Thursday 26 April 2018

Last ceremonies to remember executed leaders

James Connolly's great grand-daughters Sarah, Ruth and Emma Connolly (Picture:
James Connolly's great grand-daughters Sarah, Ruth and Emma Connolly (Picture:
Brig. General James Connolly with his grandfather's 1916 medal (Picture: Paul Sherwood)

Jane O'Faherty

Relatives and political representatives returned to Kilmainham Gaol yesterday for the last ceremonies to mark the executions of 1916 rebels.

James Connolly and Seán Mac Diarmada were commemorated in two separate events in the Stonebreakers' Yard.

The ceremony for Connolly attracted key figures of the Irish left, including Joe Costello and former Labour Leader Joan Burton.

Connolly's great grand-daughters, Sarah and Ruth Connolly, also attended, and said his role in the Rising was not often discussed by the family.

"My dad's father, Roddy, didn't speak about it too much because he had a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder after the executions," said Ruth (31).

Connolly's execution is seen as the most brutal of all carried out in the aftermath of the Rising. As a result of injuries he sustained in the hostilities, he was unable to stand. He was therefore strapped to a chair and shot by a firing squad.

Fr Adrian Curran read from the memoirs of a Capuchin friar who accompanied Connolly to his execution.

"I had stood behind the firing line. It was a scene I should not ask to witness again," the friar wrote.

"I had got to know Connolly, to marvel at his strength of character and now I had to say goodbye."

During the ceremony, written records of the Proclamation signatories' final hours in Kilmainham were read to the family, historians and politicians.

Speaking at the service, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar told the story of how Mac Diarmada said "that he wasn't afraid and it would be a privilege for him to die in the company of Clarke, Connolly and others."

Meanwhile, the National Museum of Ireland has announced that it has acquired a collection of medals from the Connolly family for its national exhibitions.

Separately, a new exhibition of stories and portraits of 1916 figures has opened at Kilmainham Gaol.

Irish Independent

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