LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
By Ray O’Hanlon
John Devoy spent the most productive years of his life in New York City but his life began in bucolic County Kildare.
And now, thanks to a fundraising effort in both places and beyond his name and legacy will be memorialized in Kildare, specifically the town of Naas.
A fundraising group, the John Devoy Memorial Committee, has announced the successful completion of a campaign to pay for a long planned, but never built, statue to honor Devoy.
Said a statement from the committee: “The often forgotten Fenian leader, who had lived in forced exile in New York for over fifty years, played a key role in the Easter Rebellion of 1916. The statue will be prominently located in Naas, Co. Kildare – near Devoy’s birthplace, where he did much of his early organizing for Irish independence.”
The John Devoy Memorial Committee is a subcommittee of the Kildare Association of New York. It has spent the last eighteen months raising over $45,000 to pay for the statue while ensuring that it could be erected in time to kick off the centenary of the 1916 uprising.
The committee organized raffles, dances and concerts as well as soliciting donations from other Irish organizations, friends, family, co-workers and local businesses.
“Through the steadfast determination of a small group, and the gracious support of hundreds, the money was raised and the long talked about plans for a full life-size bronze replica of Devoy became a reality, said the committee release.
John Devoy was born just outside of Naas, County Kildare. In 1866, at the age of 24, he was arrested for his part in the Fenian uprising.
After spending five years in a British prison, Devoy was exiled to New York where he became a journalist, organizer and a prime mover of the Clan na Gael, sister organization to the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
Devoy spent decades raising funds for the Irish Republican movement, organizing popular support among Irish Americans and directly organizing actions such as the daring Catalpa rescue. His efforts were seen as being critical to the success of the Easter Uprising and the eventual establishment of an independent Ireland. He supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith in December 1921. He was an honored guest of the Irish Free State in 1924.
“Unfortunately, the man and his work were erased from the history of the struggle for Irish independence,” said the committee statement.
And it continued: “The America-based fundraising campaign was spearheaded by Mike Flood, whose experiences during the Vietnam War inspired him to take on this project to honor Devoy.
“The campaign was very personal for those committee members and those supporters who left Ireland but never lost their fondness for Ireland. By erecting the statue, these committed supporters hope to honor the man who Padraic Pearce described as the ‘Greatest Fenian’ and also highlight the ties that bind their homes in Ireland with their new homes in New York.”
The statement concluded: “With the money raised and statue cast, all that remains is for members of the committee to travel to Ireland and join with the people of Kildare for the unveiling of the statue on Sunday, October 25th in Poplar Square, Naas.”