Michael Flannery Commemoration Report
On Sunday, October 12th Cumann Na Saoirse Náısıúnta, (The National Irish Freedom Committee) held its annual Michael Flannery Commemoration. The event was blessed with a sunny day with unusually warm autumn weather. The Commemoration was held at the graveside of Michael and his wife Pearl at Mount St. Mary's Cemetery in Flushing,
New York. The headstone, a Celtic cross, was decorated with miniature pumpkins and chrysanthemums by their grandnephews and nieces. An Irish and American flag were positioned on either side. Honorary Co Chairpersons for the commemoration were Charles and Jeannie McLaughlin.
The ceremony began with event Chairperson Pat Williams welcoming those in attendance. He spoke briefly on Michael and Pearl's involvement with the Republican Movement He stated that Michael had joined the IRA at the age of fourteen and had fought in both the Irish War of independence and the Civil War, which followed. Pat also mentioned Pearl's membership of Cumann na mBan and noted that on her departure to America she was paid tribute by the IRA for her support 'in the most dangerous times when all were sorely tested'.
Pat then introduced Séamus Ó Dubhda who read Forógra Na Cáısce. Jane Enright who then read The Easter Proclamation in English followed Seamus. Vic Sackett then read a Tribute to Michael Flannery from An Uachtaran Sinn Fein Poblachtach, Ruairi O Brádaigh. It in course of the message he stated that " For close to 80 years, from that day in 1916 when at the age of 14 Michael enrolled himself as a soldier in the Irish Volunteers, he gave unstinting service throughout his dedicated life to the All-Ireland Republic of Pearse and Connolly and to the first (All-Ireland) Dáıl Éıreann". Michael Flannery succeeded Comdt. General Tom Maguire as Patron of Republican Sınn Féın, a position he was proud to hold.
You can read the entire text of the message from Ruaırí O Brádaıgh here:
John Costelloe then gave a stirring recitation Patrick Pearse's oration at the grave of O'Donovan Rossa. Pearse's words are just relevant today as they were then. Next, Cathleen Ó Brien of the Friends of Irish Freedom was introduced. Cathleen, who is the daughter of the Honorary Co Chairpersons, spoke on their behalf. Cathleen first spoke of the plight currently faced by Aidan Hulme, who is a Republican prisoner in Portlaoise prison in the 26 Counties. Aidan who is from
Louth is facing medical neglect by the prison authorities and is in desperate need of proper treatment. Cathleen then spoke of the long history and close friendship between her parents and the Flannery’s, which went back to their early years in Clan Na Gael. She stated that Michael would remain "our Beacon" and added that ‘Pearl’s name was most fitting for a lady-- like no other”
You can read Cathleen O'Brien's statement in full here:
Lıam Ó Murchú who was to give the main oration was sadly unable to attend due to a family emergency. In his stead Pat Williams read the oration that Liam had prepared for the occasion.
In Liam's tribute to Michael was a succinct but informed history of his life was given. Those present were told of Michaels important role in the Republican Movement in
America and that throughout his life Michael had always remained faithful to the Republican Ideal. It was stated "When another group of now-former Republicans sought to seek advantage by entering into the partitionist politics of the Free State in 1986, Mike traveled to Ireland to try to convince them of the error, giving them the benefit of his experience". " Those who wanted to abandon abstentionism said that they expected to win 4 seats in Leinster House, which might give them the opportunity to enter into coalition government. Mike replied, saying that "If it was wrong for us to go in with 44 seats in 1926, how could it possibly be right for you to go in to fill only 4?” They won none."
Lıam further stated, "With the bitter lesson of yet another split, Mike Flannery felt it was time for a new organization to preserve, in America, the principles of 1916. He convened a meeting of seven men in his house including George Harrison and Joe Stynes, and formed Cumann Na Saoırse; the late Mike Skeahan, whom we laid to rest only, this past summer, suggested the name
The difference here was that Cumann na Saoırse is a purely American imitative, not formed at the request of anyone at home in Ireland, but formed to remain true to 1916, and to those who themselves remain true to the principles of the men and women of Easter Week 1916. This position has been recognized by Ruaırί Ó Brádaıgh, Republican Sınn Féin, and others home in Ireland".
