Remembering Michael Flannery
Michael Flannery was born in the town of Cangort in Co Offaly (on the border with Tipperary), on January 7th 1903.
In 1916 at the of fourteen he joined the volunteers with his brother Peter and served as a messenger boy for his battalion during the rising in Dublin.
During the Tan war, Flannery was part of Tipperary No. 1 Brigade IRA, he was a full-time volunteer on the run and took part in many ambushes against the Black and Tans, by all accounts he was a very courageous and lethal guerrilla fighter.
"I felt angry but not bitterness towards them. I hated their actions but always said ‘God have mercy on your soul’ as they died."
Flannery took the Republican side during the civil war and was captured by Free State troops near Roscrea County Tipperary on November 11th 1922 and imprisoned in Mountjoy Gaol in Dublin.
While in Gaol Flannery witnessed the execution of Republicans Dick Barrett, Joe McKelvey, Liam Mellows and Rory O'Connor in the courtyard of Mountjoy through his cell window.
Flannery's internment was interspersed with periods of solitary confinement and culminated in a 28-day hunger strike during which he was transferred to the Curragh internment camp in County Kildare. He was eventually released on May 1st 1924, almost twelve months after the Civil War ended.
Finding no employment, Flannery decided to emigrate to the United States, sailing from Cobh Co Cork and arriving in New York on February 14th 1927. He married Margaret Mary Egan in Rockville Center, New York in 1928, and settled in Jackson Heights, Flannery found employment in the actuarial department of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City.
Throughout his time in New York Flannery and his wife Margaret had a keen interest in Irish affairs and were involved in many Irish American groups, when the "troubles" broke out in 1969 Flannery was a founding member of Noraid which was set up to raise funds for the dependents of Irish Republican prisoners and toured the USA to help set up chapters.
In 1982 Flannery and four other Noraid officials were charged with gunrunning for the IRA, the trial of the Brooklyn Five ran from September 23rd - November 5th 1982, they were all acquitted as the defence successfully argued that the defendants bought the weapons from an arms dealer who was a CIA agent.
Only a few months after the trial, Flannery was chosen as the grand marshal for the 1983 St Patrick's Day parade in New York, this caused much division in the Irish American hierarchy with some civil and clerical dignitaries declined to take their normal places in the celebration, this snub ironically gave much-needed publicity for the Irish Republican cause.
Well, Flannery certainly thought so when he said:
"They have handed us the best propaganda opportunity we could have hoped for. You couldn’t buy this kind of publicity."
Flannery's wife Margaret (known as Pearl) died on November 12th 1991, Michael Flannery died in New York on September 30th 1994 at the age of 94 and is buried in Mount Saint Mary's Cemetery in Flushing, New York.
They are still fondly remembered by Irish Republicans in New York especially The National Irish Freedom Committee (Cumann Na Saoirse Náisiúnta).