‘A death-dealing famine’: conciliation and division

Christine Kinealy

in Repeal and Revolution

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780719065163
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702963 | DOI:
‘A death-dealing famine’: conciliation and division

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter demonstrates the complexity and porous nature of Irish nationalism and shows that, until 1848, neither revolution nor a violent uprising were the aims of any section of the Repeal movement, not even the radical John Mitchel. In 1846, O'Connell had engineered a public debate concerning the so-called ‘peace resolutions’, as a way of either taming Young Ireland or ousting it from the Repeal Association. The ensuing division in the Repeal movement between Young and Old Ireland was acrimonious. The split was welcomed by the Whig government, which had no majority in parliament, and therefore relied on O'Connell's support. Little was given in return for his cooperation and, like previous administrations, the Whigs continued to undermine Irish nationalism, oscillating between coercion and conciliation. The loss of Young Ireland weakened the Repeal movement, both in Ireland and overseas, and it demonstrated that O'Connell's long reign as the Liberator was almost at an end. More importantly, released from O'Connell's control, a new form of nationalism took root that was more inclusive, egalitarian and independent. The challenge, though, was to rebuild a united movement, which proved to be particularly difficult since the backdrop was a devastating famine. Moreover, despite the endeavours of Young Ireland, under John O'Connell's brief leadership, the identity of the Irish nation was increasingly being aligned with a Catholic Ireland.

Keywords: Irish nationalism; Repeal movement; John Mitchel; Young Ireland; John O'Connell

Chapter.  13819 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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