You may read the entire text of Lıam Ó Murchú‘s oration here:
Charlie Laverty then spoke a few words on George Harrison whose anniversary fell on October 6th. Charlie stated that prior to meeting George in the 1950's He had been "pretty right wing, McCarthyite type of person" and that through his close friendship with George he was able to learn and see things in a different way. He stated he would forever be grateful to George for that. George Harrison succeeded his comrade Michael Flannery as Patron of Republican Sınn Feın.
Mike Costello concluded the proceedings by reminding everyone present that we should leave these events reaffirmed that there is a positive ending to what Mike Flannery and many others strived for.
He stated that in the late 60’s and early 70’s when the Republican leadership under Ó Brádaıgh and Ó Conaıll developed the federal based Éıre Nua program, the Unionist and Loyalist leadership of the day accepted it as a viable peaceful solution.
He went onto say that the British viewed this developing cooperation between the Republicans and Unionists /Loyalists as a repudiation of their excuse for keeping warring ‘paddies’ apart and they set about undermining Éire Nua with Kitsonian concessions and a renewed reign of terror
He added that the 26 county political leaders knew full well that the Éire Nua program would challenge their positions of privilege and power supported by brown envelopes donations Their policy of serial of corruption has resulted in the rape of Ireland’s natural resources by Shell in Mayo and the desecration of the sacred grounds of Tara all in the name of greed
He added that when genuine peace was on offer, the British and those self serving elements in the Republican Movement in the 70’who were responsible for trying to bury Éıre Nua did in fact bury over 3000 people in permanent graves just to preserve the status quo
He ended by saying that Éire Nua is as valid now as it was in at its birth in 1971 and will be promoted accordingly
Mike finished inviting all to the up-coming Gaelic Lón, which is to be held on November 16th at Ó Lunney’s in
Manhattan. This event will be held in memory of Nollaig Ó Gadhra who passed away in August. The Commemoration then closed with Pat Williams thanking all who attended.
Immediately after the commemoration those present walked the short distance to the grave of Pat Mullin, who along with Michael Flannery, George Harrison, Tom Falvey and Danny Gormley was charged with arming the Irish Republican Army, a case they famously beat though they refused to deny the charges. Pat Mullin who was from County Galway was another stalwart in the cause of the Republic. The NY Chapter of FOIF is named in his honor.
Message from Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, President, Republican Sinn Féin, on the occasion of the commemoration at his grave on October 6
“Michael Flannery will be remembered as the leading, and indeed, the outstanding supporter in North America of the Republican Movement in Ireland over three generations.
“For close on 80 years, from that day in 1916 when at the age of 14 Michael enrolled himself as a soldier in the Irish Volunteers, he gave unstinting service throughout a dedicated life to the All-Ireland Republic of Pearse and Connolly and to the First (All-Ireland) Dáil Éireann.
“Michael showed his physical courage in the ranks of Tipperary No 1 Brigade, IRA throughout his fight against the Black-and-Tans and later against the Free State. But he had that rare quality too of moral courage. He never failed to expose and challenge in public those who abandoned Republican principles in favour of a career in constitutional politics. He did so without hesitation in 1922, 1926, 1946, 1969 and again in 1986.
“He took this action from a stern and deep sense of duty – never engaging in personalities or stooping to abuse of opponents. His unfailing allegiance to the Cause of Irish Freedom and to his soldier’s oath to the All-Ireland Republic was his guiding star throughout an unusually long life of service – longer even than those of the Fenians John Devoy and O’Donovan Rossa.
“Just as his comrade Joe McGarrity spent three fortunes in support of the Republican Movement, Michael Flannery lavished his personal savings throughout his life to the same cause. His outstanding contributions in this connection were in the years since 1986 when he realised fully that compromise with British rule in Ireland must inevitably lead to the abandonment of the active struggle.
“With characteristic modesty Michael attempted to disguise these donations from a lifetime’s labour as contributions from anonymous donors but we his comrades in Ireland knew well the real source of such income, we respected his intentions in this regard. Above all else he sought to reactivate the armed Republican struggle on a principled basis, strong in the knowledge and conviction that it was the only basis which would last. Time has again borne out the unshakeable conviction of Michael Flannery.
