CATHAL BRUGHA HONOURED AT SPOT WHERE FREE STATE SHOT HIM

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 6 mins.)

On the evening of 7th July, people passing on O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street in the north city centre either stopped a while or passed with a glance at the crowd gather at the intersection with Cathedral Street, a narrow lane leading eastward.

The Irish Tricolour and the Starry Plough flags (both versions1) held aloft gave a strong indication of the purpose of the gathering, which was to honour an Irish patriot shot down at that spot by Free State soldiers on 5th July 1922 and dying on the 7th.

A poster from the period with drawings thought to be by Constance Markievicz (Photo: D.Breatnach)

CATHAL BRUGHA RESUMÉ

Cathal Brugha was an Irish Republican, an Irish language activist, a soldier and politician. For a period in the Irish Republican Brotherhood, he joined the Irish Volunteers at the outset2 and was a lieutenant in charge of twenty Volunteers to receive with others the arms delivered to Howth Harbour in 1914.

In the 1916 Rising Brugha was second-in-command under Eamonn Ceannt at the South Dublin Union, now covered by James’ Hospital, where he received in excess of 25 wounds from bullets and grenade shrapnell and was not expected to live.

Surviving, Brugha was elected a Teachta Dála (member of parliament) for the abstentionist Sinn Féin coalition party in the UK General Election of 1918, serving until his death, first President of Dáil Éireann (the Irish Parliament) from January to April 1919, Minister of Defence from 1919 to 1922 and Chief of Staff of the IRA from 1917 to 1919.

Cathal Brugha, along with most Republican activists, was strongly opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1921 which was supported by Michael Collins, Arthur Griffiths and others and joined the Republican opposition in the Dáil, resigning his government posts to do so.

A poster from the period with drawings thought to be by Constance Markievicz (Photo: D.Breatnach)

However, he and Oscar Traynor of the IRA both opposed the occupation of the Four Courts by IRA under Rory O’Connor but when it was bombarded by the Free State with British artillery on 28th June, Traynor ordered occupation of O’Connell Street buildings to divert some of the heat from the Four Courts.

The Free State Army bombarded the Republican positions in O’Connell Street with artillery and machine guns (as the British Army had done in 1916). Eventually the Republicans retreated apart from a small holding group which Brugha ordered to surrender but did not do so himself.

Approaching Free State soldiers with pistol in hand, he was shot by them in the leg, severing a femoral artery and died two days later in hospital. His widow Kathleen continued the Republican line as an activist and TD.

Mags Glennon, Chairing the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

THE HONOUR CEREMONY

Mags Glennon, chairing the event, thanked people for coming, stressing the importance of remembering our history and listed briefly the important actions of and positions held by Cathal Brugha, before calling on Sean Óg to perform The Soldiers of ‘22,3 the five verses of which he sang, accompanying himself on guitar.

At intervals between speakers Sean Óg performed another two songs, Cathal Brugha and A Soldier’s Life4.

Joe Mooney brought a series of three posters for distribution, which were quickly taken up. These were copies from the period, condemning the Free State Army for the murder of Cathal Brugha, with drawings believed to be by Constance Markievicz.

A poster from the period with drawings thought to be by Constance Markievicz (Photo: D.Breatnach

MAIN ORATION

The main speaker was historian and author Kerron Ó Luain, who began speaking in Irish and returned to it on occasion, though the content of his talk was by far in English.

Ó Luain initially paid his respects to recently-deceased Mícheál Ó Doibhlin, a Dublin historian who had done much historical research to bring further into the light of today the contributions two Republican women in two different periods.

These were Anne Devlin of the United Irishmen (uprisings in 1798 and 1803) and Josephine McGowan, killed in 1918, the first Cumann na mBan martyr5. Ó Doibhlin had also assisted Ó Luain in the latter’s research into the insurrectionary history of his own area, Rath Cúil (Rathcoole)6.

Kerron Ó Luain speaking, Joe Mooney holding the microphone. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Continuing to relate some brief facts about Brugha’s early life, born into a mixed-religion household, Ó Luain emphasised Brugha’s interest in the Irish language and his membership of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge)7 in the same decade as its founding.

The speaker contrasted that aspect with the militarist image of Brugha often projected by hostile commentators. Brugha met his future wife at meetings of the Connradh and had been a strong advocate of the proceedings of the First Dáil being conducted mostly in Irish and of the Democratic Programme being first read and agreed in Irish.

The setting up of Sinn Féin to contest the 1918 UK General Elections had involved a coalition of many different elements Ó Luain said, including dual monarchism advocates such as the original founder Griffiths and even white Dominion aspirants, alongside Republicans such as Cathal Brugha.

Section of the crowd at the event. (Photo: D.Breatnach

These had been the lines along with the alliance had fractured when the British proposed the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. British influence on the Free State was seen not only in its war on the Republicans but in the legal system adopted based on common law without any thought given to any of the principles of the native Brehon Law.

