1st July is Canada Day, and this year is the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Canada! Canada owes a small debt for this momentous event to an Irishman from Carlingford, Co Louth, by the name of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, who is considered one of the Fathers of the Canadian Confederation.
McGee was born to a strongly Catholic and republican family, and was a member of the Fenians from a young age, which fought to achieve independence for Ireland from Great Britain. He also had a great love for Irish mythology, poetry and literature.
He left for North America in 1842, arriving to Quebec on a timber ship. He travelled to New England and Boston, where he joined the staff of the ‘Boston Pilot’ – a Catholic Newspaper – as a travelling agent. He later became editor. It was during this time he travelled to the Canadian territories, where he felt there was greater religious tolerance and the rights of Catholics were recognised. In 1855, he had spoken in Ireland urging emigrants to choose Canada over the United States, and eventually led him to move to Montreal in 1857.
In Canada, he published the ‘New Era’ newspaper, which launched his career in Canadian politics. This is where McGee had a change of heart in regards to many of the causes and ideals of the Fenian movement. He argued that a federal system would solve Canada’s constitutional problems, but advocated that this should be achieved while remaining part of the Great Britain’s constitutional monarchy. This and other changes led to a huge loss in his support among Irish Catholics across Canada. However he was still elected to represent Montreal in the Legislative Assembly. He continued to work to convince Irish Catholics that cooperating with British Protestants to form a Confederation would make Canada strong in alliance with Britain. He also encouraged Canada to seek it’s own national and cultural identity through art and culture. He himself wrote many volumes of poetry that were published in his lifetime.
This gained him the title ‘Canada’s First Nationalist’. He eventually succeeded in aiding the creation of the Canadian Confederation in 1867, but was assassinated in 1868 by the Fenians. Although still an unpopular figure amongst the Irish community, his funeral in Montreal drew a crowd of 50,000 people from all sides of the political and societal divide.
Canada of course shares many connections with Ireland through emigration, and to celebrate this connection we are offering free entry to all Canadians on Canada Day this year! Simply show a form of Canadian ID (passport, driver’s licence, Tim Horton’s loyalty card, etc) at our ticket desk and your admission to EPIC is complimentary! Offer valid for 1st July only, eh.