Edwards had joined the IRA in
about 1924 but in the latter part of the decade, he had become inactive.
He joined Saor Éire, the political wing of the IRA, at its foundation
in 1931. The local IRA was involved in various activities such as when
three men visited all the local cinemas, in August 1932, and requested
the managers not to show films 'of a decidedly British type.' The
manager of one city cinema admitted to a Waterford News reporter that
'as far back as two years ago he himself had noticed that the news films
supplied by Pathe ... and Fox Movietone were being utilised for
propaganda purposes. The men who visited him were very courteous, he
said, and ... he promised ... that whenever possible, he would censor
the film in future where it appeared to him to carry the taint of
Edwards was involved in the 'Bass' protest. This meant the entering of
public houses and the smashing of all the stock of Bass Ale on the
premises as a protest against British goods being sold.
He later regretted having partaken in this activity.
In the late twenties and early thirties, Waterford was a hotbed
of republican and working class agitation in which Edwards played a
leading role. The Unemployed
in the city was so strong that it succeeded in having two of its
members, David Nash and Thomas Purdue, elected to the city council on
the platform 'Bread, Blood and Work.' For the next few years the local
scene was enlivened by numerous and often boisterous marches and
meetings in City Hall and in the People's Park. An example of the type
of rhetoric that was used can be gained from a speech made by councillor
Purdue when he said, 'If we [the unemployed] are not going to get what
we want, we will leave this city like the Temple of Jerusalem—we won't
leave a stone upon a stone.’
The first recorded speech by Edwards was in 1932 and the context
is indicative of the type of political action in which he was engaged at
the time. On Sunday 4 September 1932, a public meeting of Cumann na
nGaedheal, to which admission was by ticket only, was scheduled for the
Large Room at City Hall. Mayor Matthew Cassin presided, the Marquis and
Marchioness of Waterford were guests and Mr. Paddy McGilligan,
ex-Minister for Industry and Commerce was the principal speaker. At the
same time, a counter demonstration was staged on the Mall outside. The
'Soldier's Song' was sung with much enthusiasm by the gathering on the
roadway, and as its strains came through one of the open windows of the
Large Room, someone on the Cumann na nGaedheal platform left his place
and closed the window. A number of the Mall protesters then tried to
gain admittance to the Large Room. They got a little more than halfway
up the stairs when they were charged by the Cumann na nGaedheal
supporters and a general melee ensued. Two of the protesters were
injured in the clash, Robert Walsh, Carrigeen Lane, a member of the St.
Declan’s Pipe Band receiving a kick in the stomach (for which he was
detained in the Infirmary) and Joseph Tobin a kick in the shins. At the
close of the meeting a vote of thanks to the ex Minister was proposed by
Mr. John Hearne, builder.
His name will come up again.
On the following night, another demonstration, timed for eight
o'clock, was held on the Mall, presided over by Edwards. However, the
owner of the lorry that was to be used as a platform was visited at his
home shortly before the meeting and threatened with dire consequences if
he permitted his vehicle to be used for the purpose for which it was
hired. The owner declined to proceed to the meeting venue and a second
lorry had to be procured from Mr. T. Power, garage proprietor, the Quay.
When this lorry arrived at the scene the meeting had already begun, with
Edwards addressing the large attendance from a jarvey car. The Waterford
Edwards, who spoke first in Irish, and continued in English, said
the meeting that evening had been arranged in order to appeal for
their support for Fianna Eireann—the only national boy
organisation in Ireland that was doing its best to educate the
future manhood of the country to become loyal citizens of the
Irish Republic, which they would attain, and which they were bound
to strive to attain (cheers). They were all agreed that it was
absolutely essential now for the workers of Ireland to unite to
fight the forces of reaction and British Imperialism which were so
strong in the country. They could see how those reactionary forces
were united against the workers. The people who were associated
with the gang of traitors in the Town Hall the previous day were
the bosses, the men who exploited the workers, the men who had
accumulated wealth from the sweat and the blood of the workers
(loud cheers). Then they had the solicitors—it was not necessary
for him to make any comment about them—and the rent collectors
and the landlords—the Marquis and Marchioness of Waterford.
These were the reactionary forces in the country who were backing
up the Cumann na nGaedheal party—the organisation that was
masking under a Gaelic title, but that was really the force of
British Imperialism that was driving the Gael out of the country
(loud cheers) ... I forgot to mention ... the Ballybricken bullies
who were associated with Mr. McGilligan and his gang in the Town
Hall yesterday. The IRA has been accused by Mr. Blythe of being a
thug organisation. You people of Waterford can judge for
yourselves on which side are the thugs; and let me tell you that
the cause of Irish independence has not been killed, and it will
not be killed, by these thugs (loud cheers) ... Mr. Edwards
concluded, amid loud cheering, as he had begun—in Irish.
Edwards' speech is interesting for the various groups that he
attacked—bosses, solicitors, rent collectors, landlords and the
Ballybricken Redmondites. It is quite certain that he was a marked man
after that speech—if he had not already been noted as an agitator and as
one who was stirring up revolutionary ideas among the masses. Two of the
people who were attacked by Edwards were the newly elected Mayor Cassin
and John Hearne. The latter was the leader of the master builders
federation in the city and was a prominent member of many of the city's
Catholic organisations. He was, also, a personal friend of Archdeacon
William Byrne was parish priest of Ballybricken and, therefore, the
manager of Mount Sion schools where Edwards was a teacher. He was, in
effect, Edwards' employer.
