Newspaper clipping from April 26, 1923.
Newspaper clipping from April 26, 1923.

My Mission for the Republic

By Rev. Michael O'Flannagan.

I left Ireland in October, 1921, six weeks before the Free State Instrument was signed in London. There was a truce at the time between the Irish Republic and the British Imperial Government. Negotiations for peace were in progress. The five delegates of the Irish Republic, with Arthur Griffith at their head, were in London, conferring almost daily with Lloyd George and the other members of the British Delegation.

President de Valera conveyed to me the unanimous request of his Cabinet that I proceed to the United States of America to address public meetings on behalf of the Irish Republic.

One of the most important questions in dispute in London at the time was that of Irish citizenship. The Government of the Irish Republic claimed that I was a citizen of the Irish Republic, and I, of course, agreed with that claim. The British Imperial Government would have me willy-nilly for a British subject. From my own Government I procured a Republican passport. Inasmuch as the Irish Republic had not been formally recognized in America, it would be necessary, under international law, for the United States Government to treat me as a British subject. Therefore, my Government, through its liaison office, asked the British Government for a British passport for me. As an instance of how anxious the British Government were to accommodate us in minor matters at the time, I may mention that passport was brought to me in person at my hotel in Dublin by the Under-Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant, the head official of the entire British Governmental Establishment in Ireland.

President Cosgrave of the Irish Free State, was a member of the Irish Republican Cabinet that unanimously requested me to go to America. So were Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. Mr. Cosgrave had many opportunities of knowing at close range what kind of a man I was for over four years, at the time. I wonder why he now professes or should I say pretends to regard me as an utterly reliable person?

Before leaving Ireland I said to President de Valera: "You are asking me to go to America to speak upon an Irish Republican platform. I'm afraid that while I am in America Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith will pull that platform from under my feet." I said the same thing to Cathal Brugha, the most trusted friend I had in the Cabinet. Both of then assured me that there was no danger, because the delegates had no authority to sign anything without first submitting it to the Cabinet and getting its approval.

Five weeks after my arrival in America my fears were realized. Collins and Griffith not merely signed without the consent of the Cabinet, but supported and indeed urged on and finally, directed by the British Imperial Government, they split the Cabinet, the Dáil and the country in their mad effort to hack their way through to success.

I spent the whole of the year 1922 in the United States, addressing meetings organized by Irish Republican societies there. Towards the end of the year I was joined by Mr. J. J. O'Kelly and Mr. Joseph O'Doherty, both Republican members of Dáil Éireann. My original commission was still in force. While Arthur Griffith was president of the Irish Republic, from January till August, 1922, neither he nor any member of his Government ever sent me any communication or asked me in any way to desist from my activities. I was still doing the work which I was commissioned to do by the Cabinet of a united Dáil.

At the time of the general election last June it became clear to the English Cabinet and their supporters in Ireland that they were unable to establish the Free State Government by constitutional means. Then they started to establish a Mussolini Free State by force of arms. Michael Collins dropped the pretense that he was keeping the Irish Republic in existence until the vote of the people decided to abolish it. Within two months Arthur Griffith died and Collins was killed in a skirmish.

In February Mr. O'Kelly wired to me to join him in New York and when I arrived he showed me a letter from President de Valera, asking him to go to Australia and to invite me to accompany him.

We arrived in Sydney on March 13th, and proceeded at once to Melbourne. We addressed addressed public meetings in Victoria for a period of five weeks. Orange Lodges and kindred societies held meetings and passed resolutions, protesting against our presence in Australia and demanding that we be deported. Neither the State Government of Victoria nor the Commonwealth Government took any action. Mr. Bruce was reported in the public press as having said that we had violated no law of the Commonwealth.

On 20th April we arrived in Sydney. Next evening a small meeting of protest was held in the Town Hall. Inflammatory sectarian speeches were made against our mission. Both Mr. O'Kelly and myself were present for a time at the meeting. We did not imagine that any Government would take any notice of the ranting we heard there that night. For eight days we spoke to large audiences in Sydney.

