The Connaught Rangers: a cautious reburial

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 1 (Spring 2001), News, Volume 9

On 29 October 1970 the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, announced thatarrangements had been made with the government of India forrepatriation of the remains of three of the Connaught Rangers mutineers(see Thomas Bartlett, ‘The Connaught Rangers Mutiny, India, July 1920’,HI 6.1 Spring 1998). ‘The National Graves Association are in charge ofthe arrangement on behalf of the families.’ A document was drawn up bythe Minister for External Affairs ‘who with the Minister for Defencehad discussed the matter with the Taoiseach’. The main thrust of thedocument was that the funerals would be ‘civil’ without staterepresentation. It was noted that the National Graves Association was‘having difficulties’ with Michael F. Kearney, London, Hon. Sec.,Connaught Rangers Mutineers’ Association. Mr Kearney resented the roleaccorded to the National Graves Association whom he regarded asJohnnie-come-latlies. ‘On learning that no firing party would bepresent he [Kearney] threatened to stir up trouble and make his ownarrangements to rectify this deficiency.’ This was regarded as a threatto involve illegal organisations—‘I immediately informed the Departmentof Justice about this threat’. It was noted that Justice was ‘verycautious’ after ‘recent events and the firing of shots at the funeralof Liam Walsh (Saor Éire)’.
There was some discussion on the question of Defence Forcesparticipation in the funerals but civil service advice was negative andit was opined that there was no guarantee that the presence of an armycontingent would rule out the possibility of ‘incidents’. Oppositioncame also  from another quarter. A hand-written note of 30 October 1970says: ‘The position is that the National Graves Association (via MrSeán Fitzpatrick) would, on no account, agree to the participation ofIrish Army elements in the funeral but they would be agreeable to therepresentation of the President and the Taoiseach. Representatives ofthe President and Taoiseach would be confined to the funeral Mass.’Spades were called spades in a Department of the Taoiseach memo whichrecorded that ‘Mr Small [Department of External Affairs] stated that,although the arrangements would nominally be under the control of theNational Graves Association, IRA members would quite certainly takeover control of the ceremonial’. Clear advice was given that neitherthe President nor the Taoiseach should be represented at the actualre-interment. The Indian embassy was advised ‘that the attendance ofthe Ambassador or his representative would not be desirable’.
In the event both President and Taoiseach were represented at thefuneral Mass at Adam and Eve’s, Merchant’s Quay, Dublin, and thePresident  was represented by an army officer at Private Daly’sre-interment at Tyrellspass, County Westmeath. The latterrepresentation was noted by a civil servant as being made ‘apparently’at de Valera’s request. The Department of Finance agreed to subsidiseinvitations to immediate relatives of the deceased mutineers but, trueto form, refused to extend the invitations to surviving ConnaughtRangers.

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