Republic of Connacht
|Provisional Government of the Province of Connacht
Rialtas Sealadach Chúige Connachta
|French Directory client state|
|Capital||Castlebar, County Mayo (de facto)|
|Historical era||Revolutionary Wars|
|-||Establishment||27 August 1798|
|-||Dissolution||8 September 1798|
|Today part of||Ireland|
The Irish Republic, more commonly referred to as the Republic of Connacht (sometimes spelt Connaught), was a short-lived French client republic established by the French Revolutionary Army and United Irishmen during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.12 It lasted for about 12 days, from 27 August to 8 September, and comprised the northern part of the province of Connacht in Ireland.
Below is an excerpt from the proclamation of General Jean Humbert, the French General who led the French and Irish armed forces in the short-lived Republic. The proclamation was made on 22 August 1798, the day the General first landed in County Mayo, Ireland:3
LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY, UNION –
After several unsuccessful attempts, behold at last Frenchmen arrived amongst you...
Brave Irishmen, our cause is common. Like you we hold as indefeasible the right of all nations to liberty. Like you we are persuaded that the peace of the world shall ever be troubled as long as the British ministry is suffered to make with impunity a traffic of the industry and blood of the people . . .
Union, Liberty, the Irish Republic! Such is our shout. Let us march. Our hearts are devoted to you; our glory is in your happiness.
The above decree refers to an Irish Republic, not a Republic of Connacht. Hence, strictly speaking, it appears to be incorrect to refer to any formal establishment of a Republic of Connacht. Instead, an Irish Republic had been proclaimed. On 31 August 1798, General Humbert proclaimed the establishment of a government for one of the provinces of the Irish Republic: Connacht. Humbert also chose John Moore as the President of the Government of the Province of Connacht. Nevertheless, as civil or political appointments were not made for any other province except Connacht, the Republic of Connacht is the name that has long been commonly used.4
General Humbert, who led the attack, was named Commander in Chief of the Army of Ireland. The Government was to reside in the de facto capital Castlebar. The Government was to be made up of 12 members. These were each to be appointed by the General-in-Chief of the French Army. The government met in an inn on the main street of the capital. The government was immediately given the task of organizing an army to support the efforts to free the rest of Ireland. The planned army was to contain eight regiments of 1200 men and four regiments of calvalry, each of 600 men (Total of 12,000 men).5 Officially, as a French client state, the republic was at war with many nations as part of the French Revolutionary Wars throughout its twelve-day history. Among these were the Holy Roman Empire, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Portugal.
There was little effective government, given the state's brief and troubled existence. Whether it was ever recognised even by France is unknown: the French also supported the United Irish, who aimed to establish an island-wide republic. Some of the main events in the short-lived Republic were the following:
- the Battle of Castlebar on 27 August 1798, in which the French and Irish forces defeated the British forces in the town of Castlebar
- the establishment of a Government of the Province of Connacht on 31 August 1798 with John Moore as its President
- the Battle of Ballinamuck on 8 September 1798, in which the French and Irish were effectively defeated and the French forces surrendered
- the Battle of Killala on 23 September 1798 when rebels, having made a last stand against General Trench and the British forces, were finally defeated
Although achieving a spectacular victory at Castlebar, the losses of the French and Irish were high. They lost approximately 150 men, mostly to the cannonade at the start of the battle. The British suffered over 350 casualties of which about 80 were killed, the rest either wounded or captured, including perhaps 150 who joined the rebels. Following the victory, thousands of volunteers flocked to join the French, who also sent a request to France for reinforcements.
Ultimately defeated by Cornwallis at the Battle of Ballinamuck, the republic ceased to exist and the Kingdom of Ireland was later absorbed into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.
Though seemingly little beyond an anecdotal episode in modern Irish and British history, it is remembered locally as a landmark event, where 1798 is often referred to as "The Year of the French".2
- Beiner, Guy, Remembering the Year of the French: Irish Folk History and Social Memory, University of Wisconsin Press (2007) ISBN 0-299-21824-4 p. 6
- "County Mayo: An Outline History; Part 3 – 1600 to 1800". Mayo Ireland.
- Diary of an expedition Humbert's army of Ireland 1798 1798 Ireland Website]
- Hogan, Patrick M., 'The Undoing of Citizen John Moore – President of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Connacht, 1798', JOURNAL OF THE COUNTY GALWAY ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY, VOL XXXVIII, 59–72.