Joe Duffy: Recession had nothing on 1916

Liveline presenter Joe Duffy’s triplet children will turn 21 on Easter Monday 2016, and he tells them that no matter how tough the recession was it was nothing like Ireland in 1916.

The RTÉ star and father to triplets, Ronan, Sean and Ellen, has just published his book Children of the Rising which is already a bestseller.

“I say to my three children, that’s (my book) my birthday present to you because you remember that the Ireland of 2016, is not 100 years from 1916, it’s a million years,” he explained.

In his new book, which has gone straight to number one in the hard-back list, the broadcaster names and details the lives of the 40 children who died in crossfire during the six days of the Easter Rising.

It took three years to research, so he became fully immersed in what life was like 100 years ago.

“Despite all the stuff we’ve gone through, you know they’re 21 next Easter Monday, most of their lives have been the recession, I said no matter how bad the recession gets for anybody, it’s not 1916.

“Kids in their bare feet scavenged for a loaf of bread and if they were lucky they got a scrap of bread. It was a world away and we should remember that,” said the broadcaster.

His book was launched last week at the GPO on O’Connell Street with comic Brendan O’Carroll and radio presenter Pat Kenny.

Mr Duffy previously referred to the “trauma” that hit his family when his son Ronan went to Australia for a year in 2013, but unlike some in the recession it was for study and not work purposes.

He says his new book is different to other books about this “seminal point in our nationhood,” in that it is not about the signatories or the proclamation, instead it is about civilians and young, innocent ones at that.

He added that the signatories of the Proclamation of Independence would be happy to see these children remembered in such detail.

After three years of being engrossed in their stories he feels a deep affinity to them.

“They were from the street where I was born in Mountjoy Square, they were from where my parents lived in York Street and Church Street and it’s my contribution,” he said.

Meanwhile, the only woman to be wounded in action during the 1916 Rising is set to be honoured by having a road named after her in Monaghan.

Margaret Skinnider (1892-1971) was a sniper and feminist, who operated as a scout and message-runner (often dressed as a boy) under the command of Countess Markievicz and General Michael Mallin.

She also smuggled detonators and bomb-making equipment into Ireland before the Rising. She was seriously wounded when she was shot three times attempting to burn down houses on Dublin’s Harcourt Street to try to cut off the retreat of British soldiers who had planted a machine gun post on the roof of the University Church. She was mentioned three times for bravery in the dispatches sent to the Dublin GPO.

Now the Monaghan Municipal District of Monaghan County Council is considering a motion to re-name the North Road in Monaghan the Margaret Skinnider Road.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Brian McKenna has welcomed the proposal. “Margaret Skinnider, as most people in north Monaghan would know, was actually born in Scotland but her parents were from the Tydavnet area and she spent many of her childhood summers in the Tydavnet area.

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