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Lost Dreams

Series of paintings by

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

The following series of paintings consists of portraits of Irish radical / revolutionary leaders covering the last 300 years. This year is the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising leading many to discuss the implications of the 100th anniversary in 2016. It is an interesting coincidence that the year 2016 will also be the 400th anniversary of the death of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. In terms of the struggle against colonialism the year 1616 marked the end of the beginning with the Flight of the Earls while the Easter Rising marked the beginning of the end.

The idea of this series is to explore Irish history in visual way, to re-present well-known Irish figures not as strict historical paintings but more of a modern interpretation of their lives and their times. There are notable exceptions in the series, such as Daniel O'Connell who was essentially a monarchist and very much looked after his class interests. For example, O'Connell 'cherished a romantic attachment for his "darling little Queen" (Victoria)' and when he took his seat as a supporter of the Whig Government in the House of Commons 'voted against a proposal to shorten the hours of child labour in factories' in 1838. [See P. Berresford, Ellis, A History of the Irish Working Class. London, Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1972, pps 100 and 104/5]. Thus the following series concentrates on those leaders who were revolutionary and progressive and who were concerned for the ordinary people of Ireland.

One artist who very successfully painted the history of the people of his country was the Mexican artist Diego Rivera who made many murals and paintings covering social and political issues of his time. The following work is an attempt to put forward and remind Irish people of their radical history in a similar way.

Part 2 : 1900s - Present Day

Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

Thomas Clarke (1857-1916)

Thomas James Clarke (March 11, 1857 - May 3, 1916) was born in 1857 on the Isle of Wight, though his family soon moved to Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland. At the age of 18 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in 1883 he was sent to London to blow up London Bridge as part of the dynamiting campaign advocated by Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, one of the IRB leaders exiled in the United States. Clarke was quickly captured and subsequently served 15 years in Pentonville Prison. Following his release in 1898 he married Kathleen Daly (21 years his junior), whose uncle, John, he had met in prison. Together they emigrated to America, where Clarke worked for the Clan na Gael under John Devoy. In 1907 he returned to Ireland where he opened a tobacco shop in Dublin and immersed himself in the IRB which was undergoing a substantial rejuvenation under the guidance of younger men such as Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough.

In 1915 Clarke and MacDermott established the Military Committee of the IRB to plan what later became the Easter Rising. The members were Pearse, Ceannt, and Joseph Plunkett, with Clarke and MacDermott adding themselves shortly thereafter. When an agreement was reached with James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army in January, 1916, Connolly was also included on the committee, with Thomas MacDonagh added at the last minute in April. Clarke was stationed in the headquarters at the General Post Office at Dublin during the events of Easter Week, where command of the rebel forces was largely under Connolly. Following the surrender on April 29, Clarke was held in Kilmainham Jail until his execution by firing squad on May 3rd at the age of 59. He was the second person to be executed, following Patrick Pearse.



Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

James Connolly (1868-1916)

James Connolly (June 5, 1868 - May 12, 1916) was a Scottish Irish socialist leader. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland to Irish emigrant parents. He left school for working life at the age of 11, but despite this he would become one of the leading left-wing theorists of his day. Though proud of his Irish background he was also took a role in Scottish politics.

He is believed to have joined the British Army at the age of 14, and was stationed in Dublin where he would later meet his wife.

By 1892, he was an important figure in the Scottish Socialist Federation, acting as its secretary from 1895, but by 1896 he had left the army and established his Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP). While active as a socialist in Great Britain Connolly was among the founders of the Socialist Labour Party which split from the Social Democratic Federation in 1903. He was right hand man to James Larkin in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913, in response to the Lockout, he founded the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), an armed and well-trained body of labour men whose aim was to defend workers and strikers, particularly from the frequent brutality of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Though they only numbered about 250 at most, their goal soon became the establishment of an independent and socialist Irish nation.

Connolly stood aloof from the leadership of the Irish Volunteers. He considered them too bourgeois and unconcerned with Ireland's economic independence. In 1916 thinking they were merely posturing, and unwilling to take decisive action against Britain, he attempted to goad them into action by threatening to send his small body against the British Empire alone, if necessary. This alarmed the members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who had already infiltrated the Volunteers and had plans for an insurrection that very year. In order to talk Connolly out of any such rash action, the IRB leaders, including Tom Clarke and Patrick Pearse, met with Connolly to see if an agreement could be reached. It has been said that he was kidnapped by them, but this has been denied of late, and must at some point come down to a matter of semantics. As it was, he disappeared for three days without telling anyone where he had been. During the meeting the IRB and the ICA agreed to act together at Easter of that year.

When the Easter Rising occurred on April 24, 1916, Connolly was Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, and as the Dublin brigade had the most substantial role in the rising, he was de facto Commander in Chief. Following the surrender he was executed by the British for his role, although he was so badly injured in the fighting that he was unable to stand for his execution, and was therefore shot in a chair.



Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

Patrick Pearse (1879-1916)

Patrick Henry Pearse was born in Dublin. His father, a Catholic convert, was from a Cornish nonconformist family and an artisan/stonemason, who held moderate home rule views and his mother, Margaret, was from an Irish-speaking family in County Meath. The Irish-speaking influence of his aunt Margaret instilled in him an early love for the Irish language. In 1896, at the age of only sixteen, he joined the Gaelic League (Conradh na nGaeilge), and in 1903 at the age of 23, he became editor of its newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis ("The Sword of Light").

