Saturday 3 December 2016

Campaign seeks return of Markievicz banner

Paddy Clancy

Published 05/04/2010 | 05:00

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to restore a 1916 Rising banner owned by Countess Constance Markievicz to her Sligo roots.

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The banner of Na Fianna scouts, founded by the countess in 1909, was snatched in a raid on her home while she was held in Kilmainham Jail after the Rising.

It currently hangs in the Imperial War Museum in London.

The museum recently said it would loan the banner for exhibitions in Ireland.

But now the Markievicz Memorial Committee are pressing for its return to Sligo.

After the rising, the countess was visited in prison on May 6 by her sister Eva Gore-Booth and her friend Esther Roper.

The two women then went to the countess's home, Surrey House in Rathmines, Dublin.

They found it had been seized and ransacked by the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel McCammond. The house was looted.

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Author Anne Marreco wrote in her book 'The Rebel Countess': "The soldiers had not only searched it, but wrecked it. Furniture was broken, books, ornaments and pictures strewn everywhere. Someone had even taken the trouble to smash every one of a collection of lantern slides. The garden had been dug in a search for arms."

One of the items taken in the raid was the banner of Na Fianna, called An Gal Greine. Emblazoned with a pike and sunburst on a field of green, it carried the slogan: "Glaine r gcroi, Neart r ngag, Agus beart de rir r mbriathar". It translates as: "The cleanliness of our hearts, The strength of our limbs, Our commitment to our promise".

Dublin City councillor Jim O'Callaghan wrote seeking a loan of the banner for display in the Dublin City or the national museums. He got a reply suggesting it could be loaned.

Now the Sligo Markievicz Memorial Committee wants the banner returned on a permanent basis.

Committee chairman Joe McGowan said that "while not agreeing to the banner's return, the letter is nevertheless encouraging and slightly opens the door."

The committee is stepping up a campaign to get the banner back on a permanent basis.

Former Labour TD Declan Bree has put down a motion for the next meeting of Sligo County Council seeking support for the move. "Particularly with the centenary of the Rising only a few years away this is a golden opportunity to have this important artefact returned to Ireland and to Con Markievicz's native county," Mr McGowan said.

Irish Independent

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