A nation? says Bloom. A nation is the same people living
in the same place.
By God, then, says Ned, laughing, if that’s so I’m a nation
I’m living in the same place for the past five years.
of course everyone had the laugh at Bloom and says he,
trying to muck out of it:
Or also living in different places.
28 July 2005, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) publicly
announced its official abandonment of the armed method
of providing a solution to the conflicts of Northern Ireland.
From that moment on, the struggle was confined to the
political sphere and both the IRA and Sinn Féin placed
the quest for their objectives in the hands of diplomacy.
this historic event, the sword was laid down in order
to define the destiny of a nation with the pen. Almost
nine decades earlier, a group of republican nationalists
raised the sword in order to attempt to liberate the Irish
nation from the English yoke. The fire set at Easter 1916
burned for five years, years marked by violence and political
struggle. In 1921 the flames seemed to be extinguished
by the Anglo-Irish Treaty. On that occasion, the pen sought
to put an end to a conflict that had been going on for
centuries. However, the treaty did not result in a definitive
solution for the Irish nation, and many more sons of the
island had to give their lives in search of a definitive
were not only united by the political connections, which
for centuries had been associated with the subjection
of Ireland to British power, but also since 1801 the two
islands had been united under the same crown of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. There was also a
very strong link in terms of identity as a consequence
of this political union. Although it is true that many
Irish people rejected their belonging to the British Kingdom
and had a nationalist vision that longed for the liberty
and independence of the ‘Emerald Isle’, there were also
a certain number of people born on that island who did
not see a contradiction between British and Irish identity.
A proof of this is the large number of Irish people, British
citizens, who enlisted in the army or had professional
and academic careers on English soil.
as Kee argues in the second chapter of The Green Flag,
‘Contradictions of Irish nationality’, some arguments
put forward by Irish nationalists tend to reinforce the
idea of the existence of two totally antagonistic nations,
that one of them was historically oppressed by the other
and as a consequence of this all Irish problems were the
result of English tyranny. This idea is perhaps far removed
from a more objective view. Irish dependence on England
obviously cannot be disconnected from the colonialist
and imperialist condition of the British power, but neither
can it be denied that in any type of political domination
by one State over another nation, a series of relationships
of imposition-acceptance come into play. This applies
to the section of the oppressed society who obtain advantages
by virtue of the characteristics of the political arena.
the period 1916-1921, during which the confrontation between
the Irish faction and the British forces was open and
hostile, there were also contradictions at the heart of
Irish ‘nationality’, if by that we understand people born
within the borders of the island. They are visible in
the course of the conflicts, whether they were armed combats
or the political-electoral struggle. Although the nationalist
republican faction enjoyed a great consensus among the
population, there were also people who saw their action
internal divisions within the Irish revolutionary group,
inevitably resulting from its ideological heterogeneity,
came to light in the year 1923 during the civil war.
During this war the factions who disagreed on what had
been agreed in the Anglo-Irish Treaty came into conflict.
At this opportunity, the scant returns that politics sometimes
provides were the motive for the bloodshed that stained
the same soil that had given life to all of those who
fell in that battle.
the contradictions that result from the crossing of distinct
concrete interests, whether they are political or economic,
become more confused when the question of identity comes
into play. We have seen how the very firm assumption of
Irish nationality among one sector of that country did
not prevent it being more diffuse among another societal
group. And it was even possible for someone to feel a
very strong love for their native land but at the same
time not see any contradiction in belonging to the British
if it was possible for these contradictions to occur on
the same island of Ireland, it is not surprising that
they took place overseas. It should be taken into account
that as a consequence of the massive Irish emigration
to various parts of the planet, there were communities
of Irish people and their descendents in various places.
They conserved many characteristics particular to their
country of origin, such as the survival of their traditions
(folklore, sport, religious festivals, and so on), language,
and also the political ideals of the land that they left
behind. However, it should be clarified that as much as
the community of residents of the same origin were endogamous
and as strong as the ties that united the Irish immigrants
were, they were never homogenous groups. One could find
individuals from different social strata, diverse political
ideas and even markedly different identities.
