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11 May 2006 Edition

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Last Words

The Proclamation of the Irish Republic, read aloud by Pádraig Pearse outside Dublin's GPO on Easter Monday, 1916 bore the signatures of seven men, members of the Provisonal Government of the Irish Republic. The seven signatories were among 16 alleged leaders of the Rising executed by the British. Fifteen of these were executed between 3 and 15 May 1916.

On 3 May, Thomas Clarke was led from his cell in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, was blindfolded and had his hands bound before he was led to the yard where he was executed by firing squad. In his final message to the Irish people he said:

"I and my fellow-signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief we die happy."

Thomas MacDonagh executed on the same day wrote:

"I, Thomas MacDonagh, having now heard the sentence of the Court Martial held on me today, declare that in all my acts, all the acts for which I have been arraigned. I have been actuated by one motive only, the love of my country, and the desire to make her a sovereign, independent state."

Padraig Pearse, walked to his death at 3.40pm. He wrote an account of his court Martial the day before his death from which this extract is taken:

"When I was a child of ten I went down on my bare knees by my bedside one night and promised God that I should devote my life to an effort to free my country. I have kept that promise. As a boy and as a man I have worked for Irish freedom. The time, as it seemed to me, did come, and we went into the fight. I am glad we did. We seem to have lost. We have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose, to fight is to win. We have kept faith with the past and handed on a tradition to the future."

On 4 May, Joseph Plunkett was executed. Just before midnight, he married his fiancée, Grace Gifford, in the Catholic chapel of Kilmainham Jail. Days before his sentence Plunkett had written in a letter to Grace:

"Listen- if I live it might be possible to get the Church to marry us by proxy- there is such a thing but it is very difficult I am told. Father Sherwin might be able to do it. You know how I love you. That is all I have time to say. I know you love me and I am very happy."

Eamonn Ceannt was executed on 8 May. On 7 May, he wrote:

"I wish to record the magnificent gallantry and fearless, calm determination of the men who fought with me. All, all, were simply splendid. Even I knew no fear nor panic and shrunk from no risk even as I shrink not now from the death which faces me at daybreak."

On the 15 May, Sean Mac Diarmada and James Connolly were executed. MacDiarmada wrote:

" I, Sean Mac Diarmada, before paying the penalty of death for my love of Ireland, and abhorrence of her slavery, desire to make known to all my fellow-countrymen that I die, as I have lived, bearing no malice to any man, and in perfect peace with Almighty God. The principles for which I give my life are so sacred that I now walk to my death in the most calm and collected manner. I meet death for Ireland's cause as I have worked for the same cause all my life."

James Connolly was placed in a chair and loosely tied to it as he was too weak from his injuries to stand up. Hbe was killed by firing squad in that position. He wrote:

"Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government for ever a usurpation and a crime against human progress."

Also executed over the course of the first two weeks in May 1916 were Edward Daly, William Pearse, Michael O'Hanrahan, John McBride, Seán Heuston, Michael Mallin, Con Colbert and Thomas Kent. Roger Casement was executed in Pentonville Prison, London on 3 August.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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