“To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissections, and to substitute the common name of Irishman, in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter—these were my means.” ―Theobald Wolfe Tone
Theobald Wolfe Tone’s place in Irish history can scarcely be overstated as he is regarded as the father of modern Irish republicanism.
He was born in Dublin to a Protestant family and attended Trinity College, qualifying as a barrister at the age of 26, practicing in London. He soon turned his attention to Irish politics and wrote an essay attacking the ruling administration which became popular among the liberal ‘Whigs’ of the time. At the time the French Revolution had a profound effect on not just French but on world politics. Ireland was no exception with the ideals of that revolution fueling a desire for separation from English rule.
He was one of the founding fathers of the United Irishmen which with the aid of France attempted to gain independence for Ireland. On 12 October 1798, he was captured off the coast of Donegal in the French ship, Hoche, as it attempted to land French invasion forces. On 10 November, he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hanged. Before this sentence could be carried out, he attempted suicide by cutting his throat. He died a long lingering death 9 days later on 19 November.
The defeat of the United Irishmen signalled the end of Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland as the Act of Union of 1800 abolished the powerless parliament in College Green and moved all authority back to the parliament in London.
Wolfe Tone is commemorated annually at his graveside at Bodenstown, Co Kildare.
Photo: Grave of Wolfe Tone, Bodenstown, Co Kildare