the case of Irish immigration to Argentina (Sabato and
Korol, 1981), this took place mostly during the nineteenth
century, with a very high proportion associated with the
great famine in mid-century as a consequence of a crisis
in the production of potatoes. The counties that provided
the greatest number of migrants were Westmeath, Longford,
Wexford and also residents of large cities such as Dublin
or Cork. In the formation of the community of Irish-Argentines,
the traditional model of migratory chains was followed,
according to which an initial group of foreigners who
settle in one place inspire and facilitate the arrival
of new contingents of compatriots who tend to be relatives
or connected through friendship.
the period under study, the community of Irish people
in Argentina and their descendents formed a great family
of around 110,000 people. They were mostly settled in
rural areas (some 80,000), as the main attraction was
sheep-breeding as a consequence of the expansion of economic
activity associated with wool. According to the authors
mentioned above, the community went through a period of
consolidation between the mid-nineteenth century and 1870,
while the final quarter of the year saw the stabilisation
of the Irish as a group. Therefore, during the years of
the Irish independence struggle, the community in Argentina
had already been consolidated for a number of decades
and as a result it comprised people born in Ireland and
their descendents of the second and third generation.
It should also be highlighted that the group was no longer
so strongly associated with rural areas, as, even though
the bulk of the members lived in the countryside, a large
number had migrated to the cities and had dedicated themselves
to other tasks that were not related to sheep-breeding.
relation to the integration of the community into the
rest of Argentine society, it is clear that this was a
slow process. Initially the immigrants from the island
kept themselves practically isolated from native people
and only maintained the few links with Argentines that
were required for the wool industry. There were many differences
- starting obviously with that of language - in relation
to the customs and traditions of people from Ireland and
the local inhabitants. However, as the community began
to open up, they began to integrate with the rest of society.
Mobility towards the cities and exogamous marriages facilitated
this process. The Irish race made numerous contributions
to the receiving society, mainly related to the educational
we have seen that the Irish-Argentine community was formed
by migratory chains and as a consequence of this there
were strong links between its members, this does not mean
that it was of a homogenous character. Despite the fact
that they had numerous factors to suggest this, such as:
the same language, generally the same religion, the fact
that they shared identical traditions, in many cases coming
from the same part of Ireland, undertaking similar professions
and economic activity; it should also be pointed out that
we cannot speak of a harmonious whole.
of the most important factors to be highlighted as the
cause for differentiation is the question of identity.
As Edmundo Murray comments, the Irish arrived in Argentina
as British citizens and entered into a circuit that connected
Argentina to the United Kingdom as a nexus in the wool
trade (Murray 2004). Therefore this is the moment at which
it is most convenient to refer to the sectoral and even
individual level within the community. This is because
speaking of ‘the Irish’ can in many cases lead to ambiguity.
As we have observed, in Ireland itself, if national identity
was not completely defined and widespread, then in the
faraway Argentine Pampas it would be difficult to find
everything well-rooted. Although it is true that there
were a considerable number of immigrants with a strong
Irish national consciousness, there were people who had
been born in Ireland and had arrived in Argentina who
considered themselves to be, and felt, British. There
were others who simply kept a memory of a land that had
given birth to them but the vicissitudes of life
had distanced them from it and they started to feel like
Argentines. As Murray maintains, identities are not static
but in continuous flux.
as we have observed, diversity and sometimes ambiguity
in relation to identities lead to the necessity to talk
about individual histories, it would be very difficult
to reach general conclusions and one would be obliged
to undertake biographical work on each immigrant in order
to find out what was their true identity. Nevertheless,
people who think and feel the same way tend to unite and
form associations, to get together to celebrate and to
debate and may even publish their ideas in journals or
newsletters. As Hilda Sabato affirms, within the groups
of immigrants, a common feature during the last third
of the nineteenth century was to have media for spreading
their ideas. A large quantity of newspapers and periodical
publications of immigrant origin circulated in Argentina,
vocalising the thinking of every group and their political
ideas, whether these were about the country of origin
or the Argentine reality (Sabato 1998).
two most important newspapers of Irish origin published
in Argentina during the period under study were The
Southern Cross and The Standard. The first
of these was created in 1875 and became the loyal and
principal organ of the ideas of the Irish community. Its
first director was Patrick Dillon and one of his successors,
William Bulfin, was one of those charged with inculcating
an Irish nationalist sentiment in the Irish-Argentines.
During the period under study the director of the publication
was Gerald Foley and it was a weekly.
newspaper The Standard emerged in 1861. Its founder
was Michael Mulhall, and Michael Duggan collaborated in
the publication, an influential member of the Irish community.
