Sunday 25 February 2018

Rebel County honours its role in Irish fight for independence

Áine Leahy from Ovens at the Cork celebrations. Photo: Darragh Kane
Áine Leahy from Ovens at the Cork celebrations. Photo: Darragh Kane
Claire O'Keeffe of the Defence Forces Band at the National Monument on Grand Parade, Cork City Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Patrick Pearse's great grand nephew Fearghas Mac Lochlainn reads the Proclamation at Pearse's Cottage in Rosmuc, Connemara Photo: Andrew Downes
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

The Rebel County marked the centenary of the 1916 Rising with a series of carefully choreographed events and a sense of what-might-have-been.

More than 8,000 people gathered in Cork city centre to mark the precise 1.15pm time when the first shots of the Rising were fired in Dublin.

Guests of honour by the national monument on the Grand Parade for the reading of the Proclamation of Independence and a special wreath-laying ceremony were relatives of the Irish Volunteers who deployed in Cork in Easter 1916.

These included Tomás Mac Curtain's grand-daughter, Fionnuala, his daughter-in-law, Mai, and his great, grandson, Tomás Óg.

"This is a very proud day for all of us," Fionnuala said as her family marched to the ceremony from the old Irish Volunteers headquarters.

The family was flanked by marchers dressed as Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan members.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney also addressed the gathering, saying the actions of the Volunteers had "contributed in a major way to the establishment of this State".

Cork was expected to be one of the centres of the Rising but, because of contradictory orders to local Irish Volunteers and the failure of the 'Aud' gun-smuggling mission, thousands of volunteers only deployed when word of the Dublin fighting emerged.

A week-long stand-off at the Irish Volunteers Hall on Sheares Street in Cork resulted with the building surrounded by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and British Army units. The stand-off was only ended without bloodshed due to the intervention of the Lord Mayor of Cork and the Bishop of Cork and Ross.

But the Irish Volunteer commander, Tomás Mac Curtain, was taken into custody despite Crown commitments and eventually interned in Wales just like the Dublin rebels.

Mr Mac Curtain, a Lord Mayor of Cork, was murdered by an RIC unit at the height of the War of Independence four years later.

Tribute was also paid to Thomas Kent, who was one of just two rebels to be executed outside of Dublin as a result of the 1916 Rising.

Fittingly, the Thomas Kent Pipe Band, named in his honour, yesterday led the Easter Rising parade in Cork.

Richard Kent (41) died after trying to escape following a four-hour gunfight with a contingent from the RIC who tried to seize arms from the Kent farmhouse in Castlelyons in Cork. During the fighting Senior RIC constable William Rowe was also fatally wounded.

His brother, Thomas (50), was captured and executed in Cork Prison on May 9. He and Roger Casement were the only two men executed outside Dublin for the 1916 events. His body was located and exhumed from the Cork Prison yard last year and re-buried with full military honours in a ceremony led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in September.


A special ceremony to honour Thomas Kent will now take place in Collins Barracks on the May 9 anniversary of his execution.

Company Quarter-Master Sergeant and historian Gerry White said it was also fitting that a special plaque, which went missing from St Francis Hall, the old Irish Volunteer headquarters, was replaced.

The new plaque was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Chris O'Leary, and the Mayor of Cork County, Cllr John Paul O'Shea.

Councillor O'Leary said that while no major fighting took place in Cork on Easter Monday, the city and county would play a critical role in the fight for Irish freedom.

"The events around the Easter rebellion in Cork signify the commencement of an extraordinary chapter in Cork's history where it would not be found wanting when the call arms in the name of an independent Ireland was made," he said. "The names of Mac Curtain, MacSwiney, Barry, Collins, Lynch and so many others bear testament to that courageous commitment."

Yesterday's ceremony featured music by Peadar Ó Riada, Cór Chúil Aodha and harpist Eimear Coughlan along with the Defence Forces Army Band. The ceremony concluded with the national anthem and a fly-past by four Air Corps aircraft.

Irish Independent

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