MICHAEL FLANNERY (1902 – 1994)
Michael Flannery, a life long contributor to the cause of Irish freedom and the founder of Cumann na Saoirse was born in Co. Tipperary in 1902. He was the youngest of seven children. His family was staunchly Republican with a long history of opposition to the British occupation of Ireland. Mike’s life was marked by acts of bravery, patriotism and compassion. He believed deeply in a united Ireland and had a great love for the country of his birth.
At the age of 14, while attending Mount St. Joseph’s Monastic School in Knocksheegowna, he was forced to flee to avoid being arrested by the Royal Irish Constabulary who had begun a campaign of incarcerating family members of Republican activists at the behest of the British. After evading capture, Mike joined the North Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. Before his fifteenth birthday he took an oath of allegiance to the Irish Republic and fought in the Irish War of Independence.
After the infamous Treaty of 1922, which partitioned Ireland into two sectarian states, Mike took up arms again, this time against the forces of the Irish Free State. He did so as he was unwilling to break his oath of allegiance to the Irish Republic and accept anything less than a free and united Ireland. He was subsequently captured and imprisoned by forces of the Irish Free State. After two years in Mountjoy Jail, he and his comrades went on hunger strike seeking political prisoner status. He was subsequently freed in 1924.
In 1927, Mike immigrated to America, as there was little or no work in Ireland, especially for opponents of partition. In America, he was employed by Metropolitan Life where he worked for the next four decades. During his early years in America he met and married his wife Margaret “Pearl” Eagan who was also involved in the fight for Irish freedom. Down through the decades, Mike assisted Republican activists who sought refuge in America including Ernie O’Malley in the late 20s, Andy Cooney in the early 50s and others in the 70s and 80s.
Mike was a member of several organizations including the Tipperary Men’s Association, the Gaelic Athletic Association and Clann na Gael. In 1970, after the present phase of the struggle started, he founded the Irish Northern Aid Committee to raise money to support the dependents of Irish Political Prisoners. As a result of his leadership role in the struggle for Irish freedom, Mike made many powerful and determined enemies here in America as well as England and Ireland. Despite that he was elected Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York in 1981.
Throughout his life Mike sent aid and encouragement to those refusing to accept the British occupation of Ireland or acknowledge the legitimacy of two sectarian states-the products of partition. Not only did Mike rebuff those who abandoned Republican principles in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 60s; he, together with George Harrison, characterized the ‘Provos’ abandonment of Republican principles in 1986 as the “same old departure”. After returning from a visit to Ireland in 1987, Mike along with George Harrison and Joe Stynes founded Cumann na Saoirse Naisiunta – The National Irish Freedom Committee to carry the torch of Irish Republicanism in America.
Mike passed away on September 29, 1994. He was a true son of Ireland and a worthy citizen of his adopted country, the United States of America. Mike’s legacy lives on and the torch of Irish Freedom that he carried throughout his entire life continues to burn brightly.
Taken from Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta