Newspaper article from the Boston Sunday Post, 27 November 1921, nine days before the Treaty was signed. Fr. Michael was wary of both Griffith and Collins, and at the October Sinn Féin ard fheis he had warned Brugha de Valera against sending them to London.
Big welcome to Vice-President of Sinn Féin.
Boston Sunday Post, 27 November 1921.
One of the most dramatic figures in the Irish movement today is the Rev. Michael O'Flanagan of Roscommon, Ireland, vice-president of the Sinn Féin organization, who has come to the United States to help in raising the second external bond certificate loan of Dáil Éireann, and will speak at the monster mass meeting at the Boston Opera House, Tuesday, Dec. 6
The story of Father O’Flanagan’s connection with Ireland’s struggle is, in reality, a story of the struggle itself.
In 1915, addressing a meeting in the City Hall of Dublin, when the remains of O’Donovan Rossa reached Ireland to be laid to rest in Glasnevin Cemetery, Father O’Flanagan predicted that to Ireland would come the opportunity to tear the mask of hypocrisy from the face of England unless she made good her pretensions as the champion of the rights of small nations.
From that moment, O’Flanagan threw his influence and the weight of his eloquence into the work of raising and organizing the people of Ireland so that Ireland might be in a position to take full advantage of the newly proclaimed doctrine of self-determination; and when the history or the Republican movement comes to be written, the name of Father O’Flanagan will be written in large letters on its pages.
On the morning of the day that he left Ireland, Father O’Flanagan attended the annual convention of the Sinn Féin organization, where he was elected vice-president, and where President De Valera, in bidding him Godspeed on his mission to America, declared that the present fortunate position of the Irish cause was due to the unceasing efforts of Father O’Flanagan, more than to any other living man. To those who are conversant with the history of the Republican movement in Ireland, the words of the Irish President were not an empty compliment.
For, after the suppression of the insurrection of that fateful Easter week of 1916, when the leaders of the movement were either dead or in prisons, and when no one yet dared hope for success, it was Father O’Flanagan who stepped into the breach and rallied the forces in North Roscommon and brought about the election of Count Plunkett, father of one of the executed leaders of Easter week.
When the result of that election was made known, the conservative London Times declared that Father O’Flanagan had gone through North Roscommon “like a whirlwind,” carrying all before him, probably through the sheer force of a combination of fiery eloquence and patriotism.
Count Plunkett was the first representative elected in Ireland, who stood, without reservation, for the policy of complete independence for Ireland and for the utter ignoring of the pretensions of the British House of Commons to any authority in Ireland.
The dauntless count, who was swept into office by Father O’Flanagan, has well been called the “corner stone of Dáil Éireann for it was he who summoned the convention that laid the foundation of the new Sinn Féin organization.
At the most critical point in this history making convention, Father O’Flanagan carried the Resolution that brought the whole of Ireland together upon one common platform, united for liberty. With Arthur Griffith, he was appointed to see that the resolution was carried into effect, and the two leaders agreed upon the co-option of five others, including Count Plunkett, Cathal Brugha (the Minister of Defence) and William O’Brien.
Within a few weeks, the old Sinn Féin organization, the Nation League and the Liberty Clubs were all absorbed into the new organization, under the supervision of this committee. By this time, a second election was successfully contested at South Longford, and was followed by a general release of the prisoners of Easter Week, restoring to liberty Eamon de Valera, Countess Markievicz, John MacNell, and hundreds of others.
The handful of men who were breathing the spark of life into the Sinn Féin body became known as the provisional committee, and when the prisoners of war were released by Britain, de Valera and the Countess Markievicz were made members of it; and Arthur Griffith was appointed the chairman, pending the annual convention. Sinn Féin spread like wildfire over Ireland. Clubs were established in every parish and within six months the call was out for the first annual convention.
Two thousand delegates came to Dublin, in answer to the call, and there adopted a constitution under which the organization was pledged to appeal to the Irish electorate for a mandate to declare Ireland an independent Republic. On the nomination of Arthur Griffith, Eamon de Valera was elected President of the Sinn Féin organization, and Arthur Griffith and Father O’Flanagan the Vice-Presidents.
The imprisonment of de Valera and Griffith by the British government made Father O’Flanagan acting president of Sinn Fein, and he proceeded to Dublin where for the next 12 months he devoted his entire time to leading the Republican cause to victory. It was under the presidency of Father O’Flanagan that Sinn Féin fought its first general election in 1918. During that memorable campaign he travelled over Ireland three times, often motoring 100 miles a day, and speaking for an hour at each of five or six meetings en route.
The result of that election was the practical annihilation of the old Irish Parliament party, only six out of 80 candidates surviving the onslaught of Sinn Fein at the polls. Seventy-five per cent of the representatives of Ireland were now Sinn Feiners, pledged to declare Ireland an Independent republic, in the name of the sovereign Irish people.
The Republicans met In Dublin in January. In calling upon Father O’Flanagan to open the meeting with prayer, Cathal Brugha referred to him as the “truest priest that ever lived in Ireland”—true to the cause of freedom-steadfast, firm as adamant, unyielding to the end. The beautiful tribute of Brugha (whose position in the Irish republic parallels that of our own Secretary of War) is given to Father O’Flanagan on the first page of the first volume of what might be termed Ireland’s Congressional Record.
Soon after this meeting Father O'Flanagan at a public meeting in Dublin, declared that the President of Ireland should be free to enter the duties of his office and promised that If de Valera was not liberated in a short time, he himself would go over to England and set him free. A few days later Harry Boland came to Father O’Flanagan and offered to undertake the work, asking for a small sum of money to defray the expenses.
Within a month the wonderful rescue of de Valera from Lincoln Prison was accomplished, Harry Boland and Michael Collins, chief of the Irish Republican Army, doing the work.
It has been said of Sinn Féin that Arthur Griffith designed it, was the great architect; that Father O’Flanagan was the builder, constructing it, into one harmonious whole; and that to de Valera was left the guiding of the machinery, leading it on to liberty or death, as Washington led the revolutionary sons.
The eloquence of Father O’Flanagan has resounded in Rome, on missions of peace, as well as in Ireland, on missions of war. Recognized as one of the most eloquent and powerful orators of the Catholic Church, in 1912, Father O’Flanagan was invited to preach the Lenten sermons in the Eternal City. The gifted Irishman shared this signal honor with Monsignor Benson, the brilliant English novelist, one of the few priests so honored by the Holy See.
For his preaching in Rome, Father O’Flanagan, was presented with a medal by Pius X, though long since acclaimed by the people as the greatest Irish orator since the time of O’Connell. The fiery orator has already addressed mass meetings in Washington, where 4000 people tried to force their way into the already crowded Catholic University.
At Philadelphia, hundreds were turned away from the hall, one of the newspapers declaring that Father O’Flanagan, by a happy combination of wit and oratory, kept his audience “rocking between tears and laughter,” during the course of his masterly presentation of Ireland’s case.
Boston Sunday Post, 27 November 1921.THE REV. FATHER MICHAEL O’FLANAGAN (Photo by Underwood & Underwood.