Trinity College Begins Free Online Lecture Series About the Making of Modern Ireland

 

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Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has begun a free online history course to explain the Easter Rising and its origins. The 14 week course, which is available on YouTube and iTunes, is aimed at both the general public and teachers and students.  It is hosted by Professor Patrick Geoghegan and involves experts within the college on the various formative events of Irish history.

The first week features a lecture on the 1641 rebellion, a largely-forgotten event which soured relations between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland for centuries.

Other videos released this week include one on the significance of the Proclamation, the influence of Trinity College Dublin graduate Edmund Burke and TCD’s role in the Easter Rising.

Each week will feature a different theme around Ireland’s struggle for independence.

View the series here.

 

Source: The Irish Times

New Years Raid

World War II brought change to Northern Ireland as Loyalists and Nationalists who shared the same bomb shelters broke down the barriers of prejudice erected by the Unionist Ascendancy to keep them divided.  The war also created jobs, and the small measure of prosperity experienced by the nationalists satisfied many grievances.  After the war, England rebuilt the barriers to maintain control of the north.  Churchill publicly blasted the Irish Free State for neutrality during the war despite the cooperation extended to the allies by the Irish, and the tens of thousands of Irish volunteers in the British military – all of which was well known to the government though not to the general public.  Anger grew in Ireland in an era of post-war high taxes, and unemployment.

In 1948, the Irish Free State abolished its Commonwealth status and passed the Republic of Ireland Act.  The date for it to go into effect was not announced, but it was signed on December 21.  On January 20, 1949, northern P.M. Basil Brooke, called a general election for February 10.  Southern Prime Minister Costello urged support for anti-partition candidates in the upcoming northern election, and pamphlets describing the discrimination and the gerrymandering in the north were published.  Unionists retaliated with a torrent of anti-Republic, and anti-Catholic propaganda that worked on sectarian fears declaring that if the border went, loyalists would be victims of IRA gunmen, urged on by Catholic clergy in an effort to establish the Pope as the ruler of Ireland. The propaganda, as well as years of conditioning by the Orange Order, had the desired effect as record numbers went to the polls to return the Unionists to power!

In the south; Dail Eireann brought the Republic of Ireland Act into effect on Easter Monday, April 18, 1949 – 33 years after Pearse’s declaration on the steps of the GPO.  On May 3, British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee declared “Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of Her Majesty’s Dominions without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.”  The new Republic of Ireland protested Britain’s continuation of partition, and mass meetings  urged action, but the new Republic was not prepared for anything stronger than a protest.  With tempers at a fever pitch, a call for action was heard, and the rebirth of the IRA was underway.

Depleted in numbers and finances after the war, the IRA began reorganizing by attacking unemployment and high taxes. They gathered support by standing against the mistreatment of Republican prisoners, and emerged in their traditional role of spokesmen for the Irish people with the rallying cry: ‘The Border Must Go!’  On June 5, 1951, the Derry unit of the new IRA raided Ebrington Barracks and captured a quantity of guns and ammunition.  As raids continued, the situation in the north became more tense, and nervous B-Special patrols became more violent.  The Irish Times urged the northern government to curb its patrols noting that, “para-military forces are an anachronism in a democratic society“, but it was to no avail.  On August 15, 1955, four men attacked a Royal Artillery Training Camp, but fled as a sentry gave the alarm.  Citing the attack, the Minister of War made a special report to the Cabinet, and P.M. Anthony Eden ordered mobilization to deal with the new IRA campaign.  It was later abandoned when four British Officers confessed to the ‘raid’ to “make things hotter for the IRA.”  An embarrassed War Office sent a communique to the police apologizing for the trouble caused and the matter was dropped.

Then, on the night of December 12, 1956, IRA volunteers assembled in 10 different areas along the border in an arc from Antrim to Derry.  On a signal from the campaign center in Monaghan, the morning quiet of December 13 was broken by numerous explosions.  The border campaign to retake the six counties had begun.  Reaction was swift.  By December 15, the Special Powers Act was revived allowing arrest and internment without warrant or trial, a curfew was imposed, and police forces strengthened.  On December 22, the RUC spiked or blew up every border crossing road and bridge that had no customs post.  By the end of the year 3,000 RUC and 12,000 B-Specials were called into action, and the north was an armed camp.

