Fr. Michael O'Flanagan (1876 - 1942)

In the late summer of 1914, a new curate was sent to the parish of Cliffoney in North Sligo, to help out the ailing priest, Fr Shannon. The new arrival was Fr Michael O'Flanagan and he would leave his mark on the village of Cliffoney during his fifteen month stay.

In 2015 the people of Cliffoney set out to mark the centenary of the time this 'turbulent priest' spent in our village; a weekend of events took place at the end of June to remember how Fr Michael, in his first act of clerical and social protest he led the local people on a march to Cloonerco bog to cut and harvest turf.

In the course of organizing the events, it became apparent that Fr Michael's prolific writings were not easy to access, his having been proscribed and censored by the church for a good number of years. Thankfully, his biography, They Have Fooled You Again by Denis Carroll has been republished for the centenary of 1916 and is available online.

The collection of information is an ongoing process and letters and speeches are being gathered here, and published online, by the Fr Michael O'Flanagan committee in Cliffoney village. Recently added files are an essay on the state of Ireland in 1920, antiquities, and some stories of Edward O'Flanagan.

A still of Fr Michael O'Flanagan from the 1921 Pathe film clip.
A still of Fr. Michael O'Flanagan from the 1921 Pathe film clip, which can be viewed below.

'They have fooled you again.' Michael O'Flanagan's sardonic announcement, uttered at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, commenced what was to be the last chapter of his public involvement in socio-political affairs. Yet the words express his life-long conviction that the 'rank and file of the people' - a favorite phrase of his - had been duped all too often by leaders with self-interested aims or narrow vision. Michael O'Flanagan was a populist rather than an ideologue of faction, party or movement. He had an instinctive mistrust of all establishments, whether civil or ecclesiastical. His populist leanings, amply manifest in speeches as well as writings, serve to explain his widespread influence with people throughout Ireland and in the Irish diaspora. As a priest who was also a republican and a radical social critic, Michael O'Flanagan deserves greater recognition than has heretofore been accorded him in the canon of academic writing on Ireland in the twentieth century.

Fr. Michael stands beside Padraig Pearse at the grave of O'Donovan Rossa.
Fr. Michael stands beside Padraig Pearse at the grave of O'Donovan Rossa in 1915. Centenary commemorative stamp issued by an Post in August 2015.

It is an irony that the Catholic press, which for so long had yapped at his heels, should have given a most perceptive description of Fr O'Flanagan's life and work. In an obituary notice, The Standard wrote of him: 'Like Pearse he was a student and a teacher with thought and sympathy for youth. Like Tom Clarke he seemed in his person to typify the spirit of resistance to oppression. Like Connolly, he loved the people who work in poverty.'

As was Pearse, O'Flanagan was a splendid pedagogue. Like Clarke, he hated injustice, particularly that perpetrated by great empires. As did Connolly, he accepted the principle that people are more important than territory. Pearse, Clarke and Connolly shared a common dedication to an independent, socially just Ireland.

Yet between these great figures there are differences in emphasis and, perhaps, some tensions in regard to ultimate ideals. Incorporating so much of Pearse, Clarke and Connolly in his own political stances Michael O'Flanagan exemplifies at once the tradition of republican separatism and the internationalism of the socialist demand for economic liberation.

'They have fooled you again,' by Denis Carroll, 1993


On the 13th August 1876 Michael was born, oldest son of Edward and Mary O'Flanagan on the small farm at Kilkeeven, Castlerea, County Roscommon. His parents were native Irish speakers and he was raised in a nationalist household.

Michael attended the local national school in Cloonbonnif, founded the O'Conor Don School, where he was taught by Michael O'Callaghan. On September 18th 1890 he entered secondary education at Summerhill College in County Sligo.

From Summerhill he proceeded to Maynooth in the Autumn of 1894 where, by all accounts, he excelled as he studied for the priesthood. Michael O'Flanagan became Fr. Michael on 15th August 1900, ordained by Bishop Clancy for the Diocese of Elphin in Sligo cathedral two days after his 24th birthday.

Fr Michael was appointed Professor of Irish at Summerhill College, a position he occupied from 1900 to 1904. In 1903 he was a founder member of the Sligo Féis. In 1903 and 1904 he invited both Douglas Hyde and Padraig Pearse to Sligo to judge the Irish language competitions.

During his time in Summerhill he evolved a method of teaching Irish pronunciation and he produced a primer titled Irish Phonetics, published by Browne and Nolan of Nassau Street, Dublin, in 1904.

In 1904 Fr Michael was sent on a fundraising mission which led to several years of travel all across the United States. During this time he made contact with various missionary groups and learned to hone his style of delivery and oration - it was in America that he learned to become a fiery public speaker.

During 1908 and 1909 he traveled extensively across America with an exhibition of Irish lace, accompanied by a trio of young experts, Mary O'Flanagan, Mary K. Davoren and Rose Egan, who gave demonstrations of lace-making techniques while Fr Michael gave a series of lectures. Their work attracted plenty of coverage from the local papers. More on lace making here.

