Easter 1916 and Good Friday 1998

Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 4/7/2009 9:18 PM EDT

The New Departure was a term coined in 1878 by the old New York Fenian John Devoy who first saw the potential of joining together the physical and political forces of his time in the cause of Ireland.
It almost resulted in Irish Home Rule as Parnell, the Land League, the Fenians and Irish America all made a powerful quartet which, but for Parnell's downfall over Kitty O'Shea, would surely have resulted in achieving the Holy Grail.
Over a century later in 1998 many of the same elements in a new New Departure helped bring about a peace settlement on Good Friday in Northern Ireland which has essentially endured since.
Sinn Fein, Irish America which activated President Bill Clinton, John Hume, the Parnell of his day, and the Irish government helped forge a nationalist consensus which allowed a united front in the negotiations with the British government and the Ulster Unionists.
Devoy's dream had been realized.
When Senator George Mitchell stepped outside the negotiation room on Good Friday 1998 and announced a settlement the immensity of the successful creation of that nationalist coalition became apparent.
It was Irish America who had first approached then candidate Bill Clinton, and had created the conditions along with Hume and the Irish government which allowed Republicans to commit to politics rather than guns. Simply put without Senator Mitchell and President Clinton the peace deal would never have happened. Without Irish America neither man would ever have become involved.
Similarly Easter 1916 had a critical American component not least of which was Devoy's financial and political support for the insurgents.
Despite the almost fifty years since the failed Fenian uprising Devoy and others had never given up the ideal of an armed insurrection against the British. In Ireland sentiment had shifted sharply towards John Redmond and the fight for Home Rule, but the grassroots American Irish public opinion, fueled by memories of famine , forced emigration of their father's generation and coffin ships was still far more radically inclined.
Right after the rising broad American shifted sharply in the rebel's favor and Eamon De Valera' decision to spend 1919 and 1920 in the United States was eloquent testimony to how important the rebellion's leaders thought the American connection was.
Thus in two of Ireland's landmark moments in history Irish America was a critical and vital component. It is a proud tradition to remember this Easter season.


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