|Dr Maggie Scull|
“I thought the age of body-snatching was gone,” yelled Fr Dan Walsh as British forces commandeered the remains of Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork, to prevent the coffin being taken to Dublin.
MacSwiney had died in Brixton prison after a 74-day hunger strike which had caught the attention of the world’s press and raised the profile of calls for an independent Ireland. Even after death MacSwiney remained in the headlines with his supporters planning three funerals for the republican activist: the first in London; then Dublin; before his burial in Cork.
These funerals, with thousands of mourners in attendance across all three cities, were key moments in the Irish battle for independence.
Following the murder of his friend and predecessor Tomás Mac Curtain by the Royal Irish Constabulary, MacSwiney was elected to Lord Mayor in March 1920 as the War of Independence raged. On August 12th, the British forces arrested MacSwiney in Cork for possession of “seditious articles and documents”, and for the possession of a cipher key. He was summarily tried on August 16th and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment at Brixton, away from his family and supporters. MacSwiney immediately began a hunger strike in protest against his conviction.
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