For the period under study, the director of the publication
was John Mulhall. Because of this origin, the newspaper
was directed at all English-speaking readers, so that
the Irish did not consider it an organ of their community
and the attitude of the publication was pro-British.
ideology of each publication can be clearly understood
in the pages dedicated to the specific events that we
deal with in this article. If we begin with the Easter
Rising of 1916, we can observe that it was a historical
fact that for some authors contributed little to the struggle
for Irish independence (Fitzpatrick 1992), while it was
understood by the readers of the Southern Cross
as the defining milestone of Irish freedom. And in the
case of the Standard the rising was condemned
as undertaken by a group of fanatical ‘rebels’.
we will begin by relating some details about the Easter
Rising. From 1915, a rebellion was being organised by
a military council of the ‘Irish Republican Brotherhood’
movement, in order to break ties with the English government
and establish a republic, taking advantage of the fact
that Great Britain’s forces were concentrated on the Great
War. The group had the support of other organisations
such as the ‘Irish Citizen Army’ led by the socialist
James Connolly. The combined movement was presided over
by the writer Pádraic Pearse. The supply of weapons was
provided by Roger Casement, who obtained them from the
main enemy of the British at that moment, Germany. However,
the ship that was transporting them to Ireland was detained
by English forces. Casement was taken prisoner and months
later tried, sentenced and executed for high treason.
rising planned for Easter Sunday was postponed one day
and took place on 24 April 1916. The revolutionary group
occupied the General Post Office and other strategic locations
in the Irish capital. There was also a limited level of
support from the interior of the country - Wexford, Galway
and Cork. They then raised the tricolour flag, the symbol
of the republican group, and read a proclamation that
established the creation of a republic.
were a great number of victims including civilians, revolutionaries
and British people. In the beginning the rising did not
have the support of the population of Dublin, but as soon
as martial law was declared and there were executions
of the rebel group, popular sentiment was re-orientated
towards repudiation of English repression. On 29 April,
they surrendered unconditionally.
did the Irish-Argentines perceive this event? The pages
of the two newspapers provide us with different views.
In the case of the Southern Cross, there was
fervent support for the revolutionary group and very strong
criticism of the English government. For its part, the
Standard considered the ‘sinnfeiners’ (the newspaper
included in that movement the entire revolutionary group,
although they were much more heterogeneous) as a group
the Southern Cross, very detailed information
was provided to the members of the community, clarifying
in many cases the misinformation that the rest of the
press carried in respect of the events. Entire articles
were included in the publication from North American publications
which better evaded the censorship that the British government
imposed upon information channels. From the editorials
of the newspaper, there were criticisms of the local newspapers
such as La Prensa and La Nación, which,
due to their attitude and incorrect information filtered
by English censorship, provided erroneous information.
only did the editorials of the Southern Cross
contain commentary with support for the revolutionary
group, but also a large number of readers’ letters were
published from members of the community who declared themselves
in favour of the rebels. A clear example of these is the
short letter cited here:
from Argentina, men and women, Argentine born and Irish
born, let us show whom it may concern, that we are proud
of those brave men who gave up their lives for the old
motherland although they had little chance of success.
We are proud of them and of the cause for which they
have fought and died, and for which our forefathers
fought and died generation after generation. Ever yours.
P M. Kelly.’
telegrams were also published, such as the following,
to the noble Irish who have died fighting the enemies
and traitors of their race. J L Mackinson’ (1).
we have seen, the republican movement led by Pearse and
the group of men who gave their lives for Ireland were
supported and honoured from Argentina by the readers who
were members of the community. Nevertheless, and the respect
of the Southern Cross for freedom of the press
should be highlighted, it also published opinions opposed
to the ideology of the newspaper. Some members of the
community were opposed to the revolutionary movement and
wrote maintaining that the rebels were traitors who had
taken the city by force, interfering in the peace of the
residents of Dublin. This type of commentary was closer
to the first sentiment of the inhabitants of the Irish
capital. However, as we have seen, popular sentiment shifted
as a consequence of the severe British repression. In
Argentina in relation to that bloody episode, the Southern
‘A feeling of intense horror and indignation has been
produced in the Irish Argentine community by the vengeful
brutality of general Maxwell in dealing with the brave
insurgents who have proved that patriotism and heroism
are still alive in Ireland (…) we hold up our heads
with pride for the martyrs of 1916 have shed the luster
of new glory on their country and have vindicated their
way of expressing the support of a section of the Irish
community for the republican movement was the holding
of religious ceremonies in honour of the victims of the
Easter Rising. As Kee has pointed out, masses in honour
of those who had fallen in the struggle for independence
were a form of public political demonstration in support
of the republican ideals (Kee 1972: 587). In various locations
in Argentina where the Irish presence was very strong,
a great number of religious ceremonies were celebrated
for those who gave their lives for their nation.
