Rebellion begins : Henry Joy

Henry Joy McCracken’s political activities alarmed the authorities and they concluded that he was one of the more dangerous of the United Irishmen conspirators.

A bid to arrest him in September 1796 failed as he was not at home but he was seized less than a month later.

Imprisoned in the harsh, cold and damp Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, he developed rheumatism. On the efforts of his cousin Henry Joy, a Dublin lawyer he was released on bail. He remained seriously ill for several weeks. 

In February 1798 McCracken and Robert Hunter, a wealthy Belfast ship-broker were appointed to the national executive of the United Irishmen. Where originally it had been a constitutional and peaceful body, it was moving ever closer to armed defiance. In May 1798 in Dublin the decision was taken to mount an armed rebellion. Like every Irish rebellion before and since, it was poorly organised.

Robert Simms, a wealthy papermill owner of Ballyclare, was appointed adjutant-general for Antrim, against his better judgment and desire. He had no military experience at all.

When rebellion broke out in Leinster on 23 May, Simms stalled. He did not wish to go ahead without the promised French aid: indeed, he doubted whether that would ever materialise. He didn’t even wish to call a meeting.

His hand was forced by Jemmy Hope, a working-class United Irishmen and early socialist.

… more later …

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