Left: Demonstrators express their anger at the presence in Sligo of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Joe McGowan photo
"Today, we remember with gratitude all those members of the Fighting 69th whose sacrifices over the past 150 years helped dig a well deep enough to quench the natural human thirst for freedom, not only in America, but throughout the world," Bloomberg said in prepared remarks at the Aug. 22 unveiling of the memorial.
There were as many as 300 in attendance, along with another 40 or so anti-war protesters demonstrating against the presence of the mayor, an avowed supporter of last month's Israeli incursion into Lebanon and U.S. policy in Iraq. Gardai cordoned off the demonstrators, who were out of sight of the mayor, about 100 yards from the monument. They carried signs, with messages such as "Bush is a warmonger," and "Bloomberg, go home!"
The monument honors both
Billed as "Ireland's national monument" to native son Michael Corcoran and New York's famed "Fighting 69th" regiment, the Ballymote monument, seen below, ignores Corcoran's fierce resolve to overturn British rule in Ireland.
Designed by Fermanagh artist Philip Flanagan, the 7.5-ton column is made of limestone and bronze. According to Sligo-North Leitrim TD John Perry, who guided the four-year monument effort, the project cost $200,000, with about $12,000 coming from
At the unveiling, in prepared remarks, Perry stated: "Today's occasion is all about the centuries-old relationship between
With that Perry acknowledged the presence of dancer and choreographer
The mayor arrived in
Those demonstrating were equally dismayed. “It’s not just about knowing in your heart that the slaughter of innocents in
The monument – and the day's activities – avoided reference to Corcoran's dedication to physical-force revolution to free
In October 1860, Corcoran refused an order to march the 69th for the Prince of Wales, who was visiting the city. Corcoran, a Famine refugee himself, explained in a letter to his commander that he "could not in good conscience order out a regiment composed of Irish-born citizens to parade in honor of a sovereign under whose reign Ireland was made a desert and her sons forced into exile."
At Corcoran's death by stroke in December 1863, he was renowned throughout the
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg holds Alaska, a bald eagle from a local bird sanctuary, accompanied by Fine Gael TD John Perry, left, and Perry's young son. Photo courtesy of nyc.gov
In the phone interview, Perry acknowledged the omission of Corcoran's Fenian activities from the commemoration, suggesting that "North-South relations" in
It was unclear that Bloomberg was aware of the rebel roots and history of Corcoran and the 69th, though he did quote in his prepared remarks from "The Memory of the Dead," a poem by John Kells Ingram. “And I’ve brought with me, too, a poem that a contemporary of Corcoran and (Irish Brigade commander Thomas Francis) Meagher wrote in honor of those United Irishmen," the mayor said. "I think it’s appropriate to read a verse of it today in their honor."
The mayor selected the poem's second verse, which, unlike the poem's first, avoids direct reference to the United Irishmen's bloody struggle against British rule of Ireland. He read as follows:
“We drink the memory of the brave,
The faithful and the few;
Some lie far off beyond the wave,
Some sleep in
All—all are gone—but still lives on
The fame of those who died;
All true men, like you, men,
Remember them with pride.
Present at Tuesday's dedication were Jack and Kathleen Lynch; Sharon Engeldrum, wife of Sgt. Christian Engeldrum, who was one of 19 soldiers from the 69th slain in Iraq, where the unit served for a year; and Michael Drew, a sergeant in the New York Police Department who served in Iraq with the 69th. Also attending were former European Union Commissioner Ray McSharry; his nephew Tom McSharry, Mayor of Sligo; Bishop of Achonry, Dr. Thomas Flynn; Irish army Chief of Staff, Lieut. General James Sreenan; Garda Chief Supt. Martin McLoughlin; New York-based Irish consul Tim O’Connor; the Irish army's 58th Infantry Reserve; and the band of the Irish army's 4th Western Command. Flatley was with fellow dancer Niamh O˚Brien, and drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd in announcing their engagement. Chieftains' flutist Matt Molloy, whose father hails from Ballymote, performed several tunes, while the
Drawn from news accounts and the reporting of WGT correspondent Joe McGowan from Ballymote and producer Gerry Regan from