September Document of the Month, 2021
This month’s selected records provide an insight into the on-going monitoring of nationalists in the late 19th century by the Dublin Castle administration. These documents originate from our Fenian record collection which have an interesting but complicated archival history. It is a collection of records rich with information on Fenianism and its adherents and the sophisticated surveillance of those radical nationalist organisations which evolved from the Fenian movement from the early 1870s into subsequent decades.
This specific file comes from the ‘Police Reports’ series ref. NAI, CSO/FEN/5 and focuses on the surveillance in the period following the death of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891.
Parnell had founded the Irish National League in 1882 to campaign for Irish self-governance and later became leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party but his romantic affair with a separated but married woman named Katherine O’Shea caused an unprecedented scandal. The affair brought Parnell’s downfall and he was seen as a pariah amongst his opponents having previously been a close ally of the Catholic Church hierarchy. Politically, it split the nationalist movement in two and precipitated a bitter and vicious battle between the Parnellite and anti-Parnellite factions.
Charles Stewart Parnell died in 1891, having married Katherine the year before. The Parnellites remained loyal to their “Lost Leader”. After his death his grave became a place of pilgrimage for his supporters particularly on the anniversary of his death on ‘Ivy Day’, the 6th of October. The photographs relate to radical nationalists, many of them from Cork, and include group photographs of the Cork Independent National Club, the Redmond Independent Hurling Club, men and women attending an anniversary ceremony at Parnell’s grave, and prominent Cork suspects seeing John Redmond off on a visit to America.