Terence MacSwiney would have welcomed Ukrainian refugees, says Minister

McGrath says generation of revolutionary leaders wanted to create an inclusive Ireland

‘One hundred and two years on from his early death, he (Terence MacSwiney) remains an inspiration and a source of great pride to us all and especially to the people of Cork,’ said Michael McGrath

Terence MacSwiney and the other revolutionary leaders, who helped to win freedom for Ireland a century ago, would have approved of the country offering a sanctuary to those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, according to a senior Cabinet Minister.

MacSwiney’s life was one of overcoming adversity and great personal achievement while at the same time showing a profound commitment to his community and country said Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath.

The Cork South Central Fianna Fail TD said that it was a remarkable feature that many of the leaders of Ireland's revolutionary generation, such as MacSwiney, who was the Lord Mayor of Cork when he died in Brixton prison in October 1920 after 74 days on hunger strike, went to great lengths to educate themselves, reading history and literature and closely following international affairs.

“The more they studied, the more passionate they became about Irish freedom - they were in so many ways, profoundly modern and European in their commitment to cultural revival, national self-improvement and national self-determination,” said Mr McGrath.


“They were almost unique in that they were outward looking and aspired to building an inclusive nation that could incorporate different traditions,” he said, adding that MacSwiney could have had no idea how much he and his generation achieved.

“They faced down the most powerful empire in the modern world and began a process which has transformed Ireland from being one of the world’s poorest countries to one which has achieved profound progress.

"Ireland has taken its place in the world as a proud democratic nation. As a member of the European Union and as part of membership of the UN Security Council, we are undertaking a leading role in the international humanitarian response to the Ukrainian crisis.

“As of yesterday, 26,300 Ukrainians have sought refuge in Ireland and as a State we are committed to playing our full part in assisting the Ukrainian people in their time of need. This is fully consistent with the aspirations of the revolutionary leaders of a century ago.”

Mr McGrath was speaking on Sunday at the unveiling of a bronze bust of MacSwiney by sculptor, John Coll at the Independence Museum in Kilmurry, which incorporates material from the Terence MacSwiney Memorial Museum opened by MacSwiney's only daughter, Maire MacSwiney Brugha in 1965.

Recalling how the circumstances of MacSwiney’s death gained international attention for Ireland’s fight for freedom, Mr McGrath noted how his sacrifice was one which every Irish child learned about in school.

“His name is found in every modern Irish history book and in every account of the struggle for our independence. One hundred and two years on from his early death, he remains an inspiration and a source of great pride to us all and especially to the people of Cork,” he said.

“While this event was originally planned to coincide with the centenary of his death, the importance of honouring and remembering his life does not rely on a major anniversary. Terence MacSwiney deserves to always remain in our living history - a constant presence in the modern world.”

Among those who attended the unveiling of the bust was MacSwiney's grandson, Cathal MacSwiney Brugha, the Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Gillian Coughlan and local Cork North-West TDs, Michael Creed of Fine Gael and Aindrias Moynihan of Fianna Fail.

Independence Museum KIlmurry patron, Dr John O'Mahony SC paid tribute to sculptor, John Coll for his bust of MacSwiney which, he said, was an intriguing complement to the famous marble head sculpted by Albert Power now on display at Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald Park.

Aidan O’Sullivan, Vice Chair of Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association (KHAA) which runs the Independence Museum, thanked Michael O’Flynn of the O’Flynn Group for sponsoring the bust. “It is a fitting memorial to Terence MacSwiney marking the centenary of his death on hunger strike.”

And Deirdre Bourke, also of KHAA, said Independence Museum Kilmurry was delighted to have the bust to display to visitors. "Terence MacSwiney's family came from Kilmurry, he set up the Volunteers here and we remain very proud of our long association with him," she said.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times