An Irish Nationalist Adolescence: Na Fianna Éireann, 1909–1923

  • Marnie Hay
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series

Abstract

In 1909 two Irish Protestant nationalist activists, Constance, Countess Markievicz (1868–1927) and Bulmer Hobson (1883–1969), established a nationalist youth organization called Na Fianna Éireann, or the Irish National Boy Scouts.1 It was designed to be an Irish nationalist antidote to Robert Baden-Powell’s pro-British Boy Scout movement, which had spread to Ireland in 1908.2 For some members, participation in the Fianna merely served a social function, while for others it served as a recruitment and training ground for their future roles in the struggle for Irish independence. Although the Fianna was initially open to all Irish boys (and some girls) between the ages of eight and eighteen, membership was later limited to boys aged between twelve and eighteen. This restriction of membership to adolescent males was possibly a reflection of the increasingly militant activities of the organization, particularly from 1916 onwards.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    For more in-depth discussion of the Fianna, see J. Anthony Gaughan, Scouting in Ireland (Dublin: Kingdom Books, 2006), 33–77;Google Scholar
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  29. 45.
    Seamus MacCaisin, witness statement, 8 June 1947 (NAI, BMH, WS 8). A writer associated with the Irish literary revival, Padraic Colum’s play The Saxon shilling had been rejected previously by the Irish National Theatre Society, a forerunner of the Abbey Theatre, on the grounds that it was merely anti-military recruitment propaganda (Robert Welch (ed.), The concise Oxford companion to Irish literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 64–5) The play’s message was in keeping with the promise made by Fianna members ‘never to join England’s armed forces’ (‘Na Fianna Éireann’, Irish Freedom, Sept. 1912, 6).Google Scholar
  30. 51.
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  32. 54.
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  33. Cathal O’Shannon (ed.), Souvenir of the golden jubilee of Fianna Éireann, Aug. 16, 1909–Aug. 16, 1959 (Dublin: Na Fianna Éireann, 1959).Google Scholar
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  36. 62.
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  37. 73.
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  39. 81.
    The Dáil first met on 21 Jan. 1919 and consisted of the 73 Sinn Féin candidates elected in the 1918 general election. They abstained from taking their seats in the Westminster parliament and instead established their own legislative assembly in Dublin. This new Irish parliament initially consisted of a unicameral assembly and a ministry (or cabinet) headed by a president. Defence was one of the departments within the ministry. Despite being proscribed by the British government in Sept. 1919, the Dáil continued to function throughout the War of Independence. See Deirdre McMahon, ‘Dáil Éireann’ in S. J. Connolly (ed.), The Oxford companion to Irish history (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 133–4.Google Scholar
  40. 93.
    It would be many years before girls could join the Fianna on an equal footing with the boys. In the early 1930s Cumann na mBan established Cumann na gCailíní, the Irish National Girl Scouts, which still served as the female counterpart to the Fianna in 1964. (See Na Fianna Éireann, The young guard of Erin: Iris-leabhair na bhFiann: The Fianna handbook (3rd edn, Dublin: Na Fianna Éireann, 1964), 145) The Fianna finally accepted girls in 1968−69. (See Watts, ‘Na Fianna Éireann: A case study of a political youth organisation’, 295−6). A statement from the leadership of the republican movement published in the 1988 Fianna Éireann handbook hailed one of the most welcome and progressive moves within the Fianna as the opening of the organization to young women and girls, remarking that ‘there could not be a more appropriate memorial to your founder, Constance Markievicz’ (Fianna Éireann handbook, 1–2).Google Scholar
  41. 96.
    Leeann Lane, Rosamond Jacob: Third person singular (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2010), 123.Google Scholar

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