Between 1910 and 1912 the delegation was recalled to Ireland after two years, returning to skeptical questions about the effectiveness of fundraising methods used by the group. Between March 1911 and July 1912, £3054 was sent back to headquarters in Dublin. Fr O'Flanagan was unhappy about the amount raised and compared it unfavorably with the amount collected "by a handful of Chinese washerwomen in Chicago for a library in Peiking."

He returned to his clerical work in Roscommon Town under the bishop Dr. Clancy, and remained there for two years. Fr Michael also visited Rome, where he was invited to preach the Advent lectures in 1912 and the Lenten lectures in 1914.

The centenary march to Cloonerco bog, June 2015.


In late July 1914 Fr Michael was transferred to Cliffoney by Bishop Coyne. He spent 15 months in the area, which he knew well from his days as a student in Summerhill. At first he rented one of the Lodges at Mullaghmore, which, despite the distance to Cliffoney had its advantages:

My predecessor Fr. Scott, had rooms in the house popularly known as the “Hotel”, situated on the northwest corner of Cliffoney crossroads. The landlord of the house, brother of the Parish Priest I had left in Roscommon, occupied rooms in the building along with his tenant. The situation did not appeal to me. I rented one of the lodges at Mullaghmore.

It was three miles from Cliffoney and the double journey of three miles was added to most of my sick calls and stations, but it was just beside the sea and that brought up for everything. It was there I learned the pleasure of swimming at night. Every night just before going to bed, I put on an overcoat and a pair of slippers, and marched down to the head of the Pier.

When one goes out swimming at night, at least in Mullaghmore at that time of the year, every stroke starts thousands of little phosphorescent lights shining in the water, with the result that one feels surrounded by a halo like the picture of a saint. I kept up this practice of swimming at night until I left Mullaghmore about the middle of November.

Fr O'Flanagan lectured widely around the country during 1915; his topics included criticism of the Congested Districts Board, a public body whom he felt were not working quickly enough to distribute land and alleviate distress; he felt that the C. D. B. was really a mechanism to facilitate emigration. During this time he became known for his call to 'Stick to the Oats,' a call to Irish people to resist pressure to grow extra wheat for the British war effort, when they should be feeding themselves. Fr O'Flanagan was outspokenly critical of any effort to conscript young Irish men to join the British Army.

The 2015 centenary turf stack and tricolor.
The 2015 centenary turf stack and tricolor.

His sermons were monitored by the R. I. C. from the barracks next door to St Molaise's church. Fr O'Flanagan is quoted as saying:

'Men and women of Cliffoney and Grange, the Germans may be here any time now. You need not worry as the RIC have the situation well in hand...... we have twenty policemen in Cliffoney, Grange and Drumcliffe who will see that your crops are destroyed and then, with their twenty rifles they will keep back the German army and navy'.

During his fifteen months serving in Cliffoney, Fr Michael upset Bishop Coyne several times within a few months. At the end of June 1915, he gathered the local people and led them on a march to the contested turf banks in Cloonerco, where access to fuel was being denied by the slow-moving Congested Districts Board. A stand-off with the local R.I.C. led to Fr. Michael cutting the first sods of turf on the bog; subsequently several banks of illigeal turf were cut, so much so that the extra turf was stacked against the old school in Cliffoney village, across the street from the R.I.C. barracks. In addition the stack of turf was draped with a tricolor and a banner bearing the words: “ÁR MÓIN FÉIN”.

In July of 1915 when veteran Fenian Jeramiah O'Donovan Rossa died in New York, a massive funeral was organised by Tom Clarke and a committee of leading nationalists, which took place on August 1st in Glasnevan cemetary in Dublin. Fr Michael's was invited to attend by the O'Donovan Rossa family to led the prayers and speech at the funeral of O'Donovan Rossa on August 1st. Fr Michael attended the family during the funeral, delivered a fiery oration over the coffin at the City Hall, and recited the prayers in Irish at the graveside in Glasnevin cemetery.

Mrs Mary Jane O'Donovan Rossa, Fr Michael O'Flanagan,  Eileen O'Donovan Rossa and Tom Clarke. Image © National Library of Ireland.
Mrs Mary Jane O'Donovan Rossa, Fr Michael O'Flanagan, Eileen O'Donovan Rossa and Tom Clarke. Image © National Library of Ireland.

"The coffin was then carried the short distance to the grave. Those admitted to the graveside formed a square and Father O'Flanagan recited the burial service and prayers in Irish. When he was finished Pádraig Pearse stepped forward to deliver the funeral oration, a speech that would leave its mark on Irish history.

As Pearse finished the crowd stood in silence for some moments before breaking into applause and cheers. Then, in a further act of defiance, the firing party stood forward and fired three volleys over the grave, followed by the Last Post."

