Knocknagoshel 1923 monument smashed in act of pure thuggery
A MEMORIAL stone to one of the darkest events in the history of our country has been destroyed in an attack which has provoked a response peppered with strong language.
Locals and organisers are considering offering a reward for information to find those responsible for the act of thuggery in which the head was knocked off the solid, three-inch-thick slab.
The unveiling of the stone on Sunday, November 17, last drew a crowd of 200 people to the quiet Talbot's Bridge area of Knocknagoshel in the townland of Ballyduff. The work on the stone and its anchoring at the bridge cost in the region of €1,000 at the time. Now, just five months later, comes this act of indescribable vandalism which has left the locals angry and hoping that those responsible will be caught.
The stone was erected and unveiled to the memory of five National Army or Free State soldiers who lost their lives after being lured to the site of a land-mine just up the hill from the road on March 6, 1923. The atrocity led, a day later, to the massacre at Ballyseedy - one of the most notorious events from that bloody chapter in Irish history.
The unveiling of the monument drew an emotional response from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan on the day. Departing from his scripted delivery, Minister Deenihan pointed out that Paudie Fuller - a son of the sole survivor of Ballyseedy, Stephen Fuller - was in attendance. It was a gesture which Mr. Deenihan said he greatly admired and appreciated.
"Paudie Fuller has done more than any other man in North Kerry to bring us all together and his bravery and generosity in being here today is something we all appreciate," said Minister Deenihan to an outburst of spontaneous applause.
The emotion of the day and Mr. Deenihan's gesture also, clearly got the better of Mr. Fuller, a former Fianna Fail County Councillor who was standing at the back of the crowd.
"I would like, in the first instance, to thank Ben Brosnan, Knocknagoshel and Jimmy Thompson from Scartaglin and Kilkennyman Larry Cummins for their initiative in arranging this appropriate tribute and providing this memorial to the five members of the National Army who were killed here by a trap mine in March 6th 1923," said Minister Deenihan on the occasion. He went on to name those killed: Private Laurence O'Connor, Lissycurrig, Causeway; Captain Edward Joseph Stapleton, Dublin; Captain Michael Dunne, Dublin; Lieutenant Patrick O'Connor, Castleisland and Private Michael Galvin, Killarney. And he also remembered Private Joseph O'Brien who lost his limbs on that occasion.
There are marks on the broken slab and Gardai from Listowel have examined the damage done and the area around it.
Now the committee members, whose work was admired and praised on that Sunday afternoon in November, are left picking up the pieces - quite literally and hoping that those responsible will be caught.
Sinn Féin has also condemned the attack on the monument in Knocknagoshel. Kerry Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris said that people had a right to commemorate those who died on both sides during the Civil War and said the attack on the memorial was a disgraceful act.
"This was an absolutely disgraceful thing to do. Everybody has a right to remember and commemorate those who lost their lives during the Civil War, which was most bitter in this county.
"I was saddened to learn that someone would go out and do this, but I imagine the vast majority of people in Kerry would totally condemn this act of vandalism," he said.
"What happened in Kerry over 90 years ago left a lasting legacy of bitterness and people still have very strong feelings, but that is no excuse for this," Deputy Ferris added.
The contact number for Knocknagoshel Garda Station is 068-46102. The Garda Confidential Line Number is: 1 800 666 111.