The name Young Ireland was originally used in a disparaging way to describe the group of young Repeal Association members who were associated with The Nation newspaper. At the time, the Repeal Association was campaigning for the repeal of the Act of Union 1800 between the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. The term was first coined by the “English” press, and later used by leader Daniel O’Connell in a vindictive attack at Conciliation Hall, home of the Repeal Association.
Impatience among some Young Irelanders with O’Connell’s views had been evident for some time before the split occurred in 1846. Thomas Davis, The Nation’s editor, clashed with O’Connell in 1845, leaving the relationship between O’Connell and the Young Irelanders tenuous. The following year many Young Irelanders decided there were too many differences between the views of the Repeal Association and the Young Irelanders. Consequently, on 28 July 1846 the Young Irelanders seceded from the Repeal Association, formed the Irish Confederation, and held their first meeting on 13 January 1847.
William Smith O’Brien was prevailed upon to become the new association’s unofficial leader. In this capacity he claimed that the new organisation was ‘not founded in antagonism to the Repeal Association, but for the purpose of enabling those who found themselves unable to cooperate with the Repeal Association to aid in furthering the object which the Repeal Association professes to have in view.’ Although various issues were cited as part of the reason for the split, many historians agree that the major grievance was O’Connell’s commitment to nonviolent change. At the end of March 1848, O’Brien and Meagher travelled to Paris to ‘express the solidarity of the Irish people with the French Republic’ They returned with a tricolour Irish flag and O’Brien set himself ‘on a course which would end in rebellion and conviction for high treason’.