Yad Le’Shiryon Museum at the IDF Armoured Corps Memorial
Remarks by Eamonn McKee, Ambassador of Ireland
Laturn, 5 June 2015
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, members of Michael ‘Mike’ Flanagan’s family. It is my honour to be with you here today as we rededicate his memory in this place of honour for Israel’s fallen. I wish to pay a special tribute of the President of the Israel Ireland Friendship League, Malcolm Gafson. Malcolm is a tireless searcher for opportunities to promote, recall and honour the ties between Ireland and Israel. This gathering today is a further testament to his commitment and his contribution to the ties that bind us.
I would like to express my thanks too for the heartfelt cooperation of the Yad Le’Shiryon Museum here at the IDF Armoured Corps Memorial.
In Ireland we are commemorating a series of centenaries of events that gave birth to independent Ireland, the State that embodies the free will and self-determination of the nation of Ireland. We achieved that statehood through military means.
The rebels of 1916 knowingly went into a battle that would certainly cost them their liberty and could cost them their lives. The men and women who continued the struggle in the War of Independence offered the same sacrifice.
All those who fought for Ireland did so for love of country. That is the foundational act upon which all nation states are called into being.
Far more rare is the man or woman who risks liberty and life for the love of another country. Michael Flanagan was such a man. He had already fought in the Second World War, a conflict that clearly pitted good against evil. Rarely has human evil been so starkly revealed as it was in the death camps of the Holocaust.
Like so many of his generation, he was appalled by that and convinced that the Jewish people deserved and needed a homeland. Like very few of his generation, he acted upon that. And he did so in a very direct way, helping to arm the fledgling state against those who would seek to destroy it as its inception.
We stand before this Cromwell tank, as tangible and potent a contribution by any man to any cause as can be found. In its time, the Cromwell tank was a fearsomely effective machine of war. It and its companion tanks delivered by Mike Flanagan formed the core of the new State’s armoured division. More than that, Mike Flanagan would fight alongside his Jewish compatriots in the struggle for Independence.
Mike Flanagan is part of a great Irish contribution to the birth of Israel. Col. John Henry Patterson from County Longford became the ‘godfather’ of the Israel Army by his command of the Jewish Mule Corps at Gallipoli and then of the Jewish Legion during the Palestine campaign in World War I. The heroes of the Irish War of Independence like Michael Collins and Tom Barry became inspirational figures for the early Zionist fighters looking to establish an independent state of Israel. Irishmen and men of Irish heritage helped ship fleeing refugees from post-Holocaust Europe to Mandate Palestine, running and breaking the British embargo. Other Irish fought too for Israel’s independence but many of them have been lost to history.
And after the first generation of battles were fought and won in the establishment of the State of Israel, Mike Flanagan converted, married and settled in Israel for most of his life. Mike Flanagan was a man of many achievements but a man of mystery too. He was not a glory hunter but content to see the fruits of his labours in the fact of Israel established and defended. The esteem in which Mike Flanagan is held by so many key Israeli figures clearly points to a life of largely hidden acts, carried out in the service of Israel.
Today, we recall his name. Today, we recall his deeds. Today we salute his contribution to the establishment of the State of Israel.
[For photos of this event, go to @EamonnMcKee or the twitter feed on the Embassy’s website at http://www.embassyofireland.co.il ]