Over the last few years interest in the roles that women played throughout Irish history has finally picked up. We now know that there were far more women who took part in the Easter Rising than previously thought. Estimates have put their numbers anywhere from seventy-seven to several hundred and many are finally getting the recognition that they have deserved for so long. Sorcha MacMahon was one of those women and without her, the 1916 uprising may have been very different indeed.
On this day sixty-nine years ago, Ireland said goodbye to one of its fierce daughters. Elizabeth “Lily” O’Brennan was one of three revolutionary sisters in the O’Brennan clan, and was a true believer in the cause of Irish freedom. She fought for it even when it cost her her own.
In case you can’t tell by now, I’m a little obsessed with Ireland and its history. This includes a lot of reading and writing about the Troubles and the horrific abuses that people suffered throughout that time period. I never had to live through anything like it, but it was easy to connect the dots between the Civil Rights movement in the US and the North of Ireland. I spent a lot of time being grateful that I missed most of the heavy lifting and hard decisions that were made to eventually grant basic human rights and equality for everyone (in theory). Last night that gratitude and privilege vanished as I watched people in my own country being hit with the same brutal tactics and illegal weaponry that defined the Troubles and the Civil Rights movements of the past. They were unarmed and peaceful, and many were nearly killed because they have the gall to believe in people over profit and water over oil.
It’s appalling that Heather Humphreys continues to be in charge of Ireland’s arts, language and heritage. Her failure to protect any of these things has been going on for far too long. She’s a disgrace to the position and her ongoing quest to redevelop and erase the historical importance of Moore Street proves this time and time again.
Humphreys always favors new business over history and obviously believes that Ireland’s heritage is less important than modern development. She has refused to protect Ireland’s history on numerous occasions, letting go of historical properties and landmark sites repeatedly but this new blunder may take the cake. She is refusing to purchase Patrick Pearse’s last surrender letter. This handwritten message was sent to the volunteers in the Four Courts garrison and it indicated they should stand down. It signaled the end of the Easter Rising and came from the man who was the figurehead of it but apparently this is not important enough for Heather Humphreys. Nevermind that this letter is vitally important to Ireland’s history. Nevermind that someone else in some other country may lose or destroy it after purchase. Nevermind that it should be preserved and placed with the other two in the National Museum immediately. She cares not about those things. She thinks the cost is too high for a single letter, while any historian or lover of Ireland would argue that it’s priceless. The thought of her not fighting for this letter mere months after the centenary celebration of the Rising makes me sick to my stomach.
Sheena Campbell was an enthusiastic and dedicated woman, who was born on this day in 1962. She was a young Irish Republican whose groundbreaking ideas energized and won an important election for Sinn Fein in 1990. Those same ideas, called the torrent strategy, have shaped the foundations of every Sinn Fein campaign since. Ms. Campbell would probably be very proud of this achievement had she not been killed in 1992, just two years after reorganizing the way Sinn Fein prepared for elections.
No matter where you are in Ireland, Dublin is not usually more than a few hours away. Yes, if you don’t have a car (and who can with those insurance rates?) it can be a hassle to get to, but nearly every region has some form of direct transportation in and out of Dublin. That’s important because I’m about to suggest that you take advantage of those routes and hightail it over to the city this weekend.
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.