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October 25th marks the anniversary of the passing of one of Ireland's greatest sons, Terence J. MacSwiney.
Terence Joseph MacSwiney (b.1879) was a shining example of Irish Republicanism, serving both as a leader of the Irish Republican Army's Cork Number One Brigade and as the Lord Mayor of Cork.
Although his youngest years were spent providing for his family and studying for a career in medicine, by his nineteenth year he had co-founded the Cork Celtic Literacy Society and was well into proving himself to be one of Ireland's most progressive thinking nationalists ever. He proceeded to graduate from the Royal University of Cork with a Mental & Moral Science degree, worked as an accountant, an educator and lecturer. Whilst doing all of this, he continued his literary work penning plays, poems and other literature all fueled by the political, nationalist fervor his heart and mind held so dear. In his first play, The Last Warriors of Coole, produced in 1910, MacSwiney's Fionn seems to predict the uprising that would occur in Ireland six years later, "A few men faithful and a deathless dream - to show the freedom of a race... No people shall despair to hear it told."
MacSwiney's writings in the paper, Irish Freedom would bring him to the attention of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and soon led to his co-founding the Cork Brigade of the Irish Volunteers with such men as Tomás MacCurtain and Sean O'Hegarty. Conflicting orders prevented the Cork Brigade from joining their comrades in the '16 Easter Rising, a source of deep remorse for MacSwiney who in return vowed, "Dublin won the first battle, Cork will win the second." Though official inquiry cleared Cork of all blame for the inaction during the rising, nonetheless the men and women of Cork proved themselves to be counted among Ireland's best and bravest in following years of the War for Independence.
The next three years would find MacSwiney involved in practically every aspect of the Republican struggle. He helped set up the Irish National Aid and Volunteers Dependents Fund, served as elected offical in the First Dáil Éireann, suffered internment a number of times and following the death of his comrade Tomás MacCurtain, was Commandant of the Cork No. 1 Brigade Irish Republican Army and elected Lord Mayor of Cork. On August 12, 1920, British agents raided Cork City Hall where an I.R.A. Brigade Staff meeting was to be held. MacSwiney was arrested for the possession of seditious documents and a police cipher key. After being prosectuted by a military tribunal, MacSwiney committed himself to his final sacrifice for Irish Freedom, his hungerstrike. On October 25, 1920 the 74th day of his strike, Terence MacSwiney joined his place among Ireland's martyrs. His final words were recorded as, "I want you to bear witness to the fact that I died as soldier of the Republic. God save Ireland."
History remembers with pride the numerous achievements of Terence MacSwiney, his bravery, his dedication... but one can argue that perhaps his greatest contribution to Ireland and her freedom was the borderless spirituality and intelligence found in his writings. Activists around the world can benefit from the wisdom and love contained in books like Principles of Freedom.
(A previous post by Saer!)
Principles of Freedom by Terence MacSwiney, 1921 ; Archived online at: Project Gutenberg
( http://www.gutenberg.org )
Despite Fools' Laughter by Terence MacSwiney, pub. 1944
Enduring the Most: The Life & Death of Terence MacSwiney by Francis Costello, 1995
Download Terence MacSwiney's Principles of Freedom free at:
"A man of moral force is he, who, seeing a thing to be right and essential, and claiming his allegiance, stands for it as for the truth, unheeding any consequence. It is not that he is a wild person, utterly reckless of all mad possibilities, filled with a madder hope, and indifferent to any havoc that may ensue. No, but it is a first principle of his, that a true thing is a good thing, and from a good thing rightly pursued can follow no bad consequence. And he faces every possible development with conscience at rest--it may be with trepidation for his own courage in some great ordeal, but for the nobility of the cause and the beauty of the result that must ensue, always with serene faith. And soon the trepidation for himself passes, for a great cause always makes great men, and many who set out in hesitation die heroes. This it is that explains the strange and wonderful buoyancy of men, standing for great ideals, so little understood of others of weaker mould. The soldier of freedom knows he is forward in the battle of Truth, he knows his victory will make for a world beautiful, that if he must inflict or endure pain, it is for the regeneration of those who suffer, the emancipation of those in chains, the exaltation of those who die, and the security and happiness of generations yet unborn. For the strength that will support a man through every phase of this struggle a strong and courageous mind is the primary need--in a word, Moral Force. A man who will be brave only if tramping with a legion will fail in courage if called to stand in the breach alone. And it must be clear to all that till Ireland ran again summon her banded armies there will be abundant need for men who will stand the single test. 'Tis the bravest test, the noblest test, and 'tis the test that offers the surest and greatest victory. For one armed man cannot resist a multitude, nor one army conquer countless legions; but not all the armies of all the Empires of earth can crush the spirit of one true man. And that one man will prevail."