Glasnevin Trust 2015

The third offence was speaking out at a meeting in Sligo court house, where T. W. Russell, the vice-president of the Board of Agriculture, was calling for Irish farmers to increase tillage production to support the British war effort.

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Fr Michael was moved to Crossna in the parish of Ardcarne, close to Boyle and not far from where he grew up. His letters show that he was not unhappy with the more central location of his new parish, but felt he could do much good if sent back among the people of Cliffoney.

The bishop's grief and afflictions did not stop the ink flowing out of Fr O'Flanagan's pen, and he published a series of articles during the spring and summer of 1916. He wrote three major pieces, a critique of the CDB, a piece on corruption in public life, and his thoughts on the nationalist relationship of the north of Ireland, all of which stirred up plenty of debate and comments in the letters pages.

Fr Michael had no knowledge of the Easter Rising, he was grounded in Crossna at the time, following the Bishop's orders to stay within the bounds of the parish.

In the early months of 1917 Fr Michael was instrumental in promoting a nationalist candidate to stand and contest the Irish Parliamentry Party in the 'Election of the Snows' as the Roscommon by-election became known. Count Plunkett was elected as an independent candidate, eventually to abstain from Westminister and merge with Sinn Féin.

The recently discovered collection of papers has an account of the election written by Fr. Michael in March of 1920:

Count Plunkett election badge.

"On Monday morning I returned from Crossna and I sat in the motorcar outside the Courthouse while the votes were being counted. I had never at any time any serious doubt about the result of the election. Two weeks before the poll, I was asked in a hotel in Carrick what I thought would be the result. I said that unless we beat the combined vote of the other two candidates by five hundred, I would not be satisfied.

The actual result was:



Tully………. 687

Yet in spite of this well found optimism I was in a very anxious mood for a portion of the time while waiting outside the Courthouse.

That night I went to Dublin by motor car. The road from Boyle to Carrick had been well cleared of snow and the fall in the country east of the Shannon was not great. However, the night was intensely cold. I sat in the front seat of the car until we reached Mullingar.

We stopped for a while in Carrick, Longford and Mullingar and with this advantage added to the protection of the windscreen, I had a tolerable time of it up to there. But in Mullingar, I took pity on Arthur Griffith, He was one of those in the back seat. He still wore the beard which he had grown during his time in prison.

The valleys through which we passed were filled with a bitterly cold frozen fog and Arthur was covered with ice like a picture of some man on an Artic expedition.

Count Plunkett's election kick-started the Sinn Féin election campaign which saw them wipe the Irish National Party, the remnants of the Home Rule Party, from the political map. Count Plunkett was awarded the Freedom of Sligo on St. Patrick's Day, 1917. Father Michael applied to Bishop Coyne for permission to speak at the event, but he was prohibited from speaking at political meetings without written permission.

In June of 1918 Fr Michael was given the freedom of Sligo, and a reception was held in the Town Hall, attended by some two thousand people who cheered themselves hoarse.

Fr. O'Flanagan was one of the principle speaker at hundreds of gatherings and rallies across the country.

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The Bishop of Cork had promised to preside at a meeting in that city to extend an invitation to President Wilson, but on learning that the Standing Committee of Sinn Féin had nominated the Rev. Michael O'Flanagan as the principal speaker, his lordship wrote to say that he could not take the chair at a meeting to which a priest is deputed, whose relations with his own bishop are not satisfactory according to ecclesiastical law.

On the day of the meeting, Sunday, it was learned that Father O'Flanagan would not be present, and the Bishop accordingly presided. But among the correspondence read was a letter from Father O'Flanagan which was received with such prolonged and vociferous cheering that the Bishop rose and said:

"Gentlemen, you will see by a letter in the Evening Echo last night I refused to attend this meeting on a certain contingency. Now, after this demonstration, I will leave the meeting."

His lordship then left, and was followed by all the clergy of the diocese.

The Tablet, 28th December 1918.

The Fr. O'Flanagan Sinn Féin Hall in Cliffoney was burned by the Auxiliaries in October 1920.
The Fr. O'Flanagan Sinn Féin Hall in Cliffoney was burned by the Auxiliaries in early November 1920 in reprisal for the Moneygold ambush.

Forward from the memoir, a remarkable story which we have called From Cliffoney to Crosna, self published in October of 1916.

"Early in the year l914 Cliffoney and its surroundings was awakened from its slumberings by the arrival in the village, to minister as a curate, of that great priest and patriot, the ever memorable and never to be forgotten Rev. Fr. Michael O'Flanagan.

His eloquent address and manly bearing had an inspiring effect and soon he became the idol of the entire half parish. He went about amongst the people, sympathizing in their sorrows and making himself acquainted with their difficulties and trials. Soon he discovered their steadfast loyalty to their faith but humble submission to landlord and alien rule.

Patrick McCannon, B.M.H. W.S. - 1,383.

