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Forget royals and focus on tragic children of 1916

LET'S commemorate the centenary of the Rising by erecting a permanent monument to the 40-plus children who were killed during Easter Week, 1916.

Forget the Queen. Forget Prince Andrew. Forget Michael D and Enda and Eamon. Let's remember the kids who died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Granted, 14, 15 and 16-year-olds were not seen as "children" in 1916. They were often expected to be out working to support their families.

Some of Joe Duffy's list of children who were killed were engaged in active service against the British.

But how much maturity can they have had? Unless the brains of young people were made differently a century ago, I'd say they had very little.


By commemorating those children and teens, you're saying fighting kills and maims innocent people. That has to be wrong, no matter where you stand politically.

The rights and wrongs of the Rising have been fought over thousands of times, and that's not going to stop now.

Do I think the Republic was worth the death of John Francis Foster who was two-years-old when he was shot dead in his pram? I'd have to say "No", even though he was shot by a British soldier.

You may think differently. But the one thing on which most of us agree is that it's wrong for innocent people to be killed. And the list compiled by Duffy, starting with research by Ann Matthews, is a list of innocents. It's amazing the effect that naming them has. There's Christopher Cathcart from Charlemont Street, 10-years-old and playing in Palmerston Park, Rathmines, when he got word to come home.

My own daughter is the same age and right now she too is playing in Palmerston Park. I hope she gets home. Poor little Christopher was caught in the crossfire and died in Portobello barracks.

Why, until Ann Matthews raised the issue of the 1916 dead children and Joe Duffy pushed it, did we never hear about them? Why did we never think of little Moses Doyle (nine) from Whitefriar Street or John Gibney (five) from Henrietta Place or Bridget Stewart (11) from Pembroke Cottage?

Why did we never hear from the families of an unidentified boy and an unidentified infant who died during the Rising?

Because it didn't suit us. The families mostly closed in on their grief, while the Irish State and the British Empire fought over the story. Glorious bid for freedom? Failed coup that caused division and conflict?

I don't think many of us are entirely sure any more. But we all know the death of children and teens is wrong. And the best restitution we can make them is to name them publicly.

Just as the biggest mistakes we made as an independent state in the 20th Century can be best addressed by naming dead children in unmarked graves. There are hundreds and probably thousands of them, children who were too poor to bother with or born "illegitimate".


In the graveyards of the mother and baby homes run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, the babies who died have no headstones. And they died like flies. In 1930 – the year Sean Ross Abbey, which featured in the movie Philomena, opened – half of the babies died.

A simple headstone has just been erected in Mount Jerome with the names of the 222 babies and children who died in strange circumstances in the Bethany Home, Rathgar. Again, the names have a powerful effect.

I know them. They are our kids.

Just like the 1916 kids, they died because Ireland was poor, times were tough and we did what we thought was best. We were wrong a lot of the time and innocent babies and young children died because of it.

We can't give them back the lives they never had. But let's give them back their names.