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Jesuits and the 1916 Rising

“War had come to us at last. Dublin was in flames”. So wrote Jesuit John Delaney. During Easter week 1916 he walked from one point of military activity to another, chronicling all he saw in his diary which contains eye-witness accounts of the effects of the Rising on ordinary people in Dublin and its suburbs.  Damien Burke, archivist in the Irish Jesuit archives has been researching all the material in the Jesuit archives regarding the role of the Jesuits in 1916 and their reaction to the Rising and he talks about what he’s uncovered (including a piece of Patrick Pearse’s uniform) in this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications.

So we learn that Gardiner St Church was regarded as a meeting place for Patrick Pearse and his associates and that Jesuits in Dublin collected dead bodies, and provided milk and bread for people on the streets.  In Clongowes College, normally regarded as a bastion of Redmonite home rule supporters, instructions were sent out in 1914 to teachers, warning them to desist from pro-German attitudes in their teaching. And The O’Rahilly, who was killed as the volunteers tried to withdraw from the GPO, was a former Clongowes student.

He also references documents relating to Jesuits in Limerick with strong Republican sympathies.Two Jesuits were most notable: William Hackett was involved in creating the Crescent Volunteer Corps (1915) which was a group where students of the Crescent College paraded and got military instruction with the aim of aiding Ireland’s fight against Britain; and Edward Cahill established a similar volunteer corps in Mungret College.

The overall picture that emerges from the archives is one very different from the more pervasive picture of a cohesive Jesuits response that was completely pro-home rule and pro-establishment.