Unveiling of O'Flaherty statue a major landmark

THE official unveiling of a bronze Hugh O'Flaherty memorial on October 30 will be a major landmark for a committee set up only five years ago and its members say there's no plans to wind down anytime soon.

Set up in February 2008, the Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty Committee has also planned a week-long series of events to mark the celebrated cleric's life and it's all tied into The Gathering.

Chairman Jerry O'Grady said the bronze monument is the fulfilment of a key goal but simply marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

"We will continue to spread the inspirational story and continue with the committee's annual humanitarian award and in the future will be recruiting speakers to cover wider topics such as WWII and humanitarianism, using the Monsignor's story of course as a pivot," Mr O'Grady said.

The memorial will be unveiled by Killarney Mayor Paddy Courtney and will take pride of place on Mission Road but it comes a year or two later than expected, the chairman revealed.

"We were a little more optimistic with a lot more agency funding expected back in 2008 and so had hoped to have it in place in two to three years. When that funding didn't come through it was down to the general public and corporate donations, in addition to welcome help from Kerry County Council and practical help from Killarney Town Council," Mr O'Grady continued.

Following the unveiling, a Gathering reception for families, patrons and friends involved in the project will be staged in the Killarney Plaza (4pm). Over 20 events are planned throughout the week which gets underway on Sunday, October 27, with a visit to O'Flaherty Memorial Grove in Muckross Arboretum (2.30pm), followed by an illustrated talk in The Schoolhouse and later a 'Rome theme' dining experience in The Garden Room Restaurant.

The fifth International Humanitarian Award will be presented posthumously to the late Donal Walsh on Saturday, November 2. The premiere of 'God Has No Country', a one man show about the Monsignor's life is also expected to generate interest. It is the work of Gaiety acting coach Donal Courtney, son of the late Cllr Michael Courtney, and runs from October 29-31. Further events can be found at www.hughoflaherty.com.

Meanwhile, the committee's work continues to bear fruit with a major Italian TV network recently filming a documentary on the Monsignor in Killarney, while Sam Derry's book, 'The Rome Escape Line' has also been translated into Italian and republished. All schools in the Killarney area have also agreed to teach an educational programme highlighting the Monsignor's life.