Deliberately here we avow ourselves, as he avowed himself in the dock, Irishmen of one allegiance only. We of the Irish Volunteers, and you others who are associated with us in to-day’s task and duty, are bound together and must stand together henceforth in brotherly union for the achievement of the freedom of Ireland. And we know only one definition of freedom: it is Tone’s definition, it is Mitchel’s definition, it is Rossa’s definition. Let no man blaspheme the cause that the dead generations of Ireland served by giving it any other name and definition than their name and their definition.
The above words are taken from the oration delivered by Patrick Pearse a century ago at the graveside of veteran Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in Glasnevin Cemetery. Architect of the Fenian dynamite campaign, which brought havoc to the streets of London in the 1880s, O’Donovan Rossa was a fiercely controversial figure in his lifetime, and embodied of the physical force tradition of Fenianism. Indeed, even yesterday the Irish press pondered with the question of whether or not O’Donovan Rossa could be classified as a terrorist.
The death of ‘Dynamite’ O’Donovan Rossa, as he was known to sections of the press at the height of his infamy, created a perfect moment for a nationalist spectacle. Thomas J. Clarke later remarked to his wife that “If Rossa had planned to die at the most opportune time for serving his country, he could not have done better.”
The graveside oration was delivered by the school teacher Pearse, an emerging figure in the radical separatist movement, and following it came a volley of shots. Sean T. O’Kelly,later President of Ireland, remembered feeling an immense pride and that he was part of an historic occasion as the salute was fired:
This must have been one of the first if not the very first occasion on which this military demonstration took place in our lifetime and this too in its way made a deep impression not alone on all who were present but on all who read the report afterwards. The I.R.B. and the Irish Volunteers were very proud of having been able to accomplish this military demonstration despite the orders of the British against the carrying of arms.
In the run-up to the funeral, Dublin Metropolitan Police intelligence commented on the planning of the event, noting in internal correspondence that “delegates from America will be in attendance, and nothing is being left undone to make the affair as impressive as possible. Those concerned are anxious that the greatest harmony will prevail.” The funeral saw the Irish Citizen Army, the armed wing of the labour movement, marching alongside the Irish Volunteers and even members of the National Volunteers, the name bestowed upon those who had followed the nationalist leader John Redmond in his call for Irishmen to support the British war effort. The GAA, the Gaelic League, Sinn Féin, the Hibernian Rifles and others also joined the long march to the cemetery.
Yesterday, the centenary of the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa was marked by a variety of groups, with a state commemoration held in the morning at Glasnevin Cemetery and the unveiling of new plaques on the O’Donovan Rossa Bridge by the National Graves Association. Without a doubt however the highlight of the day was the large-scale reenactment of the funeral itself, organised by Sinn Féin and with the support of O’Donovan Rossa’s family. Thousands took to the streets, marching from City Hall to Glasnevin, but particular credit is due to those who got properly into the spirit (unlike this writer who showed up in a Patagonia raincoat) and dressed in the style of 1915.
The following images were taken by our friend Paul Reynolds of Rabble, and we thank him for permission to publish them here.