Leinster Leader, Saturday, October 9, 1948

The Oration

Very Reverend Father Burbage said: Michael Reynolds, whose memory we honour to-day was one of that valiant band who 150 f Ireland’s freedom, and to the promotion of goodwill and understanding amongst all Irishmen. He was one of those who believed that when all other means of rescuing the nation from slavery and degradation had been used in vain, that recourse to armed force was justifiable.

Those men were confirmed in this belief by the fact that the invaders had driven the mass of their victims to such a state of desperation that revolt had every prospect of success. For generations before 1798, England pursued a deliberate unwavering policy of fomenting disunion among all classes in Ireland.

English rulers realised that internal dissension in Ireland facilitated their alien rule. England was warmly seconded in this policy by the possessors of the confiscated estates and their hangers on who feared that if by any chance the people came together and used their strength they (the planters) would lose their ill-got goods.

They encouraged religious strife between Catholics, Protestants and Presbyterians and ill-feeling between landlords and tenants. Even children were set against their parents. There was method in this criminal procedure.

The United Irishmen

This policy was disastrous for the country as a whole. It was aimed primarily at Catholics, but discerning Protestants came to realise that it would eventually cause the ruin of themselves as well as of their Catholic fellow-countrymen.

It made the rectification of almost any public grievance practically impossible and left the country seething with injustices and discontent. In 1791, twenty distinguished Protestants came together and planned to meet the situation by inaugurating a body that would include Irishmen of all creeds and classes, united for the promotion of their common interests, and specifically for the reform of a very corrupt Parliament and for the emancipation of Catholics. This body was known as the United Irish Society. It spread rapidly. It reached a membership of 500,000 in a very short time.

This was the last thing on earth that England wanted. Though the Society was legal and constitutional steps were taken at once to stamp it out. As early as 1792, less than a year after its inception by means of packed juries, heavy fines and long terms of imprisonment were being inflicted on leading members for the crime of criticising the corrupt constitution of Parliament.

Later a savage campaign of terrorism was let loose on the general defenceless population. A lustful alien soldiery was quartered and billeted among the homes of the people, with permission and encouragement to flog, pitch-cap and press-gang and drive the people by every means into an insurrection that it was expected could easily be suppressed. Re-acting to the Government's measures the Society changed its character and began arming its members. Arms of one kind or another were supplied to as many as 300,000 men. of whom 110,000 were resident in the northern counties, showing clearly that there was nothing sectarian about the movement. It is interesting to note that this County (Kildare) was so highly organised, that it had over 60,000 enrolled.

This was largely due to the residence here of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The British nearly overshot their mark, for if the other counties had risen and fought with the same determination and tenacity as did Kildare and Wexford, there would have been an end to British rule in Ireland. Failure was not due to want of numbers on the part of the insurgents, neither was it due to the inferior quality of their ant of thorough preparation and above all to a system of spying and informing organised by the British Secret Service, and operating in the highest ranks of the insurgents and in other unsuspected quarters. This enabled the British to effect unexpected arrests of leaders, and to anticipate military actions, as they were kept informed well beforehand of important military moves that were decided upon. Thus the plans of the insurgents were thrown into utter confusion, and they were rendered incapable of using their strength. The men of 1916-21 were much more successful in their handling of the British Secret Service. It is never too late to learn.