Category: Archive

Remains of 10 Mountjoy patriots reintered

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — In the biggest officially sanctioned demonstration of republicanism since the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the exhumed remains of 10 patriots executed by the British during the struggle for independence 80 years ago received a state funeral with full military honors on Sunday.

President Mary McAleese and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern led the mourners at the ceremonies.

The center of Dublin came to a standstill as thousands of people, many of them cheering and applauding, lined the rain-soaked streets. Army, Navy, Air Corps and FCA honor guards escorted the 10 hearses containing the coffins, covered with tri-colors, of Kevin Barry, Patrick Moran, Thomas Whelan, Edward Foley, Patrick Maher, Thomas Bryan, Patrick Doyle, Frank Flood, Bernard Ryan and Thomas Traynor.

For part of the journey it proceeded at a slow march led by an army band. The cortege stopped at the GPO on the way to the Pro-Cathedral, where a piper played a lament and at the Garden of the Remembrance on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery.

Cardinal Cathal Daly gave the homily at the funeral service and Ahern delivered a graveside oration.

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Broadcast on RTE, it was Ireland’s largest state funeral and the first since the death of President Erskine Childers in 1974.

More than 650 relatives of the 10 traveled from throughout Ireland, Britain, the U.S., continental Europe and the Middle East to join the mourning. Some acted as pall bearers as the coffins left Mountjoy Prison, where the men were buried after they were hanged.

The high-profile ceremony, with all its state pomp and pageantry coinciding with the weekend of the Ard Fheis of Fianna, led to strong criticism from opposition politicians.

With a general election due next year, there is concern that Sinn Fein will increase its representation in the Dail from their current single TD to as many as six or 10, so all the main political parties were strongly represented.

There was also criticism that the ceremonies could cause unease among unionists and add to tensions in the North at a critical time in the peace process.

The Pro-Cathedral was packed to capacity. The attendance included government ministers, TDs and senators, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Catholic bishops, representatives of the Church of Ireland, the Methodists and Lutherans, the Coptic and Greek Orthodox churches and the Jewish and Islamic faiths.

In his homily, Cardinal Daly distanced the legacy of the 10 from the recent years of violence.

He said the true inheritors of their ideals “are those who are explicitly and visibly committed to leaving physical force behind and who are committed to implementing all aspects of the Good Friday agreement.”

The whole context in which they waged their armed struggle had been “irreversibly changed” by last month’s terror attacks on America and new understandings of freedom and unity in Ireland since the 1920s.

“These men died in the belief that their deaths would help to bring into being an Ireland of freedom, of justice,” Daly said.

“An island in which people would never again feel a need to resort to violent means in order to secure human rights and equal opportunities.”

The cardinal said many would be laying claim to be the legitimate and only heirs of the men and the mantle of “unfinished business” going back to 1916.

“A united Ireland remains a legitimate and noble ideal,” he said. “But the people of this island have repudiated physical force or coercion as a means to attain it.

“The true inheritors of the men and women of 1916 are those who struggle for justice and human rights and equality for all sections in society.

“The only legitimate struggle in Northern Ireland is an unarmed struggle for peace and reconciliation and cooperation between its diverse traditions.”

In his oration, Ahern said the funeral represented the State discharging a debt of honor.

While the Good Friday peace agreement had moved Ireland to a new stage in its history, Ahern said that “certainly does not mean we forget or repudiate those who founded our state.”

“Although we have difficulties of our own time, there is no fair person in this country but thinks that it is good that we bury these men with State honors here today, and indeed that it is time we did so.

“Revisiting the problem of relations between North and South and between the islands, and creating a new, just and equitable system of democratic government throughout the island has been the difficult task that our generation has had to take up, after much trauma.

“There is neither need nor excuse for the extrajudicial use of force by anyone today.”

He said the 10 had been recognized as part of a legitimate army, backed by a democratic mandate of the emerging Dail after the 1918 general election.

It was a struggle that was a legitimate inspiration to national independence movements in the colonies of the European empire.

He compared the struggle of the time to the American Revolution.

“Every nation, both large and small, has a right to defend and vindicate its freedom in accordance with the will of its people,” Ahern said.

The 10 were upholding a declaration of independence from the emerging Dail against a British government who were then “seeking in vain to maintain their continued rule by force, long after popular consent had been definitively withdrawn.”

The 10 were hanged in Mountjoy after being tried by military courts martial in 1920-21, during the War of Independence, or Anglo-Irish War, that ended centuries of British rule.

All were buried within the walls of the prison as part of their death sentence under an 1868 law.

Their remains were exhumed during the summer after a lengthy campaign to have them reinterred outside the prison and given a Christian burial.

One of the 10 reburied is the “boy-martyr,” Kevin Barry. In 1920, at the age of 18, he became the first person to be executed by the British since the 1916 Rising.

The execution led to an international outcry because of his age. He has become a folk hero and is revered in songs and ballads.

A medical student, Barry was found guilty of the murder of a young British soldier during a raid on a military bread van in Dublin. Two other soldiers also died.

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