Successful community effort see’s O’Donovan Rossa remembered in Liverpool

It took months to plan but in the end a unique aspect of Liverpool Irish history was successfully re-enacted in Liverpool yesterday when hundreds marched behind a replica funeral casket that held the coffin of Irish patriot Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, on the centenary year of the original landing of his body in Liverpool.

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Organised by Irish community campaigning group, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool (Liverpool Friends of Ireland), yesterdays event retraced the exact steps taken by the men of A and B Company’s of the Irish Volunteers in Liverpool in 1915, when they carried on their shoulders the funeral casket of O’Donovan Rossa from Princes Landing Stage to Nelson Dock nearly 2 miles away. The coffin escort was led at the time by Captain Frank Thornton, who along with many of the men of that day, was to later take part in the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland.

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The day was made more special by the participation of members of the Irish community who dressed in period costume and replica Irish Volunteer uniforms.  The participants led the parade from Holy Cross in Liverpool, an area with strong Irish connections, through Liverpool city centre to meet the replica funeral casket at Pier Head, close to the original Princes Landing Stage. In line with the statement made by Captain Frank Thornton following the landing of the funeral casket in 1915, O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral casket was then carried on the shoulders of the re-enactors on the 2 mile journey to Nelson Dock supported by the 4 flute marching bands. At Nelson’s Dock the re-enactment was ended by the playing of Amran Na bFhiann (Irish national anthem).

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A function held later at St Michaels Irish Centre heard speeches from Seanna Walsh, Belfast Sinn Fein Councillor who outlined the crucial role that O’Donovan Rossa played in the fight for Irish freedom at the time and how his death and burial inspired a generation of Irish women and men to re-double their efforts to achieve Irish self-government and Irish sovereignty. Also heard was a reading delivered by local music artist Ian Prowse of the graveside oration given by the executed Easter Rising leader, Patrick Pearse during O’Donovan Rossa’s burial.

Yesterday’s successful re-enactment shows the important role that the Irish in  Liverpool played in Irish political history. It also shows the entitlement of todays Irish community in Liverpool to play its part in remembrance of its history and its heroes. As the Decade of Centenaries proceeds it is important that the rights of the Irish in Liverpool and the Irish across England, Scotland and Wales to commemorate its history is respected. In the coming years, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool plans further innovative projects with community participation to commemorate and remember key Irish historical events that involved members of the Liverpool Irish community.

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Call for volunteers for Liverpool O’Donovan Rossa Re-Enactment.

Today we are able to announce our plans  to stage a full re-enactment of the landing of Jeramiah O’Donovan Rosa’s funeral casket at Prince’s Landing Stage Liverpool during 1915 and then onto Nelson Dock. The Re-enactment is planned for Saturday 10th October 2015. Captain Frank Thornton ‘B’ Company Irish Volunteers Liverpool, provided us with an inspiring insight into this event in his statement to the Bureau of Military History:

“At the end of 1915, I got instructions to make arrangements with the old City of Dublin Steampacket Company to have their boat draw alongside the American liner “St. Paul” in the Mersey when O’Donovan Rossa’s body arrived there on that boat. The whole anxiety of our American friends of the Clann na Gaedheal and also of the I.R.B. and the Volunteers in Dublin was as to ensure that O’Donovan Rossa’s body did not touch English soil on its way back for burial to Ireland. All arrangements were made to have the City of Dublin boat alongside, but owing to the late arrival of the “St. Paul”, brought about by bad weather, this was not possible. However, we got over the difficulty in another way. We mobilised fifty members of our Volunteers in Liverpool both from “A” and “B” Companies and boarded the “St. Paul” at Prince’s Landing Stage, and carried O’Donovan Rossa’s body from Prince’s Landing Stage to Nelson Dock on Irish shoulders, and i think that by this means we carried out the wishes of everybody concerned.