On April 30th we were arrested by the New South Wales State authorities on a charge of sedition. Next day we were brought up before a police magistrate. Both sides agreed to a remand of a fortnight, and we were allowed bail.

A few days afterwards I was served with a notice to appear before a board appointed by the Minister for Home and Territories to the Commonwealth Government to show cause why I should not be deported.

A similar notice was served on Mr. O'Kelly in the State Police Court when he appeared there to answer bail.

When the State case for sedition was called the representatives of the Crown asked for a remand on the ground that the Commonwealth case was pending. Our counsel objected. A remand of three weeks was granted in spite of our objection. At the end of the three weeks we were met by another application from the Crown for a further remand on the same plea that the Commonwealth case was still pending. Again we objected. Again a remand of three weeks was granted in spite of our objection. Mr. O'Kelly was so filled with just indignation that he refused to give bail and went to gaol as a protest.

At the end of the third period of remand, eight weeks after our arrest on a charge of sedition, we were brought up for the fourth time in the police court. Again the Crown representatives asked for a further remand of a week. The magistrate at last grew ashamed and refused to grant it. After some dispute he granted a remand of two hours. The magistrate went through the empty formality of allowing us out on our own recognizances without bail.

Before we could leave the courthouse we were served with deportation orders and taken into custody on the authority of the Commonwealth by the very same policeman I who had arrested us eight weeks before by the authority of the State. The Deportation orders wore then a fortnight old.

At the end of the two hours we wore brought into court again for the final act in the carefully planned, but very unconvincing little play. Again the Crown pleaded for the week's remand. At the end of eight weeks the evidence was not ready.

It had been repeatedly stated that the evidence was to be the same before the court and before the board. It had already been rehearsed three weeks ago, and Messrs. Macfarlans, Manning and Stinson had recommended our deportation on the strength of it. The Minister had acted upon it. Our deportation orders were signed on June 12th, yet the Crown Solicitor pretended that he was not ready to produce it. Then the magistrate played his little part. He refused to grant the remand and dismissed the case.

There are only two possible explanations, neither of which is creditable, to the Government of New South Wales or to that of the Commonwealth. Either the State case by which we were put to the humiliation, trouble and cost of appearing four times in a police court was a deliberate pretense from the beginning, or else the evidence which was considered by three men of the type of Messrs. Macfarlane, Manning and Stinson good enough to deport us, was not considered, by the law office of the Crown good enough to produce at a preliminary hearing in a police court.

Meantime we were investigated before the Commonwealth deportation board. Here the principal evidence produced against us was a pamphlet, "Ireland Fights On - Why?" What was the nature and origin of this pamphlet? It was a compendium of a speech delivered by me in San Francisco in September, 1922, three months before the Bill constituting the Irish Free State was enacted into law. Apparently was I engaged in the task of overthrowing an established Government not merely before it was established, but oven before it was enacted. And I am to be punished for doing so by the friends and admirers of Sir Edward Carson, the famous author of hypothetical rebellion. The pamphlet was printed in Australia without my knowledge and before my arrival in this, country. Yet this pamphlet was admittedly the principal evidence, not merely against me, but against Mr. O'Kelly, who was in Ireland when the San Francisco speech was delivered.

The other evidence consisted of reports made by police shorthand writers of our speeches delivered in Sydney. It is notorious that such reports are liable to be full of errors. There were 118 typewritten foolscap pages of these reports. When I asked for two or three days to study these reports and to procure witnesses that would correct their misquotations a member of the board blurted out that two or three hours was the most I could to allowed. Finally they gave me a day.

The Crown could get remand after remand for eight weeks from a court of law to prepare a case against me. After eight weeks they were still unprepared and the case fell through. When I asked a mere board for two or three. days to prepare a reply to the same case I got one day. When I declared myself unable to go on, I was ordered to be deported, and here I am in gaol, while the Commonwealth is searching under difficulties for some shipping company that is willing to risk the odium of taking me away.

