The Genders of Nationalist Space

  • Aidan Beatty
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


This chapter begins with an end: the 1915 funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. Born in 1831, O’Donovan Rossa was a veteran of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a famously satirical journalist who had mostly lived in exile in New York since his release from prison in 1871.2 On 29 June 1915 he died at St Vincent’s Hospital on Staten Island and another IRB ’exile’, John Devoy, took charge of his funeral arrangements. Notwithstanding O’Donovan Rossa’s wishes to be buried alongside his father in his native Rosscarbery in West Cork, Devoy orchestrated to have his Fenian comrade interred in the more suitably nationalist surroundings of Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery. The funeral, on 1 August 1915, took on all the trappings of an official state event. It provided Pearse with the occasion for his famous speech on ‘our Fenian dead’. It brought together the various radical factions of Irish politics who, a year later, would execute the Rising. It was, in many ways, a dress rehearsal for the Rising itself. It was also, though, an event pregnant with a gendered conception of nationalist space. Devoy’s immediate call for a publicly supported funeral, for instance, neatly welded the erotic to the nationalist in its description of O’Donovan Rossa’s return to an Irish space: ‘It was always his fond hope, his heartfelt wish that his remains should be borne across the seas to his beloved Ireland, and that he should be laid to rest upon the bosom of that land which he loved so well; that his ashes should mingle with the ashes of his forefathers, while his spirit wandered freely among the hills and glens of his beloved Erin.’3 The return of O’Donovan Rossa’s body for burial in his homeland reiterated the almost sacral centrality of Irish soil. His burial in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery served to place him, quite literally, alongside other dead (mostly male) patriots. It also reaffirmed Dublin’s centrality, over and above rural backwaters like West Cork.4


National Space Absolute Space Irish Space Christian Science Monitor Irish Language 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aidan Beatty
    • 1
  1. 1.Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies & School of Canadian Irish StudiesConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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