Spanish civil war memorial removes ‘stain of shame’ in Limerick

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Joe Ryan (centre of back row) and Frank Ryan (back right) with International Brigade colleages. All were injured at JaramaTHE erection of a memorial to six Limerick men who fought against Fascism during the Spanish Civil War removes a “stain of shame” from their native city, according to Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan.

The sandstone sculpture, created by local artist Simon Donnelly, was unveiled in the grounds of City Hall last weekend. Commissioned by the Limerick international Brigade Memorial Trust, it features the names of the six men — Gerard Doyle, Joe Ryan, Emmett Ryan, Paddy Brady (all Limerick City), Frank Ryan (Knockainey) and Jim Woulfe (Athea) — who joined the International Brigade in its fight with the Republican side against Franco’s Nationalist Army during the 1936-39 conflict.

Speaking after the unveiling ceremony on Merchants Quay beside City Hall last Sunday, Cllr Quinlivan stated, “With the erection of this memorial we have atoned for a huge historical wrong when the then Limerick Corporation of the 1930’s passed motions of support for Franco on a number of occasions.”

“In 1939, Limerick was the first Irish city and one of the first in the world to recognise the Fascist dictator as the legitimate ruler of Spain. After the fall of Barcelona in January 1939, the Corporation recognised Franco’s government and even sent him flowers. The dictator wrote back to the then mayor to express his gratitude in what must count as one of the most shameful periods in the history of our city council”, he said.

The City North councillor, who has visited the battle site of Jarama, outside Madrid, on a number of occasions, believes Limerick man Frank Ryan played a “crucial role” in combatting the Fascist offensive in early 1937.Frank Ryan and International Brigade colleague John Robinson

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He insists that the stain on Limerick’s history has now been removed by placing a fitting memorial to those great Limerick men in the grounds of City Hall.

“I am particularly proud that we have made a lasting commemoration to the six Limerick men who fought with the democratically elected Government in Spain. By taking this step, we have removed a stain of shame from our city’s history,” he concluded.

Charlotte Ryan Wetton, Frank Ryan’s grandniece, unveiled the memorial, which formed part of a weekend programme of events organised as part of Limerick City of Culture 2014. Sarah Bennett, sister of Joe Ryan and the only surviving sibling of the men also lay a wreath in their memory.

Spokesperson for the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust, Ger McCloskey commented, “We are delighted to be able to deliver a permanent public memorial to the six Limerick born brigadistas, whose efforts have previously gone largely unrecognised.”