On the morning of January 1, 1957, an IRA raiding party set out for the RUC barracks in Brookborough, Co. Fermanagh.  They parked their truck in front of the barracks in the center of town and opened fire on the barracks with rifles and a Bren gun while an assault group attempted to set off a land mine against the building.  The mine did not explode and the assault group returned, through a hail of bullets, for another one.  This too misfired.  The raiders began to run out of ammunition as guns from the barracks returned a deadly rain of fire.  Misfortune continued to plague them as one of the raiders threw a grenade toward a barrack window to cover their retreat.  The grenade bounced off the building, and rolled under the truck where it exploded, blowing the tires, and damaging the gears.  Somehow the raiders made it back to the crippled truck and the truck limped away.  At Baxter’s Cross, near the town of Roslea, the truck gave out, and the badly shot up raiding party sought refuge in an abandoned barn.  Six members of the party were wounded, two of whom were unable to travel – 19-year old Fergal O’Hanlon of Monaghan and 27-year old Sean South of Limerick.  Both were unconscious.  One of the party, volunteered to stay behind and hold off the pursuing RUC so the others might escape, but it was felt that such an action would endanger the lives of their unconscious comrades.  It was decided to leave South and O’Hanlon to be captured so they would at least get the medical attention they needed.  The rest of the raiding party retreated toward the border.

The RUC arrived just after the IRA had left, and opened fire on the abandoned truck.  After finding it empty, they approached the barn.  The retreating IRA men heard another burst of fire. They prayed it was just the warning shots associated with assaulting a military target, but they later learned it was the murder of their two unconscious comrades.  This was a source of unforgiving bitterness in IRA circles for years to come.  Author Tim Pat Coogan wrote, “In a sense the Brookborough ambush explains everything about the IRA, and its hold on Irish tradition.  It shows all the courage, the self-sacrifice, the blundering, and the emotional appeal that have characterized and kept alive the IRA spirit for centuries.  The two young men who lost their lives in the Brookborough affair were given two of the biggest funerals in living memory – but during their lives there was never sufficient public support for their aims for them to receive proper military training or even or even to be correctly briefed on the target that claimed their lives.”  The two men killed in the raid, took their place among the martyrs to Ireland’s cause, and their memories were kept alive in songs which have become part of the Nationalist tradition – Sean South of Garryowen and The Patriot’s Game.

Sir Roger Casement

Roger Casement was born in Antrim on September 1, 1864 to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. At 17, he went to work for the Elder Dempster Shipping Company in Liverpool; three years later he was sent to west Africa. There he joined the British Colonial Service and was gradually advanced to a position in the British Consulate there. Always a fair and honorable man, he was horrified at the inhuman treatment of native workers in the Congo, and wrote a report exposing those conditions. The story was published, and when Casement returned to England in 1904 he was celebrated. In London he met Alice Green, a historian who denounced England’s exploitation of the Irish. Her argument impressed Casement and when he returned to Ireland he looked up her friends: Bulmer Hobson, Eoin MacNeill, and Erskine Childers. He soon became a confident of these men and other nationalists as well.

Casement’s diligent service earned him the post of Consul General at Rio de Janeiro, and he sailed off to assume that enviable post, but even there his sense of fair play was to guide his actions. He wrote a scathing report on the cruelties practiced by whites on native workers on the rubber plantations along the Putamayo river. It became an international sensation. He returned to England in 1911 and was Knighted for his public service. Casement retired from the Colonial Service in 1912 and returned to Ireland where his sense of fair play was again aroused – this time by the conditions of his own people under the rule of the Crown.

