“Any man who tells you that an act of armed resistance—even if offered by 10 men armed with stones—any man who tells you that such an act of resistance is premature, imprudent or dangerous— any and every such man should at once be spurned, spat at. For remark you this and recollect it, that somewhere, and somehow, and by somebody a beginning must be made, and that the first act of resistance is always and must be ever premature, imprudent and dangerous.” — James Fintan Lalor
A leading member of the Irish Confederation (Young Ireland), he was to play an active part in both the Rebellion in July 1848 and the attempted Rising in September of that same year. In 1847, Fintan Lalor began to publish a series of “stirring and controversial letters and articles to newspapers such as The Felon and The Nation.
In a letter in the Irish Felon titled “The First Step—The Felon Club,” which was published on 1 July, Lalor addressing the Government wrote “We hold the present existing government of this island and all existing rights of property in our soil, to be mere usurpation and tyranny, and to be null and void as of moral effect; and our purpose is to abolish them entirely, or lose our lives in the attempt. The right founded on conquest and affirmed by laws made by the conquerors themselves, we regard as no other than the right of the robber on a larger scale. We owe no obedience to laws enacted by another nation without our consent, nor respect to assumed rights of property which are starving and exterminating our people…” Outlining his intentions he wrote
“We have determined to set about creating, as speedily as possible, a military organisation, of which the Felons office shall be the centre and citadel. As a first step of proceeding, we are now founding a Club which, it is intended, shall consist of one, two or more persons from each parish throughout Ireland who are to be in immediate connection and correspondence with this office. . . . A prospectus and set of rules are in preparation, which we will publish when completed. But without waiting for such publication, we earnestly request every man in Ireland who desires to enrol himself as a colleague and comrade, and as a member of the Felon Club, will signify his wish by letter to the provisional secretary, Mr. Joseph Brenan, Felon office, 12 Trinity Street.
In his last article for the Irish Felon “Clearing Decks,” Lalor wrote —“Remember this—that somewhere and somehow, and by somebody, a beginning must be made. Who strikes the first blow for Ireland? Who draws first blood for Ireland? Who wins a wreath that will be green forever?”
Six days later Lalor was arrested under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and kept in prison for some months, after which he was released owing to the bad health which had been affected by his imprisonment.
Three months afterwards, on 27 December 1849, Lalor died in his 43rd year, as a result of an attack of bronchitis, and was buried in Glasnevin.
Lalor’s writings were to exert a seminal influence on later Irish leaders such as Michael Davitt, James Connolly, Pádraig Pearse, and Arthur Griffith.
Photo: James Fintan Lalor statue at Laois County Council in Portlaoise.