Row over plan to honour slain Irishmen from Royal Munster Fusiliers

Sinn Féin will back monument to gun-smuggling ship if Kerry council backs Fusiliers plan

A row has erupted about the commemoration, led by former mayor of Kerry Cllr Toiréasa Ferris, daughter of Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris, who was jailed for his role in the smuggling. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A row has erupted about the commemoration, led by former mayor of Kerry Cllr Toiréasa Ferris, daughter of Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris, who was jailed for his role in the smuggling. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Sinn Féin has warned it will push to erect a monument to the IRA’s foiled Marita Ann gun-smuggling operation if Kerry County Council backs a commemoration for Irishmen who died with the Royal Munster Fusiliers in the first World War.

A row has erupted about the commemoration, led by former mayor of Kerry Cllr Toiréasa Ferris, daughter of Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris, who was jailed for his role in the smuggling.

A monument was erected near Ballymullen barracks in Tralee to the Munster Fusiliers regiment in May 2014, in one of the last acts of Tralee Town Council before it was abolished.

Panel

The project is backed by Tralee Independent councillor Sam Locke, who has urged the council to contribute to the €5,000 cost. However, Cllr Ferris has condemned the project as “divisive”. During a heated meeting, Cllr Ferris threatened to seek to use money allocated to local councillors for favoured projects to erect a monument at Banna Strand to the Marita Ann, which was boarded by armed Naval Service crew in September 1984.

Mr Ferris was jailed for 10 years for his role in the IRA gun-running operation.

Tempers flared at this month’s meeting when Sinn Féin called for a public holiday to mark the 1916 Easter Rising. Cllr Locke asked how employers could be expected to put up with an extra bank holiday.

However, Cllr Ferris said Cllr Locke’s objection was “no surprise, given his obsession with the Munster Fusiliers”, adding members of his family had served with the regiment.

Cllr Locke replied that his patriotism or republicanism should not be questioned, adding that his grandmother had “climbed the trees in Ballyseedy” to collect the flesh of republicans killed in the Civil War massacre.

Compromise

Turning to local authority officials, she said Tralee councillors could spend their councillors’ allocation on “erecting a monument to the Marita Ann in Fenit” if they were minded to spend money on such matters.

Sinn Féin members in Kerry have recently discussed at length the need for a recognition of the Marita Ann, given the recognition that has been offered to the British army soldiers of a century ago. Some 3,000 Royal Munster Fusiliers were killed in the first World War, more than 250 from Tralee.