Thursday, April 21, 2011

Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ireland

The visit to Ireland of Queen Elizabeth will, I believe, be welcomed by most of the people in this part of the island of Ireland.  Her itinerary will include a visit to the Garden of Remembrance and to Croke Park.  Both venues resonate with memories of our recent history, being locations associated with events which were part of the drive for Irish nationhood.

It was in the grassed area beside the Rotunda Hospital that the insurgents who surrendered on Saturday, 29th April 1916 were corralled overnight.  Elizabeth O’Farrell who carried Pearse’s message to General Lowe of the British Army wrote of seeing “about 300 or 400 volunteers.....lying on the little plot of ground ...where they had spent the night in the cold and damp”.  The treatment they received from the British soldiers was perhaps no worse than they subsequently received from the natives of Dublin. When the men who had surrendered in obedience to Pearse’s Order were marched along Thomas Street, an angry mob started to throw rotten fruit and vegetables at them.

Attitudes changed with the execution of the leaders of the 1916 Rising in Kilmainham Jail and the 50th Anniversary of the Rising saw the opening of the Garden of Remembrance behind the Rotunda Hospital.  The garden is dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives for the cause of Irish freedom and Queen Elizabeth in visiting the garden will be paying her respects to those men and women. 

Perhaps of even greater symbolism will be her visit to Croke Park, scene of the brutal slaughter by Black and  Tans of twelve innocent persons on Sunday, 21st November 1920.  If the Garden of Remembrance visit is an acknowledgement of the bravery of those who came out to fight for what appeared to be a hopeless cause in 1916,  the Croke Park visit can been seen as an acknowledgement of the reprehensible actions of many of the Black and Tans who terrorised Irish people during the latter stages of the War of Independence.

Sunday, 21st November 1920 was the day on which Michael Collins planned to have twenty one British intelligent officers executed.  Irish Volunteers swooped on various addresses throughout the city of Dublin where the intelligence officers were known to reside.  The early morning raids resulted in the killing of fourteen British agents and the wounding of another four in circumstances which any right thinking person would abhor.  Later that day Black and Tan reprisals saw the shooting of Peadar Clancy, Dick McKee and Conor Clune, three men who had been held prisoner in Dublin Castle.  Later that same afternoon the Black and Tans arrived at Croke Park where a football match was being played between Tipperary and Dublin in aid of the Irish Volunteers Fund.  The Tans shot into the crowd killing twelve spectators and Michael Hogan, one of the Tipperary players.  Another sixty spectators were wounded.   

The actions of the Black and Tans in Ireland were condemned by Crozier, the Commander of the British forces in Ireland as well as by some members of the British House of Commons.  However, Bloody Sunday 1920 saw the Irish Volunteers match the Tans for the ferocity of their actions with the execution of twelve intelligence officers early that Sunday morning.  One of those involved in the Bloody Sunday executions was Patrick Moran from County Roscommon who lived and worked in Athy for some years prior to moving to Dublin.  There he joined the Irish Volunteers and served under Eamon de Valera in Jacob’s factory during the 1916 Rising.  Imprisoned afterwards in Knutsford and Frongoch, he was released in July 1916 and continued his involvement with the Volunteers.  Moran was one of the men chosen by Collins to carry out the execution of British intelligence officers on the 21st November.  His involvement was not known until recently and was referred to in May Moran’s recently published book “Executed for Ireland – The Patrick Moran Story”. 
On Thursday, 27th April, May Moran will give an illustrated talk on Patrick Moran in the Community Arts Centre, Woodstock Street at 8.00 p.m.  Admission is free for this talk which should prove interesting to Athy folk, given that Patrick Moran while in Athy played a prominent part in the local Football Club, the local Dramatic Society and the Catholic Young Mens Society. 

Queen Elizabeth is unlikely to make any speeches at either the Garden of Remembrance or at Croke Park, the expectation being that she will do so at a State Banquet in Dublin Castle.  However, her presence at these two venues will be seen as an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the aspirations of the Irish Volunteers and an acceptance that the domination of the Irish people by her predecessors subjects was a wrong yet to be corrected.

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