Pearse's earlier heroes were the ancient Gaelic folk heroes such as Cuchulainn, though in his 30s he began to take a strong interest in the leaders of past republican movements, such as Theobald Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet, both, ironically, Protestant skeptics. As a cultural nationalist educated by the nationalist, decidedly anti-British Irish Christian Brothers, like his younger brother Willie, Pearse believed that language was intrinsic to the identity of a nation. The Irish school system, he believed, raised Ireland's youth to be good Englishmen or obedient Irishmen, and an alternative was needed. Thus for him and other language revivalists, saving the Irish language from extinction was a cultural priority of the utmost importance. The key to saving the language, he felt, would be a sympathetic education system. To show the way, he started his own bilingual school, St. Enda's School (Scoil Éanna) in Ranelagh, County Dublin, in 1908. Here, the pupils were taught in both the Irish and English languages. With the aid of Thomas MacDonagh, Pearse's younger brother Willie Pearse and other (often transient) academics, it soon proved a successful experiment. He did all he planned, and even brought students on fieldtrips to the Gaeltacht in the west of Ireland. Pearse's restless idealism led him in search of an even more idyllic home for his school. He found it in the Hermitage, Rathfarnham, where he moved St. Enda's in 1910.

Early in 1914, Pearse became a member of the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood, an organisation dedicated to the overthrow of British rule in Ireland and its replacement with a Republic. Pearse was then one of many people who were members of both the IRB and the Volunteers. When he became the Volunteers' Director of Military Organisation in 1914 he was the highest ranking Volunteer in the IRB membership, and instrumental in the latter's commandeering of the Volunteers for the purpose of rebellion. By 1915 he was on the IRB's Supreme Council, and its secret Military Committee, the core group that began planning for a rising while the Great War raged on the European mainland.

When eventually the Easter Rising did erupt on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, having been delayed by one day due to fears that the plot had been uncovered, it was Pearse, as President, who proclaimed a Republic from the steps of the General Post Office, headquarters of the insurgents, to a bemused crowd. When, after several days fighting, it became apparent that victory was impossible, he surrendered, along with most of the other leaders. Pearse and fourteen other leaders, including his brother Willie, were court-martialled and executed by firing squad. Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh and Pearse himself were the first of the rebels to be executed, on the morning of 3 May 1916. Pearse was 36 years old at the time of his death.


Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

Eamonn Ceannt (1881-1916)

Éamonn Ceannt was born Edward Thomas Kent in Glenamaddy, Ballymore, County Galway, one of seven children. His father, ironically, was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. When he retired in 1892, he moved his family to Dublin. It was there that young Edward became interested in the Irish Ireland movement. He joined the Gaelic League, adopting the Irish version of his name (Éamonn), and becoming a master of the uilleann pipes, even putting on a performance for Pope Pius X. He was employed as an accountant for the Dublin Corporation.

Sometime around 1913 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and later was one of the founding members of the Irish Volunteers. As such he was important in the planning of the Easter Rising of 1916, being one of the original members of the Military Committee and thus one of the seven signatories of the Easter Proclamation. He was made commandant of the 4th Battalion of the Volunteers, and during the Rising was stationed at the South Dublin Union, with more than a hundred men under his command, notably his second-in-command Cathal Brugha, and W.T. Cosgrave. His unit saw intense fighting at times during the week, but surrendered when ordered to do so by his superior officer Patrick Pearse. Ceannt was held in Kilmainham Jail until his execution by firing squad on 8 May 1916, aged 34.


Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

Sean Mac Diarmada (1884-1916)

Seán MacDermott was born John MacDermott in County Leitrim, where he was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. Later in life he adopted the Irish form of his name: Seán MacDiarmada. In 1908 he moved to Dublin, by which time he already had a long involvement in several Irish separatist organizations and cultural, including Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the Gaelic League. He was soon promoted to the Supreme Council of the IRB and eventually elected secretary. In 1910 he became manager of the radical newspaper "Irish Freedom", which he founded along with Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough. He also became a national organizer for the IRB, and was taken under the wing of veteran Fenian Tom Clarke. Indeed over the year the two became nearly inseparable. Shortly thereafter MacDermott was stricken with polio and forced to walk with a cane.

In November 1913 MacDermott was one of the original members of the Irish Volunteers, and continued to work effortlessly to bring that organization under IRB control. In May 1915 MacDermott was arrested in Tuam, County Galway, under the Defense of the Realm Act for giving a speech against enlisting into the British Army. He was released in September, where upon he joined the secret Military Committee of the IRB, which was responsible for planning the rising. Indeed it was MacDermott and Clarke who were most responsible for it. Being somewhat crippled, MacDermott took little part in the fighting of Easter week, but was stationed at the headquarters in the General Post Office. Following the surrender, he nearly escaped execution by blending in with the large body of prisoners, but was eventually recognized and summarily executed by firing squad on May 12 at the age of 33.


Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

Joseph Plunkett (1887-1916)

Joseph Mary Plunkett (21 November 1887 - 4 May 1916) was an Irish nationalist, poet, and leader of the Easter Rising in 1916. His father, George Noble Plunkett, was a papal count and curator of the National Museum, although his father's cousin, a Protestant named Horace Plunkett was a Unionist who sought to reconcile both sides, but instead witnessed his own home burned down during the Anglo-Irish War. At a young age Plunkett was stricken with tuberculosis, and spent part of his youth in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and north Africa. He studied at the Jesuit College, Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire, and acquired some military knowledge from the Officers' Training Corps there. Throughout his life, Joseph Plunkett took an active interest in Irish heritage and the Irish language. He joined that Gaelic League, and took on as a tutor Thomas MacDonagh, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. The two were both poets with an interest in theater, and both were early members of the Irish Volunteers, joining their provisional committee.  Sometime in 1915 Joseph Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and soon after was sent to Germany to meet with Roger Casement who was negotiating with the German government on behalf of Ireland. Plunkett successfully got a promise of a German arms shipment to coincide with the rising.

Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the rising, and it was largely his plan that was followed. As such he may be held partially responsible for the military disaster that ensued, though one should realize that in the circumstances any plan was bound to fail. Shortly before the rising was to begin, Plunkett was hospitalized following a turn for the worse in his health. He had an operation on his neck glands days before Easter and had to struggle out of bed to take part in what was to follow. Still bandaged, he took his place in the General Post Office with several other of the rising's leaders such as Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke, though his health prevented him from being terribly active. His energetic aide de camp was Michael Collins. Following the surrender Plunkett was held in Kilmainham Gaol, and faced a court martial. Hours before his execution by firing squad at the age of 28, he was married in the prison chapel to his sweetheart Grace Gifford, a Protestant convert to Catholicism, whose sister, Muriel, had years before also converted and married his best friend Thomas MacDonagh, who was also executed for his role in the Easter Rising.


Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916)

MacDonagh was born in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary. Throughout his life he had a keen interest in Irish heritage and the Irish language. He moved to Dublin where he joined the Gaelic League, soon establishing strong friendships with such men as Eoin MacNeill and Patrick Pearse. His friendship with Pearse and his love of Irish led him to join the staff of Pearse's bilingual St. Enda's School upon its establishment in 1908, taking the role of teacher and Assistant Headmaster. Though MacDonagh was essential to the school's early success, he soon moved on to take the position of lecturer in English at the National University. MacDonagh remained devoted to the Irish language, and in 1910 he became tutor to a younger member of the Gaelic League, Joseph Plunkett. The two were both poets with an interest in the Irish Theatre, and formed a lifelong friendship. In 1912 he married Muriel Gifford, a Protestant who converted to Catholicism; their son, Donagh, was born later that year.

In 1913 both MacDonagh and Plunkett attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers and were placed on its Provisional Committee. He was later appointed commandant of Dublin's 2nd battalion, and eventually made commandant of the entire Dublin Brigade. Though originally more of a constitutionalist, through his dealings with men such as Pearse, Plunkett, and Sean MacDermott, MacDonagh developed stronger republican beliefs, joining the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), probably during the summer of 1915. Around this time Tom Clarke asked him to plan the grandiose funeral of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, which was a resounding propaganda success. Though credited as one of the Easter Rising's seven leaders, MacDonagh was a late addition to that group. He didn't join the secret Military Council that planned the rising until April 1916, weeks before the rising took place. The reason for his admittance at such a late date is uncertain.

Still a relative newcomer to the IRB, men such as Clarke may have been hesitant to elevate him to such a high position too soon, which begs the question; why admit him at all? His close ties to Pearse and Plunkett may have been the cause, as well as his position as commandant of the Dublin Brigade (though his position as such would later be superseded by James Connolly as commandant-general of the Dublin division). Nevertheless, MacDonagh was a signatory of the Easter Proclamation. During the rising, MacDonagh's battalion was stationed at the massive complex of Jacob's Biscuit Factory. On the way to this destination the battalion encountered the veteran Fenian, John MacBride, who on the spot joined the battalion as second-in-command, and in fact took over much of the command throughout Easter Week, although he had had no prior knowledge and was in the area by accident. As it was, despite MacDonagh's rank and the fact that he commanded one of the strongest battalions, they saw little fighting, as the British Army easily circumvented the factory as they established positions in central Dublin. MacDonagh received the order to surrender on April 30, though his entire battalion was fully prepared to continue the engagement. Following the surrender, MacDonagh was court martialled, and executed by firing squad on 3 May 1916, aged 38.



Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 90cm] (Sold)

James Larkin (1876-1947)

James (Big Jim) Larkin (1874-1947), an Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, was born in Liverpool, England on 28 January 1874, of Irish parents. Growing up in poverty, he had little formal education and began working in a variety of jobs while still a child before becoming a full-time trade union organiser in 1905. He moved to Ireland in 1907, where he founded the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, the Irish Labour Party, and later the Workers' Union of Ireland. In early 1913 Larkin achieved some notable successes in industrial disputes in Dublin, making frequent recourse to sympathetic strikes and blacking of goods. Two major employers remained non-union firms and a target of Larkin's organising ambitions: Guinness and the Dublin United Tramway Company. Guinness staff were well-paid and enjoyed generous benefits from a paternalistic management, and as a result they showed little interest in trade unions. This was far from the case on the tramways. The chairman of the Dublin United Tramway Company, industrialist and newspaper proprietor William Martin Murphy, was determined not to allow the ITGWU to unionise his workforce. On 15 August he dismissed forty workers he suspected of ITGWU membership, followed by another 300 over the next week. On 26 August the tramway workers officially went on strike. Led by Murphy, over four hundred of the city's employers retaliated by requiring their workers to sign a pledge not to be a member of the ITGWU and not to engage in sympathetic strikes.

