In July 1846, William Smith O’Brien joined the Young Irelanders. As the crisis of the Famine in Ireland worsened, the Young Irelanders refused to adhere to the Repeal Association’s basic rule that physical force in politics must be avoided under all circumstances.
In January 1847 the Young Irelanders formed the Irish Confederation Club, to press for effective famine relief. In 1848 William Smith O’Brien was arrested in Ireland, on the grounds that he had traveled to Paris earlier that year in support of the leaders of the new French Republic. He was tried, but released when the jury failed to agree on a verdict. On 26th July 1848 the Irish Confederation Club was proclaimed illegal and warrants were issued for the arrest of the leaders of the Young Irelanders.
On 29th July William Smith O’Brien led an abortive rising in Ballingarry, Co.Tipperary, otherwise known as ‘the battle of Widow McCormack’s cabbage patch’. He was arrested on 6th August 1848 and tried for treason at the district court at Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, found guilty and sentenced to death. The sentence caused great consternation among all segments of the Irish community. Between the finish of the trial in October 1848 and May 1849 various petitions in favour of clemency for William Smith O’Brien were collected around Ireland. (These were the years of the Great Famine in Ireland.) On 5th June 1849 Smith O’Brien’s death sentence was commuted to transportation for life.
He was not transported and was given a conditional pardon on the guarantee he not return to Ireland.
He eventually received a full pardon.
He died in Wales in 1864.
Edward Fanning of Holycross and Thurles (two addresses) Oct 24 1848, John Fanning and Patt Fanning also of Thurles signed the William Smith O’Brien Petition 1848-49.
The total number of signatories to this petition was over 80,000. Tipperary county had the third highest number signing with 4,393 names on the petition.