Tomás MacCurtain honoured 100 years on from election

Tomás MacCurtain honoured 100 years on from election
Mace bearers Noel Kearney and Donal Buckley lead the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor John Sheehan, chief executive of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty, and councillors into the council chamber for a meeting of Cork City Council at City Hall to commemorate the centenary of the election of Tomás MacCurtain as lord mayor of Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane

The granddaughter of assassinated lord mayor of Cork Tomás MacCurtain said she hopes the sacrifices of all involved in the struggle for Irish independence — and not just the “famous names” — will be remembered this year.

Fionnuala MacCurtain was speaking last night as the city marked the centenary of her grandfather’s historic election as the first republican lord mayor of Cork on January 30, 1920, and officially began the city’s 1920 centenary commemorations.

The 1920 corporation was the first with a republican majority and the first democratic forum in Ireland to recognise the legitimacy of the then fledgling Dáil Éireann.

Within two months of his election as lord mayor, MacCurtain was shot dead by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary at his home in Blackpool.

As he lay fatally wounded, he was cradled by his pregnant wife, Elizabeth, and four-year-old son, Tomás — Ms MacCurtain’s father — Elizabeth whispered to him: ‘Remember it’s for Ireland’, which became the title of Ms MacCurtain’s family memoir.

His murder sparked outrage. His successor, Terence MacSwiney, godfather to young Tomás, would die on hunger strike in a London prison that October.

Their deaths focused world attention on Ireland’s struggle for independence.

Ms MacCurtain, and two of her children, Aron and Sarah, were among the guests of honour as Cork City Council held a special meeting last night to mark the centenary of MacCurtain’s election.

She said she hopes more people will become more mindful of the sacrifices of all who were involved in the struggle for independence.

“I don’t want to sound melodramatic but it is an emotional time for the family,” said Ms MacCurtain.

“I hold this name by birthright but there are other families who died or suffered greatly for Ireland. Many were imprisoned or exiled.

Many people lost loved ones, many people suffered in the struggle and we were no different.

“People like the Delaney brothers, Cornelius and Jeremiah. They had families and loved ones as well.

“People like Joe Murphy who died on hunger strike at the same time as Terence MacSwiney. His death was as painful and as bad for his family.

There is no hierarchy in death. But you don’t have to die for Ireland to be a patriot.

Ms MacCurtain also said that over the course of the year, she hopes people will learn more about her grandfather’s life, and not just remember him because of the circumstances of his death.

“His life’s achievements have been overshadowed by the way he died,” she said. “He was running a business, teaching Irish, he was a writer, a great musician — I hope people get a chance this year to know the person rather than just how he died.”

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