The resulting industrial dispute was the most severe in Ireland's history. Employers in Dublin engaged in a lockout of their workers when the latter refused to sign the pledge, employing blackleg labour from Britain and elsewhere in Ireland. Dublin's workers, amongst the poorest in the then United Kingdom, were forced to survive on generous but inadequate donations from the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) and other sources in Ireland, distributed by the ITGWU. For seven months the lockout affected tens of thousands of Dublin's workers and employers, with Larkin portrayed as the villain by Murphy's three main newspapers, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent and the Evening Herald. Other leaders in the ITGWU at the time were James Connolly and William X. O'Brien, while influential figures such as Pádraig Pearse, Countess Markievicz and William Butler Yeats supported the workers in the generally anti-Larkin media. The lockout eventually concluded in early (1914) when the calls for a sympathetic strike in Britain from Larkin and Connolly were rejected by the British TUC. Although the actions of the ITGWU and the smaller UBLU were unsuccessful in achieving substantially better pay and conditions for the workers, they marked a watershed in Irish labour history. The principle of union action and workers' solidarity had been firmly established. Perhaps even more importantly, Larkin's rhetoric, condemning poverty and injustice and calling for the oppressed to stand up for themselves, made a lasting impression.

In September 1923 Larkin formed the Irish Worker League (IWL), which was soon afterwards recognised by the Communist International (the Comintern) as the Irish section of the world communist movement. In 1924 Larkin attended the Comintern congress and was elected to its executive committee. However, the League was not organised as a political party, never held a general congress and never succeeded in being politically effective. Its most prominent activity in its first year was to raise funds for republican civil war prisoners. In the September 1927 general election, Larkin ran in North Dublin and was elected. This was to be the only time that a self-proclaimed communist was elected to Dáil Éireann. However, as a result of a libel award against him won by William O'Brien, which he had refused to pay, he was an undischarged bankrupt and could not take up his seat.

Larkin was unsuccessful in his attempts in the following years to gain a position as a commercial agent in Ireland for the Soviet Union, and this may have contributed to his disenchantment with the communist cause. The Soviets, for their part, were increasingly impatient with his ineffective leadership. From the early 1930s Larkin drew away from the Soviet Union. While in the 1932 general election he stood without success as a communist, in 1933 and subsequently he ran as "Independent Labour". During this period he also engaged in a rapprochement with the Catholic Church. In 1936 he regained his seat on Dublin Corporation. He then regained his Dáil seat in the 1937 general election but lost it again the following year. James Larkin died in his sleep on 30 January 1947. His funeral mass was celebrated by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, and thousands lined the streets of the city as the hearse passed to Glasnevin Cemetery.


Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

Countess Markiewicz (1868-1927)

Constance, Countess Markiewicz (4 February 1868 – 15 July 1927), was an Irish politician, nationalist and revolutionary. Born Constance Georgine Gore-Booth, the elder daughter of baronet and explorer, Sir Henry Gore-Booth, she lived as a child at the Anglo-Irish family's ancestral home, Lissadell House in County Sligo in western Ireland. Constance and her younger sister, Eva Gore-Booth, were close friends of the Anglo-Irish poet, W. B. Yeats, who frequently visited the house, and were influenced by his artistic and political ideas.

Constance studied art at the Slade School in London and then in Paris, where in 1893 she met and married Polish/Ukrainian artist, Count Casimir Dunin-Markiewicz. They settled in Dublin, Ireland in 1903, where she became involved in radical politics through the suffragette movement and in the Irish nationalist movement, joining Sinn Féin in 1908, and founding the militant nationalist boy scouting movement Fianna Éireann in 1909.

In 1913, her husband moved to the Ukraine (possibly because of his wife's activities), and never returned. Shortly thereafter she joined James Connolly's Irish Citizen Army (ICA), and, though a member of the landed gentry, she devoted herself to the cause of socialism. As a member of the ICA she took part in the 1916 Easter Rising, shooting a British sniper at one point, and was sentenced to death by the British government. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment due to her gender, and she was released under the amnesty of 1917.

In the December 1918 general election, Markiewicz was elected for the constituency of Dublin St Patrick's as one of 73 Sinn Féin MPs. This made her the first woman elected to the British House of Commons. However, in line with Sinn Féin policy, she refused to take her seat. (In 1919, Nancy Astor was elected to the House of Commons, and on December 1 became the first female member of the House of Commons who actually sat in Parliament.) Instead Countess Markiewicz joined her colleagues assembled in Dublin as the first incarnation of Dáil Éireann, the unilaterally-declared Parliament of the Irish Republic. She was re-elected to the Second Dáil in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland elections of 1921. She also converted to Roman Catholicism some time after the Easter Rising.

Markiewicz served in as Minister for Labour from April 1919 to January 1922, in the Second Ministry and the Third Ministry of the Dáil. Holding cabinet rank from April to August 1919, she became the first Irish female Cabinet Minister. She was the only female cabinet minister in Irish history until 1979 when Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was appointed to the then junior cabinet post of Minster for the Gaeltacht for Fianna Fáil.

