"Keep the young people in the country, otherwise any attempt at building up a nation will be useless"
(Kilnamona ILLA December, 1907)
The Irish Land and Labour Association was co-founded in 1894 by Daniel David Sheehan and J.J. O'Shee. The Association was founded to pursue tenant-farmer and labourer's grievances as a labour lobby within the nationalist movement. The association attempted to organise tenant farmers and agricultural labourers. It demanded houses for the people, work and wages for the people, land for the people and state pensions for the elderly .
The Kilnamona branch was established in 1907. Over 40 members subscribed their names at the inaugural meeting, and, seconded by Pat O'Keefe, Michael Hegarty proposed the following officers: .
|John Forde||Michael Cahir|
|Pat Hegarty D.C.||Thomas Hegarty|
|T Hayes||T Murphy|
|John Hegarty||Michael Keatinge|
|John O'Looney||Michael Cahir|
|John Flynn||Michael Talty|
|Proinsias Ua Laoi|
Much like the United Irish League, the Kilnamona branch of the Land and labour Association saw it as a major imperative that untenanted grasslands in Kilnamona be handed over to the Estates Commissioners and then be distributed to landless labourers and small farmers, so emigration and congestion could be avoided . These calls would be repeated over the next few years in most branch meetings.
The great demonstration of 1908 outside Kilnamona church was surely the most noteworthy action taken by the branch. Its objective was to call for the breaking up of local untenanted ranches. County M.P.s James Halpin and Willie Redmond were invited to speak at the event . Contingents headed by banners from Dysart, Inagh, Inch, Kilmaley and surrounding districts all attended. Kilnamona were represented by J Forde, J Keane, Michael Cahir Senior, Michael Cahir Junior, M Fitzgibbon, J Rynne, M Naughton, J Moloney, J Keane Senior, M Keating, J Hegarty, T Hayes, T Murphy, W Naughton, James Galvin, Thomas O'Brien, J Halloran, M Guerin, Tim Mescall, P Kerin, J Cullinan, J Meade, M O'Loughlin and J Moloney. Patrick O'Leary of the Kilnamona branch took the chair. He spoke about the need to break up the untenanted ranches, 500 acres of which existed in Kilnamona, so they could be divided up amongst the small farmers and labourers. He also spoke of the exodus of young people from the parish who were forced out of the country to "become slaves to the Mammon worshippers of the United States". Amongst other resolutions, James Killeen proposed and Pat Forde seconded the following:
Bishop Fogarty later sent a letter of thanks to the branch for this resolution . Another resolution argued that the land acts had failed, and called for "every evicted tenant since 1879 to be reinstated in his original holding, whether in the occupation of a grabber or not, or whether the landlord refuses to sell or not". James Halpin M.P. then spoke fondly about "the young men of the parish whom I have known to wield the camán in the gaelic fields of Clare so well; and who have not only won laurels for themselves but they have helped to win honours and fame for their native county". Halpin then went on to say that the days of the ranchers were numbered and urged the fight to continue. He then went on to thank the chairman, which Michael Leyden, County Councillor from Inagh seconded. This concluded the demonstration .
Divisions began to appear with the United Irish League in 1909. The strong opinion was that the U.I.L. had done "practically nothing" to advance the break up of the ranches and had only supported the uneconomic holders and not the landless labourers in the parish . Despite attempts at unity by amalgamating both organisations as one branch, the dispute was only resolved some years after.
Emigration continued to be a major bone of contention in 1910. M McDonnell had to resign as treasurer as he was leaving "to join his brother gaels in the great Republic of the West". The members expressed the hope that he would return from America soon to the hurling fields, being a noted inter-county player. Great indignation was expressed that one of Clare's best players was forced to leave the country while five hundred untenanted land existed in the vicinity .
The final reference I could find to the Kilnamona branch was in 1916 when anti conscription sentiment was growing, as losses mounted in the First World War. The branch called on the Ennis District Council to continue the present direct labour scheme and not force labourers into enlisting into the army and driving "the last remnant of the Dalcassian Clans from the heath of their own native Thomond .
It is clear that from this time on, the old national organisations affiliated to the Irish Party were beginning to fall away as a more robust nationalism began to take hold. The Irish Volunteers were set up in 1913 as a military organisation in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers. A split occurred as World War One started. The National Volunteers, led by John Redmond, supported the war effort, and retained the vast majority of volunteers, while the Irish Volunteers (retaining the original name) opposed the war. In Kilnamona, the Irish and National Volunteers jointly met under the presidency of Michael Hegarty. Two months previously, the Irish Volunteer corps had been set up with the resolution that "the volunteers of the parish resist conscription on the hillside of Kilnamona if needs be. Therefore it can be seen that they are neither cowards not shirkers, which statements can be substantiated if occasion requires". The corps of the neighbouring parishes were invited to meet for drilling and to participate in the "no conscription movement" . A Sinn Féin club was formed in 1917 .
For information on Kilnamona Volunteers during the War of Independence, the Clare County Library provides a wealth of information. The Keane of Kilnamona website provides a very detailed account of this time. An excellent website on the War of Independence in Clare has been created by noted author Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc.
|Kilnamona Volunteer: 50 years on|
|Kilnamona Volunteer: IRA medal|