Monday 21 May 2018

Lethal legacy of Pearse's oration at the graveside of O'Donovan Rossa

A composite picture of Patrick Pearse, courtesy of RTÉ
A composite picture of Patrick Pearse, courtesy of RTÉ
O’Donovan Rossa's funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, 100 years ago this weekend
O’Donovan Rossa

Dermot Meleady

On Sunday, August 1, 1915, 100 years ago this month, Patrick Pearse delivered a coded call to arms at the grave of O'Donovan Rossa.

Born in Rosscarbery, Co Cork, and later a shopkeeper in Skibbereen, O'Donovan Rossa was 34 years old when he was arrested in 1865 along with other members of Fenian secret society The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and charged with plotting rebellion. Sentenced to penal servitude for life, he was released and exiled five years later to the US where he spent the rest of his life in the murky world of emigré extremist groups such as Clan-na-Gael.

In the early 1880s, O'Donovan Rossa organised the 'dynamite campaign' - the first-ever republican bombings in British cities. The extremism of his views may be gauged from his response to the 1882 Phoenix Park murders, the savage stabbing to death of the new Chief Secretary, Lord Frederick Cavendish, just arrived in Dublin, and the Under-Secretary, TH Burke, by members of the 'Invincibles' secret society.

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