Mr. O'Kelly and I addressed over twenty public meetings in Victoria before we came to Sydney. We made ten speeches each in Queensland after the Federal Proceedings for deportation had commenced. We concluded our tour with two meetings in Newcastle three days before the final sittings of the board at which the evidence was first presented. We certainly spoke as strongly in favor of the Irish Republic in these places as we did in Sydney. They are all equally with Sydney within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government. Yet not a word spoken outside of Sydney was ever used against us or even referred to at the trial. Does not that prove that while we were apparently dealing with the Commonwealth Government, we were really dealing with a group in Sydney that is able to brow-beat the Commonwealth into action.

No better object lesson could be given to the Australian public of how makers and administrators of law bring themselves and their law into contempt. The Prime Minister of Australia in consultation with his law officers examines our speeches and decides that we have broken no law of the Commonwealth. The law authorities of the State of Victoria come to the same conclusion. Then we come to the State of New South Wales, where the people at the last election allowed themselves to be saddled with a gang of politicians returned on a wave of sectarian bigotry. As Mr. Ness has publicly boasted, he cracked the Orange whip, and Acting-Premier Oakes promptly came to heel.

The latter caused us to be arrested on a charge of breaking not a law of New South Wales, but, if you please, a law of the Commonwealth. We were charged with sedition. Our rooms were raided in the hope of getting some evidence against us. They got two diaries of mine, giving intimate details of my daily movements and even of my thoughts from January, 1922, till I left Victoria late in April, 1923. They could not find a single sentence in these diaries that they could produce. Yet they have out of pure spite held on illegally to these diaries down to the present moment.

Although they knew from the start that they had no case against us, they kept up the wicked farce of asking for remand after remand, until that pretense was worn threadbare, giving them a sorry exit from their difficulties by assuming righteous indignation, refusing to grant a further remand and dismissing the case. They needed no further remands. For in the meantime they had intimidated the weak and vacillating Commonwealth Premier to move a convenient made-to-order Commonwealth machine against us.

If these things be done in the green wood of British Imperialism in Australia, what must be done in the dry wood of British Imperialism in Ireland? Our Treatment here will do more to teach the Australian public the truth about Ireland than if we were permitted to talk unmolested for years. It was the excesses and enormities that grew out of the degradation of law to the position of a mere tool of sectarian animosity that finally roused the red blooded manhood of Ireland till they rose in their might and burned British court houses and British police barracks, and wiped is from the face of the land the pollution of British hypocrisy and British "law."

Let us hope that Australia will do by Peaceful means what Ireland at the cost of so much suffering was compelled to undertake by violence.

Michael O'Flanagan.

Fr. Michael's signature
Fr. O'Flanagan in New York at the beginning of his mission as a Republican envoy.
Image: still from Pathe film clip, 1921: Fr. O'Flanagan in New York at the beginning of his mission as a Republican envoy.

Irish Delegation

Editorial, 3rd. April, 1923. Sydney Morning Herald.

There seems to be something in the atmosphere of Ireland which distorts the perspective of a section of the people. Things are said and done there which would be simply incredible in any other part of the world. The most sordid and revolting crimes are committed, forsooth, in the sacred name of liberty; black treachery is invested with all the attributes of a crusade. Nowhere else, surely, would gunmen, dynamiters, incendiarists, and saboteurs, drawing their pay from their country's deadliest enemies, posture as martyrs and saviours of that country. Nowhere else would rebels against the duly-constituted Government of the land have the effrontery to despatch emissaries to sister dominions with the object of organising opinion against that Government. The calm Impertinence of the proceeding almost takes the breath away.

If during De Wet's short-lived rebellion in South Africa he had sent agents to Australia to conduct a campaign of propaganda against Botha and Britain indiscriminately we should have thought, to pur it very mildly, that they displayed but little tact, and we should have given them a decidedly cool reception. But the Republican "envoys" and the audiences who lend an attentive ear to their lucubrations in Melbourne are surprised and hurt at the storm of protest which their unwelcome activities have aroused.

