December 16th, 2012 a commemoration for Frank Conroy, a Spanish civil war hero who died on 28th December 1936, fighting with the International Brigade defending the Spanish Republic against Franco. Was held at the Republican memorial Kildare town to a large crowd.The Frank Conroy Committee organised this first commemoration because little attention has been paid to this Kildare Republican Socialist.
The commemoration began with Brian Leeson introducing the first speaker, Sean Edwards of the Communist Party who spoke of the life of Frank Conroy after highlighting the parallels from which can be drawn from Conroy’s causes and today’s struggle. In particular Conroy’s battles against the blue shirts whist in the IRA, against the fascists in Spain and his commitment to the fight against attacks on the working class. Edwards pointed out that today we have far too many examples of such attacks.
Harry Owens, the main speaker said “after the sudden financial collapse of the great 1920s boom with banks collapsing in the 1930s. The American and European Governments cut back on welfare and the tiny dole payments, while employers cut wages and jobs. Here in Ireland, the right controlling state power fought against worker’s right to join unions. The Left, and those Republicans who stood with them, in defending tenants from eviction, the unemployed and the underpaid.
In addition socialist Fr O’Flanagan who read prayer that opened that first independent Irish Parliament, also Stood here in Kildare in 1935, one year before Spanish civil war, when he inaugurated this monument to seven workers shot in the Irish civil war for being caught with weapons.
General Franco would be shooting Spanish workers caught with weapons a year later, resisting his rebellion against Spain’s newly-elected liberal government. Barley 15 years separated these similar policies of Irish and Spanish army authorities.
Why did these Irish Republicans and the Leftist, such as Frank Conroy go to fight in Spain? Frank Ryan was asked this by the Gestapo when later captured in March 1937. “Because it’s the same fight in both places” Ryan had replied.
At Lopera in Cordoba, the fledgling units of Irish in the new inter Brigades went into action in the French International Battalion sent south on Christmas Eve 1936. On 28th December, they advanced uphill to a town where they were bombed by enemy planes and heavily machine-gunned by the Fascist. Even experienced commissar like Ralf Fox and poet John Cornford were killed, as were Frank Conroy (Kildare), Johnny Meehan (Galway), Henry Boner, Jim Foley, Tony Fox, Leo Green, Michael Nolan, Michael May, Tommy Woods (Dublin).
Frank Conroy’s body and those of his dead comrades, lie somewhere in the hills around Lopera today. The Western democracies preferred to let Spain fall to Fascism than help a fellow democracy defend itself till their policy led the world into war.
In conclusion, said Harry Owens, our challenge is to turn today’s crisis into a transformation to abolish control by the elites who caused it and end the bailouts and tax scandals of our millionaires. Make our country move towards the kind of vision of the Dail that Fr O’Flanagan opened and which Frank Conroy fought and died to help the Spanish people achieve. For if our existing elites do survive in power we will have failed. Then we will hear those tragic words of Fr Michael O’Flanagan, “they have fooled you again”.