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20th Century Ireland - Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington (1877-1946)
Hanna Sheehy was born in Kanturk, County Cork. She was educated at the Royal University, Dublin where she obtained a Master of Arts degree. She married Francis Sheehy-Skeffington and in 1908 they, together with James and Margaret Cousins, founded the Irish Women's Franchise League and Sheehy founded the IWFL's journal The Irish Citizen which she edited until its demise in 1920. Sheehy was a founder member of the Irish Women's Workers' Union in 1911.
In June, 1913 she was arrested for throwing stones at Dublin Castle and was sentenced to three months imprisonment in Mountjoy Goal. She commenced her sentence on June 19th and began a hunger-strike on August 14th. Sheehy was force-fed, released and subsequently imprisoned under the 'Cat & Mouse' Act. Following her imprisonment she lost her job as a teacher.
In 1916 Sheehy's husband Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was shot dead by a English Army Officer without charge or trial. The following year Sheehy travelled to America to publicise conditions in Ireland. In the US she published British Militarism as I have known it which was banned in Ireland and England until after the First World War. On her return to Ireland Sheehy was arrested and imprisoned in Holloway Gaol, London. In 1919 she published Sinn Fein in America. During the 1930's Sheehy was assistant editor of Sinn Fein's newspaper An Phoblacht and was imprisoned in Armagh Gaol for a month for breaking an Northern Ireland Exclusion Order. This extract is from British Militarism as I have known it (1917).©
Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington (1877-1946)
Nor was it, [her husband's murder] as I have shown, the one mad act of an irresponsible
officer. It was part of an organised 'pogrom'. We possess evidence, sworn and duly attested, of at least 50
other murders of unarmed civilians or disarmed prisoners (some boys and women) committed by the soldiers during Easter Week.
The North Staffords murdered 14 men in North King Street, and buried them in the cellars of
their houses. A coroner's jury of the City brought a verdict of willful murder against these
men, who could be identified, but Sir John Maxwell refused to give them up, and they are
in Dublin at the present moment. Pits were dug in Glasnevin Cemetery and the bodies piled
up were carted off and buried in a common trench. In various cases the soldiers stated that
they were under definite orders to kill civilians and prisoners.|
Over three hundred houses were looted and sacked in the suburbs and the City. Thousands of men, hundreds of women, were arrested all over the country and deported in cattle boats to England, some to jails, some to internment camps. Most of these had no part whatever in the Rising, but the police and soldiers had a free hand to arrest all, and exercised their powers to the full. Time does not permit me to dwell any longer on the treatment accorded to the prisoners. In Kilmainham, in Richmond Barracks and later in England, they were brutally ill-treated. Ireland is still under martial law, threatened with famine and conscription; death by hunger or in the trenches.
But Ireland's spirit was never stronger, never was it more clearly shown that no nation can be held by force, that the aspiration after liberty cannot be quelled by shot or shell. A word as to the Irish Republicans. 'Treason doth never prosper; what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.'
When the United States of America set up its republic, it declared its independence of Great Britain; it happily won and maintained its independence. But if it had lost - would its leaders have found quicklime graves? Surely.
I knew the Irish Republican leaders, and am proud to call Connolly, Pearse, MacDonagh, Plunkett, O'Rahilly and others friends - proud to have known them and had their friendship.
They fought a clean fight against terrible odds - and terrible was the price they had to pay. They were filled with a high idealism. They had banks, factories, the General Post Office, the Four Courts, their enemies strongholds, for days in their keeping, yet bankers, merchants and others testified as to the scrupulous way in which their stock was guarded. A poet Æ, said,
And yet the thought, for this you fell,
Turns all life's water into wine.'
It is the dreamers and the visionaries that keep hope alive and feed enthusiasm - not the statesmen and the politicians. Sometimes it is harder to live for a cause than to die for it. It would be a poor tribute to my husband if grief were to break my spirit, it shall not do so. I am not here just to harrow your hearts by a passing thrill, to feed you on horrors for sensation's sake.
The lesson of the Irish Rising and its suppression is that our small nation, Ireland has a right also to its place in the sun. We look to the United States particularly to help us in this matter. The question of Ireland is not, as suggested by England, 'A domestic matter'. It is an international one, just as the case of Belgium, Serbia and other small nationalities is. We want our case to come up at the Peace Conference, if not before - to the international tribunal for settlement...
We look, therefore, to America to see that her allies live up to their professions and that the end of the war will see all small nations of Europe free. As my husband said, in an article in the Century Magazine, February 1916, on a 'Forgotten Small Nationality' 'Shall peace bring freedom to Belgium, to Poland, perhaps to Finland and Bohemia, and not to Ireland?'.
It is for America to see that Ireland is not excluded from the blessings of true democracy and freedom. © Searc's Web Guide 1997-2008