Markiewicz left government in January 1922 along with Eamon de Valera and others in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty. She fought actively for the Republican cause in the Irish Civil War, and joined Fianna Fáil on its foundation in 1926. She was not elected in the Irish general election of 1922 but was returned in the 1923 election for the Dublin South constitency. In common with other Republican candidates, she did not take her seat. In the June 1927 election, she was re-elected to the 5th Dáil as a candidate for the new Fianna Fáil party, which was pledged to return to Dáil Éireann, but died only five weeks later, before taking her seat.

She died at the age of 59, on 15 July 1927, after a short illness, and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland. The by-election for her Dáil seat in Dublin South was held on 24th August and won by the Cumann na nGaedhael candidate Thomas Hennessy.



Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm] (Sold)

Roger Casement (1864-1916)

Casement was born in Sandycove, near Dublin to a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother, who died when he was a baby. By the time he was ten, his father was also dead, and he was afterwards raised by Protestant paternal relatives in Ulster. Casement went to Africa for the first time in 1883, at the age of only nineteen, working in Congo Free State for several companies and for King Léopold II of Belgium's Association Internationale Africaine. While in Congo, he also met the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley during the latter's Emin Pasha Relief Expedition and became acquainted with the young Joseph Conrad, who was a sailor but not yet a published writer. In 1892 Roger Casement left Congo to join the Colonial Office in Nigeria. In 1895 he became consul at Lourenço Marques (now Maputo).

By 1900 he was back in Congo, at Matadi, and founded the first British consular post in that country. In his dispatches to the Foreign Office he denounced the mistreatment of indigenous people and the catastrophic consequences of the forced labour system. In 1903, after the House of Commons, pressed by humanitarian activists, passed a resolution about Congo, Casement was charged to make an inquiry into the situation in the country. The result of his enquiry was his famous Congo Report.

Casement resigned from colonial service in 1912. The following year, he joined the Irish Volunteers, and became a close friend of the organisation's chief of staff Eoin MacNeill. When the First World War broke out in 1914, he attempted to secure German aid for Irish independence, sailing for Germany via America. The Germans, who were sceptical of Casement but nonetheless aware of the military advantage they could gain from an uprising in Ireland, offered the Irish 20,000 guns, 10 machine guns and accompanying ammunition, a fraction of the amount of weaponry Casement had hoped for.

The German weapons never reached Ireland. The ship in which they were travelling, a German cargo vessel, the Libau, was intercepted, even though it had been thoroughly disguised as a Norwegian vessel, Aud Norge. Casement left Germany in a submarine, the U-19, shortly after the Aud sailed. Believing that the Germans were toying with him from the start, and purposely providing inadequate aid that would doom a rising to failure, he decided he had to reach Ireland before the shipment of arms, and convince Eoin MacNeill (who he believed was still in control) to cancel the rising. In the early hours of April 21, 1916, two days before the rising was scheduled to begin, Casement was put ashore at Banna Strand in County Kerry. Too weak to travel (he was ill), he was discovered and subsequently arrested on charges of treason, sabotage and espionage against the Crown. Following a highly publicized trial, he was stripped of his knighthood. After an unsuccessful appeal against the death sentence, he was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on 3 August 1916, at the age of 51.


Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [50cm x 70cm]

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington (1877-1946)

Hanna Sheehy (May 27, 1877 — April 20, 1946) was born in Kanturk, County Cork, a daughter of David Sheehy, Irish Parliamentary Party Westminster MP, who was also, intriguingly, the brother of Father Eugene Sheehy, a priest who educated Eamon de Valera in Limerick. Hanna Sheehy (or Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, as she was known after marrying Francis Sheehy-Skeffington) is remembered as an Irish feminist who, along with her husband and James Cousins founded the Irish Women's Franchise League in 1908 with the aim of obtain women's voting rights. Sheehy was also a founding member of the Irish Women's Workers' Union as well as an author whose works deeply opposed British imperialism in Ireland. Sheehy was educated at the Royal University in Dublin where she received a Master of Arts Degree. Sheehy married in this period, becoming Sheehy-Skeffington and in 1908 founded the Irish Women's Franchise League, a group aiming for women's voting rights. She lost her teaching job in 1913 when she was arrested and put in prison for three months after throwing stones at Dublin Castle. Whilst in jail she started a hunger strike but was released under the Prisoner's Temporary Discharge of Ill Health Act and was soon rearrested. Sheehy's father, David Sheehy, former Irish Parliamentary Party MP, remained loyal to the British government throughout her numerous imprisonments, which caused a rift between him and his daughter.

In 1916 Sheehy's husband, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, was shot dead during the Easter Rising on the orders of a British army officer, Colonel Bowen-Colthurst. Bowen-Colthurst was sent temporarily to a Canadian hospital after being adjudged insane in the aftermath of the Rising, but he was released with a pension to settle in Canada. Sheehy refused any kind of compensation for her husband's death, and soon afterwards she travelled to the United States to publicise the political situation in Ireland. She published British Militarism as I have known it which was banned in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until after the First World War. Upon her return to Britain she was once again imprisoned, this time in Holloway prison. After being released Sheehy supported the anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War. During the 1930s she was assistant editor of An Phoblacht, a Sinn Féin newspaper. During this period she was arrested once more for breaking the Northern Ireland Exclusion Order.


Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 90cm]

Frank Ryan (1902-1944)

Frank Ryan attended University College Dublin where he was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) training corps, but left before graduating in order to join the IRA's East Limerick Brigade in 1922. He fought on the Republican side in the Irish Civil War, and was wounded and interned. In 1933, Ryan, along with George Gilmore and Peadar O'Donnell, proposed the establishment of a new left-republican organisation to be called the Republican Congress. This would form the basis of a mass revolutionary movement appealing to the working class and small farmers. In late 1936 Frank Ryan travelled to Spain with about 80 men he had succeeded in recruiting to fight in the International Brigades on the Republican side. He fought in a number of engagements until he was seriously wounded in March 1937, and returned to Ireland to recover. He took advantage of the opportunity of his return to launch another left-republican newspaper, entitled The Irish Democrat. On his return to Spain, he again served in the war until he was captured by Nationalist forces in March 1938. He was court-martialled and sentenced to death. In July 1940 the Abwehr arranged for his "escape", effectively abducting him and taking him to Berlin, since they considered that a prominent Irish republican might be useful. The short remainder of Frank Ryan's life was spent in Germany, marked by ill-health. In January 1943 he suffered a stroke, and died in June 1944.



Acrylic and graphite on card / Aicrileach agus grafít ar chárta  [20cm x 30cm] (Sold)

Máirtín Ó Cadhain (1906 - 1970)

Máirtín Ó Cadhain (1906 - 1970) was one of the most important Irish language writers of the twentieth century.

Born in Connemara, he studied to be a teacher, but due to his difficulties with priests and other authority figures, as well as his social and political commitment, this career turned out to be abortive. In the nineteen thirties, he participated in the land campaign of the native speakers, which led to the establishment of the Ráth Cairn neo-Gaeltacht in County Meath. Subsequently, he was arrested and interned during the Emergency years on the Curragh internment camp in County Kildare, due to his involvement in the illegal activities of the Irish Republican Army.

Ó Cadhain's politics were the usual Irish nationalist mix of vague socialism and social radicalism tempered with a rhetorical anti-clericalism. However, in his writings concerning the future of the Irish language he was rather practical about the position of the Church as a social and societal institution, craving rather for a wholehearted commitment to the language cause even among Catholic churchmen: as the Church was there anyway, it would be better that it be a Church happy to address the believers in the national idiom.

As a writer, Ó Cadhain is universally acknowledged to be a pioneer of Irish-language modernism. His Irish was the dialect of Connemara - indeed, he is often accused of an unnecessarily dialectal usage in grammar and orthography even in contexts where realistic depiction of Connemara dialect was not called for - but he was happy to cannibalise other dialects, classical literature and even Scots Gaelic for the sake of linguistic and stylistic enrichment of his own writings. Consequently, much of what he wrote is reputedly hard to read for a non-native speaker.

He was a prolific writer of short stories. His collections of short stories include Cois Caoláire, An Braon Broghach, Idir Shúgradh agus Dháiríre, An tSraith Dhá Tógáil, An tSraith Tógtha and An tSraith ar Lár. He also wrote three novels, of which only Cré na Cille was published during his lifetime. The other two, Athnuachan and Barbed Wire, appeared in print only recently. The first two are more or less absurd depictions of Gaeltacht life; the third one is a linguistic experiment on a par with James Joyce's Ulysses. He also wrote several political or linguo-political pamphlets. His political views can most easily be discerned in a small book about the development of Irish nationalism and radicalism since Theobald Wolfe Tone, Tone Inné agus Inniu; and in the beginning of the sixties, he wrote - partly in Irish, partly in English - a comprehensive survey of the social status and actual use of the language in the west of Ireland, published as An Ghaeilge Bheo - Destined to Pass. Due to Máirtín Ó Cadhain's character as Gaelic Ireland's most important writer and littérateur engagé with frequent difficulties to get his work edited, new Ó Cadhain titles of hitherto unpublished writings have appeared at least every two years since the publication of Athnuachan in the mid-nineties. More is probably still forthcoming.

Máirtín Ó Cadhain as a student
Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm] (Sold)

Máirtín Ó Cadhain was born and educated in Connemara, County Galway where he became a school-teacher. In the 1930's he joined the IRA and lost his teaching post because a local Catholic Bishop objected to Ó Cadhain's republicanism. He became an IRA Recruiting Officer in Dublin and is said to have recruited Brendan Behan among others. In 1938 Ó Cadhain was appointed to the IRA Army Council and published his first collection of short stories Idir Shúgradh agus Dáiríre in 1939. Ó Cadhain was interned in the Curragh Internment Camp from 1940-1945 during which time he taught Irish and Welsh to his fellow internees, including Michael O'Riordan and Liam Brady.
In 1948 Ó Cadhain published An Braon Broghach and in 1949, what many consider to be the greatest novel published in Irish in the 20th century, Cré na Cille. In the same year Ó Cadhain became a translator for the Oireachtas, translating European literary classics into Irish.

