The story of the Irish Diaspora, written by Ireland’s foremost historian, Tim Pat Coogan, and featuring a section on Tom McEnery’s involvement with Ireland in recent times. It explains his involvement with the Bytes to Belfast Program with Apple Computer in Northern Ireland. It also describes the tragic history of the McEnery family in Ireland’s struggle for independence in the Anglo-Irish War.
Americans – excepting the relatively tiny percentage who hold the physical force tradition sacred – is how constructive its resonances can be, despite their frequently horrific background. For example. Tom McEnery’s grandfather, Patrick McEnery, was on the platform with Parnell when he delivered his famous ‘no man has a right to fix the boundary of the march of a nation’ speech. Archbishop Riordan and the Sinn Fein priest, Father Peter Yorke, were responsible for bringing Patrick to San Francisco, so that he could marry his childhood sweetheart, Catherine Costello, who had emigrated from their native Kerry in 1898. Amongst the letters preserved in the McEnery family are the following:
Dear Father Tom,
I will be going before my God in a few hours. Cheer up and console my wife and child and poor mother. Will you grant me one request and this is to look after Hannah’s welfare and bring up my darling son for the Church. It breaks my hear to think of my poor wife and child, but I depend on you to look after them, but for them I never would feel it, because I know I’m going to a better place – to my dear father and brothers who are in heaven. Say masses for my Soul and give money to Fr Ferris, he gave us confession and communion, so cheer up my dear brother. I gave my life as a Soldier of the Republic, but I never expected this would be my fate, but welcome the will of God.
My Dear Mother,
I am going the long road tomorrow morning, to meet father and my brothers. Be good to Hannah and take care of Sonny – bring him up for the priesthood and don’t let anyone interfere with them. Don’t be downhearted; you can be proud of me. I am dying a Soldier of the Irish Republic. Goodbye now Mother darling, and we will all meet in Heaven.
Goodbye from your darling son,
The letters, which probably say as much about a Church-inculcated resignation and an emotion-suppressing culture as they do about the intrinsic tragedy involved, were written by Tom’s Uncle James. He was executed by the Free State authorities in 1923 after being captured with a group of IRA companions in Clashmealcolm Cave, high above a savage Kerry sea. Two of his companions were drowned before his eyes in a futile attempt to swim through smashing waves. The rest only surrendered, following days without food or water, when bales of burning hay were dropped into the cave mouth. The leader of the group, Aero Lyons, fell to his death as he was being hauled up the cliff when the rope either broke, or was severed.
However, growing up in California, Tom McEnery never heard a word of bitterness about the affair from his father, John Patrick McEnery. John Patrick became Superintendent of the Mint Under Truman, State Chairman of the Democratic Party and a successful businessman. One of his employees, who was particularly well loved by the McEnery household while Tom was growing up in San Jose, was an old Irishman called Mick McDonnell. The McEnerys never associated Mick with any revolutionary activity until on day in the 1950s – during which another IRA campaign had sputtered into life in Ireland – when the FBI came calling and suggested that Mick might be engaged in illegalities. They were politely shown the door. What the McEnerys didn’t know, until I told Tom nearly forty ears later, was that Mick was also the head of Michael Collin’s fearsome assassination team, ‘The Twelve Apostels’, which he set up to shoot spies and informers Collins had smuggled McDonnell out of Ireland for his own good during the War of Independence. Later, his brother was killed by James McEnery’s comrades during the Civil War. My father’s comrades shot James.
Curiously, although Tom McEnery never heard McDonnell speak of Collins, for some reason which he cannot fully explain, when Tom came to do his MA thesis he chose Michael Collins, not knowing that the Mick McDonnell whose activities he was researching for it was the kindly old Irishman of his boyhood, at whose funeral mass he had been an altar boy. However, when he first visited Ireland, he felt as though ‘a light switch had been thrown’. He only really began to research the details of his uncle’s death after a visit to a bar in Kerry in 1967, during which someone asked him, ‘Are you related to the McEnery that was killed in the caves? Someone else told him: ‘Your uncle was shot by the British.’ So far as the physical force tradition was concerned, there was no differentiation between the British and the Free State forces. The politics of the sixties were still influenced by the passions of the twenties.
Tom McEnery also went into politics and became the Mayor of San Jose. During his terms in office, the city grew to become the eleventh largest in the US. As it is the gateway to Silicon Valley, McEnery decided that it would be a good idea to twin San Jose with Dublin. However in the early 1980s, very few people in Irish Political circles had heard of Silicon Valley and his proposal fell on deaf ears. Then on day he phoned me from California. I brought the matter to the attention of Charles Haughey, the then Taoiseach who, whatever his other failings, had a capacity for quick decision-taking, and the cities were fully twinned, McEnery set up the Irish Industrial Development Authority in an Office in San Jose and introduced the IDA to the CEOs of some of the world’s top computer companies. Subsequently, whoever merits the credit, Intel, Seagate and Amdahl all locate in Ireland.
The twinning process has also meant that a great number of Irish public representatives and visiting fireman have fetched up in one of the Silicon Valley area’s more important websites on the information super-highway – Hannigan’s bar in Los Gatos. The difference between Hannigan’s and the electronic site is that once enmeshed in Hannigan’s web you’re trapped, a cyber liver is no use to you.