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Barry remains might be reburied outside Mountjoy: O’Donohue

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Eighty years after they were executed by the British, the re-internment of the remains of the so-called "Forgotten Ten" — including Kevin Barry — from inside Mountjoy Jail to consecrated ground outside is being investigated by the government.

Justice Minister John O’Donoghue made the announcement when he unveiled a commemorative plaque in Mountjoy. But he warned against any attempt by militant republicans to use their legacy as a justification for violence today.

After they were hanged in 1920 and ’21, the so-called "Forgotten Ten" were buried within the walls of Dublin’s biggest prison as part of their death sentence verdict under an 1868 capital punishment law.

In contrast, Civil War combatants executed in Mountjoy in 1922 and ’23 were shot by firing squad and their remains were handed over to their relatives for burial.

O’Donoghue said a member of his family had been a college classmate of Barry and he pointed out that many of the colleagues of the 10 had gone on to enter democratic politics.

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"I reject outright any person or group who would now seek to draw a mandate or justification from the actions of Kevin Barry and his comrades for the illegal use of arms in pursuit of political objectives in this time in our history," O’Donoghue said.

"The political traditions of Irish nationalism, to which the 10 young men who died here belonged, are not narrowly confined to those who supported armed struggle.

"Indeed, many of the exponents of the armed struggle, in their time and later, went on to take the oath of democratic politics. Sadly, these young men did no survive long enough to have the opportunity to take that option."

The minister warned the government would be "unrelenting" in pursuing anyone who tried to usurp the legacy of those who fought in the 1916, the War of Independence or the Civil War to "rekindle conflict and violence."

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was among those who attended the ceremony in the jail last Wednesday — almost 80 years to the hour after Barry became the first "old" IRA volunteer to be executed during the War of Independence.

The move to re-inter the remains comes as the government is facing the prospect of an embarrassing court action by the National Graves Association to try to force it to move the men.

The NGA has been campaigning for 65 years for all executed republican prisoners to be reburied in consecrated ground in Ireland.

The NGA has argued the 10 are the last republican prisoners to be "held" in prison after the Northern Ireland peace process and they should also benefit under the prisoner amnesty.

The NGA had appealed to Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to fully honor the terms of the Good Friday agreement and permit the "release" of the remains.

"Within a matter of weeks, we will be placing legal documentation in the hands of the contactable representatives of the ten families to facilitate them in requesting exhumation of the remains, if that is their collectible wish," O’Donoghue said.

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