Letter about Countess Markievicz: Part 2

Part 1 here.

Irish Independent

Saturday June 10 2006

Kevin Myers repeats his allegation that Countess Markievicz “fired her Mauser into” the unarmed Constable Lahiffe (Irish Independent, May 31), again using Caulfield’s unsourced and dubious account. I cannot find a reference to the incident in the paperback edition of Charles Townshend’s ‘The Easter Rising’, so I cannot understand Myers’s deference to that authority, but I believe a satisfactory account of events can be pieced together using a variety of other sources. It appears that Markievicz was originally appointed as liaison officer between the GPO and St Stephen’s Green. It is logical, therefore, that she would not have arrived with Michael Mallin’s Stephen’s Green contingent.

Markievicz related that at 12 noon, the time that Constable Lahiff was shot, she was delivering supplies to City Hall by car with Dr Kathleen Lynn.

Dr Lynn’s statement to the Bureau of Military History confirms the detail and times given in Markievicz’s account.

Maire Nic Shuibhlaigh related in her biography that, as the Jacob’s factory contingent prepared to occupy the building, she saw the car go past, Markievicz shouting encouragement at them. When Markievicz arrived at St Stephen’s Green, the occupation was well under way.

As I have already related (Letters, May 12), Diana Norman discredited the story of the St Stephen’s Green killing, revealing that it was based entirely on innuendo and that no witnesses backed it up – aside from Caulfied’s anonymous source.

Another Markievicz biographer, Anne Haverty, also casts doubt on the story.

In fact she offers clear evidence of the Countess having in fact intervened to save the life of a British soldier who had mistakenly entered the College of Surgeons thinking it had already surrendered.

In a separate instance, Frank Robbins of the St Stephen’s Green contingent related that, as the College of Surgeons was being occupied, the doorkeeper let off a shotgun blast, nearly hitting Robbins.

Markievicz’s intervention saved the man, whom Robbins and the others considered shooting.

Brian Barton has shown that false rumours of Markievicz’s supposedly craven conduct at her court-martial were circulated alongside the rumour that she had shot PC Lahiffe.

Miss Mahaffy, daughter of Trinity College’s Provost, who recorded them, unconsiously revealed their object: Markievicz was, she observed “the one woman amongst them of high birth and therefore the most depraved . . . She took to politics and left our class . . . ”

This campaign of vilification is, Diana Norman believes, “an extreme example of a process by which women are denigrated until they disappear from history”.

It is only necessary to bring to mind the example of Muriel MacSwiney, who has up to lately been maligned on the basis of false rumours and innuendo, to give credit to this assertion.

CLAIRE MCGRATH GUERIN, CO TIPPERARY

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6 thoughts on “Letter about Countess Markievicz: Part 2

  1. […] Of course, this is not RTE’s first historical fiction, just the first that doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. The same producers had a gentle and kind look at the career of Eoin O’Duffy, in which it was suggested that his fascist movement was not really facist, and wasn’t it understandable given the provocation offered by de Valera. An RTE documentary, or its promoters, gave rise to the falsehood that de Valera personally invited Nazis into the country. The notion that Irish sovereignty is, of itself, an evil, and that Nazism and international isolation are its inevitable result is an ideology that RTE is determined to hammer home, no matter how clumsy the tools. A recent documentary on Sean Lemass had nothing to do with Lemass himself, and everything to do with warning against the dangers of economic or political self-determination. Another intimated that the War of Independence was a sectarian exercise (it is purely coincidental that the British propaganda outfit in Dublin Castle cooked up this charge as a means of concealing the war’s political purpose). Ruth Dudley Edwards was given a platform by RTE to accuse Countess Markievicz of being a lunatic and a murderer, this in spite of the fact that this myth has been debunked. […]

  2. […] Of course, this is not RTE’s first historical fiction, just the first that doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. The same producers had a gentle and kind look at the career of Eoin O’Duffy, in which it was suggested that his fascist movement was not really facist, and wasn’t it understandable given the provocation offered by de Valera. An RTE documentary, or its promoters, gave rise to the falsehood that de Valera personally invited Nazis into the country. The notion that Irish sovereignty is, of itself, an evil, and that Nazism and international isolation are its inevitable result is an ideology that RTE is determined to hammer home, no matter how clumsy the tools. A recent documentary on Sean Lemass had nothing to do with Lemass himself, and everything to do with warning against the dangers of economic or political self-determination. Another intimated that the War of Independence was a sectarian exercise (is it purely coincidental that the British propaganda outfit in Dublin Castle cooked up this charge to delegitimise the war, and that these are standard imperialist tactics?). Ruth Dudley Edwards was given a platform by RTE to accuse Countess Markievicz of being a murderer, this in spite of the fact that this myth has been debunked. […]

  3. what do you make of Ann Mathews play, Countess Markievicz on Trial? there is no testimony in it contrary to the idea that she shot LaHiff, even though there is a character Kathleen Lynn, and a nurse ‘eyewitness’ who says she saw Markievicz dancing up and down after, saying ‘I shot him.’
    Certainly she does not come off well as characterised in this play.

  4. from the Irish Constabulary website:
    Lahiff was related to the Irish actor Patrick J Donnelly – who played an IRA gunman in the film Michael Collins – and his wikipedia entry reveal that –

    “The Countess was depised on his mother’s side of the family, as she had shot his great grand uncle, an unarmed police constable Michael Lahiff of the Dublin Metropolitan Police outside the gates of St Stephen’s Green on that fateful Easter Monday morning 24th April 1916. Michael Lahiff was a supporter of Irish Home Rule and knew the great irish nationalist leader John Redmond and like Redmond he was opposed to violence, and more likely knew the Countess Markievicz to speak to. She knew him for she’s alledged to have said, pointing a gun at him: “Mick, give me the keys to Stephen’s Green or I will shoot you!” He’s said to have replied softly: “Countess, act your age, like a good lady”. The Countess did not ask a second time, she shot him in the face with her revolver and stole the keys for St Stephen’s Green from him, he died of horrible wounds to his head shortly after.”

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