Memorial urged for women of 1916

 

MOLLY O’REILLY was just 14- years- old when James Connolly asked her to raise the Irish Citizens’ Army flag over Liberty Hall a week before the Easter Rising.

Molly was so small that she had to be lifted on to a chair to hoist the green flag with the gold harp.

The girl from Gardiner Street was just one of many women remembered yesterday for their role in the 1916 Rising, at an event organised by the North Inner City Folklore Project.

Calls were also made for a memorial to be erected on O’Connell Street to remember the forgotten women.

Some 200 people gathered outside Liberty Hall as Tom Redmond of the folklore project recalled how Molly O’Reilly ran messages for James Connolly and was a dispatch carrier between the City Hall and the GPO garrison on Easter Monday.

Her daughter Constance Corcoran Cowley said there was no family history of politics before Molly got involved. “In fact her father was anti-IRA. He couldn’t stand the Sinn Féin crowd,” she said.

Her mother’s hoisting of the flag was re-enacted when James Connolly’s great-grandson, James Connolly Heron, handed the flag to Molly O’Reilly’s niece, Susan Healy, who climbed a ladder to raise the flag.

Relatives of the 1916 leaders and of women involved in the Rising held photographs of people such as Mary Florence Fitzpatrick, Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell and Winnie Carney.

Terry Fagan of the North Inner City Folklore Project said these women were “airbrushed out of history” yet they played key roles in the Rising.

The crowd then marched to the GPO carrying a banner which declared “Honouring all women in the struggle for Irish freedom”. Wreaths were laid in front of the GPO and the Proclamation was read by Aidan Ring, whose five uncles were involved in the Rising.

Noirín Byrne, whose grandfather was a captain in the Citizens’ Army, urged the public to get behind a campaign for a permanent memorial to the women of 1916. She said that 87 per cent of Dáil members were male, some 93 years after the 1916 Rising.

“This is no accident, because of the systemic discrimination in the way policies work. We badly need the women of 1916 back again to shake up the political system,” she said.

“There is a very, very strong case for a memorial in recognition of the contribution of women in the 1916 Rising and beyond.

The crowd also heard calls for the protection of the national monument site at 14-17 Moore Street, as flowers were laid at 16 Moore Street. This was the last headquarters of the GPO garrison before the Rising leaders decided to surrender.

Although the site has been declared a national monument, campaigners believe the decision to grant permission for a retail and residential development around the site could cause major damage to the buildings.

Patrick Cooney of the Save 16 Moore Street Campaign urged people to join in an attempt to form a human chain around the site on Sunday next, the day before An Bord Pleanála opens an oral hearing on the issue.