On Tuesday March 8th, at 9:30 pm, TG4 will be broadcasting a documentary on Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, one of the forgotten figures of the Easter Rising of 1916. Unconnected to the revolutionaries, except through familiarity with the broader Irish nationalist movement in Dublin city, Sheehy-Skeffington was detained by British troops during the insurrection and briefly used as a human shield by patrolling soldiers. On Wednesday the 26th of April 1916, he and two others, the journalists Thomas Dickson and Patrick MacIntyre, were executed by firing squad. Sheehy-Skeffington had earlier witnessed and protested a British officer fatally wounding Richard O’Carroll, a local Labour politician in the capital, and murdering James Coade, a seventeen year old youth who was beaten and then shot dead. In the words of the film’s summary from producers, Dearcán Media:
“The murder of Frank Sheehy Skeffington was shocking, even by the standards of Easter 1916. A committed pacifist, he was arrested by British troops as he tried to prevent the looting of shops in Dublin city centre. His distinctive looks, and high public profile as a journalist and political commentator, encouraged the soldiers to use him as a human shield when on patrol, and his reputation as someone who would stand up for the downtrodden sealed his fate when he witnessed the pointless murder of a young boy who had stayed out beyond curfew.
Sheehy Skeffington was summarily executed along with two other journalists, to prevent the disclosure of this, and other killings. As his wife, Hanna, herself a prominent political activist, searched the city, Frank was buried without her knowledge, and their home was raided in an attempt to frame him. Her revenge was the dignified and persistent way in which she exposed Frank’s murder, taking it to the heart of the British and American governments, even in the middle of a global war.
Bás na Síochánai (Death of a Pacifist) provides a very different perspective on the run up to Easter 1916, from the viewpoint of those opposed to the militarism of both the insurgents and the British army. It will restore Frank Sheehy Skeffington to his rightful place as one of the country’s most progressive political thinkers, in terms of his support for feminism, socialism, and anti-militarism, and outline how his murder contributed to the growing demand for complete independence from British colonial rule.”
With thanks to Deaglán Ó Mocháin.