Road to Independence tells the story of those in the Howth, Sutton, Baldoyle area of North County Dublin involved in Ireland’s road to Independence, from 1900 to the 1920s. It covers the Land League, the Irish Party, labour conflicts, the Gaelic League and local participants in the 1916 Rising, to the rise of Sinn Féin, and the great democratic movement for Independence that followed. It profiles the men and women who were actively involved in local Sinn Féin and subsequently, when the Republic had to be defended against the British attempt to destroy it, in Cumann na mBan and the IRA.
The book also tells the story of how the First Word War was experienced in the area, the participation of local people in it, the conflicting attitudes towards it and how that War changed everything “utterly”, revolutionizing Irish society.
Howth was a diverse place. It included a substantial Unionist community, which was as varied in its composition as it was in its reactions to these events. The book deals sympathetically with their story too, with their outstanding personalities and with the dilemmas they faced.
Road to Independence taps many previously unused sources in the national, military and other archives, as well as the contemporary press and, most importantly, builds on the memories and records retained by families with direct connections to that momentous history. Among these are the papers of Eamon Reid, the last commander of the IRA in Howth, of the women who built and led Howth Cumann na mBan, especially Maynie Lavery, Marcella Rickard and May Bowen, as well as records from old local unionist families, including the Gaisford St. Lawrences, Bellinghams, Jamesons and Greers. Fragmentary family memories, records and prison notebooks from many other people provided a rich additional source of material.
The book builds a powerful account of how those momentous years in Irish history were experienced by a local community.
Philip O’Connor lives with his family in Howth village. Born 1957 he has an MA in History and Politics from TCD and is currently researching a PhD at DCU on social partnership in the Haughey years. He has worked as a translator, in publishing, community services and employment policy at national and European levels.
The book was produced as a contribution to the centenary events organised by the Howth-Sutton-Baldoyle 1916 Commemoration Committee and with the financial support of Fingal County Council, The Oarhouse Restaurant (Doran's) of Howth and the Marine Hotel, Sutton.
by Eugene McEldowney, writer, novelist and Irish Times journalist:
"Philip O’Connor’s new book to celebrate the 1916 centenary, Road to Independence: Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle is a remarkable achievement. The author has unearthed a veritable treasure-trove of information, much of it new, and has skillfully aligned it with the wider national narrative to produce a highly readable history that is impossible to leave down.
"This is a story of ordinary men and women: fishermen, farm-labourers, small business people and their families, all welded together by their common love of their Irish culture and language and a determination to gain independence for their country. It is also the story of the remarkable women of Cumann na mBan, the early Gaelic League enthusiasts and the stalwarts of the GAA.
"The book is studded with the names of families that still resonate around the Howth-Baldoyle area: the Rickards and McLoughlins, the Bennetts, Bowens and Doyles, the Reids, Harfords and McKennas, the Moores and the Rorkes.
"It also contains the names of gentry families like the Gaisford St Lawrences, the Bellinghams and Jamesons, the prosperous Unionist families who initially opposed independence but later came to accept it.
"This is no dry academic treatise but a vibrant narrative that often reads like an adventure story. Nor is it confined to those who are interested only in local history. It will resonate with everyone who is interested in the birth of Irish nationhood. And it will hold particular appeal to those who have any connection with the Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle areas.
"The book contains numerous photographs from private collections, most of them never published before. It also has several appendices and footnotes for anyone who may seek further information about this proud story. Philip O’Connor is to be congratulated on the production on this ground-breaking book.
The book is dedicated to “all those people of Howth, Sutton and Baldoyle, who, when it mattered, were prepared to put their lives on the line for the achievement of Irish Independence. It is a salute to their memory.”