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Who are they? Background.
· Members of a secret revolutionary organisation - Fenians became
the umbrella term to cover all the groups associated with wanting
independence for Ireland. By the very nature of what they wanted,
their readiness to use violence to advance their casue had to
remain a secret.
· IRB Founder/Leader = James Stephens.
o Found the IRB with financial backing from America in March 1858.
o Stevens was a member of Young Ireland but fled to Paris in order to avoid punishment by the
authorities.
o Returned to Ireland in 1856.
· Fenian Brotherhood ­ O'Mahony
o Fled alongside Stephens to Paris, for he too was a member of Young Ireland and facing
punishment as a consequence.
o O'Mahony went to America in 1853 to try and gain support for another uprising from those who
has left Ireland during the Great Famine.
· It is argued that the Fenians would not have existed if the Great
Famine had not happened ­ is what encouraged the strong initial
rev-nat response (Young Ireland) which acted as a trigger.…read more

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Aim
· General aim: a commitment to the forceful overthrow of
British power and the establishment of an independent
Irish Republic.
· Aim of IRB = Independence of Ireland.
· Aim of Fenian Brotherhood = gain support for another
uprising via violence.…read more

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Methods
· Fair support in 1860s.
· Newspaper: The Irish People ­ founded by Stevens in 1863.
o Aim was to make as many people as possible aware of what the Fenians stood for.
o O'Mahony preferred the movement to develop in secrecy and so disagreed with this method:
would attract more attention from Brit govt based in Dublin.
· Thomas Kelley and other Fenians attempted to attack Chester
Castle for weapons and ammunition ­ unsuccessful; Kelly +1
arrested and taken to Manchester....
· Brotherhood planned an armed outbreak in 1867: fiasco because
authorities too good and support basis not large enough.
o Sep 1867: Manchester ­ successful rescue of two leading Fenians (Kelly being one) from a
prison van, but A POLICEMAN WAS KILLED.
o Dec 1867: London ­ terrorists blew up wall of Clerkenwell prison to secure release of Fenian
prisoners ­ loss of 12 innocents.
o REACTION OF HORROR AND OUTRAGE ­ LABELLED THE `MANCHESTER MARTYRS' IN
IRELAND ­ 3 EXECUTED FOR KILLING POLICEMAN. A WAVE OF ANTI-IRISH FEELING HIT
LONDON AND ELSEWHERE IN ENGLAND FOLLOWING THE DECEMBER EVENT.…read more

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Problems
· As the movement grew, the matter of organisation became
more difficult:
o This was made more difficult by the Irish-American geographical split.
o The two leaders also differed in their ideas of how the movement should have
developed (see previous ­ Newspaper).
· The Roman Catholic Church was generally unsupportive of
the Fenians:
o The local priests had great power and influence within a local community and so could
undermine whatever influence the Fenians tried to establish.
· Always faced the possibility of being infiltrated by British spies:
o An uprising in 1866 had been planned but it never went ahead because the
government knew about it.
o September 1866, the `Irish people' was shit down by the govt and Stephens was
arrested and sent to prison ­ he escaped and went to America.
o Money sent from America for Fenians was seized.
o Anyone suspected of being involved with Fenians was arrested.
o Brit govt also believed some British Army units in Ireland were sympathetic to Fenians
and were subsequently moved out of Ireland.…read more

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Importance
· Fenians' activities were partly responsible for spurring
Gladstone into his objective "to pacify Ireland".
· This led to the rise of Home Rule and its surrounding issues.
· Fenian movement became seemingly dormant for a number
of decades, though it still existed as a movement.
· The Irish Republican Brotherhood was the most famous of
Fenian movement.
· However, politics now took a role in Ireland's history. The
murders of Lord Cavendish and T Burke in Phoenix Park
(Dublin) showed the London govt that there were elements in
Ireland who worked outside of the political arena even while
Home Rule was being discussed.
o Said murder was carried out by a group who called itself "The Invincibles".
o Rev Nat not so effective at this point ­ mass decrease in mid 1870s, paving way for the
more successful constitutional nationalism.…read more

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