A man of strong nationalist sympathies, he joined the National Volunteers in 1913. When he visited London the following year, he was on a different mission – to arrange for the Irish Volunteers to bring 1500 Hamburg guns into Howth. History shows just how successful he was for many a man marched into Dublin on Easter Monday morning shouldering his old Howth gun. When more money was needed to secure more arms, Casement was sent to New York on July 4, 1914 to see John Devoy who had been raising funds for that purpose among the American Irish. While in America, World War I broke out, and he immediately contacted the German ambassador to America seeking aid to win Irish independence. On October 15, 1914 Casement sailed to Germany, carrying a small fortune to purchase more arms.

His persistence paid off and the Germans dispatched the ship AUD with a cargo of arms to be landed in Co Kerry; these arms were to be used in the rising planned for Easter Week, 1916. Casement followed in a submarine, landing on Banna Strand in Tralee Bay on Good Friday, April 21, 1916. Those who were to meet him there did not. A delay of 24 hours had been radioed to the AUD, but the ship’s radio was inoperative. The Gaelic American newspaper stated that American President Wilson knew of Casement’s intentions to land arms in Ireland and warned the British government. (New York Times, April 27, 1916, pp. 1 & 4.) The British, alerted to the plans, intercepted the message, and went instead to meet the bewildered Casement who decided to wait on the beach until his contacts arrived. He was captured, identified, and hurried away, a prisoner, to London. At the same time the AUD, disguised as a Norwegian timber ship, was stopped by a British patrol boat. Rather than submit, she was scuttled by her own crew as Casement was on his way to England to stand trial. Found guilty of high treason, he was sentenced to be hanged.

A world-wide furor erupted over the severity of the sentence. Here was a just man, recently praised and knighted by the Crown for his efforts on behalf of persecuted natives in far corners of the world, sentenced to death by that same Crown for daring to challenge the exploitation of his own downtrodden people. In an effort to reverse public opinion, the British government circulated copies of diaries alleged to be Casement’s, which recorded homosexual practices. Much controversy surrounded these Black Diaries, but they had the desired effect. The public furor died down, and Casement was hanged in Pentonville Prison on August 3, 1916 – the last of the Easter Executions.

For many years after the Irish government finally won its limited freedom from England, official requests were made to have Sir Roger’s remains returned to Ireland. It was not until 1965, that England finally relented, but only after circulating the questionable Black Diaries once more. This time they didn’t reckon on modern analytical methodology, and the diaries were proven to be forgeries. In spite of English efforts to sully the name of this dedicated Irish patriot, Casement’s remains were respectfully received by the Irish people, given a huge state funeral, and re-interred in Glasnevin Cemetary on March 1, 1965 – just one year before the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Editors Note: Years later, in conversation with another great patriot, Joe Cahill, who had once been apprehended bringing arms into the IRA. He asked if I knew the name of the ship he was caught on. I replied ‘Yes, it was the CLAUDIA’. He smiled and said “drop the first two and last two letters and what have you?” He loved the irony!

Kevin Barry

Photo by Kevin Barry Relative Tom McNabb

Dublin in 1920 was a tense city. Searches, shootings, and ambushes were a daily occurrence as the Irish people showed their disdain for England’s new police force – the Black and Tans. This force had recently been recruited from the English military returning from the Great War, expressly to keep the Irish in check after the Easter Rising of 1916. Since military personnel are not trained in civilian policing tactics and treat any opponent as the enemy, they operated so with a significant amount of brutality.

It was therefore, not unusual that the British lorry which arrived at Monk’s bakery in Upper Church Street at 11:30 AM on September 20, was heavily guarded by armed members of the Second Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. As the soldiers loaded supplies to transport to Collinstown Camp, a voice from the street called, Drop your rifles and put up your hands. It was a group of Irish Volunteers. The Volunteers had been reorganized after the 1916 Rising to continue the fight for Ireland’s independence by opposing the British presence in Ireland. Suddenly, one of the soldiers fired, then a fusillade erupted as Volunteers and soldiers dueled with revolvers and rifles. When it was over, one soldier was killed and four wounded, and the Volunteers had fled. The British spotted a young man hiding under their lorry and pulled him out. They threw him into the back with their wounded and sped off. An official statement later that day from British HQ stated that, One of the aggressors had been arrested.