The British influence was evident also in the form of dress with some Free State politicians such as Cosgrave wearing a top hat and research has shown over 90% of the civil servants of the Free State had been employed by the previous British colonial administration.

The Free State adopted a formal position of support for An Ghaeilge, the Irish language, while doing nothing to support the struggling rural Irish-speaking areas, which were being drained by emigration, leading the inhabitants to want to acquire English for their future locations.

Some of the attendance. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Another small section shot (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The number of Irish-speakers within the territory of the State has declined drastically since it was founded.

Unusually for an oration honouring an Irish martyr but very important historically, the speaker pointed out that Brugha was not a socialist Republican and had advocated land ownership whereas other Republicans such as Liam Mellows (executed by the Free State in 1922), Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan in the 1930s had proclaimed the need for a socialist Republic.

In conclusion, the speaker said that Cathal Brugha was an honest courageous Republican with a genuine love of the Irish language and a staunch upholder of the truly independent Republic proclaimed in 1916 but yet to be achieved. He had been killed as part of the counterrevolution.

It is important for future efforts, Ó Luain stated, to be aware of the different strands in the Republican opposition to the status quo and to be clear on the desired future shape of society in the Republic.

View of many in the attendance at the event. (Photo: Cabra 1916-1921 Rising Committee)

OTHER REPUBLICAN MARTYRS OF THE BATTLE FOR DUBLIN 1922

Damien Farrell spoke on behalf of Dublin South Central Remembers and representing the McMenamy family from the area. Frank McMenamy had been asked to introduce the Roll of Honour on behalf of relative Ciaran McMenamy of F Coy, 1st Batt, anti-Treaty IRA (Ambulance Corp) but was unable to attend.

Ciaran was one of four brothers — Fergus, Manus and Francis — who fought in the revolutionary period 1916-23. Ciaran was part of the crew that tended Cathal Brugha and rushed him to hospital on the 5th July. When Brugha succumbed to his wounds, Ciaran was a pall bearer at his funeral.

Damien said that this most likely identified him for arrest which happened later and he was interned in the infamous Newbridge Camp and participated in the mass hunger strike of prisoners in 1923 against conditions.

Ciaran McMenamy contracted a cold that developed into consumption which secured his release to convalesce in the County Home in Kildare but this proved ineffective and Ciaran was eventually released from internment around Christmas 1923.

On the 26th of April 1924 Ciaran McMenamy died in 55 Pearse Square, a house connected to the family. For the past two years Dublin South Central Remembers have held remembrance events at the house, with the full permission and support of the current occupants (no relations) with the intention of having a plaque erected in time for his centenary in 2024.

Finnuala Halpin reading the Roll of Honour of the The Battle of Dublin 1922, in which her grandfather fought. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Fionnuala Halpin read the roll of honour of those killed in The Battle of Dublin 1922, a battle in which her grandfather fought.

John Monks

William Clarke

Joe Considine

William Doyle

Francis Jackson

John Mahoney

Sean Cusack

Matthew Tompkins

Jack McGowan

Thomas Markey

Thomas Wall

Charles O’Malley

Cathal Brugha

Veteran Republican, hunger-striker and author Tommy McKearney placed a wreath in honour of the fallen on behalf of Independent Republicans and a minute’s silence was observed in their honour also.

COMMEMORATE THE CIVIL WAR MARTYRS OF YOUR AREA?

A number of different Republican organisations were represented at the event, along with many independent Republicans and historical memory activists, including walking history tour guides.

Poster and dedication floral wreath in honour of Cathal Brugha, Cathedral Street, Dublin city centre 7 July 2022 (Photo: Cabra 1916-1921 Rising Committee)

Mags Glennon asked people to keep in touch with the organisers and also to be aware of other commemorative events, offering to make available the commemorative posters with the local martyrs’ names incorporated into the design for display for others around the country.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1The original, with the design of plough in gold following the outline of the Ursa Mayor constellation in white stars, on a green background and the later Republican Congress version of the white stars alone on a light blue field.

2Formed in 1913.

3Composed by Brian Ó hUigínn, sung to the air of The Foggy Dew.

4A Soldier’s Life was originally composed by Young Irelander Thomas Davis (1814-1945) and recorded by The Wolfe Tones band; the composer of Cathal Brugha’s lyrics appears unknown and it was recorded by Declan Hunt.

5A rally held by women just off Dame Street in 1918 was batoned by members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and she died of her injuries shortly afterwards. I have heard Ó Doibhlin relate her story and saw him becoming emotional as he did so. The DMP’s batons in September 1913 were also responsible for the deaths of at least three others, although one died in 1915.

6For a number of recent years Ó Doiblin has been noted, along with historian Liz Gillis and others, for research and exposition of information regarding the Burning of the Customs House on 25th May 1921, which corrected a number of common misapprehensions about that event.

7Founded by Protestant Douglas Hyde/ Dubhghlas de hÍde this month in 1893.

