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20 March 1997 Edition

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Remembering the Past: An Barr Buadh

In the Spring of 1912, at the height of the debate on the granting of Home Rule to Ireland, Pádraig Pearse, in an attempt to raise support for Irish freedom, founded the paper An Barr Buadh and a political party, Cumann an Saoirse.

Although Pearse supported the Home Rule Bill of 1912, his attitude was that Home Rule should be used as a stepping-stone to full freedom. He had long believed in the formation of an armed force to achieve his political objective - complete Irish independence - and he made an attempt in 1912 to set up a group from which such a force might develop.

In March 1912 Pearse founded An Barr Buadh (The Trumpet of Victory), a weekly all-Irish political journal and Cumann an Saoirse (The Society of Freedom), a political group whose name embodied its objective.

At the inaugural meeting the proceedings were entirely in Irish with Pearse being the principal speaker. The keynote of his address was that ``a rifle should be made as familiar to the hands of an Irishman as a hurley''.

An Barr Buadh propounded the political aspiration of the new society. Its purpose would be to ``advocate the political independence of Ireland''. While Home Rule was worth accepting because it was a step towards complete freedom, Pearse emphasised in many political articles in An Barr Buadh that should Home Rule be denied, the people must resort to arms.

In this new period of excitement in the political arena, mainly generated by the intense debate over the Home Rule Bill, Pearse, often to the neglect of his school at St Enda's, became deeply involved in the paper. An Barr Buadh, with its limited circulation, only ran to eleven issues and had only four pages. It lacked the content which had made the Gaelic League's An Claidheamh Soluis, of which Pearse was the editor, so lively. While Pearse and the other contributors, including Brian O'Higgins, Eamonn Ceannt, Thomas Mac Donnell, Desmond Ryan, Cathal Brugha, The O'Rahilly and Peadar Kearney, wrote almost exclusively on political issues, the paper rarely dealt with social or economic matters.

Both the paper and the political society were short lived, mainly because the time was not ripe for such a movement. A financial crisis at St Enda's in May 1912, which almost led to the school's closure, forced Pearse to abandon his political journal to concentrate all his attention on the school. Cumann an Saoirse disbanded when An Barr Buadh ceased publication at the end of May.

Pearse's involvement in politics, especially through his contributions to An Barr Buadh, established him in the minds of the influential IRB as a potential leading revolutionary. Within four years, as President of the Irish Republic, he would lead them once more to strike a blow for freedom against the age-old enemy.

An Barr Buadh, a new political weekly paper, began publication on 16 March, 1912, 85 years ago this week.

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