During the Autumn of 1915 a quiet revolution broke out in the small village of Cliffoney in the north of County Sligo. On the morning of Sunday, 17th October, a party of villagers barricaded the Parish church of St. Molaise, nailing stout beams of timber across the inside of the door. They left through the sacristy, locking the door behind them. The church was to remain closed for ten weeks in a stand-off between the villagers and the Bishop.

Fr. O'Flanagan had won the hearts and minds of the people of North Sligo. His actions and leadership were inspiring in the successful struggle of the people to get access to restricted turf banks in Cloonerco Bog. He led the march to the bog on June 30th 1915 gave the people of Cliffoney the courage to defy the Congested Districts Board and subsequently to stand up to the Bishop of Elphin, Dr. Bernard Coyne. The villagers believed Fr. Michael had been removed to punish them on the orders of the British Crown.

A meeting was held outside the church, where a committee was appointed; Peter McCannon and Terence Watters of Cartron, and Andrew Harrison of Clonkeen decided to close up the church until Bishop Coyne sent back Father O"Flanagan to Cliffoney. Sentries kept watch at the church night and day; Fr. Shannon came up to open the church one Sunday, and he was chased away by McCannon, Watters and Harrison. While the church was locked, the local people met up each evening to say the Rosary for Father O'Flanagan at the cross outside the church.

John Harrison, Cliffoney 2013.

In August of 1915 Fr. O'Flanagan had stood with the leading Republicans of the era when he led the prayers at the funeral of O'Donovan Rossa. Fr. Michael, who was well known to the organizers in America from his wide travels, was chosen for a leading role at the seminal event. At the Reception of the Remains in City Hall, Fr. Michael delivered a fiery and passionate oration to a select group of senior members of the revolutionary movement:

At the present time, nationality is in the ascendant. Its stock has gone up in the market. Perhaps some of the bidders are hypocrites, but the fact that they are compelled to bid shows that nationality counts for a great deal in the world today. But the men of Ireland should make it clear that the principles of nationality are no less sacred by the shores of the Atlantic than they are along the slopes of the Carpathians, or by the shores of the Danube; that if we have great powers in the world today who profess that they are fighting for the liberty of small nationalities, and that if these powers are not sincere in their professions, that we shall do our part to tear the mask of hypocrisy from their faces.

Fr. Michael, removed by the Bishop as an ecclesiastical act of discipline, made his journey from Cliffoney to Crosna on Saturday 16th October 1915. This autobiography, published here for the first time, was found among a set of papers written between 1915 and 1920. Fr. O'Flanagan was a superb orator and his style of writing is lively, descriptive, wide-ranging and has an engaging directness. The memoir is incomplete, and tails off in May of 1916.

The collection contains a series of fascinating letters between Fr. Michael O'Flanagan and Bishop Coyne which underpin the abusive attitude of the Bishop in the narrative. The letters illustrate the psychological and emotional stress Fr. Michael suffered during his first few months in Crosna, dreading each new letter. A scribbled note in Fr. O'Flanagan's hand on the back of a typed letter explains the unfinished nature of his autobiography:

These papers were placed here Nov. 1st. 1920 by Rev. M. O'Flanagan, Sister Gerard (Carty) and Michael McDermott who was in charge of the electric engine in the laundry, in order to save them from the raids of Lloyd George's Auxiliaries and so-called police. M. O'Flannagáin.

Vera McDonnell, a Sinn Féin stenographer who worked as a typist for Fr. Michael, was witness to the raid on his rooms in Roscommon presbytery on Friday October 22nd 1920, which prompted him to place his papers in Lough Glynn Convent for safe-keeping.

The door of the Curates' house was opened by Fr. Carney, the other curate, and the Auxiliaries proceeded to search Fr. O'Flanagan's rooms. They pulled the place asunder and read all his letters. Fr. O'Flanagan was interested in the derivation of Irish place names and, for that reason, he used to buy old Ordnance survey maps at auctions. He had shortly before bought some belonging to the County Surveyor who had died and pieces of these had been cut out apparently by the Surveyor for his own purpose.

The Auxiliaries came to the conclusion that Fr. O'Flanagan had cut them out for the I.R.A. for the purpose of attacks on the Crown forces. They told me if they got Fr. O'Flanagan they would give him the same fate as they had given to Fr. Griffin. They also told me to leave the town at once, and that my being a woman would not save me from being put up against a wall and shot.

During all this time Fr. Carney remained in his own rooms and was not molested.

Vera McDonnell, B.M.H. W.S. - 1,050.

The country was at boiling point during the autumn of 1920; on Monday October 25th Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork died after a 74 day hunger-strike and at Moneygold near Ahamlish cemetery an I.R.A ambush killed four of the nine men on patrol from Cliffoney R.I.C. Barracks. Reprisals came swiftly to Cliffoney with a series of savage raids by the Auxiliaries who visited several nights of terror upon the people of north Sligo. The R.I.C. County Inspector reported:

"The houses of some leading suspects were burned as well as the Father O'Flanagan Sinn Féin Hall at Cliffoney."

