Fr Nevin Sets Out His Political Leanings

Witness Statement

Fr Eugene Nevin's evidence

Bureau of Military History

Fr Nevin states: “My political leanings were well known. I made no secret of them, quite the contrary, though they were unpopular and regarded by the multitude as singular and extreme. When, therefore, on a Saturday afternoon I saw myself listed for the 10 o’clock Mass next morning, I looked upon it in the light of challenge, for this reason – the 4th battalion, Irish Volunteers, located in the neighbourhood, had arranged for a military parade at that Mass, and it is usual when any function beyond the ordinary takes place at a Mass, to say a few words appropriate to the occasion. Though pleased at the favour conferred I was very much puzzled what to do because, as far as I knew, no priest in Dublin at any rate had up to that time identified himself with the Irish Volunteers, spoken approvingly of them or attended their meetings. This I thought a pity knowing them to be a straightforward, honest body of young men with proper conceptions of their duty to their native land, deserving of every encouragement. Thus perplexed I reasoned, if high ecclesiastics are haranguing through the country in favour of the English army, have we of the humbler sort no right to hold and express opinions even though at variance with those of our Superiors?

If St Paul, as he tells us in his Epistle to the Galatians could say ‘I withstood Cephas to the face because he was to blame’, surely lesser lights, very much lesser, than Cephas or St Peter, Prince of the Apostles as he was, might unconsciously or otherwise lay themselves open to blame, disapproval or contradiction. Fortified by this and other reflection, I finally decided to speak out freely on the morrow, regretting I should be the first while hoping that nothing but happy results would follow.

Punctually at 9.45 am two fully equipped Volunteers came into the Sacristy and, having laid aside their arms and knapsacks, prepared to serve the Mass. The battalion, meantime, under Commandants Eamon Kent and Cathal Brugha, occupying the front seats.

When at the customary time I had read the weekly notices, standing behind the altar rails, I closed the book and addressed them. I learned afterwards that many of them were very apprehensive of what they were going to get, denunciation or what? But I soon set them at ease, and as they told me afterwards they felt walking on air all that day it being the first church approval they had received and is referred to as such by L Le Roux in his life of Tom Clarke, page 183.

The address was later on published in ‘the Irish Volunteer’ and can be seen in the National Library, Kildare Street. As it embodied my views at the time, I went there, copied it, and now give it in full. The issue was Saturday 25 March 1916″.

 

This page was added on 01/04/2016.

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