Padraig Pearse rebel speech at O'Donovan Rossa graveside commemorated in Cork
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Padraig Pearse rebel speech at O'Donovan Rossa graveside commemorated in Cork

THE historic speech by Irish rebel leader Pádraig Pearse at the graveside of Jerimiah O’Donovan Rossa has been commemorated in Ireland today.

A special stamp in honour of the republican was unveiled in his birthplace of Rosscarbery, Co. Cork by his great-grandson John Whelpley.

O'Donovan Rossa was an early recruit to the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) but died in New York in June 1915, aged 84.

His body was repatriated back to Ireland where the IRB arranged a major funeral on August 1, as a mark of support for Irish independence.

Pearse, a member of the IRB’s Military Council, was chosen to give the graveside oration.

After the burial, dressed in the uniform of an Irish Volunteer officer, he stood forward and gave one of the most famous funeral orations in Irish history.

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His carefully worded speech was a very deliberate statement on behalf of IRB’s Military Council who were secretly planning what became the 1916 Easter Rising.

The closing lines “...but the fools, the fools, the fools! They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace” served as a call for public support for an uprising.

On April 24, 1916, Pearse, again in uniform, stood outside the General Post Office in Dublin and read the Proclamation of the Republic of Ireland.

Although the rising that followed failed, it set in train the events that led to the formation of the Irish Free State and ultimately the Republic of Ireland.

Designed by Red&Grey Design, the stamp features a graveside photograph from the Keogh Collection at the National Library.