"Irish Rebellion Gains Momentum
into Revolution" by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present the third story from Jeff Provine's
excellent blog This
Day in Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this
post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
July 29th 1848,
on this day in the village of Ballingarry, police and military troops
clashed with "Young Irelanders", the nationalist forces led by a member of
parliament named William Smith O'Brien.
1848 was a year of revolt all around Europe. France's King Louis-Philippe
had fallen to the Second Republic, Germans overthrew many of their local
lords, and even the stalwart Austrians gained a constitution to balance
the power of an absolute monarch. In Ireland, times were especially hard.
The Potato Blight, beginning in 1845, had caused famine to last for years.
The British government did very little to aid them, and now was the time
for them to aid themselves.
Under the Union Act of 1800, Ireland had been joined with Britain into the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Since its passing by
Parliament, there had been men working against it in Ireland known as the
Repeal Association. The political movement remained marginal before
stepping up to fame as the Young Ireland movement in 1839. Along with new
powers granted to the Catholics in the 1832, the movement gained force all
over the country. A splinter group, the Irish Confederation, began the
push for all-out independence and a wholly Irish parliament.
"A larger rebellion is possible, if the French
jump, they almost did. The results of the defeat, are probably more
interesting" - reader's commentAfter the success of the French
revolution in February, the Irish began to make their moves. While leader
William Smith O'Brien hoped for a bloodless revolution, the government was
more fearful and suspended habeas corpus on July 22. O'Brien and his
followers decided to act to oppose this force of politics. Battles erupted
around County Tipperary, culminating on July 29 in the village of
O'Brien and other Young Irelanders had fortified The Commons and awaited
the approach of police and military troops. A group of 46 under
Sub-Inspector Trant had been spotted, and the rebels pursued them into a
two-story farmhouse where the police set up defense and took the family
hostage. O'Brien approached the house and explained to the police that if
they were to surrender their arms, they would be allowed to return home as
fellow Irishmen. After a long moment of thought, Trant surrendered.
A few hours later, a band of one hundred more police under Sub-Inspector
Cox appeared, being met by the surrendering police as well as a crowd of
hundreds of pike-wielding, jubilant rebels. In shock, these police
surrendered, too. All through the night, word spread of the victory, and
O'Brien worked to harangue his people to never give up the fight for
On July 30, the British army approached the fortified Young Irelanders.
The commanders were slow to assault such a massive, poorly armed but
publicly acclaimed band, but at last the battle ensued. Tactically, the
battle became a draw, and the army retreated for the night. O'Brien,
however, called the battle a great victory and spread word of the success
of the revolution in more-than-literal terms. All over Ireland through
August, revolts would begin, and the British landowners and Loyalists
would be chased from the island. On August 23, O'Brien and his followers
of men, women, and children would take Dublin and call for elections to an
Irish Parliament. O'Brien was named Prime Minister, a position he would
hold for fifteen years until his death in 1864.
"Flashman commented - You can't raise a rebellion
on rotten potatoes" - reader's commentIn September, while the Royal
Family retired to Balmoral in Scotland, Prince Albert would come to
Ireland with a massive force of British troops. He suggested an armistice,
to which O'Brien agreed, and the two would begin to mastermind a fair
treaty that would grant Ireland its own parliament, but still keep the
emerald isle as part of the British Empire. Seeing the forces willing to
fight to maintain conquest, O'Brien agreed. The Act of Irish Parliament
passed narrowly in 1849, with many Loyalists crying out against it. With
renewed Irish loyalty, however, the empire would blossom.
Loyalists and English would gradually leave Ireland while the Catholic
Irish stayed and worked to improve their country with O'Brien's reforms
over the rest of the nineteenth century. Industry, especially
manufacturing, grew with economic incentives from the Irish Parliament and
a workforce of millions (many scholars predict these men may have
emigrated to America). The Irish would be instrumental troops in World War
I as well as the counter-invasion of the Continent against Hitler's
soldiers in 1941, leading to the downfall of Germany in early 1944.
Moreover, the Irish Parliament would give Britain a model for treatment of
its colonies and creating productive home-rule. Fending off the Communist
incursions of the 1950s and '60s, the British Empire would continue to
dominate the world along with its ally and former colony, the United
States of America. With the fall of their competitor the Soviet Union in
1992, Britain would lead the world into its next millennium as an empire
upon which the sun would never set.
Ireland, meanwhile, would be a land of marginal success. Its industrial
heyday was long over, with crime and unemployment rampant, though the
1990s would cause a renewed surge of economics in technology as the
Silicon Isle of Europe.
says in reality, someone (thought to be a policeman, though it is not
known who) shot at O'Brien at the Ballingarry farmhouse. A gun battle would
begin lasting hours, which the vindictive rebels would win. When Cox and his
men appeared, the bloodthirsty rebels would spring upon them and slaughter
dozens despite their begs of mercy.
As the army arrived the next day, there seemed no more want of battle, and
the Irish would give up their weapons. O'Brien and other leaders would be
arrested and sentenced to hanging, drawing, and quartering as traitors.
Petitions with upwards of 80,000 signatures would appear against them, and
HM's government would commute the sentences to exile in Van Diemen''s Land
Ireland would not gain independence until 1927, still under the crown, and
its republic would not appear until 1949.
To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the
Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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