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Was Irish heroine a British agent? Spy cloud over Markievicz

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Hang me as a heretic, but it seems republican heroine Countess Markievicz may well have been a top British agent.

Wouldn't it be a hoot if it finally emerged the greatest republican female icon of the 20th century was really a British spook whose main aims were to infiltrate and divide militant republicanism?

The Iconic Countess unmasked as a traitor – that could leave many republicans red-faced as this year marked the 90th anniversary of Sinn Féin's landslide Irish victory in the 1918 General Election when it scoped more than 70 seats and Constance Markievicz became the first woman MP at Westminster.

Next year will also see republicans commemorate the 90th anniversary of the first Dáil Eireann in 1919 in which she was one of the first to take a seat.

The accusing finger she was a mole for the Empire was first pointed at the 'heroic' Countess not by Northern Unionists, but by Sinn Féin founder Arthur Griffiths.

Countess Constance Markievicz being a British agent is not a sinister plot to discredit her, but the only sound conclusion from a weight of historical evidence.

And like the late Denis Donaldson who was unmasked – and later murdered – for being a British agent, republicans will just have to swallow the bitter medicine that one of their revered icons "batted for the Brits".

And Constance has quite a distance to tumble as a republican heroine.

Republicans may be forced to paint over the impressive mural of an armed Countess which bedecks a wall in Belfast's Rockmount Street.

She was born Constance Gore-Booth into one of the most influential Protestant families in Sligo.

A rich product of the Glorious Revolution and subsequent Protestant Ascendancy, Constance's family held a central role in the British establishment in Ireland.

To throw Griffiths off realising she was really a spy, Constance founded Na Fianna Eireann, a nationalist version of the boy scouts, in 1909.

She later married Polish Catholic nobleman Count Casimer Markievicz to fool republicans into accepting her Catholic credentials.

Constance burrowed even deeper into militant republicanism by helping James Connolly set up the Irish Citizens Army in 1913.

The real clue as to her true role came after the failed 1916 Easter Rising. She had forced her 'comrades' in the Irish Volunteers to fight on long after they were beaten to ensure maximum casualties among republicans.

For this, she should have been executed, but was spared by Bloody Maxwell, the British general tasked with suppressing the rising and wiping out the organisers.

But against Maxwell's agenda, he personally spared Constance, simply because she was a woman.

More like Maxwell protecting Britain's top agent in republicanism.

It was her influence over Eamon de Valera where she demonstrated her true role as a British agent.

Dev was besotted by the beautiful Constance. She alone could have united all republicans behind the Treaty.

But a united Free State led by IRA leader Michael Collins and political guru Dev would have swamped the Unionist North.

Constance sided with Dev, fuelling the rift with Collins which sparked the Irish Civil War.

As republican butchered republican, London could militarily bolster the Northern state. The civil war ensured the Free State could never invade the North.

Her final act as an agent was to encourage Dev to turn his back on the IRA and found Fianna Fail. She died mysteriously in 1927 before her Irish 'Mata Hari' role could be discovered.

The real question for republicans – who else has served the British cause from inside nationalism?

December 24, 2008

This article appeared in the December 22, 2008 edition of the Irish Daily Star.



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