‘Parnell’s Old Brigade’: the Redmondite–Fenian nexus in the 1890s

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The relationship between constitutional and advanced or physical-force nationalism in nineteenth-century Ireland was always tense and intimate. Both traditions professed to repudiate the stated aims and strategies of the other, while at the same time often co-operating across the apparent ideological and organisational divides. The Fenians worked with Isaac Butt’s early home rule movement, while the New Departures of the late 1870s facilitated I.R.B. involvement in the Land League and the home rule movement, proving crucial to the emergent leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell. Although this ideological flexibility was often motivated by a self-interested desire to be associated with influential organisations and personalities, it also arose from the realisation that the ideal strategy was currently inappropriate. The essence of the New Departure lay in allowing physical-force men to join the agrarian agitation of the Land League on the understanding that this did not compromise their separatist ideals. Consequently, the self-identification of separatists at the time of the 1916 rising as belonging to an immemorial tradition, consecrated by the blood of martyrs, needs to be set against both the contingency of political engagement and the lack of precision as to the form of state a separate Ireland might take.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-232
JournalIrish Historical Studies
Issue number130
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


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