"I was in Prison and you came to Me"
Fr Nevin visits Count Plunkett
Fr Eugene Nevin's evidence
St James in his Epistle says: ‘Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Fathers is this – to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation and to keep oneself unspotted form this world’. In His description of the General Judgment, Our Blessed Lord tells us that the just in receiving their reward shall have the words of commendation addressed to them: ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me to drink; sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’.
The charity as set forth in these two texts of Our Blessed Lord and His Apostles is of binding force in necessitous cases according to each one’s capacity. But in the situation then confronting us, there was superadded to our ordinary acts of Christian Charity to all, a national duty incumbent on us towards our suffering ones.
It was open to everyone so inclined and unhindered to visit the homes of the bereaved widows, those orphaned by death, or by life imprisonment; and it is due to the people of Dublin to say that in this respect they nobly responded to the call of Charity and Patriotism, both deeming it a privilege rather than a duty to tender their sympathies.
To visit those in prison was a different and by no means an easy matter, for the regulations governing permission to visit, at all times strict, were now most difficult to negotiate.
Count Plunkett was confined a prisoner in the military barracks, Kilmainham, and to reach him, having obtained the necessary permit, one had to tread through a maze of barbed wire entanglement and a labyrinth of passages with an armed sentry at every turn. I found the dear man in a small white-washed room, the only furniture of any kind being what looked like a large soap box on which he sat reading the last evening’s ‘Mail”.
He came forward smilingly; indeed in a short while he was laughing for his reading matter was the correspondence between Dr O’Dwyer, Bishop of Limerick and General Maxwell, just released for publication. He was highly amused and could not help but now and again refer to the Bishop’s trenchant reply to the man whose draconian dictatorship had a couple of weeks previously deprived him of his eldest son Joseph.
And now that I think of it, I wonder whether or how the poor man slept or had his food, so destitute of elementary amenities did the apartment of cell appear.
On coming away, on the road outside, I met Tim Healy going towards the prison. Besides his sympathy and the interest he would naturally have in those confined as prisoners there, he had been briefed for some who were to stand their trial before a Court-martial.