Cllr’s call for exhumation of five men buried in Kilmainham Gaol causes controversy

A CALL by a councillor to get the Office of Public Works to recover the remains of five men from the Invincibles Yard at Kilmainham Gaol and have them re-interred in consecrated grounds at Glasnevin Cemetery led to some heat and controversy at a meeting of Meath County Council.

Sinn Fein Cllr Michael Gallagher made the call for the OPW to excavate and recover the remains of Joe Brady, Michael Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Tim Kelly.

A campaign has been in progress for some time, backed by the National Graves Association, to have a disinterment, reburial and commemoration.

The men were hanged in 1883 for their alleged part in the Phoenix Park murders of the chief secretary of Ireland Lord Frederick Cavendish and his permanent under secretary Thomas Henry Burke in May 1882.

Cllr Gallagher said he had been asked by the National Graves Association, a non-political body, to table his motion called for the bodies to be exhumed and reburied. They had asked for these five patriots to be reburied in Glasnevin Cemetery. He was supported by Cllr Aisling O’Neill.

Fianna Fail Cllr Paul McCabe said he wanted to recognise the possible hurt the motion might cause to the families of ‘The Disappeared’, some of whom were buried in Meath.

He asked that the motion be amended to include the bodies of Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Captain Robert Nairac some of whom were said to have been buried here. Fine Gael Cllr Joe Fox seconded this proposed amendment.

Cllr O’Neill said: “We actually know where these bodies (Invincibles) are buried and the National Graves Association wants them moved. I don’t know what graves you (Cllr McCabe) are talking about. Have they a location where they can be moved?”

Cllr Fox interjected: “You know where they [Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh, Robert Nairac] are”.

Cllr Gallagher said: “That is the problem here. Sinn Fein and the Republican movement have done their best to locate these bodies so that’s a different issue”. He and Cllr O’Neill accused some councillors of “muddying the waters”. Cllr Gallagher said he had come with the motion in good faith.

“I’m doing this on behalf of the National Graves Association. Fortunately, we have moved away from that, it was a sad part of our history. And if I go back 100 years ago I can tell you there was plenty of bodies buried then and they were never located”.

Cllr Gallagher said it was the families of the five men in Kilmainham Gaol who were pushing the issue forward. They wanted reburial.

An amendment put forward by Cllr McCabe and seconded by Cllr Joe Fox that the names of ‘The Disappeared’ be added to the original motion could not be processed as the Cathaoirleach ruled that a separate motion would be needed to be tabled.

Cllr Gallagher’s original motion was passed by 13 votes to one against and with eight abstentions.