Priest who saved lives of thousands to be honoured

Sculptor Alan Ryan Hall adjusting his bronze statue of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Sculptor Alan Ryan Hall adjusting his bronze statue of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty. Picture: Don MacMonagle

A bronze statue of an Irish priest credited with saving the lives of thousands of people in Rome during the Second World War will soon grace his hometown.

The memorial to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, set to become a landmark at Mission Rd, in Killarney, will be unveiled on Oct 30.

The final touches are currently being put to the statue by sculptor Alan Ryan Hall, in his studio in Valentia, Co Kerry.

A Killarney committee started the project five years ago and 25 submissions from this country, the UK and other European countries were considered.

Committee chairman Jerry O’Grady said: “We were immediately struck by the energy and incredible reality of Alan’s proposal and are thrilled with the final outcome. From the moment that the full-scale clay model was sculpted, we were impressed by the superb quality of the piece.”

No state or EU funding was received for the project, which is dependent on public and corporate donations and help from Kerry County Council and Killarney Town Council.

Books have been written and films made about the legendary monsignor who helped an estimated 6,500 Jews and Allied escapees flee Nazi-occupied Rome.

The unveiling will be part of a week-long programme of events in Killarney, which will include the premiere of a one-man show about the monsignor’s life, God Has No Country, by Killarney- born Donal Courtney.

The fifth annual international O’Flaherty humanitarian award will be presented posthumously to the late Donal Walsh, the Tralee teenager who fundraised for cancer treatment and suicide awareness.

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