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Thread: This day in Irish History 1882: 'The Phoenix Park Murders'

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Default This day in Irish History 1882: 'The Phoenix Park Murders'

    6 May 1882: The Assassination of Cavendish & Burke aka The ‘Phoenix Park Murders’


    The Under Secretary for Ireland Thomas Henry Burke, and the newly arrived Chief Secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish, were both stabbed to death in the Phoenix Park by members of a secret organisation known as ‘The Invincibles’. Five of the assassins were later executed in Kilmainham Jail and a number of others were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. This event rocked Anglo-Irish relations to the core and was the most shocking and audacious attack on members of the British Political Establishment in Ireland during the course of the 19th Century.

    The Phoenix Park tragedy, as it may well be called, occurred on the evening of Saturday, May 6, 1882. Its victims were Mr. Thomas H. Burke, the under-secretary, and Lord Frederick Cavendish, the new chief-secretary. Undersecretary Burke, on that evening, was walking from the Castle to his lodge or official residence in the Phoenix Park, when he accidentally met Lord Cavendish, who accompanied him in the direction he was going.

    When near the Phoenix Monument, they were surrounded by five or six men, armed with knives, who attacked them instantly. Surprised and unarmed the secretaries made scarcely any resistance, and were stabbed;and hurled to the ground where they expired in a few minutes.


    Phoenix Park Murders

    Cavendish – who was married to Lucy Cavendish the niece of British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, and had worked as Gladstone's personal secretary – had only arrived in Ireland the day he assasinated. He was not the main target but Burke. He had just met by chance with as they walked towards the vice regal Lodge and was a man of whom it could be truly said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.


    The hunt for the perpetrators was led by Superintendent John Mallon, a Catholic who came from Armagh. He suspected a number of former Fenian activists. A large number of suspects were arrested and kept in prison by claiming they were connected with other crimes. By playing off one suspect against another Mallon got several of them to reveal what they knew.


    The Invincibles' leader James Carey, Michael Kavanagh and Joe Hanlon agreed to testify against the others. Joe Brady, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey, Dan Curley and Tim Kelly were convicted of the murder and were hanged by William Marwood in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin between 14 May and 4 June 1883. Others were sentenced to serve long prison terms.


    The chief Traitor James Carey was No 1 of the Invincibles and a Dublin City Councillor. His turning Queens evidence brought him freedom but put his life in mortal danger. He was spirited off to London and with his family was dispatched by ship bound for Australia. As fortune would have it he was recognised on board by another member of the Irish Republican fraternity and from then on, unbeknownest to himself, was a marked man.

    His life being in great danger, he was secretly, with his wife and family, put on board the Kinfauns Castle, bound for the Cape, and sailed on July 6 under the name of Power. On board the same ship was Patrick O'Donnell, a bricklayer. He became friendly with Carey, without knowing who he was. After stopping off in Cape Town, he was informed by chance of the real identity of Carey. He went with his victim on board the Melrose in the voyage from Cape Town to Natal, and when the vessel was 12 miles off Cape Vaccas, on July 29, 1883, using a pistol he had in his luggage, shot Carey dead.[

    O'Donnell was brought to England and tried for murder, and being found guilty, was executed at Newgate on December 17.

    James Carey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    See here too: Senan - The Phoenix Park Murders - YouTube
    Last edited by Catalpa; 6th May 2012 at 07:22 PM.

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    Such a horrible term 'the Phoenix Park Murders'. It should be called 'the Great Phoenix Park Ambush'. The lads did terrific work that night. Is there any monument for them in Dublin?

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gal Gréine View Post
    Such a horrible term 'the Phoenix Park Murders'. It should be called 'the Great Phoenix Park Ambush'. The lads did terrific work that night. Is there any monument for them in Dublin?
    If you look at the youtube clip you will see marked in the grass verge in the Park the spot where the were attacked

    But I think that is it

    The 'skin the goat' character who drove the getaway coach gets a mention in James Joyce's Ulysses

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    Politics.ie Newbie Fenian1916's Avatar
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    In the words of Ronnie Drew:

    When Carey told on Skin-the-goat,
    O'Donnell caught him on the boat
    He wished he'd never been afloat, the dirty skite.
    It wasn't very sensible
    To tell on the Invincibles
    They stand up for their principles, day and night.

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    SeamusNapoleon
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    Catalpa or anybody else,

    I have read in a few places (p.30 of this document, for example) that Cathal Goulding's grandfather or great-grandfather was involved in the Invincibles. Can anyone provide any more detail than that?

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    The actions of the Invincibles ironically may have prolonged direct British rule in Ireland:

    Charles Stewart Parnell made a speech condemning the murders in 1882. This increased his already huge popularity in both Britain and Ireland. He had just enabled some reforms under the Kilmainham Treaty four days before the murders. Parnell's reputation increased in Ireland, being seen as a more moderate reformer who would never excuse such tactics.[7]

    However, Parnell's policy of allying his party to Gladstone's Liberal Party in 1886 to enable Home Rule was also ultimately defeated by the murders. Gladstone's Minister Lord Hartington was the elder brother of Lord Frederick Cavendish. Saddened and infuriated by the manner of his brother's early death, Hartington split with Gladstone on the Home Rule bills[8] of 1886 and 1893 and led the breakaway Liberal Unionist Association which allied itself to Lord Salisbury's conservative governments. In the ensuing 1886 general election the Conservatives and Liberal Unionists swept the board. This delayed Home Rule by 28 years, until the Third Irish Home Rule Bill which was passed technically in 1914, but which was never effected.
    Phoenix Park Murders - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    If Home Rule had succeeded in the 1880s (obviously radical republicans were opposed) it is possible that Parnell and his successors and no doubt people like Collins and De Valera et al later on would have had the leeway to push for an Irish Republic without the violence between 1916-1923.

    History often turns on a coin and there are tantalising what ifs that arise if this assassination had never gone ahead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeamusNapoleon View Post
    Catalpa or anybody else,

    I have read in a few places (p.30 of this document, for example) that Cathal Goulding's grandfather or great-grandfather was involved in the Invincibles. Can anyone provide any more detail than that?
    Why is Cathal Goulding a relation of Carey?

    There was about a 1,000 members within the Invincible Society, so I'd assume especially around Dublin, many families could probably trace ancestry to someone involved.

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeamusNapoleon View Post
    Catalpa or anybody else,

    I have read in a few places (p.30 of this document, for example) that Cathal Goulding's grandfather or great-grandfather was involved in the Invincibles. Can anyone provide any more detail than that?
    I think it was his Grandfather

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    Politics.ie Member Ren84's Avatar
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    "This event rocked Anglo-Irish relations to the core". A curious sentence no? I mean there was no Anglo-Irish relations at the time.

    In any case the English gauleiters got what they deserved.

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ren84 View Post
    "This event rocked Anglo-Irish relations to the core". A curious sentence no? I mean there was no Anglo-Irish relations at the time.

    In any case the English gauleiters got what they deserved.
    There certainly were Anglo-Irish relations with Parnell as Ireland's chief negotiator

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