An Evolving University and Changing Ireland / Éabhlú na hOllscoile le Claochlú na Tíre

The 1918 General Election transformed Irish politics with the assertive nationalism of Sinn Féin eclipsing the constitutionalism of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Election winners Sinn Féin abstained from Westminster, as promised, and established a separate Irish parliament – Dáil Éireann – in January 1919, in defiance of the British government. Galway had returned four Sinn Féin deputies, three of whom had close links with the College. Dr Brian Cusack (1882–1973), a medical student from 1914, was elected for the Galway North constituency shortly after completing his medical degree. He later took the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War and was a founding member of Fianna Fáil in 1926. Frank Fahy (1879–1953), returned for Galway South, was a native of Kilconickny, Loughrea, who graduated from the College with a B.A., H.Dip. in Education and double diploma in Science. A Gaelic League activist, he became a schoolteacher and had served as an officer during the 1916 Rising under the command of Edward Daly at the Four Courts Garrison. An opponent of the Anglo-Irish treaty, Fahy was a founder member of the Fianna Fáil party and would later serve as Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the House) for nineteen years. Pádraic Ó Máille (1876–1946), the older brother of Professor of Irish, Tomás Ó Máille, was returned for the Connemara constituency which included Galway town. Their family home in Kilmilkin was an important base for the West Connemara Flying Column during the War of Independence. Ó Máille held the office of Leas-Cheann Comhairle (Deputy Speaker) of Dáil Éireann in 1922.

Nationalist consensus in politics was drastically undermined by the outbreak of World War One, setting in motion a chain of events which fundamentally shifted the boundaries of political legitimacy and expectation in Ireland. University College Galway was far from immune to these wider forces of change.

Liam Ó Briain (1888-1974), a scholar of Irish and of European languages, who had returned to Ireland from studies in Germany at the outbreak of the war, lost his job at University College Dublin following the 1916 Rising, during which he fought alongside the Citizen Army in St Stephen’s Green. He became Professor of Romance Languages at UCG in 1917 and went on to teach here for forty-two years. One of the most high-profile figures in Irish cultural life, Ó Briain was a founder member of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, the Irish-language theatre. His translations of plays and books from English, French, and Spanish into Irish included Molière’s Le Dépit amoureux as Grádh Cásmhar (1937). The French government made him a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur to mark his services to Franco-Irish relations in 1951, the same year that he published his memoir of the revolution, Cuimhní Cinn.

In late November 1920, a company of the 6th Dragoon Guards, stationed at nearby Earls Island (now the Irish Centre for Human Rights) entered the University Quadrangle headed by their regimental band and flag bearer. The soldiers rounded up eighty students and professors and forced them – at gunpoint – to sing ‘God Save the King’ while saluting the Union Jack. Three students refused to take off their hats and salute the flag telling their tormentors they would not salute ‘murderers.’ The three were seriously assaulted and taken into custody by the military. The incident had its roots in events during Armistice Day the previous week when it was believed that students had interrupted the traditional two minute silence for the fallen of the war with jeers and whistles, in protest at actions of the Crown Forces.

The Armistice Day incidents of 1920 highlighted the changed nature of the student body at the University and the gulf that emerged between the military and the citizens of Galway town. An assertively nationalist and Catholic cohort of students, determined to change the nature of the state was replacing a more socially privileged and politically moderate student body. World War One had divided contemporaries, deprived families of loved ones, and the War of Independence taking shape by 1919 prompted Galway to question its long standing tradition of service in the British military. The increasingly nationalist tone of student discourse in UCG was reflective of greater meritocracy in education and the professions benefiting Catholics amongst others. The College was in turn being reshaped from within by enthusiasm for the Irish language, expanding access to education, and a changing political and cultural climate among students and staff in a new Ireland.

Éabhlú na hOllscoile le Claochlú na Tíre

Rinne olltoghchán 1918 athrú ó bhun ar chúrsaí polaitíochta na tíre. Sháraigh náisiúnachas ceannasach Shinn Féin cur chuige polaitiúil Pháirtí Parlaiminteach na hÉireann.

Mar a gheall siad, níor fhreastail Sinn Féin, buaiteoirí an toghcháin, ar an bparlaimint i Westminster. Bhunaigh siad tionól faoi leith in Éirinn – Dáil Éireann – i mí Eanáir 1919, ar neamhchead do rialtas na Breataine. Bhí ceathrar teachta de chuid Shinn Féin ag Gaillimh anois agus ceangal láidir ag triúr díobh sin leis an gColáiste. Bhí an Dr Brian Cusack (1882-1973) ina mhac léinn leighis sa Choláiste ó 1914. Toghadh é do Ghaillimh Thuaidh go gairid i ndiaidh dó a chéim leighis a bhaint amach. Bhí sé in éadan an Chonartha sa Chogadh Cathartha agus bhí sé ar dhuine de bhunaitheoirí Fhianna Fáil i 1926. Toghadh Frank Fahy (1879–1953), i nGaillimh Theas. B’as Cill Chonaicne, Baile Locha Riach dó ó dhúchas. Bhain sé BA agus Ardteastas san Oideachas amach sa Choláiste mar aon le dioplóma dúbailte san Eolaíocht. Bhí sé gníomhach i gConradh na Gaeilge agus chuaigh sé leis an múinteoireacht. Bhí sé ina oifigeach sinsearach faoi cheannas Edward Daly i nGarastún na gCeithre Chúirt i rith Éirí Amach 1916. Chuaigh Fahy i gcoinne an Chonartha agus bhí baint aige le bunú Fhianna Fáil. Bhí sé ina Cheann Comhairle ar feadh naoi mbliana déag ar ball. Toghadh Pádraic Ó Máille (1876-1946) do cheantar Chonamara, baile na Gaillimhe san áireamh. Ba dheartháir mór é leis an Ollamh Tomás Ó Máille. Is ina dteach i mBéal Átha na mBreac a bhí bunáit thábhachtach ag Colún Reatha Chonamara Thiar i rith Chogadh na Saoirse. Ceapadh Ó Máille ina Leas-Cheann Comhairle ar Dháil Éireann i 1922.