the same way, also in the pages of the Southern Cross
there were lists of the people who cooperated economically
with the victims of the rising and their families. The
collection was organised by the newspaper. There were
many contributions by the members of the Irish community,
ranging from considerable sums to the minimum that could
be donated. Other forms of cooperation were through the
organisation of events (festivals, tea parties, hurling
matches) that were aimed at raising funds with the same
purpose. Also support for the movement was manifested
through poetry inspired by those who fought for Ireland
with the title of: ‘the dead who died for Ireland’.
public demonstration of the adhesion of a section of the
community to the republican movement was the appearance
of tricolour flags in the successive celebrations of Saint
Patrick’s Day or in the year 1920 in a demonstration on
the streets of Buenos Aires by the Irish-Argentines.
at the Standard the perception was the opposite.
Proof of this is the first news items that appeared about
the rising, which were interspersed with the majority
of articles that were aimed at informing people about
British participation in the First World War. On 25 April,
the newspaper published a brief note with the title ‘A
is great excitement here in irish circles. A cipher
message has been received in Wall street saying that
a revolution has broken out in Ireland, financed with
german and irish-american money (...)Our readers will
understand this to refer to the insignificant sinn fein
movement described in other cables’.
newspaper considered the sinnfeiners to be ‘the parasites
of the island’ and insisted that Ireland was like an orphan
that could not govern itself. On the support for Sinn
Féin, it wrote:
‘the loyalty of the irish nationalist volunteers proves
that the Sinn Fein organization (...) has no backing
in the country (...) It is therefore hoped that the
movement will be rapidly extinguished’
anger of the loyal Irish against the rebels is much
more marked than that of the English’
object of the National Council is the re-establishment
of the independence of Ireland’ and the newspaper stated
‘That the policy of the Sinn Fein Party was a decidedly
suicidal one and contrary to the best interests of Ireland,
it is self evident, as the masses of the people stood
aside and never sanctioned the insane object of the
reference to the repression and the executions the Standard
said: ‘rebels are being ground, general Maxwell has the
situation well controlled’ and on the execution of Casement:
‘Roger Casement, all must admit, has deserved death.’
these types of sentences the pro-British position of the
newspaper can be clearly perceived; in contrast to the
Southern Cross, it refused to publish articles
with opinions opposed to its own, such as a reader’s letter
entitled ‘Ireland’s Heroic Dead’, which was censored for
its nationalist content.
examples of the attitude of the Standard are
the readers’ letters that complain about the low level
of Irish participation in the World War. In the case of
the collections that were made by the newspaper’s initiative,
they were for the relatives of the British soldiers killed
in the European battle.
commentaries that allow us to perceive the support by
a section of the community for the Irish republican movement
make reference to the political struggle. In this case,
they were in relation to the general elections in December
1918 in which Sinn Féin obtained a very significant proportion
of the votes. The Southern Cross wrote:
‘We foretold the victory of Sinn Fein, but we frankly
admit that we did not anticipate such a sweeping triumph.
Seventy-three seats won by the great men (…) who are
defenders of liberty, democracy and the small nations.
They stand for civilization, for self-determination,
for the freedom of the world, especially, of course,
for the freedom of Ireland’.
of the events that caused great happiness and was received
with enthusiasm by the Irish community in Argentina was
the declaration of independence and the Proclamation of
the Republic. On this, the Southern Cross published:
‘January 21st, 1919 will be a memorable day in Irish
history. On that day the representatives of the vast
majority of the Irish people met in the Mansion House,
Dublin, and in exercise of their inalienable rights,
solemnly declared the independence of Ireland.’
1921, Laurence Ginnell arrived in Argentina as a representative
of the Republic of Ireland. The envoy of the Irish Government
had the objective of collecting funds to sustain the new
State and to finance the struggle against the British
forces. The funds that he succeeded in collecting did
not satisfy initial expectations.
the town of Venado Tuerto, after the Irish community of
that town had exclaimed: ‘Long live the envoy of Ireland,
long live Mrs. Ginnell, long live the republic of Ireland!’