“While public honours left him unimpressed, he did consent to succeed his counterpart in Ireland, the late General Tom Maguire, as Patron of Republican Sinn Féin. He did so solely to assist the Cause of Ireland’s liberation.
“The memory of this great Irishman will abide with his followers and his successors in that never-failing well-spring of support for the freedom of Ireland which is Irish-America.
“You will never be forgotten, Michael Flannery. You will remain our guiding star on the difficult road to freedom.”
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh
Sinn Féin Poblachtach
COMMEMORATING MICHAEL FLANNERY (Oct. 2008)
Rarely in one’s lifetime do we get the chance to meet a truly remarkable and special individual; one who makes such an impression on us as to change us …. A beacon.
Michael Flannery is such a person. Michael’s experiences, foresight, grace, heart, and most of all his humility touched those of us who really knew him. Michael Flannery was a man of great faith, a true patriot, a leader, and yes…. a beacon for all those who truly love Ireland! And Pearl, his beautiful wife, with a most fitting name for a woman, a lady like no other.
Not many families can say they had a connection to Michael Flannery for four generation. The McLoughlin Family has had that privilege. After arriving in the USA in 1927, Michael Flannery was moving in the same circles as my paternal great grandfather ( IRB man Timothy Kemmey) and my grandparents. They were all members of Clan na Gael. They attended the same functions—all in support of “The Cause”. There was, of course, the Tipperary connection.
In 1970, Jean & Charlie (my parents) and I became acquainted with Michael Flannery when we joined NORAID. A close and enduring friendship began. By the late 1980’s my children came to know and love Michael. They actually thought he was their other
grandfather. This special relationship lasted until Michael’s death. My parents had visited Mike regularly when he was in hospital til the end. It was devastating when he died. We thought—
how will we continue the work Mike did without him?! But he has been our “beacon”.
We remember his commitment and we carry on. We will do our best to follow his lead. We are truly privileged to have known him and to call him our friend! We are honoured to know that he considered us his friends! Michael lit a fire in us that will never be extinguished.
Michael…………. In life you were noble, faithful and true,
Serving your land in weal and rue,
Wedded to her in the fullness of youth,
Symbol of honour, freedom and truth.
(Click here to view video)
Michael Flannery Remembered
Liam Ó Murchadha, do sgri
Although I had heard his name, and met him at the 1966 Sean Oglaigh na hÉireann Easter Commemoration in the Trocadero Ballroom on Dykman Street, I did not have the pleasure of working with him until the following year, when, in response to an article in the Irish Echo, I went to a meeting in the Irish Institute, and wound up serving with him as a director of the American Congress for Irish Freedom. He was a tall, stately, almost saintly gentleman, who never seemed to age over the last thirty years of his life. Nor did he deviate, throughout his long life, from the principles of Pádraic Pearse and the men and women of Easter Week 1916.
In January of 1970, after the beginning of the recent Troubles, and immediately after the split between the so-called “Officials” and the “Provisionals”, Mike Flannery was one of thirteen men invited to meet with Daithi Ó Conaill to form a new American organization to support the Cause of Irish Freedom, at that meeting the name suggested by the late Paddy McPartland of Belfast, Irish Northern Aid, was adopted, and Mike Flannery was one-third of the triumvirate chosen to lead the organization. It was no accident that, in its heyday, NorAid shook that other “evil empire,” and its Free State collaborators, whom Ken Tierney so accurately characterized as Ireland’s analog to Pierre Lavalle and the World War II Vichy government of partitioned France.
When the IRA accepted the English offer of a truce in 1975, there was a period of negotiation at home. During this time the Irish People newspaper was in danger of going out of business due to financial problems. It was feared by the true Republicans in Ireland that if the “Rebel” newspaper in New York were to fold that the Brits would take this as a sign of weakness. It was Mike Flannery who stepped up to the plate and organized the saving of the Irish People, which would continue for many years afterward as the voice of Irish Republicanism in America, under editors like Martin Galvin and John MacDonagh.