Intellectually, Byrne was a heavyweight. During the first World War,
before his presidency of St. John's College, he was editor of The
Catholic Record of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore and under his
editorship the circulation of the Record reached the figure of six
thousand copies a month.
While he was president of St. John's College his sermons at the Cathedral
drew large congregations from every parish in the city. He was
particularly keen on education and educational facilities throughout the
whole diocese and he was not regarded in Waterford as a parish priest in
the strict parochial sense, rather was he looked on as one whose
assistance could be relied on in any movement for the spiritual or
temporal advancement of the citizens. He was regularly called upon to
arbitrate in industrial disputes and, although he was thought of in some
quarters as a friend of the employers, his arbitrations in such disputes
were generally well received. He was ever on the alert for any
infiltration of Waterford workers by socialists and communists and he
regarded the latter as followers of Satan.
He congratulated the unemployed and the Worker's Council, in a public
statement, for their stance against communism, saying
Waterford Worker's Council rightly and indignantly repudiated the
pretensions of a certain trio to represent Irish workers at
anti-God celebrations in Moscow. More recently, still, those who
represent the vast majority of the unemployed in our city
effectively nullified an attempt to introduce organised Communism
Byrne, in his crusade against communist infiltration, found a ready ally
in the new bishop, Canon Kinane, who was elevated to the diocese of
Waterford and Lismore in May 1933.
Jeremiah Kinane DD, DCL, was created Bishop of Waterford & Lismore on
29 June 1933. On his arrival in Waterford, he gave a free dinner at the
courthouse to five hundred poor men of the city. At his official reception
in the council chamber at City Hall and in response to addresses of
welcome from the Corporation, the Harbour Commissioners, the Waterford
Workers Council, the De La Salle Brothers, the Waterford Branch of INTO
etc., the bishop said (rather ominously for future relations with Edwards
and his friends
address has given me more pleasure and satisfaction than the
address from the Workers Council. Clearly communistic propaganda
has taken no effect in Waterford
Bishop Kinane in his first address in the Cathedral since his consecration
as bishop articulated the communist threat as being one of the major
difficulties, as he perceived it, of his coming tenure as bishop.
the political stand point the world is in a state of flux and no
man can foretell what forms of government will ultimately emerge
and survive. No condition of things could be more inimical to the
Church's interest or more favourable to the machinations of her
enemies. These enemies in their various forms are active the world
over. Ireland has not been free from their influence. Communist
and secret society agents especially have made us the object of
their activities, but so far they have met with very little
success ... From my personal experience and from what I have heard
the progress made by these enemies of the Church in this great
diocese has been less than in most others.
Warnings about the dangers of communism and irreligion were not confined
to priests. At the blessing of the colours of the Mount Sion and De La
Salle scouts by Archdeacon Byrne, Mayor Cassin spoke of 'the great danger
to their faith, their manhood, their womanhood and their nationality ...
Irreligion and materialism were sweeping all over the world.'
Peter O'Connor (1966), A Soldier of Liberty, (Dublin, MSF), p. 2.
August 5, 1932
Waterford News, October 21, 1932
Ibid, September 9, 1932
Ibid, 9 September 19
Byrne was born in Knocklofty, Co. Tipperary, a few miles west of Clonmel. He was a student at Clonmel High
School and later entered St. John's College to begin his
ecclesiastical studies. He was ordained at Maynooth and following
three years as Professor at All Hallows College, Clonliffe he returned
to St John's where he became President. In 1930 he was made parish
priest of Ballybricken parish, the largest in the diocese. He was
later created archdeacon and finally a Domestic Prelate. He was Vicar
Capitular of the diocese in the interim between the death of bishop
Hackett and the elevation of Dr. Kinane as bishop.
Patrick Power (1937) A Compendious History of the United Dioceses
of Waterford & Lismore (Cork, Cork University Press), p. 4.
Ibid, P. 295. Canon Power wrote of him that 'During 1934-35 he engaged
in public controversy with communist and other subversive agents and
defended Catholic Truth with great ability, Christian dignity and no
Waterford News, 18 November 1932. This was in reference to the
sending of an Irish delegation to Moscow for the fifteenth anniversary
of the Russian revolution. The Unemployed Association had declared
that 'they saw no reason why they should follow in the path of
Trotsky, Lenin or Stalin.'
was a native of Gortnahulla, Upperchurch, Co. Tipperary where he was
born on 15 November 1884. He was ordained at Rome on 24 April 1910.
From 1911 to 1933 he was
Professor of Canon Law at St Patrick's College, Maynooth. He was
bishop of Waterford & Lismore from 1933 to 1942 and archbishop of
Decros and coadjutor of Cashel & Emly from 1942 to 1946 when he
succeeded to the archbishopric. He died on 18 February 1959.
Waterford News, 30 June 1933.
Ibid, 14 July 1933
Ibid, 9 June 1933.