These two gentlemen, one of whom, by the way, is a priest, have recently visited America in the interests of the Republicans. But there their appeals seem to have fallen rather flat. The Americans refused to become excited over the alleged grievances of the Republicans. Their attitude was that since Ireland has acquired the status of a dominion, a status that confers, in effect, all therights and privileges of independence without the corresponding burdens, she has no further ground for complaint.

Disappointed at the extremely lukewarm response of America, the delegates have come to Australia, hoping for better luck, and presumably remembering the unsuccessful efforts made by a local organisation during the war to send money to the Irish insurgents. That Dr. Mannix should take them under his wing was only to be expected.

In introducing them to a gathering in Melbourne on St. Patrick's Day, he said that their mission was one of peace and enlightenment. But the Doctor was speaking with his tongue in his cheek. How can their mission be one of peace when its aim is to stir up disaffection in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and to extend and perpetuate the discord which allicts Ireland? How can it be one of enlightenment when we are to be treated to a repetition of the same old calumnies and untruths which constitute Republican propaganda?

And what does this previous "enlightenment" contained in the public utterances utterances of Father O'Flannagan and Mr. O'Kelly amount to, after all? We were to hear the other side: What have we heard? We are told that at this time of day no one pays any regard to majorities. Certainly this is news to Australians, who are still old-fashioned enough to consider that the will of the majority should prevail. But the envoys are not even consistent in their undemocratic faith, because, next, we are told that if the Irish were permitted to give free expression to their desires tomorrow an overwhelming majority would vote for a republic. Even if this were so the anti-Republican minority would on the Republicans' own showing be justified in endeavouring to impose their policy on the majority by force of arms. But what warrant is there for the assertion? None.


Less than a year ago a general election was held in circumstances which favoured the Republicans. Yet the overwhelming majority supported the Treaty. Again, we are regaled with the familiar fiction that the Treaty was signed under duress. To this allegation the late Michael Collins has repeatedly given the lie direct. No pressure, he affirmed, was brought to bear upon the Irish plenipotentiaries. They acted upon the dictates of their conscience and judgment.

But while the most illuminating information in the "enlightenment" was Father O'Flannagan's statement that Britain had exempted the north-eastern counties from the Free State in order to use them as a base for a general attack upon Ireland. The speaker insults the intelligence of Australians if he really expects them to take this sort of thing seriously. We hardly need Mr. Cosgrave's warning to make us discount the envoys "revelations." We doubt whether for all their eloquence they will gain many converts in Australia; the cheers that greet their diatribes against Britain and the Free State Government come from the few who were already convinced.

Indeed, hitherto the principal, achievement of the mission has been to consolidate opinion against Irish Republicanism and all its works. Many who are compatriots of our visitors and co-religionists have come forward to repudiate their sentiments. They have insisted that the audiences who acclaimed the envoys do not represent the views of Irish-Australians as a whole. With Father O'Flannagan on the one side and on the other Cardinal. Logue, with the entire Irish hierarchy and nineteen out of twenty Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops of Australia, the choice was not difficult to make. Out of evil sometimes cometh good, and by eliciting such an emphatic declaration, the Republican delegation has served at least one useful purpose.

Republican envoys arrival at Liverpool St. Station.
Republican envoys arrival at Liverpool St. Station.

Irish Envoys - More Insults for the Board - Hearing Concluded

The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 9 June 1923

The hearing of evidence by the Federal Board of Inquiry calling on Father O'Flanagan and Mr. J. J. O'Kelly, the Irish envoys, to show cause why they should not be deported, was concluded yesterday. The chairman of the board announced that the board would report to the Minister.

Mr. O'Kelly was again absent, and Father O'Flanagan, after cailing one witness, Mr Clancy, refused to go into the box or to address the tribunal. When the Court assembled. Father O'Flanagan said that he would deal with the question of giving evidence on oath afterwards. When he applied for a remand, he received 202 pages of type-written documents, and had 24 hours to prepare his case, while the prosecution had six weeks. He was asked to rebut that evidence In 24 hours. He had to search around amongst thousands of people in order to correct mlsreports of his speeches.