In 1952 Ó Cadhain published Cois Caoláire and in 1956 he joined the staff of the Department of Modern Irish at TCD. Throughout the 1950's and 1960's Ó Cadhain retained his interest in politics and was a member of Wolfe Tone Society and supported the first Republican Club in TCD. In 1967 Ó Cadhain published An tSraith an Lár and in 1969 he was appointed Professor of Modern Irish at TCD. Ó Cadhain published An tSraith Dá Tógáil and was created a Fellow of TCD shortly before his death in 1970. His Selected Poems was published posthumously in 1984.

Oil on canvas / Ola ar chanbhás [60cm x 70cm]

Bobby Sands (1954 – 1981)

Robert Gerard Sands, commonly known as Bobby Sands (9 March 1954 – 5 May 1981) and also as Volunteer Bobby Sands due to his IRA membership, was an Irish republican who died on hunger strike in the prison officially called HM Prison Maze but formerly known as Long Kesh (a name still used by Irish Republicans). Sands was the leader of the hunger strike and had been elected as a Member of Parliament during his fast.

Bobby Sands was born in 1954 in Rathcoole, a predominantly loyalist district of north Belfast. His 27th birthday fell on the ninth day of his 66-day hunger-strike. His sisters Marcella, one year younger, and Bernadette, were born in April 1955 and November 1958, respectively. All three lived their early years at Abbots Cross in the Newtownabbey area of north Belfast. A second son, John, was born to their parents John and Rosaleen in June 1967. The sectarian realities of ghetto life materialised early in Bobby's life. At the age of seven his family were forced to move home owing to loyalist intimidation even as early as 1962. Bobby recalled his mother speaking of the troubled times which occurred during her childhood; "Although I never really understood what internment was or who the 'Specials' were, I grew to regard them as symbols of evil". Of this time Bobby himself later wrote: "I was only a working-class boy from a nationalist ghetto, but it is repression that creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom. I shall not settle until I achieve liberation of my country, until Ireland becomes a sovereign independent socialist republic." When Bobby was sixteen years old he started work as an apprentice coach builder and joined the National Union of Vehicle Builders and the ATG-WU. In an article printed in 'An Phoblacht/Republican News' on April 4th, 1981, Bobby recalled: "Starting work, although frightening at first, became all right, especially with the reward at the end of the week. Dances and clothes, girls and a few shillings to spend, opened up a whole new world to me."

Bobby's background, experiences and ambitions did differ greatly from that of the average ghetto youth. Then came 1968 and the events which were to change his life. Bobby had served two years of his apprenticeship when he was intimidated out of his job. His sister Bernadette recalls: "Bobby went to work one morning and these fellows were standing there cleaning guns. One fellow said to him, 'Do you see these here. Well, if you don't go you'll get this', then Bobby also found a note in his lunch-box telling him to get out." In June 1972, the family were intimidated out of their home in Doonbeg Drive, Rathcoole, and moved into the newly built Twinbrook estate on the fringe of nationalist West Belfast. Bernadette again recalled: 'We had suffered intimidation for about 18 months before we were actually put out. We had always been used to having Protestant friends. Bobby had gone around with Catholics and Protestants, but it ended up when everything erupted, that the friends he went about with for years were the same ones who helped to put his family out of their home." As well as being intimidated out of his hob, and his home being under threat, Bobby also suffered personal attacks from the loyalists. At 18, Bobby joined the Republican Movement. Bernadette says: "..He was just at the age when he was beginning to become aware of things happening around him. He more or less just said, right, this is where I'm going to take up. A couple of his cousins had been arrested and interned. Bobby felt that he should get involved and start doing some thing." Bobby himself wrote: "My life now centred around sleepless nights and stand-bys dodging the Brits and calming nerves to go out on operations. But the people stood by us. The people not only opened the doors of their homes to lend us a hand but they opened their hearts to us. I learned that without the people we could not survive and I knew that I owed them everything." In October 1972 he was arrested. Four hand-guns were found in a house he was staying in and he was charged with possession. He spent the next three years in the cages of Long Kesh, where he had political prisoner status. During this time Bobby read widely and taught himself Irish, which he was later to teach the other blanker men in the H-Blocks.

Released in 1976, Bobby returned to his family in Twinbrook. He reported back to his local unit and straight back into the continuing struggle: "Quite a lot of things had changed, some parts of the ghettoes had completely disappeared and others were in the process of being removed. The war was still forging ahead although tactics and strategy had changed. The British government was now seeking to 'Ulsterise' the war, which included the attempted criminalisation of the IRA and attempted normalisation of the war situation." Bobby set himself to work tackling the social issues which affected the Twinbrook area. Here he became a community activist. According to Bernadette: "When he got out of jail that first time our estate had no Green Cross, no Sinn Féin, nor anything like that. He was involved in the Tenants' Association…. He got the black taxis to run to Twinbrook because the bus service at that time was inadequate. It got to the stage where people were coming to the door looking for Bobby to put up ramps on the roads in case cars were going too fast and would knock the children down." Within six months Bobby was arrested again. There had been a bomb attack on the Balmoral Furniture Company at Dunmurry, followed by a gun-battle in which two men were wounded. Bobby was in a car near the scene with three other young men. The RUC captured them and found a revolver in the car. The six men were taken to Castlereagh and were subjected to brutal interrogations for six days. Bobby refused to answer any questions during his interrogation, except his name, age and address.

