“They were heroes but they’re not gods”: Tipperary historian says we can’t rewrite history when it comes to John Mitchel

John Mitchel and Mitchel Street in Thurles, named after him | Tipp FM

A local historian says you would be hard-pressed to find a character more complicated than John Mitchel.

Tipp FM reported yesterday that the GAA is being asked to consider renaming clubs that are called after the Derry-native.

Mitchel was a journalist, a staunch nationalist, and was elected MP for Tipperary, but he also supported slavery and he took the side of the Confederacy in the US Civil War.

There are several streets in Tipperary named after him and John Flannery from the Ormonde Historical Society says he’s torn on whether or not we should be renaming:

“Do we try and rewrite history? I mean, John Mitchel was a huge servant of Ireland and the Irish people. Yes, he did have his flaws. He was racist in relation to the American Civil War and the cause of the American Civil War.

“He had very, very strong racist views. However, what person in history that has ever made a name for themselves has done so without crossing swords in some form or another?”

Mitchel was twice elected an MP for Tipperary in 1875, however the first election was overturned because it was decided that he was disqualified for having previously been in prison.

The second time he was elected, which was just a month later (the first was a by-election, the second a general election), he received an even higher majority vote but fell ill and died just a few days later.

Mitchel Street in Thurles, Clonmel and Tipperary Town are named after him.

Continuing on Tipp Today earlier, historian John Flannery said that in a way, his nationalism and his furthering of the Irish cause muddies the water for us here:

“I’m not saying ignore it. I’m saying that we should educate people. They see these people as people with feet of clay – that they’re not perfect.

“I mean, just because someone advocated, we’ll say, for the freedom of Ireland, they’re still human beings and they had the frailties of human beings.

“They weren’t perfect. I mean, they might be heroes but they’re not gods.”