Republican News · Thursday 14 December 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Moving tribute to the `Four Martyrs'

Friday night, 8 December, saw a moving tribute in Belfast to the Four Martyrs, Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows, Dick Barret and Joe McKelvey, executed by Free State forces on 8 December 1922. Organised by the Belfast National Graves Association, the commemoration was held in the Tom Williams room in the Rodaí McCorley clubrooms.

Extracts of letters written by the four before they were executed were recited by a number of readers as Frank Glenholmes of the Belfast Graves Association narrated the facts of one of the most cynical acts of brutality carried out by the Free State during the Civil War.

The four were shot at dawn in retaliation for the death of Sean Hayles, a TD and brigadier in the Free State army.

Historians have described these executions, following as they did soon after that of Erskine Childers, as the beginning of a campaign of authoritarian terror against the IRA.

In all, 77 republicans were executed by the Free State government.

Last Friday's ceremony was a moving tribute and a special word of praise should be given to Annie Cahill for her rendition of the republican ballad, `Show me the flag of Ireland', which paid tribute to each of the four and acknowledged the province from which they came.

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