Tho Chairman: You are making an address. If you wish to give evidence you can do so, and address the board afterwards.

Father O'Flanagan: I wish to urge the protest I made yesterday.

The Chaiimnn: Do you mean to suggest that you have not had an opportunity to consider the evidence?

Father O'Flanagan : I have not had an adequate opportunity.

Mr. H. B. Manning: If you have not, you never will have. You cannot mix evidence and address together.

Father O'Flanagan: I was accused yesterday of incivility to the boord when I said I presumed they wished to be fair. Am I to correct that now and say that they do not seem that it's necessary for even appearing fair?

The Chairman: Stop those insults.

Father O'Flanagan: People are very thin skinned about insults when they allow my colleague to be assalted when leaving this room, and refuse to give him protection.

Mr. H. B. Manning: You are posing as an Irish patriot, and you expect to be considered a gentleman.

Father O'Flanngan: Yes. And you are supposed to represent the executive of this country.

Mr. Manning: You may be given in charge if you don't behave yourself.

Father O'Flanngan: I am brought before a board which is so biassed that at least It will be clear to the public that they are not protecting the minister from the responsibility of dealing with this.

Mr. Manning: That's all nonsense; If you wish to give evldence give evidence.

Father O'Flanngan: I say that the board has already made up Its mind.

Mr. J. Stinson: What reason have you for saying that?

Father O'Flanagan: Mr. Stinson has not shown evidence of blas, but the other two have frequently. The chairman showed blas by refusing to give protection to Mr. O'Kelly

Mr. Manning: You are not going to take charge of the proceedings. You obey the procedure of this board or take the consequonoes. Will you go on with your case or sit down?

The Chairman: You show no respect for this tribunal, and less for the cloth you wear. Are you going to proceed with your case?

Father O'Flanagan: I am protesting against going on without a reasonable opportunity of preparing my case.

The Chairman: Whnt do you wish to do? The bonrd will give no further adjournment.

Father O'Flanagan: Are you determined to compel me to treat this board with contempt? '

Tho Chairman: You havo done that right through.

Father O'Flanagan: Slnce I got this document I have only had 24 hours. !

Mr. Manning: You have had weeks. You knew what you and your collengue said. Nothing has been done by you except treat this board with contempt. Wa passed over that, as is the the duty of the board to discharge its duty according to law. Now you ask for an adjournment. It's no use wasting further time in saying, what you think or don't think.

Father O'Flanagan: I am prepared to tender a protest, and to adduce the evidence of on witness. I could secure dozens of witnesses to show that the reports of the speeches are distorted.

Mr. Stinson:' Your criticism and cross-examinatlon indicate that you find fault with verbal inaccuracies. It has been stated that you carme to collect funds for arms for Ireland. Do you dispute that?

Father O'Flanagan: I do. One witness attempted to adduce that, but he broke down in evldence. On the contrary, Mr. Clancy appealed for funds to relieve distress in Ireland

The Chairman: What do you propose to do?

Father O'Flanagan: As no evidence has been produced to prove this allegation the duty of the board is to make no order as to my deportation. I admit I carne to Australia to put before the people the state of things in Ireland, not an unlawful object. The second statement was that we came to get funds to carry on civil war In Ireland. I am prepared to prove I didn't come with any such object, but to do that requires more than one wltness. I would ask you to recommend that we be not deported on the ground that the case has not been proved.

The Chairman: Do you wish to give evidence?

Father O'Flanaghan: I submit there is no case to answer. Had not we better deal with that first?

Mr. Manning: Do you ask for a decision about that?

The Chairman: The board holds that there is a case to answer.

Father O'Flanagan: Then I call Mr. Clancy as a witness.

