Foreign tourists and Irish-based visitors looked on with curious interest at a gathering at the foot of the East Pier, Howth on Sunday 24th – the group contained a number in military-type uniform, some were carrying flags, each one of a different design and a number of people in ordinary civilian clothes were carrying floral wreaths.
Most onlookers at that point would not have known that those gathered there had a threefold purpose:
to commemorate the landing of Mauser rifles for the Irish Volunteers
to commemorate the massacre of civilians by enraged soldiers later that same day on Bachelors Walk and to
launch the Asgard 1916 Society.
The men and women in uniform formed up with the flags as a colour party and led the procession the full length of the pier to its end. There the procession came to a halt in front of a plaque on the wall commemorating the landing of 900 Mauser M1871 single-shot rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition in 1914 by a crew skippered by Erskine Childers with his wife Molly and friend Mary Spring Rice. The arms were taken ashore and whisked away in an operation planned by Bulmer Hobson of the IRB and carried out by the Irish Volunteers and Na Fianna Éireann.
The Dublin Metropolitan Police and British Army were mobilised by Dublin Castle authorities to seize the guns (unlike at the previous much larger operation by the Loyalist UVF at Larne) but only managed to get a few. As the disgruntled Scottish Borderers marched back into town, they were jeered by Dublin crowds and some cabbage stalks were thrown at them. On Bachelors Walk, very near the Ha’penny Bridge, an officer brought them to a halt and they faced the crowd with guns pointed, then opened fire. Three men and a woman were killed and 38 wounded, including the father of singer Luke Kelly of the Dubliners ballad group (also called Luke). One of the victims died of bayonet wounds.
Margaret McKearney, who has had three brothers killed in the Six Counties during the 30-years war, stepped forward to address the crowd as tourists and visitors took photos or watched and listened. After giving a brief account of the Howth landing and of the massacre on the Dublin quays, also of the smaller landing at Kilcoole, McKearney called forward Pól Ó Scanaill of the 1916 Societies to read the 1916 Proclamation of Independence. After he had finished, McKearney called for the young bearers of two floral wreaths to make their presentations:
Ellen O’Neill, with a wreath in memory of those killed and injured by the British soldiers at Bachelors’ Walk;
Roibeard Drummond, whose uncle Michael Moore was a crew member of the Nugget, landing rifles at Kilcoole, laying a wreath for the Asgard 1916 Society to commemorate the landing of the rifles and those who carried them in battle in 1916.
Last of the wreath-layers was Denise Ní Chanain on behalf of the Anti-Internment Group of Ireland.
MOORE STREET SPEECH
Niamh McDonald gave a short speech on the current situation in the struggle to save the revolutionary quarter of Moore Street. She informed her audience that NAMA had sold the debt of the Irish speculator company Chartered Land (Joe O’Reilly) to Hammerson, a British-based vulture capitalist company, who are continuing with the plan to build a huge shopping centre over the whole historic quarter. Meanwhile, the Minister for Heritage, Heather Humphreys, is appealing the High Court judgement that the whole quarter is a national monument. McDonald asked people to keep an eye on the campaign’s
Facebook page for updates and for calls to support actions.
McKearney then called on Diarmuid Breatnach to sing Me Old Howth Gun, pointing out that guns landed at Howth had been the first to fire on the Lancers in O’Connell Street on Easter Monday 1916. Breatnach introduced the song as having been written apparently in 1921, that is a year before the outbreak of the Civil War, by James Doherty, who also used the pseudonym Seamas Mac Gallogly.
MAIN SPEAKER — JOHN CRAWLEY FROM THE MARITA ANN
The next speaker to be introduced by McKearney was John Crawley who was arrested on board the Marita Ann trawler, intercepted off the Kerry coast by the Irish Naval Service on September 29, 1984, when seven tonnes of arms were seized. The US heavy machine guns recovered on the Marita Ann had special mountings allowing them to be used as anti-aircraft weapons. Another of those detained on board – and later jailed for 10 years – was Martin Ferris who went on to become a Kerry TD for Sinn Fein, while John Crawley has taken a line of opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.
John Crawley gave the main speech at Howth, in which he traced the history of the struggle for the Irish Republic from the Volunteers onwards, pointing out that many who fought the British in 1916 had different aspirations for the country, which explained why they parted ways in 1921. Crawley stated that the British have always been able to pick out those whose primary intention was to survive the struggle from those whose intention was if necessary to give their lives for the objective of the Irish Republic.
Crawley pointed out that some people had led a section of the Republican movement in accepting the right of a foreign country to decide the future of a part of our country; they had joined in the colonial administration and had accepted the colonial police force.
After the applause for the speech died down, McKearney thanked those who had participated and asked Diarmuid Breatnach again to step forward to sing the national anthem. Breatnach sang it in Irish, first verse and chorus (and noticeably sang “Sinne Laochra Fáil” instead of “Sinne Fianna Fáil”). Participants joined in with the chorus and then all made their way along the pier towards a local pub where refreshments had been made available by the new 1916 Society.
Video of the event by John Rooney and put on Youtube by him, posted on FB by Mick O’Riordan (see below)