Irish for Life

By Scott O. Schittl, President, Life House Ireland

 

On April 24, 1916 Padraic Pearse, Tom Clarke, Joseph May Plunkett, Thomas MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, and Sean MacDermott let their men to strike for Irish Freedom.

Their heroic act – and that of the men fighting with them – has been known ever since as the Easter Rising, for that fateful day in 1916 was, in fact, Easter Monday.

As we , ourselves, have just celebrated Easter, and the date of the Rising is now behind us, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to an organization called Life House Ireland.

With the encouragement of your President Seamus Boyle and also of Danny O’Connell, your National Director I am writing about an urgent situation that reminds us why true Irish independence is such a fragile a precious gift, which we need to – still – struggle to keep alive.

In Ireland today, an interloping European court is right now insisting that Ireland change her pro-life laws to suit a more Liberal European aborting regime – in spite of the fact that most Irish people remain steadfastly pro-life!

In addition to being a grave insult to the Irish nation and people, we must call this intrusion from Europe what it is: Another form of tyranny!

Indeed, it makes a mockery of the Irish Constitution, over which so much sacrifice was made by our ancestors. It also makes a mockery of democracy and the right of a sovereign people to decide on life’s most fundamental issue.

To counter the terrible arrogance of the European courts, Life House Ireland has been set up as an American 501 C (3), to inform Irish-Americans about this situation, and also to help support the pro-life movement in Ireland. For more information about Life House Ireland, Please visit our website at: www.lifehoursireland.org and subscribe to our free, monthly, online newsletter.

So far, we have visited many AOH Divisions and Boards – where the men have shown great interest and support as demonstrated in the attached photo from Summit County St. Brendan’s Division 3.  Following our presentation, the brothers of St. Brendan’s unanimously approved a $500 donation plus committed all their 50/50 proceeds from their St. Patrick’s day celebrations. We would like to visit as many more as possible, and are eager to travel to visit you.

This is a new “struggle” – we don’t want this interloping European court telling Ireland to kill its Children.  It’s that simple, and this type of freedom is essential if Ireland is to retain true independence.

I have lived and worked in the Irish pro-life movement for 15 years, and am an Irish citizen by Naturalization.  My colleague Tim Jackson, is a Donegal man, who has put his life back in Ireland on hold, to help me give our presentations. If you would like to set up a visit, get a recommendation from one of your brother Presidents who has heard our presentation, ask any questions, or make a contribution, please call me or Tim on (240) 415-2382 ore write us at office@lifehouseireland.org

As we remember Easter Week of 1916, let’s also pray that Ireland will not o down the road of the Culture of Death, but rather, that she is helped to retain one of her finest traditions – that of being pro-life.

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James Connolly

On June 5, 1868, a boy was born of Irish parents in the section of Edinburgh, Scotland known as Little Ireland. That boy would become one of the most beloved leaders of his time, and one of Ireland’s greatest patriots; his name was James Connolly.

The drastic class distinction and poverty caused by anti-Irish discrimination in 19th century Scotland was a heavy influence on young James. Working as an apprentice printer at the age of 10, he became an avid reader, and by the time he was 14 had read most of the literature of Michael Davitt’s Land League on its war against the landlords in Ireland. It is no surprise that he grew extremely nationalistic, and citing the Fenian example of enlisting to learn military tactics, he joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment. He was sent to serve in Ireland which was then entering the Gaelic Revival and there was no shortage of historical and nationalist oriented material for Connolly’s hungry young eyes. Stationed in Dublin, he became aware of the close parallel between his Edinburgh environment and the pitiful conditions of the Dublin working class. Taking a note from history, he swore that as the Land League had successfully organized farmers against landlords, he would organize workers against the managers of industry.

After his discharge, he returned to Edinburgh, and began organizing labor. He was eventually blacklisted in Scotland, and was invited to be a labor organizer in Ireland where his knowledge of Irish history made him one of the most popular speakers of the Gaelic Revival. His popularity was so great he was invited on speaking tours of Scotland and England, and in 1902 was invited to America. He toured the U.S. lecturing labor unions and rally’s, and eventually settled in Troy, New York. He started a monthly paper called The Harp to enlist Irish-American support for the labor movement, and filled its pages with news from Ireland. This news brought Connolly closer to Irish affairs, and he realized where his heart had always been. He returned to Ireland, and settled in Belfast in 1910 to help organize the Irish Transport Workers Union.

In August, 1912 Connolly was called to Dublin where one of the greatest labor struggles in the history of western Europe – the Great Dublin Lockout – had begun. Management, in an attempt to break the union, locked the workers out of their jobs. Violence was rampant, and Connolly was instrumental in forming a force to protect the workers from management-controlled police; thus the Irish Citizen Army was born. Though the lockout ended in favor of management, the workers had made it so costly that it would never again be used against organized labor.

Convinced that ties with England were hampering the labor movement, Connolly began to preach open rebellion. Unknown to him, Padraic Pearse and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) were already planning such action. Connolly’s newspaper articles were so militant that IRB leader Tom Clarke was afraid Connolly would unknowingly tip their hand. On Jan 19, Connolly left for lunch and disappeared. For 3 days his kidnapping so infuriated the labor movement that his followers almost started a rebellion without him. On the third day, Connolly returned, and remained silent concerning his whereabouts. It was later said that he had been taken by the IRB to be briefed on the coming rising; Connolly was now a member of the IRB Military Council.

He had pledged the support of the Irish Citizen Army, and was thereafter a leading figure in the march toward rebellion. When the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was drawn up, it was Connolly who made the final revision, and it was Connolly who had it printed in the basement of Liberty Hall – his union headquarters. On Easter Monday 1916, Connolly addressed his Citizen Army for the last time. “There is no longer a Citizen Army and a Volunteer Force,” he said, “there is now only the Army of the Irish Republic.”

The date of the Rising was set, and despite several mishaps during the week prior, like the capture of Roger Casement, the loss of an arms shipment, and Volunteer leader Eoin MacNeill’s cancellation of mobilization orders, Connolly was determined to prevail. Yet, when William Smith O’Brien asked Connolly, as they left Liberty Hall on that fateful morning, “Is there any chance of success?” Connolly replied, “None whatever.”  At 11:35 AM he led his men into the streets of Dublin, and the pages of history. In one bloody week it was over.

Despite a wounded shoulder and a shattered ankle, Connolly remained (in Pearse’s words) “the guiding brain of our resistance to the end.”  With the Irish surrender, Connolly was taken to Dublin Castle as the executions of the leaders began. Day by day, one by one, the noblest men in Ireland were murdered by an English firing squad. On May 12, after 13 had been killed, Connolly was brought into the stonebreaker’s yard at Kilmainham Jail to face the firing squad. In death Connolly would become an even greater inspiration than he had been in life. Within two months, he and the other leaders would take their place with Tone and Emmet; and the Irish people, their fury finally aroused, would pick up the cause left to them, and carry it through the War of Independence. In her book The Fractured Emerald, author Emily Hahn wrote, “It was probably the manner of Connolly’s death that at last nauseated the public: his wound had been allowed to gangrene and he was in such a bad way that the soldiers had to carry him out on a stretcher and prop him up to receive the bullets.”

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!