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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

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29‭ ‬June‭ ‬1915:‭ ‬The death of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa,‭ ‬Fenian,‭ ‬on this day in New York City.‭ ‬He was born at Roscarbery County Cork in‭ ‬1831‭ ‬to a family of tenant farmers.‭ ‬As a young man he kept a shop in Skibereen but became increasingly involved in revolutionary politics.‭ ‬He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood on its foundation and was soon arrested by the British.‭  ‬In‭ ‬1865,‭ ‬he was charged with plotting a Fenian rising,‭ ‬put on trial for high treason and sentenced to penal servitude for life due to his previous convictions. He spent five years in English jails in very harsh conditions.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1869‭ ‬he was elected an MP but his victory was annulled as he was considered a‭ ‘‬Felon‭’‬.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1870‭ ‬he was released on condition that he went into Exile and he sailed for New York with a group of fellow exiles that were dubbed the‭ ‘‬Cuba Five‭’ ‬after the boat they left in.

Once in New York he helped to organise clandestine operations against British rule and was the main instigator of the‭ ‘‬Dynamite Campaign‭’ – ‬a series of bombings in England designed to force Britain to relinquish her hold on Ireland.‭ ‬However he was allowed to return home in‭ ‬1894‭ ‬and in‭ ‬1904‭ ‬on brief visits.‭ ‬In later years he suffered from ill health and was confined to a hospital on Staten Island.‭ ‬He died there in‭ ‬1915‭ ‬and his remains were returned home for burial.‭ ‬His graveside was the occasion of Padraig Pearse’s famous oration on the power of the Fenian dead.‭ ‬On his immediate hearing of his death Pearse recorded the following:‭

O'Donovan Rossa was not the greatest man of the Fenian generation,‭ ‬but he was its most typical man.‭ ‬He was the man that to the masses of his countrymen then and since stood most starkly and plainly for the Fenian idea‭…
No man,‭ ‬no government,‭ ‬could either break or bend him.‭ ‬Literally‭ ‬he was incapable of compromise.‭ ‬He could not even parley with compromisers.‭ ‬Nay,‭ ‬he could not act,‭ ‬even for the furtherance of objects held in common,‭ ‬with those who did not hold and avow all his objects‭…
Enough to know that the valiant soldier of Ireland is dead‭; ‬that the unconquered spirit is free.