John Leo Francis Clancy, salesman, of Petersham, stated, In reply to Father O'Flanagan, that he was present, under instructions from the Irish Envoys' Reception Committee, at a meeting at Marrickville on April 24. Passing trams, and rain on the roof occasionally made the hearing of speeches difflcult. He was Instructed to appeal for funds for the relief of the dependents of those fighting in Ireland, not for funds to help the men who were fighting. The report of his speech tenrdered as evidence was accurate Funds were received, and handed to the chairman. He did not discuss the matter of funds with the envoys. At the Paddington Town Hall on April 25 he saw O'Flanagan receive two £50 notes, sent with a note inscribed "From a lover of Ireland." Witness said that he knew of the King and Empire Alliance, an organisation for the inculcation of loyalty amongst the people of Australia, and the concurrent suppression of disloyalty. People known to be connected with the alliance would be, prejudiced against anybody advocating republican doctrines. He could not say whether the Mr. John Stinson, who at the last annual meeting of the alliance was made a counsellor, was identical with Mr. Stinson, a member of the board.

Mr. Manning: Mr. Lamb, the object of this board is to inqure into certain specific chnrges. To Father O'Flanagan (who Interrupted): Will you keep quiet?

Father O'Flanagan: I've as much right here as you have.

Mr. Manning: If you don't know how to behave, well, people can only sympathise with you. ,

Cross-examined by Mr. Lamb, the witness (Clancy) said that he considered that as an Australian he had alleglance to the King. He objected to a question relative to his attachment to Ireland, which, he said, would prejudice him in another place. He knew of the existence of a state of war In Ireland, He did not dispute that Father O'Flanagan advocated the overthrow of the Irish Free State. In his opinion the only lawful Government (in the International sense) existing in Ireland at present was the government of the republic. Father O'Flanngan made reference to Michael Collins being shot by Irish republicans.

Mr. Lamb was putting further questions, when Fathor O'Flanagan objected; but the chairman overruled tho objection.

Witness admitted that he had heard Father O'Flanagan suggest that It was a proper thing to use force to defend the Irish Republic if attacked. Father O'Flanngan, when advocating the overthrow of the Free State, said they had plenty of men in Irelnnd, but what they wanted was something to fight with.

Father O'Flanagan: I haven't been able to make arrangements to get any other witnesses. I don't want to give evidence myself at present.

The Chairman: Do you wish to address the board?

Father O'Flanngan: I didn't Imagine I was going to be treated in such a cavalier fashion. I iniagined that the board would keep up the appearance of wishing to be fair by giving more time for the preparation of the case. I put Mr. Clancy In the box because he was the only witness I was able to meet. I am unable to go further Just at present.

The Chairman: Do you wish to say nothing further?

Father O'Flanagan: No, sir.

Mr Lamb, having addressed the board, said that he would like to say that the O'Kelly referred to in one of the documents did not appear to be the same as the J. J. O'Kelly before the board.

The Chairman: That closes the proceedings. We will furnish the report to the Minister.

  • The Irish Envoys by Mark Finnane.
  • In March 1923, two representatives of the Irish republican movement arrived in Australia. They had travelled from the United States, and they were on British passports which had been issued in 1921. The Irish Envoys as they became known were Father Michael O’Flanagan and John Joseph O’Kelly. These were not men in the front rank of Irish republicans but neither were they far from the top.

    O’Flanagan was a former Vice-President of Sinn Fein, the republican nationalist political movement which drove one part of Ireland towards its break from the United Kingdom. When part of the republican movement refused to accept the legitimacy of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, O’Flanagan followed Eamonn de Valera into opposition to the Free State in Dublin. O’Kelly had been a key player in election organising for the Sinn Fein electoral triumphs of 1917-18 and a minister in the first republican government of 1919-20. He, too, sided with the republican opposition to the Free State in 1922-3.

    By the time O’Flanagan and O’Kelly arrived in Australia to raise funds and support for the Irish republicans battling the Free State, Ireland had been in a state of civil war for 9 months. The men were sent to Australia by De Valera who was attempting to limit the internal feuding between republican factions in the United States.

    Irish-Australia was never going to provide a captive audience. In spite of some predictable support from Melbourne’s radical nationalist Archishop Daniel Mannix, Irish Catholic opinion was probably more in sympathy with the public declaration of the parish priest of Sandringham: 'if Father O’Flanagan and Mr O’Kelly, or if Lenin and Trotsky or any other revolutionaries cared to hold a public meeting in Sandringham, this had no connection with Catholicity'.

