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One Photo. One Story; Ó Súilleabháin

This is my extended family, my great grandparents and the family on the farm in Cahir, Tipperary. My grandmother Lily is seated under her mothers left arm. This photo is captured around 1915-1917.

Patrick O’ Sullivan, Upper left, served in WW1.

My imagination would run wild years later as I listened to my grandparents in hushed tones talking about the “troubles” and praying for the “boys” back home.

My great grandfather, Patrick was a Feinian, My Grandmother carried it with her well into her 70’s. I’m sure they were Feinians under the slogan “We Ourselves” in the IRB tradition (Irish Republican Brotherhood) under Arthur Griffith’s model before the Easter Rising.

Much would change after the Easter Rising in 1916 and the word Feinian took on many ambiguous meanings to many people well into the 1990’s.

My Mom and her siblings encouraged grandma to cut off her financial support to the IRA after an IRA bombing in 1993 which killed two young boys in Warrington, England. She agreed.

I would hear the songs and the stories. On St. Patrick’s Day, grandma would march up 5th Avenue yelling “ Up Tipp! Up The IRA!” She’d then plant herself right next to Cardinal Cooke, years later Cardinal O’Connor and wave her Tri-Colors.

I love my Irish heritage. I’m not sure I understand the political stances of my grandfather’s. I have a book on Feinian history that spans a hundred years and is 441 pages. I have to keep going back and rereading the pages of this complex history.

For now, I’ll just love my grandparents and great parents and look at the photo lovingly and see a part of where I came from. Over 100 years later My wife Kelly and I have two Jack Russell Terriers like the two in the photo.

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