We boarded the “St. Paul” at Prince’s Landing Stage on that day and carried O’Donovan Rossa’s remains right along the Dock Road, the journey being over two miles. I think it can be safely claimed that by this method O’Donovan Rossa’s body had landed in Ireland when we took it on our shoulders at Prince’s Landing Stage. The City of Dublin boats at that time were Irish owned and controlled and, on arrival at Nelson Dock, a guard was mounted which remained on duty after numerous reliefs until the boat arrived at North Wall. I was in charge of the party coming across and, on arrival at North Wall , we were met by the Dublin Volunteers, but still continued in charge of the remains which we brought to the Pro-Cathedral in Marlboro’ St. (I am arranging to get the names of all those who came across, later). We were on duty then later on at City Hall and took part in the funeral to Glasnevin”

This is an open invitation to anyone who wants to take part in the re-enactment and escort the funeral casket of O’Donovan Rossa from Pier Head to Nelson Dock in Liverpool. In particular, we would welcome any individuals who possess Irish Volunteer/Irish Citizen Army replica uniforms to be part of the carrying of O’Donovan Rossa’s coffin, or anyone wishing to wear period dress to take a full part in the event.. For Cairde na hEireann Liverpool, this provides us with a great opportunity to re-live a previously unknown aspect of Liverpool Irish history and for our community to play a full and active role in remembrance, as we head toward 2016 and the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for any further information on cairdeliverpool@gmail.com.

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Local commemoration remembers Liverpool volunteers of the Dublin 1916 Easter Rising.

easter1916-1016 imageA local commemoration and parade was held last Sunday in the strongly Irish area of Scotland Road in Liverpool. Organised by Cairde na hEireann Liverpool, up to a 100 local people along with the Liverpool Irish Flute Band (Banna Fluit Learpholl) remembered the Liverpool Irish women and men from the local areas of Vauxhall, Kirkdale, Bootle and Seaforth who participated in the rising against British rule in Dublin 99 years ago this week.

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The event also saw the launch of the Liverpool Easter Lily campaign which promotes the wearing of the Lily across the Irish community in remembrance of up to 60 volunteers of the Irish Volunteers and Cumann namBan who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising and in subsequent campaigns for Irish freedom and independence.

CBMTBkEW4AEUVheOrganisers stated that it was important that this part of Liverpool Irish history was remembered and commemorated with pride and the story of the Liverpool women and men who participated in the Rising and fought against British rule was an aspect of the Rising itself that needs to be highlighted, especially as next year marks the 100th anniversary of the rising itself. The role of the Liverpool Irish in the Rising provides a counter narrative to ongoing public events in Liverpool to commemorate World War 1. These Liverpool Irish participants in the Rising rejected the call of Britain’s ruling classes to fight in the fields of Flanders and its associated slaughter, but instead fought against an Empire that refused to grant Irish sovereignty and independence. The commemoration was addressed by Sean Oliver, head of Sinn Fein’s International Department and representative for England, Scotland and Wales who outlined his party’s plans to commemorate the Easter Rising in 2016.  Sean also outlined the central role that Sinn Fein was increasingly playing in Irish political life both north and south of the Irish border in leading the fight back against both the Conservative party’s austerity policies in the north and Fine Gael’s austerity policies in the south.

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Disproportionate & Punitive: Merseyside Police threaten Irish Commemoration to Liverpool Irish women with Terrorism Act

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On the 12th March 2012 the British Prime Minister David Cameron and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny issued a joint statesman stating their view on how British-Irish relationships during the next 10 years should develop. Within the statement there was recognition of the Decade of Centenaries, that period of Irish history between 1913-1923 that saw huge revolutionary change and would now be remembered a hundred years from 2013 onwards:

“2012 also marks the beginning of a decade of centenary commemorations of events that helped shape our political destinies.  This series of commemorations offers us an opportunity to explore and reflect on key episodes of our past.  We will do so in a spirit of historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation.”

Today Merseyside Police literally tore the joint statement to pieces by its use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2000) which was used to place restrictions on this afternoons march and rally through Liverpool City centre to remember the Liverpool Irish women of Cumann na mBan (League of Women) who participated in both the Easter arising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence1919-1921. Organised by Cairde na hEireann Liverpool, the event had been advertised for several months and clearly stated its intention to remember in a dignified manner those women members of the Irish community in Liverpool who dedicated their lives to the cause of Irish independence and freedom between1913-1923 (statement)

Cairde na hEireann Liverpool as an Irish community organisation, dedicated itself in 2013 to ensuring that when forthcoming Centenaries were being commemorated in Liverpool, anniversaries of historic importance to the Liverpool Irish community would not remain untold and hidden but would be commemorated and remembered on par with both official and unofficial commemorations in Liverpool that have involved remembering the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (a proscribed organisation under the PTA), formation of the Liverpool Pals and start of World War 1.

On the 29th September we received correspondence from Assistant Chief Constable Martland (see below).

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Letter from Merseyside Police

In the meeting that followed between Merseyside Police and Cairde na hEireann Liverpool we reiterated the following:

General theme: To support the campaign for the reunification of Ireland by solely peaceful political means. This year’s specific theme: ‘’To celebrate the centenary of the formation of Cumann Na mBan (League of Women) in 1914, and in particular its members from the Liverpool Irish community.

This themed event is being held solely to remember the role of the specific historic organisation known as Cumann Na mBan (which is no longer in existence), during the time period known as the ‘Decade of Centenaries (1913-1923)’ of events in Irish history.

These events are being commemorated by all traditions, including here in Liverpool. Such commemorations are recognised as being significant and legitimate by both UK and Irish governments, as part of international agreements integral to the cementing of the peace process and the promotion of shared understanding).

The event on 11th October is NOT being held in relation to inviting support for ANY contemporary proscribed organisation under the terms of The Terrorism Act 2000.

The event on 11th October is NOT being held in relation to inviting support for ANY contemporary proscribed organisation going by the name of ‘’Cumann Na mBan’’, or indeed any other name contained within the list detailed in the Terrorism Act 2000.”

However, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool received a final piece of correspondence from ACC Martland stating that:

“I am writing to advise you that the CPS has confirmed that, by wearing an item of clothing or wearing, carrying or displaying an article in such a way or in circumstances as to arise reasonable suspicion that they are a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation commits an offence, contrary to Sect. 13(1) of the Terrorism Act, 2000.

I must advise you that, in light of the above, if there are grounds to believe that an offence has been committed at the procession, then Merseyside Police will take action that is appropriate in the circumstances.”

Cairde na hEireann Liverpool believes that Merseyside Police’s stance is a deliberate attempt to restrict the Irish community’s rights to commemorate our heritage and history. We view Merseyside Police’s stance on this matter as vindictive, disproportionate and criminalises a whole generation of Liverpool Irish women and men who contributed to the foundation of an independent Irish state. We are left with no other opinion than to believe that the actions of a few senior Merseyside Police officers in dealing with this matter could be seen in the context of institutional racism by effectively denying the Irish community the right to remember and commemorate while other communities in Liverpool and public bodies are allowed to do so. Cumann na mBan is an organisation that exists only within the text books of Liverpool Irish history and poses a threat to no one in the community.

Merseyside Police’s decision to threaten march organisers with arrest and prosecution now sees the likes of Nora Thornton, Kathy Doran, Francis Downey, Peggy Downey, Anastasia MacLoughlin, Kathleen Murphy and Rose Ann Murphy, Liverpool Irish women who participated in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin as being a threat to the British State on par with the threat posed by Islamic State and Al Qaeda. 

Cairde na hEireann Liverpool thanks those marchers today who remembered with pride the brave Liverpool Irish women of Cumann na mBan and reluctantly agreed to adhere to the restrictions set out by Merseyside Police. Cairde na hEireann Liverpool will launch a campaign to challenge Merseyside Police’s attempts to both criminalise us as an Irish community organisation and the Irish community as a whole. Cairde na hEireann Liverpool will challenge any future attempt by Merseyside Police to demonise the Irish community as they have attempted to do so today. The right to be Irish in Liverpool/Merseyside and the right to express pride in our heritage and history will be central to our campaign.