Andrew Conway's brother was a constable who resigned. The house was burned at five o'clock in the morning, and the ex-policeman escaped in his night-shirt. A good deal of the crops has been burned in both places. The Father O'Flanagan Hall is in ruins; the Ballintrillick Creamery is burned, and portion of the Grange Temperance Hall, including the library is also burned.

Weekly Telegraph, November 6th, 1920.

Lloyd George, Thimble Rigger.....
Lloyd George, Thimble Rigger.....

The Cliffoney rebellion of 1915 was quickly forgotten in the aftermath of the Easter Rising the following Spring. Indeed the Catholic church were relieved when it faded from the memory of all but a few staunch supporters Fr. Michael died in August 1942. A subscription was raised by Thomas Hargadon of Creevymore and a holy water font was installed as a memorial in the porch of Cliffoney church, on the condition that Fr. O'Flanagan's name was not to be added. A plain cross with the date 1942 was all the church would permit. In 1953, during the Marian celebrations, the Fr. O'Flanagan Hall was officially re-dedicated by the clergy as the Cliffoney Parochial Hall.

It is strange how a once-prominent life can slip through the cracks of history. The memory of Fr. Michael was ultimately preserved in Cliffoney by the local traditional musicians; a session has been held in his honor on the last Saturday of every month for the past forty years, and takes place in O'Donnell's Bar, the "Cliffoney Hotel" of 1914. Finally in 1992, Fr. Patrick Healy P.P. Cliffoney, allowed Fr. Michael O'Flanagan's name to be inscribed on a plaque above the font in the porch of Cliffoney church.

In 2016 the Fr. Michael O'Flanagan Memorial Group in Cliffoney arranged a centenary weekend with a program based on the events of 1915, culminating in a march to Cloonerco Bog. We quickly discovered that little general information was available about this remarkable and inspiring man. A prolific writer and deep and progressive thinker, he was widely traveled, and on his journeys in America and Australia, promoting industry, lecturing and fundraising he gave many interviews to local newspapers. We are in the process of collecting and organizing his scattered speeches, articles, essays, lectures and letters in a dedicated archive at:

Cutting turf on  Cloonerco bog in memory of Father Michael O'Flanagan  on Saturday 25th June 2016.
Cutting turf on Cloonerco bog in memory of Father Michael O'Flanagan on Saturday 25th June 2016.


'....O'Connor said that Carson's desire for settlement, and his general outlook, led him to hope that a settlement might be arrived at; would Carson see Father O'Flanagan? Carson said he would.

O'Connor then asked if Carson would see de Valera. Carson said he would, and that he thought the quietest place (it had at the outset been agreed that the meeting should be confidential, and the fact of its taking place, or its import, should not be told to any person save those concerned - the Prime Minister, de Valera, Father O'Flanagan), would be his residence. An appointment was made for the following Sunday night to meet Father O'Flanagan.

During this interview, Carson also mentioned that an agreement could be come to to allot seats in Northern Ireland so as to avoid contests.

Second interview, Sunday, 30th January, 1921

Carson, Father O'Flanagan, O'Connor were present at 5 Eaton Place. Father O'Flanagan expressed the view that the best prospect of peace lay by an interchange of views between Irishmen themselves. Carson agreed. Father O'Flanagan explained the Sinn Fein view as to a Republic.

Carson said he understood the position; but that a Republic was obviously out of the question. Father O'Flanagan said that it would be impossible to get the Irish people to accept anything less. Carson said he understood that; and he thought that all that could be expected of Sinn Fein leaders would be to say:- 'Here is such and such a settlement. We do not accept it. It falls short of our demands. But we will work it. It is a step nearer to liberty. And we will work it in good faith'.

In this connection Carson went on to outline a speech which, under these circumstances, he would deliver if he were in de Valera's place.

The consultation then drifted on to the question of a settlement. Carson said the difficulty the Prime Minister had was that there was no one to deliver the goods; no one to say on behalf of the Irish people that he would work any settlement, as Father O'Flanagan had admitted to the Prime Minister, and also to him (Carson) that he had no authority. Father O'Flanagan admitted the force of this, but said that on the other side there was the objection that if Sinn Fein receded from its position they would lose ground without any certainty of the settlement being seen through. O'Connor remarked that if neither party would express its mind, no progress could ever be made; he thought the difficulty could be got over by a confidential interchange of views to men like Father O'Flanagan and himself (O'Connor)?

The question of terms was here gone into, and Carson's attitude was a repetition of that outlined in respect of the Thursday interview. Carson said he did not know if Lloyd George would let Ireland off an Imperial contribution, but that he would try and see him to-morrow (Monday).

Father O'Flanagan expressed neither assent nor dissent to Carson's scheme

Monday 31st January, 1921.

