Saturday 28 May 2016

London museum hints at the possible return of Constance Markievicz banner to Sligo

Published 24/03/2010 | 13:52

Following the suppression of the Easter Rising of 1916 Constance Markievicz was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol. After a visit to the prison on May 6th by her sister Eva Gore-Booth, and her friend Esther Roper, the two women went on to Con's home, Surrey House in Rathmines, Co. Dublin.

When they got there they found it had been seized and ransacked by the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. C. McCammond . Anne Marreco in her book 'The Rebel Countess' tells us that '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, the youth organisation founded by Countess Markievicz in 1909. Emblazoned with a pike and sunburst on a field of green it carries the slogan: "Glaine ár gcroí, Neart ár ngéag, Agus beart de réir ár mbriathar" ('The cleanliness of our hearts, The strength of our limbs, Our commitment to our promise.)

Paul Mooney, in a letter to the Sligo Champion some weeks ago related that the banner is now held in the Imperial War Museum in London. The Co. Sligo Markievicz Memorial Committee responded to his letter and is now supporting the repatriation to Ireland of this historical item.

Last January Councillor Jim O'Callaghan of Pembroke/Rathmines wrote to the War Museum requesting the banner's return. A Facebook campaign has gathered, in this short space of time, over 1,300 signatories. Supporting Cllr, O'Callaghan's request, and Paul Mooney's initiative, Sligo's Markievicz Committee has written to the Imperial War Museum and received a positive reply. While not consenting to a return they have indicated their willingness to a loan. The letter states in part: "...It may well be that an opportunity will occur for a loan to an appropriate Irish museum in the next few years. In particular, we are planning to undertake a major redevelopment of our galleries relating to the world wars and I would consequently expect that material currently on display would need to be placed in temporary storage. At the same time, we are very conscious that while our collections relating to the participation of Britain, allies and enemies in the First World War are strong, there are shortcomings relating to conflicts leading up to and following the independence of Ireland. It may well be that the centenaries could provide an opportunity for us to be able to acquire loan material to cover this important period more effectively..."

While not agreeing to the banner's return the letter is nevertheless encouraging and slightly opens the door to an agreement. At this point in time the Markievicz Committee are asking the people of Sligo to join the campaign, lobby their Councillors to pass a motion requesting the return of the item and write to their TDs.

A spokesman for the committee said that 'particularly with the centenary of the Easter Rising only a few years away this is a golden opportunity to have this important artefact returned to Ireland and to Con Markievcz's native county. Further information from Joe Mc Gowan (Chairman) 087 6674522 or Larry Mullin (Hon. Sec.) 071 9147080

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