The Irish Race Congress 1922

Ciara Joyce, Archivist

On the 21st of January 1922, on the third anniversary of the establishment of Dáil Éireann and the Irish Republic, the Irish Race Congress took place in a Paris hotel.

Proceedings of the Irish Race Congress, Issued by Fine Ghaedheal Secretariat

This eight-day congress, attended by delegates from seventeen countries, was first mooted by representatives of the Irish Republican Association of South Africa and organised by the Irish Self-Determination League of Great Britain with support from the Dáil cabinet.

The purpose  of the congress was political, but it also sought to showcase highlights from Irish culture. Its objectives included:

‘1. To put a stop to the  excesses of the British troops in Ireland by securing their withdrawal.

2. To secure the International Recognition of the Irish Republic, and to afford moral and material assistance to the Irish Government.

3. To form a centre and rallying point for those members of the Irish Race throughout the world who feel the humiliation of the continued subjection of their motherland and recognise that to free Ireland is to exalt the status of the Irish Race in every land where it has found a home’.

Attendees at the Irish Race Congress, Paris, 1922

The congress was organised over the course of a year but its timing in January 1922 was unfortunate. The Treaty was signed on the 6th of December 1921 and ratified by the Dáil on the 7th of January. It was agreed that the congress should go ahead but a deeply divided delegation left from Ireland, the majority of which were anti-treaty republicans led by Éamon DeValera.

Some of the delegates at the Congress, 1922

England sent the largest number of delegates to the congress, but attendees also travelled from Scotland, Wales, the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, France, Belgium, Spain and from Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Mexico.

Among the delegation that attended from Scotland was Henry Warren Hutchinson, whose son was the Irish poet Pearse Hutchinson. Among Hutchinson’s archive held by Special Collections & Archives, are several items his father kept regarding his attendance at the congress including letters, photographs, notes and the published proceedings of events. He was conscious of the tensions between the pro and anti-treaty delegates, as all the attendees must have been. In a letter sent to his wife Cailtín, Henry wrote that:

‘somehow I feel that the conference is not a success – the treaty has knocked it out of gear’.

The congress’s main outcome was the establishment of Fine Ghaedheal, an organisation intended to represent Irish people throughout the world. De Valera was elected as Chairman of the organisation, with a committee made up of republican representatives only. Hutchinson, despite his reflection on the success of the congress, was delighted to be elected to the executive committee, writing to his wife:

Postcard from Henry Warren Hutchinson to his wife Caitlín McElhinney, January 1922

‘I have had a great honour in being elected one of the members of the Executive Committee for the Irish Race Convention out of representatives of 24 nations’

he also adds that:

‘we had a great fight -they were fighting & we were fighting, it was glorious but we beat them, it became evident from one or two test points that we were the stronger and after several attempts to defeat Dev -they gave in & he was elected unanimously’ .

His own admiration of De Valera is very clear, he writes:

‘everyone admits De Valera is the greatest man in the world & certainly there never was a more loved & honoured leader’.

Invitation to the Irish Art Exhibition at the Galerie Barbazanges, Paris, 1922

The cultural aspects of the congress were very successful, with lectures on Irish art and literature by W.B. and Jack B. Yeats, a talk on the Gaelic League by Douglas Hyde, an Irish traditional music concert and an exhibition of Irish art at the Galerie Barbazanges, where three hundred paintings and sculptures were displayed.

Fine Ghaedheal, failed to secure financial backing from the Provisional Government, and faded into obscurity. By the end of June 1922, the Irish Civil War had begun.

For more information or to access this collections please contact Special Collections & Archives at or (01) 474 7423

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