The IRB and Fianna Eireann

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“The IRB and Fianna Eireann” by Garry Holohan

“It was during the Aonach, which at that time was held in the Round Room of the Rotunda, in 1912 that I was made a member of the I.R.B. At that time Bulmer Hobson had a cottage at a place called Balroddery, near Tallaght, County Dublin, and we used to go there for week-ends with Pádraig Ó Riain, who was General Secretary of the Fianna, and Frank Reynolds, a brother of Percy Reynolds. It was a two roomed cottage situated in a field on the opposite side of the road to the gate leading up to the big house called Bella Vista.

The Aonach na Nodlag was held in the Round Room of the Rotunda about three weeks before Christmas in 1912. This was a great opportunity for all the friends of the Irish Ireland movement to meet each other and offer Christmas greetings. My uncle, Hugh Holohan, was one of the principal organisers of this exhibition, with Arthur Griffith, Sean McDermott and Tom Kelly. I remember after it closed on Saturday night I went to Hobson’s cottage with Pádraig Ó Riain and Liam Mellows. On Sunday Hobson said he had to come into town early, so we started at about three o’clock. Bulmer Hobson and Pádraig were in front and Liam and I were behind as we walked into town. Liam approached me about joining the Fenian movement and I expressed my willingness. He then told me that they were going to a meeting and invited me to go with them. I agreed. I was brought to the Fianna office at No. 12 D’Olier Street. Before I entered the room Con Colbert came out and brought me into another room, where he administered the Fenian Oath. I then found myself among most of the senior officers.

The Circle was called the John Mitchel [Literary and Debating Society] Circle. Con Colbert was Centre. I think Pádraig Ó Riain was the Secretary. These Circle meetings were held once a month.

At the time I joined there had been a split – that Christmas 1912 – which was very harmless. There had been a kind of a clean-up. While a number of the men had done a good deal of work in their younger days, I think they were inclined to lean on their laurels and use the organisation as a means for getting into the Corporation, as Fred Allen had good influence. However, Tom Clarke, Sean McDermott and Bulmer Hobson had the reins when I joined, and it was not long until things started to move.

The John Mitchel Circle of the I.R.B. was mostly composed of students of St. Enda’s and Fianna officers. Amongst the members were Eamon Bulfin, son of the man who wrote “Rambles in Eirinn”, Desmond Ryan, the writer, Frank Burke, Jack and George Plunkett, Fergus Kelly, who is now chief engineer on the Mining Board, Liam Mellows, Eamon Martin, Pádraig Ó Riain, Con Colbert, Frank and Jack Reynolds, Barney Mellows and Father Tom Walsh.

About this time the I.R.B. built a cinema at the rear of No. 41 Parnell Square. This was really a pretence, as it was closed down after a short period and used as a drill hall by the I.R.B. We had only one large meeting of the I.R.B. before this drilling started, it was held in this hall, and I remember Sean O’Casey, the playwright, kicked up ructions because we were not taking advantage to rise. Strange to say, when we did rise he was not there. I also remember that Dinny McCullough made what we described in those days as a “green flag speech”, that is, he did plenty of stage heroics.

When we [the I.R.B.] started to drill, the work was carried out by the older Fianna officers, Michael Lonergan, Eamon Martin, Frank Reynolds, Jack Reynolds, Harry Ward and Liam Mellows.  I gave lessons in semaphore signalling on a couple of occasions. Tom Clarke and a man named Luke Kennedy used to stamp the attendance cards.”

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