He was held on remand for 11 months until his trial in September 1977. As at his previous trial, he refused to recognise the court. The judge admitted there was no evidence to link Bobby, or the other three young men with him, to the bombing. So the four of them were sentenced to 14 years each for possession of the one revolver. Bobby spent the first 22 days of his sentence in solitary confinement, 'on the boards' in Crumlin Road jail. For 15 of those days he was completely naked. He was moved to the H-Blocks and joined the blanked protest. He began to write for Republican News and then after February 1979 for the newly-merged An Phoblacht/Republican News, under the pen-name, 'Marcella', his sister's name. His articles and letters, in minute hand writing, like all communications from the H-Blocks, were smuggled out on tiny pieces of toilet paper. He wrote: "The days were long and lonely. The sudden and total deprivation of such basic human necessities as exercise and fresh air, association with other people, my own clothes and things like newspapers, radio, cigarettes. Books and a host of other things, made my life very hard." Bobby became PRO for the blanket men and was in constant confrontation with the prison authorities, which resulted in several spells of solitary confinement. In the H-Blocks, beatings, long periods in the punishment cells, starvation diets and torture were commonplace as the prison authorities, with full knowledge and consent of the British administration, imposed a harsh and brutal regime on the prisoners in their attempts to break the prisoners' resistance to criminalisation. The H-Blocks became the battlefield in which the republican spirit of resistance met head on all the inhumanities that the British could perpetrate. The republican spirit prevailed and in April 1978, in protest against systematic ill-treatment when they went to the toilets or got showered, the H-Block prisoners refused to wash or slop-out. They were joined in this no-wash protest by the women in Armagh jail in February 1980 when they were subjected to similar harassment.

On October 27th, 1980, following the break down of talks between British direct ruler in the North, Humphrey Atkins, and Cardinal O Fiaich, the Irish Catholic primate, seven prisoners in the H-Blocks began a hunger-strike. Bobby volunteered for the fast but instead he succeeded, as O/C, Brendan Hughes, who went on hunger strike. During the hunger-strike he was given political recognition by the prison authorities. The day after a senior British official visited the hunger-strikers Bobby was brought half-a-mile in a prison van from H-3 to the prison hospital to visit them. Subsequently he was allowed several meetings with Brendan Hughes. He was not involved in the decision to end the hunger-strike, which was taken by the seven men alone. But later that night he was taken to meet them and was allowed to visit republican prison leaders in H-Blocks 4,5 and 6. On December 19th, 1980, Bobby issued a statement that the prisoners would not wear prison-issue clothing nor do prison work. He then began negotiations with the prison governor, Stanley Hilditch, for a step-by-step de-escalation of the protest. But the prisoners' efforts were rebuffed by the authorities: "We discovered that our good will and flexibility were in vain", wrote Bobby. "It was made abundantly clear during one of my 'cooperation' meetings with prisoner officials that strict conformity was required, which in essence meant acceptance of criminal status."

In the H-Blocks the British saw the opportunity to defeat the IRA by criminalizing Irish freedom fighters, but the blanket men perhaps more than those on the outside, appreciated before anyone else the grave repercussions, and so they fought. Bobby volunteered to lead the new hunger-strike. He insisted on starting two weeks in front of the others so that perhaps his death could secure the five demands and save their lives. For the first 17 days of the hunger-strike, he kept a secret diary in which he wrote his thoughts and views, mostly in English but occasionally breaking into Gaeilge. He had no fear of death and saw the hunger-strike as something much larger than the five demands and as having major repercussions for British rule in Ireland. The diary was written on toilet paper in biro pen and had to be hidden, mostly carried inside Bobby's own body. During those first 17 days Bobby lost a total of 16 pounds weight and on Monday, March 23rd, he was moved to prison hospital.

On March 30th, he was nominated as candidate for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election, caused by the sudden death of Frank Maguire, an independent MP who supported the prisoners' cause. The next morning, day 31 of his hunger-strike, he was visited by Owen Carron, who acted as his election agent. Owen told of that first visit "Instead of meeting that young man of the poster with long hair and a fresh face, even at that time when Bobby wasn't too bad he was radically changed. He was very thin and bony and his hair was cut short." Bobby had no illusions with regard to his election victory. His reaction was not one of over-optimism. After the result was announced Owen visited Bobby. "He had already heard the result on the radio. He was in good form alright but he always used to keep saying, 'In my position you can't afford to be optimistic.' In other words, he didn't take it that because he'd won an election that his life would be saved. He thought that the Brits would need their pound of flesh. I think he was always working on the premise that he would have to die." At 1.17am on Tuesday, May 5th, having completed 65 days on hunger-strike, Bobby Stands MP, died in the H-Block prison hospital at Long Kesh. Bobby was a truly unique person whose loss is great and immeasurable. He never gave himself a moment to spare. He lived his life energetically dedicated to his people and to the republican cause, eventually offering up his life in a conscious effort to further that cause and the cause of those with whom he had shared almost eight years of his adult life. In his own words: "Of course I can be murdered but I remain what I am a political POW and no-one, not even the British, can change that."

THE name Bobby Sands is known throughout the world, symbolising the heroism of an Irish prisoner and his comrades who died on hunger strike in their unequal fight against their British jailors. Over the course of the past two years British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has been lobbying Iran’s Foreign Minister to change the name of Bobby Sands Street, where the British Embassy is situated, in the capital Tehran. (It was formerly known as Winston Churchill Street.) See