TG4 will broadcast ‘Cogadh Faoi Cheilt – the neglected story of the IRB’ Wednesday night at 21:30, a documentary that gives insight into the underground organisation that shaped the foundation of the Irish state.
Cogadh Faoi Cheilt - Scéal an IRB
The story of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) has been hugely overlooked in this period of commemoration. The focus on the drama and turbulence of the 1912-16 period is understandable, but without the work of the IRB in the previous decades it is arguable whether the events of that period would have happened at all, and it is impossible to understand partition, and its ongoing impact, without taking into consideration the role of the IRB in the 1918-24 period.
There was never a linear progression towards 1916 and the establishment of Northern Ireland in 1920, and the Irish Free State in 1922, and the reality of partition raises serious questions about the legacy of the IRB and its conspiratorial nature. Cogadh Faoi Cheilt offers a very new take on the division of Ireland, and outlines the tantalising possibility of what the IRB hoped to achieve – a secular unified republic with a clear division between religion and state – in contrast to the partitioned country that emerged post 1920.
Thanks to the IRB’s policy of entryism the origins of The Land League, the GAA, Sinn Féin, The Irish Volunteers and The Gaelic League are bound up in the story of this secret organisation. IRB initiatives in land reform, cultural revivalism, military strategy and popular political protest inspired characters as diverse as Lenin and Gandhi, and influenced the most progressive elements in Britain and the US – trade unions, Labour and left organisations and broadly democratic forces. IRB activities in Britain also led to the creation of the British Special Branch, the British secret service, prison reforms, unprecedented land reforms in Ireland and Scotland, it sundered the most powerful Empire in the world, and inspired countless revolutionaries across the globe.