Liam Hoare: Oration by Florrie O’Donoghue

This coming Thursday, April 8th 2021, is the 100th anniversary of the killing of Captain Liam Hoare of the I.R.A by British forces in Ballymacoda.

Following on from the last post detailing the events around the killing, below is the text of the oration given by Florrie O’Donoghue at the dedication of the monument to Liam Hoare in Ballymacoda churchyard on Sunday August 4th, 1946. O’Donoghue was head of intelligence for the Cork No. 1 Brigade of the IRA during the war of independence, and later a historian who published a biography of General Liam Lynch.

A little over 25 years ago Liam Hoare, Captain of the Gortroe Company, 4th Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade, Irish Republican Army, was laid to rest in this place after he had been shot down and killed by the Black and Tans. He was a soldier in arms, a member of an organization then waging lawful warfare against these last and most despicable representatives of the long line of mercenaries whose services England had used for many centuries to hold this nation in subjection. He was an officer in a well-organized and disciplined force. Part of that force he had himself organized and trained – the Gortroe company of the I.R.A.

To the I.R.A., the government of the Irish Republic, elected by an overwhelming majority of the Irish people, had delegated the honor and the duty of its defense. In that service Liam Hoare served faithfully; in that service he met a soldiers death. He died at 24, with the summer of his life still before him, but the nation and the manner of his death have assured his memory has a permanent a place in the hearts of his people as the memories of these patriots of another time, whose names today are linked with his, patriot soldiers like Thomas Bowler Cullinane and Peter O’Neill Crowley.

The memories which a nation keeps in its heart are a spiritual defence against annihilation. That they are sufficient to save the nations soul even when its material defence has been destroyed, has been proved in our own history. One of the most cherished and sacred memories of the Irish people is the remembrance of the soldiers who died in battle before the firing squad, by the hangman’s ropes or in the prison cell, in the cause of Irish liberty. Ireland has always honored her patriot dead; for her soldiers she has reserved the highest place of honor and of love and that is a true instinct – an indication of adherence to something fundamental and indestructible in the national character.

In coming together to mark on an enduring stone of the last resting place of Liam Hoare the people of East Cork have borne testimony to their own faith that the memory of his life and of his death will live to sustain and inspire future generations. They have borne testimony, too, to the honor in which his memory is held in his native place. I would like to be permitted to join in paying a tribute to the committee who worked so energetically and so well for this worthy project, and to all those whose assistance made possible the erection of this fine memorial. Time has thinned the ranks of those who were his comrades in the last fight, but time has not dimmed, nor will it ever dim, the place his memory holds in the hearts of his people.

East Cork and particularly this neighborhood has intimate association with the Fenians. But the fight which they had planned in ’67 ended, as so many previous efforts had ended, in failure, in despair and apathy, in the crumbling of a high spirited but poorly armed organization when the leaders had been killed as Peter O’Neill Crowley was, or doomed to living death in prison or in exile as were John O’Leary, Thomas Clarke Luby, Jeremiah Donovan Rossa, John Devoy, Charles Kickham, Brian Dillon and many others.

Between the Fenians and the Irish Volunteers a generation of young men had failed to rise in arms against the tyranny of foreign rule. Pearse said of that failure: “There was nothing more terrible in Irish history”. And we can see more truly today perhaps how terrible a thing it was, how neatly it brought us to final extinction as a separate nation. For the first time the mass of the people turned for a whole generation to other and less worthy methods; for the first time the subtle effects of the policy of ‘purchasing the one half of us and intimidating the other’, had our apparent acquiescence; for the first time we had come perilously close to losing contact with the tradition of the soldier, with the soldiers fortitude and fidelity with his high conception of service to the nation, with his wholesome unselfish patriotism, with his loyal and steadfast spirit. The nation sickened and was dying.

But a few remained faithful to the old ideals and from the spark they nursed through those bitter years came the conflagration of 1916. There never was any hope of freedom unless the nation in arms fought for it. The Volunteers believed, with O’Donovan Rossa, that there were enough young men in Ireland to wrest her freedom from England by their own unaided efforts if they fought; that there always would be enough of them; that they needed only unity and arms and the determination to fight.

Here in the South, as for the most of the country, the testing time for the Volunteers came in the years after 1916. That the Volunteers organization after the failure of 1916 – for it was a military failure – did not crumble or run into the sand, as did the Fenian organization after the failure of ’67, is due, under God, to the young men all over the country who, like Liam Hoare, rebuilt, extended and maintained the organization, nursed and trained and hammered and hardened it, gave it vision and coherence, discipline and fighting spirit. They did not worry or grow faint hearted, at a time when public opinion had not yet braced itself to resist the shock of terrorism – terrorism against the civil population with which their enemies answered the tactics of the IRA – at a time when their own shortage of arms and of all the means of warfare were almost desperate as were those of the Fenian’s in ’67. Had these soldiers wavered then, had they remined inactive, had they thought only of themselves and their own interests, 1916 would have been just another glorious failure added to 1798, 1803, 1848, and 1867. We would still be an occupied country today, possibly a country devastated by the ruin of war.

Time had but served to emphasize that the men of the I.R.A. were not only good soldiers and good patriots in forcing the resumption of the fight in 1919, 1920 and 1921, but also that they had recaptured that clarity of vision as to means and objective, had certainty of what was right and brave and honorable, of what was truest in the national interests, which had been the guiding star of the patriot soldiers, who were their predecessors. Nowhere was that vision clearer; nowhere was that determination to fight on at all costs until victory was won more firm than in this county of Cork; nowhere were there better leaders or better soldiers as County Cork was in the van of the fight, so East Cork, the 4th Battalion to which Liam Hoare belonged, but the valor and initiative of its officer and men gained and held a high and honored place amounts the best battalions in the county. To its arms fell the honor of capturing the first police barracks to be taken in Ireland after 1916 – Carrigtwohill – on 2nd January 1920. In Diarmiud Hurley, who died on active service, the battalion had a commander who was a fearless soldier a capable leader and a patriotic Irishman.

Liam Hoare was typical of the men of the IRA at a time when the Army had attracted to its ranks all that was brave and virile, all that was chivalrous, unselfish and high-spirited in the best of the young manhood of the nation. He had to contend with the same difficulties, the same sufferings as most of his comrades in arms. He had to toil and plan, to leave his home and work, to sacrifice his worldly prospects, to suffer the vicissitudes of a fugitive, to risk his life so that he may serve full the cause and the calling which were nearest to his heart. Much – much more – was demanded of men like him than is demanded of the soldier in normal times of defence of his country; more – much more – was given and given generously. Like his comrades he realized that freedom’s sacrifice demands sacrifice. He had will to make it, and did make it to the full measure of his young life. For this we honor his memory as we honor the memories of all those who died in every age in the cause of our freedom. For this we mark their graves and make them a place of pilgrimage.

The objective for which they worked and for which they died – a free and sovereign Republic for the whole of Ireland – has not yet been attained. Each generation has its own problems and has its own contribution to make to the achievement of that ideal. Each generation must first find the road of service for itself as Liam Hoare’s generation sought and found it. The young men of the generation which has grown up since 1920 will be heartened in that service and understanding of the service given by men like him by an appreciation not alone of what they strove to do, but also of the obstacles that they had to overcome; they will be hearted by the knowledge that they men of the Irish Republican Army, though their work is incomplete, did lay the secure foundations which immutably determined the future destiny of the Irish nation.

Liam Hoare had a worthy part in that service. Because of it he has joined the ranks of those of whom it may truly be said:

“They shall be spoken of among their people; The generations shall remember them and call them blessed.”

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