Fergal O’Hanlon (Irish: Feargal Ó hAnnluain), a volunteer in the Pearse Column of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is killed on January 1, 1957, while taking part in an attack on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) barracks.
Born into a staunchly republican family on February 2, 1936, in Ballybay, County Monaghan, O’Hanlon is a draughtsman employed by Monaghan County Council. He is a Gaelic footballer and a keen Irish language activist. A devout Catholic, he considers becoming a priest and spends one year at the seminary in St. Macartan’s. He joins the IRA in 1956.
At the age of 20, O’Hanlon is killed on January 1, 1957, along with Seán South while taking part in an attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in Brookeborough, County Fermanagh, during the border campaign. Several other IRA members are wounded in the botched attack. The IRA flees the scene in a dumper truck. They abandon it near the border. They leave South and O’Hanlon, both then unconscious, in a cow byre, and crossed into the Republic of Ireland on foot for help for their comrades. The wounded IRA men are treated as “car crash victims” by sympathetic staff in the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Dublin.
The events and personalities are sympathetically recalled in Dominic Behan‘s ballad “The Patriot Game.” O’Hanlon is mentioned in the song “Seán South of Garryowen” (“Brave Hanlon by his side”).
O’Hanlon’s mother remains firmly committed to the IRA and is hurt by the suggestion that there was an alternative to IRA activity or that her son was anything other than an Irish hero.
A marble monument now stands at the spot where South and O’Hanlon lost their lives. An annual lecture has been held in memory of O’Hanlon since 1982, and approximately 500 people attended a 50th commemoration of the men’s deaths in January 2007 in Limerick.
In 1971, a monument is unveiled to O’Hanlon in his hometown on a hill overlooking the Clones Road on which he had made his last journey home. A Gaelic football team is founded in Monaghan in 2003 and called the Fergal O’Hanlons.
O’Hanlon’s brother, Eighneachán Ó hAnnluain, is elected a Sinn Féin abstentionist TD in the 1957 Irish general election to Dáil Éireann. His sister, Pádraigín Uí Mhurchadha, is a Sinn Féin Councillor on Monaghan Urban Council.