(2), the diplomatic representative
addressed them with the following words:
your distance from Ireland, by England’s complete command
of all ocean cables, by her rigorous military censorship
and by her power over the press, even in this country,
you have been prevented from hearing how England trotted
our declaration of independence, and consequently prevented
you from strengthening the hands of your kindred in
the motherland, or even realizing how much they needed
(The Southern Cross, 12 May 1916)
the entire mission, in which he traversed numerous locations
where there were Irish communities, Ginnell stressed the
necessity to organise the community, to reinforce its
love for the nation that gave birth to them and to deepen
the knowledge of the community of what had occurred in
Ireland. Ginnell undertook this work together with Eamon
Bulfin, who had first been sent by the Government of Ireland
and had participated in the Easter Rebellion. With the
intention of organising the communities of Irish in Argentina,
the first Congress of the Irish Race in South America
in the Southern Cross this mission was followed
step by step, the Standard published one single
note entitled ‘A Curious Mission’:
Britain is still Argentina’s best client, as she is
Ireland’s best client. Argentina will not forfeit the
friendship of England by recognizing an Irish envoy,
although by doing so she will win the sympathy of a
these words the opposition of the newspaper to the creation
of an Irish Republic independent of Great Britain is clear.
There are no doubts about this when another article affirms:
‘The Irish republic is an illusion unreachable’. In the
first quote one can also observe what was one of the main
motives for that opposition. Argentina was one of the
most important trading partners of Great Britain, therefore
it was not convenient to lose British sympathy because
of support for the Irish cause.
newspaper’s disagreement with the republican movement
had its origin in the conception that that movement was
not popular in Ireland. The newspaper maintained:
‘But the extremists are not the people of Ireland, the
heart of Ireland recognized in the royal message something
with which it could sympathize’.
for the Standard the republican cause was not
just and the Anglo-Irish conflict was not seen as a war
for the independence of a nation, but rather as sedition
by a minority group that did not have the backing of the
very distinct, antagonistic views - how is this possible?
The only reason that explains this is the heterogeneity
of the Irish community. If on the same island where the
events were taking place there was no unanimity about
the republican cause, in Argentina it could not be expected
that there was total support for it. Although what Joyce
has Bloom say is true, that is that a nation is more than
the people who are born in the same territory and can
include people who are outside of it, this does not mean
that all those who are born in the same geographical unit
feel part of the same nation. As has been demonstrated
in this article, there was a group of Irish-Argentines
who had a very strong nationalist identity and who therefore
supported the cause of independence. However, at the same
time there were other people who originated from Ireland
and settled in Argentina who perhaps never had that ‘Irish’
identity or lost it due to their new identity. They were
indifferent as to what happened in Ireland or even saw
what was happening in a negative light as it could affect
“Honor a los nobles irlandeses
que acaban de morir combatiendo los enemigos y traidores
de su raza.”
“Viva el enviado de Irlanda, viva
la señora de Ginnell, viva la república de Irlanda”.
A Chronology of Irish History Since 1500 (Dublin:
Gill and Macmillan, 1989), pp.182-207.
Beckett, J.C., The Making of Modern Ireland, 1603-1923
(Dublin: Faber and Faber, 1981).
Connolly, S. J. (ed.), The Oxford Companion to Irish
History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Devoto, F., Historia de la inmigración en la Argentina
(Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2003).
Fitzpatrick, D., ‘Ireland Since 1870’ in: Foster, R. F.
(ed.), The Oxford History of Ireland (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1992).
Kearney, R., Migrations: The Irish at Home and Abroad
(Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1990).
Kee, R., The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism
(London: Penguin, 2000).
Lydon, J., The making of Ireland: From Ancient Times
to the Present (London: Routledge, 1998).
MacManus, S., The Story of the Irish Race (New
York: Devin Adair, 1990), ch. LXXI.
Murray, E., Devenir irlandés: Narrativas íntimas de
la emigración irlandesa a la Argentina 1844-1912
(Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 2004).
Sabato, H. La política en las calles (Buenos
Aires: Sudamericana, 1998).
Sabato, H. and J. C. Korol, Cómo fue la inmigración
Irlandesa en Argentina (Buenos Aires: Editorial Plus