FR. MICHAEL GRIFFIN STATUE

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Fr. Michael Griffin was an Irish Catholic priest who was killed during the Irish War of Independence. His death sparked outrage and grief among the people of Galway and beyond, who regarded him as a hero and a martyr for the cause of Irish freedom. A monument to this great Irish hero can also be found on the grounds of St. Brendan’s Cathedral in Loughrea.

Fr. Michael Griffin was born on 18 September 1892 in Gurteen, a rural area in east county Galway. His father, Thomas George Griffin, was a farmer and a prominent nationalist leader, who was involved in the Land League and the Loughrea and Attymon Railway. His mother, Mary Kyne, came from Clonbur in Joyce Country. Fr. Griffin was educated at Clonkeen Kerril national school and St. Joseph’s College, Garbally, Ballinasloe, before entering St Patrick’s College, Maynooth in 1910. He was ordained in April 1917 and first served as a curate in Ennistymon, Co. Clare.

In June 1918, he was transferred to Galway city and the parish of Rahoon, which covered a large area from the west bank of the River Corrib to Furbo and Corcullen. He resided at 2 Montpellier Terrace on Sea Road, along with the senior curate, Fr John O’Meehan. Fr. Griffin was responsible for the western, predominantly Irish-speaking portion of the parish, where he said mass and heard confessions at Barna and Furbo each week, and visited the local schools. He was also active in the Gaelic League and supported Sinn Féin in the 1918 general election.

Fr. Griffin was not openly involved in the IRA, but he was sympathetic to their cause and had close contacts with many of their leaders. He also administered the last rites to several IRA volunteers who were killed or wounded by the Crown forces during the War of Independence. In September 1920, he attended to James Quirk, who had been shot by the RIC as a reprisal for the shooting of one of their colleagues at Galway train station. In October 1920, he officiated at the funeral of Eamon Corbett, who had been killed by British soldiers during an ambush at Cappagh.

On the night of 14 November 1920, Fr. Griffin received a phone call from someone claiming to be Captain Craig of the RIC, asking him to come to Ely Place to administer to a dying man. Fr. Griffin agreed and left his house around 10:30 pm. He never returned. His disappearance caused widespread alarm and anxiety among his fellow priests and parishioners, who feared that he had been abducted by the Crown forces or their auxiliaries.

A massive search was launched for Fr. Griffin, involving hundreds of volunteers from Galway city and county. His family offered a reward of £1,000 for any information leading to his whereabouts. The Bishop of Galway, Dr Thomas O’Dea, appealed to the authorities to release him or reveal his fate. The IRA denied any involvement in his disappearance and accused the British forces of kidnapping and murdering him.

Fr. Griffin’s body was found on 20 November 1920 in a shallow grave near Cloghscoltia, about four miles from Barna. He had been shot through the head at close range and his body showed signs of torture. His cassock had been removed and his hands tied behind his back with barbed wire. His death certificate stated that he had died from “shock and haemorrhage due to bullet wounds inflicted by some person or persons unknown”.

Fr. Griffin’s funeral took place on 24 November 1920 in St Joseph’s Church in Galway City, where thousands of mourners gathered to pay their respects. His coffin was draped with the tricolour and carried by IRA volunteers. The funeral procession was escorted by armed men and women from various republican organisations. The British forces did not interfere with the funeral, but kept a close watch from a distance.

Fr. Griffin was buried in the grounds of St Brendan’s Cathedral in Loughrea, where he had been ordained three years earlier. His grave became a site of pilgrimage and commemoration for many people who revered him as a martyr for Ireland’s freedom.

In 1954, a bronze statue of Fr Griffin was erected on the grounds of St Brendan’s Cathedral by sculptor Albert Power (1881-1945). The statue depicts Fr Griffin standing on a pedestal with a cross behind him and holding a book in his left hand. On the pedestal, there is a bronze portrait of Fr Griffin with reliefs of Christ, St. Brigit of Kildare, St. Kerrill and St. Nicholas. The statue was unveiled by President Seán T. O’Kelly and blessed by Archbishop Michael Browne.

The statue is a fitting tribute to Fr Griffin, who gave his life for his faith and his country. He is remembered as a brave and compassionate priest, who served his people with dedication and devotion. He is also honoured as one of the sixteen martyrs of the War of Independence, whose names are inscribed on a plaque at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

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Fr. Michael Griffin Statue

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