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A blog about the recent history of Ireland, with a focus on the revolutionary period of the 20th century, including the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War.
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Plunkett’s Liberty: Count Plunkett and the Liberty Clubs, April-August 1917 (Part V)

Posted August 25th, 2017 at 12:03 PM by Ascendant

Plunkett’s Liberty: Count Plunkett and the Liberty Clubs, April-August 1917 (Part V)

The tensions between Count Plunkett and Arthur Griffith finally spilled out into the open at the 'Plunkett Convention' on the 19th April 1917. Griffith announced to the audience that the Count had refused him permission to speak, and warned them about the likelihood of failure unless they stayed united.

The reaction in the hall was one of consternation, according to a newspaper report:

"Those on the platform rose to their feet and conversed – in some cases very heatedly – in small groups, while murmurs of protest throughout the room testified that opinion was divided on the action taken."

To prevent the split from worsening into something irreparable, a committee consisting of the two men and their respective allies was formed. Even so, this could be nothing more than a stopgap, and not a very effective one at that. On the first meeting of the new committee, Griffith was able to deny Plunkett the chairmanship through deft maneuvering.

Determined to replace Griffith's Sinn Féin with an organisation of his own creation, Plunkett set up the Liberty Clubs.

These initially flourished throughout the country but ultimately failed to replace Sinn Féin as the voice of the new nationalist Ireland, in no small part due to Sinn Féin being already associated in the public mind with the hallowed Easter Rising (however undeservedly, in the opinions of some).

However, Griffith's position was increasingly untenable, and he came under pressure to step down as President of Sinn Féin. It was at the party's Ard Fheis in October 1917 that the feud between the two men, and the direction of nationalist Ireland, would be decided, with the help of a certain Éamon de Valera...
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