As Molly, Olivia, and I were treading across Dublin to appreciate some cute animals, we stumbled across a gorgeous park that was occupied by beautiful swans, birds pecking at left over crumbs, and kids running around. It was peaceful. We were clueless of the horrific event that took place in 1882.
On May 6th 1882, Frederick Cavendish, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, attended to business in the Dublin Castle, before taking the scenic route through the Phoenix Park on his way home. Just inside the park’s entrance, Cavendish was met by the permanent Undersecretary, Thomas Henry Burke. Joining Cavendish on his journey home, the two men were approached by seven men; three in front, two in the middle, and two behind. Passing through the first three, they approached the middle two. Using surgical knives, the two men stabbed Burke and Cavendish and killed the British officials. Afterwards, the killers left in their getaway cars on their way to downtown Dublin. While downtown, they left a card in all major newspapers identifying themselves as not the Incredibles, but the Invincibles. For the first time in Irish history, there would be a Sunday paper.
But you must be wondering, who were the Invincibles?
Well, the Invincibles were a militant group within the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who materialized in response to the restraint of the Land League tenant farmer movement. Consistently, there had been much poverty in Ireland. In the late nineteenth century, the poverty was mostly compromised of the tenant farming class. The tenant farmers had very little rent security against the landlord class. After bad harvests combined with losing business to cheaper imports from South America and New Zealand, many tenant farmers were unable to pay rent resulting in a growing number of evictions. With the Great Famine, less than a generation beforehand, tenant farmers were not willing to allow adversity strike again. Thus, the creation of the Irish National Invincibles, who aimed to gain fairer rights on farmers and their land.
As a means of defeating the agitated tenant farmers, the British government introduced a Coercion Act. The Coercion Act, approved by the Chief Secretary, William Forster, allowed for imprisonment without trial and the stoppage of Habeus Corpus. Thus, 900 Land League members were incarcerated, including their leader, Charles Stewart Parnell. They were all held in the Kilmainham Jail. This jail would play a large role in how the British punished radical nationalists for the next century.
Parnell was later released on May 2nd, 1882, under the terms of the Kilmainham Treaty. Whereby, he agreed to use his popularity to calm the violence in return for his freedom. Offended by Parnell’s release, Forster resigned in protest. Forster was to be replaced by Frederick Cavendish… and I guess you know what happens next.
Eventually, the murderers were arrested and later interrogated. A few of them underwent intense psychological manipulation resulting in them becoming informers. The rest went to trial which ended in their execution.
I had absolutely no idea the significance of Phoenix Park. I just thought we stumbled upon a hidden gem. There was no monument or plaque explaining what happened in 1882. I was surprised by that. The Land League tenant farmer movement, to me, was an important part of Irish history. Then again, I can see why they wouldn’t want to advertise two murders.
Learning about the murders, made me realize how much I miss. Everything around me could have a back story, but I never have the motivation or drive to do research. Simply googling one’s destination can enlighten the person’s experience. If I had known what the history of the park, I would’ve appreciated more than just its beauty.
Beauty can be more than the physical. Stories are just as beautiful as well as the emotional stimuli that one could experience.
Let’s be more conscious together,
Izzy, the explorer
The Invincibles and the Phoenix Park killings. (2013, May 06). Retrieved February 10, 2017,from http://www.theirishstory.com/2012/07/31/the-invincibles-and-the-phoenix-park-killings-2/#.WKDfQRKLSfQ