A commemoration of the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa took place this weekend in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
O’Donovan Rossa is considered to be one of the great Fenians and his funeral on 1 August 1915 was a hugely symbolic event in the fight for Irish independence.
He was born in 1831 and lived through the Great Famine. The Famine shaped his ideals about Irish independence and left him with a strong anger towards the British. In 1856 he formed the Phoenix National and Literary Society which later merged with the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He believed in ‘the liberation of Ireland by force of arms’.
He was charged with treason in 1865 after plotting a Fenian rising. He was jailed for six years but released on the condition that he never returned to Ireland.
O’Donovan Rossa went to New York where he continued to work to raise support for Irish independence. He established the newspaper The United Irishman which was dedicated to promoting the cause of Irish freedom from British rule.
He also joined organisations such as Clan na Gael and the Fenian Brotherhood. He advocated and organised dynamite bombings in British cities in order to achieve Irish independence. The campaign lasted throughout the 1880s and led to the British attempting to have him extradited from America.
He was living in New York when he died on 29 June 1915. Thomas Clarke, who would become one of the Easter Rising leaders, wanted his funeral to take place in Ireland as he would receive a hero’s welcome and galvanise the republican movement.
The funeral was attended by Easter Rising heroes such as Pádraig Pearse. Pearse made one of his most famous speeches at the funeral.
He said: “They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but, the fools, the fools, the fools! — They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”
This weekend was the 100th anniversary of O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral. Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins led the official state commemoration and laid a wreath on behalf of the Irish people. The commemoration was attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys, and Dublin’s Lord Mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh.
Also present were O’Donovan Rossa’s great-grandsons Rossa Williams Cole and Williams Rossa Cole, whose grandmother Margaret (Daisy) was the 13th daughter of O’Donovan Rossa and his third wife Mary Jane Irwin.
Rossa Williams told the Irish Examiner: “It’s as if the phoenix has risen again. We are happy to see that his story is being heard again.”
The commemorative booklet featured a letter written by Mary Jane Irwin days before her husband’s funeral.
It read: “I can testify that during his last long illness he was the same unconquerable Irishman breathing the same unalterable desire for the absolute freedom of his country.”
The enactment of the funeral included a rendition of the famous oration by Pearse by actor Jim Roche.
Take a look at the videos below.
O’Donovan Rossa State Commemoration – Video produced by Eire 2016 // Ireland 2016
O’Donovan Rossa 100th Anniversary Funeral Re-enactment – Video produced by Sinn Féin