USEFUL LINKS

The Independent Republicans group do not appear to have a website or FB page but may be contacted through the Cabra 1916-1921 Rising Committee: https://www.facebook.com/cabra1916

The National Graves Association: https://www.facebook.com/NationalGravesAssociation

“Civil War to Avert a Workers’ Republic” – Peadar O’Donnell Forum talk in Dublin

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

Historians and political activists gave talks in Dublin presenting a review of the conduct of what is more usually called the Irish Civil and its effect since on life in Ireland. All the speakers described that conflict as “a counterrevolution”, to overturn many of the gains made in the period of struggle immediately before it and to head off any possibility of yet further gains in Irish political, economical and social life, having a braking effect on such progress up to this very moment.

Liz Gillis speaking (Photo: D.Breatnach)
L-R: Fearghal Mac Bloscaidh, Mags Glennon, Ciaran Perry (Photo: D.Breatnach)

BACKGROUND

The event on 26th June, held in the function room of The Cobblestone, was organised by the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, itself established in early 2013, the result of a number of meetings and seminars organised over the course of 2012. It combined communists and socialist Republicans to organise discussions on a number of issues, such as Irish state neutrality, Irish national independence, working-class programs in struggle etc.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

SPEAKERS

Ciaran Perry, a socialist Republican and Independent Dublin City Councillor, also a local history activist, introduced the event. He talked about the importance of history and in particular local history, the traditions of struggle and how some of those had been weakened in the trade unions and communities over the years.

Reading the account of the Ballysheedy Massacre (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Perry introduced the MC for the meeting, Mags Glennon who is also a socialist Republican activist and history enthusiast.

Glennon introduced historian Fearghal MacBhloscaidh from Tyrone who began in Irish and then continued in English, his presentation laying out clearly his position that the Civil War was a planned counterrevolution, quoting Cabinet papers and correspondence and supplying figures on the arms and equipment supplied to the Free State ruling elite by the British. MacBhloscaidh also maintained that the De Valera Government, though supported by the wider Republican movement at the time, was also a counterrevolutionary measure when subjected to a class analysis.

Sorry, slightly out of focus Jimmy Doran (Photo: D.Breatnach)

A woman (whose name I did not catch) was called to stage. In a clear voice she read an account of of the horrific Ballyseedy Massacre. Free State soldiers, after torturing their Republican prisoners, brought nine of them out to a road barricade, in which they had placed a landmine which they exploded. One survived by some miracle but spent the rest of his life needing frequent medical intervention.

At intervals between speakers, Pól MacAdaim performed his music, singing accompanied by guitar. Among the songs he sang were Tipperary So Far Away and Take It Down From the Mast (in the chorus of which some members of the audience could be heard joining).

Pól Mac Adaim performing at the event (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Mags Glennon then introduced historian Liz Gillis from Dublin who talked about the reaction of women to the Treaty and to the Civil War. The vast majority of Cumann na mBan members rejected the Treaty and many actively supported the Republicans in the following conflict. Gillis also spoke about how the women, who had been active in the struggle in 1916 and briefly to the fore in public life with the elections of 1918 and the War of Independence, were driven back to almost invisibility by the Free State Government and also the De Valera government and the 1937 Constitution. Gillis lauded Kathleen Clarke whom she said continued to fight the struggle for the rights of women in representational politics and criticised the De Valera Constitution of 1937.

Mags next introduced Jimmy Doran, a communist and long-time trade union activist, who talked about the contribution of the organised Irish workers to the struggle against British colonialism and for the advance of the working class. Doran went on to comment on the trade unions’ history and current situation in the Irish state. I had to go to the toilet and when I returned stayed near the entrance so as not to distract the audience by retaking my seat near the front and unfortunately, due to the lack of a PA system and the acoustics of that location, I was unable to hear the rest of his presentation.

Poster for the event.
Supporters and organisers (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Although the meeting was thrown open to questions or contributions, little was forthcoming although there was a short debate on whether the Irish bourgeoisie prepare well into the future and whether they prepare better than their opponents in the Republican movement.

The proceedings ended with announcements of forthcoming events, thanks from Mags to the speakers, audience and to Pol Mac Adaim who ended the day on a musical note.

End.

Upcoming events:

USEFUL LINKS

https://www.facebook.com/people/Peadar-ODonnell-Socialist-Republican-Forum/100057585515589/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057585515589

Ciaran Perry: https://cieranperry.ie/

Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh blog: https://blosc.wordpress.com/

Pol Mac Adaim: https://www.antiwarsongs.org/artista.php?id=9761&lang=en&rif=1#:~:text=Pol%20MacAdaim%20is%2038%20years,%2C%20Rock%2C%20Soul%20and%20Contemporary.

Ballyseedy massacre: https://stairnaheireann.net/2016/03/10/what-really-happened-at-ballyseedy/

Liz Gillis: https://www.champlain.edu/academics/champlain-abroad/champlain-abroad-dublin/faculty-and-staff-dublin/gillis-liz

Jimmy Doran: https://www.peoplesworld.org/authors/jimmy-doran/