Tuesday 25 October 2016

Remembering the forgotten female heroes of the 1916 Rising

Published 21/04/2016 | 02:30

Captain May Kelly’s uniform
Captain May Kelly’s uniform

The following letter is based on notes and memories from discussing the Rising with some relatives which you may find interesting:

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On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, when hearing that the Rising had started, Clan Na Gael Girl Scouts Margaret Fagan, Mary Jane Stapleton, Annie Tobin and Mary McLoughlin, under Captain May Kelly, reported for duty at their outposts at the GPO. At the Four Courts: the two Healy sisters, Kathleen and Teresa (their younger brother, Sean Healy, a 15-year-old Fianna boy, was shot at Phibsboro after calling to his mother to say he was all right while carrying dispatches).

At Jacobs: Annie O'Hagan and Cecilia Conroy. Captain Kelly had already sent the younger members of Clan Na Gael on a hike up the Dublin Mountains to keep them away from the city.

On Monday evening, Captain Kelly and the other girls were sent to watch troop movements from Collins Barracks. They did this and reported back to James Connolly.

They were then sent to Drumcondra to collect ammunition, which they brought back while avoiding checkpoints.

That night, they helped the doctor with the wounded.

On Tuesday, Captain Kelly was ordered to report to Commandant Thomas McDonagh in Jacobs. For the rest of the week, she was sent on missions to the College of Surgeons to find ammunition and report on the dead. She had to be careful, as there was a lot of sniping from the Shelbourne Hotel.

Captain Kelly and the other Clan girls, when the spirits of the volunteers started wavering with fatigue, started singing 'The Rising of the Moon' and other uplifting ballads, and in a lull in the fighting, they held a céilí.

When the surrender took place, Commandant McDonagh praised them for their service to Ireland. The girls took letters home to the wives and mothers of the volunteers.

As the GPO was in flames, the Clan girls helped carry the stretchers of the wounded under the protection of the Red Cross flag to Jervis Street Hospital.

They were arrested on the North Circular Road, brought to Broadstone Station for interrogation and then released.

After the Rising, when pensions and medals were being given out, the authorities didn't want to recognise them. But because the Volunteers held them in such high esteem, the authorities had to give in.

Captain May Kelly's uniform is on display at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History at Collins Barracks, Dublin. It's a small uniform - she was only 17 years old in 1916.

Toirbhealach Lyons

Grand-nephew of May Kelly

Give public a say in the Seanad

As I sifted through all the election literature from Seanad candidates (30 for the NUI Panel), I started to think about the fact that the Taoiseach will nominate 11 more. Who might they be? There will be 60 senators in total, 49 elected through the various panels and a further 11 at the Taoiseach's discretion.

Some are those who lost Dáil seats in the General Election, came close to taking a seat or were prospective candidates. Others are those from various strands of society who may have an input into political debate, legislation, or are just running for the sake of it.

University graduates have the opportunity to vote for the candidates on the NUI panel, but councillors are permitted to vote for other panels, whilst non-graduates have no say at all. This is hardly democratic and, having strongly supported the retention of the Upper House, I am disappointed, if unsurprised, at the lack of reform since the referendum on the Seanad was defeated.

However, I note that the majority of the candidates whose literature has arrived through my door pledge to bring about Seanad reform this time. I will certainly hold those who I believe merit my vote accountable for this. If they do, the Seanad could prove to be a very useful institution, but if not, then it serves no purpose. There is plenty of ability going forward for the NUI panel and I would urge anybody with a vote to exercise their constitutional right and appeal to those who are successful to ensure that everybody who has a vote in general elections has a vote in the Seanad elections next time (which may not be too far away).

As regards the Taoiseach of the day's nominees, why don't we change this and either make all 60 seats electable or allow for an online vote by the public for the Seanad? I appreciate that there is always the danger of Dustin the Turkey topping it (mind you, that could be an improvement on some) but imagine some of the valuable nominees: Michael O'Leary, Dermot Desmond, Denis O'Brien, Roy Keane, Martin O'Neill, Katie Taylor, Olivia O'Leary, Claire Byrne and former Presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.

Mike Geraghty

Newcastle, Galway

Don't demonise all non-voters

In his letter (Irish Independent, April 19), Patrick Murray makes a sweeping assumption when he says that those who did not vote in the General Election are lethargic people sitting at home watching television.

Does Mr Murray not know that some people are away from their homes much of the time due to work, while others may be sick and unable to get out to vote? Perhaps he would spare a thought for elderly registered voters who may have no mode of transport. Does he think that lethargic citizens such as myself are responsible for the ineptitude of all TDs, or just one third of them?

Tadgh Martin

Leixlip, Co Kildare

Europe's refugee dilemma

President Michael D Higgins has offered much-needed insight into the ordeal of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean while trying to flee their poverty- and war-ravaged countries. This comes at a critical juncture, when Europe is facing internal and external threats, not least from the scourge of global terrorism.

The European Union itself was envisaged as an answer to decades of darkness and despair, to bring peace, healing, cultural innovation and religious harmony. However, we should not delude ourselves by believing that Europe can admit the hundreds of millions from every state reeling from the disastrous upheavals of civil war, diseases and destitution.

This would be a political, economic, environmental, religious and cultural suicide beyond limits. What is needed is a more sustainable development response to the ever-growing global refugees crisis, and a serious attempt to address the root causes of wars, marginalisation and the despair that throws people into the clutches of terror groups.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London, UK

Irish Independent

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