The aggressor, as it turned out, was an 18-year old medical student named Kevin Barry. Kevin had joined the Irish Volunteers when he was only 15. His job was to cycle to various parts of the city delivering orders and communications between officers of the movement. As a precaution against written messages being intercepted, most of the communications had been verbal and Kevin had an intimate knowledge of the movement. its members and leading figures. Kevin was from a nationalist family; his mother was a Dowling from northeast Carlow, where the Barrys and the Dowlings had done their part in 1798. Kevin’s older brother Mick was Officer in Charge of the Volunteers in Toombeagh, Co Carlow, and his sister Shiela was in Cumann na mBan – the IRA Ladies Auxiliary. The British knew of Barry’s position as courier for the movement and knew that they had a prize catch.

The questioning and physical persuasion began in earnest: Who were his companions? Name the officers of the Volunteers? . . Where was their Headquarters? Kevin steadfastly refused to betray the independence movement. He was offered amnesty and freedom, yet he refused. He was tortured for days on end, and still he refused. The British had never seen such determination in one so young. His mother visited him, and reported that his arm was in a sling as a result of the beatings and mistreatment he received, yet Kevin did not give in. Finally, under the misnamed ‘Restoration of Order Act’, Kevin was charged with murder. At a secret Courts Martial, he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.

Photo by Kevin Barry Relative Tom McNabb

A reprieve movement began, and focused world-wide attention on the injustice of British rule in Ireland. Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, had only recently died in Brixton Prison, after a 74-day hunger strike, and was laid to rest on the eve of Barry’s proposed execution. This intensified the pressure on England to release the young student, but still no repeal.

Late at night, Kevin was taken to see the scaffold that would end his life the following morning. With incredible cruelty and mental coercion, he was promised a full pardon, his tuition paid at any Medical school in the world, and a pension of 2,000 Pounds Sterling a year for life if he would only reveal the names of his officers and comrades. Kevin, visibly shaken, listened to the officer in silence, then glanced up at the beam from which hung the noose that would end his life and said, Yes, I think that should bear my weight.

On November 1, at 8 AM, his hands pinioned behind him with leather straps, the slender young 18-year old boy was led to the gallows at Mountjoy Jail where his short life was ended. Later, Father Albert, one of Kevin’s last visitors, reported that Kevin’s final message to Ireland and his comrades in arms, was, Hold on, and stick to the Republic.

Kevin Barry’s life was over, but his influence had just begun. His name became a symbol and a slogan; a hymn to freedom and to unconquerable youth.

The Sorrows of May

The month of May is a special month in the roster of Ireland’s heroes. It was in that month, in 1916, that some of Ireland’s greatest patriots were murdered by a British firing squad. They had come together in a dream; a dream eloquently articulated by Padraic Pearse; skillfully organized by Tom Clarke; expertly planned by Joseph Mary Plunkett and Thomas McDonagh: brilliantly guided by James Connolly; and courageously executed by Sean McDermott, Ed Daly, Micheal O’Hanrahan, Willie Pearse, John MacBride, Michael Mallin, Eamonn Ceannt, Con Colbert, Sean Heuston , Eamon deValera and the men under their commands.

The dream was for an independent Ireland and Pearse passionately wrote of that dream in his poem, The Fool:

The Lawyers have sat in Council, the men with the keen long faces,
and said This man is a fool, and others have said he blasphemeth;
and the wise have pitied the fool who strove to give a life to a dream
that was dreamed in the heart and that only the heart can hold.
O Wise Men, riddle me this: What if the dream come true,
What if the dream come true and millions unborn shall dwell
in the house that I shaped in my heart?

To bring that dream to reality, brave men joined the Irish Volunteers, The Citizens’ Army, The Hibernian Rifles, Fianna Éireann, the Foresters, and equally brave ladies joined Cumann na mBan. Following the formation of the Provisional Government, as outlined in the Proclamation, these organizations formally became known as Óglaigh na Éireann, (the Irish Republican Army), under the command of James Connolly. The organization mustered into five commands: the 1st battalion under Commandant Ned Daly, the 2nd battalion under Commandant Thomas MacDonagh, the 3rd battalion under Commandant Éamon de Valera and the 4th battalion under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt. The 5th command was a joint force of Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army and ladies of Cumann na mBan under the command of Commandant James Connolly as part of the headquarters command which, in addition to Connolly, included four other members of the Military Council: Patrick Pearse, President and Commander-in-Chief, Tom Clarke, Seán MacDermott and Joseph Mary Plunkett.

