For the family of Tomás MacCurtain, commandant of the Volunteers’ Cork Brigade in 1916, it was most rewarding to see the plaques unveiled on the building on Sheares St in the city which was the Volunteers’ Hall a century ago. It was there that he and vice-commandant Terence MacSwiney spent most of Easter Week, and negotiated — as they thought — the temporary surrender of their weapons after the Rising started in Dublin without them knowing.
“I’m very proud of my grandfather, who realised that battle was futile that day. He was torn by the fact that he had let down the men in Dublin when he heard about [the Rising] later,” said Fionnuala MacCurtain, grand-daughter of the commandant, who became lord mayor of Cork in 1920 but was murdered by police in March of that year.
She was accompanied by Tomás MacCurtain’s daughter-in-law Mai MacCurtain (who was married to Tomás’ son), and her own children Tomás Óg, Ava, and Aron.
“It’s nice to realise that people in the city of Cork can now see that the men of Cork did try and help in the fight for Irish freedom,” she said.
Many people wore the medals of deceased family members for service in the War of Independence.
Among them was David O’Leary whose grandfather, Richard O’Leary, was a member of the Cork City Irish Volunteers 2nd Battalion B Company.
“He was only 19 when he joined up, he’d been in the Fianna Éireann boy scouts since he was 16,” said David.
Denis Horgan, from Dromahane, said his father Michael was captain of his local company in the Cork No 2 Brigade in North Cork. As well as his father’s medals, he wore that of his late wife’s father, Paddy Coleman from Bandon.
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Mid-Cork battalion representatives included the recently-elected Fianna Fáil TD Aindrias Moynihan and his sister Gobnait, now a member of Cork County Council. Their grandfather Jamie Moynihan was among a small number from Cúil Aodha who marched with the Volunteers to Carriganima near Millstreet on Easter Sunday 1916.
“It’s hugely important to acknowledge and commemorate the events in Cork. When they were marching to Carriganima, they were prepared to lay it all down,” said Aindrias.
He was speaking at Cork County Hall, where Mayor of Co Cork John Paul O’Shea unveil a plaque marking the role played by men and women of Co Cork.
Paudie Murphy, whose father Seán Murphy was a Cork Brigade officer in 1916, was also present.
“We had confusion from Dublin in 1916 and we have even more confusion from Dublin today,” he laughed.