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A chairde, in preparing for tonight, I read some of the papers published at the time of Cmdt. General Tom Maguires death in 1993. I read of the funeral mass and the priest who celebrated that mass a Dr. Brian P. Murphy of Glenstal Abbey who said "One is very privileged to speak at the funeral of such a great and good man on this historic occasion. One is also deeply aware of ones lack of qualification to speak." Dr. Murphy is the author of Patrick Pearse and the Lost Republican Ideal and had interviewed the Comdt. General many times in the course of researching his book. After learning of the remarkable life that this man lived I am truly humbled to speak here.
This man was a true hero of Ireland. His family had fought at the Battle of Aughrim in 1691. Another ancestor joined the United Irishmen and fought in 1798. Tom's own father was in the Fenians.
Tom himself joined the Irish Volunteers shortly after they were formed in 1913.In September 1920 he was appointed O/C of the South Mayo Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. On March 7th 1921 they ambushed a lorry load of British troops, capturing weapons and taking prisoners.
On May 3, 1921, 30 men of the South Mayo Brigade of the Irish Republican Army fought against 600 Black and Tans at Tourmakeady.The British losses at that battle were 10 killed with 13 wounded. The Mayo Brigade lost two men that day, their Brigade Adjutant, Michael J. O'Brien and Volunteer Padraig Feeney. Padraig Feeney was brother to Tom's future wife Christina.
Comdt Maguire suffered a gunshot wound to the arm that day while another Volunteer was slightly wounded. The British even used aircraft to tackle the Brigade. The Maguire family home here in Cross was demolished by the Black and Tans as a reprisal for that attack at Tourmakeady.
On the 19th May 1921 Tom Maguire was elected to the 2nd Dáil Éireann. Some time after this Tom was appointed to the rank of Comdt. General of the Second Western Division, under a commission signed by Cathal Brugha, the All Ireland Minister for Defence.
On the 7th January 1922 at the debate on the Treaty of Surrender, Tom remained loyal to the Republic he had pledged his loyalty to by stating (Ní toil) I do not agree.
Tom Maguire was captured in Headford by Free Staters late in 1922 and court-martialled in Athlone in January 1923, but was not executed as he thought he would be. On April 11 1923 while Tom was still incarcerated, his younger brother Sean along with six others were executed in Tuam by the Free State. These men we know today as the Tuam Martyrs. On June 10th Tom escaped along with five others and while on the run was elected by the people of Mayo South in the General Election of August 1923.
In December, 1938, Tom along with the surviving members of the 2nd Dáil delegated their executive powers of Government to the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army in accordance with the resolution passed at the First Dáil Éireann meeting of March 11 1921.
In 1969 and again in 1986 Toms loyalty to the All Ireland Republic was tested by those who thought they could turn stones into bread like the tempter in the desert, by taking seats in Leinster House and Stormont.
In 1969 he recognised The Provisional Army Council of the Irish Republican Army as the legitimate successor to the 1938 body. The Army convention had "neither the right nor the authority" to pass a resolution recognising the British and two partition parliaments" he declared.
Again in 86 he held true to the Republic by stating "I do not recognise the legitimacy of any army council styling itself the Council of the Irish Republican Army which lends support to any person or organization styling itself as Sinn Féin and prepared to enter the partition parliament of Leinster House".
In 1987 Comdt. General Tom Maguire stated in a statement of recognition "I hereby declare that the Continuity Army Council are the lawful Executive and Army Council respectively of the Irish Republican Army, and that the governmental authority, delegated in the Proclamation of 1938, now resides in the Continuity Army Council and its lawful successors". Comdt. General Tom Maguire served Ireland and Ireland alone.
Some in Ireland today would have us believe that all Irish people are fit for is to serve foreign monarchs and rich financiers at lavish banquets, stud farms or casinos. They wow on every word that spits from the lips of these cadgers and toast each other while another hospital ward closes and the children of the nation are once again forced from the shores.
Marie Antoinette never had it so good. Suck it up, pay homage, you are all to blame we are told. But we should not pay any heed to them. They are the same kind of people who tried to tell Tom Maguire and his ancestors that their loyalty was to the crown and to acts of British parliaments.
Also today in Ireland the new history books being circulated in our schools and colleges would try to diminish the deeds and authority of this great man. Some might be fooled into thinking that new might mean true and that the publishers at Oxford and London are impartial. Our brave brothers and sisters of the six occupied counties know full well the true meaning of British impartiality just as we do in the West of Ireland.
When the torch of Irish Freedom was passed to Comdt. General Tom Maguire he guarded it from all who would try to extinguish it, and lit the pathway for future generations of Irishmen and women. Tonight we leave the graveside of a patriot who can hold rank among our greatest.
I will finish now with a quote from the man himself “The Irish Republic proclaimed in arms in Easter week 1916 and established by the democratic majority vote of the people in the General Election of 1918, has been defended by Irish Republicans for several generations. Many have laid down their lives in that defense. Many others have suffered imprisonment and torture. I am confident that the cause so nobly served will yet triumph”
Go raibh mile maith agat.
An Phoblacht abu.