Na Fianna Éireann and the Irish Revolution, 1909–23

Scouting for rebels

Author: Marnie Hay

This book provides a scholarly yet accessible account of the Irish nationalist youth organisation Na Fianna Éireann and its contribution to the Irish Revolution in the period 1909–23. Countess Constance Markievicz and Bulmer Hobson established Na Fianna Éireann, or the Irish National Boy Scouts, in Dublin in 1909 as an Irish nationalist antidote to Robert Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout movement founded in the previous year. The Fianna soon spread beyond the Irish capital, offering their mainly male membership a combination of military training, outdoor adventure and Irish cultural activities. Between their inception in 1909 and near decimation during the Irish Civil War of 1922–23, Na Fianna Éireann recruited, trained and nurtured a cadre of young nationalist activists who made an essential contribution to the struggle for Irish independence. This book situates the Fianna within the wider international context of uniformed youth groups that arose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a response to societal anxieties associated with the coming war in Europe. It compares and contrasts the Fianna to other Irish youth groups of the period and demonstrates how the Fianna served as a conduit for future members of adult paramilitary organisations, most notably the Irish Volunteers (later known as the Irish Republican Army).

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‘Ten years after Hay (Dublin City Univ.) revived the memory of a forgotten Irish Republican Brotherhood member in Bulmer Hobson and the Nationalist Movement in Twentieth-Century Ireland (2009), she is back with Na Fianna Éireann and the Irish Revolution, 1909–23. As in her previous work, Hay reveals the importance of the Irish National Boy Scouts, or Na Fianna Éireann, to the Irish Revolution in the years 1909–23. In a conversational tone that eschews academic jargon, this book is both insightful and thoroughly researched. An unusual and welcome feature are four appendixes that identify key pieces of information about Fianna members, such as their birth and death dates, who gave witness statements, and who received pensions. For scholars who are tasked with reviving the memories of marginalized figures from the past, as well as for family members who are seeking to piece together genealogies, the raw data organized in these handy tables is invaluable.
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