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New lease of life for Rossa's Phoenix club

August 3rd, 2018 1:02 PM

By Jackie Keogh

The Phoenix Society, which was founded in Skibbereen in 1856 by Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, was recently reprised in the town.

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The Phoenix Society, which was founded in Skibbereen in 1856 by Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, was recently reprised in the town.

The first annual meeting of the new Phoenix National and Literary Society was held in Annie May’s in Skibbereen.

It was convened by Tom Keefe, an Irish American lawyer from Washington, who relocated to Skibbereen for four months in the lead-up to the launch.

Mr Keefe, who will be returning to the US in August, described the inaugural meeting as ‘significant’ in that it revived the memory of an organisation that was an important part of history leading up to Irish independence.

The initial meeting attracted more than 20 recruits – all of whom have a keen interest in local history and the life of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. 

Throughout the year, Mr Keefe said: ‘The Society will maintain an ongoing conversation by sharing information and research, as well as posting details relating to historic Irish events.’

Skibbereen man, Declan McCarthy, who is one of the founding members, has agreed to serve as the local co-ordinator of the organisation.

Mr Keefe told The Southern Star that it was his interest in the Fenian Brotherhood in America – the American sister organisation to the Irish Republican Brotherhood – which grew from the Phoenix Society that led him to West Cork.

‘Having spent a major portion of my career in American politics,’ Tom Keefe said, ‘I became interested in the politics in Ireland from the mid-19th century, beginning with the Young Ireland Movement of 1848.

‘That led me to O’Donovan Rossa and his roots in Skibbereen. I was impressed by him, his survival of the famine, and his role as a young businessman in promoting Irish nationalism at great expense to himself.’

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