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Four Martyrs to be Remembered in Wexford


Four Martyrs commemorationéirígí Cill Mhantáin representative Adrian O’Raghallaigh has announced the socialist republican party’s plans to remember four republican heroes – Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey and Dick Barrett – this December.

The republican commemoration will take place on Saturday, December 8, at 2pm in Castletown Cemetery, Castletown, County Wexford, which is situated a few miles south of Arklow. The cemetery holds the remains of a great Fenian, Liam Mellows.

The commemoration will be chaired by veteran Wicklow socialist republican activist, Seán Doyle and the guest speaker will be éirígí New Ross Town Councillor John Dwyer. There will be a social function following the ceremony in the Coolgreany Inn and all are welcome to attend both events and to lay floral tributes if desired.

The four martyrs were executed 90 years ago, on December 8th 1922, in Mountjoy Gaol by order of the Free State Parliament. The four republicans were shot by military firing squad as a reprisal for an action carried out by the IRA in Dublin City.

Speaking in advance of the commemoration, éirígí activist Adrian O’Raghallaigh said, “Since éirígí began organising across South Leinster, one of our main focuses has been to commemorate and celebrate the lives of our fallen dead with the view to repopularising the cause for which they gave their lives. The Four Martyrs, namely Mellows, O’Connor, McKelvey and Barrett, were stalwarts of republican principles and honour and continue to be an inspiration today.”

Liam Mellows, who was born in England, grew up in Wexford and Dublin. He joined the struggle at a young age and went on to be a member of Na Fianna Éireann, the IRB, the Irish Volunteers and the IRA. Mellows was a great admirer of James Connolly and his thoughts on class politics. He was elected to Dáil Éireann in the 1918 general election and represented Galway and Meath. Mellows also played his part as a commander in the 1916 Easter Rising, he fought in the Tan War and took the side of Republicanism against the 1921 treaty of surrender. Mellows was captured after the fall of the Four Courts and imprisoned in Mountjoy Gaol.

Rory O’Connor from Dublin epitomised the hard no-nonsense republican, with the valour of a warrior. O’Connor, like Mellows, was a veteran of 1916, and within the ranks of the IRA he gained great respect from his fellow volunteers. Rory became Director of Engineering on GHQ staff of the IRA and was a leading activist against the Anglo-Irish Treaty. O’Connor along with others established the Four Courts as the last stronghold of the Republic which was proclaimed in 1916 and established under the votes of 1918-19. O’Connor like Mellows was taken prisoner following the surrender of the Four Courts.

Joe McKelvey, who was born in County Tyrone, was a fearless Irish republican who had risen through the ranks of the IRA to become its Chief of Staff. McKelvey like Mellows held a strong sense of social justice, which drove the Ulsterman to always lead from the front. Joe was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and also became a chief organiser of the IRA in Belfast as well as holding a massive influence in GAA circles. McKelvey was in the minority of northern Volunteers in his opposition to the 1921 treaty of surrender. This led Joe to declare against the British enforced treaty and to take up arms, with those in the Four Courts in support of an Independent 32 County Irish Republic.

Dick Barrett, the Cork Rebel, was a soldier who was active with the famous West Cork brigade of the IRA during the Tan War. Barrett was a close comrade of Michael Collins and Tom Barry, the Commander of the West Cork brigade’s Flying Column. Described as a genius in revolutionary warfare, he took up an officer’s role on the GHQ staff of the IRA. Having been arrested by the British army in 1921, Barrett along with other courageous IRA volunteers escaped from Spike Island prison in Cork Harbour. After the Treaty negotiations, Barrett kept the flag of resistance flying until he along with his comrades in Dublin were brought under Free State arms to be gaoled in Mountjoy.

Mellows, O’Connor, McKelvey and Barrett were sentenced to death without trial by the Free State Parliament following the IRA attack on Free State TD Seán Hales.

On December 8th the men were taken out of their cells and shot by a military firing squad. Rory O’Connor’s shirt and coat went on fire following the first burst from the Free State firing squad, and it was left to Hugo MacNeill, the firing squad’s commander, to give the ‘coup de grace’ as the men lay blindfolded and fatally injured on the ground.

The following statement was sent to their comrades held in Mountjoy who knew nothing of the drastic and terrible deed until they were awoken by the sounds of gunfire.

“To my dear comrades in Mountjoy. God bless you, boys, and give you fortitude, courage and wisdom to suffer and endure all for Ireland’s sake.

An Poblacht Abú!
Liam O Maoilíosa (Liam Mellows)”

Join with éirígí to remember our fallen comrades, Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey and Richard ‘Dick’ Barrett. Assemble at Castletown Cemetery in North County Wexford, on December 8th 2012 at 2pm. All Welcome.


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