Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lawrence D. Flanagan's role in the Irish Freedom Movement

The following extract about Lawrence D. Flanagan is from the online research paper, Always Faithful The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement by Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm.:

Lawrence D Flanagan

'    Lawrence D. Flanagan served the Carmelites in many posts in the United States up to 1926. When Gerard O’Farrell, the successor to Denis O’Connor as the Commissary General of the New York Carmelites died in 1926, Father Flanagan became the new Commissary General. He served in this post until 1931 when the New York Carmelites were raised to the status of a province, and he became the first provincial and held this office until 1943.

During this entire time of his being the Carmelite superior, he lived at Saint Simon Stock Church in the Bronx. Looking back on this period, one is inclined to say that his residence in the Bronx perhaps impeded his influence on the Manhattan centred Carmelites.

Lawrence Dionysius Flanagan is perhaps the most underrated of the Carmelite supporters of the Irish Freedom Movement. Lawrence was his baptismal name and Dionysius his name in religion. He was born in Moate, Westmeath, Ireland where his family were considered wealthy. Most of the Irish freedom movement supporters referred to him as “Father Larry.” This perhaps reflects back to the relationship that was established between himself and Eamon De Valera when both were students at Blackrock College. There is little mention of Flanagan’s name in chronicled events. During the years when the Irish Freedom Movement was at its height, he was stationed in Otisville, NY, or Middletown, NY, and came to Manhattan and the 28th Street church only in 1924 when Denis O’Connor died. It was then that he became involved in the cause. Though he was the least in one sense of his involvement, he was in another sense the most important because he was a confidant of Eamon De Valera due to their friendship. When the parish of Our Lady of the Scapular was preparing to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 1939, Flanagan asked De Valera for a few lines of greeting to mark the occasion. In reply, De Valera cabled the following:

“It is a pleasure for me to be allowed to join even from this distance in the celebration of your golden jubilee. The Carmelite Priory of East 28th Street will always be memorable for all of us who know at first-hand what inspiration and strength were drawn from it twenty years ago. Some of the best friends Ireland ever had there gave counsel and help and hospitality to the workers for the freedom of our country. None who took part will forget the meetings in the priory and the school hall memories of which bring back the figures of Liam Mellows, Harry Boland and many others whose work has passed into history. Ireland’s debt to the Carmelite Fathers is not easily measured. What could we have done without Father Magennis and Father O’Connor not to mention Father Lawrence Flanagan still happily left? May this golden jubilee, which is an occasion for rejoicing in Ireland as well as in America, be the beginning of another half century of equally fruitful work. I pray God’s blessing on the holy work in which you are engaged.”

Eamon De Valera (holding the book) with school friends
at Blackrock College, Dublin. Lawrence Flanagan
also attended Blackrock and became a lifelong friend
and confidant of the future President

Flanagan was not so much a leader in the movement as he was a trusted advisor whom De Valera and his supporters could rely upon for wise and prudent advice. He was also a close friend of Jim McGee who was deeply involved in the arms smuggling business.

When Flanagan ceased to be the provincial in 1943, he continued to live at Saint Simon Stock until 1953 when he went to live at the Carmelite student formation house in Williamstown, Massachusetts. When Eamon De Valera in his later years was trying to record events that had taken place in the past, Flanagan was asked over and over again by De Valera for details of these and for his written version of them. Flanagan always replied in support of De Valera. It has always struck me that Eamon De Valera was lucky to have had a friend as loyal as Lawrence Dionysius Flanagan.

Christopher Aloysius Slattery was at Our Lady of the Scapular for a long period, 1909-22, except for the years of 1919-21. He was a faithful supporter of Peter Elias Magennis and Denis O’Connor in all their Irish activities. This personal support of Magennis was demonstrated in his going to Rome for the first two years (1919-21) of Magennis’ generalate to be one of his assistants.   '

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