Young Irelanders: Exiles in Paradise

The Young Irelander exiles in paradise

John MitchellOf the fifteen Young Irelanders transported to Van Diemen's Land between 1849 and 1850, four (Mitchel, Martin, O'Doherty and Dowling) were transported for treason–felony or seditious journalism; four others (O'Brien, Meagher, MacManus and O'Donohoe) were transported for an unsuccessful rebellion at Ballingarry in July 1848; and yet another seven were transported for their involvement in an attack on the Cappoquin Police Barracks in Waterford in July 1850. The Young Irelander exiles in Van Diemen's Land differed considerably in their character, class status and personal histories — ranging from semi-illiterate men to descendants of Irish kings — but their common quest for Irish freedom links them inextricably together.

Several of the exiles were leaders of great importance to the Young Ireland movement in Ireland and became internationally renowned. Some think Mitchel was the most famous. One historian claims that Mitchel was the 'most admired, complex and controversial Irishmen of the nineteenth century', while another sees him as 'Ireland's most popular hero' after the great Irish nationalist leader, Daniel O'Connell.1 Although the seven most famous Young Irelanders remained in Van Diemen's Land for only six years at most, their lives have bestowed a colourful and lasting legacy of adventure and romance upon Tasmanian history.

  1. S. Petrow, 'Island Prison: John Mitchel in Van Diemen's Land', The Australian Journal of Irish Studies, vol. 3, 2003, pp. 62-78, also see S.R. Knowlton, 'The Politics of John Mitchel: A Reappraisal', Éire-Ireland, vol. 22, no. 2, 1987, pp. 38-40.