Random Ramblings from a Republican
Saturday, October 09, 2004
The Fall of Parnell and the Aftermath of His Scandal and Death

CS Parnell and Katherine O'Shea (later Parnell), a married though estranged woman, met in 1880 and they began an affair that would last 10 years. It would ultimately mean the end of one of the finest political careers in Irish history, and also the end of any real hope for Home Rule. Katherine Parnell is still best remembered as "Kitty O'Shea" the married woman, who ensnared Charles Stewart Parnell, destroyed his career, hastened his death and set on hold the cause of Irish Independence for another generation.

In 1881, Kitty was pregnant and the truth of their adultery was brought to the forefront. The child was born in February of 1882 but died only a month later. They no longer attempted to hide their relationship from people close to them. Anyone who visited their house was exposed to the situation. Two more children was born in the next 2 years, 1883 and 84.

During this time, Parnell ridden with on and off illness that continued until about 1890, when he seemed to have regained his full health for the first time since 1883. But then, prompted by political adversaries of Parnell, Capt. O'Shea took Kitty to divorce court claiming Parnell as the cause of their separation. The political backlash of the adultery charge was immense and hasn't been seen in Irish politics in that much force since.

In 1891, the Home Rule Party split into Parnellites and anti-Parnellites, the first serious split since Parnell united the men under one block almost a decade before. The most dependable traitor in Irish history was there to lay their agenda out against the ill chief. Mother Church issued a manifesto that condemned Parnell as an "immoral" ruler. And said as a political excuse that there was "the inevitability of a [party] split, if Parnell were retained." So, typically, the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland stabbed the cause of Independence in the back. And their reasoning was proven to be shit as usual when the split occurred anyway.

The final party meeting before the split of the Home Rule Party consisted of Tim Healy screaming at Parnell for a lengthy period of time. At the peak of this verbal assault, Parnell attempted to draw his pistol and shoot Healy where he stood, but party members held him back. Justin MacCarthy saw the meeting was at an end and called for his supporters to follow him out of the room. Forty-five left with him and Healy, twenty-six stayed with Parnell.

In America, England and Ireland, the working classes supported Parnell. It was the upper and middle classes that were fooled by the treachery of the Church and the spouting of the Anti-Parnellites. With several by-elections coming up in 1891, Parnell looked to win at least one of them. Time and time again, Parnell was defeated, until there was no hope to win a seat.

The speeches of Healy and other AntiParnellites would even shame the venomous Rev Ian Paisley. Words like "Morality" and "religion" and "sinner" laced the speeches. Between this and ongoing condemnation by the Church, Parnell never gave up. He understood that there would be a long and difficult battle ahead and he tried to convince his supporters to stick by him. He told them that within the next few years, he would win back the faith of his complete party and overtake MacCarthy and Healy.

Before this could happen, Parnell's health rapidly deteriorated. Being stubborn and determined, he refused to take time off to recover from his lagging sickness. This caught up with him on October 6, 1891. Parnell died near Brighton, England and was prepared for his travel back to Dublin. Every stop on the way supporters gathered to see for the last time, the fallen leader of the Irish. His coffin was placed at the base of the statue of a man he had long been compared to: Daniel O'Connell. Thousands of people went to view him at this spot, but nothing would compare to his funeral. Estimations vary, but the general consensus seemed to be that the crowd was no small than 150,000 mourners; described as a mass of grim-faced Irishmen by the then British Chief Secretary Arthur Balfour. Parnell was laid to rest well after dusk in Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery.

His death was the closing of another chapter in the quest for Irish self-determination. It would be another 24 years before men would again gather in mass once again to fight for Irish freedom. This time it would not be with Parliamentary action but with rifles.

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Ta ar la anois.

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