Sadly, the English government proved insincere in their 1975 truce overtures and subsequent negotiations. Just as he had done in 1922, Mike Flannery remained true to the Republic, and continued the struggle. In 1982, Mike and four other Irishmen in New York (including the late, indomitable George Harrison), were the object of a “sting” operation, and were placed on trial for gun-running, which activity they freely admitted. After a brilliant defense by the late Frank Durkan, they were acquitted of any crime by a jury of their peers.
But the story does not end there. Irish America then decided that it was time to send a message to the government in Washington, a government which seems from time to time to forget the Independence of the United States, Declared on the 4th of July 1776. The leader of that “combination of Irishmen” who were put on trial to satisfy some Washington politician’s desire for an OBE, was then overwhelmingly elected to be the Grand Marshall of the New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
If memory serves me correctly, the vote was 400 in favor, 5 for other candidates and 7 abstentions. The 1983 New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was probably the largest and most orderly parade in history. Marching units flew into New York from all over the country, just so that they could someday tell their grandchildren that they had had the privilege of marching behind Mike Flannery on that day. The “Fighting 69th” Regiment of New York, when they formed up to provide the military escort to the Parade, were informed that there might not be any drill pay for marching that day, and the men were given the opportunity to fall out. Not a man left the ranks. The 69th was one of those green-flag Irish regiments which came into existence in the aftermath of the Great Hunger, to train Irish exiles for the future liberation of their homeland. In volunteering to march for Mike Flannery that day they again proved worthy of their heritage.
When another group of now-former Republicans sought to seek advantage by entering into the Partition politics of the Free Sate in 1986, Mike travelled to Ireland to try to convince them of their error, giving them the benefit of his experience. Mike related the exchange to myself and Bob McCann at the AOH National Convention in Cleveland that year. Those who wanted to abandon abstentionism said that they expected to win 4 seats in Leinster House, which might give them the opportunity to enter into coalition government. Mike replied, saying, “If it would have been wrong for us to go in with 44 seats in 1926, how could it possibly be right for you to go in to fill only 4 seats?” They won none.
With the bitter lesson of yet another split, Mike Flannery felt that it was time for a new organization to preserve, in America, the principles of 1916. He convened a meeting of seven men on his house, including George Harrison and Joe Stynes of Clan na Gael, and formed Cumann na Saoirse; the name was suggested by the late Mike Skeahan, whom we laid to rest only this past summer. The difference here was that Cumann na Saoirse is a purely American initiative, not formed at the request of anyone home in Ireland, but formed to remain true to 1916, and to those who, themselves remain true to the principles of the men and women of Easter Week 1916. This position has been recognized by Ruairi Ó Brádaigh, Republican Sinn Féin, and others, home in Ireland.
Mike was from the same parish of Clyduff, which straddles the Tipperary-Offaly line, as Edward Hand, who was second in command of Thompson’s Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion when General George Washington selected that very Irish green-flag unit to be the First Regiment of the Continental Line – the regular US Army; Hand was later a general assisting Washington at Yorktown. Both men were patriots; both men fought against the evils of English imperialism. There must be something special in the soil of that parish to have produced such men. Mike, however, was always quick to point out that he differed from Hand principally in that Mike, himself, was from the Tipperary side of the parish.
At the age of 14, Mike had been out in 1916 for the Rising. I asked him how he was able to do so while only 14. He responded that he had always been tall for his age, and had gone along with his older brother in the Irish Volunteers, and that when it came to the Rising, he knew that no one would argue with his brother.
Mike Flannery needed only one motivation to do anything. He would ask, is this good for the Cause of Irish Freedom? If it was, he was your man; if it wasn’t no amount of argument could persuade him.
Those of us who knew Mike also came to know the real secret of his success. It was his brilliant, and totally supportive wife, Pearl. Nor would Pearl ever have to be asked to put on the tea for any visitors in the house. But neither was her counsel, however privately given, ever ignored by Mike. They were a team, and we are all the poorer for their absence, but we are at the same time all the richer for having known them, and seen their wonderful example of faith and of courage.
Paul Gallico once wrote a very good book about Saint Patrick; it was called The Steadfast Man. I believe that Patrick himself would proudly share that title with Mike Flannery, our Steadfast Man in the Cause of Irish Freedom.
Ar deis lámh Dé go raibh a anam uasal.