Fianna Eireann was a success

Guest writer Padraig O'Deorain with his thoughts on Na Fianna Eireann.

Mol an oige agus tiocfaidh sí.
Praise the youth and they will blossom.

In terms of impact on the struggle for freedom, few organisations can claim a similar level of success as na Fianna Eireann. Since it's inception in 1909, volunteers in the Fianna have been involved in some of the most formative actions of key periods over the past century. The level of activity of the Fianna itself between 1909 and 1914, in fact, was one of the main factors behind the creation of the Irish Volunteers, and later on the Irish Republican Army.

For the most part, the Fianna Eireann was a success in its most basic aim. Volunteers learned about Irish history, Irish culture and were expected to learn their own language. They were given a level of self respect, but were also taught how to treat others properly through the Fianna code. Volunteers in the Fianna often led the line in the fight against the British. During the Easter Rising, they were brave enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the men of the ICA and the Volunteers, and the women of the cumann na mbhan. In 1919, the first RIC officer to be killed, arguably, in the War of Independence, died at the hands of a young Fian and his hurl. In 1969, Fian Gerard McCauley was murdered by Loyalists attempting to help his neighbours flee as Bombay street was burnt to the ground. Many more fianna have perished at the hands of the British State in Ireland.

Many of the exploits of the Fianna have passed into folklore. In 1914, the Fianna, using hand carts, managed to spirit away the guns landed at Howth, an incident now immortalised in Irish history. The bravery of the volunteers of the Fianna in 1916 will forever be remembered. During the war of Independence, two companies of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA were stood down and replaced with Fianna units, more active and better organised than the men of the IRA. On a few occasions too, the Fianna has been better armed than local IRA units, much to the chagrin of the local volunteers!

Na Fianna Eireann was the starting point for many men who went on to become leading IRA men. However, as part of the gradual wind down of the Armed Struggle in the late 80's, it was decided by the powers that were that the Fianna had served it's purpose. The leadership of the Fianna, as was their prerogative, decided otherwise, but the vast majority of the Fianna left to join Ogra Sinn Fein, the new political youth wing of SF at the time. But had na Fianna Eireann served it's purpose?

Today, we have seen a moral collapse in Irish society, especially within the youth section of our society. Drugs, often stigmatised and shunned by the community, have become something of a status symbol, or a fashionable accessory. Ever increasingly, any distinguishable Irish feature of our communities is being swallowed by the ever growing monster that is globalism, as our streets begin to resemble inner city London. The promise of a bright future made, brashly, in 1998, rings hollow as unemployment and listlessness leave Irish youth in a constant state of flux. Fortunately, we are fairly insulated here in Belfast, the city were the Fianna was born. In cities like Dublin and Limerick are suffering under the weight of this moral malaise . This is the failing of the Irish Republican movement.

We, as Irish Republicans, have the tools and the vehicles there to give back to the Irish youth a sense of purpose and a sense of pride. The ideals and rules that Fianna were given in their handbook taught not only Irish history, but also essential life skills that the state schools failed to provide them. There is a certain level of detachment from Irish identity existing within Irish youth today. Republicans need to address this and fast, because the next generation of Irish Republicans are to be found among them. So we must ask ourselves once more, has na Fianna Eireann served its purpose?

The old Irish proverb says it best. Mol an oige agus Tiocfiadh sí.


  1. Padraig,

    thanks for the piece.

    I guess it would be viewed through the prism of what type of morality it would protect. And the dangers of it becoming a moral crusade that would demonise youth culture seem self evident., It is said that Sean South would go around cinemas in Limerick breaking up courting couples in a bid to protect morality. If true, a Fianna should have been protecting cinema goers from him.

  2. Padraig.

    The sad fact is , the unruly and drug abusing youths of today is world wide. I have always maintained that our youth need something to look forward to, "RE-EDUCATED" , proper goals In further education , College , then , University, with the aim of getting employment. Fianna Eirean has been left on the rubbish dump by those who sought their on political agenda to work with and for a British Government to maintain the status quo , the 6c still under British/MI5 rule. You bring up some good points though.

    "There is a certain level of detachment from Irish identity existing within Irish youth today. Republicans need to address this and fast, because the next generation of Irish Republicans are to be found among them. So we must ask ourselves once more, has na Fianna Eireann served its purpose?".

    Most of The youth of today have nothing to look forward to, No work, no money., A minority just want to rob , hijack , joyride.
    They paint graffiti like, "Fuck the Pira" , they feel they have been left behind , and, some of them are children of some top PIRA volunteers, uncontrollable and think they cant be touched. But Some are on specialist Courses after a selection process test, college then University, they will be our future and they will keep the flame burning.


    I never heard that one about Sean South, I would think he didn't have a green book with him at that time , Probably a black book with the word "Holy Bible" on it , But, then again , Its the first time I have heard of it.