    The message of the Envoys might have been ignored by the daily press but for the opposition from conservative and Protestant groups. They were stirred by O’Flanagan’s anti-British diatribes into protests to State and Commonwealth governments. The incendiary presence of two Irish republicans preaching their anti-British message generally was not welcome – and was a potential cause of considerable domestic conflict, political and sectarian.

    Late in April, the NSW premier, head of a conservative government with strong links to Protestant associations, urged the prime minister to take action against the Envoys after they arrived in Sydney. One option was a prosecution for sedition under the Commonwealth Crimes Act. The other was action under the Immigration Act to remove persons considered undesirable for a variety of possible reasons.

    After the Envoys unwisely agreed to hold a meeting at the Communist Party hall in the city, the prospect of police intervention increased. On 30 April 1923, six weeks after their arrival in Australia from America, the two men were arrested by NSW police at another meeting in suburban Waverley. They were charged with sedition, specifically with ‘inciting disaffection’ against the government of Ireland.

    At this point the Commonwealth government might have awaited the outcome of the criminal charge. But the British government already had made it clear that the passports on which the two men were travelling had been issued during the period between the truce of July 1921 and the transfer of power to the Free State: 'Since the establishment of the Irish Free State with Dominion status every precaution has been observed … in co-operation with Government of Irish Free State to ensure that movements of persons actively hostile to latter should not go unwatched’.

    Without waiting for the sedition charge to be heard, the Commonwealth now initiated Immigration Act proceedings against the Envoys. This proved to be no simple matter, for there was uncertainty over the composition of the personnel and the powers of a Board to hear the case against the Envoys (i.e. that they were ‘persons advocating the violent overthrow of the government of Ireland’). After those matters were resolved, the Board heard the case and made a recommendation to the minister for the deportation of the two men.

    The deportation order duly followed. But enforcement was protracted. While the Envoys were detained in Long Bay Penitentiary, they also authorised an appeal against the order. In an important judgment, the High Court determined that the Commonwealth’s immigration powers were sovereign and in a matter like this unappealable.

    The treatment of the men was never oppressive. In spite of the High Court confirmation of the Commonwealth’s power, the Envoys were given the option of departing voluntarily. Over some weeks government legal officers negotiated agreement that enabled the men to be freed pending their departure. When the agreement faltered, the government then arranged their deportation on a merchant ship, memorably called the Mongolia. The last episode in this lengthy exercise in response to a low-level security threat was the necessity of licensing the ship as one entitled to engage in the coastal shipping trade!

    The Irish Envoys case is little remembered outside the realm of legal experts. The proceedings, however, were an important demonstration of the interlocking of security and immigration regimes in Australia. The Envoys themselves proved disingenuous in their mission – shifting from open advocacy of forcible resistance to a government newly established after a protracted period of warfare, to insisting that they were only raising funds for the civilian victims of continuing hostilities in Ireland. There was no evidence that O’Flanagan or O’Kelly themselves were directly involved in violent activities. They scarcely constituted a major security threat to Australia. But their presence in Australia highlighted the double dimension of security concern when political violence in the lands of Australia’s diverse groups of settlers threatened to spill over into Australian domestic politics. Their deportation was consistent with an important theme in Australian history – the damping of political enthusiasms for the sake of domestic harmony.



    Sydney, April 30.

    The Irish Republican envoys - Father O'Flanagan and S. O'Kelly - were arrested in sensational circumstances in front of a large crowd which Father O'Flanagan was about to address at Waverley to-night. A third man - Mr. J. L. F. Clancy - stated to be collector for the envoys, also was arrested.

