Causes of the Fenian Movement

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Causes of the Fenian Movement Irish history is one that is filled with many successes, but heavily out weighted by tragedies and failures of all types. Beginning in the 1840’s, Ireland was faced with many occurrences that lead up to a movement that changed the history of Ireland’s nationalism. “Beginning with 1847, the potato blight left famine and death on every hand; emigration was excessive and disaffection wide spread yet the British government did little to relieve the deplorable conditions.” (Walker 2) One of the largest events of the time was the Fenian Movement. This movement was led by the people in order to take back what was theirs, their land and rights. While many occurrences might have contributed to the Fenian Movement, which was named after the legendary Gaelic hero, Finn Mac Cumhail (de Nie 215), the four large contributors were The Great Potato Famine; The Young Ireland Uprising; the Civil War; and Britain’s tightening oppression. In 1845, the main crop of the Irish was coming under attack. A blight that slowly killed the potatoes from the inside out, hit the country hard. With the devastation of the dying potatoes, much of the population was found to be in starving situations. Disease that already existed in the country, attacked those left weak by the starvation they were facing, and many died. The disaster of the Famine radicalized a generation of mainly catholic young men of modest social origin, some of whom eventually succeed in assembling an almost open and extremely widespread conspiracy to subvert British rule in Ireland (Gavin 471) This lead to the emigration of many to other countries in order to leave the diseased country. The Famine also caused many Irish to question the control that Britain had over their country. Britain granted no form of help to the devastated Irish population. Since potatoes were Ireland’s top export, the British decided to tax and bill for the potatoes that they never received. They also used religion as a tool to discourage the Irish. English Catholic’s prevalent concern: that Irish nationalism would supersede Catholicism in the hearts and minds of England’s Catholic population, which was predominantly composed of working-class Irish migrants… Most Irish classified their Catholicism with nationalism while English Catholics considered themselves a refined Catholic minority in a vulgar Protestant land (Dye 358).

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