Despite the actions of Merseyside Police today’s event was a huge success with several hundred in attendance and led by 6 flute bands through the city with a rally at Pier Head. The rally was dressed by Jennifer McCann MLA and Junior Minister for the Office for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
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Cumann na mBan: Remembering the forgotten Liverpool Irish women of the Irish revolution

As part of its series of events commemorating Liverpool and its links to the Irish revolution between 1913-1923, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool will be commemorating the establishment of Cumann na mBan (pronounced Cumin naa Mon) in Liverpool.
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In a weekend of events culminating in a special commemorative parade through Liverpool City Centre, Liverpool ‘s Irish community will honour the memory of the Liverpool Irish women, who from 1914 onwards, supported Ireland’s fight for independence in Liverpool and beyond. Most notably this support consisted of participation in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin when Nora Thornton, Kathy Doran, Francis Downey, Peggy Downey, Kathleen Fleming, Anastasia MacLoughlin, Kathleen Murphy and Rose Ann Murphy received orders to mobilise and travelled to Dublin from Liverpool for the Rising. The women of Cumann na mBan in Liverpool also organised céilís, cultural productions, first aid classes, rifle training and signalling. Their role within Liverpool Irish cultural life at the time was immense and their support for Irish freedom continued through to the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923) when they overwhemingly rejected the Anglo Irish Treaty in favour of Anti-Treaty forces.

Last year, the formation of Cumann na mBan was marked by the Irish government with a ceremony in Dublin. Irish President Michael D. Higgins said the women of Cumann na mBan “rose up to vindicate the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations for liberty of previous generations”. But national independence did not yield “all the fruits” they had hoped for, he said.

Remembering the Liverpool Irish women of Cumann na mBan is important for the Irish community in Liverpool. Remembering them highlights an alternative narrative of a community in Liverpool that was not supportive of Britain’s war effort during World War 1 and who’s involvement in the fight for the right of small nations to be free was more real and more tangible compared to the efforts of Britain’s ruling classes to garner support from its working classes for the war in Flanders and beyond. We salute the volunteer women of Cumann na mBan Liverpool and their contribution towards the cause of Irish freedom and establishment of an independent Irish republic based on the ideals set out in the Proclamation of Easter 1916.
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Liverpool Remembers Irish Citizen Army – 100th Anniversary March and Rally

Cairde na hEireann Liverpool are proud to announce details of our next event commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA). In this Decade of Centenaries, the formation of the ICA of trained trade unionist volunteers by Liverpool-born Irish Trade Unionist James Larkin and Jack White was established in response to attacks by Police and gangs in pay of the employers during the Dublin Lockout of 1913. Other prominent members included James Connolly, Seán O’Casey, Constance Markievicz, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. In 1916, it took part in the Easter Rising – an armed insurrection aimed at ending British rule in Ireland.

The sacrifice of the women and men volunteers of the ICA will be remembered with pride and dignity, as will their struggle for workers rights and the women and men of no property. It is right that we remember them and that they inspire us all to this day.

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The Liverpool Irish Community and a Decade of Centenaries.

Cairde na hEireann Liverpool wishes to state its commitment to ensuring that the Liverpool Irish community plays its role in remembering historic events associated with the ‘Decade of Centenaries’.

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Ireland 1912-1922 experienced a huge political upheaval associated with the ending of British rule in a majority of the counties of Ireland and foundation of an independent 26 county Irish state. Important events being commemorated during this period include the Centenary of the Ulster Covenant, the foundation of the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, the Home Rule and Land Bills, the 1913 Lockout, the 1916 Easter Rising and many anniversaries relating to World War One including the Gallipoli landings, the Somme offensive and the battle of Messines Ridge. Also of note will be the Literary Revival, the suffrage movement, the struggle for workers’ rights and many other key events and themes of the period.

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Liverpool and the Liverpool Irish community played its part in the events associated with the Decade of Centenaries as witnessed by Irish National Party support in Liverpool for the Home Rule Bill, support for the 1913 Dublin Lockout, formation of the Irish Volunteers in Liverpool and participation in the Easter Rising, and Irish Republican Army in Liverpool 1919-1921.

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Cairde na hEireann Liverpool believes that the Irish community in Liverpool has a right to commemorate these important events in the spirit of historical accuracy, mutual respect, inclusiveness and reconciliation. The Irish community in Liverpool should be rightly proud of its support for Irish independence, workers rights and equality during this period in Irish history and it is right that its commemorations remember the individual women and men who’s histories often remain unwritten and forgotten. As stated previously, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool aims to remember these individuals and organisations during the coming years and that their sacrifices for Irish freedom and equality are justly remembered.ICA2