The Irish Republican Brotherhood, which was formally born on Saint Patrick’s Day 1858, would have an enormous impact on the course of Irish history, and some curious impacts on international histories too. A secret society committed to the overthrow of British rule in Ireland, members of the IRB would raid the Canadian border in the 1870s and fund-raise for revolution in Ireland in the 1910s. Rising up in 1867, the Fenian Proclamation then would proclaim:
Republicans of the entire world, our cause is your cause. Our enemy is your enemy. Let your hearts be with us. As for you, workmen of England, it is not only your hearts we wish, but your arms. Remember the starvation and degradation brought to your firesides by the oppression of labour. Remember the past, look well to the future, and avenge yourselves by giving liberty to your children in the coming struggle for human liberty.
Herewith we proclaim the Irish Republic.
The story of the Fenians began in a timber yard just off Lombard Street, owned by a republican veteran named Peter Langan. The central figure to this new movement was James Stephens, an active participant in the ‘Young Ireland’ radical circles of the 1840s who had spent years in exile in Paris, learning from some of the “most profound masters of revolutionary science.” In a city where clandestine radical networks operated, Stephens would encounter political revolutionaries of all stripes. As Niall Whelehan has noted, “interest in and acquaintance with European revolutionaries reflected an eagerness to master theories of conspiracy and insurrection.” Lessons learned in Paris would be applied in Dublin.
There were five men present at the meeting which gave birth to the Fenian movement on 17 March 1858; James Stephens, Thomas Clarke Luby , Garret O’Shaughnessy, Peter Langan and Joseph Denieffe.Veterans of earlier struggles, each took a pledge committing them to their cause:
I, _________, in the presence of the Almighty God, do solemnly swear allegiance to the Irish Republic, now virtually established, and that I will do my very utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to defend its independence and integrity; and finally, that I will yield implicit obedience in all things, not contrary to the laws of God, to the commands of my superior officers. So help me God.
Walking down Lombard Street today, one could easily miss the plaque on the wall of the Car Dock premises, but perhaps that is how the five men present that day would want it to be. Their movement lived in the shadows, but occasionally burst onto the stage.