Na Fianna Eireann in Gorey, Co. Wexford.
By Eamon Murphy
A ‘Sluagh’ (or branch) of Fianna Eireann, who were also known as the ‘Irish National Boy Scouts’, was officially formed in Gorey on the 11th January 1914. This was five days after a branch of the Irish Volunteers was established in the town.
Liam Mellows, with strong family connections to the area, had been a regular visitor to Gorey throughout 1912/13 with the objective of forming a unit of Fianna Eireann, and he had been working closely with Sean O’Byrne, Sean Etchingham, James Gleeson and other local republicans.
In 1914, Mellows attended the first official Fianna Eireann meeting at the Gorey Town Hall and addressed the local recruits; his speech was met with rapturous applause. He outlined the aims and objectives of Fianna Eireann. He stated that their object was to ‘re-establish the Independence of Ireland through the training of the youth of Ireland, mentally and physically, to achieve this object by teaching scouting and military exercises, Irish History, and the Irish language’.
Upon joining the new members had to declare that they ‘promise to work for the independence of Ireland, never to join England’s armed forces and to obey my superior officers’. Fianna Eireann was open to ALL Irish boys, irrespective of their class or creed.
Sean O’Byrne was unanimously elected President of the branch. Another prominent local republican, Sean Breen was appointed as its first commander.
In all ninety (90) local boys joined Fianna Eireann that day and an adult committee was formed to manage the branch. It was one of the largest branches in the country at that time, outside of the main regional capitals of Cork, Belfast, Limerick and Dublin.
The Gorey ‘Sluagh’ was named after 1798 local hero Miles Byrne.
*Photograph of Gorey Town Hall circa 1900. Photo by Robert French and available to view on the National Library of Ireland’s website.