Last minute misfortunes upset the timetable of the Rising and after 7 days of fighting it became evident that the British had successfully isolated communications from Dublin and nationwide support would not materialize. After British Army casualties of 116 dead and 368 wounded; Police casualties of 16 dead and 29 wounded; and civilian casualties of 318 dead and 2,217 wounded, Pearse, seeing no hope of success, decided to surrender to stop the bloodshed. The Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army recorded 64 killed in action.

The British ordered the arrest of all who had supported the movement even if they were not in the Dublin rising. A total of 3,430 men and 79 women were arrested and General Maxwell, in secret Court Martial sentenced more than 100 to be executed. One attempt to arrest members of the nationalist Kent family in County Cork on 2 May led to a Constable being shot dead in a gun battle. Thomas Kent was arrested and became the only rebel leader outside of Dublin to be executed for his role in the dream.

The Sorrows of May began on May 3 with the murder of Padraic Pearse, Clarke and McDonagh. On May 4, Daly, Willie Pearse, O’Hanrahan, and Plunkett were shot and May 5 saw the killing of Maj. John MacBride. Since May 6 and 7 were a Saturday and Sunday, the Brits gave their executioners the weekend off. On Monday, May 8 the slaughter commenced again with the homicides of Mallin, Ceannt, Colbert, and Heuston. Then, on May 9, Thomas Kent was slain at Cork Detention Barracks. A manuscript recently found in the Capuchin Archives in Church Street, Dublin revealed just how uncaring the executions were. Father Columbus Murphy, a Capuchin priest, was called on to help administer to the prisoners prior to their execution. He and Fathers Augustine, Albert, and Sebastian OFM Cap were allowed only a short time to exercise their ministry. He described the whole process as callously informal. The governor said a name and gave a signal. The prisoner’s hands were then tied behind his back, and a bandage placed over his eyes. Two soldiers, one on either side, guided the prisoner, and the priest went in front.

When the prisoner reached the outer door another soldier pinned a piece of white paper over his heart. The procession went along one yard, then through a gate leading to the stonebreaker’s yard. Here the firing squad of 12 soldiers was waiting, rifles loaded. An officer stood to the left; on the right were the governor and the doctor. The prisoner was led to the front wall and was turned to face the firing-squad. The two soldiers guiding him withdrew quickly to one side. There was a silent signal from the officer; then a deafening volley. The prisoner fell in a heap on the ground – dead. After the executions the friars were driven back to the friary where they celebrated Mass for the repose of the souls of the executed men. The public were horrified at the slaughter.

In the House of Commons, John Dillon, Irish Parliamentary Party MP, demanded an end to the killing. He intervened with Lloyd George to halt the 97 remaining sentences of execution pronounced by General Maxwell during court-martial without defense council nor jury. Dillon insisted that if they continued they would fill the whole country with rebels. He declared in the House that the rebels were wrong, but had fought a clean fight. His intervention resulted in Prime Minister Asquith sending a telegram to Maxwell to halt the executions until he arrived on May 12 to investigate for himself. On the morning of May 12, Maxwell defied the order and had Sean MacDermott brought to the Stonebreaker’s Yard at Kilmainham and shot. Then he ordered the wounded James Connolly brought from hospital; his ankle, shattered by a bullet during the rising, had gangrened from a lack of treatment. He was carried, in great pain, into the yard on a stretcher, placed on a chair against the back wall, nearest the entry gate, and propped up to receive the bullets for sharing a dream. When Asquith arrived, he commuted the remaining death sentences to terms of imprisonment, but it was too late; the fuse had been lit.

