Call for memorial to be put up to citizens of Dublin killed in Rising


THE CITIZENS of Dublin have been pilloried in many accounts of the Easter Rising, a summer school in honour of one of  the 1916 leaders heard at the weekend.

Dr Anne Matthews called for a memorial to the  345 citizens who died during the six days when those living within the vicinity of the GPO found themselves “centre stage of a theatre of war”.

Speaking at  the inaugural Seán MacDiarmada Summer School in Kiltyclogher, Co Leitrim, Dr Matthews questioned why the poor of Dublin, who were unable to source food during the Rising, were accused of “criminal looting” while at the same time the rebels “commandeered” food  and the army “took” it.

In a lecture titled Breaking the Silence: The Citizens’ Experience of 1916, Dr Matthews said children suffered  severely during the Rising when families were imprisoned in their homes, the banks and post offices were closed and bakers hiked up their prices.

She said rebels took food from the shops and hotels on Sackville Street, signing receipts for goods taken from Findlaters. One girl who had been in the GPO recounted seeing “for the first time in her life” a whole salmon there.

Dr Matthews, of  NUI Maynooth, said civilian shootings had been  justified by accusations  of looting, and there was a need to re-examine the implication that those who looted were “less Irish and deserved what they got”.

Dr Matthews also said it was time to bring in from the cold the so-called “separation women” who received allowances because their husbands were serving abroad with the British army.

She said that in the aftermath of 1916 the term “separation allowance” was used as a propaganda tool to silence any protest or criticism of the Rebels. Now that Irish men who served in the British army had been brought in from the cold it was time to do the same for these women.

Outlining the impact of the Rising on the citizens of the Dublin, Dr Matthews said that according to the 1911 census 1,540 people lived in the streets and lanes immediately adjacent to the GPO, men women and children who for six days  “existed within a heartbeat of death”.

The youngest fatality was two years old when he  was shot in the head. Teenager Bridget McCain also died instantly when she was shot in the head  as  rebels retreated from the GPO  and tried to break into houses in Moore Street.

“This was one thing not talked about in all the debate about saving 16 Moore Street,” said Dr Matthews. People seemed to forget that civilians were also in Moore Street because the rebels had broken into their homes  and a plaque should be unveiled to them in time for the 2016 celebrations, she urged. “We must include everybody and we haven’t.”

The summer school was held a few miles from MacDiarmada’s birthplace  in Kiltyclogher.

Among those attending were MacDiarmada’s grand-niece and grand-nephew Patricia Walshe and Pádraig McDermott, whose  father  handed over the three-roomed thatched cottage  at Cornmore, where MacDiarmada was born, to the State . “He felt it was the right thing to do. It would have fallen down and it is now a national monument,” said Ms Walshe.

Dr Jennifer Kelly, director of the school, said MacDiarmada  was an enigma. “He was one of the lesser known figures of 1916. He left very few written records behind,  unlike  many of the others who were writers.”