On June 26 Stephen Collins writes of Daniel O’Connell 1775-1847 and his opposition to slavery.He ignores Mary Anne McCracken 1770-1868 who campaigned for its abolition while O’Connell was still a child and distributed papers to American ships in Belfast up to the eve of the American Civil War and outlived Abraham Lincoln.

Mary Anne McCracken was the devoted sister and supporter of one of the fathers of Irish Republicanism, Henry Joy McCracken who was an insurgent in 1798 and died that year at the end of a British rope.

I am an admirer of Daniel O’Connell’s great courage and great intelligence, an admiration which is not lessened in the knowledge that, in accordance with the gentleman’s code of the Irish Bar, he accepted two challenges to duels in the year 1815. In the first he shot his challenger dead, In the second, his challenger, a crack shot named Robert Peel, arranged to have him arrested en route to a duel in Ostend.

Stephen Collins has neither the courage nor the intelligence of a half wit. To acknowledge the huge comtribution of Irish Republicans to human liberation during the past 230 years is more than his heart or his pocket could bear.

When President Obama visited Dublin in 2011 he was spoon-fed on the virtues of O’Connell, and Mary Kenny had a poisonous article in THE IRISH CATHOLIC.

I wrote to that paper but believe my letter was spiked. Readers may judge it on its merits –

Sent: Mon, 4 Apr 2011 11:00
Subject: Obama and O’Connell on the slavery question – Mary Kenny 24 March 2011

We all say silly things at times, but Mary Kenny (March 24) manages to pack so many silly things into a single column that it is hard to take her seriously. Her assertion that the Irish Republican tradition has been more associated with pro-slavery than its abolition is as offensive as it is false.

“A man the ages will remember” said Martin Luther King of Mike Quill, “a fighter for decent things all his life: Irish Independence, Labor organisation and Racial Equality.”

A founder member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), James Yates, in his memoir “From Mississippi to Madrid” recalled serving with the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the International Brigade in Spain, where he encountered the IRA veteran Frank Ryan, an officer of that Brigade for whom he developed great admiration.

Quill and Ryan were representative of Irish Republican traditions stretching back to the United Irishmen in the 1790s who picketed a ship in the West Indies trade in Belfast, in protest at the slave trade, and to Theobald Wolfe Tone who declared that following the fall of the Bastille he defined himself, as did those who were to join him, as a democrat.

Thomas Francis Meagher and John Boyle O’Reilly were, nearly twenty years apart, sentenced to death by the British for Irish Republican activities. Both had their sentences commuted and were transported to Tasmania and Australia for life. Both made dramatic and heroic escapes to the United States. Meagher organised an Irish Brigade which fought, on the Union side in the greatest battles of the Civil War. At Fredericksburg it was nearly wiped out.

The sentiments of those soldiers, and their utility to the Union cause, may be gauged from the life of Brigadier General Michael Corcoran, an ex-Ribbon-man from Ballymote,Co.Sligo.  Appointed Colonel of the 69th New York Militia Regiment in 1859 he refused to parade them in 1860 to welcome the Prince of Wales. For this he was about to be court-martialled when Civil War broke out. His huge prestige amongst the Irish in New York necessitated his rehabilitation and promotion and he died in the war after many battles.

John Boyle O’Reilly became one of the most honoured men in New England, Editor of The Pilot of Boston and an outspoken defender of the rights of all, Negroes, Native Americans and Jews included. His obituary of  Benjamin Disraeli, whom neither he nor other Irish campaigners for freedom had much cause to love, paid tribute to Disraeli’s achievement of high office in the face of anti-Jewish bigotry.(Daniel O’Connell had once suggested that Disraeli was descended from the Unrepentant Thief.)

When President Kennedy visited Ireland he frequently quoted John Boyle O’Reilly, and in Dail Eireann he presented the bullet-riddled flag that Meagher’s Irish Brigade carried up to the guns of the opposing Confederates at Fredericksburg in December 1862.

Ms Kenny is dismissive of the Irish Republican tradition.

Does she really prefer that of Brigadier General Michael Sylvester O’Rorke, whose obituary appeared in THE TIMES in May 1981 on the very day of Bobby Sands’s funeral? 

O’Rorke was educated at Blackrock College and after service in the First World War enlisted in the RIC in 1919.

 In the 1950s he was Chief of Police in Kenya, during the “Emergency” there.

President Obama’s paternal grandfather was one of many thousands of Kenyans tortured by the “Security” Forces at that time.

Donal Kennedy


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