I haven’t written much about my month-long journey through Ireland culminating with the Centenary because to be frank, I am left speechless by most of it. I have no words to convey how much it changed me and how blessed I was to connect with so many amazing people. Many of the greatest moments of my life happened on this trip, including being one of the Constance Markievicz 1916 Societies standard bearers near the forefront of the centenary parade(s). I still can’t believe that happened and I owe the honor to a couple of incredible women named Anna Harvey and Emma Radford.
The Saturday morning before Easter my dear friend Kathleen and I wandered over to the GPO to follow the 1916 Societies parade to Arbour Hill and we were drawn to two women holding a Cumann na mBan flag. Kathleen (who is less shy than myself) leaned over, winked at them and said, “If that should get too heavy, we are here to help.” The next thing we knew, we had the flag while Anna and Emma got to know us and had a chat with other Societies members. We were suddenly fielding questions about the women’s organization from other tourists, posing for pictures, and preparing to carry the flag in the parade.
Then just as suddenly, the flag was gone because the color guard needed it and our paparazzi moment and emotional whirlwind stopped. Kathleen and I hid our disappointment, thanked Anna and Emma for making us feel included and prepared to go back to following the parade. The ladies would have none of it and immediately co-opted us to help carry the Markievicz banner for the march. They welcomed us with open arms and synchronized steps and we joined the parade in stunned amazement.
Anna and Emma laughed at our occasional tears along the journey. Kathleen and I were so overwhelmed by where we were and what we were doing that the occasional tear (without missing our steps) was inevitable. They’d laugh at my tears now as I remember. Anna kept grabbing me and saying things like “bet you never thought this would happen,” and “we’ll remember this moment for the rest of our lives,” and she was right. It is burned into my memory. When the march was over and the ceremony was done, we expected to say our goodbyes and make our way back to the hotel. Again, Anna and Emma would have none of it. They made sure to introduce us to their friends and they adopted us not just for the day, but for the entire next week. When one of us was missing in action, they refused to leave until we were all together and we moved as a team. When we finally split up for the night, Anna and Emma instructed us to be ready and prompt on Monday morning to join them again for the National 1916 parade.
I could go on and on about how these amazing women adopted and cared for the shy Irish American girls. I could tell you how much it meant to be instantly welcomed into the celebrations and how many wonderful people they introduced us to or how they watched out for us. How they solemnly gave me the flag and laughingly gave us other goofy gifts when it was time to leave Ireland. I could write for days about the parades and the parties, the songs and the speeches…and I probably will eventually. But the point of today’s story is to introduce Emma and Anna, my life-long friends and comrades made with a wink of an eye, and to give you a glimpse of how powerful and wonderful they are before I ask you to help them.
Anna and Emma have generous hearts, huge determination, and rebel spirits. They seem to be everywhere, lending promotion, time and/or support to nearly every cause from the 1916 Societies to Moore Street, to One Ireland One Vote, the memorial wall at Glasnevin, and many others. Anna loves educating people about Ancient Irish history. She’s a grandmother with incredible energy and she has protested against the privatization of water and the installation of meters on numerous occasions. Last week she was arrested doing just that. She’s already been held for nearly a week and Emma, together with other activists, family members, and friends are asking for support in their vigils and protests to free Anna and draw attention to her plight.
There are other anti-meter activists that have been jailed or hurt in the last few weeks as well. It seems the Gardai no longer want to tolerate free assembly, peaceful protest or open speech. Here in America, I’m more than familiar with that too and how often the charges are trumped up and used as an excuse to hold activists. I’m too far away to join these vigils, but I can tell you about them. If I’ve done a decent job on this post, it should be obvious that Anna would join any that were being held to support the other water warriors, and I can only hope that people will do the same for her.
On May 18th at 7PM there is a candlelight vigil for Anna’s release at Mountjoy prison. On May 19th, Anna goes back into a Blanchardstown courtroom at 10:30AM and could use supporters. Later on the 19th at 6pm, people are gathering at the Artane Roundabout on Malahide Rd in Dublin 5, picketing and protesting for the release of Anna Harvey, Sean Doyle, and Eamonn McGrath – three water activists who have been jailed and held for too long already. There are similar protests in Cork City, Dolphins Barn, Wicklow, and more – and they all need people. Anna needs people. Please keep her in your thoughts, put her name on your signs, and if you can, go to the protest that is closest to you and yell her name along with the rest. There are other things you can do as well. Like this Facebook page so you can learn more about the actions on behalf of this woman and get info or directions if you need them. Share this post or write your own and get the word out about her case. Anna deserves to get back a little of the energy and support that she puts out into the world and if at all possible, please help with that goal. Do it for me too, because nothing is harder than being too far away to help friends in need. GRMA
Free Anna Harvey!
for more information on the protest in Dublin 5 please click here