A commemoration ceremony marking the centenary of a major War of Independence ambush in Cork enjoyed “a very high attendance” on Sunday, despite Storm Franklin.
President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and The Mayor of the County of Cork Gillian Coughlan were among those in attendance at the event which took place at the site of the Clonmult Ambush near Midleton, where 12 IRA men were killed and two were later sentenced to death by British forces on February 20, 1921.
The ambush nearly wiped out the entire East Cork flying column.
The community-organised Clonmult Ambush Commemoration Committee first pitched the idea of building a replica of the battle site at its location in 2017.
Work finished on the monument last year with the help of Cork County Council, but the 100-year commemoration and unveiling ceremony planned for 2021 had to be postponed due to the pandemic and instead took place on Sunday.
Speaking to The Echo, Tim O’Sullivan, secretary of the Clonmult Ambush Commemoration Committee, said:
The weather was atrocious, so we had to go to plan B. We weren’t able to use the main stage because of the high winds so we used a smaller marquee and the President very kindly accommodated us and all the other guests as well were very accommodating.
“He was originally to drive right up to where the marquee was but children from the local school were giving a guard of honour and he got out in the wind and the rain with his wife Sabina in order to walk through the guard of honour so I thought that was lovely.”
Joining the President in attendance on the day was Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann Mark Daly, Mayor of the County of Cork Gillian Coughlan, TDs David Stanton and James O'Connor, and Alan Duke whose grand aunt Lena Allen washed the bodies at Clonmult.
Mr O’Sullivan said that there were also visitors from New York, Boston, London, Manchester and Edinburgh in attendance, as well as visitors from all parts of Ireland including Wexford, Kildare, Longford, Westmeath, Roscommon, Sligo and all the counties in Munster.
We had very high attendance, around 1,000 to 1,500, which is unbelievable given the weather conditions and a lot of them would have been older people.
“We present a cross here for the 24 men that were in the house on the day of the ambush, and we get a family member where possible to take this cross up and present it and it makes it very personal to the families and they do appreciate it.
“We’ve had sons and daughters of men in the house that day that survived it. So, nieces, grand-nieces and nephews and grand-nephews took up crosses as well today [Sunday].” The President also unveiled the monument during the ceremony, a scale diorama of the houses and the yard as it existed that time.
“He unveiled that monument and it is very impressive and it was put together by local sculptors which Mr O’Sullivan said is great because “there’s a huge local connection to it”.
Mr O’Sullivan also paid tribute to the chairman of the committee Christy O’Sullivan whose property the monument is on, and who welcomes people to the site 365 days of the year.