Constance Markievicz

Oration on the Second Anniversary
of Murder of Fianna Cole and Colley

(August 1924)


Originally published in Sinn Féin, 31 August 1924.
Copied with thanks from Phil Ferguson’s blog, The Irish Revolution.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


Comrades in the Republican Army and friends, fellow Republicans, we meet here today to do honour to two young lads who gave their lives for Ireland two years ago.

Standing by their graves today, where the green grass and flowers hold up their heads, I thought of that sad day two short years ago when I stood by the side of their two poor mutilated bodies lying in the mortuary of the Mater Hospital, and when we followed them – just a few of us – followed their bodies up to this graveyard and heard the sods falling, one by one, like drops of lead, on the bright hopes, courageous hearts, and noble characters of these two young lads.

Somehow it seemed so tragic as we stood there and the same prayer rose to the lips of all, the prayer to worthily carry on – carry on what these boys had died to accomplish.

At this anniversary we who honour them, who love them, who knew them, renew that prayer to God in our hearts; and we will be given the courage to dare if we must dare, to stand by if we must stand by, and the courage to undergo death and torture even as Cole and Colley underwent it.

May we be worthy to be followers of these noble boys. May their deaths rally this generation as Emmet’s death rallied the generations that followed him.

Today we look back over the two blackest years Irish history has ever known. Men of our own Republican Army deserted us, were bought, tricked and cajoled by England, took up the British fight, and carried on the treacherous part at the bidding of England. It is the noble deaths of lads like these that have cleansed Ireland from this sin and given us hope for the future. The green grass and flowers that spring from their graves shows us how hope springs even from death, tells us that all duty, love and courage, spring from the graves of dead heroes.

Today, just two years after their deaths, we see a grand rally of young lads in Ireland who are carrying on their work in the Fianna. The courage of many of them has been tried in jail; many went out in the flying columns taking their lives in their hands.

So today let us carry from these graves a message of hope to Ireland. We will carry no bitterness for their murderers. We of the Fianna still stand by the old chivalrous ideals of the Gael. We will say, as our two martyrs would say, in the words of Christ, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The men who murdered these boys did not know what they did it for. We pity them, we despise them – we abhor the qualities that made them do such a deed, but we must not on an occasion like this think of them bitterly.

The honouring of the two martyrs that lie here has today marked another turning point, and we of the Fianna stand pledged to go out and work and devote our lives to the full ratification of the Irish Republic. That pledge we renew here today, and we in the names of the dead heroes and martyrs, pray God to give us strength to act as they did, and if needs be to fight as they did, and to die as they died, in defence of the Republic of Ireland.


Last updated on 25.8.2011