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Cork Cumann na mBan 100 years Anniversary Commemoration

category national | history and heritage | press release author Tuesday June 10, 2014 12:40author by Sheila Ó Murchú - Cork - Cumann na mBan Report this post to the editors

The Cork Cumann na mBan 100 years Anniversary Commemoration took place in St. Joseph's Cemetery on Sunday 8th June.

Cumann na mBan, lead the Colour party carrying the Tri-Colour, and flying the Cumann na mBan Cork and Cumann na Cailíni Cork flags.

Cork Cumann na mBan 100 years Anniversary Commemoration

The Cork Cumann na mBan 100 years Anniversary Commemoration took place in St. Joseph's Cemetery on Sunday 8th June.

Cumann na mBan, lead the Colour party carrying the Tri-Colour, and flying the Cumann na mBan Cork and Cumann na Cailíni Cork flags.

The Commemoration assembled at 3:00pm at Ballypheane Community Center where a member of Cumann na mBan in full uniform carrying the tri-colour lead the commemoration which proceeded to the grave of Mary MacSwiney in St. Joseph's Cemetery where the proceedings took place. After welcoming everyone wreaths were laid on behalf of the Republican Movement Cork, and Na Fianna Éireann Cork, a decade of the rosary was then given.

The following oration and history of Mary MacSwiney was then read out.

A Chairde

I would like to welcome you here today to celebrate and commemoration the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Cumann na mBan and the life of Mary MacSwiney.

Mary MacSwiney (born 27 March 1872 – died 8 March 1942) was an Irish politician and educationalist. In 1927 she became 'de facto' leader of Sinn Féin when Eamon de Valera resigned from the presidency of the party.

Born in London, England to an Irish father and English mother, she returned to Ireland with her family at the age of six and was educated at St Angela's Ursuline High School here in Cork City.

At the age of twenty, she obtained a teaching post at a private school in England. After receiving a loan from the Students' Aid Society in Ireland, she studied for a Teaching Diploma at Cambridge University, which was normally reserved for men. She worked at Hillside Convent, Farnborough and considered being a nun beginning a one-year noviciate with the Oblates of St. Benedict, Ventnor.

On the death of her mother in 1904 she returned to Cork to look after the younger members of her family and took a post at St Angela's where she had been a pupil. She attended the first meeting of the Munster Women's Franchise League becoming a committee member. She opposed militancy within the Irish suffrage movement and her nationalist views caused irritation to other members.

Influenced by her younger brother, Terence MacSwiney's staunch Irish Republicanism she joined the Gaelic League. She was a founder member of Cumann na mBan when it was formed in 1914 and became National Vice-President of the organization and President of the Cork Branch.

In 1916 she was arrested and imprisoned following the Easter Rising and also was dismissed from her teaching position for her republican activities. Several months later, upon her release from prison, she and her sister Annie founded Scoil Íte, for girls in Cork City where all subjects were taught through the medium of Irish and modelled on Patrick Pearse's St. Enda's School. She remained involved with the school for the rest of her life.

She supported the Irish Was of Independence in 1919–21.

After her brother Terence died on hunger strike in October 1920 during the height of the war, she was elected for Sinn Féin to the Cork Borough constituency (taking her seat in Dáil Éireann) in 1921. Another brother Seán was also elected to the Dáil in a different Cork constituency.

She gave evidence in Washington, D.C. before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. For nine months she and Terence's widow, Muriel, toured America lecturing and giving interviews.

She strongly opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which was debated in December 1921 – January 1922, preferring to resume the war. She said, "This matter has been put to us as the Treaty or war. I say now if it were war, I would take it gladly and gleefully, not flippantly, but gladly, because I realise that there are evils worse than war, and no physical victory can compensate for a spiritual surrender." On 21 December she spoke for three hours, criticising the agreement from all angles.

She was Vice-President of Cumann na mBan when they voted 419 to 63 against supporting the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. Mary was appointed to the Cabinet of the Second Dáil in 1922 and was twice imprisoned during the Civil War, undergoing a twenty-one day hunger-strike in Mountjoy Gaol and a twenty-four day hungerstrike in Kilmainham Gaol.

She retained her seat at the 1923 general election and along with other Sinn Féin members she refused to enter the Dáil.

In March 1926 the party held its Ard Fheis. MacSwiney and Father Michael O'Flanagan led the section from which Éamonn de Valera and Fianna Fáil broke away. De Valera had come to believe that abstentionism was not a workable tactic and now saw the need to become the elected government of the Dáil. The conference instructed a joint committee of representatives from the two sections to arrange a basis for co-operation. That day, it issued a statement declaring "the division within our ranks is a division of Republicans." The next day De Valera's motion to accept the Free State Constitution narrowly failed by a vote of 223 to 218. However De Valera took his support with him and founded Fianna Fáil.

MacSwiney continued to maintain a hard-line republican position until her death. By then she was vice-president of Sinn Féin and Cumann na mBan but lost her seat at the June 1927 general election. When lack of funds prevented Sinn Féin contesting the second election called that year, MacSwiney declared "no true Irish citizen can vote for any of the other parties".

In December 1938, Mary was one of a group of seven people, who had been elected to the Second Dáil in 1921, who met with the IRA Army Council under Seán Russell. At this meeting, the seven signed over the authority of the Government of Dáil Éireann to the Army Council. Henceforth, the IRA Army Council perceived itself to be the legitimate government of the Irish Republic.

The text of the statement was as follows:


In consequence of armed opposition ordered and sustained by England, and the defection of elected representatives of the people over the period since the Republican Proclamation of Easter 1916 was ratified, three years later, by the newly inaugurated Government of the Irish Republic, we hereby delegate the authority reposed in us to the Army Council, in the spirit of the decision taken by Dáil Éireann in the spring of 1921, and later endorsed by the Second Dáil.

In thus transferring the trust of which it has been our privilege to be the custodians for twenty years, we earnestly exhort all citizens and friends of the Irish Republic at home and abroad to dissociate themselves openly and absolutely from England's unending aggressions: and we urge on them to disregard England's recurring war scares, remembering that our ancient and insular nation, bounded entirely by the seas, has infinitely less reason to become involved in the conflicts now so much threatened than have the neutral small nations lying between England and the Power she desires to overthrow.

Confident, in delegating this sacred trust to the Army of the Republic that, in their every action towards its consummation, they will be inspired by the high ideals and the chivalry of our martyred comrades, we, as Executive Council of Dáil Éireann, Government of the Republic, append our names.

Seán Ó Ceallaigh (Ceann Comhairle)

George Noble Plunkett

Professor William Stockley

Mary MacSwiney

Brian Ó hUiginn

Tom Maguire

Cathal Ó Murchadha

Dublin, December 8, 1938.

Republicans today are still inspired by the strength and courage show by Mary MacSwiney and the woman and cailini of Cumann na mBan. If we today can take part of their spirit and courage forward, We can truly stand here and know that the Republic is alive and will rise again.

An Poblachtach Abu

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