History Presentation: Dr Gabriel Doherty UCC

On 6th March last, 5th and 6th year History students received a presentation from Dr. Gabriel Doherty of UCC. Gabriel is the deputy head of history at UCC and is on a committee advising the government how to commemorate this decade of centenaries.


The theme of Gabriel’s lecture was the decline of the home rule movement and the rise of Sinn Fein from the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 up until the creation of the first Dáil in 1919. The events in this period are of extreme significance as a shift occurred in Irish society from a desire from home rule within the British Empire to a completely sovereign independent republic. Having a good understanding of this period is not only an asset for the leaving cert, but also increases our understanding of present day issues as the desire for this republic led to the war of independence and the partition of Ireland, which is still causing dispute today in the context of Brexit.


A point on partition that Gabriel raised was that it is important to note unionists also made a concession by defending a 6 county state as opposed to a 32 county Ireland staying in the union. It was interesting to learn about the impact the First World War had on both Nationalists and Unionists. An interesting point Gabriel raised was that of its impact on unionists, many sons of wealthy landowners signed up and became junior officers. As they were usually the first out of the trenches leading the charge there was a high fatality rate. The knock on effect of this was that many estates in Ireland were left without an heir leading to the decline of the protestant ascendancy. Among nationalists John Redmond’s speech encouraging volunteers to enlist in the war effort proved to be the beginning of the end of the home rule party. As many as 30- 50,000 Irish soldiers were killed in action. Redmond and his party received the blame for the loss of Irish lives for a British war.


Gabriel also spent some time examining the Sinn Fein constitution of 1917 as well as their 1918 election manifesto. It was pointed out that the 1918 manifesto gave a mandate for the war of independence as it states “By making use of any and every means to render impotent the power of England…”. This shows just how much the mood of Irish society had changed in a few short years.


Overall Gabriel’s presentation was very informative and we could have spent another double class listening to him speak. Thanks to Gabriel for generously giving up his time to speak to us, and also to Mr D O’Donovan for organising Gabriel’s visit.

Seán Hayes Y6

Maria Brosnan