I.R.A. NATIONAL COMMEMORATION.
ADDRESS BY FR. O'FLANAGAN.
On Sunday last the town of Kildare was the scene of a big muster of Republicans when in connection with the chain of I.R.A. National Commemoration meetings held all over the country the local I.R.A. and its adherents and sympathisers gathered to do honour to the memory of the seven Kildare Republicans who were executed at the Curragh in 1922.
Sunday’s ceremony brought contingents from all parts of the county to the town of Kildare and a very big crowd witnessed the formation of the parade of the I.R.A. and the subsequent unveiling of the handsome memorial which has been erected in the Market Square to the memory of the executed men. The memorial takes the form of a Celtic Cross in marble the inscription being as follows:-
“Sacred to the Memory of Patrick Bagnall (17); Stephen White (19); Jackie Johnson (18), Patrick Nolan (24), Patrick Mangan (22), Jos Connor (24), Brian Moore (37).
Heroes who fought and gave their lives 1922. For the Republic of Ireland. May God Diffuse their spirit amongst us. Erected 1935, by a local committee.”
The parade was headed by the Droichead Nua Band, following which came No 2 Kildare Co., I.R.A. Next the Monasterevan [sic] Band, then a very strong muster of representatives of the old I.R.A. followed by the Mullaghmast and Inchaguire Bands, and representatives of various national bodies and the general public.
The parade then formed a hollow square about the memorial which was draped with the tricolour, and Eamonn Kirwan introduced the Rev. Fr. Michael O’Flanagan who had attended to unveil the memorial and deliver the oration. Loud applause greeted Fr. O’Flanagan as he ascended the platform.
Having undraped the memorial, Fr. O’Flanagan said—This is a very solemn and sacred occasion here in the town of Kildare. We meet here to pay tribute to the memory of seven soldiers of the Irish Republican Army who under circumstances of unparalleled atrocity were done to death by their former comrades—done to death by those with whom they had fought side by side but who had been led from the right path and had so far wandered from it that they finally descended to the foul murder of their former comrades.
There was a sentence in the address appointed to be read that day at such gatherings as these throughout the length and breadth of the country which was of particular importtance —“It was only when our leaders compromised that defeat overtook our party,” an indication that the devotion of the people should be given “not to leaders but to principles.”
Devotion to individuals was a fundamental mistake which had been made over and over again in the history of the Republican movement. In 1921 and some years preceding this devotion was given two men whose names with others were pledged to the establishment of an Independent Republic. When those men were overawed and browbeaten into the acceptance of a compromise they took half the Irish people with them on the wrong road.
Men said – “What is good enough for Griffith’s and Collins is good enough for me—we will go to hell with Griffith’s and Collins.” And (the speaker continued) though I am speaking figuratively, as it is not for me to judge any man, they went to hell with them for the blood of these seven men is upon their hands.
Led by Collins and Griffiths that Free State Government continued the work of the Black and Tans and Auxilaries. Then, in later years the same blind devotion was given another man also pledged to Republicanism, with the result that we still have a “Free State which every day is growing more and like the “Free State” of 700 years ago.
These men all began the same way with a profession of Republicanism then they accepted something else as a stepping stone to a Republic.” They forget that stepping stones are proverbially slippery with the result that they fall headlong into the river bringing those who follow them so blindly with them.
This second Free State party is shaping in the same direction as the first. True, they have not yet shed the blood of their brothers but they hound them into their foul jails and they who become the jailers of their people are bound to yet become their executioners.
Therefore let us weigh all the advice—let our first devotion be “not to leaders, but to principles.” The enemy can corrupt a leader of the people but not the steadfast principles of a million people.
Sean Kirwan appealed to those men of Kildare who were not already members of the I.R.A. to join that association and requested those who were members to pay even more attention to drilling and training than they were doing at the present time.
The singing of the “Soldiers Song” followed and the parade immediately dismissed. No untoward incident occurred at any time during the afternoon or the evening.
Source: Leinster Leader 27th April 1935.