Carson, O'Flanagan, O'Connor, 5 Eaton Place. Carson said he had seen the Prime Minister and Bonar Law together, and though he had no authority to say so, he thought there would be no difficulty in getting off all Imperial contribution if some reasonable assurance could be given that if the Act were amended accordingly it would be worked. Carson said that the Prime Minister had suggested either (1) a meeting between de Valera, O'Flanagan, O'Connor, Carson and Craig, to be followed by a meeting between the above five and the Prime Minister and Bonar Law; or, at de Valera's option, (2) a meeting between de Valera, O'Flanagan, O'Connor, the Prime Minister and Bonar Law in the first instance.'

James O'Connor


Dec 9th, 1916.

My dear Canon Doorly,

I had a letter from Dr. Coyne a few days ago telling me that you had informed him that I had some Cliffoney Parish Funds that I had not handed over to you.

There is only one thing that I know that you can refer to.

A sum of £27 - 4 - 8 was held in the Hibernian Bank in the joint names of Father Shannon, Father Michael Keane and Mr. Bernard Clancy. The deposit receipt was lost or mislaid. In Dec. 1914 I got the three named to sign an indemnity form for the amount and Mr. McCaffery issued a new deposit receipt in the names of Father Shannon Mr. Clancy and myself. The interest accruing at the time was £2 - 14 - 7 making when added to the principal a sum of £29 - 19 - 3.

Father Keane told me that this money was collected by Father O'Reilly for the purpose of building a ball court. Before the ball court could be erected Father O'Reilly was changed and so the matter has not been attended to ever since.

At the time that I got this sum of money I had on hand a sum of £13 - 13 - 6 collected for the Volunteers. Not wishing to have too many seperate deposits in the Bank, I put in this last named sum along with the other, and so the new deposit receipt, dated Jan 9th 1915 was made out for the sum of £43 - 12 - 9.

Afterwards the Volunteers called upon me for the £13 - 13 - 6 to pay for equipment which they had purchased. I knew that if I sent the receipt to Father Shannon for signature, that it would be in danger of being lost like the other one, and I was unable to get the money at the time. Now I hope to get the Bank to transfer the money without Father Shannon's signature, when I shall be happy to turn over the £29 - 19 - 3 and interest, to you and Mr. Clancy, and anyone else that you may name.

The Cliffoney Church Account is in the joint names of the Bishop, Father Shannon and myself. The Bishop retained possession of Bank Book and Cheque Book. As this account is, as I understand, overdrawn, it can be transferred without consulting me. You will remember that I spoke to you about it last summer, but at the time you did not wish to assume liability for it. Until you were prepared to do so, I did not feel called upon to make any other returns to you. I now send you a statement of Cash Transactions up to the time I left Cliffoney. No cheques were drawn upon the Bank Account in my time, but two deposits were made amounting to £84 - 13 - 9. There are two bills to be paid, one for £5 - 8 - 11 to Mr. D. Hanly of Sligo, and the balance shown £5 - 11 - 5 to me.

A Remonstrance.


To the most Rev. Dr. Coyne, Lord Bishop of Elphin.

It is with feelings of pain that we, the people of Crossna, have to appeal again to your Lordship to remove the ban imposed on out beloved priest, Fr. O’Flanagan, a ban imposed, we feel constrained to say, for no crime except that his honesty, his sincerity, and passionate love of country is to be construed into crime.

It has been rumored that the cause of his suspension is the neglect of his spiritual duties, and on this matter we should know something, and we have no hesitation in declaring that from a spiritual point of view no better priest ever set foot in our midst.

We should, indeed, be very slow to say anything that might be tortured into an offence, or seem disrespectful to your Lordship, or to impute to you anything in the nature of partiality in a matter so serious and fraught with so many unpleasant consequences.

We know your Lordship well and long, and your elevation to the See of Elphin sent a thrill of joy and pride through our hearts, still, it is very hard to believe but your Lordship’s latest act is unconsciously playing into the hands of the bigots who now trample on everything which your Lordship should foster and hold dear. Ans surely it is not too much to ask your Lordship to desist from a course which, if persevered in, will only rise a turmoil the like of which never before in Ireland occurred between a bishop and his flock.

We earnestly entreat of your Lordship allow Fr. O’Flanagan his full liberties.

It is heart-rending to look upon the treatment he is receiving and impossible to keep silent. We hear the howls of orange bigots, such as Lord Carson and Sir Edward Carson, for the return of the penal days. We see the youth of the country feebly plodding under a cloud of slavery, the dreadful menace of conscription, which hangs over their heads. And to all this what answer has your Lordship given? A sinister one undoubtedly. You have stilled the one potent voice that was left to cheer and guide them. You have done in 1918 what Dr. Troy did in 1798, when at the feasting table of Mountjoy and Carew the excommunication of Fr. Murphy was decreed, and for all this what will your Lordship gain? – the applause of the arch-enemy of your religion, the Freemason clique of England. The London Times may praise you and throw its bloody garment round you. The rag which sneered at Daniel O’Connell and which blackguarded John MacHale and which has no better name for the priests of Ireland than “Surpliced ruffians”. This rag may take you to its bosom. And what will you lose? Certainly the wishes and prayers of a now devoted people. Fr. O’Flanagan was suspended because he was, and is, an Irish patriot priest, and an Irish priest is no innovation in Irish public life. Religion and patriotism in Ireland are inseparable.

