From The United Irishman, (Vo. 1), 12th February, 1848.
GENTLEMEN, – I feel it my duty to decline for the present further attendance at the council, or at the public meetings of our body.
I take this step with great regret, but with greater hope. It is to me a theme of sorrowful reflection, that I, an original member of the Irish Confederation, should almost within “a year and a day” from its formation, be compelled, even for an hour, to retire from its ranks. But I believe that temporary retirement is the best and wisest course I can adopt for the existence of the body, and the growth therein and thereout of the principles I hold.
To preserve that body, that at some future time it may become a true weapon for the liberation of my country, and to implant and rear those principles upon which and which alone, in my opinion, Ireland can ever train herself to freedom, I would cheerfully sacrifice much mere than the position of an acting member of your council, and the political intercourse which I have enjoyed with those, who, during the past year, laboured with me there, and for the great majority of whom I beg now to express sentiments of grateful respect.
However, though I voluntarily retire to prevent further division in our body, and to permit the healthy growth of particular opinions, I beg neither the Council nor the Confederation will misunderstand me relative to certain proceedings which have lately taken place.
Although you, I conceive, have left me no other alternative than to retire or submit, I deny your right to put to me that alternative. Although every one of the resolutions lately passed by the council, and at the public meeting of Friday last, virtually excludes me from participation in your further proceedings, I deny your right so to exclude me by a single one or all of those resolutions, and maintain my right to resist them, each and all, whensoever I please.
Although those resolutions purport to change the fundamental rules of the Irish Confederation, I deny that these rules are changed, that it was competent in you or the late meeting to change them, or that the resolutions which purport to change them are valid or binding at all. I see in existence still the Irish Confederation, but I see over it now an usurpation, which no length of time, no resolutions, no number of votes can make legitimate or good. Against that usurpation I have struggled and failed. I retire now to struggle against it more successfully; and my retirement shall cease when that usurpation ceases, as cease it shall.
The result of the late discussion I do not wish to regard as the triumph of men over men. I hope all will look on it as a struggle of principles, and that between those who differ, the honest difference will increase our reciprocal respect. So regarding it, I believe the principles I advocate have triumphed in numerical defeat; and I trust, when they shall become the ruling principles of the Irish Confederation, and when the original constitution of that body is restored, those who then may differ from me in the minority, will feel as little personally aggrieved, and continue as sternly devoted to Irish independence as I, who am in the minority now.
Meantime, I ask, in my own justification, that this letter may be inserted on the minutes of the Council, and read at the next public meeting of our body.
I have the honour, &c., &c.,
THOMAS DEVIN REILLY
12, Trinity-street, 7th February, 1848.