CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Jesuit in Hong Kong awarded Freedom of the City of Dublin

HONG KONG (SE): As the sole surviving child of the 14 people who were executed before a firing squad for their role in what is known as the Easter Uprising in Ireland in 1916, Jesuit Father Joseph Mallin was awarded Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin at a private ceremony at Wah Yan College in Wan Chai on the evening of March 21.

The award was made by the consul general from Ireland to Hong Kong and Macau, Peter Ryan, and the mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, who flew to Hong Kong for the occasion.

Ní Dhálaigh said that the 102-year-old Father Mallin is being honoured, not only as the son of his executed father, but also for his life-long work in the service of the people of Hong Kong and Macau through his ministry as a priest and educational work in schools.

“I am honoured and privileged to propose Father Joseph Mallin for Dublin City’s highest award, the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin. He is the last surviving child of an executed leader of the Easter 1916 Rising and also has spent a life serving the people of Hong Kong and Macau through his ministry and teaching,” a press release from the Dublin City Council quotes her as saying.

Father Mallin joins exalted company in receiving his award. 

He now takes his place alongside the former presidents of the United States of America, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton; as well as anti-Apartheid campaigner and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela; Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who is set to be canonised in September; the four members of the rock band, U2; Gaelic footballer, Kevin Heffernan; the democracy icon of the Union of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi; as well as last year’s recipients, Capuchin Brother Kevin Crowley and John Giles for their care of the homeless in Dublin.

The gathering was also honoured with the presence of a niece and grand-niece of Father Mallin, Úna and Caitriona Ó Callanáin.

Michael Mallin, a silk weaver by profession and co-founder of the Irish Socialist Party, was second-in-command of the Irish Citizen Army.

He left home on Easter Monday in 1916 to take charge of what he said at his trial he believed was to be a manoeuvre at St. Stephen’s Green, but never returned.

Father Mallin’s father was the commanding officer of the Garrisons at St. Stephen’s Green and the Royal College of Surgeons. He was executed at Kilmainham Gaol on 8 May 1916.

Born in 1914, Father Mallin was two-years-old when his father died, leaving his mother pregnant and with six children.

On the night before his father died, Father Mallin was taken to the prison by his mother and, although he has no recollection of the occasion, he knows that his father left a message for him in a letter, “Joseph my little man, be a priest if you can.”

He also wrote in his last letter, “Wife, I cannot keep the tears back when I think of him, he will rest in my arms no more…”

He said that he found no fault with the police and those involved in the military court that sentenced him and urged his wife “to pray for all the souls who fell in this fight, Irish and English.”

Father Mallin also had an older brother, Father Sean Mallin, who worked as a Jesuit in the Hong Kong mission for some years. Their sister, Úna Mallin, joined the Loreto Sisters in 1952 and spent the remainder of her life in Spain.

Father Mallin is described as a man of few words, but many loving actions.

During his time in Asia, he has held the jobs of minister in the community, mission bursar, director of a social centre, secondary school teacher, headmaster of Pun Yu Primary School in Hong Kong and principal of Ricci College in Macau.

Father Mallin’s father had been signed on by the British Army as a boy soldier.

He served in India and Afghanistan, where he won the India Medal of 1895, but fighting against the impoverished people of these countries in order to enrich the British Empire left a sour taste in his mouth and bred a radical streak inside of him.

At his trial on April 30, he claimed that he never played a significant role in the Uprising, but when he went to St. Stephen’s Green on that fateful day, shooting started, and he took command of the men, because he feared for them if left to their own devices.

He added that he had only joined the citizenry force in 1913 in order to protect workers against the employer-funded Dublin Metropolitan Police strike-breakers.

With the Freedom of the City of Dublin, Father Mallin receives the privileges afforded to a Freeman; the right to bring goods through the city gates without paying customs duties; the right to pasture sheep on common ground within the city boundaries; and the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections.

As part of the celebration, a concert was held in the college hall under the title of Mise Eire—I am Ireland. Both Irish and other musicians gathered with Irish dancers and readers of compositions written around the 1916 Uprising.

The concert was opened with performances by choirs from the two Wah Yan Colleges in Hong Kong, Wan Chai and Kowloon, and featured readings from William Butler Yeats’ Easter 1916 by Irish writer, Peter Kennedy.

The guest musicians joined forces with the combined Wah Yan choirs in a rendition of Danny Boy and Mo Ghile Mear (My Gallant Darling—a lament of a Gaelic goddess for the exiled Bonnie Prince Charlie) to close out the evening.

The archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, said on March 15 that during the centenary commemorations of the Uprising, the country must remember the remarkable social manifesto that was being fought for.

“We have to ask how those who fought in 1916 for Irish independence would judge us and our society today,” he said.

“We live in a world where there is still corruption and violence and lack of respect for life. People are exploited in many ways and are trafficked and treated as slaves. We live in a world where, alongside great and demonstrative wealth, many have difficulties in making ends meet. We live in a world where we throw away tonnes of food each week and where we have children coming to school hungry,” he continued.


He concluded by saying that those who proclaimed the Republic of Ireland in 1916 had a dream for a radically different Ireland.

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