While many clerics have supported the armed struggle of the IRA since 1916, the Capuchin Friars have been particularly noted for their republicanism.
One such Capuchin was Fr Aloysius Roche, the son of an Irish father and English mother, born in Scotland in 1886. He studied for the priesthood and, following his ordination, he was transferred to Dublin where he was attached to the Capuchin Order in Church Street.
During Easter Week 1916, Fr Aloysius along with Frs Albert, Augustine and Dominic brought spiritual aid to the Volunteers in the numerous garrisons and outposts throughout Dublin.
Following Pádraig Pearse’s surrender on Saturday, 29 April 1916, Fr Aloysius spent the next day carrying the surrender order to the main garrisons on the south side of the city.
In the early hours of the morning of 3 May, Fr Aloysius administered the last sacraments to Pearse, MacDonagh and Thomas Clarke, the first three leaders of the Rising to be executed.
On 7 May, he met John Dillon, a leading member of the Irish Parliamentary Party, who agreed to do all in his power to persuade the British government to stop the executions. And it was largely due to his efforts that Dillon, five days later, during a debate on the rising in the House of Commons, launched a blistering attack on the British government’s handling of the situation in Ireland.
Earlier that day, Fr Aloysius accompanied James Connolly by ambulance from Dublin Castle to Kilmainham Gaol for execution and stood behind the firing squad as they fired the final volley.
During the Tan and Civil Wars he was an enthusiastic and practical supporter of the national struggle and continued his republican allegiance throughout the following decades.
The tall figure of Fr Aloysius was a familiar sight along Dublin’s quays for over fifty years.