The Roman Catholic Relief Act, 1829 (the Catholic Emancipation Act) was passed in the House of Commons with the support of the Liberals, the Whigs and a few Tories. It was opposed by other Tories, by the House of Lords and particularly by King George 4th. It allowed Catholics in Britain and Ireland to join the House of Commons and to become members of local authorities and other political bodies. Daniel O’Connell in his later years had a major influence in pressing for Catholic emancipation and for the acceptance of Catholics as normal members of the population. Lord Wellesley who was the brother of the Duke of Wellington and who had been the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland from 1821 to 1828, had, like the Duke, worked tirelessly to have the emancipation bill passed.
|Bishop John Milner|
Some restrictions were included in the Act. Catholic clergy could not use titles such as Archbishop or Bishop and Catholics were entitled to vote only if they satisfied certain standards in terms of property. The restriction on titles by the Church was ignored and these and other restrictions were eventually deleted from the Act between 1851 and 1871.
The Irish Ireland rebellion of 1847 and the Fenian rebellion of 1867 were the only protests in arms during the rest of the century. They were poorly organised and easily dealt with by the authorities, not to mention the rebels own incompetence. There were no executions and the rebels were either imprisoned or banished to Australia or other countries abroad, unlike the executions after 1916 which caused such a nationalist reaction and contributed to the War of Independence and to the Civil War.
|Church of St. Nicholas of Myra (without) - 1829|
I had a particular interest in writing this essay about the Catholic Emancipation Act. The subsequent spread of secondary education had a profound effect on Catholics and particularly on my paternal and maternal parents. The establishment of many Catholic secondary schools, particularly among the Ursuline, Loreto, Dominican and Mercy orders for women and the Christian Brothers for men over the next half century created a Catholic middle class which reached the same standard of education and the same social fabric as their Protestant brethren. This and the entry of Catholics into local and national politics and into management made it inevitable that the large Catholic majority would eventually dominate the affairs of the country. And it is clear that the great Celtic revival movement on the late 19th century, initiated largely by the Protestant minority, was gradually joined by Catholic scholars and writers as education became available to the masses
|Church of St. Francis Xavier, Dublin.|
|Patrick and Elizabeth Mulcahy with their three eldest children|
The three boys were treated differently by their father. Despite the fact that my father, Richard, the eldest boy, got one of the first places in the Intermediate examination in Ireland, his father insisted that he must leave school and join the Post Office as a learner before he had entered his last two years in school. He had won an exhibition of 20 pounds a year for the last two years of his education but his father was in need of the money because of debt incurred by his family. My father went as a post office learner to Bantry in West Cork where he was close to Ballingeary, this centre of the West Cork gaelteacht. He learned to speak excellent Irish and he spent much of his spare time with the local people and their various social and cultural activities. Bantry was ten miles from Ballingeary but not infrequently he walked the distance between the two villages.
|Paddy and Dad, standing. Kitty, Sam and Senan, seated.|
He retired from the Army in January 1922 but immediately re-joined as Chief of Staff at the end of June with the start of the Civil War. He remained Chief of Staff until the end of the Civil War and then spent the rest of his life as a politician.
Despite my father’s early departure from school, he remained all his life passionate about learning; he became a fluent Irish speaker and read much French and French poetry. Among these and other aspects of learning, he was an inveterate reader all his life, particularly on the history of the country during the late 19th and early 20th century, an interest which is evident by the large library of books of the period which are still in my library.
His brother, Paddy, joined the British army when he was underage and after his return from three years as a sapper in the trenches to Ireland he joined the IRA during the War of Independence and subsequently remained in the National Army. He became chief of staff in the 1950s, more than 30 years after my father had been in that role. My other uncle, Sam, the youngest boy, was born just shortly before his mother’s death. He became a priest, joined the Cistercian monastery and school in Roscrea and subsequently travelled to Mid-Lothian in Scotland in 1946 where he set up the first post-reformation Catholic monastery in Scotland; Perhaps unexpectedly he was successful in being welcomed by the strong Presbyterian population at the time and of becoming intimate with the head of the Church of Scotland in terms of ecumenical activity and of friendship.
|My mother Min (top right) with parents, siblings and aunt.|
|Mother, perhaps passing on some advice to a newly qualified doctor!|
Two of the four boys, Jack and Michael, remained farmers in Tomcoole where they had an extensive holding of about 600 acres by the 1930s. Jim became a doctor qualifying in University College in Dublin. He attended the GPO as a medical student looking after the occupants during the 1916 Rebellion. The fourth boy, Martin, became a priest, qualified in Wexford and was in a parish there when he died young from blood poisoning.
The Ryan family was seriously divided by the Treaty settlement, particularly Jim who was to remain a close associate of de Valera and both Kate and Phyllis who had been influenced by Seán T. O’Kelly who was active in Sinn Féin and who too remained faithful to de Valera. Nell who had remained in Wexford was fervently anti-Treaty. She was imprisoned and went on hunger strike while my father was head of the army during the Civil War. He refused her release despite pressure from some of her siblings! The strike, which she shared with others, was to last 30 days until they were induced to abandon their suffering, and not thanks to my father! The split among the Ryan siblings was a disaster at the time but the worst aspect of the bitterness had diminished after a few years and subsequent generations of the family were not touched by their differences.
My father’s family had no specific interest in politics and dad’s involvement in 1916 was not approved of initially by his family. His father’s reaction to 1916 was said to be ‘’He had much to thank the British for appointing him postmaster of Ennis’’.
The Ryan sisters were not particularly active during the rebellion as individuals apart from my mother who was a member of Cumman na mBan. She established a branch of the Cumann in London while teaching there. She was closely associated with Seán McDermott, who was one of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation and who was executed subsequently. She, with her youngest sister, Phyllis, acted as messengers to the GPO during Easter Week. McDermott would have married my mother if he had survived, instead of which she met Richard Mulcahy in 1917, after his return from prison. They were married in 1919. The Ryans, including my mother, tended to distance themselves from politics and political contact once they became married and acquired children.