Page 3, 16th March 1962

16th March 1962
Page 3
Page 3, 16th March 1962 — PORTRAIT OF A PATRIOT

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TERENCE MACSWINEY, by Moirin Chavasse (Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds. London, Burns & Oates, 25s.).

ON October 25, 1920, in the 75th day of his hungerstrike, Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, died in Brixton prison. His long ordeal had been followed with intense and sympathetic interest all over the world. Correspondents from 22 countries, from Argentina and Brazil to India, China and Afghanistan, came to London to "cover" the story.

MacSwiney's death aroused such feelings abroad, especially in the U.S., that Lloyd George was forced to change his Irish policy and initiate the process which finally led to Irish independence.


IN Ireland, MacSwiney is an honoured patriot and martyr. In England the circumstances of his hunger-strike and death aroused violent and opposite reactions. Some papers, notably the "Manchester Guardian" (as it then was) supported him strongly. (Con O'Leary, my late colleague, who knew MacSwiney in Cork in the early Gaelic League days, was writing many of the Guardian's leaders on MacSwiney and was the last journalist to interview him in his cell). But generally MacSwiney was regarded by the British people much as Grivas of Cyprus was regarded in later days.

Among English Catholics, especially those of the upper class, the attitude was the same. Bitter attacks were made (as they were by some clerics in Ireland) on the morality of his hunger-strike.

Was it not suicide, the theologians asked, among them Fr. McNabb in the "Catholic Times".

Rome move

THE English party in Rome made attempts through Cardinal Merry del Val and Cardinal Gasquet to get the two relevant bodies of the Roman Curia-the Holy Office and the Sacred Penitentiary-to condemn MacSwiney's action. Prompt action by Irish ecclesiastics in Rome and the strong support of Mgr. Lottini, Under-Secretary to Merry del Val. and of Cardinal Giorgi. the

Major Penitentiary, foiled the move.

Ten years later Cardinal Cerretti revealed that Benedict XV had suffered much anxiety but resisted all attempts to force him to make a decision on the case. One was never given.

Dr. Amigo Dr. Amigo

BUT many important English Catholic ecclesiastics were on MacSwiney's side. Dr. Amigo, Bishop of Southwark, allowed the body to lie in state in his Cathedral, although he was greatly hurt when the Irish Volunteers' guard of honour put MacSwiney's Volunteer uniform on the body during the night over the Franciscan Tertiary habit in which Dr. Amigo had been told it would be dressed.

Dr. Amigo, Dr. Mannix of Melbourne and Dr. Cotter of Portsmouth and a large number of priests received the body and next morning Dr. Cotter celebrated Requiem Mass, assisted by Dr. Mannix and Dr. Kenealy, Archbishop of Simla, with Dr. Amigo, presiding.

Dr. Amigo's name is remembered with gratitude in Ireland to this day for his gesture.


MRS. CHAVASSE has gone to great pains to get the information she needed for her book and has used it to good advantage. She paints an interesting picture of MacSwiney's youth-he was always a boy apart and felt his "dedication" at an early age. Her account of Easter Week in Cork, when the Volunteers did not rise to support the Dublin rising, and the parts played by MacCurtain (MacSwiney's predecessor as Lord Mayor) and MacSwiney itself illuminates a hitherto dark corner of Irish history.

This is a book which no Irishman could read without bitterness and few Englishmen could read without some sense of disquiet.

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