Following the Rising, the manner in which the trials and executions were carried out in secret, changed public opinion to sympathy for the rebels. The self-sacrifice of the leaders for the dream of a free Ireland, the bravery of the rank-and-file and the nauseating manner in which Connolly had been killed at last moved even the most liberal among the public to intense anti-British sentiment. Meanwhile, the 3,000 ‘rebels’ who had been picked up in the military sweep ordered by Maxwell, had been deported to Britain and held in prisons and internment camps which served as virtual academies of sedition. When the government realized they could not afford to house and feed all those interned, the declared a general amnesty secure in the belief that the Irish had once again been duly spanked into submission. On their return home, the Irishmen immediately set about building an army of opposition; it was called the Irish Republican Army and it would eventually fight the Brits to the treaty table after a brutal War of Independence. The leaders may have died, but the dream did not. And true to Pearse’s words, millions have dwelt in the house that he shaped in his heart in spite of the fact that the landlord still holds a small piece of the property!

The Patriot Game

World War II brought change to Northern Ireland as Loyalists and Nationalists who shared the same bomb shelters broke down the barriers of prejudice erected by the Unionist Ascendancy to keep them divided. The war also created jobs, and the small measure of prosperity experienced by the nationalists satisfied many grievances. After the war, England rebuilt the barriers to maintain control of the north. Churchill publicly blasted the Irish Free State for neutrality during the war despite the cooperation extended to the allies by the Irish, and the tens of thousands of Irish volunteers in the British military – all of which was well known to the government though not to the general public. Anger grew in Ireland in an era of post-war high taxes, and unemployment.

In 1948, the Irish Free State abolished its Commonwealth status and passed the Republic of Ireland Act. The date for it to go into effect was not announced, but it was signed on December 21. On January 20, 1949, northern P.M. Basil Brooke, called a general election for February 10. Southern Prime Minister Costello urged support for anti-partition candidates in the upcoming northern election, and pamphlets describing the discrimination and the gerrymandering in the north were published. Unionists retaliated with a torrent of anti-Republic, and anti-Catholic propaganda that worked on sectarian fears declaring that if the border went, loyalists would be victims of IRA gunmen, urged on by Catholic clergy, in an effort to establish the Pope as the ruler of Ireland. The propaganda, as well as years of conditioning by the Orange Order, had the desired effect as record numbers went to the polls to return the Unionists to power!

In the south; Dail Eireann brought the Republic of Ireland Act into effect on Easter Monday, April 18, 1949 – 33 years after Pearse’s declaration on the steps of the GPO. On May 3, British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee declared Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of Her Majesty’s Dominions without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. The new Republic of Ireland protested Britain’s continuation of partition, and mass meetings urged action, but the new Republic was not prepared for anything stronger than a protest. With tempers at a fever pitch, a call for action was heard, and the rebirth of the IRA was underway.

Depleted in numbers and finances after the war, the IRA began reorganizing by attacking unemployment and high taxes. They gathered support by standing against the mistreatment of Republican prisoners, and emerged in their traditional role of spokesmen for the Irish people with the rallying cry: ‘The Border Must Go!’ On June 5, 1951, the Derry unit of the new IRA raided Ebrington Barracks and captured a quantity of guns and ammunition. As raids continued, the situation in the north became more tense, and nervous B-Special patrols became more violent. The Irish Times urged the northern government to curb its patrols noting that, “para-military forces are an anachronism in a democratic society”, but it was to no avail. On August 15, 1955, four men attacked a Royal Artillery Training Camp, but fled as a sentry gave the alarm. Citing the attack, the Minister of War made a special report to the Cabinet, and P.M. Anthony Eden ordered mobilization to deal with the new IRA campaign. It was later abandoned when four British Officers confessed to the ‘raid’ to make things hotter for the IRA. An embarrassed War Office sent a communique to the police apologizing for the trouble caused and the matter was dropped.

Then, on the night of December 12, 1956, IRA volunteers assembled in 10 different areas along the border in an arc from Antrim to Derry. On a signal from the campaign center in Monaghan, the morning quiet of December 13 was broken by numerous explosions. The border campaign to retake the six counties had begun. Reaction was swift. By December 15, the Special Powers Act was revived allowing arrest and internment without warrant or trial, a curfew was imposed, and police forces strengthened. On December 22, the RUC spiked or blew up every border crossing road and bridge that had no customs post. By the end of the year 3,000 RUC and 12,000 B-Specials were called into action, and the north was an armed camp.

