Tuesday, 9 February 2016

9‭ ‬February‭ ‬1903:‭ ‬The death occurred of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy,‭ ‬journalist and Patriot,‭ ‬on this day.‭ ‬He was born in Monaghan in‭ ‬1816.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1836‭ ‬he joined the staff of the Dublin newspaper the‭ ‬Morning Register of which he afterwards became sub-editor.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1839,‭ ‬he was made editor of the newly established‭ ‬The Vindicator,‭ ‬and he went to Belfast where he remained until‭ ‬1842.‭ ‬That summer he returned to Dublin where along with John Blake Dillon and Thomas Davis he founded a newspaper called‭ ‬The Nation that was to revolutionise nationalist sentiment in Ireland.‭  ‬He was at first a supporter of O’Connell,‭ ‬and when O'Connell was prosecuted in‭ ‬1844,‭ ‬Duffy was with him in the dock and subsequently his fellow-prisoner in jail.

‭ ‬But he became disillusioned with the Liberator and his constitutional approach that eventually led nowhere.‭ ‬After his death he partook in the abortive Rising of‭ ‬1848.‭ ‬Despite many attempts by the British Government to convict him under the‭ ‬Treason Felony Act‭ ‬he managed to get himself acquitted at the fifth attempt and remained a thorn in their side.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1850‭ ‬he helped to found the Tenant League and two years later helped set up the Independent Irish Party,‭ ‬consisting of some‭ ‬40‭ ‬Irish MPs and of which he became the leader.‭ ‬The Party had a limited programme of Tenant and Ecclesiastical reform as practical first steps but internal divisions,‭ ‬the machinations of the British Government and the distrust of the Catholic Hierarchy led to disarray and defections.‭

By‭ ‬1856‭ ‬Duffy had had enough.‭ ‬He decided to emigrate to Australia and took his family with him.‭ ‬Here he again became active in politics.‭ ‬A sum of‭ ‬£5,000‭ ‬was raised by public subscription in Victoria and New South Wales to provide him with freehold qualification for the House of either State.‭ ‬He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Victoria for Villiers and Heytesbury.‭ ‬His first political action was to sponsor a bill to abolish the property qualification for Members‭; ‬as the only Member who had also been a Member of the House of Commons,‭ ‬he also became an arbiter of parliamentary procedure.‭ ‬He was distrusted by many of the older Protestant settlers but was very popular with the growing Catholic Irish in the State of Victoria.‭ ‬He was elected to the Legislative Assembly for the years‭ ‬1856-1864,‭ ‬1867-1874,‭ ‬and‭ ‬1876-1880.‭ ‬He was Knighted for his services in‭ ‬1873.‭ ‬He was Premier of the State of Victoria for a year,‭ ‬between‭ ‬19‭ ‬June‭ ‬1871‭ ‬and‭ ‬10‭ ‬June‭ ‬1872,‭ ‬at the head of a Ministry that combined free traders and protectionists.‭ ‬He was the Speaker for the years‭ ‬1877-1880‭ ‬but by this time he had become bored with the monotony of parliamentary affairs.

In‭ ‬1880‭ ‬he left Australia for Europe.‭ ‬He was now over‭ ‬60‭ ‬and had a guaranteed State pension that allowed him financial independence.‭ ‬He married for the third time and sired four more children.‭ ‬He kept up correspondence with his friends and colleagues in both Ireland and Australia after he settled in the south of France.‭ ‬He wrote extensively and published such works as‭ ‬Young Ireland:‭ ‬A Fragment of Irish History‭ (‬1880‭)‬,‭ ‬The League of North and South‭ (‬1886‭)‬,‭ ‬Thomas Davis:‭ ‬the Memoirs of a Patriot‭ (‬1892‭) ‬and‭ ‬My Life in Two Hemispheres‭ (‬1898‭)‬.‭ ‬One of his last political acts was to express support for the Boers in their struggle against the British Empire‭ – ‬a stance that shocked the British community in French Riviera city of Nice where he made his home.‭ ‬After his death his body was returned to Ireland and interred in Glasnevin Cemetery.


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