    The men were conveyed to the Darlinghurst police station, where they were charged, in the following terms:-

    "That on the 22nd day of April and divers other days, in Sydney, John Leo Francis Clancy (23), a salesman, Sean O'Cealleagh (51), a journalist, Michael O'Flanagan (46), a clergyman, did unlawfully engage in a seditious enterprise, that is to say, an enterprise undertaken in order to carry out the seditious intention of inciting disaffection against the Government of that part of the King's dominions called Ireland, contrary to the Commonwealth statute made."

    The men were remanded to appear at the Central Police Court to-morrow morning, and bail was allowed in each case in a personal bond of £200 and one surety of £100.


    The decision to take immediate action against the Irish envoys, should they pursue their campaign, was arrived at by the Government earlier in the day. The Acting Premier (Mr. Charles Oakes) hd a long interview with the Attorney-General (Mr. Bavin), the Solicitor-General (Mr. Weigall), and the Inspector-General of Police (Mr. Mitchell), and at its conclusion announced that it had been, decided to see that the law was enforced, and that steps towards that end had been taken. The Inspector-General of Police was given instructions to prevent the envoys from addressing the meeting, which had boen announced to be held at Waverley to-night. Mr. Mitchell was authorised to take whatever steps were necessary to that end, even to the extent of arresting the envoys.


    A placard on the notice board of St. Charles's Hall, Carrington, Waverley, where the Irish envoys were to have spoken, announced that "the meeting to be held here to-night has been cancelled." By half-past 8 o'clock, at least 1000 persons were waiting in the street, and on the footpath. At last Father O'Flanagan and Mr. O'Kelly appeared in a car, which drew up before the residence of Mr. Patrick Kearins opposite St Charles's Hall. The crowd surged around the envoys and cheered them frantically. They entered the house, and a few moments later the Irish flag was thrown across the hedge, before Mr. Kerin's house. A table was placed behind the hedge, and on it Father O'Reilly mounted.

    When the cheers had died down some what, Father O'Reilly said: "You are going to hear the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Ireland. I shall say no more, but present to you the Rev. Father O'Flanagan." As he stepped down, and as Father O'Flanagan's head appeared above the hedge, more cheers burst forth. Following his usual custom he spoke a few moments in Gaelic. He had just uttered in English the words: "Friends and lovers of freedom," when a detective leapt on to the table, placed his hand on Father O'Flanagnn's shoulder, and said: "Step down, please. Consider yourself under arrest." Without demur, Father O'Flanagan stepped down, the crowd "booing" vigorously. He pressed towards the gate, but it was slammed to, and a number of detectives stood on guard.


    For half an hour the crowd sang Republican songs, and howled at the police. Then a motor car full of police pulled up, and, joining hands with the officers already on duty, forced a passage to the gate, and formed a pathway to the en voy's motor car. Evidently this was the signal for the officers in the house to bring out the prisners, for almost simultaneously with the arr¡val of the second batch of police Father O'Flanagan, escorted by two detectives, came through the gateway. Hats were waved, and men and women struggled to bleak through the lines of police, while cries of "Sinn Féin go bragh," "Three cheers for the envoys,'' and "Hurrah for the Republic" rang out.

    The crowd, which had grown to 2000 or 3000, refused to disperse, although the police good humouredly moved amongst them suggesting that they should go home. Groups, chiefly consisting of young men, sang more Republican songs, interspersed by hoots for the police. Seen immediately after the arrest of the envoys, Mr. Kearins, the owner of the residence from whose lawn Father O'Flanagan attempted to speak, said, in reply wo questions: "Certainly I gave the envoys permission to speak. I thought it only right to do so when the hall was closed."


    A largo crowd followed the cars containing the police and the arrested men from Waverly to Darlinghurst, where they assembled in front of the Police Station doors. While the charges were being prepared against tho arrested men inside the station the hood of their car was covered with the Republican flag, to the accompaniment of loud cheering and hand-clapping.

    Nearly three hours elapsed before the arrested men left the station, and during that time the numbers gathered outside had so increased that traffic along Forbes Street was held up. As the Irish delegates departed they were cheered by their supporters, who had waited oame distance from the station in Taylor Square.

    Newspaper clipping, 1 April 1923.
    Newspaper clipping, 1 April 1923.