Ever since, and even before, the blessed Oliver Plunkett was compelled to cast his dying eyes on his burning bowls, the twin sisters – religion and patriotism – have been transmitted from father to son, and today they shine brighter than ever. They have been wound into the warp and woof of Irish life and cannot be divorced. And your Lordship cannot stop the onward march or stem the rushing tide. Others have tried it and have miserably failed.

The insults that are now poured on Fr. O’Flanagan will do him no harm. A grateful and warm-hearted people will only cling more tightly to him in the hour of his affliction. And whether your Lordship took dictation from non-Catholics such as Lord Middleton, or from influential Catholics, such as the Anglicised Sir Thomas Stafford, it matters little. When these calumniators are dead and gone, and when their names shall only be recalled with horror and disgust, the name of the patriot priest of Crossna will shine as bright and clear on the pages of Irish history as the morning star that circles the heavens, pointing out to future generations of Irish men and women the road to glory, to honour and to virtue.

And as a protest against your Lordship’s action, we have closed Crossna church, and it will remain closed till Fr. O’Flanagan is restored to the mission. Your Lordship may look on our action as extreme, but pray remember the awful malediction conveyed in those dreadful words: 

“Woe to the man whom history shall accuse and whom posterity shall judge.”

To this tribunal we leave your Lordship’s action and our own.

Sinn Féin

Count Plunkett

Map of Waterford from the OS Letters.
Map of Waterford from the OS Letters.

Arthur Griffith

Michael Collins

Republican Envoy 1921


Breaking with de Valera 1926

Inventions 1926

American lectures.

Suspension from Sinn Féin 1936.

County Histories.

The Spanish Civil War.

In 1936 a bitter civil war erupted in Spain when a Republican government was overthrown in a Nationalist military coup. Fr. O' Flanagan emerged from his study in the National Library, where he was working on the County Histories, to campaign for the Republicans, and he got no support f

Fr. O'Flanagan in 1937.
Fr. O'Flanagan in 1937.

Transcription of John O'Donovan's Ordinance Survey work, a mammoth task:

Typescripts of all the OS Letters were prepared, under the editorship of Rev. Michael O’Flanagan, in the years 1927-30. Each typescript volume includes a detailed index. A full set is available for consultation in the Reading Room of the Academy Library. Copies of the typescripts are also available in selected Irish research libraries.

Sample: typescript for County Waterford.

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Representative of the Gaelic League in America 1910 - 1912

Advent Preacher in Rome 1912

Lenten Preacher in Rome 1914

Member of Executive of Irish Agricultural Organization Society 1916 - 1921 Vice-President of Gaelic League 1920 - 1921 Acting President of Sinn Féin 1918 - 1919 Vice-President of Sinn Féin 1917 - 1927 Vice-President of Sinn Féin 1930 - 1931 Envoy of the Government of the Irish Republic in America and Australia 1921 - 1925.

'Michael O'Flanagan's ministerial responsibilities centered on Cliffoney but they also extended to the island of Inishmurray some four to five miles off coast. Inishmurray is a wonderfully beautiful island, uninhabited since 1948. It is the site of a monastic settlement founded by St Molaise and is now a favorite visiting place for archaeological students.

According to the historian of the island, Dr Patrick Heraughty, at its height the population of Inishmurray numbered one hundred and two persons in 1880. When, in November 1948, the islanders came to the mainland, population had fallen to forty-six. The Inishmurray islanders were dispensed from obligation to Sunday mass. Once a year, usually in May, the curate at Cliffoney or Grange said a station mass on the island. On other Sundays the islanders gathered to say the rosary at the same time as mass was celebrated at the parish church in Cliffoney.

Doubtless, Fr O'Flanagan, who had an inveterate interest in people like those at Inishmurray, would have visited the island more than once during his time at Cliffoney. An article written by him for the Catholic Bulletin pays tribute to the islanders' devotion to the rosary, and the Coroín Mhuire. 'In the dim twilight the same islanders, like other islanders along our coast, may be found reciting the rosary with equal fervor on the swelling waters of the Atlantic.'

Denis Carroll, They Have Fooled You Again, P. 24

'.....I also availed of this opportunity to discuss the case of Father O'Flanagan. I reminded His Excellency of the disgraceful way in which Father O'Flanagan had been treated because of the fact that he stood up for the rights and liberties of the people of Ireland. I pointed out to him that the action of Father O'Flanagan in Cavan had been later fully justified by the united Hierarchy themselves when they passed their resolutions against the right of the English Government to conscript our people.

