Ninth Annual George Brown Commemoration
Inistioge again played host to the annual George Brown Commemoration. This event, which has been held on the last weekend of June since 2008, remembers George Brown, a son of Inistioge, who fought with the XV International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War and who died at the Battle of Brunete in July 1937.
This year’s commemoration was especially poignant in that the opening session on Friday evening was a tribute to the organising committee’s late Chairman, Paddy Murphy of Brownsford. It was Paddy’s strong desire that George Brown’s sacrifice in the name of democracy be not forgotten that a commemorative event was first organised. And it was the respect in which he was held in the community that ensured its success. Paddy’s devotion to his family and friends, his community, his work, his country and its cultural heritage, was fully acknowledged in the contributions of SIPTU President, Jack O’Connor, his long-time friend and comrade, Seán Garland, and by Joe Doyle, a member of the Inistioge George Brown Committee.
As in previous years, papers delivered at the gathering in St Mary’s Church of Ireland covered aspects of the Spanish Civil War, Ireland’s own national struggle, and present day issues that beset us both nationally and internationally.
Harry Owens related in graphic detail the unsuccessful efforts by Franco’s rebel troops, backed by German and Italian airpower, to take Madrid, the privations endured by its populace, and their defiant response. Historian, Mary MacAuliffe, spoke engagingly of the role of women in the period leading up to Independence and in the years immediately following. She dealt in particular with the radicalisation of many working-class women during this period, but also how many of the gains made during the independence struggle were lost under the conservative nationalist governments – both Cumann na nGaedheal and Fianna Fáil – culminating in the 1937 Constitution which accorded women a subservient role.
The Saturday session, chaired by UNITE Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly saw the focus turn to current affairs. Stephen Collins, a solicitor with the Irish Refugee Council, highlighted the folly of the direct provision system adopted as part of Ireland’s response to the refugee crisis, describing the government approach as morally wrong and as an injustice for which the country will ultimately pay a high price. Dr Tom Healy of the Nevin Economic Research Institute called into question the current economic model, highlighting its inherent weakness in the area of sustainable investment in the economy.
As has been the case since the inaugural commemoration nine years ago, the memory of all members of the International Brigades was marked at a ceremony at the Olive Grove in Woodstock Gardens. On this occasion, committee member, Amanda Richards spoke of her recent visit to Villanueva de la Cañada where George Brown died, while Manus O’Riordan, son of the Brigadista Michael O’Riordan spoke of his visit to the Franco concentration camp in Burgos, where Frank Ryan had been held. Events concluded in Woodstock with a tree-planting ceremony – this year a noble fir – carried out by committee member, Terry Bannon. Thence to Inistioge to be entertained by the Graiguenamanagh Brass Band.