Monday 18 February 2019

Putting the record straight on O'Donovan Rossa

O'Donovan Rossa
O'Donovan Rossa
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

It has previously been asserted that O'Donovan Rossa had lamented his previous political beliefs and converted to Home Rule and endorsed the Allies during the final years of his life. As the biographer of O'Donovan Rossa, I feel it my duty to highlight how this assumption is based upon evidence that is not historically credible and can easily be challenged.

When O'Donovan Rossa died in 1915, a falsified report was circulated by the 'Daily Telegraph' purporting to come from its New York correspondent who said O'Donovan Rossa told him: "I have fought a good fight according to my views and long ago lost all hatred, let alone prejudice against the British government."

The report further went on to suggest that O'Donovan Rossa had called on Irishmen to join the British Army and "fight Germany, the common enemy of civilisation" in the course of the Great War.

At the time O'Donovan Rossa was reported to have made this statement, he was suffering from dementia, with evidence indicating that he knew nothing of contemporary politics let alone the experience of the Great War. This is supported by historical evidence from medical records, John Devoy and Rossa's wife, Mary Jane, who upon learning of the falsified report determined to "stem the false tide" and produced a statement denouncing the accusation.

This statement, printed as part of the O'Donovan Rossa funeral booklet in 1915, is freely available and was recently republished.

Lamenting Rossa's dementia, Devoy reported how Rossa "did not look at a newspaper for two years, did not know that the Home Rule Bill had been passed and then suspended, did not know that a great war was going on in Europe and would not have understood it if he was told".

The fictitious report indicating O'Donovan Rossa's support for Home Rule and the war should, therefore, be seen for what it was - an act of desperation on the part of the British Army and the Irish Parliamentary Party. It was an attempt by them to gain for themselves the lustre and appeal attached to O'Donovan Rossa's name, a name synonymous with hostility to the British government at a time when no Irish nationalist, least of all John Redmond, the leader of the IPP, could, or had reason to, say a good word about that government.

Aware of this in 1915, Devoy commented how the Home Rule camp was "surely in a bad way when an unconscious man has to be made speak for it in his last illness… The Irish people know that O'Donovan Rossa died as he had lived, an unrepentant Irish rebel".

Dr Shane Kenna


Give King Puck a break

I would like to comment on the situation of the goat that is traditionally used as King Puck for the annual fair in Killorglin, Co Kerry.

How can it be OK to hoist a wild animal into the air and leave it there for three days?

Michael Healy-Rae TD says it has no effect on the animal, as does Lorraine Courtney writing in this newspaper. I wonder what qualification, if any, either of them has to make this statement.

The goat is taken from the wild and has his nails clipped, is hoisted into the air and put in a cage, given cabbage and hay and plenty of water and has a nice crown fitted for the occasion, according to Healy-Rae and Courtney. Very normal treatment of wild animals, don't you think?

So as not to deprive the folks of Killorglin of their fair, may I suggest that they have a King Puck and a Queen Puck where your correspondent and Mr Healy-Rae would do the honours and give the goat a break?

Leave them there for three days and nights and people will come from far and near to have a gawk.

Phyl Mhic Oscair

Baile Átha Cliath 9

Show migrants compassion

How can anyone have anything but compassion for those desperate people stuffed into the hold of a boat, trapped and sinking like a stone?

These are people doing what we would do if our children were hungry, hopeless, being bombed, raped or tortured.

Any policy to address this issue must have compassion at its core. Maybe it will damage our prosperity if we take in refugees, but it will destroy our humanity if we don't.

Sarah Lane

Address with editor

In defence of Gaelic footballers

Mike Burke denigrates amateur Gaelic football players, who play a game to represent their locality and county (Letters, Irish Independent August 6). At the same time he seems to laud multi-millionaire celebrities who sell themselves to the highest bidder in a worldwide market.

That kind of comparison displays an ignorance of the fundamental difference between the GAA, for all its faults, and the corporate, multi-million-euro international sporting scene.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

My grandfather and the Rising

On reading your article, My 1916 Rising (Irish Independent, August 5), I was delighted to see the report regarding Lt Michael Malone in Mount Street. However, you did in fact get the names of the two "15-year-old boys" mixed up. Their correct names were Michael Byrne and Paddy Rowe.

My grandfather, who lived in Blackrock, was Michael Byrne and is listed as part of the Boland's Mill Battalion. As per witness statements, it was correctly reported in the article that the two boys were in fact told to go home by Lt Malone as he became aware of what was about to happen. As young children, the house was always pointed out to us as the place where our grandfather was during the Rising.

My grandfather went on to fight as far as the War of Independence and was incarcerated in Kilmainham Gaol along with my mother's uncle, Peter Ledwidge. My uncle Peter shared a cell with Eamon De Valera and a man called O'Dea.

My grandfather's brother, John Byrne (known to us as Uncle Jock), was arrested by the British forces when they were searching for my grandfather and threatened to shoot him unless his brother gave himself up, which he did.

My mother and my Auntie Rita are both in their eighties and have retained memories of the stories from their father and his brother. I have tried to contact Kilmainham to get more information about my relatives, but never received a response. Maybe you can help.

John Martin

Address with editor

Irish Independent

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