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Sunday 19 November 2017

Joe Duffy: Stories of the 'Children of the Revolution' need to be told

Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

President Michael D Higgins quoted French philosopher Paul Ricoeur when he stated "To be forgotten is to die twice" earlier this week.

That was the fate of the majority of children killed during the 1916 Rising but broadcaster Joe Duffy is determined to reclaim and retell the stories of the  'Children of the Revolution'.

Today, the first Service of Remembrance for the 40 children killed in the 1916 Rising was held in City Quay Parish in Dublin's city centre.

"I want to free them of the anonymity. Their stories deserve to be told, they need to be told," Duffy told the Irish Independent.

"I know the members of the Royal family will attend the 1916 centenary celebrations but the descendants of these children should also be treated like royalty - they should have a central place in the commemorative celebrations."   

The service was led by Canon Barbara Fryday and Father Michael Scott, both of whom are relatives of children who perished during the Easter Rising.

"We remember the guns and the tactics and the leaders," Fryday said. "Those details are important, the children and the women are considered to be less important." 

Duffy has spent months combing death certificates and public records to find out more about those forgotten children.

"The more research I do the more of an image I get of the city. You dig deeper and deeper," he said.

"Remembering these individual children gives us a clearer picture of the times they lived in. The conditions, the traumas, those tenement buildings, those tragedies."

During the course of the service, school children from City Quay National School held up placards with the names and ages of children who were shot. 

For some family members of the 'Children of the Revolution' it was a deeply moving experience.

"It's very emotional," Sarah Carney from Waterford said. "Remembering these innocent kids and your extended family. Thinking of the impact it must have had on them at that time."

Carney is a descendant of Christopher Whelan, who died when he was 15, having been shot by a sniper while at home.

"His father was walking to work and he was following him. They saw the GPO was burning so they turned around and walked home to George's Street.

"When they got home, a sniper shot through the door and hit Christopher three or four times. It must have been heart breaking." 

Carney found out about this family tragedy when she came upon a letter her grandmother had written to her aunt. 

Attendees Daphne Whelan and William Baker were surprised to discover they were both relatives of Eleanor Warbrook who was killed on Easter Monday at the age of 15.

"We met for the first time today," Ms Whelan said. "Joe brought us together. It's been a great way of connecting families and re-connecting with our shared history."

Minister Frances Fitzgerald attended the service and stressed the importance of remembering the voices of children in history.

"The visibility of children and women is of utmost importance," she said.

"All too often they are overlooked in the annals of history; Joe's work has thrown their tragedies into relief."

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