When O’Donovan Rossa passed away questions were immediately raised as to what funeral arrangements would be made. The issue of a public funeral for Rossa had come to the fore long before his death and a series of events in 1914 highlighted its possible importance and placed it on the path to becoming a historic event.
At this time the issue of Home Rule was dominating Irish politics but Rossa’s poor health meant that he could not give any opinion publically on Irish political affairs. In April 1914 rumours that he was on the verge of death prompted a push for control of a possible public funeral and set off a series of events that would lead to the historic day the following year at Glasnevin Cemetery.
Despite his age Rossa’s name was still a powerful one and some of those in favour of Home Rule clearly had fears about what his funeral might become. A small group approached his wife, Mary Jane O’Donovan Rossa, offering to raise money for the funeral of her husband that would see him brought home to Ireland and she consented to their request. John Devoy (TD 32, South New Chapel), the old Fenian and one of the Cuba Five, was supportive of the family and made aware of the fund raising exercise approached the family to inform them of his opinion that the men were not being entirely forthcoming with their motives. Mary Jane made her unhappiness at the situation clear in her correspondence with Devoy:
“…I took it for granted all Rossa’s friends were of his way of thinking that they were all revolutionists but they knew very well what my sentiments were and that I’d rather chop my fingers off than sign a paper that would result in handing over control of Rossa’s funeral to any ‘ites but full freedomites like himself.”
The events made completely clear how politically important the funeral of Rossa could potentially be and also prompted Mary Jane O’Donovan Rossa to place her confidence in John Devoy for any future plans relating to the funeral of her husband. She made a clear statement that “John Devoy represents Rossa’s family in this matter, fall in under his instructions”