When To Be Irish Was A Crime

by Diarmuid Cawley

We stand silent; it’s the will of God.
The charges read on April 11th
In parties of three these noble
Christians become martyrs.
— James, Francis, Michael, Martin and the two Johns —
Easter is but passed, it splits
The spring and welcomes summer
Good God in mercy read their last letters,
Hear the words of the gallant dead
As summer is crushed. These guilty,
None brothers but all family, who stood
The test, this their sequel to the fight,
A martyr’s last dawn in Tuam — now a free
Town — though the wall of the barracks is as
Cold as ever. Stand straight, stand silent
For you possessed a rifle and the ammunition to
Use it, not against England’s grip but on Éire’s Free State.
How did we arrive at this bloody mess?
The table so turned, where Kent, McBride
Nor Pearse could ever sit.
You will die in this workhouse where
So many did, for the crime of being Irish.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in a Poetry as Commemoration workshop at the Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI) on 12th of October, 2023. The workshops were led by poet Christodoulos Makris.