On the morning of January 1, 1957, an IRA raiding party set out for the RUC barracks in Brookborough, Co. Fermanagh. They parked their truck in front of the barracks in the center of town and opened fire on the barracks with rifles and a Bren gun while an assault group attempted to set off a land mine against the building. The mine did not explode and the assault group returned, through a hail of bullets, for another one. This too misfired. The raiders began to run out of ammunition as guns from the barracks returned a deadly rain of fire. Misfortune continued to plague them as one of the raiders threw a grenade toward a barrack window to cover their retreat. The grenade bounced off the building, and rolled under the truck where it exploded, blowing the tires, and damaging the gears. Somehow the raiders made it back to the crippled truck and the truck limped away. At Baxter’s Cross, near the town of Roslea, the truck gave out, and the badly shot up raiding party sought refuge in an abandoned barn. Six members of the party were wounded, two of whom were unable to travel – 19-year old Fergal O’Hanlon of Monaghan and 27-year old Sean South of Limerick. Both were unconscious. One of the party, volunteered to stay behind and hold off the pursuing RUC so the others might escape, but it was felt that such an action would endanger the lives of their unconscious comrades. It was decided to leave South and O’Hanlon to be captured so they would at least get the medical attention they needed. The rest of the raiding party retreated toward the border.

The RUC arrived just after the IRA had left, and opened fire on the abandoned truck. After finding it empty, they approached the barn. The retreating IRA men heard another burst of fire. They prayed it was just the warning shots associated with assaulting a military target, but they later learned it was the murder of their two unconscious comrades. This was a source of unforgiving bitterness in IRA circles for years to come. Author Tim Pat Coogan wrote, In a sense the Brookborough ambush explains everything about the IRA, and its hold on Irish tradition. It shows all the courage, the self-sacrifice, the blundering, and the emotional appeal that have characterized and kept alive the IRA spirit for centuries. The two young men who lost their lives in the Brookborough affair were given two of the biggest funerals in living memory – but during their lives there was never sufficient public support for their aims for them to receive proper military training or even or even to be correctly briefed on the target that claimed their lives.

The courage of the poorly trained, ill equipped and inexperienced ‘lads’, in going up against the superior RUC and British, caught the Irish imagination and re-ignited the nationalist spirit. As the cortege of Sean South made its way south towards Limerick, it was met with thronged crowds and blazing bonfires, in inspirational procession. At midnight on Jan 5, 1957, 50,000 people, including the mayor and local politicians, stood in the freezing rain to welcome Sean South back home. On the following day, 20,000 people attended his funeral.

In later years, a memorial was erected at Moane Cross in Fermanagh using stone from the abandoned barn in which South and O’Hanlon were killed. Sean South and Fergal O’Hanlon took their place among the martyrs to Ireland’s cause, and their memories were kept alive in songs which have become part of the Nationalist tradition – Sean South of Garryowen and The Patriot Game.

The Easter Rising

The Easter Rising took place on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916. It was yet the latest in more than a dozen attempts by the Irish to break the chains of bondage imposed on them by the Crown since the Normans first invaded in 1171. At least a dozen times in the previous seven centuries the Irish had organized military opposition and several times they had even tried parliamentary reform – all to no avail. With the dawn of the twentieth century, a new generation inherited the nationalist tradition of the past and was determined to keep faith with that tradition and try again.

To understand the significance of the Rising, one must start with the Gaelic revival early in the century. A literary movement, it sparked a renaissance in Ireland’s cultural heritage – language, history and arts. It planted the seeds of nationalism which led to a demand for Home Rule – a separate parliament for Ireland to govern herself. The government in Westminster depended on the Irish members of Parliament to ensure their power, so they acquiesced and promised Home Rule. However, loyalists in northern Ireland, who felt they would be a minority in an all-Irish Parliament, vowed to fight Home Rule if it were imposed. They formed a loyalist paramilitary militia called the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1912 and became the first to import arms on a large scale as a force of 100,000 were armed and trained. In 1913, the Irish Volunteers were formed by members of the Gaelic League, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Brotherhood to counter UVF opposition to Home Rule. However, they were only a poorly armed force of about 10,000.