  3. That description of Sean South's activities was detailed in the excellent "Soldiers of Folly" by Barry Flynn.

    We have to remember though that the Church was an important influence on many a Republican in the 1940s and early 50s. As such Sean South was a child of his time although I have to admit not everyone was a member of the right-wing religious group "Maria Duce".

    He was involved in a number of activities which would be frowned upon now if Barry Flynn's book is as accurate as it appears.

  4. Simon,

    I enjoyed Soldiers of Folly. Reviewed it for Fortnight. The Church was indeed an influence on republicans, a bad influence. What sort of moral influences would be brought to bear on a new Fianna?

  5. AM- Moral influences on a new Fianna? I know I am a little predictable but the 1916 Proclamation has a lot of worthy points against greed and rapine and in favour of nourishment in every sense, to treat and care for people without bias.

    I would like to see a caring, selfless youth which looks upon all people with favour regardless of things they can't control like nationality, race, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion to some extent etc.

    I would like to see a benelovent youth.

    I would like to see a little pride in Republicanism and a change in mindsets towards a United Ireland with revolutionary change throughout society in a 32 county Republic.

    Less greed, criminality and abusiveness although this is found in all ages of society and in all parts of it and perhaps the youth is less affected by these negative behaviours than the older generations? Personally, I think so. (the big gangs of hoods are the exception to the rule).

    I think they should be steered away from any form of criminality but particularly those which cause great harm to others as well as themselves like drugs, brothels, people trafficking, laissez-faire capitalism etc. We need a wholesome Fianna, one which won't degenerate into chaos, nepotism and criminality when they get older.

    I am unfamiliar with any specifics of today's Fianna but perhaps they don't need much adjustment.

    I would adjust the Proclamation with a pro-environmental and sustainability clause and also I would change to "cherish the children of the planet" rather than nation as we are a smaller place today and even the most intelligent of documents sometimes need updating.

  6. Simon,

    we all would like mum and apple pie but when the pie gets divvied up we always find the bigger snouts pushing the smaller snouts aside.

    I think there is much to be said about the dangers that are to be found in the desire to impose perfection on society.

    The key point you raise lies in the issue of harm. How to avoid increasing that is worthy of further discussion. Moral crusades are not always the best way because they create the problem of the crusader becoming empowered.

  7. You're absolutely right- " Moral crusades are not always the best way" not only "because they create the problem of the crusader becoming empowered" but because many innocents inevitably fall victim to the cosh of the crusader. Maybe leading the way by showing the right example?

  8. It'sjust, painting Fcuk the PIRA etc on walls is nothing new. Just after the split in 1969 the provisionals painted the same type of 'slogans' towards the officials...Who is to say it's kids doing it. it could be members of ONH or some other PFR group voicing thier opinion.

    As for a drug culture. Personally I've a very different attitude towards drugs. I think cannabis should be legal (doesn't do anyone anymore harm than cigararettes <--nicotine is one of the most adictive drugs known to man and it's sold legally over the counter) . Take alochol (again a legally available drug sold over the counter) , how many men or women once they've had drink go on to abuse their partener or kids..because they consummed alochol? And if they didn't they are the 'greastest' person in the universe. Should alcohol be banned?

    It's not drugs per say that are making kids unruly. The biggest reason why there are so many kids on street coners is, up until 1997 (give or take) it was to dangerous to hang about street coners once the sun set. As everyone knows because of a complete failure of the GFA there is no where for them go once they spill out onto the streets.

    I agree whole hearted with re-educating but going to university for 3 yrs+, my jury is out. How many ex prisioners todays have degrees and didn't go to uni ? Richard 'beardy' Branson didn't go to uni, Wayne Rooney, Elvis Presley, Robert de Niro..... Helping people to develope their skills and potential (or learn new ones) is probably more beneficial in the long run. Not everyone is cut out or even likes school. Making sure everyone can read, write and do basic maths is a must.

  9. frankie- You say cannabis "doesn't do anyone anymore harm than cigararettes" but although not physically addictive, it is psychologically addictive, recent studies show it is more cancerous than tobacco and a consultant psychiatrist at the City Hospital told me one of the main reasons it is banned is because it carries a significant risk of psychosis.

    Psychosis from Cannabis

    Lung Cancer 20 times more likely with cannabis

    I know Cannabis isn't a gateway drug as many people claim but because of the reasons above I can understand why it's banned.

    I would favour decriminalisation of all drugs provided it is done with the necessary precaution. Education about the risks and pitfalls, heavy regulation and the drugs themselves would need to be supplied in the right manner.

    In Switzerland clean Heroin was available to addicts but in a clinical environment: a white, sterilized room. As people are more likely to take Heroin if it is clean, people stopped using the street version and because people preferred not to take it in a hospital environment people didn't take it at all so Heroin use plummeted.

    Legalise Heroin?

    The big danger with illegal drugs is the accompanying criminality.