, we must try something else.” Time will prove whether they will be able to gain what moral force has certainly never gained for them yet. The Fenian Brotherhood of America are very strong and likely to aid their countrymen. A well organised association is a terrible sledge and John O’Mahoney holds this one in a vigorous group. Heaven send he may not with others precipitate the country into a war before she is ready for it, at any rate. There was some division, that curse of this country, springing up between these nationalists and Mr. Martin’s party, but it was quashed by the good sense of Mr. Martin.

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