The National Monument on the Grand Parade in Cork was unveiled on St Patrick’s Day, 1906. The monument commemorates the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848 and 1867. Fr Kavanagh, OSF, unveiled the monument as bands from Cork city and from the county towns played ‘Who fears to speak of ’98?’ D.J. Coakley, a well-known architect, designed the monument. John Francis Davis, a Kilkenny man with a studio at 4 Sunview Terrace, College Road, sculpted the figures of Wolfe Tone, Michael Dwyer, Thomas Davis, Peter O’Neill Crowley and ‘Mother Erin’. The builder was Mr Ellis. Coakley had designed the façade of the Holy Trinity church, and the design of the National Monument resembles the design of the church façade. The Cork Young Ireland Society, a successor to the Cork ’98 Centenary Committee, raised funds for the monument. Other speakers at the unveiling of the monument were the Fenians Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and Charles Guilfoyle Doran, and the chairman of the Cork Young Ireland Society J.J. Crowley.
Part of the inscription reads:
‘To perpetuate the Memory of the Gallant Men
of 1798, 1803, 1848 and 1867
who fought and died in the wars of Ireland
to recover her sovereign independence
and to inspire the youth of our country
to follow in their patriotic footsteps
and imitate their heroic example.
And righteous men will make our land A Nation Once Again’.
A procession led by a carriage occupied by Fr Kavanagh, O’Donovan Rossa, and C.G. Doran preceded the unveiling. The procession included bands, trade and labour bodies, and national societies. It marched from Parnell Place along the South Mall, Grand Parade, Great George’s Street (now Washington Street), South and North Main Streets, Pope’s Quay, St Patrick’s Bridge, St Patrick’s Street, and on to the National Monument. Thousands of people lined the route, cheering and waving handkerchiefs.
After the unveiling, Kavanagh made an emotional speech celebrating the close links, as he saw it, between Irish nationalism and religion and praising the patriots who had suffered and died for Ireland. Part of his speech, reported by the Cork Examiner, reads: “By the erection of this monument we commemorate the long line of Ireland’s devoted patriots from the first to the last, from the days of Brian Boru to those of John Mitchell and down to our own day – to the men of ’98 to the men of ’48 (cheers), to the men of ’67 (cheers), to all the patriot sons of Ireland – to all who have suffered or died for her, and to those who withered for her sake in the gloom of the dungeon, or crimsoned with their blood the gory scaffold or preferred poverty and exile to the glittering prizes offered to her betrayers. (cheers)”
O’Donovan Rossa made a characteristically fiery speech in support of the tradition of using physical force to achieve Irish independence. After Rossa’s speech C.G. Doran, Fr Thomas and J.J. Crowley also spoke.
Patrick Meade, the Mayor of Cork, laid the foundation stone of the monument on 2 October 1898. The spot chosen for the monument at the junction of the Grand Parade and South Mall had formerly been occupied by a statue of George II. A big crowd gathered on the Grand Parade and the South Mall to witness the laying of the stone. A large platform was built near the site of the monument and this was decorated with the flags of France, Spain, and the USA. The presence of the Spanish and American flags on the same platform amused the reporter from the Cork Constitution newspaper as the Spanish–American War had finished only a few months previously. During the laying of the foundation stone the national flag of Ireland was hoisted to the top of a flagpole while the massed bands played ‘The Memory of the Dead’. A Union Jack was also briefly hoisted then lowered and thrown into the river to the amusement of the crowd.
On the day of the unveiling, a huge gathering was addressed by Rev. Father Kavanagh, OSF, Rev. Father Thomas, OSFC, Messrs J O’Donovan Rossa, Charles G. Doran, J.J. Crowley, Chairman Cork Young Ireland Society, etc.’
On 26 April 2009 the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Brian Bermingham, took part in a ceremony to rededicate the National Monument and the Cenotaph. He was accompanied by representatives of Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann Teoranta, the British Legion, and members of the UN ex-servicemens’ association. Professor Dermot Keogh spoke at the ceremony and wreaths were laid at the National Monument and the Cenotaph.