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Irish Republican Brotherhood

Irish Republican Brotherhood. Better known as the Fenian movement. A secret society, organized along cell lines, it became the long-term agency for the planning of Irish insurrections. It was behind the abortive uprising in Ireland in 1867 and the equally unsuccessful ‘invasions’ of Canada between 1867 and 1870. From the 1870s, its supreme council—consisting of Irish, British, and American-based representatives—claimed to be the existing government of the Irish Republic. Revived after 1910, it infiltrated the Volunteer movement and regarded the British involvement in the First World War as its great opportunity. Its military council planned the Easter Rising; many advanced nationalists blamed the IRB for the rising's failure and argued that its usefulness was over. Others, however, notably Michael Collins, continued to regard it as a crucial élite and the means by which to defeat British intelligence and secure arms contacts. Like all other nationalist institutions, the IRB divided over the Anglo-Irish treaty and did not survive the effects of the civil war.

Michael Hopkinson

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