The key to what happened next was an American citizen from Long Island, New York. His name was Thomas J. Clarke. An unrepentant veteran of the Fenian Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret revolutionary society in Ireland, he was imprisoned for anti-Crown activities. Released after charges of torture were upheld he was exiled from Ireland. He fled to America in 1898. He settled in New York and became active in Clann na Gael, the American branch of the Fenian movement. He was employed by an Irish-American newspaper edited by John Devoy – the most powerful figure in the Clann at the time. Highly respected for the suffering he endured for Irish freedom, Clarke became one of the Clan’s most trusted members. He became an American citizen and in Sept, 1906, retired to Manorville, Long Island. Though prematurely aged at 48, Clarke was not put out to pasture.

In December, 1907, he was sent to Ireland to rejuvenate the Irish Republican Brotherhood which had become inactive due to age and apathy. As the trusted link between the Irish exiles of Clann na Gael and the IRB in Ireland, he was appointed to the Supreme Council of the IRB and was one of its most powerful advocates of revolutionary action. He infiltrated the Volunteers, brought a young schoolteacher named Padraic Pearse into the brotherhood and recruited a young cadre to become a military council to further the goal of Irish freedom.

Home Rule was passed by Parliament, but with the outbreak of WWI, implementation was postponed; then, Northern politicians moved an amendment to exclude six counties of Ulster from the provisions of Home Rule and establish a separate state. John Redmond, head of the Irish Parliamentary Party believed that loyalty shown to the Crown at this crucial hour would result in the Crown acting favorably on behalf of Home Rule at the wars end, so he committed the Volunteers to serve in the British Army. This split the Volunteers and those who opposed service in the British Army reorganized under Eoin MacNeill.

IRB members within the Volunteer movement felt betrayed, and began to plot a rising. They were Padraig Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett, Eamon Kent, Sean MacDermott, led by the old Fenian, Tom Clarke. James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army, a force organized to protect workers from police during labor disputes, was brought in on the plans. They set a date for a rising on Easter Sunday because of the symbolism of Christ’s rising from the dead and because all the military would be off on holiday. Orders were issued for training maneuvers throughout the country. When Volunteer Roger Casement was captured trying to land arms in Kerry on Good Friday, MacNeill learned that the maneuvers were to be an actual rising and countermanded the orders in the public press, determined to keep the Volunteers as only a balancing force to the UVF. Clarke rescheduled the rising for Monday, but was unable to get the word to the Volunteers outside Dublin. The military council decided to rise anyway, believing that the rest of the country would rally when they heard of the fighting in Dublin.

The patriots marched into Dublin on Monday and the British immediately cut all communication lines out of the city. The word never got out. The rising was confined to Dublin, and for five heroic days, the insurgents held out against the might of the British Empire. In the end, battered by shot and shell, they surrendered. By the time the rest of the country found out what had happened, it was over. Then the British did a very stupid thing.

They separated the leaders from the mass of prisoners who had surrendered, lined them up against a wall, and murdered the noblest leaders Ireland had produced in that generation. Connolly, who had been wounded in the fray, was taken out on a stretcher, and propped up against a wall to receive the bullets. That foolish act of revenge brought the Irish nation to their feet as one angry mass against the Crown. The seeds planted by the Gaelic Revival burst forth in a nationalist fury that led to the War of Independence, and the ultimate treaty with the British that led to the modern Republic of Ireland. Although six counties in the north were left to the Crown, most of Ireland was free. As we know the struggle for the Erin’s remaining green field continues yet, but whether or not the current peace leads to the promised unification of Ireland, the men of Easter Week who gave their lives that Irishmen might control their own destiny must never be forgotten. Remember them in your prayers on April 24.

Throughout the hardship of seven centuries
brave Irishmen struggled and fought
remember the price already paid
and don’t let it be for naught!