Joe Duffy pays tribute to forgotten children of Easter Rising at book launch
Published 16/10/2015 | 20:16
LIVELINE presenter Joe Duffy is determined the memory of 40 children killed during the bloody week of the 1916 Easter Rising won’t be forgotten.
His ‘Children of Rising’ book, launched tonight, chronicles the lives and deaths of the youngsters who were among 300 civilians caught up in the ferocious fighting.
“The country should remember them,” he told Independent.ie.
“It is a day for the forgotten children,” Mr Duffy said .
“Their names were read out in the GPO this evening and that is the first time that this has ever happened. I think that is what the seven signatories of the proclamation would have wanted. They would have wanted these children named and remembered.”
He said the book is full of “uncomfortable truths” and contains a “completely new part of the story of 1916 that has simply never been told before”.
Duffy said that “within the two canals in the centre of Dublin, there were 20,000 against 2,000 – it was pouring bullets for six days”.
Three quarters of the city’s population lived in tenements in that area and were effectively trapped in a warzone for the week, many killed as they went in search of food.
The radio star said the deaths of the 40 children during the 1916 Rising were “not a part of the official narrative, we’re going to have to struggle to get children to be a part of this narrative”.
He explained that the research involved seeking out census records from the time, using death certificates as well as a list of the casualties during the fighting to match names and ages.
“I’d say I was on that  census more than anyone else in the last three years, sometimes up to 40 times a day,” he explained.
One boy, known only as ‘Male’ O’Toole in the book, is thought to have “lived hand to mouth” and worked for several years at a workhouse before being killed.
The poverty at the time is described as the worst in Ireland and Britain – 62pc of children died before they reached the age of 10 in the late 19th century in Dublin.
Joe decided to write the book after painting an Easter egg for a Jack and Jill Foundation fundraiser in 2013.
They had “wanted people from the public eye to paint a picture on an egg for Easter” and having felt that the Rising was synonymous with Easter and that it was for a children’s charity, he decided to paint the egg with the names of children killed during the Rising – he then decided to write a book on the subject.
During his research, he discovered that the father of The Dubliners star Luke Kelly had been shot and wounded as a child during the infamous Bachelors Walk Massacre in 1914.
The father-of-three launched the book in the GPO last night at a star studded ceremony hosted by his former RTE colleague Pat Kenny.
Next year’s Easter Rising celebrations has a special double resonance for Mr Duffy as his three children celebrate a milestone birthday at the same time.
“My own three kids are 21 next Easter Monday so that’s some planning! I say to them all the time the Dublin they are living in now is a world away from the Dublin of 1916.
Comedian and star of Mrs Brown’s Boys, Brendan O’Carroll, was also on hand to honour his friend’s work.
Speaking at the event, close friend Brendan O’Carroll called upon Arts Minister Heather Humphries to ensure that the book is on “the curriculum for every child in every school”.
“I know Joe has poured his heart into this book. He has lived the short lives of those 40 children and made them real people. He’s told their stories. It is something that every Irish child and adult should read."
Also on hand to celebrate the books launch were Pat Kenny, Jenny Gibney and Joe's mother, Mabel.
Ms Humphries also addressed the audience, where she said the story of these “innocent victims” should “never be forgotten”.
“This is a tremendous occasion. Joe talked about the children of the Rising long before anybody else was talking about it.
“I think it is a credit to him that he has been able to do all the research, put all in the info into this book.
“It is a story about the human experiences,” the Minister added.
Mr Duffy gave an impassioned speech, which he began by calling out the names of all 40 children he discusses in his book.