Crowdfunding the Revolution

A new publication by Patrick O’Sullivan Greene, from Eastwood Books, offers a fascinating account of Michael Collin’s entrepreneurial approach to building the new Irish State.

Featured below is a short extract.

The book is available to buy *here*

Extract from Crowdfunding the Revolution:

Terence MacSwiney: Forgotten role in the success of the First Dáil Loan

‘I am of the opinion the prompt response in mid-Cork was the greatest factor in making the Loan a success,’ Michael Collins wrote to Terence MacSwiney in July 1920. Three weeks earlier, MacSwiney had seconded the motion moved by Collins in the Dáil to close the Loan campaign. Over £370,000 (€22 million today) was raised in Ireland, almost 50% above the target.

One year earlier the revolutionary government had launched the Loan to finance the counter-state in open defiance of the Dublin Castle administration. The native government was determined not only to replace the British administration, but to implement its own industrial, financial and trade policies, including establishing a national bank.

When Dáil Éireann was prohibited in September 1919, eight months after its first meeting, military and police raided the offices of the Cork Examiner, then on Patrick Street. The paper was suppressed for publishing a full-page advertisement for the Loan. After an outcry in Ireland and Britain against the attack on press freedom, the paper was permitted to resume publication after five days.

Immediate on the prohibition of the Dáil, MacSwiney, addressed a Loan organising meeting in Macroom: ‘They had received a direct challenge during the week, and the best way to answer it was to make this loan a big success.’

Working closely with Sean Nolan, he built a robust Loan organisation structure in his constituency, creating five ‘sub-executive’ areas. He told Collins that ‘we are laying our lines so well that if anything happens to the two of us the work will go on successfully’.

MacSwiney felt the full force of Dublin Castle’s attempt to crush the Loan. In early October 1919 he was arrested at another Loan meeting. Although released shortly after, important documents had been seized, including his notebook, copies of the Loan prospectus and correspondence with Collins regarding the Loan.

The documents proved especially valuable to the police. Until then, operating with little understanding of how the Loan was being organised, the police had found it difficult to identify and arrest the organisers. Having analysed the documents, an upbeat RIC District Inspector wrote that ‘… the papers captured give us an outline of the scheme as proposed to be carried out, so that we now know!’

Police pressure on MacSwiney’s team intensified. On 10 October the Sinn Féin secretary in his constituency was arrested for possession of Loan material and imprisoned for six weeks. On 15 October a Loan worker was picked up while carrying a parcel of Loan literature and taken to the police barracks in Macroom. He was permitted to leave a short time later, probably not being senior enough to bother arresting.
In Bandon a man was sentenced to three months’ hard labour for a speech made in support of the Loan. Another man was given two months for possession of the Loan prospectus. A chemist in Berehaven was arrested for displaying Loan notices in his shop window.

Despite the suppressive measures against the Loan, Mid-Cork was starting to stand out against the other constituencies. In December 1919 Collins told MacSwiney that it was ‘very refreshing to have such a satisfactory account from you…It shows what work and energy will do.’ Although they were never great friends, a shared work ethic ensured mutual respect.

Mid-Cork was used to set an example for others. On 6 March 1920, Collins issued a strongly worded special circular to Loan organisers, ‘you will see that a very considerable effort is still necessary in order that the enterprise may be the success it ought to be.’ The circular praised the best-performing constituencies, including West Limerick and Mid-Cork. The early performance of the Mid-Cork constituency was remarkable. It had submitted Loan applications for £5,117: 75% more than Cork city (£2,914) and 350% greater than the average of the eleven Dublin constituencies (£1,136). ‘If you were living in one of the above areas [Limerick and Mid-Cork],’ pressed Collins, ‘redouble your energies; if you are not, then make your district good as they are.’

When the Loan closed, over £7,200 (€440,000) had been raised in Mid-Cork, 40% more than the median in Munster. But it was not the size of the funds alone that differentiated MacSwiney’s contribution to the Loan, it was the speed and organisational efficiency he brought to his constituency, and the example that was set for the rest of the country. According to Collins, MacSwiney’s efforts ‘had the effect, not only of urging neighbouring constituencies to a sense of their duty, but all the constituencies all over Ireland.’ He added that Mid-Cork had ‘made a headline at the time when it was badly needed’.

Terence MacSwiney’s death after refusing food for 74 days and the legacy of his famed words – ‘it is not they who can inflict most but they who can suffer most can conquer’ – have overshadowed his importance to the success of the First Dáil Loan.


Patrick O’Sullivan Greene is from Killarney.

His first book, Crowdfunding the Revolution- The First Dáil Loan and the Battle for Irish Independence, is published by Eastwood Books and is available *here*

The book tells the untold history of the fight for the revolutionary government’s funds, the bank inquiry that shook the financial establishment and the first battle in the intelligence war.

Patrick O’Sullivan Greene will be in conversation with Ronan McGreevy of The Irish Times as part of Dublin Book Festival.

November 29th, 3-4pm, FREE. All details *here*

Leave a Comment