I also pointed out to him that if Father O'Flanagan had been guilty of the most heinous offence he could not possibly have been treated worse than he was by his Bishop. I suggested that his shameful treatment was due to and purely only to the political bias of his Bishop and of Cardinal Logue, and I suggested to him with all respect that this treatment ought not to be allowed to continue.

I told him that I knew that the Archbishop of the diocese had intervened and had made an effort to settle the matter; that Dr. Gilmartin had suggested terms which Father O'Flanagan agreed to accept, but that though the Archbishop of the Province was fully satisfied, that these terms would meet the case, the Bishop of Father O'Flanagan's diocese would not accept them. I asked that this persecution should end.

His Excellency pointed out to me that this was a matter between Father O'Flanagan and his Ordinary, and as such it was very difficult for him or any other outsider to intervene. He said it was a most delicate matter, but that he would think about it.

Before leaving the subject I made him acquainted with the strong views of the Irish people on the matter and said that it would be a great blessing if he could see his way to intervene and bring about an early settlement.'

Sean T. O'Ceallaigh,


15 June 1919

(His Excellency is Monsignor Cheretti, Archbishop of Corinth, representative of the Vatican to the Peace Conference; click here for full letter)

'....Within a week from the date of that meeting we held our first meeting of the new standing committee. There were only six or seven persons present, viz: James O'Meara, Mrs. Wyse-Power, Father O'Flanagan, I think Alderman Tom Kelly, Paudeen O'Keeffe as secretary, and myself. I mention this meeting specially, because on leaving No. 6 Harcourt St. at about a quarter to twelve that night, I was speaking to Father O'Flanagan at the Trinity College corner of Grafton Street.

Some church clock rang out the hour of twelve and Father O'Flanagan said to me: "Pat, I have nowhere to go. Up to this moment I still belonged to my parish, but now I am suspended. I had to make a choice today before I left Roscommon whether to come to attend this important meeting of the standing committee or stay at home as I had not the permission of my parish priest to leave the parish".

He said that the meeting was important because it was the first held since the leaders were arrested. It was also important for him to attend because a full meeting was necessary.

Father O'Flanagan said he had to choose between staying at home, thereby giving the British authorities the satisfaction of knowing that he would not attend the meeting which, from the national point would look bad, or falling out with his Bishop by coming to the meeting. He mentioned that if Canon Cummins had been at home he would have given him permission to leave, but that as he was not there he had to leave without permission. He said he knew that his Bishop would suspend him, which he did.....'

Witness statement of Patrick Moylin.

Ireland To-day, Political and Economic.

Irish Literature, Gaelic and English.

Ireland's Ancient Leadership in Europe.

Illustrated with slides.

Of all the men who played a part in the recent Irish National Revolution the most interesting and forceful personality is Fr Michael O'Flanagan. After the collapse of the insurrection of Easter Week 1916 and the execution of its leaders, it was he who rallied the people of Ireland, gathering them into the Sinn Féin organization and in two years blotted out the old compromising political party political party which had held Ireland in its grip for a quarter of a century. He is therefore rightly known in Ireland as the Father of Dáil Eireann.

Since 1904 when he visited America for the first time, he has spoken to many hundreds of audiences all over the United States, Canada and Australia. Up to the present he has mainly appealed to Irish and Irish-Americans, but from now on he intends to address himself to the general American public.

The fact that he is recognized as the moving spirit and the leading orator of the most dramatic National movement of our time will commend him to multitudes in America who love Ireland and who desire to gain a better understanding of the past history and present day problems of that fascinating country.

Cathal Brugha, first Chairman of Dáil Eireann:

An sagart is dubhrachtaigh do mhair arimh in Eireann (The staunchest priest that ever lived in Ireland).

Eamonn de Valera, President of the Republic of Ireland:

Ireland owes its present strong position to Fr Michael O'Flanagan more than to any other living man.

Very Rev. Fr. Cavanagh, President of Notre Dame, Indiana.

Argument, wit, humor, eloquence, and the physical characteristics of the celt completed the charm. Long life to Fr Michael O'Flanagan, may his message go abroad in the land.

The Irish Times:

Rev. Michael O'Flanagan was the main driving force behind the candidate. For twelve days and nights he was up and down the constituency going like a whirlwind, and talking in impassioned language to people at every village and street corner and cross roads.

The Observer, London:

The Rev. Michael O'Flanagan ranks in Ireland and the world over as an orator of brilliancy, sincerity and honesty.

The Sunday Herald, Boston:

Many Irish and descendents of Irish have been aroused by this eloquent priest's thrilling words, which go straight to the heart and touch its slumbering patriotism, kindling it to a flame of love of country and nationality.

The Leader, Dublin:

He had wit like clear golden honey and he had charm. His thoughts were the thoughts of a nation builder, and he had delightful anecdotes. But need I describe Father O'Flanagan's speech? Are his speeches not known all over Ireland and in every country of the world in which the Irish reside?

Irish Phonetics | 1908 Lace tour | 1915 Cliffoney | 1918 Speech | 1923 Australia | 1934 Speech | Trad sessions