Harry Boland, Irish republican politician who serves as President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) from 1919 to 1920, is born at 6 Dalymount Terrace, Phibsborough, Dublin, on April 27, 1887. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1918 to 1922.
Boland is the son of Irish Republican Brotherhood member James Boland and Kate Woods. He was active in GAA circles in early life, and referees the 1914 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final. He joins the IRB at the same time as his older brother Gerald in 1904, following in the footsteps of his father, uncle and probably grandfather. He is educated at the Synge Street CBS, but hads a personality clash with one of the brothers so he refuses to carry on his attendance at the school. He then goes to De la Salle College, County Laois, as a novice.
Boland later joins the Irish Volunteers along with Gerry and his younger brother Ned. They take an active part in the Easter Rising of 1916.
At the 1918 Irish general election, Boland is elected as an MP for South Roscommon. In line with all the Sinn Féin MPs elected at that election, he does not take his seat in the British House of Commons but withdraws to sit in the declared independent Dáil Éireann (the First Dáil) and is named by Éamon de Valera as special envoy to the United States, a role his uncle Jack had played 25 years earlier. He leaves Ireland for the United States along with de Valera as part of a campaign to raise awareness and support for their cause in America. He negotiates a loan of $20,000 from the Irish Republic to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic through the head of the Soviet Bureau, Ludwig Martens, using some Russian jewelry as collateral. These jewels are transferred to Ireland when he returns. His sister Kathleen and her mother are entrusted with the safekeeping of jewels.
During the Irish War of Independence (1919-21), Boland operates alongside Michael Collins, who is a close friend.
At the 1921 Irish elections, Boland is elected to the Second Dáil as one of the TDs for the Mayo South–Roscommon South. He opposes the Anglo-Irish Treaty. In the ensuing Irish Civil War (1922-23), he sides with the Anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army.
In the 1922 Irish general election, Boland is re-elected to the Dáil representing Mayo South–Roscommon South. Six weeks later, on July 31, he is shot by soldiers of the National Army when they attempt to arrest him at the Skerries Grand Hotel. Two officers enter his room and, although unarmed, he is shot and mortally wounded during a struggle.
The following day, August 1, 1922, Boland dies in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. As he lay dying, he refuses to give the name of his attacker to his sister, Kathleen. He is buried at Glasnevin Cemetery. The service takes place from the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church. The hearse is followed by Cumann na mBan, Clan na Gael and the Irish Citizen Army women’s section.
Boland’s death affects Collins and possibly spurs him toward peace negotiations with Éamon de Valera.
Boland’s brother, Gerald Boland, is a prominent member of Fianna Fáil and later serves as Minister for Justice. His nephew, Kevin Boland, serves as a Minister until he resigns in solidarity with the two ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, who are sacked from the government in May 1970 during the Arms Crisis. Kevin Boland’s resignation from Fianna Fáil and the subsequent loss of his seat marks the end of an era for the Boland political dynasty.
Boland’s nephew, Harry Boland, is a basketball player who competes in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. He dies on December 18, 2013, at the age of 88.
In the 1991 TV movie The Treaty, Boland is portrayed by Malcolm Douglas. In the 1996 film Michael Collins, he is portrayed by American actor Aidan Quinn. The film is criticised for fictionalising both Boland’s death and Collins’ life.