Rinne an Chéad Chogadh Domhanda dochar mór don chomhaontú náisiúnach. Chuir sé tús le sraith imeachtaí a rinne athrú bunúsach ar thuiscintí ar dhlisteanacht pholaitiúil agus ar ionchais in Éirinn agus bhí tionchar, ar ndóigh, ag na hathruithe móra seo ar Choláiste na hOllscoile, Gaillimh.

Chaill Liam Ó Briain (1888-1974), réabhlóidí, scoláire Gaeilge agus scoláire teangacha Eorpacha, a phost i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath i ndiaidh an Éirí Amach 1916 nuair a throid sé leis an Arm Cathartha ar Fhaiche Stiabhna. Ceapadh é ina Ollamh le Teangacha Rómánsacha in COG i 1917 agus chaith sé ceathracha dó bliain ina dhiaidh sin ag teagasc anseo. Bhí Ó Briain ar dhuine de na daoine ba mhó le rá i gcúrsaí cultúrtha na hÉireann agus bhí sé ar dhuine de bhunaitheoirí Thaibhdhearc na Gaillimhe, an amharclann Ghaeilge. I measc aistriúcháin Uí Bhriain ar dhrámaí agus ar leabhair as Béarla, Fraincis agus Spáinnis go Gaeilge bhí Le Depit amoureux le Molière a d’aistrigh sé mar Grádh Cásmhar (1937). Cheap rialtas na Fraince é mar chevalier de la Légion d’honneur i 1951 mar gheall ar a sheirbhísí i dtreo dea-chaidreamh idir an Fhrainc agus Éire. Sa bhliain chéanna d’fhoilsigh sé a chuntas féin ar na blianta réabhlóideacha, Cuimhní Cinn.

I ndeireadh mhí na Samhna 1920, chuaigh complacht den 6ú Dragoon Guards, a bhí lonnaithe ar Oileán an Iarla in aice láimhe (Ionad na hÉireann do Chearta an Duine anois), an banna reisiminte agus iompróir na brataí chun tosaigh orthu, isteach i gCearnóg na hOllscoile. Bhailigh na saighdiúirí ochtó mac léinn agus a gcuid Ollúna le chéile agus chuir siad iallach orthu faoi bhéal gunnaí ‘God Save the King’ a chanadh agus cúirtéis a thaispeáint don bhratach. Dhiúltaigh triúr mac léinn a gcuid hataí a bhaint díobh agus cúirtéis a thabhairt don bhratach ag rá leis na saighdiúirí nach dtabharfaidís cúirtéis do na ‘dúnmharfóirí’. Ionsaíodh na mic léinn go dona agus ghabh an t-arm iad. Bhí baint ag an eachtra seo le Lá an Armstaid an tseachtain roimhe sin, nuair a dúradh gur chuir mic léinn isteach ar an dá nóiméad ciúnais dóibh siúd a maraíodh sa chogadh le scigmhagadh agus feadaíl, ag déanamh agóide i gcoinne Fhórsaí na Corónach i rith Chogadh na Saoirse.

Léirigh Lá an Armstaid an t-athrú a bhí tagtha ar mhic léinn na hOllscoile agus an deighilt a bhí tagtha idir an t-arm agus muintir na Gaillimhe. Bhí mic léinn náisiúnacha, Caitliceacha, meáite ar an stát a athrú, ag teacht in áit na mac léinn traidisiúnta a tháinig as cúlraí rachmasacha agus a bhí measartha ó thaobh na polaitíochta de. Chothaigh an Cogadh easaontas i measc seanchairde, fágadh teaghlaigh faoi bhrón agus i 1919 spreag géarú Chogadh na Saoirse muintir na Gaillimhe chun an tseirbhís a bhí siad a thabhairt d’arm na Breataine le fada a cheistiú. Bhí dioscúrsa na mac léinn i gColáiste na hOllscoile ag éirí níos náisiúnaí–léiriú ar an tuilleamhlathas a bhí ag teacht chun cinn san oideachas agus sna gairmeacha, rud a chuaigh chun tairbhe do Chaitlicigh, chomh maith le daoine eile. Bhí an Coláiste féin á athmhunlú ón taobh istigh tríd an díograis i leith na Gaeilge, trí chóras oideachais níos daonlathaí agus trí na hathruithe san atmasféar polaitiúil agus cultúrtha a bhí ag teacht chun cinn measc na mac léinn agus na foirne; bhí ré nua ag teacht in Éirinn.