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  • Writer's pictureFriends of Sinn Féin USA

100 Years Ago This Week - A Key Day For Irish America

Mary (L) and Muriel (R) MacSwiney photographed at the Hotel St. Regis in New York where they stayed prior to their departure for Washington to testify before the American Committee on Ireland

Washington, 13 December 1920 - Muriel MacSwiney has been giving evidence to an unofficial American Commission in Washington that is inquiring into the present conditions in Ireland. The proceedings are attended daily by many members of Congress.

MacSwiney is the widow of the late Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, who died in October after a hunger strike in Brixton Prison.

Over the course of a number of days this week, Mrs MacSwiney explained to the commission that the charges that had been brought against her husband had been without foundation. She detailed the challenges that she and her husband had faced from the time of their marriage to his entry into active republican politics, which brought him to the attention of the British authorities.

Mrs MacSwiney became interested in the cause of Irish freedom as a young girl and she informed the commission that she had already become an active republican two years prior to her marriage. She claimed that Ireland would achieve its freedom, that its people were willing to sacrifice themselves for that freedom.

Muriel MacSwiney arrived in New York on 4 December on board the Celtic, which was escorted to the pier by a flotilla of tugs and boats packed with Irish sympathisers. There were more symptisers, and a band, waiting for her when she stepped off the ship dressed all in black.

Left to right: Peter Drury of Washington and his wife; Mary MacSwiney; Senator of Massachusetts David I. Walsh; and Muriel MacSwiney at the Capitol in Washington DC to watch Congress in session

Mrs MacSwiney is accompanied in the United States by Mary MacSwiney, sister of the deceased Lord Mayor. Ms MacSwiney has also been giving evidence to the commission and informed it of the efforts that had been made to build up the Gaelic League and promote the Irish language. ‘England has always stifled our language’, she said. ‘This is patent in her process of Anglicising Ireland’.

Before a large audience in the Oddfellows Hall on 10 December, Ms MacSwiney alleged that Americans had ‘not made the world safe for democracy, but rather had ‘only made it safe for the British for a short time.’

This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time

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