The Oireachtas Library & Research Service holds a collection of historical documents dating from the 16th century. In these exhibitions we highlight some of the fascinating items in our collection. Search our catalogue if you are looking for something specific, or if you would like to browse the entire collection.
Maps combine art, history and geography but also commercial interests and can take on agendas as well. The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World) by Abraham Ortelius was a sublime combination of these and was the first effort to bind together maps in a universal format with descriptive text, what we now know as an atlas. The name atlas is used for a collection of maps or charts usually bound together and derives from a custom which was initiated by cartographer Gerardus Mercator in the 16th century of using the figure of Atlas, shown holding a globe, as a frontispiece for books of maps. We are fortunate in having a map of Ireland from the 1592 edition of the Theatrum in our collection but we also have some later maps of interest
In the display case
The Oireachtas Library & Research Service exhibits selected treasures from the Oireachtas collection in a display case in Leinster House with a new selection each month.
This month we are showing a copy of a campaign speech delivered by Father Michael O’Flanagan at Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan on Sunday 26 May 1918. O’Flanagan was speaking in support of Arthur Griffith, the president of Sinn Féin, who was standing for election as an MP in the Cavan East by-election.
The speech was particularly demonstrative of the anti-conscription stance of Sinn Féin, a sentiment that set them apart from the faltering Irish Parliamentary Party and helped them sweep to victory in the general elections later that year.
“As a Nation, then, and only as a Nation, are we right in resisting conscription, and as a Nation we cannot have any parleying any longer with any foreign Parliament.”
Michael O’Flanagan was born in 1876 at Kilkeevan, Co. Roscommon. Brought up in a politically and culturally active household, he was ordained in 1900 and became a professor of Irish at Summerhill College in Co. Sligo. He was heavily involved in agricultural and land reform issues, as well as the growing nationalist movement of the time, joining the executive committees of the Gaelic League and Sinn Féin in the early 1910s. A renowned, passionate public speaker, he recited prayers at the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in 1915.
O’Flanagan with Padraig Pearse at the grave of O’Donovan Rossa / Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
In 1917 he became a vice-president of Sinn Féin and played an energetic role as a campaigner in elections, first in support of Count Plunkett in the North Roscommon by-election of 1917 and then in support of Arthur Griffith and other Sinn Féin members in 1918. He was suspended by the Bishop of Elphin shortly after giving his fiery speeches in Cavan, having been warned not to attend such political meetings after the North Roscommon election. He was, however, appointed chaplain of the First Dáil in January 1919.
Fr. O’Flanagan (standing on the far right hand side) with Dáil Members in April 1919
Though he was reinstated by the Bishop he remained very active on the Sinn Féin executive, particularly as political leaders went on the run during the War of Independence and he was made acting president. Uneasy about the level of violence occurring across the country, he unilaterally approached Lloyd George about potential peace talks in December 1920, an unpopular and unsuccessful move. He opposed the Treaty, but spent the years following the War of Independence fundraising for Sinn Féin in America and other countries. He was suspended again by the Bishop upon returning to Ireland. He fell out with Eamon de Valera over the suggestion that republicans might enter the Dáil if the oath of allegiance was abolished, a move that led to the setting up of the Fianna Fáil party.
A figure of complex and sometimes inconsistent views, Fr. O’Flanagan was a member of the establishment who often defied authority. He became president of Sinn Féin in 1933 but was expelled from the party in 1936 for taking part in a state radio re-enactment of the First Dáil. He supported the Italian invasion of Abyssinia but also the republican side of the Spanish Civil War. He was reinstated by the Bishop of Elphin in 1939 and acted as chaplain of two Dublin convents and a hospital for a number of years before dying on 7 August 1942.
Maume, P. (2009). O’Flanagan, Michael. In James McGuire, James Quinn (ed.), Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. (http://dib.cambridge.org/viewReadPage.do?articleId=a6756)
Laffan, M. (1999). The Resurrection of Ireland: the Sinn Féin Party, 1916-1923. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.