12 May 2006
The Countess at the Green
Kevin Myers states (Irish Independent, May 5) that Countess Markievicz shot an unarmed policeman, Constable Lahiff, during the 1916 Rising. I replied to his previous iteration of this theory in the Irish Times when I stated:
” . . . This story first appeared in print in Max Caulfield’s ‘The Easter Rebellion’ (1965). Caulfield’s account does not state the evidence on which it is based.
If, however, Lahiff was shot ‘within five minutes’ of the occupation of St Stephen’s Green, as both Caulfield and The Sinn Féin Handbook both state, it was not Countess Markievicz who shot him. Several witnesses saw her, accompanied by Kathleen Lynn, delivering supplies to City Hall at the very time that Constable Lahiff was shot.
Diana Norman, who collected the evidence in her book ‘Terrible Beauty – a Life of Constance Markievicz’ (Poolbeg, 1988 ) states (p.140) ‘What is significant is how willingly the story that she shot an unarmed man has been received and the tenacity with which it has been remembered since. It may be that some flawed, unconsious logic has been going on in the male Irish mind.
‘Two rules of gentlemanly warfare were broken at Stephen’s Green on Easter Monday: a helpless man died and a woman displayed a joy in battle, therefore the woman broke both rules, QED Constance shot PC Lahiff.’
The former keeper of State papers, Breandan MacGiolla Choille, informed Ms Norman that he had come across no evidence in his research among the State papers to indicate the truth of the rumour.
If Mr Myers has some compelling evidence to indicate the contrary, I will be pleased to follow it up. If not, as this is a matter of justice, I hope he will acknowledge his allegation is baseless.
Mr Myers did not, to the best of my belief, acknowledge this challenge, neither did he repeat the allegation during the remainder of his tenure at the Irish Times.* I again challenge him either to substantiate or to withdraw his allegation. Otherwise, there might seem to be a certain irony in his position that the nationalist view of 1916 is “blinkered”.
CLAIRE MCGRATH GUERIN,
*This is incorrect: Myers repeated the allegation. The journalists Ruth Dudley Edwards and Stephen Collins have also chosen to repeat the allegation as proven fact in spite of its highly dubious nature.